BlackBook Tracks #23: Teenage Kicks

This week’s playlist is dedicated to being a teenager, which is something that people seem to be universally nostalgic for despite the fact that we can all agree that a lot of those years sucked. Does it have something to do with missing when you didn’t have any real responsibilities? Whatever. Shout out to anyone who knew me in high school who’s still friends with me now, because all the awkward stuff that happens to me currently doesn’t even compare to how bad it was back then.

Veronica Falls – “Teenage”

This track inspired this week’s theme. It’s the first single from the London band’s forthcoming album Waiting For Something To Happen, promising more wistful lo-fi guitar pop.

Broken Social Scene – “Anthems For A Seventeen-Year-Old Girl”

This is never going to get old, right? No, no it’s not.

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart – “A Teenager In Love”

Most of the Pains Of Being Pure At Heart’s songs sound sort of inherently nostalgic, but “A Teenager In Love” really nails it. If only more bands had been mixing twee and shoegaze when I was in high school, it would have made lying facedown on my bedroom floor way more special.

College – “Teenage Color”

This track from French electronic producer David Grellier may be carried by a carefree synth hook, but there’s still the constant reminder that one day, you must grow up.

Marina and the Diamonds – “Teen Idle”

This ballad from the Welsh chanteuse is a look back on the bygone years that nails all those conflicting feelings. Feelings! Those sucked, didn’t they?

The Virgins – “Teen Lovers”

Remember when fashionably sleazy Gossip Girl/Nylon magazine rock was sort of its own micro-genre? It was pretty alright while it lasted, though.

TEEN – “Sleep Is Noise”

The lo-fi synth-pop outfit delivers reverb-laden vocals over a rattling beat. It’s comfortably fuzzy while staying firmly grounded.

T.Rex – “Teenage Dream”

Marc Bolan’s glam rock sprawl recalls the idealism of adolescence. We’ve all been there.

Girls Aloud – “Teenage Dirtbag”

A Wheatus cover done by British pop stars is a thing that happened a while ago. I don’t care if you care that it exists.

The Undertones – “Teenage Kicks”

I think it’s some sort of law in the English-speaking music world that if this punk classic doesn’t do anything for you, you’re a worthless shell of a human being.

Follow Katie Chow on Twitter.

The Pains of Being Pure At Heart Threaten Stability Of ’90s Music Wormhole

Have Brooklyn fuzz-poppers and acolytes of all things alternative rock from a decade and a half ago The Pains of Being Pure At Heart gone too far? Their latest 7” release has the wonderful audacity to cover “Jeremy”—thankfully, a song The Magnetic Fields put out in 1995, not that godforsaken Pearl Jam single. Believe me, I nearly had a heart attack due to a momentary conflation of the two.

Which brings me to my point: the ’90s renaissance is going just fine right now, but it’s only a matter of time before someone disturbs what should remain buried there. I’m sure none of us want to find out that Cee Lo is putting out a grunge album or that Nickelodeon slime turned out to be carcinogenic. Worst of all, what if everyone started drinking coffee at Starbucks?

Well, for the moment we appear to be okay. TPOBPAH’s (I am contractually obligated to use this annoying initialism with this band) version of Stephin Merritt’s “Jeremy” without the distorted harpsichord of whatever vintage instrument it features, is good, clean fun. Makes me feel like I know how to skateboard. But in a ’90s PSA about always wearing pads and a helmet when you skateboard. Oh god, we’ll never get back to 2012, will we. Not looking forward to having braces again.

Follow Miles Klee on Twitter.

BlackBook Tracks #11: Summer is Ending

Labor Day approacheth, signaling the death knell of summer. It’s time to put on your finest jean shorts and seize the end of the season. Here’s the playlist for your long weekend. Wear some white shoes.

Is Tropical – “Land Of The Nod”

The London trio pairs a laid-back vibe with a driving beat to create a perfect soundtrack for soaking up the sun.

Slam Donahue – “Cmon Cmon”

This highlight from the recently released Hemlock Tea EP sums up all of the summer romances that could have been. Sure, there’s some amount of regret involved, but the Brooklyn duo stays cool and breezy.

ALB – “Brand New Start”

There’s not too much information out there about the French indie-pop artist ALB, but he’s an immensely gifted songwriter worth seeking out. “Brand New Start” is an ode to moving on that’s equal parts joy and tension. Also, there are handclaps!

TV Girl – “Misery”

True to retro-pop form, the LA duo makes a song called “Misery” that actually sounds pretty happy.

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart – “My Terrible Friend” (Washed Out Remix)

Lovelorn shoegazers stating the facts of heartbreak get an assist from the sunbleached stylings of Washed Out.

Smith Westerns – “All Die Young”

The garage-glam trio’s been working on their third LP, and 2011’s Dye It Blonde is worth revisiting on hot, late nights.

Beck – “Black Tambourine”

Guero may not be old enough to be a part of the classic Beck canon, but it speaks of summer in a way that needs to be capitalized on right now.

Kitten – “Cut It Out”

There’s a lot to love about the current wave of young women in electro-pop, and L.A.’s Kitten capture teen longing in the airy, immediately memorable “Cut It Out.”

The Strokes – “Take It Or Leave It”

It’s a classic.

JEFF the Brotherhood – “Hypnotic Mind”

Go hard and shred forever with these Nashville bros. End the summer on a high note.

April Music Reviews: Holy Ghost!, Panda Bear, Foo Fighters

Holy Ghost!, Holy Ghost! (DFA) The self-titled debut from Holy Ghost! arrives dutifully crafted, four years after their breakout track, 2007’s “Hold On.” In that time, New York natives and childhood friends Alex Frankel and Nick Millhiser have toured with Chromeo and LCD Soundsystem, and have released a buzzworthy foursong EP entitled Static on the Wire. The album’s lead single, “Do It Again,” jump-starts the 10-track full-length with thumping bass lines, warped disco beats, and the hum of ’80s synthesizers, while songs like “Say My Name” incorporate a darker layer of post-punk edge. Although we’ve tried to kill the word, the new Holy Ghost! album is heavenly and at times, yes, ethereal. —Nadeska Alexis

The Duke Spirit, Bruiser (Shangri-La) With a babe as delicious as lead vocalist Liela Moss—who once played muse to the late Alexander McQueen—it would be easy for a band like the Duke Spirit, a five-piece from London, to lie back and rest on their comely laurels. But every bit of Bruiser—from its disparate influences to its choral harmonies strung over heavy bass lines—pulls you in for an experience charged with sex, guitars, and cool English detachment. Languorously slow and sensitive in parts, growly and seductive at others, the Duke Spirit’s third studio album justifies all those comparisons to My Bloody Valentine and Sonic Youth. Bruiser is no misnomer. It’ll take you down. And it’ll win. —Anna Duckworth

Xylos, Xylos (1000x) Xylos is the rare Brooklyn band that traffics almost exclusively in feel-good rhythms and uplifting melodies, and this polished debut LP might just be a clever ploy to make scowling New Yorkers smile. “Darling Dearest” is a breezy blend of synth, guitar, and drums, with vocalist Monika Heidemann singing, “We’re just here to experience one another.” Amen, girl. “Not Enough,” meanwhile, seems bound for scores of beachhouse mixes, with its romantic pleas for something more than a one-night stand providing the perfect soundtrack to summer love. They may just be beautiful liars, but it’s a useful fiction. —Caroline Seghers

An Horse, Walls (Mom + Pop) An Horse seeks to rescue pop from the gumball machine, with stripped-down guitars, effervescent beats, and restive vocals. The brainchild of Australians Kate Cooper and Damon Cox, An Horse got a major boost from indie darlings Tegan and Sara, who employed them as an opening act in 2008 and signed them to their record label the following year. Walls, their second full-length album, is an inspired display of uncomplicated style. “Dressed Sharply” kicks off the album with a bang, setting a tone of pop-rock nostalgia, while “Trains and Tracks” has an infectious chorus and fast beat that take you back to the days of sneaking out in your parents’ car, consequences be damned. Though there’s an undercurrent of simmering anger, Walls brims with youthful optimism. —CS

Panda Bear, Tomboy (Paw Tracks) As expected, the latest offering from Animal Collective brainiac Noah Lennox sounds as if it were composed of instruments that haven’t yet been invented. Tomboy’s expansive landscape is littered with noises new to most human ears. (For aliens, this stuff is old hat.) The most familiar sound on the record is Lennox’s voice, or voices, since he revisits his eerie tendency to multiply harmonies on nearly every track. An exception is the haunting “Scheherazade,” a sequel of sorts to Radiohead’s “Pyramid Song,” in which Lennox wails from the abyss accompanied by what sounds like a whale having an orgasm. Like Animal Collective’s eighth studio album, 2009’s Merriweather Post Pavilion, some songs verge on dance music. “Afterburner” pulsates with a drowned-out beat, and “Slow Motion” is what hiphop would sound like if it was made by, well, Panda Bear. —Ben Barna

Foo Fighters, Wasting Light (Roswell/RCA) Few musicians age as gracefully as Dave Grohl. Since emerging from the shadow of Nirvana more than 15 years ago, the multi-instrumentalist has built a rich and prolific second career as the frontman and creative soul of Foo Fighters, delivering satisfyingly aggressive albums and live shows that replace teenage angst with the easy confidence of rock veterans having a blast. On Wasting Light, the band’s seventh release, Foo Fighters keep it loud, with fuzzy guitars, heavy bass lines, and relentless drums. “Rope,” the album’s first single, is four minutes of blissfully beer-soaked noise, while “Arlandria” showcases Grohl’s mastery of restraint, alternating heartfelt poetry with defiant rage. “I Should Have Known,” featuring former Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic, contains echoes of the grunge pioneers’ emotional past, but ultimately trades yesterday’s pain for tonight’s party. If you listen to this while driving, watch your speed. —Victor Ozols

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Belong (Slumberland/Collective Sounds) The Pains of Being Pure at Heart rose to prominence in 2007 with an EP that earned comparisons to classic shoegaze acts like the Stone Roses and the Smashing Pumpkins. On their second album, Belong, the New York-based quartet comes into its own with a refined collection of songs that layer sanguine guitars and shamelessly poppy lyrics (“She was the heart in your heartbreak/ She was the miss in your mistake”) over metronomic indie beats. The title track is a lightning storm of reverb and sexy whispers, equally suited for sweaty house parties and clandestine makeout sessions. —AD

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart’s Kip Berman on His Band’s Rising Profile

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart have one of those band names that screams of being self-conscious, bursting with emotion and adolescent melancholy. And while their music is definitely all of those things, who ever said that was so bad? On March 29, the Brooklyn quartet will release Belong, the follow-up to their 2009 self-titled debut. Produced and mixed by industry legends Flood and Alan Moulder respectively (My Bloody Valentine, U2, Smashing Pumpkins), the album represents a giant leap forward for the group. Here’s lead singer Kip Berman on coping with their mind-boggling success.

You grew up in the suburbs of Philadelpia and went to college in Portland, Oregon. How did that experience shape you as an artist? I lived in Portland for a long time. I was exposed to a lot of music from the Pacific Northwest. Bands like The Gossip would play at our school like every other week. That was before they got huge. It was more of a garage punk scene out there than a twee indie pop scene.

Where do you live now? Greenpoint, Brooklyn. I’ve been there around five years.

Do you consider yourselves a New York band? We’re a New York band, but we’re actually kids from the suburbs. We don’t have a gritty, downtown edge. We’re just normal American boys and girls.

Is that how you think you’re seen? They think we’re a bunch of effete, literary bookworms in cardigans, but I love the Packers. Occasionally, at shows, I like to talk about football on stage. I don’t think people expect it.

They might also be surprised that your new album was produced by superstar producer Flood and mixed by Alan Moulder, leading to both a bigger sound and bigger advance buzz. We feel weirdly out of place. Even in our new song “Belong” the chorus goes “We don’t belong in their eyes.” You know, we’re this tiny band from Brooklyn. Do we really belong on tour with Kings of Leon?

Why not? I’m not a Bono. I can barely sing two notes in tune. I don’t have this larger-than-life identity.

Is it possible to go for more of an arena-rock sound without becoming bloated stadium rockers? We don’t feel like stadium rockers. I’m not one of those dudes who says, “Are you ready to rock tonight?!” I’m not even charismatic. I’m boring. I stand there and play songs I wrote in my bedroom.

So you don’t feel like you need to be a more outgoing, dynamic performer? I love the Rolling Stones, but I’d love them regardless if Mick Jagger was this outgoing dynamic performer or not. Listening to the record, you don’t know what he looks like. He could be this shy, overweight guy. But he’d still sing these great rock and roll songs. Pavement had a very introverted front person, but they’re good songs and at the end of the day, songs are what matter.

You say that now. Our band is not really good at anything but writing songs. We’re not even that good at playing songs. It’s not like people are calling us up to put us in fashion shows. We’re just dorky kids from the suburbs who like playing pop music because it’s our favorite thing to do.

How do you handle knowing the big time could be quickly approaching? We know it’s not going to be good forever. There’s going to be weird challenges and changes. What you do might become so unpopular, that nobody will want to come see your show forever. These moments are rare and fleeting, and you do your best and try to stay focused on why you play music in the first place.

You may not feel like self-assured rockers, but your album has a very self-assured quality. You may not be Bono but your sound is moving closer to U2. It’s still a ways off. But we love big rock and roll. We grew up in America. We grew up with bands like Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins. Even Sonic Youth and the Pixies. It all had this fantastic visceral sound. It was expansive and it had volume in it.

The music was ambitious in scope. The bands themselves, less so. Nobody thinks of us like Weezer, but their first couple of albums had all the trappings of big arena rock. But they weren’t rock stars. They were dorky and diminutive in a good way. They weren’t like, ‘We’re the greatest, coolest guys ever.’ They were writing these big rock songs about how they were dorky kids who liked to hang out in a garage.

Don’t you think you could say that about a lot of the alternative bands of that era? Sure. I think that ambivalence towards success, and what that means, was a consistent theme in the ‘90s. Kurt Cobain could never really wrap his mind around selling 6 million records. He used his attention to get people to listen to other bands like The Vaselines and Beat Happenings. Which is cool because that’s how I discovered a lot of music. Sonic Youth was another band that were respected and never seemed like fame whores. The Pixies broke up before they got famous. They were the opening band for U2, they were going to be the next big band, but for whatever reason, they didn’t continue on. Even today, a band like The Decemberists might have the number one record in the country when their album comes out but nobody thinks of them as self-aggrandizing rock stars. As for us, I don’t know. It will be fun to see what happens.

I’m guessing that as a teenager you listened to albums that Flood or Alan Moulder had a hand in making. I totally remember getting Siamese Dream and listening to “Cherub Rock” in my friend’s bedroom for the first time. My friend also has some weird VHS tape of Nine Inch Nails’ “March of the Pigs.” Now the dude who made Pretty Hate Machine and Downward Spiral is in the room with us. It’s something to think about when you have beers with your friends. We just made a record with Flood and Alan Moulder. Holy shit. It kind of makes you believe in the power of America. There are still these weird opportunities in this country if you work harder, or get lucky.

What was the most powerful idea that Flood offered you during the recording of the album? He told us we were good. That was the most powerful idea that he gave us. He said, ‘Just be confident in yourselves.’ We are all, ‘Oh we suck/’ Whatever. But you can’t say that to Flood because he wouldn’t be there if we really sucked. And he made that clear to us.

Was it ever intimidating working with industry giants? They’re there to help you realize your vision. Just like they were there to help realize The Edge and Bono’s vision, or Depeche Mode’s vision, or the Smashing Pumpkins’ vision. It’s not like they wrote their songs. They just helped make their songs sound awesome. They offer feedback, like, I’m bored with this part of the song. And you think, Well, if he’s bored and he’s Flood then guess what? Probably everybody else is going to be bored, too. It’s very important to be making your own record and not trying to make Achtung Baby. They don’t want to make Achtung Baby, again. They already made it. For them, it’s not a fun thing to tell a new band how to sound like some album they worked on 15 years ago. It’s more fun to make that band the best band they can be. We learned early on in the process that the most important thing is to communicate what you want the record to be.

Any surreal moments? There was a megaphone sitting there in the recording studio with tape on it that said BONO’S. Then we found their Grammy. The four clicks at the beginning of “Too Tough.” That’s actually Peggy playing drums on U2’s Grammy.

So you’re taking it all with a grain of salt? It’s a funny, comical situation we find ourselves in. Hopefully, I don’t become too much of a douchebag and I don’t become one of those clichés of rock and roll excess. But I’m old. I’m 31. I don’t think I’ll be, like, what’s this magical white powder? Where does it go? Oh, the nose! Oh, that’s a great idea!

Can’t wait for the Behind The Music on The Pains of Being Pure At Heart. Yeah, we don’t want to end up one of those rock bands that took it too far and fame destroyed the bonds of friendship. It’s not about the music man. You’ve turned into a monster. Yeah, I hope we won’t be having that conversation. But even if we do all that Behind the Music stuff, there’s always a redemptive moral. So even if things do go bad, we’ll be able to right our ship and look each other in the eye and, say, you know what? I still remember the first day of band practice when were just jamming out. There were no models, there were no private jets. Let’s get back to what it’s all about – the music.