Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Bubblegum Is Back!

Once again, I've found myself in the middle of a huge 60s bubblegum craze (although I spent a considerable amount of time listening to Bay City Rollers today..)! I'm seeking new bubblegum bands and CDs and listening to the ones I already have although I'm supposed to be doing my homework. Good for me..

I also finally realized (given a hint) that The Archies, having being a cartoon band, can be viewed at YouTube - with relatively poor quality, but it's much better than nothing. Having a proper Archies DVD.. That would be something..

I'll give here one example of The Archies excellence. This is a wonderful song called Comes the Sun. I just found it.. Check out other Archies songs too, they're amazing! The graphics are also pretty cool.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Visual Music from Japan

Now here’s the MOST nasal band in the world. It’s Japanese Oshare Kei band An Cafe that has been very successful lately, also in Finland. At first I couldn’t believe how nasal a voice this band’s lead singer Miku had. Then, I thought it was already too nasal. Finally, I came to a conclusion: there is no such thing as too nasal…

An Cafe has been a small hit to me, although their music is complicated due to a couple of reasons. Oshare Kei is a subgenre of Visual Kei, a genre that could be seen as a Japanese version of glam rock. However, it’s a bit more that just glam rock, because it contains happy punk rock, hard rock, as well as even hardcore, and definitely some hints of new wave dance rhythms and funny keyboards.

Probably the most unusual thing about J-Rock bands in general is their incredible way of breaking genre boundaries. Japanese rock bands usually tend to explore many genres in their music – genres that may be very, very different from each other. Also, no western band performing hardcore music would ever have a completely nasal bubblegum singer! An Cafe vocalist Miku does sing in a hardcore style, too, but the first thing you’ll notice about him is that incredibly nasal sound.

Gokutama Rock Cafe (2008) is An Cafe’s latest full-length release. Its first half focuses on relatively melodic punk/alternative/pop-rock. Towards the end the album starts to show heavier sounds. It’s in fact a quite divided album. It’s as if the first half was designed for fans of melodic rock and the latter half for hardcore people. Perhaps the band couldn’t decide if it wants to be melodic or hardcore? I couldn’t say..

This band does have some really cool songs. My #1 favorite song is S*B*Y. I think it’s really brilliant! You can listen to it at YouTube.
I also adore a song called Hatsukoi from their Ademama Rock (2005) album. It’s a most wonderful song. Check it out too! You’ll see their crazy visual side there, too... I also recommend Nyappy in the World 3. There's some definite disco powerpop there! Finally, here's a link to my J-Music geek friend's (who introduced me to this band) favourite An Cafe song, Nyappy in the World. It's strange how they name these tunes..

An Cafe at MySpace

Monday, September 22, 2008

Monsters of Pop Sept 6th - Day Three

I just love writing when you don’t have a deadline – except for the final deadline, your own actual death. However, here’s the final part of my MOP report.

Ville Särmä is known from the Finnish rock band Kevin. This time Särmä performed his new solo material under the name Ville Särmän illuusio. While Kevin’s latest album was psych-garage-oriented, Särmä’s new material is more folky and melancholic and features careful arrangements and progressive song structures. It was actually very melancholic music. Särmä channelled his inner melancholy through his music, and the result was beautiful and organic.

Then came that moment.. Suddenly I felt like I was at the IPO. It’s not like I know what it’s like to be at the IPO, but this was definitely the band that would have suited to that festival better than any other act of MOP ‘08. The stage was taken over by Forest & Crispian, a Swedish trio that performed very cool garage-influenced music that the band calls new wave barber shop rock. The guys had practised their three-part harmonies carefully, and there indeed was something quite new wavey in the group’s exciting melodies and lead singer/standup drummer Adam Hjertström’s excellent vocals. Band members chatted with the audience in a lovely way. It’s really important, in my opinion, that the performer talks to the audience between songs.

After F&C’s gig, I thought to myself: “We have a winner.” Those songs, that energy.. Wow! Forest & Crispian’s gig was my favourite performance of the entire festival.

Joose Keskitalo performed at MOP together with Risto Ylihärsilä two years ago. Now it was time for a Joose Keskitalo show with his band Kolmas maailmanpalo. Keskitalo’s songs sounded once again really good, although they did sound quite dark right after Forest & Crispian’s happy high-energy gig. The audience, however, seemed to be even more excited about Joose Keskitalo than it had been during F&C’s performance.

The final act of the day, occurring at Klubi, was Swedish Familjen who had recently toured with another Swedish band, Kent. Familjen comes from Skåne, Southern Sweden, where people speak a lovely, incomprehensible dialect. Johan T Karlsson sang in Skånska, and along with the cool electronic beats it really sounded easy-going. A female guest vocalist was also a really good addition to the set.

All in all, it was a good festival. It wasn’t perfect this time either, but the majority of shows were top-class. If I just could decide which bands play next year.. Seriously, the number of powerpop acts was for the third time in a row ZERO. Gee, what kind of a pop festival is that?

A not so bad one, really.
But I have to do something about the powerpop statistics of MOP. Until next year..

Mosters of Pop Website

Monday, September 15, 2008

Monsters of Pop Sept 5th - Day Two

Day two of MOP started with a rather unusual performance by Credit - a very new group formed by My Lovin Martian of I Was a Teenage Satan Worshipper and Cute Pint of Pintandwefall. It was actually the duo’s first gig, and their first practise session had been held on Monday. Cute Pint and My Lovin Martian performed lots of good electropop songs, and I liked them all. My Lovin Martian is getting better and better at writing pop songs.

Le Corps Mince De Françoise was the next band. It was an all-girls band that performed energetic pop songs with electronic beats. It was basically good, but something about it bothered me.. It was those ultra cool beats that confused me. I believe those beats reminded me of the ones that are used in contemporary r&b – a type of music I spend considerable amounts of time trying to avoid at all costs. I couldn’t shake that uneasy feeling during the entire gig, but I’m willing to listen to this band again, see if my mind was just playing tricks on me.

If you look at the outer appearance of the members, Jesse is probably the unsexiest band you could imagine.. The guys wear denim with leather vests, sunglasses, and caps. Their music, however, is very interesting. It reminds me a lot of Aavikko, a electropop group that played live at last year’s MOP (what an amazing gig it was – I probably lost 2000 kcal during the performance…). Compared to Aavikko, Jesse is a lot more 80s-styled, and all their songs seem to be about cars, or driving fast in cars.. It’s probably the band’s unusual image that has gotten them a lot of attention, but their music is well worth checking out.

Then, it was once again time to move to Klubi. The second international guest of the festival took over the stage. The Deer Tracks played music that probably could be described as a form of post-rock. It surely sounded like Sigur Rós, though it was more electronic. The music was very beautiful and surely required some patience since the songs were sometimes quite long. The band had some reinforcements on the stage, including a trumpetist and a clarinetist. In addition, it was quite confusing how much lead singer and keyboard player David Lehnberg looked and sounded like AFI’s Davey Havok..

Regina played at MOP for the second time. In a bigger club environment the band’s sound was a lot different than what it was a year ago at Artturi. This time Regina also performed songs from their two albums, and new tunes. The songs sounded good and Iisa Pajula’s vocals were lovely, but the overall performance somehow felt.. slightly cold. Maybe the lights weren’t blinking as colourfully as I’d hoped for.. Or perhaps I just have a lot to learn about the nature of electronic pop. However, it was cool that their drummer had adopted a standup playing style..

The only non-electronic band of the entire day was the final act, Swedish First Floor Power that used to have Jenny Wilson as a member. The band seemed to enjoy performing their songs. However, honestly, I expected more from a critically acclaimed Swedish pop band. Their songs had potential but somehow they felt a bit faint. I also felt I’d heard a lot more interesting melodies before - that’s surely not a good thing to happen when you’re trying to find new favourite bands. Have I gotten myself used to so extremely catchy and complicated melodies that I now find it hard to appreciate a band that isn’t melodically so.. sparkling? I don’t know. Maybe someday I’ll find out.

When I hear music that doesn’t immediately sound good, I never blame it on the music. It is my fault, my flaw if I can’t see the beauty of some specific music. This way of thinking does get problematic in many ways sometimes, but I won’t discuss it now.

In the end, it’s art. Who can really say the final word about it being good or not?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Monsters of Pop Sept 4th - Day One

Ever since Monsters of Pop indie festival was launched back in 2006 I’ve attended every concert. Last year it was quite difficult to see all gigs from beginning to end because at some points there were two bands playing in different venues at the same time. This time it was much better. You could easily see all bands and the festival had been moved to Klubi and Telakka from Yo-talo and Artturi.

The obviously well-named indiepop band Goodnight Monsters started this year’s festival and played a set of great pop tunes, mostly from their new album Summer Challenge. I had never listened to this band before and I noticed I totally loved the stuff and the gorgeous hooks. This type of twee-ish music is exactly what you might assume I listen to all the time, but I really haven’t really gotten into the genre yet. I’ve checked out some material from twee groups but usually ended up thinking: “This stuff kinda lacks rock’n’roll riffs.. and it could use some additional power and intensity, too.” I guess I’ll learn to love twee music as I listen to it more – a lot more.

Kastor was the second band. They played quite original alternative rock (which made me wonder why they chose rock bands again to this festival when it’s supposed to be pop) and it was really good. I might check out the band later. I still remember vividly how serious Kastor members seemed to be about their music. They really put all their energy and skills to the performance. It was almost scaringly intense.

Kiki Pau ended the first part of day one. This band was probably the most confusing thing of the entire festival. It was catchy and wild alternative pop-rock with very groovy rhythms. The confusing thing was the band’s lead singer, he looked and sounded somehow familiar.. I felt like I watching and listening to Janne Laurila’s brother who had made a bit different choice about his musical career – a bit more groovy and aggressive choice.

At Klubi, the opening act of the evening was Last Calls, a group that played very peaceful and melancholic music with film music and country qualities. It wasn’t the most exciting gig I’d seen, but it was quite suitable after two very loud, high-energy gigs.

Then, it was time for the first international guest, Russian post-rock group Everything Is Made in China. Post-rock was one of this year’s new themes in Monsters of Pop, and EIMIC gave a nice introduction to the subject. Very sympathetic, curly-haired Fedorov Maksim sang and played guitar while Zotov Aleksey banged the drums and cool graphics illustrated the silver screen.

Risto was the last performer of the day one of MOP. Risto Ylihärsilä’s anti-melodic pop was once again a big success, and having seen two Risto gigs before, I have to say Mr. Ylihärsilä’s performances just keep getting more and more demonic.. Risto creates entertaining pop/rock songs out of dead serious topics, performs them manically (scaringly intensive gig of the day #2), and makes the audience dance - Diskopallo being the biggest hit, of course.

More blabber to come..

Monday, September 8, 2008

Hops and Pop

Monsters of Pop Indie Festival was good, as always.. Goodnight Monsters played some catchy Beach Boys-esque pop treats, and the gorgeous Swedish band Forest & Crispian (probably my next favourite band) did the same thing, especially with their last song. There will be a full Monsters of Pop report as soon as I get the inspiration. When I listen to bands play, there are always cool review lines spinning in my head. To write them down later at home is not as easy as reviewing a concert in my head while listening bands play live.

My head seems to be stuck in (a) decade(s) I’ve never actually lived. I watched 16 episodes of Happy Days, I listen to fifties and sixties pop bands all the time, I buy 60s and 50s compilations.. I also grabbed the official soundtrack for a cool film, American Graffiti. It is a two-disc collection of some of the coolest vocal pop, rock’n’roll, doo wop and other r&b of the 50s and early 60s featuring Chuck Berry, The Platters, Buddy Holly, and The Beach Boys, of course, and other top class stuff.

I guess I’m quite happy at the moment. I’m starting my Swedish studies (one of the most wonderful languages there are), listening to cool pop and watching cool TV shows. Also, I walked into the record store Jukeboss today, and The Sun Sawed in 1/2 was being played there.. That was so cool that I couldn’t believe it. Thanks, Bruce Brodeen, for sending those CDs to circulate in used-CD bins in Finland (and no one wants to buy them, even though Fizzy Lift is the coolest album ever)..

When will people come to their senses and realize that The Sun Sawed in 1/2 is/was the most wonderful and gorgeous band in the world? I guess it might help if I spread the word..