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Screen Shot 2019-12-27 at 5.06.13 PMSo many albums to listen to! Welcome to the listening room session II where we carry on distracting you from any holiday malaise that might be afoot with melody, hooks, harmonies and some jangle guitar.

Screen Shot 2019-12-28 at 4.44.30 PMOslo, Norway’s The Needs is just another example of Nordic superiority. They manage to combine driving guitars with sweet melodies that make you want to jump and sing at the same time. The album is entitled You Need the Needs and truer words were never spoken. The record kicks off with “Summerbore,” a song that blasts out of the gate with the band’s signature driving guitar, coated with a slick vocal that holds back just a bit, creating tension between the vocal and instrumental elements. Next up is the obvious single, “I Regret It,” with its early Rooney-esque demeanor. And so on. There are a cartful of great tunes here: the hooky “I’m Doing Fine,” the more mid-tempo “First to Go,” and the fabulous “Stay at Home Friend” with its crashing guitars and endearing melody. Guitar lovers rejoice! Your needs are answered with this latest Norwegian export.

Screen Shot 2019-12-28 at 4.45.55 PMI agree with Richard Rossi over at Power Pop News that there is something very Cheap Trick meets Sloan on this latest release from Chicago’s The Bishop’s Daredevil Stunt Club. You can really hear it at the one minute mark of the opening track of “Burndown at Sundown” – wow! Loaded with great change ups throughout the song, this is a hooky masterpiece. And we’re just getting started. Then comes the clear single “Christine You’re Mean,” a straight up rocky poprock number, with the crunchy guitar riding just beneath the melody-drenched vocals. End Over End is another album that is a full listen release, no needle dropping required. Of course, if forced to choose, I do find myself particularly partial to “Get Up Get Up,” “The Henry Norman Hotel,” and “Remind Me of Summer.” And clocking in at 48 minutes, that’s a lot of power pop-tastic quality product.

Screen Shot 2019-12-28 at 4.48.03 PMBulletproof is album number two for Birmingham, Alabama’s The Lolas for 2019 and there is no evident dilution in the quality of offering the second time around. And that’s pretty impressive because The Lolas is only one of the many musical projects that Tim Boykin is regularly writing for and performing in. Opening cut “Deestroy” sets the tone for the fun to come, sounding like a power pop Ramones with lyrics about wanting to ‘destroy capitalism’ and ‘take away your desolate vision.’ Finally, a ‘peace on earth’ vision I can get behind! Then Boykin goes all Rubber Soul Beatles on us with the delightful “Fall Away” while “Oceans on the Moon” sounds like a great lost Hollies cut to me. But the real news with this record is how political it is compared with earlier releases. Titles like “Stand Up and Fight,” “Stop the War,” and “Gunshot Holes” advertise their sentiments pretty clearly. But others, like “Storm of Silence,” carry a message of worker solidarity and hope that requires more active listening. Going political is a risk for any performer and can go agitprop in a bad way pretty quickly in the wrong hands. But this effort is entirely in good hands with Boykin, who strikes the right balance between message and art. And I love the final cut, a Merseybeat rendition of “L’Internationale” that totally works!

Screen Shot 2019-12-28 at 4.49.15 PMIn our one last EP file, here’s a release from 2018 that somehow missed my radar last year from Brooklyn’s Answering MachineColor TV. Vocalist Samantha Campanile often comes off sounding like a edgier Neko Case meets Jenny Lewis on the epic tunes showcased here like title track “Color TV,” “Tri-State Kids,” and “Save the Date.” Though vocalist J.D. Fetcho also sounds great on backup or lead on tracks like “East of Eden.” The band did release a single in 2019 and “Bad Luck” bodes well for the group’s upcoming debut release due sometime in 2020, almost sounding an indie, slightly punk version of mid-period Fleetwood Mac.

The albums released throughout 2019 prove once again that great melodic rock and roll music is still with us, even if it’s not as mainstream as it once was. But it is out there! Click on The Needs, The Bishop’s Daredevil Stunt Club, The Lolas, and Answering Machine to help keep the flame burning.