How did I miss these acts? Well, if truth be told, I didn’t miss them actually. Perhaps ‘misplaced’ would be a more accurate description of what happened here. All these great albums hit the review pile with a thumbs up sticker but somehow got filed under ‘I-don’t-know-how-to-file-things’. Gotta come up with a new filing system. In any event, in hindsight I can see they should have gone straight to the ‘review now’ pile. Well, here they are!
The Bye Bye Blackbirds don’t disappoint with their recent Boxer at Rest release. The familiar chiming mid-1960s Beatles demeanor is back and the songwriting is as solid as ever. Personally, I hear a lot of Revolver on “You Were All Light” and “If It Gets Light” while “Baby It’s Still You” adds some Tom Petty to the mix. “Watch Them Chime” jangles, of course, in a southern California country rock sort of way. I love the slow swagger on “So True” and shuffle swing driving “War is Still Hell.” This is band that really owns its groove. However, I almost mistook “All Our Friends” for a Jeff Shelton song and performance. In my book, that’s pretty high praise.
On Pop Fossil The Click Beetles channel the fun poprock sound of the early 1980s where so many bands took a crack at reinventing the swinging sixties sound. Case in point, “To Rule the World.” It’s got reverby guitar, otherworldly vocals and a Squeeze-like farfisa organ solo. “Don’t You Call My Name” kicks off with a driving chord cycle, fueled by some serious jangle. “Alone” has that Long Tall Sally rockin’ out Beatles sound while “Hey Renee” works a 1965 lead guitar riff to good effect. “Rosanne” surprises listeners by combining 1960s guitar with a Gary Numan syth backdrop – but it works. Yet the should-be hit single to my ears is “Dreamland” with its hooky John Waite instrumental roll out and understated vocals. Or the Motown-infused album opener, “If Not Now Then When,” is also a pretty strong single contender.
There’s a lovely Marshall Crenshaw feel to Ed Wotil’s latest album, One in My Tree. Crenshaw was always able to combine strong feelings with hooks in a believable way, no matter how many love songs he wrote. It’s there on Wotil’s “When We Fall in Love,” a great song with classic Crenshaw-esque twists and turns and highly melodic guitar breaks. Or, for a more recent reference, “The Lie” has the country soul quality of Aaron Lee Tasjan’s recent work. “If the Sun Forgets to Shine” is just the kind of pop soul Nick Lowe’s been covering lately. The album leans on acoustic guitar on a host tracks, vibing a bit of Lennon on “Migrator” or Boo Hewdine on “Crying in your Sleep” and “Living in Between the Lines.” There’s great range on this record, from the lovely low-key emotional scene-sketches like “Do or Die” or the subtle single-ish “Make Me.”
Brandi Ediss (rhymes with ‘lettuce’) offers up highly listenable, mostly soft acoustic pop songs on her debut album Bees and Bees and Bees. But I do enjoy when she breaks out the band. The title track is an alluring, hypnotic ear worm that immediately calls to mind Juliana Hatfield and Liz Phair, with a solo guitar break that is so 1965 George Harrison. Ediss clearly has an ear for sonic detail. There’s the little banjo flourishes working at the edges of the main piano riff on “Count to Three” or the Amélie concertina solo half way through “Robot Heart.” Sometimes she just delivers a gorgeous hooky pop song, like “I Didn’t Try” or “Stupid Boyfriend.” She even makes flooring musical, winningly so on “Linoleum.”
Climb on board the Melenas rock and roll train and feel their relentless rhythm guitar attack, the mysterious keyboard interjections, the distinctive ghostly vocals. Once aboard, there’s no going back. This Pamploma, Spain quartet manage to sound familiar and original at the same time. The chugging rhythm section anchors “No Peudo Pensar” but it’s the lyrical bass playing and flashes of keyboard that gives the song intensity and staying power. “Los Alemanes” opens with a spooky guitar and keyboard combo but quickly suborns it to the overriding Melenas groove. I love the rollicking feel of the guitar work that defines “Ciencia Ficción” as a kind of upbeat shoegaze number. Or there’s the mesmerizing rhythm guitar work carrying “Ya no es Verano,” with its hypnotic interplay between vocals, guitar and keyboards. I don’t understand a Spanish word of the songs but I’m loving’em just the same.
On For Those About to Pop! the Yum Yums offer up a bit of glam, a lot of Ramones, and more than a dollop of early 1970s bubblegum, packaged with some pretty sweet California-beach background vocals. The title track or “Baby Baby” or “Bubblegum Baby” or “Can’t Get Enough of Your Lovin’” all really capture the sound. Some tracks say hit single a little bit more, like “She’s Got Everything” with its clever, layered arrangement, or “Crush On You” with its early Cars-like combo of chunky guitar and keyboard shots. I’m also partial to the 1970s fifties remake going on with “First Move” or the magnetic lead line and ample hooks pushing “The Kind of Girl.”
Late love is better than no love, right? You can dig these late additions to the hit pile by clicking the hyperlinked band names above.
Banner photo: Larry Gordon