Not the paper-through-the-letterbox kind of course – more like email, messenger, Facebook, etc. Still, the point is: people write and let me know about new releases they think would work for the blog. It tells you something about the state of the music biz that sometimes it is the artist themselves pitching their wares. Oh well. Not all the suggestions work for this site, but I’m pleased to report that most do. So today’s post focuses on what has come to the Poprock Record mailbag recently.
The good people at Soundscapes in Toronto alerted me to hometown pop melodians, The Pinecones, who describe themselves on their Bandcamp page as “makers of jingle jangle and sha la la harmony rock.” Ya, that pretty much captures it. “Gloomy Monday” reminded me of some super mid-1980s poprock indie bands: a catchy tune performed in a raspy, loose, completely at ease sort of way – too clear to be garage rock but with a great laid back feel. Check out the hilarious video featuring school kids grappling with their own gloomy classroom rituals. Other highlights for me from their 2015 outing, Ooh!, include sha la la ememplar “That’s the Way I Want to Do It” and the XTC-ish “Kimberly Keeps.”
Butch Young joins a long list of performers transformed by the Beatles and their influence. There is hardly a note of his recent Mercury Man that does not bear the mark of the Fabs. But where he takes that influence is not merely homage – there are some great songs here. The title track has a very 1970s Beatle-influenced sound, a time when so many bands like Badfinger and ELO continued updating the style of the masters. “One Foot In” expands the musical footprint, adding a bit of Beach Boys and a host of other vocally-oriented 1960s bands. “Dime Store Jesus” sounds a bit 10cc to me, in a good way. But my favourite track is, hands down, “Asteroid,” with its whimsical loping pace and great organ, piano and vocal parts.
I love performers with a great range of performance styles. The ‘all caps’ band, the CLIFFS, come from a number of prior musical commitments – The Blurries, Apples in Stereo, Deathray Davies, and more – but none sound like this new venture. The CLIFFS’ new album, Bill, You’re Only Human, is a stripped down punky poprock effort. “Volcano” goes along in an understated way until you get to the chorus, which winds up a great hook through the repetition of the title. Both “Jimmy Monet” and “Future Tense” seem to channel a low key Fountains of Wayne influence to my ears. “Crash” has that distinctive 1970s punky take on early 1960s disaster poprock. Probably my favourite track on the album is “I’m in Love with Tonight.” The title of the song is all the lyrics you get, but it still draws you in with its wonderful arrangement, adding a subtracting layers to good effect.
Rounding things out is Cupid’s Carnival from their recent Everything is Love release. This is a band that wears their Beatles’ influences on both sleeves. A lot of the material here has been released by the same musicians under other names (Cherrystone, Roland Skilton) but not in these versions. This recording really ups the complexity of their Beatles vibe. “Girl” is a perfect example. The opening guitar slide sounds like it was lifted right off George Harrison’s early solo records but the vocal arrangement is more Meet the Beatles or Something New. Wow. These guys know their Beatle motifs and combine and rearrange them in original ways. Girl