People write me. They tell me about their band and/or new single/album. And what is impressive is I nearly always end up writing about them. Eventually. Today I gather together a bunch of avid self-promoters whose songs you deserve to hear now.
David Woodard wrote me a while back about his great single and EP of the same name, I Used to Be Cool. I loved it! The single was a slick and catchy piece of popcraft and the EP had other great songs, including a pretty impressive cover of the Beatles’ “Help.” Meanwhile the Lego video for “I Used to be Cool” was hilarious! But somehow his release slipped from my view. Now he’s back with another EP and it is even more impressive. Everything in Between has some superior jangle pop with “We’re Not Coming Back,” a cracking holiday tune in “Waiting for Christmas,” and a nice cover of Nick Lowe’s brilliant “What’s So Funny About Peace, Love and Understanding.” But undoubtedly the standout track is the ready-for-chart-action single, “Nine Hundred Ninety Nine” with its unmistakable Matthew Sweet vibe. This guy is going places!
Edmonton calling with our next artist, Breakfast in America. Their name is taken from an English band’s best-selling album ever but their sound is self-described as ‘California surf grunge’. Confused? Check out the tunes themselves for clarity here and find some harmony-laden poprock gems – more laid back Tom Petty-meets-1970s California melody-rich rock and roll. Love their first single “Santa Fe” from 2017 and their follow up 2019 EP Side Hustle doesn’t disappoint either.
Next up a man that claims to “write songs for today’s audience like it’s 1965” and that about sums it up. On his debut LP Straighten Up Johnathan Pushkar ferries across the Mersey with considerable confidence on tracks like “The Girl Next Door” and “Isabella,” though there’s more than a little That Thing You Do and Fountains of Wayne here too (particularly on his note perfect cover of FOW’s “Hackensack”).
Spokane native Ben Vogel rounds out this letter bag with tracks from his debut album Whistling After Midnight. On his website Vogel describes his inspiration as Marshall Crenshaw, XTC, Squeeze and the Beatles and I’m like ‘hold up there, that’s four of my top ten acts all of time!’ I am so ready to love this. What Vogel offers is actually more distinctive, adding a strong 1970s soft rock and pop sensibility to the aforementioned influences. You can really hear it on “Leave This Town,” “Early Morning Hours,” and country-inflected “I Hope You’re Happy Now.” But the star moment here is “Cassidy” with its hooky guitar work and twist and turn melody. Very 1981, in a good way.