First Exposure: New Bands Worth Knowing

FREDRIK Na Na Ni [The Kora]
The debut by this Malmö, Sweden, six-piece comes on like typical Scandinavian folk pop. It’s cashmere-soft, endlessly lilting and more polite than a game of backgammon between Kings Of Convenience and Jens Lekman. A side project from first-name-only songwriters Fredrik and Lindefelt of pop duo the LK, Na Na Ni has its autumnal charms. Tenderly played acoustic guitars, glockenspiel and cello frame the melodic, wallflower vocals. Things get interesting, however, during Japanese-tinged, koto-music interlude “Hei Hei” and the nearly all-instrumental second half of the album. Soon enough, Na Na Ni descends into a rabbit hole with the kind of mystical, pastoral tunes last heard on records by Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci and Fairport Convention. It’s a pleasantly weird turn of events for such an otherwise well-adjusted indie-pop album. [www.thekorarecords.com]

ABSENTEE Victory Shorts [Memphis Industries]
Calvin Johnson, David Berman, Matt Berninger and Elmer Fudd can all lay claim as forefathers to the sing/speak baritone of Absentee frontman Dan Michaelson. “Love has had its way with me,” he croaks on his London quartet’s second album. Victory Shorts isn’t all tears in lagers, however; songs such as “Bitchstealer” rock wryly with the wrinkled-suit elegance of Silver Jews and Art Brut. [www.memphis-industries.com]

CARRIGAN Young Men Never Die [Hello My Name Is Records]
With its layered guitars, walls of tasteful synths and triumphant-sounding drums, Young Men Never Die has the potential to quench prog-rock fans’ thirst for soothing, atmospheric arrangements. The sophomore album by the Rhode Island duo of Zack Martin and Ken Johnson finds its sound somewhere at the crossroads of Radiohead and Explosions In The Sky. [www.hellomynameisrecords.com]

HATCHBACK: Pale Blue Dot [Lo]
Talk about reverse engineering: Hatchback makes sleek, tech-savvy driving music suitable for Volkswagen ads. As suggested by song title “Everything Is Neu,” the debut from California musician Samuel Milton Grawe runs on krautrock fumes, but the all-instrumental tracks are filtered through Stereolab’s blissed-out keyboard disco and Röyksopp’s airport-lounge hooks. [www.lorecordings.com]

ED LAURIE Meanwhile In The Park [Dangerbird]
London singer/songwriter Ed Laurie evokes the feeling of calm before the storm. With haunting vocals and gentle, Spanish-inflected guitar, Meanwhile In The Park imagines José González and M. Ward in a Guitar Hero showdown. Every cloud has a silver lining, and Laurie’s debut is a dark and stormy affair. [www.dangerbirdrecords.com]

THE PICA BEATS Beating Back The Claws Of The Cold [Hardly Art]
Beginning as a collaboration between singer/guitarist Ryan Barrett and drummer Colin English, Seattle’s Pica Beats have evolved into a dynamic quartet. This debut album combines the Decemberists’ lush, narrative lyrics with Belle And Sebastian’s gently swaying pop, engaging the listener with a charming, catchy collection of sitar-laced storytelling. [www.hardlyart.com]

VON HAYES Evident Eyelid [State Capital]
This New Jersey/Delaware band is named after a certain doe-eyed former Philadelphia Phillies first baseman, but you don’t have to be a baseball-card collector to figure out where Von Hayes is coming from. Evident Eyelid could be a great, lost, early-period Guided By Voices album, with Bob Pollard singing in his highest vocal register. Still not convinced? These 20 songs clock in at less than 35 minutes and were mastered by GBV/Pollard producer Todd Tobias. [www.statecapitalrecords.com]

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