The Pale Lights debut album Before There Were Pictures was recorded by at Marlborough Farms by Ladybug Transistor’s Gary Olson. Head Pale Light Philip Sutton who has been in Comet Gain and more recently the Soft City, employs the help of Crystal Stilts bassist Andrew Adler to play guitar and solicits the talents of the Stilts Kyle Forester for some keyboard flourishes. Come to think of it, is is nearly a Cinema Red and Blue reunion minus Comet Gain’s David Feck.
Sutton who was also the Cinema Red and Blue drummer gets out from behind the drums and is front and center with his jangly guitar and friendly croon. The album picks up where their four song self-titled EP from 2012 left off. The album breezes into the room like a long forgotten friend. The elegant maudlin pop that the band excels at evokes bygone classics like Felt, Brilliant Corners, Lloyd Cole and Biff Bang Pow! Like an old friend, you feel like you already know these songs and you kind of do if you are a fan of these other bands. If you don’t it’s time to make a new friend. Say hello to the Pale Lights!
Crystal Stilts at Barboza, Seattle | 15 October 2013
Crystal Stilts played to a dark room with blurry images projected onto a white sheet at the back of the stage last Tuesday night at Barboza. They seem like a band of recluses and would probably prefer to perform in complete darkness. Front man Brad Hargett still seems a bit awkward as the center of attention and guitarist JB Townsend still likes to lurk in the shadows, but there was just enough darkness and just enough light in their performance to make it great one.
They lunged into their set with Spirit in Front of Me the first song on their new album Nature Noir. It owes more than a little to Velvet Undergrounds‘s I’ll Be Your Mirror and All Tomorrow’s Parties. In fact, Crystal Stilts sound one Nico short of becoming the VU. I doubt Hargett would take it as a compliment, but his monotone is closer than I thought to Nico’s , so maybe all they need is banana.
The new album doesn’t have any obvious singles, but it is their most accomplished and varied record yet. It sees them deftly using strings on a few songs making it reminiscent of the Bunnymen‘s Ocean Rain in parts which is new for them. Of course they didn’t have a string section this night being so far away from home, but they didn’t really need one. The band were in a zone. With the lights off and the focus on the music, the band were shadows on the stage and they liked it that way. The set mixed favorites like Crippled Croon, Sycamore Tree, and Love is Wave in with the new slower more confident sounding songs like Star Crawl, Future Folklore and Worlds Gone Weird. This night was by far the best I have ever seen the Stilts play.
The band still come off as tenuously comfortable on stage, but this time the awkward tension was softened by the dark and intimate confines of the venue. Some bands wither with age the Crystal Stilts continue to lurch into new dark psych corners and scramble new cloudy nebulous heights both on record and in person.
Frankie Rose & Dive at Neumo’s, Seattle | 25 April 2012
Many of the reviews of Frankie Rose‘s second album Interstellar have been about how it was a huge leap from her lo-fi roots. Previously when I saw Frankie Rose a few years ago at SXSW just prior to her releasing her debut album Frankie Rose and the Outs, she was mostly still feedback and distortion. Live she may still have been reveling in reverb, but on record she had already begun to shed a lot of her Shit Storm-Vivian Girls-Crystal Stilts past. On Interstellar she continues on that same trajectory, employing the services of dance producer Le Chev to push her even further into new realms. Interstellar is steeped in 80’s Cure records and current day Swedish pop which itself is heavily influenced by those same Cure records.
Wednesday night at Neumo’s Frankie appeared wearing a black puffy pirate shirt that could have been borrowed from one of Prince‘s Purple Rain entourage. She brought with her a solid band who had no problem recreating the icy sounding pop from Interstellar and slightly transforming the songs from her first album into shimmering celestial bodies similar to their Interstellar brethren. She seemed much more at ease as the frontperson compared to when I saw her a few years ago, talking about inane things like the rain and threatening a Sister of Mercy cover between songs, but doing it in a very likeable way. She’s an expressive singer, you can tell that she believes in her songs and delivers them with an excitement and intensity that is engaging to watch. She had a bunch of reverb on her vocals, but I don’t think it was there to hide anything, just to make her voice sound bigger which it did quite well. Her encore of Pair of Wings may have been my favorite song of the night. Songs like Know Me and Had We Had It are the ones that grabbed my attention from listening to the record at home, but Pair of Wings which was written by her former Shit Storm band mate Wu Li Leung, transcended those 80’s Cure records and delved into Abba-esque stratospheres and left me with an entirely new perspective on her already stellar Interstellar.
Dive who are fronted by Beach Fossils guitarist, Kurt Cobain doppleganger and oversized sweater wearing Cole Smith are on tour with Frankie Rose serving as designated openers. On record so far, Dive sound very similar to Beach Fossils, but live they veer more towards instrumental guitar jams that remind me a little of Mogwai. Smith sings, but it wasn’t the focus. Live, Dive are all about the guitars. The twin attack was good for a few songs, but it seemed like every song went for the same trick which after a few songs, wasn’t so much of surprise. They’ve got something good to build on and I’ve liked their singles to date. It will be interesting to see if their album due in June on Captured Tracks can sustain the excitement generated from their initial singles.
A year end albums list is kind of a strange thing, especially when it’s one person compiling it. Since this blog is a committe of one, it can become quite capricious. In all likelyhood I wrote about some records this past year that I was overtly enthusiastic about at the time. Now the end of the year rolls around and some of those records are not on the list. “What gives?” you might ask. It’s hard to remember which label flew me to Tahiti and which one comp’d my CMJ this year, so I may have forgotten to include a few records that I thought at the time were great. These are the records that left an impression on me over the course of the last 12 months, paylola or not…
1. Destroyer – Kaputt (Merge)
Was this record flying in the face of fashion or swimming in it? These days I can never tell. Dan Bejar controls the vision of Destroyer and I have been following his erratic course for years, but nothing has ever grabbed hold of me like Kaputt did. Up until this point the minimalist keyboard focused Your Blues had been my favorite Destroyer album. That album from 2004 subtly evoked Prefab Sprout, Blue Nile, Microdisney, and Felt, but Kaputt goes hook line and sinker for that sound and comes up with the huge treasure of the “big music”. Do not be afraid of the saxophone (the Waterboys weren’t)! This record evokes a time in music when highly stylized, heart on the sleeve pop was de rigor in some parts of the world. Even if you’re old enough to remember it, Destroyer do it in an entirely new and fresh way. mp3: A Savage Night At the Opera
2. Total Control – Henge Beat (Iron Lung)
Total Control march to the beat of a different tune, one that will floor you. At least it did me. Eddy Current Suppression Ring’s Mikey Young and Daniel Stewart of UV Race combine to fabricate Tubeway Army, the Fall and Neu! If you dare listen to this record it will totally control your life. mp3: See More Glass
3. Sweet Bulbs – Sweet Bulbs (Blackburn)
Sweet Bulbs can bend a guitar with the best of them. They sound like they’re torturing their guitars the way the Swirlies, the Lilies and of course My Bloody Valentine. Like all great bands, they broke up after making their first album. This is it, but don’t fret, they are now called Heaven’s Gate. So the magic is still happening, only under a different name. mp3: Kissing Clouds
4. Veronica Falls – Veronica Falls (Slumberland)
Was a time when a record like this would have been on a major label. Pop songs that are so immediate and infectious that labels would have been falling over themselves to sign them. The world turned upside down a few years ago and bands like Veronica Falls sign to indies like Slumberland. If you dig the Bats and Wedding Present jangle of yesteryear, then I guarantee you will not be able to say no to this maelstrom of a record. mp3: Bad Feeling
5. Wild Swans – The Coldest Winter For A Hundred Years (Kitten Charmer)
Wild Swans in their initial incarnation released one seminal single and then disbanded. In their second incarnation they released two so-so albums. You might think that after one reformation that the next one might be worth sitting out, but they don’t say the third time is a charm for nothing. The Coldest Winter For A Hundred Years is full of bitterness and pining for a better idealized past. A quest to return to those days is vividly chronicled here and makes a Wild Swans that far outshines anything from their past. mp3: Chloroform
6. Sea Pinks – Dead Seas (CF)
This jangly record with simple songs that cut to the quick seemed to keep popping up on my turntable and on my headphones. Girls Names drummer Neil Brogan got his band-mates to back him up on Dead Seas, and in my opinion surpass their other band. That of course is a matter of opinion, Girls Names are no band to be sneezed at. Sea Pinks songs subtly evoke the Smiths while sounding nothing like them. A seemingly simple and understated album that peels like an onion. mp3: Heir Apparent
7. Big Troubles – Romantic Comedy (Slumberland)
When I first heard that Mitch Easter was producing Big Troubles second album, the first thing that popped into my head was Moose. Moose started out as a shoegaze band, but hired Easter to produce their first album and their sound changed from My Bloody Valentine to Tim Buckly and Fred Neil. Big Troubles following a similar path went from their first album, a noisy affair to nuance of psychedelic sounds of the paisley underground. I don’t give Easter all the credit for the metamorphosis, but I’m sure he definitely helped. mp3: Misery
8. Useless Eaters – Daily Commute (Tic Tac Totally)
Yeah, Iceage got a lot of press for their album New Brigade, but Useless Eaters’ Daily Commute was my favorite art punk album of the year. Sure it sounds like it was recorded on a boombox in the kitchen, but you can’t keep a great songwriter down. Simply put, this record rips, and if it would have had better production you would be reading about it on sites much more popular than this one. mp3: Daily Commute
9. A Classic Education – Call It Blazing (Lefse)
Bologna, Italy’s A Classic Education debut album is a melancholic charmer. Call It Blazing holds songs like sunken treasure in its depths. Luckily it doesn’t take a submarine to get to its yearning, oceanic pop that recalls the genius of the Chills and the Shins. mp3: Can You Feel The Backwash
10. Twerps – Twerps (UnderwaterPeoples)
I was somewhat intrigued by Twerps’s handful of singles, but not smitten. Smart kids that they are, they used the singles as building blocks, kind of feeling their way about until they got to a place that they were writing songs that they felt were worthy of a long player. This record is wise beyond it’s years. It echoes back so much of the amazing history of Australian pop like the Church, Paul Kelly, and the Go-Betweens. They’ve set quite a high bar for their follow-up. mp3: Dreaming
11. Eleanor Friedberger – Last Summer (Merge)
Eleanor Friedberger is one half of the brother-sister duo the Fiery Furnaces. She’s not old enough to remember the late 60’s and 70’s, but she’s made a record that sounds like she is. It has this strange Jackson Browne or Jim Croce feel to it. It’s kind of a folk record, but it has a weird soulfullness to it that pulls it out of the folk genre. Nothing else sounded remotely similar to Last Summer. A unique record from a unique voice. mp3: Roosevelt Island
12. Mind Spiders – Mind Spiders (Dirtnap)
Mind Spiders deftly jumps from Jay Retard, to T Rex to Love and Rockets and then back again. It’s like being lost in the funhouse. You can’t find your way out, but you kind of don’t want to get off either. mp3: Go!
13. Crystal Stilts – In Love With Oblivion (Slumberland)
The Crystal Stilts are not a live band, but give them a studio and they will kick your ass. In Love With Oblivion dredges the ghosts of the Thirteenth Floor Elevators, Bo Diddly, and Felt from unmarked graves and breathes new life into them. mp3: Sycamore Tree
14. Ringo DeathStarr – Colour Trip (Club AC30)
I have to admit. I was hot and cold on this record. First I was hot because it’s infectious shoegaze is pretty hard not to like if you already lean in that direction. Then I saw them live and was convinced that they used Auto-Tune on the album, because they couldn’t carry a tune to save their lives. Then I said fuck it, the songs are great and the record is amazing, who cares if they really can’t sing, they know how to use a studio. It never stopped me from loving the Stone Roses. mp3: So High
15. Indian Wars – Walk Around the Park (Bachelor)
Seems like in a year when Kurt Vile and the War on Drugs got their props, critics would have dug a little deeper to find something that hadn’t been polluted with the whiff of success. Vancouver, BC’s Indian Wars bust through saloon doors and shoot up the bar the way the Long Ryders and Gun Club did in the past. Bands like this worry me. Why? Because they’re so damn good and nobody knows it. Too good to last? Hope not. mp3: Tuscaloosa Bar
16. German Measles – A German Joke is No Laughing Matter (Krazy Punx)
Funny how everyone bumming out over the fact that Art Brut are no longer funny missed this record. The German Measles did the prudent thing for any ‘funny band.’ They broke up after making their first album. It’s not belly laughs and punch lines, it’s just spot on observations about everyday life and raw spartan punk rock that sticks to your bones like oatmeal. mp3: Totally Mild
17. Top Sound – Top Sound (Ça Ira)
Sweden’s Top Sound took their time getting their debut album together but it was well worth the wait. It grabs from the High Llamas, Stereolab, Style Council, and the Aluminum Group to create a bright sounding, highly stylized (erm) top sound. This is toe-tapping and finger-snapping good. Those may not be the sweaty and bloody rock n’ roll terms you’re looking for in a rock album, but it ain’t all chicks and whiskey. mp3: A Matter of Precision
18. Charles Bradley – No Time For Dreaming (Daptone)
In a time when there seems to be old soul compilations coming out every other week, 62 year old Charles Bradley burst on the scene with his brand new old soul. He was the singer in a James Brown cover band before being discovered by Daptone Records. Bradley has a gritty, working man’s soul voice that makes the songs feel current even though he’s firmly rooted in the past. This, amazingly is his debut album. mp3: Lovin’ You, Baby
19. Cat’s Eyes – Cat’s Eyes (Downtown)
Soprano Rachel Zeffira teamed up with the Horrors singer Faris Badwan to make an moody record that stalks will stalk your stereo. The two apparently bonded over a mutual appreciation of 60’s girl groups. That affectation permeates the record, but it’s not like any Ronettes album you’ve heard. It’s dark and eerie and teams with both Zeffira’s high notes matched with Badwan’s low ones. An otherworldly record. mp3: The Best Person I Know
20. People’s Temple- Sons of Stone (Hozac)
Play Sons of Stone for someone who hasn’t heard it and you could pass it off for a lost psych record from the 60’s that was left off of Nuggets. Hell, People’s Temple kept coming up on shuffle and I kept getting fooled myself. This Lansing, Michigan band are named after Jim Jones’ cult that committed mass suicide in the 1970’s. Instead of spending your hard earned cash on another Rolling Stones reissue, drink the juice and joion the People’s Temple. mp3: Where You Gonna Go?
21. Cave – Neverendless (Drag City)
I love this album because it seems to conjure the lost art of the motoric. Mostly instrumental jams that bring Neu! to mind, but by way of Chicago. Perhaps the windy city has given up on the artery clogging deep dish pizza and gone for the heart healthy Kraut! mp3: W U J
22. Comet Gain – The Howl of the Lonely Crowd (What’s Your Rupture?)
One thing about being a music blogger, you can keep putting records by perennially ignored bands on your list. Comet Gain have been around forever putting out difficult and rewarding albums. This one is no different. They are in my imaginary R&R hall of fame along with the likes of the Fall, the Mekons and the Pastels. mp3: An Arcade From The Warm Rain That Falls
23. Wax Idols – No Future (Hozac)
Former Punx Heather Fortune goes it alone and inserts sex, fear, goth and serial killers into her brand of punk rock. It’s not all sex and death, you get the rough with the smooch, as she’s got a soft side too and a voice that can go from sensitive to tough in an instant. No Future has got depth and Wax Idols have a future. mp3: Hitman
24. Walls – Coracle (Kompact)
Walls’ second album oscillates wildly between kraut, shoegaze and electronica. This could be a gateway album from stepping from one of those genres into another or the perfect music for stepping into that nebula on the cover. mp3: Heat Haze
25. The Dirtbombs – Party Store (In the Red)
You wouldn’t believe how many albums have been shuffled in and out of slot number 25 this year. It was a brutal fight, but the Dirtbombs persevered with their double Detroit muscle. Double because this the Dirtbombs tribute to their hometown. Techno classics from techno ground zero are covered with aplomb in this garage meets techno groove fest that is weird, infectious and above all danceable. mp3: Sharevari
Crystal Stilts, Case Studies and Posse at the Crocodile, Seattle | 11 May 2011
Brooklyn’s (by way of Florida) Crystal Stilts played the Crocodile this past Wednesday night to a sparse audience. Apparently their darker take on the pop song doesn’t resonate as well with the kids as their labelmates and neighbors the Pains of Being Pure at Heart brighter stylings who sold the place out a few weeks ago. Where the Pains are bright colors and glistening pop hooks, Crystal Stilts dredge around below the ground in the dark of night. Their second album In Love With Oblivion recently released on Slumberland is a more assured effort than their debut. JB Townsend’s guitars rattle, jangle and shatter with a Bo Diddly tenacity while singer Brad Hargett keeps his vocals murky making you dig just a little for the melody.
Oblivion doesn’t make you dig too deep with its abundance of hooks as their previous effort Alight of Night did. Its glistening guitar more often than not offsets Hargett’s caliginous musings. The band have never been ones to lead sing-alongs at their shows, opting to put up a distinct boundary between them and whoever shows up to see them play, and this night was no different. Crystal Stilts where there to play, oblivious to whether there were 50 or 500 people in the room which was good and bad. Good because there were only about 50 people there. They belted out a set of big moody songs that sparkled at times like a partly cloudy day in Seattle. Sun breaks came with the Felt inspired Half a Moon, the pop of Through the Floor, and single Shake the Shackles and then darkness reigned on Prometheus At Large and Flying Into the Sun. Bad because it seemed like their set was cut short by the band’s disaffection or their general awkwardness of just being on stage. Their music sounds intimidating, but to see them play, much of the mystery and malice that their songs conjure disappears because of their lack of a charismatic stage presence. They seemed uncomfortable playing to a mostly empty room and made a short night of it, only playing nine songs plus and encore.
I should not complain too much, because what they played sounded great. Evoking the Bunnymen, Velvets, 13 Floor Elevators and Felt at once is no easy feat, but it felt like it was phoned in. If you’re only going to play nine songs then why even bother with an encore? Just play 10 and leave the stage. Do it like you mean it and leave me wanting more. A band like Crystal Stilts who seem to not give a fuck about whether you’re there or not shouldn’t conform to the tired encore. If they would have done it like they meant it they would not have come back for an encore of Love Is a Wave. They would have left me wanting more, but as it was they left me wondering why they only played 10 songs and hoping they gain some charisma before they play Seattle again.
Jesse Lortz who was the Duke in the Dutchess and the Duke has a new moniker in Case Studies. I had seen him a couple months ago at Cairo with only an acoustic guitar and thought his new songs were ho-hum, but this time getting some help from 3/5 of the Crystal Stilts the songs seemed to have more of an impact. The performance felt more like a practice with Lortz coaxing the Stilts on to “try another one”, but it seemed like they were on the right track and left me hoping the Lortz employs a band when goes to actually record some of these songs.
Kicking off the evening were Seattle’s very own entry into the 90’s retread, Posse. Versus come to mind and that in and of itself should wet your whistle. The trio sounded amazing, and seemed totally comfortable on the Crocodile’s super high stage giving a shout out to their parents who showed up to see them play. If you haven’t checked them out over at their bandcamp page, what are you waiting for?
The tension builds…I bought way too many seven inch singles this year. I’m not trying to brag. It’s a problem really. The seven inch is like crack to the record geek, a fleeting moment of pop perfection and then it’s off to either flip the record or put on another one. This was a daunting task this year and I feel like I left out a lot of stuff, but a top 60 would have been too much and limiting it to 40 makes you have to really decide, what were your favorite singles of the year. Here are numbers 20-11.
I think we all knew how good Crystal Stilts were, but Shake the Shackles ups the ante. It lets tiny rays of brightness peak into their dark gloomy sound without any integrity compromise. The addition of the organ provides a new dimension and Brad Hargett almost sounds like he hasn’t lost all hope for mankind.
There’s just something about a Rickenbacker and the way it hum and buzzes, and when you add into the mix a killer song, the combination is undeniable. Caroline’s Radio takes you back to another time when all three Kennedys were still alive and when you lived for the radio, and would lie in bed with the transistor to your head and of course Roger McGinn’s 12 string Rickenbacker. Of course it’s not 1964 anymore and the Jesus and Mary Chain came along at some point, and then there was Bubblegum Lemonade.
Found Love In a Graveyard has been floating around since 2009, but didn’t get slapped onto a seven inch until this year. That it’s still in this year’s top 40 is a testament to its longevity. Judging by its title you might think it’s good old fashioned goth stomp, but instead it’s a classic bone rattler with jangling guitars and boy-girl vocals that I’m always a sucker for. It’s 2010 now and Veronica Falls have a song Right Side of My Brain floating around, look for it in next year’s top 40.
Sometimes you find the best things in your own back yard. That was the case with Seapony who started as a Trasmittens side project, but with all the attention that Seapony are getting I bet it’s no longer a side project. Dreaming is decidedly Twee, with a sugar vein so deep and wide that it is pretty much guaranteed to induce a rush, or at least a smile.
Sometimes the sum is more than the parts, and that is the case with the Babies. Cassie from Vivian Girls and Kevin from Woods combine to form babies (not real ones, a band) and their two singles from this year were easy favorites. Meet Me in the City is a rollicking good time that sounds like it was recorded down in some remote holler in Queens.
Another Eddy Current Suppression Ring related band (they’re hard to avoid around here), this one featuring guitarist Mikey Young and quite a departure from what you might expect from ECSR. Paranoid races down the autobahn, darting in and out of lanes, cutting you off, and flashing it’s high beams at you to get out of the way. Motorik!
The Weed Hounds present another case of the B-side usurping the single’s A-side. Beach Bummed is pleasant enough, but the band start scaling great heights on Skating Away From the Cops. I’m talking heights not reached since the Pale Saints.
18. The Tartans – West of La Brea (Yay!)
What’s west of La Bbrea? West Hollywood? Beverly Hills? The 405? The Pacific Ocean? A job? The Tartans turn all suave and sophisticated for their third single and come up smelling like roses. I’d go West of La Brea for this, not even knowing what is there.
19. Wounded Lion – Pointed Sticks (Trouble In Mind)
Wounded Lion doctorin up their best Gary Glitter impersonation. Scuzzy guitars, handclaps and muppet babies on the b-side? There are far too many ‘serious’ bands around these days and Wounded Lion are definitely not one of them.
20. Comet Gain – I Never Happened (What’s Your Rupture)
Comet Gain seem to ebb and flow. their hasn’t been an album since 2005′ s City of Fallen Leaves, but singles compilations and side projects seem to appear from nowhere at unpredictable times to lighten up my turntable. I Never happened is a sad introspective song that sees David Feck’s love unrequited and rendering him nonexistent. Heavy.
I’m sure there will come a day when we are all scrounging around for some semblance of a new good song to listen to and coming up dry. Well , that day ain’t here yet. Once again the mp3’s are piling up in my head, so here’s another Pop Overload to clear it out. Like the ones before, the Pop Overload is about both quantity and quality…and the bonanza continues…
Don’t have to call it a comeback, but Brideshead are. Germany’s Brideshead return with a four song 10″ after a long hiatus. Indiepop aficionados undoubtedly remember these guys for their two albums Some People Have All The Fun and In and Out of Love. It’s bright bouncy fun that isn’t afraid to let the sunshine flood in.
Outdoor Miners seem to be victims of geography. If they were from Denton or Brooklyn or LA everyone would be going all verbal on these guys. As it is they’re holed up Edmonton, Alberta probably frozen in some snowbank by now. This is their second single on Pop Echo. Both are limited to 300 copies and inexplicably still available. These should’ve sold out long time ago.
You’re probably saying to yourself, hey wasn’t Idle Times on the last pop overload? I can’t help it, the more I hear from their upcoming album on Hozac the more I can’t wait. Seattleites, don’t miss their next gig, September 30 at the High Dive with Coasting.
Seems the Crystal Stilts have come out of hiding with a new single and it could be the least unhappy (notice I didn’t say happy) singer Brad Hargett has ever sounded. It’s definitely late 80’s British in style, I hear the Railway Children. On the b-side they sound like they’ve been getting drunk and listening to country music. Weird, I think I may like their drunk country better than their 80’s Brit.
stream: Crystal Stilts – Shake the Shackles (on the way from Slumberland)
Alex Kemp (Small Factory) is back with Rat d’Hotel part deux in his three part series. Heart Goes Boom is understated and slyly danceable that will make you weak in your knees. Just as good as Rat d’Hotel part one, only this time with more rats.
The new Flight song from the upcoming Lead Riders EP is my favorite Flight since his Sweet Rot debut. It keeps the dark blown out Blank Dogs feel, but adds a slithery melody that snakes into your brain.
Philadelphia’s Reading Rainbow give us a teaser from album number two due from Hozac in November. It’s a big sounding song. They sound like they got a whole bunch of their friends to help belt out the song. Infectiously happy sounding and pretty much guaranteed to put a smile on your face while your wasting time.
Hypocrisy Is the Greatest Luxury, and Radio Dept. know it. This song hit the ether this week in advance of Sweden’s election. It’s a fair guess to say Sweden’s current right wing government is not the band’s preferred one.
This kind of came out of nowhere, though there was a gig at the Cake Shop in New York last year that Bill mentioned. Cinema Red and Blue are mostly made up members from Comet Gain (David Fek sings all the songs) and Crystal Stilts. The makeshift band also employs the services of Amy Linton, Hamish Kilgour and Gary Olson. When you daydream about all star lineups, no doubt a few of these names enter into your imagination. Throw in some covers by the likes of the Chills, Julian Cope and Vic Godard and you won’t want to wake up.
There’s an album due on 28 September on What’s Your Rupture. In the meantime here is the cover of Vic Godard’s Same Mistakes that appeared on his album The End Of The Surrey People back in 1993 which was produced by one Edwyn Collins. I digress, Cinema Red and Blue was recorded at Olson’s Marlborough Farms studio.
Part 4 of 4: Here’s the mother load, numbers 10 through 1. An excellent year for the 7-inch single. I don’t think it’s been this good since sometime back in the 90’s. To me the 7″ is the perfect pop medium. It’s immediate and somewhat inexpensive to procure one, though prices are increasing especially compared to the 99 cent mp3. Every label I ever hear discuss singles says that they’re money losers, but they keep releasing them. Obviously this kind of music has relied on the obsession of the very few since it began, and the labels putting out singles these days are doing it because they love the medium. Being an old schooler, I much prefer holding onto the record sleeve as the record spins. I’m not sure how many kids these days are buying actual singles, I know albums are back in fashion, but the single, not so much. If it happens, once your bitten by the bug of the 7 inch single it’s hard to find a cure. If you haven’t been bitten, check out my favorite 10 singles from this year and odds are you will be. Here’s to deep pockets and a love of the pop rush!
The Sea Lions remind me of two things: I had a cassette of Surf Classics when I was a kid that got endless play through many snowy Ohio winters on my walkman. I vaguely remember what songs were on it, but more than anything I remember the sunny-warm vibe I would get from listening to it. The second thing they remind me of is 7 Seconds, well, more like the mellow younger brothers of 7 Seconds, a band that got me through my high school years. The Sea Lions aren’t quite surf, not quite punk, and not quite twee. What they are is ballsy to make the A-side of their first single an instrumental, but the Sea Lions seem to know what they’re doing. In a year where sun, surf and sand were recurring themes around the indieverse the Sea Lions did it the best. No trendy reverb or washed out vocals, just straight up pop. The instrumental Let’s Groove is punk informed version of the Ventures while the two B-sides shoot the curl of pop perfection.
I thought the Crystal Stilts were all gloom and doom, but this song has to be the most upbeat thing the band have ever done. They almost sound happy, but surely not complacent. This single literally will set off sparks from your record player, or maybe it’s just JB’s guitar. Last year the Crystal Stilts were riding high after just releasing their first album, and this single shows that record was no fluke. In fact Love Is a Wave pretty much lays down the gauntlet for what other bands must surpass to become great. It’s that good.
Hey Boy starts off with a chorus of angelic girls singing, “Hey boy where’s your girlfriend, she needs your attention, hey boy where’s your little girl tonight?” I know I throw around Phil Spector’s name quite a bit, but this song will make you believe he’s either out of jail or the Magic Kids went to prison to record this. This was their first and only single, but it was so good that it had people thinking that they were contrived to fool the indieverse (We later found out that the Magic Kids are a Barbara’s spin-off band.) How else do you explain two songs that excel so well in doing that trippy, melody laden Brian Wilson thing.
Fergus & Geronimo have the dubious honor of being the only band to appear twice in this year’s countdown. For being a part time band Jason Kelly and Andrew Savage (of Wax Museums and Teenage Cool Kids) have easily surpassed both of their other bands. This single, like so many other songs here, is 2 minutes 45 seconds of undeniable pop. Blind Muslim Girl is the pop side and Powerful Lovin’ is the soulful b-side. If these guys would turn up the production a bit, they could go gold.
Wow! Invisible Angle is like lightning in a jar. The riff on the A-side just slices through the air straight to my brain. I love the scratchy in your face guitars and the big fat chunky bass solo right in the middle. France has the Bomb were a much needed jolt of electricity in this sludgy, hazy, distortion heavy year of music. mp3: Invisible Angle
A Former Pippette, now out on her own and all the better for it. It starts out sounding like the Divine Comedy, then morphs into sweet dancy pop that St. Etienne use to make. This was my favorite of the three single she released this year. Album due next year, absolutely can’t wait.
Last year the Vivian Girls seemed to set off the imaginations of a whole bunch of girls in their bedrooms who up until that point were content with listening to the Ronnettes, Shangri-La’s Crystals, Shirelles and Black Tambourine by themselves. That is no longer the case and Best Coast are one of the finest examples of the post Vivian Girls girl groups sweeping the nation. Three songs drenched in minimalist girly reverb. I’m wondering if I’ll ever tire of this stuff.
This is easily the best single that Hot Chip never released. It’s funky, so funky it’ll have you dragging your friends onto the dance floor. The b-side is nearly as good, but not in such an obvious way, more 70’s disco than 80’s sythn. Emil & Friends could be the most fun you’ll have from two sides of vinyl all year. mp3:Downed Economy
Cave Weddings is an appropriate name for this Albany, New York band. They’re a little rockabilly, a little Flying Nun and a little a umm, wedding in a cave. It’s a bit damp and dark, but mostly it’s a blast because you you can smash stuff up and get wild because after all, it’s a cave and you don’t have to worry about keeping the place tidy.
The Tun-Yards album came out last year, but the record got picked up by 4AD and was reissued this year with bonus songs. 4AD also put out this single of one of the best songs on the album with a herky-jerky remix of Hatari on the b-side. I love the way Tune-Yards effortlessly meld African style chant into a pop song while throwing in the kitchen sing for good measure.
April is the month of showers, but it looks more like a month of downpours in terms of great gigs coming up this month (Don’t believe me? Have a look over there on the right). I think the one that put it over the edge for me was the University of Washington’s internet radio station Rainy Dawg announcing today that they’re having a birthday party. If you read the comments on this blog (yeah, you probably wouldn’t admit to that) this is probably not news to you since Omar left the news about this gig happening in a comment here yesterday. It’s now official. Rainy Dawg radio will be hosting New York’s Crystal Stilts, San Diego’s Wavves and Seattle’s Idle Times and AFCGT to celebrate the station’s sixth birthday.
I’m always jealous of New Yorkers getting to see Crystal Stilts every other week, so I’m pretty psyched that they’re making the trip out to Seattle specifically for this gig. I saw them back in November at Chop Suey and they did not disappoint. Wavves have yet to play Seattle. Nathan Williams is a one man band on record, but live he gets a little help from a drummer (Wavves are also playing the Funhouse on 9 April if you’d like a preview). I caught Idle Times around Christmas opening for the Intelligence. On record it’s one guy Brian Idle, but live he’s got a full band which gives the songs a totally different dynamic. As for AFCGT, they are the remnants of the A-Frames and Climax Golden Twins and they are able to make an immaculate racket. It should be a time.