Just Another Mid-Summer Music Mix.

July 29, 2010 at 5:19 am (cool band alert, Music Mixes, new releases, rock and roll, Uncategorized)

Last week I knew I was going to need some music for a thing, and that said music should be fairly obscure, hopefully fairly good, and finally sort of have a certain mass appeal-ishness to it.  I also regret having a whole ton of music that I’ve been listening to over the last 8-12 months that I’ve not at least given a mild shout out to, so that was also a motivating factor.

The thing of it is, while I try to have some sort of over-arching theme to the mixes I do, the theme for this mix has changed about five or six times since I started it.  Originally I was going to call it “Two Good Songs”, in deference to my ol’ Euclid Records compatriot Steve.  (Back in the day you’d ask Steve if he’d heard a new record, and inevitably, regardless of the album, you were 75% likely to get the response “Yeah…two good songs.”  It became something of his trademark for a while.)  That idea was to collect really terrific songs from albums made up of songs not quite to the standard of the one on the mix.  Then the theme was summer.  And then it wasn’t, because it’s too bloody hot as it is.  Then the theme was “Excuses to put Deanne Iovan’s “Everything” into a mix.”  Then it was “People you might know from other stuff doing new stuff”.

I guess for now the theme is just “This is a mix of songs that I think I have done a haphazard job of representing how good they are.”  Everything in the mix is of very recent vintage, like 2008 or later.  I think these songs are really, really good.  I hope you enjoy this mix, and it brings you as much enjoyment as it’s brought me to both make and listen to.

Without further introduction, here we go:

Two Years Out Of My Mind

(right click and “save as”…one large mp3 file as usual.)

1.  “Artificial Fanfare (Music In My Head)” Happy Chichester
2.  “Pizza-Eater” The Leeds
3.  “Olympic Gardens” The Mystery Numbers
4.  “Queen Of Moods” Jeffrey Novak
5.  “Saturday” The Music Lovers
6.  “Cherry Blossom” Sad Day For Puppets
7.  “Everything” Deanne Iovan
8.  “Those Were The Days” Elvyn
9.  “The Kids” The Bomb
10.”Chemicals” The Comfies
11.”When I’m With You” Best Coast
12.”Begging You” Graham Day & The Gaolers
13.”The Kelly Rose” The Brought Low
14.”Soul School” Cornershop
15.”Alice Marble Gray” Califone
16.”Go Jetsetter” The Postmarks
17.”So Long (Maybe)” Nushu
18.”Golden Hips” Dragoon
19.”These Are the Days” Grand Atlantic
20.”Kaleidoscope Eyes” Painted Hills

First off, don’t read too much into the title I picked here–I just used a lyric from the Music Lovers song because the timeframe for these songs was right; I’ve been fairly in my mind (and certainly not with the cool, sordid tale the dude in Music Lovers has!) over the last two years.  I guess this mix is sort of like me compiling some odds and ends short stories from the past two years or so.

So who are these people?

Happy Chichester might be familiar to you.  He was the bassist, backing vocalist, and one of the main creative forces behind The Royal Crescent Mob back in the day.  Then they broke up and he had his own band, Howlin’ Maggie.  This song is from his 2008 solo disc, which is really good (see also the cool video for “A Man Needs An Airplane” on youtube.)

The Leeds are a band that seems to be a collision of Anglo (singer Pandora Burgess) and Franc0 (the rest of the excellent, Rain Parade-y sounding band).  This song is just totally aces, but the entire Leeds album is fantastic.  This is one expensive-sounding production, so it baffles me that this disc is impossible to find outside of France.  Ah well.  Here’s a taste.

The Mystery Numbers is the new act for The Weather Machines’ (who are no more) frontman Jason Ward.  He’s decamped from Portland back to Rapids City, SD, and making some truly genius music.  Check out this site, where he’s got demos posted from the past few months; these are all very good and worth throwing the guy a few bucks to hear.

Jeffrey Novak is the leader of Cheap Time, a band that at one time also had his then-girlfriend, Jemina Pearl of the late and lamented Be Your Own Pet on bass.  No word on a new Cheap Time album, or a new solo disc; I have a feeling the death of Jay Reatard earlier this year has hit the folks in this scene pretty hard.

If I ever manage to finish the top 20 list of greatest records of 2009, rest assured that The Music Lovers’ amazing album Masculin Feminine is going to be very high in the top ten.  In the meantime, this disc has felt like my little secret, and I can’t contain how great a song “Saturday” is anymore.  Best song about rehab and redemption ever? Oh, and you have GOT to see the incredible video for this song!

Sad Day For Puppets wins the award for “Worst Band Name In This Mix”, but boy did they put out a great album a year or so ago.  They’re from Sweden, and manage to occasionally out-Pain the Pains Of Being Pure At Heart.  Think C86, think Lush, think Flatmates, and bliss out.

Of all the tracks on this mix, I think Deanne Iovan’s “Everything” might be the one that gets me the most.  I think it’ll get you too, if you happen to have a heart.  Deanne is the former singer of Detroit’s legendary garage-soul genius band The Come Ons, but this is a total departure of the music she made in that group.  This will just tear your soul to pieces and put it back together again.  Deanne has a really cool blog, too, where right now she’s endeavoring to cover (and upload in mp3 form) every song from The White Album, doing a new song every 9 days (and sort of learning new instruments on the fly).  It’s an incredibly neat undertaking, and worth checking out.

I’ve no idea who Elvyn is, but they’ve cooked up the best rewrite of Teenage Fanclub’s “God Knows It’s True” of all time, so good in fact that, along with the lyrical sentiment that “these are actually the good ol’ days”, (and yes, these are; if your life motto isn’t being in love with these times I feel kinda sorry for you.) I can’t hardly resist it.

You might not know who The Bomb are when the song “The Kids” starts up, but as soon as the vocals come in you’re gonna start figuring it out (and if the “whoooaaaah’s” on the chorus don’t do it, you didn’t listen to enough Chicago punk growing up.)  Yep, The Bomb is Jeff Pezzati–Naked Raygun, Pegboy–on vocals, and a crew of Chicago punk mainstays filling out the band.  If you dig the old school postpunk punk, The Bomb is, well, the bomb.

Dunno who The Comfies are, but they’ve got a couple of EP’s out that scratch that “remember when Spoon was interesting?” itch.

Best Coast is a boy-girl duo featuring a former actress doing songs that sound like odes to 1960’s girl-pop culture.  Sound familiar?  Yeah, but unlike Miss Deschanel’s project, Best Coast has a great fizzy, shoegazy sound and Bethany Cosentino doesn’t rely so much on autotuning here, preferring to let her earnest vocals sit buried in an echo-chamber mix that totally works.  Here’s a  story from ABC News (no, not kidding) on the group that recently aired.

Graham Day is to the UK what Greg Cartwright/Oblivian is to the US:  an underground icon who shouldn’t be unknown, a guy who writes ingenious songs and who can out-sing damn near anyone you’ll hear on the radio.  Graham is an old school member of the Medway Sound (think Billy Childish and all his gajillion bands) that seems newly resurgent with him, The Len Price 3, and The Stabilisers carrying the flag forward.  The Gaolers are a bit of a trans-atlantic partnership, with the other members of the band being legendary Georgia garage band The Woggles.

The Brought Low deserve to be household names among all those who hold hard-rocking southern FM radio from the 70’s in high esteem.  Sounding like nothing so much as Molly Hatchet with a Van Zant brother on lead vocals, this Florida three-piece just totally brings it.  Oh, and just to be clear, their whole album from this year, 3 is utterly excellent.

Speaking of excellent, I’m gonna guess that if you’re reading this, you know who Cornershop is.  I’m also gonna guess that a lot of folks reading this know “Brimful Of Asha” and not a whole lot else.  The new Cornershop album, Judy Sucks A Lemon For Breakfast is a little uneven, but when it gets it right (like on “Soul School”) it sure sounds aces.

…and probably guessing that if you know me, you’re at least familiar with my Califone obsession.  It might seem like the band has been in hibernation for a while, but not true:  last year they recorded a bunch of songs for a film project called All My Friends Are Funeral Singers and the album that resulted by the same title is pretty awesome; it definitely is the most “song oriented” record Califone’s done, as you can hear by this song.

I haven’t much info on the band The Postmarks, other than I believe them to be from the UK.  What I do know is that their album Memoirs At The End Of The World has one or two songs that just don’t work…and then about 5 or 6 tunes that sound like Ennio Morricone or Henry Mancini wrote them for films in the 1960’s.  Totally worth checking out for those songs (especially “No One Said This Would Be Easy”, which sounds like what you’d get if Morricone did a Bond theme).

Nushu is a SoCal two piece consisting of Lisa Mychols and Hillary Burton, who write and perform everything here including handling all the instrumental chores.  Their new album, Hula is one of the best discs of 2010, folks, and absolutely worth seeking out.  The band veer from ’90’s indie chick pop (there are a lot of songs that sound like something Veruca Salt would’ve killed for), but also a lot of nods to some very classic wall of Spector 1960’s production and songwriting.

Dragoon probably needs little introduction to a lot of my friends:  this is Tripp and Stanley from The Grifters, along with Bobby Matthews (DC hardcore legend of Trusty fame) on guitars and vocals.  What’s fascinating here is that Dragoon sounds a LOT like The Grifters.  In fact, the Dragoon record suggests to me that it came out of some alternate dimension that took that band down a different path after the Eureka IV ep than the one they actually took.

Grand Atlantic hail from Australia, and they’re a favorite of mine; their debut made my top 20 of 2006.  This is a tune from their new record, which doesn’t hit quite the highs of the debut, but which still is worth checking out.

The Painted Hills feature folks from Beechwood Sparks and The Tyde.  This, one of the first albums to appear on Ric Menck’s new Bird Songs label, sounds less Gram Parsons and more Paisley Underground than the band’s roots.

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If I Start Reading Twilight As A Result Of This, Please Shoot Me.

July 1, 2010 at 1:52 am (cool band alert, new releases, rock and roll, Uncategorized)

This is the band Panic At! The Disco (girls, did I put the exclamation point in the right spot there?):

If that picture doesn’t say “This band are awful, and in a grab-you-by-the-collar-and-yell-AWFUL-in your-face-way-awful” then I don’t know what does. Holy crap. It’s like emo exploded all over the damn place.

And so now, that hilariously crap picture burnt into your memory, I want you to hold it in mind while I mention that PATD (that’s how the kool kidz and 14-year-old girls refer to them) probably broke up last year (oh no–what’s a girl to listen to on her way to see Twilight at the cinema for the 15th time?) when leader Ryan Ross and second guitarist Jon Walker left the band to start their own group.

For this new group, they recruited some friends, including the sorry snot who produced the last PATD album, as well as poor old/young Alex Greenwald, singer of another teenage heartthrob band gone defunct, Phantom Planet. Now then, I want you to imagine how terrible, how supremely awful and beyond the limits of bad such a band might sound.

Now click this link to hear them. (Click advisory: reading the comments after clicking will likely result in geometrically high numbers of your own personal brain cells suiciding in protest).

Uh so yeah. If you would’ve given me 10 million probable reference points for a band spun off of Panic At Th!e Disco, “Early Zumpano or The Kinks or perhaps even Phil Spector” would be right around not on that list because seriously.

But seriously.

I mean really?

And sure, go ahead, dismiss this band–The Young Veins, they’re called, and yes, I seem to have buried that inadvertently by being snarky further up–as simply doing some weird homage-by-numbers. But I think you’d be incorrect to do so. Listen to the way the chorus in the first song I linked goes nowhere you’d expect it to, and carries off a rather unexpected and sort of difficult note progression very nicely. Check out the way the second song I linked “Cape Town” does the same thing and then does the AC Newman thing (yeah, AC Newman of The New Pornographers) of putting so many meters in that chorus that the thing should collapse but doesn’t.

There’s some serious craftsmanship going on here, and this debut record is–if not earth-shaking in any way, shape, or form–really, really fun and interesting and enjoyable to listen to.

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Gimme gimme gimme Hindi Rokk

June 16, 2010 at 2:17 am (cool band alert, new releases, rock and roll, Uncategorized)

Ok, let’s talk Hindi Rock.

I’m sort of kidding, but that’s what Montreal multi-instrumentalist Rishi Dhir occasionally jokingly refers to his music as. Rishi first came to my attention playing sitar, guitar, bass, and keys in The High Dials, a band I’ve made no secret about being a total fanboy of.

His new band is called The Elephant Stone. They’re absolutely fan-damn-tastic. Here, let’s start off with a song that just screams sunny Sunday afternoons:


I mean, if you were going to teach guitar-pop theory, you could just use that song as exhibit A on how to do everything right.

That song is on the new Elephant Stone EP, called “Glass Box” and along with “Yesterday’s Gurl” (which has an amazingly sneaky hook in the chorus) is totally worth investigating.

And if you dig that, you oughta check out The Elephant Stone’s 2009 album, The Seven Seas, which goes from straight-ahead Mancunian-sounding guitar jangle through a steady progression of adding more and more interesting ideas as each song goes by. Here’s the cliff’s notes on that progression:

“Bombs Bomb Away” (What a glorious, awesome, shimmery cool song, especially when they do the key change the last time through the chorus)

After “Bombs”, the album gets more layered….and here’s the title track, the fourth song in:
“Seven Seas” (Ok, sure, it nicks “Across The Universe”, but still, here comes the sitar baby!)

And here’s the album closer. Go grab a bong, we’ll wait. Ready?

“Don’t You Know”. That right there is seven and one-half minutes of pure unadulterated awesomeness.

Best of all, you can listen to both the full lp from last year and this year’s new ep right here:


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Their Time Is Coming Soon.

August 12, 2008 at 5:59 pm (cool band alert, new releases, rock and roll)

In 2005 the Montreal band The High Dials released a pretty great album called War Of The Wakening Phantoms. It was a disc that opened strong with two great songs (“Holy Ground” and “Strandhill Sands”) and sealed the deal with a song that defies easy description, a 5-minute epic called “Our Time Is Coming Soon”.

I’ve written about “Our Time Is Coming Soon” here a few times over the years, but screw it, I’m gonna do it again. “Our Time Is Coming Soon” is absolutely, hands-down my favorite song of the 2000’s so far. The opening two chord riff sets the stage, like gale force winds presaging a hurricane. They go unconventional after the first chorus and head straight to a bridge before the second verse, and Rishi Dhir plays one of the most kick-ass sitar solos of all time there (I actually kind of hate the sitar; to my taste it sorta is Asia’s answer to Scotland’s bagpipes as far as “instruments that make me want to run away” go…so saying a sitar solo is “kick ass” is no faint praise.) By the time they get to the final vocal bridge the song is in full blazing glory, and you wonder how they’re going to end this cyclone–almost always when a song gets as epic as “Our Time Is Coming Soon” gets, the creative juice runs out on the conclusion and things go out perfunctorily at best, if you’re lucky. Not so on here, though: “Our Time Is Coming Soon” ends like a supernova; the snare fill that starts martial and ends up galloping just as a descending guitar figure drops in gets your pulse racing, and then the drums turn into Keith Moon and the sound goes maelstrom and when they finally take their feet off the gas and let the song end, you realize The High Dials have managed a song unlike almost anything else anyone has even attempted in the post-Nirvana rock years.

“Our Time Is Coming Soon” mp3

The High Dials got a lot of deserved good press for War Of The Wakening Phantoms, but I’m not sure that translated into moving units. After what seemed like a hectic and gruelling year of touring in the States and through Europe, the Dials seemed rather emotionally spent. They lost their secret weapon when Rishi Dhir decided to opt out of the group. 2006 and 2007 went by without hearing much from the group. Their website went dark. Rainbow Quartz, their US label, has updated their site about twice since last October. Reading tour diaries/blogs from guitarist/singer/songwriter Trevor Anderson–who seems a great guy, but also seemed mentally exhausted by the time Dhir had left the group–I figured I’d heard the last from this once-promising band.

Not so! Back in May, the Dials promised to start posting songs from a new album on their Myspace page. The new record–which will be a double album–is called Moon Country. They’ve got 6 songs up at Myspace, and hoo-boy…if these six songs are representative of what’s to come on the full album, we may have us a contender for album of the year here. The High Dials seemed to respond to losing a musical element like Dhir by opening up their sound and letting their talent run wild. The band’s debut album, A New Devotion is pretty nifty, but it has an almost claustrophobic retro psychedelic sound that induces a little too much listener fatigue if taken in large doses. Phantoms, the second album, shows them opening things up a bit, with nods to more modern dreampop sounds like Kitchens Of Distinction or Ride.

Moon Country, at least based on the evidence of these six songs, takes that hinted-at direction of Phantoms and runs with it. “Do The Memory Lapse” could be vintage For Against or less blippy New Order. “These Days Mean Nothing To Me” manages to be both psychedelic and still manage a Kitchens influence while walking a fine line between light and darkness (the airy harmony on the chorus that gives way to the angry guitar chug right after is wonderful!) “Cartoon Breakup” opens with wheezy Melon Collie synths and then manages to give you four glorious minutes of spectacular, timeless loveliness. “Open Up The Gates” is a nod to their lysergic side, but far more interesting than you’d ever expect a song that could be described as a psychedelic pop song to be.

The real stunner here though is a song called “Killer Of Dragons”, which sounds like nothing else The High Dials have ever done. It is a gorgeous, beautiful track that delivers on every promise and all the potential this band has ever shown. If there were any justice in the world, “Killer Of Dragons” would become the massive top ten hit it richly deserves to be, but probably won’t because it won’t get the push to radio and retail it deserves. Ah well.

In any event, Moon Country I think is still slated for a September release, at least in Canada. I can’t wait to hear the whole thing, either. Over their past two records, when people talk about The High Dials, they talk about who they sound like; on these new songs, the greatest accomplishment on display is that the Dials sound like no one else but themselves. Keep a sharp eye out for this’n.

The High Dials Myspace Page, where you can bliss out on these six slabs of rock greatness…

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Viva Peru!

April 28, 2008 at 4:51 pm (cool band alert, rock and roll, videos)

Run down Myspace all you like, because everything bad that can be said about it is absolutely true. Forever and ever though, for me, Myspace will have a special place in my heart, because without it I’d have never discovered one of the silliest, most wonderful, exciting rock and roll things on the planet.

First test for you before I get to that: think of the coolest band name–real or imagined–that there ever could possibly be. Take some time. Bookmark this page. “The Rolling Stones” is a great name. “The Who” is a great name. “The Flashing Lights” is a great name. “The Grifters” is a great name.

Ok. Now I’ll connect the dots of coolest band name ever to Myspace. I suppose because I “friended” (worst…verb…ever…) Murcia’s wonderful Ross (see blog post elswhere here) a few weeks ago, I ended up getting a friend request on Myspace over the weekend from a rock band from Peru. Yes, *that* Peru. When I saw the band name, my breath caught. It was the funniest, hippest, most outrageous band name I’d seen in a long while. I hoped and prayed that the music was able to even remotely live up to the moniker. The band is called (drumroll) “Los Fuckin Sombreros”.

Thanks to the info on their English language myspace page, I read that LFS are pretty big in Peru (and before you scoff at the Incan rock scene, there’s actually a surprisingly rich tradition of great music from that country; check the Nuggets II box and hit up youtube for videos from We All Together, who sound like a latino Emitt Rhodes or Zombies…). They played a series of 2007 “adios” concerts before going on a bit of a hiatus, though. Some North American labels came knocking, and it seems as if their latest (and best?) album Sha La La is going to get proper US release soon, and the band is talking about a US tour.

A very good thing, that, because Los Fuckin Sombreros are more than just a cool name. What I love about these guys is that no one has explained to them that trying to embrace influences like The Creation, Oasis, The Stooges, late-seventies Def Leppard, and AC/DC shouldn’t work. Screw it! It’s rock and roll! Hell yes it works, and looks like it’d be a total damn blast to be a part of! Crazy thing is, I’m listening to their songs on Myspace and totally getting into them, and thinking “I really, really like these guys…I wonder if they have any vids on Youtube.”

Lord do they. In fact, the videos that are posted there have cemented the relationship for me; LFS isn’t just a good band, they’re a GREAT band. Check out this video here, cheese:

Yeah, right? Worth noting here is that Los Fuckin Sombreros have a LOT of female fans. They seem to outnumber the guys…and said female fans are extremely hot. Ever go to a Vines or Hives show? Yeah, sausage-fest. Check the unselfconsciousness of the goings-on there too. NONE of any of that should work, but try telling that to the crowd who is shout/singing along at ear-shattering volume. I go to way too many shows where people just stand there, arms crossed as if they’re in a museum and studying some neo-cubist painting. Hell with that. I watch this video and I want to be in the middle of that shrieking, crazy-ass sweaty crowd going nuts with everyone else (and not because of all the chicks, who are, again, incredibly easy on the eyes). Any band performing at Pitchforkfest (or whatever they call it), CMJ, SxSW, or any other bitchy hipster rock festival should be required to watch Los Fuckin Sombreros get it done. Anyone going to see a band at said ‘fests should watch those videos too; rock and roll nowadays needs more abandoned, drunken, dance-y fun like this.

Or like this:

Or like this: (HEY! When did 25-year-old Peter Buck join LFS???)

Their English-language Myspace page is here.

Their official homepage is here.

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Another Reason The Music Industry Sucks.

April 20, 2008 at 5:30 am (cool band alert, rock and roll, videos)

It was last September that sort-of Chicago rock band The Living Blue (nee The Blackouts) announced that they’d finished their new record. If you’re really, really looking forward to this disc, that was nearly 7 full months ago. Not that anyone’s counting. Ok, I am counting. And waiting. Impatiently.

My “Best of” list of records from 2005 is utterly screwed up because I didn’t actually discover The Living Blue’s incredible debut disc Fire, Blood, Water until about May of 2006–four months after I’d finished that list. Although the record and band get lumped into the garage-rock genre (and certainly their roots are there), there’s very little “retro” appeal here, despite guitartist Joe Prokop’s Rickenbacker and Brian Jones haircut. “Tell Me Leza” sounds like Franz Ferdinand without the cliches and with more inspiration; “State Of Affairs” and “Murderous Youth” roar along with a fire and verve that you simply don’t get with bands doing the revivalist thing. In fact, let’s us take a little break here and provide evidence to The Living Blue’s (and Fire, Blood, Water‘s) greatness:

(“Tell Me Leza”)

(“Serrated Friend”)

(“State Of Affairs”)

Ok then. If that was your first exposure to The Living Blue, we should probably clarify a few things:

1. Yes, I know; those are killer songs.
2. Yes, I know; guitarist Joe Prokop is the great unknown guitar hero on the planet, and yes, he does shred, and yes it is inexcusable that he isn’t mentioned when people talk about the most gifted rock and roll guitarists in the world.
3. Yes, I know; singer/guitarist Steve Ucherek does indeed sound a little like a teenaged Bono singing as if he was terrified and desperate and angry and strung out on caffeine.

Fire, Blood, Water came out on indie-pop label Minty Fresh, but it seems the band and Minty have parted company. So, despite having a completed followup album called Walk, Talk, Rhythm, Roam ready for release, I gather that the band is still at the point of seeking out someone to release it…which is insane. The tracks I’ve heard at the band’s website and myspace page are absolutely killer. There are nods to their garage-rock roots on tunes like “Numb” and “Without You”, but songs like the amazing title track (which might be in the running for song of the year), “Something You Do”, and the stunning “Venus Fly Trap” are a quantum leap ahead of even the brilliance of their debut, and “Nightwind” would be a massive hit if there was any justice in the world. That the band seems to be having trouble finding a taker for this either means they know how good it is and are asking a dear price for a label lucky enough to put it out, or is further evidence that the music industry is in a deserved death spiral.

Between the band’s website and myspace pages, you can hear 6 or 7 songs from the 12 on the completed record. Hopefully very, very soon you’ll be able to hear the rest. The Living Blue are one of the most exciting rock and roll bands on the planet and are fully deserving of better treatment than this.

The Living Blue myspace page, where you can hear “Nightwind”, “Walk, Talk, Rhythm, Roam”, “Something You Do”, and “Venus Fly Trap”.

The Living Blue’s under-construction website where “Numb”, “Nightwind”, “Without You” …and one other song which may or may not be “Refugee” can be heard.

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I Know How To Ask For More Lemons…

April 9, 2008 at 6:55 am (cool band alert, new releases, reviews, rock and roll)

…and “mas papas fritas, por favor” I can do in two different accents, but beyond that my restaurant-learned Spanish is pretty awful. Not that I’m at all good with foreign languages. I struggle enough with my mother tongue; people who are effortlessly bilingual fascinate me.

But I’m digressing. I have a sudden interest in non-restaurant Spanish all of a sudden.

Here’s the deal: it will surprise few of you reading this that I’m a pop knob at heart. I unabashedly heart the Fab Four, prefer the Buzzcocks and Undertones to The Clash, and think “Box Elder” is far and away the best song on Westing By Sextant and Musket. The flip side of that, though, is that for the last 20 years I’ve been acutely aware of just how much utter shite there is out there masquerading as melodic rock and roll. Honestly, I can take about 30 seconds of most “power pop” stuff before my teeth ache from the cotton candy-ness of it all. That’s why bands like The Blakes or Novillero (message to Winnipeg: please tell me Novillero hasn’t broken up?) rock me so hard–they get that hooks are good, but by themselves they’re like whipped cream without the pumpkin pie. They’re chili and cheese without the dog.

I also learned while playing a college radio show and working at Euclid Records that playing one favorite song of mine after another bored me to tears inside of 15 minutes. My favorite radio shows (and music discoveries) were when I busted myself out of my comfort zone. That’s how I discovered and/or learned to love stuff like Sparklehorse or People Under The Stairs or The Grifters or Silkworm.

And so for the last month or so, I’ve been listening to a ton of music that falls way outside my usual interests. Underground hiphop and electronica. Metal. Lots of metal. Indie rock with no discernible music structure to it. Experimental guitar stuff and even some found sound noodling that didn’t have me lunging for the eject button.

I have eaten my musical vegetables, in other words.

And so now we get back to my interest in Espanol. I just stumbled across a double CD retrospective by a band called Ross. I know zilch about them, except for on first listen I immediately figured the singer had a non-American accent and, thanks to a cover of Teenage Fanclub’s sublime “Verisimilitude” pegged them as Scots or Geordies from the North of England. Nope. Finally tracked down their Myspace page (try finding out info on a band called “Ross”; if they’d called themselves “Jack” I’d have had an easier time of it) and it turns out they’re from Murcia, Spain. Which means that while their songs are all in English, all web infos about ’em are in Spanish. Since none of the information or bio on the band involves lemons, fish, potatoes, or the words “hot” and “cold”, I’ve got nothing really to tell you about them, other than it seems as if Ross’s career ran from 1992 to 2002, and after a long hibernation they seem to be doing live shows and stuff.

Nowlemmetellyawhat: Ross is one of the sweetest, most wonderful music discoveries I’ve made in a long, long time. This double CD retrospective contains 44 songs and clocks in at well over 2 hours of tuneage. It has all the easy stuff for poppish, Beatle-influenced bands to do: chiming guitars played through AC30 amps, sweet Lennonish vocals and gorgeous (but not overdone) harmonies. Thing is, there are thousands of bands able to muster that start, but most of these bands are utterly terrible. These Spanish fellows don’t fall into that trap. In fact, they manage to take that start and take it to some wonderfully unexpected places.

I’ve now spun through the two discs in this collection, and I’m utterly stunned at the fact that these guys managed to come up with 44 gorgeous pop songs that never induce listener fatigue (I got to the end last night and punched up disc one again immediately). They manage that with some incredible songwriting craftsmanship–the melodies here twist and turn and go in all sorts of unexpected places with a seeming effortlessness. Thanks to the mixed recording heritage of these tracks, there are moments of lo-fi majesty, and plenty of Teenage Symphonies To God, as they say.

The disc is called “A Collection For Enemies & Friends, 1992-2002”. You’ll have to hunt for an online shop to import it if you don’t have a buddy stationed at a military base in Europe to pick you up a copy. This is a double CD worth jumping through some hoops for, though.

Let me play you a couple of reasons why:

“Starships-Supersonic Spacewalk”

Here’s their Myspace site, if you speak the language.

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