Patrick Schabe

Goldspot proves that an international background in pop can combine to create a formula that's ripe for commercial success without compromise.

PopMatters Music Reviews Editor

Paging John Hughes to the O.C.

If The O.C. has become the John Hughes film of the 2000s, then it should only be a small matter of time before the savvy Alexandra Patsavas and crew (whose musical exploits have been well-documented by others here at PopMatters) stumble on a quiet little album called Tally of the Yes Men and realize that they've got a musical gem in their own back yard, ready to be tracked under the next episode's poignant emotional climax. From there, the exposure will prove that the same album provides the goods to appeal to both the college radio crowd and the adult contemporary set. And then, voila, instant super-hits and stardom.

Or at least, in a perfect world.

Los Angeles's Goldspot is, in some respects, simply another in a long line of indie pop bands mining a familiar groove. But a careful listen to the group's debut album reveals a band that has managed to find a sweet spot between indie aesthetics, soundtrack standouts, and commercial radio accessibility. The songs on this unassuming pop album are low-key but shimmering, carefully produced but warmly organic, and just melancholy enough to be sympathetic without being melodramatically emotional or mopey.

Primarily the outlet for bandleader Siddhartha "Sid" Khosla -- raised in a Bollywood-music-loving Indian household in New Jersey, developing his musical ambitions in a stint in London, and returning to the States to live in Los Angeles seven years ago -- and Egyptian-born drummer Ramy Antoun, the band brings a wealth of melodic influences to the table, including the vocal melodies of Bollywood, the guitar-pop austerity of the UK, and the crisp, open tones of the West Coast. Coalescing as a band over the last few years, the pair have spent time building up the songs after Sid landed a contract with ex-Maverick Records head Russ Rieger's new Union Records. That deal offered Goldspot a chance to mature, and Tally of the Yes Men is a disc that's over a year in the making as Goldspot continued to refine its approach. It seems to have paid off, because LA is taking real notice thanks to a month-long residency at the Hotel Café, local radio interviews, podcasts, and more.

Musically, the John Hughes reference is exceedingly appropriate. As is the current fashion, Goldspot mirrors the melodies and instrumentation of the '80s post-punk, new wave, downbeat pop scene with a graceful ease. But this isn't the so-called dance-punk of Interpol or Franz Ferdinand. After all, this is music from a man who claims his first introduction to music with Western singing was turning a switch on his parent's all-Indian-music-playing radio to hear R.E.M.'s Green period. Instead, Goldspot plays with a pristine combination of brightness and unadorned charm that would easily slip into the track listing of the Pretty in Pink or Some Kind of Wonderful soundtracks. Of the press the band has received so far, the Cure is the most common reference made, but that misses on a great deal of the subtle variety in Goldspot's sound. Also present are inflections of Ian McCullough's solo period, hints of the Psychedelic Furs sans sax, and traces of Aztec Camera. You might as well toss in a Smiths reference just for good measure.

At the same time, you find plenty of the British pop tradition of the last five years rearing its head, with nods to Coldplay and the Starsailor/Keane/Snow Patrol set. Finally, roll all that up and put a gloss on it that somehow sounds like a captured piece of Los Angeles (really, it just sounds like Southern California), and the result is something that seems to play both sides of the fence, resting casually between playing to the college set and having the mass market appeal of the soccer mom radio stations. In a sense, it feels like Goldspot is a band out of time, or perhaps even more accurately, that they've tapped into a timeless vein of subtle pop.

It's the blend of tones and styles into a sort of pop skeleton key that makes Goldspot worth paying attention to. Played right -- slowly, with a key appearance here, a soundtrack single there, and the aforementioned O.C. moment broadcasting them everywhere -- Goldspot has the potential to bridge both the adult contemporary radio world and the trend-watching indie scene without having to "sell out" or change their current formula. Plus, Ramy has cool hair.

But potential for success isn't the measure of quality. The real reason to lend Goldspot your ears is because they make good, pleasant, even poignant music that's both familiar and compelling. Wealth and fame aside, that's really all that matters.

[band website]

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

This film suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

Here comes another Kompakt Pop Ambient collection to make life just a little more bearable.

Another (extremely rough) year has come and gone, which means that the German electronic music label Kompakt gets to roll out their annual Total and Pop Ambient compilations for us all.

Keep reading... Show less

Winner of the 2017 Ameripolitan Music Award for Best Rockabilly Female stakes her claim with her band on accomplished new set.

Lara Hope & The Ark-Tones

Love You To Life

Label: Self-released
Release Date: 2017-08-11

Lara Hope and her band of roots rockin' country and rockabilly rabble rousers in the Ark-Tones have been the not so best kept secret of the Hudson Valley, New York music scene for awhile now.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.