There’s quite a fair bit of country music out there that’s popular but sadly, it’s mostly Top 40 mainstream pop fare that never challenges the mind and instead panders to the lowest common denominator. For something more cutting edge in the country music sphere, we need to continue to look at Alt-Country. Thankfully, that aspect of country music is still thriving (creatively, if not commercially) and one prime example can be found in Sleeping Operator, the sophomore effort from the Montreal-based Barr Brothers (viz. Brad Barr, Andrew Barr, Sarah Page, Andres Vial).
It’s always a wondrous experience when an artistically-minded band blends country with rock ‘n’ roll to produce soulful music that leaves the listener satisfied. To these ears, songs like “Wolves”, “Even the Darkness Has Arms” and “Half Crazy” recalls the likes of Steve Earle, The Jayhawks and even early WILCO – a wonderful evocation of Gram Parsons’ Cosmic American Music. The melodies glide effortlessly and the exotic instrumentation complements the same perfectly to send sympathetic listeners into country-folk-pop-rock bliss!
Brass Bed is releasing a brand new 7″ with MA’AM Records on November 18th, 2014. The new single, “Be Anything” b/w “Mind The Gap” captures the band live on two inch tape deep in the midst of their tour cycle. Fuzzy guitars, gorgeous tunes and easy vibe recalls Dinosaur Jr., Teenage Fanclub and the 90s Pop Underground. Listen now!
Last year David Bowie shocked the world with the release of a new single (“Where Are We Now?”)/album (The Next Day) after years of silence and relative inactivity. Well, it didn’t take long for Bowie to return with another new single/album did it? The single is “Sue (Or In a Season of Crime) which was given its world premiere on BBC Radio Six by DJ Guy Garvey, a couple of days ago. Of course, the song is all over the internet now – check it out below.
PoP is on a quest to discover the best contemporary bands out there trading in classic pop-rock, power-pop and garage-rock and we aim to please ourselves as often as humanly possible. The Singles viz. Vincent Frederick (guitar/lead vocals) and Nicky Veltman (drums/back-up vocals) are the real deal! This LA based duo have just released Look How Fast A Heart Can Break and it is a winner. It’s fair to say that they don’t sound like any one band directly but there’s certainly a healthy dollop of Big Star, The Replacements, T. Rex and more, in their musical agenda. Best part is that it gets hearts pounding and adrenaline rushing for all the best reasons. Check ’em out!
Regular PoP visitors will be keenly aware of my aversion towards ‘pop-punk’ in modern rock parlance. But of course, there is still a place for punk-rock in 2014 for any band who is clever enough to not be limited by ‘genre’ but instead is able to use punk as an attitude to approach music making. Case in point – Toronto outfit PUP, who consists of Stefan on vox / guitar, Zack on drums, Steve on guitar and Nestor on bass and simply classify their music as ‘loud’!
Couple of recommended new releases you should be listening to at Spotify.
AMPLIFIER – Mystoria
This Manchester hard rock band has been around since the late 90s and their 5th studio full-length is a wonderful distillation of 70s classic rock that include knowing references to Black Sabbath, Genesis, Rush & Pink Floyd. Tastefully done to emphasize both melodic and metallic aspects, this is one of the kind of rock music that should be getting more attention in 2014! Singer-guitarist Sel Balamir is the main attraction here as his vocals and superb guitar work takes center stage in every single track. Check out “Magic Carpet”, “Cat’s Cradle” & “Crystal Anthem” for maximum rock ‘n’ roll!
CHRISTOPHER OWENS – A New Testament
This is good old fashioned country gospel music that one is unlikely to hear on the hip and cool playlists in 2014 – until now, of course. Kudos to Owens for breaking away from the crowd with this gorgeously authentic tribute to classic country-folk/R&B gospel. A New Testament (typically religious reference from Owens) is evidence that there is plenty of goodness to mined from classic pop-rock, especially in the right hands. One of the albums of the year, no contest!
DARK WAVES– s/t
I really don’t give a shit about what ‘genre’ a band/artist is considered to be a part of, I only need to know one thing – is the songwriting any good? Well, Dark Waves (aka Nick Long) certainly possesses the songwriting chops to keep my attention on its debut eponymous EP. ‘Memorable melodies & appropriate arrangements’ is always my mantra when it comes to assessing music and virtually every song here fits the bill. I am truly digging “The Heartbeat The Soul” and “Echo” immensely. Keeping a close eye on Dark Waves…
Alright. Here’s the deal – every week I randomly pick FIVE new releases listed at Spotify and tell you what I think (YAY or NAY?!), very spontaneously! No holds barred – fasten your seatbelts! Let me know what you think of the music in the comments…
THE RAVEONETTES – Pe’ahi
Describing Danish rockers The Raveonettes simply as post-punk revivalists does not do their music any justice. Sure, their style is predicated on the 80s post-punk, especially an obvious admiration for Jesus and Mary Chain, but in fact their sonic agenda covers a much wider range that encapsulates influences as diverse as The Everly Brothers and The Velvet Underground. This new one – album #7 – is a sheer joy to behold, filled with the duo’s trademarked noise-rock ambience enveloping well constructed melodic songs. YAY!
Two for the price of one, you might say. This coming National Day, Nelson Tan and Amanda Tee will be holding a joint launch for their new respective EPs at Hood Bar. CDs will be on sale at the door; $20 for both EPs or $15 each.
Listen to Nelson’s latest single “Time” (ft. Amanda Tee)
In Each Hand A Cutlass (IEHAC) – together with The Observatory – is probably one of Singapore’s premier progressive art-rock bands and thus, not only is it exciting news that IEHAC is currently recording a new album with legendary producer Brad Wood but in fact, has made available a two-track EP to whet appetites for the awesome new music to come.
These two tracks viz. the psych-folky “All We Are Left With Is A Memory Of A Memory” and the post-metallic “Appetite for Dysfunction” certainly do the job, especially if you love prog rock! And when you consider that the EP is going for a buck, then a purchase is simply a no-brainer, my friends.
Not only that but the band collaborated with comic artist Troy Chin for his online interactive comic, called Forgetting, which the song “All We Are Left With Is A Memory Of A Memory” is the soundtrack to. His excellent noir-style comic is at www.drearyweary.com/Forgetting – go forth and choose your own adventure.
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…
If not already apparent, here at PoP, we focus on pop with power. Invariably, that involves bands and artists that take a long hard look into the wide world of music available out there in the space-time continuum in a valiant effort to come up with something new, something unique, something that rocks the listener’s heart and soul. With that in mind, here are some of our YouTube discoveries (not the kind you’re thinking of) and we hope to give them more profile and attention in the weeks and months to come…
An indie pop band that eschews all the conventional trappings of expectation is to be received with open arms! Sure, singer Jen Goma has the typical femme twee pop vox and the tunes are way simpatico but everything else tries to get as far away from ‘normal’ as possible.
Meaning: we get distinctive soundscapes that mix electronica, shoegaze and ambient approaches which act as sonic envelopes for the love letters of words and melody that make up these unique songs. Thus, the tracks on Sea When Absent have the advantage of being familiar to indie pop fans and yet arty enough to satisfy the edgier music enthusiast as well. Best of both worlds!
Highlights include the viscerally sweet “Byebye, Big Ocean (The End)”, the chirpy drone of “MTLOV (Minor Keys)” and the schizoid girl group channeling “Oh I’m A Wrecker (What To Say To Crazy People)”. Definitely one to savor and particularly ripe for closer inspection.
After a successful Music Matters Live in Singapore last month, JPNSGRLS were back on the road playing in Toronto for NXNE and as usual, the guys documented the experience with tour diary videos. Check ’em out! Review of debut full-length Circulation coming very very soon!
Country-folk for stoners? Am digging this from this Seattle-based trio. Full length album – Spells – coming out on 12th August. Check ’em out on Facebook.
A MILLION BILLION DYING SUNS “The Garden”
Ten years later the garage revival is still going strong, isn’t it. Cali-based AMBDS imbues its garage sound with enough psych-rock elements to keep things interesting. Debut album drops in September. Listen at Soundcloud. (No embed allowed for some reason)
D.S. BRADFORD “Oceans”
Proudly stated to be made in the suburbs, the spirit is indeed willing at least. Bradford does well to craft the song together but it does sound clunky in parts. No denying the intent! Single will be available at iTunes from 1st July. Connect at Facebook.
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!
The beauty of Spotify‘s immense catalogue of tracks is the ability to create playlists of my favourite songs over the decades and thus, here are my playlists for the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s for your listening pleasure…
When I saw Dublin sextet Buffalo Sunn play at Beer Market for Music Matters Live ’14, I was entranced by their wondrous approximation of country-folk-rock and post-punk styles into a pleasing whole. Having four brothers in the lineup – the musical Paxton men (Daniel the songwriter, guitarist and lead vocalist, Neil on keys, guitar and backing vocals, Conor on keys and guitar and Ruairi on bass) – sure helps in producing those heavenly harmonies. Together with Donagh O’Brien on drums and Patrick McHugh on vocals and guitar, the Paxton brothers as Buffalo Sunn made for a formidable band, as many in the audience at Music Matters Live found out.
On a personal note, I had the chance to talk to the band’s management team (Elvera and James Butler) and discovered that the band are mates with members of Pugwash, whom I had met last year in London! In that light, I felt it appropriate to make available the recording of my conversations with the band last week in the Green Room at Music Matters Live.
First off, we talked about Sweet Jane and similarities with The Beach Boys…
Next, the band discussed why it was important for them to play in Asia…
Is it a good time to be a musician? The band weigh in with their thoughts on how technological developments have impacted their music…
We wrapped up with a discussion on the Buffalo Sunn music videos on YouTube and the master plan for world domination…
Well, that’s it!
Look out for Buffalo Sunn’s debut album coming soon. In the meantime, check out the music video of the latest single, “By Your Side” below.
You know the saying, a band takes a lifetime to write and record its first album and then six months to record the follow-up. Sometimes, this results in a poor second album and whether a band can overcome this setback or not is never a certainty. We look to the 80s for 4 examples of how bands coped with the second album syndrome.
THE KNACK – But The Little Girls Understand…
The band’s debut album, Get the Knack, was 1979’s best-selling albums, holding the number one spot on Billboard magazine’s album chart for five consecutive weeks and selling two million copies in the United States. It’s biggest hit – “My Sharona” was the song of ’79. The band rush-released But The Little Girls Understand… (in early 1980) which came across like an inferior version of the debut LP. Although, the album still went gold, the album left fans and critics unimpressed and the third LP – Round Trip – was a flop. But in hindsight, the album is really not as bad as it sounded back in 1980…
Definitely one of the main highlights of Music Matters Live ’14 would be JPNSGRLS – pronounced “Japanese Girls” – a band that manages to combine the dynamic pleasures of 80s post-punk and 90s alt-rock. The band kindly answered our queries before making their way to our shores from Canada! Don’t miss them!!
Why did you apply to play at Music Matters Live ’14?
We have been really fortunate to have the support of CIMA which is Canada’s not-for-profit trade association that represents our independent music industry. Part of their mandate is to create export opportunities for “export ready” Canadian indie acts, like ourselves, and so, last year, we were brought to Spain to play at BIME 2013. The opportunity to travel to another country, engage with a new audience and culture, and network with the business people of a different market was really an amazing opportunity and experience for us. The idea that we will get to do the same in Asia is a dream come true. We were ecstatic when we found out we were accepted to play at Music Matters Live.
Bandcamp.com is a good place to listen to indie music that is fairly under the radar. No other ‘genre’ can possibly be more marginalized than S-ROCK (or Singapore Rock or Singapore indie or whatever the fuck you wanna call it – don’t get your panties in a twist!) i.e. music made in Singapore. BUT there are numerous indie bands and artists that worth are investigating and these are the ones you can find at Bandcamp.com. Enjoy…