Hip-ometer Rating ~ 7
A Girl Called Eddy - "Tears All Over Town EP"
This is a T-baby purchase, and while I had seen it out wasn't drawn to it, which is odd as this is the sort of thing I would gravitate to before him. What's odder also is he likes it more. This 5 track debut EP of "Eddy's" (Eddy being Eddy Moran) on Le
Grand Magistery is almost exactly what you'd expect knowing the label. It's schmooze lounge/jazz pop. I can't say the songs are bad, and the production values and musicianship are excellent, but I didn't find any particularly appealing songs, and not
much in the way of overt "pop" hooks. I suppose it makes me sound shallow saying it that way, so lets just say it's good but there's nothing brilliant or very new here. If you dig the Le Grand Magistery stable of artists, then you'll certainly want this
EP as it is one of their better things but for me I'll wait and see if her LP is better.
Label ~ Le Grand Magistery, 5 Tracks, 2001
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.9
Aberdeen - "Homesick and Happy to be Here" This is indeed the same band Aberdeen who had some releases roughly 8 years ago on the famous UK indie label Sarah. However, shortly thereafter the band folded into history. Unexpectedly all these years on they reformed with even more members, released a single and now this, their debut LP. Beth, who did vocal duties at times with Trembling Blue Stars still sings, but the sound is much more, well I suppose Shoegaze/Twee than it used to be. At times, this record can be quite beautiful, as on the pop lovely Sunny in California or it can be a bit too much of a drag, as on Thousand Steps which isn't in and of itself bad, but it's just a tad repetetive and a little too sullen with no real emotional point. Sort of just empty depression, which is one of the things I most dislike about "shoegaze" stylings. (it's also longer than the song needed to be) On a whole though it's a pretty nice effort, and even if it's a bit similar and slowish at times the songs are mostly all good enough to put on comp CD's where they'll shine when compared to other things. If you are a fan of Sarah label stuff you'll definetly be quite happy as most of the stuff is good and about every third song really slays.
Label ~ Better Looking Records, 10 Tracks, 2002
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10+
Ariel Abshire - "Exclamation Love" Every once in a great while a thing comes along that is so beyond our mortal expectations that it leaves us speechless, completely numbed and dumbstruck. This is just such a thing. The marvel here is that this album is a tour of delight and misery, of love and rejection, hate, suffering and joy and redemption. These complex emotions are wrapped in songs so catchy with lyrics so insightful you are instantly their prisoner and singing the entire album by the second listen. Then you realize this revelation, this near masterpiece, is the work of a 17 year old girl. That is when the thunder claps, and the brimstone is smelled. It also doesn't take long to strike upon listening, as the opening and title track is the most white hot and impassioned ode to unrequited love I have ever heard. Musically the song is brilliantly sublime with a martial beat which makes her incredibly empassioned lryics hit home like a juggernaut of emotion. Kicks ass doesn't even begin to describe this, and ohh... Lord, what a voice. I have long been repulsed by the talentless worms who grovel for their moment of "fame" by debasing themselves to get on the hideous program called "American Idol". You want someone to worship and idolize? There is a girl from Austin Texas named Ariel who didn't wait for the tour to come to her town. She went out and made her album and it is wise beyond her years and heady beyond her experiences, or perhaps not and that is the really amazing thing about it. In any event, it deserves your idolatry far more than that tripe does. I'll rate this one Holy crap with a bullet.
Label ~ Darla, 11 Tracks, 2008
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.2
Acid House Kings - "Pop, Look and Listen"Looking back it's hard to believe it's almost 10 years since this act started, initially the work of 2 brothers Johan and Niklas Angergard and friend Joakim Odlund. This was their first full length release which followed the initial Play Pop EP. It is actually not only quite good, it has a lot of maturity to it for being made by some pretty young kids. In sound it kind of plays off the Happydeadmen and somewhat precurses the Leslies and at times Starlets easygoing pop stylings. (not odd as Joakim is a member of that band also) That means it's very melodic guitar pop, but largely pop, with lots of great hooks and especially nice melodies. This is about as genuinely nice a record as I can remember hearing. Sadly, it took interviewing Johan and whoring a copy off of him to get this as it has been OOP for some time now. I don't imagine it's too likely you'll find this at this point, but who knows. By all means though, if you see it don't even flintch, grab it.
Label ~ Marsh-Marigold, 12 Tracks, 1992
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.5
Acid House Kings - "Monaco GP"
The Acid House Kings are one of Swedens best acts, but the problem is too much of their back catalog is not in print anymore, this being about the only thing available (even though it is early). That may in part be due to the fact that 2 of the core
members, Johan Angergard and Joakim Odlund belong to other groups which occupy the majority of their time. (Club 8 and Starlet respectively) The other main member being Johans brother Niklas. This 6 song EP, while not their best work, is still quite good and very typical of them. Light and breezy guitar
pop with great vocals and all the pop hooks you'll need. This EP does have more of a disco "chic" sound than other AHK stuff, (and certainly not like the other bands these guys are in) with the synths taking a major part in the songs, but not controlling
them completely. It's like a cool Swedish ice cream sprinkled with flavors, but not too much of any one thing. Quite worth getting.
Label ~ Marsh Marigold, 6 Tracks, 1994
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10+
Acid House Kings - "Advantage Acid House Kings" It's been some time since Bjorn Borg has been in the limelight so I guess it's fair we forgot how popular tennis is in Sweden. That aside, this their second LP is the album where this band really kind of hit it's stride, not that the other stuff wasn't great, but perhaps maturity starts showing thru here. This is one of the best pop records I've ever heard. The added singing duties of Julia Mannerheim is also a welcome addition on this record, as she has a great voice and it may come across as a bit of a mix between the Shermans and Club 8. This is just such a great record I could spend all day loving up every track. There is a nice variety of styles and vocals which all compliment each other and the record is a real triumph. It's bright, breezy and wholly infectious. Everything a great pop record should be. The sad part is it is already getting hard to get, so by all means start looking.
Label ~ Shelflife, 10 Tracks, 1998
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10+
Acid House Kings - "Mondays Are Like Tuesdays, and Tuesdays are like Wednesdays" I've been sitting on this thing since November and it still isn't out yet I think but damn it, I'm reviewing it. (you'll pardon the cover shot for that reason, had to enlarge a very small image of it) Their last LP Advantage... was really great, and as half the members here are in Club 8 and Starlet (who also put out great records since) I didn't know what to expect. A few seconds into the first track Sunday Morning says it all. This thing is heartfelt, earnest and a sweet, sweet ride. Sunday Morning is a gorgeous little song, Julia Mannerheim never sounded better and I'm mystified how these people keep pulling music like this out of their arselets. In actuality this song sounds closer to Club 8 than perhaps they've ever done before. It's followed by a nice horn laden number called Star Anew which is more typical of their sound and is also very good. This album was definetly a creeper, as it is delicately beautiful, but after a short while you find you are completely under it's spell. That's shown on beautiful songs like Brown and Beige which has a great melody and vocal line, and some great band harmonizing. It pains me to no end that these people have been casually making music this good for so long now and the world still doesn't know who they are. I made a copy for T-Baby and he's been raving like a madman over this thing. I have to much to do on this site and were I going to heap all the laurels that this album deserved I'd need more webspace. So lets cut it short. No brainer here folks, buy it as soon as it comes out.
Label ~Parasol/Labrador, 12 Tracks, 2002
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.8
Acid House Kings - "Say Yes if You Love Me EP" The title track of this EP is of course from their glorious LP of last year which should certainly be on your list if it is not already in your collection. So it's the other 4 cuts we want to know about, so lets get to them. The first is the anthemically titled We're the Acid House Kings which features Niklas singing and the song has a slight grungy feel actually but the chorus is brilliant with backing yells of "wo...oh" after he sings "we're the acid house kings" and it reminds me an awful lot of the end of Mighty Mighty's great song Positively Sesame Street with it's great kid chorus. On top of that, the next line is "and we're gonna make your day"("wo...oh") Yes, too great. The next two tracks are covers, the first being OMD's glorious Almost which they cover superbly, and the very short (41 seconds) Crying by Cat's Miaow. I can't say I am familiar with the original. It is good but the obvious gripe I have is it is so short. The final cut is Save it For the Weekend which has a very hard guitar line and again a bit of grunge and at times even a tinge of feedback. Yes, I was quite surprised by this, but I attribute it to Johan Angergård who is becoming a musical virtuoso and as his talents grow he has shown a proclivity to dabble in other styles, and as the current "fave" of the Labrador label is the Jesus and Mary Chain like Radio Dept. I can only assume they have influenced him. Wouldn't it be odd if the next Club 8 record covers The Hardest Walk? And with this talent, I think they could pull it off. Anyway, this is a nice EP and it comes very recommened as far as EP's go.
Label ~ Labrador, 5 Tracks, 2002
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10
Acid House Kings - "Do What You Wanna Do" This is the pre teaser EP to their upcomming new album, and since it has arrived in my house it has been driving me nuts. Not the EP, but the fact that my kid has for some reason gone nuts for the title and opening track Do What You Wanna Do. I have been forced at home, in the car and even on the computer (I saved the video) to listen and or watch it probably 500 times in the past 2 weeks. The only salvation is it's a great song. The other four songs on here are equally brilliant, such as the next track Come Josephine which features the lovely vocals of Julia Lannerheim who is in as fine a form as ever. This ep features the same double duty vocals between her and Nicklas as we've come to expect, with the quality we've come to expect as well. If this is any indication the album is going to bust nuts, and no mistake. As most of this probably won't be on the album this is one EP you won't want to miss. You should also visit the Labrador website and check the video out. It's pretty good and features a cast of singers from the Labrador galaxy of stars, and that's no joke. I think I even named them all correctly.
Label ~Labrador , 5 Tracks, 2005
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10+
Acid House Kings - "Sing Along With" The saddest part about my recent layoff was I did not get to write about this album as soon as I would like. Not that it probably matters, as this band is one of the most well regarded indie bands there is, and deservedly so. This is their 4th long player and true to all of them, with each comes a wider breadth of maturity and deeper song structure all the while managing to retain the air of simple beauty that was always theirs. This is just a delicious album to relax and enjoy, with Niklas and Julia swapping lead vocal duty and both sounding as good as ever. What's more, there are some titanic single cuts, such as This Heart Is A Stone and most notably the wonderful 7 Days. They even began shooting vids for this album which are included, the one for the latter being perhaps one of the most genuinely genuine and touching videos I have ever seen. It is a shame we don't get to see our heroes very often, and Julia is so very endearing in that video, (all of them are for that matter) that I cannot imagine why this band is not being embraced by everyone on this planet who still has an ounce of human dignity and warmth in their souls. If all this wasn't enough, the Labrador edition and the first 1,000 US versions come with a free Karaoke DVD. All that being said I hope it did not take me writing this to move your arse to get out and buy this. By all means, do not wait or hesitate a moment longer, as this will certainly be at the finish line for album of the year, and you do not want to miss out on the DVD disc. As long as there are people with beauty and innocence like this inside them, the human race will be just fine. However, it does boggle to think that the Angergård brothers never cease to amaze us, and for so many years now. The first family of pop music for sure.
Label ~ Labrador/Twentyseven, 12 Tracks, + DVD disc
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.6
Keith John Adams - "Sunshine Loft" I honestly don't recall where or even who this came from. I have no press sheet either so I either lost or never got it. My apologies then to Mr. Adams. (who is english by the way) Odd that I don't know where it came from because what's odder still is this is a very peculiar album, and without question it's the first and only one I own where one of the main instruments is a saw. Yes, I said saw, as in handsaw. Being a joiner by trade, I too can "play" a saw but only in the old way, compressed between both hands and struck smartly with the thumb. Hitting it makes a high pitched tone which can be altered by skilled bending of the blade. (only I can't play a song on it) The tone however is dependent on the quality of the steel the saw is made of. I find the old Disstons to be the best. In this case however, the gentleman is bowing it (like a violin). Being English he also probably prefers Sheffield steel. Fair enough. Along with the saw they play glockenspiel, accordions and toy pianos, which sort of sounds like the basis for a fairly juvenile record, and while a few of the songs cater to a childlike influence it's mostly not. There are 14 tracks but it's only about 28 minutes long, so the songs are fairly brief. It's also more sparse instrumentally than lo-fi, (although it's a tad lo-fi), and it most certainly isn't twee. In fact, on a few tracks such as Drift they remind me quite a bit of early Go-Betweens, and on Murmur they are a shadowy spectre of the Lucksmiths. There's nothing world shattering here, but it isn't half bad either and the unique aspects of it do add a certain amount of charm. I think given a clarity of purpose he might be one to watch for the future, and this certainly has some merits, especially if you like a more acoustic and simpler sort of pop song. A nice something different.
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Label ~ DCB, 14 Tracks, 2002
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.7
Aerospace - "The Bright Idea Called Soul" I'd been sitting on their debut 7" for some time with the intent of reviewing it (with a ton of other vinyl I had) but again I didn't meet the wire. Well, so here's the LP and in many respects it varies from my impression of that first single which reminded me (in vocal stylings particularly) of the sound of another Swede band called Nixon. However this album is more varied than that, and this time out the lead singers voiced does seem to be miked differently. (2 songs from that 7", The Only Things We Share & Better Days are on this LP) This album is a wash of jangly guitars and occasional 60's sounding keyboard and reminds me a bit of the sound of many west coast US bands right now. I'd say there aren't any really great tracks on this, but there aren't really any bad ones either. I am a bit put off by the end of The World Revolves Around Her which ends in a keyboard swirl that sounds alot like a glass armonica which makes my ears bleed. In any event I assume it's that song, it's track 5 but I think we have another case of a mislabeled sleeve because the next song is The Caroline I know which is listed as song 5. To their credit there is some diversity on here, and on All Fall Thru they sound an awful lot like the Finnish band Cessna. I think had I had less of this kind of thing I'd like this more, but as it is getting to be a full cup already perhaps it doesn't thrill me like it might. Still, if you like jangly 60's farfisa pop, you'll be right at home here.
Label ~ Summersound, 10 Tracks, 2001
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 5.2
Aden - "Hey 19" This is another LP T-Baby picked up due to all it's "great" reviews on the web, and it turned out he disliked it quite a bit. One of the things that bothered me about it is they often use the drums to carry the rhythm in a song. Doing that obviously makes the rhythm jerky and choppy. For me at least, A tune doesn't "groove" when it's melody is stuttering along to the thrumps of a drum. I suppose they thought they were being inventive or different, but it just doesn't really work. That aside many of the songs are quite slow and un-involving as well, and even when a track gets interesting, it usually gets ruined by the melody getting all jerky again. I wanted to like this, and every so often put it back on thinking "it wasn't that bad, was it?" Well, seems that it is. Oh well, such is life.
Label ~ Teenbeat, 12 Tracks, 2000
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.3
Airliner - "The Last Days of August" I can only assume the title of this disc goes back to the swedish preoccupation with summer. I suppose I'd be preoccupied with it too if it never went over 75 degrees and the winters lasted 9 months otherwise. We have had one of the earliest, coldest and snowiest winters on the east coast in a while (it even snowed like hell christmas day) and while I've enjoyed it I'm not sure 9 months of it would be OK. That aside, this is a new project from Kristian Rosengren of Aerospace and Johan Angergård who is becoming dean of the swedish pop scene. (Karolina from Club 8 even does some backing vocals here as well) The opener, Trying To Be Clever sort of sounds more like a Lasse Lindh type of song perhaps. It's a little low key, not exactly shoegaze rather more introspective. A steady sort of droning and the chorus kicks in with playful accents etc.. and it's all very charming. The next track Everything That's You to my ear sounds very Club 8 like, both because of the mouth organ and the general melody although Kristian puts his own stamp on it with his vocals. Singing wise this perhaps reminds me more of some UK or Le Grand Magistery bands, a softly spoken lyric with a quivering breath. This isn't like Ronderlin in that it grabs you by the heart right away, but left to it's own devices this is a very charming album that slowly creeps up on you. The kind that once my passions are spent on the albums that whore my attentions, I come home to roost with, and in time truly love. This is romantic, heartfelt and played and produced very well.
Label ~ Labrador, 10 Tracks, 2003
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 7.3
Airport Girl - "Power yr Trip" Again, another T-Baby purchase (he is valuable, isn't he) which he said he could not stand. I didn't like it at first for some reason either, but it's been growing on me. The guitars are mixed big with a washed veil over them, and the whole affair reminds me a bit of the early grebo period in it's sound. It's very English that's for sure. However, the vocals have more of a mid 80's britpop sound to them which is what possibly added to my confusion. The "beig veil of sound" they went for means it kind of has monotone lo-fi reproduction qualities, but the song isn't half bad, it really isn't. I'd give it about an 8+ or so. The next cut isn't as good and that gets about a high 6 to 7. The third track is just a different mix of the first one. I almost never shell out for a 2 song deal, unless it's truly great or rare, which this isn't, but I am begining to like the first cut enough to start considering getting an LP by them. That must say something.
Label ~ Wiaiwya, 3 Tracks, year?
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 6.2
AK-Momo - "Return To N.Y." This s another one I kept putting off in the hope some miracle would happen. Well, it didn't and it's not going to so lets just cut to the chase. This album is desperately trying to be avant garde by using as many poor recording choices and noise insertions as it can, all of which sit aside the heliumnated vocals of Ak Von Malmborg who sings a lot like Bernadette Peters talks. And gang, it really doesn't work. The music is all scarred and lo fi, but her vocals are not, they are recorded hot and very clear. I suppose they thought that would make for a unique accent but in my case it just highlights how annoying they are. Unlike the Capstan Shafts which is a complete train wreck of glorious majesty, this is obviously contrived with very little under the surface. This is one iceberg from the great north we should all give a wide berth.
Label ~Hidden Agenda , 11 Tracks, 2005
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.1
Allens - "The Allens" This is another band that I abandoned after their submission so they too probably think ill thoughts of me. Oh well, it's a long list... Anyway, this is another husband and wife team loaded with talent, but it was the voice of lead singer Cathy Allen that made me accept it even though the album rides along a country vein rather than typical indie. Variety never hurts when it's done well however, and this is certainly done well. It's a nice blend of folk, country, slow rock with a slight southern twist. Normally that last bit is not an ingredient that appeals to me but as I said this is done so well it managed to eclipse any problems I would normally have with such a genre. In fact it's laid back character made it one of my recent faves for late night listening while reading. Plus as I said she has a lovely voice that she uses well without straining or taking places it can't go. (which isn't many) If you're not fixated on genre this is an album I can and do recommend very much and it is recorded very well on top of it. I was going to conclude by calling it one of the years best surprises, but it's from 2006. Well, like I always say it's new if you never heard it before and this is one that may appeal to you.
Label ~ Allensmusic, 10 Tracks, 2006
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.8
Aluminum Group - "Introducing..." A bit bizarre that I actually had to go thru the Philipines to get this LP. Another of Marinas mysteries, as it cannot be found thru any US distributor I checked. I had never much liked some of the clips I had heard from this band previously, however, I heard clips of this LP on the Marina site and instantly liked it more than anything I'd heard before by them, only I could not get it anywhere until fate came along. (fates name is Dino, who also informed me this is a "best of" disc, which took the best cuts off of their other LP's. That explains it.) At first they kind of reminded me of the 21st centuries answer to Black, but the second cut here, Angel on a Trampoline reminds me a bit of Frazier Chorus in it's stylings and that of course is a good thing. This is a very excellent record, quite adult, finding itself shadowing styles ranging from Everything But the Girl to perhaps a lounge act version of Prefab Sprout with deeper vocals. It's quite sad this thing is so hard to come by, as it's quite an excellent LP, and you'd expect that being that it is a best of disc. I can't compare it directly to their other work not having heard them in full, but I quite like this far more than any of the other stuff I heard. (of course I could be wrong) I'll have to dig some more when I have the time, but this is certainly worth it if you find it.
Label ~ Marina, 12 Tracks, 2000
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10+
Aluminum Group - "Happyness" Yeah, I know, this is old. Well, I've had it a while but it kept getting bumped back because people kept shoving promos at me last year. I finally stopped taking most of them, and when part "deux" of this trilogy came out recently I figured it was about time this got reviewed. As I said, this is supposed to be part one of a three part concept series by this band led by John and Frank Navin. They have altered their sound on recent lp's to the chagrin of their fans, but it's pretty safe to say this is a return to their "core" sound. In case you don't know what that is, it's a pop textured, jazz layered, adult contemporary music. Imagine if jazz musicians used Moogs and wrote pop songs and you'd have it. This kind of thing wasn't too uncommon in the 80's, with bands like the Kane Gang and Living In A Box, but I can't really think of too many others doing this sort of thing anymore, with Ashby the only band coming right to mind. As for this, it's just about as great as music gets. Recorded out the ass, poppy yet adult, with the lyrical content focusing on typical relationship problems viewed with a twist, like the poignant commentary on Adam and Eve in the interesting opener Tiny Decision. I was a bit confused why the disc itself had a picture of a naked womans ass with a scorpion on it as it seemed a bit out of context, but I'd hardly seen anything yet (see the review of Happyness Two or visit their website for more flagrant imagery). In this case it will be ignored, as this is an excellent album and it comes very recommended. Had I reviewed it in time it would certainly have made one of the albums of the year.
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Label ~ Wishing Tree, 10 Tracks, 2002
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 3
Aluminum Group - "More Happyness" I can not say I understand it, and I am far from a prude, but I do not exactly understand the art on this release, or their website. The first disc in this series had inexplicable nudity on the disc, but the lyrics booklet had no pictures. This time the disc has what clearly appears to be a gay couple holding hands, and the lyric booklet is rife with gay imagery plus more female nudity, with the last pic being that of a woman, finger in mouth and squeezing her naked breast. (before you rush out to buy it, they are drawn, not real photos) Even when the photos show no nudity, they are clearly provocative in nature. I know, you 20 year olds don't get my perplexion. When you're 40, and if you take the time to have a kid and try to raise them right, you'll get it. There is a time and place for everything. I don't know (or care) if these guys are gay, but they need to grow up. It is a criticism of this band that they sometimes wander into trying to be too "artsy fartsy" or put on "airs" and when they do the music goes to hell. That pretty much sums up this effort. I have no idea why they chose to include these images, and what's more a few songs have bizarre sexual imagery as well, such as W/O the Erte which appears to be an ode to gay bookstore sex, and Little Boy which is an anthem to pedophilia unless I am very mistaken. What's more, this album as a whole is musically vague and lackluster. There is far less a jazz tinge, and more of an obtuse, angular techno. There is an old saying that less is more, and the reverse of that certainly applies here as "More Happyness" is certainly less. This is one hole in your collection you'll be glad you left, unless the "hole" you plan to visit is the "glorious" one down at your local adult bookstore. This could literally be classified as porn, and that's very sad to say the least, especially as it comes shrinkwrapped and the cover gives no clue as to the contents.
Label ~ Wishing Tree, 20 Tracks, 2003
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.4
Alsace Lorraine - "Through Small Windows" Nothing is funnier than reading the shill record sites write to promote records. Darla says this band took it's name from that "alluring area of France between the Rine and the Vosges". Of course we all know (or should) that this area is a "buffer" zone and was taken from France by Germany during the Franco-Prussian war of 1870 and was the result of alot of the enmity behind WWI and subsequently WWII. (it's also known for its cheese) What all this has to do with this group I don't know, so I don't know why they bring it up in the first place. If it's OK to equate the beauty of the Vosges to the beauty of this band then why not equate the horror of war to it as well? (or for that matter the bitter sweet pleasure of cheese, it's wonderful taste but awfulness for your health?) Wait, wait, I'm drifting and pontificating again.............ok, now I'm set. On an interesting note, this band features Hewson Chen who is also in the band Vitesse who are known for their dark Joy Division like Factory sound. Lead singer Caitlin Brice does have a nice voice, and it is a bit "breathy and soft", I'll give them that, but then they compare her to Astrud Gilberto and Nico (Astrud is the flavor of the year in case you didn't know. EVERYONE sounds like her, just ask them) and then compare this band to like 70 other groups. (literally) Guys, take a breath, you're turning into used car salesmen. It's shit like that that made me start this site in the first place. "OK genius, so what does it sound like then?" Glad you asked. Well, there are moments the synth side does have that Vitesse feel, but I'd say this act remids me of many of the bands on the old 4AD label, even at times Modern English in it's light moments. (they did put out more songs than "I melt with you", really)(they were on 4AD as well) I like this album alot. It's very nice, and I was a bit hectic when I put it on but shortly got very relaxed listening to it, and immiediately started it again when it finished. It isn't too slow, well, lets say it isn't ponderous. More delicate and nice. Reminds me of a young someone and about 3 dozen other bands.........
Label ~ Darla, 16 Tracks, 2001
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 5.7
Amber Smith - "There is No Way EP" Again T got this as it was just all the rage with the indie "in" set. I can't remember what he thought of it but I'm pretty sure he disliked it in a big way. (don't forget, he's very angry) I don't know where this band comes from but it's somewhere in Europe and appears to be the vehicle for singer/songwriter Imre Poniklo who sings with what's an almost whinny, high, "heartfelt" lilt to his voice and musically it reminds me somewhat of Gene in sound. (but not their better stuff) That's a comparison that can be made for most of this. Track three has some particularly annoying guitar riff "falsettos" in it and overall it didn't take long for this to start irritating my whole family. About the only tolerable thing is the last track, a slow acoustic number called Above the Clouds. Well, I have to be honest and say this did have one other thing going for it as well. It was thankfully short.
Label ~ Firestation, 4 Tracks, 2001
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.2
Ambitious Beggars - "Beg!" OK, every so often I get something wrong and man that I am I can admit and own up to it. This is one of those cases. This was a CD T baby owned and I tried to review it back when I was doing the bulk of the reviews in setting up this website. It is basically 5 released and 5 previously unreleased tracks which represent this bands past output. For some reason I was not receptive to it at the time, and even T told me I was nuts for not liking it. Why I don't know, because on a number of cuts such as The Shadow and Years singer Bob Kemps voice reminds me a lot of Paul Handyside from Hurrah, and the music does as well. (Hurrah being another forgotten band, who's early singles and first LP were titanic) Part of my problem might have been I reviewed this at a time when I was only getting into buying CD's. I only used vinyl until almost 2000 (still do) but my preamp was a CJ PV5 which has a great phono stage but the line stage isn't so hot. (it's from 1985) A lot of things didn't sound great to me back then and it might be responsible. With my new rig I find I like this and the edginess I think I heard before is not here, so my gear was to blame. Some songs do get a little too blues riffy for me, but overall this is a very good release, it has some great pop gems and some lovely moments as well, and if my previous review put you off this, give it a reconsider. I did, and am I glad for it because this has some very worth while pop moments. So we've learned three important things: 1 - Your gear DOES matter. 2 - Vinyl is better than CD's and 3 - Don't close the book on anything, you might change your mind. Glad I found out in time, and you know, on their slower moments they do remind me of the Trash Can Sinatras. Well, don't stand there, go order this!
Label ~ Firestation Towers, 10 Tracks, 2001
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9
Ambitious Beggars - "Parallel Universe EP" I was rightly chastised by lead beggar Bob Kemp last month about my less than fair review of his album. True, I did it at a stressful time and for some reason it didn't reach me, but I gave it another chance and found I did actually like it and amended my review. To further increase my guilt he sent me a copy of their brand new EP to review as well. He claimed they were moving in a different direction and was wondering what I would think of it. I don't think there's a big difference between the opener here Inspire Me and the album I reviewed, although if anything it sounds less dated perhaps. However other tracks like Not The Man are clearly Alt. Country in nature, and while not my favorite genre somehow when brits do it I find it not only easier to listen to but even like. There are only actually 3 songs on this EP as the other 3 are remixes of the original three. (I prefer the originals except for 'not the man' in which I think the live country version is better by a hair, although all are good) I assume this is a precursor to an album but with only 3 songs it isn't giving us a lot of clues what to expect except perhaps diversity. It's certainly more current, the vocals are heartfelt and the melodies are catchy. If he can bring all the parts together into cohesion any new album ought to be one to keep an eye out for.
Label ~ Firestation, 6 Tracks, 2003
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.5
Ambulance LTD - "Ambulance LTD EP" This 5 piece from New York (where else these days?) is probably my favorite band to have emerged lately from that scene. Perhaps because the members are from all over, Oregon, LA, DC and even Ireland which gives them a more complex sound. This EP is the precursor to their debut LP due out later this year, and the opener Stay Where You Are (click for clip) is about as slick and dreamy a guitar pop single as I've heard in a long while. Ambient and atmospheric while remaining true to it's guitar pop roots. I like it a lot. The next song is called Primitive (The Way I Treat You) and is a bit of a twist as it has a very distinct, sly and somewhat raunchy sexual vibe to it. It's a little too nasty to be true psych pop, but not so nasty to overdo itself. It's dangerous in an intelligent way. Heavy Lifting perhaps comes closest to sounding like MBV or any of the other psych/shoegaze bands they might get compared to. The melody has a decidedly 70's English feel to it, and the song breaks (or ends really) 2 minutes in and goes into a very different guitar instrumental and unless you were looking at the track numbers you'd assume it was the next track. Track four Helmsman is a nice ballad which starts with a very lullaby like melody and this EP ends with Young Urban which is a very 70's soft spoken vocal with minimalist accompaniment but it has a great beat as well as that magical ethereal quality all the songs here seem to possess. After this I can hardly wait for the LP, and I would urge you to get this one on your list. One of the ones to watch in 03, that's for sure.
Label ~ TVT, 5 Tracks, 2003
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 2
American Analog Set - "Through the 90's - Singles and Unreleased" It quite figures, I went shopping with T-Baby and Lord knows you can't get anything in actual record stores anymore, so when I came across this (in my desperation to buy
something) and remembered I had heard some good things about them, I gave it a try. I asked T-Baby's "music girl" Melonbwee if I could hear it. I listened to the first track, the Only Living Boy Around and found I liked it a bit, and as I wanted to hear other
stuff I figured that was enough, right? Wrong. Boy, what a non-musical dog this thing turned out to be. I like slow stuff, in fact, I seem to like it more the older I get, but hells bells, I still kind of require some musicality. This collection to my ear is unmusical rubbish. To
me at least it's like listening to people with no sense of rhythm play music, and who wants to do that? OK, some of the songs on it aren't that bad, but they aren't that good either. I still like the first track a bit, and I'd give it about an 8,
but the rest blows like the wind. I truly dislike this CD.
Label ~ Emperor Jones, 14 Tracks, 2000
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 7.7
Ampersand - "S/T" I don't know much about this group as they are another of T-baby's purchases. He claimed to not like it much, but I find it has a certain sort of appeal. Basic sort of indie guitar pop, reminding me somewhat of the Perfect Disaster.
It's a guy on vocals, and it appears they are from San Francisco. That's about as much as I know. San Fran's currently the base for many artists which share a similar sound, the most well known probably being the Fairways. A plucky kind of semi sixties
feel guitar pop, although the Ampersand sound much more like late 80's Brit groups. It's true there is no one song on this 8 song outing that stands up and screams "take me", and the singers voice isn't standoutish but it nevertheless is the kind of LP
that insidiously grows on you the more you listen to it, if you give it the chance. I do like track 4, Paramour more and more though. I think this may be a keeper. 7.7 and rising.......
Label ~ Fantastic, 8 Tracks, 2000
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