Saturday, August 22, 2009

Craig McElhinney

I had the pleasure of seeing Craig perform last weekend at a house party hosted by a friend of mine named Tanya (check her music blog). I had seen Craig in person the previous weekend at a Bowls club concert that Bermuda's drummer organised, but never before that weekend. Note that the above is the only picture of himself on Craig's myspace - he is a very smart looking young man in real life.

He used to be in a band called Eleventh He Reaches London, who I have never seen, though judging by the amount I hear of them, they are also worth your time. Anyway, done with introductions; Craig's music is made by a guitar and approximately 3 other machines that he puts on tables (but not a laptop - or at least, I don't remember a laptop). The music is easily classified under the umbrella term of 'experimental'.

I deem it more as beautiful noise, that isn't noisy. His sound is clear and well thought out, in a surgical manner, as the music he is making matters. He knows the importance of his execution in providing an experience, he is very talented and affiliated with one of my top 3 western Australian labels (Meupe). His music is of that special breed which helps you focus but grabs you from inside, holding you until it concludes.

Also, go to his myspace and absorb the 5 tracks he has up. Here is the place to buy one of his albums.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Sugarspun – Moon Candy

Moon Candy, an EP from Sugarspun, a quartet from San Francisco, is every bit as sweet and enticing as the band's candy coated name. Harmonies abound, hazy vocals that sweep through thick, layered guitars. Pop writing is in full force, with influences melded – as if they were cooked in an oven – into a shiny new whole. One can hear bands from Teenage Fanclub to the Jesus and Mary Chain, the only link a good hook and a love of song craft. It’s that perfect blend between feedback and more comfortable sounds.

The EP starts out with chimes and lyrics about a rocket being built for the singer, before winding up into a soft punch of catchiness. This whimsy continues throughout the charming EP and the songs evidence a similar sense of build. Boys and girls trade vocals for a sense of at times, jubilant bounciness and at times a real sadness, such as in the song “Absence.” They remind me a little of Papas Fritas, vocals traded and despite the sadness, a sense of fun in music is never lost.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Minakumari “Rasa”

Also known as “Mina” she comes from Japan. She makes very soft songs that make you want to “chill” and she cites her inspiration as being from Indian classical music & Bossa Nova among other things. The backing music gives me the same feeling as lets say Kings Of Convenience’s “Quiet is the new loud” album although there is a little more instrumental variety I am hearing from Mina. The voices she makes are just as memorable as those that appear on albums such as “Frengers” by Mew.

There is nothing “scary” about Mina although some of her songs have an eerie vibe to them as would songs from classic Nick Drake albums or Elliott Smith’s “Figure 8”. Her music is described as being “calm, sweet, & relaxing” and I’d say that is valid. A perfect album to sleep on, rest on, and to play to others especially children and female friends ;)

Artists such as Minakumari bring up an argument rarely touched that is Japan is an ever growing pop scene with some very strong sounding and very appealing artists that ears from around the world need to hear and experience for them selves. Go check her music out now.

Check em out here:

Weak Ends “WE” E.P.

Weak Ends is a band that comes from Orlando, Florida. They make songs that combine a mixture of Indie Pop and Shoegaze. I honestly hear more pop than the latter. They are said to be influenced by Radio Dept and Camera Obscura. The female vocals remind me quite a bit of Camera Obscura & Autolux.

In addition to the references already made the songs remind me a bit of very early music from Shout Out Louds. The band offers their E.P. for the price of 3 US Dollars. Get yours today. Also I got a nice T-Shirt with mine. If you would like one of those I’m sure that costs a little more ; )

Check em out here:

French Woods “The TV Outlaws EP”

This is a side project from Rickard (Robert Church) based in Sweden. It is very rad and fundamentally different in style by far compared to Robert Church. I am glad to be hearing this CD. It reminds me quite a bit of the feeling I get when I am hearing Jazz music. The songs are very interesting as the experimental aspect doesn’t take hold and ruin them.

It’s very possible that some of these song(s) were improvisations and there is nothing wrong if that holds to be true. A very similar artist I must note would be Jaga Jazzist. Most of the tunes from this EP would work well for many bands as backing music. As I have referred to before sometimes people wished certain songs didn’t have vocals on them because the music sounded so much better and the vocals maybe sound a little crap. Here is maybe one of the best examples of great music minus the vocals around today.

Check em out here:

Ofeliadorme “Sometimes It’s Better To Wait” EP

They are based in Bologna, Italy. The female singer has one of the most beautiful higher voices I have heard in quite a long time. She gives others that have this same characteristic a run for their money. Very few high voices in general grab my attention in this way for good. Seriously yet strangely think as if Elliott Smith or Conor Oberst were female (yeah) this is what it would sound like maybe. It is ever so evident that there was a lot of time and hard work put into this album and the efforts show the listener well.

Check em out here:

Friday, August 14, 2009

Opaluc “including five tracks EP”

They are a 3 member band from Japan. They play some of the most beautiful Indie Pop sounds from that land. There is a lot of love, heart, charm and other things to these songs I surely have not had the pleasure of hearing as often as I would like. According to the site for the label (MiMi Records- Portugal) which released this fine album they say that the music is a mix between Japanese and Portuguese, the latter I would have never guessed largely since I am not exposed to music and or language rooted from the land of Portugal.

Also if you look into more information of the label which released these recordings you’ll surely learn and be surprised at it’s humble beginnings.

Check em out here:

The Fox and the Bramble “NOTRE MEMOIRE” ep

Move over Oxford, UK this band “The Fox and the Bramble” is moving in. They come with very cute and lovely songs along with a nice handmade CD. The songs will surely meet and greet anyone that will appreciate them for what they are. This is an all age friendly album (whatever that means). The album is full of creative sound ideas not prominent in ordinary pop bands/songs and the song craft aspect will surely be appreciated by the listener.

Check em out here:

Santa Monica Swim And Dive Club “Mild Honey” ep

This is a fantastic side project of Saturday Looks Good To Me released by Little Pocket Records of Ohio. With a name like that you’d maybe think they are from California but this band is actually based in Michigan/New York. The songs have a good “old” sound to them. The song “Kara Keely” has a great feeling behind it with the clapping and playful lyrics and tone from the vocals. “Buried In Snow” has a sunshine pop feel to it despite the title not necessarily meaning that. “Mild Honey” is full of perfect songs for both Spring and Summer.

Check em out here:

The Mystery Books “Russia”

The Mystery Books are Riley and Matty. They are from Gainesville, Florida. The recordings have a very nice DIY pop sound with a very emotional feel to each of the songs. The organ included in on these songs makes them stand out. The voice and emotional tones from the songs remind me quite a lot of Antony Harding in his project “Ant”. And when I think a little more it comes to mind that Riley’s lyrical styling and voice remind me quite a bit of ‘early” Conor Oberst and Teitur recordings.

Riley and his friend Brian started a label in Gainesville named DEL-TONES RECORDINGS which put out this release and other fine handmade releases.

Check em out here:

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Bare Love To Bare Soul by El Mars

El Mars, aka Raimonds Gusarevs, is one fantastic song writer. This album of his, Bare Love To Bare Soul, is a great example of superb song creation. At times he reminds me of Beirut. At other times I am reminded of one of the most beloved movies of our time, Amelie. I’m even sometimes reminded of Flight of the Conchords! (There are only a few times when that actually applies.) His guitar work mixes with his vocals quite well. He is also a wonderful lyricist. I am told a story as I listen to Bare Love To Bare Soul. This album is calm and collected, well structured, and quite enjoyable; I’ve listened to it around seven times in just two days. There are a lot of good songs on this album and altogether, it’s very sound and secure as a whole, not to mention that this album is a progressing story from start to finish. My favorite tracks on this album are tracks 4 (“Painting Horses As They Dance Their Nights Away”), 5 (“Carving Images”), 7 (“Stars And The Sand”), and 11 (“Bare Love”) stand out to me the most, even though all of the songs on Bare Love To Bare Soul are solid songs. “Painting Horses As They Dance Their Nights Away” is a really nice and calm track. It makes me feel like I am sitting on a porch, looking out at a wonderful sunset, sitting with those I feel strongest about, just in utter happiness. “Carving Images” resonates the sounds of Beirut the most, but it is still a unique track on it’s on. Raimonds does a good job creating a heartwarming song where nothing in it makes me feel negativity. In “Stars And The Sand” he creates a solemn sounding track with a dreary voice and low-lying guitar. It still remains as one of the stronger tracks on the album however. His guitar layering in this song is fantastic. “Bare Love” is by far my favorite song on Bare Love To Bare Soul. Raimonds Gusarevs created a song that I am probably going to love for the rest of my love. This song is so incredibly good. His guitar work mixes so well with the vocal layering he does in “Bare Love” and my heart just explodes with happiness from this musical masterpiece. When you come across a song like this, you don’t forget it. Instead, you want to share it with those that are closest to you, sharing the joy you have just felt from such a striking transmission of sound. This final track is definitely the most complete track on the album. It’s always good to end on a strong note and our friend, Raimonds Gusarevs, aka El Mars, does just that. This is definitely something everyone should experience. Even just one listen to this album will get you hooked. You’ll be glad you listened. I’m actually going to go tell my girlfriend and all my friends about it now!

UPDATE: Okay, so the more and more I listen to this album, the more and more I love it. I was showing my friends this stuff and realized how much I really enjoy it. Raimonds Gusarevs, you are brilliant. This music is wondrous. Keep it up!! (P.S. Everyone should check this out.)

Reefy Seadragon by Dog Age

I find it very fitting that these Norwegians have titled their CD “Reefy Seadragon.” The title just emanates Norse Myth. This CD is far from being about Norse myth however. In addition, you don’t find too much alternative-pop music to be about such topics; those topics are left to the creators of death, black, and progressive metal. This is not metal. This is pop. When I popped this CD in, I was automatically reminded of those old shows on TV, back in the day, where people would dress up in huge, untimely costumes where they would be parading all over the screen in the show. I can see the little children running around getting extremely overzealous about the arrival of such costumed creatures. Anyways, Dog Age are a good band. I don’t have music like this on my iPod. I am hard to please with music such as this; it’s cheery, happy, old-school, and poppy. I feel as if Dog Age would have been a band in the 60’s and 70’s. Not my era of tastes, but these guys do a great job. Tracks 4 (God Lives Under The River), 8 (When I Was A Young Boy), 9 (Mystical George), and 11 (Tea, And A Wife) are my favorite tracks on “Reefy Seadragon.” These songs are superb. With each listen, I grow more aware and appreciative of how complete these songs are. There are moments of solitude which grow and grow until there is sound, sound, sound, coming at you. The keyboard work in these songs adds another dimension to these songs and contributes greatly. It’s the little things that make a huge difference, and Dog Age sees that. There are Les Claypool-like guitar riffs and songs that remind me of Of Montreal, with “Tea, And A Wife” producing that sound most reminiscent. Another song worth mention is track 3, “The Puppeteer.” It’s a nice instrumental song to lull you into calmness and coolness, generating an ambient feel. All in all, they have a very solid sound. Throughout most of “Reefy Seadragon”, Dog Age reminds me of a toned down Dungen, who, I believe, are also from Norway. Those Norwegians know what they are doing with music!

The Meat Riot by Marsh Branch

Marsh Branch rocks. Her album, The Meat Riot, is fast-paced, driven, and fueled by sweet-ass distorted guitars. The Meat Riot was completely written, arranged, and played by the ever-so-lovely Marsh Branch. I can just see myself watching her jamming out in a house show somewhere, just getting the crowd going. I really find the strong point of The Meat Riot is the distorted electric guitar work she does in this. The electricity flowing from the songs is really fun. I mean, what else could be as fun as rambunctious rock music? She sings with anger and emotion. She sings with a point to prove. She sings to sing, sing, sing. The past couple of CD’s I have reviewed where solo attempts at music. To hear such fueled work makes me happy that music even exists. Marsh Branch must have felt a sense of completion when finishing this album. Finishing an album is one of the better feelings in the world. When you can look at something you’ve just created, by yourself, wow, what’s better? I know Marsh Branch felt this. You can tell she was full of determination in creating this album; it definitely shows. Great job Marsh Branch, great job.

WALK "Cave Man Game" ep

WALK are based in LA, California. The sounds they do make are very interesting. Among their many proudly listed influences one name sticks out for me. That name being Elliott Smith. The vocals by this band most closely resemble Aaron Espinoza (Earlimart) and strangely the backing music sounds like something Elliott Smith would have done in his albums from Figure 8 to prior.

In Elliott Smith songs it was common that he would do all the instruments in most of his songs while for this band WALK they have four members putting together all of the sounds. The whole recording sounds as if the band members share a lot of common interest in influence and playing abilities. Which is rare for a band these days. This ep sounds relatively good aside from the recording being relatively lo-fi and also the vocals being a little hard to hear at times.

check em out here:

Young Michelin ep

This band hails from Aline, France. They have an appealing retro sound. The guitars funnily sound a lot like The Strokes “Is This It” album and some of the jangly guitars remind me of some early independent pop bands as well. The French lyrics are fairly catchy also. With just 3 songs on this CD, it is very likely you will hear more from this young band soon.

Check em out here:

Astruval self titled

All that I know and remember initially of this band is their member Thomas and that they are based in Switzerland and also through research found out that they have released three different songs on three different compilations by the now defunct CDR label named Asaurus. This full length CD has been very well loved by me for many months. It got pushed to back burner and now it’s on the front burner. These simple bedroom recordings are very heartfelt and meaningful to the listener to say the least. This CD is highly recommended for the fans of early Radio Dept or Asaurus Recs, if you can find a way to get your hands on it.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Murena Helena – Fierce Pale Hen

Released in 2008, Fierce Pale Hen is the 4th album that Muarena Helena have made. This makes a lot of sense to me, on my first listen I was under the impression that this was their debut - this intrigued me, as to how a band could be this well formed and constructed so early on. Anyway, this is not something to hold them back for. They’ve been on a journey to arrive here.

Starting in Canada and relocating to London, this is apparent in their sound, outside of the U.S. Canadians are well liked people, and MH are no exception to the rule. They make very thought-through pop with an emphasis on the instrumental side of things. Whether you call the experimental rock, I don’t know, but I saw that on the internet somewhere. “We'll Think of Yetis” was the standout track to me, it’s the newer side of post-rock, that doesn’t like to be labelled.

And so it shouldn’t be, Muarena Helena (I’m not sure if that ‘a’ is meant to be there - it seems to disappear and reappear), are very much worth your time, I recommend them to people who like The Tumbled Sea or Theo Angell.

There are one or two songs available for free download from their website. But you'd be better off to get the whole album!