Amplifier Heads, Atari Ferrari, Gabriel's Dawn, Goody Grace, Hank Idory, Hovvdy, Howe Gelb and a Band of Gypsies, Robert Harrison, Rural France, Swansea Sound, Televisionaries, The Laissez Fairs, The Pastel Waves, The Peppermint Kicks, WUT
It happens every year. My meticulous lists and projected scheduled posts invariably go awry and artists I had every intention of featuring somehow get left out. But then I had an idea. An awful idea. A wonderful, awful idea. Actually it’s one I stole from those canny Brits. What if I just packed those missing artists into one big fat of post of everything? Then I could tuck them all into 2021 no problem. It’s not a pretty … but it’s what we’re doing. Here’s the first of two installments.
Spain loves power pop, as is obvious from Hank Idory’s recent album, Sentimental Jamboree. The record has a range of tempos going but I’m drawn to the whipsmart Mersey-tinged “Un Rayo De Sol.” Austin, Texas duo Hovvdy serve up some pretty special, self-dubbed ‘pillow-core’ on True Love. It’s got a some Bon Iver, a bit of Hayden, and even some New Order in its droney intensity at times. The whole record could wallpaper an evening of low lighting intimacy for you but a quick take lands on the title track “True Love.” Rochester New York is a serious rock and roll town with so many great bands from there. Like the early 1960s beach riffing rock and roll outfit Televisionaries. Crank up “Charlotte Beach” and let the beach bingo party begin! B-side “Cuckoo Clock” is a pretty special bit of fun too – love that guitar solo. To get some jangle on, let’s turn to Gabriel’s Dawn and their exquisitely gentle, flowing single “Loose Canyon.” Kinda like the Bangles geared down for a ride in the country. Proving old indie dogs can learn new tricks, Swansea Sound come out of Wales demanding ‘indie bands of the world, unite!’ The song titles are blast – “Corporate Indie Band,” “I Sold My Soul on EBay” – and not at all off the mark. But I’m digging the more blatantly poppy “Let It Happen.”
Kent’s The Pastel Waves are also working the political side of street on their EP The Influencers. There’s a 1980s Silencers feel to the package with distinctive guitar while the politics is served with strong melody e.g. opening track “Starts Right Here.” A solo record from Cotton Mather’s Robert Harrison is a big deal and people have been writing about it all over, deservedly so. Watching the Kid Come Back is a delightful collection, marked by whimsey and emotional depth. The title track alone is worth the album price, a remarkable work of melodic minimalism. Is it wrong to buy an album for the cover? Ok, so the music got to me too but the cover of Atari Ferrari’s new Pleasant Surprise had me on pause for while. The record itself is an extraordinary distillation of 1970s influences – Marc Bolan, Queen, a raft of guitar picking singer/songwriting guys, and more. Hard to choose just one tune but I’d have you start on the Cat Stevens-ish “Keep Lookin’.” Las Vegas band The Laissez Fairs clearly just tipped out of the Tardis from 1969, they so nail the psych-poprock sound of that time. The album is “Curiosity Killed The Laissez Fairs?” and it’s a winner. But pressed for one hit, I’m really digging “Sunshine Tuff.” Two Whiltshire UK boys are Rural France. I know, it’s confusing. But ignore all that and just wade into their fab new album RF. The slightly DIY indie vibe tends to obscure the songwriting talent here – what songs! So many possible key selections: “Clementine,” “Teenage Tom Petty,” “Sing Yr Hook,” and so on. I’m voting “Resident Comedian” as the should-be hit single.
Sal Baglio is having a busy year. Project one is another Amplifier Heads long-player, SaturnalienS. All the usual ingredients are there: hooky lead guitar lines, clever lyrics and surprising melodic turns buried everywhere. Just check out the Costello-worthy guitar licks launching “The House of Young Dolls.” What a tune! And then on project two he pulls a Dukes of Stratosphere move with new band The Peppermint Kicks, melding late sixties rock with a Romantics era new wave. It’s all there on “Johnny D’s (Play It Again).” One band is just not enough for some people. Going out on a limb with this next one, all the way to Selkirk Manitoba. Goody Grace has got a spooky EP out, Nostalgia Kills, and it vibes a pretty contemporary sound. But check out the 1980s spacey guitar and overall ominous poppiness to “Hold Me in the Moonlight.” Here’s another outlier from Madrid Spain group Howe Gelb and a Band of Gypsies. Overall, Algrias is tangorific, with airy background vocals and some pretty amazing guitar playing. But the standout feature of this band is how the musical accompaniment combines with the Leonard Cohen-esque lead vocals. Magic! Start with “Notoriety” and go from there. Vancouver’s WUT are great. There is something so performance artist punk about their whole demeanor on their record Now. For instance, “White Walls” almost sounds like a chant but still has some quirky melodic undercurrent carrying it through what is obviously first person account of a coffee shop apocalypse.
We’re not done. There’s even more ‘big fat post of everything’ coming your way. Tomorrow.