Tag Archive: twee


Twee As FolkSome time in the last 20 minutes, warm and sunny Columbus has become Galveston circa 1900. As I glanced out the window a few moments ago, the sight of horizontal rain and trees bent nearly in half* came as quite a surprise. Though, I daresay, if those turn of the century Texans had been spinning the latest Super Desserts album, Twee As Folk, on their phonographs as I have been, they wouldn’t have noticed the approaching storm either.

Attached as I am to the title Twee As Folk, it is (I think) a touch ironic that it be applied to this particular album (the second in five months) as the term “twee” is less applicable to this one than it was to either Barefoot in the Disenchanted Forest or Banjo Forever. That is not to say that Twee As Folk is any less clever (or just plain fun) than the previous releases—see the rollicking “Wicker Chair” or “Missy Madame” (a cover of Columbus locals The Curiosities/Maza Blaska) to allay any concerns—but that it is a more mature album, expanding on the musical ideas hinted at in previous albums.

For one thing, the band make more effective use of the myriad instruments they cram onstage, evolving from band to indiepop-chamber-folk ripieno orchestra (“Give Your Mom a Call” and “Turn Up the Sunlight”). Likewise, several tracks on Twee As Folk put more emphasis on rhythm, even incorporating a northern soul-tinged groove beneath folk instrumentation on tracks like “Winter Is Here” or the laid-back, summery shuffle of “Crush On You”. Then there are the long phrases and willingness to toy with dissonance, evident on several tracks, but especially “Margaret Yang” (dig the background vocals…).

Of particular note on Twee As Folk, however, are the vocals, with more than half of the band taking lead duties at one point or another—and all of them good performances. Even those who habitually took lead roles on previous records are sounding particularly good on this one. But, by far, the most pleasing discovery for me has been newish band member Ianna. Until now, I’d never heard her sing lead on anything, but the effortless clarity of her voice—think a richer, silvery version of Catherine Ireton from God Help the Girl—has left me wanting  much (much) more. For now, I’ll have to be content to listen to “Vector of Affection” and “Fall Down” on endless repeat.

With an album like Twee As Folk, it is difficult for me to pick favorites—I have listened to nothing else for three days now—but if pressed, I would point out that “Everybody Loves To Be Loved”, “Fall Down”, and “Wicker Chair” have the highest playcounts, respectively. And then there is the fact that it hasn’t even been six months since Super Desserts released Banjo Forever. Under normal circumstances, most reviewers (myself included) would be skeptical of a band that can turn out an album in a matter of months, which makes the current album all the more remarkable.

Now, I suppose an indie-folk chamber orchestra with about half a dozen songwriters can afford to be prolific, but with Twee As Folk, it’s not as if Super Desserts have simply produced their second decent album of 2010, but a legitimate contender for Album of the Year.

So, download the two tracks I’ve posted below and, if you’re lucky enough to be a Columbus local, head over to Wholly Craft at 7:00 Friday night (June 4) for the FREE(!) release show and pick up a copy for yourself. For the rest of you, the album should be streaming in full on the Super Desserts bandcamp page some time in the next day or two.

*It turns out there were also tornado sirens sounding. I was too distracted to notice those, as well.

**The narrative-style subtitle from Barefoot In the Disenchanted Forest also make a return appearance on this album. The subtext: “We need a bass clarinetist. Also, we miss Steve”.

Download – “Wicker Chair” mp3

Download – “Winter Is Here” mp3

Photo by Alison Wonderland

Photo by Alison Wonderland

I know, I’ve been talking about this for a long time (here, for instance, and here, and here) and, before you ask, no, it’s not here quite yet. The School’s debut LP, Loveless Unbeliever, is slated for release in October, so you have still a couple of months to wait (for you Druids out there, that’s one autumnal equinox – two full moons for you werewolves). But far be it for me to go more than 45 seconds without thinking of my favourite Welsh pop purveyors or the album which is quickly becoming the most exciting thing to happen in 2009 (and it hasn’t even happened yet!).

Thankfully, for those like me, suffering – willfully, faithfully – from twee fever, The School have preempted their LP with the release of a split 7” (Searching for the Now 6) on Slumberland Records this week (the School take the A side with two tracks from George Washington Brown, the latest nom de rock of Pete Gofton, Kenickie’s Johnny X, on the flipside). Of course, if you’ve taken my advice in the past and visited The School on MySpace, you will recognise their cover of Left Banke’s ‘And Suddenly’. The School are perfectly equipped to pay homage to these pioneers of baroque pop with their uncanny evocation of the 1960s girl group sound with a pinch of C86 and just a dash of Camera Obscura. The performance is so well executed, in fact, that it is difficult believe that this is a cover song at all and even more difficult, still, to stop listening. When you’ve had a month like I have, this is the music that keeps you alive; listen to it about a dozen times, and suddenly, the world is full of sunshine.

You ought to know, however, that this song will not be on the album. This is the only release planned for this track (except for the B-sides and rarities collection bound to be compiled in about a decade in celebration of the band’s inevitably illustrious career). And, as if that is not enough of a reason to entice you to open your pocketbook, there are two tracks (‘End of the…’ and ‘Twin Towers’) by George Washington Brown on the B-side. No, he is not likely to be mistaken for The Angels or Shelley Fabares, but is still well worth your attention. So check it out on the Slumberland page. You will not regret it, because, as I’ve said before, at any given moment, The School are reminiscent of everything that you love about music.

I am so tired. I was up until 3:30 this morning writing a review and then back up for work at 8:00. And I have to host a dinner party Saturday evening, so you will forgive me if I choose the path of least resistance and discuss a few albums that I am looking forward to, rather than delve into completely uncharted territory. Back in January, Under the Radar Magazine printed a list of about 25 of the most anticipated indie releases of 2009. I was anticipating 4 of them and they have all been unleashed. These four were not mentioned. They are nothing less than subterranean.

Little Birdie Storybook (more of an idea, really) – Little Birdie Storybook is Becca Kreutz who writes some of the most charming and enchanting songs you will ever hear. All that exists at the moment is a handful of demos on her MySpace page, recorded at home in one take on an out-of-tune piano, but she will be heading into the studio to have another go at them. To be honest, I am going to miss those blue notes. You Regina Spektor fans will enjoy this, though Little Birdie Storybook is pretty much impossible to dislike. I think I am looking forward to this one the most. You will be hearing a lot more from me on this topic in the months to come. In the meantime, listen to the demos. You can find the lyrics here.

FunAim & Ignite (23 August) – Fun is the name of the band. The name is nearly as pretentious as that of French rockers Rock and Roll, but it is entirely appropriate. I caught their set in support of Manchester Orchestra, and I can say without reservation that they have earned the name. Stylistically, they fall somewhere between Queen and Mika. The release date for Aim & Ignite was up in the air for a while, but it now stands at 25 August. I know what I’ll be doing that day. For now you can check out their MySpace where you can pick up a free download of “At least I’m not as sad as I used to be” which you can also stream on Facebook (where you can also become a fan of The Indie Handbook). If you want more, catch one of the few remaining dates with Manchester Orchestra.

The School, (title and release date TBA) – This one is still in the works. They went into the studio to begin work a few weeks ago. If you’ve been following us for a while, you already know how much I love this band and for your sake I will tell everyone else to read this. Needless to say, I am pumped. I may have to go to Cardiff to thank them in person. You are all more than welcome to join me.

Venus Hum, (also TBA) – I mentioned this on the Facebook page a couple of days ago. It’s been three years since their last studio album, The Colors In the Wheel, which included one of my favorite songs ever, “Pink Champaign” (I will post the video below). Finally, they are back in the studio. Annette Strean has one of the most striking voices I have ever heard and backed by multi instrumentalists Kip Kubin and Tony Miracle, they have produced enduringly appealing albums in my music library. I’ve been listening to Big Beautiful Sky all week. You can track the progress of the recording and here a few samples (which may or may not end up on the record) at the band’s blog here. (Ok, I am adding a live version of “Yes and No” because the band are actually in it.)

Catching up with Ce-ci-ci-cilia

First, do me a favor and try out these links and tell me if they work: theindiehandbook.co.uk and theindiehandbook.net. You should automatically be redirected to this page, but it has only worked on half of the machines I have tried so far. (If anyone can explain this to me, please do.)

So, anyway, where was I….Oh, yeah!

I love Sweden! It’s gorgeous (as are the people), they design some of the sexiest furniture I have ever seen, and once, in Göteborg, I found dark chocolate infused with Earl Grey tea. Now, I’m not quite prepared to live there (no offense, but walking around at 21h45 in broad daylight kinda freaks me out) but the unbelievable music is almost enough to make me change my mind. (Third largest exporter of pop music in the world, Sweden is, after the US and the UK.) They have provided us with a lot of great music over the years (the Cardigans; Peter, Bjorn, and John; ok, fine, ABBA, too), but I don’t think any has struck me the way Hari and Aino have.

Hari and Aino came up on my last.fm playlist about a months ago and I liked it. Then, last week, I heard “On my usual catch up with Cecilia” and I am telling you all, I have not been this excited about a band since I first heard The School three weeks ago (if you listen to them both, you should have no trouble telling which direction my tastes are trending these days). I loved it so much that, after listening to their MySpace on repeat for two hours (and “Cecilia” at least a dozen times), I bought their self-titled CD which doesn’t even have “Cecilia” on it (you can download the track by clicking here: \”On my usual catch up with Cecilia\”, however, and several other tracks are available for free on MySpace and last.fm).

“Cecilia” (from the digital compilation put out by eardrumsmusic.com called Birdsongs,Beesongs–volume A available here for free) is admittedly a wee bit bouncier than the other tracks (I believe the technical term is “twee as f*ck”), but they will all make you smile. And they all feature Andrea Dahlkild’s stunning vocals (a cross between the color of Leigh Nash of Sixpence None the Richer and the laid back delivery of Linnea Jönsson from Those Dancing Days, though Andrea’s phrasing is far more relaxed and natural), nice, clean, pseudo C86 guitar, and, wait for it, GLOCKENSPIEL!!! (actually, it could be a xylophone, it is definitely a mallet struck idiophone; I’ll let the band correct me if I’m wrong).

Ladies and gentlemen, listen to this. Listen to it now. This is Friday music, folks. And today is FRIDAY! I guarantee, you will be hooked from the moment you hear Andrea linger on the name “Ce-ci-ci-ciliaaa”. What more could you want?

Also, word around the Twitterverse is that Hari and Aino would like to make a trip out to the States to play some shows. If you love what you hear (and you will), go to MySpace or Twitter or Facebook or wherever and tell them how much you want them to come here. If you don’t love it, just tell them how much I want them to play here.

And download the Birdsongs, Beesongs compilation. It also includes another favorite band of mine, Mockingbird, Wish Me Luck. Also, did I mention it’s free?

Come Monday Night

How did we miss this?  Stuart Murdoch, frontman of the iconic indie band Belle & Sebastian, has put together his own project called God Help the Girl, which he’ll be releasing on June 22nd.  The exciting news for today, though, is that the project’s first single was released on Monday!  It is conveniently called “Come Monday Night” (clearly come Monday night we still had not picked up on this news) and you can hear it on his myspace, or you can watch the video below!

After the lovely throwback beginning, you’ll hear more than a bit of Belle & Sebastian’s beloved lilt and soft strings. “Come Monday Night” is a delicious sample of what Stuart Murdoch must be doing with this new project–taking Belle & Sebastian’s ability to create intriguing characters and multiplying it by…an album. Only time will tell! For now, enjoy the first chapter of Stuie’s narrative!

New album from Nina Persson’s other band A Camp today. I haven’t listened to it yet, but I’m still excited.

In light of the admittedly surprising success of Dutch Week, we will probably have to sponsor a Welsh Week sometime soon. I swear, this has nothing to do with the fact that I have a weakness for Welsh accents or that if I were ever fortunate enough to meet a woman who spoke with one that she could have me do her bidding with the mere utterance of a few words. Nor has it to do with the fact that Hay-on-Wye is reputed to have more bookshops per capita than any other municipality in the world (be still my heart!) or that Doctor Who and Torchwood are filmed in Cardiff (David Tennant!!!). It’s just that they make so much good music. (Ok, so maybe it is a little bit about the accents.) But can you blame me? Based on that description, it sounds like Heaven on Earth.

For now, we’ll stick with one band (the Handbook’s second Welsh act to date), Cardiff’s 60s pop throwbacks, The School. Put simply, the band are, at any given moment, reminiscent of everything you love about music. “Let It Slip”, with its handclaps and shoop-pop background vocals has the distinct ring of the early 60s girl groups (The Angels, Shelley Fabares). “And Suddenly”, a cover of a Left Banke song, is layered with Beach Boys-like harmonies. “I Want You Back” is the School at their Belle & Sebastianiest, reminiscent of the indie idols’ Dear Catastrophe Waitress era brand of tweeness with a hint of Camera Obscura. And “Kiss You In the Snow” would make a perfect centerpiece for an Indie Handbook Christmas compilation (if we were ever allowed to make one). I love love love this song. All of this is executed with a dash of Northern Soul and maybe even a hint of Glaswegian C86.

The albums. There is a 7-inch on bubble gum pink vinyl and another four track EP. “All I Wanna Do” was also included on the Rough Trade Counter Culture 08 compilation released back in February. So, there you go, three more reasons to resent the hip hop dominated American music scene and the skinny jeans indie hipster counterculture.

Visit them at theschoolband.blogspot.com and on Twitter and, of course, on MySpace. Seriously guys, you need to listen to this one, or we will never be friends.

P.S. How amazing would it be if we were allowed to make a Christmas compilation?! I am totally serious about this. Write your MP! Pester your congressman! Beg your favorite band (the nice ones, anyway)!

In many ways, the city of Glasgow is a driving force behind The Indie Handbook (and not just because I am of Scottish descent and not-so-secretly wish I could live there)–it is also the home of indie gods Belle & Sebastian (and one of my celebrity crushes, Isobel Campbell). No, this is not about Belle & Sebastian, seminal as they may be, you already know how fabulous they are. This is about fellow Glaswegians, Strawberry Whiplash, a band with one of the best names I have ever heard.

Strawberry Whiplash are Laz McLuskey (who writes the songs, plays the instruments, and also records as Bubblegum Lemonade) and someone named Sandra (who sings the songs that Laz writes). You probably wouldn’t actually have to listen to Strawberry Whiplash or see a list of their influences to have an idea what to expect, a photo of Laz with his classic red Rickenbacker would be sufficient. But for those of you not as presumptious as I am, think of that jangly C86 guitar sound with a Velvet Underground fuzziness (see also: “Factory Girl”, a musical homage to Warhol’s “poor little rich girl”, Edie Sedgwick).

The band is part of an impressive lineup on Santa Barbara’s own Matinée Recordings (including Bubblegum Lemonade, Cats on Fire, the Electric Pop Group, and the Hermit Crabs). I will probably refer to this roster a lot in the future. But right now, I am only concerned with the distinctive, cutting Rickenbacker jangle and Isobel Campbell-like vocals of Strawberry Whiplash. They have released one EP, Who’s In Your Dreams, all of which you can hear on their MySpace.

My favorite thing about Strawberry Whiplash: they are self-defined “part-time indie popsters” with real jobs, like we are, but we (much to my dismay) do not live among the Scots (and their intoxicating accents).

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