Monthly Archives: June 2009

#188 japandroids – young hearts spark fire

japandroids

the year started with the most promising of the recent lot of noisepopsters, the pains of being pure at heart, putting out their first album. closer to the mid year, we have japandroids reminding us that good ol’ noise is here to stay for a while with a first release of their own. if the former debutantes heralded a what may be termed a post-c86 movement, the latter is most aptly post-nothing, with its bubbling stew of garage punk too restless to stand posing and having too much fun to worry about anything else. in “young hearts spark fire”, that wild abandon is captured in its rawest intensity, balanced precariously with an unparalleled emotional sincerity as the words are yelled with conviction: we used to dream/ now we worry about dying/ i don’t wanna worry about dying/ i just wanna worry about sunshine girls. if all the world’s a stage, japandroids are budding actors most impressively wary of the transience of their impending fame. it’s a knowledge that translates most spectacularly in performance: they play their hearts out as if every song was their last ever, determined at all costs to burn out rather than fade away.

mp3: japandroids – young hearts spark fire

post-nothing is currently available in vinyl and digital formats from sonic unyon. the album will see a bigger worldwide release in august on polyvinyl.

#187 jackson 5 – i want you back

jackson 5

dear michael, when you were big in the eighties, i was too young to be a fan of your music, but i do remember how “billie jean” was often played in the background. it was probably on tv. i found your music much cooler than annie lennox, who i thought was downright creepy (“sweet dreams”, too, was often played at home). in the 90s, it was no longer that fashionable to be your fan. i never attended your dangerous concert when you came over to singapore, although i must say i did like bits of history when that came out. believe it or not, you introduced me to the beatles’ “come together”. this side of the millennium, you were mostly a laughing stock and the subject of countless pedophilia jokes, and suffice to say, i never admitted to liking your stuff, even as i discovered the pop genius in you in your great albums like off the wall and thriller. we were never close, and i can never say that i’d want you back, but your first single with the jackson 5 tugged at my heart as i listened to it this morning, and that’s how i’ll choose to remember you.

mp3: jackson 5 – i want you back

#186 jeff buckley – we all fall in love sometimes

jeff

i don’t think i’ve posted on anything by jeff buckley before, partly because i never really know where to start. now i find myself a reason: one of his previously unreleased tracks, a cover of elton john and bernie taupin’s “we all fall in love sometimes”, now sees the light of day as the centerpiece of the soundtrack for the upcoming film my sister’s keeper. everything about the song is unmistakably jeff, infused with his character and soul the same way all his other covers have been similarly charmed. his treatment is characteristically gentle but never drifting aimlessly, with every caress of the strings building to a point of cathartic release and every line delivered working towards a complete ownership of the words of another. if you weren’t too sure about it before, by the end of the song, even for that passing moment, you’d be wholly convinced that it’s all worth it, we all fall in love sometimes.

mp3: jeff buckley – we all fall in love sometimes

the my sister’s keeper soundtrack is available now on itunes.

blur – it really really really could happen

blur live east anglican

this is the next century, sings damon albarn in “the universal”, the surreal blur classic that ponders a pseudo-utopian future. aptly, the song closes the band’s gig last saturday at the east anglican railway museum, which was their first gig together in nine years and well into the 21st century damon was imagining. what was unimaginable for many, however, was the possibility of a reunion such as this, at the very location the britpop band made their first appearance. onstage, the restored quartet is still the blur we’ve all come to love, damon still a bagful of antics and decked in his favored fred perry polo, alex still stoned and goofy, and dave still pounding away at the back with no complaints at all. and of course graham’s return is very much welcome and arguably the highlight of the show, the exuberance of his guitar playing sorely missed over the past years. this time, he’s added a wide smile to his repertoire, and a crazier interpretation of old favorites like “charmless man”. it’s the perfect start to their reunion, which includes venues like hyde park and glastonbury in the coming weeks – yes, it really really really could happen.

mp3: blur – the universal (live at the budokan, 1995)

music alliance pact (june 2009 issue)

musicalliancepactmaplogo2

i can’t believe it’s been a month already. where has all the time gone? great thing for us is that good music around the world never stops, as we can see with this month’s issue of the music alliance pact, a coming together of music bloggers from all over the world to bring you the best of their respective local sounds. for this issue, our local correspondent brian koh chooses concave scream, one of the veterans of the singaporean scene who have been pioneers not only in music, but also design. do check out what they’ve been up to lately at their website.

AMERICA: I Guess I’m Floating
4 Janelle MonaeSincerely, Jane
The name Janelle Monae might ring a bell – she has guested on several OutKast songs and recently signed to Diddy’s Bad Boy label. After seeing her energetic performance at Bonnaroo a few days ago I can say that she’ll be one to keep a close eye on. Even if Sincerely, Jane doesn’t do much for you, check out some live clips on YouTube to get the whole picture.

ARGENTINA: Zonaindie
4 Le MicrokosmosEs Un Hermoso Verano Lunar
Guillermo Beresñak and Pablo Retamero got together in January 2008 in Buenos Aires. From this union came Le Microkosmos, an electronic ensemble in constant search for new musical experiences with synths, programming, instruments, vocals and orchestral sampling. This quest led them to create their own cosmos from each sound, such as this acoustic-electronic ballad taken from their brand new album, Y Vas Donde Sonrisas Te Dan Esos Encapuchados De Un Mundo Nuevo.

AUSTRALIA: Who The Bloody Hell Are They?
4 Dappled CitiesThe Price
One of Australia’s, if not the world’s, most exciting indie-rock bands, Dappled Cities are back with their third album, Zounds. It was written and recorded after an extensive period of touring their previous offering Granddance, a classic album in the minds of many critics. The Price is a fantastic taster for old and new fans alike, worthy of immediate playlisting.

BRAZIL: Meio Desligado
4 Júlia Says
Júlia Says have just released their second independent EP, Menos é Mais (“Less Is More”), in which the duo go deep inside electronica with some strong influences of dance-rock. The name of the band was taken from a children’s story and it’s a thing that helps us to connect to the fragile melancholy and beauty of Cá.

CANADA: I(Heart)Music
4 WildlifeSea Dreamer
How awesome is this song? So much so that when I saw them perform it during a soundcheck at a show in Ottawa recently, everyone in the room just watched in stunned silence and then exploded in wild cheers when it was done. To put that in context, that kind of thing never happens. But Sea Dreamer, in all its pounding, pulsing, marching-gleefully-into-the-apocalypse glory, is amazing enough to be the exception.

CHILE: Super 45
4 Valentina FelCirco Podrido
Full of aggressive beats, explosive sampling and social protest lyrics, Valentina Fel is the most logical evolution of a riot girl – punk almost in the realm of grime, do-it-yourself attitude with dancehall as a commodity and flamenco-injected defiance. Her long-awaited upcoming debut -to be release in the next few months – promises to be a massive earthquake in the dancefloor that nobody could anticipate.

DENMARK: All Scandinavian
4 Vomit SupremeVersus Love
A new project by Mattis Jakobsen and Malte Hill of Straight To Your Face, Rock Hard Power Spray guitarist Frederik Valentin and recently joined by bassist Karsten D. Johansen (Strawberry Slaughterhouse), Vomit Supreme have long been an All Scandinavian favorite. Punk aggression spoon with pop hooks and with the mighty Versus Love spearheading their campaign, world domination should be nigh.

ENGLAND: The Daily Growl
4 FanfarloI’m A Pilot
I’m A Pilot, the opening track on Fanfarlo’s debut album Reservoir, sets the scene for what’s to follow. It’s a rich, heady brew of heavily orchestrated indie-pop which at times even feels like it’s pulling its punches. It’s the sound of a young band comfortable in their own grandiosity and as Reservoir carefully unfolds, it’s impossible not to be swept along. From now until July 4 you can download the album from the Fanfarlo website for just $1, so you’ve no excuse for not owning it.

FINLAND: Glue
4 TV OFFCar Is On Fire
What a summer hit song! Cool and sexy! Singer Sara delivers delicious pop melodies over Markku’s electro bits and sounds. This duo from Helsinki are putting the final touches to their debut album, but they have already gained attention around the world, playing in London and Tokyo. Soon TV OFF will take over the world.

FRANCE: ZikNation
4 Phoenix1901
For too long Phoenix have been overshadowed by Daft Punk and Air, but no more. Even though Phoenix are four albums into an increasingly fruitful career, 1901 is possibly the most immediate and loveable thing they’ve ever created. An anthem for indie kids, a dancefloor filler for disco dwellers. It’s for everyone really.

GERMANY: Blogpartei
4 High Voltage HumansLaser Symphony (Catastrophy)
High Voltage Humans are a Munich-based electronic duo. The featured song is heavily energetic and balances guitar riffs with synth melodies sounding a bit like 80s space electro. It’s a concrete four-to-the-floor flour-dust explosion.

ICELAND: I Love Icelandic Music
4 For A Minor ReflectionÓhljóð
For A Minor Reflection are a quartet from Reykjavík who play energetic, melodious, instrumental post-rock. They have earned comparisons to Explosions In The Sky and Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Óhljóð, which means “discordant noise”, is taken from their 2007 debut album Reistu Þig Við, Sólin Er Komin Á Loft… (“Rise and shine, the sun’s up…”) on Blippr.com. Guitarist Kjartan Holm’s older brother Georg plays bass in Sigur Rós, whom they supported on tour last year.

IRELAND: Nialler9
4 Sleep ThievesOsumi
Taken from It Was Only A Satellite, the debut EP from this Dublin three-piece, Osumi showcases the bleep-assisted electronic edge of their sound before diverting into heady post-rock guitar progressions, while singer Sorcha repeats a mantra atop like a prototype Natasha Khan. Their yearning indie-electronic-pop sound is reminiscent of Lali Puna, Broadcast and The Notwist.

ITALY: Polaroid
4 My Awesome MixtapeMe & The Washing Machine
I would have never expected to listen to an Italian band mix diverse sounds such as Anticon and The Postal Service, but when I heard My Awesome Mixtape I just had to change my mind. Infectious melodies and tight grooves, these young kids just seem to be unstoppable.

MEXICO: Club Fonograma
4 Los AmparitoPor Medio De La Lectura
Los Amparito is the mind-blowing, eccentric and absolutely sublime project of Carlos Pensina. He is relatively well known in Mexico’s indie scene for his more electronic act Pepepe, but Los Amparito have enormous potential to break into international boundaries. This sound is like a distorted Mexican mirror of traditional music mashed with its own repetition, flourishing vocals and colorful sequences resulting in something between Animal Collective, Amparo Ochoa and El Guincho.

NEW ZEALAND: Counting The Beat
4 Lisa CrawleyBrother
Lisa Crawley is a multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter who stands out from the crowd because of her voice and the playful arrangements of her folk-pop songs. Brother, from her second independently released EP Hello, Goodbye And Everything Inbetween, would be great on the basis of its plinky-plonk piano alone, but it’s the trombone that lifts it to another level.

NORWAY: Eardrums
4 Firetop MountainHow Can You Dance At A Time Like This?
Firetop Mountain are four boys and a girl from the Oslo area, who play indie-rock with a strong melodic focus. Just last week they released their debut album Indians Aren’t Afraid Of Heights on their own label. Their music is sometimes powerful and energetic – songs you want to jump around to – and other times more laid-back and sensitive. Good songwriting all the way.

PERU: SoTB
4 Mi Jardín SecretoYo No Quiero Bailar Esta Noche
Mi Jardín Secreto’s debut album, La Ciencia Y El Arte De La Falsificación, contains 11 songs that flit between new wave, alternative rock and the sound of modern bands. The theme of the lyrics is a mixture of the warmth and coldness of the city of Lima, with characters who have adventures in a place and climate familiar to us all.

PORTUGAL: Posso Ouvir Um Disco?
4 :papercutzA Secret Search
What started as Bruno Miguel’s music project is now a trio with female vocalist Marcela Freitas and multi-instrumentalist Francisco Bernardo. After appearances on various international compilations :papercutz are now signed to Montreal’s Apegenine label, who released their debut album Lylac in February. In April, they were winners of the ‘off the beaten track’ category in The People’s Music Awards in London.

ROMANIA: Babylon Noise
4 Luna AmaraFloodmoses
Luna Amara have been around for almost 10 years, during which they’ve managed to create an image and a name for themselves in Romania. From mellow alternative to angry metal sounds, their music is powerful and never fails to deliver its message. Floodmoses is taken from their recently released third album Don’t Let Your Dreams Fall Asleep.

SCOTLAND: The Pop Cop
4 The Seventeenth CenturyTraffic
If Arcade Fire’s Wake Up moved you to your core then get ready to fall in love with Traffic. It has that soaring choral majesty, that sprawling orchestration and The Seventeenth Century clearly possess ambitions that are no less lofty. Having had a listen to the young Glasgow band’s forthcoming In The Place EP, we can say without hesitation that you’re looking at the best new band in Scotland.

SINGAPORE: I’m Waking Up To…
4 Concave ScreamFiction
We visit one of Singapore’s finest indie bands of the 90s with Concave Scream. Fiction, taken from their third album Three, hints at the flavors of DJ Shadow, The Cure, U2 and Butler-era Suede. It is a fine tune that could sum up the entire record with its use of ethereal vocals, otherworldly chorus-effected guitar lines and a blistering rhythm section. These days, Concave Scream are pushing the envelope of their musical whimsicality by releasing an instrumental fifth album that can be found on their website.

SOUTH KOREA: Indieful ROK
4 The Plastic DayI Miss Me Myself
Post-punk/grunge trio The Plastic Day released their first full-length album, 30 Seconds Between The Dreamer And The Realist, only last month but already they’ve gotten unusually high coverage in Korea-related English language media online. With an intense rock sound paired with English lyrics, there’s no reason why they won’t get even further. I Miss Me Myself might be one of the softer songs on the album, but it’s one that instantly spawns an impulse to hit the repeat button.

SWEDEN: Swedesplease
4 Chuck MorganThe Best Of You
I don’t know if there’s a term for the sound of Chuck Morgan. The last post I did on this Gothenburg-based troubadour tried to peg him as “romantic indie-pop”. His new song, The Best Of You, continues that sound but adds even more electronic beeps and blips to the mix.

To download all 24 songs in one file click here.

#185 just another diamond day

diamonds

i declare today diamond day. while i was away, b mailed me “i am not a robot” by marina and the diamonds, a song that sounds as organic as its words imply, with its generous layer of strings in what builds up to be a truly ebullient chorus. it reminded me of lavender diamond‘s “you broke my heart”, which features an equally uplifting performance in glorious baroque splendor. that in turn reminded me of vashti bunyan‘s “diamond day”, the simple opener from the belated 1970 classic just another diamond day which i’m sure played some part in influencing both musicians. have a sparkling diamond day, everyone.

mp3: marina and the diamonds – i am not a robot

mp3: lavender diamond – you broke my heart

mp3: vashti bunyan – diamond day

#184 wake the president – wake

wake

the cult of glaswegian student-run record label electric honey was etched in music history in 1996 when it put out belle & sebastian’s debut lp tigermilk, a record that sold out almost immediately and set the stage for the band’s shy fairytale rise to fame. more than a decade later, it’s heartening to know the label’s still alive and kicking, and keeping to its tradition of releasing at least a record every year. this year, the band that graces electric honey’s record sleeves is wake the president with you can’t change that boy, a full album of infectious jangle pop weaved cleverly into the urban landscape of glasgow. stylistically influenced by the likes of orange juice and josef k, the record bubbles with enthusiasm in bringing to life not simply the various characters and tales of the city, but every thought and conversation that occurs within. amidst the jangle, though, lies the softest and tenderest of hearts with the concisely titled “wake”, the song that captures the band in a rare candid moment of unabashed heartache and longing, serving as a reminder that their hearts are worn as firmly on their sleeves as their unmistakable influences.

mp3: wake the president – wake

you can’t change that boy may be purchased from norman records. get it to hear the rest of the album!

#183 mos def – auditorium (ft. slick rick)

mos

i’m really behind in my film viewing, but last night i finally got about to watching michel gondry’s be kind rewind. although it’s gotten rather mixed reviews from critics, i absolutely loved the show, especially with its take on “sweding” in taking swipes at today’s media industry’s paranoia at copyrights and bootlegging, and of course some signature gondry scenes which were magical as always. the onscreen partnership between jack black and mos def is hilariously endearing (and sometimes annoying) in their efforts to “swede” or remake the films that black’s character jerry erased (“you’re magnetized!” being my favorite mos line, delivered in exasperated horror – check out 0:30 of the trailer). the show also got me listening to mos def’s rap catalogue, particularly his black star collaboration with talib kweli, and right now i can’t wait for his upcoming album the ecstatic to be released. just for you, though, i have a delicious preview with “auditorium”, taken off that album and produced by madlib, whose instrumental from his beat konductor funk tribute to indian music is gloriously sampled here. wicked.

stream:


(mp3 removed on label request, even though i received it as a free download from an contemporary label)

(update: looks like the label’s really going all out to block anything that’s coming out these days. read all about it here. i’m sure that’s doing your artists a whole lot of good. how ironic considering my comments on be kind rewind)

mp3: madlib – movie finale