A few days ago, in an attempt to find something new to listen to in the car, I pulled out a few Brazillian bossa nova CDs I grabbed when Tower Records closed it’s Chicago stores in 2007. I loved them at the time, but, to be honest, I haven’t really given them a second thought since June of the following year. Now, I don’t put much stock in these things (even if I did watch My Dinner With André last night), but when I opened my email the following morning to find a trio of new Elefant EPs, including the newest single from Giorgio Tuma with Lena Karlsson (Komeda), it was almost as if my sudden inclination to revisit my post-collegiate Latin leanings was meant to prepare me mentally for the present single. The two-track EP is the Italian songwriter’s third Elefant release and reflects strongly the instrumental influence of Latin jazz, Sergio Mendes, and the various Gilbertos with seventies soul harmonies and the glitchy charm of Stereolab.
Also currently available from Elefant is a 10-inch mini-LP, If Words Could Kill, from Leicester indiepopsters The Silver Factory, a follow-up to their first EP released on Elefant only a few months earlier. The band, though named in honor of Andy Warhol’s pop arthouse, is far from a rehashed Velvet Underground. Clearly rooted in the British Invasion (see “I’m Alright”) is likewise decidedly steeped in ’80s indiepop (Close Lobsters; Soup Dragons). Really, it sounds like the kind of record you might expect to find on Matinée (which is just my subtle way of saying that this is the sort of thing that will appeal to fans of Math and Physics Club). Drop the needle on this one, and it’s only a matter of seconds before you’ll feel the overwhelming desire to don your favorite wool jumper and stare at your shoes.
While I think it has been fairly well-established that a great many Elefant releases will ultimately prove to be something special, occasionally, a release leaves even me stunned. Try as one might to write them off as just the latest in a string of girl groups built by male songwriters to recapture the ethos of a bygone era (e.g. Monster Bobby and The Pipettes), there’s something particularly irresistible about The Yearning. Created by songwriter/producer Joe Moore, The Yearning’s aptly titled EP, Jukebox Romance, was recorded in a cupboard underneath a staircase in Moore’s home. But where other such groups with similar origin stories seemingly aim to conjure up Spectoral shades, The Yearning recall a time when mad old Phil was just another Teddy Bear. So much so, you half expect singer Maddie Dobie’s boyfriend (no doubt the spit of James Dean) to hop on his Triumph and go skidding off of Dead Man’s Curve. In fact, the legendary screeching tires sound effect even makes an appearance on “Boy Racer”. In fact, for the most part, Jukebox Romance is doo-wop down to the “shoo-wop-doo-wah-oo” background vocals and spoken interludes, right up until the moment “Don’t Call Me Baby” has a passionate fling with a James Jamerson bassline. (And all of it with that misty hue you find wherever British artists adopt American vernacular styles.*) Where The Yearning are concerned, I think the first track on Jukebox Romance says it best: “You Make Lovin’ You Easy” and I can’t exactly say why (—well, I probably could, but that’s a topic for another time). Jukebox Romance is available now from Elefant Records.
*This is not a bad thing. It’s not even easy to explain. It’s just what happens—sort of like the way every time Americans touched C86, it turned into grunge.