This startling new direction from Vancouver’s The Top Boost has a bit of the Beatles For Sale era country-style Beatles, The International Submarine Band and Buck Owen’s distinctive lead guitar player Don Rich. The band has always had a special new wave jangle going but this single suggests they won’t be contained in any neat genre boxes. “Tell Me That You’re Mine” takes off with a rollicking pace that doesn’t let up, riding some easygoing country hooks and nice pedal steel guitar. B-side “Early Morning Days” is no slouch either, offering up a slower, more measured dollop of shimmering guitars and heavenly harmonies. These guys are definitely going places. Just where I’m not sure but with records like these I’m happy to be surprised.
That ringing in your ears? Yup. Jangle Thursday is back! Though this round does include a few bands not entirely dedicated to the genre, but that’s OK. We’ll focus on the jangle but rest assured their other efforts are also the highest quality poprock.
Only four of the twelve tracks from The Bobbleheads new long-player Myths and Fables might be considered jangle but, man, everything here is still worth your attention. The hooks in these songs are ‘outasight’. Opening track “Like Oxygen” cranks up the jangle at the start but dims the sparkle a bit as the song’s swinging melody kicks in. Other jangle highlights include minor-chord heavy “Holding On,” the band’s tribute to Canadian songstress “Anne Murray,” and “Feel This Way” and “Afternoon,” both with great trebly lead lines. But check out other killer cuts here like “Listen You Know,” “Do You” and “Become One.” Between the jangle and the amazing 1980s indie feel, Myths and Fables is like a great lost early-to-mid period R.E.M. record.
Norway’s Armchair Oracles have been compared to all the big ‘B’ bands i.e. Big Star, Badfinger and the Beatles. I can hear all that but there also seems to be hint of 1980s Moody Blues and the Alan Parson Project, particularly on some of the vocals. On the whole, Caught By Light has a nice buzzy undercurrent that allows the jangle to stand out on tracks like “Porcelain Heart,” “All My Time” and “Don’t Let It Break You.” But I also really like the slower tempo acoustic vibe on “Several Stories” and “Downsized Life.” You can really hear the late-period-Beatles Harrison guitar influence on the album closer “The Last of All Suns.” Beatlemaniacs be warned – this album is full of triggers!
A quick review of The Top Boost’s 2016 release Turn Around reminds us these boys know their way around treble-heavy guitars with uber jangle-heavy tracks like “What If She Loves You.” The new EP Dreaming shows they have lost none of their jangle chops. Title track “Dreaming” has ringing guitars all over the verses that work in tension with a wall of ‘ah’-ing background vocals in the chorus. “I’ll Be There” is another great contribution that melds 1960s and 1970s pop influences, with a simple but seductive guitar lead line that would make a Beatles For Sale-era George Harrison proud. Damn, these guys know their late 1960s sunshine poprock!
Ok, time for a lightning round of songs that exhibit some quality jangle to finish things off. Like Young Scum’s “Wasted Time” from their self-titled 2018 release. The Morrissey/Smiths comparisons are unavoidable. The vocals are very Morrissey minus a bit of the mope (if that is possible) but the guitars sound pretty Johnny Marr, a man who did much to resurrect jangle in British rock and roll in the mid-1980s. Detroit’s The High Strung have a great new poprock record with Quiet Riots, though little of it works the jangle seam – except “Summer of Night,” a track located somewhere on the jangle spectrum between Dylan and the Byrds in terms of an acoustic and electric mix. Last up on the jangle playlist is a track from the new Tripwire album, Once and Always, entitled “Act Fast.” Again, R.E.M. comparisons are hard to avoid, particularly on this jangle-heavy, vocal harmony-drenched hookster. But as with the other recommendations, you may come to this record for the jangle, but you’ll stay for the superior songcraft and performance.
Twins were a first for me. Their publicist sent me a blurb and link to their latest release in advance of its drop date, asking me to have a listen. I’m glad I did. Hailing from the bustling burb of Waterloo Iowa, Twins have a great pockrock feel, channeling a super new wave vibe on their first album, 2014’s Tomboys on Parade, particularly on “Tomboy.” By 2016 their Kiss of Life EP had a sweet melodic 1960s pop single in “This Time.” But their new album Square America takes all these various influences and kicks it up a notch on such great songs as “Breakin’ Up” and “Take That Gurl.”
Power Pop Square turned me on to Vancouver’s The Top Boost and not long after Powerpopaholic wrote about them in glowing terms. The hype is genuine – this band has got something special going on, combining classic mid-1960s guitars with spacey 1980s vocals. “What if She Loves You” is a classic sounding single, with chiming guitars and great vocals.
A casual and inattentive listen might have you thinking that Chris Staples is just another LoFi drifter, with a few more hooks to offer. But there is some serious genius going on in his multiple releases over the past decade. Staples spent a number of years rocking out with bands like TwoThirtyEight and Grand Canyon before embarking on his present, more mellow solo career. What I love about Staples’ work is the casual poetry of his arrangements. His songs are deceptively simple in conception and execution.
“Relatively Permanent” from his most recent Golden Age combines a distinctive electric guitar line, acoustic guitar, haunting background vocals, and Staples own dry folky vocal delivery. “Cindy, Diana, Janet and Wanda” from the 2015 EP Cheap Shades demonstrates Staples’ talent for imaginative lyrics that gel with his music in a way that appears completely free of artifice. The guitar lick opening is so casually addictive, the distant harmonica so evocative, that when the lyrics come in they are surprisingly and similarly melodic. The lyrics really are brilliant for their ordinary complexity: “How could I forget Diana, she moved here from Gary, Indiana” or “She left me for a married professor, extra credit for letting him undress her.” “Dark Side of the Moon” from 2014’s American Soft has a lovely swinging acoustic guitar base and a sweet love sentiment. “Cincinnatti” from his 2011 EP Faces sees Staples shifting from a great swinging electric guitar line to lyrics that match the swing. And there is much more discover this Pensacola, Florida native on sites like Bandcamp.
Michael Goodman, who goes by just Goodman on his recordings, is one of those amazingly talented young men. Bandcamp features some pretty impressive and catchy demos from the 13-year-old version of Goodman, talent that only blossomed in later years. Things really start to come together on Goodman’s 2012’s release, What We Want, with the infectious single “Night Person” and the great title track. 2014’s Isn’t it Sad has many highlights but “Blue Eyed Girl” stands out for its killer chorus. Since then there has been a succession of quality singles like 2015’s “Telegram Girl” and 2016’s “Shallow.” Goodman has all the poprock chops, a solid foundation in 1950s and 1960s song structures, but funneled through late twentieth century sensibility.
Twins, The Top Boost, Chris Staples and Goodman exist in this digital world of MP3s but also have a real corporeal existence – and that requires dollars on the barrelhead, or whatever passes for currency in your neck of the world. Pay them a visit, pay them some cash …