Time to twist the dial and see what playing across the poprock-o-sphere. This time it’s mostly Europe, with a special guest appearance from Canada!
Sometimes I imagine Scotland to be this place where everybody is just sitting around writing great songs. I mean, the weather’s not that great. Why not strum something by the fire? Be Like Pablo hail from Forres, Scotland, population 18,000, and their delightful accent is all over their hooky single, “My Kind of Girl.” Between the matching Beach Boys shirts and the killer 1980s synth shots, the song is addictive in more ways than one.
Canadian Michael Rault opens his recent album It’s A New Day Tonight with some pretty stylish guitar work before settling into the late period Beatlesque number “I’ll Be There.” Oh, there’s more guitar later, along with some McCartney-like background vocals.
Meanwhile in Norway, band names are meant to get your attention, like Death by Unga Bunga. 2018’s So Far So Good So Cool was hailed by critics for a host of the songs, but few singled out “Turn My Brain Off.” Which seems weird to me because there’s a pretty serious Cheap Trick vibe coming off this track. In a good way.
Back to the UK, London this time, with Tim Jackson and his sort-of comeback, sort of debut album, Better Late Than Never. Jackson’s story is cinematically also-ran, the young fan who grows up too fast to hang on to his dream. But, hey, now he’s back and Better Late Than Never really isn’t false advertising. I love the piano rush that kicks off the title track, definitely hit single-worthy. Double A side nominee? Check out Jackson’s exquisite “Little Girl.”
In the old days we heard it on the radio and then headed downtown to the record joint to get the vinyl. Now you barely have to control click something to get it. Click on Be Like Pablo, Michael Rault, Death by Unga Bunga and Tim Jackson do some record shopping, new millennium-style.
It’s melody central today on Around the Dial. The station appears to be just stuck on hooks. But that’s OK.
Just getting around to raving about last spring’s hottest poprock release, Starbelly’s Four. I’ve raved about Starbelly member Cliff Hillis’ catalogue before but I have to say, there is nothing like putting a whole bunch of really talented guys together to get even more amazing results. As an album, Four is a strong hook-filled jaunt clearly influenced by the Beatles, solo McCartney, Squeeze and all those others great melodic groups, with a few surprises. I’m digging the low key melodic swing of “Lay Low” and the staccato groove of “Yes, I Love Her Again” with it’s great lead lines and background vocals. “Emily Says” sounds very mid-period Squeeze to me. “Jesus Freak” starts very pop psychedelic Beatles but then throws in a Billy Joel melodic twist in the verses while “Antidote” I swear is a great lost Aimee Mann deep cut.
Yes I’ll Love Her AgainJesus FreakAntidote
Seems everybody is loving Bill Lloyd’s new record Working the Long Game and I am no exception. I’ve really liked the few songs I stumbled on from his past work and only just figured out he was one half of the amazing country pop duo Foster and Lloyd! But this new album is something else, solid all the way through. “Satellite” is the killer hit single material, at least on my poprock radio station. It’s got the chorus that hooks you in and keeps you waiting for it to come around again. “What Time Won’t Heal” has a very cool late 1960s folk pop vibe. The album also clearly channels some Elvis Costello-isms on “Til the Day that I Break Down” and “Interrupted” while “Miracle Mile” and “Shinning” had me feeling very Marshall Crenshaw. And then “Yesterday” is just brilliant rocked up pop in a Matthew Sweet sort of way. All this name-dropping is just my way of saying, this guy’s got the poprock goods.
SatelliteTil The Day That I Break DownMiracle Mile
Last up a band I discovered commuting between Toronto and Peterborough, Ontario in 2005, Van Go. “Dear You” (from that year’s Pop Your Heart Out LP) just grabbed me like a good ear worm should. But after that I lost track of the band. That is, until their record company alerted me to the release of their latest full length release, Everybody Loves You When You’re Gone. I’m happy to report they’ve still got it! Things kicked off well with “I Wish I Could Be Grateful,” the obvious single with a great melodic hook in the chorus. It’s also great news that the band’s distinctive and addictive vocal attack is still in evidence here, particularly on tracks like “Miles Away” and “Tell Us How You Really Feel.” Title track “Everybody Loves You When You’re Gone” is also a winner melodically, while still delivered with some rocking muscle.
This turn around the dial lays on the sugar and spice with songs that highlight how poprock can embrace both smooth production values and a discordant note here and there.
Eric Blakely’s The Bottle Kids has a polished poprock sheen honed in the late 1970s by such melodic rock luminaries as the Raspberries and Rockpile. Tracks like “When You Come Around” and “Her Heart is Much Worse than her Bite” sound like great lost tunes from that era. But then “American Girls,” the obvious single from the latest album, Let Me In On This Action, goes in another direction, drawing more from the indie side of the early 1980s sound. “Let’s Put Some Power Back in Pop” is a master class in that style as well the theme song of record, giving voice to it’s underlying musical philosophy. Another surprise is the Lennon-esque “I Miss Her Goodbyes” with its interesting “A Day in the Life” piano shots and spot-on Beatles vocals. While you’re checking out the band, don’t miss “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” from 2013’s Such a Thrill, perhaps Blakely’s greatest composition!
San Francisco’s Richard Turgeon deservedly made a lot of ‘best of’ lists for 2017 with his driving rock and roll debut album In Between Spaces. Now he’s back with a tribute to a nearby burg, Lost Angeles, and it’s another killer blast of nineties-tempered tune-age. Things kick off with what must be the artist’s theme song, “Big Break,” which contains all the elements of Turgeon’s sound: big guitars, slightly discordant vocals, and a sneaky hook that won’t let up. Then “Waiting for You” shifts gears, sounding like a grungy Matthew Sweet, complete with sparkly lead guitar lines and a very Sweet-like melody line and chorus. But the out-of-the-park single for me is the addictive “Look Away” – crank this up and keep the air guitar handy. Turgeon takes a number of chances on this outing, trying out different styles on songs like “Working for the Man” and “I Want to be a Shut-in” while also showcasing how rock can be touching on his loving tribute “Be My Wife.” Besides picking up this latest record, tune in to Turgeon’s various social media for semi-regular releases of new material and inspired covers.
The Spindles’ Past and Present is definitely heading for my ‘best of’ list for 2018. This release has it all: great songs, killer hooks, superb performances. The band is clearly influenced by the Beatles and other British Invasion acts like the Hollies, masterfully covered here on “Look Through Any Window” (which is not easy to do). But they manage to make those influences their own. Overall, the sound is very early 1980s poprock – think the Moody Blues Long Distance Voyager or even some NRBQ. “Prisoner of War” is a strong opener and potential single, while “I Want My Baby Back” sounds like the sure-fire hit to me. Another great number is “Whenever We’re Together” with it’s Jeff Lynne strings and background vocals. “Peace with the Past” has a nice Hard Day’s Night opening flourish before settling in to a more Rubber Soul vibe. Other strong tracks include “Young Heart,” “Annette” and the very Nick Lowe circa Cowboy Outfit sounding “Santa Fe.” On the whole, the record is very easy to listen to again and again …
Prisoner of WarI Want My Baby BackWhenever We’re Together
You know the drill – only record buying fans can stop the slow slide to musical oblivion. Seriously, nobody really wants to be a ‘great lost artist.’ So find The Bottle Kids, Richard Turgeon and The Spindles today on the hot-links.
There is so much great music out there, waiting to be noticed. I can hardly keep up writing about just a fraction of it! Our turn around the dial this time showcases a quartet of hardworking journeymen songwriters and performers who have done their time in the trenches and could use a little more glory.
We’re written about the sublime joy that is Dan Israel before. He writes a kind of cross-over, folk-inflected poprock that is increasingly rare in our hipster-hyphenated, genre lockdown. Here I’m thinking Cat Stevens at his most melodic or even a more upbeat Jim Croce. It’s all there on Israel’s new album You’re Free. This is a relaxing at the cabin or driving somewhere record, that deftly mixes more slow-moving introspection with uptempo rock and roll. The album kicks off kicks off with what sounds like a very Cat Stevens-like vocal and song structure on “Gets You Through It,” channels some early 1970s Paul Simon on the breezy “Make This Life Mine,” and vibes Tom Petty on the more rockin’ “Someday You’ll Say.” But the album highlight is the obvious single, “You’re Free.” This baby has a driving beat and melodic hook reminiscent of both John Lennon and Bob Dylan, when they deigned to cast out some hooks. You’re Free is another winner for Dan Israel, very much worth the cover price.
It’s hard to get a fix on Lane Steinberg. Whatever the genre, the guy is obviously supremely talented, with an enormous back catalogue of work spanning decades, performed by range of musical combos. The diversity is in evidence on his latest release, Lane Steinberg and his Magic Pony. The cover alone has gotten attention – its looks like a somewhat bizarre record store find, perhaps dug out of a bin alongside Spock’s Music from Outer Space. The record itself is a curious blend of melodic satire, gentle political commentary, and straight up poprock, with a few Noel Coward-ish piano tunes thrown in for good measure. Steinberg is clearly having fun, mocking everything from the technology (“You’re Not Connected to the Internet”) to fake social concern (“I’m Tony Hayward and I’d Like My Life Back”) to the sureties of both the political left and right (“Crazy as a Shithouse Rat”). But he is also deadly serious about his poprock craft. “Another Early Autumn” hits all the Beach Boys marks. “Everyone Thinks I’m Happy Now” channels the Beatles c. 1966, with help from that “Strawberry Fields Forever” organ. On a more contemporary note, both “Franklin and First” and “Who Does Your Mind Control?” have the confident melodic sheen of the best work by the Eels. But the standout track for me here is the mildly strident yet seductive “After Taxes,” a song that allows Steinberg’s varied influences to really gel into a distinctive sound of their own. I think Lee Dorsey would agree – it’s time to ride your (magic) pony!
You’re a celebrated national sports writer and best selling author but in your spare time you decide to put out your first album of 1960s-inspired poprock songs? That’s David Sheinin on his new album, First Thing Tomorrow, and it’s a winner. This is a breezy fun collection of pop ditties that draw from all the great artists from the 1960s through the 1980s. Just listening to the record you’d swear Sheinin is some twenties-something wunderkind, full of young idealism and enthusiasm. “Oh Amelia” captures this nicely with its rippling guitar lines, or “City You Left Behind” with it’s swinging hooks. Not that Sheinin just mellows out – there is a great new wave rock and roll feel to “Talking to Myself” that reminds me of Elvis Costello or Michael Penn. And then there’s the early 1960s throwback sound of “What’s the Matter.” The whole record is sonic treat, a soundtrack for convertible driving at sunset!
I wonder if KC Bowman sleeps. The guy has put out an enormous amount of material over the years, a lot of it available for free on his bandcamp site under his various band monikers: Lawsuit, Rhythm Akimbo, Agony Aunts, Preoccupied Pipers, Vinny’s Vipers, etc. I’ve heard the occasional single over the years on this or that compilation but haven’t really kept up with his career. Well now you and I can both catch up with his exquisite career-spanning compilation album Important with a Capital I. There are so many highlights on this record I can single out only a few choice cuts, like the opening should-be hit single “Blithering Heights” or the equally single-licious “Super Bad Report.” Bowman has unerring knack for squeezing a hook into just about any song form, utilizing a range killer guitar licks and sweet sounding compressed vocals. Check out his genius homage to Schoolhouse Rocks’ “I’m Just a Bill” on “Mine Called Somebody Else” – this is some pretty subtle referencing! And so on. This record will have you searching through the depths of Bowman’s back catalogue for what you’ve been missing all these years.
There was a time when hearing a great song on the radio would send me running to record store so I could buy it and hit replay again and again. Now it’s so much easier. You can click on the links for Dan Israel, Lane Steinberg, David Sheinin, and KC Bowman and save the bus fare!
This turn around the dial is all about singles in their glorious yet circumscribed catchiness, ideally maxing out at just a few minutes of focused bliss. Today’s contributors vibe some solid poprock credentials, drawing from the post-1950s pop tradition, all things Beatles, stripped down new wave and various 1980s indie hooks.
Let’s begin with Brad Marino. His work with The Connection is stellar, melodic yet hitting all the rock and roll marks. Not surprisingly, his solo single is piece of poprock magic, oozing a late 1970s compressed new wave sound akin to The Ramones, Rockpile and, more recently, Tommy and the Rockets. Tommy Sistak reaches a bit further back with “You Can’t Change Me,” a track that sounds so British beat group circa 1964. What I love about this song are the clear 1950s influences on the sound and songwriting. Reno native Nick Eng goes straight for a Beatles 65 sound with his single “Reminiscing.” The song is catchy, with great Beatlesque background vocals and Harrison-worthy guitar licks.
Shifting gears into indie mode, it’s been fascinating to see Hurry shed its links with the punky garage sound of some of its earlier material (and Matt Scottoline’s earlier band, Everyone Everywhere) for a more unabashed melodic aura. It was strongly apparent with the hooky “When I’m With You” 2016’s Guided Meditation and is reinforced with “Waiting for You” from their latest Every Little Thought. This is ear worm central. Rounding out this batch is some good old fashioned 1990s-reminscent alienated indie with pop undertones. Hyness hail from Ontario’s Kitchener-Waterloo and “Choke” might give you some idea of what it’s like to live there. Extra points for succeeding with a Smith’s cover! “Hand in Glove” works here because the guitar work is sufficiently trebly and the vocals are yearning without aping Morrissey. There is something very Tracy Thorn in the delivery.
Hit singles can lead to quality albums which can lead to stadium tours, purchased islands, and conspicuous consumption documented by unreliable tabloids. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Why don’t we just settle for a hit single? Check out Brad Marino, Tommy Sistak, Nick Eng, Hurry and Hyness online to help make that happen.
This turn around the dial offers up some real variety, from melodic indie to spacey jangle to neo-1950s to straight-up heartland poprock.
With a name like The Front Bottoms I just assumed the British vaginal slang meant they were from somewhere in the UK. But New Jersey hasn’t been part of the United Kingdom for hundreds of years so I guess you can’t judge a book by its title. Nor can you judge a band by its past efforts. I’d heard some cuts from this group years ago and it wasn’t particularly my cup of tea with its mostly-talking-rather-than-singing vocal style and attitude-oriented punk esthetic. But something happened on their 2015 release, Back on Top – the band dramatically increased the melodic quotient of their songs while actually singing a bit more, with “Cough it Out” and “Help” (great keyboard opener!) real stand-out tracks. This year’s Going Grey just solidifies this new sound. The hit single for me is clearly the anthemic “Peace Sign.” The song opens with lovely echo-y keyboard and builds from there, from spare verses to crunching choruses that hit you with hooks that make an impact. Even the bridge is worth mentioning – it’s the musical equivalent of edging given the way it holds the melodic tension. Other album highlights include the staccato groove of “Bae” with its surging chorus and the hooky drone of the more musically muscular “Grand Finale.” But really, the whole album hits all the marks of intense listenability.
BaeCough It Out
Music veteran Stephen Smith has been playing in bands and writing music since the early 1980s and his most recent vehicle The Morning Line bears the influence of all that history and experience on their latest record, Smoke. 1960s poprock, some jangle, that slightly muddy 1980s underground sound, with splashes of indie country and folk. “Los Angeles” opens the record with an acoustic guitar and builds a hypnotic pace into something very radio single-worthy. “Anybody Else” unleashes the jangle guitar while “All Mine” sounds very 1960s beat group channeled through 1980s with its great rumbly electric lead guitar. I love the opening to “Polygraph” which builds on a guitar riff in a very 1970s sort of way before segueing into a Graham Parker sound, if Graham was a bit more mellow. “Mailboxes” finishes things with slightly country poprock feel. Smoke is an enjoyable ride – hit play and hit the highway for at least 30 minutes or so.
Brighton UK’s Fur sound like an early 1960s British beat group offering up their versions of 1950s classics. The song structures are pure 1950s. “If You Know That I’m Lonely” could easily be mistaken for the sort of material the bubbled all over American radio circa 1958-9 while “Not Enough” mimics that airy ballad style honed to perfection by a legion of boy and girl singers at the cusp of the 1960s. “Trying” updates things somewhat with its fat sibilant lead guitar sound – this one is a bit more pastiche with its modern and classic touches. Would love to see the record collections that influenced this outfit! I love the sound they have created. It is somehow simultaneously both contemporary and wonderfully dated. Can’t wait to check out a whole album by this bunch.
We raved around Gordy Garris’ 2015 release The Pulse for its songs and understated delivery. Garris always seems to squeeze a hook out of his songs with the most bare delivery. Well his most recent album builds on his previous efforts as he becomes a first class songsmith. Never Give Up opens with “Let Me In,” which sounds like Garris going for the hit single with its slow build and smooth background vocals. This one starts sparse (in classic Garris style) but develops a slicker and more commercial sound, but in a good way. And from here there are so many highlights it’s hard to choose amongst them. “Good Times” starts with a great acoustic guitar hook and then gets its swing on with a catchy tune. “All That I Want” showcases how Garris uses a great vocal delivery to bring out the hooks in his songs. “Stole My Heart” sounds very Joe Jackson circa Body and Soul, minus the acerbic delivery. Other highlights for me include “Move Me,” “Remember Me,” “Out of My Mind,” and the ballad “Believe Me.” So, yes, basically the whole album. It’s that good.
Wrapping up this twist of the dial is the poppy Americana jangle of Mike Daly and the Planets. This is another performer in for the long haul. Mike Daly’s been making music and records in a host of bands for decades. It shows on this remarkable debut from his new outfit. Just check out the Beatlesque opening tempo of “Never Too Late” and its seamless shift into a great new wave vibe. Or the Costello feel of “No Simple Task” with its swinging melody. But the album’s highlight is undoubtedly the majestic “Salvation,” a song that manages to be both moving and insanely catchy at the same time. And to show where Daley comes from, check out these tracks from his former band, Every Damn Day. I love the banjo that kicks in half way through “Theme From an Imaginary Sitcom” and the full-on Costello-cum-Beatles homage in “It’s All About Tonite.” These are lost gems!
Never Too LateSalvationNo Simple TaskTheme from an Imaginary SitcomIt’s All About Tonight
This particular turn of the dial takes us all over the musical map, sometimes to the very edge of poprock country. From indie folk-rock to proto-mod to alt country and then some, we have a lot of ground to cover.
On their 2012 debut album The River and the Road were a pleasant folk rock band, hailing from Canada’s major west coast city. But with Headlights, their 2015 release, some kind of transformation occurred. More electric, certainly, though the album also featured a number of strong acoustic numbers. No, something changed in their musical demeanor, kinda like they’d hit the musical gym, bulking up their sound and impact. Case in point – “Mistakes” rips open with a muscular electric lead line that keeps searing into the tune, aided by the full band dropping in at the 8 second mark. This is not really poprock. It’s got more of an edgy indie vibe but still there is something very hooky about the band’s guitar work. “I’m Broke” swings with a strong alt country melody, roughed up just a bit by the band’s more rocking sound. By contrast, “Strange Disease” reverberates with a drone-like banjo backing. And this is just a few highlights – really, the whole album is great. You may think you know what you’re getting with a band like The River and the Road (i.e. four on the floor Americana) but the record keeps pushing its own boundaries.I’m BrokeStrange Disease
When the name of your band is a reference to a 1976 song by another band, which is in turn a reference to a line from a 1965 movie, you’re deep into a very self referential world defined by its own measure of cool. Seattle’s Shake Some Action have been at it a decade now and they sound like a band whose sound has been forged in the fire of 1960s poprock, the late 1970s mod revival a la The Jam, with a healthy dollop of 1980s jangle pop. Their brand new album, Crash Through or Crash, is a sonic treat, all shimmery guitars and hooky reverb-drenched vocals. The opening cut, “Waiting for the Sun,” is a strong single, masterfully arranged to hit all the marks, from the hypnotic lead line to the seductive ‘ahhs’ that announce the chorus. I couldn’t help recalling all those great Mighty Lemondrops records, just for the sheer joy captured here. “Whose Side Are You On” is another tremendous song while “Starting Again” utilizes the Rickenbacker electric 12-string to great effect.
There is nothing precious about Rozwell Kid’s art. The West Virginia band specialize in the sort of ironic, sometimes goofy, sometimes smurky odes to nerdy dudes and their pathetic attempts to be cool. Thus their 2017 release, Precious Art, dials the irony up to eleven on a super collection of slightly off-kilter, buzzed-out guitar tunes. There are highlights galore. “Wendy’s Trash Can” sounds like Weezer meets Fountains of Wayne. “Mad TV” emotes a bit of Bad Books and some of Ken Devine’s solo material to me. “Michael Keaton” channels Weezer and tells a great story. And so on.
Toronto’s First Base are mining the same theme as Tommy and the Rockets and all the other bands whose origin story ultimately links back to the cartoon pop punk of the Ramones. Their bandcamp page has a host of strong singles stretching back to 2008 that are great garage punky romps. But their latest release – “Not That Bad” – represents something new. Sonically, lyrically, melodically, the sound is richer and the song more polished than earlier work. Imagine Teenage Fanclub with a late 1970s lead guitar player. This teaser isn’t even officially out yet. The new album is also called Not That Bad and I can’t wait to hear what the whole record accomplishes.
Heyrocco’s “Yeah” kicks off in a fairly standard rocking vein but then pushes the melody pedal at the 22 second mark in a way that really hooks me. The chorus says jump up and down and shake your head with 40 other people crowding the front of the stage. Melody is not Heyrocco’s main thing but when they make it a priority, they do it right. I usually find one tune I really love on their releases. On 2015’s Teenage Movie Soundtrack it was the great swinging slow rocker “First Song” with its Bernard Sumner vocal. “Yeah” is my fave from the band’s 2016 EP Waiting on Cool. Every now and then I hear just a bit of Sugar Ray in this band, which, personally, I think is a very good thing. Also, check out the fantastic demo version of “First Song” below, from the band’s 2013 Greatest Hits of the 1990s.Yeah
I was blasting through the Forty Nineteens new album, Good Fortune, thinking ‘ya, this is nice’ but it wasn’t grabbing me the way a new release needs to if I’m going give the replay button some exercise. Then I hit the very last song and completely changed my mind. “Two Pillows” is single-worthy magic. Great tune, killer arrangement, wonderful performance – I could go on. Laid on a bed of electric piano, the song has a poprock country feel, sharpened by a searing yet melodic guitar solo and great vocals. It made me go back and re-evaluate the whole album.
This turn around the dial provides a blast of Americana in various forms, with just a dash of melodic British 1960s-influenced psych-rock.
Matt Whipkey’s Best New Music may just be. His 2017 release is a solid album, sprinkled liberally with melodic rock influences that range from 1970s to the 1990s. The most likely single, “Aliens,” kicks off with a killer Byrds-influenced guitar introduction, but then shifts to a nice country-infused lilting number a la Wilco in hit mode. “Danielle” is another song with a great roll-out introduction, this time exuding a more Springsteen vibe. “Amy You Are Everything” has a familiar diminished chord progression that attentive listeners will recognize from so many songs (for example, Lennon’s “Happy Xmas”) but melodically pulls on the more pop elements of Springsteen’s 1980s work, with some nice jangly lead guitar. And there are many more highlights. Whipkey has an enormous back catalogue which you can purchase from Bandcamp right now super cheap (though you should pay more – he’s worth it).
New Jersey’s The Mylars hail from that state’s Union City and named their debut album after the local record store, Melody Records. It makes sense because the record is an updated homage to that great period of American poprock, circa 1978-83. The band even offers up an inspired cover of the Cars’ “Let’s Go,” just in case you didn’t catch on. It all comes together on the debut single and video, “Forever Done,” with its wall of surging guitars and hooky, sibilant vocals. The single has a great AM radio-friendly rock and roll sound c. early 1980s, though without sounding derivative. In fact, the whole album is eminently listenable and would undoubtedly sound great live. There’s no protection from this kind of ear worm, thankfully.
Austin’s Quiet Company have always provided more adult fare at the poprock table, adding just a bit more depth and complexity to the three minute problems that conventional singles typically handle. Though lately they’re becoming a bit darker and noticeably less quiet. 2017 witnessed the band release two EPs rather than a more conventional album, each offering up a harsher sound and seemingly harsher view of human relationships and the world they exist in. It’s Not Attractive and It Changes Nothing came out in April and its opening track “Celebrity Teeth Poacher” sounded deceptively typical of Quiet Company, at least at first. Nice acoustic guitar and melodic vocals open the song but things turn a bit more discordant in the chorus. “On Single Moms” is a nice pop single, with some great horns appearing here and there. By August Your Husband, the Ghost arrived, featuring more complex, harsh textures and messages. Melody is still there, particularly on the epic “We Should Go to Counseling,” but the listener has to work a little harder to feel the hooks. This is a band going somewhere, though they’re honest enough to admit they don’t really know where.
Crossing the pond with our final spin of the dial, The Keepers mine that particular vein of British poprock that stretches from late 1960s psychedelia through a variety of 1980s and 1990s indie sounds. Their new single “Here Comes Spring” is a delightful mélange of 1960s organ and fuzzed out guitars, a decidedly more slick and radio-friendly sound than their more garage rock sounding (though no less delightful) debut album, 2015’s No Exit. How this fits into a new album is not clear yet but the single is very promising. While waiting for more new releases, check out the band’s catchy remake of the Fine Young Cannibals’ “Good Thing” on Soundcloud.
New releases require new fans to really take off. It’s an age old equation in popular music. So start clicking through the links provided to Matt Whipkey, The Mylars, Quiet Company, and The Keepers to help turn this new music into a hit song or two.
As we move around the dial on this post we cover a wide range of sound, from retro stylings, to melodic pop, to guitar hooks, to a cool hipster vibe.
Laurie Raveis and Dennis Kole are Raveis Kole, a late-blooming, retro-sounding blast of 1960s cool. Title track “Electric Blue Dandelion” really captures it all with its pronounced musical swagger, rapturous ‘ahhs’ on the background vocals, and very Janis-bluesy lead vocals. But note their fun side – Chris Isaak’s smouldering “Wicked Game” lightens up considerably in their rhumba-inspired make-over.Electric Blue DandelionWicked Game
Moving into more clear poprock territory, The Hangabouts deliver a great duet with Molly Felder on “Sinking Feeling,” a song that exudes shades of Glen Tilbrook of Squeeze or Aimee Mann. Check out the nice Strawberry Fields Forever organ solo about half way through. This song and the very Fountains of Wayne “Evelyn Wood” are featured on the band’s latest release, Kits and Cats and Saxon Wives.
From the opening strains of “Slow it Goes” I knew I’d found some kind of lost super-group. Turns out the band Eyelids is comprised of current and former members of such indie stalwarts as the Decembrists, Guided by Voices and Drive-By Truckers. So, talent to spare, obviously. Just listen to the super cool, hooky guitar work that opens “Camelot” or “Don’t (Please) Come Around.” But while the hooks may grab you, the songs stick in your head because they’re really well-written tunes, expertly played. Their latest LP is Or.
Our final turn of the dial takes us to New York City’s EZTV, a band that brings the dawn of country rock into the indie hipster mainstream on albums like 2015’s Calling Out and their most recent High in Place. These guys have clearly spent some time with their International Submarine Band and Byrds records. But rather than going the homage route, they’ve taken the influences in new directions, overlaying new harmonic dimensions onto the basic late 1960s sound, particularly vocally. Two illustrative examples, one from each album, make the case. “That’s Where You Belong” is closest to influences like the Byrds while “Reasons to Run” breaks with tradition more clearly.
As we travel around the dial today we explore bands that are established but not necessarily wildly successful along with others that are just getting started.
I stumbled across Ginger Wildeheart quite recently and quickly found myself wondering how I hadn’t heard of him before. This guy oozes talent. Whatever style he turns to, he masters. Whatever hook he is crafting, he nails it. He has so many bands and recordings, it is going to take me some time just get through them all. So today we’ll just feature this recent bit of ear candy, his 2016 single “If You Find Yourself in London Town.” Deceptively sweet sounding, the single is peppered with a hint of menace, kinda like a Mike Leigh film. Ok, I can’t resist, I have to include one more great tune, this time from one of Ginger’s many side projects, Hey! Hello!, a concentrated piece of rock pop entitled “Swimwear.”
I loved Sunday Sun from the first time I heard the opening refrains of their Beatlesque “Beating Low” from the 2012 EP Iii. The combination of carefully constructed vocal harmonies over jangly guitars was a formula that couldn’t lose for me. Their most recent long player Live Out Loud accents the pop over the rock effectively rebalancing their sound away from their earlier work. Would I have preferred some more prominent Rickenbacker guitar lines here and there? Sure. But the band write such catchy and clever songs and the vocals are so impressive, what you have here is still pretty awesome. “When We Kiss” is relentless in its hooky delivery, “Can’t Stop” has a great swing, “Marry You” is a lovely acoustic number just in time for the wedding season, and “Oh Let Me Love You” could easily be a super Hall and Oates single.
When We KissMarry YouOh Let Me Love You
From the opening of Umm’s “Black Summer” you wouldn’t think they would get past the censors on this blog. But just wait for the vocals. This duo enjoy an eerie symbiosis vocally that is enthralling (and the cool organ runs don’t hurt either). Couple Chris Senseney and Stefanie Drootin had a band called Big Harp that had a nice folky/synthy thing going (check out “Golden Age” below for a taste) but in a recent interview noted they were grooving a lot on the Everly Brothers’ harmonies and knew they needed a new vehicle to take up this direction. The result is Umm, a kind of Everly Brothers on acid, though they also remind me of a lot of other great duos out now, many that we’ve reviewed here like the amazing Jack and Eliza or The Kickstand Band. Check out their super video for “Oh Yes No” featuring Creative Commons film footage from “Westinghouse Traveler’s Choice 66” from the Prelinger Archives.
Mystery be thy name, Spirit Kid. There is not a lot to find about this act other than their many great recordings. Spirit Kid is the name of the band and their first album from 2010, which features two strong tracks in “My Imagination” and “Assumed by You.” “Wrong Kind of Money” from the same year is pretty good too. 2011 saw a strong EP with Happiness where the band sound really gels into an Apples in Stereo groove. Is Happening came out in 2014 with “Playing Cupid” and “Heart Attack” but then there is a break until this year’s “To My Romeo.” Easy going and poppy, with just a hint of T Rex and the British glam sound. Love the cover art on the most recent single as well – very fun!
Long Dream is the most recent album from Title Tracks, a band with dreamy sound, vocals that remind me of The Smithereens at times, with some very cool guitar lead lines. “I Don’t Need to Know” bolts out of the pen in a very Bob Mould style, with some cool breakout lead guitar. “Empty Heavens” has a more languid strummy feel with the treble significantly upped on the lead guitar. “Peaceful Uses” has a nice instrumental roll out before settling into a catchy indie poprock vibe. Given how solid this record is, I look forward to mining their back catalogue more carefully.