Indie Pop

New EP: Erin Harland || As Long As We Make It

Erin Harland is a singer/songwriter and actor/comedian living in Brooklyn, New York. With the five original tracks on her debut EP As Long As We Make It she shows what she has to offer, and it is impossible not to fall for it. She combines the wit of Courtney Barnett with the coolness of Blondie’s Debbie Harry in songs that could be classics from Alvvays, The Bangles or The Go-Go’s. Her tunes have everything that turns indie songs into hits: smart structured, jangly melodies, angelic vocals, and entertaining storytelling that reflects hope, forgiveness and nostalgia. Radio Silent is the most convincing example of this, but actually this release has no weak moments.

As Long As We Make It is out now digitally. Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Peter Doherty & Frederic Lo || The Fantasy Life Of Poetry & Crime

Twenty years after the first album by The Libertines and almost ten years after the last by Babyshambles, their (co-)frontman Peter Doherty released a new record that bears little resemblance to the rickety aggressive guitar rock of yesteryear. It is as if the English (song-)writer/musician has been captured by the sensitive side of Elvis Costello on compositions by Scott Walker. Obviously that’s not the case, these will be the influences of getting older and wiser, living in France, being clean and married, and especially working with French composer/musician/producer Frédéric Lo. The result of their collaboration, the twelve songs on The Fantasy Life Of Poetry & Crime, is melancholic, heartfelt and poetic. This is beautiful understated baroque pop with quality orchestration, fascinating for over 36 minutes. The strong lyrics and the vocals that are sometimes slightly out of tune remain, but otherwise this is very far away from Doherty’s illustrious past. And yet again it’s very good.

The Fantasy Life Of Poetry & Crime is out now digitally, on CD, cassette and vinyl LP through Strap Originals.

Add to wantlist: Discogs || Peter Doherty Store

New album: Yea-Ming & The Rumours || “So, Bird…”

The Bay Area is home to many of the best present day indie pop acts. Yea-Ming & The Rumours, who just released their sophomore album, are no exception.

Within that wealth of indie pop goodness, Yea-Ming & The Rumours have carved out a nice niche for themselves. Their songs are soaked in ‘60s nostalgia with a bit of folk, a bit of country and touches of Camera Obscura, France Gall, and The Crystals. Expect sweet, dreamy and gorgeous melodies, expect to be mesmerized by the voice of Yea-Ming Chen, expect jangly guitars, expect your heart to be broken, expect your soul to be mended.

At first blush, the songs of Yea-Ming Chen sound stripped to their essence. A consequence of growing up listening to bands like Mr. T Experience, The Queers and Dressy Bessy, I read Chen explaining in a write up at Lilystars Records: “Bands like that made me realize the power of a simple song.”
But it won’t take long to discover how subtle and plentiful the instrumentation and arrangements are. Chen wrote all the songs on “So, Bird…”– with the exception of album closer Takeda Lullaby which is a traditional Japanese folk song. She plays a lot of the instruments on the record as well, including guitar (and slide), bass, piano, drums and synths. Anna Hillburg, Sonia Hayden, Eoin P. Galvin, and Matt Bullimore contribute with additional (slide) guitars, drums, lap steel, and percussion.

The result is a record full of standout tracks. Oh Sweet Mother and Back To The Days Of I Don’t Knows immediately made me add the record to my wantlist. Other tracks, like the indie country Ruth and mellow By The Sea (video here) offer perfect backdrops for staring out of the window longing for spring. Heartache Ain’t Nothing almost sounds like a classic folkhit from the ‘60s.

So yeah, plenty to like and discover on this one. And what a release week for Dandy Boy Records, who also released the new Sob Stories LP (our post here), and the vinyl reissue of Blue Ocean’s excellent self-titled EP compilation (more on that here).

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Discogs

New album: Star Party || Meadow Flower

On their debut LP Meadow Flower, Star Party (Seattle) are a bit like a chef trying to find the perfect balance between sweet and sour. The sweet voice of Carolyn Brennan juxtaposes nicely with the tsunami of loud buzzsaw noises produced by Ian Corrigan (Gen Pop, Vexx), and the whole sounds better than the sum of its parts.

Call it hardcore twee, c-86 punk or whatever you like, Meadow Flower is a record to cherish. It invites you to study its ancestry. You’ll find traces of psychedelic rock, garage, ’60s girl group, (post)punk and ’80s underground pop. A more recent reference point is UV-TV’s 2017 record Glass. That band became more pop oriented on subsequent records, and I’m curious what the trajectory of Star Party will be. But until then, I will be plugging this record to all my friends.

Meadow Flower is out now. LP available through Feel It Records (US) and Tough Love (UK).

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Discogs 

Gimme 5! Elise Okusami (Oceanator) Shares 5 Albums She Had On Repeat In This Pandemic

With ‘Gimme 5!’ we take a peek into the collections of artists we admire. The premise is simple: artists WE like share 5 records THEY love.

Two years ago, Elise Okusami released Things I Never Said, her debut full-length as Oceanator. The record received wide acclaim from critics and fans worldwide, including us: With songs like Heartbeat and A Crack In The World we became instant fans. Which explains our excitement that, in a couple of weeks, Oceanator’s follow up is set to arrive. It’s called Nothing’s Ever Fine and showcases Okusami at her brightest and boldest yet. Oceanator sounds bigger than ever, and given the size and frequency of the hooks on the record, I fully expect Oceanator to reach even bigger crowds while making her existing fanbase ecstatic. [post continues below]

New album: Jeremy Ivey || Invisible Pictures

“When you sing a melody in your head, you can either put three chords around it or nine. This time, I aimed for nine.” Nashville guitarist Jeremy Ivey (formerly in Buffalo Clover) used those months when touring was not possible to stretch himself compositionally, while reflecting on his own tumultuous life lyrically. Producer Andrija Tokic added his magical vision with kaleidoscopic ideas, and invited a diverse selection of top musicians to play along. It led to ten quality songs that make up the new album Invisible Pictures, which is probably housed in the Americana section of your favorite record store, but on which you’ll also hear influences from orchestral classical music, British 60’s pop, flamenco and indie rock. This is baroque folk in which harmony vocals, violins and handclaps merge into a compelling, hopeful sound, like the spring sun melts the winter snow and dispels the dark cold. “The perpetual motion, the intricate melodies, the sprawling arrangements. This album is the real me.” Said Jeremy Ivey. He can be very proud of himself.

Invisible Pictures is out now digitally, on CD and vinyl LP through ANTI- Records.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Discogs

New album: Mousey || My Friends

Today marks the release of the sophomore Mousey album. It’s called My Friends, and I’ve quickly become infatuated with it.

Mousey hail from Ōtautahi (Christchurch, New Zealand). Front and center in the band is the powerhouse that is Sarena Close. She has an amazing voice that has a touch of Tracyanne Campbell (Camera Obscura). The indie pop of Mousey on My friends is sophisticated and diverse, sometimes punchy and catchy, and sometimes hushed and subtle. If I had to compare it, like a more extraverted version of Big Thief perhaps?

The song that drew me into this record is One Dollar Wednesdays, a heartfelt song Close wrote for her husband. It’s an instant classic and may well end up as one of my favorite songs of the year. Other standouts for me are The Bench and Wait For Me, which are all in the strong first half of the record. The second half is more subdued.

All in all, a strong second album by Mousey filled with gorgeous sophisticated yet accessible pop songs. Out now on Christchurch label Winegum Records.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Subterfuge || Dots.

Good news for fans of perfect pop/rock songs with jangly guitars and vocal harmonies: Subterfuge is back! The 6-piece indie pop band from Düsseldorf, Germany, has been around for 30 years, but released their last LP in 2005. With Dots., their new (5th) full-length album, they show that they still know their stuff. Reportedly, we should consider the 12 new songs as a biography: “Just real life turned into music.” Their lyrics about life-as-it-is are tragicomic (“There’s something you said // Before I grow old // I’d rather be dead // When we were young // Your hair was long // Now that it’s gone // You look like Right Said Fred” – from Stephanie Said), the music is melancholic (the sound has its origins in the psychedelic 60’s, but with more modern influences from college rock, shoegaze and jangle pop), and their Super8 style videos are highly entertaining. “Why do I always fail to win?” they wonder in one of the standout tracks. We can safely say that the tide has turned, because this new work is definitely a winner.

Dots. is out now digitally, on CD and vinyl LP through Less Records, distributed by Cargo Records.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Less Records

New EP: The Hannah Barberas || When You Were My Boyfriend EP

Do good thing arrive in twos? I guess so, because The Hannah Barberas just released a surprise EP AND announced their new full length – coming this summer through Spinout Nuggets (vinyl) and Subjangle (CD). If you don’t know the band yet, The Hannah Barberas are Damien, Lucy, Ian and Matthew, aka a bunch of DIY-ers, homerecorders, C86 and tweepop lovers from the UK.

EP opener When You Were My Boyfriend is also the first taste of the new album. It’s a delightful indiepop hit that aims straight for the heart…and succeeds within seconds. It’s probably my favorite song on the EP, although Try Hard is a standout as well with its use of a piano and cool guitar work. Harper Valley PTA is a fun closer and proof how The Hannah Barberas like to mix it up it terms of sounds and rhythms. It’s hard not to fall for the Hannah Barberas in these songs.

The EP is intentionally Bandcamp-only, in recognition of the platform’s support for artists during the pandemic. We love Bandcamp as well, but are a bit worried about upcoming changes now that they are owned by Epic Games. Fingers crossed that with the additional funds, Bandcamp will further improve rather than regress.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Ferri-Chrome || Dazzling Azure

Let’s turn our attention to Japan for the next 37 minutes, and listen to Dazzling Azure, the wonderful debut album from Tokyo-based 4-piece Ferri-Chrome, featuring 10 jangly indie pop/rock songs in the tradition of Teenage Fanclub, Pale Saints and Slowdive. The experienced musicians from this cross-generational supergroup know how to captivate with a mesmerizing shoegaze sound, where hypnotic melodies and clear vocal harmonies are nicely balanced with powerful drums and delicate but sometimes ferocious guitars. Chances are you’ll have the tracks on repeat after 37 minutes, because this is music you can’t get enough of.

Dazzling Azure is out now digitally and on CD through Testcard Records.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Testcard

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