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Vs. the (Pop) World

By Juan Manuel Freire

Vs. the (Pop) World Juan Manuel FreireThe last few weeks have been strange. Until just a few days ago, well into November, you could walk down the street in short sleeves without anybody looking at you as if you were Arnold Schwarzenegger at the beginning of “Terminator” (in fact, the weirdoes were the people already wearing their turtlenecks). But if you went into the supermarket, headed towards the kitchenware section, and next to the usual white or coloured, cheap or absorbent napkins, you came across… Santa Claus. Short sleeves, Santa. Santa, short sleeves. Confusion. And opening gmail (or soon, Titan Project) the first thing that appears is the list of albums of the year according to Rough Trade’s stores (spoiler: number one goes to Caribou).

Is it November or December? According to our sleeves, it’s June. According to Rough Trade, it’s December. And according to the calendar, it’s the month of All Saints and suchlike. This way, it’s impossible to finish switching your wardrobe or focus on what we should be discussing this month in the column. According to our sleeves, we should go back to talking about Phoenix, Passion Pit, Delorean, and all that music that makes a perfect soundtrack to bonfires on the beach. But according to Rough Trade, we should be summarising 2010, and lucubrating about cracks of 2011. And according to the calendar, we should follow the same formula as in recent months: an ordinary Vs., with subjective news, funny stories, videos, and songs to waste your time on in a good way. So here we go.

It’s Already Christmas at Target The holidays have begun not only at Tesco, but also at Target, where they have released “The Christmas Gig”, a compilation that will be available to download for free from the 28th, but whose ten songs can already be streamed. It isn’t another stupid Christmas compilation: here there are songs created expressly for the occasion by indie luminaries like Bishop Allen and Crystal Antlers, or Wavves and Best Coast doing a duet, with “Got Something for You”. It’s a little early to have something for us, guys, but hey, never look a gift horse in the mouth… So come on, everybody get out your nativity scene and your tree, and sing some indie carols.

Wavves and Best Coast . Got Something for You.mp3
Primavera Sound have brought us an all-star round of confirmations for Christmas: Suicide, the friendly John Cale (with the show “When Past & Future Collide: John Cale & Band + Orchestra perform Paris 1919 Live”), Swans, The National, Fleet Foxes, Belle And Sebastian, Mogwai, The Flaming Lips, Animal Collective… The same way that I would prefer to The Flaming Lips play “Embryonic” before “The Soft Bulletin” (we’ve already seen that concert before), I would love it if besides Animal Collective, Avey Tare were to perform the magnificent “Down There”, one of the best post-pop albums of 2010, full immersion in a swamp of death, illness, and loss. If on top of that Panda Bear also performed alone, that would be a scandal, but all signs say that “Tomboy” will be delayed until the end of time, or at least until the Christmas of “Blade Runner” (2019).

Up There

It’s expected that in the coming announcements of PS, one of the names to drop will be Suuns, previously known as Zeroes. The art rock group won over the heads of the festival at CMJ–Gaby even bought a t-shirt– and the wave of emotion reached The New York Times, whose writer Jon Pareles emphasised their mixture of technical rigour and wildness. I’d like to see that virtuous strength, that controlled ripping, from the front rows. Meanwhile, we can still lose ourselves in the folds and labyrinths, krautrock, electro and other herbs, of a debut that, besides having the best cover of the year, also has some of the best songs: “Armed for Peace”, “Gaze” or, of course, that hit called “Arena”. Suuns - Arena Bear HandsThese last weeks, another first album has appeared from practically out of the blue to powerfully capture my attention, to the point of hopelessly pushing aside anxiously-awaited albums from renowned artists such as Elvis Costello, Brian Eno or Cee-Lo Green (hey, everything in its own time). You know that wonderful miracle of putting in a CD that you know nothing about and, oh yeah, the first thing that you hear fixes the whole day for you? I experienced that with Bear Hands, the album “Burning Bush Supper Club” and the song “Crime Pays”, which you can hear below. Investigating a bit, I found out that the group comes from Brooklyn and that they’re bros with MGMT, and that it all started when their leader wanted to eliminate his rival in a love triangle by writing excellent songs. But I won’t tell you any more, I’ll let you enjoy the loveliness of the surprise, if you aren’t already familiar with them. Bear Hands - Crime Pays Mitosis Girls

Now that it’s time to do lists of the year, like the folks at Rough Trade already know, I’ll reserve a special spot in the live section for Vivian Girls. After a second album that, at first listening, seemed less graceful than the first, Dum Dum Girls and Best Coast seemed to have taken over space from them in the league of girly garage. But their performance at Razzmatazz 3 (Barcelona) last July changed my perspective on the band, which was simply fantastic: dense and intense, crude, yet delicate. If we look at their parallel projects, it seems more or less clear that Cassie Ramone (The Babies) provides the crudity, while Katy Goodman ( La Sera) prefers delicacy. There is already a release date for the debut album from La Sera: February 15th, on Hardly Art. If you’re not sure whether to pre-order, here you have the video clip of “Never Come Around”, with Katy Goodman mutated into a beautiful psychokiller.

Women vs. Women

The mitosis of Vivian Girls is friendly (Cassie Ramone did the cover for La Sera), as well as temporary. Women looks worse, having come to blows in a bar in Victoria, the Lucky Bar. How ironic! The Flegels were lucky to get out alive. A witness told Exclaim: “Pat started throwing punches at his brother [Matthew Flegel] during their set-up and soundcheck. Full on 'break it up' brawl between the brothers.” After that, Chris Reimer (guitarist and vocalist) announced that it would be their “last show as a band.” And it’s true that their announced concerts have been dropped from listings.

In another beef between (blood) bros, Ray and Dave Davies, of the Kinks, are still pissed off like only they can be: they haven’t seen each other for three years; they only talk by e-mail, and only about cash. But for now they won’t be making money from a big reunion. Not while Dave keeps referring to Ray in terms like those he used in an interview for the Daily Mail: “You’ve heard of vampires. Well, Ray sucks me dry of ideas, emotions and creativity. It’s toxic for me to be with him. He’s a control freak.” This is the juiciest interview of the season, along with the one Mark E. Smith gave to the Australian magazine Brag, in which he complains of playing at festivals with bands made up of “ass-lickers,” and he defines Mumford & Sons as “a load of retarded Irish folk singers.” The beef is on.

Sweden, 12 pointsIn time to be included in lists of the year, Robyn’s final instalment of “Body Talk” (an album with extracts from the first two parts) has just hit the music blogosphere. This is all well and good, but this artist shouldn’t (I repeat myself) remain virtually underground, but rather she should be the one turning Lady Gaga green with envy. We hope that at least they will hire her to write the future hits of the girls from Girls Aloud –Cheryl Cole can get by on her own, but Nadine Coyle really needs help: her solo album was so mediocre!—not to say all of the mainstream pop in the world, in general. Other reasons to think of moving to Stockholm for a while: the jj b-side, with a sample of “Intro” by The xx ( “I’m the One/ Money on My Mind”), the EP in the key of dub from The Radio Dept. ( “Never Follow Suit”) and, at last but not least, “Honey Mine”, the single released by Korallreven with Victoria Bergsman (formerly a member of The Concretes). A summery massage for days of New Year’s Eve parties and mistletoe.

Korallreven . Honey Mine (ft Victoria Bergsman).mp3
Anna Kendrick is an actress who improves any film in which she appears, by her mere presence. She made the three parts, which will be five, of “Twilight” more pleasant; she gave verbal shine to “Up in the Air”; she underlined (if necessary) the charisma of “Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World”, and now she adds magnetism to the new LCD Soundsystem clip, “Pow Pow”, directed by David Ayer, the scriptwriter of “Training Day”. This slippery piece is the first one on “Supervideo”, a luxurious series of video clips created by Kashy Khaledi (editor of the magazine Mean) paid for by MTV, which needs, of course, to get the edge of it’s best years back. This is promising. And please, dear executives—don’t wrack your brains too hard: Anna Kendrick is fine as the heroine of all the videos.
MTV Shows

“The Antler Orchard”

Those who have minimally followed this section will know that my devotion to Robyn is comparable to my devotion to Ra Ra Riot, a group that has strangely remained under the radar in spite of their infinite number of good qualities, perhaps because P4K concluded one day –read his review of the enormous “The Orchard” (2010)– that they aren’t that really all that cool, either. To remind us just how cool they are, we have the remix that Peter Silberman, leader of The Antlers, has done not of just one song on the album, but all of them. This is how Silberman explains it: “In doing this remix for Ra Ra Riot, I wanted to attempt something different than the remixes I've done in the past and the massive amounts of them I've encountered recently. My approach was to try something I expected to fail - to remix the entire record into one track, but to avoid a medley. I pulled extremely short samples from every song off their latest “The Orchard” (before listening to the record) and built something new.” The experiment of extracting and building worked perfectly… Christmas is already here.

The Antler . Orchard (Peter Silberman Remix).mp3

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