Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.7
Garlands - "(picnic, lightning)" I remember seeing an interview with Robert Smith of Cure fame years ago and he was ranting about how New Order totaly stole their career from him. I never really heard that musically, at least not to the degree he was going off about, until I heard the first track of this EP Bird on The Make which is (what I thought was) New Order guitar sounds wrapped around Cure melodies, but wait, is that Cure guitar sounds and New Order melodies? It literally slides back and forth between both, and it becomes so seamless I suppose I can now hear what he was on about. That being said, lead singer (Gary Olson?) doesn't sound like either of them. Apparently they are from New York and I see this was mixed by Andy Chase of Ivy fame. It's all actually quite good, sometimes getting "Cocteau like" ambient as well and I don't think I'd be far off saying this easily sounds like some 80's 4AD type release. The songs are all good, there are no "gems" but perhaps that's good. I think this band shows promise if they can forge a more individual sound from the parts they are borrowing. If you can get past the somewhat obvious similarities and you like the bands "implied" you'll find this quite welcome.
Label ~ Mister Records, 6 Tracks, 1999
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.9
Gentle Waves - "Swansong For You" This is of course the solo project of Isobel from Belle and Sebastian fame. But if you're expecting their sound you won't find it here. There are hints of it on tracks such as Falling From Grace which is one of the most upbeat songs on this outing and is more than a bit nice. This certainly isn't a bad record, in fact there are a lot of quite lovely songs on it, but it wades, well hell, it doesn't wade, this IS Twee. Too much of that I cannot take, but actually this LP does break it up a bit with jazzy little numbers like Sisterwoman which I like a lot and it's probably the high point of the record. After that it's pretty much slow twee like songs which aren't bad, but as they all sound so similar, especially with all the minimalism, it becomes one 15 minute dirge. I think every song on here is good, but they'd be best taken out and intermixed with other stuff on a compilation CD for the car or whatever. At least I find it tough to listen to this whole thing straight thru, but individually I like every song.
Label ~ Jeepster, 10 Tracks, 2000
Hip-ometer Rating ~ Unavailable
Astrud Gilberto - "Look To the Rainbow" OK, lets just say it. I'm stupid. I mean really stupid. I suppose I should have known who this woman was, but frankly I didn't. She only came to my attention in light of Club 8 constantly getting compared to her. (which I am more than ever not getting) So when I saw Twee Kitten had her records and they were highly recommended (I'm gonna kill that guy) I ordered one. Well, wouldn't you know that VERY night I'm sitting there, probably working on this damn site, and this commercial comes on for some jazz compilation CD set and don't I turn around just in time to see Astrud Gilberto singing The Girl From Ipanema! Aaahhhhhh! THAT'S HER?! What did I do?! Well, now I know this woman was the siren of South America (almost 40 years ago too no less) and this record I just got is from 1966. Oh holy crap. I suppose I should be ashamed for carrying on so, but this is the type of salsa bossa nova orchestra music my parents listened to, and I cried over. I might as well be reviewing Lawrence Welk records next. I'm sorry, it certainly isn't bad, but I have no desire to hear Portuguese Washerwoman. It flashes to my mind a giant RCA television, an orange pile rug, sputnik and a childhood I'd rather forget. All I can picture when listening to this is a lot of bad tv shows with girls in beehive hairdoos and guys in bril-creme dancing in lime green polyester clothes, with Welk bopping along with his 6" baton. I'm pretty expansive in my music tastes but sadly here I do falter. I am sure this is probably very good, but I am unable to even rate it properly. Certainly someone in your family will be old enough to like it. It isn't that I dislike it, but I cannot imagine the musical circumstance in which I would imagine myself actually listening to it. Oh mom........I have something for you....
Label ~ Verve, 17 Tracks, 1966/2000
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.4
Girlfriend - "Opening Nights" We have to backtrack a bit further to get to this Danish bands debut, which came out in 2001. While there are some unquestionable similarities to fellow Danes Moi Caprice, this band follows more closely to a UK frame of sound reference, with chiming ambient guitars. In fact the song Blank reminds me a lot in structure of something Keane would do, only with guitar replacing piano, and what's more this band did it first. In fact Keane would be a fair comparison point, as lead singer Jens Henrik likes to belt it out with all the gut busting emotion one could want, but he has his tender moments as well. If you are a fan of the more current genres of UK power pop then you'll want to take a look back to this album if you don't own it as it offers a lot for the aficionado to enjoy, and the best part is it gets even better on the next outing.
Label ~ Great Music, 10 Tracks, 2001
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.9
Girlfriend - "Blue Sky Love Scene" The obvious first thing one notices is that this is the same cover shot as their debut album. The only difference of course is it is now daytime and the shot features a somewhat sad looking girl. That's an interesting connection one doesn't see too often. This is their second long player, and came out late last year and all the things I remarked about their debut is true here, only the sound is, (What, more mature?!) well, a little, but I would say perhaps more cohesive and unified. Less a case of growing than putting all the parts in the right places. In another odd twist they have added piano so my previous Keane comparison takes on even more water. This is just a sublime and enjoyable romp, which runs the gamut from tender ballads like In Your Eyes to run away chart busting poppers like the very Brit inspired Motorways. This is quite good and likely to be found somewhere in my end of the year listings. What's more, it has not been generally available elsewhere so we now have it in our Popsicle shop, but like always, do not hesitate. Quantities can end at any time.
Label ~ Great Music, 12 Tracks, 2004
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.6
Go-Betweens - "Spring Hill Fair" Ahhh, another of my sordid crimes, as years ago when this came out I laid it aside to get other things I wanted more at the time. "I can get this anytime" I thought. Well, I put it off just long enough that it was impossible to get the import copy anymore. (re: "you snooze, you loose") I eventually got most of it later on an american release called Metal and Shells but was unable to find a copy of the original. So when I saw it had been re-released as a double LP with rarities I didn't wait. In case you didn't know, the Go-Betweens are probably the most scandalously underrated group of all time, just like the liner notes say. Hailing from down under this was their third studio album and was recorded in May of 1984 and it was without question the record which established their true style even if subsequent records of theirs are more well known. The opener, Batchelor Kisses is possible the most poignant and beautifully genuine love song ever written. The vulgarity of what passes for "love" songs now glares when compared to the wistful beauty of lines like "Don't believe what you've heard, faithful's not a bad word. Oh won't you save, these batchelor kisses now they're for your brow". There are many more brilliant classics on this disc, such as Part Company, Slow, Slow Music and Unkind & Unwise Clearly one of the best LP's of the 80's, it has REAL angst, REAL emotion and a sadness tempered with joy that is truly breathtaking. Plus, there are a number of great rarities on the second disc as well as the video of Bachelor Kisses. Stop thinking and just get it.
Label ~ Circus/Jetset, 20 Tracks + video, 2002
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.8
Go Find - "Miami" The Go Find is a guy named Dieter Sermeus, from Antwerp Belgium. The press sheet says his music is a cross between the pop strains of the Postal Service with the angst of Notwist thrown in. For once a promo sheet got it exactly right. The album meanders thru suave dance floor tracks to moody and back lit electronica perfectly suited to a late night drive. In fact Dieter claims the perfect environment to listen to his music is in a car late at night. I should introduce him to magnepans and high end gear, that opinion would quickly change. Still, the basic sentiment is true. Giving further thought to it as well, I think saying this is more like Matt Bruno meets the Postal Service in a film by David Lynch is more correct. It buzzes, it tinkles, it broods. It has air with a lot of body. It's the ray of light on a dark night. On tracks like Igloo it's just poptastic but yet it never yields totally to abandon, always keeping part of itself hidden. In that regard it's quite adult. It is not the immediate friend, as it requires time because it does not yield itself willingly or quickly. But I do find myself getting drawn in and liking it more with each listen. A 9.4 with a sweet, cool bullet.
Label ~ Morr, 10 Tracks, 2004
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.1
Go Sailor - "Go Sailor" This is a re-release of this lp which was a re-release of all their songs from a variety of singles. I assume the photo in the inner sleeve is them, and if so they aren't the most attractive of bands. What I mean is, if someone dressed like that (obvious nerd-ism) when I was their age they'd get the crap beaten out of themselves. (at the very least they'd be called "dork" all day) Yes, it was a much crueler time. I still can't believe how it's changed, and that people go out of their way to wear glasses that MAKE them look nerdier for example. I think it's fine, and actually healthy, but it would have been a death sentence in my day. At least smoking was also a provocative offense so mostly my generation doesn't have that vice like kids now do. (anyone who smoked was considered the most abject of losers, and I can't understand how sucking the life out of yourself became a cool thing again) Starting to stray again.... What's most interesting about this band is how closely they resemble in sound many of the late 80's (C86) bands in their brand of jangle indie pop. At times the Shop Assistants, and at others the Chesterf!elds etc... The sound is a bit lo fi, but that somewhat adds to the connection, and the songs are all good to very interesting, with a solid beat, good vocals and liberal hooks. In fact this would not have been at all out of place had it been released in 1987. This is certainly as good or better than anyone else has done playing this sort of sound these days and this lp is an excellent chance to get all these songs in one swoop. A satisfying purchase certainly.
Label ~ Lookout, 14 Tracks, 2002
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.8
Goldstoned - "Our Man In Soulburbia" I got this thru odd circumstances, as T-baby keeps buying 7" singles even though he doesn't have a table anymore. (don't ask, even I don't know) I really liked the new Goldstoned single he got so checked the band out and found they had put an lp out. Turns out it is now (or was only) available in record format. (no, he doesn't buy albums, just singles) So as far as I can tell you must be record compatible to take advantage of this offering. What's amazing is that there are 18 songs on it. That's a lot for a record, and the play quality doesn't suffer for that or the fact this was recorded at home with a 4 track studio deck. (I assume it's a german pressing but it doesn't say. It's very quiet) Musically this is hard to tack down, moving among genres, but I can say it sounds like something you might find on the Siesta label. It has a retro-ish 60's vibe, with the odd touch of soul and perhaps some jazz accents. However, it isn't dated in it's sound, it just has the accents of yesterday. Some of the best stuff are songs like Summertime which is a pop contemporary whistle down the wind, all light, breezy and very catchy. It is followed by the more cooled down but equally infectious Walking Away, which is followed by the Archies meets the Beatles pop attack of We Were Young which is another great track. Yes this album does at times fall in with some of those in the Bacharach copy crowd but there is a lot of genuine innovation here and a lot of good songs as well. The A side is a 9.6 and side B is a solid 10. An excellent record and another good reason to own vinyl.
Label ~ Firestation Tower, 18 Tracks, 2000(?)
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.9
Goldstoned - "I Was A Teenage Pop Addict" This is the third LP by Patrick Goldstein AKA Goldstoned and it follows very closely in the feet of the last, in that it is available in vinyl format only and that the "programme" is a number of songs inter cut with out take vocals from various movies etc... which lace it together into one titanic (in-separable) audial extravaganza. While that makes it a bitch when trying to take a song off for a comp CD for the car, he can be forgiven because the quality is excellent. A song like Brill Building which has a somewhat comical title has within some brilliant lines such as " I thought our love was like an album, so true. But it was only a bonus track to you..... Sweet, our love was like a song, a 12 inch but not long. Don't keep me hanging on". Musically it wanders close to stuff like the Kane Gang I think, while perhaps remaining closer to guitar jangle and the odd dash of Bacharach sentimentality. It is also a LONG player. I didn't time it and it doesn't say, but there's a lot of music on this record, and virtually all of it is just as poptastic as it gets. It loses a tenth for the bitch it will be copying it, but this is as good a reason as there is to own a record player. Sweet.
Label ~ Firestation, 17 Tracks, 2003 12" LP
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.9
Jose Gonzalez - "Veneer" OK, so we all know by now that Sweden is "all that"musically, but as of this release it's starting to get a little creepy. Why? Because Jose Gonzalez is Swedish. What's more, he sounds almost exactly like Jose Feliciano. What's next, a Spanish band named "the Tor Lundegaard Experience" who sound like ABBA? Well, who cares, let us not look a gift horse, um, anywhere. Now I have not heard a ton of Jose Feliciano material, but I can of course recognise him instantly and I would say this Jose wanders about as close as it is possible to get to the original as anybody would want or need. That makes this almost not quite indie material, so be warned if your tastes do not go beyond the genre. It is almost exclusively acoustic guitar driven and there is very little percussion with it (what there is he plays as well) and a trumpet manages to sneak in that he doesn't play. Given such a lightweight repertoire this could only succeed if it managed to be truly inspired. Not entirely is it, inspired that is, but quite a few moments of it are. Crosses of course being the "big" single off it and were it 1972 it would easily be a top ten hit, and deservedly so. I did find the lightweight pallet become a bit tedious near the end of the album, or perhaps the best songs are just in the first three quarters, (I think the latter is more correct) and the recording quality is very good, but not really as "alive" as it might have been (It sounds a little radio compressed) When the man is on, the songs are uplifting, the guitar is angry, it snaps, it inflects and his voice is a melancholy croon with a touch of sorrow. I think we can expect big things from him in the future, and if you have the interest now this is a fine place to get to know him. So in other words he is not the hype he is being made out to be, but one day he actually might be.
Label ~ Hidden Agenda, 11 Tracks, 2005
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.6
Graham - "Never, and Maybe Not Even Then" I am a sucker for the buy 3 get one free type deal, especially when it comes to music. So I'm looking thru Twee Kittens reduced price list of buy 3 get 5% off (which worked out close to get one free with my order total) and found this. I did a quick web search and was intrigued with what I read (even though I could not find an mp3 clip). This was pegged to be slow and heartfelt, but full of hooks and with a great vocal, and in that regard it really didn't disappoint. Kind of typically english in that regard, at times reminding me of the Field Mice or early Sarah stuff but with a more produced and "lavish" sound. It has the pangs and emotion of the Bacharach crowd without cementing itself to it or any other music style really. This is especially felt on tracks like Remember it Good which is really quite lovely. This is the kind of thing that's perfect for a day....like today. It got colder, there's a misty rain semi snow falling, and it's all grey outside like the cover of Prefab Sprouts Steve McQueen album. The only problem with this is the same all lp's like this have: A lack of variety. (or is that tempo?) Still, there are a lot of nice songs, and taken separately they're actually all pretty good to very good. just the overall feel can get tiring, except perhaps if you're reading a book on a day like today, in which case it's exactly what you want on in the background.
Label ~ Dreamy, 11 Tracks, 2001
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.2
Gravenhurst - "Flashlight Seasons" This is such an English sounding band name it's actually surprising nobody used it until now. Gravenhurst being the work of Englishman Nick Talbot and this being his second long player. Claiming his influences as Simon and Garfunkle and the Smiths I'd say he enjoyed the latter and is trying to style himself on the former as there is a very folky feel to this album although it does not have a sixties feel to it. It does carry a sort of ethereal quality, a dark mood shall we say, and while it has some truly sublime moments, it does ultimately fail to bring it's message to a focused point. Mostly due to the fact that it's languid atmospherics sometimes run their course too long and it becomes a tad dirge like. Yes, Moz could sing an absolutely morbid lyric like "mother I can feel the soil falling over my head" but it would be sandwiched by songs which would be a lot wilder. I think that's an essential thing to do and it is missing here. Not that there aren't some truly lovely moments here, it's just a bit too bleak sometimes and certainly somewhat one dimensional. In fact I am reminded somewhat of Roddy Frame as well, who can write heart breaking slow songs, and others which are simply tedious. While there isn't anything bad here, the tedium can leech in only to be broken by some of the lovelier guitar moments. If you live for depression you will most likely love this. However, should Mr. Talbot find the means to be a bit fuller in sound and find a feeling worthy of uplifting emotion he may indeed one day make a huge recording. This is not it, but it ain't 'arf bad either.
Label ~ Red Square, 10 Tracks, 2003
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.2
Gritty Kitty - "Where Did You Find Each Other?" Gritty Kitty ain't so pretty, but it's really.......swell. So said the Larry Fine-isms of Stimpson J Cat on my favorite original episode of Ren & Stimpy. The release sheet that came with it tells me they're from Athens GA well known for it's pop offspring including the Mendoza Line (you thought I'd say REM right?) who this band often gets compared to. I'd say that comparison has a little validity. The first track Reprise is a little mystic almost and is also close to being an instrumental. This thing really kicks off on track two Cows Sleep In which features the voice of Jessica Slavic and I suppose it's her voice that compells the Mendoza comparison but musically this sort of reminds me of mid 80's US pop, slightly akin to maybe Throwing Muses but better, as I never really liked them. While the song does have silly lyrics like "cows sleep in, maple trees live in canada" it somehow manages to work. It's the next track He Hides that really grabbed me. Great female singing, with the guys doing the ba ba backup for once and it's teamed to an 80's groove blues funk guitar riff that's just great. Normally I don't like this sort of thing but they have condensed out what was best from that period and really make it shine on this record. Her voice as well reminds me of a hybrid Waitresses/Bangles/Go-Go's type thing and wow, it all really works. This song is like a burning jewel of all that was 80's girl guitar pop rock. Completely fab. The next track Motor Unit is basically an instrumental except for some "do do's" but the musical "chorus" features June Brides sounding horn bits which I haven't heard anyone do in a LONG time. The song really reminds me of them and boy, that takes me back. Jason Taylor comes in for vocals at this point on Little Neutrino (there's a real space science thing going on on this label) and ironically his voice on this track reminds me exactly of the French band Ego. The next 2 cuts are good, but I found I wasn't experiencing the real joy I was getting on the tracks Jessica sang on. The next few get a little artsy and are only fair and it isn't until track eleven Elevator Drop that I'm taken back to some rapture again. Most of this album is quite good, with some of that being pretty flunking poptastic. It's a shame the whole thing didn't achieve that level, as this thing could have really rocked my world. Instead, (and to use astronomical terms) it was a heavy body which passed close enough to my plane of rotation to cause me some disturbance and in fact alter my orbital tradjectory a bit. In this case though I'd have wished it was a direct impact. Still, some real gems here.
Label ~ Planting Seeds, 11 Tracks, 2002
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.6
Guitar - "Sunkissed" I came across this on Tonevendor (clairecords) when I got my broadband as I was running rampant listening to every mp3 I could hear. What caught my eye was the fact that supposedly Alan McGee from Creation was immensely impressed by this "band". I say it that way as the other odd twist is this band is a guy and nobody supposedly knows who he is, as he records privately, submits his stuff, and just goes by the name "Digital Jockey". Vocals are handled by two women, Ayako Akashiba and Regina Janssen, doing their tracks separately. The sound? Kind of a wall and wash of guitar which remains very melodic, like some of the best of the Mary Chain or My Bloody Valentine but there is that ever present "pop" groove about the songs. It opens with the title track and Ayako singing and the song reminds me somewhat of Mini Kyute, even though the lead singer of that band is not supposed to be japanese if I remember right. I like it a lot. The next House Full Of Time is even better, with Regina on vocals to a pulsing and reverb drenched earnest pop song. See Sea, Bee and Me reminds me in sound somewhat to the UK band 8th Wonder, but it's a little more emotive and heartfelt than the pure dance pop they made. This was also available on lp or cd, and I opted for the former and the pressing is quite good and the record quality of the album is superb. About the only flaw here is it is 8 tracks, one of which is a reprise, but it is still quite an excellent album. This is exactly the kind of thing that indie is all about. A brilliant record from a brilliant band nobody knows the first fucking thing about, nor will they ever. The world will remain ignorant, but now you have a clue. There's enough fuzz for the hardcore and enough melody for the pop lover, so put this one on your to get list. 'Just grand' is the phrase we want I think.
Label ~ Morr Music, 8 Tracks, 2003