Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Mon Frere-Real Vampires EP

August 1, 2007

mon-frere-front

Band Name: Mon Frere

Album Name: Real Vampires EP

Best Element: Ridiculously inventive songwriting

Genre: Dirty, jazzy, heavy indie-rock.

Website: www.monfrere.net

Label Name: Cake Records (www.cakerecords.com)

Band E-mail: monfreremusic@yahoo.com

Mon Frere hits you in the face. You lose one man. You get to start over at the beginning of the level, and fight off the death ninjas, Radiohead-ish guitar squalls, and Nouela Johnston’s anguished vocals. You don’t stand much of a chance.

Nope, Mon Frere has just wiped the floors with you. Real Vampires is impeccably produced, immaculately written, ridiculously inventive, and downright rocking. Not bad for a debut EP of a band that has been together around a year.

Even so, the band sounds like it’s been together for years, as their chemistry produces pin-point timing, deceptively complex songwriting, and a dark, powerful sound that sounds like an angry jazz band beating Radiohead to death with its own instruments on a dance floor. The jazzy sound is best showcased in the tiptoe/stomp/tiptoe feel of “Up Circle”, which features seriously cymbal-heavy jazz drumming and a lounge-like effect on the keyboards. Pair that with the tom-heavy, shrieking-vocals, adrenaline-fueled, all-out rock attack that is “R.V.G.D.S (Fighting Mad)”, and you’ve got a band that knows its limitations.

The underlying connecting pieces of Mon Frere’s sound are the unquestionably good vocals of Nouela Johnston and the apocalyptic guitar sludge that permeates every song on the album. Johnston’s vocals are beyond good- the range is fantastic, the tone is spot-on, and the lines are catchy beyond belief (see the slow-burning “Orcs Don’t Know It” for proof). She’s got an outstanding general ear for pop, as her piano lines also capture that same charm that makes her vocal lines unforgettable (see the outro of “Orcs Don’t Know It”).

The heavy guitars are done exactly right- never crushing the life out of the sound, but turning it into something much more fist-raising, rock-bearing, and ear-stunning. Whether muting maliciously (“Real Ultimate Power”), pummeling the ear (“R.V.G.D.S.”), or driving the song (“Real Ultimate Power”, again), there’s always something that will make you sit up and take notice in the guitar lines.

There’s something for the listener of any genre here, whether “Somebody Told Me” is as heavy as you get, Chevelle rocks your mind, “Paranoid Android” is the apex of your musical world, or you hate bands that can be compared to other bands. There is something totally alien and completely familiar in Mon Frere- I automatically love it because I feel instantly acquainted with it, and yet I’m always finding something new and exciting within it. This EP is done in under 15 minutes- give me a full-length before I spin my EP to death, please. There’s just nothing better in the independent rock world right now than the insanity that is Mon Frere.

-Stephen Carradini

Independentclauses@hotmail.com

How Do You Escape Musical Apathy?

How Do You Escape Musical Apathy?

Sometimes you just need new music. That’s how I’ve been over the last few months (partially explaining my lack of columns). There has not been anything that has turned me on. Hardcore bands seem to be a dime a dozen and post-hardcore/ emo bands are being spawned faster than bacteria in a dead deer. Each band that steps on stage plays the same style with the same song patterns. There are patterns and riff styles that I used to love- and I’ve just gotten bored with them. I’ve been buying music like candy but I found myself going with bands and labels I knew and getting into that sickening pattern of buying what I knew would be high quality, but not any different than before. For some unknown reason I wasn’t branching out.

Finally, I went to Borders (gift certificates- I would never spend that much money on CDs of my own free will) and told myself that I had to buy a random album- something off a label I didn’t know well and a band that I had only ever heard the name of. I was figuring that forcing myself to listen to something that I can’t expect anything from would cure my ailment.

I ended up with The Haze of Infatuation by The Burning Season, off of Hand of Hope Records. This album was a different experience for me as it was a Christian hardcore band. The only Christian hardcore bands I really listened to up until thisalbum were Solid State artists (For those not acquainted with Solid State, it is the most liberal Christian label out there. Bands include He is Legend, The

Bled, and Norma Jean). The true Christian hardcore genre was new to me. I found I really enjoyed it. The messages may have been a little extreme for me but there was a passion in the music that intrigued me. The band played with an intensity that I haven’t heard for a long time (save a few). I can truly say that this album saved me from a downward musical spiral. I’m not saying that this album will be everyone’s cure for the musical doldrums, but the process should be.

Go to your record store and walk around until an album you don’t know catches your eye. My method is looking at the album cover. If it has cool cover art, 3 out of 4 times it will be a worthwhile album. Or you may find a different way to find your “random albums”. Just do it, because it is an amazing feeling to put an album in and not to be able to expect anything from it.

-Scott Landis

rebassist66@comcast.net

Page France-Hello, Dear Wind

pagefranceBand Name: Page France

Album Name: Hello, Dear Wind

Best Element: Charming, endearing songwriting

Genre: Indie-pop

Website: www.pagefrance.net

Label Name: Fall Records (www.fallrecords.com)

Band E-mail: contact@pagefrance.net

It’s not very often that a sophomore release is more quirky than its predecessor. But if anyone was to make their second CD more endearing than the first by giving it more strange characteristics, it would have to be Page France- the purveyor of philosophy disguised in childish lyrics, of complex songs hidden in giddy, optimistic indie-pop, and of life-brightening uniqueness.

Page France’s first full-length outing, Come, I’m a Lion!, introduced us to the mind of Michael Nau- a mind obsessed with beautifully perfect, symmetric, joyful songwriting, as well as love, religion, and concrete imagery. It wasn’t perfectly produced, but it was close- everything retained a charming glow, and everything meshed beautifully. The album flowed reasonably well, and it was good.

Hello, Dear Wind expands upon everything Come, I’m a Lion! established- the songwriting is more endearing, the lyrical meaning is deeper while the lyrical front is even more catchy and fun, the melodies pop out with zest, and the deft mid-fi production makes the album brilliant.

There are two definitive arenas of Page France – instrumentation and lyrics. The musical side of Page France has changed some since Come, I’m a Lion! in the fact that the songs have many more layers. Many of the previous songs would hold the same two or three layers throughout the song. This new album sees Nau and his co-conspirators layering and layering and layering, producing songs that are much more full and much more realized than the minimalist ditties that ended up on the previous album. The opener “Chariot” climaxes in two guitar lines, a toy piano, a tambourine, and a drum beat. Now that’s full. The guitar lines themselves have gotten better- they stick much easier than before, and there are less filler tracks this time around. Nau has also refined his guitar playing- Nau now has, undeniably, his own style of guitar playing. Even so, “Elephant” sounds like a lo-fi Beatles take- the guitar playing may be unique, but tried and true songwriting flourishes never change. The single “Junkyard” is a jubilant track that employs layers as part of the song- not just as flourishes, “Finders” is a very mellow track that is like nothing Page France has ever done before, and “Trampoline” uses the signature Page France sing-a-long section with gleeful abandon. There’s never been a better use of a bunch of random people singing a chorus- ever. This includes you, Polyphonic Spree. In short, the indie-pop solo project that was so minimal last time around is now a full indie-pop band, and the album is much better for it. Every song is worthy of being called the ‘best track’, and that’s not very common with a 14-track album.

The second arena is that of lyrics. The lyrics are much more defined this time around, and while they still retain the characteristic of including random nouns into the song just for fun, the ideas make sense now. Whereas Come, I’m a Lion! was all about love, Hello, Dear Wind is about religion. Now don’t jump ship just because there’s a track named “Jesus” on this album. While there is a lot of religious imagery here (Nau is especially entranced with angels) this is not a preachy, Christian album. This is a songwriter with some religious undertones. There’s still a lot of room dedicated to love and disappointment, two more of Nau’s favorite themes. The album ends up being much more quotable than Nau’s previous work, which was scattered and not exactly cohesive. The best track here lyrically is also the shortest- the beautiful ditty “Finders”. “You’ll be a diamond in the sand/and all of the finders will clap their hands/glory abounds us, we’ve found dry land!/and all of us finders will clap our hands.” It may seem odd out of context, but in context of the song it’s close to rapturous. Other songs, like the wonderful opener “Chariot”, delve into a little bit quirkier territory: “Come and carry us, come and marry us, to the blushing circus king. Dance like elephants, as he comes to us, through a fiery golden ring…” Although odd out of context (again), it makes an unusual amount of sense when placed in the quirky indie-pop setting. That’s part of the immense charm of this album.

Michael Nau and Co. have created a completely charming, endlessly endearing, uniquely understated, and totally immersing sophomore album. I can’t take it out of my stereo, and I don’t think that I’ll have to for a while- it feels new every time I hear it. If you like any type of indie-pop, Hello, Dear Wind will be the best album of the year for you, and that’s not an understatement.

-Stephen Carradini

independentclauses@hotmail.com

Paradigm-Mainstream Epidemic

paradigmBand Name: Paradigm

Album Name: Mainstream Epidemic

Best Element: Unique mix of alternative rock and old school punk

Genre: Rock

Website: www.paradigmrock.net

Label Name: Self-released

Band E-mail: paradigmupdates@yahoo.com

Paradigm is definitely not your average alternative rock band.

In the bio on their website, Paradigm describe themselves as “an intense, avant-garde modern rock band full of passion and integrity, ranging from heavy, driving madness to engaging atmospheric realms, deviating from today’s prevalent and ubiquitous trends.” To an extent, this is not very far from the truth.

The phrase “to an extent” is used because while they deviate greatly from the new millennium trend of dark, self-deprecating, depressing lyrics and Limp Bizkit style, their overall sound is a definite throwback to mid 90’s alternative rock bands such as Soundgarden and Pearl Jam- with bit of a Bad Religion twist. This definitely gives Paradigm a unique sound. They have the melodic qualities of the mid 90’s rock, a touch of punk rock, and occasionally a really cool 80’s metal guitar riff.

What hinders this album the most is the recording quality, which is to be expected from a self-released album. It’s not poor, it’s not scratchy, but the vocals come out a little flat, and the music itself has a dull quality. In the future, should they gain the attention of a major studio, their talent and passion would more clearly be demonstrated.

Lyrically, Paradigm has a very simple style. “Simple”, however, does not mean that the lyrics are poorly written. The emotion is there, and just enough words are used to get the message across. There’s no need to look for any deep meaning to the songs whatsoever, it’s stated plainly, but it doesn’t come across as trite.

Would Mainstream Epidemic be at the top of this reviewer’s list of favorite independent bands? No, but, is it still worth a listen? Absolutely.

Andrea Caruso

(starryblueskye24@aol.com)

Pontiak-The White Buffalo EP

Band Name: Pontiak

Album Name: The White Buffalo EP

Best Element: Unique rootsy mood.

Genre: Melancholy Indie-rock

Website: http://www.organgrinderrecords.com/bands.cfm/bandID/3/band/Pontiak

Label Name: Organ Grinder Records (www.organgrinderrecords.com)

Band E-mail: jennings.carney@gmail.com

Hand-numbered releases reveal a lot about a band’s character. If a band is daring enough to release one, it’s proof that they believe in the desirability of their band’s product. If the number is small, you can assume the band has got a bit of an ego going on (humble bands won’t ever number their releases- they don’t want people to know how good or bad it’s going). If the number is in the hundreds (as in Pontiak’s The White Buffalo EP), the band has some serious dedication to its sound.

I hold in my hand the two-hundred and eighty-fourth copy of Pontiak’s EP. It has a total run of 300, as noted by the 284/300 lovingly written on both the CD front and the inset art. That’s an accomplishment in itself.

But you’re here to see how Pontiak sounds, so I will stop my admiration of their work ethic and start the critiquing of music. Their sound is a very low-slung, rootsy sound, drawing on low vocals, slow tempos, and unique aesthetics. I hesitate to say mellow, because even though Pontiak is not the loudest band around, they aren’t trying to put you to sleep (except on the lullaby-esque “It Takes One”). Their intensity just takes on different forms. The creepy, mournful call of “Strings Dancing” feels like a misplaced spiritual, until the band kicks in and turns it into a bluesy rocker of sorts. Nothing Pontiak does is especially categorizable into a specific genre, so when I say ‘of sorts’, I mean it bears resemblance.

The non-tempo-based intensity continues on “Night’s Daughter”, which is bass-heavy with some graveling vocals, and with “Doors to Haiti”, a neo-jazzy piece in the vein of Nick Cave and co. Closer “Ophelia” is the real treat here, as a punchy bass line and cymbal-dependent drum lines create a hectic atmosphere for the guitars and vocals to play around in. The low-key post-punk that is inadvertently created is simply astounding, and the replay value on “Ophelia” is through the roof.

The nods to folk and indie-pop are evident here, and the subtle hints of rock are visible, but for the most part, this EP is the genre of melancholia. Pontiak feels like a dark, lonely night in a cabin or a graveyard somewhere, and sometimes that’s the place you want to be.

-Stephen Carradini

Independentclauses@hotmail.com

Range Defective-For the Cost of the Shirt Off Your Back EP

rangedefectiveBand Name: Range Defective

Album Name: For the Cost of the Shirt Off Your Back EP

Best Element: Great, cohesive rock songwriting

Genre: Rock

Website: www.rangedefective.tk

Label Name: Self-released

Band E-mail: N/A

Range Defective plays rock. They make no nonsense about it either- they fall somewhere between the Doors, the Strokes, and the Ramones. The time-perfect, very clean drumming of the Strokes, the odd breakdowns and sound of the Doors, and the healthy, rebellious attitude of the Ramones are all wrapped up in Range Defective. It’s a formula that has much potential, but needs a lot of space to grow.

The best moments of this quick EP come when there are no vocals, as the instruments field a great chemistry. They are consistently interesting, whether it be on the grungy “Your Time is Up”, the down-and-dirty rock of “March 17th”, or the more pop-oriented “A Penny for My Thoughts”. Sometimes the sound is full, sometimes it’s not- but wherever the instruments wander to, it sounds good.

The problem here is the vocals. Throughout the entire EP, the vocals are loud, prone to falling out of key, and off-time. They grate on the ears, and the melodies the vocals come up with don’t exactly connect with the listener. It seems that for the time being, Range Defective would be much better served with a different vocalist or no vocalist at all- the instrumentals are that good.

The exciting thing about Range Defective is that they are excellent musically- as they grow, they will become more and more brilliant songwriters. The not-so-exciting part is the vocals, which are only slowing down the great songwriting on this EP.

Stone Face Norman-Please Pirate Me

Band- Stone Face Norman

Album- Please Pirate Me

Best Element- Diversity and still quality

Genre- Wide range of Rock

Label- N/a

Website- www.stonefacenorman.com

Band E-mail: n/a

It’s noticeable throughout this CD that Stone Face Norman (SFN) is clearly making quality music not only that they will enjoy, but everyone else too. There is a fun approach taken to this album that can be felt in every song. It’s not about going big with their music, not about pleasing every fan, and not about making music the band themselves won’t like. They even say on the cover of the CD “please pirate me”, and “feel free to make as many as you want”. Clearly, “Quality, not Quantity” is a phrase much proven by album.

Standing only 4 songs strong, the album is jaw dropping. The replay value of the album is stunning, as such a small package contains a lot more then meets the eye. The genre of Please Pirate Me is literally all over the map; from old whiskey rock, to post hardcore instrumentals and screams, to blues and jazz- and all with witty, intelligent lyrics. Lynyrd Skynyrd meets electric rock with the first song “Georgia”, who’s got a down-home country feel with lightning fast guitar cuts. The lead singer, who boasts a great voice, shares smart lyrics with back-ups and echoes from the other band members. It’s shocking how Stone Face Norman can make two different forms of rock fit together so compatibly. Shocking doesn’t even help to describe the feelings when the songs “So Stained” and “Train Song” play. These two show the band’s more rocking side with loud, thundering instrumentals, low screams, great rock solos, and great sung vocals. “Scarlett” will rock your socks off as the band shows even more talent playing a funky, blues type song with an alternative feel.

Not only does Stone Face Norman make some gutsy calls in their diversity, but they pull it off smoothly. Every track is quality and done with a kick that will surprise and please every fan of genres jazz through hard rock. Or if you enjoy Foo Fighters, Lynyrd Skynyrd, or solid rock in general check out Stone Face Norman’s Please Pirate Me. Make sure to keep an eye on them as I’m sure their next works will be just as good- if not better. I see these guys going very big very soon.

-Tony Kennedy

kookemonster2003@yahoo.com

The Pure Joy of Rock Music

The Pure Joy of Rock Music

This column is a little bit more personal than usual. Sometimes I’m a little bit emotional in my editorial rantings, but this one may get just a little bit weepy. It’s about, of course, my favorite independent band.

My favorite independent band is broken up, and they have been for about three weeks now. This band had a meteoric rise and a meteoric fall- they came from nowhere, recorded the best independent album in Oklahoma’s recent memory, played a couple of fantastic shows, built a nice-sized fanbase, and then, just as quickly as it had appeared, died. They never opened for any major-label bands, never played any monster shows to hundreds of people, never had a website, never got their own e-mail address, never had more than one pressing of their brilliant album (it sold out), and never got the appreciation they deserved. They are, were, and will ever be a tiny blip on the radar of Oklahoma music- a ‘see-also’ when people research who Scales of Motion played with. And yet, they are, and will probably be for a long time, one of my favorite bands.

You see, The Programme is no ordinary band. Max Porter, fresh off playing bass in the recently-folded emo band Everyday Value, hooked up with one of the guitarists and the drummer from EDV, bent on playing something completely new and different. With Max leading the way on guitar, Mark Chronister backing him up on rhythm and ‘pretty guitar’ (more on that later), Jed Skalnik rockin’ the drums, and later addition of Travis Loafman on bass, the Programme ensued.

They had effectively thrown together a Who-esque rocker (Max), an artistic, beauty-minded guitarist (Mark), a punk rocker on bass (Travis), and an emo/hardcore drummer (Jed). Four completely different styles of playing. But did the Programme hang their heads and give up? No- they formed their own style of music.

I’m not kidding you. They took all of their influences and turned out an album of immense beauty, fist-raising rock, and everything inbetween. They didn’t have to worry about a vocalist- they didn’t bother to get one.

But even so- the album Theseus and the Time Machine is still a concept album. Even without a vocalist, these insurmountable art-rockers made a concept album by making every song title tell a piece of the story- the story of a mad scientist who creates a time machine, falls in love with a girl from the past, goes back in time to stop the husband and his new lover from meeting, and screws up time completely, sending him on a wayward trek to try and set time right again. No conclusion. The last track, the most mournful piece of rock music I’ve ever heard, is “The Wayward Time Traveler”. No conclusion.

How do you have the balls to do that on your first album? The answer is: have music that backs it all up. I’ve been in the studio it was recorded in, and I can tell you that it’s not the studio that made this album brilliant- it’s pure talent. Pure, unadulterated talent. These guys made a house studio in the sticks of Tulsa sound like an overpriced studio somewhere in the nice part of town. Their music does the talking, singing, and lyrics for the album.

The music is impeccable- from the stomping rock of “Thunderdog (Theseus Creates the Time Machine)” to the keys-heavy “The Pangs of Solitude” and the raw, rocking “They Make Love” (Porter once got so into this balls-out rock song that he kicked the bell kit he uses in “Return to the Future to Find That Everything Has Changed” into the audience, smacking an extremely surprised female fan in the torso. He never batted an eye). Porter leads the way throughout the album, laying down the melodies in each song, whether it be chord-based, riff-based, or spaz-based, as on the ridiculously complex, mathy “The Death of Xanthus”. Chronister layers his guitar licks on top of Porter’s- and it is evident throughout the album that Chronister is fond of the palm mute and pretty, undistorted sounds, as his parts are littered with them- and yet it never gets repetitive. The drumming throughout is the most shocking part of this album- the drums are often more complex than are imaginable (especially the opening drum solo on “They Make Love” and the fills randomly placed throughout the album). They propel the sound through apocalyptic openings with just the right amount of minimalism, through tension-filled rock pieces with fitting fills and noises (specifically the gock-blocking “Enter Xanthus, Pianissimo’s Husband”), and through anything else that is needed. And the bass? The bass pulls it all together, with memorable riffs everywhere (check the sweet bass solo on “They Make Love”). Every member of the band is a player. There’s not anything to criticize on this album. The timings are perfect, the melodicism is impeccable, the songwriting is mature beyond compare, and the transitions actually sound good. They make everyone else sound amateur.

I haven’t even talked about the best song on the album. “Theseus Meets Pianissimo” is 4:37 of rock music for the pure joy of it. There’s nothing that makes me smile quicker than the opening chords of “Theseus Meets Pianissimo”. There’s nothing more amazing in the independent rock world.

You can hear a little bit of their prowess on their purevolume site (www.purevolume.com/theprogramme), but that’s not the whole picture. It just doesn’t show their versatility- they are so many styles and genres.

I may have gotten a few little details off- this story is one I gathered from bits and pieces, never having a straight conversation detailing the history of The Programme. That’s perfectly fine with me. Most of what makes a band good is in the music- but what makes a band great is the unknowns, the possibilities, the myths that make people keep wondering.

The Programme is pure rock joy. They played for the sheer fun of rocking out. They ended up being the best there is, and when they split up to go to college, I mourned. I still mourn. I’m probably going to send this to them, just because I know they’d like to know: they were someone’s favorite band.

-Stephen Carradini

Independentclauses@hotmail.com

Alphabeat-Alphabeat Copenhagen Records

alphabeatAlphabeatAlphabeat
Copenhagen Records

Alphabeat does not create the slick, urban dance routine music that has become synonymous with “pop music.” Instead, they sound like a bunch of giddy friends that got together and started to throw down sugary hooks in a basement somewhere. Alphabeat’s debut is chock full of the kind of quirky pop music that was made popular decades ago… boogie beats, dual voiced singing and a wallop of confectioner’s sugar. Remember the band Len and their hit “Steal My Sunshine” from the late nineties? If they had perfected the ideas they were working on, they may have sounded a bit like Alphabeat.
The record opens with the line “I was not looking for arty farty love,” from the instant pop/rock punch of “10,000 Nights of Thunder,” and it is a precursor of what’s to come. The album has not been created from tortured souls or manufactured to become a critic’s darling, so it may not seem on the surface to be anything special. But, anyone who brushes its jolly pop precision off as something trivial clearly does not know how difficult it is to write perfect pop melodies such as those found on “Fascination,” the album’s biggest hit so far. Although not every song on the record is quite up to par with its standouts, there is a trilogy of tracks late in the running order that clearly shows how amazing the band is at what they do. “Ocean Blue” follows in the footsteps of “Fascination” as a gorgeous duet between lead singers Anders SG and Stine Bramsen, while “Fantastic 6” is an absolute throwdown of a dance track. The insanely catchy whistling of “The Hours” should surely bolster that track to hit status. Even when the record slows down, such as on the hymnal closer “Nothing But My Baby” and the glam stomp of “Rubber Boots/Mackintosh,” with its hilarious refrain: “you should wear rubber, always wear rubber!”, it still proudly waves the pop flag.
More than any other release so far this year, Alphabeat revels in joy. Many albums profess to be party starters, but few actually are. From the bright colors of the album’s cover (depicting the almost-too-happy faces of the band) to the relentless energy found inside, this is pop music at its most kitschy, allowing it to become somehow timeless.

Nick James

jamesN65@gmail.com

April Singles to Check Out

April Singles to Check Out

The Vincent Black Shadow – “Metro”
Let’s get it out of the way first: I hate this band’s name. It has something to do with a motorcycle, I’m told. Whatever. What’s important is that this Canadian band has produced a song that is the missing link between No Doubt’s Tragic Kingdom and Return Of Saturn. It has a great old school No Doubt feel to it and could have been a huge hit for that band. But, the year is now 2007 and, although singer Cassandra Ford’s vocals bear a remarkable pre-LAMB Stefani resemblance, VBS completely deserves huge success now. Buy their album and obsess yourself over this song, because if there’s any justice in the world you’ll be hearing it on the radio soon. It is simply the catchiest and most immediate thing I’ve heard all month. (can be sampled on #1 Hits From Another Planet)

-Nick James

Triple Entendre – “The Company You Keep”
This track from the LA-based indie trio is a great example of a diamond in the rough amongst droves of undiscovered acts on Myspace. Fronted by experienced songwriter Matt Muller, Triple Entendre shows an incredible amount of promise. The track here, “The Company You Keep,” was recorded after their first rehearsal, which is shocking. The band sounds as if they had been playing together for years. The songs are simple yet effective pop-rock conglomerations of catchy hooks and fun drum beats that don’t get old quickly. Though minimalist, the guitar work is tasteful and appropriate, and the bass is rock-solid. Get into it!

-Declan Ryan

Seven – “City Is Burning”
Many current bands have been described as “the Blondie of the 2000’s,” but for my money Seven has come the closest. The similarity at times is quite striking (singer Annette Gil is a dead ringer, at least vocally), and “City Is Burning” sounds just like a long-lost Blondie classic. Don’t think that it’s just a savvy impersonation, though. The band is absolutely amazing… completely adept with a catchy melody and a synthesizer. Along with similar bands like The Sounds and Surferosa, these Norwegians deserve massive success. (can be sampled on #1 Hits From Another Planet)

-Nick James

The Shapes – “Dreaming of an M-16”
“Dreaming of an M16” is such a perfect pop song, combining pulsing synth and crunchy guitar with a dual male/female vocal that sits somewhere between Joss Stone and the Arctic Monkeys. I don’t know how it hasn’t been discovered by radio somewhere. The Shapes are a New York band, and perhaps that explains their semi-obscurity. If this band had popped up somewhere in the UK, they’d probably already be huge. Quite wonderfully, the band describes their music as “Barry White meets Iron Maiden.” That should really be enough for you to check them out. (can be sampled on #1 Hits From Another Planet)

-Nick James

Shorthand Phonetics – “There’s Only So Much Opera One Can Take at a Time”

Let’s travel back to the early 1990’s, shall we? Imagine that somewhere, a songwriter is sitting in his basement, writing songs with the shamelessly poppy, unpretentious and unabashedly amateurish energy of seminal Lookout! Records bands. Now watch him get bitten by a radioactive spider, or something equally weird, and you can start to get an idea of what the evil genius behind Shorthand Phonetics, Ababil Ashari’s songs sound like. Despite a series of lineup changes that have left the band as a solo project, Ababil has been working consistently and continues to improve as a songwriter. If you’re into lo-fi, fun songs, check out Shorthand Phonetics.

Declan Ryan
sendemailtodeclan@gmail.com

Overnight Lows – “My Oh My”
Like another of my favorite new bands, Lucky Soul, Overnight Lows plays a classic blend of pop and rock fronted by a charismatic blonde. “My Oh My,” my (oh my!) favorite track that I’ve heard from the band, has got beautiful, almost electronic verses which give way to a singalong, radio-friendly chorus. It is an amazing pop song, and exhibit A as to why this Californian foursome should be ruling the charts. In a way their music sounds like the kind of thing that was popular in the mid to late nineties… straightforward pop/rock delivered with a timeless punch. Warning: one listen and it will be glued to your brain. (can be sampled on #1 Hits From Another Planet)

-Nick James
jamesN65@gmail.com

Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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