A Pop for Gourmet

Pauline en la Playa (Siesta Records)

Now, on to an Spanish indie duo that’s been around for about 10 years.  Pauline en la Playa, or Pauline at the Beach (yeah, I took Spanish 1 in high school!), emerged from the 90’s all-female pop group the Undershakers.  According to their website, sisters Mar and Alicia Alvarez decided to begin their new project, Pauline en la Playa, to bring other musical styles into the pop genre and to incorporate what they were learning at the School of Creative Music in Madrid, especially jazz styles, into the creative process.  I think you’ll find that throughout the 10 years of their existence, they have certainly succeeded.

If I had to stuff Pauline en la Playa into a genre, it would probably be more along the lines of indie folk than indie pop, with hints of jazz/blues.  The creativity is quite reminiscent of Regina Spektor, but with a wider range of instrumentation; for instance, in several of their songs, you’ll hear accordion, recorder, various string instruments, and saxophone.  The end of “Esos Besos” actually sound Celtic, to my ears and occasionally I get hints of the Amelie soundtrack.  In any case, I think you’ll enjoy the lovely sound of Pauline en la Playa, which has achieved mellow without losing the fun.  And, if you can understand the lyrics, I have a feeling you’ll enjoy them even more.  They have lots of albums out to choose from–Nothing Like Home, Termites and Other Things, Frogs Storm, Syllabary, and Baggage Physics, which came out this year.  (Excuse the English.  Google Translate became my friend this week.)  You can also start with their myspace page, which in my opinion is a very good place to start.

Guatafan is Spanish for Twee!

Happy Fiesta Roja!  I have discovered that language has made Fiesta Roja very different from last year’s Dutch Week.   The bands we covered during Dutch Week sang primarily in English; the bands I’ve been listening to from Spain sing primarily in Spanish.  It makes doing research on the bands a little more difficult, but I think it adds something interesting to the listening experience.  Coming from a classical background, I’m used to wordless music.  But generally, when lyrics actually do exist, they exist for a reason and play an important role in our understanding the work as a whole.  Then again, I’m really enjoying listening to these Spanish indie bands even though I don’t know Spanish–the emotion behind the music speaks for itself, and while understanding the lyrics would be helpful, it’s not necessary.  I guess if anything can barrel past a language barrier, it’s the arts.  I’m rambling.  Your thoughts?

Moving on, I am ecstatic to present you with Spanish twee!  Guatafan is from Valencia and seems to be brand spankin’ new, from what I can gather.  Don’t they look adorable? Maria and Suso make sugary sweet bubblegum indie pop, even more so than She & Him–think more along the lines of the School.  Their first single “Cucurucho” debuted on the Elefant Records compilation, “New Adventures in Pop,” which is a nice little compilation of songs by up-and-coming groups that need an outlet and MUST be heard!  While Guatafan hasn’t released any albums yet, I encourage you to check out their myspace page for their stuff and “New Adventures in Pop” for their stuff + other cool stuff.  If you’re looking for great summer music, you’ve found it.  My recommended tracks are “como un fan” and “la merienda”.

La Fiesta Roja

Well, there it is. The World Cup is over. I am already experiencing withdrawal symptoms. I am even going to miss the droning of the vuvuzela (I say that now, though I will likely change my tune Wednesday night at the Columbus Crew match when I am sat in front of a row of eight-year-olds vuvuzeling their little hearts out). I think we all can admit that it wasn’t the most beautiful game ever played, but Spain have won and etched their names on the cup for the first time. More importantly, however, that means it’s also Spain Week at The Indie Handbook (which we’ll call La Fiesta Roja until someone who actually speaks Spanish can come up with a better name). It’s only fair, really, since we’ve already had Dutch Week once.

Of course, the easy way to do this would be to work our way through the Elefant Records roster. But I am determined to actually put some effort into this, which is why we are going to get things started with Barcelona’s Nitoniko. If there’s one thing I’ve learned since Andrés Iniesta notched his game-winner in the 116th minute, it’s that the Spanish have a serious gift for melody (get used to the idea, because it’s going to be a recurring theme this week), and Nitoniko are no different.

Their album, Selva de mar, is full from start to finish of ultra-catchy, super-singable synthpop in the vein of robot rockers (and personal favourite of mine) Joy Electric. If you can listen to Nitoniko without the slightest urge to drop what you’re doing and dance around the room—well, then I pity you. But why don’t you go ahead and give it a try. You can download Selva del mar for free on Bandcamp.

So, what are you waiting for?