The Sugargliders – A Nest With a View: 1990-1994

Rating: ★★★ · ·

Writing about a compilation is no easy task, especially when the output of said band, The Sugargliders in this case, was so limited, especially to ears on American soil.  Luckily for us, the hardworking folks over at Matinee Recordings have just released A Nest With a View, a collection of the Melbourne group’s singles and their one LP from 1990-1994.  If you’re looking to get your hands on a classic indie pop record that sounds just as relevant today as it did when it originally was released, then this is precisely the album for you.

“Ahprahran” begins our re-introduction to The Sugargliders, basically the project of the young Meadows brothers.  What struck me on this first track is how much I can see this being a vital part of any indie pop collection in the present day.  String arrangements accentuate the incredible melody, and the fact that the guitar sounds like it’s being carefully picked rather than sung only thrills me more.  It’s not the only standout track, in fact, most of these tracks hold up well on their own, but my current favorite is “Letter from a Lifeboat.”  There’s this minimal percussive element, and the guitar is carefully picked from the opening minute, almost like a classical guitar player.  Then the Meadows brothers combine their vocals to craft this fluid harmony that continues to fascinate me the more I play it.

But, for all my love of the aforementioned tracks, there’s plenty within the confines of A Nest With a View to capture your ears. I like how “Sway” opens with this wayward harmonica, crafting a melancholy time that’s reinforced by the lyrical content of a person moving on from their loved one.  You also have to appreciate the earnestness of the songwriting in “Police Me,” a song that reaches its climax when the lyric of “it’s true” is shouted amidst the intricate guitar playing of the group.  Of course, I’m always a sucker for added instrumentation like horns and strings, such as those little flourishes you find on the collections final track, “Top 40 Sculpture.”

I know that not everyone has the same fascination I do with brilliant indie pop music, but I’m glad that modern technology allows us to go back in time and expose the heart and soul of the movement.  I’m always amazed at the work accomplished by bands like The Sugargliders long ago, and although it’s nearly two decades from their time, it still sounds every bit as relevant in today’s genre.  A Nest With a View is an exquisite snapshot of a band that left us with a brief career, but one that, as evidenced here, surely stands the test of time.  You can only say that about the greatest of tunes.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/01-Ahprahran.mp3]

Download:The Sugargliders – Ahprahran [MP3]

A Nest With a View is available now from Matinee Recordings.

Wonderful Old Pop from The Sugargliders

I hadn’t heard about the Sugargliders, though I’m admittedly ashamed of that fact.  Apparently the Australian group has a short career in the early 90s, releasing multiple singles, and one solitary album.  But, now our dear friends over at Matinee Recordings have decided that you deserve the right to get your hands on these out of print works, compiling a career retrospective titled A Nest With A View.  It’s honest indie-pop, with warming guitar lines and reflective lyrics–the things that make good pop so sincere and stunning.  I’m glad to have discovered this act, and I hope you opt to pick up their compilation on October 16th when it hits stores.

Fresh New Indie Pop from The Hermit Crabs

Indie pop fans rejoice; the Hermit Crabs are back!  Our friends over at Matinee Recordings are about to release another four song EP from the much heralded Scottish group, which is the band’s first release since 2009!  The Time Relentless EP comes out via the label on September 4th, and the first hit from the record is beautiful.  Clearly the harmonies we all love about great indie pop are present, almost from the instant you press play.  They add a nice little touch with a wayward guitar line dancing and twirling around the vocals in the background.  Bet this is going to be one helluva release.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Stop_This_Now.mp3]

Download: The Hermit Crabs – Stop This Now [MP3]

New (ish) Indie Pop from The Lost Homeboys

Surely you’re all aware of my thirst for Swedish indie pop, and I was satiated today when a friend send me this recent EP from The Lost Homeboys.  They didn’t have to do too much  to convince me, considering members of the band are also part of The Electric Pop Group, a band in the heralded stable of our friends at Matinee.  This gem comes from the group’s Leaving Town EP (out not on Dufflecoat Records) and it’s a five minute trip down the beautiful road of indie pop goodness.  Something about that guitar sound gets me every time, and the vocal definitely found its way to my heart.  I hope you’ll enjoy this one.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/09.-The-Lost-Homeboys-S-is-for-secrets.mp3]

Download:The Lost Homeboys – S is for Secrets [MP3]

Pale Sunday – The Fake Stories About You and Me

Rating: ★★★½ ·

You can put all your preconceived notions about music in Brazil to the side now.  Pale Sunday are nothing like CSS or Bonde Do Role. While I appreciate the regional flavor of those acts, The Fake Stories About You and Me seems so distant; it’s an album of pristine guitar pop in the realm of bands like Lucksmiths or Nada Surf–it’s somewhere in the middle there.

It’s a short EP, but “Happy (When You Lived Here)” is perhaps going to be one of my favorite guitar tracks of the year; it’s easiest the best track from the band that I’ve heard to date.  Luis’ voice sounds incredible here; it’s calm and cool, yet there’s a smoothness that coincides with the rest of the music.  Everyone else’s accompaniment fits perfectly into the track, from the backing vocals to the steady propulsive drum beat. So good; I wish everyone would write tracks like this.

“About Your Life” seems a little bit more straightforward in the vein of classic pop songs.  The guitars aren’t quite as clean here, and the synths provide an extra element to the background. I can’t quite put my finger on what makes this song so familiar, but I put it all down to Luis Gustavo’s voice.  In contrast to the casual cool of the EP’s opener, here he sounds a bit softer, yet more distant in the mix.  It might seem like I’m not enthused by the difference, but I assure you that I’m having a hard time not playing this track over and over.  Screw it. I’m playing all four songs constantly.

Pale Sunday gives a bit of a bouncing drum roll on “That’s the Way,” giving the third track a bit of swagger and swing.  It’s a song about getting high with a friend or loved one, feeling lost in an emotional sense.  Towards the end of the song it sort of careens with guitar work that sort of bursts into a solo…perhaps providing the listener with that feeling of taking off into the far out realms of one’s mind.

When The Fake Stories About You and Me came to a close with “The Winter Song” I was taken aback at first.  It’s a song focused on strummed guitar, and a different pop appeal than the previous tracks. For me, it seems a lot more thoughtful, as if the band intended to leave you with a departing note about how we should go on with our lives. I like the way there’s a musical emphasis from the rest of the group that seems to arrive just after the 2 minute mark.  It’s a gorgeous track, and one that’s a fitting end to this EP.  Just as it ends, you want more, which might be my only detractor here, but with songs this good, Pale Sunday isn’t going anywhere any time soon. I’m grateful for that.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Happy.mp3]

Download: Pale Sunday – Happy [MP3]

The Fake Stories About You and Me is available now from Matinee Recordings.

 

New Pop Number from Pale Sunday

It’s already been a great year for our friends over at Matinee Recordings, having released the new Cats on Fire and several great EPs.  And they’re at it again with a new EP from Brazil’s Pale Sunday.  The title for the release is The Fake Stories About You and Me, and you can grab it from the label right now.  Gentle pop music seems to be the group’s specialty, and you can see similarities to the great Teenage Fanclub, but personally I think that things on this listen are a lot softer–in an endearing way of course.  Find yourself falling in love with this new track…it’s easy to do.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Happy.mp3]

Download:Pale Sunday – Happy (When You Lived Here)  [MP3]

Bart and Friends – There May Come a Time EP

Rating: ★★★★ ·

Bart and Friends is an Australian supergroup of sorts, fronted by Bart Cummings.  The group features members of the Shapiros and the Lucksmiths, to name a few, so you’re probably going to have some lofty expectations.  Luckily for us all, There May Come a Time lives up to those expectations, and in fact, it surpasses them.

Opening the EP is “There May Come a Time,” which features the wonderful Pam Berry on vocals.  She’s talking about writing songs, but suggests that there are some words/songs she’ll always remember (those of a love when she was young). I love the brightness of the guitar sound here, not to mention the precision drumming which helps accentuate the depth of the track.  You’re going to be hard pressed to find a better album opener on a pop record than this one.  But, then they move into some extremely familiar territory with the much covered track, “Can’t Help Falling in Love.”  I know the song was originally done by Elvis, but as a kid of the 80s, I think back to UB40 (unfortunately).  However, twenty listens into this EP, I will forever think of Berry’s performance here; her voice seems to be perfectly crafted to sing this track.  Definitely a special song.

From here you’ll get into the middle of There May Come a Time, featuring two of my favorite tracks, though one is the record’s shortest.  “A Kiss You Won’t Forget” encompasses everything I’ve come to love about the sound of pop music that’s been carried over from Australia.  Sharp dueling guitars, careful bass work, and some of the best vocal performances.  It’s one of those songs you want to put on a mixtape and play for all your friends.  There’s only one thing wrong with “There Are So Many Things I’d Like to See,” and that revolves around the 50 second song length.  It’s a completed track by Bart and Friends, but I completely wish they’d have pushed it even further; it’s got the makings of becoming one of my favorite tracks every.  I’m just going to loop it over and over on my own to reach the desired effect. The group does approach similar territory on “These Words Are Too Small,” but Berry seems a bit more rushed here, so it doesn’t have that drama in it.

Closing out the EP is “A Summer’s Dream,” the most chilled out track on There May Come a Time.  Here, while Berry again sounds great, it’s the sound of the guitar that really shines.  It’s as if each note was carefully picked for maximum melodic power; there’s a carefree mood created by both the band and Berry.  It’s a relaxing feeling, the way every summer dream should be.  The ending is perfectly fitting for this EP, as the band have bookended both sides of the EP perfectly.  But, don’t think that the middle is just filler; you’re likely to find some of the most special pop moments of the year hiding in there. Go see for yourself.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/There_May_Come_A_Time.mp3]

Download: Bart and Friends – There May Come a Time [MP3]

There May Come a Time is available now from Matinee Recordings.

Charlie Big Time – Dishevelled Revellers EP

Rating: ★★★½ ·

Britain has long had a history of crafting glowing guitar pop, though the more brash bands abroad have garnered more attention.  That’s probably a good thing, with bands like Charlie Big Time quietly making their way to our ears.  The group’s newest EP, Dishevelled Revellers is brief, but for those of you unfamiliar with the band it’s the perfect introduction to the group, now a proper trio.

The title track begins the four song affair, beginning casually for the most part.  It’s a quieted pop approach allowing listener’s to get a full grip on the inherent harmonies present within the track, but that changes at the 1 minute mark.  A chorus erupts with a more distorted guitar sound, giving a heavier touch to the softer melody working beneath the tune.  It’s a familiar song, sonically speaking, but one that speaks volumes to the craftsmanship of Charlie Big Time.

You’ll find that the lead single “The Liberation of Love” provides the perfect “pleased to meet you” moment with the band’s newest member, Beth Arzy.  Her effortlessly gentle voice provides the perfect juxtaposition to the deeper male vocal role, and gives a different level to the slower track.  There’s’ a wandering jangling guitar noodling its way about the track, which is one of the reasons I find Dishevelled Revellers so enjoyable; it’s not here to beat you over the head with brilliant pop, only here to let you sit back and enjoy incredible songwriting.

Personally, I immediately fell in love with “Real Estate” from the moment that guitar line comes in.  Strummed guitars are met with solid vocals and various other textures that demonstrates the creativity of the group–it even includes some light horn flourishes. Beth’s here again, but her voice is slightly understated, turning it into more of an instrument of lushness, rather than a counterpoint.  The subject matter seems fairly dark, but you’d never really know by the emotional tug you’ll get when listening to the track, happily floating away with the tune in your heart.

Then it all comes to an end with sullen “Passion and Headaches,” the fourth and final track here. It seems like the perfect song for someone living on the British Isles, or even the Northwestern US.  I find that there’s a bit of a cold haze that floats about the casual track; I picture the group crafting the song on their porch as the rain comes down.  But, like all great pop, you cannot help but to feel a bit of an uplifting aura surrounding the track, much as you’ll find on the whole Dishevelled Revellers EP.  Charlie Big Time have managed to quickly burst into the scene of great pop songwriting, and hopefully we’ll get to hear more from them soon.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/02-The-Liberation-of-Love.mp3]

Download:Charlie Big Time – The Liberation of Love [MP3]

Dishevelled Revellers is now available from Matinee Recordings.

 

Great New Pop Song from Charlie Big Time

Long have I supported Jimmy and his crew over at Matinee Recordings.  Somehow they’re able to scour the world and find some of the most creative and pleasurable pop music, and this time they’ve landed on UK band Charlie Big Time.  While the band was a duo early on, they’ve added Beth Arzy of Trembling Blue Stars to the fold, and her presence is best exemplified on this track from the group’s new EP, Dishevelled Revellers. The EP is currently available over at Matinee’s Shop, and you’ll find all sorts of pop goodness—which is just par for the course from the label–and the band to boot!

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/02-The-Liberation-of-Love.mp3]

Download:Charlie Big Time – The Liberation of Love [MP3]

Classic Pop Track from Bart and Friends

Haven’t heard about Bart and Friends yet? Well, if you follow the Australian pop scene, then surely you’re aware of bands like Lucksmiths, Zebras and Black Tambourine…all which have members in this wonderful supergroup of sorts.  Of course, it doesn’t hurt that they’re releasing their There May Come a Time EP on one of our favorite labels, Matinee Recordings. This is precisely the sort of gems the label is known for, featuring some of the best pop you’re going to hear around the globe.  This tune has Pam Berry taking the lead, backed by  a steadied hand of gorgeous pop destined to make you swoon.  Give it a listen, give it some love.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/There_May_Come_A_Time.mp3]

Download:Bart and Friends – There May Come a Time [MP3]

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