Back in May, Danny from February Records (formerly Twee Fort) got in touch with me about some new pop releases on his label. I wrote up a little review & made a mental note to keep my eye on February Records and before I knew it, Danny was back in touch about a whole batch of new releases, including EPS, full-length albums, and free downloadable singles.
Honestly, it took me a couple of listens to actually get all the way through The Cavemen Go’s album New Lives. It’s no fault of the band’s — I tend to listen to music while I’m at work and I just kept getting interrupted by phone calls, meetings, etc. and every time I came back to my desk, I thought, “I should really start this over” (mainly because I like the first song, “Forget it Claudia” so much.) New Lives is a rock/pop album that reminds of music I grew up listening to: Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, Dave Edmunds, Squeeze. Songs like “Forget it Claudia” and “We’re Not That Different” have that vibe especially. The piano in “We’re Not That Different” really reminds me of something you might hear on an Elvis Costello record. This album came at a perfect time for me to listen to — I just finished reading Imperial Bedrooms by Bret Easton Ellis (the sequel to his first novel, Less Than Zero) — both books are laden with Elvis Costello allusions & I’ve been listening to songs like “Less Than Zero” by Elvis Costello and “So It Goes” by Nick Lowe on an endless loop lately. New Lives fits neatly into that pattern while offering something new.
Musical Postcards, the new EP from Bourgeois Heroes, has a loping, melodic pop sound that reminds me of a combination of certain Belle and Sebastian singles, The Monkees, The Beach Boys (for me, the Beach Boys influence is especially strong on the last track, “Holly”), and Harry Nilsson’s songs for The Point (see this video for “Think About Your Troubles” or this one for “Me and My Arrow.”) Worth noting is the fact that Musical Postcards is a long-distance collaboration between Elise and Jason, who built these songs through the process of mailing demos back and forth and sharing their feedback via phone and postcard. While I’m sure the distance was a lot to work around (& it certainly adds an interesting conceptual layer to the EP), Elise and Justin’s collaboration is seamless & the vast geographical distance that shaped Musical Postcards leads to a gorgeous, intimate closeness. Listening to Musical Postcards feels like being very near to someone.
Secret Charisma is the one-man project of Brad San Martin of One Happy Island (whose debut LP I reviewed earlier this month.) Complications is a three-song single that takes selections from Brad’s upcoming compilation of home recordings, Satellites: Home Recordings and Demos, 2004-2009. Instrumentally, these songs are pure pop with sweet ukulele strumming and soft, melodic keyboards, but the most striking thing for me was how much Brad’s voice reminded me of Bob Pollard from Guided By Voices. Pollard’s voice is easily one of my favorites in pop music, so this association was a welcome one for me. Complications is available as a free download here. “Angel, Please” a simple, strummy ukulele song is my favorite of the three and it’s sandwiched neatly between the keyboard-poppy title track and “Lord Thomas,” an understated traditional-sounding ballad that closes out the single. There’s a lot of variety in these three songs, which makes me curious about what other genres might be explored on the forthcoming Satellites.
“Splashdown,” the first song on Brilliant at Breakfast’s new EP, Almost Verbose, starts out with the white noise of seagulls and waves crashing, and segues seamlessly into a sad and sincere personal narrative accentuated by keyboards, egg shakers, and great vocals that remind me of rocket or chiritori. Brilliant at Breakfast have a soft, sincere sound that reminds me of something you might come across through Shelflife Records, like The Shermans, Moving Pictures, or Language of Flowers. For all the sweetness of Brilliant at Breakfast’s sound, some of their lyrics tend toward the darker side, exploring heartbreak, disappointment, confusion about one’s place in life — it’s a delicate balance to maintain between their music and lyrics, but they do a lovely job. Almost Verbose is available as a free download from February Records.