Quickie: Duke Evers ‚Handful of Pennies‘ is pretty charming

I get incredibly nostalgic when I listen to Duke Evers even though the style of music I associate with their new EP „Handful of Pennies“ is not even close to being considered „classic“. However, their mixture of charming indiepop with gestures of stadium-grandeur reminds me a lot of 2006/2007, when this kind of music had a pretty darn good time (Oh Royworld, how do I miss you).

There is such an airy quality to it, a certain giddy aloofness that is just superduper positive and is the kind of music you’d like to listen to when the first blossoms of spring bloom in front of your window – which basically means that you should listen to them right now.

Enjoy.

(given that there is a lion and a bear on their EP with instruments in their hands, I was really hoping for a literal animal band – colour me disappointed, yet again)

Favourite Song: The Maccabees ‘Marks to prove it’

I feel kinda horrible because whenever I get my lazy ass up to write something, it’s about one of my all-time favourite bands and therefore not even that hard to do. Take the new single by the Maccabees, you know, that First Love of mine. Their new sounds revels a bit more in their Britpop roots than their previous record but then swirls around and turns a little weird (I am thinking of the stark German cabaret of the 1920s for some reason). This is of course enough reason to be incredibly excited for their new album which hopefully comes soon. Luckily, this is a band you can be excited for, since they are way too hard on themselves to not try something new.

Favourite Song: Laura Marling ‘False Hope’

Laura Marling recently released her newest album „Short Movie“ and of course it is brilliant and smart and beautiful and because I don’t really want to write about it just yet (having only listened to it half a dozen of times), I picked this first single which – as some other songs – have a sound that is very much like New York in the late 70s, early 80s and at times has just the right amount of Bruce Springsteen (without merely copying it) and even some harsher postpunk-vibes of feminist heroes of the past (Patti Smith, maybe?).

The song starts with a sober clarity but gets more and more manic as the protagonist realizes how scared she/he is of the loneliness and therefore escapes into a relationship that might or might not be real but definitely is not the solution.

Is it still okay that I don’t know how to be alone?
Would it be okay if I’d just came home tonight?
We stay in the apartment on the upper west side
And my worst problem is I don’t sleep at night
Woman downstairs just lost her mind
And I don’t care how, I surely don’t care why
Why I know false hope

(and maybe that woman downstairs is the protagonist her/himself or a fear of her/him)

The strength in Marling’s voice – when she’s not consciously and rather impressively fluctuating through the stages of despair – is one of her strengths as a musician because to show vulnerable narrators, we don’t need vulnerable, thin and shaky voices. Strong people can falter just as easily and have the same fears (and maybe more) than those flittering vocalists with their breathy, hardly audible sighs of sadness. No, Marling is one of the great songwriters who make all those tender flaws seem so much more powerful by having this very strong, nearly aggressive clarity in which they are presented. There is doubt and there is fear, yes, but the narrator knows this and decides to let them be, to fight or to leave them. These are bright paintings with broad strokes (not a single one seems hesitant) and they carry all the subtleties in the final image which is yet another song and another album to dive into for a while and feel the cold waves of Marling’s voice and the soft rush of her guitar play.

Favourite Song: ‘Horses’ by Tomo Nakayama

I recently watched „Touchy feely“, a movie about white middle-class people with the kind of problems we’d like to define as „1st world“. And because I am the perfect target group for these kind of movies (well, with limits…), I really appreciated the themes – mainly the want and fear to be close to someone. And because sometimes a good soundtrack is not just a row of pretty songs, Tomo Nakayama’s song in the later half of the movie perfectly captures the entire premise of the movie and yes, there were tears on my behalf.

It’s no wonder, though, because this is the kind of song that feels like it always should be performed and heard in a church (for the acoustics, not for the religious experience).

I also recommend the movie. First of all, it has Ellen Page in it, which is in my case the only reason I need to watch it. But it’s also astoundingly calm in its narrative which those slightly comedic slightly dramatic movies about white people with middle-class-problems hardly ever manage (quite often they have a certain manic pace to them, which I like to refer as the Woody Allen-twitch).

Dutch Uncles: Kate Bush’s shadow

„O Shudder“, the 4th studio album by the British outfit Dutch Uncles starts with the most Kate Bush-ish song we’ve heard in years and easily could have been on one of the mid-80s records the queen of smart pop released back then. I suppose that the quartet used to sound different, given that they cite King Crimson and Talking Heads as influences. Yet, all „O Shudder“ does – and this beautifully so – is an homage to Bush and her soft yet slightly off-putting songs that never ventures far from her musical history.

I am not quite sure yet how much I like the album but it is fascinating, how accurately old-fashioned this album sounds and how clear this influence shines through. I gotta give it to the band for still managing to create beautiful and not redundant songs even if those are as reminiscent of someone else’s legacy as can be.

Quickie: Ibeyi are what pop music wants and needs right now

My faithful readers know that I am not one of those jaded „back in the days, music was so much better“-kinda gals and the siblings behind the beautiful pop band Ibeyi are proof why any such saying is absolute malarkey.

The sisters Lisa-Kaindè and Naomi Diaz are a French-Cuban outfit singing in English and Yoruba, an old Nigerian language which is beautiful and shows that languages other than English should find their way much more often into pop music.

Their musical style is the kind of postmodern potpourri you might know from M.I.A. but their roots are not that deep into Hip Hop but instead form a very beautiful blend of modern pop, traditional folk music, beautiful harmonies and some exquisite stylistic choices to keep you, Dear Listener, on your toes throughout the whole album.

Although the sounds are quite different, I would compare this album to Gotye’s latest solo album because it has some banging singles on it but also doesn’t shy away from tricky experimental pop songs that defy any Billboard-environment but make the album all the more precious from an artistic perspective (plus, it never gets boring and is absolutely absent of fillers).

May the radio stations give these two musicians all the airplay they deserve.

Desperate Journalist: Goddammit, that’s a painfully great band-name

How do you gain an upper hand over any mean-spirited journalist before he has even uttered or written one word? You give yourself a band name that slaps that dude/tte right in the ballpensack and call it a day. However, if that wasn’t great enough, this North London quartet (directly copied from their Bandcamp-page) is also the cat’s pajamas, if the cat’s pajamas were pubescent sad British teens in an 80s-inspired midlife-crisis – you know who I am talking about, right?

Yes, this band managed what hardly any band trying to infuse the Smiths into their sound manages: they are like well portioned bourbon vanilla in your coffee – you taste traces but it doesn’t overwhelm your cuppa (coffee). But seriously, I am incredibly in love with the – I think – debut album (dto.) and this weird mixture of manic guitar play and the coolest vocals since Morrissey cursed out a meat eater at one of his shows (which was probably last week). At the same time, the band’s knack for beautiful melodies (slightly inspired by the early Cranberries – hm, never thought a Smiths/Cranberries-crossover would work but there you go) makes sure that you don’t want to turn off their album and get out “Meat is murder”. NO! Instead you just waft through this luscious and at times incredibly dark album and feel like – despite the wintery temperatures outside – a white t-shirt, a leather jacket and the thinnest, skinniest black jeans will be the right thing to wear tomorrow (at your job at Disney World, of course).

Plus, this is one of those magical times when the season of an album release actually helps with the whole impact of it because when if not in Winter, beastly cold Winter, do you want to wallow in teenage/millennial/digital native/generation x/baby boomer-angst?