Sunday, January 31, 2010

Heavenly - I Fell In Love Last Night

This isn't my favourite Heavenly song, but it's wildly appropriate today because I, too, fell in love last night! With a Dublin band I'd never seen or heard before. They're called the Tender Trap - a name, ironically, also used by Heavenly goddess Amelia Fletcher in recent years - and they put on such a great performance they could have easily had an encore although they weren't even headlining. Musically they reminded me a lot of Orange Juice, though with not quite such distinctive vocals; their drummer is the lead singer, which is usually a bad idea but seemed to work in this case. They played about half their set as a three-piece and for the other half they added a female guitarist-keyboardist (female guitarists are always a plus in my book) who brought a particularly intriguing dimension to their sound. I really, really enjoyed them - as the rest of the crowd clearly also did - and can't wait to see them again.

Unfortunately I don't yet have anything by them to put up here, so this Heavenly song will have to do. But just remember the name: The Tender Trap, from Dublin. You'll be hearing more about (and from!) them soon, I hope.

UPDATE! They've now changed their name to Hello Moon, and you can listen to some of their wonderful songs yourself on this page.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Nuns - Suicide Child

Here's one from way back in the archives. The Nuns were from San Francisco and were considered a punk band at the time, although most of their 1980 debut album sounds pretty tame today. This one actually has a bit of a Stranglers thing going on. It was written by their original guitarist, Alejandro Escovedo, who went on to slightly bigger things as a member of cowpunk bands Rank and File and True Believers and later as a solo artist.

The Nuns released a few albums after this, but I never heard any of them.

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Twilight Sad - That Summer, at Home I Had Become the Invisible Boy

The Twilight Sad are definitely one of my favourite bands of the past few years, making songs so gorgeous they almost hurt to listen to sometimes. There are hints here of a number of other Scottish bands, such as Mogwai and Arab Strap but with much more prominent vocals; I also hear a bit of the Tindersticks in the arrangements and the general mood of the music, or sometimes Disco Inferno.

A typical Twilight Sad review will contain at least three of the following adjectives: multi-layered, atmospheric, loud, intense, fragile, could probably think of a few more along those lines without even having heard them. But they don't do justice to the sheer beauty of the music. That's probably why they remind me of Disco Inferno. I haven't put up any Disco Inferno here yet, have I? Shame on me.

Anyway, this is from their 2007 debut, Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Astropop 3 - Fade On Your Own

Here's another one that I play to people who try to tell me there's no good indiepop these days. Admittedly "these days", in the context of this record, means about five years ago; but to hear the way some aging hipsters whinge you'd think the genre died out with Sarah.

Astropop 3 are from Virginia Beach, which is what it sounds like - a resort town on the coast of a conservative southern US state. Not exactly at the top of my list of places to visit, but I always find it heartening to know that bands like this exist even in the last places you'd go looking for them.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Wake - Of The Matter

The Wake started out as an atmospheric synth-pop band, along the lines of "Thieves Like Us"-era New Order. At times they even remind me of a hazier-sounding Pet Shop Boys. No, really. They weren't very well known, which is only fair because there wasn't really anything spectacular about them. But they had the nice song here and there, like this Factory single from 1985.

Later on they resurfaced on Sarah and, sounding like a totally different band, they put out a few decent if (again) not particularly inspiring indiepop records before disappearing again in the mid-1990s, seemingly for good.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Emily - Reflect on Rye

This is one of my favourite Creation songs and yet I know absolutely nothing about this band. Help me out here, anyone?

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Razorcuts - Snowbound

Here's another band that I always think of as a C86 band even though they technically weren't. Actually they're a really good bridge between C86 and Sarah - not that that would be a very long bridge, of course, but you know what I mean; elements of both the snappy pop that characterised classic mid-1980s indiepop and the twee-er sounds that followed a bit later. Or maybe I'm talking shite again (after the weekend I had that's a definite possibility).

Anyway, here's a lovely Razorcuts track from 1989's The World Keeps Turning LP.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Icehouse - Hey Little Girl

It would be unfair to call Icehouse a one-hit wonder, but for all the albums they released in the 1980s and 1990s none of their other tracks ever really came close to this one in terms of either chart success or memorability.

I remember at the time this song drew a lot of comparisons to Roxy Music and Japan and, although I hated the latter band and never really cared much for the former either (the sublime "More Than This" excepted), I always liked this one. Still do, even if the synthy bits sound rather horribly dated today.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Section 25 - Friendly Fires

Section 25 are one of those bands that seem to be recalled more as having been part of a scene - the late '70s/early '80s Factory scene, to be precise - than for anything they actually recorded. See also Crispy Ambulance.

Listening to them now, a lot of their music does sound very dated (and you could pick them out as a Factory band a mile away) but the standout tracks are up there with much of what, say, New Order were doing in their early years.

This is from their 1981 debut, Always Now.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Weather Prophets - Almost Prayed

Somehow when I put up a Weather Prophets song before I completely forgot about this one. Now is a good time to rectify that since it's been running through my head for the past few days. It's one of those songs that never fails to cheer me up - the Weather Prophets were particularly good at that - even when watching an old live performance like this in which they look incredibly young and I am reminded of the fact that I am turning 40 this year. Sigh.

Anyway, listen to this tune, it's wonderful.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Cure - Fire in Cairo

Whatever your views on what the Cure became - and mine are more sympathetic than you might expect - their first three albums, at least, were tremendous. I am convinced that a lot of indie snobs (that's not meant as an insult btw) would cite the 1979 debut Three Imaginary Boys as a pop classic - downbeat pop, obviously, but pop nonetheless - had the Cure broken up immediately after it. But of course they didn't.

I have a particular fondness for "Boys Don't Cry", since I'm really just an old softie at heart, but it's probably just a little too well-known for this blog so here's a (live version of a) track from the same album that's nearly as good but a lot less commonly heard.

And if you just can't get past the fact that it's the Cure, well, your loss.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Cowboys International - Pointy Shoes

Not many people remember this band, despite the number of semi-famous names involved with them (Ken Lockie and Keith Levene of PiL, Terry Chimes from the Clash). In fact by the time I discovered them - probably around 1984, '85ish - they had already been largely forgotten. I see that their first and last LP The Original Sin was reissued a few years ago, but it doesn't seem to have made much of a splash then either.

Most of the album is offbeat, early '80s (actually it was released in 1979, but it was ahead of its time) keyboard-driven pop that still manages to wear its punk pedigree on its sleeve. It's not the full-on electronica of the likes of someone like Daniel Miller, though, there's still plenty of rock guitar here. Actually there are definite hints of a lot of the stuff David Bowie was doing in the late '70s, which isn't a bad thing at all. Although Lockie wasn't quite the singer Bowie was.

Apparently this one was a big club hit. Remember when club hits were this good?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Josef K - Endless Soul

Despite being the only band to release an album on Postcard in the 1980s, Josef K are sort of that label's forgotten band, the chart success of Orange Juice and Aztec Camera having largely eluded them. Which isn't surprising considering their more... let's say idiosyncratic sound (which Franz Ferdinand are now channeling to far more lucrative effect).

I'd never call them one of my favourites and I do find them a bit wearying in large doses, but it can't be denied they were unfairly underrated and they did have at least a couple of genuinely great tunes. Absolutely love the guitar in this one.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Altered Images - See Those Eyes

It is a little known fact about Sarah Records that every male in a band signed to that label was in love with Clare Grogan as a boy. The straight ones anyway. How do I know this? Well, I don't really, but it's true about every straight male I knew who listened to the bands on Sarah Records, so it's probably safe to assume. It's not hard to understand why, anyway.

They were never a great "album" band; too inconsistent over a full length and too often biting off more than they could chew. It's their Greatest Hits album I listen to the most, and even then there are a few tracks that I usually skip over. Generally, I think those from their second album Pinky Blue have best stood the test of time. Here's the prime example.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Funeral Suits - Screentest

One of the most exciting Irish bands of the past few years, the Funeral Suits veer easily from cheery indiepop (like this track) to much harder and darker sounds, but there are two consistents throughout every style they put on: (1) gorgeous vocals (new singer/guitarist/etc Brian James in particular has a voice that could make your granny swoon, even if he does have a tendency to go out on stage looking like the Grim Reaper) and (2) impeccable songwriting skills, which mean that even when they are pushing the limits of anything you could call "pop", their songs are still just so unbelievably catchy. Sort of like a modern-day Irish Pixies, I guess, but with better (male) vocals.

Here's a live clip with their old line-up, capturing their lighter indiepop side well. I highly, highly, highly recommend you visit their Myspace page to hear more.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Scientists - That Girl

On the exceptionally rare occasion I see anything written about the Scientists, they're usually described as post-punk but their debut album (self-titled but always referred to as The Pink Album, for obvious reasons if you look down the page a bit) is mostly classic pop-punk or power-pop in the Buzzcocks/Rezillos kind of mode. Few people outside of Australia seem to remember them, which is a shame.

This is the most straightahead pop song on the debut. It's not entirely representative of the rest of the album, far less their later material. But isn't it cute?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Tuxedomoon - What Use

Here's something a little different. I'm not a big fan of the "experimental" strain of post-punk, but there's just enough tune in this early track from San Francisco's Tuxedomoon to earn the Cinnamon stamp of approval.

If you like this sort of thing, the album it's from, 1980's Half-Mute on Ralph Records, seems to be widely considered a classic of the genre. But as I said, not generally my cup of tea (this song and one or two others aside).

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Wendy Darlings - Enormous Pop

The Wendy Darlings are a French band with a brilliant name (that's always a bonus) and, in this, a definite contender for 2009's Song of the Year. It's utterly classic-sounding tweeindiegirlpop in the mode of all the greats like Talulah Gosh, the Shop Assistants and fill-in-your-own-favourites-here.

The song is from their EP We Come With Friendly Purposes, the rest of which isn't quite as strong as this track but has as much promise as any other debut I've heard recently.

No idea who made the video or what it's all about, BTW.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

David Kilgour - Slippery Slide

Here's something a little more recent from the Flying Nun family tree. David Kilgour was, of course, the genius behind the Clean, and his half-dozen or so solo albums are also well worth picking up. They don't really sound that much like the Clean; the songs are a bit more somber and, well, "mature" is probably the word most reviewers would use. But his innate pop sensibility still shines through everything he does, and with such exquisite songwriting skills, some of his solo material has been truly breathtaking.

This is from 2002's A Feather in the Engine. A really, really nice song in and of itself...but just listen to that arrangement.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Psychedelic Furs - Sister Europe

I was discussing the Furs with a friend of mine recently, a diehard fan of theirs, and it prompted me to go back and listen to some of their earlier material which I hadn't really been hugely into before. And you know what? I'm still not really into it, or at least their first album. Too ramshackle, too unfocused, too hard to discern any real melodies under the noise. And while I'm not particularly pro or anti Richard Butler's voice, it's pretty grating on most of the debut.

This is, however, a lovely song - and a good indication of the (vastly superior) direction they would be taking in the future.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Duels - The Slow Build

This is a gorgeous track, and one of the songs I play to people when they complain about indie music not being any good any more. As you will see, that's utter nonsense.

I could listen to this song for hours.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Moose - Little Bird (Are You Happy In Your Cage?)

I've posted before about how Moose tend to be lumped in with the shoegaze scene but I don't think they really were shoegaze. I've since learned that they were, in fact, the original shoegaze band: that is, it was in a review of a Moose gig that the adjective "shoegaze" was first applied. So I guess by default they have to get that label. Doesn't mean I have to like it, though.

I mean listen to this song. It's a fantastic track, catchy as all hell and with clever, deliciously evil lyrics and Russell Yates's always-appealing vocals. Shoegaze, however, it is not. It actually reminds me more of something like Kitchens of Distinction's "Drive That Fast" (I must put that up some time). Should have been a bigger hit but I guess that's what happens when everyone just dismisses you as belonging to a genre you don't really belong to at all.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Jasmine Minks - Cold Heart

Not many people seem to remember the Jasmine Minks now, but in the '80s they were one of the brightest sparks in the Creation catalog, which is quite a compliment. I put their current forgotten status down to Alan McGee's peculiar fondness for "Cut Me Deep", which means that every couple years when a new Creation compilation comes out people who don't know the Minks only get to know that song instead of this one - which is far far better. I mean, listen to it, it's outstanding.

No idea what it's about though. And I probably don't want to know.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Mrs Robinson!

For an Irish blog there can only be one song today. (Readers abroad who have no idea what I'm talking about can click here.)

I just can't stop laughing about this.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

My Bloody Valentine - Lose My Breath

Here's a great MBV tune, from their finest (oh yes it was) album Isn't Anything. Dark lyrics, but Bilinda's dreamy vocals make this one of the sexiest songs ever recorded - and the fact that it barely seems as though it's trying to be, only makes it more so.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

New Order - Procession

Speaking of 80s tracks with amazing bass lines, here's one of my absolute favourite New Order songs, from the 1981-82 EP. While "Temptation" was the big hit off this release, "Procession" is much closer to the style I wish they'd stuck to (and, to be fair, they mostly did for the next couple of years). The electronics were present but not overwhelming; the production was still fairly minimalist and the quietly-mixed vocals added something in terms of atmosphere while distracting attention away from Bernard's always-dodgy lyrics (to be fair again, they're not too bad here). Even today, what they were doing on this record is so exciting.

I suppose there's an element of nostalgia on my part - this dates from right around the time I was beginning to discover a musical world beyond the charts - but even if that weren't the case, I still think I would get a shiver listening to it every time.

God, what a beautiful track.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

APB - Shoot You Down

In the late 1970s/early 1980s there were a handful of British bands that had their roots in the post-punk scene but seemed to take as much inspiration from funk as from punk. APB were one of those bands, Medium Medium were another and I'm sure there were more I can't remember right now.

I'm not a huge funk fan, and this particular subgenre of post-punk isn't one of my favourites. But inevitably it produced a few classic tracks and "Shoot You Down" (this version is from a 1986 New York gig) is definitely one of them. What an amazing bassline.

Iain Slater, incidentally, went out with one of my flatmates when I was living in London. A very nice fella who I had absolutely no idea who he was at the time.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Sea Urchins - A Morning Odyssey

Let's get the new year off to a bang with one of the few Sarah tracks that could legitimately be described as "anthemic". The Sea Urchins were, of course, the makers of the first ever Sarah single, which was the uncharacteristically mediocre "Pristine Christine"; their strengths lay more in the Sweeping Ballad, this and "Please Rain Fall" being the prime examples.

I have to admit that James Roberts's voice was a hurdle some people had trouble getting past. But the effort is more than worthwhile, I think.