is there a point to pop revivalism beyond fashionable nostalgia? the music of george lewis jr, whose debut album forget was recently released under his twin shadow moniker, proves an interesting case in point. there’s always the fun (and if you’re honest some degree of self-elevating satisfaction) from picking out influences, even if (and intriguingly, particularly so when) these “roots” extend far beyond “your time”. when i listen to one of lewis’ songs like “slow”, i find it hard to call my response sentimental since many of his influences – let’s say joy division and the smiths, for starters – were making music way before my time. yet, my appreciation of and identification with it is hardly diminished, almost as if i was living out and remembering vicariously an era and culture i never was a part of. it’s a strange place to be at, but for me, an album like forget serves not merely as a call not to forget, but to be more aware of how we remember, as often through the memories of others. – dan.
mp3: twin shadow – slow
forget is now out on terrible records.
The Morning Benders hail from California, which perhaps makes for a fitting explanation for the panoply of trippy studio-pop affectations that grace their latest album Big Echo. The band have always sported a diffident charm, but the new songs seem to have galvanized lead songwriter Christopher Chu into attempting something altogether more adventurous. “Promises” captures a mood of picaresque wonder that is positively jubilant, its torrent of melodies floating ever so effervescently above the steady backbeat. And the laidback ambience clearly plays to the Morning Benders’ strengths, with the readymade sunny feelings of “Promises” coming through ever so perfectly in the lilting rhythms of this humble gem of a pop song.
Here as well is their pretty take on Randy Newman’s “Marie” off The Bedroom Covers, their free album of cover versions released in 2008. Okay, it’s not exactly Dusty Springfield doing “I Think It’s Going To Rain Today”, but still. – keith.
mp3: the morning benders -promises
mp3: the morning benders – marie (randy newman cover)
Big Echo is now out on Rough Trade. You can also purchase the album directly from the band’s page.
how exactly do you pin down what counts as “fresh”? for music, i guess it usually means a new sound that’s original rather than purely derivative, something that basically sounds different, in a good way of course. listening to the xx, “fresh” takes on another shade of meaning. the first track that introduces me to romy madley croft’s voice is “vcr”, which sounds freshly opened, like something hidden from view finally seeing the light of day. i particularly like how the music gives the space for her duet with oliver to breathe, and it’s refreshing how each instrument, from the delicate xylophones to the vocals, makes itself comfortable in its own corner and leaves plenty of room for the others. and it’s fresh for me as a listener as well. whenever the song gets broken down to the simple line: but you, you just know, you just do, every break is punctuated ever so gracefully, like a moment that hangs mid-air in quiet assurance. – dan.
mp3: the xx – vcr
xx is now out on young turks.
the period after belle & sebastian‘s lukewarm release of fold your hands child at the turn of the century was perhaps the most crucial of the band’s career. at that point, many had felt the glaswegians had probably run out of ideas and trapped themselves within a tweefolk sound that was beginning to wear thin. the next proper album in 2003, dear catastrophe waitress, provided just the change they needed, boasting a polished gleam without loosing any of its understated charm, a direction pushed to even greater perfection in 2006’s the life pursuit.
that turning point, however, cannot be viewed apart from the other possibilities that the band could have taken. according to stuart murdoch, it was during the dear catastrophe waitress tour that he began to envision something different, songs with strings and female vocals that didn’t fall under the institution that had become belle & sebastian. in the course of the subsequent five years, this has grown into the project now known as god help the girl, revolving around murdoch’s musical narrative supported by the uplifting vocals of catherine ireton, celia garcia and alex klobouk, with mick cooke’s expansive orchestral arrangements.
“come monday night” is the first single to be released, and offers that exact glimpse into what else belle & sebastian could have become at that turning point. the lush but clearly defined strings are a natural progression from the simple arrangements found in their earlier albums, but with a certain buoyancy distinctive of the band’s later efforts. what we get then is an alternate view into the belle & sebastian universe without having to depart too far from its current solid form which you’d be wicked not to care about.
mp3: god help the girl – come monday night
“come monday night” will be out come this monday on rough trade, who together with matador will release the album on 22 june.
i’ve just attended two weddings over this weekend, photographing for one, and attending the other just a few hours ago in jb. as cliched as it sounds, seeing my friends start their new lives always touches me to the core, and to be able to capture the moments or simply be part of those moments means it’ll always have a special place in my heart. rather aptly, a song that’s been playing a lot both in my head and on my stereo (if you’re curious, it’s a faithful denon ud-m30 system) is little joy‘s “brand new start”. little joy is the new collaboration between the strokes’ drummer fabrizio moretti with his girlfriend binki shapiro and rodrigo amarante from los hermanos, and it’s safe to say the music that emerges from the trio in their self titled debut is a breezy combination of their respective sounds. in the swaying “brand new start”, i’m reminded of the poppier version of the early country songs of wilco, a band which itself was jeff tweedy’s brand new start to a rather enviable career. and to my newly wed friends, my very best wishes for your brand new lives ahead of you.
mp3: little joy – brand new start
little joy is now out on rough trade
for a 24 year old, canadian basia bulat sure sounds like she’s been playing a lifetime of music, and indeed it shows when you realize she’s been picking up instruments from the age of three, from guitar to banjo and sax to the upright bass in high school. i’ve always wished my own parents had forced me to learn music when i was young, but i guess that’s how i’ve ended up on this side of it, writing rather than making music, but enjoying it all the same. for basia, it was the people she met and the places she’s been along the way that really made a difference. her debut album oh, my darling, out now on rough trade, has its roots in her early recordings at the mighty hotel 2 tango, the studio that birthed the whole movement of constellation bands like a silver mt. zion. the music that’s emerged from those recordings is frantic and effervescent, with songs like “in the night” capturing a sense of breathless urgency rivaled only by the strength of her voice that’s both uplifting and intimate.
mp3: basia bulat – in the night