26 December 2008

the sound of arrows - 'm.a.g.i.c.' single out 1/28

The Sound of Arrows - M.A.G.I.C. (Mini-video)

Christmas is over, and I must say, I didn't feel in much of the holiday spirit this year. Maybe it's been the bitter cold and icy wintry mix that kept me inside for 92 hours straight, the uncomfortable return to my parents' house, or maybe just my usual pessimism, but despite all that, I can't really refute the magic of the Sound of Arrows new song and mini-video.

The Sound of Arrows (from good ole Stockholm City) put out a great EP for "Danger" earlier this year on Labrador with some really great songs and even a few remixes of "Danger" that I enjoyed. This new single for "M.A.G.I.C." (out January 28 on Labrador), promises to be a great preview of what we'll see on their forthcoming album.

"M.A.G.I.C." is full of the electronic swells and school child chants referenced in "Danger," but with something distinctly more magical. Maybe the video, with all of its reappropriated Disney footage (not to mention the unicorn), influences my opinion somewhat. But, as a firm believer in the Icelandic huldufólk (hidden people), I wonder if maybe Sweden, too, is influenced by some magical älvdanser (elf dances). Some magic to ponder for this holiday season.

Pre-order the single for "M.A.G.I.C." from Labrador now!

The Sound of Arrows - M.A.G.I.C.

25 December 2008

the housemartins - take jesus—take marx—take hope

The Housemartins - Caravan of Love

I told myself I wasn't going to post an entry for Christmas songs, but these aren't even Christmas songs! (Speaking of Christmas songs, the School have a great song up on their Myspace.) And plus, how could I almost forgot about everyone's FAVO(U)RITE Jesus-loving 80s British pop band: the Housemartins!!

The Housemartins formed in 1983 in Hull, England. After some line-up changes, the band put out a good number of popular singles with their new bassist, the future Fatboy Slim (REALLY). Lead singer Paul Heaton (also of the Beautiful South) wrote lyrics to reflect his, er, unique blend of Christianity and Marxism, followed through by SUPERB choreographed dance routines (check those out for the "Happy Hour" and "Sheep" videos and a little in the video posted above).

"Caravan of Love," a cover of an Isley Jasper Isley song, reached #1 on the Christmas charts of 1986. "Heaven Help Us All," composed by Ron Miller and most famously performed by Stevie Wonder, never saw any official Housemartins release but was recorded for a BBC Peel Session. This version is from the collection of rarities limited to 110 copies called Raise the Flag.

I think the Housemartins are totally cheesy, but also pretty great. Their songs are sappy but not overly Jesus-y. Instead they adopt a sense of optimism, hope and caring for the common man. What a lovely Christmas message.

The Housemartins - Heaven Help Us All
The Housemartins - Caravan of Love

23 December 2008

komon - punk ep re-release

Komon - Give Me Speed

"Give me twee!" It's something I say every day, but hearing Lund, Sweden's Komon say it is so much more charming. I heard Komon a while ago with her free download from Cloudberry off of her Punk EP, but I have been searching for more songs ever since. Now that I've found them, I just can't take them off repeat. Fortunately for us who want even more, a ton of songs are streaming on her Myspace and on her Last.fm page.

Komon is Antonia Pehrson who started this solo project after purchasing an electric organ. Her music is a refreshing combination of witty lyrics, drum beats, organ and classic indie-pop melodies. I can understand the comparisons to Amelia Fletcher and like-minded twee-pop ladies, but who can resist the addition of sped-up drum machine beats and analog synth?

Her Myspace promises a new album soon, but she's just re-released the Punk EP with an extra song. You can order it by contacting her from her Myspace page.

Komon - I Made New Friends
Komon - Poetry for the Winter
(What would this post be without including her totally cute free holiday pop song download?)

16 December 2008

LAST NIGHT: love is all & the crystal stilts

Love is All with the Crystal Stilts and Bird Names at the Empty Bottle, Chicago, IL (December 14, 2008)

I'll admit that it had been a while since I had last listened to Love Is All. But their new album A Hundred Things Keep Me Up at Night, released last month on What's Your Rupture, is the same spastic pop music that made them early favorites of the Swedish pop scene. The funny thing was, until they reminded me last night that they hailed from Gothenburg, I had almost forgotten they were Swedish. So sharply different from the pop that has come out of Gothenburg in the last few years, Love is All seems less polished and less sincere than the rest of the Swedish pop I love and more a part of the What's Your Rupture scene.

Nonetheless, Love Is All played one of the best shows I had seen in a while, certainly reminding me why the world fell in love with them in the first place. Full of energy and completely enjoyable, the band played songs from both albums, a new song and an enjoyable cover of "I Ran" by Flock of Seagulls. I had forgotten what a great touch the saxophone is in the band, and how delightfully spastic pop music could be when it wants.

Love is All - Wishing Well

A favorite of mine for the past few months, Crystal Stilts, provided support. Having seen them open for the Vivian Girls early in the summer, tonight they sounded even better than last time–a little less fuzzed out, rooted more in the dark dream pop of yesteryear, I couldn't shake some Joy Division comparisons tonight. I still can't understand the singer at all, but for me that's part of the charm of such moody pop music. Their new album, Alight of Night, out now on Slumberland, is pretty great, too.

Crystal Stilts - Prismatic Room

Local favorites Bird Names opened the show. I know people who follow this band all over the city, so I was glad to see their slightly off-kilter pop with loud guitars and lots of percussion.

10 December 2008

comet gain - collection of new songs, rarities, singles

Few jangle pop bands have been around for as long as Comet Gain, and few are able to pull of that line between London cool and noisy fuzzed-out guitars so well. More easily compared to jangle pop stalwarts like the Clientele, the Go-Betweens or other moody crooners, somehow Comet Gain goes beyond that standard definition and just makes some really great songs that defy that categorization. I think they remind me of Beat Happening in that way, switching off between male and female vocals, there is always a surprise mixed in somewhere.

That’s where Comet Gain’s new single, “Love Without Lies,” fits in—a little dark, super melodic, and really fun, it has all the makings of a great pop song. It is easily one of my favorite Comet Gain songs ever, and definitely one of my favorite singles of the year.

You can order the 7” from Twee as Fuck, or get the whole album of new songs, rarities, singles and B-sides called Broken Record Prayers from Milou Studios.

Comet Gain - Love Without Lies
Comet Gain - You Can't Hide Your Lover Forever

09 December 2008

slow club - new ep, christmas single

Slow Club - Come on Youth

I was introduced to Slow Club in Reykjavík during Iceland Airwaves 2007 as part of Moshi Moshi night at NASA. Opening for Best Fwends and the Teenagers, the crowd was slim, but I was completely charmed by the Sheffield band's pop stylings. It's been almost a year since I had heard any new songs from Slow Club, but finally that wait is over.

Back in September, Moshi Moshi put out the band's most substantial release to date, the Let's Fall Back in Love EP. Perhaps a little more restrained than "Because We're Dead" or "Me & You", the EP is filled with more lovely songs in traditional Slow Club boy-girl vocals.

Plus, they have a great Christmas single out! Check out the Christmas TV 7" released yesterday on Moshi Moshi.

Slow Club - Come on Youth
Slow Club - Christmas TV

And as a little bonus, this video is adorable:

Slow Club - Because We're Dead

08 December 2008

the pains of being pure at heart - on tour!!

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - Gothenburg Handshake

There's no question for me that The Pains of Being Pure at Heart are 2008's break-away indie-pop band, and there is no way for them to tug at my heart strings more than referencing what is likely my favorite city in this entire world, Gothenburg (aka Göteborg), Sweden. It was just over a year ago that I was forced to return back to Paris from picture-perfect Sweden, but that won't stop me from being in love for the rest of my life.

The Pains are also going on tour! They're playing Schuba's on February 11 here in Chicago and I've already purchased my tickets. I would not miss such a charming band for anything. Make sure to check their Myspace for dates.

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - Gothenburg Handshake
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - Everything With You