Archive for March, 2009

Alexandra Hope

Alexandra Hope’s sparse instrumentation reminds me of The White Stripes.

Alexandra Hope (click for more pics)

Alexandra Hope (click for more pics)

She also plays as a duo, but she’s the guitarist/vocalist while bandmate David Muller drums and plays piano. The absence of a bass and the bare bones production gives their songs an almost D-I-Y quality, much like a lot of Jack and meg’s stuff, and I tend to like a bit of that as an antidote to all the slickness out there (even in some of my other faves. Rcrdlbl.com has a free download of the “hot” (at least on Indie 103.1) single, “Whatever You Want” , which they allow me to link HERE. Do go to her MySpace page and check out the rest of tunes, including her “tribute” to Madonna’s “Lucky Star”. I see a bit of both Lily Allen and Patti Smith in her looks….how can THAT be, since they don’t look at all alike?

Shrag, The Thermals, Swanton Bombs, Eugene McGuiness, The Henry Clay People, Art Brut

shrag_portraitIn response to djeddieo’s recent recommendation, The Ettes, I present Shrag.  Not quite the same throwback as The Ettes, but they are a mostly-girl punk group from the UK so I’m unfairly throwing them in the same mix.  Shrag’s take on their punk is a little more methodic than the peppier Ettes.  Ghosts Before Breakfast brings memories of old school Brit girl punk, like X-Ray Spex.  But FortyFive 45’s is clearly the song that will pave their way.

thethermals_r1
Additional cred goes to Shrag as they are MySpace friends of The Thermals. Here you can hear the title track off of their upcoming album Now We Can See.  Immediately recognizable as The Thermals, this tune is a little more radio-friendly sounding than most tracks off of their previous (amazing) album The Body, The Blood, The Machine.  But don’t be fooled, one quick listen to the lyrics and they certainly haven’t softened their commentary.

sbswan1I had initially heard Shrag on the Huw Stephens BBC1 podcast, where I also heard the London duo Swanton Bombs (which I’m learning is the name of a professional wrestling move).  I don’t know how to describe these guys, but I’m the most excited about them of any band in this post; at times polished (Turnstile), at others rough (I Like It)…  I can’t decide which I like better.  My current favorite Sorrysayer sounds like a cross between Ray Davies and Jonathan Richman backed by The Fall.  Their current 4-song EP, Mammoth Skull, is available at iTunes.  You can also download their debut LP for free here.  The duo is made up of Dominic McGuinness on guitar, piano and vocals and Brendan Heaney on drums.

If you like the more polished stuff, Dominic’s brother Eugene McGuinness has a music career going in his own right.  Eugene’s approach is much more of the cool, pop crooner type.  So cool, he even has a song called Fonz.

hcp1The Henry Clay People are an LA based group whose MySpace description appropriately reads Americana/Indie/Rock.  But the songs about working and drinking, and even traces of Skynyrd guitar fills (listen to Something In The Water), don’t fall flat as some corny southern rockers.  Mixing in nods to Pavement and Modest Mouse keeps an interesting edge.

Finally, I haven’t quite decided if Art Brut are a novelty act or not.  Their 2006 album Bang Bang Rock and Roll is a very smart and funny work of punk snarkiness.  Even so, I let their follow up album, Its A Bit Complicated,  fall to the wayside; most likely of fear that their tongue-in-cheek approach may not continue to stand up past one album.  Well, their next one, Art Brut vs. Satan, is due out on April 20.  It was produced by Frank Black, and apparently has a song that pays tribute to the Replacements… With those two factors I may have no choice than to get back on the Art Brut train.  Alcoholics Unanimous is the first single…

Bryn Christopher, Emiliana Torrini, Lady Sov and more…..

I’ve actually been listening to Bryn Christopher for a few weeks; why I haven’t posted about him I’m not sure, but I know I did worry that his sound might seem derivative of, of all things, Gnarls Barkley. “Crazy” was one of those songs that was an obvious smash (to me) right out of the box. When I included it on a compilation CD in May 2006 (pre-blog days) it had yet to be played on Boston radio, and soon thereafter it was beyond inescapable, much like prior picks I’d made, like “Hey Ya” by OutKast or “Tubthumping” by Chumbawamba (not that I’m always so clairvoyant; I remember digging thru crates of records to find a discard of mine that had gotten huge in the months since I poo-pooed the promo copy I’d received: Everything But The Girl’s “Miss You”).  Anyway, I had hoped that “Crazy”, which I assumed was a one-off for CeeLo and DM, would spark a slew of colaborations between soulful vocalists and slick deejay/producers. Instead, it got so big that Gnarls became a actual band with tours and a follow-up record (that wasn’t awful but wasn’t “Crazy” either).

Anyway, back to Bryn.

Bryn Christopher

Bryn Christopher

He certainly has the CeeLo vocal chops, and production, while not that of a DJ, is rock solid. Check out the best song of the bunch, “Smilin'” at his website or on his MySpace page (I unearthed this great BBC1 blogpost that speaks at length about the “something missing” quality of the song, without really identifying the problem; perhaps that’s part of what took me 3 weeks to post about him). I suspect we’ll hear more from him, hopefully with even better material and production, but, in the final analysis, “Smilin'” is worth your listening time (like many other current faves, I first heard it on Passport Approved).

Emiliana Torrini

Emiliana Torrini

Emiliana Torrini, who’s “Me And Armini” was featured on my December volume 13, has a hot new single, “Jungle Drum”. The Icelandic former soprano with the Isabella Rossellini looks (with an Italian dad, of course) looks to be having a blast in the video, which is not embeddable, so check her website and MySpace page to view and for more info.

With as much attention The Cure is getting currently due to the release of “Perfect As Cats”, a two disc tribute featuring Cure covers by 37(!) different bands, I wasn’t sure how I felt about Lady Sov’s “I’m So Human” track, which samples (and largely copies a verse from) one of my old favorite Cure songs, “Close To Me”.

Lady Sovereign

Lady Sovereign

I recall that when I first heard M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes” I resented the “Straight To Hell” sample, and I believe I may have posted a rant about it, equating it to Soho’s use of “How Soon Is Now”, which created a generation of listeners that misidentify the “classic” original as a rip of the copy! Well, M.I.A. certainly did eventually win me over (long before that awesome Grammies performance while 9 months pregnant), and I predict Lady Sov will as well. I’m not saying her “So Human” will be as big as “Planes”, just that I won’t be changing the channel every time it comes on (maybe every other). Here’s the video:

Smashproof (not sure who Boston Yanks are)

Smashproof (not sure who Boston Yanks are)

I haven’t been a fan of US hip-hop since the days of Afrika Bambaataa & The Soulsonic Force, but plenty of rap/hip-hop from other countries, mostly the UK, find their way to my stereo. New Zealand’s Smashproof has the number one song in their country for the last 4 weeks with “Brother”. Featuring guest vocals by Gin Wigmore, the song and its video have created major controversy, as it details a real life case from a year or so ago in which a young Polynesian graffiti tagger was killed by the white guy whose fence he tagged. I believe the guy got off lightly and much protesting ensued. Not since Grandmaster Flash’s “The Message” have I heard such social commentary in US rap.

It’s not supposed to be embeddable, so this copy of the vid I found may stop working any day: