There's A New Girl

A lot of people seemed to be very impressed by Donnie Darko. A lot of people went on about how the version of Tears For Fears' ´Mad World' that played at the end of the movie was so amazing, but really like the movie itself, it was just okay. It was nothing special. Better by far is the version offered up by The Snowdrops on another exquisite Matinee 7'. The Snowdrops, in case you didn't already know, happen to be various shadowy figures moonlighting from Beaumont, The Pines and Lovejoy, and they've pieced together an absolute peach of a version of the aforementioned ´80s electropop chart-topper (hey, I don't know if it ever topped the ´real' charts, but it was number one in the top twenty of my heart which I faithfully compiled in my notebooks of the time, so who the hell cares, right?). On the flip there's a tune called ´Don't Buy Anything', which might have been written in support of that whole Buy Nothing day campaign, or might just have been a kind of joke, like how the Pet Shop Boys called their album Please so that people could ask for ´the Pet Shop Boys' Please', and so in the same vein people could say ´´don't buy anything' by the snowdrops'... Except clearly you should. Because the Snowdrops are ace.

Also ace are Misty's Big Adventure who have a single (on Awkward) for which the lyrics are presented by cartoon characters talking on the phone. The record itself backs the madcap ´I killed the neighbours' with the covert anti-war ´night time better than the daytime' and manages to balance pathos with pantomime, which is no mean feat. Misty's have been touring in the UK this past summer with Kimya Dawson, which might help to place them in a context, but really they are outside of all categorisation, in a wibbly wobbly world of their own. They also write ´READ NOAM CHOMSKY' on the sleeve... I love ´em dearly.

Meanwhile, over on Furtuna Pop are Finlay, making a racket on their ´Home' / ´International King Of Sport' 7'. If this record was a pair of shoes it would be a pair of ancient black Vans, scuffed to hell with the toes all scarred and frayed, the soles all holey and leaking. But it's not. So it sounds like Godspeed! with a timer that switches the electricity off after three minutes, or early Pavement when they still made an (un)holy noise; Sonic Youth circa Sister or Daydream Nation and maybe a bit of ´Freakscene' for good measure. So yeah, that good. I await their I Dreams And Visions album with great anticipation.
Speaking of (un)holy rackets, there's a great Liars / Oneida split Atheists Reconsider EP on ARCCO that's been rocking my world this summer. Liars do a cover of Oneida's ´Rose and Licorice', whilst Oneida return the favour with ´Every Day Is A Child With Teeth', with each adding renditions of another two of their own compositions for good measure. It's all exactly as you'd expect, which is to say it's all cracked open bleeding hearts of blood and fire, melting guitars beating spooked drum machines into submission, vocals burnt and buried, exploding in wails and whispers over electronic gasps. This EP is bigger than Mount Everest and not half as easy to tame.

ARRCO seem to have a bit of an obsession with the idea of the split EP at the moment, as alongside the Liars / Oneida offering there is also a couple of other's worthy of your attention. Most intriguing are the six tracks from The Album Leaf and on!air!library!. The Album Leaf is the side project of Tristeza's Jimmy LaValle and the three tracks here are all uniformly exquisite, with the delicate lead track ´Another Day' being the highlight for me. It's certainly enough to pique interest, and I'm keen to hear more. I'm also keen to discover more of on!air!library! if the three tracks of downbeat dark and moody electro-goth showcased here are anything to go by. It reminds me of a more polished Black Moth Super Rainbow, and if I'd rather it were all a little more ragged around the edges, then so be it. Think early Cocteaus on downers meets Seefeel under a Warped waterfall and you're maybe close. I said maybe.

Then there's the Jon Auer / Ken Stringfellow EP. These two members of the Posies turn in pretty much what you would expect from musicians who have taken the stage alongside Alex Chilton to form the contemporary version of the legendary Big Star (and incidentally, look out for the Big Star retrospective coming out on Ryko soon). Think big melodies, strident Power Pop arrangements and voices that escape to the cosmos. It's all fine stuff, although best for me is Auer's aching six minute plus ´When The Lights Go Up'.

Creeper Lagoon meanwhile get an ARRCO EP all to themselves, and present a charming collection full of upbeat pop dynamics and sweet swells of sound that drift in like air formations dropping kisses from the skies. The captivating ´There's A New Girl' alone makes the EP worth the admission price, but all five tracks have something that marks Creeper Lagoon as a name to keep an eye on.
I've said already, in various places, that you ought all to be keeping an eye on The Playwrights, and their ´The National Missing Person' single just backs this up beautifully. This is The Playwrights at their downbeat finest, opening with a mournful bass over a tapping typewriter (hey, who remembers those?), before taking wing and drifting effortlessly up on thermals way up high, higher, higher than ever you imagined possible. Backed with the gyrating, edgy ´Lies of The Suburbs' and the white noise tinged (maybe it's just my stereo) and trumpet punctuated instrumental ´Trellick Tower', this EP is just another reason why we should clutch The Playwrights close to our hearts and never let them go. ´The National Missing Person' is out on the very fine Sink and Stove label.

Meanwhile, over on Rough Trade, we have another couple of Noo Yawkers (via Chicago) out to do the noo rock thang. Actually, despite some initial doubts, I've grown rather attached to the Fiery Furnaces' slightly wayward sound, particularly on the wavering ´Cousin Chris', which puts me in mind of sort of louche Verlaines slumming it down on the Bowery. Lead cut on their debut single ´Crystal Clear' meanwhile is a more full-frontal trad rock assault, which strangely makes me think of Veruca Salt, and I'm not so sure that's such a great idea, so let's move back to the start and finish again with Matinee, and the newest single by the very lovely Airport Girl. No rock tradition here, no siree. Instead it's the anti-rock tradition of the fey indie world at play, and if that sounds like a disparaging remark, accept my apologies for being a lazy writer and take this bowl (cut) of jelly babies as recompense.

No, seriously, Airport Girl's ´Do You Dream In Colour' EP is four tracks of summertime sweetness and light, and when the strings on the lead title track sweep in at the start you just know you're in for a treat. And sure enough, when a voice drops in that just crumbles and creaks a bit like The Orchids' James Hackett, you shyly smile to yourself and say ´yeah, this is how it's meant to be...' Belle And Sebastian used to sound this good, you know. Remember? When they were brittle and wayward and in danger of falling apart every time someone breathed too loudly? Well that's ´Do You Dream In Colour'. Elsewhere on the EP Airport Girl are a bit tougher, although it's a question of relativity of course and compared to Oneida they are as tough as a seed head drifting in the breeze. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, naturally. Airport Girl's email address includes the words ´shambolic lofi pop'. What more do you really need to know?

© 2003Alistair Fitchett