Summer’s nearly over and ‘back to school’ signs beckon but one thing that won’t be in this fall’s lesson plan: heartbreak. Yep, that’s right. Life’s hardest lessons won’t be on the midterm. Now, in the event you skipped class, it was all covered on Aerial’s amazing 2014 release, Why Don’t They Teach Heartbreak in School? If you love dynamic poppy rock and roll then you’re going to love this homework assignment because the whole record is a winner. The album kicks off with some killer rock and roll drums and rhythm guitar on the raucus but poppy “Cartoon Eyes, Cartoon Heart,” a track elevated by its breathtaking harmony vocals, which are really the album’s signature sound. Then the band adds a bit of new wave guitar and the school bell from the Ramones’ “Rock and Roll High School” to the magic that is the clear break-out single, the title track “Why Don’t They Teach Heartbreak School.” I think I sprained my finger hitting repeat on this baby. Then take your pick from all the other great songs here. Other critics have drawn comparisons to XTC with “Japanese Dancer,” I hear a friendly version of the Ramones on “A Great Teenager” while “More Than Alcohol” and “Go With You” are just superb, swinging poprock songs. As an album, Why Don’t They Teach Heartbreak in School? is a cut above: timeless, fresh and exciting.
So you missed its release first time around. So did I. Just head over to bandcamp and get your copy now.
This turn around the dial lays on the sugar and spice with songs that highlight how poprock can embrace both smooth production values and a discordant note here and there.
Eric Blakely’s The Bottle Kids has a polished poprock sheen honed in the late 1970s by such melodic rock luminaries as the Raspberries and Rockpile. Tracks like “When You Come Around” and “Her Heart is Much Worse than her Bite” sound like great lost tunes from that era. But then “American Girls,” the obvious single from the latest album, Let Me In On This Action, goes in another direction, drawing more from the indie side of the early 1980s sound. “Let’s Put Some Power Back in Pop” is a master class in that style as well the theme song of record, giving voice to it’s underlying musical philosophy. Another surprise is the Lennon-esque “I Miss Her Goodbyes” with its interesting “A Day in the Life” piano shots and spot-on Beatles vocals. While you’re checking out the band, don’t miss “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” from 2013’s Such a Thrill, perhaps Blakely’s greatest composition!
San Francisco’s Richard Turgeon deservedly made a lot of ‘best of’ lists for 2017 with his driving rock and roll debut album In Between Spaces. Now he’s back with a tribute to a nearby burg, Lost Angeles, and it’s another killer blast of nineties-tempered tune-age. Things kick off with what must be the artist’s theme song, “Big Break,” which contains all the elements of Turgeon’s sound: big guitars, slightly discordant vocals, and a sneaky hook that won’t let up. Then “Waiting for You” shifts gears, sounding like a grungy Matthew Sweet, complete with sparkly lead guitar lines and a very Sweet-like melody line and chorus. But the out-of-the-park single for me is the addictive “Look Away” – crank this up and keep the air guitar handy. Turgeon takes a number of chances on this outing, trying out different styles on songs like “Working for the Man” and “I Want to be a Shut-in” while also showcasing how rock can be touching on his loving tribute “Be My Wife.” Besides picking up this latest record, tune in to Turgeon’s various social media for semi-regular releases of new material and inspired covers.
The Spindles’ Past and Present is definitely heading for my ‘best of’ list for 2018. This release has it all: great songs, killer hooks, superb performances. The band is clearly influenced by the Beatles and other British Invasion acts like the Hollies, masterfully covered here on “Look Through Any Window” (which is not easy to do). But they manage to make those influences their own. Overall, the sound is very early 1980s poprock – think the Moody Blues Long Distance Voyager or even some NRBQ. “Prisoner of War” is a strong opener and potential single, while “I Want My Baby Back” sounds like the sure-fire hit to me. Another great number is “Whenever We’re Together” with it’s Jeff Lynne strings and background vocals. “Peace with the Past” has a nice Hard Day’s Night opening flourish before settling in to a more Rubber Soul vibe. Other strong tracks include “Young Heart,” “Annette” and the very Nick Lowe circa Cowboy Outfit sounding “Santa Fe.” On the whole, the record is very easy to listen to again and again …
Prisoner of WarI Want My Baby BackWhenever We’re Together
You know the drill – only record buying fans can stop the slow slide to musical oblivion. Seriously, nobody really wants to be a ‘great lost artist.’ So find The Bottle Kids, Richard Turgeon and The Spindles today on the hot-links.
A new feature of sorts, a tribute to the almighty single! In this age of catastrophic change in music consumption the single is back as a way of teasing interest in an artist and their new releases. It is now fairly conventional for artists to release a single well ahead of the album. Take this first round of singles – all precede their designated albums by many months. And, frankly, I can’t wait around to feature these talents!
Time it was that I waited on every Elvis Costello release like the second coming of rock and roll’s savior. And then post-Spike, I got a bit more choosy. I mean, I totally support artists going beyond whatever they’ve done in the past and Elvis clearly had many more roads left to explore. They just weren’t always my thing. But like every George Jones record, there’s seldom lacking at least one truly great cut on any given EC album. It looks like Costello’s to-be-released new album will be no exception. “Unwanted Number” is a pre-release cut from Look Now and it’s a winner. Think Imperial Bedroom meets Painted From Memory. The piano and songwriting are reminiscent of the songs from that great Costello keyboard period stretching from Imperial Bedroom through Punch the Clock and Goodbye Cruel World. Meanwhile the bridge captures the feel of the work he did with Burt Bacharach on songs like “Toledo.”
Next up is the criminally under-appreciated Paul Collins, veteran of so many great acts like the Nerves, the Breakaways, and, of course, the Paul Collins Beat. What is striking about Collins is the quality of his songwriting output over a four-decade period. His new single shows he’s still got it. “In and Out of My Head” is the pre-release single from his upcoming album, Out of My Head. The rumbly guitar is wonderfully retro yet freshly deployed on a tune that sounds like it belongs on a Roy Orbison album.
Described as “Califorian pop from sunny Utrech, the Netherlands” on their website, The Maureens have a keen ear for a melodic blend of country folk and poprock sounds. 2015’s Bang the Drum was a solid release, oozing hooks and harmonies. Now they’ve released “20 Years for the Company” from the to-be-released Something in the Air and it’s a blast of harmony-drenched goodness. Speaking to the economic insecurity of times, the song nonetheless gives off a positive vibe with it’s captivating mix of male and female vocals.