It’s a mix of styles on this turn around the dial as we travel from Thailand to California up to Seattle and over to Little Rock, Arkansas. But it is worth the trip!
While the band may hail from Nashville, Escondido clearly embody the southwest vibe of the California town that is their namesake. From the rumbly Morricone guitars to the occasional splash of Tijuana Brass horns, the songs all have that indie-country crossover charm of First Aid Kit, Neko Case and even Rilo Kiley’s Jenny Lewis. The songwriting is particularly strong on the band’s most recent longplayer, Warning Bells. “Bullet” has a great electric guitar opener and nicely shifts between languid country to a swinging chorus. “Crush On Her” takes up the tempo, adding a mid-1970s Fleetwood Mac ambience to the mix. “Roam” cranks up the horns but with the pedal steel and paired vocals it ends up sounding like a great lost Nancy Sinatra single. But the album’s highlight is undoubtedly the low key but moving “You’re Not Like Anyone Else.” This one is destined for countless cover versions and it deserves the attention. If you like Warning Bells, check out Escondido’s back catalogue – it’s pretty special too.
Effluxion, the new album from Seattle’s Telekinesis, builds on a distinctive indie poprock sound honed on four previous releases, with an extra shot of 1960s swagger on tracks like “Like Nothing” with its killer ‘whoa-oh’s and the hooky “Running Like a River.” “Suburban Streetlight Drunk” hits the keyboards heavy with a vocal that is oh so Shins, in a very good way. At other times, like on the track “A Place in the Sun,” the similarities in vibe with Ruler, another great Seattle poprock outfit, seem pronounced. Overall, this is a super album, one that develops while continuing to deliver on the great songwriting promise showcased on 2009’s self titled Telekinesis!, particularly the flawless pop craft of a song like “All of a Sudden.” Effluxion is a solid repeat-play release.
Secret Friend is the musical project of Thailand-based producer Steven Fox, one where he brings together a host of musical friends to help him perform his songs. His latest effort has Roger Manning Jr. (formerly of Jellyfish) and Linus of Hollywood playing with vocals by Christopher Given Harris. The resulting single – “Power” – is a fabulous slab of ELO-inspired pop goodness. From the crunching guitar and keyboard stab opening to the candy-coated, silky smoothness of vocals, you know this is going to be something good. And it is, recalling a distinctly 1980s poprock radio golden age of hooky singles.
From Little Rock, Arkansas comes Mondello with Hello, All You Happy People, an album that is the product of a twenty-year odyssey of songwriting and procrastination. The record has a melodic, sometimes discordant, DIY poprock charm. Though some tracks do have a polished sheen, like the obvious single, “Not For Lack of Trying” and the hooky “Heather Martin.” Vocally Mondello sounds like a rockier Tim Finn at times, as on “You Do You” and “Not About to Let You Know.” Other highlights for me include the indie poppy flavour of “Around in Circles,” the slightly harsher hooks on “Stack of Bibles,” and the breezy throwback groove defining “Don’t Say Anything About My Baby” (not the Cookies song!). Better late than never on this release, an LP of solid material and fun graphics/artwork.