Cristina Quesada – You Are The One (Elefant Records)

Who knew the JAMC could sound so lovely?

There’s a charming innocence, along the same vein of My Little Airport, sprinkled throughout Cristina Quesada‘s You Are the One. This is mostly in thanks to Cristina’s sweet voice.

The album is mostly of covers, ranging from fellow Spanish indiepop musican Guille Milkyway, to France Gall and ABBA. While I’m drawn to Cristina’s voice, the entire production is executed perfectly. But for me, it’s Cristina’s original songs, like “When I’m An Aeroplane,” that shows just how much potential she has as a songwriter.

I’m even more amazed at how many languages are squeezed into this album and the fact that Cristina can effortless pull off each one. It seems she has never-ending talent and I’m already eager to hear more.

 

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Postal Blue – Of Love & Other Affections (Jigsaw Records)

I’ve been away for a little while and out of the indiepop loop for the entirety. Despite hearing word that so-and-so’s new album is the best of year, I haven’t been able to pull myself away from the responsibilities of everyday life to sit down and listen. But alas, here I am. And just in time, too. I didn’t want to miss one album that’s been on my radar for quite some time now.

Yesterday, the ever-trustworthy Jigsaw Records officially released the new album, Of Love & Other Affection, from Brazil’s Postal Blue. It’s true that Postal Blue have always been a favorite of mine. Adriano do Couto has a talent for that quintessential indiepop sound that captivates me with the first opening chords. This album may be his best yet.

Adriano hasn’t been completely out of sight since the last Postal Blue release in 2008. He teamed up with Pale Spectres’ Thomas Guilcher for the second wave of EardrumsPOP!’s Between Two Waves compilation. But Of Love & Other Affections is entirely his own and its everything you could hope for.

Any fans of Sarah Records will adore this album from start to finish. I have fewer releases than usual to choose from, but this album is already one of my favorites of the year.

Tomiji – Home (Self-Released)

I love Pale Spectres. How many times have I danced around the living room to the Helen of Troy EP? I’ve lost track by now. I’ve heard that there will be some new Pale Spectres tracks sometime in the near future, but I was thrilled when this gem showed up in various Facebook groups at the end of February.

Tomiji is the potential new solo project of Pale Spectres’ vocalist Thomas Guilcher. It’s catchy, it’s melodic, and it’s danceable. On top of all that, it does, of course, feature Thomas’ charming vocals. I’ve always been a big fan of accents in music and I’ve always found Thomas’ to be exceptionally delightful.

Give it a listen, but don’t blame me once you’re hooked.

NYC Popfest 2015

Social media was buzzing on Tuesday with the announcement of this year’s NYC Popfest line-up. If the prospect of seeing Pete Astor, The Darling Buds, and Club 8 in the city wasn’t enough for you, Northampton, MA resident Lloyd Cole posted on twitter and Facebook that he would “hopefully” be in attendance to see The Loft. Could it possibly get any better?

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Obviously I’ve been a little out of touch with things lately. My self-imposed exile was one of necessity and, in a way, it makes the process of discovering the bands I’m not familiar with in this year’s line-up even more exciting. Maz and Company always manage to bring some incredible international bands to the US shores and this year is certainly no exception. The UK and Spain and, of course, well-represented, but seeing Russia’s Palms on Fire and Japan’s Wallflower in the line-up makes this year seem even more exciting than usual.

I already know who is at the top of my “MUST SEE” list, but what about you? Will you be in attendance? Who are you most excited to see? I’m ready for yet another non-stop weekend of friends, drinking, and dancing. See you in May!

An Interview With… Andreas Jonsson

As you’re probably already aware, Andreas Jonsson is the main songwriter for Alpaca Sports. Of course, the bands hardly needs much of an introduction. This interview, however, has been a long time in the making! Andreas and I have been talking about doing this since June of last year but, due to hectic work schedules, new jobs, moving countries, etc. it took a long time to get to this point. But, finally, here it is!

DSCF8475Davey (The Brilliant Corners) & Andreas (Alpaca Sports)
Photo by Liz Hunt at Birmingham Popfest 2014

SSK: How involved are the other members of the band in the songwriting process? How does the songwriting and recording process typically work?

AJ: The songwriting process can look a bit different from song to song. I guess usually I record demos at home on my computer including verse, chorus, bridge and outro. Then I give it to Carl so he can give his feedback and ideas how to finish it, it can be all from rearranging different parts of the songs to add or lose melodies, etc. I usually record silly vocals for the first demo and then complete them during the songwriting process. For some songs Carl and I write them together from scratch.

In new songs we’ve included our new member Lisle Mitnik in the songwriting process and I’m very happy about that. It has brought in new ideas and energy and I think that will be shown in future releases. I’m a big fan of Lisle’s other bands and projects and I think we complement each other very well when it comes to writing songs.

SSK: How autobiographical are your songs? Where (or from who) do you take the biggest inspiration from?

AJ: I guess for ‘Sealed with a kiss’ many of the songs are autobiographical and taken from my life and from things I experience, feel and think. Things that scare me can also work as big inspiration. And so does films, books, places, my mum, my family’s country house, childhood memories, etc.

SSK: After numerous singles, your debut album Sealed With a Kiss was released in February of last year. The success of the album was seen almost instantly and is now out of stock at Dufflecoat HQ. What are your thoughts on the popularity the band? Did you ever envision such international popularity among the indiepop crowd when you first started the band?

AJ: First of all I’m very thankful for the big support and love that people have given us. I’ve met so many new fantastic friends after starting Alpaca Sports and visited so many places I never thought I would. But this was nothing I expected when I was recording the first two songs in the studio in Gothenburg. I just wanted to make something that I would be proud of and that came straight from my heart. I’m super happy that people like our music and want to buy physical releases, I hope that people will like the new songs as well!

SSK: Along with the 12” album, you also released “Bella’s Mixtape.” This CD contained covers of your songs by Red Sleeping Beauty, Boyish, and Cristina Quesada as well as remixes by The Very Most, Fireflies, and Pale Spectres to name a few. How did the idea for Bella’s Mixtape come about?

AJ: I guess I got the idea when Lisle and Kristine from Tiny Fireflies did a remix of “I was running” as a b-side for the 7″ single of “He doesn’t even like you”. I thought it turned out really, really great and it made me curious on how other bands and projects would transform Alpaca songs into their own. I asked bands and musicians I admire (mostly friends I met during travels with the band) if they wanted to participate in any way, and I was surprised on how many wanted to help out. I’m very grateful and I can honestly say that I love each and every remix and cover. Also it felt very special to dedicate the release to our family dog Bella. I would really be interested in doing a “Bella’s Mixtape Volume 2” or maybe it could be “Bella’s Mixtape Second Summer” for the new songs that are going to be released next year, haha.

SSK: All of your artwork has been done by Ray Kimura. Her artwork gracing the covers of your releases is almost expected now, part of the Alpaca Sports package. How did that collaboration and friendship begin?

AJ: It all started when I stumbled on some of the artworks that Ray had done for other projects in the past. I immediately felt there was something special about it and that it suited Alpaca Sports perfectly. It felt like it would be hand in hand with the songs and how I pictured the project in my head. I sent Ray an email and asked her if she wanted to do the artwork for our debut single “Just for fun”. Luckily, she said yes and since we all loved the result, we couldn’t be more happy that she liked the idea of continuing with the artwork. I was so happy to meet her in person during our Japan tour last year and that she showed us her beautiful hometown, Yokohama. It was also fun to have her in the audience when we played live in Tokyo, it meant a lot to me. I’m very grateful to have her as a friend.

SSK: You were lucky enough to embark on a Japanese tour with Carl and Amanda. Tell us about that experience.

AJ: We had an amazing time, and the more I look back on this trip, the more it feels like it was just a fantasy, too good to be true. The whole trip had something magical and after a while, I didn’t know if it was just a dream or if it had really happened. I loved everything: our friend and tour manager Naoki from Fastcut Records and his fantastic family, who gave us a place to stay, food on our plates (arigato Miharu!), took us on day trips and gave us an incredible time; the Japanese band Wallflower, who played the same night as us three times and also joined us on stage for half of our sets in Osaka and Tokyo; Ray Kimura!, as mentioned before; the fantastic people who came to see our shows and that we met during our time in Japan; the big dinners after playing, which included all the bands a DJ’s and people involved during the nights; the beautiful cities Kobe, Osaka, Kyoto, Nagoya, Tokyo, Takamatsu and Yokohama; the food, the great hospitality, big smiles, the cans with cold coffee on the Shinkansen train, the neon lights, the enormous stores, the crazy photobooths…the list can go on forever! I hope we can go back one day.

SSK: You’ve now played a good handful of the bigger indiepop festivals – Indietracks, Madrid Popfest, Berlin Popfest and NYC Popfest in 2013, Copenhagen Popfest and Birmingham Popfest last year. Do you have a favorite? Why?

AJ: Oh, that’s a tough one! I think all of the Popfests have something unique and wonderful. Indietracks is probably the one I enjoy the most, especially because it includes many of the bands, Dj’s, audience and organizers of the different Popfests around the world. I never went to a summer camp when I was a kid, but this is what I imagine it to be like. If I have to choose a favourite Popfest, I think I would have to say the one in Madrid: beautifully organised, filled with warm-hearted people, great line-ups and venue, the city, El Retiro, Plaza Mayor with its crazy characters, ensaimada in La Mallorquina, Elefant Records, lots of love…Nos vemos en Marzo!

SSK: Sweden has a very popular and influential music scene in the 90’s. Do you think you were at all affected by those bands and musicians?

AJ: Of course! I listened to many of them and I’m sure they play a part in how we sound in many ways. When you listen a lot to something for a long time, I think it will be shown in the way you make music, no matter if you’re conscious about it or not.

SSK: Gothenburg seems to be the Swedish indiepop hotspot these days. Do you have any favorite artists coming out of the city?

AJ: To be honest, I’m not that up to date with what’s coming out of Gothenburg these days, and it was quite some time ago I really listened to something that would make my heart beat faster. But I used to listen a lot to Jens Lekman and Håkan Hellström.

SSK: Who is your favorite Swedish artist in general?

AJ: Acid House Kings!

SSK: The one topic everyone hates discussing: the term ‘twee’. Despite writing cute, catchy pop songs, Alpaca Sports aren’t generally labelled “twee.” Why do you think that is?

AJ: Haha, the question of the million! I guess I’ve read quite many blogs and magazines that have described us as “twee”. I don’t really care, people can call us whatever they want to as long as we know what it is we’re doing. I wouldn’t label our music “twee” and I guess it’s not generally labeled that maybe because of the lyrics, the songs themselves and the production? I don’t know, maybe I can’t see the forest because of all the twees?

SSK: Which of your songs or release are you most proud of and why?

AJ: When it comes to songs, I think I’m the most proud of “She’ll come back for Indian summer” and “He doesn’t even like you”, they mean something special for me and I never get tired of them. They’re also a lot of fun to play live. I think that when it comes to releases, I’m the most proud of the first 7″, the “Just for fun” single. And also the Japanese cd edition released by Fastcut (with Japanese lyrics in the booklet!), but they’re all my babies and they all have a special place in my heart. I’m just thankful that people want to buy the physical copies so that we can continue releasing more!

SSK: What does the future hold for you musically? What kind of goals do you have for Alpaca Sports?

AJ: We have big plans coming up, and I have very high hopes for future songs that will be released with Elefant Records. We have seven songs recorded at the moment that only need to have vocals added and we’re currently recording demos for further new songs. How these will be released is not decided yet but I’m very excited about them. The goal for Alpaca Sports hasn’t changed, it’s still about writing songs that mean something and that carry emotions and makes you go “babara ba ba”.

The Arctic Flow – Lost Wishes (Box Bedroom Rebels)

I have written about The Arctic Flow before. I will write about the Arctic Flow again.

In case you’re unfamiliar, The Arctic Flow is the dreamy pop project of South Carolina, USA resident Brian Hancheck. If somewhat melancholy lyrics and captivating, lush songs are your kind of thing, you’ll love everything Brian releases.

And Brian has been quite prolific this year. Not only did The Arctic Flow make its debut live performance at NYC Popfest this past May, but in less than a year Brian already released two spectacular EPs – Sunbathing/Stargazing (Shiny Happy Records) and January Stars (Dufflecoat Records). Following both of these EPs, Brian is now on the verge of releasing his first record on vinyl – an 8-track 7″ (yes, you read that right) – coming soon on Manchester, UK’s Box Bedroom Rebels. It’s well deserved and, quite frankly, long overdue!

“Lost Wishes” is the title track from that upcoming micro-album and it’s everything you’ve come to expect from the talented songwriter. If anything, the quality of his output only gets better. I don’t know how he manages to do it, but I’m sure glad that he does.

Brideshead – The Mermaid (2014)

Only one word can accurately describe the new Brideshead video: FUN! The quirky video for “The Mermaid”, one of the songs from the new 7” released on Dufflecoat Records in the middle of October, will have you smiling from the start.

Though there have been gaps between releases, the band has never lost its charm and classic indiepop sound. These two tracks, “The Mermaid” and “The Loneliest Boy in the World”, may have urged me to go back and listen to older releases, but they have also left me wanting more! Fingers crossed for another full-length sometime in the near future.

The Thyme Machine – I Am The Postman (2014)

I love The Thyme Machine. They’re silly and fun and they make me smile to no end. The band recently released a new video for “I am the Postman”, taken from their second album Waking Up with The Thyme Machine. It’s everything you’d expect. Cleverl lyrics, handclaps, Beach Boys-esque “woo-oohs”. Really, what’s not to love?

The seriousness on Kriss’ face towards the end had me laughing incredibly hard, and I don’t think it’s from the exhaustion I’m experiencing. Watch it, enjoy it!

Marlovers – (Stalking) You (Jigsaw Records)

The Mallorca-based Marlovers are back! After forming in 2005 and releasing a 7” (Non Stop Dreaming) in 2010 on Clifford Records, the band has released their first full length album. The album, (Stalking) You, was released in early September on Jigsaw Records. I happened to inherit a copy of Jigsaw’s September mix which featured “Known Faces”, a track from the new album. I’ve been hooked ever since.

Jigsaw is able to categorize them perfectly with a single word: elegant. But a very upbeat and catchy elegance. These female vocals are lush and mesmerizing. There is a plethora of jangly guitars, swirling keyboard, and delightful harmonies. According to the Jigsaw bandcamp page, the band managed to work with Ian Catt (St. Etienne, The Field Mice) on this release, so you already have a general idea of how sophisticated and graceful the album is.

Do I really need to say more? Go and listen for yourself.

The Hobbes Fanclub – Up at Lagrange (Shelflife Records)

It was six years in the making, but The Hobbes Fanclub‘s debut LP, Up At Lagrange, is finally here. I’m going to have to agree with everyone else, too – it was worth the wait.

I remember hearing “Your Doubting Heart” for the first time. It must have been just prior to my NYC Popfest 2013 weekend, where I was lucky enough to see the band play (twice? Perhaps we won’t talk about that here). I missed them at Indietracks thanks to clashes (or was I just hiding out in the train bar?) which I am now regretting.

The Bradford, UK trio as it is now known, comprised of guitarist Leon Carroll, bassist Louise Phelan, and drummer Adam Theakston, was drafted together in 2011, though the band has existed since 2008. The influences and inspirations are obvious: a lot of Jesus and Mary Chain, a little Galaxie 500, hints of Ride and other like shoegaze bands. It’s lush and dreamy. It’s melodic with just the right amount of feedback. Each song shimmers out of my speakers into my pop-loving heart. It’s an instant classic.

I’m jumping on the bandwagon: this has all kinds of Album of the Year potential.

Up At Lagrange is now available via Shelflife Records or, for the UK, The Hobbes Fanclub’s bandcamp page. This will sell out so don’t wait too long.