Indiepop’d dance party

I’m out of town right now on a whirlwind trip to Chicago and don’t really have the time to write a real post. So here are some videos to keep you entertained until I can sit down and write some of those year-end listy things that people like because they’re so easy to argue with.

‘Chicas De Oro’ is a newer one (November) from Guatafán, taken from the eponymous limited edition 7″ (another contribution to Elefant’s fantastic New Adventures In Pop series, which you may remember from last week).

‘Chicas De Oro’ limited 7″ (white vinyl, 500 copies)
1. Chicas De Oro
2. La Vida Me Sonríe
3. Examen Sopresa
4. Un Día De Verano

I think it’s fair to say that Vidulgi OoyoO are one of my favorite bands in the world right now (top 5, easy). They’re more of a rock band than most of the artists who usually end up in these Indiepop’d posts, but they still land firmly in that dizzying whirl of  shoegaze and dream pop, so they still qualify. According to this Chinese blog (which is quite good and [mostly] in English), they will often play full hour-long sets straight through without a single pause (though I cannot personally attest to this since a scheduling conflict prevented me from seeing them at Canadian Music Week). Until they come back to this continent, though, I guess I will have to remain content to lose myself in their many live performance videos on YouTube. Though, the more I listen, the more I think Vidulgi OoyoO may be enough of a reason for me to justify a trip to Korea.

And another Vidulgi OoyoO video, because I just can’t get enough.

This week, I was also introduced to the Girls In The Garage compilations. I don’t know why it has taken me this long to start exploring the long lost world of all-girl 60s garage bands, or even to realize that that sort of thing existed back then. But, if you’re like me, you know that it’s nice to be reminded that there are still all these amazing pockets of brilliant music you haven’t even explored yet. And to know that these girls could produce great songs without Phil Spector’s help is just an added bonus. So we’ll wrap things up with a couple of my favorite tracks from Girls In The Garage, vol. 1

The Chymes – ‘He’s Not There Anymore’

The Blue Orchids – ‘Oo Chang-A-Lang’


It’s about time you heard of The Joy Formidable

A Balloon Called MoaningScore: 93

I’ve owned The Joy Formidable‘s debut EP, A Balloon Called Moaning, for over a year now. Since then, I’ve embarked on monthly TJF listening binges, lasting up to a week at a time. So why have I waited this long to review one of my favorite albums of 2009? Throughout the year, it was only available to the Brits, Japanese, and savvy blog-lurkers with PayPal accounts (and they’d already heard the good news). But the EP has finally been set for an American release on May 4 (Black Bell), and it’s time the rest of these kids got educated.

It’s not fair to call A Balloon Called Moaning a “grower”, implying that, at some point in the past, I didn’t like it so much. If anything, it is the sort of monstrosity that evolves from great to phenomenal. I admit, there were times when I didn’t fully comprehend the genius of The Joy Formidable. I thought the opener, “The Greatest Light is the Greatest Shade”, was ok, but long and boring—that is, I did, until one day last summer, when it emerged from my subconscious (much like it does on the record) and planted itself at the forefront of my mind until I listened to it half a dozen times to satisfy my craving.

One of the great things about TJF is that they are a band that works on multiple levels. Constantly swirling among a sea of shoegaze fuzz is an innate pop sensibility, always melodic but never overbearing. Though other reviewers have suggested it, I think it would be a mistake (and contrary to their nature) to push the pop too far to the front. As it stands you could power most of North Wales with the amount of energy expended in any given TJF performance—a trait apparent in their live shows and recordings as well as select tracks at the heart of A Balloon Called Moaning.

So while A Balloon Called Moaning will make pleasant surface listening for most any shoegaze or dream pop fan, it is with more focused listening that the music really begins to shimmer in all it’s fuzzy brilliance. Listen, for instance, to the half-step guitar dissonances in the second verse and the double kick drum underlying the post-chorus (around 2:45) of “The Greatest Light…”. That moment comes across as the climax of the song until the final 45 seconds, with vocalist Ritzy Bryan repeating “happy for you”, propels the listener into a relentless four-song barrage including the EP’s three pitch perfect singles (“Cradle”, “Austere”, and “Whirring”) and the obsession-worthy “While the Flies”. The downtempo (and down-volume) “9669” offers a welcome respite before the band flip the fuzz pedal switch and unleash their final two tracks: the high-octane “The Last Drop” and “Ostrich” (which is as shoegaze-y as this band gets).

About a year ago, when I first suggested people keep an eye on North Wales-via-London power fuzz trio, The Joy Formidable, there were mixed reactions: our British constituency agreed; a good portion of the Americans were pissed that we were ignoring the great Grizzly Bear and stopped reading. Since then, they have toured with Editors and Passion Pit, played sold out shows in NYC, and are preparing a short US tour in early May (with a full-length album waiting in the wings). For those who have stuck with us over the last year, no doubt you’re not surprised by this. If you’re just now condescending to give us a second look, welcome back, hipsters! You’ve a lot of catching up to do.

I’m living in the future again

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.)