Let’s continue this weekend’s exploration of Nordic indie pop with the February album Sata syytä aloittaa by Helsinki’s Teini-Pää. The band Teini-Pää play divine 2 minute guitar pop gems just as catchy as 2022 darlings Alvvays. Now BEFORE YOU STOP READING because the vocals aren’t sung in American, take 2:18 to see if the song “Ydintyttö” persuades you that you need to know more.
That’s one extraordinary blast of power pop right?! Whatever tongue you speak…Finnish, Swedish, Spanish…we all understand the International Language of rock. Before getting into any background, I want to be sure you’re fully on board. If not, begone!
The guitars get a little scuzzier on Teini-Pää‘s “4567.” This isn’t your mother’s Finnish bubblegum pop. Just a 3 minute blast of guitars and harmonies from an alternate indie pop universe called Northern Europe.
Band Teini-Pää hits its stride with 2nd album Sata syytä aloittaa
Like me, you probably didn’t know about this remarkable Helsinki indie pop band that is one EP and two albums into its career. Teini-Pää (“Teenage Head”) has been releasing music for about four years. Here is early single, “Lähtisitkö.” (“Would You Go”)
The quintet seems to tour between Helsinki and Turku, in far SW Finland across the Baltic from Stockholm. They have a website with fun facts about each member, including what appears to be a mutual fondness for vissy (sparkling water?), The Go-Go’s and yoga. I’ve conveniently linked an English translation of the band’s website for you here.
If you haven’t heard Denmark’s Appleseeds! what are you even doing?!
February’s Sata syytä aloittaa (“100 Hundred Reasons to Start”), published by Finland’s Soit Se Silti is a blast from start to finish. Google translates Teini-Pää’s own description of their band from its website as “puff pop.” It may just be a bad translation? The 90 seconds of “Aamulla” sounds like power pop to me!
The band Appleseeds! are a Copenhagen indie-pop duo that released the bright and delightful indie pop æblefrø one month ago. The melodies of Kasper Clemmensen and bandmate Ditte Duus are as catchy as the enchanting packaging and internal illustrations.
Duo share lead vocals on the band Appleseeds! debut
Appleseeds! started releasing songs for æblefrø last spring. Appropriately, the earliest tunes that became album closers “Someone to Talk To” and “Spinning ‘Round” featured each singer on lead vocals.
As you listen to each simple, ever-so-jangly number — most barely two minutes — you can’t help but create a column of “Kasper songs” and “Ditte songs” depending on the singer. Both have the same throaty, desultory delivery. Here is Kasper on “Hungry Mouth,” with Ditte’s backing Ahhh’s!
…and let’s show off one more with Kasper on lead, since he voices the majority of the songs. He’s also credited with all the songwriting. I love this guitar line and the pregnant pauses in “Nightmares.”
Ditte Duus the perfect complement in the band Appleseeds!
When Ditte takes the mic she reflects the same innocence and sensibility as Kasper. Breathy and light, she offers the perfect complement on tracks like “The Reach” and original single “Someone to Talk To”
Appleseeds! started as foodie band Tampopo
For the five years or so before launching the band Appleseeds! Danish* duo Kasper Clemmensen and Ditte Duus helmed Tampopo, a band conceived to write and sing mostly about food products. I’m not entirely clear why.
Multiple releases since 2017 included songs like “Pancake Tuesday,” “Swordfish! (What do You Eat?),” “Soft as a Muffin” and the catchy (heh) “Ketchup.”
To be fair, as the years went on, Tampopo appeared to write fewer songs with titles like “Milkshake Zombie” and more tracks that transitioned closer to non-food subjects and the sound Appleseeds! displays on æblefrø.
*Googles “Are people from Denmark called Danish or Dutch?”
Love yourself some Nordic pop?! Check out Finland’s Teini-Pää!
I can’t talk about the band Appleseeds! without promoting the CD illustrations that bring you to a complete stop as you leaf through the pages of æblefrø.
Each song is accompanied by its own painting by renowned Japanese artist Mamoru Yamamoto. You should really learn more about Yamamoto at the artist’s website. The tender artwork is both engrossing and also a perfect visual representation of the band Appleseeds!
Was democracy REALLY on the ballot, or was it some diabolical plot to trap us in political season until Christmas? Never you mind…I have just the tonic to wake you up from this political fugue state. Here is a bunch of terrific November indie music you can read about and listen to all in one convenient, non-partisan package.
Let’s do this!
“Ricochet” – Preoccupations (Arrangements)
It is an indisputable law of physics that rock and roll suffers from a lack of drum solos. At what time have you ever heard someone rage on the kit and thought, “well that was loud and excessive.” NEVER, that’s when, because drum solos are self-justifying. They don’t need your permission.
Calgary’sPreoccupations, née Viet Cong, released Arrangements in September. It includes a mad percussive walkaway on the shimmering “Ricochet,” not unlike Terry Chambers violent hammering on XTC’s “Travels In Nihilon.”
All things considered, summer 2022 is still miles ahead of 2020. No corona…just a divided country, peak anxiety and climate change. Good times! So, for the balance of July and the torpid month of August, here are some of my top indie songs of 2022 to bump until Labor Day.…
“Carl Sagan” – Torres Satélite (Mundos y Estrellas)
I haven’t tracked down a ton of information about Spain’s Torres Satélite. Their latest, Mundos y Estrellas has been on my “Must Buy” list since I heard it last month. At the least, here is a review of 2020’s La Ventana Discreta when Torres Satélite first popped onto the scene with the Discos de Kirlian label. And who needs much more background? Everything you need to know is wrapped inside the 2 minutes and 52 seconds of pop bliss that is “Carl Sagan.”
“The Sir Tommy Shovell” – Robyn Hitchcock (Shufflemania!)
A couple of things about Robyn Hitchcock.
First, he is British rock royalty. Robyn isn’t David Bowie but he is absolutely an extension of the same conversation. Why haven’t I heard of him, then?” you ask. Fair question. He came of age in the late 70’s leading The Soft Boys, whom you also haven’t heard of. I honestly can’t recall if I’ve actually bought the Soft Boys‘ Underwater Moonlight, so I guess we’re all in the same boat. Suffice it to say, 22 albums later, REM and bunch of other musicians you enjoy today grew up listening to his eccentric catalogue.
Second, I had the occasion to meet and be gently accosted by the legend. Hitchcock, Billy Bragg and REM played NPR’s “Mountain Stage” in 1991. I don’t have a super clear memory of seeing REM that day, so I don’t recall if I was manhandled by Hitchcock after that show or a later concert. But the story goes like this: I was holding and possibly reading from a textbook at an afterparty. Hitchcock grabbed the book from me and began reciting from it and embarrassing me/secretly delighting me. Also I will never forget looking up at him, he must be seven feet tall.
Shufflemania! came out about three weeks ago and includes this delightful song you need to hear today, “The Sir Tommy Shovell.”
Finally, have you forgotten where you know the name Billy Bragg? He revises the lyrics of “The Great Leap Forward” about every two years, not always to great effect. The shared humanity is in the audience sing-a-long with the chorus. Here is the post-performance of “Leap Forward” on Mountain Stage in 1991 after the national broadcast has ended. Michael Stipe makes a cameo.
“Ships in the Night” – Anthony D’Amato (At First There Was Nothing)
Let’s stay on this Mountain Stage theme, shall we?
Two weeks ago, Anthony D’Amato released At First There Was Nothing. D’Amato had moved from New York to Utah to record his fifth album with Joshua James. He appeared on Mountain Stage in October, where I got to see him in an after-show performance at Charleston’s Empty Glass pub.
At First There Was Nothing is a collection of disparate styles from folk to soft rock and, a little strangely, 70’s Blue Oyster Cult-style AOR. Here is D’Amato at his strongest, in the straight-forward American folk tradition of “Ships in the Night.”
We’re still following a thread here, even if it isn’t obvious. I picked up on Death’s Dynamic Shroud out of Los Angeles as a recommendation from the kids at my college radio station in October. Kids these days.
I didn’t get all the way with September’s Darklife, but enjoyed the warm harmonies and Panda Bear theater-of-the-mind of “Neon Memories.”
We’re at that point of the night where I could just keep going and going. Need to bring this home.
What November indie music post would be complete without a review of the first week of blog buzz about Special Interest?! The New Orleans group has earned band-of-the-moment status with the terrific no-wave Endure. They’re like an angry B-52’s but with darker, roiling political statements. Original single “(Herman’s) House” tells the story of Black Panther Herman Wallace, who died three days after decades of solitary confinement for a crime he claimed he did not commit.
If it only sounds like house music (pun intended, sorry not sorry), don’t be deceived. “(Herman’s) House” is an angry song for angry times.
“Greatest Hits” – Jockstrap (I Love You, Jennifer B)
Yes, I understand this band decided to name itself Jockstrap. I need to write an entire post on awful band names. But suspend disbelief for this delight.
London’s Jockstrap are Taylor Skye and violinist Georgia Ellery, who have been putting out music since 2018. Ellery in particular keeps busy. Besides finishing art school, she also performs with Black Country, New Road and Goat Girl.
Their full-length debut is I Love You, Jennifer B, on which Ellery layers sung and whispered PG-13 lyrics over the top of a fairly complex concoction of ambience, EDM, and jazz. If challenging, it is more accessible than the neurotic, halting beats of earlier Jockstrap experiments like 2018’s “Charlotte.”
Standouts for me are “Greatest Hits” and first single “Glasgow.”
“Dressed in Black” – Ezra Furman (All of Us in Flames)
How about some wistful American glam rock as a closer?
“Dressed in Black” by Ezra Furman has all of the things you want from a girl group condensed into a torchlit piano ballad. Her August album All of Us in Flames is a slow burn but gets better with each spin. Furman has been at this for 15 years, but at least not on my personal radar. Furman reached greater audiences as she expanded from her solo work to the soundtrack for Sex Education on Netflix.
Here is “Dressed in Black,” and the 50’s love songs it updates in such a muscular and confident way. Love this.
The election is still going, and so is a great month of November indie music
The Republic will survive and at the end of this long year you’ll want to appreciate the best she has to offer. Spend a little money, love your kids and listen to the best music mankind has ever produced. It gets better year after year, if you only have the patience to find it.
November indie music is just the latest chapter….maybe we’ll do this again before the new year and another election cycle!
Something is working when you listen to a song and can’t decide if it is cringey and insufferable or the best thing you’ve heard all year. LA’s Cheekface (latest nominee for worst band name) come fast and furious with mathy, new wave hooks, nonsensical oh-so-meta lyrics and power punk hooks you just. cannot. ignore.
This fall, the kids at my college radio station, U92 at West Virginia University, were heralding Cheekface as one of their favorites of the year. It was the first time I had heard of the band. I wanted to hate them, but I kind of love them.
No amount of cheese can hide the hooks
Perhaps 2022’s surprise of the year, Too Much to Ask, the third album by the band Cheekface, barrels out of the gates with 1 minute and 25 seconds of total dork fury on “When Life Hands You Problems.” Your car is now a party palace.
If you missed it, Greg Katz lovably laconic stoner lyrics include the word “problemade.”
Life hands you problems, make problemade. Life hands you wages, minimum wage; The popcorn ceiling, the great divide. If you think this sucks would you keep it to yourself? You must be thinking of something else.
Where have you heard the Cheekface sound before? I have answers
For a few moments, enjoy the cover art of Too Much to Ask. My personal nominee for 2022’s Best Cover Art, the album’s cute little terrier (Shih Tzu?) was drawn by band member Amanda Tannen. Not only is the picture endearing, I think it inadvertently points to some of the band’s musical lineage.
“I Feel So Weird” is a more angular version of the YFF’s “Amy Grant.” Another difference? There is simply no way to bury Katz earworm harmony inside “Weird.” He’s an over-achiever, and out-Weezer’s even the most euphoric Weezer hooks on the resolve of “weeee-ird.”
The band Cheekface is odd and amazing
I could talk myself into getting excited about a Cheekface show. Unfortunately 2023 dates started in San Diego, Las Vegas and Reno in January…jump Salt Lake City…and conclude in Denver in April. So close–this could still happen!
What is it about me and South American jangle pop?! I honestly don’t understand it, specifically the words they’re singing. Stupid American. But I love the spirit from the continent and of course, the songs are brilliant. Even if you tend to be parochial or intimidated by foreign language lyrics, YOU NEED TO HEAR the debut album by Mañana El Espacio. I’ll even throw in a full translation of the album’s delightful lead track. And read on for a reminder of a gem from Argentina in 2021!
South American jangle pop savants, Mañana El Espacio
Caracas band Mañana El Espacio has been dropping singles from this year’s Casi Nada Es Para Siempre since July 2020. Now wait. Before you check out because you’re seeing too many Spanish words that you don’t understand — let me translate to the world’s International Language: Jangle pop.
Jigsaw Records nails it with their description of Mañana El Espacio: “…a subtler Pains Of Being Pure At Heart (what, did he fly Peggy down to add those magical twinkling keyboards?) and its associated dreamier off-shoots (particularly The Depreciation Guild)…”
Specifically you hear the POBPAH in leadoff track, “Alguien Más.”
No matter your language, that is jangle pop perfection!
But what is Mañana El Espacio singing about?
I probably listened to this album four times, completely ignorant of what Ricardo Vergara was saying. A friend of mine translated “Alguien Más” (or “Someone Else”) and the lyrics are borderline endearing!*
“Today you’ll come across my door But I’ll already be someone else. I’ll already be someone else.
We’ll go visit the same old places But I’ll already be someone else. I’ll already be someone else”
Here is the complete lay translation of “Alguien Más.”
It’s not just the leadoff track. So much about the record is memorable. Ever wondered what Sonic Youth would sound like if they played jangle pop and sang in Spanish? Wonder no more.
The jangle pop scene in Argentina
Let us not forget the lovely singles released last year by Argentina’s Un Día Soleado. The songs were bundled together this year, along with a few covers, as “y todo sigue igual...” Highlight “Skate 3,” is simply a marvel of indie jangle pop. No translation needed for so perfect a pop song.