Archive for the 'Indie Pop' Category

Melody’s Echo Chamber – Crystallized

Melody’s Echo Chamber is the project of Frenchwoman Melody Prochet. She was in a band called My Bee’s Garden, which opened for Tame Impala somewhere along the line. She got together with Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker, who helped her rework her own sound and produced her first album. The first four tracks on the album are really the winners, and this is my favorite of the bunch.

I hear a lot of different things going on here. Stereolab/Ivy are obvious comps because of her French accent, and of course it’s easy to say that this is Tame Impala with a female singer, but I don’t think that’s all that accurate or fair (admittedly, the bass line here kind of seems lifted from Tame Impala’s Runway Houses City Clouds). There’s a bit of Krauty/Motorik feel in parts of the album, and there’s sort of a 60’s pastiche that’s reminiscent of Broadcast, though I realize it’s not all that surprising that an act that gets compared to Stereolab would also get compared to Broadcast. There’s also a bit a shoegaze feel to much of the album, and quite frankly I don’t know that I’d associate Broadcast with shoegaze, but your mileage may vary. Anyway, I think this was probably one of my favorite songs of 2012.

Ultra Vivid Scene – Special One

For some reason I had always thought this song came out when I was in college, but I’m seeing an album release date of 1989, with the single released in 1990. It got to #14 on the U.S. modern rock charts. This song disappeared from me for a long time until I finally ran across the album ‘Joy: 1967-1990’ at a used record store somewhere, probably Lou’s Records on Pacific Coast Highway in Encinitas.

Ultra Vivid Scene was basically Kurt Ralske, and from his Wikipedia page, I get the impression that he was more an artist who dabbled in a number of things, including music. The background vocals you hear are indeed Kim Deal, formerly of the Pixies, and probably futurely of the Pixies as well.

Smith Westerns-Varsity

I am going to begin a series here that was inspired by Seitz’s link to Parquet Court’s “Stoned and Starving” in his post on their songs “Master of My Craft” and “Borrowed Time”. The theme is great songs that have more than a whiff of indie rock Master’s Thesis about them. Songs whose sound is more than a little derivative and possibly extremely derivative or otherwise a very obvious Frankenstein of influences. This song is the most subtle about its influences in the series, and I think that this song most transcends the amalgamation of sounds. This is a laconic, loping track that I would easily put in the ear noodle category. It is hard to say where the hook is and the first few times you listen, the song is elusive in that it goes about its way without being obvious about its twists and turns. It is a romantic, wistful tune that has a sort of opaque delivery. Something about the pace says OMD to me, but not nearly as overtly emotional as that, and instead almost a barbiturate-laced Elephant 6 vocal, some Cure guitar at points, but it flits and flutters away. Seitz has posted about Smith Westerns previously, and I think this song is phenomenal, so it is unanimous around here about these guys.

Eleanor Friedberger – Stare at the Sun and When I Knew (live)

Yesterday was one of my most anticipated days of the year, as it marked the release of the new Eleanor Friedberger album, Personal Record. Her first album, Last Summer, was one of my favorite albums of 2011, and in her live shows supporting that album, she previewed some of the material that would make up the new one, including the two songs posted today. This is, yet again, a coming attractions post. Eleanor will be at the Empty Bottle this Friday, June 7th.

Eleanor’s solo work is irresistibly catchy. It’s basically the poppy songs that the Fiery Furnaces used to produce without all of the weird Matthew Friedberger stuff. She co-wrote most of this album with John Wesley Harding. These are probably the two catchiest songs on the album.

I’ve liked the Fiery Furnaces for a long time, but I went totally into the tank for Eleanor when I saw them in June of 2010 at the Empty Bottle. My brother had flown in that morning from Anchorage for the Angels series at Wrigley Field, and he came to the show with me that night. The Fiery Furnaces hit the stage and played for an hour straight. And I mean straight, as in no breaks, not to say thank you, not to retune, not for applause. It was an hour long medley of about 25 different FF songs, with all of the crazy key and time signature changes that entails, and they didn’t miss a note. It was incredibly impressive. After playing a three song encore, the crowd began clearing out. By the time we made it to the door (which couldn’t have been more than 30 or 45 seconds) Eleanor was already sitting at the merch table. She was really sweet to talk to, and she complimented me on my Super Furry Animals t-shirt. It’s nice to listen to someone make really good music and also know that she’s a really cool person.

Below is the song that was my favorite “new” song from her live shows last year, When I Knew.

Bad Veins – Gold and Warm

This would be another in the Coming Attractions series, as I just completed a purchase of tickets to see them on June 20th at a small venue down the street from me called Beat Kitchen. I’ve seen them once before when they opened for the Joy Formidable at a larger venue, and I just missed them one other time when they opened for the now defunct The Subjects a couple years ago. In my own defense, I missed them because the Angels were playing the Red Sox in the playoffs and I wanted to see as much of the Angels game as possible before leaving.

I was encouraged to get into these guys by the music writer for Chicagoist, Jim “Tankboy” Kopeny, with whose brother I attended law school. Their hook, aside from catchy melodies, is the third member of their band, Irene, a large reel to reel player. Lead singer Benjamin Davis also will occasionally sing into an old telephone, which produces a really cool sound in a live setting.

This song is from their self titled first album, which was released in 2009. They subsequently released an EP (Outliers). Their follow up album, The Mess We’ve Made, was released last year. It’s a little more slickly produced than the first album, maybe a little more poppy, but still shows the songwriting craft they displayed on the debut. Gold and Warm is my favorite song off of the first album.

Foxygen – Shuggie

I kind of had a hard time deciding between this song, San Francisco, and No Destruction. I went with this one because it features a few different styles. These guys are basically ’60s revival, but where the Brian Jonestown Massacre are doing the Stones, Foxygen is heavy into the Kinks and Donovan. They’re a couple of guys based in L.A., and if you’re in the right mood, their stuff is really good. Though it’s kind of hard to tell whether they’re sincere or maybe a bit affected.

They’re playing Pitchfork this year, and because I thought the lineup on the whole kind of sucked, it served as a good motivator to listen to bands on my radar that I hadn’t yet made time for. As a result, they’ve become one of my new musical obsessions. I’ll probably post another one of those on Wednesday.

St. Rosa and the Swallows – The Thermals

A second straight “Coming Attractions” post, and get used to it, because there are a bunch of shows coming up in the next few weeks. I first saw the Thermals at the 2009 Pitchfork Festival, where, if memory serves, they played on the East stage in between sets from the Walkmen and Grizzly Bear (might have been before the Walkmen, in fact it probably was). I was going to just see the Walkmen and take off, but ran into some friends and stuck around. I didn’t give them much thought until their 2010 release Personal Life, which I didn’t love. But that’s OK, because I dug into their back catalog, and these days I probably listen to The Body, The Blood, The Machine at least once a week. They’re probably one of a handful of bands I’d currently call “my favorite”.

They’re playing Lincoln Hall tomorrow night (5/16) and I’m really looking forward to hearing them play in that space, because aside from the production on their first album, More Parts Per Million, their sound is pretty clean, and Lincoln Hall has absolutely tremendous acoustics. So far I’ve only seen them at festivals and at Logan Square Auditorium (not a great place for a show, but probably a great place if you’re looking to hold a Quinceanera for your 15 year old daughter). They’re a little too power-poppy to be punk, and a little too punk to be power-pop. But their stuff is almost all up-tempo major key, which means it’s more or less like aural crack for these ears.

Car Crash – Telekinesis

The first of many “Coming Attractions” posts that can be found at SotD in the near future. Telekinesis will be at Lincoln Hall in Chicago on Thursday night, where I’ll be seeing them for the first time. Telekinesis is basically Michael Benjamin Lerner, though the lineup will be filled out for the live tour (Rebecca Cole of the Minders and Wild Flag will be on keys).

I’m not sure how best to describe Telekinesis other than it’s fairly generic indie rock. Like if you were putting together a presentation and you needed an example of a band that exemplifies the genre, this would be a good choice. Maybe they fall a bit on the power-pop side of things. Lerner is from Seattle, and I definitely hear some Nirvana influences, but not on the production end of things. It’s not really retro (unless ’90s is retro), garage, experimental, lo-fi, or any wing of indie rock. Sort of like Metric if the lead singer were a guy, or maybe Ted Leo just taken down a notch or so.

This is from the second album 12 Desperate Straight Lines, which is probably my favorite of their three so far. They recently released their third album, Dormarion, which is also pretty good. It’s very accessible stuff that may not really linger forever, but it’s fun while you’re listening to it, and I have a feeeling it will sound good in a live setting.

Smith Westerns – Weekend

This is the first in a series of “Coming Attractions” posts for me, though I suppose in actuality, most of my posts here are in that vein.

This is a Chicago band, so I can never tell if the all of the buzz is local, or indie nationwide, but I know they’ve had some Pitchfork love. I caught a bit of their set at the Pitchfork Festival this year, but I think we were waiting for Neon Indian to start, so we probably weren’t paying attention, and quite honestly, it didn’t sound that great. Also, I don’t love their first album. And of course, you’d be justified in pinning the P4k praise on their willingness to appear at the Festival.

But I gave in to the hype and gave the new album Dye It Blond a try and I was sold about 15 seconds into this track, which leads off the album. I mean, those are some seriously great hooks in that first guitar part. Really all of the guitar work on this album is phenomenal, and the production values are pretty decent, making the whole thing fun to listen to. They sound like a cross between the happy and druggy eras of the Beach Boys.

They get another chance to impress me at the Empty Bottle in a couple weeks. They wouldn’t be the first band I hated at Pitchfork but subsequently loved in a proper venue.

The Drums – Me and the Moon

Take your pick. the Smiths? the Ocean Blue? the Cure? Anything else for the late ’80s/early ’90s? Regardless, for those that like music from that period, I’m just happy that people still make music that could have come from that period.

I saw these guys a few months ago, and they weren’t really on my radar much before that. They played a double bill with Surfer Blood. They opened the 7:00 pm show and headlined the 10:00 pm show. Due to two distinct groups of friends, and the fact that a ticket to early show got me into the late show, I stayed through both (I also saw New Pornographers earlier in the day as part of my lunch break, making it a five set day)[PP adds- I worry about Seitz- he is a MACHINE]. Everyone I was with bought tickets for Surfer Blood. Everyone I was with walked away loving the Drums.

There’s an Apples in Stereo song called “She’s Telling Lies”. The Pitchfork review said that song didn’t so much rip off a Beach Boys song as much as it ripped off their whole catalog. I feel that way about the Drums vis a vis the late ’80/early ’90s Britpop scene. That said I love this album and the EP that preceded it. I chose this song a) because there’s a video and b) because I think it best exemplifies their affinity for that period. Enjoy.

[PP adds- I am afraid to listen to this song because I will love it instantly or my soul will recoil from the shameless pilfering of my treasured anglophilia]

A Selection of Fuzzed Out Retro

I have an incredibly soft spot in my heart for the retro “girl group” sound. The spiral through time of this sound as it gets more and more derivative reminds me of One Hundred Years of Solitude and how things are slightly different but kind of the same.

I don’t know who first pushed the fuzzed out 60s retro sound, but I think that Suicide’s first album had the feel and sound and warping that must have influenced the giants coming next.

Suicide-Cheree

The Jesus and Mary Chain-Just Like Honey

But of course we are most in love with the next wave, that mix the above aesthetic with the Ramones speed and pop, but the fuzz and scuzz of above. Later Primitives recordings went the cleaner, shinier route.

The Primitives-Stop Killing Me

Hugely on the music snob radar now that their particular blueprint is being used for mechanized girl group indie fuzz pop destruction, Blac Tambourine really establishes perfection here. Untouchable.

Black Tambourine-Through Aggi Off the Bridge

Here is a forgotten track from cleaner retro proprietors, Adventures in Stereo.

Adventures in Stereo-Running

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Now we have the new new retro retro wave. As the world should know, I love The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. This particular selection is not fuzzed out, but organ plus beat plus chimey is straight down the road of what we are discussing today. I note that many of the songs on their self-titled are fuzzier.

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart-The Tenure Itch

This next one is all over the web. Amanda had it at Pandagon, and Tbogg has it as his “gone fishing” video* *no comment? It is so good that I can’t fault its extremely derivative third or fourth wave nature, but I feel odd about the meta nostalgia for the first and second waves of nostalgia. What I enjoy is that certain pop songs that were once revolutionary, once invented, become timeless. Instead of being the new innovation on the block, they’ve become like selling vinyl to the kids, kind of like Coelacanth ear candy, living fossils.

Dum Dum Girls-Bhang Bhang, I’m a Burnout

What’s In It For? – Avi Buffalo

AC Newman name dropped this band in a Pitchfork guest list, which they’re apparently doing by podcast now. That’s a good thing, because they played part of the track in background, and it sounded pretty good, so I sought it out. I’m not sure if I like the whole album yet, but this song hit me pretty much right away.

So far the best descriptions I’ve read are “Built to Spill teaching Grizzly Bear to jam” and “Like the xx raised on a diet of Built to Spill and the Shins”. I’ll admit that Built to Spill was the first band that these guys brought to mind, maybe because of the high pitched voice. This is another band out of Southern California. Long Beach this time, instead of Silverlake, and they sound a bit more beachy than bands like Foreign Born and Local Natives. More San Francisco-y. They also kind of remind me of Generationals (who are awesome, by the way), in that it’s a updated version of a fairly classic or oldies sound. Enjoy.

Out of the Blue-Julian Casablancas

Perfectly baroque new wave guitar pop dominates Julian Casablancas’ semi-ignored debut Phrazes for the Young. The album itself comes across as perfectly harmless and songs are relatively, but effortlessly bouncing in and out of different ideas. This one comes across as a country/New Wave hybrid with some cleanly Strokesy guitar- guitar that was never punk or new wave, but almost pop metal. One of four or five really good songs on the album (River of Brakelights, 11th Dimension, Tourist, Left and Right in the Dark). I’m glad I finally got it.

When They Fight, They Fight – Generationals

Generationals are a band out of New Orleans who will be touring this Spring with the Apples in Stereo. Their tour mates will probably give you an idea of what they’re going to sound like. Hooks and melodies so sweet they make your teeth hurt. But in a bit of twist, they’re also totally retro. This song has sort of a late ’50s Motown feel to it. Pinko ought to love this stuff.

I’m including a link to their Myspace page because, while I’m loving this album, I think the first song “Nobody Could Change Your Mind” is probably my favorite, and I can’t find a good embeddable version. So click the link and go listen that one too.

They’ll be at Lincoln Hall in Chicago on April 30th. Really looking forward to this show, even though it will be the second show for me in the same night. Never pulled that off before, but Los Campesinos! starts at 7:00, and this show doesn’t start until 10:00, so I should be able to swing it.

Telephones – The Headlights

Don’t know too much about this band (Seitz???), but I like the happy retropoppy feel of what I’ve heard. I think the sound is probably closest to Los Campesinos, but I do alert the readers to the super awesome organ at the beginning of this song, and the almost sense that they are going to be doing an extended Boy with the Arab Strap outro. This is super fun music. I would probably want to dance to this, especially the parts that get more into Arcade Fire territory.

Possum Dixon – Watch the Girl Destroy Me

[PP Ed note- I also kind of love this song from back in the day, and even if Pitchfork uses this to pigeonhole the shit out of us, I don’t care- we have editorial freedom at 3B. Date us away. Make fun of the flannel we never wore!]

A radical departure from El Seitzo at SOTD. For once I’m not posting a song from a recently discovered artist/artist of the moment. This is from an album I bought at some point in the early 90s. In fact, I may have had this on cassette, and then later picked up a copy on a used CD, but to this to day it is one of the most underrated albums I own (along with probably Chance from the Rave Ups). I think I got it at a used CD fair at UC Riverside at some point after my freshman year.

This album kind of sounds like a combination of Violent Femmes (contemporaries) and Art Brut (just kids at the time), one of which I like, and one of which I love like few others (that would be Art Brut).

This is the best of a bevy of fantastic songs. The album is chock full of great stuff from art rock, to Dick Dale style surf guitar, to power pop. Unfortunately, they tried to get serious for their second album, it wasn’t as good, and that was pretty much that. Rob Zabrecky is now a magician performing at the Magic Castle. But every so often I cue this album up in the ‘ol iTunes, because it’s really pretty fantastic from start to finish. Standout tracks include Nerves, In Buildings, Regina, and Elevators, in addition to the track below. Especially Regina and Elevators. But this song is just a terrific straightforward pop song. Enjoy!

Checking In, Checking Out – The High Llamas

Sean O’Hagan has been a large, yet somewhat unsung part of two of my favorite bands. He’s done a lot of work with both Stereolab and the Super Furry Animals. In fact, if his best work with SFA (“Frequency”, from the album Love Kraft) was available on Youtube, I’d be posting that instead, but such is life.

So having heard his name over and over, I decided to check out the High Llamas a few years ago. And while it’s taking time to get myself sold on the whole catalog, the first song I ever checked out was this one from a collection of b-sides and rarities. And since being all “Beach Boys-esque” is really cool these days, I figured this was a good time to post a Sean O’Hagan song.

But seriously, search for and listen to “Frequency” by SFA. It’s probably my favorite SFA song, and the strings are a huge part of that. Or, in the alternative, if Pinko will let me send him the track to do the plug-in thing, I can do that too.

The Boy With the Arab Strap

One of my favorite songs ever. This version is exceptionally good. While it is quite similar to the album version, in this case the execution of such a facsimile enhances the feeling of vibrancy and connection. Certain songs can make your spine tingle a bit when you hear a live version that hits the tiny parts that you treasure, and because you are hanging on waiting for those brief moments, when they arrive they are that much more powerful.

Key aspect of this version is the faithful reproduction of the outro, which can be ad-libbed in other renditions. Also the volume gets pretty low on the album fade out so it can be very hard to catch, but here it is right there.

Modern Art – Art Brut

This is the first in a series. The series will document songs that I didn’t care much about until I saw the song performed live, after which the song totally blew my mind. I won’t give away the others just yet, but the first is Modern Art, by Art Brut.

Let me first explain that if you’ve never seen Art Brut live, consider yourself deprived. I’m no aficionado, but I’ve seen somewhere between 100 and 150 live shows, and never have I seen a band that delivered a performance more fun than Art Brut. They recently played a five night residency in Chicago, and I was lucky enough to catch them twice at Schuba’s, a venue that holds less than 200 people. My only regret is that I didn’t buy the five night pass. They were that good. Fortunately I’ll be on vacation in L.A. next week, and I’ll be catching them yet again at Spaceland in Silverlake.

Modern Art, off of their first LP Bang, Bang, Rock and Roll was not a stand out track for me, until I saw them last Monday. Eddie Argos, master storyteller, walks into the crowd, back and forth, putting a tremendous strain on the guy manning the microphone cord. But he wants us all to really understand how much he loves the blues of David Hockney (I do too) and the pieces of Matisse. It’s a head banging, crowd rocking four minutes.

Their latest album Art Brut vs. Satan is something I simply can’t stop listening to. Don’t let the spoken word lyrics get you down. Yes, that is his real singing voice, it’s not irony, it’s not rock and roll. They’re just talking….to the kids. The musicality is fantastic and fun. In fact, I think F.U. and N. are the three best letters that describe Art Brut.

Michael-Knock Knock

Sactown bar band power poppers. Pandora popped this one out a couple of times, and I was first struck by a little bit of Wrens-y “Surprise Honeycomb” guitar weaving through, but then the boy/girl double tracking popped in and the woo-ooh-oohs and I just thought it was quality Spring-time pop. It builds toward the end. For some unclear reason I am reminded of Imperial Teen. Also, I am intrigued by the mystery of why Mr. Michael seems so guilty.