It’s good to see Pamplona, Spain’s Melenas returning with album number two. Their 2017 self-titled debut was a nice surprise that saw the band working in the realm of Flying Nun jangle with some additional guitar drone that brought to mind the Bats, Look Blue Go Purple and the Shop Assistants. It didn’t get much attention due to its Spanish-only release. Same for last year’s single Yo No Me Importa. Though both are out of print and going for semi-big bucks on discogs, so someone is paying attention. The new album Dias Raros which gets a US release courtesy of Trouble In Mind records should help get the group some more deserved attention and wider availability especially if you prefer hard copy music.
Dias Raros features some new facets to their sound. Lead track Primer Tiempo features great droning keyboards that evoke classic kraut influenced stuff and bands like Electrelane and Stereolab. Los Alemanes has similar hypnotic affects. The production and playing on this record sounds like it’s improved from their debut. The band feel more comfortable with different tempos and more space in their sound as is evident in songs like El Teimpo Ha Pasado and En Madrid and the guitar solo in 29 Grados. There are some great uptempo rockers here too. 3 Segundos, No Puedo Pensar and Ya No Es Verano are bonafide future jangle classics that even the most jaded indie rocker would find it hard not to nod along to. If you haven’t noticed from the song titles that everything is sung in Spanish, it is. But even with my rudimentary Spanish skills I find myself singing along to some of the choruses (probably incorrectly). If you’re a fan of the jangly Dunedin sound of 80’s Flying Nun and your Spanish is better than mine, you will too.
Barcelona based moody rockers Univers released their debut album last month. It is a soaring and fuzzy beauty full of cascading guitars and sullen vocals. They could be Spain’s version of Girls Names, southern cousins of early Cure or even Big Country minus the e-bow/bagpipe guitars. The band have flown under the radar here in the States probably because they choose not to sing in English and their records don’t get released over here, but you the savvy internet user of 2014 can find out about bands like this with the simple click of a hyperlink. They played SXSW earlier this year to little fanfare. I found out about them by fortuitously reading about them on Brooklyn Vegan and Cloudberry Cake Proselytism on the same day. I clicked a link, listened, and bought the record.
Even though L’estat Natural is all sung in Catalan , Univers speaks the universal language of big guitars and lots of reverb which is more than enough to make this record compelling even for non-Catalan speakers. The dual guitar attack and driving rhythms make it really chug along even if the slightly monotone vocals every once in while threaten to derail it. It’s a fun, solid album and recommended to fans of any of the aforementioned bands.
Mark Chester may be one of the most prolific fellows you’ve never heard of. He’s released three albums in past three years under his solo moniker the Dublin, Ireland based Ginnels(Ginnels, according to my Merriam-Webster is a narrow passage way between two buildings). His last album was the sprawling 20 song Crowns which Chester said was inspired by records like 69 Love Songs, Sandinista and Bee Thousand. The problem was that all of the releases were digital only with the exception of one which was also released as a cassette. If you release a record into the ether does anyone hear it? Sure, a few people do but is it taken seriously? Can you truly love a digital download?
Chester no longer has to worry about questions like those because the Spanish label Tenorio Cotobade has just released Plumes on vinyl. Plumes collects songs from all three of Ginnels albums and slaps them onto a big piece of plastic so you can consummate your love these songs which have much in common with the likes of the Apples in Stereo, Salako, Neutral Milk Hotel, The Bats, and the Clean. Chester seems to be a bottomless well of them too. It’s like Like some mad scientist injected him with a serum that produces highly melodic, introspective, jangly compositions. Chester though adds a touch of weariness to this formula that makes them hold more weight than your standard caffeinated New Zealand loving indie band of today.