Thursday, November 27, 2008

Listening Too Long to One Song: The School "Let it Slip"

Just as us citizens of Los Angeles were beginning to resign ourselves to a year with no winter, something magical happened. Last week the temperature dropped about 20 degrees, and it began to rain. It began to rain with an intensity that most of us seem to have forgotten could exist. The general rule that I find with Los Angelinos is that we love the rain because we see so little of it here. When it does pay us it's ever elusive visits, it washes our cars, clears away the smog, and it just seems to render our collective senses heightened. It's no wonder then that I officially fell in love with the School's song "Let it Slip" while running through a torrential downpour.

I'd had their Let it Slip E.P. in my possession for months. I'd listened to it, and even played a different song from it on my radio show, but this time the opening title track became something of an addiction. I think because every instrument shimmers, and pops and fills up every inch of space that the song inhabits. Listening to this song in the presence of a lovely grey backdrop, as water pours steadily from the sky will tend to make everything else around you seem brighter. Something as simple as a street sign coming into sharp focus as you run down a hill in search of shelter can seem impossibly beautiful. In other words, since songs that are as exuberant as this one tend to come along almost as infrequently as rain in Los Angeles, the combination of the two has the the ability to make the listener feel very, very alive. Of course the song is strong enough to give off the same life affirming effect with or without the presence of rain.

The story of the song is simple: a girl suspects that the boy she is seeing is in love with someone else, and she is imploring him to let the information slip for her own peace of mind. The music is a modern take on the Phil Spector version of the girl group sound. Though their girl group update is not filtered through, and distressed by the noisier elements of punk rock the way that of my beloved Vivian Girls, and Lichtenstein is. Theirs manages to be modern, and confidently produced in a way that could almost make you forget that the styles of punk or indie even exist, even though you are quite aware that the ideas behind those styles are tucked neatly away somewhere in the background.

However, any similarities that you might find in this song to that of any other song are completely irrelevant. It's a perfect single that is bursting with pure joy. The type of single that (were there any justice in the world) should be a giant hit, and inspire an exorbitant amount of singing very very loudly into hairbrushes all across the world. Much like the aftermath of rainfall in Los Angeles, this song will heighten every one of your senses. And don't we far too often forget how much we need for our senses to be heightened from time time?

Watch the video for "Let it Slip" here:

You can order a copy of the School's Let it Slip E.P. with a quick search here.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Little Flashes of Yesterday

I saw Vivian Girls this past Sunday. During the set, I was wondering what things would be like for me if I could build a time machine to go back to Scotland in nineteen eighty-four, and see the Shop Assistants. Of course, while I was there I would try to take in at least one Pastels show, and maybe even see if I could manage to wait around a few years so that I could catch Talulah Gosh, and well I could ratle of bands that I wish I'd been able to see in the eighties for hours. That's not really the point though.

I like Vivian Girls, a lot. Of course, I must like them, they play what is likely (were I absolutely forced to choose) my favorite style of music: Noisy, punky pop music that owes a huge debt (yet always manages to be an update on) 60s girl group sounds. Yet still, I left their show the same way I left their album - wanting something more from them. They can't really give any more though. They have their version of what it is that they are doing down to a science, and their ideas are executed perfectly in their lovely, minimalist glory.

So perhaps instead of wasting my mental energy willing a break in the space time continuum, I should instead focus on saving money so that I could travel to Europe to see Liechtenstein. Lichtenstein are a Swedish band who seem to have similar ideas and influences as those of Vivian Girls, yet they are able to give me that elusive something more that Vivian Girls (by their very nature) cannot.

It's not really a fair comparison I suppose. Of course, based on my personal tastes I am more inclined to like a band who takes this clever girl group update idea more in the indiepop direction than in the punk direction. I suppose it's just fascinating to me that with so many music fans, and music writers going crazy over Vivian Girls - if this is a style of music that people are suddenly enthusiastic about - why aren't more people in general going crazy over Liechtenstein?

Watch recent videos from both bands, and formulate your own theories...

You can order Vivian Girls' self titled full length

and both 7"s from Liechtenstein here

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


... It's something that I, in so many ways, lack severely. Except in this one way, I have the ambition to one day posses a level of ambition that far exceeds the one that I posses currently. Of course, given my (natural) lack of ambition, this often tends to lead me... not very far.

That being said, when I encounter people in my life that posses REAL ambition, I find myself completely in awe of them. Last night I received this link via a hurried chat message. Since I was just determining whether or not I should brave the (inevitable) two to three hipsters that would be populating my street at that time of the night by running out to my car (while dressed in fleece pajamas) to get the book that I was planning to start - this message caught me far more off guard than it would have ordinarily. Once I realized what exactly it was, and that I was being asked to contribute, I was naturally thrilled.

So now, here I am asking YOU to contribute. I spent the greater part of my morning reading about the history of the punk rock movement, but this is just as exciting. Even more so, because we get to be a part of it! Visit indiepopedia; read, write, discuss, learn, and well... enjoy!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

You're So Semi-Precious About Life

El Records is one of those subjects, like Felt, that I would actually have to live inside of before I could ever find something substantial to write about them. That being said, I discovered a band today that reminds me very much of El Records.

I had been listening this band Testbild! for about two minutes, thinking that they sounded like they could have been an El Records band - elegant pop experimentalism, jazzy chord progressions, and all manner of other such wonderful things - when my friend who alerted them to my attention came back to our chat message and said something to the effect of, "Yeah, it's quite experimental, El Records type stuff." Their new album looks as though it will be called Aquatint, and that it should be available to purchase any month, week, or even day now! I find it difficult to stop listening to their cover of The Hepburns' song, "My Brother the Submariner." The original is a song that I have loved greatly in the past, and their version stands up quite nicely. I very much enjoy what they've done with the ending.

When you click the above link to the Hepburns' myspace page do be sure to listen to their collaboration with Testbild! entitled "Blurry." Testbild! also deserve a huge personal, "thank you" from me for bringing the Hepburns back to the forefront of my mind, and for the fact that The Magic of the Hepburns will be spinning around on my turntable tonight...

Oh, and for your reading pleasure, here are some words about El records explained by it's mastermind Mike Alway.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

It is Tuesday, November 4th, 2008. A few hours ago, I voted in what may end up being the most important United States presidential election of our collective lifetimes. All I want to do is turn on MSNBC, and not divert my attention from it until we have a new president. Yet...I...can't. As high as my hopes are for the nation there is a part of me that just can't bear to look, at least not yet.

One of the good things about participating in a dance club night with friends who have better records than you do, is that sometimes those friends will fail to remember which record belongs in which record bag. Sometimes when this happens you will find, after the fact, that you've had a copy of The June Brides, This Town EP in your record bag for about a week without realizing that it was there. I know who it belongs to, and she will have it back in her possession tonight, but for the time being I thought that this record might provide a brief moment of escape. A safe world that exists in a standstill somewhere between 1985, and 2008. Of course I should have known better, June Brides songs consistently brim with wit, excitement, and frustration. If they are not political, though some surely are, they can be easily applied to most any political situation.

The second song on the b-side to the EP, "Just the Same." was there to greet me with this opening line:

"Left it til tomorrow, tomorrow came to soon. And I meant to be up early, I slept all afternoon. So much to do, nothing to lose, I must do better this time..."

I'm hoping that we do better this time...

All of the songs from the June Brides' This Town EP are available on the compilation Every Conversation: The Story of the June Brides & Phil Wilson. You can find a copy here.