ANGELS & AIRWAVES – LIVE IN SINGAPORE

ANGELS & AIRWAVES NUS Cultural Centre 7th December 2008

It was a gig of many hits and a couple of misses.

The chosen venue (NUS UCC) was somewhat risky. Angels & Airwaves (AVA) was easily the 1st international band with a huge passionate fanbase to appear at UCC. The UCC models itself as a host of buttoned down arts events after The Esplanade. 

AVA is however a ROCK BAND, loud, solid and hard. And while The Esplanade has learned how to handle such acts, UCC has much to improve on in comparison. Among other things, crowd control was an obvious problem with $85 far-end ticket holders rushing forward into the $180+ stage-side areas.

On the band’s part, AVA was nearly impeccable. Tom DeLonge entertained, and pandered: a medley of songs from the Blink182 years was his hint to the fans that he knows his roots. (Judging by the loud echoes to Reckless Abandon, so do they!)

But with anthems like The Adventure, AVA laid down strong reminders on what everyone had came for.

A great night, a triumph for AVA, an OK (but could be better) start for UCC as a rock show venue.

(Thomas Tan)

I guess you could say that I’m less of a fan than Thomas and whilst it was obvious that the band was giving its fans they had come for, I wondered what the neutrals thought about Tom DeLonge’s juvenile frat-boy stage antics. Indulging in a little too much toilet humour for my taste, DeLonge’s in-between banter bordered on the puerile and stood in sharp contrast with the mature U2 meets Police sonic thrust of the band’s material. Perhaps a Blink reunion is not too far away from DeLonge’s mind as he tested the waters with a couple of Blink songs which had the rapturous crowd singing in wild abandon. That all said, apart from my stated reservations, a splendid time was had by all…

… and there’s more … 

Pix by Thomas Tan. See more here.

LING KAI

LING KAI Honestly EP (Lempicka)

In many ways, Ling is already a Singapore music legend. Having attracted a million views to her youtube video of a performance of Larkin Step, Ling has reached a global audience most Singaporen musicians would have considered impossible.

After all, back in the early 90s, Singaporean singer-songwriters’ only avenue would have been selling their “homemade cookies” i.e. demo cassettes of lo-fi recordings at sympathetic music & book stores. How times have changed…

Naturally, that attention has brought Ling the ability to turn down a couple of major labels. Instead, the student in her early twenties has opted instead for Aussie indie Lempicka Records, an outfit that specializes the kind of acoustic music that Ling excels in. The result, her debut EP, Honestly.

Facebook Photograph

Opening with a piano and a violin, is perhaps a good way to subvert expectations for this acoustic folkie although it does give the listeners what they anticipated ultimately. The melancholy tone that permeates this song will “thrill” the angsty teen in us all – “You are better off without me/And I knew from the day that I realized/Being with you was giving up everything love stood for” Easy on the ear and mind.

8am

Ling stretches her musical palette a little to incorporate tiny jazz flourishes – not to mention A minor flamenco touches – in this breakup song. Ling vocalizes where a trumpet should be – until a real trumpet solo comes along with a bizarre psychedelic section. Interesting.

Suburbia

More trumpet-mimickry highlights this jaunty jazz-pop tune about a dream-like Singaporean heartland, maybe? “Magazines, furniture catalogs and things/Fill up houses and dreams the head of dairy queens” – your guess is as good as mine. And yes, you WILL be singing along before long – “Pa-Pa-Pa-Pa-Paaa”.

Midas Matches

A brilliant evocation of a film noir soundtrack. Torchy and extremely old-school. The song appears to tell the story of a fiery romance gone wrong with the metaphors of “I’m the match and you’re the flame” succeeding well. Mature songwriting on the level of say, Elvis Costello. Impressive.

Larkin Step

The one that started it all. The strength of which hinges on the opening guitar chord sequence which is rather sticky on the memory. Subtly simple in execution with violent imagery expressed – “Life comes along and it trickles down the cheeks of every beautiful boy/Time moves along and it breaks every bone in your spine”. Harsh sentiments for someone still so young. 

Distraction

My personal favorite. Melodic folk that hearkens back to that classic 70s singer-songwriter era. Joni Mitchell, Carole King and even, Joan Boaz. Surely, this is where Ling’s current strength lies. With a voice that will melt hearts and words to match – “Sometimes I wanna be alone/I pushed your number on the phone/And hang up once you’re there”.

With admirable economy, this EP fills the gaps with choice strings, staccato trumpets and copious amounts of acoustic guitar. A milestone in Singapore music history in more ways than one. I believe that this is only the beginning for Ling…

Check out Ling’s Myspace page.

SCHOOL INVASION TOUR FINALE

A Vacant Affair

A Vacant Affair

 

Music criticism can be a right old conumdrum sometimes, especially in the S-ROCK scene. As someone who is keenly aware on what goes on in the background of many gig organizations and also familiar with many of the parties who participate in such gigs, it isn’t easy to simply throw negative assessments into reviews based on assumptions and impressions. Then again, it does nobody any good to exagerrate events and performances just to paint a pretty picture. Thus, striking the balance is constantly on my mind when I write about the S-ROCK scene.

On Saturday (6 December), I hopped on the train at Bugis Station and made the “long” journey to Dover Station to arrive at the Singapore Polytechnic Convention Centre just before six. Got my reserved ticket from Colleen (yes, I certainly could have gotten a comp ticket from the organizers but decided to fork out my 12 bucks) and waited whilst the opening of the doors was delayed due to technical glitches. 

Pause here. “Technical glitches” and “delay” tend to plague S-ROCK gigs due to a variety of reasons – teething pains of a fledging scene or symptoms of something more serious – I haven’t analysed yet. However, I understand that the organizers had only a week (!) to put the gig together (after having to postpone the earlier scheduled gig and that fact alone should put things into perspective.

On a practical note, the idea of eight bands in one event seems great on paper but… when you’re sitting in a fairly cold auditorium on an empty stomach… tends to get rather challenging after a while. Perhaps, less is more…

Anyways, I managed to catch the Fire Fight, Force Vomit, Jack and Rai, A Vacant Affair and Allura before I gave in to my body’s demands and left. Overall, I have to say that the bands really did their best to overcome certain sound issues – the guitar sound sucked, basically – and I will summarize what I thought of each performance accordingly…

The Fire Fight – it’s obvious that FF put considerable thought into their set. The songs – new and old – sequed into each other like a classical suite with Josh tying up the interludes with cryptic (for now) introductions. A great teaser for the upcoming debut album.

Force Vomit – Is Dino feeling his age? The lead Vomit passed a few remarks about how old audience members were in 1995 or 1998. Heh. Despite their status as a “veteran” band, Force Vomit rocked hard and fast with their garage-mat-rock hybrid. Record that third album, Dino!

Jack and Rai – Smart boys who keep things simple, 2 guitars and 2 vocals belting out a short set of by now familiar hit songs and a Coldplay hit that got a big reception (why must we reserve our biggest cheers for a non-Singaporean song – more of that in the Angels & Airwaves gig review). That said, it was satisfying to see how appreciated a tune like the Falala Song was… the power of radio, I guess.

A Vacant Affair – The boys got a spirited response from the crowd with the inevitable body surfing and timid moshing. Matt’s voice rang out clear through the turgid auditorium air like a hot knife through butter and held court with his movement and vocals. Melodic hardware is how I hear AvA and with their debut album being distributed by Universal, be sure you pick it up and catch AvA at the album launch at the Esplanade Recital Studio on 26 December.

 

Allura
Allura

Allura – The band waited patiently whilst video presentations of past (!) events were being shown and launched into a competent set let down by the poor guitar sound. Aaron looked particularly miffed at the lack of response his guitar was getting (especially, on Gamajazilion – my favorite track!). Despite all that, the band gave their all, Inch especially shining on the new song, Loose Change, showcasing how far she has grown in her vocal range. 

As usual, a quick shout out to Poh Choo, Edward, Syed, Beni, Esmond, Jon Hems et al.

… and there’s more …

LAMBCHOP

 

LAMBCHOP OH (ohio) (Merge)

I would imagine Kurt Wagner, lead singer and central mythic figure of American band Lambchop, gives record executives nightmares. The conversation might go something like this: 

“Right, Jack, that new Lambchop record. We’ll stick an alt-country sticker on the front cover, alright?” 

“Alternative country? Gee, Bob, I don’t know. That opening track Ohio sounds like a bit of jazz and folk to me.”

 “Alright, fine, jazz and folk. We’ll market it as Kris Kristofferson in a bar lounge.”

“Hmm, yeah alright, but that track A Hold Of You sounds really soulful to me. You think we shall sell it as soul instead?”

“Yeah, soul is fine. So we’ll put a soul music sticker at the front like Marvin Gaye or something and–”

“Hang on, Bob, there’s a fair bit of funk on this track Popeye as well, you think we should mention that?”

“Okay, funk, funk is good, we’ll put an ad out in the papers and–”

“Gosh, this track “National Talk Like A Pirate Day” really does sound an awful lot like alternative country…”

“Jack, I need a drink.”

By now it should be pretty obvious that OH(Ohio), the latest offering by Nashville band Lambchop, is a genre-bending record that deftly blends together jazz, blues, folk and country with a heavy undercurrent of blue-eyed soul  What Jack and Bob up there fail to tell you is how darn enjoyable the album is. 

To be fair to poor Bob(who’s currently ingesting a copious amount of alcohol into his system), you’re not likely to find a Top 10 radio hit on the record. There are no wildly infectious hooks or headboppin’ catchy tracks. Instead, we have sweetly subtle melodies and light, unobtrusive harmonies like the ones on Slipped, Dissolved and Loosed, and full, slow burnin’ band soul love reminiscent of Marvin Gaye and Sam Cooke on tracks like the aforementioned A Hold Of You.  

The seven-member strong band sound intuitive and comfortable enough to sparkle with an attractive looseness on tracks such as Sharing A Guitar With Martin Luther King Jr. National Talk Like A Pirate Day is another such track, brimming with raw trademark country energy reminiscent of Whiskeytown and humour that is all Kurt Warner. Warner himself is quietly brilliant throughout the record, his trademark staccato baritone anchoring the listener with an easy assurance at times, and phrasing a quiet lyrical thunderstorm on tracks like the simple yet powerful Please Rise.

In all, this is a gorgeously lush album that will go down well with listeners who like their music diverse. Warner is unmistakably the mastermind behind the record, but at the same time there is a positive air of collaboration that can only come from the easy charisma of a band that has learnt to play in the scales of the soul. The album is varied in its influences and stylings, but it never delves into schizophrenic territory, always retaining a strong sonic and lyrical identity. The energy never really rises above a quick brisk here, but its alright. This is music for the comfort of your living room, sounds of joy, love, grief and wonder that will evocate beautiful images in the theater of your home and your mind.  

(Samuel C Wee)

Check out Lampchop’s Myspace page.

S-ROCK EXTRAVAGANZA

The Fire Fight

Three consecutive nights of music for me this weekend. 

Tonight, at the Bukit Timah CC, my Noise apprentices Nick Tan and Rachael Teo will be performing at the Singer-Songwriter Showcase organized by Musical Theatre Limited. Saturday night, I will be at the Singapore Polytechnic Convention Centre for the School Invasion Finale with bands like the Fire Fight, Force Vomit, A Vacant Affair, West Grand Boulevard, Allura, Caracal, Jack & Rai and Plainsunset illuminating the stage.

And… on Sunday, its Angels & Airwaves at the NUS Cultural Centre.

Good thing Monday’s a Public Holiday, eh?

If you’re at any of these gigs, come up and say hi. I’m the dude with the shocking white hair…no, the other one…

… and there’s more …

ANGELS & AIRWAVES – LIVE IN SINGAPORE

… and the answer of course is The Adventure.

Congrats to Jeremy Ong & Low Han Quan. You get a ticket each to Sunday’s concert.

In the meantime, here’s AVA on Letterman performing … The Adventure.

Thanks to all who tried out for the contest. If you weren’t successful, there’s always next time.

… and there’s more …

ANGELS & AIRWAVES – LIVE IN SINGAPORE

Tom DeLonge walked away from the mega-selling punk pop-meisters Blink-182 and straight into the mega-selling Angels & Airwaves. With two wildly successful albums – We Don’t Need To Listen and I-Empire – under their collective belts, the band has had a tremendous impact on pop culture in a relatively short span of time.

With Angels & Airwaves, DeLonge explores more mature themes and a wider spectrum of rock music than his previous band ever did. Together with drummer Atom Willard (ex-Rocket from the Crypt), guitarist David Kennedy and bassist Matt Wachter (ex-30 Seconds to Mars), Angels & Airwaves dig deep into the roots of classic rock over the decades – from The Who to the Clash, from U2 to the Get Up Kids. 

Which basically means that Singaporean rock fans will be treated to good ol’ Amercian rock ‘n’ roll – despite the “alternative” moniker – when Angels & Airwaves opens their tour of South-East Asia on Sunday, 7th December 2008, at 7.30pm at the University Cultural Centre Hall, NUS. Tickets are selling at $85, $100 and $125 and available now at SISTIC.

Interested? How about free tickets courtesy of gig organizer Midas Promotions?

Well, two free tickets will go to the first two persons who can answer this question correctly – what is the name of Angels & Airwaves’ first ever single? Send your answers to info (at) powerofpop (dot) com and the winners will be announced soon. 

We’ll be waitin’

FRANCOIS VIROT

 

FRANCOIS VIROT Yes or No (Frenetic)

On rare occasions when listening to music you come across true gems that are so breathtakingly original and fresh that you have to step back and pause for a second, purely to lose yourself in the moment of what you are experiencing. These moments don’t come along everyday, month or even year, but when they do you know that you will forever be trapped in that time. Like the first time your travel through the pages of your favorite book, you feel a tinge of regret when it is over because you know that you will never be able to go back and have that same experience again without knowing what is about to come. This is how you will feel listening to Yes or No by French Singer/Songwriter Francois Virot, someone who captures the very heart and soul of what we all love about music, and why it stirs such an emotional response in many of us.

Born in Lyon, France, Virot has been listening to and playing music from the tender age of nine. Into bands like The Melvins, Sonic Youth and Nirvana the young Virot picked up a guitar to imitate his idols. He is the drummer of Clara Clara, a French Electric Punk band whose vocalist is Virot’s brother, and while touring with them and doing various promotions he has still found time to record and release his own material as a solo artist. His material is very honest and raw, playing in the intimacy of coffee houses and flats, Virot draws the listener into his music and the way his album Yes or No is recorded he has managed to capture this feeling perfectly. Honest and Raw is the best way to describe Virot’s sound. 

The album starts with Not the One and showcases perfectly Virot’s unique vocal style and ear for melody. Some may find that his vocal style is a little too whiny for their taste and this is perfectly understandable. I would certainly say that the way he sings can either be loved or hated, I was drawn to it instantly, where as some may run in the opposite direction. There is an almost childlike innocence to his lyrics and the style of his writing displays a vulnerability, this is one man and his guitar after all, no orchestras or accompanying musicians to hide behind, this is Virot fully in the spotlight. Recorded on a four track, a cough at the beginning of Island shows just what Virot appears to be aiming for, he wants you to feel as if you are sat infront of him, in the audience and his attention is focused on you. The basic technique of recording certainly makes you feel this way. 

There are somber points, like Fishboy and Where O Where A, but mainly Yes or No flows in a very positive and upbeat manner. Francois Virot is not just another singer/songwriter in the Damien Rice/Newton Faulkner/James Blunt mould, all of the production and recording techniques are out of the window on this album and for a debut it is stunning and emotional. 

(Adam Gregory)

Check out Francois Virot’s Myspace page.

PoP10 – ROB BONFIGLIO

Rob Bonfiglio brings us his thoughts on the PoP10 inquisition…

1. Why play music? 
It’s my means of expression…  I’m terrible in social situations!

2. Who are your influences? 
Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The Who, Todd Rundgren, Laura Nyro, Bob Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel, Philly soul…on and on!

3. What is success? 
The ability to do what you love & earning the respect of one’s peers.  I like to think just being happy, but I think that depends heavily on the aforementioned.

4. Why should people buy your music? 
Perhaps people were moved by the same music I was (and am) & will hopefully recognize a certain truth in it.

5. Who do you love? 
…see ‘influences’!

6. What do you hope to achieve with your music? 
I hope just to be able to continue to make music and tell a story…and with a little luck reach an audience.  If I’m able to leave behind something that people can relate to or are moved by then my goals have been accomplished (see #3!)

7. Who comes to your gigs? 
Friends, fans & whoever happens to be at the venue!

8. What is your favorite album? 
It’s a rotating cast of faves that often depends on the day of the week…a few that come to mind include Laura Nyro’s first several Columbia records, Neil Young’s eponymous 1st album, George Harrison’s ‘All Things Must Pass’, Leonard Cohen’s ‘Songs of Leonard Cohen’…they all share a kind of transcendent, timeless quality that I love.

9. What is your favorite song? 
Again, depends entirely on the day of the week…some that come to mind are ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’, ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’, ‘Who Let The Dogs Out’ (just kidding)… 

10. How did you get here? 
There were more times than I care to remember that I thought of giving it up, but I think sheer determination combined with the absolute love of music & performing, just plain stubbornness & the inability to take ‘no’ for an answer has kept my focus intact.  Surrounding myself with people who believe and encourage has certainly been helpful as well.

Rob Bonfiglio’s new album Bring the Happy is out now.

THE END OF THE WORLD

 

THE END OF THE WORLD French Exit (Pretty Activity)

An early exit without saying goodbye is known as a “French Exit”. Whether the phrase has anything to do with the French national team’s abysmal showing at this year’s Euro 2008, I’m not sure. It should suffice to say, though, that French Exit, the latest album by Brooklyn-based band The End Of The World, doesn’t reach the levels of atrocity that the strife-wrecked and unspeakably bad performances of the French team did. 

Minimalistic and stripped down in nature, most songs found on this album are songs that can be easily represented by the 3 primary colors, guitars, drum and bass. As explained by frontman and drummer Stefan Marolachakis, it was a conscious production decision to help bring the emotion and meaning of the songs to the forefront instead of being buried under layers of sound. It’s a decision, however, that yields a largely inconsistent album that is plain stifle-a-yawn boring at its worst moments, and mesmerizingly captivating at its best.

The album opens with a short track apparently taken from one of the band’s live gigs featuring a short dialogue between the band and the audience. Depending on how you look at it, it could be taken as either quirky or insufferably pretentious, but either way it adds nothing to the album. Second track on the album, Jody, is a raucous track that makes some good headway in kicking off the album with its rattling drum beats and energetic vocals, but the album then takes an abrupt dive with the slow, soft rumble and twinkling yearnings of Somebody Else’s Dollar, before pulling upwards sharply again with the up-tempo bluesy clap-along number, I Don’t Wanna Lose. At this point, a pattern begins to establish itself as the slow alternative country number Learning unfurls amidst a swirl of pedal steel stylings and the requisite harmonica hooks. It’s a repetitive, slow-burning number that never really rises above the initial emotion. Railway Living starts off with a baffling piece of amateurish production that sounds like it was recorded on Skype, and for that transgression the track never really manages to take flight. The rest of the album follow more or less the same sequence laid out in earlier tracks, with soft pensive numbers interspersed with rousing songs that try to lift the listener out of their slumber. Last track on the album is probably the biggest detour taken by the band in terms of sonic approach, and truth be told, belonged somewhere closer to the start of the album.

The band’s biggest sin on this album is probably the track listing. French Exit is an attempt to create an album that evokes both the avant-garde lush soundscapes of Brian Eno and the MOR pop-rock catchiness of Train, but all it succeeds in doing is alienating its listeners who never quite really manage to get into the groove of the album, a result of the schizophrenic track listing. Listeners with more patience and tolerance for the occasional misstep might be willing to give this album a chance, as it can grow on you when taken on its own terms. Other listeners, however, might want to give this one a miss.  

(Samuel C Wee)

Check out the End of the World’s Myspace page.

PoP10 – CLASS THREE OVERBITE

 

Mike Elgert and Brad Jendza make up power pop duo Class Three Overbite and it’s their turn on the hot seats…

1. Why play music?        

It’s a form of escape. We need someplace to get rid of all of these things in our heads.

2. Who are your influences?    

The Beatles, Queen, Jellyfish, David Bowie, Kiss, Scissor Sisters, ….

3. What is success? 

When a crowd sings one of our songs back to us. Having someone tell us that our songs make them feel something. Happy or Sad.

4. Why should people buy your music? 

It’s a good investment, especially on cold, lonely nights. 

5. Who do you love?

Ourselves.

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

To have the recordings turn out the way we hear them in our heads and for people to feel their own emotions from the music.

7. Who comes to your gigs?

Everybody. We attract all kinds!

8. What is your favorite album?

Mike: Jellyfish – “Spilt Milk”/ Brad: The Beatles – “Abbey Road”

9. What is your favorite song?

Tough question. Today it is, Mike: Crowded House –  “Not the Girl You Think You Are” / Brad: Queen – “You Take My Breath Away”

10. How did you get here?          

Our Mothers.

Class Three Overbite’s new album – Horses for Courses – is out now.

ROB BONFIGLIO

ROB BONFIGLIO Bring On the Happy (Damask)

If you’re interested, its pronounced “Bon-feel-e-o” and it sounds “G-R-E-A-T”!!! (Sorry, couldn’t resist)

Bonfiglio is an old ‘friend’ of sorts, I loved his former band – Wanderlust – who managed a wonderful major label debut – Prize – before falling prey to RCA’s unrealistic expectations. The band released its second album with Bruce Brodeen’s Not Lame label before calling it quits.

Continue reading “ROB BONFIGLIO”

JOHN LENNON DVD

Come Together: A Night for John Lennon’s Words and Music (Eagle Vision)

In the wake of 9/11, this musical tribute to John Lennon took on a resonance and poignancy which is hard to describe. In October 2001, musicians and actors chose to pay their respects to the numerous men and women who tragically lost their lives in that fateful day in history through the words and music of John Lennon.

It is therefore difficult not to feel the emotion behind every tune and speech delivered in this heartfelt event. Perhaps that is why some of the performances are particularly powerful eg. Cyndi Lauper – Strawberry Fields Forever, Alanis Morissette – Dear Prudence & Shelby Lynne – Mother, in particular took me somewhat by surprise. 

Definitely worth picking not only if you’re a fan of the artists who participated or a John Lennon fan.

PoP10 – STEVE CARAWAY

 

Reading Steve’s replies, I realized that we both are besotted with Elvis Costello’s Imperial Bedroom. Good taste, man. 

1.Why play music?

I HAVE to, it`s like breathing to me.

 2. Who are your influences?

The Beatles, Elvis Costello (the Deity) Tom Petty, The Replacements

 3. What is success?

To be able to do what I love over and over again.

4. Why should people buy your music?

See above.

 5. Who do you love?

My family, Leo Fender.

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

To make someone get that thrill like I had upon hearing a great song for the 1st time.

7. Who comes to your gigs?

Sad, lonely, broken men…and really hot college girls.

8. What is your favorite album?

I have two, Revolver and Imperial Bedroom. Geoff Emerick sits at the right hand.

9. What is your favorite song?

It changes daily.

10. How did you get here?

Listened to my favorite music, constantly sought out the new, practiced, wrote, refined my craft, and then elbowed my way into the room.

Steve Caraway’s album, Hurricane Season is out now.

PoP CLASSIC SONG

DEBASER (off Pixies’ 1989 album Doolittle)

Bizarrely, I had Rolling Stone to thank for my introduction to the weird world of Pixies. After a hiatus of three to four years, I returned to rock music in earnest in 1989. Sometime in early 1990 in one of those “best of” issues, I came across Doolittle and Pixies. And the opening track was – Debaser – and immediately I was hooked by the sheer energy, the incongruous sweetness of Kim Deal’s vocal and of course, Black Francis’ visceral delivery. That last 30 seconds always gets me jumpin’! Believe me, there would have no Nirvana without Pixies…

“Girl is so groovy…”

CLUES

CLUES – Perfect Fit (off the album Perfect Fit)

With Alden Penner (ex-Unicorns) and Brendan Reed (ex-Arcade Fire) in their ranks, there’s no doubting Clues’ indie cred. The title track to their debut album is an interesting hybrid of gypsy roots and music hall vernicular. Promising.

Download: Perfect Fit

Courtesy of RCRD LBL

STEVE CARAWAY

STEVE CARAWAY Hurricane Season (Indienink Music)

You know how they say that folk only listen to the music they loved when growing up? That explains the popularity of classic rock radio formats to people who were teenagers in the 70s and 80s. But what mystifies me to this day is why these same people are so heavily resistant to artists/bands who play the SAME kind of music that they love. Why is that so?

Take the music of Steve Caraway, which uncannily evokes the pop-rock of the 60s and 70s, I mean how can fans of classic jangle pop, new wave, piano ballads, country rock, psychedelic rock not enjoy such spot-on tracks as Before You Run Away, When I Change My Mind, No Looking Back, Rabbit and Push?

Seriously music fans, there is a lot to admire on this faithful recreation of a beloved era, not least Caraway’s gift at turning a melody on its ear with an unexpected chord change. It’s obvious that Caraway has poured in precious time – not to mention blood, sweat and tears – to ensure that the music is good enough to stand up to his influences and inspirations.

I must admit that I’ve been rather harsh on power pop artists recently because of their closed straight-jacketed approach but am glad to report that no such problem is evident on Hurricane Season. 

Check out Steve Caraway’s Myspace page.

GENTLEMEN AUCTION HOUSE

 

GENTLEMEN AUCTION HOUSE Christmas in Love (Emergency Umbrella

As I walked past my local shopping centre the other day I saw that workmen were busy beavering away putting up a Christmas tree. I stopped and watched them in slight disbelief, it is early November and last time I checked Christmas is at the end of December. Being from a much colder climate I have never seen a Christmas Tree up when it is humid and sunny so this was an odd experience for me. It seems that Christmas gets earlier every year lately, but of course Christmas is about money these days and the earlier the better. Imagine my surprise then when I was handed a Christmas EP to review this week…..has the world gone mad?

Gentlemen Auction House is a seven piece band from St Louis, Missouri and are currently touring on the back of their successful debut album Emergency Graveyard. In between the release of the new album and touring the band thought that it would be a good idea to release a Christmas themed EP, something they had had on their ‘to do’ list for some time. So singer Eric Enger holed himself up in his basement for a couple of weeks, cracked the Air Con down to a wintery temperature and came up with Christmas in Love, a poppy dedication to everyone’s over commercialized holiday!

Starting with A Banner Year the EP doesn’t have a massive shift from the band’s album or original sound. This EP may be a gimmick of sorts but it is certainly not a move in a new artistic direction. This is GAH’s signature sound of American College Folk/Rock with a sprinkling of fairy dust and glitter balls. Singer Eric Enger’s voice reminds me of part River Cuomo of Weezer and part J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr. Their sound is a collection of guitars, piano, drums, trumpets, xylophones and even flutes which are all used to perfect effect to add to the Yuletide flavor of the EP. 

The two tracks that really stand out for me are On the Rooftops, which strongly reminds me of the Rentals with the dual male and female vocals and Christmas in Love, the title track for the EP and closer. Both songs have a perfect melodic sound that captures the feeling of winter and opening presents. You can almost imagine the setting of the videos being in a snow covered forest with a log cabin and the band toasting marshmallows around an open fire.

Fans of the band will love this EP and I like the idea that they have had in trying to give them something unique for the holiday season. Although when I first came across this EP I had the fear that I would spend most of it cringing at the Christmas references but I was pleasantly surprised to find that I only felt this on rare occasions. Most notably Here Comes Santa Claus, GAH’s take on the old classic, there is nothing particularly wrong with this song but it drips with Americana  and blatant cheese, there is not a chorus of children here but they would not be out of place should the band have decided to add them.

If you are looking for an early blast of holiday season joy then check this EP out.

(Adam Gregory)

Check out GAH’s Myspace page.

Download: On the Rooftops

NOW PLAYING

SUNDAY AFTERNOON (off Rachael Yamagata’s Elephants/Teeth Sinking Into Heart album)

Never really cared for Rachael Yamagata before – even though she’s even performed in Singapore (but thanks to our very own Rachael), I’ve been listening to this lovely torch-blues song virtually non-stop. It’s deep and visceral and, carried over with that gorgeous emotive voice, rather irresistible. Here’s a live version I found – dunno why but I actually got a Pink Floyd vibe from this. Album review to follow…

“There is blood on my feet as I’m walking away…”

PoP CLASSIC SONG

NIGHTS ON BROADWAY (off the Bee Gees’ 1977 album, Main Course)

The Bee Gees were one of the first pop bands I ever became a fan of – loved their late 60s/early 70s hits like New York Mining Disaster 1941, Melody Fair, How Can You Mend A Broken Heart etc. They seem to disappear in the mid-70s but in 1977 they reinvented themselves as an R&B outfit. Main Course would contain both sides of the Bee Gees sound – classic chamber pop as well as the nascent disco-infused pop. Nights on Broadway is a brilliant hybrid of both as the opening muscular R&B morphs into a gorgeous ballad and then drives to an ecstatic denouement. Fantastic!

“Blamin’ it on…”

LANTERNS

LANTERNS Apocalypse Youth (Self released)

Noise pop, ah, you’ve got to love its exciting blend of painful distortion and shimmering melodic structure. From the shoegaze era and beyond, the bands who have been able to strike a fine balance between the two seemingly polar sonic qualities, have always been a bit special.

Add San Diego’s Lanterns to the esteemed list of devout noise poppers. Consisting of Lowell Heflin (Vocals/Guitar), Sean Liljequist (Bass), Adam Piddington (Guitar), Loren Hiew (Drums), Lanterns have produced a visceral EP, full of epic intent and widescreen lyrical concepts. 

From the moment the EP opens with the manically, potent chords of Midnight Psalms (Alright!), you know you’re in for a thrilling ride. End-Time Blues steps back ever so slightly to deliver an intricate lattice of spaced out riffs and pummeling drums.

By the time, Creation Myth bolts out of the stalls, you’re breathless in an attempt to keep up. Reminiscent of JAMC’s invocation of the Spectoresque wall-of-sound, Creation Myth is almost bubblegum in its melodic agenda but backed always by punishing waves of feedback-drenched guitar delights. Desperation Wolves, Beacon Flames keeps the momentum alive with the slightest hint of a Bo Diddley back beat and cascading guitar patterns. 

Finally, Electric Warrior Kisses provides a respite (of sorts) with a bizarre hymn enveloped with white noise screaming out from every note. Every sound is fuzzy and distorted, even what sounds like an accordion. Then it’s over… and you can catch your breath again. 

So come on and feel the noise with Lanterns…

Check out Lanterns’ Myspace page.

Download: Creation Myth

KRISTOFFER RAGNSTAM

 

KRISTOFFER RAGNSTAM Wrong Side of the Room (bluhammock)

The success of Sweden in exporting their musical talents abroad has been well documented. From Abba to Carola Haagkvist, Roxette to The Cardigans, and Jens Lekman to Kristoffer Ragnstam, the musical fertility of the Swedish is undeniable. 

Apart from being a music writer’s nightmare, however, they also have a penchant for creating gloriously fun and tasty pop. Case in point? Kristoffer Ragnstam’s new album, Wrong Side Of The Room.

It’s no secret that Ragnstam is often compared to Beck Hansen, due to the elaborate ambitious arrangements that are similar to both artists. Comparing Beck with Ragnstam, however, is rather akin to comparing Zinedine Zidane with Cristiano Ronaldo. Both players are wonderfully versatile in their own right, but the former infuses his style with a methodical, at times cynical attitude, whereas the latter goes about his job with a pervasive sense of flamboyant glee. Nowhere is the latter attribute more obvious than on Ragnstam’s new release, Wrong Side Of The Room.

Room starts off with a deliciously cheeky opener in the opener, Stop On Top; “I wore sunglasses today, ‘cus I robbed a bank yesterday”. It’s precisely the kind of irreverent music that catches you off-guard and pokes a laugh out of you, then goes to warp speed and takes your breath away. 2008, the subsequent track, takes a sly poke at self-serious folk troubadours who attempt to turn every song into a philosophical discourse, but is in itself post-punk self-depreciating with a heavy wallop of New Wave energy. The album proceeds to swing its way through thumping rhythms, whirling loops and cheeky Bob Dylan references on lead single, Swing That Tambourine, before it reaches the title track, which is itself an addictive if unlikely marriage of blues, folk and dance music. 

The fun continues on Mee, If You Were A Melody, which is an infectious musical instrumental swirling with keyboard hooks that leads into the catchy and impassioned May I Admire Her. The album closes with a bit of quiet folksiness on Of All Summers that is mesmerizing in its simple acoustic vibe that builds up to a stirring crescendo.

It’s a thumpingly tasty collection of songs that Ragnstam has put together here, one that does nothing to dispel the legends of Swedish music genius. It’s still all a tad too undisciplined and structured in the use of hooks and lyrical ramblings to be a monster hit on radio, but it’s glorious, juicy fun. Sink your teeth in.  

(Samuel C Wee)
Check out Kristoffer’s Myspace page.

PoP10 – FAREWELL FLIGHT

A indie band in the true sense of the word – self managed, self booked and self financed – Harrisburg band Farewell Flight is totally DIY! Why, they even answered our PoP10 themselves (sorry, couldn’t resist)

1. Why play music?
It’s what moves us – it’s what we’re passionate about.  We’re not in it for the money, because we don’t make any.  We live to be on the stage, performing our art for 5 people or 5,000 people.  We care about creating quality music that has originality and depth but can still be appreciated by many different people with different tastes.  We honestly couldn’t imagine doing anything else.  
2. Who are your influences?
We have a ton of different influences, but to name a few:  Death Cab, Coldplay, Interpol, The Smiths, Tom Petty, Radiohead, Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s, and Nada Surf.
3. What is success?
I guess there are different ideas of “success” to different bands, but to us I think success would mean being able to survive and pay our bills solely by playing music.  Right now we tour 6 months out of the year, but also work crappy jobs the other 6 months out of the year when we’re home to pay our bills.  The day that we can focus entirely on music will mean success in our eyes.  
4. Why should people buy your music?
Because it’s different than 99% of the crap that’s out there today, and buying our music helps us to not break up.  
5. Who do you love?
Everyone.  Seriously.  We feel that’s what we’re called to do in this life.  That means the industry executive who tells us we aren’t marketable, the homeless man we meet outside of a show, our families, our friends, and our enemies.  
6. What do you hope to achieve with your music?
We hope to make a difference in people’s lives, and to create worthwhile art that’s appreciated by a wide range of people.  In a way we’ve already achieved these goals on a small level, but we’d love to do it on a much bigger scale. 
7. Who comes to your gigs?
Scene kids, moms, adults, teens, twenty-somethings, our moms, college kids, high school kids, middle school kids, your moms.  
8. What is your favorite album?
If you mean our favorite Farewell Flight album, then of course Sound.Color.Motion. — our newest release and our only full-length.  We are extremely proud of this LP.  If you mean of favorite album of other bands, then you’ll have 4 different answers from our 4 members, if we each could even choose a favorite album.
9. What is your favorite song?
Again, not sure if you mean of our songs or in general.  Of our songs I don’t think we could really choose a “favorite” — but there are some we like playing more than others (Over, Begin Again, Slow, America Will Break Your Heart).  If you mean in general, again, you would have a hard time getting each of us to pick a specific favorite song.  There’s just too much good music out there (see and listen to the influences we listed).
10. How did you get here?
A lot of hard work, endless touring, sleeping on floors, playing as many shows as possible, being broke, and in general sacrificing everything we have to play music.  Also, exactly where is “here?” 

Farewell Flight’s album, Sound. Color. Motion, is out now.

PoP CLASSIC SONG

WAITIN’ FOR A SUPERMAN (off the Flaming Lips 1999 LP, The Soft Bulletin)

The Lips’ Soft Bulletin is my favorite album of the 1990s. Sheer pop perfection. Waitin’ For A Superman is the most poignant song that Waybe Coyne and company have ever written. That fragile chorus always brings tears to my eyes… is help on the way? Sure hope so…

“it’s just too heavy for a Superman to lift…”