Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10
Annabella - "Annabella" After my review of their glorious debut album I asked this band to send me a copy of this, what they consider a "pre-demo" to their album. In other words this was like batting practice for them and they didn't even think I was going to review it. Ha! You know the old line, when you got the goods... and boy, does this band have the goods. This album is a lot more uptempo than their debut is and from the opening majesty of Dragonfly Derby to the closing earnestness of Wonder Whirls this thing is just simply fantastic. My God do I love this womans voice! It's both sexy, womanly, lovely, kind, charitable, innocent and knowing all at the same time. It purrs, it growls and it can cut thru you like butter and wash your soul in it's beauty. Every song is a winner, but I was especially slain by Soaked which has to be one of my favorite tracks period. It is so sultry, and the demo like quality of this recording adds a texture of warmth to this song in particular which is simply rapturous. And lets not forget her husband pens some brilliant accents as the music is perfect and well thought out. Wonderful, imaginative touches highlight just where they are needed, but no more than is needed. Every sound, every nuance, is deliberate and perfect. And this was a rehearsal!? Get this and their debut as well if you don't have that yet either. What's more, if you are reading this on the new reviews page and not the archives they are touring now, so go see them if you can because right now this is the best American band there is, period. Tour dates are on my news page.
Label ~ las Olas, 7 Tracks, 2002
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10+
Annabella - "Songs Of Goodbye" Criminal, simply criminal. Not this album but my behavior in waiting so long to review it. My crime is somewhat abated because almost everyone else missed this album entirely. With all the problems and requests I had last year it was only over Christmas that I finally got to listen to this and I sat spellbound and transfixed by what I heard. What I was hearing was one of the most lovely, touching and impassioned albums to delight my ears in some time. This Texas husband and wife band often and immediately get compared to the Sundays, and while Terri Dittmars voice does at times bear a strong resemblance to Harriet Wheeler, Harriets is more angst ridden while Terris soars with an angelic beauty. It is an instrument this woman knows how to wield. I mean WOW, this thing is just heaping with gobs of ravishing beauty. Musically it falls someplace between an ambient soft rock and folk but the arrangements are quite unique and well thought out and include a number of imaginative touches, such as over emphasising the fret/string slide noises on Lost You so much they intentionally become part of the musical structure of the song. If a word was to come to mind when thinking of this album it would be inspired. Inspired in the way it is sung, and instantly catching in it's pop hooks and melodic beauty. It takes you on a walk thru the darkest places, but Terris voice is like a tinkerbell in a lantern which comforts and keeps you walking towards the promise of hope at the end of that long dark road. Had I done my job and reviewed this last year it would certainly have been in my top ten list. I was going to retro that decision but since nobody has yet apparently discovered this gem yet and they are going on tour for it this spring I will include it in this years final, and it WILL be there. A genuine treasure and a must own.
Label ~ Las Olas, 10 Tracks, 2005
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.3
Annie - "Anniemal" Ok, I am a pop whore. So when I heard about this debut from (yet another Dane I believe) with comparisons to the best of 80's Brit chart dance ummm... crapola, well, I had to get it. In many respects that comparison is valid, and in others it isn't. I'm not sure if "rip off" is the term I am looking for, but some tracks on here are very reminiscent of other artists, for example Chewing Gum sounding worlds like the Tom Tom Club, Me Plus One reminds me loads of the 80's Philly band the Vels and their hit Look My Way and No Easy Love sounding a lot like Sensation, who of course stole all their riffs from the late 70's early 80's anyway. As I've always said parody doesn't bother me anyway as long as it is good, and the majority of this is. There is a surprising variety of styles tread (or stolen) here and all are given fair treatment. On a whole this does not have the maturity that a lot of other recent bands of this type have, such as Mondial, nor does it really have any hint of sexuality that 80's bands like 8th Wonder had either. It is pretty much bubble gum pop, like the aforesaid title would indicate. With only one or two tracks I didn't care for on it as well, it's a fairly good serving of it too. One to consider for sure if you are partial to the genre.
Label ~ Big Beat/679, 12 Tracks, 2005
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 7
Antennas - "Antennas" I am not sure what track off of this I heard that prompted me to buy it but I sure can't find it now. If that sounds like a review beginning with a complaint I suppose it is. This is very much the posing art rock crap... I mean music, that I sometimes kid Luke for liking. That cheap shot wasn't fair I suppose as a lot of people do like bands like this, I just don't. That puts me in the uncomfortable position of trying to rate and review an album I quite literally can't even listen to. For that reason I'll give it a 7 and move on. You know it exists now, the rest is up to you. (and if you'd like mine, the first $5 takes it and I can guarantee it's hardly played)
Label ~ Novoton, 10 Tracks, 2006
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.5
April Fools Day - "Eight Dots Towards The Ninth Red One" This Spanish band sent me this, their first 8 track album actually not that long ago so perhaps I am starting to catch up a little. It came across rather unexpected upon listening to it, as the lead song The Lucky T-Shirt has guitars that come across almost like synths, yet vocally reminds me a little bit of McCarthy. It's own style begins to emerge on the second song, borrowing from but not exactly copying much of the 80's, however the guitar intro on track three The Flat B comes along and it is a complete rip off of the Wedding Presents "My Favorite Dress". Whether that was intended or not, the melody soon changes entirely when the song fully begins so we can just chalk that up to coincidence. The next track, My Avenue is in my opinion the best one on here and the sound they should be shooting for, a sort of lost, plaintive and engaging lo fi rock ballad done really well. This is a nice little album, but if I were to levy 2 complaints it would be that a number of the songs do tend to be slightly long (close to or over 5 minutes) without really going anywhere and the melody structure sometimes gets too washed out in a wall of sound. That said there is a lot to like here and if you are partial to pop that drones a bit you will like this I think. I found it much more enjoyable thru bad gear than thru my main system which tended to reveal the drone as.....nothing but drone. Still, a nice effort which when at it's best is one of those things that instantly sounds like an old friend which makes this worth checking out. You can find out more about the band here.
Label ~ Self (real disc in paper sleeve), 8 Tracks, 2005
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.3
April Skies - "Three Minute Singles" This is actually a demo disc cdr I got from a new Swedish band and if their name and the singles featured on it's cover are indicators (and they are) they have a penchant for 80's brit pop music. The opener, the very brilliant Three Minute Singles reminds me of a lot of C86 bands, and in fact it nails the genre so well I can't even quite pin it down, but it comes closest to the Desert Wolves meets Mighty Mighty perhaps. The next cut Rise & Rise Again is more "modern" in that it sounds a lot like the German band Brideshead and it is every bit as good. I was blown away by this point but the next track Heaven Knows It's Not Your Baby is short and that's probably a good thing. They try to plumb a grunge vein and it really doesn't work in my opinion and the song is certainly in need of a melody. The last track Not Your Baby is a demo which is a bit slow and is perhaps just a level below being so-so. (it's also looking for a stronger melody line) I'm not sure if one can even get this but the good news is they will be releasing a debut album on Plastilina records and the good cuts here should certainly be on it. My advice to them is to stop being all over the place on their debut and play to their strengths. If they do, that record may indeed need to be named Titanic, otherwise it might sink just as fast. The first two tracks here are solid 10's and the next two are a 6 and 7. OK fellas, we're waiting for the verdict......which way is it going to fall? (And our fingers are crossed)
Label ~ Self Release, 4 Tracks, 2006
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.6
Architecture In Helsinki - "Fingers Crossed" When I saw a while back that this Australian band was due for a new album, it reminded me that I still had not reviewed their debut, so to amend that I ordered both copies at once. This was a fairly well know album and I had heard songs from it even though I did not own it at the time. With an eclectic (that word again) style that falls someplace between the Waitresses and the Talking Heads with noticeable Aussie accents, (pun intended) the thing most notable off the bat is that this album is recorded to gangbusters. Even if it sucked (which it doesn't) it is quite the treat on a good stereo, with incredible dynamics and great soundstage separation. As far as the music goes, it is a bit quirky as I said, combining a wide variety of synths teamed to a host of traditional instruments including glockenspiel, flute, trumpet, cello and even tuba. (which appears to take the place of a bass guitar oddly enugh) Generally speaking the songs are delicate, playful and at times even childlike. They all seem to strive to have a catchy hook about them and in this they pretty much succeed. The oddest part is while there is a veritable cacophony of noise going on, the songs themselves somehow remain almost dainty and minimal sounding. Despite this (or because of it?), there are a few moments of sublime genius such as their single Like A Call that is the sort of number that sticks in your head all day. Not entirely ground breaking, but unique in it's own way for sure and despite the possible naivety you may find you come back to it more than you'd have guessed. All said a nice little effort which is certainly worth getting later than never, if you're like me that is.
Label ~ Bar None, 14 Tracks, 2004
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.9
Architecture In Helsinki - "In Case We Die" I know, I know, this is their "new" album, well, new when it came out 6 months ago.... At least I'm trying...... Anyway, lets get right into this, being the sophomore slumper album the burning question is "How is it?" Did they change their sound, is it better, worse, sucks, etc....Ostensibly it is identical. It contains the same odd assortments of instruments so their innate "sound", (imagine a ragtag hobo band crashing into the human league's equipment van) is virtually the same. The biggest difference is everything seems to be played if not louder, perhaps with more emphasis, the songs themselves being a bit more driven as well. I thought for a while I preferred the debut to this, as this does seem to take it's chances a little further and they are not always to my liking. It's almost as if they got in the studio and realized they under booked their time and had to play faster to get it all recorded in time. I also have come to the conclusion that I much prefer this band when the girls are singing, but that may be my peculiar penchant (ok, love affair) with Australian womens voices. That being the case, my favorite cut on here is the girl sung, very Tom Tom Club like Do The Whirlwind. My advice for you? Well, there is no question this isn't a band for everyone. If you are motivated to buy I would strongly suggest you start with their first album, as it is a far less concentrated dose compared to this one. If you find no reaction, then you may consider moving on to this. Just remember, this takes all the quirks of the debut, both good and bad, and makes the dosage even more intense. For what that is worth you will need to be the judge.
Label ~ Bar None, 12 Tracks, 2005
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.6
Arling & Cameron - "All-In" I just did a CD swap with a new friend, and one of the things on his list was this. I had heard of this (I believe dutch?) band, but had never heard anything by them. So his request made me look them up and I listened to a few sound clips from this LP and decided to get a copy for myself as well. The cover shows an airport with signs that say Amsterdam and Tokyo, and that sums this offering up pretty well as it's a mix of Euro dance synth and J-Pop. (with some of the tracks even sung in Japanese) This is an ecclectic album with some very nice tracks like Speeding Down the Highway which has a sort of dancy, american flavour to it, only to be followed by We Love To Rock which is very kraut rock pop and sort of reminds me of the Rentals. Both songs are very good, but it only gets odder as those two are folowed by Voulez-Vous? which is Euro chic and sung in french by a woman who is accompanied by a very Barry White sounding gentleman. I'm assuming they do most of the male voices, and there are a number of credits to female vocalists on the lp as well . T listened to this while we were painting his house (which is still not done) and he didn't like it, but he doesn't care for euro dance type stuff much. I however liked it a good deal. It isn't perfect but it is very good and an awful lot of the songs, while a bit innane, manage to worm their way into your head with subtle ease. Actually, this is quite damn fine and it ought to be in somebody's stocking this Christmas.
Label ~ Emperor Norton, 18 Tracks, 2002
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 6.6
Arrogants - "Your Simple Beauty" I was familair with this group from their inclusion on the Shelflife comp You Make Me Smile. Now the song on it, Nothing Good Will Ever Come Of This is on this LP, but it didn't motivate me to get the LP. That's where T-Baby comes in again. (as usual) This band has a kind of Cocteau Twins envy, the production and guitars being very ambient. The first two cuts are a bit slow, the first Let You Down by far being the better. The third track Lovesick gets all fuzzy and punkish and compared to the rest of the LP is almost out of place. The middle of this LP kind of dies however, and speaking of dying track 6 has almost a minute of dead air after it. It's so long you think the player is stuck or the LP is finished. The purpose of this is lost on me. Here's a note kids; A minute of dead air isn't a "mood". With a little more maturity and the inclusion of more musical magic they may be a force in the future, but this effort left me feeling, well, unmoved. It was better thru headphones, but thru the mains it's sacktime in no time. Zzzzzzzzzz.....Oh, T-Baby doesn't like this at all (as usual for that, too)
Label ~ Shelflife, 8 Tracks, 1999
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.5
Arrogants - "Nobody's Cool" This is calling itself an EP but at 7 tracks I'll give it the nod and call it a long player. I wasn't overly fond of their first outing, but the press release that came with this promised a sound akin to the Sundays or the Darling Buds. I don't think either comparison is apt especially as those are both UK bands and this is clearly a US one both in musical and vocal sound. However, I was very happy to find this more mature and certainly better musically than what they had previously done. The opener, The Distance Between Us is uptempo and reminds me of a kind of hybrid between Throwing Muses and late 80's Brit pop and it's a very serviceable song. The next two tracks are slower, but both are quite good as this band seems to have stopped letting tracks drag on without going anywhere. The songs are emotive and well played and musically punctuated. Sweet and to the point as it were. There's even a nice instrumental called Skyscraper on it. My only fault here is the recording could have been better as it is just slightly dark and distant sounding, but that's more of a high end concern. (I'm being very picky here) This was a nice surprise and a job well done, and certainly worth putting on your list.
POSTSCTIPT: Being in the rush that I some times am, when I see a thing says it has 7 tracks, after the 7th one I pop it out and get on to the next disc waiting in line. Well, I put this on casually to hear it for enjoyment and lo and behold an eighth and then ninth song start palying. It turns out there are TWO extra tracks on it not listed on the sleeve. Both are acoustic demos, and are quite excellent. That raised it up in my esteem a little higher (by.2 points) No, I don't look at the window on the player screen and count the tracks, but i suppose I better start doing it.
Label ~ Shelflife, 7 Tracks, 2002
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.8
Art Brut - "Bang Bang Rock & Roll" "Honey pie, I don't know where it started...." goes the brilliant intro to Formed A Band, the lead track off the debut of this UK 5 piece and it could also be said of the resurrection of the glam/punk pop revolution we are seeing. Lead singer Eddie Argos with his heavy accent talk chops his way thru the lyrics a-la Mark E Smith ("Yes, this IS my singing voice, it's NOT irony.... it's not rock n roll...") but make no mistake, they are no Fall clones. Instead they have constructed a quasi glam punk mod sort of feel all their own with so many ties to the past that they have done an old man proud. Not only are there a number of instantly catchy melodies, such as the brilliant guitar track Emily Kane which I cannot get out of my head, but the lyrical quality (while not deep or "heady") somehow manages to become instantly accessible and a joy to sign along with, such as on My Little Brother - "My little brother just discovered rock and roll, he's only 22 and he's out of control....On the dance floor watch him go now, oh, those moves I just don't know how....". The entire work does not manage to sustain that peak of excruciating excitations, it almost couldn't, but that just leaves us room for the future. Like I have always felt, it's all been said and done and the only difference is the personality driving it. Here, that personality drives like a jagged laser beam that simply transfixes you. This is angry but funny, serious and aloof, rock driven but pop inspired and it has proven to be a wonderful and refreshing tonic. Very much recommended but be warned, it is the sort of thing you will either hate outright or be entirely smitten by.
Label ~ Fierce Panda, 12 Tracks, 2005
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10+
Artisokka - "A Hiding Place in the Arbor" Scandinavia is coming out of the box hard in 2003, this release coming from Finlands Artisokka, who's name means artichoke in Finnish. (didn't I just complain about reviewing artichokes? How odd.) Anyway, this is the vehicle of singer/songwriter Jari Hilden with help from others including two members of the venerable Finnish band Cessna (Who also have a new LP due soon). This is a little laid back and I wasn't sure what to make of it at first, with it falling short of shoegaze while remaining quite a bit jangly. It varies from Airliner in that it is a bit more experimental and the vocals are quite different and some of the areas it ventures into even include bossa nova as on the track Alfama. I think the song that most charmed me is the almost chamber music like instrumental Black Puzzle. It's a cool mix of violin and ambient electric guitar with some sparse female "do do do" thrown in as well. This record is going to require a bit more maturity from it's listeners to truly enjoy and appreciate it's varied styles but if you are up to it I think you'll be quite charmed. In fact it sometimes reminds me of the Hepburns in it's odd variety and it's narrative style of songwriting. Classy cool I believe they call it. Over time this has grown on me more with each listen as another level of subtlety is revealed on each play. It's delicious in a sophisticated way, but it still nurtures the pop whore in me. Just a great ride, and I simple ADORE this record.
Label ~ Shelflife, 9 Tracks, 2003
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.8
Artisokka - "Sea Bed" I was thrilled to say the least recently when I was contacted by this band and asked whether I would like to review their new album. How loud can one scream yes? Their debut remains one of my most listened to albums and I'd probably rate it one of the top 10 of the last 20 years. This continues right where that left off and while similar it explores enough new territiory to make the voyage interesting and rewarding in it's own right. One of the things I most love about their sound is how it strains and yearns, especially when the violin plays. What is peculiar is the music as before has an obscure jazz like tinge but the instruments playing it: Cello, moog synth, fiddles, are not what comes to mind when one starts mentioning jazz instruments. Another brilliant thing about them is their songs are never "upbeat" or what you would call a pop single, yet neither is the album slow or morose. That is due in large part I believe to their unique ability to weave such complicated but complimentay patterns with the music so that the ears never tire, but nor do they get overwhelmed. They truly are like the image on the cover: A cloudy day, a stormy sea, wild fits of wind. On the surface it seems dull and un-eventfull but when one opens ones senses fully to what is going on around them they are soon amazed and eventually over whelmed at the beautiful complexities encompassing them. I love this band, and this is simply put another gem.
Label ~ Azule Jo, 9 Tracks, 2008
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10+
Arvidson - "Arvidson" Again, I don't know where T got this from, as this is one of those Firestation releases that can't be found for love, but sometimes for a lot of money. I checked the usual suspects and nobody had it. Anyway, this band is the vehicle for yet another Swede, this time Roger Arvidson and boy, did my head explode when the first track Wake Up started. It's got that 70's AOR pop sensibility, 80's jangles and it's all big, bold and as poptastic as all hell. This brilliance shines again on a later cut called I'd Hate to see You Go and they could honestly each vie for the title of best guitar pop single ever written, and I mean EVER. The minute either of them starts my toes curl, and it doesn't matter that it's the 500th play already. His voice at times reminds me slightly of Mark Hollis of Talk Talk on some tracks, and thru the middle of this record they sound at times like early Pale Fountains but then the album takes a decided turn towards the end sounding somewhat like 70's "Philly" rock. (even at times reminding me in structure to the Hues Corporation, only with more guitar and a more driving melody) He often changes the mood of the songs by speeding up and slowing down the lyrics, and they are very emotive. This album is simply fantastic and I think a very rare bird in that it has cross genre appeal in that indie kids would love it, and even 50 year old classic rock freaks would, ummm... freak. A must own.
Label ~ Firestation Tower, 12 Tracks, 2001
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.5
Ashbury - "Last Sensation" This is the second release from this LA band and I understand a slight departure from their first. Having not heard that I can't say but it was hard to pin this band down sound wise. The opening track Profile is a real attention grabber with a dark techno edge so out of control it feels like it's going to jump the rails any second, and teamed to this abandon is a sort of undeniable sexuality. This band has Nine Inch nails goth, Thrill Kill Cult sex and even the creepy ennui of Bauhaus. If that wasn't enough they take all of it and then throw in a few vintage styled New Order bass lines for good measure. Lyrically this is a very bleak affair with allusions to darkness, despair and mans deepest anguish, but it's a meal served with techno hooks and pop sensibilities. It wanders this territory thruout the affair and then closes on Last Sensation which comes off as the Fall and PIL smashing into each other in a mortuary. In some respects they are like the 80's UK band Nitzer Ebb but without all the Sturm and Drang. This is a recording that can appeal to goth fans, techno fans, Depeche fans, Mute records fans, dance beat fans, depressed teenagers,hell, just about anybody. If you fall into any of those categories then you will certainly want to add this to your list of spring shopping chores. It manges novelty and familiarity while being genuinely unique.
Label ~ So Sweet, 5 Tracks, 2005
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10+
Ashby - "Power Ballads" I'm not sure when this became available here, as it came out last year but I hadn't seen it before. I think I had heard of this band but didn't know much about them. Apparently they are from Boston, but they're on the German label Marina. I wrote the label but didn't get any help from them about it. Anyway, I saw Twee Kitten had it so I included it in my last order. Good call! The sound is mostly synth laden yet it tends to be piano (or synth piano?) which drives it, and they use an almost Phil Specter approach with a nice "full" sound reminiscent of bands on the Siesta label without being so bossa nova. They also remind me of the band Birdie, without being so 60's. They are both of that and neither. The band is composed of singer/songwriter Evelyn Pope and William Cowie. She has a great voice, sultry, but of even timbre and very pleasant, and it does remind me somewhat of Deborah Wykes from Birdie. (so does the music in feel but it skirts that due to the synth overtones) There is definetly an adult sound to the proceedings which is welcome, and almost even a jazz tint. It's emotive without wallowing in emotion yet the songs are nearly but not quite "dance" poppy and it's very enjoyable to listen to. One word of caution though: German releases can suddenly vanish and seem to never get restocked, so if you are interested don't wait on this one. A damn fine record indeed.
Label ~ Marina, 12 Tracks, 2001
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.8
Ashby - "Looks Like You've Already Won" I was hoping my interview with Evelyn Pope, the driving force behind this band, would have been back to me before I wrote this so I had some more insight into this group, but alas it is not and I really need to start getting reviews done. All I know, or knew, is that this bands debut album has grown on me over time to be one of my most cherished albums for many reasons. That puts this album in the not so enviable task of the sophomore slumper beating a hall of famer, which is of course an unlikely prospect. Jumping to the final analysis, it doesn't beat that album, but the arrow isn't off the mark by much however. What made the debut for me was the variety, the chances which struck gold, and the seductive jazz undercurrent. Those things are not gone, but they have been perhaps tamed, or rather put in a more regimented place. What this seems to me, and what I asked her in the interview, is that this seems a more deliberate attempt to appeal to the mainstream (nothing wrong with that) but the interview should clarify it. What this album has going for it is her voice is as lovely as ever, the songs are as catchy as ever and their unique brand of aural, adult tinged, honey like seduction is as palpable as ever. To put it simply, Ashby makes beautiful music. Really, truly, lovely tunes that come out of a feminine ether to wrap you in a cocoon of musical joy. (all that and they've added more brass) Hardly more need be said. Buy this.
Label ~ Marina, 10 Tracks, 2005
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.5
Astroblast - "This Will Help You On Your Way" This is the second full length by this band, and I wavered on the fence over this for some time but think I've finally fallen. The first cut Conversation Hearts really encapsulates my feelings about this. I wavered at first but really began to like the voice of lead singer Jenn Kellough, and the songs mostly begin and go really well, then at some inevitable point in almost every track it seems they feel they have to rock out and try to sound like Garbage or any other "modern" alternative rockers, and the song goes right to hell. I'm sorry, to me a wall of noise isn't music, and I absolutely HATE grunge. It always bothered me that kids now associate "punk" with that crap. Punk was just slighlty mean pop played really fast, and it always had a damn catchy beat. That's why it was so great. (does no one remember the Clash?) Like track three here, What Goes Unspoken which starts really great, reminds me a bit of the upbeat Swedsih stuff now like Waltz for Debbie and then at 2:35 in the song explodes into a wail of noise. Now, it's true it only lasts 30 seconds or so, but it's 30 seconds too long for me. This album reminds me of the Jumprope album (which was also on this label) in that it had a lot of really great songs on it that at some point seem to get ruined for one reason or another. How it can go so right then go SO wrong I'll never get. To be fair, you're probably younger than me and haven't aquired the intense dislike for "modern" rock that I have as you've probably known little else. That said, and if you like bands like Garbage then you will really like this and wonder what I'm on about. (that's the actual pity) Still, if you dig that sound you will certainly like this, and probably a lot. I just have disappointment, which is all the worse for me as this could have been great but the constant little daggers just ruin it. It would have bothered me less had it been bad to begin with, but it isn't. Well, maybe I'm just nuts, but T-Baby winced at it too. So I'll give it a 7.5 for me and a 9.5 for you, and well call it an 8.5
Label ~ Planting Seeds, 10 Tracks, 2001
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9
Astropop 3 - "Astropop 3" This was the first disc auditioned from my grab bag from the wonderful folks at Planting Seeds and it was a great way to start. It begins with an "intro" which is a snippet from some James Dean thing, (but I can't remember what) and actually segue's into the first track quite well. That song, You're the One is quite fabtastic and reminds me a bit of the House of Love among others and it's really great in about every way you'd want. The guitar intro to the next song Angel Like really sounds like I've heard it before but I can't place it. The vocals are miked a bit differently on this track but it's an absolutely great little pop track. I was already in love with this record by this point. There's lots of stylings exhibited on this release, from 80's britpop to the Beatle-esque So Happy only lead singer Dan Villanueva manages to sound more like Ringo perhaps than Paul, like almost all the others tend to. It's a great song, and it comes off a great record. I'm sure I heard of this band but it's one that I suppose slipped thru my cracks. Odd how that sometimes happens, only this time I found redemtion. This record manages to mix pop hooks and genuine sentimentality well, and in fact could be the standard for bands trying to marry the best of the past to the freshness of today. Perhaps it gets a little too ballady near the end, bit it's quite well done indeed.
Label ~ Planting Seeds, 15 Tracks, 1998
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.5
Astropop 3 - "Eclipsing Binary Star" This is the second outing from this band and I was quite ready for it after hearing the first. I must admit, with this bands name coupled to an LP title like this one had I never heard of them I would definetly have expected a techno type of group. That would be dashed on track one The Courage to be Great Lies in Every one of Us which is of the typical heartfelt light guitar ballad type of song this group is quite good at. It's followed by Lost in a Dream which musically sounds alot like Fugu (that means Beatles) but again, it isn't Paul we think we hear, it's Ringo. I wouldn't say Mr. Villaneuva sounds especially like our Mr. Starkey but when one hears a Beatle-like song one can't but help try to pin one of the fab voices on it, and that's about who he's closest to and coupled to the song the image clearly conjures itself. By the way, the song is pretty great. However, gears shift greatly on the next cut Lost in a Dream which has a kind of maybe My Bloody Valentine feel, but it's not slow and morose as it's quite a bit racey and poppy for having a wall of sound to it. It's on the next track No Time For Me that the real magic on this disc starts as Villaneuva is accompanied on vocals by Angelique Everett who's voice is quite girly yet manages to stay very fresh, sort of a cross between Jen from Barcelona and Katie Conley from Holiday Flyer. It's a really fab song. It's followed by the equally fab Starscream which really shows off this bands ability to make some really pop perfect guitar songs. Angelique appears again on Light Years Away which is quite pop fresh despite being layered in a wash of guitar fuzz, and their voices compliment each other very well. This whole album is quite great, but I have to take a point away for Revenge which seems to be trying to meld 60's protest "speaking" songs and early kraut rock. Basically it isn't very good. However, it's easily overlook by the quality of the rest of the disc, which is quite excellent. I also love the cover, and being into astronomy as well it's even more welcome. Binaries are of course double stars which actually are extremely common in the solar system. It's a shame albums this good aren't as well.
Label ~ Planting Seeds, 12 Tracks, 2001
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9
Atomic Swindlers - "Coming Out Electric" My first "exposure" to this band was the animated video for their song Float (which is included on this disc) and I wasn't sure what was more surprising, the obvious Samurai Jack noir of the artwork or the lesbianism. That's right, you read it correctly. The video is space chick lesbians in (minimal) latex sex suits saving the future to a soundtrack of Portishead meets Ennio Morricone in a film by Albert Broccoli, or something like that. (and I understand their live shows are even wilder) While the over all theme remains true thruout with song titles such as Space Bandit, Intergalactic Lesbian Love Song and Sex 66 the music itself takes a number of interesting turns, such as on Diamond Dreamer which sounds like it came straight out of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. If all this sounds like this is one of those acts with such a strong identity that you either love or hate what they are doing you might be correct. But if you are leaning away don't dismiss it too quickly as underneath the flash lies a rather interesting work which is certainly as unique as anything I've seen lately. Certainly high drama worthy of notice, but while not profane the material renders it unsuitable for the kids so be warned.
Label ~ Self Release (not a CDR), 12 Tracks + vid, 2004
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 7.5
Aquadays- "Electric Songs" A three-piece from Gothenburg, Sweden, this band was formed in November 1993 and is made up of 3 members, Lisa Aamot on electric organ, Martin Aamot on electric guitar, synthesizer, rhythm machines and vocals and Klara
Albinsson on vocals. Aquadays is more laid back than many of their swedish cohorts like Waltz For Debbie which have a more disco chart sound. This band is a bit more sparse, more dreamy and not so in your face. Most of the songs on this LP are good.
There seem to be no real standouts, much of the fare being similar, but by the same token nothing is really bad either. It's sort of low key keyboard pop, with average vocals done reasonably well. I like this but don't flip too much over it. Perhaps
that's the pop whore in me demanding lucious hooks, not much of which is delivered here. This LP is solid, not outstanding, and not too bad either. If you like light techno and keyboard music with female vocals you'll probably dig this. Good for quiet
night listening or driving when you don't wish to be too distracted.
Label ~ Apricot, 10 Tracks, 1999
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.4
Avocado Club - "Girls Use Deodorant These days" I still don't know much about this band, other than they are German and the lead singer is someone named Bendrik Muhs. The title cut has sort of a Siesta label kind of feel teamed to a 70's pop vibe. It is hard to describe actually, but it is brilliant especially near the end when he goes into a talking complaint with the music still going. Bendrik has a very good voice and it helps make the song very unique. The next track, The Dirty Sheet of Complacency is not only a good song, it's a great title. The cuts on side two are slightly different, the first being a quirky but appealing number followed by Kate, a slow ballad. When this band is on they are utterly brilliant and engaging. An LP is due soon too I hear.
Label ~ Firestation Tower, 4 Tracks, 2000
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.2
Avocadoclub - "Everybody's Wrong" I was really beginning to wonder if this album would ever see the light of day when there it was in my mailbox, and now that it has arrived it is not anything really approaching what I thought it might be. Of course since I really wasn't sure what their debut would be like perhaps it actually is. This band has always been a sort of hit or miss with me, but when they hit I think it is fair to say few people have crafted such perfect pop songs. I mean deliciously, mind numbingly perfect. The epitome of that might be their single Too Much Space To Walk Away which quite likely would be in my top 3 of best singles of the 21st century so far. That joy is abridged by the fact that the version included on here is the remix, not the original, and in my humble musings it is not as good. (good certainly, but not the wallop the original is) There is commentary on the liner notes how this album has an "autumnal" feel. That is probably a fair evaluation. It is a tad laid back, somewhat introspective and generally more easy listening than a "pop" album. Of course that means there are charmers on here of the more minimal variety such as Windows although the album does contain another anthemic gem in The Truth Is For The Hardnailed. Taken as a whole this is a reasonably solid effort. Only one or two cuts I found to be indifferent about and the rest were good to very good so under my new harsher (or perhaps realistic) grading system that's a B+, which makes this an album certainly worthy of your attentions.
Label ~ Firestation, 10 Tracks + 3 vids, 2006