By now you and I have heard the arguments for and against Scottish independence from the UK but as someone who has naturally bristled like a thistle when diasporic people argue passionately and ill-informedly about another country's political situations (which they are thankfully powerless to effect) I'll keep my political opinions to myself. What I will do instead is far more frivolous purposes -- that is list the best Scottish bands of all time.
Given its small population, Scotland has produced a fairly shocking amount of great music. Sure, there have been occasionalEnglish bands of note -- almost always from the north -- but I've always taken Anglophiles' preference for all things (assumed to be) English over English language pop from anywhere else as proof of a terminal subcultural defect. It's not really fair to blame England for Anglophiles any more than it is to blame Nirvana for Puddle of Mudd but I suppose it's because so many of the helmet-haired horde mistakenly think that I am one of them that they so vex me. How could I not be an Anglophile when I drink more tea than the average North African, enjoy curry in all of its Asian forms, and my favorite writer is Irish?
Porcelain Raft, aka Italian-born Mauro Remiddi, makes the kind of wide-eyed romantic pop that borrows from various genres — lo-fi, soul, indie pop and shoegaze — but ends up in its own emotional territory due to Remiddi’s bedroom-recording aesthetics. “Drifting In and Out” appropriately sees its swooning electronics and new wave guitars come in and out of focus in what feels like falling asleep with the radio on. Strange Weekend works because its filled with tiny surprises, like the way Remiddi suddenly gets all glam in “Shapeless & Gone,” like an electro-twee Marc Bolan, or the psych-hop beats that pull back the marvelously affecting “Unless You Speak From Your Heart” from preciousness. It’s not the first time at the rodeo for Remiddi, a 37-year-old veteran of indie pop, previously in the band Sunny Day Sets Fire; perhaps that’s why he gets nearly everything right on his first solo full-length record.
Howler – America Give Up
What a pleasure Howler’s debut, America Give Up, is. Already this early into 2012, we have the year’s most irresistible album, 10 songs from a band weaned on the likes of The Jesus & Mary Chain and Guided By Voices. Much like their forebears in The Strokes (how’s that for making us all feel old), Howler has a way of distilling somewhat obvious and oversaturated influences into three-minute gems that get pretty much everything right. — dig the swaying romanticism of “Too Much Blood,” or the surf-gaze of “America,” or the snarky indie rock of “Back of Your Neck” (featuring the too-good lyrics “you think we’re Bonnie and Clyde, but both of them fuckin’ died”). If you can stop playing this on repeat, you’re stronger than we are.
Common – The Dreamer/The Believer
The first time I heard Highland Park's Seasons was a song called “Light, Lost,” from their Winter EP, released in June 2010. I was immediately taken with its languid guitar-work and gorgeous melodies, not to mention the way the song takes a sharp left near the end and picks up into an indie-dance gem — sucker for tempo changes, right here.
But what really gets me about Seasons is the passion they clearly put into each song. Through their three released “season” EPs — Spring, Summer, Winterand Autumn, the last one just released this month — Seasons aren’t afraid to change things up sonically or thematically. So what you get is a landscape painting of a band across its releases rather than a portrait. Though overall I might classify the music as epic spacefaring rock of the variety you don’t see too often these days — Slowdive, Smashing Pumpkins and, more recently, The Arcade Fire come to mind — there’s also a strong twee vibe running throughout, echoing Sarah Records and C86 bands, not to mention an electro streak that keeps things vibrant.
The band consists of longtime friends who like to go by their first names — John sings and plays guitar and keys; Nik does the same; Adam plays bass and guitar; Erik plays drums; Ray handles beats, keys and bass; and Kaitlin, violin and vocals. During the day, these people occupy such various jobs as teacher, florist, Trader Joe’s team member and Grammy Museum usher.
In the summer of 2006, they came up with the idea to do a set of EPs each with a mood to set the tone for feelings that arise during a particular season.
“We let the climate changes and the way people and ourselves reacted to each season inspire us to write each one, with the intention of releasing them when we were finished even if they season they were written in was over,” John explains.
The Autumn EP begins with “Monday Night” (available as a free download), a lighthearted danceable ode to getting up and out at the beginning of the work week — which, by the way, you should do tonight and/or next Monday to see the band play at the Echo as part of its January residency. The EP continues with the strings-and-bells laden yet hard-charging “These United States,” which nicely features singer Nik's growling, yearning vocals. The EP’s closer, “Lazy Bones,” is sort of meat-and-potatoes Seasons, a six-minute-plus psychedelic heart-on-sleeve power ballad. Meanwhile, “Number of the Beat” is their most outward flirtation with dance music thus far, although its striking violin playing still lands it firmly in orchestral pop territory.
Hello! Welcome back to my new release blog. I am so sorry that I have been neglecting you. It has been a busy two months of new releases! Maybe you didn't notice...but it is already October. Not sure how that happened. It is already October 13th actually! This is absolutely one of my favorite months. I wish it was October every month! Although I was not exactly enjoying the warm weather yesterday. Although we did not really have a crazy hot Summer this year in Los Angeles. So I can't blame Summer for trying to squeeze a couple of more days into October. But October is most certainly here and November is quickly approaching. All of the music labels are rushing to get their best new albums out to you before the end of the year. And all the movie studios will soon be rushing to get their best movies out before the end of the year! So lets go back in time and catch up a bit on what has come out the last couple of weeks. Then we can actually move onto October! First up is the week of 9/13 and 9/20...
I fell in love with The Drums when they put out their Summertime EP last year. How could I not love this band. It was the perfect pop record. Brilliantly pop friendly songs heavily influenced by The Smiths and Joy Division. But adding more modern sounds and synths. I fell in love. They also released their debut self titled full length album last year. Which was also fantastic. And now they have unleashed their second album called Portamento. You can never capture that excitement of a first record. But I am still loving this new album. The songs are catchier than anything and they just make me happy. A nice way to end my summer for sure. If you have still not joined the cult of The Drums. You should start with their first album The Drums or the Summertime EP. You will not be disappointed.
We all have those albums that we love so much that sometimes we like to keep them secret. They are our special little albums that we got crazy obsessed with 10 or 20 years ago that we think nobody else knows about. Of course, the world is much smaller than we sometimes fantasize that it is. There are tons of people just like us who like the same things that we do. Many years ago it was harder to find these people. It was sort of easier to have our secret bands that we liked...or it was at least easier to pretend that we were alone in our love of a certain band. This was before you could go to band's myspace page and see how many friends they had. Before you could read all the blogs about them. One of these bands that I was obsessed with is the great fantastic band called Blueboy. They were one of the greatest of the 90s British indie bands from the label Sarah Records. They were Twee, but they also had elements of shoegaze, indie pop, and Britpop. Sarah Records disappeared many years ago and most of the albums are impossible to find. However, they have slowly been reissued over the years, but it is these Blueboy albums that I have been waiting for.. I was first introduced to this band in 1996 by one of my ex-boyfriends. I was immediately fascinated and in love. I owned all three of the their albums on CD but sold them a couple of years ago. The relationship had ended and I just couldn't bring myself to listen to these albums anymore. I should have just hidden them a box somewhere to be found many years later, because once time had passed I felt the need to have this band in my life again. So of course I searched everywhere for them and I couldn't find them online anywhere. I couldn't find them in any of the Amoeba stores either. They were eventually reissued digitally and I of course ended up buying them this way, but there is something about owning the physical albums. I never really feel like I own an album if I just have it digitally. It just feels like I taped it off the radio or borrowed it from a friend. It never actually feels like my album until I own the physical CD or LP and have it sitting with the rest of my albums. These Blueboy albums were so important to me that I needed to own them. I felt like something was missing in my life without them. So I was I was still waiting for that day when they would be reissued on CD -- I didn't even care about bonus tracks or remastering. I just wanted them back in my collection.