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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02 November 2010

Transbeauce: "Restless Sounds"

My thanks to Christophe, of Transbeauce, for keeping me in the loop!

February 2009, in the nascent days of SlowdiveMusic Blog, I wrote about Tranbeauce’s discography (link), and even had the opportunity to then interview the band (link, interview both in English and French). Discovering Transbeauce’s music started my obsession with the French music scene, as well as really taking the time to listen to more ambient electronic music. Transbeauce is among the bands that have given me a greater appreciation for modern music that lacks vocals (for the most part) and have also helped me to redefine the idea of “ambience” and experimentation in music. This is one of the most talented bands out there, and for fellow fans I have bad news: you will have to wait till April 2011 for a new album. But every dark cloud has a silver lining; today, Transbeauce releases “Restless Sounds” (2 November 2010) – a compilation of unreleased songs, live recordings, demos, and tracks from English and French compilations.

So, where do we start?

First, there are four unreleased tracks. “Chien” [“Dog”] has a Spanish style (acoustic) guitar that juxtaposes its luscious sound to the electronic soundscape. “Factory” is one of the most brilliant songs I’ve heard. This instrumental uses slight industrial sounds (what else could we expect?) that passively drone over and over in sequence, with little variance. It is the sonic metaphor for the reality of factory workers: little changes, little moves, just the same ceaseless motion over and over again. As a piece of critical mediation, this is an amazing statement. “979” (one of three songs titled by numbers) is an unreleased track from “Die Mitte.” Perfect post-punk guitar arrangements, perfect use of keys for ambience, perfect slow build up – though only five-and-a-quarter, you feel (willingly) trapped inside the greatest of epics. (Why was this not on the album?!?) “Time Goes By” (featuring Laetitia Sheriff) is the final unreleased track on the album. And even though this one includes vocals, their arrangements work in tandem with the musical arrangements to produce a single, visceral effect.

We are also treated to the demo of “The Inside.” I love demos because you can experience all of the steps a band has taken in order to get to the final product. Oftentimes, the final product sounds nothing like the original idea, as creation is constantly an evolutionary process. Furthermore, with demos you can really hear the musical references a band is working from, in this case the early 80s post-punk era.

From the British “Spymania” compilation, there is “015354,” a short ambient number, carried by a wispy arpeggio, that leads directly into “042337,” just as ambient, but longer and darker, playing with tones and subtle sound effects. From the French “Je suis un étranger” [“I Am a Stranger”] compilation, there is the playful “Sven” (with all of its vocal sound effects and a sexy, dark bass line) and “Ska,” which is broody, introspective, and harrowing, without being gloomy, oppressive, and dark.

Finally, there are two live tracks. “Live M” was recorded at the legendary “salle de concert,” Maroquinerie. The other, one of my favorite songs by Transbeauce, is a live performance (featuring Palma) of “Dreassed in Black Berlin.” With vocals, again, their arrangements do not detract from the music, but works with the music for a singular effect.

And that is the thing about Transbeauce’s music: many electronic bands, who experiment with the ambient, are all over the place; Transbeuace, however, are the Edgar Allan Poe of music – everything is done for a singular effect. The music is not all over the place, the arrangements are never competing one against the other; instead everything works together to have a singular visceral effect and amazing listening experience. If you have not discovered the world of Transbeauce yet, take the plunge. If you have, “Restless Sounds” will definitely give you enough to hold out until this coming April’s new release.

Track Listing:
1. The Inside
2. 015354
3. 042327
4. Chien
5. Factory
6. Live M
7. 979
8. Sven
9. Ska
10. Time Goes By
11. Dressed in Black Berlin

Keep up with Transbeauce at their homepage, MySpace, and Facebook.

Here are two tracks from the LabelNoko YouTube Channel (that I am reposting). The first is a live performance of “Dressed in Black Berlin.” The second is a track not included on this compilation, but most definitely my favorite track by Transbeauce till date: “The Stars Are Black”

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Live Clips

I have said this many times: I may like many bands, but I rarely love a band before I have experienced them live. So here are a few clips of live performances, some by bands I have seen live before, the others bands I am itching to see! Enjoy!

Kyte’s “Boundaries” from their YouTube Channel: kytetheband.

Corinne Bailey Rae’s “Closer” from the VariousArtistsVEVO YouTube Channel.

Delphic’s “Doubt” from their YouTube Channel: delphicmusic.

The Editors’ “Papillon” from their MySpace Videos page.

Editors - Papillon Live at Fabric

EDITORS | Myspace Music Videos

Villagers’ “Ship of Promises” from the DominoRecords YouTube Channel.

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

Shakespears Sister’s “You’re History” from their YouTube Channel: ShakespearsSisterTV.

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