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