We’re back to (somewhat) regular programming on this month’s Local Outsider, with us playing catch-up to more acts that we’ve been meaning to feature on the column. And we have to, because next month is the last column (of the year) and we’ll unveil the results of our months-long hunt for the contents of the Philippine indie care package we’re giving to our friend in Kuala Lumpur. (You might have a good idea what’s in it if you’ve been following us on Twitter, or if you’re one of the bands involved.) So, well, on to the tunes – and we begin with a band whose name reminds me of that one time in Bangkok when I had nothing to watch but Boomerang, and I lamented why those classic cartoons are no longer on the Cartoon Network.
“Beep Beep Love” by Gruppo Sportivo | I have a feeling my Belgian radio phase is winding down, but not before a forgotten gem falling through its cracks and me catching it. Well, this song is in English, and it is sung by Dutch people, and it’s from the 1970s, although it didn’t sound like it when I heard it over the weekend. (This is a live video – the only one I could find on its proper speed.) Gruppo Sportivo was already an aberration by the time they released their debut album, Ten Mistakes, in 1977 – it was, after all, the height of the punk revolution in the United Kingdom, and against the likes of the Sex Pistols they were definitely pop. But there’s a streak of ska in this, their biggest hit, which managed to cross the channel, and later the Atlantic. I guess that’s subversion for you. [NB]
“Very Very Very” by I.O.I | Shalla took a belated interest in Produce 101, that massive Korean survival show at the beginning of the year that whittled down 101 female trainees from multiple agencies into the 11-member year-long project group I.O.I. We’re actually still a bunch of episodes behind, as if that would ruin the suspense of the ending for us. I’ve been more interested than usual in their latest release, Miss Me?, solely because it’s their final release before they all go their separate ways. I wasn’t a fan of Chrysalis, which was too heavy. Their new EP’s title track, “Very Very Very”, initially struck me as a Twice cast-off (even if Park Jin-young has never written for his newest star group). But then I realize it’s because the first person I heard if Jeon So-mi, I.O.I’s center – who barely lost a shot at joining Twice (it was another reality show) and arguably shot up Produce 101 because of that background. She sounds very, well, Twice: a sharp vocal. In the few episodes I’ve seen, I realize I’m more partial towards Kim Se-jeong. Listen to the second voice on the song. That changes this whole thing from a Twice derivative to Stellar’s Sting period. Why she’s stuck with the extremely saccharine Gugudan, I will never understand. [NB]
“Worms” by the Nick Valentini Collective | “Fusion” can be such a tricky adjective to deal with. What exactly are you on to? Will this even make sense to you? Sometimes it’s all a matter of timing. I listen to the songs before reading the PR copy presented to me. I enjoyed this song, and then I found out this Los Angeles band calls itself “fusion”, at least on their Facebook page. The Nick Valentini Collective says it’s merging indie rock, jazz, and psychedelic soul. I get here a pretty irresistible sound. “Worms” is the first track off their debut EP, No Time for Today, which should drop early next month. I like how complex yet easy this is; some things will play with your head, while the melody – a jumpy piece that later settles down into a pretty cathartic final act – eases you into a story of confusion and self-determination. A good first start. [NB] (Have things I should hear? Drop me a line here.)
Well, you don’t expect a revolution from the Kings of Leon anymore. You don’t expect them to make a left turn now, not when they’ve cemented their status as a crowd pleaser at festivals. I came in expecting nothing, at least nothing “life-changing”, with their latest record Walls (it apparently stands for We Are Like Love Songs – nice try at being obscure, guys). Well, that held true, but at least they felt comfortable. It’s like they just settled back into a groove and decided to not try hard, to just focus on the tunes. It feels relaxed. I hear a whistle somewhere, even. It feels comfortable. It feels comfy. It feels cozy. It’s not memorable, but it’s not offensive either. It does nothing much, depending on what you’re doing. Me, I was having an anxiety attack. This album’s final stretch – it gets really settled at the end – may have done the trick. Or not. I forgot already. [NB] | 3/5