When you tell someone that you’re really into Peaness, it’s all about the accent. Otherwise you could be easily misunderstood. UK indiepop trio Peaness have been bubbling up with a self-released cassette called No Fun and then an internet single Oh George that is so undeniable that it could have you lining up to buy it if it existed in some form where you actually had to line up to buy it.
Take heart patient pop fans, the band now have a 7-inch single out now on Vancouver, Canada’s Kingfisher Bluez. If you are a fan of Standard Fare/Mammoth Penguins or Allo Darlin’ then this record will be one you want to add to your collection. Even if the single contains two songs that were on the cassette and leaves off their best song to date (Oh George), you the erudite pop fan won’t sweat the details because you will want to own one of the best singles of the year and be ready for what these ladies have in store next.
You may remember Emma Kupa from Standard Fare who released two fine albums of polite indiepop and called it a day two years ago. Since then, Kupa has switched from bass to guitar, found some new band mates and started a new band called Mammoth Penguins. Their first album is called Hide and Seek. Of course it has similarities with Standard Fare and if you aren’t the inside baseball type of indiepop fan you could be forgiven for thinking it’s a new Standard Fare record.
For you inside baseball folks, Mammoth Penguins excel more in fuzzy and rawkus guitar licks than their forebearers and they also seem like they’re having more fun. Heck they’re even game for throwing in some 60’s girl group style ooh-ooh’s except it’s they boys doing it. Some of the reviews I’ve read lament the fact that Mammoth Penguins sound a little less polished, but I like things a little unhinged in places. And not to worry, everything is held down by Kuppa’s easy voice and her great lyrics. She has a way of making fractured relationships and social anxiety sound fun and romantic. She also has a keen sense of what it’s like to be in your late 20’s having an early mid-life crisis. The record has elements of Courtney Barnett, the Lucksmiths and Comet Gain easily switching between sweet and sublime to shouting and rocking the while keeping you on the edge of you seat with the lyrics. I’m not sure why they’re called Mammoth Penguins and you’re sure to get an odd look if you recommend them to friend. Hopefully your friends won’t be put off by a few over sized penguins.
Mammoth Penguins’ album Hide and Seek is out now on Fortuna Pop!
Sleuth‘s cassette Brave Knew Nothing has been available for nearly a year, but I just found out about it about a week ago. A quick search through my RSS reader shows that they’ve mostly avoided detection up to now save for an appearance on a Cloudberry fanzine CD. The sharp detectives in charge of the NY Popfest have been on their trail as well and the band will be appearing at this year’s Popfest scheduled May 17 – 20.
How has this excellent Vancouver, BC band and their wonderful EP gone mostly unnoticed for nearly a year? Dunno. Each one of the six songs on the EP is a winner. Sleuth singer and guitarist who goes by The Lion In Love has a lion of voice that propels their songs beyond so much of today’s run of the mill indiepop. If you were fan of the Long Blondes, remember Sleeper or dig Standard Fare, then Sleuth are well worth investigating further. mp3: Sleuth – Unceremonious Splendor (from Brave Knew Nothing available at their bandcamp)
Looking at the lists from the indie cognoscenti this year my eyes tend to get heavy and it becomes hard to stay awake. I’m beginning to see why my grandfather wasn’t able to stay awake when he watched the Dukes of Hazzard with me when I was a kid. I’m not quite to that point yet, as I was able to keep myself lucid long enough to compile my top 25 albums of the year. Have at it.
1. Eddy Current Suppression Ring – Rush To Relax (Goner)
Some long-time fans have quipped that Rush To Relax isn’t as good as its predecessor Primary Colors, but for me this was the year of Eddy Current Suppression Ring. Finding Rush to Relax in the used bin for 99 cents was the start. Next Anxiety whacked me on the head with its brute force, then their longer jams like Turning Out and Second Guessing bowled me over, and if that wasn’t enough they beguiled with the heartfelt politeness of I Can Be a Jerk and Gentleman. Finally their status was cemented by their live show at Vera Project. In a dry house following two hardcore punk bands, the band put on a clinic on how to rock out with their solid rhythm section, slicing guitars and unique gloved front man. Nobody came close to Eddy Current Suppression Ring this year.
2. Intelligence – Males (In The Red)
Well, the Intelligence came kinda close. Lars and company pumped up the fidelity on record number six and came out all the better for it. For the first time ever this was a full band and the claustrophobic weirdness that permeates all previous Intelligence records was stretched, torn and punctured to create new sounds. Fidelity aside, this batch of songs with the likes of Tuned to Puke, Like Like Like…, The Beetles and Estate Sales may be the strongest yet.
3. Edwyn Collins – Losing Sleep (Heavenly)
After suffering a stroke, Edwyn Collins may not have his guitar playing skills back yet, but his songwriting and singing skills are have returned fully intact. Losing Sleep sees Collins enlisting the help of friends like Johnny Marr, The Cribs, Franz Ferdinand, Roddy Frame, Drums to name a few. At first it was kind of a surprise to hear Collins duet with so many of his guests, but the album’s sound is so cohesive it doesn’t distract because you can tell that Ryan Jarmin, Alex Kapranos, Romeo Stodart and Jonathon Pierce are such Collins fans.
4. Les Cox Sportifs – Scheiss Mit Reis (Sea)
Les Cox Sportifs caught my imagination, and no it wasn’t their name that did it. Their sparsly played rhythmic songs and odd lyrics put them defiantly in the weird corner and that’s a corner I gravitate to. Their combining of Bo Diddly, the Fall, Modern Lovers, Yummy Fur and Country Dick Montana was a soup that I kept lapping up all year long.
5. Kellies – Kellies (Rastrillo/Crang)
The self-titled third album from this Argentinian all girl band was part post punk, part art school, and should have come with a warning label because every song contains a deadly hook. Why have you not heard of these ladies you may ask. That’s a damn good question, and if you’ve been around these parts much, you probably have.
6. Eternal Summers – Silver (Kanine)
Roanoak, Virginia’s Eternal Summers are the simple combination of guitar and drums, but are most certainly more than the sum of their parts and a good reason for that is Nicole Yun’s big confident voice. First single Pogo was big and catchy and the immediacy of Disciplinarian and the moodiness and beauty of songs like Salty and Bully In Disguise keep you firmly planted.
7. Race Horses – Goodbye Falkenburg (FantasticPlastic)
Formerly known as Radio Luxembourg, Race Horses broke out of the gate this year with their first album Goodbye Faulkenberg. Being from Wales you might guess they have a psychedelic leaning the same as Super Furry Animals and Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci and you would be right but they carve out their own niche of strange beguiling pop too. Actually it’s more like a wide swath that ranges from Love, Dexy’s, Can, Mahler, Gilber & Sullivan, Scott Walker and Os Mutantes to name a few of the records they list on the inner sleeve as influences on this album.
8. Kelley Stoltz – To Dreamers (Sub Pop)
Seems like every year Kelley Stoltz puts out a record it ends up as one of my favorites. I write something about how he conjours the past with songs that evoke the likes of the Kinks, Harry Nilson and Fred Neil. With To Dreamers Stoltz does it again with seeming ease, but he incorporates more lush orchestration this time, does a little krautrock, and includes a cover of Big Boy Pete’s 1965 lost classic Baby I Got News for You even doing some sleuthing to pull in Pete Miller to play on it. I keep expecting the well to run dry for Stoltz, but it looks like he’s in no danger of that.
9. Sourpatch – Crushin’ (Happy Happy Birthday To Me)
San Jose’s Sourpatch probably at some point have made a pilgrimage to Sacramento to pay tribute to Tiger Trap and Rocketship. After doing so they came back home and made this record. Their ability to conjure that sound from that time might be called nostalgic by some but these kids are way too young to hold any nostalgia for the 90’s. Crushin’ is just some kids from San Jose making beautiful twee racket.
10. Weekend – Sports (Slumberland)
Sports begins with an unassuming jangle. Soon an eerie howl is heard in the distance and then it becomes more prominent. At about a minute and a half in, the jangle turns into a buzz-saw and the howl to piercing growl. Weekend don’t lift their collective boot from your neck over the next 45 minutes. Sports pummels but like someone that doesn’t know what’s good for them I keep coming back for more.
11. Wounded Lion – Wounded Lion (In the Red)
Wounded Lion are probably a little too weird to ever go mainstream, that’s why they’re on this list. Jokes aside, Wounded Lion killer modern day Modern Lovers fueled rock brings it. No filler here: The one-two punch of Hungry? and Creatures In the Cave is hard to resist. Degobah System must have been unjustly cut from Star Wars Episode IV and Pony People (having been on a now out of print S-S seven inch) Those are only a few reasons I love this record.
12. Young Sinclairs – Chimeys (Chimney Sweep)
The Young Sinclairs are the vehicle of Sam Lunsford who over the last four years has self-released loads of cd-r’s and tapes. Last year Kindercore put out an LP that cherry picked the best tracks from those releases giving them a little larger audience. Finally the band endeavored to release and album on the Chimney Sweep label on vinyl this year. Chimey’s is psychedelia done so well it will make you think of so many bands like them that have gone before. It will also have you searching through your closet for those paisley shirts you hope you never threw out.
13. Frankie Rose & the Outs – Frankie Rose And The Outs (Slumberland)
I must say that after seeing Frankie Rose and the Outs at SXSW this year I wasn’t really looking forward to her album. Everything was drenched in reverb to the point of barely being able to make out the songs. There is no such problem with this album. It is a sublime record that eschews the ramshackle garage sound of her former band and goes for a more classic sound and totally succeeds.
14. Boston Spaceships – Our Cubehouse Still Rocks (GBVI)
Funny how my interest in Robert Pollard ebbs and flows. There was a high point in the 90’s and then it dipped in 00’s. Now that we’re in the 10’s Pollard is back in my good graces and Our Cubehouse Still Rocks is a prime example as to why. While everyone was running around talking about the Guided By Voices reunion, this album was released and criminally ignored. It rivals and surpasses the last five GBV albums.
15. Cinema Red & Blue – Cinema Red & Blue (What’s Your Rupture)
I hesitate to call this a supergroup, but it’s a pretty damn good one. David Feck of Comet Gain, comes over to New York and gets some Crystal Stilts, Ladybug Transistors and one Amy Linton to help out on this album. Apparently it was recorded in a week, but it has warmth and familiarity like these old friends have been playing together for years.
16. Allow Darlin’ – Allo Darlin’ (Fortuna Pop)
Allo Darlin’ sealed the deal with their rousing show at the Jewelbox Theatre in Seattle this fall. Their slightly twee, slightly country ukulele driven songs have a sweet niavty to them that makes you want them to take them under your wing and give them a good home. My copy has found one on my stereo and it’s even muscled out a few lesser records from the cd player.
17. Standard Fare – Noyelle Beat (Melodic/Bar None)
This and Allo Darlin were like sister records for me this year. I couldn’t think about one without the other popping into my head. Standard Fare packed a little more muscle, but it was coming from the same place. Well maybe not the exact same place when you consider their song 15 is about falling for a teenager. Not your typical indiepop.
18. Art Museums – Rough Frame (Woodsist)
This record was a pleasant surprise, evoking the Television Personalities and early Creation records. It’s short at only nine songs, but it left a lasting impression on me. The songs are done in low key, lo-fi way. The steely guitars and programmed drums provide a synthetic psychedelic feel. The vocals strain to reach the high notes, but the songs are warm, fuzzy and earnest which makes these part-time punks’ debut hard not to like.
19. Fresh & Onlys – Play It Strange (In the Red)
The Fresh & Onlys are still way too prolific for their own good. I feel like we’ve seen them grow up before our eyes. Where some bands hold back releasing songs, choosing to keep a stash in case of writer’s block, the Fresh & Onlys lay it all on the line putting everything out for better of for worse. After two diluted albums last year, the band chose to only release one album this year and are the better for it. Every song is autumnal intoxication and their secret weapon guitarist Wymond Miles astounds throughout with his leads.
20. The Lights – Failed Graves (Wantage)
The Lights have been trolling around the seedy side Seattle for quite a while. Ten years on and Failed Graves is only the band’s third album but my favorite so far. There were more than a couple times this year when I was standing either in the Funhouse or the Sunset watching them storm through a set thinking that they were the best live band going in Seattle right now. Craig Chambers in a suit looking like a huckster that plays a mean guitar, Jeff Albertson firecly clutching his well worn bass while PJ Rogalski wailed on the drums. The intensity on Failed Graves nearly replicates their live show. Dissonant guitars, pummeling rhythm section come at you through the speakers and the needle threatens to fly from the record.
21. Gigi – Maintenant (Tomlab)
After this album I am convinced that Nick Krgovich of No Kids is a pop maestro. How else could he write and orchestrate an album like this. The songs have a 60’s Phil Spector feel crossed with Cole Porter, putting him in a league with Stephen Merrit’s Sixths albums. There are too many highlights to list here, but the Rose Melberg sung Alone At the Pier, Karl Blau doing The Old Graveyard and Zac Pennington’s Dreams of Romance are already classics in my house.
22. Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest (4AD)
4AD does not carry the cache that it once did, but Earthquake the first song on Halcyon Digest totally evokes that label’s heyday, sounding like Dif Juz, Cocteau Twins and This Mortal Coil all at once. Bradford Cox is up to his old shoegaze tricks on Halcyon digest, but it’s Locket Pundt’s songs that lifted this album to the top of the stack this time. Desire Lines and Fountain Stairs offer hazy bursts of sunshine to Cox’s Halcyon gauze.
23. The Limiñanas – The Limiñanas (Trouble In Mind)
Je Ne Puis Pas Trés Drogué. Well I am after this record. The Limiñanas is full of hallucinogens, twelve doses to be precise. I hope their record label doesn’t get arrested for sending these things via the US Postal Service. It could be a real scandal. I can see the headlines now: American Label implicated in French drug trafficking. Giant hits of acid found in the form of 33 rpm records. I ordered 10 copies.
24. Super Wild Horses – Fifteen (Hozac)
At first glance you might say Australia’s Super Wild Horses take their cue from the riot grrrl movement of the early 90’s, but their sound and style goes a little further harking back to that movement’s predecessors like the Breeders and Scrawl. The grrrl duo switch off between minimal drums and minimal guitar to deliver short sharp shocks trading off vocals and harmonizing on songs that transcend their primal beginnings. Not sure how much Mikey Young of Eddy Current Suppression Ring who twiddled the knobs on this record had to do with the magic that Fifteen conjures, but if I were a betting man I would say not very much.
25. Ty Segall – Melted (Goner)
Like the Fresh & Onlys, Ty Segall came of age in 2010, albeit at a much younger age. Melted is where Segall got off the garage bus and tripped onto the magic buss. Don’t get me wrong, he still rocks out, but it’s in full technicolor instead of the previous black and white. Songs like Bees are meaty beaty big and bouncy and Sad Fuzz rains down on you like he’s finally gotten to the point of being able to incorporate those top shelf influences into his songs. Listening to Melted you can see that Segall freed his mind and the possibilities are endless.
Honorable Mentions: Magic Bullets – Magic Bullets (Mon Amie) / Lawrence Arabia – Chant Darling (Bella Union) / Wild Nothing – Gemini (Captured Tracks) / Rose Elinor Dougall – Whithout Why (Scarlett) / Idle Times – Idle Times (Hozac) / Radio Dept. – Clinging To a Scheme (Labrador) / Seinking Ships – Museum Quality Capture (S-curve) / Dum Dum Girls – I Will Be (Sub Pop) / Splinters – Kick (Double Negative) / Math and Physics Club – I Shouldn’t Look As Good As I Do (Matinee) / Katerine – Phillippe Katerine (Barclay) / The Fall – Your Future Our Clutter (Domino) / White Wires – WWII (Dirtnap) / Dead Ghosts – Dead Ghosts (Florida’s Dying) / Harlem – Hippies (Matador) / Vic Godard – & Subway Sect – We Come As Aliens (Overground)
Friday started at Club DeVille at another Brooklyn Vegan event. Greenpoint, Brooklyn band Twin Sister were playing an early set at noon. A Lunch time gig, or breakfast rather, for the late risers in Austin is a toughone . The band sounded ok, maybe a little sleepy. I really like their freely downloadable ep Vampires with Dreaming Kids, but they didn’t play my favoirte song from it, the Cocteau Twins-like Ginger.
Up to this point corporate America had been hidden from SxSW experience. Arriving at the Fader Fort that was no longer the case. Walking through a clothing store to get into the the free booze fest was like the walk of shame. Once through with no purchases, we headed for the stage to catch local band Harlem. Their short set was fun, but the huge festival like stage was a little too big for this garage band. They hopped around, switched instruments and seemed to have a good time anyway.
Vancouver’s Japandroids were next and what was a mostly empty space for Harlem quickly became a packed one for this guitar and drums duo. One thing I will say about Japandroids, they have some really big amps.
We stayed put for Drums, who were a bit over the top. I think that’s the point though. They looked like they could have been on Factory records circa 1985 with they eye make up and styled hair. The band appeared to be barely playing, leading me to believe that most of the music was pre-recorded. Drums seem to be a vehicle for front man Jonathan Pierce, who pranced and posed around the stage and at times sounded more than a little like Martin Fry of ABC.
On our way over to catch the last part of the Trouble In Mind show at the Longbranch, we hit up a taco wagon for some grub and got to the Longbranch just as Ottawa’s White Wires were launching into the a-side of their Trouble In Mind single, Pretty Girl. Their set was easily the best of the day, a rollicking good time filled with gigantic hook after gigantic hook, powerpop in the vein of such classics as the Nerves and the Breakaways. I’m really looking forward to album number two from these guys due out on Dirtnap later this year.
Austin’s Hex Dispensers were next, and they let us have it with their hi-octane, slightly sinister punk rock. Bill mentioned they sounded more like the Damned than the Fall for which they seem to be named.
Women’s restroom signage. The Longbranch restrooms, won the Trainspotting award for worst restrooms of the week. Wish I would taken a photo, but I was trying to get out as fast as I could.
As we left the Longbranch, across the street on a patch of grass in front of car wash, the zany Woo-man and the Banana launched into a set of catchy garage rock. At first it seemed like a joke, the drummer in a banana suit and the singer in a chartreuse wig and dress, but the Chicago band seemed to have their shit together. They said they’d be there all night or at least until someone made them leave.
We didn’t stay to see if they were gonna get booted, instead we headed over to Cheer-up Charlies to see the Mantles, but that turned out to be a boondogle, as they were running behind and we were forced to endure Sun Arwas. Not wanting to miss Standard Fare at the Slumberland/Cake Shop show we bailed before the Mantles made their appearance. On our way, we ran into Mark Manone, former bassist of the Lucksmiths, he was here playing with Still Flyin’ and gave us an update on what the rest of the Lucksmiths are up to (not much musically).
Arriving at the Mohawk we saw a line down the block, but splurging for a wristband does have some advantages. We walked right past everyone in line straight into the Mohawk. Standard Fare did not disappoint with their sweet, smart pop. The Sheffield band’s album is getting a release here in the states on Bar None so hopefully they’ll be back.
I missed Reading Rainbow to run over to Beerland to see what time Wounded Lion were going to be playing at the In The Red show. Found out it wasn’t in cards tonight if I wanted to see Frankie Rose and the Outs, so I headed back over to the Mohawk in time for Australia’s Summer Cats. They played all the hits including Let’s Go, Lonely Planet,In June and threw in a Left Bank cover for good measure. I am a Summer Cats fan, and even with the hits, the set seemed a bit lackluster. They seemed to be having fun though, mentioning how their set was sponsored by some kind of spray-on pancake product. Must be an Australian thing.
By this time the Mohawk was filling up. Frankie & the Outs were up next, and the rest of her other band Dum Dum Girls were in the house to see her. Frankie was sporting a hat with a wide brim, a flowing large sleeved shirt and a ton of reverb. Too much reverb. A lot of the songs had a surf, Link Ray feel to them but you couldn’t make out a single lyric, nor could you make out a single word she uttered between songs. The 7 inch on Slumberland and the new songs up on her myspace are all quality, but she needs to dial the reverb down for gigs.
Next up were San Francisco’s Grass Widow who currently have a two ep’s to their name, one on Make a Mess and the other on Captured Tracks, and an album due sometime soon on Kill Rock Stars. The trio were charming, noisy and a little bit twangy. I thought they were a neat combination of Tiger Trap and Freakwater, something you certainly don’t hear every day. Pains of Being Pure at Heart were the headliners, but I decided to take a rain check and head home in hopes of making it through one more day shows. On our way back we stopped for a late night bite at Taco Cabana. There were surprisingly no bands playing there, but Ty Segall was in line behind us with same idea.
Taking their name from the cost of a ride in zone 1 on you local public transit, Standard Fare have written one of my favorite songs of the year so far in Philadelphia. Emma Kupa sings: Global warming is getting me down. It’s making the the sea between us wider and deeper. Now, I’m not Moses and I don’t know how to split up the ocean and drive right on over. From there the band turn into a mini Wedding Present with a strummed guitar maelstrom and a chorus about waiting a year to see a certain person in Philadelphia. It kind of puts a new perspective of the whole global warming thing. Maybe mankind start doing something about it when it starts getting in the way of love?
Standard Fare are a three piece from Sheffield, England who have released a string of singles on their hometown label Thee Sheffield Phonographic Corporation. Besides glints of the afore mentioned TWP, they have a little in common with label mates Monkey Swallows the Universe / Nat Johnson & The Figureheads and seem to drink from the same well as Los Campesinos some of the time. Having released the prerequisite singles, the band have readied their debut long player and as luck would have it, it’s getting released on both sides of the Atlantic. Thee SPC and Melodic Records will be doing the honors over in the UK and Bar None over here. The record is called the Noyelle Beat, and was expeditiously recorded in a mere six days. Pop seems to run thick in the blood of these youngsters, and the record delivers meaty hook after hook, with no concern for artery blockage. As luck would have it the sea is apparently not too deep nor too wide at this point to stop them from making a trip outside their transit zone. If you’re in one of a handful of cities, the band will be making the trip over to the States for a string of dates that will lead them down to Austin for SXSW in March.
Mar 11 – Cake Shop – New York City, NY
Mar 12 – The Ox – Philadelphia, PA
Mar 13 – Cafe 9 – New Haven, CT
Mar 14 – Death By Audio – Brooklyn, NY
Mar 15 – Great Scott – Boston, MA
Mar 17 – Music For listeners day party – Austin, TX
Mar 19 – SXSW Showcase at Mohawk inside – Austin, TX