Jonquil :: "It's My Part"

Oxford, England quartet, Jonquil made our list for bands who would almost certainly break out in 2011. Well, lists are subjective and despite a thoroughly well-received CMJ, the band hasn't exactly cracked AAA-radio, even with recent single, "Mexico". Still, the band might just be squaring up 2012 as their year to breakout and crossover as we look relentlessly into the future while only casually addressing the present. Things we know: the album will be called Point Of Go and will be released on March 5, 2012. Lead track (actually track three) from the record, "It's My Part" is another piece of the band's signature angular, glittering pop. Ebullient and unrestrained, this has a darker hue - it could be the title lyric and chorus - but a back-beat and dancing shoes to match lines like, "I decided that I would fear the world." Sunny guitars chime with all the heedless yearning of some young, stupid, unrequited love story. "It's My Part" is only the beginning, to be sure.

Listen :: Jonquil - "Mexico"


Spacecamp :: "Miko D.T.B."

It will have been a long time since you had this much fun listening to a rock band from New York City. Spacecamp with their debut EP Alibi just released on Tuesday, offer up lead single, "Miko D.T.B" or, if we can gather from the song's first lyrics, "Miko dropped the ball." What emerges is a song in two movements, the first a glittering array of synths and angular guitars that almost recall the dulcet tones of Tigercity (although, for other animal references, there's some Wolfgang in there too), centering on the lyric, "Pull yourself together", a useful and pragmatic notion if there ever was one. The second half of the arrangement is fuller, climatically organized around a sea of backing vocals and a finishing kick that feels like a Local Natives jam shot full of amphetamine and rocked into outer space. Spacecamp still urges you to "Pull yourself together" but the bass line is so alive and well, so bordering on out of control, that it's hard to believe they mean it. Instead, maybe the point is to lose your damn mind.  

The band plays their EP release party at The Wooly in the Financial District with Computer Magic on December 1st.



Deleted Scenes :: "Bedbedbedbedbed"

For all of you biding your time with Pepper Rabbit (wait, that sounded terse; let's start over). For anyone who enjoyed Pepper Rabbit's recent material (softer, good), especially the truly sublime, "Rose Mary Stretch", you need to be listening to Deleted Scenes latest single, "Bedbedbedbedbed". (No, I think they're aware it's not a real word.) In full disclosure this owes even more to the grand tradition of creepy caring as laid out by James Mercer and the Shins than you might be entirely comfortable with. Here, she (and there's always a woman) is described as "an immaculate girl sent from above". Ditch your irony for a moment and take this at face value. The rumbling drums and echoing keys build the architecture within which a hooky, little chorus (and there's always a chorus) focuses on the title lyric, the head nodding, "crawl into my bed, bed, bed, bed, bed". Even the dissonant bridge can't make this edict feel weird. Some things need saying five times. Some things don't even need the space bar or a parenthetical interior monologue (there's always an interior monologue).


On The List :: The Jezabels @ Mercury Lounge [11.21.11]

After running through set opener "A Little Piece," Jezabels keyboardist Heather Shannon and guitarist Samuel Lockwood look to the soundboard at the back of the Mercury Lounge and request more center vocals in their monitors. Like the rest of the room, they want to hear Hayley Mary. With apologies to her bandmates, the diminutive black-clad Aussie is the only person in the room who will matter for the next hour. In short order, she rips through "Endless Summer" and "Easy to Love," her impossibly powerful, soaring voice bolstered by the sound tech who turned her up in the mix. He understands. We all do.

Mary, drinking tea from a cheap bodega cup throughout the set, starts off tightlipped and serious -- barely acknowledging the crowd between songs -- but loosens up as she sheds layers of leather. During a quiet moment, one of the collected Australians in the audience yells out "Are you going out?" The singer smiles and answers ruefully: "We've got a lot of driving ahead. It's actually all we do ever." You find yourself hoping she doesn't sing in the van. The windows can't handle those pipes.

"Mace Spray" is good. "Try Colour" is great. "Hurt Me" is (once again) briefly transcendent. Mary finishes singing the last song of night while the band's final notes reverberate around the room. She grabs her tea from the amp, walks off stage, and, amazingly, disappears into the crowd.

Listen :: The Jezabels - "Try Colour"


Bear Driver :: "Never Never"

Though Bear Driver describe their music as "surfer slacker pop" and this isn't necessarily untrue, it says nothing of how hard it is to craft warm guitars and a slow-drive pop arrangement like "Never Never". What will remind American audiences of Real Estate and other hazed out slow-punk bands, the opening movements are only loosely connected. The chorus, a rising and falling slice of inexorability, like breathing, rings out before returning to those same, signature guitars. Again, Bear Driver might like you to believe they aren't trying, but it simply can't be true.

Bear Driver - Never Never by Bear Driver


Coastal Cities :: "Think Tank"

Sometimes you need useless comparisons. It's a start, after all, naming those things; you, a pattern recognizing machine built for solid navigation. Beyond the savageries of its alliteration, Coastal Cities' stunning new single, "Think Tank", a precocious and explosive offering, will feel both very new and achingly familiar. The easiest footnotes are early Bloc Party, but somehow more juvenile and charming, and a less electric Two Door Cinema Club (circa the time when they had no drummer and used an iPod). "Think Tank" finds its energy in repetition ("I like you but I really don't love you") and a final movement that kicks at the 2:03-mark and recalls the most soaring moments of the grand tradition of poppy, post-punk. There are elements of The Drums, but somehow a less annoying version, mixed with the youthful embolisms of teenagers who don't care a lick about the proper nouns in this paragraph, the comparisons wholly irrelevant if unmistakeable. This is the cost of comparison, the robbery of emotional aesthetics at the hands of critical analysis. So when someone leans close and says, "Don't these guitars remind you of the mathematical arpeggios of Foals?", you can clearly and confidently say no.

Coastal Cities - Thinktank by CoastalCities


Young Dreams :: "Young Dreams"

Taking a page out of the Free Energy playbook in the eponymous naming of their debut single, Norwegian outfit Young Dreams lift their sonic influences from Vampire Weekend's glittering world pop and tribalism that makes the second half of Lord Huron's songs so satisfying. A recent signee to Modular People, the band just Friday released their first free promotional single. This goes a long way to say something simple: "Young Dreams", initially built on a lonely guitar line, eventually opens wide like an updated Rhythm of the Saints, centering on the lyric, "We'll live forever". The architecture is warm and dusty, synth loops pulse and drums pound and the guitar ascension rings joyful. The final act coheres all these influences, revealing a panting and brilliant conclusion which - and these are their ideas - we'll assume is immortal.



Dare Dukes :: "Meet You At The Bus"

Dare Dukes has a stutter step, a near waltz on latest single, "Meet You At The Bus". In the spirit of lush indie pop, Dukes crafts a song built on interstitial tensions, a lonely horn and a plodding banjo, tweaking vocals hiding a strangely infectious hook. The final estimation is a proclamation of escape velocity, the title lyric and then quickly thereafter the best one, "Let's be reckless just the two of us." The first listen yields none of the pleasure of repeated forays down into Dukes' curious melody, halting though it may be, a complete thesis statement for anyone headed up, down and out of town.

Listen :: Dare Dukes - "Meet You At The Bus"


Det Vackra Livet :: "Juni Berattar"

Swedish pop outfit Det Vackra Livet offer a new and entirely stunning, Swedish-language single, "Juni Berattar", proof that command of the language is only a side-benefit. With the cursory translation of a Swedish-speaking colleague, the title means something like "Thoughful June", the rest of the lyrics are a complete mystery to most of the American audience, though there is a moment in the chorus where it seems like a transliteration of the f-word is about to happen. The sonic quality is something between the Shout Out Louds and the Cure (which this writer well understands is like parsing the difference between the peanut and peanut butter), a collection of wistful and heart-sick longings usually confined to John Hughes movies and imported Smiths' singles. But here, Det Vackra Livet, create a beautiful slice of pop that manages to hide - and maybe this is the language barrier - its saddest moments in pastel guitars and soaring synths. Perfect for the moments when you can't or won't grasp what terrible, solipsism is afoot and angled at your door.

Listen :: Det Vackra Livet - "Juni Berattar"


Girl In A Coma :: "Smart"

When Morrissey wrote "Girlfriend In A Coma" in early 1987, it was a loose metaphor for the thin line between love and hate. I suspect he never thought three girls from Texas would reappropriate the idea, ditch the relationship angle and make themselves, metaphorically of course, that Girl In A Coma that Morrissey and Marr were so seriously considering strangling. On "Smart" the girls don't sound like the Smiths but they do sound like the Sundays. Stopping short of the pure pop of "Here's Where The Story Ends", a song like "Smart" relies on brightly textured guitars and soaring arpeggios, all backing wistful lyrics like "I've never been in love like this". If Morrissey stared at a comatose lover and thought of how easy it would be to kill her, Girl In A Coma diverge, wondering how crushing it would feel to be alone.

Listen :: Girl In A Coma - "Smart"


Jonathan Coulton :: "Sucker Punch"

Making the best nerdy power-pop since the Lemonheads, Jonathan Coulton has courted and built an impressive and loyal following. On, "Sucker Punch" just the most recent peek at his latest LP, Artificial Heart, a down-stroke progression builds to one of those pre-choruses that foretell something elevating. In this case, it is Coulton, nearing a key change and at the top of his range, belting, "And I feel better already", over and over again. It isn't particularly academic and the refrain is self-aware enough to know that there will be more critically acclaimed records than this in 2011, but, perhaps none will have the soul and the unbridled fun of "Sucker Punch". This is a slice of destructive adolescence from a grown man. It is also a bit of power-pop from someone who knows better and certainly doesn't care.

Listen :: Jonathan Coulton - "Sucker Punch"