Welcome to our sixth annual collection of should-be hit singles gathered from the artists, albums and tunes featured on Poprock Record in the previous year. You’d think after five tries I would have come up with some kind of rock solid science to make these choices. But, no. Still winging it, going with whatever takes my fancy. I mean, I think you’ll see a pattern: catchy guitar hooks, soaring melodies, earwormy compositions, all accomplished in three minutes or less usually. Putting this list together was particularly challenging this year – positively spoilt for choices! My initial list of possible songs had over 200 selections. The hyperlinks below will take you to the original post about each artist as they first appeared on the blog.
So let’s get to it, Poprock Record’s top 50 should-be hit singles for 2021:
This year’s list privileges strong, strong hooks. I’m talking the jangleliscious guitar work from the ever reliable Boys With The Perpetual Nervousness on “I Don’t Mind,” the relentless driving guitar riffs animating White Fang’s “Never Give Up,” or the delicious 1960s roll out kicking off The Vapour Trails’ “That’ll Do It.” Or the pumping, plinky piano and organ cocktail that undergirds James Holt’s killer single “Mystery Girl.” Then there’s the more traditional poprock Brent Seavers, springing the earworm in the chorus of “More Than a Friend.” Still, there’s room for variety on this list, from the tender acoustic Aaron Lee Tasjan ballad “Another Lonely Day,” to the Beach Boys homage in Daisy House’s “Last Wave Home,” to a folk rock duet from Steve Stoeckel and Irene Pena on “Why,” to the striking sonic heartbreak embodied in Richard X. Heyman’s touching “Ransom.”
Truly, this list is just a bit a fun, one more chance for me to shine a light on the artists whose work had me hitting replay in 2021. But I’m sure you might make different choices. Feel free to tell me all about them! Either way, don’t forget to find some way – buying music, attending live shows (when it’s safe!), or taking up those opportunities to interact with them online – to support their bottom line. They may not only be in it for the money, but money does allow them to stay in it.
Spring always comes a bit later than I reckon it should in my part of the geographical woods. But it is definitely here – at last – and that can only mean one thing: dance party. Even if I’m only dancing with myself I can still restock the singles bar with a load of exciting new singles!
The Fratellis have always been a bit off-the-beaten indie rock and roll track, utilizing uncommon, sometimes old-timey song structures. Their new album is no exception. Just one listen to title track “Half Drunk Under a Full Moon” had me hooked with its cinematic airy piano opening and striking lyrical imagery. I’m imagining my own b-side to that single would be “Lay Your Body Down,” a lovely throwback, could-be sing-a-long. Henry Chadwick is back with a new single “Tomorrow is Today,” a sleek modern slice of poprock. The song is so nicely put together, an effortless swirl of alternating sonic blasts of textured guitar and vocals, reminding me a bit of Ben Kweller and Mark Everett. A nice surprise arrived a few weeks back with a new single from Daisy House, a band on indefinite hiatus since 2018. “Last Wave Home” is what the band does best, evoking the magic of that mid-1960s California sun, sand and surf with a Beach Boys’ feel for melody and harmonies. The Go Go’s will be joining the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and rightly so, as their influence is unmistakable across a wide range of music and genders. I mean, check out Go Go’s vibe all over Hayley and Crushers rockin’ single, “Kiss Me So I Can.” The guitars are so Jane and Charlotte while the vocals really ace a Belinda delivery. And it’s a great tune as well. Major Murphy move in a new, darker direction with the title track on their new record Access. The song has an ominous undercurrent that is both hypnotic and catchy. The vocal harmonies that dominated their last album are back but put to slightly different harmonic purposes. The end result is captivating and unnerving, in a good way.
I’ve been remiss in getting something written about Girlatones. “One Chord Too Many” came out about a year ago but my philosophy is that it’s never too late to sing a single’s praises. The song is very guitar pop, a bit of Belle and Sebastion meets the Byrds. My choice for b-side would be the fantastic 1960s-emoting “2 Young 2 Forget,” written in a style reminiscent of all those songs the Rolling Stones gave away (e.g. “Too Much in Love”). The lead guitar is so spot on 1966 jangle! Seattle’s Silver Torches sneak up on us with “Love Someone,” a song that ambles along until it suddenly blasts off in the chorus, fattening up the vocals and the sense of emotional release. Very movie montage-ish, cue hero overcoming whatever is holding them back. Travel Lanes’ Frank Brown put out a nice little EP a few months back entitled This One’s For You. Low-key, unassuming, the songs are just delightful small group sketches. I’m particularly partial to the rollicking, jaunty “Summer,” with a vocal delivery that reminds me of Dan Israel. Robyn Gibson’s amazing Bob of the Pops cover albums series has worked its way up to volume 5 with no loss of momentum or quality. Basically, Gibson takes both classic and forgotten singles of 1960s and 1970s yesteryear and reworks them into a slightly different 1960s register from their original. For instance, his cover of Marmalade’s 1971 song “Cousin Norman” moves away from the country rock feel of the original, putting it into a late 1960s beat group style. The result is a fresh take that gives the song swing and puts the melody more up front. This next group initially caught my eye for their name. The Lousy Pop Group is just so disarming, beating crabby reviewers to the punch. But the LGP are not lousy at all. “When I’m With You” is a great piece of lofi jangle, combining a Smiths-ian songwriting feel with a more low-key vocal and guitar delivery.
This party could use a bit more no-holds-barred rocking out so to that end we turn now to Italy, of course. Seriously, there’s some superior gritty but melodic rock and roll coming out of that country lately and Hearts Apart embody that. “Waste Time” is driven by its rough and ready rhythm guitar work and some nice call and response vocals. The rest of their almost released EP, Number One to No One, is more of the good same. My local punk popsters, Toronto’s Talk Show Host, never fail to please. The new record is the stylishly designed Mid-Century Modern and the two advance singles back me up. “Blood in the Sand” dials down the punk in favour of flooring the pop pedal, with plenty of catchy ‘oh ohs’ to fuel some audience sing-along-ing. Chris Catalyst has some great crashing guitars contrasting his polished vocal harmonies on “Divide and Rule” from his latest LP Kaleidoscopes. Something very Revolver going on here, filtered through a 1980s British power pop filter. I love the flexibility of Chicago’s The Embryos. One minute they’re vibing the Bryds and Teenage Fanclub, the next they’ve got a Church-meets-The La’s thing going. With their new stand-alone single, “Rattlesnakes,” they seem to be defining their own unique synthesis of all these influences. The song also has some killer organ fills and lead guitar lines. Ryan Allen and his Extra Arms reliably churn out highly-listenable full-band rock and roll. But his most recent EP Digital Hiss includes a hypnotic, largely acoustic-guitar driven ditty “Can You Take My Thoughts Away.” The song uses an economy of words and instrumentation but still manages to deliver an Elliott Smith level of performative punch. The song has a tension that seems poised to break out of its low key shell at any moment, even though it holds its powder.
Nova Waves are an interesting band for a host of reasons. They live in three different countries, and thus must send tapes around the world so each member can add their own something to the mix. The results vary, from revivalist 1960s rock to carefully crafted indie pop. “Radio Sound” is from their new album Going the Distance and captures this range, with an Apples in Stereo pristine pop sound, punctuated with 1969 Beatles ‘la’s la’s’ and guitar embellishments. The Coralalso have a new album, Coral Island. I can’t decide my initial fave song, split between the obvious single “Change Your Mind” and the should-be sleeper hit “Vacancy” with its crazy good organ. There’s something very laid back 1970s California country rock mixed with The Zombies keyboard work all over this album. Johnathan Pushkar loves the Beatles and that influence is all over his new record Compositions. Yet with this outing he also moves more decisively into Fountains of Wayne territory with at least half the songs, particularly “Gonna Be Alright” where his phrasing and song structure is very Chris Collingwood. Another guy vibing a bit of FOW is David Woodard on this recent EP Butterfly Effect. It’s there on the opening to “the last word” but Woodard quickly takes the song in his own direction. The track has a low key hook so subtlely placed that its only on repeated listenings that it really gets into your head. Now, to wrap up, we’ll skip the vocals. A good instrumentals band makes it look so easy. You just replace the vocal melody with some twangy guitar right? But the magic is all in how you do that, the choice of guitar tone and timbre, how you lean into the melody line, the phrasing, etc. Nashville’s Los Straightjackets are the current masters of this genre and they showcase their considerable chops on an infectious reworking of The Hollies “Bus Stop.” Hard to add anything new to either the song or the original version but LS manage to cast some new light on the song’s melodic nuances. Magic stuff, for sure.
Twenty new should-be hits for your spring dancing playlist. Shake your tailfeather on over these bands’ internet locales and get better acquainted with they’ve got on offer beyond these great songs.
It’s been five years since I embarked on this mad journey: to write a music blog. I dithered over the decision to start one for a number of months. There’s nothing more pathetic than to start something with maximum fanfare and enthusiasm, only to have it flame out a half dozen posts later. The questions I had to ask myself were: (a) was there enough of ‘my kind’ of music to regularly post about, and (b) could I sustain the effort to get regular posts up on the blog? Well here’s the proof. In five years I’ve managed to produce 347 blogs posts. I’ve written more than 170,000 words about poprock tunes. And, most importantly, I’ve featured almost 1000 different artists. Guess the answers to (a) and (b) are both a resounding yes!
I think the biggest reason this blog thing has worked out for me is that it is such a great outlet for being creative and having fun with something that has always been pretty central to my life: music. I love doing all the mock serious regular features (e.g. Breaking news, Around the Dial, Should be a hit single) and coming up with goofy themes as a way to feature different artists (e.g. “Telephonic Poprock,” “Summer’s Coming,” and the Cover me! series. Sometimes I’ve pushed the posts in more serious directions (“Is That So Gay,” “Campaigning for Hooks,” and “Pandemic Poprock“) but only if the melodies and hooks were there in abundance. The blog has also allowed me to pay tribute to my musical heroes (Buddy Holly, The Beatles, The Zombies, Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, Marshall Crenshaw, Suzanne Vega, Aimee Mann). But, as regular readers know, such luminaries mostly appear as reference points to better help people get of a sense of what all these new acts are doing.
If you’ve just tuned in, I’m not assigning the past five years of posts as homework. Instead, I offer today’s anniversary post as a retrospective of what’s been happening here. I reviewed all 347 posts to pick out some choice examples of the range of styles I can cram under the rubrik of ‘poprock’. It wasn’t easy! My first go round produced a list of 118 songs. When I converted that to a playlist I got the number down to 81 tracks. Ack! Still too many. So I’ve broken things down into themes. This is not a ‘greatest hits’ or ‘best of’ Poprock Record. I’ve left out a lot of acts I really love. It’s just a representative sample of what goes on here, to borrow some lingo from my day job. Click on the highlighted band names to go to the original posts on the blog.
Let’s start by recognizing that not all that appears here is new. The blog has allowed me to explore a huge number of acts I’ve missed over the years, particularly in the 1990s when my new day job (academe) took over my life. I can’t believe I somehow missed great bands like Fire Town and the Soul Engines with their incredible guitar hooks. The Sighs “Make You Cry” is a pretty perfect poprock single. I knew about Billy Cowsills’ Blue Northern but had never heard of his later group, the Blue Shadows. And Eugene Edwards’ sole solo release, My Favorite Revolution, is a must add for any melodic rock and roll fan.
There have been acts that appeared again and again on the blog, my ‘old reliables’ as I might call them. These are performers I can pretty much carve out space in the queue for whenever I hear a new release is on the way. Gregory Pepper is probably my most covered artist. I love his quirky, always hooky, sometimes touching efforts. Ezra Furman was another great find who has an unerring knack of placing a memorable hook at the centre of whatever he’s doing, whether it’s retro 1950s pop or a punkish political ode. I discovered Jeremy Fisher long before the blog but I’ve used it to feature his work, old and new. He’s like a new wave Paul Simon with great videos. Edward O’Connell only has two albums, but they are reliably good. We really need a third. Mo Troper always delivers something wonderfully weird but still melodic and ‘can’t get it out of your head’ good. Finally, Jeremy Messersmith’s records regularly encompass big vision but he doles it out in memorable should-be hit singles.
In my world of poprock, while any instrument goes, the electric guitar is arguably pretty central. Some bands really know how to ride a guitar-driven song right into your head. Jeff Shelton’s Well Wishers excel at putting the guitar up front. “Feeling Fine” is practically a ‘how to’ example of killer guitar-dominant poprock. The David James Situation and The Format are no slouches either. Jangle is a related field of guitar poprock and takes a number of forms, from the 1960s-inflected Byrds sound of The Vapour Trails to the more jaunty bubblegum feel of The Lolas “We’re Going Down to the Boathouse.” Jangle also usually features pretty addictive harmony vocals, showcased below in Propeller’s “Summer Arrives.”
As the original and defining decade of poprock (in my view), the 1960s sound continues to be mined by new artists. Daisy House have few rivals in nailing the late 1960s California poprock vibe, sounding like time travelers from San Francisco’s 1968 club scene. Space Dingus have got The Monkees feel down. Both Shadow Show and The On and Ons gives us that rockier pop sound of the mid 1960s, with the latter delivering killer lead guitar hooks. By contrast, both Cut Worms and The Young Veins offer a candy-coated pop sound more akin to The Cyrkle and Simon and Garfunkel.
I’m a sucker for shivery harmony vocals so they’ve been featured regularly on the blog. One of Jenny Lewis’ side projects is the one-off album from Jenny and Johnny, I’m Having Fun Now. Aptly named, the record gently rocks and delivers amazing vocals. The Secret Sisters offer up a punchy tune where the harmony vocals seal the hooky deal. The Carousels “Call Along the Coast” has a big sound the rides a wave of harmony vocalizing and Beatlesque guitar work. Meanwhile Scotland’s Dropkick corner the market on delightful lilting songcraft on “Dog and Cat.” The blog sometimes shades into retro country and folk territory. Bomabil are an eccentric outfit who stretch our sense of song but never drop the melody. The Top Boost are pretty new wave but on “Tell Me That You’re Mine” they’re channeling Bakersfield via the Beatles 65. The Fruit Bats put the banjo upfront in “Humbug Mountain,” where it belongs. Gerry Cinnamon is like Scotland’s Billy Bragg and he shows what you can do with just an acoustic guitar and a Springsteen harmonica.
I’m proud to say that the blog has sometimes strayed off the beaten path of conventional poprock into more eccentric territory with bands that are smart and quirky and not afraid to lodge a hook in a more complex setting. Tally Hall pretty much define this approach. So ‘out there’ but still so good melodically. Chris Staples and Hayden offer up more low key, moody tunes but they still have a strong melodic grab. Overlord take clever to a new level, like a grad school version of They Might Be Giants. Coach Hop is just funny and hooky with his unabashed ode to liking Taylor Swift.
After the 1960s the new wave era is the renaissance of poprock for me with its combination of hooky guitars, harmony vocals, and melody-driven rock and roll. Screen Test capture this ambience perfectly on “Notes from Trevor” with a chorus that really delivers. The Enlows drive the guitar hook right into your head on the dance-madness single “Without Your Love.” Billy Sullivan epitomizes the reinvention of 1960s elements that occurred in the 1980s, well embodied in “Everywhere I Go.” Another strong theme in the blog has been the “I Get Mail” feature, populated largely by DIY songsters who write me about their garage or basement recorded releases. It is inspiring to hear from so many people doing their thing and getting it out there, especially when it is generally really good. Daveit Ferris is a DIY workaholic with an amazing range of song and recording styles. “Immeasurable” is a good illustration of his genius, with a banjo-driven chorus that always makes me smile. Mondello is practically the classic indie artist movie script, struggling to get an album out after 20 years. But then his follow up single, “My Girl Goes By,” is gold!
I want to leave you with a two-four of should-be hits from Poprock Record. These songs are all quality cuts, grade A poprock with melodies and harmonies and hooks to spare. Some of these songs leave me panting, they’re so good. I kicked off the blog back in 2015 with Family of Year and I still think “Make You Mine” is a textbook should-be AM radio hit. Sunday Sun channel The Beatles through a 1980s song filter, in the very best way. Sitcom Neighbor’s “Tourist Attraction” is a delightful earworm affliction. Wyatt Blair has somehow boiled down the essential formula of a 1960s-influenced poprock hit. Wyatt Funderburk understands how to assemble the perfect melody-driven single. And so on. Get your clicking finger warmed up and you’ll be introduced to the essence of Poprock Record in 24 melodious increments.
One thing I didn’t anticipate was all the great people I’d come in contact with writing a music blog. Thanks to all the bands, record labels, and readers who have responded so positively to what I’ve been doing here. A special thanks to Best Indie Songs, Tim at Powerpopulist and Don at I Don’t Hear a Single for their advice over the years and to my friends Rob at Swizzle and Dale at The View from Here for encouraging me to do this.
This post features pics from my poprock-postered 1985-7 apartment in Vancouver’s West End. Just $285 a month, all inclusive. No wonder I could buy so many records.
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.
Daisy House are an American treasure. They know the past, they breathe the 1960s, but they somehow make it all sound new and relevant for now. Their latest album is Bon Voyage, the last installment of what the band’s musical visionary Doug Hammond calls their “modern Amerikan trilogy” (which includes Western Man and Crossroads). The record is another tour de force of sophisticated songwriting, inventive instrumentation, and breathtaking vocals, creatively stamped by the 1960s but not stuck there. Remember when you could listen to a whole album by your favourite artist without wanting to needle drop your way to the hits? Daisy House is that kind of band. Get comfy because Bon Voyage is a pleasure cruise from beginning to end.
Title track “Bon Voyage” kicks off the album sounding like a great lost Gordon Lightfoot song c. 1970, shifting a bit more toward Joni Mitchell as things develop. The song adds another shade to Doug’s already impressive range of vocal styles. On “Stop Looking at Me” Tatiana delivers a strong but cheeky post-feminist anthem. Then “A.I. Girls” showcases Doug channeling a bit of the Moody Blues’ late 1960s pop sensibility, particularly on the vocals. “Let’s Do it Again” is the kidnapped Chrissie Hynde vocal on this record, a song The Pretenders would be well advised to cover. “Over the Hill” is a lovely Byrdsian-inspired number which seamlessly shifts from the folk rock to country influences of that band. When we get to “Till the End of the World” things change up wth a striking piano ballad beautifully sung by Tatiana, full stop. One thing that never ceases to amaze me is Doug’s mastery of 1960s musical motifs, which he utilizes with inspired restraint, readily apparent on record’s only cover, “Letter to No One.” The band also offers a remake of an earlier song, “Like a Superman,” this time “now sped up to a proper Mama Cass-ian tempo” says Doug. And just when you think it can’t get any better, late in the album Daisy House hit it out of the park with what should be the surefire hit single, “Open Your Eyes,” a hooky bit of California sixties AM radio magic. Bon Voyage closes with a song that captures Doug’s call for an ‘approachable underground,” an acoustic ode to that classic, relatable mix of 1960s progressive values i.e. freedom, love and togetherness.
This is a band that should be going places. Get on over to their Bandcamp and Facebook sites to find out why. The current album and their whole back catalogue beg for a long road trip somewhere pleasant. With this on the car stereo, it won’t really won’t matter where you’re going.
What were the biggest hits that weren’t in 2017? Who were the biggest should-be stars? In our alternate universe here at Poprock Record, these guys were all over the charts, the chat shows, the scandal sheets, as well as memed all over Facebook, Snapchatted by the kids, and Instragrammed into oblivion. Jesus, they were so popular you are well and truly sick of them by now. But sadly for our poprock heroes, the universe is not just ours to define. In the world beyond our little blog, they could all use another plug.
First, a few ground rules. The choices are drawn from the pool of songs I featured or found in 2017 and were released in that year. This is not a ‘best of’ list. This blog does not have the kind of coverage that would allow for such ‘omniscient view’ judgments. I cover things as they crawl past my attention, which means as often as not I’m featuring tunes I missed from 1994 as terribly exciting and ‘new’ to me. Nor is inclusion here a knock on the acts I’ve covered but not included. If I put them up on the site, I like’em. But there is something about this collection of tunes that lingers, sticks in my mind, and has the staying power I associate with classic 1970s AM radio hit singles. And we’re offering a ‘two-four’ of hits because, well, we are Canadian. The hyperlinks on the artist name take you to the original post and the featured songs.
So here we go – our annual list of Poprock Record’s Should-Be Hit Singles of 2017:
Daisy House dominated my playlist this year, both their current record and their back catalogue. They channel the 1960s but never let it wholly define them. They have two amazing singers and one fabulously talented songwriter. They deserve all the accolades the internet can hand out. If this were 1970 they’d probably be headlining The Flip Wilson Show tonight. The Rallies were an accidental discovery that turned into an obsession. Their whole album is great but “Don’t Give Up” makes my heart twinge every time. Aimee Mann and Fastball ably demonstrated this year that veterans can still turn out fantastic, career-defining albums. And I got to see both of them live! Los Straightjackets did Nick Lowe proud, producing a phenomenal tribute to his body of work. “Rollers Show” was my go-to summertime happy tune.
I won’t review every selection from the two-four, but I will say that I think the mix of poprock I feature on the blog is evident here. There’s fast and slow, country and rock, guitars and keyboards, etc. And then there’s always the hooks. Case in point: check out the 42 second mark on Greg Kihn’s “The Life I Got.” If you don’t feel the excitement he creates with some classic poprock guitar arpeggiation and the subtle vocal hook you’re kinda missing what we’re doing here. Here’s hoping 2018 is as hit single worthy as this past year has been!
I am going to sneak in an honourable mention for what I consider the compilation of year: Songs. Bond Songs: The Music of 007. This Curry Cuts collection has so many gems, working with material that is frankly hard to redefine. Standout tracks for me include Lannie Flower’s amazing reworking of “The James Bond Theme,” Freedy Johnston’s beautifully spare rendition of “For Your Eyes Only,” Jay Gonzalez’s nicely understated take on “A View to Kill,” and Big Box Store’s wonderfully retooled version of “Die Another Day.”
As always, let me make a plea to support the artists so we can continue to enjoy all this great music. In a way, we are living through a melodic guitar-based music renaissance, in part due to the breakdown of the old commercial music industrial complex. But what is replacing that old system is not clear, particularly the ‘making a living from music’ side of things. Visit the artist sites, go to the shows, buy the records – and repeat.
Just 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.
The 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.
Things 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.
This 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.