For seven years, Athens, Georgia’s Japancakes have reliably turned out what, if it were distortion-laden and featured ethereal vocals, would be labeled “shoegazer.” Instead my people call it good ol’ fashioned instrumental country music with the occasional twist. It’s only fitting, then, that they decided to cover the shoegazer classic-of-all-classics — My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless — in its entirety. Pedal steel and cello replace the vocal and guitar melodies. The mood and structure remains very much intact and it’s lovely…just not as fulfilling as the original, or as a regular Japancakes record. Which might be why, as a sort of insurance against cynics like me, they released Giving Machines, an incredible album of originals (plus one Cocteau Twins cover), within a couple weeks of Loveless. As a package, it’s one of the sweeter releases of the year. Double down, I always say.

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It’s been a good two and a half years since I checked in with Sprites and what do you know, they’re on a new label and just popped out a new album, Modern Gameplay, this week. They have a bunch of great songs on their site, so I thought they deserved a new posting. If you’re familiar with Jason’s music you know to expect a sweet, nostalgic take on the Breakfast Club Generation. No change this time around (except for his return to riffing out sweet licks on the keyboard), even when he sings about zombies and the end of the world in his tribute to horror-masters George Romero, Sam Raimi, et al. It’s a twisted take on Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten complete with Korzen’s uncanny ability to write these epic hooks. I’ve listened to that song like thirty times in a row now. Alisa’s ready to put a brick through the computer right about now. Don’t write off Sprites as a band stuck in the past. They’re intimately familiar with contemporary culture. This song, just one example, captures the heartbreak of Generation Blog with deft aplomb.

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I promise this will be the last plug I give a Darla artist this week (gotcha…it’s Saturday!). Manual is Danish prodigy Jonas Munk. At age 22, he’s already got over a dozen releases to his name(s), many of them an epic 10+ minues in length. I always thought it was weird when music critics would use the term “big” to describe a sound. But that’s about the best way I can think of to describe Manual. Big and warm and familiar. In fact, Darla’s press release says: “In Jonas’ world there’s no line between dream pop and stadium rock…” So here I am, lighter held up high.

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Entre Rios

A three-day weekend’s nothing compared to the joy of Darla Records finally getting with the times and converting their fabulous label CD sampler series, Little Darla Has a Treat for You, into a download-only affair (albeit 64kbps…). You may have already read Sean’s Junk Drawer post about Little Darla Has a Download for You but I’m guessing both Clay and I will take the opportunity this week to finally herald some of our fave Darla acts. I’ll start with Entre Rios. Think of them as Argentina’s Everything But the Girl, because Isol just sings and Sebastian just writes. Or don’t think of them as anything, and just get lost in the angelic loveliness of “Claro Que Si” (one of my favorite Spanish phrases to drop into everyday conversation) from Entre Rios’ 2005 album Onda.

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