As the year winds down, here are five music acts from around the globe - including Canada - whose varied sounds you may have overlooked in 2012:
This L.A. band, -- I'm going to assume you pronounce their name as "BlackSand" -- are being compared to the likes of Vampire Weekend, but I think the quartet - which includes Donald Eley, Tiger Smith, Jutty Shark and Jules Bellin - are a little deeper sounding on their debut EP, The Race is On, particularly on their standout song, What They Think. It's a little pre-British invasion pop mixed with 21st century sheen and a whole lotta soul and dance.
Previously famous for having dated Amy Winehouse, this British blue-eyed soul artist could be the next George Michael, which depending on how you feel about Michael, could be a good or bad thing. His debut album, The Lateness of the Hour, was released in 2011 in the U.K. before he was dropped by his label there, but then across the pond, the single Too Close - as in, "And it feels like I am just too close to love you" - has been omnipresent in a commercial for Internet Explorer 9 ads, eventually becoming a top ten hit in the U.S.
The Toronto synth-pop duo and middle school sweethearts Austin Garrick and Bronwyn Griffin have yet to capitalize on their cool, creamy-sounding collaboration with College on the track A Real Hero from the 2011 Ryan Gosling movie Drive, which was nominated for best music for a 2012 MTV Movie Award. But their latest single, The Best Thing, on which they worked with synth-pop master Vince Clarke (Depeche Mode, Erasure, Yaz), is out now.
Vancouver garage-rock duo Brian King and David Prowse are overdue for major mainstream success with their live performances wildly praised, and their 2012 sophomore album Celebration Rock receiving similar thumbs up from Pitchfork and SPIN. The album was shortlisted for a Polaris Prize in Canada, leading to an appearance on Jimmy Fallon and comparisons to The Replacements and The Who. A cross-Canada tour begins Dec. 10 in Montreal.
Saint Lou Lou:
Swedish 21-year-old twins Elektra and Miranda Kilbey are a marketing dream come true with their Nordic good looks, cool retro fashion sense and summery synth song Maybe You, with an accompanying Herb Ritts-like black-and-white video. They've already been featured in Vogue on the strength of this one song. Now they've relocated to London to record their debut album.