Every year a new handful of bands and artists arise from obscurity. Some will find many years of critical claim or commercial success and others will disappear into the haze of the unknown. This is my list of 2010’s best debut acts, and although the future is uncertain for these freshman, their recent successes may just tip the scale in their favor.
Florida natives were the first indie stars to make their debut in the new year, and gained critical acclaim with ‘Astro Coast’. The band’s first single ‘Swim’ was an anthemic tune that sounds like it belongs at a sports game, “Swim until you reach the end!” It’s their second song, a combination of lead singer’s John Paul Pitt’s unique, throwback voice and the simple harmonic melody that sells Surfer Blood as one of the top debuts of the year. Surfer Blood is almost definitely going to become one of those bands where everyone knows the songs, but may not quite know who it is sung by.
Marina & the Diamonds
I first heard of Marina & the Diamonds aka Marina Diamandis at Camden Crawl in 2009. When she released her debut album, ‘The Family Jewels,’ I was skeptical. How many more UK pop stars can we take? Marina & the Diamonds, doesn’t that sounds a little bit too much like Florence & the Machine? However, Marina’s voice validates her talent and songs like Mowgli’s Road, a song based on Rudyard Kipling’s ‘Jungle Book,’ makes her case as a brilliant songwriter. ‘I Am Not a Robot,’ her third single from the album, encompasses a range of different styles and sounds, something Marina is very talented at doing. Marina’s powerful presence and unique voice may be a little too much for mainstream pop, but she has definitely found her place in the indie-pop genre.
Two Door Cinema Club
Two Door Cinema’s club “I Can Talk” was an infectious alternative hit off their album ‘Tourist History,’ but it was after ‘Something Good Can Work’ that made the listener realize how much range in sound and style Two Door Cinema Club have. Hailing from Northern Ireland, these three boys create the perfect type of UK based indie rock, not seen since the days of the Fratellis and the Wombats. ‘Something Good Can Work’ is the kind of song you wish the DJ would play at a nightclub, infectious, catchy, and easily danceable.
Freelance Whales seemingly came out of nowhere with their album ‘Weathervanes,’ but in fact, the band got their start busking around New York City. If Ben Gibbard’s Postal Service decided to blend a little more indie and a dash of folk, Freelance Whales would be the result. Hit single, ‘Hannah’ is sung fast and the lyrics are seemingly nonsensical, but really tells the story of a girl who doesn’t quite know where she is, impressive for a band that is less than two years old.
What do you get when you combine the ex-member of a 90’s teen pop girl band with an ex-member of a hardcore rock band? Sleigh Bells is your answer, and they are going to be one those bands people either love or hate. Described as ‘noise-pop’ Sleigh Bell’s intense melodies are in your face and almost overwhelming. However, no one can deny the amount of talent that had to go into the production of ‘Treats’ and the fascination of the blend of sounds created by Derek Miller and sung with Alexis Krauss’ unique voice. Both singles, ‘Tell Em’ and ‘Infinity Guitars’ and stripped down while being complex all at once.
Probably the best debut album of the year, The Drums are another example of recent indie rock genius. Although I am not the first person to say this, The Drums sound like Joy Division trying to sing Beach Boy’s songs, and it works! ‘Let’s Go Surfing’ was the perfect summer tune to remind the all the kids stuck in the mid west how great the beach really is. ‘Me and the Moon,’ taking on a more serious subject, shows that the band can also create a mature composition. Although the Drums have lost members on their way to stardom, their ability to keep together may just prove the bands longevity.
California cutie Bethany Cosentino and the rest of Best Coast made their 2010 debut with ‘Crazy for You’ and easily marked the return of low-key west coast surf music. Cosentino and boyfriend Nathan Williams of the band Wavves were voted Rolling Stone’s hottest couple of 2010. The first track off the album ‘Boyfriend’ was a simple in your face tune, but their second hit ‘Crazy for You’ was the perfect late summer beach hit. Costentino’s bubbly personality and west coast sound has earned Best Coast a large celebrity following and their simple acoustic summer sound never goes out of style.
The BBC may have predicted their success in December of 2009, but on my radar they came out of nowhere. These UK natives sound like a throwback indie band mixed in with modern electropop. The album is full of possible hits including QWERTY finger, Suffragette Suffragette, MY KZ, UR BF, and their latest single Photoshop Handsome and combined make ‘Man Alive’ the most unique album of 2010. The album manages to be both experimental and poppy at the same time while also being a staple of good songwriting. The video for Photoshop Handsome is also rather impressive for a band’s debut album.
Fenech-Soler definitely win the award for hardest band name to pronounce, but they are also probably one of this biggest buzz bands of the year. Echoing former UK new rave artists, Fenech-Soler are the latest addition to electropop groups such as Pendulum and Groove Armada. Singer Ben Duffy even lent his vocals on Groove Armada’s latest single, ‘Paper Romance.’ Like Pendulum, the vocals and the intense hooks make the music almost overwhelming, but are easily floor fillers as well. Don’t expect this band to disappear any time soon, they are releasing new singles off their self-titled debut well into the new year.
Ou Est Le Swimming Pool
The music community experienced a tragedy at Belgium music festival Pukkelpop with the loss of Ou Est Le Swimming Pool lead singer Charles Haddon. Upset after injuring a girl during a performance, Haddon ended his own life by jumping off of a satellite tower in front of hundreds of several shocked onlookers. Despite this horrible event, I saw all Ou Est Le Swimming Pool had to offer at Isle of Wight’s Bestival in 2009. I knew even then that catchy ‘Dance the Way I Feel’ would be an infectious hit basically impossible to resist. ‘The Key,’ the newest single from their debut album ‘The Golden Year’ is an ambitious record full of heavy synth pop hooks, a perfect example of the path the band were heading down. Whether Ou Est Le Swimming Pool will become a duo, replace their lost member, or disband remains up in the air, but if Haddon hadn’t ended his life far too soon, this band would have had a lot to offer.
I Blame Coco
Sting’s daughter, Coco Sumner, makes another one of my end of the year lists. Whether her success is based on her famous dad, or her own individual skill is up in the air, but 2010 gave her the perfect opportunity to show off what she had to offer. A synth pop princess, Coco shared her vocals with Sub Focus and even released a few hits of her own with ‘Self Machine’ and ‘In Spirit Golden.’
December is a slow month for music, most artists wait until mid-January to release new material, so this space will go to mentioning the biggest trend in music to arise from 2010. Dubstep, a UK dance music genre that bases its roots in Croydon, made it mainstream in 2010. Magnetic Man, the first dubstep super group including genre founder Skream, Benga, and Artwork released their self-titled debut in October. Single ‘Perfect Stanger’ included vocals from Katy B, who had her own dubstep hit with ‘Katy on a Mission.’ However, it was Rusko’s release of ‘O.M.G.’ in May of this year that really put the genre on the map. Hit single ‘Woo Boost’ was very much the dance single of the year and his work with fellow artist Caspa is what put him on the map. Although Rusko is currently working on the production aspect of his career, even working on tracks for Britney Spear’s next album, let’s hope this dubstep DJ doesn’t leave us for too long.
My 2010 Playlist Part II
1. Take It Easy-Surfer Blood 2. Mowgli’s Road-Marina & the Diamonds 3. Something Good Can Work-Two Door Cinema Club 4. Hannah-Freelance Whales 5. Infinity Guitars-Sleigh Bells 6. Me and the Moon- The Drums 7. Crazy for You-Best Coast 8. Photoshop Handsome-Everything Everything 9. Lies-Fenech Soler 10. The Key-Oe Est Le Swimming Pool 11. In Spirit Golden-I Blame Coco 12. Woo Boost-Rusko