There’s a new generation of “hair bands” that I really like, but they’re not the kind your aunt rocked out to in the late 80’s. These come in a variety of colors for your listening pleasure:
The Brunettes, consisting Heather Mansfield and Jonathan Bree from New Zealand, play a lovely low-key but full-sounding and intelligent indie pop. Think Belle & Sebastian but fewer literary references, and slightly less twee (not that there’s anything wrong with twee, if done right). At times, they have a real Imperial Teen vibe, which is great.
Their latest album, 2007’s Structure And Cosmetics, has all kinds of orchestral accents: trumpet, melodica, etc, including my favorite non-standard-rock instrument, the mellotron. It all slipped by my ears the first time, but on second listen with lyric sheet in hand, I caught on to quite a bit of cleverness in the music and wordplay. Looking forward to their new album, Paper Dolls, due out February 2nd of next year.
In the meantime, check out the cute video they’ve released ahead of it:
Sheffield, England’s Long Blondes played a more aggressive indie pop/rock, somewhat in the style of Elastica but to my ears less derivative and just as much fun. There's a catchiness akin to Tragic Kingdom era No Doubt but with an English flair. Their 2007 album, Someone To Drive You Home was pure pop brilliance. They had a bit of a sophomore slump in 2008 with Couples, where they went for emotional and musical “growth” but just ended up sounding tired. The Long Blondes announced they were disbanding after guitarist Dorian Cox suffered a stroke, but hopefully they will stage a comeback at some point, or at least we'll hear more from Kate Jackson (the singer, not the Angel), who has a great voice for this kind of music.
Then there's Blonde Redhead, who's most recent album, 2007's 23 is pure captivating shoegaze with real power and mystery to it. Great for late night driving. This is the closest thing to Lush I've heard in a long time. Especially notable is Simone Pace's percussion on "Dr. Strangeluv." Listen for the cowbell starting at 1:38. Pure magic!
Here's a video from the album's title track. Crank it up and be carried away. Looking forward to hearing what they do next.
The Brunettes’ MySpace page
Long Blondes website
Blonde Redhead website
By the way, speaking of brunette singers, has anybody seen Justine Frischmann lately? Apparently she’s moved from the UK after her split with Blur’s Damon Albarn and is living in the Bay Area now.