Infinite Shuffle

November 14, 2012

Plixid plethora No. 2

Filed under: Belgium, France, Sweden — assman41 @ 6:07 pm

I just downloaded a slew of new albums from Plixid.com. Here are my thoughts on some of them.

Lilly Wood and the Prick

The French duo of Nili Hadida and Benjamin Cotto formed Lilly Wood and the Prick in 2006 and have put out two albums — 2010’s Invincible Friends and this year’s The Fight.

I admittedly don’t know The Gossip’s catalog well at all, but Hadida’s vocals are reminiscent of that group’s front woman, Beth Ditto, particularly in the key of The Gossip’s “Standing In the Way of Control”.

The Fight opens strong with “Where I Want To Be (California)” and maintains a nice level throughout.

Here’s the band’s first single off its debut album.

Elvy

From the opening note of Elvy’s recent release, Misery Needs Company, it’s clear what the listener is in for — ukulele-powered indie-folk.

Thankfully, the ukulele is not at all overpowering and generally provides a nice foundation for Elvy’s soft lyrics.

As the album progresses, he starts to incorporate more piano, nowhere more masterfully than on the closer, “Light”.

As a sidenote, the song “Aging Love” reminded me of a Nirvana acoustic song — one from the MTV Unplugged album that I can’t quite place.

The album, which came out in June, is actually the second full-length release of the year by the Belgian singer/songwriter. He put out The Home and the World in March. Prior to that, he released three albums in a two-year period from January 2004 to January 2006.

All five can be found on his Bandcamp page.

Caviare Days

The Swedish sister act Caviare Days gets its name from a line in an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel. While their name derives from 1930s literature, their sound is far more modern and eclectic.

Starting with an indie rock base, Lina and Maja Westin infuse their music with equal parts electro and psychedelia and seem to touch on several other genres throughout their self-titled debut album.

“Fresh Tomatoes” sounds like something that might have come out of England or San Francisco in the late 1960s. Meanwhile, “High” is filled with horns that give it an almost gypsy rock feel. And “Shut the Door” is just straight-up garage rock.

Press Gang Metropol

The debut album from Press Gang Metropol reminds me of how all of the best post-punk bands from the ’80s and early ’90s probably would sound now if they tried to put out an album.

And with good reason, since three of the four members of this French band previously played together throughout the ’90s in the coldwave band Corpus Delicti, which reached cult status in their homeland after breaking up in 1996.

After going on to several solo and side projects, the three main cogs regrouped toward the end of the last decade and were joined by a fourth member. And they finally put out their first full-length disc this year.

At its best, Checkpoint, mixes the vocals of Psychedelic Furs with the signature guitar strains of Joy Division. On songs such as “Empire Square”, “Sound/Wave” and “Parade”, it’s conceivable that they were recorded 30 years ago.

However, the rest of the album is just filled with derivative tunes that wouldn’t have even been a B-side for one of those aforementioned iconic bands.

January 8, 2012

97 – Lykke Li

Filed under: Sweden — assman41 @ 12:01 am

It turns out that Lykke Li is legit.

When the Swedish songstress dropped her debut, Youth Novels, in 2008, I simply wrote her off as a two-hit wonder — “Little Bit” and “I’m Good, I’m Gone”.

When her follow-up, Wounded Rhymes, came out in 2011, I enjoyed the first single, “Get Some”, but assumed that once again the rest of the album wasn’t worth my time.

But after seeing it earn a decent amount of praise on the end-of-the-year lists, I figured I should give it a fair shake.

Not only does it include some catchy dance-pop numbers, but Li shows her range with a few slow, heartfelt tracks that might be her real strength.

She brings out her bread and butter on haltingly, upbeat tunes such as “I Follow Rivers”, “Rich Kids Blues”, “Jerome” and the aforementioned “Get Some”.

On several songs — especially “Youth Knows No Pain”, “Unrequited Love”, “Sadness Is a Blessing” and “Silent My Song” — she channels some of the ’50s/’60s girl-group sound that has regained traction the past couple of years.

But the best song on this album has to be “Love Out of Lust”. It’s a slow ballad that takes awhile to build to a crescendo, but when that chorus hits, it totally seals the song’s greatness.

Even the live version is solid as hell.

After listening to this album a few times, I decided to give the debut another try. I figured I might have a newfound love for it. But, no, I was right the first time — there are only two good songs there.

If Li can continue that kind of steep improvement, her third album is sure to be amazing.

November 7, 2010

50 – Junip

Filed under: J, Sweden — assman41 @ 9:43 pm

When I first heard that Junip was headed by Jose Gonzalez, I immediately scrunched up my nose in disgust. I’m not sure if I was getting him confused with someone else or if I really haven’t heard as much of his solo stuff as I thought I had, but my general attitude toward the man’s music is one of indifference with a tinge of dislike.

However, after the initial contempt wore off and I actually gave the band a chance, I realized Gonzalez really knows what he’s doing.

While the three men that comprise Junip all hail from Sweden, the sound and mood of their music screams Spain or Latin America — actually, it’s probably more of a whisper rather than a scream.

The group has released a pair of EPs — Black Refuge in late 2005 and Rope & Summit in May of this year — followed by its first full-length album, Fields, in September.

There is nary a bad song in Junip’s catalogue, which includes a few standouts, such as “Always” and “Rope & Summit” from the LP, “Official” from the debut EP and the single “Chickens”.

Junip just came through Chicago this month, but, while the group is definitely solid, it’s not the type that I’d want to see in concert. Junip isn’t necessarily a band I’d turn to to drown out the world. Their lo-fi sound is more suited to be played in the background while you read a magazine or balance your checkbook — do people still do this?

For more on the band, check out its official website and MySpace page.

May 9, 2010

Outroversion threeplay #2

Filed under: F, NYC, Outroversion, Sweden, U — assman41 @ 6:01 am

Despite having not checked out the website as much lately, the Outroversion blog is still a gold mine for great new music. Here are three more bands I discovered through the site, including one I probably would rather not have.

UUVVWWZ

This band has pretentious written all over it. The first time I heard UUVVWWZ (pronounced “Double U … Double V … Double W … Z”), I thought it sounded like Belle & Sebastian or Stereolab fronted by a riot grrl. On second listen, it’s probably closer to Deerhoof, which, as far as I’m concerned, is not a good thing.

On its self-titled debut album that came out in July 2009, the band alternates between misguided and annoying. Lead singer Teal Gardner keeps getting in her own way. She and the band have the potential to make some decent music, but instead, she sings grating, bratty vocals over instruments that seem to have no clear path.

But to prove that listening to this album more than once wasn’t a total waste of time, I did sorta like the opening track.

UUVVWWZ – Berry Can

Fine Arts Showcase

One of many bands fronted by Gustaf Kjellvander, this Swedish outfit is unabashedly a post-punk band, through and through.

With Kjellvander channeling the vocal stylings of Ian Curtis and Peter Murphy, The Fine Arts Showcase encapsulate all the best qualities of the early goth sound — including the deep, haunting vocals and the heavy synth beats.

Formed in 2003, the band has churned out four full-length albums, most recently of which was last year’s Dolophine Smile.

Their whole catalog is pretty strong, but these are the first two songs I heard through the Outroversion blog, and they’re still my favorites, by far.

The Fine Arts Showcase – Chemical Girl

Freelance Whales

Of the three bands reviewed in this post, Freelance Whales is the only one I’ve seen mentioned by other sources. The New York City group experimented with a hodgepodge of instruments on this year’s debut album, Weathervanes, and in the end, produced a sound that conjured up Postal Service and Owl City.

What those two acts have in common is that one is a Ben Gibbard side project and the other just sounds like one. Freelance Whales falls into the latter category, creating an alternate universe in which Mr. Gibbard has taken up new instruments, such as the banjo, xylophone and tambourine.

This group is a definite must for anybody who’s still waiting on that never-gonna-happen Postal Service follow-up.

Freelance Whales – Starring

March 21, 2010

20 – Shout Out Louds

Filed under: S, Sweden — assman41 @ 12:01 am

As I sit down to write this, I can’t help but think that this will be the worst review I’ve done so far. Not because I hate the band — quite the opposite actually — but because I simply can’t figure out a good way to describe the music.

The Shout Out Louds are kinda like Los Campesinos! but not as wild or as British. In fact, they’re from Stockholm.

They’re sorta like Camera Obscura, but not as dreamy-sounding, and they’re fronted by a guy.

Their vocals might call to mind the Magic Numbers, but they’re not nearly as loaded with harmonies.

Another band that kept popping into my head was The Cure, but I just couldn’t really pinpoint why. After repeated listens, I started to hear it more often, both in the vocals and the instrumentation. But I still thought my ears were playing a trick on me.

Then I read some customer reviews on Amazon, and, apparently, everyone else was hearing the same thing as me. And they kept referencing the same album — The Cure’s The Head on the Door from 1985 — as an obvious influence.

Some other labels one might use to describe the band include indie rock, indie pop, twee pop and shoegazer pop.

However you want to describe the Shout Out Louds, one thing that is certain is that their music is pretty solid. And after recently releasing their third studio album, it’s clear that they’re still improving.

Their debut, Howl Howl Gaff Gaff, received the most critical praise thus far. It provided the music world with a peppy, rocking, slightly distorted introduction to the Swedish quintet.

On their 2007 follow-up, Our Ill Wills, the band smoothed out some of the rough edges and continued to develop its sound. I first discovered the Shout Out Louds through this album’s two big singles, “Tonight I Have To Leave It” and “Impossible”, which are still my favorite tracks of theirs.

The group just released its third disc, Work, on Feb. 23, and it is definitely the band’s best work to date. While none of the tracks have stood out yet as being dominant, all of the songs are above-average, and there’s no real filler to be found.

In fact, the same could probably be said for all their albums. There’s really no bad songs anywhere.

You can listen to six of those solid tracks at their MySpace page and a few more at their official website, where you can also download a special Passion Pit remix of one of their new songs.

Here’s one of my aforementioned favorite tracks. You should be able to detect the Cure vibe pretty easily.

Shout Out Louds – Impossible

February 7, 2010

Outroversion threeplay #1

Filed under: England, F, NYC, Outroversion, Sweden, T — assman41 @ 12:01 am

Shortly after beginning this blog, I stumbled upon Outroversion, and it quickly became my go-to music blog — especially for stuff from across the pond.

I have since downloaded many an album and track from the site, most of which I haven’t even listened to yet. But during a recent trip home, I had plenty of time to finally delve into my iPod, and here are three solid acts that I probably never would’ve discovered if it weren’t for Simon’s offerings.

Frank Turner

I wasn’t sure of the best way to describe Turner. But then I saw on his Wikipedia page that his music falls into the “folk/punk” category. While those two genres seem pretty disparate, that’s actually a perfect description of the sound on his third and most recent album, Poetry of the Deed.

The first couple songs, he’s sort of introducing himself before he seems to find his rhythm. From Track 3 on, I was reminded of Dexter Holland’s vocals from The Offspring’s single a few years ago, “Kristy, Are You Doing Okay?” It’s fitting since Turner considers The Offspring a huge influence and toured with them throughout Europe in 2009.

His songs have a lot of Irish trad/punk/rock vibes, so it’s no surprise he also recently toured with Flogging Molly.

Here’s one of his least punkish songs …

Frank Turner – Sunday Nights

First Aid Kit

The only comparison that really came to mind while listening to this Swedish duo’s Drunken Trees EP was Joanna Newsom fronting the Fleet Foxes. Coincidentally, one of the singers is named Johanna and they cover a Fleet Foxes song on the disc.

Considering my annoyance with Ms. Newsom, that might sound like something of an insult, but it actually works here. Sisters Johanna and Klara Soderberg don’t go off into a bunch of crazy-sound-filled vocal solos. They stick to the music and we’re all the better for it.

They just released their first full-length album, The Big Black & The Blue, in late January.

Here’s the song that first got them noticed by Swedish radio stations …

First Aid Kit – Tangerine

fun.

Of the three bands listed here, fun. is the only one I’ve actually seen other music bloggers mention as well.

The trio from New York City has a solid pedigree and is something of a supergroup. fun. formed when Nate Ruess’s band The Format split up and he joined forces with Andrew Dost (Anathallo) and Jack Antonoff (Steel Train) in early 2008.

After listening to the band’s debut album, Aim and Ignite, the only thing I could think of was Mika — for those of you not familiar with him, imagine Freddie Mercury at his most flamboyant.

But upon listening to the disc again, I realized fun. has a pretty full, robust sound, with all three members making notable contributions.

They seem to be at their strongest and most theatrical on this single …

fun. – All the Pretty Girls

January 31, 2010

14 – The Radio Dept.

Filed under: R, Sweden — assman41 @ 12:01 am

An old friend of mine mentioned the band The Radio Dept. to me back in late 2006, and the name has been sitting in the deep recesses of my mind ever since. Earlier this month I finally sat down and gave a listen to their two full-length albums.

Needless to say, I was impressed.

Reading the various reviews, it seemed clear that everyone thought their first album, Lesser Matters, was the best. However, I listened to Pet Grief first and enjoyed it. My one complaint is that it all kinda runs together and all the songs sound the same.

Upon listening to Lesser Matters, I could see why it was so highly regarded. It’s just got so much more going on and has a more well-rounded sound.

Lesser Matters is a lot more guitar-centric and filled with fuzzy reverb, while on Pet Grief, it’s the drum machine that stands out. That’s due to a major change in the band’s personnel, including the departure of the drummer and the bass guitarist.

Speaking of those aforementioned reviews, there were a lot of comparisons to My Bloody Valentine, including one Amazon customer who said Pet Grief was “Magnetic Fields meets My Bloody Valentine.”

From the official Amazon review …

Pet Grief is the best songs Pet Shop Boys never wrote and the album you’d hoped My Bloody Valentine did after Loveless. The key to what makes it so special, what makes it all sound so much like The Radio Dept., might be the ever present melancholy that permeates everything they write.

Having never really listened to My Bloody Valentine much before, I can neither confirm nor deny those claims. But one band they do remind me of is The Stone Roses.

My brother, whose musical taste is highly regarded, had this to say …

They are like Postal Service with a New Order sensibility with a dash of Pet Shop Boys. … I totally here (sic) New Order infuence on Lesser Matters.  I do not hear the PSB on Lesser Matters.  I think it would be criminal not to compare them to the Postal Service.

So, there ya go.

As for the band itself, stability isn’t necessarily one of its strengths. They’ve had notable turnover, which, as mentioned before, had a clear effect on their sound.

Their two albums came out in 2003 and 2006, and they’ve realeased nine EPs dating back to 2002. According to their unofficial website, The Radio Dept. are putting out another full-length disc, Clinging To a Scheme, this March. That website also appears to be loaded with a bunch of available downloads.

Here’s a track from each of their LPs. I think the sonic shift should be rather noticeable.

The Radio Dept. – Why Won’t You Talk About It

The Radio Dept. – The Worst Taste in Music

November 1, 2009

1 – Marching Band

Filed under: M, Sweden — assman41 @ 12:01 am

 

Marching Band seem to encapsulate several subgenres of the indie rock scene.

 

Throughout their debut LP Spark Large, I was reminded of Snow Patrol.

 

But I also heard the folkier tones of such bands as Fleet Foxes and Blitzen Trapper, especially on my favorite track, “Make No Plans.”

 

I continued to hear those influences through the rest of the record, but they also added some more layers.

 

“Makeup Artist” included some more electric instrumentation, while “Travel In Time” was the first song where I could really detect some foreign accent. This track and “Letters” actually reminded me of some Irish and Scottish bands that I like, but it turns out this duo is from Sweden. Shows what I know.

 

The instrumentation is eclectic but tight, and the crafting of the songs is a treat. One of the worst things that can happen to a band or musician is to have all their songs sound the same. Thankfully, Marching Band seems to have something different going on with each track.

 

Here’s how they’re described on Wikipedia:

“Marching Band combines eccentric musical elements with mainstay rock sounds, creating a unique sonic fusion that finds instrumentation of marimba, banjo and vibraphone meshing with guitars, bass, drums and lush vocal harmonies.”

I would say that listening to Spark Large is like receiving a gift on Christmas, but it’s probably more like Hanukah and each song is like a new present to unwrap.

 

Before “Spark Large,” they released three EPs, including the first two when they were known as Second Language. These songs a very simple and melodic — I would liken them somewhat to he band Elf Power — and show a foundation from which they would build upon and add layers to until they reached the point they’re at today.

 

One notable song on that first EP is “Marching Band,” from which they derived their current name.

 

Official website: http://www.marchingband.se/

 

Marching Band – Make No Plans

 

Marching Band – Letters

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