Posts Tagged ‘Indie Pop’

Loose Tooth

Melbourne’s Loose Tooth (not to be confused with the Father/Daughter band of the same name) had a promising EP out last year and with their debut for Milk! they more than make good on those promises. The full-length processes knotty post-punk bass lines and breathless jangles, then pastes them to wide-eyed indie pop for a record that’s constantly familiar and endearingly catchy. They’re passing over the threadbare fare that’s been popping up among their countrymen and instead pushing for a more polished sound that’s got its head in the past – think The Passions mixing it up with members Look Blue Go Purple and Close Lobsters – yet still winds up sounding timeless.

The crux of Keep On is the band’s ability to weave starry-eyed delivery with impeccable atmospheres. Snap on a keen use of three-part harmonies that never get syrupy and the makings of a damn fine debut begins to take shape. Their mastery of the moody vs. wistful approach to songwriting serves this up for fans of bedroom fare, with the band pining over an abundance of twisted love throughout the album’s eleven track run. They swerve from that humble pop path, though and the album elevates their love letters into a lush pop sound. There’s something sparkling happening in the details here – a hi-fi rumble, sax squawks, pillowy mounds of reverb. The deeper listeners get into Keep On the more it rewards with rippling subtleties and soft-touch hooks. While its definitely put together well, its not flashy and the band comes out all the better for it. Sadly, I feel that this one won’t get nearly its due on this side of the ocean, but for those paying attention it’s a lovely gem of a record.




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The Fortuna Pop! All-Stars – “You Can Hide Your Love Forever”

It was with a heavy heart that the world said goodbye to Fortuna Pop!, one of the UK’s most ardent gardeners of modern jangle-pop. However, in a bit of good news wrapped inside the bad, the label has one last treat for the faithful. Fulfilling the last obligation on their singles series, they’ve slipped out a farewell card from their roster. Members of Allo Darlin, Spook School, Comet Gain, Joanna Gruesome, Martha, The Ladybug Transistor and Pete Astor (among others) come together like the tweest version of Live Aid the world has ever seen and run through a celebratory cover of Comet Gain’s “You Can Hide Your Love Forever.” While the original 2001 single is a melancholy bit of bliss from a band that was always overdue, the Fortuna Pop! All-Stars version revamps it into a swooning wall of indie pop splendor. It’s a nice period on the works of a label that was a labor of love and a wellspring of taste.

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Doe – “Heated”

UK trio Doe follow on their 2016 album, Some Things Last Longer Than You, with a sophomore record for Glasgow’s Big Scary Monsters (on Topshelf in the US). The album embraces themes of getting older, finding freedom in maturity and solace in death. While the subject matter is heavy, there’s still plenty of room for hooks. The first track, “Heated,” dredges up visions of ’90s crunch pop from Veruca Salt and they’re picking at a lot of the same alt bones that drove last year’s standout from Charley Bliss. The band aren’t content to be backed into a genre corner, though. The track pushes and pulls between quiet, grinning contempt and explosive fuzz riffs that push for the kind of catharsis that fits their aim of growing up without letting the anchor of youth weigh you down or tie you up. Gonna want to hear some more of this record, but this is a nice opening shot and a step up from their DIY past.

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Tony Molina

I continue to be floored by how much punch Tony Molina can pack into about fifteen full minutes of material. His albums are exercises in self-restraint, picking out heartbreaking hooks and using them once or twice before the man walks away leaving audiences wanting much, much more. His songs never sound half-finished though – despite their length – they simply breeze into all of our lives, soften our hearts and flutter on back home to Tony’s power pop soul. Call them indie pop jingles or compact-size singles, but Molina remains a master craftsman of the sort of digestible pop that can be absorbed in full over the course of a state mandated fifteen-minute retail break.

As has been well noted, here and elsewhere, the second album, like the EP that preceded it has softened the crunch from Molina’s Ocasek-era Weezer / early Fanclub leanings. He’s dug out the twelve-string here and has clearly been listening to the most tender-hearted moments of the Byrds catalog. He’s sopping up the tears shed by teens finding solace in Elliott Smith’s oeuvre and he’s still not done with the likes of Norman Blake and the boys in Fanclub’s van. He’s just moved on to their own softer side. On Kill The Lights Molina combines all these influences into a power pop pit stop that’s bittersweet, but blissful, and absolutely one of the most touching albums of the year.

More than a punk in folk’s clothing, Molina has grafted the economical length of punk’s attention span to lush arrangements that are anything but frugal when it comes to production. These are mini-epics of pop squeezed into snow globes and they dazzle with their ornate details. Every time this album comes to an end I find myself turning it back on all over again. The songs on Kill The Lights are stunners one and all and I’m pretty sure this could just be set on a loop and keep a room at attention for well past an hour. Tony might dole out his gifts in small packages, but he’s an argument in favor of quality over quantity to say the least.



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Massage

The debut LP from L.A.’s Massage ingests forty years of jangled history and reconfigures the pieces into hazy, radiant indie pop that touches the shores of England ’86 as often as Australia ’18. In fact, much like the current crop of upstart Aussies the band’s loose agenda found them gathering to create songs they love mostly to impress one another, rather than prop up the material for mass consumption. Without any initial pressures driving the songwriting, there’s a breezy joy that seems to inhabit the record, splashed with West Coast sun and sparkling with sea foam in is veins. The album’s humble roots should by no means discount the appeal of their debut, though. Despite playing on their personal pop indulgences Oh Boy is stuffed with hooks and coated in a lacquer of honeyed fuzz. The record reads like a case study in pop, stitched by studied hands and pressed crisp as linen.

The band finds songwriters Alex Naidus (The Pains of Being Pure At Heart) and Andrew Romano trading hooks, with a mix by Jason Quever (Papercuts) bringing the record to pastel fruition. While there might be room for comparisons with Naidus’ former band, there’s a shaggier quality to Massage that’s less labored over, but no less addictive. The band tumbles through the record, perched on the edge of bittersweet, but they shove the nostalgic sighs away with the collective smile that’s constantly breaking its way through the songwriting on Oh Boy. They scoop up nods to The Go-Betweens, Sarah Records and Flying Nun. They pour over Feelies’ riffs like they were scripture. It’s clear that the band were having fun with the idea of sketching out songs and their joy is damn infectious. They chew on every inch of Oh Boy with the zeal of artists who are sustained by the sparkle of their songs. Is it indulgent, sure? But we all stand to gain from their jangle-pop sweet tooth.

Speaking of Aussies, the record looks to be making its way to vinyl only via a small Aussie imprint, Tear Jerk out of Melbourne. Though don’t let the long distance dampen your smile, seems the US copies will ship direct from the band so you can still grab the wax and save on shipping.



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The Essex Green

It’s hard not to get nostalgic for music that formed key moments in one’s life. To that respect a resurgence of late period E6’ers The Essex Green is both an amazing experience and slightly bittersweet. The music is as vital and as draped in gooey pop as ever. The band’s first record since their 2006 Merge LP The Cannibal Sea more than lives up to the wanting expectations left in the vacancy of that album’s uncertain finality. More than 10 years on they’re still capturing the wistfulness, ache, and slightly psychedelic bump into paisley pop that made them heirs apparent to the Elephant kingdom and perfect contenders for Merge’s burgeoning stable of indie pop purveyors.

While enough time has passed that the band’s brand of earnest pop might not be the most “in fashion” sound, they make a strong play for the enduring quality of clean cuts and open hearts. The record doesn’t sound so much like a throwback as it does a classic example of how indie pop can capture the moment with a song that’s bursting with catchy qualities, yet rocking back and forth on classic hooks. The band has always strayed straight, never lacing their pop with snark or scoff and with their latest they’re still as earnest as ever. The record is a loping, gorgeous example of how to stay true to a sound without worrying about the whims of the listening pool. The record can, at times, feels a bit buttoned down, especially when their early records on Kindercore are taken into account, but all in all this is a full stop return for The Essex Green. Hardly Electric is larger than the margins and coloring with every crayon in the box.




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Proud Parents

Featuring members of fellow Madison pop heroes The Hussy and Fire Heads, Proud Parents pick up similar cues from those bands’ respective power pop bounce and garage gusto. Following on their Rare Plant cassette from last year, the band’s debut for Dirtnap is a non-stop blur of sunny strums, clap-a-along choruses and joyous hooks that fizz with life. The band boasts three songwriters – Claire Nelson-Lifson, Tyler Fassnacht and Heather Sawyer – and part of the album’s charm is listening to the three bounce their songs off one another. No matter who’s at the helm, they all sound like they’re having a blast with the remaining two jumping in to support with backup harmonies brimming with enough joy to turn any bad day around.

With production from Bobby Hussy (also of The Hussy and Fire Heads) the album takes on a bigger life than their previous cassettes, achieving a level of gloss and crunch that Hussy and Sawyer captured on their 2013 standout Pagan Hiss. While a crowded creative field seems like it could wind up with bruised egos, the album doesn’t sound like three songwriters pushing and pulling at each other or, worse, trying to outdo one another. Instead the eponymous album winds up a collaborative talent show with no losers, only winners. Proud Parents bring the positive vibes that are sorely needed this year. While 2018 is draped in its own drama, sometimes its nice to just turn it all of for 30 minutes and enjoy the sun. Take a breath, maybe press repeat. No regrets.


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Slumberland SL30 Singles Series

It should come as no surprise that Slumberland is a favorite label around here, so the news that they’re prepping a 30th anniversary singles series comes with a lot of excitement. The singles will be shipped between now and December 2019, around the actual anniversary of the label. The first couple start strong out of the gate, with an offering from David West’s Rat Columns and ’90s indie-poppers The Suncharms. The rest of the series is no slouch either, focusing on atypical Slumberland artists with a goal of showcasing non-roster material that fans might be missing out on. The lineup includes Dolly Dream (featuring Meg Remy from U.S. Girl), Baltimore’s Wildhoney, Pale Lights and Lake Ruth from NYC, Failed Flowers (Anna Burch and Fred Thomas), David Callahan (of The Wolfhound) and RSTB fave and Fruits & Flowers alum Odd Hope.

At $100 shipped and shelved the package is a great deal from one of the leading lights in janglepop and indie pop for the past three decades. Check out the label for the details: HERE.

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Tony Molina – “Wrong Town”

Every new bit from Tony is better than the last. His upcoming sophomore LP for Slumberland is fully entrenched in his acoustic persona, wedging his songs between the heartbroken strains of Elliott Smith, Emmitt Rhodes and the gentlest bits of the Davies brothers. “Wrong Town” is practically begging for Wes Anderson to write the scene it belongs in, throwing the bittersweet gauntlet down in a one minute challenge. From the sounds of the first couple of tracks off of this Molina is well on his way to a newly minted classic. As usual each song gets its hooks into and then fades away like a memory gone too soon. Damned evil in that way, leaving the listener always wanting just a touch more.

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Shy Boys – “Take The Doggie”

Kansas City’s Shy Boys blend an affinity for bighearted pop of the ’60s variety with the knotted College Rock shot straight out of Athen’s ’88 for an instantly recognizable sound that’s always on the tip of your tongue and lapping at the backwaters of memory. Their short, but sweet, track “Take The Doggie” is a tale of dog-knapping with no ill intent and the video, well pretty much hits things on the nose with some crowd-sourced dog shots. Still, the song’s an earworm that can’t be beat and a standout on their upcoming Polyvinyl debut, Bell House.

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