swan dive’s ‘june’ 20th anniversary … and how i learned to love the songwriter

Bill Demain and Molly Felder, members of Swan Dive, sit in a diner. The photo is black and white.
An outtake photo for Swan Dive’s album “June”. (https://www.facebook.com/Swan-Dive-220422927975366/photos/5860959883921614)

In 2017, I was a Sophomore in college, spurred by the euphoria of spring to drop out of school and live elsewhere for a bit. It ended up being a rough year, but that spring remains one of the loveliest times of my life. I skinned my knee trying to skateboard, listened to Deee-lite in a sweaty dormroom, and ate Cocoa Pebbles every single morning.

But where would I be without March Records’ 2006 compilation “Moshi Moshi (Pop International Style)”? The companion piece to “Pop American Style” had two hours of new sounds and fell into my lap at the perfect time, introducing me to 800 Cherries, The Cherry Orchard, Club 8, Girlfrendo, The Shermans and more. I was specifically captivated, however, by Swan Dive‘s “Breezeway”. It seemed to perfectly summarize the summery mood I was in. And I was falling in love to boot, so everything about it felt perfect to me.

That year ended up wiping the smile off my face, regrettably. And it wasn’t until I fell in love again last year that Swan Dive popped back up on the radar. Now thoroughly versed in bossa pop, their U.S. compilation (of the releases Circle, Wintergreen, etc.) hit me like a wave, and I knew I had to listen to everything else from the group.

Bill DeMain is a powerhouse of a songwriter, and “June” is the perfect showcase for his talents, celebrating its 20th anniversary today, June 3rd. In the live performance accompanying the anniversary (which I will link below), Bill talks about the album and the people who worked on it with him. I ended up learning a lot here, finding out I already knew some of those talented songwriters and performers!

Starting from the second track is “Truly, Madly, Deeply”, a song that came out of an invitation from the incredible Marshall Crenshaw to fill out a melody that Crenshaw had written. This perfect end-of-summer song feels like a gentle sigh on its verses, despite its cheery and bittersweet chorus. Hate to say it, but it beats out Savage Garden for the name. Next comes two Jill Sobule co-written songs, “One-Sided” and “Go With Love”. These songs enter into the more melancholy, which you can easily guess from the titles. Jill is an artist I’m only now exploring, but both songs speak so much to her talent. Her work with Bill is incredible. The lounge pop sound on “One-Sided” puts it as one of my favorites on the album. Catch that Wanderley organ sound?

Now come some surprises. I had no idea Bill worked with both Boo Hewerdine and Gary Clark of The Bible and Danny Wilson, respectively! Boo co-penned “Mountains”, “Have You Ever Been in Love” and “My Mistake”, while Gary’s sole credit on this album is “Katydids”. The album truly shines in these songs, the childish nostalgia embodied in “Katydids” is also apparent in “Have You Ever Been in Love”. On the other hand, “Mountains” and “My Mistake” enter truly gutwrenching territory. I’m thankful it didn’t, but if this album followed one of my messier break-ups, these songs would be all-too-perfect.

Bill DeMain and Molly Felder sit at a grand piano, smiling towards the camera.
Bill DeMain and Molly Felder in the studio during the making of June. (https://www.facebook.com/Swan-Dive-220422927975366/photos/845560285461624)

Still a surprise to be had: Pat Sansone of Wilco and Jenifer Jackson worked on that stellar tune “Safe and Sound” with Bill. The versions on “Words You Whisper” show just how beloved this song is, a light bossa tune with chanson influence creeping in on vocalist Molly Felder‘s French chorus. Both musicians are new to me (surprisingly), and I’m excited to see Jenifer had a release on both Bar None Records and Parasol Records (some of the greatest indie music from Illinois comes from that wonderful college town of Champaign-Urbana).

That’s not all, however. Kelley Ryan, who I’m unfamiliar with, starts the record spectacularly with “Girl on a Wire”, something I wish I heard on MTV as a kid (it easily would have changed my life as it had done now). Brad Jones forms the backbone of this album’s songwriting with Bill, heard in “Automatically Sunshine”, “Kaleidoscope”, “Augustine” and “Puzzle Ring” on the Japanese release. Love songs and songs about spring will always shoot me past the moon, but Bill and Brad’s work on “Augustine” is perfectly brooding, much like a cool summer night.

The moral of the story is that in my journey to write songs, having idols and friends is more than a great thing, it’s almost necessary. Bill meeting his idols Boo and Gary are heaven-sent, and listening to “June” is absolute proof of it. How he writes for both himself and Molly is fantastic, and Molly herself is one of the most talented vocalists I’ve heard sing pop music, strong here and breathy there.

A friend of mine mentioned that the indie pop of Nashville deserves a name, and I agree with her. She recommended “heartland chamber pop” or “Nashville chamber pop”, to describe that pocket of singer-songwriters that includes Jill Sobule, Paula Kelley and more. Maybe I’ll revisit that in another blog post.

Swan Dive in the 20th anniversary "June" livestream from left to right: Bill Demain, Jim Hoke, Brad Jones, Molly Felder.
Swan Dive in the 20th anniversary “June” livestream from left to right: Bill DeMain, Jim Hoke, Brad Jones, Molly Felder.

In Swan Dive I’ve found a love for love, a music that transcends the headphones with which I hear it and fills the world around me. It accompanies me through the cold winter into the thaw that spring brings. I’m more than happy to share Swan Dive’s performance of “June” below as well as encourage you to listen on Spotify or Apple Music. Bill’s also got this cool greeting card company with the cutest handmade bird collage art, and if you’re interested in that, you can contact him at oddbirdsco@gmail.com. Below is the performance, which is sweet and fun from start to finish (Molly tears up on some of the sadder songs and I can’t blame her, because I was, too). I’m so thankful for this group, and so happy to share my thoughts about them with you. See you all soon!

remington super 60, z tapes, + the week ahead

I wanted to jot a quick post down because the weather’s getting nicer (and windier), and I’ve been listening to cool music and doing cool things.

Every day I discover something new, which I guess is part of the diligence of being an RYM/Discogs contributor. But as an indie pop fan, I’m always woefully behind the curve. Apparently, so is RYM! I went to listen to Remington Super 60 and log some ratings when I realized it (and Christoffer Schou’s label Cafe Superstar Recordings) has been totally neglected!

It’s going to take a while to get it current. The last addition to Remington Super 60’s page was a 2009 release. But that’s actually not true! A 2020 sampler from Z-Tapes stood as the most recent addition to the site. And yes, I know. I remember listening to this EP in 2020, but I’m much lazier than you’d think. This blog has laid dormant since the same time!

Well, as luck would have it, I couldn’t have picked a better time to get into Z Tapes, a Slovakian tape (& more!) label and store owned by Filip Zemčík. Their release of Port Lucian‘s compilation Trans Musicians & Allies for Change has received quite a lot of notice and even more downloads. I’m about to be one of them. So, I’ll link that below.

That’s all I’ve got for today. On my horizon: Axolotes Mexicanos new album “:3” comes out March 12th. I have a few records inbound as well: a reissue of Enon’s debut LP from Blind Rage Records, a reissue of Josef K’s Sorry for Laughing, the new Axolotes Mexicanos, Sweet Trip’s reissue of You Will Never Know Why and their new single Walkers Beware… / Stab Slow. The latter is all from Darla. Great stuff.

Readers, my advice to you: curiosity leads you to cool stuff. It should lead you to Z Tapes. Check them out! See you soon.

new year, not me

Don’t be so naive. Happy new year.

Hi folks. The last time I posted was in 2019, my naivety at an all-time high. I had expected a burst of energy to accompany me into 2020, and the floodgates to truly open on this blog. No one can account for a pandemic and more life changes.

That’s actually more motivating to blog and to document the changes. Not in the sort of detail where you, the reader, will be able to scrape extremely personal information, but just enough to get an idea of where my head is at.

A girl on “Hey, Hey Girl”, Rocketship 1994.

I’ve opened up an internet channel to discuss indiepop. Scientists and practitioners have been doing this for ages. What does it mean if I do it? Young people (the punkish youth) ought to learn about indie pop… and destroy it.

I want to contribute. I’ve purchased a drumset (electric, so as not to disturb the neighbors). It can plug into my computer or into my headset or into a speaker, and it changes sounds on a whim. I’ve bought a domain here and I’ll probably buy Reason’s new subscription program. Things I own: Drumset. Things I don’t own, but pay for: domain, Reason+.

Will I play my own music? Surely. But what kind? The name of my band is Contraptions. My name is Ana Garda. Punk. Twee. Noise. Clatter. Pop. I like neat things but I know what my closet looks like, so I won’t pretend. Plug into the computer and fill it with drum strokes.

Enough of all that. Here’s what I’m listening to.

French indie-pop artist Essiar’s only tangible release.

Fall asleep in the woods and you may hear Cyrille Essiar’s en-chant-ing melodies. Fuzzy, spacy, rather lovely tunes. Released on Radio Khartoum as a 3” CD. How I’d like to have the artistic talents of Bügelfrei. This is as short as an EP so please give an attentive ear.

‘Till next time. Happy new year.