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  • Electro Group "Good Technology
    Friday, August 31, 2007

    Even among shoegaze connoisseurs, Sacramento trio Electro Group doesn't get as much renown as it should, due mainly to its leisurely recording pace and nonexistent touring schedule. They only release new material every three years, and they haven't done a national tour in six. Fortunately, the quality of their work greatly outweighs the quantity. Their sole Austin appearance still ranks as one of my favorite live shows ever, and their discography is devoid of even one weak track. Good Technology, Electro Group's second album (and follow-up to their 2004 EP Ummo), continues their winning streak.

    The band wastes little time getting down to business: after a 15-second intro of ominous droning, they launch into the up-tempo gallop of "Trauma." Every element of the band's sound --- guitarist Tim's frenzied strumming and soft falsetto, Matt's hard yet lopsided drumming and (most importantly) Ian's extremely distorted bass lines --- comes through louder and clearer than ever before. The song only needs two verses, two choruses and two minutes to make its point before ending. Although only three of Good Technology's 11 songs cross the three-minute mark, Electro Group makes every second count, as if they're just as anxious to play these songs as their fans are to hear them.

    On Good Technology, the band dodges derivativeness by occasionally incorporating influences not normally affiliated with their sub-genre. Tim's acoustic guitar playing on "The Rule" imitate the mystical boogie of Led Zeppelin, and his dissonant chord voicings on "Bikini States" and "Hong Kong Blues" hark back to vintage Sonic Youth. Not to be outdone, Matt turns in some positively breakbeat-worthy drumming on standout track "August," and goes totally math-rock on us with the tricky meter changes of "Raise Your Head." Nonetheless, this is still a shoegaze album: the vocal harmonies and whooshing guitars on the coda of "The Rule" will take you on a Ride to Nowhere, and the whammy-bar histrionics on "Two Course March" are textbook My Bloody Valentine.

    Where the album truly lives up to its title is in the growing confidence that Electro Group has developed in the studio: the musicianship is more confident, the production clearer and more detailed. The band gives the beautiful ballad "Minutes" a psychedelic tint by reversing the keyboards and coating the cymbals in tremolo. "Killer Bees" begins with an interlude of white noise and high-pitched slide guitars that ends up weaving itself in and out of the rest of the song. On "Periphery," Tim's voice is run through bottom-of-the-well reverb that makes his pleading lyrics ("Will you come home?/When will you come home?") even more heartbreaking.

    Speaking of hearts, I have a theory that most great shoegaze songs are love songs buried in noise. Good Technology supports my theory by functioning as a sort of concept album about the dissolution of a relationship. Although the lyrics are simple, they cover every emotion from frustration ("I could have made you see/but you made it so hard"), isolation ("You've been living underground/It turned you upside down"), resignation ("You got tired of waiting/for me to move to notice you") to, ultimately, regret ("We have been wrong/To let it slip away"). I wouldn't know this, though, if the lyrics weren't printed in the CD booklet: as usual, Tim's vocals are placed beneath his guitars in the mix. Reading the lyrics, though, has enabled me to connect with Good Technology in a way that I couldn't with their previous work. Now I can let Electro Group into both my ears AND my heart; you'd be wise to do the same!
    (Review Written by Sean Padilla)

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    posted by joseph kyle @ 10:02 AM  
    Caribou "Melody Day"
    Tuesday, August 21, 2007

    Caribou's "debut," The Milk of Human Kindness, had a few great ideas, but to me, it just seemed too...muddy. I didn't connect with it like I did Up in Flames. So Caribou's new single, Melody Day, took me by complete surprise. The three songs found on this criminally-brief EP represent a magical departure from his previous work, and I can only say...GREAT! "Melody Day" is very sunny. Not necessarily "happy," mind you, but it's sunny. It sounds like Dan Snaith heard a Turtles song and immediately rushed home to his studio to recreate the song verbatim. Failing horribly, but creating something totally wonderful and original instead. It also has a rough, demo-like quality, and thoug it's a bit heavy on percussion, Snaith makes up for that with gorgeous harmonies, a pulsating, non-stop rhythm, and a melody that's damn catchy. Try getting it out of your head. (You can't!) Four Tet's remixing turns down the sunny vibes, ditches the excessive percussion, slows it down a bit, and allows the gorgeous harmonies to come into focus. Are those children backing him up, or is it just Adem? Sounds like kids to these ears. With Hebden's touch, the once-jaunty pop song becomes a beautiful folk ballad. This remix is one of the rare instances where a radically different remix of an already-ace song actually sounds better than the source material. "Zoe," the b-side, is a brief but wonderful blast of orchestra pop that sounds like a First Class (or possibly The Yellow Balloon) instrumental backing track. It's loaded with bursts of sunny sounds, flutes, a loosely-tuned sitar, and other mysterious things. I've said a lot about three simple songs, but I'm thoroughly convinced that Andorra is going to be the high point of Snaith's career. It's unlike everything he's done so far, and these songs already tell me it's a record to be extremely proud about.

    And yes, I'm lame, and I know the album came out today, on the wonderful Merge Records. You want to hear it? Go here and check it out!

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    posted by joseph kyle @ 12:43 PM   0 comments
    Maritime Return!
    Saturday, August 18, 2007

    While the blogger world has been hyping the heck out of the new Maritime record, I have to say: ABOUT TIME! Davey von Bohlen is a talented fellow, and it's good to hear that his pop-writing touch is only improving with age. Sure, these songs have been floating around mp3-poster type places, I figured I'd share 'em here, too. These two songs are really...well, I know I hate to say this, but these songs soo remind me of The Promise Ring. Maybe the band's reunion last year reignited his memory of Promise Ring's writing style. Whatever the case may be, I'm stoked about these two songs. Their new album, Heresy and the Hotel Choir, will be released this September on Flameshovel.

    Listen To: "For Science Fiction"
    Listen To: "The Guns of Navarone"

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    posted by joseph kyle @ 9:46 AM   0 comments
    Tuesday, August 7, 2007

    I had a friendly conversation with Charlie, the guitarist of the wonderful Cleveland, Ohio pop band Bears. Their new EP, Shortest Day of the Year is an amazing little record. it's a bit of a departure from their rather infectious, hyper pop debut album; unlike that record, the seven songs found here are sad, mopey, and reminiscent of Elliott Smith--but only in a good way. It's a different direction, but might I say I actually enjoy this direction? Yes, I shall.

    As an artist and a musician, when you put together Shortest Day of the Year, were you trying to make a concise statement with your music thematically, or were these songs merely the songs you'd written at the time and you needed to put them out?

    That's an interesting question. When we put out our first record, we had been writing and recording a bunch of different songs, and the majority of them were pretty upbeat, and we definitely plan on putting them on the next album. But then we had a handful of other songs, things that are darker and sadder and a bit more upfront emotionally than the other songs we'd been writing. WE weren't sure where we would go with the album, but we still wanted to put something out. So we decided, "hey, let's put out an EP," and we discovered these songs worked really well together, and the record came out of that. We'd written these songs, and we definitely didn't want to put them on the full length.

    Why not?

    Well, the songs we normally write--and the songs on the next album--are more upbeat and are really poppy. These new ones are a major progression from the first album. But these songs, they're totally different. Some people have said they liked them, and they see it as a progression, too. They don't see the things we write as definite and as defined as we do.

    Do you see the music of Bears, by definition, as being sunny, upbeat music, as opposed to the EP's songs, which are slower and more melancholy?

    Definitely, yeah. In our live show, we try to keep things upbeat, and our favorite songs to play are the poppier ones.

    Have you performed the EP live?

    We've only actually played one of the songs live. When we do, it's more about how we feel when we're playing live, deciding to play it. We don't have any plans to play any of the other songs live, at least not at the moment. We've sort of talked about learning "Am I" and playing it with the full band.

    If you didn't want to include them on your full length and you don't perform them live, do you feel they represent something a bit more personal, or do you feel this style doesn't represent who you are as an artist?

    Hmm…I think it's a combination of things in our present lives. We wrote them when it was kind of crappy weather around here, and we were a little down in our spirits, and those songs were a reflection of that, among other things. We go through phases in our music where we're writing a lot, and we're writing about everything from plants to how poppy we are, or we're not writing very much, and when we do it comes out a little slower. I think it represents a certain side to who we are--everything can't always be upbeat and happy--the world isn't always like that.

    Thanks, Charlie!

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    posted by joseph kyle @ 10:14 AM   0 comments
    The Electric Pop Group
    Saturday, August 4, 2007

    I would be totally remiss if I did not spend a moment or two raving about the extremely wonderful Swedish pop band, The Electric Pop Group! Their sound is firmly planted in Vini Reily's outro to Morrissey's wonderful "Interesting Drug," with a side diversion into Trembling Blue Stars territory; and now that they've signed to the equally fabulous Matinee Recordings, a comparison to labelmates The Lucksmiths isn't out of place, either! Here, I'll shut up now, because I simply adore their music. Check 'em out!

    Listen To: "Why Can't You""

    Listen To: "Walk Away"

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    posted by joseph kyle @ 10:20 AM   0 comments
    Cleaning out the closets...
    Friday, August 3, 2007
    I've got bits and pieces and other assorted things that have been gathering 'dust', as of late, in terms of writing. So, over the next week, instead of 'dead air,' I'll start publishing some of these things, so that once we're going, we'll have some new, fresh content. OK? Okay. In fact, I think I'll offer something now.
    posted by joseph kyle @ 5:44 PM   0 comments
    Manic "Floor Boards"

    A fascinating and slightly frustrating debut, this. It's obvious that this young band has a sweet tooth for--and a pretty good knack at writing--textured, emotional epic rock. But it suffers from the Dead Jeff Buckley Syndrome--lead singer Paul Gross seems to be trying a little too hard to propel the emotional pain in his voice. Opening track, "Chemical for Criminals" sounds a bit bland, a bit forced, and as a first impression, it doesn't whet the appetite. The next song, "Café Barcelona," reminds a bit too much of Brand New, a good band, but one that hundreds of sensitive garage-rock emo Myspace bands have already imitated. Those to songs prove to be a bit frustrating, to be sure, because I'm sensing something here--something potentially great. Like the unfortunately-obscure Ours, Manic's a band that could--and probably will--release something really beautiful and original, if the downcast, dank "Leaving Araby" is any indication. The same can be said for the sneaky, cobweb-crawly "In a Room on Fire," and the epic closer, "Mr Evans," perhaps the best song on Floor Boards, and it certainly hints at a greater potential. So perhaps this little introductory EP might be slight, but look beneath the surface and you'll hear a great band in the birthing.

    Band Website:
    Label Website:

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    posted by joseph kyle @ 9:25 AM   0 comments
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