Category : Twee
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.
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
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” …
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
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
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
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
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 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.
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.
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” …
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
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 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
Man, I was sitting in the waiting room watching the dreary teevee at the orthopedist the other day when I heard the music for a commercial for Weinerschnitzel – and I just couldn’t believe it. I mean, a surprising number of indie bands have showed up in commercials – what with music sales going kaput, I say more power to them if they can make a few bucks without completely selling out (hint: hey bands, stop giving the evil corporations your most popular tracks – I mean YOU Peter, Bjorn and John).
But anyhow, Tullycraft was the last band I thought I’d hear in a commercial – let alone a big fast food player like Weinerschnitzel. But yep, there was the track called “Sweet” from Tullycraft’s Old Traditions, New Standards being played as background music for hot doggian shenanigans. It’s the one where the lyrics keep going “Cause you’re sweet, you’re so incredibly sweet.”
I’ve got nothing against the twee-popsters giving up their music for a commercial – they deserve it. I’m just surprised (sorta pleasantly) that the agency behind it was willing to use their music – I mean c’mon if you know Tullycraft, they’re not exactly showcasing their perfect in-tune vocals. They’re positively lo-fi by many standards. But I love ‘em anyhow. Just surprised that an agency would feel the same.
Interestingly, immediately after this commercial I was treated to a 90s flashback – I heard Elastica being used for a Saturn (?) commercial. That was a bizarre feeling – to have two alt bands in a row on TV commercials. Man, at this rate I’m going to try write some songs myself with commercials jingles in mind… since there’s certainly no money to be made by actually selling CDs (grumble, grumble).