Secretly Canadian

TRACKING BEST OF 2012: #3 Porcelain Raft - "Unless You Speak From Your Heart"

SOUNDS LIKE: What George Michael would up to if he kept down the path of Listen Without Prejudice
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE: This is the best pop song to come from the indie world this year, and great enough to be my #3!

About a year ago, Indiana indie label Secretly Canadian had announced the signing of Porcelain Raft, a recording moniker for Italian musician Mauro Remiddi.  After creating a buzz with a handful of self-released EPs and singles from his Bandcamp page, he moved to the states and settled in New York, before hunkering down to record his debut full length Strange Weekend.  The end result was a record that was filled with immediate hooks doused in a splash of static and other little ticks and tweaks of ambience throughout. 

With a warbly and woozy pulse of electronics balancing with a synth bass groove, the infectiousness that is "Unless You Speak From Your Heart" is easily one of the most underrated pop songs this year has seen.  While millions were listening to stupid Top 40 shit like "Call Me Maybe" or whatever the hell that long titled Taylor Swift single is, Remiddi crafted three minutes of bliss.  The combination of his vocals mixed with its intriguing production, you would think George Michael came out immediately following 1990's Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1, detatching himself even more from his Wham! days by making lo-fi dance hits.  Instead, we're blessed here by a man who knows a good pop song when he crafts it in his basement studio. 

TRACKING: Cayucas - "Cayucos"

SOUNDS LIKE: The Love Language, Gardens & Villa, Telekinesis
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE: The latest Secretly Canadian signing is going to be everyone's favorite band next year

Let's get the hard part out of the way.  Everyone say it with me: "ky-yook-us!"  Cayucos is a small little beach town out in California, tucked away in San Luis Obispo County.  If you switch out that "o" for another "a" you get the name of the latest band to join the ever expanding stable of Secretly Canadian artists.  Zach Lind had been recording music under the name Oregon Bike Trails, but then he realized something: his songs didn't sound like woody bike paths in the northwest, they were reaching for something deeper.  Several hundreds of miles down to the south to the sand, the sun, the attractive people, Lind found a new name for his project that is going to spread like wildfire in the next several months.

"Cayucos" is the lead single from Cayucas (don't be confused, just keep following along) and could possibly be the theme song for the town Lind loves.  His vocals, doused in reverb, often sound distant.  This is to make room for the oversaturated acoustic guitar being strummed by a campfire on the beach.  The melody, so ridiculously familiar and catchy, will get trapped in your mind for days, you'll find yourself singing it in the shower, the car ride to work, and probably the stall at the office. 

The video for "Cayucos" is equal parts postcard to a town no one's ever heard of meets Little Miss Sunshine meets any Wes Anderson movie you'd like to plug in here.  Their debut album, Like Wildfire, will be out sometime in 2013.  This will do for now, making us all want to take a trip to a place we may never leave if it's as infectious as this song. 

TRACKING: Nightlands - "So Far, So Long"

SOUNDS LIKE: The War On Drugs, Tom Petty, Fleetwood Mac
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE: Dave Hartley is back with his second album of ambient mantras

They say the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, and that's always been the case with Dave Hartley's band, Nightlands. Not to say it's a bad thing, because it is not, especially when he comes from everyone's favorite band of Reagan-era nostalgics in The War On Drugs.  His debut album, 2010's Forget The Mantra, was covered in the haze and graze one expects to take in with a cross country road trip.  But as we have the first taste of the upcoming Oak Island, we'll be getting something with all our favorite bits at the core, and a few things we might not expect.

"So Far, So Long" fades in with the trusty drum machine tick tick we've come to expect from his day job.  But quickly we're greeted by a faint horn off in the distance, as Hartley's husky, wavering vocals are met with the clearest of angelic harmonies on the chorus, not too far off from that Tango In The Night cassette tape that was always in the player of my dad's pickup.  The exotic blend of guitars, horns, and percussion might just be what the doctor ordered for a trip to so-called Oak Island, and it might be some place we'll all want to escape to when we can take in the full itinerary in January. 

TRACKING: Jens Lekman - "Become Someone Else's"

SOUNDS LIKE: Belle & Sebastian, Johnathan Richman, Kings Of Convenience
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE: Your favorite Swedish crooner can sing a sad tale in the desert as proven by this new clip!

"I'm not a smart man, but I know what love is," Forrest Gump said once to the love of his life Jenny.  Apparently Jens Lekman learned a thing or two as he suffered the biggest heartbreak of his life, becoming the impetus for his new album, cleverly titled I Know What Love Isn't.

On the latest single, Jens does what he does best as he transform a real life experience into song.  "Become Someone Else's" tells a tale of never wanting to let go, never becoming the soul mate of another person.  Lekman's outlook on a love life is so unique: sure, other bands write sad lyrics to go with a happier melody, but Jens always has a good sense of humor about things, always quick to make himself the butt of a joke.  But on "Else's" he's a bit more sincere, more honest than ever before.

Here's the new video for "Become Someone Else's", featuring Jens wearing a nice hat and taking a stroll through the desert, the loneliest place a man could be.

TRACKING: Gardens & Villa - "We Gotta Get Out Of This Place"

SOUNDS LIKE: Future Islands, Caveman
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE: These west coast friends offer up a twist on a classic 60s jam

Gardens & Villa are known for making hazy synth pop songs.  They're also known for making straight up space jams.  One of their earlier singles, "Orange Blossom," features the flute in place of a guitar and makes for something you might hear on a booze cruise.  On the self-titled debut last year, they went to all of these places and managed to tie it all together, they never skipped a beat.  Now they manage to hit on all these pushpins on their musical map on their latest offering, minus the flute.

Like their cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Gypsy" that appeared on the Just Say That You Love Me tribute LP earlier this year, G&V put their own unique touch on their take on Eric Bourdon & The Animals classic "We Gotta Get Out Of This Place".  And while "Gypsy" was a smidge more faithful, "Place" goes to a place the original song didn't go almost 50 years ago.  The bass line takes a back seat to a woozy synth and layered vocals that almost get demonic at some point before they all converge for a moment of pure sonic bliss.

Gardens & Villa are on the road right now! Catch them when they come to your town.

Gardens & Villa - "We Gotta Get Out Of This Place

Exitmusic - "The Modern Age"

SOUNDS LIKE: Beach House, Lower Dens, Radiohead, Robert Smith's subconcious
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE: This Brooklyn duo is creating moody soundscapes worthy of mid 80's Cure that both chill and satisfy in heaping measures

If Victoria LeGrand & Alex Scally of Baltimore's Beach House were brave enough to turn their amps up and go for a cleaner sound that was drizzled in electronics, you would have Brooklyn's Exitmusic.  The latest single from their debut album, Passage, is a clear example of that.  It is a song that wears its influences on its sleeves, its nods to Radiohead down their band name even, but it brings in an actual voice of reason, a voice that makes the song stick.

And it is that warbly, smoky croon of Aleksa Palladino that is the strongest instrument in "The Modern Age", stronger than the the tambourine, the memorable guitar melody.  As she belts out the chorus, the song explodes from a brooding nighttime soundtrack to an early morning run along the beach.  Samplers fire up and off they go, entering the scene at one pier, before hiding behind a lifeguard's stand.  Eventually it all dissipates, leaving nothing but Palladino's silky voice harmonizing alone, facing our modern times. 

Exitmusic recently released a video for "The Modern Age", watch on and get lost in it won't you?