Maps Of Norway

December 10, 2008

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Maps of Norway are in fact not Norwegian but American, hailing from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Their moody mixture of indie pop, post-rock  and early UK 80s influences got its start in 2004 when formed by former Vespertine-members Jeff Ball (drums) and Eric Hanson (guitar). The band was later perfected when Rebecca Leigh joined and added her distinctive vocal antics to the mix, not to mention bass player Matt Helgeson.

Four years later Maps of Norway have finally completed their debut Die Off Songbird, an album filled with shrilling guitars and an atmosphere that brings The Chameleons and even Bauhaus to mind. Though a bit too drawn out at times, Die Off Songbird is still a must listen for anyone who likes dark new wave as well as good old post-rock. Rebecca Leigh’s vocals are bordering on hypnotic and could probably make even the most boring song sound exciting. 

~ “The Lights”, “The Runout” ~

Deers & Frostbites

December 9, 2008

Christmas is approaching and with it comes the often dreaded Christmas songs. Don’t’ get me wrong, I love this time of year but I’ve never been much for its music. Probably because the stores insist on playing the same old Christmas songs over and over, not to mention that horrible techno Christmas album my dad had on repeat one year. Thankfully there are alternatives, two of which I’m presenting here.

First we have a rather sad but sweet winter song by Twiggy Frostbite. This Swedish band have gained quite a following on MySpace thanks to their animated music video “Heroes”, depicting a a robot and a little girl. While I understand the videos popularity, I’m not really feeling the song. Singer Elin Lindfors has an interesting voice but it borders on annoying during the chorus. Their seasonal tune is however more to my liking as it suits her chilly vocals better:

~ “Lanterns and Stars” ~

The second song is actually related to Twiggy Frostbite as The Deer Tracks consists of their already mentioned singer Elin together with David Lehnberg. Their sound is quite similar to that of TF although perhaps a bit softer around the edges and with more electronic elements. The Christmas tune The Deer Tracks have put together sounds almost as a lullaby a times, with hushed vocals and a scattering piano that makes me think of falling snowflakes:

~ “Christmas Fire” ~

My Violaine Morning

December 8, 2008

Here’s a band I’ve been meaning to write about all year.

My Violaine Morning are truly a wonderful addition to the shoegaze and post-rock genres. They formed in 2004 and released their first EP Where’s My Place to Play in 2007 for free via Grotesque Records, which earned them listeners far outside their home country of Indonesia. With its swirling guitars, distorted sounds and sweeping vocals the five track EP touches on influences like Explosions In The Sky, Slowdive, The Cure and Cocteau Twins. In other words a goldmine for fans of any kind of dream pop.

Though originally a quartet, My Violaine Morning now consists of three members: Rony (guitar; vocals), Kiev (bass; vocals) and Risky (drums). The band is currently working on their first full-length album which hopefully will be completed in February-March of 2009, as well as preparing live shows in Bandung. For a taste of the up-coming material head over to the band’s MySpace where you can stream their latest single “Ceuraniouvle”.

~ “99 Milles”, “Morning Angels” ~

The JEALOUS Sea

December 2, 2008

Yet another lovebird-duo has come to my attention, this time in the form of The JEALOUS Sea. Being the twee-nerd that I am (and still somewhat bitter about missing out on its glory days), I got very excited when stumbling upon this band. Their sound of jangly guitars, sweet pop melodies and cute boy-girl vocal combo really makes you think back to the twee institution that was Sarah Records.

Officially formed in the spring of 2006, this boyfriend/girlfriend collaboration actually got its start several years earlier when Ronardo “Ronnie” P. Recacho had some instrumental songs that he couldn’t find much outside interest for. After re-working some of the songs as well as writing new ones with lyrics he asked girlfriend Taylor B. Crawley if she was interested in working with him, and so the ball started rolling.

Combining their mutual love for indie pop and twee together with shoegaze, mod and 60’s soul- and french pop their collaboration quickly proved to be a good decision. So far The JEALOUS Sea have released songs on various indie labels such as Cloudberry and Series Two Records and appeared on several compilations. Still, it’s just the beginning as Ronnie and Taylor are currently working on old as well as new songs which hopefully will be available for our listening pleasure real soon.

~ “Past The Grey”, “All Over Town”, “The Games We Play” ~

The Exploding Boy

November 28, 2008

First time I heard The Exploding Boy, it was a rather rough demo I stumbled upon on the internet. The song was called “Cold Things Start To Burn” and despite the not so great sound quality I immediately got attached to it. A polished version as well as a full-length album soon followed and now the band are working on their sophomore effort. Nicklas, one of the band members was kind enough to send me their latest single to share with you guys.

Taken their name after a B-side by The Cure, it’s no surprise that these Swedes draw heavily from the 70’s post-punk and 80’s alternative pop scene. Also no surprise is that many think they sound like a modern mixture of The Cure, Interpol and Joy Division. It has undoubtedly been a good combination though as success has come quickly for the band. Just five months after forming in 2006 they played their first gig and the self-titled debut was released in 2007 to critical praise.

By the sound of their latest single “40 Days”, The Exploding Boy are sticking to their dark and gritty sound formula. No exact date for their sophomore effort has yet been set, but a new single (“Intervention”) is planned for release early next year as well as a European tour during the spring.

~ “Cold Things Start To Burn”, “40 Days” ~

Max Justus

November 27, 2008

Max Justus has accomplished something I’ve long considered impossible – making Kanye West not only sound bearable but actually really good to my ears. His remix of “Street Lights” transforms the song from a rather badly sung half-ballad to a cool slow-jam club track.

I shouldn’t have expected any less though as Max Justus is also one of the few electronica artists who manage to hold my attention by mainly doing instrumentals. Usually I need vocals to fully enjoy a song, but Justus has a way to fill up the audio sensory experience to the max with his sharp synthesizers and funky hip hop beats. Just listen to “Altered Beast” from his latest effort Five Leaping Leopards and you’ll know exactly what I mean.

Also make sure to pop over to his MySpace for a free download of the album Talking To Strangers.

~ “Street Lights” (Max Justus remix), “Altered Beast” ~

Happiness

November 24, 2008

Few things in life bring me as much happiness as music does. So fittingly I’ve stumbled upon a great new band called just that – Happiness.

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And don’t they look like a happy bunch!? Well, not overly but the name isn’t completely sarcastic either. Being a part of Stockholm’s growing krautrock scene, Happiness have a fun and experimental pop sound that brings the early 80s to mind. Just listen to the old-school synthesizers on the featured tracks and you’ll know what I mean – it was what won me over immediately, soon followed by the singer’s quirky voice.

The band recently released a split-EP together with Tar…Feathers (also highly recommended!) on a German label and performed as the opening act to Xiu Xiu in Stockholm. Their next gig will also take place in the capital city of Sweden, at Teater Scenario to be exact, on 20th November. So you 08:or better go and support them! You can also buy a copy of said EP at their shows or simply go here + here to place an order.

“Look At That Rabbit Go”, “Neighbourhood” ~

La Chansons

November 24, 2008

 
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La Chansons took form in 2004 when Greg and Carson began dating. Like in a modern fairytale, Greg asked Carson if she wanted to be in a band with him on one of those dates and they have been spreading their kitschy electro pop ever since.

Two albums have been made so far – Love Love Love All Day and the latest, Midnight Aerobics. Old aerobic movies in particular seem to be a inspiration for the duo, not only with song titles as “Workout Love” and “Leotard Stories” but also visually in Carson’s campy 80’s art and their videos:

Bonus fact: Recently turned electropopper Kyle Andrews sings background vocals on “Cinderella Tonight”.

~ “Cinderella Tonight”, “Workout Love” ~

Rae Spoon

November 24, 2008

Hailing from the Canadian prairies, Rae Spoon set out to tour the world in his early twenties. Back then his music was mostly country oriented but on his fourth album, the up-coming superioryouareinferior, Spoon has a gone towards a more advanced sound, blending the country with bluegrass, indie rock and experimental nuances.

As a young transgendered artist, Rae Spoon has found inspiration in the darker sides of being open about his identity, resulting in some of the most beautiful songs I’ve personally heard in a long time. He blends hope with fear, reassurance with despair, taking you on a roller coaster ride of emotions.

While his previous albums have only been released digitally, superioryouareinferior (out on October 7th) will also be available as a physical album. I highly suggest that you pick up a copy, regardless of its format. This is definitely one of the best albums of the year for me.

~ “Come On Forest Fire Burn The Disco Down” ~

Miss Kenishi

November 6, 2008

Although she’s German I think Sweden can take some credit for Miss Kenishi, as she has informed me that she spends five weeks here every year. Clearly that has had a big impact on her music. Oh all right, maybe I’m being a bit greedy…

Miss Kenishi debuted in 2006 with Collision Time but didn’t catch my attention until just recently with the track “Death Cab” off her sophomore effort Fox (2008).

God knows there are more singer/songwriters out there than the genre probably requires but I think Miss Kenishi manages to stand out thanks to her suspenseful songwriting. Her music could very well be the soundtrack to a grim but beautiful fairytale. Fact is that she’s made a couple of German movie scores over the years.

Besides making music, Miss Kenishi is also an avid painter and has some drawings (dubbed “Kenishis”) up on her MySpace. Cute as they are though, I have to say that I prefer her as a musician.

~ “Death Cab”, “Limbo” ~