I know, you’re too busy to scour the racks for great singles. If only you could find some great albums to kick back with? Something to slip on the old record player and enjoy with a cool drink. Well here at Poprock Record we feel your pain. So we’ve assembled the crack team you see above to vet the very best LPs from throughout the year that was 2020. The kids may be a tad young for martinis but do not doubt their vinyl erudition and exquisite taste. From more than a hundred possibilities they’ve whittled things down to an essential 25 albums that you must possess to say you’ve really experienced the past twelve months of melodic music. Fill your K-Tel Record Selector with these super fantastic long players!
So, let’s get to it – Poprock Record’s 25 must-have LPs for 2020:
Gregory Pepper dominated my listening for 2020 with his outrageously good I Know Why You Cry. The album was his own specially curated re-recordings of tracks originally composed during his year long Song-of-the-Week extravaganza. There’s whimsy, there’s pathos, there’s references to Enya. It’s the kind of poprock that makes my heart burst, a never-fail mood improver. Coming up second this year was the kick-ass second album from The Happy Fits, What Could Be Better. Other than Pepper, I’m hard pressed to suggest anything. This whole album is a killer production that puts the cello at the centre of melodic rock and roll (where it belongs). Here are songs and performances that inspire descriptions like ‘thrilling’ and ‘exciting’. And then there’s the extreme hooky pleasantness of Nite Sobs throughout Do The Sob! An impressive head-bopping good time. And so on. All the records here really pay dividends via repeated listens so carve out some time to enjoy them. The great lost art of an album-long musical vision lives on with these 25 selections.
What?! Another Pepper selection topping the chart. Fear not dear reader, our completely unscientific selection process has not erred here. Hey, I just really like Pepper’s stuff. And he is crazy talented, as is obvious from this stylistically varied and pumped up collection of song snippets, 10 in all amounting to just 15 minutes of music. But what a ride. I mean, just check out the brilliant 17 second track, “Do Sports.” I want more! These other EPs are pretty special too and fabulous for those times when you can barely sit down and squeeze in a quick sherry.
And let’s not forget, Poprock Record’s best compilations for 2020:
2020 tried our patience but, glass half full, it did provide a bit of downtime. That allowed for a lot more album listening than normal and what a treat that turned out to be. And given the impact of 2020 on live music, artists need albums sales more than ever. So let the rewards flow freely from your e-wallet to theirs.
2020 was weird like no weirdness we’d experienced before. Thank goodness the music didn’t let us down. Paraphrasing some 1970s disk jockey, the should-be hits just kept on coming! My top 50 singles for 2020 covers the usual range of styles I jam into the poprock category, from Buddy Holly 1950s to Buck Owens country to various shades of jangle and new wave. I’m not saying these are the 50 best songs of the year, I’m saying these 50 had the hooks to keep me hitting repeat again and again. If Poprock Record were a radio station these tunes would have been in heavy rotation all this past year. 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 should-be hit singles for 2020:
So many great songs! So hard to make distinctions amongst them … But this year’s chart topper Mo Troper has got something really special going on with “Your Boy.” The track is a case study in should-be hit single construction and execution, from the opening guitar hooks to the silky smooth pop vocal to the exquisite synthesis of musical elements, like the plinky piano, the dash of distorted guitar here and there. The song is the earworm equivalent of a Dutch masters miniature painting. A very close second this year came from the boundlessly talented Canuck Gregory Pepper and his Problems with “Unsolved Mystery.” I can’t get enough of Pepper’s creative songwriting and unique approach to instrumentation. The song is a hook cocktail, a nonstop aural assault of vocal and instrumental melody. Former Soul Engines member Dave Kuchler slots into number 3 with an amazing comeback single, “Slave to Katy,” a song that ripples with Springsteen organ and hooky guitar leads. This is melodic heartland rock and roll at its best. Releasing an album and three EPs in 2020, Emperor Penguin definitely win the productivity award. But I’d have been happy if they’d just released one song, the Byrdsian “You’ll Be the Death of Me.” Rounding out the top 5 Brian Jay Cline “Two Left Feet” gives the harmonica a work out on a great driving poprock number. And I could go on about the remaining 45 should-be hits but for more on the rest of the list hit the hyperlinks for my original write-ups on each.
This year’s special mention award goes to Mondello for his wonderfully quirky one-off single “My Girl Goes By.” After taking 20 years putting together his debut album one year later there’s no sign of a sophomore slump with this follow up single. From the Tijuana horns to the unique guitar work to the way the hooky swinging chorus emerges out the discordant and offbeat body of the song, it’s magic. More? Yes please!
2020 has been devastating for artists that rely on live performances to make ends meet. Now more than ever it’s crucial that we all pull together to support music and the music-makers financially. Give what you can, buy directly from artists whenever you can, and share links for the music you discover with your friends and acquaintances.
Why not be positive? After the year we’ve been through 2021 can’t help but be an improvement. I know, I know, pandemic habits die hard. Bad news on the doorstep, again. So to help steel your resolve for positivity, here’s a slew of songs on the perfection theme.
Parthenon Huxley (aka P. Hux) has the perfect sound to kick off this themed post with the addictive guitar hooks and Eels-meets-ELO smooth vocals on his song “Perfect.” He even has another tune that would fit in here called “Perfection” – but let’s not overdo it. Irrelevant aside: I just discovered that Hux produced Eels front man Mark Everett’s first two solo albums and A Man Called E is about as perfect as a debut can be. Bombadil change up the pace and style of what we’re doing here with their song “Perfect,” a lilting folkie track with a lot of uplift, from their 2017 album Fences. “Perfecto” is another 2017 release, this time from big guitar guy Chris Church’s long player Limitations of the Source Tape. For Church this offering is actually a bit low key (well, until the end) but has a lovely Matthew Sweet vibe with vocals that remind me of recent work by that inventive iconoclast Brad Peterson. I don’t know a lot a about Louisville, Kentucky’s The Pine Club, other than that they have three albums of fab material dating from the beginning of the new century. From their self-titled LP we showcase “Oh, Perfect!” Nice horns and background vocals on this one.
Our next batch of performers move from vague ruminations about the perfect to more bold and weeping claims, singing about a perfect world of some sort or other. Mike Viola has some serious songwriting magic going on all over his many releases and “El Mundo de Perfecto” from his 2011 album Electro De Perfecto exemplifies these considerable skills. The song is so quintessentially Viola while also seeming to draw from acts like Crowded House stylistically. Fastball was one of those bands I only discovered deep into their career, on 2017’s Step Into Light specifically. That meant I had so many delightful surprises waiting for me dipping into their back catalogue. “Perfect World” is from 2004’s Keep Your Wig On and it really is a perfect manifestation of their new millennium Beatles/Tom Petty-inspired sound. FromDwight Twilley’s ironically titled The Luck album came a bona-fide should-be hit single in “Perfect World.” I still can’t believe this track didn’t race up the charts when it finally got a single release in 1998. Now, in the interests of journalistic balance I must include Ball Park Music’s “The Perfect World Does Not Exist.” I mean, they’re right, of course. And they say it with such a quirky You Won’t almost folkie charm.
Well, if a perfect world is beyond our grasp what about more accomplishable goals? Gary Ritchie would settle for a “Perfect Girl” on this Buddy Holly-esque workout. However, despite a delightful 2 minute and 41 second exploration of the issue, even Gary has to admit by the coda that it’s probably not gonna happen. In the late 1980s American janglers The Springfields(no relation to Dusty’s 1960s outfit) just wanted “This Perfect Day.” Well, if I were spinning this song and the rest of the collection it comes from, the 2019 retrospective of the band’s career Singles 1986-1991, I’d say ‘mission accomplished’! Perhaps we’d be wise to scope things down even further. Mo Troper has the right idea with his just released, wonderfully hooky “The Perfect Song.” I mean, I thought he already wrote the perfect song with that single from his 2020 album Natural Beauty, “Your Boy.” But more on that when I get to 2020’s best of lists …
Perfection is really just that space you’ve created, shaped, and defined where you can find some joy. For me that’s often finding, enjoying and sharing all this great music. So here’s to a perfect year, whatever that may amount to for you.
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.
No pandemic is gonna stop us twisting that radio dial to find out just what is out there music wise! Today’s featured acts take ‘moody’ and ‘strange’ in all sorts of melodic and unexpected directions.
All my favourite poprock artists are growing up. Here with another 30-something pre-midlife crisis album is Mo Troper and his wrenching pain and discomfort adds up to 34 minutes of sweet sweet listening pleasure for us on his latest, Natural Beauty. Similar to Gregory Pepper (whose recent I Know Why You Cry is another winning sonic rendering of 30-something issues), Troper is toting up his 20s shortcomings with a bevy of frank, focused, but still melodious tunes. And like Pepper, Troper’s latest may be his most mature, fully realized work to date. “I Eat” kicks things off and sets the tone for the album, with its serious theme and carefully manicured production. Natural Beauty is just full of wonderfully layered sounds, strikingly varied keyboard flourishes, and an often naked honesty on the vocals front. Then again, “Your Boy” is the other side of this record, a textbook poprock masterpiece, anchored by a brilliant La’s-like jangle guitar hook at the start which just keeps mutating across piano, electric guitar and a slew of melodic vocals. This song is the soundtrack to a 1960s montage sequence where the boy meets a girl and joins a band and then a host of happy stuff happens. More serious themes emerge on “Potential,” “Lucky Devils” and “Better Than Nothing” but still they remain perky, poppy numbers. Possible influences abound here, with perhaps a bit indie 10cc or McCartney-meets-Morrissey on “In Love With Everyone” or a McCartney/Shins combo on “Your New Friend,” while “Everything” really reminds me of Apples in Stereo’s “Seems So” period. Personal fave: the new wave-ish “Almost Full Control” with its hypnotic bass work. For me, Natural Beauty is heading straight to the ‘best of 2020’ list, a must-have-the-whole-album release.
Melbourne’s Danny McDonald is a veteran of the Aussie indie music scene, playing on over 70 different projects since the early oughts. But one listen to his latest EP Modern Architecture and you’re going to be wondering where has he been? How has a guy this talented kept such a low international profile? Right out the gate, McDonald grabs the listener full force on the supercharged power pop should-be hit single, “Cordyline,” with its Big Star hooks and Brydsian background vocals. Then things rumble-guitar along nicely on the touching, rootsy duet with Anna Burley, “The Suburb I Grew Up In.” The 58 seconds of “Judge Me for my Art, Not Where I Live” sounds a lot like a punked up treatment of a great lost Plimsouls track. “Commuters Lament” vibes just a little Jayhawks while “Keeping the Dogs at Bay” is in the same vein as Richard Turgeon’s stolid stripped-down rocked-up pop. My only complaint about Modern Architecture is that is all ends too soon!
Another winning act from Melbourne is Adam Madric’s latest project, Pure Moods. On their debut album, Upward Spirals, there’s a fleeting Teenage Fanclub vibe at times, but on the whole this record is marked by a distinct sound – the rhythm guitar. More than is typical, it’s up front in the mix, anchoring the sonic portrait of the band. I love what sounds like an envelope of sound, the jangle drone, that opens the record on “Tide” and remains on “Backwards World.” Things shift gears with the title track which grooves along with a very 1970s soft rock rhythm guitar – that is until the Kraftwerk keyboards kick in and the whole thing slides in a different direction. There’s a tempo uptick on “Sideways Glance” and the jaunty “Sparkle” and both tunes shine melodically. Pure Moods’ Upward Spirals makes for intriguing, ultimately enjoyable listening with catchy songs that ride the tension between their lively musical performance and Madric’s somewhat low key, alienated vocals.
Taking a spin through Strange Passage’s Shouldn’t Be Too Long makes you realize just how good all those Morrissey solo albums could have been if they’d just sounded like this. And these guys are not even from some dreary northern British former industrial town but they’ve nailed the jangle alienation of the Mopster and his guitar pals. Seriously though, the songs here bubble with Smithian fun, like the energetic “Cloying Melody” with its rush of guitars and R.E.M.-meets-The The vocals. From the opening cut, “Idle Time,” it’s clear this is a really strong outing song-wise. Frankly, I can’t find a single track I wouldn’t hit replay on. Ok, maybe “Shouldn’t Be Too Long” seems special for cranking the sparkle on the guitars or “Ode” for being so Paul Simon doing Morrissey. Despite the comparisons, Strange Passage are not some wannabe something else band. They work this sound into something quite their own and it’s a pleasure to hear.
Who needs black Friday and interminably long line-ups when you can just hit ‘buy track’ from the comfort of your own electronic device? Doing some e-music shopping today instead would be my advice. And, luckily for you, Day 5 of our solid-week-of-singles event ends today with a strong set of poprock suggestions to go musically shopping for. Swiss producer David Langhard is the force behind Howlong Wolf and our featured song “You Made It (Into This Song)” from their latest album Norwegians Can’t Refuse. I love the muscular slickness of the production here. Back when AM radio used to both reflect and influence popular tastes, this is just the sort of polished poprock that ruled (and rightly so). New Jersey’s Joe Normal and the Anytown’rs are slick too, but in a different way. Their killer single “Don’t Hurt Me” exudes classic rock and roll radio, with a nice melodic undercurrent. In that brief time when the FM dial was the new rock trendsetter in the 1980s, this baby is just the sort of thing that blasted out of cars all over town. Jordan Jones’ album is titled Self-Titled and it’s being written up across the powerpop blogosphere but what is interesting to me is how everybody seems to choose different tunes to focus on. Personally, I’m loving “Waiting” with its 1960s-meets-1980s hooky sound and distinctive guitar ring. We here at Poprock Record loved Propeller’s 2017 LP Don’t Ever Let This Let You Down. Now they’re back with a neat EP entitled Three Steps to BetterListening and it’s not false advertising. “There Goes a Day” has a big shimmery guitar sound and layered vocals reminiscent of The Mighty Lemon Drops or Matthew Sweet or The Primitives. Is this a prelude to a new album? Yes please! Another highly anticipated release for this blog is anything by Portland’s wonderful music eccentric Mo Troper. We gushed over his stunning 2017 LP Exposure and Response and gasped when the Bond franchise didn’t snap up his should-be Bond theme “Never Dream of Dying.” Now he’s back with a pre-release single from his forthcoming 2020 album Natural Beauty and it’s another winner. “Jas from Australia” is a sneaky piece of pop goodness, slightly jarring but ultimately ear-wormy in its effects upon repeated listenings.
2017’s Exposure and Response heralded the arrival of Portland’s Mo Troper. All the punker, outsider ferocity of his previous recordings found themselves melded into shiny perfect poprock here, albeit still coated with a heavy of dose of hipster alienation, particularly on the vocals. As we await a follow up, Mo decided to throw this at us: “Never Dream of Dying,” a pretty stellar, spot-on rogue James Bond theme. Things start out so Bond circa 1970s with full on orchestrated tension before dissolving into a deceptive ballad (you can just see the silhouetted girls with guns float by). But wait, he’s not done, Troper’s got a Macca-worthy Bond bridge and an orchestral big finish! “Never Dream of Dying” is a delightful bit of fun from a guy who has the pop culture chops down.
Check out all of Mo Troper’s fine recordings at his bandcamp page here.
I get by with a little help from my friends. Because I can’t possibly keep up with all the great new music coming out every day, other blogs are a reliable source of new material. And I’m proud to say that I think my blogroll is a finely curated list of sites that really deliver on content. In fact, they’re so good I can’t visit them too much or I’ll just want to write about all the things they’ve already posted! But sometimes cruising through the blogs reminds me of hitting the record shops when I was younger. Vancouver in the early 1980s had a plethora of new and used record stores: Kelly’s, A&A Records, Track Records, Neptune Records, and, of course, the main new records shop, A&B Sound. A&B focused mostly on selling stereo components (I bought my first tape deck there on layaway!) but used albums as a loss leader to get people into the store. Their signature ‘featured bargain’ bins (where they stacked records flat on top of each other) crowded the front of the store and usually sold for $4:99 when the going price for an album was typically anywhere from $6:99 to $10:99. I would buy records I had no clue about, just because they looked cool and were cheap. Such bargains included New Order’s Power Corruption and Lies, Men at Work’s Business as Usual, and OMD’s Dazzle Ships. Well, the record stores, like the book stores of my youth, are largely gone. But the excitement of finding new music lingers on, now re-platformed to the blogosphere!
I don’t know about you but I love year end ‘best of’ lists. It appeals to the completist in me, the big picture guy who wants to somehow grasp the whole of what is going on. It also feels like a delightful cheat, like I’m getting to use someone else’s homework. My blogroll’s ‘best of’ lists introduced me to a host of music I had overlooked in the past year. Below I focus on just one artist from each that I’m glad I didn’t miss.
Absolute Powerpop may not generate the volume of blog posts he once did, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t paying attention. His best of lists for 2017 were colossal: a top 100 singles, top 20 EPs, top 10 Americana and top 100 albums list. I snagged eight new artists that really caught my ear. But I want to draw your attention to Jesse Terry‘s Stargazer. The whole album is strong but if I had to pull a single, “Dangerous Times” sounds like a collaboration between Crowded House and Peter Case, combining the former’s unique melodic palette with the latter’s gritty yet melodic folk rock meets Americana. I would also pair this a-side with the delightfully airy, Macca-esque “Only a Pawn” as a strong b-side.
Powerpopaholic is the godfather of power pop blogs. Given the range and depth of his coverage and sheer volume of posts, if a band or song is somewhere on the power pop spectrum it will eventually appear here. I snagged five new bands from his Top 30 list this year but have chosen to showcase Onesie, a tongue-in-cheek outfit from Brooklyn that specializes in quirky melodic rock and roll, evident in spades on “Husbands in Finance”: great rhythm guitar swing, fun sing-along vocals, and hooks, hooks, hooks.
I only picked one new artist from I Don’t Hear a Single’s many ‘best of’ lists but that’s because I’ve been nicking great stuff from him all year! Berwanger, Mothboxer, Daisy House and many, many more. IDHAS is an early finder – bands show up here that inevitably show up everywhere else, but a few months later. And he has a particularly good handle on the British and European scene. Having said that, my find from IDHAS is GospelbeacH, a group of LA music scene veterans whose latest project distills the magic of a host of California poprock and country-rock influences. My choice for double a-sided single would combine the breezy yet muscular poprock feel of “Hanging On” with the more laidback country/Byrds ‘tude of “(I Wanna See U) All the Time.”
Hanging On(I Wanna See U) All the Time
Powerpopulist seems like a machine that scours the internet for freely offered up tunes from great indie bands you’ve yet to hear of. I am constantly blown away by his industry – so many bands! So many tunes! His tastes typically run a bit harder than mine but he does love his jangle. His ‘best of’ list ran to 109 songs, from which I scored five acts that are real keepers. The Harringtons are great example. These Sheffield teens crunch their guitars like the Who and the Jam but offer up sweeter harmonies. The combo really works on ‘”Scootch” from their debut EP Change Is Gonna Come.
The rest of my blog finds are not from ‘best of’ lists or from blogs necessarily. Well, one is – Goldmine columnist John Borack had a great list of singles and albums – nicked the rather kooky Mo Troper from him. The album is Exposure and Resistance and it has an uneven, even raw quality at times. But when the poprock clicks, it’s heaven. My choice for a double a-sided single include the exquisite “Free Bin” and “Clear Frames,” the latter reminding me of a hetero version of Pansy Division. Pop Fair alerted me to the fact that the incredibly talented Richard X. Heyman had a new record out last year, from which “Gleam” really is a stand out track. Power Pop Square put me on to Jeremy Messersmith, whom I featured recently, but here is a different cut – the very catchy “Love Sweet Love.” Two of my favourite blogs appeared to hit the pause button sometime in 2017 but that didn’t stop them from putting out some great stuff before that happened. Everyone’s favourite foul mouthed blogger at The Best Indie Songs offered up a slew of choice cuts but I’m highlighting Autonomics “Southern Funeral,” with its insanely catchy thumping beat and sing-along chorus. Meanwhile Mufoandthings caught my ear with the acoustic jangling 1960s sound of Wilbur on “Perfect Stranger” and the more rocking, Yardbirdsesque “She’s Gone.”
Richard X. Heyman – GleamJeremy Messersmith – Love Sweet Love
Click on the names of the bands above to get closer to forking over some cash for these great singles and albums. In the record store I’d have a bundle of records under my arm and then have to decide which ones to keep and which ones to put back. It’s so much easier to be indecisive now.