Posts Tagged ‘Jangle-pop’

Premiere: Milk Teddy – “Rock n’ Roll Cretin”

It’s no secret that Aussie pop reigns high on the list of RSTB favorite topics, and I’m always dismayed that distance gives folks in the States pause to check out bands that aren’t necessarily rolling through their towns. Case in point, Milk Teddy put out a nuanced, shimmering debut as a split between Lost & Lonesome and Knock Yr Socks Off Records back in 2012. The album, largely lost on US listeners, paired perfect strums with the high, mournful croon of Thomas Mendelovits. After too long a wait, the band is back and readying a new LP for Lost & Lonesome, due out in August. The first track lays right back into the languid strums and cyclic chimes of guitar that should appeal to any chasing up the Captured Tracks catalog. They peek out a bit, though, from the echoplex haze that surrounded their debut like a delicate fog.

In that respect it looks as if the new album, Time Catches Up With Milk Teddy, boasts a bit of an expanded palette, with more space creeping into the mix and a clash of synths that results in the swelling coda on “Rock ‘n Roll Cretin.” In essence, it’s Milk Teddy, pushing out of the basement and onto a much bigger stage. If you missed Zingers then its probably time to play a bit of catch up and get excited for a the band’s next phase. I know I am.



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Premiere: Rat Colums – “Blinded By The Shadow”

One of my true faves this year has been Rat Columns’ Candle Power LP on Upset The Rhythm. The band turns in a stark video for the absolute standout, “Blinded By The Shadow. The track eschews much of the album’s propensity for jangle in favor of slinking keys and staid bass line; by the time those melancholy strings kick in, you’re more than hooked. It’s a post-punk gem that calls back on all the right bits of the ’80s for inspiration and proves that West and co are truly hitting a peak with this album. The video is as appropriately dressed down as the track, whitewashed and buttoned up. If you’re still missing out on Rat Columns, take today to right that wrong.


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Look Blue Go Purple – Still Bewitched

In putting together a comp of great jangle-pop last month I was sad to see that female voices, as with many genres, often went underrepresented. One of the brightest stars, and subsequently most often overlooked came in the form of Dunedin group Look Blue Go Purple. The band arrived as part of the Flying Nun stable’s second wave, beginning a run of great EPs from 1985 through 1987. The EPs – Bewitched, LBGPEP2 and This is This – all make their way onto this compilation along with a cache of live tracks spanning from their formation in 1983 to their dissolution in ’87.

The band perfected that distinctive New Zealand jangle, but augmented it superbly with woven vocals, melancholy keys and spectral flute. They worked their way into the canon of culture in their homeland, but unlike contemporaries in The Chills and The Bats, they didn’t find a foothold outside of the country at the time, making them more of a secret handshake between Flying Nun and jangle lovers. The band sprang out of a desire to create music with other women, and though they took inspiration from The Raincoats and The Slits, they were adamant in not presenting themselves as a purely feminist well-spring. Sadly, their status as one of the singular female bands rising in Dunedin lead them to endless questions about gender in regard to their music.

The focus away from the music is criminal, as Look Blue Go Purple remains one of the more nuanced jangle-pop bands to come out of the area. They, like The Beach Boys before them, knew the power of layering vocals in valleys of harmony. Adding to this is the power trio at the core of their songwriting – Denise Roughan, Kathy Bull, and Norma O’Malley. The latter provided the distinctive key swells and enchanted flute parts that truly separate the group from the pack, while Roughan and Bull kept the jangles knotted and the bounce elastic. Flying Nun has done a service getting these EPs bound up on 2xLP, and though the historical inclusion of the live tracks gives this a strong perspective, the fact that it creates a whole new release from their 1991 compilation means that they forgo putting this amazing cover on the gatefold. All in all, this falls heavily in the essential pile.




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Major Leagues – “It Was Always You”

Brisbane’s Major Leagues have been pumping out singles and short form releases that are packed with indie pop charms, but they’re now on the precipice of an album proper. “It Was Always You” heralds their upcoming full length for Aussie indie Popfrenzy, and it’s a swooning bit of jangle pop that’s got a bittersweet heart. A pitch perfect ode to lost love, the song pines in blurred hues that creep up between the tears on a warm summer’s day. The love may be over but at least something beautiful remains in it’s absence. This track piques interest for that full length for sure. For now though, just gonna hit repeat on this one a few times.




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Rays

It’s good to see some RSTB worlds colliding on the debut record from Oakland’s Rays. The band, which cribs members from local acts like Violent Change and Life Stinks, brings together the nervy, popped-vein Maplethorp dregs of ’70s art pop with the shaggy drive of the current crop of incestuous Aussie and New Zealand punks. Drawing on the twitching, uncomfortable vein of punk that spawned bands like Electric Eels, Television and The Fall the band instead imagines those souls coming together on a Brisbane budget, recorded with friends who’ve all found solace in their outsider status and lack of steady employment. It’s relentless in it’s pursuit of the ramshackle charms that drove Flying Nun back catalog and made heroes out of Dunedin’s scrappiest janglers.

That’s not to say that the band comes off as overly derivative. Rays just seem to know the sound they want and they’re taking it with measured strokes. They’re also making it seem effortless in the process. They’ve enlisted a double shot behind the boards, with Kelley Stoltz recording and Mikey Young spit shining it to a scotch taped gloss. Like fellow Trouble In Mind labelmates Omni, they’ve found a way to Polaroid the past with a touch of tape hiss, a bit of bookish devotion to their forebears and some good ol’ frenetic fretwork. The album rides the line between din and divine well, couching bouncy hooks inside gnarled amp fury and crushing paranoid pulses into oddly aloof classics. Something tells me this is going to be the kind of album that’s not loved enough in it’s time but regarded well with 20/20 hindsight.




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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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The Wild Poppies – Heroine

Wellington New Zealand’s The Wild Poppies grew up out of the country’s verdant jangle-pop leagues, though they broke for greener pastures in England not long after their formation. The band’s legacy is ensconced in their sole album, Heroine, the preceding single and a follow-up EP that was aptly titled Out of Time. Their move to the UK toughened their sound and added in a bit of shoegaze to their sunnier Kiwi stylings, aided in no small measure by their housemates at the time from Swervedriver. The reissue of their album contains their entire output with a few unreleased tracks thrown in for good measure, following them through each phase of the band’s life.

As is all too often the case timing turned out to be the band’s enemy and as they wound their way out of their swan song EP, they sensed tastes changing in the UK, swinging away from their ’80s jangles and into the arms of dance culture. It’s too bad as their tougher edge showed great promise. They disbanded shortly after and the band members went on to leave music behind. Still this remained a long respected item in jangle-pop collector’s circles and it’s good to have the whole collection back on vinyl.




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Rat Columns

Rat Columns come out strong and swooning on their third album with a charming jangler that’s evoking all my ’80s crushes; from Field Mice to Razorcuts and The Sea Urchins. And with that one setting the tone, quickly followed by the equally hazy hummer “She Loves The Rain,” it feels like one could just buckle in for the kind of true to form homage to C86 that often graces the Captured Tracks or Slumberland back catalogs. However, those who know David West, know that he’s made a career of eclecticism and where he’s been finding his footing on the last few albums and EPs, here the band begins to nail down a record collector’s guide to what made the ’80s tick.

They trade jangles for a quickened pulse of post-punk augmented with soaring strings on “Blinded By The Shadow,” giving the album a subtle about face rolling into the its middle. They knock into Saint Etienne territory on the closer and head into sparse soundtrack work on the album’s title track. West has a true penchant for finding the guiding lines between genres and styles. Where others could easily get too ambitious with melding influences that don’t always click, he massages his songs into a persona that walks well in detached cool and romantic thrall. Perhaps the only part that gets away from him a bit is indulging the length of the aforementioned closer, “Dream Tonight.” The dance jolt is a nice note to end on but as a piece of the pie it could stand a bit of slimming. That aside, Candle Power feels like a real highpoint for West, and a perfect obsession for those of us who still need a dose of Thatcher-era pulse in our lives.

Check out the RSTB premiere of “She Loves The Rain” Below:



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Dag

Dag’s debut album captures a time and a place in one’s life, the kind of extended adolescence that verges on adulthood. These days that period seems to stretch well into one’s thirties. Though several of the LP’s themes are universal – isolation, loneliness, aimlessness – they take on a more significant feeling with songwriter Dusty Anastassiou’s setting his odes on the outskirts of town, far from the bustle and bright lights and further from the reach of scenes. Finding oneself aimless and alone in small town life kicks up it’s own kind of dust and offers it’s own distinct brand of hopelessness. But Anastassiou doesn’t only focus on physical isolation here, he’s picking through the human slide towards mounting digital isolation; alone in life, alone online, truly alone. The themes are pervasive on Benefits of Solitude and while that may seem like downer territory, Anastassiou treats his subjects with an air of reverence and a lack of self-pity.

Aiding to his lyrical journey is a particularly stringent brand of Aussie jangle that stands out from some of his peers’ more affable forms. While the album shares much of the self-reflection and idiosyncratic analysis of labelmates Scott and Charlene’s Wedding, it steers shy of their wit and jovial air. The underlying music wobbles between the lounge lit confessions that should attract Mac Demarco fans like flys and a sour catharsis that brings to mind RSTB favorites Wireheads. The band, in fact, includes Matt Ford who runs Wireheads’ Aussie home of Tenth Court, so it’s certainly possible that he’s picked up a bit of their curdled delivery and passed it along. Having led with single “Staying Up At Night,” gave the impression this might be a lighthearted affair, but that song winds up an outlier in deeper waters. In a strange way, though, the claustrophobic din that the band creates, winds up much more fulfilling; a hefty meal rather than just a thoughtless snack.




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The Stray Trolleys – Barricades and Angels

If you’ve paid any attention to the outpouring of albums tied up in Captured Tracks’ admirable reissue campaign for Cleaners From Venus, perhaps it comes as no surprise that there’s even more in the well of Martin Newell. The Cleaners’ driving force has a deeper music history than the band’s massive catalog, having spent years in Gypp and a brief period of time mounting up as The Stray Trolleys. The latter is documented here, with their sole album getting a bit of spit and polish and a nice new reissue on the label. The album came out of Newell’s previous ties and obligations (band, relationship, house) sort of dissolving and there’s a shaggy sense of ‘screw it’ in the tracks, though coated in a winking pop charm. Recorded by friend and engineer Dave Hoser to a 4-track named “The Octopus Mobile,” the tracks don’t sound at all like castaways or toss offs, rather they embrace a fuller sound and roguish sheen.

Certainly employing a higher clarity than his work with The Cleaners, Newell captures a sound that was under the thrall of ’60s jangles but headed towards their immersion into a new brand of ’80s pop. There’s always been a draw to the rawness of The Cleaners’ work, but this has a charm that lays it in a space between the quirks of Deep Freeze Mice and the horizon that begat Elvis Costello or Nick Lowe. Even for those intimidated by the dense catalog that Cleaners From Venus sport would do well to start with this one on it’s own or even as a nice introduction to Newell’s universe. Cap Tracks have had the tendency to go all in on reissue campaigns, which is admirable to be sure. This one ends up as a welcome gift from their tenacity.




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