Home country: Serbia
The six songs on the latest offering from Karneval are all inspired by and named after films, most of which you are likely to be unfamiliar with. But if you haven't seen, for example, the Salvador Dali-written Destino you'll want to after hearing Karneval's musical interpretation of the psychedelic short. Karneval describe themselves as an electro baroque pop band and "Destino" is an airy dream where the music takes a back seat to the lead vocals of Milica Krstic. The song recalls the early work of prog band Renaissance and since Krstic is not singing in English it's easy to let your mind wander during a listen and imagine her as a medieval princess in need of rescue. Whatever your interpretation, her vocals on the song whip up a great hook that sticks with you for awhile. Jethro Tull-ish flute riffing enhances "Dvoje," "Fitzcarraldo" and "Le Notti Bianche" find Krstic in an operatic mood and "Wild at Heart," sung in English, has Karneval turning up the Balkan electro beats to give Krstic a chance to work in a vein that'll be familiar to Kate Bush fans. Movies is a sublime trip to the cinema and you won't even need popcorn.
Home country: Turkey
Allen Hulsey and Emre Atabay are Muj and even though they live in Brooklyn now they are still promoting themselves as a Turkish band. Their music reflects both the hipness of NYC and the band's eastern roots; "Elastic" for example is poppy trip-hop that sounds vaguely Middle Eastern at points while the electro rock of "Got You" on the other hand drips with Istanbul cool. "As I'm Told" sounds a little Oasis-influenced but Hulsey and Atabay, both of whom sing, keep fresh sounds flowing for the whole of 2012. I doubt that Muj think the world is ending this year as some predict but just in case, do yourself a favor: give a listen to 2012 as soon as you can. You'll either discover a keeper you can enjoy for years or go out in fine style.
Home country: Hungary
The nice thing about being a band that plays instrumental music is that you can give your songs titles like "Asparagus" without having to worry about writing lyrics about vegetables. The aforementioned song is a jazzy stalk of prog rock, as is "Babel Confusion" though the track has a couple of explosive guitar parts that push it into the prog metal realm. "Lazy Boy," contrary to its title, is a burbling Alan Parsons-like prog rocker with an especially funky bass line while "The Untold Chapter" sounds like one of John McLaughlin's ventures into fusion. Superior musicianship is on display throughout Soul Alert and that translates to about an hour's worth of very good listening.
Mon Electric Bijou
Terror at the Gates
Home country: Canada
When Mon Electric Bijou first bite into "Vampire Avenue" they sound like lo-fi but energetic rockers but then they suck up some real rock'n'roll blood and launch the song into Exile on Main Street-era Stones territory. "American Revolver" recalls Crazy Horse, "Escape Goat" echoes R.E.M. and instrumental cut "Aftermath" finds MEB slow simmering a spaghetti western motif. Much of what's coming out of the band's hometown of Montreal these days is understated mellowness but these guys buck the trend with this impressive set of trebly and twangy guitar-oriented rock that's equally at home on the college scene or in the dive bar.