With autumn just around the corner, time to twist the dial on some hooky new tunes from this crew!
I loved the acoustic swing + harmony vocal-stylings of Cape Cartel’s breakout single, “More.” The rest of 2018’s Close Talker was a bit harder to nail down but still great, mixing styles with the effortlessness of a latter day NRBQ. So a new single from the Montreal band had me on the edge of my seat – and I can report I am not disappointed. “The Matador” is the first of five singles that will comprise the band’s new EP Vitamins and it’s a flowing rush of melodic hooks and charming vocal harmonies. I love the bowl-you-over tempo of the song, bolting right out of the gate, and the carefully crafted arrangement. This certainly bodes well for the rest of the EP, which arrives late September.
The multi-talented Joe Adragna pretty much is The Junior League. He writes the songs, he plays nearly all the instruments, he produces the records. I imagine he answers the phones too. Well, clearly he’s an effective multi-tasker because Adventureland, the band’s latest long player, is a thrilling theme park of re-invented garage rock. Opening cut “Heavy” sets the tone for this outing with a 1980s indie grind that successfully reinvents the more rough and ready 1960s rock and roll sound. It says, effectively, this record is going to be a more muscular rocking affair (with a few notable exceptions) than past Junior League outings. Check out the REM-ish cover of Scott McCaughey’s “Have Faith in Yourself” – the song is anchored by a hypnotic synth that sounds like it’s on loan from the MGMT equipment room. “Everybody Wants to Play” and “Town in a Box” would not go amiss on a renewed Nuggets compilation brand. “No More” and “Adventureland at Night” are like love letters to that great crunchy 1960s rock sound. But the album does hold a few contrasts, like “Falling in Love” which sounds like it’s going kick into The Archies’ “Sugar Sugar” before going its own distinctive melodic way, or “Delete and Repeat” which adds a bit of Beach Boys to the broader garage motif. I don’t often have call to recommend this but Adventureland begs to be PLAYED LOUD.
Milwaukee’s Fuzzysurf have an interesting mix of influences covering their musical sleeves: Beach tremelo’d surf guitar, Beatles hooks and harmonies, and large dollop of self-effacing humour. The new album is Fuzzy & the Surfs and it both conjures past glory while moving in a new direction. In terms of past glory, “Problems” has a swinging early 1960s pop sound, “Please Please Me Do” lovingly riffs the Fabs, while “Denny” and “When I Fell I Love With You” work the melodrama side of that decade. And the band’s early surf focus appears on tracks like “Vomit” and “Sign of the Times.” All this is great but when the new direction kicks in, the effect is breathtaking. The ear-wormy “Don’t Worry Baby” has hit single written all over it, vibing Guster at their poppy best. “Enemies” reels off seemingly effortless jangly guitar lines in support of a wonderful neo-1950s tune. Or check out “Alone” with its beguiling background vocals and spare guitar work. I love where these guys are going – hookville.
There’s an early 1980s rock sound that balances melody with a certain no nonsense rock and roll sensibility. Ex Hex have dialed that up for their latest LP It’s Real. The album’s opener “Tough Enough” would not sound out of place on an early Pat Benatar album, “Rainbow Shiner” evokes Billy Squier’s guitar flashes, while “Good Times” has a punky Go Go’s vibe. The whole album is like a time trip back to an era (really, the transition from the 1970s into the 1980s) when some spare rhythm guitar work could set the tone and pace of the tunes, showcased nicely on the slower tempo “Want it to be True.” The songwriting here is strong and cast in a very consistent style, with a few departures like the more poppy “Cosmic Cave” and the Beatlesque/Go Go’s “Talk to Me.” Want to bolster your next 1980s theme party with some fresh material? Ex Hex have got your record here.
Click on these hyperlinks to Cape Cartel, The Junior League, Fuzzysurf, and Ex Hex’s internet real estate to get the skinny on musical product, tours and basic band shenanigans.