Gallows Birds, Ginger Wildeheart, High Park Society, Jeff Shelton, Neon Bone, Nuevos Hobbies, Richard Snow and the Inlaws, Searching for Sylvia, The Vapors, Ward White
They pile up. The songs I set aside, singles drip-released from forthcoming albums, or just one-off surprises from artists disoriented by our pandemic-isolated world. So the single file is bulging and that can only mean one thing – I’m going to need two installments to clear the backlog! So let’s get things started.
Rotherham’s Searching for Sylvia kicks things off most jauntingly with “SEMA (Sunday Evening Misery Attack)” from their Ice Cream Man Records EP Play That Song. I love its low key jangle and rollicking pop feel. The rest of the EP is no slouch either. The Vapors are often cast as the quintessential new wave one-hit wonder for their 1980 chart-maker “Turning Japanese.” But they returned in 2020 with their first new album in 39 years! Together is a solid piece of work – so many great tracks here. Personally I’m partial to the record’s third single, the haunting “The Girl from the Factory.” Jeff Shelton must be one the hardest working men in indie music show business. The guy has a steady output from his great band The Well Wishers, a host of solo projects on the go, and somehow manages to produce a regular podcast featuring a wide variety of melodic rock and roll. Currently I’m catching up with a neat project he put together with Bradley Skaught of the Bye Bye Blackbirds, with each covering the other’s material. “All Our Days” is a song from Skaught’s recent band release, Boxer at Rest, and Shelton gives it his signature treatment, sibilant guitars and Matthew Sweet vocals that really bring out the song’s hooks. Ward White’s Leonard at the Audit has a Roxy Music sheen, cut with an Al Stewart lyricism. Not surprisingly then, the record has a strong 1970s aura, a poppy singer songwriter contribution with subtle unexpected hooks all over. White loves to riff popular culture as evidence on “Edmund Fitzgerald is a Wreck” an ear catching slew of period references. Toronto’s High Park Society are clearly vibing The Smiths with “On Your Mind” and that’s Ok by me. From the horn section to the confessional vocals, the tune trips along in a most pleasant way.
Richard Snow and the Inlaws offer up nice bit of addictive pop with “System Out of Date.” I love the hooky guitar bit that precedes most verses and the nice low-key jangle cushioning the rest of the song. Snow offers up a nice acoustic version of the song as well as a b-side. Ginger Wildheart is another seeming melodic workaholic, with so many strong releases. “I Love You So Much I’m Leaving” is from his late 2020 album The Pessimist’s Companion and it’s a lovely, breezy bit of poprock with just a hint of country pedal steel touches. So much of the Gallows Birds new record Quaranteenage Kicks comes off like a Beach Boys biker gang, the striped shirts are ripped and filthy and there’s no way your sister is hitting the beach with these guys. But on “I’m So Unhappy for You” the organ is peppy and the guitars are so Romantics-1980-clashy that I’m thinking one dance won’t hurt. Seriously, this song and the whole album are irrepressibly fun and highly danceable. Nuevos Hobbies hail from Pamplona, Spain and they are exemplars of that special Spanish brand of power pop. “No Puedo Esperar” is the title track from their soon-to-be released new album and it’s a fab cocktail of sparkly guitars and heavenly vocals. Can’t wait to hear more from these guys! Münster, Germany’s Neon Bone do a Me First and the Gimme Gimmes thing in their back catalogue, covering “Bad to Me” and “Sukiyaki” among others. But elsewhere they write their own 1960s-cum-1990 pop punk tunes that exude a rough but winning charm. From their recent long player Make It Last I’m pulling a double A sided single featuring “I Got a Friend” and “Girl You Should Know.” Both tracks could easily be Merseybeat-en up but they work in this pop punk vein too.
So many great songs – click on the artist names to follow up on the ones that tickle your fancy. As for me, I’ll keep filing. There are plenty more singles that need featuring, coming soon.