Major label veneer is equal parts drawback and payoff, a duality that Manchester, UK band The 1975 ride right down the back of on latest single, “Chocolate”. Relentlessly poppy, “Chocolate” pumps with the type of ebullient energy that Phoenix channeled on “Lisztomania”, all but daring you to hate it for appealing to such a wide audience; they challenge you to charge them with—what?—too much ambition? Sure, it’s easy to make a crack about Kings of Leon here, angular little jabs about what a dumb song “Sex on Fire” is, or how “Use Somebody” set rock music back at least two decades.
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Mt. Wolf, a South London outfit describing themselves as “dream-folk”, carve out tiny spaces for their music to grow. This limited geography is the same trick that Polica did so well last year, the same trick the xx performed a few years back: small spaces followed by big impacts. “Hypolight” is all seed and germ, the smallest of things, propeled forward through three distinct movements. Finger-picked guitars erupt into bracingly mixed acoustic guitar strums, nearly two full minutes before they begin to unfold the drums. Vocalist Kate Sproule is a downright revelation, snapping into her head voice on the song’s licensing-dream chorus, “Put another light out.” The publishing rights of this moment alone should attract major label interest. “Hypolight”, like its predecessor, “Life Size Ghosts” represents the brand of life-affirming pop that signals the small moments before the big one.
First Rate People storm back with the dialogical single, “You Won’t Get This Joke at All”. Always able to cobble together diverse influences, sometimes forcing the ideas for two songs into a beautiful and catchy cacophony, “You Won’t…” opens with synth punches that are equal parts Passion Pit and Britney’s “You Drive Me Crazy”. Of course, the twist comes with the addition of a dialed-back and pretty acoustic guitar progression and Anna Horvath’s singular vocal.
If everything breaks right for China Rats in the next few months, they will be 2013’s answer to the Vaccines 2011 campaign. The Leeds band channels more Ramones pop-brut than the Vaccines ever did, but the insistent drums and shout-along refrains are the common thread. “To Be Like I” is a revolving door rock song, spinning and spinning in place, joyfully centered on the title lyric. The band will play SXSW in a few months time, and have a coming single to back “To Be Like I” and the band’s other recent raucous single, “N.O.M.O.N.E.Y.” With a big following in the UK, in the ever-evolving American “now”, China Rats are in the pregnant moment before things either happen or don’t, like “To Be Like I”, full of potential, brash and uncertainty.