Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.6
Nanook Of The North - "The Täby Tapes" This album by this swedish band did and still does very much remind me of another recent release by the US band Men In Fur. Really nice male/female duets, simple yet charming arrangements and a depth of maturity that belies the subjects. In fact, this is quite a haunting and lovely effort from front to back. From the infectious whimsy of tracks like Phonecall to the reserved yet powerful St. George And The Dragon there is a lot of competent musical composition on display here, and it tends to be rather engaging. I am not sure how many women sing on this album , as almost every song credits a different one, but while they all have simply lovely voices they are close enough that the differences don't throw the work. I suppose this could almost be called twee, but in my experience twee is never done anywhere nearly this well. I would say it's more empirically tender and emotive than it is twee, because it really never wallows. It's genuine emotion teamed to really lovely acoustic guitar with the odd synth filler, and it is perhaps one of the best late night easy listening albums I've come across in some time.
Label ~ Hidden Agenda, 12 Tracks, 2004
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.8
Leigh Nash - "Blue On Blue" This is the debut album from the former lead singer of Sixpence None The Richer and it is one of this years unexpected treats. It has all the qualifications of any great diva solo enterprise: It's has gorgeously beautiful vocals, it has catchy and memorable melodies and it has lyrics that occasionally sting with both their passion and humanity. It would not be incorrect to say this has a slight country and western vein, but it's only slight and it's the kind of thing as I 've oft said if C&W did sound like this it would be more popular with the rest of us. On top of all this it's recorded very well which only adds to the enjoyment. So that's about all there is to say, and I'm exhausted anyway. This is a lovely little album full of choice vignettes that center around optimism, love, hope and beauty in the world. Yes, we could use more records like this....
Label ~ One Son, 11 Tracks, 2006
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 4.5
National Splits - "National Splits" This band is the vehicle for ex Wolfie member Mike Downey. This has been getting all the raves etc.. and I suppose for what it is it's good enough, but what it is is something I simply can't stand. I feel bad as I didn't buy this, it was sent for review but I have to be truthful about it. I've said it before, and apparently I'll need to keep saying it, but the "american" sound rankles my ears like no other noise. The voices and music are enough to make me want to tear my hair out and run off screaming. This merges 60's influences (of course) and some psychedelia, and frankly I just hate it. There is no way for me to review this, nor should I even be in a position to comment on it, as there is no possible way for me to like it. I think it represents everything that is wrong with the indie scene and american music and I absolutely, well, hate it. (did I mention I hate it?) What's worse, it will inspire the next generation, and probably some kid in Michigan is already out in his garage with a guitar trying to emulate this crap. Will someone not step up and lead us from this God forsaken sixties blues crap wilderness? Hey pop kids, please stop fawning at the feet of these washed up, drugged out hippster doofuses. Dylan sucks, Tom Petty Sucks, CCR sucks, blues in anything other than the blues sucks, and the God damned sixties SUCKED. Enough already! No more! NO more "psychedelia", NO more horrid american voices. Where is the new messiah? I need a new Morrissey, because heaven knows I'm miserable now...... Do none of these damn kids own a Cure record pre 1985? Have they never heard Atmosphere or Love Will Tear us Apart? Ian Curtis, are you out there? Can you touch the soul of some kid and help us all? Never has our need been greater.............
Label ~ Kittridge, 15 Tracks, 2002
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.4
Neuropa - "New Faith & Sins Of The Heart" Nothing like missing something so long you can buy two albums in one shot. That's what we have here with this double release from this Australian band. "New Faith", the first disc, came out originally in 97 and on it lead singer Jason Last unquestionably sounds a bit like Andy Bell from Erasure, although the music on this sounds more like early Depeche and some other UK bands from that time. (it even reminds me at times of the first Ministry album, which I love) I really like the first disc a lot, and if you dig early mid 80's techno you will simply adore New Faith. (I say it this way in case you can't find this double disc set) "Sins" is also quite good, but right off the bat the similarity to Erasure on the track Love Will Find A Way isn't close, it's absolute. Hell, it could be Erasure, that's how alike it sounds. In fact there are a lot of recyled beats from my youth on this disc, but I don't begrudge them that. You can't help when you're born, or that someone else did it first. They aren't exact clones either, so they can be forgiven. I like the first disc better, but they are both solid. If you dig this kind of stuff (And really, who doesn't? In any case, why else would you be here reading this then?) this has to be added to your list. This double disc set is a great way to get both records at a lower price, but if you can only find them seperately I'd go with New Faith first, which I'd give a 9.6, Sins getting a 9.2 for a cumulative 9.4
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Label ~ A Different Drum, 2 CD's 20 Tracks, 2002
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.4
New Radiant Storm King - "Winters Kill" This is the sixth LP from this Massachusetts band I believe, and it's odd I was interested in it as I don't normally care for this sort of thing. (the minute a comparison to Husker Du happens I'm gone) However, there are a number of things I like about this album and it didn't fall into the expected 60's elements common to most of the bands on this label. The opener, In The Spirit Of Distance makes you think it might, but it changes after that, and in fact change is an appropriate word for this record. It is a walk thru varieties of semi lo-fi indie, which doesn't seem to fit into any specific period at all really. One of the more interesting moments is Vieja which is a slightly reverberating pop number that keeps churning forward with a very catchy beat, but it's interlaced with a bit of experimental breaks and bridges. I think it's obvious this band didn't wish to make an average record, and quite clearly they had the desire to not only do something unique, but perhaps make their best work to date. I think that they achieved that.
Label ~ Rainbow Quartz, 12 Tracks, 2003
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.7
New Rhodes - "Songs From The Lodge"I'd been familiar with this band since early on as my cohort was buying their 7 inch singles from almost the get go. What I heard on them was simply astounding. I hate to make this reference but there is no question this band has a sound and "feel" not dis-similar to the Smiths. There is an angst and forlorne quality about the songs tied to magical and inspiring musical tides that puts them far above the ordinairy, especially when sung by the unique and impassioned voice of lead Rhode James Williams. (click for interview) Their last single, From The Beginning was just such a whirlwind of emotion and guitar strings, however, like the Smiths and so many other greats of that period I believe this bands strong suit is singles and not albums. I say that because that track is not even on here, and much of the great material from earlier EP's is not either. That makes them very coveted releases and I can't stress your aquiring them as soon as you can because when they go, they don't get repressed like an album can. As far as this goes, while it is missing choice cuts it is still a fine work in it's own right. Some nods to the past are on here like the brilliant I Wish I Was You which team up with new classics like The History Of Britain and the sublime I'm Bored Of You. This band is a major spectacle, full of promise. This album is not, but it is damn close. My advice is to watch them very closely and pounce on every offering.
Label ~ Fabtone, 12 Tracks, 2006
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.8
New Rhodes - "EP" This "EP" is the debut US release from this fab Bristol UK band and it is comprises songs culled from their first few single releases. We have over time had a number of bands marry a sort of grand romanticism to guitar pop, the most well known being the Smiths, then James and in the 90's Gene who faded fast. We've had a few pretenders since then but nothing concrete, nothing to really worship, until now perhaps that is. This band is deliriously impassioned and on the opus that is the opening track here I Wish I Was You they manage to bind emotions and feelings into a fiery torrent and then wring it (and you) out like a wet dishrag. It's a titanic, climactic single of the sort that leaves you forever remembering where you were the first time you heard it. In my case it was back last year as T-baby had one of his 7" vinyl turkey shoots when he just buys tons of stuff (and then I have to clean it for him) The bonus is I heard this some time ago and have been awaiting this moment ever since. While their delivery is aimed at the heart, much like James, it is delivered with a sense of genuine urgency which reminds me of another UK band Raymonde. On top of that they have been using very neo-classical imagery which really adds to the impact of their music. Their latest single From The Beginning (which sadly is not on here) is again a massive single in it's own right. (and the vid is brilliant too) Without question we are bearing witness to the beginning of what may very well prove to be one of the latter half of this decades best bands. While this doesn't have perhaps everything I would have wanted on it it is a nice collection of hard to get tracks and this should without question be on your must get list. THE band to watch in 2006
Label ~ So Sweet, 5 Tracks, 2006
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.1
Nixon - "Climbing Walls EP" Nixon is the project of Swede Roger Gunnarsson who is backed by Anna Isaksson and Henrik Pahle. Right off one notices that he has a bit of a unique voice, almost akin to someone who just inhaled helium. At first it can be a bit put-offish, but one does get used to it mainly due to the fact that the songs are quite good. The first track here, Climbing Walls is a great song, somewhat Starlet ballad like and over all too fast. They make alot of use of keyboard but it is not the disco type synths common to many Swede groups, but rather has a more "soaring" sound such as on the kitchen made demo Like the Sun which is a beautiful little song. The keyboards do not dominate however as on other tracks the guitars carry the song in typical indie pop fashion. Once I got used to his voice I began to really like this EP alot, the songs are quite lovely and poptastic at the same time. A nice little gem.
Label ~ Sandcastle, 6 Tracks, 1999
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.4
Nixon - "Only Ugly People Smoke" For someone who formed his own label called Dorian (which was since forced to change it's name due to legal reasons) and put out some great stuff like the Daniel Saturn LP, it is odd that his own records for his band Nixon always have this made in a basement on construction paper look about them. (probably because they were) That aside there is a notation on this record dedicating this record to Anna Isaksson from this band who obviously died somehow after or during when it was made, which is quite sad. (she wrote (and sings) two of the tracks on this LP) This record differs from the first EP by not alot, perhaps they attempt the charting of some newer sounds a bit more, but it is basically the same sound. If anything the synths are less pronounced and the guitars take more of the load, even on the cover of the Oakey/Moroder classic Together in Electric Dreams. I'd start with the first EP if you are curious about this band, as I think it is a bit better and you will either like or hate his voice. It's of the type with no middle road. But if you get and like that I'm sure you'll probably want to check this release out as well then.
Label ~ Blackbean & Placenta, 11 Tracks, 2000
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10+
Nona Reeves - "Soul Friend" Yeah, I was on a japanese bent this time and came across this again while looking at something else. Nona Reeves being the bands name, (it's not a person) the members being lead singer Gota Nishidera (male), Kensuke Okuda and Shigeru Komatsu. This album is basically AOR indie radio pop and in fact lead singer Gotas voice reminds me an awful lot of Tasmine Archer on a number of the tracks here, even though Tasmine is a she and Gota is a he, (it's not like the names are giving it away) and that's a good thing. Especially so on the second and title track. In fact it's musically exactly like something Miss Archer would do as well and only the occasional tinge of japaneese accent gives it away. The songs here are culled from two seperate albums put out by this band in 96 and 97, and are here compiled by Shibuyahot, a subsidiary of the well known indie label Apricot. Indie popers in the eighties, say the ones who got the Smiths or Depeche Mode or the House of Love never seemed to also dig bands like Hipsway, the Kane Gang, or Swing Out Sister etc.. and I don't know why. Pop is pop after all. If you're not averse to a more mature sound, at times jazz tinted, dare I say adult and well played and sung then you'll like this I think. I did, and in fact I simply adore this record. (By the way, the cover IS sideways)
Label ~ Shibuyahot, 11 Tracks, 2001
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.1
Notwist - "Neon Golden" I first heard this as I got a copy in a CDR swap a while back, but when it came out domestic I got a copy (and good thing too, it has bonus tracks) I know little about this outfit other than they are German but they sound nothing like any german band I have heard before. Their website would be cool were it not for the fact that it is a nightmare to navigate, so I have found out little more about them. They are much closer to american alt. country on the surface (or should I say southern sounding?) but yet there is this vibe to their music which makes that comparison not entirely correct. They use guitar, sometimes plucked, but they are still ambient, and use sound effect noises and soaring synths at times as well, and while the lead singer (Markus Acher?) has an almost american sounding voice, (lets say little to no trace of accent) there are times he sounds like he could be english. In any case, the real money cut here is track two, Pilot which probably more than any thing on here assembles the complexities of their sound together into a mesmerizing and poptastic gem of a song. What's more, the lyrical quality is deep, and especially good for something not written in a native tongue. To top that, german engineering shows itself not to be lacking as this thing is recorded very well, when music in this genre tends not to be. (it's good enough to use as a test record) The over all feel here is a sad, somewhat depressed one, but it doesn't wallow in it. This would be the ideal LP for a rainy day. Train imagery comes up often in the songs, and something about an overcast day and the loneliness of rail tracks seems right at home here. This is done well enough that even if the genre isn't partial to you (and it somewhat isn't to me), I think you'll find this quite likeable. One to notice for sure.
Label ~ Domino, 13 Tracks, 2002
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.4
Nukleon - "Earth Rising" This garnered my interest because it was at least trying to be different than most of the other stuff I had gotten. (in other words it isn't obviously depeche mode) What it is is hard to peg as it varies quite a bit. Songs like Lucky sound to me to have a New Order synth line with some Alphaville influences or even Blancmange, teamed to a melodic line and singing style reminiscent of Holm. That changes on the next track Escort which has more of a quasi Erasure/Yazoo feeling to it. Diversity is certainly the watchword here, yet the album and his style in general does have a cohesive quality which brings it all together as a whole. The album has a Total Recall fixation as well, given the first track Mars (which features outtake vocals of Arnold from the movie) and the label name he chose, Cohaagen, who of course was the bad guy. I'm surprised there wasn't a track called Verhoeven. Perhaps his next LP will parody Starship Troopers. That would be fine with me were it as good as this one is. Brilliant? No, it isn't. Above average fare for the genre? Certainly. If you like this kind of thing I think you'll want to put this at the top of your list most likely.
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Label ~ Cohaagen Music, 10 Tracks,
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10+
Nut - "Fantanicity" This is one of those things T-Baby got, and I don't know if he knew what he was doing at the time or not (ie Did he know going in or just take a chance). In fact, I have never been able to find out anything about this artist, who she is, where she's from and even if she's released any other music. (I did, her name is Cat Goscovitch, she is english and this is it musically) In fact, I believe this Lp itself might even no longer be in print even though it isn't that old and nobody I discuss music with had ever heard of her. Kudos T-Dork, errr Baby! You did it again. It's listed here as it is quite brilliant and the world should know of it. She has a very interesting voice, and unquestionably both her voice and many of the songs have an undercurrent of sexual ambiguity. Not since Chrissy Hynde have I heard a woman sing with that sound in her voice that seems to be asking What IS that thing in your pants, honey?, without coming out and saying it. Only she's much more little-girl innocent about it than our Chrissy was, but there's no question she IS asking. The songs themselves are strewn with sexual innuendo and range from light, almost jazzy compositions to Suzanne Vega-ish pop rock numbers. The songs are all quite above average, and some like Giant are ravishingly beautiful. Lyrically, the sexuality is not overt like the Pretenders "I shot my mouth off and you showed me what that hole was for etc.." but on tracks like Fantanicity she sings"I want you to come round
Come, come, come.......COME"
"I taste of your sunlight
I want your voice inside me..."
Then on Burn she sings
"I can do things that you've never seen,
I can perform tricks...
Sway my hips and concentrate
It's best you don't come near me..."
It is quite a shame this LP went unnoticed, she has an incredibly sexy and unique voice and the songs are all great and brilliantly arranged and played. It's even OK for kids as only us dirty old people get the "meaning" of the lyrics. Like when my 4 year old asks me "..if I want to pet mommy's pussy?" If you can't find this and really want it, email me and perhaps we can do a CDR swap. It is worth it, and I can find nothing on the web about it or her anywhere.
Label ~ Sony UK, 11 Tracks, 1996