Archives for category: International Pop Underground

Water Sunrise PanelChristchurch musician Blair Parkes (All fall Down, The Letter 5, etc.) released “Always Running” back in July. Here ‘s “What’s Love” from it.

“What’s Love” is only two minutes long and in that time mixes in the essence of motorik synth-heavy psychedelic space rock. If your attention span is too short for Hawkwind’s extended astral excursions take this short trip around the sun instead.

If you like this there’s plenty more such sounds on “Always Running” which continues on from the heavier pulsing space-rock/ shoegaze development throughout Parkes’ previous album “Saturations” which PopLib featured a song from last year.


Synth Sisters mirror“w/o/n/d/e/r/f/u/l” is the opening track of Synth Sisters’ second album “Euphoria”, released earlier this year on Osaka label EM Records.

“w/o/n/d/e/r/f/u/l” is the only track on “Euphoria” with vocals but it sets the scene for the voiceless wonderlands of sound that follow it. The synth soundscapes throughout the album are rich and layered, falling somewhere between retro synth soundtracks and darker, weirder and more intimidating sonic atmospheres.

Synth Sisters are Osaka-based artists Rie Lambdoll and MAYUKo who have also collaborated as the more confrontational noise-focused Crossbred, which probably explains the unyielding uneasy listening, ambient-with-attitude edge to the music on “Euphoria”.

There are reminders of those pulsing early Tangerine Dream masterpieces, woven into the more ambient disorienting soundtracks of the likes of Future Sound of London. It’s all presented with the audio equivalent of a TV cartoon show with over-saturated colours and the brightness tuned up.  “Euphoria” is quite gloriously euphoric.

Tidal Rave FOMOWellington band Tidal Rave are back with a great new single “FOMO”:

Their EP last year had a churning claustrophobic feel, reminiscent of the dark garage rock of 1980s Christchurch band The Terminals.

“FOMO” is lighter – there’s more space around the three guitars to let the song breath – and the combination of keyboard with those three guitarists brings to mind the wry chamber pop of another 1980s/ 90s Flying Nun band The Able Tasmans, or perhaps even the Sarah Records pop of bands like Even As We Speak.

It has a distinctive Australasian feel to it. Maybe it’s the way we strum guitars down here, but it’s also in that distinctively Antipodean conversational vocal delivery and storytelling from Emmie Ellis, who takes the lead vocal here, and says of the the song “An ode for the excitable drunk who never wants to go home. Maybe based on real-life events.”   

The Wake

Bristol, UK independent label Sarah Records has put all their catalogue on line. Some Sarah Records singles and albums made it down-under to Dunedin and a few more picked up on overseas trips. But most of the extensive Sarah Records catalogue has been intriguing record collector territory until now. There’s plenty in that catalogue to discover today. The Wake were a band I missed at the time, so here’s their wonderfully savage “Britain”.

The Wake was founded in Glasgow in 1981 by Gerard McInulty (formerly of Altered Images), Steven Allen (drums) and Joe Donnelly (bass), the latter soon replaced by Bobby Gillespie, who was later asked to leave, joining the Jesus and Mary Chain briefly, before forming Primal Scream. Carolyn Allen (sister of drummer Steve Allen) also joined on keyboards, and along with McInulty still performs as part of a reformed The Wake.

I’m going to copy the info from the bandcamp page here to tell their story: “The Wake formed in Glasgow in 1981 and released their debut 7”, On Our Honeymoon, on their own Scan 45 label. The single attracted the attention of Factory Records, for whom they released four singles and two albums. Encouraged by fellow Glasgow-band The Orchids, they then signed to Sarah Records for two more singles and albums. After Sarah ended, a further album was released on LTM.” 

Ben Woods

Fuzzy guitar pop aficionados look out! Here’s the excitable and great-tasting “Lozenge” with a very sticky melody and a very economic 1 minute 53 second running time.

Woods is a guitarist – and multi-instrumentalist – from Christchurch and you’ve probably seen him play in half the bands you’ve seen from that city (if you live in NZ, which you probably don’t, and go and see bands, which you hopefully still do – it’s good for you!).

He was in (at last count) River Jones, Fran, Wurld Series, Salad Boys and probably a bunch of others that never made it to Dunedin. Top guitarist, and “Lozenge” is his first outing on his own  and under his own name and it’s a winner. What’s not to like about a fuzzy lo-fi melodic pop gem under 2 minutes?

Woods is touring NZ at the moment, along with another PopLib favourite Motte. They play the Captain Cook in Dunedin tonight. Read all about the tour here.


Kindling by Reid Haithcock Photography

Kindling are from Easthampton Massachusetts and “Destroy Yrself” is from their album “Hush” released in November 2017.

Discovered via a reference on the Norman Records mini-review of Bad Sav’s forthcoming album, Kindling are more in the My Bloody Valentine/ Lush/ early Slowdive zone of heavy shoegaze rock than the aforementioned Dunedin trio. But this song – and in fact the whole album – is top shelf immersive noise, with an agreeably dense atmosphere of reverb-bonded layered guitars and bass surrounding its molten core.

Despite – or perhaps because of – the relatively short-lived initial period of so-called ‘shoegaze’ rock from the late 1980s to early 1990s, it is a genre than has inspired a substantial ‘New Wave’ of bands in the 2010s, to continue the exploration of noise+melody.

Blades of Joy.jpgSan Francisco band Blades of Joy have a self-title album coming out on 21 September, and “Be Kind” is the spell-binding first song shared from it.

“Be Kind” is a perfect pop song with a hint of early Bangles and Rain Parade. It manages to evoke something of the spirit of both Paisley Underground era US guitar pop and a bit of British 80s ‘indie’ label guitar pop too.

Can’t find much about Blades of Joy other than that the band features members of a couple of other San Francisco bands SWANOX and DISSOLVE) and their self-titled first album is released on San Francisco label Melters Records on 21 September 2018.