Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Bye Bye, Bicycle

They're a Swedish indie band, not a Kent Avenue watchdog group, but I'd like to ask them about their name nonetheless. Bye Bye Bicycle is spearheaded by vocalist (get this) Andre Vikingsson, whose upper-register mewling harkens back to Bernard Sumner of New Order. Add that to a rhythmic, '80s-inspired backing, and you've got a beautifully simple, oddly danceable series of songs that sounds like a toss-up between The Whitest Boy Alive, Kent, and, yes, New Order.


Somehow, Scandinavia seems totally capable of producing organic (or at least analog) disco music, which seems sort of counterintuitive, but hey -- I'm not complaining. Thanks to Mattias at Headstomp Production in Stockholm for sending this along.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Nordic trifecta on the LES

I had a chance to see Karin Park, a Norwegian electro-pop diva, at Pianos last night, and it was a humbling experience. This woman is probably 6'2" in pumps, all legs and torso and bangs, and plays one mean keytar, which I haven't seen used to such effect since I saw Vagenius (now Hello Stranger) at Eclectic at Wesleyan. This photo is obviously not taken at Pianos, but observe:


A total vixen. Her drummer is also apparently her brother, which earns her serious bonus points. Anyway, it's good, danceable stuff (you can download an mp3 sampler here, if you want to dance to it on the go), so it was a stark contrast to head over to Rockwood Music Hall afterward to see petite Icelandic songstress Olof Arnalds deliver a stunning performance that fell somewhere between Edith Piaf and Roseanne Cash, with a little Tchaikovsky thrown in, care of her bearded accompanist. They also played covers of "We're Not the Jet Set" and "In Spite of Ourselves" (two solid American country numbers originally recorded by John Pine and Iris DeMent). When their set ended, I noticed the woman sitting at the table next to mine was Bjork. Go figure. Olof's playing another show at Union Pool tonight -- check her out, you won't regret it.

Oh yeah, and Miike Snow was at Mercury Lounge last night, only a few blocks from Rockwood, but I'm trying to exercise moderation. Though I did come home to find some music in my inbox by a Norwegian spin on the Talking Heads... more on that later.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Penguin Prison, are you related to Joe White?

Fall's fun and all, but sometimes a song comes along that makes you wish it was June all over again. Penguin Prison's "Animal Animal" is one of those -- sweet, sing-songy, and yet underlaid with an infectious, arrogant swagger. It sounds almost like a Waitresses or Bow Wow Wow song -- which is weirdly serendipitous, since White Williams did cover "I Want Candy," and Penguin Prison and White Williams might very well be the same artist. Come to think of it, they're even friends on MySpace. Creepy.


Best line: "I wish Mike Tyson was my friend / Then I would tell him everything." Also, I don't usually go for tracks like "I Am Not a Robot" (which falls a little too close to Christina Aguilera territory for my tastes), but goddamn, Penguin Prison's done an amazing remix of the song (originally by Marina and the Diamonds). Compare to the original, which, now that I think about it, is kind of great in its own way:

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Rubik: live in Turku, Finland

Here's the first of what will eventually be several follow-up posts about my recent trip to Finland. In this installment we have Rubik, a delightful Helsinki-based indie-pop band that performed at the Fullsteam Records showcase at Klubi, a club the label owns in Turku, Finland.


I should back up a second, though; trying to categorize Rubik as "pop" is like trying to pin a purple tail on a jet-pack-wearing donkey, while blindfolded and on acid. It's an exercise in futility. Rubik is the Walt Whitman of Finnish indie rock -- they are large, they encompass multitudes. Their music has echoes of acts from Of Montreal to Radiohead to Beirut to Arcade Fire and beyond -- and that's not even going past the aughts. With eclecticism like this, I don't see how these guys won't find an audience on this side of the pond. (Their sophomore album, Dada Bandits, is out in the States on September 15th.)

Their live show was more rock-oriented than the album had led me to expect, and I have a feeling that Rubik's still finding their stage legs, but I'm sure they'll be knockouts when they play CMJ in late October. That's right, I said it.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Dispatch from Hel

Well, technically I'm in Turku, the oldest city and erstwhile capital of Finland, but that just doesn't have the same ring to it. Last night was the six-band Fullsteam Records showcase at a local three-story venue which the label owns -- lots of belligerently drunk Finnish youth, at least one street fight, and a whole lot of 5 AM pizza. They don't cut pizza here, so you have to rip it apart with your fingers. I suggested rolling it into a tube and eating it from end-to-end; my Finnish companions seemed to like the idea. So if you come here in a decade or so and people up in Lapland are all eating pizza rolls, you can tell them who to thank.

Most Finns speak very good English, and any Finnish band that wants a shot at the international market (or, indeed, any market outside of Finland) sings in English. That said, they banter in Finnish while onstage, and it makes for a very confusing live-music experience. More on that later. For now, let me just say that while I was waiting for our pizza, this dude freestyled for me in both English and Finnish, and it was a very heart-warming experience. I mean, how hospitable of him. Anyway, I can't seem to upload photos on the Holiday Inn computer, so for now I'll leave you with a sample of what I've eaten here, as a before-and-after photo-link series. Alex out.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

China's Stevie Wonder

... is a 26-year-old Bahai'i guy name Khalil Fong. Also, see Justin Timberlake and the late M.J. Just more proof that when a door closes, a window tends to open. Anyway, take a listen to this and tell me it doesn't make you just a little giddy:



Also, a side note: my sister served Stevie Wonder a crabcake while catering the recent memorial service for Eunice Kennedy Shriver. I'm so proud of her. My sister, I mean; not Shriver, even though she was Arnold Schwartzenegger's mother-in-law, which is kind of cool. He was there too, apparently wearing a lot of rings. I wonder if has special mourning rings. Somehow, I doubt it. I don't think Arnie's accustomed to defeat.