Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Best of 2010 - Part One

This is not a real year end top list. This is just a small non-numbered list of 2010 releases that I have enjoyed a lot. I am really slow when it comes to new releases. Therefore it might actually be more useful for me to write a best of 2009 list but that would be obsolete now.. So, here we go:

The Posies: Blood/Candy

A beautiful album by one of my very favorite bands. Gosh, I wasn't sure at all that they actually hadn't broken up – again.. Even though there aren't that many distorted guitar sounds, there is plenty of rock on this album, I think. Yes, the overall sound is at its cleanest since Dear 23 (which is actually probably my #2 favorite album from the Posies!) but does it really matter if the songwriting is absolutely superb? Blood/Candy is an album that doesn't wear out even with intensive, repeated listening.

Lemonator: Shake, Shake, Shake

A WONDERFUL album by dear, dear Lemos! Also my favorite band from Finland had been causing me to worry a bit if it was still around at all.. Relief came in the form of Shake, Shake, Shake: a fresh addition to the absolute high-quality Lemonator discography, and a very well balanced album. Shake, Shake, Shake can be seen as the first clearly ”happy” album since the debut effort Yellow (1997) but anyone who has paid attention to the band's music as a whole knows that Lemonator's music always comes with a dash of wistfulness. Sometimes the very Brian Wilsonesque melancholy remains hidden but it is still there – creating a big part of the magic.

Teenage Fanclub: Shadows

An album that I ignored at first (even though I had puchased it..). Then I received the gospel of Teenage Fanclub alive in front of me and I was made a whole new TFC fan! I ended up becoming a worshipper of Songs from Northern Britain rather than the new one but Shadows is a real beauty, of course. It was actually the songs from the new album that appealed to me the most in the live situation. Just like with Blood/Candy, one of the things that especially make me happy, is that TFC is also still going strong and maintaining its identity as the most cosy and charming power pop-related band of the planet.

The Apples in Stereo: Travellers in Space and Time

Yippee! The Apples made it: a more compact album than the previous one (New Magnetic Wonder) with the same lovely futuristic pop elements. The number of songs could have been smaller but I don't mind the album being the way it is either. Travellers in Space and Time is a cheerful, exciting, and fresh album that weaves some electronic dance music into power pop as if it was the most everyday thing.. The songs are catchy, and Robert Schneider sounds like a candy bar. That's the way it's done, friends!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Vampires + Country Music = Cool!

A bit surprisingly, it's country music time. I have been enjoying the TV show True Blood lately, and the theme song, Bad Things by Jace Everett. It is a really charming country song. I hear rockabilly in it as well as a great dark psychedelic vibe. Everett's voice is also lovely. All in all, cool song, and really catchy!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

More Finnish Girl Power

Gee! I just realized Stalingrad Cowgirls are not the only cool kick-ass girl band from Finland that I have missed/ignored lately. Barbe-Q-Barbies, another really fresh band, has even got some good attention in Finnish music magazines and TV, but I ended up paying zero attention to these "barbies"... Well, it was the band's name that killed my interest at first but hearing a short music sample made me change my mind very quickly.

Here is a song from Barbe-Q-Barbies debut album All Over You, released in October 2010. The video might be even too glamorous for my taste but.. well, it is the music that counts. The sound is impeccable, and style wonderfully straightforward. I have a soft spot for stuff like this.. I might end up going to the record store.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

People in Funny Animal Costumes, Part 2

Here is another mistreated bubblegum gem: the Banana Splits. Like most 60s/70s bubblegum artists, the Banana Splits starred in a Saturday morning children's TV show. An album called We're the Banana Splits was also released in 1970, featuring many of the songs from the show.

We're the Banana Splits album was even re-released on CD (added with songs from another children's show, The Beagles - a show that accidentally vanished entirely and therefore cannot be seen anymore). However, if I remember correctly, this CD was a limited edition (why, oh why?). If you want to buy a used copy, be sure to have at least about $60... It is not really for sale as mp3. And how come, the TV show is not really available either. All in all, this is quite bizarre, I think. Hopefully the situation will improve some day.

The music is timeless, though.. Many of the songs seem to have a very strong soul/funk vibe. Watching the video material is also hilarious! For a European kid like me, who never had the chance to see this show, getting to see the funny animal characters now is quite entertaining and a bit confusing.. The combination of killer 60s soul-bubblegum pop songs and funny-looking children's characters is almost surreal. It is a good thing to get confused at times, though – especially if the music is so good!

We're the Banana Splits
I'm Gonna Find a Cave
I Enjoy Being a Boy (In Love with You)
You're the Lovin' End
This Spot
Wait till Tomorrow
It's a Good Day for a Parade

Breakfast Cereal Music

Talk about 70s bubblegum music that is in desperate need of a remastered release on CD... Introducing the Sugar Bears! I found out about this “band” while reading the Bubblegum Music Is the Naked Truth book. Bubblegum historian Bill Pitzonka has stated that along with Lancelot Link & the Evolution Revolution's album, Presenting the Sugar Bears is one the best bubblegum full-lengths ever released.

Songs by the the Sugar Bears were used to lure people to buy breakfast cereals (the songs were also released as a “real” album on Big Tree label). The material was recorded by faceless session musicians (including young Kim Carnes). The result: music that is so melodic, warm and gentle that it is easily among the most charming music made in the whole of 1970s. Bubblegum at its best, indeed – and rarest.

If there still was a chance to get music like that from cereal boxes, I would probably be constantly patrolling near the cereal section at the local supermarket. Getting music like this from a cereal box... That would be the best cereal box ever, regardless of what the cereals tasted like.

If this album was released on CD, I would buy two copies. It is SO good music. Why won't they release stuff like this? I mean, considerably more mediocre stuff is being rereleased all the time... Who should I contact to get it released? And would it really be of any assistance...

Happiness Train
You Are the One
Feather Balloon
Love, You've Been a Long Time Coming

The Genius of Mike Batt

Recently, I have been drawn to the Wombles – again! As I already wrote about a couple of years ago in this blog, The Wombles originally appeared in a series of children's novels by Elisabeth Beresford. These imaginary creatures were also made into a popular TV show in the 70s.

Mike Batt wrote the theme song for the Wombles TV show. After that, Batt made four full albums of Wombles music which became very succesfull. Mike Batt (under the title ”the Wombles”) even ended up spending more weeks on British charts than any other artist in 1974. The attention was well-deserved. Batt's songwriting was very good and his range of musical styles varied from Mozart to surf pop. There were live concerts, performed by professional session musicians wearing Womble costumes. Batt also starred at the concerts playing the role of one of the Womble characters.

Mike Batt doesn't seem to be too enhusiastic about his Wombles music anymore. I read that this is why the gold-selling Wombles albums haven't been re-released on CD. Therefore they will probably not be released anytime soon... Such great bubblegum music would definitely cheer anyone up and be of great value in nostalgic sense... Not to mention how much people of younger generations (such as myself) would enjoy it! Great music for both children and adults... What else do you need?
Update (12/05/10): I'm so happy! They ARE going to be released after all!

Before the Wombles albums come out I'll get myself some of Mike Batt's later solo material... I looked at Batt's musical life story and it was really amazing. He has been all around the world, worked with symphony orchestras and million-selling artists – written some of their million-selling hits, of course... People seem to think Batt is a very underappreciated songwriter. I wonder if many people in general even have heard about him, considering how much he has achieved. One thing is for sure: writing four albums and eight hit singles for the Wombles doesn't look all that huge anymore when you think about all of the things Batt has done during his life.

But I still love those awesome Wombles tracks. Listen to some!

Womble Of The Universe
Nonstop Wombling Summer Party
The Wombling Song
Remember You're a Womble
Dreaming in the Sun
Banana Rock (Check out that accent...)
Minuetto Allegretto
Wombling Merry Christmas (Awesome Christmas song!)

Back to Bubblegum... Again!

There is definitely another big bubblegum mania coming... at least to me. I know, I keep going back to bubblegum music practically all the time. I love bubblegum music and I don't think I'll ever get tired of sweet guys singing about “yummy”...

To celebrate bubblegum music, here is the original theme song of the Archies TV show, known as The Archie Show. Now that's catchy!

Gee, just look at that psychedelic blinking! And whoah, Jughead is invisible! I highly doubt they would allow this kind of stuff be shown on TV anymore...

And how cool it is that the Archie comic still exists! I am so going to subscribe it! No, really, maybe not... But the music still kicks ass. And the TV show is cool, too..

Of course this is also still the real deal!