Feel free to cancel Christmas, my present came early with Gregory Pepper’s new single “I’ve Got a Bottle.” Pepper is Canada’s should-be favourite curio pop songwriter. Master of styles, piquant tunesmith, a clever with words guy, Pepper never fails to deliver the goods. But I have to say, it’s been a while – too long. Pepper took a year to write a song a week during 2017-18 while weathering the loss of his father, arrival of a baby daughter, and driving the occasional snow plow. But now the word has come down that a new album of Pepper tunes – I Know Why You Cry – will drop in the new year. I can’t wait! Seriously, waiting is not my strong point. But in the interim you have this delightful dollop of Pepper pop craftmanship. Enjoy, and get ready for a fab Pepper-stravaganza coming to this station sometime this February.
Music veterans Screen Test put out some of their best music in 2018 with their Stones album-title riffing compilation Through the Past Brightly. Featuring both new and older unreleased tracks, the majority of the record is made up of the more recent material and it is IMHO some of their finest work. And that’s really saying something for guys who’ve been gigging and recording since the late 1970s with The Flashcubes, Screen Test, as solo artists, and with a host of other projects. Of the record’s new tunes I really like “Make Something Happen,” “Tomorrow is Another Day,” and particularly the single-worthy “Best Seller” with its hooky Mersey-jangle lead guitar. But the song that sings ‘hit’ to me without a doubt is “Notes from Trevor” with its killer build up and knock out earwormy chorus. Think of something filling the space between Pugwash and XTC and you’re in the zone. Or, as reader Fabian Byrne notes, very Smithereens! The band also have a great new tune worth checking out: “End of the Line.”
Notes From TrevorBest Seller
Screen Test prove that it’s possible for bands to keep the creativity going at any stage of their careers. Surely that deserves some kind of reward? Click on their hot-linked name to find out more!
It looks like it’s last call for Ottawa-based band Hollerado. Earlier this month the Canadian band announced they were releasing one last album and going on one last tour before calling it quits. Such a Canadian exit. No storming off stage mid-show, no fisticuffs in the dressing room, no purported creative differences. Just a polite ‘it’s been fun but, you know, time for a change’ explanation. The full album comes out in June but the pre-release singles suggest the band is going out on a high note. The aptly-named “One Last Time” is a hooky, sing-along invitation to fans to come out and dance, yes, ‘one last time.’ Also pre-released is the lovely, more acoustic “Straight to Hell.” Am I disappointed? Hell yes. Not with these songs – which are great – but with the end of band that, in my view, has yet to reach their creative peak. 2017’s Born Yesterday was a killer album that honed all the group’s strengths in terms of melody and performance, captured perfectly in the addictive ear wormy title track. Now their new album Retaliation Vacation promises to be even better!
When I saw Rilo Kiley with my buddy Rob Elliott at the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto back in 2004 we were blown away by an act we’d barely heard of. Then, like so many bands, they eventually broke up. Now we know that sometimes separated parts don’t add up to the whole. But Rilo Kiley lead singer and rhythm guitarist Jenny Lewis has produced some real gems on her solo releases. Here I’m thinking tracks like “One of the Guys” from her first post-RK album in 2014, The Voyager. Now she’s back with On the Line and it’s a winner, embracing a pop sensibility that channels a fun 1970s swing. Check out the swagger on “Wasted Youth” with it’s interesting change ups in the chorus. Who thought ‘do do do do do’ could be trotted out again and sound original? But my absolute fave on this outing is the infectious “Rabbit Hole.” Something about its stark simplicity allows Lewis to embroider the edges with a load of hooky charms that makes this ear-worm central. And she manages to name check the Beatles and Rolling Stones without making it sound awkward or trite. Get ready to hit replay again and again!
Phil Keaggy has an impressive story. Got his start professionally as the sixties turned into the seventies with his band Glass Harp and a record deal with Decca. But he turned away from the drug-fuelled rock and roll lifestyle to embrace his faith, pretty much full time. That’s usually the end of the story, at least in terms of being a successful musician. But 50 albums later, Keaggy is a world renowned session musician, fan-favourite finger-style guitarist, and Grammy-winning gospel artist! His recorded output runs a gamut of styles, both vocal and instrumental. Today I want to highlight just one song from one album that I think is pretty exceptional: “I Always Do” from his 1988 release Phil Keaggy and Sunday’s Child. Now I can’t say I’ve given his all of 50 records close attention but I’m pretty confident that this track is a bit of an outlier. The whole album is pretty great but from it’s mellow opening, particularly on the vocals, “I Always Do” screams great lost Crowded House hit, and as the tune picks up steam the Neil Finn-isms are unmistakable. This single should have been Keaggy’s breakout crossover into mainstream chart success. In my alternative poprock radio empire, this baby is stuck on repeat.I Always Do
Keaggy has a huge catalogue to explore. Get connected with him via his Facebook page.
Tacoma, Washington’s The Rallies delivered a break out should-be hit album in 2017: Serve, one that meshed jangle with up-front acoustic guitars and a host of touching sentiment. This year they just teased us with a single from their forthcoming album, due in 2019. But what a single! I’ve been holding off featuring the tune because I really think it’s a song apropos for today. “All of Us” speaks to the better world that resides in us all. We have what it takes, if we have faith in ourselves and each other. Despite our world of war, deprivation, poverty and Trump, the human spirit is moved by hope and joy and solidarity. And they are the only things that change things for the better. As the band say, “It’s in you, it’s in me, what is real and ought to be. If we look inside all of us.”
Check out The Rallies online and sign up for early sightings of their new album!
I love these rock and roll stories from the trenches. The Late Show forms in 1972, gets serious as a band from 1975 to 1979, puts out its first album, Portable Pop, in 1980, eventually getting critical love from Goldmine magazine and some power pop ‘best of’ lists. But they don’t storm up the charts. Then comes the unreleased second and third albums, the lure of various major label deals that don’t materialize, and then, nothing. The backstory on their bandcamp page reads like a movie script for just about every supremely talented band that didn’t make it. But there is a happy ending of sorts, at least for the fans. In 2018 the band has miraculously reappeared toting an album, frankly IMHO, even better than their debut: Sha Sha La. The record is brimming with should-be hits that showcase the band’s super 1960s-meets-1980s indie chops. So many highlights: “To Let It Go,” “Sha Sha La (Wake Me When You’re Done),” “Tears” (with that great rumbly lead guitar), and “Always,” to name just a few. But the song that sounds like a single to me is the exquisite “Hello Linda.” Love the build, the distinctive chiming guitar at the 24 second mark, and the slashing rhythm guitar work. Check it out and click through the rest of the album too. It’s long player joy all the way through.
Better late than never is our theme song here at Poprock Record. Why not make The Late Show the stars they always deserved to be right now? It’s all in your hands and the good people at their bandcamp site.
The UK’s Ordinary Boys were a big success with three hit albums before their first break up in 2008. But I’m most partial to their 2015 reunion record, the self-titled The Ordinary Boys. To my ears, it’s a bit more pop-rocky in the best tradition of The Jam or more recently The Rifles. Case in point: “Disposable Anthem.” Full of chiming guitars and sweeping melody lines, the song speeds along fueled by nonstop hooks. It has that killer shimmering pop sound I also associate with The Mighty Lemon Drops. Other highlights from the album for me include “About Tonight” and “Putting my Heart on the Line” but you can’t beat “Disposable Anthem,” the definite should-have-been single.
The Ordinary Boys Facebook page is still live. Perhaps there’ll be more material in this vein in the future!
Let the summer begin! From the glorious keyboard roll out that kicks off this song, you know you are in a time-warp sunshine groove, with girls in satin shorts on roller skates and hair feathered to within an inch of its life. Channeling equal parts Todd Rundgren’s Utopia and Philly soul, with a dollop of Hall and Oates at their most melodious, “Summer of ‘76” is poprock perfection. Click on the lyric video below and I guarantee your summer playlist will have a new add, it’s a single of epic earworm proportions. The song is taken from the self-titled debut album of Astral Drive, a project that is largely the work of Phil Thornalley, a producer, performer, and songwriter with a staggering musical resume. He’s worked with some pretty talented people and it’s clearly rubbed off, if this single is anything to go by. I really can’t wait to hear the whole album. Really.
Now that it looks like spring has finally sprung it’s time to fill the playlist with some swinging, vocal swirling, feel good music. Cape Cartel deserve a strong ‘add’ to your rotation with their delightfully sunny “More.” Just hit play below and tell me, honestly, isn’t everything just a little bit brighter? With guitar lead lines dripping like a sonic waterfall, and intricately layered vocals that rival the best of the Moody Blues, this little gem is the stand out track on the band’s recently released debut album. Oh, there are other highlights on Close Talker. The record effortlessly ranges across multiple styles: a bit of jazz and folk, a dose of blistering rock, even some Jack Jones Hawaiian vibes, and throughout there are wonderful vocal arrangements. For instance, I’m also keen on “No One to Bear,” “The Great Indoors,” and “Feeling Cursed.” But get started with “More” – it’s the solid single.
Now go directly to Cape Cartel’s bandcamp page and download this album. They’re offering it up as a ‘pay what you want’ but it’s worth full price.