Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.8
Louis Phillipe - "A Kiss in the Funhouse" In case you didn't know, this guy is the sultan of swank, the barometer from which all the other current "mixers" in that style of post Bacharach-esque "soundtrack of our lives" are measured, and he was in it before all the others were as well. This LP represents a compilation of some of his best and rarest work dating back a good decade now already. At times some of this reminding me of a cross between Prefab Sprout and the Lilac Time turned to a swanky pop affair. Tracks like She Means Everything to me are done about as well as any of this kind are ever done. I do think there is a bit of filler on this LP though (23 tracks is alot after all), and there certainly are some tracks that are less interesting than others and it is a bit long, therefore I find it hard to listen to this straight thru. However it is certainly great for taking tracks off for comp CD's and there is a lot to be gleaned from here for that purpose. If you want the neighbors to think you're living above your station, then this is certainly the record for you. The high life indeed.
Label ~ Le Grand Magistery, 23 Tracks,
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 6.5
Phoebe Quest - "The Winward Sound EP" This is a 6 track offering from some of our friends from the Fairways, and while that is one of the US bands I do like I didn't find much here to get excited about. (at least T bought this one, not me) Again, American bands have to work harder to capture my attentions, and the Fairways album did that, but here we've fallen back into that predictable US indie sound I've lamented so many times it's becoming redundant. Maybe I need to be analized, although I find most of the people I know agree with me. American minds tend to follow this same path musically, and it isn't a good one. I don't know if it's the result of our poor music education in this country or the fact that every radio station plays nothing but 60's oldies or 70's classic rock. We really need someone to appoint a music Czar. Pregnant woman should be made to hold special speakers against their womb which pipe in stuff like the Cure's Primary and Joy Divisions Love Will Tear us Apart for several hours a day. Surely this isn't too much to ask, is it? Anyway, I'd give this one a miss.
Label ~ Shelflife, 6 Tracks, 2001
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.8
Phony - "First Love" Uwe was kind enough to send this along to me when he sent the recent Spa release to me, and I'm glad he did as I'd heard alot of good words about this LP. I had not heard this group before, but I believe this is their second LP. I was struck off the bat by the first song, Time Won't Change Me which copies the musical line to OMD's "So In Love" to such a degree there is no mistaking it. However, when the lyrics start that line is dropped and the song changes quite a lot. Well, I'm sure Paul Humphries won't care. Anyway, this opening track is a nice wash of 70's balladry teamed to a modern sound which in many respects reminds me of so many things you can't really pin it down to any one thing, but the song is quite good. While the album mostly has a 70's vibe, there are other unmistakable moments such as the VERY Orange Juice like Luxury and they even sound like the Hepburns doing their version of 70's noir on It's You. (they remind me of the hepburns a few times on this lp actually) While I liked this enough off the bat it didn't slay me, but I have found it's the sort that repeated listening reveals more texture, more substance, than you had previously realized. So I suppose in that respect it's like an onion (or an Ogre) since it has layers. I can say it's the kind of thing a lot of the pop kiddies have been trying to do recently, but have failed in doing. This is a nice little gem, and will more than likely be one of my most favorite records of the year come december.
Label ~ Firestation, 12 Tracks, 2003
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 7.8
Piano Magic - "Disaffected" I had not heard of this band (the work of Glen Johnson) before but this isn't their/his first outing. I saw he was noted for atmospheric, almost artful 4AD style music which was a good enough cue to prompt my buying it. There are a few nice tracks on here, such as Love & Music and Deleted Scenes the former being lush and sensual and the latter being a decided body mover. The problem is there are a few tracks on here where I found it got a little too minimal and predictable and even depressing, or simply un-interesting. It appears to be the sort of album that starts out OK but by the middle I'm considering taking it off and before the end is reached I have. I did some looking around and found that people who have heard more of his material seem to agree and consider this a low point in the bands career. I've come to understand their album Low Birth Weight is still considered his best, but alas, I do not own it so I cannot make that comparison. When the time and funds allow I imagine I will pursue that road as what is good on here is certainly worth propping an ear up for, but sadly it is not all like that. So my advice to you is the same, avoid this for now and seek out Low Birth Weight if you are interested in this band and 80's 4AD acts.
Label ~ Darla, 11 Tracks, 2005
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.3
Pierces - "Thirteen Tales Of Love And Regret" What a strange pair of birds these Pierce sisters are, Catherine and Allison. I got this on a whim because it seemed like it just might be quirky enough to pay off. Quirky it is, that is if Portishead singing a James Bond soundtrack in a Tim Burton film is quirky. The minute I heard one of them doing a trumpet imitation on the intro to Boring they pretty much had me. They do take the piss on a lot of the tracks here, (both musically and lyrically) but they do it so well all you can do is let out a chuckle, applaud and sit back and enjoy it. That said there are some really nice and powerful ballad type songs on this as well. I get the impression they are twins, however it doesn't really say which one of them sings and many songs are kind of duet-ish anyway and they probably sound alike to begin with. There's is just enough difference between their voices that when they harmonize it comes off really well. They also explore a variety of genres which all manage to tie together due to the ecclectic treatment they give everything. For the people who still own stereos I can also say that this album is recorded very well. Chances can be dicey, but this is definetly an album you should check out as it might very well wind up being one of your surprise favorites of the year, and nothing is sweeter than that. My wife and daughter especially like it.
Label ~ Lizard King, 13 Tracks, 2007
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.7
Pinback - "Summer In Abaddon" I was greatly disturbed to see this had made the top ten lists of some people last year. Not because it was not worthy, but because of my lengthy problems I had not even reviewed the damn thing yet and I've had it for months now. (I have the record too and have not even had the chance to listen to that yet). There is a new age fusion jazz feel to this record which hits you square in the face on the opener Non Photo-Blue. Between the chirping of the guitar and bass, and the quality of the recording it creates a winsome yet driving pop gem the like of which I have not heard before. In fact pegging down their sound here is a difficult chestnut indeed. This album gives a nod to souther rock while managing to stay above the musical Mason Dixon, then pays homage to Steely Dan without losing any coin and then ultimately embraces funk, without being funky. For all those reasons it is clearly one of the most unique albums I have heard for some time, but beyond that I would be hard pressed to describe it. Cool without the chill, laid back without reclining, atmospheric without the vapour, an acquired taste anyone can enjoy? It is the epitome of the mood piece recording, only you don't need to wait for the mood. It happens all by itself every time you put the album on. It ought to be praised as such too, with the sound of one hand clapping. A unique outing not to be missed, and it is recorded very well which only adds to the proceedings.
Label ~ Touch & Go, 10 Tracks, 2004
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.5
Pineforest Crunch - "Panama Renko" Is there anything those swedes can't do? Apparently not. This time they show their knack at tackling the best of 80's irish rock pop, and the voice of lead singer Åsa Eklund has a haunting, and etherial quality that makes this transformation complete. The opening track Situation Endless is just such a song. A breathy rush of emotion with a very heartfelt edge, it brings to mind the best things of bands like All About Eve or the Cranberries with the wuthering heights qualities of Kate Bushs best stuff. But don't think it's that heady, gypsie crap. Emotion is a muscle it flexes, but it doesn't wallow in it as there is a definite kick ass rock quality to the songs. The song that steps outside this the most is Car Crash which has a smoky and sexy quality, and reminds me of another swede band the Charlots. (and even perhaps Cinnamon) The fact that the recipe doesn't alter a whole lot does lend to a bit of sameness over the length of the record, but all the songs are quite good, and some are downright killers. Just a quite beautiful record actually.
Label ~ Shangri La, 11 Tracks, 2003
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9
Pinkie - "Pinkie EP" This is of course a solo project from Alex Sharkey of Fosca/Brighter fame, and as I'm a huge Fosca fan you'd think I'd have known about this but I didn't. If you too are a fan of Fosca (and you'd have to be daft not to be) don't expect this outing to be the uptempo dance noir that that band is. This very much harkens back to his sweet and melodic indie guitar pop bliss which Brighter was known for. In fact the first track Pantomime while being quite good actually has that sort of lullaby quality about it. Earnest tenderness. Also interesting is his voice which reminds me often of the sound of John Lennons when singing heartfelt slow songs, especially from his last LP. That is most noticeable on the track Two Angels. This is a nice little record, at times atmospheric, always emotive and admittedly a bit slow. It comes in at 7 tracks which is 1 short of an LP in my book. Depending on mood of course, I find that despite how good this is it's tough to listen to straight thru, but I had that problem with Brighter as well. However all the cuts are good and seperated out onto comp CD's it's a nice little mine to plunder.
Label ~ Planting Seeds, 7 Tracks, 2001
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.2
Pinkie - "Sharon Fussy" This is the long awaited debut (and review) of the first "proper" solo album by Alex Sharky. (of Brighter, Fosca, fame) The wait apparently gave us our monies worth as this effort clocks in at 14 tracks and over 50 minutes. To describe it I would have to say it is perhaps closer to a more adult, slightly more upbeat version of Brighter. That said, this album clearly bathes in the smoky atmospheric yearning that this guy is noted for. Not to imply that it is washed out, or worse, really twee. Quite the contrary as there are a number of songs on here that clearly come across as single material, if such a place existed that would play them that is. Even when it is not overt, there is a general sense of casual playfulness on this recording, such as the piano intro to Want It To Work This Time which is odd in another way as the melody and pace of his vocals on it reminds me exactly of the song 'Wonderful Tonight' by Eric Clapton. Yes, strange but true. I think that overall this belongs to the genre of the 'late night listening album' because while there are shifts of style and approach, in momentum it does not alter a great deal. In fact it would almost be fair to call this entire album a modern day indie lullaby. It is placid, emotive, and more soothing than experience dictates. I will even admit I fell asleep to it twice while listening to it late at night, but neither time out of boredom. It just made me so peaceful and tranquil I couldn't help it. So late night car listening is probably not a good idea with this then. The only other critique I can muster is that sometimes he lets the melodies continue on a tad longer than they ought to, which also perhaps adds to the hypnotizing and sedatory effect this can have. This mans roots do come from the Twee era, but the acorn has grown into the oak. It now towers, but retains the peaceful serenity it always enjoyed.
Label ~ Planting Seeds, 14 Tracks, 2005
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10
Pipas - "A Cat Escaped" The name of this band kills me. You don't want to say what it obviously is when you look at it, so you want to call them "pipp-as". Only there aren't 2 p's. So it is indeed "pipe- as" which I at least can't help twisting into pipe ass. I had a 7" single by this band and for the life of me I can't even remember if I reviewed it or not. As I remember, I thought half of it was interesting and the rest was so so. This was T's and he was sort of complaining about it (but what album doesn't he do that about?) so I was nervous going in. The opener, What Nobody Does is actually quite good, mirroring the early 90's sound of many shoegaze UK bands only taken up a notch in tempo, which is most welcome. The album has it's variety, as on Barbapapa which is a 60's beat poet rap sort of song, but it has an adult, almost electronic lounge feel, bringing to mind the band Black Box Recorder. It's a very excellent cut. Black Box is brought to mind again on the next song Rock and/or Roll which is a lite but driven electronic ballad. At other times they are reminiscent of the Wood Be Goods as well as other bands that have been on the Matinee label, which is of course no surprise. This album has a nice bit of diversity, occasionally guitary but mostly electronic yet not standing out as belonging to either genre. The vocals are good and the songs all have a beat. Even the lyrics have their wry moments. Who needs more? Great, now that's another thing I have to buy. You know Jimmy, I wouldn't mind if you threw me a bone now and then......
Label ~ Matinee, 10 Tracks, 2002
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10+
Pipas - "Golden Square" It was not long ago that this band released their A Cat Escaped LP, so I was surprised to see this had come out, and that it was not on Matinee. While the opener here Pidg's Brew reminds me of a bad cover of Majestic (and I can take or leave Majestic to begin with) what I love about this band kicks in right after that and it's just glorious. There's a quality to Lupes voice that really strikes me, and the melodies are all stick in your head brilliant. However, I still have to task them (and even more so this time) with a complaint I have levied before. They come up wth a brilliant song, and it's only just getting going when it suddenly and quite abruptly ends just over a minute in. I am a firm believer in Morrisseys manifesto of pop song brevity, but this is going too far. It's more like coitus interruptus. Let me have my pop orgasm already, because what you guys do is too cruel. So this, like the last LP, is painfully short and comes in at around 18 minutes. Together they make a full length and my suggestion is to get both and copy them onto one disc. So guys, if you read this, please, for me, make them longer. It is SO hard getting an album made, let alone a good one, that if you have great songs then milk them for all they're worth. At least take them to 3 minutes. Talent is too precious to be squandered in such a cavalier manner. And the rest of you, just buy this. One of the years best.
Label ~ Annika, 9 Tracks, 2003
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.4
Pipas - "Bitterclub EP" This is one of the bands today I unabashedly love. This quirky little 6 song EP is a departure for them in that it is a little more techno, a little more dark, but it remains as playful as ever. It appears to be a fun outing more than implying any new direction for them in future, and while it is very good the edge on the songs does sort of take away from the hushed beauty of Lupe's voice, which I find quite heartrending and beautiful otherwise. It also includes a sort of techno dub version of the song South from their last LP, which is really quite a treat as it is so unusual from their normal sound. If you are an old fan this is a no brainer, you simply have to have it. If they are new to you, my suggestion is to go get their "A Cat Escaped" album first and go from there. Oh, this disc does have one thing in common with their other work: It's too damned short. Six songs and not quite 12 minutes, that's not even 2 minutes a song. Bastards....
Label ~ Matinee, 6 Tracks, 2004
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 6.2
Poor Rich Ones - "Happy Happy Happy" I got this off the strength of hearing the opening track Twins on Parasol in one of those rare moments when the real system was actually working. It is a good cut, even though it and this album as a whole comes very close to sounding much like what is being done in the UK right now. This band is from Norway or Denmark by the way, I can't quite remember which at the moment. This album doesn't start too bad for me, but by halfway thru I can't listen to it anymore. It is too exactly like current "alternative" music and I really can't stand that. In fact I'd swear that this "alternative" sound is getting more and more akin to "classic rock" ballads every year. So we have another release that it's a bit hard for me to rate, because left to my own devices I'll never listen to this again. If, however you are of the type that likes "alternative" stuff, I'd say this probably is done as well or better than most of it, that's for sure. Certainly at least a 9, probably higher, but for me there is no joy in Mudville.
Label ~ Five One, 11 Tracks, 2001
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.5
Possum Moods - "Possum Moods" This is another of the many collaboration efforts done by Jen Turrell, this time recorded in Australia with Mia Schoen. This at times reminds me of the Aussie band Origami as well gone perhaps a bit folkier. While there are of course similarities to Jens solo LP, there isn't as much variety here and while individually the songs are all good they tend to become somewhat monotone following one another. It is generally light, and certainly heartfelt, but given enough straight doses that can sometimes wear a bit thin. While I like a number of clips from this record I do believe that what it is is simply more suited to a female audience, somewhat like the Softies. I like a nice emotive song as much as anyone, but men generally don't sit well thru an entire album of it. Still, there are no bad songs and taken in doses or used for comp cd material there are a number of nice songs here. If you're a fan of hers you will more than likely want this.
Label ~ Red Square, 14 Tracks, 2003
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.8
Postal Blue - "Postal Blue EP" This outfit from South America has gotten a bit of praise and I've heard them referred to as being like the "Smiths". I don't know what people are thinking when they throw that comparison out so casually, as frankly I have yet to hear any other band which I thought sounded like the Smiths. New Order, The Cure, the Bunnymen etc yes, but the Smiths no. This is a very indie pop guitar oriented affair, with some truly great songs on it and it excells in it's own right without borrowing from the Smiths or any other band in particular inasmuch as any good indie guitar band sounds similar. All fours songs here are quite good, and in fact Summer is What You Call it and Maybe I'm Dreaming are quite above average and are most excellent. I had originally only given this an 8.8, (mostly due to length) but I can be forgiven as it's one of the many, MANY things I reviewed in my rush to construct this site nearly 4 years ago and being a miser I don't often shell out for EP's. Well, that was a rotten call. This is essential, and I have since graded it as such.
Label ~ Drive In, 4 Tracks, 2000
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.6
Postal Blue - "Weather Sensitive EP" I like the cover of this, just the overall feel reminds me of early Rough Trade singles. The title here though reminds me of something the Lucksmiths would have used. This is the second EP from this South American band and while listening to it I noticed it sounded a bit unlike the first EP, sounding somewhat more Siesta label like, however the thing I could not peg came home to roost on track four What You Were Meant to Be. Now, the first three songs are all most excellent, about as good as indie gets which I'll take ANY day. But this track, whooooaa! Lead singer Adriano Ribeiro sounds EXACTLY like Stuart Murdoch from Belle & Sebastian. I don't mean close, I mean exactly, like it isn't even funny exactly, and so does the song. Were you to play this for a Belle fan who never heard of Postal Blue they'd believe it was them, no questions asked and I mean it. Of course that's a good thing I guess but the exactness is really odd. Still, the song is great. It takes a lot for me to push an EP but this one is quite brilliant and definetly worth getting. I wish an LP would come out already, as I can hardly wait if it's going to be more of this.
Label ~ Shelflife, 5 Tracks, 2001
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9
Postal Blue - "International Breeze" To say this album was a long time in coming and much looked for in most quarters would be an understatement. What's even more curious is that I have talked to head Postie Adriano Ribeiro and apparently most of the material has been around for some time, but there were delays at almost every step. In fact he said the band and their sound has really moved on since and that this album isn't really indicative of them now or what we'll hear on the next EP. Another problem arose from Adriano taking on the job of producing it which also slowed up the effort a little and added, or perhaps took away from what I was expecting on it. I was a bit thrown on my first listen, this album not being what I expected so much so that I had to go back and listen to the other two EP's to see if this was indeed the destination of natural progression. After doing that the material here did not appear as out of context as I had perhaps first thought. The context being perhaps, not slow, but rather possessing the same degree of "momentum" thru out with a general uniformity of sound. Adriano attributes that to his production, and I agree. The album does have a sound similar to many early Siesta label bands, and over all the songs are genuinely good. Perhaps I should say individually good, as taken in a whole I still get a little jet lagged by the end from the over all "vibe" not changing a whole lot. There are a number of really nice tunes here, but nothing I'm dying over or on the order of Summer Is What You Call It from the first ep or What You Were Meant To Be from the second. In an ironic twist Adriano told me he thinks the songs on this are better than those EP songs, even while at the same time admitting his production perhaps "hid" some elements. I told him that may well indeed be true, but I told him something hidden can't be seen or heard, so in effect it isn't there, is it? Maybe HE knows what it's supposed to sound like, but the fact remains we don't. It's like telling me the paint on your house looks better than mine and to prove it you call me over at 2 am on a moonless night. Right or wrong I expected more from this band, not that this isn't good, as it is. But I wanted a serving of greatness and this was not it. It will suffice for now, and I do recommend it but I believe this young man has bigger things in him. Given time we are all yet to see and hear them, but till then this is a fair enough slice of pop delights, if not heaven.
Label ~ Shelflife, 11 Tracks, 2004
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.8
Postal Blue - "Road To Happiness EP" I suppose for the record it should be stated that the lead singer of this band, Adriano Ribeiro is of all the many friends I have in the business probably my closest. We've been fighting..err talking via email for a number of years now and have gotten about as close as two people can get who've never met. (I will also say he is pissed he's never gotten a 10+ score) This outing is one that's been "in the can" for some time now, and in fact I had it all in mp3 form for well over a year. The problem with that is now that this has been released it's not exactly new or exciting for me, although I must say it's nice to be able to hear it on my stereo finally. As for the music, in many aspects it stakes out somewhat new territory for the band as it tries to embrace the roots of 80's brit guitar pop more openly. Adi has long lamented getting compared to "Belle" simply because his voice sounds like their lead singer Stuart Murdoch, to which I've told him that's Gods fault not his. I even think Adi is older, so he had it first anyway. (I prodded him to cover their "Get Me Away From Here I'm Dying" which he then did a short demo of for me, and I think it's better than the original) Anyway, gossip aside, this is without question an EP that will appeal to a far broader base of pop kids than their previous work perhaps has. It even includes their first song sung in their native tongue, Portuguese. While no 10+ yet, this is a very nice ep and certainly worth getting as none of this will ever appear ever again on anything else. I know that because our boy is planning massive changes for this band, new sounds, new instruments and the works, and I can hardly wait. (He might even be touring the east coast this summer) So get this slice of 80's pop perfection while you can and then hold your breath, for a change is in the wind...
Label ~ Humblebee, 5 Tracks, 2006
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10+
Postal Service - "Give Up" This is the new effort of Death Cab For Cuties Ben Gibbard along with Jimmy Tamborello. And what a fine piece of work it is indeed. I was a little put off that the opening track The District Sleeps Alone Tonight has fake record noise in it, ....please, enough already. The song however was quite good despite that. The next cut Such Great Heights is the real money shot on this album however, and it fairly bowled me over. Catchy, vibrant synth, great lyrics with a heart tugging earnestness, lots of hooks, and a chorus that sounds exactly like the best of the Lightning Seeds. Certainly one of the best singles I or you will hear this year. This record does an excellent job of setting a mood for itself, mostly electronic, with bits of guitar, and some sampling that reminds me of the E*Vax album, yet it retains an individuality of it's own and comes across as very fresh and new sounding. The songs are all very good to quite brilliant, with others such as Clarke Gable reaching the heights of Such Great Heights. There is a wistful operatic quality about this work, and the songs really are almost like pieces of a greater puzzle. This also reaches a level of maturity and pop deliciousness not often achieved by americans. The packaging is brilliant, the music enchanting. Muse no longer over this, go get it and start enjoying.
Label ~ Sub Pop, 10 Tracks, 2003
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.2
Potion - "Circa EP" The submitted discs just don't stop coming in! While I appreciate it, I really need to get my life back. But that's why I have been burning the mid night reviewing oil, and that's no joke. The press sheet says Potion "blend fire, passion, humor and sensitivity with a smoky sultry flavor". Hmmmmm...I would say this has more sensuality than sensitivity and more smoke than fire. The vocals of Annie Maley also remind me a bit of Siouxsie Sue and there is a hint of the Banshees in the music, but it might be the command of her voice making me think that. I like this but I must say for the record she has one of those voices that will make or break you on this, because it is so powerful and up front. The music is good, not quite entirely clubby, but certainly it belongs there even though it is on the moodier electronic side. I think it best for you to visit their site at www.potionmusic.com and listen to a clip yourself. If you like her voice, then I believe you'll really like their brand of sensual but smoky dance electronica.
Label ~ Blue Orange, 4 Tracks, 2002
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.4
Potion - "Band Of Outsiders" This is the latest release from this band who's lead singer Annie Maley sounds like she's ready for a career making records with Andrew Eldritch or the Banshees. It's that sort of dark, hot and saucy momma type of voice like Siouxsie Sue. But while it is on full display on the opener 25th Century it is more tamed and relaxed and shows more creativity on here than on their last release. Musically this is also more adventurous, with tracks like the Latin influenced Till The Morning or the aptly titled Samba Spatiale. While they can still get down and grunge like X on the self titled track , they follow that with Watching The World Passing By which reminds me of a kind of upbeat folk pop that was popular in the 70's. Yes, there is quite a bit more maturity on this disc and it gets displayed in a number of creative and enjoyable ways. My previous caveat about them being the type of band where you either love of hate them due to the strong nature of her voice is not an issue here. They have made a strong step forward with this album which is recorded very well, displays a variety of styles and depth, and marks it as a release seriously worth your attentions.
Label ~ Blue Orange, 9 Tracks, 2005
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 6.5
Poundsign - "Underneath the Marquee" This album is unique in that it's the first I remember in a while where every member sings at least one song. Steven Vesecky starts with Matinee Sunday and this song isn't bad, but he has the kind of wavering, can't hold a note american indie band voice I don't really care for. You can actually hear the notes warbling as he tries to hold them, and it's all out of tune and really, he should step aside. The next track, Vitamin Dee is sung by Becky Baron who does a better job than him. Musically the songs are light contemporary with a sixties twee air about them. Track three The Best Day was the first I really liked here and it's sung by Alicia Vanden Heuvel who has the best voice in the lot of them by a long shot. Track six is the only one sung by Jaime Knight and it has a real My Bloody Valentine feel about it (and is one of the better tracks), but being so overwashed it's hard to judge his voice. Another problem here is songs like Piano Song aren't real good and AV Heuvel gets waisted on them, and I Had a Nightmare is a pretty good song and Vesecky ruins it. Again, you have to understand my disgust for poorly tuned american "pipes". If half baked warbling doesn't bother you (and apparently it doesn't bother many in the "indie" world) then you'll probably find this a fair record. I think this act has promise, but a band can't be a democracy, and the notion of "we wanted to please ourselves" is pure bollocks. Your job should be to please US. If you just want to please yourself then don't bother releasing the damn thing. I'm sick of political correctness. That's why pop isn't as good as it was in the 80's. Do you think Morrissey wanted to "please himself" (I'm sure he did, and many times) but the point is, he wanted to grab the world by the short strings, he wanted to be king, to be adored. They all did. That's the spirit that made them great. These kids need a kick in the ass these days. Someone in this band needs to step up, be a Shackleton and lead them from the wilderness. Give the mike to Heuvel, write some good songs, and do it right. Make me want to worship you. This, I could care less.......
Label ~ Fantastic, 11 Tracks, 2002
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.4
Pretty Viscous - "Hollywood Forever" This LA based band is fronted by female vocalist Kristin King who's voice lends a dark vibe that has been hard for me to figure. Owing to their sound and their LA roots it's easy to want to jump to comparing them to a modern day X, but they are not as scruffy (or profane) as X was. Then Belly came to mind, but no, they're not as pop oriented as that band. Perhaps Siouxsie and the Banshees? No, no, not psychedelic enough and too English. Well then, what does this have? Hmmm, it's dark. It has goth. Guitars drive it but keyboards are no strangers either. The track Black Tinted Moonlight reminds me of a slightly darker sort of Brix Smith and yes, over all her voice does remind me of Brix Smith. The music however is not Fall like, nor is it like her solo stuff. It comes closer to having a Sisters Of Mercy sinister edge while retaining a beat and plaintive choruses. Sadly in my case something about the way this is recorded does not come across well on my main system at all. I found it impossible to listen to, but I had no problem thru the computer of with headphones. I don't know if it was compressed or had some other anomoly added but it came across in a bad way. Now, Magnepans can sometimes do that when producers mess around but I would say unless you also own maggies that should not be a problem. If the territory this covers appeals to you you'll probably find a bit to like on it. Nothing stands out as brillaint single material but the tracks as a whole are quite serviceable while being unique in their own way.
Label ~ So Sweet, 10 Tracks, 2005
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.1
Pristines - "Teen Fraud, Pop Whore" I got this solely on the strength of it's title. After all, how bad could it be with a monicker like that? The first track Let the Love Shine Thru is quite good, and reminds me a bit of the Perfect Disaster, chiming guitars and a tad bit lo-fi, quite period to late 80's UK indie bands. Track two Something I Idolize has a Jesus and Mary Chain quality tied into a 60's kind of spy movie vibe. Most of the rest of the "Fraud" side continues in this late 80's pop vein, some tracks being good, some just fair. The "Whore" side starts with the first song to feature keyboards prominently, in fact it's actually a synth track. Gears shift dramatically on the next cut Favourites which is the only song which backing vocalist Sarah King sings by herself. It's probably my favorite cut on the LP as well, reminding me again of the Perfect Disaster in song style but of the Shop Assistants in attitude. The rest of the "side" reverts to being like the Fraud side but most of the songs are pretty good. The last song, Drifting Into Sleep is again a synth number and is a little on the boring and long side but still not bad. All in all though, it's a half decent record, and if you like that late 80's style of britpop it will be quite welcome. Little to get truly startled over, but nothing to dismiss either.
Label ~ Sunday, 14 Tracks, 1995
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.3
The Production Club - "Follow Your Bliss" I must admit I never heard of Wally Gagel before getting this record. You probably didn't either. Apparently he's the american version of Ian Broudie, having produced or engineered many artists such as Belly, Juliana Hatfield, Muse, Superchunk and even the Rolling Stones (mixing). He also produced and co-wrote the song Natural One that Folk Implosion had a modest hit with several years ago. This album is compared to things like Moby or the Chemical Brothers and that isn't far off this time. Actually, bands like Colourbox (Steve and Martin Young) were doing this long before them and that's what it reminds me of. No Lorita Grahame, but lots of great guest vocalists, and lots of interesting songs. Sometimes funky, sometimes suave, but always a great beat or melody that often holds you spellbound. Track four I Am Released is great and has a 50's style spokesman vocal (like john cameron swazey doing a commercial. I'm sure you're too young to know who the hell he was. He did Timex commercials for watches back when you had to wind them...) and the song really again reminds me of the kind of thing Colourbox used to do so well, and Wally here manages to emulate with style. It's followed by a co-write with Tanya Donelley called Devils Kiss and it really reminds me of a song from the early 80's but I cannot place it. Actually, it morphs its melody a few times sounding like a variety of things and it's actually pretty fucking brilliant. The album wanders closer to the Chemical Brothers on tracks like This Is A New Generation which has a very acid house mid 90's kind of sound. On a whole this lp is very good although some of the latter tracks are only average, or even at times a little too contrived, but what's good is very good. If you are familiar with a band like Colourbox or like,....I hate to say eclectic, so lets say imaginative dance pop, then I think you'll find a good deal to like here.
Label ~ Lunch, 12 Tracks, 2003
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.1
Protection - "Protection EP" This band is formed, so I understand it, by three guys who all used to be MTV Vee Jays in Japan. OK, so we won't hold that against them.... I did not get a chance to hear it before hand but So Sweet sent it along figuring it would be well received and so it was. This is a band that mines a sort of best of 80's synth vein (and that's a best of US 80's synth I mean) and in fact their track I Don't Remember sounds just like some chart topper from 1983 that I uhh... don't remember. (well, lets say can't put a name to) It's actually quite uncanny how that song comes across so like that period and it is quite enjoyable. Also of note is the cover of the Bowie/Metheny classic This Is Not America which is quite serviceable. While there are 7 tracks on here, only 5 are originals, the last two being remixes of other tracks from here so that's what puts this into EP not LP territory in my book. While good, I think they are perhaps still feeling out their sound but if they can tap the potential that's clearly there their debut could be stunning. This is an EP of definite interest to 80's synth dance fans and those who love Moogs.
Label ~ So Sweet, 7 Tracks, 2005
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.4
Psychodelicates - "Go Adventuring" It's getting very odd now actually, because this I got after one of the band members wrote me after reading the Jesus Couldn't Drum interview because he knew them. (that interview has to come off even if I have to interview my cat) In his letter about them he told me about his band. Their history is too long to get into here but you can read it and hear clips on their website here. The odd part is it didn't occur how glam this band is, albeit more along the line of the UK band the Associates or even at times Bowie. Mostly where glam was around the early 80's in it's waning days. That can be heard on their clips page where songs like Supernatural have all the hooks and shiny gleam of the genre, with a little bit of grunge to keep things honest. It's also a really great and catchy song. There is a link on their site where to buy (even in the US) if you like what you hear on the clips. I just find it very odd how the stars are all aligning, and I have to say it's almost exciting, genuinely exciting, for the first time in a long while. It is downright enjoyable to hear songs with an attitude and good lyrics that all seem to belong to some coherent, cosmic whole. I'm listening to Psychodelia as I type this and the toes are tapping and all is right with the world. This kind of glam I was always partial to. You know, I think things may work out all right after all. It's the dawn of a bright new age, perhaps a recycled age, but the old material is good stuff so the new model should come out just fine. Yes, I'm actually happy now.
Label ~ Svelte, 12 Tracks, 2002
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.4
Puffy Ami Yumi - "An Illustrated History" Yeah, where do I get this stuff? I stumbled across this band and saw them called the greatest dance/pop band in Japans history, so I felt that statement needed to be verified. In Japan they are just Puffy, but they were afraid Puff Daddy would do a drive by if they used that here so they changed it for the US market. The band are 2 girls, and they discovered that when they sang in tandem their voices blended naturally into one that sounds like neither of them, so that is the basis of their sound. The opener, Love So Pure is a pretty titanic cut as far as dance tracks go. It's driving as all hell, with a great beat and catchy lyrics and they sound so great singing in English. The next, True Asia really reminds me of some other band and song but I simply cannot place it. It's very 80's sounding, that's for sure. All of the tracks on here except the opener are sung in Japanese, but that doesn't detract from them at all. Songs like Friends (Tomodachi) are really great, and were they in english I'd probably really be raving, but as it is it's a great song. (the beat of which is lifted right from the Jams "Town Called Malice" mixed with "You Can't Hurry Love" oddly enough) I haven't heard enough to say whether these two are the best Nippon has, but this is quite good. This even comes with a bonus video which is sadly formatted to be small and even at that is a little grainy. There are also a few quirky songs at the start but mostly this is all quite above average. If you like dance and electronica with poppy guitar riffs and your lyrics don't have to be in english, then this is a must for your list. If they put out an LP in English, they could be really huge, or is that big in japan?
Label ~ Bar/None, 16 Tracks, 2002
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10+
Punky's Dilemma - "Echelon EP" Yes, where did this come from?! That's what I was asking when it plopped into my mailbox recently and quite unexpectedly. Apparently it is the real debut release of this Swedish band which our Luke scored the first copies of and it can be had (as I type this) in and only in our Popsicle shop. I first encountered this band in one of Labradors Sounds of Young Sweden samplers where their song Century Of Time was without question possibly my favorite cut from the entire disc. That song is included on here (in an entirely new an interestingly redone form) along with four other tracks which are simply wonderful. This ep is like a dark storm front heading right for you, the mix of power and calm, of rays of sun and deep brooding dark, twinkling dewdrops and heavy footfalls. I must have listened to it 5 times over when I first played it I was so smitten by it. It has the sort of melancholy and beauty it seems only swedes have the ability to impart. I don't know if it's a mixture of the long, dark winters and the long summer days but the results speak for themselves. Heady is the word that comes to mind when I listen to this. Emotive, passionate headiness. You know, let me grab the dictionary to make sure I got this right........ Heady \hed-E\ adj: Tending to make giddy: Intoxicating. Yep, that's the ticket, now go buy it.
Label ~ Junk Music, 5 Tracks, 2006
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.7
Push Kings - "Feel No Fade" I have to say it. I never saw this coming, I really didn't. "It" being the return of 70's glam. I was absolutely sure that was going to get bypassed as todays kids finished weeding their way thru 60's farsifa pop and "soundtrack of our lives" 70's muzak. Even when the Strokes happened, I really thought it was going to be a one off thing. Well, apparently not. I had T pick this up for me "cashola-non-gratis" as I frankly didn't trust it enough to spend money on it. Anyway, my interest was piqued by the clip on Darla called Born Stoned which to me sounded alot like a great but largely unknown 80's English band called Win. What it's done is make me realize how much more glam Win was than I realized. The opener here, Summer Trippin' is a very 70's sounding acoustic rock anthem, and it actually isn't too bad. The glam really starts to show on Rocket 'N' Ride where lead singer Finn Moore Gerety kind of sassy talks the vocals in a deep voice (not unlike the Strokes, or Iggy Pop for that matter) and at the breaks a really deep fuzzy wall of guitar chimes in, and you know, I'm amazed to say it but I kind of like this track. In fact I think they might have done a better job at it than the over-lauded Strokes have done. They don't have that "vibe" the Strokes do but they make up for that with the complexity of songs like Beat Girl (and me) which while not as complex as a Queen anthem it nevertheless shows a bit of thought in weaving together a number of sound elements and directions and making them all work. This type of stuff still isn't my first choice of something to listen to as it's too american and too near classic rock for me, but I have to give the nod, this is pretty good. I think it's fair to say it probably is better over all than the Strokes album, at least in it's complexity and musicality. (and recording quality) In fact, I could actually start liking this in time. It is 16 songs, but 4 are less than a minute quirky noise intro/outro instrumentals for the other songs. (they aren't annoying or anything) This album actually touches base with everything from late Beatles to Queen to the Stooges while actually keeping fairly true to itself. And who among us would have thought wearing neckties with T-shirts was going to be vogue again? You know, I think I would actually pay for this.
Label ~ Le Grand Magistery, 16 Tracks, 2001
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.9
Purrs - "No Particular Bar, No Particular Town EP" Mea Gene Krupa! So here I am, slogging my way thru countless promos, which is almost like fighting my way off the Normandy beaches only it's taking longer, and I can't find a press sheet I need so I go looking for it among the stacks and piles of debris everywhere and out falls a mailer with this cd and it's press pack inside, everything still unopened. What's that posting date??......November 11th.....that a boy....... OK, 4 months I figure is enough penance for them, so I made a point of including them this week. Since I wasted half my space with a pointless story, I'll get right to it. This is the second ep release from this Seattle band, and their sound is very ambient with an unconnected but apparent UK influence and unique vocals. I laughed at one of the quips on their press sheet, where Kathleen Wilson of the Stranger says lead singer Jima (yeah, that's his name) sounds like "..a higher pitched Jim Reid had he held down the angst on Darklands". That’s about the stupidest thing I ever read on so many levels. Kathleen, go sit down and actually listen to some records, thanks. Now Jimas voice is unique, but it sounds remarkably unlike Jim Reid and remarkably like Tim Booth from James. (with a slight hint of the edge of Peter Murphy of Bauhaus) I quite like some songs here, such as Ebb & Flow which I think melds their disparate elements together well by keeping a lid on them and letting them simmer. I think they need to work on honing their sound a little yet, and if they get it perfected they could be quite excellent. The biggest problem is a tendency to let the songs go on way too long, with 4 tracks here clocking in at almost 29 minutes. (yeah, do the math) However this is a nice ep with some interesting moments, especially if you like a more brooding sort of sound and vocal, with the angst held down or not.
Label ~ Self Release, 4 Tracks, 2004