I’m not much of a Valentine’s Day guy. It’s all too gushy and sweet and more than a bit forced. But I’m not ashamed to admit I’m totally smitten with Trevor Blendour’s new long player, the holiday appropriately-titled Falling in Love. Take Buddy Holly, tweak it with those early 1960s American pop vocal motifs, add a bit of millennial indie sheen, and you’ve got a completely addictive collection of earwormy tunes, each clocking in at just 2-3minutes max. Appearing as The Blendours on previous albums the sound was bit more punky but in this new guise as a solo artist Trevor Treiber (now aka Blendour) simply embraces his love all things 1950s/early 1960s. And the results are a magical mix of retro lead guitar runs, swooping overlapping vocal lines, and melodic hooks galore.
For the most part the formula here is alternative-universe American Graffiti. In the movie the leftover 1950s themes bleed into the early 1960s, as cultural referents are wont to do, and that’s the broad landscape hovering in the background of this record. Sometimes it’s a straight up fifties time trip, as on “A Paradise,” a track that hybridizes classic Elvis and Buddy Holly vocal phrasing and song styles. It’s there again on album opener “Don’t Mean Maybe” with a combo of rockabilly and doo wop elements. With “Falling in Love” the frame of reference shifts a bit to all those early 1960s teen idols. There there’s the post-Holly Crickets reeling and rocking sound all over “Carly Please.” Another classic early sixties style can be found on “Win Back That Girl,” this time the tragic feel reminiscent of ‘disaster’ rock. Things move a bit more into the mid-1960s on “Tough Guy” with its Beach Boys falsetto vocals and “Rena” which has a Beatles “Things We Said Today” rhythm guitar swing. Not that everything here is retro. Treiber’s pop punk instincts come more to the fore on tracks like “Lost The Girl,” “Gloria” and “Another Guy,” though with the rough edges smoothed out a bit. “Cold Heart” sounds very 1979 rock and roll revival in a Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds sort of way. But for me, Blendour saves the best for last with the should-be hit single “Him Instead of Me.” This track reminds me of the way the Beatles put a bit of rock and roll muscle into all the fifties rock and girl group covers they sprinkled throughout their first few albums.
Unlike romantic love a great record will never let you down. This year, make a date with Trevor Blendour’s Falling in Love for Valentine’s Day. It’s cheaper than a dinner out, has a timeless quality that will never age, and is guaranteed to greet you with buoyant enthusiasm every time you turn it on.
In our social media-saturated universe it seems that your 15 minutes of fame has been reduced to just 15 seconds. Who going to give up the time to listen to a whole album, let alone gaze longingly at the cover (like we used to do) while it plays? That means today’s albums have really got to have something special going on, like great tunes, engaging styles, and hooks that seem to improve with repeated listenings. Those are the standards we applied to the 2021 album releases we encountered this past year, resulting in a list of 25 must-have LPs we think you should get to know. But wait, that’s not all. We’ve also helpfully culled the racks for top EPs, covers albums, and long lost albums that finally saw the light of day in 2021. Forget the Columbia House Record Club, we’ve got all the long-players you need and then some. Hyperlinks take you to the original review.
So let’s get the show rolling with Poprock Record’s 25 must-have LPs for 2021:
Putting James Henry as my number 1 album choice for 2021 might surprise a few blog watchers but frankly I don’t know why Pluck isn’t topping all the indie charts. Maybe it’s the subdued cover art or perhaps the album just falls between the genre cracks, I don’t know. But if you love those highly listenable 1980s Squeeze or Crowded House albums, this guy is for you. Each song should be stamped ‘earworm warning’ as a positive public health measure. Take it from me, Pluck is a relentless hook machine. 5 stars for sure. Other choices – Brent Seavers, The Brothers Steve, Lolas, Chris Church – are perhaps more predictable. Hey, they’ve delivered before and here they deliver again. Genre-wise, Lane Steinberg and Fishboy undoubtedly raise boundary issues but damn they are fine albums with subtly hooky tunes. And the rest? Well they’re all defined by content that is mucho killer, nada filler.
Can’t spare the time for a full album experience? These extended play releases will meet your need for more than a single but not quite a long-player. But fair warning, these concentrated blasts of melodic goodness may leave you wanting for more. They’re that good.
Then, there’s Poprock Record’s top five covers albums for 2021:
The pandemic moved just about everyone to put out an album of covers. But they’re actually pretty hard to nail, ranging in quality from elevated karoke to the unrecognizable. The trick is to rework the unique creative spark in the song, making it both recognizable and different at the same time. Turgeon’s a master of song reinvention, taking up tunes others wouldn’t dare to try (from the likes of The Monkees, The Mamas and Papas, and the Bryds, among others) and succeeding. Browning applies his own distinctive poprock chops to material from the sixties to the eighties that lets you fall for the classics all over again. Ditto 3, 4, and 5 – they love the songs and it shows.
And finally, Poprock Record’s 5 best long lost albums of 2021:
The idea that a band could put all the work into writing, playing and recording an album and then not have it released almost seems like a crime in my book. Numbers 4 and 5 had their work ‘misplaced,’ only to accidently resurface recently and get released. Numbers 2 and 3 were indie artists whose various DIY and professional recordings never got gathered together for a proper release, until the rise of recent niche music markets made it viable. And number 1 is a remarkable story of a band that wouldn’t let their record company/producer’s mangled version of their album stand. So instead they rerecorded it, this time getting it right. That the Sorrows could make their rerecording of Love Too Late sound so 1981 is a testament to their talent and sheer doggedness.
Ok, one last category, Poprock Record’s best ‘best of’ album of 2021:
Sometimes greatest hits collections really hit the mark. The Best of Dropkick is one of them. It’s a comprehensive overview of this great band’s career, packaged with attractive artwork, and at a very nice price.
Well we stretched the 25 album limit but it really was the only way to be fair to all these super LPs and EPs. I think this post demonstrates that while classic era of the album may be over, there’s still lots of tremendous long-playing records out there. If you love them, support them, whether its live or Memorex.
Lego records graphic courtesy art/design student _Regn.
Welcome to our sixth annual collection of should-be hit singles gathered from the artists, albums and tunes featured on Poprock Record in the previous year. You’d think after five tries I would have come up with some kind of rock solid science to make these choices. But, no. Still winging it, going with whatever takes my fancy. I mean, I think you’ll see a pattern: catchy guitar hooks, soaring melodies, earwormy compositions, all accomplished in three minutes or less usually. Putting this list together was particularly challenging this year – positively spoilt for choices! My initial list of possible songs had over 200 selections. The hyperlinks below will take you to the original post about each artist as they first appeared on the blog.
So let’s get to it, Poprock Record’s top 50 should-be hit singles for 2021:
This year’s list privileges strong, strong hooks. I’m talking the jangleliscious guitar work from the ever reliable Boys With The Perpetual Nervousness on “I Don’t Mind,” the relentless driving guitar riffs animating White Fang’s “Never Give Up,” or the delicious 1960s roll out kicking off The Vapour Trails’ “That’ll Do It.” Or the pumping, plinky piano and organ cocktail that undergirds James Holt’s killer single “Mystery Girl.” Then there’s the more traditional poprock Brent Seavers, springing the earworm in the chorus of “More Than a Friend.” Still, there’s room for variety on this list, from the tender acoustic Aaron Lee Tasjan ballad “Another Lonely Day,” to the Beach Boys homage in Daisy House’s “Last Wave Home,” to a folk rock duet from Steve Stoeckel and Irene Pena on “Why,” to the striking sonic heartbreak embodied in Richard X. Heyman’s touching “Ransom.”
Truly, this list is just a bit a fun, one more chance for me to shine a light on the artists whose work had me hitting replay in 2021. But I’m sure you might make different choices. Feel free to tell me all about them! Either way, don’t forget to find some way – buying music, attending live shows (when it’s safe!), or taking up those opportunities to interact with them online – to support their bottom line. They may not only be in it for the money, but money does allow them to stay in it.
Some performers really lean on the excitement part of music. They’re a barely containable blast of pure energy. You can tell they just can’t wait to get on stage, to roll tape, and let go. That’s today acts, though in very different ways.
The word I associate with The Blendours‘ creative force Trevor Trieber is ‘glee.’ He’s kinda like that foul-mouthed, badly-behaving distant cousin your parents worry about but you can’t wait to hang with. His work conjures up a pristine world of early 1960s song structures, melodies and harmony vocals, but slathered with obscenities and observational lyrics that wouldn’t make it on American Bandstand. But as Trevor might say, ‘Fuck it.’ There’s just too much fun going on here. Go On Vacation is the band’s fabulous, delightfully crude new EP. It’s only ten minutes long but manages to space it over seven songs. Trevor doesn’t linger or belabor the point but, hey, you can always hit replay. Some tracks race along, like the manic “Buzzkill” with great lead guitar runs and a clever juxtaposition of vocals. Others, like “Tell Me the Truth,” take their time, expertly mimicking that early 1960s feel of teenage emotional drama. Instrumentally the album is pretty spare, often just acoustic rhythm guitar carrying things with some electric lead guitar adornments. But Treiber somehow makes it sound pretty rock and roll on tracks like “I’ll Be the Guy.” And how many writers can slip a ‘sha na na na’ into a song so effortlessly? I love it in “Good to You.” Album closer “Goodbye Christine” even offers up some jazzy electric guitar shots. You can read this blog’s love letter to The Blendours back catalogue here. Go On Vacation is definitely keeping that love alive.
After a long career in various rock and roll outfits Ed Ryan’s recent string of solo efforts has allowed us see the many, many sides to his musical personality. Albums Roadmap and Furious Mind both kicked off with screaming guitar solos but last year’s Even Time softened us up with a hooky keyboard effect on its opening cut. Then inside each release were songs cast in a range of styles spanning decades of melodic rock and roll influences. Now he’s back with another installment that both confirms and challenges our expectations. Don’t Follow Where They Lead is not just a timely caution given our recent political winds but another celebration of melody, in a variety of fun jaunty styles. First on my agenda are the straight ahead poprock gems. Album opener “Anytown” sets the tone with jangly guitars and hooky descending bass lines. Or there’s the choppy rhythm guitar and those distinctive early 1980s vocals driving “Biggest Fan.” Another fun poprock confection is “Maybe I’m Dreaming,” easily a missing deep cut from some cool 1979 guitar band. But the obvious should-be hit for me is the sneaky earworm, “Everyone Wonders.” I love how the song shifts intensity and attack, while offering striking changes in the structure and melody. Beyond the expected poppy rock and roll Ryan shakes things up tempo and style-wise on the mellow John Waite-ish title track or with the hepcat shuffle defining “Fish in the Sea.” Or listen to how the piano line weaving through the chorus of “Made Me” adds an extra allure to tune. I also like the guitar tension Ryan creates on “Why Doncha Do It,” only to serve up a glorious release in the chorus. The album also includes a few delightful slower numbers like “What’s True” and “So Far Away.” Altogether, Don’t Follow Where They Lead is another winner from Ed Ryan.
Who am I kidding? I’m clearly the excitable boy in this post scenario. There are just some acts I can’t wait to hear more from, like The Blendours and Ed Ryan. Check them out online and see they don’t raise your pulse just a little.
This past month it seems like the Blendours are everywhere, featured on a host of podcasts and music blogs. Who are these guys and why is everyone suddenly discovering them? Ok, the latter half of the question escapes me but the first part is easily researched. Iowa’s newest hitmakers are actually old pros on the pop punk scene with releases stretching back to 2011. Meeting the actual band won’t take long – they are essentially songwriter, singer, main (often sole) musician Trevor Treiber, with guests from time to time. Reckoning with their extensive catalogue – 15 or so albums, depending on how you count them – is more daunting. But here you can relax as yours truly has needle-dropped his way through all the albums to curate a special collection of the band’s material. I wouldn’t claim this is a definitive collection but there’s more than enough featured here to meet the Blendours!
The early Blendours’ records embody what commentators have called ‘Ramones-core,’ a sound capturing the urgent yet simple rhythm guitar attack of America’s favourite punk band. Yet there has always been a sweet goofiness to the Blendours output too, enhanced by Treiber’s penchant for harmony vocals. You can hear the fun ‘I’m not taking this too seriously’ approach on tracks like “Miley and Me,” “Cheapskate” “Comic Shoppe,” and “Fastfood Queen.” But at the same time you can also spot the serious attention to strong structure as the band nails the early 1960s melodrama sound on “Now That’s He’s Gone” and “I Miss You Baby.” There’s more than a little of Gene Pitney’s histrionics on “More Than a Game” or a total American Grafitti vibe to “Trail of Broken Hearts.”
As the albums pile up the songwriting gains melodic depth. There is something very Magnetic Fields about songs like “I Blew It Again” or Edmunds-Lowe/Rockpile-ish on “I’m in Love with Mary-Sue.” Guitar leads start to take on more prominence on tracks like “She’s My Girl” and “A Girl Like You.” Then there’s really creative efforts that stretch the limits of conventional song structures like “99 Lives,” “Cut My Hair” and “Throw My Brain Away” (the latter with a nice Beatlesque twist). Meanwhile, Treiber’s love of doo wop and fifties motifs run throughout his career on songs like “Toddler Stomp” and “Metal Rebel.”
The Blendours more recent albums bring all their many influences together in a dynamic, more polished synthesis. 2016’s In the Living Room is like Beach Boys Party meets Jonathan Sings! in its combination of an easy groove, catchy melodies, and a new lyrical sophistication. Treiber’s pop punkster is giving way to a new millennium reincarnation of Buddy Holly on tracks like “She’s Got Another One” and “Listen to Your Heart.” And then there’s 2019’s Wrong Generation – man, I’m in love with this record! In a way The Blendours come full circle here, returning to mostly acoustic guitar strumming and inspired vocal interplay to carry the day but somehow managing to sound like so much more. The title track is rocking boogie number that reads like Treiber’s musical manifesto. There’s an vocal vulnerability animating “My One and Only” that gives the song so much more impact. This is a band not just goofing off anymore. Meanwhile “Different Kind of Love” nails an early 1960s pop country sound. If you were to buy only one Blendours album, you wouldn’t go wrong with Wrong Generation. It’s the band’s most fully realized piece of creativity. On the other hand, if you prefer punk, the band can still punk out. Check out “What To Say To You” from 2017’s No Respect.
As the band say on their Facebook page, their “sound will make you feel like a teenager cruising the strip before your high school dance.” You can make that your car soundtrack by visiting the Blendours on bandcamp.