No April fools here. Meet False Heads, The Alpine Camp, Joe Benjamin, The Kindling, Codetalker, Josh Del, littleDEATH and Monster Florence — all courtesy of SubmitHub, the site where artists pay a small fee to send songs to reviewers, labels, bloggers and radio stations. If you’d like to try to get in on that action, my page is here. But I warn you: The lineup can get pretty long.
1 False Heads
Iggy Pop and music-biz legend Danny Fields have both said good things about London punk power trio False Heads. Well, if they’re good enough for Iggy and Danny, they’re good enough for me. It helps, of course, that their latest single Slease is an explosive little firecracker of equal parts grunge, punk and pop. The grumbing bassline and chunky guitar, the sing-songy accented vocal and falsetto backups, the singalong refrain and mosquito-bite solo — they all fuse into a cut that cuts the mustard in the pit and on the airwaves. Looks like Ig and Dan were right: False Heads are for real.
2 The Alpine Camp
Late in the Evening
Hybrid is the title of The Alpine Camp‘s latest album. And based on the mellow gold of first single Late in the Evening — which is not be confused with the Paul Simon classic — the rootsy L.A. sextet couldn’t have smacked that particular titular nail on the noggin any more precisely. Unless they had decided to call the disc A Perfectly Goddamn Delightful Fusion of Americana, Psychedelia and California Folk-Rock That Balances Swampy Grooves, Trippy Textures, Unvarnished Vocals, Searing Solos and Even A Freaking Banjo, Believe It Or Not. And let’s face it, that might be just a tiny bit wordy.
3 Joe Benjamin
There are plenty of ways to bring the funk. You can bring it down ’n’ dirty. Or, if you’re Joe Benjamin, you can bring it nice ’n’ easy. The Brooklyn singer-songwriter and bandleader’s Unframed Paintings — the first single from his forthcoming album I’ll Never Die — is the very picture of precision, sophistication and taste, with spry rhythms, crisp horns, bouncy electric piano and enthusiastic backup vocals buoying melodic, charming vocals reminiscent of classic Squeeze. Colour me impressed.
4 The Kindling
Low Low Low
Everybody’s in a hurry these days, trying to get somewhere or be somebody. Not The Kindling, apparenlty. “I don’t need to be proven right today,” singer Guy Weir casually croons over a soothingly slack island-tinged groove that’s been lightly dusted with lush keyboards, busy muffled drumming and dulcet harmonies. It’s all part and parcel of the London alt-folk trio’s slow ’n’ steady single Low Low Low, a 10cc-ish ode to — in their words — “simply not giving a sh*t.” Though for folks who don’t care, putting this much effort into writing and recording an understated and lovely song is kind of a funny way of showing it.
Codetalker clearly know how to keep secrets. Especially when it comes to themselves. There’s virtually zero information on the American artist’s instrumental submission, so I have no idea if it’s a band or a man or a woman or a trained seal. Not that any of it matters, since the tune Tapes — a psychedelic, keyboard-based slow-groover that ebbs and flows and builds and breaks down again when you least expect it — tells you everything you need to know. Which is that clearly, Codetalker also know how to keep your interest.
6 Josh Del
Let’s be honest: It takes some stones to write a song called Rolling Stone. Even before you’ve played a note or sung a word, you’re treading on seriously hallowed ground — not to mention raising some major expectations. But give California singer-songwriter Josh Del credit. His Rolling Stone is a stirring, soulful roots-rock ballad built around his dusty vocals, rich keyboards and an earthy, muscular arrangement. And in just three minutes, it does the near-impossible: Makes you put Muddy Waters, Bob Dylan, Mick, Keef, Otis Blackwell, The Who and the rest out of your mind for three minutes. Which begs the question: How does it feel, Josh?
British alt-oddballs littleDEATH get one point for their cheeky double-entendre name. They get another point for creative typography. They get a third point for penning losemyHEAT, a eccentric pop-rocker with an energized beat, vibrant instrumentation, over-the-top overdubs and plenty of swagger and attitude. They get a fourth point for telling “the story of a relationship between two drug addicts and their happiness in self destruction.” And finally, they get a fifth point because this sensational little nugget of greatness is only their second single ever. All signs point to success.
8 Monster Florence
Fair warning: If you prefer your underground rap squeaky-clean, Monster Florence’s Peepin’ might not be for you — with nearly two dozen F-bombs dropped in 3:40, it could justifiably be titled F—in’ Peepin’. Once you get used to that, however, you’ll notice this Essex sextet (three vocalists, three musicians) strike a fine balance between their gritty, nimble rhymes and their blunted, soulful backing tracks — and they know how to write a catchy chorus, even with all those expletives. Not bad for a band that took its name from an Italian serial killer.