Sunday, August 19, 2007

POPFEST Highlights, Part 1: Paper Tanks & Violet Vector and the Lovely Lovelies

I spent the second week of August in Athens, Georgia, attending POPFEST, sponsored by the estimable Happy Happy Birthday to Me Records. You know a music festival is worthwhile when you come home with an enormous stack of CDs, which I came to affectionately call "the brick." There were a ton of great bands I'd never heard of before, and I can say that there were only about two or three that I disliked; out of a roster of 50, that's a damn good hit ratio. I've already written up a general summary of the festival at my Optical Atlas website, but since that's an Elephant 6-oriented blog, I'd like to spend the next week or so going a little more in-depth here at Electric Sailor, taking a closer look at some of the bands who surprised me. The theme here is great new music that deserves wider exposure.

#1 Paper Tanks

This band's a bit difficult to write about, since I know nothing about them. They opened the first full day of POPFEST, playing an afternoon set at Little Kings, and kicking the festival off to a fine start with some compellingly unusual rock. Native to Athens, they're relatively new to the scene, having so far only self-released a CD-R EP called Paper Floats. It's always a good sign when you struggle to come up with a comparison for a band, though Pavement and Captain Beefheart alternately came to mind as I listened to their music. "Better Really No," with its intentionally dreary "la-la-la-la-la" backing vocals--like drunken pirates taunting over your shoulder after a lover's quarrel--is emotionally agonizing, but also chugs forward like a relentless steam-powered machine. The band definitely has a dreamy, psychedelic quality which appeals to us electric sailors--do check out the 6:39 unreleased song, "Almost From Golden Books," which the band has graciously provided below along with "Better Really No."

Paper Tanks - Better Really No
Paper Tanks - Almost From Golden Books

#2 Violet Vector and the Lovely Lovelies

At another extremity of the musical spectrum, Violet Vector and the Lovely Lovelies (you'll get used to it) calls back to one-hit-wonder 60's girl groups with just a trace of Siouxsie and the Banshees. Throughout the festival you could easily spot the Lovely Lovelies in the audience, because they were always the most smartly fashionable. Their music is just as polished, and lives up to the quiet buzz which had been building in the days prior to their performance. Hailing from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and fronted by Amanda Brooks, whose stage presence is formidable, they specialize in three-minute pop songs, albeit of a more chaste variety than their chief competitors of the moment, The Pipettes. Think Kindercore and early Dressy Bessy. Essential pop replete with handclaps, "woo-hoo-hoos," and organ!

Violet Vector and the Lovely Lovelies - Can You Dig It

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