New band of the day – No 889: Paper Crows

Featuring spacey, spectral sounds, this lot recall the neo-goth beauty of Björk and Bush. That's Kate Bush, by the way, not Gavin Rossdale's crew

Hometown: London.

The lineup: Duncan McDougall (electronics) and Emma Panas (voices).

The background: Can you sense a certain quirkiness creeping into the mainstream? Paul Morley mentioned it yesterday and it got us thinking about Diana Vickers (which doesn't happen that often, to be honest) and the way that she has assumed some of the qualities of the eccentric alt-pop girl, the Björks and Bushes of this (or rather, that) world. And then we started thinking about The X Factor's Cher, which we're probably all going to be doing a lot more of over the next few weeks. Cher probably wouldn't have "happened" two years, even a year, ago, would she? Not on that behemoth of a shiny Saturday night blockbuster; she wouldn't have been allowed on. Now she seems indicative of a desire to move beyond standard showbiz slickness, a determination to add some weird lustre to the programme. You could even imagine her down the line, with a record contract and an image that was all kohl eyes and raven-black lacquered-stiff hair, being gently nudged to pursue a goth-lite approach, so she could join Zola Jesus, Marina and Spark as part of the new wave of kookettes.

And her first single could well be a cover version of Stand Alight, the debut release by Paper Crows. It's spooky enough, with the requisite quality of apartness, the aural equivalent of a goth outfit at Topshop, where haunting power balladry goes high street. It's got it all – acoustic intro a la All About Eve, pounding, spacey beats and weird wobbly synth FX, ethereal vocals and majestic piano chords building to an epic peak before dropping off to just reveal the voice, transfigured in an almost dubstep way, reverberating in the mix like a ghost in the machine. Their other original track on their MySpace is Homebound, which is far more trad-indie in a Sundays way, less strident and suffused with spectral drama. But hopefully Stand Alight is the way forward.

The only other song by Paper Crows that we've heard is a cover of Cloudbusting by Kate Bush that appears to use as its rhythmic base the technoid shuffle from Björk's Human Behaviour – in fact, it could be one of those Soulwax "bootlegs" or "mash-ups" although it wouldn't really work in that way because Björk and Bush are essentially operating in the same area. But it does nail Paper Crows' colours to a particular distinctive couple of masts and demonstrate their lack of shame about their influences when they know full well everyone is going to describe them – especially singer Emma Panas – as Björk/Bush-like.

This confidence augurs well. Panas has been "obsessively writing songs" since she was 14. She's now 18 and we've heard two of them. Where the rest are, we have no idea. We have also yet to witness her "two giant sparkling green eyes that dominate her striking Manga princess-eque visage" (press releases, we love 'em). Nevertheless, what she and her 24-year-old confrere McDougall are doing together should be everyone's business, including Simon Cowell's.

The buzz: "Stand Alight menaces with a near-gothic heaviness and beauty that will be the perfect soundtrack to autumnal darkness."

The truth: All this and the fact that producer-writers Future Cut (Lily Allen, Sugababes, Dizzee) have signed them to their new imprint suggests goth is indeed the new black.

Most likely to: Be called the goth La Roux.

Least likely to: Be called the 21st-century Danny La Rue.

What to buy: Stand Alight was released last week by Future Cut.

File next to: Bat for Lashes, Esben & the Witch, Spark, Björk.


Tuesday's new band: Rizzle Kicks.


Paul Lester

The GuardianTramp

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