Sunday, January 25, 2009

Momus - Man of Letters

Earlier today I watched the Cherry Red released documentary, Momus: Man of Letters. Prior to watching this, I knew a few Momus songs but far more about his reputation as an oddball Scottish intellectual pop star with a penchant for a tartan eye patch. After watching this documentary, I'm not quite sure what to make of him.

Made in 1993 by Hannu Puttonen, it delves into cult of Momus to understand who, what and why he is what he is and does what he does. Cameos from Jarvis Cocker, Sarah Cracknell, Ed Ball and Simon Fisher Turner feature, and the doco entwines Momus film clips with commentary and dialogue on how words can be so confusing.

What I struggled with, though, is Momus's unending emphasis on sex in all forms, from the playful to the perverse. While I haven't listened to his albums in depth, I'm not sure if I can now - from what I can gather, he writes - nay, intellectualises - sex in all his lyrics. It is as though he can only write about what these deep feelings are, rather than actually feel them meaningfully for himself. In fact, in his discussions about falling in love with a 16-year-old Muslim girl and wanting to marry her, he came across more as a sex-crazed teenage virgin who is consumed by the longing for sex, yet is entirely scared by the prospect of the act itself. I couldn't understand it.

Listening to the music, too, I suspect he has chosen pop music as his medium for sharing his wisdom with the world. At times, it would appear spoken word may have been enough, especially in light of how dated many of his songs now sound. Please, never mention the word "folktronica" to me again.

Nonetheless, I am still intrigued. He is highly, highly intellectual - so much so it scares me somewhat - and I have much to learn from such people. However, can I truly appreciate his writing and music knowing that, deep down, he is so deeply perverse? It's challenging - somewhat sickening, too. A strange, strange man.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

the metric mile

The Metric Mile are Patrick Smith (keyboards and blips) and Jeff Ciprioni (guitar and vocals), hailing from the coolest place in the world right now, Brooklyn. Honestly, does this place have the highest per capita population of cool musicians in the world right now? Jeff used to play in another wonderful band, My Teenage Stride, and The Metric Mile previously featured the talents of Peggy from The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. That's pedigree!

Their single, "In Praise of Ski Jumpers", released on their own Kingsland Territories imprint, is an excursion into Field Mice dream pop, backed by drum beats that recalls the best of New Order. It's dreamy and danceable at once - not quite shoegaze, not quite electronic, but with the best elements of both in one. I'd be happy to play the A-side over and over, if the B-side "Codebreakers" wasn't similarly winsome.

Best of all, buy yourself the hard copy of the single (from here) and receive digital versions of the tracks for free! Not quite steak knives, but I'd like to think it's an even better deal.

Download "In Praise of Ski Jumpers"!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Sneaky Feelings

The Sneaky Feelings were one of the classic Dunedin bands Flying Nun introduced to the world back in the 1980s. With an ear for clean pop hooks and romantically poetic lyrics that so defined similar New Zealand bands during this period, it's hard to understand why they have not achieved the mythical reputation of such other Flying Nun bands as The Bats and The Verlaines in later years. A while ago, Chris wrote a terrific piece about listening to their first album Send You for the first time in months. As a new listener to the Sneaky Feelings, I can understand why you would need to come back to these songs.

By way of introduction, I picked up Positively George Street, a retrospective of their three albums and various singles. It's interesting to hear the different styles of each of the four members, all of whom write and sing various songs. From the dark organ sounds on Matthew Bannister's "Hard Love", to the speedy rush of David Pine's "Trouble With Kay" and Martin Durrant's fine, jangly "Coming True", it showcases how different styles can all unite to produce wonderfully different, yet strikingly cohesive pop.

In fact, upon hearing "Coming True" for the first time yesterday, I was instantly caught up in its sunny optimism and sincerity. If I'd not been told this was a Flying Nun track from 1987, I'd have almost assumed it was something released on Labrador in 2003. A beautiful example of timeless pop that I'm sure many bands but wish they could build for themselves.

Download "Coming True"

Monday, January 19, 2009

2008 tweenet poll

So the 2008 TweeNet poll results are out, and, not surprisingly, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart swept almost every category. Deservedly so! I think I awarded many of my votes to them. However, I want to send lots of hugs and kisses to the two people who voted for this little blog in the "best blog about indiepop" category. Yay! I didn't even have to vote for myself!

The poll is great, by the way - make sure you give all the bands a big listen and visit all the excellent indiepop blogs that made their way onto the list.

melbourne pt. 2: all those damn records

Following on from yesterday's commentary on Friday night's pop show, here's where I now crap on about how many records I bought. I just can't help it - I love buying records and I love then writing all about them as they play in the background. Delight!

I didn't have very much time to trawl through lots of record stores, as much as I would have loved to. Hence, I only came away with new albums for the most part.

I really wish I'd managed to garner myself a first pressing of the Vivian Girls album, but this shiny In The Red copy will serve me very well. The t-shirt that came in the summer fun pack is also a winner, I must add, as is the single, with its Beach Boys cover and all round summer vibe. Meanwhile, I absolutely could not resist buying the two Frida Hyvönen albums on vinyl - I fall in love more and more with each listen. The first album, Until Death Comes, isn't quite as captivating as Silence Is Wild (then again, little is), but it's still full of beautiful, elegant songs that whisk me away to a truly serene place. I love her, I really really do.

I did, however, make friends with quite a few singles at Collectors Corner.

Top row: Honeybunch - "Walking Into Walls"; The Springfields - "Wonder/Tomorrow Ends Today"; My Life Story - "12 Reasons Why".
Bottom row: The Crayon Fields - "Mirror Ball"; Pitchblende/Swirlies split; Wimp Factor 14 - "Train Song"

I love love love the Honeybunch single and want to hunt down more of their songs! The Crayon Fields single is excellent - I highly recommend you secure yourself a copy, or if you'd like me to hunt one down for you, I'd be more than happy too. It's thanks to Brogues that I even picked up a copy for myself! And as for My Life Story? Well, I am a bit of a Britpop tragic, after all...

Sadly, I had to leave some excellent singles behind - both Laughing Apple 7"s, plus some Po! flexis and a couple of Brilliant Corners releases. Oh, if only.

And here's some CDs I finally picked up for myself: The Sneaky Feelings - "Positively George Street" (highly recommended!); Young Marble Giants - "Colossal Youth" 3CD reissue; Jeremy Jay - "A Place Where We Could Go"; The Hidden Cameras - "The Smell of Our Own" (I never realised what was actually on the cover until today - eek!); The 6ths - "Wasps' Nests". I love love love all of these!

Oh, so much to listen to! So much fun! And, oh, so much I had to leave behind, too.

Of course, being a typical girly girl, I bought clothes and shoes and such - a beautiful Built By Wendy dress, plus a pair of crazy German shoes by Trippen that come with a two page instruction manual on how to care for them. I love these shoes so much.

Now, I suppose, it's back to reality, but with so many more excellent tracks to listen to, I feel like I can still be on holidays. A weekend in Melbourne? More than recommended.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

melbourne pt. 1: friday night pop show!

Has 2009 been a good year for you so far? It's been a truly fantastic year for me - apart from one awful boy incident (which was made better by a bottle of pinot noir, lots of Long Blondes and a night of dancing last weekend), January has been having an absolute blast.

I've just returned from a weekend in Melbourne, and I am falling more in love with the city with each visit. I'll divide my weekend into two posts - the one to follow will detail all my record acquisitions, but for now all I want to write about is how much fun I had at a proper pop show on Friday night at the Birmingham Hotel, featuring Summer Cats, most of The Deidres, The Motifs and Audiobooks.

For their first show, Audiobooks made a cracking start. It didn't matter to the audience that Greg said he forgot the lyrics - all those great melodies and debut nerves added to the appeal of the set. If you like The Zebras, you should definitely enjoy the couple of songs they have on their myspace page! (I'll also admit an element of bias because all the members were formerly from Brisbane.)

Like most everyone else, I can't help but smile and feel beyond happy when I hear The Motifs, with their cute keyboards and simple melodies. It's so delightful to see these songs live because they warm me up, make me tap my feet and make me wish I could write songs with a keyboard and handclaps.

(My Motifs pictures came out blurry because I was trying a fancy different setting on my camera. I think I will just stick to standard old settings, the photography novice I am.)

Three of The Deidres have been enjoying the Australian summer, and they played a wee set with an honorary member, calling themselves Can You Say Nincompoop? I'll admit, I've not really listened to The Deidres very much, despite a million and one recommendations, but they sure played a fun set reminiscent of being around a campfire, with their feathers in their hair and ponchos recalling secret Indian charades. They even had a fake trumpet!

I loved how they sang along out of their songbooks, improvised with instruments (xylophones, kazoos, the aforementioned fake trumpet) and had a few of us singing along to "Milk Is Politics" in no time - luckily I was standing next to a newfound friend, Andy, who had the 7" at the ready to teach me the words.

As for Summer Cats? Early on in the evening, they kept warning me about how rubbish they were live and how I'd be disappointed, blah blah - all that self-deprecating rubbish I know all about. But were they? Of course not! They were brilliant! Singing Scott kept making exceptionally drunken banter (including a few regular choice words!) which brought the humour levels up, but then pulled out perfect vocals. I helped to start up a dancefloor, which surely is a necessity at a Summer Cats show - how can you stand still when songs like "Lonely Planet" and "Wild Rice" are playing? You can't!

Reverb + new songs + old hits + lots of dancing = winning Summer Cats set. If I lived down south, I'd be at every show, hands down. Oh, and I mustn't forget their cover of The Left Banke's "She May Call You Up Tonight" - brilliant!!

After the show, I had a bit of a dance to some classic Flying Nun (Look Blue Go Purple and The Clean) in between LOTS of space rock jamz. Overall, an exceptionally fun night, and one I wish I had the chance to experience far more often. Who knows - my wishes may soon come to fruition.

Expect part two tomorrow night!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

ipso facto

Ipso Facto are four monochromatic ladies from London making deliciously rich and menacing tunes to haunt your subconscious. Majorette drumming and brooding bass provide a suitably dark backdrop for Rosalie Cunningham's beautiful, melodramatic vocals, dripping with red wine and cherries. It's enchanting and intoxicating, and I don't want to be led out of this mysterious forest.

Their "Six and Three Quarters" single, on pure white vinyl, has had more than a number of spins on this monochrome lover's turntable. Listening to those baroque organs chase me around, it makes sense why the single was released through Mute Records - after all, it's the label that effectively defined cold, clinical menace with "Warm Leatherette" back in '78. Ipso Facto make me giddy with their allure - I am enjoying being drawn right into their cult of darkness.

(Image from Design Scene)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Plan B

If you do but one thing with your day today, I recommend you toddle down to your local newsagent/bookstore/record store/magazine vendor and pick up a copy of this month's Plan B. Not only is it always a terrific read, but the January issue features a piece about everyone's favourite noisy pop wunderkinds, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, written by yours truly! It is very exciting to be published, made even better by being able to write about one of my favourite bands in the world right now.

If you don't feel like throwing on pants today, you can always order yourself a copy here.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

happy new year!

Happy 2009 to everyone! I hope your start to the new year has been relaxing and exciting all at the same time. A brief update on where I've been to start the new year before embracing another year of writing on all good things indiepop.

I spent the last ten days or so embarking on a 4300km road trip with my dear pal Sam that took me from my home in Brisbane, down to Sydney and Melbourne, then to the south coast of Victoria to Lorne for the annual Falls Festival. On a map, it looks a bit like this:

The festival was similar to Glastonbury - three days of camping on a secluded property with lots of popular indie bands there to entertain thousands of people spending money on overpriced beers. It was good fun, though - perhaps not a festival I'd need to visit again, but an experience nonetheless.

And the bands? Pitchfork favourites Fleet Foxes played the first day, and while the songs are quite pretty when I hear them on the radio, they came across as a second rate Wilco live. Late of the Pier played late on the first night - they were fun, but I'm just not sold on their silly electro antics. They have ridiculous lyrics and come across as entirely East London - fun, yes, but maybe not altogether lasting.

Darren Hanlon played on the second day, and it sure was charming to see him again. While I haven't really listened to his records in a long time, his live shows are magical, largely because he attracts such a dedicated and diverse audience. Everyone just wants to sing along! He had a band with him, too, and I much prefer when he plays with support than when he's strumming on his banjo or ukelele on his own.

Also on the second day, hip and sweet young things Soko and Lykke Li played - Soko polarised people like no other, while Lykke Li charmed everyone with her Vampire Weekend cover. Not sure if either artist will be around in three years from now - only time will tell, I suppose.

The final day - New Years Eve - brought some band highlights. For a couple of months, I have been secretly harbouring a crush on the Mystery Jets album 21, which I've not revealed in my posts. It's creative, it makes me dance and the songs make me want to sing out loud in the most inappropriate of places. Anyway, they played in the afternoon and I danced and sang along and enjoyed myself for their 45 minute set, wishing I could go and talk shop with them afterwards. Of course, it didn't happen and their sparkly jackets disappeared off into the chilly festival afternoon, not to be witnessed by my wee eyes again.

As the clock struck midnight and we gathered around after far, far too many bad premixed drinks, the likely Scottish lads from Franz Ferdinand graced the stage, and it's hard to think of a better party band to play into the New Year. I've not ever been a huge Franz fan, but I like them enough to get up and dance and sing along. Besides, there is no denying Alex Kapranos is a mega spunk of the highest order. Singing and dancing around with a bunch of strangers while the temperature hits 7 degrees at midnight, it sure was a top way to bring in the new year.

And so for 2009? I am hoping I can hear as many pop tunes as I can that will take my breath away, tap my feet subconsiously and make me want to shout out to everyone. I want to see more pop, buy more records and meet more like minds who want to tell me about their silly pop songs! Good resolutions? You bet!