Amnesiatic, Brad Peterson, Dot Dash, Odd Robot, Proto Retro, The Beths, The Future Hates Me, The Unknown Album
Given our staffing levels here at Poprock Record, not all breaking news is really breaking in the sense of being absolutely brand new and ‘just released.’ But hopefully it’s breaking to someone! This edition of BN taps a bit of that punky spirit that former punkers retain when they decide to go a bit more poprock and showcases what happens to DIY performers when they radically up their game. You might want to turn these tunes up!
Fullerton California’s Odd Robot are back with another 14 songs that channel a punky energy into some pretty tight rock and roll arrangements on their new Amnesiatic. “Sell Your Soul” sets the standard, charging out the gate, guitars full on with some effective new wave hooks and a strong vocal melody. Title track “Amnesiatic” keeps up the pace, sounding a bit Nick Lowe circa 1978, definitely single-worthy material. Things change up with “Green and Yellow Wires,” a song and performance that really reminds me of Ann Arbor, Michigan band Tally Hall and their very sophisticated sound. Overall, you won’t go far wrong with any track on this album, the band is consistent – there are no phone-in moments here. But if I have to single stuff out I find myself particularly partial to “Nothing to do with Anything, But” and the pre-release song, “West Coast Girls,” the latter a killer single musically as well as a showcase for the band’s distinctive, superior vocal sound.
New Zealand is calling with The Beths, a trio whose debut is a concentrated blast of punk-infused indie poprock. “Great No One” opens The Future Hates Me and it combines a driving rhythm section with some crisp lead guitar lines and the band’s signature vocal delivery. This is it, what you came for, and the combination of elements is recombined effectively everywhere else on the album. Title track “The Future Hates Me” adds a slightly discordant element to the equation, “You Wouldn’t Like Me” is a bit more poppy with a lovely swing, “Happy Unhappy” also leans heavily on hooky melody and buoyant vocals, while “Whatever” (previously avaible on the 2016 EP Warm Blood) has all the makings of a hit single: great build, solid hooks, and something that sticks in your head long after it’s over.
From somewhere in a wooded area near Lake Michigan, north of Chicago, Brad Peterson has a garden shed studio where he takes DIY to a whole new level. His earlier records mined a broad range of indie poprock pretty effectively but with 2017’s The Ellipsis Album Peterson began incorporating more contemporary pop sounds and motifs to great effect. Now comes his new The Unknown Album, a collection that appears to take those influences and add some experimental touches to the songwriting and performances. But there’s still a few conventional hit singles in the mix, like the flawless “Whispering,” which sounds like a vocal mix of Sting and Steve Miller in terms of timbre and down to earth delivery. Another straight up poprock gem is “Secret Messages” with its Beatlesque double-tracked vocals and subtle yet hypnotic hook.
DC-based band Dot Dash comprises veterans of a host of almost and actually famous bands whose music rocked regardless of the subsequent monetary reward (or lack thereof). The surplus of talent certainly shows on their new record, Proto Retro. Shifting between an indie punk vibe (“Sun + Moon = Disguise”) and pure 1984 jangle band (“Gray Blue Green”), the many influences also gel together perfectly on tracks like the opener “Unfair Weather.” The song vibes like a sunnier Beach Boys-meets-Weezer project might sound. Like other recently reviewed material, this is another total album experience given the quality of songs: just drop the needle anywhere and you’ll come up with the goods. I love the twists and turns on “Parachute Powerline,” the blast of hooks from “Fast Parade,” and check out those 1980s shimmering guitars on “World’s Last Payphone.” Then prepare yourself for a less restrained indie rock out with “Green on Red.” Proto Retro is a great album, deeply influenced by the old but very in the now too.
These new albums from Odd Robot, The Beths, Brad Peterson and Dot Dash are all available from the usual outlets, awaiting monetary attention. Remember, one sale after another is the only way to eventually top the charts!