We at Stereogum have the UK on the brain this week. And while there’s a big difference between “Britpop” and “British pop,” this seems like an appropriate time to point out just how many singers from the motherland have been making waves on these shores. We haven’t quite reached British Invasion levels of saturation; many of these acts are only internet celebrities in the US despite rising-star status in their homeland. It’s actually quite a bit like Britpop in that way — a cultural phenomenon over there, a cult phenomenon over here. Yet more and more, figures like Ed Sheeran and Ellie Goulding are becoming legitimate stars in America, and the likes of Sam Smith and Rita Ora (pictured) have been taking initial steps in that direction. Whether they make it in the States or not, the UK is exporting notable pop stars en masse these days. Let’s have a look at them.
British singer Hannah Diamond feels and sounds like a pop star on “Attachment,” but with something slightly off. There’s the odd music-box melody, slight pitch-shifting to her voice, and those glistening/glitching beats that are so polished they give off sun glare. Then there’s the faint sadness of the starry-eyed hook as Diamond lovingly sings, “Though I love you baby, it feels kind of crazy every time you see me I’m on my own/ Feeling better really, I can see you clearly now I’ve saved you as a picture on my phone,” before her voice warps and spirals off into electronic chirps, losing any human quality. Right there with SOPHIE’s demolishing 2013 single “BIPP,” “Attachment” is bubblegum hyperreality and absolutely stunning for it. Listen and download it below.
Britpop stars like Damon Albarn weren’t supposed to age. This is often true of famous musicians, of course, from pop ingenues to boy bands to punk rockers, but there was a specific element of youthfulness that accompanied Britpop. Sure, Jarvis Cocker was always kind of old before his time, but Britpop as a genre, even when it was incisive and took on the whole scope of British culture, also had an inherent boyishness and, at times, brattiness to it — no doubt partially attributable, in this instance, to the way in which the British tabloids helped a seething rivalry between Albarn and Oasis’ Noel Gallagher fester in the media. Blur’s music sounded like a young man’s game, even when it took on its darkest topics and broke down into a real bleary-eyed world-weariness in the late ’90s. You look at old footage of Albarn, and you hear him sing a song like “The Universal,” and you think: How is this man supposed to mature gracefully into the next stage of his life and career? How does one of the the stars at the forefront of a movement like Britpop grow old?
The first time I interviewed Lykke Li was in 2008. I flew to Stockholm to spend a week following her around for a feature story that was to be published just as her debut album, Youth Novels, was seeing release here in the States. What struck me most about Lykke at the time was her absolute seriousness in regards to her music, coupled with her ambivalence about being considered a pop star (which is essentially what everyone wanted her to be). In the years since, even though much has changed in her life — her sophomore album, 2011′s Wounded Rhymes, made her something of a bonafide indie-pop celebrity — her attitude toward making music remains seemingly unchanged. As far as her career goes, Lykke still leads with her heart, which meant eschewing almost all traditionally “pop” notions when it came to the making her forthcoming third album. A breakup album in the classic “rip out your heart and throw it on the ground” vein, I Never Learn is both epic and incredibly intimate. It also speaks closely to the relative terrors of being in your late twenties and what it means (or doesn’t mean) to be emotionally adult. I had to the chance to sit down with Lykke a few weeks ago and discuss the making of the record and how she feels about entering this new phase of her career.
Chairlift leader Caroline Polachek has taken on the side-project alter-ego Ramona Lisa, and she recorded all of her new album Arcadia by herself, on her laptop. She’s already made a video for the album’s title track, and now she’s followed that one with a new self-directed video for “Dominic,” another hazy track from the album. In this one, Polachek pilots a rowboat through some picturesque marshlands in Florida’s Everglades National Park, and she seems way calmer about all the alligators surrounding her than I would be. Also, she’s got a new haircut, and I really like it. Check out the video below.
Siinai are progressive kraut-rockers from Finland, and their new album Supermarket is due out June 17 via Splendour. As you may have surmised from both the album title, and the title of their new track “Shopping Trance,” the project is an attempt to make “a soundtrack for the supermarket nations.”
The always-sharp Brit-rock lifer (and former Jam and Style Council frontman) Paul Weller released a new single called “Brand New Toy” on Record Store Day. It’s a clean, bouncy power-pop number, and in its new Joe Connor-directed video, Weller and his backing band casually knock the song out while the camera makes it look like they’re part of a huge kaleidoscope. Enjoy it while you can because Weller is done with this Record Store Day business. In a post on his website, Weller brings up the common complaints that everyday fans, including some who’d lined up for hours, couldn’t get the single because predatory types had bought up all the copies and were selling them on eBay before RSD even started. Well claims he won’t be participating in Record Store Day again. Check out the video and the note from Weller below.
While Chris was mostly writing about newer bands in his recent coverage of the emo revival, several veterans acts have risen from the dead, too. We’ve gotten a new song from Sunny Day Real Estate, a reunion from American Football, and now emo greats Mineral have announced their first shows in 17 years. In addition to releasing some tour dates, frontman Chris Simpson shared a statement that you can read below.