Amoeblog

The 50 Best Scottish Bands of All Time

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 16, 2014 03:12pm | Post a Comment


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 occasional English 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

I wouldn't describe myself as an Albaphile either -- as I generally like things because they're good and not because of where they're from. Scottish bands are generally good, too. I'm not a fan of The Beta Band, Deacon Blue, Del Amitri, Eurythmics, The Exploited, Franz Ferdinand, IdlewildMogwaiPaolo NutiniThe Proclaimers, The Reindeer Section, The Rezillos, Snow PatrolStealers Wheel, Texas, and Wet Wet Wet although it's possible that I just haven't heard the right songs yet. 

About a decade ago I noticed the sudden appearance of Bobby Gillespie clones and detected a concurrent rise in appreciation of Scottish pop I suggested to more than one Britpop DJ (Britpop in the American catchall sense referring to all post-Phil Collins British music not sung by Seal) that they give Parklife a rest for just one night in just do a set entirely comprised of Scottish pop... or Kiwi pop -- or better yet, both together! It seemed that Scotland and their pop music might blow open the artificial dichotomy of Anglophila vs. Anglophobia and soon we'd all be enjoying music from beyond the Anglosphere altogether!

Lo and behold, my wish is finally coming true -- well, the wish to hear an all-Scottish set*** -- and all it took was the possible dissolution of the United KingdomClub Underground, a Chinatown-based dance club named after England's most famous rapid transit system, will be throwing (regardless of outcome) a Scottish Tribute Night (sorry, "Nite") on Friday, 19 September at Grand Star Jazz Club.

Album Picks: Porcelain Raft, Howler, Common

Posted by Billy Gil, January 24, 2012 12:01pm | Post a Comment
Hey y'all! Here are my album picks for January:

Porcelain RaftPorcelain Raft – Strange Weekend

 
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.

HowlerHowler – 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.

CommonCommon – The Dreamer/The Believer


Continue reading...

Seasons Take Us By Storm, One Season at a Time

Posted by Billy Gil, January 23, 2012 04:04pm | Post a Comment
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, Winter and 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.


 
“I think we just tend to write songs that sound a certain way as we feel them coming to us,” John says. “We could have written a whole electronic album [when we started the EPs in 2008], but that wasn't how we were feeling then, so this album has more of a electronic feel to it at times because its just what came to us.”
 
The band has been playing each of its “season” EPs on different nights, decorating the set to match the corresponding season, so each residency night has been quite a different experience. Take last week’s show, for example, when Sexy Sax Man of the meme below showed up to play a solo onstage — is that something you’d want to miss?
 

 
Seasons will go back into the studio in late spring/early summer with their producer, Raymond Richards (Local Natives), to record a new full-length album. For now, the band completes their residency tonight at the Echo (presented alongside The 704 blog) with The Health Club, Downtown Union and Manhattan Murder Mystery. They close it out next Monday, Jan. 30 (presented with Feed Your Head), with Robotanists, Little Red Lung and Paulie Pesh. The shows are at 8:30 p.m. 18+, and, as always with these Echo residencies, FREE.

out this week, 9/13 & 9/20: the drums...wild flag...girls...neon indian...jens lekman...veronica falls...

Posted by Brad Schelden, October 13, 2011 01:01pm | Post a Comment
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.

Check out the video for "How It Ended" by The Drums from the new album Portamento...




Neon Indian have also just released their second album. The new album is called Era Extrana. They put out their debut album Psychic Chasms in 2009. That album was also reissued in 2010. This new album is simply a super fun album. The songs are catchy and electronic and will keep you coming back for more. I compare them to bands like Human League and Pet Shop Boys. Maybe a more dreamy and ethereal version of those bands. Somewhere in between Cocteau Twins and Spandau Ballet.  Everyone will obviously not like this band. Some people will think the songs are ridiculous and not real music. Some people might make fun of you for listening to this band. But that only makes me like them more. These songs would not be out of place on the soundtrack to Drive. But I will get to that later. Era Extrana is exactly the kind of album that I want it to be. Nothing more and nothing less. Neon Indian has created the perfect second album.

Check out this video for "Polish Girl" by Neon Indian from the new album Era Extrana. This is of course not the actual video but a clip from the amazing movie Breakin'. I highly suggest that you pick up a copy of this new album by Neon Indian and that you also watch the movie Breakin'. It is just as amazing as you remember it to be....



There are many more albums that came out on 9/13 and 9/20. A fantastic new little EP from Jens Lekman. Everyone's favorite Swedish genius songwriter is back! An Argument With Myself is exactly what you would expect from Jens Lekman. He is witty and funny and ridiculous but super talented and brilliant. I just can't get enough of Jens Lekman. And I can't wait for his next full length album! We also get new albums from St. Vincent, Ladytron, Toro Y Moi, Shimmering Stars, Tori Amos, Wooden Shjips, Patton Oswalt, Nurses, Wild Flag, & Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. Something for everyone. Almost too many albums for me to keep up with. I still have not given my final verdict to the debut album from Wild Flag. I love Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss from Sleater-Kinney and I love Mary Timony from Helium. So it is great to see these amazing ladies back in action. But I really am just waiting for the next season of Portlandia and hoping that Wild Flag makes a guest appearance at an instore at the women's book store. This debut album is fun and playful and I think they sound great on it. If nothing else, this new album has made me go back and listen to my old Sleater-Kinney and Helium records. It has made me remember why I fell in love with them in the first place!

It really is the year of the second album. Girls have also just released their second album. The new album by Girls is really really good. It took me a couple months to actually get into them after the first album came out. I actually saw them live and didn't know what to think of them. But the Broken Dreams Club EP from last year pushed me over for sure. I was then a fan of Girls without a doubt. This new album Father Son Holy Ghost is worth your time and money. I know there are a ton of albums this last couple of months. But this is one that you should not miss! This band is straight out of the 90's. They are sort of a mix of Sunny Day Real Estate and The Posies and the more lighter side of the grunge sound of the 90s mixed with a more British Primal Scream shoegaze 90s sort of sound. Imagine the Beach Boys if they had discovered Shoegaze or Dreampop.

Check out the video for "Honey Bunny" by Girls from the new album Father Son Holy Ghost...



One of my other recent favorites is Veronica Falls. Their debut album has just been released by Slumberland. They are a band made for people like me who still wish every band sounded like either Twee or Shoegaze or something in between. This album is still blowing me away every time that I listen to it. And I have listened to it many many times. I still get sad when I think about the fact that we will probably never get another album by the band Lush. But Veronica Falls sound very close to what I would have loved for Lush to turn into. They are a little less shoegaze and a little more Twee than Lush. But just as amazing and brilliant. You really should be loving the band as much as I do. I almost can't believe how great they are. This album is magical. It really is. I will be listening to it over and over again for many months to come.

Check out the video for "Bad Feeling" by Veronica Falls from their debut album....



also out 9/13...






American Goldwing
by Blitzen Trapper











Dreams Come True
by CANT











Portamento
by The Drums











Father Son Holy Ghost
by Girls











Credo
by The Human League











Junk Of The Heart
by The Kooks











Gravity the Seducer
by Ladytron











Years
by Memoryhouse











Earth Division
by Mogwai











Era Extrana
by Neon Indian











Green Naugahyde
by Primus











Violent Hearts
by Shimmering Stars











Paradise
by Slow Club











Strange Mercy
by St. Vincent











Freaking Out
by Toro Y Moi











Wild Flag
by Wild Flag











West
by Wooden Shjips






also out 9/20...






Night of Hunters
by Tori Amos











Hysterical
by Clap Your Hands Say Yeah











In Animal Tonque
by Evangelista











HitRECord
by Joseph Gordon-Levitt











Argument With Myself
by Jens Lekman











Megafaun
by Megafaun











Dracula
by Nurses











Finest Hour
by Patton Oswalt











Veronica Falls
by Veronica Falls











Red
by Weekend




out this week 3/2 & 3/9...broken bells...jj...gorillaz...frightened rabbit...blueboy...

Posted by Brad Schelden, March 18, 2010 04:32pm | Post a Comment
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 blueboy dirty magsthe 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.

So my dreams came true and the great El Records reissued the first two Blueboy albums a couple of weeks ago. This is now the third and hopefully last time that I have bought these albums, and they are just as amazing as I remember them. The third album, Bank of England, will be reissued very soon as well. If Wishes Were Horses is their first album from 1992 and Unisex is their second album, out in 1994. By the time I got into this band their career was almost over -- their third and final album came out in 1998. As I mentioned, the first two albums came out on Sarah Records, and the third album came out on Shinkansen Recordings, which was the label started by the guy who ran Sarah. Blueboy had two main members, Keith Girdler and Paul Stewart. Other band members came and went, including Harvey Williams and Gemma Townlet. Keith was diagnosed with cancer in 2004 and passed away in 2007. It for sure gives the music an extra layer of sadness. Blueboy is sort of like the twee Carpenters in that regard. Even though the songs might be about butterflies and lollipops you can't help but feel a sadness and tragedy beneath all that. Harvey Williams also played in The Field Mice and Trembling Blue Stars. Gemma Townlet played in Trembling Blue Stars.

These albums are seriously amazing. Keith Girdler has one of those unmistakable voices that you just don't find every day. It is British, of course, but it somehow has the ability to be both tragic and happy. At times the band sounds like a mellow Smiths, or a more sincere version of the Lightning Seeds. Sort of like a combination of Heavenly and The Smiths. I have still never heard a band quite like them. I really like their first album, but Unisex is the album that I fell in love with. From the moment the violins start it just takes me back to the first time I fell in love with this album. I know there are many out there who were touched by this band but I am happy that these albums are back so a whole new generation can find this band as well. It was also easy for this band to pass you by. They were never as popular as Belle & Sebastian or The Cardigans, but bands like Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Jens Lekman, Voxtrot, Radio Dept., and Camera Obscura have all been heavily influenced by Blueboy. I feel like almost all of the bands I like have something in common with Blueboy. It is twee pop at its best. This band also made it easy for gay boys to fall in love with these albums. Like The Smiths, the songs are often sexually ambiguous. Both of these reissues come with great bonus tracks. Unisex includes "River," "Nimbus," "Hit," "Dirty Mags," "Loony Tunes," and "Toulouse." If Wishes Were Horses includes "Clearer," "Alison," "Popkiss," "Chelsea Guitar," "Fearon," "Meet Johnny Rave," "Elle," "Air France," "Try Happiness," "A Gentle Sigh," and "Stephanie." You can also find these albums for sale on the Amoeba website under the new Buyer's Picks section, so check them out here.

jj no 3
The long awaited first domestic album by JJ also came out this month. I have been hearing great things about this band for almost a year now but it was almost impossible to find the album JJ no. 2 anywhere. Well, don't you worry, that album will soon be put out domestically by our friends at Secretly Canadian. They just released the band's second full length album JJ no. 3. JJ is still really mysterious to me...I don't really know much about them, but I love this new album. They are from Sweden -- another band to add to the long list of bands that I love from Sweden. They are playing soon at the Echo so I will be checking them out there. They are sort of indie pop's version of Sade. Totally mellow and easy to get lost in. They also remind me of a mellow Sting song. I know that Sting combined with Sade sounds horrible, so maybe forget I mentioned that! But I have been listening to their album over and over again. Love it. Check it out for yourself.


The debut album by Broken Bells also came out on 3/9. Broken Bells is James Mercer from the Shins and producer Dangermouse. I had honestly gotten a bit sick of The Shins! They are great and all but I think I just listened to them a bit too much. It sometimes happens to me with even the best albums. I tend to overplay certain things until I am sick of them, so I was glad to see James Mercer going in a slightly different direction. We both needed a change. The new album is just as good as you want it to be. My favorite track on the album right now is "Mongrel Heart," but here is the first single for you to listen to.



also out 3/2...






Hands by Little Boots












Endless Falls by Loscil












Songs of the Sarah Silverman Show












Hidden by These New Puritans







also out 3/9...






Are the Roaring Night by Besnard Lakes












Beat the Devil's Tattoo by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club












Bundles by Bundles












Winter of Mixed Drinks by Frightened Rabbit












Sufi & a Killer by Gonjasufi












Plastic Beach by The Gorillaz












Valleys of Neptune by Jimi Hendrix
 











Tomorrow, in a Year by the Knife












Sisterworld by The Liars












Quarantine the Past by Pavement












Monitor by Titus Andronicus












Last Place You'll Look by We Were Promised Jetpacks