Guest Post by Peter Smith
If anyone tries to tell you there is no good music coming through, or that rap, grime and trap is the only stuff out there, tell them to go through the list of over 200 artists playing the Reading and Leeds festival at the end of this month.
There is such a variety of acts, through many different genres, and plenty to engage those of us with somewhat more traditional rock-based tastes. So here are just ten that caught my attention as I started working out my Clashfinder schedule and how I can get round about 70 bands over the three days, which is what I usually manage.
But let’s start with perhaps the weirdest act on the bill …
Poppy (sounds like everything from Shirley Temple to Slipknot)
Poppy is the “Andy Warhol of the internet generation”. Or maybe not. She is a young US singer, who hides her true self behind a “character” she plays, Poppy, a Barbie-type creation with an annoying little girl voice. But her album Am I a Girl is a surprisingly effective Lorde/ Taylor Swift electro-pop mix, and the 25 minutes of ICU on Spotify could almost be Brian Eno. Then Scary Mask starts out like the Carpenters, before turning into Slipknot… your guess is as good as mine in terms of what on earth she is going to do at Reading and Leeds! She’s on the metal / rock stage, so that might be a clue.
Anteros (Blondie, No Doubt)
If Anteros don’t make it with their own very enjoyable 1980s style pop/punk, then they can certainly do well as a Blondie tribute act. Lead singer Laura Hayden is also a model and could give Debbie Harry a run for her money in the looks department, and she can sing too. Songs are more than acceptable substitutes too ...
Cassia (early Vampire Weekend, Talking Heads, Graceland period Paul Simon)
Northern trio with a distinctive afro-beat sound, very summery, tuneful, and with occasional depths to the songs that certainly make them ones to watch. Their debut album exceeded my expectations and is one of the highlights of 2019 so far.
Kawala (Simon and Garfunkel, Jack Johnson)
This north London duo blend skilful harmonies, acoustic guitar and folk/pop tunes, but with touches of more contemporary rhythms and vibes to make a very pleasant noise that avoids MOR but will be great on a warm afternoon, we suspect!
Sophie and the Giants (Florence and the Machine, Maccabees)
Sheffield based indie pop with huge choruses, strong tunes and fronted by Sophie who has a great Florence (of Machine fame) type soul-tinged emotion-filled rock voice. This band really sounds like a major act in waiting – one song going viral will break them.
Sea Girls (U2, Bombay Bicycle Club)
Not girls at all – four fairly normal looking blokes form London, in fact. We saw them on the Introducing stage at Reading last year, but their material since them shows growing confidence and maturity. The basic approach is classic “indie”, but they embrace big, almost U2-like choruses now, and are clearly aiming for stadiums rather than niche venues.
Twisted Wheel (Libertines, The Enemy, Oasis)
This Oldham rock trio formed in 2007, but have been away for a while. Back together with their ramshackle indie-punk, they have energy and limited sophistication, but hey, we need a bit of this alongside “the new Warhol” and so on! This could be brilliant or a disaster at the festivals…
Æ MAK – (Pet Shop Boys, Bjork, the Unthanks)
Fascinating Irish band, brainchild of Aoife McCann, with two female front-people singing in complex folk-like harmony (note the use of open fifths). The music is more electronic pop than folk though, with other influences (e.g. African), but the quirky vocals give them a pretty unique sound. They deserve to go global, really, and YouTube suggests they can cut it live, too.
Stand Atlantic – (Blink 182, Foo Fighters, Green Day)
Australian pop-punk with charismatic and talented front-woman, Bonnie Fraser. Chunky pop choruses with big rock guitar, but some sophistication (and Fraser) lifting them above the mass of similar bands.
Cavetown – (Nick Drake, Isaac Gracie, Ed Sheeran)
Already huge on Spotify, Robbie Skinner is Cavetown. He is a young Cambridge singer songwriter, with nice under-stated voice and intelligent lyrics, and he can write a catchy chorus too. Mother is a professional flautist and father is Director of Music at Sidney Sussex college, Cambridge University… it’s in the genes, you know.