Named after an animated film about Raccoons (not the Cyril Sneer one), Pom Poko are a Norwegian four piece who may well be the great new hope if you're after a band that's original, inventive and a heaps of fun. A hard balancing act to pull off but this lot have done it with aplomb. I'm not an expert on the output of Studio Ghibli, but Pom Poko seem to not just take their name from an obscure 1994 film from the Japanese animation giants. Their whole sound has a defiant, not conformist attitude, and just like many Ghibli films, they don't subscribe to any particular rulebook or recognised formula. So, much like when I put Spirited Away on for the first time the other day, I'm left wondering what the hell is gonna happen next. Machine gun guitars are complimented by West African rhythms, unexpected percussion (I keep thinking I hear steel drums, but can never be quite sure) and Ragnhild's unique and exciting vocal style are the perfect disparate match. Different combinations are mixed up in different songs, making for an exhilarating ride. However, in the case of Birthday, odd doesn't mean impenetrable. This is some of the catchiest music you're likely to hear in 2019 (singles "Follow the Lights" and "My Blood" lead the way in the earworm stakes). "Follow The Lights" is also reminiscent of restless musical adverturers like Kiran Leonard or Henn Ogledd. "Daytripper" cheekily reporposes a Beatles riff into something of a pop-punk power play. The superb "Crazy Energy Night" with it's supremely danceable hook and ridiculous guitar lines just makes me want to check out this band's live show immediately. The album closes with a rare moment of reflective calm in "Peachy", but by the time we get here we're in need of a rest anyway. Pom Poko are just what 2019 is crying out for. A happy-angry blast of batshit crazy cartoon pop-noise*. * it's possibly just me that's been crying out for a happy-angry blast of batshit crazy cartoon pop-noise.