Tag Archive: indie music


New track – “Dead Rabbit Hopes” by The Shoe

The Shoe

Late last week, Jena Malone sent out (via Tumblr and Twitter) a link to a new song by The Shoe (her band with co-collaborator and improvisor Lem Jay Ignacio). The song, “Dead Rabbit Hopes” is a first look at the band’s new EP, coming out in late spring. And, upon listening, it seems to represent a pretty significant development for the band.

We’ve been following The Shoe for years. The Shoe has never been a celebrity vanity project (though you wouldn’t know that from the lazy print review I read in a magazine five years ago). The Shoe is a violon d’Ingres. The Shoe is a band. A band that had, up until now, always seemed to be built around the principles of portability and improvisation. (Perhaps you remember the song they sent us for Christmas a few years ago?) But “Dead Rabbit Hopes”, if it is any indication of what’s to come, is the work of a band taking a more measured approach. The result is still lo-fi, the lyrics still tinted with a touch of the surreal, but this is the work of a band who put their blood, sweat, and tears into their music (which, to be fair, is exactly what the tweet says). As opposed to their earlier EP, this is more reminiscent of Rose Dougall‘s earliest recordings post-Pipettes, or that first Parlours song I fell in love with all those years ago.

The new EP, apparently self-titled, will be released in the spring. No word yet on the format, or whether it will be released through Jena’s own label, There Was An Old Woman, which has handled almost everything up until now (The Bloodstains once had a 7-inch on another label), but I’ll be sure to find out as soon as I can.

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I don’t know how many of you were listening to Amazing Radio on Sunday afternoon. If you were, and you happened to catch the second half of Bethan Elfyn’s show, you may have also noticed the part where Beth took a break and some weird guy started talking about Dutch indie music. Well, I was that weird guy. In case you missed it and would like to hear it for yourself, you can listen again on the Bethan Elfyn Show page on amazingradio.co.uk (I start talking just before the 96 minute mark).

On the show, I covered some Dutch indie bands and one of my favorite Dutch labels. I only had time to talk about two bands, but if any of you remember our Dutch Week we had here a few years ago, you probably also remember that there are far more than two good Dutch bands. So, I promised I would write a post to highlight some of the other artists who, sadly, had to be left out of the final broadcast.

The first track I played was “Destroyers of Worlds” by The Sugarettes. Some of you may remember The Sugarettes from Dutch Week, at the time, they were pushing their first LP on Subroutine Records call Love and Other Perversities (a good album, which I still own, and one you should pick up). Earlier this year (March, I believe) The Sugarettes released a new LP, Destroyers of Worlds, which I’ve been listening to constantly for a couple of months now. If I were to pass judgment on it (which I will), I would say it’s a more mature work than Other Perversities was. They’ve really got the girl-fronted nerd rock thing down, and it’s working out nicely for them—kind of like if The Coathangers formed a Blondie tribute band. And if this sort of nerdy indie rock is your thing, you’ll definitely want to check out the various other projects The Sugarettes are involved with. Joep van Son has a few of them. We covered the boy-girl indie rock of The Very Sexuals a few years ago, but Joep is also a member of Nikoo a noise pop ensemble. He has also recently launched Waste No Fun, a collaborative indie pop project with Sydney-based illustrator Bas van Genugten, releasing a free lo-fi single every six weeks, which also offers limited edition prints of the artwork. The Sugarettes’ lead singer Mariska Louman also has a shoegaze-inspired band of her own called Iskaa and the Red Cars, who just recently released their first EP.

And while we’re on the subject of Subroutine Records, they have recently released the first LP from noise rockers Space Siren. When I first heard Space Siren a couple of years ago, they had only ever released a seven inch, and that several years before I heard them. I just assumed that they had disbanded. I never expected to see an LP from them, nor did I expect it to be so well-worth the wait. The band’s debut LP, Mr Wagner, Please Give Us A Call, is on the noisier side of the Subroutine spectrum, certainly more so than The Sugarettes, but it’s far from being noise for the sake of noise. There is almost a sort of shimmering violence with a glamorous tinge about the ten tracks that make up Mr. Wagner, which is apparent in the video for the single “Oh My God, Someone Killed Kelly”, for instance. It’s sort of a shoegaze ethos with a post-riot grrrl attitude (think My Bloody Valentine covers “I Think I’m Paranoid” by Garbage).

Of course, it’s an unfortunate reality of the guest appearance business that you never have as much time as you want (or even need), especially if you’re as prone to enthusiasm as I am. (Seriously, I’ve written 600 words so far, and only really talked about two bands.) And one of the most heartbreaking cuts I had to make was an entire label, namely Snowstar Records. For those who prefer the softer side of DIY, Snowstar is a great place to look (though not always—you’ll also find things like the mid-’90s inspired indie rock of Lost Bear). We covered the lo-fi electronic folk of The Secret Love Parade a couple of years ago. Since then, in February, the girls released their second LP on Snowstar, Mary Looking Ready, which builds promisingly on their previous work, achieving a fuller and more singular sound than ever before while still maintaining the relaxed, almost conversational feel of their self-titled debut LP.

Also on Snowstar, you’ll find the frighteningly prolific and equally talented I Am Oak, who seems to have a new single or album out every time I check the label’s Bandcamp page. Usually, turning out music at such a pace would send up red flags all over the place, but there’s something about I Am Oak that keeps me coming back for more. Maybe it’s the melodies and sparse textures. Or it could be the harmonies and haunting vocals. Very rarely do you see someone do so much with so little. Here is a the first I Am Oak track I ever heard, “Gold and Porcelain”, which you can find on this free Snowstar compilation:

Which brings us to Kim Janssen of The Black Atlantic, whose most recent solo record, a beautiful folk concept album called Ancient Crime, which draws on the character and ethos of the northwest of England, was released on Snowstar Records in March of this year. And, speaking of The Black Atlantic, I have to come clean and admit that they released a new EP on Beep! Beep! Records early this year which I have failed to review here or even make sufficient public mention of. Which should not, in any way, be considered a reflection of the EP itself, which is, in fact, absolutely gorgeous. If you were listening to the Bethan Elfyn Show when we played the title track “Darkling, I Listen”, you have, most likely, already figured this out. If you missed it, head over to amazingtunes.com or to the band’s website. You can listen to the whole thing there and it’s well worth your undivided attention. The five tracks on Darkling, I Listen fit together so seamlessly, they function best as a single piece of music, featuring all of the lush harmonies that were the hallmark of the band’s Reverence For Fallen Trees, Geert and company also make fine use of the sort dramatic, subito dynamic changes that characterize the longer form choral works of Arvo Pärt, for instance, and which jar the listener to beautiful and hypnotic effect.

I should probably start wrapping this up. Congratulations if you’ve managed to read this far. You actually have an attention span, which is an increasingly rare thing. (You’re practically a collector’s item!). There’s plenty more to cover, but I’ve already kept you too long. If you’re curious, go back and read some of those old Dutch Week posts. There are a whole lot of other tips and leads in there that I didn’t even bother to rehash in this post (as much as I would have liked to). But as it stands, I’ve already given you about a day’s-worth of music to check out, and that’s enough for one night.

Day two of Canadian Music Week and I’ve been glittered within an inch of my life by the Top Less Gay Love Tekno Party who, I am told by a man who caught a glimpse of my media wristband at another showcase earlier today, are Canada’s next top band. The folks at Rancho Relaxo likewise seem to share his enthusiasm. It’s the most energetic crowd I’ve seen all night despite the fact that it is 2:30 A.M. and Toronto has been awash with rain and freezing temperatures since I arrived 36 hours ago. In the end, I too was powerless to resist their wonky sex pop and fought my way to the front to experience my first Top Less Gay Love Tekno Party close up and personal with the rest of the glitterati.

[Download: Top Less Gay Love Tekno Party – ‘My Five’ mp3]

TLGLTP were a brilliant way to close my first full day at CMW, so much fun, in fact, that I left the show so full of energy that I opted to forgo a cab and walk 20 minutes back to my room through the steady winter rain. Day two began with the first of three days of Live Near Bellwoods living room sessions at the Toronto Institute for the Enjoyment of Music: a series of performances that proved to be so incredible, I’ll wait and dedicate a full week to them soon.

So, instead, fast forward a few hours and a few blocks to El Mocambo where a nice lady found my passport before I even realized I’d lost it and Familia (Maple Ridge, BC)—who bring so much soul to their hook-laden indie rock, it really ought to come with a warning label—played a blistering set with the tightest rhythms and powerful vocals I heard all night. It’s difficult to photograph a band like Familia, if I’m honest: far too easy to lose sight of things like focus and shutter speed with all that uncontrollable dancing and hip-shaking going on. So if my photos from this particular gig are a little blurry, I’m sorry. I couldn’t help myself. You’re just going to have to entice them down here to the States and out to Britain for a bit of a tour. Trust me, it’ll be worth it.

And, if you can, get them to bring Some Community (São Paulo, Brazil) along with them. As I learned Thursday night, the combination of Familia’s soul pop and Some Community’s art pop makes for one undeniably sexy lineup. I’ve talked about Some Community here before, but suffice it to say that they are even more fun live than I had hoped they’d be leaving a small but enthusiastic audience completely shattered by the end of their high-octane set. I don’t know why someone hasn’t signed them yet. All this band really need is a little exposure north of the Equator (an iPad advert, perhaps) and this band could do quite well for themselves here. And I’ll be honest with you, I’ve definitely got a crush on guitarist/bassist/occasional melodica-ist Gabriela Gonzalez.

[Download: Some Community – ‘Random Words’ mp3]

From El Mocambo, it was on to Rancho Relaxo to meet up with members of Yunioshi and Spaceships Are Cool for a bit of Icelandic sex on a Kaoss Pad in the form of Bloodgroup (Reykjavik, Iceland). Now, I don’t know if you can recall the last time you saw two nonironic keytars on the same stage, but I reckon it was sometime around 1987 (and I can’t even promise I was privy to it then as I was only 3 years old). But it’s a phenomenon I’ve witnessed firsthand and I can tell you, Bloodgroup play those keytars like the electro-rockstars they are and everyone within earshot lapped it up excitedly. And by the time the band had worked their way up to their Facebook hit ‘My Arms’ (from Dry Land) it was clear the capacity crowd was ready and willing to take it in all night long. But seriously, when the beats and nerdgasms flow in torrents from the stage like that, can you really blame them? I mean, I’ve never really given much thought to becoming a groupie, but for Bloodgroup, I might reconsider. Anyone feel like joining me in Reykjavik for Iceland Airwaves in October?

You already know how the rest of the evening went. (Hint: it’s up there at the beginning. See that neat time-displacement thing that I did?) At the end of a day like this, the only question really left to ask is, how is it even possible that anything could match this? The answer is ‘Friday’.

I’ve just been in Toronto for Canadian Music Week (more on that in the coming days), but The Indie Handbook passed a handful of anniversaries whilst I was away. The most timely of those being the anniversary of my first Dimbleby & Capper show. Now, I’m sure most people don’t mark the anniversaries of even the most memorable gigs they’ve attended, but I don’t have a whole lot to look forward to in my life and besides, there’s more to it than that. A few weeks ago, I sent a writer out to her first ever D&C show (the review will be available soon enough). Then, and this really is the most pressing issue, there is the matter of ‘Let You Go’, the new single being released next Monday on TAPE Records. I’ve been in love with ‘Let You Go’—as well as the B-side ‘Raise It Right’—since I first heard the rough cuts back in November.

At this point, it would be a waste of time for me to tell you how much I love Dimbleby & Capper or how confident I am that Laura Bettinson and her ‘Boy Band’ will be carving out a permanent niche for themselves over the next 18 months or so. But if you’re new to this D&C business, you can go back and read those interviews we ran last year and these other posts. But what the rest of you may not know, there’s still a good bit of that interview from one year ago that I never published. What better way to celebrate our anniversary than to let you read it, eh?

 

The Indie Handbook: You’ve been getting a lot of support from the BBC, haven’t you?

Dimbleby & Capper: Yeah, Huw Stephens, really, which has been fab, but—have you heard ‘Beautiful But Boring’?

TIH: Yeah, I have.

D&C: Well, that was a track that was literally a demo, and I hooked up with this producer Liam Howe—he’s doing all the über-pop stuff at the moment, Marina and the Diamonds—well, we hooked up a year or maybe two years ago and did that demo in, like, three days then suddenly (and that’s the beautiful thing about the internet, but also kind of irritating is that you lose control of stuff really quickly), but basically another blogger texted him and said you should play this and Huw Stephens checked it out. And then he played. And he played it every week, for the whole summer, every show, which is awesome, but also it wasn’t really ready for that. It was just a demo and I hadn’t quite—I was straight out of uni and we went straight on to do the Great Escape, we did Glastonbury, we did Latitude, we did a Maida Vale session, and I went over to L.A. on another project I’m doing and it was too much. I can’t imagine what it’s like when you get to the Ellie Gouldings where it just kind of runs, but even on that little level where you get played every week on a little specialist show and people are listening—and I needed a bit more time to figure it out, because I was just messing around with producers and suddenly realised that I can produce my own stuff—and I would prefer to.

That’s what I’m doing now. And I think some of the ‘Beautiful But Boring’ lovers have since gone Yeah, you’re alright…but then, alongside that, we’ve got a lot more people who are really into it. And there’s a few more things in the pipeline….I mean, I’m not really interested in the massive record label. Essentially, there will be a record at some point, but I have no doubt that it will be recorded before there is a record deal.

TIH: Until then, I suppose it’s just a matter of playing out and writing more and just generally soldiering on. What’s the best gig you’ve ever played?

D&C: The best gig we’ve played was probably Latitude. If you’ve got mates who are around you—like in London I’ll have a load of good mates—yeah, it’s fun, but it’s not really a challenge, but at Latitude, no one was there that we knew. And we were just quite lucky that it rained just as we went on stage, which meant that everybody—everybody—that was standing on the grass just poured in and stayed there for the whole set and they really enjoyed it. And we got so many new fans, just from that little 20-minute set there and people were really really digging it and that was the most satisfaction I’ve gotten out of a gig, because, like I said, you know there is no one there that you know, but you can tell that the energy is really good and that was really fun. And Glastonbury was fun, but not quite on the same level. It was a bit more…I guess there was a bit more pressure, which sometimes can ruin things. If everyone goes in thinking This is going to be amazing—you just don’t need that, really. You’re just going to play what you normally do.

TIH: Would you rather people came with no expectations—that you be something of an accidental discovery?

D&C: Well, I think that’s when people like it more, almost. I mean, it’s slow. The progress is slow, but every gig, we do seem to come away with people who are absolutely hooked and then others who just think it’s alright. But it’s cool. Like you say, there seem to be a lot of people who come and they’re really grabbed by it and some people who really get—well, there’s not a lot to get, really, it’s just a little fun—I think some people think we’re taking ourselves a little bit too seriously, but I really don’t mean to come across that way [laughs]. We’re just having a laugh. Some people really get it, and others—we’ll work on them.

TIH: Exactly. Just give it some time. What about these other side projects?

D&C: Well, the main one—it’s not really in any state of coming out or being released yet—but I’m doing a project with Nigel Godrich and a couple of guys from America (you know, the guy that does all the Radiohead stuff). So I’m doing a project with him that’s really exciting, really cool music. I really dig it, but we haven’t got—I mean, there are a few tracks there, but again, you don’t have the time to put in and finish anything, so there are about ten half-baked tracks there, some that are more like three-quarters-baked and others are only just started. It’ll probably come out when I’m about 25 at this rate. I’m hoping, and he’s telling me, that it will come out before I’m 23 and that’s next year.

TIH: How did that get worked out?

D&C: That came about because Nigel came to one of my solo gigs—which is weird—ages ago, at The Queen’s Head, in Angel. They were looking for a singer, basically, because they’ve got all these beats (they’re amazing musicians), these wicked soundscapes and they’re looking for someone to write over the top of them and that’s kind of what I do, you know. I start with a beat or a loop in general and then I write a song over top of that and add everything afterward. And we saw the method in that and thought we’d give it a go and it’s working out for the moment. So, we’ll see. And I spent a little time in L.A. with him in April last year, which was fun—a complete eye-opener—and then come crashing back down to Deptford in southeast London and the realisation that, ok, this is my life.

TIH: They are somewhat different places.

D&C: Yeah, but I love that. It’s this weird thing that one minute you can be the toast of the party…and then the next I’m back working my minimum wage job. The weirdest thing and quite funny, when I left L.A. in April, I landed back in London at Heathrow and my manager immediately called me up saying ‘How was it? Was it great?’ and I just thought 20 minutes before I left to get on the plane, I was in Beck’s swimming pool with his kids [laughs] and now I’m getting back on the Tube to come home. What is that about?

TIH: No doubt working with someone like Nigel Godrich is bound to be an amazing learning experience, but what about your other influences? I know it sounds like a loaded question—like I want you to pigeonhole yourself—but obviously you don’t exist in a musical vacuum.

D&C: I think, as a kid—well, as a teenager, anyway—I listened to a lot more Smashing Pumpkins (I was a bit of a grunger), and the Crocketts and Placebo and all those kinds of bands. I listened to a lot of Ani DiFranco, actually. I just listen to a massive range and I was—and still am, really—into all the Motown and soul stuff in a big way, which I think you can kind of hear in some of the harmonies that I put together. You get that a lot, they can be quite retro sometimes coupled with that kind of industrial crunch beat stuff makes for a kind of interesting combo. So, I listened to a lot of that, then I came across this band—I think they’re from New York originally, L.A. now—called White and the Writing, I think they might have actually split up, but I listened to them and I thought this is awesome. It’s kind of lo-fi but there’s really something in it, this melody—if you’ve got a good melody, you can put it over anything, really and it makes it stick. I’m a big fan of melody. And so now, I guess I listen to—I don’t know. You always find yourself, when you take your music more seriously that you don’t listen to that much stuff.

TIH: I hear that from a lot of musicians, actually, people who won’t listen to anything while in the process of writing or recording. I think, in listening to your music, I can hear a lot of diverse influences—not in the sense that it sounds like one thing in particular, but that it sounds like everything and nothing.

D&C: It’s like you put everything in a blender on a quite chunky kind of setting.

TIH: As if you’ve processed your entire listening background and poured it all into one place.

D&C: I think you’re bang on it, there. Yeah, because a lot of it is nursery rhyme-ish as well, some of the melodies are. I’ve got this one song, it’s called “Want This”. It’s almost afro—it’s got a lot of this African kind of feel to it, but also nursery rhyme-ish melody and, like I was saying, soul-like harmonies and this disgusting beat and it’s kind of—I don’t know. You get into your own bubble kind of, until you realise that it’s just me. I guess it will be interesting to see what other people think of it.

 

So, there you have it. Dimbleby & Capper—the whole D&C brand, for that matter—has come a long way in the last year. And now the rest of the digital world is falling in love with D&C like so many of us always knew they would. The added dimension of Tá Na Deptford to the D&C live experience is proving to be a fruitful and thought-provoking conceptual partnership. As far as traditional media is concerned, D&C is receiving some well-deserved attention from the NME these days, including the online premier of the new video for ‘Let You Go’ earlier this week.Things can really only get better from here. For my money, all the impending immense success couldn’t be more well-earned. And I’m thrilled to have been an insignificant witness to it all.

You can buy ‘Let You Go’ b/w ‘Raise It Right’ starting Monday, 21 March. You can watch the video and download these remixes now.

Those Dancing DaysI was supposed to be taking some time off, you know, working on that opera I have due next month and about a hundred other projects. But then this happens. And who am I to deny my favourite band to ever leave a note for me in a country where I do not live?

Yeah, that’s right. Those Dancing Days are giving away another track from their upcoming album, Daydreams & Nightmares. The new song, ‘I’ll Be Yours’, is more in line with the melodic pop of their debut while at the same time markedly more mature, both musically and lyrically. But I’ll have to stop myself there (after all, I’ve got to save some metaphors for the actual album review…). Why don’t you listen for yourself instead?

Those Dancing Days – I’ll Be Yours by Radar Maker

With each new TDD track I hear, it becomes more apparent that these ladies, young though they may be, are growing increasingly comfortable with the niche they’ve been carving out for themselves, all the while exceeding all expectations and setting new standards along the way. That’s certainly one way to drum up interest in the new album: one I look forward to with greater anticipation each day.

Daydreams & Nightmares is released 7 March on Wichita Recordings. Also head over the band’s website to check out their upcoming European tour dates (and cross your fingers in the hope that they play some shows here in the States in the not-too-distant future).

If you missed part one, ’tis here.

Allo Darlin’ (London, UK)

Following a string of well-loved singles with an album that has proven to be a favorite of indie pop fans across the world, Allo Darlin’ have been winning hearts everywhere they go, all the while making ukulele-fronted pop bands sexy again. The future is looking bright for Elizabeth Morris and company, especially with the backing of a stellar label like FortunaPop who hit it big in 2009 with The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. Don’t be surprised to see a similar surge for Allo Darlin’ in the coming year. And if you haven’t bought their album yet, you really ought to give it a go.

The Lighthouse and the Whaler (Cleveland, Ohio)

These lads from Cleveland spent considerable time building a following all over the eastern half of the US before making their debut in the state capitol with The Black Atlantic back in October to a Wednesday evening record store audience who instantly fell for their own brand of what you might call melodic prog-folk. And after watching them return to town just a month later and absolutely killing at their first proper Columbus headline gig to a captive audience at Rumba Cafe, it’s pretty clear that TLATW are a band that have to be seen to be believed. Luckily, their debut LP is an equally solid performance. So download ‘White Days’ for free here, then go out and buy the rest of it. And if you can, catch them live. They’ll be at SXSW and numerous other places, no doubt, as their stock continues to rise.

Download: The Lighthouse and the Whaler – ‘White Days’ [mp3]

My Gold Mask (Chicago, Illinois)

I first heard that My Gold Mask were one of the most exciting bands in Chicago from a sound engineer who I met after he caught me interviewing Emilie Simon at a Starbucks on the North Side. About a year later, an article in the Sun-Times named them among a list of Chicago bands on the verge of blowing up. I have to say, I think they’re right. In 2010, the band released two super-sexy EPs and landed some major support slots, including a few shows with the New Pornographers. Check out the EPs on Bandcamp where you can also download (for free) the remix of ‘Bitches’ by the fabled Hood Internet. And, of course, catch them on tour this spring.

Dimbleby & Capper (London, UK)

Dimbleby & Capper

It seems like I talk about Dimbleby & Capper all the time and, for the most part, it’s true. But I can’t help myself. Since we were first introduced in March of last year, Laura Bettinson has been busy taking D&C from a one woman band to a full-fledged DIY brand with it’s own unique aesthetic. The first single for Tape Records is projected to be released 31 March, hopefully with a full length LP will be in production in the not-too-terribly-distant future. Oh, and did I mention that Laura also happens to be working on a project with producer Nigel Godrich (producer for Radiohead)?

Islet (Cardiff, UK)

You’d be hard-pressed to find any official information about Islet anywhere on the internets, and that is because, antithetical to yours truly, they do not exist online. Anywhere. But they’ve building an enthusiastic following based solely on their near-legendary local live shows around the small but wicked-talented Cardiff scene, selling out of their first album and no doubt approaching capacity on the second (the first purchase I made on my first ever visit to Wales). And honestly, with a reputation like that, who needs a website? Grab one of their records while you can. You’ll be hearing from them again. (And again. And again . . .)

The Compressions (more on them later)

My calves, it appears, have gone on strike. I can’t say I blame them. I’ve subjected them to a great deal of work and odd photography stances the past two weekends, all in the name of local music. But with the combination of last week’s Pabst Blue Rendezvous and Independents’ Day this past weekend producing a combined 35 hours of the best independent music Columbus, OH has to offer, it punishment I am more than willingly to endure (so long as I am fit in time for Belle & Sebastian next month).

Super Desserts, as I’m sure you’ve come to expect, played two well-executed sets, one at each fest. Always the consummate professionals, the so-introduced “cutest band in America”, managed to woo the Independents’ Day crowd out of their pocket money despite a bit of questionable mixing from the sound booth and a noticeably thinner texture (banjo-ist Tyler Evans is currently on tour with The Black Swans).

Obviouslies at Pabst Blue Rendezvous

A week earlier, at Pabst Blue Rendezvous, Indie Handbook favourites Obviouslies played an adventurous and somewhat unorthodox set (1 guitar, 2 drumkits, 2 basses, 3 songs, 4 Obviouslies). I won’t go so far as to call their 30 minutes on stage a rampaging success, but I think I enjoyed it a little more than Columbus Alive’s Chris DeVille (more on him later). Obviouslies, never content to traipse about playing rock band, are always keen to try new things to varying degrees of brilliance. And such a laid-back event as the PBR fest with a beer-soaked audience of Columbus indie scene regulars willing to stand around in an abandoned parking lot through intermittent rainfall is the perfect place to experiment with an epic 10-minute number ending with three Obviouslies beating the drums and confirming, among other rumors, that guitarist Nick Schuld is a really good drummer.

Which reminds me, Obviouslies have added two new tracks to their Facebook page this week, including an absolutely brilliant recording of “Instead of Waiting” which I’ve been absolutely obsessed with since the moment it was posted. Listen to it. Relentlessly.

Pomegranates (bonus points for the Danelectro)

Other highlights from Pabst Blue Rendezvous included a great set from the Pomegranates from Cincinnati, who I had somehow not heard despite the fact that they’ve apparently made a bit of a splash with several of my friends, both in Ohio and at SXSW. It would be a great injustice if I did not also mention the brilliant Queen cover band Mr. Fahrenheit and the Loverboys. Of course, I had an appreciation for Queen before hearing MFL, but there is something about hearing the songs performed live by a solid group of musicians that injects a whole new vitality to the classics you grew up with.

Wonder Twin Powers (I suspect they don't always play with cars parked onstage)

Perhaps the most pleasant discovery of PBR day was local soul-pop duo Wonder Twin Powers who I encountered playing in the alley next to Mikey’s Late Nite Slice. Despite the fact that I had been on my feet for eight hours at that point and was comically exhausted, I managed to spend the rest of the evening standing in another parking lot listening to the sexiest band I saw all day (sorry, Loverboys). The lot filled quickly with passersby as Jenny Flory’s guitar case did with cash. I’d hoped to grab a copy of their CD to review for you, but those disappeared faster than I could crack open my wallet. Maybe they’ll send one my way if they read this. (If the internet is to be believed, Super Desserts cellist Alyssa Capps appears as part of the hip-hop orchestra on one track).

Unfortunately, road construction made me late for Independents’ Day, which meant I arrived just as the hotly tipped yet elusive (to me, at least) Lydia Loveless left the stage. Rumor has it that she is one of the most promising young talents in Columbus. Much to my dismay, I cannot confirm that from personal experience, but one of these days, I will catch up with Ms. Loveless and let you know whether or not the people in this town have any idea what they’re talking about.

Unfortunately, awesome is difficult to photograph

Flotation Walls

Speaking of “not to be missed” I did finally see Flotation Walls, who I’ve seen leaving several gigs (they’re hard to miss) though never managed to catch in flagrante delicto. They perform with even more energy and enthusiasm than their screaming-yellow stage attire suggests. The half-set that I witnessed was easily the most impassioned of the day and left the drenched in awesome. Hopefully, they record as well as they perform. Which reminds me: Compressions.

I had heard nothing of Compressions before last Saturday. I only stayed for their set because some friends were going. I had no idea what I was in for or that the girls clad in white and gold who I’d seen earlier would be on stage or that Chris DeVille (remember him from earlier?) would be up there, too. The band, I gather, have been around for a year or so. At the time of the last Independents’ Day, they had yet to play a gig. This time round, they took advantage of the event to launch their debut album. I was immediately sucked in—by the songs, the look, the energy, the crowd—by everything. In the end, they performed what proved to be the most memorable, electrifying show of the day in support of what’s proved to be a pretty good album. They’re certainly an act who put on a show not to be missed and your next opportunity to do so, as I recall, will be at Carabar on October 9.

As I’m sure you understand, there was a lot to take in and this post is by no means exhaustive. Head over to the Facebook page to see more photos from these events.

Justin Riley: action hero

Little My just a little while longer…

Little My's Ninth

It’s unfortunate that I came upon Little My too late in the game to amass the Collected Works along with the rest of you. Their plan to release a song beginning with each letter of the alphabet before disbanding is quickly coming to an end. To further complicate things, hard copies of most of their releases are now sold out, so backfilling isn’t even an option. Learn from my mistakes, kids.

The band, ablaze with some of the brightest lights of the brilliant Cardiff indie scene (this time including members of The School, Silence at Sea, and Gindrinker), is set to release their penultimate project, Little My’s Ninth on Monday, 22 February. This time round, the EP is available for preorder from Bubblewrap Collective (remember their stellar 12 Days of Christmas compilation?). However, if downloads are your thing, those will be available from most major distributors in late March.

Clocking in at just under 12 minutes, these four tweegaze pop gems (emphasis on the twee) feature the cheery melodies and often cynical lyrics you’ve come to expect from Little My. “Bears in the Air” is a good example of this, though my favourite track, “Upsticks & Carry On”, is a straight up boy/girl quirky ukulele tune (“Hey, which planet are you on now a million miles away? / I’ll use gravity and satellites to make you stay”).

This is one EP not to be missed, though I would recommend getting your hands on one soon, as only 200 copies will be made and few are likely to be left when the band play their last show in Cardiff next month (9 March).

Photo by Roelien (roelien.com)

So, I have one tiny, insignificant piece of news (if you can even call it news) to get out before we get down to business tonight. It’s not even important, really, but I figure if I make it public, people will be more likely to make sure I actually go through with it. Ready? I have decided to start a record label. (Oh, the irony…) And it’s just me on this one. Kristin has a life and stuff, but I don’t…no friends, no girlfriend, or much of anything cool like that. All I’ve got is time. So, for those of you who actually like the music we talk about here, well, I am going to do what I can to make it at least a bit more easily accessible. And if you’re an artist with some recordings you might be interested in releasing as a limited run EP on CDR, well, we’ll see…

Now, for music:

I have to say, I think Holland may be the greatest thing that ever happened to me. I wasn’t sure about that until this morning. Sure, In A Cabin With, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, and my friend Deborah are pretty amazing, but for some reason, I wasn’t convinced. But today, I had email from Matthijs van der Ven, who heads up a project called Onder Invloed (it’s bloody brilliant, and sometime in January, I will explain why). Anyway, as I was exploring Onder Invloed, I came across The Secret Love Parade. And I fell in love.

They’re two girls (Aino Vehmasto and Janna Coomans). They’re from Amsterdam. So far, so perfect. And they write “postmodern romantic pop” with synths and organs and guitars, blips and beeps and beats, charming melodies, perfectly executed Camera Obscura-ed vocals, and Philip Glass-y arpeggios. And as for the listening experience, I have to agree with the Onder Invloed analysis: “you’ll instantly feel better than you were before. Worries fade away, no more thoughts on all the things you still have to do before the end of the week….It’s the complete combination of the dreamy songs, instruments and voices which will get you careless in less than fifteen minutes”. I really couldn’t have put it any better. I’ve listened through their MySpace four times now, and I am ridiculously giddy.

Check out “My Secret Love Parade”, “Free at Last”, and “Always You”, then the other two tracks, then buy their album. (Don’t fight it. You know you want to. I want to. I also want to be their friend, but I am reasonably convinced that I will never be cool enough.) So maybe my affinity for this band isn’t so secret. But why should it be? I think we could all do with a little Love Parade every now and again.

Here’s a live video from the Amsterdam Songwriters Guild:

And here they are covering Midlake’s “Roscoe” as part of the Onder Invloed project.

Picture Perfect EP - Design by Jimmy with image from Gordon

Picture Perfect EP - Design by Jimmy with image from Gordon

Once upon a time, I told you about a band from Glasgow. No, not that one. Not that one either. This one. At the time, Strawberry Whiplash were coming off the release of their debut single “Who’s in Your Dreams” on Matinée Recordings. With it, Sandra and Laz (the same man behind Bubblegum Lemonade, also on Matinée), found an audience well prepared to be seduced by their brand of fuzzed-up C86. And now, this month, Strawberry Whiplash are back with their follow-up, the Picture Perfect EP (and, dare I say it, it nearly is).

Strawberry Whiplash reach a degree of excellence in the opening measures of this EP that few bands can even dream of and, even more impressive, manage to sustain it throughout all four tracks without ever becoming pretentious. Sandra’s vocals are hypnotic and intoxicating; delivered with such a straightforward, unassuming sweetness that the listener would certainly feel like the scum of the earth for turning a deaf ear. And yet, the fuzzy (at times, even crunchy) sound of Laz’s guitar, keeps things from ever turning saccharine.

And the Picture Perfect EP has the sixties stamped all over it. The title track features the perfect simple sixties drumbeat, reminiscent of just about every good song released from 1961-1965, whilst “Celestial” betrays shades of Strawberry Alarm Clock in between bursts of organ, a la The Doors. “Hay in a Needlestack”, with the prominent pairing of a glockenspiel doubling Sandra’s vocals on the refrain, is by far the pinnacle of sweetness on this EP. The EP closes with “Falling Through”, which is, quite simply, quintessentially Strawberry Whiplash.

I’ve been spinning this EP since Saturday. I must have listened to it about a bazillion times by now. At 11 minutes, this is not a difficult feat to accomplish, made all the easier by the fact that the band’s trademark brand of shoegaze-y C86 is particularly easy to swallow. My only issue with this picture perfect EP is that I wish it was longer; now that would be even perfecter.

You would be well advised to head over to Matinée and make your purchase as this release is limited to 1000 copies. However, if you’re the sort of person who likes to try before you buy, you can download the title track, “Picture Perfect”, here.

MP3 – Strawberry Whiplash, “Picture Perfect”

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