Thursday, March 27, 2008

good songs by crap bands #1

If you take a trip back to the late 1990s, there once was a time when Scottish band Travis weren't just a bunch of wet blankets. Back in 1997, with the release of their debut album "Good Feeling", it wasn't all about being rained on, drifting or generally being sopping wet - oh no, all they wanted to do was rock with under-16 girls, all the while feeling all happy. Okay, maybe half of the album was crap, but it did have some shining moments, and, as a 15 year old obsessed with Select magazine, I had teenage crushes on them (mostly on Dougie, and I think it was largely because of his prominent nose).

Skip forward to the year 2000 - they had taken the world by storm with "The Man Who" and probably had whatever they wanted - girls, cocaine, blankets, whatever. But no, what did they do instead? Travis, bless their damp little socks, released a corker of a pop song as a between-albums single. "Coming Around" made it to number six on the UK singles chart, and with its wonderful guitar lines and pop harmonies, I think it should have been bigger than all their other songs. Of course, the best of pop music never reaches the lofty heights it should, and I guess this little gem will forever be confined to the bedrooms of those who knew at the time there was more to these four Glaswegians than wimpy ballads.

Download: Travis - "Coming Around"

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Once upon a time (well, three years ago), I began learning Spanish at an evening language class. I really wish I'd kept up with the language studies, and remembered more Spanish than "Yo no hablo Español", because it would mean I could listen to and understand all the words not just to Almodovar films, but to all those wonderful Spanish pop bands than emerge into my life from time to time. Take, for example, Madrid's super splendid Zipper.

Having formed in '01, played shows with the likes of The Lucksmiths and Pipas, and had a sold-out Cloudberry release, they're now ready to play some shows in the UK in May. Playing with those cuties from Horowitz and hosted by the super-cuties from Spiral Scratch, it's gonna be a superb night on Saturday 3rd May. I'll be there - super fun!

Anyway, Zipper - just look at their favourite bands on their Myspace page. It's so concise, but really says it all about what they love and what they sound like. And listening to "Hoy Estoy Muy Pop" embodies why I wish I'd kept up with the Spanish lessons. Just so much fun! They've been compared to the Free Loan Investments, who were just SO good, and I think it's more than a fair comparison. Oh and Maria, the singer, automatically qualifies as one of my heroes because she's a pop girl in economics. Pop girls really are the smartest - and the best!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

matinee delights: electric pop group + northern portrait

I hope you have had a very Happy Easter! What better way to finish off a day of easter eggs and chocolate bunnies galore than to acquaint yourself with some new sounds from the Matinée Records hit parade.

The Electric Pop Group have a new EP out, called "Sunrise". I am really looking forward to listening to this because the first track, "I Could See The Lights", is a corker! It's so cute and Swedish - everything about this song says, "Hello, I am Swedish, and I can't help but being jangly and summery. Please, dance to me." You can judge for yourself by downloading it here, or listening to it on their Myspace page. While you're there, make sure you listen to "Popgirly" (I'm sure you already have, though!) - it is so amusing, and oh, how I'm sure it rings true for so many internetters worldwide.

Matinée are also introducing a new Danish band to the world - Northern Portrait come from Copenhagen, formed in July '07, and are bringing their Smiths-esque lyricisms and earnest vocals to pop fans everywhere via their debut EP, "The Fallen Aristocracy". Matinée are describing the first track "Crazy" as "one of the strongest singles released by Matinée to date!" They're right, too - it's soaring, with smart lyrics and oh, vocals that sound as though maybe Morrissey and the singer from the Weeping Willows have morphed into one. It's a little melancholy, so I could imagine listening to this on an overcast day, wistfully thinking of the one who got away... Have a listen to it here!

Orders, as ever, via the Matinée shop.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

saturday's record shopping

I went record shopping today with my lovely friend Ariadne, whose soul, to paraphrase, has recently been hijacked by Calvin Johnston and Beat Happening, and who is the biggest Billy B. Childish fan I know. We shouldn't have gone record shopping because it's dangerous for the both of us, but we did anyway. We also did a bit of clothes shopping, but thankfully both of us were a little more restrained there - otherwise, we would have walked away with Rittenhouse sailor dresses, American Apparel silver leggings, pretty Alannah Hill cardigans and super soft Gorman knits. Sigh.

Record shopping is always great fun, especially with a companion who loves it even more than me! Here's what I found on today's journey:

The June Brides - There Are Eight Million Stories LP: I was very excited to find this, as I've never seen a June Brides record before, and, having only heard "Every Conversation", I'm very keen to hear the rest of their songs.

The Monochrome Set - The Jet Set Junta 7": Egg Records always seems to have Monochrome Set records waiting for me, and even today Rick the owner said he probably had a copy of 'Strange Boutique' hanging around, which I will definitely have to go back for.

Saint Etienne - Too Young To Die CD: A compilation of their early 90s singles - yay! This record also features the cutest picture of Sarah Cracknell on the cover.

Love Is All - Nothing To Be Done/Ageing Had Never Been His Friend double A-side 7": Yeah! Pastels cover! This purchase is long overdue, and it makes me regret the fact even more that I missed seeing them live last year.

Sons and Daughters - Darling 7": I never listened to "The Repulsion Box", but I have found this new single very catchy.

Hatcham Social - So So Happy Making 7": Dandy English boys who sound so much like an early 80s Postcard-esque band that when I heard them for the first time, I thought they were actually from the era! Many thanks to Dorian for introducing me to their foppish tunes in the first place.

Ariadne bought The Jesus and Mary Chain's "Head On" 7" and Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart" 7". What a day for singles! I left behind a Railway Children LP - I have heard of them before, and I noticed the record was released on Factory. I had a little listen to it and it wasn't too bad, but can anybody offer a recommendation or otherwise?

So really, I have been very naughty, but these new purchases will give me many hours of listening delights. My only problem now? My record player has stopped spinning and I don't know how to fix it! My heartbreak cannot be expressed. (UPDATE: Record player appears to be working; however, it appears to hate Sons and Daughters by deciding not to spin whenever I play this single. it possible to make the hole in the middle of the record a little bigger? I think this is my problem.) Before it broke, however, I was enjoying my new listening delights, and, being as vain as I am, I documented it photographically.

Hope you're enjoying your Easter break!

Friday, March 21, 2008

northern holiday next month

In a little over a month I'll be making the 20,000km journey to the other side of the world, visiting England, Sweden and Germany. I am tremendously excited, because not only do I get to see my wonderful friends and meet a host of others for the first time, but the music is going to rule! Some of the highlights planned so far include:

- Minisnap in London on Friday 27th 25th
- Amelia Fletcher DJing at How Does It Feel To Be Loved? on May 2nd (!!!!!!!!!)
- The Long Blondes, supported by The Lodger, in Berlin on May 5th
- All Tomorrow's Parties festival at Camber Sands from Friday 9th to Sunday 11th May

But I'll need to enlist your help, dear readers, to find out where to have a pint or three, where to lay down my savings on records + clothes, and where to see the sights! Oh, and if you know of more good club nights, pub quizzes and shows, please let me know!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

teenage fanclub

Last night I joined a Facebook group called "Says she don't do drugs but she does the pill, oh yeah", and it led me on a very fond trip down Alex's Musical Memory Avenue to a time about ten years ago when I began to fall in love with those four wonderful Scots that call themselves Teenage Fanclub. Some bands come and go out of fashion and favour, but Teenage Fanclub will forever be one of those few bands that I can always come back to and feel at home with. This morning I pulled out their best-of, "Four Thousand Seven Hundred and Sixty-Six Seconds", to listen to on my drive to work and it was as though I'd never stopped listening to them for a moment. Take "The Concept" - from the opening guitar noise to those killer lyrics, it's a downright pop classic. Then there's "Star Sign" - "hey, there's a horse shoe on your door, big deal" - and "Neil Jung", and "What You Do To Me"...oh, I could keep going, but you understand.

My favourite album would have to be "Grand Prix". Released in 1994, it was the first TFC record I ever bought, back in 1999 from CC Music in Morayfield. By that time, I was well and truly in love with "Sparky's Dream" and when I took it home to listen to, I realised there was so much more to love. "About You" would have to be one of the best opening tracks to an album ever!

I've been lucky enough to see them play twice, and both times I wanted them all to be my dad. I was 18 at the first show, and was captivated by those Caledonian harmonies and the way they managed to pull that grand sound together in a live show. Second time, in 2005, I wrote a review for a local street press - I'll try to dig it out and scan it in. It was a wonderful set that proved how far ahead of their peers, both recent and old, they were. There hasn't been a new record for a few years, so I hope they're still playing together. If not, there's a whole legacy of fine music left for me to indulge in.

Monday, March 17, 2008

my autumn sons + for ex-lovers only

Two splendid bands for your Monday night pleasure, courtesy of two lads on opposite sides of the world with superfine tastes in pop.

Firstly, it's all thanks to Bruce's Humans Beware podcast number twenty-six that I've discovered the delights of Sweden's My Autumn Suns. I was being all gym-bunny-like tonight, after being lazy and dessert-obsessed for the past few weeks, and my trusty portable music device pulled up this podcast during its shuffle playlist. Aside from hearing Language of Flowers' "Tara Mascara" for the first time in years (it sound like a note-perfect Lush rip-off, for the record), I was taken by the first track, "Perfect", by this Swedish four-piece. While some of the track have a sweet, pretty sound, I can sense some dark overtones in their songs - "Again" has a Factory Records feel to it, and even "Plain", with its pretty vocals and synth tracks has a grey cloud looming above. But that's okay, because we all know it cuts away to perfect blue skies at the end, and these songs have that certain Swedish charm about them.

Then, as I was visiting the adorable Pop Loser's myspace page, I heard "Mindy Le Findy" by Florida band For Ex-Lovers Only playing on his page. Now, how can you not love a band named after a Black Tambourine song, huh, HUH? You can't, that how. Just listen to that track in particular - underneath all that home recording fuzz and noisy guitar fuzz and boy vocal fuzz you can hear a super DIY pop song, the likes of which don't get played amongst in amongst all the chrome and polish of other pop songs. It's so simple and terrific, and really, I think the home recording does it for me.

Another highlight for today? Listening to The Flatmates on the train - it's been a while, but it made me tap away, that's for sure.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

human television

I know they've been around for a couple of years, but this weekend has been my first introduction to Human Television, a sunny guitar pop band based in Brooklyn. I was pottering around the POP Mayhem! page the other day, and as I was turning a minty shade of green in envy of all these wonderful pop festivals coming up in the next couple of months, I heard "Cars Are Weird" on their resident page stereo. Lo, and here I am, hooked and all on guitars and melodies and hooks that hark back to every classic pop band.

I really like "I Forgot", which you can download from their myspace page - it's so sunny, channelling the best of Slumberland with early My Bloody Valentine and just the right amount of lo-fi recording scratchiness. I can't forget a song like this too quickly - now I want to order the entire Human Television back catalogue! Just great - I only wish I'd heard them sooner.

Friday, March 14, 2008

friday night blog bits

It's Friday night, and rather than going late night shopping, staying at the pub for extended after-work beers, or venturing out and about, I've decided to retire to my comfortable surrounds to drink some tea, watch some Friday night telly (not sport, though) and write about lots of little things.

recent arrivals
My mailbox has been reasonably busy lately, which is what I love - arriving home to a parcel after a long day at work is so exciting, especially when it contains beautiful 7"s from Atomic Beat Records and a super EP from the Pocketbooks. Oh boy, they are all wonderful. If you can still get your paws on a copy, make sure you buy a copy of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart/Parallelograms split 7" - it is AMAZING. I've not been so excited by a 7" since, I don't know, The Frenchmen EP in 2003? Just to prove how much I love it, here's a picture of me showing off this recent acquisition (note: this is a blatant rip-off of Skatterbrain Matt's idea, but I think it's something everybody who has a copy of this EP should do!!).

Meanwhile, I now own a Pocketbooks 7" and CDEP, and I am well content. The "Waking Up" EP is so delightful - it's guaranteed to warm your chilliest day, and bring extra sunshine to the brightest day.

links and links
I wrote another blog earlier tonight, entitled "amelia fletcher really is my hero".

Wikihow's How to Be a Pop Kid is one of the most amusing pieces I've read on the internet in a long time, and it's just so scarily accurate! I really laughed at this warning - "It might be near impossible to find popkid friends that aren't Internet Friends From Faraway Places." Tee hee!

If you're a fan of threadless tees, make sure you add this one to your shopping basket - it's by Brisbane artist David Thorley, and it'll be adorning many a' chest very soon. Yay!

I just discovered I'm Not Always So Stupid, a terrific blog from Seattle that covers many of my favourite topics - there's recipes, football, and links to lots of MP3s from the likes of Even As We Speak and Darren Hanlon.

I don't think you can ever write too much about pop songs, and Among the Aisles is no exception. I met Chris and his lovely girlfriend Alexis at a Sinister meet-up in Melbourne when they came across from Auckland for the B&S show in 2006- not only do they have super tastes, but Chris's writings are great, and it makes me jealous that I'm still stuck down in this corner of the world for the time being.

clothes and such
Because I'm going to Europe in less than six weeks, I am being super disciplined and not buying any clothes. However, this is becoming difficult, for two main reasons. Firstly, the new season Karen Walker collection has some incredible pieces - particularly the jockey inspired knits, with big grey spots, yellow sleeves and little bow ties. Adorable! But so expensive! Sigh.

Secondly, I spied on new season Campers tonight, and I am in love. I have a wee Camper obsession, and since it has been six months since my last pair, I am awfully tempted to buy some more. But no, I must tell myself I will find even better Campers in Europe.

Hope you have a super weekend!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

still corners

Assonance is one of my favourite parts of verse, and it rings a sweet melody in my ears when it enters the pop realm. It's part of the reason why I love the EP "Remember Pepper" by London's Still Corners. The other part of the reason is all those pretty, dreamy soundscapes and airy vocals that sound as though they've floated down from the clouds and landed on a bed of Broadcast records. It's spookily pretty, like antique lace - listen to 'Cremona' on their myspace page and you'll understand. Just lovely! You can buy their EP via their myspace page, or through iTunes.

live: jens lekman

Ten days since my last post? My, it's been too long, but being a busy travelling worker bee, coupled with some gmail troubles certainly slowed my efforts somewhat. But, I am back, bursting with updates. Yay!

Last week I saw Jens Lekman live not once, but twice. It's been a good period for seeing bands multiple times in a short period, and I'm certainly not complaining about it at all! First up was last Wednesday night's sold out spectacular at the lovely Troubadour. I planted myself on the floor in my super-lovely Peter Jensen skirt and opened up my copy of "London Fields" whilst the crowds flowed in and cramped my sitting space, but most of the people around me were very nice, even going as far to offer me beers because I was on my own at this point.

Luckily, after further Brisbane live show atrocities as support, I found some comrades in pop - the ever lovely Cat, her boyfriend David and young pop kid Ren - and we enjoyed an hour's worth of a jetlagged Jens and his band. Mostly playing tracks off the new album, the addition of the band on this tour certainly added some joviality to his set. He is such a raconteur, too - hearing him tell the story of "Nina I Can't Be Your Boyfriend" made the night. Actually, hearing a sold-out Brisbane crowd channelling Calvin Johnston in "Pocketful of Money" made me smile a whole lot.

I also had the chance to see Jens at the Manning Bar in Sydney - thanks work! Support came by way of the evergreen Gary Olson, who played a set of Ladybug Transistor songs with a fine collection of Melburnians by his side - three of the Lucksmiths, Fred Astereo and a girl called Jane on keys. All the songs off "Can't Wait Another Day" sounded terrific live, and the band sounded tight despite quite a short rehearsal time, I imagine.

The Jens set was much the same as the Brisbane show, and I think the Brisbane show was much better - maybe it's because it all seemed much more spontaneous at the time. Regardless, it was still a terrific set. Here's a zoomed in picture of Jens basking in the spotlight:

Isn't he dreamy? There was a guy standing in front of me who sure thought so, too - or, at least his booty sure did! I have a video of said dancin' - if you'd like to see it, please let me know!

Lucky me will see Jens for the third time this year when he plays All Tomorrow's Parties in May - so excited!

Monday, March 3, 2008

chasing monday

First it was Moscow Olympics, now Chasing Monday are doing it for the pop kids of South East Asia. Yay! This super-lovely Indonesian band is based around cute couple Emilda and Eko, who seem to have the same Swedish pop obsessions as me, which can never, EVER be a bad thing.

There's only one demo up at the moment, a delight called "Therefore I Hate You". It sounds perfectly Sarah - pretty girl harmonies to back up the quavering boy vocals, guitar lines that sound straight out of a Blueboy 7" and even the obligatory hand claps and ba-baas. I feel as though I should be hearing it on a Matinee compilation, but instead it's a demo. Just lovely, and destined for great things, I hope!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

still flyin'

I've just had two of the best days one could have in small town Brisbane. And the reason? Those crazy San Franciscan reggae cats called Still Flyin' came to town - all 15 of them or something - and played three of the best shows ever!

First up: Ithaca Pool show on Friday afternoon. Pool shows are the best ever, because it means you can swim and splash and eat delicious ice blocks and listen to bands all at the same time. Sadly, I forgot my swimmers so I couldn't dive in, but I did partake in the last two activities. The Bell Divers supported, and were in fine, fine form. Clinton's Edwyn Collins vocal style sounds better each time, and the songs, with their sometimes strange overtones, perfectly complemented the late afternoon breezes. Meanwhile, my comrade-in-pop, Cat, was helping me suss out who was in the Still Flyin' touring band - we managed to find out members of Ladybug Transistor, The Aislers Set, #poundsign# and The Mosquitoes were in our midst, as well as ex-Architecture in Helsinki kids and our favourite Lucksmith, Mark Monnone. Yeah!

So the Still Flyin' pool show was great fun, featuring big Brisbane bats to scare our tourists, a boogie board that split in half, and a horn section on the diving blocks:

About two songs before the end, Sean the singer dived into the pool and left the musical duties to everyone else. I was so jealous of the swimming by that stage.

Second show: midnight show at The Troubadour. Cat and I tried to kill time by watching Dan Deacon, which sounded like a poor man's electro Andrew WK, as well as some other shite Brisbane shite that was a bad avant-garde Modest Mouse rip-off. Trust me, it was shite. Anyway, Still Flyin' brought the party like no other, and I danced like I haven't danced in months. It's so much more energetic live than on record, which is saying something because the "Time Wrinkle" EJ crtainly gets me dancing around my room. The crowd clambered on stage for the final song, too, and it was one big jamm like no other.

Afterwards, I spoke to Yoshi and told him it was so exciting for me to see a member of the Aislers Set play, and he gave me some badges he had in his bag! Yeah!

Third show: Laneway festival. This sold out a few weeks ago, and I decided ages ago I wasn't going to go because I only wanted to see SF and The Brunettes (sorry guys, Clap Your Hands Say Bland and fkn Goyte just ain't my thing). Anyway, after the Troubadour show, Gary Olson from Ladybug (who Cat and I were both REALLY excited to see in the touring band!) and Yoshi said they'd try to get me a ticket, and it all worked out!! Best guys ever!! The show wasn't as crazy fun as the Troubadour show the night before, but I think the crowd who hadn't heard them all got dancing and had a whole stack of fun. It all got a bit sweaty, though, as evidenced by the photos, but then again, it was a relatively cooler afternoon in The Zoo, which is renowned for being a stinking hot humidity den in the height of summer.

Afterwards, I was really excited when I was talking to Becky and found out she played in #poundsign#, who I absolutely LOVE, and she helped me write some more lyrics for my car's theme song, the Coldplay rap. Yeah! They were all just the nicest bunch of people I could possibly meet, and now I really want to go to San Francisco! But really, special thanks go to Gary Olson for helping me get into Laneway, and who I get to see play again supporting Jens Lekman in Sydney next weekend. Yeah!!

The pace doesn't slow this week, either: Jens Lekman on Wednesday night AND next Saturday in Sydney (thanks work!), and Beirut on Thursday night. Here's to fun shows to go to!!