I belong to that rare group of people who doesn’t like The Beach Boys. There, I said it. And I’m not sure I’m alone with it, I just think there are many out there who won’t confess that, as the collective consensus will turn against them, the same consensus that forces humanity to like certain things. Like Ginger, for example. I can’t understand how can people eat ginger, nor drink it in a tea. I’d rather have my throat killing me – just don’t put that in my mouth.
And it wasn’t that the Beach Boys weren’t an amazing band and it’s not that Brian Wilson isn’t a genius – hey, he really don’t need me to whisper that in his working ear, he heard that before. It’s just that over-perfect, round, symmetric stuff are usually boring to me. I like them raw, untamed, with bristles. Two weeks ago, a friend asked me how come I don’t like Belle and Sebastien. He thinks I’m forcing myself to love the underground no-one-ever-heard-about artists, and declared ‘well, I like great songwriting’. Well, news flash, I like great songwriting too, I just prefer the songs delivered by someone like Ed Askew, rather then Nick Drake.
That’s why when I listened to the perfect pop album by North Dakota trio Secret Cities, I was surprised with myself. That I like something that is obviously heavily influenced by Mr. Wilson. I’m probably getting old.
Before I started writing this post, I went to Lastfm to check how many times I’ve heard this album of theirs, Pink Graffiti. The results showed twice a day, in a week I had a university exam. No wonder I’ll get a C.
They started off with a completely different name – The White Foliage. Two kids who started sending cassettes with mixtapes to each other after a random introduction in a band camp.
The two, Marie J. Parker and Charlie Gokay started to swap four track recordings of original songs, that ended up in a rep of Fall Records who liked them and In 2005 released their debut record Zurich.
Nine songs in their fresh new album, now as Secret Cities. Nine perfect songs that combines perfect pop melodies with a sixties essence that doesn’t mess with nostalgia but paves the way of humanity to the returning of the pop-psych wave, something that started already with bands like Grandaddy, The Shins, and Flaming Lips’ Soft Bulletin.
All the songs are wrapped in a beautiful production, that smells a bit like the old castle of good old uncle Phil Spector, aside to a virginally bashfulness, though highly ambitious.
Gokay’s singing is full of presence and penetrates, and completes the modest, humble and melancholic tinged singing of Parker, that brings to mind the sadness of Mazzy Star and Slowdive.
I should say another word about the production here, the compliments the songs and gives them what they need. It doesn’t burry them under tribute-style sound parades but it does fill the songs with the right elements that makes them an (sorry for this – ) indie-pop band.
Next to bass and drums, guitar and field recordings, you’ll find violin and viola, whistles and piano – and with all that – they don’t remind me a bit of the Beach Boys, though in Boyfriends they sing about their meeting with Brian Wilson.
I would love to hear this album under the production of Jack Nitzche, without Spector on the lead, but with Neil Young, like they did in Harvest. Nitche knew how to make the perfect countr-rock album that should sound big when needed (A Man Needs A Maid) but also knew to keep things simple in Heart Of Gold.
The Reason I’m saying It is because Graffiti could have been a perfect folk album, because in the end ofi it – there are nine perfect songs there. After all, that is the best way to check if a song works – take it down to the acoustic guitar level and play it in your room. If it works – then you’ve got a good song.
I bet this album will get the exposure All Hour Cymbals by Yeasayer got in 2007. It will mark a territory and will be placed in all of the ‘new rising’ columns in magazines and the band will start to play festivals and become everyone’s fav band, until they will reach their second album and become a significant band in the indie world. The one you must like. Consensus.
If you’re into good songs with a great production and you can relate to the bands I threw in the air – this is an amazing debut that will take a big part in the ‘best of 2010’ lists.
Pink Grafitty will be released in August 6th with Western Vinyl, try to get a hold of the vinyl now.
RYIL : Beach Boys, Rockfour, Todd Randgren, Flaming Lips, Shins Grandaddy, Fleet Foxes and Ariel Pink