Life is a Lion’s Den


I never thought I would hear a band that combined the spazzy pop bliss of Neil Armstrong with the primal pop eccentricities of the Intelligence. Where would I actually look for something like this? The internet of course. Sweden’s Lion’s Den could more succinctly be described as garage pop but that’s too easy. The  songs on the trio’s self-titled debut LP seem to have a dry take on the mundane and acidic world (“Waking up is the bitter side of life” and “Denial is my therapy”), but they’re so darn catchy that they still make you feel like a 100 bucks.

It’s got some surfy sounding bits, some rockin’ ones,  a few eccentricities and  lots of adrenaline.  And at ten songs in about 20 minutes it’s  a perfect record for these anxiety laden and distraction filled times. Put it on and let it take you for a spin. You’ll be back in 20 minutes, in time for whatever is you didn’t really need to do.

The album is out on Lazy Ocotopus.

Checking In With Top Sound

Have you ever wished you could jetset back to 1964 and relive the bossa nova heyday? Or maybe you are a more practical dreamer and wish that the High Llamas still wrote pop songs. Maybe you just choose to sit at a Cafe Blue all day long and sip out of tiny cups while daydreaming about trips to Aja. Whatever the case, Sweden’s Top Sound have got you covered with their debut album.
It had been two years since the virtual single that they released on the Friendly Noise web site. I assumed the worst, figuring that they would never do anything else. It’s good to be wrong. Top Sound resurfaced earlier this month, self-releasing their debut album.

In case that single slipped by you in all its stealthy virtualness, both songs are reprised here on their self-titled album. A Matter of Precision has not lost any of it’s impact and still reminds me of the Style Council at their best, and Francophilie still brings to mind a jazzier Stereolab. Of the new songs, my favorite is Idiot City. It has a syncopated beat and an air of sophistication to it, but features lyrics like: “Now the rain is pouring down all over town and that’s good cause people throw up on the sidewalks.” I love a little juxtaposition in pop music.  A close second for album favorite, is the well done One Letter Bossa which brings the band’s bossa nova leanings to the forefront.

Those are the standouts in my mind, but other like Your Summer Was Over In June and Ruin a Good Thing ensure that there are no shortage of great songs on this album and more than enough to make it one of my favorites of the year. A thoroughly delightful record that doesn’t pay attention to current trends which makes it stand out all the more.

Stream: Top Sound

Together Alone

I missed the first two EP’s put out last year by Göteborg, Sweden band the Isolation, but with EP number three, I am now on board.  Not that the first two EP’s were lacking, au contraire, both are packed full of quality bliss fueled songs, heavy on the jangling and distorted guitars, and breathy, sighing.  Somehow the band hasn’t reached critical mass in blogland, which is kind of surprising since they draw on obscure references cherished by likes of people like myself.   What obscure references you may wonder?  The singer sounds like Alan McGee from his Biff Bang Pow! days and the music ranges from early Church to House of Love to Stone Roses to Ride to Razorcuts.

EP number three was just recently put up for download by the band on Pirate Bay, the same thing they’ve done for the previous two.  Call me old fashioned, but somehow I feel like I should pay for music this good.

mp3: The Isolation – Drop (from EP 3)

mp3: The Isolation – Decade (from EP 2)

mp3: The Isolation – Dancing Away (from EP 1)

Fine Arts Showcase Make a Dolophine Smile

The Fine Arts Showcase

Gustaf Kjellvander and his Fine Arts Showcase return in March with album number four and it’s a return to singing his own songs.  Previous album Fine Arts Showcase Sings Rough Bunnies was an entire record dedicated to the primitive genius of Swedish garage band the Rough Bunnies, it was great, but didn’t feel like a proper Fine Arts Showcase album.  Not so this time, Gustaf is back with 10 new songs and a proper FAS album.  It’s been deemed a breakup record by Gustaf himself, who apparently broke up with his girlfriend while writing the songs for the album.  At one point the working title of the record was Capitalism Hates the Fine Arts Showcase because they were having trouble raising the cashola to record it, but they reconsiderd and are calling it Dolophine Smile.    One of the songs from it , Friday On My Knees  is currently available on a 12 inch from Adrian Recordings and another one has been made available as a free download.  The album according to the Adrianne website is out on 25 March, but It’s a Trap says it’s out next week on 18 February.  While you’re guessing which one is correct, here’s London My Town.

mp3: Fine Arts Showcase – London My Town (from Dolophine Smile)

The Return of the Single of the Week and the Legends

Buying a Legends album is a proposition that require some degree of a leap of faith. Reason being, is that you can pretty much guarantee that it will sound nothing like the previous record. Their first album Up Against the Legends was a slice of C-86. Second album Public Radio was all minimalist, deep, and dark with melodic bass like early New Order, Cure and Felt. Then album number three, Facts and Figurines went all light and synthy euro disco. So if you’ve followed the legends at all, you can pretty much guarantee that the album number four is not going to sound like the last one.

So what can you expect from the Legends for their next album?  According to sources, main legend Johan Angergård is in desperate need of noise and  is holed up in the studio surrounded by effects pedals and broken amps creating new kinds of distortion for the next Legends record. As a primer, they have a new single called Seconds Away which is being offered up on 5 November from Labrador records. It’s a welcome return to familiar territory of the first record. Pop songs honey drenched in squealing feedback like the Jesus and Mary Chain made de rigeur on Psychocandy specifically,  Never Understand and Living Inside Me. Ear piercing feedback will fill your head throughout most of the song, but there’s a point mid way in it where the distortion falls away and gives way to a melodic bass line like the ones Adorable use to do.  With Seconds Away, The Legends have dialed it in to near perfection.

mp3: The Legends – Seconds Away (from the upcoming Single on Labrador)

No Synthesizers, No Drum Machines

When we last heard from Luleå, Sweden’s Park Hotell they had just released their Guest Who Stayed Forever ep. On that outing they were using synthesizers and sequencers. That was over a year ago, and it seems in the interim the band have gone totally organic, emphatically stating that their new album contains no artificial ingredients as in synthesizers and drum machines. They’re about to release their first album on Ultra Radio Records. It’s produced by Jari Haapalain who, when he’s not playing guitar for the Bear Quartet, produces albums by the likes of the Concretes (S/T first album) and Ed Harcourt (Strangers) and Camera Obscura (Let’s Get Out of this Country). Haapalain not only is twiddling knobs for Park Hotell, but he’s also plays drums on the record in lieu of a drum machine.

Whenever I hear Park Hotell I can’t help but be reminded of the under appreciated Close Lobsters, and Dead Ringers, the first song they’ve released from the new record is no exception. The song starts off with singular pounding drums that quickly builds into a ringing anthem. The soaring vocals and sharply jangling guitars are nicely topped off with backing vocals from Taxi Taxi! twins Johanna and Miriam. You think that the dizzying chorus is going to be the best part of the song, but just before the end the manic jangle of guitars turns into a Big Country type e-bowed guitar solo that will have you reaching for the repeat button, like I have done so many times with this song. Bring on the album!

mp3: Park Hotell – Dead Ringers

Sad Day for Puppets, Happy Day for Me

Sad Puppets

How do you find new music on the cacophonous internet? Do you sit back a wait for it to come to you from a few select sources, do you have a complex RSS reader to feed you, or are you just well connected and know the right people? Maybe it’s a little of all those and some others. Me, I just wonder aimlessly around reading a lot, listening to a lot, wasting a lot of time essentially. Yesterday I was doing what I do, reading other blogs, It’s a Trap specifically and came across new Swedish band Sad Day for Puppets. It was the shoegaze tag that initially caught my eye, I’m a sucker for that tag. After listening to them, I wouldn’t really say they’re shoegaze, but more of a Mazzy Star, Mojave 3 or Concretes kind of vibe with their slightly country sound and the precious vocals of Anna and Annika Eklund.

There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of information about the band, but when you’re new I guess you don’t have much of a history. Judging from the picture I’d guess that Anna and Annika are identical twins, or they’re just sisters with the same haircut. I can tell you that their debut EP is called Just Like a Ghost and is slated for release in April on Swedish label HaHa Fonogram home of Radio LXMBRG (not to be confused with Welsh group Radio Luxembourg). For now you can head on over to their MySpace page and check out four fine songs with very strong pop sensibilities and start counting down the days to their April release.

myspace: Sad Day for Puppets