A music video done with computer graphics, but featuring images of things that ooze and goo? Not sure if those things are meant to ooze and go, but that’s what the folks of Young Galaxy approved of when they saw the video for “Fall For You” as created by director Nic Hamilton. The song is from the band’s 4th album, Ultramarine (Paper Bag), my review of which can be read by clicking here.
With pop convictions that remind me of everyone from Todd Rundgren to Paul McCartney to Ben Folds to Neil Finn to Glenn Tilbrook, Ryan Power is now a part of that tradition that combines musicality, pop charm, and intelligence. If you’re familiar with him and his music, you’ll be able to knwo that Power has a new album (his sixth) coming out on June 25th called Identity Picks (NNA Tapes), and “The Prize” is very much a prize that will eventually lead to more, but in time my friend, in time. It’s nice to hear powerful pop music that is very much pop, which means it has the means to become hugely popular if he isn’t careful.
Stephen Wilkinson has released a new album as Bibio, and Silver Wilkinson (Warp) is the new album Wilkonson has released, again as Bibio. While it is assembled in a digital fashion, the music hear sounds like the perfect outdoor music, where one can be at one with nature while hearing trees, leaves, and oceans move along in a rhythmic way, or a rhythmic way that requires a beat. Sounds and vocals move along in a melodramatic way, although when the funk is turned on (as it does with “A tout a l’heure” and “You”) you can feel it from your pinky toe to your hair follicles. If you want a laid back, sligtly tropical slow dance jam, you have it with “Look At Orion!” but if you want to feel like you were trapped on Berlin’s debut album, ride along the “Business Park” and absorb the scents. While the songs with groove tend to contradict the natural sound of the songs with abstract acoustic qualities, one can find a way to make it work and take on Silver Wilkinson as is, and by taking on Silver Wilkinson as is, you’re also taking on Stephen Wilkinson as Bibio, and that’s something worth taking home.
What I liked about this album was that Ten Kens decided to not call this Ten Kens, which in turn would be a self-titled album. They decided to call it Namesake (The Musebox), which essentially means it is called Ten Kens, a self-titled album. See how that works?
The band play some nice indie rock with dreamy landscapes heard throughout, whether it’s how they play, the vocals they use in portions, or the way the lyrics travel from beginning to end. There are moments when I was immediately reminded of the paths Radiohead regularly travel, but in a track like “Little League Now” they turn up the energy and go in for the kill. I would have loved if the song was placed earlier in the album instead of being second to last, as I found it a nice balance with the mood and textures of the rest of the album. By the time it reaches the end, Namesake feels like it’s about four to five songs too long and I kinda felt like the music is trying to find a way home but gets somewhat lost in the mellowness of the album. Then again, why feel lost if that seclusion of confusion is what you desire? I wouldn’t say this if I saw the band in a live setting, but this isn’t a live album. No shame in Ten Kens’ game though, for this is an album worth immersing yourself in, but your mileage may vary.
Philadelphia’s Belgrade create dreamy, shoegaze pop for today’s listeners, and after a few years of organizing and putting things together, they have released their debut LP. The music is quite nice and a good amount of these songs are worthy of putting in heavy rotation on the radio, and I think radio is missing out by not playing these guys. The band stick to a trusted formula: verse/chorus/verse, and while it would be cool for them to perhaps throw a bridge in there every now and then, they know a formula and stick with the plan in order to make music that is fairly impressive. Some of what they do sounds distinctly British, and that most likely comes through their influences, although one might year a bit of Toad The Wet Sprocket or The Lemonheads in here too. Belgrade create outdoor happy alterna- pop without the sap.
When you don’t want to create a blitzkrieg of sound, you keep things fair and simple, but you are still able to push a bit of angst within the equation. That’s how I’m defining the sound of Brass Bed on their album, The Secret Will Keep You (Off The Air).
The occasional dread of life and living within the constrains of your own mind is the primary theme of this album. It’s not about being in control of ones thoughts or what to do with it, but simply dealing with the situation of whatever may be happening at any given time. It’s when alone time leads to what else you could be doing, which leads to what you’re not doing, and then why the fuck you put yourself in the situation you’re in. The pacing of the songs are deliberate and one is able to peek through the curtain to witness the heart and soul of the members of the band, through the vocals and what they play. As for what they play, for the most part they do not allow their Lafayette, Louisiana roots to take over their playing, but they do sink into the comforts of home with the album’s closer, “Have To Be Fine”, a song almost done as a means of self-assurance. It has a slight churchy/gospel feel and what sounds like a cross between an accordion and an organ, and by the time it reaches this point of the album, it’s a metaphorical way for the band to say “thank you for listening, you have completed the listening experience of The Secret Will Keep You.” The echo and reverb gives it a slight Pet Sounds feel while showing a slide ode to Wilco and perhaps the less demented tones of The Flaming Lips. It’s a way for the mind of the album to be put to rest for the night, but if you wish, you may enter it again at any time.
This new 7″ single (on Limited Fanfare Records) by Astronautalis and Rickolous is not only a split 7″, but a true collaboration in that one helps the other in their individual songs, ending up with something that is quite nice to listen to with repeat listens.
For “The Rainmakers”, it is Astronautalis who takes on lead vocals while Rickolus helps out in musical accompaniment, creating a hazy folk tale about looking at ones youth and comparing it to the rough times of adulthood. “Fallen Street” flips roles with Rickolus handling vocals and guitar, and Astronautalis providing the musical backdrop with built in drums and keyboards, as Rickolus sings about never going back to what was. It becomes the perfect companion to what the A-side talks about, but Rickolous’ vocal harmonies definitely has the feel of the old California sound from the 1970′s, one that could be embraced by the likes of Crosby Stills Nash & Young, America, The Eagles, or in a twisted way, Ween and cLOUDDEAD. Both songs sound like intimate recordings done in a bedroom/basement studio, but that intimacy works in the context of the song. They could also be hotel/motel recordings, or songs that wish to look for a way out of the confines that they’ve made. Take that how you want. A very nice recording.
(The vinyl pressing, with a limited edition of only 1000 copies, can be ordered directly from Limited Fanfare. As of this writing, there are under 50 copies left of the original first black vinyl pressing.)
With an album cover that looks like a psychedelic hippie version of a Kraftwerk album or something from the twisted files of The Residents, Wampire play unabashed rock’n'roll that is sweaty and raw, but not afraid to add keyboard textures in the background when it feels right, as if they wanted to celebrate the synth lines from Rod Stewart’s “Young Turks”. Curiosity (Polyvinyl) is pop music with enough twists to keep people guessing about what’s going on at any given time, imagine Todd Rundgren if he was the third member of Sparks. The songs are executed brilliantly and while the humor is not dominant, there are hints of genius throughout that show that for these guys, it’s not just a quick toss off. It could be, for they are Portlanders who understand the power of being funny, but Rocky Tinder and Eric Phipps write songs that range from being in love (“Spirit Forest”) to being straight out of Lokash, if Lokash was the city of Gresham (“Out Of Money”). Some of the tracks are done in a slightly lo-fi fashion, as if they absorbed the early works of Beck and decided that it suited them best, but they take that passion for home recording and heighten things to where you will know you’re in the empire of Wampire. Quirky but immediately likable, perhaps lovable. Now you’re the one with Curiosity, right? Baby, let Wampire pull your strings.
There’s something to be said about groups who touch on the seriousluy sappy side of pop, and Seattle’s Tullycraft are pioneers in what they do by tapping into the good stuff, as if they’re Canadian and have a fetish for maple syrup. Lost In Light Rotation (Magic Marker) is an album full of fun lyrics and playing, and what you’re hearing/singing/dancing to are songs that are powerful statements on a life worth living. To my ears, I hear elements of King Missile (Dog Fly Religion) and Let’s Active, but I also hear a pinch of Beat Happening if they found themselves caught in bizarro world. Tracks like “Elks Lodge Riot”, “Dig Up The Graves” and the awesome title track could easily be called indie bubble gum pop, for these songs are rich with the wholesomeness that make these songs good, there’s nothing to hate about them and if you do, you’re a fool. “Anacortes” sounds like a song that may come off like the neighborhood theme (complete with a slight nod to The Purple One) and I’d like to think anyone who lives in the Pacific Northwest will understand its sensibility. Tullycraft prove that pop music doesn’t have to be serious 24 hours a day, sometimes you have to let loose and dance your foolish B.S. away with bright and positive music, or at least songs that become a guide towards self-improvement, call it advice pop if you must.
Ultramarine (Paper Bag) by Young Galaxy is a very nice dance pop album that may be a throwback to the type of music Blondie, Madonna, and Donna Summer created in their heydays: irresistible songs with stories, motivational choruses, and instrumentation that brought the listener into the songs and kept them there.
Hailing from the land of Nardwuar (Vancouver, British Columbia), Catherine McCandless, Andrea Silver, Matthew Shapiro, Stephen Kamp, and Stephen Ramsay have created their fourth album in a way that shows the band knowing very well how to create potential hits while also understanding the importance of an album cut, and that’s by giving them content and not allowing them to be wasteful. A perfect example of this is “New Summer”, which sound perfect as is but one could easily see it gaining a new life if placed in the hands of others. In other words, these songs are worth covering and expanding, but to hear them in their original state makes you want to believe in them more, or at least understand the source of these lyrics and musical arrangements.
As for arrangements, I enjoyed the pace of the album, where vocalist McCandless starts off slightly soft and demure, but by the end of the album, one is able to hear her sing boldly where the listener is able to hear more of her strengths. Fit that in with the stories being told, and one finds a need to embrace these songs immediately. It’s well written pop music as it should be, tales without the phoniness or extra gleam in their eyes.