March brings the promise of a bit more musical sun on our blog horizon. Today’s post gathers new tunes from Madrid, west Yorkshire, Austin and L.A., all featuring big and bold hooks. Get set for some audio sunshine!
Last December I was all over Nuevos Hobbies’ single “No puedo esperar” and the song ultimately made my should-be hit singles list for 2020. Now the accompanying album is out and it is just as exciting. Monstruso, or Monsters, is a dynamite collection of jangle-infused melodic should-be hits. The title track ambles along with the breezy, carefree abandon of sixties acts like The Cykle or eighties pop groups like The Housemartins. I don’t want to generalize but there’s something distinctive about Spanish poprock acts, a particularly smooth vocal style that you hear on “Sentado en la esquina de tu cama.” Of course, at other times the album vibes Teenage Fanclub pretty strongly, as on “El viento.” On the whole, the record has a strong consistency, with a few departures like “De mayor” with its more jaunty feel and stand out guitar work. And then there’s my vote for the follow up single, the stunning “Cara limpia.” The lead guitar hook just sings! As an album, Monstruso is a monstrously delightful experience, maxing out on pleasant melodies and enough trebly guitars for everyone.
After taking a decade off West Yorkshire’s The Lodger are back with Cul-De-Sac of Love. Time has not dulled the melodic songwriting skill and performance driving this band. The record is a jam packed with intriguing tunes that combine both dissonant and complementary elements. Take the first single, “Dual Lives.” This song and “I’m Over This (Get Over It)” rehabilitate the disco rhythm guitar feel, subordinating it to a different kind of dance song. And yet these two songs are bit of an outlier for me, a departure from the more joyous poppy feel of much else that appears here. Personally I would have led the single releases with “Wasting My Time With You,” a track with a killer hypnotic lead line that reels you in and keeps you there. It might just be me, but there is something so English about the pop sheen all over this record, like the piano-led melody carrying the Paul Weller-ish “Perfect Fit” or the more New Order/Pet Shop Boys-ish “Stop That Girl.” And then there’s the interesting rhythm guitar and inventive chorus hooks on the title track, capped with an addictive droning guitar break and a glorious wall-of-sound finish. I could go on calling out each song’s unique merits but you get the picture. For me, faves include “I Don’t Want to Be It,” the country-ish “My Poor Mind,” and the timeless, manicured English pop sound on “Former Life,” a style that Robyn Gibson has perfected on his Bob of the Pops releases. Suffice to say, Cul-De-Sac of Love is a winning return for The Lodger, well deserving of 37 minutes of your time.
From the cover art to the general tone of the recording, The Stan Laurels’ There is No Light Without Dark is definitely a step into the shadows, a departure for John Lathrop given his usual sunny disposition. There was a bit of advance notice with last summer’s advance single “Lost and Found,” with its combination of somber melody and crunchy lead guitar flourishes. The song’s strong Pugwash vibe is even more apparent cast amongst all these new tunes. Opening cut “Florida Man” sounds like the b-side to the prior single, a bit achingly sad and strikingly tuneful. Other songs have amazing structural architecture, almost Alan Parsonian in their twist and turns, like the bewitching “Of Love, Wine, and Song.” My personal fave is the strummy beautiful “Red Handed Puppet,” a track that matches the mellow tenderness of the lighter side of Fountains of Wayne. Or check out the strong echoes of The Smiths in “On Paper” or The Beatles/ELO influences on “Mo Collins.” The play with light and dark all over this record is a testament to Lathrop’s cinematic approach to creativity, you feel and see the sound as much as hear it. And what I’m seeing is good. Very good.
This was an artist and album I somehow overlooked in 2020. I don’t know how because one listen to Mason Summit’s Negative Space and you know you’re on to something special. The record opens so inauspiciously with some acoustic guitar kicking off “Doomed from the Start” but by the time you’ve hit that brilliant but oh-so-subtle hook in the chorus, a shift worthy of Mark Everett or even an early Elvis Costello, it’s apparent the track is a minor masterpiece. From there Summit juxtaposes a few rockers with some beautiful, acoustic guitar driven tunes. On the rock side, I could have sworn I was listening to Eugene Edwards as “Confidant’ was playing. Both the songwriting style and performance seemed so in sync with Edward’s brilliant LP My Favorite Revolution. And then, just as suddenly, “Asterisk” thrust me into a full blown Elliot Smith experience, with perhaps some backing from Aimee Mann. The acoustic guitar numbers have a spooky, roomy feel, like the ambient “How Does It End?” and beautiful “More to Fear.” Variety? Sure. How about a killer take on a 1960s Bond-esque instrumental? “Point Doom” delivers that. Or perhaps a more Squeeze take on songwriting with the title track, “Negative Space.” Don’t let the title fool you: Negative Space is definitely something positive.