On A Ragged Tip: 9 Bands For ‘09
As we tell you about the new bands we expect to dominate the Ragged Words' stereo for 2010, it's worth taking a look back at the class of 2009 when we were one of very, very few who thought The xx were set for a big year. Not too many knew a whole lot about Speech Debelle either. While Micachu delivered one of the best records of the year...
Anyway that's more than enough trumpet-blowing. Here's how the 2009's lot shaped up:
Then: If anyone’s going to trump Animal Collective for column inches on Ragged Words in 2009, it’ll be Villagers. Despite only a handful of demos available and even less live appearance made, ex-Immediate man Conor O’Brien has made a staggering impression under his new guise. February’s debut EP should keep things cooking nicely for a full release that could be very special and resurrect the great lost promise of his previous outfit.
Now (Dec '09): Villagers cemented their reputation as Irish music's brightest stars with an EP, single and some frighteningly good live shows. Domino Records took note and will release the band's debut - currently being mixed in London - in the first half of next year. Expect O'Brien's crew to turn up on a few UK picks for 2010 lists.
Then: Psych, garage, funk, lo-fi, prog - pick any prefix to the word ‘rock’ you want and the thrillingly eclectic Crystal Antlers can match the task. With last year’s to-the-point titled EP troubling the higher reaches of our best medium-players of 2008, it’s hard to foresee April’s full debut not doing likewise on a more important list come December. Their by-all-accounts even more impressive live show should not be missed when they swap Long Beach for a comprehensive stint in Europe from the end of this month.
Now (Dec '09): As you'll soon find out, the above mentioned debut, entitled Tentacles, is unlikely to feature among our pick of the year's best. After blowing us away on stage earlier in the year, the album was a minor let down but with good reports coming from their CMJ performances, don't write em off just yet.
Then: Like the man at the top of the list and the three directly below, The xx have already been recommended round these parts but we’re still just as transfixed by their dark and dangerous sounds a couple of months later. Being kept under wraps while they finish a debut album that was recorded in a tiny one room studio and is being self produced, expect some growing word of mouth action for the south London four-piece in a few months time.
Now (Dec '09): When Ragged Words spoke to The xx in August, things had been happening "very gradually" for the, then, four-piece. How things can change in three months. They've since done some serious business State-side; began a tour in September that won't let up til well into next year; lost a member as a result and all because their debut, among our best of the decade, will naturally be regarded as one of the year's finest. Yep, think we got this one right.
Then: The first female solo artist to sign to the beacon of UK Hip Hop, Big Dada, Speech Debelle will give a country shy of Hip Hop stars (particularly female) a bright and shining one this year. Accompanied on her debut by a set of guests - Tunng, Micachu (see below), Roots Manuva and Lotek Hifi - to complement her rich, folky and lyrically thoughtful sound, the album may likely become a very important release.
Now (Dec '09): Very important release is right, Speech Therapy only went on to win the ruddy Mercury Prize, a surprise to most it would seem bar Speech Debelle herself. Ragged Words are still reeling from not placing an audacious tenner on the result after Speech blew us away in an early year session for our sister site Bandstand Busking.
Then: With four of a rumoured seven 7” confirmed to succeed February’s seriously good self-titled LP - itself a speedy follow-up to late last year’s similarly self-titled debut - 22-year-old San Diego beach punk Nathan Williams seems set to be the most prolific of bedroom recorders this year. He takes a break in February to tour Europe with particularly noteworthy London dates with the very cool Pens to be followed by a dream early March ticket alongside Deerhunter and Women.
Now (Dec '09): Nathan Williams had some year. After the above-mentioned successful dates and indeed days after speaking to Ragged Words, the rapid rise got the better of him and a clearly suffering Williams hit a wall at May's Primavera. However Pitchfork's blatant editorial attacks after the "meltdown" was one of the ugliest aspects of music reporting this year. Wavves '09 LP, which also got a UK release via Bella Union, contains more than enough to prove the doubters wrong.
Then: The Glasgow-based four-piece with the best on-stage composure we’ve seen in a guitar band since Interpol are set for a busy 2009. Once they get Uni exams out of the way that is. Before they do, May’s debut - currently being mixed - is already getting our pulses racing having been recorded under the guidance of Jolyon and Ken Thomas, the latter being responsible for Sigur Ros’ Agaetis Byrjun and Takk, as well as both Hope Of The States records and M83’s Saturdays=Youth.
Now (Dec '09): We Were Promised Jetpacks have had an extremely solid 2009. After spending the first six month buried in university books, the four have been on the road since owing to the success of their very good/seriously good in places debut. Having returned from a debut US tour with pals The Twilight Sad and Frightened Rabbit, WWPJ embark on their first major European stint in January.
What: Debut album Jewellery lands on Feb 2, 2009 via Accidental Records. When: Micachu & The Shapes play the Camden Barfly on Jan 9, 2009 and support Late Of The Pier throughout the UK in Feb 2009. Bandstand Busking TBC too. Described rather nicely by a fellow Ragged Words writer as Karen O playing a bunch of Woodie Guthrie songs, some-time grime mixtape maker and orchestral scorer, 21-year-old Londoner Micachu is undoubtedly one for the long haul. Her debut album Jewellery, with the assistance of The Shapes is a rag-tag collection of pop songs that should slow-burn its way through 2009.
Now (Dec '09): "We wuz robbed" was, Ragged Words assumes, the reaction from The Micachu & The Shapes camp when Jewellery failed to appear among this year's Mercury Prize nominees. Behind one of the most exciting and original releases from a UK artist for many a year, Mica won fans in plenty of other places, among them Bjork. Of all the class of '09, expect the most intriguing of follow-up work to come from this lot
Then: Looking back on it, when we first caught site of Gentle Friendly supporting High Places late last year, we didn’t really convey in enough detail just how exciting the London duo were. With the pair’s ravishing debut EP Night Tapes still ringing in our ears, there’ll be details a plenty this year. Spring’s release on Upset The Rhythm and more live date can’t come soon enough.
Now (Dec '09): We're scratching our heads a little as to how 2009 got away from Gentle Friendly so much. Okay they released their full debut Ride Slow late in the year - a good opening salvo - but, bar the standard No Age London support slot, were pretty anonymous on the live circuit. Hmmm. More in 2010 perhaps?
Then: Having featured in a couple of our end of year lists, it almost goes without saying that we’ll continue to gorge on Passion Pit this year but the transatlantic band set to put most smiles on our faces and the greatest spring in out collective step in 2009 shall be Hockey. Given the resources it deserves, their debut Mind Chaos could blow up Killers style. Catch the Portlanders touring the UK with Passion Pit (who play all except the London date) in February.
Now (Dec '09): Via EMI, Hockey got the resources they deserved and Mind Chaos adorned many a tube station wall in September of this year. While not quite at Killers level yet (do those levels even exist anymore?), the band are making nice progress to return to bigger European venues next year. And while they haven't completely wowed us as we thought they might, their bandstand busking session succeed in putting those smiles on faces.