The Teenage Fanclub diaspora


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TF ticketTeenage Fanclub is a band that keeps on giving. I count no less that seven break away bands and side projects that have emerged from the TF stable. It kind of reminds me of those early 1970s rock family trees that would trace the relationship of the Bryds, the Hollies, Buffalo Springefield, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and so on. Of course, in this case none of the subsequent bands have quite matched the success of the original, but they have produced some damn fine music.

BMX bandistNow BMX Bandits technically preceded Teenage Fanclub but TF members like Norman Blake and Francis Macdonald regularly went back and forth between the two groups. Douglas T. Stewart wrote endearing, melodic tunes with both of the above mentioned TF members. The band has ten albums and lot of great stuff to choose from but I’m singling out “Back in Your Heart” from 2003’s Down at the Hop. Though I also have to mention the charming and wistful “Take Me to Heaven” from 2007’s Bee Sting. Then Norman Blake created a new outfit called Jonny with Dave McGowan joining later. The combo had a very TF sound rubbed around the edges with some 1950s sensibilities. It took a few years to produce a record but 2011’s self-titled Jonny was worth the wait. “Candyfloss,” “You Was Me” and “Circling the Sun” are standout tracks for me.

BMX Bandits – Back in her Heart

P5And what is it about the drummers from this band? Drummer Paul Quinn left the band to form The Primary 5 who released three strong albums in the first decade of the new millennium. 2004’s North Pole maxes out the jangle on killer catchy tunes like “Mailman” and “What Am I Supposed To Do” and then changes things up with the sophisticated piano-laden “Easy Chair” and country-rock “Happy.” 2007’s Go kicks off with a heavier sound on “Off Course” but quickly melts back into those Byrdsian harmonies. “Sunsets” is a lovely languid mid-1960s piece of poprock. Meanwhile “Out in the Cold” has a more ominous 1980s melodic rock sound. And then there is the former and current TF drummer Francis Macdonald, a super talented singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist who has released a wide variety of material, including some moving piano and cello classical work. His band Nice Man and Bad Boys released The Art of Hanging Out in 2011 with a sonic palette just a bit more spare, acoustic and spacey in its arrangements than TF but still recognizably related. We featured the great single “Love is Game Two Can Play” before, but that doesn’t exhaust the great stuff here. A comparable single is certainly the hooky “Forever is a Long Time Without You” that opens the record. Other highlights would be the smooth 1950s-cum-1980s “Pretty Brown Eyes” and amusing and whimsical “Slinky.”

The Primary 5 – Mailman

NMFor a lighter touch, Snowgoose (featuring David McGowan and Raymond McGinley) and Lightships (featuring Gerard Love) take the peaceful easy feeling part of the TF legacy for a spin. “Hazy Lane” from Snowgoose’s 2012 Harmony Springs has a lovely traditional pop-folk feel but those signature TF harmonies are still there. Meanwhile Lightships take things into a more LoFi direction on 2012’s Electric Cables. I love the slow build on the mildly chiming “Sunlight to the Dawn.” The last stop on this TF diaspora world tour is Norman Blake’s most recent diversion, The New Mendicants, with ace power popper Joe Pernice. These two make a great dissonant combo, pushing each other in new directions. The background vocals and musical style is a definite departure from the TF branded sound. Very Beatles on “Cruel Annette” while “If You Only Knew Her” mines a part of the country-rock canon somewhat neglected by TF, particularly on the vocals.

Snowgoose – Hazy LaneLightships – Sunlight to the Dawn

Amid all this other band activity, Teenage Fanclub go on, still putting out solid records more than two decades later. But clearly there was just too much music to be contained within the TF brand. Aren’t we the lucky ones? Start your tour of the diasporic influence of TF on BMX Bandits, Jonny , The Primary 5, Nice Man and Bad Boys, Snowgoose, Lightships and The New Mendicants and expand your TF universe.

You’re really super, Super 8


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Super 8Hurry and get your hands on this really super collection from the mysterious and musically iconoclastic Paul Ryan, aka Super 8. As a record T-T-T-Technicolour Melodies is defined by an acoustic sensibility but never limited to it. Instead Ryan’s acoustic guitar acts like old faithful in the background, sustaining every song, which are then adorned with all manner of ear candy: harmonica, slide guitar, cello, horns, you name it. Naming influences on this record is a potentially endless task, it is such an amazing synthesis of musical styles. In terms of tempo and feel, I hear the laid back confidence of Van Morrison in his masterful early 1970s period. Over the range of songs, you can hear a bit of the Rolling Stones, Wilco, the Velvet Underground, even the Verve here and there. But overall, the performance really reminds me of Beck on Odelay in its freewheeling, seemingly effortless pastiche of different sounds and musical motifs. And then there’s the songwriting, which is pretty impressive. This batch of tunes is mellow, soulful, and hooky. Need some uplift? Put this on while tooling around the house and feel the colour of your day change.

So what songs are the highlights? This whole record is great – there’s isn’t a bum track here. To my ear, “Last Final Cigarette” is the single with its mellow guitar hooks and subtle ear worm chorus. I love the background vocals that open “Catsuit” and the mournful harmonica and banjo that kicks off the “To Morocco” (which sounds like a great Stones acoustic number). Things rock up on the title track with some nice tempo shifts and tasty guitar work. “Just a Serenade” has a lovely lilting bounce that reminds me of vintage Wilco or acoustic Verve. The Beck influence seems particularly strong on the album opener “Tomorrow’s Just Another Day” and “Hey ! Non-Believer.” And then the whole thing wraps up with “My Sweet Baby Jane,” a track that sounds like it was pinched from a classic early 1970s country rock album by the Stones or the Byrds.

Super 8 is a major talent. Get in on the ground floor by checking out his internet real estate.

Around the Dial: Brad Marino, Tommy Sistak, Nick Eng, Hurry and Hyness


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towerThis turn around the dial is all about singles in their glorious yet circumscribed catchiness, ideally maxing out at just a few minutes of focused bliss. Today’s contributors vibe some solid poprock credentials, drawing from the post-1950s pop tradition, all things Beatles, stripped down new wave and various 1980s indie hooks.

Let’s begin with Brad Marino. His work with The Connection is stellar, melodic yet hitting all the rock and roll marks. Not surprisingly, his solo single is piece of poprock magic, oozing a late 1970s compressed new wave sound akin to The Ramones, Rockpile and, more recently, Tommy and the Rockets. Tommy Sistak reaches a bit further back with “You Can’t Change Me,” a track that sounds so British beat group circa 1964. What I love about this song are the clear 1950s influences on the sound and songwriting. Reno native Nick Eng goes straight for a Beatles 65 sound with his single “Reminiscing.” The song is catchy, with great Beatlesque background vocals and Harrison-worthy guitar licks.

Shifting gears into indie mode, it’s been fascinating to see Hurry shed its links with the punky garage sound of some of its earlier material (and Matt Scottoline’s earlier band, Everyone Everywhere) for a more unabashed melodic aura. It was strongly apparent with the hooky “When I’m With You” 2016’s Guided Meditation and is reinforced with “Waiting for You” from their latest Every Little Thought. This is ear worm central. Rounding out this batch is some good old fashioned 1990s-reminscent alienated indie with pop undertones. Hyness hail from Ontario’s Kitchener-Waterloo and “Choke” might give you some idea of what it’s like to live there. Extra points for succeeding with a Smith’s cover! “Hand in Glove” works here because the guitar work is sufficiently trebly and the vocals are yearning without aping Morrissey. There is something very Tracy Thorn in the delivery.

Hit singles can lead to quality albums which can lead to stadium tours, purchased islands, and conspicuous consumption documented by unreliable tabloids. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Why don’t we just settle for a hit single? Check out Brad Marino, Tommy Sistak, Nick Eng, Hurry and Hyness online to help make that happen.

That 1960s Show: The On and Ons, The Squires of the Subterrain, and The Carousels


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1960sEvery decade is doing the nostalgia thing. Soft rock has joined disco as the go-to 1970s sound. Synth and trebly guitar bands define the retro-1980s movement now afoot. But they’ve got nothing on the 1960s, the decade that refuses to die. While the 1950s now sound increasingly dated (though I still love them!), the dynamic range and never ending freshness of the 1960s keeps coming back with revivals of the original artists, box sets and re-issues, and the decade’s continuing influence on new artists. These three recent acts live and breathe the 1960s, without sounding like some tribute band. They’ve got the guitar sounds, the groove, but – most importantly – some strong songwriting.

on and onsHere’s exhibit ‘A’: check out the guitar hook that jump starts The On and Ons’ “Whole World” from their 2017 release Welcome Aboard. It’s got a solid grounding in The Who’s early work, with perhaps a bit of The Action modding things up a bit more, and a nice quasi-sitar guitar bit at the end. Of course, the sound can also be characterized as new wave on this and tracks like “She’s Leaving” in a very Nerves/Plimsouls sort of way. I love the melody shift in “Can’t Avoid” which evokes a Zombies’ wistfulness. Also, don’t overlook the great tracks on their 2015 debut It’s the On and Ons Calling, particularly “Before Our Eyes” and “Not a Friend in Sight.” It’s no wonder that Paul Collins had this band back him up on a recent North American tour. They perform like veterans but deliver a fresh take on the 1960s sound.

Whole WorldCan’t AvoidBefore Our Eyes

sostnAnyone who puts their band’s theme song as the first cut on their debut album is OK with me. I mean, it was good enough for The Monkees, right? The Squires of the Subterrain are the product of the seemingly mad poprock genius, Chris Earl. Earl loves the 1960s and simultaneously pays homage to while reinventing its signature sounds. Sometimes it’s Nuggets-style oh-so-garage rock like “Sweet” from 2003’s Strawberries on Sunday, or the brittle mid-1960s English poprock on “Intoxicating Violet” from 1998’s debut Pop in a CD. Whole albums are given over to exploring different styles, like the playful send up of early 1960s American radio vocal beat groups on 2009’s Adventures in …, or the spot off Beach Boys reinvention of 2012’s Sandbox. 2017’s Slightly Radio Active is a more straight up album of great songs, though delivered with Earl’s wry lyrical insights and slightly off-kilter performance. “Meltdown” has a lovely subtle hook on piano. Title track “Slightly Radio Active” is a great garage single, with super guitar hooks. Both “Letters from Heaven” and “Highly and Unqualified” showcase Earl’s inventiveness in song instrumentation, arrangement and sentiment. This guy pays repeated listens – there is simply so much to hear here!

Theme SongWhoa, Whoa, Yeah, YeahSlightly Radio Active

CarouselsLast up on That 1960s Show is a band that sometimes sounds so late 1960s country rock a la the Byrds or International Submarine Band but then shifts to a more jangly poprock style on other tunes. Rifling through the band’s catalogue, The Carousels ace that languid country rock vibe on “Winds of Change” while “Call Along the Coast” almost seems to jump out at you with its peppy bass, trebly lead guitar, and killer harmonies. The band’s more recent 2017 album Sail Me Home, St. Clair combines these strengths on cuts like the country-styled “Josephine” and more jangly “Lord Speed My Hurricane” and many others.

Winds of ChangeCall Along the CoastLord Speed My Hurricane

Help The On and Ons, The Squires of the Subterrain, and The Carousels keep on keeping on with their 1960s-inspired new music by checking out their web presence, recordings, and live shows.

Name that song Maryanne!


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mary anne with radioNames come and go. Some, like Gertrude, Hilda, and Agnes, are probably never coming back. But others carry on through generations, like Maryanne. It’s a name that conjures up the quintessential girl next door. She seemed to be at every dance in the 1950s, ended up shipwrecked with Gilligan in the 1960s, and was the focus of a host of singer-songwriter’s attentions in the 1970s. Leonard Cohen tried to say “So Long Marianne” but it didn’t work. More Mary Anne songs kept coming. Today’s post focuses on songs named for Maryanne, Mary Anne or Mary-Anne (though, curiously, not Marianne).

What sparked this theme was my just discovering The Spongetones’ amazing single “My Girl Maryanne” from their 1984 album, Torn Apart. How did I miss these guys back in the 1980s? They had it all going on: a thoroughly Beatlesque esthetic, catchy poprock tunes, with jangly guitars and killer harmonies. The chorus from this song channels a vocal harmony straight out of 1966, as if the Mamas and Papas got the Beatles to swap out the Wrecking Crew for a session.

Of course, any mention of Mary Anne immediately got me thinking of a deep cut from Marshall Crenshaw’s stellar self-titled debut album from 1982. Distinctive guitar and background vocals always made this one a favourite for me, while the chord changes struck me as similar to Nick Lowe’s “My Heart Hurts” from the same year (similar but still sufficiently different).

But two songs hardly a theme blog post make. I needed more material. There was that Cohen cut, or The Who’s “Mary Anne with the Shaky Hand, or even The Four Season’s “C’mon Marianne” but they didn’t work with the blog or seemed too obvious (though I was sorely tempted to go with the Who!). Then I stumbled across a rare vocal turn from the normally instrumentally focused Shadows on their own “Mary Anne” song.  Not bad for guys who usually let Cliff Richard do all the singing.

Rounding out this tribute to various Mary Anne’s is a more modern track from Boston’s alt-country outfit, Girls Guns and Glory. “Maryanne” comes from the band’s 2014 release, Sweet Nothings. The whole record is a worthwhile kick-up-your-heels, Dwight Yoakam-ish country-plus-rock and roll mash up. But check out the melodic twist in the chorus – pure poprock! Don’t overlook their 2016 album, Love and Protest, particularly the killer single “Rock and Roll.”

With the internet, releasing a single or album is now an event that never really ends. The chance that some old thing from years ago could take off unexpectedly is so much more possible now than previously. So drop in on The Spongetones, Marshall Crenshaw, The Shadows, and Girls Guns and Glory and let the hit-making begin!

Catching up with Duran Duran, New Order and Billy Joel


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Car radioTime passes and it’s amazing the musical acts you realize you haven’t thought about in a long time. Could even be bands you once loved but now regularly pass over in the record collection. Then something brings them back to mind and you discover they have carried on, despite your indifference. Of course, sometimes such rediscoveries can be painful. But in the case of these three once mega-successful acts, the missing years have some seen them produce great stuff worthy of a bit of musical reconnaissance.

Duran_duran_paper_gods_album_artworkIf ever there was a band that seemed likely to gain the ‘fad artist’ label, it was Duran Duran. Flashy outfits, winning hairstyles, and plenty of jump-cut videos were oh-so-early 1980s. When they abandoned their hook-driven material for more bass-heavy R&B on 1986’s Notorious the exit sign over their career seemed to be flashing brightly. But despite the odds they persevered, turning out ten more albums over the years, all with at least a few pretty solid, hook-driven tunes, songs like “I Don’t Want Your Love,” “Ordinary World,” and “Come Undone.” The new millennium has seen the release of strong albums like Astronaut (2004) and All You Need is Now (2010). But their most recent Paper Cuts (2015) is arguably their best since 1983’s Seven and the Ragged Tiger. Largely written and and produced by recent wunderkind Mr. Hudson, the record still has the remarkably familiar stamp of Duran Duran while breaking new ground musically. Standout tracks include title cut “Paper Cuts” and “Sunset Garage.” If you haven’t checked out the band in a while, it’s time to return to the fold.

Paper GodsSunset Garage

New OrderI still remember finding my first used copy of New Order’s “Blue Monday.” I wasn’t really into techno or dance but there was just something so cool about the hypnotic driving bass and keyboard riffs. I dutifully purchased Low Life and Brotherhood when they came out. But I do remember being a bit disappointed with Technique, which seemed a bit too aptly named for comfort. New Musical Express complained that the band should just break up rather than repeat themselves (but then MNE was pretty infamous for hating bands as soon as more than a handful of people started liking them). So, in the nineties me and New Order drifted apart. Imagine my pleasant surprise to catch up on their post-Technique catalogue only to discover some of their best recordings! 1993’s Republic was OK, but 2001’s Get Ready is amazing, upping the traditional indie rock sound without losing the club vibe. And the songs are pretty strong: “Crystal,” “60 Miles an Hour,” and “Run Wild.” Four years later the band did it again with the stellar Waiting for the Siren’s Call, featuring killer tracks like “Krafty” and “Turn.” Songs left off the latter album were released as Lost Sirens in 2013 and they weren’t just leftovers: check out strong tracks like “I’ll Stay with You” and “I’ve Got a Feeling.” 2015’s Music Complete (minus longtime bass player Peter Hook) couldn’t help but disappoint by comparison, though “Superheated” is pretty cool.

CrystalTurnI’ll Stay With YouSuperheated

Billy_Joel_-_River_of_DreamsThe first record I ever bought was Billy Joel’s 52nd Street. It was 1978 and one of the only non-country albums stocked in the dry goods store in Cassiar, the asbestos mining town in northern BC where we lived briefly when I was 13. On reflection, I don’t like it nearly as much as The Stranger (with its drop dead hit single, “Only the Good Die Young”), or Glass Houses, which really was Joel’s songwriting peak (from a poprock perspective). Sometimes you have to make do. But after The Nylon Curtain and An Innocent Man I kinda lost interest in what Joel was doing. I mean, I really couldn’t figure out how the dirge-like “We Didn’t Start the Fire” could make it from the out-take pile let alone top the charts. Different strokes. And then Joel just stopped making albums altogether after 1993, surely a bizarre development in our music-as-commodity world. I would have said ‘who cares’ until I ran across two beautiful late Joel songs recently, one each from his last two albums. “And So It Goes” from 1989’s Storm Front has a slightly Randy Newman-esque feel to the arrangement, when it’s not just exquisite Joel balladry. But minus the flash – this performance is remarkably restrained and vulnerable. “Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel)” is the best thing on 1993’s River of Dreams, a beautiful love song for his daughter.

And So It GoesLullabye (Goodnight, My Angel)

Catching up with former superstars is so much easier in the internet age. Check out Duran Duran, New Order and Billy Joel in all the usual places.

Record shopping 2.0: Blogroll ‘best of’ selections 2017


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AB SoundI get by with a little help from my friends. Because I can’t possibly keep up with all the great new music coming out every day, other blogs are a reliable source of new material. And I’m proud to say that I think my blogroll is a finely curated list of sites that really deliver on content. In fact, they’re so good I can’t visit them too much or I’ll just want to write about all the things they’ve already posted! But sometimes cruising through the blogs reminds me of hitting the record shops when I was younger. Vancouver in the early 1980s had a plethora of new and used record stores: Kelly’s, A&A Records, Track Records, Neptune Records, and, of course, the main new records shop, A&B Sound. A&B focused mostly on selling stereo components (I bought my first tape deck there on layaway!) but used albums as a loss leader to get people into the store. Their signature ‘featured bargain’ bins (where they stacked records flat on top of each other) crowded the front of the store and usually sold for $4:99 when the going price for an album was typically anywhere from $6:99 to $10:99. I would buy records I had no clue about, just because they looked cool and were cheap. Such bargains included New Order’s Power Corruption and Lies, Men at Work’s Business as Usual, and OMD’s Dazzle Ships. Well, the record stores, like the book stores of my youth, are largely gone. But the excitement of finding new music lingers on, now re-platformed to the blogosphere!

I don’t know about you but I love year end ‘best of’ lists. It appeals to the completist in me, the big picture guy who wants to somehow grasp the whole of what is going on. It also feels like a delightful cheat, like I’m getting to use someone else’s homework. My blogroll’s ‘best of’ lists introduced me to a host of music I had overlooked in the past year. Below I focus on just one artist from each that I’m glad I didn’t miss.

jesseterry_stargazer_cover_5Absolute Powerpop may not generate the volume of blog posts he once did, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t paying attention. His best of lists for 2017 were colossal: a top 100 singles, top 20 EPs, top 10 Americana and top 100 albums list. I snagged eight new artists that really caught my ear. But I want to draw your attention to Jesse Terry‘s Stargazer. The whole album is strong but if I had to pull a single, “Dangerous Times” sounds like a collaboration between Crowded House and Peter Case, combining the former’s unique melodic palette with the latter’s gritty yet melodic folk rock meets Americana. I would also pair this a-side with the delightfully airy, Macca-esque “Only a Pawn” as a strong b-side.

OnsiePowerpopaholic is the godfather of power pop blogs. Given the range and depth of his coverage and sheer volume of posts, if a band or song is somewhere on the power pop spectrum it will eventually appear here. I snagged five new bands from his Top 30 list this year but have chosen to showcase Onesie, a tongue-in-cheek outfit from Brooklyn that specializes in quirky melodic rock and roll, evident in spades on “Husbands in Finance”: great rhythm guitar swing, fun sing-along vocals, and hooks, hooks, hooks.

GospelbeachI only picked one new artist from I Don’t Hear a Single’s many ‘best of’ lists but that’s because I’ve been nicking great stuff from him all year! Berwanger, Mothboxer, Daisy House and many, many more. IDHAS is an early finder – bands show up here that inevitably show up everywhere else, but a few months later. And he has a particularly good handle on the British and European scene. Having said that, my find from IDHAS is GospelbeacH, a group of LA music scene veterans whose latest project distills the magic of a host of California poprock and country-rock influences. My choice for double a-sided single would combine the breezy yet muscular poprock feel of “Hanging On” with the more laidback country/Byrds ‘tude of “(I Wanna See U) All the Time.”

Hanging On(I Wanna See U) All the Time

HarringtonsPowerpopulist seems like a machine that scours the internet for freely offered up tunes from great indie bands you’ve yet to hear of. I am constantly blown away by his industry – so many bands! So many tunes! His tastes typically run a bit harder than mine but he does love his jangle. His ‘best of’ list ran to 109 songs, from which I scored five acts that are real keepers. The Harringtons are great example. These Sheffield teens crunch their guitars like the Who and the Jam but offer up sweeter harmonies. The combo really works on ‘”Scootch” from their debut EP Change Is Gonna Come.


The rest of my blog finds are not from ‘best of’ lists or from blogs necessarily. Well, one is – Goldmine columnist John Borack had a great list of singles and albums – nicked the rather kooky Mo Troper from him. The album is Exposure and Resistance and it has an uneven, even raw quality at times. But when the poprock clicks, it’s heaven. My choice for a double a-sided single include the exquisite “Free Bin” and “Clear Frames,” the latter reminding me of a hetero version of Pansy Division.  Pop Fair alerted me to the fact that the incredibly talented Richard X. Heyman had a new record out last year, from which “Gleam” really is a stand out track. Power Pop Square put me on to Jeremy Messersmith, whom I featured recently, but here is a different cut – the very catchy “Love Sweet Love.”  Two of my favourite blogs appeared to hit the pause button sometime in 2017 but that didn’t stop them from putting out some great stuff before that happened. Everyone’s favourite foul mouthed blogger at The Best Indie Songs offered up a slew of choice cuts but I’m highlighting Autonomics “Southern Funeral,” with its insanely catchy thumping beat and sing-along chorus. Meanwhile Mufoandthings caught my ear with the acoustic jangling 1960s sound of Wilbur on “Perfect Stranger” and the more rocking, Yardbirdsesque “She’s Gone.”

Richard X. Heyman – GleamJeremy Messersmith – Love Sweet Love

Click on the names of the bands above to get closer to forking over some cash for these great singles and albums. In the record store I’d have a bundle of records under my arm and then have to decide which ones to keep and which ones to put back. It’s so much easier to be indecisive now.

Spotlight single: Francis Macdonald “Love is a Game Two Can Play”


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WDWhat I love about this single is its simplicity. It starts with a classic rock and roll motif, heard a gazillion times, nicely light on delivery with what sounds like an acoustic guitar. But then it slowly builds out with a half dozen subtle embellishments here and there. Like the beachy background vocals or Chuck Berry lead line breakout at the 1:53 mark. The main vocal itself is nicely subdued, delivered like a secret shared in bed. The song was featured in the 2007 movie Wedding Daze and Macdonald’s 2011 release The Art of Hanging Out and represents a departure from this artist’s now main body of work. Macdonald is largely known as the sometime drummer for Teenage Fanclub but more recently has produced an impressive body of quasi-classical and instrumental work, some of it for soundtracks. Check out his beautiful 2015 release Music for String Quartet, Piano and Celeste, which reminds me a lot of some of the best Wyndham Hill releases many years back. But I do wish he would turn his formidable talents back to such simple poprock fare as this great tune.

Keep up with what Francis Macdonald is doing at his website or Facebook and download this great song from Bandcamp.

Jeremy Messersmith’s totally awesome future is now


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JMWe need to start 2018 off on the right foot. Why not chase the blues away with ukulele-fueled songs of love, solidarity, and kittens? Yes, kittens. And snowflakes. And a bit of magic. It may look and sound like a hokey project at first glance but Jeremy Messersmith’s amazing 2017 release, 11 Obscenely Optimistic Songs for Ukulele: A Micro Folk Record for the Twenty First Century, delivers the goods. 10 songs performed in just under 16 minutes with an intense but laid back delivery that oozes authenticity. Some are sweetly charming (like “Everybody Gets a Kitten”) while others are just touchingly sweet (like “Everything is Magical” or “I’m a Snowflake Baby”). In anyone else’s hands these songs would quickly turn to mush but Messersmith manages to wring out every last drop of authentic feeling. It helps that the songwriting is so strong, careening from simple three chord wonders (“Everything is Magical”) to more saucy and complicated pre-WWII era jazz structures (“Love Sweet Love”). There isn’t a bum track on this all too brief album, which fittingly ends with the beautiful, delightful, and inspiring “We Can Make Our Dreams Come True.” Buy it. Play it. Again. I feel better already!

Jeremy Messersmith can be found at his website and Facebook. You can preview the whole album via a series of videos for each song, available at Jeremy’s YouTube page. Warning: repeated listenings to this record will make you want to play them yourself! Luckily, Jeremy offers a free songbook of the record so you can accompany yourself for the low, low price of just your email address.

Breaking news: Monomyth, The Foreign Films, The Red Button, and Pseudonym


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cassetteForgive your intrepid musical reporter if some of the headlines aren’t exactly ‘breaking’ time-wise. Our foreign bureau is understaffed. And we have to make our own coffee. But I’m pretty confident that some of these artists will be breaking news to someone …

HPFHalifax combo Monomyth sound like a nice 1960s beat group whose record has been messed with by some discordant indie interlopers. The effect is delightfully jarring, often surprising, and essentially disarming. Things start out sounding familiar but end up somewhere different. “Falling in Love” sounds like a hit single put into low gear, not quite taking off conventionally but really doing its own thing. Or “High on Sunshine” has a chorus worthy of all those great 1960s country-rock classics, set in a mess of fun melodic distractions. Some tracks are cast in more familiar registers, like the band’s eerie reincarnation of The Replacement’s on “Re: lease Life (Places to Go)” or the catchy, jangly “Drinking in Bed in E.” I love the vocal harmonies on “Cool Blue Hello” with its occasional conjuring of a Bernard Sumner/New Order vocal at times. Other tracks seem to contain a tension between straight up guitar pop and a discordant indie sound, particularly “Go Somewhere” and “Palpitations.” “New Year’s Review” has a great punked up 1970s pop feel. This is one of those fun, ‘out there’ records: hooks aplenty but not quite delivered how you might expect them.

the-foreign-films-e1515176018440Hamilton’s The Foreign Films have a major triple album project – The Record Collector –  they have been getting out over the course of a number of years. The records appear under a number of names, in a manner that is bit confusing. No matter. The material is fantastic. Check out the crisp pop rock elegance of “Broken Dreamers” or the swinging hookiness of “Land of the 1000 Goodbyes.” Reaching back in their catalogue I love the Bowie-esque “Lucky Streak” with its killer lead line or chugging rhythm guitar-centric “Yesterday’s Girl,” both from 2011’s Fire from Spark. Or note the snaky lead guitar hook that stiches together the melodic “Another World Behind the Sun” from 2007, chock full of Magical Mystery Tour motifs.

the-red-button-now-its-all-this-cover-minTechnically The Red Button’s recent Now It’s All This is a compilation/re-release, combining the duo’s two previous albums but adding an EP’s worth of new material. These guys have their Beatles’ chops down but they’re also talented and original songwriters, so the obvious John/Paul influences are worked up into exciting new material. If you missed the original releases, this is a fantastic collection. If you’ve got them already, there’s still some great new tunes here, like the collection’s title track “Now It’s All This.” Personally, from the whole collection I love the Costello-ish “Hopes Up,” “I Could Get Used to You,” and the wonderful “She About to Cross My Mind Again.”

Now It’s All ThisHopes Up

PseudonymSan Francisco’s Pseudonym have a dreamy pop sound, a pleasant melodic drone that seeps into your brain with indelible effect. They remind me a bit of a more lofi version of The Mighty Lemon Drops, accent on a more acoustic vibe. Exhibit A: album opener “I’m Fine,” a slow burn, ear worm song if ever there was one. Things pick up tempo-wise with a more insistent, surging feel to the hooky “All the Little Things.” Other highlights include the very catchy “Victimless Crime” and the more spare, acoustic numbers like “Don’t Leave Me This Way” and “We Had a Deal.” Altogether Pack of Lies is a solid collection.

Money has not gone out of style in 2018. Monomyth, The Foreign Films, The Red Button and Pseudonym would all love take your denominated paper featuring politicians or royalty. Though I’m sure they’d settle for e-dollars too.