Hip-ometer Rating ~ 7.8
Tall Boy - "Goes On" This was the first of the extras Jen Turrell thru in when she sent her LP for review and I had never heard of any of them so didn't know quite what to expect. Tall Boy is Matt Green and the opener here, Masami Said is a very upbeat, 70's pop tinged song that reminds me somewhat of the Fantastic Something and it is quite good. The album itself tries out a variety of things from French lyrics to record noise, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. I think a record should be like a painting, in that it should convey a mood. This sort of fails there as unlike Jen's album it can't bring together all these separate parts, and part of that is due to not all the parts being as good as they perhaps could be. (the last track sounding like Porky Pig meets Cabaret Voltaire) Even the interesting cover of OMD's Maid Of Orleans is a bit too slow. Just enough to take away a little enjoyment from it. Also on a song or two he tries to go places with his voice he just can't, which never helps, and it really wasn't needed as when he stays within himself he sings well enough. Nobody buys things that are experimental, and I don't feel it belongs on finished LP's either. I want a finished product, experiment before you record it. How often does one get to make a real record? I think you ought to make it the best damn thing you can and not play at it. I believe he has real potential, as the first track is brilliant but he decided not to stick to it on this outing. Certainly a could have been, and I'm somewhat sad it wasn't as great as it might have been, but perhaps one day he'll deliver the goods. I believe he has it in him.
Label ~ Red Square, 14 Tracks, 2003
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10
Maria Taylor - "11:11" I took a tumble for this debut solo effort of Maria Taylor (one half of the band Azure Ray) not because of that band (which I have heard of but not really heard) but rather on the strength of the song Leap Year which has all the hallmarks of the best of Sarah Mc Lachlan: Sweeping beauty and very very sad poignancy. That is perhaps the theme most noticed on this outing, a sort of sad sentimentality. Her voice reminds me very much of Areas Lynn Canfield as it slays thru delicate beauty rather than sheer power. (and it also reminds me of the aforementioned Mc Lachlan as well) Musically it meanders between folk strummings to electronic dream pop but always with a very adult undercurrent. I am referencing some titanic company here and Maria holds up well against it all. Albums like this can be amongst the most difficult of all types to succeed with. It takes a lot of talent and perhaps even some good luck to make an album that plumbs emotion yet can hold everyone captive for 45 minutes. This album does that. It is not as miraculous as McLachlans "Fumbling Towards Ecstasy" which perhaps is the best of this type that will ever be done, but it comes close enough to make the punters look up and take notice, which I did. And it was well worth the look. If you could compress happiness and sadness, joy and despair, excitement and fear all together and shove them into a spinning silver disc, it would look and sound something like this. If I could only get it on a spinning vinyl black disc.......
Label ~ Saddle Creek, 10 Tracks, 2005
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.2
The Year Zero - "Oceania, I Will Return" This is the first album that presented me with this quandary: Should I keep the word "The" in the title? Since it seemed more of a statement than the band is named year zero I did just that. (and I'm probably wrong and it won't be the first time) This is a very ethereal outing from a new duo, that both enticed and somewhat disappointed me. Enticed because they weave dreamy, cocteau-esque layers into some lovely songs and the voice of Lili De Le Mora delivers them with all the rapture one could wish. Disappointed because while they did the best with the recording gear they had (tascam recorder) the over all soundstage is a bit more compressed and flatter than serves the music, which is a shame. I also found the voice of her partner Rodney Sellars not quite to my liking. Perhaps I didn't dislike it, but after her, ehhh... it just wasn't cutting it. Even if his voice was good, hers is great, and who wants to trade down? Still, there is a lot of promise here and a number of nice songs. He doesn't sing a whole lot but if they cut that to not at all and recorded the next one a bit better this band could be very big. The ingredients are all there, they just need to fine tune it. If you are partial to ethereal music bordering on shoegaze you will find a number of things to like here and even more to look forward to.
Label ~ Skipping Stones, 12 Tracks, 2006
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.7
They Might Be Giants - "NO!" It has long been established that TMBG were popular with kids, probably because their songs are almost like old TV or radio jingles and while they might have not gotten the credit they truly deserve in their now long career I can only say that if it was that easy more people would be doing it. (although they did strike gold with their theme song for Malcolm in the Middle) So it wasn't too surprising that they decided to make an album expressly for kids, and that an LP for kids would probably appeal to fans of theirs anyway. We (my kid and I) first tried to listen to this thru the stereo, and it seemed a little peculiar, so we instead took it out and put it in the computer. It has a full interactive sequence for almost all the songs which was done by The Chopping Block who also designed TMBGs website (and it's really a cool one, you should check it out if you haven't) It's basically a flash interface, and you can pick whatever song you want, and to top it off you can actually interact with most of the movies as they are flash. It's then you really atune to what they're trying to get across and god help you you're hooked. The songs cover a variety of kid topics, from the very TMBG like Fibber Island to the great 60's influenced Where do They Make Balloons sung by guest vocalist Danny Weinkraut (it's a really top song) to the 50's public service like In The Middle, In The Middle In The Middle sung by Robin Goldwasser which is about traffic safety. Well, my 5 year old daughter flipped over it and she just loves to put it in and play with it and sing the songs. I have even caught myself singing my favorite refrain from the Violyn song, "Hippo......Hippo...." Apparently I got the last copy at Twee Kitten, and this thing is a little more expensive than most indie things so I'd suggest getting it off TMBGs website where it's $14, and I haven't seen it cheaper. If you have kids, this is a must purchase. I haven't got much of anything from them lately as I have a bit of their earliest stuff and it has been some years since that first LP of theirs now. Can't believe it's going on 20 years for that as well. Anyway, this has prompted me to want their latest LP so look for the review of that soon as well. Till then, buy something for the kids! The only flaw with this is she doesn't like the songs that aren't part of the flash interface as much, but that is to be expected and will probably change as she tires of the others, IF she does. (Also, they did a song for the Chopping Block which is on the disc but can only be heard thru the flash movie on the credits page. Sadly, it is not the version from the Chopping Block website which really kills. I downloaded that MP3 and suggest you do too. Their site can be gotten to thru the TMBG website) One of the best releases for kids ever done.
Label ~ Idlewild/Rounder, 17 Tracks + interactive, 2002
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.5
Thirdimension - "Protect us From What We Want" I think it is very amusing that there seems to be two distinct sects of swedish "rock", and what is most odd is that it is based around hair color. Those with blonde hair make a more indie or dance oriented sound, and those with black hair are much harder, trying for a corporate "rock" or chart UK type sound. I have yet to see a band break this rule. (Now, do they have black hair or do they dye it? If it's the latter perhaps we ought to check the dye ingredients) I got this in a roundabout way, having talked to band members after not being able to get it where I was directed to Michael at Parasol who sent me a copy as it has come back into print. This is actually somewhat old now, and the band have a new Lp in the works (with a different sound so I was told). Anyway, I found the opener If This World Could Only See a bit too overblown and trying too hard to meld sixties rock influences to Oasis. The next track, This Time while again reminding me of Oasis, is slower and more ballad like and it's quite a good song. There are times very definite sixties bands sounds are heard here, like the Animals and Beatles, and the songs tend toward the anthemic rock genre melded with a touch of present "chart" sound. My, that almost sounds incriminating. This isn't the kind of thing I normally listen to, but it certainly is heads above anything Oasis or their ilk have done in a long time. I'd say I like about half the songs on here quite a bit, and of the other half three quarter are OK and the other quarter I can live without. If you like "chart" rock bands like Radiohead (I feel your pain) then I think you'll quite like this a lot. The sixties vibe is a little too prominent for me on a whole, but I will certainly pick a number of tracks off of this for comp CD's for the car. What I heard of their "new" sound I liked a lot so I eagerly await their new release, but this is a good disc for those of you who like an older rock sound.
Label ~ Telegram/Hidden Agenda, 11 Tracks, 1998
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.2
Three Blind Mice - "Single EP" This is the first release of another bunch of Swedes, but this time the sound is really a hard one to peg. The opener Single is very grungy (in an 80's kind of way) and the sound kind of reminds me of maybe a mix of Iggy Pop and perhaps the Thrill Kill Cult. Yet there's that sense of melody shared by all Swedish bands. There's no question many of the songs have an almost 70's power pop sound to them, bordering on the semi-anthemic. My initial rection to all this was that it wasn't quite my cup of tea, but as I keep listening to it over and over I must admit the damn thing does grow on you, especially with muzak pop friendly songs like Fighting Girl. This is actually interesting enough to deserve your attention, and if you lay out for EPs, then I think this one should be on your list.
Label ~ Apricot, 5 Tracks, 2000
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.5
Tiger Baby - "Noise Around Me" This is the sophomore effort from this band and I had hoped to get to it sooner but it came as a CDR and I had a hell of a time getting it to play initially. On this outing Tiger Baby appear to be fishing in darker waters: No, not the Bering sea, but rather the world of dark, futuristic, club disco chic. In other words, Ladytron. Well, that would be OK even if it was entirely true, but the fact is it isn't. A comparison to Ladytron probably is in order, but this band has melded that to a good dose of their own identity and pop sensibilities and that recipe may indeed be the perfect one to avoid the tribulations of the "sophomore slump". That problem of course being the one of trying to repeat what you did right the first time without sounding like it, and that is pretty much what they have accomplished here. Oh it's them all right, but it's a darker, less bubble gummy them. I wouldn't say less pop friendly, although their previous "ether" has turned to smoke and darker is well, dark. That makes it a matter of preference and at this point I couldn't say which one I like more, so I'll call it even, for now. Interestingly the album ends with a cover of the (in)famous song Love Will Tear Us Apart but frankly, if I didn't know what it was beforehand I'd never recognise it. I'd call it a good track on it's own, but a lousy cover, and frankly I think it's a song best left alone. Mortals covering it is like Bob Ross offering to repaint the Sistine Chapel ceiling. And finally, as if my initial problems weren't bad enough by the end of the review process my disc had begun refusing to play tracks 9 and 10. I don't know what the hell you kids see in mp3's or cdr's but they blow, go get the real thing. This is a very fine follow up to a very solid debut which you should find quite enjoyable.
Label ~ Souvenir, 11 Tracks, 2006
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.5
Tiger Baby - "Lost In You" T had actually brought this danish band to my attentions some time ago, but I was repeatedly unable to obtain a copy for myself. I eventually wrote the band in my frustrations asking for a promo, and was happily directed by them to their North American representatives Souvenir records. Although we both wrote them, no copy or even acknowledgement came. (Said label has since informed me they never got any of these emails) Par for my course. So then I looked one night on a whim at amazon and found it there for 10 bucks, and here we are. This band sort of reminds me of a scandinavian Cocteau Twins without the dynamic eclecticism and with more understandable lyrics. The album is recorded very well, and song after song is dancy, upbeat (even if the beat is down tempo) and as engaging as pop music gets. Perhaps rather it would be correct to say it starts out very dance like and gets more and more ethereal as it goes along, spinning the listener in a cocoon of aural delights. I am not sure what far eastern persuasion lead singer Pernille Pang is, but she has a lovely, floating quiver of a voice that manages to impart a lot of emotive power despite the delicacy. Kudos to them for a delicious little album, and I wish them the best of luck with it. It is a bit curious it was hard to track down but that I eventually found it in the "amazon", but worthy big game usually is.
Label ~ Souvenir Records, 11 Tracks, 2004
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.4
Mia Doi Todd - "Manzanita" This is I think the third album by this artist who up till now has gone under my radar. At first I thought the woman from Northern Exposure was on the cover, what's her name, the one with the dry eyes.....Janine Turner? I think that's it. Of course it's not, it's the artist herself but they look a little alike. I was not fond of the opener here, a song called The Way which is your garden variety protest song. It isn't bad but she lays it on a bit thick, both vocally and instrumentally which I think does not overly suit her. What was obvious though is that she has a set of pipes, husky, emotive pipes, but with that lovely lilting tremmelo only women can impart. In fact she sounds remarkably like some artist from the 60's, only who I am not sure, Joan Armatrading? Joni Mitchell? That's not my genre but she's in there someplace. The next two tracks embrace the less is more philosophy and her voice seems much more at home within those confines. But just before you thought this was going to be a somnambulistic affair, the brilliant ballad The Last Night Of Winter starts with an engaging acoustic guitar riff that draws you in to be slayed by ethereal strings and to die for horn punches., all the while of course remembering quiet is the new loud. Other treats include the carribean influenced Casa Nova and the flamenco inspired Tongue Tied. It was also apparent this is recorded well. Subtly well, but well. My gear is very good, but my ears are still blocked, yet listening to this was a sublime treat. Yes, this IS artsy, but it is not in-accessible, and if you have the gear and the desire to expand to a more delicate and earnest place, this is certainly the disc to get you there. Yeah, but is it on vinyl? I don't know, but I'm going to check....
Label ~ Plug Research, 10 Tracks, 2005
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 7.8
Toothpaste 2000 - "Fine, Cool, With Love, Best" This is the first LP of an outfit which had previously called itself Cowboy & Spingirl with cowboy being Frank Bednash and spingirl being Donna Esposito. Singing duties have always been shared by these two, and that continues on this LP. This effort clocks in with 23 songs, which in my opinion is quite a bit for a regular LP. I have to say that on this outing at least, I generally prefer the songs she sings on, such as 3 Steps To Heaven which has nice rolling guitar lines and a great melody. It can be summed up simply that her songs tend to be melodic and his are much more grungy and experimental, and too often don't work. There are some good ones, but by and large it doesn't do it for me. Her songs however comprise what would normally be a full LP, and if you don't mind picking and like girl rock then you'll probably get some service from this.
Label ~ Parasol, 23 Tracks, 1997
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.6
Toothpaste 2000 - "Bachelorette" The maturity this band kind of needed has finally come home on this their second record. The initial track, Baby, Let's Rock! which is sung by Frank is far superior to any of his efforts from the first LP. It's cool, retro and a great song. She cuts right in after it with the title track which really has a My Bloody Valentine lo-fi grunge sound to it. Franks tendencies to experiment have finally found an outlet too it seems on songs like Miss Marcy Brown which uses some interesting vocal miking teamed up to a really semi-sixties kind of pop beat. It's a real treat. This album showcases some interesting styles, is done really really well, and if you'd like an LP that walks the waters of pop styles from the late 60's right into the late 80's then you'll like this a bit. Without question their best effort.
Label ~ Parasol, 16 Tracks, 2000
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 3
Trash Can Sinatras - "Weightlifting" This is a band that has broken my heart in many ways. Not only was their debut album Cake a masterpiece, when I saw them tour for it I can honestly say it was the best live show I ever saw. (that includes the Smiths, New Order, Madness, well, I could be listing things all day...) I was concerned their sophomore effort would be a failure as is so often the case after such a debut, but it wasn't too bad actually. Not as good as the debut, but still quite solid. Since then however whatever magic this band had they lost. Even people who pander to them let that truth slip because reviews for this album always contain disclaimers like "their best work since Cake" or "a return to form". Oh really? I thought you all said a Happy Pocket was good? If they are returning to form, then we're admitting that that was in fact shite too? (which it was) Because of all this I had been afraid to try this album, but last year I had the chance to get it used for like 3 bucks so I did. It was three wasted dollars. It is not a return to form, it is not as good as Cake, and in fact all it is is the work of a band who have forgotten who they are and what matters to them. It isn't bad as much as it is wholly un-engaging. Not a single song on it makes me give a damn, not even in the slightest. Bland, plodding, pointless drivel. Guys, stop killing me with this shite. Either hang it up and leave me my memories, or put an album out you CARE about. People, ignore the "other" reviews. This sucks, avoid it like the plague.
Label ~ Spin Art, 12 Tracks, 2004
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9
Trembling Blue Stars - "the Ghost of an Unkissed Kiss EP" I suppose I should be including this bands other LP's here but like Belle they seem so obvious that it doesn't seem worth the time to do it. I suppose they'll make it in one day though. This is the teaser release to the new LP, and I must say first that at this point I'm a bit worn thin on this band. It's gone thru SO many incarnations from the Field Mice to Northern Picture Library to TBS et-al that the back catalog is already getting largish, and frankly it tends to sound pretty much similar. There have been times this band has taken me to heights of rapture for sure, but often I'm left with, "ehhh, yeah, it's them". That said the title track here does sound fresh to me somehow, and I do like it, and of course no one would be surprised that it would be likeable anyway. That's the given, the point is do we care anymore? The other 3 cuts here while good are nothing we have never heard this band do before. If though you have never heard them, then you will really like this alot. I mean probably ALOT. But for this old goat, well, I can only chew the same tin can so many times. I'd be happy to listen to it were there a radio station alive which played this sort of thing, but buy it? Naw, got a cupboard full already. Instead of 8 with a bullet it's a 9 with a bent weenie. Make of that what you will.
Label ~ Shinkansen, 4 Tracks, 2001
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.5
Trembling Blue Stars - "Alive to Every Smile" At this point I wasn't sure what to think about this deal. I mean, lets face it, this is a band (re-guy) who has put out a huge catalog of music already in many incarnations, and without question some of those songs have been some of the best things I ever heard and indeed, quite a few have touched me deeply. The rest however suffer from a sameness that over time ushers forth a feeling of apathy about the whole proceedings. Truly, the sweet and sour of the indie world. At this point nothing less than divine genius or rank failure will please me with this act, as I'm tired of teetering on the fence. I wasn't overly fond of the noise that starts this lp on the track Under Lock and Key but some 40 seconds in a song does emerge from it, and it's a bit well, it has an almost Bunnymen psychedelia to it. It's really not too bad and it was unexpected. The next track With Every Story goes on a bit before any vocals come in, but the melody is quite lovely and while it is more like what we're used to from this outfit (and it is long) the quality of it more than compensates. It is on the next cut, Haunted Days that damn it if this bastard didn't steal a piece of my heart again. It has a kind of 70's ethereal quality with haunting female backing vocals and is more lovely than any song has a right to be. But on the next track Here All Day we fall back into the predictable pattern of every song this outfit has written. Now, it's not bad, but it sounds like I've heard that cut at least 40 times on every other thing I own that Bob Wratten had his hands in on. Same thing goes for the next track Until the Dream Gets Broken. It isn't until track six St. Pauls Cathedral at Night that some interesting reverberating keyboard lines get added in and it makes the world of difference. It's not only a great song, it sounds fresh. After this comes the first single from this disc which was good but then it's pretty much a lame exit after that, especially track 11 which isn't even a song. Again, not that it's bad, but it's too much the same old same old. So where does that leave me? I was actually falling on the happy side of that fence only to catch myself at the last and find I'm right where I started, AGAIN. There are a few great songs and one titanic one presented here, but sadly for me this is an lp I'll nitpick songs off of for a comp CD, and probably won't listen to straight thru again, and indeed, more's the pity. If you have never heard or owned anything by this band, then by all means get this. It will probably rock your world. For me it's a page I've read one too many times.
Label ~ Sub Pop, 11 Tracks, 2001
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.7
Tribeca - "Kate-97" When he sent me the Club 8 stuff Johan threw in a copy of this, which I was grateful for as I had been interested in it. This is the new vehicle for Lasse Lindh who's been called the Swedish Lloyd Cole, and he teams up with Claes Björklund who worked with him on his last LP You Wake Up At Sea Tac. The press release that he sent with it says the first single Teenage is equally at home on the listening sofa as it is the dancefloor. That's probably pretty apt, and it's a quite good song. I generally like Lassie's stuff, but at times he does drift into that wail of guitar noise so prevalent in the alternative chart scene, which is heard here on track five Jumpstart. However, the next cut Virus is quite good, and it's on tracks like this that he shines, as he has a sharp edge of undiluted sorrow in his voice and when he lest that loose like on tracks like this it's quite powerful. However, voices like that tend to be the ones you either love or hate. My wife isn't generally fond of it for example. Overall this is a pretty nice record and if you've stumbled in here fresh from the corporate indie scene then this would probably make a good first step for you, as it truly skims the waters between what's on the charts and what is not. At times he explores waters I don't care for, but there are certainly some good tracks on here and I think in time he'll just get better and better.
Label ~ Labrador, 12 Tracks, 2002
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.6
Tribeca - "Dragon Down" This is the second full length player from the Swedish duo of artist Lasse Lindh and producer Claes Björklund and while perhaps not a departure from their debut, the sound is more focused and the enterprise has a cohesion and uniformity the original sort of did not. What's more, they have taken a decided step closer to full blown dance electronica, and perhaps nothing is as telling as the fact that my wife who was not originally a fan of their first liked this album quite a bit. Even on the moments where he reverts to his old sort of slow plaintive vocals there is a driving synth line behind them all the time. I almost think that is just the sort of tonic one needs to get the full digestion of his very heavy and unique voice. The entire affair is quite good, and there are a number of really stand out tracks such as Solitude and Hide Away. The lyrics seemed a pretty typical boy angst/ girl problem type of thing although I was thrown by the title of track two, Her Breasts Were Still Small which has lyrics such as "her breasts were still small when she put her left hand in my pants" and "she shook when I kissed her nipples". Indeed. Hmmmm... well you know, that's really more info than I was looking for, and certainly more than my 7 year old kid is too. Deeper listening showed this isn't the only song with such lyrics, as phrases like "we've been fucking for what, a zillion times?" and "the perfect wolf and fuckmachine breathes in me" are strewn thruout. The thing is, due to his voice and the fact most of my listening to this was in the car, I never noticed any of it. On a real stereo, it was blatantly obvious. The effect? Well, it doesn't ruin it, but one can't help but think he took the lyrical "low road". After all, throwing vulgarities out is the cheapest, easiest and laziest thing one can do, and done too much it lessens the rest of your work. That would be a shame as the work here is quite excellent indeed. So this one gets two ratings, a 9.6 and NC17. There are clips your kids can hear and enjoy, but I don't think my daughter and I will be listening to this whole thing together any time soon. So while certainly a pleasure, it is mostly a grown up one.
Label ~ Labrador, 12 Tracks, 2004
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.4
True Love Always - "Clouds" I had heard of this band but had not heard them until I got broadband recently and started devouring soundclips everywhere. I heard a clip from this their new LP at Tonevendor and decided to take a chance. (because liking a clip is NO sure measure of liking the LP it came from). Most of the reviews I read about this band were pandering references to "candy ass jangly pop you're sure to love" (from the usual suspects). That sort of reference turns me off right away, and were I this band I'd actually be annoyed at it. In any event, what this album reminds me of is say a more "indie" version of someone like the Aluminum Group, if that makes any sense. More guitar, less keyboard, more strumming, less dancing. In fact it often comes close to a less jazzed version of Steely Dan one could say. The vocals sort of have that distinct american flavour again not far from Steely Dan and I teetered on the fence at first but in time found myself liking it. That's probably due to the fact that the songs are well arranged, and arranged is the word I would use, as the melodies and structure go beyond the ordinary fare of "jangle pop". That means it certainly does have an adult feel, where a lot of indie certainly does have that teen "vibe", this in no way does. In fact in substance it meanders close to the 80's band China Crisis as well in it's song structure and pop jazz feel. Were the lyrical content a bit better this might have been quite excellent, but that's a picky point and as is it's quite passable. If you'd like something that could be called "breezy adult contemporary indie" then look no further pilgrim. A very nice record indeed.
Label ~ Teen Beat, 11 Tracks, 2003
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.8
Tuesday Suits - "Fork Studio EP" On the surface this band and it's website came across with a strong Mod statement, however the opener on this EP struck me more like early to mid 80's UK bands like Easterhouse. A sort of pop rock hybrid with a message. (Albeit not politically driven like Easterhouse was) And that's damn fine stuff kiddies, damn fine stuff. (and far better than the C86 alter you all worship at) In fact I can think of a few UK bands from the 83-85 period that this act sounds like but as you'd probably not know any of them I'll spare myself the typing. Simply put, I just really dig this EP, and I hope it portends what's in store for their debut LP. The songs are great, lyrically strong and sung with a good degree of I wouldn't say emotion but rather keen insight with some lilting irony. I especially love Sounds Like Summer with the wash of chiming guitars, the hiccup in lead singer Ryan Gannon voice, and the sort of semi calypso beat of the period, it's just all so fucking fab. Somebody pinch me, I must be dreaming. I would jump on this train right away kids, it's not only not to be missed, but I believe it's a sign of really good things to come.
sound clip -
Sounds Like Summer
Label ~ Circle Phoenix, 4 Tracks, 2003
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.3
Jen Turrell - "One Night The Stars Began To Fall..." Our Jen has been involved in the indie scene for a while doing many things and working with a number of bands and one would not have to look hard to see her name on many things, however it took a surprising while for her to release her own LP. This is the fruit of that labour, a 15 track LP which skirts a variety of musical tastes yet manages to retain a unified feeling or presence. In many respects her work here reminds me of another woman of indie pop, that being Laura Watling. Watling at times reminds me of the Swedish band the Shermans but Turrell never gets quite that poppy. However they both often manage to have a degree of earnestness about their songs which becomes appealing. That shows itself right off here on the short but sweet track Okay. While a lot of this album is heartfelt acoustic numbers a bit of it wanders off that course. From the lullaby like Meteor Shower to the Simpatico-esque Dreams of Drowning and the very raw and slightly grungy Reindeer Games this variety helps break up the LP and keep it from getting stale. It's a tightrope walk for sure, but it never does get either too samey, too boring or too emotional, which is a feat given the nature of the material. On top of that some of the cuts are quite good. The artwork and mood portrays a smothering winter sadness/gladness (depending on how you view that) and that's basically the musical message here, and while it could have been a drag, it is not. That alone deserves some kudos as it isn't easy to pull off. I think though that in the grand scheme she is an artists who will only get better as she matures and the day she really finds the message she wants to get across we will get a truly brilliant piece of work. This will serve until that day comes however.
Label ~ Red Square, 15 Tracks, 2003
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.7
Twig - "Life After Ridge" As part of my recent resurgance I got a number of promos from Plastilina Records (the rest will be featured in a mass review next time) and this one perhaps stands out from the rest for a very unexpected reason. Being a Swedish band I figured it would be good, but that the lead singers voice would be a 95% dead on copy of Edwyn Collins came as a real shock. It's not "kind of" either, if someone played "Ciao Ciao Bomb" and told you it was a new Orange Juice song (or rather a lost OJ song as the music here is decidedly 80's) you would not doubt it at all. Some reviews have claimed this band reminds them of the Wake, but that I don't agree that. There are superficial guitar sounds that are not far removed from the Wake but the song structures tend to be nothing like them. I can't peg any one sound alike band, but the period is definitely 82-85, and that was a period that was often quirky (lets say the Thompson Twins for example) and at times the music is not far removed from that sort of quirk. Actually now that I think of it the band it reminds me of was called Fiction Factory but they were an obscure UK band from that time and I and 3 other people probably own their album. That part is probably immaterial anyway as some of this sounds like early Cure too. What matters is the voice is good, and if you know OJ it will mesmerize you alone. The music is also good, and quite varied. In fact I only didn't give it a 10 because I feel this band has it in them to refine and find their own identity even more and the 10 will come. Whether you liked the 80's or not this is a must own and sure to please and worth it just for the cover. Cats playing croquet? How can you loose? It is available in our Popsicle shop.
Label ~ Plastilina, 11 Tracks, 2008
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 5
Twilight Sad - "Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters" The whole "rebound" aspect of human existance is very true. I had just come off the crushing blow of being lied to about the last Trash Can Sinatras album, and like the dumpee on the rebound I tried to find consolation in the first pretender that came along. This Scottish band, with lead singer James Graham who sings in a thick brogue like TCS's Frank Read (they sound quite a bit alike) made me think I might find redemtion here. However, rebound romances never work out, and this was no exception. This band almost has the early magic of the TCS when they are playing it soft and mellow. In fact they are quite good then. But in every case, and on every track, it soon musically goes out of control and becomes a wall of guitar noise to the point that no melody is even discernable. It's a shame too because on some tracks which are going along quite lovely (like That Summer At Home I Had Become The Invisible Boy) the music cranks up to almost metal head proportions which simply destroys the songs. It could have been something special, and instead, it's not. To quote Robert Burns - "Oh wad some power the giftie gie us to see oursel's as others see us! It wad frae monie a blunder free us, and foolish notion."
Label ~ Fat Cat, 9 Tracks, 2007
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.2
Tyko - "Transmissions From The Biosphere" This isn't one from my recent bulk purchase, and in fact I've had this a hell of a long time. Somehow it got buried with other stuff, and I forgot about it. As I was going thru my mess recently I found it and decided as it goes along with the rest of this synthpop stuff I'd include it. Compared to the other things I'm reviewing this week, this has a lot more maturity and diversity to itself. In fact, if you didn't like that sort of thing you'd still probably like this. The opener, Summertime Comeback has a real 4AD sound to it, and at other times they remind me of My Favorite, who do a hell of a job themselves emulating the best of 80's electronic pop. However, while you can dance to it, I wouldn't call dancy. It's far too moody to be a "dance-tronic" type of lp. The best cut is probably the very anthemic Elastic Brain which is one of those songs that really reminds me of something old, but I can't quite place it. While the overall moodiness of this disc puts me off slightly, I do find I like listening to it. They have a new LP due (probably out as you read this) and I would be curious to hear how they have progressed on that one, only there's precious little to be found about this band online. If you take it slightly gloomier, I think you'll find a lot to like on this disc.
Label ~ Drawing Room, 8 Tracks, 2002