It’s end-of-the-year ‘best of’ list time and we here at Poprock Record wish to join the almost evangelical rush to judgment that accompanies such proceedings, though with a twist. I mean, who am I to say whose records are the best? If I put them up on the blog then you already know I think they are pretty great and worthy of Beatlesque adulation. Still, I do feel like shining an extra light on a few songs that just screamed ‘hit single’ to my 1970s AM radio-trained ears. So instead of a ‘top ten’ list I’ve assembled a list of twelve ‘missing’ hit singles, songs that would easily top the charts in my alternate poprock universe.
Pulling together my twelve apostles of poprock was not an easy task. From the full list of songs featured on the blog in 2016 I singled out the ones actually released in this past calendar year – 59 songs in all! Then reducing that number down to just twelve was painful as there were compelling arguments for keeping any and all of the other 47 as well. But, in the end, cuts were made until just twelve remained. They appear in no particular order and the hotlinks take you to the original posts as they appeared on the blog. These are a dynamite twelve pack, sure proof that melodic rock and roll is far from dead, if somewhat remote from the more conventional charts.
Who doesn’t like a variety pack? Six different choices for your ever changing musical tastes. First up: Birmingham, Alabama’s Act of Congress slather their ‘newgrass’ sound all over the Beatles’ “Paperback Writer” and make it work. This is not an easy song to cover as it has such a signature Beatles’ vocal and musical sound but the band honours just enough of the original arrangement to make their own contributions really stand out. For instance, they nail the ‘paperback writer’ chorus harmony but then bend it in a new direction. The whole performance is solid, with banjo and fiddle somehow matching the rock swing of the original. So many covers of the Beatles rightly elicit a ‘why bother’ response but this one makes the cut.
“Computer Crimes” by L.A.’s Right the Stars sounds like a bit of bubbly musical champagne to me. The opening guitar riff burbles along, the drum machine sound sets the pace, while the vocals have an effervescent quality. A nice melodic stroll unencumbered by lyrical complexity. The song oozes ‘just have fun’. By contrast, the Mystery Jets’ “Bubblegum” has a warmer sound, more acoustic, but with a killer 1980s organ riff that rings in just at the end of every verse. The chorus has a wonderful ‘sing along with me’ yearning.Computer Crimes
Melvista is the latest EP from Melbourne’s Wesley Fuller and it is a fantastic homage to and reinvention of 1960s and 1970s poprock. The EP is replete with familiar sounds from those great eras but put in the service of contemporary tunes. Great Gary Glitter drums on “Change Your Mind,” killer girl group drum fills and hooks on “Runaway Renee,” while “The Dancer” seems to be channeling a Katy Perry meets 1970s Suzi Quatro match up. But the clear highlight of the EP is its title track. “Melvista” has that slow, oh-so-cool new wave build up in the verses that melts effortlessly into its hooky chorus – this is hit single ear candy.
Taking things to the rockier side, Wolverhampton UK’s Yak have that smoldering Rolling Stones sexy élan thing going that all British rock and roll revival bands are doing these days. Their new single “Semi-Automatic” launches in early with a strong rock lurch that never gives up, but the organ polish applied just after the verses hooks the listener into a broader melodic atmosphere. Turn this up loud and order up a mosh pit for superior enjoyment.
Philadelphia’s Purling Hiss – you have to love the delightfully childish moniker – have made a journey from a kind of noise rock, a deliberately fuzzy and unclear sound, to one of increasing clarity. “Follow You Around” from 2016’s High Bias is a great single, framed around a super catchy guitar hook and background ‘bop bop’ vocals. The song reminds me of latter day Bob Mould material. The development of band’s sound can really be heard from 2013’s Water on Mars and 2014’s Weirdon, particularly on “Mary Bumble Bee,” “Learning Slowly” and “Where’s Sweetboy.” Again, loud is good here.