Care Bears On Fire - "Get Over It" I suppose the proof that my kid is getting old is that she is starting to come to me with things to review. Now, she's liked and suggested things in the past, but this she was adamant about - SHE WANTED IT. I went and listened to them on you tube first and found it wasn't so bad, so I agreed. The proper channel was contacted and the press pack promptly arrived and I've finally managed to get the CD away from her long enough to review it. To begin, I am getting more amazed all the time as first it was Ariel Abshire releasing her album at 17.... now I find these kids releasing an album at 14, and it's their second one. There must be something to that fluoride controversy after all... All that aside, it is comforting to see kids rejecting the crap music being fostered on them, and what's more embracing the music of my youth, and in fact the music (and mode of dress) my generation invented. I have to admit I genuinely expected this to show their age and be just OK but I have to admit it is much better than that. This is a slice of punk/pop at times very similar to the Fingerprints, Siouxsie and the Banshees or even Billy Idol but being an all girl band one would like to find a comparison there but it's hard. The Slits come to mind but most all female punk bands were english and the overt accents they used makes any musical comparison moot. What's more while rooted in the past their vibe is obviously current, so instead of looking for things to measure them against lets use them as the stick for those to follow because they may be that good. The songs have edge, but never get carried away or turn into a wall of noise, there is a good variety of melody and song structure, the lyrics are as good as any in the genre and there are even a few nice "quasi" ballads. What's more there is a lot of melody and catchy hooks in there. I have to admit this is nearly as good as any of the "classics" and it's even recorded (I think purposely) to sound like them. I asked my kid if she wanted to write this review and she said she didn't know what to say. I said "What do you think of it?" and she replied "I like it.... a lot." I think that says it all.
Label ~ S-Curve, 14 Tracks, 2009
I know what I said, and I know what happened, but it really isn't my fault. I have been much busier than I figured I would be, and some of you may remember cycling is a passion of mine, and with Lance back in the Tour this year.... well I spent much of my free time watching the race. On top of that I had to give the crossover parts of my own speakers to a customer because what I needed for him was out of stock till august, so I haven't even had a stereo.
So, the excuses having been flushed here is a pack of reviews. I will try to add more over the next 2 weeks, and redo the radio over that time as well.
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10+
Irene - "Long Gone Since Last Summer" Irene is one of my absolute favorite bands, but you wouldn't know that. That's because I never seem to get around to reviewing their album until a year or two later, as is the case with this 2007 release. I apologise for that, but if you have not heard or heard of this band it's better late than never. I simply adore the way they infuse their songs with the most brilliantly unique, yet catchy and timeless riffs, lyrics, song structures, harmonies and hooks in pop music. In two albums they have literally done no wrong. It's hard to follow up a 10 bell debut with another, and yet that is exactly what they have done. It's poppy and up-tempo, yet a little dour and emotive as well. Perfect guitar chords, horns just where they're needed and not a ba ba out of step. Don't think, just order both of them before they go out of print and you have to kick yourself.
Label ~ Labrador, 11 Tracks, 2007
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10
Smittens - "The Coolest Thing About Love" It's funny how life works. Every once in a while I get a package of promos from the Happy Happy Birthday To Me label, and unfortunately most of it is not only not good, it's really bad. In fact I often wonder how they can afford to keep putting it all out. This is one album however that they didn't send me, I had to buy it myself, and I love it, it's brilliant. It is unquestionably American, (why does nobody else in this world use the banjo?) and yes, there is a hint of that US college twee element. It at times reminds me musically of the better early moments of the Mendoza Line which is high praise, but to review this in a generality it's simply a "happy" record. There's no other way to say it. Some cuts like Baby, Don't You Know?" or Magpies And Eccles Cakes are simply beautiful in their tender execution but most of it is breezy and care free. Often when bands try to utilize a lot of different instruments they go overboard, and that does not happen here. This is just what it was meant to be, with nothing more and nothing less added than was needed, which makes every note, every word, very precious. In fact the only reason they didn't get a 10+ is because it includes a pretty gratuitous use of the "F" word on the track It's A Saturday, however I have to admit that while the word gets used A LOT in that track (I think they were trying to set a record) it's so campy and over the top that it actually works, and pretty much escapes being vulgar. Still, it's not a track you want your kid going to school singing.... In any event, I often don't get too worked up over all that many domestic releases, but this is one I very much recommend. If HHBTM could trim down their volume of releases and focus on deserving things like this, they could become one of the premier labels. Well done.
Label ~ HHBTM, 14 Tracks, 2009
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.5
Carrie - "1981" It's my understanding there is a burgeoning pop scene in Mexico (not unlike what happened in Greece 10 years ago) but this is the only participant I own anything by, but boy, am I a fan of hers. Her debut album has come to be one of my favorite and most repeat played of albums. (at least once a month) While there is a slight departure here from the first one here, the important elements are all there: It is recorded extremely well and her dark yet lilting and sultry voice are as good as ever. Brooding synths, hypnotizing beats, her cool sexy voice all add up to make this the kind of album that is glorious to listen to late at night. To be a little critical not every track works as well as the debut, as one or two are a little too experimental, which is perhaps an odd comment when the genre itself is essentially experimental. I think however on a whole there was a bit more gear shifting on the debut which worked for her, and this one sort of settles into a routine. Not a bad routine by any means, but it is more similar than different. My advice, indie being what it is, is to get her debut first before it goes out of print. If you like that, and you probably will, you can move along to this which are will also be sure to like.
Label ~ Static, 10 Tracks, 2008
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.3
Pelle Carlberg - "The Lilac Time" I was actually a bit surprised when this came out late last year because he's been putting out albums in fairly quick succession, but then he did the same thing with Edson. What's funny is I always found Edson mostly a little too depressing, and so far I have simply loved all of his solo work. However I had the feeling this one would be the deal breaker. I don't know why but because of that I found I was never very anxious to listen to it, which again explains why some things sit forever and never get reviewed or get reviewed late. Well, the jury is finally in and I am happy to report the deal is not broken. Musically, well, it's Pelle Carlberg... and it doesn't sound appreciably different than most of his work does so it basically comes down to song quality. Frankly, I'm not sure what to say. There have been nights I put this on and thought "Ehhh... it's OK" and then other times I really dug it and listened to it 3 times over. Therefore, since I cannot be trusted we'll have to resort to common sense. If you never heard of this guy, don't start here, go get "Everything Now" instead. If you are a lifer.... well, you probably have it already then.
Label ~ Labrador, 10 Tracks, 2008
The Ariel Abshire interview is done and posted. Go to the Rants page or click here.
I will do what I can to add reviews as fast and as often as possible this summer, and will try to update the radio every 2-3 weeks as well.
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10+
Lykke Li - "Youth Novels" Lykke (pronounced "lickey") is a swedish artist who may have slipped thru your indie cracks because she is on a "major" label of all things. I came across her accidentally and after watching a few of her videos one quickly comes to the conclusion that's she's one of those people who is a little "out there". In the world of art however that is almost always a good thing, and it certainly is in this case. Something one notices right away is she sings with a very hard edged accent, and she often rolls and trills some of her vowels. Yes, it's too cool. On top of all this her voice is very pure, with quite incredible range and she is not afraid to take it to places one would not expect someone with a set of pipes like this to go, in other words it always doesn't have to be so pretty. All of this of course would be of little value of the songs were no good, but fortunately for us they are not only high quality all the way thru, there is a good deal of variance of structure and style. Despite that they all do clearly belong together so the album has a decided feel and cohesiveness to it. This is probably due to the pang, the air of desolation Lykki's voice brings to the whole affair. The good thing is it's not one of those drive you away voices, it's one of those suck you in types. Songs range from the touching and delicate Tonight to the killer single I'm Good, I'm Gone and back to very pop accessible tracks like Little Bit. This album is a genuine joy and a must buy of the year. Ignore this at your own peril.
Label ~ Atlantic, 14 Tracks, 2008
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.6
Melpo Mene - "Bring The Lions Out" I had been quite expectant of this follow up to their acclaimed debut, not only because I simply adore that record but I simply adored the first single off this, I Adore You. With all that adoration going on you'd think I'd have reviewed it sooner. I spent every week last fall checking their website and it never came out and finally the holidays came, I forgot about it and here we are. I was at first disturbed by the cover, because I have always felt you can judge works by their covers, and this cover is simply ugly and if it has a point, it's lost on me. Well, so much for that... lets put it on.... The first track Hit the Boy is a very great song and a perfect opener. The following track Society however is one of the kinds of indescribably lovely gems this band is capable of. Wow, I thought, this is going to kick some ass and it did right up to track seven when the album takes a sudden dark slow turn. Now, many of their songs are downtempo to begin with, but they are still things of beauty melodically and lyrically. Tracks 7-12 however by and large are not. They are not awful, but they are below the level this band should be producing. So there we have it. I'd rate the first 6 tracks 10+ without question, and the last 6 about 8.4. Is this worth getting? Absolutely, but if you are new to them you should get their debut first for two reasons. One, it is better and two it's the one that will go OOP soonest, so get it while you can. You'll then have time to come and partake of the joys offered here. It's not a full cup but when it's on it is magnificent.
Label ~ Imperial, 12 Tracks, 2008
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.3
Hepburns - "Trojan Hearse" Yeah, I did a double take too the first time I saw this album title. It's the sort of witty double entendre we expect from Matt Jones and he never seems to disappoint. However the cover is a bit ugly and doesn't seem to have anything to do with said title. Still, I was as giddy as a schoolgirl when I put it on and all fears seemed to be allayed. The opener, Paperboy is a lovely slow number with some great horn accents, and the next track Breakfast Of Champions is the quintessential Hepburns type single, and so it went... However by the end I began to feel that the songs didn't quite seem to belong together, or at least didn't have any kind of message. Also there is a general sense of melancholy that grows thruout the affair (and even a bit of tunelessness) and by the end... yes, even I have said "that's enough" and have taken it off before the final note sounds. I know, heresy from the worlds biggest Hepburns fan, but there it is. This isn't bad, and in fact it's often brilliant but I wish it was a little more coherent and perhaps a smidge less depressing at times. One of the things Matt excells at is taking painful topics and writing about them in ways that make you laugh, and at least think. On here the sadness is often just that, but hey, maybe it's just me. I am a pop whore after all. This is a must for fans, but again my advice for first times is seek out one of their other albums and start there. Two things of note as well - They are not on Radio Khartoum anymore and Pat Grover did not play drums on this recording. If either of those facts has had their effect, I do not know.
Label ~ Bendigedig, 11 Tracks, 2009
This is a quicky to let you know the radio has been updated and that a lot of new reviews will be upcoming over the next few months, and I mean a lot. In the meantime I finished a new rant about downloading I think you all should read, especially if you are a Billie The Vision fan.... Click here.
We would also like to announce and congratulate Luke from our Popsicle shop as he has made the turbulent descent into fatherhood with the birth of his first child, a girl. Our warmest wishes go out to him and his family. I can't wait to watch his already receding and greying hairline deteriorate at an even faster pace now.
The Ariel Abshire album made me think about Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys recently, and I found this video to share with you. Wills was a man way ahead of his time playing music (which was essentially country) in a manner no white people at the time played it. Called hot jazz or western swing, this burns, it's raunchy ("never have one girl, at a time, we always have... seven, eight or nine...") and if you study his facial expressions and ticks during the song, the man is almost possessed. This is just sublime and brilliant on every possible level. Enjoy.
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10+
Ariel Abshire - "Exclamation Love" Every once in a great while a thing comes along that is so beyond our mortal expectations that it leaves us speechless, completely numbed and dumbstruck. This is just such a thing. The marvel here is that this album is a tour of delight and misery, of love and rejection, hate, suffering and joy and redemption. These complex emotions are wrapped in songs so catchy with lyrics so insightful you are instantly their prisoner and singing the entire album by the second listen. Then you realize this revelation, this near masterpiece, is the work of a 17 year old girl. That is when the thunder claps, and the brimstone is smelled. It also doesn't take long to strike upon listening, as the opening and title track is the most white hot and impassioned ode to unrequited love I have ever heard. Musically the song is brilliantly sublime with a martial beat which makes her incredibly empassioned lryics hit home like a juggernaut of emotion. Kicks ass doesn't even begin to describe this, and ohh... Lord, what a voice. I have long been repulsed by the talentless worms who grovel for their moment of "fame" by debasing themselves to get on the hideous program called "American Idol". You want someone to worship and idolize? There is a girl from Austin Texas named Ariel who didn't wait for the tour to come to her town. She went out and made her album and it is wise beyond her years and heady beyond her experiences, or perhaps not and that is the really amazing thing about it. In any event, it deserves your idolatry far more than that tripe does. I'll rate this one Holy crap with a bullet.
Label ~ Darla, 11 Tracks, 2008
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.9
Charade - "Keeping Up Appearances" This is the third long player from one of the real iron horses in the indie stable, as the core of this band has been making music for close to 20 years now. You'd almost have to wonder if there is anything left in the tank at this point, and the second track, The World Is Going Under to me comes dangerously close to ripping off the melody of the song "Heat Wave" but I suppose they can be forgiven. On this album there is a slight departure in sound as the over all feeling here is a folky kind of 60's feel, not the Bacharach inspired moods so often copied by most others. On top of that Magnus Karlsson sings a bit more than usual, not that that's a bad thing either. Despite all this however they can't occasionally help falling back into sounding like the Shermans on tracks like Heroes and Villians and I have no problem with that, as the track is a real standout. Honestly, what more is there to say? If you've been on the circuit for years you know this band and this is definitely an album you'll want. If you are new, this is actually such an interesting departure that while I often suggest people begin at the beginning with bands that are new to them, in this case this is a perfect departure point. It's also available in our Popsicle shop, so get on with it already.
Label ~ Skipping Stones, 11 Tracks, 2008
It hasn't been a review firestorm lately, but I also haven't fallen back to my old ways. What's more, for the first time in a long while I ordered new stuff. That put me in the same old predicament however - Do I hold the new stuff while I try to finish all the older things I never did, or do I simply abandon the old and start afresh? In the past I always tried to get the older stuff done, but this time I am not. I'll fill it in when I can, if I can and if I can't, then I can't. So expect many new reviews soon and often. One day I may go back thru the older stuff and just list them as good, bad or ugly.
One thing about this site is I have never been one to sound off much on social or political issues, but it's gotten to the point that it's about time some things get said, and I'm the man to say them. So new "Rants" will start appearing and trust me, it won't be pretty... interesting and provacative reading I hope, but rest assured you're all getting a spanking.
Anyway, since new reviews will be up soon the radio will also be updated soon, so if you haven't listened to it yet, do so. What follows now is the last of the Plastilina reviews, and note that many of the titles reviewed can be found in our Popsicle web shop.
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.7
Stars In Coma - "You're Still Frozen In Time" This album is a compilation work of newer material and older re-worked tracks by Swede André Brorsson. Other reviewers have likened this album to Felt and perhaps the Pastels. I thought at first it reminded me somewhat of some of Andreas Mattsson's work, and perhaps some of it does but this album really is a bit all over the map. Not that it goes from folk to techno or anything that extreme, but rather we expect albums to have a sort of continuity of sound, and this sort of does not. I suppose that should be expected because this is after all a collection of songs over a long period. That said there are some really nice moments on here, such as the wistfully delicate Life Without The Community which is one of my favorite cuts, and Invisibility Trick which reminds me quite a bit of fellow Swedish act Nixon. In fact the only complaint I can levy against this album is the recording quality isn't as good as I might hope. It's not awful, but I wish it was a little better. This becomes apparent because it's one of those albums that sounds better and better when you play it on worse and worse gear. So all you people living the low life with I pods and ear buds should love it. In any event, this is well worth a listen.
Label ~ Plastilina, 13 Tracks, 2007
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.9
Indurain - "What You Get For Being Naive" This is the debut EP by yet another brilliant Swedish outfit and it has quickly become one of my recent favorites. I assume taking their name from ex Spanish cycling great Miguel Indurain, they are perhaps more akin to english "light" techno bands than they are to any Swedish contemporaries. Yes, that means this affair is light, breezy, poppy but not so much so that it's fluff. In fact tracks like If I Had A Film are quite reminiscent of the stuff the Lovekevins put out with heady introspection and some very good lyrics. In fact the styles presented vary quite a bit from track to track on this outing but yet it never sounds like it doesn't all belong together. There's even some great female vocal accompaniment on The Secret Life. Without question this is about as good as this sort of thing gets. Since I practically stopped reviewing recently I only did those handful of things worth doing, so it seemed like all I give out are 10's. Because of that I only gave this a 9.5. But thru the course of listening to it as I write the review I kept adding points. I'll stop at 9.9 and leave them room to grow, but this is very good and should be on your list. It's also recorded very well to boot.
Label ~ Plastilina, 5 Tracks, 2008
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9
Second Hand Furniture - "Game, Set, Match" If I asked you to name the Swedish band who in the 90's made an album called "Game, Set, Match" you would say..??? Of course, the Happydeadmen. Every statement above also applies to this album, except while these tracks were recorded in the 90's, no album was ever made, nothing ever happened and the tracks got shelved and forgotten. That is until Plastilina Records came along, lovingly gathered them all together, cleaned them up, and released them as a really nice (but poorly titled, I don't like when the title of a well know album gets copied) debut album. What is instantly clear is this band was heavily influenced by the C86 period of UK music and bands like the Shop Assistants, Mighty Mighty and the Brilliant Corners. There is both male and female vocal duty on here, and in either case you'd swear you're listening to some forgotten C86 gem dug up and released by Firestation on one of their "Sound Of Leamington Spa" releases. It's all here, jangly guitars, good but a bit flat recording values and voices that even sound like their British counterparts. Honestly, every time a new track starts I'm instantly reminded of some other UK band from that period. So if you like that period and genre you really can't loose with this. It probably is better than the 9 I gave it but in truth it's kind of all been done before and there isn't anything especially new here, even if this is done pretty well. Our thanks to Plastilina for saving it for posterity.
Label ~ Plastilina, 14 Tracks, 2007
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.3
Hari And Aino - "Hari And Aino" Yes, here we have another debut album from yet another Swedish band. It is amazing isn't it, there are only like 9 thousand people in all of Sweden or something, isn't there? I think they all have an album out :^ ) Anyway, lead singer Andrea Dahlkild has a voice very reminiscent of Jessica Griffin of the Wood-Be-Goods which is perhaps odd as she is best known for her received pronunciation accent. All I know is the two women do sound quite a bit alike. Musically it's a very interesting journey, jangly and poppy without becoming overt pop, but it's not rock either. It's also generally upbeat while retaining a bit of melancholy. I have seen comments comparing them to Blondie but that I don't see at all. Deb Harry barked and growled and Andrea does not do that at all. Emotion is there, sometimes even an air of breathlessness, but hers' is a voice that walks with you rather than talks at you. The songs also are not the type that are instantly accessible, their structure is sometimes slightly unusual, and this may be one of their strongest suits. It means this isn't cut from the same cloth as all the rest and that it requires a little time and listening on your part. This is the kind of album that may not be the kind of thing you pull out first in a pack of new discs to listen to, but 6 months later it may very well be your favorite from that pile.
Label ~ Plastilina, 10 Tracks, 2008