PoP RECOMMENDS: MOTHBOXER

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Some of the classic pop music was written in the studio, without having been road-tested in live performance. The Beatles and The Beach Boys come easily to mind, of course. Appropriately, Dave Ody (aka Mothboxer) names both bands as principal influences and it’s no surprise that his music reflects the same ethos that his more famous forebears pioneered and mastered during the 60s.

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HOT BUZZ: LESLIE LOW – NO SUCH THING AS GHOSTS

Leslie Low released an instrumental album earlier this year which flew somewhat below the radar for most #sgindie fans. But now Low is back with an album of ‘proper’ songs that absolutely nobody should ignore. Based on the tracks previewed at Bandcamp, the album – No Such Thing as Ghosts – is typical Low fare. Meaning that it is sophisticated indie folk songwriting of the highest order expressed purely via voice and acoustic guitar. The Observatory frontman releases the album in several formats in September. Find out more.

Look out for reviews and interviews related to this release soon…

LOST WEEKEND – ON A SUNDAY / ABOUT FOREVER

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There is always something one can take away from ‘classic’ pop songwriting. Whatever the era or the ‘genre’ classification, somethings do not change viz. memorable melodies, familiar chord progressions, soulful vocals and of course, an indefinably cool vibe.

To have seen Lost Weekend grow from that tentative pop group I had witnessed at last year’s Baybeats auditions to the confident music makers evident on this brand new double-A side single has been eminently satisfying.

“On a Sunday” will appeal to all lovers of indie pop – whether or not they are old enough to know the meaning of “C86” or simply as a ‘genre’ that gets attached to hipster music festivals – with Rachel’s sultry vocals and Jonny’s Fannies-inspired guitar solo the prominent hooks.

“About Forever” is yet another track that recalls the glorious pop music of the 80s, substantively of the kind that the likes of Elvis Costello & Squeeze would regularly churn out i.e. with enough soul-R&B elements to keep things interesting. There is a groove driven by Mark’s bass work and Zj’s drums that totally underpins the song perfectly.

Two prime examples of matured songwriting that bodes well for fans of well-crafted song-oriented indie pop. Bloody essential! Get the single now from Bandcamp!

GITAR – ACTIVE CULTURES

Over at their Facebook page, the trio known as Gitar describes its ‘genre’ as ROCK N ROLL. Which is fine with me! Cuz I understand that term to mean – meaningful 60s/70s rock styles. Upon closer inspection, the band is probably kindred spirits with Frank Zappa, Talking Heads, Captain Beefheart & Steely Dan and any other band that gives sophisticated rock music a couple of offbeat & oddball twists.

Which makes new album, Active Cultures, a bit of an acquired taste. I mean, I would not imagine that contemporary indie kids will have the stomach for much of Gitar’s thoughtful experimental progressive work. Tracks like the funky “Spiritual Dunk”, the Beatlesque “Infamy Dream” and the quirky “New Martyrs” possibly get as pop as they get but even then, this is definitely one for the serious minded music enthusiast.

FOXY SHAZAM – GONZO

In May, Foxy Shazam released its new album Gonzo and it is now available as a FREE DOWNLOAD over at Bandcamp (link at the foot of this review). I am sure I had you at “free”, eh? But seriously, folks, that’s the state of affairs for bands in 2014. Consider the album as a portfolio for the band so that you might pay actual money for its shows, merch and perhaps the vinyl LP as well.

If nothing else, it gives us music fans unfettered access to one of the strongest albums this year. Recorded by the legendary Steve Albini live in a single room, the new music comes across visceral, in-your-face, dynamic and REAL! Believe me, Gonzo SOUNDS amazing! The songs themselves are typically Foxy Shazam – theatrical, epic, and funky pop – with punchy horns for good measure.

Tracks like the stomping “Poem Pathetic”, the bouncy “Tragic Thrill”, the slinky “Shoe Box” and the gorgeous “Story Told” are prime examples of the range of Foxy Shazam’s compositional skills. Best part is that the band executes each number with lusty aplomb – with singer Eric Sean Nally in fine form. Pop music making of the highest order!

Download your free copy now and enjoy!

UNICYCLE LOVES YOU – THE DEAD AGE

Fourth album from these Brooklyn-based melodic rockers finds the band in psych-garage territory. What does that mean you might ask? Well, basically it’s mid-60s flavoured three-chord pedal-flooring bubblegum tunes with heavily reverb-drenched harmony vocals. Can’t decide whether the album is played straight or tongue-in-cheek – doesn’t really matter I suppose.

Tunes are kept simple as are arrangements but be warned that the lo-fi, echo chamber sound is artifice in the extreme. Oddly enough, the dreamy albeit atonal soundscape that is “Silent Minus” is one of my favourite moments on The Dead Age. It demonstrates that Unicycle Loves You has more to offer than the meat and potatoes spinning in a wash cycle ambience that characterizes too much of this album.

That said, one cannot help but be entranced by the much of the repetitive atmospheric motives of tracks like “Endless Bummer” and “Any Daydreaming Morning” where psychedelic flourishes rule the day, in a pleasant way. A mixed bag but worth checking out by modern rock fans.

#SGINDIE

So let’s take a look at what’s hot in the Singapore indie music scene right here and now.

On the heels of Gentle Bones’ exciting and appealing brand of pop, we have Kai who has produced an EP of clearly radio-friendly tunes that should have no problems winning more than a few #sgindie fans. Kai himself is an accomplished beatboxer and also a member of the acapella group Vocaluptuous so one is guaranteed of superior vocal quality, which is indeed the case. I personally find “Goodbye” and “Better” (though its chorus is reminiscent of “Falling Slowly”) interesting and both should offer pop fans a couple of earworms and hooks. Definitely a promising start!

More #sgindie to check out…

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THE CRUSH

The Crush is a Seattle power pop trio that isn’t afraid to list a whole bunch of old school (read: classic) rock bands as influences. The standouts for me? The Stones, The Jam, Teenage Fanclub, The Kinks and fellow Seattles power poppers The Fastbacks! On its latest EP, Future Blimps, the band delivers all the necessary ingredients to make tasty power pop viz. beaty rhythms, meaty guitars, catchy tunes and singer Kira’s appealing larynx as the cherry on top!

The five-track EP kick offs with the rollicking “Never Gonna Stop” and the trio keeps energy levels high throughout. With tracks like the jangle-y “Around”, the garage-y “Better and Better”, the sunshine-y “It’s Love” and the bounce-y “Nothing to Lose”, the agenda is clear viz. cool vibes, poppy fun and an ephemeral musical infatuation with songs that aim directly at the heart!

Future Blimps is available at Bandcamp from 21st June!

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PoP RECOMMENDS: BABY SCREAM

Hailing from Bueno Aires, Argentina, Baby Scream has been flying the power pop flag for the past decade or so, delivering premier Beatlesque goodness that fans of the 90s Pop Underground would have no problem appreciating. The sardonically-titled Greatest Failures compiles some of Baby Scream’s finer moments (“Slut”, “Mars” and “Morning Light” amongst them) and provides a good starting point. Deeper exploration of the Baby Scream discography is available at Bandcamp. Led by vocalist/guitarist Juan Pablo Mazzola – who himself sings with a Lennonesque authority – Baby Scream is a safe haven for the power pop purists out there who are pining for the good ol’ days of the 90s Pop Underground. Check ’em out!

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HOT BUZZ: DRU CHEN – TURNAROUND SINGLE

It’s funky & groovy in a understated way. To these ears, there are elements of Prince & Mayer Hawthorne embedded in this slab of coolness. Oh yeah, it’s Dru Chen’s latest single “Turnaround” now available from Bandcamp. Go. Get!

#alpacablues

I am proud to announce that my new EP – and my second official solo release – is now available at Bandcamp. You can buy the EP for US$1 until 14th March, wherein it reverts to full price. I am quite sure that #alpacablues is probably my best recorded music to date and this has been done to the fine work from my collaborators viz. Ray Aziz (percussion), Nelson Tan (upright bass), Eileen Chai (violin) and Pat Chng (recording/mixing). Not forgetting of course, the wondrous cover art from Andy Yang. Recorded in about five sessions, the songs on the EP represent a watershed of sorts for me. I have decided to put behind me the overtly melancholic sentiments evident on both Emo FASCISM and #alpacablues and move ahead to make brighter music. Already, I have in mind an electronic pop project for the latter part of 2014. But in the meantime, I hope you will enjoy #alpacablues.

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MARK BONAFIDE – ISSUES (W/ KIM OLSEN & ZAHIDAH)

Here’s a sweet, catchy and soulful fuck-off song from the ever-smooth Mark Bonafide. It’s pretty short too, clocking in at 2:53! That’s my only issue with “Issues” (ouch!) – I wish I could get MORE of its goodness! Nice interplay with Kim Olsen and Zahidah provides a riveting contrast. Taken from the forthcoming e.p. “LOVE/REBEL” it seems – can hardly wait! Check it out!

MATTHEW LEE – STRAWBERRY VANILLA [REVIEW]

Look I believe in supporting as many different ‘genres’ as possible, especially within the S-ROCK scene but sometimes one does impose a certain bias upon musical direction and approaches. Take guitarist Matthew Lee for example. His 9-track album is instrumental rock that covers a gamut of diverse styles – hard rock, metal, pop-punk, classical and even sentimental – so there’s no questioning his eclecticism. But some of the tracks  – “=D”, “I Remember Happiness” and “Strawberry Vanilla” should really have vocals and not a guitar playing what are essentially vocal lines.

No quibbling with Lee’s technical prowess whatsoever but there’s no getting over the nagging feeling that some of these tracks would be better served with vocals. Check out Strawberry Vanilla and see if you agree…