Thursday, January 1, 2009

When You're Wrong and You Know It

As was bound to happen I've now heard a few more records that could've made it onto the 'best of' lists. A couple I discovered thanks to Sunshine Department, and it just amazes me how I could've missed out on The Explorers Club this long! Their first ep came out in 2006 and 2008 saw the release of what must have been a crazily anticipated debut album. Most of the tracks from the ep are included and it's a fantastic sunshine pop creation, and the closest thing I've heard to a Brian Wilson production without it actually being that. "Forever" will definitely get a spin at the upcoming last Don't Die On My Doorstep - perhaps next to Wilson's song of the same name? SD also wrote about Brent Cash's brilliant first lp How Will I Know If I'm Awake. It's an incredibly lush production that makes it hard to imagine his previous output, apparently only distributed among friends on cassette. The album came out on luxury pop (and Scots pop) lovers' favourite label Marina in February. It's their first release since The Pearlfishers' latest effort, and shares many of it's qualities while managing to sound even more lavish and more authentic to the 1967-68 era. An exemplary out-of-nowhere wonder that I will cherish for a long time.

I've also had the pleasure of finally hearing the new Las Escarlatinas album, appearing three years after the debut A Todo Color that I wrote about a few months ago. The difference is mainly in production - the first record was produced by the legendary Ramón Leal who now no longer works with Siesta, and Al Galope has Guille Milkyway's signature all over it. There's a very interesting article, comparing the albums in detail over here. I'll settle for saying this is more peppy, more electronic, more disco and more slick - as is to be expected of any Milkyway production. Still it's much more interesting than his own band La Casa Azul, I think. With songs this perfect and voices so angelic I don't think any production could have ruined this album's potential.

Two albums on In the Red have got a lot playtime recently. First, Black Time who Brogues tipped me about, and their third album Double Negative. The band's from London and fits right in with all the other noisy garage-pop bands we've enjoyed this year, only they've been down with the fuzz since 2004. That year they released Blackout, which is now available on cd from In the Red as well. The new record is an intense affair of black matter that threatens to implode at any second. My favourites are the female-sung "I'm Gonna Haunt You When I'm Gone" the ear-splitting "Problems". Cheap Time time have released two singles in the last year and also a self-titled lp on In the Red, which looks and sounds like it was recorded in 1978. Loud, garagey power-pop that nods to the more appealing aspects glam (cf. "Glitter & Gold"). Not on In the Red, but another label with an excellent 2008 record, namely Woodsist, is a re-release of Wavves' first full-length previously only available on cassette. Its 12 tracks definitely raise expectations for the follow-up Wavvves, to appear on De Stijl in the near future.

Moving on the 7"s, I have to say The Lil' Hospital's new ep Universe Sucks on Hugpatch is the best thing they've done. Not as lo-fi as their two albums and with hits like "Kip Is a Dick" and "Nothing Like a Car Crash" this record can't do anything but rock your world. Finally Punk move in the other direction with Hypertension, which is slightly more restrained than the album but just as captivating. Pick it up from M'Lady's Records now.

I felt that Vivian Girls' latest single "I Can't Stay" perhaps didn't really add much to the overbearing impact of the album on my music listening this year, however great its two sides were. But the recent Surf's Up 7" on their new own label Wild World is truly exceptional. Never mind that it's only available as part of a t-shirt/record/badge/postcard pack (that will set us Europeans back $30), you need this single. They've recorded it themselves and the sound more light of foot than the album, with drumming that only comes through as trebly cracks and swathes of crashing cymbal. It suits these more languid songs perfectly, especially the 'romantic' "Second Date". The other two songs are "Surfin Away" and a cover of The Beach Boys' "Girl Don't Tell Me". The latter translates surprisingly well into Vivian Girls' vocabulary. And no, this one does not sound like a Brian Wilson production.

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