Tag Archives: indie pop

Ghost

I had a music-related first last week. I discovered a band via Tumblr, and that band is Mystery Skulls. Just search for Mystery Skulls on Tumblr, if you have one. Otherwise do an image search for Mystery Skulls Lewis and you’ll find what I started seeing on my dash – Dozens of cartoon images of a pink-haired, sharp-dressed skeleton-man.

At first I though that maybe this was from some new indie cartoon. So I was a little confused and frustrated when a band kept popping up. Then I finally made the connection and I realized that the skeleton was a cartoon in a fan-made music video for “Ghost,” a single from the album Forever by the band Mystery Skulls. And so I finally watched it!

I love this music video so much. I love how bright and colorful it is, I love the animation style, and I love the way everyone’s heads bob in time to the music. (And I want to bob my head in time with the music when I listen to this song.)

The first thing that should be obvious is that the music video is an homage to Scooby-Doo. First, we’ve got a couple of teenage or college age kids and a dog driving through the spooky woods and winding up at a haunted house. Then there’s the animated style of their running, which is very posed and distinct – anyone who watched Scooby-Doo growing up would recognize it. And finally, there’s the classic hallway doors scene, wherein the character chase each other in and out of various doors, the connections between which don’t really make sense.

But setting aside the Scooby-Doo parallels, the music video tells a really sad story – one that doesn’t get a happy ending! Gosh, I didn’t think a little cartoon music video could break my heart. I just didn’t want it to end where it did! I was hoping Lewis (the skeleton) and Vivi (the girl) could somehow wind up together happily ever after. (By the way, don’t ask me where these names came from – Tumblr has somehow decreed that these are the names of the characters, so I’m just going along with it.) Ah, well. There’s oodles of fan art to be enjoyed.

What about the music? Well, I love that too! It’s energetic and fun and makes me want to dance – that last one is always a good thing for me! It reminds me of some of Daft Punk’s earlier works, with more of a pop sensibility. I actually bought the entire album after hearing “Ghost” – and if you love this single, you’ll love the rest of it too! It’s totally the kind of album you would throw on if you wanted to have a dance party with your friends.

I just can’t believe this song isn’t on the radio! Or maybe it is. I’ve kind of been in and out (mostly out these days) with my radio listening. So give “Ghost” a try and buy the album if you like it. Support this band!

Here’s a bonus: The original music video! I don’t like it as much – which isn’t to say I don’t like it. It’s a fun and silly nod to The Exorcist (watch out for a little jump-scare in the last 10 seconds when the music starts to fade). I feel like there’s a bit of Michael Jackson posturing going on here too. Still, I’m just too attached to the bright colors of the animated music video and the star-crossed story of Lewis and Vivi.

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Pumpkin Soup

Hey, everyone! Remember “Oops!…I Did It Again”??? Oh boy, that’s a song I think of when I think of high school. Not that I listened to Britney Spears back then (not that I don’t listen to her now, haha) but it is just one of those many generation-defining pop songs that happened to come out in those years.

I bring it up because I wanted to compare it to Kate Nash’s “Pumpkin Soup.” Super great comparison, because they basically are about the same thing!

“I just want your kiss boy” is the chorus, and was almost the title of the song. It makes it pretty clear what it’s all about. I really enjoy a song that’s upfront about not being about love. That is everything that’s going on here. Listen for the line “Whoops, I think I’ve got too close.” I think it might just be a direct nod to Britney! Kate Nash knew what she was doing when she wrote this song.

I like that it throws off that stereotype that women are generally looking for love and men are generally looking for sex, because it’s clearly the opposite case in this situation. “I hate lookin’ like a fool” she sings about falling in love. “I’m not in love/I just want to be touched” she puts forth candidly later in the song. Yes! Fantastic!

I think the music video works really well for this song too. It’s very colorful and almost Valentine’s Day themed. And over the top cheesy with those giant fluffy white cats. That holiday can be rather cheesy. So can hackneyed expressions of love. When you listen to the song and watch the video, it seems like the lyrics and the visuals are almost at odds with each other. This is all the stuff Kate doesn’t want and yet she’s being forced to face it because this boy thinks that it’s what she does want. See the wedding scene and hear the lyric “I hope that you don’t think I’m unkind.” I love the frankness at the worst possible moment and place.

This is one of my favorite Kate Nash songs. It’s fun, it’s playful, and a little bit coy while being flirtatious. I like it much better than “Oops!…I Did It Again” even if it never reached the same meteoric level of fame. It deserves some credit though! Kate Nash has a talent for making relateable songs. This is one of her best.

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Fruit

I don’t remember what song it was that grabbed my attention, but I certainly remember the name of the band, The Asteroids Galaxy Tour, grabbing my attention on its own. They were another last.fm discovery, and a spectacular one at that. They’ve only released two albums so far, but each one has a sound that just makes me lose my mind. It’s fantastic summer music. It knows how to be loud and big but not noisy in an unorganized way. It’s all very well-orchestrated, while teetering on the edge of losing control.

Fruit was their first album, and the first one I bought as well. The opening track, “Lady Jesus,” has this swagger to it that just sweeps you up and makes you want to rock your body. It’s not a loud track, like I described, BUT it still has that big, about-to-bubble-over sound to it. I really like it as an opening track. I also just really like the idea of a Lady Jesus.

Moving ahead to “Push the Envelope”…Here’s where things REALLY get loud. Singer Mette Lindberg knows how to wail and takes it to the extreme by the end of this track. She’s got a voice like a beast – It’s just wild.

“The Golden Age” is probably one of my favorite tracks out of both albums. It makes me think of LA summers – and not just because it’s about Hollywood. They played it a lot at Dodger Stadium last year, appropriately enough. It’s got a very retro sound to it too. The music video is also fun and weird, though it reminds me more of the 90’s than of the Golden Age of Hollywood. But it makes sense for their sound and style.

“Around the Bend” makes for a pretty good dance track. I can see this one playing at a summer backyard party. I feel myself bouncing along to it every time I listen to it. It’s got more of that swagger to it. It’s very jazzy.

“Hero” reminds me of a heat wave. It’s got this lazy, languishing sound to it. You know how the air above an asphalt road looks wavy on a really hot day? It’s like that. But aurally. Mette Lindberg’s voice matches it perfectly. She actually sounds kind of tired, but not in a bad way, just in a way that suits the song.

“Attack of the Ghost Riders” is the almost-closing track (I think I have a deluxe version though – the Wikipedia page lists “Bad Fever” as the final track and “Inner City Blues” as a bonus track, while this track is technically followed by a live version of “Lady Jesus”) and it’s weirdly wild and wildy weird. There’s this fantastic Tarzan-like high-pitched wailing going on in the background while Lindberg robotically repeats “Attack of the ghost riders.” It’s actually a little creepy.

Overall, you know who they remind me of? Smash Mouth. I think if you have nostalgia for Smash Mouth, but want something more current, you’d enjoy The Asteroids Galaxy Tour. And if you like Fruit, then you’ll definitely like their follow-up album Out of Frequency. If Fruit is a 10, then Out of Frequency kicks it up to 11. But I’ll save that one for another day.

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The Only Place

As the weather gets warmer here in LA (well, it’s a bit of a mixed bag at this time of year–it should be gray and overcast but the sun is putting up a fight), I tend to get this feeling of euphoria during the most mundane moments. It just makes me happy to be living in LA. I just…FEEL so good about it.

So when I get like this, I tend to listen to Best Coast. Particularly this song.

Sure, the video is kind of hipster-y, what with them “ironically” destroying things and all. I wish they’d been more subtle about some things. The fridge full of Sriracha sauce is great. Those burgers could have possibly been In-N-Out? Why not more things like that?!

Anyway, it’s a pure and simple anthem to LA. From the surf rock sound to the straightforward lyrics (which, admittedly are a little over-simple at times). It makes me feel happy to be an Angeleno. And I don’t give a damn what other cities think about us. I can’t hear them buried under all that snow anyway.

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Wounded Rhymes

I used to listen to the radio and watch MTV a lot in high school, like a good little teen. Right around college, I lost interest in the radio and mostly listened to Japanese music. After college, I still wasn’t listening to the radio, so it’s a wonder how I got into new music. Then I discovered Last.fm when I was bored at work and wanted to find a way to listen to new music that wasn’t the radio. Things really took off from there.

Lykke Li (another Swede – do I really listen to that many?) was one of my Last.fm discoveries. I was really into her sound, and though I was so overwhelmed by the amount of music discoveries, I went with her first album, Youth Novels. I enjoyed it, but only a few tracks stood out. I kept meaning to give her second album a try, but I didn’t get around to it until a few years later – last week, specifically.

What took me so long?! Wounded Rhymes is a fantastic album! Where Youth Novels is quiet and quirky, Wounded Rhymes is big and primal. It’s like putting a sugar glider next to a gorilla. I think back on the songs I liked on Last.fm and I realize that most of them came from this second album. So why didn’t I get that one first? Well, I have this weird compulsion where I like to buy albums in the chronological order of their release. I rarely break it. I like to think I’m discovering the evolution of the artist or something. I don’t know.

Anyway, let’s start with the song you’re most likely to have heard, if you have heard a Lykke Li song and perhaps didn’t realize it (probably on a TV show):

This song is not about sex. Really, even Li herself said so. I find that songs that are about sex tend to be more poetic about it, whereas songs that are not about sex tend to use it as a metaphor. And so Li lays it on extra thick in the lyrics and the video. I actually find the song rather empowering. Which is kind of what the song is about. It’s about having power over men by virtue of being a woman. Ever notice how a guy will call a woman a slut if she’s sleeping with anyone BUT him? To me this song is what it feels like to reclaim that word.

The album follows a mostly dark and primal theme. Just listen to “I Follow Rivers.” It’s got a very jungle-y ambiance. You can hear the plaintive desperation and obsession in her voice. Same with “Jerome.” She occasionally takes a break from the sound (but not the theme) on tracks like the almost minimal, Youth Novels-sounding “Unrequited Love” and on “Sadness Is a Blessing,” which reminds me of the debut album in another way. Specifically, it reminds me of “Let It Fall,” which is a happy-sounding song about being sad. In any case, both of the songs serve as Lykke Li’s interpretation of the quintessential American 1960’s girl group.

“I Know Places” is a nice, quiet track. It’s got this sort of musical epilogue attached to it, where you almost think it’s another song. To me, it sounds like the “place” where Lykke Li wants to take whomever she’s singing to. It’s a bit of an aural landscape, and I do love those. I also really like the heavy, almost industrial-sounding “Silent My Song.” It’s haunting, and the howling chorus is (yet again) plaintive and heavy, but in an appealing way.

I guess overall, Wounded Rhymes is kind of emo. In a weird, Swedish way. I don’t know if that will make sense to anyone who doesn’t listen to Swedish artists.

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Bird Song

I feel like there isn’t a whole lot I can say about this song, maybe because I don’t know that much about it (maybe because it’s only part of the deluxe version of the album from which it comes). But it’s one of my favorite songs off Florence and the Machine’s debut album Lungs. It reminds me of Edgar Allen Poe, specifically “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Black Cat,” and I love me some Poe. It even reminds me a little of the 2010 film The Black Swan.

Really it just speaks for itself, both in Florence Welch’s powerful voice and vivid lyrics. Unlike Poe’s short stories, we never know what she’d done or who she’d become, but the guilt of it plagues the singer, eventually consuming her whole. Like Poe’s and Portman’s characters, it ultimately leads to her demise.

It’s beautiful, it’s fascinating, it’s amazing, and I think it’s one of the best songs from the album, and that’s including “Kiss With a Fist” and “Dog Days Are Over.”

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