Old News: Ragazza Pop Compilation

Various Artists, Ragazza Pop (DOWNLOAD)

Earlier this summer, Mirah released a 7" on Mississippi Records. The a-side, "Don't!" just happened to be one of my favorite Mirah songs. A sixties girl group inspired number with a pounding piano and backing vocals from The Blow's Khaela Maricich. "Don't!" was featured on Modern Radio's Mirah rarities collection, The Old Days Feeling, but first appeared on Ragazza Pop, an amazing pop compilation with contributions from Mirah, Moe Tucker, The Shermans, and more.

Initially released in 2003, the comp is certainly old news, but if you missed it the first time around, it's certainly worth hearing. If you're a fan of "Don't!" you can pick the newly pressed 7" up for $6 at the K Records online shop.

The tracklist is as follows:
1. "Pop Conversation (Main Titles)"
2. "At the Airport #a" - Instant Café Records
3. "Her Words Hang In The Air" - The Ladybug Transistor
4. "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" - Moe Tucker
5. "The Girl from U.N.C.L.E." - The Four Corners
6. "Loud and Laughing" - The Shermans
7. "Comme D'habitude" - Souvenir
8. "Star Watcher's Song" - Instant Café Records
9. "Flashin' Light (Some Girls Like to Disco) [Cocosuma remix]" - Valvola
10. "London" - Noonday Underground
11. "Liebe Auf Dem Land" - Die Moulinettes
12. "White Drops" - Plus-Tech Squeeze Box
13. "Mon Ange Gardien" - April March
14. "To Know Him Is To Love Him" - Moe Tucker
15. "Fine Day" - Three Berry Icecream
16. "The Sun Keeps Shining On Me" - Fonda
17. "Free" - The Mondo Crescendo
18. "Hey Lover" - The Aislers Set
19. "Don't" - Mirah
20. "Let Drive at Him" - Instant Café Records
21. "Summertime" - The Faraway Places
22. "I Wanna" - Moe Tucker
23. "Pop Conversation (End Titles)"
Various Artists, Ragazza Pop (DOWNLOAD)

New Releases from Allo Darlin!

I got an e-mail on the Allo Darlin mailing list this afternoon with some exciting news! The group has a new 7" out on Fortuna Pop -- "If Loneliness Was Art" b/w "Girlfriend." According to the e-mail, the 7" arrives tomorrow and will soon be available to order either directly from the band or on the Fortuna Pop website. "If Loneliness Was Art" is the third single from Allo Darlin's gorgeous self-titled album (released earlier this summer on Fortuna Pop.) I already can't wait to order my copy!

The group has also contributed a song ("Tallulah") to the Hangover Lounge 10" comp. You can read about & listen to all of the tracks on the comp here. (The page for Allo Darlin's contribution is here.) The Hangover Lounge 10" is limited to 500 copies -- paypal £7 (UK) £8 (Europe) £10 (Americas) or £11 (Aus/NZ/Far East) to wiaiwya@hotmail.com. In addition to the blogspot site, you can stream the song and view more information on Allo Darlin's bandcamp page.

The band's e-mail also mentioned that they'll be touring the US in October, so I'll be sure to keep my eye out for those dates!
Summer is drawing to a close & I feel like a real jerk because I've had an e-mail from Kevin at Bridgetown about their summer batch of releases sitting in my inbox since July 15th. Kevin was kind enough to send me a selection of tracks from each of the albums included in this summer's package deal & there are some real gems. I've listened to his sampler a few times now but just haven't found the time to write about it here.

Anyway, as summer winds down, it's definitely worth your time to check out Bridgetown's summer batch -- it's seven albums (postage paid) for $30 (US, rates go up slightly for international shipping.) The seven albums include:
  • Kindest Lines, Kindest Lines CDr
  • Weed Diamond, Carry On + Sweater Kids combo CD
  • Ancient Crux, Stage Fright + Live in LA combo CDr
  • David Jaberi, Out CDr
  • R. Sawyer, I Burn CDr
  • Junior Low, Heavy CDr
  • Vehicle Blues, Changer CDr (I reviewed this back in June, you can read the review here)
As usual, Bridgetown delivers a great selection of lo-fi bedroom recordings, many of them with strong pop sensibilities. My favorite track out of the sampler Kevin sent to me was Weed Diamond's "All Of Denver Is Wasted." If you don't want to buy the whole combo pack, I would at least recommend picking up Weed Diamond's Carry On + Sweater Kids combo CDr. It's great ethereal lo-fi pop music and the combo CD features an EP and an out of print (remastered) cassette. "Mint in My Mouth" is one of my favorite songs from Weed Diamond's combo CD & you can view a video for it below.

Weed Diamond, "Mint in My Mouth"

New Releases from weePOP! Records

My backlog of things to review is just getting bigger and bigger! weePOP! was recently kind enough to send along their two newest releases and since they were both short & sweet, I thought I'd listen to them to (hopefully) ease back into reviewing things. I apologize for the lack of reviews lately -- I work for a university and with students returning to class in just a week, my office is in the midst of our "busy" season. Hopefully things will calm down soon so that I can go back to doing nothing at my desk!

Anyway, Let's Whisper is the side project of Colin and Dana, who are both members of Vermont pop group The Smittens. Keep A Secret, their new 3" CD-R (out now on weePOP!), is just as intimate as its name suggests. "California Girls" borrows a line from the Beach Boys and blends it with Field Mice-esque pop: distinct guitar lines, clear as a bell vocals, and synthetic sounding percussion. My favorite moment of "California Girls" comes in the last 35 seconds or so, a delirious chorus of "where, where, where you going?" that quickly fades out into nothing. Things change pace with the second song, "Snowy Sunday," a plaintive bedroom pop ballad that sounds just as introspective and isolated as winter feels. "Meet Me On The Dancefloor" features male & female vocals accentuated by handclaps & "uh ohs." It's an upbeat number that comes close to being saccharine, but it's so sincere that it's hard to fault (especially the "Monday always comes too soon" line, which I'm really feeling right now.) The CD-R closes with "Holly in Wintertime," which is pretty downbeat (at least, compared to the rest of the release.) I think the resemblance to the Field Mice is strongest on this last track (not that that's a bad thing!) You can get Keep A Secret direct from weePOP! If you're in the UK it's $ pounds (including shipping) and if you're not, it's five pounds with shipping (a little over $7.)

Stars of Aviation also have a new 3" CD-R out on weePOP! By the Shore begins with the title track "By the Shore," a nicely arranged, straightforward pop number about summer holidays featuring piano & horns. "Deepest Dark Peru" is set to a beat that reminds me of one of those pre-recorded Casio "bossa nova" tracks. Sung in a combination of French and English, it has a nice laid back vibe & definitely sounds like something my mother would listen to while making breakfast, like Weekend's La Variete or something. "Underneath the Elms" sounds like it wouldn't be out of place on a Magnetic Fields record (well, the horns might give it away.) The closing track, "You Be The Boy, I'll Be The Girl" is my favorite track by far. Something about the vocals and orchestration reminds me just a touch of Belle and Sebastian (but one of their great non-album tracks, like "I'm Waking Up To Us.") There's an amazing country-ish sounding guitar line buried just under the vocals in the chorus that I can't get enough of -- something about this song really works for me in a way that the others don't. Like Keep A Secret, By the Shore is 4 pounds within the UK (including shipping) and 5 pounds (including shipping for international buyers.) You can get it direct from weePOP!

You can hear sample mp3s from both releases on the weePOP! site. weePOP! specializes in limited run 3" CD-Rs and 7" records.

Back in June, I mentioned that Everything and More, a comprehensive Dolly Mixture box set was available for pre-order (you can view the old post here.) I went back and forth on whether or not to order it, eventually deciding that it was too expensive. In July, I saw that Jigsaw Records was offering a special where you could order the set for $35 -- I decided I would order when I got my next paycheck & then, of course, it sold out.

Long story short still sort of long... Everything and More is back in stock at Jigsaw and my copy came in the mail yesterday afternoon (honestly, I can't say enough good things about Jigsaw -- amazing selection of new and used records, fair prices, and extremely fast shipping.)

I also can't say enough good things about Everything and More. Normally I don't notice when things are remastered -- the music I typically listens to errs so heavily on the side of lo-fi that it's hard for me to appreciate good production/remastering work, but these songs sound beautiful. There's a distinctly noticeable jump in sound quality from the Dolly Mixture recordings I've heard in the past, making the songs sound new and fresh.

The box's packaging is beautiful (I'm a sucker for nice commercial design) & addition to band's full-length album, Demonstration Tapes, it includes all of their singles, the posthumously released Fireside EP, and a number of demos, covers, and live recordings.

I don't buy box sets often, but I highly recommend picking this up. If you're in the US, your best bet is probably the aforementioned Jigsaw. If you're in the UK/Europe, you can order it here.

Looking Glass

Looking Glass, "Target" (DOWNLOAD)

And we continue our journey back in time through my inbox to July 21st, a mere two weeks ago! When Tom from Infinite Wisdom e-mailed me about the new EP from Looking Glass, a folkish quartet from London. The First Real Target is a four song EP and it sounds, to me, like a cross between the mellowest moments of Fevers and Mirrors era Bright Eyes crossed with Sufjan Stevens' Seven Swans.

So, that's the semi-logistical part & this is the sentimental makes-no-sense part: Back when I was in college, I did a summer semester where I took a grammar course that involved hours of time alone in the evenings diagramming sentences & biking the miles between my crummy sublet house and the English building where my grammar class was held every afternoon. That summer I lived with two other girls and we had almost no food and even less furniture and one of my housemates and I listened to the same sad songs obsessively while we lied around on the floor eating lemon ice. And I feel like this EP, particularly the song "Target," would have been the perfect addition to what was, essentially the last real summer of our youth. It is not at all hard for me to superimpose these songs over memories of aimless evenings, still summer air, late sunsets, the almost singular experience of living in a college town in the summer... I wish we had had these songs then. It certainly would have broken up the monotony of listening to "The Dress Looks Nice On You" on repeat.

The First Real Target will be released on CD on August 16th. You can preorder it right here for 4GBP. You can stream some of the songs (along with a few non-EP tracks) on MySpace.

Looking Glass, "Target" (DOWNLOAD)

Summer Releases from Solid Melts

I'm not kidding around when I said that I had a backlog of reviews to get through! Internet technology (also known as my inbox) has fortunately allowed me to travel back in time to June 20th, which is when Drew e-mailed me about some (then) new releases on Solid Melts -- a cassette from HORSES called Sincerely Jackie Chan & a free (free!) digital comp called An Empire of Fun.

The HORSES cassette is limited to 50 copies and sounds like a dream -- literally. Everything seems filtered through a blue light, vocals are both distant and immediate and soft, looping background noises cocoon you in sound, creating a distorted sense of space and time. If you take a couple of minutes to listen to the songs available on their MySpace, you'll know exactly what I mean. Sincerely Jackie Chan is 20 minutes of hazy, atmospheric song collages with moments of startling lyrical clarity. You can stream tracks from the tape on Bandcamp & if you like it, you can pick up your copy for $6ppd (or $9 if you live outside of the US.) I've got to say -- at $6, if you like what you hear online, you really should buy the tape. There's something particularly special about owning limited edition tapes, I think. And I don't mean that in a snobby "collector-y" way at all -- I really just associate cassette tapes with a particular kind of analog joy. Again, Sincerely Jackie Chan is limited to 50 copies.

An Empire of Fun is Solid Melts' summer 2010 compilation & features tracks from Cloud Nothings, Vehicle Blues, Kevin Greenspon, & a whole host of other artist. So, here's a confession: I actually listen to a lot of commercial/traditional pop music. Like, all summer long I've been making mix CDs to listen to in the car and my most recent summer jams mix featured Prince, Bone Thugz 'N Harmony, and The Monkees. That said, it's probably not hard for you to infer that listening to something like An Empire of Fun -- which features songs that tend to be more about atmosphere than hooks -- is a real change of pace for me. Some of the songs on An Empire of Fun seem almost Lynchian in nature to me (which is a hardcore change of pace since I'm regularly talking about how all of my favorite Monkees songs are written by Neil Diamond.) There were a couple of songs on here that really caught my ear, though. "Discover" by Coasting was a pleasant surprise -- hooky with alternately sweet and aggressive female vocals buried under layers of noise. It sounds almost like a cross between Guided By Voices and Julie Ruin. "overpass" by Katrina Stonehart sounds sort of like a Jesus and Mary Chain song being played through a Yak Bak or a meat grinder, & "Ralphie" by Big Dogs is an unexpected spot of garage punk (complete with a whoa-oh chorus.) "Who Could Break Your Heart" by Lazy sounds almost like a lost track from a Berkley comp, not unlike something you might hear from The Modern Lovers. What I really appreciate about a release like An Empire of Fun (and I don't mean this is a snide way) is that it's free -- anyone who wants to try it can & you can take what you like & leave what you don't without feeling bad about it & then you have the opportunity to financially support the bands you did like by buying their other releases. So, if you're interested, you can download An Empire of Fun for free right here.

For more releases on the Solid Melts label, you can check out their site.

Giving It All Away (4)!

It's been a little while since I've done a give away (not since May!) & since I'm working on getting caught up with a backlog of things and getting things rolling here again, I thought now might be as good a time as any.
Before I forget! To cut down on spam (I've been getting a ton of spam comments lately), I've switched over to moderated comments. If your comment doesn't show up immediately, don't worry. It's just sitting in the moderation queue.
So, this week I have a copy of a 7" by lo-fi Cleveland pop group, Cloud Nothings. "Morgan" b/w "Another Man" came out on Group Tightener in February and was sold out by May. Limited to 250 hand numbered & hand stamped copies, I'm honestly not sure where you can get a copy of this anymore. Maybe directly from the band? There might be a handful of distros with copies... I did a bit of quick googling, but wasn't able to find it online anywhere. I picked this up from Music Saves, a locally owned & operated Cleveland record store (to my knowledge, it was their last copy.)
So, to make this 7" your very own, leave a comment with one (or some) of your favorite song title(s) that have someone's name in them, a la "Morgan," this 7"s a-side. Some of my favorites include "Valerie" by The Monkees, "Josie" by Blink-182, "Rosie" by The Smugglers (with Rose Melberg), "Shelley" by The Dancehall Crashers -- I could keep going, but I won't.

Comments must be left by 12 midnight EST on Friday, August 6th. Please leave your e-mail address in your comment so that I can contact you!
Cloud Nothings do have a new (not yet sold out) 7" out on Old Flame Records, you can pick it up for $7 (postage paid) right here.

Group Tightener on MySpace
Cloud Nothings on MySpace
Bridgetown Records (where you can get Cloud Nothings' Turning On on CD for $6)

The Wendy Darlings, "Zero Zero Seven" (DOWNLOAD)

First: I've got a huge backlog of reviews to get through, so I'm really sorry if you've e-mailed me about something and I haven't gotten back to you! I was e-mailed about this Wendy Darlings 7" back in the first week of July and am just now getting to it! (In all fairness, I did just move and have been working on cleaning the new house, getting the old house ready for an inspection, unpacking everything, etc.)

Second: I'm slowly, slowly working my way through the releases that have been e-mailed/regular mailed to me. If you've sent something my way, I promise that I'll get to it. It might just take awhile. Sorry!

Third: The Wendy Darlings. Back in April, The Wendy Darlings released a new 7" on UK label/mail order Marineville Records. The 7" has four new songs and they were kind enough to send an electronic version my way so that I could write a little bit about it here.

"Zero Zero Seven," the first song on the 7" is a ramshackle blast that reminds me of Tiger Trap or Heavenly with a heavy, heavy dose of sixties pop. This is a song that could find an easy home on many mix tapes. "Seven Years Bad Luck" takes the sonic intensity down a notch, but remains lyrically heartfelt and heavily indebted to fifties/sixties pop, sounding not unlike an indie pop version of Little Anthony's "Tears On My Pillow." The b-side is just as strong as the a-side, particularly the closing track, "Suffer Girl," which clocks in at just under two minutes

Here's a video for "Sunday So Bored" from the b-side of the new 7":

You can get the new Wendy Darlings 7" direct from Marineville.

The Wendy Darlings on MySpace

The Wendy Darlings, "Zero Zero Seven" (DOWNLOAD)

Last month I wrote about the Bourgeois Heroes EP on February Records and Rub Wrongways, who co-released the EP, was kind enough to get in touch and share some of their other releases with me.

A Telephone Built for Two, the sophomore album from School for the Dead, offers 11 indie pop jams for your approval. Henning Ohlenbusch's vocals are clear and self-assured, though his lyrics suggest a sense of interior confusion (like on the albums second track, "Feel Like I Should," where he wonders, "Why can't I feel the way I should?" or "This Time It Looks Good," a song about tenuous, yet promising, new beginnings.) Ohlenbusch's vocals almost remind me of someone, though I can't put my finger on who for the life of me...

At first, Telephone Built for Two seems about as straightforward as an indie pop record comes, but every now and then School for the Dead throws a curveball (like the harsh noise-collage that interrupts "Save My Place" for just a moment at around a minute and thirty seconds in.) Every time I found myself ready to write the album off, something brought my attention back (like the They Might Be Giants-esque "Journal of Lies," which I actually had to Google to double check that it wasn't a cover.)

You can preview A Telephone Built for Two in its entirety & purchase is here

School for the Dead's official site
School for the Dead on MySpace

A Nice Place to Be by The Fawns starts out with "Friends," a song that sounds like a lush tribute to The Softies or a lost track from The Innocence Mission. A Nice Place to Be sounds pleasantly familiar & would make great background music for Sunday morning breakfast and coffee. Honestly, it's hard for me to find something to say about A Nice Place to Be other than, "It's nice," which certainly doesn't seem fair to The Fawns. It's definitely evocative of soft, lo-fi indie pop with female leads -- think the aforementioned Softies & Innocence Mission & add: Laura Watling. While The Fawns might be sonically similar to these groups/artists, it's hard for me to think of them in the same way -- overall, they just don't have the same pull for me. That said, there are certainly a few gems on A Nice Place to Be ("I Can't Wait" definitely caught my ear.)

You can preview A Nice Place to Be in its entirety & purchase it here.

The Fawns' official site
The Fawns on MySpace
The Fawns on Facebook