Category: MUSIC

Every kind of music under the sun

JPNSGRLS – CIRCULATIONJPNSGRLS – CIRCULATION

JPNSGRLS-Circulation-cover

In just the first four tracks of Circulation – the Vancouver quartet’s full-length debut (released by Light Organ Records on 15th July)  – JPNSGRLS (pronounced as “Japanese Girls”) clearly demarcate what makes them so special in this age of pristine pop hacks and artless copyists. There’s the visceral melodicism of 90s grunge (“Smalls”), the slinky dynamism of 70s power pop (“Tiger”), the epic urgency of the millennial post-punk revival (“Brandon”) and the post-modern appropriation of Afrocentric music (“Circulation”), that demonstrate the band’s ability to slip and slide across the various musical references that have driven contemporary indie rock into mainstream acceptance.

Central to JPNSGRLS modus operandi is a willingness to break down its song components into clearly definable roles that is distinctive enough to stand on its own but the sum of which is greater than its individual parts. In theoretical terms, whilst the song accompaniments perform their harmonic functions, there are also enough polyphonic elements in the guitars (Oliver Mann), bass (Chris McClelland) and drums (Graham Serl) to create entirely unique arrangements that elevate these songs way above your what even the most competent rhythm sections are able to achieve in indie rock.

Singer Charlie Kerr’s vocal delivery of the meaningful lyrics is the glue that keeps this intricate latticework moving together like a well-designed well-oiled music machine. Kerr certainly has a way to make his singing almost conversational in tone, emotionally resonant and yet operating as highly intelligent banter as well. Like in the way he expresses a sense of low self-esteem in the title track – “Like I’m counting Mississippi’s till it’s convenient/You say I’m nothing baby, we’re in agreement” or in the manner he pays tribute to the late Brandon Teena in “Brandon” (a trans man who was tragically raped and murdered) “Cause Brandon really understands/What it means to be a man” or in the internal psychological warfare that thrives within relationships expressed in the animalistic iconology of “Tiger” – “I’m a spider/I wanna crawl up your legs girl”.

But of course, Circulation is more than its first four tracks as the band brings the lyrical and musical concepts further in the frenetic “Mushrooms”, the mesmerizing “Tennis Shoes”, the rollicking “Laughing Gas” and the angularly funky “David and Goliath”. Simply put, Circulation is one of those albums, rock lovers can listen to all the way through – a rarity in itself in 2014. Bloody essential!

Official Site

BITTERSWEET MACHINES – A NIGHT FULL OF SHARP EDGES EPBITTERSWEET MACHINES – A NIGHT FULL OF SHARP EDGES EP

Night_Full_of_Sharp_Edges

Matt Mocharnuk, the brains behind recording artist Bittersweet Machines is a songwriter with the ability to manipulate the emotions of anyone fortunate enough to listen to his musical creations. I count myself amongst this number – as I have followed Mocharnuk’s creative journey in the last couple of years and with each release, cannot help but be awed by the consistent quality of the songs found on Bittersweet Machines EPs and albums.

New EP – A Night Full of Sharp Edges – is no exception to this rule. Stylistically, Morcharnuk has moved away somewhat from the post-punk revivalist tendencies found on previous releases. The songwriting seems more organic without reliance on any particular ‘genre’. This creative decision has liberated the music to form it’s own conclusions based on the confluence of tunes and lyrics.

What remains the same is the emotional weight of the melodies, the astute use of dynamism, the appropriation of infectious hooks and riffs and ultimately the natural appeal of songs that do not need too much analysis or deep probing in order to divine their joys.

It is an absolute pleasure to move from track to track – songs like “The Longest Minute,” “Is It Enough” and “Screaming Underwater” – embellished simply by acoustic guitar and tasteful keyboards reach out to touch heart and soul, rightfully belonging to the sweet indie Brit rock epoch that birthed bands like Travis, Coldplay and Keane.

Yet another bloody essential release from Bittersweet Machines.

Find out more!

 

PoP ARTPoP ART

PoP Art is a PoP feature where we examine the influence on ART on rock and pop music, in particular album covers.

Today we look at Pop art, a movement that began in UK and the USA in the 50s. The dominant figure in this ‘genre’ is probably one of the most influential artists in contemporary art – Andy Warhol.

Velvet Underground

Released in 1967, The Velvet Underground & Nico may not have sold many units but it’s enduring significance cannot be over-emphasized. What was also unique about the album design was that early copies of the album invited the owner to “Peel slowly and see”, peeling back the banana skin revealed a flesh-colored banana underneath.  Recently, there was a legal battle between the Andy Warhol Foundation of Visual Arts and the band over copyrights over the cover design.

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THE CRIBS BY MELISSA NGTHE CRIBS BY MELISSA NG

The Cribs Camp Symmetry

The Cribs Interview

Power of Pop, along with representatives from other media, sat down with Ryan and Ross of The Cribs at Camp Symmetry two weekends ago, at a roundtable interview. It was conducted after their energetic, frenetic and rocking set at Camp Symmetry, and though the guys were tired and sweaty, they obliged us in answering our questions and were very fun to talk to!

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CAMP SYMMETRY BY MELISSA NGCAMP SYMMETRY BY MELISSA NG

Best Coast courtesy of Symmetry Entertainment
Best Coast courtesy of Symmetry Entertainment

Camp Symmetry
2 November 2013
The Meadow, Gardens By The Bay

Last Saturday, indie fans descended on The Meadow at Gardens By The Bay for the first edition of the annual Camp Symmetry, organised by Symmetry Entertainment, who has brought us gigs by Beach Fossils, Yacht, Carl Barat & The Libertines and The Drums. Starting at 12 noon, the festival line-up presented 12 hours of indie folk, indie pop, indie rock and post-rock. The festival expectedly attracted hipsters and music lovers ranging from the ages of 15 to 40. Camp Symmetry invited comparisons to Laneway Festival – having similar programming, targeting the same audience, being held at the same venue, and the festival held up very well. There was a good variety and somewhat affordable F&B choices for a festival, with more activities like bouncy castles and ping-pong tables. The festival also ran like clockwork, with each set starting and ending at its scheduled time, which is remarkable for a festival!

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HEAVEN KNOWS I’M MISERABLE NOWHEAVEN KNOWS I’M MISERABLE NOW

HEAVEN KNOWS I’M MISERABLE NOW – THE SMITHS (1984)

When Paul Weller broke up The Jam in 1982, there was a huge vacuum in my life that his follow-up project The Style Council could not quite fill. I needed a band that could mean the same thing to me as The Jam did. In early 1984, the ever-dependable John Peel was championing a new band called The Smiths (viz. Morrissey, Johnny Marr, Andy Rourke & Mike Joyce) who had just released their third single (“What Difference Does It Make”) and eponymous debut album in January and February of that year respectively.

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EMO FASCISM – TAKING STOCKEMO FASCISM – TAKING STOCK

EmoFASCISMsm

So the new album – Emo FASCISM – has been out for more than a week now and to be brutally honest, I feel utterly disappointed by the lack of response. But wait…. what did I truly expect? The CDs (and T-shirts) to be sold out and that all my friends would pack out my shows? Ah yes, the problem of unrealistic expectations – the agony of hope not fulfilled.

After all, wasn’t the recording of the album for my own benefit? Yes and no. Indeed, the album has had a carthatic and therapeutic effect on the emotional rollercoaster that is now my daily existence. Yet, one cannot help but yearn for the acceptance of your peers, which is represented (rightly or wrongly) by attendance at shows, CDs and T-shirts sales. With all my low self-esteem issues bundled into and identified with the ‘success’ of the album, you can imagine it has not been an easy week for me.

Add to that complicated relationship difficulties and it’s not too far-fetched to suggest that I feel royally fucked-up at the moment. But wait…. that would ignore the positives and I really need to focus on and give recognition to these factors in order to survive and ultimately thrive. So here goes…

It was wonderful playing with Pat, Ray, Nelson and Ben (aka The Groovy People) and on stage I felt invincible. It has been amazing to collaborate with Lydia once again, she is so talented that my heart wants to burst – she is my protege in every sense of the word. The fact that she disappears before the end of the month makes this even more bittersweet (typical innit?)

To everyone who has attended the shows and purchased Emo FASCISM (the CDs and T-shirts), THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart — I do cherish each and everyone of you — you give me hope that maybe I’m not a FAILED MUSICIAN after all….

(Kevin Mathews)

… still there’s more …

THE HIGH COST OF LIVING (DEATH VALLEY 92328)THE HIGH COST OF LIVING (DEATH VALLEY 92328)

DeathValley-rev

Despite the relative success of “Orchard Road” (with the track getting radioplay and music video being featured on national TV), my ambitions were still modest. I was happy to be able to record and release another song, whatever the platform. The guys from BigO magazine wanted me to test a MiniDisc player/recorded and to review it for the mag. So I ended up writing and recording two songs – “The High Cost of Living” and “The Offender”, the latter as yet unreleased. The song ended up being featured on BigO’s free CD, Death Valley 92328, and was played on radio again (which still amazes me, considering the lyrical content)

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DARE (FT. DANIEL SASSOON)DARE (FT. DANIEL SASSOON)

Dare cover courtesy of Cass Goh
Courtesy of Cass Goh

Dare is the first track to be made public from the Emo Fascism recording sessions which took place mainly in September last year at Patrick Chng’s excellent home studio. The album will consist of ten tracks (with two bonus tracks on the CD) and for the most part I wrote, sang, performed and produced the lot with Patrick engineering, mixing and mastering the recording. Only one other musician played on Emo Fascism (Dare to be specific) and I am proud to say that it was none other than Daniel Sassoon.

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BORED SPIES – “SUMMER 720” (REVIEW)BORED SPIES – “SUMMER 720” (REVIEW)

Who are Bored Spies? Well, think of the trio (Cherie Ko, Sooyoung Park & Morfin) as some kind of off-the-wall Canadian-Korean-Singaporean musical venture that somehow perfectly falls into contemporary indie rock space circa 2013. Privileged as always to be slightly ahead of the game, I am listening to the debut single from Bored Spies and marveling at the immediacy and intricacy of the music – sweet yet brash, bold yet amiable – full of contrasting hues and yet dead-eyed focused on heart and soul.

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THE OTHER SOUNDS LAUNCH PARTYTHE OTHER SOUNDS LAUNCH PARTY

ScotDrakula

Yes, this review of the Other Sounds launch party is a little late. Yes, I had loads of fun with friends and new acquaintances, not to mention the delivery of good good music. What else do you need to know?

Upfront let me just say that congratulations are in order to Other Sounds for hosting a fabulous party. I mean, the food was simply yummy and even though I had dinner before I came, I still managed to polish a couple of burgers and pizza slices. So kudos! And… the free flow alcohol, courtesy of Asahi was much welcomed as well. Is the indie music scene coming of age. Step by step, in the right direction.

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ELLEN LOO + RIPPLES BAND – LIVE IN SINGAPOREELLEN LOO + RIPPLES BAND – LIVE IN SINGAPORE

Rockmui Ellen Loo

To be honest, I never expected to write this review. Up to the point that I received the email from Peipei (LIKES Communications), I had not even heard of Hong Kong/Canadian singer-songwriter Ellen Loo. And when Peipei invited me to catch Ellen’s show at the Esplanade Recital Studio, I was feeling a bit mixed. After all, I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a fan of Mandarin pop but I thought – “nothing ventured, nothing gained” – and I am so glad that I took the plunge.

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SIMON TOWNSHEND | INTERVIEWSIMON TOWNSHEND | INTERVIEW

Simon Townshend

Simon Townshend released one of the more intriguing albums of 2012, the under-rated Looking Out, Looking In. We were fortunate and privileged to be able to pose a couple of questions to Townshend via email and we set out his responses below.

As a musician/recording artist, has being the younger brother of Pete Townshend been an advantage or disadvantage and why so?

I think it works both ways. I suppose I have a lot to live up to, especially when some people expect so much of me. Having said that my name has opened a few doors that would have perhaps remained shut. I am really proud of my brother and have always loved his music / lyrics – The Who are one of my all time favourite bands. However, I have many other musical influences and my sound is unique. I think once people realise that the sibling association takes a back seat they will judge me on my own merits. At the end of the day it’s down to me and my music to win music lovers over.

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