Sunday, June 20, 2004

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Artist: Architecture in Helsinki Artist: Fingers Crossed
Label: Bar None Rating: 5 *s out of 5

I first heard about AiH two years ago when a friend travelling through Australia sent me two mp3s. I was so excited I got a friend who lives in Melbourne to send me a copy of Fingers Crossed. Since then, it's been played on my show a lot.
The album's finally been released Stateside and is here for you to enjoy. The Fanatic review is pretty good (for a change) but not even it conveys how /fun/ this album is, or how infectious. AiH has something for just about everybody: its base is pure pop goodness a la the Lucksmiths, but it has some interesting mellow moments that take a cue from Sodastream(tracks 8 or 10) and a generally jangly feel to the music that might interest people who like uhh, jangly wierd stuff.
Be warned, some tracks are pretty brief (less than a minute), and many have 2-3 minutes of instrumental music before the vocals.

Recommended tracks: 7!, 8, 10, 6, 3, 2

Site: here

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Artist: Jens Lekman Album: Rocky Dennis EP
Label: Secretly Canadian Rating: 4.75 *s out of 5

Wow. You can see the label sticker for more information about the artist. This little record though is a real jewel: very small, very pretty. What the label doesn't say is that Lekman is very influenced by 70s singer-songwriters, and the music depends mostly on his (gorgeous) voice and soft-worked piano, and the lyrics themselves are moving and personal. I suppose it goes without saying this is down-tempo stuff, perfect for rainy days and sighing.

Recommended Tracks: 3 and 4. Track 2 is a brief (~1 min) instrumental.

Site: Here
Artist: The Hidden Tracks Album: The Sweet Sound of Excess
Label: Disposable Pop Revolution Rating: 3.75 *s out of 5

It's worth noting this album has a little pink juicebox straw in the jewelbox and came scented. Yes, the CD case smells like pop.
That and the garish pink color should tell you something: This is sugary, sweet stuff. One of the song titles says it best: "Catchy like a cold".
The writing is clever enough and the music (guitar-based pop) is fun... but like a sugar rush, you sort of wonder what the point was afterwards. Not surprisingly, these guys are from California.

Play if you like... PAS/CAL? Logan Whitehurst? the Pancakes? I dunno.
Site: Here

Artist: Ambulance, LTD. Album: LP
Label: TVT Records Rating: 4 *s out of 5, with the option to increase

Some stuff is just dense. It takes a while to tease out all its subtleties and meanings. Waiting for Godot is like that. The Basic Eight is like that. Ambulance LTD is like that.
I've had the album for a week and listened to it maybe five times. Each time, I find more stuff about it to like. The songs -- which are all fairly long -- are thought-out and deliberate, the lyrics well turned out.
Other than that, the album is a bit difficult to describe because the sound varies so much: not in the schizophrenic "we don't know what we sound like, so we'll sound like everything" kind of way first albums often do, but in a pleasing, "we need this kind of sound to explore this kind of feeling" way.
Also, these boys have pretty eyes. Actually, the rest of them is pretty as well. There's a picture inside.

Site: (With pictures!) Here.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Artist: The Hang Ups Album: s/t (but not a debut)
Label: Contact/Trampoline Rating: 3.75 out of 5*s

The Hang Ups is a pop band the Midwest, and their style and music is roughly comparable to PAS/CAL (whose EP is also currently on playlist). The Hang Ups are a bit more mellow than PAS/CAL's calculatedly HAPPY sound and are consqeuently better suited to most people's on-air music sets. Not to say, though, that this isn't fun as well. There is some genuinely catchy stuff here and some skillful music making and induce you to go "Hey -- Good Stuff!"
/Generally/ the later tracks are better than the first, I find.

Preferred track: the set 12/13/14/15 are all great and 2 and 9 also rock.
All tracks clean

Site: Here

Artist: Citizens Here and Abroad Album: Ghosts of Tables and Chairs
Label: Omnibus Rating: 4.00 out of 5*s

The debut album from a California (Bay Area) band. I'd call this album 'power pop': its heart is very firmly the same place as, oh say, Sodastream or PAS/CAL, to name two current playlist artists, but is very palpable rock influences. Most songs balance between fairly hard electric guitar riffs and sighing girl pop lyrics. A difficult act, but one pulled off successfully and really enjoyably. Possibly even with style.
It also avoids first album "We're not sure what kind of music we make" fluff: each song is true to the style and the album and a good listen.

Recommended tracks: 1,4 and 5
Play if you like: Stephen Malkmus, Grandaddy or Toronto's The Snitches
All Tracks are clean.

Site: Here

Monday, March 01, 2004

Artist: Franz Ferdinand Album: s/t
Label: Domino Rating: 4.5 *s out of 5

Now WXDU DJs, were you /good/ boys and girls and played the Franz Ferdinand EP, Darts of Pleasure? Cause if you were, here's a WHOLE ALBUM for you to enjoy!
Easily the most anticipated (by me) release of for of this winter (and probably Spring and Summer), Franz Ferdinand comes back with their first full-length. Spawned in the incredibly incestuous Glasgow scene (think Chapel Hill with a funny accent) this band come with a host of influences and is almost impossible to describe -- the Team Clermont blurb goes for a "mix of rock, pop, disco and post-punk"(?!), the band itself says their music is "for girls to dance to" and I just go for Good. Damn Good.
Their recent US tour -- brought on by their very sudden, very strong and utterly anticipated popularity came nowhere near here, but in the next several months they'll be back.
Insert disc in CD player. Pick any track. Prepare to shake yo' assets.

All tracks clean
Preferred tracks: 1,2!, 3, 5 and 8
Play if you like: The results of a strange transporter accident involving Gerty, Jett Rink, the Clash, David Bowie and Debbie Harry. *not to be takes a visual image*

Site: Here

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Artist: PAS/CAL Album: Oh Honey, We're Ridiculous
Label: Le Grand Magistery Rating: 4.5 *s out of 5

The Feel is California, even if the sound was made in Michigan.
The Detroit pop outfit, PAS/CAL, is back at it again with their second release. You probably remeber their virgin attempt, The Handbag Memories, when its uber-catchy (kitschy?) tunes got relentlessly stuck in your head this time last year.
This one is no different. I got a hold of it Thursday and have played it (roughly) a million times since then. It ranges from smooth and mellow with rich melodic arrangements with strings (2) to more brassy, falsetto-voiced jangly pop tracks.
What keeps this outside the realm of truly irritating, one-album one-ders is the emotional depth of the lyrics -- which can take multiple listens to appear. It can be quite dark and reflective and has trademark Wit in many cases, but manages to keenly balance itself with Pure Pop Goodness.
Very highly recommended.

Play if you like: the Beach Boys, Beachwood Sparks -- but these guys have managed to create their own individual sound niche
All Tracks clean.

Site: Here

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Album: Small Victories EP Artist: The Gone Aways
label: self-released Rating: 4.75 *s out of 5

Fun Story: In 1997, a friend of mine waved a crudely-pressed, small batch record under my nose, saying "You must hear this!" I listened to one track -- "Electronic Renaissance" -- and decided it was poorly made techno-crap. I forgot about that band.
That band just released their fourth full length album, "Dear Catastrophe Waitress".
Another friend of mine from Glasgow just sent me this EP from the Gone Aways. It's home-made and a little rough, too, but it's just as much a little gem. Patrick and Lucy trade off singing, and there's some guitar and drums and a little keyboard, too. It's infused with the melancholy, dreamy pop sensibility common in Scotchland. Think of it as Langley Schools Music Project meets the Pastels/Salako/Belle and Sebastian et al...
This EP was produced by Gavin Dunbar of the band Camera Obscura -- also currently on playlist.

Favorite tracks: All
All tracks clean
Site: Here

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

By the way folks, in case you didn't know, December and early January are bad months for idependent music folks. CMJ doesn't report, and accordingly most label but out nothing or next to it. WXDU's music staff has gone through more old crap recently that you can easily imagine. The first of the new batch was the Gone Aways (to be posted later) and The Limits.


Album: .... Songs about Girls Artist: The Limits
Label: Luxury Records Rating: 3.75 *s out of 5

My first impression of this album was "Wow! I've discovered the band that did the title credits for Saturday Morning cartoons from when I was little!"
I still feel this is a fairly accurate portrayal. The Limits adopt a retro feel... which ultimately meets with mixed success. They take only the happy go lucky feel with their poppy msuic with strong elements of 80s pop and a dash of 70s rock, but they ignore any dark or mellow elements. The result is sort of a contrived joy that may or may not be ironic -- hence the cartoonyness.
Think of it another way: they're the Magnetic Fields from some weird parallel dimension where Stephin Merrit kept his fascination with pop but was just one cheery-ass mofo.
Final word: fun, but a little saccarhine.

All tracks clean.
Preferred number: 1 and 9 (which is a take on the Beatles)
Play ifn you like: early Beatles, Lucksmiths, the Archies

A very odd and apparently uniformative web site is here.