I don’t know much indie-rock duo Foxygen, but I’m glad I didn’t let their questionable band name put me off. “San Francisco”, from their awesomely-titled album “We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic”, is a sweet throwback to ’70s AM rock, and also doubles as an out-of-context unofficial West Coast anthem. With its off-kilter, bookish charm, “San Francisco” sits comfortably somewhere between a Wes Anderson soundtrack and a pitched theme song for a non-existent The OC reboot. Its ’70s easy-going sunny vibe is certainly a pleasant distraction from the dreary East Coast weather lately. I haven’t checked out the album yet, but I do hope there’s a dozen more of these.
STREAM: Foxygen – San Francisco
I love me some ’60s-loving duo side projects. I can name a handful off the top of my head: The Last Shadow Puppets, Cat’s Eyes, Scarlett Johansson & Pete Yorn, Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs, James Levy & The Blood Red Rose. Now Adam Green (The Moldy Peaches) and Binki Shapiro (Little Joy), are the latest to channel the Nancy/Lee dynamic with a self-tiled LP out January 29. The opening track “Here I Am” is a playful and sweet love song, with the tried-and-true deep-voiced-male/honey-voiced-female combination that guarantees an immediate spot on your local Starbucks playlist. Expect more loveliness like this when the album drops. Enjoy it while you can, since these kinds of projects hardly last beyond one album.
STREAM: Adam Green & Binki Shapiro – Collage (James Gang Cover)
Spector have gone ‘EDM’! In a somewhat unexpected move, the band got Benny Benassi to remix their fantastic single “Never Fade Away”, and the result is quite massive. It’s proper hands-in-the-air rave o’clock, with those post-chorus rave-off-your-tits bits so popular with the kids nowadays. I think this could easily pull a “Spectrum via Calvin Harris” with decent airplay.
STREAM: Spector – Never Fade Away (Benny Benassi Remix Radio Edit)
But no worries, they got your ‘IDM’ bases covered too, by enlisting Wolfgang Voigt, co-founder of cool German techno label Kompakt, to give his own sprawling synth-laden take on the track. It’s safe to say Voigt certainly has the motorways in mind. Or shall we say autobahns?
STREAM: Spector – Never Fade Away (Wolfgang Voigt Remix)
Spector’s excellent debut album “Enjoy While It Lasts” is out this week in UK, and if you enjoy anthemic indie rock of the early noughties’ kind, check it out.
I won’t object to a nice Twin Peaks and NZ indie-rock band She’s So Rad did just the trick with their cover of the David Lynch/Angelo Badalamenti kitschy dream-pop tune “Rockin’ Back Inside My Heart”, balancing fuzzy guitars with candy-coated vocals in the same spirit of Julee Cruise. If you like The Raveonettes, then you oughta like She’s So Rad.
It also reminds me of another Twin Peaks fuzz-pop makeover of the theme song “Falling” by Girls Names, released back in 2010.
My new favorite British guitar-pop band Spector stopped by Zane Lowe’s show on Radio 1 yesterday for a chat and a two-song live session, one of which is a performance of their anthemic new single “Celestine”, and the other is a surprise cover of Kavinsky’s “Nightcall”. The original recently rose to prominence thanks to its inclusion on the infamous “Drive” soundtrack, which seemed to open the gate for a new craze for late-night-driving 80s-synthpop. Spector’s take is actually quite faithful and solid, with the addition of a guitar solo (for they are a guitar band)! I find it funny how the rest of the band sang background vocals in falsetto to make up for the lack of Lovefoxxx. What I like about the band is that they have a sense of humour, and not just all Joy Division doom and gloom. Check out their cover right below.
STREAM: Spector – Nightcall (Kavinsky Cover)
You can watch their performance of Celestine here, featuring a cameo from Fred’s untimely zits.
The desert-themed video for “Celestine” is also out on Youtube now. Is it only me or is that an S Club 7 reference in the video? And maybe a Madonna’s “Frozen” homage too. They certainly (presumely) know their late ’90s pop!
Radio 1′s certainly been pimping them a lot lately.
Now how about some album news, lads.
New anthem alert! Spector has unleashed their fifth single “Celestine”, and it is HUGE! Produced by Trevor Horn, it’s an epic arena-sized monster without any pretense of what it’s set out to be: an epic arena-sized monster. Now that I found a proper audio version to replace the Zane Lowe radio rip, my obsession will only grow stronger. Seriously, this is so glorious I don’t know whether to fist pump or cry, or both. I picture a sea of thousands of hands in the air and the crowd chanting along as the drums drop out on the last chorus. It’s safe to say “Celestine” has eclipsed “Grey Shirt & Tie” as their best track to date, and right now it is very much a strong contender for song of the year. Spector has proved themselves to be the most exciting new guitar band in a while. The Vaccines who?
Celestine is out May 21 in UK on Fiction. If this couldn’t score a number one, I’d be livid.
OPOSSOM is the latest project of Kiwi musician Kody Nielson. While I’m not overtly familiar with his former band The Mint Chicks, I really enjoy his work with Bic Runga on her new album, so I decided to check this out. Admittedly, lo-fi garage/surf-pop’s not exactly my usual cup of tea, but to my surprise, I do find “Getaway Tonight” quite likeable. It’s a lightweight, spacey and sweet psych-pop ditty that would totally fit in on a night-out playlist, and it’s destined to be on a car commercial soon. Grab the mp3 below.
Gossip has just unleashed their new single, “Perfect World”, produced by the one and only Brian Higgins of Xenomania. It’s a polished, straightforward pop-rock number, and the Xenomania stamp is unmistakable on the lush instrumental breaks. Set for a May release, the forthcoming album is called “A Joyful Noise”, as a tribute to the Queen Latifah/Dolly Parton movie of the same name.* I am quite looking forward to this, especially after Beth Ditto’s fantastic but brief solo outing. Check out the track below, or click here to watch the lyric video, if you prefer some nice typography action and kaleidoscopic visuals to go with it.
STREAM: Gossip – Perfect World
Beach House is ready to return with their fourth album “Bloom”, due May 15 on Sub Pop. To get you properly excited, the Baltimore dream-pop duo is offering the lead single “Myth” for free. Usually for a band of their stature, there are two directions to take: either get more polished, or get self-indulgent. I’m glad they chose the former, as “Myth” offers the signature Beach House sound we’ve known and loved. Indeed, it will be pretty hard to top “Teen Dream”, but I trust that their new album should soundtrack many summer nights to come. Grab the mp3 below, and check out their US tour dates after the jump.
MP3: Beach House – Myth
Darkness Falls is the Danish indie rock duo of Josephine Philip and Ina Lindgreen. Together they created “Alive In Us” – their first album released in late 2011 with production handled by Trentemøller. They remind me a lot of their fellow Danish rockers Mew, and for good reasons too.“The Void” is the single to discover, a prime example of just how well the Danes understand atmosphere in music. Instrumentally, it’s flawlessly produced – chilling, brooding, and melancholic. However, it’s not without flaws. It feels like the vocals didn’t maximize the ethereality it could go for, and the lyrics left something to be desired, beside its English-as-second-language charm. Regardless, it’s music that pertains to a certain kind of mood and weather, and a Saturday rainy morning is just the right catalyst, not to mention that the gorgeously-shot music video is a must-watch.
STREAM: Darkness Falls – The Void
Their album is available for streaming on Spotify, so I’ve got my homework cut out. Hopefully there’s more where this comes from.
Brooklyn twee-pack The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart are readying a remix EP companion to their 2011 album “Belong”. To be released on limited edition colored vinyl for Record Store Day, “Acid Reflex” consists of 2 previously released mixes by Twin Shadow and Violens, as well as new ones by chillwaver Washed Out and UK indie-pop legend Saint Etienne. The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart have always made excellent music for cold sunshine days, but Saint Etienne went for a more dancefloor-friendly take on album track “Too Tough”. Interestingly, this marks the second time the two bands aligned, as Saint Etienne also did their magic on “Higher Than The Stars” back in 2009. Check out both Saint Etienne mixes below.
STREAM: The Pains of Being Pure At Heart – Higher Than The Stars (Saint Etienne Visits Lord Spank Remix)
Intense, striking, dramatic – those are words often associated with UK songstress Anna Calvi‘s music, and the same applies to her covers. Last week, she paid a visit to Radio 1′s Live Lounge and delivered an impressive take on Beyoncé’s “Naughty Girl”. Through her crimson filter, what was otherwise an innocuously seductive Middle-Eastern-tinged R&B track now drips with dark, menacing undertones. There’s no doubt she can sure rock a mean guitar. Check out her interpretation below, and see the performance in motion here.
Back in late 2010, when Lana Del Rey was still relatively unknown and blond, she made what was possibly her first European TV appearance on Mandio Diao‘s MTV Unplugged show. Backed by the Swedish rock band themselves, Lana gave an acoustic rendition of “Chet Baker”, an obscure 2007 b-side named after the jazz legend. The show was later released on CD/DVD, and footage of her segment has been floating around since, but I only managed to discover it a couple days ago. Her voice was a good fit for the jazz-tinged track, and it was certainly fascinating to witness the soon-to-be pop star in progress, just a year before the big break. Not that much has changed, vocally and aethestically. A lovely listen, anyhow.
What I find interesting is that Juliette Lewis, who previously tweet-bashed her SNL performance, was also a guest star on the same show. I wonder if she remembers that they might actually have met before?
“Born To Die” is out now worldwide.
Last week, Jack Peñate unveiled a video for new song “No One Lied”, shot and recorded in one take at his home. Now, the UK singer/songwriter has kindly offered the track as a free download. The song is a stripped-down, poignant, heart-on-sleeve moment that’s sombre and tender at once. I hope this means a new LP is on its way soon. His last full length, the Paul-Epworth-produced “Everything Is New” was such a fantastic but overlooked record.
Now excuse me while I go blast out “Be The One” again. That was a choon!
Say bonjour to up-and-coming French indie-pop duo Singtank. Even though the band of Alexandre and Josephine de la Baume is still in early stages, they are gaining attention for being wicked cool by association. The sister, actress/singer Josephine, is in fact Mark Ronson‘s wife, and has been touted by Kate Moss and Daze & Confused magazine as the next big thing. Their first single “The Party” is pretty standard as quirky indie-pop goes, with the brother on lead vocals and Josephine providing harmonies. It’s a fun, catchy ditty that reminds me of another boy/girl duo, The Dø. The video is visually arresting in an Alice in Wonderland meets M.C. Escher way. It’ll be interesting to hear more from them, apparently they worked with Bjork’s former producer Nellee Hooper. I wonder if they worked with Mark too, or maybe that’s too obvious?
Their debut album, “In Wonder”, drops May 7.
More on Singtank.
It’s always lovely to hear something new from Rose Ellinor Dougall. The ex-Pipette/Mark Ronson tourmate unleashed a new 3-song EP entitled “The Distractions” on her Bandcamp yesterday, and what’s more, they’re yours to take for free. You don’t even have to enter your email address or anything, how nice of her! These new songs mark a more guitar-based sound from her, like an extension on her excellent Smiths-esque single “Carry On”. I embed my favourite track below.
A cheery bunch Veronica Falls ain’t. The UK indie band is known for their gloom-laden, gothic lo-fi guitar-pop, and their self-titled debut album released last year makes great music for cold, grey days. They carry their aesthetics well on this fantastic cover of Eurythmics‘ 1986 hit “Thorn In My Side”. Released on a limited covers 12″, it’s a cleverly reimagined version of the original, with which I wasn’t familiar before hearing their version. Their rather bleak-sounding take hints at a sense of desperation beneath the kiss-off bravado. What I like about Veronica Falls is that they do not forget the tunes and harmonies. Do check out their own songs if you have the time, they’re so underrated.
Can you believe 2012 is just around the corner? Last minute gift shoppers need not be reminded. If you still have the time for some jolly new music to add to your playlist today, check out this poorly timed roundup of this year’s holiday highlights.
She & Him‘s holiday LP “A Very Merry She & Him Christmas” is pretty much the essential release this season. Zooey Deschanel & M. Ward’s seasonal offering is a charming collection of lovely old-timey fireside tunes.
Spector have enlisted fellow Britrockers The Big Pink to remix their new single “Grey Shirt & Tie”, and the result is both swirling, swooshy and quite anthemic, recalling those rock/electronica collabs that The Chemical Brothers loved to churn out back in the day. I know remixes are so disposable these days, but this one brought a smile to my face. Good work, chaps.
I’m always on the look out for the next “it” British guitar band. It doesn’t matter if they all sound the same, with luck, one might come along with one great guitar-pop tune, and one at a time is all I ask for. However, up-and-coming London-based five-piece Spector has already exceeded that ratio by churning out 3 good singles in a row! The nerves. Their latest release, “Grey Shirt & Tie”, saw them switching gears for a more ’80s-inspired sound. At first listen, it seems lovely enough, if a bit restraint compared to their previous efforts, but it turns out to be a massive grower. What sets them apart from the much crowded deep-voiced blokey band pool is that they definitely don’t shy away from a catchy melody. With their namesake (which is, yes, named after that Spector), they’ve got a lot to live up to, but I believe 2012 will be their breakthrough year. Watch the quite nice video for “Grey Shirt And Tie” below, though I’m not sure if the Harry Potter glasses are a good look.
STREAM: Spector – Grey Shirt And Tie
STREAM: Spector – Never Fade Away
“Grey Shirt & Tie” is out on December 7 on Luv Luv Luv Records.
More on Spector.
To commemorate the 25th anniversary of Madonna‘s 1986 album “True Blue”, Canadian indie label Paper Bag Records has called upon their roster to cover the album in its entirety. The best part is they’re giving it away for free, in return for your email address. I haven’t heard all the tracks, but the acts seemed to be having fun recording them. My favorite cover so far is the Montreal-based band Winter Gloves‘ reading of her sugar-sweet single “True Blue”. They brought the song closer to its ’60s pop spirit, and sprinkled it with synths and a special saxophone solo! A lovely listen. Check out the cover below, and get the album if you’re interested. Now if only they could have roped in Sally Shapiro to contribute…
Franz Ferdinand’s “Covers E.P.” was just released yesterday for Record Store Day, featuring an all-star list of veterans covering their songs, including LCD Soundsystem, Debbie Harry (Blondie), Stephen Merritt (The Magnetic Fields), Peaches & ESG. While the recently-retired LCD Soundsystem’s contribution will most likely get the most attention, the highlight for me is Debbie Harry‘s sublime cover of “Live Alone”. There is just something about her seasoned voice and delivery that makes the song much deeper and sadder. I might actually prefer it to the original for now. Stream both Debbie and LCD Soundsystem’s takes below.
Debbie Harry – Live Alone (Franz Ferdinand Cover)
LCD Soundsystem – Live Alone (Franz Ferdinand Cover)
Cat’s Eyes is the new project of The Horrors‘ singer Faris Badwan and his girlfriend Rachel Zeffira. That I’m not really a fan of his band’s music (bar “Sea Within A Sea”) and the alarmingly witchhouse-like name and artwork made me rather cautious. It unexpectedly turned out to be one of the best albums I’ve heard this year. Musically, it’s ’60s-minded dream pop with psychedelic and orchestral flourishes, as well as touches of girl-group pop and bossa-nova. There are ethereal, gauzy vocals drenched in reverb, but not without a charming pop sensibility, and a sense of nostalgia and familiarity in the songs. In short, it’s a brilliant dream pop record. The album is cohesive, while also very diverse, like a collage of the music era they’re paying tribute to. Listening to it reminds me of when Alex Turner made his Scott Walker record with The Last Shadow Puppets, which I actually prefer to his Arctic Monkeys’ stuff. Both are clearly a labour of love, too good to be only one-off vanity projects. Cat’s Eyes’ debut album is a truly exquisite delight, and I expect it to be a real sleeper hit this year. Gotta love it when a release like this just came out of nowhere and took you by surprise.
Get a track called “Not A Friend” for free below, and stream the lovely ballad “Love You Anyway” (which sounds like a lost Carpenters track). The new single, “Face In The Crowd”, is pure Phil-Spector-esque goodness. Or just try the whole album, it’s a wonderful half hour.
Cat’s Eyes – Love You Anyway
Following the footsteps of fellow Brits Friendly Fires, Miss Natasha Khan, aka Bat For Lashes, has been enlisted by Gucci to cover Depeche Mode’s “Strangelove” for their next fragrance commercial. Not surprisingly, her idea of a strangelove sounds more like a pagan séance in the woods, complete with harpsichords. Her 2009 single “Daniel” was actually the song of 2009 for me. It’s about time for a new album, I’d say.