Time for a triumphant return of Jangle Thursday. Who doesn’t need an ample shot of sparkly guitar and songs bulging with hooks? That’s a rhetorical question. Today’s crew draw from 1960s faves, new wave revivalists, and various janglers who defy categorization. Set your reverb on those amps to maximum!
On Fast Casual Chicago’s The Unswept break out of their post-Beatles comfort zone to try a host of different song styles and sounds. Opening cut “You Keep Me Company” makes this clear, kicking things off with some early-Cars-era stripped-down guitar, handclaps and spacey synth. But then “Got Lucky” recalibrates the vibe, combining jangle and an Americana elan, particularly on the vocals. After that the change-ups just keep on coming: sunny pop in a Herman’s Hermits register on “Please Don’t Waste My Time,” a garage version of the Ohio Express with “Cheugy Choo Choo,” some Stonesy rhythm guitar defining a classic sounding rock and roll male/female duet on “Sometimes Always,” and so on. “Try to Forget You” simply rocks like it’s 1965 again with a killer guitar lead line hook. Really though, the record’s backbone is the series of seriously good lowkey poprock songs: “Lucinda Luann,” a cover of the Smithereens’ “Something New,” and my personal fave “Suggestion.” Other songs like “Forgot That Day” and “Codependent” remind me of California melodic rock wonders The Popravinas, specifically the distinctive vocal sound. Then for something different there’s “We’re Gonna Split” with its more ominous delivery and harmonic quality. Fast Casual is an LP seeing The Unswept taking chances and coming up aces.
Berlin, Germany’s Man Behind Tree describe themselves as a power/noise pop band, layering vocal harmonies over fuzzed out guitars. That’s definitely here on the band’s new album 3 but there’s so much more. Overall the sound is caught somewhere between San Francisco 1968 and side-trips to a host of bands also influenced by that period. The record begins with “California Zephyr,” a track that seems to draw more from discordant art rock than jangle, noisy but still alluring. With “Bird Survivors” the band channels a more recognizable late 1960s sound, one clearly on its way to country rock. “Picture Your Old Friends” is different again, starting simple and stark, adding a lead guitar with an ear-wormy tone and some fattened up vocals, sounding a bit CSN&Y meets Big Star. By contrast, “Japanese Mopeds” and “Better Now You Got It” feel more Teenage Fanclub to me. The 1960s California vibe is back on “Just Like Everyone” and “Can’t Stop Drinking” with their slightly more discordant take on the Byrds. Then there’s a departure on “86 Mustang” with its more rollicking pace and 1980s British indie feel. Man Behind Tree definitely dial up the excitement on 3. Things sound familiar but this is a band turning their influences into something new.
Surely the hardest working man in Aberdeen, Scotland show-business, Vapour Trails honcho Kevin Robertson is a back with another slice of delicious solo work. Teaspoon of Time is as jangle-loaded as any of his full band efforts but here the songs are crafted with a more delicate emphasis and serene execution. “Tough Times (Feel Like That)” opens things with a lonely electric 12 string riff that sounds very middle ages folk-music before breaking out into familiar Bryds/CS&N territory. “Trippin’ Back” is definitely the single, leaning on that 1980s folk rock revival sound and adding some funky keyboard lines. There are a few interesting excursions too, like the Sgt. Pepper-meets-Moody Blues atmosphere all over “Psychedelic Wedding Song” or the jazzy lead guitar extemporizations adding to the basic folk rock formula on “Forty-Five Losing Street.” And there’s a lot here that we’ve just come to love from this performer, like the Teenage Fanclub gene buried in “Rather Hide” or the nice, easy-going jangle guitar that defines “Sleepy Island Sounds” and “Magnify the Sun” or the spot-on late 1960s song structures and sounds of “Don’t You Dwell” and “Misty Dew Soaked Mountains.” Robertson is seeimgly unstoppable, reliably turning out amazing 1960s-influenced tunes. Teaspoon of Time will have you thinking the ‘be-in’ never ended.
West Kirby’s West Coast Music Club take our jangle theme into a more industrial direction, drawing from the usual folk rock suspects but sometimes adding a dollop of Jesus and Mary Chain. It gives the mix a bit of dissonance, an edge that says ‘turn this amp up to 11.’ The formula is all over album opener “Fanclub Favourite.” You can also hear it “Ouija Doll” and the rocking “Serendipity.” These sound like they emanate from a noise-poprock subgenre, so cleverly do the band hang on to the thread of the melodic hooks through the rocking haze. Some songs like “Now or Never” ply their jangle with a punky Rank and File looseness while others like “Faded Scrapbook” sounds like Bob Mould in a mellow mood. At other times the group just offer up strong 1960s-influenced guitar pop e.g. “Here It Comes Again” and “If You Only Knew,” the latter delivered in a Billy Bragg vocal style. This is another winning long-player ferried across the Mersey.
I don’t know about you but my ears are ringing, but in a good way. Add a bit of sparkle to your playlist by adding these bands to your must-hear list this jangle Thursday.