clienteleIf you’re a dedicated fan of indie pop, odds are you already know about UK based band the Clientele, who’ve been making breathy, lushly produced pop since the turn of the century. Bonfires on the Heath represents all the qualities that have earned them their fanbase: Airy, dreamy vocals backed by rich and eclectic instrumentation, featuring strings, horn sections, organs, the occasional sitar and a healthy amount of reverb and acoustic guitar, all deeply influenced by 60’s and 70’s pop and psychedelia, styles they’ve made very much their own. For the most part, Bonfires On The Heath is about as laid back as its title may suggest, though there are couple of quick rockers, the all too brief “Sketch” and “Share The Night.” The overall mood is by turns romantic, pastoral, nostalgic, dreamlike and certainly haunting. I haven’t decided where this album ranks among the Clientele’s body of work, but that aside, it’s some pretty terrific music from a band that’s managed to carve their out own distinctive niche in modern indie pop. Standout cuts: “I Wonder Who We Are,” “Harvest Time,” “Never Anyone But You” and “Tonight.”

everythinggoeswrongFor the first couple of tracks of Everything Goes Wrong, their second album, it seems like Brooklyn based trio Vivian Girls will be serving up more of the same fast paced 60’s pop and surf rock flavored punk found on their 2008 debut, which would in no way would have been a bad thing, of course. That doesn’t really turn out to be the case, however, as the middle of the album contains harder edged tracks like “Tension,” “Survival” and “Out For The Sun,” the latter of which contains stellar punk guitar work that recalls another NYC band, Sonic Youth. They even add a little rockabilly to the mix with “Double Vision.” The album ends as it begins, with two more punk pop tunes, but by then, Vivian Girls have made the case that they are more than a one trick pony kind of a band, and moreover, may even have the chops to someday fill the great void left in the punk scene by Sleater-Kinney when they called it quits, and that’s high praise indeed. Standout cuts: “Can’t Get Over You,” “Tension,” “Survival” and “Out Of The Sun.”

generationalsconlawNew Orleans based band Generationals makes its debut with Con Law, a stylish indie pop record that plays mix and match with genres, mostly New Wave style guitar and electropop as filtered through the 60’s, and sometimes vice versa. The retro pop field is admittedly pretty populated these days, but by adding in touches like a horn section and some soulful vocals, the band creates a big, diverse sound, and are able to keep things interesting from track to track. Con Law is a fun, very summery album, and recommended for indie pop and electropop fans. Standout cuts: “Nobody Could Change Your Mind,” “When They Fight, They Fight,” “Our Time 2 Shine” and “Exterior Street Day.”

explorersclubIf you are particularly enamored with the Beach Boys or Brian Wilson, then I’m definitely going to recommend to you Freedom Wind, the new album from Charleston based band the Explorers Club. On their Myspace page, they list among their influences the Beach Boys, of course, but also the Zombies, the Association, Glen Campbell, Phil Spector, Motown and the Beatles. I’d throw the Everly Brothers in there, too, as some of the songs sound like a collaboration between the Brothers and the Boys. (Beach Brothers!) Unlike a lot of other indie bands that wear their Beach Boys influences on their sleeves, the Explorers Club don’t try to reinvent the wheel and try to merge those influences with prog rock or art rock or some other such synthesis, but rather try to make fresh sounding modern glosses on their influences. That said, it’s not quite a purist approach, either, as they mix things up enough to avoid sounding like a tribute band. The main goal here seems to provide listeners with a set of well crafted, summery pop music meant to inspire pleasure, and towards that end, the Explorers Club have succeeded. Standout cuts: “Don’t Forget The Sun,” “Lost My Head,” “Hold Me Tight” and “Last Kiss.”

The Grand Archives

March 8, 2008

Mat Brooke, former member of Band Of Horses, is one of the founders of Seattle based indie pop band the Grand Archives, which has released its earnest and charming self-titled debut, following a self-released CD-R. The self-professed reference points are late 60’s pop, specifically the Beach Boys and the Bee Gees, as well as the Turtles and the Mamas and the Papas, all reflected in both the music and the harmonies and big choruses featured here. There’s also some serious whistling going on. It’s all lovingly done, with enough of its own personality that you don’t feel like you’re listening to an anonymous “sounds-like” compilation: They throw in a well placed steel guitar in “A Setting Sun,” for example, and combine harmonica and banjo with some reggae on the short instrumental, “Breezy No Breezy.” The Grand Archives are stylists, but are savvy and smart enough to have mastered the styles they are emulating to the point where they can put their own spin on them, which I think is the key to their success here. Plus they just sound like they’re having a good time, which is definitely an infectious feeling. Standout cuts: “Torn Blue Foam Couch,” “George Kaminski,” “Sleepdriving” and “The Crime Window.”

The Whitsundays

January 29, 2008

The debut album by Edmonton based band the Whitsundays gets off to a slow start with two good if unremarkable songs, but kicks into gear with “I Want It All” and maintains it for the rest of the album. They have a early to mid 60’s inspired pop rock sound, with most of their material being midtempo or so, though they slow things way down for a closing ballad called “Bring It On Home.” They add some modern indie pop touches to the mix, too, which keeps their music from sounding like mere imitation. A good first album, definitely worth checking out. Standout cuts: “I Want It All,” “Antisocial,” “Sorry James” and “Already Gone.”

Indie-style acoustic guitar heavy pop with a 60’s and early 70’s feel, Matt Costa’s music on his second album, Unfamiliar Faces, is easygoing and likeable. While there are a couple duds, such as “Emergency Call,” which seems ready made for the soundtrack of a Hollywood romantic comedy, most of Unfamiliar Faces has an easygoing, affable charm that goes a long way in selling the songs to listeners. Other songs such as “Bound” and “Heart Of Stone” have an edge to them that bodes well for future releases. Standout cuts: “Mr. Pitiful,” “Vienna,” “Cigarette Eyes” and “Bound.”