26 October 2010

Destronics: "Digital Naives"

I discovered Destronics when someone visiting from Europe played them on YouTube for me; I was mesmerized … how the hell did this get by me? Hailing for Lyon, France, Destronics’ debut album, “Digital Naives” (11 September 2010 in France, 15 September 2010 in the USA as digital download) is a hodgepodge of different electronic trends (from synthpop to house, from electronica to synthrock) that should have your ears all perky. Of course, when you link the words France and electronic, you will think Air and/or Daft Punk. And though they do not recreate the sound/style of these two veterans, it is obvious that they have learnt a few lessons from them. Like Air, Destronics have a seventies feel to their synth sounds and have a keen ear for that sort of ambience that can create a wall of sound but never swells into an overwhelming, visceral experience. Like Daft Punk, Destronics can think outside of the box, come up with fresh beats and sonic combinations, all the while eluding comfortably fitting into any one pigeonhole. Couple that with apparently having their fingers on the pulse of indie rock and an intriguing pop sensibility that avoids the 80s’ clichés of most current electronic bands, Destronics offer up a memorable experience with “Digital Naives.”

“Préface,” the forty-second introduction, teases you with a bit of electronics and effected guitar strumming, reverberating right into “Symptom (from the Crisis),” the second track, also a short (under two minutes) track. Destronics continues to be playful with their build-up, as you experience each layer of music, one-by-one, meld together into one solid track. It is the kind of track that gives you a solid insight into how they construct their musical arrangements. But the playful introductions are over with the third track, “Elise Island.” It creeps in with a simple guitar arrangement, then some keys, and then the beat drops, the wall of sound starts to develop, and you are definitely sucked into the seventies-esque sounds and distorted vocal arrangements. Playing with their out-of-the-box pop sensibility, the song combines an array of different elements: from electronic claps of house music with a steady indie beat to a driving disco-esque rhythm guitar, and simple, but big keys.

Tracks like “Together” (showcasing some acoustic guitar playing and reminds me of some of Madonna’s songs like “Don’t Tell Me” and “Hollywood”) and “The Lake” really display Destronics’ consciousness of current indie music. Though not constructed with the reckless abandonment that so many indie acts feign, these are highly crafted tracks that are experiments in juxtaposing elements of indie rock and house. “Free Hands” (vocal arrangements employing a vocoder) is a throw back to French electronic music of the 90s that became popular in the USA. However, unlike the purely dance driven music of that era, “Free Hands” employ the vocals for melodic effects, not to amplify the “dance ambience” of the track. The closing track, “Digital Naives,” is another track that just infuses many different elements: a distorted guitar (much like post-punk rockers used behind ambient keyboard arrangements), the ostianto of synthpop, the dance beat of house, and the playfulness of solid pop.

Over the past two years, I have been falling in love with French music, and Destronics are just pushing me to fall further in love. “Digital Naives” is the perfect name for the album; it is “naïve,” because it is unaffected, straightforward, and lacks pretensions. And as the year is starting to draw to a close, I have to admit that this was this year’s biggest surprise.

Track Listing
1. Préface
2. Sympton (from the Crisis)
3. Elise Island
4. Free Hands
5. Together
6. Feel In Color
7. Flirting Machine Part I
8. Flirting Machine Part 2
9. The Lake
10. Digital Naives

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

First, here is an audio clip of “Free Hands” from their YouTube Channel: destroncis. Second, here is a previous single/video (track not on the album) entitled “This Night a Soldier” from the imetrages YouTube Channel.

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23 October 2010

New Concept Answers 5

The world of electronic music is not just for the Anglophiles, the Francophiles and Germanophiles prove over and over again they are as ingenious, savvy, and quite often more so than their brethren in more popular scenes. So when the opportunity came for me to review the entire catalogue of Deutch band New Concept, there was no doubt I was going to jump on it. It was only par for the course that I would want to interview them. A few e-mails later, and a certain translator that is going to drive me crazy, I am psyched about the fact that for the first time SlowdiveMusic Blog will be presenting an interiew in both English and Deutsch (German). (The English version will come first, then the Deutsch, followed by some links and a video.) I would like to thank the members of New Concept (Uwe, Olli, and Marcel) for taking the time to Answer 5.

Photo by Jörg Riethausen

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

Predominately the assumption would be that we were influenced by artists and bands known for their electronic music-style, which is only partly the case. For us melodies are very important, and we admire musicians and bands that are very creative with their songwriting, and always have the ability to come up with catchy tunes – we love great vocals. “ABBA” represents this the best in our opinion! This is definitely the band that sets the direction for catchy pop-music. A special feature of the four Swedes is their memorable vocal-melodies as well the melodies/harmonies/hook-lines supporting their singing. ABBA was probably the first band that had this kind of approach towards music. The Swedish band has influenced us so far that we say, “If a song doesn’t have a good vocal melody and no additional musical “hooklines,” then there is no reason to record the track because it is just noise. Regardless of what music style we’re talking about.”

We came to synth music because we thought it was convenient being able to sit in a quiet room and compose music without the need of a drummer or bass or anyone else. You are completely independent and you are able to create sounds that are absolutely unique. Accordingly we are influenced by electronical musicans/bands with their very own sound such as Erasure, Depeche Mode, Mirwais, Kraftwerk, Björk, Jean Michel Jarre, and Enigma. In the 90’s Trance, Techno and Dance appeared and left their mark. “New Concept” doesn’t really sounds anything like this, and we are absolutely no friends of the so-called future-pop, but every now and then we use sounds that that belong in this era.

We love to dig in different music styles and accordingly there are many artists who have influenced us and still do. Vangelis, Gazebo (Italo-Disco), Sven Väth, Paul van Dyke, The Cure, Kruder & Dorfmeister, A-ha, Garland Jeffreys, Gloria Estefan, Blur, The Chemical Brothers, Anne Clarke, Hans Zimmer, Hank Williams, Warner Mack, Kalkbrenner, Ernst Goldner, Mike Oldfield, Pink Floyd and many more.

“Non-musically” Andy Worhal gave us something on the way: “The specialty lays within the simplicity.”

2. “The Stomp EP” is different than your full-length releases in the sense that the music is more varied. Why did you opt to release less songs with a greater range of style?

That is because while we were working on “Stomp“ we were also producing for other musicians. So we lacked time to complete an entire album. On the other hand, we were aware that it was about time to produce something new for New Concept. The last official studio album appeared 2008. We just did not accomplish to finish the album, at least production wise. We have enough songs for the next 3 LP´s, but because of [the lack of time] only [completed] one EP. The second thought was to try out if the changed style would reach an audience. Before the sound of our music was much more electronic. People who prefer to listen to synthpop do not like to listen to guitars. We sold a lot less of the EP compared to the previous albums, but we do not make music for the money.

3. Vocally, how large is the octave range between both vocalists? And, when composing the music, are the vocals a major factor or are they arranged afterwards?

The vocal difference between Uwe and Oliver is not that big. Both can sing baritone as well as tenor, but Oliver reaches the deeper tones better. Both of them reach the “High A“ best with “head voice.” A classical tenor has no problems singing that with “chest voice.” Anyway, we find that the head voice matches the pop-music style better. It is not so strong but richer in upper tones. The high C depends on your form of the day. Not even a classical tenor is able to perform that on a daily basis. New Concept is equipped with a substantial vocal ability; therefore, the vocals are at the time of the songwriting process, where the vocal melody does not exist yet, not that important.

Maybe it is our long year experience, that we have the ability to create songs in a way that we always find singable melodies afterwards to match the song... no idea. In that case we work as autodidacts and we do not analyze this music-scientifically.... Sometimes we rearrange songs before recording, because we think there should be a higher voice in the refrain, or the other way around. With compositions where the song melody stands first it is insignificant, because the harmony is adjusted to the song lines.

4. I am one of those music fans that are obsessed with gear. Any favorite piece of electronic equipment you use in the studio? Live?

We started producing music at a time where software synthesizers still were in the early stages of development. Accordingly we still possess a bunch of hardware synthesizers. We never got completely rid of them because we feel that the sound of software synthesizers is not as good. We rather use software samplers. No hardware sampler in the world provides as much RAM as a computer currently. Our favorite synthesizer is the Kawai 5000. We use it at almost any production. It works with additive synthesis, which allows it to recreate theoretically any sound in the world. (We do not manage to do so though. You probably have to be a physicist.) If it has to be some kind of spaced out sound, be it Dance, Metal or not ordinary sound affect then the K5000 comes to work. (We bought this peace of equipment new in 1996.) Otherwise we use the Roland JV 1080 (good sound for every style-we are looking for suitable vowel sounds and adapt them to our sound perception.) For analog sound a la Moog or similar we use the Access Virus B. Just during the last two years we came to appreciate the Yamaha CS6X, probably because we lately found out its capabilities. That is the great thing about synthesizers. Even after years you still find new functions and possibilities.

5. What’s next?

Currently we are working on a new single – “The 21st Century.” It is scheduled to come out end of the year. It is packaged with two of our remixes. Musically we can say it is a nice mix of orchestra sounds coupled with electro, groove and some guitar. Sometime next year there will also be an associated video coming out. Subsequently the production of our LP will follow. We have chosen 11 songs. Two of them are already completed. We cannot say anything about the date of release. The production should be concluded at the end of 2011. Parallel to all this there will be changes to our web site. Also a different way of commercial exposure and communication with our fans is internal currently strongly discussed and will be realized soon.....watch out!

Thanks for the interview and many regards to the readers!!! Uwe, Olli and Marcel, October 2010.

Now in Deutsch…

Photo by Jörg Riethausen

1. Wer hat Euch musikalisch, wie auch nicht musikalisch beeinlußt?

Die Vermutung liegt vielleicht nahe dass uns in erster Linie Künstler und Bands beeinflusst haben die durch ihren elektronischen Musikstil bekannt sind, das ist nur teilweise der Fall. Für uns sind Melodien sehr wichtig, wir bewundern Musiker und Bands die vom Songwriting her hochkreativ sind, denen am laufenden Band Ohrwürmer einfallen- und wir mögen großartige Gesangsstimmen. Die besten Vertreter sind hier, unserer Meinung nach, "ABBA"! Das ist definitiv die Band die die Richtung für ohrwurmmäßige Popmusik vorgegeben hat. Ein besonderes Merkmal der Musik der 4 Schweden ist, dass sowohl eine einprägsame Gesangsmelodie stets vorhanden ist als auch Melodien/Harmonien/Hooklines die den Gesang unterstützen. ABBA sind wahrscheinlich die ersten gewesen, die diese herangehensweise an Musik hatten. Uns beeinflußt die schwedische Band in so fern dass wir uns sagen: "Hat ein Song keine gute Gesangsmelodie und keine guten zusätzlichen musikalischen Hooklines, braucht man den Titel gar nicht erst aufzunehmen, denn dann handelt es sich nur um Krach, unab-hängig davon ob es sich um elektronische Musik, Rock oder einen anderen Musikstil handelt.

Zur synthetischen Musik sind wir gekommen weil wir es sehr vorteilhaft gefunden haben ganz in Ruhe im stillen Kämmerlein Songs zu komponieren. Man braucht dazu weder einen Schlagzeuger, noch einen Bassisten oder sonst irgend jemanden, man ist vollkommen unab-hängig, und man kann Sounds kreieren/einsetzen die absolut unique sind. Dement-sprechend beeinflussen uns elektronische Bands/Musiker mit einer ganz eigenen Soundnote: wie Erasure, Depeche Mode, Mirwais, Kraftwerk, Björk, Jean Michel Jarre und Enigma. In den 90igern öffnete sich ja die große Schatzkiste des Trance, Techno und Dance, was an uns nicht spurlos vorbeigegangen ist... "new concept." klingt zwar nicht nach diesen Musik-stilen, und wir sind auch absolut keine Freunde des sogenannten Futurepops, ab und an benutzen wir jedoch Sounds die nach dieser Ära klingen.

Wir graben gern in verschiedenen Musikstilen, dementsprechend gibt es sehr viele Künstler die uns beeinflussen, bzw. Immer noch beeinflussen: Vangelis, Gazebo (Italo-Disco), Sven Väth, Paul van Dyke, The Cure, Kruder & Dorfmeister, A-ha, Garland Jeffreys, Gloria Estefan, Blur, The Chemical Brothers, Anne Clarke, Hans Zimmer, Hank Williams, Warner Mack, Kalkbrenner, Ernst Goldner, Mike Oldfield, Pink Floyd u.v.a.

“Nicht musikalisch” hat uns Andy Warhol einiges mit auf den Weg gegeben: In der Einfachheit liegt die Besonderheit!

2. Die "Stomp!" EP unterscheidet sich von den Vollversionen (Lp`s) in ihrer Vielfältigkeit. Warum habt Ihr Euch entschieden weniger Lieder mit einer größeren Bandbreite an Styles zu veröffentlichen?

Das hat eher etwas damit zu tun weil wir in der Schaffensphase von "Stomp!" nebenher noch sehr viel für andere Musiker produziert haben, die Zeit somit gefehlt hat ein komplettes Album fertig-zustellen, wir uns andererseits aber bewußt gewesen sind dass es wieder mal höchste "Eisenbahn" ist etwas von "New Concept." Zu veröffentlichen. (2008 war das letzte offizielle Studioalbum 4 Jahre her). Wir haben einfach kein komplettes Album fertig bekommen- zumindest von der Produktion her, Songs haben wir für die nächsten 3 Lp`s in petto, deshalb nur eine EP. Der zweite Gedanke dabei war auszuprobieren wie der veränderte Stil bei den Leuten ankommt, vorher haben unsere Songs doch sehr viel mehr elektronischer geklungen. Leute die auf Synthiepop stehen möchten ja keinen Gitarren hören....Wir haben von der EP auch viel weniger verkauft als von den Vorgänger-Alben. Aber wir machen ja nicht Musik des Geldes wegen...

3. Wie groß ist der Unterschied der Oktaven zwischen den beiden Sängern stimmlich? Spielen die Stimmen während der Komposition eine große Rolle, oder werden sie anschliessend arrangiert?

So groß ist der stimmliche Unterschied zwischen Uwe und Olliver nicht, beide können Bariton als auch Tenor singen, wobei Olli die tiefen Stimmlagen besser erreicht. Das hohe "A" erreichen beide am besten per Kopfstimme- ein klassischer Tenor singt das noch problemlos per Bruststimme, wir finden jedoch dass die Kopfstimme sowieso besser zu Popmusik paßt, sie ist nicht so kräftig, aber dafür reicher an Obertönen. Tagesformabhängig ist das hohe "C" - das braucht aber selbst ein klassischer Tenor nicht alle Tage singen... Da "new concept." mit reichhaltigen stimmlichen Fähigkeiten ausgestattet ist, sind die Vocals bei der Komposition der Songs (bei denen es im Songwritingprozess noch keine Gesangsmelodie gibt) zumeist erst einmal nicht wichtig.

Vielleicht ist es langjährige Erfahrung, dass wir Songs so komponieren das sich später immer gute Melodielinien darauf singen lassen, keine Ahnung. Wir sind in der Hinsicht eher Autodidakten und analysieren es auch nicht musikwissenschaftlich... Manchmal transponieren wir vor dem Recording Songs um, weil wir z. B. der Meinung sind dass es im Refrain eine hohe Stimmlage sein sollte- oder umgekehrt. Bei Kompositionen, bei denen die Gesangsmelodie zuerst vorhanden ist, spielt das alles ja keine Rolle, weil die Harmonien der Gesangslinie angepasst werden.

4. Ich bin einer der Musikfans die sehr begeistert sind von der technischen Ausstattung. Gibt es ein elektronisches Gerät, welches Ihr im Studio, oder auch Live favorisiert?

Wir haben mit der Produktion von Musik begonnen, noch in einer Ära, als Softwaresynthesizer in den Kinderschuhen gesteckt haben. Dementsprechend besitzen wir immer noch einen kleinen Fuhrpark an Hardware-synthesizern. Wir haben uns nie von den Geräten getrennt, weil wir der Meinung sind dass Softwaresynths nicht so gut klingen. Wir benutzen eher Softwaresampler, so viel RAM wie man derzeit im Computer zur Ver-fügung stehen hat, das bietet kein Hardwaresampler der Welt... Unser Favorit in Sachen Synthesier ist der "Kawai 5000", wir setzen ihn bei fast jeder Produktion ein, er arbeitet mit additiver Synthese, mit ihm ist es theoretisch möglich jeden Klang der Welt nachzubilden. (Das kriegen wir jedoch auch nicht hin, dazu muß man wahrscheinlich Physiker sein...) ..wenns jedenfalls ein abgefahrener Sound sein soll, ob Dance, was metallisches oder ein nicht alltäglicher Effektsound-dann muß der "K 5000" her. (Das Gerät haben wir uns 1996 neu gekauft....). Ansonsten benutzen wir relativ häufig den "Roland JV 1080" (der hat für jeden Style gutes Klangfutter- wir suchen brauchbare Werkssounds und assen sie unseren Klangvorstellungen an) und den "Access Virus B" - für Analogsound a la Moog und ähnliches. Richtig schätzen gelernt haben wir erst in den letzten 2 Jahren den "Yamaha CS6X" - wahrscheinlich weil wir erst jetzt dahinter gestiegen sind was man damit so richtig anstellen kann. Das ist das schöne an Synthesizern, man entdeckt auch nach Jahren immer wieder neue Funktionen und Möglichkeiten!

5. Was steht als nächstes an?

Momentan arbeiten wir an einer neuen Single - "The 21th Century", geplant ist dass sie Endes des Jahres erscheint, gespickt mit zwei Remixen von uns. Musikalisch können wir schon so viel dazu sagen dass es eine schöne Mischung aus Orchestersounds, gepaart mit viel Elektro, Groove und einigen Gitarren ist, im Laufe des nächsten Jahres gibt es dazu noch das Video. Danch gehts sofort an die Produktion der LP, wir haben dafür 11 Songs ausgewählt, 2 Titel sind bereits fertig. Über das Erscheinungsdatum können wir noch nix sagen, die Produktionen dazu sollen Ende 2011 abgeschlossen sein. Parallel zu all dem wird es einige Veränderungen an diversen Webpräsenzen geben, auch ein anderer Weg der Ver-marktung und Kommunikation mit Fans wird derzeit intern stark diskutiert und zur Umsetzung kommen- watch out!

Vielen Dank für das Interview und viele Grüße an alle Leser! Uwe, Olli und Marcel Oktober 2010.

Keep up with New Concept at their homepage and MySpace.

Here is their video for “The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter” from their YouTube Channel: newconcnewconc.

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20 October 2010

Catching up with The Hotrats and 65daysofstatic

First off, our apologies for missing a Tuesday … things have just been hectic.

Not long ago SDM commented about the need to “catch up” on albums that were not written about. So I looked through my collection and found two albums I really liked. One is a first for the SlowdiveMusic Blog: a cover album. And to follow SDM’s lead, I will not belabor these, as many of you may have heard these already, but I/we wanted them represented here. Hope you enjoy!

The Hotrats: “Turn Ons” (above)
65daysofstatic: “We Were Exploding Anyway” (below)

The Hotrats “Turn Ons”

The Hotrats are a cover band started by Gaz Coombies and Danny Goffey, who were also members of Supergrass. Originally tagged as a side-project, with this year’s release of “Turn Ons” (23 December 2009 in Japan, 19 January 2010 US, 25 January 2010 UK), they have released a minimalist collection of covers of some of the most influential names in music: The Beastie Boys, David Bowie, Elvis Costello, The Cure, The Doors, Gang of Four, The Kinks, Lou Reed/The Velvet Underground, Roxy Music, Sex Pistols, and Squeeze. (The iTune bonus tracks are covers by The Beat and The Pet Shop Boys.)

Okay, I am going to admit it: I am a huge Cure fan – and I am not in my 30s, 40s, or 50s! I had to listen to “The Lovecats” right away – a song written before I was born! And though no cover of The Cure will ever replace the original to me, I have to say that their rendition of “Lovecats” was on the money. Though not a straight cover (no piano or horns), the band captured the essence of the song: fun but claustophobic. By the way, getting rid of the piano for a guitar, though not a new concept, really gave the song a new, vibrant feel and again proves how The Cure’s songwriting is timeless.

Soon as I heard Hotrats version of “Queen Bitch,” originally sang by the one and only David Bowie, for a split second, I had thought it was David Bowie I was listening to – an alternate track maybe? One with a grittier, but more poppy and inviting feel to the song. All I can say to Hotrats is “Bravo” for taking a great song and updating it without damaging its integrity.

As long as the majority of indie and electro bands are releasing music that imitates the past, why not just reproduce the originals with a twist? A great album, with familiar songs, that will get you to sing along with them. And now that Supergrass is no longer together, who knows, we may just hear from the Hotrats again soon.

Track Listing:
1. I Can’t Stand It
2. Big Sky
3. The Crystal Ship
4. (You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!)
5. Damaged Goods
6. Love Is the Drug
7. Bike
8. Pumped It Up
9. The Lovecats
10. Queen Bitch
11. E.M.I.
12. Up the Junction
13. Mirror in the Bathroom, iTunes bonus track
14. West End Girls, iTunes bonus track

Keep up with The Hotrats at their homepage, MySpace, and Facebook.

Here are their videos for “I Can’t Stand It” and “Damaged Good” from their YouTube Channel: TheHotRats.

65daysofstatic: “We Were Exploding Anyway”

Okay, I admitted I am a huge fan of The Cure, so in 2008 I went to Madison Square Garden to see them play – I had never seen them live before. Amazing… simply amazing… three hour long concert, whirling through new and old music, singles and non-singles, pop ditties and epics… everything about the set, the lights and projections, were perfect. And so was the choice of opening band. This was the first time I had heard of 65daysofstatic. (To my friend who wondered why The Cure would pick 65days as an opening band … get over it.)

I am not usually a fan of instrumental bands, but there was something a tad different about this band. Like The Cure, their songs are able to carry two distinct emotions and cause two different reactions in a listener – sometimes at the same time! You feel an urge to do something, whether stand up and pace or run and shout, but at the same time, you feel calm, in a cathartic way.

Sometimes I find it hard to find an instrumental band that can move you in any which way it will want to take you, probably because, like so many people, I really personalize lyrics. (This is where fans of post-rock and real house music have an edge over other fans of modern music; they can appreciate music without lyrics on a visceral level.) But, after “discovering” 65daysofstatic, I am really starting to find myself getting attached to music, not just lyrics. “Dance Dance Dance” is one of those tracks that are really moving me. Within the first minute or so, you get this sort of classic, very simple vibe with some soft electronic tones thrown in, then all of a sudden you are hit with this wall of music, that is almost oppressive but makes you want to get up and, well, dance. And while this wall of music is hitting you, you have a keyboard playing softer and notable, which was a nice added bonus, which lead into a sort of orgasmic collaboration of everything that was played within the track. Simply put, phenomenal!

When I was listening to “Come to Me,” I was completely absorbed into the track; the multilayered music just enwraps you in a way you can’t resist. And then a voice, which surprised me for two reasons: first, there was a singer? Second, it was Robert Smith! Imagine, I was sitting there, having listened to almost half of the album already, and there were no voices in the previous songs; but that voice is unmistakable. It was indeed Robert Smith.

And when you can attract the likes of Robert Smith to come into a studio and perform in one of your original songs, then you must be producing something of quality. And that is exactly what “We Were Exploding Anyway” is – high quality, amazing arrangements, ingenious songwriting, and 65daysofstatic at their best.

Track Listing:
1. Mountainhead
2. Crash Tactics
3. Dance Dance Dance
4. Piano Fights
5. Weak4
6. Come to Me
7. Go Complex
8. Debutante
9. Tiger Girl
10. Sawtooth Rising

Keep up with 65daysofstatic at their homepage, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter.

Here is “Crash Tactics” live from their Viemo Channel: 65daysofstatic.

Crash Tactics Live from 65daysofstatic on Vimeo.

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17 October 2010

Videos, But First Some Dreaming

Though some people may find it hard to believe, I was impressionable once upon a time. I remember being in sixth grade, and the teacher, the-one-and-only Miss Henion (then), came up with this idea of our class doing a dance number to The Human League’s “The Things That Dreams Are Made Of.” Of course, at first, everyone grumbled, especially the boys who did not want to hit the last note in the line, “Take a cruise to China…” But in days, the song started to really resonate in my young mind. On one level, it opened the world of synthpop to me, so I have to give credit to my sixth grade teacher among the few that really molded my taste in music. But on another level, it was the actual words: “…like fun and money and food and love and things you never thought of…” At a young age, she taught me to dream, and what is life if you cannot dream? Where would anyone of us be if we did not dream? How could we imagine a better world for ourselves, or even the world, if we did not dare to dream?

We recently reconnected via Facebook, and this was something that I shared with her. She made this awkward, square peg in a world full of round pegs feel comfortable and made me dream. But what is amazing about this story is that she was not only paying lip service; this is something she believes in whole-heartedly. My evidence? Her son, you see he was told to stop dreaming by his educators, but she insisted that he keep on dreaming… the sky is the limit… even for trumpet players! You see she encouraged her son to continue to dream and to play that trumpet, and in turn he has learned to dream. And in his dreaming he remembered Haiti and the earthquake and all the heartache that came with it. Unlike the press and the general public, he did not want forget and he wanted to do something about it, and he did. Together with a friend, Joey Soriano, a high school student, composed “Shed a Tear,” featuring Liz Rosa, and uploaded it to iTunes. All of the proceeds from the song will go to Project Haiti. This is an important cause, so before watching those videos below, click on this iTunes link and purchase the song for under a buck. And spread the word, for at once you are helping those who are in greater need than us, while helping Soriano to continue to dream.

And now for some videos.

Fyfe Dangerfield’s “Barricades” from his YouTube Channel: fyfedangerfield.

Foals’ “Blue Blood” from their YouTube Channel: wearefoals.

Steve Mason live cover of Madonna’s “Borderline” from the DominoRecords YouTube Channel.

Pulled Apart By Horses’ “High Five, Swan Dive, Nose Dive” from their YouTube Channel: PulledApartByHorses.

These New Puritans’ “Hologram” from their YouTube Channel: thesenewpuritans.

Skunk Anansie’s “Over That Love” from their YouTube Channel: SkunkAnansieOfficial.

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16 October 2010

Catching up with The Moons and LCD Soundsystem

Time, time, time … you can never have enough of it! Trying the inevitable fight against time to catch up with past releases can sometimes be daunting! But as the year draws to a close, and the number of releases is slowing down (or at least the number of releases that are catching my attention is slowing down), I think it is time to make the time and write about some bands that I have not been able to write about. Again, I cannot stress more that not having written about these two bands is a reflection of my lack of time and not of the bands! Quite the opposite, one is a promising nascent band from Northampton and the other a New York City veteran band, one influenced by the 60s and 90s and the other by the 70s and 80s, but both are extremely witty, catchy, and have solid songwriting chops. (As I know that people may have heard these albums, I am not going to belabor this post, but I am going to put my two cents into the mix.) Enjoy!

The Moons: "Life On Earth" (above)
LCD Soundsystem: "This Is Happening" (below)

The Moons: “Life On Earth”

Hailing from Northampton, UK, The Moons released their full-length debut, “Life on Earth,” earlier this year (15 March 2010 in the UK and the USA as a download, 6 April 2010 as a physical import in the USA). Part of a revival of broody 60s music, the album may use that era as a blueprint, but remains jovial and fun. Full of quirky vocal arrangements and solid melodies, with simple but ingenious guitar arrangements, “Life on Earth” is not the typical 60s revival album. Though occasionally there are songs (like “Torn Between The Two”) that could easily have been written in a world where The Beatles and The Doors inhabited, the interesting moments of the album is when the 60s collides into the 90s Britpop tradition. And that is the thing about The Moons: their musical reference is slightly larger than most of the 60s revival, and just after one good listen I was left wondering what else do these guys have up their sleeves.

Opening with “Don’t Go Changin’,” the entire concept of the albums is laid out for you in one song: fun, poppy, devoid of overused indie clichés and tropes, and immensely alluring. The third track, the single “Let It Go,” is a testament to solid craftsmanship. At once it cannot escape its 60s blueprint or its Britpop feel, but unlike so much revival it does not sound dated in anyway. Quite the opposite, “Let It Go” sounds fresh and vibrant, structured but yet somehow zany. Another track to really pay close attention to is “How Long,” which slows the tempo down and starts to ponder, but never wallows. And this is usually a hard feat; the moment the tempo is slowed down, most songs open the door for wallowing. Instead here, the song borders on a claming ethereal feel; not the kind of ethereal, falling through the sky kind of feel, but rather that sort of feeling when you reminisce and can’t help but to smile, even if the memories are sad.

I would be remiss if I did not mention that the nicest guitar work comes in “Everyday Heroes.” Okay, you can make the argument that other tracks have more intrigue or ingenious arrangements, but there isn’t a song on the album that works better than this one, in term of the guitar arrangements. It is definitely that one song where all the other components are often pushed into the background of your mind’s ear, as you enjoy the visceral power of the guitars. Lastly, the band goes for an epic ending with “Last Night On Earth” – and I love epic endings! This is the moment when you think, “What else does this band have up their sleeves?” Just like “Don’t Go Changin”,” all of the bag of tricks is in this song, but it is the one track that really takes a step way from the poppy feel of the rest of the album, in favor of more visceral power. But, again, it is not a gloomy, irresistible undertow kind of visceral power, but that sort of release of futility and again a smile on your face. (Note, I did not make much of the Paul Weller connection, because though of course we all love him, that should not be the reason you really give into this amazing album.)

Track Listing:
1. Don’t Go Changin’
2. Chinese Whispers
3. Let It Go
4. Torn Between The Two
5. Nightmare Day
6. Promise Not to Tell
7. How Long
8. The Ragman
9. Everyday Heroes
10. Lost Soul
11. Wondering
12. Last Night On Earth

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

Here is their video for “Let It Go” and a live performance on BBC of “Promise Not To Tell” from their Youtube Channel: themoonsofficial.

LCD Soundsystem: “This Is Happening”

When you think New York City and dance punk, Yeah Yeah Yeahs usually come to mind; I guess I could accept that, though I really think that it is LCD Soundsystem that should come to mind. And I know that the term “dance punk” gets thrown around quite a bit, to the point that it has become adulterated and obtuse, so indulge me a moment here. To me, dance punk bands have two things in common: David Bowie and Brain Eno. Combining a punk mentality to dance music, that is challenging the very notion of the “dance” genres (from house to disco), these bands incorporate dance beats with elements of music that are not normally indigenous to dance music, but rather to the post-punk tradition that Bowie and Eno influenced. And if any band has this down-packed, it is LCD Soundsystem, and their new album, “This Is Happening” (17 May 2010 in the UK, 18 May 2010 in the USA), proves that.

With one of the coolest openings of the year, “Dance Yrself Clean” opens (and closes) with a near comical electropop arrangement, the song is full of mocking lyrics like “Talking like a jerk, except you are an actual jerk, and living proof that sometimes friends are mean. Present company expect it…” A bit over three minutes into the song, the beat drops, the soundscape radically changes, and the dancing shoes come on. This song is of epic proportion, but then again so are six of the other eight songs on the album, spanning anywhere between nearly six-minutes to nearly nine-and-three-quarters. “Drunk Girls,” the only short song on the album, is a punky-electro number; the lyrics are completely tongue-in-cheek (“Drunk girls... Just ‘cause I’m shallow doesn’t mean that I’m heartless. Drunk girls... Just ‘cause I’m heartless doesn’t mean that I’m mean. Drunk boys... Sometimes love gives us too many options. Drunk girls... Just ‘cause you’re hungry doesn’t mean that you’re lean”) and musically the one song that is the round peg surrounded by squares. It is the obvious single, though it does not represent the rest of the album, and it is that reason why I can say that I love its use as a single. I hate when bands cut other songs down to be a lead single just to represent the album; this is the kind of risk that more bands should be willing to take.

As for the rest of the album, LCD Soundsystem proves that you do not have to follow current sonic platitudes. Well, they never have been followers; they are more comfortable setting the trend, not blindly giving into it. What I really like about the album is that each of the songs is really developed. And though many of the tracks share common underpinnings, they do not share the same approach. Whether it is the influx of EBM in “One Touch” or the Bowie-esque space adventure sounding “I Can Change,” each song luxuriates in its own soundscape, yet flowing into one another with ease. And if there is one album this year that really breathes New York City (sleek but risqué, gorgeous but not classically so, intelligent but not needlessly heady, sexy but not frivolous), LCD Soundsystem’s “This Is Happening” is it.

Track Listing:
1. Dance Yrself Clean
2. Drunk Girls
3. One Touch
4. All I Want
5. I Can Change
6. You Wanted a Hit
7. Pow Pow
8. Somebody’s Calling Me
9. Home
10. Throw, iTunes bonus track
11. Oh You (Christmas Blues), iTunes bonus track

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

Here is their video for “Drunk Girls” from the parlophone YouTube Channel.

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12 October 2010

The Pipettes: "Earth vs. The Pipettes"

And who said I did not like pop girl groups? All right, I admit it, I dislike the vast majority of them, but I love The Pipettes. Releasing their first album in four years, “Earth vs. The Pipettes” (6 September 2010 in the UK, 13 September 2010 in the USA as a download, 16 November 2010 as a hardcopy in the USA), you would be justified if you consider this a debut album of sorts and not a sophomore effort. No longer a trio, The Pipettes is now a duo (of sisters Ani and Gwenno Saunders) and The Cassettes (their all male back-up band), but the duo does not consist of any of the original members. So, of course, I completely understand anyone’s apprehension getting this “faux-sophomore” album, but it is as fun as some of best pop that has come out of the UK in the past few decades – think of a Phil Spector mentality smashed up with Bananarama and Wham! (Did I actually mention Wham!?)

But it may be hard to get over the fact that there are no original members; it leaves us with one question: who is this band? The vocal arrangements, now as a duo instead of a trio, are different. How will the older songs sound live? Will they really capture that late 50s, early 60s feel that girl groups were known for? Will it have the same fluidity that they had? And how about The Cassettes? With a new drummer behind the kit, how will that affect the music? How will that affect the live performances? The questions are endless, and if you follow them, you are bound to get wrapped up in tangents and forget the music. So here are two quick solutions that will work. First, think of The Pipettes as being more of an ensemble than a band and then you do not have to question the line-up at all. Or, if you don’t like the first option, second, think of this as a new band, or better yet, The Pipettes 2.0. Ultimately, what matters most is the final product, the music (what we get to enjoy), not the revolving door of membership (an internal matter).

The first indication that your doubts about the music were misplaced comes when you realize that you have been singing along; you hate yourself for this, you tell yourself, “I am supposed to hate this crap,” but you shrug your shoulders and sing along. Call it a guilty pleasure (or a shameful indulgence), this is music that’s infectious. Earlier this year “Our Love Was Saved By Spacemen” made its way to the Internet – though not the first female duo to do a sci-fi theme (remember Shakespears’ Sister catwoman?), there was a definite sense of camp, but a more sophisticated sound than expected with eurodisco tinges everywhere. “Stop The Music,” the second video and first proper single, followed. A bit more of the Phil Spector mentality, that eurodisco tinge, and even more dramatic arrangements than the previous release. And then “Call Me” was released … and all I can say is “Viva la Pipettes!”

The three videos are a perfect indication of what you get. In different combinations, the songs on “Earth vs. The Pipettes” are unbridled pop, eurodisco revival, sophisticatedly dramatic arrangements, and fun music meant to be partied to and enjoyed, not pondered over endlessly to boredom. (Two none single tracks to really listen to include “Thank You” and “Finding My Way,” my favorite Pipettes’ song.) The Pipettes are one of the few bands that understand that the fun should not stop after the summer; this is an uplifting autumn album. You may miss the girls from Brighton in polkadot dresses, but these Cardiff gals have something special in their own right; at the same time, The Cassettes prove their worth in gold with impeccable musicality. This is my guilty pleasure of the autumn and it should be yours as well!

Track Listing:
1. Call Me
2. Ain’t No Talking
3. Thank You
4. I Need A Little Time
5. History
6. I Always Planned to Stay
7. Stop The Music
8. I Vibe U
9. Our Love Was Saved By Spacemen
10. Finding My Way
11. Captain Rhythm
12. From Today

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

Here are the videos for “Our Love Was Saved By Spacemen,” “Stop The Music,” and “Call Me from their YouTube Channel: thepipettesofficial.

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05 October 2010

Some New, Some Old Videos

No new review this week, but there will be more than one review next week (and keeping my fingers crossed over a few other things) … but of course I cannot let a Tuesday go by without posting something.

I have been e-mailing back and forth with a friend (we shall call him Candyman) about music; he has an extensive knowledge of music, especially (popular and obscure) new wave – he is keeping me on my toes! So, I thought that I would do something a bit different with this video post: split it between new videos and older ones.

First, the new videos, here is Orphan Boy’s new video for “Some Frontiers.” Here are some links if you missed the review of their album “Passion, Pain & Loyalty” (link) and a recent interview (link).

Orphan Boy’s “Some Frontier” from their YouTube Channel: oprhanboyuk.

Surfing around, I came across Maria Rodés – what an amazing voice! I think I am going to have to run out this weekend and buy her album.

Maria Rodés’ “Desorden” from the bcoredisc YouTube Channel.

The last two new videos are from veteran Bjork (one of those artists who always makes me scratch my head) and newcomers Dinosaur Pile-Up, which are further evidence that the 90s are definitely seeping back.

Bjork’s “The Comet Song” from her YouTube Channel: bjorkdotcom.

Dinosaur Pile-Up’s “Mona Lisa” from their YouTube Channel: dinosaurpileup.

Now for the old videos, and I have to state again, there are so many great songs that are just not officially available by so many bands, some that I have not thought about in years till this week, that should not be forgotten: Celebrate the Nun, Dalek I Love You, The Lotus Eaters, and Sigue Sigue Sputnik to mention a few (and let’s not forget Ministry’s first album!). Unfortunately, their videos are not officially available for embeds … I have alluded to this in the past, perhaps it is time to reach out to these artists and labels to place their music out there officially …

But reconnecting with my friend, Candyman, has really got me thinking of older music, more obscure music, and the avant-garde. Though these videos below do not reflect that (to my frustration!), they are four great songs from the 80s … Enjoy!

The Psychedelic Furs’ “Heartbreak Beat” from the PsychedelicFursVEVO YouTube Channel.

Orchestral Manouvers In the Dark’s “If You Leave” from their MySpace Videos page.

If You Leave

OMD | MySpace Video

The Cure’s “Primary” from TheCureVEVO YouTube Channel.

Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s “Warriors of the Wasteland” from the zttrecords YouTube Channel.

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