Posts Tagged ‘Indie Pop’

The Spook School

Scottish indie-poppers The Spook School have touched down among couple of labels that mark the best in twee pop and jumped-up jangle – Cloudberry and Fortuna Pop ¬– and now they tick another box in that succession with a new album for Slumberland. Toughened up and sparkled with some of the band’s best hooks yet, it’s actually a disservice to lump them in with the trappings of Twee, rather this is elastic, anthemic indie-pop to its core. The record swells with a kind of wide-eyed defiance that’s hosting a tug-o-war between earnestness and skepticism. They’re capturing that moment when life crests from indomitable truths of youth to the solar plexus punch of reality. It’s a hard transition for anyone and tougher still is weathering the let down without hardening the heart of the bearer. As they so adeptly surmise, “teenage hopes are never less than perfect, anyway.”

The band whips up the manic emotions of pre-adulthood with a crush of frothing guitars, spinning through vignettes of self-acceptance, self-confidence and self-awareness in dizzying rotoscope. Despite quite a bit of the heavy lyrical matter, the record still comes off as a celebration of youth rather than an exorcism of anguish. Would It Be Different? is bittersweet, crushing, uplifting and damnably catchy through it all. They pick up the yoke laid down by dozens of Scot-poppers before them and they drag the line as hard as a good many of them. This seems like a turning point for the band, out of their fawn legs and onto a surefooted future built on fizzing indie-pop with a dense tether.

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Salad Boys

Christchurh, New Zealand has a long standing indie history and Salad Boys seems to take plenty of inspiration from their Kiwipop heritage. There’s a bit of The Bats in the mix, sure, though that probably just becomes DNA for anyone from the town. They dose in a bit of fellow NZ heroes The Chills as well, but the updated sound on This Is Glue is tougher, thicker and more roughed up than either. They come closest to the erratic yet ebullient pop of The Clean. The guitars speak to a love of grunge and garage, driving with a force that’s reckless and rallying in equal measures. They don’t stop at mere gnarled bombast though and that’s what makes this a record worth spinning more than once on the old table.

Peppering in some lush keys and swooning strums, the record is the most accomplished work I’ve heard from the band. They’ve always been kicking in the circles of records that float my way and peak my interest but up until now they’ve always seemed to be lacking that glue to hold their shambolic pop together. I suppose then that the title speaks volumes to their newfound footing and to a confidence in knowing they’ve finally found that spark. The record fizzes with hooks that can’t help but dredge up visions of nineties indie heroes baiting the breath of major A&Rs with money to burn.

They draw on the queasy notions of The Feelies and the heatworn pop of Fountains of Wayne and The Lemonheads. This record pulls them out of the scrappy indie gutter and has them reaching for some rock permanence. This isn’t a record that’s instant in its embrace, but rather a grower that seems to sow fondness with each new listen. While this might not be the one that cements their status its a damn fine start that should pull a few ears their way.




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Crepes

The visual reference on Crepes debut LP is pretty straight forward, these guys err on the side of The Beatles in any debate over ’60s rock heroes, and they indulge in the lushest sides of the band’s emotional wake. Channel Four is rooted in the pop tradition, swirling through eddies of icy cool and exhaling steam rings laced with hooks all over a hot n’ bothered 2017. They’ve wedged themselves into a lounged detachment that pushes their sheened and shined pop into a territory that’s a notch above similarly minded smooth indie-poppers, finding purchase in honing the perfect sound that haunts their memories.

Led by the cream-swirled vocals and songwriting of Tim Karmouche (The Murlocs, Dreamin’ Wild), the record is lodged into an early ’70s hangover that re-purposes the pop traditions of the prior decade into a loftier arc, writing works for albums that were meant to be exhibited wholesale rather than split piecemeal into radio rotation. They have updated it, naturally, with a sensibility that employs modern takes, but it’s really the spirit that moves Channel Four. Lovelorn and windswept, the album breezes through the speakers with a draped melancholy that’s admirable in its commitment to tonality.

Sure, breezy pop is rife on both sides of the globe these days, there’s always going to be bands vying to knock Real Estate off of their pedestal of accessible indie wallpaper rock dominance. That’s what makes this one such a joy. It’s equally as accessible to your most clueless friends, catchy and unassuming in it’s digestion of the past. However, few of the other contenders glow with the kind of lost classic quality that crowns Channel Four. This feels like the heir apparent to the reissue kings of current vogue. Dig in now before it’s rediscovered 20 years down.




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Crepes – “Sexyland”

Somehow missed this as Crepes worked their way from solid Aussie indie, Deaf Ambitions, to the big time over at Spunk, but the band finally have an upcoming album on the books. Deaf Amb will still handle the LP, which is good news for the the stalwart label. The first track is a powerfully sweet stab at indie-pop, full of end of summer breezes that should waft you nicely into the cool down that’s to come as we finally ease on down the Autumn road. The track is twanged slightly and brushed ever so sweetly with the kind of vocal harmonies that can’t help but melt all the stress out of a moment. If the rest of this LP is half as good as the first taste, then its primed to be a contender on year end lists.




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A.M. Son

There’s been a glut of power pop with an emphasis on the power half of the equation, but lately it seems that a few artists are starting to find the sweet spot between country ramble, Rundgrenesque ’70s AM sheen and the kind of power pop that befit The Flaming Groovies in their later Beatles obsession. Throw in an affinity for Muswell-era Kinks and Adam Paulson’s debut as A.M. Son checks all the boxes. Floating in on a sweet breeze of strums, twang, fiddle, and thick ’70s organ licks, this stands as a solid outlier in 2017’s indie field. The timbre of Paulson’s straw-scratched croon made me at once think that somehow Nobunny’s Justin Champlin had gone softly into the arms of country pop. And while Paulson doesn’t hold over in that circle, he’s not without his own garage and indie roots.

Paulson’s last stint saw him co-leading the short-lived but always intriguing Rainbow Gun Show, who had a few tracks out on HoZac. He’s also a touring member of Mild High Club, and though their psych-soul doesn’t really bleed in here, he does pick up psych in the form of a nod or two to the Elephant 6’s lush, strum-heavy variety (“You’ve Got Me”.) The record’s brief nine tracks are solid and endearing pop from start to finish, putting him squarely on the radar alongside some up and comers like New Rose or L.A.’s Mikah Wilson, who’s finding his way to similarly breezy territory. A pitch perfect offering from Throne Age, who, themselves are building up a nice little reputation as a label as well.




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Guantanamo Baywatch

Guantanamo Baywatch charmed with with their 2015 album, Darling… It’s Too Late, and they continue on a similar stint with their latest. The new album is still pairing a ’50’s/’60’s rock ‘n roll hop scotch approach with surf interludes learned right out of The Astronauts / Challengers playbook. Desert Center tends to dial back the John Waters Twister party taste that was slicked all over their last, though. Instead they’ve toughened up their twang a bit, and rightly so, Suicide Squeeze is dropping allusions to Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet. The Canadians best known for for their association with The Kids In The Hall share the same – surf rock as channeled by Morricone – feeling that winds up inhabiting much of DC’s riffs, or at least the majority of its instrumental passages.

The vocal numbers kick the dust off slightly, going for more of a lonely hearts prom set in a wayback desert diner feeling. The band’s nothing if not lodged in the pomade dreams of a more innocent time, but they manage to carry it well without sounding too much like a college cast of Grease looking to keep the gang together with a new endeavor. They channel some universal pain and heartbreak into their choked-up ballads like, “Blame Myself” and “Neglect.” The rest winds up skittering through sidewinder spy riffs and spaghetti western rip tides. It’s another fun romp, even if much of the water’s already been tread.

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Mixtape: Shame About The Rain

Heading into the third installment of the RSTB Mixtape series here and this one speaks to a crucial influence on the site. There’s been no shortage of jangle pop in the last couple of years, particularly because a current crop of Aussie and US bands seem enamored with the sounds of Creation, Sarah, September and Flying Nun. This mix is a tribute to the sound of English rain. It’s full of faraway looks, pining hearts and more than a few hooks. By no means a definitive overview but I have to say, not a shabby collection of janglers here. Check out the stream and tracklist below.

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Easy Love

Easy Love is the solo project of Summer Twins’ Justine Brown. She’s crafted an ode to lost love and smeary-eyed breakups, channeling her remorse and longing into her best material yet. Like her work in Twins, Easy Love’s eponymous album flutters into shades of ’60s pop (via the late ’90s obsession with the decade) for its inspiration. However, Easy Love seems to synthesize those influences rather than keeping them sleeve deep as her previous outlet often tend to. She’s solo, but not necessarily on her own here, with sister Chelsea (also of Summer Twins), Natalie Burris, and Dave Jauregui rounding out the lineup for a full sound that’s working towards the aloof maturity of Jenny Lewis’ country-tinged crooning or a more actualized version of La Sera.

There’s been an outpouring of crunchy pop with streaks of sun in its hair over the last decade or so, but Brown doesn’t lean on any of her culture crutches too hard, making for a hazily sweet mixture. Oh sure odes to love and loss are a literal dime a dozen, but heartbreak’s the universal binder and being able to let listeners into your heart with a hook is still commendable. Its a lovely record that’s distinctly Californian, but without printing up t-shirts to shout about it like Best Coast. Its an indie pop record in every sense, but without donning the twee accoutrements of She & Him. Easy Love is Brown’s heart wrapped and ready to be put back together by anyone with a half hour to spare and a shoulder to lean on.




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The Proper Ornaments

There has been quite a shift in sound on The Proper Ornaments second album for Slumberland. They’ve wiped away much of the thick, bilious clouds that previously wafted into their jangle pop, giving them a bite of shoegaze among the bittersweet strums. On Foxhole, constrained by a necessary move to a home studio and and 8-track setup, they pare down their sound finding a core cleanness that’s drawing off of classic melancholy pop records, with flecks of everything from late period Big Star to Elliot Smith’s piano purr circa Figure 8.

The piano actually plays a key role in the shift made by songwriters James Hoare and Max Oscarnold, as both acquired new instruments prior to the recording of the album and let the keys lead them into a more serene headspace on Foxhole. As such, the album tends to have a more contemplative mood than their previous outing. Though that’s not to say that they’ve chucked their guitars in the bin, they still know how to weave a softly gnarled jangle around a melody and both artists’ penchant for the rosy hues of ’60s pop still colors the album. Its hard to imagine a band named after a shared love of soft psych band The Free Design wouldn’t hew a bit close to the jangles that built Britain’s stronghold on guitar pop. Though its evident here that they’re not really mining the poptimism of the ’60s beat set as they are the dour, more reserved notions of say Nick Garrie or the soft shimmer of Food.

The album winds up as a rather nice counterpoint to Hoare’s darker undertones on last year’s Ultimate Painting highlight, Dusk. Its a mature and misty album that’s finding solace in ennui and a comfortability in contemplation. The mood suits Hoare and Oscarnold well, and while it doesn’t always have the fuzzy bite of their debut, its an undeniably well-crafted album of drizzle-coated jangle.


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The Moving Pictures – “Black Car”

Olympia’s Moving Pictues cull together some luminaries of the Northwest scene; Hayes Waring of Perennial Records, Lillian Maring (Grass Widow), and Charles Waring (Milk Music). Their recently released album on Perennial jumps styles from Wire-taut punk, to sparse experimental pop and chugging electro hobble. On the album standout, “Black Car” Maring takes the the wheel over a propulsive beat and midnight streaks of guitar. Its a dour anthem, but one that’s streaked with a pre-dawn coolness that can’t be shaken. The track’s infectious slink drops out just a bit too soon, with the band pulling it out from underneath the listener just when it seems to get pulsing. The accompanying video is appropriately off-putting and and queasy. This one seems to have been a bit slept on last year. No time like the present to get acquainted.

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