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by Imran Khan

26 Feb 2013


Montrealer David Woll’s Transit, was an atmospheric travelogue voiced by a lost and intrepid traveller whose adventures spanned a ghostly world of abandoned lives. Hopelessly navigated by a forlorn heart, Woll’s character, a bleary-eyed, hard-hearted rocker with a guitarist-as-gunslinger stance, blazed across continents in search of some elusive fix on dreams found only on the cinema screens. Woll didn’t write a novel, but he may as well have; his stories chapter the lives of downtrodden losers who have seemingly escaped from the pages of a pulp-paperback. His album, lamentably, was released to very little attention and he now seems to occupy a space in musical obscurity. Woll’s aural worlds and inner landscapes evoke the mysterious, sonic terrains of Ennio Morricone, and the cigarette-chaffing cool of Godard films; it’s pop music for sure, but the rich imagery supplied by the lyrical vignettes offer up a world that was born from cinema. 

Very little is known about the musician, and the sparsely-written bio on his website only helps to further the self-sustaining mystique that he created for himself through his work. Those looking for an apt comparison may look to Dirty Beaches—both acts having grown up on a diet of rockabilly. But while the moribund-blues of Dirty Beaches stretches a single hue across a groundwork of scuzzy guitars, Woll paints his canvas with the colours of New Wave, punk, Tex-Mex, chanson and the romantic smears of gothic Americana. Odd clashes of Spaghetti-Western guitars and Euro-jazz are sized up against a wall-to-wall of catchy punk-pop in a surreal landscape peopled with characters straight from the films of Alejandro Jodorowsky. Woll turns enigma upon enigma, churning out pop-song conundrums while his ghost-in-the-gramophone vocals call from somewhere outside the songs.

by Imran Khan

5 Feb 2013


“Angels strumming harps atop clouds overlooking line dancers in choreographed constellations below”. That may sound like a clumsy mouthful of superfluous praise. And yet, it perfectly describes Mari Persen’s sound. The Norwegian, some years back in 2009, released a cracking album of some of the most sublime orchestral pop—and nobody paid attention. Her only album to date is every songwriter’s dream: a lush pop wonderland where the thrills are never cheap but the payoff is always satisfying and worth the price of the admission. While many pop artists project themselves forward into a future world of love, sex, and happiness, Mari looks back. Way back. Say around the time Dorothy just made it over the rainbow and Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell were foxtrotting across the glass floors of soundstages.

by Imran Khan

22 Jan 2013


Sweden’s Sarah Assbring has spent the last several years perfecting her own brand of morose-pop, exploring the inner reaches of depression that has informed every one of her releases. Her rather capricious start in music was the result of a strange encounter with a stray dog on a beach in Spain. Under the moniker El Perro del Mar (“Dog of the Sea”), Assbring would go on to record a quietly mournful set of songs that would comprise her self-titled debut. The Swede’s coy mix of Brill Building pop and gamine affectations were genuinely intoxicating, earning plaudits across Europe and bridging the gap between Stina Nordenstam’s difficult anti-pop and Anja Garbarek’s space-age diva-sonics. Assbring followed her full-length debut with another batch of confectionery lullabies entitled From the Valley to the Stars, before recording 2009’s Love Is Not Pop.

by Faith Korpi

10 Jan 2013


If the name Owl City doesn’t mean anything to you, you probably were living underground in 2009 when the song “Fireflies” was everywhere. Adam Young, the mastermind, one-man band behind Owl City has a mass of fans (who call themselves “Hoot Owls”) who have followed him faithfully since long before the “thousand hugs from ten thousand lightning bugs”. Young, a shy insomniac with a knack for writing whimsical lyrics that make the Hoot Owls swoon (“The silence isn’t so bad till I look at my hands and feel sad, ‘cause the spaces between my fingers are right where yours fit perfectly”), has a rare innocence about him that coupled with his supremely imaginative writing style could charm just about anyone.

by Ross Wittenham

11 Dec 2012


Chad Valley’s Hugo Manuel has been a busy man. The Jonquil frontman just completed a tour of the UK with Massachusetts electronic band Passion Pit and Glaswegian electro-pop outfit Chvrches, and also launched his first tour of the US as Chad Valley, so he was justifiably tired when we met to discuss his debut album Young Hunger. While in America, the Oxford-based artist had the opportunity to headline a label showcase at CMJ, and though the tour wasn’t what you’d call traditional, he got the opportunity to promote his music in a way which should open up regional programmers to his unique blend of ‘90s-era Balearic chillwave and modern electronic music.

Manuel recently spoke to PopMatters not only about his new full-length, but how the album’s numerous, noteworthy collaborations (Twin Shadow, Glasser, El Perro Del Mar, etc.) came into being, and how he accidentally came across Bono’s unique method of writing lyrics.

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