Hometown: London, but members are from such far-flung locales as Brazil, Scotland and Canada.
Sounds like: Being in love. Guillemots make exuberant, big-hearted pop like Regan-era groups Prefab Sprout, The Blue Nile and The Dream Academy — without the wonky ’80s production.
Why you should care: If 2005’s I Saw Such Things in My Sleep EP and the absolutely soaring "Trains to Brazil" single are any indication, Guillemots may be 2006’s brightest hope. Rufus Wainright is a fan.
Hurdles: Prefab Sprout and the Blue Nile didn’t exactly rocket up the US charts back in the day and Guillemots’ stateside appeal seems just as unlikely, even amongst indie kids who embraced not-that-dissimilar Stars and Arcade Fire. (Work that Canadian angle, guys!) Many songs feature saxophone.
Interesting fact: The guillemot (pronounced "GILL-eh-mott," by the way) is a thin-billed bird that lays its eggs on rocky coastal cliffs.
What’s next: As yet unsigned in the US, Guillemots are heading this way for a six-date North American tour in March, including the Mercury Lounge on March 13, and stops in Toronto, Chicago, LA, San Francisco and, of course, the SXSW Music Festival.
Sounds like: A dash of prog, a dollop of early-’70s psych-folk, with some Dexy’s Midnight Runners thrown in for good measure. If Mystery Jets were from Wales, you could just say sound Welsh.
Why you should care: Signed to 679 Recordings, home of Futureheads, Annie and The Earlies; scored a slot on the Shockwaves NME Awards Tour, sharing the bill with Arctic Monkeys, Maximo Park and We Are Scientists. All three of Mystery Jets’ 2005 singles ("On My Feet," "You Can’t Fool Me Dennis," "Alas Agnes") were great, and they don’t have a post-punk bone in their body. They don’t sound like anyone else.
Hurdles: Like Guillemots, Mystery Jets may be too weird, too British for American tastes. Lead singer Blaine Harrison looks like he could be in The Levelers.
Interesting fact: Harrison’s 55-year-old father, Henry, is also in the band. Shades of Spirit, no?
What’s next? Mystery Jets’ debut, Making Dems, drops on March 6 in the UK, proceeded by single "The Boy Who Ran Away" on February 27. There’s also the aforementioned NME Shockwaves tour in the UK. The band is playing SXSW, and also hit the Mercury Lounge twice — March 24 – 25. Tickets are on sale.
Download: "Alas Agnes"
Hometown: Davyhulme, England (a suburb of Manchester)
Sounds like: Sunny, harmony-filled ’60s pop (Kinks, Beach Boys, CSNY, etc); a warmer, bouncier High Llamas; a one-man Super Furry Animals
Why you should care: Jim Noir’s home-recorded debut, Tower of Love (which culls his three out-of-print EPs), is irresistible, tuneful and clever, with odes to his computer and his favorite musical key (that would be C). Has a way with "oohs," "ahhs" and "bah bah bahs" to rival the Free Design.
Hurdles: Had never really played gigs until a month ago, so his ability to pull off the album’s charms live remains to be seen. Lyrics occasionally feel dashed-off.
Interesting fact: Often wears suits and bowler hats in official photos.
What’s next? Getting that live show together, including a date at SXSW, which, as stated above, should mean NYC too. Hopefully.
Download: "My Patch"