Aaron Lee Tasjan, Dan Israel, Go Deep, Karma for Cheap: Reincarnated, Richard Turgeon, Social Media Anxiety Disorder, The Rallies, Upside Down
Some definite hot properties in this newscast with new releases from Poprock Record faves Richard Turgeon, The Rallies, Dan Israel and Aaron Lee Tasjan!
Richard Turgeon just keeps on getting better and better. His debut (In Between Spaces) and sophomore (Lost Angeles) albums were solid slabs of 1990s-inflected poprock, layered with hooks and slathered with a grungy alienated demeanor. Now he’s back with Go Deep and this time he’s upped the melodic quotient. This is the record Matthew Sweet should be putting out! There’s plenty of solid hooks, a bit of crunch, and those slightly dark melodic twists that sink deep in your sonic consciousness and stay there. It’s all there in the great opening track, “The One Who Got Away,” with its driving guitar and lovely background vocals. Or “Next to Me” with its strong guitar lead line hook. Then Turgeon shakes things up with an early Police ska rhythm guitar anchoring “Beware of God” accompanied by some REM-worthy background/foreground vocal interplay. The REM comparisons continue with “Loneliness,” a spot-on could-be outtake from Document. Two different versions of “Lost and Found” both capture the aching beauty at heart of the song. And then Turgeon shows his songwriting depth and range with the country/folk tune, the winsome “Cowboy Life.” Ultimately Go Deep is a great album experience, worthy of repeated listenings.
Seattle Washington’s The Rallies are back with their sophomore LP Upside Down and it’s a reverb-charged dose of sunny hooks and bittersweet sentiment. If you enjoyed their harmony-drenched debut Serve you’re going to love this new record. The solid acoustic guitar rhythm backing is still there. The distinctive mix of harmony background vocals combined with lead singer Steve Davis’ heart-tugging delivery remains front and centre. But the songs have a bit more muscle this time out. Somebody stepped on the jangle pedal because its ringing tone threads its way throughout the album, from the single-worthy opener “All Over Town” to the soaring closer “You’re the One.” The album opens on an extremely strong note. Really, in a properly poprock world “All Over the Town” would be zooming up the charts with its Beatles-esque background vocals, hypnotic guitar hooks, and earwormy melody. Overall, the influences alternate on this album, from the Tom Petty-ish “Brand New” and “Up To You” to the more Crowded House vibe of “It’s OK” and “Alive.” The hooky lead line opener to “If You Do” comes off like a lost cut from the That Thing You Do soundtrack. And I also love the lilting, more slow-paced melodic charm of “In Everything.” But make no mistake, the band have their own distinctive sound and style, as in evidence on the moving “All of Us,” a song that highlights this group’s overall uplifting positivity. 2017’s Serve landed on a host of ‘best of ‘ album lists and I predict Upside Down will heading to the same places for 2019.
Minnesota’s Dan Israel is like the money in the bank, turning out reliably great poprock records year in and out. This time he’s back with the timely-titled Social Media Anxiety Disorder and it is another winning collection of poprock ruminations on life and surviving the modern world. The album opens with “Be My Girl,” the obvious single with its endearing horn section, hooky bass guitar work, and hit single aura. But the whole record is quality stuff, alternating between Dylanesque observations and a Cat Stevens kind of confident delivery. Check out the hooky wordy attack of “Another Day” or the Tom Petty-ish country demeanor of “Tired.” Or how about the “Strawberry Fields Forever” organ quality adding something to the already winning “125” – killer! Personally, I’m smitten with the intimate acoustic revelations of “Still I’m Lost” and the almost church-like gospel hints embedded in “Out of My Hands” and “Out of My Hands Reprised.” Dan Israel is leading the singer/songwriter poprock revival, one you should be signing on to.
Aaron Lee Tasjan’s Karma for Cheap was my number 1 album for 2018. I just couldn’t get enough of it. The songwriting was exquisite, the musical performances – amazing. Now Tasjan has returned with a stripped down version of the album, Karma for Cheap: Reincarnated, and it’s a revelation. It’s like Karma unplugged, and stripped bare the songs really stand up. In this re-ordered version of the album, former album closer “Songbird” is now the opener and in its more naked form it exudes all the acoustic majesty of McCartney’s “Blackbird” or “Mother Nature’s Son.” And so it is true for all the other songs. These more spare recordings reveal new depths in songs like “Strange Shadows” and “End of the Day.” Reincarnated does make one major change in the set list of Karma for Cheap, swapping out the Orbison-esque “Dream Dreamer” for the delighful “My Whole Life is Over (All Over Again).” Tasjan’s a major talent, as revealed by his ability here to bring even more new life to some pretty great material.
Today’s headlines quickly pass into history but along the way people need to make a buck, particularly songwriters and musicians. Visit Richard Turgeon, The Rallies, Dan Israel, and Aaron Lee Tasjan online to help keep them in the papers.
Wilson underpass in Toronto photo courtesy Larry Gordon.