Earlier this year, Brooklyn foursome CHAPPO released their debut album Moonwater and have steadily seen their star climbing thanks to a steady slew of tour dates with none other than of Montreal, the infectious “Come Home” being used by Apple in a 2010 commercial and most recently getting primetime presence in an ad during a certain major internationally watched multi-sporting event.
After nice words about their excellent first two EPs, Plastique Universe I and II , CHAPPO’s first full length delivers a confectioners kiss of MGMT and The Flaming Lips and a healthy testament to Beck’s sphere of influence. And while the band may resemble Mr. Hansen’s eccentricity at its most coolheaded, they only need a dash to make something special here. Maybe most importantly, CHAPPO succeeds at being fun (like their recent tour mates, the stage shows can become your inner kindergartener’s arts-n-crafts dream - see band photo above).
Guitarist David Feddock, drummer Zac Colwell, keyboardist Chris Olson and vocalist/guitarist Alex Chappo serve up a psychedelic antidote of pop for the heavy-hearted. Body-moving percussion pairs nicely with vocalist Chappo alternating between anthemic crooning and verse-chorus cheekiness - surprising me as he periodically channels Perry Farrell. Just when the tempo slows down so sweetly (“Don’t”), they burst right back to it - mastering the transition of bubbly indie-fare to a twinkling slow dance that reminds me of some of Arcade Fire’s best moments (“What Are You Kids On?”).
These guys may not be household names yet, but they have been around enough to hold an impressive repertory that is paying off: Colwell is a touring member of of Montreal and one of Moonwater’s producers is Hector Castillo, who has worked with none other than Beck. Their latest boasts a zestful helping of songs mixed and produced to sonic finesse, worth plenty more than a 30-second iPod Touch plug, at the same time deserving of the exposure.
Keep the blues at bay: listen to “What Are You Kids On?” and their last EP Plastique Universe II: Pisces Princess below, and watch the (NSFW) video for “Hell No”.
What’s in a name? The process of naming is a mechanism by which we identify and categorize people, objects, and concepts into understandable words. A name has many implications; it can bring people together with a sense of unity and just as easily spark controversy. Now, to add some specificity to this pseudo-philosophical cliché, what exactly is in a band name? I’d assert that the same notion applies to that alias under which musical artists decide to release their music. Often times a band’s name can denote the time, location, sound, or scene the group identifies with. Sometimes it can be an extension of their music, another peek into the artist’s mind.
In the case of St. Louis duo Golden Curls this is definitely the case. Their chosen moniker is taken from a line in Christina Rossetti’s poem “Goblin Market”, and it reflects their affinity for all things magical. The poem is often regarded as being intended for children, but the dark, sexual imagery that flows beneath the work evokes a theme much more mature than your average kid’s story. It’s a poem about the loss of innocence, and the fantastical nature in which it is told is what inspired the band to name themselves after it.
The name fits not only their image, but their music, too. The first notes heard on Warm Fiction, their debut EP, are a swirling keyboard steeped in Disney-like effects and accompanied by a sample from a Russian animated film. “Moon Maiden” tells the story of a character from that movie, and the way band members Sarah Downen and Noah Blackwell trade off verses from their respective characters’ point of view is charming, to be sure. But halfway through the song when the music swells uproariously, only to fade into a piano ballad filled with aching harmonies and keyboards that float like butterflies, you know it’s more than just charming - it’s special.
Golden Curls formed after Sarah and Noah began collaborating on songs over the Internet during the summer of 2011. Throughout last fall and winter, they wrote and recorded what would become their debut EP all in their respective bedrooms. The result is a stunning first release and an ambitiously confident statement of intent. Warm Fiction showcases the band’s earnest songwriting skills and finds them crafting an exceptionally unique style. The sound, though somewhat familiar in our contemporary context, is difficult to pin down. It jumps from the frenetic, spiraling carousel of “Moon Maiden” to the dreamy, lo-fi “Your Girl”, then quickly to the ambitious and sprawling “In The Cards”, the noisy “Smile”, and the soft lullaby “Warm Fiction” - all without skipping a beat.
The sum of their efforts is a sound they call “woozy pop,” a signifier that makes complete sense when they explain it in an interview:
It takes the elements of a lush dream-like state almost to the point of dizziness, hence the term ‘woozy.’ However, I like to see it as mixed imagery of when you’re in love with someone and it makes your knees week. If you marry the two, it becomes a flurry of delicate bokeh, to where you find yourself with your heart in your throat.
Reading that statement after listening to their music illuminates their whole project, and it’s nice to have an artist be so forward about their work in our current trend of masked producers and intentionally-mysterious-but-not-unique musicians. Their songs have a dreaminess about them unlike other songs given the “dream pop” label, anchored by that wooziness described above. But instead of being driven to sickness by the dizziness, you’re lifted by the “pop,” sweet enough to give you a toothache and sincere enough to bring home to your parents.
If comparisons are your thing, artists such as Beach House, Twin Shadow, Stars, Goldfrapp, and Dntel are decent reference points, both in sound and aesthetic, but Golden Curls’ sound reaches beyond those similarities and creates something entirely unique.
It’s fair to say that Hop Along are simple in design. Frances Quinlan plays guitar and sings, Mark Quinlan plays drums, and Tyler Long slaps da bass. They don’t rely on a gimmicky appearance or one-dimensional style through which to frame their music. They’re simply three friends who met in high school and decided to play some music together, goddamnit. Thankfully, after two years in the making, Get Disowned, was born and is proof that American post-punk still has a major lifeline in Philadelphia.
Frances seems to range from cooing sweet nothings to a grunge-inspired yowl at the drop of a hat. Her delivery is refreshingly raw and gives way to the industry standard of being either pitch-perfect or completely hidden within the music. Finally, a female vocalist who isn’t simply mixed into the track but sings with the appropriate intensity of her music. Working to their advantage, Mark and Tyler generally play simple backdrops for Frances’ feral and unpredictable vocals.
Just from hearing diverse tracks like “No Good Al Joad”, Hop Along sound wise beyond their years, opting for a handful of musical textures switching into a stomping chant before transitioning to a somber ode accompanied by strings. From one moment to the next, Hop Along reminisce on popular sounds in garage rock, modern punk, and sometimes come with a little country twang.
Hop Along are an anomaly. They exist in time where music is constantly overrun with blatant copycats and a criminal lack of imagination but they rise above their peers by crafting creative songs with honest lyrics. Get Disowned is an invitation to ignore any sort of scene and helps you forget why numeric rating systems should even be applied to music, especially when it’s this fun. Check out their fall tour dates, they’re planning on covering most of the continental United States, which will also give you an opportunity to buy your own Get Disowned record if you’re of the vinyl persuasion. For those of you who can’t make it, you can stream it below.
- 8th September 2012 - Rainfest, Albany, New York
- 26th September 2012 - Kung Fu Necktie, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
It’s not news that Sweden is full of musical gems – from the hyped music of Miike Snow and Lykke Li to the placid likes of The Radio Dept., we can also count on the good old days when our parents enjoyed Abba. Temporalities and genres aside, the good music to be shared now is from Urban Cone.
Urban Cone are Rasmus Flyckt, Magnus Folkö, Tim Formgren, Emil Gustafsson and Jacob William Sjöberg. They have met in high school and by sharing tastes and musical influences gathered up to start the band in autumn of 2010. At that time, the boys shared a self-produced demo track of “Urban Photograph” in their website, which brought a lot of attention from the blogosphere. From this sudden success, they were invited to play in some cool clubs of Stockholm and also festivals. Then, in beginnings of 2011, the band signed with Universal Music to release “Urban Photograph” as a single. Later, it was followed by the release of two EPs: Our Youth Pt. 1 with its single “Freak” and Our Youth Pt. 2 with the song “Kings & Queens” as single.
From a total of eight tracks, all highlights point to the one that started it all, “Urban Photograph”. The track has a infectious beat, which makes me say that the band trace paths towards the sound of Foster The People, with poppiness standing out, but mainly in a more serious and dark vein. In fact, on most tracks it’s audible that they blend the electro with dramatic singing, similar to Clock Opera’s formula. Their latest single summarizes it very well; “Kings & Queens” has a powerful dance structure with sharp vocals. Besides the music, their recent trajectory is already full of inventive and well-produced videos, and you will be able to check one of them later on.
The band is currently working to release a debut album still in 2012, so be sure to keep an eye on them in the next months. Below, listen to “Urban Photograph” and you can also download two remixes of this track for free from their label Soundcloud.
Tin Lion, moniker of the Melbourne-based Jesse Fultone (what is it with all this Melbourne talent?!), who’s joined by percussionist Jordan Garuccio for live performances, sounds like something straight out of DFA Records - James Murphy’s renowned label, whose roster includes the perfect blend of electronic and rock music with bands like The Rapture, Hot Chip, Holy Ghost!, and of course - LCD Soundsystem.
I believe that Tin Lion is truly the reincarnation of the late LCD Soundsystem - and this is coming from a true die-hard fan (I may have casually cried while streaming their final show at Madison Square Garden…). Is it just a coincidence that just as the band responsible for some of indie rock’s biggest hits (“All My Friends”, “Daft Punk Is Playing At My House”, and “Losing My Edge”, just to name a few) and greatest live performances (seeing them at New York City’s Terminal 5 and Bonnaroo back in 2010 was utterly mind-blowing) breaks up and releases a documentary, these guys pop up, seemingly out of nowhere? The only explanation is that this is a miracle from the indie rock gods!
All kidding aside, Tin Lion produce some of the most infectious blend of electronic and rock that I’ve ever heard. With obvious New York disco, funk, and Talking Heads influence, Jesse creates a masterpiece out of everything he touches. And the music is multi-functional: it suits just lounging around, can incite a dance party, and can be the perfect soundtrack to a long, summer drive. Or a long winter drive. It’s just got the multi-purposeful sound that isn’t too common these days.
The newly released “Indigo” is without a doubt Tin Lion’s greatest track, as it sounds like something that would be found on LCD’s Sound Of Silver - possibly my favorite album - with its cowbell-lead rhythm, Jesse’s sing-talking, and a groovin’ bassline that just makes you wanna get up and dance. The cowbell gives the track a similar post-punk, acid house feel as The Rapture’s biggest hit, “House Of Jealous Lovers”, though Jesse’s voice is a bit more polished than that of Luke Jenner’s voice, giving it a different feel, even with the similar groove. Hopefully “Indigo” will push Tin Lion to similar electro-rock legend status as The Rapture and LCD Soundsystem.
Even with the constant comparison to the great James Murphy & co., Jesse’s music is truly his own, as he adds many of his own elements to his music. For one thing, the mid-song magical guitar solo in “Indigo” isn’t something you’d find in anything LCD Soundsystem. On a similar note, Tin Lion production is much simpler, spacier, and less layered, making their music more on the electronic/dance side of the spectrum, as opposed to LCD Soundsystem’s grouping with more indie rock acts.
Definitely keep an eye on these guys, as they’re charting at #1 on Triple J Unearthed - an impressive feat on its own, but even more so for these considering the fact that Tin Lion was only founded less than a year ago! In the meantime, you can stream and download a couple of highlights below.
It’s over a year since their debut EP, Visions Of A Tall Girl, came out - and over half a year since we first mentioned them - but with their debut album You Belong To The Minutes out now, it’s really about time we gave The Ugly Club the full-on Intro treatment. More to the point, they formed in 2009. How have they stayed off my radar for so long, I have to ask?
Part of the answer to that lies in their approach, which is of the old-school. Forget any blog-led-buzztide surfing: The Ugly Club have grafted their way to where they are by playing low-key local gigs throughout their native New Jersey, touring the East Coast on their own dime, and funding You Belong To The Minutes through Kickstarter - a drive which deservedly raised more than twice its goal. There is still such a thing as a hard-working band, apparently, and I salute them for it.
Hard graft isn’t the only way they touch on rock traditions from yesteryear. I love challenging, esoteric alternative microgenres as much as the next person (probably quite a bit more, realistically), but wasn’t the real point of making music just to have fun? And to make other people have fun? That’s exactly what I got from The Ugly Club. From opener “David Foster Wallace” to the titular closer, You Belong To The Minutes is fun.
That’s not to say that they don’t engage in a bit of experimentation - the word psychedelic gets bandied about around them, and not without reason. One moment you’ll feel comfortably in The National territory; then before you know it, My Morning Jacket’s Jim James has apparently turned up to deliver the chorus - “Under The Great Wave” being a particular case in point. If I absolutely had to nail down just one band to compare them to, it would be Conveyor - obviously this is a complete cop-out, given that Conveyor sound like everyone from Local Natives to The Beach Boys.
Whatever: The Ugly Club are not a band that inspire over-thinking, but straightforward enjoyment. They’re original without being inaccessible; catchy without grating. That they’ve achieved such a polished album almost entirely off their own backs is a tremendous achievement, and you can name your price (with a very reasonable minimum of $1) for it over on Bandcamp. If you’re in need of a pick-me-up, you could do much, much worse than checking them out.
When you think of Australian music, you probably think of edgy rock music (AC/DC, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Wolfmother) or dancy synth-pop (Cut Copy, Tame Impala, The Presets). Rarely do you think of gorgeous acoustic music. But that’s where newcomer Hayden Calnin comes in.
Hayden Calnin, another Melbourne-based act, is Australia’s answer to Bon Iver: the indie-folk artist’s gorgeous falsetto is reminiscent of that of Justin Vernon, but unlike the latter, Calnin also uses a lower, huskier range frequently, displaying his vast vocal range. This guy has been topping the charts on Triple J Unearthed - Australia’s unsigned artist platform - and is beginning to see national success with the recent release of his self-released debut EP, City.
The self-described “progressive folk” artist relies on his contrasting vocal styles, dramatic build-ups, crescendos, various harmonies, and constant drum/piano/guitar loops, as he is without a backing band, creating a gorgeous sound that can’t be topped. As relayed in a recent interview with Triple J, Calnin majored in sound design, the product of which can be seen in what he describes as his “soundscape oriented and atmospheric” productions, reminiscent of those of WU LYF and Explosions In The Sky.
The standout track of his debut EP would have to be it’s opener, “For My Help” - a Bon Iver-meets-Youth Lagoon number that has an incredible build-up and really showcases Calnin’s vocal ability that has him harmonizing with himself at the end through some vocal looping. The contrast of his vocal styles is really evident here and is absolutely flawless and full of such raw, genuine emotion.
City is quite a masterpiece with the gorgeously haunting “For My Help”, the Bon Iver-styled “Shutters” (it’s got a very similar feel to “Perth”), the minimally accompanied “Summer”, as well as the atmospheric “Winter I” and “Winter II”. It’s wintertime here in Australia, which is why Calnin’s debut EP has this wintry vibe to it that is perfectly fitting with its time of release that sounds as though it were recorded in a cabin in the woods à la Justin Vernon (and not in the city, contrary to its namesake).
As I’m sitting here writing this, I realize that I’ve just listened to “For My Help” maybe fifteen times on repeat. It’s just that good. I advise you to give it a listen.
Pinch me - am I dreaming? For all I knew, I was watching the The Ramones in a world where CBGB was in Olympia, Washington and it’s 1983. It was February 2012 and I was at Death By Audio in Brooklyn watching the Woollen Kits. The garagy punkers hailing from Melbourne, Australia had me at their feet without even trying, as the cartoon likenesses of the late Joey, Johnny and Dee Dee Ramone peered over their shoulders off the muraled wall of the venue. It was nearly impossible to resist singer Tom H’s bassy monotone, reminiscent of Calvin Johnson and Beat Happening together with a sound that borrows more punch than twee from all my favorite Sub Pop and Sarah Records bands.
Tom, Tom and Leon (“Not Tom”) of the Woollen Kits have been coupling hooky vocals and guitars with Energizer bunny percussion since 2009 (though a previous lineup had been technically around since 2007). The first time I heard the trio was 22/09/11 , a cassette of a live show released on Fan Death Records. The recording speaks perfectly to the band’s immediate, frenetic and stickily-memorable songs, with the charming bits of a small, but excited audience dashed for good measure. I play sides A and B over and over again, even though I learned many of the words and hooks the first time around - such is the life of great pop music.
Their self-titled full-length was released this past January, but these are the songs of summer: From upbeat opener “Sloan” to the sleepy, dreamy “I Love You” and sassy closer “Watch You Walk” (with sax!) - I’m in psycho beach party heaven! The sweet grime of The Vaselines and The Pastels is here, as well as the structured surf pop of The Beach Boys. It’s an answer to Best Coast, without the stoned California pining and more of an earnest boys-will-be-boys yearning.
For all my referencing back to music I’d never been around for, at the end of the day bands like the Woollen Kits only cement my earnest belief that the best are still around, right before my very eyes in small sweaty packed (and sort of unpacked) rooms full of eager kids. The past is long dead, but the music sure isn’t.
Earlier this week Woollen Kits released the 7” “Shelley” (which you can listen to below and buy here) b/w “Down Your Street” via Chicago’s Trouble In Mind. It is also not too late to check out their ridiculously under-the-radar self-titled album from R.I.P. Society and start praying they come to a town near you very soon.
Music has always needed mavericks, subversives, and artistic eccentrics. The sort of people who aren’t moved or motivated by the promised shimmer of gold or the warm embrace of fame. I’m talking about the true artists who do it for the love of the medium and the belief of their message. This breed still live among us, though their exposure is often limited, sometimes by choice, and often because the thirsty spotlight of the mass media skips over them in order to highlight the latest soulless cash cow. Without these people, however, music would die a slow death, the flesh of artistic expression decaying to leave only the hollow bones of entertainment pop.
This is why we need new bands like M O N E Y. This four piece band from Manchester have been floating around the scene in one guise or another for well over a year, releasing a variety of art in musical, visual and written form. The band has already built up quite a mystique, regularly changing their name, releasing music only to delete it just as quickly, and holding ‘Exhibitions’ in churches, office blocks and warehouses around their home city. They seemed to have become a little more focused over recent months, however, settling on a name and beginning to put out some physical releases. The very limited single “Who’s Going To Love You Now/Goodnight London” was recently followed by the brilliant “So Long (GODISDEAD)”, and fingers crossed we should see more from the guys later in the year.
Describing M O N E Y’s music isn’t entirely straightforward. Of the handful of tracks available they explore different styles; from the solemn power and beauty of “Goodnight London”, to the intricate and orchestral sparkle of “So Long (GODISDEAD)”. This latest release is the most complete and satisfying statement from the band, combining a beguiling operatic vocal (reminiscent of Antony and Wild Beasts) with otherworldly, dream-like instrumentation. The message, like so much of their output, is slightly ambiguous with its religious subject matter, but it is undeniable that they take their content seriously. Just looking at their Facebook page, full as it is with passages of prose and poetry all penned by singer Jamie Lee, it becomes clear they are a band with plenty of heady ideals, and strong opinions. They also apparently have a penchant for naked photography…
Their name M O N E Y is often accompanied by a quote from the Russian poet Ivan Kozlov, acting as a disclaimer of sorts: ‘Money is a bottomless sea, in which honour, conscience, and truth may be drowned’. From this it is safe to assume that this name isn’t a banner celebrating the almighty dollar, nor are they capitalist poster boys. They have drawn comparisons to fellow Mancunians WU LYF, not just because of the use of capitals but also their unconventional approach and the shroud of mystery they have chosen to cloak themselves in. From the outside M O N E Y may come across as pretentious and aloof, but I very much doubt these guys care too much. I’m sure they are more than happy to continue to confound, intrigue and enchant all those who take the time to listen to their complex and haunting music. For me, they are a band to get very excited about.
The first hint that My Great Ghost might be quite special comes when you hear how they met: at the New York studio of Philip Glass, where Trevor Gureckis works as Glass’s musical assistant and Drew Smith at his publishing company. Musical assistant to one of the most respected and influential living composers? Yeah, probably a good thing.
Admittedly, the two aren’t making music that you would immediately jump to compare to that of Glass; instead of minimal repetition, they stick to more conventionally pop-oriented electronica. That said, it’s definitely in the more thoughtful, elegantly constructed bracket; sure, it’s approachable and appropriately glossy, but it’s not disposable nonsense. Far from it, in fact: it’s dense and deftly balanced in its construction. Being a genre that anyone with a laptop can get stuck into, electropop often comes under fire for lacking a degree of sophistication; that’s not a charge that applies to these two.
Their self-titled debut EP was released last month, and is a convincing effort. In particular, it achieves that unusual quality in an EP of having a discernible musical arc, rather than feeling like a collection of unrelated tracks. There is a stand-out, though: a stellar cover of Deerhunter’s “Helicopter”. It helps that the original is a track I could listen to endlessly, but there’s no doubt that My Great Ghost infuse enough of their own distinct approach for their cover to stand on its own feet.
What really stands out in terms of explaining how Gureckis got his current position is the harmonies on the vocals. The whole EP is a pretty good demonstration of this, although the chorus of “Means To An End” - the strongest of their own tracks - is a particularly forceful exposition. They often achieve this through the use of vocoder, which is in real danger of becoming dated yet again as a technique, but it’s done with enough sensitivity here that it shouldn’t bother you unless you’re particularly averse to any ’80s influences. In which case, you really have to ask why you’re listening to contemporary electropop at all.
Appropriately enough, the duo are contributing to the Beck-spearheaded 75th-birthday tribute remix album for Mr Glass, which will see them listed alongside such heavyweights and rising stars as Amon Tobin, Battles and Memory Tapes. Keep your eyes out for that, and in the meantime you can stream and download “Plain Sight” and “Means To An End” below.