Archives for posts with tag: vinyl

The Sprinfields

“This Perfect Day” is the sparkling opening track from a recently-released compilation by jangling US  guitar band The Springfields called “Singles 1986 – 1991” just released on Slumberland Records.

The names Ric Menck and Paul Chastain should be well known to anyone familiar with 1980s and 1990s guitar pop. The Springfields, along with related bands Choo Choo Train and The Big Maybe, preceded the eventual formation of melodic guitar-pop heavyweights Velvet Crush, all sharing common sonic ground with the likes of Matthew Sweet and, through producer Mitch Easter, with his band Let’s Active.

While everyone talks about The Springfields influences being The Byrds and The Hollies the glorious opening track “This Perfect Day” seems more in thrall to The Beatles legendary B-Side “Rain” and the rolling feel of “Ticket to Ride”, with its effervescent melodic bass-lines, drum rolls, phased vocals and masterclass in crisp intertwined layers of sun-bright jangling guitars. It’s one of my all-time favourite songs.

The album collects the 5 singles they released on Sarah, Picture Book, Summershine and Seminal Twang plus an extra track not previously available on vinyl.The other songs do tend to follow that Byrds/ Hollies melodic jangle template more, and also overlap with both West Coast US Paisley Underground bands like Rain Parade and UK guitar pop bands like Primal Scream around the time of their first singles and album.

One explanation for why those first two songs “This Perfect Day” and “Bicycle Song” (or “Happy Bicycle”) sound different is that these songs –  the exact same recordings  – were actually released on a 7″ single as Choo Choo Trains (“This Perfect Day”/ “Happy Bicycle” on Picture Book Records.  It’s a single I’ve had – and adored – for years (thanks Richard).

The Springfields “Singles 1986 – 1991” compilation is an essential compilation for fans of pop with harmony vocals and guitars that jangle and chime.

Choo Choo Train single

grand veymont“Route du Vertige” is the title of a 2018 album of experimental medieval krautrock by French duo Grand Veymont and “Valse Tango” is the 10-minute opening trip.

Grand Veymont is Josselin Varengo and Béatrice Morel Journel. they describe their music as “long improvisations with only constraints the number of hands available and an installation of organs and synthesizers…[which] superimpose exotic-medieval melodies on a bed of Krautrock, Waltz or Tango rhythms.”

“Valse Tango” is exactly this… multiple keyboard/ synth parts interwoven and ever-changing. At times reminiscent of exploratory psycehedelic rock, medieval music, and the kind of repetitive human-made machine music of the likes of Harmonia and Cluster.

The vocals add an extra element of other-wordliness to this. Combined with the motorik keyboard music, sometimes evokes the kind of European grand pop of Stereolab, and at other times the wordless voice improvises flights of fantasy into the aether. The whole album is unusual, accessible and quite brilliant.

“Route du Vertige” is available on LP on French underground pop label Objet Disque.

Grand Veymont have another  album out on 1 February 2019 on Outre Disque. It’s a remixed and re-arranged physical LP release of their digital self-released first album from 2016.

Dimmer_I Believe You Are A StarHave we reached peak re-issue vinyl yet? How huge is the challenge of running a record label today releasing new music by new or current bands and artists when the new release bins, charts, airplay, print and online media is dominated by an endless run of re-issues, box sets and so on?

Dimmer’s first – extraordinary – album “I Believe You Are a Star” has just had its first release on vinyl, so fortunately it’s not a vinyl re-issue but a vinyl first issue. The original album was released on CD in 2001 at the era of peak Compact Disc. It’s an album I love and Dimmer – the band formed by Shayne P. Carter several years after the demise of Straitjacket Fits – are probably a bit under-appreciated outside NZ, so it still fits within the underdog semi-underground focus of PopLib to post something about it before returning to normal new music service. Here’s the opening track “Drop You Off” –

“Drop You Off” sets the template for the album and for Dimmer. Haunting, soulful, naggingly melodic songs built around minimalist guitar funk, scratching an itch over break-beat drum grooves (from former JPS Experience drummer Gary Sullivan) and Fripp-ish guitar+electronic ambient drone atmosphere underpinning things. While different from the euphoric rock anthems of Straitjacket Fits, these songs share Carter’s gift for soulful grooves, melody and pulsing sonic exploration.

As happens so often with vinyl issues of CD-original releases, there is a track missing to bring the album’s running time down from 45 minutes to a more LP-friendly 40-ish minutes. The track missing from the original 11 track CD release is “All The Way To Her”.

The usual reason for dropping a track to keep the running length around 40 minutes is that vinyl fetishists are a peculiar and problematic, hard-to-satisfy breed. On the one hand the audiophiles would complain about the volume of the pressing if it crammed 45 minutes into two sides (vinyl optimum is @18 minutes per side). On the other hand the cash-strapped vinyl collectors (it’s hard keeping up with the habit) would complain about the extravagance and extra cost of a double LP with only 2-3 songs per side. No-one will be satisfied whatever the outcome, so omitting a track is just part of the eternal compromise of life in the vinyl re-issue age. If only we had either (a) never embraced the Compact Disc format in the first place or (b) never fallen out of love with the Compact Disc format in recent years we wouldn’t be having these kinds of arguments now.

Oddly enough the version of the album on Dimmer’s Bandcamp here (which pre-dates the new vinyl edition) includes “All The Way to Her” but omits two tracks from the original CD issue – “Pendulum” and “Powercord”. All this is possibly annoying for some, but the idea that each form of alternative release to the original CD release reduces the content from the original edition does at least preserve the collectible nature of the CD release.

Dimmer are currently playing shows around NZ, ‘supporting’ Straitjacket Fits. It’s a combination that not only provides excellent value for money but also plenty of opportunity for between-song humour from Carter. Read more about the tour – and his autobiography/ memoirs due middle of 2019 – in this excellent recent interview with Carter.

Finally, here’s a live video of Dimmer performing “Drop You Off” in Dunedin in 2008.

Flo and Spicey

Please sit back, ensure your seat belt is securely fastened, your seat back is upright and your tray table is stowed away, as we prepare for take-off… it’s time to travel through space and time between Glasgow and Stockholm with Flo & Spicey on an “Adult Single”:

Flo & Spicey (real names Diana Jonsson & Colin Stewart) describe themselves as “a long distance studio collaboration between Glasgow and Stockholm. They make their music using old & discarded tech with a love for all things Joe Meek & Delia Derbyshire.”

It’s a kind of lo-fi retro-collage kind of magpie indie-pop where whistling kettles and stirring tea-spoons, railway station announcements, old TV soundbites and all kinds of noisy flotsam and jetsam are woven into bass and keyboard pop. It’s fun, it’s weird in a kind of Residents-meets-Stereoloab kind of way at times, and it’s all got a heart of pop as well.

Flo & Spicey’s Tea Set is highly recommended for fans of Broadcast and also contemporary exponents of this kind of dark, grainy experimental pop, like Exploded View.

Bitumen_2018.jpg“Twice Shy” is from the first album by Melbourne post-punk band Bitumen. “Discipline Reaction” was released a few weeks ago by Melbourne label Vacant Valley.

As noted here last year when the band released two songs on a split cassette, Bitumen present beautifully crafted post-punk – a hint of the ice-cold pummeling sound of Clan of Xymox and the ice-storm guitar skirl of Skeletal Family but Melbourne has been the home of this kind of industrial futuristic pop music for even longer than Germany or the UK.

Carb on Carb 2018Day 18 of PopLib’s 31 Days of may marathon for New Zealand music month is the epic closing track of the brand new album by Wellington “emo pop-punk” duo Carb on Carb – “Mitimiti”.

“Mitimiti” is a song about NZ, homecoming, travelling, the places you find that re-connect you to life, to friends and family, to the country, to the world. Mitimiti, the place, is a tiny settlement on the wild West Coast of Northland just below the start of 90 Mile Beach, a long drive along winding gravel roads. If there’s a theme to the album “For Ages” its about travel and home-coming and the people and life in between.

Carb on Carb’s take on “emo pop-punk” is not what you may associate with the genre if your only exposure was the hyper-produced blast of US bands. The guitar/ drums duo of Nicole Gaffney and James Stuteley means there’s plenty of space and dynamics in Carb on Carb’s sound. This is just great honest melodic guitar-pop for real lives by real people.  “For Ages” is released on LP and CD on their own label Papaiti Records.

SorrowSorrow – a folk-pop group formed by former Strawberry Switchblade member Rose McDowall with her then-husband Robert Lee – existed between 1993 and 2001, releasing two albums an EP. “Ruby Tears” is from Sorrow’s 1st (1993) album “Under The Yew Possessed” just re-issued on LP by Glasgow’s Night School Records.

While Sorrow’s neo-folk stylings and spectral darkness (the name and also opening track “Die” set the tone) may be a change in direction from Strawberry Switchblade’s light sparkling pop there’s still a delicate pop heart to “Under the Yew Tree Possessed” built around McDowall’s 12-string guitar and clear voice and delivered with minimal percussion, washes of keyboards and melodica or flute.

The style here is reminiscent in some ways with the kind of airy reverb washed sounds created by Felt, a band with whom McDowall had recorded backing vocals for (their last album “Me and a Monkey on the Moon”). The track “Emptiness” is an example of this Felt like sound:


Suggested Friends.jpgSuggested Friends describe their sound as ‘tweemo’ and, while this is no doubt tongue-in-cheek, it does indeed combine some noisy emotional punk pop with the kind of perfect melodic songcraft that would’ve fitted perfectly on Sarah Records in the 90s. Here’s 1 minute 51 seconds of their perfect melodic songcraft:

Suggested Friends are from London and comprised of Jack McGinn, Kirsty Fife, Faith Taylor, & Christabel Williams.  “I Can’t Roll My Eyes That Far (Back)” is almost impossibly melodic and bounds through so many twists and turns in a short time – including a glorious fuzzy 12-string guitar solo – that it fair takes the breath away.

It’s on their self-titled album, which is out on LP format on Cardiff’s Odd Box Records.  Give it a whirl and while you are there check out the other releases on this enterprising DIY label.

Drahla Silk Spirit video BW stillHere’s PopLib’s 4th send as a gift tip for the month – the sonic blast of Drahla’s “Form of Luxury” from their just-out “Third Article” EP.

“Form of Luxury” is from a one-sided 4 track 12″ (a half-album?) and, as with all things Drahla, the music bristles with intelligent menace, partly from the discordant sheet-lighting of the opening guitar fury, but later through the withering dead-eyed delivery of the lyrics by Luciel Brown.

“Form of Luxury” rumbles through twists and turns, the Leeds trio’s exploration of underground noise pop ebbing into reflective oddness before ending with more destructive guitar. It’s exhilarating.

Drahla’s “Third Article” EP is recommended to send as a gift to the discerning post-punk guitar-noise art-rock fan in your life.  It’s also available in LP format.

Motte 2017Here’s our 3rd tip for giving the gift of music this month – “Bathhouse” from the album “Strange Dreams” by experimental neo-classical violin+synth sound artist Motte.

As noted here on PopLib back in February: “There’s also adventurous modern classical music (eg: “Bathhouse”) that at times fleetingly evokes the spirit of  Ralph Vaughan William’s “The Lark Ascending” although addition of unusual impressionistic synth tones and percussion textures keeps it well towards the experimental end of the classical spectrum without sacrificing any of its luminous musical qualities.”

“Strange Dreams” is recommended to ‘send as a gift’ via Bandcamp to anyone with discerning taste, adventurous ears, and an interest in contemporary experimental classical and electronic music. Also a perfect gift to send to friends overseas to remind them that NZ is still a diverse and original music-making laboratory.

Motte’s “Strange Dreams” is also available on LP  from Christchurch label CocoMuse Releases.