Spinzone ~ Reviews M


Reviews - M

Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.2

M Coast - "Say It In Slang" I have been particularly buried lately and can't even get to reviewing the major stuff, let alone the countless unsolicited submissions. This is one however that struck me as being particularly noteworthy and I've wedged it in as soon as I could. (yes, which was still not particularly quick) I have a press sheet on them somewhere but if I stop to look for it this won't get written so I'll have to wing it. All I know is that it's an american band that features male and female singing. (and more importantly they can both hold a note) Musically it mostly wanders near a Bacharach type of melody line, however at times it becomes more edgy and then it will suddenly slip into the odd synth style or get flutey and bright. In other words it's very hard to nail down. This doesn't make for a lack of cohesion however as it all somehow seems to go together. What's more there is a deal of experimentalism going on here. As one might expect that doesn't always work but in most cases here they manage to make it do so. Better still, when it hits it can be quite captivating. This is one I really suggest you check out further as it is the sort of sleeper that weaves a spell over you as time goes by until you're a bit enchanted. A very pleasant surprise.
Label ~ HHBTM, 15 Tracks, 2006

snozzin inna kanga pouch i is

Hip-ometer Rating ~ 6.3

Mabels - "the Closest People" It is a bit of an odd phenomenon that most of the better bands from down under tend to be slowish and heartfelt. This is certainly a bit slowish and heartfelt, and again there's that familair oddity that songs of this sort tend to go on and on. Of the ten tracks here 6 reach or exceed 4 minutes and of those 3 are over 5. Did no one learn anything from the beautiful brevity that was and is the Smiths Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want? I suppose not. Anyway, this band sort of reminds me of a mix between the Lucksmiths and Trembling Blue Stars. The songs aren't quite bad nor are they quite good and mostly they are a lot alike. Many are of the endless bemoaning sort, and frankly I find that too much of a chore to be bothered with listening to. Honestly, is anyone really this sad or depressed? At least the Smiths turned it to anger and irony. This is the sort of stuff that should be playing when they find you hanging in the attic.
Label ~ Candle Records, 10 Tracks, 2000

Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10+

Magic Whispers - "Yin Yang" The minute I heard a clip from this on the Siesta website a while back I knew I had to have it and got it before it was generally available here, but I did pay thru the nose for it. I had creeping suspicions while listening to it, but it wasn't until track nine Fly was playing that I said, "Hey, I know this song..." A quick grab of the booklet showed sure enough it was indeed the Pearly Gatecrashers song I knew and loved so well. That's when I saw this entire album in fact, all 14 songs, are covers. Performed by two women, Rita Calypso and Bathing Beauty (Ana Laan & Natalia Farran respectively) who together, separately and in various combinations take these songs and not only make them their own, they make them an absolute pop triumph. Vocally sounding like Sarah Blackwood from her Dubstar days on some tracks to sounding uncannily like Strawberry Switchblade on others, need less to say this had me in throes of absolute joy. All that is best about pop, with great artwork as well. Who needs more?! The backing musicians are great, it is recorded very well, and they best all the original songs I was familiar with, and yes Tim, that even includes your Pearly Gatecrashers tune. It may get picked up here and get cheaper, but if not I'd pay for it. Really really enjoyable records are really somewhat rare, and this happens to be one of them. A must own of 2004.
Label ~ Siesta, 14 Tracks, 2004

Hip-ometer Rating ~ 6.3

Magic Whispers - "Carousels & Music Boxes" Having liked the debut album by this band so much I was very eager for their follow up to come out. Sadly, it pales in comparison and that's as hard to take as say because I really think there is some talent here. I don't know if it was the choice of trying to write songs around their title theme that did it (how much carousel and music box thematics can anyone take?) or if they just fell flat. Maybe the first one was a fluke. Sure, there are some nice tracks, Time To Grow probably being my favorite, but sadly there are too many let downs. Their cover of Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow is frankly uninspired and I know they could have done this better. Track ten, Carousel is like audible chinese water torture and by the time we get to Two Mothers, a song about breast feeding, (well, OK, it's more of a commentary than a song) I'm looking for the exit ramp. This thing isn't even average, it's actually bordering on crap and the pittance of worthwhile cuts on it don't justify its price. (the packaging is very nice however) Oh well, such is life, and in to each life some rain must fall.... umbrellas out gang and mind the puddles, I think there's doody in some of them.
Label ~ Siesta, 17 Tracks, 2006

I don't get it

Hip-ometer Rating ~ 7.5

Mahogany - "The Dream of a Modern Day" This LP made the top 10 of a lot of charts in 2000, but it is frankly another of those things that I have to diverge from the "masses" on. Musically it treads very closely to the ambience of the Cocteau Twins only being a bit more lo-fi and flat in sound. The lead singer (who is female but I know not her name) also sounds a little like our Liz, or at least her vocals come across miked in such a way as to have that unintelligible Cocteau effect. Only Liz belted it out, and the words were often words she made up, that's why they couldn't often be understood. Perhaps that's the problem I have with this LP. It treads so closely to them that comparisons can't help but be made and they don't compare as well. The songs generally tend to repeat the same riff or chord over and over and over...that's not beauty or effervescence when it's done to death. It's annoying. This album is more ambient than it is musical. Taken one song at a time, this isn't too bad, but were I forced to listen to the entire thing it would shortly become too much. So, it isn't really bad, in slices it's actually OK, but top 10? I think not.
Label ~ Burnt Hair, 12 Tracks, 2000

ba ba baa

Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.2

Majestic - "Live it Up!" As with Siesta and their bossa nova so it is with Shelflife and the pop "ba ba baa's". Here is a group that is almost the epitome of their stable. With a semi odd 60's to 70's flair, this band walks the rope of retro as well as anyone. On Wonderful as well as a few other tracks musically at least they sound a lot like Birdie while on the next track Harry they change again to a more introspective sort of sound. Numerous different keyboard sounds get used on this LP as well as horns. There isn't really a whole lot to say, if you like bubblegum pop this is sure to please as it's done about as well as any in this genre is done today. You'll certainly get you fill of ba ba's, that's for sure. The Partridge Family would be proud.
Label ~ Shelflife, 10 Tracks, 1998

apples in my stereo?

Hip-ometer Rating ~ 7.7

Marbles - "Pyramid Landing" This is of course the "fun" record of Robert Schneider of Apples In Stereo fame. I had first heard the cut Grant Me The Day on a comp CD years back before I knew this was him and liked it alot. The opener here, Top of the Morning is actually a very XTC like sounding affair. In fact variety is the only real style on this LP as all the cuts are very un-alike and a bit experimental with songs like Sun To Shine being about as bubbly as possible and sounding like it belongs on some saturday morning cartoon while the track after it Death My Bride is a little odd and quite slow. Most of the tracks on this LP are short, some very much so as 4 clock in under 2 minutes. That's probably explained as this LP was never intended by him to be an LP, but was more of a work in progress to develop his own styles and sound. The songs were only intended to be experiments. While this LP does have some gems on it (including "grant me the day") it is a bit ecclectic and not the sort of thing I would listen to straight thru. Knowing that going in you might find it worth getting.
Label ~ Elephant 6, 14 Tracks, 1997


Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.3

Marine Research - "Sounds From the Gulf Stream" Two years after the suicide death of their drummer Mathew Fletcher the band Heavenly decided to re-incarnate itself into this outfit. I must say I had previously not liked Heavenly at all, and this time around, well, this LP is very, very odd. The first track, Parallel Horizontal has all the punky strains of late 70's-80's girl rock, and the harmonizing even sounds a bit like the Bangles at their best. For once the vocals are not annoying my ears. It's a truly great cut. (I said that?) However the next song, You and a Girl is almost experimental (re-Heavenly like) and it doesn't really work at all. Then comes Hopefulness to Hopelessness which sort of captures the magic of the first again only for the next track Queen B to come along and muck up the waters again. When they play like that they sound like Heavenly and every time that happens it ruins it for me. Again then, cut 5 is good, but track 6 is not. I'm all over the place listening to this LP. Track 8 Vann Diagram actually sounds like the damn Siddeleys, but then the next track I'm not over fond of again. I'm just way too confused about this record. It certainly has portentious moments, and I admit it could actually be quite brilliant at times. I like the new things they are trying to do, but when the spectre of Heavenly creeps in I can't listen to it. Were they to finally shake that off and pursue this new sound I think they could be a band worth watching. I understand a new LP is out or due soon, so we shall see.
Label ~ K, 10 Tracks, 1999

Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10+

Mascott - "Follow The Sound" This is a crime. Not the album, but the fact that it is quite good and should have been featured and reviewed a LONG time ago by me, but for inexplicable reasons kept getting bumped for other things. There was a long while where I had been listening to this and not much of anything else and found myself growing more enchanted with it all the time. Again, I was going to put it off until it could be a featured review but no, sooner worse serves more than better never. Wow, now I'm starting to sound like Yoda. I suppose I'm really behind on this title as it is dated 2000 (but I could have sworn it was a recent release, obviously a recent re-release) OK, so if you're as slow on the uptake as me the other adage for this review is better late than never. Apparently this band is a woman named Kendall Jane Meade who is supported by a host of other musicians. Stylistically it reminds me a lot of Sarah McLaughlins titanic opus Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, without all the bluster and fanfare. (I'm not deriding either work with that comment, they're both brilliant) Musically this is simply charming, engrossingly charming, hypnotically charming and it is a lyrical treat as well. It is sung sweetly but with just the right mix of passion and emotion to make it one of the best albums of it's kind I have heard in some time, and yes, perhaps since the above mentioned 'Fumbling..' I should be caned for allowing this to go unheralded for so very long. This is a must own.
Label ~ Le Grand Magistery, 10 Tracks, 2000

Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.7

Mates Of State - "Team Boo" Swirling organ, retro vibe, and shouting masquerading for vocals. The recipe for a complete piece of crap one would think, and I'm not sure why I even bought this, but I did. What's more amazing is, it honestly doesn't suck. I have to give Kori and Jason kudos for going out on a very long and shaky limb in making this album. Regardless of whether it is good or bad, it is a little bizarre and certainly in your face and could easily have gone south, but it doesn't. That I believe is due to them knowing just how far to go, and going no further. On top of that, although the songs are a little juvenile and the vocals really in your face, the melodies are catchy, and you find yourself singing them (and like them) despite yourself. I suppose anything that can break down your inhibitions and make you behave like a complete joy filled ass has to be doing something right. I not only can't recall hearing anything like this in a while, I'm not sure anyone ever sang on a record like this before. What's more they went to a lot of trouble on the packaging which is actually kind of nice as well. They clearly had a vision and apparently executed it with some success. If you have an open mind and would like something a tad strong yet accessible and poppy then add this one to your list. It requires a little effort and time, but it can reward believers.
Label ~ Polyvinyl, 12 Tracks, 2003

Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8

Math And Physics Club - "Weekends Away" This is the debut offering from the latest Matinee wunderkinds. And to little surprise this US band sounds very much like a cross between other Matinee bands the Liberty Ship and the Lucksmiths. I personally think it would be a good thing for that label to diverse itself a bit more. When everything starts sounding the same it really starts begging the question "what's the point", or more poignantly "how many of the same record do we need?". Although the latter would perhaps be better addressed to the Lucksmiths. Oh, and there I go again. I actually do like the Lucksmiths but there is no question their catalog is voluminously repetitive, and it is on a label that is also becoming quite repetitive. Now while this EP is quite good, and the songs are very nice and well played, the sound is SO Matinee and the songs have such a familiar feel that it leaves me sort of not caring, which is a shame. I can think of a half dozen Matinee bands off the top of my head, and this sounds a bit like every one of them. The clip I put up for instance, Love, Again.... it's the Lucksmiths. Yes, it's quite nice, but it's got Lucksmiths all over it. And as I've always said parody is fine but in this case with this label my tank is full and I'd like something else already, please. If you can't get enough however, then by all means you'll want this. I however am tired of listening to the same dozen songs.
Label ~ Matinee, 4 Tracks, 2005

Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9

Andreas Mattsson - "" Andreas is of course one of the driving forces of the swedish band Popsicle (which Luke used to name our record shop) and it's probably safe to say they were one of Swedens most successful indie pop bands during the early part of the 90's. While he has worked on a number of other projects and other bands since then, this is his first genuine and proper solo effort. While this outing begins in a somewhat clinical way with a rather Philip Glass feel, it soon changes tack and takes on the persona of some of the more mellow cuts from the latter Popsicle albums, with perhaps a tad more melancholy and maturity. His voice is in as fine a form as ever and without question it has to be one of the more unique and stand out voices in music today as it is able to impart worlds of emotion all by itself. As for this, while his past work either slayed me or left me indifferent, this kind of falls someplace in between. It doesn't rock any worlds, but it is rather nice overall and it's the kind of thing you can cozy up to for a long winters night of introspection.
Label ~ Hybris, 11 Tracks, 2006

Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.4

Maybellines - "Chatfield Holiday" If there is a cover that could be more twee pop looking than this I cannot imagine it. I actually like the inner sleeve even more, as it's a picture of a moustached walrus shaped like a bowling pin in a vest with a top hat, bow tie, monocle and pipe holding a magic wand. This is the first LP by this Denver band and it can best be described as innocent, almost childlike pop. The Archies with even less of an edge. Some people have a problem with that, as they can't allow that tinge of childhood to mix with music. That doesn't bother me as long as it's done well, and this is. Sure, this is fluff, but it's good fluff and at times it's very good fluff. The vocals are pleasing, the lyrics really are not inane or anything and at times are even quite good. It even gets a little grungy on tracks like Drama Queen and Big Wheel. I believe they are popular in japan and that would not be a surprise as there is a j-pop element to their music. However there are almost adult and suave tracks like Until I Met You which is very indie-riffic. There's even a hidden 11th track which is just talking and features a guy trying some bad pickup lines the day after a show and is actually somewhat amusing. All in all a very likeable album which helps remind us it doesn't always have to be so serious but it does have to be mellifluous and this certainly is that. (before you go running for your dictionaries, if you even have one, it means "flowing, as if sweetened with honey")
Label ~Best Friend Records , 11 Tracks, 2002

Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.3

Mean Red Spiders - "Still Life Fast Moving" I had heard of this band who hail from Toronto but not heard them before receiving the promo copy of this disc. The press sheet says it's their most cohesive work to date and that they were previously harder edged, but I cannot comment on that. The opener, First And Only is a very interesting cut, having a late 80's chart pop melody with the guitar jangle of modern indie. It's on tracks like that and Beaconsfield which are more up tempo that they succeed the most on this record with beats that don't leave the brain. On the slower and more ambient numbers the songs melodies sometime get away from them, or worse just turn to noise. The album was a roller coaster in that regard for me as the songs tend to alternate with some regularity in that regard and their placement in the track listing. I found it somewhat odd that a band trying to make really nice melodies (and appears at least to me to be trying to make poignant songs) ruin them when they get one by having a great song suddenly turn into a wall of guitar noise for no reason, especially when the song was not going that way. Having the guitars go "chunga, chunga chunga" suddenly and repeatedly (and loudly) is not novel or talent laden and it needs to be done judiciously to make proper use of it. I think they do it a tad too often and not at the right places, probably a holdover from their past style. That's the biggest shame. There is certainly potential here, and a number of the songs melodies and lyrics have stuck in my head, but there are a few failings too. With sterner and more focused production this might well have been excellent. It appears they still need to work on their cohesion, but as it is it's an interesting plum with only a few bad spots. Perhaps not the first thing on your list, but certainly worth considering.
Label ~ Clairecords, 10 Tracks, 2003

Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.7

Meeting Places - "Find Yourself Along The Way" This is one of the latest releases from the label Words On Music, renown for their choice of lush dreamscape type bands. This certainly falls into that genre, although it has a bit more "hum" and reverberation that what one usually finds them releasing. The album isn't hard to pin down on styles, but it still tries a few hats on as it were and there are sounds on here reminiscent of bands from the Ocean Blue to even the Cocteaus, yet it isn't like anything else really at all. My only gripe is that at my age I mostly heard it all already and there isn't anything excitingly new here for me. Music that churns and drones well, just churns and drones. This beats that cliche by having good pop sensibilities, however I was never overly fond of wall of sound type bands anyway, as it all becomes a wash and starts to bore. While there is nothing on here I can fault, I doubt this will ever get played by me again. It's clearly interesting but it's not reaching me. This of course is a matter of personal taste and I can recommend this if you are partial to a nice fuzzy sort of shoegaze as it is done better than what most others attempt in this genre. Me, I'm just a pop whore at heart.
Label ~ Words On Music, 10 Tracks, 2003

Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10+

Melpo Mene - "Holes" I was not sure how this would be in it's entirety when I ordered it, as so many of this type of album (lamenting acoustic guitar) starts off a melange of speeds to fool you but by track 4 you have already digressed into a mind numbing slowness (which somehow manages to get slower on each subsequent track) so much so that by track 7 one is usually ready to commit sepukku. I am sure you own one of these records, where the only good clip is track 2, (you know, the only song you heard before buying the damn thing) This band is Swedish however so I took the chance and in this case I am glad to report that the above forementioned numbness does not happen here, except perhaps unless you are numbedby the sheer brilliance of it. There is a sort of slow melancholia, which in fact to my ear reminds me a bit of Simon and Garfunkel. (I think MM are much closer cousins to S&G than the usually compared KOC) While some tracks start out ominously, they actually catch you by surprise at some point with sharp twists and turns of melody such as the techno tinged Hello Benjamin. Better still all the tracks are genuinely catchy, with a surprising number of hooks and good lyrics. Some might consider this is a mood record however, one of those things that when you are not in the mood it all sort of sounds the same and you grow tired quickly, but I would disagree. Whatever mood this thing is, I wish it could envelop me for the rest of my days. Very highly recommended.
Label ~ Imperial, 10 Tracks, 2005

stars shine bright in dixie?

Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.7

Memphis - "A Good Day Sailing EP" As stated before, this is a side project of Torquil Campbell and Ann Millan of the band Stars along with Chris Dumont. Both this and the new Stars EP also share common discs, both of which are basically 3" cd's inside a clear regular CD. That always looks cool I suppose. As far as the music, since Stars dabbles in a variety of sounds anyway one can't help feel this basically sounds exactly like them, especially as they're the ones singing. The songs are all good, the first two cuts probably being the best and both being quite good at that. The last, Ferry Boy is also nice as well. This is probably a little better than the Stars EP and again it's a mystery why they just didn't make an LP out of it all. This you'll have to get if you want as none of this will likely appear on a Stars LP in future, so if you are inclined to purchase either of these two then this would probably be the one you'll want.
Label ~ le Grand Magistery, 5 Tracks, 2001

Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.3

Memphis - "I Dreamed We Fell Apart" There is a long standing dictum that goes something like this: "Be careful of what you wish for, you may just get it." This band is a side project for Stars main man Torquil Campbell and I had been a little, well, not upset but their past EP had sounded a bit too much like Stars. Not that that's bad, but if it's going to sound the same as your regular band then what is the point of making it appear like something else? While I liked that EP it was essentially Stars to me. That has changed. However, for some time I believed that the change was not for the better as my initial listens to this (on a variety of horrid contrivances as mentioned above) were not complimentary. The opener The Second Summer is quite a nice song but it sounds very much like a Stars affair. It was then my impression that this album shortly took a sharp left and went right into the gully after that. It sounded like nothing but minimal pan flute noises and low key monotone warblings that went nowhere. Well, I still have not gotten a perfect audition, but I heard it thru my gear in my unfinished room and I liked it. It is still a bit minimal at times, and it does drift, but as it's recorded well and is generally of quality I found it enjoyable to listen to. This is exemplified by tracks like Hey Mister, Are You Awake? which has some woman whispering in what sounds like Japanese to some keyboard tones and light percussion. You know how it is: 1st listen was "what the hell is this...." 5th listen was "Oh this again..." 12th listen was "Oooh, this track!". I am too busy to try to figure it out further, but I would say if you have a good stereo you will probably wind up liking this. If not you may not get all the nuance, and therefore not enjoy what it offers. It does have an excellent cover of the Pet Shop Boys Love Comes Quickly if that sweetens the pot for you.
Label ~ Paper bag, 11 Tracks, 2004

Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.5

Men In Fur - "Men In Fur" I had heard this bands name mentioned before this promo arrived, but I was really not sure what to make of it. On the surface appeared a low key affair that was entirely animal-centric. (imagine if PETA had a twee band record an album for them) With track names like The Lonely Bear, Sam The Salmon, The Tiger Song, The Deer Song, The Monkey Song etc... you begin to get the idea. On the planet I live on, that's a recipe for one hell of a crap record. So when I eventually got a chance to hear it on a semi real setup, I discovered it not only wasn't crap, it was actually not half bad. In fact, further listening revealed it to be not only good, but actually engaging. From the lovely single oriented Elisa to the pretty guitar instrumental The Lonely Bear what quickly become obvious is that not only is this recorded well, the songs are unique and well crafted and not the idle warblings of some kids. Yes, the lyrics are sometimes a bit inane, but they get away with it thru sheer quality. Hell, even The Deer Song is really interesting, starting out with Kraftwerk like synth lines, only to turn into a wall of chiming guitar a minute and a half or so in. Vocal duties are a shared male female affair on this disc and in both cases the voices are good ones. I lost all my promo sheets in my recent chaos and upon looking in the inner book I see they are from my state of PA and this was recorded not too far from me. Well that explains the quality then. If all this wasn't enough of a tribute, I made a disc for a guy who wrote me from an audiophile website after seeing the link to my site, and I included one of this bands songs on it. Of all the stuff on there, he liked this the most, which I found actually amazing coming from any audiophile. This is an album able to exceed your expectations and reach you on a variety of levels, in a variety of ways, including most of the good ones. So who needs more?
Label ~ HHBTM, 13 Tracks, 2004

heartfelt from the heartland

Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.5

Mendoza Line - "I Like You When You're Not Around" Formed in Athens, GA (sound familiar?) this group is supposedly comprised of members who supposedly"attended school and those who just went to the parties". What's remarkable is the BIG sort of truly american sound this band has. Usually I might find that a turn off, but these boys and girls do it so much better than anyone has in such a long time one has to stand up and take notice. The opening track The Big Letdown is just such a number and the brilliant harmonies and beat are enough to truly sweep one away. Not all is gold here, there is a bit of experimentation and that sort of makes for an uneven LP, but it is mostly good and on some tracks such as (We'll Never Make) The Final Reel which has almost New Order Hook-esque bass lines and such a brilliant groove you are completely taken in rapture. This LP certainly has it's moments of brilliance and what's more, it only gets better on the next album.
Label ~ Kindercore, 16 Tracks, 1999

brilliant, just brilliant

Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10+

Mendoza Line - "We're All in This Alone" The Mendoza Line is a band driven by fits of callous self-promotion with designs of world domination who inexorably succumb to a relentless determination to in the end not just fail, but royaly screw the pooch. (And they seem to prefer it that way) I think I am wholly incapeable of describing what this band sounds like, perhaps a bit of a breathy mixture of americana with heartfelt acoustic guitar (used RIGHT for once) and well, well....., there's the problem. This band meanders a course that tiptoes close to indy-dom, but is not, then sidesteps close to alternate country, but isn't that either (thank god), does a pirouette and almost lands as christian rock. They are all and none of these things. The old enigma wrapped in a riddle presented with a conundrum. There are 15 songs on it, but tracks 1 and 15 are not songs and are not even them. They are by someone named Robert Duckworth. The first is called Tokyo Wa and is basically a japaneese woman speaking and oversampled for 28 seconds. Track 15 is Hoshi No Oto and sounds like a damn glass armonica. If you are not familiar with that instrument of torture, it was one of Benjamin Franklins favorite inventions, but the one I curse him most for. It is a machine from hell. It's basically a large wine glass on it's side that spins and by wetting your fingers (just like you used to do to annoy adults in resaurants) and applying them while it turns you can make the wail of demons, and supposedly music. The pitch and timbre are such that I cannot listen to it, and it sounds like it will bust every window in the room if you let it play. Nails on a chalkboard don't bother me, but I cannot abide this sound. Again, is this a test of endurance? An attemt at self sabotage? Or just a charitable act only they appreciate? The LP gets going properly on track 2, Sasha goes Too Far/It Could be the Nights which is quite an unusual song. It has 3 distinct parts, the first is almost whispering lyrics sung, really spoken, with very little instrumental backing, but what one first notices is the brilliant lyrical writing. The song is almost jazz like, with delicate piano, but yet it has a "poppy" beat to it. However, it's on track 4, Baby, I Know What You're Thinking that the pop genius shows thru. This is a brilliant song, it has a gorgeous groove, and a sound unlike any other group I can compare it to currently. If any song deserved to climb the charts, it's this. It has warmth, it drives and is completely uplifting. This LP is almost like a slugging match, as thru most of it the boys and girls trade off one track at a time, each singing their own songs. And the womens voices here are a pleasure, fit seamlessly with the "boys" and are not of the typical sounding type that so many female singers seem to sound like these days. They follow the previous track with My Tattered Heart and Torn Parts which is achingly fab-tastic in it's own right. This entire LP is a gem, but I also particularly like You Singled Me Out, another of the girls numbers. One of my favorite songs of the past year, it is beautiful yet sad, but well, quite uplifting and near dancy. Bittersweet brilliance. I think if you checked the final score it would be hard to say who did the better job on this LP, guys or gals. This band excells at minimalism, light instrumental work, done very well, wonderful heartfelt lyrics and some very catchy songs. It is truly fantastic and I cannot endorse it more.
Oh, and their name? Another bit of obscure hipness that is. The Mendoza Line is a baseball term applied to hitters who's batting average is so low it's on the verge of determining if they're really worth the space they take up (somewhere about.217) and is attributed to the player Mario Mendoza. It's the cutting point at which one either stays or goes. Again, they tempt, almost invite their own doom with the ever apparent glint of irony. Me? Personally I'll keep em around for a few more seasons........
Label ~ Bar None, 15 Tracks, 2000

third time, I'm not charmed

Hip-ometer Rating ~ 5.3

Mendoza Line - "Lost in Revelry" This is the third long player from this NYC based relocated Georgia band, and I had been hoping for great things as their last album had a huge impression upon me. But I was disturbed right off the bat by seeing credits to members of Elk City on the sleeve, which is a band (from a musical "scene") I truly can't stand. The opener here, A Damn Good Disguise reminds me in construction to the opener on their last LP, only it is more obviously alternate country sounding with the vocals miked to sound annoyingly close to Dylan. I didn't like it all at first but now have to admit it isn't awful, just not great. I was also turned off by the lyrics this time as they aren't hitting home as they did on the last, and to boot, while I'm no prude I heard the word fuck (or a derivative there of) at least three times by the second song already. There was a genuinely sad, windswept americana on the last LP. This time, it's just boring. I don't think this band is lost in revelry, they're just lost. At least if they had intended to make some kind of statement with this recording it is entirely lost upon me, unless it is that when one stops being true to themselves they are no longer themselves, nor are they what they supposed themselves to be. Then one is truly lost. This is a record best forgotten. The last time this band yielded treats both sweet and sublime, but this seasons harvest has left us nothing but bitter, bitter fruits. We can only hope for the future.
Label ~ Misra, 13 Tracks, 2002

Numan would be proud

Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9

Micromars - "International Pop Modulations" This is one of those cases of a band finally doing something interesting and being largely ignored, when other bands shelling the same old dribble get loads of accolades. Hailing from Norway, this band has a very interesting and unique pure synth sound, sort of farfisa driven while the melodies remind me somewhat of the Charlatans or some other early 90's english bands. While this seems odd it does work. In fact, it's quite brilliant on cuts like New Pop Song which is a really groovy and danceable track and to my ear comes across as very english sounding. One of their songs is called Cheesynova and in fact their melodies do often have a futuristic synthy bossa nova feel. Some of their songs while sounding poppy underneath as it were also come across with an air of sorrow or melancholy. One of the more interesting synth bands in a long time and truly deserving of more credit than was given them. Sadly too I had a hard time getting it even though it is only a few years old and was told it was OOP. I found it at Insound finally (www.insound.com) which is generally a terrible source for indie, except they often have these oddities in stock as their regular customers aren't buying it. Quite worth the look though I think.
Label ~ AIP, 10 Tracks, 1998

just my luck

Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10

Mighty Mighty - "A Band From Birmingham" This is the sort of thing that while I have to be happy and admit it is a good thing these songs saw the light of day again, this release really pissed me off. Why? Because I slogged my ass up and down the streets of Manhatten in the 80's getting all the 12" singles that the songs on this cd originally came from. Yes, it WAS a lot of work. Not only were they great, nobody else had them, or so it seemed. (Mighty Mighty was not overly popular, or was overlooked as usual) So they were always a good source of material to slip on a cassette for someone to blow their mind and display my hippness. Well, this release makes all that work pointless in one fell swoop. Every "johnny-come-lately" can muscle up to the bar and get their copy now, in one easy purchase. Damn you Vinyl Japan! I know, I'm a bitter old man. It's true. Anyway, if you never heard of this band, they were one of the best post-smiths brit pop-guitar acts of their day. (that's C-86 for the rest of you). There are some truly titanic cuts on this LP, so just stick another dagger in me and buy it. It's really a 10+ but I left that off for my anger.
Label ~ Vinyl Japan, 15 Tracks, 2000

super sexy happy girls

Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.2

Mikabomb - "the Fake Fake Sound of Mikabomb" This is something I stumbled on when looking for info on the Bristols (label mates) and it really piqued my interest so I got it. Nothing like the punk pop sensibilities of japanese girls. This thing is really great, and musically sort of has the presence Shampoo or Elasticas first album. This is the sound of original "punk" which when done right just kills. Songs like Contact Tokyo are so punky and poppy it's nearly impossible to sit still listening to it. Truly some brilliant, kick ass stuff. lead singer Mika Handa has the perfect voice, slight edge, and her accent only helps things. This thing manages to walk the razor well, being full blown at times but never losing it's pop safety line. They aren't one trick ponies either, as sometimes bands of this vein tend to have every song sound the same and that is not the case here. At times they're even almost comparable to early, early Bangles (turned up a notch or two) The songs tend to clock in around the 2 minute mark as well, and never overstay their welcome and in fact often leaving you just wanting a little more. It's all good, and every so often a track like Love Factor Five comes up and really blows the doors down. A punktastic little record girls, and a job well done indeed.
Label ~ Damaged Goods, 16 Tracks, 2001

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Mucho Gusto!