Bold new visions are all that make the cut on today’s dial twisting installment. Each of our featured acts puts a unique spin on the poprock genre.
Orville Peck comes on like the bastard love child of Elvis Presley and Morrisey. His voice has the spine chilling warmth of the King on tracks like “Nothing Fades Like the Light.” But his phrasing on cuts like “Winds of Change” and “Dead of Night” are so the Mopester. It would be easy to shrug off Peck’s killer debut album, Pony, as just another bit of kitsch or retro country a la early K.D. Lang or K.C. Musgraves (prior to her most recent release). Obviously songs like “Roses Are Falling” and “Take You Back (The Iron Hoof Cattle Call)” encourage such a response. But Pony is so much more. Despite the obvious fun Peck is having there is deep sincerity to the performances too. Peck isn’t just kidding. When he hits the ‘alright’ part of the vocal in “Turn To Hate” something happens that’s hard to explain. You hear the mastery, the control, the hurt. The song could easily have had a pumping Pet Shop Boys synth backdrop but Peck has crafted a distinctive bit of musical synthesis, drawing from retro rock and roll, country and a gay club esthetic. This guy is something big waiting to explode.
London’s Scandinavia wrap an acerbic critique of empty consumerism and widespread inequality in a delicious melodic coating throughout their latest long player, Premium Economy. At first I thought the title was a jokey, ridiculous play on how the corporate world increasingly sells status inequality to different gradations of the striving middle class. Actually, it’s a real thing, offered up by SAS airlines! Satire is getting harder and harder but Scandinavia still give it a go. Empty-headed contrarians take a beating on “I Don’t Believe in Anything,” corporate interests disguised as a ‘love of science’ are exposed on “Choose Science,” and American imperialism is rightly condemned on “Pax Americana.” But hey, at the end of day the record stands or falls on the quality of the tunes. And here I can attest that they are pretty amazing. “Melody Glade” is a stroll through a lush grove of jangle. “Ghetto Blaster” exudes a blast of sunshine, particularly with its harmony-drenched chorus. And “I Own An Island” manages to skewer the depths of wealthy over-consumption while wooing us with killer hooks in the chorus. And don’t miss the back catalogue for more of the high quality same.
It’s a fairly predictable hipster transition to see former punkers mellowing into the roots music scene in old age. But Nic McNamara has gone the other way. After two respectable neo-folkie albums with his band Black Bears Fire he’s back with a more muscular, punky rock and roll sound with new band Summer Colds on their debut album, Here Comes Nothing. The result is a fascinating synthesis of country harmonies with a poppy American punk sound. This is particularly apparent on opening tracks “Low” and “Found,” both featuring vocals that remind of such alt-folk luminaries as You Won’t and Good Old War. When we get to the single “Whiteout” the comparisons to Weezer start to make sense with its grind of buzzing guitars and smooth hooky vocals. Special mention: check out the great western country harmony lurking under the rock veneer on “Killing Flies.”
Today’s bands all amount to more than their most immediate appearances and bear repeated listening to really appreciate them. There’s no better way to make that happen than to invest in their musical products. Click on Orville Peck, Scandinavia, and Summer Colds to get that started.
Cow photo: Larry Gordon.