Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Eight Metric Miles High

Speaking of The Metric Mile, it pays to visit your favourite bands' Myspace! I recently saw that The Metric Mile released a new ep in November, called Trade Fours, following up last year's brilliant "In Praise of Ski Jumpers" single. This time it is just a digital release, but these four songs are more than worth a visit to your nearest digital store. The duo/group have proved an uncanny ability to follow up their original masterpiece How to Beat the SAT indefinitely. That ep was probably the best thing Unpopular released, and as close to The Wake anyone has ever got. Their self-released 7" from 2008 held two songs that were ever bit as good. And now, "The Difference Is" and "Legion" would easily have placed this ep on my end-of-year list had I only discovered it sooner! Plus points for the brilliant title "Tell Me In a Taxi" and the tasteful little 12-string solo in the opening track.

Lest the Decade Leave You Listless

Thank you for suggestions about albums that should make the list of the best records of the decade. I have done some revising and ended up with a list of twenty. Ordering is always the tough part, but I think I am sufficiently happy about this to post it. A list like this ultimately says more about the person compiling it, in my case someone for whom the time period has coincided with that of my adolescence. The decade started two days after my 14th birthday and now I am 24. I have found that a lot of the albums that still mean incredibly much to me are from the first half of the decade, which was when my musical tastes formed. Several of those records I may not have discovered until a few years after they came out though, so actually I should have listed the year I first heard them. Also, surprisingly many of these bands have become people I have met or in some cases even got to know. Which is a good thing of course, since one's relation to one's favourite albums is a personal one in the first place. In fact there are only seven here that I haven't met a member of, and nine that I haven't seen play live. Here is the list, with a few words about each item.

1. The Clientele - The Violet Hour (2003)
The Clientele have released four albums so far, all in this decade, and they would all deserve a place on here. So them getting the first spot is not solely due to the merits of The Violet Hour. But since I had to pick one album I chose this over the perhaps superiorly recorded and arranged subsequent albums. It was also the first I got to know, having discovered them in 2002, so of course it was exciting to 'be there' as it was released. Another reason is that this is the only album of theirs sporting their 'original' sound. The basic three-piece with some guitar overdubs. Like Galaxie 500, they proved there is so much one can do with this basic setting, when all three musicians work together. It is also the Clientele album that contains their longest song, "The House Always Win", which I have been fortunate enough to hear live, on my own request. I'm thankful I've got to see them four times this decade, got to interview them the second time round, and have enjoyed talking to at least Alasdair and James the last three. The personalities of the band members perhaps shouldn't be allowed to influence this list, but I can't stop it.

2. Camera Obscura - Biggest Bluest Hi-Fi (2002)
In 2003, Camera Obscura seemed like a viable alternative to B&S, who had started down the path to a new sound with Dear Catastrophe Waitress. Underachievers Please Try Harder was the first album I got, but I was quick to pick up their debut album as well. Perhaps the songwriting had improved on their second album, but Biggest Bluest Hi-Fi seemed more endearing in its more unified sound and Tracyanne's still undeveloped voice. Furthermore, it was even closer to the early B&S, with whom they had once shared a drummer, and Stuart Murdoch was said to have 'produced' the record, as well as writing the lush string arrangements for "Eighties Fan". What would they have become without this endorsement? I think they released an album at just the right time. They debuted with their If You're Feeling Sinister, if you will. Judging by their early singles, had they released a Tigermilk before that, it wouldn't have been nearly as compelling. The single version of "Eighties Fan" really sounds tame compared to the album recording. The first time I went to Glasgow, I got to meet Gavin who still worked in Avalanche, but it took until the summer of 2006 before I got to see them play, by which time they had stopped performing most of their early material.

3. The Fairways - Is Everything All Right? (2000)
I was relatively late to pick up on The Fairways, well at least until after they had split up. Since then I have been obsessed with all of Kenji's projects, including Skypark, Uni, The Young Tradition and Clayhips. This album is the closest he ever got having a real, organic group around him, the fruit of which was one of the best recorded and most solid albums ever. I would have liked to see Skypark's material recorded in the same fashion, but on this album it is still Kenji's beautifully breathy voice and Leavitt's clear and full lead guitar that take the main stage. I finally got to meet Kenji in July, now strangely enough as Shelflife Records label mates. But unfortunately I will never get to see The Fairways live.

4. Belle & Sebastian - Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant (2000)
Unlike Reeling At All, who also have this album on a similar list, my relationship to this album is not very problematic. After all, I didn't hear B&S until 2002 I think, and listened to the first four albums with exactly the same expectations and on the same conditions. Naturally, I could only accept things that older B&S fans would find peculiar, such as the ridiculously long album title, the several songs not written and sung by Stuart and the slightly different sound. And although I don't love it as unconditionally all the way through as I do the first three records, it was still immensely important to me. Those four albums had a combined effect on me that I still think is more important than anything that has affected me in my life. Perhaps it is idiotically romantic to call a musical thing the most important thing in one's life, or maybe just selfish. But it is equally impossible for me to rate this album in a rational way. I have been forced to give it a number here, but really that doesn't mean more than giving my right arm a #4 in a list of my body parts, ordered by importance.

5. The Lucksmiths - Why That Doesn't Surprise Me (2002)
Along with say, B&S, Hefner and Pavement (and yes, probably Bright Eyes as well), The Lucksmiths was among the most important bands to me for a few years. Only months after hearing B&S I borrowed this album at the library in town, where I used to go to take out 10 new cds every other week. It seems forever imbued with the warmth and sunshine of that summer, the uncommonly full bass guitar as round and bouncy as the sand on our local beach. Again, this album was recorded by the time the group had perfected the recording and mixing process, making it sound different than previous, perhaps more popular records among the Lucksmiths fanbase. After all, they'd been together for about 10 years at this point, and not surprisingly they'd left behind that sometimes tinny sound and had muted the outrageous witticisms slightly. While still quite basic, the songwriting here is impeccable and along with the first B&S albums, this is what I looked to when I tried to learn how to play guitar. Luckily The Lucksmiths (sorry, it rubs of easily) like Sweden and I got to see them here three times before their final European tour this year, on which I (incredulously) got to support them twice. It was truly amazing to spend two days together with these guys, who bring a new meaning to 'nice'.

6. Language of Flowers - Songs About You (2004)
2004 was another important year, during which I started uni and pretty much never saw any of my school mates again. A large part of the year was soundtracked by Language of Flowers, whom I had heard started out in Belfast of all places. Like many bands that I discovered at the time, I first heard them through the then essential radio show P3 Pop on national radio, at the time presented by Hanna Fahl (later in Kissing Mirrors). The song was "Tara Mascara", which sounds slightly different than the rest of the album, but perhaps closest to what they wanted to sound like. I vaguely remember The Smiths being mentioned on the radio, and when I later got to interview them (for the student radio) they mentioned The Smiths, Heavenly and (particularly their lead guitarist) Jim Beattie-era Primal Scream as bands they wanted to sound like. It is an archetypal indiepop album, but to me it sounds like neither of those groups. In a review I wrote of the album (maybe the first proper one I ever wrote) I likened them instead to Lush, due to the chorus-tinged guitar sound. Lush was a band I had listened to plenty in 2004 and 2003, and Songs About You (including "Tara Mascara", but excluding "Christmas") could well have been the last Lush album, had it sounded a bit more like Split, but still been as poppy. Language of Flowers was always a band better at drinking than playing live (even though they tried to combine these two practices on occasion), but I much enjoyed both gigs I saw them do. Two of the members have carried on making music, check out Help Stamp Out Loneliness if you haven't already heard them.

7. Vivian Girls - Vivian Girls (2008)
In the future, I predict it will be difficult to justify the prominent position of this record. But at the time (and still now to some extent) VG was just a band I instinctively and wholeheartedly loved, in the same way I had loved The Ramones in high school. There is no question that the album was a watershed, and it was also my natural favourite of last year. Back then a lot of the hip indie music (cf. Pitchfork) seemed caught in an experimenting post-Animal Collective acid-folk soup, and the bread was getting stale. No one can claim that what VG did was new and unique, but it was badly needed. Perhaps they have now played out their role (even though this year's second album is great too) because now not only all the bedroom bands in Brooklyn sound like they have never listened to anything else than The Clean, JAMC and Black Tambourine, but bands across the US and increasingly in Europe as well. I got to see VG twice (during one day!) and I still want them to tour Sweden properly, but they should have done it last year.

8. Pants Yell! - Alison Statton (2007)
Another band I have turned out to form a very personal relationship with is Pants Yell!, who almost came to mean as much to me as B&S during that otherwise unremarkable summer of 2006 when they came to Sweden. We were several eager fans who spent the days of the Emmaboda festival and the subsequent alldayer in Bräkne-Hoby (pictured on the cover of Alison Statton), hanging out with Carly, Andrew and Sterling. Their second album Recent Drama just having been released, expectations on their live show were high. It goes without saying that they didn't disappoint. That was also the first I heard of their new material, which was going to form part of the next album. Alison Statton finally came out at the end of the following year and in my end-of-year list it was only trumped by the majestic God Help the Clientele. It was about twice as ambitious as Recent Drama and I have expounded my love for it at length on here before. It is a very important album in my eyes, and having a song named after one of mine was of course very special.

9. Pipas - Chunnel Autumnal (2000, reissued 2006)
Pipas' A Short Film About Sleeping was probably the first indiepop 7" I bought, must have been 2004. It left a lasting impression on me to say the least. When they came to Sweden later that year (with Alice of Arthur and Martha in tow), we were quick to attack them with microphones - and even convinced them to record a couple of tracks in the radio studio. I must see if I can find them, the version of "Amsterdam" was heartbreaking! Chunnel Autumnal had come out on their own microscopic label Long Lost Cousin and had sold out well before 2004. So I guess I didn't hear it until 2006, but that only meant I cherished it all the more. Because all Pipas records, except perhaps A Cat Escaped, would merit a place here. Another Pipas record feels unlikely, but then again the brilliant Sorry Love was recorded long distance.

10. The Saturday People - The Saturday People (2001)
The first Slumberland release on the list and the first band I have met no members of, although we used to see Ara around a bit when he was studying in Lund. And of course I have seen Terry Banks' old band St. Christopher after their comeback. A true allstar indiepop group and I won't even bother to list the other bands these guys have been in. The main songwriters seem to have been Banks and Greg Pavlovcak, and admittedly they sound a bit like Tree Fort Angst and a lot like The Castaway Stones. But this group is greater than the sum of its parts and the 15 tracks on the album skillfully blend clattery Slumberland vintage with 60s garage sounds. They do a masterful take of Jan & Dean's "Lullaby In the Rain" and manage to match its beauty with the original "Working For the Weekend".

11. The Aislers Set - The Last Match (2000)
The Aislers Set is a band I have neglected the last few years. Perhaps I never got over the fact I missed my only chance to see them live, was it in 2003? But whenever I listen to their records I am reminded of how much I liked them and 12-string guitars before I could recognise the sound of one. I prefer this record to the other one they released this decade, How I Learned to Write Backwards. And they still seem strangely overlooked by the kids, even though half the new bands on Slumberland and Captured Tracks sound like them.

12. The Pains of Being Pure At Heart - The Pains of Being Pure At Heart (2009)
One of the best things I have done is to put on a gig for this band in Malmö, and the whole thing happened more out of luck than anything else since they had already far outgrown gigs of that size. But unlike Vivian Girls, it had taken a while for POBPAH to catch on. When their first ep came out in 2007 it seemed unlikely that they would go further than other bands on Cloudberry. The Metric Mile that Peggy played with before are still virtually unknown. But clearly, we weren't the only ones who liked their instantly appealing pop songs. People had lived with these songs a long time by the time the record came out, its release probably delayed by all the touring. And we can argue about the production of the album, whether the ep versions sounded better etc, but they are still the same songs, and they are still great. It will be interesting to see if they can follow it up, without trying to please as many people as possible.

13. The Relict - Tomorrow Is Again (2003)
This might be a surprising choice, or merely a way to get more Clientele on the list. But I just love Innes Phillips' songs, The Relict being the vehicle for his songwriting after leaving The Clientele (before they released their first single). It usually includes members of said band and other London scenesters and in fact, a few songs have been released as both The Relict and The Clientele songs (cf. the latter's It's Art Dad demos compilation). One of the joys of the record is hearing two of the best female voices in indiepop harmonising together: Lupe from Pipas and Pamela from The Pines etc. The album followed a string of 7"s and splits and contains some of the same songs but in new versions with vastly improved sound quality and the added benefit of Mark Keen's metronomic drum sticks. And the record label Vegas Morn is clearly a reference to Felt. Any more Relict material has not appeared since - did Innes move to Australia?

14. Louis Philippe - An Unknown Spring (2007)
Philippe (or Auclair in real life) has worked with The Clientele since Strange Geometry, and for An Unknown Spring Alasdair and Mel returned the favour. It was his first album since The Wonder of It All in 2004, when I first encountered his music. The new album was similarly financed (by subscription) but couldn't have been more different. The Wonder of It All didn't impress me much and it took a couple of years for me to work through his back catalogue, starting at él Records in 1986 (at least for his solo recordings). The Louis Philippe of the 90s verged sometimes on cheesiness in his polished sound, but An Unkown Spring avoided the wince-worthy keyboard sounds and was also his most complex and ambitious work since 1989's Yuri Gagarin. It is so much more accomplished than most popular music it almost feels out of place on this list.

15. Slipslide - The World Can Wait (2003)
Matinée was the first indiepop label I got into, primarily due to the generous offerings of their sounds page. Two of the first mp3s I downloaded were Slipslide's "Eden" and "Baked Alaska". I had no idea the former was actually a new version of the Eva Luna song. Since then I have grown to love all of Graeme Elston's previous groups, including Eva Luna. Compared to his teenage group Love Parade, the sound of Slipslide's only album is very grown-up. But at the time it was the best album Matinée had put out. It's got a very nostalgic sound, the 12-string guitars somehow reminding me of watching tv as a child. It is actually quite similar to the first Stone Roses album, without the 'hits'. Graeme's voice sounds better than it ever did and the production is spot on. Slipslide proved they still have the knack to bash out jangly goodness with "Let Things Fall Apart" on The Matinée Hit Parade from a couple of years ago, but I am quite content if they remain a one-album-wonder - much like The Bodines, whose "Slip Slide" single they might feasibly have culled their name from.

16. The Motifs - Away (2007)
Now here's a problem for you list makers: The Motifs released their first album Dots in 2006 (50 copies made), Away was released in Japan the next year, featuring the same songs plus 10 more! Are they both individual albums? Last year their first release back home in Australia came out, a 23-track lp featuring songs from all previous releases and three new songs. I decided to call the latter a compilation, and since Dots was only a limited cdr I have put Away on this list. That The Motifs should even be on the list is indisputable of course. I like them as much as I have ever loved Pipas, and I cherish the four songs I got to hear live in Melbourne a few months ago.

17. The Airfields - Up All Night (2008)
I am certain the first album from The Airfields impressed everyone who heard it. Sure, the Laneways 10" was great, but to me Up All Night keeps a first class standard all the way through in a way not even The Field Mice managed on their full lengths. It came out at the perfect time of year as well, winter. This year has been sadly lacking in Airfields action - when is the next single coming out? It does not look probable that I will go to Canada in the next decade, so I hope they will come to me (or at least somewhere a bit closer).

18. Pocketbooks - Flight Paths (2009)
Neither Pocketbooks nor POBPAH got the first spot in my best-of-2009 list (coming soon), but out of all the albums released this year, I think Flight Paths is the one of the most enduring quality. A timeless album in other words. Lyrically compact, perfectly recorded by Simon Trought, I can't see myself tiring of it. Pocketbooks as a band have improved at an incredible rate since 2006. They have perfected their craft and I am greatly looking forward to the next album, and hopefully more gigs in Sweden. I admit I might be biased here, but getting to design the sleeve was purely an honour.

19. Niza - Canciones de Temoporada (2002)
With the amount of Spanish pop I have been listening to the last two years, this list must inevitably include something of Spanish origin. I didn't discover Niza until late last year I think, but immediately I started searching for a copy of their only album, released by Elefant. The record is indeed as classy as Grego Soria's cover art suggests, and actually sounds more like a Siesta production. Madrid-based Uke is their new project and I wanted play with them on A Smile and a Ribbon's summer tour, but unfortunately we never got as far as Spain. And, if you still haven't seen this video, you simply must.

20. The Autumn Leaves - Long Lost Friend (2008)
And the last spot goes to The Autumn Leaves, who made an unlikely comeback last year with their first album in 7 years. Treats and Treasures is one of my favourites of the 90s and this their third and last album is just as good. Their Byrds/Leaves-inspired folkrock works perfectly because the songwriting is so strong. They also manage the best Bee Gees cover (and you know there are many) I have ever heard. This is hardly an indiepop record, but essential for any lover of acoustic and Rickenbacker 12-strings. It doesn't have to be done differently than it was in 1966 to be of interest in this decade, which is hereby over.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Fed Pop Stars

Been listening to Dolly Mixture singles today, and I can't seem to find that website that had all the demos and live stuff. So in case anyone missed it here is their intended (or so I've read) first single "Dead Rainbow". It's mentioned on Wikipedia as a cover, but that can't be right. It may well be that it is about Gary Glitter though. In any case here it is, in lo-fi mp3 form. I can understand if the members are hesitant to re-releasing their 'white album' since the sound quality of the demos seems to have been average even on the original pressing. But why not a singles compilation? After all, "Everything and More" and "Remember This" are among the best singles of the 80s.

CLOUD 112 Dolly Mixture - Dead Rainbow

Saturday, December 26, 2009

An Inch a Month

All in all it's been a pretty good year - for singles. I had trouble narrowing my list of favourites down to 20 even! And here it is.

1. Spectrals - Leave Me Be b/w Suit Yourself (Captured Tracks)
I knew this was going to be the single of the year, soon as I found it on Myspace through the CT profile in the spring. I've played it pretty much everywhere I've been and finally getting it on 7" vinyl only makes me like it more.
2. Christmas Island - Nineteen b/w Twenty Nine (Captured Tracks)
CT nails the two first positions, Christmas Island coming second with their brilliant 'conceptual' single about life a decade apart. The a-side is the normal "growing up in a small town, nothing ever happens" story while the latter is quite a heartfelt look at aging, both sides in the form of breakneck pop riding on rollercoaster melodies. The two sides of the sleeve seem to picture the band's two main members as nerdy school kids - I like it!
3. The Cave Weddings - Bring Your Love b/w Let's Drive (HoZac)
Brogues tipped me about this one. A perfect garage-pop single with two stunning tracks. I was too late to get the limited coloured vinyl, but that hasn't stopped me from constantly flipping this over to decide which track is the best.
4. Best Coast - When I'm With You b/w This Is Real (Black Iris)
Apparently you can get this as a vinyl 7" - by winning some sort of competition that involves signing up to Lala. No way Black Iris! Well miss Best Coast is already recording the full length, and the singles will probably be on there too. This is by far the best of her three offerings in the 7" racks this year.
5. The Magic Kids - Hey Boy b/w Good to Be (Goner)
The Magic Kids came from nowhere and made the best indiepop single in ages. Call them Beach Boys ripoffs, but Bryan Wilson himself would tear his hair (if he still has any) to write songs as good as this again. I want more!
6. The Sea Lions - Let's Groove EP (YAY!)
Adorned with what is probably the best sleeve of this bunch, The Sea Lions debut disc is an instrumental pop monster. The b-sides prove they know their way around a vocal as well - these are three perfect This Poison!esque stormers. A new split with Watercolor Paintings is already out, but I haven't got it yet.
7. Very Truy Yours - Reminders CDEP (self-released)
This hand-crafted beauty holds five polished numbers that sound more like Camera Obscura than they do themselves these days. Quite a mellow bunch of tunes, but perfect for the late autumn.
8. The Garlands/The Sugarplums - split EP (Atomic Beat)
This should be available on the Atomic Beat website as soon as they've got some inserts printed. You can't say no to two new tracks from Roger Gunnarsson's The Garlands, but The Sugarplums prove their worth too on their first proper release. Get their CDR ep if you crave more.
9. German Measles - Wild 12" (Captured Tracks)
German Measles promised unbelievably much with the CT demo cassette, and Gary Olson has done a good job getting this party mayhem down on tape (analog I should hope). GM would be nothing without their enigmatic frontman, who lands just the right side of luny on "Totally Wild". Desperate Bicycles if they recorded for Brent (or pick your own obscure 60s garage label).
10. The Girls At Dawn - s/t 12" (Captured Tracks)
A big step up from the first 7" on HoZac, these four songs so good I can't wait for their album coming out next, and all the other upcoming goodies listed on their Myspace. "Tomorrow Will Be Yesterday" would have been one of the classiest tracks on Girls In the Garage if the girls had been their mothers.
11. The Specific Heats - Back Through Tyme EP (Hugpatch)
Coming home from Indietracks and SH's literally smoking performance I couldn't wait to play this lavender-coloured 7", which had arrived in the post while I was in New Zealand. No songs about icecream here! This is moody, twangy garage. Now we want Cursed!, if a truly cursed album can ever really be released that is.
12. Crystal Stilts - Love Is a Wave b/w Sugar Baby (Slumberland)
CS's only release this year (not counting the UK single with two album cuts) is a brilliant pop tune, which I like more than most of the songs on their album. Have they got a new drummer yet? Let's hope they haven't lost any momentum.
13. Brilliant Colors - s/t EP (Make a Mess)
I still prefer these version to the ones on the recent lp on Slumberland - a lot more dynamic and unique. Sold out, but available on a CT 12" including the two sides of the "Highly Evolved" single.
14. Standard Fare/Slow Down Tallahassee - split-EP (Thee SPC)
Mostly for the Standard Fare side, "Dancing", which is one of the biggest hits of 2009. Apparently got them signed to Bar/None! The new single on SPC is available in January next year.
15. Liechtenstein - Everything's For Sale CDEP (Drill Building)
Preceding the album by a few months, this Swedish CDR release is a more humble (and more humbly produced) ep with three exclusive and brilliant tracks. Good cover too!
16. Fergus & Geronimo - Blind Muslim Girl b/w Powerful Lovin' (Tic Tac Totally)
Having to pick a favourite among this year's three F&G singles, I'd have to settle for this one. The two sides here are equally great, even though "Harder Than It's Ever Been" from their Woodsist 7" would give them a run for their money.
17. The Cavalcade - Meet You In the Rain CDEP (self-released)
The Cavalcalde is one the year's best new pop groups. The Edition 59 ep was good, but nowhere near as interesting as this 5-track ep. Maybe with a drummer they could even challenge The Clientele at their own game?
18. God Help the Girl - Stills 10" (Rough Trade)
I still love the GHTG album, and this ep made up of 'outtakes' features the best song graced by Stuart's voice in a long time, "He's a Loving Kind of Boy". The other tracks definitely maintain the same standard as the album. But when will we get to see the actual musical?
19. Grass Widow - s/t 12" (Captured Tracks)
Their first album, put out by Make a Mess, was brilliant, but on this ep they've really outdone themselves. "Lulu's Lips" is even better than the best of Neo Boys.
20. The Depreciation Guild - Dream About Me b/w Listless (Kanine)
While the POBPAH did not make the list ("Come Saturday" would have, but since it's merely a new version of the Searching For the Now split-single, I skipped it), Kurt's own band just made it with the brilliant Bank of England-era-Blueboy guitar squalls of "Dream About Me". Available on white vinyl from Kanine Records, who have also given their first album a proper release. New material coming in 2010!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Don't Sleep Without Horses

The Crayon Fields is one of the most accomplished pop outfits today, and on their second album All the Pleasures of the World they continue to explore the Oddessey & Oracle inflections of their debut and Geoff's album as Sly Hats, but with a completely modern production that makes it swing more crisply than Phoenix or Tahiti 80 ever managed to.

I never got the chance to see them live in Melbourne (even though I bumped into Geoff once) nor in Europe when they were over here in the spring, together with The Motifs whom they share several members with. I hope they will come back soon to tour the new album, which was released on Australian label Chapter and Japanese Rallye Records in the autumn. It includes the two previous singles "Mirror Ball" and "Voice of Paradise", the latter of which is a pop tour de force in the Felt vein, starting and ending with haunting flageolet chords.

But actually each and every song here is as solid as a solid-body Danelectro, and together with the eight new tracks these songs create a resonant totality that is very uncommon in this day of digital releases and blogged musical tidbits. It's not an album that speaks loudly, but hopefully it's message will slowly resonate through the floorboards of magazine offices. It is the music from downstairs.

Danger Makes Your Suffering Sublime

I thought I'd use some of my Christmas free time to write a little about great records that came out this year but I have failed to mention so far. One is the debut album by Cheap Red, who are essentially Boyracer + Kanda (in other words Stewart, Jen, Akina and Arland). On the 555 Records mailing list, Stewart exclaimed in surprise that they had only sold 60 copies of this double-disc a few months after its release. Now, surely Boyracer have more than 60 fans worldwide (the 100 copies of their last album sold out quite fast, and I still haven't heard it!), but I don't think one can expect much as an independent pop label today. Also, of course, not everyone know about Cheap Red yet, which is why I'm writing this. Kanda themselves, are an even more criminally under-written pop group. They have recorded two albums of electronic bedroom pop, It's a Good Name For You and All the Good Meetings Are Taken. Together, these guys recorded the songs that make up Cheap Red over the course of three days. It's definitely a record that captures a certain spontaneity. The instant pop genius of "Let's Get Tammy Wynette", a tale of celebrity abduction and abuse, sounds like it was written the same morning. Ironically, this fuzzed-out Boyracer style punker is my favourite on the record. But there are also a few softer acoustic numbers, much like you would find among Jen's solo work. The violin-accompanied "Red Shoulders" is the best. "The Mitten" and "3 Day Drunk" are fantastic handclap pop, the latter with some classy organ added. Two songs about horses, of which the toungue-in-cheek twee of "Horses" ("don't dream without ponies") features the best moment of the record, when Jen misses the last exclamation of "horses!" right at the end. The second disc of remixes doesn't add much, unless that kind of thing floats your boat of course. I read that Cheap Red played the SF Popfest this year, something which I haven't seen any reports of or footage from either. Hope someone gets round to it soon!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Monday Never Comes Around

I recently heard two Bulldozer Crash songs I'd never seen before. They were on this tape from Bliss Aquamarine called Turquoise Trees:

Turned out they were from a recording session which spawned four tracks that must have been meant for release on Sunday Records. But BC never managed to get drums recorded for them so they remained unreleased. Until now! Stephen has just put them up over at This Almighty Pop! as a download single, and also tells us the full story behind the songs. The sleeve, as you can see, has the same layout as the band's two 7"s on Sunday.

If the especially made-up Monday Records had been a real label and this an actual 7" it would be among my favourites this year! And while we are on this theme I thought I'd upload Bulldozer Crash's cover of one of Po!'s most beautiful songs, "Fay". It's got a gorgeous vocal by Marc and was on a compilation flexi Sunday released in 1993, called Happy Sunday, on which Sunday bands do versions of each others' songs.

CLOUD 111 Bulldozer Crash - Fay

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Bubblegum Snow

The Bubblegum Winter night in Glasgow will probably have to be called a failure, since The Hidden Cameras weren't able to play, and instead just sat upstairs in Stereo. It wasn't a huge disappointment to me though, since I haven't kept in touch with the Cameras for two albums or so. And it was certainly a very well-organised night, with more than enough food and goodies to go round. It was great to meet the man behind it as well, Gary who runs Bubblegum Records since early 2009. He has already put out six records and he makes music himself as well, as Starshy! The latest Bubblegum release is a massive compilation called Pick 'n' Mix which features, amongst others, Leaving Mornington Crescent and A Smile and a Ribbon. LMC was the band I'd come to see at Bubblegum Winter more than any other, but I also really enjoyed Lean Tales. A Glasgow band who appeared last year if my memory serves me right, and since then they've put out an ep on Bubblegum. The band who ended up headlining the night was Pale Man Made, who are from Newcastle I'd learned the previous night when I was in Newcastle. They played well too, their biggest advantage being having two female Rickenbacker-owners in the band. Brogues likened them to The Delgados, but they sounded perhaps a bit too much UK 90s for my taste that particular night. Jennifer of Colour Me Pop played some fine records from stage as well, and we were about four people dancing after the last band.

The definite highlight in the Bubblegum shop (which makes up for what it lacks in design with pure love) is the brand new debut from Tesco Chainstore Mascara. They are a drum machine-backed power pop duo from the tiny Stone, outside Stoke-On-Trent. We first discovered them on Myspace many moons ago, around the same time as their pal Laz turned up with his Bubblegum Lemonade/Strawberry Whiplash juggernaut. The album, called Good Foundations, includes all the hits from back then: "Writer's Block", "Just the Weight You Are", and "The Sun's Shinin' For You" which reaches the same standard as a Teenage Fanclub number. Dave and Katie share vocal duties, and there are some brilliant backing vocals on this record. They've created a full sound and avoid the common trap of the live-guitar-over-backing-track effect. Hopefully they can be coerced to play live soon, which I don't think they have done so far!

Saturday, December 19, 2009


Mike added my podcast for Slumberland to the site yesterday! I made it several months ago, but now you can finally hear it. If you are subscribing you will already have got it (note: I changed the feed url recently), but browse over here to read the full story or get the mp3.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

They Forgot Me Knot

I'm taking my break from writing essays and going to the UK, stopping in London, Newcastle and Glasgow. Here are some of the events I'm going to, and that you shouldn't miss either, on crutches or not.

I made neither of these of course, but I'm playing records at a few of them. Also at this Saturday's Popklubb in Newcastle, for which I couldn't find a decent-sized flyer.

New records are out on Captured Tracks, which gives you chance to pick up pop wonders like the new The Girls At Dawn ep and the debut 7" from Beachniks. Both DDOMD favourites!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Man Whom Bed Demanded

A band I wouldn't mind to have seen while I was in Melbourne is Tugboat, who are not the band Egg Records have released a compilation of (that was a Canadian band with members of Change of Seasons). But they too, are of course named after the Galaxie 500 single, an influence that comes to beautiful effect on their first album All Day which I just ordered from Library. Bart was kind enough to point out that you can download their newest release on lastfm. The Rushes EP was only made in 200 copies in 2007, but the band still have copies available. The ep is more catchy than that album, with five jangly, slow-paced pop songs that sound quite similar to The Airfields. Next I shall have a listen o their second album Two Schools of Thought! Thanks to Matt for piquing my interest.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Ten Year Itch

Finally we can make a list of the best albums of the decade. I've started this gigantic task today, and narrowed it down to 34 so far. The Northern Portrait album will probably have to be included too, but this is what I've got at the moment. What are the rules then? Albums only, no singles compilations or similar, and no more than one album per artist/band.

1. The Clientele - The Violet Hour
2. Camera Obscura - Biggest Bluest Hi-Fi
3. The Fairways - Is Everything All Right?
4. Belle & Sebastian - Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant
5. The Lucksmiths - Why That Doesn't Surprise Me
6. Vivian Girls - s/t
7. Pants Yell! - Alison Statton
8. The Relict - Tomorrow Is Again
9. Pipas - Chunnel Autumnal
10. The Saturday People - s/t
11. The Aislers Set - The Last Match
12. The Pains of Being Pure At Heart - s/t
13. Lovejoy - Song In the Key of...
14. Language of Flowers - Songs About You
15. The Motifs - Away
16. Niza - Canciones de Temoporada
17. Louis Philippe - An Unknown Spring
18. The Wave Pictures - Instant Coffee Baby
19. Pocketbooks - Flight Paths
20. The Lodger - Life Is Sweet
21. The Airfields - Up All Night
22. Cats On Fire - Our Temperance Movement
23. Butcher Boy - Profit In Your Poetry
24. The Mantles - s/t
25. God Help the Girl - s/t
26. Slipslide - The World Can Wait
27. The Young Tradition - Northern Drive
28. Christmas Island - Blackout Summer
29. The Autumn Leaves - Long Lost Friend
30. Liechtenstein - Survival Strategies In a Modern World
31. Laura Watling - Early Morning Walk
32. The Zebras - Worry a Lot
33. Lovedance - Result
34. Afternoon Naps - Parade

This needs plenty of analysis, and there might be glaring omissions that you're welcome to help me with. Right now I can say: no real surprises in the top 5, and definitely top-heavy towards 2009. Maybe most of the recent albums will fall away when we come back to this in another 10 year time? Hm. I will let you know how I progress with this.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Clouds Send Down Tears From My Eyes

Los Angeles-based Best Coast is not only Don't Die On My Doorstep's band of the month, they've also released a new single which is so great it must be featured here. 'They' because Bethany has now put a full band together, and they make the two new tracks sound better than anything Vivian Girls or Brilliant Colors have recorded this year. Unfortunately it looks like what could have been one of the best 7"s of the year is only available in digital format, from the label Black Iris. I sure can't find a physical copy anywhere! Well, here is the a-side, shared by the label. Naturally it didn't take long for "This Is Real" to appear on a blog as well, but I'd be happy to pay for it if it was a real b-side!

CLOUD 110 Best Coast - When I'm With You

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Don't Paint Angry

The Procedure Club have had an upcoming 12" on Captured Tracks for some time now. In the meantime I picked up their second album, which has been put out on CDR by Series Two. I got #9 out of 300. They also have another CDR/cassette out called It's Only Fair, featuring three tracks from the new album, one from their self-titled and four new ones. Music For the Leisure Time is lots of fun, with it's wild mix of synthesisers and guitar noise. Old Myspace favourite "You're Not Poignant" still sounds great, and is pretty much the diametrical opposite to Carnival Park's "Poignant" while remaining in the pop field. "Better Parties" follows immediately after it sounding like Suicide and JAMC with female vocals. The band's more tender side is best showed off by "My Best Friend", which is quite quite beautiful.

From the other side of the Atlantic, Wetdog are also releasing their second full length. Like its predecessor Enterprise Reversal, it's out on Angular and both lps will also be available through Captured Tracks in the US. I instantly liked Wetdog after seeing them supporting Vivian Girls in London, and they came pretty close to what I imagine it being like to have seen Fire Engines back in the day. The new album is a bit more restrained and more pop. I was expecting more eardrum massage, but instead found myself really liking the vocals and the backing vocals, that come to their true right on Frauhaus!. Guitarless opening track "Lower Leg" sounds peculiarly similar to the new single from Weave!, and "Trehorne Beach Song" like a rejuvenated Lung Leg. (Speaking of Lung Leg... and perhaps rejuvenated too, The Yummy Fur are doing some reunion shows in London, Glasgow and the US in January!) The rest of the album ranges from the Young Marble Giants-brittleness of "Night Comes Down" to the cracking drum barrage of "Tidy Up Your Bedroom". Apart from the already mentioned tracks my favourite is the infectiously melodic "Round Vox", which is as good as Liechtenstein on an overcast day.

And I finally had a proper listen to Brighton group Shrag's debut full length from early this year. Shrag is a band that hardly gets any mention in Sweden, even though they deserve to be almost as big as Comet Gain. I'd heard some of the singles but it's great to hear them all rounded up on the album, and there's a new 7" coming out in December on
Where It's At Is Where You Are as usual. They're playing at SoundsXP's Christmas party at the Brixton Windmill on the night I get to London, with Standard Fare amongst others, and it's also the release party for "Rabbit Kids". I can't wait to see them, since I have missed previous chances to do so!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Today Is Just Tomorrow's Yesterday

More bands should record songs like this! This is actually an instrumental version of "You're Always Around". One of my favourite songs, penned by Jon Williams of fantastic folkrock outfit The WordD. The intertwined story of The WordD and The Penthouse 5 can be unraveled with the help of Cicadelic, who have released a retrospective compilation of the two groups. Essentially, when The WordD broke up, Williams and 12-string player Richard Keithley joined the other band. This resulted in the re-recording of a few WordD songs, including the aforementioned "You're Always Around". Keithley is one of the best 12-string players I've heard, with a sound almost as rich as McGuinn's.

CLOUD 109 The Penthouse 5 - Twelve String Jangle

Thursday, November 12, 2009

What Ever Happened to Blanche Hudson?

As most of you will know the fabulous Manhattan Love Suicides split up this summer, their acoustic appearance (a contradiction in it itself) on the Indietracks train turned into a performance by The Medusa Snare. You will probably know the name as Adam John Miller's side-project, and in fact, Skatterbrain posted about them roughly a year ago. But now it's become a full band (including old MLS drummer Rachel Barker), and their first album Cinderella is out on Squirrel - an update of the previously released ep of the same name (on the same label) fleshed out to 10 stunning tracks.

Adam builds on the noisy, lo-fi side of the MLS sound (the side that would've chosen to cover Teenage Jesus & the Jerks' "Orphans") while at the same time sounding more American. The Mountain Goats have been mentioned but I think the album sounds a lot like Knight School, with the MLS rhythm section backing. Matt's old fave "Ixtab" even kicks off with the same euphoria as a Pains of Being Pure At Heart song. My own favourites are the similarly upbeat "NCY" and "Out of the Blue" (paraphrasing, but not covering Neil Young). But they manage to slow things down commendably as well, as in "Monster" which builds on a simple, repeated Beat Happening-like guitar figure. Listen to some of the tracks here.

Two other suicidals have formed The Blanche Hudson Weekend, named after the "good" sister in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? and they've naturally picked Bette Davis to adorn the cover of their first 7". It comes out on Squirrel on the 23rd of this month, but is up for pre-order already.

The self-confessed influence of girl groups and Girls In the Garage is evident and even if the sound is far from polished it is fuller than that of Cinderella. "Crying Shame" has a certain grandeur to it that the Manhattans captured on songs like "Head Over Heels" (one of their best, in my opinion!). Caroline's singing has the same, barely audible charm it had in her previous band, and it does take a certain voice to give du-du-du's the same credibility as the JAMC, which "Noise and Fury" definitely has. I'm looking forward to a full length from this camp too! All three of these great songs can be heard in their entirety here.

While you're placing you order you might also want to pick up the Louder and Longer remaster of MLS' first album, if you like me thought it sounded a bit tame, or if you just want to get at those bonus tracks from the singles and the few tracks they managed to record for their second album!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Innuendos In a Wine Glass

Plastilina have just released a new album by The Pearly Gatecrashers from Australia. I love their first album Spectacular! from 1994 and also Popsuey (1996), which I first heard only a month ago, has it's highlights. So now, 13 years later, here is But Wait There's More. Undeniably slightly more mature (if a band who made the "Mobile Girl" video can ever be described with that adjective) at least lyrically. The album cover looks like a Richard Hamilton homage, and the songs seem to be simultaneously reveling in glossy production and Martha Rosleresque moods.

But if you think this is an entirely new album, you are wrong. At least "Summer Here's" is 8 years old - since it was once included on Shelflife's Picnic Basket. It's one of my favourite Pearly Gatecrashers songs so I was very happy to see it included here! Otherwise my favourite songs are the jangly hits like "We Are Family", "Asleep", "Your Brother's Drums" and "Sweet Marie". "Penny Drops" sounds like Trembling Blue Stars on 45. And "Fad" might be one of their best songs ever!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Nessie Is a Star

I just got hold of a record I've wanted for at least four years. French pop group Evergreen has reached a legend-like status in my mind by now, since hearing about them from a euphoric Jyrki at the Emmaboda festival years ago. At that time all I could find about them was a entry. I picked up the trail again last week when I heard a track by Lollypops via a There and Back Again Lane post, loved it and soon found out that was an early incarnation of Evergreen. So I searched for their ep again and found a cheap copy via the French CD and LP service. It was a private seller so there might not be anymore copies.

Receiving the 7" in the mail today was most special and after only about 5 spins I have to say it's one of my favourite records ever, at least as good as the Rainyard 7". Great jangly pop with surprisingly good English! Each of the four songs is amazing, with the two songs on the b-side (the 'ballad' side, even though one of them does have a rhythm section) augmented by some prominent violin which makes one of the hooks in "Close-Up" sound just like "A Century of Fakers" by Belle & Sebastian. This record came out only a couple of years before Tigermilk and seems strangely isolated both in time and place (France!). The first five seconds of "House of Magic Cards" sounds exactly like another song, which I can't place now - I thought it was a Celestial track but that can't be right. Check the Lollypops version on the There and Back Again Lane blog and enlighten me!

Actually, if anyone has any more information about the band please let me know. All we can gather from the sleeve (hideous use of the Brush Script font!) are the first names of the members (female guitarist!) and the insert has some more info about the label Nessie - maybe a tribute to Scotland's pioneering efforts in pop? Their first release was a tape compilation called Superqualifragilistic after a Mary Poppins song (anyone have that?) which I found a tracklisting for here. As you can see it includes another Lollypops track - a version of "Time" - and a track from their great French contemporaries Mumbly (pre-Watoo Watoo). Otherwise I don't recognise any of the bands. They also list a Christmas 7" featuring Louis Philippe, Gregory Webster and two other bands, which I found here for 3990 yen (or 27 pounds), if anyone wants to pick it up. I can't find anything on the 'forthcoming' Tribute to él EP.

Anyway here's the first track for you to enjoy.

CLOUD 108 Evergreen - Laurie

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Freshly Coloured Corners

Brilliant Colors are about to release their first album Introducing on Slumberland. Like the Vivian Girls debut it's got ten songs in about 20 minutes, and this could very well have been the same smash that record was for me last year. And yes, they have recorded one of the best albums of the year, seemingly with a flick of the wrist, but it's a tad too well-produced. The sound quality of their two eps didn't always work in their favour but it definitely gave then a unique sound, which made songs like "Over There" and "Takes So Little" so thrilling. Both "Over There" and "Should I Tell You" are on the album in new speeded-up versions, but if you still want to get their previous records (now sold out) you should pick up the 12" on Captured Tracks that includes all those songs.

A record that keeps growing on me and might even outdo Introducing in my end-of-year list is the new album by The Fresh & Onlys, also from San Francisco. Grey-Eyed Girls is their second full length of the year and I don't even know how many singles they've done! I definitely think it's the best album on Woodsist so far, who are set for more attention with the imminent release of Real Estate's album. I liked The Fresh & Onlys' first album a lot too, but in this case it's actually an improvement with the more pop material and a cleaner production. There's some great overdriven, jangly guitar on tracks like "Dude's Got a Tender Heart" as well, while they're still mining the SF garage rock history deeply - just like The Mantles. The only I thing I don't like is how they, like many current bands, bury the vocals in either reverb or distortion (or both) instead of using real distortion from vintage mics, or simply getting King Kahn to sing for them. Lucky "Clowns (Took My Baby Away)" is such a great song title then.

How to Do Things With Words

We can all agree that The Cavalcade is one of the best new bands this year. I was lucky to find a copy of their second ep, released by Edition 59. It's sold out but Unisex might have some more copies. It's got three great songs, which are bit more pop than most of Meet You In the Rain.

Also, be sure not to miss the great new singles on Slumberland - like a new Bats ep (!) which is an excellent companion to last year's brilliant album on Arch Hill. The first single from Frankie Rose (or Frankie & the Outs, as they're called on myspace) is easily one of the best this year and reminds me of Henry's Dress or The Aislers Set at their noisiest. Gregory Webster's recent single on WIAIWYA sees an American release as well, still with Daniel's (So Tough! So Cute!) trademark artwork. But most intriguing is the new Mantles single "Bad Design" which is the first record in ages to be catalogued as a I Wish I Was a Slumberland Record. It's a co-release with Dulc-i-Tone and holds two great non-album tracks. Read more and listen to the a-side here.

CLOUD 107 The Cavalcade - Secret Signs On Stone

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Sixth Difference

1. One these bands is new and has released an album on In the Red, one of the best of the year.

2. Pitchfork has found one of them worth writing about, even though describing them as "charmingly antiquated".

3. One of them actually knows how to play their instruments well.

4. One of them has covered The Beach Boys, while the other has settled for reworking "Be My Baby".

5. One of them has covered Radiohead. The other hasn't (yet).

Other than that it's not much that sets Christmas Island and Heartworms apart. Christmas Island has definitely been helped by the current hip-factor of ramshackle guitars and would most likely have been dismissed as 'twee' in 1994 when Heartworms debuted with the smashing "Thanks For the Headache". Both Christmas Island's music and lyrics are very simple, but very addictive. Take "My Baby" for example, strummed chords over thumping drums and the chorus "my baby, I miss you, in my dreams I still kiss you". All you need for a perfect pop song! I'm buying Blackout Summer now.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Painter Without Motive Convicted

Everyone in London should go see Leaving Mornington Crescent tonight. It's at HDIF Presents at Jamm in Brixton, it's free and also playing are Tender Trap and MJ Hibbett! I just saw the two members of LMC in Gothenburg and they were very excited. I witnessed their first gig at So Tough! So Cute! a few months ago (with Harvey Williams playing too) and they were great. They were kind enough to give me their eps yesterday, so here's a song for you to listen to. It's from the Corners ep released by a label called Susy. I maintain my opinion that they're the best new Swedish band this year! They're playing in Malmö again next week, on Tuesday, together with Horowitz at Don't Die On My Doorstep.

How come I was in Gothenburg then? Well, I was playing records at Don't Tell Me That! (playlist here), where the promising new Swedish band with the dubious name Youngfuck (might it be a direct translation of a Swedish word, that means something completely different?) did their first gig. They were sounded even better than this, and two of them were previously in bands you might have heard of, like Signed Papercuts and Second-Hand Furniture. It was great to be in Gothenburg again - first time in what feels like ages!

CLOUD 105 Leaving Mornington Crescent - Seventeen

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Magic ATM

I got the new Close Lobsters compilation, and it sounds fantastic! The remastering is pretty good overall and it's great to have all the singles on one cd. It actually includes almost everything that wasn't on their two albums, apart from some compilation tracks, and the Caff 7" (but that version of "Just Too Bloody Stupid" is featured on CD86 however).

I got even more excited about the first Spectrals single when I saw that the b-side was a completely new, and not at all the song I thought would be there. The German Measles ep doesn't disappoint either, with 6 new strong tracks, out of which the best are the giddy punk hit "What Are You Going to Do" and the party anthem "Wild Weekend".

While I'm posting anyway, here are my favourite singles and eps of the year so far:

1. The Cave Weddings "Bring Your Love"
2. Spectrals "Leave Me Be"
3. The Magic Kids "Hey Boy"
4. Brilliant Colors "Brilliant Colors"
5. Very Truly Yours "Reminders"
6. German Measles "Wild"
7. The Specfic Heats "Back Through Tyme"
8. Standard Fare "Dancing"
9. Liechtenstein "Everything's For Sale"
10. The Sea Lions "Groove"
11. The Cavalcade "Meet You In the Rain"
12. Wake the President/Je Suis Animal split
13. Dum Dum Girls "Yours Alone"

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Carnival Headache

No one really mentions the Wolfhounds compilation The Essential Wolfhounds, which came out on September already in 1988. It contains some of their best songs, from singles and their first album. The liner notes (courtesy of tell us that "they were born in East London in 1985. After years of working in a wool warehouse, a laboratory, a plastics factory and a coffee bar their first record 'Cut The Cake', was published in 1986. Since then they have written many songs on philosophy, the occult, crime and sexual deviance plus a host of successful songs which have won them an international reputation. Their work has been translated into Spanish, French, Swedish, Dutch, Welsh, Arabic, Urdu, Japanese, German, Finnish and Hebrew." Why then may I ask, are their albums not available on cd? All there is, is the compilation Lost But Happy on Cherry Red (who own the rights to all their songs). And if you're lucky you might find the reissue of The Essential Wolfhounds that Midnight did.

Anyway, I just got to hear it, and after some scouring of online sources I was able to find pretty much all the band's songs. With a few exceptions: "Whale On the Beach" from the 12" version of Cruelty, the b-sides to Son of Nothing, the Happy Shopper 12" and their cover of "I'm Not Like Everybody Else". Who's got these?

One of the best songs I hadn't had the pleasure of hearing before is "Cold Shoulder", from The Anti-Midas Touch released on the Pink Label in 1986.

CLOUD 104 The Wolfhounds - Cold Shoulder

Saturday, October 17, 2009


I have spent a couple of days last week listening fervently to bands like The Cave Weddings, The Magic Kids, Woven Bones, Ganglians, Surf City, Thee Oh Sees, Coachwhips, Real Estate, The Fresh & Onlys, Pens, The Intelligence, Weave!, The Mantles, The Drums, Nodzzz, P.S. Eliot, Ty Segall, Black Time and Christmas Island. There's so much to check out, so much that is great, but it feels like eventually people will tire of the ever increasing number of bands following in the wake of Vivian Girls, Wavves and Times New Viking. The fact that Dum Dum Girls have been signed to Sub Pop could be one sign. Perhaps the Captured Tracks/Woodsist festival was the climax? But at the moment I still think it is exciting, and if nothing else, I am glad I've listened to all of it if only for the discovery of The Mantles and Christmas Island!

I've ended up with so many songs I have to do something with, that I can't play them all at my club night, so I decided to just make a new podcast out of them. Even though it's not a proper one with spoken links, I hope you will enjoy the mix of sounds and the sequence of the tracks! (It is #13 since I haven't yet finished #12 that I am making for Slumberland.)
Captured Tracks are still winning the year's label race, with more fantastic releases than anyone could have hoped for (or afforded). Just recently a new batch was released, including The Spectrals' first 7" that I've raved about enough already, but also the first proper German Measles release, a Christmas Island 7" and Ganglians best post-Brian Wilson work yet! But they're followed closely by HoZac, Woodsist and In the Red, and as usual Siltbreeze have proven reliable.

Here are some notes about the included songs.

Afternoon Naps - Bubblegum 45
What better way to start off than with a hymn to bubblegum pop from Afternoon Naps, whose second album has been massively anticipated (by me) since succumbing to the masterpiece that was Sunbeamed. Them and Brown Recluse are unique on the US pop scene for putting the ray of sunshine back into pop. Parade (out on HHBTM) became a favourite of this year already upon first listen.
The Magic Kids - Good to Be
The b-side of their first 7" (Goner Records) that came completely out of the blue for me. Perhaps the best emulation of The Beach Boys in an indiepop context ever? The flip is bit more mellow, but still charming.
The Cave Weddings - Let's Drive
HoZac's best release yet? The b-side of this American band's first single is a great as the a-side, and prompted me to use my limited funds to order this and the new Girls At Dawn single from the label. They also have a homemade ep you can order from their Myspace.
The Intelligence - Universal Babysitter
A fantastic post-something band that has been around almost 10 years longer than anyone else. I've listened to three of their albums so far and I have to say this year's Fake Surfing on In the Red is their best so far. They even afford themselves calling a song "Fuck Eat Skull" (apparently one of them is in that band too) which is almost as good a title as Jay Reatard's recent "Blank Blogs". Great band name too!
German Measles - Monkey Me, Monkey You
Simply ingenious track from their demo cassette on Captured Tracks. Their first 12" had just been released, and was recorded by Gary Olson, just like the caUSE co-MOTION! singles (a band that shares members with the Measles).
Pens - 1-2
The album is finally here! It was as great as I expected, the best thing of its kind I have heard since Finally Punk. Out on De Stijl on both cd and vinyl. The split with Crocodiles, Dum Dum Girls and Graffiti Island is out of stock at the moment, but will soon be available again from Art Fag.
Bette Davis and the Balconettes - Big Pussy Sound
Finally heard more than their self-titled ep on Slampt!. This is the best of the bunch, among this Manchester group's recordings, from a 1998 7" on Damaged Goods.
Coachwhips - I Drank What
Yes, why have I never really listened to this band before? Their first album doesn't impress me as much as does their last, from 2003. As noisy as Forbidden Tigers, and it makes me want to check out the intervening albums as well. Dwight is now in Thee Oh Sees, and many other bands.
Woven Bones - Janie
Another great garage group on HoZac! They've released three singles so far, and this track is from one on Needless. An album is in the works, also for HoZac.
Gas - Speak No More
Siltbreeze has set about releasing some old gems, including an ep by Christchurch group Gas, who were around in the late 90s apparently. But even more I'd like to hear The McGoohans, which was an 80s group, some of whom moved on to Gas. Or so I've read! Anyone have The McGoohan Sound lp?
The Terrorways - She's a Mod
A punk compilation I felt compelled to listen to recently is AK79, including bands from the first wave of Auckland punk groups (including Toy Love, of course). This is one of my favourites on it, landing somewhere between punk and mod-revival! A cover of Ray Columbus & the Invaders' hit.
The Castels - Save a Chance
You won't escape the usual dose of 60's jangle. This particular track can be found on a Misty Lane compilation called Leave It All Behind. It was originally released by Wildfire in 1965.
Mary Sawrey - A Lover's Plea
Found this on a cd called Del-Fi Girl Groups: Gee Baby Gee. Compiling female artists of that label, this single from 1961 is the best of the set.
The Jet Set - The Jet Set
You might be familiar with the 80s group The Jetset and the pre-Byrds group of course, but this is a sassy girl group track found on Girls Will Be Girls Vol. 1. Hard to find the original release info, because of the name of the group and song!
Mytty Archer - The Life You Wanna Live
New group started by Jen from Boyracer, including the usual suspects. Their first album is here, and judging from this track - available for free on the 555 sampler - it is worth a fair percentage of your income.
Christmas Island - Bed Island
I heard this band thanks to the cool 8th volume of The World's Lousy With Ideas, which together with the Yeti 7 compilation was what started last week's listening spree. This song is from their upcoming first album on In the Red. At the moment they a have a split-7" with Le Jonathan Reilly and a new single on Captured Tracks out. Maybe they will soon have one of the best albums this year too.
Black Time - You Don't Love Me
This British group continue to release fantastic, ear-spliting pop - this song is from a recent split-lp with Ty Segall - and they continue to stay out of Sweden, unfortunately.
DNA - Lionel
An old one, from the 1978 compilation No New York. One the same record you'll find some tracks by the next band.
Teenage Jesus & the Jerks - Less of Me
Lydia Lunch and James Chance in the same band can only mean one thing, noise and popular music coming together in a promising union (at least for 1979). This was the b-side of their first single, by which time Chance had already left.
Weave! - Man He Can
A new San Fracisco group who sound a bit like The Slits and Delta 5. With minimal inclusion of guitar, they've already recorded a great ep. This track is their best yet and is the first we've got to hear from the upcoming full-length.
Sado-Nation - Gimme You
The quest for Neo Boys led me to another punk compilation: History of Portland Punk Vol. 1 (no sequels as far as I know). The second best band on it (no, not Wipers) is this group, also featuring female members. There is a retrospective of their whole output called Future Past, Present, Tense if you're interested.
The Fresh & Onlys - Peacock and Wing
This group have already released their second album of the year, on top of a slew of singles. I've only heard the first, self-titled record in full so far, but it's definitely destined for the top 20 of the year. Great SF garage!
The Mantles - Burden
This is from what will definitely be the best album of the year for me, unless Pants Yell! cook up something that outdoes Alison Statton... The album is out on Siltbreeze and builds on two previous 7"s, with a superior sound and simply brilliant songs with one stylus on Nuggets and the other on an 80s indiepop single I've never even heard of.
Present - I Know
Another jangly present from the 60s. Ugly Things tell us this group was from New York, and released a single in 1967. Google won't tell us that much, even.
The Field Twins - We Were Lovers
I really love this girl group from Australia, who only cut two singles I think. One is from 1966, so I guess this one must be from around the same time. The singing isn't great, but I can't stop playing it!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Woman, the Hope of Men

How come no one talks about this? Well I think I know why, but this first single from Brooklyn's The Girls At Dawn is actually great. As usual on HoZac, they care about their vinyl, and the first 200 copies are on orange transparent vinyl. Both "Never Enough" and "Every Night" are fuzzy Shangri-Las lo-fi and you should look out for a 12" on Captured Tracks.

While you're ordering from HoZac you have to pick up The Cave Weddings' first single too - probably the best single I've heard this year and I mean both sides! You can also get the songs plus three more as a cdep, directly from them.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The World Ain't Round, It's Square!

It's more than time to announce that my favourite album of the year will no doubt be the debut longplayer from San Francisco's The Mantles. Together, SF and LA have by now caught up with Brooklyn, being the homes of groups like Dum Dum Girls and The Fresh & Onlys (more about them later) and perhaps best exemplified by the Part Time Punks festival which is on right now. Like a more fun-packed equivalent to the Captured Tracks/Woodsist fest, the line-up includes bands like The Raincoats, Section 25, The Jazz Butcher, The Intelligence and locals Weave!. And let's not forget The Smell.

But The Mantles self-titled lp on Siltbreeze is, to my ears, the first record landing exactly between the otherwise widely separated worlds of indiepop and 60s garage. Other people have mentioned the similarity to Flying Nun bands and the Paisley Underground scene of early 80s San Francisco (two things that are suddenly hip again). But I think the garage element of their sound goes right back to Golden Dawn and The Mantles' Californian predecessors The Seeds and The Chocolate Watchband. It's a perfectly produced album and every song knocks me out. It sounds very simple and I bet the rest of the American punk-pop bands are regretting all the time they spent disfiguring and tweaking their guitar sounds. Like the very few garage-revival bands who actually achieved a pure 60s sound in spite of the despicable production values of the 80s (LA's The Last come to mind of course!), songs like "What We Do Matters" and "Yesterday's Gone" give me the same thrill as a crackly 45 from 1967. "Samantha" makes me think of The Summer Suns (who have song called the same thing) and the 12-string-laden "Don't Lie" and "Burden" sound like a mix of them, Dom Mariani's other group The Someloves and "Misty Lane" by The Chocolate Watchband. "Disappering Act" kicks off the record, just like the equally 60s-influenced Biff Bang Pow!, with it's frantic strumming. "James" is the most blantant pop offering, and crashes along like The Wedding Present or This Poison!, before stopping just shy of the 2-minute mark.

I can't see myself tiring of this album in the foreseeable future.