I’m listening to a CD by an emo group called Engineers. It’s actually quite good. I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s on the melodic side of emo, with soft, jangly guitars and beautiful vocal harmonies. They use strings as well as the occasional electronic twinge, in comfortable, slightly sorrowful songs. It’s the sort of music that’s played during emotional scenes on The OC. Which is not to say it’s without merit, as the soundtracks for that show have been quite good, and have showcased quite a few bands with good debut CDs.
This album is just called Engineers. It, and Aqueduct’s I Sold Gold were some of my favorite discoveries in June. Aqueduct is a one man band from Seattle, with a unique genre. It’s quirky and disjointed, with thumpy piano and the occasional bleep of an electronic sample. The drums are loud and machine like, the lyrics and song titles are offbeat, and it’s just something that’s fun to listen to, preferably at a loud volume, on a summer day in the car.
I also got really into Annie’s Anniemal in June. It’s nouveau pop, with an offbeat Euro hipster edge. It’s cute and bouncy without being sugary. It doesn’t have traditional key changes and melody lines, and is fairly random – as random as you can get with those sort of catchy beats and choruses. Annie was produced by Richard X of Norway, who does some really great tracks on his own, and that bought her the credibility on Rhapsody to get the recommendation. But it was the CD itself that drew in the hipsters – Gawker and Flavorpill both recommended her live set to their readers.
For July, one of the best CDs I listened to was the Ditty Bops, a local band who are much loved by some of the Critical Mass coordinators. They’ve borrowed heavily from the late 1940s swing and pop era, sounding quite a bit like an updated Andrews Sisters. It’s ironic, how a sound that would have been vanilla enough for early Campbell’s Soup Variety Hour Shows in 1948 is cutting edge in 2005 – but it’s an immensely enjoyable album. I highly recommend it.
And finally, I can’t rave enough about Royksopp. The Understanding is simply the most brilliant thing to come out so far this year. Last year, Sasha’s Involver was my favorite CD of this type, simply beautiful, quieter, electronic music. This is going to be my favorite for this year. They actually know how to play instruments, and the opening 6/8 time piano solo (reminiscent of Moonlight Sonata) proves it. The harmonies are beautiful, melodic and haunting; the instruments ranged across the board and perfectly juxtaposed, electronic against traditional, vocal samples against drum machine. The lyrics, where applicable, are even good. Buy this CD. Now.
Next week: I go into the Hot Hot Heat family of bands, because Elevator is finally starting to really grow on me, although I still like VHS Or Beta better.