The London-based group Noisettes has proven that just because you’re black does not mean you have to offer only hip-hop or soul or anything between. The band’s first major-label release Wild Young Hearts is finally out in Bangkok (it was released in Britain in April). Their first single Don’t Upset the Rhythm—disco-ready but with rock-cred—sounds like a hit Gwen Stefani should have recorded (instead of designing clothes!). It climbed to No. 2 on the UK charts, but over here, unless you’re log 0n to some Internet radio station, you’re not likely to have heard much airplay.
This has been labelled “unapologetic pop”, but not what Beyonce addicts would expect. While the songs are, to me, radio-friendly, you can’t really classify them. I am inclined to tag them “indie” since they do jangly and acoustic guitars so well, but that would be pigeon-holing their genre-bending music. I like the fact that the vocal styling is not histrionic, the songs are superbly crafted, the lyrics contemporary (“I waited for so long; put up with your shenanigans”!) and intelligent —just wickedly good.
The focal, but more likely vocal, point is singer/bassist Shingai Shoniwa. Her singing is Fantasia-meets-Amy Winehouse, with Lauren Hill thrown in for good measure. And while all the tracks are done without overtly multi-tracked harmonies, the tunes sound like they could have been sung by Motown girl groups such as the Marvellettes (but not The Supremes!). Before you can even think that this might be too twee, they hit you with So Complicated, a song that The Cure will definitely approve.
Noisette in French is hazelnut, but the band wouldn’t have anything to do with the ingredient for praline. They told the press that they were trying to convey the idea that they’re noisy. Funny, when I heard the first track Sometimes, with its opening Spanish guitars and a seductive lo-fi vibe, I was thinking of Nutella!