Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Asylum Party. Julia (1988).

I found out about Asylum Party from a link posted by Dee Dee Penny on some social media site I follow her on.  It makes sense that the head Dum Dum Girl would want to share this, as it seems to be generally in the same realm of chilly enchantment as some of her work on Too TrueAsylum Party was completely unknown to me, so it was a real treat to hear this captivating song.  Asylum Party lasted during the second half of the 80's and was apparently one of the best bands to come out of the French "Coldwave" genre.  Coldwave was a term initially coined by Sounds magazine to describe Kraftwerk, but it soon evolved to describe dozens of obscure French and Belgian post punk bands in the early 80's.  I've started listening to some Coldwave compilations, and AP is by far the most tuneful and harmonically satisfying of them all.  I'm guessing vocalist Thierry Sobézyk was the main composer. Whoever it was, they really had a skillful touch for writing haunted, uncanny songs.

Asylum Party doesn't have a Web site, their music is not available on iTunes or eMusic, and their CD's are pretty scarce, having been out of print for some time.  Amazon sells them new or used starting in the $40 range, and the vinyl goes way over $200.  Or you can just visit some of those shady blog sites that host mp3's, and pray your antivirus is up to date.

Even though their vintage is a bit later, they share a slightly Goth-y, undead eeriness with some other post punk bands, such as Siouxie and the Banshees, Bauhaus, Joy Division, The Cure, and even early Cocteau Twins. 

Their 1989 video, "Misfortunes?," certainly plays up the phantasmal atmosphere:

Friday, September 12, 2014

Alvvays (2014).

I'm very uncertain about the cover art of the debut album by Alvvays, it just doesn't seem right.  Other than that, I am really liking this Canadian band, led by Molly Rankin.  It's smart Indie Pop, with the energy of the 80's version of the genre, but refreshed enough to be contemporary.  It might not be groundbreaking, but they craft good tunes and arrange them with skill.  It's pretty challenging to emulate a style that has already peaked without giving you that deflated feeling that you've heard it before, and done better.  Even some of the more recent critically acclaimed Indie Pop bands seem flat to me.  Alvvays nails it and sounds like the real thing.  The lyrics are worth listening for, and the instrument parts enhance the song and are well thought out. 

Personally, I am so tired of performers and bands putting on a "show."  Alvvays is pretty cute as a band, but they're unpretentious and just get down to business.  All jangle, no spangle.  Let's have more of this.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Lana Del Rey. Ultraviolence (2014)

I thought I'd give a listen to LDR's new release, Ultraviolence.  I found Born To Die interesting and was curious as to what she had devised as a follow up.  I did not expect to be knocked on my butt by a major work of art.  Ultraviolence is a massive, immersive experience.  It's full of guilt, regret, arrogance, pain, longing, and a certain type of sour beauty.  I guess you could just play this in the background while tidying up your house or something, but for me it demanded the attention of a David Lynch movie, drawing me in deeper and deeper, filling me with the underlying anxiety that something tragic and disturbing was about to happen.

Ultraviolence can't be thought of as just a new collection of pop songs by Lizzie Grant.  It's an artwork that completely integrates sound, lyrics, and performance to create a vision of a world both glamorous and grim.  It's very Baudelairean in it's evocation of the old Spleen and Ideal concept.  

The sound on this disc is magnificent.  LDR's voice and the instruments are processed through a variety of reverbs and delays, so the music exists in these lush and expansive spaces, but every detail glimmers like a spark.  Some of the guitar sounds are so present, you'd swear guitarist/producer Dan Auerbach was right in the room with you.

By the time I heard the third track on the album, "Shades of Cool," I knew I was in the presence of a masterpiece.

Shades of Cool:

Monday, June 23, 2014

Kylie. I Was Gonna Cancel (2014).

The best song on Kylie's new album is probably "I Was Gonna Cancel," by "The Best Dressed Man in the World," Pharrell.  It almost makes me want to forgive him for being a part of the "Blurred Lines" debacle of last year.  I said, "almost."  

It's similar in form to his current smash hit, "Happy."  The formula is, "I got four chords that sound dope together, so let's run them into the ground."  Luckily, you don't get tired of hearing those four chords over and over because, well, they actually do sound as great as he thinks they do.  Apparently, Pharrell wrote this as Kylie was having an attack of anxiety about the session and thought she might have to cancel.

Lyric videos have grown up; this one is pretty spectacular:

Here's the Dance Off version of "IWGC," with Kylie, her dancers, and what appears to be a random assortment of just plain folk.  It's cute.

And just to be complete, here's the final, Official video.  Someone said this may be the cheapest (as in, least expensive) video that Kylie has ever made.  That's probably true, but I think she intentionally went for the simplistic look of white blouse, jeans, and her hair down because (like Bowie) she never does anything that's not well thought out.  (Not sure about the high-waisted jeans here, but I know that's a current trend, so there you go:)

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Puzzle Pieces - Various Artists (2014).

This epic retrospective of the Seattle based label, Jigsaw Records, contains 48 tracks on two CD's.  The compilation runs the gamut, demonstrating the wide range of what Indiepop can be, from lo fi, garage-y punk pop, to sweet, soft melodies.  You won't already own any of these tracks, even if you are a fan of the label, because Chris McFarlane made a special effort to obtain rare or unreleased tracks by all the bands he's worked with over the years.  It's a cliché, but there really is something here for everybody.  You'll find tons of catchy tunes, and witty lyrics, that will put a smile on your face.  I am very proud to be a part of this myself, having contributed one of my previously unreleased songs, "No Place to Go," as the second track on CD2.  Only 500 CD's were pressed, so this will probably become a collector's item.  You can also visit Jigsaw for lots of stuff from other labels since they are a distributor of: "indiepop, power pop, indie rock, lo-fi pop, twee, and pretty much any other kind of fun pop music that we fancy..." 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Slowdive 2014

When we think back to the Shoegaze era, many of us mourn the fact that some of our favorite bands will never reconvene.  Cocteau Twins had just started their own label and bought a studio space when they broke up over irreconcilable differences in 1997.  Lush called it a day after the tragic loss of drummer Chris Acland in 1996. Emma Anderson later formed Sing-Sing, but Miki Berenyi just disappeared (breaking the hearts of countless shoegaze fanboys, no doubt, who had massive crushes on her), until last year's surprise appearance with Hard Skin.   However, some dreams came true: My Bloody Valentine toured and recorded brilliant new material in 2013 after a 20 year absence.  Now Slowdive is on a huge tour this year, and may record again as well. 
Slowdive only produced 3 albums, but Rachel and Neil started Mojave 3 after the Slowdive breakup in 1994.  Rachel released a solo album in 2004, Waves Are Universal.  Some of the other members hadn't even picked up their instruments since their last gig in Toronto twenty years ago this month. 

Apparently, the reformed group is sounding good live, and getting some serious love from fans and critics.  The Guardian said their "unexpected return may prove one of this year's most welcome surprises."  Here they are performing earlier this week at the first gig of their tour:


Rachel is quite active on Twitter, and the band has an official Instagram page.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Twiggy. "When I Think of You," (1967).

Twiggy, one of the first international supermodels, was called "The Face of '66," and she seemed able to do almost anything by 1967, including sing.  By 1972 she had won two Golden Globes for her role in the musical, The Boyfriend, but her earlier pop records have an adorable, quirky charm that render them quite distinctive.

"When I Think of You"

"I used to be a thing; I'm a person now."

Friday, April 4, 2014

Beatles VS Stones

I've always thought the comparison of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones was ridiculous, they are two completely different entities.  For those of us who are old enough to remember, the real rivals of The Beatles during the early days of the second British Invasion were The Dave Clark Five, and time has certainly favored the former of the two in that battle of the bands.  The thing that really bothers me though, is the stereotype of the Stones as the rockin' bad boys and The Beatles as charming pansies.  So, let's test that theory with these performances from the 60's (and I promise I won't even bring up "Helter Skelter").  I think the Stones' performance is completely live, while the Beatles video has live vocals and the instruments on tape.

The Rolling Stones: "Lady Jane."

And now, "Revolution," from The Beatles:

So, that's that. There is even a new book by John McMillian called, Beatles vs. Stones, which I haven't yet read, but plan to.  By the way, I'm not trying to take anything away from the Stones.  I think their (Jagger and Richards')  observations on society and class were more acute than The Beatles' ("19th Nervous Breakdown," "Mother's Little Helper,"even "Satisfaction").  But after the firing and death of Brian Jones, the Stones sort of became their own tribute band, especially after Sticky Fingers.   

Oh, and here are the real contenders, Ladies and Gentlemen: The Dave Clark Five!!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Dum Dum Girls. Too True (2014).

Over the last couple of weeks I've bought every release by Dum Dum Girls.The lo-fi aspect of Dee Dee's earlier work sounds practically experimental in nature.  Without vocals or drums, some of those early tracks could almost be mistaken as something by Christian Fennesz.

The new album by Dum Dum Girls, Too True, is slick, glamorous, and lush, filled with reverberant magic spaces.  More glaze than daze.  

Dum Dum Girls evoke a few things at the same time: I hear Phil Spector, the Ronnettes, 70's punk, and some 80's Indie Pop. Dee Dee prefers the Stones from the Brian Jones era, which I am totally sympathetic with.  I love how Kristin Welchez decided to become a character, which she would call Dee Dee Penny, who plays in an imaginary band called Dum Dum Girls, before she even had a band. 

Anyone who's followed Dum Dum Girls from the beginning is aware of Dee Dee's development from bedroom 4-tracker, to signing to Sub Pop, to fronting a full touring band, to performing on major network TV (Letterman).  You've no doubt loved the dichotomous nature of her work: innocent/gritty, sunny/dark, tuneful/noisy, retro/au courantToo True is a major leap forwards, which might not please her oldest fans, but I appreciate her desire to create something as rich and sophisticated as she did with this album.

Here's a good example of Dum Dum Girls' love of opposing points of view, from the 2010 debut album, I Will Be.  They dance (kind of) on a summery, psychedelic beach.  The video is full of overexposed, pretty pastel colors; but they are dressed as if for a funereal, in black leather and lace:

Here is the title track from the new album.  It's so swoony and alluring (both the video and the song); almost sounding like Cocteau Twins meets The Cure, mixed with some late period Siouxie and the Banshees thrown in for extra enchantment, and there's nothing wrong with that.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Lesley Gore. California Nights (1967).

I've always loved Lesley Gore.  Not sure why, but it may be due to having seen this at age 11:

In this interview from 2009(?) she mentions a couple of my most favorite "girl singers," June Christy, and Anita O'Day, as big influences on her, so maybe that also explains why I love LG.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

LCD Soundsystem. Disco Infiltrator

A friend of mine (Hi Jayne!) heard this on the radio and wanted to share it with me.  I'm not an expert on LCD Soundsystem, but I really appreciate James Murphy's work.  A lot of his music sounds like a parody of something you've already heard, a bit of post punk, a bit of New Wave, but it's so well put together that it's fresh and irresistible.  I find the humor and vulnerability in his work very endearing.  

Murphy speaks in this interview on how he experienced a life of failure before going into psychotherapy.  He forgets to mention how he turned down an invitation to write for Seinfeld just before it became a global phenomenon; that was a biggie.  But eventually he was able to play Madison Square Garden with his band, before he broke it up.  In typical fashion, he thought that was perhaps a big mistake, after the fact, of course.  

James Murphy on failure:

Here's the song that he refers to in the interview: "Losing My Edge":

Let's watch the band as they start their day when, later that night, they will be playing at what appears to be the Bowery Ballroom (I think this really captures the ambiance of downtown):

Disco Infiltrator:

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Jazz Police

The Police started as a punk band in the 70's that incorporated some heavy reggae influence, before becoming the biggest Pop/Rock band in the world since The Beatles in 1983.  But both Sting and Andy Summers had had a strong background in jazz, which is evident from their sense of phrasing, timing, and interest in harmony.

Here, Sting and Andy play a bit of jazz with Jools Holland.  I would guess this is from 1981 while The Police were recording Ghost In The Machine in Montserrat

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

BMX Bandits. Listen To Some Music (2012).

Let's never overlook how wonderful BMX Bandits are.  Kurt Cobain said they were the only band he would ever join if he were not already in Nirvana.  And he was dead serious.

Still led by Duglas T. Stewart through various personnel changes, the Scottish band has been in business for over 25 years.  A documentary, Serious Drugs, was made about them a few years ago.  The title comes from one of their most famous songs (which actually refers to the antidepressant variety, not the recreational). 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

More from 2013: Caramel Snow. The Beauty Editors.

Besides releasing two EP's this year, free kittnz on Bandcamp, and Layer Cake on iTunes, I was lucky enough to have a full length CD come out on the Indonesian label, Shiny Happy Records, called The Beauty Editors (SHR 18).  For the most part, the inspiration came from the baroque chamber pop I heard on AM radio from 1966 through 1967, such as the Beatles, and the Beach Boys, of course, but also The Left Banke, The Association, and The Hollies, as well as the the quirky type of retro pop released on el Records, and the Compact Organization in the '80's.

Here are a couple of videos I made for the album: 


After Monte Carlo