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.
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!
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
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
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.
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.
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?
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.
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