SOMETHING UNREAL: THE BEST OF EX NORWEGIAN
I Don’t Hear A Single
It seems only right that after a decade of threatening to be the breakthrough band that got the reward that they deserve, should be a pause point to look at that decade. Indeed, it’s been one hell of a ride for the Miami Beach trio.
The two most relevant points in that decade are noted. This Best Of bears the title of the first song they had which went on to be the Radio smash, Something Unreal. The promotion for this album is led by Making Deals, the stand out song from their last album, a song that was probably 2018’s finest and said everything about how poptastic they are.
That album, No Sleep, was IDHAS’s Album Of The Year last year and it’s sensational. Anyone buying this starter point, should also buy No Sleep, I still don’t see a better Guitar Pop album around. But it’s not just about those two singles.
Ex Norwegian have this wonderful knack of appealing to all genres. Nine albums in, they are as beloved on the Power Pop scene as they are amongst the Psych Pop of the Fruits de Mer mass following. They achieve this by being themselves, not by pandering to the latest craze or throwing masses of stuff at the wall, hoping something will stick.
The band are also aided by being able to switch between lead vocals from Roger Houdaille and Michelle Grand. The first half dozen songs here reveal a lot of what is ace about the trio. Both of the previously mentioned songs are there, plus the Psych of Life and the magnificent Sudeki Lover.
But there is far more here to thrill than just those six songs. The UK New Wave of Iniative Rock. the Blondie Pop of Fresh Pit, the Doo Wop of All Hips No Waists and the 70’s Jigsaw Pop Rock of Aventura are all splendid. Love Is is wonderful Folk Pop courtesy of Michelle’s Vocal, a song that ends the collection, but shouldn’t get lost in all the greatness that precedes it.
All 25 songs here are top notch and a testament to what a great decade it has been for the band. It doesn’t end there though. The CD Version has a bonus disc that is also available with the download. Amongst these 23 songs, you hear Ex Norwegian stretch out even more.There’s also a cracking new version of Something Unreal.
This bonus disc also shows why the band have such an outstanding Live Reputation. I’ve spoken quite a bit about how the Power Pop and Pop Rock brigade ignore the 00’s and particularly the last decade. Well, not so in these quarters. Ex Norwegian, to my ears, are the best band of the last 10 years and can hold their own against anything that’s gone before.
We’ve been Ex Norwegian fans for years now. Driven by the multiple skills and talents of Roger Houdaille, the band is easily one of the most prolific and consistently entertaining underground pop bands ever to emerge from the state of Florida. Those who experience the band’s music are usually fans for life. We’re pleased as punch to let you know that these folks have now released a double ‘best of’ CD featuring a whole slew of tracks from the past ten years. But this is actually much more than a mere ‘best of’ album, as it also features previously unreleased mixes, cover tunes, live recordings, non-LP tracks, and other rarities. We were already aware of the fact that Ex Norwegian has recorded some of the best guitar-driven underground pop on the planet. But hearing this overview makes this fact even more obvious and real. There’s a lot to take in here. Spread across two discs are forty-seven tracks of timeless pop featuring wonderful soaring melodies, groovy guitars, and driving rhythms. In addition to being offered online, the album has also been released as a CD and a vinyl LP. The CD packaging is great. The two discs are housed inside a cool tri-fold digipak sleeve and includes a sixteen page booklet. But music is what it’s all about. And you’ll get more than you ever bargained for with this one. This will serve as the ultimate introduction for those who have yet to experience Ex Norwegian. And because of all the additional tracks, it’s also a must have for those who are already fans of the band. So many killer songs here, but a few of our favorites include “Something Unreal,” “Original Copy,” “Unstoppable,” “Not A Mouse,” “Tell Me Your Plans,” “I Like the Way,” “Signed Curtain,” “Smashing Time,” “I’m a Fighter, Not a Lover,” “Funny Zipper,” and “Riot of Love.” Just like all previous Ex Norwegian releases, this one is highly recommended for anyone into the best of the best in the world of underground pop. Highly recommended. Top pick.
I Don’t Hear A Single
It’s a never ending sense of frustration at IDHAS HQ that Ex Norwegian are not massive. If this were the Seventies, the momentum would have achieved this, but in these Spotify, one track wonder, move on to the next, albums have a hard time.
Roger Houdaille’s Miami Beach trio deserve that success. This is album Number 9 in just over a decade and each has the happy knack of giving you what you want yet taking the music on a pace. No Sleep is great Pop Rock, albums that get made less and get heard in the mainstream even lesser.
Having two vocalists helps the variation. The decisions on who sings what are spot on. The sweet tones of Michelle Grand work beautifully on the likes of Marquee 1970’s, a real stomp that you will have heard on the IDHAS Radio Show. Separately, Houdaille and Grand’s vocals excel, it’s also great to hear a joint vocal on the left field, Block.
The duo even get to sound all Deacon Blue on Triggered Weeknd. Grand’s vocal on Maybe Next Time is Kirsty MacColl like. The whole album is a sort of best of 75 – 85 music wise, the new wave pace of Right Again is spot on.
Fernando Perdomo never seems to sleep and here he adds Guitar to Good Intentions and Making Deals. The former is a real Glam sing along, whilst the latter is the album’s centrepiece. Making Deals is a real ear worm, all street attitude, it’ll certainly be up there in my 2018 Review Of The Year.
The Perdomo solo on Making Deals is worth the admission alone. I can’t emphasise how good the song is, so much so that it’s the lead song embedded here. In a just world, people would be queuing outside record shops to buy No Sleep. You’ll just have to go second best and buy it where you can.
Ahhhhhhhhh….No Sleep is classic Ex Norwegian. If you don’t know what that means, you have some catching up to do. Regular readers know we’ve been big fans of this band for years. For anyone who’d like to know why, this album would provide an excellent frame of reference. This Miami, Florida-based group has been creating incredible pop music for several years. Over time word has spread and they now have fans all over the world. Ex Norwegian is the trio of Roger Houdaille, Michelle Grand, and Giuseppe Rodriguez. Other cool folks appearing on these tracks include Adam Rhodes, Fernando Perdomo, Derek Cintron, Greg Byers, and W.D. Miller. If you like pop songs that stick in your head like glue and never go away, you’re gonna totally dig this album. No Sleep features eleven super smart guitar-driven pop tracks that are sinfully addictive. A few of the band’s more recent albums have featured a more raw basic sound. On Sleep, they return to the more produced and polished sound they had when they were just getting started. The end result…will blow your mind. Houdaille’s ability to consistently write insanely good songs is impressive and amazing. Unlike other folks whose songwriting skills seem to fizzle out over time, this guy’s compositional talents just seem to get better. Michelle, Giuseppe, and Roger play with the kind of precise intensity that propels their tunes to another level. You can tell by the sound of these tracks that these folks enjoy playing music together…the positive vibes come through loud and clear. The album was produced by Roger and mixed by Zach Ziskin. Uplifting in so many ways, these classic songs will most definitely stand the test of time. This is easily one of the best albums yet by this continually engaging underground pop band. It’s also bound to be one of the best pop albums of 2018. Kickass cuts include “Good Intentions,” “Team No Sleep,” “Triggered Weekend,” “Alt-Cool,” and “Seldom Sober.” Highly recommended. TOP PICK.
This is actually the ninth album by the Miami based three-piece. Classic powerpop is their stock in a trade with a penchant for the odd quirky lyric. The sun-kissed, turbo-charged melodies of ‘Good Intentions’ and ‘Not A Ghost’ recall the likes of Jason Falkner’s solo albums.
The laidback ‘Triggered Weeknd’ has that hazy 70’s AM vibe that Fountains of Wayne did so well. Harmonies rain down and the heavenly vocals of Michelle Grand add a distinctive flavour missing from most bands in this typically male-dominated genre.
The less subtle ‘Making Deals’ has one foot on the monitor as heavy drums bolster a glam terrace chant lyric. A similar trick is tried out on the out and out rocky ‘Marquee 1970s’. That track though marks the point where the rest of the album seems to lose its way, sadly becoming a bit stale in comparison to the more enticing first half.
Aiding & Abetting
As I listened to this latest album from Ex Norwegian, I kept getting the feeling that I’d heard it before. And then, suddenly, I realized that I’d listened to the whole album. And I understood.
This is Ex Norwegian’s ninth album. If you aren’t already a fan of the band’s kitchen-sink approach to power pop (one that is highly reminiscent of the New Pornographers, with guest shouters and all), there’s nothing here that will change your mind. If, somehow, you haven’t ever come across the band and think you might be interested–trust me, you will be.
The songcraft is as tight as ever, and the raucous production sound loosens things up to a wonderfully-approachable level. This album was released the day after summer started, and that’s just about perfect. Few bands scream summer like Ex Norwegian.
So, yes, nothing new to see here. Just power pop brilliance, shimmering even as summer turns into a molten mess. Drop this in and ease into your own fade.
Broken Hearted Boy
Even while keeping a steady pace of recording a new album each year, Ex Norwegian shows no signs of losing its creative edge. No Sleep, which dropped a few months back, is the Miami-based band’s latest collection of cryptic lyrics set to catchy melodies. And it’s great to hear singer-guitarist Roger Houdaille and singer Michelle Grand joining forces again after Grand was absent throughout much of 2017’s Tekstet (Subtitled).
That Houdaille/Grand tandem is particularly impressive on high energy numbers like “Good Intentions” and “Right Again,” but also works on the more elegant “Seldom Sober,” which is augmented with a string arrangement. They also take turns being the sole lead vocalist; with Houdaille grabbing the spotlight on “Making Deals,” and Grand driving the garage rock fun of “Marquee 1970s.” Grand also brings an engaging carefree attitude to the breezy indie rock of “So Maybe Next Time.”
It’s hard to get a consistent message via Houdaille’s edgy lyrics. “Triggered Weeknd” opens with the inspired mantra of “Feel good deep inside, feel good worldwide, feel good to be alive” but later talks about “corrupting musical minds.” Then there’s this couplet from the acoustic-based “Alt Cool”: “traffic flowing into march/Clear blue sky seeking animal starch.” It might not make sense, but like all the songs on this latest effort from Ex Norwegian, the well crafted performances make it work.
Six albums [sic] into a career that’s brought them many admirers, and an underground hit in the shape of 2010’s Sketch, Miami-based Anglophiles Ex Norwegian (who, incidentally flinched their name from the Pythons’ parrot sketch) are still, frustratingly, underperforming. When they hit the spot – which they do frequently – they produce joyous pop laced with power chords and vocals that really hit the spot for anyone who’s into The Kinks, Beatles or Beach Boys.
Written entirely by band founder and leader Roger Houdaille, Tekstet (which means subtitled in Norwegian) starts inspiringly enough with a clutch of spirited indie-prog stompers. Imagine Sonic Youth colliding with early Pink Floyd and you’ll be half way there. But half way through the album becomes bogged down in dreary fillers and rock cliches. Close but no Cuban cigar…for now at least.
Ex Norwegian is one of the most prolific Florida-based pop bands of the twenty-first century. But even more importantly, they’re one of the most consistent in terms of quality and credibility. Although there are some continuous threads in the band’s music, occasionally a release seems to come from a slightly different universe. Tekstet has a different overall sound and feel from previous Ex Norwegian albums. The main difference is that these tracks have a great deal in common with garage rock bands from the past and present (lots of reverb in the mix this time around). And true to the claim of the press release, the tracks are “…topped with a powerfully experimental production.” But the songs still have those inviting catchy elements that Ex Norwegian fans have come to know and love. Ten groovy tracks that clock in at just over half an hour. This is a band that never disappoints. If you like artists on the Happy Happy Birthday To Me label, this album should appeal to you. Killer tracks include “Wasteland,” “Dead Romance,” and “It’s All Panda.” Top pick.
Broken Hearted Boy
The Miami-based Ex Norwegian shakes things up a bit on Tekstet (Subtitled), its third album in as many years, and eighth overall. The male-female vocal dynamic of singer-guitarist Roger Houdaille and singer Michelle Grand is mostly absent and some tracks have deliberately off-kilter arrangements. Still, Grand makes the most of her three songs and Houdaille layers his distinctive vocals within catchy arrangements that adroitly tap into power pop and various shades of 1960s rock. “Any Old Time,” with its galloping bass and cartoon voices that drift in and out, is one of Houdaille’s more appealing adventures on this effort. “F’Nostalgia” starts slowly before evolving into a delirious swirl of keyboards, and “Whose Motion” also conjures psychedelic elements. “Gemmas” has a driving beat and an infectious melody that evokes Let’s Active and The dB’s. Grand sings lead on Tekstet’s most energetic tracks, including the bass guitar propelled and defiant “Fearless.” She helps give “June Flakes” a buoyant, 1960s girl group sound that recalls the departed and still missed band The Like, and is also impressive with the catchy retro pop of “O Simone.” It would be nice to find Grand and Houdaille singing as a team again on the next (2018?) release, but in the meantime, Tekstet is an eccentric but consistently enjoyable effort.
The seventh full-length release from Florida’s Ex Norwegian reminds us very much of early recordings from the band. On this album, the band is the duo of Roger Houdaille and Michelle Grand along with assistance from co-producer Emmanuel Canete (The Velocity Gospel) and drummer Fernando Perdomo (who is also a solo recording artist). We absolutely love the more stripped down sound of these tunes. After all, when the songs are this good…that’s really all that matters. Thinking back about it, there’s a similarity that has probably always existed…but we never put our thumb on it until now. In many ways, there’s a striking audio resemblance between Ex Norwegian and Mitch Easter (Let’s Active). And the similarities are particularly evident on Glazer/Hazerr. We love the fact that the tracks on this album are driven mainly by electric guitars. The simple and direct overall sound works wonderfully here, as it makes it all the more obvious how cool the vocals and lyrics are. Ten captivating tracks that will stand up to hundreds of repeated spins. Our initial favorites include “Life,” “Ice,” “Sensation,” “Modern Art Brigade,” “Aruba Morn,” and “Song of Many.” Recommended. TOP PICK.
Enlisting Velocity Pop’s [sic] Emmanuel Canete as co-producer, and Fernando Perdomo, of Ken Sharp / Jakob Dylan, on drums, Ex Norwegian exchange their customary power pop sheen for a brash garage-psych vibe. Raw, and imbued with the edgy spirit of the Sonics and The Standells, this beautifully crafted fuzz fest is marked by a gritty sound and sneering harmonies. Later psych overtones are also present as distant, wobbling mellotrons add an occasional, shimmering backdrop.
Observant internet diggers will recognize some of the compositions from earlier version, recorded by band leader Roger Houdaille for his 2015 Plastic Macca side project album, Sensation.
In many ways a love letter to classic rock’n’roll based pop, this collection captures the essentially timeless quality of the well-crafter song without lapsing into pastiche. Familiar themes emerge, such as on ‘Reverse’, with its take on frustrating love, and are given new and surprising treatments.
Broken Hearted Toy
About a year ago, Ex Norwegian released Pure Gold, a masterpiece jumble of originals and cover versions that tapped into power pop, psychedelia, and indie rock. The Miami-based band’s latest effort Glazer/Hazerr isn’t quite as brilliant as its predecessor, but does succeed using a similarly eclectic blueprint. Singer-guitarist Roger Houdaille sets his unique observations to infectious melodies, and once again crafts some of rock’s most dynamic coed vocals with singer Michelle Grand.
“Father Goose” is a silly fable about birds flying without wings, and “Ice,” another one of Houdaille and Grand’s enticing duets, is a basic but effective garage rock love song. “Life,” which offers some timely advice about overcoming obstacles and disappointments, sports a harder-edged arrangement. “Pocket Dancing” sounds like a show tune, while “Aruba Moon” has a slow, majestic feel reminiscent of 1970s classic rock.
“Modern Art Brigade” delivers social satire in a very Kinks “Dedicated Follower Of Fashion” way and is backed by a fun, loping rhythm section. “Quite Contrary” follows a similar path but is more overtly psychedelic. There seems to be a definite Rubber Soul era Beatles influence on “Reverse,” a tale of unrequited love, particularly on the psychedelic guitar playing. On “Song Of Many,” Ex Norwegian creates a pure power gem, using a mix of acoustic and electric guitars, intertwined vocals, and an engaging melody.
Roger Houdaille and Lucia Perez [sic] are back with a decidedly more fuzzed out garage effort on Glazer/Hazerr. The anthemic “Life” is something that would’ve fit nicely on an Outrageous Cherry LP (I still miss the Rainbow Quartz label.) The reverb drenched “Reverse” is another highlight of this 60’s influenced album. Houdaille’s echoing vocals harken back to the classic era of melodic song writing on the simple riff driven gems “Sensation” and “Modern Art Brigade.” Perez [sic] gives a spirited vocal solo on “Father Goose” that sounds like a lost Jefferson Airplane single. While it doesn’t exactly break new ground, this is a good album and will fit nicely in your retro pop collection.
Florida quartet Ex Norwegian’s only brush with this writer was via their 2012 recording of The Mirage’s Brit-psych monster, ‘Ebenezer Beaver’, so to discover that Pure Gold is their sixth album is something of a surprise.
Their affiliation with Fruits de Mer Records is writ large in the six covers that dominate this record, with the opening ‘It’s A Game’ (originally by String Driven Thing but a hit for The Bay City Rollers in 1977) demonstrating a firm grasp of crunchy, guitar-led power pop and male-female vocal interplay. That they have been issued before matters little.
A rockin’ take on Tintern Abbey’s ‘Beeside’ confirms these psychedelic credentials beyond doubt, while Paul McCartney’s ’83 album track, ‘Keep Under Cover’, and Jimmy Campbell’s uber-obscure ‘Close My Case And Move On’ demonstrate both impeccable taste and inspired eclecticism.
The group originals walk a path between Blondie-esque indie-rock and retro-slacker guitar slinging but a tasty chorus or nagging hook is never too far away.
Not perfect, but an interesting and diverse set nonetheless.
We should probably begin here by saying that this album features the 2012 line-up of Ex Norwegian which was/is Roger Houdaille (vocals, guitar), Michelle Grand (vocals, percussion), Giuseppe Rodriguez (vocals, bass), and Lucas Queiroz (vocals, guitar). And playing drums on the album is guitarist Fernando Perdomo (who is also a solo artist). Unlike previous releases Pure Gold is, for the most part, a cover album featuring interpretations of songs recorded by The Shirts, Melanie, String Driven Thing, Bay City Rollers and more. That said, this is a different sort of cover album because the band opted to choose tunes that aren’t so well known. So instead of hearing tunes you’ve heard way too many times, you hear versions of songs you’ve likely never heard before at all…combined with some brand new Ex Norwegian songs that you’ve definitely never heard before. We’ve been big fans of this band for years. We’re pleased to report that this is (not surprisingly) another direct hit. We love hearing this line-up playing together again…everyone seems to naturally fall into a groove together and the music is pure magic. We received a CD-R but, at least for the time being, Pure Gold is being offered exclusively as a download on Bandcamp…so click HERE to get yours now. Another truly great album from a truly great band. Top pick.
Broken Hearted Toy
Singer-guitarist Roger Houdaille formed Ex Norwegian in 2008 and the band has established a loyal following through various incarnations between Miami and New York over the years. Its song “It’s A Game,” originally done by String Driven Thing (but a bigger hit for The Bay City Rollers), was recently released as part of a split single with the European band Permanent Clear Light on Fruits de Mer. That’s a badge of honor for those of us who are well-acquainted with the vinyl-only UK label’s high standards for garage, psychedelic, and prog music.
Having endured various band breakups and even some recent health issues, it’s all the more impressive that Houdaille was able to record the consistently top notch Pure Gold with his current Ex Norwegian lineup of vocalist Michelle Grand, guitarist Lucas Queiroz, bassist Guiseppe Rodriguez, and drummer Fernando Perdomo. The new album is available for pre-order on Bandcamp and will be released on December 11 in special autographed and deluxe bonus disc CD-R editions. All proceeds will go toward helping pay Houdaille’s medical bills.
Ex Norwegian taps into power pop, psychedelic, and indie rock on this melodic collection of originals and deep covers of songs by Paul McCartney, Melanie, The Shirts, and others. The previously mentioned first single “It’s A Game” maintains the quirky charm of the original while establishing the essential role Houdaille and Grand’s harmonies will play on Pure Gold. Their vocal interplay is more adventurous on “Cyclone” and “On The Sidelines,” energetic songs that call to mind bands like Trona, Game Theory, and Let’s Active. “Keep Under Cover” is light and whimsical while the title track features some slinky bass playing from Rodriguez. “Shadow Ships,” fueled by guitarists Houdaille and Queiroz, exudes the power of catching Ex Norwegian in a local club.
The RingMaster Review
There is always a sense of anticipation and indeed excitement when faced with a new release from US band Ex Norwegian, but in approaching their new album Pure Gold, there was a heavier sense of intrigue involved too. It was the first encounter since the serious illness which band founder Roger Houdaille suffered, the proceeds from the album going towards the emergency hospital bills incurred, and brings a collection of re-interpretations of tracks by other artists alongside original compositions from a new line-up to that which created the acclaimed and outstanding Wasted Lines album of 2014. So there was a wondering if the release was merely a filler in the future of the band but fair to say and straight away ears and imagination were alive whilst being immersed in the recognisable but ever unpredictable Ex Norwegian pop/indie rock sound, and the diversity of flavour that breeds to show it was anything but.
The creative union of Houdaille (vocals, guitars, keyboards, percussion), Giuseppe Rodriguez (vocals, bass, moog), Lucas Queiroz (vocals, guitars), Fernando Perdomo (drums, slide guitar), and Michelle Grand (vocals), with occasional guest organ prowess from Chris Price, tempt and grip ears straight away with album opener It’s A Game. A String Driven Thing song arguably made more famous by The Bay City Rollers, it quickly has feet in an eager shuffle and appetite licking lips with its catchy pop rock stroll. Ex Norwegian cast a vibrant energy to the song without losing its folkish charm whilst the great blend of vocals between Houdaille and Grand is almost flirtatious in its persuasion. There is also an Abba-esque hue to the great start to the release, though the fade-out is a touch annoying just to be picky.
Asking Too Much steps forward next and just as easily has attention enthralled with its melodic caresses and infectious persuasion as a healthy scent of Kirsty MacColl like folk pop flavours it. As the first, the song has a simplicity which is as inviting and enjoyable as the nuances and melodic enterprise the band inject into its design, the result another lively excuse to romp; a similar invitation given again by the feisty rock infused Beeside, a Tintern Abbey song. Sultry air and fuzzy breath soaks the song to great effect, whilst its psych rock character becomes increasingly compelling with each passing second and smouldering melody.
Already it is fair to say highlights are the order of the day so far, another provided straight away by the band’s impressive cover of the Melanie song Cyclone. Providing an inflamed melodic roar led by the superb tones of Grand, her harmonic expressive serenading ears as potently as the fiery side to her great voice, the track swiftly gets under the skin. It’s successor, the boisterous and show stealer On The Sidelines, is a match in such invasive potency, it playing like a feisty Martha and the Muffins but creating its own unique personality with every swinging rhythms, melodic temptation, and gripping hook. For us every Ex Norwegian album seems to have one song which especially hits the sweet spot, On The Sidelines that irresistible offering within Pure Gold.
A new wave essence fuels the following Other Half, a touch of Graham Parker to the song lighting up ears with a nostalgic bluesy air whilst the Paul McCartney track Keep Under Cover is given a virulent tonic of adventurous infectiousness and quite simply a tenacious fresh breath. Both tracks again leave body and emotions smiling and greedy for more, the album’s title track eager to satisfy with its mix of dark funky basslines, surf harmonies, and romancing melodic seduction. There is a less dramatic feel to the song compared to other tracks but with keys an emotive haze around the contagious lure of the bass and the lacing of spicy blues guitar, it is a robustly catchy proposal very easy to get fully involved with.
A fine take on the Jimmy Campbell song Close My Case And Move On comes next, Ex Norwegian accentuating its emotive heart and intimacy with a sturdier frame and tangy country rock colouring. A fascinating canter of a song with an element of pleasing discord to its nature too, it is maybe not as immediately impacting in comparison to the more boisterous approaches of other tracks within the album, but it matches all in persuasion before Shadow Ships and a version of Tell Me Your Plans by The Shirts brings things to an enjoyable close. The first of the pair merges Americana with sixties pop vibrancy, creating a richly satisfying if not fevered incitement; Tell Me Your Plans providing that with its again sixties hued interpretation of a great power pop offering.
From start to finish Pure Gold is a thoroughly engaging and highly enjoyable romp. It might not quite match the triumphant majesty of the band’s last album yet it is a different kind of proposition. For pleasure though, it is a rivalling success and reason enough to suggest Ex Norwegian is one of our brightest pop rock bands.
From New York by way of Miami Beach, the simply excellent pop/rock group Ex Norwegian have dropped their newest LP Pure Gold. The full album stream is currently on YouTube and you can listen to it below. As you’re about to hear, the band is saving ‘alternative’ guitar rock for the new millennium (is this millennium still new?), dressing up, for example, solos reminiscent of Matthew Sweet and garage-y Pixies riffs with sharp indie pop production. On top of it all are super-hooky songs and the irresistible harmonies / alternating lead vocals of Roger Houdaille and Michelle Grand.
Roger Houdaille is a genuine pop savant, and after a near death experience, he took to the studio with his band Ex-Norwegian to work on his 6th album. Classic influences are all here; the Beatles, the Kinks, Bowie and the Move. Notable guest stars are Fernando Perdomo on slide guitar and Chris Price on organ. What you end up with is pure rock and roll bliss.
“It’s A Game” has those beats, but also got strong melodies and the guitars are everywhere. And the follow-up “Asking Too Much” has thick glam riffs across a chorus of Roger and Michelle Grand’s vocals. “Beeside” is another gem with slower droning rhythm and the frantic chords and beat of “On The Sidelines” is a little Ramones and Blondie combined. Each track carries a stylistic shift, “Keep Under Cover” is brilliant lyrical twist which asks “What good is art when it hurts your head?” It stays unpredictable throughout, and each track is compelling. This is the best Ex-Norwegian album in a while and earns a spot on my top ten list this year. Yes it’s “Pure Gold,” Roger!
Renowned For Sound
Indie pop-rock outfit Ex Norwegian broke onto the scene in 2008 with the sun-drenched, effortlessly hummable Something Unreal. Despite various obstacles, including a six-month disbandment and numerous line-up modifications, the Miami-based ensemble, led by Roger Houdaille, has persevered with their refreshing brand of quirky, infectious and multifarious pop, releasing four albums along the way. The release of their fifth studio album Wasted Lines introduces us to the newest addition to the group, singer Lucia Perez, and is replete with tracks as memorable as their first single.
The fact that Perez is a very recent addition to Ex Norwegian seems redundant from the album’s outset. She opens Wasted Lines with the confidence and synergy of a childhood friend. CheepCheep is a magnetic track, whose 1960s doo-wop charm is interrupted intermittently by hard-hitting, gravelly guitar breaks, introducing us to that quintessential amalgam of sonic influences that makes Ex Norwegian so appealing. Be There continues in a similar vein, switching between a breezy beach sound and 90s grunge, which culminates in effective and self-assured power pop. The initially shadowy chorus is later joined by a funky guitar riff, subtly altering its accompanying harmony; the re-harmonisation of the hook the second time we hear it is a nuance characteristic of Houdaille’s song-writing.
Much Rooms and Unstoppable explore a psychedelic, guitar-heavy sound. Complete with background chorus, delayed vocals and lo-fi, edgy production, the tracks symbolise an adventurous departure from Ex Norwegian’s earlier, more polished sounds. While the buoyant, glittery guitar chords played over a minor scalic passage at All The Time’s beginning embody the band’s multifaceted approach to pop music. This play between minor and major is accompanied by a beautiful collaboration between Perez and Houdaille’s voices. The exciting modal song writing continues with It’s Too Late. One of the album’s standout tracks, it uses harmonic structures uncommon in pop music that are quirky while still remaining completely accessible. Love Is closes the album with a beautiful chorus that underpins Perez’s voice, which turns out to be the perfect fit for the ensemble.
Wasted Lines is full of simple, effective rock hooks and endearing pop sensibility, framed with unexpected harmonic alternatives, and an exploration into edgier production choices. There’s a real likability that derives from their wide range of influences, an eclectic mix of power pop, rock and roll, psychedelic and 1960s blue-eyed doo-wop, and no holds barred creativity.
The fifth full-length release from one of the world’s best pop bands: Miami, Florida’s Ex Norwegian. Once again bandleader Roger Houdaille has come up with a killer batch of ultra-catchy upbeat pop songs that should appeal to just about anyone who loves gripping smart guitar-driven music. The first thing that fans will notice about this album in relation to past releases is that it features newcomer Lucia Perez on lead vocals. Ms. Perez has a cool smooth voice that fits in perfectly with these new Ex Norwegian tracks. Each and every cut here is a keeper but our initial favorites include “CheepCheep,” “Much Rooms,” “You Could Be Someone,” and “Unfair To Compare.” Produced by Houdaille and Fernando Perdomo (another excellent artist whose music we highly recommend), Wasted Lines is yet another resounding success…as well as another solid addition to the band’s catalog. We have to admit that we miss hearing Roger on lead vocals at times just because we’ve loved hearing his voice so much in the past. So we’re hoping that future releases might include both Lucia and Roger trading off on lead vocals. This CD is only being offered in a limited edition run of 200 so if you miss out you can still download these cool tracks off the internet. In addition to this album, the band has also released a handful of CD-R singles (also available as downloads) as well as a DVD featuring a whole slew of alternate mixes and videos. This band has once again hit the target dead center… TOP PICK.
Get Into This!
In sunnier Miami climes, Ex-Norwegian [sic] are playing looser with tradition on their latest and fifth full-length Wasted Lines, the first to feature new singer Lucia Perez alongside Roger Houdaille – an inspired choice given a sumptuously louche prevailing vocal tone. At the heart of their sound is a healthy leaning towards angular, jagged power-pop a la Franz Ferdinand, but it’s a myriad of infusions around that spine that really sets the group apart; whether it’s mazing, unpredictable structures, a squalling injection of synth or a caterwauling attack of stoner-rock guitars, every track has its own abundance to boast, and as an album it’s one hell of a listen.
Colchester’s Gundam, meanwhile, is heading a surge in a budding r’n’g scene (that’s rhythm and grime) with his audacious debut album Flirtation. Taking the already resurgent demand for contemporary R&B and taking it to the chopping room floor, on paper it’s little more than a mangled collision of terse vocal samples, tumbling drums and uncompromising electronics, yet amidst that madness there’s just something that works, admittedly perhaps not across a whole album – it’s an act performed better on some of the ten tracks and perhaps lacking much sense of progression, yet at its best feels both bizarrely beguiling and utterly fresh.
The RingMaster Review
It was with second album Sketch that US band Ex Norwegian reeled us in with their hook laden mix of power pop and indie rock. Subsequent releases and songs have only dug a little deeper into a keen appetite but with new adventure Wasted Lines, the Florida band has bound ears and passions like they were Houdini whilst ensuring there is no escape from their tempting bonds.
Every encounter from Ex Norwegian comes with a creative twist and pleasing unpredictability even within a distinct and wonderfully recognisable sound, and this time it is through the addition of vocalist Lucia Perez and her sixties pop touch seductive tones. Her voice adds a new warmth and cheeky lure to the intriguing drama of the songs, an additional colour igniting another real treat from the band. The album as a whole strangely shows a bigger gap between its delirious highs and lesser, a word used with tongue firmly in cheek, successes compared to previous triumphs, but emerges as the band’s most complete and riveting, not forgetting exhilarating release yet. Produced by band founder Roger Houdaille alongside Fernando Perdomo (Linda Perhacs), Wasted Lines is simply a radiant melodic rock captivation casting a perpetual spell over senses and imagination.
Formed in 2008 and grabbing their name from the one Monty Python sketch everyone knows, Ex Norwegian made their mark with debut album Standby of 2009 and the following Sketch that same year, though its initial release was followed by a break up in the band before being re-released in 2011 when the band was reformed by Houdaille. This was the trigger to stronger and broader attention with both House Music in 2012 and Crack a year later pushing the band into hungrier spotlights. As suggested though Wasted Lines is the new pinnacle of the band’s artistry and sound and as opening track CheepCheep alone toys with emotions, easy to expect the catalyst to major success.
The first song is swiftly stamping its rhythmic and riff wrapped feet with an almost glam rock swagger before being joined by great heavy basslines and the pop fuelled revelry of Perez’s voice. Ex-Norwegian coverThe song bounces around but with hints of an explosive nature which intermittently erupts with a raw and fuzzy blaze of guitar. Managing to be clean cut pop and dirty rock ‘n’ roll simultaneously, it is an infectious start to the album and a tasty appetiser for the following Be There and its sultry climate. Like a mix of Blood Red Shoes and Metric aligned to a great funk seeded, the track flickers and seduces like a fire. Its touch is hot and magnetic, especially with the alluring bedlamic mix of noises which frequent its body and the great contrasting moments seeing a union of vocals between Perez and Houdaille.
The lively croon of Much Rooms swings it’s tempting next; celestial vocals from Perez a siren-esque courting of the tangy hooks and dark throated basslines which fill the song. Its radiance makes way for the outstanding Unstoppable, a song which from a potent if understated start grows into a virulent addiction thanks to a chorus which flames like a pop version of Spinnerette. In many ways as punk as it is indie pop, the track glows in ears with a guitar solo bringing its own spicy coaxing to excite further a by now very greedy appetite.
The gentler, folk kissed caress of All The Time comes next, its rhythmic energy a sturdy spine through the melodic elegance around it whilst its successor First Time confidently strolls through a harsher but no less graceful landscape of melodic rock and ska glazed scenery. The latter is just a whisper but there in the swing of the increasingly enticing offering.
The smouldering croon and melodic balladry of You Could Be Someone brings strong satisfaction next as once more a sixties flavouring lies on the irresistible vocal tempting of Perez as well as the more incendiary surface of the guitars. Its heated embrace leads to the contagion of the glorious It’s Too Late, the best track upon Wasted Lines with a swing and character which excites like a pact between Late Cambrian and Kirsty MacColl. It’s enthralling feet and voice sparking romp is matched in favouring by Only The Clues, those comparisons and especially that of MacColl, an extra spice to the temptress like allure of another very fine persuasion.
The heavy and thick romance of Unfair to Compare starts the final breath of the album, it’s almost oppressive atmosphere a mystique loaded tantalising engulfing ears and immersing thoughts. It is an exotic and slightly imposing psychedelic adventure of idea and craft which seems to pass on its ethereal qualities to the harmony fuelled closing Love Is. Acoustically shaped and vocally coloured, the track is a beaming sunset to the album and one final enslaving incitement.
With every listen Wasted Lines as well as growing in sound and stature, reveals more underlying qualities and treasure within its depths. It is a blaze of imagination and uplifting sounds which all should contemplate blessing their days and nights with.
Broward/Palm Beach New Times
Given the consistent output and accessible sound Ex Norwegian offers, the band has positioned itself as the next South Florida act destined for national success. The group fostered the same all-inclusive likability as its initial influences,
like the Beatles, the Kinks, and the Move, even as it morphed into an assertive groove all its own.
Over the course of a career that extends the better part of a decade, the band has exuded the confidence, creativity, and authority needed to usher it into the spotlight and gain wider recognition. The indomitable mainstay, Roger Houdaille, projects the savvy of a true pop savant, a musician who long ago learned how to emulate a pure pop sound and recast it with a cool, contemporary sheen.
Nevertheless, it’s the truly innovative artist that can defy expectations and reinvent him or herself in ways that entices the listener and occasionally catches them off-guard. Not enough to baffle them completely, mind you (unless you’re Bowie or Neil Young, and then only sometimes), but rather to add just enough intrigue to keep audiences interested.
Wasted Lines, Ex Norwegian’s fifth album in six years — and second with esteemed local label Limited Fanfare Records — finds them abiding by this axiom, shifting ever so slightly from the pop perfect sound they minted early on and into an edgy insurgent one reminiscent of Blondie, the New Pornographers, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and other indie auteurs.
Songs such as “Much Rooms,” “All the Time,” and “Only the Clues” show the group taking a bolder stance. The addition of new singer Lucia Perez adds another dimension also, one that promises to make this change in direction more than merely a temporary reset.
On the eve of the album’s release, we caught up with Houdaille and asked him to elaborate on the new motif.
New Times: So Roger, what inspired the songs?
Roger Houdaille: There’s an element of freedom and fun in the new songs that wasn’t around for a while, thanks to the recent changes and direction Ex Norwegian has taken. Of course, each individual song has its own inspiration. But I’m always writing, and this being that this is our fifth full length album, I think that shows!
Was there a special concept or idea that was plotted out in advance in order to tie these songs together?
We recorded about 30 songs and eleven made the final cut. The idea was to have a great, cohesive sounding record. The debate on the validity of the album format in the new digital world goes on, and while I’m not exactly a pro-album activist, it made sense to think in those terms for this one. As a result, we had to leave a couple of our more commercial tracks off! Those are earmarked for single releases, and almost the whole bunch of tracks that didn’t make the record are still being released via our deluxe edition that’s available only directly from the band.
This is a marked departure from the more polished sound of the earlier albums. Why the decision to make it edgier and rawer?
It’s funny how it ended up that way, as it actually started with the intention of being the complete opposite – the most polished and commercial album yet! Working closely with co-producer Fernando Perdomo did change things up a bit, but I think what really did it was that as time went on and the mixing budget depleted, I ended up mixing the record myself and got a little creative. No attempts were made to copy our previous sound and instead I opted for a more lo-fi, edgier approach. Vocals are treated with delays and echoes and even distortions. And so are the instruments! I was listening with headphones just the other night and I was blown away. There’s a lot of ear candy. Maybe too much at times I will admit, but hopefully our ADD listeners will appreciate it. The irony is beautiful too, in that here is Lucia with the most commercial and accessible voice Ex Norwegian has ever featured, and it’s on the most adventurous and edgy album we’ve done.
Where and how did Lucia Perez come into the fold?
It was at one of our shows. Her friend told me she sang and that I should try her out. Before we knew it, we were working on new material, playing shows, recording out in Los Angeles, performing live on national television… and yet Lucia had never sang in public before! It really is quite crazy looking back. This all happened in a span of like five months; it’s only been a year since we teamed up. It all happened at the right time too, just as it appeared the old Ex Norwegian’s days were numbered.
What brought you to your (new) label?
Brian, our manager, is the man behind Limited Fanfare Records. We had put out last year’s album Crack and the single “Feelin’ It” on the label, and so it made sense to keep working together with Wasted Lines. The thing with Ex Norwegian is that it’s always been incredibly DIY. I don’t like the idea of just shipping out an album to a label I don’t personally know well and don’t have anything to do with it. I like to be involved in working it.
What’s the plan for the band now?
To follow the wasted lines…
Si he de ser completamente sincero, para este quinto álbum de Ex Norwegian me imaginaba que después de sus constantes cambios de formación y de la inclusión sorpresiva de Lucia Perez (lo pondré sin tildes, que la chica es de Florida) en tareas de lead vocals, la banda de Roger Haudaille no presentaría demasiados argumentos favorables para un aprobado en una valoración objetiva. Pero he de reconocer que me equivoqué de pleno: aún sin presentar rasgos especialmente novedosos, Wasted Lines es un trabajo que atrapa desde el principio, se pasa en un suspiro, y en él nos volvemos a encontrar rasgos sonoros ya conocidos en discos anteriores de los de Florida. Haudaille es un buen compositor. Conoce como nadie los secretos del Power-Pop, y esos guiños los combina perfectamente con rasgos del Grunge, del Indie. algún pequeño aderezo Psicodélico e incluso del Disco. El resultado es un disco en el que el listón no baja demasiado durante todo él. Comienzo fulgurante con Cheep Cheep (me encantan los estribillos y títulos de canciones con onomatopeyas), Be there, Much rooms y Unstoppable. Ahí podemos encontrarnos y resumir perfectamente todos los rasgos sonoros de los que hablaba anteriormente reflejados en canciones Pop de una media de tres minutos. Toda una lección de cómo construir buenos temas en la órbita Pop. Como decía, el listón no baja demasiado a partir de ahí, y encontramos cortes como All the time, First time, It´s too late… que mantienen un nivel de notable y una sensación de frescura que normalmente no encontramos en el quinto álbum de un grupo con cierto bagaje. Para rematar, la épica Unfair to compare y la más acústica Love is, todo un alegato de intenciones y declaración de sentimientos. Wasted Lines es un trabajo efectivo, muy resultón y absolutamente fresco. Un disco a descubrir para un grupo que no aparece en Pitchfork y no demasiado reconocido por estas latitudes.
Ex Norwegian is easily one of the best pop bands of all time…and Crack is yet another resounding success. This is the band’s fourth full-length release and it’s full of the sinfully catchy upbeat pop/rock that their fans have come to love…and crave. We’ve played this band’s last three albums completely into the ground…and you can bet your best Sunday booties that we’ll be doing the exact same thing with Crack. It’s odd…while Ex Norwegian songs actually sound similar to hundreds or even thousands of other classic pop artists…in the end there are some strange qualities that make the songs sound totally unique and vibrant. The main band members are Roger Houdaille (guitar, vocals), Michelle Grand (vocals), and Giuseppe Rodriguez (bass). These songs are the most polished and accessible that the band has recorded up to this point in time…and they retain the warm vibes that made us fall in love with the band’s debut album years ago. Houdaille is a songwriter of the highest calibre. The man seems to write an endless well of classic pop songs that will most certainly stand the test of time. As usual, there’s not a bad track on this album…but our own particular favorites include “Your Own Swing,” “Bibi Kan Werk It,” “I’m A Fighter Not A Lover,” “Say What You Want,” “Some Misery,” and “Done.” If you love guitar pop you should pick up every single one of this band’s albums. [We should mention that (at least for the time being) Crack is only being offered as a download.] All Ex Norwegian albums truly are…the best. Brilliant and resilient…and HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Top pick.
The Ripple Effect
So a new year and a new Ex Norwegian album “Crack” or the difficult fourth album, came out of nowhere in a week of diligent work. It was picked up by Limited Fanfare Records who put it out April second digitally, and it features some leftover tracks and some new things which really were tweaked up demos.
Ex Norwegian was founded in 2008 in Miami Beach by Roger Houdaille, disbanded in March 2011, and restarted by Houdaille in late 2011. Founding members Roger Houdaille (guitar, vocals) and Michelle Grand (vocals) are joined by Giuseppe Rodriguez (bass) to make up the core of the group. Live, they are augmented with a little help from their friends.
“Your Own Swing” starts the proceedings with an upbeat and catchy guitar filled rocking pop song that has a bit of a nice edge to it and I loved the harmonious vocals. “Bibi Kan Werk It” has a lot of WEEZER overtones, especially in the vocals, and this mid-paced song also had a mid ‘90s sound, but it threw me for a loop when just over two minutes in, the song had a slowing down effect like when you stop a turntable that made me check my player. “Aventura” has soaring guitar playing with great leads, it’s kind of like a classic rock song with more pop and a hint of ‘70s keyboards that work together really well and is a highlight on the album. “I’m A Fighter, Not A Lover” has Grand taking over lead vocals and she has a fantastic voice, it has a sweetness that gives the song a new level of energy, the drumming and guitar playing really were outstanding on this song as well. “Page To” is a slower song that has some of the most inspired guitar playing on the album.
The band really shows that they are capable of taking these tweaked up demos and giving them a life that just breathes and grows and has the maturity of a band that knows how to treat them. The playing has been stellar and the production has been clear, but not antiseptic, it still has a bit of a roughness and it keeps the pop from being sugary. “Say What You Want” is a very peppy and rocking duet that deserves to be played to death. “Some Misery” brings the feel and sound of the classics ‘70s power pop bands to mind and the memorable hook will keep you coming back for more, it was my favorite on the album. “The Faces Demo Heads” has an incessant beat and is a song that will get stuck in your head.
Sometimes you get music sent to you that you hate, sometimes like, but I got lucky, I love this album. They really hit all of the buttons to make an outstanding album without caving in to anything trendy, but kept things at their own standards and made an album that needs to be in your collection.
Roger Houdaille’s continues to take Ex-Norwegian in bold directions, but always keeping those hooks in mind. “Your Own Swing” is a pretty basic sing-along that warms you up, but he throws a perfect curve with “Bibi Kan Werk It” which is part Weezer and part Beach Boys including a terrific melodic chorus.
“Aventura” has a bit more glam guitar, and the hook on “I’m A Fighter, Not A Lover” is even better with Michelle “Big Meech” Grand leading the vocals here. Then Roger struts in full Ziggy Stardust mode on “Full Time Lover.” With the unique harmony of Roger, Michelle and Giuseppe Rodriguez, the band is morphing into the America’s version of The Wellingtons. No real filler here, each tune has a strong beat and tries to experiment with unique sounds and like all great power pop this Crack can be just as addictive.
Pensaba escribir sobre Crack, el cuarto álbum de la banda de Florida Ex-Norwegian que sus discos son como un coche alemán: sabes que nunca te va a defraudar, que nunca te va a dejar tirado. Curiosamente, a la hora de escribir esta crítica he repasado las anteriores que había escrito sobre Ex-Norwegian en TJB y he comprobado que hace menos de seis meses escribía lo mismo a la hora de evaluar House Music (2012), el que hasta ahora era su último trabajo: “El reencuentro con una banda como Ex Norwegian suele ser normalmente como esa cita anual que uno anda impacientemente esperando, como esa carrera que quieres disputar una edición tras otra. Las sensaciones previas son excelentes y el resultado generalmente nunca decepciona. Con House Music, los de Miami no defraudan. Lo vuelven a hacer. La banda de Roger Houdaille son un valor seguro por el buen Pop, por las clásicas canciones de tres minutos que, sin dar tregua, siempre te dejan con ganas de más: puras joyas del mejor Power-Pop elaborado a la antigua, Pop de guitarras, sin demasiados aditamentos, algunos teclados aquí y allá; la energía y los hooks de guitarra como absolutos protagonistas” (TJB, Octubre, 2012). Ex-Norwegian son una banda sin aditamentos ni filiaciones a modas sonoras. Lo suyo es el Power-Pop y lo dejan claro disco tras disco. Crack (2013) no iba a ser menos, y en esta nueva colección de diez canciones, nos encontramos de nuevo con lo mejorcito del repertorio de Roger Haudaille [sic], si bien en esta ocasión, reconoce que han tirado un poco más hacia terrenos más “sentimentales”: “Ex Norwegian’s “fourth” album does not steer away from what is expected: quirky, catchy pop tunes with experimental overtones. However, on Crack, Ewx Norwegian deliberately throws in plenty of what they call “love songs” in the mix for all those “lovers” out there” (Bandcamp) El inicio es rompedor: Your own swing, Bibi kan werk it, Aventura, I´m a fighter not a lover (guiño al clásico corte de Lazy Lester popularizado por The Kinks incluido, dándole la vuelta al sentido del tema)… Ex-Norwegian son una de esas bandas que calan poco a poco. Quizás no van a tener el recorrido mediático de otros muchos grupos, pero sus temas son, indudablemente, de ésos que no deberías perderte. Oyendo Say what you want o Some misery seguro que tu concepto sobre el Power-Pop debería cambiar, si es que no lo había hecho antes…
We can safely say without reservation that our most played artist in 2012 is Ex Norwegian. Led by the unbelievably talented Roger Houdaille (formerly in the band Father Bloopie), this band now has released three mind boggling albums…each one as good or better than the last. Note that when you first hear Ex Norwegian you might not be totally blown away. We initially liked the songs for sure…but it wasn’t until several months after we had played the debut album into the ground that we began to fully appreciate what we were hearing. Houdaille is one of those guys who writes songs that sound simple…and yet there are so many subtle hooks and twists going on that you just don’t catch ’em all at first. He’s got a killer voice, writes melodies that are out-of-this-world…and also pens some of the smartest lyrics in history. House Music has the exact same effect on us as the last two albums. Once we started playing it…we just couldn’t STOP. The album begins with the sinfully melodic “Ginger Baby” before launching into one of our top favorite pop songs ever…”Original Copy” (which includes some killer lyrics…”Let’s be original…just like the original…”). There are so many lyrics here that we can’t get out of our heads… (“Take initiative…it’s free…”). One killer pop tune after another…and on this limited edition bonus CD-R you get additional bonus tracks that are not offered with the download. And speaking of…right now the band is offering this album as a FREE (??!!) download–although we would certainly recommend you donate something to give them the proper incentive to keep pushing ahead. Every Ex Norwegian album is a must have. As we said before, you must listen to the songs a good ten or twenty times before they really sink in. But when they sink in…you are likely to be addicted for life. House Music is easily one of the best pop albums of 2012. Highly recommended. Top pick.
The Ripple Effect
Elections, at heart, are popularity contests. So are music sales, especially pop music sales. By definition, “pop” is a genre with a large following; the term “pop” is derived from the word “popular.” It is a crossover of musical styles – jazz, folk, classic rock – with catchy lyrics, vocals and harmonies. Bands that do it well have fervent followers. Few bands produce edgy pop music. However, that is what the band Ex Norwegian does for ten tracks on its new album titled House Music.
House Music is technically Ex Norwegian’s third album. The band has a sightly tortured history. It was founded in 2008 in Miami Beach by Roger Houdaille, disbanded in March 2011, and reincarnated by Houdaille in late 2011 as a four piece band with a mixture of old and new personnel. House Music is the first album release with the new line-up and it is Ex Norwegian’s most accessible and, perhaps, best work. Laden with great lyrics, catchy melodies, musical hooks and huge harmonies this is one effort that demands to be noticed.
The album commences with “Ginger Baby” which can aptly be described as Lou Reed meets The Talking Heads. Wonderfully quirky vocals, really an exercise is vocal control, star in “Original Copy”. The track “Not A Mouse” has a late 1960’s psychedelic folk rock crossover appeal that recalls The Kinks and Captain Beefheart, two bands Ex Norwegian cites as influences. With “Initiative Rock” the band emulates early British Invasion pop with elegant and upbeat harmonies.
The halfway point on the album is the song “Spin Win It”, a harmonious staccato early rocker. Ex Norwegian also offers orchestrated rock with “Choice Of Friend” and a Beatle-esque ballad with “Rearrange It.” An oddity on the album is “Join The Fray”. It falls somewhere between late 1960’s rock style and early 1980’s pop excess. The hardest rocker on the album is “Siesta2Tiesto”, which provides more Hoople than Mott the Hoople. The album comes to an end with “Tong As In Pete”, an odd guitar riff song with bizarre lyrics.
By the time you read this on The Ripple Effect you may already know who won the U.S. Presidential Election. The President will be chosen by the Electoral College, not the popular vote. The popular vote goes to Ex Norwegian.
Back in November 2011 we brought you news of Ex-Norwegian’s Sketch album and as that was technically a re-release on reformation of the band, here quickly on its heels is their new album House Music. Arturo Garcia hasn’t quite made it onto House Music, so that leaves Ex-Norwegian as a trio of Roger Houdaille, Lucas Queiroz and Michelle Grand joined by Alex Ibanez
If you’ve read the Sketch review, you’ll note reference points of They Might Be Giants, Beach Boys and The Beatles, but House Music feels more like it is making a stand of its own, defining what Ex-Norwegian are and as a statement it is a grown up one. Sure Ex-Norwegian are having fun; “Let’s be original, original, just like the original, original” Roger amusingly sings on Original Copy, whilst the music continues to be that infectious quirky pop as demonstrated in the bleeps and electronic curls that heralds the emergence of Not a Mouse, with its Dr Seuss like lyrics “I’m not a mouse, I’m a lover of house”.
Spin it Win it feels like a single hit, peppered as the track is with the hooks and sing-a-long moments that are a highlight of the work that Ex-Norwegian produce. Whilst Rearrange It really emphasises and hones in on the indie rock / pop influences that Ex-Norwegian are capable of. However, take those influences and blend it with the sort of rapid choruses that Meat Loaf perfected in his early Bat-breakthrough years and you create something like Join the Fray. Psychedelic rock music still has a place in the hearts of Ex-Norwegian and shines through on Siesta2Tiesto as the effected vocals are supported with swirling instrumentation, before the drums bring some order to proceedings – the downside? That Siesta2Tiesto isn’t a little bit longer.
Sky Diving was a particular highlight on Sketch and final track Tong as in Pete comes closest to emulating it. The regular bass rhythm is riff like in its expression as it rolls around, with the vocals echoing in the musical landscape. The drums eventually gain control of Tong as in Pete, forcing the bass to back-off as the pace begins to slow and ultimately plays out a single strung out note, which despite a volley from the drums, is the remaining constant as the track dies.
There was a critique with Sketch that there weren’t enough tracks with Michelle on lead vocals (You’re Elastic Over Me being the most memorable) and indeed, on House Music, Michelle’s vocals are more of a supporting role, but it does highlight that House Music is a different album. It is an album that challenges you to appreciate it in more than one listen, it’s not going to come to you immediately and why should it as it is a well crafted album. For the purveyors of American indie-rock, Ex-Norwegian have offered up a very edible slice in House Music, so take your thumb out of your mouth, grow up and go out and buy it!
Source: http://www.grumpyrocker.co.uk/ex-norwegian-house-music-review (defunct)
Another year, another awesome album by Ex Norwegian. Since its 2009 debut Standby, which I wrote glowingly about in the pages of the now-defunct City Link, Miami Beach’s dance-ready indie rock act has turned out the solid followup Sketch and now, House Music. The new album hit iTunes just two days ago and, as is obvious from the title, pays homage to the type of music that, for better or worse and sometimes both, has become the soundtrack of the band’s hometown. The final trio of songs say it all in the song titles: “Join the Fray,” “Siesta 2 Tiesto,” and “Tong as in Pete” serve as a mash note to EDM while never actually moving sonically into the genre. Instead, Ex Norwegian sticks to the glossy, earworm-inducing indie-pop that has made it a standout in the local scene and the toast of many music blogs across the nation. Instead of engaging in thrumming dance beats, the band asks over jangling guitars, with high, sustained harmonies, “Tong, as in Pete, where’d you get those beats from?”
But this is a 10-song album, so there’s more to it than the final three songs and their paean to EDM. The first seven tracks of the album are a mix of highs and lows, with a couple of filler tracks in the middle but also the biggest instant-classic on the album, fourth track “Initiative Rock.” The constant refrain of “Take initiative, it’s free,” sung in front of soaring female backing vocals, stayed in my brain hours after the song ended. A couple other tunes, especially opener “Ginger Baby,” compete for the instant-class title, while the aforementioned fillers, especially the plodding “Choice of Friend,” never suck the album’s energy away. And, really, tracks such as “Choice of Friend” are only lesser moments in a relative way — the rest of the album is so good that a few of the tracks seem bad by comparison, but there’s a million would-be indie-pop acts that would kill to sound like Ex Norwegian’s filler.
Overall, it’s yet another strong release from a band that can apparently do no wrong. Hell, I’d see them over Pete Tong any day. But then, I’m pretty sure my days of jumping around on a dance floor as a DJ looks down from his booth like a god from a mountaintop are pretty far behind me. House music may be a hell of a lot of fun, but House Music has the added benefit of being good listening without the ingestion of empathogenic drugs. 4/5 eggs
Source: http://www.saltyeggs.com/local-album-of-the-week-house-music-by-ex-norwegian/ (defunct)
If pop music’s main function is to be accessible to as many people as possible, then there is a class in that school of thought that teaches “everyone hates everything sometimes.” After two full-length albums, several lineup changes, and a number of national tours, Floridian Roger Houdaille’s long running project Ex-Norwegian [sic] seems to want to let off some steam. The new album House Music acts as Houdaille’s public list of grievances on the state of the country, popular music, and the world we live in.
As the third full length release from the band, House Music is a great example of where the band comes from without being made useless by the band’s former releases (Sketch and Standby). The instrumentation is interesting without being distracting, reminiscent of the work The Attractions on Elvis Costello’s famous This Year’s Model. In fact the whole album is ripe with Costello-like signatures, including distinct and danceable drum sections, hooky guitar lines, and lyrics full of venom. The production remains high quality as per the band’s previous releases with heavy focus on the drums and guitar hooks.
Most of the songs on House Music work well for singles. There is however, more of an effort put in for some more experimental and full circle tracks than what was seen on previous releases, including the closing jammed out number “Tong as in Pete”. Standout singles include the conflicted Floridian anthem “Join the Fray” and the sarcastic spite shot at pop culture “Original Copy”.
If there is a down side to be found to the album, it may be that the tone comes off too defeatist and aggressive at times and may put off those who don’t share Roger Houdaille’s outlook on the world. But as a document of his message and a display of the band’s talent it stands as Ex-Norwegian’s best work to date. Anyone who digs on such artists as Elvis Costello, Joe Jackson, or Marshall Crenshaw would be well off checking it out along with the band’s previous releases. 8.5 stars
Now This Rocks!
Not long ago, indie rockers Ex Norwegian piqued our interest with their sophomore effort, “Sketch” (reviewed here). The band is back now with “House Music”, hoping the third time is the charm.
Don’t let the record title scare you – Ex Norwegian has not abandoned their quirky and catchy indie roots in favor of monotonous dance music. On the contrary, this third record is stuffed with ten sizzling slices of hipster rock. These tunes retain the adventurous vibe their longtime fans have come to expect, yet advance considerably closer to the realm of commercial rock. It is a delicate balance, but I believe Ex Norwegian is achieving it.
The funky sound of the infectious opener, “Ginger, Baby”, shimmies down the ear with ease, fusing potent indie rock with the sounds of 80s new wave – not unlike Weezer doing a Devo cover. The intriguing chord changes and harmonies on “Original Copy” are truly engaging. The charmingly positive lyrics (“Take initiative, it’s free”), and super catchy backing vocals combine to make the jamming anthem, “Initiative Rock”, a shining gem in the bunch. Additional highlights include the peppy “Spin With It” and the refreshingly breezy “Rearrange It”.
Ex Norwegian continue to evolve with “House Music”, a collection of tunes that will get plenty of airplay around my home.
Ex Norwegian trade in chunky power-pop that’s easy to trace back through the generations, noting where different aspects of their music show up as you listen to it. While that could be damning when applied to many styles of music, they’ve chosen one that by nature has always been somewhat indebted to the past and devoid of the pretensions that could make it sound derivative. After all, what was early power-pop but Beatles-inspired music on a sugar rush?
On House Music, the band sticks largely to the high-octane Brit-pop model, mixing in other nuances and spins as they see appropriate. It’s easy to hear The Kinks, for example, in a number of tracks like “Join the Fray” and one of the album’s early musical highlights, “Not a Mouse.” Yet they’re more likely to mix in a Supergrass-esque keyboard line (“Not a Mouse”) or combine Dandy Warhols-style vocal detachment (“Ginger, Baby”) than to outright repeat themselves from song to song. Essentially, they’ve absorbed enough different elements of their chosen genre to keep their interpretation of it from stagnating.
Interestingly, two of House Music‘s biggest triumphs come on back-to-back tracks where they break from the power-pop line. “Choice of Friend” deviates from its album-mates by never chasing a big chorus, instead taking its time and climaxing in a minute-long instrumental outro that lends it more of a conventional rock feel. It leads right into the album’s one slower acoustic affair, “Rearrange It,” which never veers into sappy-ballad territory but instead allows the band’s knack for pretty harmonies to take center stage.
The album is at its worst when it comes off as too snarky, too convinced of its own incisive cleverness to realize it’s veering dangerously close to early 2000s mall-punk. Nowhere is this more up-front than on “Original Copy,” a sarcastic shot at derivativeness and poseurs that just comes off bratty with its snotty repetition of “let’s be original, ‘riginal/ just like the original, ‘riginal.”
That reliance on not-as-clever-as-they-think lyrics is one of the consistently bothersome aspects of the album — the band seems to think that simplicity and stating the obvious equate to catchiness. It’s in the opener, where they sing a chorus about “sugar and spice (“so nice”) to a character named Ginger, and they rarely turn back from there. “Not a Mouse” may sound excellent, but its chorus is, sadly, “I’m not a mouse, I’m a lover of house.” “Join the Fray” features another painfully simple chorus (“I have to join the fray/ now I don’t wanna go away” ad nauseum), and by the end their lyrical issues have even begun invading the song titles like the lunkheaded “Siesta2Tiesto.”
What none of this changes, though, is that Ex Norwegian are a pretty good power-pop act with a firm understanding of what makes this kind of music work. House Music (so named because it’s *groan* “music to listen to in your house”) is dominated by vibrant songs that never reach the three minute mark, thus never letting listeners get bored. There are big guitars and drums, lots of sugary harmonies and enough nods to what’s come before to give easy reference without it all coming off as too derivative. These guys might not turn this music on its ear the way The New Pornographers did ten years ago, but anyone looking for a modern spin on power-pop could do much worse than giving this a spin.
The Owl Magazine
An album called House Music by the band Ex Norwegian may look like a chilly prospect, but it’s actually a fun collection of power pop gems. Nine of the ten tracks come in under three minutes, and great songs like these can grab hold of you that quickly.
“Ginger, Baby” opens like a love song, but its lyrics add an air of mystery. “Not A Mouse” name checks electronic artists, but its swirling organ and full-throttle drums make it a decidedly rockin’ highlight. “Initiative Rock” is a catchy-as-hell ode to being self-motivated in life and love, and the glam accent that leader Roger Houdaille adopts on “Spin Win It” will have you throwing on your glitteriest bell-bottoms. Closer “Tong As In Pete” has the album’s grimiest guitar riff, and its chanted vocals and five-minute length really let the song breathe, showing another side of what these guys are capable of. Ex Norwegian have hooks for days on this, their third album, and their backbeats have enough muscle to earn the “power” in power pop. House Music is the sound of them firing on all cylinders and getting a lot of things right, making it one of the best pop rockers of the year.
There’s something archly ’90s about power-pop trio Ex Norwegian. Maybe it’s the frenetic drum rolls (such as in “Not a Mouse”) or it could be the key-changes, or perhaps it’s the carefree, almost childlike vocal delivery, reminiscent of early Weezer (see “Initiative Rock”). At times it doesn’t quite work – the meter of the words not really sitting pretty on the melody – but the tunes are catchy enough. Closer “Tong As In Pete” is an almost comical hat-tilt to the British house DJ, and could be a Dandy Warhols off-cut from the Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia days. Nostalgic.
Source: http://www.inforty.com/?p=12077 (defunct)
Broward/Palm Beach New Times
I’m an unabashed fan of Ex Norwegian, mostly due to my fondness for their music (of course!), but also because I love to make jokes about their name. What’s the significance of an ex-Norwegian, I’ve asked them time and time again without getting any kind of serious response. And yet, if that seems like a strange handle, it sure beats the one they started out with early on, that being “Father Bloopy.” Consequently, I saw the shift in identification as a sign of progress, if not necessarily a means of further clarification.
Nevertheless, my commentary detailing their name is getting old already, so it’s fortunate that there’s a new Ex Norwegian album, entitled House Music, to focus on instead. Even so, this isn’t any ordinary album, at least in the traditional sense. For starters, the band plan to put it out online for free, a decidedly unorthodox tack to be sure, but one strategized to bring them wider exposure. Consequently, I asked Roger Houdaille, the band’s chief musical mainstay, what his rationale was for literally giving it away.
“One reason is that there just isn’t any money to promote the record properly at this time,” Roger replied, while also mentioning that nevertheless a vinyl release is due out this summer. “Number two, record sales are so low that it’s discouraged me from trying to sell copies. Thirdly, I just wanted to release it to the fans and not wait two to three months. Additionally, I think for a band still trying to reach their audience, the free album concept isn’t such a bad idea.”
Houdaille’s logic makes a lot of sense, and yet fortunately for those folks like me who prefer a physical release, there’s no reason to be left out of the loop. A limited run of twenty CDs were printed and are currently being made available on the band’s online shop at shop.exnorwegian.com. As an extra incentive, the disc boasts six extra tracks, including a few pre-Ex Norwegian recordings and assorted outtakes.
“The album was recorded over the course of a year, starting life as a solo record when Ex Norwegian broke up last year,” Houdaille explains. “But with the re-release of Sketch (the group’s sophomore set) and the resurrection of the band, I wrote and recorded some new material, keeping only what fit out of all the solo stuff. It’s the first post-breakup release and features a couple different drummers, Alex Ibanez and Eric Hernandez (of Capsule and Kylesa) as well as previous band members Michelle Grand on vocals and Lucas Queiroz on additional guitar. I’m playing pretty much everything else.”
Even so, the nom-de-plume House Music appears to be a bit of a misnomer. “It’s not actual house music,” Houdaille maintains. “But there is a loose theme regarding house music, particularly on the songs ‘Not A Mouse,’ ‘Siesta2Tiesto,’ and ‘Tong As In Pete.’ The whole album was put together with a bit of a story flow to it, but I would hardly call it a concept album.”
In truth, the effort represents a bit of a stretch, given its modern rock sheen and a sound that occasionally veers towards bands like Talking Heads (check out the first track, a remake of a Father Bloopy track called “Ginger Baby,” for what sounds like a dead ringer of David Byrne’s former band), Roxy Music, and Magnetic Fields. While their earlier efforts, Standby and Sketch (re-released last year on the Dying Van Gogh label) hinted at early influences that included British bands like the Beatles, Kinks, the Who, and the Move, Houdaille and his revolving cast of co-conspirators have evolved with an assertive style and clear pop savvy that distinguishes most of the better bands operating within rock realms — not only locally but on a national scale as well.
One can only hope then that Ex Norwegian’s current strategy pays off as well as Roger hopes it will. While this crazy career called Rock ‘n’ Roll may not pay any dividends now, this is a South Florida outfit that packs potential for a national break-out and House Music provides the proof.
“We’re just laying low a bit focusing on generating interest in the free release,” Roger suggests. “I already have the fourth album written, so hopefully we’ll soon start working on that next.”
After the “Sketch” LP last year, the band personnel changed leaving leader Roger Houdaille to take the music in a new direction and give us a FREE digital follow-up. It’s less ambiguous, with a tight melodic focus. “Ginger, Baby” is a sweet Kinks meets Dandy Warhols song that really rocks. The energy of “Original Copy” and “Not A Mouse” both have touch of grooviness (thanks to Fernando Perdomo).
The album is also more consistent than past efforts, as “Initiative Rock” has some great minor chord shifts. You’ll hear a little Marc Bolan in “Spin Win It” and then soothing harmonies on the California styled “Rearrange It.” Overall a terrific album that delivers superior melodies along with adventurous arrangements. Highly recommended, and after all it’s “name-your-own-price” on Bandcamp, so what’s not to like?
Jazz, Blues & Co. Blog
Publié en avril dernier et découvert il y a à peine quelques jours par la grâce de sauts spotifiens, ce House Music, nouvel album des américains de Ex Norwegian est une belle surprise.
Oh, ce n’est pas une surprise du genre de celles qui vous colle, vous scotche ou vous met K.O. debout.
Non, elle est plutôt du genre de celles auxquelles on adhère le temps de quelques écoutes en sachant dès le départ qu’elle risque de ne pas faire long feu.
Globalement infectieuse et généreuse dans son ensemble, l’indie pop-rock du groupe risque en effet de devenir lassante après quelques écoutes en raison de quelques titres zappables, car un peu agaçants ou un peu moins percutants. Je pense notamment à Not a mouse et Original Copy.
Mais rien que pour des morceaux comme Ginger, Baby, Choice of friend ou Initiative rock, je suis fort heureux d’avoir croisé la route de ce groupe originaire de Miami dont je vous avouerai sans honte n’avoir jamais entendu parler avant a semaine dernière.
Ex Norwegian is easily one of the best pop bands of the twenty-first century. We played these folks’ debut album (Standby) completely into the ground over the past couple of years…and we’re still spinning and loving it (!). We’re pleased to report that the band is showing no signs of a typical sophomore slump. Sketch is every bit as good…if not even better…than the first album. And that’s saying A LOT. So if these folks are just a pop band playing pop/rock music…what’s the big deal? Well, in a word…SONGS. These folks have songs that are light years beyond what we normally hear. They’re smart…they’re catchy…they’re just slightly different…and…most importantly…they keep getting better the more you hear ’em. Songs that initially sound kinda cool sound absolutely INCREDIBLE ten, twenty, thirty, or a hundred spins later. The subtle nuances inherent in the band’s songs slowly creep into your subconsciousness. And, if you’re like us, once you get hooked on this band’s sound you will be totally ADDICTED. Yes,this band is indeed that good. Sketch has been out for awhile now via downloads and a run of CD-Rs…but now sees a proper release (i.e., a “real” official pressed CD). We’ve only listened to this one a couple of times thus far…but we’re already getting incredible chills from the sheer brilliance of these tunes. Ten captivating magical cuts here including “Jet Lag,” “Smashing Time,” “Sky Diving,” “Seconds,” “Turn Left,” “Girl With The Moustache”… Hell, every track is killer. Easily one of THE BEST albums of 2011. Can’t recommend this one highly enough… TOP PICK.
Last year the Miami band Ex-Norwegian produced a pretty good pop album that touched many bases and had lots of influences. On it’s latest LP Sketch it takes a big step forward musically. Opening with “Jet Lag” it almost goes retro-grunge here, but Alice In Chains never had a horn section. The band has solidified it’s sound with the late 90’s and 60’s as basic touch points, and the crunchy riffs of “Smashing Time” showcases the energy and great potential. With singer Roger Houdaille improving his game we get to the best track here,”Sky Diving” with Shazam-like catchy guitars, and grand choruses similar to Sloan. I wish the whole album took this approach – but it then switches to a lo-fi “You’re Elastic Over Me” with bassist Nina Souto doing her best Liz Phair. The melodic gems pop up in spots here, “Seconds” and “Acting On An Island” are excellent psyche-pop tunes and the bleak “Upper Hand” is a proper counterbalance to the raucous Who-styled “Turn Left.” This is a band that is on the cusp of greatness, but they aren’t helped by the throwaway lyrics of “Girl With The Moustache.” But still… this is very worthy of your playlist. Fans of Weezer, Greg Pope and other guitar heavy power pop will definitely want to add this album to the collection.
Ex Norwegian have released their second album, Sketch, and it stands up as a pretty good listen even for first time listeners such as myself. What’s interesting about this project is that the album was originally self-released back in the summer of 2010 and has now been re-released nationally through Dying Van Gogh records.
Right off the bat, what captures the ears is the album’s catchy melodies and lyrics. Opening track “Jet Lag” has been on heavy rotation in my head for a good week, and as you listen, you find most of the songs on the album tend to have that same lasting effect. There are several moments throughout the album, like in the smooth and sunny “Seconds” where everything just easily sticks.
The band, led by singer/songwriter/guitarist Roger Houdaille, plan to release a new EP early in 2012, so if you happened to find this project a good listen, as well as their debut, Stand By (2009), you’ll be sure to enjoy what’s still to come.
Source: http://spillmagazine.com/html/album_reviews.HTM#ExNorwegian (defunct)
Miami, FL’s Ex Norwegian return with second full-length Sketch. On this release, Ex-Norwegian show off their pop prowess. Interestingly, each member of the band takes a turn as lead vocalist, which allows for peculiar dynamics to develop. “Seconds” is an exquisite example of pop composition; it features the orchestral tendencies of ’60s pop music, multiple vocal harmonies and layers of horns supporting its delicate melody. Sketch comes into its own during the back-end of the album. Early tracks like “Jet Lag” and “Mind Down” focus too much on heavy rock tropes like thundering bass and aggressive guitar, qualities the group don’t pull off well. On Sketch, Ex Norwegian show their true colours when they’re acting less serious, when a sense of fun and excitement comes through their songwriting. A prime example is “Girl with the Moustache,” which is the album highlight. The tongue-in-cheek nature of the track allows Ex Norwegian to focus on just playing a good song, which harkens back to the heydays of power pop bands like Sloan.
Solid pop that has a fine rock kicker. Ex Norwegian hasn’t quite mastered the fine art of anglophile pop, but this is a good start. The boys just need to tighten up the ship and sharped [sic] the hooks just a bit.
Now This Rocks!
“Sketch” aims to propel indie rock band Ex Norwegian to greater heights. “Standby” helped the band attain national exposure with appearances on TV and radio shows, in addition to being critically acclaimed. “Sketch” delivers ten more doses of their brand of fanciful and sonically surprising rock.
A thumping bass line draws us in to climb aboard the ride that is “Jet Lag”, a slow burning tune that creeps up to a sticky chorus that gets better with each flight through your ears (video below). “Jet Lag” finds Ex Norwegian sounding very much like a highly evolved version of Weezer. “Smashing Time” lends support to this comparison with its groovy verses and hook laden chorus. Other highlights include the near Lennon-esque “Seconds” and the rumbling “Turn Left”. There are a handful of fillers, like the quirky “You’re Elastic Over Me” and “Girl With A Moustache”, but overall “Sketch” is well fleshed out.
Taking advantage of both their male and female vocal strengths, the band often incorporates delightful harmonies making them sound like the Mamas and Papas of the modern indie rock scene. With an effective mix of clever lyrics, tasty licks, and groovy rhythms, Ex Norwegian is one of the more commercial-ready indie bands I’ve heard this year.
The Aquarian Weekly
Ex Norwegian is re-releasing their album Sketch on Dying Van Gogh Records. One noticeable change about the re-release is that the final track, “Tired Of Dancing,” has been replaced with a new tune, titled “Girl With The Moustache.”
Starting off Sketch is “Jet Lag.” The indie pop tune begins with a funky bass groove mixed in with a slick guitar solo and some hand claps to ignite the spark for the album. The good times start to roll out in “Smashing Time.” The interesting pace and spoken verses matched with the sung choruses make this song a unique catch on the album. The third cut, “Mind Down,” has a retro, robotic feel to it, but with added cowbell. Nina Suoto starts off “You’re Elastic Over Me,” the shortest tune on the album. The acoustic piece features beautiful harmonies between Houdaille and Suoto as well as light and fluffy key tones. Switching things up for a bit, “Upper Hand,” is a slower piece that stresses the principal of self-worth.
Sketch gets a taste of the islands with “Acting On An Island.” Houdaille’s vocals mixed with ska-like guitar tones and jazzy bass makes this number one of the darkest on the release. Spirits are lifted back up with the new final song on Sketch, “Girl With The Moustache.” It starts with two females speaking about seeing a girl with a moustache. The band cuts off the conversation and jumps in with their retro-pop jam. The only downside to the track is some of the high-pitched vocals that add a very harsh sound to the tune. However, the spacey guitar riff makes up for the discomfort to end the album on the right foot.
Where to start with Ex Norwegian, for a band relatively unknown to the UK market, there probably wasn’t many tears shed when founding member Roger Houdaille announced in March 2011 that the band had ceased to be. However, without the need to nail it to the proverbial perch, Ex Norwegian have reformed and come together to re-release their Sketch album on 5 December 2011.
The thought of a band redefining ‘indie rock’ (as described in the news coverage Grumpyrocker ran back in October) doesn’t really do justice to the quirky pop that is on offer through Sketch. Featuring Roger on vocals, Arturo Garcia on drums, Lucas Queiroz on guitar, Nina Souto on bass and Michelle Grand providing additional and lead vocals at times, Ex Norwegian celebrate great American indie pop rock, call it what you will, music with sufficient trans-Atlantic references to draw in a more global audience.
What Ex Norwegian excel at is the construction of good quality rock / pop music, no better showcased that an opening track Jet Lag. The dirty bass line gives way to vocals, drums and guitars as pop takes over, before the wonderful vocal harmonies hark at Beach Boys, before the sampled sax allows the pop to shine once again. The sun of Florida just shines straight out of Jet Lag and even allows Lucas a soaring guitar solo as the track happily rains onto its conclusion.
Seconds and Smashing Time are so radio friendly and catchy that after one listen the chorus is hooked into the psyche, whilst the emergence of Roger and Michelle’s joint vocals on Mind Down draws out memories of They Might Be Giants, before they ended up writing music for Mickey Mouse’s Clubhouse amongst other Children’s TV Shows.
For the listener adverse to American music, then Sky Diving is surely aimed at the British market. It is impossible to think that Ex Norwegian haven’t spent some time listening to early Beatles as it cries out all over Sky Diving, although the underlying bass and drums allow it not to be a pastiche. The concluding acceleration in speed carries a real swing beat along with the moment for the guitar to hint at the intro chorus to McCartney’s Live and Let Die before quickly changing direction. You don’t like early Beatles? Then their psychedelic phase shines through on Upper Hand.
You’re Elastic Over Me allows Michelle to demonstrate her softer vocal side, initially supported with acoustic guitar, before xylophone, bass and eventually strings build the track up as Michelle’s vocals are effected away into another dimension and are replaced by the joint response of “You’re elastic over me”. It does demonstrate another side to Ex Norwegian and to some degree it’s a shame there isn’t more of these moments on Sketch.
If none of what has gone before has been quirky enough for you then final track Girl With the Moustache should suffice. In fact as Movember closes it is an apt finale for all mo-sisters out there.
Undeniably successful in the States, Ex Norwegian’s reformation is enough to bring happiness from the otherside of the pond, however, for a UK audience, not only does Sketch provide some Florida sunshine, but that quirky indie pop rock that you’ve been waiting for.
Source: http://www.grumpyrocker.co.uk/ex-norwegian-sketch-review (defunct)
This is Ex Norwegian’s second album release and it is a reminder that there are a lot of good pop bands out there. The group consists of Roger Houdaille (lead vocals, guitar, keyboards), Arturo Garcia (drums), Lucas Queiroz (guitar), Nina Souto (bass) and Michelle Grand (vocals). The music takes on a slightly MOD sound on tracks such as the flighty “Turn Left, 1960s pop on “Acting On An Island” and then tongue-in-cheek on the strange “Girl With The Moustache” with a sound a little like the Who. Interesting pop CD from a group who could well end up having chart success.
Who says geography doesn’t matter? Take away the south Florida accents and the way in which Ex Norwegian (named after a Monty Python skit – respect!) delve into the back catalogue of cool American pop/rock bands, and you just might have a post-Christmas turkey on your hands. Simply put, there are some countries (and territories within those countries) that do certain types of music better than others, and if you’re up for virtually irresistible, hook-driven tunes that reference life, love, clear skies, sex and bitchiness, then Sketch is right up your palm-tree-planted drive. Songs such as Smashing Time, Sky Divingand You’re Elastic Over Meadhere to the same jangling modus operandi as Fountains of Wayne ,while the insinuating Secondsruns rings around Cheap Trick’s entire output. Florida sunshine? Ex Norwegian bring us some.
Sketch ist das zweite Werk der Band Ex Norwegian, deren Bandname auf Monty Python zurückgeht. Ursprünglich wurde das Album im letzten Jahr im Eigenverlag aufgelegt, erscheint jetzt allerdings noch einmal über Dying Van Gogh Records. Die amerikanische Band um Hauptsongschreiber Roger Houdaille spielt einen poppig-rockigen Sound, der ziemlich britisch geprägt ist. Nicht gerade der Sound, den man von einer Band aus Miami erwaret, aber ausgesprochen gut umgesetzt.
Alle 10 Songs besitzen ein angenehm eingängiges Flair, ohne belanglos zu wirken. Natürlich erfindet man die Musik hier nicht neu, aber clever arrangiert und produziert kommt hier die Musik aus den Lautsprechern. Und spieltechnisch ist man auf hohem Niveau unterwegs. Die Rhythmusfraktion kann jederzeit überzeugen, ohne durch unnötige Spielereien aufzufallen. Die Gitarrenfraktion spielt songdienlich und bietet einige interessante Riffs und Soli. Man fühlt sich auf angenehme Art an Bands wie z.B. The Who, die Kinks und Konsorten erinnert.
Einen Innovationspreis werden Ex Norwegian wohl nicht gelingen, wer aber auf gutklassigen zeitlosen Pop und Rock britischer Prägung steht, sollte unbedingt einmal in Sketch hinein hören.
Plate nummer to frå Florida-bandet som blei noko av ein favoritt etter debuten som kom i fjor.
Til liks med den plata får vi her ei rad sterke låtar, gitarorientert, plassert i streit rock og pop med ein orientering mot powerpop.
Dei kan denne gongen verke noko tyngre i lyden utan at det går ut over dynamikken, dei tar også i bruk blåsarar på nokre av låtane. Som også fører til betre variasjon og dynamikk.
Bandet sin leiar, Roger Houdaille, er involvert som komponist på alle låtar så nær som ein.
Og som førre gongen har han lånt frå andre komponistar, og som då klarer eg ikkje no heller å sette fingeren på kvar. Om det kan kallast tjuveri skal eg ikkje påstå, men det er elegant utført. Dei gode låtane kjem trillande, eg nemner i fleng: “Jet Lag”, “Smashing Time”, “Mind Down” og “Turn Left”. Og denne gongen har eg funnet noko som dette minner meg om, ein favoritt frå 80-talet, Atlanta-bandet The Swimmingpool Q’s. Men det gjør deg nok ikkje noko klokare. Men begge er uansett to glimrande band.
‘Ex Norwegian’ is een Amerikaanse pop- en rockgroep uit Miami Beach, geformeerd rond zanger-gitarist Roger Houdaille, bassiste Nina Souto, drummer Arturo Garcia, Lucas Queiroz op gitaar en zangeres Michelle Grand. Het ontstaan van deze formatie dateert uit 2008 en hun debuutplaat “Standby” kreeg in 2009 lokaal al meteen een zeer goede feedback in de pers.
“Sketch” is de titel van plaat nummer twee van dit kwintet, dat zich vooral in de sferen van Beatlesque pop- en rock ophoudt. Het album is een verzameling van tien frisse deuntjes die allen door de bandleden werden gecomponeerd. De eerste keer dat we onder de indruk komen is bij de song “Smashing Time” waarin de diverse instrumenten voor het eerst behoorlijk hard tekeer gaan. “Mind Down” dat daarna volgt heeft een catchy deuntje en leuke harmony vocals tussen Roger Houdaille en Michelle Grand.
De gitaarsound domineert nadien ook in “Sky Diving” en “Turn Left” maar opvallend bij deze cd is de terugval in tempo bij een viertal nummers die allen een plaatsje kregen in het midden van de tracklist. Het door Michelle Grand gezongen tussendoortje “You’re Elastic Over Me” wordt in een akoestisch kleedje gestoken maar is wel een bittere song over de dokter die Michael Jackson heeft laten sterven. Het nummer “Seconds” werd ook van alle powerpopklanken ontdaan en wordt gezongen alsof Paul McCartney achter de microfoon stond, net als bij het modern swingende popliedje “Upper Hand”.
De Beatles lijken trouwens eveneens goedkeurend toe te kijken als ‘Ex Norwegian’ de twee laatste songs op dit album brengen: “Acting On An Island” en de grappige internethit “Girl With The Moustache” hebben meerdere elementen in zich die hun oorsprong vonden in de muziek van de populaire sixties-groepen. “Sketch” is naar onze mening vooral een album voor de liefhebbers van hedendaagse, complexloze pop- en rockdeuntjes die beschikken over een duidelijk sixties-randje.
Venus de Miami, voilà un groupe au nom curieux et son deuxième album. Même s’il ne révolutionne pas le rock électrique, « Sketch » , l’album d’ex Norwegian apporte une fraîcheur bienvenue. Il révèle une influence Beatles au fil des titres, notamment sur « Turn left » . On pense à Blur sur « Smashing time ». Mais il serait faux de considérer cet album comme un album « à la manière de » tant il use de ressources différentes et séduit par sa diversité. On se prend vite à siffloter quelques mélodies (« seconds » par exemple, avec sa trompette discrète). Ex Norwegian démontre une certaine agilité mélodique sur des rythmes enlevés sur un disque à l’allure classique, qui finalement sera difficile à dater dans quelques années car il puise aussi bien dans les sixties (harmonies vocales), la fin des seventies (le son) ou le college rock des nineties.
Quand on pense groupe de Floride, les images d’Épinal affluent: salsa, Cuba, déhanchés, robes courtes et chapeaux bas … Né des cendres de l’ancien groupe du guitariste et chanteur, Roger Houdaille, Father Bloopy (auquel participa également la bassiste Carolina Souto), Ex-Nowegian est un groupe de Floride, et au plus proche des influences latino de l’île enfermée de Cuba, puisqu’ils sont bien installés dans le sud de la péninsule, à Miami. pourtant eux c’est le rock qui les fait vibrer. Après le succès de leur premier single Something Unreal, rythmé par les bonnes trouvailles de leur batteur Arturo Garcia, ils naissent à la scène en 2008 au festival du « College Music Journal » à New York. Suit leur premier album, Standby. Sketch, nouvel album de nos anciens Norvégiens, est une espèce de présentation de quelques pans de la culture musicale anglo-saxonne, un patchwork de chansons. Il s’ouvre avec deux chansons punk-rock, baguettes lourdes sur la caisse claire et guitare jouée au niveau des genoux, que ne renieraient pas les Greenday des débuts. On passe ensuite à un style plus couler, avec des mélodies plus rondes, en référence parfois aux Beach boys. On continue en se rapprochant des chansons folks à la Devendra Banhart, puis une chanson où on peut parfois entendre quelques influences des quatre de Liverpool… Non là, pas de rythme latino ; dans leur dernier opus, très peu de rappels à la musique ambiante dans laquelle ils évoluent, à peine quelques notes en toute fin d’album comme un hommage. Album varié, agréable à écouter.
Easily the best band to be named after a Monty Python sketch — Toad the Wet Sprocket being a distant second — Miami’s Ex Norwegian takes an evolutionary leap forward with its latest album, following an already sterling debut, Standby. The harmonies are tighter, the production level is higher. At first, Sketch doesn’t seem to be much of a departure from Standby, but rather a fine-tuned improvement of that album’s sound, best witnessed in the gorgeous harmonizing in tunes such as “Mind Down,” which also boasts some wailing guitar work.
But the brash rock of the album’s first half, a sound that had so many music journalists comparing Standby to Talking Heads or 1980s-era Lou Reed, gives way to a slow, psychedelic groove on fifth track “You’re Elastic Over Me.” And like an acidhead who has dosed one too many times, the album never quite returns to reality — or in this case, the straight-ahead rock of the album’s first half. Instead, it remains in a lush, layered sound that would pair well with a paisley kaleidoscope and a fistful of mushrooms, all swirling guitars and reverbed vocals. “Seconds” and “Upper Hand” both follow this pattern, with the guitar on the latter even taking on a sitarlike quality. This delving into acid-rock reaches its zenith on “Acting on an Island,” which ends with a weird, half-minute-long cacophony of whispering and muted music.
Finally, the band returns to what one expects of Ex Norwegian on the final track, “Tired of Dancing,” which despite the title may be the most danceable track on the album. Sketch, then, represents both a perfection of the band’s previous effort and an exploration of new directions. It doesn’t offer anything as instantly catchy as Standby’s “Something Unreal,” which would be a megahit if there were any justice in the world. But taken as a whole, Sketch performs a neat trick — it improves on something that, before the release of this album, didn’t seem to need improving.
Source: http://www.citylinkmix.com/music/review-ex-norwegians-sketch (defunct)
Ex-Norwegian will be having a CD Release party June 19th at Sweat Records (5505 NE 2nd Ave)
There are few better indicators to the passing of time than the return of a trend. It’s been a short time coming, but since it seems like 80’s revival is entering it’s awkward phase (i.e. the return of fat girls in spandex and ultra high waisted jeans), it’s inevitable that the 90’s will soon be back.
The 90’s represented the amazingly fast cycle of major record labels attempting to hijack underground music (early 90s), and getting it so completely wrong that, I would argue, it is now putting them out of business.
While the dive into indie music may have destroyed labels, it did lead to a boon in the underground, bringing along smart and heartfelt music like Sunny Day Real Estate, The Promise Ring, Christie Front Drive, The Get Up Kids, and the growth of genres like lo-fi, emo, indie folk, shoegaze, and a rainbow of various underground sounds.
If the 60’s were the root of establishing American rock music, the 90’s were the explosion of it.
I write so fondly of the 90’s because living in Miami we are fortunate to be a city the lives in the front of trends. While other cities are inundated with bands that sound like they are trying their hardest to copy 93.1 Rock (just cross our northern county border), or, at best, sound like The Killers and Kings of Leon, we are fortunate to be the home of a trend forward band like Ex-Norwegian, who are masterfully grabbing hold of that 90’s sound and making it their own.
Last year Ex-Norwegian released their first album, Standby, to huge critical acclaim. A visit over to the press section on their website shows just how much they’ve been covered over the past year.
A lot of the attention was focused on their viral single, Something Unreal, a song so perfectly indie it couldn’t help but be found out by radio stations and music fans.
Coming off last year’s success Ex-Norwegian releases their second effort Sketch, a 10-song LP, on June 22.
Through first listen, the album screams that underground 90’s sound, particularly as a combination of a shoegaze sound with an emo feel; like a cross-pollination of Autolux and Sunny Day Real Estate.
The songs creep and crawl over a variety of themes, but Ex-Norwegian’s libertarian beliefs are felt across the album. Such as the second track Smashing Time, which ironically urges people to live it up until the hammer comes crashing down, which can be taken as either the impending great war or dictator (as outlined in FA Hayek’s Road to Serfdom), or the collapse of the United States’ economic viability.
My favorite line comes from Upper Hand, a hollowing and slow-paced song with another libertarian theme of the “power elite”. Halfway through the song, lead singer Roger Houdaille sings, “left, right, then wrong.” Take that two party system!
I truthfully wish I had more time to listen to the album so that I can get a better grasp of the lyrics. As opposed to shallower musicians, Ex Norwegian’s songs are formed in part imagery, part allegory, part straight-forward lyrics, and part metaphor. I probably need at month of listening to get the gist of their meaning — and I mean that in the best way possible (don’t be afraid to use your brains kids).
There were several other highlights to the album, such as Sky Diving and Turn Left, both of which feel similar to two of my favorite bands: Weezer and Jets to Brazil. In the middle of Turn Left, it falls into an organ part that flirts with something similar to King Crimson.
But for all the little things there are to love about Sketch something just doesn’t feel right, and it’s driving me crazy trying to put my finger on it, especially because I can fully admit that this is a great album and I’m just not getting it.
Listening all the way through there definitely is a slow pace to it, which plays into the 90’s feel of it, so maybe that’s not it. A lot of the songs are sung really straight forward and tend to drone, but then again, that’s the shoegaze influence, so maybe that’s not it either. Maybe it is the complicated lyrics, but then again, I think that’s a good thing.
Comparing this album to a couple of songs on their last album a couple of things stick out. There isn’t a single song on Sketch that matches the energy of Something Unreal. Whether it’s the pop vibe or the pace, Sketch just isn’t able to match. Then listening to Sudeki Lover, a slower paced song similar to the songs on Sketch, somehow Sketch doesn’t match the heartfelt and emotional feeling of that song.
Maybe I’m just being overcritical or maybe I’m just trying to rationalize my opinion, but don’t be mislead, Ex Norwegian is a band whose music should be heard. While it may seem like I’m not giving Sketch a glowing review, I think it’s more like a group of friend’s discussing the different albums of their favorite band, and Sketch may not be my favorite but I’m fairly confident I’m going to be in the minority.
Broward/Palm Beach New Times
Only two albums in, the band that evolved out of the unlikely named Father Bloopy has struck the mother lode with an effort that ranks as a genuinely substantial early accomplishment. In fact, let’s be so bold as to suggest it brings to mind another disc produced by a multi-tasking trio, namely, Band on the Run, the product of Paul McCartney and the remnants of Wings. Granted, that’s a bold assessment and perhaps a bit verbose, but it’s a comparison that’s also nudged along by the fact that the group – Roger Houdaille (guitars, vocals, keyboards), Nina Souto (bass, vocals), Arturo Garcia (drums, percussion, vocals, guitar) – clearly take their cue not from McCartney and company, along with a legion of Brit pop players in general – the Kinks, the Move, and, naturally, the Beatles among them. They swathe their sound with broad strokes, applying group harmonies, rich instrumental overlays and a vibrant undertow to songs that benefit immeasurably from a giddy and unabashedly effusive approach.
That knowing attitude serves the album well – from the riveting delivery of the boldly dubbed “Smashing Time” and the propulsive sway of “Mind Down” to the lofty airs of “Upper Hand” and the chirpy final entry, “Tired of Dancing.” “Sky Dancing” best sums up their strengths, a churning, tuneful rocker that bobs and weaves its way towards a stubborn refrain and a breezy rocking coda that keeps its grip on the listener even as its final notes fade away.
Which all goes back to that original comparison. Boasting only three players in their ranks, it’s clear the band worked overtime to stack these playful sounds. It’s impressive too that Ex Norwegian’s adherence to such strict democratic principles allows each member to contribute to the songwriting mix while still maintaining a seamless flow. Consequently, Sketch belies its title. In truth, it’s more a masterpiece.
Eat Sleep Drink Music
Proof positive in the existence of parallel universes. Sketch, the sophomore effort from Miami trio Ex Norwegian, is an otherworldly slab of catchy pop rock song after catchy pop rock song, conceived in some fantastic place where the ’90s power pop bubble never burst. (Lucky bastards never had to suffer through nu metal and emo. We want to go there, now.) Some of the songs bear the markings of a grunge influence – opening track “Jet Lag” opens with a D-tuned bass and chord sequence that would not have been out of place on Alice in Chains’ Dirt – and then when the chorus hits, it morphs into the best song Sloan never wrote, all sunny harmonies and ringing guitars. “Sky Diving” is a gorgeous slice of melancholic pop (likewise “Upper Hand”), and “Acting on an Island” deftly shifts time signatures around an unforgettable climbing melody. As comfortable with upbeat sing-a-longs as they are with darker, more introspective material – with the added bonus of having three musicians who can sing lead – Sketch is the sound of a band with limitless potential. Here’s hoping that bubble in which they’re living remains intact.
Probablemente no tendrá la repercusión que debería, pero este segundo trabajo del trío de Miami Ex Norwegian, Sketch (2010) es un disco con letras mayúsculas. Como lo fue su primer álbum, Standby (2009), ya reseñado en The JangleBox. Para este segundo álbum, Sketch (2010), el trío no se baja de sus presupuestos iniciales: Power-Pop y guitarras potentes, como base de inspiración de su música. Este segundo trabajo (sophomore, me encanta esta palabra inglesa) es incluso algo más potente que el anterior, su producción es más limpia pero realza las virtudes del grupo, ese Power-Pop de alto quilataje y esa potencia a la hora de ejecutar sus temas, que parece que están facturados en la burbuja de tiempo que durante los noventa rescató al mejor Pop de guitarras de siempre, pero ejecutados con la energía vitaminada del Grunge: Jet Lag, Smashing time (los mejores temas del disco), Sky diving. Al tiempo, Sketch parece beber de fuentes más clásicas retrotrayéndose al estilo neopsicodélico de Ray Davies en temas como Seconds, Upper hands o You´re elastic over me, gemas introspectivas del mejor lirismo Pop. En otros temas se recupera la mejor tradición del Power-Pop contemporáneo, al estilo de The Posies: Turn left, Mind down, un temazo con unas armonías vocales y un trabajo de guitarras impecable al servicio de unas letras ingeniosas. El último tema del disco, Tired of Dancing, es el único al que no le encuentro un sitio real, si acaso lo relacionaría con Dance Trance Pants, canción que tiene la misma temática bailonga y que realmente tampoco pegaba demasiado en su primer álbum. En cualquier caso, con este Tired of Dancing, Ex Norwegian realizan una especie de tributo a The Talking Heads bastante pasable. Si no fuera por este tema, el resto del disco es de auténtico notable alto: Power-Pop del mejor hecho a la manera de la soleada Florida. Seguro que a Horatio Caine le gustará.
While the name might throw you off, Ex Norwegian is one of Miami’s own. This band, not even two years old (launched at the CMJ Festival October 2008 in New York City), has already released is sophomore effort with Sketch.
The trio consists of Roger Houdaille (vocals and guitar), Nina Souto (bass guitar and vocals), and Arturo Garcia (drums and vocals). Releasing their debut album Standby in March 2009 after the single “Something Unreal”, Ex Norwegian gained recognition and popularity as an indie-rock band.
Having just finished their second East coast tour (you might have heard them at quite a few local places like Vagabond back in January, Titanic in February, Bardot in March, or Churchills in April/May) the band released Sketch a couple weeks ago at the end of June. Still fresh out of the wrapper, this 10-song album is an easy listen. The catchy guitar chorus and strong ballads on tracks like “Turn Left” are something I’d jam to in the car with friends, giving it a 90s rock kind of feel. Then there are some slower-paced tunes for hanging out at home, and the soothing, feminine voice of Souto is a nice change on “You’re Elastic To Me”.
The band falls in a similar category as (new style) Kings Of Leon (obviously not as mainstream, yet), but with a softer, woman’s touch that makes it more hipster than rock. And let’s not forget the coolest reason to like them- they’re from Miami! Bringing this sound to a national level with two albums and a following from time spent on the road, they’ve got a lot more to boast than some of Miami’s smaller, local bands can compete with. Not to mention a feature in last month’s issue of 944. Ex Norwegian had us on Standby in 2009, now getting a pretty good Sketch in 2010… hoping for a masterpiece in 2011?
Source: http://www.fabrikalink.com/index.php/music/cd-reviews/857-ex-norwegian-sketch (defunct)
It’s difficult to get a feel for the tone of Standby, the debut record from Miami indie rock band Ex Norwegian; there really isn’t an overall “tone” to speak of, and the styles are all over the map. But in order to give you an idea of what to expect, let’s examine the album’s sixth track, “Sudeki Lover.” For two minutes, it’s a longing alternative song touched by the 80’s, complete with reverb-y guitars, tingling sound effects, synthesizers and falsettos. Then, at the 1:58 mark, it becomes a bluesy classic rock song, sounding a bit like heavy Pink Floyd. At 2:31, we get seven seconds of ELO-type vocal harmonies, and finally, at 2:38, there’s 14 seconds of grungy, Nirvana-style thrashing to close out the song. Now, I’m a prog-rock nerd. I listen to more than a few bands who like to change keys, tempos and styles more than once throughout a song. But I don’t know of any who do it in songs under three minutes long.
That’s the allure of this album: it’s inventive and quirky without ever becoming too artsy, and it’s completely original. The strengths of Standby are aided by its brevity; out of twelve songs, only two clock in at over three minutes. As a result, nothing here overstays its welcome, so to speak. The record’s style, as I said, is hard to pin down, bouncing from jangly powerpop to alternative to dance rock to punk with the ease of a sorority girl jumping between frat boys. If anything, Ex Norwegian’s style could be called unconventional; some of the vocals are a bit nasal, and some of the chord progressions are a little odd. But when most of the songs finish up in two and a half minutes, these little quirks become not just tolerable, but pretty damn endearing.
Of course, that’s not to say that Standby is totally lacking in catchiness. After the slightly “off” but strangely memorable “Fujeira In My Dreamsssss” (not how it’s spelled, but that’s how it’s sung; it’s pretty awesome), we’re hit with two fantastically hummable tunes in “Don’t Bother” and “Something Unreal,” both replete with great harmonies, good guitar solos and one-liners that you’ll be singing in your head non-stop. “Dance Trance Pants” is both goofy and groovy, and the record closes with the spectacular “My Name Is Paul,” whose melody is so impossibly addictive that I’m pretty sure it plays in my head while I’m sleeping. (I might add that it was written about Paul Wolfowitz, as “A song to humanize the political elite class.”) The rest of the album finds the band doing the aforementioned style-bouncing, from the alternative-rock sounding “Fresh Pit” and “Add Vice,” to the almost-plagiarized-from-the-Beatles “Gross You” to the punk-rock “Pow3rfull.” While parts of the record are, admittedly, strange, they’re never dragged out long enough to warrant a push of the ‘skip’ button.
Somehow, all of these disparate influences come together to create 33 minutes of bliss; I’ve been listening to this album twice a day for the last week. Ex Norwegian has accomplished something rare–especially rare among debut albums–with Standby: they’ve put out a record whose whole is much greater than the sum of its parts. They’ve combined powerpop, classic rock and indie with a touch of the weird to craft an innovative and original sound. Their style may be hard to put into a genre, but it is most definitely all their own. I’ll be looking forward to hearing more from this band in the future. –Sean K.
This CD arrived in our trusty little mailbox with no accompanying literature or press release whatsoever. And in this particular case that’s fine with us…because the music on Standby speaks for itself. Ex Norwegian is the trio consisting of Roger Houdaille (vocals, guitars, mellotron, synthesizers), Carolina Souto (bass), and Arturo Garcia (drums, percussion, vocals)…along with a few friends and/or guest artists lending some additional support. This album presents twelve smart, clean, hummable pop tunes that are simultaneously accessible and artistically credible. Songs are the main focus of the band’s energies…and they come up with a wealth of credible tunes here. The vocals are up front in the mix and easily understood…the guitars smart and precise…and the songs padded with just enough instrumentation to make them seem thick and full without coming across sounding overproduced. These folks combine some of the best elements from 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s pop…all the while presenting their songs with all the crystal clear clarity that twenty-first century technology allows. Super smart effective cuts include “Fujeira In My Dreams,” “Something Unreal,” “Add Vice,” and “All Over Again.” Great pop stuff. Recommended.
Miami-based indie pop band Ex Norwegian started life in 2008 at the CMJ Music Marathon. The band name came from a Monty Python “Dead Parrot” skit, and the debut album came out last March. It’s one of those hard to pigeon hole bands that have elements of dance, power pop, new wave and punk all overlapping each other.
It all starts with “Fujeira in My Dreams” and vocalist/songwriter Roger Houdaille’s echoing chorus and blistering guitar riffs. You can compare the wall of fuzz sound with on “Don’t Bother” with Superdrag, but you can’t deny the irresistibly catchiness of the songs here and that’s what makes the album a winner. It also helps that Roger openly loves the quick two minute pop song here. Some tracks like “Fresh Pit” and “Sudeki Lover” jangle along like The Shins, or others like “Dance Trance Pants” have a simple groove and bouncy chorus you can sing along to.
Other tunes mine the Kinks 70’s era (“Sad Wonder”, “Something Unreal”) or pop punk (“Pow3rfull”). Each song easily accessible and it’s an understandable part of why the band has been a critical success. The band’s best quality is also it’s biggest problem, without a distinct signature sound – it’s very easy for this album to sound like a mix tape of other bands. They very briefly transcend this on the brilliant power pop of “Add Vice” – – but the band needs to decide a direction if they don’t want all this good will to fade away.
What’s in a name? Potentially plenty when a band dubs itself Ex-Norwegian and there’s not a Scandinavian expatriate in the bunch. Admittedly though, it’s a considerably better handle than the moniker given its predecessor, the absolutely incongruous Father Bloopy. Fortunately, there’s reason enough to forgive the band’s lynchpin, Roger Houdaille for his strange choice in nom de plumes; whatever his shortcomings in that regard, it doesn’t diminish his melodic prowess or his ability to inspire a rousing performance from his collaborators. Consequently, this new trio – Houdaille (vocals, guitar, mellotron, synths), Carolina Souto (bass) and Arturo Garcia (drums, percussion, vocals) – make amends with a stirring debut that’s chock full of exuberant, exhilarating performances and a unerring pop sensibility that’s both brash and irresistible.
In truth, Standby isn’t so much a variation from Houdaille’s Father Bloopy guise as it is a further affirmation of his melodic abilities, newly bolstered by an assertive stance and a modern rock regimen. The staccato rhythms of “Fujeira In My Dreams,” the unrelenting pace of “Pow3full” and the steady stomp and surge of “Dance Trance Pants” all testify to the band’s revved up delivery, confidence and poise. What’s equally impressive is Ex-Norwegian’s ability to flirt with radio-ready possibilities, be it with the pop-perfect “Sad Wonder,” the buoyant refrains of “Fresh Pit” or the percolating “Add Vice,” which, coincidentally or not, retraces the sound of the soul classic “What Becomes of the Broken Hearted.” So no matter what name they paste above the marquee, Standby is nothing less than a standout.
Exploding In Sound
Ex Norwegian, named after a Monty Python skit, play a form of highly infectious pop/rock that borrows and pulls from just about every imaginable rock n roll genre for a sound that is unique and refreshing. To call their debut album “Standby” infectious is a bit of an understatement. This Miami quartet has crafted an entire LP of songs that will be stuck in your head for days on end. To be completely honest, when I was first introduced to Ex Norwegian’s music I thought it was cool, but nothing exceptional. That feeling lasted for maybe one day before I found myself with a strong urge to listen to them again. That time I liked them a bit more. Later that day I found that urge back again, and I liked them yet a bit more. Any band that demands multiple listens to grow on me is generally well worth the time, and this is no exception. “Standby” is a stellar pop album that should be widely embraced by radio for its outstanding guitar rock and quirky vocal deliveries. Comprised of Roger Houdaille, Carolina Souto on bass, Arturo Garcia on drums, and Billie G on guitar, their influences cover a wide range from the Kinks, Lou Reed and Talking Heads to Nirvana, Cake, and Jethro Tull, and the combination of these sounds is very much Ex Norwegian.
“Fujeira in my Dreams” opens the album with simple sun soaked guitar licks and deep pounding drums. There is a respectful amount of reverb on the vocals, but not to the point of distorting the lyrics. Everything sounds crisp and jangly, just the way a power-pop album should begin. While Ex Norwegian have only been together since 2008, singer/guitarist/songwriter Roger Houdaille first wrote this song way back in ’04 with his former band, Father Bloopy. “Don’t Bother” contains a sickly sweet and irresistible melody that would make great company with Superdrag’s brightest moments. As the song says “It’s good for me and me you,” and they’re not lying. This is pop music like fine art, keeping things honest, simple, and rocking. “Something Unreal” is not a track you will soon forget. After a listen of this song, you’ll be hearing it in your head for days and weeks to come. The memorable vocal melody sinks deep, and doesn’t let up; this is their pop gem for the world, now it’s just up to the world to take notice.
“Fresh Pit” features singing from female vocalist Michelle Grand, no longer part of the band, but adds excellent texture to their ever changing sound. The guitars wind like a tamer version of Modest Mouse or Built to Spill. “Pow3rfull” is their punk rock anthem with a vocal effect that comes across sounding like sun soaked stoner legends Fu Manchu’s mid-catalog works. With punchy stop and start solos from the guitars and drums, this song is short and to the point. “Sudeki Lover” was written by Eric Hernandez of the hardcore band Capsule and features a hypnotic tribal drum pattern with darting angular guitar playing that adds an indie/prog feel that could appeal to …Trail of Dead fans. With all these influences mixed into their power-pop filter, Ex Norwegian genuinely has delivered a pure pop album that fans of hard rock can embrace.
“Add Vice” is a quirky love song of the likes that Weezer would have killed to write back in the early 90s. “Gross You” contains a strong Beach Boys influence with its vocals pushed to the forefront and mellotron accompaniment. Beautiful Miami weather must play a large part in their sound, as these songs have a strong summer quality to them, not to mention a bit of psychedelic musicianship. “Dance Trance Pants,” their second single, has a 70s glam meets The Killers vibe. An electro influenced “dance track” continues the albums evolution through genres, but I personally could have done without that one. “All Over Again” is their “prog pop” submission with plenty of shifting timings covering a lot of territory while still remaining just under the three minute mark.
The album closes on a slower note with “Sad Wonder” and “My Name is Paul,” a song Houdaille describes as, “a song to humanize the political elite class. Paul Wolfowitz (former World Bank President) and co. are a delusional bunch…and this song is a light hearted attempt at seeing the world thru their eyes.” These songs may not have the same syrupy power pop charm as the beginning of the album, but serve as a great closing point to a promising debut.
In a world where hip-hop and pop music are the Holy Grail and Lil’ Wayne and Lady Gaga its saviors, the rock, with minute traces of pop, of Ex Norwegian is like a breath of fresh air. Though hailing from Miami, Florida, the fivesome, composed of Roger Houdaille (vocals and guitar), Carolina Souto (bass guitar and vocals), Arturo Garcia (drums and vocals), Billie G (guitar), and Michelle Grand (vocals on recordings and occasional live performances), actually sounds like something out of California circa late 90s/early 2000s.
Ex Norwegian is reminiscent of those really great California bands from your teens, think Phantom Planet without the commercialism or Lifehouse without the religious undertones. They are a simple, but brilliant band with good lyrics and good music. They make really great angst ridden songs, be it teen or adult, that make you want to sit by a fire on the beach and have an impromptu sing-a-long with your friends.
Yes, this Oceanside music is a bit of a twist for us nowadays. When, whenever we turn on the radio, we hear the up tempo dance music of Rihanna or Flo Rida, or someone who sounds exactly like them. Don’t get me wrong, Ex Norwegian is like something we have heard before, but something we haven’t heard in a long time and with a twist.
For one this band is surprisingly coed, which is remarkable given that most mainstream bands are male dominated. But Ex Norwegian actually features a mix of boys and girls on both instruments and vocals that make a lovely blend of musical concinnity.
While the music does feature angst, it’s not the depressing Emo kind that makes you want to sit in your room, crying over a broken heart. The lyrics can be bleak and hopeless at times, “Million miles away they celebrate your day/its good for shoes its good for me and me you/A Million miles away/You got it saved – no don’t bother/Gotta save, what maybe next year…what YEAR?”, but the up tempo guitar and bass juxtaposed with the daunting lyrics give off a more kumbayaish vibe. They actually make you want to get together with a group of your friends and sing in the car, on the beach, or maybe even at a graduation party. This is good music.
So I ask in time when these manufactured singers who not only sing, but act, model, have clothing lines, AND are spokespersons for various brands, and are actually more celebrity than music, are we ready for a simple Miami band with a California sound that makes you want to possibly cry and yet belt your heart out with a group of friends at the same time? If so, then world, we are ready for something as amazing as Ex Norwegian.
Miami New Times
Local band Ex-Norwegian’s name doesn’t make much sense — we’re not talking about legitimate Scandinavian expatriates here, after all. But consider it an improvement over ringleader Roger Houdaille’s former nom de plume, Father Bloopy. Fortunately, there’s reason enough to forgive Houdaille for his unfortunate choice of monikers; it doesn’t diminish his melodic prowess or his ability to initiate a rousing performance from his collaborators. Consequently, this new trio — Houdaille (vocals, guitar, Mellotron, synths), Carolina Souto (bass), and Arturo Garcia (drums, percussion, vocals) — makes its mark with a stirring debut, Standby, recently released on indie label Dying Van Gogh. The record is chock full of exuberant, exhilarating performances and a unerring pop sensibility that’s both brash and irresistible.
In truth, Standby isn’t so much a variation from Houdaille’s Father Bloopy guise as it is a bold extension, given its more assertive stance and modern rock regimen. The staccato rhythms of “Fujeira in My Dreams,” the unrelenting pace of “Pow3rfull,” and the steady stomp and surge of “Dance Trance Pants” all testify to the band’s revved-up delivery and sonic savvy. What’s equally impressive is Ex-Norwegian’s ability to flirt with a radio-ready stance, be it on the seemingly pop-perfect “Sad Wonder,” the buoyant “Fresh Pit,” or the percolating “Add Vice,” which, coincidentally or not, retraces the sound of the soul classic “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted.” With those kinds of credentials, Standby can be recommended without reservation.
Standby is a love letter to a slew of different genres. Alternative, grunge, geek-rock, new wave and dance-punk all receive tributes, often in the same compact song. There’s some incongruities that come as a result of the style smashups, but while there’s no underlying theme, the album doesn’t sound disjointed. If you’re not listening for the next genre reference, it’s easy to lay back and simply hum the choruses or spin around to the melodies. The influences are there, but one needn’t be fully aware of them to get the most out of Standby.
We all know of at least one local band that’s been around forever, puts out loads of material, plays all around town, but never seems to break. Nothing could be further from the truth for Miami quartet Ex-Norwegian, who notoriously played the CMJ Marathon just a mere months after uniting (before playing one single gig at Little Haiti haunt Churchill’s too.) With only two solid singles to their name-the instantly catchy, Lemonheads-esque folkie pop number “Something Unreal” and the dancey playful tune “Dance Trance Pants”- the band managed to drum up enough demand for a proper full length (out on March 17th.) Lead singer/guitarist Roger Houdaille pens all the sweeping harmonies on this collection of jangly power pop. Some of the standouts not to be missed-the Meat Puppets inspired track “Add Vice” and the crunchy “Fujeira In My Dreams.” ~ Alex Rendon Source:
Ex Nowergian [sic] es una banda de muy reciente creación (están juntos desde el verano de 2008) procedente de Miami liderada por Roger Houdaille que ha conseguido registrar su álbum de debut antes del año de su inicio de andadura musical. Y a fe que se lo merecen, porque se trata de una banda de Power-Pop enérgico y acelerado, de esas que gustan tanto por este Blog. Una especie de The Posies con toques de Mathew Sweet o de Polara con aderezos de Big Star, Foofighters o Nirvana. Una auténtica gozada de disco que se disfruta tan sólo en apenas media hora de brillantes melodías convenientemente aderezadas con arreglos vocales y guitarras nerviosas de brillante ejecución. Difícil quedarse con algún tema en especial porque son todos bastante remarcables, pero podíamos mencionar Pow3rfull, un tema agitado en el que la banda saca a relucir toda su energía Power-Pop. Fresh pit es otro precioso tema que nos recuerda a bandas de los ´70 como The Records, por su tratamiento de la melodía y la instrumentación. Add vice, Sad wonder, My name is Paul, Fujeira in my dreams van también en la misma línea Power-Pop, aunque son temas algo más relajados. Otra serie de ellos van en una onda más melódica y calmada aunque no menos guitarrera: Don´t bother; Something unreal (su primer single editado el año pasado), un tema que no tiene nada que envidiarle al mejor Paul McCartney; Gross you tiene unas voces preciosas; All over again es otro temazo con influencias que podríamos encontrar en la armoniosidad de Badfinger. Un disco a seguir de cerca al menos para los amantes del POP con mayúsculas, las buenas composiciones intemporales y el buen hacer instrumental.
Ex Norwegian are nothing of the sort, apparently getting their name from a Monty Python sketch (uselessly, I can’t recall which one). 2009’s Standby is their first album, a pleasing mélange of powerpop and psychedelic styles, just for once not immediately traceable to the mid-to-late ’60s, making them that rarest of things in the loosely ‘retro’ field: a band with their own voice. Also a band with great, memorable songs, something that’s in short supply in their chosen genre(s); too many bands settle for getting the sound right, then thinking about the material later, if at all. Top tracks? Well, they’re all good, but the riff on Fresh Pit is to die for, while Add Vice features several hooks on various instruments, not least voice. Roger Houdaille plays self-confessed samplotron, although the strings on Don’t Bother have an especially ‘real’ feel, going by the hanging chord at the end of the track. We also get wispy choirs on Pow3rfull, strings on Sudeki Lover and another exceptionally pseudo-‘real’ part on Add Vice, alongside a snarling analogue synth, with more strings elsewhere. A real treat for those who value quality songwriting over image or flash, then, although I’m not so sure about the Beatles steal on Gross You…
Power pop ought to be loud, crunchy and impossibly catchy. Ex Norwegian is loud, generally crunchy and catchier than it seems on first listen. These songs take a moment to work into the brain. I guess that sets the hook even faster.
In many ways, this reminds me a lot of the Meadows, a band that’s more on the rootsy AOR side of things. Both bands have a laid back feel that seems counterintuitive. And both bands are impossible to put away. The music is far too insistent to sit on the shelf.
There’s nothing particularly distinctive about the sound. That’s part of the deception, I guess, as it might make some folks dismiss the band. But just as you might be ready to ask, “What’s so special about this?,” your brain won’t allow you to switch out the disc. Turns out there’s lots of special going on.
I dunno. Sometimes the good stuff has a mundane window dressing. Ex Norwegian makes some fine music. And that’s the bottom line for me.
The Phantom Tollbooth
Happy semi-political indie rock with a modern Beatlesque/Euro vibe akin to The Killers and Shins makes Ex Norwegian’s “Standby” a repeat customer in my mp3 player. Seriously, for a debut, Ex Norwegian has created a stellar disc. With their name taken from a Monty Python episode, and kudos for that, you would think dry, witty humor emanating from the disc. Tongue in cheek sensibility exists, but the quality of production and great hooks takes it over the edge.
Hailing from Miami Beach, FL, this band sounds every way like a veteran outfit. Together since 2008, they have performed in the CMJ Music Marathon in New York City, toured the east coast, appeared on Sky News, and NBC’s South Florida Today show. When I say veteran, confident from a veteran viewpoint is what the disc from start to finish is all about. There is not one stinker in the batch.
If I have one complaint, it’s that it ends too quickly. Most of the songs are under the three-minute range and nothing over 3:17. Like a roller coaster, it’s a thrill ride though. Standout songs are “Something Unreal,” “Fresh Pit,” “Sudeki Lover,” and “Dance Trance Pants,” though the rest play consistently like a well-oiled machine.