Wednesday, September 24, 2008

common reaction by uh huh her

There's something inherently delightful and indulgent about a well-made electronic pop album. When the cellophane is first discarded and the little sticker on the side of the case is finally removed two hours later, the resultant sensation is similar to the one felt by children when they sneak a candy bar before supper. (I still do sometimes, but as an adult, I've found that it's far less exciting. Unless the candy bar is covered in rubies and you're sneaking it away from Topiltzin Ce Acatl Quetzalcoatl.)

The idea of this subconscious thrill leads me into my next admission: I have a shameless adoration of 90s electronica. Why now, of all times, would I make such a declaration? It's simple. This album shares the absolute best qualities of that age (the lyrical demands, the burrowing boogie-bug that creeps into your blood and releases the chemical that tells you "dance or die"), brings it into the future, makes sweet modern-rock love to it, and it all makes me very, very happy.

Uh Huh Her's debut full-length album Common Reaction (August 2008, Nettwerk) clings to both playful mischief and passive desperation, delivering dreams and pleas by painting a picture of city streets and empty playground swings and faceless girls and boys with no clue, all awash in the blur created by the perfect symphonic balance of synthesizer and two amazing female vocalists. The first track alone ("Not a Love Song") deserves an obscene length of time on repeat - and not simply because it lasts exactly as long as the drive from work to the post office. With insistent club beats laying a firm foundation for the marriage of most excellent guitar lines and the sweetly brutal synth that every electric ivory wants to be when they grow up. I will not deny the amount of attention withheld from other albums by this one. My profile speaks for itself (or it would if I didn't have such, er, dominating interests).

While being a brand new band (they formed in early 2007), neither woman has any lack of experience or proficiency with their craft. A multi-instrumentalist to the nth degree, Camila Grey has probably lent her talents to more groups than I have countable digits, and Leisha Hailey (of Showtime's The L Word) is known for her work in the 90s group The Murmurs (among others). It seems the hands of fate did one better for them both; when together, Uh Huh Her is an unreckonable force of pop, rock, and glamour.

The entirety of Common Reaction, while not 100% up-tempo, is imminently danceable and almost criminally easy to digest (I say this, of course, in the most lauding way possible). It's also, by default, confessional and relatable to anyone who's thought about anyone or anything with any sort of depth or passion, because with thought comes the frustration stemming from the knowledge that thought isn't action - and action is a lot more difficult. But man, they certainly know how to plead for it.

mp3: "Not a Love Song" by Uh Huh Her
mp3: "Common Reaction" by Uh Huh Her

Monday, September 22, 2008

introducing the best of by montt mardié

I cannot take a man seriously if he's a)Speedo-clad, b)holding a crayola-colored drink with a tiny umbrella, or c)singing excessively in falsetto. While I don't consider the first two to necessarily be to my detriment (quite the opposite actually), chances are "c" has caused me to miss out on more than a few compelling musical artists. Thankfully, Montt Mardié (pronounced mar-dee-yay), who's non-music goals include "make[ing] a frame-by-frame remake of ‘When Harry Met Sally’ with him playing the role of Harry," doesn't ask that you discover the meaning of life though his music - only that you listen.

Full disclosure: there is currently no USA release date for Introducing the Best Of. I hate when people run stories about artists and forget to mention this important little fact. Thanks for getting me excited over nothing. Jerks. However, both of Mardié's previous efforts, Clocks/Pretender and Drama, are available on both iTunes and eMusic. Buy them both and cherry pick your own favorites. Yes, that is an order.

For those who aren't flush, or are simply looking to test the waters, Introducing the Best Of is a strong introduction to Sweden's latest golden boy. Weeding out multiple versions ("Smile Charlie" finds a home on the album, bumping the less compelling, nearly identical "Bag of Marbles"), we're left with seventeen single-worthy pop gems. Turns out falsetto isn't such a bad thing - I can sing along!

And sing I do. The world Mardié lives in is hopelessly cinematic, even when singing about his own romantic ineptitude. Somewhere between pleading to have his name written in the clouds after his death and asking the untouchable girl next door to the prom, Mardié still finds time to duet with fellow Swedish musical royalty Hello Saferide and Jens Lekman, again lending credence to the belief that all that musicians in Sweden do is sit around in rooms together being made of awesome. It's a rough life, as evidenced by the aforementioned smooth-as-silk falsetto. (I know, I know, this is the third time I've mentioned it, but the sweetness of his lyrics is directly proportional to the unnerving quality of the boy's range.)

There's a name for this type of music. A name that I've been violently shoving to the back of my mind as repeated Introducing the Best Of listenings have threatened to bring it forward, allowing it to spill over my lips and escape into the world. Oh how the truth burns! Here it goes.... What Montt Mardié has created is boy band music. But, it's boy band music at its hookiest, ear-wormiest finest. There. I said it. Oh heck, grab me a stool and get the guy in the Speedo to order me one of whatever he's drinking. I'll be here awhile.

mp3: "Set Sail Tomorrow" by Montt Mardié
mp3: "New York" by Montt Mardié

Monday, September 15, 2008


I am a travel junkie. If I were struck by a house fire and my journals had already been rescued, I'd dive back in to save my passport. After all, I worked hard to earn all those brightly colored stamps and stickers-- Do you know how much effort it takes to keep your body running off a steady diet of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese? (Hey, all those Lonely Planet guides don't pay for themselves!)

It's that time of year again when I heed the call and head out into the three-dimensional non-Internet world. Until we meet again, enjoy the official CWBH travel playlist.

mp3: "Get Out Of Town (live)" by Rufus Wainwright
mp3: "Run Away With Me" by Jens Lekman
mp3: "Wherever Did She Go" by Pinto
mp3: "Recycled Air (live)" by Ben Gibbard
mp3: "Motel Of Lost Companions" by John Vanderslice
mp3: "New York City (live)" by The Golden Republic
mp3: "Paris Is Burning (live)" St. Vincent

Sunday, September 14, 2008

theresa andersson @ hotel cafe

In all honesty, I probably wouldn't be able to get off my death bed for live musical sampling. But darn it, I've got gumption. Chances my nurses, having since abandoned me after I refused to stop calling my case of the sniffles my "death bed," would find me flopped on the floor, limbs a'flailing, raggedly whispering, "No really, I've gotta go to the gig, I heard she was adding a hammer dulcimer to the mix tonight!"

Add Theresa Andersson to the list of performers I would gladly risk life, limb, and dignity to see practice the fine art of looping. After hearing her superb debut album, I had her pegged as the break out of 2008. After seeing her short but sweet set at the Hotel Cafe on Thursday, I'm surprised it has taken her this long. Now don't get me wrong, I'm an elitist indie blogging snob, but I'm also a giver. And with music this strong, I shouldn't be able to lurk in shadows at the back of the venue and still have a clear line of sight to the stage. I just shouldn't.

In addition to feeding my obsession1 and giving Andrew Bird a run for his money, Andersson's got a voice that could stop a Creole funeral procession dead in its tracks. A transplant from her native Sweden to New Orleans, Andersson's voice drips with the influence of her adopted home town. It's such a strong instrument that two songs, tributes to her southern influences, were preformed acapella. With an iTunes full of singers who get by more on passion than talent, sometimes I forget that people can actually sing. Add that to a charming stage presence, (she's clearly the gentile southern belle this anti-social blogger can only long to be), adorable, self-made backing band (Theresa looped 4 times = The Kitchenettes, complete with four distinct personalities!) and overall talent, and you've got, well, a freakishly great recording and live artist who can transcend any hype thrown her way2.

In the interest of full disclosure, my first music memories are my step-father's Beach Boy tapes. I played in the community jazz band. In short, I'm predisposed to like Theresa Andersson. But something tells me, you might too. Check her out at smaller venues now before the rest of the world catches on.

1. No really, how does she keep so many plates spinning? If you ever want a real show, give me a piece of gum and ask me to walk a straight line.
2.And darn tooting, we're trying to throw some of that hype!

mp3: "Birds Fly Away" by Theresa Andersson
mp3: "Na Na Na" by Theresa Andersson

Thursday, September 11, 2008

does you inspire you by chairlift

Review by Guest Hipster: PWC In which Chairlift’s Does You Inspire You Is Reviewed
Within the Somewhat Odd Form of Pictures and Accompanying Captions.

In which the reviewer sees the Brooklyn-based band Chairlift opening for Ariel Pink at LA’s local hipster repository the Echoplex.

In which the reviewer is quite delighted by the classic, shoegazey guitar, the apocalyptic teenage 80s atmosphere, the danceable beats and, above all, the impressive confidence, dynamics and stage presence of lead singer Caroline Polachek's voice and keyboard-pummeling.

In which the reviewer lies in awe on his bedroom floor listening to Chairlift's debut album, Does You Inspire You.

In which the reviewer falls into a 1987 starfield, enraptured in the reverse bossa nova beats of "Garbage", the sweet-natured keyboards and guy/girl vox of "Planet Health", the bouncy blue sky pop of “Bruises”, the unbelievably rad twee-preset synths and odd lyrics of “Evident Utensil”, the dreamy dynamics of “Make Your Mind Up”. A lot of these tracks conjure up a sense of tip-of-your-tongue nostalgia, the evocation of unnamed moods and a vague sense of memory, which is one of my favorite things about the gift of music in general.

In which the reviewer finds himself sucked into some sort of vortex of sound, bliss-guitars and cushy synths swirling within the context of thoughtful song structures and interesting (and semi-bizarre lyrics).

In which a hedgehog appears and cryptically murmurs phrases which might successfully describe Chairlift to a curious inquirer - "if M83 is the soundtrack to an epic widescreen 80s movie about teenagers, robots, aliens and car crashes, then perhaps Chairlift acts as the soundtrack to a modestly budgeted, charmingly quirky TV series set in a high school in the late 80s", or "perhaps Beach House with a pronounced New Order-era pop sensibility and production sheen".

In which the reviewer cuts through the specifics of such comparisons, and simply offers an earnest and honest appraisal in the form of a thumbs up. Yes, indeed, Chairlift is rad.

Upon which note, the review ends.

Edit: Now that Chairlift is playing in the big leagues, previous Mp3 freebies are considered "copyright infringement." Pity.

mp3: "Earwig Town" by Chairlift
mp3: "Evident Utensil" by Chairlift

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

mossebo by johan agebjörn

I'll have to admit, I talk about electronica the same way I talk about most professional sports ("I love when he wins at the game that he plays"). The difference is of course, I actually care about my favorite beat-makers enough to keep talking and make a bigger fool out of myself. Oh boy. Here we go again....

Today, I flaunt my ignorance to shill for the latest offering from Sally Shapiro mastermind, Johan Agebjörn. His newest album, and first official solo release Mossebo was released yesterday, an event that dovetailed nicely with my eMusic downloads renewing. Go synergy!

The problem I have with a lot of electronica is just that. It's electronic music. Machines don't have a soul. (Although once I did see a drum machine with a "Drum Machines have no soul" sticker, a moment that made my evening.) Agebjörn clearly understands that the will of the artist must show though the medium1. Swapping the trashy yet addictive dance beats of Sally Shapiro's Disco Romance for the understated synth drama of Mossebo, he creates a world that's both epic and peaceful. It's a bit like watching a CinemaScope version of a 1980s snowfall, without, y'know the pesky frostbite and day glow leggings.

Since each track flows into the next, returning to theme variations throughout the entire album, it's difficult to parse specific tracks without again showing the breadth and depth of my ignorance. (I imagine the conversation would go something like, "I like the part where he goes bloop bleep bleep...") However I will say that the smooth cohesiveness of the album, augmented with samples of singer Lisa Barra's otherworldly soprano, makes for a compelling late night listen. Or...whatever that is in "electronica speak."

1. Sorry, that's three years of college art appreciation classes talking.

mp3: "Ambient Computer Dance " by Johan Agebjörn
mp3: "Digital Norway" by Johan Agebjörn
mp3: "He Keeps Me Alive" by Sally Shapiro

Monday, September 8, 2008


The geeks at Confessions of a Would-Be Hipster got bored and decided to invite a few friends to come and play. Please say hello to lmc, our new satellite member who will be frantically covering all things on the eastern seaboard. Also introducing our token male1: L.A.R., who will be covering all things...err...manly? Please treat them with the same love and respect2 you would the CWBH founding members.

1.This is of course heartbreaking, since we can no longer call ourselves the "girls of CWBH," although let's face it, we'll probably continue doing it anyway.
2.Read: ignore their posts and go straight for the mp3s at the bottom.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

the way that it was by pierre de reeder

It occurs to me that I romanticize the changing of the seasons way too much. I long for a reason to add additional quilts to my bed, to order my lattes "extra hot," and not because I actively enjoy burning my lips and tongue on Starbucks' latest brew. I want to catalogue shades of tree leaves and feel some urgency in sneaking in as many daylight hour activities as possible. Dang it, I want a way to mark the passage of time other than writing another rent check.

For the rest of the country, those folks outside of the SoCal bubble where seasons actually exist, Pierre de Reeder's solo debut The Way That It Was (out now), is probably stirring up pleasant sun-dappled memories of the summer that's quickly slipping away. You'll have to forgive my coming late to the party - I was on the lawn with a veggie burger and a glass of white wine. But, out since August 12th, this album is quickly on the path to become a sweet, but overlooked summer gem.

The title The Way That It Was is as accurate description as any for de Reeder's gentle nostalgia-drenched sound. With songs rooted in a sweeter, gentler, folkier time than the material from his day job, the listener is taken on a journey, washed with themes that any 20-something can relate to. Now, it's natural to compare band mates' side projects - and it's probably not natural to feel the amount of self loathing to I'm about to experience for doing so1. But the truth is, I've never owned a rabbit fur coat2. I have, however, experienced loneliness, age-related crises, and late night chats reminiscing with friends.

The bottom line: Is it so wrong to occasionally crave accessibility? Or a reminder of summers past? Both are attributes the sweet, airy The Way That It Was has in spades.

1. Full disclosure: I spent a large portion of time last year in the car and shower doing Jenny Lewis karaoke.
2. However, friends and family might argue I suffer from an Acid Tongue.

mp3: "The Long Conversation (RCRDLBL)" by Pierre de Reeder