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.