Posts Tagged ‘Indie Pop’

Comet Gain

It’s been a long time since the last Comet Gain LP graced the turntable, and in that time the world’s sought to smash itself head-first into the walls as often as possible. The woven comfort of their last album, while perhaps providing shelter from the storm, wouldn’t be quite what’s called for in this year of eroding centers, our own personal hell of 2019. So it’s only fitting that Fireraisers Forever! is here to save us from ourselves. David Feck is back with his knuckles bared, a la Réalistes, a companion piece in discomfort and disillusionment to their new slab. The record raises its teeth against politicians and the body politic, idiots and ignorance in all it’s greasy splendor. There’s a relentless restlessness to the album – turning their jangle n’ strum into a shield against the everyday dig of the doledrum foxhole.

Feck doesn’t feint as the record bursts open with a declaration that “We’re All Fucking Morons” and the rhetoric only gets more sizzle from there on out taking down the scumbags and scroungers on “The Institute Debased” and knocking the very core of nostalgia from its pedestal on “Mid 8Ts”. That said, it’s not all invective and gnash, there are moments that soften in the sun (“The Godfrey Brothers,” “Her 33rd Goodbye”) but they only balance the stiffened resolve of the rest of the album. This is a classic clash of Comet Gain impulses — melodic, melancholic, misanthropic, and mad and mellow. What’s clear is that Feck and co. have never lost a step over the years and every new Comet Gain just adds to the legacy.



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The Taxidermists

The sophomore LP from Massachusetts duo The Taxidermists takes a different tack than I’d expect from Feeding Tube, but then again, the label is built on not fostering expectations. The Taxidermists trade in a noisy nook of indie that’s got a shelf full of Sonic Youth, Pavement, No Age, and Eric’s Trip – though from a contemporary standpoint they’re landing right in the kinked-tin travels of someone like Omni. The aural twists come quick and, while not frantic, they are certainly anxious. On the contrast the lyrics seem almost nonchalant. They remain unfussed by the din that grows behind them. The band threads noise through their sound, but they’re in search of as many hooks as the next pair. The dynamic gives the record a nature of being at odds with itself. The vocals give way to a need to be liked, while the guitars yell “fuck you for thinking this will be that easy.”

Thorniness aside, the record wraps itself in a sort of classic New England clatter – the kind that would have once been traced back to fountains of shaggy shake a la Fort Apache, where the curdle in their licks would be well appreciated. It’s a pop record for folks who don’t like pop records. They are punks with a heart that heeds noise, noise nerds with a secret diary full of indie pop lyrics. If anything, the true criticism of the record is that it winds up a bit short. They burn bright and tangle hard, but then the record just hits a wall and they skitter off leaving the listener wanting more. Suppose that’s a good thing, but the hurt is real all the same.






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Slumberland To Release The Springfields Singles Compilation

If you were an American indie pop fan in 1988, chances are you may have felt a little alone. While the C86 movement and sound took hold in the UK, here the prescription was likely grunge and lots of it, with the more aloof arms of College Rock and general “Alternative” not quite swooning at the idea of ’60 indebted sounds. Out west The Paisley Undergound had given way to some purchase for the same sounds, but even among those ranks the twee sounds of Sarah, Sha La La, Postcard, and Creation weren’t making the same impact here as at home. Thankfully there were a few homegrown outposts like Bus Stop and Picturebook that were giving the twee hearts of US bands a place to hang and, of course, just a year later Slumberland themselves would enter the fray and give a home to bands like Honeybunch, Velocity Girl, and Black Tambourine.

The label never released a Springfields release during the band’s original run, but now they’re gathering up the essential singles from the band’s short run and giving them a much-needed compilation and overview of this American indie-pop band’s impact on the sound. The band, notably included Ric Menck and Paul Chastain who would go on to work with Velvet Crush, Bag O’ Shells, Choo Choo Train and The Big Maybe. Should go without saying, but you need this one. You really do.



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Comet Gain – “Mid 8Ts”

I’m always gonna be a sucker for Comet Gain. The UK janglers have long been holding up the legacy of C86 and jangle-pop with a biting wit and a constant sense of evolution on the sounds that built a sizeable indie enclave in the UK. The band last left us with the pillow-soft sensibilities of 2014’s Paperback Ghosts. It’s clear that they’ve had a bit of hardening up since then. The songs on Fireraiser Forever! are distinctly angrier in spots, but that doesn’t mean they can’t leave a little room for a swooning stomp on nostalgia as well. While the band’s admittedly ‘60s derived outlook might not seem like its primed to poke holes in the past, the new single begs otherwise. “Mid 8Ts” takes a few jabs at the rosy glow that’s placed on the past, giving themselves a bit of the lash as well for placing that kind of soft-focus fascination on the ’60 when they went through the ‘80s. As they say, “Your heart plays tricks on you, forgets the shit on your Beatle boots.” But in the end, they come around to the notion that “My punk rock damage is done. I’m here and its where I belong.”

The new LP is out on Tapete on October 11th. Gonna want to write that down.




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Blueboy – If Wishes Were Horses

The past few years have seen an uptick in the renewal of the Sarah Records catalog, but there still remain a few great outliers that are in need of a vinyl refresh. Now, I’ve been lax on the Necessary Repress feature, but rest assured that the debut from Reading’s Blueboy would have made the cut. It’s a raw, gentle, bruised sort of record that’s built for swooning emotions and grey-skied walks. The band recorded the first demo for the song “Clearer” and sent it with hopes of a deal to Sarah. The label would issue it as a single in 1991. That single, along with the follow-up, “Popkiss” would both be included later CD reissues on Quattro and Cherry Red. Now Australian label A Colorful Storm has issued their long beloved debut album If Wishes Were Horses for the first time since 1992.

The record is brief, far more compact than anything else they’d release, but thre’s not a stumble in the bunch. Over eight tracks, the band would build off of the sounds that “Clearer” and “Popkiss” cemented, finding their way into a niche of pastoral indie-pop that fit nicely between releases by Brighter and The Orchids that year on Sarah. The band would follow the album up with the lengthier Unisex before losing members Mark Andes and Lloyd Armstrong in the wake of its release. While the follow-up is more complex, I’d have to lobby a preference for their debut. It’s a short, perfect shot of pop that captures the magic that Sarah were peddling.

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Parsnip

With their move from short-form EPs to a debut full-length, Melbourne’s Parsnip flesh out their indie-pop pedigree while still keeping an off-kilter sense of freewheeling fun. The foursome throwback to an era of pop that was built on the no-frills post-punk model, but leaned heavily towards the whimsical end of the spectrum rather than bristle with the self-serious slingers. With digs into Athens’ long-loved Oh Ok along with touches of indie notables like Confetti and Tiger Trap and just a dash of Mo-dettes, the band revels in strums and sunshine harmonies that bounce around the room in giddy glee. They’re just as apt to twist fuzz bass and nauseous organ into a fit as they are to bounce plaintive picnic guitars off the treetops. Their voices fit together with worn edges — puzzle pieces punched out on a budget, forming gorgeously uneven pictures that win listeners over with their charms despite themselves.

Even though there’s a touch of melancholy that seeps into When The Tree Bears Fruit, its hard not to leave with a smile as this one clicks to a close. Its a quiet saunter of an album, never in a hurry to get to its conclusions, never rushing its ramble. The band seem to be enjoying each and every wobbly note as much a child spinning around in until the dizziness overcomes their ability to stand. Not that these aren’t’ accomplished tunes, the band has a proclivity for hooks and they know how to pack each song with as much crystalized creativity as possible, but theirs no denying that worries drain away while this one’s playing. The record remains on their longtime home at Anti-Fade in their home country — a label worth keeping tabs on if there ever was one, but they split ownership Stateside with Trouble in Mind, who’ve been having a particularly banner year picking up Aussie exports.

While the summer skies are clear and cloudless, it’s recommended that you pop this one on the headphones and take a stroll around. There’s hardly another soundtrack as fitting to keep your spirits up and and take the edge of the week than this album right here.



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Modern Nature

Following up the eponymous 12” that established Jack Cooper’s new band earlier this year, Modern Nature cements their status with their debut LP, How To Live. The record’s been touted as a cross-section of where the country meets the city – folk forms grafted to a skeleton of motorik pulses and ripples of jazz skronk. There’s also a heavy permeation of cosmic waves that find their way into Modern Nature’s DNA. The band, and Cooper, are careful not to pack to much into one particular song, though. This is a progression, a journey from chaos to meditative ease (relatively speaking). The fluctuations happen organically, in waves and cycles throughout the album. Opening with the organic mew of cello strings, the album massages the darkness that UK-centric folk groups like Pentangle, Fairport Convention, and Incredible String Band carried with them into the crevices of propulsive pop.

Cooper paired up with Will Young (BEAK>, Moon Gangs) for this album and he’s given the songs the wash of rhythm that sneaks in through the fog of folk. Young adds rusted tin atmospheres, the rumble of rails, and the bustle of cityscapes to each song. When the urban life decays and fades, Young helps harness the brokenness and isolation of life change. The band’s namesake song might be their most pop performance, a bubbly and bittersweet hook to hang the album on, but it surrounded by more scarred samples. The haunted “Oracle” is gaunt and unsure. “Nightmares” is, in contrast to its title, surprisingly serene and reassuring, a break through the dark into dawn, but it also shies away from the light.

Its easy to trace back pieces of Modern Nature to previous Cooper-led bands. The pulses found their way into Mazes’ “Skulking” and “Salford” rise up here, and the melancholy and hope that drove Ultimate Painting holds strong as a centerpiece of the new group. Modern Nature finds its brilliance in balance. The essence of the album hangs over crowds like collective breath in cold air – one with the ether while the city moves below. The album has the kind of feeling of a passenger locked into thoughts so deep they forget to disembark the train until it hits the last destination and as we and they stumble out into the cold sun of spring there lies the the ocean, lappping listlessly, but still sparkling with the cold light of morning. This is an album about forgotten firmaments, and changing centers. Its an album ever in transition and we’re all just trying to hold on, or let go, whichever seems most appropriate.



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The Reds, Pinks and Purples

Pretty much as long as there’s been a Raven, there’s been music on the site in some form by Glenn Donaldson. From Skygreen Leopards to The Art Museums, Birdtree to Giant Skyflower Band and Flying Canon, there are plenty of hallmarks that have made their way into life around here. Quite a few years ago, when I was putting together a compilation for the site’s third year anniversary, I asked Glenn for something from Skygreen and he put forth a new band he was working on called The Reds, Pinks and Purples. Still jangly, but not as driven to the winds as Skygreeen. The sounds would share quite a bit of DNA with Glenn’s next project, the pastel-hued pop hymns of Art Museums but they wouldn’t fully surface until now.

Soaring above some similarly synthetic beats, The RP,&Ps take more of a sauntered pace to their pop paradigm. These are the fruits of an artist who’s spent years in the jangle-pop portfolios of the ‘80s and ‘90s. Those colors don’t seem so arbitrary once the record gets spinning. The songs glow with rosy hues, beautifully bittersweet and hummably heartfelt. Like fellow West Coast jangler Business of Dreams, Glenn’s scratching n’ sniffing the discarded tears from the Creation and Sarah catalogs (with nods to Jasmine Minks, Sneetches, The Field Mice) but also leaning on South-Hemi heavies like the The Go-Betweens and The Bats. Glenn seems to ascribe no heavy debts to the songs. He mentions, “They are fiction and non-fiction. I recorded them in my kitchen, but we live in the future now, so some of them are coming out on vinyl in Spain. To me, they are straight pop songs with not much of a filter.”

Seems a bit modest to me. Glenn’s the filter and he’s caught all the filler and left an album that’s filled with charms, swoons, aches, and tears. We do live in the future, so people will probably break these into fodder for their personal playlists, but any track here would just as easily fill out the crucial crux of your crush’s mixtape or be heard between the crackled static of dorm radios late into the night on the campus station. The songs here are timeless reminders that pop can heal all wounds and bridge decades. Straight pop songs for sure, but remarkable ones to say the least.




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Parsnip – “Rip It Off”

The anticipation on this upcoming debut from Parsnip marches on today with the release of the band’s latest video, an intricate, costume-heavy workup for “Rip It Off.” The Aussie foursome lays down an indie pop vision that skews pastoral – strums and plucks, swoons of organ and a gallop of bass. The video is no less a celebration of things less pedestrian. There’s an opulence to the visuals that stands in stark contrast to the folk sway of the song. The video is striking of its own accord, but paired with the band’s plaintive ode, its something of a wonderful contrast, a surreal dip into confusing dreams that beg meaning.

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Young Guv

I may have mentioned that I have a particular soft spot for Young Guv’s 2015 mini-album Ripe 4 Luv, not in the least because it’s Ben Cook’s most pure distillation of his power pop instincts. That statement’s gonna have to be amended, though, because the release of GUV I acts as a direct descendant of that album, dragging the line from the late ‘70s and early ‘80s right into the mid ‘90s for power pop that was thicker, sunnier, and a touch dreamier. There’s less punk edge in this newer vision, but just as much pop. Young Guv has often served as a mutable base for Cook’s musical lens and while last year’s excursion into slippery funk had its charms, it’s clear that his pop heart beats the strongest.

Pick a point in the record and pretty much any track could have ruled the CMJ charts from ’91-’95. Cook’s shuffling his collection, throwing Matthew Sweet LPs into Fanclub sleeves. He’s rolling Velvet Crush licks in sprinkles of Sloan, second-album Superdrag, and L.A. hook-lovers The Blondes. It’s hard not to time shift when the album’s running through it’s almost heartbreakingly short runtime, and there’s some sort of universal injustice that Cook will never play in front of the racks at Sam Goody. Yet, despite this ingrained nostalgia, the songs also feel timeless, like the best pop from any era. They’re full of joy, bittersweet swoons, and a palpable yearning. Cook has proven that when he’s got pop on his side, his records are indispensable treasures there to comfort your core.



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