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Alternative & Indie - Released November 15, 2010 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released January 17, 2011 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released January 17, 2011 | Hardly Art

Fergus & Geronimo's debut is a weird one to be sure. For their first full-length, Jason Kelly and Andrew Savage take inspiration from early Mothers of Invention-era Frank Zappa, specifically the doo wop and ‘60s psych of We’re Only in It for the Money, and perform it in the slovenly indie rock vibe of the duo's lo-fi Woodsist and Hardly Art peers. Somehow, these clashing styles work well, as do the lapses into ramshackle ‘60s garage rock. Unsurprisingly, with its many twists and turns, Unlearn seems aimless at times, but it’s all held together with an underlying slack-jawed simplicity and knowing smirk. “Girls with English Accents” is a flippant, spot-on attempt at imitating the British Invasion, and “Wanna Know What I Would Do If I Was You?” mocks hipsters with the same biting sarcasm that Zappa used against hippies on “Who Needs the Peace Corps.” However, when they’re not incorporating flute and sax solos or taking the piss in other ways, Fergus & Geronimo specialize at playing rough-and-tumble reverberated rock & roll -- like Tyvek, or a looser version of Harlem -- and always manage to pull things together with a keen melody. This is no easy feat when you’re pushing boundaries so hard. While Savage and Kelly clearly get big kicks from genre-jumping and trying to trip out listeners, “Baby Boomer,” “Michael Kelly,” and “The World Never Stops” show that they can rock earnestly as well. © Jason Lymangrover /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released February 14, 2011 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released February 28, 2011 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released February 28, 2011 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released March 17, 2011 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released March 28, 2011 | Hardly Art

Since he was a member of Gravy Train!!!!, singer/hairdresser/bon vivant Hunx has made a name for himself as an out-and-proud, teen-from-Mars crooner. The first batch of singles he released honed this to perfection, resulting in a treasure trove of great rock & roll love songs. On the first full-length Hunx & His Punx record, Too Young to Be in Love, the focus is on the Punx as much as it is on his oversized persona. The four women in the band contribute songs, vocals, and tough-as-nails musical backing that splits the difference between '50s soda shop pop and smeared mascara '60s girl group sounds, and adds a big splash of ramshackle punk. Chief among the Punx is Shannon Shaw (of Shannon & the Clams); her powerful voice and skilled songwriting make her the leader of the pack. Everyone contributes, though, and Amy Blaustein's wheezy Farfisa is a vital part of the sound and Michelle Santamaria's lead guitar playing is economical and biting. The group vocals that provide the response to Hunx's bleeding-heart vocals are wonderful throughout, happily sassy and full of soul. Hunx, too, is surprisingly full of soulful longing this time. There’s far less strut and wiggle on Too Young -- Hunx spends more time lamenting lost love than he does celebrating. It sounds like he’s been hurt and while it may seem like he’s too frivolous and fun to convey pain, that’s really not the case. Songs like "If You’re Not Here (I Don’t Know Where You Are)" and "Blow Me Away" may sound like silly pop confections on the surface, but, though he’s not a belter by any means, Hunx's vocals have a surprising emotional power. It helps that Shaw is there to back him up, but even if she weren’t this would be more than a novelty record. Thanks to the hooky and familiar songs, the exciting performances, and the perfectly executed aesthetic, Too Young to Be in Love is simply and truly a great rock & roll record. © Tim Sendra /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released March 28, 2011 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released May 30, 2011 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released August 15, 2011 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released August 15, 2011 | Hardly Art

As half of the duo Arthur & Yu, Grant Olsen crafted a gauzy neo-psychedelic sound with lovely vocal harmonies and plenty of warmth. The Ornament, his first album under the name Gold Leaves, finds Olsen in solo project mode, playing and singing a much more intimate and orchestrated brand of beardy, reverb folk. With the help of fellow sonic traveler Jason Quever of Papercuts, Olsen layers every inch of the record with guitars, keyboards, vocals, and percussion in a very pleasing way that mixes seemingly contradictory styles like doo wop, orchestral pop, and singer/songwriter-ish country into a coherent sound. Quever’s mix is just right, letting instruments be heard but still blending them together into a foggy maze, while Olsen’s voice rises above it nobly. While the duo manages to create a lovely sound and feel throughout the album, the catch is that the songs rarely rise above pleasant and Olsen at times seems to be channeling M. Ward's vocal mannerisms to the point where you might be able to fool even the staunchest fans that they were listening to a new M. Ward song. And when he’s not doing M. Ward, his voice sounds uncannily like Echo & the Bunnymen's Ian McCulloch. It could be a coincidence, but on songs like “Hanging Window” and “The Companion,” he sings in the same halting, velvety croon that McCulloch does, and it is fatally distracting. Again, it may just be a fluke, but to anyone who’s heard much M. Ward or Echo, it’s enough to make the record a tough listen. Which is too bad, because there are many points in The Ornament's favor and there are moments, like on the lilting “Cruel/Kind” and the dusty ballad “Futures,” when you can look past the vocals and let the melancholy melodies and rich arrangements move you a bit. These fleeting glimpses of originality aren’t enough to save the album, though, and until Olsen discovers his own voice, you’d be better served by listening to music by the artists he borrows from so heavily. © Tim Sendra /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released August 29, 2011 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released August 29, 2011 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released September 12, 2011 | Hardly Art

On their debut album, Violent Hearts, Vancouver trio Shimmering Stars delve deeply into the ghostly sounds of 1950s and early-'60s pop and come up with a sound both older than a scratchy old 45 and as current as the latest MP3 you downloaded but didn’t listen to. The guitar-bass-drums sound the group uses is simple as can be, nimbly running through familiar chord changes as the vocals (usually sung by guitarist Rory McClure but bolstered by drummer Andrew Dergousoff and bassist Brent Sasaki) float over the top like melancholy clouds. Applying this effectively direct approach to some very catchy and sweetly sad and romantic songs, they then dip the entire thing in buckets and buckets of cavernous reverb to give the record a pleasingly warm and shambolic feel. It likely would have worked without the smeared and hazy surfaces, but the sound has a haunting quality that helps the songs sink in deeper. Split between Brill Building-inspired ballads that wrench and tug at the old familiar heartstrings (like the careening “Sun’s Going Down” and the painfully slow-burning “Sabians”) and more uptempo tracks that have a bit of bounce (like the should-be-a-hit single “I’m Gonna Try” and the rollicking soda shop jams “I Don’t Wanna Know” and “Dancing to Music I Hate”), the record is full of songs that have sharp hooks and memorable melodies. There may not be a single moment of musical originality here but they dig up the past like the best gravediggers around, rebuilding the old scavenged parts into something full of life and rambunctious, heartbreakingly real energy. Violent Hearts is a resoundingly successful debut that puts the band right at the front of the line of all the reverb-heavy, backward-looking indie pop bands that overran the music scene like seagulls on the beach at low tide in the early part of the decade. © Tim Sendra /TiVo
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Film Soundtracks - Released September 12, 2011 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released September 26, 2011 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released October 24, 2011 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released November 7, 2011 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released November 21, 2011 | Hardly Art