Tag Archives: jangle pop

Fun of the Pier’s Debut “14:42” a Fun Listen — with Some Insights As Well

5 Sep

Fun of the Pier is a refreshingly different indie band from Nottingham in the U.K. The trio features Helen Luker on lead vocals, keyboards and guitar; Mark Luker on bass guitar, bass ukulele and wry observations; and Richard Snow Hattersley on guitar, vocal harmonies and all things technical.

Fun of the Pier’s debut album, 14:42, can best be described as jangle pop or Brit pop, with a leaning toward clean, crisp acoustic arrangements.

The songs’ subjects range from a musician’s lament (echoed by many music fans, myself included) about why people pay to go to a show — only to chit-chat and laugh with their friends through the entire set…..to esoteric observations about the time-space continuum, built around a comment that Mark once made, “In the past, it would have been the future, because it’s now.”

The point is: while your first impression of these tunes might be that they’re nice little musical ditties to nod your head to — there’s a depth of content for your brain to ponder as well. It’s jangle pop for thoughtful listeners — a lot like the music of local Bay Area band, The Corner Laughers, from which Karla Kane and Khoi Huynh provided guest vocals and ukulele accompaniment on one of 14:42’s tunes. In fact, Helen, Mark, Karla and Khoi are touring Northern California together for the next several weeks — catch them if you can! — and will play a number of shows in the UK and Germany next month.

Track highlights: 14:42 starts with “Inconsiderate,” a jangly Brit pop number with a 1960s British invasion vibe and a bouncy tempo. It’s such a happy tune that it’s easy to miss the biting commentary about certain elements of the club crowd. “Why do you do it?/What is the point?/Talk all through it/And roll your joint/Why don’t you go home?/Take your mates with you/And leave the rest of us/To enjoy a better view.”

“Lost and Lazy” is a gentle acoustic folk song with sweet lead vocals about the need for good friends in life. “Cavern Song” is bright and up-tempo with an energetic bass line, guitar and tambourine taps and shakes for rhythm. It’s short and fun with more wry observations about doing live shows.

“Stumble” is also happy and strummy, with a toe-tapping beat. “Summer Song” is one of my favorites — with a noisy start that leads into a dynamic arrangement that to me had a Moody Blues sensibility with rich harmonies, tambourine shakes and a keyboard part that sounds like a flute. There’s also a cool synthesizer lead break.

14:42 ends with a pensive closer, “I Love This Life (She Said).” It features a strummed guitar, shimmering synths and bells, plus delicate vocals about trying to find one’s way in life.

By the way, the 14:42 title Fun of the Pier chose for the album was due to the clock in the attic where they recorded always being stuck on 14:42.

Now you can impress your friends — not only with how you discovered this little-known, but excellent UK band, but also where the title of the album came from!



Beach Fossils’ New “Somersault” a Must for your Summer Soundtrack

25 Jul

Beach Fossils is an indie rock trio out of Brooklyn, New York, led by frontman, Dustin Payseur. Formed in early 2009 and known initially for a lo-fi, hazy vibe, Beach Fossils has embraced more of a jangle-rock sound in its current album, Somersault, the first new release from the band in four years.

The album incorporates a number of instruments that Beach Fossils hasn’t used much (or at all), including harpsichord, piano and even flute — plus ample servings of strings. The additional creativity in composing and arranging has paid immediate dividends with Somersault earning largely excellent reviews.

Pitchfork described the album as containing “Dustin Payseur’s most nuanced songs to date.” Paste said, “Thanks to a rich sonic palette and more dynamic songwriting, (Beach Fossils) has turned in their best collection of jangly indie rock songs so far.”

If you enjoy bands such as New Jersey’s Real Estate, I promise you’ll like the latest from Beach Fossils.

Track highlights: Somersault opens with a glistening example of jangle-pop that’s every bit the equal of anything Real Estate has done — with all due respect to Real Estate’s excellent releases. “This Year” moves with pace and energy created by Payseur’s bouncy bass line, topped with the welcome jangle of Tommy Davidson’s guitar. It’s the album’s lead single, and a good one.

The second track transitions to a bit of a breezy, jazzy feeling. “Tangerine” features vocals from Rachel Goswell, guesting from the band, Slowdive. The strings give the song a polish and timelessness that recall sunny afternoons spent on distant beaches.

“St. Ivy” evolves beyond the usual jangle-rock into mid-tempo dream pop that sounds like it came out of the late 1970s a la Hall & Oates. There’s jazz flute in the lead break and then the song flows into the Valley of the Beatles, with rich strings and a George Harrison-like lead guitar part. This represents a new level of sophistication for the band.

Track four offers another crystalline jangle-rock standard called “May 1st.” The album continues with one delight after another and more than enough variety to avoid repetition, including its share of more serious lyrical messages and even some rap.

The second-to-last song is yet another highlight, a jangle-rock epic recalling Fleet Foxes’ influence called “Be Nothing.” The track builds to a big jam that shows the range Beach Fossils has as the band continues to mature. Somersault is clearly worth your notice.


Real Estate’s “Atlas” a Shimmering, Satisfying Achievement — One of 2014’s Best

3 Apr


Real Estate is one of those bands that only a few people used to know about. When Real Estate released its self-titled debut in 2009, only your coolest friends were aware of it. This band is really going to be something their knowing smile may have said.

With the release of 2011’s Days, more critics and a wider audience took notice — especially after the band was on the bill at signature events such as the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in 2012.

Now it’s 2014, and if you’ve managed to ignore New Jersey-born, now Brooklyn-based Real Estate in the past, the band’s latest release, Atlas, makes that no longer an option.

Atlas provides a lush, rich landscape in which lead singer/songwriter, Martin Courtney — 28 and married with his first child due soon — explores some of the sadness and uncertainty that comes with aging, as we leave friends and familiar surroundings behind to move forward in new roles. In this sense, the band is exploring similar territory to that of Vampire Weekend on Modern Vampires of the City, another amazing album.

On “Past Lives,” Courtney sings, “I cannot come back to this neighborhood/Without feelin’ my own age/I walk past these houses where we once stood/I see past lives, but somehow you’re still here.” The bittersweet vocals are wrapped in a gorgeous, gauzy wall of sound created by Matt Mondanile’s bright, reverbed guitar and a timekeeping rhythm set up by Etienne Pierre Duguay.

The third track on the album, “Talking Backwards,” is one of the best indie jangle-pop songs released in recent years. One could describe this as a folk-rock tune, dressed up for the 2010s with a bright jangle that gives it energy and pace while Courtney laments, “I might as well be talking backwards/Am I making any sense to you?/And the only thing that really matters/Is the one thing I can’t seem to do.

“The Bend” is another standout track that is almost jazzy in its light and breezy construction, with a tight, polished arrangement reminiscent of Steely Dan in its heyday. Once again, amidst the glistening guitar chords and up-tempo rhythm, there’s the relentless questioning. Courtney sings, “It’s so hard to feel in control here/Like I’m behind the wheel and it won’t steer.” And again, later in the song, “I’m just trying to make some sense of this/Before I lose another year.”

“Primitive” has a great folk-rock feel, with a ringing guitar, wistful doubled vocals and rich harmonies in the chorus. “Horizon” makes use of similarly tripping chord progressions like those on “Talking Backward,” in a bright and bouncy tune. Courtney sings, “Just over the horizon/That’s where I always think you’ll be/It’s always so surprising/To find you right there next to me.”

The album ends with a reflective song, “Navigator.” If you haven’t gotten the point of the album yet, Courtney sings, “I stare at the hands on the clock/I’m still waiting for them to stop.”

Before you decide not to buy this album because of its depressing lyrics, consider that Courtney’s thoughts are always presented in a bemused, lighthearted tone and embraced with the warmth of Real Estate’s lush soundscapes.

As such, while many of the songs provide food for thought for twenty-somethings and thirty-somethings passing through life changes — Courtney’s perspective seems to be that it’s all good. Keep moving ahead and enjoy every moment.