Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.7
Ming & Ping - "Ming & Ping" I really have not had time to do any reviewing lately, and what's worse my address has gotten around and I am getting un-asked for promos by the cartload. The problem with that is it takes forever to go thru it just to find something I'd want to review, let alone reviewing it. My Spock eyebrow was certainly up when this ditty fell out of an envelope one day un-looked for. It went even higher when I put it on and discovered it was not only good, it was quite above average. Musically, it has a very early 80's synth feel, somewhere between early Depeche and perhaps Blancmange with modern comparisons to perhaps Figurine or Soviet (with a little Freezepop thrown in). Mings vocals tend to be more spoken than sung, but they come across nicely in a sort of mellow but earnest way. The songs are structured well and it is generally dance oriented with at times a slight techno goth feel. Obviously some people don't like this sort of thing, which is fair as I certainly dislike my share of music. But this I do like. In it's genre it is done about as well as anything of it's kind is. There are a number of excellent cuts such as The Bright Sunlight or Mission Control and were it 20 years ago, this probably would have made the charts or garnered some public notice. If you like effervescent tecnho with a dance edge then put this on your short list. It's one of the better things in a year that's so far been a bit of a letdown. Check out their website here and be sure to watch the vid for A. I., it's all retro and Flock of Seagulls meets Alphaville in it's appeal. (click the band link on the right)
Label ~ Monotone/Omega Point, 13 Tracks, 2004
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10+
Mini Kyute - "Sanctuary EP" This is a 7" single release (although a japaneese copy is available on CD, but be ready to pry that wallet open) I wasn't sure what to make of this. The artwork on the sleeve is really cool, but the record was a mess. The edge was not cut clean and is as raspy and sharp as a razor blade, and if the disc was any thinner it would be a flexi. On top of that the spindle hole was too small and I had to enlarge it. So after it got it's nitty gritty scrubbing I wasn't expecting much in the sound department, but the pressing turned out quite good and entirely noise free (except just 2 little "pips" on the last track). But you're on your own there if you don't scrub your vinyl. It spins at 33 rpm so it isn't as dynamic as it would have been at 45 but it didn't disappoint in that regard either. Anyway, the sides aren't marked but I think I got it right, and the opener Swinging and Singing is a very quirky mostly instrumental clubby J-Pop type track, with her interjecting the odd "do do do" and they even put in some Jesus Couldn't Drum quaking duck sounds. It's a pretty good little song. Next is Miracles and while her accent sounds obvious, they say she (lead singer Rio) isn't Japaneese. It kind of reminds me of the swanky club pop from late 80's Britain, like Eighth Wonder, and I like the song a lot. Very dancy and catchy. Side two begins with I Found Out which is a little slower, more ballad like but still dancy with a nice airy quality about it. The effort ends with the title track which is really great too. This was put out by the same people who sent it to me, the folks at Yum Yum Publicity, and kudos to them. It states another EP might be out soon, but here's my two cents. They should take it, get 2 more tracks from the band and put all that and this out as this bands (and their) debut LP. You have to strike while the iron's hot, run with the ball etc.... You got a smoking coal here folks, don't let it cool off. I eagerly await this LP, and no mistake. If you have the ability to play vinyl, this is a must have.
Label ~ Joystick Records, 4 Tracks, 2002
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10+
Mocca - "My Diary" This is considered the "official" LP debut release (the others being an ep and a jazz sampler) from this Indonesian band who are apparently noted for being the first (and only?) Indonesian band to sing in English. From the minute it hit my hands I was spellbound, as the packaging is the most impressive I have ever seen in a CD release. Your first impression is that it is made to look like a book, but you soon realise it isn't "like" a book, it is a book and it even has a satin page keeper. One of the pages is a cd sleeve which holds the disc which contains 11 tracks and 3 videos as well as pics and band info. Musically it is equally as spellbinding, with a slight child like innocence that is somehow unquestionably mature. It is obvious from the get go that these are some really nice kids, and their music reminds one of a number of Siesta label bands, and also at times reminds me of the band Fine. Actually, the music is of such a calibre it goes beyond genre, beyond labelling, and beyond culture. It's like gentle wings that find their way straight to the human heart, proceed to part it's curtains and lift it up. It is a bit winsome at times, but it isn't sad, and it leaves the listener refreshed like a spring rain. Some of the tracks like What If and Life Keeps On Turning are so infectiously beautiful it's nearly impossible to drive them out of your head. In fact my kid has been singing the former non stop for 2 weeks now and it hasn't even driven me batty. Not only can't I recommend this enough, I am proud to say our Popsicle shop is the only north american outlet where you can get it. (if it's not listed there, it will be soon) A little pricey due to it's book design, but worth every damn penny and certainly one of the years best.
Label ~ Fruit, 11 Tracks + 3 vids, 2004
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10+
Mocca - "Friends" Words are actually beginning to fail me about this fine group of kids, Indonesias little hidden treasure, and in fact I am simply so enraptured and taken that without question they have become my favorite band of late. This is the follow up to their brilliant debut My Diary (both having come out in 2004) and it showcases a band that not only has matured even more than they already were, but it displays a degree of style and "panache" far beyond their years. This is sort of like a cross between sixties lounge jazz and something from the Lawrence Welk show minus the green polyester. That correlation refers to a maturity aspect, not that this is inane elevator music. In fact, the music is definitely fresh and wholly "now" but in a grown up way, and it is surpassing just about everyone else out there. The arrangements are lovely with a mix of brass, sax, strings and piano and every song is unique in it's own way but part of an undeniable whole. On top of that Arinas voice never sounded better, and she displays more confidence here with it whether she's doing a duet with Bob Tutupoly (who sort of sort of sounds like the made up singer Freddie Frederickson from the Wonders movie) or the killer I Would Never sung with Karolina Komstedt from Club 8. This is so brilliant on so many levels, touching, funny, dancey, sad and even strangely comical (Buddy Zeus, a song about her dog and his constant pooping) that it really is a treasure. Quite probably my album of the year, and if you fail to get it I can't imagine why you even buy music anyway. Finally available to the rest of the world thanks to our Popsicle shop, so get it while we can offer it. This is one I wouldn't wait on.
Label ~ FFWD Records, 12 Tracks, 2004
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10
Mocca - "Colors" I feel really bad having taken so long to get to reviewing this, the third album from this simply delicious band. Not only because I really dig them, but they even thanked me in the liner notes. The first thing to grab you as usual is the packaging. I don't know who keeps thinking this stuff up, or who pays for it, but this is another gem. It is actually packaged like a box of colored pencils, for all the good and bad that implies. It is a royal pain in the ass to open as it splits in half and makes a stand, which also makes it a pain to put away. (you'll be cursing and marvelling over it at the same time) However, it's so good you may not want to ever put it away. It picks up right where the last left off, with the most heartfelt ballads, quirky uptempo numbers, a little jazz, a little swing, a little honkey tonk and all around fantastic orchestration. Arina sounds as lovely as ever, the playing is spot on and they continue their swedish connection as this time there is a superb lounge duet with Pelle Carlberg called Let Me Go which is just to die for. This is a record made by a band that is all grown up but which still has fun like kids, and it's as special as that would seem to imply. Why didn't I give it a spouting 10 then? Two complaints, one petty, one minor. The petty complaint is the tracks are listed wrong as the first track is called "INTRO" but it's not numbered on the sleeve. However your player doesn't know that so every track is off by one and requires thinking if you want to play a certain one. Also, track 14 is a rehash of the intro for a few seconds, and then we're treated to dead air until almost the 12 minute mark when a lo-fi 1940's radio sounding cover of The Object Of My Affection (heard earlier on in the album) comes on. It's nice having the cut, but not waiting 12 minutes for it. (no, I'm not fond of this practice) So the sleeve says 13 tracks, your player says 14 and there's actually 15. My minor complain is the over all recording quality of the album could have been a bit better. I've heard a lot worse, but their last was much better so this is a step back, and I'm not sure why as they are better than this, unless they wanted a more retro sound. Aside from these quibbles this is just a great album, and one I very much recommend. It would be very fair to say they are one of the best bands in the world right now, and possibly the best at what they do, and it deserves to be said. Like their other albums, this can be had only in our Popsicle shop.
Label ~ FFWD, 15 Tracks, 2007
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10+
Moi Caprice - "Once Upon A Time In The North" Before we get to reviewing this bands new album we'll look back to their debut album, both of which are featured in our Popsicle shop. (and not generally available anyplace else) This album is so good, even Luke got hooked on it. Their lead singer at times reminding me perhaps of Ian Broudie of Lightning Seeds fame, on clips like Daisies but then at other times not. What is obvious is he imparts a lot of emotion in a delicate way but with a lot of buried remorse and angst. That comes across on songs like the opener the Only Happy Boy In Copenhagen but especially so on Riding In Cars With Girls which is without question the most addictive, and beautiful cut I have heard all year. It sounds and enchants like a pop fairytale, pulling you into a cocoon of delight. (and it even has a french horn) The odd part is the song is wicked lyrically and is the ultimate revenge story of a poor boy who's been done wrong by his girlfriend. But the delights don't end there, as we are treated on the very next track Artboy Meets Artgirl to a soaring, horn laden late 80's Britpop sounding entrance and a really catchy song with a lot of intelligent music accents. had I heard this 2 years ago as I should have, it would have made my top 10 list easily. Simply an album you cannot be without and don't hesitate with your purchase, as I don't know how long we will be able to supply you with them.
Label ~ Glorious Records, 10 Tracks, 2003
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.3
Moi Caprice - "You Can't Say No Forever" This is the new and second long player from this Danish band, and it marks not a slight departure from the, well tender strains of their debut. The guitars thump a little louder. The synths bite. There is an edge. There is also more of a Euro disco feel as well. It may perhaps be a bit trite saying it, but "grown up" is the expression that most comes to mind when thinking about it. That doesn't necessarily make it better or worse, but it does make both albums two entirely different flavours. Since my mood has been a bit black and languid lately, I have preferred the first album a little more, as the upbeat, rocking energy on display here has not augmented my dyspepsia. Still, this is an excellent outing which displays some nice growth, and in all likelihood when my mood changes this winter I will put this on and quite possibly prefer it more than their first. Not to imply this does not have the tender moments of the first, as it does. It just shall we say wears more makup when having them. All in all a solid follow up that shows the debut was not a fluke or them a one time wonder. I think their third album should be quite the corker and until then you should avail yourself at the chance to get both of their offerings to date, as you won't be sorry you did so.
Label ~ Glorious Records, 10 Tracks, 2005
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9
Mike Moller - "An Album About Sex And Desire" Moi Caprice is one of many great bands that we bring to you in our Popsicle shop that does not get enough press, and this is the first solo album by that groups front man. Musically, it's gorgeous. One would expect that given the work that preceeds it. It is a bit more on the sparse side here, albeit recorded very well and really, it's mood suits the topic chosen. However that's where it goes a little off the rails. This guy was notorious for his rather blunt lyricism in the past, and on this outing he frankly went too far which I feel is an awful shame. Simply put, the lyrics are occasionally blunt to the point of being graphic and frankly inapropriate for anyone. I have always said it's the easiest thing in the world to do, lowering onesself to the lowest common denominator. Anyone can be Chris Rock. It takes real talent to get the point across in a more sublime way. I truly believe he has the talent to do that, so I am a bit saddened that he chose not to. If I hear someone sing "I want you..." I can fill in the blanks. When I hear them sing those blanks.... that's info I didn't need or want. How much that matters is up to you. Musically this album is fantastic and quite possibly his best work, and while lyrically it's mostly solid when you hear the occasional line crosser it does stop you in your tracks while you ask yourself if you heard what you think you did. He had gone too far before, but the songs were on the EP singles so were not commonly heard. I never expected it to find it's way onto album releases, but there we are. If you are a Moi Caprice fan you'll want this, just don't let anyone under 18 hear it, and I'm not kidding.
Label ~ Glorious, 16 Tracks, 2007
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 7.2
Monaco - "Music For Pleasure" Monaco is of course the side outlet of New Order bassist Peter Hook, and what's funny is while New Order covers are usually barren or inexplicable, he's had this thing for featuring seductive woman on his and this even goes back to his Revenge days. Even in the New Order vid I have when interviewed he has a gaudy bar fly on each arm. Imagines himself some sort of international playboy I warrant. Now, it's supposed to be somebody besides Albrecht singing but damn if it doesn't sound like him on the opening track What Do You Want From Me, but it doesn't sound like him so much on the later tracks of this record. In fact the first 3 tracks could have been lifted from either of the last 2 New Order albums. That changes on Buzz Gum which sounds more like Oasis with tinges of US southern rock. Up to this point this LP was actually pretty good, but then it goes down the dumper in the middle to make a wavering return near the end. But the crux of the problem is, do I care? When a group has put out SO much stuff and most of it above brilliant, do we really need to keep feeding off lesser moments? I don't. If you're the sort that "just can't get enough" you'll probably like this. I can do fine without it however.
Label ~ Polydor, 10 Tracks, 1997
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 7
Monograph - "Lorelei" Again, we have another record which had garnered some good reviews and made some lists, but right off I have to say I didn't care for the sound of lead singer Rob Crutchleys voice. I'm also not fond of the lo-fi washout treatment of the guitars on this album either. Those two facts combimed put me in a bad position to judge an album I'm bound to dislike. I will give granted that this time it might be a matter of choice and that quite likely others may find something to like here. This is a bit typical musically of what's going on in the UK these days, and sadly that puts me off a bit as well. If you like the "alternative" UK scene there is all probability you'll like this. I do not really.
Label ~ Shinkansen, 15 Tracks, 1999
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10+
Montt Mardie - "Clocks" I really liked the debut album by this swedish kid, but didn't think he showed all his promise on it. That was reinforced by his recent Science EP which was simply brilliant and showed much in the way of musical growth. That brings us here, and all I can say is did this kid hit one out of the park. This is a double album, the first being the "new" album and the second being quasi covers and redo's with a galaxy of swedish stars from Andreas Mattson, Jens Lekman, Johan Angergärd, Vapnet and more. The "album" is a thing of sublime beauty. Strings, horns, songs of passion and regret sung from the gut and even taking the piss on himself by recovering Highschool Drama as a totally new tune called Birthday Boy. (in fact this is sort of the premise of the second album) What really stands out is his sudden maturity, not only with a ballad, but with retro lounge classics like Let's Get Away From It All. The Velvet Fog would be proud. Honestly, I can't carp enough about this album, from it's delicacy to it's irony it will be without question one of the best releases of the year, and then some. If that was just it that is. However on to that we add the second disc, full of some of the most delightful and witty duets imagineable spanning all sorts of genres. I don't even know what to start gushing about first as it's all so fucking brilliant. I suppose the one that strikes home most is Castle In The Sky which is sung to the tune of A Man Walks Into A Bar with Jens Lekman and is a lament to a girl both of them loved, but neither apparently got. Christ, it's all too damn good, I really think my heads going to explode over this, and it's all I've been listening to since it arrived. (and I have a lot of great new stuff too) I've never been this bluntly urbane before, but if you don't buy this (or want to buy it) why are you even here, and why pretend you are interested in music? It's that simple. It will be in our Popsicle shop soon I hope.
Label ~ Hybris, 20 Tracks (2 discs), 2007
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.6
Montt Mardie - "Drama" This band, who's name is pronounced "mont mar-dee-ay" is David Pagmar and is Swedens answer to a question no one ever imagined. David Cassidy meets George Michael and he somehow can't get a date, sung to a continental vibe provided by the Style Council. Yeah, that's what I thought too. I sat there and listened to this the first time not quite knowing what to make of it, although I was chuckling from time to time. It is very self effacing, the songs tend to be fairly classicly beautiful such as How To Kill A Mockingbird or New York and it steals nuggets of pop history and unashamedly makes them it's own. If there is an over riding theme it is the prom, and his inability to get a date for it. Yes, it's like so high school. That said, his treatise on it culminates with the song Phone Call Drama which has to be the wittiest of it's kind ever penned. To set the scenario for it, it's him calling a girl next door that he has a crush on and he wants to invite her to the prom, however 2 things go on: When he is singing, it's what he is thinking in his head and heart and what he would be saying if he wasn't so young, scared and dumb. Then there's him speaking, which is what he really said. The dipolar crash of these opposites is so exquisite and true that when it ends with him saying hello into an empty receiver as she's already hung up on him one can barely restrain the urge to stand and applaud the genius behind it as much as you feel his pain. It is the indie (and perhaps real world) alternative to Meatloafs "Dashboard Lights" that we have long awaited and never thought we'd see. It's not the rock star getting laid and then having regrets, it's a real kid and he's got nothing but regret as he's lost before he started. This album is worth getting for this song alone, however you'll have no regrets as this is simply loaded with delectable pop treats and is sure to please. A very unique and well crafted debut.
Label ~ Hybris, 12 Tracks, 2006
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.9
Montt Mardie' - "Science EP" I was quite taken by the debut album from this band (person) AKA David Pagmar, and after hearing some clips from this I asked it be thrown in my Hybris grab bag as well and glad I am. An odd marriage of Pet Shop Boys meets Frankie Valley, Montt Mardie' has to be one of the most genuine and unique acts of recent memory, and this EP is a stunning work. From the infectious 1969 to the beat friendly My Girlfriend Is In The Grand Prix Finals David shows he can plumb various depths and still come up with a boat load every time. There is also a bit more maturity on display here and none of the high school obsession found on much of the debut. The only caveat is his voice might not attract some people, and that's a shame. Given a chance it becomes quite infectious and it leaves you wondering why you don't get that kind of passion out of other singers. Again, while I'm normally not a big EP fan, especially at 4 tracks, this one is a real gem and the tracks are likely to not appear elsewhere.
Label ~ Hybris, 4 Tracks, 2006
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 0
Montgolfier Brothers - "Seventeen Stars" You may of course know the real Montgolfier brothers where known for filling a bag with hot air. I wish this band could have at least equalled that feat. Well now, there are times when one doesn't like an album because of a singers voice, or the song arrangement, or it's too fast/slow etc... or just plain bad. This is none of that. While it is true it is the most depressingly slow record I ever heard, the problem is they just keep picking the same acoustic guiatar notes over and over and over again. It quite literally has the effect of chineese water torture on me. It just keeps going nowhere, and going ON. I quite honestly find it so amazingly irritating I want to punch a wall or something, anything, just please take the damn thing off. I can't even listen to it, and couldn't even make it past the half way point. Trying would have killed me.
Label ~ Poptones, 10 Tracks, 2000
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 7.9
Moonbabies - "June And Novas" T-baby had gotten this, and every time I saw it at his house I said "Who are the June & Novas?" grrrrrrr..."It's Moonbabies, I TOLD you". "Oh yeah" 2 weeks later: "Hey, who are June & Novas?" grrrrrrrrr..... I suppose that can be attributed to the fact that this record is a bit forgettable. Sadly, it shouldn't have been. There are an awful lot of nice melodies and songs on it, but it's one of those cases of them often getting ruined by the band suddenly "rocking" out where they shouldn't have, or just adding noises that just didn't help the song. Lead singer Carina Johansson (yes, they're Swedish) has a nice and delicate voice, and when they get heavy sounding it kind of ruins the spell her voice was casting over you. A pity. I wanted to be bewitched by this record but sadly it didn't happen. I like a number of the cuts on it but again it's the sorrow of knowing it could really have been something and wasn't that ruins it. It's hard to explain exactly why it fails, but it does. Certainly a band to watch however.
Label ~ Duckweed, 14 Tracks, 2000
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 4.6
Moonbabies - "The Orange Billboard" I can say that I will never confuse this bands name anymore and call them June & Novas. And while I did not like that LP much I liked the clip I heard from this at parasol called Sun A.M.. When Carina sings this band is on, and that song is very poppy with great choppy guitar licks and the whole nine yards. Sadly, that's it, and I mean IT. It's another case of online merchants posting a track that is the best but wholly unlike the rest of the LP, of course to entice a buy. They should stop calling them sound clips and call them lure clips, because hooking your wallet in the boat is clearly the goal. The rest of this LP is mostly Ola singing, and his voice still grates, the songs blow, either being wholly depressing or being a cross between the National Splits and Ladybug Transistor with a splash of Majestic, which as well is wholly depressing. (Unless that's you're bag baby, it isn't mine.) I was literally begging for a length of rope before this was half way thru. Oh, the humanities....
Label ~ Hidden Agenda, 11 Tracks, 2004
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.3
Moose - "High Ball Me" T-Baby had this first and I distinctly remember his answer to my querry of "how is it?" He handed it to me and said "It starts great but the rest of it SUTS". Perhaps he should be doing more in the way of writing on the site, at least it would be getting done faster. Short, sweet, and to the point. However, he maybe not be entirely correct. The first track being a semi annoying instrumental, this LP starts "for real" with Can't Get Enough of You which while holding court with the current wave of mod alt Brit pop, it has a nice groovy feel and a sixties spy movie kind of vibe going on. The next track is also good but then after that this LP does get decidedly slower, with the next two tracks being somewhat experimental. While slowish I like the next cut The Only Man In Town which is followed by three tracks which while not bad are somewhat forgettable. The last track is just 30 some seconds of odd noise so there are really only 9 songs on this LP, 3 of which grabbed me to some extent. This LP is the epitome of the 8.3 score. Some good tracks, some OK, but I doubt I'd listen to it straight thru though. Just some meat for the comp CD bin. You'll have to decide if that makes it worth it for you.
Label ~ Le Grand Magistery, 11 Tracks, 2000
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9
Ike Moriz - "Fall Into the Sun EP" Our Ike here is another bloke from South Africa and a friend of Dale Olivier who pointed him in my direction, whereupon he sent me this EP. He has been in a few other bands in and around Europe, but this is his first attempt at a solo career. (and it is a self released effort) The title track is very unusual in that it seems to tread in very modern waters while retaining many elements of 70's solo stylings. He has quite an articulate voice and isn't afraid to use it, in almost a Bowie-esque way but with far more range. That was what probably made me unsure of this at first, as that isn't the kind of thing many can do so you don't exactly hear it often. The song itself is upbeat, but more ballad like than a true pop single. The sort of song that continually grows on you. The other tracks are Another Day which is a slow, emotive and plaintively sung song with very sparse instrumental accompanyment, but the emotion comes off as fairly genuine. The last track Drowning (In London Town) has a more modern line and sort of reminds me of perhaps a mix of the bands Gene and Suede. There are elements of blues guitar, funk groove, 70's glam and 90's Alternative rock on this disc. It's all that and none of it. He has a nice style and a good voice and if you buy singles and can get this it is quite recommended. I think, like Dale, his best stuff is yet to come, as he appears to be an artists whos power will grow as he comes to learn himself, and I look forward to hearing the debut LP. You can check out a trimmed mp3 of the title cut by clicking here.
Label ~ www.ikemoriz.com, 3 Tracks, 2002
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.8
Ike Moriz - "You Could EP" This is the second release by my friend Ike Moriz, a now London based South African. This takes right from where the last single left off (same cover too) but I think he really finds himself on this new single. The title track is a dreamy bowie like soundscape meets oasis and it melds all the hooks of those two genres to perfection. It really ought to be climbing charts someplace. The second track, visionary is actually a grungy outing, coming close to being like Nine Inch Nails with better vocals. (I would say he reminds me of a cross between bowie and peter murphy of bauhaus fame). It's got chirping, edgy guitar and a very black but sexy feel to it. The last track is a remix of the song Drowning from his last single, and I don't have the time or inclination to see how different they are. It sounds a little different I think. Well, it's 8 seconds shorter so something has changed. But what matters is it's still good, and still reminds me or Suede or early Gene. OK Ike, you have talent. Lets see that long player already. And you can (and should) check him out here www.ikemoriz.com.
Label ~ Mosquito, 3 Tracks, 2003
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.4
Ike Moriz - "Mirrors & Shade" Ike, if you didn't know, could best be described as South Africas answer to David Bowie and this is his debut LP. At first I thought he committed a faux pas by putting all the songs from his first 2 EP's on this album. Because who will buy them when they can get everything here? However, by and large they are all mixed differently and not just the music, as the vocal tracks are redone as well. That essentially makes them all new versions, so it's interesting for people who were aware and it still leaves reason to get the original ep's if you like it. This was particularly clear on the track Fall Into The Sun which I always liked, but I think I prefer this new version even more. That pretty much is the feeling for most of the re-recorded stuff here. It was all good to begin with, and doing it over didn't hurt as it often does. At worst the songs are different, but at least as good if not usually better. The tracks new to this outing tend to be more on the lighter side, perhaps because the other stuff was very "single" oriented to begin with. Songs like Still or Fake Fatale are really nice adult styled ballads and fit with the rest very well. About the only critique is there is a degree of style variety on the album, which does prevent it from having a common theme or thread that ties it all together. I think this is because Ike has true talent, but he needs to find his footing. He's still teething as it were, but at that it's some fairly delicious bites. He's like Bowie without the glam meets Oasis without the self importance teamed with UK chart "alternative" without the boredom. Certainly worth checking out, that's for sure.
Label ~ Mosquito, 11 Tracks, 2004
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.6
Morrisons - "Songs From The South Of England" Actually, the first time I ever heard this band was their track on the last Leamington Spa release. (#3) It was the opening track here Listen To Your Heart. God, it's been years, and I can't even really say if the name of this band is familiar or not. It may be, but I had never heard them. There was just too much to buy, and I often didn't get singles back then. My feeling was if it was good, there'd be an album and the songs would be there. I know now that was not the smartest move, but what can you do. It's like the kids before me who stuck Mickey Mantle cards in their bike spokes. 10 grand down the drain.... Quite a bit of this is demo material so the production value is not the best, but as I've had to deal with the same problem with the Chairs release they have my sympathies, and it isn't really too bad here. What stands out immediately is that there is no question when and where this was made. It is the epitome of what would be called C86, even though in many respects I don't care for that term. While the style varies a bit, at times reminding me of Mighty Mighty, then the Chesterfields, then the Brilliant Corners etc... the quality does not. The songs are all catchy, instantly accessible and like most of the material from the period it becomes an old friend after the first listen. I especially love Heaven Help Us Now, it is just FAB. I have commented more than once at my amazement of how many times the 80's can be dredged for lost treasure. It would seem indefinitely as we are not even reaching the bottom yet. Verily it was the golden age, and when confronted by how good the material here is, one can only scratch their heads in amazement at how it wallowed and vanished, never seeing the light of day. We can only thank the modern pop Cousteaus like Firestation who do all they can to bring it back to the surface for us. Don't let this one go astray again.
Label ~ Firestation, 16 Tracks, 2004
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.8
Morrisons - "Psycho Surfin" I had reviewed what was a supposed pre EP to this album some time ago only to find out it wasn't the actual EP that came out (what I got was a CDR sampling of songs from the entire album) so since it didn't represent a real thing I deleted the review. I never heard anymore about it when suddenly this arrived out of the blue one day. Now you may know this band from the Firestation release "The Sound Of Leamington Spa Volume 3" and if you're old you may just remember them from your youth in the 80's. This album is apparently a collection of new, old and never released songs and frankly I couldn't tell them apart because new tracks like This Life sound like they came right out of 1988 anyway. Hailing from that period then this sounds exactly like you'd expect, but it has it's own feel and the band was never trying to be anyone elses clones, so if you like the period you'll most likely love this album. My only problem is the sound is not very good and my copy sounds awfully compressed, but then again I got an advanced CDR copy and it might not even be from the final masters, I just don't know. I believe they are on a "real" label and your copy should be a genuine one that hopefully sounds a lot better but since I cannot say so I am obliged to mention this. (the score I gave it assume your copy will be better as well) The final analysis is this is a band that should have garnered more attention back then and this is a great opportunity to make the last nooks and crannies of your 80's music collection complete.
Label ~ Golden Pathway, 14 Tracks, 2005
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.3
Motion Picture - "For A Distant Movie Star" This is another T-baby purchase and I find it exceedingly difficult talking about this record, let alone deciding if I even like it. It kind of has that slow "Brighter/Haper Lee" indie guitar sound going on, which in large amounts doesn't sit with me to begin with. Also, lead singer Eric Ostermeier has a voice that is kind of hushed and out of breath sounding with a quiver in it, and it reminds me of something from the 70's I can't quite place. Lets just say if you really like slower indie like I mentioned before, you will like this alot. There are some beautiful songs on it, such as April Rides Her Bicycle which begins with a beautiful cello and acoustic guitar intro. I really want to like this record but for some reason can't get worked up about it. It's a genuine mystery, as it clearly is an interesting and well done album, but at some level it's not getting thru to me. The rating I gave it above is probably what you'd give it. For me, I can't seem to even rate it. I like it enough, but left to my own devices I know I would (and will) never listen to it again. So how do you rate that? Perhaps one day when I'm less busy I will come back to it. It does deserve that at least from me.
Label ~ Words/Music, 11 Tracks, 1999
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.1
Motion Picture - "A Paper Gift" Believe it or not, there are times I actually feel guilt. And few times have I felt its pangs worse than in regards to this band. The review above is one of the wishy-washiest reviews I ever wrote, and I basically copped out of giving an opinion. This guilt was compounded when recently the head of their label wrote me and said he had more of their stuff he'd like to send me. What I had trouble coming to terms with was the general slowness and melancholia of this band. But that bothers me about Harper Lee and Brighter as well. This band could be said to be somewhat reminsicent of them, only more adult in sound, and perhaps sadder due to the use of strings. I can say there are songs on this I quite like, such as The First name on Your Dance Card and Song For Your Leave-Taking which is quite lovely and nice. This band does skirt being labeled "same" sounding, but that is a label I tend to hand out to slower bands so perhaps it is me. I don't think I will often listen to this straight thru on it's own, but there are a number of tracks which will certainly make comp cd's for the car, and if you like more laid back and heartfelt stuff this is about as good as it gets in that regard. And who knows, maybe one day I'll even see the light.
Label ~ Words On Music, 11 Tracks, 2000
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.1
Motodestra - "Motodestra" At this point I'd don't recall who pointed me towards this album, but I wrote to the "band" (re- Dan Halliday) and he agreed to send me a copy even though I seemed to get a self effacing vibe about it from him, as if it was old news to him already. Well, he's English and they're always depressed about something so I told him to buck up, it's new to all of us who haven't heard it yet. A good thing it was too because this is quite nice. I was especially taken by the second track, a lovely guitar instrumental called Palm Spree. If it's possible to capture feelings like delight and contentment musically then this might be the song that's actually done so. It, like all the others on here feature guitar as the lead instrument but synths and drums play a normal accenting role. The sound in general could best be described as lush, somewhat opulent, like milk that is especially rich in cream. Melodically it neither gets aggressive, nor does it ponder, and that may or may not be it's one flaw because in that regard it reminds me a lot of average instrumental albums that never stray too far from what they inherently are. When in the mood for what that is it's OK, but at other times a bit of redundancy can set in. On many occasions when I listened to this I often go 2 or 3 times over, yet on others I can't get thru it once. All things considered it's quite nice and it has a few truly brilliant and rather catchy numbers. If you are partial to guitar instrumental music this is one you'll certainly wish to investigate.
Label ~ Revery Records, 9 Tracks, 2005
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.5
Greg Murray - "Tymes Ten" When reviewing this recent batch I made the mistake of playing the discs in review order every time I listened. The problem with that is the album previous to this was annoying me by the time I took it off, which put me in a bad mood for this one. Consequently, I found the first couple sessions with this a bit, well, I didn't not like it, but it wasn't doing anything for me. Then I wised up and listened to this alone a few times. Thank the maker, because I could have committed an injustice. This is a very interesting debut album, although it is a little hard to peg musically. The opener Edge is kind of a breathy ballad which reminds me of nothing current, but would find itself right at home on any 70's AOR top ten list. Further listening revealed that a number of the songs (especially Seen It All) remind me a lot of the band Fantastic Something, vocals and all. It's got that catchy, breathy, in your convertible and going to the beach for the day AM radio happy vibe. It's driven, not driving. And there is certainly nothing wrong with that. I also hear other similarities such as the Hepburns on the calypso inspired Go Honey. In all it's a very nice outing which is far peppier than it originally seemed yet it retains a nice degree of maturity and self pace at the same time. Albums like this are indeed a rarity and this one is about as enjoyable as that sort get. The booklet art and lyrics are done very nicely as well. If you're looking for an album to get summer in gear, this may be exactly what you want.
Label ~Firestation , 10 Tracks, 2005
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.3
Mutt Ramon - "Utterly Mutterly" I know, I know, I don't get the name either. And to make it worse the album title is a cheesy play on words on it. (What's more the sleeve says it was recorded in the republic of ramonia..... crikey) If it's all about a dog named Ramon, why is there what appears to be a Tapir on the album cover? Your guess is as good as mine, but by now you're thinking "He bought this?" and if you're a band "He took that over reviewing my album!?" Yes I did. In this case it is the age old chestnut of don't judge a book by it's cover, because what is inside of this debut by this UK duo is an album as synthy quirky and original as I have heard in a long time. In fact it is the only thing of it's kind I can recall that approaches the brilliance of Jesus Couldn't Drum in all it's playful, varied and yet pop sensible glory. Like JCD this is a fairly varied affair, from the slightly dark but playfully danceable Physically Corrupted to the atmospheric I Didn't Realize or the quirky but beautiful quasi-nursery rhyme ballad Silver Moon Boots this is a collection of eclectic and often magic songs. Now, like JCD not everything always works, and that seems to be a matter of taste as not everyone it seems likes or dislikes the same things. However if you are the sort that likes a nice varied assortment, especially one that makes you think a bit, few things will prove to be more likeable. It was originally only a cdr release but I understand they have had genuine articles made in a limited amount. If interested it can be had here but don't let the weird art or confusing dialogue stop you. I don't know what kind of mushrooms these lads are eating, but the results they induce are nothing short of miraculous.
Label ~ Self, 13 Tracks, 2006
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.3
My Darling You - "16 Major Problems" I had not heard of this swedish band until contacted by Jorge who had signed them to his new label in Lima Peru called Plastilina Records. The first couple of tracks I heard of them on their myspace page really worked me up so I eagerly awaited this disc, a collection of all the tracks from their first 3 EP's. I thought I heard a remarkable similarity in his voice and singing style to the Kinks Ray Davies. Luke said he didn't hear it, (I still think I'm right) and he also said he didn't care for them and didn't want to stock it. I thought he was nuts until the disc came and then I found sadly not as many songs were as strong as those I had previously heard. Of course there are a lot of songs (16) so that can happen, especially to bands in their formative stages. The 5 middle tracks of their second EP are clearly the best stuff on here, although the newest has it's moments as well. This is one of those bands where there is no middle ground either, the song is either on and rocks or is complete crap. Still, this is a band worth keeping an eye on, and it's also a label that needs watching as well. I'll try to get to some more of the labels catalog when I can, and in the meantime you might wish to check this band out further yourself.
Label ~ Plastilina, 16 Tracks, 2006
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9
My Favorite - "Love At Absolute Zero" Wow, when I first heard this it was quite uncanny how this band from upper New York state sounds exactly like early 80's synth bands. There's the inclusion of guitar, but the songs are synth driven and how it captures the period and sound so perectly without actually sounding like they're copying anyone is uncanny. They certainly must have done their homework. There are some tracks that sort of fall a little short, but there are a number of really brilliant gems like Let's Stay Alive which could easily have been a 1981 dance hall classic. Basically this album is quite good with some moments of real retro bliss. If you've been there, this will really take you back and how, and if not, it certainly merits a look on it's own strength. Quite an achievement.
Label ~ Double Agent, 12 Tracks, 1999
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10
My Favorite - "Joan of Arc Awaiting Trial" This was the follow up EP to their debut album. When I listen to the first track L=P, they begin to remind me of the 80's band Moev but then again, they certainly do have their own feel and any similarities are veiled. On the next track Homeless Kids Club however the synth intro is very reminiscent of "Power Corruption and Lies" period New Order. The lyrics to it are a bit cheesy, but the song is quite excellent. The next song Badge I think will always be the magnum opus of the sound this band is trying to have. Such retro synths with cutting ambient guitars with a dance floor ready beat, it's truly about as well as this type of sound has ever been done. The last cut White Roses for Blue Girls is slow and sombre and has alot of the atmosphere this band is known for. This EP is a real achievement, and it's a shame they didn't have a few more such tracks to add on as it would have been a totally brilliant LP. If you never heard them, then start here, it's a must get . Well done indeed.
Label ~ Double Agent, 4 Tracks, 2000
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.6
My Favorite - "The Happiest Days Of Our Lives" This is a 2 disc retrospective of the most Joan of Arc happy band since OMD. I had always liked them, and they really had a knack for sounding like early 80's pop/techno outfits so since this had rarer tracks and a whole second disc of remixes by bands like Soviet and Future Bible Heroes I had to get it. The main disc is of course very good and there are some curious takes on old friends there, but ti's the mixes disc I found I really liked here. It is a bit fair to say Homeless Club Kids gets a bit more of it's share on this compilation but it's done in so many interesting ways it never becomes trite. It's more like a recurrent melody line to the work as a whole. I think of everything I like Alexander Perls mix of it out of all the stuff here the best. (Badge by San Serac a close second) There isn't a whole lot to say about this disc or band that I haven't said in other reviews. All you have to do is ask yourself if it's worth another disc. In many cases no, in this one yes. Especially if you have never purchased anything by them before, it's an excellent way to meet one of the best retro-techno bands of the past few years.
Label ~ Double Agent, 30 Tracks, 2003
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9
Ralph Myerz (and the jack herren band) - "A Special EP" If it comes from Scandinavia I have to get it, even if it's just a 4 track EP like this. The opener Clouds is very disco chic, with a slow and sexy feel to it. It's all Austin Powers, "groooovy baby.....yeah!" That pretty much sums up this entire 4 song outing. Slick, laid back and very shagadelic. In fact, that covers it so well there isn't much more to say. Some of the tracks have a little experimentation going on in them which doesn't thrill me as much, but this is still good. Not brilliant, but good. I'm not sure if that justified it's somewhat high price, and there isn't quite as much vocals as I'd like and a number of them border on full instrumentation. Still it is 20 minutes so that's 5 min. per song, and they are good songs, so you are getting at least a measure of product for the money. Were it $2 less I'd heartily recommend it, as it is it's your call.
Label ~ Emperor Norton, 4 Tracks, 2002