I wonder sometimes if the mail person has mistaken my address for Quality Street because the submissions arriving in the Poprock Record mailbag have been pretty spectacular. This week’s selections run the gamut of cabaret pop, textured top 40, straight up party rock and roll, and punky riffsters.
The tuneful Adam Merrin (we featured him here) sent a note about Fire Chief Charlie, a band whose latest record, Chances Are, he produced and played on. This submission is definitely a border case, a bit more art rock than poprock. And yet I find their latest single “Let’s Be Happy” so intriguing. The male vocals remind me of Roxy Music era Bryan Ferry, the guitar lines are languid and suggestive, while the pacing is almost plodding until it suddenly changes up. Repeated listening creates a hypnotic effect, bringing out the song’s subtle hooks. The single’s B-side, “There Goes My Ol’ Unbearable Heart,” is also a nice number, strummy with just a slight hint of country twang and a dreamy (but short) guitar solo.
The new record from Tiny Animals comes a long six years after their last long player. To make up for lost time, they have crafted a full blown concept album, Such Stuff That Dreams Are Made On, that takes us through a night of dreaming and the bleary, sometimes nonsensical imagery that accompanies sleep (or the lack thereof). As with previous Tiny Animals albums, the sound is crisp and finely textured, often built up layer by sonic layer. The songs are sequenced seamlessly without break but some contributions are more single-ready (some more experimental) than others. I would send radio “She’s Gonna Find Out” with its quirky and catchy opener, the hooky “Stalker” which features some great vocal effects, the strolling-on-a-sunny-day “Wait, Wait, Wait,” and the band’s own choice for first release and video, “Up, Up, and Away.” And in something totally unrelated to this release, check out the band’s hilarious medley of 1980s sitcom theme songs! She’s Gonna Find OutUp, Up, and Away
The Popravinas have a easygoing, melodic rock n’ roll sound – they perform like they’ve been playing together forever. Their sound combines both acoustic and electric guitars, punchy lead lines, AM transistored vocals, a bit of California country rock at times, and a general party vibe. The whole album is enjoyable but “Santa Monica Moon,” “Wow,” and “Top of the Heartache” are stand out tracks for me. Still, if I had pick something for a single I think I’d go with “Alone Ain’t So Bad” with its slightly stronger edge of rock and roll insurgency, nice vocal arrangement, and just a bit of banjo. Hit play and let the beer flow.
We torque up the rock quotient with selections from Picnic Tool’s tart and saucy EP Einstein. The title track is a talky, rumbly rock workout full of hilarious asides, while “Chinese Heart” has a more spare sound, held together by a strong, hooky lead guitar line. By comparison “I Love the Truth” sounds more conventional if only because it features actual singing along with some nice harmonica breaks, built on a great neo-1950s music bed. Things wrap up with the fun “… About Gurls,” a crisp new wavey number full of super riffs. And then, it’s over. Even for an EP Einstein ends all too soon.
Dramatic, almost Queen-like in its changes and intensity, V Sparks grabs you and doesn’t let go on its New Sensation EP. While the record has a number of strong songs, I remain most captivated by “Death of a Star.” From the opening keyboards, the song twists and turns so often you may feel it has lost its way. But when it hits the chorus you’re in a melodic sweet spot that you just don’t want to end. A remarkable effort that makes you wonder where this band will go next.
Fire Chief Charlie, Tiny Animals, The Popravinas, Picnic Tool and V Sparks are sending me mail but really they’d like to hear from you. Make at least one of them your favourite new band today.