Brian Troester, Danny Patrick, Dazy, J. Matthews, Lachlan Denton, Librarians with Hickeys, Lisasinson, Lolas, McFly, Richard Turgeon, Scott Whiddon, Spearside, Speckled Bird, Tchotchke, The Anderson Council, The Armchair Oracles, The Half Cubes, The On and Ons, The Sylvia Platters, Worriers
We are springing into action as winter finally ebbs away, returning with our second seasonal installment of singles. Here are another 21 songs, playlist-tested and ready for maximum musical enjoyment as you and yours contemplate heading outside.
New Jersey’s The Anderson Council have got a heaping helping of sixties-inspired tune-age ready with new LP The Devil, The Tower, The Star, The Moon, due out shortly. While we for wait we can enjoy the teaser single “Alone With You,” a guitar-centric slice of the band’s distinctive brand of power pop. Birmingham’s Lolas never fail to please. Every release is sibilant guitars aplenty and buzzy, harmony-drenched vocals working the melody hard. “Trick Myself” is hooky pleasantness itself, with some nice 1970s chorused lead guitars in the instrumental break. Recently ads for Lexington Kentucky have been interrupting my TV shows. If they’d featured Lexingtonian Scott Whiddon I might have paused the mute function. Taking a gander at his bandcamp pages you’ll find some nice acoustic guitar pop and indie-ish poprock. But his most recent single “I Can’t Remember the Things I Love” is decidedly more quirky, employing a swirl of 1980s computer noises and some harder edged guitar backing. I like where this is going. When “Trout Fishing in America” opens Speckled Bird’s new EP the Bryds vibes are pretty serious. And yet there’s a fresh feel to the proceedings, particularly on the vocals. The longer it goes on, the more it sounds like its own very original thing. When McFly got going they could have easily morphed into a guitar-slinging One Direction. And yet there was always something more to this band of rosy-cheeked boys. They could write songs, they could harmonize with a Beatlesque ease. Now two decades on from their commercial heyday they are still producing AM-worthy tunes in the best sense. Like “Corner of My Mind,” a track from 2020’s The Lost Songs, an album of demos from aborted recording sessions. Hard to believe a band could sit on songs this good.
On “A Sailor’s Song” Brian Troester marries an early 1980s AM pop sophistication with a laid back country vocal. The result should be gold, as in, gold record. The lead guitar hook and the song’s alluring steadfast pacing sounds so John Waite. Meanwhile the song’s lyrical narrative begs for 1984 MTV video treatment. Trim, Ireland – population 9000 – hardly seems like it would be a hotbed of rock and roll. But local lads Spearside are going to change your mind. They’ve got a handful of singles and an EP of psych-rock that make a mark. The opening title cut on their EP Remember, No Regrets charges into your consciousness with big guitars and a load of sneaky pop hooks while stand-alone single “Not Up to Much” steps on the melody pedal with jangly guitars and sweet harmony vocals. I am sure this is just the start of a beautiful thing with this band. Getting into the swing of our theme Ohioans Librarians with Hickeys just “Can’t Wait ‘Till Summer.” The jangly guitars and ethereal vocals make this track something special. There’s an air of late 1960s Moody Blues in the song’s melancholic demeanor. What happens when you put half the members of the Flashcubes and Screen Test into a studio with one of the Pernice Brothers? Freakin’ 45rpm magic, that’s what. Gary Frenay, Tommy Allen, Randy Klawon and Bob Pernice are The Half Cubes for this session, recording a remake of The Pernice Brothers’ 2003 song “The Weakest Shade of Blue.” And the results are a tantalizingly fresh reinvention of a pretty solid tune. Frankly, it sounds like a Screen Test recording to me, which I consider a thing of poprock beauty. Brooklyn’s Worriers have recorded what should really be my theme song, “Power Pop Mixtape.” Happily name-checking Nick Lowe, the Undertones and song titles from the Jam and Style Council, the song is defined by stark, striking guitar chords cast against a cool vocal delivery.
Norway’s The Armchair Oracles are working up to something, as “Time to Realise” is their fifth stand-alone single since 2019’s Caught by Light album. As with previous releases, the mood is a sophisticated, very much polished pop performance in line with Alan Parsons Project or 1980s Moodies. And yet there’s just a hint of Rogue Wave in there somewhere. On “Norman 4” Vancouver’s The Sylvia Platters sound like they’re working the streets of Glasgow somewhere near where Teenage Fanclub hang out. Perhaps that’s not surprising – this sometime bonus track to the band’s 2022 EP Youth Without Virtue is dedicated to Norman Blake after all. It departs from the overall sound there, with an extra helping of jangle. J. Matthews is Mr. Mellow, swanning into the room on orchestral keyboards and light airy acoustic guitar strumming. Then “Wanderlust” hits the chorus and the hook just grabs you like a stranger’s unexpected smile. What a perfect little pop song. Another slow burn delight is “Lose” from Lachlan Denton’s new album Furnishings. The whole record settles lightly on the stereo, the instrumentation sparse and low key. But “Lose” stands out as the obvious radio single with its bare bones lead guitar licks and subtle melodic hooks. Valencia, Spain’s Lisasinson return with “Cuchillos,” a driving bit of rocky pop. The vocals are sweet but the guitar hits you somewhere below the gut, pushing your dancing machinery into gear. Just try to remain still.
The On and Ons are Australia’s most reliable sixties-inspired party band. Their records have a freewheeling Hoodoo Gurus energy delivered in a dead-on swinging-1960s register. Close your eyes and it’s 1966 on “Let Ya Hair Down,” just add go-go gals and dancing teens. It’s one of 12 winning cuts on the band’s new album of the same name. San Francisco’s Richard Turgeon is the hardest working guy on the indie rock/power pop scene. His ouvre is one part classic rock, two parts 1990s dissonant indie, and one part whatever he’s been grooving on lately. This time he serves up another super-charged power pop single with “All Alone,” a four on the floor rocker worthy of Matthew Sweet. On Kicking Bird’s debut LP Original Motion Picture Soundtrack you hear a band that is having fun, not taking themselves too seriously. There’s a Titus Andronicus shambolic feel to things sometimes (“Hickory River”), but a more measured sixties girl group pacing at others (“Just To Be Here With You”). Personally, I’m taken with the topical, jaunty “Talking to Girls (On the Internet).” New York City’s Tchotchke have fashioned an album full of attractive musically decorative objects we call songs, like “Ronnie.” The track has a great guitar sound, both on rhythm and the hooky lead lines. This band is 1960s sunshine pop reborn, with slightly louder guitars and a bit more urban street attitude. Who is Danny Patrick? I don’t know. He’s a guy on bandcamp giving his music away. There you can find 16 singles, some repeated on an album entitled sometimes I, all for free. Still, I know what I like, and Patrick’s spot on early 1980s new wavey sound works for me. Just click on “Blue Jean Champagne Girl” and you’re back in 1981 when you could hear this kind of stuff on AM radio. Those were the days. You can relive them here.
Last year I went nuts for Dazy’s addictive single “Rollercoaster Ride.” Now I’m grooving on “Always in Between” from his more recent (extremely short) album Otherbody. Slashing guitar chords, hooky lead guitar work, and neat little melodic turns around every corner – it’s the whole package.
You’re stocked and ready to face spring with four score and some odd songs that will make your heart sing. Click on the hyperlinks to visit these music makers and find out they’re more than just a pretty single.
Top image courtesy Mark Amsterdam Flikr collection: ‘Citroen car dealer brochure 1963’