Music veterans Screen Test put out some of their best music in 2018 with their Stones album-title riffing compilation Through the Past Brightly. Featuring both new and older unreleased tracks, the majority of the record is made up of the more recent material and it is IMHO some of their finest work. And that’s really saying something for guys who’ve been gigging and recording since the late 1970s with The Flashcubes, Screen Test, as solo artists, and with a host of other projects. Of the record’s new tunes I really like “Make Something Happen,” “Tomorrow is Another Day,” and particularly the single-worthy “Best Seller” with its hooky Mersey-jangle lead guitar. But the song that sings ‘hit’ to me without a doubt is “Notes from Trevor” with its killer build up and knock out earwormy chorus. Think of something filling the space between Pugwash and XTC and you’re in the zone. Or, as reader Fabian Byrne notes, very Smithereens! The band also have a great new tune worth checking out: “End of the Line.”
Notes From TrevorBest Seller
Screen Test prove that it’s possible for bands to keep the creativity going at any stage of their careers. Surely that deserves some kind of reward? Click on their hot-linked name to find out more!
I’m always geared up for some great singles. I’m not the kind to insist on a whole album of hits. That can be so greedy. So let’s roll out some should-be hit single poprock radio fodder.
Let me say right at the outset that Ryan Hamilton and the Harlequin Ghosts’ new album This is the Sound is an all-round good time, filled with great tunes. It’s what we’d expect from a guy whose talents have ranged from his killer sunshine-blast solo album Hell of a Day to super outings with Bowling for Soup’s Jaret Reddick in People on Vacation. But there is something particular about “Feeling Like Falling in Love” on his latest album that really grabs me. Maybe it’s guitar hook that loops throughout the song or the effortless tenor of Ryan’s vocals but the song sticks with me. Or maybe you’re looking for something more old school new wave? Got just the release here with the latest single from The Empty Hearts. Described by some as a ‘garage rock supergroup’ I’d probably characterize them as a bit more smooth than that. Their latest “Coat Tailer” offers up the polished sheen of Romantics-style guitars with some cool Rubber Soul-ish background vocals. B-side “Run and Hide” is no slouch either with its mellow jangle and slight country vibe. Can’t wait for the full album follow up to these teasers.The Empty Hearts – Coat Tailer
Ezra Furman is undeniably one of most exciting artists to emerge over the past decade. Fabulously original, combining a punk-like sentiment with a solid mastery of 1950s and 1960s songwriting styles. He’s like a gender-fluid John Lennon – angry, tuneful, with a whole lot of something to say. His latest record 12 Nudes cranks the punk and snarl on most cuts but “In America” rides its wondrous ragged delivery over some killer hooks. I’d vote for this guy. Carrying on in a punky vein, Cleveland’s Signals Midwest take their sound in a more melodic direction with their latest EP Pin, particularly on the first single, “Your New Old Apartment.” The song goes in a number of directions with surprising musical adornments and ace vocal support from Sincere Engineer (aka Deanna Belos). Love the echo-y background vocal ‘oh oh ohs’ that show up late!
Don’t get me started on superhero movies. Sometimes it seems like Hollywood makes little else. But songs about superheroes can be great. That’s probably because songwriters can’t simply rely on a green screen or endless explosive pyrotechnics. So let’s let it rip with these superhero song stylings!
Kicking things off is a band and a song with the same name. There’s not a lot of ink on the Danish group Superheroes, though leader Thomas Troelsen has gone on to produce a bevy of mainstream international pop superstars like Justin Beiber, David Guetta and Lil’ Wayne. Luckily, his band sounds nothing like them. Instead, the group vibes a 1970s art rock meets new wave sound, updated for the new century. “Superheroes” is a slow burn hook-wise but give it some time and its earworm qualities will grow on you. XTC offer up super melodies on “That’s Really Super, Super Girl,” from their Todd Rundgren-produced masterpiece Skylarking. A great locomotive blast of Andy Partridge wordplay and ornamental, guitar-driven poprock. Things slow down with the light acoustic swing of Jill Sobule’s bittersweet “Spiderman,” from 2009’s California Years. It’s a not-so-super superhero song but hey, she’s keeping it real.Superheroes – SuperheroesXTC – That’s Really Super, SupergirlJill Sobule – Spiderman
R.E.M.’s “Superman” was immediately one of my fave cuts from what is probably still my top R.E.M. album, Life’s Rich Pageant. I knew it was a cover but I assumed The Clique were just some other 1980s Athens-based indie outfit and R.E.M. was sharing the love. Recently I found out that the original goes back to the 1969. Initially just a b-side, the The Clique’s version of “Superman” is a revelation! Recognizable but distinctly different than the cover and well worth a listen. Another recent discovery is Paul McCartney and Wings’ “Magneto and Titanium Man” from Venus and Mars. Apparently Sir Paul loves his Marvel comics and this treat is so 1975 Wings but also contains a few melodic twists. Nice video utilizing old Marvel kids cartoon footage. One of Jim Infantino’s musical vehicles is the often hilarious, always politically intelligent Jim’s Big Ego. But his turn at superhero songwriting is a bit more serious on “The Ballad of Barry Allen.” Apparently, being the fastest guy is not always such a thrill.The Clique – Superman
Rounding things out is Lazlo Bane’s addictive banjo-laden, superhero name-dropping “I’m No Superman,” though the tune is probably best known as the theme song on the long-running network sitcom, Scrubs. It’s the right sentiment to end on. Nobody’s really a superhero. Just get that through your thick pop culture heads. Except when melodic hooks are involved.
This post has mostly older releases but that doesn’t mean they don’t need some cash love. Click on the hyperlinks to show off your superness.