Category : Indie Pop
A Cat Called Cricket
Here Comes Another Melody
So how was your Wednesday? I spent the entire day listening to new CDs. Again. I need to go watch TV or something to unravel my brain which is seriously burnt out on trying to come up with RIYLs and synonyms for “indie pop rock”.
But before I do, here’s a nice little CD from a folksy, indie pop rock (ahaha) band from Maryland that reminds me an awful lot of Philly’s Matt Pond PA. Something about the strings I guess, which I’m known to be a sucker for. But seriously, there are some awful nice stringsy arrangements going on here. Bit ‘o Rilo Kiley perhaps in there. Nice banjo picking. Excellent layer cake harmonies, especially on “While You Sleep”. Slight alt-country feel. Vocals sound familiar, can’t place it. “More Of (Nothing)” is an awesome acoustic guitar and strings instrumental that turns Polyphonic Spree-ish at the end. I expect it to be played as background music on PBS soon.
Sorry, I’m about to collapse here, must go watch mindless TV now. Put the Cat Called Cricket back on To-Listen list. But you can head over to their Myspace to listen for yourself. Over and out.
…urgh, came back from watching TV because forgot to mention that the label that they are on, The Beechfields, also houses two great bands that a lot of us like: Private Eleanor and The Seldon Plan. Ok, now I’m really going.
Tracks on Myspace
I lost the sheet that came with this CD, but decided to give it a review anyhow. The Texas based husband / wife duo Annabella makes lovely indie pop that really reminds me of Innocence Mission, Mojave 3, maybe Sarah McLaughlin a little. Later into the CD, on “Just So You Know”, I realized that The Sundays comparison was entirely valid as well.
The music is understated and dreamy, a bit of a departure from other up-tempo indie duos like Viva Voce and Quasi. Piano and other instruments add nice touches. For me, Terri Dittmar’s voice falls into that category of exquisitely beautiful, but tiny bit too mainstream. But I think that may actually increase the band’s fanbase. All in all, I really liked this CD – it’s such an undeniably pretty album.
Sun Is King
I guess the first thing that struck me when hearing “Sunday Bell” from the band Audible was how much lead singer Mike Kennedy sounds like Blake Sennet (Rilo Kiley, The Elected). Now, I don’t put that much store in any powers of musical deduction, but after i got over the Sennet similarity I was thinking, man this sure sounds like good old school Matt Pond PA.
And sure enough, reading the bio for Audible we see that both Mike and bandmate Jim Kehoe were indeed in Matt Pond’s original lineup. Along with Mike’s girlfriend Kris Muller on bass and Mazarin’s Sean Byrne on drums, Audible continues that deliciously layered but wisely compact Philadelphia indie poprock sound blazed by MPPA, Bill Ricchini, and Mazarin.
Continue reading “Audible – Sunday Bell” …
Band of Horses
Everything All The Time
Somtimes I really hate Pitchfork.
I’d gotten the new Band of Horses pre-release of Everything All The Time more than a month ago and it had taken up residence in the trusty Ipod. Slowly winning me over with their intoxicating blend of dreamy and orchestral horsey musings. Forget Brokeback Mountain’s cowboys, I’ll take this band of horses anyday. I’d come up with a perfect opening comparison for them and was just about ready to take on writing them up. Then, the other day I turn on Pitchfork and see the EXACT same comparison waiting there for me.
What a bummer. Anyhow, what I had thought was an immensely original comparison was that Band of Horses remind me of My Morning Jacket fronted by James Mercer of The Shins. Looking back on it, that wasn’t such an amazing intuition. This is exactly how they come across to me.
I guess you snooze you lose. We don’t have a staff of millions. But enough about us, what about the amazing Band of Horses? Well, they are amazing.
Like The Shins, their music goes for the gut, with grand, sweeping, bold-is-brilliant aural colors. The differences are that they venture frequently into the alt-country outback frequented by a band like Wilco. Also, every song on the album is extremely strong which is quite unlike Shins albums to me. With Shins, the hits are farther apart. With BOH it’s nearly non-stop.
Continue reading “Band of Horses – Everything All The Time” …
Embrace In Stereo
I caught this Swedish band off of 3hive yesterday and they’re great, like many of the smaller and unsigned pure indiepop bands coming from that country. I don’t know what it is, but the music of indieSwedes just seem to really agree with me (I wonder if it’s the fact that they like handclaps so much in the songs.)
Anyhow, this is Jonas Jonsson’s wonderful little bedroom EP project Embrace In Stereo under the name Bedroom Eyes and it’s available in its entirety for free on the website. Backing him up are Emil Karlsson (drums), Mattias Andersson (bass) and Patrik Zackrisson (keyboards).
The poppy flavor of the songs include a bit of 90s (or is that 80s) throwback with a hint of twee mixed in. And a bit of Teen Fanclub influence perhaps. Jonas’s voice also reminds me a bit of Tim Booth. My favorite track is “The Skywriter” which contains a surprisingly drony and driving outro, somewhat at odds with the rest of the tracks which are more pure pop.
Between The Pines
I’ve run across the music from this band quite a few times already over the past couple months, so I finally decided to make a proper post about them. Between the Pine actually has a free EP available at the 80H Records site, so there’s no excuse to give them a listen. If you like mopy lo-fi acoustic songs, you’ll be glad you downloaded the 3 songs. They also have a full length available on Itunes and CDBaby and I believe they’re currently working on a new album.
The three songs are beautiful, sparsely populated, somewhat folksy tunes that seem informed from such diverse musical sources as Sea and Cake, Tarnation, Norfolk and Western, Birddog and Ponies In The Surf (and other Asaurus bands).
I’m making all this stuff up out of my ass again – rather than reading my lame attempts to compare them to various bands, why not just go and download these amazing songs yourself and see?
weird song, sequenced to an old Casper the Friendly Ghost film
Between The Pine website
The Target Commercial indie music parade continues with the band Beulah, one of my all time E6 faves. I always get so distracted by the music that I forget what the actual commercial features… in this case, I just remember in the beginning it’s a teacher drawing a bunch of things in crayon or chalk on a wall that he then walks through as a classroom.
But anyhow, the important thing is that it’s them all right – the song being played is “Silver Lining” off The Coast Is Never Clear. It’s got the trademark trumpet indie pop lines, simple guitar groove and splashing drums that make them such a great band.
You know – the crazy thing is that earlier I’d heard an Apples In Stereo track for Target too, but I completely forgot about it until I heard the Beulah one! I’ll have to post about that one later…
I’ve been a periodic visitor to the wonderful MP3 blog Said The Gramophone for awhile now… there’s some great finds over there. This band was one of them (though I must admit I’ve seen the name Bishop Allen on another site previous to finally checking out their music).
New York’s Bishop Allen play joyous and honest indiepop. I think I’ve found a nearly worthy successor to the defunct Masters of the Hemisphere. Just maybe. The band has the same sort of spirit though they don’t sound exactly like the Masters.
The track from Bishop Allen’s new EP January is called “Corazon” and is a great mid-tempo pop song, perhaps a bit more mellow than some of their other tunes. It sometimes reminds me of Track Star or American Analog Set with a less mellow singer. Actually, a bit like Dios Malos also. There’s some tasty piano throughout the song. The way that the Justin’s vocals sort of slur uphill in the verses while the chorus resonates simply between just two chords is great. The best indiepop bands seem to be able to do that: take two chords and make two and a half minute epics out of them.
I listened to some of the other tracks from an earlier album and they were just as good, if a bit wordier. “Eve of Destruction”‘s verses don’t seem to have any breaths in them at all! “Busted Heart” reminds me of Isaac Brock or Doug Martsch fronting My Morning Jacket.
Not only is their music only available through their website (and on Itunes), but they are currently undergoing an amazingly ambitious project of releasing one EP every month this year! Completely insane, but I welcome the chance to sample more of these little poppity gems. Yes, “teach me your songs” indeedy…
I have been really digging this disc of covers by Blanket Music lately. The band is the project of Hush Record’s Chad Crouch and though I’ve never really heard his stuff before, I’m really glad I scored a copy of disc 2 of their latest double CD release.
The Portland, OR band decided to make their 4th release a double CD with a slight catch. The first disc is called “The Love” and consists of an original “collection of love songs rooted wholly in earnestness.” However, the 2nd disc is called “Love Translation” and features the band covering different artists that are friends of the band.
This is a pretty neat idea, because they’ve covered some pretty familiar indie names… two of the most prominent being The Decemberists and M. Ward.
Continue reading “Blanket Music – Love Translation” …
Hush Records is well known for releasing indie artists who march to a completely different drummer, with a tendency toward more mellow and sparse artists. Their latest release comes from Casey Dienel, a singer-songwriter who packs a double punch of astute lyrics with slightly loungey, staccato piano riffs. The general feel of the music is jazzy, but comes with an indie sensibility. Think Mirah playing quieter Ben Folds. Or Tori Amos without all the erotic fluff and flutter.
A recent transplant to New York from Boston (via a “small seaside village”), Dienel released “Wind-Up Canary” after a long history of penning bedroom songs that no one got to hear. One of the amazing things is that this is her FIRST recording ever. It sure doesn’t sound like it. It sounds like she’s been recording most of her life.
The music is pretty different, which is expected being on Hush. It’ll never be confused with teenage rock anthems and will remain on the “quiet-time music” backburner for a majority of folks. But the music is nearly instantly likeable. And intimately friendly, which is becoming somewhat of a lost art these days with all the aloof indie musicians running amuck.
Albums available on Itunes:
I keep messing up on Skipping Stones Records releases… for some reason we have reviewed very few of their albums, even though the majority are awesome releases. (I know we’ve missed talking about Dyrdin and The Charade, two great bands that they released stuff by). They’ve all spent some time on repeat in the playlist. So finally, here is one of their newest releases – Celestial’s “Dream On”.
It could be just coincidence, but this is another Swedish artist – Andreas Hagman is the brains behind this band. And you know how we like the Swedes. I don’t think it’d be going out on a limb to say that this album of great pop songs reminds me very much of The Field Mice, TBS, Galaxie 500, and East River Pipe… that’s for starters. Great swaths of dreamy pop melodies and reverbed, jangly electric guitars. The songs seem to neatly bridge the gap between shoegaze and twee – like a lot of the Sarah records which are said to be somewhat of an influence in the press bio.
There’s also a strange jangly undercurrent which reminds me of early REM at times. That feel doesn’t come up that often, but it’s there. Even after repeated listens, no one song on the album stands out as the best for me – all of them are keepers. If you liked your old school indie pop thick and dreamy, then you’ll like this album.
Celestial on MySpace
Chances are quite good that you’ve heard of Chan VanGaalen by now, or you’re about to hear his songs this year. The Calgary busker turned Sub Pop signee has enjoyed a good amount of well-deserved press lately. I got sent a copy of his debut Infiniheart awhile back and I’ve been listening to it quite a bit, though I only got to write up about it now.
Earlier in his career, VanGaalen would simply record his own CD-Rs full of his music on a multitrack recorder and then sell or hand these limited editions out at shows and to his friends. The undeniable quality of the music got a buzz going, and it didn’t take long for major indies to come a-sniffin’.
On his debut, he is equally adept at soaring indie rock on songs like “Clinically Dead” (which I feel really recalls The Shins), dusty porch folk a la Will Oldham on “After the Afterlife” and pseudo Postal Service electronics on “Kill Me In My Sleep”. And that’s only the first 3 songs on the album! “J.C.’s Head On The Cross” mutters along like some Folk Implosion outtake, while “Somewhere I Know There Is Nothing” has a My Morning Jacket vibe going. The rest of the songs are all equally inventive and quirky in their genre shifting.
Continue reading “Chad VanGaalen – Infiniheart” …
Citizens Here And Abroad
After hearing several tracks from Citizens Here And Abroad off of internet radio, I decided to write them up here. The group’s debut album is called Ghosts Of Tables And Chairs and the track I heard off the radio was Appearances.
The group mixes dream rock urgency with more playful indie rock along the lines of Rilo Kiley. I get good doses of Kim Deal coming through the speakers as well. I especially liked the guitar lines which are mostly clean repeated notes and the stepup in energy of the chorus which swims with delicious distortion.
Continue reading “Citizens Here And Abroad – Appearances” …
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
When a relatively unknown indie band gets a blog buzz on, it’s a difficult thing to suppress. I thought I was up on the cutting edge by finding this band, but I’ve since seen them featured in any number of music publications and even dropped by word of mouth by someone whose idea of “super indie” is the Arcade Fire. Last to the party, as usual.
This is delicious and pernicious indie pop that grabs a hold of the reins of your brain lobes and rides you down a somewhat 80s dayglow tinged road. “In This Home On Ice” will find you galloping along helplessly with the song’s shimmering guitars. There is little debate as to whether lead singer Alec Ounsworth sounds just a tad bit like David Byrne, but on this track he comes across more Elephant 6 – like, maybe Neutral Milk Hotel. He also sounds a bit like the Decemberists as well, but the music is less choppy waters and more tidal wave-like.
Continue reading “Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – In This Home On Ice” …
You know what? I’m going to have to apologize in advance to Dappled Cities for getting up on the rant-box within their review. Sorry guys, the album IS very good – and unique sounding. Ironically, what I wanted to say is that I do read quite a few music mp3 blogs around the net and it seems like more and more you read a review where the content has almost nothing to do with the actual music and more to do what the author had for lunch, or what shirt his girlfriend was wearing that day which reminded him so poignantly about the band he’s talking about. I say ironic, because I guess that’s what I’m actually doing in this review!
Many Mp3 blogs have those short Seinfeldish reviews, and then they end with 1 or 2 sentences saying, “nice album, they’re playing at BlahBlah Bar, check it out HERE (linking to many online MP3s). For that pittance of actual music coverage, they get a reamload of CDs in the mail from the major indies for free. Uh, not that I don’t get a few CDs for free myself.
Every so often, I go through this existential, fatalistic, gloom-n-doom reasoning about the site – wherein I say, why do I even bother talking about these bands? (Have you guessed yet that today is one of those days?) Surely, everyone is just going to go to read the insightful reviews at Bitchfork or StereoDum if they really want to know about a band. And if they just want links or free music, all they need to do is look at any of the more popular indie blogs out there. No one needs indie blogs that actually try to write more than a piddling few sentences about a band, right?
EXACTLY RIGHT. Over the past year or so, I’ve come to the conclusion that if you can’t beat them, then join them. So I’ve been sort of cutting down on the length of the reviews. But you know what? I just can’t bring myself to completely suck out like the majority of review blogs out there. Every now and again I feel like spouting. Hence, the split focus of this blog between reviews and personal “issues”.
If you’ve been any kind of reader of this blog, you’ll remember that I’ve had this sort of conversation with myself many times (working from home has the unfortunate consequence of encouraging discussions with either the cat or the washing machine). I feel like that Al Franken character that talks into a mirror to reassure himself that everything is hunky-dory. He’s talking into the mirror and going “It’s OK to write short reviews. The bands AREN’T going to contact you with hate mail. The readers aren’t going to go over to read Bitchfork instead – and you know why? Because people LIKE me.”
I think it’s just that every so often, I need to physically remind myself by writing it down in the blog that there’s no need to feel bad about writing 1 or 2 piddling sentences about a band and calling a review. I’m sure the majority of the college kids writing blogs are more concerned about the next after-show boozer party than that. More power to ‘em I guess, it sure helps keep you writing post after post.
Did I also mention I have been having extreme shoulder issues from a non-ergonomic work environment, and that writing for Palebear is often to blame? Yeah – suffer for your great work…
Keeping this reviews site semi-personal has been helpful, especially on those days when anything is liable to set me off in a spiral of musical depression. I keep saying I’ll try to make more personal posts more often, but I keep getting caught up with the number of CDs coming in.
Anyhow, back to Dappled Cities. This must be the longest review they’ve ever received that isn’t directly about their music – or not. Their release “Granddance” on Dangerbird is positively Arcade Fire-ish, especially on tracks like “Colour Coding” and “Watercourse”. Over tracks like the great “Work It Out” are sort of like Danielson’s Trumpet song – they have that sort of ringmaster showmanship vibe. The instrumentation is great, as are the overall dynamics. Er, are they from Australia or are they just touring there?
Dappled Cities website
Death To Anders
I’ve been trying to figure out this CD from Death to Anders. From the opening track, I thought at first it was going to be standard indie pop /rock with vocals that reminded me of Sugarplastic, Silver Scooter or maybe Oranger. But then “Ghost Rock” comes smashing in with distortion and strange chords – kinda Sonic Youth meets Possum Dixon and Weezer. The sound is alternately quirky, anthemic and then slightly atonal. The style is all over the map – hoedown countryish to shoegazer ballads to noisy freakouts. There’s another indie band that I can’t remember that sounds very close to this Silverlake band. This is their second album, it’s quite good. Or at least interesting. But I have to admit it’s going to take a few listens…
[Kill Rock Stars]
There’s a cool new song up on the KRS website from quirk-popsters Deerhoof. This is off their upcoming Friend Opportunity, called Deerhoof – +81. Actually, I don’t know too much about Deerhoof myself, but I thought I saw that this song had already been released as part of a +81 EP.
In any case, I’ve been meaning to at least make an attempt to buy into the Deerhoof hype for awhile now. First impressions – Blonde Redhead meets MBV, Sonic Youth and Stereolab, plus the obligatory Yoko Ono comparison. They’re more poppy to me than SY, but occasionally go off the deep end. In a challenging but good way.
Other MP3s and Movies:
Wrong Time Capsule Video
MP3 EP of Live and Cover Tracks (including the Beatles’ The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill, Herman’s Hermits’ There’s A Kind Of Hush and My Bloody Valentine’s Lose My Breath)
I heard this really nice, mellow track on SomaFM the other day by a band called Ellery. I guess what made me remember their name was that there is an Ellery Lake that I’ve visited many times near Yosemite and I have a lot of good memories from that place. So when it came time to write a post, that little random thing stuck in my head.
Tasha and Justin Golden continue the popular husband-and-wife team trend (Low, The Handsome Family, Viva Voce) as the band Ellery (previously known as Dividing The Plunder). The track I heard is called Arizona and is from their EP release “Make Your Troubles Mine” which swims sweetly along at a speed that’s not going to start any hearts racing. But this is what they do best. They play gentle pop songs that might qualify for alternative adult radio, which is sort of interesting because I normally don’t gravitate toward these type of songs. But there were some really good tunes on the EP. Know Better Now which is the last track is particularly beautiful.
Continue reading “Ellery – Arizona” …
Man, before I begin: do NOT go about making the U.S. Post Office workers angry at you if you care about receiving your mail. I dunno what happened, but it turns out they were “holding up” all my incoming mail. I didn’t issue a hold on it or anything. They just didn’t want to give it to me!
So today, when I went in, some kind soul at the Post Office probably realized the error made and I was literally swamped with packages dating back two months ago. Not that I was complaining about having the flood of CDs reduced to a trickle lately – it’s been difficult with the shoulder/back injuries to do much computering and reviewering. But anyway, whew glad they finally decided to give me my mail. OK- back to the review:
I have to admit that I didn’t care so much for Peter Walker‘s solo stuff. I’d gotten his Young Gravity CD earlier and just never got into it. The songs on that album seemed to have a lot of promise but just didn’t seem to grab me. I didn’t really feel the Wilco/Neil Young comparisons either.
However, Walker has a new band called Eulogies that DOES seem to add the missing musical puzzle pieces in the form of bandmates Chris Reynolds and Tim Hutton. With the addition of those guys, the songs sound nice and full and Walker’s voice nestles itself nicely into the music. At times, the songs remind me a little bit of labelmates Sea Wolf (minus the strings, of course).
Even though I know Walker is a sometimes folksy/mellow singer-songwriter, some of the best songs by Eulogies are the ones that have a driving beat like “Suicide” and “Under The Knife”. The bass on that latter song is pretty cool and reminds me of indie instrumental bands like El Ten Eleven and Scenic. Other tracks like the excellent “Can’t Relate” have hints of Grandaddy and Sparklehorse embedded deliciously in the mix. There is some serious goodness here – I’m going to have to go back and revisit Young Gravity just to make sure I wasn’t napping when that particular CD was dropped in my player.
Man, amazing. I’m back reviewing. What happened? I don’t know. Got bored. Decided to write in short sentences. Well.
At least some review packages have gotten through the post office blockade, so for now I’m keeping the address the same. Please let me know if you’re getting them returned.
Ok, so this is supposed to be a review. Here it is: the more I listen to Eux Autres the better they sound. How’s that for a major cliche-o-matic. Yay! The Portland band’s newest CD is Cold City and I have to admit I nearly put it aside until I heard a few tracks on SOMA and looked to see who it was. Shamefaced, I retrieved the CD from the “discard” pile.
Janet Weiss (a heroine of many) had a hand in the recording of their album. Not surprising there might be a few Sleater-esque moments starting with “Gratte-Ciel” and “When I’m Up.” But hey, before we even get into that I have to say that the initial 2 songs of the CD tread a different indie line: think Tullycraft plays Pants Yell! plays Masters of the Hemisphere for “The Deadball Era.” And for “Molly” let’s go That Dog plays with Slumber Party.
Whew, ok I used up all my references in one fell swoop. Oh what the hell, one more try: for “Anne Boleyn” let’s go Life Pursuit era Belle and Sebastian meets Field Mice. Regardless, the indie pop rings true on this album. I have to say that again that Masters of the Hemisphere RIYL really comes out on one of my favorite tracks, “Collision Theory.” Interesting Frenchiness also occurs occasionally. Overall: tres delicious.
When I’m Up
Eux Autres website
We got into Francine through Soma FM (one of the best radio routes to great new indie music). Clayton sent me a copy of their new album Airshow which just came out this past Tuesday. It’s a wonderful disc of mellow to midspeed indie pop. The songs may not startle, but that’s a good thing here.
I still don’t hear the Malkmus mid-range comparisons really. In fact, listening to this at Palebear HQ we came up with a few different comparisons. Francine’s music sounds to me a bit like a cross between Michael Penn and Jon Brion. That’s kind of interesting actually because I know that Clayton actually co-wrote a song with Aimee Mann called “Invisible Ink”… and she’s married to Michael Penn. And Jon Brion produced some of Aimee Mann’s work. So I guess it’s not so far a stretch?
Anyhow, there are tons of great imaginative songs here on the album that went immediately into my IPod. The arrangements and melodies are quite interesting, but never complex enough to make you frustrated. Cool stuff.
Selected Albums on Itunes:
Silver Plated 606
I heard a track from Francine off of SOMA FM and instantly needed to find out more about the band. Wow, I really liked the two songs available for download off their most recent album 28 Plastic Blue Versions of Ending Without You. These guys are masters of the unexpected (but nevertheless delicious) left-turn chord change.
The first track is called Silver Plated 606 and the chorus really showcases their talent at this. I mean the chord changes are super interesting, but are so natural that it doesn’t feel like they’re “trying” to be complex or anything. If I could point to any one band that they remind me of on this song it would have to be Heatmiser (Elliott Smith and Sam Coomes of Quasi got their start from this band). The loping tub drums and the aforementioned chord changes really remind me of “The Fix Is In” off of Mic City Sons. Their use of slightly twangy guitar with that engaging drawl led me to think of some of the Dandy Warhols’ slower songs.
Continue reading “Francine – Silver Plated 606″ …
[Three Ring Records]
I nearly missed talking about the great Frankel EP out on Three Ring Records. I got this album late last year and had been listening to it for quite awhile. But the disc started to skip on me a bit so I got distracted and accidentally filed it away in the “done” pile.
Anyhow, when I found it the other day and put it on, I was reminded of the very first thing that I noticed on listening to the first track “Pass Out”. There is a “phone-off-the-hook” noise in the beginning of the song that ALWAYS gets me to look at my phone to see if I’ve left it off the cradle. This happened to me no less than 3 times. Funny how something like that sound is so universal that it affects everyone the same way.
Now, I was going to segue that thought into something about how this album is “universal” and “timeless” but I can’t quite seem to find the right transitions. Well, I DO think that a lot of people who dig quieter and mellow pop in the vein of Elliott Smith and Pedro the Lion will definitely like this album. Frankel mixes mostly quiet acoustic guitar with wonderful folk melodies, but there is an orchestration that reminds you of Smith and maybe also Wilco or Lambchop.
That first track as well as the next one,”Don’t Leave”, definitely does remind you of Elliott Smith filtered through The Field Mice and Tahiti 80.
“The Antidote” is my favorite track and sort of sounds like Ken Stringfellow singing on a Fountains of Wayne song. There’s that buzzy middle keyboard section in here that picks the mood up a bit and makes everything more bouncy. “Method Actor” starts off with much stranger background music, like one of the Sparklehorse B-Sides songs merged with an Air song.
“The Great Unknown”, while a bit cliched in its evoking of a”Kashmir-like” feeling in the strings at the beginning of the track, actually reminds me a lot of a Bill Santen track at times. “All Satellites” starts out as a dreamy quiet tune but quickly makes its shoegazing powers known with a requisite dreamy and droning guitar. This is just a 6 song EP, but the initial taste test is definitely a positive one. Looking forward to hearing any of Frankel’s new stuff…
Albums on Itunes
Lives of Crime
While Fruit Bats in the wild are a somewhat scary flying mammals, Fruit Bats the band actually plays some great indie pop. They’ve been described before as “Califone meets The Shins”… however, what I hear most from them is a good dose of Elephant 6, especially The Apples In Stereo. Which is sort of cool, because I felt like that part of indie rock/pop was not being represented too well on Subpop (although the band has released an earlier album, Mouthfuls, on Subpop).
Continue reading “Fruit Bats – Lives of Crime” …
Gregg Yeti And The Best Lights
If you’re wondering what’s with all the reviews on the same day, the way it works over here is that there’s a long, long, long, farking long queue of music. Every so often, I need to purge that queue so that I can reclaim space on my floor and in the closets. I haven’t done this in nearly 6 months. So there’s some “purging” afoot. I usually review about 10% of what I receive – the rest gets recycled or sent to the thrift. Yep, it has to be this way. Otherwise, I would be writing reviews in my sleep. Not that I’m doing that now.. Zzz =)
Back to reviewing – another CD that’s up my alley is Gregg Yeti & The Best Lights. A little dose of slacker-90s lo-fi-aesthetic pop is sometimes just what you need to get you out of the neu-Coldplay doldrums… OK, after I wrote that, I was thinking that I RIYL-ed a little hastily. It’s not slacker GBV-ish, not even close. There is, however, a sort of laid back feel to the songs and the voice.
Never mind that the long title (“Heart Palpitations of The Rich & Famous”) sure challenges my blog’s reformating prowess. There’s some great keeper tracks here – Gregg’s singing and the song structures are very Sebadoh-ish. Most of the songs aren’t aggro – they’re the more introspective ones. Maybe some New Pornographers in here as well? There’s also some even more mellow, dare I say shoe-gazeyness, going on in songs like “Colonize Your Eyes”. And “Building Houses” sounds almost like an Ida song.
Mr. Yeti enlists a few others to help out with singing and other duties, but for the most part he plays all the instruments. Out on Eskimo Kiss…
Pink and Brown
If you think this band sounds a little like Pedro the Lion playing keyboards exclusively… well, then you’d be at least 66.6% correct. The Headphones are David Bazan from Pedro the Lion, his bandmate Tim Walsh but with Frank Lenz from dreamrockers Starflyer 59 thrown into the mix. A bit of of a supergroup perhaps… and they play some true coolness without using any guitars. Just synths in the music. There’s no mistaking Bazan’s delivery here though. And the music is similar in its melodic twists and turns to Pedro the Lion.
The track I heard was Pink and Brown. Mellow and drawn out, but with a preponderence of keyboards throughout (the drums are real though… I think), the Headphones sound very much like Pedro the Lion backed by American Analog Set. The keyboards are bit drony like Amanset and the song I heard has a similar mid-speed setting to it. The sound has that same minimal yet beautiful quality to it and Bazan’s vocals definitely shine, though they are less understated than Andrew Kenny’s.
But unlike typical offshoot bands (try Postal Service = electronic DCFC), such collusion is more welcome and the sound seems to gel quite well.
They currrently have one album out on Suicide Squeeze and I believe they toured with Minus the Bear to support it last fall. Hm… I wonder if The Headphones should also try a “Recording Engineer Tour” and then go hit up The Microphones to play with them. Hehe…
Albums available on Itunes:
On first impression, you’d be damn tempted to label the group I’m From Barcelona as a Swedish Polyphonic Spree – just because of how many members there are. Then you’d be tempted to say, well they only made it because of all the latest interest in all things musically Swede. Whatever the case, these dudes and dudettes create goofy ensemble pop songs sung in an entertaining orchestral twee style.
Meaning there’s a choral element and a whole lot of instruments thrown into the mix. Originally created by Emanuel Lundgren as a gag type of collective where he just invited all of his friends to participate. Twenty eight of them or so took up the challenge, many who had no musical experience at all. Then the band started to get airplay and web word of mouth spread them wide. It’s a story you hear told a lot nowadays. Sometimes it’s all hype but in their case, it’s deserving – the songs are really good. I just would hate to figure out how to split royalties among 28 people…
And yes… they are not actually from Barcelona – I don’t think Lundgren had even BEEN to Barcelona before naming the band.
I’m From Barcelona website
I have to admit I’m kinda surprised that Imperial Teen is still alive and kickin’. I got into them pretty early on, right when they released Seasick and they’ve remained a staple in my Ipod “Walking Music” playlist because of their bouncy pop masterpieces. Turns out that they’re back with a new album on Merge after 5 years or so.
They’re sorta getting on their in years – I mean Roddy and company weren’t exactly young to start with when they started playing as Imperial Teen. Dude, Will used to look (and slightly sound like) this wiry young punk – now he’s aged Lee Ranaldo-like complete with a little wisp of gray hair in the front.
But, then who cares what they look like, right? In their press photos it’s like they’re almost embracing their middle-agedness gleefully. “So pretty” indeedy. And their album, “The Hair the TV the Baby & the Band” has some of the same simple yet strong tunes that made me like them in the first place. “Shim Sham” stands out as one of the hits, and while they’ve definitely found a successful formula to milk again, it ain’t no lazy cow. By the way, the album is available to be streamed at Merge…
Imperial Teen website
Iron and Wine
The Shepherd's Dog
Regular readers of Palebear (all 3-4 of you) will note that I love to complain. I love to hijack other people’s reviews to spout forth my own nefarious propaganda from upon the blog soapbox. I love to put a damper on the party with doom and gloom about the current direction of the music biz. I love to self-aggrandize with exaggerated and mixed metaphors.
Well, this review is going to be another of those. So I apologize in advance to anyone who’s here looking for a real Bitchforkian or Rolling Boneian review of Iron and Wine’s new album The Shepherd’s Dog. Go view those publications to get the real, actual scoop by writers that are paid millions of bucks.
But really, Mr. Sam Beam doesn’t need any of my help. The album is quite different from his earlier ones and if you’ve gone straight through from those skipping the Woman King EP or the Boy with a Coin single, you might be a bit shocked. But add those little releases in (and note the ubiquitous Postal Service cover) and you’ll see that there’s continuity; the direction he was going in was easily foreshadowed by those EPs and he continues to hold the torch of one of the best bands currently on Sub Pop.
I really like the album, although he’s muted the lo-fi Appalachian folk presentation in favor of fuller instrumentation. Beam’s voice still, well, BEAMS – a bright beacon on songs that in others hands might be bloated currency filled with unnecessary meandering. I suspect that far from alienating his current fans, he’s bound to pick up a few new ones, maybe some avant-garde musicologists and those who thought that his earlier work was too hushed or slow. A few songs are sorta wacky – in particular I thought the end of “Wolves (The Song of the Shepherd’s Dog)” was positively funky street. But there’s enough of the old folky Beam in the other songs to tide me over until he the day where he goes completely back to his old stuff. I dunno if he will do that, though – I think he’s too restless musically to go for a reprise of “Creek”.
Ok, so I promised some complaining. You can just skip down to the links below if you’d rather not hear it. Here is my unstructured grousing: I’m a part-time music reviewer who’s supposed to reviewing for “fun”. Long ago, I gave up any illusions of making a career out of this. I’m just not a good enough wordsmith to command music-moola from Spin and too old to be a collegiately wide-eyed music reviewer who writes reams of reviews for free just because “it’s the music, man.”
No, it’s gotta be that I write for 1. “Fun” in my spare time 2. The dubious pleasure of receiving promos in advance of the music buying public.
Let’s talk about “Fun”. Sure, it’s fun to write about an album once in awhile. However, the catch is that if you can write a halfway decent review (or, as it’s come down to, even a decent 100 word blurb), then bands, songwriters, record labels and publicity houses by the thousands will beat a path to your door. There are just so many emails and packages that I get from these people, who I actually sympathize with. We used to run a record label and it was so difficult trying to figure out who to send stuff to. So when you did find a music reviewer that you thought was good and whose taste fit the style of what you were releasing, you’d be sure to send them a CD.
But it’s a Catch-22 for a one-man reviewing operation: the better and more open you are, the more stuff that you receive and the more your workload increases, and consequently the greater the chance of the quality of your writing suffering. And at some point, it stops being “fun” and more like a job. But, as I’ve said I’m just not into working myself to the bone for free. I don’t have a crapload of time or patience on hand. You just get Burnt Out On Blogs™.
So, it comes down to this. Other than to unburden myself in diatribes like this or to promote the occasional release that I absolutely feel needs to be supported because it’s such a great album and no one knows about it, I’m writing for the occasional feeling of Specialness. The great feeling that, hey, look I got an album from one of my favorite songwriters – and I got it before anyone else did, and for free, and it’s such an awesome album. And I get to talk about it so my 3 readers will know what its like before it comes out Whoo-hoo! I rock!
And then I go on the internet and it turns out that the album has already been in the filesharers hands for months.
I hate to dredge up cliches, but digital music is such a blessing and a curse for people involved in music. On the one hand you’ve got super-wide distribution and a larger audience, and on the other hand, that same ease of accesibility makes it so easy for people to get music without paying for it. I’m not going to get all high and mighty – I don’t use the filesharing systems, but I’ve gotten music illegally for free online before. Guilty.
So maybe it’ll seem I’m somewhat of a petulant hypocrite to say this – but man, you gotta give me SOMETHING to keep me writing reviews day in and day out for free. My love of music is large, but reviewing just cannot exist in a vacuum for long unless you’re in college or being paid by the word. I need to be able to feel that I got something out of it, and I get sort of depressed by all the MP3s being slung like jai-alai balls between people who have no idea that they are slowly but surely KILLING the one thing that sometimes keeps me writing.
CDs aren’t worth anything nowadys. Trust me, I’ve gone to Amoeba and tried to sell back copies of CDs. I think I tried to sell back 100 CDs and they took maybe 3. So if CDs aren’t worth the paper and plastic they’re made out of, and the songs are already online for free, what’s so special about receiving a promo?
A side note: this is recently why I’m interested in vinyl LPs. At least there’s something physical there to collect. Please do send me all the promo LPs you have!
If I was a much more sane music reviewer, I’d just ignore all that shit and just count myself lucky that I’m in the game. I do get promos, sometimes even fairly far in advance. I get to compete with 500,000,000 or so other indie music review bloggers for the attention of the music-buying public. I get to occasionally receive snide comments on posts (thank you, to the few who do actually write nice comments). I get to wade, nay swim through manilla envelopes and online press releases for fun. I get to be ignored by a lot of big major music blogs that I try to make friends with, but when I do happen to make a small complaint about them in a post, I get a one word comment or sad face from them in return and then they go back to ignoring me. I get to feel guilty about not reviewing really great indie bands even though they really deserve a well-written review.
Oh, it’s a wonderful life. But for some reason I just refuse to play along. </endrant>
p.s. Subpop reps, please ignore this post. =)
Lines To Follow
Psst. Here is some secret pop music, so secret, I guess that the album is actually called “Secret Pop”.
All kidding aside, this is a delicious energy bomb of a song by J. Forte. Late of Ape House (never heard of ‘em) and now of Lejeune (never heard of ‘em as well), Mr. Forte offers up some delicious pop in the vein of Silver Scooter, Subset and Beulah (I’ve definitely heard of ‘EM). Maybe a bit of Magnetic Fields and Matthew Sweet in there as well. Come Back Now Baby is also a great energetic track.
Secret Pop – J Forte
J Forte’s website
How To Miss The Ground
Ok, so I sort of needed this album to right my sanity. After tossing quite a few CDs of Kinski-esque Melvins metal, it was nice to come across the beautiful, pastoral album by Juviley. Equal parts Kings of Convenience, Mojave 3 and Belle and Sebastian, “How To Miss The Ground” mopes melodically along at its own pace. In particular, I enjoyed the drowsy slide guitar which infuses his pop songs. Feeling no need to speed up the world, Or Zublasky encourages us to slow down and smell the music. Smells quite good to me.
Juviley on Myspace
An Unusual Move
Got this rather nice release off Nobody’s Favorite Records the other day… this is a fairly small indie label thats been known to put out mostly introspective and acoustic stuff. Karrie Hopper has a voice that will put you in mind of Mirah plus the Innocence Mission, and the music follows the spirit of both of those artists as well.
“An Unusual Move” is actually unusual on the surface just because it’s a fully letterpressed album – something you don’t see too often from indie artists. There are some great folksy tracks here of plaintive acoustic guitar which match Karrie’s charming voice which tends to transport you back to childhood because of it’s innocent quality. The music is sometimes augmented by piano and backup vocals. Definitely an album to take a listen to if you like the quieter stuff.
Kings of Convenience
Riot On An Empty Street
I had great hopes for this newer Kings Of Convenience CD – “Riot On An Empty Street“, because I’m a big fan of their Quiet Is The New Loud album from before (both are on Astralwerks). Certainly the first part of the disc features that same hushed and beautiful acoustic guitar with intertwined voice harmonies that made a lot of people call them the next great Simon and Garfunkel. Except of course they’re Norwegian.
But while “Homesick” is a beautiful track that reminded me of Azure Ray, and “Cayman Islands” is lilting and just sweet enough to comfort many a weary music traveller, the album seems to go astray near the bouncy “Love Is No Big Truth” and derails with the 80s-like “I’d Rather Dance With You”. It’s almost like New Order or something.
Continue reading “Kings of Convenience – Riot On An Empty Street” …
I don’t know if it’s just me but Nashville’s Laura Cantrell has one of the sweetest and prettiest voices I’ve heard lately. This sort of came out from left field for me, because I found her music while just browsing the Matador Records site. When I think of Matador, I’m thinking Interpol and Yo La Tengo… all the big indie rock names. But Laura doesn’t really fit with that crowd, though Matador is definitely known for it’s eclectic lineup.
The first song off her new album “Humming By The Flowered Vine” is a cover of a song by Portland’s Emily Spray called “14th Street”, a catchy and straightforward (if slightly adult contemporary) pop song. A really beautiful tune actually, I could see how it would definitely catch indie label ears. It’s Cantrell’s voice that really shines through here, a combination of sweet airy vocals that ride just barely on the edge of melancholy. When she sings up higher its a bit Joni Mitchell, but when in her wheelhouse range it’s more Lori Carson.
Continue reading “Laura Cantrell – 14th Street” …
We seem to get a lot of Swedish pop bands in the mail, and the thing is that so many of them are so GOOD. It’s a bit strange, I wonder if it has something to with the weather over there or something in the water. Les Issambres is a quartet that plays a great brand of sunny indiepop songs. Instead of being straight twee though, there is a bit more seriousness in the music. Some has to do with Stefan’s droll and deadpan delivery of the lyrics. A nice counterpoint with Karin’s more playful delivery.
There is a Galaxie 500 like feel to “Santa Fe” which is a super-sunny but driving pop tune – I think it has something to do with the flute which reminds me of one of the Galaxie 500 songs that I can’t put my finger on. Sometimes it also lends a Free Design or Os Mutantes touch to the music. The flutey beginning of “Second Hand Store” feels like it’s taken straight out of a Masters of the Hemisphere song. But “Kicked Out Of The Blue” actually reminds me of a song from The Church. What I like a lot about the Swedish pop bands like this is that they seem to come across really straightforward in approach without being overly boring. There is variety without making the listener jump through too many hoops. Very nice pop songs here…
Stefan Jacobson – vocals/guitar
Karin Jacobson – vocals/drums
Tomas Tirén – bass/piano
Jan Pettersson – flutes
Very rarely, I get sent albums that leave me pretty speechless. Where the music is so good that it seems pointless to trundle out your review superlatives. I have had this problem with the new Loney, Dear album called “Loney, Noir” which has been on constant playback for a month or so now.
Interestingly, this came in a Subpop package along with the new Shins which I’d been eagerly awaiting. Yeah, “Wincing” is pretty great… but Loney, Dear completely took over my CD player with his amazing one man band recordings. Granted, I’ve got a soft spot for the Swedes (and yes, I was a fan before the current influx of Swedish indies) but Emil Svanängen has really turned on the charm in his pop music.
It’s hard to describe except to say that it is so beautifully natural and organic sounding. It’s not shoegaze, but I’m going to call it “Stargaze” music because it’s filled with the same childlike wonder I once felt when watching the Leonid shooting stars up near Mount Wilson. And I don’t mean that ill-fated kind of childlike wonder that often transforms Peter Griffin on Family guy into a gibbnering 7-year old idiot. I mean true wonder.
The first three songs, “Sinister In A State of Hope”, “I Am John” and “Saturday Waits” are reason enough to get the album. But I was already completely sold by the end of the first track. For reference, the actual setup of the music is similar to either Badly Drawn Boy or Sufjan Stevens or Polyphonic Spree where simple pop and folk melodies are framed by a larger amount of instruments than might otherwise be orchestrated. The instrumentation is quirky which adds to the sense of wonder. Vocally, Emil channels Brian Wilson, Jeff Hanson, or Paul Simon when he sings in a higher voice (which is most of the time), or Jason Lytle when he sings lower. There’s a slight nod to the Elephant 6 type of sound of Beulah or The Apples, but it’s just slight.
Though the recordings are done on his own in somewhat modest settings (apartment or basement of parent’s house), I’ve heard that when he plays live he adds on a full band. I would really like to see them play a show, but I don’t believe they’re coming around to California. They’re playing SXSW, though. I’ve heard they did shows with Peter, Bjorn and John in Sweden – what a bill that would be.
Basically, I am just going to call this the best album I’ve gotten this year so far. And I would be super surprised if it didn’t make top 5 at year’s end. I know it’s early, but Loney, Dear is just too good.
I Am John
The Second Shortcoming
[Workaholics on Holiday]
Rather nice, little buzzy indie pop album from Denmark’s Low Fire. It’s out on Workaholics on Holiday which I believe is an arm of BSBTA, who’s releases we’ve occasionally reviewed. The songs span a whole bunch of genres, from twee to c86 to pop punk. The band is the alias of Niklas Steffensen, but I believe he employs a bunch of buddies in the recordings.
I don’t have the time to go through all the tracks – but I just want to say that “Ringing In Yr Ears” could’ve been a Death Cab B-side track. Easily. A whole lot of songs (in Guided By Voices fashion) mean that there’s a lot of listening to do here. That might turn off some, especially if you don’t “get” lo-fi. But for those with the patience, there are some nice rough gems here and there in the mix. Good stuff…
Low Fire website
Say It In Slang
I woke up this morning and just realized how ASTRONOMICALLY behind I’ve fallen on getting new music posted on Palebear. We’re definitely not at a loss for new music… it’s coming out of my ears. Need to play catchup, so the reviews are going to come fast and short.
I’ve been trying to figure out M Coast (AKA Marshmallow Coast) for awhile now ever since I got their album in the mail. The first song, “Sailing Around The World” = Stereolab or Broadcast. The second song, “Out of the Water” = Folk Implosion. The third song, “One Fine Day” = Masters of the Hemisphere plus, uh Free Design? Does that give you a general picture? I hope so, because that’s all you’re going to get to go on from me.
Seriously though, this is another super excellent indie pop album that just slipped through the cracks. Oh, and by the way this is an E6 collective band so that explains the “sounds like Masters” comment.
Pictures of a Danish Girl
I don’t know hardly anything about this band Maarten who are a French band. But I’ve heard a few tracks off their album Pictures of a Danish Girl released in 2004 on internet radio and they are quite nice. Soft and lilting pop, like a guy version of Azure Ray at times, or perhaps less folksy Kings of Convenience. The singer actually really reminds me of the vocals of a band called Tahiti 80.
“Pictures of a Danish Girl” features wonderful strings and trumpet against a pastoral acoustic guitar arrangements. This is a very short and compact song, clocking in at less than 2 minutes long but it sure is a beautiful little track.
Continue reading “Maarten – Pictures of a Danish Girl” …
Matt Pond PA
Yes, I know that Matt Pond PA’s Emblems album is actually from 2004, but I just got a chance to pick it up at Amoeba the other day. Excellent, strongly constructed songs like his earlier work, such as the Measure CD which is where I originally heard about him. To be honest, the slightly weird name (does PA stand for “public address”?) was what first caught my eye in a music magazine. I believe it was an article in Magnet Magazine. But the interesting mix of straightforward rock, alt-country and a bit of folk along with his engaging lyrics was what kept me coming back for more.
Continue reading “Matt Pond PA – Emblems” …
Metal Hearts are another band that I originally found from tracks being played on SomaFM (Indiepoprocks is one the most awesome online radio feeds around).
I don’t know too much about the band other than they are a Baltimore based duo comprised of Anar Badalov and Flora Wolpert-Checknoff and they are pretty young (very early 20s?). Anar also bears a striking resemblance to Ashton Kutcher in the press photo – but we won’t go there.
The music is a mix of moody, down-tempo American Analog Set, DCFC (especially on “Foothills”) and bits of Viva Voce. I really like the hushed vocals on the tracks I heard. The feel might be a little too minimalistic or sparse for some, but I think it really makes the songs shine nicely.
Adventure, Bless, and Don't Be Sorry
Though he now plays under his own name, you might have come across Mike Downey’s musical contributions in the past without knowing it. He’s been a member of the legendary indie band Wolfie and enjoyed stints in Mathlete, National Splits, and The New Constitution.
His latest album, “Adventure, Bless and Don’t Be Sorry” packs some unabashedly electronic musings (throwback to Mathelete perhaps) against honest troubadour-style indie pop. The production sounds a bit 4 track-ish which fits well with the heartfelt songs. Downey’s vocals are fairly high and a bit squirrely, often reminding me of Mac from Superchunk, Chad VanGaalen, or even Doug Martsch. The music, however, is more electronically dreamy and contemplative than rockin’, though definitely beat driven overall. Even a bit twee at times. It could be a bit of Field Mice plus Postal Service plus Tullycraft perhaps?
“You’ve Your Spy Map Out” could definitely be Postal Service. You know what though – I actually think Downey’s voice works better than Gibbard’s against this type of music. “Oh, Randomness” reminds me of a Future Bible Heroes track (the same goes for the later track”Event Camera”).
“Judge On The Horn” has a great beat and guitar melody going. Another particular favorite is the semi-anthemic “Rats Were Comrades”. The descending bassline melody of “House / Hotel” was also kind of fun. Though the songwriting in general is pretty top notch, he is just as likely to throw some more experimental drum beats at you, as he is try to win you over with shiny bedroom pop gems. Kinda cool to have that jumpiness going at all times.
I can’t believe I missed this band Miou Miou, who are from the Czech Republic. This must be about 9 months after they sent me the email – ah well, you know how it goes. Miou Miou plays a delicious brand of quirky pop which sort of sounds like the Cardigans plus Stereolab plus Ivy. The track I heard was “A l´été de la Saint-Martin ´68″ off of their 2006 release “La La Grande Finale”.
The other tracks that I heard from their Myspace page are quite a bit different – they are almost all more mellow than Saint-Martin. Oh, I forgot, I think they are singing in French (and sometimes English?) but it sounds like a different type of French to me. Not that I speak it at all. But anyhow, back to the songs… those mellow ones like “360″ and “Mon Minet” almost remind me of Innocence Mission, Shoestrings or Yum Yum. Very pretty and sweet, but not saccharine sweet. Bells, twee drum machines and softer acoustic guitars make for some very enjoyable tracks.
Miou Miou website
Mist and Mast
If I was getting paid to review music, I would characterize this album as “excellent, and only kinda crazy.” Just kidding. Well, only half kidding. Since it IS true I’m not being paid. But it isn’t true the music is crazy. It’s just that Jason Lakis, formerly of The Red Thread (who I know nothing about) has a knack for turning what might be ordinary delicious indiefolk into songs that are just a little bit off-kilter sounding.
I actually think it’s the strange and frequent chord changes that give the music that sound. I kind of like it – it certainly kept me awake slogging through the piles of CDs on the desk. The songs absolutely refuse to sit still. Without the added strangeness it might be like Jon Brion or Matthew Sweet or – just pick a popster. At times it sort of reminds me of Nyles Lannon. I suspect with further (I mean more than ONE) listens this album will get even better. Definitely on my “bands to watch” radar…
Mist and Mast website
I’m going to start off this review by saying that I almost NEVER agree to receive a CD when a particular band emails me to tell me about their latest and greatest. Here is the reason why – unwanted obligation. I know I’m never obligated to write a review from a submission (well, tell that to the bands that call my phone number at home…), but for solicited CDs, I just feel obligated to do it. And since it takes me a long, long, long (long) time to write these things up, I feel bad about it. It’s even worse for “friend” bands, those that I don’t like. So long ago, I learned that the least contact possible is the best.
Well, I made an exception for Monarch because I listened to their songs and just knew that I had to get the CD. It doesn’t hurt that they’re from the Baltimore area (AGAIN) – lately I’ve been noticing that a lot of music coming from that region is right up my alley. In any case, their new album “If Children” (yes, the one that I agreed to receive in the mail) is pretty fantastic. It’s going to be very hard to put a finger on the style of music they play, but if you really had to push me for it, it’s a delicious combination of folksy pop and late 90s shoegaze tendencies. Like a handful of surprising nuts from a peculiar trail mix, but what a handful it is.
Oh, one other thing. This is the duo of Andy Stack and Jenn Wasner but you can’t tell it from the music. It sounds great, and quite full at times. The overall mood and structural tendencies remind me of anyone from Viva Voce, Matt Pond PA, Cat Power, Radar Bros. and Rilo Kiley. I could go on and on naming bands. Great mix of dynamics and musical moments on the CD.
But anyway, a big apology to them for not posting this for several months. They deserve your time, have a listen to the songs…
Reason to Live
I’ve meant to post about the Mosquitos several times after hearing them on various internet radio stations but got sidetracked by other stuff. There is also the fact that there aren’t to many MP3s floating around to give links so that you can hear what they sound like.
But then I realized that there’s a video section on their site where you can watch and listen. And it so happens that one of my fave tracks “Reason To Live” off of their latest album Mosquitos III has been set to video. The Far Away Video is directed by Felipe Joffily and mostly features the combination of rather serious shots of the band along with goofier shots of a guy running around with a Chuck E Cheese mouse head on.
The actual music – it sounds like the couple part (ira and georgia) of Yo La Tengo fronting Papas Fritas plus American Analog Set. This song is a bit different than some of their other stuff which has a bit of Brazilian flavor mixed in: they’re described as “bossa nova grooves and winsome indie pop” on their website which is pretty accurate at times.
They’ve released 3 albums thus far: the aforementioned Mosquitos III, Sunshine Barato and a S/T album.
The Weight Is A Gift
A long time ago, in a music galaxy far away, there was a great band called Nada Surf whose spectacular rise from humble garageband to MTV rotation regular culminated in the band’s abrupt dismissal by disgruntled biggiewigs at Elektra Records. Or so it’s been said. They then promptly vanished from the indie music scene. More than seven years later, the band released another album (Let Go) to pretty good reviews and fast foward to today where they’ve got a pretty good following and now reside on one of our favorite indie labels, Barsuk Records.
Though a long time may have passed (band years are like dog years; so you could say Nada Surf has been kicking around for 70 years in those terms) they still write some of the best straightforward indie powerpop tunes this side of Matthew Sweet. Their latest album is called “The Weight Is A Gift” and it certainly is a gift in its instantly likeable and hummable pop tunes.
Continue reading “Nada Surf – The Weight Is A Gift” …
We All Shine On
I received this CD-R from the band Nire a few months ago and have been enjoying it on and off. I must say that this type of music is just definitely up my alley – hushed, soft folky pop songs with boy and girl harmonies. The Portland, OR band is actually going to be touring with the excellent Ponies In The Surf band who we’ve covered at Shmat earlier.
Like the Ponies, Nire makes music that is often introspective and quiet, perhaps referencing bands like Mojave 3 and The Yum Yum. The same minimalistic approach is there but where they differ is in the flavoring; where the Ponies use a slight Latin-American influence to spice up their songs, Nire’s secret weapon is Erin’s muted piano playing. The songs are a little less whimsical as well.
This actually works really well as simple held chords in songs like “New Pair Of Shoes“, or more active plunking on “Something More” and “Let Go”.
It is also interesting how the album is called “We All Shine On”, because while there could be some shades of Lennon here, the piano instrumentals “Prelude” and “Interlude” seem to have a definite modern sort of influence to them, using repetitive arpeggios to create a minimal soundscape.
“So Small” definitely reminds me of Yum Yum, who were a great hushed folk-pop band with similar boy-girl singing. This song, like the rest of the ones on the album, is just so pretty and is my favorite track right now.
“We All Shine On” has become another great rainy day disc to put on when the skies turn grey outside. I’m actually hoping to catch them live with the Ponies when they come through town…
Josh Hinton – guitar / vocals
Erin Morgan – piano / vocals
Oh No! Oh My!
OK, I swear that I knew about this band from awhile ago but just never got around to making a post about them. I swear that I was ahead of the curve… but now I look like a copycat poster now that the exclamation filled group Oh No! Oh My! is hitting it (slightly) big time. Oh Well Oh My, better late than never.
Now, if you think you’ve heard the phrase “Oh No! Oh My!” somewhere before, it could be because the band took their name from a The Robot Ate Me (who are off Swim Slowly, a pretty nice little label in their own right) song. Their album is self-released, however, and is available on Itunes starting today.
The music itself is totally amazing and bouncy indie pop. Imagine the Masters of the Hemisphere swallowed by Slomo Rabbit Kick with a hint of Beulah and other E6 type bands. They also remind me a bit of Pants Yell! another great exclamation point band.
I think more than anything, Oh No Oh My is another band I can use to fill in the void left by the Masters. “Walk In The Park” is a mid-tempo bah-bah-bah filled song that seems to owe a little to the Belle And Sebastian song “Nice Day For A Sulk” but the atmosphere is much more open and playful with cool keyboards and other instruments.
The other available track is called “Jane Is Fat” and takes Slomo Rabbit drums and combines it with a groove that reminds me of a Brittle Stars song. But the singing and melody is ALL Masters all the way. I don’t know how to describe it really: sort of poppy transcendent joyful. Like the Masters, they tend to soar even without trying or meaning to. Truly great stuff, and I’ll be getting their full album (which has a gargantuan 22 songs on it) in a little bit.
I’ve been enjoying a few tracks from Oh! Custer lately… I’d meant to post about them after seeing them on another music blog months ago. (I keep wanting to call them “Oh! Custard”, no offense to the guys) Don’t know too much about the band except they are a Swedish duo who play some great melodic shoegazey songs. Reminds me a little bit of East River Pipe plus Galaxie 500, with Peter Bjorn and John singing. There’s a bit of a lo-fi twee thing going on in the background, but the chords are very dreamy sounding. The two songs listed below are from their EP “Leaves”, but I think they have another EP that’s coming out soon (or already out?) called “States”.
I heard some tracks from Oranger the other day, and I was wondering where I’d heard their name and songs before. A quick look online showed that not only were they the support band for Pavement in the late nineties, but also a stint opening for Elliott Smith in Europe.
Which is pretty amazing, because I don’t get the feel of either of those artists in Oranger’s music. Well, maybe they’re similar to Malkmus in the way the singing is a bit offhand, and the hooks could be a bit like Heatmmiser at times. They play some pretty fast and furious indie pop that is extremely hooky. Deliciously hooky. I’d say that they often remind me of the Austin band Subset in their repeating guitar lines and the setup of the choruses with the drums coming in.
Their song Crones is a great track that really does sound like a Subset track, maybe geared more toward Fountains of Wayne in fullness though. This is off their 2005 album called New Comes And Goes.
Continue reading “Oranger – Crones” …
The Opposite Side Of The Sea
I’m going to admit that I’m a little bit out of my league trying to review this Oren Lavie CD. No doubt it’s a wonderful collections of smoky, quirky, mellow tunes. And actually, there is a very good chance that you’ve already heard a song. The opening track, “Her Morning Elegance” was used in a Chevy Malibu commercial.
I know I got one reference correct immediately, even though it’s an easy one – Nick Drake‘s footprint is everywhere. Oren’s voice is hushed, even ragged sounding at times, which goes pretty well with the sparse arrangements. No pounding drums here. There are a lot of orchestral arrangements, at times a bit whimsical. Sometimes it reminds me of the strings on The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby”. The other name that comes to mind is Leonard Cohen, though the songs aren’t as bleak. Also, uh, Sting? Beyond that, I’m afraid I’m going to have to let this one ride in the Ipod for a bit.
All right. Time to get back into it. The music that is. For awhile, I’d been interested in picking up some of Mike Kinsella’s (drummer from Joan of Arc) stuff. In particular, his American Football endeavor because the few tracks I heard reminded me so much of American Analog Set.
I completely forgot about it. But I was reminded to plop American Football onto my Amazon wishlist again after hearing something from Kinsella’s other current vehicle “Owen”. (Side note: “Owen” seems to be an immensly popular name to choose for bands – I recall getting a couple different Owen CDs for review back in the day).
Anyhow, if this beautiful opening track “Bad News” is indicative of the quality of the rest of the album, I guess I’ll add Owen onto the list as well. It’s very hushed with acoustic guitar and piano, simple melodies and Kinsella’s mellow voice – again very much reminding me of Andrew Kenny. It’s split into two halves, the first part is very American Analog Set while the second is something of a throwback to Blue Guitar era Red House Painters, especially those acoustic guitar triplets.
I had heard a great track called “How to Beat Dementia” from the band Palomar on WOXY the other day. This track isn’t available on the site but a number of other ones are on their MySpace. Excuse me, I meant on MyDisgrace – sure am slipping up in my old age…
Interesting thing about the band: they seem to be naming all their releases with their name plus a roman numeral… so you’ve got Palomar II, III. They’ve also got a funny sense of humor as evidenced by their press photos and the video for Albacore. Man, anyone who names a song after a tuna is all right in my book.
The music itself – I’m not going to attempt to make yet another leap to That Dog, but there are a few similarities. Bit of Rilo Kiley perhaps. For the most part they’ve got great melodies going over jumpy indie pop that’s immediately likeable. That one track I heard – for some reason I had mentally filed it away under “shoe-gaze”. But if you listen to any of their Myspace tracks it’s definitely more poppy.
Their latest release for the Brooklyn band is out on Misra (who they recently signed with – incidentally I think Absolutely Kosher and Misra merged awhile ago!) and is called “All Things, Forests”. Oh, but no roman numerals for this album…
I’ve previously said a ton of good things about Pants Yell! who are probably in my top 30 favorite indie pop bands of the 21st century. Let me tell you, pretty much the same goes with their latest release “Alison Statton”. It’s another strong set of beautifully crafted pop songs that make me want to throw my guitar out the window and just give up songwriting.
Ok, so there are a few changes. New drummer – Casey Keenan. Although I’m a bit bummed Carly left the band, Casey does a bang up job fitting smoothly into the mix. I think he might give the music a tiny bit more edge. Also, I want to say I detect a slight shift away from the “T” word – that’s twee, which they’ve been pegged (by me, among others). I don’t want to say the songs are more grown up, because they remain similar: engagingly jaunty but slightly off-kiltre. Andrew Churchman (according to the unfailable Wikipedia) sez that they were never really Tullycraftian but more Smithian – I could definitely see that on these songs. And the production is certainly really good on their latest album, which means lo-fi naysayers are going to have to give this album another listen. Released on Soft Abuse.
Pants Yell! Myspace
[Asaurus / Paper Cities]
Pants Yell! writes the songs that I wish I had written.
I was trying to think of other ways to praise their new CD “Recent Drama” but this is probably the one that I feel the most. So, coming from a songwriter’s perspective that’s probably the best I can give: Godamnit, I wish I had written these songs.
I’ve been following the band ever since receiving a copy of their 2003 cassette tape release “Our Horse Calls”. When I got this CD, I stupidly didn’t put it on immediately but left it in the “good pile” because I knew I’d like it. Geez, a bonehead move. That’s one month’s time I could have been immersing myself in Pants Yell! greatness. Instead, I waited until now to put it in on, so I need to make quicker judgements in this review based on only a few listens.
Not that it’s that difficult. Their stuff has always been honest and open indiepop all the way through. Nothing too grandiose. But it also has those occasionally quirky chord jumps and slightly shambling but amazingly organic feel to the drums that sets them apart from other indiepop bands. And because this is a trio, there’s also much more room for the bass to make a melodic presence. The whole shebang is often nicely loungey; you come home, put the CD on, settle back with a drink and make the most of the rest of the day.
On just a cursory listen however, it’s evident that this album has quite a bit more arrangement and fullness than some of their earlier work. The songs are still standout indiepop, but things are definitely moving around faster. The opening track, “Kids Are The Same”, is probably one of the best examples of that. This is superfast for them, and definitely different from their more laidback stuff. This song is pretty lushly recorded as well.
I’ve always had a hard time doing a “sounds like” description. Here goes: It’s sort of like Belle and Sebastian, Beat Happening, Masters of the Hemisphere, The Pastels, Tullycraft and Galaxie 500 rolled into one. How’s that for namer-dropping?
“Easy Way To Be Cruel” leaves you with a peaceful easy indiepop feeling; deliciously understated lyrics go hand in hand with the groovy music. Yes, groovy! Both “Our Weather” and “It’s Been Done” motor along in classic Pants Yell! fashion. “We’ve Got History” has a strange but delicious guitar line that goes atonal suddenly.
Continue reading “Pants Yell! – Recent Drama” …
OK, I have been playing the pants off any track from Peter, Bjorn and John that I can get my hands on – that’s currently 3 or 4 tracks floating around the music barrlogosphere. The only item that is linked to from their official site, however, is the crazy animated comic book video for the whistling-filled Young Folks and even that’s a GooTube vid.
I’ve known about them for a little while, but didn’t know that they recently played Conan and their music has been featured on TV quite a bit (Grey’s Anatomy?) In any case, I’ve got their upcoming album Writer’s Block on my Amazon wishlist already. And here’s an unexpected abbreviative bonus for you: PB&J = peanut butter and jelly = Peter, Bjorn and John. Synchronicity…
A bit hard to describe the music of these three Swedes except that it is extremely poppy, catchy and has a bit of childlike exuberance surrounding it. It makes me want to dance – if I had the inclination to dance. I’m not a dancer, but maybe you are? Shake your boogie.
Ponies In The Surf
[Early Morning Late Night]
Some really lovely folk numbers from brother and sister duo Camille and Alexander McGregor, who are otherwise known as Ponies In The Surf. This is beautiful and uncluttered music with a slight Spanish inflection in the chords.
“Ventricle” is a nearly perfect tune that is intimate and yet expressive with the interchange in their voices. All of their songs feature only a single guitar that plunks along plaintively, almost like a ukelele. It forms the perfect complement to both Alexander’s slightly boozy falsetto and Camille’s sweeter voice that is nearly, but not quite, twee.
Continue reading “Ponies In The Surf – Self Titled EP” …
I recently came across the music of Pony Boy, a California Bay Area band who play some fantastic mellow indie pop. The track I heard off Soma FM was “3-Day Heat Wave” which piqued my interest enough to check out their website. Say, isn’t “Pony Boy” from the “Outsiders”…
I had originally thought that all their music might be like the song 3 Day Heat Wave which mixes mid-tempo indie pop guitar arpeggios with random chatter in the background (some of which sounds like a San Jose radio or TV station). It is remarkable how some of the lead guitar work really reminds me of Merge bands like Spent or Seam. I had forgotten how that type of guitar works so well in indie pop.
Continue reading “Pony Boy – Apartment” …
The World Doesn't Need You
Delicious indiepop from Brazil’s Postal Blue is made even more tasty by the fact that it’s being released on the totally cool microlabel Humblebee Recordings up in Edmonton, Canada. (You may remember the label putting out the excellent State of Samuel record for their inaugural release).
Although their new EP Road to Happiness isn’t yet released as of this writing, you can find one track from it called The World Doesn’t Need You off of the Humblebee site. The trio is Adriano, André, and Ismael and play a great brand of sunny but laid back indiepop. Adriano’s vocals are slightly reserved and delicately sung over melodic guitar, bass and drums. You’re definitely going to hear some people compare them to Belle and Sebastian. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, and I’m sure it’s a compliment most of the time.
But I’m actually also reminded of the band Holiday, though I feel Postal Blue is more straightforward in their pop structure, and more jangly on the guitar chords. Great electric guitar janglin’ on this track, by the way… not as loud as that of Teenage Fanclub but definitely an integral part of the song. This is the only song I’ve heard off the EP though, so I can’t speak for the rest of the tracks. However, this one is very, very good and a perfect little sugar capsule to pop into your Ipod.
You can visit the Postal Blue website for more info on the band.
No Straight Lines
[Beechfields Record Label]
Off the record, I had already decided I was going to like these tracks from Baltimore’s Private Eleanor before I heard them. Austin Stahl from the band runs OTPrecords who put out the amazing The Seldon Plan record which is still stuck on heavy rotation at our house. I figured anyone who released that album and was also in a band would probably sound pretty good in their own right. How right I was!
Initially a bedroom band project, Private Eleanor has grown to five members and has toured extensively around the country (hey, they played with our faves Dios Malos!) The music itself is an interesting blend of more restrained but nonetheless infectious indie pop and slightly dronier, slower stuff.
I haven’t heard the entire album yet, but on the basis of the 3 or 4 songs I listened to I’m going to have to go with my gut and say that the band that PE reminds me most of is American Analog Set. It has everything to do with Austin’s semi-hushed tones and vocal melodies, as well as the band’s overall tasteful restraint on everything from keyboards and bass to drums and other percussion (xylophone?) This was really apparent on a song like “Richmond” which was my favorite track from their new album “No Straight Lines”. There is a bit of a folksy or woodsy element to some of their songs, but I think that’s more of an accent than a genre that they play.
Other tracks like “Bed Of Nails” simmer along more slowly, and even sound a bit sultry with that bassline oozing all over the place. You know, I want to say that I hear the echoes of The Posies in the way that some of the melodies are put together on this song… but I’m not sure if I’m being influenced from our earlier assessment of The Seldon Plan. “Seventeen” is another great track with a driving beat and pop melody smarts that seems to further back up the Posies similarities. The simple, chiming guitars and tasteful piano were very nice on this one.
Continue reading “Private Eleanor – No Straight Lines” …
Godamn this band is really good. We’d earlier written up Private Eleanor on the basis of their great 2005 release No Straight Lines which came in through the inbox by way of Austin Stahl. This new album Sweethearting may top that one. The same influences and RIYLs are in effect here. Topping the list of bands they sound like is American Analog Set. It mostly has to do with the softserve, creamy feel to the mid-tempo pop that Private Eleanor plays and the hushed vocals, but the frequent use of xylophone doesn’t hurt as well. I don’t want to get stuck pigeon-holing the band as Amanset part 2; but they’re one of my favorite bands so it’s difficult not to throw that type of compliment their way when it’s deserved. Actually, in some instances, PE’s songs sound even prettier and more delicate than Amanset.
“Weeds” is an amazing track that sounds like a Chris Isaak song played by Amanset. There’s a sort of spectral feel to a lot of the songs – like being in a waking dream while watching a show. The earlier album was compared a bit to the twin towers of E. Smith and N. Drake, but I seem to hear a lot less of that on Sweethearting. I also can’t remember if Marian Glebes (who adds those bells and other percussion) sang that much on No Straight Lines, but in any case her similarly hushed accompanying vocals and harmonies are very welcome on these newer songs. I still get a Red House Painters vibe, especially on the quieter parts of songs like “Consider The Archer.” And that Posies vocal similarity still rings true every so often.
Man, the Baltimore-based Beechfields label, who also released the amazing Seldon Plan are definitely on my list of favorite collectives right now. They just can’t seem to do wrong at the moment.
Private Eleanor website
The Crowd Train Takes The Form
I’ve been a fan of the New Jersey label Monotone Records for awhile. Got a chance to listen to some of Ryan Doyle’s songs off of his The Crowd’ Train Takes The Form CD-R a few days ago. I’d heard some songs off the “Sparrows” tape and this collection of songs continued the nice folky vibe that was on it. The mood of the tracks is very pastoral and thoughtful, like a lot of tracks from the label (notably Kevin Huelbig Jr.’s stuff). At times it is uptempo and melodic like The Shins or Belle and Sebastian, but it usually comes across more understated.
Continue reading “Ryan Doyle – The Crowd Train Takes The Form” …
[Secret Brain Records]
You know, I could probably have said something like Sam Roberts = “updated version of The Band” and be done with this review. I felt a little guilty about that, especially since that similarity is mentioned twice in his band’s bio. And anyhow, it’s not entirely accurate. The Canadian indie rocker has definitely more to his music than just a rehash of 60s jams. At his best, he comes across like Wilco, Supergrass or Dios Malos on more than a few songs.
Subpop’s new alt-country rock heroes Band of Horses might also get a mention or two. Where the music threatens to derail him is when it meanders like garishly, overdone Pink Floyd. Roberts has a strong voice which surely deserves better company. Granted, for the most part the music is pretty good and energetic indie pop. Interestingly, one song “Mystified, Heavy” totally reminded me of Elliott Smith, at least in the beginnning. Pretty cool.
Get to the River ...
I have to keep reminding myself never to judge a band based on anything before hearing their music or seeing them play live. Sometimes it’s best to even listen to them blind. In this case, I’m talking about the amazing band Sea Wolf who I saw play the Echoplex kickoff show this past Thursday along with The Parsons Red Heads, Watson Twins and Earlimart.
I was going to the show to see Earlimart, but I’d gotten an advance of the Sea Wolf CD as well. However, I didn’t even listen to it beforehand – one of my favorite things to do back when it was actually possible to be surprised by music (early 90s) was to take a chance and buy a CD or go to a show without knowing anything about the band. Kinda like forcing yourself not to know anything about a movie before going to see it. I decided to do this with Sea Wolf and I’m so glad I did. The reason is because the band is headed up by Alex Church of Irving, and his band mate Alex Burrows is also in the lineup. The thing is – I can’t stand Irving! So, if I’d read they were in Sea Wolf maybe I would have made up my mind already about the band.
Instead, at the show we were treated to an amazing, dynamic performance by Sea Wolf (everyone else was good too, but if Earlimart didn’t come out with guns blazing, I would have said that Sea Wolf stole the show from them). At the heart of the band are Church’s quirky but extremely moody compositions that seem to swim with the tide rather than against it. Melodic acoustic guitar and beautiful string accompaniments make all the difference. The rest of the rhythm section is locked in sweetly as well.
There are only 5 songs on the EP and they played all of them at the show. They differ, with some being slower and others more forceful, but all have a really dreamy quality to them.
“You’re A Wolf” is the crowd favorite, but mine is the driving and drony “I Made A Resolution.” As far as bands they sound like, I’d say take the Decemberists plus Arcade Fire, mix in a little Dirty Three for string dynamics, some old nods to the Velvet Underground and its ilk, and then add some Great Northern for atmosphere (the latter is a gimme, since members of that band are in the live lineup).
This band completely blew me away with their performance. Hopefully, I’ll get to see them again soon. They’re actually touring with Silversun Pickups. I already missed Sea Wolf playing with Sloan at the Troubadour, and apparently they are playing one date with Elk City! What a show that would be. (On a side note: I gotta say there is a very incestuous Silverlake scene thingy going on… or maybe I just haven’t really noticed it until now since I’ve been so out of it. But it’s all good – I like nearly all the related bands.)
You’re A Wolf – Video
Sea Wolf website
Only As The Day Is Long
I’d actually been looking forward to this album for a really long time. Funny, the first time I heard Sera Cahoone I had no idea she also sprang forth from the (now seminal) band Carissa’s Wierd. I just knew she was somehow related to Band of Horses and I really liked the songs from her first solo album that I heard.
Now that SubPop picked her up, she’s got another album out – “Only As The Day Is Long.” It’s a lovely little folky country album. Truthfully, I like the more sparse moments of the first 3 songs on the album – when “Runnin’ Your Way” starts up I get a little antsy. For me, the current alt-country-folk americana thingy that’s so popular walks a pretty delicate line between boring mainstream country and amazing indie folk. It’s never the Dixie Chicks (thankfully), but give me the slower stuff on the album any day. “You’re Not Broken” is a great track – plaintive and simple.
She Keeps Bees
Funny, I found this artist while looking up some info on The Finches whose show I caught awhile back at Silverlake Lounge. The link was to She Keeps Bees playing Cagematch on gootube – the band is basically Jessica Larrabee playing just about all the instruments from guitar to drums. It’s a Chan Marshall / Mia Doi Todd type of gritty folk/blues. I really liked the stripped down Cagematch song because it reminded me of Songs: Ohia (The Lioness?).
There’s a very raw and wounded sound to her voice. I liked the rest of the more fleshed out songs too, like Lucille which reminded me a bit of The Naysayer. Some really nice songs from this mostly home recorded first effort, “Minisink Hotel“.
Jessica is currently doing a tour with The Love Story
She Keeps Bees website
With a buzz-buzz here and a twee pop there, Snoozer has always been a favorite of mine ever since I was introduced to their music through HHBTM. Rhode Island’s Susie Ghahremani has a knack for making these compact shiny little pop songs that mix casios with melodies that are a big snuggly but definitely not overly cheesey. In fact, there’s a good dose of hidden girl angst lurking in the lyrics on many of her songs from the “Winter Stops All Sound” CD EP pictured here. I know many already have this, but I forgot to check the Boygirlparty website earlier and just recently found two other tracks of hers hiding:
First up is the highly entertaining “Legal Tender”, a cover of the B52s track. Handclaps and super caffeinated buzzy synths surround her voice which is bratty, almost to the point of being “valley girl”. This reminded me again of Joy Ray from Sissybar. There’s a funny little xylophone hit that comes in once or twice throughout that made me laugh.
Continue reading “Snoozer – Legal Tender” …
I’ve really been noticing that compared to a lot of other music review blogs, I tend to post in clumps. Their coverage is pretty much every other day, or even multiple times a day. I tend to save up all the new music until the end of the week and post it all at once. Makes for a bit of confusion keeping track of all the bands in my head though.
Which is why I’ve started doing massive numbers of blog “drafts” to try keep it in order until they can be posted later on. The unfortunate thing about that is that sometimes I’ll forget and a great band won’t get mentioned for another few months.
Sparrow House is one of those bands. I’d heard “You Sang Along” on SOMA and immediately went to check them, or him, out. Him being Jared Van Fleet. That song sounded like a mixture of N. Lannon and Earlimart – some good mellow stuff. The other tracks run a similar vein, with “When I Am Gone” sounding an awful lot like an Iron and Wine track. You’ll have to visit Jared’s myspace page to listen because there’s not currently much on the homepage, and actually the EP “Falls” is sold out though he’ll be getting in some more product soon. Interesting, he’s doing 4 EPs in a row, one for each season of the year.
Jared’s also in the band Voxtrot, but after listening to the tracks I have to say personally I dig his solo stuff more.
Sparrow House on MySpace
Sparrow House website
Wow, this is some hooky stuff. I know absolutely nothing about Somebody Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin (conveniently abbreviated SSLYBY), but their song “Oregon Girl” is an absolutely catchy and delicious track. The dossier says “Pavement” and “Shins” but I’m hearing more Fountains of Wayne coming through in the vocal melodies. As far as pure pop goes they’ve really got it down – hopefully will get my hands on this CD soon.
Struggle In The Hive
Struggle In The Hive is a collaboration between members of two record labels – Future Appletree and Radical Turf. I have to admit that Future Appletree releases are sort of hit and miss for me. For the most part, I understand where their artists are coming from and appreciate the indie CDs. But I don’t listen to all of them on a regular basis.
However, SITH (great Star Wars tie-in when you abbreviate them) is actually quite good, a mellow indie pop album of mostly acoustic guitar driven numbers. (Interestingly, B. Patric is in Marlboro Chorus which is one of my least favorite Appletree releases – but his contributions in this particular collaboration are great) Because of the lighter approach with the songs, they often sound like a mini Reindeer Section, albeit a little less lush. The RIYL points toward Kings Of Convenience but I hear more of a Pedro the Lion feel or The Negro Problem, especially on the track “Hold Your Breath”.
Actually, when B. Patric (or is it Nigel – I’m not sure who’s singing the majority of the lead) sings in a low crawl it almost sounds like Hayden, Mark Kozelek or the singer from the Merge band Spent. There are some great tracks on this self titled album regardless of who you think they sound like.
B. Patric – guitar, cello, voice, drums, piano, bass
Nigel Jeffrey – guitar, piano, voice
The Femurs offer up a frenetic style of acoustic indie rock with punk rock count-em-off stylings like the Ramones. At least that’s what it’ll seem like on the surface – however they’re much less distorted (actually, no distortion), which is where I guess the Violent Femmes comparison comes from. The track offered on the SXSW site is “Not Giving Up” is really energetic and a little big wiggy with the superfast acoustic guitar line underneath that sounds almost like a spaghetti western played by Dick Dale. Fun songs from this Seattle based band.
SXSW Friday March 16 11:00 p.m.
at Whisky Bar
Not Giving Up
Femurs on Myspace
More SXSW stuff . Flailing around randomly through the gi-normous amount of MP3 previews, The Zincs grabbed hold of my ear and refused to let go. Some great pop/rock songs here. A creamy sound, slightly downtempo mellow, like Luna, Kingsbury Manx or the less crazy Wilco tracks. No rocket science – just pure good melody with a bit of drone. Interestingly, singer James Elkington has a pretty deep voice that is a nice sharp contrast with this type of music – think Tindersticks, Mark Eitzel, Stephen Merritt, David Gedge, Dave Berman.
They’re a Chicago, IL band and so it makes sense that Tortoise’s John McEntire recorded their latest album, Black Pompadour. Also might explain the slight nod to the post-mod instrumental feel that some of the tracks contain.
SXSW Saturday March 17 11:30 p.m.
at Uncle Flirty’s Loft
The Zincs website
More Swede Sweetness in the form of Tobias Fröberg. Although I’m a little tired of mainstream and print media grasping and clutching and whatever indie straws they can in a desperate attempt to keep “hit music” alive, I have to say that if they grab hold of Fröberg the attention is well deserved. I keep hearing “next big Swede Thing” and stuff… how about just plain “great music” for a change? Maybe I’m just as guilty though, I only found out about his music via blogs posting pretty much in the same spirit.
Incidentally, what is with the congas with Swedish music, i.e. PB&J’s “Young Folks” and now Fröberg’s “When The Night Turns Cold” which is the track that’s available at his SXSW preview page. Interesting he went with a more uptempo track for that, since he’s often been compared to such folksy greats as Nick Drake and Simon & Garfunkel, though I also hear some other classic touches like Let It Be-era Beatles, Jackson Browne, etc. But if you’re looking for something more quirky a la Sufjan Stevens prepare to be disappointed. Others might be critical of the way the songs seem to “borrow” from classics (uh, Pachabel Canon in D?) and classic rock (uh, Kansas?). Myself, I think they’re just great songs done in a classic way.
Somewhere In The City
Tobias Fröberg’s website
The Album Leaf
Always For You
So Cadillac keeps throwing them at us. Earlier they’d served up both M. Ward and Luna as backing music for their commercials. This time around they pick the instrumental part of a great song by The Album Leaf. The song in question is “Always For You” and it’s the 2nd song off of their latest album “Into The Blue Again”.
Once again, I don’t remember too much about the actual commerical except that it was for the Cadillac Escalade. I always seem to get distracted when recognizing background music in commercials that’s from an indie band. I recognized it right away because I have both this album and their earlier one “In A Safe Place”. This one should be pretty good – since there are no words in the section (I wonder if it was a loop or a snippet?) of song being used, you’d probably have a harder time trying to google the lyrics…
Actually, if you liked the part of the song that was used in the commercial you’ll probably dig the rest of their stuff. They tend toward mostly instrumental mellow songs that are “electronic” in the sense that they use a lot of different sounds, but there is an amazing organic feel to the tracks.
They might come across very similar to Postal Service. Who, by the way, have gotten one of their songs used again recently in a UPS commercial. The EXACT SAME ONE in fact that was used for Kaiser Permanente (I don’t even remember the name), which calls for a rant: a word to UPS – stop trying to jump on the cool-indie-music-in-commercials bandwagon and find your own damn songs. That’s what you’re overpaying your music directors (or whatever it is they’re called nowadays) for. They could have picked any other Postal Service track or any other similar indie band, but NO… they were just too damn lazy. OK, rant off – have a nice day!
Always For You, by The Album Leaf
Rod 'N' Reel
It’s been awhile since I reviewed an actual record. Not that we haven’t been getting them in the mail – but I just have either forgotten or put it off till later. This delicious little 7″ from The Besties showed up on my doorstep the other day. The two songs are Rod ‘N’ Reel and Working Title and both are delectable little twee nuggets destined for more than a few plays on the old turntable. Yes, a turntable, the little thing that makes the vinyl discs go round and round , for all you Itunes-only folks…
Besides this Hugpatch release, they have also have a new CD out on Skipping Stones called “Singer”. Nice melodies from this Brooklyn band. Also, a connection with Shumai the Boston band I think I reviewed awhile back…
The Besties on Myspace
You might have noticed that over the past few years, Target has hired some snazzy marketeers to help them update and modernize their image. It seems to have worked in some respect, not the least of which is the music. I’ve been trying for the longest time to figure out who did the music to one of their commercials. The music in question, made my “indie pop” alert go off right away… a strange combination of 60s reverbed girl band (Ronettes?), the Aislers Set, and Hope Sandoval.
The song on the commercial is “Say Something New” by a band from Sweden called The Concretes. Though they’re on a pretty big label (Astralwerks), I haven’t heard of them before. For some reason, I was thinking Concrete BLONDE for awhile which definitely isn’t the same thing!
Continue reading “The Concretes – Target Commercial” …
The Great White Jenkins
Winter of Discontent
Some cool indie pop tracks from a band called The Great White Jenkins. The songs are more on the mellow, folky side but have some nice instrumentation going on as opposed to a singer-songwriter vibe. “Winter of Discontent” has a nearly loungey feel at times but although there is that Oberst-quaver in the vocals it never turns into Bright Eyes (thankfully). The warm keyboards and kettle like drums add nice atmosphere to the song.
“Fishing Trawler” sounds a bit more expansive, like Belle and Sebastian at times. Strings and soft horns add a nice feel to the well balanced mix, and the instrumentation reminds me most of “large band” proponents such as Lambchop.
The High Water Marks
Hi there. I just spent about 40 minutes looking for a photo of the cover of the new High Water Marks CD “Polar” for this review. Hint to bands: please put up a high res image of your front cover BEFORE you send out yer stuff. The reason is I am so darn lazy to connect my scanner up and import the image. Thanks muchly (and yes, they had a smaller image on HHBTM but I need a 130×130 image for all the reviews, and yes I’m obsessive compulsive like that in that I absolutely have to have a perfect sized image and hate upsampling).
But anyhow, whew, now I’m glad I actually wrote about that because I swore to myself that I wouldn’t start off this post with the phrase “The High Water Marks earn high marks…” because I was sure that someone else had used it (or would think to use it). But yeah, they do earn high marks for all the songs on their latest poppy and tuneful release. There are really excellent songs here – definite sounds like E6, maybe Beulah or Apples. I feel they’re a little more straightforward forward and less twee-ish, though.
According to their bio, I’m not supposed to call them an indie “supergroup” of any sorts. But darn, when you know that members hail from Apples In Stereo, Palermo and Oranger it all starts to make sense. And this definitely dovetails nicely with the used copy of Oranger’s “New Comes and Goes” release I picked up the other day. Energetic, head-bopping stuff out on HHBTM that is getting its own temporary playlist slot on my Ipod for now.
Songs About The Ocean
The Higher Elevations
[Best Kept Secret]
Currently wading through stacks of CD submissions backdated to over six months ago… but here’s something interesting. Anyone remember Cassette Tapes? Or were you born after that particular phase of recorded music… Anyhow, Alessandro from the excellent Best Kept Secret in Italy keeps the tradition strong by releasing honest to goodness cassette tapes, a few of which made it to our door earlier.
This one is by The Higher Elevations, a Swedish band who actually have a newer CD release out I believe called “Always The Same”. This cassette tape “Who’s Sleeping” is also quite good though. More mainstream folks are going to name The Strokes among the influences, but imagine Nothing Painted Blue singing over Interpol styled riffs. That’s more what they remind me of.
The tape has a good mix of rockin’ songs and more acoustic stuff, demos and outtakes. One of the more interesting tracks is “In The Night” which features none other than Richard Lloyd (of Television) doing some guest lead guitar.
There aren’t too many sound files available from this tape, but you can listen to an acoustic version of “There Is A Town”, as well as a song called “Fiction” from another EP:
The Invisible Cities
I keep hearing awesome songs from The Invisible Cities on SomaFM; this must be the 10th time or something a song of theirs has come on, not that I’m complaining. They often play this slow and majestic type of indie pop tinged with shoegaze and beautiful vocals. The instrumentation on the slower songs remind me of the empty skyshimmer of Idaho and old Red House Painters, while the faster indie pop sounds a bit like That Dog, Pixies or the criminally overlooked Star Ghost Dog. What’s nice about The Invisible Cities is they are able to transcend that single genre tag on their album pretty easily (though I might have tagged them as shoegaze from a few selected tracks if I hadn’t went and listened to some of the others).
The track I hear the most is “Synaptic Gap” from their debut full-length album Watertown an amazing dreamy piece that features Sadie’s vocals drawn out like sheets flapping in the breeze.
Continue reading “The Invisible Cities – Watertown” …
The Jane Anchor
[Lark Lane Records]
The Jane Anchor plays the kind of music that’ll settle you down out of your Godspeed Ye Black Emporer funk and make you remember why straightforward power pop can beat out experimental in a pinch. Yep, just great singing, melody and action packed drums and guitar.
Well, OK so I’m not trying to present it as simplistic music at all. On their latest CD, Second Wave, Kara Lafty leads The ‘Anchor with a semi-strident voice that is not as angry as perhaps, Sleater-Kinney, but is nonetheless extremely strong and confident. Sort of feels like Rainer Maria’s Caithlin De Marrais at times in tone.
The Light Footwork
One State Two State
Welcome to the doldrum days of winter. If lately you’ve been feeling a hankering for an injection of wonderful sunny-pop from the now defunct band Beulah (who broke up awhile ago), you should all head over to The Light Footwork website and get musically medicated. Though their new album “One State Two State” is not out for a few more weeks you can listen to a few of the awesome tracks there, including “Coastlines are Landmines” and “Rapture Good Rupture Bad”. Side note: a pretty fun takeoff on Dr. Seuss for the cover…
The Beulah connection is no doubt heightened by the fact that the band features several members of that band playing on the album, though the main songwriters are Jay Underwood and Becca Wilhelm. Man, this stuff is the real deal… I’ve had the tracks on my Itunes on repeat for a couple weeks now and it gets better and better. It’s seriously good and while the resemblances to Beulah on songs like “Coastlines are Landmines” (a reference to the album “The Coast Is Never Clear”?) are uncanny, this is not a rehashing of the former lineup. The songs are deliciously structured indie pop pizza pies filled to overflowing with saucy instrumentation and stretchy melodies that aren’t cheesy at all. Haha, ok now I’m getting hungry…
Continue reading “The Light Footwork – One State Two State” …
The Lil' Hospital
As a sign of just how shmattily crazy the Shmat’s joint PO box has gotten lately, he has not gotten to listen to The Lil’ Hospital’s latest until just this very minute. But what a great record! The Shmat has already been familiarized with the jumpin’, twee-bumpin’, ego-less stompin’ indie pop greatness that the Hospital put forth in a flood from their earlier “I Wanna Be Well” album (Best Friends Records).
The newest release is called “Heavy Metal” and stumbles giddily into your living room via Total Gaylord Records. Most of the same auditory hallmarks are still there: the sweet ‘n perfect melodies that make you sway like palm trees, the Beach Boys – Barbara Ann “live room recording” feel, and the great choruses that are so insistently delicious that the Shmat feels like dancing and peeing at the same time. This record sounds a bit cleaner and the songs sound a bit more structured than previous outings. It’s still great and immediate indie pop, yet it seems to grab and yank at yer heartstrings even harder.
At this point the Shmat needs to talk about the “Swede Connection”. Oh, he knows quite well that head-Hospitaleer Kevin Alvir is not from Sweden. But shmat-darned if he still reminds the Shmat heavily of some of his fave Swedish indiepoppers. That would include The State of Samuel of course. If you’re looking for non-Swedish references, they could be: Tullycraft, Butterglory, Pants Yell!, Boyracer and The Gerbils.
Continue reading “The Lil’ Hospital – Heavy Metal” …
A La Carte
[Best Friends Records]
I’ve been a fan of The Maybellines’ semi-twee style of indie pop ever since their Shelflife EP release. I was recently passed their new EP “A La Carte” off of Best Friends Records and was happy to note that the quality of the songs have continued to shine brilliantly. This is indiepop in its most vibrant and yummy colors, but what I like about the band is that they balance the sweetness so nicely that you won’t get musical toothaches.
Denverites Mike, Julie, Al and Dave sidestep obvious comparisons to twee-minded faves like Tullycraft by writing terrific songs that are a little less jokey and pretty melodic, but still extremely fun to listen to. Julie’s vocals are light and airy (sometimes almost like Stereolab or Broadcast) and fit well with stripped down electric guitar riffs and the simple but nicely thumpin’ drum beats. Sometimes they feel a little bit like the great indiepop band Sissybar, though again the emphasis is more on the songs themselves than novelty.
Continue reading “The Maybellines – A La Carte” …
The Polyphonic Spree
Beginning Stages Of
If your idea of a great band is about 25-30 members dressed in the same long robes playing various different orchestral and non-orchestral instruments or singing in a rousing indie pop chorus, then The Polyphonic Spree may just be for you. This band truly does have a huge cast and does perform in suspiciously “cult-like” robes, but the sound that comes out of them is pretty amazing. A soaring chorus of voices backed by a modern day orchestra type sound a la Brian Wilson’s Smile. Crazy horns, whistles, bells, strings, gongs… you get the whole works.
I haven’t gotten their newer CD/DVD Together We’re Heavy, but I can certainly vouch for the tracks off of their amazing initial album The Beginning Stages Of The Polyphonic Spree. Tracks like Have A Day feature their typical dynamic buildup of instruments around a common theme, often only a few chords. The choral blasts on “It’s The Sun” give me chills.
Continue reading “The Polyphonic Spree – The Beginning Stages of” …
The Seldon Plan
I found out about this totally amazing indie poprock band called The Seldon Plan the other day. Well, I wish I could say I’m the first to discover them but they’ve been reviewed in any number of online and print magazines already. Still, what a great find. The Baltimore, MD quartet plays energetic and powerful pop that has an immediate catchiness but includes enough melodic quirks to make their music really shine.
It’s interesting that they are called The SeldoN Plan instead of The SeldoM Plan. My brain keeps want to say Seldom, hehe.
When I first put their album Making Circles on, I thought immediately of Nada Surf, and then looked at their one sheet and saw that band was in the “Sounds Like” list already. Well, I would certainly say that if you liked Nada Surf you should give Seldon Plan a shot. As I listened to the album I found a number of resemblances to the great Texas band Subset with a bit of Teenage Fanclub-iness thrown in for good measure. I would say that The Posies might be another music reference point.
Standout tracks include the power-pop overtures of the opener “A Rhyming Dictionary” and the DeathCab-like title track “Making Circles”. They are also capable of slower tracks filled with no less tension like “Top Left Corner” and “Holding Patterns Are Slow”. With such awesome hooks, musical tightness and great melodies I wouldn’t be surprised if they became the next buzz band on the O.C….
The Seldon Plan website is at: www.theseldonplan.com
Any Day Ago
Even though The Sems are essentially just the one man act Pete Bogolub with friends, their CD “Any Day Ago” has been a frequent flyer in my Itunes list “To Review” playlist. Since about January in fact. Dreamy and mellow, this is definitely pop music that has been carefully orchestrated and thought out.
Droning bass lines, minimal melody changeups, and great guitar soundscapes make up the bulk of the album which supposedly takes on influences from MBV and Jesus and Mary Chain. This is what I hear though – American Analog Set. The first two songs “A Lonely Place To Be” and “Leaving Is Easy” certainly contains all of the elements of that great band. There are a few vocal touches thrown in that go more in the direction of Stereolab/Broadcast.
The Sems also drift into the territory of such pro-instrumental bands as Scenic and The Sea and Cake, especially on tracks like “As Others Live” and “I Don’t Believe”. “The Last Noise”, however reminds me more of the DCFC song “405″. “Should I Stay” ventures into Field Mice territory.
Despite the overall mellowness of the album, there ARE hints of the louder bands mentioned in the bio (My Bloody Valentine and J&M Chain). But the similarities are more in general feel and perhaps some of the higher vocal harmonies. This is a much more mellow disc, which is fine with me. Great for driving around to.
Albums on Itunes
The State of Samuel
Here Come The Floods
[Humblebee / Total Gaylord]
I have a confession to make. I completely sat on the Here Come The Floods when it was released in October 2007. I wanted to see how long I could keep the ebullient, effervescent elephant locked in its box. It turns out my willpower is unfortunately high, and I didn’t write about the album until today when it came bursting out onto the page thusly:
“Oh my god there is a new The State of Samuel record, and oh my god it is just as good if not slightly better than the previous one, and oh my god this is at least the 4th or 5th best album I’ve listened to this year, and oh my god I can’t believe this guy is not signed to a major indie, and oh my god there is too much caffeine in my tea…”
Ok, so it wasn’t exactly like that. But in a way it was. I still think Samuel Petersson is some sort of unheralded Swedish pop genius. The songs are buzzy, summery gems, perfect for warming you up in the coming winter. Residents of gloom rejoice…
The State Of Samuel website
I don’t normally get to many CDs sent from Latvia. Oh, heck with it – I haven’t EVER gotten a CD from Latvia. The lady at the post office was like, you have friends there? I’ve given up trying to explain to them that everyone and their mom will send CDs from any number of countries – they just don’t get why people send me stuff.
Since I haven’t gotten any other music from Latvia, I don’t have anything to compare Tramplini to. (And by the way, you are going to forgive me in advance if I omit some of the punctuation on any of the titles and stuff, because everything’s in Latvian?) But it doesn’t matter what country this CD/EP is from. “Hallo, Mazie” is, how do you say, Amazieng. Haha.. ahaha.
Really, it is. In fact, it’s one of the best releases I’ve gotten from bands so far this summer, not counting the obvious bigger indie ones. The sound would fit right in with some of the best smaller indie pop bands in the States. According to their Myspace, they formed in 1997 and this their second EP. Some of the comparisons might be to Luna, Viva Voce, Yum-Yum, Yo La Tengo, Amanset, Imperial Teen, and Joy Zipper. The list could go on too… I just hear so many different bands that I like in their style, which is a delicious sort of slo-core meets indie pop.
The EP starts off with the laid back and lazy pop gem “Pargajiens”. I love the use of keyboards and the tiny bells in the background. I don’t understand a word of what they’re saying, and it simply doesn’t matter at all. That might be a good indicator of how good the band is. I’m sure it would add to the songs to know the words they’re singing, but unlike many bands who sing in languages I don’t understand, I’m able to enjoy it for the music.
One of my favorite tracks is “Tas Pats” which completely switches gears by adding distortion and drone. It sounds a bit like Yo La Tengo’s cover of Little Honda plus a Viva Voce song plus a bit of My Bloody Valentine. I like the understated vocals on this one, as well as the trumpet squeals and keyboard in the middle section. That one middle part is pretty much as experimental as they get, however.
A lot of times they do remind me of Luna, and the song “Sobizness” is a perfect example. This could be taken right out of Luna’s “Penthouse” album. Great vibrato on the electric guitar, a mellow beat, simple chords and understated vocals. So nice. “Rudeni” has a beautifully chiming drone going on with vocals that really remind me of Yum-Yum while the music might be a Masters of the Hemisphere song.
“Millenia” is an instrumental piece with a loping sort of groove that might be part of a Tristeza album. As a bonus, there’s a video for “Tas Pats” on the EP, though you can also find that on Gootube. I dunno if I’ve done described in justice how good the songs are, you’ll have to listen to them yourself. But for me, I have not been able to stop listening to their songs for a few weeks now.
Tas Pats on Gootube
Buy it at:
Alive With Pleasure
If you like the other married (or divorced) dynamic duos Arcade Fire or Quasi, there’s a pretty good chance you will dig Viva Voce. Beautiful and engaging quirk rock that sounds semi-filtered through Jason Lytle’s or Aaron Espinoza’s eyes.
On their latest LP The Heat Can Melt Your Brain Anita and Kevin Robinson carefully construct catchy melodies and inject a tipsiness into their tunes by utilizing an arsenal of musical weapons. Ranging from vibraphone and kazoo to celeste and simple handclaps, their instrumentation choices are top notch. The flavor is eccentric and edgy, aurally exciting, and liable to make you jiggle around uncontrollably in a spastic way. Yeah, that good.
Continue reading “Viva Voce – Alive With Pleasure” …
[New Wine Records]
Admittedly, I know very little about Yesan Damen. For one thing, I thought that was someone’s name. Instead it’s a indie pop quartet. And while there are indeed hints of The New Pornographers in the music, I think this is one of those albums that requires a bit of “work” to really get into. Some rather pretty pop songs in here though, with very nice instrumentation. Oh, this was originally the solo project for songwriter Danny Kwak. Just mentioning his name because I like to help a brother out. Anyhow, perhaps I need to revisit this one after the new year.