Aya Peard

From: Santa Monica, CA

Aya Peard - lead vocals
Paul Pellegrin - drums
Kaveh Rastegar - bass
Mike Schmid - keys
James Barry - cello
Gayle Davidson - backup vocals

Sounds like:
Textbook female vocal downtempo trip-pop.

There's some of Laika's bass-y space-y bubble grooves, a bit of low-key blippy electronica, the occasional acoustic guitar, and Aya's got a delicate, sweet voice that reminds me a lot of St. Etienne's Sarah Cracknell or maybe Jem. The songs are perfectly smooth and ambient, with a slightly sexy electronic vibe that generally avoids falling into stock vocal house - though it's also rich fodder for thumpy dancefloor remixes In general, though, it's quite mellow and pretty, but even her cover of the Bee Gee's song "How Deep [is Your Love]" stays just the right side of being too drippy.

I found Aya while looking up information on Raif Pomeroy, and came across a super nice memorial post in her blog...and of course had to give her a listen. It's not groundbreaking, and if you don't like the genre, Aya probably won't change your mind, but if you do, she's worth a listen.

Favorite song: 83rd Street


Five O'Clock Heroes (with Agyness Deyn)

From: New York City

Sounds like: True post-punk, as in 'from the early days of MTV, before Oasis came along and redefined britpop.' But the guitar-based stuff, not the synth-driven new wave.

This is the band that everybody suddenly knows because their upcoming single features vocals by supermodel Agyness Deyn. Describing themselves as 'two parts British and two parts American,' they've been derided as a Strokes rip-off, but I disagree - the early-80s British influence is far too clear. There's the peppy jangle of the Jam, the vocals are reminiscent of XTC, and "Don't Say Don't" has more than a bit of the reggae groove that was so distinctive in the early days of the Police. Overall, it's not particularly a new sound, but it's actually catchy and fresh in a lot of ways. When I read about the new Agyness Deyn song, I was all ready to write it off as a gimmick - which it kind of is - but after giving Five O'Clock Heroes a listen, I'm all the more interested to hear it.

Updated 13 June: The Agyness Deyn collaboration, "Who," is out, and y'know what? It's not too shabby. I gotta say, for my money, I think I like the non-Agyness tunes better, but I gotta give credit where credit is due. Far from being a token addition, Agyness Deyn makes the Five O'Clock Heroes a whole new band. The groove is still there, the jangle is still there, but it's a very different creature than the rest of the 'Heroes songs. The male-female vocal interplay is interesting, and as Agnyess takes over on the chorus this interesting little indie band suddenly develops a chart-topping sound that to my ear is actually pretty original, too. You can bet "Who" is going to be all over the airwaves all summer long.

Favorite song: Speak Your Language

Video: Who (feat. Agyness Deyn)


Florence and the Machine

From: United Kingdom

Florence Welch - everything

Sounds like: Remember the completely mindbending, raw energy in PJ Harvey's early demos? Do you remember thinking, "how does one little body contain that immense voice and that depth of anger and pain, and how can recording it possibly even begin to capture it?" And then listening to it over and over and over again? Yah. You'll listen to Flo and you'll think the same thing. It's not an unfair comparison, as long as you also bundle it with all the other fair comparisons you'll read as well - like Joni Mitchell, Janis Joplin, Carole King, Cat Power. Beth Ditto. Nina-freakin'-Simone. It's all there. With the occasional tape loop or electro beat.

Florence and the Machine were a huge hit at SXSW recently (rated NME's #1 gig), and you can bet that her 'unsigned' status won't last long. 2007 was the year for brit girls Amy Winehouse and Lily Allen and Kate Nash...and with a rack of upcoming festival appearances this summer - including Glastonbury - don't be surprised if 2008 is the year for Florence and the Machine.

Favorite song: Kiss with a Fist


More views:

A Place to Bury Strangers

From: Brooklyn, NY

Oliver Ackermann - Guitars & vocals
JSpace - Drums
Jono MOFO - Bass

Sounds like...all the amps go to 11.

Heavy Jesus and Mary Chain-style distortion, with layers and layers of noise, rhythmic and powerful at the same time. So many familiar sounds, from Joy Division rhythms to the fuzz of early Sonic Youth, but so many completely WTF sounds as well...I've been told Oliver's 'day job' is building custom guitar pedals, and from the crazy variety of sounds he pulls it's clear that he's kept a few for himself. Live, they'll simply melt your brain.

Favorite song: To Fix the Gash in Your Head

LISTEN | BUY (+ free downloads)

Sam Barrett

From: Leeds, UK

Sam Barrett - guitar, vocals.

Sounds like: Damn fine down-home Delta Blues.

Think Robert Johnson. Sam plays American folk tunes, English country songs, old spirituals and original songs in the style. It's easy to forget how connected various musical genres are, but of course the American folk tradition came out of the English countryside, and it's great to hear them all played together. And when's the last time you heard a 12-string played right?

Favorite song: Tongue Tied Blues


The Old Romantic Killer Band

From: Leeds, UK

Sounds like...a massive amount of noise out of a two piece band.

Greg - Drums
Harry - Guitar, vocals

Dirty, distortion-fueled blues guitar, more upbeat than the White Stripes and less psychedelic than Jimi Hendrix, but not unworthy of either comparison. Great dynamics, solid, catchy songwriting, and blistering guitar work add up to a duo that won't be confined to Leeds for long. This is one of those bands that you'll be able to say, "I knew them when..." And do not miss them live.

Favorite song: Lovers Pass

Video: You Don't Know How to Love