Anthony Newes, April March, Bird Streets, Cool Sounds, Cupid's Carnival, David Myles, Dust Star, Geoff Palmer, It's Karma It's Cool, Lawn, Odd Hope, Piano Movers, Rhett Miller, Rich and Marvin, Sad Girls, The Analogues Sideshow, The Buoys, The Muldoons, The Tryouts, The Walkdown, Yotam Ben Horin
‘Disk jockey, make mine a single!’ or words to that effect might be heard somewhere sometime on request night. But what kind of song makes the cut? Today’s post offers you 21 selections to choose from. So get ready – it’s playlist stocking time!
The delicious tension driving “Square One” from New Jersey’s Sad Girls involves casting melancholic vocals against a backdrop of bright churning rhythm guitar work. A captivating melodic alchemy is the result. The song is featured on the band’s recent EP Wild Creatures, just one of many winning contributions. I mean, it’s no accident this mini-album contains a cover of the Split Enz hit single “I Got You.” Haunting, atmospheric, sometimes mournful – that’s Sad Girls’ basic MO. Jangle is alive and well in Paisley, Scotland, thanks to The Muldoons. Their 2020 debut album Made for Each Other has that sprightly yet dispirited feel of so many late 1980s Manchester bands (and that’s a good thing). But check out the rippling jangle propelling “Lovely Things,” aided by a great horn section (I have it on good authority they’re real). What a standout track! Melbourne’s Cool Sounds take a different approach. “Sleepers” is so loping-rhythm cool, ornamented with fab electric piano motifs, crystalline clear guitar riffs, and breathy vocals. The overall effect is hypnotic, lulling, but still hooky. Halifax Nova Scotia tunesmith David Myles is a little bit soft rock crooner, a little bit jazz sophisticate. His new album It’s Only a Little Loneliness has shades of gospel, country, and urban-tinged pop. Kinda like what Leonard Cohen was doing with this last few records. Just listen to how he arranges the various hooky adornments on “Mystery,” the eerie lead guitar lines hovering in the background, the stately female back-up singers, the ear wormy keyboard lick shadowing the ‘mystery’ lyric. Classy, cloaked in a bit mystery, yet totally 1980s AM radio friendly. The follow up to Bird Streets much-lauded 2018 self-titled debut album is just about out. Lagoon promises more of the same winning, jangle-infused Americana-styled poprock. Here’s a taste of what is to come with “Go Free.” The guitar work and mesh of harmony vocals suggests those other Bryds with a hint of easygoing Tom Petty.
Beatle cover bands are no rare thing. Some are great but many require a few pints to hit their Mersey stride. Then there are the masters, acts like Apple Jam and The Analogues who receive praise from the likes of former Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick and Beatles archivist Mark Lewisohn. But that happens when those players set aside the Fabs canon to do their own thing? The Analogues, now dubbed The Analogues Sideshow, demonstrate it doesn’t have to be phony Beatlemania. “Don’t Fade Away” is clearly sixties influenced but in a timeless post-1980s poprock way. Are relationships like labour saving devices? That’s the angle Newcastle Australia duo The Tryouts are laying on us with “Washer.” The spare sounding verses meet dialed up chorus reminds me of Mo Kenney or Darwin Deez. Can’t wait for more from these two. Really, anything. Yotam Ben Horin’s new longplayer Young Forever has so many highlights for but some reason “Leopard” leapt out at me. Maybe it was the splash of shimmery guitar, perhaps it was lines like ‘I wanna be your Johnny Marr.’ But something really works on this particular tune, I found myself returning to it again and again. New Orleans band Lawn have got an art rock feel going on with their recent album Bigger Sprout. The songs are just a bit discordant and unpredictable and definitely memorable. But their opening cut is so should-be hit single. “Down” has an addictive guitar hook anchoring everything, rolling out like a Blue Oyster Cult mega-riff. But then it’s the pulsing rhythm guitar that takes everything forward in the chorus. You gotta hand it to Geoff Palmer. Doing a complete cover of Dee Dee Ramone’s near-universally hated solo record Standing the Spotlight takes guts and some pretty serious inspiration. But Palmer delivers. Check out how he takes a melodic promise that is just hinted at in Dee Dee’s original version of “Baby Doll” and breaks it wide open, elevating the track from a noble failure to a retro classic.
On his new solo record The Misfits Old 97s frontman Rhett Miller is not just spinning his indie rock Americana wheels. The whole enterprise has a 1970s polished crossover country-meets-pop feel. Reviewers have suggested there’s a 1970s Fleetwood Mac twist on “Go Through You” but I hear a pub rock meets Andy Kim kind of pop smoothness. Brooklyn’s Piano Movers have a low profile on the ole interweb – I could find only 3 songs. But what a trio they are. Lofi, indie, with a Jonathan Richman kind of earnest yet still laid back intensity. “Your Girlfriend’s Lover” is an acoustic guitar-strummy proto-feminist delight, with some basic but alluring lead guitar interludes. The vocals have a meditative sonic delivery, so soothing. Another Fruits and Flowers record label band is Oakland’s Odd Hope. I’ll admit, it was Jesss Scott’s striking, colourful album artwork that caught my attention here. As with its cover, the album reflects a colourful range of musical styles like a kaleidoscope. But my stand out fave is the mildly discordant, garage-y “Your Ending.” In style it stands somewhere between The Clash and Petty’s Heartbreaks and could be pulled in either direction. Former Disney animator, Pussywillows member, and arch Francophile, April March does everything with style. Her new album is Cinerama and like the lost projection process its named after it is all retro. And yet it sounds so now too. I’m singling out “Born” as your taste-tester song. Everything starts very pleasant, acoustic guitar and some double-tracked vocals but check out that sweet trebly guitar intervention that arrives 39 seconds in. Now it’s a dreamy confection of mid-1960s British pop single themes. The trick that the very Beatlesque Cupid’s Carnival manage to pull off repeatedly is throwing in just enough familiar Merseybeat-meets-early pop psychedelic elements to make your head turn but then deliver a great original song. Their latest stand-alone single offering is “You Know” and all the necessary moving parts are there: Lennon-esque vocal, Sgt. Pepper-era background vocals, and slow-burn hooky melody.
It’s hard to put a label on just what It’s Karma It’s Cool is doing stylistically. There seems to be bits of early 1980s prog pop, a dash of new wave, and a whole lot of straight up poppy rock and roll. On their recent stand-alone single “A Gentle Reminder” I hear a synthesis that reminds me of early Split Enz with perhaps a Hoodoo Gurus vibe on the vocals. The organ is the star here, stitching together an impressive array of hooks and musical asides. Last spring Minneapolis Minnesota native Anthony Newes put out a quiet record of songs with long titles. His Dark of the Sea EP will bathe you in melodic sweetness, the songs rolling over you with effortless effect. With a vocal landing somewhere between Rufus Wainwright and Elliott Smith, “Take It From You Now You Take It From Me” steals into your consciousness like a cool wind on a warm day. For de-stressing there something very Enya here but with guitars. Chicago’s The Walkdown want you to hold for the hooks on their recent single “Jane Doe.” The verses have that deadpan, almost talky punk feel. But when they break out the chorus they step on the melody pedal and things take off from there. The rest of their catalogue is pretty solid too. Rich and Marvin are Rich McCulley and Marvin Etzioni and “Apricot” is their first joint effort. Like the fruit, the song is refreshingly sweet, delivered in a light country folk style. We’ve heard bands like the BoDeans and Los Lobos give us these kinds of acoustic forays as album deep cuts. Interested to see where this duo take things next. On their recent EP Unsolicited Advice for Your DIY Disaster Sydney Australia punky poprockers The Buoys give the boys both barrels. The songs coat a whole load of post-teenage angst in slightly harsh melodic goodness. The whole record is a mosh pit dance party but “Lie To Me Again” slows the pace, temporarily, before going hook nuclear in the chorus. The song may end but you’ll be humming it all day.
Song number 21 is special departure from a brand new band that specializes in a rock and roll aural assault. Dust Star open their debut album Open Up That Heart with a full on rocking tidal wave on “Nothing in my Head.” You can practically see the sweaty crowd levitating on the dance floor to this one. But I want to draw your attention to the more restrained title track with its Weezer meets Sugar Ray melodic roll out. There’s even an early Beatles or Cheap Trick vibe going in the late instrumental break. So much to like here.
Albums are great but sometimes you just need a stack of singles to turn a good night great. Click on the links to hear even more from these should-be up and comers.