The U.K. has long been a huge component in American musical culture, gracing us with bands such as, Coldplay, Radiohead and Franz Ferdinand. Lately, the U.K. music scene has gone under the radar. Here are five bands from across the pond that deserve a closer listen.
1. Alt-J (∆). In computer terms, Alt-J represents the steps taken on a Mac to write the Greek letter Delta. In math lingo, ∆ is symbolic of change in a given equation. In terms of music, Alt-J (∆) is the epitome of transcendence in the art of ingenuity. Formed in 2007, this English indie quartet released its first album, “An Awesome Wave,” in the U.S. in September of this year, introducing Britain’s best-kept secret to America.
Winner of the coveted British Barclaycard Mercury Prize, Alt-J (∆) blends softer vocals with a heavier bass, pulsating beats and haunting melodies. Borderline electronic, Alt-J (∆) adds keyboard solos, a cappella interludes and darker lyrics to create just what the album title suggests: a musical journey on par with the rise and fall of the tide.
Students that happen to finish finals early or need a break can catch the band in one of these cities from Dec. 11 to 17: San Francisco, Calif., Los Angeles, Calif., San Diego, Calif., Portland, Ore., Kansas City, Mo. and Seattle, Wash.
2. Django Django. Also a winner of the Mercury Prize, Django Django is a British psychedelic band fusing an unexpected quirkiness with folksy vocals and 80’s synth beats. A little bit new wave with obvious influences from 60’s pop, Django Django’s music can be described as a jumble of inspirations ranging from The Beach Boys, to 90’s post-punk, to strong tribal influences. Evident even in its music videos, Django Django’s muse is the past, drawing from a number of sources to create an album with surprising twists, which is a lost art in alternative music. With American tour dates ending in early October, the only way to experience Django Django is through iTunes or one of the many websites that stream music for free.
For an instant perk up on one of those seemingly endless homework-filled Sunday afternoons, try playing “Life’s a Beach.” It’ll do the job better than any double-shot espresso could.
3. Jake Bugg. Conjuring up images of leather jackets, the rainy streets of Nottingham, England, and cigarette butts on cracked sidewalks, Jake Bugg’s voice is a tribute to the beauty behind broken dreams and forgotten promises. At only 18, Jacob Edwin Kennedy (who works under the moniker Jake Bugg) is a retro blast from the past, proving the power and simplicity of acoustic guitar is still alive. His self-titled album reached No. 1 on the U.K. charts, making him an artist to watch here in the U.S. An old soul of sorts, Bugg’s music poses a strong similarity to The Beatles’s modest harmonies, Bob Dylan’s scratchy voice and the cool factor of The Clash.
Albeit a short tour lasting from Oct. 23 through Nov. 9, Jake Bugg supported Noel Gallaher’s High Flying Birds and Snow Patrol on their North American stint, adding a vintage vibe to the tour.
For those who missed this concert, rock out in a leather jacket while watching the music video for “Two Fingers.” The chorus will stick in the heads of listeners long after the song is over as Bugg sings, “I got out / I got out / I’m alive and I’m here to stay.”
4. The Temper Trap. Already familiar to some from the film “500 Days of Summer,” The Temper Trap gained critical acclaim and a solid fan base from its single “Sweet Disposition,” which appeared everywhere from beer commercials to the U.K. TV drama “Skins.”
The bands self-titled sophomore album is worth a listen. Released in June, the upbeat track still possesses Dougy Mandagi’s signature falsetto and sweet intros that crescendo into tough melodies. The Australian indie rock band, which relocated to London to produce music, has something unexpected up its sleeve on its newest album. Not at all succumbing to the usual worn-out sound of sophomore albums, The Temper Trap has increased its tempo, added moodier lyrics and created a sophistication achieved through the creative use of synthesized beats with the sound of classic rock. In 2011, the band was nominated for a Brit Award for Best International Breakthrough Artist.
The “Sweet Disposition” of album No. 2 is “Need Your Love.” Listeners might need to resist the temptation to keep it on repeat.
5. Ben Howard. A little bit Bon Iver-inspired, a little bit Mumford & Sons-inspired and a lot of neither, English singer/songwriter Ben Howard is too unique to categorize. All but a few shows are sold out for the remaining part of his tour through Europe. But even after catching a big break in the U.S. in October when he appeared on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” to sing “Only Love,” Howard is regrettably still fairly unknown here. His debut album, “Every Kingdom,” earned him a Mercury Prize and several chart-topping singles. His folksy voice has a certain gruffness that contrasts brilliantly with lighter acoustics. Howard’s stripped-down songs lend him an honesty that is difficult for listeners not to resonate with. The vocals are the main focus of the album, with humble chords adding support to Howard’s lingering notes.
Check out Howard’s newest EP “Burgh Island,” which was released Nov. 6.
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