Around the dial: Raveis Kole, The Hangabouts, Eyelids, and EZTV

Tags

, , ,

radio dialAs 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.

Raveis Kole, The Hangabouts, Eyelids, and EZTV are all out there, just waiting to become somebody’s new favourite band. Will you answer the call?

Should be a hit single: Essex Green “Don’t Know Why (You Stay)”

Tags

, ,

Essex GreenEssex Green is band that seemed to come to the brink of stardom only to disappear. Their third album, 2006’s Cannibal Sea, was widely praised by critics and built on their growing fan base. They seemed well placed to take off. Then nothing. In a recent interview with Pop Matters, one of the band’s lead singers, Sasha Bell, attributed it to just life intervening in that surprising and disruptive way it can. “Don’t Know Why (You Stay)” features Essex Green’s other lead vocalist, Chris Zita, and is a slow burn of a hit single, building from a very low key opener that only really accelerates in the chorus with some nice Byrdsian and Mama and Papas vocal touches. But wait for the instrumental interlude – it’s a 1960s museum tour of great sounds like backward masked sounding organ and some trebly guitar.

On the good news front, Essex Green are working on a new album right now. Put your name down to hear what they come up with at their Facebook page or explore their back catalogue on Bandcamp.

Songcrafters: Jonathan Rundman and Cliff Hillis

Tags

, , , , , , , , , ,

benchThe songcrafter is an artist within the art form, a creator with a particular aptitude for inhabiting any style. They can and do write across genres. And they typically produce a lot of stuff. Here we focus on just two brilliant songcrafters.

JR1Jonathan Rundman is a totally original artist. He comes from a place few of us can readily identify with – growing up in a remote rural Finish-American religious community – and it gives him a unique way of seeing rest of us. His music is infused with a kind of topical spirituality, an assumption of our ultimate interconnectedness, but it is so subtly in the mix that it doesn’t grate the way so much Christian popular music does. This is evident in songs like “Daniel and Peter and Thomas” which is just a great poprock song or even in the more obviously churchy “This is my Commandment,” which pulls off the Christian insight but not at the expense of the song.

JR 2Over a 25 year recording career Rundman has crafted an enormous body of work. His Bandcamp page has 24 different entries and one gets the sense from the write ups that this just scratches the surface of his total recorded output. So where to start? His latest release might be good: Reservoir is a 22 song compilation spanning his whole career and it is chock full of cleverly crafted poprock and Americana songs. A definite highlight is “Librarian” originally from his 2004 release, Public Library. Nice electric 12 string opener gives way an acoustic-based strummy sound which breaks out into a very dreamy chorus – a perfectly crafted single. Or an older compilation from 2007, 20 songs from the 20th Century, would also be a good jumping off point. Here the range goes from the rootsy “Front Show at the Fashion Show” to the Beatlesque “Read the Signs” to the observational poprock of Fountains of Wayne on “Grace is Crying her Eyes Out.”

JR3Or there is Lost Songs, yet another compilation, this time bringing together a host of songs from various out-of-print Rundman albums. “I’ve Got a Problem” breaks open with a more conventional rock and roll sound but quickly resolves into something more poppy with some nice fattened up vocals. Meanwhile “Johnny Horton” pays tribute to the great country artist in a style reminiscent of Peter Case. Another Rundman compilation brings together songs he’s recorded over the years with his cousin Bruce Rundman. Here songs range from the lovely folkie “Omaha” to the more poprock “Nancy Drew.” I have two more songs I’m totally loving from JR: “Second Shelf Down” from his 2015 release Look Up, a wonderfully crafted single, and the tantalizingly brief and Fountains of Wayne-ish “Minneapolis” from 2000’s Sound Theology. It should be obvious by now, you can start just about anywhere with Rundman and come up with some pretty great tunes.

Dream_Good_coverWhen I first discovered power pop blogs on the internet one artist seemed to be featured everywhere: Cliff Hillis. They just couldn’t get enough of him. There didn’t seem to be enough superlatives to capture what he was doing. I had to check this guy out. And then I heard “Keep the Blue Skies” from 2012’s Dream Good. Now I was choked up with superlatives! The song is a calculated pop masterpiece: the roll out is perfection, the guitars and piano come in as if under some conductor’s direction, but then the vocal kicks in and the hooks multiply – poprock bliss. The lead guitar work is pure Marshall Crenshaw in his prime. The whole record is great, particularly “Sing it Once Again” and “Start Again.”

CH2In catching up with his catalogue there are just so many highlights. 2001’s Be Seeing You kicked off his solo career, featuring a slew of great songs, particularly the hooky “Me and You.” Sadly, the record is not widely available. 2004’s Better Living Through Compression mixed up the sound, with poppy tracks like “Home,” the more surging rocking of “Go Go Go,” and the languid pop of “All These Memories.” The Long Now from 2008 sounds a bit more power pop, very Matthew Sweet at times, on songs like “She Sees” and “Like an Island” but at other points the record exudes a 1970s soft rock vibe, as on “Follow You Anywhere.”

CH4Since 2014 Hillis has focused on releasing EPs rather than albums and in more rapid succession than his previous releases. 2014’s Song Machine opens with the lovely strummy ”Dashboard,” a subtle bit of dark pop that builds ever so slowly. The EP also contains the alt-country tinged “Tonight,” a song I could easily hear the Jayhawks covering. 2016’s Love Not War opens with its title track and it is a brilliantly arranged pop confection, with wonderfully distinctive choices on the instrumentation. I also love the piano and country-folk pacing on “Don’t Drown the Wind” and the late 1970s polished pop sound of “A Boy Downtown.”

CH3All of which brings us to Hillis’ latest EP, the just released Many Happy Returns. In many ways, it marks a distillation of all his many interests and influences: 1980s poprock (“Many Happy Returns”), 1970s soft rock (“Superfluous”), a bit of 1990s indie rock (“Time an Evangelist”), and 1960s Beatles (“Hey Pretty Face”). Again there is just so much that is good here, it’s hard to single something out. But pressed, I would choose the amazing “Never in a Million Years,”: a solid poprock gem with a great hooky guitar opening and some nice organ. And all this just scratches the surface of Hillis’ output – check out his Soundcloud page for a host of demos, unreleased original material, and covers.

Songcrafters are marked by their ability to write in many different styles, to work up a song in a chameleon-like way to inhabit different sub-genres of music. Both Jonathan Rundman and Cliff Hillis fit this bill effortlessly. Start exploring their impressive catalogues online now.

Welcome to Daisy House

Tags

, , , , , ,

DH cutJust stepped out the Tardis, back from a quick trip to San Francisco circa 1967 and I could swear I heard Daisy House blasting out of some greasy spoon on the Castro. They’re that authentic. Welcome to Daisy House. If you love Joni Mitchell, the Mamas and Papas, the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, or Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, then you are going to want to stay awhile. I went to their bandcamp site to download just a few choice cuts but ended up buying it all – they’re that good. It’s not just that they emote a particularly addictive blend of 1960s folk rock + killer harmony vocals, the songwriting is also first class. Daisy House are a father and daughter duo, Doug and Tatiana Hammond, with dad writing and playing on nearly all the songs while both provide vocals. Over four albums, they have developed their clear influences into an impressive body of work.

DH 1The debut is simply 2013’s Daisy House. The basic formula is here: twelve string acoustic and electric guitars, a celtic twist in the songwriting, with vocals reminiscent of Joni Mitchell (on “Ready to Go” and “Cold Ships”), the Mamas and Papas (on “Two Sisters”), and Richard and Linda Thompson (on “The Bottle’s Red”). The Byrdsian influence is particularly strong with dad’s vocal on “Statue Maker.” 2014’s Beaus and Arrows reproduces the ambience of the debut, with a few new surprises, like a very early solo Paul Simon atmosphere on the Salinger-inspired “Raise the Roof Beam Carpenter.” I agree with Don over at I Don’t Hear a Single, the first two albums draw heavily on 1960s British and American folk idioms.

WMThings break out in new directions with 2016’s Western Man. There is an eerie mystery to the musical ambiance of the opening track, “Lilac Man,” that signals a significant stylistic shift. “Yellow Moon Road” expands the duo’s palette to include more 1960s garage rock sounds, particularly some cool organ. And the songs are amazing. “Like a Superman” has a clear Mamas and Papas stamp, “She Comes Running to Me” is lathered with great harmonies, while “Twenty One” opens with a deliberate homage to “When You Walk in the Room” before branching into its own original sound. But the album’s highlight is undoubtedly the hit single-worthy “The Boulevard.” You can just hear Mama Cass belting it out while the Wrecking Crew provides the crisp, swinging backdrop – except that it is not those amazing performers, it is these amazing performers: Daisy House.

DH CRThis year’s Crossroads is another breakthrough for the duo, putting their sound more solidly on the rock side of folk rock. On “Languages” Tatiana sounds like a young Chrissie Hynde. This is the hit single, but there are many more highlights. The title track, “Crossroads,” has some Tom Petty Wildflowers-era bite while “Leaving the Star Girl” ramps up the Byrds influences. Dad is featured vocally on the evocative Paul Simon-esque, acoustic-based “Pristy Lee” and the more Byrdsian “The Girl Who Holds My Hand,” both strong songs and performances. But the highlights for me, beyond the obvious single (“Languages”), are two Tatiana vocals, the Kate Bush-like atmosphere on the beautiful and haunting vocal of “Albion” as well as the more Chrissie Hynde delivery of “Night of the Hunter.”

Daisy House are a fully formed artistic wonder, inspired by the electric folk music and harmonies of the 1960s but entirely their own thing in terms of original material and performance. Visit them online, buy their music, see them live, now.

Guitars to the front: Poole, Travoltas, Genes, The Ivins, Odd Robot and Terry Malts

Tags

, , , , ,

guitar and ampSome bands throw their guitars to the front of mix or offer up some hooky guitar lick that drives the song. This post features songs from bands where the guitar attack is a key part of the charm but none take up the challenge in quite the same way.

PoolePoole’s “Supermerica” blasts open with a guitar storm not unlike more than few singles from Fountains of Wayne but the vocals have more of a Bob Mould solo tinge. The band put out three albums in the 1990s but didn’t really take off, sadly, as their 1995 debut Alaska Days is fantastic and features this song. The Travoltas drop into “I’m Sorry” with crunchy load of rhythm guitar before settling into a great poprock sound that the Dutch seem to have patented in recent years with bands like this one and Tommy and the Rockets. TravoltasThis song has nice of dose of Beach Boys harmony about two-thirds of the way through, not surprisingly given this 2002 album title is Endless Summer. The band’s most recent album, Until We Hit the Shore, continues to mine this beach-infused party punk sound. GenesAustralia’s Genes or The Genes (depending on the recording) make their acoustic guitars jump out of the speakers on tracks like “A Smile Will Do” and “I Know.” Our featured track is from their 1995 record, Buy a Guitar, and the whole record is pretty consistently acoustic guitar dominant in ways you didn’t really think possible. Of the three bands, only the Travoltas seems serious about promoting their music online. You will search in vain for much info or a website for the other two.I’m SorryA Smile Will Do

IvinsOf the bands featured in this post, The Ivins probably most fit the bill of potential mainstream rock success with “Roam the World” from their new album, The Code Duello. Eclectic Music Lover put me on to them and this song rumbles into life with a killer echo-y guitar riff. The style is very old-school FM radio rock, less poprock, but the brothers who comprise the band have a killer harmony sound that ups the melody quotient at various points in the song. Odd RobotBy contrast, Odd Robot give off an indie vibe both in terms of their guitar sound but also their vocal style. I love how it all comes together on our featured song “Take With Two White Pills” from their recent album A Late Night Panic. The guitars and vocals are some great poprock, tweaked with just a hint of that discordant indie élan. Wrapping up this post is recovering noise punk band, Terry Malts. I say ‘recovering’ because the boys appear to be changing their stripes with this most recent single “It’s Not Me” but there are indications that old habits die hard.  Terry MaltsThe song opens with a crisp lead guitar line that loops around as the main hook of the tune while the vocals are bit more shoegaze. It’s a really great poprock single but it is about the only one in their extensive catalogue. Ok, I shouldn’t be greedy, one song is better than none. However, when I saw the band recently in Toronto even this song got the noise punk treatment.  Would love to see more songs in this vein from the band.

I didn’t find any internet sites for Poole or Genes but the Travoltas, Ivins, Odd Robot, and Terry Malts all make internet contact easy. I’ve only scratched the surface of what they offer here. Dig deeper.

Pitching Fastball

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

Fastball in TorontoAre you a fan of Fastball? If you love straight up rock and roll with a keen sense of melody, you should be. Fastball is another band that I somehow missed when they broke out in the 1990s and have only just discovered recently. Now when you mention Fastball to people they nearly always know “The Way” and that’s about it. Sure, it’s a great song but I’m not even sure it’s the best song on that album, let alone the defining moment of their career. This is band that just keeps getting better and better with each album release.

All_the_Pain_Money_Can_Buy_(Fastball_album_-_cover_art)Their debut album from 1996, Make Your Mama Proud, lays out the basic genius at work here. This is a band that gels solidly around the rock and roll combo fundamentals – solid beat, hooky lead guitar lines, and a generous helping of harmony vocals – captured nicely in the featured tune here, “Seattle.” Then came their breakout album, 1998’s All the Pain that Money Can Buy with its monster single “The Way.” Personally I prefer “Fire Escape,” “Slow Drag,” and the brilliant “Out of My Head.” The band followed up that hit album with The Harsh Light of Day, a record that really pushed the development of their sound melodically and sonically (let those guitars ring!), apparent on tracks like “Don’t Give Up On Me.” But audiences didn’t take to the new sound and sales fell off precipitously.

SeattleDon’t Give Up On Me

KYWOThe band pressed on in 2004 with what might be their greatest achievement, Keep Your Wig On. The songwriting on this record is amazing, with Petty-esque brilliance on tracks like “Perfect World,” and “Our Misunderstanding,” or the easygoing, almost Eagles-like confidence of “Someday” or “Mercenary,” or the Mexicali fun of “Red Light.” Five years later, Little White Lies took the band into a more melody-drenched direction and the should-be hits are many: check out the James Bond undercurrent to “Little White Lies,” the great swing of “Mono to Stereo,” or the nice Beatles’ touches and bouncy piano on “She’s Got the Rain.”

Perfect WorldOur MisunderstandingShe’s Got the Rain

Step into lightFast forward to 2017 and Fastball are back after an absence of eight years with what I am prepared to boldly declare may be their best record yet: Step Into Light.  The record blasts off with “We’re On Our Way,” a rocking number with a few ELO flourishes on the keyboards. Vocals give way from the more rough-hewn Mike Zuniga to the oh-so-smooth Tony Scalzo on the next track, “Best Friend,” a song that screams hit single with its propulsive, driving hookiness. Other candidates for hit single include the Beatlesque “I Will Never Let You Down” (with its great video!) and the very catchy “Just Another Dream.” The care in choosing the instrumental mix on this record is impressive. Check out the nice guitar bits on “I Will Never Let You Down” that echo George Harrison’s simple and straightforward guitar lines on a host of mid-career Beatles records. Or the jaunty acoustic guitar that anchors “Behind the Sun,” clearly an homage to McCartney’s felicitous picking on tunes like “Mother Nature’s Son.” I could go on. Suffice to say, there isn’t a bum track here – if you like one song, you’re going to want the whole album.

Best FriendBehind the SunJust Another Dream

So that’s my pitch for Fastball, your soon-to-be favourite new/old rock and roll group. I say, buy their records and see them on tour this summer. Get started at Fastball’s internet real estate for all the details.

Top photo credit: Fastball live in Toronto, June 11, 2017 at the Danforth Music Hall.

Meet the Feltworths

Tags

, , , ,

Fetlwroth bandThey’re Feltworth, actually, a puppet band with a plausible backstory and a couple (literally) of killer tunes. The whole concept is brilliant and funny but what aces the deal is that the music is no joke. If they sound a lot like Canadian indie poprockers Sloan, well that’s just the rumour mill for you. Here’s the pitch: Feltworth, a quartet of cat felt puppets (another fab four, though here ‘fab’ is short for fabric) allegedly have been working the kids music scene for years but now have turned their back on the tots for more adult fare. You can get the whole elaborate and amusing story in a recent interview with Ion magazine or watch a kind of ‘making of’ Feltworth video here. If you’re the obsessive kind the Feltworth Films site has 15 different videos showcasing their adventures in a Sesame Street segment sort of way.

Now, you may stop here for the novelty but you will stay for the tunes. “Forget This Feeling” is pure Sloan, with chugging guitars, searingly sweet harmony vocals and hooks galore, while “You Turn Me On” is a nice acoustic-based bit of pop fun. Power pop and poprock fans will rejoice when these guys turn this project into a full blown album. But touring could prove a challenge.

Feltworth have a website and Facebook page – you can meet the Feltworths there.

Spotlight single: Los Straightjackets “Rollers Show”

Tags

, , ,

LosStraitjacketsInstrumentals are the original cross cultural phenomena. Not just because they overcome the language barrier in an increasingly global world, but also because they tend to be the first bridge crossed by generationally divided tastes. Back in the 1950s and 1960s, albums of often tepid instrumentals introduced Elvis and the Beatles to an aging record buying public brought up on swing bands and Frank Sinatra. Rock and roll was too noisy for them but the hooks proved too much to ignore. Radio stations offering ‘easy listening’ formats of contemporary songs done in an instrumental style were a popular addition to elevators and doctors’ offices everywhere by the 1970s. Then with the explosion of California beach and car culture in the early 1960s instrumentals became a thing in rock and roll too. Today, its an established sub-genre.

losstraitjackets-whatssofunnyaboutpeaceloveandlosstraitjackets-cover-1-1Which brings us to this fabulous interpretation of Nick Lowe’s 1975 throw away tribute to the Bay City Rollers, “Rollers Show.” For Nick, the song was largely a contractual obligation effort, a way to cynically cash in on the teenybopper love of all things BCR at the time and fulfill his contract with United Artists records.  But even knock offs from Nick can still showcase his songwriting magic, lovingly teased out in this rendition from the hilarious, over-the-top instrumental group Los Straightjackets. The band has produced a whole album of Nick covers and they are not merely knock offs. Each song is creatively reinterpreted, sometimes in boldly different ways (check out their languid version of “Cruel to be Kind” as an example).  The first single was a great version of “Peace, Love and Understanding” but my current faves are “All Men Are Liars,” “I Live on a Battlefield,” and, most of all, “Rollers Show,” which really is the standout track here in my view. The album cover is pretty cool too – a riff on Lowe’s Jesus of Cool album with Nick himself featured prominently. Rollers Show

What’s So Funny About Peace Love And Los Straitjackets is out now. Find out more about this and their other fine recordings as well as their current tour with Marshall Crenshaw here.

The doctored poprock of Leisure McCorkle

Tags

, ,

LeisureI love unusual life stories. Like Charlotte, North Carolina’s Leisure McCorkle. William ‘Lee’ McCorkle is Leisure McCorkle, the band and its larger than life leader, songwriter, guitar player and vocalist, with help from some occasional band members. In 1997 he launched his recording career with the largely homemade EP Nappy Superstar. Since then he’s released another EP and three albums, only two of which are available digitally. The wrinkle in McCorkle’s story is that he took a break in his rock and roll career to get a PhD in evolutionary and cognitive psychology and do the professor thing. But that didn’t stop him from roaring back in 2016 with another killer album after a break of thirteen years!  Most attention on the internet focuses on his 2003 release Jet Set Baby and the more recent 5000 Light Years Beyond the Speed of Sound, the only recordings readily available to music consumers. Hopefully the rest of his back catalogue will cross the digital divide soon, but in the interim our focus will be on these two releases as well.

Jet Set BabyJet Set Baby is 44 minutes of blistering rock and roll fun. Internet reviewers have rightly highlighted the nods to the early new wave sound of Joe Jackson, Elvis Costello and Graham Parker, with a healthy dollop of early Cars guitar crunch and some very creative keyboards. But the influences are always reminiscent, never derivative, in part because the songwriting and execution are so strong. Check out the languid, chorus pedal-drenched guitar opener of “Does She Really Know?” before it segues into some great hooks. Or the transition from spare electric guitar to anthem-like chorus on “Like That.” McCorkle does slow things down occasionally on nice tracks like “100%” and “Dissin’ You” but mostly the record rocks out with hook-filled masterpieces like “This Girl,” the swinging “Alcohol,” and achingly sweet “Blum’s Lullaby.”  These are should-be hits by any measure.Does She Really Know?AlcoholBlum’s Lullaby

5000 LYNow fast forward past a decade of building an academic career to when McCorkle decided to return to his first love in 2016 with the release of 5000 Light Years Beyond the Speed of Sound. The first thing you notice on “Warehouse,” the opening track, is a little less vocal edge, a little less urgency in hitting the rock and roll marks. Here McCorkle is willing to let the sonic effect wash over the listener a bit more, at least until the lead guitar comes in near the end with a slightly edgy but still melodic flourish.  “Transmission” sounds a bit late 1970s pop to me a la the California sound. “Acting Like a Friend of Mine” reminds me a bit of some of Springsteen’s more recent melody-heavy poprock releases while “Turn It Up” harkens a bit more back to his earlier material. One of the standout tracks is “Ghost Angeles” with its lovely vocal arrangement and strongly acoustic backdrop, very Teenage Fanclub-esque, as is the album’s closer “The Loneliest I’ve Ever Been.”WarehouseActing Like a FriendGhost Angeles

So this review is no ‘revise and resubmit’ recommendation. The professor’s musical publications are highly citation worthy! You can catch up on the musical side of Dr. McCorkle’s career at his website here.

Around the dial: Ginger Wildeheart, Sunday Sun, Umm, Spirit Kid, and Title Tracks

Tags

, , , ,

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.

GWI 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.”

SSI 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

UmmFrom 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.

To my romeoMystery 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!

TT LDLong 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.

Visiting Ginger Wildeheart, Sunday Sun, Umm, Spirit Kid, and Title Tracks online has never been easier. Just click on the links.