A new year dawns my friends and with it the promise of more music that your ear drums can possibly take in.
But fear not!
I have laid in the path of all those oncoming tunes, iPod pressed firmly in my hand with the thumb unequivocally on PLAY and I am here to report that there are tunes more than worth your time that I have plucked out of the seething mass of musical wannabes.
Five of them in fact, from all over the world, and all of them tapping in a more measured, chilled but never less than compellingly beautiful vibe.
“Before” by Vök
There is a sparse quietness to this haunting track, interspersed with some tasty sax licks and lead singer (and guitarist and beat maker) Margrét Rán Magnusdóttir’s idiosyncratically rich and airy vocals, that reflects the Icelandic band’s predilection for pleasing li-fi indie soundscapes.
Formed in February 2013 to compete in Icelandic Music Experiments, a musical festival for up-and-coming bands which they handily won, Vök, which also comprises Andri Már Enoksson (the one responsible for the sax flourishes throughout) are adept at creating relaxed electronic aural masterpieces that are anything but forgettable background music.
Surging with musical personality and reflecting an off kilter sensibility that gives them an identity of their own, their songs manage to soothe and excite all at once, a balancing act that works beautifully and results in music that will quiet the soul without putting you to sleep.
Deservedly capturing even more attention at the 2013 Airwaves Festival in Iceland, this talented twosome and their winningly chilled electronica are set to follow in the footsteps of stellar Icelandic acts like Björk and Sigur Rós and become the latest Scandinavian act to win over the world.
“Lost and Found” by Katie Herzig
Oh my but California native, and now Colorado resident, Katie Herzig’s songs are beautiful.
Despite her ability to create gorgeously arresting melodies, an achingly passionate yet delicate voice, and a gift for imbuing her songs with a 1000 different kinds of emotion all at once, I only noticed Herzig recently when I heard her unmissable track “Lost and Found” in the closing credits of Saving Mr Banks, the story of the meeting of P. L. Travers and Walt Disney and the subsequent making of Disney’s Mary Poppins film.
It was such a perfect reflection of the story matter covered in the movie, and so profoundly touching that I sought it out immediately and have been playing it as much as I possibly can.
Lifted off her 2011 album The Waking Sleep, it builds and builds at the start into a quietly anthemic chorus that send shivers down the spine every time.
It is quite simply one of the most beautiful songs I have heard and has been the entry point for an exploration of this talented artist’s music.
You would be best donning your explorer’s hat too and losing yourself in her sublimely wonderful tunes.
“Clear the Floor” by Paper Moon
Another chilled track and this one comes from the dreamy hands of Paper Moon, a project from The Life Productions, featuring the vocal of Alex Glover, lead singer of the Boston band Nemes.
Describing the music as “chillwave and synth pop”, Thomas Bilodeau of The Life Productions hit it off immediately with his vocal collaborator and together they have produced a 4 track EP of music that is, in the words of their soundcloud page “perfect for warming up and vibing out during this cold winter season”.
Or even relaxing in the middle of the summer holiday season in Australia.
The music wafts and wanes and entrances from the word go, the melody tinkling across the song’s soundscape like breaking crystal and the mixed vocals of Bilodeau and Glover weaving together quite magically.
It is a standout song because like all good chill music, it is not muzak or lift/elevator soundtrack material, but richly original music that is more a work of art than anything else.
If you want to relax after a long day at work, or in the quietly flickering embers of 3 am, then this is your song.
“22” by Neon Cloud
Neon Cloud are a band lost in their dreams and that is entirely a good and highly attractive thing.
Hailing from Japan, where inventive envelope-pushing music is the norm rather than the exception, Neon Cloud have a talent for creating music so utterly different to anything you’ve heard before that you can’t help but sit up and take notice.
“22” is their first track since their 2011 EP Knit, and it’s worthy return for the duo who have created six minutes of bliss-inducing reverie, peppered by hauntingly removed vocals that ghost through the track much like an apparition haunting that old house on the hill.
It is the perfect for ruminating on life or staring out on the window at vast natural landscapes, or as I have done, simply lying back and let the serene, crackling melody wash over you in soothing waves.
That it doesn’t go anywhere in particular is precisely the point.
This song is less a destination of verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge and more a sublimely peaceful journey into a world a million miles away from the pell mell rush of day to day to life.
It is most definitely good for what ails you.
“Night Dries Like Ink” by Little Bear
A four piece band from Derry in Northern Ireland, Little Bear are a band on the rise, and for a very good reason.
Their tight , soulful “emotionally literate rock”, as they term it on their soundcloud page, come complete with exquisitely lovely melodies and lyrics that resonate like the poetical ruminations of thoughtful, sensitive souls seeking to distill their life experiences into meaningful words … and succeeding admirably.
It all adds up to music that has garnered Steven McCool (bass and vocals), Mark O’Doherty (drums), Ryan Griffiths (guitar), and Conor Mason (piano) plenty of much-deserved acclaim, including being tagged as one of the BBC’s “Ones to Watch” and appearances at a slew of notable festivals including Glastonbury, Castlepalooza and Dublin’s Working Class Heroes Festival.
It is intelligent lo-fi rock that speaks to the soul as much as it beguiles the ears, giving you that all too rare combination of music that actually says something worthwhile even as you’re lost in the intricate depth of their powerfully understated, sweet melodies.
It is the sort of music that leaves you feeling well-fed musically, that renews your sense that great quietly-announced beauty can still emerge in this fiercely interconnected technological age that seems more adept at shouting and screaming than quietly contemplating.
Little Bear give you your moments of quiet reflection back and you are, trust me, all the better for it at the end.
And finally, it feels like a million years since Foster The People burst onto the scene with the viral hit “Pumped Up Kicks” in 2010 but there is finally new music from the talented threesome in the offing.
The band have just released the promo video for their new album Supermodel which is due out 18 March.
You can order the album, which frankly sounds wonderful just on the few snatched shards of melody in the clip, at fosterthepeople.com