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]

Strawberry Whiplash – Hits in the Car

Rating: ★★★★☆

It’s strange to think that Hits in the Car is truly the debut record for Strawberry Whiplash; seems like I’ve been posting their singles or B-Sides for years now.  Regardless, this collection of thirteen great pop tunes is pretty spot-on for a debut, going between infectious indie pop and noisy janglings; its all worth every minute of time you invest, and one can only suspect that you’ll get more back the more you put in.

Perhaps one of my favorite attributes of this sort of pop is the simplicity of both the entire construction, from song title to the execution of the track itself, it’s no small feat to pull this off as well as Strawberry Whiplash does.  Take, for instance, “Everyone’s Texting,” which might seem like sort an arbitrary song, as we’re aware everyone is definitely texting.  But, from the slight jangle in the guitar work, to the steadying drum beat, the song is more than just plain commentary; it’s pristine pop.

For me, one of the best things about Hits in the Car is the effortless playfulness that seems to coincide with the group’s work.  You can listen to “What Do They Say About Me” and hear that nostalgic swirling guitar, but Sandra’s vocals, purposefully stuttering at points, show both the fun and attention to detail that goes into pop like this.  Even smashing hit “Stop Look and Listen” plays with the vocal delivery, which either demonstrates the fun they’re having, or just their reliance on capturing the perfect hook–it all works for me.

Even more promising is some of the slight experimentation that comes into play on the album, showing that Strawberry Whiplash have other places they’re willing to go, musically speaking.  “It Came to Nothing” has this great little power-pop swagger to it, as Sandra sings gently atop it all.  Or you can listen to the band as they dabble in the noise-rock territory, one of the few songs where Laz takes control of the vocal duties.  The other track where he features prominently is “You Make Me Shine,” a song that sounds remarkably like something you’d expect the Magnetic Fields to craft. You’ve got to credit a group that aren’t willing to be pigeon-holed by their own sound, or the masses for that matter.

When it boils down to it all, you can easily write about each one of these songs as great singles, and assuredly that’s what the group intended with the titles Hits in the Car.  What’s surprising is that they pulled it off, rather successfully.  You can listen to Strawberry Whiplash‘s new effort bits at a time, or as an entire collection, but no matter what, you’re going to find yourself loving it.  It’s simple, it’s poppy, it’s experimental; really, it’s just a gem of a record.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/straw05.mp3]

Download:Strawberry Whiplash – Now I Know It’s You [MP3]

Dreamy New Track from Strawberry Whiplash

Long ago we posted about the newest record from Strawberry Whiplash, Hits in the Car.  Now the band have returned with their second single from the record, “Now I Know It’s You.” While the first single was pure pop goodness, this one has a little bit more of a hazy quality, giving off that dream-pop vibe you know that we love.  The great thing about the group is that their tracks are always short and to the point, giving you the goodness you know you crave.  So, if you’re like us, go pick up the record on March 27th from the good folks over at Matinee Recordings.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/straw05.mp3]

Download: Strawberry Whiplash – Now I Know It’s You [MP3]

More New Music from Cats on Fire!

Cats on Fire have to be my favorite Finnish group, though there have been some great ones of late.  Their first record Our Temperance Movement played on my record player for a solid year, and this new effort All Blackshirts to Me will is shaping up to be one of my favorites in 2012. It’s slated to be released by our friends at Soliti Music and Matinee Recordings, with the overseas release date stated as March 28th. On this new jam, it starts off with just a bit of trickling pop vocals, then it reaches this pinnacle, which honestly has me spinning around my room in absolute glee. Definitely can’t get enough from these guys, can you?

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/A-Few-Empty-Waves.mp3]

Download:Cats on Fire – A Few Empty Waves [MP3]

Azure Blue – Rule of Thirds

Rating: ★★★½☆

Tobias Isaksson might not have the biggest name recognition here in the United States, but he’s been plying his trade in pop songwriting for some time with his former bands Irene and Laurel Music.  His debut record for the excellent Matinee Recordings is titled Rule of Thirds playfully maneuvers back and forth between traditional new wave and modern electro-pop, all the while referencing heartbreak through various allusions.

Album opener “Fingers” clearly defines the scope of Rule of Thirds from the get-go, offering a trickling bit of synth work as Isaksson warmly whispers his lyrics of love lost.  While the pacing of the track is slow, it provides a precursor to what will follow, establishing a strong foundation for the record’s entirety.  Immediately following is one of the standout tracks present here, “Catcher in the Rye.”  Musically, the electronic work almost builds to an arm-swinging dance hit, but what’s interesting is the juxtaposed vocal presence, begging you to remain a bit subdued; it becomes more of a genuine pop gem rather than a dance floor banger. For a bit, the album kind of walks this same line, which at times can be to its detriment, being a bit too complacent, but pushing through reveals much more depth waiting on the latter half.

One of the tracks that immediately stood out to me on the first several listens was “Long Way Down.”  The opening synth sequence was enough to hook me originally, yet it continued to evolve more into a traditional pop song, forcing me to realize that my Azure Blue listening experience may have been all wrong from the start, as it’s more carefully crafted pop tunes that rise above the label of mere synth pop.  “Dreamy Eyes” might completely contradict that little offering, as it’s definitely one of the most upbeat, danceable tracks, but the following track, “The Shore,” is anything but electro-pop.  Musically, yes, there’s some electronics here, but the minute details applied to “The Shore” demonstrate that this could easily be transferred into some genius guitar ballad.  Tobias seems to carefully consider the way his lyrics are delivered, with pitch and tone harmoniously fitting into the musical background.

The more you fall victim to the genius of Rule of Thirds, the more you realize that you could easily replace every bit of electronics with traditional guitar and drums, creating wondrous pop tunes, yet Isaksson as Azure Blue doesn’t seem to be content with normalcy.  He’s carefully crafted an album of love lost around intricate electronic details, providing listeners with track after track of gorgeous, melodious songs, the type that will sink deep into your soul the more you listen.  For this, amongst other reasons, the record is a huge success and worthy of many hours of your time.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/azure01.mp3]

Download: Azure Blue – The Catcher in the Rye [MP3]

More Great Pop from Azure Blue

Just recently we brought you a tune from Tobias Isaksson and his project Azure Blue, and we’ve got another wonderful track to share with you. This number comes from the band’s Rule of Thirds record, which you can purchase right now from Matinee Recordings (one of my favorites).  On the track below, there’s this old school New Order feel, at least in the organic construction of the song, but Isaksson’s vocals have a very different quality, almost airy or dreamy.  It alters the club-driven soundscape, but carries you into a far off place in your mind nonetheless.  Pick up the album at your local store now!

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/04-Little-Confusions.mp3]

Download: Azure Blue – Little Confusions [MP3]

New Music from Azure Blue

For me, it’s been a great week, seeing the triumphant return of probably the best small label out there.  Matinee Recordings had a silent summer, but they’re back, and their roster now includes Azure Blue.  The group is primarily the project of Tobias Isakkson, who played prominent roles with Irene and Laurel Music.  Matinee will be releasing Rule of Thirds this December, and the band is already getting comparisons to groups such as OMD and New Order.  Sounds like a perfect way for Matinee to wrap up the year, and for you as well. Try out this little gem.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/azure01.mp3]

Download: Azure Blue – The Catcher in the Rye [MP3]

Fresh New Track from Strawberry Whiplash

It’s possible that I might have talked about Strawberry Whiplash too many times on these pages, but hey, at least I’m not trying to force Thom Yorke down your throats?  Luckily for you, there’s great new news coming from our dear friends over at Matinee Recordings, who’ll be releasing the Stop, Look and Listen EP from the Scots sometime in Decemeber (I hope!). You’ve just got to love Sandra’s voice, and the strength of the production makes the band sound absolutely superb.  For those of you who get lost in great pop music for days, this new track from our dearest Scottish band will have your head spinning.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/straw04.mp3]

Download: Strawberry Whiplash – Stop Look and Listen [MP3]

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