I get mail: Sanglorians, You’re Among Friends, R.E. Seraphin, The Pozers and more!

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Screen Shot 2020-05-28 at 4.53.01 PMWhen I say I get mail, I mean messages, email, notifications, etc. And that’s a good thing given what I’m hearing about the challenges moving music through the conventional mail services right now. Rain, sleet, snow, hail? Clearly they’re easy-peasy compared to Covid 19. Well the pandemic will not get in the way of today’s delivery of loud guitars, bedroom pop, finely crafted songscapes, and much more.

Eclectic Music Lover nailed it when he described You’re Among Friends as “funky, blues-infused folk rock” channeling “Steely Dan, The Grateful Dead and even a bit of Elvis Costello.” I might add a bit of chooglin’ CCR on a few tracks. From their new record Start Making Sense I love the jazzy swing on “Waiting for Life to Start Making Sense,” definitely a bit of early Costello-vibing here, and the groove anchoring “Once the Toothpaste is Out of the Tube.” Robby Miller’s debut EP is a nice slice AM radio-friendly poprock songcraft. With a vocal delivery falling somewhere between Al Stewart and Fountains of Wayne’s Chris Collingwood, the songs shift between sweet and light melody and a bit guitar crunch, particularly apparent on “Freya” and “Take a Smile.”

Former Talkies frontman R.E. Seraphin is being written up all over the power pop blogosphere and deservedly so for his uber cool solo debut, Tiny Shapes. The record is a wonderful distillation of power pop rock and roll influences, slightly notched down from genre’s regular amp setting of 11 via a warm DIY performance. Opener “Today Will be Kind” is like a road map for the whole album: great song, hooky lead guitar lines, hushed alluring vocals. The formula really delivers again on “Bend” and “I’d Rather be your Enemy.” Then “Fortuna” changes it up, offering up an early 1980s atmospheric poprock vibe. Everybody was doing some kind of spare, spooky guitar thing back then and it really works on this song. I also love the discordant jangle of “Streetlight” and lead guitar line hooks all over “Safe to Say.” This album is more than a collection songs, it’s an album that’s got its own distinctive and oh-so-pleasant aura going on.

Dallas power pop veterans The Pozers have been rocking out for more than 25 years, eliciting comparisons to Cheap Trick and the Beatles with their combo of airy background vocals, melodic guitar runs and impressive stylistic range. 2019’s Crybaby Bridge showcases all those elements in fine form. Check out the light Beatlesesque rompiness of “The Only Girl” while “Nonstop” has a bit more Revolver-era crunch with just a dab of understated organ in the mix. Meanwhile “Telling My Secrets” updates things with a bit of Oasis-ish panache. Believe the hype – the Pozers are the total poprock package. Described as power pop meets prog rock, Sanglorians definitely ignore guitar town’s city limits on their first record in seven years, Odalisque. The sheer inventiveness on this record is breathtaking and, after just a few listens, quickly endearing. Some tracks come on like AM radio hit singles. “Miriam” kicks things off with a faint breeze of Weezer, “Down to Affection” is a melodic wild ride worthy of Fun album deep cut, while “Come Back to What You Are” sounds like a great lost ELO single. But other parts of the album are a bit more experimental. Wait out the 60 second instrumental prelude to “Clearer” and you’re rewarded with a sweet, hypnotic, XTC-like melody. Throw in a few choice covers (Beatles, Magnetic Fields) and at least one more candidate for great big hit single (“In Bruges”) and its pretty clear Sanglorians are back with a hooky vengeance.

What would happen if you could take the sneer out of Steely Dan? You might end up with something like Essex’s The 1957 Tail Fin Fiasco. These guys have definitely got the Steely Dan cool swing down but somehow sound less jaded and blasé than the original. Actually, I hear a lot of 10cc on the band’s new album The Harvard Tango, particularly some of the vocal textures on tracks like “Bros. Fairchild & Marylebone” and the boogie strut on “Dirk is not a Bogey.” On the whole, there is pleasant, rollicking 1970s piano-based rock and roll feel to this album, like Elton John with a bit more glam (exhibit A: title track “The Harvard Tango”). But personally, I like the outliers on the record, like the acoustic guitar, harmony vocal-driven “A Yard of Place” and the sensational, jaunty “Monogamy Pews.” For clever cheekiness, the boys remind of London’s Scandinavia.

Wilson & The Catholics is the new side project of Tennis Club frontman Wilson Hernandez. Fans of TC’s fantastic low-key psych-pop album Pink from 2019 may find the stripped-down sound WLC a bit underwhelming but the melodic payoffs are still here. Dreamy, atmospheric, drawing from that early 1960s style of disaster rock (‘Look out! Look out! Look out!’) on tracks like “Strawberry Hill” and “Commercial Alley” or just a breezy poppiness on “MD 2020” and “Super Bowl ’97.” Bedroom pop suitable for those times when really need to hide from your roommates. Hitting the bottom of the mailbag, I got word from the Suncharms’ Marcus Palmer about a fabulous new collection from Indonesia-based Shiny Happy Records and it’s a winning tip. Shiny Happy Fanzine 4 – Please Rain Fall Compilation is jam-packed with 19 tracks of shimmering low-key jangle goodness. There are so many highlight here but I’ll just twig you to Tullycraft’s hilarious “We Couldn’t Dance to Billy Joel,” Well Whale’s “She’s a Punk,” and, of course, The Suncharms’ own stellar contribution “3 Billion Heartbeats.”

Things are so easy today, you don’t even need to write a cheque to send away for new music by mail. You can have it now, without leaving your exclusive listening lounge! Click on the artist names to get closer to some new music immediately.

A new millennium girl singer: Juniper

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Screen Shot 2020-05-25 at 5.33.36 PMThe self-titled debut album from Juniper is a blast of girl power circa 1963, complete with roller coasters, badly behaving boys, and crushes galore. There’s a spooky kinship here with the distinctive girl singers sound of Linda Scott’s “(I Told) Every Little Star,” the Angels’ “My Boyfriend’s Back,” Skeeter Davis’ “Gonna Get Along Without You Now,” and just about any track from Lesley Gore’s Golden Hits. Tracks like “Boys! Boys! Boys! Boys! Boys!” “Girls Just Want a Boy To Rest Their Head Upon,” and “Gotta Draw the Line” could easily slip onto any 1960s Connie Francis or Brenda Lee LP. But the album also takes those influences in a more contemporary direction, sounding very early Go Go’s on “Kids on the Corner” or vibing a low key 1980s pop psychedelia with “I Don’t Want to Dream About You.” “Punk Rock Boy” and “Everybody has a Crush on Chad” even veer into well-behaved rock and roll (with a touch of glam on the latter). Single? I’d go with “Best Kept Secret,” a hooky poprock delight with just hint of off-kilter indie charm, evoking more recent artists like Jeanines or Lisa Mychols. But then again I’m pretty partial to “Sticking with Henry,” a retro workout that somehow sounds so fresh and now. Credit here has to go the album’s producer and musical director, Michael Shelley, who wrote or co-wrote eight of the record’s twelve songs, and assembled a dream team of players from bands like the Mekons, the Smithereens, Los Straightjackets, Look Park, and many others.

Get the jump on your summer fun listening with this lovingly crafted collection of retro-infused, chaperone-approved, catchy teenage party tunes. Juniper can be found on Bandcamp and other e-music services.

Pandemic poprock

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Pandemic-Diary---ball-and-chain-and-scientistWe tend to be inspired by the world we live in so it’s not surprising that some artists are ruminating musically about our present pandemic. While the artists featured below are all over the map in terms of their responses to the situation, the results are all music to my ears!

Kicking things off, prolific poprocker Michael Carpenter teams up Michael Oliver for the slightly country, melodious, and oh so apropos “It Only Hurts When I Breathe.” Thankfully Michael-squared only seem to be suffering from heartbreak rather than lung dysfunction. Whew! Tilting the mood somewhat, the one-off single “wr fkd” is from the Whateverly Brothers, aka Chris Church, and its churning grind of delicious jangle definitely captures how a lot of people are feeling right now. Again, it might be love problems motivating these musical sentiments but, hey, if it fits the bigger picture why not use it? Another deliberately displaced tune comes from Asylums’ last album, Alien Human Emotions, but here too I think the song speaks to our present moment. As some lobby for a quick return to economic normalcy, one has to wonder if the results won’t be a kind of “Graveyard Tourism.” Dead rich, that’s what they’re really aiming to be. Planning to defy that end game is LA’s powerpop grunge-meister Richard Turgeon on “Still Not Ready to Die.” It’s a brand new song that is definitely about what is happening now and it rocks, in his reliably hooky way. Let’s end on an up note with America’s most cheery musical iconoclasts, They Might Be Giants, and their eminently pleasant, uplifting and predictably quirky “It’s Good to be Alive.” Maybe play this one a few times, just to up your dose of good feelingness. And don’t forget to click on all the artist names to give them some money-coloured love.

Today’s feature graphic is courtesy Toronto pop artist Rob Elliott. If pointed laughter is your thing, head over to his Pandemic Diary pages and laugh until you cry.

Fountains of Wayne forever!

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Screen Shot 2020-05-17 at 11.47.23 AMIn the 1990s Fountains of Wayne had a huge impact on me. A Beatles, Elvis Costello, Marshall Crenshaw, and Squeeze kind of impact. I loved the quirky, alienated melodic should-be hits of the debut, couldn’t stop bopping to the hooks on Utopia Parkway, and marveled at the Sgt. Pepper-esque stature of Welcome Interstate Managers. Sure, Traffic and Weather seemed a bit of a holding pattern but then Sky Full of Holes had them back in fine form. I just assumed there’d be many more great albums to come. The recent passing of one half of the band’s creative force, Adam Schlesinger, has put the coda on that amazing body of work. Well, we’ll always have the songs. Indeed, now we’ll have to make do with how others take up the catalogue.

Screen Shot 2020-05-17 at 12.34.12 PMAnd here I am delighted to report that a fantastic new chapter of FOW life begins now with a great new collection of covers from Radiant Radish Records. If you love the band, there’s no doubt in my mind you’re gonna want to check out Can’t Shake That Tune: A Tribute to Fountains of Wayne. RR’s Mike Patton has put together a splendid stable of indie artist covering FOW material, with selections from each of the band’s albums. And for a collection put together in about a month – from conception to recording to release – the quality is impressive. Some artists hue pretty close to the originals (American Wood “Denise”; The Easy Button “The Summer Place”) while others attempt to jar our sense of the familiar with new tempos and styles (Jonathan Pushkar “Stacy’s Mom”). There’s punked-up energy (Vista Blue “The Senator’s Daughter”), folkie stripped-down restraint (Christian Migilorese “Troubled Times”), and plenty of ukulele too (The Soft Spots “Sink to the Bottom”).

You can feel the love all over this collection. And there really are no filler tracks here – everyone’s gonna have their faves. For me, it’s hard not to get choked up listening to “Hey Julie,” a song that encapsulates the genius of FOW, both songwriting and performance-wise. The Wellingtons capture the joy of the song, delivering something unique while honouring the feel of the original.

Can you believe it? This collection is being offered up entirely free! Get to Radiant Radish Records on bandcamp and dowload your copy. And while you’re there, click on the links for all the contributing artists to see what they’re doing and support independent music.

Springtime sound explosion!

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Screen Shot 2020-05-14 at 12.04.41 PMThirteen original artists! Twenty featured songs! Springtime 2020 is witnessing an explosion of sounds, curated here specifically to ease your pandemic-induced isolation. It’s not K-Tel, but it’s the next best thing. And the best part? No groove-cramming or adverts for a bogus, non-working record selector. So get ready to add some hooks to your springtime playlists.

Since the early 1980s scribes have routinely dubbed Kyle Vincent’s 19 album body of work ‘soft pop’ but that changes with his new release Whatever It Takes. Well, sort of. There’s still a strong easy listening pop vibe to the album (he’s even written a song that name-checks Gilbert O’Sullivan, so that’s a strong clue) but with former members of the Raspberries for a backing band on some tracks, things rock up a bit in a 1970s soft focus, low wattage power pop way. It’s there on the breezy Shaun Cassidy-esque “Bubblegum Baby” as well as my choice for b-side, “Hard to be Happy,” with its low key ABBA notes. Another incredibly productive fellow is Brian Jay Cline, with 13 albums and 4 EPs out since 2001 by my count. His most recent EP is Songs for a Generation of X’s and it taps that vein of melodic Americana that Cline does so well. I’ve been hitting repeat on the addictive “Two Left Feet” with its great Springsteen harmonica and irresistible hooks. Heading over the Valencia, Spain Baby Scream has a new album of covers out entitled, predictably, Just Covers, and this time everybody’s fave DIY John Lennon definitely colours outside the lines. This is fun collection, with inspired reworkings of Cyndi Lauper, the Psychedelic Furs, 10cc, Culture Club and more! I’m singling out for a double A side the muted yet rollicking “Secret Agent Man” on one side with the tight pop-rocking Fastball track “Warm Fuzzy Feeling” on the other. Back in North America, if anyone doubts that Montreal is Canada’s undisputed cool city, slip Pale Lips 2020 LP After Dark on the turntable. Self-described ‘dripping mascara slopped rock and roll with sprinkles,’ the party vibe is evident from the opening chords of “Some Sort of Rock and Roll,” the album opener. Overall, the songs are variations on a 1950s-meets-1970s workout, except for “That Old Ghost Don’t Lie” which changes things up, slowing the tempo, and anchoring everything with a spooky lead guitar. B-side? Definitely the hilarious romp “All My Baby Brought Back Was the Blues” – such great lyrics!

Kyle Vincent – Bubblegum BabyKyle Vincent – Hard to be Happy

If anyone has written an anthem for our times, it’s Dolph Chaney. “It’s Ok” (from his recent Rebuilding Permit) was written before our current state of affairs but its message definitely resonates now. Well, frankly, it’s always a pretty relevant message. And Dolph loads it with a host of nice melodic twists and turns, shifting the song’s dynamics like a hooky mood swing. Also love the distinctive synth solo at the 1:50 mark! Bill Majoros describes his new Foreign Films record Ocean Moon ‘retro-futurism, musical technicolor and groovy beats’ and I’d have to agree. It’s certainly a departure from his previous 2018 set, The Record Collector, a sprawling, 3-album stylistically varied offering. Now Majoros turns to a somewhat familiar, pleasantly throwback sound circa early 1980s. I’m particularly enthused about the title track “Ocean Moon” with its breathy Elvis Costello-meets-Roy Oribison vocals and Travelling Wilburys rhythm guitar. Another new single echoing some classic EC to my ears is the latest from former Cry! Leader Tommy Ray. The new LP is First Hits Free and check out the catchy lead line and brash guitar driving “Hey Susanne.” The dance floor never looked so alluring. For a b-side to this single, I’d add “Tuesday’s Girl” with its mid-1980s British energy and familiar vocal snarl. Honourable mention: “Gone South” – love that organ opener! Chicago’s Beach Bunny are doing that contemporary dissonant pop sound with a bit of vocal grit in the mix all over their debut record, Honeymoon. Personally, I’m loving the deep cut single, “Cloud 9” with its hooky bass line and rocking-out swinging chorus. I could see “Ms. California” as the b-side with its almost FOW-style chorus and crunch rhythm guitar. On this record, feeling bad never felt so good.

Speaking of alienation, there are times when West Virginia’s Rozwell Kid sound like they’re channeling some serious Weezer love, like on “Letterman” from their new Dreamboats 2 album. But then they shift gears and up the pop quotient on the obvious single, “Absolutely.” You can’t pin these guys down, other than to find the fun in what they do. The LP is celebration of pop culture, with tunes celebrating David Letterman, Dr. Doom, a possible fourth sequel to Back to the Future, and even an Enya cover! Now if you need a driving insistent guitar/synth combo, have I got a song for you. Nicholas Altobelli picks up the pace from 2019’s more low key Vertigo LP with his new single, “Ghost.” This is the distinctive melodic rock and roll that drew me to Antobelli releases like the great EP The Day-Olds and single “Exit Polls.” B-side “Wonder” is also a winner, with its charming, light 1950s ambience. Now, for a bit of Merseybeat, look no further than Tommy Sistak. Music for Sale is the new record and “On My Way to Somewhere” manages to work in that familiar Liverpool 1964 sound without sounding derivative. Like visiting an old friend who still has a few surprises in store for you. Speaking of old friends, people waiting for a follow up to Ed Ryan’s super 2017 Furious Mind have something to tide them over given his recent collaboration with Orbis Max on “Everybody Wonders.” The song is a solid slice of poprock, featuring some cool organ solos and nice vocal interplay. The song bodes well for new album of Ed Ryan tunes!

Hey, let’s end on with a guaranteed ear worm. I know I name-drop Fountains of Wayne a lot but Steven Wright-Mark sounds like he’s channeling a lost deep cut from Welcome Interstate Managers with “Underground,” from his recent EP Wake Up! If I had a Poprock Record chart this one would definitely be zooming up it. The vocal delivery, the background instrumentation with that seductive Gotye feel, it all adds up to ‘hit single’ to me.

Whew! That was a lot of should-be hit-single ground to cover. But health crisis or no, the chords must play. Assemble your own bargain hits collection by clicking links above. Looking for vinyl? You can the physical platter for many of these artists at Kool Kat Music.

Song of the day: Mondello “My Girl Goes By”

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Screen Shot 2020-05-11 at 8.41.33 AMMondello was a break-out indie darling in 2019 with a story of musical struggle straight out of rock and roll central casting. Boy works for 20 years on an album of songs (Hello, All You Happy People) that finally sees the light of day and finds an appreciative audience amongst those who value slightly eccentric DIY-plus power pop. What a happy ending! Well, now he’s back with a new single and it’s a killer. Get ready for a slightly more polished AM radio-friendly Mondello on this outing, which features a horn section, anthemic chorus, and excerpts from a 1960s surrealist Italian sex movie for a video. Seriously, the execution of this single is nothing short of masterful, reminiscent of that very British reinvention of the sixties that occurred in the 1980s with Elvis Costello and Wreckless Eric, among others. Give this baby a few listens and see if you don’t agree it’s earworm central. “My Girl Goes By” definitely confirms Mondello is no one-indie-hit wonder.

You can get Mondello’s new single here or any of the usual e-music outlets.

Brave new worlds: Peggy Sue, Brett Newski and Grouplove

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Screen Shot 2020-05-09 at 2.34.02 PMLike it or not friends, our voyage to brave new worlds is already underway and it’s not clear return tickets will be honoured. That’s Ok. There’s always something exciting lurking on the musical horizon, songs and performances that will push the boundaries of something new but somehow also feel familiar. That covers the acts in today’s post, explorers and adventurers with a twist of the familiar about them.

Screen Shot 2020-05-09 at 2.35.26 PMVices is the new album from Brighton retro guitar duo Peggy Sue and, for me, it’s the very best thing they’ve released. Past records exhibit a range of talents with songs and performances that range from experimental to borderline punk to performance art folk. The collection of covers included on 2012’s Play the Songs of Scorpio Rising kinda pointed where the band was going to go and ultimately arrive with Vices. I mean, the reinvention of “My Boyfriend’s Back” was sheer genius. But Vices is, to my ears, a new level of accomplishment for the band. The album kicks off uber cool with “I Wanna Be Your Girl,” its Velvet Underground chords drawing you in, that is until the vocals arrive and clinch the deal. You hear it again on the ethereal “In Dreams” with its twisted David Lynch early 1960s aura. There are going to be those who hear a spooky Lana Del Ray vibe here but duo’s otherworldly, sibilant harmonies remind me of other amazing vocal bands like Everything But the Girl, First Aid Kit, Jack and Eliza, and The Kickstand Band. The guitars on this record are also pretty special, like the ghost of Link Wray is haunting the proceedings. And the songs! I’m loving “Motorcade,” “Validate Me,” and “Souvenirs” just to get started but, really, the whole record is listener. Tune in to Peggy Sue. They really demonstrate that everything old can be new again.

Screen Shot 2020-05-09 at 2.36.07 PMIt starts out a bit harsh but then the acoustic guitar kicks in and you hear the sweet melody and hooks that are soldering “Grow Your Garden” into your brain. So begins Brett Newski’s latest long-player, Don’t Let the Bastards Get You Down. It’s a record with an edge, like that bite of tequila after the salt, but one that ultimately rewards the listener with loads winning, melody-tinted tunes. The first three tracks say radio singles to me, particularly the spare but hooky charm of “What’d Ya Got to Lose,” while “Do It Again” sounds like a great lost Tom Petty song. I love the little details on the songs, the subtle organ backing on “Do It Again,” the plinky piano on “Buy Me a Soul,” and the addictive swing and killer chorus carrying “Pure Garbage.” Longtime Newski fans will applaud the folk notes here on tracks like “Lousy T-Shirt” and “Fight Song, while Petty loyalists will approve the strong Tom Petty vibes radiating from “Last Dance” and “Evervescent.” Don’t Let the Bastards Get You Down is a masterpiece of understated melodic rock and roll. The songs are punchy but Newski’s performance is nuanced, sometimes spare, leaving room for their subtle charms to shine.

Screen Shot 2020-05-09 at 2.38.46 PMFor a lot of people Grouplove amount to “Tongue Tied” but frankly I came to them on the strength of “Naked Kids” from that same 2011 debut album Never Trust a Happy Song and “Sit Still” from their 2013 EP Spreading Rumours. I love the loose group feel to the performances, like a crowd of friends just singing their hearts out. But such as sound actually takes a lot of precision and talent. Well, that talent is all over the band’s just released fourth album, Healer. The sound has that peppy contemporary pop feel of bands like The Mowgli’s and Portugal. The Man with just a bit of Fun thrown in. And let me note, this record sonically sounds amazing! Put on your headphones and just take in the exquisite mix on tracks like “Expectations,” “Youth” and the lovely acoustic “Places.” In terms of singles, “Deleter” got the nod for first release and it’s a worthy choice, but “Promises” is a subtle ear worm while “Hail to the Queen” doesn’t hide its winning hooky chorus. But the hands down winner here for me is “The Great Unknown.” I really like its slow burn approach, with a melodic kick that sneaks up on the listener in a shout-out-loud chorus. And Grouplove make it look so easy. This is one for your summer soundtrack, when the convertible top’s down and you want to look cool.

Peggy Sue, Brett Newski, and Grouplove have delivered some pretty exciting records. Embrace the adventure and buy these up. There’s no turning back now.

Sweden Yeah Yeah Yeah: Caesars and The Lonely Boys

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Screen Shot 2020-05-05 at 6.52.15 PMWith just ten million people, Sweden definitely punches above its weight in international popular culture. I mean, sometimes it seems like every second person there must be a crime fiction writer or member of a rock combo. Maybe both. Today I feature just two fab Swedish bands that deserve more scrutiny from discerning international poprock fans: Caesars and The Lonely Boys.

Screen Shot 2020-05-05 at 6.56.15 PMFirst up: Caesars, aka Caesar’s Palace, aka The Twelve Caesars. Confused? They started with Caesar’s Palace for the first few albums but worried about problems with a certain US hotel chain and so shortened it, while the 12 was added for tours around Scandinavia, for reasons that are unclear. Well, suffice to say, everything can be found under the Caesars brand now. Altogether the band released five albums between 1998 and 2008 but the first two are not generally available, though some of their songs appear on the 2003 compilation 39 Minutes of Bliss (in an Otherwise Meaningless World). The group’s breakout record was 2002’s Love for the Streets and it’s not hard to hear why, the album is chock-a-bloc full of hummable wonders that tap into a wide range of sixties and indie eighties motifs. From the anthemic “Over ‘for It Started” to the tripping good-time feel of “Candy Kane” to the more country-ish Stonesy feel of “Cheap Glue” the LP slips by effortlessly in easygoing party mode. The overall strength of the record is typically overshadowed by its underground monster organ-heavy hit “Jerk It Out” but I urge listeners – don’t stop there! It’s a cool tune, for sure, but there is so much more to love from this band. Both 2005’s Paper Tigers and 2008’s Strawberry Weed are solid albums, full of melodic treats, like “We Got to Leave” from the former and “Stuck with You” from the latter.

We Got To Leave

Screen Shot 2020-05-05 at 6.57.19 PMNext, a band created to provide a soundtrack to a book about a fictional 1965 band. In 1995 one half of Swedish duo Roxette agreed to put together a group and songs for Swedish author Mats Olsson’s 1995 novel The Lonely Boys. The results are 1965 fabulous! Per Gessle and his ragtag band of veterans from the Swedish music scene essentially become The Lonely Boys. They easily nail the sixties vibe as well as better known retro efforts like That Thing You Do, which came out a year later. The self-titled debut cranks through all the classic Beatles/Stones sounds but there is also a solid dollop of 1979 on tracks like “Lonely Boys” (with that slightly sped up Beatles sound). Then there’s “I’m Not Like You” which draws more on the Kinks and Who while “Keep the Radio On” flashes more Merseybeat. The only cover here is the Jagger/Richards rarity “So Much In Love” but “Flowers on the Moon” also sounds pretty late 1969 Stonesy. And then there’s the killer jangle on “Genius Gone Wrong.” For the uninitiated, The Lonely Boys will an unavoidable full-record listening session.

Lonely BoysKeep the Radio OnFlowers on the Moon

Seems Sweden used to be just famous for massages and a pretty good welfare state. Well, they needn’t stop there. Get caught up on these Swedish pleasures online.

Summer is coming!

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summer-is-comingWith sunshine and a hint of spring heat in the air, people are starting to think about summer. And just what is summer going to be like with face masks and gloves and social distancing? It’s going to look like a very polite zombie apocalypse, that’s what. Acerbic Toronto-based pop artist Rob Elliott colourfully captures our likely regimented future in the above graphic (check out his hilarious, biting Pandemic Diary) so I’ll do a creative take on the music side of things.

What got me thinking on this theme was hearing “Almost Summer” from Steven Wright-Mark’s 2012 LP My Plastic World. I’d heard it poking around his three albums of material on iTunes after checking out his latest EP Wake UP!, which is also pretty special (personally, I’m loving “Underground” from the new release). It’s got ringing guitars and shimmery harmony vocals – I mean, what’s not to like? Denmark’s Tommy and the Rockets come on a bit more Beach Boys-meets-Ramones on “Here Comes Summer.” You can almost smell the mixture of stale beer and salt sea air. London’s The Speedways suggest we’re headed for “Just Another Regular Summer.” Uh, not. Of course nobody in 2018 could predict we’d be stuck in pandemic town. San Francisco’s Propeller may short out the details on their blissful Teenage Fanclubby “Summer Arrives” but the feeling of freedom is definitely real.

Steven Wright-Mark – Almost Summer

But what is summer 2020 going to be like? Norway’s Sweden might be banking on a “Barefoot Summer.” I love the rush of this track, with its hooky descending lead guitar lines and pounding piano. Summer sounds fun here. Or it could be the “Summer of the Mosquito” if Melbourne’s Monnone Alone have anything to say about it. The title track of their 2019 release has the band sounding like a slightly less manic version of Titus Andronicus and that is totally OK. LA’s Earlimart haven’t released much in the last decade but one of their more recent songs was “Internet Summer,” surely a prescient 45 given our present circumstances. Everything will be just fine sing Vista Blue on their California-summer-1963 coated “Summer Wonderland” from last December’s EP Hit the Floor! I definitely feel like revving my woody (if only I knew what that was). Not bad for four boys from New Orleans presently camping out in Nashville.

Sweden – Barefoot SummerEarlimart – Internet Summer

Frankly, I think Velvet Crush literally crush all rivals in this 2020 summer song sweepstakes with “Weird Summer.” Yes, Bryan Hyland, it’s gonna be a long, lonely summer this time around. But there’s positive vibes out there aplenty with melodic treats like Michael Slawter’s “Summer’s Kind” on the turntable. Check out that sweet, sweet hooky lead guitar line! Finally, let’s leave things with grunge-meets-powerpop super group Cabana Wear and their song “Summer.” It’s peppy and a bit ambiguous, kinda like our future.

Velvet Crush – Weird Summer

With summer tours cancelled and musicians everywhere desperately strumming their acoustic guitars online for e-change, it’s definitely time to pony up for some great recordings. Like these. Do the click thing and get the money-go-round moving.

Breaking news: Chris Church, Mothboxer, The Stick Arounds, and Ex Norwegian

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Screen Shot 2020-04-24 at 6.30.24 PMThe thing about news is that it’s always coming from some point of view. You think corporations own media empires and don’t influence what they produce? But that doesn’t mean everything is fake. You have to ask questions about where your news is coming from and what it is saying. For instance, this station is obviously biased towards covering melodic rock and roll. Sorry death metal fans! But today’s headline acts are loaded up with hooks – that’s a fact!

In one of the most anticipated releases of 2020, Chris Church delivers a welcome dose of his distinctive ‘heavy melody’ on Backwards Compatible. The record vibes a harder rock edge than your typical power pop release but still manages to hit some pretty impressive melodic marks. Some tracks are straight up power pop, like “Something’s Coming Fast,” the delicious slice of Matthew Sweet-inflected songwriting/playing that opens the album, or the rollicking rush of “Pop Dreams” that closes it. Others have a bit of ‘rawk’ around the edges, like the Van Halen touches on “These Days” and “Too Deep,” though I also hear a hint of Hall and Oates in the chorus of the latter. I love the relentless hooky riffing propelling “Dumb It Up” and “Begin Again” as well as the chunky poprock swing on “Kiss It Goodnight.” The marriage of melody and metal reminds me of Blue Oyster Cult at times, perhaps with some Crosby, Stills and Nash-style background vocals mixed in, particularly on songs like “Left in the Summer.” My own juke box jury says Backwards Compatible is a winner, a raucus 46 minutes of superior tune-age that will bend your ear in good way.

On Accelerator, Mothboxer move in a bit of a different direction than previous releases, wrapping their indie melodic temperament in a more complete coating of hooks. It’s all there on the opening cut and title track: “Accelerator” sidles up to the listener with a swinging, rocking ease only to latch on for dear life in the earwormy chorus. A definite single! Other points on the album clearly hit the XTC target (as on “Feel Something”) or go deep into Beatles ’66 territory (e.g. “Under Water,” “Can I Go Now”). By contrast, both “Long Time Coming” and “Funny How It Is” have a touch of psychedelic pop about them, while “Any Time” rolls out a spacey, pop soul feel. Altogether, Accelerator is a lovely collection of stylistic poprock set pieces (you get the vinyl from Kool Kat here).

Lansing is the town that The Stick Arounds stick around in, capital city of Michigan. Besides running the state, what else is there to do but sing in rock and roll band? In this case, that’s a good thing as their Hot Singles Club album is a bracing dose of melodic rock and roll, with discernable country and Americana touches. Let’s start by applauding the reverb-drenched guitars that define “Speed of Sound” and “Microscopic” or the spot-on Byrds-meets-Jayhawks vibe on “Laugh and Minute” and “Connection.” But the Stick Arounds won’t be contained by one style or sound. “Wait” is more a straight up Stones-y rocker, while “Fire and Rescue” has a bit of an REM halo, and their version of “That’s How I Got to Memphis” is a country love letter. Personally, I love the Bobby Fuller Four stomp fueling “Forward in Rewind” and the album’s not-so-hidden jem, the alt sure-fire hit single cover of Beulah’s “Gene Autry.” So, in a word or two, maximum fun. Indeed, Hot Singles Club can be the sound of party-time Saturday night whenever you hit play.

Two separate new albums from Ex Norwegian? There’s a bit of sleight of hand here, as one is the band’s new album – Hue Spotting – while the other – Spotting Hues – is the collected cover versions they’ve been posting weekly for some time. But both hit the poprock sweet spot, with more than just a splash of psych pop thrown in for good measure. Hue Spotting’s opening track, “Fear Backwards,” gets things swinging with a melodic Robyn Hitchcock élan and catchy chorus while “Bloody Parrots” uses its keyboard riff to get inside your head (in a good way). I think “Something 2020” is my favourite track sounding like something from a late 1980s teen movie soundtrack (in that brief moment when some pretty cool bands were getting exposure). Meanwhile, “Your Mind is Mine” does a clever bait and switch with its opening screaming guitar trading places with a hooky chorus – very nice! Hue Spotting’s accompanying album, Spotting Hues, is like an archival tour of late 1960s/early 1970s rarities from bands with names like July, Apple, Magic Roger and Dr. Strangely Strange. Fun stuff here for both the innocent tourist and more serious collectors and psych esthetes from your favourite exes.

That’s the breaking news, but don’t take my word for it – check out these headline-grabbing acts for yourself and see if Poprock Record isn’t a news source you can trust. Click on over to Chris Church, Mothboxer, The Stick Arounds, and Ex Norwegian to get your fact-check on.