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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Discoverer 65: new indie findings

New round of band proposals, first since we landed in California, so I prepared something a bit special, with all groups coming from San Francisco/Bay Area. Hope you like them!

Surf Club. The origins of our first proposal draw us back to 2011 and the band Craft Spells. Frankie Soto from Stockton (very near Bay Area) was an early, pre-label member of the successful combo, the one that didn't relocated to Seattle after signing with Idle Labor. Soto didn't remain passive and quickly assembled Surf Club. Their debut release, "Young Love" EP arrived in February 2012, with songs "Reverie", "Heaven" and latest "Swoon", out since March 2013, following to date. As their name announces, here's a vital dose of surf-pop style, infused on warm shoegaze, jangling guitars and ghostly vocals. Undeniably addictive.

Cool Ghouls. My initial impression of San Francisco is that it has a rockin, unabashedly energetic, joyful vibe. Like this local combo and their engaging music. Active since 2011, the quartet first tunes' arrived later that year, with the "Alright Cassette", following the summer of 2012 (two EPs, one of them live, are also available for free here). Since April we can enjoy their S/T first official album, out on Empty Cellar Records, confirming all expectations. Classic rock scents ready to morph into infectious pop, rambling garage or sun-soaked psychedelia pieces, propelled by guitars and three-headed vocal attacks. What a party!
Marine Life. If my music instincts serve me well, this is going to be a major crush. This SF group just begun their career in late 2012,  recently releasing their debut single (download it for free at their Bandcamp) “Fool of a Kind” while currently work on their debut EP, expected for this summer. This shimmering indiepop pill, a true gentle, laid-back gem fuelled by adorable female vocals, made me look for more. Didn't find much out there (a couple of live recordings including a great cover of Echo and the Bunnymen "Lips Like Sugar") but enough to get me excited, anxious. Can't wait for the EP and the chance of seeing them live!

"Just a Pup", The Very Most's little indiepop workshop

Just a Pup EP

This a review of a very special release, on a very special day (American time zone) for his main creator. Of course, I'm referring to Jeremy Jensen from The Very Most and his latest EP, "Just a Pup", that this blog had the honour to premiere. So, first goes first. Happy birthday dear Jeremy!

So, dear readers, this time I'm going to ask you to allow me to be a bit romantic, even naive, ok? In this fifth EP from the Boise band you're going to find everything what makes The Very Most's songs so adorable. In that sense, the band seems to be at top of their game. I know that in the digital era the following image is almost absurd, but to hell with that. Do you remember the tales your parents told you about Santa Claus? The ones that fascinated me were about the magic workshop where, with the help of the elves, he created the toys to deliver on Christmas Eve. I want to imagine Jeremy at the studio as an indiepop Santa Claus in his workshop, crafting the tunes surrounded by his cast of allies, hearing melodies in his head that he is capable to capture and translate into songs after picking the right instrument among thousands and setting tone, rhythm, voices, sounds evolving into perfect works as if they were there, waiting for him to be caught, suspended on air. The Very Most's little indiepop workshop. A haunting place where even the artwork and EP design stands out on its own (a blue wonder this time illustrated by ridiculously gifted Marta Tortajada), that now offers us another gift in the form of three new tunes, with an extra.

Because it is just a matter of seconds you recognise the always sweet and lush indiepop from Jeremy Jensen and Co. The trademark swirling melodies that in opener "Just a Pup" got a refreshing turning twist thanks to Seapony's Danny Rowland's guitar line halfway of the tune and Gia Trotter's vocals. I wrote it once and I'm going to do it again: it's a classic on its own. Another gem to add to an already stunning collection of indiepop gems.

But being charming and sweet in the sounds doesn't mean you can't get serious. And I'm happy as well as excited to see The Very Most is not afraid of getting political. "Idaho, America in 2049" and "We Don't Have Any Cuts to Waste" shows a different side of the band lyrically without losing its quintessential sound. As a matter of fact, "Idaho" deserves a mention on its own, as TVM blends two songs in one with blatant confidence. It all sounds mellow and relaxed, then it all stops to turn frantic and hallucinogenic before ending in its previous incarnation. Brian Wilson anyone? In the other hand, "We Don't Have..." is the more upbeat and shiny of the lot. Keyboards soaring, and that sense an epic pop stampede on the verge of exploding anytime... until you hear the lyrics, that is.

And we arrive to the end. I know, I said three songs when the EP has four, but the cover of Tom Jones' "It's Not Unusual" doesn't really work as a TVM tune. Nothing to blame the band for. On the contrary, it's understandable: if you are lucky to have Liz Hunt's from the irresistible The School singing, the result it's obvious: she's going to "steal" the show. 

I know it seems weird to mention Santa Claus when we just started summer and with the tremendous heatwave we are suffering in half of the States right now. But music lovers believe me, The Very Most is just offering us another indiepop gift. Go get it!

SCORE: 7,25/10

Monday, June 24, 2013

"Standing in the Shadows of Motown", meet the Funk Brothers

Standing in the Shadows of Motown

Thanks to my father good taste, I have always liked Motown and Stax. Not to the extent of being a fan or much more than an occasional listener. Just someone who fancies that style and is very curious to find out more about. So "Standing in the Shadows of Motown" was a rockumentary listed on the agenda for quite a long time.

The premise of the film, based upon the 1989 same title book is as simple as shocking. (Re) discover Motown music, or better said, find out who was behind Hitsville's trademark sounding style. The back-up band of Motown Records: the Funk Brothers. This stunning cast of musicians gathered by the company owner, Berry Gordy Jr. were, as labelled by the film "the greatest hit machine in the history of popular music". Over a spanning period of fourteen years they played the music on more number hits than any other artists on Earth (Beatles, Stones and Elvis included). But history neglected their vital role, leaving them unrecognised.

In "Standing in the Shadows of Motown", director Paul Justman, takes good care in showing this quite surprising story with detail and respect to the musicians. As a matter of fact, aside the archival footage so recurrent on documentaries, the film relies heavily on the opinions and thoughts of the surviving Funk Brothers. We see much of Motown history through their eyes on a pretty exciting trip. Their personal origins, their involvement/recruitment with Gordy Jr., their work at the studio and the creation of some of the label eternal classics, the consequences of period of time they lived (Detroit riots, Vietnam war), as well as the role each played (in that sense, the film is a compelling tribute to stunning bassist James Jamerson, and to a lesser extent to Benny "Papa Zita" Benjamin) until the company moved from Detroit to Los Angeles, condemning them to be (mostly) forgotten.

Aside from the more traditional documentary structure, "Standing in the Shadows of Motown" also offers some re-creation scenes and twelve live performances of Motown classics played by the Funk Brothers backing up names like Chaka Khan, Ben Harper, Bootsy Collins, Montell Jordan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne and Gerald Levert. This really helps the film dynamism as provides a more movie. But it also hurts it, as one cannot help but wonder on the need of the low-budget movie scenes, mostly irrelevant, and the live versions of the tunes are really uneven. In one hand (at least to me), Ben Harper does wonders with Marvin Gaye's "Ain't Too Proud to Beg" and "I Heard It Through the Grapevine", while Joan Osborne shines with "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted", but on the other hand Bootsy Collins, Me'Shell Ndegeocello and Chaka Khan ruined their tunes.

In any case, the mere existence of this rockumentary has to be praised and celebrated. Just as the music of the Funk Brothers.

SCORE: 7/10

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Close-up with Camera Obscura in San Francisco!

Our first gig in the West Coast had to be a very special one!

Camera Obscura (+ Photo Ops). Regency Ballroom, San Francisco, June 19th 
Tracyanne Campbell and her little bird.
Photo: Bloodbuzzed

Walking around San Francisco the whole day was an exciting, but also pretty demanding (oh, these criminal ups & downs, crazy crazy streets) experience, so it's true we arrived to The Regency Ballroom exhausted, probably not in the best mood to attend a gig.

Support act Photo Ops didn't help changing that feeling. Nothing wrong with Terry Price's songs, which we are sure will get a different and richer dimension with his full band, or with his performance, full of intensity and emotion, but the acoustic singer-songwriter approach let us down. Add the terribly disrespectful attitude of the crowd, who couldn't care less about him, and the result was clear: the first gig of the night was ruined for us.

With a slight delay that made us even worry more, Camera Obscura finally took the stage. By then, the venue was completely packed and we soon realise we didn't need to panic at all, as positive surprises were about to come. First, the annoying, never-ending chat of people disappear completely. Is that a trademark of gigs behaviour in America? Or just in San Francisco? It was terribly unfair with the support act, but amazingly respectful and supportive with the main act. The second, of course, was the venue itself. Great sounding.

Camera Obscura in action
Photo: Bloodbuzzed
With these elements and a band like Camera Obscura on stage, the concert was bound to be a good one. And it was. Despite focusing heavily (half of the setlist) on their new material from "Desire Lines" the show didn't have any downs, and tunes like "Troublemaker", the shiny "New Year's Resolution" or "Break It to You Gently" were among the highlights of the night. Even the country-tingled "Desire Lines", not my favourite number, sounded lush and captivating live.  

More Ms. Campbell live
Photo: Bloodbuzzed
There was time for some classics too, of course, to much delight of the enthusiastic audience. "Lloyd, I'm Ready to Be Heartbroken", "Let's Get Out of This Country", the wonderful rescue of "Teenager" or "Come Back Margaret", chosen to close the gig before the encore after 14 tunes. But even the more upbeat and recognisable numbers weren't enough to change the dreamy, laid-back, intimate mood the night had.

As a matter of fact, even the encore started with an odd one, "James", a choice made as the band's particular homage to the superb actor James Gandolfini, sadly deceased that day. It's somber tone created an unexpected link with final tune "Razzle Dazzle Rose", mournful and epic. Not even the irresistible "French Navy", a cheerful indiepop masterpiece, was capable to ignite the room the way gigs are supposed to do. Not that Camera Obscura was looking to do that.

Close-up with Tracyanne
Photo: Bloodbuzzed
I understand that a night like Wednesday, a casual fan, or someone without much knowledge on the Scottish group could have left the venue a bit disappointed. In that sense I admit that, for example, May's gig at Primavera Sound 2013 could had been more engaging. But all I can say is that the night was a genuine pleasure for devoted fans (like me). Tracyanne Campbell might not be the most crowd-pleasing, energetic frontwoman my eyes have ever seen. But what a singer-performer she is. Camera Obscura tunes are subtle pills of indiepop perfection, performed brilliantly by a band always looking to offer these little moments of (a trumpet, a triangle, a quirky percussion, an unforgettable keyboard chord) uniqueness. But is Campbell's voice who propels them to another level. What a delight to hear her at the very front row with an immaculate sound all show. What a blessing enjoying Camera Obscura's music that close.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

"Silver Linings Playbook", Hollywood oddball

Silver Linings Playbook

This is, in my opinion, the sort of film that will get (better said has achieved) a lot of supporters as well as haters. The sort of movie that, almost from the very beginning, the spectator has to decide (whether consciously or not would deserve another post) if he/she believes it. To be honest, these black or white positions aren't fair with "Silver Linings Playbook", a film with a noteworthy share of attractive, but not that special to be a divisive, controversial one. Well, I guess that's the consequence of receiving such an exaggerated buzz, certified by the Oscars.

Did I "buy" the story myself? Not really. But that didn't ruin the film for me either. I guess my expectations weren't that high, wasn't looking for a movie with much substance and therefore I enjoyed its well-developed flow, as well as the chemistry and good job of the main actors. To me, "Silver Linings Playbook" is nothing more than a well executed romantic comedy with what could have been some intriguing dark twists that director David O. Russell is not interested to follow. Nothing surprising or mind-blowing, but probably better than your average Hollywood chick flick. Agreeable, with some charms, but far from the outstanding piece some have seen.

The story of Pat Solitano, very well performed by Bradley Cooper, who surprisingly (at least to me) shows a very different range from his recurrent perfume-ad boy with conviction, is not very new on surface. A troubled guy with bipolar disorder tries to reconnect with his previous life after spending some time in a mental institution. The shadow of a serious drama appears, helped by the apparition of Robert De Niro as his father, as seriously troubled, but accepted by society, as his son. But Russell shifts the focus, offering us a love story instead.

Well, the rom-com side clearly wins the pulse here. It's enjoyable thanks to Cooper and the magnetic, stunning presence of Jennifer Lawrence as Tiffany. My question is: being so attractive to the camera makes you an award winner? You can't help but feel moved by the dance and their relation. I'll be generous and I'll concede the film the benefit of wanting to build that sentimental link with not the usual tricks (although some could argue conversations and the mix between sports and love are a bit confusing a couple of times). But "Silver Linings Playbook" is also predictable and flat at the end. A happy ending for a Hollywood oddball. Praise the intentions or blame its shortcomings, that's up to you. I just can't see why this film is so special, for the good and the bad.

SCORE: 5,75/10  

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Bloodbuzzed arrives to California!

After a long an exhausting trip (in particular the never-ending flight from Philadelphia to San Francisco) we are now in California. From now until September we will be reporting from the "Golden State".
California, here we go!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Discoverer 64: new indie findings

An announcement will arrive later today, but for now, here you have our band proposals!

Little Green Cars. A very young quintet from Dublin, formed in 2008, from the ashes of combo The Revolts. A sextet initially, they debuted that year with "Volume I" EP, followed by "Volume II" in 2009, while achieving some buzz thanks to their UK and US tours. In September 2012 "The John Wayne" single came out, with "Harper Lee" EP coming next in January 2013, anticipating their first album, "Absolute Zero", out since May. Fear not my friends, this are not another boring imitators of Mumford & Sons depressing success. Think more on Robin Pecknold high on vitamins, or Neil Young trying to go pop without losing his edge. Folk-rock with muscle, melody, impressive vocals and promise.

English Singles. Second stop in Sacramento, CA, with a combo that is some sort of a local DIY pop/punk supergroup, leaded by Scott Miller. Although Miller declares they have been a band since late 2006, English Singles got some attention last year thanks to their first 7" singles on infallible Slumberland Records, "Disaster" and "Backstreet Pages". This 2013 they are back with "Ordinary Girls" EP, out now on Slumberland. Scratchy punk-pop? Home-made power-pop? You decide how to label their music, what is clear is that this are infectious, energetic and ridiculously catchy tunes. Fun guaranteed!
The Tuts. And more punk-pop to end our weekly proposals, this time with a female trio -Nadia, Beverly and Amy, from Hayes, West London. Co-founded by Nadia and Beverly on high school, they were joined in 2011 by Harriet Doveton (now replaced by Amy) of Colour Me Wednesday, releasing their S/T debut EP a year later, a collection of their earlier tracks. The single "Tut Tut Tut" came out this 2013, a release which has given them the chance of supporting Kate Nash on her UK tour, and play this year's Indietracks. Urgent, chaotic and vital pop tunes infused on punk attitude. Want more!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Best Songs of the Year 2013 so far

And following past week's records/Eps of the year so far, here's the second list, now with our favourite tunes of the six months of 2013 to date. Like we did on previous years,  we have prepared a playlist with the best 30 songs on a selection based on two criteria: songs released during 2013, and just 1 song per group/artist, so I could include different proposals. They are not in order of preference, just trying to combine them in a good playlist. Hope you enjoy!
    Next Stop- Bleached 
    Lose The Reason- The Primitives
    Heavy Feet- Local Natives
    This Is the Last Time- The National
    Julie (Come Out of the Rain)- Josh Rouse
    If You Still Want Me- Veronica Falls 
    When It Happens- Wax Idols
    Best Songs of the Year 2013 so far by Raul on GroovesharkSeparator- Ex Cops
    San Francisco- Foxygen
    A New Life- Jim James
    Can You Keep A Secret?- The Birthday Kiss
    Little Games- The Adelines 
    Dyed in the Wool- Widowspeak
    El Caminar- Wiggum
    A Ton of Love- Editors 
    Water Damage- Dick Diver
    When You Start- Khushi
    2am- Northern Spies 
    Jean's Waving- Amor de Días 
    Relevé- Pauline en la Playa
    Send Them Away- Beaches
    She Will- Savages
    Honey- Torres
    Through the Deep, Dark Wood- The Veils
    Nothing Arrived- Villagers
    Let Them All In- I Am Kloot
    London Bound- Just Handshakes (We’re British)
    Nothin But Nice- Free Time
    After Your- Pulp 
    Morning Sun- Big Summer

    Wednesday, June 12, 2013

    The National goes acoustic!

    Putting the finishing touches to the Best of the Year Songs So Far after the Records/EPs' list, but I couldn't resist posting this. The National at their most intimate, almost acoustic (but still lush and instrumentally gorgeous), home-made version, courtesy of NPR Music and their fantastic Tiny Desk Concerts series. Four tunes from the amazing "Trouble Will Find Me", "This Is the Last Time", "I Need My Girl", "Pink Rabbits" and "Sea of Love". Just relax & enjoy!
    Want the audio of this very special gig? Just grab it here (free download).

    Saturday, June 8, 2013

    Best Records and EPs of the year 2013... so far

    It's June, and like we did on previous years, it's time to take a look to what the year has offered so far in terms of music. Traditionally, I just make a list of the best songs. That will be ready within the next days, but for 2013 I have thought to "make it bigger" and also include a small list* with my favourite records and EPs of the year so far (all 2013' releases already available). Listed in alphabetical order (the proper best-of list will come at the end of the year). Just trying to recognize a bunch of great works!

    Records and EPs of the year so far
    A Farewell to Youth- When Nalda Became Punk
    Bone & Arrow- Big Summer
    Calendar Days- Dick Diver
    Days I’ve Spent with You- Souvenir Stand
    Early Fragments- Fear of Men
    El Mundo Se Va a Acabar- Pauline en la Playa
    For Those Who Wish to See the Glass Half Full- Slowness
    Hard Times for Dreamers- Brothers in Law
    Helen of Troy- Pale Spectres
    Hummingbird- Local Natives
    I Choo-choo-choose You- The Choo Choo Trains
    If You Leave- Daughter
    In Guards We Trust- Guards
    La Guerra Mundial- Wiggum
    My Middle Names- Northern Spies
    Pretty Decent Swimmers- Northern Portrait
    Ride Your Heart- Bleached
    She Beats- Beaches
    Silence Yourself- Savages
    Silmi Island- Pia Fraus
    Torres- Torres
    Trouble Will Find Me- The National
    True Hallucinations- Ex Cops
    Waiting for Something to Happen- Veronica Falls
    When You and I Were Very Young- Silver Screen

    * Note: Still not listed properly Camera Obscura's "Desire Lines", The Pastels' "Slow Summits", Just Handshakes' "Say It", and The Very Most's "Just a Pup", unveiled yesterday.

    Friday, June 7, 2013

    Premiere: The Very Most's "Just a Pup"

    Today is a very special day for this blog. We have an amazing premiere for you. One of our most beloved bands has given us the honour to unveil their forthcoming EP fully and let you hear it before anyone else does. The band, as you might imagine, is The Very Most, leaded by our dear friend & mighty indiepop wizard Jeremy Jensen, and the EP, "Just a Pup", is the next wonderful step on a flawless career, that will be out (on a ridiculously cute blue vinyl) next June 14th, on the equally great Manic Pop Records. Of course review will come shortly. But for now, just enjoy the streaming. Enjoy the music of The Very Most!
    Note: Of course, special thanks to Jeremy Jensen and Michael Alan Perry for this.

    Wednesday, June 5, 2013

    Stop Awful Covers 12

    The nightmare continues. Here it is: twelfth chapter of the Awful Covers Series. Sorry about that... 

    Black Lips and Icky Blossoms:  Cowboy Knights
    Arrrrgh!! What more can be said?

    My Home, Sinking: My Home, Sinking
    The cover, also sinking

    King Tuff:  Was Dead
    I would have committed suicide with that artwork too

    Hooded Fang: Gravez
    ?????? Still figuring out what is this...

    Portugal. The Man: Evil Friends
    Indeed a very very evil friend of the band the person who designed that for them

    Animal Collective: Monkey Been to Burn the Town
    From the creators of "Centipede Hz" now... more awfulness!

    Bastille: Laura Palmer
    Not even David Lynch would choose that for a cover...

    TV Girl: Our First 2 EPs
    They probably don't like their first 2 EPs that much...

    Disclosure: Settle
    Annoying face drawings is their trademark feature, so here's his annoying debut artwork 

    Sunday, June 2, 2013

    Discoverer 63: new indie findings

    Back to our regular band proposals after the Primavera Sound 2013. New bands for your ears only!

    Bleached. Let me introduce you to the Clavin sisters, Jennifer & Jessie. Hailing from L.A., the band came out from the ashes of the defunct punk combo Mika Miko. After a short break, where Jennifer moved to New York while Jessica played with the Cold Showers, sisters gathered again in L.A. in 2011, beginning to play shows and issuing their first singles, "Francis", and "Carter". "Searching Through the Past" followed that December, preceding their debut album, "Ride Your Heart", out since February on Dead Oceans Records. 77' punk meeting California sun, noisy melodic rock with some edge and rawness but without losing the "pop touch". Seriously addictive.

    Free Time. Formed in summer of 2012, this quartet is the creation of Melbourne musician Dion Nania, former leader of Panel of Judges. After moving to N.Y. in 2011, he played on Scott and Charlene’s Wedding and the Twerps. But soon started to write his own songs, putting a new band together. Mixed-finished between Australia and the States during 2012, Free Time's eponymous debut is out now digitally, with its physical release coming this June on Underwater Peoples Records. Timeless indiepop tunes, sometimes upbeat & jangly, others slightly psychedelic, revealing a storyteller mind and a talent for finding an enduring melody.

    Big Summer. Based in Barcelona but being a fully international group, I had doubts whether they fitted on the Spanish section or here. The project began in 2008 when singer-guitarist Vasco Batista got together with drummer Simon Mille, but it wasn't until late 2011, when bassist Shorn Keld joined them, that things got serious. The delicious "Morning Sun" came out in 2012, creating some "blogosphere" buzz. Wise wizards from El Genio Equivocado signed the group (now a quartet after recruiting Robert), publishing the tune as a single past February, followed by "Bone and Arrow" EP in April. Five brilliant pills devoted to the 90's, echoing Real Estate and Yuck, showing the great promise of the combo.  

    Saturday, June 1, 2013