It is too early to start working up a best albums list for 2019? Because the crew on this edition of the breaking news team are going for broke on the ‘all killer, no filler’ kind of long players. These are album downloads – no point wasting your time buying them song by song.
I was minding my own business on iTunes searching out movie star names as song titles when I ran across No Win’s “Shelly Duvall.” And that led me to their new album, Downy, 36 minutes of muscular poprock with a decidedly Weezer vibe. I thought I’d stumbled across a real unknown find but almost immediately glowing No Win reviews started showing up across my blogroll. Well, they deserve it. “After Your Legs” opens things up, setting the tone with a melodic but hard-hitting edge, as does “Vision.” “2 Real” sounds a bit like Fountains of Wayne meets Weezer to me while “Being Teen” and “Waiting for a Call” change up the pace, establishing a slower, more acoustic atmosphere. But “Shelly Duvall” is the obvious single to these ears, with its slightly dissonant hooks and smooth vocals. It’s a track that screams perfect movie montage music.
Supercrush might be described as a ‘change of life’ band. The members foreswore their hardcore roots in other groups to go full on power pop with this project and their first complete album release, Never Let You Drift Away. The record brings together a group of singles that have been on a slow drip release stretching back years, but the collection has proven to be worth the wait. There is nary a weak track here. And for an LP that came together in bits and pieces, the whole thing has a consistent sound and style, with “Melt Into You (Drift Away)” and “I Don’t Want to be Sad Anymore” ready to be added immediately to any Top 40 hit singles rotation. On the other hand “I Can’t Lie” and “Walking Backwards” have a great 1960s jangle aura. This is a crank-me-up at the beach good time.
David Brookings has the look of a classic 1970s poprock star with his David Cassidy-like impish grin and wavy mop of hair. Now he’s got the album to go with it. Scorpio Monologue is a timeless slice of 1960s-70s infused should be hits. Brookings writes songs that echo a time when radio was dominated by standout guitar hooks and sweet harmony vocals. It’s all there on the opening track, “And It Feels Like,” with its driving, chiming guitar lines and mid-period Blue Oyster Cult feel for melody and menace. Things lighten up a bit with the winsome, summery jangle of “I Grow Up Fast” and turn on the late Beatles-era McCartney influences on “Rainbow Baby.” Brookings shows his mastery of styles whether dialing up the rock factor on “Big Gun” or adding a tasteful bit of yacht to “Be Gone (Whoever You Are).” “Silicon Valley” has a slight Billy Joel meets country flavor to me and nicely (but gently) skewers tech’s home town. And check out the great surf rock rumble guitar opener to “That Girl’s Not Right,” a song that shifts to a distinctive melody in the chorus, combining sunshine elements with a hint of malice. And then “Sleep to Dream” closes the album on surprisingly uneasy note, bittersweet ennui being a bit of a departure for Brookings songwriting-wise. Scorpio Monologue is an impressive development of the David Brookings and the Average Lookings sound. It should be on every poprock fan’s 2019 summer playlist!
2019 is already shaping up to be another great year for melodic rock and roll. Let’s increase the odds that other bands might follow suit by showing No Win, Supercrush, and David Brookings and the Average Lookings a bit of the money love! Click on the bandcamp links and start spending now.
Photo: Larry Gordon “Veil on Bloor Viaduct” April 2019