They get to me. The self-promoters with their musical wares. They write emails, they messenger me, they hit me up through my blog’s Facebook page. And I love it! Each message is like a mini-present just waiting to be opened. I always wonder what’s inside. Not every letter has the right address but most do. Case in point: today’s mailbag is full of dynamite poprock that is definitely worth a read, uh, I mean, listen.
New York City’s Brother Dynamite have been making music for decades but only just got around to releasing their debut album, If We Dare. Talk about late bloomers. The sound is poppy rock and roll, with just a hint of what we used call AOR (album-oriented rock). This used to be all over FM radio in the 1980s. LP opener “Summer’s End” sets out the brief with a great hooky swirl of overlapping electric guitars offset by Shawn Moynihan’s unique vocal attack. The hook in this song has the addictive guitar grind of Blue Oyster Cult in their most poppy moments. Then “Everything Changes” definitely brings to mind smooth melodic rockers like Fastball, Everclear and Semisonic given its easygoing jauntiness. Other tracks in this vein include “You Could Do So Much Better,” “This Time,” and hit single-ish “You Cannot Bring Me Down.” But the album is also defined by some dynamic vocal work that might be more associated with the likes of Supertramp or Styx, particularly notable on “Lucky Me” and title track “If We Dare.” And then there’s the ballads. “All Your Life” kicks off with a Paul Simon-esque fingerpicking bounce, only to build to something bigger. “Until the Stars” is a grand lead guitar-led ballad worthy of an ocean of waving Bic lighters. “Beautiful Lie” is just a gorgeous tune, sometimes vibing a Band On The Run McCartney, sometimes sounding more pop Eagles. With If We Dare Brother Dynamite recall the best of 1980s poprock, without all the hair product and spandex.
A turn through Andrew Bobulinski’s back Bandcamp pages suggests he’s an artist just toying with us, stylistically that is. After a long stint in heavy metal bands Bobulinski’s solo career has been careening all over the indie poprock map, from Weezer-like slathered guitar and sibilant vocals to horns aplenty over 1970s-ish soft rock. His latest project is an ABOB release entitled ABOB’s Summer Home. The songs have that breezy 70s pop feel, contrasted with some punchy horns on “Sabrina Knows” and “Talk to Her.” My fave here is the less 70s title track with its KC Bowman-like vocal sheen and straight up poprock hooks. For a more rocking demeanor, click a few pages through to Bobulinki’s earlier releases, particularly the EP entitled 2015 and the dynamite longplayer Suburban Apocalypse. The latter record has got some serious variety, from edgy guitar-distorted numbers like “Right Where You Wanted to Be” to more jaunty rock and roll with “Johnny Utah.” My fave is the killer 1960s retro-remake Bobulinski pulls off on “There’s a Reason.” Perfection! ABOB may be a musical enigma but I like mysteries. Just another fab export from Birmingham, Alabama’s bustling music scene.
I don’t usually need a message from Richard Turgeon to remind me about his latest record – I’m on it. But his latest release Rough Around the Edges has piled up a load of glowing reviews so quickly I’m looking positively out of the loop. Now I was out of the gate early reviewing his fabulous opening cut here “Better With You” last March, describing it as a ‘shot of feel-good guitar-oriented power pop’ with just the right amount of Matthew Sweetener. And this album banks on that formula. There’s a Sweet-ness to most songs here, perhaps cut with a bit of Weezer. But that just says Turgeon has achieved a trademark-able sound and songwriting style that lends his albums coherency though never sameness. The record’s first three cuts – “Better With You,” “I Never Loved You,” and “Please Take Me Back” – all deserve heavy rotation on what’s left of rock radio. They’re a masterclass in how to weave a solid hook into your song. In addition to these reliably hooky guitar wonders, the record does take some chances too. “7 Stories” is a bit more mellow, vibing a glorious Lindsay Buckingham/Well Wishers vocal style in the chorus while “Goodbye Home” has a languid Marshall Crenshaw deep cut feel. Or there’s “You Always Believe” which opens with an uncharacteristic solo piano before adding in Turgeon’s signature guitar sound. And check out the melodic shift in the chorus – it almost sounds like something from The Smiths. As Rough Around the Edges is Turgeon’s seventh album in just five years, there’s really nothing rough about it. He just keeps turning out should-be hits, waiting for the world to catch up.
I closed out 2021 with a brief notice about Chicago band Walcot and their single “Dreaming Away.” I really liked the song’s 1970s happy vibe, it’s jaunty B.J. Thomas-like demeanor. Now it’s back as part of the band’s recent EP release Songs for the Disenfranchised, appearing with “Another Man” and “It Feels Alright.” The trio make for a winning combination, sharing a similar smooth poprock polish. “Another Man” makes harpsichord sound cool on a tune that seems one part Paul McCartney, one part mid-period ABBA. By contrast, “It Feels Alright” has a more contemporary pop radio feel, like something from an early Sam Weber or Ron Sexsmith record. My only complaint about this EP is its brevity. With just three songs it’s all over in just 8 minutes. Serious boo hoo! Perhaps think about Songs for the Disenfranchised as more of a maxi-single teaser for an album that can’t arrive soon enough.
Clearly today the mailman brought me no more blues. After all, this is a poprock site.