Imagine it’s a summer like any other. Sunshine, lotion, BBQ, and sweet sweet tunes on the portable stereo. There are songs just made for summer and today’s contributors are all vying for a place on your summer soundtrack.
Austin’s Nite Sobs alternate between a Jonathan Richman-led Weezer project (“Vowelerie”) and a reinvented Merseybeat sound (“I Need to Hear It”) on their debut longplayer Do the Sob! So if you’re looking for a bit of sock-hopping fun, minus all the drama and insecurity, then dial into this record. I mean, lyrically, there’s all the usual heartache, sometimes with a delightfully madcap delivery (“Aftermath”). But it’s hard to stay down with so much upbeat material on offer here. I love the updated beat group sound on tracks like “Saving You a Place” with its great synth shots. Or check out the sweet sweet harmonies carrying the album’s first single, “I Could Tell You.” You can clearly see the influences in the band’s spot on cover of the Lennon-McCartney cast off composition “I’ll Keep You Satisfied,” a 1960s hit for Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas. It’s all there packaged perfectly in the sign off should be single, “Victoria,” with its driving beat, jaunty guitar and punchy vocal delivery. This is a record packed with good vibrations.
Every now and then a band comes along that is smart, well-informed and seemingly able to knock out a cracking tune on any theme. Today that band is Glasgow’s Brontosaurus. The sort-of title track “(Theme from) These People” sets the tone for the album of proletarian poprock to follow, casting bitter lyrics about how “we don’t have dreams, we don’t have freedoms, we don’t have hopes, we don’t have reasons” against some sparkling and hooky guitar work. “Band of the Week” turns the camera back on the self-indulgence of the indie artist with their ‘box of CDs’ and ‘band of the week’ designation from ‘May 2014’ (with just a melodic hint of “Band on the Run” laced throughout the tune). “Blogger” cuts a bit close to home, singing about people who ‘write a blog no one reads about bands no one likes’ – ouch! The song is pretty brilliant though, cleverly quoting The Smiths (‘people see no worth in you but I do’) and deftly exposing the blogger/band racket: “‘we need each other, band and blogger …” With vocals that sound sometimes Morrissey-ish (if he actually cared about something) or Marc Almond (minus all the overwrought libidinous affectation), what comes through is a strong dose of sincerity, despite the send ups. Songs like “Contact Centre Advisor” manage both incisive social commentary lyrically (the job is experienced by the worker as ‘a filter for your rage on the minimum wage’) and catchy guitar solos. Other highlights for me include the Beautiful South-meets-Spook School “A Do-It-All Dad’s Denim Dream,” “Powerpop by Numbers” with its killer chorus, and “The Supergeek,” which explains everything you need to know about how to respond to online trolls (key lyrical insights: ‘there’s more to life’ and ‘he needs this more than you’). Not since Pulp’s “Common People” has a band so effortlessly captured our present working class malaise. ‘I am a binman for the council’ indeed!
You put together two phenomenal and prolific talents like Lisa Mychols and Super 8 and you’re pretty much guaranteed something pretty special. His lock on the late 1960s sunshine sound (from the Village Green to Haight Ashbury) combined with her unerring power pop chops makes their debut collaborative album a nonstop summer delight. “What Will Be” sets the groovy tone from the outset while “Trip and Ellie’s Music Factory” assures listeners a rollicking good time will be had by all. The laid back California sound is all over this record, in multiple registers. There’s the sophisticated Dionne Warwick, Bacharach & David smooth pop of “You & Me, Me & You” and “Honey Bee.” Or the San Francisco acoustic vibe behind “The Monkey Song,” “Your Summer Theme,” and their amazing cover of Kenny Rankin’s “Peaceful” (which owes more to his original than Helen Reddy’s cover). But there are departures, like the great Rolling Stones homage “Time Bomb,” the mournful, serious “Flying Close to the Sun,” and the Sgt. Pepper-esque psych pop feel to “The Arms of Water.” Recognizing all these highlights, I think my fave track is the exquisite “Laguna Nights to Remember” with its amazing vocal from Lisa, which reminds me of work from Juliana Hatfield and Liz Phair. Believe me, you’re going to want to add this Lisa Mychols and Super 8 record to you ‘don’t forget’ beach list, right after the sun screen and disguised bottles of Bud Light.
Ok, I’ll admit what caught my eye about The August Teens was their new album cover and its title, I’m Selfish and So is My Cat. But what caught my ear was the band’s straight-ahead 1980s FM radio sound – equal parts early 1980s new wave, with echoes of the BoDeans and the Eels as well. Goofy album title notwithstanding, this is a no nonsense rock and roll outfit. Exhibit A: “You’re Not Like Me Baby” – a track that Pat Benatar would surely give her eye teeth for. The album opens with a foot on the accelerator with guitars blasting through “This Time,” a song sweetened in the chorus with some dynamite harmonies. “Oh Emily” kicks off like an early Who outtake before easing into a more easy-going jangle-laden melody. “Backup Man” then shifts things into a more country gear. And so on. So many classic-1980s sounding songs: a bit of Tom Petty (“Be Still, My Rock and Roll Heart”), a touch of Springsteen (“You’re Going to Lose Me”), and smokin’ hot dance number (“I’m in Love with Rock and Roll”). And then there’s the obvious single, “Crestfallen,” a brilliant hooky number that barrels along with some nice change ups. You know what, forget the jokey album cover for a minute. This is a seriously high quality piece of poprock goodness. It deserves your full listening attention.
Chart your path to summer music should-be hits with can’t lose contributions from Nite Sobs, Brontosaurus, Lisa Mychols & Super 8, and The August Teens. Some re-application of the products will most definitely be required!