Greater California‘s first album, 2002’s The Little Pacific, won the Long Beach quintet comparisons to Brian Wilson, the Zombies, Harry Nilsson and the Byrds. 2005’s The Somber Wurlitzer didn’t garner quite as much praise in spite of its clever concept (the entire album was recorded between the hours of midnight and 5 a.m.). In April, Greater California will release its third album, All The Colors (Subtitled Audio), which could be its golden ticket; the record is full of lush psychedelic pop and songs like “Disappearing,” which has a spooky, boardwalk-after-dark feel to it.
Swan Lake’s promo photo for its upcoming album, Enemy Mine (out March 24 on Jagjaguwar), looks like the Canadian trio brought together a Portuguese Jim Morrison, an Ivy League hipster from Vampire Weekend and my Irish uncle and called it a band. But amateurs the members of Swan Lake aren’t. Self-proclaimed “modern songwriters” Dan Bejar (Destroyer, New Pornographers), Spencer Krug (Sunset Rubdown, Wolf Parade) and Carey Mercer (Frog Eyes, Blackout Beach) have teamed up to create thoughtful indie jams reminiscent of the Walkmen or the Shins, mixing Belle And Sebastian-like lyrical nostalgia with random guitar plucks and car-seat-massaging bass. Like their band photo, the incongruity somehow works.
The front cover of Xiu Xiu‘s You Can’t Hear Me (Music Video Distributors) bears the curious disclaimer: “Xiu Xiu does not endorse the sound quality of the performance on this DVD.” You can hardly blame them. From the outset, the band’s jagged, aching art pop captured here—all of it recorded live—is overmodulated and distressingly fuzzy. There is some interesting, sweaty performance footage, but it’s intercut with director Courtney Fathom Sell’s short narratives (a young man is tied up and abused at the hands of two assailants; a young woman struggles with an STD), roughly animated scenes of holocaust or atmospheric shots of skylines, some with jellyfish floating next to the tall buildings. You Can’t Hear Me is not technically a live DVD, but it does prompt the question: Wouldn’t the studio recordings serve the same purpose without the accompanying loss in audio quality? Still, there is a certain charm to Sell’s filmed pieces. Many have a slightly voyeuristic quality similar to the strange Polaroids that frontman Jamie Stewart has been using for album art. Others have an Andy Warhol-like appeal, similar in essence to his famed Screen Test series. The live footage and these short films really would have been served better to be separated and appreciated on their own merits. Together, each renders the other void. Special features include the “Master Of The Bump” music video, a trailer and an interview with the filmmaker.
“I Do What I Want When I Want” from 2008’s Women As Lovers (download): http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/IDoWhatIWantWhenIWant.mp3
Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips are New York City’s most effortless mod couple, a duo whose sleek, icily romantic pop can serve as both sophisticated art-gallery soundtrack and lovey-dovey fireplace music. In the four years since the breakup of former band Luna, Wareham and Phillips have pursued boutique careers in the best possible sense: in literature, film, fashion and the music business. Fittingly, their latest project, 13 Most Beautiful … Songs For Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests, sets a series of Warhol’s short films to music. The couple will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all this week. Read our Q&A with Dean & Britta.
Dean: The Sand Pebbles are my favorite Australian band and one of my favorite bands anywhere. We met them when bassist Christmas Hollow interviewed us a few years ago for ¡Tarantula!, their great webzine. He sent me a copy of their 2004 album, Ghost Transmissions, and I was floored by how good it was. There’s a very funny video on their MySpace site of an old German guy discovering the Sand Pebbles on the radio. We released A Thousand Wild Flowers, a Sand Pebbles compilation, on our Double Feature label last month.