Pop: Sleeve notes

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The Independent Culture
One of the themes of 1998 has been the number of rootsy rock and slowcore atmospheric bands to emerge, pushing aside the jangly guitars and the screeching vocalists of Britpop. The most famous of the American- influenced ilk have been Mercury Prize winners Gomez (above), while Mojave 3 and Sunhouse have also turned a few heads.

It looks like the trend is going to continue in 1999 and the band that most people are touting are Witness. Signed to Island and from the same town as The Verve, they've gathered much coverage even though they only have one limited edition single and a few live gigs under their belt. They should deliver a good, slowburning heartbreaker of an album in the coming year.

One of the most moving discs to come through the mailbox of late is by an outfit called Arco on the tiny London-based Dreamy label. Their "Ending Up" EP is one of those beautifully sad records that manage to give the listener a sense of almost euphoric catharsis. Also in this dark world are White Hotel and the more folkie Chineseburn.