Champagne Riot – Moonstruck EP

Rating: ★★★½☆

When I first got a press release of Champagne Riot, I expected that one of the participating members of Northern Portrait would bring me more hooks of the angular sort.  Not surprisingly, the Moonstruck EP definitely has plenty of hooks on it, but with a more delicate electronic bend, as opposed to my preconceived power-pop sort.

“Moonstruck” begins the affair with a nice little intro, but then this pounding rhythmic groove jumps in, as electronic beats seem to walk across the track.  Caspar Bock’s voice have this gentle quality that really bring the song together, and while you’re tempted to kick your boots up on the dance floor, there’s a bit of a steadying effect to the song.  Regardless, it kicks off the four-song trek joyfully.

You’ll find a bit more of traditional electronic-pop on “Goldrush.”  Every beat here is a bit more subdued than on the opener, which opens way for this soaring harmonic vocal that really seems to carry the entire track.  This track reminds me of the innocent joy I had as a young kid, when I first busted out New Order‘s Republic, before I worked backwards through the catalogue. Perhaps my favorite element of this song is its straightforward presentation; its not trying to be clever or witty, just wants to be a great track, which it is.

“Heart Stab” is possibly the one track here that just gets to sweet for my ears.  In the mix with a full album, you could probably slide it in nicely, but perhaps too much of a good thing can be bad.  It sounds really familiar too, and perhaps that’s why this song sort of irks me, due to the fact that I can’t place it! Still, there’s a bit of a twisted element in the lyrics, which sort of makes you wonder where Champagne Riot could truly go if they had time to craft an entire record of such music.

Your short journey with the Moonstruck EP ends with “A Friend of a Friend.” You’ll find that this song holds the future for Champagne Riot, as electronic elements are definitely present here, but piano/keyboard touches occasionally dominate the beats themselves, not to mention that the vocal delivery has this soothing quality.  You’ll find somewhat of an operatic montage moment in the latter half of the track, demonstrating that the duo are capable of pushing themselves in regards to their entire sound.  By the end of your journey, you can’t help but to wear a smile.  The tunes are written well, the melodies are great and sometimes we just need to let loose and enjoy this sort of fun.

You can pick it up at the Matinee Recordings Store.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/1Moonstruck.mp3]

Download: Champagne Riot -Moonstruck [MP3]

New Music from Champagne Riot

If you know me, you probably know that I think Matinee Recordings is one of the top 2 indie labels (the other being Captured Tracks), and they’ve got me excited all over again.  They’ve just put out the newest work from Champagne Riot, which features the bassists of neat-pop group Northern Portrait.  The four song collection is titled the Moonstruck EP.  The lead track “Moonstruck” definitely has more of an electric feel than a great deal of the work on Matinee, but what’s present, as a label standard it seems, is infectious hooks and melodies, making you want to go back and spin the song over and over.  I guess there’s nothing wrong with that, or this great duo.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/1Moonstruck.mp3]

Download: Champagne Riot -Moonstruck [MP3]

New Music from Strawberry Whiplash

You know how much we love Matinee Recordings, one of the best, if not the best, small labels around right now.  They’re releasing a special gift for their fans, The Matinee Holiday Soiree EP, and its filled with exclusive holiday tracks from five of the bands on their roster, including my personal favorite Math and Physics Club.  You also get to hear this new Strawberry Whiplash track, which despite having a holiday theme, doesn’t sound too far off from the splendid pop this label has been churning out for some time. You can preview it Here, then head over the the Matinee site to get your hands on your very own copy.  This is the perfect gift for your pop loving friends; its reasonably priced, and filled with good tunes.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/straw03.mp3]

Download: Strawberry Whiplash – Santa Needs a Holiday [MP3]

Bubblegum Lemonade – Sophomore Release

Rating: ★★★½☆

You probably can search the Internet for a good deal of time before you discover a lot on Bubblegum Lemonade, the Scottish group from Glasgow, who are currently part of the incredible roster on Matinee Recordings.  We do know the band is fronted by Laz, who does work with some other groups, and that he’s a 12 string Rickenbacker enthusiast.  Other than that, all you really need to know is that he’s released his second full-length, aptly titled, Sophomore Release; on top of that, it’s just one heck of a good listen.

If you’ve been following the band, you’ll luckily notice the gem “Caroline’s Radio” from this year’s 7″ of same name.  This song features crystal clear pop guitars, with a bit of distortion in the middle, and casually gentle vocals.  Everything about this song echoes the band’s name, it’s pure bubblegum pop, in the greatest way possible.  Personally, I dig the way the band sounds tight, as if you’re in the recording studio with them, as they stop and start at various moments throughout the song.  Following this up, you’ll find a nod to another Glaswegian band, namely that of Teenage Fanclub, on “Maybe Someday.”  Melodies are similar, though Bubblegum Lemonade seems like the squeaky clean younger brother, crafting harmonies, but weary of cramping big brother’s style.

“You Only Leave Twice” is one of the song’s on the record that will immediately jump out at you.  Up until now, Sophomore Release has had classy power pop jangles, but this song is more of a fire pit type track, featuring some tribal rhythms and acoustic strumming.  Female backing vocals add another dimension, giving the impression that we’re all sitting around in a circle happily bringing joy to one another.  Skip ahead a few tracks and you’ll find the catchy “Alice Please.”  There’s some effects running on the vocals that provide a bit more distortion, making this a heavier song, which fortunately goes along with the number’s thematic issues.

If you listen to the entire album from start to finish, you’re likely to discover that the entirety goes by quite breezily, yet brings you an undervalued sense of happiness.  Songs like “Autumn Sky” just have this understated beauty, perfected by our man Laz here.  It’s got a bit of atmospheric coating, yet done in such an innocent way that you’ll surely picture the singer giving you a smirk from behind the master tapes.  Or perhaps you’ll find yourself falling in love with “When She Goes,” which uses some psychedelic guitar lines and female backing vocals to fit in just another moment of whimsical exuberance to Sophomore Release.

From start to finish, this album doesn’t offer you a bad track, nor one that you can skip as you look for that hidden gem.  Everything about the delivery, the innocence and the magic of pop music lives within the walls of Sophomore Release, which should make us all rejoice in the fact that secretive figures craft some of the most incredible power pop that will ever fall on our ears, so cheers to that Bubblegum Lemonade.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/bubble10.mp3]

Download: Bubblegum Lemonade – You Only Leave Twice [MP3]

More New Tunes from Bubblegum Lemonade

Man, we really thought that we had our end of year list set, but then our favorite label, Matinee, jumps up to remind us about this amazing gem. Scottish band Bubblegum Lemonade are releasing their newest next week, titled Sophomore Release.  The latest single isn’t straight power-pop, but harkens back to a more innocent folk-influenced sound, kind of like a more kick ass version of Sonny and the Sunsets.  Seriously, if you’re looking for one last record to complete your collection for the year 2010, this better be on it, or else you’re in trouble.  You can pre-order this release HERE.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/bubble10.mp3]

Download: Bubblegum Lemonade – You Only Leave Twice

New Music from Northern Portrait

We talked about how much we loved Danish band Northern Portrait just after the release of their latest full-length, Criminal Art Lovers.  The group is back now with an amazing new 7″, which features album track “Life Returns to Normal” and B-Side “Some People.”  Sure, there’s a bit of a Morrissey sound in the lead single, but you’ll find that the vocal delivery is actually more fulfilling.  I know, bold statement, but you’ll have to see for yourself.  The swirling jangle of the guitars on “Some People” creates an effecting mood, sure to be loved by all modern pop fans. You can get your hands on the new 7″ by heading over to the Matinee order page.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/06-Life-Returns-To-Normal-1.mp3]

Download: Northern Portrait – Life Returns To Normal [MP3]

New Tunes from Bubblegum Lemonade

It seems like everyone in Scotland has a band that writes great tunes; Bubblegum Lemonade is just another one of those stunning groups fronted by Laz McClukskey.  The group specializes in combining everyone’s favorite jangling guitar with pure bubblegum pop, creating a nice milkshake of delicious melodies sprinkled with tasty goodness.  They’ve got a new 3 song 7″ coming your way titled Caroline’s Radio, and we’ve got the lead track headed your way now.  You can find your way to the 7″ at Matinee Recordings.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/bubble08.mp3]

Download: Bubblegum Lemonade – Caroline’s Radio [MP3]

New Tunes from Cats on Fire

In case you missed Cats On Fire‘s last record, Our Temperance Movement, the first thing you should do is go get your hands on it; it’s a gem of a pop record.  But, now the band are back with a collection of rarities, B-Sides and what-nots.  The album is called Dealing in Antiques, and it features 20 tracks from the band; you can’t argue with that.  We’ve got the album opener, which is a cover of White Town‘s “Your Woman.”  You’ll be able to find the record in stores next week, or you can order it straight from Matinee Recordings, which has tons of other great bands you need to check out while you’re at it.

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Download: Cats on Fire – Your Woman [MP3]

Entroducing Electric Pop Group

electricIt’s really difficult to turn away from Matinee Recordings (seriously, go to their page to browse for goodness) right now.  It seems that they just consistently release some of the most infectious pop groups.  Electric Pop Group is just another one of these bands, and I haven’t been able to get this band out of my head; I don’t think that I really want to either.  Okay, so it has a bit of that jangle pop sound everyone is using, but this track here, “Not By Another,” has really clean production.  You’ll find a slight bit of happiness invading your soul as soon as you put this on.  Their album Seconds should be hitting our shores soon!

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/Electric-Pop-Group-Not-By-Another.mp3]

Download: Electric Pop Group – Not By Another [MP3]

Cats on Fire – Our Temperance Movement

our-temperance-movementRating: ★★★★½

Occasionally, you come across a group that is reminiscent of everything you truly love.  Clever lyrics, jangly guitars, smooth vocals; all joining in unison in order to craft that perfect pop song. Cats on Fire have constructed 10 such songs with their second album Our Temperance Movement. Consider us lucky that Matinee Recordings was able to put out this album by the Finnish quartet.

Immediately upon pressing play, you will more than likely realize that the band shares a certain affinity for bands such as Felt or the Smiths, sharing those classic vocal similarities, but not in such a fashion where you feel as if they’re merely playing the role of imitators.  Singer Mattias Bjorkas can hold the sway in his voice just like Lawrence or Morrissey.  But, you’ll find that in listening to his voice, it stands alone an a different entirely.

Now, the band probably has a lot of influential waters that they could soak up with a sponge, all of which are visible in their songs, but a different comparison comes to mind when listening to the album.  Our Temperance Movement recalls early Belle and Sebastian records, or just your favorite pop album, where every single song is so good that it would be hard to decipher which song on the album was meant as the single. You won’t be able to find a throwaway track here, which is an oddity in this year’s music output.

“Lay Down Your Arms” has that familiar jangly guitar you’ll recall from all those classic recordings, creating a mood of stomping about your local pub dancefloor.  As the vocals sway back across the song, you can’t help but feel moved by the meldious tune.  “Letters from a Voyage to Sweden” follows shortly after, with tales of watching a cruiseliner filled with adulterers and sodomites.  Even with such a taboo topic, the song rolls along; it’s the perfect song for quiet headphone moments lying in your bed in thought.

With songs like “Tears in Your Cup,” Garden Light” and “Fabric” neatly tucked into the latter half of the album, you’ll find that your listening experience is never lacking in above average tunes.  Especially when you encounter the bookend to the album “Farbic” with its backing female vocals and bouncy strum.

As the album wraps up completely you’ll be rushing to record your favorite tracks for that next great mixtape you are preparing for your friends.  You only want the best tracks, and every song on this album will suffice to prove to your friends just how great your tastes are; so go on and introduce them to Cats on Fire.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/02-lay-down-your-arms.mp3]

Download: Cats on Fire – Lay Down Your Arms [MP3]

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