There may be bad news on the doorstep but our musical headlines are nothing but blue skies ahead! Today’s news breakers include a brand new long-player, a recent album release, as well as an overlooked gem from years past.
Atlanta’s Mattiel has a rough rock and roll sound with just a touch of indie country, particularly on the vocals. It’s hard to put your finger on what this sound is like, exactly, with shades of Neko Case, Patsy Cline, Liverpool’s Zuzu, and even Ike Reilly on “Food for Thought.” Mattiel’s most recent record is 2019’s Satis Factory and it definitely exceeds that standard and more. Love the recurring riff that carries “Populonia” forward while “Blisters” has an endearing early 1960s pop country vibe. Other highlights for me include the sprightly “Keep the Change” and “Millionaire” with a backing like a Velvet Underground deep cut. There’s a bit of beat poet, performance artist, and rock and roll badass all rolled into one with Mattiel. This record is an event you’re gonna want to say you were in on the ground floor for.
Something Better is the brand new debut album from New York’s Loose Buttons and it rocks in that NYC sort of way (think of bands like Public Access TV). The guitar attack all over this record is dynamite, lifting the material to even greater heights. Some come on strong, like “Something Better” and “Home Movies (Let Down Lately)” while others mellow the pace. I love how languidly the hook rolls out on curiously addictive “Strangers in a Nightclub.” The guitars-up-front style here is contrasted with strongly melodic vocal parts, delivered with a slight dissonance but always bending back toward hooks, particularly in the chorus (an approach that really reminds me of Asylums sound on “Joy in a Small Wage”). And then there’s the obvious single, “I Don’t Really Know,” with its engaging guitar line that lures you into the song and then keeps you there with its shimmering poprock chorus. Just eight tracks but all good – a definite full LP purchase.
I loved Darwin Deez’s 2015 release Double Down, littered as it was with killer tunes like “Last Cigarette” and “Kill Your Attitude.” I even got to see him in fantastically small club that fall for a super live show. So how did I miss his 2018 release 10 Songs That Happened When You Left Me With My Stupid Heart? Clearly my super fan designation is going to lapse. The good news is that 10 Songs is another challenging yet worthwhile poprock platter from one of most interesting dudes working the scene. Deez makes his listeners work for the hook that always lurks somewhere in his tunes. Take “Anna-Maria” with its cold grey dissonant verse opening the song only to subtly break out the million dollar hook in the chorus. Or the contrast is even more stark on the old worldy, partly acapella “The World’s Best Kisser.” And then there’s the sweet, jazzy “Daddy Always” that wraps things up. In terms of clever words and smooth performance, this guy is the Steely Dan of poppy rock and roll.
Ok, today’s breaking news is overloaded like a Toyota pickup taking too much concrete from Home Depot. The problem is, there is just too much damn fine music out there that needs your attention. Here at Poprock Record we travel the highways and byways to find only the finest, fresh poprock and today’s crew is certainly some of the fine-i-est and fresh-i-est!
Let’s begin with Webbed Wing. Emerging from the ashes of the more grungy Superheaven, their new album Bike Ride to the Moon has a grinding guitar sound overladen with hooks that get stuck in your head. Like the uptempo opening cut “Bad For Me,” or the catchy harmonica-drenched “All Went Wrong,” or the more mellow, grooving “Tunnel Vision.” There’s a bit of Sugar Ray cranked to 11 here, with a touch of Weezer at times. But sometimes the record just cuts loose, alternating between punky abandon and industrial lo fi. But the poprock payoff comes with “Door Creaks Open,” a delightful more easy-going acoustic treat. A bit heavier than our usual fare at times but worth the detour!
Some describe Brett as a kind of dream pop but on their recent EP Perfect Patterns there’s more meat to the tunes and performance than that label might suggest. Sure “Nonchalant” and the title track (with its spot-on 1980s keyboards) are a tad dreamy but opening cut “Tenebaum” comes on in a rush like a great lost New Order track. And then “Bad Luck” kicks out some pretty sweet new wave rhythm guitar with totally up front vocals – definitely not dreamy. More Darwin Deez than Cocteau Twins. Or how about that should-be double A-sided single set of tracks, “Wisdom Tooth” and “Hard Feelings.” Ear worm much? I just kept hitting repeat. ‘Brett’ no longer just refers to some 1980s hockey player for me now. Brett is value-added poprock.
County Durham’s Martha have so many facets to their musical personality. Sometimes folky, sometimes punky, sometimes AM radio hit machine. Their third album is Love Keeps Kicking and it has so many gems it should be guarded by some guy in a ill-fitting suit. Opening track “Heart is Healing” is an onslaught of pop goodness with a vocal that makes it sound like indie version of Supertramp but one still cranking out hits. The acoustic rhythm guitar here is unstoppable! I could review every song here and tell you how great each one is (truly, there is not a single one I’d give up) but I’ll just focus on a few of the more outstanding compositions/performances. Like “Mini was a Preteen Arsonist”: the song is a perfect of melding of political sentiment with solid melodic hooks. Kinda like Spook School meets Chumbawumba. “Love Keeps Kicking” sounds like a winning hit single. Or is the melodic rock of “The Void” the hit? It certainly has that stadium fist pumping jump up and down quality. Ultimately Martha is big bag of talent, spilling over with vocal talent, tight musicianship and clever catchy material. And I haven’t even really dug into the back catalogue yet!
I’ve long had a weak spot for The Skullers ever since they released that hypnotic single “Can We Do That Again” with its killer bass line and seductive vocals. 2018’s “I’m Your Man” was another winner, peppy, happy and swinging. Now they’ve returned with an EP Freight Trains & Party Games and it’s chock full of catchy tunes. Opener “Brooklyn Girls” has a lovely midtempo feel, lulling you like train ride through a rainy day. “Convenient” kicks things into a higher gear, rocking the poprock a bit more. The single is “She Denies the Things She Loves” and it has a nice Oasis vibe to my ears. A few listens confirms it’s ear worm infectious. The EP ends with probably my fave track, the more low key “Still Life” but I love the vocal and shuffle hooky beat. One day The Skullers will give us a whole album.
Croydon’s Nick Frater is back with a new long-player, Full Fathom Freight Train, and it’s right on time. Check out the fantastic artwork! And hey, the music’s pretty good too. This time out Nick embraces a full-on Paul McCartney and Wings beat group sound on tracks like “Oh Now Girl” and “Your Latest Break Up Song” Then there’s songs like “The Getaway” that exude an early 1980s poprock vibe or “What Does Good Look Like Baby” that is reminiscent of 10CC to me. Did I mention the cool train on the cover? This is one slick package that’s easy on the ears. And the 28IF on the album cover locomotive clearly harkens back to the Abbey Road cover.
How am I the last guy to this party? Ottawa, Ontario’s Golden Seals have announced their fifth and final album will be Something Isn’t Happening and I only just discovered them! Well this new record is quite an introduction. Opening track “Independence Day” gives you a sense of what they are about – a low level XTC vibe layered over some pretty creative songwriting. “Ball and Tether” is AM radio enjoyable bouncy pop. Meanwhile “Something Isn’t Happening” and “The Opposite End of the Country” both wade pretty deep into Wings territory. Look I could make comparisons all day long but some of what appears here is just some pretty original stuff. “Idiot Kid” has an unique approach and will hook you in the best poprock sort of way. And then there’s the Billy Joel cover. Ok, “Vienna” is guilty fave of mine and GS gives us lovely stripped down electric piano version. This David James Merritt guy is some kind of talented mess.
Project: Ghost Outfit is an indie super group bringing together experienced country sideman Adam Schoenfeld, poprock godfather Bill Lloyd, Cheap Trick bassist Tom Petersson, and graphic designer-cum-drummer Keith Brogdon. We love Bill Lloyd here at Poprock Record so anything he’s involved with is bound to be pretty good. Their self-titled EP/LP contains seven poppy, ear wormy Beatlesque tracks that really deliver on melody and hooks. Obviously “Somebody’s Heart” and “Hang On” have first call on potential singles. Though, personally, I love the understated approach of “Mess My Mind” where low key verses cut to choruses loaded with harmony vocals. Or there’s “Never Remember” that vibes “Things We Said Today” for me. I’m also keen on “Buying Time” which features some killer organ and great vocal interplay.
Some definite hot properties in this newscast with new releases from Poprock Record faves Richard Turgeon, The Rallies, Dan Israel and Aaron Lee Tasjan!
Richard Turgeon just keeps on getting better and better. His debut (In Between Spaces) and sophomore (Lost Angeles) albums were solid slabs of 1990s-inflected poprock, layered with hooks and slathered with a grungy alienated demeanor. Now he’s back with Go Deep and this time he’s upped the melodic quotient. This is the record Matthew Sweet should be putting out! There’s plenty of solid hooks, a bit of crunch, and those slightly dark melodic twists that sink deep in your sonic consciousness and stay there. It’s all there in the great opening track, “The One Who Got Away,” with its driving guitar and lovely background vocals. Or “Next to Me” with its strong guitar lead line hook. Then Turgeon shakes things up with an early Police ska rhythm guitar anchoring “Beware of God” accompanied by some REM-worthy background/foreground vocal interplay. The REM comparisons continue with “Loneliness,” a spot-on could-be outtake from Document. Two different versions of “Lost and Found” both capture the aching beauty at heart of the song. And then Turgeon shows his songwriting depth and range with the country/folk tune, the winsome “Cowboy Life.” Ultimately Go Deep is a great album experience, worthy of repeated listenings.
Seattle Washington’s The Rallies are back with their sophomore LP Upside Down and it’s a reverb-charged dose of sunny hooks and bittersweet sentiment. If you enjoyed their harmony-drenched debut Serve you’re going to love this new record. The solid acoustic guitar rhythm backing is still there. The distinctive mix of harmony background vocals combined with lead singer Steve Davis’ heart-tugging delivery remains front and centre. But the songs have a bit more muscle this time out. Somebody stepped on the jangle pedal because its ringing tone threads its way throughout the album, from the single-worthy opener “All Over Town” to the soaring closer “You’re the One.” The album opens on an extremely strong note. Really, in a properly poprock world “All Over the Town” would be zooming up the charts with its Beatles-esque background vocals, hypnotic guitar hooks, and earwormy melody. Overall, the influences alternate on this album, from the Tom Petty-ish “Brand New” and “Up To You” to the more Crowded House vibe of “It’s OK” and “Alive.” The hooky lead line opener to “If You Do” comes off like a lost cut from the That Thing You Do soundtrack. And I also love the lilting, more slow-paced melodic charm of “In Everything.” But make no mistake, the band have their own distinctive sound and style, as in evidence on the moving “All of Us,” a song that highlights this group’s overall uplifting positivity. 2017’s Serve landed on a host of ‘best of ‘ album lists and I predict Upside Down will heading to the same places for 2019.
Minnesota’s Dan Israel is like the money in the bank, turning out reliably great poprock records year in and out. This time he’s back with the timely-titled Social Media Anxiety Disorder and it is another winning collection of poprock ruminations on life and surviving the modern world. The album opens with “Be My Girl,” the obvious single with its endearing horn section, hooky bass guitar work, and hit single aura. But the whole record is quality stuff, alternating between Dylanesque observations and a Cat Stevens kind of confident delivery. Check out the hooky wordy attack of “Another Day” or the Tom Petty-ish country demeanor of “Tired.” Or how about the “Strawberry Fields Forever” organ quality adding something to the already winning “125” – killer! Personally, I’m smitten with the intimate acoustic revelations of “Still I’m Lost” and the almost church-like gospel hints embedded in “Out of My Hands” and “Out of My Hands Reprised.” Dan Israel is leading the singer/songwriter poprock revival, one you should be signing on to.
Aaron Lee Tasjan’s Karma for Cheap was my number 1 album for 2018. I just couldn’t get enough of it. The songwriting was exquisite, the musical performances – amazing. Now Tasjan has returned with a stripped down version of the album, Karma for Cheap: Reincarnated, and it’s a revelation. It’s like Karma unplugged, and stripped bare the songs really stand up. In this re-ordered version of the album, former album closer “Songbird” is now the opener and in its more naked form it exudes all the acoustic majesty of McCartney’s “Blackbird” or “Mother Nature’s Son.” And so it is true for all the other songs. These more spare recordings reveal new depths in songs like “Strange Shadows” and “End of the Day.” Reincarnated does make one major change in the set list of Karma for Cheap, swapping out the Orbison-esque “Dream Dreamer” for the delighful “My Whole Life is Over (All Over Again).” Tasjan’s a major talent, as revealed by his ability here to bring even more new life to some pretty great material.
A very exciting batch of genuinely breaking bands and songs on this post that bridge the Atlantic, going the distance from California to Michigan to Uppsala, Sweden.
The Brothers Steve debut album #1 is a concentrated dose of poprock goodness. This baby is all killer, no filler, beginning to end. From the double A-side blast of “Angeline/Carolanne” to the hip-shaking good time feel of “She” to the tongue-in-cheek hooky hilarity of “We Got the Hits.” And it sounds especially sweet on blue vinyl! I love the mix of acoustic guitars, electric leads and sweet harmonies. Check out the mix on “C’mon Pappy” with its 1970s English power pop sound, particularly the vocal stylings. “Songwriter” ups the crunch with a great driving beat, adding just a hint of a “Paperback Writer” refrain on the chorus. “Carry Me” pushes the jangle pedal hard while the vocals have a lovely Byrdsian swirl. “Good Deal of Love” is my current fave, a track that would not sound out of place on any Marshall Crenshaw album. “Sunlight” has listeners exiting the album on a sunny, acoustic guitar-drenched mellow vibe. With three-quarters of the melody rocking heroes from Tsar in the band, perhaps it’s not surprising how strong this debut is. And yet it’s a clear departure from their earlier work in style and delivery. Look for this on my top album list this year, a ‘you-can’t-go-wrong’ album recommendation from Poprock Record.Good Deal of Love
Los Angeles’ Bleached advance from the punky beach esthetic that defined the sonic palate of their earlier work to a more confident glossy poprock sound on their new record, Don’t You Think You’ve Had Enough? It’s immediately apparent on the opening track “Heartbeat Away” – now the vocals are upfront and taking charge of the tune, to great effect. But that can’t prepare you for “Hard to Kill,” a delicious slice on late 1970s ska-influenced new wave. The track practically leaps out of the speakers, oozing Parallel Lines-era Blondie riffs and vocal mannerisms. The album is full of retro-brushed delights, from the Go-Go-ish “Somebody Dial 911” to the dreamy “Silly Girl” to the more straight-up melodic rock and roll vibe of “Rebound City” and “Valley to LA.” This is another full play recommendation. In a world of seemingly interminable single-teasing, Bleached have dropped an album that is worth putting on repeat at your next party.
Joe Sullivan’s Growing Up Schlockstar is more than a sequel to his 2014 debut Schlockstar, it’s a clear advance on what were already recognized as formidable talents as a songwriter and performer. The record teems with familiar sounds: a Glen Tilbrook-esque turn of phrase and delivery, a bit of Jeremy Messersmith’s understated wordplay, and riffs clearly paying homage to bands ranging from the Beatles to Queen. And the hooks! They’re slathered all over tracks like “Mr. Positivity,” “Greenfield Acres” and “Time Machine.” Fans of clever lyrics are going to love “Gifted and Talented,” “Cheerleader” and “Space Princess.” Anyone who can effortlessly name check Starbuck, Captain Kirk and Jean-Luc Picard in a song should get extra points!
Everest is actually the 2019 American re-release of In Deed’s 2018 record. Still, I think the band from Uppsala, Sweden can rest on their laurels a bit as Everest was their first release in 16 years. Luckily, it’s fantastic! From the attention grabbing opener “Another Start” (with its distinctive Killers-like guitar opening) and throughout the breadth of the album, it quickly becomes clear this is a group full of surprises. Indeed, the very next song on the record marks a striking shift in sound and tempo: “Five Times a Day” is a more melody driven tune, delivered with acoustic guitars and a lush vocal-focused sound reminiscent of work from Holland’s Sunday Sun. At other times In Deed channel a modernized mid-1960s beat sound on tracks like “Don’t Need, Don’t Care” and the jangle-heavy “According to You” or shift to a late 1980s UK poprock sound a la the Darling Buds or The Primitives on “Heart Attack.” Sometimes they just melodically rock out with great driving numbers like “Song to You” and “Flavour of the Month.”
It is too early to start working up a best albums list for 2019? Because the crew on this edition of the breaking news team are going for broke on the ‘all killer, no filler’ kind of long players. These are album downloads – no point wasting your time buying them song by song.
I was minding my own business on iTunes searching out movie star names as song titles when I ran across No Win’s “Shelly Duvall.” And that led me to their new album, Downy, 36 minutes of muscular poprock with a decidedly Weezer vibe. I thought I’d stumbled across a real unknown find but almost immediately glowing No Win reviews started showing up across my blogroll. Well, they deserve it. “After Your Legs” opens things up, setting the tone with a melodic but hard-hitting edge, as does “Vision.” “2 Real” sounds a bit like Fountains of Wayne meets Weezer to me while “Being Teen” and “Waiting for a Call” change up the pace, establishing a slower, more acoustic atmosphere. But “Shelly Duvall” is the obvious single to these ears, with its slightly dissonant hooks and smooth vocals. It’s a track that screams perfect movie montage music.
Supercrush might be described as a ‘change of life’ band. The members foreswore their hardcore roots in other groups to go full on power pop with this project and their first complete album release, Never Let You Drift Away. The record brings together a group of singles that have been on a slow drip release stretching back years, but the collection has proven to be worth the wait. There is nary a weak track here. And for an LP that came together in bits and pieces, the whole thing has a consistent sound and style, with “Melt Into You (Drift Away)” and “I Don’t Want to be Sad Anymore” ready to be added immediately to any Top 40 hit singles rotation. On the other hand “I Can’t Lie” and “Walking Backwards” have a great 1960s jangle aura. This is a crank-me-up at the beach good time.
David Brookings has the look of a classic 1970s poprock star with his David Cassidy-like impish grin and wavy mop of hair. Now he’s got the album to go with it. Scorpio Monologue is a timeless slice of 1960s-70s infused should be hits. Brookings writes songs that echo a time when radio was dominated by standout guitar hooks and sweet harmony vocals. It’s all there on the opening track, “And It Feels Like,” with its driving, chiming guitar lines and mid-period Blue Oyster Cult feel for melody and menace. Things lighten up a bit with the winsome, summery jangle of “I Grow Up Fast” and turn on the late Beatles-era McCartney influences on “Rainbow Baby.” Brookings shows his mastery of styles whether dialing up the rock factor on “Big Gun” or adding a tasteful bit of yacht to “Be Gone (Whoever You Are).” “Silicon Valley” has a slight Billy Joel meets country flavor to me and nicely (but gently) skewers tech’s home town. And check out the great surf rock rumble guitar opener to “That Girl’s Not Right,” a song that shifts to a distinctive melody in the chorus, combining sunshine elements with a hint of malice. And then “Sleep to Dream” closes the album on surprisingly uneasy note, bittersweet ennui being a bit of a departure for Brookings songwriting-wise. Scorpio Monologue is an impressive development of the David Brookings and the Average Lookings sound. It should be on every poprock fan’s 2019 summer playlist!
2019 is already shaping up to be another great year for melodic rock and roll. Let’s increase the odds that other bands might follow suit by showing No Win, Supercrush, and David Brookings and the Average Lookings a bit of the money love! Click on the bandcamp links and start spending now.
Photo: Larry Gordon “Veil on Bloor Viaduct” April 2019
Guitars to the front of the line! Great poprock relies heavily on the guitar, particularly rhythm guitar. As Nick Lowe said recently, it’s supposed to rock and roll but there’s precious little appreciation of the roll part, which is harder to get right than it sounds. This week’s breaking news puts the guitar’s rhythm in its proper place.
On his new release, Things Were Better, When, Johnny Stanec increases the frenetic pace of his beat-oriented rock and roll with plenty of shimmering guitars and ‘ooh’ worthy background vocals. Rhythm guitar anchors this record on tracks like “Secret World” and the outstanding opening number, “You’re the Only One (Not a Love Song).” Harkening back to a mid-1980s indie guitar sound that bravely withstood the synth onslaught, songs like “I’m Fine, I Swear” and “If I’m Wrong” remind of mid-period Grapes of Wrath. This is guitar-driven poprock, par excellence. Stanec only pauses for breath on the wonderful mixed-tempo “The Things You Fear.” I thought “Don’t Know What To Do” from last year’s The Future of Nothing was pretty special but Stanec clearly has not come close to peaking yet. Forget the singles, Things Were Better, When is a worthy full album purchase.
There are considerable parts of The John Sally Ride new album Nothing Doing that sound like great lost songs from a Squeeze recording session circa 1982-3. “Embarrassingly Single” has a very Squeeze-like song structure with a vocal that is pure Glen Tilbrook while “Nothing Doing” just oozes the Deptford fun sound. Other tracks on the album rock things up a bit more with a Kinks-like rhythm guitar feel – see “Considered It Considered” and “All or Nothing.” But my personal fave is the lovely “You Wear Your Heart On Your Both Your Sleeves” with its seductive harmony vocals. The guys also work up a dopey, endearing dad sort of humour on tracks like “I Won’t Let Failure Go To My Head.” All in all, Nothing Doing is a stellar follow up 2017’s great A New Set of Downs.
Whoa Melodic is an anagram for Michael Woods, the creative force behind the one-man band of the same name. It’s also the name of the project’s debut release. This obvious playfulness is all over the compositions featured on the record, which range from the strummy poprock of “I Will Never Let You Down” to the chimey, addictive repetition of “To See You Again” to ambling-along-on-a-sunny-day fingerpicking on “Sprint Forward Fall Back.” Woods is expert at embedding catch-you-off guard ear worm quality hooks all over this record. I love the almost pumping lurch of “Hopeless and Lonely,” the delicate tenderness of “Ring Your Friends” but the album’s killer track for me is “Hit Me Where It Hurts” with hooky lead line opener, swing feel, and organ and harmonic shots. This record is the fun house hit parade, just a bit wonky and out of synch but delightful for it.
This is not all the breaking news, it’s the news I could fit in right now. Still, click on Johnny Stanec, The John Sally Ride and Whoa Melodic to stay at least moderately well informed (and entertained at the same time).
It’s a new year – time to break out some brand new 2019 material. This collection of hooky poprock gems are fresh and date-stamped with the new year!
Manchester’s The Maple State formed in 2004, gigged until 2008, and then took a break before releasing a stellar comeback album in 2018, Things I Heard at the Party. Keeping up the momentum, they’re back this month with a double-A sided single release, “Germany” / “A Notion.” On first listen, the band sounds a bit post-punk until you hit the chorus on “Germany” and some pretty glorious power pop kicks in. Meanwhile, “A Notion” is more low key but still swinging, achieving an almost campfire sing-along sense of atmospheric fun. By contrast, Juliana Hatfield has never really gone away (and that’s a good thing!). Year after year she puts out pretty amazing albums, like last year’s phenomenal tribute to Olivia Newton John (check out Hatfield’s take on “Magic” – wow!). Her new, just released album is Weird and it is wonderfully so with another 11 strong tracks, though I’m presently hitting replay on “Sugar.” Somehow Hatfield makes her conflicted feelings about it clever, catchy and hilarious.
Scotland’s seeming bottomless pit of quality jangle gains more depth with Aberdeen’s The Vapour Trails. Their new extended 3 song single is named for one of the songs, “Godspeed It” but I’m more drawn the Rickenbacker-anchored jangle driving “The Inner Truth.” The vibe is a perfect distillation of late 1960s Byrdsian sibilant ringing guitar and nice harmonies. And the demo of their previously released “Golden Sunshine” is pretty special too. Though hailing from Pennsylvania and largely known for his distinctive guitar work, Steve Gunn has nailed a pretty ace Crowded House vibe on “Vagabond” from his new album The Unseen in Between. I mean, the guitar works here is still fantastic but it rightly remains secondary to his evocative melody and vocals. Rounding things out is some super-charged California pop from The Popravinas with their new single, “Sofia (CMU).” I love the candy-coated vocals on this track. Very late 1970s power pop, a vein mined by a host a great bands like The Connection and Tommy and Rockets. Looking forward to the band’s soon-to-released new album!
The Vapour Trails – The Inner TruthThe Popravinas – Sofia (CMU)
Great music is breaking out all over this year and it’s a race to get them all in the blog before 2018 expires. Today’s crew has textured popcraft, a bit of blasty rock and roll, and even some dance grooves.
Just one listen to Legs & Luggage and there’s little doubt that Vegas with Randolph’s songwriters are conversant with the major melodic rock and roll motifs of the past few decades. They’re effortlessly combined on this album’s 13 winning tracks with a charm reminiscent of a more rough-hewn Fountains of Wayne. Opening track “You Could Say Yes” charges out of the gate with hooks that say radio-friendly hit single. Another single-ish release would be “The Girl Holding Out for Me” with its pure bliss hooky chorus. The album also sees the band vibing a range of influences, from the Plimsouls’ elan of “Jacob” to the chirpy Ben Kweller jaunt of “I Could be the One” to the Steve Miller touches on “The Weekend’s Coming.” And then there’s the wonderful FOW-meets-Partridge Family peppiness of “Women in Airports” and the veritable blueprint of perfect poprock song, “The Comeback Kid.” Forget buying singles, this one’s an album purchase.
Italy is producing an amazing bunch of melodic rockers of late (we featured stellar releases from The Sick Rose, for example) and Bee Bee Sea is no exception. Past releases have been described as ‘garage psych rock’ but I hear a more mod sound on their new album Deluxe, like a wilder, more Stonesy version of The Strypes. Ok, the opening track is pretty 1960s garage rock, fittingly titled “The Garage One.” But with “Lou Weird” and “Mary” things move into a more melody-drenched rock and roll swing. Then “All the Boys All the Girls” channels a wonderful late 1960s eerie sound kinda like the Zombies on speed. And so on – there’s no end to the highlights here. Deluxe is just a phenomenally cool rock and roll party album, daring you to put away your dancing shoes. Check out the swinging Together Pangea punky vibe of “Vampire George” or the 1980s British shimmering guitar sound of “And On” or the spot-on 1979 new wave rock and roll guitar groove of “Je Suis Content.” What I wouldn’t give to see this band live!
A new record from Greg Pope is poprock money in the bank, he just doesn’t disappoint. I mean, one of his previous releases was aptly-named Popmonster, to which reviewers heartedly agreed – that gives you some idea what a prolific and reliable creative force he is. Now he’s back with A Few Seconds of Fame, which unfortunately could also double as a commentary on his undeservedly cool reception from top 40 radio. I don’t get it – to my ears, they’re all hits! Check the opening track “Forget About You” with its great driving tempo and solid yet subtlely hooky chorus, or the tightly delivered “Retread” – this is what radio-friendly singles used to sound like. But hey, I could just as easily recommend the wonderful 1970s ELO pop sound of “Hopes and Dreams and Fears” or the great late Beatles pop vibe on “Planet Earth” or the textured, layered sound of “Dreams About You,” particularly on the vocals. I guess nobody’s gonna make me a top 40 radio program director anytime soon but if they did …
Portland’s Hemmit have run the gamut of stadium-sounding rawk (ironically delivered, of course) to ‘punkish powerpop’ (in their words) to the electronic pop of their current release. The new EP, One Ultra, definitely channels some great 1980s synth pop influences, obvious on tracks like “Ultraviolet” and “Power” but subtlely lodged in others like “My Room” too. But consistent across their catalogue is the songwriting quality, evident on the obvious singles: the relentlessly driving “Friends” and the more melodic hooks of “Waves.” This is a band worth spending some time digging through various releases for a load of poprock gems.
The Appleton Post-Crescent described Car City as a “Fox Valley supergroup,” a reference to the fact that while all the musicians were long-standing members of the local live music scene they had really only recently come together to work on this project. Their experience clearly mattered because Car City, the album, sounds like the work of a cohesive band. The resulting sound is like Weezer on anti-depressants, a slightly dissonant, melody rich concoction that delivers on Jason Lemke’s great songs. It’s all there on the opening tracks, “Connecting the Dots” and “Like a Wave” with their earworm-worthy yet subtle melodic turns and twists. Then things get really interesting when “Hopeless” breaks out the Aimee Mann syth to good effect with some inspired full stops and background vocals, while “(Don’t) Give Up on Love” kicks off all Beach Boys vocal harmonizing before dusting off Steve Nieve’s organ. And the songs I haven’t mentioned? Also great. Frankly, I love all the tunes on this record. Car City deserves to be in your collection.
You can connect with all the artists on this post – Vegas with Randolph, Bee Bee Sea, Greg Pope, Hemmit, and Car City – on bandcamp, which is actually one of the best ways to support your soon-to-be favourite artists, as expertly explained here by Richard Turgeon, a great indie artist in his own right. And he should know.
Given our staffing levels here at Poprock Record, not all breaking news is really breaking in the sense of being absolutely brand new and ‘just released.’ But hopefully it’s breaking to someone! This edition of BN taps a bit of that punky spirit that former punkers retain when they decide to go a bit more poprock and showcases what happens to DIY performers when they radically up their game. You might want to turn these tunes up!
Fullerton California’s Odd Robot are back with another 14 songs that channel a punky energy into some pretty tight rock and roll arrangements on their new Amnesiatic. “Sell Your Soul” sets the standard, charging out the gate, guitars full on with some effective new wave hooks and a strong vocal melody. Title track “Amnesiatic” keeps up the pace, sounding a bit Nick Lowe circa 1978, definitely single-worthy material. Things change up with “Green and Yellow Wires,” a song and performance that really reminds me of Ann Arbor, Michigan band Tally Hall and their very sophisticated sound. Overall, you won’t go far wrong with any track on this album, the band is consistent – there are no phone-in moments here. But if I have to single stuff out I find myself particularly partial to “Nothing to do with Anything, But” and the pre-release song, “West Coast Girls,” the latter a killer single musically as well as a showcase for the band’s distinctive, superior vocal sound.
New Zealand is calling with The Beths, a trio whose debut is a concentrated blast of punk-infused indie poprock. “Great No One” opens The Future Hates Me and it combines a driving rhythm section with some crisp lead guitar lines and the band’s signature vocal delivery. This is it, what you came for, and the combination of elements is recombined effectively everywhere else on the album. Title track “The Future Hates Me” adds a slightly discordant element to the equation, “You Wouldn’t Like Me” is a bit more poppy with a lovely swing, “Happy Unhappy” also leans heavily on hooky melody and buoyant vocals, while “Whatever” (previously avaible on the 2016 EP Warm Blood) has all the makings of a hit single: great build, solid hooks, and something that sticks in your head long after it’s over.
From somewhere in a wooded area near Lake Michigan, north of Chicago, Brad Peterson has a garden shed studio where he takes DIY to a whole new level. His earlier records mined a broad range of indie poprock pretty effectively but with 2017’s The Ellipsis Album Peterson began incorporating more contemporary pop sounds and motifs to great effect. Now comes his new The Unknown Album, a collection that appears to take those influences and add some experimental touches to the songwriting and performances. But there’s still a few conventional hit singles in the mix, like the flawless “Whispering,” which sounds like a vocal mix of Sting and Steve Miller in terms of timbre and down to earth delivery. Another straight up poprock gem is “Secret Messages” with its Beatlesque double-tracked vocals and subtle yet hypnotic hook.
DC-based band Dot Dash comprises veterans of a host of almost and actually famous bands whose music rocked regardless of the subsequent monetary reward (or lack thereof). The surplus of talent certainly shows on their new record, Proto Retro. Shifting between an indie punk vibe (“Sun + Moon = Disguise”) and pure 1984 jangle band (“Gray Blue Green”), the many influences also gel together perfectly on tracks like the opener “Unfair Weather.” The song vibes like a sunnier Beach Boys-meets-Weezer project might sound. Like other recently reviewed material, this is another total album experience given the quality of songs: just drop the needle anywhere and you’ll come up with the goods. I love the twists and turns on “Parachute Powerline,” the blast of hooks from “Fast Parade,” and check out those 1980s shimmering guitars on “World’s Last Payphone.” Then prepare yourself for a less restrained indie rock out with “Green on Red.” Proto Retro is a great album, deeply influenced by the old but very in the now too.
These new albums from Odd Robot, The Beths, Brad Peterson and Dot Dash are all available from the usual outlets, awaiting monetary attention. Remember, one sale after another is the only way to eventually top the charts!
A strong cast of breaking acts in today’s featured post channel the classics of the mid-to-late 1960s rock and roll and 1990s power pop. All fall into the ‘highly recommended’ category of blogging endorsements!
Right off the mark, Oberon Rose generates an excitement that is distinctively 1960s rock and roll on their new record Tell Me All About It. The kick off to “No Stranger” has that magic combo of electric guitars and background vocal ‘oohs’ that draws you in and never lets up. Described as ‘psychedelic’ by a host of writers, the band falls on the more melodic side that tradition, i.e. more early rather than later Pink Floyd or even the Beatles circa Sgt. Peppers. Another strong track from the band’s latest LP is the title track, “Tell Me All About It,” with its sometimes hooky, sometimes languid and spacey feel. Don’t miss the band’s debut Wunjo from 2012 either as it contains its share of 1960s-infused real winners, like “One Man Show of Sorrow” and “Dance of the Bee.” This band’s work made me hit repeat more than once!
Australian jangle rockers Even are back with a fabulous new album, Satin Returns. Twenty-two years and seven albums later, the band has not lost its touch, as is evident on the brilliant should-be hit single “Out of the Woods,” a textbook example of how to combine jangle with killer hooks. This baby is a soundtrack to sunshine and good times, all the way. Overall, the album is a testament to the band’s mastery of late 1960s rock styles, without just being a museum piece. The end result has a timeless quality. “Little Piece” showcases this nicely with its exuberant riffing. Is this 1970s rock homage? Or 1990s indie? It doesn’t really matter because the songwriting lets it stand on its own. This is a band whose recordings also say ‘great live band.’
A year or so ago we lamented the lack of new material from Essex Green while lauding the harmonic genius of their single “Don’t Know Why (You Stay).” Well, the band is back with a new record and North American tour and the news is all good. The new album is Hardly Electronic and not available until the end of June but from the two songs presently available it’s going to be a killer. “Sloane Arranger” is a wonderful poppy-rock number, with great organ and background vocals, featuring a main vocal reminiscent of Mark Everett’s work with Eels and solo as E. “The 710” has a mellifluous quality, an easy going track that has an embedded ear worm that sneaks up on you. And there’s twelve more tracks to come! To say I can’t wait would just be hyperbole, I can. But I don’t want to!
The Ruler debut album is finally out and can I just say it? Ruler rules! Winning Star Champion is a hook-filled masterpiece. From beginning to end, Ruler’s Matt Batey delivers some pretty sweet melody-drenched rock and roll a la Matthew Sweet or Kevin Devine. Whether he’s employing a wall of guitars on “Petrified” or just finger-picking his acoustic on “We’ve Got it Made” Ruler bends melody to his will with a delicate and poignant sweetness. Title track “Winning Star Champion” announces that the singing protagonist claims his title for ‘fucking up’ like a ‘high school rebel running out of luck.’ So goes the theme of the whole album: the insecurities of advancing adulthood, in evidence on tracks like “Cars and Houses,” “The Cure” or the melancholy “Always Running.” And then there’s that winning, should-be hit single “Unhindered Pace,” a perfectly arranged sonic poprock treat. Mark my words – Winning Star Champion is destined to top everyone’s ‘best of 2018’ lists!