Bruce Foxton, Dan Israel, Grant Lindberg, Jack Skuller, Kingdom of Mustang, Love Burns, Murray Atkinson, Passion Fruit Boys, Richard Turgeon, Richard X. Heyman, Robert Sherwood, Russell Hastings, Scott Robertson, Sean Trelford, Sunshine and Rain, The Andersons!, The Laughing Chimes, The Persian Leaps, The Sighs, The Wends, Travel Lanes, Ward White
Pictures of a snowy day are invariably idyllic but the reality can be much less so. All the more reason to supercharge your season with a blast of melody and some serious riffage. Here are 21 relatively new tunes to soundtrack your snow day.
Cambridge UK native Sean Trelford was only 14 when he recorded his debut album Care Home Party during lockdown in 2020, though the record is only just coming out now. Wow. This LP conjures up a bleak though still pleasing atmosphere of world weary solitude and an injured heart that seems beyond teen years. “Dearest One” is the smoothest slice of dire-sounding popcraft here and a great start to the album. Another impressive young talent that has a debut album out is Scott Robertson of Vapour Trails fame. Not surprisingly Footprints in the Butter is crammed full of enticing, intriguing and exciting jangle. The riffage here is so 1967! “Out of Service” starts with an alluring low-key reverby lead guitar line before opening up with harmony vocals that sound very Byrds or Monkees. On album number 4 Into Beautiful Blue Charlottesville, Virginia band Kingdom of Mustang take their self-described ‘alterna-poprock’ into a more XTC-meets-Crowded House territory. “All I Can Do” delivers the delightful melodic quirks we’d expect of those influences, wrapped in a timely lyrical message that ‘everyone laugh’ as a form of coping. On Ice Cream Chords musical refugee from the 1970s Ward White turns on the Cars filter, just to make what he’s doing even more interesting. The record has White’s standard seductive David Bowie/Bryan Ferry vocal attack but on “Mezcal Moth” this combines with a song style that is very Elvis Costello circa Imperial Bedroom. The result are pop magic in a three minute, 51 second dose. Nashville’s Passion Fruit Boys sound like a new wave version of Americana, combining a country-ish songwriting base with a 1980s synth pop finish. “Glad You Came” throws out a distinctive set of guitar riffs to lure you in, buffeted by dreamy keyboards and a Cactus Blossoms vocal delivery.
It’s pretty hard to improve on The Hollies, most especially their star single “Bus Stop.” Terms like ‘pop perfection’ originated with songs like this for good reason. But sometime Odds singer/axeman Murray Atkinson reinvents the song in a dramatic and exciting way, adding modern textures and a creative arrangement that both totally work. More remakes along these lines would not go amiss in my record collection. With Draw the Lucky Card Jack Skuller steps out from behind his similarly named band moniker The Skullers to officially go solo. The result is an eclectic a mix of indie rock and melody-infused singer-songwriter material. I hear a strong Squeeze imprint on “Asking for a Friend” songwriting-wise, with a very Josh Rouse vocal delivery. Jersey City’s Sunshine and Rain sound so Darling Buds or The Primitives to me. And that’s definitely a good thing. We’re going back a few years to the band’s 2018 album Beneath the Stars to rescue their utterly poptastic should-be hit single “It’s All in Your Mind.” Get ready to hit replay a few times on this. Turin, Italy’s The Wends were briefly Smile and put out the jangle-fabulous single “What a Heart is For.” The name change alters nothing in their winning melodic chemistry. Relive the 1980s UK sibilant guitar revival via their new EP It’s Here Where You Fall. Robert Sherwood writes about music like a spurned true believer with an intellect that is ruthless in its dissection of his unearned musical roots and a heart big enough to still love them. Those influences are all over his new single “Coming Home.” The song starts out with deceptive simplicity, it has an almost dirge-like quality. But then he layers in some serious XTC/Peter Gabriel-like complexity that is utterly captivating. More please!
Not satisfied with releasing a killer album earlier this year (It Should Have Been Tomorrow) Love, Burns is back with late autumn EP Fade in the Sun. The effort leans country but in a indie rock artist-does-country sort of way. The choice for single has to be “Pencils.” The melding of hooky lead guitar lines with the sonorous keyboard backing perfectly suit the Lloyd Cole vocals to a T. It’s been a while since we’ve heard from Philadelphia’s Travel Lanes. New single “I Might Need Help” is in the ballpark of Tom Petty and Fastball, it sounds both classic and not exactly like anybody else. Prelude to a new album? Let’s hope so. I’ve been a bit slow to notice powerpop super group The Andersons! and their album debut Family Secrets. With jangle giants Derrick Anderson and Robert Rist involved how could the results not be solid? The whole record is a treat but I’m singling “Falling Out” as the must-hear song. There’s a Difford and Tilbrook feel to the tune but a totally Big Star coating on the performance. The Sighs’ 1996 single “Make You Cry” was an instant replay classic for me. So when I discovered I missed their most recent album release from 2019 I knew I had to make up for lost time. The title track from Tearing My Heart Again is another soft rock pop delight in an Outfield or Hooters style. He’s the hardest working man in Minnesota show business with 17 albums to his name and no signs of slowing down. Dan Israel’s new album is Seriously and I’m showcasing opening cut “Happy for Now.” It’s got a late 1970s SoCal vibe, think Jackson Browne or Walter Egan.
San Francisco’s Richard Turgeon is a one-man rock and roll machine, pumping out timeless west coast-themed ‘new vintage rock,’ as one reviewer dubbed it. His new single “Without You” rings out with Turgeon’s signature guitar sibilance and country rock harmony vocals. The song sounds like summer to me. Turning to stars of yesteryear, it must be great to have been part of a legendary band. But you know what’s better? Having something new that lets people know you’re not just living in the past. Bruce Foxton nails that brief on his new album with Russell Hastings, The Butterfly Effect. There are a lot of great tunes here but I’d single out “She Said,” a winning slab of jangle-infused song-writing and performance. Grant Lindberg’s got a new free single playing over on Bandcamp. “Anything But You” is a bit dreamy, with a poppy Weezer feel to the proceedings. Like the crack dealer, this free sample is designed to get you hooked. I think it will work. The Laughing Chimes follow-up to their critically-acclaimed debut album In This Town is just an EP worth of tunes, Zoo Avenue, and like its predecessor it’s a jangle-fest. Your taster selection is title track “Zoo Avenue,” a track vibing early REM so hard it’s like I’m 19 all over again. Another special dose of jangle is delivered by St. Paul, Minnesota’s The Persian Leaps. The band usually offers up its own distinctive, original brand of hooky material but this time they’ve got a cover with a unique story. “Maybe Time Will Let Me Forget” is a lost gem from an obscure 1967 band, The Coachmen, who happened to include future folk pop giant Dan Fogleberg and Jon Asher, uncle to Persian Leaps driving force Drew Forsberg. The original is quaint but this remake really fulfills its potential.
Rounding out this snow session is what I’ve crafted as a double-sided single from Richard X. Heyman’s stellar new album, 67,000 Miles an Album. Heyman’s roots stretch back to the 1960s via legendary work with The Doughboys and a relentless release of top notch solo records. The guy appears to be unstoppable. “Crave” and “When the New Dawn Comes” cover both sides of the powerpop canon, the former charging forward sixties-rock-style while the latter sparkles and shines melodically in a more mellow way.
Snowed in? Relax. You can set your locked-in time to music with a raft of these snow-proofed singles.
Photo featuring exclusive Poprock Record model Rob Elliott courtesy Swizzle Gallery.