- Holly Conlan (“OK”) – McCartney-esque, piano-based, Tin Pan Alley – that’s what I heard from the opening bars of “OK,” and she continues the theme throughout. Judging from her MySpace selections, she’s a little more downbeat, but sticks mostly to the piano throughout.
- King of Prussia (“Misadventures of the Campaign Kids”) – No, not another Belle & Sebastian sound-alike. This band is from my neck of the woods (Athens, Ga.), and they claim B&S as an “obvious” comparison. But they have more bite than that, and despite the bizarre lyrics (which is a nod to B&S), “Campaign Kids” is full of energy, with strong, strumming acoustic guitars accenting a big sound.
- Little Jackie (“The World Should Revolve Around Me”) – This is what R&B should always be like. I fear too many comparisons to Amy Winehouse, but Little Jackie delivers a big Motown sound with strong, independent, feminist lyrics. This song is fun and infectious.
- Look See Proof (“Casualty”) – They’re from the UK, but they sound like early U2. NME is even more flattering: “Pure pop with all the good bits present and correct: choppy, insistent guitars, a pounding beat and harmonies a go-go.”
- Nicole Atkins (“Maybe Tonight”) – I had tried to peg Nicole Atkins as a female Jeff Buckley – soaring vocals, heartfelt anthems, but there was something missing. Then Chris at Music Snobbery nailed it: “The kind of music you would hear in head if you visited an abandoned amusement park.” If you listen, you’ll understand.
- Paul Collins Beat (“Don’t Wait Up For Me”) – Forerunners to the Knack, this group has been making music off and on for almost 30 years. In fact, this song was on their debut album in 1979. It’s timeless, and is a quintessential power pop song – strong hooks with a memorable guitar riff.