American Soft, Cheap Shades, Chris Staples, Golden Age, Goodman, Isn't It Sad, Square America, The Top Boost, Twins, What We Want
Twins were a first for me. Their publicist sent me a blurb and link to their latest release in advance of its drop date, asking me to have a listen. I’m glad I did. Hailing from the bustling burb of Waterloo Iowa, Twins have a great pockrock feel, channeling a super new wave vibe on their first album, 2014’s Tomboys on Parade, particularly on “Tomboy.” By 2016 their Kiss of Life EP had a sweet melodic 1960s pop single in “This Time.” But their new album Square America takes all these various influences and kicks it up a notch on such great songs as “Breakin’ Up” and “Take That Gurl.”
Power Pop Square turned me on to Vancouver’s The Top Boost and not long after Powerpopaholic wrote about them in glowing terms. The hype is genuine – this band has got something special going on, combining classic mid-1960s guitars with spacey 1980s vocals. “What if She Loves You” is a classic sounding single, with chiming guitars and great vocals.
A casual and inattentive listen might have you thinking that Chris Staples is just another LoFi drifter, with a few more hooks to offer. But there is some serious genius going on in his multiple releases over the past decade. Staples spent a number of years rocking out with bands like TwoThirtyEight and Grand Canyon before embarking on his present, more mellow solo career. What I love about Staples’ work is the casual poetry of his arrangements. His songs are deceptively simple in conception and execution.
“Relatively Permanent” from his most recent Golden Age combines a distinctive electric guitar line, acoustic guitar, haunting background vocals, and Staples own dry folky vocal delivery. “Cindy, Diana, Janet and Wanda” from the 2015 EP Cheap Shades demonstrates Staples’ talent for imaginative lyrics that gel with his music in a way that appears completely free of artifice. The guitar lick opening is so casually addictive, the distant harmonica so evocative, that when the lyrics come in they are surprisingly and similarly melodic. The lyrics really are brilliant for their ordinary complexity: “How could I forget Diana, she moved here from Gary, Indiana” or “She left me for a married professor, extra credit for letting him undress her.” “Dark Side of the Moon” from 2014’s American Soft has a lovely swinging acoustic guitar base and a sweet love sentiment. “Cincinnatti” from his 2011 EP Faces sees Staples shifting from a great swinging electric guitar line to lyrics that match the swing. And there is much more discover this Pensacola, Florida native on sites like Bandcamp.
Michael Goodman, who goes by just Goodman on his recordings, is one of those amazingly talented young men. Bandcamp features some pretty impressive and catchy demos from the 13-year-old version of Goodman, talent that only blossomed in later years. Things really start to come together on Goodman’s 2012’s release, What We Want, with the infectious single “Night Person” and the great title track. 2014’s Isn’t it Sad has many highlights but “Blue Eyed Girl” stands out for its killer chorus. Since then there has been a succession of quality singles like 2015’s “Telegram Girl” and 2016’s “Shallow.” Goodman has all the poprock chops, a solid foundation in 1950s and 1960s song structures, but funneled through late twentieth century sensibility.
Twins, The Top Boost, Chris Staples and Goodman exist in this digital world of MP3s but also have a real corporeal existence – and that requires dollars on the barrelhead, or whatever passes for currency in your neck of the world. Pay them a visit, pay them some cash …