A bridge too far.

For neutrals, the hype about Spurs’ best start since the double-winning season of 1960-61 has been about breaking into the top four, with the games against Man Utd and Chelsea the critical litmus tests. If that is indeed the case, then Spurs failed miserably and there’s no chance in hell that Spurs would threaten to improve on their best Premiership finish i.e. 5th.

But for most Spurs fans, the very idea of a top 4 finish is simply ludicrous especially when considering the quality of our players, the tactical nous of our manager and most of all, the refereeing bias towards the top 4 clubs. Howard Webb had of course irked us Spurs fans last season when he awarded a penalty for Man Utd at Old Trafford even though Gomes had played the ball and not the man. This time, Webb elected to decide that Cavalho had played the ball – impossible when you consider that Keane’s body was in the way – and not the man, when the Chelsea defender crucially tripped Keane in the penalty box.

The consequence was disasterous for Spurs. From having a real chance of equalizing, Spurs went 2 down and effectively the match was over. Is there a conspiracy in the Premier League to maintain the status quo? Ask Mark Hughes what he thinks after seeing an impossible 6 minutes being added on in the Manchester derby to facilitate Michael Owen’s late winner. It’s hard not to be cynical in such blatantly unjust circumstances.

However, to be totally objective, Spurs probably lost the game when the line-ups were decided. Redknapp opted for a five-man midfield – although it was not quite clear who was supposed to cover left midfield – Palacios? Keane? Whoever it was certainly was not doing his job as Chelsea exploited the huge void on our left flank and eventually went into the lead from a deep cross from the right.

That said, for a time before that goal, Spurs had the upper hand and should have taken the lead from efforts by Defoe, Huddlestone and Jenas. But the 2nd half brought one disaster after another – the rejected penalty claim, injuries to King and Bassong and two more goals down to poor defensive lapses.

To be honest, I am less concerned about the result than the impact of the injuries sustained. With King and Bassong joining Woodgate and Dawson on the injury list, there is a genuine defensive crisis at the club. Neither Corluka nor Huddlestone possess the speed or mobility to be effective central defenders and we are left with Dorian Dervitte to step up to the plate. Hopefully, the injuries to King and Bassong are not as serious as they looked.

With four winnable games coming up viz. Burnley (H), Bolton (A), Portsmouth (A) and Stoke (H), I believe that taking maximum points from these games is a bigger test of our credentials than the defeats against Man Utd and Chelsea. Redknapp must get the balance right and in Modric’s continued absence, play a genuine left-footer in the left midfield – either Kranjcar or Dos Santos. Most crucially, the ineffective Keane must make way for either Crouch or Pavlyuchenko to partner Defoe. The next month of games will more or less determine whether we’re top six contenders or middling underachievers.



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FINAL CRISIS by Morrison, Jones & Mahnke (DC)

Regular visitors to PoP would know that I don’t collect comic books anymore. The moment technological advances in special effects made super-hero movies a popular choice of film-goers, there was no longer any point. I mean, it used to be the case that you could only adequately tell a super hero tale in a comic book. Not any more. Super hero films like The Dark Knight, Watchmen, Iron Man, Incredible Hulk, Hellboy and the Spider-Man trilogy have dragged the super hero into the mainstream.

Another reason for quitting super hero comic books – jaded plotlines and regurgitated ideas – the creative equivalent of flogging a dead horse. Both major companies, Marvel and DC are guilty of this. DC, especially since the revitalising success of Crisis on Infinite Earths, have abused the concept of “crisis” with crossover events ad nauseum.

So enter: Final Crisis. Not sure if the word “final” is meant to be ironic especially when contrasted with the previous event, Infinite Crisis but for the sake of this medium, one can only hope that indeed this is the final crisis crossover event.

Don’t bet on it though.

As a story, Final Crisis fails on all counts. It is convoluted and does not have a consistent narrative. Characters slip in and out. Nothing makes any sense so I won’t even bore you with any generalities or specifics about the storyline. Bitterly disappointed to disover how far Grant Morrison has fallen…

Avoid. Avoid. Avoid.



STRANGEFINGER Into the Blue (SideBMusic)

The problem with a band in 2009 having classic pop-rock influences (if you can call it a problem) is that sometimes those very influences are so pervasive and so overwhelming that such bands tend to become derivative and worst, retrogarde. It’s all well and good preaching to the converted who may be easily impressed but beyond being able to reproduce the sounds and styles of their musical heroes, what can these bands offer to music fans in this day and age?

Yes, folks, you’re probably guessing that I’m going to say that the above paragraph does not apply to  Strangefinger. Well, yes and no. Sufe, this Californian band – Freddie Lemke (vocals, keyboards), Blake Engeldorf (bass), Patrick Mercier (guitar) and Joaquin Spengemann (drums) – which it seems, does not take the music of their forbears for granted. Of course, the keyboards-oriented material is closely aligned to classic pop-rock of the 70s, too close at times and definitely, criticism due to this fact may be levelled at the band.

That said, there is a looseness and healthy irreverence about the whole process that holds Strangefinger back from that particular abyss. There’s no doubt that Into the Blue will appeal to the fans of the Pop Underground, especially considering that Jellyfish’s Chris Manning produced the album. In addition, the knowing references to the Beach Boys (the early 70s version), Billy Joel, Harry Nilsson, 10cc (the Stewart-Gouldman edition) and the odd McCartney-isms on Into the Blue will endear it to powerpop fans rather effortlessly.


In the final analysis, Into the Blue is a collection of well-produced and highly crafted pop songs that whilst seemingly exists in a time bubble, I detect a certain verve and tenacity about the album that is pretty much hard to ignore or dismiss. I believe that Into the Blue is one of those musical works that requires a couple of listens before a full appreciation of its strengths may be discerned. Perhaps it’s more than a sum of its intelligent touches, smart moves and stylistic flourishes. Pop fans would do well to give it a chance to do so…



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VARIOUS ARTISTS Fame Original Soundtrack (Universal)

First the hype –

A reinvention of the original Oscar®-winning hit film, Fame.

The anticipated movie soundtrack of the season is out in stores now. Fame 2009 is a remake of the original musical & soundtrack made popular in the 80’s. The album features stunning tracks by the cast and other popular songs from the incredible film.

The movie opens on September 25th.

Track list – Welcome To P.A. – Raney Shockne/Fame – Naturi Naughton/Big Things – Anjulie/Ordinary People – Asher Book//This Is My Life – Hopsin, Ak’Sent, Tynisha Keli & Donte “Burger” Winston/Out Here On My Own – Naturi Naughton/Street Hustlin’ – Raney Shockne featuring Stella Moon/You’ll Find A Way (Switch & Sinden Remix) – Santigold/Can’t Hide From Love – Naturi Naughton & Collins Pennie/Black & Gold – Sam Sparro/Back To Back – Collins Pennie featuring Ashleigh Haney/I Put A Spell On You – Raney Shockne featuring Eddie Wakes/Get On The Floor – Naturi Naughton & Collins Pennie/Try – Asher Book/You Took Advantage Of Me – Megan Mullally/Too Many Women (Damon Elliott Remix) – Rachael Sage/Someone To Watch Over Me – Asher Book/You Made Me Love You – Raney Shockne featuring Oren Waters/Hold Your Dream – Naturi Naughton, Asher Book, Kay Panabaker

Now, here’s the review –

Is Hollywood running out of original ideas? Apparently so, if news of upcoming remakes is anything to go by. Here’s another, the Fame franchise, consisting of a movie and TV show, could very well be seen as a precursor of Disney’s highly popular High School Musical. So perhaps its not surprising that the Fame remake is being released in 2009 then.

This soundtrack album is really a collection of the songs performed in the movie and its a mixed bag of old standards (I Put A Spell On You, Someone To Watch Over Me), re-jigged versions of songs from the original (Fame, Out Here On My Own) and new R&B numbers (the rest…). The album doesn’t quite stand up on its own, I guess its not meant to be, but probably be better appreciated in the context of the movie…

Check to find out more on the soundtrack




ANDY KIRKLAND No Name Gallery (Ink Music)

Melbourne-based Kirkland used to front Aussie pop-rock band Lynchpin and No Name Gallery is his first solo venture. Lynchpin’s sophomore effort – Hand-Picked Words – was a firm favorite with yours truly and bascially, No Name Gallery delivers the same quality pop delights and thrills. On this solo debut, Kirkland favours the melodic invention (love that term) of Beatles/psych-rock influenced artists like Crowded House, Robyn Hitchcock, The La’s whilst leaving behind the more countrified elements found on Lynchpin’s Hand-Picked Words.

Let’s put it this way, if you’ve always liked the concept of Oasis i.e. Lennon-channeling singer fronting latter-era Beatlesque soundscapes BUT hated the half-baked, lazy and sloppy execution of the Gallagher brothers, then I strongly recommend Andy Kirkland’s No Name Gallery.

Official Site



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THE BEATLES Remasters: Stereo Box Set (Apple/EMI)

Like many others, I was skeptical (and a tad cynical) when news was released about the re-issue of the Beatles back catalogue in a new remastered CD format. In fact, days before the 090909 release date, I was convinced that I would only purchase selected titles. So here I am having acquired the stereo box set for a princely sum… with absolutely no regrets!

It’s seems odd that Apple/EMI took 22 years to remaster the first CD re-issue (back in 1987) but perhaps the delay was actually a blessing in disguise as obviously technological advances have resulted in a remaster package EVERY Fab Four fan will take pleasure in.

After the harsh, tinny, weak ambiance of the ’87 re-issues, listening to the remastered albums is akin to hearing these wonderful LPs for the first time again. No mere hyperbole dear PoP visitors – this is the real deal!

The improvement in the aural experience is shocking… vocals have greater clarity (harmonies can be easily distinguished), electric guitars are crisper, bass/drums are punchier and the balance of the musical components is perfect. The overall warmer sound is probably closest to the vinyl so far.

Considering that most of the albums were originally recorded and presented in mono, the fact that the stereo versions sound so “right” is a minor miracle and a credit to the engineers who toiled over the remastering over four years. The early albums really benefit from this process – the Please Please Me LP really springs from the traps and the recording is so fresh, it sounds like it was made yesterday.

Sgt Pepper is also a revelation – especially Fixing A Hole, She’s Leaving Home and Getting Better – as I always thought that even the stereo vinyl was possessed of a shoddy demeanour. Of course, my top 2 Beatles faves viz White Album & Abbey Road are simply sonically astounding e.g. Back in the USSR seems to rock harder, Dear Prudence’s guitar riffs chimes brighter, While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ organ resonates stronger, Here Comes the Sun’s synths shine through, Golden Slumber’s performance is more powerful and so on…

What more can I say? All my doubts have been proven wrong. If you are a Beatles fan (and I guess you are) then this box set is the holy grail and there’s no good reason not to add this to your Beatles collection. Oh, one more thing, the box also contains a DVD collecting the mini-documentaries found in Quicktime format on each disc and the samples of the remastered tracks sound even better there – does that mean a DVD-Audio version of this set can be expected soon? The mind boggles.

Official Site



Not the match Spurs wanted after having being comprehensively turned over by the champions – the league leaders at Stamford Bridge. Not a fixture that Spurs have won since 1990, history is firmly against Spurs returning to winning ways. On the positive side for Spurs, Chelsea are conceding more freely  but have often done enough to secure maximum points. If Spurs are to get anything out of this game, Harry Redknapp has to get the personnel and tactics spot on.

Against Man Utd, Redknapp weakened the midfield by asking Robbie Keane, a striker, to play at left midfield. With the quality that Chelsea have in the middle in the park i.e. Lampard, Ballack, Essien and Mikel, Redknapp cannot afford to pick less than his best. Based on availability, the midfield four must be Lennon, Palacios, Jenas and Kranjcar.

Upfront, I hope Redknapp continues with the Defoe-Crouch partnership. Yes, captain Keane must be dropped, for the sake of the team. Whilst, the loss to Man Utd had many Spurs fans muttering, “same old story”, I believe that this is the real test for Redkanpp and Spurs. Can they pick themselves up from that demoralising defeat to give Chelsea a game? I think they can and predict a score draw, maybe 1-1.




1. Why play music?

Well, I originally went in for arachnid real estate. And Daddy, did THAT venture have some long legs! All those abandoned webs, cluttering up an entire generation of musty attics! And the owners long dead, or off weaving retirement messages in Florida. I worked at Muffet, Curds, & Whey, a brokerage firm out of Tuscon. But along came an apocalyptic average, 4 customers eaten every night while we dream of things with only two legs, and frightened the business away. Music seemed the next logical step.

2. Who are your influences?

The Arthopods, Frank Zappa,  Hexathelidae’s Heroes, & Roy Wood

3. What is success?

Success is winning the ability and room to weave your own uncharted web, without compromise. Even if the flies tend to smack more understandable patterns.

4. Why should people buy your music?

I have a fool-proof plan for bettering the music industry, from both a financial and creative standpoint. Simply: the more notes played, the more you charge. We could expand this to include royalties for certain modulations and hemiolas. And if your record includes at least forty seconds of yodeling, you’re given a gift certificate to the Hard Rock Cafe and a Moody Blues Box-Set.

5. Who do you love?

I love a lot of things: my barbed wire collection (47 miles in total), my cobra necktie, my brand new house on the road side, which I made out of rattlesnake hide. I put a brand new chimney on top, made out of a human skull! But I probably love Arlene the best. She took me by the hand one night and said, “Bo, you know I understand.”

6. What do you hope to achieve with your music?

Well, I want people to LIKE it! And LISTEN to it! And maybe feel MOVED by it! And MAYBE even feel COMPELLED, after listening to it, to TWEET ABOUT IT IN CAPITAL LETTERS! I TOUGHT I TAW A PUTTY CAT!

7. Who comes to your gigs?

A lot of my old clients, actually. You’d never know it – and promoters obviously refuse to count them among the heads, often underestimating our pull by the 100s – but they’re up there in the rafters, spinning silken “ENCORES” from their butts.

8. What is your favorite album?


9. What is your favorite song?


“Maybe I should de-louse this place;

Maybe I should de-place this louse;

Maybe I’ll maybe my life away

in the confines of this silent house.”

10. How did you get here?

I hopped the nocturnal lily pads that pimple our strangest swamps, grabbed onto a silken thread falling aglow from the Red Spider Nebula, swung across a shattered meadow of glass, or maybe it was a fat angry river, landed on the other side atop a blind ostrich who ran panicking for miles until stopping short and catapulting me through history, past the icy frontiers of all technology, until I’m transmogrified into letters, punctuation marks, my body twisting in ways unhealthy, techno-blacksmiths burning me and hammering me into the sentences you are reading right now, the words resonating sublimely in your brain, turning into meanings, and that’s how I got here, but what happens to me once you stop reading this sentence?

Bryan Scary and the Shredding Tears’ Mad Valentines Ep is out now!



INCH CHUA The Bedroom Ep (Self-released)

Regular PoP visitors would be familiar with Inch as the dynamic frontperson of S-ROCK band Allura. And any one who has seen Allura live or listened to their debut EP – Wake Up and Smell the Seaweed – would be aware of the young lady’s energy and talent. All well and good within the context of the overall band environment but what if you took the singer out of the band?

What you end up with is The Bedroom Ep – four tracks that showcase Inch as the solo singer-songwriter – and true to form, the results are astonishing! Fans familiar with her work with Allura may be surprised by the range of Inch’s vocal, songwriting and arrangements on The Bedroom Ep. With rockist agendas shoved to the side, Inch’s folktronic pop leanings get an excellent airing to reveal a multi-facted artist.

The opening Rule the World is a veritable shot in the arm as electro-beats clash with breezy acoustic guitar and an engaging melody. Not only that but throw in vibes, Hawaiian slide guitar and inventive harmonies and you have an infectious tune that our radio stations should be falling over each other to play over the our staid airwaves.

Aqueous Oblivion delves into familiar Broadway musical tradition to describe a spiritual experience, Devotion in Reality is another stab at the past, this time a torchy jazz ballad, which reveals a level of maturity that belies Inch’s relative youth and Find Fix and Save is an arch synth-orchestral piece that succeeds on many different levels.

I must confess that I’m truly surprised by the depth of the songwriting/arrangements as it contains all the elements that I look for in good music making. What more can I say? Oh and its absolutely FREE. No reason whatsoever in the world not to get The Bedroom Ep.


Official Site


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Ironically, it all went wrong for Spurs in the first minute when BPL Player of the Month for August, Jermain Defoe, scored a spectacular acrobatic goal to put the Spurs fans in dreamland. Because, of course, Man Utd have made coming from behind to beat Spurs an artform and so it was not much of a surprise when Man Utd did exactly that to put an end to Spurs’ winning start to the season.

After their good start to the game, Spurs never got to grips with Man Utd’s midfield as well as the dropping off of Berbatov and Rooney into the hole behind Palacios and the back four. As a result, Palacios was caught in no man’s land having to deal with Man Utd’s midfield and Berbatov, which led to Palacio’s caution and a freekick from which Giggs equalised.

Tactically, Harry Redknapp got it all wrong with Keane totally out of his depth on the left side of midfield (in Modric’s absence). Perhpas the better decision would have been giving Krancjar his debut (he only came on for Keane in the 70th minute). Of course, this is all in hindsight. What is clear is that Spurs still have a long way to go if we are to challenge the so-called top four.

Still, looking at the cup as half-full, we are currently sitting in the top four, with four wins in five games, and perfectly poised to finish at least in the top six. Disappointed fans will do well to remember where we were this time last year…




In Singapore, any opportunity to get your music heard must be grasped with both hands (and feet, if possible). Especially if you’re new and starting out. Thankfully, in 2009, there are far more avenues to express one’s music in Singapore than there used to be. I guess there’s a greater recognition and understanding of the role that the creative arts play in our society, albeit belatedly.

Better late than never, I always say.

Chunk Fest 2009 was Ben & Jerry’s way of giving back to the S-ROCK scene, having bands write an original song relating to the theme of “peace, love & ice cream”, auditioning these songs before Jack & Rai, with the winning bands performing at Chunk Fest (held at the Marina Barrage) and the resultant live recordings being collected on a CD.

I basically planned my Chunk Fest visit around the performances of Cove Red (above) and Indus Gendi (below). Getting to Marina Barrage was a bit of a hassle. After leaving the Marina Bay MRT station, I waited for around 20 minutes in the baking hot sun for the shuttle bus. It took another 10 minutes to reach the Barrage and after a call to Keith found the venue. By that time, I was hot and bothered, met Rach, Yinky and the gang, Keith, Jack & Rai.

Cove Red were supplemented by percussion and cello, which certainly made them distinct from the other bands. Unfortunately, the sound was a little too harsh and saturated for their acoustic set-up. That said, the quartet delivered a delightful performance of melodic, thoughtful, folky songs. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much of a crowd at the front of the stage (it was 3 plus in the afternoon) but that’s often the challenge for S-ROCK bands. I really loved the new songs – Sarah and Taste of Life – vibrant, mellifluous pieces.

I first saw Indus Gendi about two years ago and was impressed by a song called Then and Now (which to my chagrin, they don’t perform anymore). Well, the band has certainly come a long way since “then”. Indus Gendi “now” has Adam on drums (where he is at his best, no doubt, one of the finest young drummers in Singapore), Leonard on bass and vocals as well as Mel on backing vocals. Thus on many of the songs, there actually are three-part harmony vocals going on, which is pretty unique amongst S-ROCK bands, for sure. Also, they appear to be veering away from the more emo-centric material and moving towards a more eclectic jazz-pop direction, which I very much approve of. Esther was in fine vocal form and cuts an intriging figure up front although I still believe that she should take on vocal duties only and let Mel play keyboards as well. But that’s just me.

Two S-ROCK bands to watch out for, the potential is immense and I hope that they will get the attention and exposure that they deserve.

Rachael Teo Myspace

Indus Gendi Myspace



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Alright, here’s the skinny on Noise: The Apprenticeship Program.

Mentor. Recording. Performances.

Need I say more?

Okay, maybe I should. In my humble opinion, TAP offers young singer-songwriters and bands a rare opportunity to learn from mentors who have the experience and know-how to pass along a couple of useful tips. Not only that but you will have a multitude of opportunites to hone your craft – all under the guidance of the afore-mentioned mentors.

Believe me when I say that I wish we had something like TAP 30 years ago, when I was 18! So, please, if you’re an aspriring singer-songwriter or band, don’t pass up this chance. All you need to do is to submit a write-up and recordings of two original songs. Closing date is 27 September.

More info at the official site.




COLBIE CAILLAT Breakthrough (Universal Republic)

This is the new pop? I’m sorry but it’s hard not be cynical when confronted by an artist like Colbie Caillat. I mean, how could she fail? With her long blonde tresses and pretty face, she would always turn heads and get attention. Oh and the fact that her father, Ken, is a successful record producer and worked on Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours and Tusk albums, I’m sure did not hurt, either.

The songs are pleasing enough, if a tad predictable, and Caillat’s has a good enough voice to carry the tunes but there’s a nagging suspicion that its all too pre-fabricated to be taken seriously. This is the kind of middle-of-the-road wallpaper music that the likes of Olivia Newton-John would bore us with in the mid-70s. Surely, with his connections, papa Caillat would have been able to come up with better songs – who knows get the great Lindsay Buckingham to contribute, maybe?

For casual pop fans only.



BRYAN SCARY & THE SHREDDING TEARS Mad Valentines EP (Simian/Old Flame)

After two critically acclaimed super-duper powerpop albums, Bryan Scary & the Shredding Tears return with a new EP that continues to enhance their reputation as the finest sophisticated powerpop band since the demise of the legendary Jellyfish. Like Jellyfish, Bryan Scary reaches back into the misty depths of time to pluck out such gorgeous pop influences like ELO, Supertramp, Zombies, Queen and XTC, to name but few.

From the moment the frenetic piano opens the EP with the hyperactive Andromeda’s Eyes, you know you’re in for a rare treat. I mean, its tongue-in-cheek humour blended in with instrumental virtuosity and melodic invention to top it all off! From then on, the creative peaks keep coming, almost impossibly, as Scary as his crack band deliver a veritable treatise on the joys of 70s classic pop-rock.

There’s the jazzy R&B feel of (Its A) Gambler Whirl, the bouncy Jeff Lynne-channeling The Garden Eleanor, the wistful classical Maria Saint Clare, the soaring cinematic Bye Bye Babylon and the jaunty Beatlesque The Red Umbrella to fulfil every pure pop fantasy.

Powerpop fans need not hesitate. Get your Mad Valentines now!




They don’t get bigger than Man Utd. But the reigning champions actually visit White Hart Lane one place below Spurs with three points less! After four straight victories, this (and next week’s game at Stamford Bridge) will be the first real tests (yeah, not even counting Liverpool anymore) for this high-flying Spurs team.

On the injury front, the news isn’t too good – Modric, Woodgate and Dawson out – with Bassong hopefully able to recover from a knock suffered during the international break to partner the fit-again Ledley King. The question really is how Redknapp deals with the absence of Modric. Will he put Keane on the left of midfield and play Crouch with Defoe – which he did with great impact against Birmingham in the 2nd half of the last Spurs match. Or will Niko Kranjcar make his Spurs debut in the Modric role?

I have a feeling that Spurs will continue their “hot” form and defeat the Red Devils for the first time in years by a narrow margin. All, of course, remains to be seen. Match of the week? No contest.




1. Why play music?

Because that’s what i was put on this earth to do. Every bit of my ability points to me doing that. So i do..

2. Who are your influences?

The Beatles. Tom Petty. Wings. Springsteen. Motown. The last few generations of great pop music. My family.

3. What is success?

Being able to wake up every day next to the girl of my dreams, hug my happy kids and go off and make music.

4. Why should people buy your music?

I think a lot of people would really like it. It’s got melody, good production, is easy to listen to, and i think, especially with this new record, that a lot of people could identify with what i’ve written about.

5. Who do you love?

Wife. Kids. Parents and siblings. And i’m lucky enough to have a wonderful circle of friends that i love and appreciate very much. I also think i’m ok too, even though most people would never say that about themselves (though they should!!)

6. What do you hope to achieve with your music?

I hope to achieve that perfect time capsule, where the songs, the playing and the production come together and create a perfect representation of how i feel at THAT moment.

7. Who comes to your gigs?

Not as many people as i’d like..

8. What is your favorite album?

The Beatles – Revolver. (This week.)

9. What is your favorite song?

The Beatles – Hey Jude (surprisingly)

10. How did you get here?

I was too stubborn to turn back

Michael Carpenter’s new album Redemption #39 is out now.



To accompany the review of the new Joe Pernice disc, I thought I’d dig up an old interview with the singer-songwriter from 1999.

“I guess I would describe my music as pop music, a little morose. I love a melody.”

Joe Pernice believes in the power of pop. Enough to leave behind the relative security of neo-country roots-rock and Scud Mountain Boys to chart a new path and direction.

The result: Pernice Brothers’ debut disc – “Overcome by Happiness” – which enthralled and touched pop fans of all persuasions. Personally, the album helped me greatly during a difficult time in my life, the 2nd half of 1998.

It is therefore a great privilege to present Joe’s responses to some of my humble questions here in the Power of Pop…

How did “Chappaquiddick Skyline” come about?

I had a collection of songs that felt different than the Pernice Brothers material, that I wanted to record at home in a relaxed manner. This record was done on eight track over a period of two and a half months. The recording of the record was so low key that Thom Monahan and I joked that it never really happened.

Why “Chappaquiddick Skyline”?

I wanted a grim Massachusetts related title and I think we got one.

Considering the personnel involved (Thom Monahan, Peyton Pinkerton etc), isn’t this really a Pernice Brothers album?

No, because only three of the twelve or so people on Chappaquiddick Skyline are on Overcome by Happiness. Besides that, the records just feel very different to me stylistically.

What is the difference, if any, between the approaches taken on “Overcome by Happiness” and “Chappaquiddick Skyline”?

Well, I didn’t want the songs to be as lush on this record as the last. I wanted this record to have a more lazy feel. Plus, as I answered earlier, we did this record at home over a much longer period of time. Chappaquiddick Skyline was recorded in pretty much the dead of winter, and here in New England that means something; the record was done mostly in the dark. We sucked lemons to keep the scurvy from getting us.

The response to “Overcome by Happiness” was generally very positive – how do you feel about that?

I’m very glad that people like that record. It meant a lot to me to make that record. It was the first one I did without the Scud Mountain Boys, and I think it’s a better record than any of the Scud Mountain Boys albums. It was a real blast to make. Very exciting time for me.

Is there anything about “Overcome by Happiness” that you regret? That if you had to chance to do it again, you would do it differently?

I guess you always want to change little things here and there. For the most part I like it the way it is. I’d like the next one to be more lush, more sounds. We had a pretty tight schedule when we made that record. I don’t think I would make that kind of record again in so little time.

Your work has been (favourably) compared to the Beach Boys, Big Star, Nick Drake, Zombies etc. Are these comparisons fair to and representative of your work? What comparisons would you use if you had to describe your music to someone who has never heard you before?

All of those comparisons make me a bit nervous because I know I am a tiny talent compared to all of those you mentioned. It’s flattering in the most disturbing of ways. I guess I would describe my music as pop music, a little morose. I love a melody.

What are the benchmarks you use for your art? What do you hope to achieve each time you finish an album?

I always try to make sure I am honestly putting something of myself into the songs. I never want to feel like I’m putting one over on the listener. If I’m not emotionally connected to the song, and if it wasn’t a ton of fun writing the song, it’s not worth it. For me, writing and recording songs is an unbelievable pleasure. I think I write so often because I want to repeat the feeling. I’m exactly like one of those laboratory rats that gets the cocaine reward every time it presses the button over and over. Obviously I want people to like my music or I wouldn’t release records. Whether or not I continue to release records, I will continue to write and record until it is no longer fun.

What influenced the songs on “Chappaquiddick Skyline”?

The songs on Chappaquiddick Skyline were inspired by one person. This record is a love letter of sorts.

That is a very interesting story used in the promo (see below) – is it at all true? And how does it relate to the material on “Chappaquiddick Skyline”?

The story in the promo is true. I guess I meant to suggests that sometimes things/people/songs that don’t fit into a particular situation are lucky enough to find a spot in time. If I hadn’t had a break from the Pernice Brothers stuff, these songs surely would have vanished. I doubt I would have made this record at another time.

What can you tell us about the back story to songs like “Everyone Else is Evolving”, “Solitary Swedish Houses”, “Courage Up”, “Breakneck Speed”, “Theme to an Endless Bummer” and especially “The Two of You Sleep”?

Oh God, it’s like this: When I mention to my girlfriend that I’ve just written a new song, she always asks what’s it about? I say, the usual: fear of death, despair, loss, a desire to connect, love, infidelity (mine and theirs) and a love of life that I just can’t seem to shake.

Why did you cover New Order’s “Leave Me Alone” when it seems to be out of synch with the rest of the album?

It’s simply a great song. I actually thought it was right in synch with the album. Maybe it’s a stretch stylistically, but I think the album, including that song, pretty much mines the same emotional ground.

Are there any other influences you have that would surprise people familiar with your work?

I love the Clash, the Jam, the Sex Pistols, Dinosaur Jr., Guided By Voices, Billy Childish, oh lots of people.

What can we expect from the next “official” Pernice Brothers album? When can we expect it?

Let me answer that one in another month. I will say, the wheels are turning.

Thank you, Joyce Linehan.

That promo story as promised:

“Not every kid makes the team. They’re almost always good kids. Maybe a little overweight, maybe they think with the other side of their brains, who knows? I used to know this kid who really wanted to be a good hockey player. He had all the desire, but was simply too nice a guy. Once, during a particularly frustrating game, he popped his main spring and started screaming and punching the glass like a maniac. The whole crowd, the underemployed fathers half in the bag, the mothers starving for love, the young kids with their pizza-burned mouths and new, disturbing thoughts of copulation, froze and were actually silent for what seemed like an hour. I think I was ten. Needless to say, that kid didn’t return for the next period, or the next game, or to school. Soon no one heard from him at all. It was as if he dissolved, and as I grew up, I’d wonder about him. A couple years ago I learned he was some hot-shot physicist, probably more well adjusted than many of us, certainly me. And he did have a pretty fair wrist shot. Not every kid makes the team. The songs on Chappaquiddick Skyline are a lot like that kid.” Joe Pernice


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JOE PERNICE It Feels So Good When I Stop (Ashmont)

Sub-titled “Novel Soundtrack”, this new Joe Pernice album is not per se a proper Joe Pernice album in the sense that Big Tobacco or Chappaquiddick Skyline was. In fact, the music here is meant to function as a soundtrack (promo also?) for Pernice’s new book of the same title. Yes, folks, not content at being one of the finest singer-songwriters of his generation, Pernice is now also a published novelist.


“I had always thought of Del Shannon as being right down there with Pat Boone. Why? Because I didn’t know what the fuck I was talking about.”

Yes, there are excerpts of Pernice’s book (narrated by the man himself) littered throughout the album with the soundtrack operating as a mixtape of covers of Pernice’s personal faves (I presume). So we get songs from Plush, Del Shannon, Sebadoh, Dream Syndicate, Todd Rundgren – even one from Mary Poppins – rendered in Pernice’s trademarked melancholy country-folk-rock style (with 80s post punk/new wave undercurrent).

Well, there is one original, the gorgeous (what else?) Black Smoke (No Pope) – an instrumental, no less – which really makes you wish that Pernice would bless us with a new Pernice Brothers album soon…

As the album closes with a morose Hello It’s Me, the significance of the title hits home, remember that bad joke about this guy banging his head against the wall repeatedly and being asked why he was doing so… there you have it…

Sure, It Feels So Good When I Stop – novel soundtrack – is a definite oddity but as an exercise of song interpretation, it’s definitely worth checking out, whether you get the novel or not.

Official site




MICHAEL CARPENTER Redemption #39 (Big Radio)

It’s been a while since Australia’s most consistent purveyor of pristine powerpop released an album of original material (since 2004’s Rolling Ball, if I’m not wrong, not counting SOOP#2 and the Cuban Heels side project) but finally the new Michael Carpenter album’s here!

And really, if you’re a fan of Elvis Costello, Tom Petty, the Beatles, the Beach Boys, Crowded House, then hooking up with Carpenter’s authentic powerpop (laced with country-folk influences as well) is a no-brainer. After all, its breezy melodies, tight musicianship, sweet harmonies and quality production work will easily win over any (true) pop lover.

On Redemption #39, Carpenter spreads his wings a little wider with a song like the King of the Scene, a brilliant evocation of Queen and ELO (as well as Jellyfish) that hits all the right spots. A little more mannered and structured than usual for Carpenter’s music but it’s a pleasant surprise.

By and large, its par for the course – the Beatlesque pop of Can’t Go Back, the bouncy twangy title track, the rollicking Workin’ for a Livin’, the soulful Don’t Let Me Down Again, the Fannies-channeling I Want Everything – evidence that Carpenter is still on top of his game. Good news for all powerpop fans everywhere!

Official site



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Date: 11 Sept 2009

Time: 8pm

Venue: Crawl Space, North Bridge Road – above Straits Records, Singapore

Bands: We GANG, CloseApart, Etc, The Guilt

There’s a decidedly “old-school” 90s vibe about this gig. We GANG is fronted by Adrian Bestium (ex-Rocket Scientists), the Guilt features Dino (out of Force Vomit), CloseApart can boast Harold Seah (formerly of the Dongs) and of course, there’s Ben Harrison’s Etc…whom y’know…

Don’t miss it!



DAVID BAZAN Curse Your Branches (Barsuk)

Remember, Pedro the Lion? I do. Listening to PtL’s dark songs about power, corruption & lies with lyrics like ““you were too busy steering the conversation toward the lord/ To hear the voice of the spirit begging you to shut the fuck up” in Foregone Conclusions (off Achilles’ Heel), I never got the impression that PtL was your typical “Christian” band.

So how come the bulk of the press focus for the full length debut album of Bazan (the voice and brains behind PtL) is centred on Bazan’s recent crisis of faith then? Especially when a cursory glance at the lyrics of the songs on Curse Your Branches reveals an ongoing pre-occupation with the God that Bazan claims to no longer believe in. Does it really matter? Who really knows what is going on in someone’s heart and soul?

Sure, we have such priceless pearls of wisdom as – “wait just a minute/you expect me to believe/that all this misbehaving grew from one enchanted tree and helpless to fight it/we should all be satisfied with this magical explanation for why the living die and why it’s hard to be/hard to be, hard to be a decent human being” off the opening Hard To Be.

No better way to set the tone for Bazan’s “descent” into sacrilege, surely.

On the title track, Bazan appears to be railing at his creator when he cries – “all fallen leaves should curse their branches for not letting them decide where they should fall and not letting them refuse to fall at all”. Similarly on “When We Fell”, Bazan questions – “if you knew what would happen and made us just the same then you , my lord, can take the blame”.

You get the gist. On the closing In Stitches, Bazan sums up his current state of mind – “i might as well admit it/like i even have a choice/the crew have killed the captain/but they still can hear his voice/a shadow on the water/a whisper in the wind/on long walks with my daughter/who is lately full of questions/about you”.

Highly personal & confessional lyrics are what we all look for in our tortured singer-songwriters, isn’t it? And Bazan has certainly delivered, laying his soul bare for all to view. Doesn’t help when the music (a fine blend of country-folk-rock, electronic touches and muscular in-your-face performances – mainly by Bazan himself) is some of the most affecting, pleasing alt-rock you’re probably going to hear in 2009.

Hard to highlight favorites as the entire album deserves full attention but I would say that tracks like the rollicking Bearing Witness (that recalls Elvis Costello), the harrowing folksy Please, Baby, Please, the ethereal Neil Young-channeling Lost My Shape and of course, the spine tingling closer, In Stitches, do leave me opened mouth, misty-eyed and awed.

Yes, the back story to Curse Your Branches does give its material resonance and relevance, but beyond that as a reviewer I choose to take the album at its own merits and on that basis, it is a well-crafted musical work, with lyrical concepts that require further study and songs that bear repeat plays for maximum enjoyment. In other words, an album that amply demonstrates the Power of Pop…

My highest recommendation.

Official Site




A shorter version of this interview was published in BigO Magazine sometime in 1999 (10 years ago!)

Sean O’Hagan is a bona fide musical pioneer. With his band The High Llamas, O’Hagan has brought back the pop artistry of the 50s and 60s and placed it in a modern context. In this telephone interview, I found O’Hagan to be warm and friendly, an artist with vision, imagination, insight and intelligence.

Kevin: Where are you calling from?

Sean: I’m in North Wales.

Kevin: What are you doing there?

Sean: We’re playing a show tonight with the Super Furry Animals.

Kevin: Fantastic!

Sean: Are you a fan of theirs?

Kevin: Yeah!

Sean: Great.

Kevin: That’ll be quite some show…

Sean: We’ve been touring with them for a couple of weeks now…

Kevin: My mind is blown!

Sean: Yes, they’re amazing.

Kevin: What was it like hanging out with the Beach Boys?

Sean: Very odd, really. Carl was a very nice guy, Al was too. Mike was very odd, as you probably know – he’s odd. Bruce was very business-like. And the agenda was very strange because Bruce Johnston was keen to have some kind of involvement with the High Llamas on a new Beach Boys project. I was on tour with them for a few days in America and played a few songs with them. It was so pleasant – nice food, knocking around hotels, some interesting conversation. The record company wanted me to talk to them about what they should do on their next record, what they shouldn’t do – I found that to be a bit odd, a bit strange. I think it was a surreal experience when I think about it. I saw Brian Wilson separately; I didn’t see him with the Beach Boys.

Kevin: What was it like meeting him?

Sean: Very child-like, very enthusiastic, didn’t really understand what was going on around him. It was kind of a business proposition for him to make this record with the Beach Boys again. But he was a little confused about who was making the business proposition and why. Then he lost interest in the whole discussion and went off to play the piano by himself! Again, very pleasant guy obviously but quite disconnected seems to be the best way to describe him.

Kevin: Yeah, kind of sad.

Sean: Yes.

Kevin: Why Snowbug?

Sean: I like the idea of names being unpredictable, incongruous. I like names with words that have nice shapes and colours. I like the idea of evocative prose. Snowbug as far as I know is an invention – it’s fictitious, slightly surreal and it’s a lovely shape. And it doesn’t reflect anything that’s going on in the music. Which I think is very important – it’s almost deceptive with information so that you don’t let on about what’s going to happen on the record.

Kevin: It’s off the last track isn’t it?

Sean: Yeah.

Kevin: Which has an even more surreal title – “Cut the Dummy Loose” (in unison with Sean) – and when you listen to it, it’s really melancholic and a bit nostalgic. I read a reviewer describe your music as ‘nostalgic’, do you see it that way at all?

Sean: I suppose it is. It’s just the way you use melody – it’s really down to the chords we use, the sort of arrangements we use have that kind of lamentable feelings, it’s almost like timeless. A lot of pop music doesn’t investigate that sort of sound – it’s about making an impact, you hear it in an instant. A very ordinary big noise in an instant whilst we like the idea of being less obvious in arrangement and subtle, working on the senses over a period of time, drawing the listener into the experience.

Kevin: If you had to describe the High Llamas’ music, how would you?

Sean: Avant garde instrumental pop I suppose.

Kevin: Impressionistic pop, yeah?

Sean: Impressionistic is good as well.

Kevin: Do you sometimes feel that maybe it’s too overwhelming for the casual pop listener?

Sean: We do music because it reflects the music we’re inspired by. I can’t see the point in making music that is consumer-based, cynical music that basically responds to market demands – that’s catered for massively. I think we’re offering an alternative. You make music because you’re compelled to, you almost got a human need to do it. You want to put together chord changes that make you feel –

Kevin: Chills down spine.

Sean: I would hope that’s what the record made you feel. And you want to put together interesting arrangements, take a few risks. It almost like a need. So that’s essentially why I do it. We were very lucky that a lot of people around the world who respond to this and even though I like the idea of pop music as an egalitarian shared experience, it’s not commerce. I hate to say it but it’s more art than commerce.

Kevin: Looking back at your music, from Gideon Gaye, the one songs that stands out a bit differently would be “Checking In Checking Out” and that did have some attention and  radio play. But since then I don’t think you’ve done anything like that.

Sean: That song worked on Gideon Gaye because it sounded so peculiar. Gideon Gaye was this strange impressionistic cut-up. It’s almost like a film. The film always has a big song and the big song was “Checking In Checking Out”. And that was similar to the music we made in 1992 on an album called Santa Barbara which was very harmony based, bit like the Byrds, Alex Chilton with lots of acoustic guitars. But we didn’t want to make music like that anymore. That’s the kind of music that’s made today by ordinary people, ordinary bands that don’t have any imagination, Like Catatonia, people like that. They just do their run-of-the-mill pop and we want to make music that’s different –

Kevin: Challenging.

Sean: Yeah, a challenging alternative. And it would be crazy for us to go out and do jangle, guitary sing-a-long vibe that is definitely present on “Checking In Checking Out”. It’ll be completely stupid for us to do that, because we’d be doing it for commercial reasons and not for artistic reasons. We’d be miserable people. We might be rich but –

Kevin (laughs): That’s a great answer. Gideon Gaye came out in 1994, it’s been 4 albums since then, how much has changed?

Sean: We were listening to bits of electronic music around Gideon Gaye but there wasn’t anything around that we could grab and involve ourselves with. That definitely happened in 95 – 96 when the whole electronic scene exploded. A lot of people like Air, Mouse on Mars and obviously O’Rourke in America. A lot of people working with new contemporary music. I think we, totally by accident, were taken aboard by those people and we took their music on board. There was a global response to the music that was happening that we were involved in – a globalisation of left field music. That’s the biggest change. Snowbug doesn’t reflect that as much as Cold and Bouncy did. The reason for that is because since Cold and Bouncy, it’s all gone a bit tame and the major companies are coming in with dull extractions of electronica. It’s getting less interesting now so I think we ought to be working in an odder area – back to 2 inch tape analog real time recording with odder sounds was the best move to make. It’s really important for us to be original.

Kevin: That’s quite obvious from your albums. I was looking at your bio and you seem to be very prolific. If you’re not doing something with the High Llamas, you’re doing something with Stereolab or somebody else. What’s the secret behind that?

Sean: It’s a pleasure to work on other people’s music – you learn things you work on different tunes, you meet people, you get ideas, you get inspiration. It’s not a big deal really – there’s 12 working hours in a day. There’s a lot of time. A lot of the time, we’re not doing that much really. When you’re asked to work on something that is challenging and rewarding, you do it because you might not get that opportunity again.

Kevin: That has changed a lot. In the 60s, top bands had to do an album every six months and tour as well, you cram everything in. Nowadays, you see people releasing albums after 7 years! It’s a refreshing change –

Sean: Like Radiohead taking three years to make a new album. They travel around the world, do a bit of rehearsing in Switzerland, in America and essentially they going over the same songs over and over again. They’re not inspired and they’ve got money and they’re lazy and they can’t be bothered. That’s what happens- money brings complacency. Gets pretty boring in the way they produce music.

Kevin: Yeah! I agree. I remember reading an article once about U2 recording one of their recent albums – they spent about three months recording, realized they didn’t like it, scrap the whole thing and started again!

Sean: Maybe they did that because on the first time they did it they didn’t feel committed to it – they weren’t hungry enough to make the music.

Kevin: There’s one thing I’ve never understood about you and your music. It’s so cinematic in its approach and scope, how come no one has ever approached you to score a film?

Sean: Two things. We have just done a small soundtrack for a film called Sunburn made by Nelson Hume for Woody Allen’s film company. It was actually done in 4 days and should be out next year-

Kevin: Great!

Sean: Second thing is, I don’t know whether you’ve noticed but most film soundtracks don’t have great scores anymore. What they have is a whole list of hits – what happens is the producer will say, “How much money is this film going to earn?” then they say, “Well, you know, this kind of film if we do well at the box office, $40 million.” Then they say, “Listen, if we get a great soundtrack record together, we could sell maybe 20,000 copies and that’s another form of income ok?” What they do is they get all the hit songs of the last six months and they whack them in the film. The idea of writing great scores like Morricone or John Barry doesn’t seem to be important anymore. There are some people doing good things – for us, writing a score which has an experimental or impressionistic vibe like some of the Italian B-movie soundtracks, that’s a nightmare for a Hollywood producer.

Kevin: Yeah, what really pisses me off is watching a movie and finding out it’s an extended music video.

Sean: Exactly. It’s so boring. There’s so many opportunities. Film is so important as a 20th century artform – the idea of putting together great music with great visuals is the ultimate experience and it’s wasted because little men make films without any big ideas. It’s such a pity.

Kevin: Is there such a thing as an average High Llamas fan?

Sean: A lot of High Llamas fans are slightly overweight males in their 30s. But I’m glad to say that over the years, the age range has been getting lower. We get people in their early 20s but we also get people in their late 40s. And there are those people who come because of the West Coast connections and others due to the electronic associations. We do cross the board quite a bit.

Sean: How do you feel about this Beach Boys association?

Kevin: It only gets annoying when journalists get lazy. When there’s an intelligent question about the association, when they ask you about arrangements and how it relates to the Beach Boys, you can explain that but when you get the lazy kind of critic that says that we’re not trying, that it’s retro – but that’s becoming rarer…

Kevin: I think that’s the whole problem for artists and bands influenced by the 60s, they always have these accusations thrown at you.

Sean: To be quite honest, it depends on how you do it. There are some people who work with those influences and they don’t do anything with those influences. They borrow everything – the look, the idea wholesale – they don’t try to change anything, they don’t try to re-contextualize anything and I think those people are open to fair criticism. Like Ocean Colour Scene-

Kevin: (laughs) I was just talking to them that day…

Sean: Well, I actually think they’re lazy – they want to buy into the culture wholesale whereas we recognize that we’re in the 90s. We take our influences from the 50s and 60s and mix them up with contemporary influences and re-contextualize things. I don’t like to be rude about people.

Kevin: Well, you’re being honest…I noticed that there doesn’t seem to be much banjo on Snowbug…

Sean: There’s a little bit on “Bach Ze” and some on the middle eight of “Cut the Dummy Loose”. That’s about it – well, it’s done to the song, if the song required it. We had loads of African percussion on this record.

Kevin: I really like the nylon strings-

Sean: The gutstrings. Yeah, that’s another thing, it’s very nice for a record to have an identity.

Kevin: And are those wah-wahs I keep hearing?

Sean: Straight organs wah-wahs – we put organs, Rhodes and Wurlitzers through them.

Kevin: Great old school keyboard sound.

Sean: Exactly.

Kevin: I’ve always been curious about your recording process, do you do it ‘live’ in the studio?

Sean: This record was done a lot of it was done ‘live’ with a rudimentary drum kit, gutstring acoustic guitar but we tend to spend a lot of time in the studio tinkering with sound – trying to get a vibe going like the right keyboard sound. We experiment with the filtering and the processing a bit and we finally find the sound – I’m sure a lot of people work like this. The songs are written and the arrangements are pretty much there, it’s the tinkering of sound that takes a lot of time. Things like gutstring acoustic – they get done pretty quickly. Strings and brass, they happened in an afternoon.

Kevin: That’s amazing. Were the songs written in the studio?

Sean: The songs were written before we went into the studio but the arrangements were improvised in parallel in collaboration in the studio.

Kevin: So how long did the whole thing take?

Sean: We started writing over a year ago, the recording process took about 2 months and 3 weeks to mix.

Kevin: And John McIntire (Tortoise) was involved?

Sean: He was the mixer in America at Steve Albini’s studio.

Kevin: It’s funny cos obviously there’s an association with Stereolab and Tortoise but these bands have a more atonal approach…

Sean: Yeah, they work with more dissonance whilst we are fans of more harmonic development, whereas Stereolab and Tortoise will work with more layers of sound. We start with chords – I think Stereolab are getting closer to that, working with chords – that’s our starting point and then we investigate sounds and layers. We interpret music slightly differently but we do share an awful lot beyond that.

Kevin: I think the great touch on this album is having Mary and Laetitia on vocals.

Sean: I’m glad you liked that because much as I like singing, I really like the idea of contrasting voices. I also like the idea of a record with an element of surprise – you don’t know what’s going to happen and it’s not about one singer and one voice and the band backing that voice and that’s really boring. I love the idea of – you know even when I’m using my voice, I’ll get Marcus (Holdaway – LLamas keyboard player) and sometimes we’ll sing together in harmony and then we’ll take a verse and the chorus will be taken by Mary or Mary and Laetitia will take a song together. It’s a real celebration. It’s really like some Brazilian record that we listen to – real kind of mix of vocals on the record.

Kevin: Will you ever use a vocoder?

Sean: Vocoder? We don’t use it with voices, we use it in different ways. On Cold and Bouncy, we put an organ through it and a drum machine. Like Glide Time, the drums are triggering the vocoder and organ. So the drums have this organ edge.

Kevin: I have this idea about where pop is going, more or less…

Sean: Where do you think it’s going?

Kevin: Textures and density. Obviously High Llamas comes into that and I know you have strong opinions about your music and what works and what doesn’t work, so my question is – who are your peers?

Sean: Nakamura in Japan; obviously Stereolab and Jim O’Rourke; Lampchop; Broadcast maybe-

Kevin: What about Mercury Rev?

Sean: More on the last album than the new one, I think See You On The Other Side is a great record – one of the best of the 90s. I’m not that big a fan of Deserter Songs.

Kevin: The Flaming Lips?

Sean: Absolutely. Tortoise and Air.

Kevin: Have you heard of this American band called Wondermints?

Sean: Apparently, they’re touring with Brian Wilson, aren’t they? I met them actually – we played in LA and they came to see us. I’ve never heard their music…

Kevin: The album’s pretty good.

Sean: Is it? Right. Labradford, that’s another important American band.

Kevin: What’s next?

Sean: Touring I hope, beginning next year. Japan definitely on the cards, we’ll get to America some stage-

Kevin: Singapore?

Sean: Singapore? If we had a promoter who would be prepared to lose a lot of money –  I think we only sell about 400 records in Singapore.

Kevin: Sean, it’s a crime.

Sean: But that’s the reality of it, isn’t it?



THE APPLES IN STEREO #1 Hits Explosion (Yep Roc)

I don’t mean to be rude but it doesn’t matter what kind of music you may personally dig, you need this truly awesome compilation in your life and like, NOW! Sure, the title is ironic but that’s irrelevant as this album takes the listener through 16 high-octane sweet chunks of pure melody. Believe me, swallowing this album whole will give you a sugar rush you’ll never forget.

You want genres? Well, powerpop, bubblegum, sunshine pop, merseybeat, jangle pop, freak beat, psych rock (and so on) are covered with much aplomb (and dollops of fun). Influences? Too many to mention but if it makes you feel any better, Beach Boys, Beatles, the Byrds, the Move, ELO et al.

#1 Hits Explosion is the perfect introduction-sampler to the wondrous delights of the Apples in Stereo, once you’ve picked up this gorgeous item you would do well then to check out them albums e.g. Tone Soul Evolution, Her Wallpaper Reverie and The Discovery of a World Inside the Moone.

So, what are you waiting for?

Official site




J. TILLMAN Year in the Kingdom (Western Vinyl)

You may listen to Tillman’s new offering and discover that he’s a member of Fleet Foxes and go “AHA!” But to be fair to Tillman, Year in the Kingdom is his 4th album, and he had been releasing his own singer-songwriter-centric music before becoming a Fleet Fox.

Fact is, the music on Year in the Kingdom is pretty much able to stand up to anything the Fleet Foxes has released thus far. Yeah, that’s a compliment. This album is very much a stripped down affair, with Tillman only embellishing his acoustic guitar backing with the odd exotic instrument.

Sure, it’s all rustic and rootsy, with equal parts folk of the alternative ilk and Laurel Canyon variety. Early on in the album – title track, Crosswings, Earthly Bodies – Tillman recalls Bon Iver’s best moments (not a bad thing) but on Howling Wind – with its strings, honky tonk piano and pristine harmonies, Tillman heads straight for CSN country and never looks back…

It’s all good for fans of strident folk harmonies and the art of intimate songcraft. Recommended.

Official site




How did you start playing music?

I started because when I was first exposed to music via primary school sing-a-long sessions, worship in church and the few cassette tapes lying around at home, I really liked it. Especially guitar parts.

So when I was 12, my mum got Navin (an old mentor in church and lead singer of long forgotten local band Myst) to take me to Davis Guitar and buy me a $100 classical guitar. I stuck with that guitar for about 5 years and played everything I knew on it (mostly nirvana songs of course). That guitar is still lying around in my home studio to remind me of my beginnings in music and guitar.

Somehow I started writing my own songs. I can’t remember how it happened. Vertical Rush was formed by Esmond, Daren and a few other guys from the church I was in. One day their guitarist Rey (who is now my brother-in-law) couldn’t make the show and so Esmond asked me if I wanted to play for that day. One thing led to another and I became a permanent member of Vertical Rush. And the rest is history as they say.

Who are your influences?

That’s a hard one to answer, since I am around so much music at work already and I try to never stick with one artist on my ipod for too long as I feel that would stagnate me. My biggest influences would have to be The BoredPhucks, Humpback Oak, Third Eye Blind, Nirvana, Further Seems Forever, The Cure, Hopesfall, Nick Drake, Damien Rice, Bon Iver and Leslie Low.

Why do you play music?

I do so because it is one of the few things I am truly passionate about in life. I have made several life choices just so I can continue to write music and perform in this reality of living in Singapore. If I didn’t play at all anymore, it would feel like I’m cutting my own heart out.

You were a part of Vertical Rush for so long. How different is it playing solo?

It’s very different. Because there’s no else to work with, you don’t have other people on stage with you to give support. I had to start talking to the crowd which Esmond did most of the time in Vertical Rush and I’m still uncomfortable with that. Essentially you feel really naked but once you get used to being so, you’re free to go anywhere in your head as you wish and take the audience with you. I feel it’s hard to do that in a conventional band situation.

How much has changed when you started playing solo?

On the physical realm, its just one more project you take charge of and fit into your schedule. You start from square one just you did with your previous outfits and slowly build up all aspects to make it a success.

Internally it feels good because there’s another outlet besides Vertical Rush to express my ideas and feelings. Whoever comes up to me and tells me they like my music really makes my day. I feel blessed to have a group of friends in 29 cornflakes whom I can hang out with, play music with and get good honest opinions and guidance from.

I hear you recently released a new album. What was involved in the recording process for the new album?

It was a pretty fast six months of seeing Roland regularly. I did almost everything on the album and learning from Vertical Rush’s mistakes in making “Of Real Dreams” meant that every session I went into the studio knowing exactly what I wanted to achieve. I was lucky enough to find three amazing sessionists who did a great job on their parts. There were times where I just experimented with parts on the fly to give songs a more natural feel.

Roland was also great to work with. We had a lot of good conversations on his balcony. The relationship with him was very important in my opinion because the material was extremely personal and I had to feel comfortable to share with him so he would know the stories behind the songs as he did the postproduction.

What’s the lyrical process for making the new album?

The new album  took 2 years to write for two reasons. One, because I had forgotten my own personal writing after all the years of writing for Vertical Rush and needed to find my groove again. Two, because it was a very long carthartic journey for myself to deal with a lot of personal issues and come out of that process at least a more enlightened person.

The overall theme for the album was the dealing with the huge sense of loss in my life. The past few years have not been the best of times for me on many levels and the songs in this album are just my way of documenting those periods and dealing with the emotional issues I had. Though I am not fully freed from my demons, I have to say I’m in a much better place now.

(Questions by Rebecca Lincoln)