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Mutya Keisha Siobhan

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While UK pop trio Sugababes imploded in embarrassing fashion, the original members of the group—Mutya Buena, Keisha Buchanan, and Siobhan Donaghy—mended fences, reformed, and instead of reclaiming the Sugababes brand, opted for the more low-key moniker Mutya Keisha Siobhan, or MKS. Having not recorded together since the excellent 2000 album One Touch, the ladies nevertheless showed tremendous chemistry on the 2013 comeback single “Flatline”. A glorious, summery tune co-written with and produced by Dev Hynes of Blood Orange notoriety, “Flatline” is built around their sumptuous vocal harmonies, the kind of subtle, slightly melancholy song that immediately reminds listeners of the mature minimalism of One Touch. If the rest of the forthcoming album, slated for an early 2014 release, is as strong as “Flatline”, it could be a very good year for these three women. It’s great to have them back together. Adrien Begrand




 

Ásgeir Trausti


The buzz around 21-year-old Ásgeir Trausti stems from the fact that his debut album Dyrd í dauðathogn is one of the fastest selling titles in his homeland of Iceland (apparently >10% of the population own it). The artist attracted John Grant’s attention, who helped him translate and rework the lyrics into English for a more globally approachable release, In the Silence. Advances of that album have made their way into critics’ hands and it’s getting positive reviews however, Silence has since been pushed into early 2014. His fragile vocals are reminiscent of Bon Iver, who was big enough to be parodied on Saturday Night Live. But don’t sleep on Asgeir or you’ll miss out on the rich folksy instrumentation (“King and Cross”). Energetic “Torrent” is the most uplifting track with its piano driven melody melting the ice sheen that coats the rest of the album. Sachyn Mital




 

Vacation


Vacation takes the California suburban punk rock of Green Day or Blink 182 and mixes it with guitar clangor and noise. Their sound recalls early Thermals without the political bent, revealing straight ahead pop punk song structures combined with the thick wall of noise sounds of bands like No Age. Vacation writes good songs that satisfy the melodic itch while also referencing the noisy clangor of 1980s originators like Zen Arcade-era Hüsker Dü. Candy Waves is the perfect name for their second full-length as most of the songs are a sugar rush, chock full of sweet melodies that easily get stuck in your head. Eric Goldberg




 

Matthew E. White


After releasing his gloriously lush debut album Big Inner in 2012, Matthew E. White further proved his ability to write stunning songs with the release of the EP Outer Face in October. The EP shows a more subtle, stripped back sound than the album; White himself describes it as “a gentleman’s psychedelia”. But he’s a great hope for 2014 not only because of his own music, but also on account of Spacebomb Records, the label and studio he has founded in his hometown of Richmond, Virginia. Centred around a house band in the manner of Motown or Stax, Spacebomb has thus far released White’s solo work, plus the single “Red Face Boy” by Howard Ivans, which is as polished and soulful as any cut from Big Inner. Even if White doesn’t find time to release any more of his own music in 2014, we can certainly expect great things from Spacebomb in the coming year. Alan Ashton-Smith




 

The Wild Feathers


Nashville quintet the Wild Feathers might just be ushering in another country rock revival all on its own. These five young guys with Oklahoma and Texas roots also share a love of ‘70s Top 40 stalwarts Neil Young, Tom Petty and Led Zeppelin. With the strength of a rollicking good time found in “The Ceiling”, an infectious, soulful tune, the group was quickly added to playlists at tastemaker NPR stations along with retail outlets such as Whole Foods. Their self-titled debut offers a blending of country rock with blues and folk inflections, guitar centric songs with full on four-part harmonies fueled by ex-lead singers. The foot stomping beat of “The Ceiling” is also found in the life affirming “I’m Alive”, as well as the bum luck of “Hard Times”. The band is not even afraid of embracing a heartfelt ballad, as exemplified in “Left My Woman”, “How” and “Hard Times”. Best of all, The Wild Feathers is simply a joy to behold live, demonstrating their talent plus an obvious chemistry with each other and their music. Jane Jansen Seymour


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