Archives for category: International Pop Underground

Amaya Laucirica“Little Clouds” is the opening track from a new album called “Rituals” by Melbourne’s Amaya Laucirica.

Before pressing play on this opening track I read the information on the album Bandcamp page: “Amaya’s work blends the swirling contours of the Cocteau Twins with the wistful melodies of The Go-Betweens and the sonic depth of Yo La Tengo.”  Fair to say that raised an eyebrow and thought “yeah, right.”

Turns out that’s actually a fairly modest statement. Not only is that close to the mark, it’s only the half of it. OK the Cocteau’s reference relates only to the second half of their career when their starkly unique post-punk had mellowed out to lushly produced dream-pop. But there’s no denying that these songs have the kind of classic construction you would associate with The Go-Betweens circa “16 Lovers Lane”.

The widescreen cinema-scope surround-sound of those extravagant synth washes also evokes memories of another Australian classic – capturing the sense of space of The Triffids “Wide Open Road”. The songs, arrangement and production on the album also remind me a lot of the classic pop of 80s, particularly UK popsters The Lightning Seeds. Slickly produced, glistening pop, and such perfect songs washed in big lush reverb synth pads and with crystalline guitar parts and Amaya’s distinctive vocals providing a unique heart.

Thanks to When You Motor Away for the tip off on this future classic album.





Caroline NoHere’s a treat from Melbourne which casts a little magic. It’s “Alex”, the opening track from the forthcoming “Swimmers” mini-album by Caroline No:

There’s a gentle tension here, a song sounding like the band is playing it for the second or third time so it hints at stumbling at times as it comes together at the start but never does so. In the process it gives the music a kind of very human vulnerable immediacy which draws in and involves the listener.

Caroline Kennedy’s voice also draws in the listener. There’s perhaps some of the melodic directness of a reflective Dagmar Krause in Slapp Happy (matched by the music here) but also the kind of dreamy warm cadence of Hope Sandoval (Mazzy Star, Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions) while – just to confuse and confound you further –  sounding like neither really.

Mick Turner (The Dirty Three) is a familiar name on keyboards and guitar here but the rest of the Caroline No back story  is a Melbourne mystery to me, so here’s what they say on their Facebook page:

“Caroline No is a project built around the songs of Caroline Kennedy (guitar and vocals) of Plums / Deadstar fame, with Ian Wadley (Mad Nanna, Bird Blobs, St Helens) on drums, then guitar, then moving to bass a few gigs ago with the arrival of David McMillan (Dag) on drums… Occasional keyboard player Helen Johnstone (Garbage and the Flowers) first appeared during the recording of what became the No Language cassette, which has just been re-released on vinyl by Cincinnati label Students Of Decay. Caroline and Ian first worked together on Don’t Tell The Driver, the most recent LP from Mick Turner (Dirty 3) as well as his ‘big band’ assembled to promote it. Around this Mick started work producing a Caroline No album Swimmers, due for release later this year. Think Velvet Underground, Blake Babies, Young Marble Giants, American Spring…”

Salad BoysChristchurch guitar trio Salad Boys released their second album “This Is Glue” in January. Here’s “Under The Bed” from it:

Salad Boys is led by guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Joe Sampson, once of noisey Christchurch trio T54. Salad Boys is the more reflective side of Sampson’s considerable guitar-playing and songwriting talent, though the album still packs plenty of over-driven riff-rock (check the opening “Blown” Up” and then “Psych Slasher” for high-octane thrills).

Anyone raised on a steady diet of chips, beer and guitar bands over recent decades will recognise the compass points locating their sound. Much has been made of their local influences from that cold damp city 5 hours drive south of their quake-munted Christchurch home. But as much as you can maybe hear a bit of The Clean/ Great Unwashed in the strum and jangle I’d be inclined to pick another Dunedin band Bored Games as a better local touchstone when the amps are cranked here.

But even that is still a red herring I reckon. The varied guitar styles and noisy pop hooks comprising much of “This Is Glue” is actually much more in the style of North American bad boys like The Replacements and their ilk. As a result they sound more like they belong among the current crop of fine Australian guitar bands (The Stevens, Twerps, Woollen Kits et al.) who also seem to have assimilated that same perfect odd-combo of ’80s kiwi drone jangle and more polished North American guitar pop.

Either way, this is a cracking album with a fine balance between visceral riff rock and delicate reflective folk pop (refer “Going Down Slow” towards the end of the album). Recommended to track down in its vinyl LP format too.




Legendary House Cats“Untitled (For You)” comes from a digital “Maxi Single” from The Legendary House Cats, which is the project of composer, producer, John Girgus from the LA band called Aberdeen who were released on Sarah Records in the UK.

The ‘Maxi Single’ concept was a classic 80s synth pop 12″ single with the song, plus various re-mixes. So that’s what we get here – 4 permutations of “Untitled” – “Remix”, “Instrumental” and finally “Reprise” – naturally.

It works on the level of nostalgia for 80s synth pop of course, but the lead song/ single here taken as it’s own is also a nicely unconventional club-hit-that-never-was.

“Untitled (For You)” has a winning combination of familiar elements from the music of New Order, Frazier Chorus and even The Blue Nile, to which is added in a big dash of pulled-back ambient soundscapes before each new ‘drop’ (and there are a few of those here).  See what you think… oh, & it’s free to download if you want.


birdieA new song from UK duo Birdie is a cause for celebration. So here’s “Bowling Green” from their 7″ single on the 7th and final year of WIAIWYA* 7777777 singles club release.

Birdie are not exactly the most prolific of outfits. When PopLib first (and last) featured a song from them it was 4 years ago and it was a song recorded 20 years prior to that.

They said of that Birdie song “Spiral Staircase”: “Birdie are Paul Kelly and Debsey Wykes, guitarist and backing vocalist with Saint Etienne. In 1996 Alan McGee paid for them to record a demo. McGee was too busy claiming 18 Wheeler and Heavy Stereo were the next big thing to listen properly to Spiral Staircase. What an addition Birdie would have been to Creation then! Spiral Staircase is a miniature masterpiece of Left Banke psychedelia and Laura Nyro pop.”

“Bowling Green” is another slice of low-key beautiful psychedelic pop. Simple and utterly perfect, and that’s clear even before the trumpet and baritone guitar instrumental break kicks in.

*Where It’s At Is Where You Are is WIAIWYA, a legendary London indie pop label with an exquisite design taste matched only by it’s taste for exquisite pop music. It has only featured one NZ band – Dunedin’s short-lived Trick Mammoth. Their “Candy Darling”/ “Doll” single was included in WIAIWYA’s 2014 7777777 singles club.



Mint FieldHailing from Tijuana, Mexico, the duo Mint Field –  Estrella Sanchez (vocals & guitar) and Amor Amezcua (drums & synths) – are about to release their first album “Pasar de las Luces” next week. “Quiero Otoño De Nuevo” (which translates as “I want autumn again”) is one of two tracks available to stream ahead of the release.

It was a difficult choice to pick one to share here as both are very different and also very wonderful. I’m a sucker for a motorik drum-beat though so “Quiero Otoño De Nuevo” wins out over “Ojos on el Carro” which takes more of a post-rock via shoegaze trip through reverb-washed quiet-to-loud territory reminiscent of the early sounds of Icelandic adventurers Sigur Ros.

“Quiero Otoño De Nuevo” channels that Neu! styled drum/ bass groove for sure, but the guitar and vocals here take the song in all sorts of interesting directions – part psychedelic rock, part dream-pop.

These two tracks are a good enough reason to want to hear the rest of the album. Once again it’s a pity the postage costs for both the LP and even the CD format are so expensive so digital format it will have to be.


Wax ChattelsWax Chattels is a three person band from Auckland. Bass, drums, keyboards. No six string guitarist. So far so much like The Peddlers! But Wax Chattels is no lounge trio. There’s no cha cha, no rumba, no swing here. “Stay Disappointed” is pure pneumatic post-punk at its finest.

There’s a bit of the spirit of The Gordons about this (the likes of Machine Song or Adults & Children come to mind) which is the first time the born-again Flying Nun Records (and US partners Captured Tracks) have re-connected with that particular dark part of its past in recent years.

Built upon the precision bass and frenetic bludgeoning drumming, “Stay Disappointed” takes wings when the distorted organ works its Gothic Phantom of the Opera style mayhem over top, particularly as the song intensity rises to its scouring terminal end point. Lovely stuff.

“Stay Disappointed” is available in NZ as a limited edition one-sided 7″ single with different stamped labels from Flying Out.