The fifth-annual NYC Popfest is this week and I wrote an exhaustive (exhausting?) post about it over at BrooklynVegan, but I thought I’d offer up five Don’t-Miss Bands. Some of them are playing the Thursday show at Cake Shop which is sold-out (thanks to Pains of Being Pure at Heart, though it probably woulda sold out anyway) but both of the ones in that case are playing other NYC shows. Gonna try not too repeat to many phrases.
Gold Bears (Thursday, May 19 @ Cake Shop)
This Atlanta quartet played Popfest last year, but unfortunately almost no one saw them because it was at the day show at Spike Hill. Actually, I have no idea how many people showed up but I had to work and missed it. I remember Kip from Pains saying how good they were. A year later, Gold-Bears are back and signed to Slumberland, who released their debut album, Are You Falling in Love?, last week. The band’s speedy jangle (and singer Jeremy Underwood’s phrasing), at times, seems to be ripped straight from a 1985 Wedding Present single. But there’s also an anthemicism that is more in vein of the Mountain Goats (Underwood’s voice too). What it all adds up to is big hooks and bigger choruses tied up with some “bah bahs” and feedback. Awesome.
If you don’t have tickets to Cake Shop, Gold Bears play Brooklyn Fireproof in Bushwick tomorrow (5/17) with The Hairs and more. Only $5!
Sea Lions (Thursday, May 19 @ Cake Shop)
Didn’t know that much about Sea Lions before they played Popfest last year, apart from Toby liked them, which is usually enough for me. Looking a bunch of high school misfits (in a cute way of course), they won me over in about 20 seconds with their clean guitars Postcard-style groove. (Main Sea Lion Adrian Pillado plays a really cool vintage Vox that I covet despite not playing my own guitar in like three years.) Sea Lions only have a single out (I think?) but like every other good band like this they are now on Slumberland and will hopefully have new music out soon. In the meantime, go see them this week.
Again, the Thursday Cake Shop show is sold out but you have two more chances to catch them: Saturday (5/21) night at Death By Audio (with the Hairs, again, and Kids on a Crime Spree[see below]) and then Sunday afternoon at some BBQ in Bed Stuy.
Betty & the Werewolves (Friday, May 20 @ Cameo)
Here’s your quintessential UK indiepop: the sound, the look, the whole lot. Done to perfection. B&tW’s debut, Tea Time Favourites, is a pretty essential listen if you like this kind of stuff. And if you do, you’ve probably already heard it. It also asks the questions not a lot of albums dare to, like “Should I Go to Glasgow?” The band are at their best when they go minor chord (like on “Francis” below) which gives things just enough bite. You need that bitter with your sweet. Well, I do.
Betty & the Werewolves’ Tea Time Favourites is out now on Damaged Goods records.
Cuffs (Saturday, May 21 @ Santos)
This is Andrew Churchman’s new band, he of much loved Pants Yell! who played Popfest twice. Cuffs are actually 2/3 of PY! plus one of Big Troubles and… somebody else. The demos up on their Bandcamp site sound a lot like Churchman’s old band but live Cuffs rock a little harder with some instrumental passages that I might not call jamming but some might use that word. Cuffs are good. They’re also on early, 7:15 sharp. Cuffs debut 7″ will be just hot off the presses so becareful when picking it up at the merch table.
MP3: Cuffs – Arthur Kroft (demo)
Kids on a Crime Spree (Sunday, May 22 @ The Rock Shop)
Mario Hernandez is an indiepop veteran, having fronted well-liked bands Ciao Bella and From Bubblegum to Sky over the last 15 years or so. I think his new thing, Kids on a Crime Spree, is his best yet which tempers some of his sugary tendencies with our old friends reverb and feedback. Yes it’s been done before — many times by many bands — but Mario is a better songwriter than most and the production is just right. Guess what label KOACS are on?
Kids on a Crime Spree’s debut, We Love You So Bad, is out May 31 on Rock-a-Fella…just kidding. SLUMBERLAND. They’re also playing with Sea Lions and fellow Popfest band The Hairs at Death by Audio Saturday night.
Silver Swans (Sunday, May 22 @ The Rock Shop)
Duo from San Francisco who have yet to release a record but the songs offered up on their Soundcloud page are terrific: minimal, ethereal electro with strong songwriting backing it all up. Their debut album is called Forever which hopefully won’t be how long we’ll have to wait to hear it. I always wonder what stuff like this will be like live, but I really can’t wait to find out.
Silver Swans also open for Austra on Monday at Mercury Lounge so if you’re attending that sold out show, go early and catch them. They also play Pianos on Tuesday, May 24 at Pianos.
Fan Modine (Sunday, May 22 @ The Rock Shop)
Joe Pernice isn’t the only guy out there setting downer lyrics aloft on the gossamer wings of gorgeous orchestral arrangements, you know. Gordon Zacharias has been making music under the Fan Modine name for almost 15 years. Gratitude the Shipper (not on Slumberland [I know!]) is his first album in seven years and is pretty spectacular orch-pop that is reminiscent of The Zombies and the Left Banke and, yeah, The Pernice Brothers. Chris Stamey of the dB’s produced and all sorts of cool people played on it, like Mitch Easter and members of Polvo and the Essex Green. Fan Modine doesn’t do a lot of touring so this is a pretty special event.
The whole line-up Sunday is a good one, beginning with The Hairs (ex-Knight School), and also featuring The Motifs (Crayon Fields offshoot), Procedure Club (more Slumberland Action), Panda Riot (shoegazey goodness from Chicago) plus the aforementioned Silver Swans and Kids on a Crime Spree. The Rock Shop has a lovely roof deck if it ever stops raining and the kitchen makes a great burger.