Posts Tagged ‘Indie Pop’

The Reds, Pinks and Purples – “The Record Player and the Damage Done”

Another excellent single lands from the upcoming Reds, Pinks and Purples LP. Taking even a cursory look at Glenn Donaldson’s output over the years — from the noise of Thuja to the sun-soaked folk of The Skygreen Leopards and the jangle-pop pervasiveness of Art Museums and RPP — Glenn clearly suffers from the same record addled affliction as many of us. “The Record Player and the Damage Done” is an ode to the spiritually fulfilling act of playing records. There’s something satisfying in pursuing a sound that’s just right, pouring over discographies and dollar bins to find something that’ll make your heart soar or match you in a melt to the floor. With touches of Felt and the Dunedin sound coursing through this song, Glenn’s sending out a beacon to all bin riflers out there, an instant jangle-pop classic. The new LP lands him a debut at Slumberland and a second offering in the UK on Tough Love. Uncommon Weather is out April 9th.

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The Catenary Wires – “Mirrorball”

The last time I saw Catenary Wires around these parts Rob and Amelia (Talulah Gosh, Heavenly) were creating clouded jangles that beat with a dark heart. Now, with a new album on the way from Shelflife (USA) / Skep Wax (UK), they’re embracing an ‘80s pop strain they might have avoided when they passed through that decade the first time around. Yet, with a propulsive pulse, muted horns, and a melancholy lump in their throat, they embrace the queasy swing of the disco lights and find a heartbeat of humanity underneath the glossy exterior of disposable pop across shared drinks. “Mirrorball” finds the pair exploring a couple connecting in unlikely circumstances, letting a themed bar night act as the backdrop for a more meaningful connection. The song carries a sense of hope and a slight wink at aging. Its not a night of legend, but sometimes love comes along in strange circumstances. The single is the first form the band’s upcoming Birling Gap.

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Cool Sounds

While the band’s last album tried to fill the collective hole in their hearts from the loss of bandmate Zac Denton, on their latest, Cool Sounds seek a sound that trends towards a balance of bliss. They’ve always had a knack for concocting a sound that lays into a pocket of funk-striped indie pop, balancing comfort and cool, but here that dichotomy seems almost perfectly rendered. Underpinning the album is a crisp crackle of drums that snags the listener from afar. Its hard not to nod and let down the guards when Cool Sounds hits the speakers. The guitars and vocals fade in on hazed sunbeam — lounged, hip swung, carefree but not careless.

Perhaps that’s the best praise that can be laid on Bystander — when its playing everything seems a bit easer. In a year of clenched teeth and chaos that’s almost indispensable. The album isn’t a balm, that term has been broken and beaten, and anyway a balm seems something more inert than Cool Sounds could ever become. The album is a catalyst, helping to bring down the temperature in a room, to loosen the layers of life until they return to a state of balance once more. With an elastic snap, a slouched wink and a creep that treads like a slip-on but grips like a velvet vice, the songs on Bystander work their way at a molecular level to kick the serotonin up a notch. Sure, there are records that shake the foundations and force you to change with them, but right about now I’m all for a subtle boost of good graces flowing through my cells.



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The Boys With the Perpetual Nervousness

On their sophomore LP, the lengthily named The Boys With the Perpetual Nervousness dig into a wealth of US power pop and ‘80s collegiate jangle that might fit in well with the recently sprung set Strum & Thrum. The record carries an earnestness that’s admirable, playing its heart-stung swoons without hint of tongue near the cheek. The Boys are wrapping their heartache in a cavalcade of hooks that are rather hard to ignore as they flip through an alternate history radio station where Superdrag’s second LP got the praise it deserved, Teenage Fanclub topped everyone’s list over Nirvana in ’91 and Matthew Sweet kept on writing songs for Choo Choo Train rather than split solo. It’s a world where emotional honesty never quite went out of style and perfect pop simply meant that the chords got bigger and brighter.

On paper, as out of fashion with the zeitgeist of pop as it might sound, the band pulls it off with a freshness that doesn’t seem so much like they’re holding onto the past as traveling that alternate timeline in earnest. The strums are huge and swimming around the speakers, the keys crisp as a ray of sun and the harmonies tend to warm the heart even when the tone swings bittersweet. I’m always going to be a sucker for a record that goes this hard on mining the melancholy ache that lies between the jangle and strum, but even without my admitted bias, it’s hard not to admire The Boys for the sheer audacity of their ardor. It’s possible that this may get lost in the froth of music coverage in 2021, but as with some of the most admirable pop albums, there’s a very good chance that Songs From Another Life will find a niche that reveres it for the double stacked hooks and cardigan-clad care that’s gone into it.



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Bill Fox – Transit Byzantium

Some great news of a couple of essential reissues out of the Cleveland underground this month. Bill Fox’s name might have swum into your conciseness if power pop fringes ever cross your turntable, having mad some slight amount of acclaim leading The Mice along with his brother Tommy in the mid-80s. Much to his brother’s dismay, Bill left the band behind just as they began to garner acclaim. The band’s sound had the feeling predicting a pop-punk explosion that was to follow in the early ‘90s, but it seems that wasn’t the route Fox had in mind. Bill would keep out of the public eye for quite a few years, but around 1996 he assembled a backing band he called The Radio Flyers and began to focus on a string of solo records that took on a quieter calling, but found their own ardent following in the process. While The Mice’s garage pop was based on huge hooks and a focused snottiness that made them instantly likable, Bill’s solo recordings were more introspective, finding themselves drenched in a home-recorded hue of folk pop and Everlys ease.

There’s still hangover of the charms that Bill brought to The Mice evident in his first solo LP Shelter From The Smoke, but it trades volume for quietude, reclining nicely into an album that straddles its clear Dylan/ Van Ronk roots with the indie-pop and folk waves that were swimming to the fore around the time. As he gets comfortable and leans into his second LP, Transit Byzantium he’s found himself penning a ruffled, but resplendent gem of an album that lays into hooks with the unfussed air of Guided By Voices if they were recording Elliott Smith style lamentations. Under the tape-hiss humbleness Fox lays out his masterpiece on Transit, weaving an album of nasal folk sighs that chaffed against plenty of trends at the time. However, given time to breathe and re-root itself into consciousness, the album proves to be an evergreen record of homespun tales that rattle around the brain with a weathered charm. The reissue, along with an LP issue of its predecessor mark the first time the albums have been on vinyl, boasting a brand new remastering that lets the sound sink into the grooves and grow into the essential release its always been.



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Heavenly – A Bout de Heavenly

Still some late year necessities rolling in before 2020 officially tosses itself into the burn bin. The crew over at Damaged Goods fill in an indie-pop drought of Heavenly releases with this essential singles compilation. The band, which sprang out of the highly revered Tallulah Gosh, wound up making their own stake in indie-pop that was just as significant. The compilation rounds up the band’s singles, which were spread primarily over Sarah in the early ‘90s but also found their way stateside to K Records, with one popping up on Rough Trade’s Wiiija Records as well. The set nabs highlights from the singles as well as their four albums, similarly spread across Sarah and Wiiija.

Heavenly, as much has the Gosh before them found their charms spreading their sound between guitars that jangle n’ twang. Add to that the saccharine n’ tart vocals of Amelia Fletcher and Cathy Rogers and its easy to see why they’ve long been a fan favorite. While Fletcher’s heartbroken lament and pogo-pop delivery were the hallmark, post Le Jardin de Heavenly the band featured harmonies from Rogers and their back ’n forth became a bit of an expected feature, not to mention a blueprint for twee poppers following in their footsteps from Belle and Sebastian to The Vivian Girls. The band’s catalog has, as I mentioned, seen a bit of a lapse in the last few years. Aside from the digital availability of the LPs, the last round up of the band’s work round its way out around ’95. Indie pop fans should have this one high on their list even as the end of year onslaught threatens to bury it.



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GN – “Home Business”

Coupla new ones up from the always excellent UK label Prefect Records, the label run by Owen Williams ( Joanna Gruesome, Ex Void ) and Mark Dobson ( The Field Mice), but “Home Business” from GN stands out for breaking a bit from the label’s past releases. Still sliced off of the indie-pop peg, but this one also has a serious infection of rhythm pushing the band away from the downcast Bristol set that the label often takes its inspiration from and instead cribbing bits of Talking Heads, Cleaners from Venus, and Arthur Russell over a propulsive slink. The band is the initialed output of Welsh, London based songwriter George “GN” Nicholls, and like pretty much anything that Perfect has put out so far, these scant bits only make the listener hope for more.

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Venetian Blinds – “Flowers Die”

Got a tip off of a friend about this L.A . band and their LP from March is a total jangle gem that’s been sorely overlooked. While the whole LP is a soft-hearted strummer that could easily find a home on Paisley Shirt or Fruits & Flowers, the absolute earworm of the record is this pillowy puff of pop, “Flowers Die.” With a nice lacquer of nostalgia and cloudy-sky aesthetics, the song reclines onto its own indie-pop eiderdown. There’s something that strikes more of an American indie strain here, evoking a bit more of the fodder on that recently released Strum & Thrum comp than the usual UK and NZ touchstones that crop up. I’m definitely keeping an eye on these guys, but their debut is well worth a spin on the speakers for the jangle lovers in the crowd. Secret Music is out now, self-released from the band.

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Peel Dream Magazine – “Clean Water (live)”

Just catching this one today and its a real nice live treat from Peel Dream Magazine. The band was pretty busy over the last year, with an album on Slumberland and an digital EP, Moral Panics, that’s just now seeing light on vinyl. That EP closes with a demo of a track called “Clean Water,” which is fuzzy in a lovely sort of way but this nice acoustic version really does the track justice from a performance on Baby TV. While the band is usually mining some shoegaze territory, here the song casts them in a bit of a jangle pop territory, bringing down the lights and letting a little tender sigh out to close sets. The physical version of the EP boasts a couple of bonus cuts that didn’t make it out earlier, so only more reason to pick that one up where you can.

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Mixtape: Frank Infatuation – Jangle Pop Heirs to the ’80s Underground

It seems only fitting that this latest mixtape should grace the site on the same day that the Strum & Thrum review posts. The compilation and its focus on overlooked jangle-pop provided a seed of inspiration, alongside other notables like Sarah roundups Shadow Factory and Temple Road, Take The Subway To The Suburbs and, naturally, the C86 comp. I figured if we’re going to round some of the gems of our current era up later on, might as well have a good starting point. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that this does not have the geographic specificity inherent in some of those. While it rounds up a particular sound of jangle / indie pop, the bands here swing from the U.S. to Australia and New Zealand, with stops in the UK. Though someday, someone will have a wealth of opportunity rounding up the sounds of San Francisco in the Aughts/Teens and it will be well worth a listen. For now, this one should find a bit of a crack in the clouds and give you an hour’s worth of bittersweet sunshine.

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