Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Listening Too Long to One Song: The Rain - "Dry the Rain"

I love the rain. Perhaps the only thing I love more than the rain itself is waking up to it's undeniably comforting sound on the plastic roof that covers the modest porch that extends from our cozy apartment. If this happens on a day where I don't have to leave the house immediately after I wake up - a day where I can sit on my couch in my pajamas drinking coffee while reading or writing - then I will be about as happy as it is possible for me to ever be. It would make sense to say that my obsession with rain has developed through the course of ten years of living in Los Angeles. To be honest though, I've always been obsessed with the rain. As I noted in my recent post about the School's Let it Slip EP (certainly one of my favorite releases of the year) being outside in the rain has the ability to heighten any experience. Perhaps because the feeling of rain on your skin is so immediate, of course you can feel the sun, but not quite in the same way. Even if you are actively attempting to find shelter from heavy rainfall, chances are that you are more engaged in the process of running for shelter than you will be in most other moments of your life. To me, it's unbelievably exciting. By the same turn, if you find yourself inside while the heavy rainfall is lurking outside isn't it safe to say that you will never feel more safe, warm, or dry?

Given my sheer adoration for rain as weather, I find it extraordinarily odd that my favorite song of the moment is entitled, "Dry the Rain." The still relatively new indiepopedia resource is truly extraordinary in helping to speed along my process of discovering bands that I was likely just on the verge of discovering anyway. While looking at the band page on the site one day, I noticed that there was a band called the Rain, and of course I checked it out given my obsession with the weather that the band takes it's name from. Based on the lovingly crafted biography that was featured, and based on the strength of the "Watercress Girl" single included on the site's mp3 player, I immediately began to search for their records online. All I could find was a copy of the Medium Cool sampler, Edge of the Road, and since copies of this record are still relatively easy to find, and affordable, I purchased it immediately. Since that time I keep finding myself drawn back to that particular song, "Dry the Rain," the last song of side two of the record. It is also just around two minutes of sharply written, guitar pop perfection. You know, it's one of those songs with precisely the sort of rapid intro that jangles assuredly into life leaving you without any doubt that you are in for something exciting. The kind of song with confident, aesthetically pleasing vocals that are effective whether you are following the song's story or not though you will likely be far too busy dancing to pay close attention to the lyrics. Yet by the same token, the chorus is easy to memorize and sing along to, given that it consists only of the phrase dry the rain sung repeatedly with backing vocals echoing various aspects of the phrase. I have a genuine fondness for such immediate simplicity when it comes to the chorus of a pop song. Especially when it's executed with as much exuberance as it is here.

Unfortunately I can't find "Dry the Rain" anywhere online, but do be sure to visit the Clark Springs Myspace page. Clark Springs is the band that the Rain evolved into, and the page features songs from both Clark Springs, and the Rain. "Hi There 1968" being amongst the most notable. It's their fan-boy tribute to the Byrds, and it seems easily poised to be the next song that I am completely obsessed with.

Incidentally, as I am clearly very late in my discovery the sheer beauty of the Rain (the band that is) I have not surprisingly been unable to track down a copy of their one full length album To the Citadel. Is there anyone out there who might be able to help me out with this?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

As Long as They Gaze on Waterloo Sunset, They Are in Paradise...

I'll be back tomorrow with more of my standard over-obsessing about single pop songs, and/or bands either later tonight or tomorrow. For now, I would simply like to direct your attention to my friend Peter Hahndorf's recent set for my radio show on Peter is the founder of the ultimate indiepop database Tweenet, a site that I would be completely lost without the existence of. Needless to say it was a huge honor to have him put together a playlist for us at dublab.

It's a great session that features an expansive array of mostly new-ish indiepop groups. The songs are divided geographically to showcase a representation of the high concentration of exciting indiepop bands that exist in South East Asia, Australia, Japan, Germany, Spain, Sweden, and the U.K. His choices are fresh, and original, and it's certainly worth noting that the area with the most representation on this compilation is South East Asia. When this was recorded I was just beginning to notice how many good bands were appearing in the region. Peter then came along, and proved that I didn't even know the half of it. To be perfectly honest, I didn't even really know a quarter of it.

I strongly encourage you to head over here, and listen for yourself.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Worlds of Possibility

I saw Sea Lions as a full band on Saturday night. Write ups of their music on the internet seem to be scarce. This is likely only to do with the fact that they have yet to release their first single for the YAY! label. Once that happens, I expect to see much more. I'll be honest, I've never felt inclined to write much about the band before this weekend. I've always enjoyed what they did, and I always knew there was potential for something great, but I could never quite find the words to make their sound seem compelling to new listeners without resorting to the cliche of comparing them to a laundry list of other bands. Of course there are still comparisons to be made, you'll hear them, and you'll decide for yourself what they are. For me personally, I always felt that Sea Lions deserved far better than that. They were the first YAY! band that I had the occasion to witness a live show from after all. Last Saturday proved that I was absolutely right to hold out.

What I saw on Saturday night was a full band in the process of gelling as a cohesive unit. I arrived to what seemed like an endless set up period: the working out of technical difficulties concerning borrowed equipment, and the extended wait to see whether or not they would even be in possession of a guitar! When they finally began to play, I was greeted by a full blast of energetic fuzzy guitar pop. I also couldn't help but notice that Sea Lions masterminds Pat and Adrian have become quite good on their respective instruments. As I mentioned though, the full band itself is very much in the process of coming together as a cohesive unit. There was something so intriguing about watching that unfold in a live show. All of the thrill of watching a still somewhat shambling band, yet for-seeing the dynamic, unstoppable force that they are just on the verge of becoming.

Interestingly enough, my Google search for their Myspace page led me to this. The band that I saw on Saturday night, I would count in the great company of the new shamblers that were cited in that article - side note DO be sure to listen to Pens, trust me. I would really not be too surprised if the incarnation of Sea Lions that I saw on Saturday night eventually produced a single that could somewhat near (my personal favorite track to be mentioned in the article) "Truck, Train, Tractor."

You've seen the title of this blog, surely you must realize that my saying a band could potentially produce a single that nears the caliber of a classic Pastels track is the highest praise that I could ever give.

Listen to the track "Beautiful Day," on the YAY! label's Myspace page for some idea as to what I might be talking about.

Keep checking the label's Website for updates on when you will be able to purchase the band's first single.

Oh, and if you live in Southern California and are feeling adventurous this Saturday, drive to Oxnard in your pajamas! Details about this year's installment of the annual YAY! pajama party can be found here. Sea Lions are playing along with other such personal favorites as Catwalk, and the Tartans.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Identity. Crisis.

I remember reading either last year, or the year before that Matthew Caws of the band Nada Surf cited Rihanna's single "Umbrella," as one of his favorite songs of the year. He spoke of the sheer enjoyment he was able to experience in connecting with a pop culture phenomena that the majority of the population connects with. When I read this quote I had not yet heard the Rihanna single, but I knew exactly what he meant. It's tough sometimes, when you venture outside of your small community full of people that are able to converse about the songs, the films, the shows, or whatever it is that you and this small community truly, truly love. Sometimes instead of feeling as if you are in on some sort of wonderful, exclusive secret that the rest of the population will just (sigh) never quite get, or attempting fruitlessly to turn that segment of the population on to your greatest pop culture treasure, it's actually a bit of a relief to meet them exactly where they are. Especially when it comes to music. I honestly believe that the majority of top forty music that we are faced with today is more disposable than ever, which is why I tend to pay so little attention to it. Perhaps it is because of that very thing that gives anyone who could be described as something of a music snob the potential to become so insanely excited over a silly pop single that will be replaced by the majority of the music listening public within a few weeks or months by something that's just as catchy if not as good.

No one asks to be a snob, but falling so in love pop music that it takes precedent over every other area of your life kind of leaves you no choice. So when you come closer to what the rest of the public enjoys it can almost feel like a meeting of the minds has been achieved. You feel a bit more in step with the world at large whose enjoyment of pop music usually takes a back seat to other (likely more socially desirable) things. You also have the pleasure of realizing that some very exuberant/well written/well produced pop still exists in the mainstream.

There is a big debate amongst music journalists and music fans over mindsets described as rockism, anti- rockism, anti-anti-rockism, popism, and/or (my personal favorite) poptimism. I'll link to some of my favorite articles on the subject below, but if you google any of those terms you could easily find enough reading material to last you for days. As each of the terms are so filled with contradiction that they lead there readers into further confusion and/or guilt over what you may genuinely like, or dislike. I struggle every day with wanting keep an open mind regarding music, and yet falling deeper into a pattern of indiepop specialism. And why shouldn't I? It is, after all, the sound that I prefer to any other sound. Of course, on the other hand, I'm too busy trying to put it all into context tracing it from Motown to Punk to surrounding elements of Post Punk, and then holding it against it's concurrent genres like Hardcore, Riot Grrrl, Indie Rock, and even current poptimist favorites like Britney, Beyonce and Rihanna. I'm so intrigued by where my first love (indiepop) fits in with my second love (the dissection of all other forms of pop music) that I have missed so many of the finer points of my first love. I'm not too worried about the rest of the pieces of my indiepop puzzle falling into place though. In fact I think that learning and absorbing these bands, and songs slowly over time will probably produce the most satisfying effect for me anyway. And, of course, I will never be able to stop myself from putting things into context no matter how hard I might try.

Of course, in the midst of all of the dissection, and debates we tend to forget what is ultimately so exciting about pop music in general. When it is at it's best, it should be able to transcend any sense of genre loyalty/specialty. It should grab you by the lapels and force you to enjoy the two to three minutes that it has you for more than you will ever enjoy any other two to three minutes of you life. That is, until the next amazing song comes along, and makes you feel that way all over again. You'll move closer to the rest of the world, and hope and pray for some instance to move the rest of the world closer to you. And then maybe we could dance?

Further (far more well researched, and insightful) Reading:

The New York Times article that famously sparked so much of this debate.

Seattle Weekly Article attempting to narrowly define Rockism as a means to perhaps learn how to counter it.

Slate article fantastically titled: "Does Hating Rock Make You a Music Critic?"
This is a nice musing on the subject that i found on a message board. I think that I remember originally reading it in Spin a few years ago.