Alone at St. Hugo's, Bryan Estepa, Jim Basnight, Johan, Matthew Milia, Not Changing, Pull Up, Sometimes I Just Don't Know, The Stan Laurels
Hopefully the hits keep on coming with this September batch of recent single releases from these great artists. Jangle, 1960s rock and roll vocals, crunchy electric guitar lead lines and harmonies – it’s all here!
Jim Basnight is a rock and roll survivor, pounding it out for three decades in the Pacific Northwest, sometimes with The Moberly’s, sometimes just solo. Now he’s back with a new record, Not Changing, and it confirms his rock and roll bona fides. The backing band has the easy grace of a 1970-era low key Rolling Stones appearance while Jim vibes just a bit of Mick all over the record, but with particularly good effect on the winning “Best Lover in the World.” Some things really are best left unchanged. Dutch band Johan put out four albums of solid hooky jangle throughout the oughts but broke up in 2009. Somehow I missed their 2018 reunion album Pull Up and it’s killer single, “About Time,” but they’ve remained pretty unchanged too (and that’s a good thing). Reviewers float comparisons like the Byrds, Beatles and Crowded House but I hear a strong early to mid-period REM-y vibe vocals-wise and in the songwriting style. Jim Basnight – “Best Lover in the World”Johan – “About Time”
Heading down under, I loved the Beach Boys atmosphere of Bryan Estepa’s “Western Tale” from his 2006 release, All the Bells and Whistles. His new record departs from that formula, offering up a more rocky poprock record with Sometimes I Just Don’t Know. I’m fashioning a double A-sided single out of his official single “I’m Not Ready for This” and album track “Another Kind of Madness.” Both songs hit it out of the park in terms of loading the hooks and harmonies into three minute blasts of sonic goodness. Check out the masterful way Estepa effortlessly echoes the vocal melody line with electric guitar on “Another Kind of Madness.” Another strong release comes from Detroit native and Frontier Ruckus frontman Matthew Milia with his solo debut, Alone at St. Hugo’s. This release is another bastard child of the Beatles’ Rubber Soul with its acoustic guitar base and lush background vocals, as well as a nice dose of jangle on various cuts. There are so many great songs here (like the jangle heavy “Attention Students” or the winsome “Alive at the Same Time”). But “Abruptly Old and Caffeinated” caught my ear as the deserving single with its gently flowing Fountains of Wayne sunny disposition and clever wordplay.
Rounding out this season-changing bevy of singles is something new from The Stan Laurels. Hot on the heels of last year’s accolade-magnet of an album, Maybe, TSL’s John Lathrop returns with a new single that continues to push his musical boundaries. “Lost and Found” alternates between crunchy electric guitar lead line work and sweet sounding vocal harmonies to good effect and bodes well for Maybe’s follow up album.
Fall fashions don’t come cheap. Which is why a visit to Jim Basnight, Johan, Bryan Estepa, Matthew Milia, and The Stan Laurels online is definitely in order. Get clicking.
Idyllic fall photo courtesy Larry Gordon.