Tuesday, October 30, 2007

House Warming

The Beach House gig was great, by the way. Their self-titled album is old news I guess since it originally came out last year (but didn't get a proper release until this year). But I'll post my favourite track from it here, in hope that they'll get a few more in the crowd for their upcoming UK dates. Anyone in the UK can look forward to seeing them live in a few weeks (unless you're in Devon or some other far removed corner of the empire), on their first European tour. Their set in Malmö was very impressive with lots of new songs. It could have been quite magical if there had been more people, giving it a better atmosphere. But it was a Tuesday night after all, and I guess most of the people who did turn up probably wanted to see the main act (yes, Beach House were just supporting). They were called Arbouretum and were from the same city in the US. They were compared to Crazy Horse on the venue's site, which didn't give me high expectations if you know what I mean. Their first song was interesting - an experimental and long instrumtal number. After that the only thing that kept me from walkng out (which would have been too rude in that sparse crowd anyway) was their two amazingly talented guitarists. Such a waste of skills! They're doing the whole tour together, so you'll get your dose of each. It's definitely worth it for Beach House and their Mazzy Star/Galaxie 500-scented wisps of fog.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Dust From a Memory

There's no such thing as dusty chestnuts. For our tenth cloud, I've complied an autumn mixtape, that you can burn to cdr! There's even a nice little cover. To find everything, just follow the link below. I don't have much to say about the tracklisting, it'll seem natural enough once you listen to it. And you can find out about stuff just as easily as me. The only thing I want to say is the there's an Amazing Foxgloves Song in there. It was their first released song and was on a cd that came with the Papercuts fanzine. Hope you enjoy it as much as the squirrels!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Do You Have to Stop Writing to Start Living?

Someone emailed me recently, which made me re-read the Twee As Fuck article on Pitchfork. It turned out I had quite a few thoughts on it, so I decided to post it here. Read the article first, please.

There are some things I feel uncomfortable about. Like how they say indie wasn't cool, sexy, arty or fiery. That just depends on your ideals. I don't think there's anything sexier or cooler than Orange Juice, Josef K or Subway Sect. You only need to take the smallest step outside of the heterosexual, patriarchal bubble to realise that. It's all about creating another universe, which is what subcultures essentially are. Mainstream 'cool' is one thing and indie 'cool' is another. Originally pop was a subculture, perhaps one of the first big youth cultures. It was just the kids who listened to rock'n'roll in 1955. And every label was an indie label. When pop became mainstream, punk became the new subculture. Punk, actually, started in 1965 with garage groups like the Count Five. And from 1978 onwards it splintered into a million fractions - from death metal to acid house.

Then of course indie became mainstream, just like punk had. That's why indie is such a nullified word today, and we have to make up our own names. No one really called it anorak, or c86, or shambling - back in the day. I prefer to call it just 'pop', because my definition of pop is quite narrow as it is. For me indie from the early 80s was pop, the rest was an extension of advanced capitalism and the 'record industry'. Even if artists like Madonna had a great deal of self-control, they let themselves become products. T
hat doesn't mean bands like McCarthy were radical or opposed the system; after all their records weren't for free (although the say that in one of their songs!) and their goal was to be on Top of the Pops. But like all creative output it's a comment on society - be it its politics, one's own subculture, the commodity value of pop etc.

It's hard writing about pop and eschewing all preconceptions and clichés. Twee As Fuck tries to generalise, make it simple. If you write about music you have start from the other end, from our own experiences. Then you can start deconstructing, contradicting, complicating. But in the end it will always be about yourself, getting closer to 'what you think'. And never be boring!

Unfortunately indiepop records are becoming all the more collectible = expensive. Big companies (like eBay) are trying to profit on our subculture. The result is that the subculture is becoming all the more splintered and crystallised. While 'indiepop' is quite big, there's only a few thousand people around the world who listen to the same bands as me. I don't know if it would be preferable for everyone to suddenly start listening to The June Brides. The important thing is that there is enough enthusiasm from young people to continue creating this pop stuff. And that can come from fanaticism as much as populism. It reflects the tricky issue of how popular indiepop fans want their bands to be. They want them to be successful and recognised but not to turn into a new U2.

Another tricky issue are the accusations of asexuality, childishness, feyness and other things embedded in the 'twee' term. The article discusses this in relation to Sarah Records and how a band like The Field Mice can be seen as very introverted, afraid of the Afro-American roots of pop music. The attributes lined up seems more true for a group like Kraftwerk, who ironically became an important link in the evolution of dance music and hip-hop. The Field Mice did what they could, with the means offered them. Who would prefer two Englishmen playing awkward reggae over a Jamaican band? These days Wratten admits listening more to dub than anything else and he never understood the twee tag. True, they weren't very sexy, but they approached sexuality on an intellectual plane - in their lyrics and in their gender identities. And it was always passionate. True, they were more feminine than masculine. But why can't a male duo be feminine? Art is always more interesting when you start messing with the gender roles. In the 60s it was ok for girlgroups to be feminine and garage groups to be masculine. But in the 80s and 90s the anti-rock stance of Razorcuts and the feminism of Bikini Kill was a necessity. When Sarah Records first set up and still to this day, pop music was male dominated - as was the 'indie scene'. So why not weigh it up with some queerness?

As for machismo vs. naivety - I agree with David Brogan that the only thing I want music not to be is 'muscular'. It can be raw, primitive, dirty and loud, but when that word comes to mind it just feels wrong. That's why I don't like the word 'rock' either, because I associate it with 'muscular'. Muscular can be good in mainstream contexts as it is certain subcultures, but pop should never go there. "We were never the guys in school who played guitar, who had long hair and were into Rush", Wratten has said. So why should they pretend? That's not saying The Field Mice didn't have their not-so-fey moments. Pop is essentially postmodern, which means it can never be described as solely being one thing. Pop can be naive sometimes, perhaps even dumb but that's not what makes it good or bad, unless it's a conscious stance. Many bands on Sarah had an element of romanticism, in believing in the beauty of the misunderstood artist, nature as inspiration; 'pastoral', the music and its images were often called. Subcultures are symptom of the postmodern, like avantgarde was a modernist notion. So as soon as the bands on Sarah started feeling pigeonholed they reacted and went in new directions. Pop is so self-conscious.

The last thing I disagree about is the analogy about folk and pop music in the 60s. Surely what was pop and what was folk in the 80s was the same as in the 60s. Anyone could listen to folk music in the early 60s - kids and parents. But pop was rebellious, youthful. True, folk artists like Dylan approached political subjects in their songwriting and students took them to their hearts. But The Shangri-Las were political in a more direct way, simply through their existence. Anyone could become a pop star. But not everyone could go to college or university. These days pop has slightly more political lyrics, perhaps a reflection of the higher standards of education. But the music most closely associated with radical politics is reggae, traditional punk and hip-hop (still). The Pastels, just like Beat Happening were never political in an outspoken way, but everything about them was radical, and to some people threatening and an object for ridicule and restriction.

Is there anything in spontaneity?
Is the only way to know
to let the pen and paper go
and do like they say and just be?

Friday, October 26, 2007

More Purple

So there I was, playing records again. Didn't dare to bring anything but cdrs. It was at this club run by my department and a professor in media studies. Different teachers and students are guest djs every time. It was quite nice, and there was even ONE person I knew there. There was a heavy metal gig going on next door, so towards the end a member of The Hellacopters and an ex-member of Entombed came into the pub. I had had the honour of making the flyer, which was orange really, but this one is... well, more purple. If you don't get it go listen to Pants Yell!. And those are The Clouds, who were blue originally. My playlist was not very long so I'll just put it here. Maia played some good stuff as well (it involved a lot yé-yé = good). I was so impressed by hearing Delphine's cover of "In the Past" by The Chocolate Watchband to invite her to play at our next club!

The Milkshakes – Rhurge Beat
The Sequins – He's a Flirt
The Loves – Honey
The School – Let It Slip
Ria Bartok – Ecoute mon coeur
The Cyrkle – How Can I Leave Her
The Claim – Wait and See
The Popguns – Bye Bye Baby
Black Tambourine – Drown
The Pandoras – It Just Ain't True
The Dovers – The Third Eye
Ariane – Tu voudrai que j'oublie
The Undecided? – You’re Gonna Cry
Paul Sindab – Do Watcha Wanna Do
The Urges – Gonna Find Out
The Pretty Things – Come and See Me
The Delmonas – I Feel Like Giving In
Diane Lewis – Keep a Hold On Me
The Sorrows – Let Me In
Razorcuts – Try
Revolving Paint Dream – Sun, Sea, Sand
What Four – I'm Gonna Destroy That Boy
The Fizzbombs – You Worry Me
Bomb Pops – Decal
The Siddeleys – Something Almost Brilliant Happened Last Night
The Pastels – Crawl Babies
Majestic – Tumbling

Early Longings/New Belongings

Pre-ordering is what it's all about these days! Why wait, when you know you want that record? At the moment you can pre-order Slow Club's new single "You and Me" and soon also the amazing third album from Pants Yell! called Alison Statton, with all probability in honour of certain marble giants. And there's a song on it called "The Royal We"! I know you're all over the Soft Abuse site, just waitng for that pre-order button to appear... I pre-ordered The Cake retrospective on Rev-Ola months ago, but still haven't got it. That only proves you can never be too early. Today I got a cd from Toomas in The Bridal Shop, which made me very happy. In the sudden overflow of must-buys I somehow missed that their ep From Seas is finally available. I've been listening to the few songs I had for a year soon, so it's most welcome. I put up the title-track on my old blog, and it turned out to one of the most popular uploads I did. And now there's even a 3" on Cloudberry that you can get dirt cheap. So listen to "Marine Thing" over there, "Spectrum of Clarity" here, and you'll end up having ordered both before you know it!

Hey! Are You Real?

Or just too good not to be true? And is it just me or does The Railway Children's "Another Town" make you feel really claustrophobic? "Lost summer in the crowd, deep down underground"? There couldn't be a bigger difference between that feeling and the one I get from Any Other City and songs like "New Town". It's more one of bursting through the roof, encircling the houses with trembling wings, climbing to icarusian heights. In short everything that made me love bands like Architecture In Helsinki, The Royal We and Slow Club. It sounds like New York noise and riot grrrl, and it's definitely the coolest vocal delivery I've heard since... can't remember. I just can't believe how long it's taken me to discover Life Without Buildings. They were from Glasgow after all. Earlier this year a live album was released, which I think Alistair mentioned. The live version of "New Town" was the first I heard, and it was impossible not to fall in love! Actually they broke up years ago, and their only album is now seven years old. Here's a song from that.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Safety In Crosswords

It seems I've been complaining about the lack of good gigs in Malmö, but recently there have been quite a few things happening. First of all there was the Language of Flowers gig, which came quite unexectedly. They played in Lund last year, but have pretty much split up and two of them have a new band whose name eludes me at the moment. But the temptation to play in Lund again was too strong. So they came back! And what a show it was, despite what Marc likes to think. Ben said it was their last gig, but that was apparently something they hadn't discussed before going on stage. "Botanic Gardens" for the encore couldn't have been more perfect. Indigo was more crowded and the smiles broader than most of the times I've been there.

Blekingska continued the streak of great bookings with Friday Bridge, whom I had never seen before. Their album Intricacy is great and it was interesting to hear the songs live, although they didn't bring that much new to them.

Then Jonathan Richman turned up at KB! Half an hour late, but that was just lucky as we thought doors would open 8 pm, when it was in fact 7 pm. I was very pleased to get another chance to see him, as I never went a year ago in Glasgow. There's not much to say except that it was one of the best gigs I've seen. I'd seen the live dvd of course, so I had high expectations. But they were definitely met! "Older Girl" - how good a song is that?

Back to Blekingska to see our Indietracks friends Strange Idols. Me and Rebecca were supposed to be playing records, but Rebecca lost her cd case on way there. The horror! Ok, half of it was cdrs, but half were REAL cds, her favourites - stolen! Needless to say that ruined the night. I played on my own, but it wasn't much fun - the playlist is in the comments (last song by The School of course). Strange Idols were good though, and nice people. Laura's performance was a not quite as outrageous as at Indietracks, but it was probably checked by the row of drunk, male students standing up front.

Just the day after Club 8 played. They were a lot of people on stage (not two!) and had a really good female lead guitarist I'd never seen before. They played many new songs, including my favourite from the new album - "Football Kids". They had time for a few old ones too though, the most welcome choice being "Everlasting Love" which Karolina introduced as a 'youth song' for them. She doesn't look as old as she is, trust me. The thing that really struck me during the gig was the intensity of Karolina's presence. As her vocals sound so cool and distanced I was expecting a slightly timid personality. But her singing was really passionate, in a twee sort of way of course. She's quite the Sarah Cracknell.

On Tuesday American dreampop duo Beach House are playing, which I am very much looking forward to. And I'm playing records again on Thursday. At Klubb K3, Vinylbaren, if anyone can be bothered.

This post could just as well have been titled Circumspect Penelope.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

I Hope You Realise, You Never Are Alone

Is there any point in holding off on the end-of-year lists? I can't see how there is. For me there is no question about the fact that God Save the Clientele is the best one. And even The Clientele's best one. It almost scares me how this picture was taken exactly one year ago. Maybe it's some biological impulse. Or maybe the coming of autumn means having to do certain things for everyone. Certainly listen to Alasdair's voice surrounding us like the falling leaves. If you haven't bought the record yet, there's no better time.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Treats and Treasures From Minneapolis

How many people remember the Grimsey label? Or are even aware that they are still active? That's what I thought. So, here's where this little Grimsey tribute post comes in. Grimsey was started in 1994 by Andrea Troolin, just as the band she was in was splitting up. She had played bass in Bomb Pops, a Minnneapolis outfit that released singles on Bus Stop, SpinART, Audrey's Diary and A Turntable Friend. Quite a list of labels, and not surprisingly Bomb Pops turned out to be one of my favourite bands ever. If you think Felt was the best band of the 80s then Bomb Pops will be your 90s darlings. Rick Durgin, singer and guitarist, has a guitar technique almost as impressive as Deebank's. The best thing is that there is a COMPILATION, with all their stuff, released in 1999, which is STILL AVAILABLE. Can you believe that? A song from there is below.

Apart from Andrea another central figure for the Minneapolis scene is Bryan Hanna, drummer in Bomb Pops. He is also a producer, and helpled give Durgin's guitar the proper crystal tone. Hanna has acted as producer for many other Minneapolis bands, eg The Hang Ups that debuted one year after Bomb Pops, with the album He's After Me in 1993. The Hang Ups were fronted by one Brian Tighe and offered here is "Clouds" from their classic second album So We Go (I got my copy for $2 from Amazon marketplace). The Hang Ups released two 7"s on Grimsey.

If The Hang Ups were inspired by 60's sunshine pop, The Autumn Leaves took their cues more directly from The Byrds and jangly garage. Their first album Treats and Treasures came out on Grimsey in 1997 and is already a classic. Again produced by Hanna, it's a near-perfect collection of songs from David Beckey, who had previously been in The Sedgwicks (not the English band of course) amongst others. The Autumn Leaves just released their third album - you can listen there. The song here is from the first album, and an unstoppable pop wonder.

You can read more of the Grimsey story and their artists here. But be warned: the interconnection between bands are hopelessly entangled. Luckily, you can listen to most of them via this page. Just thinking of all the bands you have left to discover - like Ninotchka, The Shebrews, Le Mans and Toulouse - makes me jealous!

A Bomb Pops - Hayley

B1 The Hang Ups - Clouds
B2 The Autumn Leaves - The Summer's Gone

The Lighter Side of Clubbing

The first club night has been and gone. It didn't go as well as we hoped, but at least there were people there, liking it, and having a good time. I can't say anything about A Smile and a Ribbon's set, but Scarlet's Well were great. They played songs old and new and got a great response from the sparse crowd. The obligatory Monochrome Set tunes were "The Ruling Class" and "He's Frank". AND they were lucky enough to get a good sound after the time-pressed soundcheck. It was cool meeting Pete as well, as I love all the bands he's been in. He told me about a more garagey type band he was in but they hadn't released anything, and I'm looking forward to hearing them. There are pictures of Scarlet's Well on our MySpace profile. If you regret not going, how about making amends by turning up next time?

Down Under, Under Cover

Just when I was taking a break from 80's jangle, I come across this criminally perfect gem from 1986! I wonder if Nils-Martin runs into an old Ups & Downs legend without knowing it while he's there? You just have to hear this!! And now I discovered it has been on their criminally appalling MySpace page the whole time.

CLOUD 13 Ups & Down - The Perfect Crime

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Is It a Dream?

Club 8 certainly are full of surprises! First of all their return with download single "Whatever You Want" this summer was a surprise - four years after the latest album. Then a whole new lp! And with a surprisingly well chosen title, from a rare TVPs track (that I used for a radio programme this spring, incidentally). And next thing you know this exceptionally shy duo are on tour! (I can't recall the last time they played around here...) I find out they're playing in Malmö. And then find out they are only the support band! I download the album and am amazed at how great it sounds. It might even be their best album, but I have to listen to Nouvelle again before I can decide. It's easily one of the best five albums of the year so far! I'm giving you a song here, but only so you'll understand you won't wake up tomorrow* if you don't buy it NOW. I'm definitely going to buy it at the gig tonight. Beacuse I've got stuff to do tomorrow...

*You might end up in an unconcious state, with Saturday Night Engine forever playing on repeat on "Between Waking and Sleeping", never going on to "This Is the Morning". No one likes a song that much.

Monday, October 8, 2007

COIR 002: Harvey Williams, The Icicles, Katie Jennifer Stewart

I'm very happy to give you the news about our club bookings for next month, because they are AMAZING. If you don't believe me:

Harvey Williams is perhaps best known for being the creative force behind Another Sunny Day – one of the most beloved acts on Bristol's long-gone Sarah Records. After dissolving the band he spent some time ornamenting the songs of labelmates The Field Mice, The Hit Parade and Blueboy with exquisite sparkles of guitar. He returned with new material in 1994 – the keyboard-based solo effort Rebellion. A full-length album soon followed but then things went quiet. Harvey has only played live sporadically since then, and he visited Sweden in 2000 for a gig at Emmaboda. These days there seems to be as much interest in his music as there ever was (if not more!), and not the least in Sweden. In August he played live for the first time in five years, on the initiative of Spiral Scratch in London. When he was in Malmö in September for a DJ-set at So Tough So Cute!, we took the chance to invite him back for a live set. On November the 22nd Harvey will take the stage at Inkonst and perform songs from the whole of his career, and according to reports, London gig-goers swooned to old favourites such as "I'm In Love With a Girl Who Doesn't Know I Exist" and "You Should All Be Murdered". Come down to Don't Die On My Doorstep and sing along!

We just couldn't say no when The Icicles were looking for somewhere to play on the 22nd. We would never afford to bring an American band over ourselves, so this will be a rare and welcome exception. Since their first album A Hundred Patterns came out on Microindie in 2004 The Icicles have been one of best indiepop bands in the US and when they are compared to Heavenly it makes us a lot less confounded than when The Besties are called 'an American Talulah Gosh'. Because The Icicles makes you want to be a Rock n' Roll Girl – even if you already are a girl. And that's what we call Pop Subversion! Microindie released the new album Arrivals & Departures earlier this year and the band is out on an extensive tour, a tour that will take them to Sweden for the first time. So come along and be converted (no surgery involved).

Katie Jennifer Stewart has recently embarked on a solo career after playing in the Glasgow group Tibi Lubin for some years. Tibi Lubin were three women who played minimalist pop, taking their cues from the likes of Young Marble Giants and Marine Girls. A mainstay of the Glasgow pop scene, they are not very well-known beyond that, probably due to infrequent live action. They did receive some attention in 2004 when their debut lp I Don't See You As a Dead Girl came out on Rev-Ola. That label primarily deals with re-issues and was originally an off-shoot of Creation, directed by Joe Foster. Joe Foster is quite the indiepop legend, having worked with some of our favourite bands The Loft, Razorcuts, The June Brides etc, and he produced Tibi Lubin's album himself. A bunch of people turned up at the launch for the group's new single "Frankie Quinn" earlier this year, in blissful ignorance of the fact that it was a 'fake' comeback and actually their goodbye gig. When initially daydreaming of this club, Tibi Lubin was A Band We Just Had To Get, so we were sad to hear about their demise but also pleased that Katie has continued recording her songs - now in a more acoustic fashion that highlights her soft voice and attentive lyrics. Katie will be on her way to a gig in Hamburg organised by the Aufgeladen und Bereit label, but stops off at our doorstep on the 22nd and we are as proud of having her play for us as we would have been with Tibi Lubin!

Tickets will be released one month in advance as usual. Be there or perish!

Another Sunny Day - What's Happened? (7" 1989)
Harvey Williams - She Sleeps Around (from Rebellion 1994)

The Icicles - Rock n' Roll Girl (from A Hundred Patterns 2004)
The Icicles - La Ti Da (from Arrivals & Departures 2007)

Tibi Lubin - The Great Big Lie (from I Don't See You As a Dead Girl 2004)
Katie Jennifer Stewart hasn't released anything yet, so you'll have to make do with these.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

He Wants to Make a T-Shirt Out of Your Dreams

And sculptures out of squirrels. No, if you want to know what David Shrigley REALLY wants you should see his Who I Am and What I Want animation - the funniest thing I've seen this year. It's part of his retrospective at the art gallery in Malmö, his 'first in Northern Europe' and including 'around 600 works'. My first thought was 'how has this guy's name managed to evade for so long?' - now I can't turn around without seeing it and god knows probably half of the things I saw in Glasgow had SOME connection to him. I might not have read The Guardian, but he made the t-shirts for the Triptych festival which I ought to have noticed. There were lots of tees in the exhibition, not for sale (except for one) probably to piss you off. I really wanted the one that said 'graphic design', but no one would have understood the irony. And there was the 'worried' t-shirt that Greg was wearing when we saw Deerhoof play in Glasgow. And of course Deerhoof have made the music for one of the songs on the Worried Noodles record - a record Shrigley made years ago but that has only been an empty sleeve and a book with all the lyrics, until now. Lots of bands have put the words to music, including Scarlet's Well - of course. They're playing at the Worried Noodles gig a few day before they come over, and Bid said they'll play their song in Malmö as well. Otherwise I can't wait to hear the contributions, the record is meant to be released while the exhibition is still here. You could also listen to Shrigley's spoken word cd at the exhibition. It's called Shrigley Forced to Speak With Others, probably because he has used other people to read out the texts. I wanted to buy that too but I couldn't see it in the gallery shop. And all those album covers! Of course Shrigley made the cover for Deerhoof's latest album, and on display were the sixteen original paintings that make up the sleeve - all very nice. There was a photograph of a red Kermit frog placed on the bank of a river - I didn't recognise it until I actually saw the copy of ballboy's A Guide to the Daylight Hours lying there in another room. So I guess I saw my first Shrigley work three years ago... In many ways the exhibition was like a trip back to Glasgow - there was sort of a GSA air over the whole thing and lots of pictures from the city of course. The squirrel thing was definitely from Scotland because it was a grey squirrel. I usually like puns - but not when they're made of squirrels. Squirrels are cute - words, usually, are not. The best things were instead the animations, including two music videos for Blur and Bonnie Prince Billy. And another thing I really liked was two table-tennis bats made of plywood - one smaller one that said 'your family', a bigger one that said 'the social services' and two balls in-between that were 'you' and 'your wee sister'. And then OF COURSE we were asked to write about the exhibition for our Visual Communication course! So I should stop here and