Soft as Snow but Super-Electric

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If you haven’t heard, this new Peel Dream Magazine album is something else. If we’ve learned nothing in the last 10-15 years of the ongoing shoegaze revival it is that mimicking the shoegazy wall of sound is easy, but really it’s all a bout the tunes.That’s the hard part. Not for Peel Dream Magazine, they have a cart load of them on their new album Agitprop Alterna.

The band seem to have two primary references, My Bloody Valentine and Stereolab and songs bounce between those influences. For example Pill evokes early Isn’t Anything era MBV and in my on pinion surpasses it. Then the next song Emotional Devotion Creator switches on some Stereolab droning keyboards. It’s a good kind of whiplash that has you at first spotting the influence but you quickly move into head-shaking disbelief about how good it is. Every song creates a warm cocoon of buzzy vibrations, droning keyboards and sighing vocals that ping pong around each other and collide at that sweet spot somewhere in the inner ear.

It wasn’t always this way. That first Peel Dream Magazine album Modern Meta Physic from a couple years ago showed some promise, but took some effort to get through. Last year’s Up and Up EP saw the group adding members and a sharper pop sensibility. Bands grow up fast these days, and Peel Dream Magazine second LP sees them moving quickly from pimply adolescents to seasoned blissed-out, ecstasy-laden dream-pop beasts.

Bittersweet Pocket Symphonies

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The Proper Ornaments have finally released a proper debut album. After last summer’s download only download only release on Lo which compiled their previous EP on No Pain in Pop,their debut single on Make a Mess, and some odds and ends the duo of James Hoare and Max Claps have employed Slumberland Records to issue their album Wooden Head. James Hoare who’s main band is Veronica Falls and also moonlights in the Ultimate Painting is a busy guy these days. For the Proper Ornaments he’s teamed up with Argentinian and one-time Andrew Loog Oldham protege Max Claps.

The duo met in a shop that Hoare was working at while Claps’s girlfriend attempted to steal a pair of boots.  It’s amazing what a shared love of the Velvet Underground can overcome. Named after a Free Deign Song, they get a lot of comparisons to the  Beach Boys, the Left Banke and Love. But if you ask my I think they sound like the Chills.

Wooden Head is nearly as good as their No Pain In Pop EP, but I don’t know if I think that because the EP had five astonishingly good good with no filler. It was easy to take in while Wooden Head is bigger and requires more time to consume.  The record is astonishingly good, it just  requires more time to your head around. Hoare and Claps sing in unison on nearly every song. Their melancholy, sparse psychedelic songs have a sing-song quality that makes them both comfortable and haunting at once. Each unassuming song buzzes into your ears to create endorphin rushes, but music being like a drug it takes more to recreate that initial high each time.

stream: The Proper Ornaments – Magazine (Wooden Head is out on Slumberland Records)

Would You Tell Me If the Boat Is Sinking?

Veronica Falls, Golden Grrrls and Brilliant Colors at the Tractor, Seattle | 21 March 2013

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The Spring-time Slumberland traveling show stopped in Seattle last Thursday night. Veroncia Falls from London were the headliners and for good reason, their second album is no sophomore slump and adds some diversity by varying the tempos and adding a little more nuance in the form of some good old fashioned psychedelia to their jangling flying nun influenced pop. All of the leaves were reading that this would be great fun to see them play again. Too bad that it was kind of a disappointment. If the band would have just played it would have been a great show. They sounded great. The guitar and vocal interplay between Roxanne Clifford and James Hoare appeared to be in top form and everyone at the Tractor was grooving to it. The only thing was, the band weren’t happy with it and quipped to the sound guy between nearly every song that something was wrong. First it was more vocals, then it was less vocals then it was move, then less, then something else. By that time it had became a joke to everyone in the audience and a huge distraction to an otherwise good show. Too bad. I have said this before here, and it applies to not only bands playing but anytime you are speaking, acting, or doing anything in front of an audience: don’t dwell on the bad. Oftentimes you are the only one that notices. When you incessantly bring attention to it then you become the distraction/problem. People are paying to hear you play, you are professionals. If the sound is sub-par in your monitor deal with it and carry on.

stream: Veronica Falls – Teenage (from Waiting For Something to Happen out on Slumberland)

Golden Grrrls

Glasgow’s Golden Grrrls on the other hand were a bundle of wide-eyed fun. They obviously have drank at the K fountain. Beat Happening, Lois and Tiger Trap all are obvious influences, and being Scottish I’m sure they’ve imbibed their fair share of Pastels and Vaselines records. So it was fun seeing them play in the fertile ground of where their indiepop roots were first mixed together (they played Olympia the night prior). The three piece band of two guitars and drums were ramshackle and sweet in their delivery. The sound of Golden Grrrls lo-fi indipop aesthetic is quite prevalent these days, but few do it this well and with this kind of enthusiasm.

stream: Golden Grrrls – We’ve Got… (From their self-titled album on Slumberland)

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In the middle of the two British Isles bands was the Bay Area’s Brilliant ColorsI remember the last time I saw them I was kind of impressed by how much they rocked out live. I continue to be impressed. Singer and guitarist Jess Scott has nack for writing noising melodic songs that seem to get new legs when the are played live.

stream: Brilliant Colors – I Was Born a Fantasist

All three bands had excellent merchandise for sale. Veroncia falls had CD versions of their second covers EP that coincided with the release of their album. Golden Grrrls had tour only 7-inch for sale and Brilliant Colors had an exclusive flexi for sale.