A Sundbergian sliver of daylight

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.

Another record you can’t buy here, or “Why I am the indiest of them all”

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)!

Talk about a Joy Formidable

First off, The Indie Handbook is now on Twitter. So go, sign on and follow us. We will let you know every time we find something cool. Every time. (This is sanctioned stalking, you won’t get many opportunities like this.) twitter.com/TheIndieHandbk (mind the alternate spelling)

Now, there is one band that we two are particularly jazzed about (well, I think Kristin is jazzed, she introduced me to them, I am positively giddy):

The Joy Formidable.

You will likely read several posts about them in the future because I am delerious with, well, joy over this band. Their album A Balloon Called Moaning (in clever poster packaging) has been out for a few months and, around 5:07 on any given weekday afternoon, you can expect to find me stuck in traffic, blasting “Cradle” or “Austere” with the windows down. I will eventually have a review of the album for you, once I can decipher the lyrics.

I received word today, however, that their third single, “Whirring”, will be out 25 May on 7″ vinyl. The single (along with some nice extras) is available for pre-order now. I’ve placed my order. You had best do the same, the first two singles sold out, I believe. You can watch the official video for “Whirring” (which is brilliant) on the band’s MySpace or their YouTube channel, but here is a live performance I am particularly fond of. I once went to a Los Campesinos! show that ended like this. It must be a Welsh thing. I love the Welsh.

Death to Los Campesinos!

Imagine that Belle & Sebastian and Tilly & the Wall got together and one thing led to another, which led to septuplets; and imagine that those children grew up with no friends, only a Sugarcubes record and a glockenspiel. If you can get past the absurdly crowded delivery room, you may begin to have some idea what to expect from Los Campesinos!(MySpace) debut LP Hold On Now, Youngster. And, really, there is no way this should work. But somehow it does.

Perhaps a few examples are in order. First: glockenspiels have never been rock ‘n’ roll (though, now that Envy & Other Sins have apparently included one in their upcoming album, I may have to rethink that). For that matter, neither has the melodica. Apparently, no one told Los Campesinos! this, because even when doubling the lead guitar on tracks like the frantic opener “Death To Los Campesinos!”, the thing manages to hold its own. Second: 43 minutes of lyrics like “This is how you spell ‘HAHAHA, we destroyed the hopes and dreams of a generation of faux-romantics.’ And I’m pleased” (and yes, that is also the title of the song) should not leave me with a ridiculous smile on my face. It is a juxtaposition of cheery pop (sort of) and cynicism worthy of the best of the early Cardigans.

And thought Gareth’s lyrics can be a bit, shall we say, abstract, e.g. “If you catch me with my hands in the till/I promise you that I wasn’t trying to steal/I’m just swimming in copper to smell and pretend like a robot.” (from “Death To Los Campesinos!”), they read more like Charles Bukowski with an attention span than what passes for lyrics among the more radio-friendly set these days. Add to that a lead guitarist whose repertoire extends beyond the realm of power chords and the result is really is something special—a nice change from much of the new stuff I’ve been encountering lately. Yes, two tracks did appear on the EP Sticking Fingers Into Sockets (“Don’t Tell Me To Do the Math(s)” and “You! Me! Dancing!”), a good 30 seconds have been added to the latter and the other nine songs (ok, 10 counting the bonus track) are well worth the investment.

Track List:

  1. “Death to Los Campesinos!” – 2:52
  2. “Broken Heartbeats Sound Like Breakbeats” – 3:35
  3. Don’t Tell Me to Do the Math(s)” – 3:22
  4. “Drop it Doe Eyes” – 2:44
  5. My Year In Lists” – 1:51
  6. “Knee Deep at ATP” – 2:49
  7. “This Is How You Spell “HAHAHA, We Destroyed the Hopes and Dreams of a Generation of Faux-Romantics”” – 4:20
  8. “We Are All Accelerated Readers” – 2:54
  9. “You! Me! Dancing!” – 6:48
  10. “…And We Exhale and Roll Our Eyes in Unison” – 2:50
  11. “Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks” – 4:31
  12. “2007: The Year Punk Broke (My Heart)” [unlisted bonus track] – 4:44