Crying in the Sunshine, Dead Alive, Greg Kihn Band, Heartworms, Hey Daisy, Midenhall, Miniature Tigers, Pictures of You, Rekihndled, Rock'n'Roll Wrecking Machine, The Life I Got, The Shins, Tommy and the Rockets
While known largely for just two tunes – “The Breakup Song” and “Jeopardy” – Greg Kihn actually has an amazing catalogue of material. Pick out any of his albums from the 1970s or 1980s and you’ll find more than a few gems. Well twenty years after his chart heyday Kihn is back with a new album, Rekihndled, and the good news is that the magic is still there, particularly on the lead single, “The Life I Got.” Things open with that familiar Kihn crunchy guitar and a ‘whoo’ from somewhere, giving way to vocals with perhaps a bit more gravel than back in the day. But when the chorus kicks in with its catchy drone-like lead guitar line it might just be 1982 all over again. Nice to see a veteran pop rocker jump back in and show he’s still got it. The Life I Got
This new EP from Denmark’s Tommy and Rockets is a special treat with its fabulous artwork and blast of perfectly modulated 1970s poprock. Comparisons with early Ramones and Rockpile abound but the sound that really comes to mind is Dave Edmunds’ retro-1950s movie soundtrack work on Stardust and Porky’s Revenge. Edmunds had a talent for producing a very tight, almost squished sound, like the music was made to be heard through a transistor radio at the drive in, and Tommy and Rockets similarly feels very AM radio, in a good way. My featured cut from Rock ’n’ Roll Wrecking Machine is “Hey Daisy,” a wonderfully structured tune, from its early alluring guitar lines to its compressed vocals.
I discovered the Shins after wandering into a book store/coffee house in some remote college town and instantly fell in love. Oh, Inverted World, Chutes Too Narrow, and Wincing the Night Away were so chock full of inventive, quirky songs brimming with hooks that I just couldn’t get enough of them. Then came the Broken Bells experiment and the more subdued Shins release, Port of Morrow, neither of which grabbed me like the first three releases. Hey, artists have got to follow their muse – far be it from me to hold them to just what I prefer. But I will say that the new Shins album, Heartworms, is a bit of a return to form for those who really dig the early records. “Midenhall” harkens back to the Shins’ strengths in really bringing out hooky melodies from acoustic arrangements, title track “Heartworms” layers up the poprock sonic landscape, while “Dead Alive” has a nice loping Halloween aura.Heartworms
Chris Collingwood from Fountains of Wayne was reviewing the most recent Shins album with much more insight than I could ever hope to muster when he mentioned a few bands he was listening to. One was Brooklyn’s Miniature Tigers. I immediately flew to iTunes to check out their latest record, I Dreamt I was a Cowboy. I was not disappointed! They have a wonderfully textured sound that reminds me of Foster the People, particularly the keyboards and vocals on “Crying in the Sunshine.” Another great track is “Pictures of You” with its impressive range of character instruments (e.g. a Hawaiian-style guitar solo) popping in here and there. The music here is deceptively simple-sounding but in reality pretty sophisticated poprock.
Greg Kihn, Tommy and the Rockets, the Shins, and Miniature Tigers all host bright and shiny internet sites, just longing for traffic. Why keep them waiting?