THE SPINTO BAND

THE SPINTO BAND Moonwink (Park the Van)

Happy vibrant pop that is at once angular and nuanced, borrowing heavily from psychedelic rock and music hall. In that respect, The Spinto Band recalls the work of the Kinks, XTC and Blur. In the modern rock milieu, the Spinto Band shares much in common with Of Montreal. 

The Spinto Band have been recording artists for more than a decade and still their innocent embrace of quirky and jaunty pop show no sign of abatement. Moonwink is chock full of energetic outbursts of sound, childlike tunes and whimsical arrangements, which includes a wide array of instruments eg. timpani, horns, church organ et al. Exciting and fun material is the order of the day for the Spinto Band with Moonwink, nothing too serious, anything to make you jump around and smile!

Check out the Spinto Band’s Myspace page.

ASTRONINJA

ninjacover

ASTRONINJA Kiss My Astro! (Self released)

Singaporean musicians have managed to achieve some semblance of pedigree since the mid-90s when we were nothing but a scene that celebrated itself. OK fine, I’ll admit, a substantial proportion of us (completely impartial commentaries notwithstanding) are still stuck in that rut.

I’ve know I’ve been on about this like a broken record, but I’ll say it again; it takes pure, unadulterated bollocks to shove the mighty little finger in the “scene’s” face and rise above the sad institutionalization of circle-jerking cliques and carebear support groups who wear their affiliations on their sleeves.

Constituted by members who have each paid their ample share of dues to the community, Astroninja is probably one the closest things we’ll ever get to an all-star shootout. Originally formed under the moniker Astroninja All-Stars as a one-night-only supergroup at Rock For Wayne, the band has since settled into a more permanent configuration, dropping the postfix in favour of the spunkier alternative. 

After emerging from a year in the studio noodling and tweaking their sound, these purveyors of “Astro-rock” have seen their laborious efforts come to fruition in the form of Kiss My Astro! their 11-track LP. Sealed in an obnoxiously large yellow sleeve, the package also includes a Bobby (the band mascot, he is lamb, you know!?) badge, stickers bearing the cartoon likenesses of each member, and a self-explanatory Ninja Card. Unorthodox? Definitely. Moreover, the band would be quick to slap you across the head with a giant trout to remind you that that’s EXACTLY how they like it.

If you’re wondering why you haven’t seen any of the fellows in a while, it’s because they haven’t been maintaining an active calendar of gigs. That’s right, no gigs at all, at least, not yet. They have chosen to forgo some of the more traditional promotional elements to focus on their music. Not surprisingly, it seems to be working a lot better for them than some of the more current models, which in my opinion, are considerably flawed.

As is the case with any “supergroup”, the omnipresent question of par proximity is bound to arise. How well does Kiss My Astro! (yes, with the exclamation mark, none of that let’s-cut-the-word-in-half-cos-we-r-kool crap) match up to its eminent expectations?

The first thing you notice about the album is its astronomically (you shall have to excuse my puns, I have been trapped in headline hell for well over a week now) tasteful guitar works, which draw equally from classic, driving rock, a reckless street-punk ethos, and appropriately applied effects. With this in mind, you’d half expect a disappointingly unfocused delivery to follow, considering the bands utterly random inclinations with regards to content. Not so. These are paired with thundering, amply-filled rhythmwork, and a searing vocal style delivered with a nuclear excess of aplomb. 

The vocals are an entire area of consideration on their own. So important to the direction of this album, that I reckon they deserve their own paragraph. If you find the voice screaming back at you familiar, it’s because you’ve probably heard it before. Singer Levan Wee, former frontman of Ronin, returns with a very apparent maturation to his howls, taming the mayhem of his Revolution and Do What Thou Wilt days, and channeling the underlying energy to drive messages of liberation, anti-conformity and self-empowerment, all with subtle undertones of politically-fallacious humour. 

That’s not to say that every song is a searing Johnny Ramone buzzsaw affair, there is plenty of ambient goodness to be had (check out the soaring introduction to Cacophony, the albums epilogue) along with uncommonly compelling vocal explorations (Jess, Thunder, Anthem For The Ordinary et al.)

All in all, an album that covers plenty of ground, all while managing to stay firmly rooted to its key principles. Astroninja’s 100% home-blended political incorrectness is something we are in dire need of around here.

KMA! is without a doubt, the most exciting S-Rock album to have emerged from 2008. Watch out for more from the Astro boys this year: the time of the Ninja approaches.

(Sherwin Tay)

Check out Astroninja’s Myspace page.

ASTRO BOY

astroboynewart3.jpg

My earliest memory of TV was an Astro Boy cartoon in the mid-60s, when I was growing up.  I guess you could say that my interest in the upcoming Astro Boy movie (released on October 23) is purely nostalgic. Astro Boy, of course, is an android built by Doctor Tenma, head of the futuristic Ministry of Science, in memory of his deceased son. Before comics, Astro Boy was my introduction to the world of sci-fi, fantasy and super powers. Frankly, I don’t remember much about the cartoon so it should be interesting to see how this movie turns out.

ONE SMALL STEP FOR LANDMINES

 

onesmallstep

ONE SMALL STEP FOR LANDMINES If You Could Get Over Me Ep (Self released)

Most rock bands treat acoustic performances with a sort of measured trepidation. It’s not hard to see why. Rock music thrives on electricity to build the sort of atmosphere where it can explode into either epic catharsis, ala U2’s 1987 With Or Without You, or snarling landscapes of narrative, like Bob Dylan’s 1965 Like A Rolling Stone.

It takes a certain amount of panache, therefore, for a rock band to pull out the plug and risk not having power for those power chords, like Tallahassee emo pop-rock band One Small Step For Landmines does here on their fourth release, the free six-song acoustic EP, If You Could Get Over Me.  

To be fair about it, it’s not really anything unusual to see emo rock bands releasing acoustic songs, or albums for that nature. Most of them would be better off sticking to the full band treatment though; it really is no compliment to your musicianship when audiences start realizing that there’s not much different in arrangement between your acoustic songs and your band songs. Case in point: the insufferably snore-inducing Secondhand Serenade.  

Interestingly enough, One Small Step For Landmines have actually made an album here that is rather enjoyable. Breaking away from the stiflingly conventional rattle and strum that has characterized most emo acoustic music, Landmines inject sufficient innovation and layering into their songs to keep the music compelling and interesting without overwhelming the lyrical focus. 

The lyrics here are conventional emo pop-rock fare, sprawling streams of consciousness punctuated by the occasional passage of narrative. What lifts them here, however, is the interesting melodies that lead singer Kevin Allen colors them with. They are tied together with a delivery that is characteristically bleeding-heart-on-the-sleeve naked. 

Title track here, If You Could Get Over Me, is an excellent representation for the album itself; bright, catchy plucked guitar arpeggios underlining the conversational emoting of Allen. Aluminum Can Strings follows the same formula, telling through a series of sketched thoughts, meandering poetry and geographical name-dropping the normal break-up story. New York, On Purpose is probably the best track here on the E.P, recounting a night of reminiscent reunion through rockin’ riffs. (Gee, alliteration is sure fun!) One gets the feeling, though, that the track would be more complete as a full-out driving piece of emo-punk, and Landmines might want to consider revisiting this track on future albums. The E.P closes with She Told Me A Story, a conversation between a mother and a son about a difficult childhood. 

All things considered, One Small Step For Landmines do a good if not inspired job here with some pretty melodies and lyrics so intimate, they’re microscopic. It’s not exactly Joni Mitchell’s Blue or Bob Dylan’s Blood On The Tracks, but it’s catchy, easy on the ear, and if you happen to be having a bout of teenage emotive angst, it might even be cathartic. 

Check out the band’s Myspace page for more info.

LORNA

LORNA Writing Down Things To Say (Words On Music)

Faithful readers will know that I am a sucker for harmonica over an acoustic guitar. And that’s how English shoegaze/orch pop outfit Lorna has elected to introduce us listeners to the wonders of this brand new sparkling album. As Mark and Sharon Rolfe (yup, husband and wife team) harmonize on the chorus of the opening folky Look Left, goose bumps spring to life on my skin. 

Which sets the tone for this collection of deliberately soft and preciously constructed songs. Not In My Lighthouse is a prime example of this as tasteful organ, light harp and deep clarinet embellish the Rolfes’ collective magic. Another is A Place That We Can Go with its lightly strummed acoustic guitar, heavenly pedal steel & plucked banjo giving it a surreal countrified feel. Gorgeous.

The pace of Writing Down Things To Say is largely easy and relaxing. The emphasis is on atmosphere without sacrificing melody as every instrument is carefully selected to produce a certain mood. Nowhere is this more evident that in the evocative Monsters Are Forever, where these various elements are coalsed into a spine tingling whole. Breath taking to say the least.

Fans of fragile country-folk and lovely chamber pop will simply adore Writing Down Things To Say from start to finish.

Check out Lorna’s Myspace page.

OXFORD COLLAPSE

OXFORD COLLAPSE Bits (Sub Pop)

The 80s post punk revival continues unabated with indie bands like Oxford Collapse. Having much in common with British outfits like Arctic Monkeys, Franz Ferdinand, British Sea Power in that these bands draw similar inspiration from Gang of Four, Wire, The Fall et al.

The instrumentations and arrangements are spare and the guitars are clean. The overall production is lo-fi and almost seems like it was recorded on the fly. A free-wheeling sensibility permeates the album, where the songs are sung pseudo-drunkenly, in that respect recalling the very early albums of the Replacements. 

To be honest, whilst I appreciate the general tone and direction, I find it hard to get into the tunes, such as they are, and I have to say that this one is strictly for fans only.

Check out the Oxford Collapse’s Myspace page.

THE KILLERS

THE KILLERS Day & Age (Island)

Whatever you may think of The Killers’ obsession with the music of the 80s, at least the band is never ashamed of wearing their influences proudly on their collective sleeves. In fact, band leader, Brandon Flowers, has always made a point of loudly declaring the specific inspirations for each album. From the dance-rock of Duran Duran and New Order on debut Hot Fuss to the serious rock of U2 and the Boss on sophpmore Sam’s Town, Flowers has made no bones about what each album was meant to achieve in his mind.

Now, on third album – Day & Age – the band has claimed that David Bowie, Elton John and Lou Reed were weighing heavily on their minds during recording sessions. Personally, I don’t hear it at all. So was it all a smokescreen? If so, what is Day & Age about then?

Simply put, Day & Age continues The Killers’ post-punk revivalist tendencies filtered through a hyperventilating lyrical and melodic sensibility. The band has crammed as many late-70s/early 80s references points as physically possible. Which can either leave you breathless or bored. I’m wagering it’s more like somewhere in the middle.

To their immense credit, The Killers are trying their best to stretch their musical boundaries to embrace different forms and arrangements whilst retaining the melodicism and danceability that made them megastars to begin with. Cases in point – the world music slant of This Is Your Life, the bossa nova treatment of I Can’t Stay, the bombastic trip of Neon Tiger, the blue-eyed soul groove of The World We Live In and the gothic mood of Goodnight, Travel Well.

The first half of Day & Age finds The Killers with eyes fixed firmly on the pop charts as gleaming synths, growling saxes, deep bass runs, head-bopping rhythms and thrashy pop tunes inhabit the irresitsible ear candies of Losing Touch, Human, Spacemen and Joy Ride. 

Perhaps the band meant Bowie circa Let’s Dance, John circa I’m Still Standing and Reed? That one I still can’t figure…

Whatever, in Human and Spaceman at least, The Killers have distilled all that was strange and wonderful about early 80s British pop and have planted the seeds into the experience of young music fans worldwide and for that at least, I’m grateful.

CSS

CSS Donkey (Sub Pop)

Means Cansei de Ser Sexy (or tired of being sexy in Portuguese), if you’ve always wondered. Thank goodness the world is getting smaller so that we music fans can enjoy bands like CSS, who hail from Brazil!

Like the excellent MGMT, CSS (sense a trend?) indulges in a spot of indie-electronica which is extremely danceable and hot to trot! Best part, the guitars take centrestage with the synths providing support, which is definitely the way I like it. 

With songs like Let’s Reggae All Night, Left Behind (“Gonna dance my ass off till I die”) and Beautiful Song, the concerns of CSS are not too cerebral but are more concerned with getting our collective booties shakin’ but nobody really minds. 

Pretty irresistible. Don’t give it a chance in your iPOD if you’re easily embarrassed by a spontaneous burst of dancing. You have been warned.

Check out CSS Myspace page.

THE BRILLIANT MISTAKES

THE BRILLIANT MISTAKES Distant Drumming (Self released)

Wow, I really love authentic country rock – not the anemic Eagles variety – but the Gram Parsons’ Cosmic American Music type. Glad to report that the Brilliant Mistakes take their nod to Gram’s legacy seriously.

Thus, Distant Drumming is a intriguing collection of well crafted rock songs with a healthy twangy bent and reminiscient of similar efforts by Neil Young, Teenage Fanclub, Nick Lowe, Elvis Costello, Wilco, the Jayhawks and so forth. The title track is an absolute gem (and recalls early 70s Beach Boys!)

Competent, dependable, comfortable and familiar all the way through.

Check our Brilliant Mistakes’ Myspace page.

SOFT TARGETS

SOFT TARGETS Heavy Rainbow (Cloud 13)

Y’know, with each succeeding generation of young rockers, I get increasingly amazed at the sheer buffet of influences and genres that get mashed up and served up to oblivious modern audiences.

Take Tallahassee, FL trio Soft Targets, with their wilful mix-up of Bowie, the Smiths, the Cure, 60s Northern Soul and 80s British twee pop. Best part is that everything is arranged with the core three-piece in mind (i.e. guitar, bass and drum) – quite a wonder to behold actually.

Singer-songwriter-guitarist Jesse Corry is indeed talented enough to pull off his eclectic ambitions with aplomb, with the crucial assistance from Nathan Sadler (bass) and Steven Gillespie (drums). I’m certain that Soft Targets must be an awesome live act if this wonderful album is anything to go by. 

For indie pop fans with an open mind.

Check out Soft Targets Myspace page.

JARED MEES AND THE GROWN CHILDREN

JARED MEES AND THE GROWN CHILDREN Caffeine, Alcohol, Sunshine, Money (Tender Loving Empire)

How many indie musicians do you know who infuse country folk music with an enthusiastic punk rock verve? I don’t know many, but Jared Mees and his band, The Grown Children, would rank amongst them. On his newest release after last year’s If You Wanna Swim With The Sharks, Jared Mees is an infectiously energetic voice of hollering giddy glee reminiscent of Joe Strummer, over the bright sounding country folk of The Grown Children. He is ably backed up on vocals by his wife, Megan, who matches her husband ounce for ounce in terms of sheer enthusiasm. It should be pretty safe to say that the couple didn’t bond over a mutual pondering of existential angst. 

The Grown Children themselves are a schizophrenic mass of vibrant riotous fun. Reading their Myspace band description is more like reading a high school class list than a band profile; these people exchange instruments like saliva at a Christmas mistletoe party. One would think such inconsistency would cause a band to fall into helpless amateurism, but I suspect that the amorphous nature of The Grown Children lineup actually plays a huge part in their sound. It’s reflected in the non sequitur nature of the album title, which reads like an adult update of the ingredients that made the Powerpuff Girls: Caffeine, Alcohol, Sunshine, Money. 

Mees himself translates his vocal enthusiasm into his lyrics, with little snippets of narrative that sounds like they could have been taken right out of a conversation. Wordplay is rife on this album, and listeners who appreciate the cleverness of words that are strung appropriately (or inappropriately, at times) will enjoy tracks such as album opener Bees, which is clever in its wordplay without ever reaching the point of grandiloquence. The Tallest Building In Hell is itself restrained brilliance, its success to be found in the conversational tone that frames the absurd comedy of the lyrics. Excellent Time is a catchy acoustic punk sing-along tune, rather like an unplugged Green Day.  

Strong Black Coffee is pure country in the way every college student can relate to the opening line of “I drank pots and pots and pots and pots of strong black coffee, trying to keep my sleepy soul awake. But the sleepiness still comes along and when it does its fast and strong, I end up with a bad case of the shakes!” Wetting Down The Dirt is easily the most country tune on the album, and is quite literally drippin’ with jangly folk sentiment. There are also three bonus tracks on the album that are not listed, which are also worth checking out. 

One gets the feeling that Caffeine, Alcohol, Sunshine, Money is what you would get if you crossed Bob Dylan with The Libertines and took the result on a roller coaster coffee-high. Comedic by turns and brilliant by whole, this is indie-rock at its very best: irreverent, rootsy but still oh-so relevant. 

(Samuel C Wee)
Check out Jared Mees’ Myspace page.

STARS – LIVE IN SINGAPORE

The Stars’ gig at the Esplanade Concert Hall is less than three weeks away! I understand that limited tickets remain unsold so there’s still time to book your place at one of the highlight concerts of 2009 (or any other year, for that matter).

Here’s a lookback at Star’s album discography so that we can get a little sense of what to expect.

Electronica-based songs dominated the sound of Stars when they released Nightsongs in 2001. Lush and elegant, songs like Going Going Gone and Tonight remain on the band’s current set list. Notable tracks also include On Peak Hill, The Very Thing and a cover of the Smiths’ This Charming Man. Fans of soft and twee pop will do well to check it out.

Heart followed two years later (in 2003). Not much change from Nightsongs as electronica still rules.That said, the sound is markedly edgy despite the presence of many many twee pop moments. Amy Millan comes on board to provide a counterpoint to Torq Campbell’s breathy vocals. Only Elevator Love Letter survives at live performances.

Set Yourself On Fire, Stars’ breakthrough album (2005) starts out with a significantly altered sound from its predecessors with real instruments viz. guitars, horns, strings and harmonicas. But it is when the band discovers good old rock ‘n’ roll that their career truly takes off as Ageless Beauty’s energy and guile lifts them into worldwide prominence (not to mention a prestigious JUNO nomination). Amy Millan’s vocal is simply heavenly. An indie anthem that marks the rest of the album, of which many tracks are, as you can imagine, still played live by the band e.g. Your Ex-Lover Is Dead and Set Yourself On Fire.

This 2007 album – In Our Bedroom After the War – develops the direction brought forth by Set Yourself on Fire – the heady melange of indie rock guitar and electronica. As immediate as much of its predecessor was, Stars are on a bit of a roll, with songs like The Night Starts Here, The Ghose of Genova Heights and Take Me To The Riot being firm live favorites. Again, Amy Millan is in superb voice especially on tracks like My Favourite Book.

If you’re on a budget, then I would recommend that last two albums as perfect appertisers for the upcoming gig. Get your tickets from SISTIC.

FALL OUT BOY – LIVE IN SINGAPORE

FALL OUT BOY Folie a Deux (Universal)

“Nobody wants to hear you sing about tragedy”

The reason behind the success of emo punk pop monsters Fall Boy Out is evident enough. A keen awareness of what make pop works. Hooks hooks hooks and more hooks. And dollops of creative plagiarism.

I mean, is that the chord riff from The Who’s Baba O’Riley in Disloyal Order of Water Buffaloes? And more classic rock riffage on lead single I Don’t Care. Or how about the vocal intro scat to the cooly titled She’s My Winona (an 80s phenomenon – heh!). And, Beach Boys by way of ELO backing vocals on the blue-eyed soulful America’s Suitehearts. 

I think you get the idea. It’s obvious that Fall Out Boy has pulled out all the stops to make Folie a Deux as accessible as possible. Which is not necessarily the act of dumbing down but it does mean the band has somewhat reduced the eccentricities of previous works. Which to me is fine though hardcore fans may find a little disconcerting.

Notable is the epic power pop ballad What A Catch, Donnie (recalling Eric Carmen/Raspberries) featuring a vocal cameo from no less than Elvis Costello. Quite an endorsement. I like!

Ultimately, that’s what I dig about Folie a Deux, its ecleticism and a twisted commitment to classic pop melody. Impressive.

And a word from the concert promoters: – FREE Fall Out Boy CD “Folie a Deux” for every S$98 (free standing) ticket purchase only. Applicable till 23 Dec 2008 only. Redeem your free copy of the Fall Out Boy’s new album, “Folie a Deux” by 26 Dec 2008 at HMV Heeren Only.

Tickets available now at SISTIC.

PoP10 – JIM BOGGIA

Photo by Lisa Schaffer. www.skylerbug.com
Photo by Lisa Schaffer. www.skylerbug.com

Jim Boggia has been consistently delivering authentic pop classicism for quite a while now. Jim shares with us his PoP10.

1. Why play music?
It beats taxidermy.

2. Who are your influences?
The Beatles. The Kinks. Randy Newman. Harry Nilsson. The Faces. Carl Stalling. The bridge to the theme from the original Bob Newhart show (particularly the version used in the third season, though the rest of the theme was better in the version used in the first season), Jack Nitzsche, George Carlin, Neil Young, Neil Diamond, Kurt Vonnegut, Sesame Street, Vince Guaraldi, Thelonius Monk, the guy who played piano on Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, my cats.

3. What is success?
It’s what failure looks like in the mirror.

4. Why should people buy your music?
As opposed to buying other people’s music or as opposed to stealing my music? For the latter, music is now a micro economy and one that is very close to total collapse. If someone’s music moves you somehow – support it in every way you can or soon it will not be there. As for the former, you should probably buy a few Dylan albums if you don’t already own them before buying my music. Yes, Dylan first, then Boggia.

5. Who do you love?
Clearly, the answer here is Bo Diddley.

6. What do you hope to achieve with your music?
That’s changed over time. Basically, I’ve scaled back from an initial desire for world domination to a more recent hope of remembering the words to the songs.

7. Who comes to your gigs?
Hopefully, people who know the words to the songs for when I forget them.

8. What is your favorite album?
That’s nearly impossible. Here are a few good ones: Revolver – The Beatles, Pet Sounds – The Beach Boys, The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society – The Kinks, Nilsson Sings Newman – Harry Nilsson, Sail Away – Randy Newman, Bridge Over Troubled Waters – Simon and Garfunkel, Blonde on Blonde – Bob Dylan, Tonight’s the Night – Neil Young. If none of those work for you, you could always go with Texas Funeral by Jon Wayne (that’s not a typo, it’s Jon).

9. What is your favorite song?
That IS impossible. ‘I Want You Back’ by The Jackson 5 is pretty good. If that doesn’t work for you, you could always go with ‘Texas Funeral’ by Jon Wayne (that’s still not a typo). Actually, now that I 
think of it, it might be ‘Nature Boy’ written by Eden Ahbez.

10. How did you get here?
Either walking or Public Transportation.

Jim’s new album Misadventures in Stereo is out now.

BEST OF 2008

By Charlotte Lourdes

5. VAL EMMICH Little Daggers

Emmich has a voice that takes you by surprise if you’re used to judging a book by its cover. It’s full of emotion, deep and even holds a teasing quality. Track after track on this album is melodious, acoustically creative and does not disappoint if you’re up for catchy, lyrically stimulating tunes. Emmich has received a wider fan base since appearing on the series Ugly Betty and the songs performed on the show have been in great demand. My personal favourite is his rendition of Tom Petty’s American Girl – which is unfortunately not on this album but has definitely put him on my radar as an artist to be taken seriously.

4. DUFFY RockFerry

An album that is reminiscent of the swinging, soulful, motown era, it also speaks of a sense of self-awareness in the tracks belted out by this Welsh newcomer. Often cited as channelling Dusty Springfield in her style, Aimee Ann Duffy is definitely one to look out for if this album is anything to go by.

3. GLASVEGAS – Glasvegas

A band from Glasgow that had me hooked when I first heard Daddy’s Gone in late 2007. With a Doo-Wop style, charged with heavy guitars, harmonizing and a thick accent painting pictures with emotionally stimulating lyrics, this 4 piece band has received rave reviews for the 3 singles which are thankfully included in this debut album: Geraldine, My Own Cheating Heart and of course Daddy’s Gone. Flowing from luminous, shimmery melancholy to emotionally charged sadness – this album has every track taking you to a place of your interpretation with James Allan and the band’s vocal and musical direction as a guide.

2. ELBOW The Seldom Seen Kid

This Mercury Music Prize winning band (beating out Radiohead and the likes), have been around for almost 18 years. This album – their fourth, solely funded and produced, has begun to see the commercial success that has been eluding them for years. Alternative, with a signature style infusing strings, keyboards, steel guitars and echoic vibrations and vocals, it’s an out of body experience that gives you just enough rope to still feel your feet on the ground. Worthy of mention are One Day Like ThisWeather To Fly and Grounds For Divorce.

1. THE GASLIGHT ANTHEM The ’59 Sound

They’re from New Jersey and they carry with them the Springsteen benchmark – the difference with Brian Fallon and the guys though, lies with the fact that they’re doing it right. Keeping it simple but cranking it up with their brand of originality. And this coming from a fan of The Boss – this album was like a super-charged walk down Born to Run from the early 70’s. Every track on this is worth losing your working class hopes and dreams to.

ANI DIFRANCO – LIVE IN SINGAPORE

Okay, here’s some priority booking information on Ani’s Singapore show in Feb 2009 from our good friends Greenhorn Productions (and yes, it’s all in caps)

PRIORITY BOOKING FOR ANI DIFRANCO WILL COMMENCE AT 9 A.M. TOMORROW (19 Dec) AT SISTIC. VISIT WWW.SISTIC.COM.SG. THE PASSWORD FOR PRIORITY BOOKING AND THE 10% DISCOUNT IS (at the Facebook group page).

THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT. PLEASE CONTINUE TO SPREAD THE WORD ABOUT ANI’S FIRST EVER PERFORMANCE IN SOUTH EAST ASIA!!

THANKS FOR YOUR SUPPORT.

So don’t hesitate, get your tickets while hot…(sorry, could not resist).

PAUL SIMON LIVE DVD

PAUL SIMON Live From Philadelphia GHL (Eagle Rock)

Eagle Rock has been on a hot streak delivering classic 80s concerts of such music luminaries as Queen and Earth Wind & Fire. Add this Paul Simon concert in Philadelphia from 1981 to the list. With a crack band backing Simon on his sophisticated jazz-folk pop material, Simon churns out fan faves like Still Crazy After All These Years, 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover and Late in the Evening. But of course the most enthusiastic response is for his popular hits The Boxer and The Sound of Silence.

Definitely one for the fans.

AMOS LEE

 

AMOS LEE Last Days At the Lodge (Blue Note)

Philadelphia folk maestro Amos Lee completes his triad of studio records with this current offering. 

Lee is no stranger to the limelight. Some of you might recognize his track Colors, which has received airplay during episodes of House, as well as the finale of the second season of Grey’s Anatomy. He’s also played several big-ticket gigs: Austin City Limits, The Tonight Show and even at Abbey Road for the Live at Abbey Road series et al. as well as toured with Merle Haggard and Bob Dylan.

Travelling in such eminent company has had a profoundly apparent influence on Lee’s songcraft. Last Days At The Lodge is a soulful gumbo of grassroots jazz served up with a dollop of southern blues squash, running the gamut from Buddy Guy, to Johnny Winter, to Thelonius Monk.

Not to insinuate any degree of sonic mimicry though, the songs off this album stand alone as exceedingly well-crafted, by virtue of their own merits.

Breezily dealing with personal struggle and observational musing, and replete with carefully timed vocal cues that steer decidedly ruminative lyrics, Last Days At The Lodge stands as a flagbearer for contemporary singer-songwriter pop. That’s right you geeetar pickers: This is how it should be done.

(Sherwin Tay)

Check out Amos Lee’s Myspace page.

THE SECRET HISTORY

 

THE SECRET HISTORY Desolation Town EP (Le Grand Magistery)

Desolation Town is the debut EP of NYC’s The Secret History. The comparisons made to The Smiths and Roxy Music seem warranted with the storytelling, dream-like flow evident in each track. The theme of the EP seems almost nostalgic – sprayed with messages tinged in light hearted moodiness, accompanied with radio friendly beats and riff. Worthy of mention of course is Lisa Ronson’s (daughter of the legendary Mick Ronson) effortless weaving of the tone of each track and her echo-filled harmonizing that catches you pleasantly by surprise when she slides into verses of strong proclamation. It reminded me almost of a very early Natalie Merchant.

The riffs in a couple of the tracks – most notably on the intro It’s Not The End of The World, Jonah and Obelisk/Mark and John were anointed with a bluesy-pop touch that is very fetching.

All in all, a great marriage of Michael Grace Jr’s sound and direction with Ronson’s ability to steer each unique wave to tell of different places, different faces and different spaces.

(Charlotte Lourdes)

Check out the Secret History’s MySpace Page.

PoP10 – LAURIE BIAGINI

Laurie Biagini is a fairly new name in the Pop Underground but certainly a welcome addition to the canon of modern sunshine pop. Biagini gives us the skinny on her PoP10.

1. Why play music? 

I love to create new music based on my favorite styles from the past.  

2. Who are your influences?

The Beach Boys, Brian Wilson, Jan & Dean, The Mamas & The Papas, The Monkees, The Carpenters. 

3. What is success? 

Success is the outcome of following your passion and seeing it through to a tangible result – a sense of accomplishment. 

4. Why should people buy your music? 

People who love the sound of harmony rich, melodic pop of the sixties, and are craving more should buy my music, and hopefully they will enjoy what they hear. 

5. Who do you love? 

I love my family and friends. 

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

I hope to entertain people who enjoy the genre of music that I create, and in the process hopefully influence the younger generation to appreciate this style as well. 

7. Who comes to your gigs?

Friends and fellow musicians who appreciate melodic pop music. 

8. What is your favorite album?

The Beach Boys – Endless Summer

9. What is your favorite song?

Car Crazy Cutie – The Beach Boys

10. How did you get here?

From writing my first song just over 2 years ago, to all the radio airplay, and finally finishing and releasing my album, this is how I got to where I am now. 

Laurie Biagini’s album, Ridin’ the Wave is out now.

MY ONE & ONLY 2008

Here it is, a video teaser for the upcoming watchmen@midnight Ep. 

Featuring James Lye (electric guitar), Brian Koh (bass), Low Han Quan (drums), Esther Low (keyboards, vocals) and Kevin Mathews (vocals, acoustic guitar).

Special thanks to Fong Cheng, Felicia and of course, Ric.

… and there’s more …

BEST OF 2008

 

By Samuel C Wee

 

10. AC/DC-Black Ice

With Black Ice, AC/DC mounted a massive demonstration of the possibilities of the three primary colors of rock: guitar, bass and drums. When you consider the average age of the band, that’s a stupendous feat. 

9. U2-Boy

Not really a 2008 album per se, but the digitally crisp remaster was so gorgeous in its rendering of The Edge’s original echoing work, I had to include this one. 

8. Firebrands-First The Flash Then The Pulse

Local bad boys Firebrands shake off the black sheep reputation to turn in an album as explosive as their moniker. High on production values and headbanging numbers, low on the snooze factor, which can only be a good thing for rock and roll. 

7. Lambchop-OH(Ohio)

Gorgeously blending several genres into a distinctive slow burn is Lambchop, with their lush soundscapes, easy melodies and narrative lyrics that retain a touch of humor. Bittersweet at times, gorgeously evocative at others, and beautiful throughout. 

6. Keane-Perfect Symmetry

That’s much to be said for a band who can make synthesizers and electric guitars sound like a new invention. With Perfect Symmetry, Keane took a step back into the 80s while simultaneously capturing the ethos of this digital generation. 

5. Val Emmich-Little Daggers

 Bright, catchy, soulful melodies combined with dark, emotive and occasionally angsty lyrics to produce an excellent full-bodied album. Get On With It alone is worth the price of entry.

4. The Lard Brothers-Forest Action Team

Which stroke of insane genius gave these F.A.T lads the chutzpah to reinvent local anthems? It wasn’t enough that they had to produce a star-studded album that was overflowing with brilliance in its creative adaptations of familiar local songs, they had to give it away free. 

3. The Killers-Day And Age

The Killers may be many things, but boring is not one of them. And on this new release that combines the masculine testosterone of Sam’s Town with the Brit-rock of their Hot Fuss, they prove again why so many fell in love with their synthesizer laden brand of hook-based rock. 

2. Kings Of Leon-Only By The Night

The Followill brothers have been threatening to break into the mainstream for some time, and with Only By The Night they accomplished it with a combination of bluesy stompin’ numbers, country rock and sheer panache. And who could ignore that howling soulful voice, one moment a broken-hearted wind, the next a snarling narrator of lust and desire?

1. LIME-Smells Like Indie Spirit

Okay, this isn’t really a normal album. (One would argue that the digital mp3 format of the CD that was distributed would disqualify it from being an album at all.) But for the mass communication efforts launched by LIME to gather the best that the Singapore scene has to offer and make it readily available to the public at a dirt-cheap price, this gets my vote for favorite album of 2008.

FUNERAL PARTY

 

FUNERAL PARTY Bootleg EP (Fearless)

Following in the vein of electronica-infused post-punk rock popularized by The Bravery is L.A. based band, Funeral Party. Their formula of Eno-style keyboard invention, liquid guitar soundscapes and catchy punch-the-air lyrics are a recipe for youth anthems, and it’s no surprise that over in L.A they have developed quite a following.  Their EP offering, Bootleg, is an enjoyable 3-track selection fresh with the heady scent of college freedom that is sure to resonate with youngsters, but with track titles like NYC Moves To The Sound Of LA, they’re unlikely to impress even the most plebeian of rock snobs. But that’s alright, mama, because as the corporate record executives like to preach, target market is everything. 

EP opener, Carwars is deeply reminiscent of bands such as The Killers or The Bravery with its fuzzed-out vocals, danceable guitar hooks and effects-bending guitar solo, while Chalice is a stomping headbanger that puts the electric into electro. The aforementioned NYC track is itself a deeply addictive, rhythmic concoction of visceral grooves and body-invading drums, topped off by a catchy bridge designed for crowd-pleasing (unless you happen to be a resident of the Big Apple, that is.) 

In summary, this is a very enjoyable EP that cleverly taps on the zeitgeist of the times and turns in a neat balance between pop catchiness and electronic experimentation.  

(Samuel C Wee)

Check out Funeral Party’s Myspace page.

PoP10 – THE WELL WISHERS

 

Jeff Shelton is a pop underground luminary known for his work with Spinning Jennies and the Well Wishers. Jeff graciously shared with us his comments on the PoP10.

1. Why play music?
I do it because it’s in me. I didn’t start playing guitar and writing songs until I was about 18 or 19 years old. Music was always in me…it just took the first half of my life to realize I could actually learn to express it! At some point anyone’s inherent “talent” finds a way to manifest itself. What’s truly sad are those who feel they have it but don’t reach into themselves to bring it out. 

2. Who are your influences?
I love everything….from the Beach Boys to Black Sabbath…Mozart to Miles Davis; but as a musician and songwriter, most influence flows downhill from the Beatles. I get inspiration from just about every decade …with the most influential being the 80s and early 90s. I grew up listening to 80s modern rock with the cornerstone bands of my youth being REM, The Smiths, The Cure, Husker Du, X and others. In the 90s it was pivotal power pop bands like The Posies, Sloan, Redd Kross, Matthew Sweet, Teenage Fanclub, and many others. All those bands and genres shaped my musical background. I love the dark moody post-punk of bands like the Chameleons and Killing Joke as much as a cheery 3-minute pop song.

3. What is success?
I received two emails recently from two people I did not know who went out of their way to find me and tell me how much my music meant to them. When music becomes more than just background noise…when it really reaches to people and makes them feel more than what is on a superficial level, that’s the golden ticket. The fact that two random people conveyed this to me completely justifies everything I’ve ever done musically. And for that, I can be eternally grateful!

4. Why should people buy your music?
So I can send my kids to college 

5. Who do you love?
God. Family. Friends. (is there anything else?)

6. What do you hope to achieve with your music?
As I alluded in question #3… the best I can hope for is that my music will reach out to someone in more than just a superficial way. If I can accomplish that – even with a few folks, then I feel I’ve achieved something.

7. Who comes to your gigs?
I don’t currently play live (as I don’t have a backing band). In the past (with Spinning Jennies) it was the die-hards…and on down nights it was usually just the drunk at the bar, the drummer’s girlfriend selling merch…and the other bands on the bill that night.

8. What is your favorite album?
POSIES – Dear 23

9. What is your favorite song?
“God Only Knows” Brian Wilson

10. How did you get here?
On a hippy trailhead full of zombies …. or was it The Magic Bus?

The Well Wishers’ album Jigsaw Days is out now.