Tuesday, September 22, 2020

The Chills - Submarine Bells and Soft Bomb

We are writing today to encourage you to improve your collection of vinyl. The subjects are the reissues of two treasured albums by the iconic New Zealand band The Chills. The band was formed in 1980 by Martin Phillipps, and released a number of singles and two albums in that decade. However, it was in the early '90s when Phillipps was able to combine his songwriting, his band's talents, and increased production facilities to create the sound he wanted over the course of an entire album. The results were Submarine Bells and Soft Bomb. Both releases were on the US label Stash, and were well received by fans and college radio, but failed to reach mass market success. After these albums, The Chills were an on and off again project as Phillips' battled health issues. However, they have been going strong for the last decade and released an excellent LP titled Snow Bound a couple of years ago.

For us, what Submarine Bells and Soft Bomb so special is Phillipps' ability to synthesize his highly melodic and hook-filled songwriting with the sounds he wants from punk, post-punk, psychedelia, '60s garage rock, jangle pop, and baroque pop -- all accented by Phillipps' chiming guitars. Despite the disparate elements, the songs are cohesive and complement each other well on the album. Of course, these albums were good originally or they wouldn't have been reissued. But to our ears, they seem to have aged like a fine wine. When we learned they would be reissued we started listening to them again and found that we appreciate them now than before. The quality and variety is breathtaking, and our fresh listening leads us to appreciate details we might have missed originally. This is immaculate, timeless guitar pop and belongs in every collection.

Submarine Bells and Soft Bomb are available now via Fire Records.



Submarine Bells (1990)

Bandcamp for Submarine Bells

Soft Bomb (1992)

Bandcamp for Soft Bomb

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Fort Not - The Club Is Open

We cover a lot of artists from many different countries and working in a number of styles. But you probably wouldn't be a regular reader is you aren't a fan of guitar pop in its many forms. And if you are a fan of guitar pop, we have good news for you: One of the better guitar pop albums to hit our ears this year is The Club Is Open by Gothenburg, Sweden's Fort Not. The album displays the band's range, featuring songs that could be considered indie pop, dream pop, country rock, and jangle pop, and their skill in crafting impossibly catchy melodies. We were convinced of the album's quality early in the album opener, "Spending Time", but then were blown away by the following "Amsterdam". This tune is so infectious that one of us woke up humming it Saturday morning. It gets stuck in the brain, but there will be no complaints.

The next two songs have a friendly, slacker pop/county vibe, and since we can't choose which is better, we won't even try. One of our album highlights, "Hanging On", again display's the band's power pop proficiency with a chorus that demands to be sung out loud, call-and-response style with your friends. And speaking of compelling singalongs, the following song has such a charming, loosely-knit bouncing rhythm that it is almost impossible to resist joining in. Just know that doing so results in singing a chorus that exclaims "some day you will find me dead". You are warned, so pick your audience with care.

"Swirling" introduces dream pop to the mix, and to great effect. The sweetly wistful "Mary Ann" brings a slower pace and offers a change to catch our breath. But the album is back with sturdy, energetic rhythms with two tracks that have previously been released as singles: "Jenny Brown" and "Love Me Do". The latter is particularly noteworthy, one of those timelessly addictive tunes for which the "replay" button is particularly suited (our feature for "Love Me Do" here). The album closes with the pure pop of "Truckload of Bubbles" and the dreamy "Boy". You won't skip any of them.

Fort Not are Fredrik Soderstrom, Robert Carlsson, and Emanuel Hallongreen. The Club Is Open is out now via Meritorio Records.

Bandcamp for album
Meritorio Records' shop