2010 was a fantastic year for emerging new artists. Among the many debut albums we listened to religiously – we’re talking the likes of Janelle Monáe, First Aid Kit, Dum Dum Girls, Frankie Rose & The Outs – were a number of more low-key releases that set our hearts racing. In no particular order, here’s a list of ten hidden gems that we didn’t get around to reviewing.
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[Kning Disk; May 2010]
Pianist Anna von Hausswolff has been attracting plenty of attention in her Swedish homeland but remains somewhat obscure outside of Scandinavia. Commonly compared with Kate Bush (though the vocal resemblance is incredibly fleeting at best), von Hausswolff has a high, trebly voice that is capable of showing intense, almost overwhelming emotion, especially in the absolutely spellbinding ‘Track Of Time’. With several songs that run to six minutes and beyond, Singing From The Grave demands a lot from its listeners. In our opinion, that dedication is handsomely repaid.
[Balling The Jack; August 2010]
Moulettes sprang from the exciting new music scene that stretches along England’s south coast from Southampton to Brighton, expanding over the past few years from their original trio format to a five-piece band. With their dues justly paid and celebrity fans including The Unthanks, Noisettes and Robert Plant, their self-titled debut took their ambitious, genre-mashing songs to the next level.
[Nettwerk; October 2010]
Probably the most familiar faces on this list, Le Pop was the sound of four young Norwegian women making a bold and beautiful noise, cartwheeling wildly through numerous genres and having the time of their lives while doing it. The UK release may have been long overdue but at least we shouldn’t have to wait long for the follow up.
[Mercury; July 2010]
Chances are that if you live outside of Australia you won’t have heard of Megan Washington, though she’s been on the scene since 2006, releasing two EPs before signing to Mercury Records and putting out another two EPs. Debut album I Believe You Liar finally arrived this summer, and by November had scored Washington two ARIA Awards (Best Female Artist, Best Breakthrough Artist) and a devoted fanbase. It’s only a matter of time before the rest of the world succumbs to her charms, so get in there quick.
Available from Washington’s official website.
[Southern/Brassland; September 2010]
Formed in 2008, Buke & Gass are a Brooklyn-based duo named after their own homemade instruments. On the ‘buke’, a self-modified baritone ukulele with six strings, is Minnesota native Arone Dyer (whose extraordinary voice is a major selling point), and on the ‘gass’, a guitar-bass hybrid, is Maine man Aron Sanchez. Their debut album Riposte is at once exotic and fierce, gritty and blissful, showcasing the duo’s fascinating array of instruments, which also include ankle bells, a toe-bourine and a homemade bulbul tarang (also known as the ‘Indian banjo’).
Available on Amazon.
[Revolving; December 2010]
Cribbing straight from our list of 2010′s 100 best tracks: Known for her mesmerising live shows and ability to turn perfectly sunny-sounding instruments like the ukulele into sonic harbingers of gloom, Swedish artist Christine Owman is as much of a visual artist as she is a musician. Her debut album isn’t widely available outside of Scandinavia just yet, but with edgy, interesting songs aplenty at her disposal it surely won’t be long before her name becomes better known.
Available on Ebay; US release coming March 2011.
[self-released; January 2010]
You may be familiar with Alina Hardin through her association with Alela Diane – the pair released a lovely EP of home-recorded folk songs together in 2009 – and, if so, then you’ll pretty much know what to expect from this low-key release recorded with the help of Alela’s father, Tom Menig. The songs are beautifully delicate and diaphanous, sung in tones both haunting and tender, warm and simple, as Hardin invites us to journey with her through open fields, across winding streams and among the dense forest, becoming less shy and retiring with every listen.
Available from Alina herself. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.
[Self-released; September 2010]
Laura Kidd is not just a one-woman sound machine, she somehow does the work of an army in her multitude of creative endeavours. Everything about She Makes War comes from Laura; she writes, records and produces the songs, she designs the artwork and elaborate packaging, makes the videos and takes the photos. That fierce independence even spills over into the live arena, where, to recreate the multilayered instrumentals of her studio recordings, she loops with fiendish precision and never misses a beat. Debut album Disarm does exactly that, going straight for the angst-pop jugular with an appealing directness.
[Self-released; April 2010]
There are three human members of New York’s Family Band: singer Kim Krans and her husband/drummer Johnny Olssin, and guitarist Scott Hirsch (of The Court & Spark). The fourth, non-human member is the mountain cabin in upstate New York where the band wrote and recorded this remarkable debut. The trio have labelled their own sound as “heavy mellow”, and it’s a neat description for their intoxicating blend of acid folk and Americana styles and the songs are held in a compelling equilibrium of confidence and doubt that sometimes threatens to spill over in either direction.
[Self-released; April 2010]
Another artist who appeared on our list of 2010′s 100 best songs, Portland, Oregon’s Oh is an anomaly of the digital age. This enigmatic one-woman outfit has no discernible online presence bar an email address listed in the sparse liner notes of her DIY (and rather wonderful) debut album. This mysteriousness is mirrored in her music, an intriguing sonic collage of tinny synths, cutesy vocals and toy percussion. Aside from the previously lauded ‘Victorious’, other standout tracks include ‘Polar Bears & Owl Eyes’, ‘Lonely Ninja’ and ‘Break It Down My Heart’.
Available from Rough Trade.
Tagged alina hardin, anna von hausswolf, buke and gass, christine owman, disarm, family band, i believe you liar, katzenjammer, le pop, miller path, moulettes, riposte, she makes war, singing from the grave, washington