Sir Sly are a brand new trio who were initially – predictably – shrouded in mystery until they revealed themselves, up to which point they were rumoured to be an offshoot of Foster the People, the idea being that they were an opportunity for that sunny LA band to express their darker pop urges. Their debut single is being released by National Anthem, the London imprint behind EPs from Haim, Atlas Genius and Chvrches. In the States it's being issued by Neon Gold, whose A&R sensibility is a matter of record, although what the blog arm of that label meant when they described one of Sir Sly's tracks as "a monochromatic blend of vigilante pop", we have no idea.
Nevertheless, Sir Sly's hipster credentials are faultless, which gives their music a patina of cool it might otherwise lack – the three tracks on their debut EP are slow, downbeat but commercial ballads underpinned by pummeling bass, embellished with guitars and propelled by synths. They make us think of a chillwave Coldplay, while the singer's tone recalls Chris Martin and his delivery suggests a rhythmic affinity with the cadences of rap – he even goes "yeee-ah", all blase, like, at the start of one song, just like hip-hoppers do. There are shades, too, of Adam Levine of Maroon 5, probably why there have been a lot of comparisons between Sir Sly and the Neighbourhood. Recorded, mixed and mastered by the band themselves at their home studio, their music is melancholy electronic rock with the emphasis on the singing and the melody rather than any computer experimentation. It's moody and forlorn, the sound of a bloke bleating about his troubles over sadly surging synths, but, counter-intuitively, it seems to be capturing people's attention.
You're meant to be able to hear the words, which fairly evidently address the confusion and despair that result from a broken relationship. "All of my love was wasted on you," Landon Jacobs sings on "Where I'm Going". On "Ghost" he's haunted by memories of a past love. It doesn't appear to be a metaphor for a dead affair, but a literal song about a ghost, although cleverly it's him who's singing from the other side ("Why did I go before you?"). "Gold" makes it three explorations of remorse and regret on the trot ("I don't owe you anything … I hope you find your dreams"), and three brooding yet rousing anthems. Again, the refrain ("Mouth is made of metal, pocketful of yellow") has the catchiness, and is vocally delivered with the rhythmic playfulness, of a rap track. You can easily imagine the beat being sampled as the undercarriage for a hip-hop hit. If this was six months ago and we got stuck in a lift with one of National Anthem or Neon Gold and we wanted to sell them Sir Sly with a snappy one-line pitch, it would be "They're Maroon 5 meets Coldplay", even though we accept that those two bands are diametrically opposed (not that we'd say as much – no lift journey lasts that long). Shame this never happened, with us on commission, because they are going to be massive. [Guardian's New Band of the Day 1/18/13]