Ren Harvieu, The Lexington, London
Niki and the Dove, Hoxton Bar and Kitchen, London

If the biz doesn't stop churning out retro-style soul singers, pop will turn into an Amish farmstead

How many vintage-styled songbirds is too many? With Amy Winehouse deceased and Adele retired, record labels are currently falling over themselves to sign up retro-flavoured chanteuses and foist them on us as Bright New Hopes, on the principle that if even one of them sticks, the cash reward will justify the investment in the also-rans.

Ren Harvieu, a 21-year-old from Salford, is signed to Amy's old label, and backed by Amy's publicity team. But Ren Harvieu is no Amy Winehouse. With her ultra-personal lyrics, her chaotic persona and her general way of what Heidegger called "being-in-the-world", Amy was an incredible pop star as well as a phenomenal vocalist. The least interesting thing about Amy Winehouse was that her music sounded like old soul records. With this second wave of Wino clones, that's all they've got in the locker. If you thought the New Boring was bad, beware the New Professionalism.

It's wall-to-wall media and industry at The Lexington, where Harvieu is making her big London coming-out showcase. Her stick-on backstage pass ruining the effect of an elegant emerald evening dress which makes her look like the green one from a tin of Quality Street, she's a meek, awkward, rabbit-in-the-headlights presence, despite already having toured in support of James Morrison and Glasvegas.

Her voice, however, is perfectly reasonable, in a musical style that's hip-swinging Rat-Pack jazz and stripper sass, all upright bass, drum rallentandos, and pretend strings from the keyboardist (who is unceremoniously booted off at one point to make way, with no clear reason, for Ed Harcourt). If you think you've heard all her tunes before, you nearly have. One song sounds like The Flamingos' "I Only Have Eyes For You" but isn't; another sounds like David Bowie's "Absolute Beginners" – itself a pastiche of the golden age of Tin Pan Alley – but isn't. One song goes "she won't love you like I do" but hasn't got the magic number; another is called "Forever In Blue" but without the jeans.

One song sounds like Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game" ... and is. A completely straight cover version like this does little to dispel the impression that Ren Harvieu is little more than a wedding singer who got lucky. And, in a climate where even Lana Del Rey, who at least brings some faux-gangsta attitude and hip-hop beats to the periodic table, is being snarked about by industry insiders as being "Chris Isaak with tits", it's a truly bizarre decision. Worse is to come with her almost a cappella rendition of Roy Orbison's "Crying", during which I physically wince when she makes a Psycho shower-scene stab at the big high note.

In his book Retromania, Simon Reynolds argues that third-millennium pop's obsession with its own past threatens to strangle its own source of lifeblood. When I watch pure period re-enactment like this, I'm inclined to agree. In the words of Mike Skinner, let's push things forward, before pop turns into an Amish farmstead entirely.

I glance around at my music biz colleagues, and I honestly don't understand what we're all doing here. At least, no civilians were harmed. "Did we make any actual money?", I overhear a promoter asking the door girl. I don't catch the answer, but it's met with "Is that all?"

Niki and the Dove are, on the face of it, another potentially clone-like proposition, given the Girl's Name and The Thing formula popularised by Florence and Marina. Here, however, there's a twist: there's no Niki and there's no Dove. Led by Malin Dahlström, the Stockholm trio play synthpop noir with an edge of end-of-the-world drama, which is the kind of thing Sweden does extremely well (see also: Robyn, The Knife).

BBC Sound of 2012 top-fivers NATD number seven on stage, with two extra musicians as well as Gustaf Karlöf (keyboards) and Magnus Böqvist (drums), in gold-dripping shoulder raiments like extras from Joseph L Mankiewicz's Cleopatra, flanked by two women whose only role seems to be doing expressive "I am a tree" tai chi.

"Look at you!", says Dahlström to the crowd, "You are amay-sing!", somehow surprised by the sight of hundreds of glow-bracelets and glow-sticks which her own people gave out at the door. What's really amay-sing, though, is the number of killer tunes the Swedes have up their sleeves, such as "Mother Protect", on which Marin's Lovich/Lauper squeak and Abba-esque diction ("cray-see") rides on a quasi-Latin shuffle that's reminiscent of mid-Eighties Kate Bush. Even if her jumpsuit is, frankly, a bit more Sheena Easton.

Next Week:

Simon Price sets his altimeter to catch Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds, and keeps things ornithological with Kiwi comeback kid Ladyhawke

Pop Choice

Simple Minds finally play the tour that connoisseurs have been waiting for: the best of their first five albums, in support of the X5 box set, starting at Birmingham Academy (Fri) and Glasgow Barrowlands (Sat). Meanwhile, the newly-blonde Marina and the Diamonds make their return to live performance at Brighton St George's Church (Sat).

Arts and Entertainment
Kathy (Sally Lindsay) in Ordinary Lies
tvReview: The seemingly dull Kathy proves her life is anything but a snoozefest
Arts and Entertainment

Listen to his collaboration with Naughty Boy

Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig in a scene from ‘Spectre’, released in the UK on 23 October

Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap

Arts and Entertainment

Poldark review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Katie Brayben is nominated for Best Actress in a Musical for her role as Carole King in Beautiful

Arts and Entertainment
Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot has been cast to play Wonder Woman
Top Gear presenter James May appears to be struggling with his new-found free time
Arts and Entertainment
Kendrick Lamar at the Made in America Festival in Los Angeles last summer
Arts and Entertainment
'Marley & Me' with Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Hamm (right) and John Slattery in the final series of Mad Men
Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

    War with Isis

    Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
    Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

    A spring in your step?

    Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
    Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

    Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

    Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
    Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

    Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

    For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
    Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

    Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

    As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
    The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

    UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

    Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
    Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

    Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

    Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
    Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

    Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

    If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
    10 best compact cameras

    A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

    If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
    Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

    Paul Scholes column

    Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
    Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

    Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

    Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
    Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

    Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

    The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
    General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

    The masterminds behind the election

    How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?