In the latter half of their career, Belle & Sebastian have consistently tried to balance the desire to appeal to a wider audience with more outward-facing pop songs alongside the bookish indie pop that netted them a cult of worshipping devotees in the first place. They’ve never done it quite as successfully as they have here on Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance. Opener “Nobody’s Empire,” with its marching beat, glowing synths and gospel choir backup vocals comes off like a statement of purpose: This will be a richly produced pop album (courtesy of Ben H. Allen III, who’s worked both with the indie-pop elite and hip-hop artists), so gear up. The band comes up with one of its most radio-ready singles to date on “The Party Line,” a disco-rock track with typically clever lyrics and a booming synth riff that won’t quit. The best Stevie Jackson-led song in years comes on the bittersweet beatnik funk of “Perfect Couples.” “Play for Today” is synthy and light, with ace guest vocals from Dum Dum Girls’ Dee Dee Penny. And it’s safe to say Belle & Sebastian have the only ABBA-esque synth-pop track that name-checks Sylvia Plath. But Belle & Sebastian want to do more than make us dance. Several tracks hue closer to their ’90s incarnation while still retaining the fuller production present on the album’s more immediate moments. The European folk-flavored “The Everlasting Muse” is rich with mandolin, horns and clap-along breakdowns. The slow-rolling, string-laden “Ever Had a Little Faith” is reminiscent of early B&S highlight “The Boys of Track and Field.” And Sarah Martin gets to sing lead on both the swoony “The Power of Three” and rollicking “The Book of You,” with some ripping guitarwork to boot. So it’s not the introverted Belle & Sebastian of yore. But this edition of Belle & Sebastian manages to help them evolve without losing what made them special. It’s a win-win for fans new and old, on one of Belle & Sebastian’s best albums in years.
We’re still a few years shy of the 30-year anniversary of legendary indie label Sub Pop, which started in 1988. But why wait? We’re calling out 27 of our favorite Sub Pop albums that you can download now on Amoeba.com. Browse all of Sub Pop’s catalog that we have available here.
Together with Mudhoney’s early singles, this is one of the earliest and most potent statements of the grunge movement, including the eternal “Touch Me, I’m Sick.”
Hello! Welcome back to Weekly Roundup. If it’s your first time here, I gather songs and videos by artists from the greater L.A. and Bay Area that have been released over the past week or so. Here’s the first one of 2015.
We’ve already heard the strangely enlivening dark pulse of “Black,” the first single from Oakland artist The Soft Moon’s new album, Deeper (out March 31 on Captured Tracks; preorder now). This Trentemoller remix gives the darkwave track an even dimmer shade, taking it from hedonistic dancefloor jam to musky afterparty track. The Soft Moon will be at S.F.’s The Chapel April 28 and L.A.’s Roxy April 30.
L.A.’s Tennis System play a brand of psychedelic, dreamy rock ‘n’ roll that should please any fan of the shoegaze movement, yet they’ve got their own thing going, as new album Technicolor Blind trades between rocketing guitar noise and shimmering ambience.
Led by Matty Taylor, along with drummer Hector Gomez and bassist Zach Bilson, the trio has shared the stage with such like-minded acts as Ty Segall, Wavves, Japandroids and The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. Taylor started the band in Washington, D.C. in 2009 and released the 2011 noise-rock album Teenagers before heading to L.A. and changing up the band’s lineup and sound a bit.
Now they’ve found their niche within the Part Time Punks crowd and have been wowing audiences with their volume-heavy shows and excellent second album, released last year. They’re one of the latest bands to record a track as part of Converse Rubber Tracks, which gives up-and-coming bands studio time and exposure. Tennis System performs live at Amoeba Hollywood today at 6 p.m.
Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper has us in heaven. It’s Noah Lennox’s most accessible album thus far, yet it’s as strange and unique as anything he’s done. I first heard “Boys Latin” on edibles in Joshua Tree at his excellent show at Pappy & Harriet’s with Peaking Lights, and that rainbow vocal pastiche has been swimming through my brain ever since. The other single, “Mr Noah,” is more of a grower, but I love the way its groans into life and pulsates like a live animal. You’ve got songs like “Principe Real,” which is like this Wonderland funk track, bouncing on handclaps and cartoonish organs. A lot of the in-between songs are as beautiful as you might guess. “Crossword” is heartfelt and gorgeous, along the lines of a certain song he wrote for Animal Collective, “My Girls.” “Come to Your Senses” swirls with slithering, shaking sounds, but percolating guitars and synths carry strong melodies to take you through it. And “Tropic of Cancer” is a Beach Boys-inspired oceanic ode that crests on beautiful harp and digital whispers. Panda Bear’s work has always been inspiring, but Grim Reaper sees Lennox shedding any kind of shyness present in his previous releases. It’s a beautifully made, all-embracing piece of experimental pop music, and one of the best releases of early 2015.