September 29, 2013 Dropbox Notes

As promised last month, September delivered great new music and October promises more of the same. Hopefully some of the music from this month’s dropbox will inform the soundtrack to your fall. If you take a quick browse through the list you’ll find there is quite a balance of genres this month, so everyone should find something that meets their individual needs. Whereas last month was filled with almost entirely of new releases, this month some of the highlights are a couple of reissues. As always, if you missed something or are looking for something, please feel free to drop me a note, and I’ll try to help you out. So, I am starting with the reissues, because they are rather special, albeit for completely different reasons.

Also as a complete aside: If you are a resident of San Marino or know someone in San Marino who votes, then either vote or have them vote for: SHELLEY RYAN on November 5 for SAN MARINO SCHOOL BOARD

Nirvana - In Utero 20th Anniversary EditionWhen Nirvana released In Utero in 1993 there was not a more popular band anywhere on the planet. Period. I was teaching at San Gabriel High School and recall vividly the day that In Utero arrived and as I played the album for the first time. CD’s were just starting to make major inroads in replacing records, but I was still caught in between and as I stared at the cover while the album played, I thought that Nirvana had finally made an album that captured the band in its freshest and rawest state – melodic and very aggressive and, without the overly produced sheen of big record company all over the songs. “Rape Me” stood out as the clearest form of rebellion and captured perfectly what was being played out in the press – the battle lines being drawn between massive popularity and the band’s desire to be what they believed they were – a small band playing for friends in small clubs. Recall that it was only three years earlier that they were playing really small clubs, such as The Town Pump in Vancouver BC (March 12, 1990), and at that time the northwest was all about the punk rock. For a band who had arisen from that scene the sellout stink probably was overwhelming. Nevermind was never a Nirvana record. That is, Nirvana had lost control of the production and in the process of being packaged into “radio friendly unit shifters” became disenchanted with that loss of control and the fun of being in a band. These facts are borne out by the release of In Utero – which is as diverse a record as one will find by a band after producing one of the biggest selling records of a decade. Alternating between soft, introspective (“Dumb”) to aggressive (“Very Ape”) and parts in between, In Utero may be the achievement of every band’s ultimate desire – finding the perfect balance between commercial and extreme. For me, In Utero represents the band balancing its self on the razor’s edge, both lyrically and musically, and for that brief moment roughly achieving perfection. Sure, there are a few moments on the record that somehow don’t quite achieve the same level as “Rape Me”, “All Apologies”, “Heart Shaped Box” “Dumb” and “Pennyroyal Tea” but how could they? This Super Deluxe Box Set includes the “Live and Loud” show from Seattle’s Pier 48 as well as a number of B-sides and rarities from the period, including a couple of excellent demos, the most notable being Dave Grohl’s “Marigold.” In this case, Try: them all.

Mountain Goats - All Hail West TexasThe Mountain Goats 10th anniversary reissue of 2003’s All Hail West Texas is also remarkably excellent but for different reason’s than Nirvana. John Darnielle started Mountain Goats in 1991 and most of you will have never heard of the band. This is a bedroom record, and from the opening track “The Best Death Metal Band in West Texas” you are transported into another world. It is a stark, sparse and very lonely record and these songs are reflective of a specific period in Darnielle’s life. The album was recorded on a boom box and almost all of the songs were recorded within hours of being written and captured in one or two takes. This process was necessary, according to Darnielle, because of his limited attention span lasting exactly one day for each song. Simple melodies make for complex emotion as these songs are raw. Darnielle succeeds in capturing dreams delayed or rejected as well as the excitement inherent in a loving relationship. These themes are all explored though the people introduced to the listener in each song. Although the cover indicates that the album contains “fourteen songs about seven people, two houses, a motorcycle, and a locked treatment facility for adolescent boys” the looseness of the concept is what actually creates the magic – warmth radiates all over this record. Try “Jenny,” “Balance,” and without a doubt, “The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton.”

Boomtown Rats - Back to Boomtown Classic Rats HitsAlthough the Irish rockers The Boomtown Rats were major stars in Canada and the other European colonies, they were relegated to one hit wonders in the United States. For a brief moment in time the Boomtown Rats looked like they would break big in America with “I Don’t Like Mondays” a song about the Cleveland Elementary School shooting which took place on January 29, 1979, in San Diego, California. 16 year old Brenda Ann Spencer who lived in a house across the street from the school, was tried and plead guilty as an adult of killing the principal and a custodian as well as injuring eight children and a police officer. During the shooting, a reporter telephoned homes near the school looking for information and in so doing actually reached Brenda Ann who admitted that she was the one doing the shooting. When asked why she was doing what she was doing, she was reported to have stated: “Because I don’t like Mondays.”

However, to dismiss the Rats as one hit wonders is to give short shrift to one of the best live acts of the time. The Rats initially played an upbeat proto-type punk best exemplified on Back To Boomtown: Classic Rats by the inclusion of “Mary of the 4th Form” “Like Clockwork” and She’s So Modern.”  Over time, the Rats evolved into a reggae influenced rock act typified on this collection by “Banana Republic” and “Diamond Smiles.” Most notably, Sir Robert Geldof (yes, that is the knighted title) singer and one time journalist, is the mastermind (with Ultravox’s Midge Ure) behind Band Aid – the charity effort to raise money for anti-poverty efforts in Ethiopia who, in 1984, released the song “Do They Know It’s Christmas? Back To Boomtown: Classic Rats is a compilation of the 2005 re-mastered tracks, but for those of you whom have not experienced the Rats, this album is a great introduction. Of note, this collection is being released in advance of the Rats announcing that they have reformed to play a series of live shows after a 10 year absence.

A couple of other interesting facts. There is nothing record companies like more than reissuing the same material repeatedly in several different variants. Like Elvis Costello and The Who – two bands who are the acknowledged kings of the repackage and reissue, Back to Boomtown: Classic Rats Hits represents the fifth greatest hits album by this Irish band and perhaps surprisingly, upon release earlier this month charted at number 35 in the Irish charts (Virgin EMI, September 9, 2013) There are also two new tracks (“The Boomtown Rats” and “Back To Boomtown”) recorded for the collection with the remaining 14 tracks being the Boomtown Rats’ best known works. For me, those tracks are “She So Modern,” “Looking After No. 1,” and “Rat Trap.”

Kings of Leon - Mechanical BullKings of Leon’s latest, Mechanical Bull is, in part, a return to form following the underwhelming performance of their previous outing 2010’s Come Around Sundown. That album likely left many fans of KOL confused as it came after the massive success of 2008’s Only By Night and the two massive radio hits from that record: “Use Somebody” and “Sex on Fire.” Come Around Sundown was released on the heels of relentless touring and inter-family/band squabbles as well as the well-documented alcohol abuse by Caleb Followill. It seemed at that time, like many a band whose flame had burned far too bright, that the flame was be extinguished. Not so fast. Mechanical Bull (which coincidentally as I write this entry is a UK Number 1 album) is not a reissue of Only By Night and the Lynyrd Skynyrd meets U2 riffs on that album.  More aptly, Mechanical Bull is a return to the days of the bands earliest success found on their 2003 debut, Youth & Young Manhood and 2005’s Aha Shake Heartbreak. Look, you were never going to experience on any Kings of Leon record the most awesomely written lyrics nor were you ever going to see a true return to the type of songs found on Youth & Young Manhood, but Mechanical Bull strikes a happy balance between old and new and for that reason, this is a fairly enjoyable record. Sure, there is the record company required hit song “Supersoaker” stuffed at the front, but if you dig a little deeper, the material is a little stronger, particularly, the bonus track “ Work On Me” which is a workmanlike Kings of Leon jam that shows what was missing on Come Around Sundown – restraint. This is refreshing for a band who has become the record company directed pimp for every nuanced attempt to reach mass commercial appeal a la dressing them up like pop stars. I expect that at some point, the Followills will figure out, like Nirvana, their In Utero moment, and in fairness, Mechanical Bull is certainly not that type of moment. However, it is a great start on that journey.  For a band surviving superstardom – Kings of Leon deliver a restrained record to begin the healing process. The fans and the press might not like the whole thing, but I bet the band does. Try “Work on Me,” “Wait For Me,” and “Comeback Story.”

WYR0313LP1 copyParquet Courts are back with a couple of gap records prior to their next full length. As you may recall, I wrote extensively about their last record, the brilliant Light Up Gold from last year. On these two releases, Parquet Courts play their Velvet Underground meets the Replacements sound at full speed, which is not a departure in any manner from the sound of Light Up Gold. Go back and compare “You’ve Got Me Wonderin’ Now” with Light Up Gold’s “Master of My Craft” and you’ll see precisely what I mean. Just so we are clear – from my perspective it is perfectly acceptable not to screw with a sound that works for a band and is consistent with their personality.. Far too many bands alter their sound just to alter the sound – hoping to “grow” as a band or achieve some modicum of success by fitting into a sound/genre that is popular. Recall the mass appeal of autotune?  However, some bands you always knew what to expect and that made them perfect – e.g. the Buzzcocks, D.O.A., Dead Kennedys, Husker Du and the Replacements. Parquet Courts can one day be mentioned in the same breath if they continue putting out music like that found on Tally All The Things You Broke EP (which comes out October 8, 2013) and the Borrowed Time 7″ single. Parquet Courts - Borrowed Time

You can imagine this work played live – 4 guys just bashing it out. I would pay $$$ to see that. Try: “Borrowed Time,” “You’ve Got Me Wonderin’ Now,” and the lengthy “The More It Works.”

I have also previously covered Kathleen Hanna’s work with Bikini Kill in earlier editions of Tales From The Dropbox. The Julie Ruin, is Hanna’s latest project and continues, in some measure, where her previous bands Bikini Kill and Le Tigre, left off.

The Julie Ruin - Run FastHowever, do not be misled. On their debut, Run Fast, the Julie Ruin sound is, like the B-52’s, dance rock with Kenny Melman providing a nice counterpoint for Hanna’s vocal styling’s (which are very raw to say the least). Currently residing and recording in Brooklyn, the band comprised of Carmine Covelli (the Tender Moments), Sara Landeau, Kathleen Hanna, Kathi Wilcox (The Feebles, The Frumpies, Star Sign Scorpio, as well as Bikini Kill) , and Kenny Mellman (Kiki and Herb) create angular dance rock that without too much trouble reminds me of early B-52’s but that label should not narrow your view of the record which is remarkable exciting and catchy. It is a very safe bet to say that Run Fast will very likely end up near the top of many year end best of 2013 lists this year – and for very good reason. Try “Kids in NY,” “Ha Ha Ha,” and “Girls Like Us.”

American Authors - American Authors EPBrooklyn’s American Authors, all dropouts from the Berklee School of Music, have kick-started their career with their self-titled debut. Nothing challenging on this EP but the songs all hit the sweet spot for alternative music as evidenced by “Best Day of My Life’s” inclusion in a Lowe’s Home Improvement store commercial. As major labels, in this case Island Records, fight to have any relevance in the marketplace, the new outlet for music is not radio anymore but instant commercialization through advertising.  Although the American Authors EP is gaining some regional airplay in the New York, Boston and Chicago markets, Islands marinating efforts are directed primarily to exposing American Authors via television advertising, much like X Factor and American Idol which are just 2 hour length commercials. That is, the few major labels which are willing to even venture into the rock/alternative genre are doing so in a very limited and targeted manner, and releasing EPs and singles only if they can ensure an immediate revenue stream. While this new model will in all likelihood have only limited success, the touring that American Authors has already done, most recently on the Lollapalooza tour, should help their survival to a full length. Oh, what about the music? Take this as completely positive, as after all it is in the dropbox. You will like American Authors if you like sugary commercial alternative music that is very well written. Hopefully future releases will demonstrate some willingness by American Authors to try to expand the formula a bit. Still, it is difficult to not like the band or their music as each song on American Authors is built for maximum alt rock catchiness. Try “Best Day of My Life,” “Believer,” and “Home.”

Hey! Hello! - Hey Hello!The British-American rock band Hey! Hello on their self-titled debut.

A lengthy aside follows. So if you don’t want to read a minor, as compared with major, rant skip the next couple of paragraphs.

Aside Number 1. That’s two releases in a row by bands or their labels that are too freaking lazy to title their record with something other than with the band name. There is a reason why bands should actually title their records. It makes it easier to collect everything by the band and keep songs organized. Imagine the iTunes confusion with a band who repeats the self titled album concept for several albums. A prime example, is Peter Gabriel whose first 4 records were all called Peter Gabriel . Creating some desperation with the crappy album titles, some Gabriel fans left trying try to describe what album a particular track was found have retitled the albums based upon the cover art, now naming them in order of release as: Car, Scratch, Melt, and Security. The U.S. release of the 4th album actually entitled Security but not for the rest of the world. Rather than force a band to actually try coming up with a name, these bands should default to the acceptable lazy default naming convention: naming the record after the title of the song found on side one track one. By way of example, the four Peter Gabriel records would now be called (in order): Moribund the Burgermeister, On the AirIntruder, and The Rhythm of the Heat.

Aside to Aside Number 1: Don’t even get me started on the artists who are too lazy to even come up with titles for the songs on their records. Darn you Buckethead!!!

Aside Number 1, continued: Why are bands who are making fairly creative music unable to actually think of a #$^%# interesting title for their record? This has to be some major label marketing ploy. It must. See a recent prime example of this marketing phenomenon where MGMT’s whose new record, their 3rd, is awesomely titled, you guessed it MGMT. Or how about Blitzen Trapper whose 7th record, and latest, is entitled VII? Does repetition really work to get potential purchasers to actually to buy the record?  I have no idea, but it is really frustrating and tiring. So those of you who produce the music or work at labels that are reading this blog – stop that crap now. Perhaps we can start a revolution.

Whew…..anyway, Hey! Hello was formed by New York based singer Victoria Liedtke and British singer-songwriter, Ginger Wildheart. Their debut is a stunning and powerful rock record full of riff heavy, hook laden, and thunderous rock music that magnificently updates the sound of the 70’s act, The Sweet, best known for the two classic hits “Ballroom Blitz” and “Fox on the Run.” “Swimwear” actually sounds exactly like The Sweet’s “Little Willy.” I loved this record. Try “Black Valentine, ”“How I Survived The Punk Wars,” and “Burn The Rule Book (Fuck It).”

MGMY - MGMTSo, perhaps I should deal with the MGMT record, since I slagged the title previously in this post. Despite what you have possibly read in far more popular publications than Tales From The Dropbox, on MGMT, MGMT continues the sonic explorations of a band whom have consciously tried not to make the record that made their bones, which unfortunately for MGMT was their debut. History has shown where a debut record is so accepted by the masses (e.g. Green Day’s “Dookie”) that it cripples the artist as their record label is unwilling to commit to anything but to a retread of the sound that made that debut record a hit. This may seem contrary to my thoughts expressed earlier about artists who change their sound for the sake of change, but MGMT has stayed true to its own thought process and artistic belief about the direction of their music releases,  and have done so within the context and constraints imposed by being an artist on a major label record. So, to give credit where. as here, it is fully due, the record company, in this case, Columbia, has permitted the duo to (a) release a record that is not highly commercial, and which will not sell millions of records, and (b) extends the vision expressed on their last noncommercial record, 2010’s psych rock leaning Congratulations. Although the ideas on Congratulations were not fully formed the purpose of that record was clear: it was designed to distance MGMT the artists from a debut album that changed modern alternative rock. 2007’s Oracular Spectacular, with its three ubiquitous singles “Time to Pretend”, “Kids” and “Electric Feel” was incapable of repetition. So, MGMT didn’t attempt the retread.

Where do we stand now? MGMT on MGMT is essentially asking the listener to evaluate the release as a debut. The duo, consisting of Benjamin Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden ( with some help) find themselves delving full throttle into the third variant of the new psychedelic revival (along with other similar travelers such as Tame Impala and Pond), with trance-like elements creating sonic tapestries reminiscent somewhat of the 90’s shoegaze scene. Released on September 17, the album will take some time for the listener to get into, but I found the journey generally quite pleasing. However, if you are looking for the MGMT singles, stop looking. There are none. This is an album as entirely conceived by a band committed to change and the resulting sonic explorations are worth the effort to look past, MGMT‘s past. Try” Introspection,” “Cool Song No. 2,” and “I Love You Too, Death.”

Blitzen Trapper - VIIEarlier this year, I told you about the reissue of Blitzen Trapper’s amazing first record which after 10 years, was and is still an exciting listening experience.  Seven albums later, Blitzen Trapper is still figuring itself out. And that is acceptable to me having followed their progression, because VII expands their indie-folk with country tinges into new areas with some terrific up results. VII is a sonically pleasing record with a dynamic range that makes the space between the instruments a powerful force into itself. It is difficult to describe the feeling you experience when you are listening to a record that just sounds good and you feel the recording. The gospel revival experience of “Shine On” bumps up against the beautiful country ballad “Ever Loved Once” which is one of the strongest songs on VII and perhaps in Blitzen Trapper‘s entire catalog. The harmonies and banjo (yes, banjo) play off and highlight each other, and the result is an instant classic. Eric Earley’s crisp vocals driving the record and the space created is very effective in creating warmth to a somewhat staccato delivery.. Try” Ever Loved Once,” the country influenced “Don’t Be A Stranger,” and “Shine On.”

London Grammar - If You Wait (Deluxe Edition)As promised last month, the dropbox finds the U.K. equivalent of the XX in the form of electronic art rockers, London Grammar, with their debut album entitled If You Wait. This album and band is already  massively popular record in Europe having spawned three hit singles (all included on If You Wait)  prior to the album’s release. London Grammar‘s form of chamber pop is carried by the beautiful and powerful vocals of Hannah Reid. The three piece, comprised of Hannah Reid, Dot Major and Dan Rothman have already played several festivals, and this record transports the listener to a sonic soundscape from the opening notes of “Hey Now” through If You Wait‘s last track. Hannah sings with strong emotion over the mostly electro-pop tracks. The single, “Wasting My Young Years” will find its way on to may best of 2013 pop collections, and, similar to the Savages debut from earlier this year, If You Wait is amongst the best records of 2013. No surprise that London Grammar has not found its way to the U.S., but hopefully some station will pick it up, as the record was only released  two weeks ago. I’ve found that KROQ takes about a year to discover new music, so there is a chance that KROQ or 987 FM will add the song and then overplay it. Try” Wasting My Young Years,” Darling Are You Gonna Leave Me,” and “Metal and Dust.”

As I’ve got regular work to attend to at this time, I’ll update this post as I get a chance, because there is gold in them there hills!

The List:

  1. American Authors – American Authors [2013]
  2. Balance And Composure – The Things We Think We’re Missing [2013]
  3. Bastille – Bad Blood [2013]
  4. Two Cow Garage – The Death of the Self Preservation Society [2013]
  5. Underground Youth – The Perfect Enemy For God [2013]
  6. Volcano Choir – Repave [2013]
  7. Factory Floor – Factory Floor (Deluxe Edition) [2CD] [2013]
  8. Grouplove – Spreading Rumors [2013]
  9. Jungle Giants – Learn To Exist [2013]
  10. Kissaway Trail – Breach [2013]
  11. London Grammar – If You Wait (Deluxe Edition) [‘2013]
  12. MGMT – MGMT [2013]
  13. Naked and Famous – In Rolling Waves [2013]
  14. Pedal Jets –What’s In Between [2013]
  15. Stellar Kart – All In [2013]
  16. Summer Camp – Summer Camp [2013]
  17. Julie Ruin – Run Fast [2013]
  18. Veronica Falls – Six Covers Vol. 2 [2013]
  19. Bad Sports – Bras [2013]
  20. Cosmonauts – Persona Non Grata [2013]
  21. Crocodiles – Crimes of Passion [2013]
  22. Crash Karma – Rock Musique Deluxe [2013]
  23. Delorean – Apar [2013]
  24. Destruction Unit – Deep Trip [2013]
  25. Au Revoir Simone – Move In Spectrums [2013]
  26. Barrence Whitfield and The Savages – Dig Thy Savage Soul [2013]
  27. Haim – Days Are Gone (Deluxe Edition) [2CD] [2013]
  28. CHVRCHES – The Bones of What You Believe [European Limited Edition] [2013]
  29. Blood Arm – Infinite Nights [2013]
  30. Crystal Stilts – Nature Noir [2013]
  31. Kings of Leon – Mechanical Bull [Deluxe Edition] [2013]
  32. Dinosaur Bones – Shaky Dream [2013]
  33. Ducktails – Wish Hotel [2013]
  34. Parquet Courts – Borrowed Time (7” EP) [2013]
  35. Parquet Courts – Tally All the Things That You Broke EP [2013]
  36. Nirvana – In Utero (20th Anniversary Edition Super Deluxe) [3CD] [2013]
  37. Hateful – Soundtrack For A Sinner [2013]
  38. Hey! Hello! – Hey! Hello! [2013]
  39. Little Hurricane – Stay Classy [A Collection of Cover Songs] [2013]
  40. Little Scout – Are You Life [2013]
  41. Blitzen Trapper – VII [2013]
  42. Boomtown Rats – Back To Boomtown [2013]
  43. Love Is Sodium – Cycles [2013]
  44. Mountain Goats – All Hail West Texas [Remastered] [2013]
  45. Paper Lions – My Friends [2013]
  46. Parlotones – Shake It Up [2013]
  47. Redlight King – Irons In The Fire [2013]
  48. Regurgitator – Dirty Pop Fantasy [2013]
  49. Sadies – Internal Sounds [2013]
  50. Wheatus – The Valentine [2013]

July 7, 2013 Dropbox Notes

Happy Canada Day and 4th of July to those on both sides of the 49th parallel. Well, this past month saw some interesting releases featuring some bands that you’ve likely heard of before as well as some newcomers of note.

Janet Devlin - Hide and SeekI dropped a late add into the box today as the debut album from Janet Devlin called Hide and Seek finally leaked, and it is frankly a really good pop album. Janet, you might remember was the startling contestant on the 8th series of England’s X Factor who rejected Simon Cowell’s recording contract offer after finishing 5th. If you have not seen here amazing cover of Elton John’s “Your Song” then check it out, because her voice is so unique, it seems as if she actually wrote the thing . As for the new record, it captures the unique quality of her voice, and there are a couple of terrific tunes on the record. Should be a massive hit when it finally comes out in September, 2013. Try “Wonderful, ”“Working For The Man,” and “Things We Lost In The Fire.”

Beware of Darkness - OrthodoxFitting somewhere between Jet and the Black Keys, Los Angeles based Beware of Darkness plays gritty alt-rock and roll which on their debut Orthodox demonstrates a broad range of influences, but eventually you come out at the end finding that there is something more here than just their influences. Although the opener “Howl” is the public relations hit, having performed it live on Conan (here: ), the track that made me love this album was the slow burner “All Who Remain.” Solid throughout, given that there is still no place in the universe that consistently plays great music, you might as well expose everyone to this. The album falls off a little at the end as it diverges into new psychedelia, but overall is well worth the listen. Try “All Who Remain”, “Howl” and the stones influenced “Sweet Girl.”

Fox And The Law - Scarlet FeverI found a couple of older things lying around and figured as I had missed them, they should be brought to your full attention. Like Beware of Darkness, Fox and The Law plays garage blues rock at full speed. If you were going to go to a small club and wanted to see a straightforward rock n roll show – Fox and The Law is who I’d see.  Fox and the Law are essentially new generation pub rockers. Great energy throughout, the single “Treat Me Right” is catchy and the blues grunge feel of the record, suits those late night evenings. Try “Treat Me Right,” “Unbelievable,” and “Something Bad.”

Saint Alvia - Static PsalmsSaint Alvia blew me away. Another rock record, I love this record and have played it endlessly for the past couple of months. From Burlington Ontario, I had never heard of these guys before stumbling upon this record. Who knew they were nominated for a Juno award in 2008? Named after Ernest Alvia Smith, Canada’s last living recipient of the Victoria Cross for valor in WWII, they are a patchwork of influences from punk, grunge, blues, and pretty much everything in between. On Static Psalms, the band produces an amalgam of catchy punk influenced rock with some dance tracks stuffed in between. I ShXX you not.  Try “Define Me” (extra credit if you can name the sample, great video too: ( Is that snow?)), “Murder in a Motel,” and “The Pressure.”

Jonas & The Massive Attraction - Live Out LoudKeeping with our theme that Canada produces great rock bands (if you ignore Nickleback), and following the rock and roll theme established by this month’s dropbox, Jonas and the Massive Attraction are a hard rock band from Montreal led by another Juno award nominee Jonas Tomalty who is better known for his blues albums, but with this new project, is producing killer melodic hard rock. Not sure who produced the cover art, as it makes the band look more like the Jonas Brothers, and effectively disguises what is underneath. This is traditional Canadian hard rock – think April Wine, updated, and anthemic. I had a great time, and found myself singing along to some of the tracks. Try the blistering “Riot,” the catchy ballad “Bonnie & Clyde” (here is a great live version in Montreal at L’Astral 27-04-2013  ) and “Hope Your Happy.”

1975 - IVThe 1975, have appeared in the drop box previously. Although they’ve been playing around since 2002, they tested out a number of different names, before they finally settled on The 1975. The name was inspired by a note hand written inside a book vocalist Matthew Healy found, which, coupled with some other writings on the previous owner’s descent into insanity and desire to take their life, struck a chord with Healy. IV is the band’s fourth EP, and is the build up to the band’s first full length album, which is expected to be released in September. It is hard to go wrong with this band’s sound, exemplified by the opening track “The City” with its upbeat dance friendly repetitive chorus. The electronic under bed highlights the hauntingly beautiful “Haunt/Bed” (See how I did that… ). A great introduction to the band if you missed the earlier EPs, so stay tuned to see how this all comes together. Not quite electronic, not quite indie pop, falling somewhere in the sweet spot in the middle. Try …them all. It is an EP after all.

Bicycles - Stop Thinking So MuchSome more Canadians, but now of the twee pop variety, the Bicycles broke up in 2009 (their website says hiatus…but it was a long one). Now after 4 years, the Bicycles return with a gem of an indie pop record on Stop Thinking So Much. The album bounces seamlessly through indie folk to power pop and with a large amount of variety to keep the album from stumbling in its quieter moments. A great change of pace. Try the Beach Boys influenced “Congratulations,” “Break This Hold” and “The Sun Don’t Want To End.”

Blitzen Trapper - Blitzen Trapper [Deluxe Edition]Sub Pop describes them as experimental country folk, but Portland’s Blitzen Trapper is much more than the label would indicate. Blitzen Trapper is the reissue of the band’s debut record recorded in 2003 and remastered with 5 additional songs. The album as originally released was available in very limited quantities, so to have it re-released in all its sonic goodness is well worth the listen. As this was released on record store day, it was pressed on 180g black vinyl, but also a very limited edition of 200 LPs was available on Coke-Bottle Clear vinyl and mixed in at random with the standard pressing at participating Record Store Day stores only. Looking back on the album, Blitzen Trapper’s frontman Eric Earley stated, “I don’t remember much about making this first record, too long ago maybe. I guess I remember this Mexican dive bar we’d go to after sessions with GW (Gregg Williams) who was engineering the record. We’d drink tequila and play pool and watch Blazers games. Drew took the cover shot down at the coast at some junk shop off the highway. An Indian and a zebra.” There is quite a wide variety of sounds on this album which is essentially well-crafted indie rock. Try “All Girl Team” “Pink Padded Slippers” and “Cracker Went Down.”

Boxer Rebellion - PromisesBritish indie rockers Boxer Rebellion have taken a beating in the English music press, and on Promises, they will likely take some more abuse. For the uninitiated, Boxer Rebellion have poppier leanings than most bands in the new progressive rock genre, typified by Explosions in the Sky, but here the atmospherics of prior records are clearer and more reliant on Roxy Music than on any marriage to the new progressive sound. There are nods to the National with the buzz saw guitar sounds and emotive vocals, and other like-minded Indie rock explorers, but the Boxer Rebellion traverses their own road in finding the balance between synth rock and indie, so as to avoid Yes comparisons. Try “Diamonds”, “Dream” and “Keep Moving.”

State of Drama - FighterRule Number 1 in the record business – start your album off with a great song. Swedish pop rock band, State of Drama follows the rules with catchy opener “Can’t Find You Anywhere.”  Essentially a competition band, having performed in Sweden’s numerous music contests including participating in the Eurovision Song Contest, this self-titled debut includes their competition hits “Maybe” and the aforementioned “Can’t Find you Anywhere.” Hey it’s a pop rock record, so you should be able to find something you like. For me, it was “Fighter,” “Can’t Find You Anywhere” and “Rain.”

Rise Against - Revolutions Per Minute [10 Year Anniversary]I am an admitted Rise Against fan, and have been since their debut. Not to establish credibility, but rather to acknowledge that long before they were popular on radio (for once!) there was something different about this band. On RPM, their second album, the band found their sound, a mix of street punk and anarchism with a focus on the social political themes and relationships. Tim McIlrath said in an interview with “RPM was kind of sarcastic; so many bands just throwing the word “revolution” around and that kind of thing you were led to believe there was a revolution every minute and it was a word that I still didn’t take lightly and I was upset that it was being taken lightly.” Well, as their last release on Fat Wreck Chords, RPM was a game changer of sorts as this released propelled them to Geffen Records and essentially stardom. However, RPM is raw in many aspects and after ten years, the songs upon reflection have taken on a life of their own. Hard to beat, and still sounds fresh today. Try “Like The Angel, ” “Heaven Knows (Demo)” and “Broken English (Demo)”. Crunchy guitars rule!

Roshambo - Lonesome Men From The WoodsDid you like San Cisco from last year? If so, then Roshambo is for you. On Lonesome Men From The Woods, Karlskoga Sweden’s Roshambo traverse similar pop rock territory with such charm, that it is impossible not to like this record. Following our record rule Number 1, Roshambo start with the killer track “Babylon” which is impossible not to sing-a-long with. The trio is energetic and the songs well-crafted. I would love to see these guys live. A little like Capital Cities, but with Australia’s pop sensibilities, Roshambo is likely a Swedish anachronism. Available only on Bandcamp, give this a spin. Try “Babylon,” Koalas” and “We Gag.”

Puggy - To Win The WorldOn To Win The World, Puggy, ( a trio consisting of Matt Irons, bassist Romain Descampes, and Swedish drummer Egil “Ziggy” Franzén, continue their unique blend of melodic acoustic flavored rock with smooth vocal harmonies. There is a French rock feel to the music, likely caused by the influences absorbed from living and touring in Belgium where the band who is based and where all of the members met. Consequently, Puggy is massively popular in Belgium and France. There are a diverse array of influences and styles on this record which traverses both acoustic and dance rock territory. Try “To Win The World, “Goes Like This,” and the instantly likeable “Move On.”

Postelles - ...And It Shook MeNew York four piece, the Postelles, write power pop with an edge that will grab your heart immediately on their second LP, …And It Shook Me. The greatest aspect of this album are the well-crafted songs that are punchy and not given over to the saccharine pop that one often finds in records in this genre. There is a Brooklyn feel on the tunes, likely the influence of producer Albert Hammond (Strokes). However, this is not a Strokes copy band, but something else altogether, more in the vein of Saturday Looks Good To Me. The songs bounce along, and the melodies melt your heart. I found myself putting this on repeat in the office, the Knack (Remember them?) – like cover “Caught By Surprise” ( ) instantly hummable. Try “Caught By Surprise,” “And It Shook Me”, and “Running Red Lights” ( ).

Portugal. The Man - Evil FriendsWho would have ever thought that I would hear Portland weirdoes, Portugal. The Man ( Yes, that period belongs there just to throw off the grammar check in word) on KROQ. However, just like KROQ to play one of the weaker songs on the record “Purple Yellow Red and Blue” rather than actually spend time listening to the LP before deciding on which track to expose to the mindless masses who blindly follow the formula espoused by the corporate radio dictator in an effort to exert mind control in the form of mass consumerism (sorry blanked out there……). Back to the point. Portugal. The Man’s latest record, their 7th LP, Evil Friends, does take a stab at the commercial entertainment but still largely retaining the charm and uniqueness that makes their earlier releases essential listening. This is indie rock blended with psychedelia, and lyrically progressive. The songs are instantly memorable and with each listen of the record, new discoveries are made. If “Creep in a T-Shirt” isn’t a hit record then nothing is. See for yourself: Portugal. The Man performing “Creep In A T-Shirt” Live on KCRW ( ). Note to KROQ – stop playing the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I can’t take anymore….really….and play more like this. It’s okay to expose the masses to a variety of great records, popularity is not the demon. Try “Creep In a T-Shirt,” “Hip Hop Kids” and “Holy Roller (Hallelujah)”

Pigeon Detectives - We Met At SeaOn the Pigeon Detectives latest record We Met At Sea, their 4th, the band finds itself at a bit of a crossroads. This is particularly true when NME gave the record a score of 3/10 and accused the band of ripping itself off. Brutal. However, having listened to this record for the past couple of months, there is still enough life in the record to warrant inclusion. Gone are the rough edges of the brilliant first two albums Wait For Me (2007) and Emergency (2008) that brought instant fame to the band, and produced 5 top 5 singles. It is difficult to imagine the pressure of trying to follow up the massive fame explosion, and We Met At Sea is the bands second attempt to create something more lasting than the raw enthusiasm that propelled the band into the spotlight. The mod edges are still intact and like the Palma Violets and Miles Kane this record fits nicely in the mod-dance genre but shows the band trying to grow a bit. It is easy for NME to dismiss the record, particularly when the memory of those earlier records and constant exposure to the band (unlike here in the U.S. where absolutely no one has ever heard of them), is so fresh. Really, this is worth the effort, you won’t be disappointed. Try “I Won’t Come Back,” (  ) , “Light Me Up,” and “I Don’t Mind.”

Paper Aeroplanes - Little LettersIf She & Him were Welsh, and a little more folk oriented, they would likely be Paper Aeroplanes, comprised of Sarah Howells and Richard Llewellyn who on their third album, Little Letters, produce an album of delicate songs brimming with melody and carried by Sarah Howells distinctive voice  which reminds me a little of Janet Devlin mentioned earlier). These are lovingly crafted acoustic songs tell stories which are atmospheric, emotional, and compelling. Most striking is the production on this record, which provides depth and space with a warm tone uncommon in this digital age. Try “Multiple Love,” Little Letters, ( ) and “Palm of Your Hand.”

Oblivians - DesperationMemphis blues-garage band the Oblivions return after 17 years with a brand new release of swampy garage rock, picking up where the left off. Progenitors of the 90’s garage punk scene with the Gories, Supersuckers and New Fast Automatic Daffodils. the Oblivions are a sonic force even though they must be older than dirt (okay about my age). Unlike the current garage scene with its psychedelic underpinnings (Tame Impala, Ty Segal), the Oblivions have not changed their garage punk formula staying true to their roots, stepped in Memphis blues and the late 60’s garage bands like the Seeds, Kingsman, and the Shadows of Knight. Perhaps a little much for the uninitiated to play all the way through, but in small chunks, you’ll become a devotee. Try: “Woke Up in A Police Car,”, “Fire Detector,” and “I’ll be Gone.”

New Politics - A Bad Girl In Harlem

It must be difficult to be a band with a hit record on its first try. What goes unnoticed is that many bands have had essentially a lifetime to produce that first batch of songs, and when they see the light of day, and are loved and appreciated, the pressure to write more of the same must be oppressive, and as history has taught, that sophomore record is going to determine whether the band stays or breaks up in a raging heap of bitter disappointment. Look the odds are against survival. In the 2000s, the list of bands that are essentially one hit wonders is much larger than the list of bands with repeated hit records. This is not to mention the endless number of quality bands that are only discovered after their useful existence. So where does Copenhagen’s New Politics fit in this discussion? Well, in the realm of faceless Anglo bands, this record shows that the trio (David Boyd, Søren Hansen, and Louis Vecchio) who wrote the ubiquitous hit “Yeah Yeah Yeah”  ( )has real staying power. The first single “Harlem” (  )  is a catchy, throbby, dance pop track and the rest of the record contains other alterno-pop songs that will have the kids dancing in the aisles at their shows. Nothing deep here, but overall an enjoyable record. Try “Harlem”, “Tonight Your Perfect” and “Just Like Me.”

Front Bottoms - Talon of the HawkReally, more thought should be put into band names. If you’ve spent some time in my office, we’ve spent numerous hours crafting a fine number of useful and memorable band names. So how does one decide that Front Bottoms should be a band name? Stuck with a terrible name, no one will be able to ask for this record at the local retailer, as it is impossible to recall. What is unusual however, is that the Front Bottoms songs are way better than there name. Maybe it’s the fact that they are from Jersey, Bergen County, NJ, to be precise. Essentially a two piece, on Tales From The Talon, the band’s fourth LP, the band produces finely crafted funny tales that are catchy pop-punk with a surprisingly huge sound. This is a light-hearted upbeat record, that will leave you wanting more.  Vocalist/Guitarist Brian Sella’s voice has a great tone and the talk-singing is very effective here. Try “Skeleton,” “Twin Size Mattress” ( ) and Funny You Should Ask.”

All-About - Suburban HeartOn the All-About ‘s debut, Suburban Heart, Zac Coe produces a superior pop-punk record, with a similar talk-singing vocal similar to the Front-Bottoms above, but whereas the focus for the Front Bottoms was semi-serious, even light-hearted lyrics, here The All-About’s cover a much broader lyrical palate, with songs about love and loss, carefully crafted into a mesmerizing, albeit brief, release. Sure, there are some songs that take a little work to get into, but the acoustic synth-pop is easy to digest, and like it or not, even on the most lyrically difficult songs, you find yourself wanting to sing-a-long. Essentially a well formed bedroom project, this is a terrific start. Try “Summer Sheets”, “Suburban Heart,” and “Nashville.”

There are lots of great albums at the bottom of the list this month, but little time to cover it all. Among my favorites are the mod revivalists Riots, the new Editors, and American Fangs. I’ve also upgraded the Miles Kane with the deluxe edition. Anyway, until next time, let’s be safe out there!

Here is this months List:

  1. Beware of Darkness – Orthodox [2013]
  2. Fox And The Law – Scarlet Fever [2012]
  3. Saint Alvia – Static Psalms [2012]
  4. Jonas & The Massive Attractions – Live Out Loud [2013]
  5. 1975 – IV [2013]
  6. Bicycles – Stop Thinking So Much [2013]
  7. Blitzen Trapper – Blitzen Trapper [Deluxe Edition] (RSD) [2013]
  8. Boxer Rebellion – Promises [2013]
  9. State of Drama – Fighter [2013]
  10. Rise Against – Revolutions Per Minute [10 Year Anniversary] [2013]
  11. Roshambo – Lonesome Men From The Woods [2013]
  12. Puggy – To Win The World [2013]
  13.  Postelles – …And It Shook Me [2013]
  14. Portugal. The Man – Evil Friends [2013]
  15. Pigeon Detectives – We Met At Sea [2013]
  16.  Paper Aeroplanes – Little Letters [2013]
  17. Oblivians – Desperation [2013]
  18. New Politics – A Bad Girl In Harlem [2013]
  19. Front Bottoms – Talon of the Hawk [2013]
  20. All-About – Suburban Heart [2013]
  21. Beady Eye – BE [Japanese Edition] [2013]
  22. Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest [2013]
  23. Psychic Ills – One Track Mind [2013]
  24. Rhett Miller – The Dreamer Acoustic Version [2013]
  25. Smith Westerns – Soft Will [2013]
  26. These New Puritans – Field of Reeds [2013]
  27.  Olms – The Olms [2013]
  28. Miles Kane – Don’t Forget Who You Are (Deluxe Edition) [2013]
  29. Limousines – Hush [2013]
  30. Hooded Fang – Gravez [2013]
  31. Anarbor – Burnout [2013]
  32. Abandon Kansas – A Midwest Summer [2013]
  33. Gaslight Anthem – Singles Collection 2008-2011 [2013]
  34.  Jimmy Eat World – Damage [2013]
  35. Big Deal – June Gloom [2013]
  36. Capital Cities – In a Tidal Wave of Mystery [2013]
  37. American Fangs – American Fangs [2013]
  38. Kodaline – In a Perfect World [2013]
  39. Sir Sly – Gold [2013]
  40. Tijuana Panthers – Semi-Sweet [2013]
  41. Banquets – Banquets [2013]
  42. Builders and The Butchers – Western Medicine [2013]
  43. Captain, We’re Sinking – The Future Is Cancelled [2013]
  44. Editors – The Weight Of Your Love [Deluxe Edition] [2013]
  45. Middle Class Rut – Pick Up Your Head [Deluxe Edition] [2013]
  46. Mowgli’s – Waiting for the Dawn [2013]
  47. Riots – Time For Truth [2013]
  48.  Japanther – Eat Like Lisa Act Like Bart [2013]
  49. Electric Guest – Good America [2013]
  50.  Janet Devlin – Hide & Seek [2013]