Category Archives: pop

The Postal Service – Give up

This is a light slice of dance electronica which is a tonic for the soul. It shimmers and grooves, and although others may dispute this definitely a case where the sum of the parts is greater than the individual pieces. Although many of the songs are sombre the overall mood of the album is upliftting, feet tapping perfect for deadlines or when you want a lift.

This was an unlikely and uplifting collaboration between Ben Gibbard vocalist for Death Cab for Cutie an Indie band, worked with electronic musician Jimmy Tamborello who is known as Dntel. A back and fourth exchange of sending each other CD’s as one then the other would cut paste and add either vocals, drums, harmonies or other instruments, cutting and posting and trading ideas and finally finished things. This exchange via post gave rise to the name The Postal Service.I’m not sure whether it came as a surprise when the US Postal Service tried to get them to can the band name, but a settlement was reached including them playing at a conference.

In the early to mid noughts this was one of the albums that was playing in every coffee shop in Newtown. I can almost equate this music to coffee, the light buzz and rush of energy it gives you, queue end of coffee analogies as it doesn’t give you bad breath or make you anxious if you have too much of it


Yes, the whole time, but they are beautiful, light male vocals.

By turns melancholy and uplifting,  a perfect meld.

Good to work to
Great when you need something breezy and by turns melancholy. The constant beat means your word count won’t falter and you’ll keep knocking out the words.

This is a like a disco pop scene. I’m thinking it’s a bit LCD sound system, a little post Kraftwerk, mixed in with some weird way with Shugo Tokumaru. Not sure if that’s a long bow or not.

If you like this I’d also recommend the Shins, a great pop band who released a lot of great music at the time.

The Artist/s
Ben Gibbard vocalist for Death Cab for Cutie an Indie band, worked with electronic musician Jimmy Tamborello who is known as Dntel. Jenny Lewis from Rilo Kiley also does backing vocals, as does Jen Wood, while Chris Walla plays piano on one track.

Perhaps the reason why the Postal Service is so delightful is the different approaches. Gibbard and Tamborello were the main players on this project. I have no idea why they haven’t followed up on one of the most popular albums their album Sub-Pop have put out.

Other works
Believe it or not they haven’t released anything else, well not unless you count the EPs they released that feature cover versions of some of their best songs by other indie darlings Sam Beam aka Iron & Wine and the Shins.

I can recommend Dntel although I’m not as big a fan of Death Cab for Cutie, but that is of fourse entirely subjective as Death Cab have many die hard fans.

Where Can I buy it, and in what formats
This has been repressed a few times now. A pop masterpiece. I’d go vinyl because that’s my favourite, but you can get it everywhere and of course on iTunes.

The Verdict
Hurry you need to buy this album immediately. It is liquid energy, but not in a distracting way. Liquid energy that lets you keep on moving.

Julee Cruise – Floating into the Night

A great album for David Lynch fans, Julee Cruise in her greatest moment. Dream pop, calm, and sombre magical are the words for this album which created the mood for the must watch TV series Twin Peaks.

This album was created of the back of the Blue Velvet film, and used extensively for the soundtrack of Twin Peaks the television series. Angelo Badalamenti and Director David Lynch composed the music and Julee Cruise was brought in to perform the hauntingly beautiful album. Twin Peaks was a revolutionary television series with touches of the surreal based around the brutal murder of a high school girl, Laura Palmer, in a rural community.

Badlamenti was tasked by David Lynch to create ethereal music for the earlier Lynch film Blue Velvet. Cruise was selected on the basis of her participation in a Theatre Workshop that Badalamenti had produced. When Badalamenti was commissioned to create the soundtrack for Twin Peaks Crusie was the perfect choice.


The single was called falling and it made the Billboard charts while the album sold half a million copies.


Yes this album is a breathy showpiece. All lyrics were written by David Lynch and all music was composed by Angelo Badamamenti.

Calm and relaxed is what this album is all about.

Good to work to
Great album to relax to.

Like a jazzy mood album of the past, mixed in with a dose of dark magic.

The Artist/s
Julee Cruise who sings the tracks is an actress and singer.

David Lynch the lyricist is an acclaimed film director

Angelo Badalamenti is a composer who has worked on a host of soundtracks and other musical projects

Other works
Julee Cruise did release other albums after this but it would be fair to say there is no way it could be compared to this.

What I would recommend is the Blue Velvet soundtrack. This was another Lynch Badalamenti collaboration and the first where they brought in Julee Cruise on the track Mysteries of Love. The success of this collaboration gave the impetus for the latter album. It is different as it is a more traditional soundtrack featuring the music of other artists such as Roy Obison with In Dreams and Bobby Vinton on the title track Blue Velvet.

Angelo Badalamenti was a continued collaborator with David Lynch so you might want to check out some of the other soundtracks they worked on such as the darker follow up Twin Peaks movie Fire Walk with Me, likewise other movies such as Mullholland Drive. I wasn’t able to find much of this on itunes, although I’m sure it’s there if you search hard enough. Below is a link to the official Twin Peaks soundtrack.


You may also like Dark night of the soul, a musical/visual project of Sparklehorse and David Lynch with a range of musicians and featuring Lynch singing on a few of the tracks. A different style to the featured album, but interesting

Where Can I buy it, and in what formats
A bit pricier on vinyl these days, but fairly cheap on iTunes and a winner from start to finish.

The Verdict
A great album, just what you need to send yo on to another world. This album definitely has a presence that may work for you.

Micachu and the Shapes with the London Sinfionetta – Chopped and Screwed

Micachu and the Shapes with the London Sinfionetta- Chopped and Screwed

This is a menacing moody dissonant masterpiece, with all the off centre features of Micachu and the shapes song transcribed into an orchestral setting. Not everyone can pull off dissonant in a satisfyingly musical manner, but Micachu and the shapes have the chops to pull it off. That said there are more than a few songs with vocals and a few hooks to hold onto.

I came to Micachu and the Shapes after hearing they were Bjork’s favourite band for a period of time. They are usually catchy melody driven dissonant pop songs. This album is anything but that, there are some recognisable elements but this is a true artistic departure from that known way.

Even from their elarlier debut album, you could tell they were super talented to twist such catchy pop songs in a way that didn’t distort it away from the song. I don’t find any weird for weirds sake posing in the way they put toether songs.

2011, through Rough Trade

There are some lyrics but they blend into a soundscape more than ever taking centre stage.

Mood –
While there are inherently menacing elements to a musical palatte that leans so heavily on dissonance. Paradoxically there is a warmth throughout the numbers on this album which are absolutely delightful.

Good to work to –
I find this album to be great for putting me into a mood that allows me to keep on going and block out the world really effectively.

I could possibly put it into the minimalist classical school. But that is most probably a misnomer, as the songs are only repetitve in theme for a length of time more similar to a pop album, than as opposed to something like Steven Reich or something like that.

The Artist/s – Micachu and the Shapes with the London Sinfionetta
The London Sinfionetta are classical muscians first and foremost, but they are part of a body that promotes new contemporary music. I had a quick look on the web and they seem to have played on lots of things, but they’re not like a band or something. They sound pretty darn fine to me though. You can go on their site and check out many of their other collaborations and listen and watch.

Micachu and the Shapes are
Mica Levi – vocals
Raisa Khan – Keyboards
Mark Pell – drums

Micachu and the sahpes specialise in differnet time signatures, distortion, non-standard tunings, found object intruments and generally putting a different slant on classic pop. This album is nothing like there standard though.

Other works
If you are curious about Micachu and the shapes they have an absolutely transcendent alternative pop album. Starting out with Jewellry which I think every household should have. It is such a sunny beautiful weird album you can’t go wrong.

If you are interested in hearing some mix tapes in a completely different style, there are several available online for free download

Where Can I buy it, and in what formats
You can find this album on iTunes and the link is shown below, there was also a limited edition album version on vinyl. This is one of my favourite albums, and it is just great to get into a different headspace.

The Verdict
Yes, it’s great, but maybe have a listen to it first at the iTunes link above and see if it’s your cup of tea

The Fantastic Expedition of Dillard & Clark

The Fantastic Expedition of Dillard & Clark – Gene Clark and Doug Dillard
One of the first bands to combine bluegrass rock n’ roll and east coast hippie idealism, this is one great band. This album is smooth and fun, with classic songs and great grooves, with none of the sacharine that makes country indigestible. It maintains a steady pace that keeps my fingers tapping over the keyboard.

The vibe of the entire album is relaxed fun bluegrass fingerpicking good times ho-down music.

This is a significant album in the history of country rock, and is played on by a who’s who of country rock royalty, Byrds, Eagles, and Flying Burrito Brothers. The fact that Gene Clark, Chris Hillman, and Bernie Leadon are some of the all time fantastic song writers of the country rock pioneering generation doesn’t hurt either.

I can’t quite describe the happy little rythm bluegrass/rock has, but this album has it in spades. It is an easy high tempo pitch that keeps you moving along and I find my words move along at the same pace.

This has nothing to do with the quality of the album or the speed with which you can write to it, but if you want to listen to the most rootin tootin, cool album you’ve ever heard… And as for that album cover it is so funny, two of the coolest looking hippie bluegrass wildcats in a cool motorcycle and sidecar. File this under unbelievably cool, and indeed fantastic.



Relaxed and easy. Country bluegrass.

Good to work to
If you don’t like bluegrass you’re going to hate it. I like Bluegrass a little bit, and I like country rock with good lyrics, so this is metaphorical music to my ears.

This album is a bit of a cross between classic bluegrass and the country rock later popularised by Gram Parsons and the Eagles. Bernie Leadon who featured in this line up not surprisingly was in a key member of the supergroup the Eagles.

The only thing I’ve put up so far (although I hope not the last) that would compare is some of the Bluegrass, including will the Circle remain Unbroken. That album is more old school but has the same uptempo bluegrass feel.

The Artist/s
Gene Clark has the curious distinction of only ever lasting for one album with any one record label before being dropped for wilful, drug fuelled, or erratic misbehaviour. He gained fame in the Byrds and with ex Byrd Hillman. There are numerous books about his Clark’s life, with one of the funniest anecdotes coming from many years after the release of this album. He took his kids to see orginal Star Wars then to grab some fast food afterwards. In the fast food joint Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) happened to pop in and seeeing Clark was star struck, while Clark’s kids were star struck over Hamill. So while a washed up alcoholic in the twilight of his career at the time, he was the dad who got Luke Skywalker to hang out with them, bumping up his kudos considerably.

Doug Dillard was a bluegrass hero in his ex band the Dillards. He was just the kind of hard living rebel to match wits with the erratic Clard.

Bernie Leadon was to gain fame as a founder member of the Eagles. A killer song writer he co-wrote and filled out this band of future country rock royalty.

Chris Hillman and Sneaky Pete Kleinhow were both to gain fame as part of Gram Parsons, Flying Burrito Brothers. They wrote a lot of timeless songs.

Michael Clark and Chris Hillman were also famous ex members of the Byrds.

Featured artists on The Fantastic Expedition of Dillard & Clark

•    Gene Clark – guitar, harmonica, vocals
•    Doug Dillard – banjo, fiddle, guitar
•    Bernie Leadon – banjo, bass, guitar, vocals
•    Chris Hillman – mandolin
•    Sneaky Pete Kleinhow – pedal steel guitar
•    Jon Corneal – drums
•    Michael Clarke – drums
•    David Jackson – bass, piano, cello, vocals
•    Byron Berline – fiddle
•    Donna Washburn – guitar, tambourine, vocals
•    Donald Beck – mandolin, fretted dobro
•    Andy Belling – harpsichord

•    Producer: Larry Marks

Other works
In terms of a famous band going off in a hundred different directions  this is the one you’d start with. Take your pick Leadon went off to the Eagles. You can go back in time to the Byrds and their extensive back catalogue. You can head for the Flying Burrito Brothers Gram Parsons famous country rock band. If you want to delight in Bluegrass then head in the direction of the Dillards.

For mine although not neccessarily the best for writing I would mine the extensive Gene Clark back catalogue. He recorded extensively and has some fantastic albums such as the classic “No Other.”

Where Can I buy it, and in what formats
You can get this anywhere (online) digitally and on disc, although it’s a bit harder to find on vinyl.

The Verdict
For me this is a staple of any collection. Especially for any collector of country rock or Bluegrass. It’s great music that is both cheeky and fun.

Shugo Tokumaru – Port Entropy

Shugo Tokumaru – Port Entropy
Port Entropy is the kind of magical album you don’t need to understand a word of. Boppy, fun, playful, and smart, by turns fast and slow. One of my first pick writing albums these days. You may not have ever heard of Shugo Tokumaru, but this album is great.

Tokumaru creates, records, mixes, and plays all the instruments on his recordings. He only records lyrics in Japanese and even though I can’t understand a word it still sounds great and evokes emotion. I wouldn’t call this world music, more like pure pop. Port Entropy was his most popular album in Japan, at the time making it to the Japanese top 40.

When he writes music he comes up with the melody and then uses the maximum amount of instruments he can to show the different aspects of his dreams. Apparently all of his lyrics, or at least the key ideas all come from his dream diary. His music reflects this approach as a lot of it is dreamy and magical.I like to listen to an album that is sonically challenging and curious. Port Entropy is full of delightful little surprises and musical references. An absolute delight of an album that goes beyond the gimickry you might expect of such an approach.

One of the best things about Port Entropy is the arrangements. He has cited the Beach Boys and a japanese artise Hachidai Nakamura as influences. I don’t know Nakamura, but the long standing love affair musicians have with the Beach Boys is because of their brilliant harmonies and song arrangements.


Lots of lyrics, but they’re all in Japanese, as a result I dont really find they distract me at all.  The lyrics are all inspired by dreams, so they may send you on an interesting tangent, but only if you speak Japanese.

Well the mood goes from upbeat and happy to introspective and sad, but generally it’s pretty upbeat.

Good to work to
This album is one of the records I put on high rotation when I’m writing. It never fails, it doesn’t distract ,but has some great highs and lows that I seem to need when I write. If the lyrics weren’t in Japanese I don’t know whether I’d like it as much, but it makes sense to me and I kind of like hering all of the different words.

This album reminds me of an Australian artist, Jay Walker who records under the name Machine Translations. I’m not sure if Machine Translations is as good to write to but there are certainly some similarities in terms of density and quality. The specific album I’d compare it to is called Happy and is also densely arranged smart pop. Writing this will make me go back and have another listen.

It’s not consistently high tempo as there are some slower songs but definitely has elements, and the only reason I’d say it is world music as that is what non-english language music is labelled, but that is no easy fit. When I have some more pop here on this site I’ll link it to that.

The Artist/s
Shugo Tokumaru is from tokyo. He is in a Japanes band called Gellers made up of his old school friends. Involvement in the band was at the heart of his interest in multi instrumentation. After school he lived for a while in Los Angeles for a few years, joining a jazz band and starting his song-writing in earnest. His debut album came out in 2003 and he has been recording and performing ever since.

He has a website, and I would keep an eye out for when he is coming your way, as it is not an everyday occurence.

Endearingly when he was learning to play guitar apparently he would only play songs by the Clash.

Other works
I have list to a few of his other albums such as 2007s exit, which was similarly inventive but which I didn’t connect with quite as much. I haven’t listened to any of his later albums. If any of them are of the level of this one they’re worth pursuing.

Where Can I buy it, and in what formats
Although it’s a little old now you can still track this album down on vinyl CD and of course the generic MP3.

The Verdict
I would definitely reccomend this as an album to write to. Maybe it is just because Port Entropy is in Japanese that lets me work through it. I certainly wouldn’t listen to many pop albums like this and expect to be able to continue to work. Even if you don’t want to write this is an absolutely delightful album.