1. Richard Hawley
On the shortlist for this year's Mercury Prize with his album Coles Corner, Sheffield's Richard Hawley sounds like a dead ringer for Sinatra. If Sinatra had followed Dylan's lead in the 60s and become a serious folk singer instead of trying to impose his Vegas lounge aesthetic on the popular songs of the day (many of which weren't very good as-is). The title track is the sound of fall coming on. "Like The Rain" is the best Nilsson song he never wrote. Videos for all his tracks can be found at the Mute label's UK site -- check out "Born Under A Bad Sign" for sure.
2. Camera Obscura
Further north, Glasgow's Camera Obscura melds Wall of Sound-ish guitar pop with lead singer Tracyanne Campbell's wistful lyrics and Scottish brogue. The single "Lloyd, I'm Ready to Be Heartbroken" is an answer of sorts to Lloyd Cole's "Are You Ready to Be Heartbroken?" Yes, Lloyd. Tracyanne *is* ready to be heartbroken. Even better is the title track to the album, Let's Get Out of This Country. Retro yet completely fresh at the same time.
3. The Submarines
Closer to home, the story behind this L.A. duo is almost as good as the music itself, which is great. Boy meets girl. Boy and girl record some songs and tour together. Boy and girl break up and each write more songs about the breakup and how much they miss each other. Boy and girl get back together and (maybe) live happily ever after. The resulting album, Declare a New State!, gives both sides of the story through the couple's proto-folk tunes, with some crunchy beats thrown underneath. And I know I heard the opening riff from "How Soon Is Now?" sampled in there too.
4. Lucky Soul
Although only a band of singles thus far, London's Lucky Soul have also been mining the mod sound to great effect. "Lips Are Unhappy" maybe the best song I've heard this year, a shimmering perfect piece of Motown girl-group pop. Take a listen at their MySpace page if you have any doubts. The others there are a bit more downtempo but always soulful and evocative of the Carnaby Street era. Groovy, baby.
5. Lily Allen
Same city, different century, Lily Allen is the real future sound of London. Dub(step), rap, pop, and ska all get mashed up proper, topped off by Lilly's most decidedly not posh accent. Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" was the song of the summer here in the states but "LDN" was it across the pond. Where else are you going to hear some one rhyme "alfresco" and "bags from Tesco"? Equally good is "Smile." Cheeky fun.
Bit behind the times on this one (Witching Hour came out last fall apparently) but "Destroy Everything You Touch" is this Liverpool band at their icy electro best.