For some reason I had the idea that Wake the President had broken up. You don’t hear from a band for a couple years in these days of instant information and you assume the worst. Actually they kind of did disband sometime after releasing their first album You Can’t Change that Boy in 2009. They may have temporarily disbanded but when the president and vice president are twins you regroup and make a second record anyway, and that is what Erik and Bjorn Sandberg did. The brothers have just released their second album Zumutung! on their own label We Can Still Picnic.
Being a band from Glasgow, Scotland they innately know how to balance jangle, twee and bombast into a record. Since this is their second record they have settled down from the impulsive adolescence of the debut. Zumutung is also not so obvious in revealing its influences. Before you could tell they loved Orange Juice, now it’s not so obvious. The bouncy Elaine is the one song that could easily have fit on their debut, but overall the mood of the record is darker and introspective. They now have songs with the paisley jangle of the Close Lobsters in She Fell Into My Arms and In Youth There Is Pleasure. They also have a newfound side to them which is more intense that reminds me of the Delgados on songs like E.T and Sort of Blonde. Former Delgados drummer Paul Savage produced the record and it seems like he has brought his former band’s moodiness into the mix. It makes Zumutung! a more interesting and enduring record. It isn’t as immediate as the their debut, but it has a plan and a pace to it that gradually wins you over.
It seems like nine times out of ten, I end up buying a CD at import prices because I can’t wait, or have doubts that it will ever get released domestically. That is not the case with two excellent new albums that saw the light of day earlier this year over in old Europe. Patience has finally paid off with Cats On Fire and Wake the President making their domestic appearances this week. Is it serendipity or just dumb luck? No matter, we have two stellar west coast indies to thank for this godsend. So if you live in the US and had the restraint or foresight to not buy these at import prices, you are now presented with the perfect opportunity to get two great albums at domestic prices.
I remember during the presidential primaries, the question that Hillary Clinton posed to try and differentiate herself from Barak Obama was: Who do you want to take that 3 o’clock in the morning call? The answer of course is Wake the President. Fronted by twins Bjorn and Eric makes them doubly capable. Portland’s Magic Marker records has provided the fix that all Orange Juice fans need by putting out Glasgow’s Wake the President debut album, You Can’t Change that Boy in the USA. The album was released earlier this year on Electric Honey Records which you may remember as the student label at Stow College in Glasgow that discovered Belle and Sebastian. How’s that for pedigree?
You may think that Cats on Fire is kind of a bad name for a band, but since I don’t speak Finnish I’m giving the benefit of the doubt that there was something lost in translation in the name of this Finnish band. If you are one of those people lamenting the fact that Morrissey has finally gone off the deep end with his worst album ever, then Cats on Fire will be a refreshing breeze on your uncompressed pop sensibilities. Incorporating rockabilly, janlgy guitars and delicate smooth voice of Mattias Björkas, then Cats On Fire are going to be your cup of tea. The first Cats on Fire album, The Province Complains came out on German label Marsh-Marigold and was relegated to import status here in the States. That is no such problem with album number two, Our Temperance Movement. Matinee, will be doing honors of putting out the album at very reasonable price. Cats on Fire will also be at the NYC Popfest in May for the second year in a row, if you are so inclined.
Here ya go, something for the weekend. It’s the March installment of the the Finest Kiss Basementcast. If this is going to become a regular thing, I guess I should get a theme song and some back ground music for the talking parts. A real microphone might be nice too, one of those big foamy ones would be perfect. Maybe I should get some advertisers too. Naah, I kind of like the furnace as my background noise, at least until I sell out.
Obits – Two Headed Coin
France Has the Bomb – Invisible Angle
Coconut Coolouts – The Spinaround
Lime spiders – Just one Solution
Vic Godard – Vertical Integration
Wake the President – Professor
Comet Gain – You Can Hide Your Love Forever
Rakes – Muller’s Ratchet
Intelligence – 16&17
A Frames – Death Train
Dead Mellotron – Dress Rehearsal
Crocodiles – Neon Jesus
Kay Kay & His Weathered Underground – Diggin
Camera Obscura – My Maudlin Career
Pale Sunday – The White Tambourine
Mayfair Set – Desert Fun
Liechtenstein – Everything’s for Sale
Jane Wiedlin – Cool Places
Smittens – the Interstate
Blue Jungle – I’m a Ninja
Rose Eleanor Dougall – Another Version of a Pop Song
Crystals – Then He Kissed Me
Richard Hawley – Rockabilly Radio
Johnny Kidd and the Pirates – Shakin All Over
Pete & the Pirates – Blood Gets Thin
This year seemed to be the year in which the 7″ single returned to prominence. It’s not like it ever really went away, but this year bands and labels were putting them out left a right. Vinyl in general, is making a resurgence with the prevalence of file downloading a cd is just a lousy digital copy that takes up too much space, whereas a slab of vinyl is more like a work of art with it being big enough to actually appreciate the cover art. It also comes in many shades, with colored vinyl showing up almost as much as the standard black even though its sound quality is supposedly inferior to good old black. Records these days have a one of kind feel to them or at least one of limited run, making you feel like you really buying something besides just the music. I probably haven’t bought this many records since the indie heyday of the early 90’s. It was fun again to hang out by the record player and change the record every three minutes, and I did this quite a bit, nearly spending all my listening time at home doing just that. In celebration of it’s return, I’m compiling my favorite 7″ singles of the year, my only requirements are that it had to be put out this year on a 7″ and I had to actually buy it. So here is what got the most spins in my house, you will have to take my word for it since my turntable doesn’t keep track of play counts. Now go out and buy some records!
1. Summer Cats – Lonely Planet (Cloudberry)
This number one was a no-brainer for me. With it’s pulsing keyboards and killer guitar riff, this was on my turntable nearly every evening for a good month. I’ve heard through the grapevine that Australia’s Summer Cats are working on a full length. It will easily one of my most anticipated records of next year. Or instead they could just put out singles like this all next year and I would completely happy.
2. Catwalk – Past Afar (Yay!)
Apparently Oxnard, California has a killer scene at the moment and Yay! records has signed every single band in the scene. Catwalk’s second single for the label is a sad, energetic beauty that has elements of the Close Lobsters as well as Blueboy. How can you get any closer to heaven than that?
3. Liechtenstein – Apathy/Security by Design (Fraction)
Ennio Morricon moved to Sweden and got a sex change? No Liechtentein, three women from Goteborg, Sweden put out an amazing record. Their second single had everyone excited who heard it, and how could you not be excited? That’s the beauty of the single, you put your best foot forward. It’s like Security by Design, two killer songs and a whole lotta mystery just like all those great girl groups from yesteryear, they need not release anything more to be cemented into music history.
4. Nodzzz – I Don’t Wanna (Make a Mess)
The Nodzzz couldn’t keep this record in print and it’s easy to see why, when you hear its raw bass line and punk rock chorus. It’s only a minute and a half, so you’ll be picking up the needle and putting it back at the start to play it again quite frequently.
5. Muslims – Parasites (I Hate Rock n Roll)
San Diego’s Muslims are no more, they’ve gone and changed their name to the Soft Pack for reasons only they know. Listening to this harks back to the day when the band were irreverent, in your face, snot nosed punks. I’m not sure what they are now, but this single will have you on your knees praying that the name is the only thing they’re changing. Killer cover of Spacemen 3’s Walking With Jesus gets best cover of the year without a doubt.
6. The Tartans – Cats of Camerford (Yay!)
Horns, horns, horns! It’s easy to forget how much a great horn line in a song can just put it over the top. This ranks up there with Brideshead’s Real Art as a killer pop song with a more killer horn hook.
7. Je Suis Animal – Painted In my Face (Cloudberry)
French name, Norwegian band, singing in English, swirling Broadcast/Stereolab sound, and an a-side to die for. The Scandinavians never cease to amaze me with their uncanny ability to arrive fully formed with style and songs that seems like they should take years to develop.
8. Boat – Topps (Magic Marker)
Boat are one of my favorite bands in Seattle and they really outdid themselves with this record. It was named after the baseball card company and came with a deck of hand drawn trading cards that included the band’s favorite baseball players as well themselves sporting baseball caps, cool badges with the band in their baesball getup and of course a stick of gum. Topps is just that, with it’s shakey keyboards, economical guitar riff and hyper Boat-esque chorus, it’s got it all, a wife, a job, a record store that knows it’s name and friend in every town.
9. Wake the President – You Can’t Change that Boy/Kingfishers – Make Me Sad (Electric Honey/Aufgeladen Und Bereit)
First of all the Kingfishers doing a cover of Vic Godard’s Make Me Sad would for some, be worth the price of admission, but Glassgow’s Wake the President are more than happy to steal the show with their original slice of Godard/Orange Juice pop. It’s one of those songs that make you want to bounce around on the furniture. I’ve been reprimanded a couple times for doing just that while listening to this.
10. Black Mountain – Lucy Brown (Sub Pop)
For its 20th anniversary this past summer Sub Pop started its third incarnation of its singles club. I joined figuring it would be kinda cool getting a surprise in the mailbox every month. November’s edition was the best surprise yet. I have kinda ignored Black Mountain up until this single, but Lucy Brown has bitten me with it’s scuzzy bass and bluesy vibe. This rocks so hard it was more than worth the price of joining this club.
11. Sexy Kids – Sisters are Forever (Slumberland)
Jeeze, with Slumberland putting out a slew of killer albums and singles this year, I was both surprised and amazed when a few weeks ago that the label announced it was putting out a couple more singles. Sisters are Forever, one of those singles, is a perfect pop rush. Tie a double knot and don’t forget to buy this.
13. Bears – Making Something(Impose)
A record player, a sunny summer afternoon and a Bears record go along way to a blissful existence. I don’t think I need to really say anything else about this sublime record, I really can’t think of a better way to spend two minutes.
14. Twig – Ciao Ciao Bomb (Cloudberry)
Earlier in the year I wrote about how there seemed to be this Orange Juice resurgence happening. Twig singer Henrik Linden could be Edwynn Collins’ long lost cousin and Ciao Ciao Bomb could be an unearthed OJ song. Twig are no cover band though, their originals are classics in their own rite and this single as well as their album Life After Ridge on Plastilina is proof positive.
15. Vivian Girls – Wild Eyes/My Baby Wants Me Dead(Plays With Dolls)
It wasn’t the a-side that did if for me it was the rocking jam of a b-side that got me. Crashing guitars and then silence followed by the eerie singing of ‘My baby wants me dead, he wants to put a knife in my head’. It’s downright spooky.
17. Moscow Olympics – Still (Fraction)
This was the first official release from the mysterious Phillipeans’ Moscow Olympics and what an introduction. Dreampop at its most dreamy.
18. Box Elders – Hole in my Head(Grotto)
Omaha, Nebraska’s Box Elders are like a diamond in the rough, there surely cannot be a kiwi scene in the nation’s midsection can there? This record just does not get old with me, it even sounds like it was recorded 20 years ago with a decidedly lo-fi feel that you just can’t fake.
19. Surefire Broadcast – When I Need Someone/Some Seek While Some Find (self-released)
This is kind of a cheat, since I don’t actually own this 7″, only a cd-r of it. But it exists and it was recorded by Dustin Reske of Rocketship. Surefire Broadcast are easily one of my favorite bands of the moment and this record is the perfect evidence, with it’s almost grungy guitar juxtaposed with boy-girl vocals that swirl around each other into undeniable pop sunshine.
20. Times New Viking – Stay Awake (Matador)
If you’ve made it this far, you may need to be jarred out of your complicity and Times New Viking are the perfect thing for that. Discordant noise has never sounded better, at least to these ears.
It’s been 24 years since Orange Juice called it a day after releasing the very underrated The Orange Juice album. Along the way a few bands have payed tribute to this seminal Scottish band. Blueboy named themselves after an OJ song and Belle and Sebastian in their early DIY roots claimed them as an influence. Back in the mid-90’s Orange Juice went through a resurgence/rediscovery phase in light of Edwyn Collins’ worldwide smash hit A Girl Like You. Postcard reissued the early singles as well as Ostrich Churchyard and Polydor reissued all three albums as well as the Texas Fever ep.
Ten years later all of those reissues are out of print, so it seems like we’re ripe (sorry) for another revival. The revival, if you can call it that,seems to be manifesting itself a little differently this time around. Lately, it seems like there are a bunch of bands that are paying tribute to Orange Juice in one way or another, either with their sound, their name, or both. Let’s take a closer look at this new Scottish gentry and ascertain their OJQ (Orange Juice Quotient).
Wake the President
Are they Scottish? Very, they come from Glasgow. Do they sound like Orange Juice? Yeah, You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever and Rip It Up era OJ What else is there to know? Wake the President call Glasgow their home and have a distinct early OJ thing going on in a lot of their songs. Their first two singles came out on Electric Honey Records which run by students at Stow College in Glasgow, you might remember them for releasing Belle and Sebastian’s Tigermilk. WTP are a four piece fronted by twins Bjorn and Eric. Besides the OJ influence, another Scottish band, the Close Lobsters come to mind when I hear their latest single You Can’t Change that Boy. Singles: on Say Dirty, Electric Honey and Aufgelanden & Bereit. Album: due in October. myspace: Wake the President OJQ: 82 mp3: You Can’t Change That Boy
Are they Scottish? Another yes, and from Glasgow as well. Do they sound like Orange Juice? They’ve got an early Postcard singles sound, and not just OJ singles but also a bit of Joseph K. What else is there to know? They’ve been endorsed by Franz Ferdinand and are pals with Voxtrot. Besides Bricolage hanging out in Glasgow and having a tightly wound early OJ thing going on, their name is French for DIY. Being signed to Memphis Industries bodes kind of well for their chances of making it over to the States. And since there is already an American band with the same name, they’ll likely have to change their name to something goofy like Bricolage UK or Band of Bricolage over here. Singles on Creeping Bent, Fantastic Plastic, and Memphis Industries Album: currently recording myspace: Bricolage OJQ: 81 mp3: Footsteps
Are they Scottish?: No, they’re Swedes from Stockholm. Do they sound like Orange Juice?: Yes, more late period northern soul Orange Juice with a little St. Christopher thrown in. What else is there to know? They’re a three piece band who’s singer/songwriter Henrik Linden is a librarian. That explains all the literary references, Henrik in the stacks reading books and writing songs. He must also be studying how to perfectly imitate Edwyn Collins croon, he’s nearly got it down too! Singles on Cloudberry and Plastilina Album: early 2009 promises Plastilina myspace: Twig OJQ: 88 mp3: Helen of Troy
Are they Scottish? Not even close, they’re from the Phillippines. Do they sound like Orange Juice? Not really, but there is their name, which was an OJ song. They’ve got more of an early New Order and Kitchens of Distinction sound. What else is there to know? A five piece band that hails from the South Pacific that specializes in dreampop/Sarah records sound may seem crazy, but only to those of us who were ignorant to the indie pop scene in the Phillippines. Moscow Olympics have kind of taken my world by storm quickly releasing a single earlier this year and now album earlier this month. Beautiful stuff that in a perfect world would take everyone by storm. Singles: Fraction Album: Cut the World out now on Lavender myspace: Moscow Olympics OJQ: 64 – great band but OJ influence appears to be in name alone. mp3: Cut the World
Are they Scottish?: Close, but not quite. They’re from up in northern England, Huddersfield to be exact. Do they sound like Orange Juice? Named after the OJ song Scaremonger from The Orange Juice album, but it’s not just the name. Armitage’s voice and his witty intelligent lyrics remind me of Edwyn. What else is there to know? The core of the band is writer/poet Simon Armitage and Craig Smith. It’s not just the two of them though, on many of the songs Armitage shares vocals with his wife Sue Roberts and they’ve got full band to flesh out their songs. Besides writing songs Armitage also writes books of poetry and prose. His latest is called Gig: The Life and Times of a Rock-star Fantasist. Singles: Cloudberry, Corporation Pop Album: Haven’t seen any info on one. myspace: Scaremongers OJQ: 79 mp3: If You Ever Leave Me