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"Pop music shouldn't always get a bad rap," says Top Pops!, a recurring selection of indie pop highlights across a selection of styles, updated every month to keep you on your wiggly toes. This month, Gardens & Villa and Dum Dum Girls return, Howard Ivans of GAYNGS and The Rosebuds goes solo, and JMSN, Starlight Girls and The Slims show that they really, really know how to do their own thing.
+++ FULL POST + ALL TOP POPS! COLUMNS + ALL MUSIC COLUMNS Gardens & Villa - Bullet TrainPhotography by Neil Favila

Gardens & Villa - "Bullet Train"

Returning with the introductory single from their February 2014 Secretly Canadian release, Dunes, Southern California's Gardens & Villa seem to be on a brand new tip of exploring death and life in the fast lane. Californian at heart and name-dropping Los Angeles and The Bay Area like rapstars, "Bullet Train" dishes out Prince-like funkiness and manages to one-up the band's previous use of falsetto-laden vocals and flute-playing majesty. My favorite track from the record, "Bullet Train" is just one quick glimpse into an album full of reflections on being and becoming.

After their collaboration on The Belle Game’s first music video proved natural and compelling in narrative, director Kheaven Lewandowski and the band decided to once again work together on the music video for "River", from their debut album, Ritual Tradition Habit. Much less upbeat than the previous track, "River"'s finds its setting moving from Western countrysides into Japanese cityscapes, as it follows a male sex worker – also known as a rent-boy – through neon-lit streets and into a realistically-documented underbelly of the city. The result is both sensual and raw, leaving viewers curious to know more about the subculture. Lewandowski and The Belle Game’s Adam Nanji discuss the formulation and execution of the music video, as well as the social ideas it stirs up, in the bi-lingual English-Japanese Q&A interview below. Japanese translation by Katch, Matt Erik and Yoshiko Sanda 日本語翻訳:三田佳子、キャッチ・マシュー

While the decommissioning of NASA's space program seems to be an outward indicator of a global lack of interest in the great beyond, one can always look to the arts to realize that the human fascination in space and sci-fi are as strong as they've ever been, if not stronger. This is perhaps most obvious in film: Star Wars and Star Trek are constantly enjoying modern revisions; Gravity recently portrayed space in remarkable new ways; 2001: Space Odyssey is still eternally being cited as influential; the list goes on. In the music world, space's ability to stir the imagination manifests in less obvious ways. Lyrics and band names may pay homage to the stars above, but it is often the wordless feeling between dramatic instrumental music and the final frontier that leads to the most recognizable connection. A recent collaboration between New York's Infinity Shred and director Dean Marcial of the Brooklyn studio Calavera builds off of their mutual interest in the work of Carl Sagan and space, in general. Marcial's 2010 short film, Darkmatter, comprises the grainy first portion of the video and provides its foundation. As the narrative continues, the film's astronauts pass through multiple dimensions, and Marcial uses increasing fidelity and morphing aspect ratios to subtly drive this concept home. The effect of pairing instrumental spaciness with literal images of spaces brings the entire audio-visual experience up to new heights. As the release of films like Gravity lead the world to question whether a film might save NASA, you have to wonder what our fascination will lead us to; for media, that aggregate of collective imaginations, seems to prove that we will never fail to be stirred by space's mysteries. In this dual interview between Infinity Shred's synth master Damon Hardjowirogo and director Dean Marcial, the two sound off on the process behind this music video, the overarching themes, and the scale of it all.

"Pop music shouldn't always get a bad rap," says Top Pops!, a recurring selection of indie pop highlights across a selection of styles, updated every month to keep you on your dancing toes. This month, the delightfully mysterious Connan Mockasin presents new tracks alongside soulful female musicians Tei Shi and My Midnight Heart, while Belgian Fog, Widowspeak, and Jungle. offer up more.
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Connan Mockasin

If you know what's good for the inner reaches of your unknown mind, get privy to to the music of indie pop's mysterious Connan Mockasin. His upcoming LP, Caramel, is an 11-track record of his spin on lo-fi, almost Ariel Pink-esque bedroom pop -- but Mockasin's spin is always a bit of a strange one. In his singularly cryptic way, he has described the new album's premise, saying, "It starts with the dolphin leaving, and the boss who is so in with love with the dolphin is sad, and then it kicks into the new album, and he is happier. But there’s a car race and a crash." Those of you who have heard his last record, Forever Dolphin Love, will understand the reference. Those of you who haven't... GET ON IT; he made it because his mother told him to. True fact. My interview with him will be published shortly -- but in the meantime, enjoy these two tracks or stream the entire record, out November 5th on Mexican Summer! Photography by Jen Carey

Spectral Hypnosis is a recurring series, featuring mesmerizing songs for one to lose sense of time and space, mind and body. This time: favorite new electronic meanderings from Rival Consoles and Peter Broderick, the consistent and darkly charming universe of ERAAS, the POLIÇA / GAYNGS member side-project Marijuana Deathsquads, and more from Tati Ana and Applescal & Ryan Davis.
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Rival Consoles & Peter Broderick - "Soul"

Rival Consoles' synthy video game percolations meet with the expressive vocals of Portland's Peter Broderick on "Soul", a hypnotic adventure of a track. Taking the isolated vocal foundation from "Proposed Solution to the Mystery of the Soul" off Broderick's 2012 record, These Walls of Mine, this "remix" transforms the minimal, percussive ricochets of the original into its own busy, expressive undulations. Occupying a towering and dynamic sonic space, this track is one of my favorites of the year, and at once makes me want to hear more from Rival Consoles and Peter Broderick -- which is a rare feat for remix tracks, which often retain very little charm from their original inspirations. This track comes from the London producer's EP Odyssey, which you can stream below in its entirety. It is all good, and it's available now on Erased Tapes. Peter Broderick has also just reissued Float 2013, a lovely rework of his modern classical record from 2008, Float. Stream it here.

This audio-visual collaboration between Portland-based avant-garde metal outfit, The Body, and NYC mixed media artist Alexander Barton has been a long time coming, a homage to an enduring friendship. Combining their mutual shared interest in intensity, abstraction, and religious themes, the music video for "To Attempt Oneness" pits The Body's guttural, distorted screams and noisy, rumbling guitars against Barton's bleeding ink painting -- an extension of his earlier performance which used real pig's blood. The final product holds a viewer's fascination with its impressively slow and minimal unfolding, the most entertaining way possible to watch paint dry. To celebrate the very recent release of The Body's Christs, Redeemers on Thrill Jockey Records, we offer you a side-by-side interview with artist Alexander Barton and The Body's drummer Lee Buford, as they speak of music, aesthetics, and the world. The Body are currently on a nation-wide tour; dates at the bottom of this post.

China: a land of nearly 1.5 billion people, 56 recognized ethnic groups, and 292 living languages, spanning over 5,000 kilometers and 34 land divisions. Massive in size, notable in history, and influential in its economic and political maneuvers, China is simultaneously exciting and terrifying – something of a contradiction to the outside world, much loved and much feared.
中国:一个有着近15亿人口,56个民族,292种仍在使用的语言,跨越5000公里,由34块地域组成的国家。中国不仅地理广阔,也有着丰富璀璨的历史,影响世界的经济及政治力量。中国不仅令人震惊兴奋,也令人担心害怕 – 她似乎是个与外面世界不太相同的国家,令人热爱也令人畏惧。
Yet hidden beneath the gargantuan, State-driven China that is emphasized over-and-over again in news coverage lies an artistic day-to-day that few people see. As in any developing country, China has become a breeding ground for new and often innovative ideas – and included in that are an increasing number of musicians searching for their own identities. Many of them are following and documenting their own creative impulses, thereby bringing some musical change to a society otherwise dominated by mainstream Asian pop.
尽管中国一直以来都以庞然大国,国家统治形象示人,她所蕴含的日渐浓重的艺术氛围与文化发展却往往为人忽略。如许多发展中国家一样,中国正孕育着许多新颖,极具创造力的艺术思想 – 这些思想都来自于那些努力发声,力求为大众所见的艺术家、音乐家们。众多音乐家正跟随记录着他们自己的艺术脉搏,运用着他们的创造力,努力为日渐单一、主流化的亚洲流行音乐市场带来不一样的声音及改变。
English text by Vivian Hua; Chinese translation by Summer Fang
"The world's image of China is that of a faceless factory worker, the tasteless new rich Chinese buying property everywhere, the 1.5 billion black dots in the horizon sucking up resources. It doesn't realize that there are also 1.5 billion potential creative minds in this country as well. I think it will take time to make that true." – Helen Feng of Nova Heart "世界对中国的印象一直以来都是千篇一律,毫无特征的工厂工人,只有金钱却毫无品味的中国买家,以及用力耗尽资源的15亿人口。然而大多数人都没有意识到,这15亿人口也是15亿个潜在创造力。我想这需要时间去使其成真。" - Nova Heart (新星心) 的冯海宁

In this stop-motion animation for Pure Bathing Culture's "Dream The Dare", director Hayley Morris -- along with illustration help from Caleb Wood -- turns what PBC describe as "psychedelic emotional imagery" into psychedelic visual imagery. Full of colors soft and bold, an array of whirling geometric shapes and hand-drawn projections comprise landscapes that are ever-mutating, as a raven flies about in its dreamy world. Below, Pure Bathing Culture and Morris share details about the intention behind this track and video, as well as its mythological inspiration and technical details.

Hayley Morris (Director)

Pure Bathing Culture (Musician)

How did your collaboration first come to form, and throughout the process, how much of an exchange of ideas was there?
Hayley Morris (Director)
Sean Pecknold, who made Pure Bathing Culture's music video for "Ivory Coast", was nice enough to recommend me for the "Dream the Dare" video. I loved the "Ivory Coast" video and song and was really excited to have the opportunity to collaborate with Pure Bathing Culture on this video. I love their music. Dan and Sarah were fantastic to work with. They were drawn to the color palettes I use in my work and the dreamy and somewhat psychedelic imagery from my past videos. They were interested in having me bring this aesthetic into the "Dream the Dare" video. Dan and Sarah also felt that having a hopeful message was very important. From these initial guidelines I formed the idea and developed the style. Once I started production, the band trusted me to do my thing.
Pure Bathing Culture (Musician)
Our friend Sean Pecknold, who is an amazing director and animator as well -- and who directed the video for our song "Ivory Coast" -- shared Hayley's amazing video for the Iron and Wine song "Joy" with us. It's such a beautiful video. We immediately knew that we wanted to work with her. We had one initial conversation with Hayley where we shared a very rough stream of consciousness theme involving the crow, and she completely understood and took it from there. She was communicative about her ideas throughout the process, all of which we loved.

Jerzy Flisak - "Gang Olsena Na Szlaku (The Olsen Gang)" (1976)
Generally brightly-colored and psychedelic in nature, Polish film, theatre, and circus posters from the mid-1940s through the 1980s have played a major role on inspiring modern poster art and graphic design. Supported at the time by the Polish government and arguably transformed into the prime form of art in the nation, Polish posters are known for their ability to hint at deeper meanings and personalities through allusion and metaphor, initially seen only as bold strokes of visual fancy. Their history is a complex and dynamic one worthy of many more words, influenced equally by Communism and politics as the state of the international arts scene of the time. In this comparative interview, we speak with two creative studios -- Eye Sea Posters, based in the United Kingdom and dedicated to poster archiving and reselling, and The Affiche Studio, which is based in the United States and dedicated to poster restoration -- on just what makes Polish posters so compelling.
Jacek Neugebauer - "Gwiazdy Egeru" (1969)
James Dyer of Eye Sea Posters
Eye Sea Posters is a graphic archive and online shop specializing in Polish film, theatre and circus posters from the '60s and '70s. Based in the United Kingdom, they feature a hand-picked collection of artist, including Wiktor Gorka, Waldemar Swierzy, Franciszek Starowieyski, Andrzej Krajewski and Jerzy Flisak.
Jason Leonard of The Affiche Studio
Located in Portland, Oregon, The Affiche Studio is a poster restoration company working with a large range of poster styles and types, well beyond vintage Polish works. Jason Leonard is the studio's owner and Curator of Restoration. An impressive array of before and after samples of their restorations can be seen on their website.