Summer’s dank days need some tunes to get that blood pumping. This turn around the dial has jangle, chamber pop, inspired cover-age, and some Brill Building noise pop. Start warming up the wireless.
Carried Away is both a sprawling 14 track introduction to Birmingham, Alabama’s Slack Times and summation of their work to date, combining two previously released EPs with six new tunes. In reviews of the album, scribes have been quick to point out the band’s obvious links to the solid southern jangle lineage of REM, Guadalcanal Diary and Let’s Active. I hear that but I also think there’s something more. Title track “Carried Away” opens the album with the band’s signature distinctive lead guitar tone but the vocal is a surprise, delivered in an Americana style not unlike recent work from Sam Weber. “Look at You” gives us a more rush jangle feel while the noise pop vocal is reminiscent of Indoor Pets. Then “Leave Me Alone” really marks out this band’s range, departing from the standard jangle script to evoke a more sophisticated Rogue Wave vibe. Listening to tracks like “I’m Trying,” “Bad Move” and “My Time” it’s hard not to see the lead guitar work on this album as the real star. But the song-writing is giving it a run for that designation. Just get your ears around “Can’t Count on Anyone” – the track is guitar pop perfection, a should-be hit single for sure. The band even offer variety in their approach to jangle, with “Yips” striking a Manchester pose while “Let Down” captures that deep southern US sound. Personally, I’m also digging the short sombre guitar instrumental “Slack Times,” named for the band. It’s not like any other tune here but somehow still fits in.
Past Life Regressions is an album of mystery and imagination. Jason Quever’s seventh Papercuts outing is another oh-so precisely produced collection of chamber pop but one with a few surprises. You can find them in the myriad musical textures that give these songs shape – the sprightly guitar picking that launches “I Want My Jacket Back,” the strings backing “My Sympathies,” the mellotron-sounding keyboards anchoring “The Strange Boys,” and so on. Each one is a carefully painted pop miniature. And yet none of the musical settings seem to stay the same. Listen to how Quever twists the musical trajectory of “I Want My Jacket Back” from a jaunty Peter and Gordon aura into a late 60s neo-psychedelia Moody Blues direction. You don’t need to spin this record too many times to realize it’s a real aural treat. I love the freaky keyboard tones animating “Hypnotist.” Or the droney guitar look driving “Remarry.” But arguably it’s the songs that allow everything to shine here. “Lodger” is the obvious should-be chart-climbing single, a pretty sweet reinvention of paisley pop tarted up with a load of inventive keyboard shading. “Sinister Smile” is another strong singles contender, contrasting a rock solid pacing with a dreamy pop melody. “My Sympathies” and “Palm Sundays” are also pretty solid sixties-inspired, hooky tunes. Past Life Regressions may just be Papercuts best album yet.
Somehow I overlooked Bill Lloyd’s fabulous collection of covers from 2016, Lloyd-Ering. Now re-released by Spyderpop in concert with Big Stir Records, it’s definitely time to give it the love it deserves. The project gathers together 12 rare tracks Lloyd has recorded for various tribute albums since 1990, covering artists as disparate as The Lovin’ Spoonful and Wreckless Eric. Thematically, the record is an homage to classics of melody-rich rock and roll, a genre Lloyd has made a significant contribution to himself. In terms of covering style, Lloyd remains pretty faithful to the spirit of the originals, with a few twists. The opening take on Bobby Fuller’s “Let Her Dance” is just riveting fun while the shiver-inducing version of the Byrds’ “The World Turns All Around Her” could be easily mistaken for an alternate-take from the original sessions. Probably my favourite cut here is Lloyd’s reinvention of The Raspberries “Going Nowhere Tonight.” He adds the muscle the song was missing IMHO, taking it out its original soft rock register for a more guitar-ringing poprock style. Favourites? Who I am kidding. I’m favouring just about everything here, though if pressed the dBs, Let’s Active, and Badfinger covers would rank just a little higher. And then there’s Lloyd’s genius reworking of Wreckless Eric’s “Whole Wide World.” Two chords never sounded so good. If you love classic poprock reinterpreted by a master, do yourself a favour, pick up a copy of Lloyd-Ering. You deserve it.
Is Kids on a Crime Spree just the best band name ever? You can debate that in the comments section but my take is that it really does captures the reckless fun demeanor of this group, at least as it is captured on their decennial recordings. The band rocketed onto the indie music scene in 2011, fueled by an uber cool lofi Phil Spector sound on their debut EP We Love You So Bad. Critics put a run on the superlatives bank praising it so much. And then – nothing. Now more than ten years later they’re back with Fall In Love Not In Line and the wait has been worth it. If the first record channeled a Ramones punky charm then the new one is more Magnetic Fields. The Brill Building song popcraft is still here but now delivered with more polish and hooky finesse. “Karl Kardel Building” signals this shift effectively. The opening is so Crystals but quickly goes quirky in a pop boheme style. “When Can I See You Again” has its rumbly guitar lead track the vocal, nicely merging a punk and pop sensibility. “Vital Points” chunks up the rhythm guitar but without surrendering its melodic vitality. “All Things Fade” is another genre-mixer, coming on with a punk guitar ferocity only to seduce us with a heavenly mix of harmony vocals. I could go on. There isn’t a bum track on the album. There’s first album nostalgia cuts (“Goods Get Gone”), Who guitar chord wonders (“Overtaken by the Soil”), noise pop Shangri Las reinventions (“Steve, Why Are You Such a Liar”), and just plain good old guitar pop fun (“Boomdoom”). This album is a ‘must get’ LP for 2022. But be careful. I’d vote Fall In Love Not In Line as the dance platter most likely to be stolen from the party.
Sometimes you leave the radio on and discover something unexpected. But mostly these days you come to a place like this. You can still pretend you’re fiddling the dial.
Banner photo courtesy Swizzle Studio.