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Indie Pop - Released October 15, 2018 | Elbroar

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Indie Pop - Released October 20, 2017 | Waterfall of Colours

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Indie Pop - Released October 20, 2017 | Mobile Ethnic Minority

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Indie Pop - Released June 2, 2017 | Heavenly Recordings

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The members of Saint Etienne began work on their ninth album with a basic concept in mind of paying tribute to the suburbs of London where the trio spent their formative years. Titled Home Counties, the album was recorded quickly with producer Shawn Lee and a room full of vintage gear and instruments. Thanks to that, the record Home Counties most resembles in their discography is Good Humor, but where that album exuded a cool Scandinavian sheen, this one is warm and inviting. Lee's production doesn't lean on machines, though they are certainly present. Instead, Sarah Cracknell's unfailingly cozy vocals are surrounded by guitars, vocal harmonies, and old keyboards in arrangements that take in swinging '60s sounds, sparkling '90s pop, and even a few that wouldn't sound out of place on 2017 pop radio, especially the Richard X-co-produced, ELO-quoting "Out of My Mind." Throw in some lightly bouncy Belle and Sebastian-style indie pop ("Train Drivers in Eyeliner"), wonderfully cheesy disco ("Dive"), stomping Northern soul ("Underneath the Apple Tree"), and melancholy baroque pop ("Take It All In"), and it makes for the band's most varied-sounding album and, even more than Good Humor, feels like the result of a working band getting together in the studio to play together, even though it is mostly Lee providing the sounds. Like their last album, Words and Music by Saint Etienne, and to be honest, music of their catalog, Home Counties can be achingly nostalgic, and many of the songs have a sepia-toned sadness about them. Unlike on Words, the sound here usually matches the feeling, and it makes for the band's most emotionally affecting album. They are never going to be the type of group to spill blood in their lyrics, but songs like "What Kind of World" and "After Hebden" have a deep impact. Combining tear-stained words with sweet-as-pie melodies has been a trick the trio have pulled off with ease over their long career, and their skill hasn't deserted them yet. Even the catchy, lighthearted songs like "Magpie Eyes" have a melancholy core; so do the more modern-sounding tracks like the icy synth pop-informed "Heather." It's rare that a band is good for a couple years, even more so if able to keep it going for a decade. With Home Counties, Pete Wiggs, Bob Stanley, and Sarah Cracknell have been making beautiful, fun, and deceptively tricky music for almost 30 years without a noticeable dip in quality. In fact, one could argue that this album is the work of a band at the top of its game. It may not be flashy like their early work, experimental like some of their mid-period albums, or punchy like Words and Music, but the album takes in elements of everything they've done along the way and repurposes it in a lovely, extremely satisfying fashion. ~ Tim Sendra
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Indie Pop - Released April 7, 2017 | ALIVE Vertrieb und Marketing Entertainmentbranche AG

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Indie Pop - Released March 17, 2017 | Domino Recording Co

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Probably the biggest news item surrounding 2017's In Mind, the fourth LP from sauntering daydreamers Real Estate, was the exit of founding member and lead guitarist Matt Mondanile, who left to focus on his solo project, Ducktails. Another Ridgewood, New Jersey native, Julian Lynch, stepped in, himself a veteran collaborator of member projects including Real Estate, Ducktails, and Alex Bleeker & the Freaks. It's hard to imagine a smoother transition on the beachside sunset of an album that is In Mind. The group sets the stage with the elegant, serpentine jangle of opener "Darling." With a mix that allows ears to pick out unobtrusive synths and individual guitar tones, separately as well as together, it has a hypnotic quality that's active rather than passive. That quality is only reinforced by mixed meters that throw off the feel, just a little, before falling back in line for those tapping out 4/4 time -- like riding out a wave. Meanwhile, Martin Courtney's vocal line, always calm and cottony in character, is only one of many overlaid melodies, including the bassline, as he sings of finches and ferns waiting "for the warm sun to return, impatiently, as I wait for you." Listeners are the ones on the receiving end of those evasive rays by virtue of the vocal delivery, guitar tones, imagery, extended chords, and languid melodies, ever simpatico. Those traits hold throughout the album, maintaining a sunny humidity without getting sleepy. They avoid any prolonged drifting with a base of subtly catchy tunes that offer regular moments of discovery. Production touches, like robotic effects on double-tracked vocals -- but only for a few passing phrases –- and the judicious use of drum samples on "Time," add flavor without snapping us out of good vibrations. Later, textures like wah effects ("Serve the Song"), hazy distortion ("Two Arrows"), spacy timbres ("Holding Pattern"), and the harpsichord-like riffs that color the uptempo jangle of "Stained Glass" add muscle and glimmer to the grain. Along with producer Cole M.G.N. (Beck, Julia Holter), Real Estate seems to both fine-tune and expand an already identifiable sound on In Mind, with engaging and often beautiful results. "A strong current will sweep you downstream/It would be best not to resist." ~ Marcy Donelson
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Indie Pop - Released February 17, 2017 | Secretly Canadian

After the release of his 2012 album, I Know What Love Isn't, Jens Lekman went out on tour and quickly realized that his fans hadn't really warmed up to the sad and subdued nature of the new songs. This realization sent Lekman into a bit of a tailspin that led to him questioning the nature of his songs and the character of "Jens" that he had created. He kept working and almost finished an album in 2014, but set it aside when it became clear that it wasn't quite right. Then in 2015 he launched two projects: Postcards, which consisted of Lekman writing and releasing a new song every week; and Ghostwriting, where he would put stories sent to him into lyrics and write music to go with them. The work that went into these undertakings inspired Lekman to rededicate himself to making another album. He teamed up with producer Ewan Pearson, whom he had met while doing guest vocals on a Tracey Thorn album, and started work on a new album. Life Will See You Now swings back from the subtle, more intimate nature of I Know What Love Isn't in favor of a bright and sunny-sounding album that's full of happy samples, disco beats, and cheerful melodies. The tunes sound radio-ready in a way that previous efforts never had; they are shorn of eccentricities and shined up like supermarket produce. Overcooked tracks like "Hotwire the Ferris Wheel" and "How We Met, the Long Version" sound almost as much like anonymous music playing in the background of cell phone commercials as they do real songs. Pearson and Lekman seem to go out of their way to avoid any of the '80s pop of I Know What Love Isn't or the shambling indie pop of the past when putting Life together. Only a few songs have any degree of intimacy left, and they still sound overly slick in comparison to previous Lekman albums. As for the songs themselves, Lekman has taken a big step away from writing about "himself," and the record is a series of vignettes about other people or conversations he's had with people about life. A lot of the album feels inspired by the Ghostwriting project, and while he's definitely injected himself into the songs, it feels oddly detached and writerly, as if he's taking pains to create a buffer zone of distance between his real feelings and the listener. That being said, the songs still have plenty of humor and insight, odd observations and catchy choruses -- all the things his songs have always had. The problem is that, thanks to the extra layer of studio gloss and the detached nature of the lyrics, Life comes across like the result of a songwriting exercise more than it does a true expression of emotions, like a career move instead of an honest progression and the first Jens Lekman record it's OK to skip. ~ Tim Sendra
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Indie Pop - Released February 10, 2017 | Onevalue Records

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Indie Pop - Released December 2, 2016 | Artisan

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Indie Pop - Released October 28, 2016 | Columbia

Christmas Party is the second collection of Christmas covers from Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward, who write and perform together as She & Him. Their sixth LP in total, it follows the duo's 2014 non-holiday covers album Classics and sticks to an established area of expertise: broadly, 20th century pop. Unlike Classics, which featured a 20-piece orchestra, Christmas Party brings a core combo of guitar, bass, and drums to the soirée, along with a healthy dose of reverb and a handful of embellishments. Guest performers include Steve Shelley of Sonic Youth, who plays drums on over half of the album. Drawing mostly from the post-"White Christmas" holiday song heyday of the '40s and '50s, but from other decades as well, it includes a version of the ubiquitous '90s hit "All I Want for Christmas Is You" by Mariah Carey, which opens the set. Different enough to make it worth tackling, this rendition offers the warm, velvety tone of Deschanel along with a Phil Spector girl group philosophy on an arrangement that includes the full band, saxophone, and group backing vocals. Later, Ward takes the lead on "Run Run Rudolph," with backing singers that include Deschanel and the Chapin Sisters, though Ward's guitar is the star of the song. A more underrepresented classic here is "Christmas Memories," a song written for Frank Sinatra in 1975 by Don Costa and Alan and Marilyn Bergman, the latter two of whom also penned the number-one hit “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers" with Neil Diamond. Though She & Him's version loses the powerful poignancy of an aging Sinatra, they treat the song with care, and Deschanel's sweeter take still longs for celebrations lost to time. It and other lesser-known selections, namely folk singer Vashti Bunyan's "The Coldest Night of the Year," mix in well with more popular tracks like "Happy Holiday," a restrained "Let It Snow!" and a country edition of "Winter Wonderland" with vocals by Deschanel and Jenny Lewis. That's because Ward and Deschanel put their distinctive stamp of vocal-era velveteen and early rock rhythms on the set as a whole. Like many a Christmas collection, the record becomes less elegant on sillier tunes like "Must Be Santa" (derived from a German drinking song) and a strangely plaintive version of the Chipmunks' "Christmas Don't Be Late." These diversions are limited, though, and, remarkably, don't include a rather beautiful rendition of "Mele Kalikimaka." Taken together, Christmas Party is a charmer. ~ Marcy Donelson
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Indie Pop - Released July 29, 2016 | Loob

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Indie Pop - Released July 29, 2016 | Loob

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Indie Pop - Released February 26, 2016 | Soulfire Artists

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Indie Pop - Released May 15, 2015 | GAEA Records

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Indie Pop - Released February 6, 2015 | Tummy Touch Records

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Indie Pop - Released September 5, 2014 | ALIVE Vertrieb und Marketing Entertainmentbranche AG

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Indie Pop - Released July 28, 2014 | Pale Seas

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Indie Pop - Released March 31, 2014 | DISTROSONG

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Indie Pop - Released March 21, 2014 | Unter Schafen Records

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Indie Pop - Released March 2, 2014 | DISTROSONG

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