One of the joys of working at the record store in 1995 was all the free promo copies of cds we received. Our store actually kept them in the store and played them (which I later learned is unusual with most employees usually taking them and selling them to other stores) but we could claim them to take home at a later date. Sub Pop was excellent at sending us promos which was nice since 3 of us usually wanted what they sent and would fight over who got what! At the time I think that a lot of people thought that Sub Pop had slipped a little but I look back at that time frame and what they were putting out and strongly disagree. The Spinanes, Velocity Girl, and Hazel were probably my 3 favorite bands on the label at the time and I still listen to them all!

I first heard Hazel because of one of those promo cds. Are You Going To Eat That? came in and I was immediately taken. Simple yet catchy with just guitar, bass, and drums and dueling boy/girl vocals. I hear a little bit of The Wipers in Hazel. That same sort of energy with the guitar holding the same sort of sonic space in both bands - up front and in your face. I immediately bought their first album, Toreador Of Love, and loved it just as much. I always thought that this was the most apt description I read of the first album - "A tackle box full of hooks." This was a comment somebody left on the cd at KDVS. So, yeah, not a lot to say about this band other than they were fantastic and if you like more rock/guitar based indie stuff rather than say twee or pop you will probably enjoy this quite a bit.

In chronological order:
Day Glo
I'm Shattered Again
A bonus track! They released an ep on Candy Ass (the drummers label) in 1997 which was their last release. This is a live version of a song from that.
Mr. Magazine Man (live)


The Spinanes / Rebecca Gates

Back in 1993 (if memory serves me correctly) I was watching the late night alternative show Mtv had on Sunday night when my ears were caught by a song called Noel, Jonah And Me. A lot of what the tv show played was mainstream "alternative" music but once in awhile they would sneak something like The Spinanes in. People who have grown up with the internet have no idea what it was like to be interested in independent music before everyone had access to it along with blogs and myspace etc etc etc. If you were lucky enough to get reception of a college radio station you had a fighting chance, or if you happened to have a good independent record store in your area you might get recommended some music you probably wouldn't have heard on your own. Otherwise you needed a disposable income and luck along with some sort of knowledge of various labels putting independent music out. I was lucky in the sense that I had college radio reception a good amount of the time, a pretty good mom and pop record store, and friends who were also music nerds. Most of the time if I had committed to buying a record I knew I would like it. You may have guessed that I had no money to just buy things on a whim! Anyhow, I would watch this Mtv show regularly hoping to find out about new (or at least new to me) bands.

My reaction to The Spinanes was quite strong. It was incredibly catchy and fun - I could hardly believe that it was just guitar, drums, and vocals. I can't say for sure but they may have been the first rock band I had heard without a bass player. I had a pretty strong suspicion that I would like the record so I went and bought Manos from my local mom and pop record shop. The expressiveness of Rebecca Gates vocals coupled with her amazing ability as a lyricist were awe inspiring to me. Her guitar playing was inventive and suited the songs perfectly and Scott Plouf's drumming was simple but powerful. I was in love. Over time my favorite song from the record became a song called Sunday probably because of the chorus simply being the line "But you know how far away we are" repeated over and over. I'm a sucker for a simple yet meaningful lyric.

Now we have to jump around a bit. Between their first and second albums I started working at a mom and pop record store (Spirit Records in Rancho Cordova, California for those who must know) and volunteering at KDVS which is the UC Davis college radio station. In the record stacks at KDVS I discovered The Spinanes releases that were only on 7" at that point. Of course now you can purchase the cd The Imp Years instead of tracking down the vinyl. One of my very first shows I played what is considered by many fans to be the classic Spinanes track. Maybe because it tells the most vivid story and has the most heartbreaking chorus of any of their songs. Once again just a line repeated for the chorus.
Hawaiian Baby

Working at the record store and radio station were probably the best things I could have done for my music addiction. Hearing tons of new music, being introduced to old stuff that I would have probably never heard, meeting a lot of wonderful people who definitely inspired me to keep feeding my interest. My interest in queercore and particularly the Chainsaw and Candy Ass record labels led me to buy the Free To Fight compilation. It was a joint release encouraging women to fight back against attackers. Rebecca Gates had a solo release on the compilation. The song is haunting and beautiful and the solo performance really captures pain and loneliness.
Carnation Red

Strand, their second album, was released in 1996 and was a big departure. The songs got less poppy and quite a bit slower. Less rocking out and way more mood oriented with the music. I'm a huge fan of bands that are able to switch gears and really surprise. I'm not sure if there's anything I love more actually - a giant and unexpected leap in greatness between albums. This album incorporates more instrumentation (keyboards specifically) and a lot more percussion which is a treat for headphone listening. Elliott Smith contributes some backing vocals which is how I was able to hook some people into this band! Nearly a minute and a half of tweaked guitar open my favorite track. This was not The Spinanes from 3 years before. This song is another amazingly vivid story. I think her ability to be so vivid comes from not being afraid of using words that most people shy away from in a songwriting context. This was not dumb bubble gum nursery school rhymes by any means.
Lines & Lines

By the time the last album under The Spinanes name came out in 1998 Scott Plouf had left the band to join Built To Spill. On this album she was joined by a variety of musicians, but probably most notable was The Sea and Cake's John McEntire and touring member of The Spinanes and current Jicks member Joanna Bolme. Arches and Aisles struck a balance between the up of the first record and the slow of the second. It was yet another move forward with the songwriting. I've always thought that Rebecca Gates is one of the most inventive songwriters out there. She just got better and more interesting with time. She's also terribly underrated. I feel that this song captures the mood of the last album quite well.
Kid In Candy

To date only one solo album has been released and that was back in 2001. However, it appears that she is writing and recording another one. I saw her perform at The Knitting Factory a year and a half ago and it was wonderful. She's one of the most engaging live performers I've ever seen. She's the right mix of funny and weird with the banter but all business with the songs. I wanted to post this song from The Ruby Series because it's a re-working of the song from the Free To Fight compilation. I find it interesting when songwriters go back to earlier material. Truth be told, I do prefer the original! I'm terribly excited to hear that a new record is in the works.


The Spiral States

The Spiral States have gone through several name changes and line-ups over the years but as far as I know this is their first release - a 6 song e.p. available for free download at The Spiral States myspace page. It was difficult for me to pick which 2 to post but I wanted to show their capabilities at capturing various sounds.

The first song reminds me of Elvis Costello & The Attractions. Not such a bad thing to be sounding like! If we admit that the majority of music today is derivative of something I would much rather hear a band covering many different styles and stretching their abilities than somebody wanking off under the banner of originality. So bring on bands that actually add their own take to the mix.

This song definitely has a Motown feel to it. That is aces in my book. The brilliance behind almost every Motown song released in the 1960's and early 1970's is astounding. If more bands learned from that era and style of songwriting I think songwriting would be considered more of an art again. I really appreciate that The Spiral States are willing to bring that back a little bit with their take on it.
She's a Lover


The Faeries

I first met Ruby (who is The Faeries) back in 2001. She wanted to start a record label at the time and she actually did shortly after we met. Banazan Records has since put out a couple of compilations, quite a few full length albums, and several ep releases. There's been some vinyl, some cd-r releases, and full on manufactured releases as well. The label doesn't stay stuck in a rut of only releasing one particular genre either so the catalog is quite diverse.

The Faeries first came to my attention on the very first Banazan release which was a compilation featuring artists from a message board which shall remain nameless. A cover of Wire's Outdoor Miner was the first thing I heard and I was instantly hooked. Ruby's voice is fantastic! The Faeries are big on covers with everyone from The Go-Go's to Dolly Parton getting the treatment. I always enjoy a deconstructed cover and The Faeries covers are some of the most enjoyable out there. The originals are always sweet and poppy. Some might call it twee.

Today I will feature two originals and leave the covers for Blowin Your Cover to, uh, cover at some point. The first song is my all time favorite Faeries song. The perfect little crush song. Sweet and to the point with an insanely catchy melody and chorus.
Shy No More

This other song is a special treat - it's a demo version which Jed Smith of My Teenage Stride recorded the arrangement for. I hear the MTS stamp on this but that might be because I am very familiar with the original version with just guitar and voice. I would like to note that Ruby and Banazan were the first supporters of My Teenage Stride having released the first album and 7" single. I believe both are still available through Banazan. Anyhow, this is another incredibly sweet and sincere song and it's true! The ice cream trucks really do live on Lemon Street! This is what a day out can bring you - the basis for a great pop song!
The Ice Cream Trucks Live On Lemon Street (Demo)



Another one of my favorite bands is Joy Division. I remember hearing them for the first time when one of my older siblings played them in our shared room - I would guess that it was 1985 because it was a heavy UK phase for her. I didn't get into them on my own until 1992 though. The year I got my first cd player. I remember going to the record store and buying some cds to play and buying Unknown Pleasures because I remembered the name and liked the cover art. (I also purchased Echo & The Bunnymen and R.E.M. that day.) In 1992 I was extremely depressed so Joy Division were kind of the ultimate downer music I could buy without going goth. I spent several hours with headphones on listening to that record over and over. (I once had a therapist ask me if I ever thought that perhaps my choice in music is what caused my downward spirals into depression! I had to explain that it actually made me feel better.) I soon purchased the entire catalog of music and whatever else I could get my hands on.

When I started at KDVS someone pointed out the Warsaw bootleg cd that the station owned. I was completely fascinated that Joy Division became Joy Division only after having been Warsaw. Until I had heard the Warsaw songs I had imagined them to be Joy Division with a different name. It becomes clear how important Martin Hannett was to the Joy Division sound. Thank god that the RCA deal never worked out and Factory stepped in. Warsaw were a punk band; Joy Division a post-punk band. If you listen to these songs you will completely understand the distinction. (On a side note, the Anton Corbijn film Control seemed to receive a lot of mixed reviews but I absolutely loved it. Recommended if you haven't seen it.)

A much slower version of the Joy Division classic.

I believe that Steve Brotherdale played drums on this track. Can't think of ever hearing a Joy Division version of this song.
You're No Good For Me


One Happy Island

One Happy Island is a 4 piece indiepop band from Boston. They incorporate things like the ukulele, trumpet, and kazoo(!) into the standard indiepop sound. I saw them play February 2nd at the NYC Popfest fundraiser and they put on a fun show. Brad handled vocals, guitar, trumpet, and keyboard if I remember correctly. Rebecca played drums, ukulele, and also sang. She has a really good voice which they should definitely use more of! Clint handled bass, guitar, and kazoo(!) along with some backing vocals. Newest addition Shannon played guitar, keyboard, bass, and also chimed in with some backing vocals. The band plays around Boston quite often and I'm pretty sure will be here for the NYC Popfest. Catch them and their catchy and fun songs if you can!

WeePOP! Records is a cute label from across the pond. They release 3" CDRs in really simple yet fantastic packaging. The releases are limited to 120 copies so you had better move fast! Since Pulaski Park is only 4 songs I'm only going to post 1 song from it. The vocals on this one are handled by Rebecca and I think that it is the catchiest song from the release - enjoy!


Mark Robinson

Mark Robinson is the founder of Teenbeat and member of Unrest, Air Miami, and Flin Flon. He has released solo work and been in other bands as well but I am choosing to focus on those three.

I was unaware of Unrest until Perfect Teeth was released in 1993. They had released several records and singles starting in 1985 but I was completely unaware of them until their last full length album! To be honest, I can't even say that I'm a fan of the early stuff I've heard. This album remains my favorite of theirs to this day which I am told is not a popular opinion as most people seem to prefer Imperial f.f.r.r. which came right before this album. For me, Perfect Teeth is pure pop perfection. The slower songs don't drag, the atmospheric songs are kept to a minimum, and the songs are the catchiest of their career. It's difficult to pick one song from the record but who can resist this one...
Make Out Club

When Unrest disbanded in the mid-90s Mark formed Air Miami with his former band mate from Unrest, Bridget Cross. They were joined by various other members over their short career. Being a long time plane nerd I was quite pleased with the band name and their first single which is what I've posted. Most people know that Teenbeat is modeled after the legendary Factory Records, and Mark's love of the Brits is well documented. I think that the song World Cup Fever is really the icing on the cake. It's probably the song I associate them with the most and I was tempted to post it but had to go with my favorite.
Airplane Rider

This brings us to Flin Flon. I saw them play not too incredibly long ago (within the last year or so) and they were fucking amazing. I'm not sure what the status of the band is right now but if you ever get the chance to see them you must take it. They were so precise that it was frightening but it was one of the most fun times I've had at a show. The musicianship is amazing - the drums and bass are what carry this band but Mark's signature guitar playing/sound is there and his vocals are as strong as ever. I probably should have picked a different song to really illustrate how different Flin Flon is from the previous bands but I of course had to go with my favorite song. This is from their 1998 debut A-OK which also happens to be my favorite album of theirs.


So Cow

Everything I can tell you about So Cow I learned from the website. DJ Rick from KDVS got me into So Cow who is just a dude named Brian writing great songs. I know that some people have compared So Cow to The Television Personalities so do with that what you will.

Oh, For Fucks Sake

It's Over

So Cow on myspace


Knock Knock

Knock Knock has been around for about 8 years but just released their second full length album. Some things are worth waiting for! This is a band that floats comfortably between more up-tempo straight ahead rock numbers, more melodic pop songs, and slower acoustic based songs. They have so many strengths that it's difficult to isolate what makes them so great. One of the biggest draws for me is the vocal harmonies of Allen Maxwell (vocals/bass) and Heather Conway (guitar/vocals) who honestly sound like they were put on this earth to sing together. The songwriting is so strong - very rich lyrical imagery paired with music that somehow manages to enhance the lyrics - a testament to the depths of their musical knowledge. Nicola Miller never overplays on these songs, and her understated drumming is yet another strength of this band. Mike Cinciripino's lead guitar playing offers as many hooks as the vocals but is not flashy or overstated. I think that when it comes down to it, Knock Knock's biggest strength is just that - they all play for the song. No one shows off, no one needs to prove how awesome they are on their instrument, yet they prove it again and again on the strength of the songs.

Girls On The Run is 12 songs that show that this band know what they're doing. The album opens with a straight up rock number but is followed by a straight up pop number. Brilliant! The title track comes in after that and offers up a glimpse at Allen's talent for painting a very vivid picture. He has an understanding of how to put words together that is almost unusual in music today. Songwriting for a lot of bands is less about telling a story and more about being filled with angst. Don't get me wrong, I love depressing lyrics, but somewhere along the way the art of telling a story got lost. It's nice that songwriters like Jeff Tweedy and Stephin Merritt place painting that picture up front, and I think that Allen should be included amongst them.
Girls On The Run

From there the album twists and turns and on first listen it's hard to know what to expect next! We've got a slightly slower song followed by a more rocking song Heather takes lead vocals on. As on the first album where she also took lead on a couple of songs it is one of my favorites. She is just as able to paint that picture as Allen is though lyrically they don't tread similar territory. The next song reminds me of Big Star or Cheap Trick. The next song is the strongest of the album. It is a song for the ages, an instant classic, and one of the most moving I've heard in a long time. Opening with acoustic guitar and Allen's vocals and building from there - Heather's voice, piano, simple hits on the hi-hats, electric guitar..... you get the idea. The cathartic middle part snaking back into the beginning part. A little outro. 3 minutes and 37 seconds of perfection. I will be surprised if there is a better song this year. If you download nothing else, download this song.
I Was Born

It was difficult to pick just 2 songs from this record to post. When every song is as strong as the other it's almost irrelevant. The song after I Was Born was written about here previously under the entry titled Chicken. The song following that is probably my second favorite from the record, a song called Bakersfield By The Sea which Mike sings with Allen. Sometimes bands lose focus when there are 3 people who can sing in a band. Knock Knock use Heather and Mike's vocals wisely - Allen is an expressive vocalist and you don't get tired of his voice but by offering up Heather's voice in the mix it enhances the songs, when she takes lead it's a nice change, and when you hear Mike singing towards the end of the album it's another slight difference that only adds to the enjoyment of the record. No ear fatigue here. The next 2 songs are winding us down with their slower meandering pace. The last song picks up the tempo again and leaves you with an ear worm. How a record should end!

As mentioned before, this album is available for $8 POSTAGE PAID from Wilde Records and you can learn more about the band by visiting Knock Knock on myspace where there is a pretty in depth bio up.


The Bedsit Infamy

On April 1, 2008 The Bedsit Infamy will release their debut full length. I'm not going to post anything from that until late March but I wanted to put them on your radar. Billy Armijo is the man behind the moniker though he is occasionally joined by others. He has also handled all of the recording.

This is the song that made me fall in love with them! A catchy pop song that is guaranteed to make you tap your toes and bop your head. Billy's voice reminds me slightly of Dustin Reske's (Rocketship) but I might be the only one who hears that! Anyhow, I recommend giving this song a spin and marking April 1 on your calendar.