Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.8
Hal - "Election Day" Hal is the front and apparently one-off outing of Keris Howard of Brighter fame. But where Brighter was extremely laid back and mellow, this is a bit more upbeat. In fact, when the title track starts I'd swear the riff was stolen from something, but in any event it sounds exactly like New Order. In fact, New Order "Power, Corruption and Lies" guitar lines run rampant on this record, not that that's a bad thing. The record does mellow out more as it goes along getting to be more like what we're used to from this quarter. If you dig New Order, (and who doesn't) you'll probably find this EP worth getting.
Label ~ Vinyl Japan, 4 Tracks, 1994
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 5.2
Mickey Hampshire & the Masonics - "Silently by Night" This was one I really didn't know what to make of when it showed up, but I knew it was either going to be brilliant or complete rubbish, there was no way round it. The album is recorded very low fi and one dimesionally, and my initial impression was they'd be trying to walk a semi-punk mod style. That is evidenced somewhat on the opening and title track, which has a mix of 50's to early 60's rock influences as well. Musically, this record isn't too bad at times but the vocal stylings of Mr. Hampshire are in a word rotten. Were someone to be regurgitating razor blades from the bottom of a well, that would come quite close. Well, he sings 'em with passion, I'll give him that. The 50's vibe is especially noticeable on tracks like Tell Me which is a real prom night slow dance type number. This thing isn't completely bad, and at times makes me think they're trying to be a bit like Ten Pole Tudor who melded mod punk and 50's rockabilly but in this case the vocal talent is the apparent weak link. If perhaps he stopped trying to sing from the back of his throat like a serial killer from a David Lynch movie he might do better. This disc is actually a reprint, as this LP came out in 98. Was there a demand I missed somewhere? Well, if you look like Dennis Hopper and have plans to drive a black Oldsmobile down a dark Kansas highway on your way to sodomize someone, this is what you'll want in your player. I suppose those people buy music too. But damn, what a cover, huh? (and damned if I haven't been singing si lent ly by night... all night. Definetly a coulda-been)
Label ~ Little Teddy, 16 Tracks, 1998/2002
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10
Handsome Train - "This Engine Should Do" I swear, just when the wonders of Scandinavia seem wholly tapped another vein of gold offers itself up to our greedy ears. Such is the case with this band, my newest darlings. This is only a band made CDR which is recorded a bit on the quiet side, but it is worth every penny and effort to get. Piano and flute meet to one of the freshest and quite earnest vocals I have heard since, hell, at this rate last month probably. That does not take one iota away from the brilliance contained upon this disc however. It has Smiths earnestness without being Smith like, it wears angst everywhere yet is in no way floundering in emotion, and it is as infectious as this damn flu I have had. I am especially taken by the track Horse, Boy, Girl which is one of the most fresh sounding pop classics I have heard in some time. The piano, flute and vocals meld to form a mellifluent honeycomb of pure delight. Another pop gem is the closer When I Work I Cry which again while lyrically out of the Smith playbook makes no bones about finding it's very own way, and a lovely way it is. It's moments like this I am sorely tempted to grab this band myself and sign them to a deal. As good as it gets pop kiddies. Run, don't walk. (www.handsometrain.com)
Label ~ self release, 4 Tracks, 2004
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.3
Happy Ballon - "the Fine Art of Ballooning" Ahhh, bossa nova. Where would the Siesta label be without it? Anyway, the first track Temma Harbour is actually a pretty above average song for this genre. In fact, this whole LP melds styles pretty well without going over any line or becoming predictable. It's odd too, this LP and the new Ivy both share a song called I Think of You, however both are different songs. The new Club 8 also has a song called Falling From Grace which is the name of a song on the Gentle Waves LP. Perhaps pop is reaching the end of it's rope. But back to this record. It is a bit light and fluffy, going from jazz stylings to pop ba ba baas and even a great instrumental called Love Has a Way which I not only really like alot but it sounds great thru the gear too. I doubt there was any "single" from this LP but In a Kindly Way could have been. Not a typical single, very strummy with shiny acoustic guitar and beautiful lyrics. A top tune. And of course no LP of this genre would be complete without a trip to Bacharachsville and that is done here on the cover of You Didn't Have to be So Nice which owing to the excellent nature of the song to begin with is quite good. This outing gets top stars and treds the current waters of "bossy"-nova with a bit more style, grace and ingenuity than it's contemporaries manage to do. Well done.
Label ~ Siesta, 12 Tracks, 2000
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10+
Happydeadmen - "Classics - A Decade in Pop" The sound of Sweden in the 80's was often characterized by a heavy sound often referred to as "Goth Rock". You know, the leather outfits and chains, guitars that were shaped like anything but guitars and called "axes", smoke and pyrotechnics were everywhere and the amps went to 11. Then the miracle happened. A bunch of kids got together, decided they were tired of the staus quo, and decided to form a band. They called themselves the Happydeadmen, a name which is almost a jibe at the sound then prevalent. (and originally scared me off them) In what was a short time they had released their first single, Silent Sigh City in 1988. I honestly do not think any group ever led with a song like that, and I think I am absolutely safe in saying it is quite possibly THE greatest guitar "pop" single ever made. It certainly makes the top 5 cut for sure. It just comes at you with an incredibly beautiful, layered and melodic guitar riff that turns over 3 times and goes almost an exquisit minute before the lyrics begin;
"He is empty and confused,
he needs more than a television set.
Dreams of Paris in the middle of the night
Thin, dark brunettes with carnations in the hair.
Like the air, like the air
He likes to be like Alain Delon,
in the end of the film the hero dies.
Talk the same way, die the same way
he got a bullet through his head.......
Damn kiddies, if this isn't the stuff of legend. This song slays me, and I am helpless in it's presence. It is pure Kryptonite. It's also the cut which leads off this LP, which is a collection of their finest moments. It is followed by Ralph DeBricassart, their brilliant single titled after the lead priest character from the famous novel "The Thorn Birds". Again, as if Silent Sigh City didn't do you in, this song is a killer. If the former is the best ever, this has to be #2, and may make a valid fight for #1 on it's own merits. Oh, how we have longed for guitar like this, and how these Swedes write such great lyrics in a tongue not their own should shame us all;
"I may be the strongest boy in the universe,
but I'm the weakest man on Earth.
I suppose the sacrifices I did for you,
were just like following the flow downstream.
I can really live without these sins
I have better things to do....yeah.
Whenever blue teardrops are falling down,
there are some things that I prefer to do..."
We could spend days heaping the laurels on every track on this compilation. Just suffice it to say their presence kicked the whole swedish scene in the bum and paved the way for all the greats to follow like the Leslies, Eggstone, Acid House Kings, Starlet etc.. Goth is dead, long live king pop!
Label ~ Summersound, 14 Tracks, 1999
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.3
Hari And Aino - "Hari And Aino" Yes, here we have another debut album from yet another Swedish band. It is amazing isn't it, there are only like 9 thousand people in all of Sweden or something, isn't there? I think they all have an album out :^ ) Anyway, lead singer Andrea Dahlkild has a voice very reminiscent of Jessica Griffin of the Wood-Be-Goods which is perhaps odd as she is best known for her received pronunciation accent. All I know is the two women do sound quite a bit alike. Musically it's a very interesting journey, jangly and poppy without becoming overt pop, but it's not rock either. It's also generally upbeat while retaining a bit of melancholy. I have seen comments comparing them to Blondie but that I don't see at all. Deb Harry barked and growled and Andrea does not do that at all. Emotion is there, sometimes even an air of breathlessness, but hers' is a voice that walks with you rather than talks at you. The songs also are not the type that are instantly accessible, their structure is sometimes slightly unusual, and this may be one of their strongest suits. It means this isn't cut from the same cloth as all the rest and that it requires a little time and listening on your part. This is the kind of album that may not be the kind of thing you pull out first in a pack of new discs to listen to, but 6 months later it may very well be your favorite from that pile.
Label ~ Plastilina, 10 Tracks, 2008
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.7
Harper Lee - "Go Back to Bed" This is the latest project of Keris Howard (see Hal above) and this time he falls back much closer to his Brighter days. Not that that's an implication of badness. I like brighter, only not too much of it at once. I can only be depressed so long, not that I only listen to slow music when I am, but every once in a while a little "oomph" might be nice. I always associated "twee" with female vocals but this is about as twee as a male band gets I suppose, although he doesn't sound suicidal or broken hearted when he sings like much twee stuff does. I'll kind of put it this way, this is the kind of thing I'd never listen to during the day, but at night with the light low or even off, this is pretty good. Due to it's nature, there are no real standout tracks, but it's all about uniformly good light guitar etc... indie music. No worlds were rocked, or hearts broken in it's making. It sort of touches you lightly instead.
Label ~ Matinee, 10 Tracks, 2000
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 7.4
Haywains - "Get Happy With" Here we have another lovely Vinyl Japan retrospective of a group everyone either didn't care about originally or missed in their foolishness. members of this group would go on to form the Casswells (who also got a Vinyl Japan retrospective put out) and I think by and large the Casswells work is better. Not that this is too bad, as it musically takes from the likes of the Shop Assistants, the Chesterf!elds and Jasmine Minks all of whom were influential in that sector of the English indie scene at the time. This affair is recorded a bit not so great at times, well not bad, but maybe a little lo-fi, but that isn't what really bothers me. On too many songs, well, I don't know if it's Paul Towler who sings here or not, but he's backed up and "harmonized" with by a woman who DOES NOT mesh with his voice, and the result is a bit grating. The songs often are not half bad, and you're just getting into it and this crone chimes in and ruins it. At best she doesn't ruin the songs, but she isn't helping, and one is left wondering how much better it might have been sans her. If you really dig the period and can't get enough of it I can recommend this, as there are some good songs on it. But if you've had your fill a bit, then this will not be worth your attentions.
Label ~ Vinyl Japan, 19 Tracks, date unknown
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8
Heavenly - "Le Jardin de Heavenly" For some reason, known only to the Gods I suppose because I'm not sure I do, I have always sort of disliked this band. That having been said it's obvious T-Baby got this and not me. I assume the title means "the garden of heavenly" (or is jardin goalie? The heavenly goalie? Jacques Plante? No, it must be garden) Anyway, there is just some intangible quality about this English band I don't seem to like. Sometimes it's the odd sort of melodies they try to play, sometimes it's just the lead singers voice which grates on me. That said, this LP bothers me less than most of the other stuff I've heard from this outfit. Not that I really like it, but I can see why others would. There are no great songs or "gems" on it, that sort of being another critique I have is them seeming to have the same guitar lines for every song, but it's all just sort of averagely OK. It's hard to be objective about something you genuinely don't care one way or the other about. There are plenty of places to hear this band online as they are fairly well known in the indie community so my advice is make your own decision as I cannot.
Label ~ K, 10 Tracks, 1994
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.5
Hefner - "We Love the City" Hefner is basically the vehicle for singer Darren Hayman. I never had the "bollocks" to spend the money on one of their LP's, but T-Baby did (this one obviously) and I liked it enough I had him get me a copy. It's very light, and at times almost too emotional, but when the cuts are on they are quite excellent. Tracks like The Greedy Ugly People are about as "single" oriented as they get, and while laid back it's presentation is quite emotive. That is even a more pronounced sentiment on the next cut Good Fruit which is a quite brilliant and powerful little track. In fact it's a little more than special. There are even 2 videos included on the disc, one being the just mentioned track and the vid for it is a wee bit eccentric but somehow very touching, and very human. The other vid is for a song not on the LP, I Took Her Love For Granted which is noteable for the band running around naked but for flesh colored full nylon suits with willies full present and swinging in wild abandon. More on that I cannot say as I can't get my daughter out of the room long enough to watch it. This is a very interesting CD, but not all the tracks are great, however a few are quite exceptional. Hayman has a very distinct voice, and you will either like it or not. It's the type where there is no middle ground. If you'd like something a little slow with strongly sung plaintive vocals, look no further.
Label ~ Too Pure, 12 Tracks, 2 vids
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.1
Hem - "No Word From Tom" This is the band that started the whole Nettwerk thing with me. I had heard of this NYC band but did not own anything by them, but, and I am assuming now, they must know Ivy and as they have my address they gave it to Hem, Hem gave it to Nettwerk and the rest as they say is history, and explains why it arrived very un-looked for in my mailbox one sunny day. Now while I had heard of them I was unfamiliar with them and I'm not sure how much this disc helps aid that as it is actually a collection of out-takes, covers, demos, live recordings and rarities. Not being familiar with their material I was at first most taken by the choice of cover songs, which include old classics such as Rainy Night In Georgia and The Tennessee Waltz as well as more modern indie ballads such as the Fountain Of Waynes Radiation Vibe (my personal fave on here) and REM's South Central Rain. All of it is done not only passably well, but they actually manage to put their own stamp on them and make them their own which is not an easy thing to do. The over all feel of the album is slower, and it meanders everywhere and back again, from folk to an older sort of country sound to chamber music and back to rock ballads, and somehow it all goes and it all works. In fact I can't really think of any other band who has managed to compile such an oblique yet agreeable collection of songs that shouldn't but do work together. By and large this is an album recommended for late night listening, but if you like diversity it offers many treats in that regard as well.
Label ~ Nettwerk America, 18 Tracks, 2006
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10+
Hepburns - "Champagne Reception" Another of those groups too hip before their time, the Hepburns saw the light of day in the late 80's and released a single and LP on Cherry Red before departing back into the Welsh mists whence they came. This material left it's impact however and it's style was at the heart of those who were to start labels like Siesta and the label this group is now on, Radio Khartoum. Originally the "papers" were amiss at what these lads were trying to do, and when they cited their influences as soundtracks to movies and easy listening, eveyone thought they were just "taking the piss" as they say. They weren't. And to our benefit the boys kept writing songs and kept the dream alive. Perhaps the sound isn't as driving today as the original material, but the sense of kitsch and whimsicalness is very present. This little 3" LP CD on Radio Khartoum (a RK oddity or novelty depending on how you look at it as this labels stuff is all on 3" CD that I know of) composed of 9 songs (3 of which are instrumentals) could very well be the soundtrack to a travellogue movie set in a garden shed, a sandbox and a jaunt round Europe with Jackie O thrown in for good measure. It is completely fab. It starts with Jackio O, and the cute little sleeve has a Jackie-esque picture which is made of the lyrics from the song. The song begins with some light whistleing, and to my ear at least sounds remarkably like the Pale Fountains, and has some brilliant lyrics. It is followed by the first instrumental Bastinado which really comes out of nowhere after the first song as it is almost like a soundclip from a Clint Eastwood western. However it is completely charming and toe tapping with lots of humming and whistling. It's one of my favorite clips on this LP. It's so great you can't sit still to it. Underneath the Giant Rhubarb is one of my faves on the LP where very ecclectic lryics come together seamlessly somehow and it's quite a treat.
"Underneath the giant rhubarb,
it's real name's gunnera.
At least that's what dad told me,
and he's a gardener.
I forgot refreshments,
you didn't seem to care.
There was Polish on the radio.
And the time flew by,
as it did with you and I.
The sun has gone, the moon has come.
As it did with you and I..."
Pure gold and a great song. The next track,You'll Always Walk Alone I like alot as well. This track almost is the epitome of this record as a whole. It's laid back and bare boned with a light contemporary beat that is catchy as all hell. The second instrumental, Jet Age International is akin to Madness meets the Style Council. (and I mean it) and believe it or not it works. The lyrical ingenuity shows again on I Am A Machine which has an almost James Bond type guitar line in it and a bossa-nova groove. I'm sure Albert Broccoli would have loved it. That the song's apparently about an old soda machine lamenting it's fate makes it even more precious. This LP rocked my world when I got it, and it still sort of does. It comes as highly endorsed as anything you can currently get.
Label ~ Radio Khartoum, 9 Tracks, 1999
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10+
Hepburns - "The Last Thing I Saw Before I Said Goodbye" This has been a long time in the coming, promised and put off, expected and dreaded, but it is now at last here. That said, it is everything this band has come to be loved for. The opener, Tokyo Rollerball Cheerleader Chant is as sublime and infectious in person as it's name sounds comedic on the surface. It is kitschy, cute, pop addictive and the sort of inane thing you simply can't get out of your head all day. Other elements of the many styles they delve in are present as on Blouson-Style Jacket with it's ska/beat poet melody line. I have yet to hear any other band that has attempted, let alone succeeded in writing a catchy pop song to that kind of beat. They do it with such ease, it makes you giddy. I will also mention at this point (as I had not gotten a Radio K release in a while) that this is NOT a small cd as was their "trademark" in the past. It's a full sized digi-pak. Back to the disc, in many ways one would not be wrong saying this takes off right where Champagne Reception left off. Tracks like I've Seen Your Sort before with it's poptastic horn intro, Matt Jones great voice never sounding better, and a sound so them, sultry, sophisticated, yet genuinely human and sincere on it's surface, it leaves one spellbound. That all comes to fore on my favorite cut, Smaller Than Life which is a glorious pop song. When this band from Wales tries to make an impression, they go the full monty. It echoes of the 80's but it still remains timeless sounding. This will certainly be seeing the top ten list come years end, as this is the goods, delivered as promised. Don't wait kiddies.
Label ~ Radio Khartoum, 14 Tracks, 2004
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10+
Hepburns - "Something Worth Stealing" Well, we waited long enough for this, didn't we? This is the third and a half long player (second in the modern age) from everyones favourite Welsh band. It was a wait we performed not in vain. There is a stripped down beauty and innocence to this bands music which when teamed to it's insighful and well thought out lyrics leaves one simply spellbound. It's hard to categorize exactly what the driving force is, as there are elements of classic pop, the 60's, even folk music, and when they do a "single" like Fire Red Car one can only pity the unwashed masses who will never get to hear and revel in it's engaging pop beauty. There is no other way to say it other than this is another pop masterpiece. I can't say whether it's better than the last or not, not that it much matters, although I do think that one was more cohesive as an album than this one is, although the wandering of styles on here does work. Even better, they did a little mini tour for it here in the US and I got to see and meet them (and Alexander the RK head honcho). Live they were incredible, and I was astounded at the sounds Matt Jones got out of his guitar, and he was playing it without a pick! On the last rush of the finale, I could see the pain on his face from playing it. I asked him about it afterwards and in the spirit of the coal mining heritage we both share he said - "If you don't suffer for your art, what's the point?" I can only stand dumbstruck in awe: genuine awe. Without question one of the best musical acts on this planet bar none, and this album is one you simply have to own.
Label ~ Radio Khartoum, 12 Tracks, 2007
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.6
High Water Marks - "Songs About The Ocean" This band is one of those inexplicable coming togethers of 4 people who were already in other bands themselves and for reasons cosmic they were drawn together by fate for yet another purpose. Most of the vocal duties are handled by Hilarie Sidney, the drummer from Apples In Stereo with occasional help from Per Ole Bratset. (Palermo) Both do all right but I prefer the songs she sings on generally. Musically it has the fuzz and buzzing of My Bloody Valentine teamed to a more modern pop melody line, in that regard somewhat like Folksongs For The Afterlife. Given the nature of that one would expect the recording to be not ideal and somewhat lo fi and one would not be disappointed. Still, I am not sure I have heard the genre recorded any other way so that may not even be a criticism. In fact the only real critique I could levy is that the nature of the material does not lend to a lot of variety, and on a few occasions I found I did not want to listen all the way thru the disc as boredom settled in. Perhaps it's age as well. Still, there are a number of genuinely catchy songs here and for a come together project I think the results are good. If they stay together and can mature their sound and diversify a little they may become a force to be reckoned with. As it is this is above average and if you live for fuzzy one dimensional angst with a touch of honey, this may be just what the doctor ordered.
Label ~ Eenie Meenie, 13 Tracks, 2004
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.1
Hit Parade - "More Pop Songs" Another comp from the folks at Vinyl Japan, the Hit Parade were a circa 1990 English band that somehow escaped the scene of their time and managed to sound good despite what was going on around them. Songs like Hitomi carrying a nice 80's indie sensibility, yet skewing close to the Bacharach /bossa nova chic so popular in todays scene. At other times they hint at electro popism akin to the Lightning Seeds, but always staying true to themselves. There's lots of nice bright chirping guitars, good melodies and pleasant vocals. Basically the whole nine yards. Who needs more?
Label ~ Vinyl Japan, 14 Tracks, 1999
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9
Holiday - "Ready, Steady Go!" This has been a somewhat influential and well known american band. (well, as well known as any indie band is these days) Their sound is a laid back indie guitar style, not very different from say the Fairways but perhaps they manage to sound less american than most of the others do. Aside from that there is one track that is almost laughably noticeable on this LP. It is Prostitutes in Town which begins with an absolute rip off of the opening hooter line to New Orders Love Vigilanties. The song doesn't copy that song, but the hooter playing is exact but for a note or two. It's actually an excellent song but I always laugh at the hooter part. I suppose it's possible they didn't know, but of course that's hard to believe. It's more surprising Albrecht doesn't know, or seemingly care. Of course there are times they use very Cure like guitar lines, but then Mr. Smith will tell you New Order robbed that from him anyway. The inplications of all this is that this is a nice little record and if you dig indie guitar pop this one's sure to please.
Label ~ March, 14 Tracks, 1996
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10+
Holiday - "Cafe Reggio" This LP represents a bit of a transformation from the one listed above (although it carries 3 of the same tracks on it). On the opening cut There's a Place there's an almost Beatle vibe going on, with the sassy horn intro and McCartney-esque vocals and arranging. If you were going to dismiss it, the next track Well Enough Alone sounds even more like it and forces the comparison. Not that it's a bad thing, and not that the songs aren't quite good in their own way. In fact, they're quite excellent. The whole album shifts in and out and all around being Beatle like and Holiday like with lots of catchy horns and singable songs. It's quite a poptastic little affair. They even show some really great jazzy sensibilities on the track You're Very Last Party which is an exceptionally groovy little song. This is truly about as good as it gets, and it's one of those gems that makes us so smug about liking this stuff to begin with when nobody else has a clue. Probably the best album of it's kind ever made by an american band. Buy it, play it in your car, and as you drive down the road say, "I wonder how many of these cretins are as hip as me...."
Label ~ Siesta, 13 Tracks, 1999
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9
Holiday Flyer - "I Hope" Apparently this act has been together for a while but this is the first of their releases I have gotten. This time I understand their lineup was strengthened by the addition of Verna Brock from the California Oranges and Jim Rivas of Rocketship. Lead singer Katie Conley does have a very beautiful and emotive voice and the opening track here Up At Night is stars in your eyes magical to the point it almost hurts. Damn if it isn't one of the best and most emotive songs I've heard in a great long while. This album is easily worth it just for that cut, however, don't get set to sell yourself short. The next track Trouble is equally as haunting and it's followed by Trains which kicks it up nicely. The "side" ends with Falling Apart at the Seams which has a lot of guitar riff similarities from late 80's britpop. It's also the first track John Conley sings and it's still a good song despite the fact that it's obvious we want to hear her and not him. (I'm not afraid to say it) The second side also has a lot of nice cuts like the racey piano track Green Envy and the very delicate duet Invincible. I'll take a ride on this flyer any day.
Label ~ Darla, 10 Tracks, 2001
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10+
Holm - "Music For Astronauts" Wowser. That's all I can say, wowser! Again, T-Baby found this first, which makes my teeth gnash. I believe Holm (Holm Hofmann that is) to be German, that much seems obvious. There is a URL for a site on this disc, but it
is not active. So more I can't find out, but the disc seems to have been recorded in London. That aside, this guy has a voice that is just magical. I don't often find myself "swooning" over male vocalists, but this guy turns me wobbly. Have you ever seen the old
Looney Toones cartoon with the chickens and the Bing Crosby and "Frankie" chickens are croonin to make them lay more eggs? That's me when I play this disc. This guys voice is liquid gold. The first track is the Euro hit Afterglow which is a great song, but actually I
like the rest of this outing even more. The next two cuts, Last Summer and Here Comes the Sun are the stuff of legend. Smooth, sexy and so beautifully done in every imaginable way I can't even stand it. Two of the absolutely best songs I have ever, ever heard.
This EP ends with a unique cover of ABBA's Dancing Queen. At first I was unsure, as it's a bit slow, but it eventually became clear to me, and I'm not sure I don't like it more than the original now. One of the best EP's I've gotten in years. If this is what astronauts listen to,
then beam me up Scotty!
Label ~ Firestation, 4 Tracks, 2000
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10
Holm - "South Of The River" Yes, can you believe it? I literally fell on my ass when Holm contacted me 2 months ago asking if I'd like to review his debut LP. This was an album I had long since given up all hope of ever seeing the light of day. So when it came I was like a little kid waiting to wet myself, but then my recent malaise kicked in. His debut EP was recorded in a honey think syrupy way that just oozed sex. I thought that upon first listen this did not, and went into one of my recent moods. After much listening, I came around. It does drip, it even oozes, but in a slightly different way. This also includes a new version of Last Summer and while I didn't like it as much as the original, I'm even coming around on that too. The opener, If This Is It is quintessential Holm: Big, broad and lush with his signature deep and melodic voice. I think majestic is the word I'm searching for. When this guy cuts loose he somehow becomes larger than life, oceans surge, hearts melt, the sky falls. That track is followed by Tell It Like It Is which is the other thing he does best, heart busting ballads. It also certainly helps the cause that this is recorded most excellently. I had stolen T's maggies but had to give them up and put my Alons back in, but they are better at detail resolution. I listened to this the other night and just kept saying, "God, that sounds beautiful". While the system is the big player in that, a well recorded medium is essential too, and this is. An emotional roller coaster of ups and downs, all bathed in his glorious croon, makes this an album worth the wait. When I put this album on I'm like Jub-Jub the iguana: I just want to lie on my hot rock and bask in it. This is an album that will certainly be near the finish line when compiling the years best, for sure. Very Recommended, and available in our Popsicle shop..
Label ~ Mano De Dios, 10 Tracks, 2004
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.5
Wilson Hospital - "Medication For A Lost Generation" Apparently this swedish bands debut fell thru everyones cracks, including mine, when it came out in 2002. However it was found and brought to our attentions by T-Baby and again we are indebted to him. From the onset this comes across as a rather odd bird, as it does not sound remotely like any of it's current Swedish siblings and in fact it very much reminds me of some of the really excellent 80's Brit bands who made schmaltzy but poptastic albums by plumbing the depths of chart pop giddyness from the 50's to the 70's. It does this so well it really sounds like it is from the 80's and not now but whether that is better or not I'll leave to to listener to decide. (For the record for my part it is) What is beyond doubt is every track on here good and some are downright gems, and my kid especially fell for the Petula Clark-esque Call Me ASAP which is an oasis of 60's styled bubblegum pop more upbeat and catchy than any song has a right to be. As far as vocal duties go, Mårten Tromm sings nearly as much as his partner Katherine Bergström does and both have good voices whether alone or singing in harmony together. This is only available currently at CD baby and at that who knows how long. If you like any of the pop sensible brit bands from the 80's like the Kane Gang, Danny Wilson or Workshy then this is certainly an album you'll enjoy owning. Things like this are not as common as one might think, and done this well are even rarer.
Label ~ Morphine Lane, 12 Tracks, 2002
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9
Hot Zex - "Album" When I first saw this I knew it had to either be great or pure shite. You can't use a name like "Hot Zex" and be anything else. Once I got it it took another twist as I found out this is another Russian band. I first was unsure of this as it came across as a wall of noise on my rig, but thru headphones I liked it a lot. It must be due to the recording methods which thru my high end setup sounded like a wash of sound, but thru a $15 walkman, well, that hides all faults. To be fair I have not had the time to even listen to this thru my gear setup in a normal 2 channel orientation so when I finally do I will post the results. Musically this is somewhere between the UK band the Beloved and a James Bond movie. Lets call it espionage dance pop/rock. The most overtly chart oriented song is Planets which is all poptastic, has a definite feel of many of todays better indie guitar bands and is quite a catchy song. I'll cut this short. You're reading this, so you're into indie, which most likely means your young, which in all probablility means you're broke, which then certainly means your stereo (if you even have one) sucks. That being the case this ougth to come across well, and I really think you'll like it a lot. The songs are really catchy and sound great thru headphones at least. This thing doesn't even come in a jewel case, just a cardboard sleeve, so apparently money was a concern. So dive in and help them out. This is a band that deserves your attention. The whole cold war was pointless if we don't support them now, so go buy this and do your part. Anyway, I was right, and it turns out this was great, but it loses a point for the record quality.
Label ~ Chelsea Girl, 8 Tracks, 2003.
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.3
Human League - "Secrets" I don't read any "papers" anymore and don't even peruse any music sites so I was really pretty surprised to see this album had been made. Normally, when a band puts out an album 20 years on from what was it's heyday one usually doesn't take notice, unless your of the mindless zealot errr.. I mean Dylan or Stones fan. Of course this thing had more hoopla around it than a Russian circus dog, and OK, I'm stupid, and I was always a fan, so I got it. Supposedly it was a return to all the former glory etc.. (they used all the buzzwords) Well, I have to say this thing isn't too bad. Oakey and Catherall sound as good as they ever did, and the LP uses alot of the synth licks we always loved about them. More importantly, the songs aren't too bad and while they have a taste of the modern about them they are rooted to their past, and it works. There are no giant cuts like we had on the Dare album, but it's all quite good, and there are a few short instrumental tracks that especially take you back even if a few of them sound more like Pet Shop Boy riffs. Of the vocaled ones I especially like The Snake as it really reminds me of their heyday in it's sound, and the opening track All I Ever Wanted is pretty good as well. Hell, it's all good. They should have called this thing unexpected pleasure. This is not a risk, if you like this bands past then you'll definetly be happy with this.
Label ~ ARK21, 16 Tracks, 2001
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10+
Human Television - "Orange" I almost never buy singles, which is what this 3 track disc essentially is. However the quotes surrounding it piqued my interest. The opening track Tell Me What You Want is incredibly retro, sounding worlds like the UK band Wire with a chiming guitar riff you cannot get out of your head. It does a pirouette on track two Automobile and comes down with guitars sounding exactly like George Best Wedding Present. Once the vocals kick in it begins to sound like an early Factory band. Simply incredible really. It ends with Saw You Walking By which again has Gedge perfect guitar riffs and the song again is early Factory or Rough Trade fare. Smitten? I nearly went to pieces. An album full of this gentlemen, and I will gladly have your baby.
Label ~ Soft Abuse, 3 Tracks, 2004
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.9
Human Television - "All Songs Written By" I found myself in contact with this band shortly after writing my review of their "Orange" EP. Turns out that was planned to be a very limited release which was shortly followed by this, a 7 track semi long player. (which contains all the tracks from that first EP) Just as on that first outing, this band captures all the nuance and guitar happiness of circa 85-88 UK indie so perfectly I am quite sure no american band has ever managed the likes of it before. Of the new cuts here, I Forgot stands out as the most sublime gem. Wistful, heartfelt and as catchy as all hell with guitar licks playing off one another in a lovely fashion, it is sublime and wonderful in so many ways. It is followed by Yeah Right which calls forth so many comparisons from the Jasmine Minks, to the Mighty Lemon Drops but especially the Railway Children (yeah, for real) that it is just swimming in all that is right and good. I believe I had said something about bearing this bands child if they kept this up, and it may just be labour pains I am feeling. I can hardly wait for the "proper" album. Until then, if you are in any way a fan of what was great about the UK scene in the 80's (and isn't what this is all about anyway?) then by all means purchase this. (It even includes 2 videos, one of which is a non album track)
Label ~ Gigantic Music, 7 Tracks, 2004
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.4
Human Television - "Look At Who You're Talking To" Right off the bat I had a problem with this, the much anticipated debut from this US band that treads the waters of UK bands like the Wedding Present with such aplomb. The problem is the first track is simply awful, and not only is it not good, it is not even remotely recognizable as them. While things improve after that musically, recognizing this as the band I knew doesn't happen. It's not that it's bad, but it's not them in as much as I thought they had it right the first time and we would be treated to what that was in all it's glory. Didn't happen. Instead we're given an album of introspection and exploration that no denying has it's moments but which never the less came as a shock and left me feeling disappointed. This is just an average album that has one or two nicer moments, but there is nothing here making me want to conceive, like their debut ep did. So, now that that baby's been thrown out with the bath what the future holds only time can tell. I hope at least a return to form, and possibly greatness. This is sadly nice and ordinary.
Label ~ Gigantic, 11 Tracks, 2006
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.4
Husky Rescue - "Country Falls" What an unexpected and delightful little surprise was this album from a heretofore unheard of Finnish band. What's more, with the help of a really cool extra dvd disc that includes 3 very David Lynch like videos the song Summertime Cowboy has become one of the non stop hits of this summer for my kid and me. We've been singing it almost non stop. It is raunchy sounding with retro cool and has brilliant guitar licks. What's more, the video is quite nostalgic with an 80's "glow" and look yet it is computer generated and modern at the same time. If all of this sounds like it would make the outing very far from the norm you would be correct in your assumption. The next track New Light Of Tomorrow, also one of the videos, features male vocals and musically is like Angelo Badalamenti dream pop meets some early 70's AOR ballad. The album is both atmospheric and visual, but sublime and hidden at the same time. I think one of it's appeals to me is the unique arranging and unexpected musical turns that it takes. As I have said, everyone repeating everything old is starting to get even older. This sounds new and fresh. It's like being Father Hennepin and instead of Niagara, you discover a waterfall of never before heard sound. No small feat indeed. By the way, on top of the DVD this also has 2 "hidden" tracks, the first a 7+ minute saga called The Good Man and the second an un-named instrumental clocking in at just over a minute.
Label ~ Minty Fresh, 10 Tracks + bonus dvd disc, 2005
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 4.8
Frida Hyvönen - "Until Death Comes" The title of this album may well have been how long I was going to wait to review it. This again was another thing that I had hoped I would warm to in time. Well, that burner too is ice cold so it's about time we get down to the ugly facts. This woman got a lot of glowing press but I think she is very over-rated and not very talented at all. I know, that's pretty harsh but I think it's the case. Her main style (and the first third of the album) is her playing the same honky tonk line on the piano and singing songs who's lyrics have nearly the EXACT meter every time. Every time! Each of the following lyrics are the first lines from four different songs 1: "I drive my friend to the station, it's the second day of june" 2: Someday when I'm not broke, I'll kiss my boys goodbye" 3: One day I wasn't drunk, and the sun was shining straight" 4: You came from nowhere, and then you became my friend". All sung to the same "bink bonk bink bonk" of the piano. It's like swedish water torture. On the first track the curious honky tonk hammering was quaint enough, but when it became obvious it was her entire act it got old fast. The music is un-inspired, the lyrics vague and pointless (and at times vulgar) and the whole thing is simply lame. There, I said it. The funniest part is when I ordered it last year someone from parasol took the time to include in my order email the following line next to this album - "What great taste you have!". Oh well, another myth busted. At least I don't have to try to figure out how to say her last name anymore.
Label ~ Licking Fingers, 10 Tracks, 2005