This album is something of a Scenes of a City: Gijón, Spain part 1.5. You see, in the course of finding the EPs I already shared from Gijón, I found various other albums I liked and I imagined it might bear doing a second part to the post. Little did I suspect that there lay much more to Gijón's musical history than I imagined and it may very well take a short series or a much longer post to discuss. This was made apparent to me after an email exchange with Angel Kaplan. He began giving me details of how there was a well-established music scene in the industrial and port city of Gijón and, like some Midwestern cities of the U.S., had disproportionate musical output from the blue collar populace. He gave me numerous examples of what was called the Xixón Sound (which is from the Asturian name for the city and was the name of a record label associated with some of the more famous acts), which he grew up listening to as a young man in the city (also a special thanks to Astor, who gave me Gijón bands to check out as well). However, I will get to more of Gijón/Xixón in the future. Today I'll focus on Angel Kaplan's solo album, Pictures From The Past.
Just a touch of background on Angel Kaplan; he is a native of Gijón, Spain obviously, but does live in the United States these days, at least part of the time. He's played in various bands such as Bubblegum, Doctor Explosion, Peralta and currently is in the influential and longstanding garage rock band, the Cynics. Nonetheless, Pictures From The Past is not a garage album. Rather, it is a fine example of pop music with elements of psychedelic, country and folk. I'll admit, these don't seem like the sort of songs I normally holler about, with the fuzz and low-mixed vocals, but should one do something right I'd hate to deny it proper praise. From the first beachy notes of "Like a Ragged Old Puppet" I was eager to hear more of these tracks. Kaplan's voice is fantastic and he delivers emotional and charming lyrics with impeccable talent. While it's clear he's tremendously influenced by 60s pop music, the songs avoid blatant mimicry. The folksy guitar playing and the sensibly utilized background singers really show how well produced this is. The whole album is a breeze to listen to, ending sooner than I'd like it to each time, and has some particularly sweet highlights in "Hunting Dog" and "Ridiculous Love Song." Goddamn does he ever nail that latter song. This is exactly what I wish pop music sounded like more often, and if it did I might even consider listen to the radio again.
When I found this album I immediately enjoyed it and wanted to share it, yet it wasn't downloadable, free or otherwise, and I couldn't find a way to buy it physically despite it being fully streamable. This is why I wrote the musician, to see if he had a suggestion, and while it seems that Get Hip (the U.S. label for the release) has a few vinyl on hand, it isn't shown on their website, but you can email them. While there were plans to put it out on CD that idea seems to have dematerialized. However, we can only hope that someone will change their mind and put it out somehow: cassette, CD or vinyl re-issue. I'll be the first in line to snag a copy. However, in a boon for us all, he's made the album downloadable at a name your own price basis on bandcamp, so show him some support or at least some enthusiasm and get the album.
To be had here: