Once in a while a release comes along that you just have to tell others about, even if it’s just a funny thing that you want to spread like a joke that gets forwarded in e-mails around the office. Enter Fishboy.
It’s self-proclaimed EPIC POP and I won’t argue with that. Imagine the love child of a classic-era Elephant 6 band and They Might Be Giants. Acoustic and amped, peppy and cute, but with a black comedy side as well. The fact that Happy Happy Birthday To Me is putting this out might also help you calibrate your audio compass. Each song tells the story of a different character, all in some way connected, and as the album progresses the story unravels until a climactic conclusion brings many of the characters together (note: the story involves time travel… and an owl). If it sounds convoluted I assure you that it is not. To lessen the strain on your brain, the album itself is accompanied with a handy-dandy comic, so you can see and read the story as it plays!
Yes, taking note of the gimmick is unavoidable (though it is kinda cool) but luckily the music can stand alone on it’s own. Check the link for the complete album stream and the comic for the full Classic Creeps experience.
Hammer No More The Fingers – Black Shark (2011, Churchkey) ♥♥♥
-angular, but incredibly melodic, 90’s influenced college-rock from Chapel Hill area; RIYL The French Kicks, Jawbox (mostly due to J Robbins’ production)- Lia Ices – Necima (2008, Rare Book Room) ♥♥♥½
-not as emotionally riveting or musically diverse as her latest but her virtuous coo make this an essential listen for fans of Alela Diane or Sharon Van Etten– Shipping News – One Less Heartless To Fear (2010, Karate Body) ♥♥♥½
-there was a time when SN would simply play their instruments and lock into a groove but their first new material in 5 years features a wider variety of sounds; the A-side of this LP pounded hard like your favorite Shellac album while the B-side simmered down and played out like June Of 44, band member Jeff Mueller’s old digs; recorded live in Japan and Louisville- Starfucker – Reptilians (2011, Polyvinyl) ♥♥♥½
-they may not be able to settle on a name for more than a few months but they do know how to throw together an album’s worth of infectious, upbeat synth-pop; feel free to use this as a litmus test to determine whether or not you possess a heartbeat; RIYL MGMT, Cut Copy– Talons’ – Songs For Boats (2011, Own) ♥♥♥
-the Akron, OH based Talons’ (not the above-average noisy post-rock outfit from the UK) present to you warm, twinkling slow-core and well, twelve songs about boats that (unfortunately?) don’t include profanity, SNL skits or rumpshakin’; RIYL Low– All Get Out – All Get Out EP (2008, self-released) ♥♥♥½
-dceptively good pop/rock sounds based around simple melodies and guitar/bass/keys/drums from South Kakolaki; not as solid as their eseential Daytrotter sessions but promising nonetheless- East River Pipe – We Live In Rented Rooms (2011, Merge) ♥♥½
-one of the few Sarah/Merge artists that have never yielded much by way of lasting impressions; it would seem Cornog has always reached for magnetic fields but always come up short- Maritime – Human Hearts (2011, Dangerbird) ♥♥♥½
-the first release for the gang in over 4 years and Davey continues to establish a formidable legacy beyond life in The Promise Ring with another above-average collection of infectious indie-pop nuggets; RIYL Phoenix, Ra Ra Riot– tUnE-yArDs – w h o k i l l (2011, 4AD) ♥♥♥♥
-whine, complain, spell this however the hell you want – it’s miles better than her debut, easily one of my favorite albums of the year and I am stoked to see her in a few weeks!- Class Actress – Journal Of Ardency EP (2010, Terrible) ♥♥♥½
-a couple of really danceable electro-pop hitz to feast on here from former(?) singer-songwriter Elizabeth Harper (maybe most notable for her inclusion on the Dig For Fire Pixies tribute); you need this for the few upsides alone- Last Days Of April – Gooey (2010, Bad Taste) ♥♥½
-those of pining for Angel Youth II can pretty much take a pass on this though I can see the power-pop crowd getting into this a little (which can be said of their last 3 release…); RIYL Matthew Sweet (but not nearly as sweet…)- Sarah Jaffe – Even Born Again (2007, self-released) ♥♥♥½
-this brief but worthwhile EP gives us a glimpse of the potential that Sarah carried into last year’s captivating Suburban Nature– Os Mutantes – Haih…or Amortecedor (2009, Anti) ♥♥
-I couldn’t for the life of me understand why I put off listening to this for so long considering how much I love their untouchable late 60’s records but I wish I kept it buried in my listening queue forever; there’s not a whole lot to wrap your mind around here but misguided attempts at cabaret and showtunes; I’m a little bent out of shape about this- The Lonely Forest – Arrows (2011, Trans) ♥♥♥½
-infectious pop/rock outfit from WA probably most known for recently touring with Joy Formidable and being the first band signed to Chris Walla’s label; I’d recommend catching these guys live as the studio album only does them so much justice; RIYL Harvey Danger, The Argument– Architecture In Helsinki – Moment Bends (2011, Modular) ♥♥
-not sure what happened to this band but the lyrics and corny 80’s vibe sound really cheesy and generic, gone is all the playful experimentation that made the first few LP’s essential classics- Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues (2011, Sub Pop) ♥♥♥♥
-contrary to some critiques I’ve read, Robin’s arrangements here are just as interesting and stimulating as the debut; this hasn’t quite grown on me like Fleet Foxes yet but I suspect it will after time; one of this year’s best, for sure- Craft Spells – Idle Labor (2011, Captured Tracks) ♥♥♥♥
-get this if you love the Drums or any number of the New Order inspired bands of recent memory; there’s also a sprinkle or two of tropicalia and a few older tracks have been cleaned up (arguably for the worse) like the uninhibited joy that is You Should Close The Door, my ringtone for the past year and a half; RIYL Drums, Kisses, chill broments- Julianna Barwick – The Magic Place (2011, Asthmatic Kitty) ♥♥♥
-Julianna uses her voice as an instrument and while there are moments of sheer, angelic beauty here The Magic Place has one minor flaw, that being a lack of variety; I suspect a few more listens would draw out more appreciation for this-
I had the chance to make it out to the Restorations record release party last month at Kungfu Necktie. I picked up the LP before the show even started, based solely off the 2 new songs available to stream at the time and the stamp of get-this-shit-now I gave to their previous 12″ on Paper + Plastick. Strange Behavior hinted at the band’s ability to seamlessly cross genres and Restorations sees these guys taking this skill a step further, into a sparsely occupied realm of unclassifiable post-everything-core centered around chiming to cascading guitars, lead singer Jon Loudon’s signature growl and unpredictable twists/turns/ups-downs. Case in point, I was a little caught off guard by the opening track’s dark-alley-crawl into a crescendo of fuck-yeah buzzing, space-guitar action. They also opened the show with this to très maximum effect. Again, you’d think a band with such a steep hardcore/punk-rock pedigree would stray from any sort of sing-along melodies but cuts like ‘Neighborhood Song’ and the anthemic closer ‘When You’re Older’ embed themselves into that certain sweet spot in your brain where great songs go to earn their keep. Don’t take that the wrong way – I’m not playing the aging-punks-write-pussy-mature-rock-album card (I’m probably older than any single member here…) – these guys can rip, on tape and live. If you pine for music with true staying power instead of the standard daily dose of band/song-of-the-moment, hype-machine bullshit then you could stand to set this on repeat to help wash away that excess. The LP can be had for a cool $13 – still available from Tiny Engines in classic black or clear with yellow swirl. Stream and/or purchase the digital version on their Bandcamp. As I write this I think the band is looking for a new practice space in the Fishtown area. If I weren’t renting I’d offer up my basement, considering my neighbor’s kids are as loud as jackhammers at all hours of the day and week.
Closet Drama sprung forth from the same TX scene that gave us Joe Jitsu (the new band sharing 2 members of the old band), and now lead singer/songwriter Charlie has, if I may be so presumptuous, finalized his vision. Not that Joe Jitsu were without merit, releasing at least 2 great albums and a superb EP over the course of 10 years, but where that band leaned one way (four-eyed pop punk) and then another (melancholic punk pop), and yet another (Brian Wilson “pure” pop) Closet Drama firmly has it’s sound and style on sure footing. Dream State is a confident declaration of a band that knows what it wants in the studio, and has the chops to deliver. The sheer enjoyment I get from the production is almost ridiculous. Since when do the harmonies and melodies (both top-notch here, natch) and lyrics take a back seat to guitar sound? With me, rarely. Another unlikely but welcome thing about the album is that all 11 tracks clock in over 3 minutes, many close to or over 4 minutes, and yet each song feels half as long. The sequencing makes the album flow so smoothly it’s a nice ride no matter the length. My favorite tune at the moment is the epic album closer, “Faux.” Although there’s a tiny bit of bite and speeds pushing the limits of what can actually be called “mid-tempo” for the most part this is good old crunchy pop. Fans of Lemonheads, the A/V Club, and regular visitors to the Power Pop Madness blog should seek this out post haste.