Shamelessly exploit an emerging health crisis for some weak blog tie-in? Not our style friends. Think of this as a public service, designed to distract you from the impending end of the world as we know it. As someone once said, if we’re going to have to go, we might as well go out singing!
Not that we should get too excited. Phoebe Bridgers captures a bit of the aura of impending doom that’s all about on her low key but catchy “Motion Sickness.” By contrast, The Popravinas “Almost Sick” almost sounds celebratory in a country ‘my truck died’ sort of way. KC Bowman’s crew of musical friends also have a timely tune in their Preoccupied Pipers guise with the sprightly “Sick Time.” On the other hand, Swedish/German duo It’s a Musicalget right to the point with the quirky “The Music Makes Me Sick” (disclaimer: no music on this site will actually make you sick). Another KC Bowman vehicle is the cleverly named Stik Pinz and they sound positively blissed out to get some “Medical Time.” Well, who wouldn’t, under our present circumstances? Can I get a doctor? That might be what Chris Von Sneidern is saying on “Doctor.” Then again, the album is called Big White Lies so who knows. It’s a lovely song and that’s all my prescription guarantees. The Lolas get a little more specific with “Doctor Apache” and they’ve pretty’d up their usual rocking sound with some lovely jangly guitar argpeggiations. Juliana Hatfield has turned out so many great, underappreciated LPs. Like Pussycat, with its topical “I Wanna Be Your Disease.” Working the Americana side of the poprock street, The River and the Road layer in the banjo to earworm up their thematic contribution, “Strange Disease” and it works! Just the musical cure we’re looking for. And for the wrap, how about some Bill Lloyd from his fab 2018 album, Working the Long Game in the form of “What Time Won’t Heal.” Hopefully, if our preparations were effective, you’ve been toe-tapping your way to distraction and forgot all about … what was that news headline?
Chris Von Sneidern – DoctorLolas – Doctor ApacheThe River and the Road – Strange DiseaseBill Lloyd – What Time Won’t Heal
Time to pull together people. Even as we practice some social distancing to survive in the days and weeks ahead, we can always let the music bring us together. Click the links above and bring some money-joy to our performers as they tart up their quarantine quarters, er, I mean, wherever they call home!
Bobby Fuller’s untimely death in 1966, just as his career was taking off, deprived popular music of his unique Buddy Holly-meets-British Invasion sound and clear songwriting promise. Case in point: “Let Her Dance,” an ear-wormy, hook-rich masterpiece. The song contains a brilliant juxtaposition of musical tensions that pull between the beat, lead guitar line, vocal melody, and some inspired background- vocal counterpoint. No wonder it’s been covered by countless bands, each choosing to balance the competing elements in somewhat different and intriguing ways. Today’s post explores that variety with a “Let Her Dance”-a-thon. Get your dancing shoes ready!
Where to start? With The Bobby Fuller Four, of course. Though here fans may not know that “Let Her Dance” was actually a rewrite of an earlier Fuller release, “Keep On Dancing.” IMHO the rewrite improves things considerably but compare for yourself below. Now, confession time: the first version of LHD I heard was actually by Marshall Crenshaw from his 1989 Warner’s swan song album, Good Evening. Marshall is a huge Fuller fan, describing him as his “favourite rock star ever to be murdered by gangsters.” More seriously though, at a South by Southwest Bobby Fuller panel session, Crenshaw called the group “…one of the great rock ‘n’ roll bands,” insisting “[t]hey did what they did with so much conviction and energy. Those guys really knew what Fender guitars were for.” In addition to LHD, Crenshaw has covered Fuller’s “Julia,” “My True Love,” and “Never To Be Forgotten.” And Crenshaw’s LHD is a loving homage, fattening up the opening guitar, spacing out the vocal parts, and adding a nice echo-y bit to the bridge. Compared to the original, all that’s missing is Fuller’s heavenly wall-of-background-vocals.
Bobby Fuller Four – Let Her DanceBobby Fuller – Keep On DancingMarshall Crenshaw – Let Her Dance
Crenshaw’s wasn’t the first cover of LHD, not by a long shot. The first I could find was from Eddy Grant’s 1960s interracial British band, The Equals, from their 1967 album, Explosion. Grant changed lyrics and tempo, smoothing out Fuller’s frenetic pacing, giving the tune a more laid back vibe. The seventies would also put its stamp on LHD when The Spitballs, a Beserkley label house band consisting of various members of the Modern Lovers, Greg Kihn Band, Earth Quake and the Rubinoos, gave it a refreshing ‘spirit of 1978’ back-to-rock-and-roll-basics treatment. The eighties saw a host of LHD covers see the light of day, starting with Phil Seymour from his killer debut album, the self-titled Phil Seymour. Released as a follow up single to the poprock smash, “Precious to Me,” Seymour’s cover of LHD showcased his uncanny ability to add something new to other people’s songs. His version had jaunty guitar, pumping piano, handclaps and, of course, his own special vocal stylings in what amounted to a new wave, powerpop reinvention of the song. Taking things in a punkier direction, Teenage Head indie-fied LHD with their rockier take from their 1986 album Trouble in the Jungle. Linda Rondstad’s 1960s backing band, Swampwater, produced a cool southern fried rock cover of LHD in the late 1970s but the group’s Reunion album didn’t see release until 1987.
The EqualsThe SpitballsTeenage HeadSwampwater
The 1990s were a less fertile LHD-cover terrain – I couldn’t find a single version! But all that changed with the new millennium. Changes in recording technology and music delivery costs meant that artists could experiment a bit more, offering up more covers. The Incredible Casuals, Bill Lloyd and The Terrible Noises all offered up great poprock treatments of the song while others strayed into related genres, with Los Super Seven adding latin touches to Fuller’s texas rockabilly sound, Joe Goldmark and Keta Bill provided a straight up retro country treatment, and The Vikings barrelled through in classic Ramones-revivalist style. Meanwhile, others pushed the boundaries of LHD conventions. Musical iconoclast George Elliott took a very creative approach, almost sounding like The Folkmen from The Mighty Wind mockumentary while The Very Most messed with the traditional instrumentation and background vocals in a most enjoyable way.
The Incredible CasualsBill LloydThe Terrible NoisesLos Super SevenJoe Goldmark and Keta BillThe VikingsGeorge ElliottThe Very Most
Of course, why limit yourself to this one great song, albeit delivered in 17 fabulous flavours? There’s plenty more Bobby Fuller to go around. Keep the Fuller poprock legacy alive and check out his impressive back catalogue today.
I’m not really an album guy. Particularly now in our ‘download-any-song-you-want-era’. I grew up on compilation albums and AM radio. It was all singles, singles singles: a new sound every three minutes. A whole album is just a vinyl horizon for my needle dropping. But I have to say this year I got hooked on more than a few long players. What grabbed me? I could say it was the songwriting, a coherent sonic palette, the performative ingenuity, etc. But hey, who am I kidding? It was mostly the hooks. Fair warning: there is considerable overlap of artists here with my should-be hit singles list (duh) but not entirely. Bottom line: you won’t go wrong putting your cash down on these LPs in toto.
So, here are Poprock Record’s 20 must-have LPs for 2018:
Best ‘best of’ compilation: KC BowmanImportant with a Capital I; Best covers album: Tommy and RocketsI Wanna Be Covered; Special merit award: Super 8T-T-Technicolour Melodies, Turn Around Or …, HI LO
Edging out Daisy House’s fantastic Bon Voyage by a hair, my number one album for 2018 is Aaron Lee Tasjan’s Karma for Cheap. The more I listened to this record, the more I loved the songs and the performances. There is something extraordinary in just how Tasjan combines his elements. He’s got rumbly guitar, he’s got jangly guitar. His vocals run the gamut from Tom Petty-solid to Roy Orbison-aching tenderness. There’s not a weak cut here, but pay special attention to subtle hooky vocal interplay on “Heart Slows Down,” or the driving guitar hook behind “End of the Day,” or the touching “Dream Dreamer.” You won’t steer wrong with his back catalogue either, particularly 2016’s Silver Tears! There is so much I could say about all 20 albums but frankly the music speaks for itself. Click the links to go directly to the band’s bandcamp, Facebook or webpages.
One final word: I had to single out Super 8’s stupendous triple album accomplishment this year for special attention. After a two-decade career in rock and roll that can only be described as cinematic in its litany of seeming breakthroughs, bad luck, record company shenanigans and some bandmate’s bad faith, these albums are a vindication of his resolve to stick with music. Each record is finely crafted portrait of late 1960s summertime sunshine poprock. Your time machine back to 1968 is ready for boarding! Just hit play.
Let’s make 2019 another great year for poprock – buy these albums, get out to some concerts, and tell your friends about these great finds.
2018 was a freakin’ fantastic year for poprock! How do I know? Every year-end I put together a playlist of tunes released that year. In 2016 it consisted of 58 songs clocking in at just over 3 hours. By 2017 that list expanded to 98 songs running over 5 hours. This year the list exploded to 175 songs going on for over 9 hours! My list of should-be hit singles had to expand to a top 50 just to accommodate all this talent. Hit the links below to find each artist as featured in my original blog post this past year or to go to their bandcamp or Facebook page if I didn’t write them up.
So, without further ado, here is Poprock Record’s should-be hit singles for 2018:
For the second year running Daisy House tops my list of should-be hit singles. I have simply run out of superlatives to describe the musical genius of this band. Great songwriting, a killer 1960s vibe, flawless production and performance – it just doesn’t get any better than this. Do yourself a favour and head over to Bandcamp to download their whole catalogue. Oberon Rose came a close second with what must be one of the coolest singles rolled out this year. Ruler ruled my playlist for a good part of 2018, with “Unhindered Place” just one of the great songs on his album. I love the way William Duke’s guitar sounds like a jangle waterfall on his hooky masterpiece “Carole and Silver Screen.” And Aaron Lee Tasjan is a real find – so many possible selections – but more on that with my upcoming ‘20 must-have LPs for 2018’ post. I could go on … (but click on the links to get the full story).
I hope you enjoy these fifty songs enough to click on over to some of the artists’ web real estate and help them along career-wise. 2019 promises to be another hungry year for many of these mostly struggling artists – so do your part: buy their music and go see them live when they come to your town.
It’s melody central today on Around the Dial. The station appears to be just stuck on hooks. But that’s OK.
Just getting around to raving about last spring’s hottest poprock release, Starbelly’s Four. I’ve raved about Starbelly member Cliff Hillis’ catalogue before but I have to say, there is nothing like putting a whole bunch of really talented guys together to get even more amazing results. As an album, Four is a strong hook-filled jaunt clearly influenced by the Beatles, solo McCartney, Squeeze and all those others great melodic groups, with a few surprises. I’m digging the low key melodic swing of “Lay Low” and the staccato groove of “Yes, I Love Her Again” with it’s great lead lines and background vocals. “Emily Says” sounds very mid-period Squeeze to me. “Jesus Freak” starts very pop psychedelic Beatles but then throws in a Billy Joel melodic twist in the verses while “Antidote” I swear is a great lost Aimee Mann deep cut.
Yes I’ll Love Her AgainJesus FreakAntidote
Seems everybody is loving Bill Lloyd’s new record Working the Long Game and I am no exception. I’ve really liked the few songs I stumbled on from his past work and only just figured out he was one half of the amazing country pop duo Foster and Lloyd! But this new album is something else, solid all the way through. “Satellite” is the killer hit single material, at least on my poprock radio station. It’s got the chorus that hooks you in and keeps you waiting for it to come around again. “What Time Won’t Heal” has a very cool late 1960s folk pop vibe. The album also clearly channels some Elvis Costello-isms on “Til the Day that I Break Down” and “Interrupted” while “Miracle Mile” and “Shinning” had me feeling very Marshall Crenshaw. And then “Yesterday” is just brilliant rocked up pop in a Matthew Sweet sort of way. All this name-dropping is just my way of saying, this guy’s got the poprock goods.
SatelliteTil The Day That I Break DownMiracle Mile
Last up a band I discovered commuting between Toronto and Peterborough, Ontario in 2005, Van Go. “Dear You” (from that year’s Pop Your Heart Out LP) just grabbed me like a good ear worm should. But after that I lost track of the band. That is, until their record company alerted me to the release of their latest full length release, Everybody Loves You When You’re Gone. I’m happy to report they’ve still got it! Things kicked off well with “I Wish I Could Be Grateful,” the obvious single with a great melodic hook in the chorus. It’s also great news that the band’s distinctive and addictive vocal attack is still in evidence here, particularly on tracks like “Miles Away” and “Tell Us How You Really Feel.” Title track “Everybody Loves You When You’re Gone” is also a winner melodically, while still delivered with some rocking muscle.