“I’m With You” should have been the song that shot Montreal band The Stills to international stardom. Instead, it was the last single they released before breaking up in 2011. And that was a shame because “I’m With You” has all the hallmarks of a classic hit single. It opens with a killer hook that sets the pace for the whole song. The vocals are shimmery and understated, seemingly just behind the beat, giving the song a sense of urgency. The single opens with a distinctive clanging keyboard sound and ends just as mysteriously. And then chorus tag line “I’m with you” just keeps echoing in your head long after the song is over. Oh well. Really, it’s such a Canadian story – good press for albums one and two with some commercial success and Canadian radio play, culminating in what appears to be a positive international reception from critics for the last album, 2008’s Oceans Will Rise, including two Juno awards (Canadian Grammys). And then break up. Well, at least we can enjoy the band’s back catalogue.
To keep up with news about the Stills (such as it may be for a band that has disbanded) as well as updates on what former members are doing now, check out their Facebook page.
If you spend some time on Chris Lund’s website you might not feel so cheerful. The Lund Bros. story is all too common in the annals of rock and roll. Freakishly talented fellows slog away for decades, producing six albums of solid material, only to remain a regionally known quantity, mainly in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. But if you listen to the albums, you can’t help but be positive – this is simply marvelous stuff. From the early mix of influences on 1994’s Loving Cup, to the rejected demos for Geffen that would comprise the early-Beatles-sounding 1998 release Loser, you know you’re hearing a rising talent.
I’ll Be ThereTold You So
That potential is definitely realized on the more slick and professionally produced International Pop Overthrow, released in 2002. Tracks like “Cain and Abel” sound a bit Matthew Sweet to me while the amazing “Power Lines” echoes the Britpop sound of The Real People or Cast. But really the whole album is strong on Beatles’ influence, particularly in the middle period Revolver era. Cain & AbelPower Lines
Failing to sign with a major label in the new millenium, the band took up an interesting strategy with their next two records: both were self-released double albums. 2004’s Tangents rocks out and here the two Lund brothers’ early love of Led Zeppelin shows up, though some poprock does shine through on tracks like “Wrong.” 2008’s Songbook IV mines the power pop sound a bit more consistently, as evident on cuts like “Can’t Read You,” “Listen,” and many others. But, as an aside, check out guitarist Chris Lund’s amazing guitar chops on the solo for “Such a Ride.”ListenSuch a RideWrong
Seven years passed before the Lund Bros. returned with 2015’s Sanguine, a title meaning literally ‘cheerful amid difficult circumstances.’ Apt much? But if the band was discouraged, it doesn’t show on the recordings, which are stellar, particularly the nice cover of Badfinger’s “No Matter What.” The obvious single is the perfectly paced “Blue,” which opens with some nice acoustic guitar and then builds to a great, vocal harmony-drenched chorus. Another nice tune with a pretty amazing guitar solo is “Ballad of a Former Martyr.” The lead guitar line ripples out at the 1:15 mark with some pretty beautiful runs.BlueBallad of a Former Martyr
Nearly all the Lund Bros. material is readily available on iTunes or you can connect with the band on Facebook or Chris Lund’s exhaustively detailed website. And you really should.
New finds and fresh music from old favourites in this edition of breakings news, with an accent on unusual band names.
Freedom Fry keep turning out great singles. The combination of Parisian-born Marie Seyrat and American Bruce Driscoll produce a sophisticated brand of dreamy poprock, full of hooks. We previously highlighted “Stop, Stop, Stop” and their remake of Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot’s “Bonnie and Clyde,” as well as their holiday single “Oh Santa (Bad World).” Now they’re back with a fresh, swinging slice of easy-going, car-driving, breeze-in-your-hair poprock called “Strange Attraction,” also the title track from their to-be-released EP. This song bodes well for what is to come.
Thrift Store Halo have a great name, great artwork and a great story. And their music is pretty good too. Dial back the time machine to 1998 and TSH appear on the verge of breaking with an album in the can, major label interest, and a possible national tour with an up and coming band called Train. A few bad decisions later and the band split, members heading for law school, a lucrative art career, and home renos. And that was a shame because their only full length album, World Gone Mad, is a lost treasure. Personal fave tracks include “Crashing In” and “With You Here.” But the lure of rock and roll proved too strong and now the band is back after a near 20 year absence with a snappy new EP, Pop-Rocket. The new album sound is a bit leaner, reminding me a bit of Ike in their prime. Stand out tracks: “Get Over You” and “I’m Not Through.”Get Over YouI’m Not Through
Sophie Allison is Soccer Mommy, a one-woman, bedroom-recording, Bandcamp phenomenon. Up to now her songs have been defined by their spare, stripped down intimacy, but on her new EP Collection Allison strikes up the band to give some old material more life and new material a decidedly more polished debut. “Out Worn” is new song that nonetheless adds to Allison’s litany of despairing lonely relationship songs but check out the languid guitar lines and sibilant hooky vocals, sometimes drifting to the dreamy side only to be righted with some great background vocals. Repeated plays definitely brings extra benefits.
This blog loves Dropkick so there is no surprise we think the new Andrew Taylor solo release, From the Outside Looking In, is pretty special. All the Dropkick strengths are here: driving rhythmic guitars, layered lead and background vocals, and hooks a-plenty. “Someone” takes off and never quits, propelled by a strong rhythm section and some pretty sweet vocal harmonies. “Who We Really Are” channels just a hint of Teenage Fanclub with its loping pace and earnest, sweet sounding vocal delivery. “Standing Still” is a swinging dollop of country poprock. Another should-be hit album from a key member of Scotland’s most under-appreciated melody makers.
Rounding out this entry is a band I just saw open for Declan Mckenna at his great recent debut on Canadian soil: Dan Luke and the Raid. Who? Exactly. I’d never heard of them and I don’t think most of the audience had either. But from the moment they got started, they had the audience in the palm of their hand. Bowling Green, Kentucky’s latest find played a strong set of catchy tunes, most of which are still not available anywhere. So for the time being, check out “Black Cat Heavy Metal,” an ever so slightly psych-poprock number. I do look forward to the EP release, if only to hear the wonderful “Tragic Symphony” again.
Summer’s here and the time is right for some treats. No, not the ice cream truck – musical treats. What follows are some bands I missed the first time around but have come to know through a host of fantastic Facebook music groups. Accent on melody, harmony and hooks!
Et Tu Brucé describe their sound as hybrid pop music, specifically ‘west London meets the west coast.’ Hard not to hear the Bryds on tracks like “Stars Fall” from their 2013 debut album Suburban Sunshine or “Hey Blue” from 2016’s follow up, the self titled Et Tu Brucé. But the band’s standout track for me is the magical “Never Seen You Cry”: wonderful tinkly piano, solid acoustic guitar anchoring the song, and shimmery vocal harmony and overlapping vocal lines make this a should-be hit single.
Another band hitting the sibilant vocal lines hard would be Seattle’s The Tripwires, at least on our featured tune. A bona fide indie supergroup with members from bands like Minus 5, the Model Rockets and the Young Fresh Fellows, the Tripwires have put out a handful of great records, with influences ranging from pop punk and old time rock and roll to alt country and new wave. “Big Electric Light” is from 2007’s Makes You Look Around and it melds a wall of vocal harmony with some jangly guitar lines to deliver a hooky masterpiece.
Slipping back in time to 1994, our next treat is from New York state’s Gigolo Aunts with a track that was featured on their first major break out album, Flippin’ Out as well as the soundtrack to the movie Dumb and Dumber. “Wherever I Find My Heaven” features a Marshal Crenshaw-like guitar buzz throughout the song as well as a great wash of background vocals. From the killer opening riff you’ll be hooked.
Coming back more to the present, check out Smith & Hayes lightly swinging poprock gem from their 2014 album People All Over the World, “Slow Down.” These guys emote some pretty impressive 1970s soft rock chops, a time when melody seemed inoffensive but was actually ear worm intensive. Previous albums by the band (e.g. 2007’s Changed By a Song) showcased their command of the late Beatles era sound and that work undergirds this single. From the harmonica opening, to the acoustic guitar lead lines, to the ever so subtle and building vocal hooks, you’ll be hitting repeat on this one.Smith & Hayes – Slow Down
Our last treat is a bit of an outlier for North Carolina’s Dillon Fence, a group whose material usually had a bit more bite. But “Bite of an Apple” is a delightful vocally-focused lilting tune that really takes off with some nice interplay amongst vocal lines, all over top of a consistent ringing rhythm guitar. The song appears on the 2004 collection Best +. Though the band’s recording career only spanned 1991-94, this song was one of a number specially recorded in the early 2000s for this release.Dillon Fence – Bite of an Apple