31 December 2010

The Best of 2010

What can I say about music and 2010? It was simply incredible. Below (not ranked) are SlowdiveMusic Blog’s top ten picks for videos, tracks, and albums, and we all here love just how eclectic this mix is. So, on that note, we would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year. Enjoy!

[Note: tracks or albums listed in alphabetical order.]

Best Videos

Two Door Cinema Club’s “Come Back Home” (video from twodoorcinemaclub).

Editors’ “Eat Raw Meat = Blood Drool” (video from editorsofficial).

Shakespears Sister’s “It’s A Trip” (video from ShakespearsSisterTV).

Skunk Anansie’s “My Ugly Boy” (video from SkunkAnansieOfficial).

Destronics’ “The Night a Solider” (video from imetrages).

Melissa Auf der Maur’s “Out of Our Minds” (video from MadMChannel).

The Joy Formidable’s “Popinjay” (video from TheJoyFormidable).

One Night Only’s “Say You Don’t Want It” (video from OneNightOnlyVEVO).

The Pinker Tones’ “Tokyo” (video from thepinkertones).

Post Death Soundtrack’s “Ultraviolence” (video from postdeathsoundtrack).

Best Tracks

Sudden Death Over Time’s “Blue Sky Night” (track from SuddenDeathOverTime1).

O.Children’s “Heel” – check out the preview on iTunes.

Katie Melua’s “I’d Love to Kill You” – check out the preview on iTunes.

Kyte’s “Ihnfsa” (video from kytetheband).

Orphan Boy’s “Pop Song” (video from orphanboyuk).

Holy Fuck’s “Red Lights” (video from youngturksrecords).

The Pipettes’ “Stop the Music” (video from thepipettesofficial).

Hope Slide’s “Topple the Sky” – check out the preview on iTunes.

Hurts’ “Wonderful Life” (video from MySpace Video Page).

HURTS - Wonderful Life (Official Video)

HURTS | Myspace Video

The Courteeners’ “You Overdid It Doll” (video from TheCourteenersVEVO).

Best Albums

Delphic: “Acolyte”

Here are the videos for “Doubt” and “Halcyon” (videos from delphicmusic).

Villagers: “Becoming a Jackal”

Here are the videos for “Becoming a Jackal” and “That Day” (videos from DominoRecords).

Vampire Weekend: “Contra”

Here are the videos for “Cousins” and “Holiday” (videos from XLRecordings).

Northern Portrait: “Criminal Art Lovers”

Here is the video for “Crazy” (video from NorthernPortrait).

Kent: “En plats i solen” [“A Place in the Sun”]

Here are the tracks “Gamla Ullevi” [Od Ullevi”] and “Skisser för sommaren” [Sketches for the Summer”] (tracks from kentchannel).

Marina and the Diamonds: “The Family Jewels”

Here are the videos for “I Am Not a Robot,” “Oh No!,” and “Shampain” (videos from Marianaandthediamonds).

Murder By Death: “Good Morning, Magpie”

Here are the videos for “As Long As There Is Whiskey in the World” and “White Noise” (videos from vagrantrecords).

Corinne Bailey Rae: “The Sea”

Here are the videos for “I’d Do It All Again” and “Closer” (videos from CorinneBaileyRae).

The Unravelling: “13 Arcane Hymns”

Here is the video for “Where Will It End?” (video from theunravellingmusic).

Skunk Anansie: “Wonderlustre”

Here is the video for “Over The Love” (video from SkunkAnansieOfficial).

Keep up with artists / bands at the following sites:

Melissa Auf der Maur: homepage, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter.

Corinne Bailey Rae: homepage, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter.

The Courtneers: homepage, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter.

Delphic: homepage, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter.

Destronics: homepage, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter.

Editors: homepage, MySpace.

Holy Fuck: homepage, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter.

The Hope Slide: MySpace.

Hurts: homepage, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter.

The Joy Formidable: homepage, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter.

Kent: homepage, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter.

Kyte: homepage, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter.

Marina and the Diamonds: homepage, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter.

Katie Melua: homepage, MySpace, Facebook.

Murder by Death: homepage, MySpace, Facebook.

Northern Portrait: homepage, MySpace, Facebook.

O.Children: MySpace, Facebook, Twitter.

One Night Only: homepage, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter.

Orphan Boy: homepage, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter.

The Pinker Tones: homepage, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter.

The Pipettes: homepage, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter.

Post Death Soundtrack: homepage, MySpace, Facebook.

Shakespears Sister: homepage, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter.

Skunk Anansie: homepage, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter.

Sudden Death Over Time: MySpace, Facebook.

Two Door Cinema Club: homepage, MySpace, Facebook.

Vampire Weekend: homepage, MySpace, Facebook.

Villagers: homepage, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter.

The Unravelling: homepage, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter.
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26 December 2010

The Hope Slide: "The Hope Slide"

During the morning hours of 9 January 1965, the largest landslide in Canadian history occured – and though there is a level of hopelessness if caught in a landslide of this magnitude, it ironically occurs right in the Nicolum Valley, close by the municipality of Hope. And that is where The Hope Slide (the duo of Michaela Galloway and John Lucas) took inspiration for their name. Such a big event, the first question that pops to mind is if this independent band could live up to the name? One word: Yes! Their eponymous debut album (28 September 2010 in digital format) is a journey through grandiose soundscapes, overwhelming undertows, and brilliant craftsmanship.

Before going any further, let me make a few important distinctions. What passes, quite often, as dream pop or shoegaze these days is not dreampop or shoegaze. In brief, dream pop has to have a level of etherealness (usually in the vocals, sometimes in the keys or mood of the song) and shoegaze (which is the “child” of dream pop) always consists of some sort of sonic distortion but yet consistently focused on melody. Check … Check … The Hope Slide checks as the real McCoy on both accounts – these are not ironic hipsters trying to capitalize on the past; Galloway and Lucas are carefully crafting music in a duo tradition, expanding the genres and adding in their own special twist to the music. Secondly, they are a band that happens to be electronic, not an electronic band. Perhaps it was circumstances that spearheaded the direction to make music electronically (especially in terms of the beat), but they do not make music to be “electropop,” “electronica,” “synthrock,” or any other catchy label. But, hey, they use a Moog Little Phatty – definitely a reason to give them two thumbs up!

Let’s start with the end, “Parish.” The longest track on the album (almost six-and-a-quarter) and the cathartic epic of the album, The Hope Slide is able to combine ebullience with visceral power. Funky intro and beats, the vocal arrangements another level of “sound,” with a wide range of guitar textures (from ethereal to hauntingly distorted), the beat drops out more than once, giving the faux feeling that the song is about to end, and then joyfully kicking back in. It is the kind of the song that leaves you on the edge of your seat, the kind of song you hit repeat for. When it finally fades out, it is to a wall of distortion.

“The Hope Slide” isn’t just a collection of songs; it is an album. Taking on the gambit in thematic content, unified by the concept of “adversity,” this an album for deep contemplation and emotional release. The most interesting track is “The Survivor”: no beat, no distinct vocals – carried by a simple guitar arrangement and vocal effects, with background “noise,” it is a distinct take on the idea of surviving. I guess if you were a survivor of anything tragic like the Hope Slide, it is not an adrenaline-rush, hyper situation, but rather something slower and methodic, overwhelming but with light at the end of the tunnel. And the track captures just that. That sort of motif is kept in the introduction of the next track, “The Ninth Compartment,” but nearly two-minutes into the track, there is a three-sixty and the electro-rock shoegaze starts.

But each song is an adventure on its own; each song has its own distinct personality. “The Westward Pull” is sonically a world of sultriness, while “A Red Forest” is a world of anxiousness. The opening track, “White Corvette,” is one continual undertow that shifts in intensity again and again, while “Topple the Sky” (ironically) gives you that feeling of drifting through air.

I can easily go track-by-track and say something about each song; this is one of those few albums that I’m simply addicted to each song. Galloway and Lucas have created the dreampop / shoegaze monument of the year with “The Hope Slide.” If you are fan of these genres and bands like Cocteau Twins, Curve, Kitchens of Distinctions, Lush, Swallow, and Ride, this is the band for you. And if you have no clue on who these bands are or what dreampop or shoegaze is, then The Hope Slide is the perfect place to start your journey of discovery. (I know it is a hard sell without being able to share a video, but you have to trust me on this one.) In one word, the album is “Ace!”

Track Listing
1. White Corvette
2. The Prince William Sound
3. Topple the Sky
4. A Red Forest
5. In Ashe
6. The Survivor
7. The Ninth Compartment
8. The Westward Pull
9. Passage
10. Parish

Keep up with The Hope Slide at MySpace.
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25 December 2010

Mutineers: "Friends, Lovers, Rivals"

I was minding my own business sitting in a café in the New York City the other day, laptop out, writing, bent on getting everything written that had to be written by the close of the year; I was listening to some music when a total stranger came over to me and asked, “Are you really listening to Mutineers?” in his thick, I would say Scouse, accent. He joined me at my table, stereotypically I drinking coffee and he tea. We spoke about the Mancunian band and agreed that their debut album, “Friends, Lovers, Rivals” (29 October 2010), was one of the most interesting releases of the year. We agreed that their impressive resume to date (which includes opening for the likes of veteran Bernard Sumner’s [of Joy Division and New Order fame] Bad Lieutenant and The View). But their claim to fame is not having a singular kind of musical reference, but rather their ability to have learnt from 70s, 80s, and 90s, while avoiding all the clichés of the moment.

The vocal stand out in much the same way that Brett Anderson’s, of Suede, does. Nicholas James Mallins has one of the most distinct voices in music, singing with visceral power, his vocal arrangements work with and complement the musical arrangements. And to continue the Suede comparison, the guitar arrangements are as intricate, crisp, and beautiful as Bernard Butler’s. And though some of us (like myself) would be jumping for joy for a Suede-esque band, there is way too much in the mix for Mutineers to be considered so. The use of ambient, whiffling keyboard will remind you of The Cure and fellow post-punks / new wavers of mid-80s (think “In Between Days” and “Just Like Heaven”). The maturity and introspection will make you think of Echo and the Bunnymen and The Lotus Eaters (think “Crystal Clear”). But all these distinct elements are laid over their own brand of pop sensibility that is fresh, relevant, and urgent in the context of today.

The opening track, “Infidelity” (considering the name of the album, brilliant opening track!), starts with a steady beat and keyboard, making you itch for house music, but instead you get a lusciously, ambient soulful song, where guitars and keys compete in the soundscape for dominance. This flows nicely into “Shadow Kisses.” Keeping the same format of the opening track, except poppier. Both of these songs are big in sound, big in feel. Though everything on the album breathes humility, there is a sense that these guys are musically ready for big venues. The closing track confirms this: “Hyde Road.” Typical of bands like The Cure, the opening and closing track of an album are the perfect opening and closing songs for a set – and you can hear the big ending in this song.

“One Last Chance” is one of my two favorite tracks – this song swirls in and oozes perfect pop sensibility without betraying its intricacies and visceral power. It is that kind of pop song that leaves a greater impression than just ripples in water; the song is endearingly haunting. And though I normally scoff at people asking for “one last chance,” the conviction of Mutineers comes right through; they sell the song, make it believable and sincere, making you wish they got that last chance. The other track I am addicted to is “The Auctioneer.” “Don’t walk away… keep on running,” Mallins croons in the chorus, and the music creates that sense of anxiousness that the lyrics are inspiring. And when music and lyrics work so well, so precisely, in tandem, it elevates the song from good to great. And though they reproduce this several times on the album, it is most apparent in “The Auctioneer.”

And for all my fellow post-punk obsessed friends, check out “Stick Together.” This is post-punk for a new generation that does not rehash the exact sound of the past, but applies the aesthetical mindset to a new generation. Ian Curtis and Billy McKenzie are probably smiling down on these guys with this track. And that is the highest compliment I could give.

So why Mutineers? One, one should always support nascent bands, especially one as talented as Mutineers. Two, “Friends, Lovers, Rivals” (which could be the name of a chapter in anyone’s biography!) is an adventure through a luscious soundscape that is infectious and vividly striking, with intricate arrangements that are heartfelt. Three, this is definitely the kind of band and album that leaves you pondering, “What’s the next release going to be like?” And that is sorrowfully missing in today’s fly-by-night acts and releases – who cares what comes next? “Just give me now” seems to be the attitude, but Mutineers has that craftsmanship that leaves you thinking, “What else is up their sleeves?” They have the distinctive sound, the songwriting chops, and the visceral power that bands strive for; I have a feeling that as time goes on, and they congeal and mature as a group, we can expect some more interesting things.

Track Listing
1. Infidelity
2. Shadow Kisses
3. One Last Chance
4. You Use To Be Ok
5. The Landlords Daughter
6. My Words Desert You
7. Apologies
8. The Auctioneers
9. Stick Together
10. Alone In Our Ideas
11. Hyde Road

Keep up with Mutineers at MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter.

Here is a stream of Mutineers song “Shadow Kisses” and a live performance of “Hyde Road” (while supporting Bad Lieutenant), both from their YouTube Channel: armstrongthomas.

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Viking Dress Answers 5

This posting has a crazy history behind it. From the moment I reviewed Viking Dress (link) and my ever-growing curiosity of the French indie scene, I knew I had to interview Serge Majewski. A few e-mails later, he agreed; questions were translated into French sent and returned, then the process of getting the answers into English went a bit awry. Well after the anticipated date, now Christmas day, my present to my readers is finally the interview with Serge Majewski of Viking Dress. I would like to personally thank him for his patience and for answering 5.

First the interview in English, followed by the French, then links to and video by the band.


1. What are your musical and non-musical influences?

There are certainly a lot! To be short and not list all the bands, I rather propose a little selection that I prepared especially for SlowdiveMusic Blog – link. There are a lot of English bands from the 80s and American bands from the 70s. I did not succeed in finding Felt, my fetish (or obsession). Maurice Deebank’s guitars really inspire the notes, notably by the title "So Vain" and "Generique". Listen to "Silver Fountain of Paradise Square" availabe on YouTube, a marvelous instrumentals. Another band that I was also unable to find on Deezer: ME and their album, “Fecund Haunts,” which is a true gem, also the inspiration of the release of a title like "Generique" for the right combinations and harmonies. I was also not able to put my hands on the complete version of Brown Eyes by Fleetwood Mac that focuses on the magnificent "Tusk" and that inspired in an unconscious manner the evolution of "Lalies Game." I would also like to equally propose the psychiatric music of the American Van Dyke Parks on “Song Cycle.” Little precision concerning my choice on French bands, they carry themselves on bands singing "ligne claire" (clear line).

To respond in a complete manner to your question, I could equally evoke the foreign strange contemporary literature and rather Anglo-Saxons (that helps me in fabricating or making the words), the scene writer Luc Moulet for his liberty and the English draughtsman (drawer) Glen Baxter.

2. You sing both in French and English, what is your approach to songwriting and how do you make the choice of language?

In my case, even if it is me who writes the lyrics (except for "So Vain"), I've never really considered writing in an extremely thoughtful way, but I try to be as honest as possible while using very few words. Initially, the idea is to confront me in French. I only do it when a piece permits it because English imposes itself most of the time.

Frederick Landini is the producer of three songs on the disc and he helped me define the project. The color of our disc was more important than the choice of language. So this choice was made according to what we wanted to bring out in terms of production and what the whole disc has to communicate at the end.

In general, I do not listen to French pop songs; I do not think that they are captivating. It's very complicated for a French singer to appropriate his own language and create the magic with it. However, it is indisputable that when the French pop dares to use French and manages to marry it successfully to the level of musical requirements of the British bands, it results to new territories that have not been much explored before. Importing the Anglo-Saxon sound and rhythm is what made the success of some bands here. In this field, in 2010, there is the very promising Young Michelin. (Link to the band, and links to review and interview on SlowdiveMusic Blog.)

3. One can easily see a lot of references to the 80s pop in your music, but also has to acknowledge your originality. What do you think of these independent groups whose music and creativity depend totally on the past groups?

Sylvain of Blog On-A-Good-Day wrote a very nice article on our disc where he notices that Viking Dress is part of a musical trend that shows frontal influences. Pop music is economic: The styles and figures are threadbare, discarded and recycled. At one point, I wanted there to be "second hand" in the name of my group. In my case, the initial intent is often a parody. Singers, of my favorite bands, helps for the starting pulse and then I go searching alone with the musicians to bring things back to the surface and give particular importance to elements that seemed accessories in the beginning. I do not consider myself a true songwriter and I am more interested in the research.

4. As this is my favorite song and I'm still not tired of listening to it, could you tell me the story behind “Lalie's Game?”

“Lalie's Game” is the new version of a single that existed at the time of my initial project. This project was called Lalie (tiens tiens). It wasn’t that professional and was more of a home studio, the voices were tampered with and I did the vocals myself. This piece is a loop. I like it, for finding the repetitive structure that can be developed over time and through different periods and variations. The words of this single, very short, and the marine component came somewhat naturally. Pandora's voice (the singer of The Leeds (link), one of my favorite bands from Southern France – they decided to stop with everything this year) was a surprise because it transformed the disc and this single, particularly, to something else and there is a real dialogue between her voice and the guitars. She makes you think of the singer of 90's Lush (a band I barely know). When I discovered The Leeds, in any case, I thought a lot about the groups of the 90's.

The mixing work of the Gallic David Wrench (Caribou, Bath For Lashes…), especially on this track, is also important because it goes into details.

5. The American and the British scenes are very insular and self-referencing, unlike the French scene, I think. What distinctions and similarities do you find between these scenes?

That's true, but it is interesting when the American and the British musicians extend their boundaries beyond home. There is a bit of Jamaican influence in a lot of English punk bands, African’s kora in the guitar playing of the British Johnny Marr or Pygmy’s singing in some songs of Americans Animal Collective. In France, it is a bit unique. I will not be very original in saying that we have always imitated the pop music of Anglo-Saxon countries and I belong to the generation that witnessed the French groups overcoming the complexities of singing in English. The French indie scene has engaged in the international stage and, since then, started making a lot of change and integrating new things. Today, an independent scene is particularly emerging in southern France, where I live.

Frederick, who is the producer of our record, is also the patron of the Midi Festival, in Hyères, my southern city, a festival that is now very well known. Among other things, it revealed some of the best bands in California at this time, including Girls. Our coast is matching the artistic effort of the other side. This is movement in both directions, it's “economic,” I tell you.


1. Quelles sont vos influences musicales et non musicales?

Elles sont bien sûr nombreuses. Pour ne pas citer trop de groupes, je préfère proposer une petite sélection que j'ai préparé spécialement pour SlowdiveMusic Blog - link. Il y a beaucoup de groupes anglais 80s et des groupes américains 70s. Je n'ai pas réussi à trouver Felt, mon groupe fétiche, dont les guitares de Maurice Deebank inspirent beaucoup les nôtres, notamment sur les titres So Vain et Générique. Écoutez "Silver Fountain of Paradise Square," cet instrumental merveilleux disponible sur YouTube. Un groupe que je n'ai pas trouvé non plus sur Deezer : ME et leur album Fecund Haunts, qui est un vrai bijou, est l'inspiration de départ d'un titre comme Générique pour les combinaisons d'accords et les harmonies. Je n'ai pas non plus réussi à mettre la main sur la version complète de Brown Eyes de Fleetwood Mac qui figure sur le magnifique Tusk et qui a inspiré de manière inconsciente l'évolution de Lalie's Game. J'aurai également voulu te proposer la musique psychiatrique de l'américain Van Dyke Parks sur Song Cycle. Petite précision concernant mon choix de groupes français, il s'est porté sur des groupes au chant "ligne claire".

Pour répondre de manière complète à ta question, je peux également évoquer la littérature étrangère contemporaine et plutôt anglo-saxonne, traduite (qui m'aide à la fabrication des paroles), le cinéaste Luc Moulet pour sa liberté et puis le dessinateur anglais Glen Baxter.

En ce qui me concerne, même si c'est moi qui écrit les paroles (sauf So Vain), je ne me suis jamais vraiment penché sur l'écriture de façon extrêmement réfléchie, mais j'essaie d'être le plus honnête possible, quitte à utiliser très peu de mots. Au départ, l'idée est de me confronter au Français. Je le fais uniquement quand un morceau le permet car l'anglais s'impose souvent.

Frederic Landini est le producteur de trois titres du disque et c'est lui qui m'a, lui aussi, aidé à définir le projet. La couleur musicale de notre disque était ici plus importante que le choix de la langue. Donc ce choix s'est fait en fonction de ce que l'on voulait apporter en terme de production et pour ce que l'ensemble devait dire à la fin.

En général, je n'écoute pas de pop chantée en français, je trouve qu'elle se regarde faire et qu'elle est très convenue. C'est très compliqué pour un chanteur français de s'approprier sa langue et de créer la magie. Par contre c'est vrai que lorsque la pop française ose le français et réussi à la marier aux exigences musicales des groupes anglais, on s'oriente vers des territoires qui n'ont finalement pas beaucoup été exploités. Importer le son anglo-saxon, c'est ce qui a fait le succès de quelques formations d'ici. Sur ce terrain, en 2010, il y a les très prometteurs Young Michelin. (Link to the band, and links to review and interview on SlowdiveMusic Blog.)

3. On sent beaucoup de références à la pop 80s, dans votre musique, mais on sent également que vous n'êtes pas dans la copie. Que penses-tu de ces groupes indépendants qui sont dans le repli sur et autour des groupes du passé?

Sylvain du blog On-A-Good-Day a écrit un très bel article sur le disque où il constate que Viking Dress fait partie d'un courant musical qui affiche de manière frontale ses influences. La pop musique, c'est économique : Les styles et figures sont usés jusqu'à la corde, jetés puis recyclés. À un moment, je voulais qu'il y ait "second hand" dans le nom de mon groupe. En ce qui me concerne, l'intention de départ est souvent parodique. Singer mes groupes préférés m'aide pour l'impulsion de départ et je pars ensuite à la recherche seul puis avec les musiciens pour ramener les choses à la surface et notamment donner de l'importance à des éléments qui semblaient accessoires au départ. Je ne me considère pas comme un véritable songwritter et suis plus intéressé par cette recherche.

4. Comme c'est ma chanson préférée et que je ne suis toujours pas lassé de l'écouter, pourrais-tu me raconter l'histoire du titre Lalie's Game?

Lalie's Game est la nouvelle version d'un titre qui existait déjà à l'époque de mon projet initial et ce projet s'appelait Lalie (tiens tiens). C'était plus amateur et home studio, les voix étaient trafiquées et je faisais les choeurs moi-même. Ce morceau est une boucle. J'aime ça, trouver la structure répétitive qui peut être développée dans le temps et passer par différentes périodes et déclinaisons. Les paroles de ce titre, très brèves et l'élément marin sont venus un peu naturellement. La voix de Pandora (la chanteuse de The Leeds (link), un de mes groupes préférés du Sud de la France (ils ont décidé de tout arrêter cette année) a été une surprise car elle a entraîné le disque et ce titre en particulier vers autre chose et il y a un vrai dialogue entre sa voix et les guitares. C'est elle qui te fait penser à la chanteuse du groupe 90's Lush (groupe que je connais à peine). Lorsque j'ai découvert The Leeds, en tout cas, j'ai beaucoup pensé aux groupes des 90's.

Le travail de mixage du gallois David Wrench (Caribou, Bath For Lashes, ..), particulièrement sur ce titre, a également son importance car on rentre vraiment dans les détails.

5. Les scènes américaines et britanniques sont tres insulaires et autoréférencées, contrairement à la scène française, il me semble. Quels distinctions et similitudes trouves-tu entre ces différentes scènes?

C'est vrai mais c'est intéressant quand les musiciens américains et anglais vont chercher ailleurs que chez eux. Il y a un peu de Jamaïque dans pas mal de groupes anglais punk, de koras africain dans le jeu de guitare de l'anglais Johnny Marr ou de chant Pygmée dans certains morceaux des américains d'Animal Collective. En France, c'est un peu particulier. Je ne serai pas très original en disant qu'on a toujours imité la pop des pays anglo-saxons et que je fais partie de cette génération qui a vu les groupes français sortir du complexe du chant en anglais. L'Indie française s'est engagée dans la voie internationale et depuis, elle s'autorise beaucoup de choses. Aujourd'hui, une scène indépendante est notamment en train d'émerger dans le Sud de la France, là ou j'habite en partie.

Frédéric, qui est le producteur de notre disque, est également le patron du Midi Festival, à Hyères, ma ville du Sud, un festival aujourd'hui très influant qui a, entre autre, révélé quelques uns des meilleurs groupes californiens du moment, notamment Girls. Notre côte répond en écho à l'autre côte. Ce sont des allers/retours, c'est économique, je vous dis.

Keep up with Viking Dress in MySpace and Facebook.

Here is the video for “Lalie’s Game” from the Busy Doin’ Nothin’ Vimeo Channel.

Viking Dress - Lalie's Game from Busy Doin' Nothin' on Vimeo.

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23 December 2010

Duran Duran: "All You Need Is Now"

My apologies for having been away, but I have a few more posts before the close of the year. This post here goes out to two of my friends: Dizzy (I miss you!) and TheCandyMan.

I may not have been writing lately, but I have been listening to tons music. Around my birthday I got the perfect gift, the new Duran Duran single, “All You Need Is Now.” An early Christmas gift came about this week, when the band released their thirteenth studio album, also titled “All You Need Is Now” (21 December 2010 as download, physical copies set for February 2011). With the lackluster reception of “Red Carpet Massacre” (13 November 2007), I think many people, like myself, were a bit weary about this release. In my second post on this blog (link), I made reference to “Red Carpet Massacre,” but also got into the idea of veterans in music: “When musicians become established and household names, the misconception that their name alone will carry them becomes prevalent. Musicians have no choice but to be whores if they want to sustain a career of descent record sales and relevance to the music scene. This includes playing festivals, doing appearances on talk shows, and radio interviews. This includes humility and remembering that the music scene is fickle (at best) and constantly changing. Last year's hot track is a fading memory, and depending on past monuments as a model for future albums is a mistake. Music needs to continue to be new and fresh…” And in that continuation, the two most important factors to keep in mind is the ability of musicians to be strong songwriters and amazing performers. And it is almost funny to say that one must keep “new and fresh” in the midst of an 80s revival, but what better time is there for Duran Duran to use something old to make something new and prove that they are not just sitting on their laurels?

Like all the other veterans that are like religion to me (The Cure, Depeche Mode, Annie Lennox, etc…), the other obstacle that veterans have to surmount is their history. Old time fans want “Rio,” “Hungry Like the Wolf,” and “The Reflex” (Can anyone please explain what they meant by, “The reflex is an only child, he’s waiting in the park. The reflex is in charge of finding treasure in the dark and watching over lucky clover isn’t that bizarre”?). But unlike countless of late 70s and early 80s veterans that continue to make music, Duran Duran refuses to become complacent. Sure, past experimentations may have failed, but “All You Need Is Now” sways clear of frivolous experiments and obtuse musical references. Actually, they go back to the one reference that they know better than anyone else: themselves!

You cannot listen to this album not think of Duran Duran’s 80s catalogue. No, they are not rehashing the same melodies or hooks, sounds or arrangements, but they are obviously intent on showing everyone crazed in the 80s revival just how music in the 80s was put together, without sounding dated. Furthermore, the sense of urgency has returned to their music. “Girl Panic!” is the perfect example of this. With its near Caribbean-beats, big keyboard arrangement, and the perfect matter-of-fact posturing in Simon Le Bon’s voice, it is that archetypical Duran Duran song that has you on the edge of your seat. Though you may think “Ordinary World” when you listen to “Leave a Light On,” go listen to “Save a Prayer” again. Much more sophisticated than its mold, “Leave a Light On” has the same formula: ambient keyboards carrying the melody with a subtle acoustic guitar in the background. Of course, the lead single can throw anyone off. On the surface, it is close to “Red Carpet Massacre” than anything else, but scratch the surface. That savvy switch from verse to chorus is very “New Moon on Monday.” That odd rhythm / keyboard interplay is “Union of the Snake.” “Being Followed” has that great Duran Duran ostinato like “Rio” and “Hungry Like The Wolf” (no one does ostinato better than them!). And of course, any Duran Duran album must have the I’m-Nick-Rhodes-the-keyboard-king moment, and that comes in the final track, “Before the Rain.” Not as obviously steeped in the 80s mentality of Duran Duran, but it is time for some reflection. More so than their American contemporaries, the Brits of the post-punk, new wave, and New Romanticism(!) were continuously reminded of one thing: the Cold War. And perhaps this near Russian waltz, this chilling ending, is a subtle reminder of those days.

Add a few guest appearances (Kelis and Ana Matronic of the Scissor Sisters) and an amazing assortment of backing musicians (including Mancunian Dominic Brown) you get an album that proves that Duran Duran still has it in them. Urgent and relevant and stylish as they are, “All You Need Is Now” easily flutters through each track with ease, inspiring foot tapping and dancing. This is the archetypical Duran Duran album: fun, innovative, and memorable – and the first album in a while that I am looking forward to seeing the new music live, though they best play “New Moon on Monday”! Check this one out.

Track Listing:
1. All You Need Is Now
2. Blame the Machines
3. Being Followed
4. Leave A Light On
5. Safe (In the Heat of the Moment)
6. Girl Panic!
7. The Man Who Stole a Leopard
8. Runaway Runway
9. Before the Rain

Keep up with Duran Duran at their homepage, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter.

Here is the video for “All You Need Is Now” from their YouTube Channel: 07DuranDuran.

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30 November 2010


I typically do not listen to the radio, but around this time of the year, I make it a point to avoid it all together: I typically hate Christmas music. Of course, I will make the exception for Annie Lennox, who recently released a collection of holiday music, “A Christmas Cornucopia.” And speaking of Annie Lennox, has anyone caught the US version video for La Roux’s “In For The Kill”? Am I the only one who is reminded of Annie Lennox watching the video – sort of like a cross between Annie Lennox and Aimee Mann? And of course, I am excited about the upcoming White Lies album, “Ritual,” and happy to see that Spain’s The Pinker Tones released “Tokyo” as a single! I can ramble for hours on this video post … love, love, love the School of Seven Bells!

White Lies’ “Bigger Than Us” from the WhiteLiesVEVO YouTube Channel.

Destronics’ “Feel in Color” from the imetrages YouTube Channel.

Annie Lennox’s “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” from the AnnieLennoxVEVO YouTube Channel.

School of Seven Bells’ “I L U” from the vagrantrecords YouTube Channel.

La Roux’s “In For The Kill” (US Version) from the LaRouxVEVO YouTube Channel.

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart’s “Say No to Love” from the SlubmerlandRecords YouTube Channel.

Mystery Jets’ “Show Me the Light” from their YouTube Channel: MysteryJets.

The National’s “Terrible Love” (Alternate Version) from TheNationalVEVO YouTube Channel.

The Pinker Tones’ “Tokyo” from the Nacionalrecords YouTube Channel.

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29 November 2010

Kent: "En plats i solen" ["A Place in the Sun"]

So, I spent a week away from the blog, writing, and thinking in general. I needed some personal time to recharge the batteries, and, in terms of SlowdiveMusic Blog, prepare to tie up some loose ends and close out the year. As my neighbors can attest, I spent the week listening to Kent over and over again, each time louder and louder. Why it has taken me this long to write about their latest album, I cannot say, but have I mentioned lately that I love Scandinavian music? Kent is one of those bands that have it all: ingenious hooks, out of the box arrangements, a savvy pop sensibility, and a quirkiness that is all theirs. And their latest album is yet another testament to the fact when you want something done right in music, turn to a veteran band.

Kent, hailing form Sverige [Sweden] and singing in svenska [Swedish], are under-rated veterans of the music industry. Since they have made the decision to perform their music in Swedish, they have not garnered the attention they deserve in the Anglo-American music scenes; however, this should not detract anyone from taking a serious listen to this band. Very few bands can create a sound so impressionable. They released their ninth album earlier this year, “En plats i solen” [“A Place in the Sun”] (30 June 2010), and after fifteen years in the music industry, their song writing chops are not dulling. On the contrary, their chops get sharper and sharper.

Essentially their last two albums have been released back-to-back (and I was remiss in getting 2009’s “Röd” on time to review). Since 2007, the band has been trending towards a more electronic sound; however, the approach to the music is exactly the same: meticulous, very attentive to details, and keeps a single effect in mind – and I love songs that are singular in effect and not all over the place or plainly nowhere. In essence, when it comes to Kent’s music, there is nothing superfluous – every sound, every arrangement, is meant to augment the sonic experience. The music may not have a “big” sound, but each song produces a big feeling in the listener. It is impossible to listen to the music and not be moved externally to move or internally to contemplate – sometimes simultaneously.

Though the album seamlessly flows from one track to another, each song capers through with its own personality. “Glasäpplen” has some beautiful acoustic strumming and string/synth arrangements and borders on shoegaze. The lead single, “Gamla Ullevi,” has tribal-esque beats and a gritty industrial flavor to it, while the second single, “Skisser för sommaren,” has a cinematic feel to it – you can simply get lost in your mind’s eye while listening to this one. “Minimalen” would make Kraftwerk very proud, while “Varje gang du möter min blick” may very well be the most visceral song of the year. I love these kinds of songs that cause me to have a contradicting physical reaction: should my chest tighten with anxiousness or should I sway around to the sweeping arrangements? The album closes with “Passagerare,” which has a soft, melodic opening and remains nearly ethereal throughout. Short of four-and-a-half minutes, the song has a big epic feel to it. And I guess it is difficult to figure out how to end an album: should you go for the big, stadium ready finish, or a subtle visceral number, or give more of the same? Kent goes for the musically cathartic, with a touch of dream pop and simple, but effective arrangements (especially with the strings), it is hard not to want to go back and start the album … this amazing sonic journey … all over again.

The shift to electronics in the last three albums is not an attempt from Kent to garner more popularity; if they wanted that, they could simply just sing in English. Instead, “En plats i solen” is a continual journey in their craft, as they expand their musical references and refuse to reproduce the same sound over and over and over again, and if more veterans would follow their lead, they would still be producing relevant music. Do not let the fact that the band sings in Swedish, not English, dissuade you from listening to this album; if it helps any, I am very confident that this album is going to end up on my top ten of the year.

Track Listing:
1. Glasäpplen [Glass Apples]
2. Ismael
3. Skisser för sommaren” [Sketches for The Summer]
4. Ärlighet Respekt Kärlek [Honesty Respect Love]
5. Varje gång du möter min blick [Every Time Your Eyes Meet Mine]
6. Ensam lång väg hem [Lonely Long Way Home]
7 Team building
8. Gamla Ullevi [Old Ullevi]
9. Minimalen [The Minimal]
10. Passagerare [Passengers]

Keep up with Kent their homepage, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter.

Below are two audio clips of songs from their current release, “Gamla Ullevi” and “Skisser för sommaren.” I also included one full-length video, “Idioter,” from their previous album as no videos from this album has been posted and I wanted to give you a feel for their music. All embeds are from their YouTube Channel: kentchannel.

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16 November 2010

Wild Nothing: "Gemini"

As I mentioned previously, Shaun Frandsen of Sudden Death Over Time recommended Wild Nothing to me; unfortunately – and I do mean unfortunately – it took me some time to look into the band, which hails from Virginia, USA, and it has even taken me longer to find an opportunity to write about “Gemini” (25 May 2010 in the USA), the debut album. Be warned, this album is going to be very addictive to fans of late 80s, early 90s British indie music. Like their contemporaries The Pain of Being Pure at Heart, Wild Nothing deftly combines the subtleness of dream pop, the melodicness of shoegaze, and the intensity of noise pop; however, the band never commits to one genre. Furthermore, if you want to play the comparison game (and I will be), compared to many of their brethrens, there is a sense that Wild Nothing is more in tuned with how 80s musicians (like Cocteau Twins and My Bloody Valentine) constructed their songs, while at the same time giving something fresh, distinct, and relevant.

The band is the brainchild of Jack Tatum (I admit ignorance on his career prior to starting Wild Nothing). Not committing to any one specific genre, “Gemini” draws musical references in places where they might not be expected. For instance, the opening track, “Live In Dreams,” has a rhythm much like the early, pre-Suede days of Britpop, while keeping a bleary shoegaze feel. The titular closing track gives into and lavishes in a beautiful post-punk guitar arrangement. Everything in between is as mesmerizing as these two tracks. But first a word of warning: do not criticize the production style. The production is a bit “rough,” but it works on a viscerally level. This is 2010, and a band cannot produce songs the same way as say Cocteau Twins would have two and a half-decades earlier. And, if Tatum wanted to meld homage to the past with visceral power, this gritty style of production does the trick perfectly and is a most welcomed step away from the glossy productions of this year.

It is this style of production that makes a track like “My Angel Lonely” pop out more than it would have otherwise. With vocals as bleary as the background sounds, it is the juxtaposition of this with crisp guitar arrangements and rhythm section in the forefront that makes the song alluring. Another track that just pops out is “Bored Games.” It has that classic Cure guitar sound, but is structured more along the lines of a popish-tempo My Bloody Valentine song (think of “Blown Away”). One other gem to pay close attention to is “Confirmation.” It is the most playful song of the album, with a touch of Manchester of the late 80s. This is one of those songs that I find it hard to put a finger on why it works – perhaps the wispy key sounds, the Marr-esque guitar arrangement, the bubbly bass line – all I know is that everything conspires to produce a song that is completely out of the box and extremely infectious.

Yes, I made a lot of comparisons, but not without reason. My hope is that if you lived with and loved the music of the bands that have been referenced, then you will be intrigued enough to take a good listen to Wild Nothing’s “Gemini.” But to do this debut justice, here are some things I can say without making direct comparisons. The vocals are sung with conviction and sincerity; even when muttered, there is a since of enticement just to the melody that makes you want to know the vocals. This is not rehash mania capitalizing on the sonic stylistics of the past. Sure, there are tons of references to the past, but Tatum is not content in just reproducing the sound of and the nostalgia for the past. This is the kind of new album that pushes the boundaries of old genres in new directions. In essence, taking an old medium, tampering with it, and using it to convey a new message. And with each listen, you realize a bit more just how brilliant Wild Nothing’s “Gemini” is.

Track Listing:
1. Live In Dreams
2. Summer Holiday
3. Drifter
4. Pessimist
5. O Lilac
6. Bored Games
7. Confirmation
8. My Angel Lonely
9. The Witching Hour
10. Chinatown
11. Our Composition Book
12. Gemini

Keep up with Wild Nothing at their MySpace and Facebook.

Here is a live rendition of “Gemini” from the theyshotmusic YouTube Channel.

Here are few tour dates for my European friends.

Thursday, 18 November: Frankfurt, Deutschland (Ponyhof)
Friday, 19 November: Munchen, Deutschland (Atomic Café)

Saturday, 20 November: Bologna, Italia (Covo Club)
Sunday, 21 November: Varese, Italia (Twiggy)
Monday, 22 November: Roma, Italia (Circolo Degli Aristi)
Tuesday, 23 November: Cesena, Italia (Treessessanta)

Thursday, 25 November and Friday, 26 November: Primavera Club Festival, Barcelona, España.

Saturday, 26 November and Sunday, 28 November: Primavera Club Festival, Madrid, España.
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Alphafalls (Part One)

One of the amazing things about the Internet is the ability to discover and track artists, new and old. And though we are living in a Facebook-revolution world, the reality is that MySpace is by far superior for discovering music – the search options allow for this. And one of these bands that I have been tracking and intrigued by is Alphafalls. Hailing from Springfield, Oregon USA, Alphafalls is the moniker employed by Luke Scott-Hinkle. The band’s MySpace page (and homepage) has an interesting description that immediately caught my attention: “If the Beatles had grown up listening to modern pop and Seattle grunge, you would have Alphafalls. Classic song form meets current sounds…”

And so started my intrigued, but then again I love nascent artists, because they have more possibilities than established ones. Generally, by no stretch of the imagination do established artists have major shifts in what they do, so I am intrigued to know how Alphafalls will continue to unfurl.

Alphafalls recently released their debut album, “The Missing Seasons” (8 August 2010 via download, USA). I will be taking a very careful listen to this album in the next few days, but I thought I would share my experience first of when I lurched over to the band’s MySpace page and listened to what was on offer. Currently there are six songs that are streaming on MySpace (and of course, I am going to put my two cents in on each one). The album consists of eight songs, two of which are not streaming … and of course they are presented in a different order – which can radically shift your perception of them. And for that matter, I am not sure if these versions are “faithful” to the album versions. But think of it like this: these are my first impressions – not my dissecting of the album.

“Adam & Evil (This Time)”: one of these short songs that pack more power than you would expect. Scott-Hinkle uses one of my favorite metaphors in this one: Adam – you know that feeling, of feeling that you have everything but no one, or at least no one worth holding onto. It is a universal feeling once you have been on the dating scene for too long. But “learning to stand on my own feet again” is something we all have to learn if we are going to find our happiness.

“Feels Like Goodbye”: I love the guitar arrangements on this one and the simple and ambient keys in the background. In one simple phrase: this mid-tempo song is beautifully sad.

“Frozen Moment”: Poetic and visceral, Scott-Hinkle croons, “The smell of your lips lingers as into you I bleed.” Eerie, but brilliant.

“Love Me Back”: The vocal arrangements are most distinctive on this one; think of typical grunge style singing meets acoustic rock. It is not a combination that one would really think of using, but Scott-Hinkle wraps the song in a savvy rhythm that carries the song.

“Said That You Would Be”: This one breaks the mold: the vocal arrangements, the keys for more than just ambience, and the general ethereal-esque feeling of the song make it a standout.

“Drink”: Here is a mantra for you: “Let’s drink till we die.” I think that line sums up the nihilism and dejection of the song’s lyrics, yet the music does not play pantomime to the lyrical content. Imagine this: the music captures the lethargic mood one goes through before thinking about giving into nihilism and dejection.

So, my advice, check out the band’s MySpace page for a taste of what Scott-Hinkle has to offer. And if it has captures your attention like it did mine, you may want to seek out the debut album, “The Missing Season,” which I plan to listen to this weekend. More to come very soon.

Keep up with Alphafalls at their homepage and MySpace.
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09 November 2010

Fossil Collective: "Honey Slides" (EP)

My thanks (and apologies) to David Fendick, who shared this amazing EP with me a while back, which you should not pass up on taking a listen to.

Hailing from the UK, Fossil Collective is the duo of David Fendick and Jonny Hooker. Fendick described this project as “the phoenix rising out of the ashes…” Originally members of Vib Gyor, which ended up charting on iTunes Top 100, success would be short lived; the band dissolved, but Fendick and Hooker would not faff about complacently. Recording their debut EP at their home studio, “Honey Slides” (24 August 2010), they offer up three incredibly interesting songs. To boot, they enlistied Ashley Dean (who has directed videos for I Like Trains and Lone Wolf) to make their first video, “On & On.” This is definitely a nascent band that you should definitely pay close attention to and support.

Not your generic indie of the moment, Fossil Collective infuses modest amounts of folk to their music and are devoid completely of the current 80s mania (or even the growing 90s mania); there is no feigned posturing or attitude on the EP as many current artists are making a cliché of. What you get is heartfelt music that has a savvy pop sensibility, without being trite. The three songs are nicely arranged, ingeniously produced, and yet another testament that bands do not need bells and whistles, just solid craftsmanship. Without a doubt, you cannot listen to this EP and not come away thinking that Fossil Collective has song writing chops.

“On & On” (the video below) has some beautiful and forceful strumming, with a 60s-esque vocal arrangement. With a steady beat, you can easily imagine this song being performed by two musicians – the layered arrangements just add to the visceral power of the song. “Without a Fight” slows down the pace, and has that feeling of resignation that the title implies. Again, the skeleton of the song is solid on its own, while the other arrangements augment the visceral power of the song – but it is the lead guitar’s arrangement that is really going to catch your attention. The last track, “When Frank Became an Orb,” picks up the pace slightly, but does not return to the physically energetic level of “On & On.” Starting with some vocal arrangements, before the acoustic guitar sneaks in, it is when the beat drops that song really starts to take shape. This time around it is the crooning and the string arrangement that really carry the visceral power of the song, making this the most contemplative song on the album. I would be remiss if I did not say that the guitar arrangements on this song are the savviest on the EP.

“Honey Slides” really caught my attention because though it is only three tracks long, it really captures a broad range of how this duo approaches music – unlike many bands out there, they can shift from relying principally on rhythm or melody or vocals to carry their songs. (Let’s admit it, ninety-percent of bands can only do one or the other.) There is no cookie-cutter formula, nor is this any jumping on a bandwagon – what you get is viscerally powerful pop music that is moving and infectious. Head over to iTunes, search for Fossil Collective, and support the band.

Track Listing:
1. On & On
2. Without a Fight
3. When Frank Became an Orb

Keep up with Fossil Collective at their MySpace and Facebook. Also, take a look at Take Aim Fire (label).

Here is their video for “On & On” from their MySpace Videos Page.

Fossil Collective - On & On

Fossil Collective | Myspace Music Videos
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Videos and Update

Life, life, life – my three little words to describe my lack of time. After a much needed get away this past week, my batteries are recharged and I am ready to really play catching up. Later, I am going to sit down to write about Fossil Collective, and this week I will definitely get to Alphafalls, Clara Engel, Kent (one of my favorite Swedish bands!), and Wild Nothing, an amazing new band recommended to me by Shaun Frandsen of Sudden Death Over Time (review and interview links). Also, my translator (who has been really busy as well) is working on the English version of an interview, not to mention that we will be filming an interview with a local NYC band, Crash Theory. (Then I will be working on a small school based production with my sixth grade teacher, who inspired a love of synthpop in me!)

So … enjoy the videos, more postings to come very soon!

Miami Horror’s “Holiday” from their Vimeo Channel: Miami Horror.

Holidays from Miami Horror on Vimeo.

I Blame Coco’s “In Spirit Golden” from her YouTube Channel: iblamecoco.

Robyn’s “Indestructible” from her YouTube Channel: Robynmusic.

Crystal Castles’ “Not in Love” featuring Robert Smith [of The Cure] – track, no video – from the fictionrecords YouTube Channel.

Life in Film’s “Sorry” from their MySpace Videos Page.

Life In Film 'SORRY'

Life In Film | Myspace Music Videos

Hurts’ “Stay” from their YouTube Channel: videohurts.

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