Hip-ometer Rating ~ 2
I'm From Barcelona - "Let Me Introduce My Friends" Let me introduce the hype of the year. "The" new swedish band that's "all that" and 20 bags of potato chips. Don't believe it. This albums stinks, and I could probably relate more on that topic but this album is also write protected so I can't even listen to the damn thing on my computer or put tracks on the radio for you to hear either. Had I know that before hand I would not have even bought it. All I recall is I couldn't even get thru it because it stank so bad and I had no desire to try again. The copyright protection crap is simply icing on my cake. (and it did audibly effect my playback on my main stereo, or this is recorded badly to boot) Fuck that and fuck EMI. Please spend your audio shopping dollars on swedish bands that actually are good like Billie the Vision or Embassy.
Label ~ EMI, 11 Tracks, 2006
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.6
I Am Robot And Proud - "Grace Days" In typical fashion I review the debut albums of artists shortly after their second album has been released. In this case I'm reviewing the third after the fourth just came out. Perhaps one day I'll catch up, but until then if you're as lagging as far behind as me here's the scoop: This band is the realization of one Torontonian Shaw-Han Liem and the work is a very ambient, organic instrumental music that ranges from the warm and shimmering to the surging and sparkling. While a lot of instrumentation is evident, the work generally comes off sounding like sampled organic analog sounds. The same can be said of the tempo, which while up is mostly down but it's also probably true that the slower songs might well be the prettiest. The only fault if it has one is a general lack of variety prompted by the similarity of sound. What it does right is fill a room full of a nice, ambient and relaxing sound. Like most things belonging to it's genre it is recorded very well and for late nice accompaniment to a good book, it comes recommended. Does that make it muzak? No, it's not disposable and a number of tracks on here will certainly insinuate themselves into your head. On a whole however it doesn't leave one with a fulfilment of concept.
Label ~ Catmobile, 9 Tracks, 2003
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.9
I Am The World Trade Center - "The Cover Up" Yes, it's the band with "that" name. In fact, as this is the first LP of theirs I am reviewing I'll delve a little into their incredibly bizarre history. Their first album "Out Of The Loop" was released just 2 months before 9/11 making their name the ironic twist it is, however, the really scary bit is there is a song on it called September and (here's where it gets really creepy) it's track number 11. Now, as if in an attempt to outdo that, this spring just before the release of this album (their third) lead singer Amy Dykes contracted cancer. As if a year of chemo wasn't bad enough for her, just as she was turning the corner this year she got bit by a rabid cat and had to undergo rabies shots. This is all just beyond freaky deeky. So before we even get to the review, I want to wish this poor woman and her friends and family all the kindest wishes I can for her improved health and luck. I hope she gets well, and hits the powerball. Now, for the review. If you have not heard this band before they meander thru a danceteria of techno goodies and what's more Amys voice has an edge to it that is remarkably similar to Deb Harry of Blondie, with an added air of perceptible winsomeness to it. (yeah, it's no wonder) While the music is very upbeat, the lyrics can be quite dark and brooding if you take notice, yet there seems to be a quality of defiance and hope in them as well. In that regard it goes well beyond the normal dance pop genre. By the end it gets just a little similar sounding but there are some excellent tracks on it and if you like techno pop by bands such asands like St. Etienne with perhaps a little more meat you'll most likely enjoy this quite a bit. I did.
Label ~ Gammon, 12 Tracks, 2004
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.9
Indurain - "What You Get For Being Naive" This is the debut EP by yet another brilliant Swedish outfit and it has quickly become one of my recent favorites. I assume taking their name from ex Spanish cycling great Miguel Indurain, they are perhaps more akin to english "light" techno bands than they are to any Swedish contemporaries. Yes, that means this affair is light, breezy, poppy but not so much so that it's fluff. In fact tracks like If I Had A Film are quite reminiscent of the stuff the Lovekevins put out with heady introspection and some very good lyrics. In fact the styles presented vary quite a bit from track to track on this outing but yet it never sounds like it doesn't all belong together. There's even some great female vocal accompaniment on The Secret Life. Without question this is about as good as this sort of thing gets. Since I practically stopped reviewing recently I only did those handful of things worth doing, so it seemed like all I give out are 10's. Because of that I only gave this a 9.5. But thru the course of listening to it as I write the review I kept adding points. I'll stop at 9.9 and leave them room to grow, but this is very good and should be on your list. It's also recorded very well to boot.
Label ~ Plastilina, 5 Tracks, 2008
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8
Interpol - "Turn On The Bright Lights" I believe this is supposed to be the next new "biggest thing" band from the "upscale" NYC/Glam rock scene and while their sound hints of that and at times even the Strokes (on the cut NYC oddly enough) this band has been labeled as everything from Joy Division clones to anything that's ever been sad. I wasn't sure what to make of it at first, but Joy Division they are not. T is moving into new "digs" and I'm helping him paint and we listened to this and he didn't like it, calling it a bad version of Kitchens of Distinction and the Chameleons. Not being fond of KOD I said I didn't know there was a good version, and even though I haven't listened to them in a long time I thought the comparison sound wise a pretty good one. I'll have to pull their stuff out and force a listen. I thought the lead singers voice (not sure of his name) reminded me of an americanized Ian McCullough in it's timbre at times (especially on the track Obstacle 2 which is one of the better ones), and possibly some of the songs are not far from what the Bunnymen are sadly trying to do anymore. Despite all this, I don't find this LP bad, and in fact there are some songs I do like. I think "kids" may find more here to like not having my storehouse of memories so they won't hear the less than flattering similarities. The US scene is trying to produce a giant, and certainly I'd prefer to hear this band all over the radio rather than Creed. On a whole this LP is sombre and dark but not stiflingly so, although some songs get leggy and I think really it comes down to a matter of taste. I'm all up for gloom if it's done well, but this......? I wouldn't send it back to the "kitchen", but next time I'll try the a'la carte.
Label ~ Interpol, 11 Tracks, 2002
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.7
IOs - "the IOs" This is a 3 track EP from this New York based band. Odd that they were not featured on the 'Yes New York' compilation, but that's probably because their sound is more 80's than 70's mod/glam like the majority of those bands. Reviews on their site make references to new wave but I don't think that's it. There is certainly something of the 80's to be heard here but I can't pin it down as it wanders about, and yet they have a lot in common with many of todays other indie bands. I think what sets them apart is a maturity in their sound.The opener Chattanooga has a southern rock feel even though it has swirling keyboard lines (reminds me of the Doleful Lions) and while it's good the next song Laika pretty much has just captivated me. It's heartfelt, meandering and lead singer Chris Punsalans voice is very emotive in it. It captures the beauty of a lot of 80's songs without becoming them, and that I think is the real trick. I just love it. The last track Cheers, Looting again takes another turn as here they sound close to Bauhaus like (except when keyboardist Autumn Proemm chimes in, as her voice is too nice to be found in a bauhaus song) and like all that went before this could easily be their style as any of the others. This is quite a band and certainly the next star to watch. I can hardly wait until the LP comes out. (shelflife, matinee, are you listening?) Check their website out by clicking here.
Label ~ self release, 3 Tracks, 2003
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.6
Ios - "Center And Stop EP" This EP is the third outing from this NYC band. I got but did not review their last single as frankly I was swamped and found I didn't care for it as well. (sorry guys). This outing finds them coming in just shy of an LP (5 songs) and with 2 new members and a slightly new feel and sound. Todays Ios are slightly more powerful, less "indie" in some regards perhaps, but the change I really like is the fact that Autumn Proemm adds more vocals. Her voice meshes well against lead singer Chris Punsalans and gives their music an added dimension. She should continue to sing more. Midway thru there is a nice ballad called Water Ghosts which shows they haven't lost their ability to write songs like that, which was their strongest suit in the past I thought. (that is again true on the last track Nurture, which is quite lovely) Apparently this is the teaser release as they are currently working on their debut LP. If they follow this musical tack and in fact should they improve upon it, that should be an album worth looking forward to. In the meantime, I do recommend this very much if you have not yet discovered this band as it is their best work to date. You can visit them at www.the-ios.com. By the way, I dig the cover too. It has a nice late 80's subway look.
Label ~ Self Release, 5 Tracks, 2004
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.6
Ios - "In Sunday Songs" I really liked this band a lot when I got their first EP back when, but subsequent releases left me wondering where it was going and I didn't like the direction all the time. I always felt their stock in trade was actually their ballads but it's hard to make a living off of that. So I was very curious to hear how the debut turned out and it really took me a while to absorb it at first as it was, and was not, so much like them. (If that makes sense) I'd heard someone say the song here called Come True was like this generations "part II" version of the Rentals "Friends Of P" (a song and album I own and love) and to a fuzzy degree it sort of is. It is kind of nostalgic, but it is also quite good on it's own merits. One of the other things I like about this is Autumn Proemm sings a bit more which is good, not that Chris has a bad voice but her solo work is quite nice and her harmonizing interjections on tracks like Every Waking Moment raise the level of the performance here by not a small margin. That song is also top drawer by the way and it comes off a bit like Barcelona only.......perhaps happier. It is followed by a simply lovely track called Rockets which is the glorious ballad like ditty I implied they do best. In fact the first half of this album is quite upbeat, and the latter half is more laid back and I think doing it that way really works. They draw the kids in with the pop hooks, then slay them with heartfelt, sometimes brooding, but majestic melodies. OK then, I have to admit I was afraid going in but this turned out not only much better than I expected but it is quite good. Quite damn good. In fact it reminds me of the kind of present you sometimes got as a kid that you didn't ask for (or even knew existed) but which turns out to be one of the best you ever got. A definite must check out.
Label ~ Kanine, 10 Tracks, 2006
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.9
Irene - "Apple Bay" I know I'm a bit late getting to this, but I had a reason. When their debut single Baby I Love Your Way came out last year it generated a lot of emotion, mostly positive, but some negative. In fact I had been having a conversation at the time with a "major player" in the indie scene who mentioned it and told me he DESPISED it. (The same way John Cleese despised Commies in the old Python skit) I was a bit taken aback by that. Well, I know people who feel the same way about the Postal Service too believe it or not. (the band I mean) So when the album came out I wasn't sure what to think and perhaps it effected my expectations because at first, while I wasn't sure, I didn't think I liked this. It was recorded a little flat and compressed and it struck me as pained warbling which prompted the indecision which delayed the review. Well, I'm here to now report that nothing could be further from the truth. This is actually a fairly brilliant album, and what I mistook for warbling was genuine passion and heartfelt playing. It's also not a one trick pony where the single is the only stand out track, as the entire affair is most excellent with nary a clunker to be found. While the lead vocal may be a voice you either love or hate, I think if you give it some time you'll find it warm, dark and fuzzier than it is gruff or edgy. The songs as well are very pop friendly and finely and uniquely orchestrated. This is a very solid debut effort, and it comes with our full stamp of approval.
Label ~ Labrador, 12 Tracks, 2007
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10+
Irene - "Long Gone Since Last Summer" Irene is one of my absolute favorite bands, but you wouldn't know that. That's because I never seem to get around to reviewing their album until a year or two later, as is the case with this 2007 release. I apologise for that, but if you have not heard or heard of this band it's better late than never. I simply adore the way they infuse their songs with the most brilliantly unique, yet catchy and timeless riffs, lyrics, song structures, harmonies and hooks in pop music. In two albums they have literally done no wrong. It's hard to follow up a 10 bell debut with another, and yet that is exactly what they have done. It's poppy and up-tempo, yet a little dour and emotive as well. Perfect guitar chords, horns just where they're needed and not a ba ba out of step. Don't think, just order both of them before they go out of print and you have to kick yourself.
Label ~ Labrador, 11 Tracks, 2007
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9
Iris - "Disconnect" This was one of the things I liked most when I heard the online clips and I couldn't decide if I wanted this their first disc or their new one so I got both. Then of course it turned out that of all the stuff I got I found their albums motivated me the least. That's always the way of it. It isn't because it's bad, to set that straight right away. Musically it is a lot like the first Camouflage album and how bad can that be? (which of course means it sounds like early depeche mode) Perhaps I was just overwhelmed with the similarity of all that I got, because as I listen to it know I find I like it quite a bit. It supposedly contains a number of tracks that are dance club hits, not that I would know since there are no clubs around here, and what there is play nothing but classic rock or C&W. Were it 20 years ago, I would just be eating this record up. As it is, I do like it quite a bit and it turns out it is one of the better things I did get, so redemption is always a possibility. If you like the genre, it comes fairly well recommended.
Label ~ A Different Drum, 10 Tracks, 1999
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.4
Iris - "Awakening" This is the "follow" up album which came out last year, and features new member Andrew Sega from the The Alpha Conspiracy. The difference this time out is a sort of darker edge and perhaps a "bigger" sound, which to me translates as an attempt to "grow" thru physical rather than emotional means. As an example they've included all the lyrics this time out, which is probably not a good thing as there is really nothing insightful getting said here. That can be forgiven, as you don't usually buy this sort of thing for the lyrical content. It's good enough musically, and it has more variety than the first disc but at perhaps the cost of less continuity. While I don't doubt tracks from here will make it to comp CD's had I to do it over I'd have just gotten the first and probably not this. Me personally I can only take so much of this when it gets so.....unchanging. At the end of the day, parodying depeche mode only takes you so far and often has the net result of making me want to listen to depeche mode records, not this. I suppose I was able to ignore it the first time round, but by album two I'd like to see the "real" you and we're just not getting that, and I can't believe so close a comparison is the "real" them. Even if it were, make an effort to be different to stand apart. That isn't happening here. However, there are those that doesn't matter to, and if that is you I have no doubts you will like this.
Label ~ Diffusion Records, 10 Tracks, 2003
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.1
Irises - "Not Good In Bed" Sounds innocuous doesn't it? Never gave it a pause myself until my kid was looking at this disc the other day and says the title out loud, and then looks at me puzzled. "Does that mean you shouldn't listen to this in bed dad?" she asked. Urrgghhh... parental anguish..."Yes dear, that's right, it's a dancing record" I said. "Oh Goody" she replied. For the record this got here because somebody (who will remain forgotten) brought this Canadian band to my attention, I wrote them, and they kindly submitted a disc for review. Featuring the lead vocals of Roxanne Heichert they instantly strike me as a sort of mix between the Pearly Gatecrashers and Birdie with a side of the old canadian band Martha and the Muffins. Their songs are very radio friendly, and in that regard this is almost like an 80's Bangles record and were these days like those days I don't doubt you'd have already heard this band on the radio two years earlier and not instead from the likes of me. If you like indie that knows how to rock (and so little does anymore) then this is a disc you'll be glad you sought out. It has all the hooks and rock sensibilities of the mid 80's in spades teamed to some catchy melodies and songs. Heicherts voice is nice and slightly unique, and it all teams together into a rock pop album that sets it apart from most of the indie world right now.
Label ~ Anka, 10 Tracks, 2002
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10+
Ivy - "Realistic" This, Ivys first LP emerged during what was the very bleak period of 1994. British indiedom had undergone one death knell after another and corporate "grunge" had firmly established itself as the meat of the day. So it was with as much a sense of relief as bliss that I aquired this record. The band itself formed in an odd way, lead singer Dominique Durand coming to the US from France where she met some guys from Jersey and formed a band. (it's almost TOO predictable sounding) One of them happened to be Adam Schlesinger who is also a member of the equally well regarded Fountains of Wayne. While this LP has a decidedly more folky and acoustic feel than their following LP's will, it nevertheless shares the same traits which make them all wonderful. Driving, wonderful melodies make cuts like 15 seconds a pop romp of joy, while on slow tracks like Everyday the genius of this band shows thru in spades as this cut has all the silky, sexy ambiance you could imagine. This is made possible by the voice of Dominique which is honey sweet, but has this intangible edge to it. She's a joy to listen to. This is one of those marvels of our time when all the ingredients were just right, and the result is pure magic. All of their albums are exceptional, but this one quite possibly still remains my favorite.
Label ~ Seed, 12 Tracks, 1994
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10+
Ivy - "Apartment Life" There is a bit of a mystery to this second album. I got it as soon as it came out and the cover pic was of Dominique looking into a makeup case. The pic of her at the table was in the inner sleeve. The album was also on Atlantic records. Not long ago my (since replaced) CD player for one of those unknown reasons would not play track 3, This is the day. (one of my favorites) So I looked around on eBay, found another copy of this LP and bought it. It comes to my door and out comes the second album pictured. OK, so I put it in and listen to track 3. It's mixed noticeably different. Put on track 2, so is that, even more so. Take a good look at the sleeve, and see it's on the Sony label?! So I listen to the rest of it and much of the album is different, sometimes subtly, but different. It sounds rawer and less "polished", but in some ways, well not better but a nice surprise. So be wary of this when looking for it. I'm glad I got both, but have no idea what's behind it. As for the music, 3 years on means more maturity I suppose, and that's what we get here. Their sound is now very "streamlined", electronics take over some of the work the guitars did, and the sound is over all more "polished". But don't interpret that as any kind of sellout, the "stuff" that made them them them is all here, and then some. On a whole this is a more happy record than the first, and the songs are such that they become familiar friends as soon as you hear them. It's really quite a lovely and beautiful record, that often kicks some butt. I think I like the original copy I had more, I don't know if that's because to me it's the "real" one or not, but still, the other is quite interesting to compare. At this juncture you may not have a choice on which to get, and if I can find out why I'll post that info. POSTSCRIPT: I did find out and you can find out as well by reading our interview with Ivy on the rants page.
Label ~ Atlantic/Sony, 12 Tracks, 1997
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10+
Ivy - "Long Distance" This was an LP I'd been waiting for for a while, as Ivy is one of my favorite groups. They've reached the status of not being really indie anymore, but not being known by the "masses" either. And as this would be LP number 3, which often is the do or die, make or break outing, I was in high anticipation. My first impressions were ehhh...it's Ivy, it didn't really impress me, well, maybe nothing smacked me over the head and carried me off. Stanislaus was also quick to comment he wasn't much moved either way as well. This bands sound changed a lot from LP 1 to 2, and this one falls in line with the course
they steered on their last, Apartment Life. Many, many listenings later, the real greatness of this disc has hit home, now that my stupid expectations have been laid in their beds. Their sound has developed a savvy sophistication, Dominique has never sounded better, and there is not one bad cut on this whole LP, or even a mediocre one for that matter..
The sound is smart, clean, well played and recorded and all them. Some real standouts include Lucy Doesn't Love You which is a bit of a blend of the old and new Ivy and has a great horn bit in it. It's a fab pop song, the kind of thing they truly excell at. Also of special merit is I Think Of You, which is such a classic sounding pop song, reminding me in at least style if not sound of the 70's classic Rock the Boat
in it's "groove" and smooth feel. They also do a credible cover of a giant of a song, the Blow Monkeys Digging You're Scene. This is not an easy task as the original is not only one of the best "glam" pop songs of the 80's, it was done right the first time as they say. Still, Ivy's version is all their own and quite credible. I listened to this LP as I sat and wrote this, and I was only going to give it about a 9.5. I don't know why.
Then I had to admit it is better, well maybe a 9.7, then finally a 10. But you know what, it's a 10+, it really is. I had to hunker down and admit it. Not a fault. Every note is perfect, the songs are all well above average and stick in your head all day. It's truly the sort of LP you hit play again when it ends instead of looking for something else, and after the 5th time you start on shuffle. Well done boys and girl, well done indeed.
Label ~ Nettwerk America, 13 Tracks, 2001
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.7
Ivy - "Guestroom" Coming off the tribulations of major record woes, outside projects and the impending birth of their second child, Ivy decided to take it easy for their fourth long player and make it the collected history of some of their more well known cover songs. You can read more about this in my latest interview with them which should be up by Oct. 20th (or so :). In any event, their current major Nettwerk didn't want this and the Gods saw fit for it to fall into the lap of indie label Minty Fresh. It opens with a serviceable cover of the Cures Lets Go To Bed which is followed by a nice version of Nick Heywards Kite which I think I actually like better than his version. Other noteables include the Go-Betweens Streets of Your Town which is both welcome and a little oddly interesting as they've sped it up a notch. A song I was surprised to find here is the cover of the House of Loves I Don't Know Why I Love You, because to me these bands are somewhat opposite in their musical "spectra". (well, I wouldn't have thought of the Cure either) but it's quite good, as is the whole LP as one would expect. They said they tend to choose songs they like rather than worry if it fits the "Ivy" sound, but irregardless they manage to pull it all off quite nicely. I think the best version on here is Steely Dans Only a Fool Would Say That which I can only attribute to the fact that both of these bands exist natuarlly in the same state of etherialness, so the cover of this song sounds quite effortless. The LP ends with one of their older covers of the Orange Juices I Guess I'm Just A Little Too Sensitive which sounds quite unlike the original, however they truly make it their own and it's a great cut. This LP is certainly a winner, it's recorded very well, there's no filler and it's always a pleasure to hear Dominique sing, so how can you go wrong? You can't. This band is one of the rare jewels of our modern pop world and everything they touch turns to musical gold. This should be on everyones list.
Label ~ Minty Fresh, 10 Tracks, 2002
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.1
Ivy - "In The Clear" It would certainly be fair to say I have been having more mood swings lately than a cat in heat going thru menopause. So when this long awaited fourth long player from one of my favorite bands came out my mental gymnastics took right over. My reactions were such that to my own amazement I hated it, then liked it, then loved it and then hated it again, and all over the span of about 3 weeks. Why the confabulations? This is without question the darkest, and most un-Ivy like album they have yet made. The opener Nothing But The Sky is dark and brooding piano number and to further that end they miked Dominiques voice to be a hazy whisper. I love to hear HER, and I am not fond when people who can sing get their voices miked like people who can't. That was and still is my biggest complaint about this album. The next track Thinking About You is a very Ivy like song and is quite good, and her voice is not miked as whisper like as the opening track, but it still doesn't ring clear. Obviously it's what they wanted, which is OK, but as a consumer, ney, a fan I am entitled to be petulant in return. (and when do I miss a chance to be petulant?) Am I being hard? Yes, I always am on the bands I think most highly of. They get measured with a stick not used for mere mortals. There are some classic cuts on this, but there is also for the first time perhaps a degree of fluff, and even wall hitting. By that I mean, everybody only has so much in them worth saying, and since their last "real" lp they put out a cover album, Andy did the Brookville thing and then they did a Paco album. I think the lack of fresh ideas begins to show near the end of this disc. Yet despite all that I find I now enjoy listening to this disc, generally. My stereo helps with that for sure, but there is the underlying fact that even average Ivy is better than a great many other things. If you are new to them, don't start here. Go get their first LP and start from there. For the old hands, you'll certainly want this, but you may find it a bittersweet fruit like I did.
Label ~ Nettwerk America, 10 Tracks, 2005