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Archive for the ‘pop’ Category

Spring is in the air

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Sorry for being so quite the last week. Work was a bitch the first couple of days of the week (I really do enjoy my job (database stuff) but if I’m cooking for 8 hours at work, like I was on Monday and Tuesday, then I’m useless when I get home. Just completely fried). And then Wednesday night Courtney came down for visit and the girl is just way to much fun to hang out with.

Random tip: If any of you happen to be heading to Washington, DC for a little visit and happen to stop in at the National Zoo as so many people do, check out the Zoo Bar Cafe. It’s a tiny little hole in the wall across the street from the Zoo’s entrance on Connecticut Ave. The sign says Tavern and there’s a small patio out front. We stopped in there for lunch before heading into the Zoo. Good relatively cheap food (especially compared to the Zoo’s prices). We then stopped in again after walking through the Zoo. We planned to have a drink or two, rest a little bit (after walking for 4 hours around the Zoo) and then walk back to the metro and head home. Ended up having a couple drinks on the patio, then wondering inside for a few more when it got a little chilly. Then a local blues band set up for a loose friendly couple of songs to lead off a little open mic action. We only caught two bands before heading home, but it was definitely a fun time and highly recommended. And for parent’s who may be weary of smoke filled bars, DC has a city wide smoking ban.

Of course, I didn’t forget you, my dear readers, while I was off galavanting around DC and watching baby panda’s eat bamboo and what not.

First off, Courtney dropped a whole crap load of music in my lap in an attempt to educate my sorry ass in the world of pop goodness. Little of it is even remotely new, so I’m not sure how much of it will get a mention here. Hopefully though, it will give me a little more background in what is going on so I can bring you all more goodness.

Second, with spring finally encroaching on the world, and as fears of one last snow/ice storm begin to fade, it is only natural for a person’s mind turn to one solitary thing, pop fests!

These are the fests that I’ve heard about so far, in calendar order.

April,

Word came through on the indiepop list a couple of days ago about a fest that will be going down in the Boston area on April 27th and 28th. Here’s the info that was posted to the list.

Friday, April 27th @ P.A.’s Lounge:
The Icicles, The Smittens, Shumai & Casper and the Cookies.
9 pm 345 somerville ave, somerville, MA. 18+
– – – – – – – – – – – – –
Saturday Afternoon, April 28th @ O’Brien’s Pub, Harvard ave. & Cambridge St.
Allston, MA.
Cause Co-Motion! (NY), The Lil Hospital (Philly/Brooklyn/Boston), The
Besties (NY) and more tba..
– – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Saturday Night @ Great Scott harvard ave at commonwealth ave.
Mittens, My Teenage Stride, The Specific Heats, Hands & Knees, Yoni Gordon.
21+ 9pm $10

Honestly, I’m tempted to hit this show for The Icicles alone, but throw in the rest of the bands and if you’re anywhere near the Boston area, you really should check this fest out. If I see any more info on this, I’ll throw it up.

May,

Courtney brought me a little word on the NYC Pop Fest that she has been helping to put together with, what sounds like, a cool bunch of people. The fest will run over Memorial Day Weekend at a couple of different clubs in NYC. Apparently, posters for the show have been finalized so it looks like the line up will be announced soon. Their myspace page has a couple of the details including dates for specific clubs. Again, more info will be posted here as it becomes available. Needless to say, this is where you will find me over Memorial Day weekend. My first pop fest!

There then seems to be a lull through out June and July.

Aug,

This was announced by Mike Turner over at Happy Happy Birthday To Me Records back in Feb, but I’m only just now getting around to posting about it. The HHBTM folks have made the decision to go ahead with Athens Pop Fest 2007 (that would be Athens, GA). Mike’s comment on when was just “the second weekend of august.” No word on who will be playing.

Then there’s another little lull for Sept and Oct.

Nov,

This one is fresh off the presses. William over at Skipping Stones Records just made the announcement today on the indiepop list that he and Christine will in fact be going ahead with New England Pop Fest 2007. The web site only says that it will be in North Hampton, MA again and that it will be November 2007. There are also links to info on past NE Pop Fests, which sound like they were a blast!

So, that’s how things seem to be shaping up now. It is still March though (for another day or two at least), so it is still pretty early. Looks like this should be a fun spring/summer/fall though, between the above pop fests and the top secret tours that The Whomping Willows and The Remus Lupins have been talking about. I’m sure a few more surprises will pop up in the coming weeks or months as well.

What better way to shake off those winter blues, then heading down to a kick ass show!

Written by Matt

March 30th, 2007 at 9:25 pm

Posted in pop

Singles Club

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The following email appeared in my inbox today,

HAPPY HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME RECORDS IS PROUD TO ANNOUNCE:

THE HHBTM SINGLES CLUB 2007

13 singles to be distributed in 3 shipments over the next year. The first and second shipments will have 4 singles each, while the third shipment will have 5.

THE LINEUP FOR THE SINGLES IS AS FOLLOWS: (A SIDE/B SIDE)

Apples in Stereo / Poison Control Center
Of Montreal / James Husband
M Coast / the Minders
Tullycraft / the Smittens
Boyracer / the Faintest Ideas
Casper & the Cookies / the Marbles
Bunnygrunt / Phil Wilson (June Brides)
All Girl Summer Fun Band / Cars Can Be Blue
the Love Letter Band / Tender Forever
Circulatory System / New Sound of Numbers
Fishboy / Baby Calendar
Keith John Adams / Velcro Stars
Ideal Free Distribution / Red Pony Clock

The Happy Happy Birthday to Me Records 2007 Singles Club is limited to 450 copies. There will not be a second pressing, so once these are gone……they are gone for good. The first HHBTM singles club back in 2000 went out of print almost as soon as it was announced….so get in line. We start taking orders Thursday night, March 22, 2007 at midnight. Ordering the club will work in this way: There will be a button on the Happy Happy Birthday to Me Records order page. You will
click this button and leave your ordering info (name, address, email, how you plan to pay, and how many clubs you want, yes i said how many. we are letting people order multiple clubs if they want.). HHBTM will then email you letting you know a paypal total, and you will have 72 hours to pay via paypal. If you don’t send payment within 72 hours your club will go to the next person in line. If you plan to pay with check or money order, you will have 2 weeks to get your check or money order in. If after 2 weeks your payment has not been received, then your club will be given to the next person in line.

The singles club will run $60.00 in the USA, $65.00 in Canada, and $80.00 the rest of the world. The first 150 subscribers will get a special version of the singles club with lots of extras and special packaging. Each single will be split between two bands with each single being on a different color vinyl and in a different color silkscreen sleeve.

Folks, this is freaking huge. I encourage everyone to run over to the Happy Happy Birthday To Me Records website and reserve your copy of this. Trust me, this is going to be pure pop bliss.

NOTE: For those that might have missed the reference at the end, the singles club releases are going to be 7″ vinyl, i.e. records. If you don’t own a record player… well, you should go buy one. If your stereo doesn’t have a phono jack, upgrade.

And yes, for the record, I held off on posting about this until after I placed my order. Are you surprised?

And if this wasn’t enough, I just got an email from Microindie Records about an CD Release show for The Icicles. I didn’t even know they had a new album coming out. 2007 is shaping up to be a very good year. More later.

Written by Matt

March 22nd, 2007 at 11:55 pm

Posted in pop

The Racing Boy

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So, the reason I’ve been quiet the last couple of days is because I’m sick. I’m still not 100% and I’m giving some serious thought to just calling in sick tomorrow, but I wanted to drop a note about what I’ve been listening to today.

While doing a little clean up today I came across three CDs which I had ordered months ago, but have, until now, gone unlistened to. One of those disks is the new (or newish now) Boyracer album, Flickering B+W.

Boyracer is the project of Stewart Anderson and more recently Jen Turrell. Originally formed in England and even recording a couple of 7 inches for the legendary British indiepop label Sarah Records, the band currently hails from AZ where Stewart and Jen raise cattle (that’s the rock star life for you) and release an astounding amount of music. The joke is that Stewart can’t go 6 months with out releasing something.

While releasing a constant stream of new music has a tendency of resulting in a lot of mediocre releases with a couple of gems now and then, Boyracer have honed their craft to the point where they appear to toss off great pop songs as after thoughts. This is of course helped by the fact that the band doesn’t appear to over think the process. Boyracer songs tend to be around 2 minutes in length. And while most people may tend to think about carefully crafted arrangements or tight hooks when they think about great pop songs, Boyracer goes in the opposite direction, combining noisy jangely guitar, usually with at least a touch of feedback and sometimes a lot more then a touch, with tight bouncing bass lines and fill happy, but solid, drumming.

Flickering B+W has a number of songs that stick to the formula that the band does so well, as well as a number of songs that tone down the noise just enough to remind us that at the heart of the group are folks who know how to write a damn fine pop tune. For the uninitiated, I’d still recommend picking up the band’s previous album A Punch Up The Bracket, but Flickering is definitely not an album to skip over.

You can check out some of the band’s songs at their myspace page. (The Man and The Myth is from A Punch Up The Bracket and Wingtips is a great song from Flickering B+W) And you can order their albums from their label 555 Records. While your placing your order at 555, I recommend giving some thought to picking up the new Possum Moods (featuring Jen Turrell) album and the new Hulaboy (featuring Stewart) album. (you can check out Hulaboy here)

And now, cause it seems to be my calling card, here’s an old Boyracer video for the song Small Consolation.

Written by Matt

March 18th, 2007 at 7:47 pm

Posted in pop

Gotta love the pop

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OK, let’s extend the break from the Wrock for just a little bit longer (don’t worry, I’ll get back to Wrock)

Through a sordid path which begins with the pop princess herself Courtney, I ended up reading a blog I’d never seen before called Skatterbrain. A quick glance through the front page has shown me that my life has been poorer for not reading this blog up until this point.

A couple things I’ve come across that I felt like blogging.

First up, here’s a video from Lucky Soul:

The group’s myspace page can be found here. They’ve got two singles and an EP on iTunes. How do I know this? 10 minutes after checking at that video, and while listening to tracks on their myspace, I bought all three releases.

Second, we’ve got another video. This time the first single from Maia Hirasawa.

She’s still working on her first album and I’m not sure how to get a hold of her debut single with out reading Swedish. I’ll let you know if I come across something somewhere.

Maia is a member of another Swedish band, called Hello Saferide. The group is the project of singer songwriter Annika Norlin. No cool videos that I’ve found so far, but definitely check out the tracks at her myspace page. Her debut album and latest EP have been ordered and will hopefully arrive soon. If my work stops kicking my ass, you may just get a review out of me.

OK, that should be enough of a pop fix to get you through till the next update.

Written by Matt

March 14th, 2007 at 7:00 pm

Posted in pop

Girl Power

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OK, show of hands. How many of you own One Kiss Can Lead to Another: Girl Group Sounds Lost and Found?

*shakes head*

As you may be able to guess from the title, this is a four disc box set of singles from various 60s girl groups. And it is simply amazing in every way possible. This is a pure, undiluted, example of everything that has ever been right about pop music. Seriously, unless your some cold hearted adult grown up, this box set will cause uncontrollable dancing, singing along, and improvised dance steps. It is worth every penny.

The only possible downside to the album is the refusal of Phil Spector to allow any of his work to be included (officially, this is because he has his own box set. Unofficially, I just think he’s an egotistical prick. Unfortunately, he’s also a genius).

While this could have been a huge downer, in the end it doesn’t really take away anything from the overall collection (take that Phil!). A lot of this has to do with the fact that the woman who put this collection together is a record geek who specializes in this very type of music. (Side note to record labels: hire geeks to manage your retrospective box set collections. You’ll get quality work) Meaning that while you get some obvious choices, there is also surely to be a plethora of groups here that you never even knew existed. And their tracks are awesome!

So, in short. This collection is a perfect jumping off point for the person looking to dig deeper into one of the greatest eras of modern pop. It is also a perfect collection for the passing fan, who just wants to make sure their record collection properly represents one of the greatest eras of modern pop.

And now, for those who are paying attention. Two downloads for you.

The first is Nothing But A Heartache by the Flirtations. A great track that I knew I had to throw up as soon as I heard it on the way into work in the morning.

The second is You Don’t Know by Ellie Greenwich. This track is for the Wrock fans, specifically the Hermonie/Harry shippers. That was the first thing that popped in my head when I heard this track. Just listen to it and pretend its Hermonie singing it to Harry about Ginny. Some Wrock group needs to cover this.

OK, I need to be in bed (fracking work). I felt the need to get this off though, so here you go.

Written by Matt

March 13th, 2007 at 9:17 pm

Harry and the Gang

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So Z‘s latest podcast has introduced me to a new genre, Wizard Rock. Like Nerdcore, we’ve got another genre that I would have known about if I’d been paying attention, since I’ve known about Harry and the Potters for awhile.

Here’s the video that goes along with the Switchblade Kittens’ track that Z played,

Sites to check out for more info:

Expect more in the future when I get a chance to dig around here.

In the meantime, I came across this and thought it was kind of cute. More from this user can be found here, looks fun.

Written by Matt

February 21st, 2007 at 10:17 pm

Posted in pop

Heck No!

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This one is dedicated to Z over at hipster, please

From the band Maldroid, ‘Heck No (I’ll never listen to techno)’

myspace page

Written by Matt

February 17th, 2007 at 8:31 pm

Posted in pop

Goodbye To Love

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Artist: American Music Club
Track: Goodbye To Love
Album: If I Were a Carpenter

My earliest memory of listening to music is sitting in the back seat of the family station wagon on a Sunday afternoon drive, staring out the window while we listened to my mom’s tapes. My dad has always been more of a Johnny Cash/Kingston Trio kind of guy. Mom on the other hand has a sweet tooth for pop music. And since we’re talking about a late 70s/early 80s time frame, that means a lot of things like the Carpenters, Carol King, Neil Diamond, and similar artists, with a healthy dose of 60s Motown and similar r&b tracks.

To say that I love this kind of music is to understate the situation. I lived on this stuff in my youth (another early memory is of listening to some Linda Ronstadt song over and over and over again. My mom had it on vinyl and it was the first track on one of the sides. I’d just drop the needle in the groove, listen to the song, then pick the needle up and drop it back at the beginning. I really should see if my mom has any idea which album that was). This kind of music is hardwired into my being. When it comes on, I have an emotional response to it. Way to subconscious for words like ‘like’ or even ‘love’. I listen to this music and I’m over come with feelings of warmth, safety, and love. In other words, everything music should be. (seriously, if you can’t at least partially identify with what I’m talking about, or even worse, mock what I’ve just said, there’s just something missing from your life)

The above track is a cover of a Carpenters song, off a compilation of people covering Carpenters tracks. And honestly? AMC fracking owns this track. The original song is a sad tune that may make you sigh if you’re in the right mood. The AMC version has you reaching for the bottle with one hand and a box of razor blades with the other. Which really isn’t surprising when you think about it. A friend once described a Mark Eitzel (the band’s song writer and singer) solo show as the most depressing songs you’ve ever heard in your life, interspersed with some of the funniest stage banter you’ve ever heard. AMC isn’t a band you listen to when you want to feel happy. But, enough about the band, back to the track.

The first thing that hits when you listen to the track is Mark’s voice. And that continues through out the rest of the track. The music is what happens around Mark’s voice. It is his voice that pulls you along through the track. This makes it more difficult to escape the lyrics. Which are made even more depressing by the matter of fact tone in Mark’s voice when he sings lines like “no one ever cared if I should live or die/time and time again/the chance for love has passed me by/and the only thing I know of love/is how to live with out/just can’t seem to find it”

The AMC version of this song isn’t a play for pity, it is just a matter of fact statement of the truth. Even the closing lines of the song, (what lies in the future is a mystery to us all/no one can predict the wheel of fortune as it falls/there may come a time/when I see that I’ve been wrong/but for now this is my song) surely intended to lighten the mood a little and provide some hope to a dreary song, doesn’t carry enough conviction to instill a sense of hope in the listener.

While Mark’s voice plays center stage to the track, the music itself is nothing to shy away from either. With an arrangement that starts out sparse, focused mainly on the piano (and occasional organ flourishes) and drums, the song builds to a crescendo that provides a counter point to the vocals. The string section of the original is replaced by a peddle steel, providing the necessary accents with out ever having the tacked on feel that strings tend to get. And Vudi provides the guitar flourishes that have always been part of AMC’s unique sound. The whole of the arrangement has an organic feel which blends perfectly with the voice.

Of course, all of this talk about vocals and arrangements belies a simple core fact known by anyone who is at least remotely familiar with AMC’s back catalog. They can write a damn good song. Mark’s has received many accolades for his gift as a song writer, but it isn’t surprising that his best work is usually sited as the work he’s done with AMC. And the fact that the band is capable of writing such amazing original songs, allows them to fully inhabit this track. There is no novelty here. There is no ‘look at the post-punk [or whatever you would call AMC] band doing a cheesy 70s song.’ AMC recognized the core elements of the song that made it a great song, and then put their own spin on them. The finished product can stand up to most of the band’s original catalog, and that is a testament to just how well this band knows their craft.

Written by Matt

February 15th, 2007 at 9:39 pm

Posted in Downloads,pop

A little surprise

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OK, we’re going to try a little experiment here. The below link leads to a track that I’ve uploaded to sendspace.com They don’t make the link horribly easy to find unfortunately, but it is under the Google Ads where the flashing arrow is. Let me know what you think of the whole process. Including if you know of any better sources. I’m also looking at yousendit.com, but I thought I’d try these guys first since they offer a little more space.

So, the first track. This one is dedicated to Church Hates Trucker since I’m pretty sure he’s the guy from Baltimore that keeps popping up in my logs*. Let’s see how cool he is by seeing if he gets this reference.

The first song is, “Mary doing Dundalk

For the rest of you, here you go…

Artist: Mary Prankster
Song: Blue Skies Over Dundalk
From the album Blue Skies Over Dundalk, which can now be found as part of Blue Skies Forever, which combines Blue Skies Over Dundalk with the old Mata Hari cassette (which I think I still have somewhere, so go me!)

During the 90s, Mary Prankster was part of the scene revolving around Fowl Records. When she started out Mary was just a girl from Annapolis MD with an acoustic guitar and a filthy mouth. With this album, her first, she moved up to a full blown three/four piece band and went electric.

I’ve saw Mary twice. Once, before this album, so back when it was just her, opening for Baltimore natives the Kelly Bell Band in the ballroom at UMBC, where I went to school. The second time was opening for another Baltimore band, Lake Trout, at the 930 club in DC.

My only memories of the first show was that her set was fun. There’s a playful tongue in cheek silliness to her music that just really works in a setting like that. In fact, I remember when word started leaking out that she was going to be playing with a band after the album came out, there was some trepidation about whether it would work. Then again, this was basically the same period when Jimmie’s Chicken Shack, the band at the center of Fowl Records, signed to Elton John’s Rocket Records. And the local institution of the All Mighty Senators “broke up” for about a month. (I put broke up in quotes because I never did find out if the news item on their web site announcing the break up was legit, or just sour grapes when their old bassist left the group) So there were a lot of questions about the future of the central MD music scene at the time.

The second time I saw Mary was with the band. They did a 30 minute set and I remember thinking about a quote I’d seen somewhere about early Ramones shows. The quote was something about them doing 30 minute sets and how it was perfect. How you didn’t want another minute of music, because you were completely satisfied with what you had just gotten. That’s the way I felt after that Mary set. Yeah, she could have played a couple more tracks and I probably would have dug them as well, but she didn’t need to. Thirty minutes satiated my appetite.

Unfortunately, that was the last time I saw Mary. She hung up the Mary Prankster alter ego years ago and supposedly moved to NYC.

I was listening to this album this morning on my drive into work. Its been years since it came out, and I still pull it out now and then and listen to it. One of the few records from that time period where that is true. The album isn’t revolutionary, in music or lyrics. It is fun though, a lot of fun. Which is why I picked this track. I’ve found that this track is incredibly fun to sing a long to with a fake opera style voice. Give it a shot.

BTW, Dundalk is a town right outside Baltimore, MD. There are a bunch of Baltimore references in the song, Cal Ripken‘s streak, which was still going at the time, The Ravens, the Baltimore accent, and Natty Boh. Hopefully they’ll work for those of you who don’t naturally stress the second ‘Oh’ in the Star Spangled Banner. (honestly, I think I was about 10 before I found out that wasn’t just the way the song was supposed to be sung. Its a tradition at Orioles’ (the “O’s”) games, and I just thought everyone sung it that way)

Hope you enjoy

* if I’m wrong, then this track is dedicated to Church (cause I’m not going to take that away from him) and who ever the person in Baltimore is who reads this site. Oh, and my brother, for being smart enough to stay away from DC after he graduated from Towson. (family of five, and I’m the only one who hasn’t escaped DC’s pull yet)

Written by Matt

February 9th, 2007 at 9:19 pm

Posted in Downloads,pop

So damn good!

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OK, I’ve got to jump on the band wagon here.

The indiepop list that I’m on has been alight today with a recent discovery, Katie Pest. The most common description so far seems to be “a rougher Aislers Set” And I’ll go along with that being true and that being a very very good thing.

Check out the track Sober, then order the CD.

BTW, if you don’t know The Aislers Set, check out their myspace page.

Written by Matt

February 5th, 2007 at 9:04 pm

Posted in pop