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Music (Brighton arts this year…)

Now that the ‘Christmas Hits’ CD has been packed safely away to gather dust for another year, it’s that time again to look ahead to 2009 and start getting excited about all the fresh and wonderful sounds the new year will be bringing to our ears. Or not. Rather depressingly, the list of artists being bandied around at the moment as “the next big thing” makes for some thoroughly underwhelming reading.

It seems that the record industry is still intent on prolonging the 80s revival of last year with a host of electro-pop acts set to dominate the charts. There’s the funky, Prince-tinged synth-pop of La Roux – whose debut single ‘Quicksand’ is already tearing up dancefloors across the land – and the slightly more chilled and melodic Little Boots – Blackpool’s answer to Debbie Harry, apparently. Lady GaGa – complete with an I-took-this-straight-from-David-Bowie lightning bolt painted on her face – is a sexed-up American equivalent with a hip-hop edge (she’s currently on tour with the Pussycat Dolls), while Australia provides us with the more refined and sonically interesting Empire of the Sun.

But, clearly, this is far, far too much electro-pop! As good as all of these artists are, it is difficult to get excited by any of them when they are swamped by so many similar acts. We can only hope that one or two will rise above the rest during the course of the year. Empire of the Sun seem the most likely candidates; they look to have a bit more originality about them than the rest.

It is even more difficult to find any indie bands to get excited about. White Lies, the group on everybody’s lips at the moment, are a highly competent band and play highly competent songs; but their clinical sound is devoid of any warmth or soul. The Joy Division / Interpol influence is clear, but based on their singles it is difficult to see what they are doing that the likes of Editors haven’t already done. The same can be said of the lank-haired Red Light Company: a slightly cheerier proposition, but with a similarly over-polished sound that does little to get the hairs on the back of the neck tingling.

Personally, I’m pinning my 2009 hopes on VV Brown and Florence and the Machine. VV Brown’s soulful take on pop-punk is very different from the folk inspired indie of Florence and the Machine, but both artists share an irresistibly quirky sense of fun that is sorely lacking from most of the other up-and-comers tipped to ‘make it’ this year. These two actually bring something different to what is already available and seem to be doing what they love rather than making music purely for the sake of commercial success. If you haven’t heard either of them yet then I highly recommend heading to their MySpace pages right away.

However, it seems likely that it will be established artists making the biggest splashes this year: The Strokes are due to start working on their fourth album after a three year hiatus; Eminem, too, is strongly rumoured to be coming out of ‘retirement’; and perhaps this will be the year Dr Dre decides to release his highly anticipated third (and final?) album, ‘Detox’, upon the world.

But the biggest musical event to look forward to in 2009 is surely Blur’s reunion. The band will be playing a mammoth gig at Hyde Park in July (sold out in under two minutes!) and are strongly rumoured to be headlining this year’s Glastonbury. There are also industry rumblings that the reunion has resulted in new album material which is set to be recorded later this year. Now if that’s not something to get excited about in 2009, I don’t know what is. Just please, Damon, Graham et al. – no electro-pop!

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