Louise MacGregor ponders the Rockness 2012 and gives her considered opinion of who is to watch for this year’s festival.
Sound of Guns (Clash Arena, Saturday)
I have a particular soft spot for Sound of Guns, as they were the first band I ever reviewed, but, aside from that, they’re honestly good. Delivering genuinely bombastic indie rock with catchy, wide-eyed enthusiasm, their live performances are consistently excellent. The lead singer, in particular, has a knack for providing vocals that are both unpretentious yet cheekily knowing. The music is big, with crunchy guitar riffs and soaring choruses. Above all, though, they’re a hell of a lot of fun to dance to.
Sounds like: Dirty Pretty Things crossed with King Charles.
Listen to: Architects, Elementary of Youth
To Kill a King (Clash Arena, Sunday)
To Kill a King are one of those bands that I just can’t get my head around the continuing (relative) obscurity of. The lyrics are relatably glum (though perhaps not as knowing as they’d like to be), the vocals are pleasingly odd while remaining tuneful, with some beautiful harmonies, and they play better music when they’re angry about something as opposed to when they’re sad. The real stand-out here are the languid guitars, with their properly laid-back riffs that have a habit of installing themselves in your brain for weeks.
Sounds Like: A more acoustic Editors.
Listen to: Bones, Bloody Shirt
The Correspondents (Goldenvoice Arena, Friday)
Right, let’s get this straight, here in sentence one: The Correspondents are brilliant. The lyrics are knowing, sly, sexy, and distinctly music-hall, the lead singer is utterly exceptional, with his inanely excellent dancing and slightly sinister delivery, and the bizarre clash of jazz, electro and swing just has no right whatsoever to sound as good as it does. Whether delivering their signature story-songs or barbed little love numbers, they just can’t seem to get it wrong, and, by all accounts, are absolutely great live too. They are my pick for Rockness this year.
Sounds like: A British Panic! At The Disco in their early years. But better.
Listen to: Rose & Jane, Cheating with You
Jakwob (Goldenvoice Arena, Sunday)
I’m going to come right out here and say it- I’m not a big dubstep fan. You can keep your drops and your wubs and so forth, but even I have to admit that Jakwob are good. As opposed to being a screaming mix of ear-splitting synths and based entirely around aggressive, off-putting speed, most of the songs take their time to build to a more satisfying crescendo. The addition of a few bits and pieces of catchy synthesizers and strings here and their give the music a fuller feeling, and, although I’m not exactly the Professor of Dubstep at the University of Wub, it’s enjoyable, very danceable, and good fun.
Sounds Like: A mixture of Moby and a lighter, less brain-bending Skrillex.
Listen to: Wild Pitch, Electrify
Kassidy (Main Stage, Sunday)
Kassidy are a band which simply define proper acoustic pop. Their easy, gentle songs with just a hint of bite here and there are laid-back to point of horizontal, belying the fact that they are actually exceptionally tight. The guitar riffs are appealingly perky and eminently easy to get down to, and the extraordinary vocal harmonies (their cover of Rolling in the Deep is stunning) separate them from the basic three-chords-with-angst standard of acoustic music. The ability to produce a good three-minute pop song is often overlooked, but Kassidy have perfected the art. At the very least, four very hairy blokes with guitars will be difficult to miss.
Sounds like: Depending on the song, somewhere between Cake and a more guitar-heavy version of the Beach Boys.
Listen to: Stray Cat, Waking Up Sideways
Tim Minchin (Goldenvoice Arena, Saturday)
What is it about little Australian comedian Tim Minchin that’s so spectacular? Is it the mad hair and tight jeans? The piano skills so impressive that they often induce bleeding from the eyes? The infectious, head-over-heels enthusiasm? All of the above and more. I am still gnashing my teeth in frustration that I’m missing him, so the least I can do is compel everyone to see him. He is genuinely hilarious, creative, and has an almost Izzard-like quality of being able to stretch a single punchline into a skit that lasts five minutes and doesn’t get old. And he’s simply astonishing on the piano.
Sounds like: similar in theory to Flight of the Conchords musical comedy, but much more adult and much more fun.
Listen to: Inflatable You, Storm, Confessions
Bastille (Howards End in association with Sound City, Saturday)
Bastille are an odd mix. The clash of dirty synthesizers, clean, earnest vocals and odd little piano and strings samples don’t have any right to work, and occasionally really don’t, but when they do, the effect is wonderful. The lead singer has the ability to pull together the disparate music with his strong delivery of the simplistic lyrics, and his stage presence seems to be something notable. The music isn’t perfect but it is intriguing; I get the feeling that if you see Bastille on Saturday, you’ll be recounting the story when you’re trying to get tickets for their sold-out gig at Wembley.
Sounds like: I spent about an hour trying to find someone who sounds like them, but the closest I could say would be a more electronic version of The Script.
Listen to: Sleepsong, Laura Palmer
The Rapture (Main Stage, Saturday)
Rapture are a deliciously spiky band. With half-sung, half-shouted lyrics that hark back to some much missed punk sensibilities, and driving, tart guitar riffs, they are a must-see band. Their music is a mixture of the sort of proper, over-the-top punk anthems that haven’t really been done properly for years, delicate, almost lethargic moody tunes, and odd, easy-listening little number focused on twiddly little guitar-and-piano riffs that shouldn’t work but do. The versatility of the vocals lends credence to all the different styles they take on, and the band behind them is tight, talented, and well worth seeing.
Sounds like: Despite the vast mixture of songs, broadly, an updated version of the Sex Pistols with access to better recording equipment.
Listen to: Echoes (soundtrack from the TV show, Misfits), It Takes Time to Make a Man, Infatuation
Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs (Goldenvoice Arena, Sunday)
If you’re looking for a break from the endless full-on noise you’re bound to be subjected to over the weekend, Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs are the ones for you. Their music swings between minimalistic, tight and beautifully considered, and loud, dance-floor filling and yet still taut. The fiddly synthesizer riffs are wonderful and the man behind the music, Orlando Higginbottom, has a fabulously ethereal voice that lifts the music above the usual dance norm. Also performing at Bestival this year, it would be a crime to miss TEED at Rockness.
Sounds like: A tighter, uncluttered Dillon Francis.
Listen to: Garden, Household Goods
Ed Sheeran (Goldenvoice Arena, Friday)
In all honestly, I don’t listen to Ed Sheeran’s music for pleasure. I quite liked that one about how I need him but he doesn’t need me and that other one about angels, but overall I am ambivalent. However, I saw him out a sense of duty at Belladrum last year and was blown away. His live show was absolutely astonishing. His rapport with the audience was great, each impeccable rendition of his big hits and his album filers was as convincing as the last, and the genuine feeling that he was thrilled to be there. I really can’t recommend him enough, and, even though you were probably going to see him anyway, I’d suggest fighting your way to the front and dancing like a man possessed.
Sounds like: When he’s on form, think the cool, relevant lyrics of Bob Dylan, but sung with a better voice and trolley loads more enthusiasm.
Listen to: You Need Me, I Don’t Need You, Drunk