erasing clouds

Brief and to the Point: Reviews of 7" Singles

by dave heaton

The Close-Ups, "Mascara Dave" 7" and "I'm On My Way" 7" (Northern Round Square Records)

Two singles, each with a catchy pop-rock song on the A-side and another on the B, from...a band made up of cartoon characters? Well, sort of. Of course there's a mastermind behind the animation - "music and production: carl green" is the credit on both singles. But the website and cover art show you four distinct cartoon characters in the band. Ok, whatever. What's important is that all four songs here are melodic and catchy, falling into the traditions of both bubblegum pop of the past and the gentler indie-pop of today. The "Mascara Dave" 7" is the snappier of the two, both the title track, a cartoon theme song if I ever heard one ("help save Mascara Dave / he's the someone I've been seeking"), and the b-side "It's Your Loss." Plus the cover art seems to introduce an arch-villan to the story, something every worthwhile band of indie-pop superheroes needs.

Fabulous Nobody, "A Pot of Tea"/"When the Girl Gets Blue" 7" (Sparticus Stargazer)

Stylistically this is a trip back in time, sounding like two blues/jazz tunes from 70 or more years ago. But in terms of feeling it's very present. "You have a good heart/so don't be sad," goes a line on the relaxed "Pot of Tea," and it's convincing - a laidback wish for the blues to pass us by. "When the Girl Gets Blue" is seemingly more dour, but not really. Ultimately it's still a hope for good times, sung in a comforting way.

Jeff Leopard, "Tastebud"/"'Til Next" (Sparticus Stargazer)

The A side here is a funky, bright but gritty soundscape/dance track which shows Indian influences but also quotes in passing from old-school hip-hop. Gone almost as soon as it starts, the brief but enjoyable "Tastebud" is followed on the B side by its cousin, a track in the same vein that's even brighter and more likely to move you to dance.

Melted Men, Smoke Alarm Limbo (Pinksock Records)

Melted Man's Smoke Alarm Limbo 7" is five tracks of shock-treatment, underwater hip-hop from Tristan Bechet of Sauna Kings. Say what? Exactly. There's someone rapping on the first track, and he sounds like a squished-up cartoon character. There's something sampled on the second track, and it's a conversation about ordering BBQ. Accompanying all of this is mad, squiggly electronics - melodic but weird. "Block of Ice," the final word, is what's bouncing clubgoers on some other planet...far far away.

The Sparticus Stargazer, "One Nest Rolls After Another"/"Old Hank Schultz" 7" (Sparticus Stargazer)

DJ Ordeal's specialty is brief audio moments that open up larger mysteries. Here he's providing musical backdrops for poetry readings, by a woman going by the name The Sparticus Stargazer, also the name of Ordeal's record label. On the A side a percussive backdrop leads to a guitar loop and back to the percussion, providing the right odd atmosphere for a short tale of suicide. On the flip side the Stargazer's reading a poem off a Captain Beefheart album cover, while Ordeal's doing a jumpy sound collage, matching the poem's images to sounds. Both tracks have a surreal edge to them; they come off like puzzles, begging you to figure them out, but they also seem simple as day, just a person reading some words over music.

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