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Saturday, November 30, 2013

"Blue Jasmine", from Riches to Rags

Blue Jasmine

An overwhelming praise of a "serious" Woody Allen film? That should had been a warning for me, like "Match Point", that was saluted as a masterpiece, when at its best (Scarlett Johansson magnetic screen presence aside) it was an ok noir recreation with a solid script but a non-Allen film. "Blue Jasmine" is worse. I'm very sad to say that Allen's latest movie seems to come from another planet and characters are mostly unbelievable.

I could blame it to the fact Allen is too far from his natural environment here. Truth is that the world of Allen's filmography has been always pretty constrained in what regards to his sociodemographic scope. An intellectual, slightly upper-class American, recurrently related with arts or cultural industries. But that wouldn't be completely fair. Brilliant and very different works like "Purple Rose from Cairo", "Radio Days" or "Broadway Danny Rose" just to name a few depicted middle and lower classes with more depth an charm that "Blue Jasmine". And that's terrible considering Allen's new piece really wants to say something about social class in the new millennium, in this age of economic crisis where capitalism is showing (even to the most stupid) what a wrong system this is. The problem is that he tries to explore human nature, and its darkest sides, without getting there. Like the failed "Cassandra's Dream", the terrible "You'll Meet a Tall Dark Stranger", or the better but still sterile "Match Point", "Blue Jasmine" lacks depth and heart. And coming from Woody that's a huge disappointment.

"Blue Jasmine" is not a terrible film. The life of Jasmine French is the tale of a downfall, from riches to rags (not enough of these in real life sadly), that Allen exposes in a quite dynamic and wise juxtaposition of current and past events. It does seems it could work, as Cate Blanchett is the perfect actress to give her character sophisticated an elegant looks mixed with the vulnerability of someone who is always on the verge of a nervous breakdown. She is completely lost when she arrives to San Francisco (cool to recognise many locations of the city) looking for a shelter and a new start at her sister's house, a character so different to her that when the spectator knows that they were both adopted there's a relief. 

But right then things to feel pretty unbelievable. Jasmine's sister, Ginger, played by Sally Hawkins, who seems to repeat her "Happy-Go-Lucky" role to an exaggerate extreme. Her naivete seems a bit silly to me. And so are many of the situations, conversations (not very funny) and secondary characters that appear on the story. In particular, I even felt a bit of embarrassment for Allen with the lame and ridiculous dentist as well as the wealthy Dwight (wasting an excellent actor like Peter Sarsgaard).

Then it occurred to me that maybe Allen was just pointing how delusional this woman can be after losing her status and lifestyle. That maybe we were looking to the story though her neurotic, bipolar eyes. That maybe would explain the "wild mood swings", the "going back and forth", not in terms of structure, but in what regards to Jasmine's behaviour... but it didn't really worked out either. Because I didn't care about Jasmine. Not talking about feeling empathy for her character, but I'm referring to interest in the story. Everything kept going, but nothing grabbed me, with the feeling some parts were pretty forced and the whole narrative-dramatic arc being a bit flat (Alec Baldwin's crumbling empire could have been better developed). 

There's a glimpse of brilliance at the end, with a cruel twist in the turn of events on which Allen seems to be punishing not only Jasmine but also Ginger (resignation). I believe the director wants to hold Jasmine as responsible for the crimes of the greedy class, as the perfect wife who profited from corruption, and when reality gives the final slap in her face, she lets madness win. Like in "Midnight in Paris", the impossible desire to be somewhere else and escape from your neuroses and a life you are incapable of living. But if the Parisian dream was lovely and full of magic and wonder, "Blue Jasmine" is just the image of madness. That darker twist saves the film from being a flaw in Allen's career, but it's a big deception nonetheless. 

SCORE: 5,25/10

Friday, November 29, 2013

“Mistaken for Strangers”, Abel Come On

Mistaken for Strangers 
Beefeater In-Edit 2013, Chapter IV

Back with movies, with the rockumentaries still pending from the latest In-Edit Festival. And we do it with The National. Here goes my band, again.

The most serious group in the "indie planet" shows a much unexpected side, stripping their impeccable black suits and matching ties to offer a funny but equally engaging film about two brothers: Matt and Tom, the Berninger brothers, living extremely different lives. The bloodless, indie-rock version of Cain and Abel with the best soundtrack of the decade. Of course.

Leaving the traditional “tour” rockumentary behind, although there’s some fantastic footage of their mind-blowing gigs too, “Mistaken for Strangers” is a surprising private show, where film director Tom Berninger, Matt’s younger brother blows up all the genre cliches. As a matter of fact, I couldn’t help but think the film has some similarities or debts with the magnificent documentary about Banksy, “Exit Throught the Gift Shop”, where the viewer never knows if the whole plot is a mockery or deadly serious.

If you are looking a film about the band, is not here (the only omplaint I have about is how the rest of the band is sacrificed for the coherence of the film). This is a portrait not so much of The National, but of the relationship between these two brothers, Matt Berninger, the lead singer of a band in the rise and an alternative icon himself, and Tom Berninger, the unlikely roadie of the band while they embark on the "High Violet" tour through Europe, aiming to film his adventure with his now famous older brother while he figures out what he does with his pretty messy life and his… demons.

Even with the shades of being in front of a spoof movie, “Mistaken for Strangers” not only entertains and makes you laugh (Tom really steals the show here with his ridiculous behaviour and comic disasters, even funnier in contrast with the highly professional and serious image the band gives) but it’s also surprisingly rich and emotionally affecting.

Rich because the movie reveals itself as and absorbing insight inside the hard, troubled quest, into the creative process. The creative process of a band trying to give their best live (the scene with Matt losing his temper, his exhausted looks to his annoying brother), on the road (the patience and attempts to understand the peculiar logic of Tom’s questions from the rest of the band members), and a glimpse on the studio starting what it would become "Trouble Will Find Me" ("I Should Live on Salt" playing). And the process of filming the documentary itself, with a sprawling mess of footage the most chaotic filmmaker ever will have to ensemble and give coherence to.

And emotionally affecting, because Matt and Tom’s exposure. What does it mean to be successful? How does it affects the relationship between two brothers? The film depicts it to an absorbing depth, and although there’s a sense of chaos and luck (on purpose?) there are real feelings that cannot be acted (faked) that well enough, like the admiration Tom has for his brother and Co., or how the famous rock frontman is eager to help doing whatever Tom requests him while he keeps pushing his younger brother to finish his (by then) improbable movie. By the time “Terrible Love” is performed, you are completely captivated by the film, and that rousing and impossibly revealing take of one of their most powerful tunes, with the Berninger together will really bring you to your knees.

SCORE: 8,25/10

The National Animated for Thanksgiving!

Americans, I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving Day, and that you realise how lucky you are. While Christmas arrival in Spain means terrible music, with despicable advertising campaigns where awfulness from another dark times are to appear (yes, I'm referring to the terrible Christmas Lottery ad) you got The National with a new tune to celebrate Thanksgiving. Not fair.

Yesterday's episode of the Bob's Burgers series featured a new The National song (100% nationalesque), named "Sailors in Your Mouth", where the quintet gets animated (don't miss captain Matt) in a surreal video in which they embark on a very special trip, that in accordance to the lyrics, serves as a surreal tribute to the gravy is put to the traditional turkey dinner. The band already participated in last year's Thanksgiving special episode with a cover of the classic "Kill Your Turkey" -hearing Matt's singing "kill, kill, kill the turkey" is priceless. Lucky Americans.  

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

These Go to 11: Interviewing Wiggum

Fourth interview, and we go back to a musician, one to came from the cold (and imo from one of the best countries of the planet, Iceland, at least one where the word democracy has a real meaning) to join one of the most exciting indie-rock bands of the Spanish scene, Wiggum. These Go to 11!

Halldór Már Stefánsson, Wiggum
Halldór, man on fire
2013 for me is the year (hope it's just the first one & more will follow) of label El Genio Equivocado. And one of the first, most exciting discoveries among their roster has been this quartet from Barcelona. Formed in 2009, and with just two records, one has the feeling they should be on the verge of "becoming big". Otherwise it will be the confirmation this country is deaf (and dumb). Their sophomore album, "La Guerra Mundial", released this year, is a blast full of guitar-driven 90s alternative-rock anthems without losing their melodics talents (these intertwined harmonies). Halldór Már is 1/4 of the band, fuelling the combo with his vocals, guitars and contagious passion live. Here we go!

1. First record that you bought (be honest)
Honestly, I don’t remember. But it’s possible that it was a Duran Duran album...

Abba... glups (in different colours) 
2. First and last concert you have attended (be honest too!) 
First, must have been some local Icelandic group (Sugarcubes included) but I’m pretty sure that first international group I saw was Whitesnake! Last concert: Seeing Austin TV in The Arenal Festival.

3. Guilty pleasure (song/band you shouldn’t like but you do, yes, it’s the embarrassing question)
That would have to be ABBA or The Carpenters, but it’s not very embarrassing for me since I listen to a wide range of music.

4. Most precious music item you own (collector mode on)
My made in U.S.A. Telecaster.
Mr. Vedder
5. Favorite lyrics (not yours)
I’m always fascinated by The Beatles' “I Am The Walrus” and Bowie's “Space Oddity”. “Mother” by Lennon and “Blue Valentines” by Tom Waits make me cry but my favorite has to be Pink Floyd's “Wish You Were Here”.

6. Musician/s you would like to meet (should be alive, for obvious reasons, but you can choose a dead one too)
Eddie Vedder (again), David Bowie and, last but not least, Prince! Yet a supper with Tom Waits might be interesting...

7. Favorite artwork album (not yours)
Surfer Rosa by The Pixies (these questions are hard!!)

8. Books or movies? Depending on your answer recommend us one (trick: you can choose both)
Comic: The Watchmen

9. Song (of yours) you are most proud of
I like to think that my best is yet to come but the first song I wrote for my debut album is somewhat special to me: "Twisted Minds".

10. What’s does it mean indie for you? (yes, the “serious question”)
Indie means being independent. Means you can do whatever, as they say in Spain, comes out of your balls. Not having to change anything for market reasons. It also means, in most cases, little money...

11. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
10 years older and hopefully still here.
Zillion thanks Halldór!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Discoverer 78: new indie findings

More fantastic new indie discoveries selected for your listening pleasure, enjoy!

Dutch Barn. Our beloved EardrumsPop again folks. They not only come out with another fantastic (and FREE!) release, the ePop 036, but they also remind me there was a band waiting to be listened. This five piece from East London were formed from the embers of folk group Little Ray in 2011, debuting with album “Lighter Later“ in April 2013. The record and the EPop single are delightful trips to guitar-driven indie-rock tunes. Open spaces, sparse, folky roots, heavenly coexisting with reverb and upbeat melodies. They've been defined as a cross between Teenage Fanclub, Dinosaur Jr and Stereolab. The comparison is accurate in terms of sound, but also in terms of potential.
Upset. Careful, super-indie band here. This L.A. trio, formed in 2013, is leaded by Ali Koehler, former drummer of Vivian Girls and then Best Coast, alongside ex-Hole drummer Patty Schemel.(looks like they met over Twitter) and guitarist Jenn Prince from La Sera. Upset's debut, "She's Gone", is out since October 29 through punk label Don Giovanni. Any hint of what could the record sound like? Right, pop-punk infected with hooks, channeling '90s indie-rock spirit and so ready to grab you from the ear you will think this record has been on your shelf since 20 years ago. Not to miss. 
Old Lacy Bed. Back to Japan to meet this young girls-band from Nagoya formed in 2012. As always happens (unfortunately) with Asian bands, there's not a lot of info out there, so we'll stick with what we know. Although there are some more tunes at the soundcloud, what it seems a split release with band The Moments and song "Coastlands" included on the Ano(t)raks "Soon V.A." compilation from September 2012, their first proper debut might be this lovely, immediately addictive 7" single "Little Girl" on Dufflecoat Records, available since June. Somewhere in the middle of the sweetest shoegaze and the fuzzier twee-pop this three songs are just wonderful. We want more! 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Spanish Indie 16: suggesting the best national acts

Here's a new dose of the best national discoveries, beware, your ears are going to be seriously amazed!

Mequetrefe. This blog section wouldn't be the same without El Genio Equivocado. Here they are again, before the year fades out. This four-piece project began in 2007 in Santiago de Compostela, a year later recording two demos for Alg-a netlabel and reaching the semifinals of the FIB Festival Demo contest. In May 2010 they released their first EP “Play Of”, receiving excellent reviews in and out of Spain. The next step would arrive with the digital single "Kill All Indies" in 2012, after which they signed with our favourite national label, publishing the EP “A Serious Band”, the single "Orange", and finally, their second album “Gobi”, out now. Defining Mequetrefe's sound is almost impossible. Madchester, Chicago, Detroit, My Bloody Valentine, The Beta Band, The Sabres of Paradise. Electronic shoegaze? Guitar dub? Whatever. The only important is that Mequetrefe's music will take you places. Don't be scared. Enjoy the ride.

Victoria Ford. This quartet hail from Alcalá de Guadaíra, Seville, and formed in 2007. Many local gigs followed, as well as recognition in the form of the 12doce award and being listed as one of the emerging national bands in 2010. The next year, after playing at the Monkey Week Festival, they entered the studio, and the first results are here, in the form of their S/T debut EP. Alternative rock with pulse and punch, head and heart, that clicks ignition to then turn mournful and elegiac the next second, where guitars play hide and seek and synthesizers appearing from nowhere ready to swallow you. I hear the biting lyrics and the emotional depth of The New Raemon, the irresistible driving force of Wiggum, and a glimpse of The National's mystery. You know I can't use these two words in vain, so you should check them out immediately.

Seven Tin Stars. There are bands that really knock you out, leaving you longing for more when you find them for the first time. This quartet hails from Asturias and Castilla, and they formed in 2012 when their members, initially a trio with quite an extended career in other projects, gather together to create the first songs of this exciting combo. Expanded to a quartet, "Songs My Mother Never Sang to Me", their first EP is ready to come out now at Diente de León Records, and its a debut so precious you will keep it as your most beloved treasure. Balancing gracefully between shoegaze and dreampop, strumming guitars and fragile, distant vocals, colliding in three tunes where melancholy and promise burst directly into your ear, and then into your heart. Want more? Check this Luna cover and fall in love.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Indie Anthology 32: essential songs

Another chapter of the Indie Anthology, this time... with a song I immediately link with winter and cold (I wish I could say snowy cold but in Barcelona that's almost impossible) days...

Song: Black Cab
Artist: Jens Lekman
Year: 2003

There are songs so good that become your own soundtrack for a period in of time in your life. That period can be a moment, a day, a week, months... or forever. Tunes with a special vibe infusing a mood that connects with you in a way that goes way beyond the lyrics (not a partygoer to recognise myself on the fabulous opening lines of "Black Cab". No, it has to be the melancholy, the sense of purity (I know this words are risky in music but here's an exception), the shy looks of this gentle Swedish. This tune appeared in my life on winter time, nearly a decade ago, and it keeps doing so, recurrently. It's always welcomed. Another missing link in the hunt for the perfect pop piece that ties Jonathan Richman, Belle and Sebastian, Stephen Merrit, Jeremy Jensen, and many more, "Black Cab" is lush (that flute, the strings) but naturally disarming with its straightforward simplicity, staying with you for the very first time you listen them. As perfect tunes do.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

These Go to 11: Interviewing EardrumsPop

For our third interview, we move from musicians (after Astrid Wiezell, aka Northern Spies, and Vasco Batista, aka Big Summer) to the man who started EardrumsPop.Yes, a personal music hero. These Go to 11!

Knut, EardrumsPop
Knut, indiepop superhero
How many times EardrumsPop has been featured in this blog? Did you know I run a formal petition & campaign to make the label win the Nobel Prize for their contribution to mankind's well-being & good-taste? Any indiepop lover with ears knows that each time this label announces a new EPop release great music is awaiting us. Do you want to know who started the netlabel & still runs it today along Stefan, Tim and Silja? Coming from Norway, our own Batman, making justice for indiepop on the blogosphere, is Knut B. Lindbjør, and here are his answers.
1. First record that you bought (be honest)
The first record I bought was actually a cassette tape, and I got it when I bought my first cassette player. The tape has indeed been a very influential one for my taste in music. It was a compilation of new wave bands, and included several songs and bands I have much love for even today. My first vinyl record was probably something by Elvis or Beatles or Kiss. I can't remember it as well as that first cassette tape. My taste in music was as varied then as it is today! In 10 years time, will you be asking people about their first mp3 or the first song they streamed on Spotify? :-)

2. First and last concert you have attended (be honest too!)
I think my first concert was an outdoor one with A-Ha in my hometown of Tromsø, Norway. Me and my friends played in synthpop-bands at the time, and I think all of us only had our eyes on the synth gear of Magne Furuholmen throughout the concert. I remember we were impressed that he seemed to play everything live, and not much seemed to be on sequencers. The last concert was last week, actually. It was an acoustic concert with the Norwegian singer/songwriter Richard Holmsen in Drammen, Norway. A wonderful night! He's good.

Explanation needed Knut!
3. Guilty pleasure (song/band you shouldn’t like but you do, yes, it’s the embarrassing question)
Not embarrassing at all! I have lots of guilty pleasures, and I am proud of them all. My daughter introduces me to all these boybands and hits of today, and I actually like One Direction. They do have some really catchy songs! I am also a part-time hiphop fan, especially when I am out walking. And Elvis is still cool. And Duran Duran and Bananarama and Bronski Beat. I could go on and on and on!

4. Most precious music item you own (collector mode on)
I am not a collector at all, but I think I must say the compilation "Shadow Factory" by Sarah Records, or the early Creation Records compilations "Doing it for the Kids" and "Doing God's Work". The reason is mainly because they had a huge influence on me at the time, and have shaped me musically.

5. Favorite lyrics (not yours)
I would have to say Kraftwerk's "Pocket Calculator" or any of Cocteau Twins' lyrics. :-)

6. Musician/s you would like to meet (should be alive, for obvious reasons, but you can choose a dead one too)
There are not many musicians that I find so interesting that I would like to meet them in person, but I think Kristin Hersh sounds like an interesting person, and maybe I would like to meet Martin Gore as well - but only if he would show me around his studio and let me watch when he makes music.

7. Favorite artwork album (not yours)
It's not easy to pick one. Impossible, I would say, but let's try. It will be "ONE OF my favourite artworks", not "THE favourite artwork". One of the artworks I have dreamt myself into the most, is probably Yo La Tengo's "And then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out". It's beautiful. I usually fall for illustration-kind of cover art, but this one is very special to me. From more modern bands, I really like the artworks on The Leisure Society's releases. The art on Golden Fable's releases are also outstanding.

8. Books or movies? Depending on your answer recommend us one (trick: you can choose both)
Books. Rob Sheffield - "Love Is a Mixtape". 

9. Song (of yours) you are most proud of
I think it has to be the "Between Two Waves" compilation. It became much bigger - and much better - than we dared to hope for. It also means a lot to me, because it was the start of the label as a team-based project, and I started working with people who mean a lot to me today, - Stefan, Tim, Leena and later Silja.

10. What’s does it mean indie for you? (yes, the “serious question”)
I hate serious questions! The word indie does not mean much to me, and I think I mainly use it as a name for a very wide genre. A long time ago, it meant "independent from the major labels", but today, - I don't know. I don't like the mentality that often goes hand in hand with the word indie. "We're indie, and we're so much better than the major-label-shit-bands". I care about good music, not where it has been released. We at EardrumsPop are probably very indie, if you use the word as "independent", but mostly because we can do whatever we want. That has kind of become an internal slogan for us. It's a creative freedom that we really appreciate. We have no deals with anyone, we are not limited by money and we don't have to please anyone other than ourselves. We hope we make a lot of our listeners happy, though!

11. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I am myopic. I can't see that long.
Zillion thanks Knut!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Discoverer 77: new indie findings

More fantastic new indie discoveries selected for your listening pleasure, enjoy!

Wild Ones. Hailing from Portland, OR, they formed in 2010, a slowly transition from the ashes of local band Eskimo & Sons. They debuted with as Wild Ones (you can track down for a combo named Congratulations if you are into music speleology) "You're a Winner" EP in late 2010, but a year later the band was close to collapse due to a line-up change, serious illnesses, and pretty dramatic economic constraints on the record making process, which took almost two years to complete. But "Keep It Safe" finally saw the light of day this summer, being released by Party Damage Records, and it's something we should celebrate. A natural blend of dream pop with touches of delicate electronics, a flawless and inviting melodic talent and the stunning, disarming voice of Danielle Sullivan. Truly gorgeous music. Thanks for not giving up, Wild Ones.  
Charlie Big Time. Let's meet Matthew Pendlebury, Beth Arzy and Chris Tiplady in Bolton, England. Originally a duo, Matthew and Chris released its debut EP, "A Bit of Charlie", on Cloudberry Records in 2007, followed by the album "The Tall Storeys Of Charlie Big Time" on Series Two in 2008, plus appearances on several indie compilations. Then came a hiatus from releasing new music, until June 2012, after meeting former Trembling Blue Stars singer Beth Arzy, who joined the band on the EP “Dishevelled Revellers”, out on our beloved Matinée Recordings. Also as a trio, their 3rd EP “Sale Or Return”, arrived this past October on Jigsaw Records, with another new tune, “One Step Closer To Enemies”, included on Matinée’s 15th anniversary album. With that kind of outstanding labels and history behind I'm pretty sure you guess what are we talking about here. Soothing and instantly lovable indiepop tunes. Melancholic jangling guitars, irresistible harmonies... This is simply timeless music. Big time indeed.  

Hella Better Dancer. If Leigh Ecclestone (Beautiful Strange Records & Just Music that I Like blog) sends you an e-mail suggesting you a band, what do you do? You immediately go listen. 99'9% chances you'll love them. Latest case is this quartet from Camden, London. Formed in 2009, a year later signed with Roundhouse Records, releasing debut EP "Please Stay Here" followed by "Swimming" EP in 2011. Another EP, "Living Room", self-recorded at home, arrived in 2012, with some Spring demos made available later on. Again self-produced, finally this year arrives "Sleeptalking", backed with "Sleep" on the physical 7" on Beautiful Strange. Shifting from previous lo-fi, folkier tunes, this are spacey and darkly brooding sounds, with striking guitar lines and echoing harmonies. Haze, night and fire. A blast. Thanks Leigh! 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

These Go To 11: Interviewing Big Summer

Second interview after debuting this section with the lovely Astrid Wiezell, aka, Northern Spies, this time with Vasco Batista, a musician fated for big things. These Go to 11!

Vasco Batista, aka Big Summer
Vasco Batista, much better than CR7.
The mastermind behind this project based in Barcelona, but with a fully international idiosincracy is a young Portuguese with a fascinating ability to blend all indie styles, with a special devotion for American sounds and make them his own. Whether on the fascinating debut "Bone and Arrow" EP, or in the recently released full album "Everything Is Going to Be Ok", both courtesy of the wise wizards from El Genio Equivocado, Vasco and his colleagues are showing an undeniable freshness, melodic flair and talent encapsulated on a bunch of exciting songs that you're going to find pretty high on my best-of-the-year lists. 

1. First record that you bought (be honest)
One of the first I bought with my own money was "The Sound of Music" OST.

2. First and last concert you have attended (be honest too!)
The first was probably Skunk Anansie at a festival in Porto. Last one was Eleanor Friedberger, we opened for her recently (interviewer's note: indeed they did, great night).

Girls Aloud".... ejem
3. Guilty pleasure (song/band you shouldn’t like but you do, yes, it’s the embarrassing question) Girls Aloud!

4. Most precious music item you own (collector mode on) My vintage Electro Harmonix Big Muff (they don’t make them anymore).

5. Favorite lyrics (not yours)
Zero 7 - "Distractions"

6. Musician/s you would like to meet (should be alive, for obvious reasons, but you can choose a dead one too)
Graham Coxon

Neoangin- "Scratchbook"
7. Favorite artwork album (not yours)
Neoangin - "Scratchbook". An album with 26 songs and a 100 page boolket filled with amazing illlustrations.

8. Books or movies? Depending on your answer recommend us one (trick: you can choose both)
Both! I’ll recommend the latest book and movie I’ve read/watched. Patti Smith - "Just Kids" is truly beautiful.
Latest movie is actually a musical by Cy Coleman: "Sweet Charity", with unbelievable coreography by Bob Fosse.

9. Song (of yours) you are most proud of Maybe not a crowd pleaser, but I’m really happy with "Real Thing" (off our first EP).

10. What’s does it mean indie for you? (yes, the “serious question”)I think nowadays its meaning is getting lost… people always try to put everything in boxes (we’re human, that’s what we do). So I guess for me indie is anything you’re not exactly sure which box it belongs in; or maybe it belongs in more than one.

11. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Hopefully touring with my 4 bands!
Zillion thanks Vasco!

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Indie Anthology 31: essential songs

Back to the Indie Anthology, this time... let's get a bit "politically charged". Yeah, after watching "The Punk Singer" it was bound to happen (review of the documentary coming soon).

Song: Hot Topic
Artist: Le Tigre
Year: 1999

I have always had an issue with Kathleen Hanna. I admire her so much and tried so many times to get into her music, but in all honesty, I have never been able to be engaged by her albums fully. I guess straightforward punk (Bikini Kill) and electronic pop (Le Tigre) are just not my genres. With some explosive exceptions, "TKO", "Deceptacon", "Keep On Living", and in a very special way, "Hot Topic". A ridiculously catchy bubblegum pop tune that is also a celebration of mostly female/feminist icons. Gertrude Stein, Billie Jean King, Nina Simone, Sleater-Kinney, The Slits, Joan Jett, and a long, never-ending etc., plus the (I love them) following lines:

So many roads and so much opinion
So much shit to give in, give in to
So many rules and so much opinion
So much bullshit but we won't give in

Stop, we won't stop
Don't you stop
I can't live if you stop

Can pop be meaningful and joyful? Here's one of the best examples I know, an indie mantra of real heroes. Now tell me: do you think there's any space for all the Lady Gagas, Miley Cyrus, Rihannas and all the utter crap we have today pestering music industry here? NO WAY. From a music level, that's why I was so eager to recommend his latest project, The Julie Ruin, finally an album I really enjoy as a whole. And from another, more vindicating perspective, that's why I'm so willing to celebrate Kathlenn Hanna is back, hopefully to (please do it) kick some asses and shake some minds.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Spanish Indie 15: suggesting the best national acts

Very happy to reintroduce this blog's section, several great Spanish bands discovered recently!

Coach Station Reunion. Here's the Barcelona based solo project of Xavi Rosés, leader of bands Fred i Son, The Epic Kind and Senderos. A "Covers Record" EP, with versions of BMX Bandits, The Field Mice and Prefab Sprout was his first digital release in 2011. Then came the 7” “Eli EP” on Discos de Kirlian in 2012, and his participation at the The Great Escape Festival. Finally, after digital single "In the Night" in April of 2013, we can enjoy his debut LP, "Lost Album" since past week. Warm, delicate, intimate. A genuinely disarming delight of softpop and jangle-pop tunes, packing rescued old gems with new wonders on a collection that makes Xavi Rosés a privileged disciple of his seminal pop masters. Extraordinary. 
Gente Joven. A bit of mystery and a lot to love in this personal project of Fernando de la Flor, hailing from León. Teaming up with Patricia Magadán and Pablo Álvarez, as a trio they have offered us a couple of tunes in June, two more in August and, at the end of September, again in Discos de Kirlian, their first record, "I, II, III y IV". Eight tunes gathering the first demos with four new ones, on a surprisingly mind-blowing collection of melodic dream-pop with whispered male-female vocals, slightly obscure, melancholic and moody. Precious songs.

Cristina Quesada. Last proposal comes from an ultra-young musician from the Canary Islands but based in Madrid that, starting at a very young age became a music-lover, as well as a precocious artist -music theory, violin, theater groups, a local tv program- until at 15 she discovered the ukulele. The 7" EP "Pineapple Princess", her only release to date, came out on Elefant Records this summer, leaving us wondering where is this haunting charm coming from. An impossibly sweet voice and her ukulele in six songs covering the Sherman Brothers, Billy Rose and Lee David, the essential indiepop band Family, or Paul Bevoir, Cristina Quesada's music is one to fall in love with and hope for more to come.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

These Go to 11: Interviewing Northern Spies

Today we start a new section of the blog, long-time planned, with a series of interviews to musicians, bands, indie label owners and all sort of indie culture promoters (maybe I should say defenders). The questionnaire was intended to be as enjoyable to answer as it was to prepare it. And of course, fun for you to read as well. Ladies & gentlemen, These Go to 11!

Ms. Wiezell, the charming  Swedish
Astrid Wiezell, aka Northern Spies 
Our first interviewed is one of the most amazing music discoveries of 2013. This lovely young Swedish is responsible of one of the best EPs of the year, "My Middle Names", available on the infallible EardrumsPop for free!. A disarming charm permeates her indiepop/singer-songwriter tunes, a natural grace that can't be faked and you'll easily find in her answers to the questionnaire. Perfect choice to start this section!

1. First record that you bought (be honest)
The first album I got was probably "Anthology I" with The Beatles, a two CD compilation with early recordings when I was maybe 8 or 9 years old. I pretty much learned English to all the Beatles lyrics and skits on that album, so much goofy stuff. The first single I bought was "Circle of Life" by Elton John, from "The Lion King". I was obsessed with the movie. I was also really into Meat Loaf, haha.

2. First and last concert you have attended (be honest too!)
My first concert was the Spice Girls when I was 11 years old. I am still really proud of that! They were my heroes, a fantastic pop culture introduction to feminism as a tween and it was where I started before I found riot grrls in my teens. They were all about sisterhood and having fun with your friends foremost. The last show I saw was Slow Magic last week which was really fun as always, I've seen him play a bunch of times. I am SO excited about my next show: Night Beds, a new-ish country rock band from Nashville. The singer Winston has one of those magical voices.

Astrid turns into a poster PopArt girl!
3. Guilty pleasure (song/band you shouldn’t like but you do, yes, it’s the embarrassing question)
I don't believe in guilty pleasures at all. So boring and restrictive! You like what you like. I think many would think of it as a guilty pleasure that I love Taylor Swift. I think RED is one of the best albums of the last ten years and that most people will get that with time. Usually anything adored by teenage girls gets mocked and ridiculed. I just think she's a really great songwriter and performer.

4. Most precious music item you own (collector mode on)
I don't really collect records in the way some do, but I love buying records since I got a proper stereo and record player. In terms of prettiness, "Vol. 3" by She & Him win by a long mile. Pastel pink vinyl is pretty dreamy.

5. Favorite lyrics (not yours)
I don't trust anyone who can just throw out an answer to this one with ease. For me it changes every day. One of my favourites is from the song I Remember by Joel Alme, that song just kills me in all its Swenglish sweetness: "Our life is short/No time to waste/I am your friend, don't hesitate/There is not only stars up in the sky"

6. Musician/s you would like to meet (should be alive, for obvious reasons, but you can choose a dead one too)
I've said Jonathan Richman before, but I'd really love to sit down with Joni Mitchell too. I'm just getting into her music now and she is spectacular. As a wordy songwriter myself, I love the way she writes. I'll settle for watching interviews on YouTube though.

7. Favorite artwork album (not yours)
Oh man, I'm not really that cool with these things, I just love pretty album covers that work well with the music. Some recent favourites: First Aid Kit- "The Lion's Roar", She & Him- "Vol. 3", The Very Most- "Just A Pup", The Smittens- "Believe Me", Tigercats- "Isle of Dogs"... I could go on, which is turning out to be the theme of this interview.

8. Books or movies? Depending on your answer recommend us one (trick: you can choose both)
Books: "The Best of Everything" by Rona Jaffe is a great little read. Some books stay with you and I think about that one quite often.
Movies: "Frances Ha" moved me so much and is beautifully shot in black and white. Maybe my favourite movie of the year! Otherwise my favourites are "Almost Famous" and "Moonrise Kingdom", I think.

9. Song (of yours) you are most proud of
I just wrote and recorded a song called "E 6th" that I'm loving on. I wrote it for my step sister about our week in New York in September. It made her happy, and made her cry, and so if anyone else likes it that's just a bonus. It's our song.

10. What’s does it mean indie for you? (yes, the “serious question”)
I think there are two branches of it. Indie as independent - music being made outside of the more traditional big label means, less commercial, more DIY ethos. Then there's the indie as genre question which always raises a lot of debate, indie pop, indie rock... people argue over what's what all over the Internet. I guess I identify my music mostly as indie pop as in being part of a community and sound that calls its music that, and as in that I write, play and record everything myself. I feel passionately for the DIY spirit.

11. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
If I can be a dreamer (and I'm totally a dreamer): on stage, singing in some capacity.

Zillion thanks Astrid!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Discoverer 76: new indie findings

What a trio of new indie proposals we have for you today, love at first listen guaranteed!

Arts & Leisure. The people of Test Pattern Records broke my heart recently. Baby Grand, the adorable band from Sacramento called it a day after releasing the indiespensable "Arts & Leisure" in 2012. But half of its members quickly "hit the reset button and see what happens" quoting guitarist Cory Vick, who alongside Gerri and Tim White, plus Becky Cale, re-assembled into Arts & Leisure, releasing their debut album, "Choose Your Adventure", this July. Not so faraway from their previous incarnation, but with the volume pumped up, right where indiepop meets power pop. You're going to hear instant killing melodies and harmonies, courtesy of Gerri and Becky's intertwined vocals, a never-ending collection of delicious hooks echoing every decade of the best pop music, and a beat so joyous you're going to recall genre myths like Talulah Gosh. One of the best records of the year.    

Males. Anyone willing to go down to the South Pacific with me? I really need to find out what's going on Dunedin, New Zealand. Two weeks ago it was Trick Mammoth, and now this trio, formed in 2011, my second discovery of this scene (bassist Sam Valentine is Trick Mammoth's drummer). Their debut EP, "MalesMalesMales", from July 2012, now comes packaged with 2nd EP "RunRunRun" as a nine-song album, out since past week on Fishrider Records. Relentless indiepop full of explosive guitar lines, immediate melodies and propulsive beats, short in length, but ever-lasting in its addiction. All eyes (and ears) on you, Dunedin.  
The Salient Braves. We move to Yorkshire, UK, to meet Matt Bailey's project, a vehicle for the songs he has been writing for over two decades. He defines himself as an unskilled musician who struggles with the technical aspects of recording, which explains why it took him so long to release his songs. But judging its debut EP, "Somewhere Sordid", out since October on Dufflecoat Records (yes, again), that's very hard to believe. Sing-along choruses, undeniably British in-your-face vocals, melodies that won't let you go, and a very rare sense of authenticity (a tricky word to use today, but he deserves it). You'll think this is a lost recording gem from a C-86 finest acts. More soon, please.

Friday, November 8, 2013

"Muscle Shoals": Magic, Tragic, Music

Muscle Shoals
Beefeater In-Edit 2013, Chapter III

It all appears to be some sort of joke, or a extremely tough trivia question: what do songs like "When a Man Loves a Woman", "Land of 1.000 Dances", "Wild Horses", "Free Bird", "I Never Loved a Man", "Sweet Soul Music", and hundreds of other soul-pop-rock classics have in common? Here's the answer. A small town in Alabama, named Muscle Shoals, on the banks of the Tennesse River, was the unexpected were they were created. And this is the ridiculously absorbing documentary that reveals and depicts that astonishing truth.

Although having similatiries with the highly recommendable "Standing in the Shadows of Motown", "Muscle Shoals" it's even more shocking. For me it's bizarre that this is not a widely known legend, and that director Greg "Freddy" Camalier had the chance to surprise the spectator with such an spectacular story. And despite that, in my opinion, he takes a while, a long while, on unnecessary scenes filming the "Singing River", and the landscape of rural Muscle Shoals, while he recaps the first bits of opinions from music stardom. Sure, he wants to create the atmosphere, build the myth. But when you have such a striking story in your hands, you just have to let the camera roll on...

But on the other hand, Camalier really nails it when deciding that the focus of his documentary is going to be Rick Hall, and later on, Rick Hall and The Swampers. With that choice he provides the film with an structure while adding a human side that makes it richer. The founder of FAME studios has also a powerful story to tell, Southern style, that includes poverty and terrible, recurrent tragedy. Music is a way to escape and confront his inner demons, and along his rise as owner/producer there's a mind-blowing account of music history, racial evolution (he brought black and white together in not the most open/tolerant place in America), personal ambitions and struggles.

Not yet convinced? Well there's even more to be engaged to. Despite looking like redneck farmers, homegrown FAME studio musicians, The Swampers, will soon evolve as a parallel, intertwined plot. Responsible of creating that special trademark sound that made so many music icons as well as Atlantic Records owner Jerry Wexler go to Alabama seeking for the next big hit, they eventually left Hall to start their own studio, Muscle Shoals Sound. Betrayal, rivalry, tragedy but also huge success again.

On a final note, the amount of musicians that pay tribute to the place is mesmerizing. Bono, Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, Alicia Keys, Greg Allman, Clarence Carter, Etta James, Percy Sledge, Wilson Pickett, and many many more. The majority are/were direct, real witnesses of the music that was/is created there, and the amount of precious, personal remarks is colossal. But even the ones that haven't/didn't record there are so mystified by the place that I guarantee you will end this film absolutely convinced there has to be some kind of magic, maybe something special something in the air or the river banks at Muscle Shoals. Allow you to discover the story. You won't regret it. Thanks In-Edit.

SCORE: 7,75/10