Here’s a whack of artists that power up their poprock in creative and original ways. The melody meter is registering hooks that are off the charts!
Detroit’s Deadbeat Beat are hard to pin down. At times they sound like a punky Shins or maybe the Velvet Underground covering the Beach Boys. Detroit Metro Times writer Jeff Milo boils down the Deadbeat Beat sound as “catchy as hell, with melodies like kites caught in a summer breeze …” Their new album is Far Away and is it their most polished and melodic release to date. Opening track “Baphomet” showcases many of the band’s essential elements: a jangle acoustic base, a slightly discordant yet poppy vocal, and a host of unpredictable but delightful hooks. “You Take Me Up” sounds a bit rougher by comparison but when the singer hits the line about ‘the county line’ I hear James Mercer doing a poprock cabaret punk. And the guitar work here is exquisite! Reverby and surf-like, and yet not. “From What I Can Tell” vibes a bit of the Beach Boys, the Ramones, and yet the influences add up to something new and original. Another strong track that screams radio-friendly is “Fair” with its hooky lead line and smooth vocals. Really, the strength of the album is in the songwriting. I love the band’s sound but most of the songs here could also survive pretty well just on acoustic guitar. Case in point: the jaunty “I’ll Wait” or swinging cool of “The Return.” As an album, Far Away is a great listen, again and again.
It is so great to have Birmingham, Alabama’s Lolas back with a new record, A Dozen or Seven Tapestries, and it’s another winner. Bandleader and songwriter Tim Boykin has consistently delivered the goods when it comes to hook-laden songs dosed with chimey guitar and reverbed-up vocals and they are here in abundance. The record’s opening cut and title track “A Dozen or Seven Tapestries” gives it all away: hooky guitar lines and shimmering vocal harmonies everywhere. Boykin does change things up in terms of song styles, channeling mid 1960s American poprock on “Dj Girl” or an updated Merseybeat vibe on “Lightning Mountain (NSFW)” or even a Steve Miller Band sound on “Assailant.” You can dip in anywhere on this record and find a melodic treat. Personally, I’m loving the low key jangly “Wish You Were Loud Enough” and the more straight-up barrel-ahead poprock blast of “You’d Go Without Nothing.”
Philadephia PA’s Big Nothing has been described as a ‘90’s influenced indie supergroup’ (Rolling Stone) but all I hear are great songs and a muscular, crunchy poprock sound. Their debut album is Chris and it’s 32 minutes of sonically pleasing songcraft. Sometimes a bit heavy (“Always Prepared”), sometimes sparkling with an easygoing jangle (“Carried Away”), the record typically delivers a taut yet melodically-rich sound, apparent on tracks like “Waste My Time” and “Real Name.” But one of my faves is “Untitled” with its almost country rock and live-to-tape feel. “Honey” is another standout track, changing things up stylistically and tempo-wise. Overall, Chris delivers a great batch of songs that amount to an impressive debut.
Nashua, New Hampshire, population 86,000, is responsible for our next band, Perspective, A Lovely Hand to Hold. There must be something in the water in Nashua because this band is wonderfully weird, both strikingly original songwriters and performers. The band describe themselves on their Facebook page as an ‘indie/emo/math rock/whatever your mom calls it band.’ So, no help there. Here’s what I hear on Lousy, the group’s new (third) album: swooping fattened up vocals and unique hooks, with just a touch of jazz sensibility, particularly on tracks like “One Wrong Turn” and “Subject to Change.” But then check out the straight up poprock hooks all over “The Gang Goes On Tour” – bliss! The record does have some challenging avant garde moments but spending a bit of time with songs like “Those Few Words” and “Your Own World” ultimately pays melodic dividends. From a mainstream poprock point of view, Perspective, A Lovely Hand to Hold are more than a bit out there. But, like Nashua, ultimately worth the trip.
Personally, I think this line-up of bands are freakishly talented and worthy of a horde of manic fans. Preferably with some disposable income. Visit Deadbeat Beat, Lolas, Big Nothing, and Perspective, A Lovely Hand to Hold online to find out how out to become manic.
Top photo courtesy Larry Gordon.