Today’s turn around the dial brings some glam rhythm guitar, Dylanesque vocalizing, folky poprock and a 1965 cellar full of noise.
With an opening guitar reminiscent of Greg Kihn or Tommy Tutone and a vocal vibing Phil Seymour, “In Love Again” gets Tommy Ray’s new album Handful of Hits off to an exhilarating start. Follow up “No No No No” seals the deal with a 1980s English guitar band remake of Marc Bolan, kinda like Modern English does glam. Again and the again this record captures that sense of seventies’ fresh punky excitement but with tunes that pack a melodic punch. It’s busting out all over “Loser’s Anthem” with its hooky organ and guitar lines. “If You Need Anything” is a rollicking romp of a dance stomper. Meanwhile “Feel the Pain’ channels that 1970s reinvention of fifties rock and roll to a ‘T’. But my fave tune here is addictive “Runnin’” with its catchy mix of chunky guitar chords and piano shots. This album hits all the classic melodic indie rock marks and then some. Soundtrack your party with this release and let the fun begin.
Cooler Returns is a confident album number 2 from Canadians Kiwi jr. “Tyler” kicks things off, reintroducing the band with a confessional vocal style not unlike Ben Folds. “Undecided Voters” continues to be jangle relevant and just in time for a Canadian federal election. “Maid Marian’s Toast” has a pastoral Dylanesque sound, if he were an eighties indie artist. And that’s just the first three tracks! Stylistically, this is sometimes an album of big choruses – just hear them burst open melodically on “Highlights of 100” and “Omaha.” Or sometimes it’s more about distinctive rhythm guitar work, as on title track “Cooler Returns” and “Dodger.” And then there’s the occasional departure from the script songwriting-wise, like “Nashville Wedding.” I can hear the girl group double claps in my head in the verses as this one rolls out. It’s the kinda thing my 1980s FM radio stations would put in maximum rotation. I’m also really keen on “Waiting in Line.” Again, such a great roll out beginning to the song with its jangle guitar and plinky piano. You can even get a comic book of the record’s illustrated lyrics designed by Toronto illustrator Dmitry Bondarenko. Those Canucks!
I love the artwork on Nicholas Altobelli’s new album Technicolor Hearts. The purples and blues of the fairground at night give it a captivating allure. Sound-wise Altobelli veers out of his usual, carefully crafted, folkish pop lane, more solidly aiming at a contemporary, almost Hall and Oates poprock sound (which I’m loving). On the other hand, there is a very Darryl Hanlon vibe to what is going on here, with that guy’s ever so melodic mediations on sincerity and experience. The former is present in the title track, with those hypnotic keyboards and Springsteen “I’m On Fire” percussion. The latter is there on “Bless Yer Heart” despite the hard rock chorus and “Midnight Radio.” The record also offers up yet another reworking of last year’s stand-alone single “Ghost,” this time with some funky Kraftwork-worthy keyboards. 2016’s “Exit Polls” also gets a new treatment that tones down the guitar in favour of leaning into the vocal melody a bit more, with good effect. In our ‘what about surprises’ category, check out “Time Will Tell” with its Aimee Mann-ish keyboards. On the whole, I declare Technicolor Hearts a delight, an enjoyable accompaniment to your night out at the fair. And, hey, buy it over on Bandcamp and get five demos of songs from the record and a country version of “Time Will Tell” for no extra charge. That’s like getting a free, extra go-round on the roller coaster at the end of the night.
They might be named for an English insurrectionary leader from the 15th century but you won’t need a history class to appreciate The Jack Cades. I mean, not If you like a jangly, mid-1960s San Francisco-meets-swinging London sound, with just a touch of garage band immediacy and excitement. After two killer albums of strong original material the band return with an EP of covers to wile away the pandemic, cheekily entitled Infectious Covers. All four songs are fabulous, though I wish the band had provided a bit more background on some of the more obscure tracks. The Byrds’ “I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better” is the easy one, while The Dovers breezy, lead guitar line-led 1965 single “What Am I Going To Do” wasn’t too hard to dig up. But “Once Before” and “Go Ahead” left me stumped. Both are super songs, performed with a psychedelic rock feel on the former and a lonely, singer-avec-some gentle jangle on the latter. One thing striking about this band is how they so effectively echo a past era without sounding stuck in it.
Each of today’s artists would love to meet you. Electronically, that is. Check out their websites, Facebook and/or Bandcamp to get the full deets.
Top photo credit: cropped from Nicholas Altobelli’s new album cover for Technicolor Hearts.