Hip-ometer Rating ~ 7.5
California Oranges - "California Oranges" This was another of those things getting thrumped up, so I just hunkered down and got it. That intro sounds like I'm going to complain any second. Well, not really. The first track, John Hughes is a fair start, even though the arranging of the song is not to my tastes. This band sounds very american to my ears. By that I mean that american bands, especially in the 80's, had a unique sound with different chord progressions than the brits used (like the Pixies or Throwing Muses) and as a rule I really dislike the sound of them. Song two, Roller King I do like a bit better as it has a nice kind of flow to it. My attention was finally really grabbed on Cross My Heart which is the first track sung by their bassist Verna Brock and it has a very Brit semi punk flavour to it and her voice reminds me of a lot of late 80's brit female singers. I like it quite a bit. The next track So Much To Do is taken over by lead singer John Conley again but for some reason his voice is more appealing on this track and I like this song as well. Verna sings again on The Weather and even though the cut reminds me alot of the previously mentioned Throwing Muses it isn't too bad. If you're more into the american sound than me you'll probably like this LP a great deal. It's recorded a little low-fi and sometimes the instruments tend to smother one another in the mix, but then again that does appeal to some. Like any fruit, it's a matter of your personal pallate, and you'll probably like it a bit or not much at all. I don't dislike it, but find I don't listen to it often.
Label ~ Darla, 10 Tracks, 2000
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.7
California Snow Story - "One Good Summer EP" I can almost forgive Ed at Shelflife for not putting out the Chairs disc due to "other commitments at the moment". Those releases have been forthcoming, and so far none have disappointed so I suppose he ought to be forgiven. (.......nah :) This time it's Glasgow making the row, with this outfit fronted by ex Camera Obscur-ist David Skirving who shares vocal duties with Anna Barrek. (and it's not for fans of the Velvets, hmm, gets better and better) The only flaw here really is that this is just an EP not an LP, and for the life of me, knowing first hand how hard it is getting someone to put your damn record out, why not do 3-5 more songs and make a proper job of it? Oh well. Anyway, this disc is very nice, very indie, skirting (or is that skirving?) familiar Scottish styles from Camera Obscura to Belle and yes perhaps even a slight tinge of the Trash Can Sinatras. And while it's indie, it definitely has a more adult indie feel. As she carries most of the vocals it does remind me of Camera Obscura most perhaps. All I know is it's quite good and it's over too damn fast, clocking in just over sixteen minutes. It's definitely worth your attentions though, and hopefully that will prompt a full length release some time soon.
Label ~ Shelflife, 5 Tracks, 2003
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.3
Calvin, Don't Jump - "A Way With Birds" Avant garde-ism. I can do without it, especially when it comes to music. I like real talent, not hiding behind bizarre imagery no one gets to hide your lack of ability. What that has to do with this is that there are some very good and mature moments on this record. However, they are punctuated by the most buffoonish instrumentals. The opener, Triumphant Snow is not what I would have expected, an instrumental which sounds like a mandolin but the melody is very Greek sounding. Very Greek sounding. That isn't bad, just unexpected, and the song is nice. The next track Cockle is typical of the real meat of this recording, featuring the wistful vocals of Kirk Pleasant in what is a New York artist like piano pop ballad, not even far in feel from a americanized version of Belle and Sebastian. The press sheet says it sounds like "the south", but I think it's far less like that than they think. It has a lot of "big city" elements to it. The problem is almost every other track on this record (starting with track 3) sounds like the soundtrack to a black and white short of an elephant in bed with a case of severe gas. Bloated sounding trombone or tuba and accordion wheeze along from a few minutes to a few seconds (depending on which break it is) and frankly it leaves me just wondering why. This guy has talent and I like the real songs on it but this gaseous bellowing between tracks I don't get. Why anyone writes good songs then decides to stick this sort of thing in between them I suppose I will never understand. The semi title track, Away With Birds I especially like. A nice, bittersweet little song. I'm just going to pretend the elephant gas is not on this and rate it like that. After all, I can easily make a copy with that off, which will make about a 10 track lp, and taking that way, this thing is a very interesting album. Light, earnest and nicely melodic. It only needs some beano for it's gas problem.
Label ~ HHBTM, 16 Tracks, 2003
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.8
Camera Obscura - "Biggest Bluest Hi Fi" This is a band from Glasgow Scotland fronted by female singer Lindsay Boyd (?) and this their first LP was released late last year and it's one of those things we only got round to getting recently. They were helped by Stuart Murdoch of Belle and Sebastian a great deal on this record apparently and somehow that doesn't seem like such a surprise. (Those scots sre a boorichie ay mental eggs they're aye ready tae help a fellaw bain) (?) There is little info about them on the sleeve, and less on their labels website. It would be easy to quickly call this Twee or Shoegaze or worse make some comparative statement along the lines of B&S but that would be a dis-service in this case I think. This album never really wallows, the songs are good with catchy pop melodies and the vocals are just heartfelt enough to bind it all together and it really doesn't sound like Belle. There are moments on many songs when she has a sort of lilt and tremmelo to her voice which reminds me of Harriet Wheeler of the Sundays, which can't be a bad thing. (That comparison may apply musically as well) I like this a lot, and it's growing on me more each time I hear it and it may even make it to 10 one day, but nine and a half isn't a half bad start in any case. Quite worth owning.
Label ~ Andmoresound Records, 10 Tracks, 2001
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.5
Camera Obscura - "Under Achievers Please Try Harder" This band has previously been implied to be a sort of "Belle & Sebastian Version 2.0", but I always thought perhaps that was due more to the fact that they are both from Scotland and know each other than they sound alike. That may however be less correct this time out. This is certainly a more polished and shall we say thematically coherent effort than the last, even though I liked that album quite a lot. But there is now a more striking similarity and it isn't just the voices, even though (I suppose because of their native accents) the girls here do sound not unlike Belles Isobelle, but musically it really does as well, as can be seen on tracks like Let Me Go Home which has all the charm and unique arranging of a Belle song. (and male vocals) More than that, there is a decided structure to the songs and their melodies that they do indeed share, even though this dips into retro sixties and Petula Clark waters at times. But the question that begs to be asked is, did we need another Belle clone? It's quite possible one might find this sounds too much like Belle, and the line "If I wanted to hear B&S, I'd listen to B&S " certainly applies. I don't know why they decided to go this route, and I'm not sure if it weakens their standing or not. Had you never heard B&S, this is certainly a likeable record. For the rabid fan, it might ruffle a few feathers. It has some excellent moments as well, but it isn't a towering work either, and I think I preferred the old them. So I'll rate it almost as good as the last, but take a few tenths off for plagiarism.
Label ~ Merge, 13 Tracks + 1 Video, 2003
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.8
Capstan Shafts - "Euridice Proudhon" All right, imagine you're out on holiday in your Ford Anglia and you're trying to tune in something on your AM radio in an area of bad reception. You are moving thru the dial, getting intermittent signals that sort of resemble music, if it wasn't for all the distortion, drop outs, noise and over modulation. You come upon some songs already going, find others that end suddenly and while they are all a little different they somehow seem to fit because well, it is AM radio after all. Imagine all that and you'll be a little closer to imagining what this debut album by Vermonter Dean Wells sounds like. In fact, there can only be two explanations for what this sounds like: It is a quite deliberate attempt to destroy any hope of sound quality with WAY over modulated vocals and the most atrocious recording technique in history OR it is the most serendipitous recording ever made. The latter is harder to believe because a trained monkey would not have done so bad a job as this, because what is happening here takes some effort. What is most amazing of all is it works, how I do not know, as it violates every preconceived notion I have about pop music, but make no mistake, this is a pop album. 61 Sideburns being a perfect example as lead singer Wells voice, while recorded a-kilter, really has a haunting quality and when he sings "we live in the last genuine time..." with a strained earnestness that is genuinely touching, believe me, it's gonna reach you. Despite the fact that this track deliberately breaks up even worse in the middle and only runs just over a minute, it makes a tremendous impact on the listener and I am not really sure why. Generally speaking all the songs are shortish little blitzkriegs (there's 22 of them) and I can think of no greater praise than the fact that with my stereo I am trying to get as close to the envelope humans have reached in home musical reproduction at the price point I can afford (and in fact lately I have been pushing that envelope a little higher) and yet this, what should be an atrocity and emblematic of everything opposite my philosophy has wholly enchanted me. It is orchestrated noise, really, that I should be rushing to remove from my player as fast as I can, yet I sit transfixed and spellbound. Apparently a truth has arisen here and that is you either have it or you don't, and "quality" in those terms is subjective. While this is not "pristine" it is not so by design, not lack of ability, and clearly there is genius in that as well. I wanted to say that not since the album Psychocandy by The Jesus And Mary Chain has anyone used noise deliberately so beautifully, but this isn't even really noise so much as it recorded really, REALLY badly. It is so bad it's beautiful, and it comes very much endorsed.
Label ~ Kittridge, 22 Tracks, 2006
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.4
Care Bears On Fire - "Get Over It" I suppose the proof that my kid is getting old is that she is starting to come to me with things to review. Now, she's liked and suggested things in the past, but this she was adamant about - SHE WANTED IT. I went and listened to them on you tube first and found it wasn't so bad, so I agreed. The proper channel was contacted and the press pack promptly arrived and I've finally managed to get the CD away from her long enough to review it. To begin, I am getting more amazed all the time as first it was Ariel Abshire releasing her album at 17.... now I find these kids releasing an album at 14, and it's their second one. There must be something to that fluoride controversy after all... All that aside, it is comforting to see kids rejecting the crap music being fostered on them, and what's more embracing the music of my youth, and in fact the music (and mode of dress) my generation invented. I have to admit I genuinely expected this to show their age and be just OK but I have to admit it is much better than that. This is a slice of punk/pop at times very similar to the Fingerprints, Siouxsie and the Banshees or even Billy Idol but being an all girl band one would like to find a comparison there but it's hard. The Slits come to mind but most all female punk bands were english and the overt accents they used makes any musical comparison moot. What's more while rooted in the past their vibe is obviously current, so instead of looking for things to measure them against lets use them as the stick for those to follow because they may be that good. The songs have edge, but never get carried away or turn into a wall of noise, there is a good variety of melody and song structure, the lyrics are as good as any in the genre and there are even a few nice "quasi" ballads. What's more there is a lot of melody and catchy hooks in there. I have to admit this is nearly as good as any of the "classics" and it's even recorded (I think purposely) to sound like them. I asked my kid if she wanted to write this review and she said she didn't know what to say. I said "What do you think of it?" and she replied "I like it.... a lot." I think that says it all.
Label ~ S-Curve, 14 Tracks, 2009
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.3
Pelle Carlberg - "The Lilac Time" I was actually a bit surprised when this came out late last year because he's been putting out albums in fairly quick succession, but then he did the same thing with Edson. What's funny is I always found Edson mostly a little too depressing, and so far I have simply loved all of his solo work. However I had the feeling this one would be the deal breaker. I don't know why but because of that I found I was never very anxious to listen to it, which again explains why some things sit forever and never get reviewed or get reviewed late. Well, the jury is finally in and I am happy to report the deal is not broken. Musically, well, it's Pelle Carlberg... and it doesn't sound appreciably different than most of his work does so it basically comes down to song quality. Frankly, I'm not sure what to say. There have been nights I put this on and thought "Ehhh... it's OK" and then other times I really dug it and listened to it 3 times over. Therefore, since I cannot be trusted we'll have to resort to common sense. If you never heard of this guy, don't start here, go get "Everything Now" instead. If you are a lifer.... well, you probably have it already then.
Label ~ Labrador, 10 Tracks, 2008
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10+
Pelle Carlberg - "In A Nutshell" This is, well counting Edson releases I'm not sure how many albums, but it's his second proper solo release and it would appear the ghosts of Rydells past have been fully laid to rest. I have often gotten the impression our Pelle has felt an onus put on him by everyone to be more "happy", and failing that, to at least write more poppy songs. I'm always for that, but at the same time one has to be true to their inner selves. I think on this outing, deliberately or not, he has found a bouyancy between his wistful irony and pop catchiness. Oh, there's no question it's him all right and the lyrics are as wry and coy as we've come to expect but from the outset this album is much more lets say exhuberant than even his last album. (which I thought was pretty exhuberant for him) It also displays a nice variety of styles and emotions and it even includes a nod to the Smiths and their drummer Mike Joyce in the tribute song I Touched You At The Soundcheck which of course comes from Paint A Vulgar Picture a song which for me stamped the end of the Smiths as finally as Hand In Glove started it and it's a brilliant choice. This is a delight from start to finish and the only thing bad I can say is it perhaps could have been recorded a tad better. I would love to hear this guy do something minimal and pure like the recent Whitest Boy album because Pelle has the goods. Still, most of you will compress and shove this on an mp3 player so you won't even know what the hell I'm talking about so no worries. I didn't want to give it a 10+ like the last but it really deserves it....it even has a hidden song at the end which seems like a dig at Labrador records, so OK, you pushed it over the hump Pelle. 10+ It's in our Popsicle shop now so go get it kiddies.
Label ~ 27 Records, 11 Tracks (plus one hidden one), 2007
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10+
Pelle Carlberg - "Everything Now!" To clear something right up, since I already labour under many misconceptions (Everyone thinks I'm Swedish, or English, or rich, or that I know every person in every band I review etc...). you'll note this album cover is signed. Well, it was a Christmas present to me from Luke (who has a life) and who did meet Pelle and had him sign this for me. I, I on the other hand don't get out, I don't meet anyone, I don't get to see anyone. (and what's also true to form is Pelle had never heard of this website when he singed it) Right then, lets slag this mother.... but before that, all this brought to my mind the fact that I have heretofore failed to review any discs by Edson, his former band. (I say that not knowing if Edson is done or not) I think I heard all of their stuff (T-baby owns it all) but I never got round to a review. I found them good enough but somehow they fell thru the cracks. So it's no wonder our paths had not crossed. However this time I didn't miss the boat and it's a good thing, because on this outing there is a cohesion and maturity that is simply stunning, and it all revolves around tales of the slings and arrows of his personal misfortunes and misery. The opener for example Musikbyrån Makes Me Wanna Smoke Crack is a tale of watching a story about Warren Zevons death on TV (Musikbryrån) and seeing all the people that came to visit him, and wondering were the situation reversed would anyone bother to come see him. By not reaching for false heartstrings or being maudlin, it comes across as what it is, tender, genuine sentiment, and it cuts like a blazing hot poker. This extraordinary album continues this way in various forms, some more upbeat than others but all deliciously sardonic until we reach the climax point, Go To Hell, Miss Rydell which is the most glorious anthem to reviewer apathy yet penned by man. (Made me feel bad and I never even slagged him). This album is a joy, and it has a lovely flow of intelligently written songs which remain as musical as they are poignant. It is recorded well and while the instrumentation is sometimes light and lithe, it has meat on it's bones and in the angry exorcising of Pelles ghosts we all find redemption. I will even admit I never expected to like this anywhere near this much,and what is perhaps the last but sweetest irony, I asked Luke after it arrived why he put a pearl inside the case. He said he didn't , "They come that way".........They come that way?..........ah, yes.....then a broad smile appeared on even my jaded face. Jewel cases are also called "clam shells", and inside this shell one finds a pearl. How sweet, genuine and original, and so like this album. Yes indeed, I think I nearly teared.....
Label ~ Labrador, 11 Tracks, 2005
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.5
Carrie - "1981" It's my understanding there is a burgeoning pop scene in Mexico (not unlike what happened in Greece 10 years ago) but this is the only participant I own anything by, but boy, am I a fan of hers. Her debut album has come to be one of my favorite and most repeat played of albums. (at least once a month) While there is a slight departure here from the first one here, the important elements are all there: It is recorded extremely well and her dark yet lilting and sultry voice are as good as ever. Brooding synths, hypnotizing beats, her cool sexy voice all add up to make this the kind of album that is glorious to listen to late at night. To be a little critical not every track works as well as the debut, as one or two are a little too experimental, which is perhaps an odd comment when the genre itself is essentially experimental. I think however on a whole there was a bit more gear shifting on the debut which worked for her, and this one sort of settles into a routine. Not a bad routine by any means, but it is more similar than different. My advice, indie being what it is, is to get her debut first before it goes out of print. If you like that, and you probably will, you can move along to this which are will also be sure to like.
Label ~ Static, 10 Tracks, 2008
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10+
Carrie - "Honey Blue Star" How ironic I go from reviewing a swede with a mexican sounding name, to the very first mexican I have reviewed. I don't know much about this girl, but if listening to the album lends an impression then the impression is she is a little out there. There are people who play music but can't be eclectic at all, those who are eclectic and can't play music at all, people who can't do either and you really wonder what the hell they were shooting for, and people like her, who are clearly very eclectic, but manage to make music out of it. The lyrics on this album are quite bizarre, and to give you some idea the opening track Ass-Fi (yeah) goes "Show me the meaning, html code....oh ohhhh, oh, be a hacker, be a weiner, in you're fuckin tiny work....." It's almost as hilarious as it is brilliant. The songs themselves are not composed by "normal" musical instruments but rather entirely of synths and stolen pieces of noise put together into music. It is recorded quite excellently though and if you have a good stereo it is worth it for that alone The over all pace of the album is on the slow side and there is nothing remotely close to a dance track, Monster Truck being about as up and going as it gets, but because the sounds are so bouncy and vibrant, the record quality so good, and her voice so quirky, she pulls it off instellar fashion. Initially there were times I got up and took this off before it got to the end, but as it has grown on me over time not only does that not happen, double or even triple repeats are often the norm. Quite a scintillating and original debut. It has come to be one of my most enjoyable purchases of the last year and in fact will make it on my amended top 10 of 2005 list. Sultry, seductive and gorgeously recorded, it took a while but I am become this albums prisoner.
Label ~ Static/Dearstereofan, 10 Tracks, 2005
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.7
Cath Carroll - "England Made Me" This is another ditty I remember having on my list many years ago but for some reason I never got it. It came out about the time I stopped going to NYC to get records so that's probably why. I did get the Unrest album 2 years later that fetured a tribute track to her. (and featured her picture on the cover no less) Odd I thought for such tribute only 2 years later to an artist I figured no one even knew about. So is the adulation deserved? If you like slick adult contemporania melded to Pet Shop synths with salsa beats and shimmery vocals, then yes. This is recorded well, with a very adult feel but it does have it's ecclectic moments which add variety. My favorite is probably Send Me Over which is all very suave and both relaxing and uplifting. It's the kind of thing in the old days when I had my magnepans in a dedicated room, I'd sit in the sweet spot with a good magazine or book and put something like this on medium loud and just melt away..... This reprint also has a number of non album tracks as well as a few remixes which makes it an even better deal. If you're feeling a little more adult today, or would like something very chic and contemporary to listen to in the car then you need look no further. I understand she aslo put out a brand new LP so you might wish to look for that as well. What would I call this?.........Hmmmmmm..........Oh yes, the good stuff.
Label ~ LTM, 14 Tracks, 2002
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.6
Casswells - "Casswells" Another retrospective! I often wonder where we'd be without them. It certainly seems that everyone is getting their crap re-released these days, except of course for Phil Wilson. Such is life. Anyway, formed by Paul Towler from the ashes of ther Haywains this disc represents the magnum opus of work from this band. Upon hearing the first song, X-39 one is instantly transported to 1988 and reminded quite strongly of the Chesterf!elds. It's an infectious, poppy and typically clever british indie pop ditty. It does everything right, and then some. The rest of the entire LP is not much different. There are no other cuts quite so perfect as the first, but they are all good and never falter into sounding the same. Some of the later tracks on the Lp are marginal, but then again it's 15 songs long. If you dig what is often referred to as the C86 sound (although I hate that term) then I think you'll like this record quite a bit. I love the packaging too. However it is recorded, well not lo-fi but a little one dimensionally sounding. Not unusual for the budget indie genre which this belongs to.
Label ~ Vinyl Japan, 15 Tracks, 1998
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.4
C'eleste - "The Colder Insight EP" I often think that if it wasn't for Sweden, there'd be nothing to buy. This 4 song EP is the first offering by this Swedish outfit. It starts with Colder Inside which kind of has a kitschy melody with short lryics followed by bright backing horns. ("Please feel free..(da da da daaaa..) I feel free "(da da da daaaa..)) It's sort of a little cheesy, but once getting past that, it's actually a pretty good pop song, the kind you'll be singing all day. The songs on this effort fall in the genre of most Swedish acts, falling into a niche somewhere between the Acid House Kings, Starlet and the Leslies. Tracks like Holiday On Ice being of the typical ambient, mellow ba ba baa pop sphere. I do not know if an LP is planned by these lads, and therefore can't say if these tracks will appear on it, but this is a pretty good outing, and well worth getting if you're bitten by the swede-pop bug.
Label ~ Firestation, 4 Tracks, 2000
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 7.8
Celest - "See-Through Me EP" This outfit is from Germany, and is not to be confused with the Swedish band C'eleste. Anyhow, this outing definetly treads the waters of early 90's britpop, esp. the likes of the Stone Roses, Happy Mondays or the Farm and esp. on the opener here, Ordinary Man. It's all awash of guitar and big sound and swirling psychedelia with that ska like beat. It's an odd category, as I love the Roses, the Farm had a few moments and Happy Mondays totaly blow. This? The previous summation sums this up pretty well too. It has a few moments, some notable, and at times it blows a little as well. I think what I dislike is it gets a little full of itself and becomes a wash of noise, leaning into the current genre d'abbismal which they call "modern" alternative. The guitars just go "kerrang, kerrang, kerrang" etc.. and don't worry about finding a melody, and to make up for it he sings louder. The last track, a live one called Init for the Ride is probably the best as it is closer to fellow countrymen Brideshead, has a nice guitar line but even it turns to a wash of noise in the end. If they stay with this mindset they'll lose me but probably cash it in big, but if they can mature and write more catchy material they have potential to be quite excellent but poor and unknown. Choices, choices.....
Label ~ Little Teddy, 5 Tracks, 2002
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 7.4
Celestine - "Between Bedtime and Sunrise" Right from the get got the mood expressed by this album erected a pained, languid and morose veil of music. Like any type of thing, that would be all right if it invited us in to share it by expressing it in terms we ourselves have known. Misery loves company as it were. However this unfortunately fails to deliver those goods. The more I listen to it the more it reminds me of a really depressive alt country type of thing, which is not going to endear me to begin with, but that's not even it's worst problem. The odd and unfortunate part is while the dis-separate parts seem to be good: The voice is all right, the playing fine..... the pieces don't assemble into anything. The songs become the sorts of things you struggle to get thru, and they have the bad quality of when one just finishes, for the life of you you couldn't even recall or hum the melody. (ummm..... did it have a melody?) One track has an unexpected and bizarre "rock out" in it which destroys what mood it had created and even one of the better cuts City Of Lights inexplicably loses it's way before it ends and sort of crashes in ruin. Perhaps not a total loss but a damn shame. While I am sure someone despondent enough may like this, I cannot give it an over all nod for your considerations. Examine if interested, but do so carefully.
Label ~ Starfly, 13 Tracks, 2005
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 6.3
Celophane Flower - "Too Good To Be Famous" This was sent to me from Sweden, so I have to assume this is a Swedish band and although it appears they have put out a few records already I had not heard of them. This thing has thrown me a bit because the styles presented on it are varied, and I'm not sure it all mixes well together. Songs like Roots Gone is a good song and sounds like an a-typical swedish alternative band song. But on track 4 Billy Jim Bob's Blues it sounds exactly like, umm.. what it sounds like it would. Hicksville. I have spent so much time slagging the sixties I forgot to mention I have little tolerance for country and western. The "chart" variety is just boring because it all sounds the same, and the bluegrass roots rock type I abhor. This song is the latter. This may all be due to the fact 3 different people are writing songs for this band. The track Loved Alone, while it has a country feel, I find I like as it is mixed in a pop vein. In fact it seems the tracks I do like were all written by Par Svensson and sadly he only wrote 2 of them. Otherwise this band demonstrates a southern blues rock vibe which I am not partial to at all. So if you like varied records which plumb southern rock bands then I would look this up. I however will stay above the mason-dixon line. In any event that makes this an odd bird indeed flying in from Sweden on the wings of this musical style.
Label ~ Flower Productions, 14 Tracks, 2002
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.4
Cessna - "My Blue Anglia" With the Nordic world ruling popdom these days it's a bit surprising that Finlands Cessna is the only band we hear of from that quarter. I believe this is their first release, but don't quote me on that one. The single, My Blue Anglia is quite good, very Brit sounding and yes I suppose it falls into that c86 groove. On the B side is Well I Guess I Just Don't Mind and Sunday Afternoon both of which are good and also are of the same genre as Anglia. A pretty good outing really, and if you still have a player this is certainly a 7" worth getting.
Label ~ Fantastic, 3 Tracks, 7" vinyl 1997
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.3
Cessna - "Holiday on Ice EP" This is the second outing from these Vodka swilling Finns and is especially cool as it's on white vinyl. The first cut, Utterly Alone is again very Brit sounding, the guitar line reminding me of the Chesterf!elds. The next track Floating has that decidedly Swedish pop groove to it and I think it's the best cut on this disc. The B side kicks off with Garlic which has a washed out groovy keyboard melody and I like it alot. This affair closes with Window Seat which has a slightly harder wall of guitar in it and maybe sounds something akin to Bush. All in all, an excellent effort, and if you can burn from vinyl to CD this plus the Blue Anglia single will make a nice 7 song collection which would easily rate over a 9.
Label ~ Jigsaw records, 4 Tracks, 7" vinyl
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.3
Cessna - "Bordeaux" This is the first real Lp outing from this Finnish band, and it comes out on the notorious Radio Khartoum label. Notorious for having all their releases be 3" CD's in folded paper sleeves, and in this case it's a double which means twice as much stuff falling out when you try to manipulate it. Still, they have their personal kitsch and I like them. (they will play in any newer player. Check to see if you have a smaller ring inside the main ring of your players tray) Song one, disc one, Dreamt of You is a fair start. Not great, not bad and a little slow and lo-fi. Track two, Continental Diner starts with a guitar line more typical of them, but has the twist of being sung in French. (which switches to english later) It's a nice little cut. Cardomom Kiss is a cool little pop song, very typical of their guitar style. It's a little grey and a little sunny, all at the same time. The rest of the disc (5 songs total) is pretty good. Disc two is cool because it's green and has Russian cyrillic writing on it. It's 8 songs long and the opener, Birds is one of my favorites on the LP. It is followed by Skyscrapers which is almost a sister song in feel. Both are short-ish and definetly seem to belong to each other. Next is So Unreal which has a real 60's vibe about it with a fuzzy organ et-al. The next two cuts are a bit odd. Explain To Me Again being a lo-fi grunge song followed by Sunday So Soon which is a 35 second acoustic number. Of the last 3 tracks 2 good ones sandwitch Rainy Season which is a bit of a shallow bore. This clearly is a band that experimants with sound alot although they do have a sound if they only chose to follow it. (I would have preffered them to follow the sound of Blue Anglia, but such is life) Some lackluster momets but otherwise a good outing and certainly worth getting if you can still find it as it has been getting hard to come by.
Label ~ Radio Khartoum, 13 Tracks, 3"cd 1997
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.6
Cessna - "The Loves, Longings and Regrets of Cessna" This is a much more introspective and perhaps mature disc than their previous outings as demostrated by Summer Boy Winter Girl the rather heartfelt opener. Things heat up on Why Be Bashful? a rollercoaster of an instrumental which has many hooks typical of them. Milan, Japan is probably my favorite on this LP, it's them, but again more mature with hushed vocals and a nicely arranged sound. The rest of this disc is much the same. At this point, it would be hard to say where to start if you are interested in them. If you can play vinyl, My Blue Anglia and the Holiday EP above are a must get. This Lp presents a much different sound from those outings, and if you are into 80's britpop you'll like them much more. You'll probably have more luck finding this than Bordeaux. There are songs on that LP I like more than anything here, but this one is more evenly good thruout, so it's a tough call. This one almost sounds more "american" to me, so if that appeals to you perhaps this is where you'll want to start. It would be nice to see more from our friends the Finns, as I hope they're not one Cessna wonders.
Label ~ Radio Khartoum, 7 Tracks, 3"cd
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.5
Cessna - "Terminus" Another long awaited long player from another RK band. This is a long time and a long way from their C86 "Blue Anglia" sound however. It's a bit confusing as there are no tracks 1 or 4 and it starts for real on track 2 Encore Toujours which is a cute little number in french that sounds vaguely Siesta label sounding. This album dabbles in a variety of styles from the velvet-esque, to MBV without all the noise to hints of Bacharach & David. The latter is done sexily on the spy flavoured Wide awake which is one of my faves on the disc, and it's followed by the equally swank Time Ticks Away. It does get a little grebo towards the middle-end, sometimes that's good and sometimes it's a little much, especially with the excessively over dubbed vocals. That's about the only flaw in what is otherwise an excellent effort, and Kudos to Radio Khartoum for the best one two punch out of the box in 04.
Label ~ Radio Khartoum, 14 Tracks, 2004
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.9
Chapter 13 - "The World From Heaven" The minute this things starts I'm compelled to think it sounds like Vitesse trying to sound like Joy Division. (and Vitesse is already trying to sound like Joy Division). I don't know the gentlemans name who is singing on this disc, but he does sound and is mixed to have that Ian Curtis low hollow timbre. To top it off, the songs have that soaring Roland keyboard line so typical of the early 80's, drum machine and all. There isn't really much else to say about this, because these people have done their homework, and perhaps that's sort of the problem. It sounds SO much like what it's trying to that they kind of lose any personal quality to me. I don't hear Chapter 13, I hear the ghost of 1980. It's certainly good, the songs are all done well and if you dig early Factory esp. Joy Division you'll wet yourself over this thing. I get motivated listening to it, but for me however the motivation is to take it off and go put a Joy Division or Wake LP on. Probably not what they had in mind. Still, this is done very well despite the effect it has upon me. Hell, the cover even looks like a Factory one.
Label ~ Saltwater, 9 Tracks, 2000
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.9
Charade - "Keeping Up Appearances" This is the third long player from one of the real iron horses in the indie stable, as the core of this band has been making music for close to 20 years now. You'd almost have to wonder if there is anything left in the tank at this point, and the second track, The World Is Going Under to me comes dangerously close to ripping off the melody of the song "Heat Wave" but I suppose they can be forgiven. On this album there is a slight departure in sound as the over all feeling here is a folky kind of 60's feel, not the Bacharach inspired moods so often copied by most others. On top of that Magnus Karlsson sings a bit more than usual, not that that's a bad thing either. Despite all this however they can't occasionally help falling back into sounding like the Shermans on tracks like Heroes and Villians and I have no problem with that, as the track is a real standout. Honestly, what more is there to say? If you've been on the circuit for years you know this band and this is definitely an album you'll want. If you are new, this is actually such an interesting departure that while I often suggest people begin at the beginning with bands that are new to them, in this case this is a perfect departure point. It's also available in our Popsicle shop, so get on with it already.
Label ~ Skipping Stones, 11 Tracks, 2008
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10+
Charade - "A Real Life Drama" I am not sure what is more amazing, that it seems like I only just reviewed the first "new" album from this (Shermans, Red Sleeping Beauty) band or that they have been on this road of making quality records for such a long time now and are still cranking out gold. Most bands would have tanked a long time ago but not only is this outfit still going strong, this is as good if not the best thing they've made yet. Ingela sounds as good as ever, Magnus sings a bit more as well too and they have some nice harmonizing numbers. While not dramatically different from past work they take just enough new musical turns of both melody and sound to make it wholly absorbing. The opener for example, My Song To You is a lovely little pop gem that sounds new and fresh and somehow familiar all at once. There is also perhaps more of a latent 60's vibe due to some of the keyboards but that quality is not pronounced or over the top. I am sure people who prefer metal or skate punk would call this fluff, I however would call that noise and this music, and that's what it is. Nearly perfect, toe tapping, and wholly enjoyable pop guitar music. Guitar classics, moody keyboard numbers and lovely ballads. It has it all, and does it in an almost effortless manner. Is it their best? Hard to say, as I like so much of the other stuff and only time will tell on that one, but when it came I couldn't stop listening to it, that's for sure. A must own that should be on every list. This is currently available in our Popsicle shop as well.
Label ~ Skipping Stones, 10 Tracks, 2006
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.8
Charade - "The Best Is Yet To Come" To clue you in right away in case you didn't know, this is the new incarnation of the Shermans, and features the talents of Ingela and Mikael Matsson with Magnus Karlsson. Fans of that band will instantly recognise her voice which is one of the nicest in the indie world, but the music which accompanies it is now perhaps more settled. The Shermans could wander all over the place (a quality I actually sort of liked) but on this outing it is more musically in step perhaps with fellow swedish band the Acid House Kings with a light bossa nova air at times, but there are some qualities of the Shermans in there as well. In other words, it's a bit more mature sounding and although it takes chances, it's just not so reckless about it. There is a nice, fresh and breezy sort of quality about this outing I really like. It's one of those albums that's just sheer enjoyment to listen to and the songs are of the type that sound instantly like old friends, and that is not as easy a thing to accomplish as it sounds. This is also an excellent little coup for the new label Skipping Stones. In fact how new labels and bands nobody even knows exist yet find each other to make records is still a mystery to me, but like the gift horse this is, lets not look in it's mouth. And for Shermans die hards I asked and have been told this outing does not mean that band is over, but don't expect a tour for this. As you now read this the "bun" the Matssons were expecting should be out of the oven, and I'm sure we would all like to wish them and their newborn child and album the very, very best. This is due in our Popsicle shop in early June, with an official release date of June 7th, so mark your calendars! This is as pop friendly as music gets, and is sure to be one of the highlights of the summer of 05.
Label ~ Skipping Stones, 11 Tracks, 2005
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.5
Charlots - "City Lights EP" Swedens next and better answer to the Cardigans is this band. Led by the sultry blonde Sofie Sorman the opening cut of this EP Always Someone Else is top of the pops in chic Swede disco and even sounds alot like the Cardigans. (when they're sounding good that is, the Cardigans I mean) The next track Playboy is more schmoozy sexier and reminds me of an obscure English group I love called 8th Wonder. This whole outing is poptastic and I eagerly await an Lp from this band. They're a bit more mature sounding than say Waltz For Debbie, the production is very slick and it's all very shagadelic. Whatever was in the water that made the UK such a bastion of hippness in the 80's must be bubbling forth in the icy fiords of Sweden these days, as it just never seems to stop. I'm ready to defect. Lingonberries and flatbread anyone.....?
Label ~ Firestation, 4 Tracks, 2001
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.8
Charming - "Champagne and Magazines" What an odd bird this is. The minute the opener Let Me Take You Out kicks in I'm instantly reminded of Dee-Lites Groove is in the Heart, but then it goes into a Motown-esque funk groove. The first few listens I really didn't like this, but damn this thing is boring into my brain like a possesed weevil. The next song A Year and Four Months starts with a sort of bossa nova piano line but turns into a nice earnest pop song, mainly due to the vocal strength of lead singer Nicole St. Clair Stoops. (yeah, that's quite a monnicker. Sounds like a church, train station and verb all rolled into one) More of the bizarre funk disco is again displayed on track three, Downtown and the chorus is so out there the only appropriate place to listen to this song is leaning on the "pimp post" in a lavender Cadillac while you're dressed like Huggy Bear, ostrich plume and all. (Ed note: I used to deliver furniture with a black guy who told me the swing down arm between the seats of large cars is called a "pimp post", just so you knew) This song is completely outrageous and at first I didn't know what to think but once my easily offended sensibilities calmed down, hell, I really dig this song A LOT. It parodies it's subject so perfectly that it really is quite brilliant. It could easily have not been, and that's to their credit. The next cut Where Have I Been isn't too bad but it's a little bit forgettable, especially coming after the freight train that preceeded it. It is followed by April which is a much better track, and is a pretty basic upscale type pop song. Next is Guilty by Association which is 60's influenced and the chorus reminds me of the BBC song from Austin Powers, which gets folowed by You Were Not Meant for Me which has a great trumpet lead in and accompanyment, and is a really nice song. The next cut is Charlottesville 1997 which actually does sound like Astrud Gilberto. I know, I know, everyone's saying it, but this track actually does for once and believe me, I know. Anyway, lets cut this short already. This record surprised the hell out of me, and has managed to grow on me despite my not wanting it to. If you think you can handle it, it comes highly recommended.
Label ~ Shelflife/Twee Kitten, 11 Tracks, 2001
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.6
Chasing Dorotea - "Chasing Dorotea" This is another bright light in the Labrador galaxy of stars and is the work of Swede Christopher Sander. Very acoustic and natural sounding, heartfelt but with pace it unites his excellent voice to some wonderful female backing vocalists and makes for a fine effort. Like a number of other swedish albums of late, there is a slight tinge of C&W music on a few tracks such as Crackin Up or Memory, but there is a lot of variety as well, including some delicate flamenco picked guitar on Tuva Song. Interspaced thru out this assortment are some truly excellent "pop" type singles, such as the brilliant and tender Dreamer, and the equally lovely and poignant All I Want with it's sublime horn accents. Unique horn work continues on other standout tracks like Early Morning Mist which is very catchy with an almost beat poet melody line. While this might be considered a late night type of album, as the overall feel is a somewhat close and laid back, it does not languish and there are a number of fine uptempo songs as I mentioned. An excellent choice for the rocker looking to relax, or the somnambulist looking to wake up.
Label ~ Labrador, 11 Tracks, 2004
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.4
Cherry Orchard - "The Start of Our Affair" I've been a bit too busy to dig into the history of this group, although back in 89 I did buy what I'm sure was their first 12" single called This Big Love on Red Honey records. It was good, didn't slay me at the time, but good. Now I don't know what happened but I don't recall hearing more about them, although I had started to drift out of things in the early 90's. One thing is certain, the lineup has changed since then to now consisting principly of it's original frontman Jason Smith and one other, Sarah Onyett. There is no date anywhere on this LP, and I don't even know if the songs were originally an LP or not. That all said, this LP has that Bacharach kitshy groove so very popular these days, and features lots of horns, piano and pop choruses, while retaining a slight European flair. The songs are not the sort that grab you immiediately, in fact it took a few listens to get into this disc, but it is clearly the type that gets user friendly. Not to imply I thought it was bad, I liked it right away, but it grows in my estimation every time I hear it. It isn't slow, but has gently sweet pop sensibilities. This is one to grow on.
Label ~ March, 11 Tracks, year unknown
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.8
Cherry Orchard - "This World is Such a Groovy Place" The first track on this disc, Everybody Knows I had first heard on some comp, which was what let me know that this group I had remembered buying a single from was indeed still doing business. May seem strange I didn't know but something can be under ones nose and go un-noticed simply because you aren't looking for it. I guess that was the case here. Anyway, this LP was made in 2000 and I'm assuming it is their most recent. It is not worlds different from the other LP, although this one is recorded a little better I think, and it somehow has a bit more of a polished pop perfection to it. The other LP does not reveal itself as easily as this one does. Even on the second track here Bubblegum Popgirl which is sort of a slow song, the tune drips of every pop kid hook, vibe and line imagineable. It's honey thick pop bliss. That's echoed on songs like Something Special which in honesty is sparsely arranged but is supremely gorgeous. Sometimes less is more. There's bright acoustic guitar, groovy keyboard, excellent songwriting and heartfelt lyrics aplenty on this recording. Both of these LP's are excellent, but if you want to try one first I'd suggest starting here. Bubblegum pop bliss for sure.
Label ~ Lux 07, 11 Tracks, 2000
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.0
Chicklet - "Wanderlust" As stated in the review for Lemon Chandeliers what's most noticeable about this group is how much they sound like Lush, especially lead singer Julie Parks voice. This Lp teeters from fuzzy grunge bliss on cuts like Out of Sight to light and poppy numbers such as Quake. Not to imply the Lp has different styles. Well, it sort of does but in those cases you usually get a disjointed feeling when listening to them, where here it's like watching a chameleon slowly change color. You never really see it happen and suddenly realize your enjoying another flavor. It's more of a change of mood than sound. This is the type of LP I listened to heavily when I got it but now almost never do, just like Lush's Lovelife. The Lush LP is better, but they both share the trait of being the type of thing I can't get enough of for 2 straight weeks then forget about. Then, months later for some reason I'll put one of them on and that's it again, 2 weeks of it and nothing else. So I suppose that's a good if not ringing endorsement.
Label ~ Satellite, 12 Tracks, 1999
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.4
Chicklet - "Lemon Chandeliers" Chicklet is a Toronto band comprised of Julie Park and Daniel Barida. This was the first thing I had gotten by them, and upon hearing the opening cut Kyopo I was almost stunned at the sound of Julies voice. It is an almost identical match to Miki Berenyi of Lush, and the similarities don't stop there. The sound is very reminiscent of Lush at it's very best. (which to me would be the fab Lovelife LP) Daniel sings on track 2 Get Outside and Julie backs him, and it is also quite good. It's not often singers can switch off in groups without it somehow destroying the groups idenity but they can do it. He also sings on track 4 Nocturne which is a quite brilliant little song. This is one groovy EP and is guaranteed to please.
Label ~ Satellite, 5 Tracks, 1997
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