NEW MUSIC: Popstrangers | Country Kills

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New Zealand expats now based in the UK, Popstrangers already have a new album in the can and ready for release on May 27th via Carpark Records. Fortuna follows their excellent Antipodes LP, my favourite NZ album of 2013.
‘Country Kills’ is a tad less noisy and chaotic than their debut yet it still possesses their wonderful knack for chorus melodies. By the second chorus they’ll have you singing along, hook firmly embedded in your ear canal. The verses have some subtle shades of The Cure in them, suggesting the band are sonically venturing into darker and moodier territory.

DS Favourite Songs of 2013

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It’s always a mighty challenge to narrow down all the songs you’ve heard in one year and slot them into order on a nice tidy list of 20. I’m sure I’ve missed a handful of gems but these are all songs that have either captured my imagination, feet, ears or all of the above and made me think “damn that is a great song”.

1. Courtney Barnett – Avant Gardener

2. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Jubilee Street

3. Houndmouth – Penitentiary

4. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – So Good At Being In Trouble

5. Bad//Dreems – Caroline

6. Wooden Shjips – Everybody Knows

7. Kirin J Callinan – Victoria M

8. Ooga Boogas – Sex in the Chillzone

9. Ducktails – Under Cover

10. TV Colours – Beverly

11. Popstrangers – Heaven

12. Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys – Any Day Now

13. Eleanor Friedberger – When I Knew

14. Sharpie Crows – Thanks You Ladies For The Spread

15. Bill Callahan – Small Plane

16. Neko Case – Night Still Comes

17. Guy Clark – My Favorite Picture of You

18. Arcade Fire – We Exist

19. Suede – Barriers

20. Depeche Mode – Heaven

Courtney Barnett – Avant Gardener

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Jubilee Street

Houndmouth – Penitentiary

Unknown Mortal Orchestra – So Good At Being In Trouble

Bad//Dreems – Caroline

Wooden Shjips – Everybody Knows

Kirin J Callinan – Victoria M

Ooga Boogas – Sex in the Chillzone

Ducktails – Under Cover

TV Colours – Beverly

Popstrangers – Heaven

Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys – Any Day Now

Eleanor Friedberger – When I Knew

Suede – Barriers

Sharpie Crows – Thanks You Ladies For The Spread

Bill Callahan – Small Plane

Neko Case – Night Still Comes

Guy Clark – My Favorite Picture of You

Arcade Fire – We Exist

Depeche Mode – Heaven

2013 MID YEAR FAVOURITE ALBUMS

2013 mid year faves

Here we are again at list time, halfway through 2013 and already there have been a swathe of great albums released. We’ve been listening to an eclectic mix of stuff as usual including dub electronica, skronking freeform saxophone, abrasive art rock, retro-leaning post punk and heartstring americana. These are the records we’ve loved the most from what we’ve heard this year. There will be others from the last six months that we’ll discover as the rest of the year rolls out but we can at least highly recommend these ones – in no particular order…

  • Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Push The Sky Away
  • Protomartyr – No Passion All Technique
  • The Phoenix Foundation – Fandango
  • Kirin J Callinan – Embracism
  • The Drones – I See Seaweed
  • Fat Freddy’s Drop – Blackbird
  • Jason Isbell – Southeastern
  • DJ Koze – Amygdala
  • Eleanor Friedberger – Personal Record
  • Colin Stetson – New History Warfare Vol 3: To See More Light
  • Zomby – With Love

ALBUM REVIEW: Popstrangers | Antipodes

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by Chris Familton

square-600-7Rating8The term ‘Flying Nun sound’ gets bandied around a lot but in truth the acts on the New Zealand label’s roster were a diverse bunch. Popstrangers released an early single on the label and have been tagged with Flying Nun references but unlike usual suspects The Bats and The Clean, Popstrangers sit firmly in darker sonic corners where Gordons, JPS Experience and Headless Chickens resided.

Antipodes is a wonderful debut release that wraps itself in a myriad of psychedelic guitar forms and moody pop-tinged post punk. Rhythm is a key factor in the immediacy and contagious element of their sound with all three instruments locking into thick grooves that swagger and roll across the record. The guitar tends to sit amongst the rhythm section, intermittently raising its head with 3Ds-styled riff that puncture Antipodes’ dense nature like barbed wire in skin. Antipodes has little chance of cracking the Top 40 yet there are two moments where in a just world they would. What Else Could They Do has a glorious vocal melody that drifts along amid static and fuzz drenched guitar. Its simplicity and repetition show they knew they were onto a good thing when it was written and they were wise to keep it concise and focused. The other epiphany is Heaven which almost feels like Popstrangers set themselves the task of composing a pop song. It casts them in the same warped pop world of Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Opossom and with a chorus that is hook heavy and soars high it is one of those songs that should soundtrack a summer.

Popstrangers sound fully formed and in control of a range of styles that morph and rub against each to great effect. This is uneasy pop music, a superbly balanced mix of melody and noise that strangely sounds comforting in its dissonance.

this review was first published in The Drum Media / themusic.com.au

INTERVIEW: Popstrangers

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by Chris Familton

Popstrangers are the latest in a long line of New Zealand bands to emerge with a psychedelic and moody take on pop-tinged post punk. Their debut album Antipodes proves the band aren’t just riding on the hype of a few singles, instead it shows they have a strong idea of the sounds and ideas they want to capture, though Joel Flyger is quick to point out that they are reluctant to typecast themselves in any particular style.

“We definitely haven’t found our sound and in a way I hope we don’t. I imagine that would be pretty boring. It comes from not being able to write similar sounding songs and I’ve never had a favourite genre of music so when I hear something new I’m always trying to add that to the mix. Its good to experiment with different things.”

A great example of that push and pull over the music the trio wants to create was in the writing of Heaven, the track that caught the attention of many listeners worldwide with its infectious pop rush of a chorus. Flyger was a late adopter of the song’s relevance and appeal but thankfully conceded it was a worthy of a place on the album. “We’d written the song and I was skeptical about it as it was heading towards being a straight pop song and I was’t keen on the idea. We recorded it anyway and then it started really coming into its own. Towards the end, as it was the last song we recorded for the album, I just decided it was what it was and I didn’t care. I had a realisation that everything in pop music is based on repetition so I thought we’d try that out.”

Fleetingly the band were on the iconic label Flying Nun Records before finding a more permanent and home on US label Carpark Records and Spunk Records here in Australia. The reason to move on from Flying Nun was a necessary one as the label had entered a period of inaction following the initial excitement following the original owner and others buying it back from Warners. Flyger is reticent to throw stones, especially now they are relishing their relationship with the new labels. “We are definitely in a much better position now. It was exciting to sign with Flying Nun at the time but they just weren’t working at the speed we wanted to be. I guess the new manager will now fix that up but we’re a lot happier with Carpark and Spunk, they’ve just been so much easier to deal with.”

Popstrangers travelled to the CMJ music conference last year to play the Carpark showcase and improve their profile in the US market. That and other international interest has combined with a feeling of stasis living and playing in Auckland to motivate the trio to relocate to the UK on a long term basis in April. “We were accepted for SXSW this year and we planned to fly there from Sydney or Melbourne but we’ve got plans to go to the UK in April so in terms of funds and timing it made sense to not go to SXSW. We’ve been in NZ for the last few years and in Auckland particularly and I’m kind of sick of it. We are talking with European booking agents at the moment and things wouldn’t happen the same way if we were still based in Auckland.”

Flyger also reveals they are looking to demo their next album and get a sense of where the new songs are heading before they travel to Australia and beyond. With their star in the ascendant Popstrangers are giving themselves over to their creative impulses and opening up to the adventures that lie ahead.

‘Antipodes’ is out now via Carpark Records / Spunk Records

this interview was first published in The Drum Media / http://www.themusic.com.au

LISTEN: Popstrangers | Heaven – from their new album ‘Antipodes’

New Zealand trio Popstrangers have a new album Antipodes coming out late Feb/early March (depending where you are) and they’ve done the decent thing and released the first song from it, Heaven on Soundcloud. It’s a super hooky piece of guitar pop/rock that gets gloriously woozy in the chorus and choppy in the verses. The band released some singles on Flying Nun before signing with Carpark Records (USA) I’m expecting great things from the rest of the LP when it comes out in Australia on Spunk Records and Carpark elsewhere.