Welcome to Bliss/Aquamarine - alternative, underground and indie music.


Sugarbush Records returns with a new batch of vinyl-only LPs, continuing to secure their reputation as prolific purveyors of high quality melodic music and a strong eye for visual presentation. THE GREEN PAJAMAS are back on Sugarbush with their latest album To the End of the Sea, pressed on very lovely deep sea-blue vinyl to match the title and Susanne Kelly's evocative sea-themed oil painting Juliet which appears on the cover. Band founder Jeff Kelly is joined here by a 6-piece backing band who provide violin, trumpet, cello, piano and flute alongside guitar, synth, Mellotron and drums. The album is sophisticated and cinematic, having the feel of musical theatre. The sea theme reoccurs throughout the lyrics, the whole album telling a story in musical form. Jeff Kelly and Laura Weller's vocals have the feel of roles within a musical play, and the tracks segue into one another like the smooth changes from scene to scene in a well executed theatrical production. When the Ships Go Down combines tense and dark songwriting with vocal distortion, intense psychedelic synths and guitars, and Middle Eastern folk motifs. When Juliet Smiles is folk-tinged janglepop. Ten Million Light Years Away is classic Green Pajamas, that super-melodic psychedelic powerpop style that fans of this band will immediately recognise. Anyone But Me is an ambitious, epic piece blending psychedelic and at times folk-tinged pop with sophisticated orchestration; the piece recalls something from the 1960s in some ways, whilst simultaneously demonstrating the innovative and talented musicianship behind this band.

8x8 are a transatlantic recording project consisting of Lane Steinberg from USA and Alex Khodchenko of Ukraine, who make their music by exchanging each other's recordings over the internet and adding their own contributions. Following their last album Azalea's Room (reviewed earlier this issue), they return to Sugarbush with the new one, Inflorescence, which is out on translucent cream vinyl and packaged in striking floral artwork by Alex Khodchenko. My Summertime High is sunny harmony pop with baroque flourishes. The Essence blends apparent David Bowie influences with an inventive mix of psych, powerpop, and post-punk angularity. After All is Said and Done is mellow pop with a luxurious, dreamlike arrangement. No More Second Chance recalls late 1960s Beatles. Between the Double Curtain is a chilled-out psych instrumental with nice use of Indian percussion. All in all, a classy pop album bringing together vintage influences with creative new ideas.

Up next is Illustrated Bird by THE HANGABOUTS, a duo comprising John Lowry and Gregory Addington. The cheery orange vinyl is a perfect match for the music. Roman Forum is sunny janglepop with luxurious Mellotron orchestration. Love Nothing is bouncy, jaunty pop with some nice use of recorder at the end adding a dreamlike touch. Illustrated Bird is gentle folk-tinged pop. Dr Dragon has more of a 1970s feel, with rock and powerpop aspects. Right On Catherine is hazy psych-pop. I Wonder Why is nicely off-centre pop with ukulele and recorder alongside 60s-ish ba-ba-ba vocal harmonies. A really great album which has much to offer fans of jangly, summery indiepop as well as those coming from a vintage rock, folk or psych background. This band are new to me but I will definitely be keeping an eye out for more from them in future.

A few years ago Sugarbush released TROLLEY's excellent album Things that Shine and Glow. Now Trolley return to the label with their latest album Caught in the Darkness, which is pressed on custard-yellow vinyl and comes packaged in sunny, swirly psychedelic artwork. The songs here are a seamless blend of 60s-ish pop and psych-pop with powerpop bite. Step into the Clear is a fine slice of psych-pop with oomph, featuring chiming guitar, tinkling glockenspiel and vintage keyboards. She Has it All is a super-melodic song that combines meaty powerpop with baroque-psych flourishes. I'll Stand in Line blends punchy powerpop with atmospheric keyboards, swirling vintage organ and an intense psych-rock guitar solo. She Helps Me Celebrate is a great uplifting powerpop track with that classic mix of strong pop melody and punky chug. Losing that Madly in Love With Her Feeling is highly melodic, top quality harmony pop - really superb. Take My Love incorporates a dramatic mix of electronic classical music and experimentation, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that this band are far from being a run of the mill powerpop or retro pop outfit.

Another great batch of releases from a label that continues to be counted amongst my favourites. Visit www.sugarbushrecords.com


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Text Kim Harten, 2017.