There are cult bands, and then there are sub-cult bands, who grind away for years and even decades, putting out records that don't make much impact outside of local scenes and a small circle of fanzines and college DJs. Acid House Kings have been making lithe, likeable indie pop in their native Sweden since the early '90s, but the band's new album, Sing Along With Acid House Kings, might be the linchpin record that elevates them from "never heard of" status to "oh, I've been listening to those dudes for years." Fans of Belle & Sebastian and Kings Of Convenience ought to salivate over the glassy "That's Because You Drive Me," with its lush strings and skittering rhythm guitar, while songs like "Do What You Wanna Do" and "Tonight Is Forever" assemble pieces of old northern soul singles and fragments of the Shimmy Disc catalog into a happy-sad mood familiar to fans of The Cardigans. Sing Along's only real flaw is its flawlessness, which makes the music sound too hermetically sealed at times, but the band keeps a little kink in the offbeat-but-heartfelt lyrics of "London School Of Economics," which describe the inherent loneliness of continent-hopping sophisticates.
North Carolina's The Kingsbury Manx already has a devoted following, but the jump to prestige indie label Yep Roc for The Fast Rise And Fall Of The South (its fourth album in five years) should still elevate the band's profile. In finding the place where the British folkies in The Fairport Convention meet the head-case progressives in Pink Floyd, The Kingsbury Manx has discovered a kind of naturalist psychedelia, which it puts across in brisk, mumbly, under-three-minute songs like "And What Fallout!" and "Greenland." The band's pop sense comes through in the ping-ponging piano ballad "What A Shame" and the snappy "1000 8," but The Fast Rise And Fall Of The South is best represented by the shambling "Nova," which starts as a lo-fi anthem and then explodes into an extended, explosive instrumental coda, revealing the grandeur just beyond the common man's field of vision.