Monday, 31 December 2012

My Favourite Albums of 2012 - Part 4

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Midnight Midnight by My Heart Belongs To Cecilia Winter


Midnight Midnight by My Heart Belongs To Cecilia Winter
Released October 5, 2012
Genre Indie Pop
Length 40:01
Label Chop Records
Rating
?????

Another band for whom finding much in the way of useful information or actual album reviews proves to be somewhat beyond the capabilities of Google, My Heart Belongs To Cecilia Winter hail from Zurich, Switzerland and have one of the best band names around (though I've no idea who Cecilia Winter may be).

To date they've put out two albums, 2010’s Our Love Will Cut Through Everything and last year's Midnight Midnight, both on Chop Records. Being a Swiss label, the website is in German, so here's the Google Translate version of their writeup for the bands latest release:
The wait is over. My Heart Belongs to Cecilia Winter is back. The new album is called "midnight midnight" and as the first harbingers's noisy uptempo single "departure and arrival." According to the eleven songs of the band act second compact of getaway cars, twilight, rare clouds constellations, beautiful scar, the 1997 Sex and the impending doomsday.
At the beginning of the recordings was the pressure to succeed: The debut album of the Zurich Trio has been hailed by critics and audiences. Comparison with the debut of Interpol and Death Cab for Cutie have been pulled. What does one do when one is practically overnight from national to international hyped secret hope? "Breathe deep short, tying shoes, back to the studio to continue working," says drummer Kusi Gerber. And they have worked: About a half years, the recordings were stretched out in the Basel Alterna Studios, punctuated by the tours in Germany and abroad.
Now it's here. Eleven songs strong, spanning an arc from the spherical album opener "Airplane window" on anthemic noise-pop songs like "battle scar" or "the wind that moves the clouds" to the MHBTCW-typical, heartbreaking lo-fi ballads "Shadow song" and "isee your house from my window."
New are the people behind the buttons: Mixed Michael Patterson (Trent Reznor, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Ladytron) is in Los Angeles, was responsible for mastering Valgeir Sigurdsson (Björk), Reykjavik. Also new are the many keyboard instruments such as Wurlitzer, harmonium Celestaund. The songs have become more complex, the band's sound louder, the decisive gesture. Adult, perhaps? After the dreamy debut is now the soundtrack to young adult life full of chaos and urgency?
And for something a bit more readable, here's the introductory spiel to an interview The Line of Best Fit did with the band back in August:
From the moment you first take a look at My Heart Belongs to Cecilia Winter, before even listening to the songs, you know you’re in for something exciting, something romantic. I mean, the name of the band hints at love, probably unrequited, kindled for the first time in formative teenage years. Then you see how Thom Luz, Betty Fischer and Kusi Gerber look: it’s Leda and the Swan come to life through Central Saint Martins. It’s dramatic and theatrical and perfectly matches the grandiose yet incredibly intimate music the band makes.
Some comparisons are made to Arcade Fire, but those appear to be wide of the mark and too simplistic, made just because MHBTCW share an interest in costume and unusual instrumentation. There’s a bit of Beach House in there via shimmering, fragile guitar and organ playing, but then there’s also a huge Spector-esque drum sound (no hi-hat, classy), powerful bass, and Luz’s deeply romantic croon (and lyrics) holding everything together.
Read more...

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Home by The Novel Ideas


Home by The Novel Ideas
Released April 26, 2012
Genre Indie Rock
Length 36:36
Label Self Release
Rating
?????

Bandcamp's Best Review by arkarsenal | October 16, 2012
In early 2012, Daniel Radin (one of the masterminds behind electro-indie outfit Magic Man) jumped back into the studio with The Novel Ideas to record their third effort, Home. Hot off the wild success of their Kickstarter campaign, the foursome officially released the album back in April. Needless to say, the investment by the backers was well worth it, as the album stands as one of the most varied, vibrant records of the year.
Having only heard Daniel’s work in Magic Man, Home shines light on a new dimension of his sincere brand of songwriting. Most of the time, the album treads rather lightly, but carries with it an air of anti-pretension, always remaining accessible while also retaining its depth. The magnificent vocal work (both by Dan and many other bandmates) seems effortless in its presentation, ranging from soft and soothing to urgent and concerted all without seeming contrived.
Though the band abides in well-worn indie-rock territory, it by no means fails to present its own meaningful perspective on it. While leaning toward the pop end of things, Home puts the band’s best foot forward, with some strong lyrical and compositional sensibilities. Subtle use of the slide guitar, banjo and a small brass section widens the breadth of the album; helping to fabricate the back-country, rural atmosphere that is so succinctly described in its title.
The album generates a yearning for the familiar. It very accurately transcribes into music the unavoidable homesickness felt in an unknown place. In Home, The Novel Ideas has created a testament to this epiphanic emotion and wrapped it into a digestible nine-track beauty. Their unique blend of fast and slow, upbeat and down, makes for a distinctly memorable listen, reinforcing the notion that this is an album, not a slapped-together group of tracks. And although certain songs might sound similar to each other, the band does a good job of pacing the album.
I look forward to not only more music from the band in the future, but also to the exploring of their back-catalog. From the sounds of it, this just might be the perfect time to jump on The Novel Ideas train. I can’t wait to see what their next stop will be.

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Key by pg.lost


Key by pg.lost
Released May 4, 2012
Genre Post-Rock
Length 54:47
Label Black Star Foundation
Rating
?????

Muzik Dizcovery Review by Eli Kleman | April 18, 2012
Oh pg. lost, the ever forgot child of the post-rock genre; always slipping under the radar with music so unassuming that it is almost painful.  A bad band?  No, not in the least.  A forgettful band?  Yes, most certainly.  You see, pg.lost jumped on that bandwagon that has since taken a toll on the genre.  You know, the twinkly, crescendo lade post-rock that reared its head around ever corner.  The very same bandwagon that allowed reviewers and music fans to attach "RIYL: Explosions in the Sky" and the ilk.  Well, that's pg. lost in a nutshell. But I digress.
Key, the band's latest attempt at relevancy is actually a big, big step in the right direction.  It's still the same band, but tweaked to the point where some ideas truly feel inspired without feeling too inspired.  What stands out more than anything is its focus on drama, rather than contrived attempts at profound musical eruptions.  Builds lack subtlety, but in a way that's even more evocative.  Instead of loopy, twinkly guitars playing softly for four or five minutes, songs like "Terrain" feature groovy, rocking lines that just never let up.  It's fascinating, especially considering how tired the formula of build-explode-repeat has become.
One could divulge into the most minute of details in regards to how well pg.lost sound as a band, but the real focus of Key is songwrting.  And as mentioned above, the boys have come a long way in making interesting pieces to flesh out their album.  The band's third album is devoid of filler--every moment feels vital.  From the heavy, dense passages, to the dynamic bursts of intensity, Key is full of memorable moments that one will want to revisit often.
Okay, okay pg.lost, as a once jaded detractor, I am now listening--listening and sincerely impressed.  Key is as exciting a post-rock album as any other this year.  There is so much to hear that one cannot simply listen once.  This is truly a thoughtfully put together album that fans of the genre need to hear.

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Observator by The Raveonettes


Observator by The Raveonettes
Released September 11, 2012
Genre Indie Rock
Length 31:18
Label Vice Records
Rating
?????

allmusic Review by Tim Sendra
On their 2012 album Observator, the Raveonettes take a step back from the darkly gloomy, intricately produced sound of 2009's Raven in the Grave for something stripped-down and much more intimate. With the help of longtime mentor Richard Gottehrer, the duo of Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo spends a portion of the album taking apart the band's guitar-heavy sound and reassembling it piece by piece, sometimes leaving things out (like the drums in "Young and Cold") and sometimes adding new elements (the hip-hop drum loop on "Curse the Night" or the stately piano in "Observations"). The carefully half-finished-sounding production works to bring out facets of the Raveonettes that are usually easy to overlook, like their often stunning vocal harmonies and the strength of their melodies. The first half of the album is made up of these precisely arranged songs and it provides an interesting sonic departure that only gives more power to the noise pop that makes up the bulk of the second half of Observator. Even those songs have some quirks that the duo's earlier work didn't have, and the noise and fuzz are much more arranged. "You Hit Me (I'm Down)" has a sophisticated yet simple arrangement that sounds like a wonderful combination of their early work and Raven; "Dancing in the Street" frames Wagner's poignant vocals with a misty, twangy haze of guitar; and "The Enemy" has a cheesy drum machine pulse that contrasts nicely with the grey wall of guitars and Foo's open-hearted vocal. The songs that are the most straightforward and traditionally Raveonettes-sounding, like the ultra-hooky "Downtown" and "Till the End," benefit from the off-kilter production and arrangements, too. The whole record has the feel of being quickly recorded yet fully thought-out, and it's one of their best albums to date. From starting out as almost a novelty act, the Raveonettes have grown into a band that constantly surprises listeners and takes chances that almost always pay off, while still retaining a core sound that is unmistakably theirs alone. Plus, as Observator proves again and again, they write really, really good moody pop songs. The record may not be their masterpiece, but it is an important piece of a surprisingly strong career.

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The Light Between Us by Scouting for Girls


The Light Between Us by Scouting for Girls
Released August 31, 2012
Genre Indie Pop
Length duration
Label Epic
Rating
?????

BBC Music Review by John Aizlewood | August 31, 2012
From a name which manages to be both a naff joke and slightly creepy, to leader Roy Stride’s disappointing sideline as a writer for One Direction and Alexandra Burke, not to mention some decidedly ropey lyrics, there’s always seemed something a little too calculating about Scouting for Girls. One suspects their appetite for chart success will always prevail, whatever the costs.
But sometimes it’s necessary to shed cynicism and take a step back. It may be annoying, but shark-eyed ambition isn't a crime, and the Ruislip trio’s eponymous debut of 2007 and its follow-up of 2010, Everybody Wants to Be on TV, were as bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as perky pop music can be. Both overflowed with instantly memorable yet long-lingering pop gems, but, as if Scouting for Girls were desperate not to be seen as lightweight, they were underpinned by a pop-punk musical muscularity.
Naturally, you don’t need to be the unlikely lovechild of Nostradamus and Russell Grant to predict that album number 3 might follow roughly the same course. And so it does, but they’re honing their chiming, piano-pounding art (Without You rumbles like Bruce Hornsby’s The Way It Is) with every release.
With its hint of estuary and its easiness with an anthem, Stride’s voice is ideal for what sounds very much like an album of cheery singles, plus the 80 relatively experimental seconds of The Light Between Us. These über-optimistic, impossible-to-dislike tales take in, yes, shark-eyed ambition (these seem to detail the rise of a certain Ruislip trio), nice-ish girls, and the weather. And if there must be songs about the British summer, they might as well be as sunny as Summertime in the City.
Perhaps the key to Scouting for Girls is how they dig in and how literal they are, so Rains In L.A. has the windswept feel of a Californian freeway; Rocky Balboa is 12 rounds of pummelling melody; and Downtempo is indeed relatively down-tempo, its football chant chorus notwithstanding. There’s no edge, no side, just pop music in excelsis. Sometimes, that’s enough. With Scouting for Girls, it’s more than enough.

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Old World Romance by Sea Wolf


Old World Romance by Sea Wolf
Released September 11, 2012
Genre Indie Rock
Length 37:04
Label Dangerbird Records
Rating
?????

AbsolutePunk Review by justbradley | September 23, 2012
Have you ever listened to a record or a band and thought, “Why haven’t I listened to this sooner?” As a fan of indie-rock, I’m always open to listen to bands I’ve never heard of, and CA outfit Sea Wolf is one of those said bands. I had never listened to this band in my life, but I came across them out of the blue one day a couple weeks ago, when their new album Old World Romance came out. I was not familiar with this band in the slightest, but still decided to check this album out, nonetheless. Well, I was pleasantly surprised, to say the least. I was also wondering why I hadn’t listened to this band much sooner. This record is exactly the kind of indie-rock that I enjoyed. However, I did decide to do a bit of research, and Sea Wolf has been around for about five hours, thanks to creator Alex Brown Church. This is the band’s third full-length record on Dangerbird Records, but the first record I’ve listened to personally. For a band I’ve never listened to before, Sea Wolf is a wonderful band.

The record starts off with “Old Friend,” and immediately, I’m instantly sucked in. An acoustic guitar begins the record, and it’s very soothing. Then Church’s voice comes into my speakers, and it sounds absolutely lovely. He reminds me a lot of the singer of Band Of Horses; he has a very distinct voice that’s quite soothing, and very pleasant to listen to. The song itself really describes how the 37-minute album will play out; soothing, and relaxing acoustic folk/indie. The most interesting thing about this record is that most songs are backed by a drum machine or synth. It really contrasts with the organic acoustic guitar, and the other more organic instruments. It does have a nice balance, and doesn’t hinder the record whatsoever. It’s not overbearing to the point where the synth becomes the focal point. Lyrically, it’s also a nice track, and every song on this record does have very nice lyrics. They essentially tell stories, and it’s absolutely wonderful. The only problem is most of the songs do tend to sound very similar, but that’s not their fault, considering there’s not much you really can do. However, despite that, the record really holds up.
Third track “Priscilla” has a lovely chorus that certainly can get stuck in your head if you’re not careful. It’s one of the catchier tracks on the record. Ironically, the next track “Kasper” is another very catchy track, too; it’s almost like a one-two punch. The drum machine really drives this track, and it certainly works to its advantage. Despite the drum machine and synth being used a lot, it just fits. Next track “Blue Stocking” is a more “folksy” track, which I really do like; it’s a song that’s much slower, and much more organic than a lot of the others. Fifth track “Saint Catherine St.” is another highlight of the record for me, and a lot of the tracks on this record are highlights. There isn’t one song that I genuinely didn’t like. Seventh track “Dear Fellow Traveler” is probably my favorite track on the record, because of the lyrics it has. It really paints a picture in my head, and I love it when lyrics can do that. It’s a very enjoyable track. Next track “Miracle Cure” is another one, too. In fact, one of my favorite things about this record is how the first few songs are so strong, and so great, but so are the last few, too.

Overall, this is a great record, and I stress great. I was so surprised I had never heard of this band before, because I absolutely enjoy them to pieces. As an indie-rock fan, I can’t get enough of this record. Sea Wolf will surely be one of my favorite bands in the next few months, and this will be one of my favorite records of the year.

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Falling by Seapony


Falling by Seapony
Released September 11, 2012
Genre Indie Pop
Length 36:25
Label Hardly Art
Rating
?????

Seems not too many others in music review land are as enamoured of this sophomore album from these Dream Popsters, so here's the spiel from their label:
In just over a year, Seapony have gone from buzzed-about Midwest transplants to reliable dream pop purveyors, with fans from the shores of the Pacific Northwest to the neon-dappled wards of Japan. The September release date for their sophomore LP Falling heralds, appropriately, the onset of fall. It’s an album primed for autumnal enjoyment, handily conjuring the placid atmosphere of a Northwest summer’s twilight days. This is fitting, as the band is entering a new and more ambitious period in their career, with a sharper-than-ever live show and a fanbase that grows by the day.
Formed in 2010, Seapony is bassist Ian Brewer and core songwriting duo—and longtime couple—Jen Weidl (guitars, vocals, lyrics) and Danny Rowland (guitar, lyrics), who met in Ohio in the early 2000s. Their coastal relocation has served them well; their debut LP Go With Me was rife with humbly infectious shoreside ebullience.
Falling sees Weidl and Rowland incorporating some of their live show’s palpable rock energy into Seapony’s patented sun-kissed sound. With guitars engaged in a delicate, complex pa-de-deux, and fuller, less-rigid percussion, Falling is a record of disarming grace. Fans of the economic, winsome lyrics of Go With Me will be pleased to hear similarly relatable poesies set against a richer sonic palette, one that’s been blessed with a vivid and audible warmth from the engineers at Olympia’s renowned Dub Narcotic Studios.
Six seasons have passed since Hardly Art re-released the band’s acclaimed “Dreaming” single, but those intervening months have felt like one long, idyllic summer. This is the trick of their expertly-crafted pop: to still time, to make moments feel everlasting and indelible. Now, at last, the fall is here, and Seapony are here to make it just as unforgettable.

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Animal Joy by Shearwater


Animal Joy by Shearwater
Released February 28, 2012
Genre Indie Rock
Length 43:08
Label Sub Pop
Rating
?????

Blurt Review by Mary Leary | February 14, 2012
"Not everyone's cup of tea" is, for sure, a cliché. A newcomer to Shearwater, I found that to be the case when I looked into the band's previous work. Some listeners have complained about founder/composer Jonathan Meiburg's vocals, which are mildly, occasionally fey, with Celtic folk intonations, and a bit of vibrato in his resolutions. Shearwater's current label, Sub Pop, sports a blurb admitting that some of the band's most expansive previous work could have been labeled "bombastic."
I only know what I'm hearing on Animal Joy. It's stunning.  How so? The tactilely round, almost bell-like guitar tones on "Breaking the Yearlings" sound like something Robert Fripp might do if I still found his work attractive enough to pay attention. The track's blend of metallic percussion and nearly falsetto vocals, along with breath-by-breath pacing, combines the tone and execution of late'70s Prog. Rock (Bowie with Eno; Peter Gabriel circa his first solo album) with a more contemporary savvy and despair. That last sentence may not succeed at explicating the brilliance (the kind that mixes advanced intelligence and sensitivity with intuition) with which "Dread Sovereign" follows "Breaking the Yearlings." It's one of the most arresting progressions I've ever heard.
Animal Life is a cinematic journey that opens doors into a multi-textured; intermittently sublime, parallel universe. Intimate knowledge of classic Prog Rock (including early Genesis and King Crimson), a weakness for Hard Rock and effective Stoner Metal, and time logged with Free and/or Fusion Jazz, along with an openness to sounds that combine or defy these categories, add up to a reviewer who, in its absence, can forget her hunger for mind-feeding sounds. Meiburg, with Kimberly Burke and Thor Harris, has created something capable of feeding the mind, heart, and spirit.
Is it a perfect album? Honestly, Animal Joy is almost too intense to bear. Which might be part of anything that could be called a weakness. When the songwriting doesn't meet the intensity, as with the last track, "Star of the Age," exemplary sonic art can morph into the exhaustively ho-hum. Other than its prolonged intensity (a gift to some listeners; a burden for others), this album is just a few hairs (a couple of tracks and/or segues) short of being a transcendent gem, or masterpiece.
In any case, my entirely selfish advice is for Shearwater and his crew to keep strapping on those wings and flying into the sun.

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Valtari by Sigur Rós


Valtari by Sigur Rós
Released May 23, 2012
Genre Post-Rock
Length 54:31
Label Parlophone
Rating
?????

A.V. Club Review by Scott Plagenhoef | May 29, 2012
After nearly a decade of unhurried, frequently majestic music, Sigur Rós’ 2008 LP Með Suð Í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust found the Icelandic band working in its most traditional and commercial vein to date. Song lengths were primarily under the five-minute mark, and the lead single, “Gobbledigook,” was like a campfire sing-along compared to the complex, patiently unfolding epics of the past. (The album even had a song sung in English.) With a steady stream of detours and side projects in recent years, it seemed like Sigur Rós’ abstract side was going to be farmed out to lower-profile releases from here on out. But with Með’s official follow-up, Valtari, Sigur Rós delivers a nearly percussion-free batch of ambient soundscapes that may frustrate fans of its more direct predecessor, but ranks among the group’s most elegant records.
Dialing back on the melodrama, Valtari feels like an early Sigur Rós record without the once-inevitable crescendos. The throwback feel is no accident: Recording began in 2007, and its earliest roots lie in sessions with a London choir four years earlier. The closest precedent for Valtari is Jónsi & Alex, the modern classical and ambient project co-led by Sigur Rós singer Jónsi that features both choral work and contributions from string quartet Amiina.
The relative restraint on the single “Ekki Múkk” and other more straightforward songs like “Varúð” and “Rembihnútur” is a welcome shift for the group, ditching the bigger-is-better grandiloquence and predictable arcs of Sigur Rós’ recent work. But the trio of fragile instrumental reveries that close the record elevate Valtari into the upper tiers of the Sigur Rós catalog, projecting a sense of calm and confidently treating mood and atmosphere as worthwhile ends rather than stepping stones. It’s a final successful gambit on a record full of them.

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Hits In The Car by Strawberry Whiplash


Hits In The Car by Strawberry Whiplash
Released March 26, 2012
Genre Indie Pop
Length 32:19
Label Matinée Recordings
Rating
?????

Reviews-a-Plenty
We tend to have little truck with "concept" LPs. For our money, most groups find it a difficult enough concept to make an album that's any good, so attempts to render proceedings any more complex are doomed to failure. Having said that, if the band is good enough, the concept might just work: witness Sarandon's set last year, MJ Hibbett’s recent opus and even Rotten Sound's visceral suite, "Cursed". Any road, the concept behind "Hits In The Car" (should you have wondered where we were going with this) is that it charts over 13 tunes the rise, decline and fall of a relationship, and it does so with all the sweetness, intensity and sadness required. Not only does the conceit come off, but as the album progresses it sheds its layers to reveal no end of individually stonking pop songs: in any order, "Hits In The Car" could just as well be a 'greatest hits' as a concept album. While this is Sandra and Laz's first long-player, it's now nearly six years since the duo first seduced our ears with "Boy In The Bubble Car", and four since they catapulted onto the Matinée roster with their rattling "Who's In Your Dreams ?" single ("a happy, gargling stream of revivalist ba-ba-ba's, of gargantuan guitar melodies, of Bubblegum Splash-style thudding drum n' bass"). And from the compact, citrus opener "Do You Crash Here Often ?", which neatly marks an X where Baby Lemonade and the Mary Chain intersect, "Hits In The Car" is a honeyed tangle of sunny jangle, Rickenbacker glory and spry Glaswegian indie-pop zeal epitomised by the singles "Picture Perfect" and "Stop, Look, And Listen" and the zippy harmonies that lift "Looking Out For Summer" to completeness. There's also plenty of Laz's easy way with everyday observation ("everybody's texting / nobody talks") as well as his unshakeable love of the pun: try "Dining Out In Paris And London" for, er, starters. One of us (OK then, me) detected just a twinge of cloying sixtiesness on occasion (I'd cite "What Do They Say About Me?" in this regard), but another thought the same song rang with the bright chimes of early Flatmates. Which just goes to show that one man's meat (whiplash) is another man's (this) poison. There are unexpected stylistic twists, too. So the duet "You Make Me Shine" is not so much Jim Reid / Sister Vanilla, as you might expect, but uncannily recalls Lazy-era Primitives, in the days when both Tracy and PJ took on vocal duties. "Now I Know It's You" is a singularly appetising slab of miasmic two-chord shoegaze, closer to Air Formation than any of Strawberry Whiplash's obvious contemporaries. The two minutes of "It Came To Nothing" flaunt an irresistible punk-pop flavour, all flailing limbs and "Billy's Third". And when we first heard it, we genuinely thought that "Sleepy Head", with its lurching MBV-isms and detuned girl/boy ache, was the undervalued Spraydog. As if all this wasn't enough, you can put a good case for the thoughtful, reflective, end-of-the-affair "First Light Of Dawn" (which even passes the three-minute mark) as being the best song Strawberry Whiplash have ever recorded. So, showing off songwriting nous, dashes of musical variety and an effortlessly-harboured story arc, "Hits In The Car" makes for a truly impressive first album. They've come a long way from "Boy In The Bubble Car", you know: they might have been Isetta then, but they're Isotta-Fraschini now.   --In Love With These Times In Spite Of These Times
Strawberry Whiplash hail from Glasgow, pay homage to Strawberry Switchblade and Meat Whiplash in their name, are Lawrence ‘Laz’ McCluskey’s other band (Bubblegum Lemonade is the other) and have just released their first LP Hits In the Car via Santa Barbara’s Matinee Records. Strawberry Whiplash are probably many other things as well, but those are the facts. Listening to Hits in the Car you quickly realize that they are most definitely many more things as well. For Strawberry Whiplash, McCluskey still writes the songs, but hands over most of the vocal duties to Sandra (no surname given). She has a sweet pop voice that brings to mind Tracy Tracy of Primitives, Sara Cracknell of St. Etienne and the Shangri-Las. Sugar sweet, but a voice only gets you so far. Fortunately she has some great songs to sing. McCluskey seems to have an endless stream of inspiration. Some are classic pop in the vein of the Primitives and Lovelife era Lush, some mine the same Astrud Gilberto vein of pop that Beaumont and Arabesque, did while a few of the songs sound almost shoegazer-ish and one even made me think of the Ramones (I think of the Ramones quite often even when not listening to music). I liked the previous EP’s from Strawberry Whiplash, but they didn’t really allude to how good this record would be. Hits In the Car is a record that upholds the rich Glaswegian indiepop tradition started long ago by Orange Juice, the Pastels, Teenage Fanclub and the Vaselines. Probably 30 years from now, kids will be Tumbling Strawberry Whiplash songs to each other via surgical implants. Why wait for the nostalgia trip? Get in on the ground floor!   --The Finest Kiss
From 2008 onwards, Strawberry Whiplash, who feature Laz from Bubblegum Lemonade, have released three excellent EPs and we have been gnashing at the bit for a full length long player ever since. So is Hits In The Car, a concept album about the rise and subsequent decline and failure of a relationship, worth the wait? Well simply put it's a big 'yes'. Opener "Do You Crash Here Often" sets the tone with its 1960s bubblegum pop sound which fits perfectly alongside Sandra's sublime vocals. Tracks on the album's taster single "Stop, Look & Listen" hinted at the band moving away from those 1960s influenced roots to a more 1980s indie, or dare I say C86, sound. This is more than evidenced by the way Strawberry Whiplash manage to out Primitive the reformed Primitives! Songs such as "You Make Me Shine" and "Looking Out For Summer" have that Pure (pun intended!) 1980s Primitives sound. They are Lovely (alright I will stop it now...) They also get a bit fuzzy along the way too, paying homage to those fine Scottish bands of the past such as early Mary Chain (Laz gets a bit Jim Reid-ish when he sings), The Shop Assistants, The Fizzbombs, Baby Lemonade etc, from whom they derive numerous influences. Check out Now I Know It's You as an example. There is even a bit of shoegaze in the mix too, especially on album closer First Light Of Dawn which sounds a bit al la Lush, transporting me back twenty odd years in time. Hits In The Car is a great example of guitar driven pop with an abundance of catchy tunes that will make you want to hitch a permanent ride with Laz and Sandra. Back to the future? Methinks so!   --Sounds XP
The duo of vocalist Sandra and instrumentalist Laz keep things simple on Strawberry Whiplash's debut album Hits in the Car. Sticking with the near-perfect blend of jangle and fuzz they'd displayed on previous singles and EPs, the album sounds like a well-crafted update on the classic girl pop sound of bands like the Shop Assistants and Heavenly. Using a basic guitar-bass-drums set-up, Laz doesn't reinvent the pop wheel at all; he's better at providing a comfortable bed of sound for Sandra's endlessly sweet vocals. She has a perfectly pitched pop voice that's equally at home delivering both the melancholy and bouncing along happily. The songs on the album are split pretty evenly along those lines, with the uptempo tracks coming off the best. "Picture Perfect" sounds like a single the Darling Buds wish they had written, "What Do They Say About Me" has a nice girl group dreaminess, and "Stop, Look and Listen" has a cute little hook. Though the record is on-the-nose '90s girl pop worship, the duo manage to get a little adventurous and drop some shoegaze into the mix on the hypnotic "Sleepy Head." Hits in the Car won't win too many points for originality, but thanks to the solid songcraft, the pleasant sounds, and most of all, Sandra's vocals, the album is a success.   --All Music Guide
...and the pop hits keep coming from the Matinee label. After a few EPs (Who's in Your Dreams and Picture Perfect as well as the "Stop, Look and Listen" 7"; the title tracks of the latter two are included here) Strawberry Whiplash's debut full-length is finally here. The band is the Scottish duo of Lawrence "Laz" McCluskey and the vocalist known only as Sandra (Laz is also the face behind another Scottish band, Bubblegum Lemonade). 13 songs here of more of that sun-drenched jangle (think early Primal Scream, The Primitives, Heavenly and Jesus & Mary Chain and you're on the right street... hell, you're in the driveway), and while there may not be much sun in Scotland most of the time, this record will brighten up the sky every time it's on. Opener "Do You Crash Here Often?" sets the tone perfectly with the guitars on buzz and Sandra's cooing vocals while the current news of "Everybody's Texting" and the 50's buzz beat of "Now I Know It's You" continue the pop onslaught. They slow it down for the male/female duet of "You Make Me Shine" but then crank things right back up again on the snappy "Looking Out for Summer." Honestly, there's plenty here to dig here and the whole thing breezes by pretty effortlessly, which ultimately shows the strength of Laz's songs. As it says on the inside "Guaranteed to be 100% Autotune free!"   --Blurt Magazine
Okay, no surprise. It’s been foreshadowed. It’s everyone who is anyone's pick of the week. I exhibit no originality in this choice. Oh, btw, one more thing...it’s absolutely an amazing listen. And again. Over, and over. New Release of the Week!   --Indie Pop Saved My Life
If you happen to share a love of bubblegum pop, jangly guitar bands, shoegaze and indie, you're likely to get excited by the same bands as Strawberry Whiplash. On this debut album the Scots have rifled through your record collection, cherry-picked the best bits, discarded the chaff and distilled it all into a handy pocket-sized package. 'Hits The Car' is a thrilling whistle stop joyride through your favourite genres and your most treasured bands, executed in a way that renders the skip button obsolete. It's all very well making records that sound like your heroes, but the general outcome is a watered down version that serves as little more than a reminder of how great the source material was, but not always, and not in this instance. To throw in a few names for comparison you could say that 'Now I Know It's You' lifts its out-of-focus, drifting backing from The Radio Dept., 'You Make Me Shine' is basically a reworking of The Jesus & Mary Chain's 'Sometimes Always' and you won't get to the end of the album without thinking of The Primitives or Lush. You could mention a dozen other indiepop luminaries past and present but the winning formula here is the lack of padding that may be the result of the record's lengthy creation. This sounds like a greatest hits, not a debut. Only a brace of songs break the three-minute mark. There isn't time to get bored and you couldn't if you tried; each song sparkles briefly, fading away just soon enough to leave you wanting more. Strawberry Whiplash's magpie approach to making music seems down to a genuine passion for recreating the sounds they love rather than a lack of ideas. In fact you couldn't possibly claim that this album is entirely bereft of originality, as while the sounds may be borrowed, it's the band's own melodies that are the life-blood of these songs. From The Shangri-Las to Blondie to The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, the combination of classic sounding tunes, glistening-yet-restrained production and the knack of knowing when enough is enough have thrown up some shining examples of pop sensibility combined with a fundamental understanding of what pop music is all about. If any of your record collection has been mentioned above then 'Hits The Car' is an essential purchase.   --The Sound of Confusion
In his justly famous essay The Question Concerning Technology, über-philosopher Martin Heidegger expressed his fear that the colonization of the realm of Being by technology (as techne) meant that everything — from nature to human relationships — would be enframed, transformed into “standing-reserve.” Technology becomes not a tool, but a mode of existence. On “Everybody’s Texting,” Strawberry Whiplash come to a similar conclusion. Despite the trite nature of the sentiment, it’s interesting to hear a retro-pop song discuss texting, signals, and information flows — and this might speak to the increasing inescapability of addiction to devices, to the outsourcing of the mind, to the masturbatory (lol) self-gratification of the screen as social mediator. Nonetheless, listening to Hits In The Car is definitely a (self-) gratifying experience. Strawberry Whiplash announce their attentions in their moniker, begotten from an amalgam of pastoral 80s synthpoppers Strawberry Switchblade and similar-vintage noise poppers Meat Whiplash. (I can’t let this moment go past without expressing my disappointment, shared by other wags, that they didn’t go with “Meat Switchblade.”) Hits In The Car is obviously a loving recreation of the 80s twee pop/noise pop sound, particularly as it came out of Glasgow, from where our contemporary heroes hail. But it’s done extremely well, bringing to fruition the tantalizing promise of EPs Who’s In Your Dreams? and Picture Perfect. (The title track of the second also features on the present album.) For this reviewer’s money, the chief, though oft-blurry, subdivision in the twee arena is that, between clear, ringing jangles, and fuzzy lo-fi, Strawberry Whiplash tend toward the latter. But if they’re era purists, they’re not genre absolutists. That is to say, there’s some blurring around the edges of the template, most notably on “You Make Me Shine” (a duet recalling The Jesus and Mary Chain and Hope Sandoval’s “Sometimes Always”) and “Sleepy Head” (a pleasant slice of Isn’t Anything-era My Bloody Valentine pastiche). The other dividing line that often obtains in this style is more temporal, between the moment of the crush (exciting and nerve-racking, but essentially romantic and hopeful) and the bittersweet, melancholy disappointment of being on the receiving end of a spurning. Although there are some slower moments tempo-wise, Hits In The Car traverses the terrain of the first — so get your cardie on and join me for a bedroom dance! (Not a euphemism in this context.) Heidegger was not a Luddite technophobe; he concluded that, in order to avoid the danger inherent in the modern relationship to technology, humans must recognize the claim being made upon them by this mode of existence. In doing so, they recognize that their Being is not a Being-alone, but always a Being-with; so, with this knowledge in hand, we can stop our subservient “sleepwalking around with our heads to the ground” (“Everybody’s Texting,” again). According to Heidegger, this can be done if we remember to “listen, but not obey.” In the present case, however, I’d turn the equation around: Obey me, and listen to Hits In The Car.   --Tiny Mix Tapes
It’s strange to think that Hits in the Car is truly the debut record for Strawberry Whiplash; seems like I’ve been posting their singles or B-Sides for years now. Regardless, this collection of thirteen great pop tunes is pretty spot-on for a debut, going between infectious indie pop and noisy janglings; its all worth every minute of time you invest, and one can only suspect that you’ll get more back the more you put in. Perhaps one of my favorite attributes of this sort of pop is the simplicity of both the entire construction, from song title to the execution of the track itself, it’s no small feat to pull this off as well as Strawberry Whiplash does. Take, for instance, “Everyone’s Texting,” which might seem like sort an arbitrary song, as we’re aware everyone is definitely texting. But, from the slight jangle in the guitar work, to the steadying drum beat, the song is more than just plain commentary; it’s pristine pop. For me, one of the best things about Hits in the Car is the effortless playfulness that seems to coincide with the group’s work. You can listen to “What Do They Say About Me” and hear that nostalgic swirling guitar, but Sandra’s vocals, purposefully stuttering at points, show both the fun and attention to detail that goes into pop like this. Even smashing hit “Stop Look and Listen” plays with the vocal delivery, which either demonstrates the fun they’re having, or just their reliance on capturing the perfect hook–it all works for me. Even more promising is some of the slight experimentation that comes into play on the album, showing that Strawberry Whiplash have other places they’re willing to go, musically speaking. ”It Came to Nothing” has this great little power-pop swagger to it, as Sandra sings gently atop it all. Or you can listen to the band as they dabble in the noise-rock territory, one of the few songs where Laz takes control of the vocal duties. The other track where he features prominently is “You Make Me Shine,” a song that sounds remarkably like something you’d expect the Magnetic Fields to craft. You’ve got to credit a group that aren’t willing to be pigeon-holed by their own sound, or the masses for that matter. When it boils down to it all, you can easily write about each one of these songs as great singles, and assuredly that’s what the group intended with the titles Hits in the Car. What’s surprising is that they pulled it off, rather successfully. You can listen to Strawberry Whiplash’s new effort bits at a time, or as an entire collection, but no matter what, you’re going to find yourself loving it. It’s simple, it’s poppy, it’s experimental; really, it’s just a gem of a record.   --Austin Town Hall
Scottish duo Strawberry Whiplash has been releasing fun little twee pop singles for the past several years, and now finally a full-length is available through California indie label Matinée Recordings. Entitled Hits In The Car, the album is loaded with light, fizzy late 80s hook-filled jangle pop. Most of it is light, breezy, and fun, but “It Came To Nothing” adds some moody noise and ends up sounding closer to Colleen Green or the Vivian Girls. Great stuff.   --Get Bent
You will hopefully recall the Cats On Fire track from a while ago and today another sugar-coated band from the Matinée label. They are Strawberry Whiplash and for those of you who remember Lush and think they were a better band than they had credit for, well you will like Strawberry Whiplash. The older members of this gathering will also remember The Shangri-Las and they are also clearly an influence. Hailing from Glasgow, Laz McLuskey drives things and records such as Bubblegum Lemonade, releasing a cracking album last year, “Sophomore Release”. Back to Strawberry Whiplash however, and they have released a few singles/EPs over the last four years and now, hot off the presses, is the debut album “Hits In The Car”. British Summertime officially starts today and the attached slice of dream pop should encourage you to look forward to some carefree days in the sun, even if today’s weather suggests otherwise.   --God Is In The TV
After a series of EPs, Strawberry Whiplash finally has its full-length debut out with Hits in the Car. It’s an immediately catchy indie-pop album, strong on melodies, with the right amount of fuzz and reverb texturing things up. Given the bright feel of much of the album, the narrative progression might not be as immediately apparent. The disc tracks the life of a romantic relationship in two-and-a-half-minute nuggets. There’s a emotional drain in the album’s second half, but it’s hidden in sugar like “Stop, Look and Listen”, which seems musically in denial (or at least surprise) at the couple’s inevitable future. If it sounds bleak, keep in mind there are only a couple songs that actually sound bleak. And then you can just skip back to a cut like “You Make Me Shine”, one of the gems of the year.   --Pop Matters
If you take a look back to the glory days of C86 (if a aesthetic so famously and intentionally shambolic can have ‘glory days’), one of its defining characteristics is the consistent lack of LPs—if you stop to think about it, the C86 catalogue is probably 90% EPs and Peel Sessions. It’s a common tale, really, not simply reserved for 80s indiepop (just look at all those now priceless 1960s garage and northern soul recordings, or the Oneders), but it’s long since become a hallmark of the DIY aesthetic. I’m happy to say, however, that it is not a trait that has been passed on to their more recent descendants—a trend most recently defied by Glaswegian pop proponents, Strawberry Whiplash. Over the last few years, Strawberry Whiplash have released a string of picture perfect EPs on Matinée Recordings, most recently the unforgivably catchy Stop, Look and Listen 7” (December 2011). With nearly every recording a sure pop hit (if, in an autotuned universe, it were actually possible for this sort of thing to become an RIAA-approved ‘hit’), it would be entirely possible for Laz and Sandra to hang their hats on the occasional cluster of fuzz pop gems. Instead, much to my delight, they have released their first LP, appropriately titled, Hits In The Car. Hits In The Car is a collection of 13 mostly new tracks that tell the story of a relationship from the initial spark of attraction to the eventual decay and dissolution. I say ‘mostly new’ because, tucked in among a baker’s dozen sparkling fuzz pop gems are some tracks from previous EPs, like the aforementioned ‘Stop, Look and Listen’. They serve, of course, to further the narrative, but hearing the irresistible melody of the once eponymous ‘Picture Perfect’ in a new context also serves as a pleasantly unexpected reminder of just how much you’ve always loved Strawberry Whiplash. Alongside the classic Whiplash are several others destined to assume their rightful place in the cannon. The opening one-two punch of ‘Do You Crash Here Often’ and ‘Everybody’s Texting’ offer the perfect hybrid of late 70s post punk and the shoegaze classics of the late 80s, while the crunchy guitars of ‘You Make Me Shine’ set up what proves to be a glistening duet between Laz and Sandra which includes a short but oh-so-sweet solo guitar bridge. The pivotal point in the album narrative, ‘What Do They Say About Me’, is the sweetest bit of paranoia you’re likely to hear on a pop record, and, like all good forms of doubt and suspicion, it’s infectious. The penultimate track, ‘Sleepy Head’, once again sees multi-instrumentalist Laz McCluskey assume lead vocal responsibilities. It is also, fittingly, a far cry, stylistically, from the vast majority of Strawberry Whiplash tracks, being driving, dissonant, hard-hitting bit of shoegazing and the perfect foil for Sandra’s resolute and oddly soothing closer, ‘First Light Of Dawn’. Strawberry Whiplash could have easily contented themselves with being a phenomenal singles band like so many of the acts from the flash-in-the-pan scene whose torch they bear. And, up to this point, they have been. But with Hits In The Car, the band have proven that they can be—and are—so much more than that. This blog has, in many respects, grown up alongside Strawberry Whiplash, so they will, of course, always have a special place in my heart. But with a band so consistently easy to love, I suppose it was bound to happen.   --The Indie Handbook
Just heard this indiepop duo from Glasgow — which has become a fertile breeding ground for such bands — a couple days ago who recently released their full-length titled Hits In The Car on Matinée last week, and I have to say that I’m completely smitten with them at the moment. The duo comprises of Lawrence ‘Laz’ McCluskey, who’s also in the band Bubblegum Lemonade (we’ve mentioned them before, but my archives are kaput, unfortunately), along with Sandra who does the singin’. While their description pegs them as a noise-pop group, which may be true at times, actually listening to them you’ll realize they are anything but. I mean, look at their name, Strawberry Whiplash! How can you not be anymore twee than that?! Their namesake apparently comes from Scottish bands Strawberry Switchblade (a new wave band from the 80s) and Meat Whiplash (one of the first bands signed to Creation Records). Check out “Now I Know It’s You” with its fuzzed out guitars and understated vocals. While this may be the band at its most subdued, the rest of the record makes up for it, as many of the songs are at times upbeat, infectious and so very jangly. Just as we like it here at TYS.   --The Yellow Stereo
Anyone who has followed the career of Glasgow's Laz (Lawrence) McCluskey knows he is a master guitar pop craftsman. For both his Bubblegum Lemonade project and our current focus, Strawberry Whiplash, he creates hook-filled melodies embellished by the jangle and fuzz of his guitar. And with Strawberry Whiplash, we get the added treat of Sandra's pitch perfect vocal delivery. Building on their foundation of three singles since 2008, Laz and Sandra have just released their first full length album -- Hits in the Car on Matinée Recordings. The album comprises 13 tracks, arranged along the concept of the life of a relationship from the original pickup (the 59 seconds of "Do You Crash Here Often") to the final kiss-off (the touching "First Light of Dawn"). While a concept album is an ambitious task, especially for a debut, the duo are fully up to the challenge. Heard as a concept or as single tracks, you will be charmed and entertained. The songs are concise pop nuggets -- only one exceeds three minutes -- and they echo the influences of The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Shop Assistants, The Primitives and Phil Spector produced girl groups. "Picture Perfect" appears when the subject relationship still is on track. And as things slide further towards breakup, Laz and Sandra hit us with this glorious tumult of fuzzy guitars, reminiscent of their Glasgow forebears The Shop Assistants: "It Came To Nothing." Hits in the Car is the real deal--no poses or pretenses--just expertly crafted and delivered noise pop that exists for the right reason: They like to perform it and we like to hear it. Fortunately, unlike the relationship at the core of the album, you'll be able to listen to the songs over and over.   --When You Motor Away
Laz and Sandra's long-awaited debut album is delivered, after three EPs, in typically cool indie pop fashion. 'Do You Crash Here Often?' is as catchy as the Primitives' 'Crash'. It is an arms in the air indie anthem, very short and sweet and to the point. 'Everybody's Texting' is syrupy sweet, 60's flavoured but with a modern viewpoint of the world we now live in. 'Now I Know It's You' shimmers along like Talulah Gosh covering a Kitchens of Distinction number, while Laz and Sandra's vocals joyfully linger over the top. 'Picture Perfect' is again reminiscent of the Primitives and has a massive Rickenbacker sound. 'You Make Me Shine' is a perfect duet, which sounds like a 21st century 'Sometimes Always' by the Jesus and Mary Chain or better still a jangly Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra. 'Looking Out for Summer' is indie pop as it should be done with sparkling vocals and jangling guitars that let the sun pour right in. 'What Do They Say About Me?' is a jolly number, a song to make you skip around and smile at everyone in a dumb fashion. 'Dining Out in Paris and London' comes over like a jangly version of early Stereolab, while 'Stop, Look and Listen' is a moshing number for indie fans to lose their shyness to, and to grab the girl of their dreams whom they have fancied for forever and pull them up onto the dance floor. 'Another April' in contrast is slow and moody, but soon picks up pace and gets faster. 'It Came to Nothing' is reminiscent of the Shop Assistants with its punky energy, while 'Sleepy Head', sung as a duet, is much more indie then indiepop and darker-toned in texture. 'First Light of Dawn' is as gentle as a Sarah Records number, and brings the record to a surprisingly quiet end. A great record for the summer, if we ever get one.   --Pennyblack Magazine
After three fun singles in four years, Glasgow, Scottish popsters Strawberry Whiplash realize their potential on their debut LP. The Whiplash is visited on the necks of those who followed 1984-1994 UK pop; Hits shows a band with feet planted on the post-Smiths C86-era outbreak, as well as the post-My Bloody Valentine’s dreampop explosion on a few tracks. Inevitably, with a sweet-voiced singer in Sandra, who sings like a mom to a toddler (SW’s bio suggests Astrud Gilberto, and I think of the 1966 duet Gilberto did with her little son covering Lovin’ Spoonful’s ‘You Didn’t Have To Be So Nice’ in general, Sandra sings with a similar, pleasant inflection as the bossa nova star), one thinks of such sunny femme-led groups as The Darling Buds, Primitives, Flatmates, Shop Assistants, Talulah Gosh, and Outskirts (and Lush, Curve, and Cocteau Twins for the shoegaze stuff). And they’re so good at this, the derivative tag matters not. It’s all so lightly fuzzy, puppies and ice cream on the surface, and lyrically more interesting on deeper inspection. For instance, ‘Dining Out In Paris and London’ references a truly remarkable book on starving and inhumanity, George Orwell’s 1933 classic Down and Out in Paris and London, and ‘Everybody’s Texting’ capably laments the lack of human connection all around you, which slavish devotion to insular electronic devices prevent, trading the visceral for the virtual. But mostly you’ll get swept up in Laz’ guitar candy (also in his Bubblegum Lemonade releases) and Sandra’s lulling la-la voice.   --The Big Takeover Magazine
It's been a long time coming but the new Strawberry Whiplash album has finally arrived and I don't mind saying it's probably the best record I've bought this week. It's called "Hits In The Car" and features thirteen tracks of pure pop brilliance.   --Burning World
Thirteen tracks of summery bliss.   --Fuzzbook
Here’s a record I’ve been meaning to write about for a while. It might not feel like it but this is, as a matter of fact, the first full-length record from the Glaswegian duo Strawberry Whiplash. After about six years, three EPs and numerous compilation appearances (“Summershine” being my favourite to this day), it’s high time for Laz to prove that Strawberry Whiplash is more than a side project to Bubblegum Lemonade (as whom he has already released two albums). Hits In The Car does just that, with strong songwriting, just enough humour to not tip into the comedy abyss, and essentially, variation in the material. With clever nods to pop history icons like The Monkees as much as forgotten footnotes like The Velvelettes, Laz is not the kind of person who’s averse to calling a song “Surfin’ USB”. On this record though, it feels like he’s laid off some of the referencing, both literal and sonic (usually JAMC fuzz, Byrds jangle) and just lets the songs shine. It’s still hard not to get a Jim Reid déjà-vu as he sings his parts in the duet “You Make Me Shine” with lead vocalist Sandra. But as much as it reminds me of Reid & Sandoval’s “Sometimes Always”, it’s a timeless feel that has been tapped into way before Lee & Nancy perfected it. There’s something for everyone here, from the simple upbeat “It Came to Nothing”, to languid maj7-heavy “Dining Out In Paris and London”. “Sleepy Head” would probably make even Kevin Shields satisfied. In all, it’s a versatile record with a full sound, combining real drums with drum machine to the effect of a convincing band recording. No real standouts (in a positive sense), but if I had to choose one it’d have to be “Everybody’s Texting” which is cleverly heartbreaking and melodically melancholic. Or perhaps melancholically melodic. Hits In The Car was preceded at the tail end of last year by the excellent 7? EP Stop, Look and Listen, whose title track is also on the album. The 7? is well worth picking up with the same order, for the two excellent b-sides.   --Record Turnover
Summer is near, and so are those small juicy yummy fruits called strawberries. Jangly Scottish duo Strawberry Whiplash know the way to make their hometown proud. Honoring the likes of The Jesus and Mary Chain, Lush and The Shop Assistants, they finally release (highly anticipated) debut album ”Hits In The Car” (Matinée). Dreams and pictures dressed in red.   --Candy Bar
With three singles in the last four years, it’s high time Glaswegian two-piece Strawberry Whiplash finally unleashed their debut LP Hits In The Car. Renowned for their jangly indie pop sound, the duo keeps strong their ’90s throwback vibe, beckoning influences like Mazzy Star and The Jesus And Mary Chain.   --Records Abroad

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