Thursday Throwback: Venus Hum

Thursday Throwback is a feature on Squawkin’ Good Tunes where we dig up a forgotten gem from at least 10 years ago, play it on that week’s edition of Squawkin’ Good Radio, and review the album on squawkingood.com.

This week I thought we’d cover something a little different from the power-pop/punk bands featured the past few weeks. Let’s go back to 2003 and hear from Venus Hum, a dream pop/electronica group from Nashville consisting of lead singer Annette Strean and multi-instrumentalists Kip Kubin and Tony Miracle. Their debut full-length Big Beautiful Sky (a reference to lead singer Annette Strean’s home state of Montana) featured the single “Hummingbirds” a vibrant, dramatic song with surreal lyrics.

After kicking off with “Hummingbirds”, Venus Hum cycle through three candy-colored pop tunes with varying levels of success before arriving at the haunting “Alice”, a contender for best song on the album. It’s followed by the bouncy, intriguing pop song “Lumberjacks”, and the album finishes strong with the ethereal “Honey”, suspenseful “Sonic Boom” and closing track “Bella Luna”.

While very much a product of the early 00’s electronica scene, Big Beautiful Sky is a solid album recommended for fans of artists like Florence & the Machine, Goldfrapp or School of Seven Bells.

Take a listen to the whole album below on Spotify:

 

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Thursday Throwback: Nakatomi Plaza

Thursday Throwback is a new feature on Squawkin’ Good Tunes where we dig up a forgotten gem from at least 10 years ago, play it on that week’s edition of Squawkin’ Good Radio, and review the album on squawkingood.com.

This week’s Thursday Throwback is one from my college years. Nakatomi Plaza were a band from Brooklyn who played a style of post-hardcore descended from the likes of At the Drive-In, with a sound that skews decidedly towards the punk energy of Sparta rather than the experimental leanings of The Mars Volta. Their album Unsettled was released in 2007 during my sophomore year of college, and several songs from it would be played on my radio show.

Opening track “A Manifest Destiny Grows in Brooklyn” gives you a good taste of what to expect from this album. From there it goes into quite the variety – from the heavier screaming tracks “Get Me My Meds” and “Bang Bang Sing Sing”, to the well-crafted pop-punk sensibilities of “Undefined”.

The album’s standout track is “Not Hopeless”, which also appeared on their Frog Octopus Wolf EP. Propelled by an energetic synth keyboard riff, this song delivers socially conscious lyrics backed up by a powerful, catchy melody.

If you like what you hear, listen to the full album below on Spotify.

Thursday Throwback: A vs. Monkey Kong

Thursday Throwback is a new feature on Squawkin’ Good Tunes where we dig up a forgotten gem from at least 10 years ago, play it on that week’s edition of Squawkin’ Good Radio, and review the album on squawkingood.com.

This week we go back and revisit one of my favorite bands from high school, A. Yes, their name is just the letter A, making them one of the most impossible bands to google. They were a band from England who were pretty popular in their home country in the early 00’s, and were popular in a few other countries like Germany and Japan. Their sophomore album, A vs. Monkey Kong (also just known as Monkey Kong in the states) was my introduction to the band.

A were another band I discovered on my local alt-rock station WEQX’s new music show Download, and they were a favorite of Download host Alex Taylor’s as well. 5 different songs from this album would receive airplay on Download, the first of which “Old Folks” would also go on to be in rotation in EQX’s regular playlist.

 

 

A’s music is best described as pop-punk but they mixed a lot of genres together including punk, metal, Britpop, 60’s pop and whatever else they felt like. Monkey Kong showed just how diverse their songs could be. In addition to their energetic, melodic rockers like “Old Folks”, “Down On the Floor” and “Miles Away”, there are a couple short hardcore punk tracks “Warning” and “Don’t Be Punks”, as well as some weird slower songs like “Hopper Jonnus Fang” and “Jason’s Addiction”.

These days, my personal favorite track off the album is “Here We Go Again (I Love Lake Tahoe)” a song that couldn’t have been written by anyone else and perfectly shows off their sense of humor with lyrics like “Yeah the trees are pretty wide/That’s where Sonny Bono died.”

 

 

While I wouldn’t consider this album a classic, it’s still worth revisiting every few years along with their other three albums: Their more commercially successful followup Hi-Fi Serious, their hard to find debut How Ace Are Buildings, and their final heavier, darker album Teen Dance Ordinance.

Check out their official site for more info on A (it saves you from googling them!) , and listen to Monkey Kong on Spotify below:

https://open.spotify.com/embed/album/2uAtpKzdyY2F0pVEqYp716

Thursday Throwback: Cupcakes

Thursday Throwback is a new feature on Squawkin’ Good Tunes where we dig up a forgotten gem from at least 10 years ago, play it on that week’s edition of Squawkin’ Good Radio, and review the album on squawkingood.com.

Here’s a band I completely forgot even existed until a few weeks ago, after a few listens to current B-52s guitarist Greg Suran’s great instrumental rock album Augmentation. I learned in his bio that he was in a band from Chicago called Cupcakes who released an album on Dreamworks Records in 2000. This sounded like the kind of artist that had to have been played on Download, a Sunday night new music show on my local alt-rock station WEQX that I listened to every week. And sure enough it was, in the form of the album’s second track “Vidiots”. With swirling keyboards, a propulsive beat, and lyrics about the fear of technological advancement, this catchy song is a good example of the music that was bubbling just under the mainstream at the turn of the millennium.

But how is the rest of the album? It’s solid, if a little long. Doesn’t stray far from the themes presented in “Vidiots”, even if none of the other songs are quite as catchy. Cupcakes’ music sounds like an updated version of the theatrical glam-rock of Queen or David Bowie, with a bit of Weezer’s playful power-pop mixed in. One album highlight is “High Speed Cakes in the Hole”, which is a welcome change from the first four songs, bringing in some spacey electronic elements with a sense of dread. Then there’s “Blood Thirsty” which kicks off the second half of the album and is more angry and personal than the other songs. The album loses momentum towards the end, but closes strong with “Intentionally Vague” which showcases Greg Suran’s guitar work and is the closest link between Cupcakes and his new album Augmentations. This song sounds quite a bit like Muse, who had released a couple albums at this point but were nowhere near the popularity they would achieve in the mid-00’s. And who knows? If Cupcakes had stayed together and put out more albums they might have had a similar career arc.

Check out their single, “Vidiots”, above and if you like it, take a listen to the full album below on Spotify.