Strange Waves

Strange Waves

New Sounds from Across the Pond

By Benjamin Smith

Your writer turns 36 on June 15. Now, I don’t expect anything at all from Dayton on this occasion—except a massive music festival. Alas, other than certain local favorites, who would perform? Oasis is done, the Interpol chaps don’t return my phone calls, and I’m pretty sure Miles Davis is dead. What a bummer. Still, there is hope. I present for you four recent albums by four decent groups that would actually (maybe) play on my birthday. Your final homework assignment of the year: dig these records, pool your resources, and fly these guys here. I’ll supply party hats and sangria.

 

Album: About Girls

Artist: Hatcham Social

Label: Fierce Panda

Release Date: April 2012

Country: United Kingdom

Website: http://www.hatchamsocialofficial.co.uk

Lyric That Sums It Up: “Escape from London, down to the seafront, in the backseat of your car we tell each other lies.”

Festivals, parties, and summer road trips are often improved by the inclusion of at least some no-frills indie-rock. Behold Hatcham Social’s second album—About Girls—which is, surprise, about girls. Take a gander at the first three song titles: “NY Girl,” “Nicola Tells Me,” “Lois Lane.” You’ll find no references to protests in Syria or Wall Street weirdness here. Fans of the band include The Charlatans’ Tim Burgess and Alan McGee, the madman who gave us Oasis. This should speak volumes. Although Burgess has thrown great praise on drummer Finnigan Kidd (paging Charles Dickens!), the real stars are the two guitarists, Tobias Josef Kidd and David Claxton, who get that less is always more; a distracted child could play the semi-sinister solos on “NY Girl” and “Escape from London,” but the approach totally works. Unfortunately, the best guitarists in the world wouldn’t have been able to salvage “I Look Like A God When You Dance With Me,” a wholly unoriginal streak of meh. Thank God most of the other tracks inspire less yawning and more dancing.

 

Album: Springlevend

Artist: The Kik

Label: Excelsior Recordings

Release Date: May 2012

Country: The Netherlands

Website: http://thekik.nl/nl/home

Best Enjoyed While Reading: The Man in the High Castle

I don’t understand a single word The Kik sing. They’re from the Netherlands. Nevertheless, their clean and chipper Beatlepop makes me happy. Consider “Cleopatra,” which bounces like a random Rubber Soul song with added Animals organ, or the intro of “Verliefd Op Een Plaatje,” sounding suspiciously similar to the intro of “I Saw Her Standing There.” Last track “Zevenhuizer Zondag” even attempts to summon the cool transcendent spirit of “If I Needed Someone.” Boasting additional Monkee bits and “Secret Agent Man” moxy, Springlevend is shamelessly derivative and a lot of fun. It also gives us a glimpse into a parallel universe—one in which the Fab Four originated on the continent, then played residencies in Liverpool—and evokes nostalgia for a past that didn’t exactly happen. (Philip K. Dick would have loved The Kik.) A swinging trip through a concocted era.

 

Album: The Shallows

Artist: I Like Trains

Label: ILR/Bertus

Release Date: April 2012

Country: United Kingdom

Website: www.iliketrains.co.uk

Perfect Gift For: Me, Maybe You

I’m a simple, shallow and happy-go-lucky man-child who happens to relish complex, textured and introspective music. If this description suits you too—or if you’re just a completely miserable bastard—the latest release by four-piece I Like Trains will rejuvenate like a solitary sip of whiskey. Colored by David Martin’s baritone and guitar interplay with Guy Bannister, The Shallows is reminiscent of the first Editors album and the fourth Interpol record. Opener “Beacons” sets a dramatic tone, and little changes over the course of the LP. In many ways the music is a black monolith: striking and memorable, devoid of subtlety and contrast. Another criticism concerns the lyrics. “If I drown I will go knowing . . . I will go knowing I was heading for shore . . . You told me that I should hold it together, you won’t let the blind lead the blind forever,” Martin mutters on “We Used To Talk.” Perhaps there’s a reason they don’t talk anymore—the lad needs to lighten up, get laid. Regardless, a worthy purchase or gift for masochists.

 

Album: An Awesome Wave

Artist: alt-j

Label: Infectious/PIAS

Release Date: May 2012

Country: United Kingdom

Website: http://altjband.com

Possible Soundtrack To: Muppets In Rainbows

I have dim memories of causing a scandal on my 31st birthday by playing with a duck puppet at the Wine Loft. Incidentally, alt-j’s Joe Newman occasionally sings like Kermit the Frog. This is one of several odd aspects about the Cambridge band. To wit: if you key in alt-j on your Mac, you make a triangle (∆); a strange symbol for a four-piece. Then there’s the music itself, much of it suggesting a coked-out nerd version of Radiohead. In related news, sections of “Something Good” seem lifted straight from “The Clock” on Thom Yorke’s The Eraser. The members themselves describe their debut as “folk-step.” I have no freaking clue what that means, but overall I love the results. Newman turns the Jim Henson dial up to 11 on “Fitzpleasure” and “Breezeblocks,” yet the songs surge and melt genre classifications despite the vocal sabotage. The more subdued tunes, like “Bloodflood,” are beautiful, almost tribal. One can only marvel—and admire the balls of those who signed the triangle boys. Dayton should beckon.

Reach DCP freelance writer Benjamin Smith at BenjaminSmith@DaytonCityPaper.com

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