Shelleyan Orphan

As some of you know, I spent the first half of the ’90s living in Provo, Utah. I worked at two CD stores during that time and it’s quite possible that I sold more CDs by The Sundays than any other band. Perhaps there was a common misinterpretation of the Fourth Commandment but Provo couldn’t get enough of The Sundays. Which leads to my story…

There was this guy who came in to the CD store one night and he said, “I love The Sundays. Do they have any other albums out?”

“No,” I said, “but if you like them you might enjoy Shelleyan Orphan. Similar female vocals and even more interesting instrumentation and song structures.”

“Hmm,” he said. “I don’t know. Do they sound just like The Sundays?”

“They’re even better,” I said, handing him a copy of Century Flower (the most Sundays-ish of their three albums). “If you don’t think so, you can return the CD.” Keep in mind, according to store policy I could not return opened merchandise, so this would have meant me buying back as used and paying him the difference. My co-workers warned me, this guy wasn’t going to go for something as adventurous as Shelleyan Orphan. But I was sure he’d not only appreciate my recommendation but tell all his friends about his new find.

Same time the next day, he walks in. “I didn’t like it. It doesn’t sound anything like The Sundays.”

That’s when I realized, to go back to the Bible, I was casting pearls before swine. I wasn’t going to be able to talk him into liking Shelleyan Orphan. So I paid the man from my own pocket and told him he wasn’t getting any more advice from me. “Let me know when the new Sundays album comes out,” he said, as he walked out the door.

Shelleyan Orphan disbanded shortly thereafter, no doubt disheartened that some dork in Utah didn’t think they sounded enough like The Sundays. After 15 years of soul-searching and playing in other bands, Caroline Crawley and Jemaur Tayle have recorded a new Shelleyan Orphan record, We Have Everything We Need, available in October 2008. Please enjoy the bluegrass-inspired single, which I will admit sounds nothing like The Sundays.

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What’s in a name? In the case of Sweden’s Surrounded, it also describes their sound, an intense, brooding, and surprisingly simple brand of indie rock that surrounds and fills and envelopes. The second LP The Nautilus Years, is out in June in the US and is already available in Europe.

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Manhattan’s Lower East Side probably doesn’t smell as good as Manchester’s hipper hipster enclaves — or anywhere else, for that matter — but the sounds coming out of the gentrified tenements these days are enough to make you forget about that whole art-rock-as-next-big-thing debacle. Case in point: Levy, named for its post-modern crooner of a lead singer, paints NYC in an appealing shade of Mancunian gray, waxing chippy to melancholy on relationships that weren’t built to last. As with that one-named icon who helped put Manchester on the map, Levy sounds best when Matt Siskin’s guitar propels the songs into the atmosphere. Put on your iPod and let Levy bounce around inside your head for a while.

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