Hip-ometer Rating ~ 1
Fablefactory - "We Won't Rock You" I still do not know what to make of this. I tried to make T review it for me, and he wouldn't do it. All he said was, "If these people can sing and play horns all out of tune and people still let them make a record, then there's hope for anyone, but little for us". I tried to make him hear it when we painted his house, and one of their dumb songs, The Chemicals of Delaware must have stuck in his head, because he kept singing it. He said he still hated it, but it was like a train wreck, you have to look even though it's an ugly sight and then you keep replaying the visage in your mind. It is true that 5 seconds after we put something good on by someone else we couldn't remember how any of this went anymore. If you can get this free, and want something to put on to make you die laughing, this is it. Track titles actually include the likes of: Canned and Creamed Corn, Tobacci Heaven, Low Down No Good Do Right McGee and Woody Woody Pecker Pecker. Otherwise I cannot imagine why anyone would ever buy this and that being the case, why would the people involved go to so much trouble over it. I will never get it. If you want to use avante garde imagery, that's great, do it like the Doleful Lions. This is plain idiocy, with it seems no talent required.
Label ~ HHBTM, 19 Tracks, 2002
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 4
Fablefactory - "Freak Out Hard On You" Their last album freaked me out quite enough thank you, so I was both shocked and distressed when the latest Yummy Yummy promo pack arrived and there was another LP from this band. Man, why me!? One look at the track listings had Banana Pie and Devils Hotrod laughing mockingly as they stared back at me, taunting a review. Well, Banana Pie blows and so does the next song, the Record Store but for the record I will admit this is closer to actually being a record than their last effort was. It isn't a good record, but it has an almost uniformity the last did not. In fact track three Chopter is completely assinine but it has a quirky charm. I'd never listen to it, but when I hear it I do admit to lauging about it, and not so much at it. (well, maybe a little at it) I think if they stop trying to be so avante garde and settle into a sort of folk vein they might actually make a record people would want to hear, because I think there might actually be some talent here but they're too busy, well how do I say it...........being idiots? No, that's not right. They are trying to be extreme for extremities sake, and that is not a good thing. At least I do not think it is. I will say one thing. I'd rather be forced to listen to this than the National Splits I think. And my advice to them is to take some time and try to do it right next time. After all, they have two strikes.....three and I wont' even review number four. The problem however is there will always be those who think this kind of thing is brilliant, which only encourages these kinds of people. They even included The Chemicals of Delaware on it from the last LP as if I ever wanted to hear it again. Time will tell....
Label ~ HHBTM, 13 Tracks, 2002
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.7
Fairways - "Is Everything All Right?" When the opening cut A Song For Jennie comes up, you are instantly transported to a world where you float amongst vapor strewn bubbles while the chimes of bright playful guitars surround you . Yes, pop heaven. This is almost the perfect american pop song, like they used to write years ago. Gears get shifted somewhat on the next track Secretive Girl which has an almost bluesy C&W guitar progression to it, but the song itself stays rooted in pop. I think it's the light minimalism displayed here that makes such an impact, as shown on the next track Close To Me which is a beautiful little song. These guys are probably the kings of whatever one wants to call the scene it is we have on the west coast of the US these days, and this record shows why. Also of special note on this LP is the song KLM Line which is just about as breezy and beautiful a guitar pop song as you're ever going to find. Way too cool.
Label ~ Paris Caramel, 10 Tracks, 2000
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10
Fan Modine - "Homeland" There's no question about it. The cover of this, the second album from Gordon Zacharias is as ugly as all hell. I think it's the fact that the colors are so primary and they certainly fight each other. In the past when I would walk thu record stores to buy things, a cover like this would insure a certain walk by. However, cool covers do not imply cool discs like they once did, and ugly ones don't mean trash. That is certainly true here. One might be inclined to label this twee, but it certainly is not. Sorrow Is The Way To Love by the Carousel is twee. This just seems to move along at a slightly slower pace. It's one of those magical albums where the songs seem heartfelt and full of life, yet if you're tapping to the beat you find your foot moving surprisingly fast. Those sort of tracks remind me of the more heartfelt songs done by Sensation. There is a wide range of instrumentation present, it all gets used beautifully and the album is recorded quite well. On top of that, the pop sensibilities on display here are nothing short of heart wrenching gorgeous. The chorus from The Back And Forth for example is so ethereal you feel yourself coming out of your shoes when listening to it. In many respects it is like the first Sondre Lerche album as it pays tribute to the best of what makes pop music glorious from the 60's thru the late 70's and melds it all together into a sound that's very modern, and a tad english sounding. Somewhat akin to the Firestation act Goldstoned. I have been so busy and my listening time is short lately I have not had the chance to hear this thru the real stereo as often as I'd like. But I am so impressed I ordered the bands first album already because of this. For now I'll only give it a 10. It may deserve the "spurts" and in time I may amend that, but in any case this is one not to be missed this year. It is elegant, beautiful and a joy to listen to. To repeat a current theme: If quiet is the new loud, this simply roars. If only I didn't have to look at it.
Label ~ Grimsey, 10 Tracks, 2004
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 7.8
Fantastic - "Sun: What a Wonderful Word" Here's another hat tossed in the ring of post 60's Bacharach light contemporary ennui. One thing is pretty cool about this though, and that's the CD itself. It's actually a 3" CD made on a standard sized one, and the "extra" area is just clear plastic. It has a square colored center, and is a bit unusual looking. As to the music, it isn't too bad, but again, it's the kind of thing that's getting done to death recently and I personally can only take so much of it. This isn't half bad, but it isn't special in any way either and as this genre isn't my "meat" it takes something special to grab me. It's the kind of thing I will take the odd cut off to put on a compilation CD, but I never listen to it itself straight thru. If you can't get enough of smokey lounges and martini glasses, then belly up to this bar. Me, I'll be out hailing a cab.
Label ~ les Disques Aquatic, 5 Tracks, 2000
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10
Fantastic Something - "Songs in a Small Room" I'm not sure what the deal is with this record, but two guys, apparently brothers named Alex and Constantin Veis recorded songs in a small home studio. For some reason half of them were lost, and none of them were ever released. The 5 that survive were put together for this EP. I thought this was a bit pricey if I'm not mistaken for a 5 song thing, but it certainly is worth it. The songs have a melancholy and poignancy to them that is quite beautiful. They posess that "autumnal" sound so many bands strive for and can never seem to grasp, yet these two achieve it effortlessly. Such is the case on Different Sounds which is a brilliant little song, slow but quick, coy yet ernest and wholly enchanting. More's the pity for the lost cuts, but this thing is truly brilliant and is worth every penny.
Label ~ Siesta, 5 Tracks, 2000
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10
Favorita - "Favorita" Hey everyone, this is Luke here (Spinguy’s partner in the Popsicle Webshop) making a rare guest appearance on the Spinzone. As you may have gathered from the name of the Popsicle Recordings label, it’s me who’s behind the release of this Favorita CD. Spinguy asked me to write this review, not just because he's lazy, but he also wanted to see if I could write an impartial review of an album I’m releasing, so here goes...... Favorita were formed in Southern Sweden in the mid 90’s by Magnus Borjeson after his much-loved band Beagle split up. The band’s label went bust before the album could come out and the release was shelved indefinitely until this year when I convinced Magnus to let me give it the release it deserves. The first thing you’ll notice about this album is that it does not sound like Beagle. There is still a powerpop sensibility to the songs, but gone are the jangly guitars and harmony-layered backing vocals. There is a raw, frenetic energy to songs like “Seven Comforts” and “Now” which literally burst from the speakers with their tales of end-of-the-century disillusionment. The band slow down for the ballads like the simple love song “Innocence” or the closing lament “Well, It’s Only Pain”, and they flex their considerable musical prowess on numbers like “Slowfox and Waltz” and “Surprisingly Cynical Crossword”, a song which features an astonishing middle-eight breakdown which lasts close to 3 minutes. But it’s Magnus’s honest and understated voice which unifies these songs, not to mention his remarkably lyrical bass playing. This is the complete Favorita experience, including seven bonus tracks and both the band’s videos, and it comes in a beautiful digipack package designed by none other than indie pop guru Dan Bryk. Don’t just take my word for it that this is a great album though...you can preview four tracks on Favorita’s Myspace page and a further two on the sales page over at Popsicle. So Spinguy, how did I do? I give it and you a 7.8
Label ~ Popsicle, 19 Tracks, 2007
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.8
Thomas Fehlmann - "Lowflow" This is yet another unknown artist whos other work (he's done so much collaborating he should be called the Quisling on the indie world) is unknown to me. This album is very much like a previous album review of mine by E*vax. It is an instrumental album of organic dance beats which in many ways is similar to the E*vax album only I would say this lives more in the lower octaves, and in some cases much lower. There is also a bit more variety here, with some tracks being quite peculiar, Prefab for example sounding all the world like a John Cage composition. (with all the good and bad that that implies) Obviously this sort of thing isn't for everyone. It is essentially mood music for people with good stereos who want something on while they read a magazine as they subliminally groove to it. The only flaw it has perhaps is the lack of structure. The songs on the E*vax album are decidedly songs. Here, the melange changes so much, and sometimes so wholly that you can't tell if it's still the same song, or if it's the beginning, middle or end. In fact they are less songs than short little symphonic arrangements, with all the change overs that implies. One thing is certain, it makes a great test record, especially for bass. Owing to what it is it's hard to rate. If you like the genre you should check this out, but if you're not sure you might wish to try the E*vax album first.
Label ~ Plug Research, 13 Tracks, 2004
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.7
Fiel Garvie - "Leave Me Out Of This" The first time I heard this, the second LP from this band from Norwich England, I could only wonder from what planet the meteor that brought this here came from. Featuring some of the most oblique vocals I have heard in a long time, I honestly could not tell if this was rank shite or pure genius. However, I think I'm leaning toward the latter. Bjork comes to mind at first, but I think she really is from another planet and frankly since her Sugarcubes days her music hasn't done anything for me. This has a more mysterious quality, where Bjork simply sounds like she's ill. Musically it reminds one of early 4AD stuff, and as they are english they get that bit quite right. And it isn't even like this is queer or something and you have to attune yourself to it, but rather it's an odd private moment you have stumbled upon and you aren't sure if you should stay or go, or speak up or remain quiet. You don't want to look yet you can't turn away from it. Never has the word enigmatic been a more appropriate label for a band. This is going to take a long time to fully absorb, as it is very complex and things like that need to grow with you and on you but I can say with certainty that this is a very special album and I rated it high but with room to grow. It is due in the shops on Sept. 29th and I would certainly consider putting it on your list. Perhaps the infectious itch of 03. Oooeeerr... me 'eads all wobbly....
Label ~ Words On Music, 11 Tracks, 2003
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.3
Figurine - "Transportation + Communication = Love" Since I reviewed their second disc months ago this one is now long overdue being their first. I'd say right off the biggest difference is that it is much more "historical" in style, and this copies alot from early Kraut-rock, most notably Kraftwerk, and it's a lot more kitschy in it's presentation than their second. (sound effects with the voices, computer noises, getting "abducted" during a song etc..) I had a very hard time getting this, but apparently it got reprinted a second time with a different cover (this one?) and a bonus live track from an OOP 7". I suppose I'd have to say if you own the second and like it you'll like this too. Which one you like better is a question of say which depeche mode you like better, the early Vince tinted one or the soaring, "majestic" older one. This one definetly has a late 70's feel about it, with even hints of early OMD. I think maybe I like this one more, although this one does sort of lag a little near the end. Still, if you like techno this will certainly please.
Label ~ Blackbean, 16 Tracks, 1999
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.3
Figurine - "The Heartfelt" I'm coming into this act ass backwards as it were. I heard a clip by them called My Suitor on some comp cd and while it was quirky it grew on me the more I heard it. I'm assuming that song was them, as it isn't on either of their two albums. Anyway, try as I might I could not get their damn first LP. EVERY time I found someone who had it and I ordered it I got the old "it's out of stock, sorry" written on my invoice when the box comes. In fact, I got this their second LP first and actually only just got their first one finally but I have not even listened to it yet. This one has been a real surprise. Unfortunately I have not gotten to listen to this thru the mains because of my family but it sounds to be recorded quite well and sounds like it would be a treat thru them. I also assumed the female member who sang My Suitor would be their main singer but it is not so, as a guy carries the bulk of that duty. In typical indie fashion they say not who they are, and I'm too tired to find out or care. Anyway, the record. Not surprisingly I suppose (in typical fashion that is) the back has 14 tracks listed but the cd has 15 songs. (did Barcelona start a trend?) The initial song, International Space Station II is a slow and morose instrumental with beats that overmodulate and make the speakers break up, which is followed by really harsh whining type sounds and then child like chimes. The last minute and a half has vocals but I really could live never hearing it again. The next track, Impossible has some really great driving retro synth lines and sort of reminds me of the band My Favorite. It's quite a perky and great song. The next track, Pswd:stdum has an almost modern pop synth line, something you'd expect from a Swing Out Sister song and while good is only a short instrumental. The next song Rewind has a strong acoustic guitar presence among the synths which is really odd but it works like hell. In fact, I really dig this song a great deal. It's sung in duet and walks that line between pop and sentimentality. This album in fact pretty much follows a real pop recipie, but it's mixed with an odd assortment of sounds and styles which by and large this band manages to pull off. Songs like So Futuristic are so retro yet fresh it really takes me back. If you like synth, or pop, (especially early Depeche) this is certainly an Lp you'll want to own. I can press 2 on the remote when I stick it in, it's a small price to pay.
Label ~ March, 15 Tracks, 2001
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10+
Fine - "Now That We're Alone" Again we have T to thank for this one. Another semi obscure group from a semi obscure label and he hits another homer. This band hails from Spain but lead singer Desiree has a accent lilt to her voice which reminds me of the vocal stylings of Katherina Franck from the German band Rainbirds. The first track Seymour Why? is as poptastic as all hell, and reminds me of something from the Shelflife label perhaps. It's got nice horn bits, jangly guitar as is a really lush pop song. This album is another of those that really is ringing some bell in my head and making me think this sounds ALOT like someone else if only I could figure out what. Fishing For Birds for example in some respects reminds me of Swing Out Sister, and in some it doesn't. In any event it's a really great song. Then there's Lazy Life which owes alot to Swedish disco stylings and is followed by He Smiles Sometimes which starts as a slow acoustic guiatr number which turns into a slow rock ballad. Some tracks also have a distictive jingly guitar intro in the vein of say Max Eider. This is that odd bird, which is varied yet somehow always remains true to itself, and what's more, it's a great little pop record. She sings with genuine emotion and her voice has a rare and unique beauty, and the songs are just all great. I liked this a lot when it came out, but over time it has become one of my most cherished albums. I simply adore it and would die without it, truly.
Label ~ Strange Ones, 11 Tracks, 2001
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.5
Fine Arts Showcase - "Radiola" Following their debut "Gustaf Kjellvander proudly presents The Fine Arts Showcase & The Electric Pavilion, released in 2004, Radiola is a somewhat interesting and varied outing with Gustaf singing in a dark and cooly miked yet earnest voice which at times reminds me a bit of the Zincs. While there are a few anthemic "bigger than life" ballads on here such as the starter The Shoplifters Union and a measure of unique song structure thruout, for some reason, and I don't quite know why, this album never reached me on any kind of deeper level. It has some nice songs that I am moderately fond of, but I find it tough to sit and listen to as a whole and usually wound up taking it off before the end. While the drone of the new Radio Dept album didn't cause me any duress, this I do kind of find monotone and repetitive, but the drone comes more I believe from the way his voice is miked and the way he's trying to use it than the music itself. None of this however is a real critique as much as it is a personal preference of mine. So while I always suggest you listen to clips and be your own judge before buying that advice isn't particularly apt in this case as you'll hear the great clips and none of the monotony. What I like I like a lot, just as a whole I'm not sure about it, yet....
Label ~ Adrian, 13 Tracks, 2006
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10
Firefox AK - "Madame, Madame!" As Andrea Kellerman wandered the mean streets of London several years ago dreaming about going back home to sweden she chanced upon a fire hydrant with the word FIREFOX written on it. Strangely, that was her impetus to return home and write a collection of songs which she recorded with the help of an old classmate named Viktor Ginner which eventually became her new bands name and this, her debut album. (with her initials following the name firefox) Apparently she's doing fairly well, she tours a bit (love to see that) and the album sold well in europe I believe, and justly so. The music is very electronic and has both a sweet and sour edge to it all at once, kind of like german synth pop sturm und drang meets early Madonna, but far more cerebral. I actually wasn't sure about this the first time I heard it, but it must have been an off night, because the next and all subsequent listens have been quite special. It's an exceptional album without a clunker to be found and if you like the genre it comes very highly recommended. It is musically strong and her voice has a very special quality about it that almost commands repeated listening, aside from it's beauty. Quite engaging on so many levels, this is about as good as this sort of thing gets. It's rather hypnotizing actually.
Label ~ Razzia, 10 Tracks, 2006
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.8
Florian - "Florianopolis" I must first thank Christer from the band Aerospace who sent this to me thru his connection with dashboard records. This is one of the most unusual releases I've gotten in a while for many reasons. Apparently there are 9 members in this band (although the music doesn't sound that full) and it appears as if the average age of the band members looks to be about 15. (what, the swedes don't control enough of the indiepop market, now they're starting pop sweatshops?) Wait, it gets weirder. Musically, this is like a twee version of the June Brides (viola, horns and all) with late 80's britpop girl vocals. To top all that off, the girl on the cover looks like my kid wearing a bear mask and a red mechanics jump suit. All that and this ends in a cover of Ghetto Love. Do I need to add more? It is in many ways as eclectic as all that sounds, at times failing to move me while at others it really interested me. (ghetto love not least of all) I think they most succeed on the track Hello Green Fields which starts with a neo-Kate Bush operatic quality but soon gets very indie, adds piano, a great beat and becomes a very enchanting song. (I really dig it a LOT) My biggest problem with the record is it gets a little too minimalistic on some tracks, which would seem an impossibility with 9 members (I would love to see what they're all actually doing) and the recording could have been better (esp. vocals), but around the middle it gets going and the second half has some of the more interesting moments. A very interesting release over all and it contains a few real gems. If this band actually lasts and is not just a one off affair it might do some great things in time. This is an eye opener for sure. Listen to the June Brides reinvented in twee yourself on the mp3 of their song When I Spend Time With You There Is A party Now, where is the number for Mr. Wilson's solicitor.....?
Label ~ Dashboard, 9 Tracks, 2003
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.6
Flume - "Note To Self" This is another band submitted disc, this band hailing from the DC area but oddly enough the disc revealed this was recorded down the road from me in Reading (That's "red-ing", not "read-ing") and was mastered in Reinholds. Reinholds?! By who, Lucas Heintzelman? "Say now, dat wuz pretty gut but my machine got rutschy. I say junior, when it comes da little red light the tape's all. Is there tape yet? Then get me a new roll over the counter once and we'll soon have this, cause I'm getting wonderful tired. Work hard all day I must, then in the evening I speak english yet!" If you didn't understand any of that you better stay out of the Dutch country. This band sounds like and reminds me a bit of Charming when they aren't doing their disco thing, female vocals and all. The opener You Used To is good but a little brusk to my ears. I much prefer the second track Borrowed Apartments which has that west coast kind of sound (Laura Watling, but with a budget) and track three is that and a mix of the Swedish band Cinnamon (and the Shermans). It's breezy, with a great keyboard line and while it's very typical of todays scene it's quite good with it's own personality. This has a nice and varied flavour to it as a whole, certainly adult, and almost a little smoky sexy at times as well. If any of the mentioned bands appeal I can certainly recommend this album. It's very pop friendly without suffering from "twee" problems. It's generally and genuinely likeable.
Label ~ Bittersweet, 10 Tracks, 2002
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.6
FM Knives - "Useless and Modern" This came and went out of print a few times already I think, and when Tonevendor got it again recently I finally got mine. Anything that promised to mirror the best of the Buzzcocks was something I wanted to hear. I played the brilliant track 16 DOA for T and he quickly said "This is a cover...". I said I wasn't sure at first either, but that no, all the song credits are to them. One would be inclined to think it if they heard the song because it encapsulates every great riff and hook from the mod punk period of the last quarter of the 70's. If you're old like us, you'll swear you heard that before.... It does sounds quite a bit like the Buzzcocks for the record, short of the voice. There is also liberal use of the "F" word and in this context it seems right at home. This is a really great record, which is both punk and sometimes mod and so caricatures it's subject it literally becomes it. Muscially it is full of very catchy guitar hooks and 3 chord melodies and while the Buzzcocks are the most instant comparison, alot is borrowed from many other bands of that period. In fact it's very hard to rate this. If it came out in 1979 I'd give it a 10, but since they are plumbing the waters so exactly of what others did before, they have to lose a few points. Those taken off, this is a brilliant and really hook laden record. Anyone can copy, but few can do it REALLY well on top of it, and this is done really, really well. Strongly recommended if you like the genre.
Label ~ Broken Rekids, 13 Tracks, 2002
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.4
Folksongs For The Afterlife - "Put Danger Back In Your Life" This did test my patience at first, as it takes nearly a minute for the first track to get going, and all the while one must put up with more overt record noise and "popping". Guys, it's been done to death, enough already. (and it wasn't a good idea to begin with) In fact it pretty much ruins the first track for me. However, the next song Death By Melody is not only great it has a title you can't believe nobody came up with before. As for their sound, it rooted in guitar pop but it meanders around a little bit, and they at times remind me of other female vocal led groups today, especially the Pearly Gatecrashers on this albums money song Lockaway. And that's not a bad thing. It gives them a sort of instant air of familiarity yet they are nobody's clones and do have their own unique presence once you've heard the album a few times. The cover might lead you to think this was goth, or depressing, and it is neither. It does have a sound that lends to mind the 80's as well, although it's hard to peg it and I'm not really sure I ought to be trying to. This is actually quite a good album aside from my problems with ther first track, but that's the song I'd prefer to be bad as I can always hit the 2 button when I play it. If you like girl pop/rock with a slightly moody edge and solid beats and hooks and well constructed songs, then this will make you quite happy. It isn't brilliant but it's very, very good and it's just enjoyable to listen to. I think this band is certainly one to watch for the future
Label ~ Hidden Agenda, 11 Tracks, 2003
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.3
Fondas - "Coming Now!" I came across this Detroit band while touring Parasols vinyl section and was struck by the notice that they were NOT that other band called "Fonda". Well, I never liked that other Fonda so much, and as this pressing was a special blue vinyl I gave them a chance. The record is gorgeous, (the nicest blue record I own, most tend to be too dark) and I was happy with the music as well. The album is at times similar to the Bristols in that they plumb an early Beatles type of rock sound, married to some of the better known girl groups of the time, then swing to a mix of Garbage meets the Pretenders on a track likeWanna Be. Lead singer Julie Benjamin has a nice pair of umm... lungs, and on some tracks, most notably Watching The Late Show the band, and especially she, sound like the Scottish blues rock band Texas. She doesn't quite have the pipes of Sharleen Spiteri, but she comes close and is good in any case. The songs also fit this category of being very serviceable. If nothing is overly outstanding, nothing stinks either. That makes this a very yeoman like record that while it doesn't strike you instantly grows on you more with every listen until all the songs become old friends, and there aren't so many records like that anymore. I'm nearing the end of side two and You're Heart Belongs To Me, a really great ballad is typical of what I mean. I can feel it sliding up my nape like the sexy serpent it is. I like this record.
Label ~ Sympathy Records, 15 Tracks, year unknown 12" LP
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9
For Against - "Coalesced" Again my paperwork for this band got lost in the shuffle of the past few months with some of the others. If I remember correctly they are from Nebraska (or someplace thereabouts that's cold and flat) and this is something like their 8th or 88th album. Now that I set you up so splendidly, what do they sound like? I'd almost be moved to say they are Nebraskas answer to Riverside only they got harvested a little too early. The comparison in sound is certainly there to be made, mostly in the melody and the layered guitar. They don't have quite the sparkliness Riverside did and while this disc is overall pretty good, the songs do sort of tend to start sounding a little bit similar. It is also recorded slightly one dimesionally, in that the soundstage is a bit flat front to back. Those of you like my friend Stan who's stereo is his computer (I kid you not) probably wouldn't even notice this, but it does merit mentioning. I know because I wasn't sure so I took it to tims and listened to it thru his magnepans. Nice, but a bit flat. Tim of course didn't like it (Of my 2 closest music friends, Stan owns mega $$ in music and doesn't have a stereo, and tim has a mega $$ stereo and hates everything he hears). While this is an interesting record it could be better, and even though they are on the cusp of being quite excellent this still stands out when compared to what most US bands are doing, so kudos to them. The songs are just fair to good. There are no bad ones, but no brilliant ones either. They ought to add a sax player and move to the east coast and let one of the ex Ocean Blue members produce their next LP. Until then, this is still worth your attentions for sure even though it comes closer to an EP than LP at 7 songs.
Label ~ Words On Music, 7 Tracks, 2002
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9
Fosca - "The Agony Without the Ecstacy" Once upon a small green land a man named Dickon Edwards (Dickon being an old english diminutive of Richard, his birth name) belonged to a group named Shelley, then another named Orlando. He left this collaboration in 1998 to go johnny-hopping around the globe as a guitar for hire with the well known Spearmint. However none of this was fullfilling the need, the yearning within. This was a man with aspirations to conquer the world on his terms. It was with this in mind that he envisioned the idea of Fosca as a solo outlet for himself. (Fosca being an invalided bookworm character from a Sondheim play) He tried several line-ups, vocalists and styles before a chance encounter in the Charing Cross Tube station where he met Alex Sharkey, latter of the once famed Sarah label group Brighter. Also added was a woman named Rachel Stevenson (synths, vocals) who oddly enough first met Dickon in the audience at a Brighter gig and the final piece was cellist (yes, cellist) Shiela B. The lineup complete, the fashionable Dickon, who refers to himself as "A failed model, hairdresser, journalist and idiot savant" felt the need and changed his last name to Angel to make the transformation complete. This is the first single with the current lineup, and the title track is the shortest and first song on the LP to follow. Bright, driving and possessing insightful lyrics, it's quite a catchy tune. The other two tracks while quite good, don't quite hold up to the measure of the LP which follows, both being a bit "closed" sounding in comparison, yet still worth a listen. This certainly perked up anticipation of the LP to follow.
Label ~ Shinkansen, 3 Tracks, 2000
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10+
Fosca - "On Earth to Make the Numbers Up" This LP was recorded and produced by Ian Catt, known for his work with the likes of Trembling Blue Stars and St. Etienne. Which is no surprise with Fosca being on the Shinkansen label, which has become the most important indy label in the UK. Two things are quickly noticed upon looking at the LP. It is only 8 songs, yet comes in at 45 minutes. Inspection reveals the songs are all almost 5 minutes and longer. History tells us this is not usually a good thing, the ideal pop song should be clocking in at the two minute mark. History can be wrong however. One of the first things I do when listening to a new record (excuse me, I am still in love with that word) is to peruse the lyrics. What struck me first is that they read like a monologue, not like "proper" lyrics. Then the music. The Associates first came to mind but no, not so bowie-esque, so glam. Then perhaps New Order? Hmmmmm... Soon the overpowering persona of our Dickly entered into it as well. No, this needed a definite rethink. Make New Order and I Start Counting (an obscure English group I'm sure none of you know) lorries and smash them at full speed into Morrissey hard enough that he stops whining and I think you've got it. It's Going to End in Tears, the second track, starts very bright, very dancy. What is remarkable about Dickons voice is that he isn't quite singing, it's more of an aural complaint, but he's not a sulker like Morrissey. He is a bitchy hairdresser, but an absolutely brilliant one. (How it so often is that sardonic stylists seem to exhibit such wistful execution and command of the English language I have never fully understood. I suppose I need to spend more time in the salons. Not only does this album have 8 songs of (what is lately) rare glory, it has a man with an attitude and a brilliantly poison pen. He makes ol' Moz look like the wilted lilly he has become, and the rest of them, well, falter in comparison. "No one write em' like they used to?" Au contrair, but then, no one wrote em' like this before either. This is singly the best record to come out of the UK in 2000. In this hour of need, in my moment of rapture, it stands heads above any LP New Order ever made. Until the rest catch on, let this be our mantra - "I alone am mine....and Fosca alone is ours."
Label ~ Shinkansen, 8 Tracks, 2000
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.6
Fosca - "Diary of an Antibody" One glimpse of my review of their first record showed I truly felt they were the second coming, the band which would lead us out of the land of shadow. However, I have harboured the fear they would fall into the abyss of parody (or worse) because nothing is the kiss of death like making your first LP one of the best ones ever made. That's what did Lloyd Cole did and I think it took him years to get past it, and how can you recover from that? What is there left to say or do, and more importantly, is it possible top it? (Should you even be trying to for that matter? And should us bastards be expecting you to?) More troubling, one of the key members of this band, Alex Sharkey, left. So I have been on pins for many months awaiting this thing. Well, it was immediately noticeable that this did not sound anything like the last record. One might fairly attribute that to a number of things besides the lineup change, however the best (and most familiar sounding) track on this is Supine on the Astroturf which is the only Dickon/Sharkey collaboration on the LP, and therein lies our smoking gun. This band was brilliant for it's soaring synth/cello sound annotated by Dickon talking his anguished, ironic and wry lyrics. On this disc the Morrissey-esque epithets are still here, as evidenced in titles like Oh Well Theres Always Reincarnation but the beat is all wrong, the songs sound choppy and laboured and the percussion plays too big a part in the songs. Had I never heard them, I'd probably like this well enough and well, I still sort of do, but this bastard took me to the promised land once. I don't want to get off the bus at Tottenham now. This isn't very bad, just to me very disappointing. I can only hope it's a hiccup in the road, and that he sorts his sound out. You might think a near 9 is a good rating, and it is, but when your last was a 37 on a scale of 1-10 you've come a long way down. I still think he's the one we've been waiting for, and I hope they tour the US this winter, but I can only now wonder whether me and my true love will ever meet again......
Postscript: I had been trying to interview this cad for YEARS, and he kept promising to do it while apologising for not doing it until eventually it never did and never will get done. I was a bit peeved about that due to all the work I did on it, and the fact he stopped replying at all, but I have to be truthful about the music and time has showed me the errors of my ways. I can and will say this is much better than I'd given it credit for, and have amended the score apropriately.
Label ~ Shinkansen, 10 Tracks, 2002
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.3
Free Loan Investments - "Ever Been To Mexico? EP" This Swedish outfit is the latest band of ex head Nixon member Roger Gunnarsson who has teamed up with Amanda Aldervall (with help from Sherman/Aerospaceman Christer Nilsson on bass and Jesper Nyren on drums) Ed Shelflife failed to send this to me originally when it came out last year. So I whined like a woman because I had read them compared to the Shop Assistants who were always a fave band of mine since their beginning and he promptly sent it along. I would say the song structures are reminiscent of the Shoppies at times, but while Amanda has a nice voice, not unsimilar to many other UK women of that period, she doesn't have the pipes of Alex Taylor. So in that regard this comes across more directly C86, not that that's a bad thing. The songs are medium to short in length, crisp, beat happy and to the point. This calls itself punk. The Shop Assistants sort of were but this however is not reaching the level of "harangue" they did on tracks like Home Again. There was also more misery and less of an overt happy air about the Shoppies music. Uplifting, but not happy. This is a bit more on the bubbly side. In fact, this reminds me of the Charlottes album "Lovehappy" which I just happened to listen to the other day. Both in vocals and sound. I would venture that this is not quite brilliant but it is quite good and as I'm partial to this sort of thing my biggest complaint is it's only 6 songs. I have a feeling the next thing by this band will be very good so we can only wait with some expectations. Until then, this is a must if you are partial to bubbly and perhaps a tad grittier late 80's guitar pop.
Label ~ Shelflife, 6 Tracks, 2002
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.9
Freezepop - "Forever" I had downloaded a clip from this band years ago and liked it, but never followed up on it. Who knows why this sometimes happens, but it does. Then not long ago while listening to a comp CD I swapped with someone, I discovered the track I liked most on it was also them. That did it. Only Amazon had the title anymore as it's getting older, so this is how this whole adventure started. (at that it was only available as buy it "new/used". I had never used that before at amazon, but I got 2 things that day this way, they were both in excellent shape, came sooner than the amazon order did, and cost a bit less than amazons regular price. Don't be afraid to use the service, it was great) As for this album, I really like it a lot. There are a number of early 80's bands they sound like, most you probably wouldn't know so I won't bother. From sweet pop chart numbers like Plastic Stars or Tender Lies to the retro Japanese kitsch of Tennis Boyfriend (which is also the included video) this album has it all. I really like the lyrics in Robotron 2000 which has the refrain; "The worlds in chaos now, it's Y2K, he wants me in that special way, he whispers in his robot voice - (robot voice) I'll keep you safe today and make you feel ok". Like you would expect of the genre, it's recorded very well, sounds great thru good gear and it's just a delight in every possible way. All their songs are written on a Yamaha QY-70 as well and I saw you can get them on ebay used for $150-200. The funniest thing is they are very small and run on batteries, which somehow seems very appropriate for this band. If you're like me and didn't get this yet, don't wait any longer. It's one of the best of it's genre for sure.
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Label ~ Archenemy, 12 Tracks + video, 2000
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.7
Freezepop - "Fancy Ultra-Fresh" How bizarre was this, that literally the day I wrote the review for their first album, a promo pack arrived in the mail containing this their brand new lp? I'd barely absorbed the first and I had a new one to deal with. I don't normally write reviews so quickly after getting things, but I think I have the gist of this one already, and have heard it a number of times already, plus they seemed destined to appear together. The problem I would expect from a second outing here would be, what do they do? A band this kitschy creates it's own problems, because if they imitate the first lp they'll be quickly dismissed, yet that's the very thing that makes them unique. They have to grow, yet remian true to what they are, while staying interesting. That kills a lot of bands on record number two my friends. In this case, I think in their desire for "expansion" lets say, they do allow some tracks to go on too long, and not every idea on here is a good one, but overall this is a very solid effort. (I am being picky, but I'm a critic after all) The opener, Stakeout is quintessentially them, yet it's fresh and a welcome little pop number. Outer Space is also a very welcome change, as it's a very soft and emotive ballad in which Liz shows she really does have a very nice voice, and musically it's very unlike their past work, and certainly more adult. They still retain their playful qualities however, so don't think they've sold out or anything, but the mood on many of the songs here is more laid back and smooth. I think I like the original just a tad more, and only for the "fresh" quality it has. However, this is clearly an excellent effort that shows this band knows both who they are, and where they're heading and in time it may grow to surpass the first in my opinion. They didn't try to exceed what they are, or be something they're not. There's a lot of good songs on here, and a few great ones, and I think the future looks bright for them. In fact, the only sad news is the Duke of Candied Apples is now the Duke of Pannekoeken. I'd rather duke it over candy apples than european pancakes, and even my kid was sad at the change. Maybe next time he'll be "the artist formerly known as the Duke of Candied Apples". I don't care, so long as it's an LP this good.
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Label ~ Archenemy, 12 Tracks, 2004
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 7.9
Frenchmen - "Sorry, We Ruined Your Party" I had considered getting this but hadn't, and when I saw T-baby got it I borrowed it for examination. It is all the things it claims to be, lo-fi jangle with a hint of the late 80's (although I would say a hint of the late 80's as heard thru Heavenly). After two listens I came to the conclusion I don't really like this. Not because it's bad, but rather it did nothing for me and for a while I began to wonder if perhaps my problem was that I'm just getting old or something. Then I remembered that I never really liked this kind of lo-fi garage band type of sound even when I wasn't old. I think the problem is when you target your sound to such a narrow field, one where expression isn't really an asset when the goal is a wall of sound (noise) the end result is a grab bag of sound that hardly changes and if it does nobody seems to notice. Now, don't mistake me, as I don't dislike this and some songs are fairly good, but I simply find I don't care. I am sure I'm not going to buy it or borrow it again to listen to. If tracks from it came on the radio, (if a station would even play them and I actually listened to the radio which I don't) I'd probably enjoy it well enough. That's about the best plug I can give it. It reminds me of a lot of the bands who tried to cash in on the Shop Assistants sound in the 80's like the Flatmates and the Charlottes, who's records I own but feel the same way about that I feel about this. I can hear some things in it I do like, but the over all effort is not reaching me. Kudos for the effort gang, but it just didn't speak to me. The rest of you will have to give them a listen and come to your own conclusion.
Label ~ Clairecords, 12 Tracks, 2004
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 7.7
David Fridlund - "Amaterasu" This was another I'd been unsure about for a long time. I heard and saw the video for the clip April & May last year and found it to be like the auditory version of a disfiguring car wreck. The song is right out of a Tim Burton film, the camera keeps zooming in on Davids less than attractive teeth and there is a vibe in it that is a little creepy, but yet, I kept coming back to it. Even more peculiar (to me at least) he looks like the swedish version of Lee Harvey Oswald. So as I began to get more addicted to that song I eventually broke down and got the album, but even then I could not stop straddling the fence. Many listenings later I have come to the conclusion that while there are a few nice tracks on here (mostly toward the beginning) generally speaking I did not find this engrossing or engaging in any way. It is composed in a meter and style I don't find particularly attractive and despite being recorded very well it just didn't cut my mustard. It is also not a case of more time being needed. I've invested more than enough and I am quite sure: On a whole this ain't doin it for me, just one or two moments in an otherwise forgettable affair.
Label ~ Hideen Agenda, 13 Tracks, 2005
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.4
Friends - "Roads Leading Everywhere" This is another retro release from 1989 that T picked up. (actually I think he ordered it direct from the UK and paid a fortune for it) I can't say I recall this band, which makes it another circa 1989 band swept under the rug (re- Siddeleys, Desert Wolves, Chairs etc...) by the myopic English press and recording industry. The opener here, You'll Never See That Summertime Again has all the hooks and jangles of that period, slightly overt brit accents, and the song is crafted musically just like we'd want, to send chills down and tingles up the spine. The next track All Around You Know throws in horns to make the joy complete. I don't know which of the two is the lead singer, but his voice is typically british yet has a quality which makes it unique. (he's closer to talking the lyrics than actually singing which is sometimes the case) The album does suffer being a little similar, but it's a good similar and if you like this sort of thing you'll like this a great deal. A little more poppy and mature than the Brillaint Corners lets say, but not the guitar edge of the Railway Children. This could almost be the epitome of jangly Brit pop actually. Domestic labels take note: Sign this band and release this here, as it's sure to do well and few are going to do what T did to get this.
Post Script: This thing kept reminding me of something I couldn't place, but I finally realized what in the car today. It was upon listening to Everyone Knows and it made me think of the Church, especially the song Under the Milky Way or whatever it's called, which this song sounds a little like.
Label ~ Summerhouse, 10 Tracks, 2001
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.5
Friends of Sound - "Rock-Ola" This band is a husband and wife affair which hails from Alabama or some such place that you'd least expect. The songs themselves are not what you might have anticipated either. They are a homogeneous mix of almost every type of sound and instrument one could imagine, and the singer "husband" Reed Lochamy has that deep Bela Lugosi meets Bing Crosby vibe going on with his voice. But by the time the first track Commitment is done, heaven help you you're hooked. It's as damn brilliant as it is quirky, as it hypnotises you with lines like "...and you're not going back to Kansas" while the beat bangs on to the drones of a ghostly harmonica. Sure as all hell nobody ever has done anything like this before, and if anything, they need some kudos for creating what is probably the newest kind of sound to be presented in a long time. Despite the oddity of it all, there is a strong sense of melody to the songs, as on the exquisit Dallas Palace which sounds like sproinging springs but the melody and lyrics are fantastic. One oddity I found is that this LP can be tough thru the mains, but I enjoy it alot thru headphones. I think my system reproduces it too well, and it gets tough to absorb it all and ear fatigue follows. That breadth of soundstage isn't there thru headphones however. I don't know if that's something I've alone noticed or others have experienced, but it doesn't really distract from what is an ambitous and often brilliant effort.
Label ~ Hidden Agenda, 16 Tracks, 2000
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8
From - "The American EP" From is Roni Brunn, a woman from, well hell, to be honest I can't keep straight where she's from but she now lives in California and this is the first release on her own Brand Records. At six tracks this comes in as a long ep or short lp as you prefer, of synth laden, very 80's styled drum machine techno with angular, somewhat angry and monotone vocals. (all written, played and recorded by herself) If you find that genre appealing you will most likely quite enjoy this. I generally like it, it at times reminding me of a synthy and more angry Shop Assistants, but I did find that I think she has a much better voice than she realizes and the monotone vocalizing does her more of a dis-service than helps. Of course some people might prefer it this way but I rather think her stock will go much higher if she can relax and let her pipes loosen up a bit more and display a bit more range. This outing does however nail it's genre and it does have a few catchy tracks so if interested you can visit her and learn more at her My Space page. I found this debut quite promising, and the chocolates rather delicious.
Label ~ Brand, 6 Tracks, 2006
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.6
Fugu - "Fugu 1" Isn't this the fish Homer ate then thought he was going to die? If you're a fan of Paul McCartney, you might get that reaction after hearing this record. This band hails from France and lead singer Mehdi Zannad sounds an awful lot at times like the aforementioned Beatle, and the songs have an air of 60ish guitar pop. T-baby said they sound like Wings, like he would even know, he never even owned a record. (he has since denied saying this) I'd say this affair is more Sgt. Peppers or Revolver period sounding. Variations Fitzwilliam sounding very Pepper like, and when Vibravox starts, holy crap does this sound like McCartney singing a White album type ditty. I mean you could tell someone stupid (or not even) it was some rare McCartney out-take and his voice is so exact and the song is so it they'd believe it. You'd almost expect this thing was produced by George Martin as well as it is strewn with horn bits, harpsichord and all the accoutriments. The whole thing is a trip down memory lane, or is that abbey road? If you like the Beatles, and who really doesn't even if you get tired of hearing them, then this is a no brainer.
Label ~ Minty Fresh, 18 Tracks, 2001