Posts Tagged ‘Indie Pop’

The Tubs – “I Don’t Know How It Works”

The first couple of offerings from Perfect Records, the collaboration between Joanna Gruesome members and Mark Dobson from The Field Mice, have highlighted members of the band post-dissolution. Where Ex-Vöid blend JG’s knack for melody with some spark-changed guitars, The Tubs invests in Sarah Records-styled jangle that feels as timeless as ever. “I Don’t Know How It Works” is a bittersweet tumble down the tubes with organ swells and aquamarine-hued harmonies that can’t help but hurt as much as they heal. The song picks at jangle with a ruffled charm, feeling at once like the most put together track from members of the Gruesome family, yet still one that doesn’t subscribe to the notion of perfection.

The flip is a slightly more driven pop nugget that’s got strains of The Chills and The Bats in its DNA, and could easily crop up on latter-day offerings from either. Both sides are absolutely stunners and here’s hoping that as this label progresses they continue to highlight the crossover chemistry of members from the ranks of Joanna Gruesome while also roping in some likeminded folks along the way.



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HITS – “Tried Bikinis”

Thanks to the tip from the best ears on the ground in pop, Glenn Donaldson, on this one. There are plenty of cuts on Hits that radiate with a faded pastel charm, but the perfect pop of “Tried Bikinis” is unstoppable. The band captures the ‘80s ideals of thriving outside of a system that’s not built for bands that don’t scrub clean and fit the video-ready rabble of pre-fab pop. Infected with the kind of wonky wobble that made Raincoats, Dolly Mixture, and Kleenex work wonders on the spools of a yellow sport Walkman, this cut from Hits comes with the built in feeling of having been passed from mixtape to mixtape before it hit the foam phones wrapped around your teenaged head. The bass is so thick and rubbery its practically tactile through the speakers and just as the hooks start to dig the band pulls the carpet from underneath the catchiness. Its a cacaphonic, saccharine bit of aural bliss and I want it to go on waaaaay longer than the bare minute that it gets. Thankfully there’s plenty else to love on this cassette from the band — downer drowned pop, scotch tap traps, fuzzed hooks and hi-bias jangles. If you haven’t gotten your hands on this yet, go. Don’t wait.



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pting – “Boo”

Nice shaker of a track out of Australia from newcomers pting. “Boo” is an airy jangler that makes the most of the soft-focus vocal yearn of Elise Langer that rides atop the spring-loaded drums and heartsick guitars. Without an air of pretense, pting work to make a song that’s simple and sweet, but sticks with you long after the last notes slide away from the speakers. Feeling ripped from the 80’s / ‘90s tipping point of CMJ saturation, the song makes its stake on an aura of refreshing ache more than catchy choruses, but sometimes its those tracks built on mood that get returned to the most. The song feels familiar in a cozy way – comforting, understanding, and supportive like a moment from youth that can be lived in forever on a loop three minutes at a time.


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Melenas – “3 Segundos”

Have to say, pretty much everything that I’ve found emanating out of the Spanish underground has been a charmer, from punk blasts to indie strums the bands have a way of making the most of their sound. Usually the offerings are coming from the heart of Barcelona, but Melenas hail from Pamplona and aim to make it a hub of its own. “3 Segundos” is a tightly wound tub of indie-pop with a lock-step drum beat anchoring fuzz guitars at full froth and an incessant chorus full of sing-song ‘ba ba ba ba’ refrains. They pair it up with a memorable video that slices together childhood television memories into green screen chaos. It’s a nice hook into what the Spanish four-piece or proffering on their upcoming LP for Trouble in Mind, out May 1st.



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East Village – Hotrod Hotel

Slumberland has been crushing it with the reissues lately, bringing back the lost singles of The Springfields, issuing a complete compendium of Wolfhounds John Peel sessions, and now they’re shining a light on East Village, another band worthy of adoration. The band got some light around here when James Hoare featured them in a Hidden Gems piece a few years back, and his recommendation still stands. The band, as proves too often the case, suffered from a series of setbacks that would derail them permanently. The band began under the name Episode 4 before swapping to East Village. Their sound touched on a strain of jangle-pop that was slightly out of form with the time, but they found contemporaries in bands like McCarthy, and even toured with House of Love for a bit. They’d released singles on the short-lived Sub Aqua label in 1988, but the label folded before they could finance a proper full-length.

This would lead to a string of labels that would pick up singles (Caff Corporation, Heavenly, Sumershine) before Heavenly would eventually put out their sole EP Drop Out in 1993. That same year they’d break up onstage at a London show, effectively ending their career just as it began to take off. The following year Summershine wrangled up many of those singles and b-sides for this compilation, Hotrod Hotel, only issuing it on CD. Now Slumberland has given the comp its due with a gorgeous new issue on LP with packed liners on the band. If they’ve managed to evade your ears for this whole time, this is a fine chance to add this one on the shelf next to yer Loft, Jasmine Minks, and Weather Prophets records.


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The Telephone Numbers – I Took A Walk

Been waiting for this one to land for some time, as rumblings and Instagram pics floated out of the Bay Area over the last year. The Telephone Numbers are a trio featuring Thomas Rubenstein, Charlie Ertola, and Glenn Donaldson (Skygreen Leopards, Art Museums) coming together for a classic jangle-pop tumble through the sunny streets. Akin to Donaldson’s latest work with The Reds Pinks and Purples, but cleaner, less solitary and somber. There’s still a bittersweet tinge to their first single and it shines through on the title track, bringing to mind The Field Mice and later-period Felt. “I Took A Walk” is yearning, wrestling with a heavy heart, and not always winning. The band caps the single nicely with the spare, but sweet “I Don’t Wanna Cry,” a cover by pre-Big Hat band The Keys. Very excited to have and hold something from these guys, though hoping something physical might be in the works somewhere further down the line. This was practically made for sitting on the floor, staring at the ceiling and stilling oneself only to push the needle back to the beginning once more.




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The Motorcycle Boy – Scarlet

Yet another UK release that I barely heard about here, but one well deserving of second life in the physical format. The Motorcycle Boy are most notable for their connection to The Shop Assistants, having been the band that Alex Taylor fronted following the dissolution of the Shops. The band grew out of the rather terribly/brilliantly named Meat Whiplash, which featured the same lineup minus Taylor. Meat Whiplash put out one single on Creation and one would have assumed that this would have led to an easy in for the band’s ascension. The answer is yes and no. With the addition of Taylor the band recorded “Big Rock Candy Mountain,” released on Rough Trade, which rose the ranks of the independent charts at the time. The band was scheduled to release a Flood-produced follow-up, but it was set aside in favor of focus on an album. That album was set to be Scarlet. The record was scheduled to be released on Chrysalis, but as usual setbacks and bad luck struck down another band in their prime.

Promo cassettes of the slated version of Scarlet exist, but finished copies were never produced. The band had issues with live shows prior to the album and eventually the discord broke them apart. Chrysalis issued singles of “Trying To Be Kind” and “You And Me Against The World” but without the band’s involvement the rest kinda fell apart. Thankfully this year, Forgotten Astronaut brings the full spectrum of Scarlet to pass and it just make the pain of having to wait this long harder. The album is packed with great songs and should have given the band a good foothold. Such is life and loss in music. The reissue is lovely and contains that aforementioned Flood single along with another bonus track. Definitely in need of a listen.


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The Pooh Sticks – Pooh Sticks 7″ Box Set

Even though I’ve run down my favorite reissues of the year that doesn’t mean there aren’t still some worthy contenders finding their way back out into the world. Sometimes the UK releases don’t get their due in the US and this 5×7” collection from The Pooh Sticks definitely falls into that category. Though its pricey, for the indie pop aligned this is a pretty nice pickup. The Pooh Sticks served as a sort of bubblegum vision of jangle-pop, and while their works were tightly wound, catchy as hell, and hard to ignore, the band probably wasn’t given their due in the pantheon poppers that cropped up around them. The whole affair was largely shepherded by their manager Steve Gregory who wrote the songs and mocked up their covers that featured Archies-styled cartoon visions of the band behind anonymous pseudonyms. Largely out of fashion at the time, this kind of setup seems at odds with the DIY aesthetics of jangle-pop and the carefully crafted images of Creation pop bands at the time. However, the whole thing ends as a nice mirror / sendup of the genre without coming off totally camp.

The songs stand up, even if they do take some liberties with lyrics, titles, and concept. The box set reissues a set of one-sided singles that were originally issued in 1988 on Fierce Recordings. The originals had etched b-sides, but here they’re each given a new flip that contains a previously unavailable song. The only exception is “Hard On Love,” which was on a super-hard to get flexi. While the set might be a bit of a shell-out for the uninitiated, the songs are worth checking into if you’re a power pop, jangle-pop, or indie-pop head. Pure sugar bliss in small format fineness. Its hard to snag in the US, but discogs should have you covered.




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The Gonks

A sly little lo-fi gem that’s snuck out in the latter half of 2019, The Gonks rip the ropes from your favorite post-punk homebaked bands and put them to good use. Throwing the checkerboad charms of Beat Happening, The Vaselines, Cub, Kleenex, and Dolly Mixure into the rock polisher for a few go-rounds, the resulting record gums up the works but still manages to knock some spit-shined weirdness out of the business end. Produced and recorded by Sonny Smith of Sunsets fame, the record has his mark of off-kilter, claptrap humor all over it. Yet, the band’s not just tugging at Sonny’s apron strings.

The Gonks capture the same feeling of ‘anyone can be a rockstar’ fun that gave punk its propulsion. With a few winks and a flash of teeth the band pound out zero-frills freakers that are packed with hooks and destined to shake the shingles. There’s a sweetness, even to songs about hitmen, lonely roads, nuns and death. The Gonks play it all straight from the hip, and though there’s that wink n’ smile at the heart of their work, the band aren’t fooling around. They’re not goofin’ the hooks, so don’t dance half-hearted. They had quite a few good teachers, but these kids are all right indeed.



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The Proper Ornaments – “Black Tar”

James Hoare is a busy artist and its good to see him pop up wherever he might be. Of all of his endeavors The Proper Ornaments seem to always be bubbling just below the surface, a calm respite of tranquil indie-pop with a heavy heart. The band is back for their fifth album, having now picked up new bassist Nathalie Bruno and the first cut from the LP is the slow narcotic foam of “Black Tar.” The song is draped in melancholy, a velvet and paisley comedown from the chaos that’s aloof on the surface but reaching out for solace at its core. Mission Bells finds its way out February 28th from Tapete. Mark your calendars.

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