Kowalski: On the convenient bus to easy street

While Anglophenia head blogger Kevin is on vacation for the holidays, our resident Belfast native Michael Cree decided to step in and write about the music from his hometown. And he’s letting you in on one of Northern Ireland’s best-kept secrets, Kowalski. Well, they won’t be a secret much longer, as they are poised for world domination in 2010. Let Michael explain…

Two weeks prior to the big ’10 and you’re probably gearing yourself up for the holiday period. And if you’re anything like me, you might also be frantically searching for last minute gifts. My father, though, is never a problem. Every year, I tell you, every year, he asks for a CD. “Get me something that you listen to, but I don’t want to hear any swearing or any of that… something I can tap my feet to,” he rather oddly relayed to me last week. Though a little puzzled about the idea of tapping both feet, I’ve decided to introduce him to a fabulously talented and rapidly emerging British band that he, and you, have never heard of. Their name is Kowalski. And your Ipod will thank me for highlighting them.

Comprising drummer Paddy Baird, bassist Tom O’Hara, guitarist Paddy Conn, and singer/guitarist Louis Price, Kowalski are the latest in a rich line of talented bands emerging from Bangor, Northern Ireland, a small seaside town 10 miles east of the capital, Belfast. Now I’m not prone to hyperbole, but this band will make you feel good about yourself. Often compared to a hybrid mix of Death Cab for Cutie and The Postal Service, the band’s catchy riffs and intelligent melodies are only surpassed in their magnificence by the sheer quality of singer Louis Price’s vocals. And the beauty of this? They don’t even know it. But some do. Ever heard of Snow Patrol? You know, one of the biggest bands on Planet Earth? Guest DJ’ing on BBC Radio 1, lead singer Gary Lightbody summed it up succinctly when he labeled Kowalski’s debut 2005 EP, Are You Noisy Sunshine State? ‘stunning’, before going on to play a number of tracks. So impressed was he in fact, that Snow Patrol invited Kowalski to support them in front of 30,000 people at one of their sold out UK tour dates.

Having seen a lucrative publishing deal fall through in the midst of this year’s financial crisis, 2010 now has the pleasure of unveiling Kowalski as a musical force. The only unsigned band to sell out Belfast’s renowned Limelight music venue in its entire history, they won’t be unsigned for long. Releasing a new free to download single ‘Get Back’ on December 21st, they kick off an Irish tour in March, with dates including Dublin, Limerick, Galway, Londonderry, and Belfast. So do yourself a favor, download some of their tunes and let me know what you think. Like my father, they might just get your feet tapping.

Watch a short documentary on the band, featuring performances, Gary Lightbody’s appraisal and much more.

Kevin Wicks

Kevin Wicks founded BBCAmerica.com's Anglophenia blog back in 2005 and has been translating British culture for an American audience ever since. While not British himself - he was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri - he once received inordinate hospitality in London for sharing the name of a dead but beloved EastEnders character. His Anglophilia stems from a high school love of Morrissey, whom he calls his "gateway drug" into British culture.

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