Tuesday, December 30, 2008
I've been keen to get Would-Be-Goods over to Sweden to play ever since putting on another band that Pete Momtchiloff plays in - Bid's mysterious Scarlet's Well outfit - last year. He seemed very enthusiastic, so it was saddening not being to able to help them out when they finally made it over to Sweden for the first time earlier this year. And I couldn't even go see them up in Stockholm!
I'll console myself by playing Eventyr on these dark winter evenings, letting myself be drawn into its beguiling atmosphere of swinging chandeliers and fading Edwardian tapestries. Eventyr is Danish for adventure, and I'm not surprised to read that it's the name of a H.C. Andersen anthology. Several of the songs have an almost Grimm-like air and it's easy to see similarities with Scarlet's Well, whom Momtchiloff is now contributing songs for as well as Would-Be-Goods. They cannot lose Griffin's unique mark however, and even though Momtchiloff wrote "Temporary Best Friend", some of my other favourites on the album like the opening classic "Sad Stories", "Melusine" which is playing in the sidebar here, and the lilting "Baby Romaine" are all Griffin's compositions. Bass player Andy Warren also joins the game with the closing track "A Professor Momtchiloff Mystery", which could've been The Monochrome Set's "Andy Leaps In". Warren once played in The Monochrome Set along with Lester Square, you see, which probably makes him Jessica's most enduring band partner since her backing band on both the él-released The Camera Loves Me and Mondo were the then-disbanded Monochrome Set. That leaves drummer Deborah Green as the only non-contributing member, but considering her past in Thee Headcoatees I think she could really add something to the band's appeal if she tried. Any excuse for another album! Or at least some more gigs. Perhaps they'll come to Auckland... and we'll all live happily ever after.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Ehm... the second most anticipated release. It beats the in itself wonderful single "All I Wanna Do" by about 1.3 miles. Each song is an a-side hit, with "I Want You Back" standing out as the best pop song of the year.
Unlike its companion ep from Brooker's other project The Arc Lamps, the 100 copies of this ep sold out relatively fast. Might have something to do with ex-Visitor Tim Hopkins involvement with this release. Or perhaps that the songs are simply as good as The Pines at their best. Did you get yours?
The band's first proper release, after two split-7"s and a self-released ep. It's the best 45 of the year, with a fantastic new version of "The Pains of Being Pure At Heart" on the other side, a cool sleeve, and put out by the label of the year!
Definitely the most promising new indiepop act. Beautifully recorded, with the best instrumentation since 1966. The Aislers Set and The Essex Green have met their match.
Self-released on CDR, in a case that was bound to crack in the mail - nothing could spoil the joy of finally hearing Pocketbooks at the top of their game. Not much can beat Andy Hudson's insightful compositions when they're properly recorded and accompanied by jangly guitars. But still it's only a taster of the magnificence of the forthcoming full-length!
The swansong release from this overlooked Glasgow band. Both Garry and Alison used to be in Butcher Boy, and just like them All My Friends make pop that stands above most of their contemporaries, swathed in timeless beauty and dusty memories. I saw their only two gigs this year and heartbreaking as it is, Alison is still with Butcher Boy and Garry has promised to keep writing songs on his own.
As one of the old-timers at Indietracks could confirm, seeing the 68s live was like being transported back in time about 20 years. Shambolic rhythms, all-permeating feedback and what I remember as a Rickenbacker 350/12. This ep gives you all that plus audible vocals at a listenable volume.
I had to scan this myself as the online pics are as tiny as the label's web presence. Luckily, I found it in time to grab one of the last four copies! Three brand new songs from the best Australian band at the moment.
One of two new singles from MHLS on Squirrel. I don't think they can get any louder than this, and thus any better. This is fuzz pop at its very best then. They can keep on doing this thing as long as they want to for my part!
Second entry from Slumberland already? Of course. I'm not sure what the kids are up to just now but this single was definitely worth the wait. A notch better than The Royal We and hopefully with longevity a notch better. But being down with fun usually means not being down with practising and recording.
The Clientele stick to their habit of playing in Sweden once a year, and their gig at Rip It Up was as magical as ever. As is their new experimental (as in 'disco') ep on Spanish label Aquarela. And as always it seems impossible that the band can surpass the quality of these songs. They probably will, mind you.
I just noticed that these Nebraska garage punks have another 7" out on A Fistful of Records based in the Netherlands. But like the Magnetic Problems LP, I haven't had the pleasure of hearing this yet. I don't see how they can be better than this unbelievably raucous 7" though. Especially the 100 copies pressed on transparent orange vinyl courtesy of the to me previously unknown Swedish label.
The second Swedish release on here, as well a the second Swedish band. An amazing follow-up to the wonder that was Stalking Skills, from the now only three-piece outfit from Gothenburg. Rising popularity in the UK especially, promises to get them lots of frequent-flyer points next year!
Easily overlooked release on the humble-as-ever Lavender label. Clocking in almost 30 minutes, this is a filled-to-the-brim follow-up to the debut 7" on Fraction from December last year. Look out for more icy guitar soundscapes on the planned split-release with The Morning Paper on Lostmusic next year!
Friday, December 26, 2008
The School - I Want You Back
The Palace Guard - All Night Long
The Young Tradition - Now You Know
The Crystalettes - Shy Guy
Jaye Davis & the Four Knights - It's Too Late For That
before moving on to some of the best songs I've heard this year:
caUSE co-MOTION - Only Fades Away
The Pains of Being Pure At Heart - Kurt Cobain's Cardigan
The Insane - Someone Like You
The Lorimer Sound - Brooklyn Bound
The Flowers - Got to Get to Know You
The Movement - Tell Her
and I'm still convinced the last one is the best song in the world right now!
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
CLOUD 82 VA - For Sand Men and Snow Queens
The Playground – The Girl Behind the Smile
The Parade – Sunshine Girl
Yellow Balloon – Springtime Girl
The Innocence – All I Ask
The Feminine Complex – I Won't Run
The Free Design – Never Tell the World
The Addrisi Brothers – Time to Love
The Millenium – 5 A.M.
The Smoke – Umbrella
The Collage – Rainy Blue Memory Day
The Love Generation – Fluffy Rain
The Sunshine Company – Rain
Billy Nicholls – Feeling Easy
The Unusual We – Topanga Canyon
The Association – On a Qiuet Night
Peppermint Trolley Co. – Trust
Salt Water Taffy – I'll Always Be True to You
October Country – My Girlfriend Is a Witch
Wendy & Bonnie – Let Yourself Go Another Time
The Daisy Chain – All Because of Him
Roger Nichols & the Small Circle of Friends – Coconut Grove
Dean Ford & the Gaylords – That Lonely Feeling
The Cryan' Shames – It Could Be We're In Love
Montage – The Song Is Love
The Cowsills – We Can Fly
The Munx – Our Dream
The Ballroom – Love's Fatal Way
The Gordian Knot – The Year of the Sun
The Gas Company – If You Know What I Mean
The Honeys – Goodnight My Love
I'm sure it will at least grant a chuckle when they realise were it's from. I put "Wrapped Up In Wrappers" for 'favourite song' as a hint. I then went ahead to complete the punchline... The 2-pack here is of course the special edition including a bonus cd with a 2001 live recording from Belfast. Click to see 800x800 pics of both.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Madeleine Street is quite a melancholic album however. And there's too much reverb on everything for it be sunshine pop proper. Though by all rights it was recorded a long time ago now and perhaps isn't an accurate representation of what they sound like now. It doesn't sound like Olov had the acoustic 12-string he played at Rip It Up when these songs were recorded, it's mostly classical guitar on here. And there's not a great deal of his excellent electric guitar picking either. The Clientele played at the same festival and I know that they like each others' music. There's definitely an influence from McLean in Olov's guitar playing, the tremolo-laden guitar sound and his very convincing British accent. And I think 'August skies' are mentioned in the lyrics at least twice! Another song mentions a lily pond, which made me think of Vashti Bunyan's song ("in a lily pond I lay, all upon a summer's day") and actually it's a good reference point since the in Sweden oft mentioned 'Northern gloom' is quite prevalent on this album. But I've always believed that's more to do with a remnant of Swedish folk music and melodies, e.g. in the output of an influential Swedish indie group like Bear Quartet. And yes, there is some mandolin on this lp.
So what have we got so far? Roger Nichols, Vashti Bunyan, British popsike (or British popsike via The Clientele) and that makes for a fantastic album. But one of the things I'm not entirely happy with is the artwork. They've settled for something passable when they had a great opportunity to get a cool sunshine pop look. Now it's just three photographs and a not very good typeface. The front cover's reference to Henri Cartier-Bresson's most iconic image is its only justification. Another thing is that both sides of the preceding 7" are included here although the band don't seem to have a shortage of songs. You should never release a song twice unless it's out of print, if you ask me.
If we consider the songs, I think the poppy ones with more fleshed-out arrangements work best. The 'Left Banke'-scented "The Castle" is my immediate favourite and it also got a spin at Don't Die On My Doorstep last weekend. The lyrics are good and works mainly through evocative imagery, but accompanied mainly by acoustic guitar as they are on a few tracks it is apparent that Olov's talent is first of all for melody, arrangement and guitar technique. Another tasty one is "The Looking Glass", whose trumpet melody I remember from Rip It Up. It's on the sidebar player now, along with Would-Be-Goods and something from The Move. The best of the acoustic tracks are "Lately", which could almost have been a cover of the Vashti Bunyan song.
I know it's unfair, but I played Billy Nicholls' Would You Believe after this, which probably affected this post since most albums pale in comparison to such a masterpiece. It's not entirely implausible that Cocoanut Groove will produce one of their own in the future though. Like Olov, I'm just relieved that Madeleine Street finally came out.
Monday, December 22, 2008
I almost wish Popmatters' description "a singles comp with no single" was correct so I could've put it at the top of my albums list. They couldn't be more wrong of course! Each one of the band's singles deserves a place on the list of that year's best singles. I would've put "I Lie Awake" and "Who's Gonna Care?" on mine but I'm trying not to include the same songs twice anywhere...
Described as a new album, but really only includes three new songs. The other 20 are all from previous releases, most of which are now sold out or have never been available in Australia, where the label is based. So fair enough, and Melbourne's The Motifs have been one of my favourite bands this year.
Totally essential if you haven't picked up each and every one of the band's singles and eps! Mildly essential if you have, since it includes a few exclusive tracks and their Woxy session. All 27 tracks are mind-blowing, and they've already been at it again with two more 7"s on Squirrel, and there's more to follow next year!
Another 'new record' which is almost a singles compilation, but also includes a few unreleased Peel Session tracks and one new song - a cover of Curtis Mayfield's "Hard Times". Songs from most of their singles after 1998, including both sides of this year's "Love Without Lies". Not exhaustive in other words, but certainly exhausting.
Finally we're able to hear all those songs ripped from old tape recordings with decent sound quality. Mostly versions of songs that have already been released, but also the priceless quartet of songs from the 2001 Peel Session that never saw the light of day on record. The 'special edition' comes with a second cd with a live performance from Belfast in 2001 (from which some tracks were included on the The Boys Are Back In Town bootleg).
I couldn't very well have two entries with Jay Reatard, now could I? I don't even know which one I like best! Singles 06-07 at least has more songs on it... But really, pretty much everything one these two cds is cracking stuff.
There haven't been any reissues of The Summer Suns' jangly folk-rock until now. Kim has now put this together himself and released it on his old label House of Wax that was mostly active in the 80s. The cd includes seven tracks from the classic 1991 lp Calpurnia and fifteen songs from singles/eps/compilations. The last we heard from the band was the Bedbugs ep from 1996, but Kim is looking to release a double-album full of new Summer Suns and Love Letters stuff. Don't think they've found a label yet though.
Sic Alps' second album, which also came out this year, has got nothing on this 26-track compilation of their singles from 2006 to 2008. It includes some more experimental outings like the title-track of the Description of the Harbour ep, but essentially this is no-frills garage pop. The crunching "Strawberry Guillotine" is a clear favourite!
Came out in January and already forgotten. That I couldn't find a bigger picture of the sleeve online probably says a lot about how many people have heard this, unfortunately. It's a big deal for old Swedish indiepop fans of course, but should be for everyone else too as the original eps and cdrs are impossible to find. Pristine janglepop that manages to turn its influences into influentuality!
About a year after Girdler's tragic passing, Siesta put out this compilation of unreleased songs from some of his favourite bands, on the initiative of Richard Preece who was a close friend and a member of The Snowdrops, the lastest and unfortunately the last band Girdler formed. As if amazing contributions from Hal (not that Hal), The Clientele, Would-Be-Goods, Louis Philippe, Love Dance, The Orchids and many others wasn't enough there's also an unreleased song by Blueboy. Blueboy being of course one of Girdler's first bands.
The third Autumn Leaves album had been a long time coming, and again this came out very early. The songwriting matches that of their brilliant debut and the production is a notch better. The titletrack and "Lighthouse" are spotless compositions, and some effectful covers are to be found here as well. A perfect farewell from a forgotten band that will be sorely missed by at least one person.
Their first couple of releases earlier this year promised a lot, and the album that followed hot on their heels proved that all it needed was some remastering. Cause this record is all about the sound and the atmosphere. The songs have grown immensely and really reward repeated listening like few other records. It also promises a lot for the future where other albums in this list seem hard to build on.
Dumb music and clever lyrics proved a winning concept and made for a near-addiction to this album in the spring. Check out the singles from the album as well! Tattersall has a unique voice and a way with words paralleled by few. If I'd heard this at 18 it would be my Breaking God's Heart.
Another Indietracks favourite! They were the most competent band on the bill and managed to reproduce the perfectly produced pop on their second album quite well. The abundance of classic (and dance-friendly) pop songs on here only makes its meagre praises all the more confounding.
This album must've climbed considerably since I first heard it, especially after seeing them live in Glasgow. Perhaps it takes a Norwegian band to infuse pop with mystery and early Stereolab soundscapes once again. Probably the most unique release of the year.
The Carrots released two entertaining eps this year, but it's the girls' noise/punk alter ego Finally Punk that has won out in the end. I love this as much as Mika Miko, and like their records I can listen to this on repeat for hours. Too bad I was too late to get my hands on a copy!
This is is one of the most complex and multi-layered pop records ever. Half the songs clock in at over four minutes and contain so many different parts it's impossible to predict how they're going to end. But like on their two old eps, they pull this off without ever losing the pop edge. And I still haven't got into the lyrics, that will make for at least as much enjoyment from future listens.
I was wondering how Laz's jangly pop hits would work in an album format, but he's put together a well-crafted longplayer that intersperse the sugar rushes with more introspective moments. With the usual high-quality production from Bubblegum Towers and the inclusion of old favourite "My Dreams of You" this just had to be on the list.
What The Bats really needed was for Robert Scott to take a backseat for a while. As good as their latest album At the National Grid was, Kaye Woodwards songs have garnered the Minisnap album more press than any of The Bats' records. Simple, snappy and melodious, with a tinge of the Flying Nun sound. Hope to see them in Auckland!
I wasn't expecting a new Ballboy album at all, so it was a happy surprise to see it in the merch stall at Indietracks. I got to see him play both with the band and just on his own, and either it reminded of how much I used to love Ballboy or this is simply their best record so far.
I've been waiting for ages for an album from Twig, who have existed intermittently since 2002, I think. January's "Ciao Ciao Bomb" single and the Rip It Up performance showed that they're on better form than ever, and Life After Ridge rightly turned out to be one of best Swedish pop albums so far.
The band's first 'major' label release surprisingly sounds even better than their first two albums. Mastered to deafen ears and played to put blisters on your feet. Unfortunately they have yet to play in Sweden, but when they do I'll be sure to bring my earplugs and my most comfortable dancing shoes.
There's been much deliberation over this last entry - was I to include the Would-Be-Goods album, the new Ponies In the Surf record, Beach House or something else? Then a few weeks ago I heard Eat Skull's first lp that came out early in the summer. Since it's probably the best lo-fi pop-punk since that Moldy Peaches album, it was suddenly an easy choice.
Calamity Comes Down
Alice Clark - You Hit Me (Right Where It Hurt Me) [45 a-side, 1966]
Wetdog - 8 Days [Enterprise Reversal LP, 2008]
The Shebrews - Motorbike Girl [Off With Their Hearts LP, 2001]
Skeeter Davis - I Can't Stay Mad At You (45 b-side, 1963]
The Tikis - Careful What You Say [45 b-side, 1966]
Tony Worsley & the Fabulous Blue Jays - How Can It Be [My Time of Day LP, 1966]
You can read a bit more about them in the Myspace blog post. On Christmas Day Daniel's invited most of his friend to play a few songs each at this:
Hopefully you won't have heard "No Time For Us" by Swedish band Broder Daniel, but hopefully you'll recognise the picture Daniel's used! I'm only playing six songs but I've taken it quite seriously for some reason, so they're meant to be like the monthly Myspace mix (representing all kinds of music played at DDOMD) and also be the best songs I've heard this year!
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Friday, December 12, 2008
I think they were from Alaska and had two single releases as well, and that's more than enough infomation for me. I've had the album on my computer for about a year, but couldn't really make sense of it until now. The sound is quite mesmerising, with unusual melodies and chord-sequences and all the songs have at least two layers of twelve-string guitar. It's an unsual guitar-sound as well. Very clean and almost no low end. Usually I like the more powerful 12-string sounds, of course with McGuinn's incredible tone setting the standard. But I like this a lot too, it's played with precision and force. In fact it sounds like it's the same guitar that's been over-dubbed, which makes it even harder to distinguish. It helps listening with earphones, which is what I just did. Perhaps that is why I didn't get it before? Or maybe just move your speakers further apart if you're in front of your computer. I could have uploaded any track from the album really, but I chose "You May Not Know". I'm not going to say anything else about it.
CLOUD 80 Hearts On Fire - You May Not Know
There's so much I want to play, but there probably won't be room for much more before I leave for NZ. I've added some of the tracks I meant to play at the previous night to the sidebar player. Fittingly, they all follow a 'down under' theme. The Clean song is a previously unreleased treasure, now to be found on the accompanying cd for Yeti 6. I saw the "magazine" (at over 200 pages it's hardly a magazine) in Rough Trade and it looks great. Unfortunately I couldn't afford it. The cd that comes with it has some great covers of songs by The Clean and The Great Unwashed, which was a post-Clean group. "Can't Find Water" is one of their best ones, I think. It's on the Flying Nun released Collection.