It’s been a while since we’ve jangled Thursday so to make up for it today’s post features two heavy hitter album releases and a spate of other good things. Secure the good china because the heavy reverb here is definitely gonna make things shake.
In one of the most anticipated albums of the year, The Boys With the Perpetual Nervousness defy the sophomore slump with a drop-dead gorgeous collection of new tunes. If anything, Songs From Another Life is even better than the band’s outstanding debut Dead Calm. The sound is a bit edgier, the feel a bit more urgent. It’s all there on the album opener, “I Don’t Mind” with its muscular jangle hooks and earworm melody. When the sweet sweet instrumental break kicks in at 1:11 it’s like a shot of adrenaline. And then it’s over all too soon! The obvious musical reference points here fall somewhere between the Byrds and Teenage Fanclub, particularly on “Play (On My Mind)” and “How I Really Feel.” But there’s a bit of the duo’s previous incarnations – Dropkick and El Palacio de Linares – lurking here too on tracks like “Rose Tinted Glasses” and “In Between.” And then the band go in totally new directions on songs like “Lethargy” with its hypnotic synth adornments. Personally, I can’t stop hitting replay on “Waking Up in the Sunshine,” the should-be hit single to my ears. If you need something to lift your spirits, something to make your heart soar, then proceed directly to this long player. I may be calling it early but my gut says Songs From Another Life is the feel good album of the year.
Another jangle band that never fails to impress and delight are The Vapour Trails. Their brand new EP Underneath Tomorrow is no exception. These guys hit all the 1960s marks but always throw in a host of original twists. Sure “Tommy’s Tune” sounds so Byrds but there’s a bit of CSN&Y there too. Title track “Underneath Tomorrow” has lovely jangle and great background vocals, with some inventive instrumental interludes. And there’s “That’ll Do It” with its killer Monkees-reminiscent, lead-line opener and addictive pumping organ drawing you in. Man, what hooks! But it’s not just the great retro feel of the album, the songwriting is up to the band’s reliably strong standards. Check out their turn in a more Beatles direction with “Autumn and Spring” or a British 1960s blues vibe on while “Strange.” The only real limit to the EP is that everything ends far too soon.
There’s something so beach dreamy about Stephen’s Shore, you can practically feel the sea breeze coming off the title track from their new EP Brisbane Radio. At just 12 minutes long the release is perhaps more like a maxi-single but, hey, I’d argue it’s a short time well spent. The lovely lilting lead jangle guitar carries us through “Up To No Good” and the mostly instrumental “Midvert.” Meanwhile “Skogen” sounds more like what we might expect from a new album. It’s a song with a bit more complexity and a melody that captures the darker vibe of late 1960s folk rock. Compared to the band’s earlier work, 2016’s crisp and hooky Ocean Blue, this new material sounds more organic and less in a hurry, though no less melodic and endearing.
Last up on our jangle-heavy feature, two singles that showcase the breadth of the genre. First, Will Courtney teams up with two members of the Ugly Beats, Joe Emery and Daniel Wilcox, to take on the Byrds’ classic “Here Without You.” The original is pretty hard to improve on so the boys wisely decide to take it in a slightly new direction, distorting its traditional jangle and countrying up the vocal delivery. The result is a refreshing, exciting reset to an old fave. By contrast, like Tom Petty and Greg Kihn before them, Boston’s Modern Day Idols demonstrate how jangle can be woven into the very core of modern poprock. MDI have a great song with “Not the Only One” from their recent self-titled album but the jangle lead guitar just adds that extra dimension of bliss. I’m liking their whole LP – it’s all eminently listenable – but this particular song just won’t vacate my short term memory.
In these dark times jangle is the musical light glinting from the far reaches of our ‘isolate in place’ tunnel. Click on the hyperlinks to hear more.
I know, you’re too busy to scour the racks for great singles. If only you could find some great albums to kick back with? Something to slip on the old record player and enjoy with a cool drink. Well here at Poprock Record we feel your pain. So we’ve assembled the crack team you see above to vet the very best LPs from throughout the year that was 2020. The kids may be a tad young for martinis but do not doubt their vinyl erudition and exquisite taste. From more than a hundred possibilities they’ve whittled things down to an essential 25 albums that you must possess to say you’ve really experienced the past twelve months of melodic music. Fill your K-Tel Record Selector with these super fantastic long players!
So, let’s get to it – Poprock Record’s 25 must-have LPs for 2020:
Gregory Pepper dominated my listening for 2020 with his outrageously good I Know Why You Cry. The album was his own specially curated re-recordings of tracks originally composed during his year long Song-of-the-Week extravaganza. There’s whimsy, there’s pathos, there’s references to Enya. It’s the kind of poprock that makes my heart burst, a never-fail mood improver. Coming up second this year was the kick-ass second album from The Happy Fits, What Could Be Better. Other than Pepper, I’m hard pressed to suggest anything. This whole album is a killer production that puts the cello at the centre of melodic rock and roll (where it belongs). Here are songs and performances that inspire descriptions like ‘thrilling’ and ‘exciting’. And then there’s the extreme hooky pleasantness of Nite Sobs throughout Do The Sob! An impressive head-bopping good time. And so on. All the records here really pay dividends via repeated listens so carve out some time to enjoy them. The great lost art of an album-long musical vision lives on with these 25 selections.
What?! Another Pepper selection topping the chart. Fear not dear reader, our completely unscientific selection process has not erred here. Hey, I just really like Pepper’s stuff. And he is crazy talented, as is obvious from this stylistically varied and pumped up collection of song snippets, 10 in all amounting to just 15 minutes of music. But what a ride. I mean, just check out the brilliant 17 second track, “Do Sports.” I want more! These other EPs are pretty special too and fabulous for those times when you can barely sit down and squeeze in a quick sherry.
And let’s not forget, Poprock Record’s best compilations for 2020:
2020 tried our patience but, glass half full, it did provide a bit of downtime. That allowed for a lot more album listening than normal and what a treat that turned out to be. And given the impact of 2020 on live music, artists need albums sales more than ever. So let the rewards flow freely from your e-wallet to theirs.
2020 was weird like no weirdness we’d experienced before. Thank goodness the music didn’t let us down. Paraphrasing some 1970s disk jockey, the should-be hits just kept on coming! My top 50 singles for 2020 covers the usual range of styles I jam into the poprock category, from Buddy Holly 1950s to Buck Owens country to various shades of jangle and new wave. I’m not saying these are the 50 best songs of the year, I’m saying these 50 had the hooks to keep me hitting repeat again and again. If Poprock Record were a radio station these tunes would have been in heavy rotation all this past year. The hyperlinks below will take you to the original post about each artist as they first appeared on the blog.
So let’s get to it, Poprock Record’s should-be hit singles for 2020:
So many great songs! So hard to make distinctions amongst them … But this year’s chart topper Mo Troper has got something really special going on with “Your Boy.” The track is a case study in should-be hit single construction and execution, from the opening guitar hooks to the silky smooth pop vocal to the exquisite synthesis of musical elements, like the plinky piano, the dash of distorted guitar here and there. The song is the earworm equivalent of a Dutch masters miniature painting. A very close second this year came from the boundlessly talented Canuck Gregory Pepper and his Problems with “Unsolved Mystery.” I can’t get enough of Pepper’s creative songwriting and unique approach to instrumentation. The song is a hook cocktail, a nonstop aural assault of vocal and instrumental melody. Former Soul Engines member Dave Kuchler slots into number 3 with an amazing comeback single, “Slave to Katy,” a song that ripples with Springsteen organ and hooky guitar leads. This is melodic heartland rock and roll at its best. Releasing an album and three EPs in 2020, Emperor Penguin definitely win the productivity award. But I’d have been happy if they’d just released one song, the Byrdsian “You’ll Be the Death of Me.” Rounding out the top 5 Brian Jay Cline “Two Left Feet” gives the harmonica a work out on a great driving poprock number. And I could go on about the remaining 45 should-be hits but for more on the rest of the list hit the hyperlinks for my original write-ups on each.
This year’s special mention award goes to Mondello for his wonderfully quirky one-off single “My Girl Goes By.” After taking 20 years putting together his debut album one year later there’s no sign of a sophomore slump with this follow up single. From the Tijuana horns to the unique guitar work to the way the hooky swinging chorus emerges out the discordant and offbeat body of the song, it’s magic. More? Yes please!
2020 has been devastating for artists that rely on live performances to make ends meet. Now more than ever it’s crucial that we all pull together to support music and the music-makers financially. Give what you can, buy directly from artists whenever you can, and share links for the music you discover with your friends and acquaintances.
It’s been five years since I embarked on this mad journey: to write a music blog. I dithered over the decision to start one for a number of months. There’s nothing more pathetic than to start something with maximum fanfare and enthusiasm, only to have it flame out a half dozen posts later. The questions I had to ask myself were: (a) was there enough of ‘my kind’ of music to regularly post about, and (b) could I sustain the effort to get regular posts up on the blog? Well here’s the proof. In five years I’ve managed to produce 347 blogs posts. I’ve written more than 170,000 words about poprock tunes. And, most importantly, I’ve featured almost 1000 different artists. Guess the answers to (a) and (b) are both a resounding yes!
I think the biggest reason this blog thing has worked out for me is that it is such a great outlet for being creative and having fun with something that has always been pretty central to my life: music. I love doing all the mock serious regular features (e.g. Breaking news, Around the Dial, Should be a hit single) and coming up with goofy themes as a way to feature different artists (e.g. “Telephonic Poprock,” “Summer’s Coming,” and the Cover me! series. Sometimes I’ve pushed the posts in more serious directions (“Is That So Gay,” “Campaigning for Hooks,” and “Pandemic Poprock“) but only if the melodies and hooks were there in abundance. The blog has also allowed me to pay tribute to my musical heroes (Buddy Holly, The Beatles, The Zombies, Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, Marshall Crenshaw, Suzanne Vega, Aimee Mann). But, as regular readers know, such luminaries mostly appear as reference points to better help people get of a sense of what all these new acts are doing.
If you’ve just tuned in, I’m not assigning the past five years of posts as homework. Instead, I offer today’s anniversary post as a retrospective of what’s been happening here. I reviewed all 347 posts to pick out some choice examples of the range of styles I can cram under the rubrik of ‘poprock’. It wasn’t easy! My first go round produced a list of 118 songs. When I converted that to a playlist I got the number down to 81 tracks. Ack! Still too many. So I’ve broken things down into themes. This is not a ‘greatest hits’ or ‘best of’ Poprock Record. I’ve left out a lot of acts I really love. It’s just a representative sample of what goes on here, to borrow some lingo from my day job. Click on the highlighted band names to go to the original posts on the blog.
Let’s start by recognizing that not all that appears here is new. The blog has allowed me to explore a huge number of acts I’ve missed over the years, particularly in the 1990s when my new day job (academe) took over my life. I can’t believe I somehow missed great bands like Fire Town and the Soul Engines with their incredible guitar hooks. The Sighs “Make You Cry” is a pretty perfect poprock single. I knew about Billy Cowsills’ Blue Northern but had never heard of his later group, the Blue Shadows. And Eugene Edwards’ sole solo release, My Favorite Revolution, is a must add for any melodic rock and roll fan.
There have been acts that appeared again and again on the blog, my ‘old reliables’ as I might call them. These are performers I can pretty much carve out space in the queue for whenever I hear a new release is on the way. Gregory Pepper is probably my most covered artist. I love his quirky, always hooky, sometimes touching efforts. Ezra Furman was another great find who has an unerring knack of placing a memorable hook at the centre of whatever he’s doing, whether it’s retro 1950s pop or a punkish political ode. I discovered Jeremy Fisher long before the blog but I’ve used it to feature his work, old and new. He’s like a new wave Paul Simon with great videos. Edward O’Connell only has two albums, but they are reliably good. We really need a third. Mo Troper always delivers something wonderfully weird but still melodic and ‘can’t get it out of your head’ good. Finally, Jeremy Messersmith’s records regularly encompass big vision but he doles it out in memorable should-be hit singles.
In my world of poprock, while any instrument goes, the electric guitar is arguably pretty central. Some bands really know how to ride a guitar-driven song right into your head. Jeff Shelton’s Well Wishers excel at putting the guitar up front. “Feeling Fine” is practically a ‘how to’ example of killer guitar-dominant poprock. The David James Situation and The Format are no slouches either. Jangle is a related field of guitar poprock and takes a number of forms, from the 1960s-inflected Byrds sound of The Vapour Trails to the more jaunty bubblegum feel of The Lolas “We’re Going Down to the Boathouse.” Jangle also usually features pretty addictive harmony vocals, showcased below in Propeller’s “Summer Arrives.”
As the original and defining decade of poprock (in my view), the 1960s sound continues to be mined by new artists. Daisy House have few rivals in nailing the late 1960s California poprock vibe, sounding like time travelers from San Francisco’s 1968 club scene. Space Dingus have got The Monkees feel down. Both Shadow Show and The On and Ons gives us that rockier pop sound of the mid 1960s, with the latter delivering killer lead guitar hooks. By contrast, both Cut Worms and The Young Veins offer a candy-coated pop sound more akin to The Cyrkle and Simon and Garfunkel.
I’m a sucker for shivery harmony vocals so they’ve been featured regularly on the blog. One of Jenny Lewis’ side projects is the one-off album from Jenny and Johnny, I’m Having Fun Now. Aptly named, the record gently rocks and delivers amazing vocals. The Secret Sisters offer up a punchy tune where the harmony vocals seal the hooky deal. The Carousels “Call Along the Coast” has a big sound the rides a wave of harmony vocalizing and Beatlesque guitar work. Meanwhile Scotland’s Dropkick corner the market on delightful lilting songcraft on “Dog and Cat.” The blog sometimes shades into retro country and folk territory. Bomabil are an eccentric outfit who stretch our sense of song but never drop the melody. The Top Boost are pretty new wave but on “Tell Me That You’re Mine” they’re channeling Bakersfield via the Beatles 65. The Fruit Bats put the banjo upfront in “Humbug Mountain,” where it belongs. Gerry Cinnamon is like Scotland’s Billy Bragg and he shows what you can do with just an acoustic guitar and a Springsteen harmonica.
I’m proud to say that the blog has sometimes strayed off the beaten path of conventional poprock into more eccentric territory with bands that are smart and quirky and not afraid to lodge a hook in a more complex setting. Tally Hall pretty much define this approach. So ‘out there’ but still so good melodically. Chris Staples and Hayden offer up more low key, moody tunes but they still have a strong melodic grab. Overlord take clever to a new level, like a grad school version of They Might Be Giants. Coach Hop is just funny and hooky with his unabashed ode to liking Taylor Swift.
After the 1960s the new wave era is the renaissance of poprock for me with its combination of hooky guitars, harmony vocals, and melody-driven rock and roll. Screen Test capture this ambience perfectly on “Notes from Trevor” with a chorus that really delivers. The Enlows drive the guitar hook right into your head on the dance-madness single “Without Your Love.” Billy Sullivan epitomizes the reinvention of 1960s elements that occurred in the 1980s, well embodied in “Everywhere I Go.” Another strong theme in the blog has been the “I Get Mail” feature, populated largely by DIY songsters who write me about their garage or basement recorded releases. It is inspiring to hear from so many people doing their thing and getting it out there, especially when it is generally really good. Daveit Ferris is a DIY workaholic with an amazing range of song and recording styles. “Immeasurable” is a good illustration of his genius, with a banjo-driven chorus that always makes me smile. Mondello is practically the classic indie artist movie script, struggling to get an album out after 20 years. But then his follow up single, “My Girl Goes By,” is gold!
I want to leave you with a two-four of should-be hits from Poprock Record. These songs are all quality cuts, grade A poprock with melodies and harmonies and hooks to spare. Some of these songs leave me panting, they’re so good. I kicked off the blog back in 2015 with Family of Year and I still think “Make You Mine” is a textbook should-be AM radio hit. Sunday Sun channel The Beatles through a 1980s song filter, in the very best way. Sitcom Neighbor’s “Tourist Attraction” is a delightful earworm affliction. Wyatt Blair has somehow boiled down the essential formula of a 1960s-influenced poprock hit. Wyatt Funderburk understands how to assemble the perfect melody-driven single. And so on. Get your clicking finger warmed up and you’ll be introduced to the essence of Poprock Record in 24 melodious increments.
One thing I didn’t anticipate was all the great people I’d come in contact with writing a music blog. Thanks to all the bands, record labels, and readers who have responded so positively to what I’ve been doing here. A special thanks to Best Indie Songs, Tim at Powerpopulist and Don at I Don’t Hear a Single for their advice over the years and to my friends Rob at Swizzle and Dale at The View from Here for encouraging me to do this.
This post features pics from my poprock-postered 1985-7 apartment in Vancouver’s West End. Just $285 a month, all inclusive. No wonder I could buy so many records.
With records that are all hot off the digital presses, this is definitely a timely episode of breaking news. And the anticipation is high for these five artists because they regularly hit it out of the poprock park. Have they done it again? Spoiler – get ready for some jangling good times.
Scottish jangle stalwarts The Vapour Trails wrap their new album Golden Sunshine in sixties pop psychedelia and the results are out of this world. The opening title track rides that fine line between melodic tripping and more free-form musical extemporization. The sound is a new sonic frontier for the band, melding sixties influences with 1980s reinventions of those themes from bands like The Stone Roses and even mid-period Grapes of Wrath. This carries on with “Dr. Barnes” which offers up a hooky sitar-like rumination on the traditional psychedelic sound. But the band doesn’t push the theme too far, returning to more familiar jangle pop on “Lonely Man” and “Why Wonder Why?” Then there’s the magnificent “Behind You” with its stunning “Day Tripper” like lead line. Nobody throws down 1965 lead guitar work quite like this band – I mean, just wait for the sprightly lead guitar instrumental break – heaven! This song alone is worth the price of admission. Other ear candy moments include acoustic guitar-driven “This May Be the Time,” with its distinctive drum feel and lovely harmonies, and beautiful, understated “Seabird.” With The Vapour Trails you might come for the jangle but you’ll stay because they offer so much more. This is a band that has yet to reach its musical summit and I’m loving the ride.
You only need to hear about ten seconds of the guitar hook kicking off album opener “Upper Hand” to know you are in for something special with Nick Piunti and the Complicated Men’s new record. Piunti’s been at this a long time and he knows where he fits into the power pop pantheon so Downtime delivers the taut melodic rockers we’ve come to expect. Needle-dropping this record, I sometimes hear the Beatles or early period Bryan Adams, Mike Viola, or the under-appreciated Odds. But really this record has a timeless, classic poprock sound all its own. All the songs on this release are pretty strong but click on “Bright Light” for a masterclass in melody-drenched rock and roll, featuring some heavenly background vocals. As for the rest, well how do you pick out highlights when everything is so good? You won’t go wrong with the Bryan Adam-ish “Every High” and “Never Belong to Me” while “Contract” has a great blast of guitar driving it along and a very Odds-like chorus. My personal fave is the Squeeze-meets-Tom Petty “Gonna Be Good” with its hypnotic occasional keyboard backdrop. And just to show he can slow things down, “Good Intentions” offers up a lovely acoustic guitar and piano number. All the hip indie bloggers are talking up Downtime. Don’t be left out.
With a career like Bill Lloyd’s you might expect him to kick back and take it easy. He’s played with so many cool artists, put out a great body of work as one-half of Foster and Lloyd, and has countless killer solo albums to his name. But Lloyd’s got more music to share and the message from his new Don’t Kill the Messenger is definitely positive. Why? It’s the songwriting. Lloyd keeps churning out listenable tunes, delivered in his comfortable poprock style. Put your ear next to “I’ll Take It From Here,” particularly when Lloyd leans on ‘Amanda’ in the chorus, and tell you me you haven’t caught something you can’t get out of your head. Similar hooks can be found in songs like “Not This Time ‘Round” and “Sorry, But I’ve Got to Take This.” I did do a double-take on a few tracks, mistaking them for cuts from some new Marshall Crenshaw album (like “Don’t Kill the Messenger,” “Undone,” and “The Girls of Sylvan Park”). At other times, the songs reminded me a little of Ben Vaughn (“I’ve Had Enough of Your Love”) or some good old pub rock (e.g. “Kake’ n’ 8 it” and “You Got Me”). And Lloyd cooked up a few surprises, like the Talking Heads-ish “Etch-A-Sketch” and the breezy, instant standard “Kiss of the Summer Wind.” So you don’t need to hesitate over this album. Paraphrasing Merle Travis, a record from Bill Lloyd is like money in the bank – guaranteed!
Richard Turgeon kicks off his new album Sea Change with some ominous chords ringing out over “Never Leaving California,” perfectly capturing the enduring sense of dread that defines out times. The song’s chilling POV is the rumination of a mythical Charles Manson follower, drawn into the myth and mayhem of a particular moment of time for the Golden State. From there Turgeon grinds out his distinctive Matthew Sweet-meets-grunge sound on winning, timely tracks like “Still Not Ready to Die” and “Running for Your Life.” Sea Change confirms Turgeon as a veritable hook machine as the songs here are all just brimming with catchy melodies. I mean, check out the ear worm choruses of “Car Crash” and “Cull the Herd” for a quick confirmation. And then there’s the real treat, the bliss-inducing, obvious should-be hit single “Higher” – power pop perfection! This record also features a few nice departures from the usual, like the Weezer-vibing “Jolene,” the low-key dreamy “Sunset,” and the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young-like vocalizing on the “The Journey,” with its cool sparse finger-picking opener. This record just confirms why Turgeon keeps showing up on so many ‘best of’ lists each year.
On Even TimeEd Ryan returns to his roots, re-recording some tunes from previous bands The Rudies and Jupiter Jets, as well some new material. Having noted that, opening and title track “Even Time” marks a bit of a departure for the normally guitar-oriented Ryan with a reliance on keyboards to anchor the tune that adds just a bit of dramatic tension. There’s also some refreshing naked acoustic guitar here on “I’ve Got the Smile” and the rollicking “I Want to Go.” But worry not, power pop Ed is here full force on should-be singles like “Say What You Will” and “Let It Out,” with some catchy neo-1950s background vocals elevating “Never Lied to You.” “Here and Now” kicks off with a blast of Springsteen-like energy before settling into a solid rocker. I really like the nice change of pace with the piano-based “Everywhere,” a delightful tune with shades of Styx in places (and that’s not a bad thing, in this case). Ryan then wraps things up with a return to tradition on “Make It Through the Night,” a track that really captures the classic power pop sound of late 1970s sound, complete with punchy chorus. All in all, Even Time marks a welcome return to the studio for this music veteran.
Poor Myrtle. She’s only got Muzak® to keep her company through the long shift at work. If only she had access to this great new list of must-have LPs from 2019, helpfully assembled by Poprock Record, she might actually close that Henderson account and get off early. The lesson? You can take an oldies fixation too far. You don’t have to live in the past to love that retro sound. This year’s best-of round up of LPs from 2019 is definitive proof that everything old can be new again!
Just a word of caution – there’s no science to the list and rankings below. Here are just 25 albums and 10 EPs that caught my ear this past year and kept me coming back for more. There was something about each, their combination of elements (songwriting, instrumentation, performance), that I thought really worked as a coherent whole. And that’s saying something in our world of social media distractions and a renewed music biz focus primarily on singles.
So let’s begin with Poprock Record’s 25 must-have LPs for 2019:
I really like the variety covered in this list. There’s everything from jangle (4, 11, 15, 25) and country (12) and Dylanesque stylings (21), to keyboard contemporary (8) and acerbic social commentary (10, 23) and straight-up Beatlesque poprock (17, 19). And there’s a lot of sweetness, like Mondello’s impressive 20 year labour of love (18). My number one album, Bombadil’s Beautiful Country, embodies this commitment to diversity. It’s got an overall indie-folk vibe but the songwriting and playing are so sophisticated that somehow the label fails to capture all of what’s going on. Believe me, it’s a 37 minute journey through a myriad of lyrical and musical delights. Close behind at #2 Matthew Milia’s Alone at St. Hugo represents an amazing synthesis of melodic rock influences, from the Beatles (obviously) to the more mellow Fountains of Wayne moments. It’s an tone setter – put it on and drift away! At #3 was #1. Confused? #1 was the name of the debut album from the power pop veterans behind The Brothers Steve and it did not disappoint. The record is like a veritable hit machine. I can only imagine that this was what it was like to get your hands on a new Beatles record in the 1960s: immediately engaging, inventive yet relatable, and with nary a bum track. And I could go on about every entry on this list … but instead just click on the links to go my original posts about the bands and you can judge them for yourself.
Next up, Poprock Record’s10 must-have EPs from 2019:
The revival of the EP is very much in the spirit of the times as performers try to woo listeners to fork over for music in an era of YouTube shuffles and streaming. Personally, I’m usually left feeling that most are just bloated maxi-singles or Readers Digest condensed albums. But these ten show just how punchy an EP can be! Content-wise, I’ll just say this about my number 1 choice: wow. Dave Molter got his musical start in the 1960s (as evident on the record!) but waited until his 70s to put out Foolish Heart. What you get are five gems polished to poprock perfection: hooks, harmonies, the whole deal.
One last thing: a special mention for Aaron Lee Tasjan’s Karma for Cheap: Reincarnated. The original record was my number 1 album for 2018 and this reinvention beautifully reimagines all those great tunes in often stark and stripped down ways. If you liked the original, you’re gonna love the remake.
Thursday always seems to be good time to let the guitars ring. Today’s mixture has both albums and singles of note, with varying degrees of sibilance on display.
The Neilson Family hail from the indie musical Mecca of Portland. Their new album is Double Life and it’s full of jangle and positive references to public sector workers. “Civil Service Anthem” is just what it sounds like – a great tune and sentiments! But check out “Same Sign Pt. 2” as it’s also pretty special.
It’s been a big year for The Vapour Trails, an EP, an album of new material, and now a collection of home recordings and demos entitled The Inner Truth. It’s not just cast offs here. “Behind You” is driven by a killer Beatles “Day Tripper” lead line, “Miggs” has great organ and guitar fills, and the cover of “Michelle” is airy and delightful. 17 tracks here, both quality original material and inspired covers (the Byrds covers are maximum jangle!).
The guitar on The Umbrella Puzzles’ “Dusty Pages” practically leaps out of the speakers and then goes on for 30 seconds – I thought it was going to be an instrumental – before Ryan Marquez’ low key vocals kick in, creating a sweet counterpoint to the jangle. The self-titled EP has more of the good same.
Our next track I nicked from Wayne Lundqvist Ford latest amazing annual power pop compilation, Screwballs and Curveballs. From the 133 tracks in the collection, I had to showcase Dave Molter’s “Midcentury Man.” The song’s got an opening jangle that cuts through everything (in a good way!) while the lyrics shed light on the great hopes of music-loving 1960s boomers, with some sweeping ‘ah’s and engaging instrumental interludes.
Wrapping up this session of JT, the more lofi jangle of Manchester’s Butcher the Bar. “Go” comes from a record largely recorded between 2013 to 2015, though only released this year as III. There’s a bit of Dropkick and Teenage Fanclub here. “Lying,” “Haunts” and “Toulouse” are pretty winning tracks too!
Set your phasers to ‘reverb’ for this edition of Jangle Thursday as it’s a ‘celebration of sibilance’ of the ringing guitar sort.
The major news here is a whole album of jangle fun poprock from The Vapour Trails. Their new record is See You in the Next World and it is delightful stroll down quality street. While containing a few tracks from the EP Godspeed It released earlier this year (“Godspeed It,” “The Inner Truth”), this album is mostly chock full of fresh 1960s-influened jangle. Drop the needle anywhere across this record and hit a great song, from the Tom Petty-ish opener “Sonic Wave” to the 1960s sunshine vibe on “Drag It Around” to the more swinging rock-pop sound of “You, With Love” and the title track “See You in the Next World.”
Shifting to singles, Norway’s Family Values wowed us with the 1980s British jangle sound on their 2016 EP Time Stands Still, particularly the song “The Paris Syndrome.” Now they’re back with “Sayonara Eyes” and it’s another winner, this time with the vocals really reminding me of so many great Grapes of Wrath cuts.
Rounding out this edition of Jangle Thursday is Doug Tuttle whose fat acoustic rhythm guitar wash forms the perfect backdrop for “Long Day to Your Home” a choice melodic treat from his latest LP Dream Road. Imagine a Dire Straits/Bryrds collaboration and you’re in the zone.
It’s a new year – time to break out some brand new 2019 material. This collection of hooky poprock gems are fresh and date-stamped with the new year!
Manchester’s The Maple State formed in 2004, gigged until 2008, and then took a break before releasing a stellar comeback album in 2018, Things I Heard at the Party. Keeping up the momentum, they’re back this month with a double-A sided single release, “Germany” / “A Notion.” On first listen, the band sounds a bit post-punk until you hit the chorus on “Germany” and some pretty glorious power pop kicks in. Meanwhile, “A Notion” is more low key but still swinging, achieving an almost campfire sing-along sense of atmospheric fun. By contrast, Juliana Hatfield has never really gone away (and that’s a good thing!). Year after year she puts out pretty amazing albums, like last year’s phenomenal tribute to Olivia Newton John (check out Hatfield’s take on “Magic” – wow!). Her new, just released album is Weird and it is wonderfully so with another 11 strong tracks, though I’m presently hitting replay on “Sugar.” Somehow Hatfield makes her conflicted feelings about it clever, catchy and hilarious.
Scotland’s seeming bottomless pit of quality jangle gains more depth with Aberdeen’s The Vapour Trails. Their new extended 3 song single is named for one of the songs, “Godspeed It” but I’m more drawn the Rickenbacker-anchored jangle driving “The Inner Truth.” The vibe is a perfect distillation of late 1960s Byrdsian sibilant ringing guitar and nice harmonies. And the demo of their previously released “Golden Sunshine” is pretty special too. Though hailing from Pennsylvania and largely known for his distinctive guitar work, Steve Gunn has nailed a pretty ace Crowded House vibe on “Vagabond” from his new album The Unseen in Between. I mean, the guitar works here is still fantastic but it rightly remains secondary to his evocative melody and vocals. Rounding things out is some super-charged California pop from The Popravinas with their new single, “Sofia (CMU).” I love the candy-coated vocals on this track. Very late 1970s power pop, a vein mined by a host a great bands like The Connection and Tommy and Rockets. Looking forward to the band’s soon-to-released new album!
The Vapour Trails – The Inner TruthThe Popravinas – Sofia (CMU)