Archives for posts with tag: art pop

Everyone’s favourite Isle of Wight pop duo Wet Leg return with a new single “Wet Dream”. You have been warned:

Wet Leg (Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers) continue their sardonically absurdist bubblegum buzz-saw pop fun. It’s fantastic intentionally quirky sweet & sour pop, and they craft clever, menacing words that burn: “what makes you think you’re good enough to think about me when you’re touching yourself?”

“Wet Dream” is a welcome reminder of simpler times when the pop charts were not full of earnest careerist formula production pop stars, but had room for a bit of subversive music from leftfield celebrating the mundane aspects of everyday life with droll wit and deadpan delivery – Jilted John’s “Jilted John” and Jona Lewie’s “In the Kitchen at Parties” are a couple that come to mind.

After two quality singles it’s already clear Wet Leg are very good indeed at their distinctive kind of thrillingly off-kilter hybrid cool-but-weird art pop chart pop.

Secret KnivesSecret Knives is the recording project of NZ multi-instrumentalist Ash Smith. The first Secret Knives album “Affection” came out in 2010, so this second album “Snuff” – released today – is either well overdue or early for the future. Here’s “Excess” which, paradoxically, is the only song on the album to feature little in the way of (sonic) excess.

“Excess” is described as a ‘homage to the 90’s’ and it ticks all the shoegaze and guitar-pop boxes you would associate with a song balancing Slowdive’s kind of dreamy guitar-based ambience with the more polished pop-craft of The Sundays. It’s also the most direct and ‘normal’ song on the album, so as good a place as any to enter the Secret Knives world.

Overall “Snuff” has so much going on it’s hard to sum up its appeal easily. However, if you like the kind of breath-taking melodic pop of the likes of Avi Buffalo and Granddaddy you will love Secret Knives.

The songs on “Snuff” are as carefully constructed and lovingly crafted as a Field Music album too. But, in place of the Brewis brothers’ antiseptic gleam and mathematical precision, Smith offers an adventurous and hyper-active vision of futuristic sonic exploration and a lot more human soul.

The human soul keeping the songs tethered to reality among the abstract noise comes courtesy of vulnerable lyrics and especially Ash Smith’s wistful vocals. They often provide an eery Antipodean approximation of the distinctive soulful reedy quaver of Scritti Politti’s Green Gartside, which is the perfect kind of voice for this kind of adventurous pop.

The gleaming 3D production accompanies crystalline picked guitars with crisp drums and a range of innovative manipulated sounds which add a kind of neo-psychedelic halo to the music – particularly on the extraordinary title track.

Snuff is available worldwide digitally October 22 via A Low Hum and as a limited edition cassette in collaboration with Prison Tapes. All cassettes, and digital orders above $8NZD, come with a download code for an exclusive digital-only companion EP, Smith’s “Blue Period”, collating exploratory ambient instrumentals written alongside “Snuff”.




Sui Zhen Mirror.jpg“Perfect Place” is a track from a new album from Melbourne electronic pop artist Sui Zhen. It’s futuristic arpeggiated electronic conceptual art-pop; part anthromorphic AI robot, part human, and, on “Perfect Place” at least, part Tom Tom Club too.

Sui Zhen (pronounced Sue-ee Chen) is an experimental pop and performance artist exploring the intersections between human life and technology – how to exist in the digital age, as well as the ways in which we risk losing true sight of ourselves in the process. The album “Losing, Linda” is due out in September.

“It’s an album about missing people after they are gone and trying to pre-empt loss – not only loss of life, but memory and information,” Sui Zhen explains. “I see it mirrored in our increasing need for data storage. Why are we collecting and documenting so much, anyway?” “It’s also a simple ghost story about being haunted by our other versions and our past selves,” she continues. “Our mothers, fathers, ancestors – that possibility that another may exist, intangible in the physical realm, but ever present in memory, so long as memory functions.”

The album-release promises to be more than just music though. The album will also be accompanied by what is described intriguingly as “a digital ecosystem.” There’s a disorienting preview of what that may be like in this Sui Zhen audio-visual web installation here and a perfectly disturbing video for the song too:

Drahla_2019_Useless coordinatesUK trio Drahla have released their first album, “Useless Coordinates”. It maintains the remarkable and exemplary standard of music, lyrics, performance shown by their single and EP releases over the past few years, and delivers on their promise, with interest. Here’s “Stimulus for Living” from the album:

“Stimulus for Living” is grainy and intense, with angular shapes stabbed out by guitar chords over repetitive nagging notes, driving hi-gain bass and propulsive drums, and punctuated by squalls of saxophone. It’s a template followed throughout the album, which each song twists in compelling new ways.

Drahla are Luciel Brown (guitar/ bass/ vocals) Rob Riggs (bass/ guitar/ vocals) and Mike Ainsley (Drums) along with Chris Duffin (saxophone). Their debut album “Useless Coordinates” is a powerful statement, full of an air of inscrutable mystery and intrigue. Within the debris-trail of beautifully dissonant noise Drahla merge in thrilling ways elements of post-punk with art pop and noise rock, and even some experimental free-noise elements.

There’s so much to love about this whole album. Melodic and musical, intelligent, artful and abrasive, dense and yet full of space and dynamics. It’s also crammed with lyrical labyrinths, delivered by Luciel Brown in her distinctive speak-sing stream-of-consciousness style, and fitting the atmosphere of dark paranoia invoked by the music, like overhearing the incantation of visions from a feverish hallucination.

Drahla’s debut album maintains the band’s remarkable and exemplary standard of music, lyrics, performance and also artwork and presentation. Yes, you do need to treat yourself to a copy.

Exploded View 2018Exploded View – a collaborative project involving UK-born, Berlin-based musician Anika Henderson with Mexico City based musicians Martin Thulin and Hugo Quezada – have a new album – “Obey” – coming out in September and are sharing “Raven Raven” (well) ahead of the release.

Exploded View’s peculiar take on experimental art-pop has an unpolished and non-conformist roughness that sets the band apart from the free-spirited damaged art-pop of Broadcast or the more mannered retro-futuristic synth nostalgia of Death And Vanilla.

As with the earlier releases (highly recommended) “Raven Raven” demonstrates the new album should continue to incorporate some essence of the raw thrill of The Velvet Underground, and even early Can into its intriguing sonic mix.

“Obey” is out on Sacred Bones Records on 28 September.

Exploded View“Summer Came Early” is the title track from an EP released November last year by Exploded View from Mexico City.

Exploded View is a collaborative project involving UK-born, Berlin-based musician Anika Henderson with Mexico City based musicians Martin Thulin, Hugo Quezada and Amon Melgarejo.

While some broad stylistic comparisons for reference purposes can be made to the kind of free-spirited damaged art-pop of Broadcast or the more mannered retro-futuristic synth nostalgia of Death And Vanilla, or even Stereolab, there’s an unpolished rough darkness to Exploded View’s peculiar take on experimental art-pop.

For every one of the potential sonic reference points mentioned above you can also triangulate the kind of sonic mischief you’d more usually associate with the play-book of The Velvet Underground, Can, Sonic Youth or Thee Oh Sees in the songs of Exploded View.

The notes on Bandcamp for the album state: “Improvisation was the guiding principle and the source of the band’s inspiration. The studio itself was outfitted so that every sound produced in the room would be recorded. A Tascam 388 8-track captured everything – fully live, fully improvised, first-takes only.” This not only helps explain the otherness of their songs and sound, but also means EP and their brilliant 2016 self-titled album, with its its noisy analogue-instrument mutant dance music, are essential acquisitions.


Continuing PopLib’s  send as a gift tips for the month with the title track from an EP called “Health” from Melbourne art-pop new-wave garage-pop band Parsnip.

This opening song “Health” and the rest of the 7″ EP channels so many great ideas, delivered in winning style. There’s a bit of 60’s garage psych-rock (the wobbly organ), lots of post-punk and New Wave (the guitars), some vocals evoking a kind of punked up Shangri-La’s and a heap of characterful and smart left-field pop.

“Health is the first single from everybody’s new favourite band Parsnip” says their label Anti Fade, and they aren’t wrong there.  Send it as a gift to someone you want to impress and get a copy of the 7″ EP for yourself as your reward for being so thoughtful.


Drahla_Jan2017“Is it real? Is it real?” asks Luciel Brown throughout this potent follow up to the thrilling debut “Fictional Decision” by Leeds-based trio Drahla – PopLib’s essential song of 2016.

The song is due for release in April on the Too Pure label’s singles club. Coruscating bass sets a platform for a typically cool and mysterious sing-speak stream-of-consciousness artful wordiness.

The song builds through dense layers of sonic energy as guitars buzz and menace before pulling back, introducing saxophone – some of the best wild skronking saxophone since The Stooges “1970” from their “Funhouse” album in fact – and then re-calibrating the volume for climactic ending.

It all adds up to a powerful statement and the fulfilling experience of a song merging elements of post-punk with art pop and noise rock and leaving some mystery and intrigue in its trail of beautifully dissonant noise.

The only band I can think of who may have been within striking distance of what Drahla are doing right now was Sonic Youth at the absolute apex of their dark abrasive melodic cool, around the time of their 1987 album “Sister”.

drahlaI love the random acts of discovery that come via Bandcamp and people doing the simple act of sharing a link to something new. Sometimes what you hear invades your brain so quickly and completely that resistance is futile and you click ‘buy’and pay more than the asking price just because it is that good. Like Drahla and “Fictional Decision”:

It’s a simple idea. Bass, drums, voice and that quiet/loud dynamic we are familiar with from Pixies songs. Part spoken/ part sung/ part chanted words and phrases that are strange, mysterious, threatening (and also as artfully abstract as cut-up Broadcast song lyrics), are a familiar concept to minds perverted by years of the free-form imagination of Mark E Smith in The Fall.

But on this song by Leeds based trio Drahla these components – familiar concepts from post-punk and noise rock – are assembled and delivered in a way that allows them to take on new life and provide an an electric shock.

Maybe it’s the way that when the guitar comes in LOUD it’s just a blazing storm of dissonance and beautiful abstract fury. Maybe it’s the way that bassist/ guitarist and vocalist Luciel Brown maintains an air of indifference to the setting in which her incantations are delivered. Classic tension and release.

Either way, I’ve played this a dozen times tonight and all I can conclude is that I’ll be playing it another dozen times tomorrow… and after that as well.

Postscript: There’s a wonderful lo-fi synthpop/ artpop split release with Swords from a year ago which has two songs from Drahla. “Stereo Maze” gave me flashbacks to an old Amos & Sara cassette tape from a long time ago. The post-punk art-pop spirit is clearly strong in this band.

And then there is this enigmatic “teaser” for something I’d love to hear more from:

Hissey Miyake

Hissey Miyake

Day 8 of the unofficial Australian Music Month (in response to/ consequence of NZ Music Month in May) is the minimal angular oddness of ‘Ghosts’ by Hissey Miyake.

Their Facebook page describes them as ‘disco/pop’ and that’s a pretty good summary. Just not exactly the kind of disco/pop you might assume.

There’s certainly a bit of post-punk deconstruction going on here, and an approach anyone familiar with Bush Tetras or The Slits around the time of their ‘Cut’ album would relate to. But they take a step beyond reality too and into something even stranger.

Hissey Miyake are another on the fabulous Bedroom Suck Records roster.

Hissey Miyake – Ghosts from Mai Gryffydd on Vimeo.