Returning to the Boardwalk with a Je Ne Sais Sass

From the Raveonettes, who reimagined the leather and lace sounds and aesthetic of the Mod movement, to She and Him’s Sunday-driving reveries to the Neo-Soul torch singers Duffy and Adele, big-band jazz and wall of sound pop inspired oldies are all the rage.  Nobody could be happier that the halcyon harmonies of 50s and 60s Doo-Wop and Soul permeating the cyber-airwaves these days than this boy.  So it should come as little surprise that 2012 ushers in yet another group revisiting a familiar yet fresh sound that once enveloped the Coney Island and Atlantic City Boardwalks like the sweet, sticky salt air (or soundtrack-ed a Wes Anderson flick, see, e.g., Rushmore).  Meet Chic Gamine hailing from Montreal, Canada, a throwback Female Foursome (and one male percussionist) sporting a soulful pop reminiscent of The Crystals, The Ronettes, and The Shangri-La’s.  Tired of the comparisons and description? Less talk, more Doo-Wop you ask?  Well, I’ll get you “Closer” to the ladies and the sound that will be blasting through your stereo and headphones as you stroll down the sidewalk daydreaming of the summer days to come. (Hint click on the link and if you like what you hear visit their Soundcloud page for additional cuts here.)

…if you long for more retrofitted-pop sounds of yesteryears check out the following records:

  • Yo La TengoFakebook:  An early release from the grandfathers (and grandmother) of lo-fi, fuzzy guitar rock, James, George, and Ira surf through an ebullient collection of concise pop tunes;  a convention they revisit with some regularity throughout their ever expanding catalog, including most recently “If It’s True” from Popular Songs and “My Little Corner of the World” on I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One.
  • The Raveonettes – Chain Gang of Love:  Denmark and melancholy have been inextricably linked ever since that chap from Stratford-upon-Avon recast his son in drab introspective “madness”. But never has melancholia felt so Mod-ishly modern and sweet as it does emanating from this duo of Danes.
  • She and Him – Volume 1 and Volume 2:  The Manic Pixie “It Girl” for the geeky set (Zooey Deschanel) and the fuzzy, grizzled folk singer (M.Ward, see below) make beautiful (if grammatically awkward) music together on these two records of bubble-gum bliss.
  • Saturday Looks Good to Me – s/t:  Hailing from Ypsilanti, Michigan, Fred Thomas and his band of misfits offer a fuzzy revision of the Motown sound from down the highway.
  • Duffy – Rockferry: Perhaps the least regaled or relapsed of the English Neo-Soul singers of the past decade, Duffy serves up an exquisite array of torch songs and modernized big band-esque standards.

…in other news

  • Tripping the Live Fandango: Perhaps smarting from another missed SXSW, I staged a pseudo CHIXMW this past week, attending three “shows” of exquisite yet disparate varieties:
    • Starting with Megafaun, whose 2011 self-titled release was among my favorite records of the past year, at Schuba’s, I was privy to a rousing set of Southern Folk-Rock sprinkled with a renegade Gospel feel. This North Carolina quartet by way of Wisconsin put on a lively, loud, and joy-inducing set of songs. The highlight, however, was the acoustic numbers with audience participation — always great to see a band interacting and incorporating their audience into the performance experience.
    • From Rock the next stop was the DJ Set of James Murphy, who was renowned as the brains behind LCD Soundsystem, at the Mid.  Despite the venue’s lackluster acoustic arrangement (at least for audiophiles who prefer precision over bombastic bass), James Murphy displayed his mastery of the turntables with a fresh blend of soul, disco, and downtempo dance tracks heavy on rhythm and structure and devoid of auto-tune and computer generated beats.
    • Finally, the piece de resistance was to be found with the contemporary classical ensemble eighth blackbird and a collection of Chicago musicians performing the Terry Riley (who often collaborated with the Kronos Quartet) composition In C (click to listen) at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA). An astonishing performance of minimalist musicianship by fifty local area performers.  For Chicago residents, keep your eyes on the lookout for the unique local treasure that is eighth blackbird.
  • First Listen Alert:  As always NPR offers a chance to preview a full-album stream of upcoming releases weeks before hitting the market on First Listen. This week features some great and beloved bands/performers, including (the above referenced) M.Ward, Bear in Heaven, and Of Monsters and Men. (Admission: I have yet to listen to these records, but have enjoyed the new upbeat, world sounds of M.Ward’s first single “Primitive Girl” and the Pet Shop Boys feel of Bear In Heaven. I bring to my readers’ attention as these streams are short-lived, so stream ahead.) 
  • Vinyl Strikes Back!  Not only does Vinyl produce better sound, it’s also more adept at geometric drawings than it’s digital counterparts, see here.  Can you do that Hi-Res MP3s?  I think not.*

Happy Monday,


* a special thanks to ST for bringing this to my attention.

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