It’s not just all physical
I’m the type who will get oh so critical
So let’s make things physical
I won’t treat you like you’re oh so typical
Forget everything you think you know about Tegan and Sara. Based on the thumping single “Closer,” the first hint of what their upcoming album Heartthrob will deliver upon its January 29 release, expect the duo to bring the hooks in quantities even pop radio programmers can only ignore at their peril. These two have always brought a flair for powerful, memorable hooks when the right song demanded it (“Walking With A Ghost” anyone?) but never before have I heard anything from these two with such an undeniable sense of accessible fun. In a world overrun with Mumford clones and Adele wannabes, Tegan and Sara could finally have a breakthrough with songs that simply turn their already top-notch indie-pop up to “11.” Expect this to be the first pop album of 2013 worth getting excited about!
“HEAR! HEAR!” EXCLUSIVE: From Mumbai to Los Angeles, Natania’s “Cherry Love” will tie your heart in knots
Stream and Download Natania’s single “Cherry Love,” exclusively here at “Hear! Hear!”
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Two years ago Natania left her home in Mumbai for Los Angeles, with a guitar and a dream. She’d always thought of her music as a hobby, but arriving in the US, she took a leap of faith, enrolled herself in Berklee College of Music’s five-week summer program, then followed that with Musician’s Institute’s vocal program. From there, a hobby became her way of life.
Now she’s ready to take the indie-pop world by storm with her ear-catching blend of Ingrid Michaelson and Sarah Bareilles. “My cherry love / you taste like chapstick on my tongue / when you tie a stem I come undone,” she sings over a melody crafted of acoustic guitar, tasteful keyboards and slightly off-kilter percussive riffing. It’s just the kind of pop confection to give you a perfect pre-Thanksgiving sweet tooth, with a singable hook you won’t easily extract from your head … or your tongue.
Download the song through the SoundCloud app above, and sound off below in the comments — what do you think of Natania’s first single?
Needle remain comfortably under the radar, but if their latest EP, Saint Timothy’s, has anything to do with it, they’ll soon be having their indie pop breakthrough. Strains of Sufjan Stevens and hints of the early experimental songwriting of Lindsey Buckingham permeate these seven slow-burning pieces of raw pop beauty, showcasing the intricate songwriting of Julie Sea and Steve Beck. “Let It Go” gets its hooks in quietly and asserts the duo’s ability to craft memorable melody from its most simple elements. “Slip your hand into my little world and let it go,” Sea and Beck harmonize, providing a chorus which is both bare-bones and evocatively beautiful in its simplicity. “The Scenery” is quietly ominous thanks to the echoing vocals and plodding piano, intimately haunting: “Memories will follow me,” sings Sea mournfully, and you’ll want to put the song on repeat so you can let it roll over you and soak in. This is meaningful, raw pop music for those among us who appreciate the delicate structure of avant-pop for its fundamental beauty. Saint Timothy’s is as rewarding a listen as you can expect to find as we head into 2012.
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Get a pre-release copy of Saint Timothy’s EP through the band’s website.
The album’s official release date is January 10, 2012.
Year of the Album — #080
The Golden Seals – “Increase The Sweetness” (2011, Zunior)
The Golden Seals leaves its most obvious influences unnamed, but if you believe one thing you read today, it should be that Increase the Sweetness is the best thing to happen to contemporary pop since Fountains of Wayne and Ben Folds Five made indie-pop cool again.
If you’re a fan of indie and power pop music, you’re going to love what the Golden Seals have done on their latest album, Increase The Sweetness. Check out the full review at PopMatters.
For those of you who enjoy a touch of Bowie with your modern funky pop music — Fitz and the Tantrums and Cavedoll fans, I’m talking to you! — then you’re going to love what Guineafowl brings to the table. These Australian has built their reputation in a similar fashion, working from the ground up in their home region, and now they’re getting a shot at the global domination they’ve aimed for since forming in 2009. Their latest EP, Hello Anxiety, came out October 4th on Dangerbird Records, and judging by the groove of this initial single, I’d say it’s worth checking out if you haven’t already. Watch the video below, and feel free to sound off in the comments section … we need more conversation here at “Hear! Hear!”
Year of the Album – #044
Peter Bradley Adams – “Between Us” (2011, Sarathan Records)
Peter Bradley Adams was a founding member of eastmountainsouth, but he’s made more of a splash writing music under his own name. With numerous television credits to his name, his music draws first impression comparisons to lightweights like Josh Radin, but with more thorough listens he’s more likely to be put in the same boat as Gary Jules, a songwriter who’s made a name for himself crafting thoughtful acoustic pop music that just happens to also frequentl television soundtracks.
What sets guys like Jules and Adams apart is the clear attention to lyrical and musical detail. Josh Radin was shoved into the spotlight when actor friend Zach Braff put “Winter” in a key episode of Scrubs. Since then, Radin’s done little to prove that the one song was anything more than a fluke. Jules and Adams, however, have consistently shown a deep knowledge of Americana and ‘70s songwriter pop, which helps their songs stand up to repetition despite maintaining a low-key, bedroom pop aesthetic.
Read the rest of the review at Stereo Subversion!
Year of the Album — #037
Randi Russo – “Fragile Animal” (2011, Hidden Target Recordings)
From the opening strains of “Get Me Over” I knew that Randi Russo’s Fragile Animal was going to be a welcome oasis of 90s-era nostalgic alternative. With smooth vocals that immediately conjure thoughts of Patti Smith and Natalie Merchant, it doesn’t take long to realize Russo is one talented performer. And Fragile Animal is one of those indie gems you’ll immediately want to spread the word about.
She’s also smart to surround herself with talented musicians who have the chops to pull off her subtle blend of indie pop and alternative. These are songs which build their melodies the right way, focusing on balance and structure, each track a subtle blending of instruments and voice. The result is a decidedly three-dimensional sound, one which is distinctively hers even as she pays homage to artists who have clearly influenced her.
Even on songs with more of a punk edge – “Alienation” is a strong example – Russo avoids becoming overindulgent, choosing to keep her vocals controlled and in focus. “I have trouble making amends and I can’t break the isolation,” she sings. “I’m feeling the weight of expectations; alienation is my protection.” She’s backed here by moody bass and a frenetic guitar solo which juxtapose her seemingly calm vocals with the outward aural turmoil.
In the end, there’s nothing fragile about this excellent effort. The weight of expectations hasn’t kept Russo from creating a third album which proves she’s got the talent to make her own way in the genre. She builds on her influences to stake a claim all her own, and the album shines for it. It definitely comes with my full recommendation.
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For more information on Randi Russo’s music, visit http://www.randirusso.com
Year of the Album — #033
Only Son – “Searchlight” (2011, Red General Catalog)
Jack Dishel, of Moldy Peaches fame, really comes out of his artistic shell with Searchlight, his sophomore album recorded under the moniker Only Son. Featuring a dozen songs awash in Beatlesque melodies, he continuously twists the music up in knots, managing to constantly surprise the listener on repeated listens thanks to his unique, quirky arrangements and his many deceptive hooks.
“It’s magic, ‘til you know how it works,” he sings. “Nobody wants to see how you do it.” The same applies to the magic of songwriting, and Dishel consistently makes it sound easy even though there are so many layers going on at all times on these songs. “Magic,” the album’s first single, features the strongest link with Lennon-McCartney era pop, layering echoed vocals atop keyboards and guitars that build a complex sound out of a straightforward arrangement. It’s aural alchemy, and he knows he’s got us by the shorthairs.
“It’s A Boy” throws the album’s first curveball, and it’s a doozy, melding a creepy Bradburyesque story of genetic engineering into a song which features a tight bass line and eerie keyboards, culminating in a mindbending chorus which will be guaranteed to stick in your head for weeks. “Stamp Your Name On It” then immediately throws us for a loop, melding “End Of The World As We Know It” era R.E.M. vocals over a clever musical arrangement which owes as much to “Miserlou” as it does to “Rock Lobster.”
The album as a whole is impeccably arranged, with each song playing as well on its own as it does as part of the complete song cycle. Searchlight proves that Jack Dishel is truly a songwriter of note, and he’s got the skills to keep us guessing while continuing to create pop music of the highest order. If you heard this album when it came out in January, give it another shot – there’s so much worth exploring, there’s nothing like a repeat listen to jog the memory. And if you’ve never heard Jack Dishel or Only Son, jump in headfirst, the water’s fine!
Year of the Album — #032
Death Cab for Cutie – “Codes and Keys” (2011, Atlantic Records)
For an album that was recorded in eight different studios, Death Cab for Cutie’s Codes and Keys, the band’s seventh studio album, comes off sounding incredibly concise and unburdened by pretension. The album, inspired by Brian Eno’s Another Green World, is very keyboard centered, which makes these songs the band’s most easily digestible confections in years.
The band’s focus on keyboards gives the songs a common musical tone, and Ben Gibbard has jettisoned the dark, self-loathing tone of Narrow Stairs, focusing instead on coming back down to earth and focusing on self redemption. And though many of these songs were reportedly developed first as musical sketches by Chris Walla, with Gibbard adding lyrics and vocals after hearing the original compositions, these don’t sound like square pegs fitted through round holes. Instead, it finally sounds like Death Cab has turned a corner, the band members’ individual contributions merging cohesively to form some of the most hummable songs the band’s yet produced.
Though all the songs are in their own way catchy and memorable, it’s hard to imagine many of the songs heating up radio, which continues to live off of disposable trends rather than solid music. But Codes and Keys is Death Cab for Cutie’s strongest full album since Plans. This is an album which will please long-time fans of the band while building word of mouth support from the newly converted as well. The album proves Death Cab for Cutie is fully capable of surviving in today’s musical climate, continuing to craft interesting melodic pop albums long into the future, come what may. In today’s disposable pop climate, that’s something worth celebrating.
Year of the Album — #009
The Last Royals – “The Last Royals EP” (Ooh La La Records, 2011)
Similar Albums: Cavedoll – “Carbombs & Swordfights” (Independent, 2010)
Matthew Ryan – “From A Late Night High Rise” (00:02:59 Records, 2006)
If you’re in the market for some indie pop that pushes the creative envelope, you’re not going to be disappointed with the latest free album available through Noisetrade! The NYC-based duo The Last Royals is giving their Last Royals EP away for free for a limited time on the music site, and the four originals are impressive and worthy of a download — and as a bonus, Noisetrade downloads include a limited edition cover of Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” which is worth the download on its own!
The EP’s opening track, “Backseat Lovers” opens things on a strange note, oddly reminding me of Cavedoll’s “Vader,” for some reason on the first spin, though the song becomes far more pop oriented as it progresses. And if you’ve been hooked immediately, as I was, then “Come Take My Hand,” the album’s single, proves to be a wonderful bonus. Even had these been the only two songs on the EP it would have been worthy of praise. But there’s also the stunning “Always, To Belong,” a classy pop single in the making, reminiscent of “And Never Look Back,” off Matthew Ryan’s From A Late Night High Rise.
I’ll be interested to see what these guys do in the future. New York’s been a hotbed for innovative pop for years, and like Regina Spektor, The Last Royals clearly enjoy pushing the pop envelope while maintaining strong hooks at the center of their songs. This could be a recipe for some serious success down the road — so give the EP a download and say you heard them first.