Mystery Jets – Serotonin (Rough Trade)
Blessed with a remarkable story, Mystery Jets seem like a band that you’d want to sign immediately after reading their bio before you’ve heard a note of their demo tape.
The backdrop features a boy with spina bifida, growing up in London with a caring father hell-bent on helping his son find a hobby that takes his mind away from the physical ailment while not being limited by it either. The son, Blaine Harrison, soon discovered that music was much more than a hobby; it became a passion. To facilitate this, his father helped with filling in the open slots until he eventually became a permanent member.
Continue reading Mystery Jets – Serotonin
I’ve known for a while that the Beggars Group has its shit together. This might be “inside baseball” but as the publisher of an online music zine, I’ve been very impressed with how their publicity department deals with us. Each release from their four labels (Matador, 4AD, XL, and Rough Trade) is promoted with a free, easily shareable MP3, and review copies are distributed far more simply than any other label. It is no coincidence that we review more stuff from Beggars than from other labels; they make it easier for us, and we’re kinda lazy—sometimes too lazy to even send an email requesting a promo.
Now, after reading this interview with Beggars founder and chairman Martin Mills, I realize why they’re great: the dude running the show is hella smart.
“You read the industry is 60 per cent of the size it was ten years ago. But that 40 per cent that has gone is almost entirely the cream at the top. Records that sold two million now sell 500,000 – that’s where that’s gone. At the same time it’s easier to sell those slightly smaller levels.
“What’s called pejoratively ‘the new middle class’ is someone like, say, Calexico or Midlake, who can sell 100,000 plus records every time they put out a record; they can play to 3-4,000 people in 30 or 40 cities around the world. And they can make a pretty good living out of that, doing what they love doing, and can do it on their own terms, and that’s fantastic. We’ve got a bunch of bands like that, they’re not necessarily seeking stardom or riches. That’s incredibly healthy.”
You just don’t expect to read quotes like that from a music exec. It’s refreshing. Mills has lots of insightful opinions on a variety of topics, and he makes a shitload of sense. He wants his artists (and his labels) to get paid, but acknowledges that “some of our best purchasers are also pirates.” It’s a complex world we’ve got here, but this guy reminds us that it’s a great time to be a smart independent label.
Continue reading Beggars Group Knows What’s Up
The Morning Benders – Big Echo (Rough Trade)
For their second full-length, the Morning Benders enlist the help of Chris Taylor (Grizzly Bear) to help manage the blinking lights with frontman Christopher Chu, turning Big Echo into a meticulously crafted pop gem.
Sure, there are moments of Taylor’s influence, but they’re restrained, allowing Chu to assert his influence (after all, Morning Benders did begin as Chu’s solo project) which is a very wise choice as he possesses a strong sense of melody and a very deep concentration with arrangements.
Big Echo is more than just another fine entry in the overflowing talent pool that is the Northwest Indie Pop scene; it may be the first example of that gene pool heading east to mix their Beach Boys lovin’ harmonies with the lysergic eating ways of the Northeast Neo psychedelic weirdos.
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Elizabeth Fraser – Moses (e.p.) (Rough Trade)
I can’t begin to tell you how wonderfully beautiful Elizabeth Fraser‘s voice is; you simply must hear it for yourself. Her work with the Cocteau Twins in the ’80s stood out as something intriguing, and it remains so today on the sheer merits of Fraser’s genetic instrument.
The Cocteau Twins were more than a band-they were a couple. And the moment that Fraser and Robin Guthrie ended their relationship was the moment that the Cocteau Twins ended spiritually. Sure, the band carried on for a few years after the couple split, but it was merely contractual obligations that kept the Cocteau Twins active.
Continue reading Elizabeth Fraser – Moses (e.p.)
Pantha Du Prince – Black Noise (Rough Trade)
There’s a cruel irony whenever Electronic musicians strive to bring a sense of the natural to their work—one tends to contemplate why they just didn’t pick up a stringed instrument instead of a synthesizer.
Lately, there have been enormous strides in the Electronic genre to manipulate those sounds of nature into the cold precision of the silicone that’s fueling their muse. And Pantha Du Prince must surely be near the top of that effort, letting the landscapes of his surroundings begin each track of Black Noise before it dissolves into textural beats, expressive chimes, and sophisticated arrangements.
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Opal – Happy Nightmare Baby (SST)
In the annals of rock history, there are moments when record labels—particularly independent ones—had incredible runs of creative peaks and consistency in the output of their roster.
SST Records‘ run ended around 1988, right at the moment they began clogging up their release schedule with Zoogz Rift albums and other records of dubious relevance. But prior to the company’s stoned disregard of consumer appeal and accurate bookkeeping, the label had a far-reaching roster that touched on many different subgenres and musical styles.
Formed out of the ashes of the Dream Syndicate and the Rain Parade, guitarist David Roback and vocalist Kendra Smith brought the Paisley Underground to the SST catalogue, and they managed to provide the label with one of the best examples of SoCal dark psychedelic since the Doors walked on down the hall.
Continue reading Lost Classic: Opal – Happy Nightmare Baby
MP3: Super Furry Animals – “Inaugural Trams” from Dark Days / Light Years, due April 14 (iTunes) and April 21 (vinyl) on Rough Trade.
Bloopie disco jam from everybody’s favorite psychedelic sheepshaggers. With lyrics like “We have reduced emissions by 75%,” the Super Furry Animals risk falling into recent Neil Young territory, but in this case it works. Maybe it’s the slick German vibe just hypnotizing us into a trance…
Apparently features a spoken word appearance from Franz Ferdinand‘s Nick McCarthy.
Super Furry Animals: web, MySpace, wiki.
The Kills – Keep on Your Mean Side (Rough Trade)
They have a lot of cool: they’re a two-piece guy/girl songwriting team with loads of angst and dirty mouths; totally boss looks complete with leather jackets and fuck-all hair cuts; one of ‘em is English; and they’re on the legendary Rough Trade label. They also have a thing for self-promotion and self-mythology that would make Jack White blush. Did I mention they were mentioned in the NME’s Cool Issue in November of ’02? Well, under normal circumstances you could get ready for the crush of backlash that cooler than thou bands like the Strokes and countless Brit Pop bands have endured without relent. What’s the difference? The Kills kick ass.
Sometimes treading a bit too close to PJ Harvey in the vocal area, American born singer VV (what? Cool names too!?!) gives that could-give-a-shit-less attitude a once-over by avoiding the heady subjects or surreal monologues that Ms. Harvey is a little too fond of these days. Add to that the simple, crunchy guitars from Hotel (Christ, this is getting silly), VV’s partner in crime, and you have some of the simplest and compelling rock to come out of England in years. And if you’re a fan of the recent upsurge in “garage rock” or whatever you want to call raw, emotional, rough-edged rock these days, the Killers are for you.
Recorded at Toe Rag Studios in London, this album is sonically near perfect. There’s a reason people in the know talk up this joint with the reverence usually held for Abbey Road or Muscle Shoals.
Stand out tracks:
“Superstition” – This is the one that flies closest to PJ Harvey, but it’s such a sweet song…
“Wait” – Stripped down to Mo Tucker drums, Mick Jagger harmonica, and Hope Sandoval vocals. It doesn’t get much better for me.
“Death and You” – Acoustic story song. Sexy vocals. I dream about this chick.