Saturday, December 12, 2009

SPAZ's ROCKING STOCKING STUFFERS #5


and Guille Milkyway

Anyone who makes the claim that there aren't any bands making great music these days has NOT been paying attention! From all corners of the globe, there are talented bands creating music that needs to be heard by the masses. Spain's LA CASA AZUL is one of them!

While the lyrics are predominantly in Spanish, it's the melodies that really catch the listener. Led by vocalist, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist (and some say sole band member) Guille Milkyway, La Casa Azul are a super POP machine made up of musical influences that range from The Beach Boys, Burt Bacharach and Bossa Nova to Kraftwerk, Plastic Bertrand and Vince Clarke (Depeche Mode/Yazoo/Erasure). There's a lot of musical ground covered throughout their albums, but Milkyway manages to create a unique and distinctly original La Casa Azul sound.

As for the band members who appear on the album covers and in the credits, nobody can confirm or deny that they actually exist as official LCA members!

For those of you looking for dark, somber noises will be sorely disappointed. But if you are looking for a cavalcade of joyful, evervescent POP, then La Casa Azul are your new favorite band! To describe their sound in one or two words is impossible.  At this moment, I can think of quite a few descriptions for their music: life-affirming, happy, upbeat, hook-laden, modern, retro, whimsical, sexy, warm, other-worldly, kitschy, sincere, fun and simply magical.  Guille Milkyway and La Casa Azul create music that speaks to the listener on many levels, and is always endearing.  If there was a Disneyland theme park in Spain, then La Casa Azul would be the soundtrack to all of your favorite rides!

If Milkyway had been born 50 years earlier, there's no doubt that he would have been Spain's biggest musical export in the latter part of the '60s, spilling over into the '70s and beyond... and most likely signed to A&M Records alongside The Carpenters, Herb Alpert, Sergio Mendes, et al. There's really something magical about what he and LCA do. It is so timeless that it could have fit into any decade, but it's heart beats to the sound of 'boss' radio when Pop was truly king and the world felt like it was a big, beautiful balloon.

All of the band's releases are available on the glorious ELEFANT RECORDS label, one of the only consistently great labels in the world at the moment!




Originally released in 2000, El Sonido... was La Casa Azul's debut on Elefant. Bubbly and joyous, the album's original eight tracks were reissued in 2006 alongside 13 bonus tracks including early demos, remixes, etc., creating the ultimate introduction to Guille Milkyway's musical universe. Electronics rub shoulders with luscious harmonies, bouncy rhythms, guitars and audio sunshine throughout this pop music fiesta.  While some might find the 'ba ba bas' a little kitsch, they are just part of LCA's charm. 
While some of the songs are featured here in two different versions, there's still plenty of great tracks to explore.





Originally release in 2003. From the opening track, "En Noches Como La De Hoy", Tan Simple Con El Amor proves that their debut was no fluke: Milkyway and La Casa Azul are Pop perfection with all the fixings. While not too different from their debut, the album is a definite leap forward.  Downplaying, but not disposing of, the dance beat, Tan Simple Con El Amor is a delicious platter filled with more wonderful melodies, instrumental hooks and heavenly harmonies. Those who loved the danceable sound of their debut need not worry because as the album unfolds, LCA aren't afraid to let it out for a song or two. In a world that was quickly being over-ruled by cookie-cutter Pop/Punk, Emo, R&B and Hip Hop, Tan Simple Con El Amor was a ray of sunshine filled with bouncy melodies, handclaps and absolute joy... which means it probably confused a lot of people!  But what's wrong with a little happiness in life? 







Originally released in 2007. For the third time in a row, Milkyway and LCA expand upon their tasty and unique sound, offering up yet another slice of perfect ear candy dressed up as an album.  Allowing more electronics back into their sound, Guille doesn't lose sight of what made LCA special in the first place, and there are hooks galore spread over the album's 13 little gems. The album's title track and "La Nueve Yma Sumac" are the album's calling cards (and most popular songs) but there are so many great tracks to choose from on La Revolucion Sexual, it's almost an embarrassment of riches! This third full length is Milkway's most irresistable yet. If you're looking for the perfect soundtrack to the summer, or if you're looking for a little slice of joy in a dreary and weary world, then you've just found it.
Like many music lovers, the lyrics do matter and I'm sure that those of you who understand Spanish will sing along, but for the rest of us, the melodies are so downright lovable that you just can't help but being drawn into Milkyway's ever-evolving world of Pop!

























LA NUEVA YMA SUMAC (WHAT THE REVOLUTION LEFT US)

Originally released in 2009. While not a new album, La Nueva Yma Sumac... is a delightful collection of new versions of tracks from La Revolucion Sexual (with guest vocalists) plus some really sweet little nuggets that are perfect additions to your LCA collection. Francoise Cactus from Stereo Totale weighs in with a German version of "Die Sexualle Revolution". The gorgeous and talented singer/songwriter Yeongene handles the Korean version ang Guille handles the English version himself. Japanese popsters The Aprils perform a wonderful version of "La Nueva Yma Sumac" in their native language. BMX Bandits' Duglas T. Stewart joins Milkyway for a duet of "Bad Boys" (the English language version of "Chicos Malos"). The real treats are "Surf Up & Down", an electronic re-write of Plastic Bertrand's "Ca Plane Pour Moi" and a version of John Paul Young's "Love Is In The Air". Add to that four live tracks and you've got a great addition to your LCA collection and/or a great introduction to the musical world of LCA and Guille Milkyway.


Guille has also just composed a wonderful score to the Spanish motion picture Yo, Tambien.  With sweet, short and lovely piano interludes mixed with great Pop tracks performed by many of the Elefant Records bands (The School, Fitness Forever, Nick Garrie, BMX Bands and others including, of course, La Casa Azul). It's really a treat... but did I expect anything less from Milkyway and Elefant?

Amor, por favor
Stephen SPAZ Schnee

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