Tullycraft's Twee Primer

Tullycraft: Twee and proud.

When I saw that Tullycraft was going to be in town I figured it would be a great opportunity to delve into the delightful world of twee pop. Tullycraft are the masters of the gentle genre. Their song "Twee" can be considered its theme song. A sampling of lyrics: "Well she wakes up every morning / To the sound of Sarah Records / On a compilation tape" ... "She grabbed her Slumberland guitar case / And her 14 Iced Bears ring" ... "Well you can keep the punk rock / Ska rap beats and house / [Expletive] me I'm twee."

I got in touch with the band to see if they'd be up for doing something for the blog and sure enough vocalist/bassist Sean Tollefson delivered big time. His geographical breakdown of the genre's best bands and songs proves that the langauge of twee truly is universal. We're even breaking out the first Post Rock playlist so you can listen to some of his picks. And you can check out the band Sunday at the Red & the Black. And now I hand the keyboard over to Sean...

Sean Tollefson, Tullycraft: Since twee is, itself, a sub-genre, it's difficult to distinguish between levels of twee. That said, one way to differentiate the offerings of today and yesteryear is to look at the map. A geographic look at the twee landscape illustrates the uniting characteristic twee sound is more of a soft-hearted DIY attitude with sass and humility. Of course, having a Sarah Records label mark, pink band t-shirt and the fey vocals strengthens your cred as well.

American Twee
Jonathan Richman: "Back In Your Life"
Most people don't think of Jonathan Richman as twee, but as with most modern genres, they all began with Jonathan. The Sex Pistols auditioned to a JR song and Stereolab managed to milk three albums off of the "Roadrunner" riff.

Beat Happening: "Bewitched"
Again not categorically twee, but like Helen of Troy and the ships, it can be said that Calvin's influence launched a thousand twee bands.

Tiger Trap: "For Sure"
The Softies: "Charms Around Your Wrist"
Back stateside, Rose Melberg (Tiger Trap, The Softies) takes the crown as the U.S. Queen of Twee.

Other notables...
The Besties: "Working Title"
Black Tambourine: "Thow Aggi off the Bridge"
Math & Physics Club: "La La La Lisa"
Magnetic Fields: "100,000 Fireflies"
Oklahoma Scramble: "Mine"
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart: "Doing All the Things That Wouldn't Make Your Parents Proud
Wimp Factor 14: "Steam Rolling, But It Wasn't Steam Rolling"

Canadian Twee
Cub: "My Chinchilla"
In North America the influence of Sarah Records and Boyracer's punk take on twee found its way into the sound of a number of bands including Cub. Some called this new sound cuddlecore.

British Twee
The Field Mice: "Emma's House"
As the the most label-defining band on the legendary Sarah Records, The Field Mice are ground zero of twee.

The Orchids: "Caveman"
The Orchids were certainly one of the more interesting bands on Sarah Records. They developed musically far more than any band except, maybe, The Field Mice. In my opinion, they encompass twee.

Heavenly: "C is the Heavenly Option"
If Calvin is King, Amelia Fletcher (of Heavenly, Talulah Gosh) could be called the UK's Queen of Twee. "C is the Heavenly Option" is perhaps the best twee song ever recorded, but not the most twee. We'll leave that to their Sarah Records labelmates The Field Mice.

Boyracer: "Her Fame Fades Quickly"
Labelmates with Heavenly and The Field Mice, Boyracer were much noisier than anything else on Sarah Records and spun twee into a raucous direction.

The Raincoats: "Don't Be Mean"
Although they could be called grunge by association (being a major influence to Kurt Cobain and all), the Raincoats are twee darlings even if most Belle & Sebastian fans have only heard them in passing.

Other notables...
Strawberry Story: "Ashlands Road"
The Soup Dragons: "Hang Ten"
Primal Scream: "Velocity Girl"
BMX Bandits: "Your Class"
Pastels: "Nothing to Be Done"
Pooh Sticks: "Dare, Kiss, True, Promise"
Young Marble Giants: "Music For Evenings"

Scandanavian Twee
Cats On Fire: "Higher Grounds"
Although the visual of burning kitties is far from twee, Cats on Fire have infused the Orchids back catalog with a bit of sunshine from their home north of the Arctic Circle.

The Faintest Ideas: "Nosebleeders On The Track"
The Faintest Ideas tore a page out of Boyracer's play book and took twee to a louder level with their distortion pedals.

Other notables...
Bedroom Eyes: "Dancing under Influence"
The Legends: "Nothing to be Done"
The Concretes: "I Wanna Go With You"
Suburban Kids With Biblical Names: "Rent A Wreck"

Twee From Down Under
The Lucksmiths: "Under The Rotunda"
They get the Best Songcrafting of Twee award, hands down. They've amassed a huge catalog of releases while continuing to grow both musically and headcount wise (the trio has grown to a quartet with a number of assisting musicians on their most recent releases).

Sun Hill: "Music For Modern Lovers"
A lesser known band from Australia, Sun Hill is a true twee gem and worth seeking out.

Other notables...
Bart & Friends: "Don't Worry, This Isn't About You"
The Cannanes: "Sound of Seduction"
The Cat's Miaow: "Coffee"
Even As We Speak: "Nothing Ever Happens"
Darren Hanlon: "Couch Surfing"

A Twee Playlist

By David Malitz |  June 13, 2008; 10:30 AM ET Guest Lists
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

Twee might well be the most annoying genre of music around today. Seriously, how can anyone get enjoyment out of music so saccharine that the first reaction it inspires is that of nausea? Keep the overly-cute delivery and predictable songwriting that characterize this genre out of this space, please, and save room for music that actually has some substance.

Posted by: Adam | June 13, 2008 11:42 AM

That bad, Adam? Really? I'll give you that some of the more extreme twee stuff can be grating but there are some GREAT bands on this list.

Jonathan Richman, Beat Happening, Black Tambourine, Heavenly, Boyracer, Young Marble Giants, Pastels, the Lucksmiths ... even twee haters should be able to dig them.

Posted by: David | June 13, 2008 12:40 PM

I would highly doubt it's the most annoying genre of music out there today. I would much rather hear Beat Happening or Heavenly or Young Marble Giants over, say, Nickleback, Soulja Boy, or any American Idol cast off. The whining of James Blunt or someone of that ilk produces far more nasuea for me.

Posted by: AnotherEngine | June 13, 2008 12:41 PM

No mention of Belle and Sebastian? For shame!

Posted by: boywiththearabstrap | June 13, 2008 2:21 PM

Any list that starts off with jonathan richman on it is a pure winner. Linking jonathan to a leadership role is a genre though is done far too seldom.

Posted by: GSM | June 13, 2008 6:08 PM

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