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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Summer Cats: Passion Pop (2008)

My internal clock is all messed up. Three different countries and four different time zones in less than two months is not good for the body and I’m confused at what time, day, month, season it is right now. Luckily Melbourne’s Summer Cats have come along to rescue me from my circadian rhythm woes with their new Wee Pop! Records EP, Passion Pop.

Summer Cats deliver the pop chops like no other and the first song on Passion Pop, “Burt Toast,” has an awesome Cure-like bass line that bounces along while call-and-response vocals chant above and even a little cowbell gets in on the action.

“Head To Toe” has haunting little melody that sounds like a Hawaiian sunset, no ukulele, hammock or piña colada required…

I’m going to say that the lyrics aren’t the focus on Passion Pop and that may sound like a putdown coming from me, but really, I’ve been blasting this album in the car with the windows rolled down and nothing sounds better than the “ooos” and “ahhsss” and “weeooooos.”

To keep it simple, Summer Cats’ Passion Pop offers up what Wee Pop! Records do best, sweet music to sing along to and enjoy repeatedly. Summer really begins now.

Summer Cats-“Head To Toe”

Summer Cats on Myspace!
Wee Pop! Records site

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

No Amount Of Hyperbole Could Do Justice To Wall-E

Like it says in the headline, Pixar's latest feature directed by Andrew Stanton, Wall-E, is essentially, a masterpiece, an engrossing slice of pure cinema that I place near and dear to my heart.

I think the theme of Wall-E has been the most difficult to grapple with out of everything in the film. The environmental slant is almost incidental to the story. To say that it is all about the dichotomy between "technology" and "nature" would not give Stanton and crew enough credit. Actually it's kind of insulting. What they propose here is that the complex relationship between technology and nature has merely distracted humanity's struggle for survival. It isn't the tools we've acquired, it's how we use them.

The ending for Wall-E is so hopeful, sweet and sublime because humans and robots learn that it is motivation and passion that ultimately save themselves, not the nature of their existence. The film doesn't wonder why we are here, but what are we going to do while we are here.

I could have never have wished for such a startling and beautiful film that disproves (along with The Dark Knight) the idea that mainstream cinema enforces ruling ideology. I know there can be claims against this (made by a huge corporation, Wall-E as a working class character, hopeful ending, current hip environmental views, etc.), but time and time again Stanton and crew (through their passion and motivation) prove the cynics wrong and show that in Wall-E hope is something still worthwhile and even something still worth striving for in our infinitesimal existence.

WALL-E Trailer

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Wall-E on IMDB
Buy N Large

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Mexican Kids At Home: When We All Live In Igloos (2008)

This is my favorite Wee Pop! release of the year so far.

Mexican Kids At Home is unassuming band from the UK and on When We All Live In Igloos they sound like a chibi version of Led Zeppelin. That isn’t to say these guys and gal don’t rock the fucking house (they most certainly do).

“Start A One Man Band!” is more rock ‘n’ roll than anything I’ve heard this year. Racing piano/marimba, lovely interplay with boy/girl vocals, some nicely executed tempo shifts and plenty of soulful “oooos” to make even the most twee bands puke, this song seriously kicks ass.

Songs like “Down By The Fire” and “Illustrations (On A Page)” contain enough tribal/exotic/medieval influences to be interesting and novel without overbearing the wonderful melodies. The latter track is especially groovy with its noodly keyboard lines and repeated mantra, “Sail away, sail away/on the clouds in the sky.”

“A Tiny Bronco” starts off with a wonderfully silly hook, “When I’m sitting on the corner/and I’m sitting on the street/I find that everybody that/I ever seem to meet/will always take me by the hand/And then they’ll kiss me on the cheek/that’s why I fall in love with someone different/ every other week." Carried along by melodica and banjo When We All Live In Igloos ends quite sweetly with just enough epic flavor to leave you feeling energized and enthusiastic.

I hope to hear more from Mexican Kids At Home, When We All Live In Igloos is a great little EP that (of course) leaves you begging for more. When We All Live In Igloos II maybe?

Mexican Kids At Home-“Start A One Man Band!”

Wee Pop! Records site
Mexican Kids At Home On Myspace!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Bearsuit: Oh:lo (2008)

I admit I’ve been dragging my feet. After some international delays in receiving Bearsuit’s Oh:lo from Happy Happy Birthday To Me Records all I heard was just pink noise. I stated in a review last week of the Spring Forward compilation and its songs sights set on kill, well, with Oh:lo Bearsuit aim to not only kill you but mutilate you and piss on your grave as well.

Oh:lo is frighteningly busy on half of the songs and destroys any of this UK band’s attempt at melody. I understand this is one of those “big bands” with tons of people standing around playing horns, drums, guitars and a few weird instruments you’d never be able to name, but seriously do we need the screeching vocals, dozens of incongruous keyboard lines or unhinged horns like on “Jupiter Force (Recruitment Video),” “More Soul Than A Wigan Casino” and “Shh Get Out”?

Thankfully, maybe for contrast, there are a some songs on Oh:lo that are a bit more focused and clever. My personal favorite is “Foxy Boxer,” a song that also reaches a sexiness with a rollicking sub-synth and when the girls sing, “Don’t underestimate the power of a punch from a foxy boxer,” it works because of a buildup to the line and when the line is finally uttered Bearsuit strip away everything but the vocals. It’s a cool and very effective moment.

Another well-channeled effort is the hilariously titled song, “Steven Fucking Spielberg.” It starts off with swells of violin obviously mimicking a film score, but it’s surprising how easily it molds and folds into the melody, eventually becoming the backbone of the song. This song is incredibly lush, but never overbearing like some of the other tracks on Oh:lo and the flute line throughout is sweet and gives us some of that Steven Spielberg hope that we all love.

“Stay Alive” ends Oh:lo quite effectively and like the previously discussed song it is lush but not overbearing, at least unintentionally. It’s a beautiful little coda with piano and harmonized boy/girl vocals at its core but allows the accordion, violin and horns to create an intense build that when stripped away, sublimely carries us off into the sunset.

My initial impressions of Oh:lo aside, Bearsuit is creating music that is worth noticing if only they would stop trying to cram as many instruments and singers as possible into one song. There are some gems here and as you should take notice of those gems, Bearsuit should as well.

Buy The Record On Happy Happy Birthday To Me Records!
Bearsuit on Myspace!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Wonder For All: Wonder For All (2008)

The Wee Pop! release of Wonder For All’s debut self-titled EP is probably the barest album in their entire catalogue and even if it may seem a little undercooked, Wonder For All serves up a refreshingly intimate collection of songs amongst all the danceable and more orchestrated pop as of late.

Running less than seven minutes, Wonder For All features a girl named Wendy and a ukulele plinking away various musings about love and more. She sings somewhere between a squeak and a hush, as if we are just sitting with her in her bedroom or sitting in the grass on a nice day.

I wouldn’t call these songs “confessional” or label them something silly like “bedroom pop,” they are more organic than that. This is the kind of stuff a friend would sing to you on a lazy afternoon while you should be studying instead. Songs like “Be Alright” and “Dream Dreamy” are barely songs in themselves, more like sweet musings, borrowing classic ukulele chord progressions to stimulate ideas and to distract from more important but less fun duties.

The song “Can’t Say It” is probably the closest thing I’d call to a song here, a cover no less, and Wendy’s voice really shines giving us a sweet dose of insecurity that sells it’s sincerity quite well more than any of the last few Wee Pop! releases.

For as short as Wonder For All is, there is a surprising amount of diversity and I think that is due to the casual nature of the delivery. I wouldn’t mistake this for laziness or amateur or even half-baked, Wonder For All has delivered a record that rewards listeners like any stimulating conversation can or good times with good friends. It is a moment in time and a wonderful one at that.

Wonder For All-"Dream Dreamy"

Wee Pop! Records site
Wonder For All on Myspace!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Spring Forward: A Wee Pop-Up Compilation (2008)

The first in a slew of brand new Wee Pop! Records releases I’ll be catching up on, Spring Forward: A Wee Pop-Up Compilation is an adorable little release and the first various artists album put out by Thor and Camila. Yes, it isn’t spring anymore, but with my schedule I missed spring somewhere between Wellington and Tokyo so I’m in the clear. Besides what better way is there to catch up on a season than to listen to a compilation of finely crafted pop so delicious you'll get diabetes.

Spring Forward features all brand new artists to the Wee Pop! label and one veteran. I find it hard to talk about it as a whole album, but really it’s a just a packet of sugary fun with melodies aimed to kill (or make babies).

Take for example the first track, “Spring Forward, Fall Over,” by The Deidres, this glorious number feels akin to an opener like “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band,” horns blazing, harmonies completely on fire and intentions exquisitely stated.

The next track, another favorite, “A Wonderful Year,” by Let’s Whisper is beautiful pop music done right. Simple, unpretentious delivery with a bit of marimba and light harmonies, the song captures so sweetly the feelings of those little epiphanies that make your heart swell. Nothing feels better than this.

I was a little disappointed by Little My’s entry, “Jumpers Back On,” because it feels a little too busy and downtrodden compared to the rest of the album. It’s a forgivable misstep as they have two wonderful Wee Pop! releases already in the can.

Previously I had written off The Hi-Life Companion as a poor man’s Shins, but I was so pleasantly surprised to hear their closer to Spring Forward, “Take A Leap At The Sun.” Beach Boys on an epic scale, this song propels the entire album and your body into summertime. This is the kind of music that plays as the credits begin to role in your favorite feel good movie.

Spring Forward: A Wee Pop-Up Compilation is just short of being a revolutionary pop comp that nevertheless rewards us with many new nuances in the pop scene only a record label such as Wee Pop! could deliver.

Let’s Whisper-“A Wonderful Year”

Wee Pop! Records site
The Deirdres on Myspace!
Let's Whisper on Myspace!
The Hi-Life Companion on Myspace!
Little My on Myspace!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Existential Hero's "New Zealand Trilogy" Is Available Now!

Spanning 7 months and three countries, the humorously dubbed "New Zealand Trilogy (The Storm Of The Century, The Great Sublime Melancholy! and Eating Grapes And Whale Bones)," is the newest, latest and greatest release from the human being known as Existential Hero. These albums have been carefully constructed to blow your mind.

Admittedly these albums are a bit self-indulgent, but it is fully appropriate.

I'm damn proud of these records and they run the gamut of styles, but contain only satires, flirtations with and deconstructions of the previous Existential Hero you thought knew. Don't worry, you won't remember the old records anymore after these three bad boys. For the first time instead of compromising between my actual abilities and my vision, these albums truly achieve the sounds I had in my head. If I had the budget these albums would come with footnotes and commentary.

The Storm Of The Century

Perhaps the least conceptual of the three, however it doesn't step down from the fight. It mostly focuses on frustration and all its manifestations: ranting, venting, worries, fears, gossip, primal scream, etc.

The artists that most directly influenced the album are Casiotone For The Painfully Alone, Tom Waits, Neutral Milk Hotel and Patrick Ripoll.

The Storm Of The Century

The Great Sublime Melancholy!

This was the first album concept I had dreamed up and is the most atmospheric of the three. It is an environment to get subsumed in, emotions to contemplate and feelings to ponder. The past, the future and the present are open books and web pages.

The artists that most directly influenced the album are Bob Dylan's Oh Mercy album, Chris Zabriskie, The Jesus & Mary Chain and The Motifs.

The Great Sublime Melancholy!

Eating Grapes And Whale Bones

This one came out of nowhere and quickly dominated. Aggression and fierce motivation are represented here and the refusal to step down. Everyone has a chance to be great, this is that acceptance of that challenge.

The artists that most directly influenced the album are Lil Wayne, Tinyfolk, The Roots and Outkast.

Eating Grapes And Whale Bones

There are a slew of collaborators including:
Mandie Russell
The Top Grossing Films Of 1984
The Elated Sob Story
Linguistic Banter
Your Yellow Dress

I'm so excited for all of you to listen and comment and turn these songs into your own. I can't wait to play them live for you. Thank you everyone for listening and especially those who have so so supportive the last 6 months.

Some last bit of housekeeping, if you are interested in ordering fancy handmade copies of any of these albums I will be able to start mailing them out in a few weeks. I am also in the process of ordering buttons and t-shirts but they most likely won't be available until August.

thank you again everyone, these albums are yours now.

Some Notes:

The individual tracks will be uploaded later tonight, now you can d/l the three albums as a .ZIP file.

The "thank you" section is different for all three albums.

to anyone I've sent "in progress" mp3s, you can delete em, these are the mastered proper versions. You can keep em if you are into collecting =P

Existential Hero's Myspace!
Existential Hero on CLLCT.com

Friday, July 4, 2008

Mp3 of the Week: "This (old) House" by Linguistic Banter

Hey folks still in Tokyo and amongst all the J-Pop and Hip Hop my new friend Grace, musically known as Linguistic Banner, has put up her first song on Myspace and let me tell you kids it's pretty darn fantastic.

Simply a soprano ukulele and rough, soulful (but young) voice, Grace sings a song that drips with a lot of nostalgia for someone who's fifteen.

I hate bringing in the age thing because unlike a lot of young musicians who play the ukulele or guitar she isn't angsty or "cute." I like "This (old) House" because it avoids all of the stereotypes that you could possibly tag her as being.

It isn't to say she is purposely avoiding these categories and feelings, but "This (old) House" is simply breezy without being cutesy, unassuming yet fueled with purpose, and melancholy without being heavy or angsty.

It's startling how original it sounds after a couple of listens, but I've listened to it more than that and you should too.

I can't wait for more.

Linguistic Banter-"This (old) House"

Linguistic Banter on Myspace!