Archive for the 'Power Pop' Category

Mikal Cronin – Change

Strangely enough, it’s not that often that I leave the Pitchfork Festival with a new act that I really want to explore. It either usually takes a while to go back and check something out (Art Brut and The Thermals are good examples of this), or I’ve done my homework beforehand and I head to the festival with new favorite acts that I really want to see, like Foxygen and Parquet Courts this year. But there wasn’t a whole lot going on Friday, and we stuck around the Blue stage to see Mikal Cronin, and his set was really good.

For some reason I’m turned off by one name acts (as in, just the dude’s name, and not a band name), with some exceptions. It sounds too singer songwriter-y to me, and I have this aversion to singer songwriters (again, with exceptions). This is true even though I know that most “bands” are basically one person and whoever that person can get to tour with them. But whatever category Mikal Cronin falls into, the music is pretty good, and the album is worth checking out.

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.

Car Radio-Spoon

Pandora birthed this effortless Spoon guitar triumphalism it’s so easy everything is perfect we are Spoon suck it talentless audience were are awesome Spoon who are you you are sad yeah I am but Spoon doesn’t even break a sweat it is so easy hey want to be pals really yeah wow you we be pals with me yeah we are Spoon we love everyone doesn’t everyone?

WARNING: Fan video.

NOTE: They won me over with the ol’ glass of milk gambit. Plus Spoon.

I Need Direction – Teenage Fanclub

A year or so ago, a post came up on some site (maybe this one?) where PP admitted to listening to this song. This is arguably my favorite Teenage Fanclub Song. From the melody, to the bridge, to the Ba Ba Bas, it’s perfect pop music.

This is a band that I’ll admit to not really getting at first. They had a song or two that I liked, most notably Starsign and I Don’t Know from Bandwagonesque. But the singles (The Concept and What You Do to Me) just sounded boring and repetitive. And without a good background in the genre, this is a band that may sound hit or miss. But like the Posies, after spending a lot of time listening to Big Star, everything sort of makes sense. This song is probably the best of the group from this era that includes Ain’t That Enough, I Don’t Want Control of You, and Accidental Life.

Anyway, thank PP for this one. Sorry for the choppy version. The album track is better.

Testament to Youth In Verse-The New Pornographers

Many people will not like this song because of Dan Bejar’s voice, which I guess I can understand, but Geenie C. hates if for a different reason, the reason most people think that this song is altogether excellent. She hates the fact that the bells, they ring, and that they ring no no no no no no no no no no, and they do so in a like million part round. Here’s Geenie C.- “I GET IT. The bells FRACKING go NO NO NO NO NO. MOVE ON.” Wow, super harsh. Anyway, the last minute is great, and GC will freak her shit out if she watchs this because it is a random Harry Potter fanvid from You Tube! Hee hee. The point is the song and the very negative yet awesome bells. Listen for the delightful Neko Case and her wonderful voice going “Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh” at the end like the coolest, most refreshing drink of water imaginable.

Down in the Valley – The Broken West

This is another band that had name trouble at some point, so they now record as The Broken West. I think they used to be called Brokedown or something. They are opening on Sunday night for the Walkmen at Schuba’s (a very brave second show of the evening for the Walkmen).

This is off of their first full length I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On. It’s sort of powery pop with a little bit of grunginess around the edges. But the whole thing is pretty accessible melodically, which should be a nice counter to the Walkmen, who I believe are kind of an acquired taste (outside of maybe “The Rat” and “Little House of Savages”).

This song didn’t jump out at me as the best of the lot the first couple of times I listened to the album, but the more I listen, the more this one stands out. No videos yet, except for some live stuff on Youtube. Here’s the Pitchfork review. Enjoy.

Studio track:Live Version:

Money City Maniacs-Sloan

Another Sloan song, the band a collection of Nova Scotia popsters. There is a time you start to like them and then you just do, and it is hard to really convince anyone why you do. I love them, but they don’t strike me as awesome. They do however give birth the the Three Bulls! mantra in this song. “If you admit that you were wrong, we’ll admit that we’re right.” Word.

Juicebox – The Strokes

I never understood the backlash against the Strokes. Yes, they are popular and routinely hailed by useless emus as being the saviours of rock and roll. Whatever. Their music rocks and is extremely tight. It’s basically hook after hook and before you know what hits you, you’re grooving to the music.

Their newest CD, First Impressions of the Earth is solid through and through. There are perhaps some overly ambitious tracks, and it plays a little less like a greatest hits CD than Is This It, but it features some tremendous tunes.

Juicebox is probably the most distinctive single from the new CD. It plays half like an ode to Henry Mancini’s Peter Gunn theme and half like an ode to Rush. I think the Rush part is better. In fact, the chorus of the song, which is sweeping and Radioheadly dramatic, almost borders on prog. But fear not, the song is not proggy. It rocks with an effective repeating couplet structure.

The video is interesting. I think they thought that David Cross alone would make the introduction ridiculously funny, but it’s too cliched. Stroke performing Juicy Juice. How droll. Maybe that’s the point, though. Everything in the video is cliched, especially the hot girl-on-girl action and the, um, doggie action. Still, it’s a rock video at heart. If it weren’t for the Strokes backlash, I think more people would have listened to the new CD, and would better appreciate its high quality.

Underwhelmed (live)-Sloan

So several things about this Canadian geek rock ANTHEM. 1) Uncanny got a sunburn on the right side of his face from the massive hotness of the young woman adjacent to his person. She practically molested him with her heaving, perfect, geek-rock adoring bosom. No seriously. Her complete and perfect aesthetics made you feel like you were on television. She didn’t look real. 2) Thundercats boy in the crowd gets to play on the track, but cooly acts “like he’s been there before”. Thundercats dude, this is downstairs at the Middle East, you can cheeze-dog it up! Come on!! Do you know who is watching???? Also, the woman oppressing Uncanny with her totally awesome Britrocking bod at the Doves/Elbow show we went to one time may have been even more amazing, save for the cloud of cobag emanting from her smokery. I don’t know how the Uncanny One does it.

About the song, you should really listen to the words. The tears of 1200 Sadly,No! snarky boys went into this tune (lyrics reproduced below).

It’s just so g*ddamn*d true. Sigh. Geek boy am I.


She was underwhelmed, if that’s a word
I know it’s not, ’cause I looked it up
That’s one of those skills that I learned in my school

I was overwhelmed, and I’m sure of that one
’cause I learned it back in grade school
When I was young

She said, “You is funny”
I said, “You are funny”
She said, “Thank you”
and I said, “Nevermind”
She rolled her eyes
Her beautiful eyes

The point is not the grammar
It’s the feeling
That is certainly in my heart
But not in hers

But not in hers
But not in hers
But not in hers
But not in hers

We were talkin’ about people that eat meat
I felt like an ass ’cause I was one
She said, “It’s okay,” but I felt like
I just ate my young

She is obviously a person with a cause
I told her that I don’t smoke or drink
She told me to loosen up on her way to the L.C.

She skips her classes and gets good grades
I go to my courses rain or shine
She’s passin’ her classes while I attend mine

While I attend mine
While I attend mine
While I attend mine
While I attend

She wrote out a story about her life
I think it included something about me
I’m not sure of that but I’m sure of one thing
Her spelling’s atrocious

She told me to read between the lines
And tell her exactly what I got out of it
I told her affection had two F’s
Especially when you’re dealing with me

I usually notice all the little things
One time I was proud of it, she says it’s annoying
She cursed me up and down and rolled her R’s, her beautiful R’s

She says I’m caught up in triviality
All I really wanna know is what she thinks of me
I think my love for her makes me miss the point

I miss the point, I miss the point
I miss the point, I miss the point
I miss the point, I miss the point
I miss the point, Hey mister

Your Kisses Are Wasted On Me – The Pipettes

First things first, the name of the band. It isn’t really possible that this English girl group might be talking about devices used to transfer liquids, is it? I mean, I love pipettes – especially the P20 ones. I’m guessing, though, that they thought it would be a cute little variation on pipes (the voice kind), but all feminized and cutesy. Doesn’t matter. Points for a good band name.

Just watch the video, which can be found here. In fairness, I found this track through our nemeses at doucheforkmedia, and their review of the track is pretty good. So read that instead of whatever inanity I come up with. But it’s all about the chorus. Holy sh*t, it’s good. It’s what would happen if the Go! Team worked on Unchained Melody. And better. The wall of sound™ is so good. Pinko should like this track, although I don’t know if the ’80s-obsessed kind will care for it. It’s new music for an older time.

[Alternatively, video is right here -ed.]:

Ageless Beauty – Stars

Canadia has produced a lot of very good power pop. There’s really nothing cultural about the music scene in Canada to suggest to me why this is predictable, but the number of bands like Sloan and New Pornographers and Stars – well there must be more than just three of them – impresses.

Ageless Beauty is the standout song from the latest CD by Stars, Set Yourself On Fire. The song catches your attention from the very beginning with its driving descending power chords and the prominent girl/boy harmonized chorus proclaiming “Ageless Beauty”. That’s all I need. Everything else in the song is great and interesting. This includes a subtle chorus of Woohoo that you have to listen for and some funky reverb effects. Lyrically, the song consitutes a most beautiful defiant poem, words available here.

This is a great song, and you don’t need to take my word for it, since you can legally download it here. The rest of the CD is somewhat uneven, with about three other excellent tracks, and others good, but not memorable. I like this band. I will probably think about getting their previous CD, Heart, since I am no longer so queasy about the topic.

Update: Here’s the vid!

16 Military Wives-The Decemberists

The Decemberists are one of the most original and fun pop groups out there. Their music is whimsical, poetic, and exuberant. So why not, of all the bands out there, write something political? This song is harshly cynical, but it’s marked by the one of the most upbeat and catchy songs they’ve written. There are so many good parts in this songs: the horns, the la di da di da refrain, and the New Pornographers power pop arrangement. I also like the numbering of events. For example:

16 military wives
32 softly focussed brightly coloured eyes
17 company men of which 12 will make it back again

The other interesting part of the political message of the song is the complicity of the media with the foul and diseased US foreign actions. Nobody is spared in this song: celebrities, liberals, and everyone of us. Which is only fair.