Bang. Here you have Tales From The Drop Box Episode 114 arriving a scant few days after Episode 113. What gives, you might inquire? Well, as you know there was the lengthy break in these podcasts but I was still listening to new music. So, I stockpiled a few things knowing that upon my return I had to go bigger, badder, and win you back. Episode 114 is a little more melodic than last week. Overall, the tracks are closer to the pop end of the rock spectrum, but there is a solid block of modern post-punk sounds that should keep you somewhat balanced. I know at least one of you (JB from Vancouver) is still recovering from the Pagan track a couple of episodes ago, so this should be a somewhat more pleasant listening experience for you as there is no disco/punkrock/deathmetal tracks this time. Maybe next time …
Oh, and so we are clear… The Whitehouse is not the place for Nazis. Why do we have to even say this?
Acollective – “All Lights Up” (The Coming Of Light)
Welshy Arms – “All For Us” (No Place Is Home)
Blurred Out – “Ain’t It A Shame” (Blurred Out)
Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – “How long?” (Hope Downs)
Proud Parents – “Take My Hand” (Proud parents)
Night Flowers – “Unwound” (Wild Notion)
Warm Thoughts – “Airport” (I Went Swimming Alone)
Rise Against – “Savior” (Ghost Note Symphonies Vol. 1)
The Alarm – “What Kind Of Hell (Illegal Records Demo Version)” (Eponymous 1981-1983)
Remember Sports – “The 1 Bad Man” (Slow Buzz)
I’m not afraid of what I did but I’m not getting over it and I know and I know and I know that I asked you to stay I’m just a bad man today …. Your defense is crumbling slowly you cannot get a witness to stand what’s it like when millions of voices stand up and call you a cheat what kind of hell what kind of hell am I living in
Okay, so I have been off the grid for a while. Hopefully you’ve missed me, because I certainly have missed the interaction with you, each and everyone of you. Really, I think about the Starbucks gang quite a bit after having moved my office. Same goes for the Canadian group whom I missed this Christmas. C&K&J if you are reading these notes, I miss you always when you are not around. Maybe one day you’ll explore the dropbox and find out why I really love this type of music. Nuff’ said.
I also know that I was remiss in getting dropboxes and these notes out for the past couple of months, but life sometimes gets in the way of the music. Not that I stopped listening to new tunes in any imaginable way, but I just wasn’t able to get the writing part underway. I thought about it on a number of occasions but wasn’t able to properly put pen to paper or word document on screen. The dropbox was also kind of quiet, so if you are reading this in early January, give me a shout and I’ll help you out with the stuff that you missed along the way. However, I’ve dropped a new drobox to coincide with these notes so you should take a peek, eh?
As this is generally the time of year when I take a look at the past year and reflect on what I spent most of my time listening to, I seem to have reached a new level of listening diversity. I definitely enjoyed a more diverse year in terms of albums I enjoyed, discovered some new areas of listening enjoyment that were off my radar in the past i.e. pop records, and discovered that pop-punk and punk rock as genres are in really good shape with excellent albums by the Menzingers, Fireworks, Copyrights, and Masked Intruder last year. Most surprising is my new found appreciation for electronic albums. However, don’t get carried away. I still can’t appreciate EDM, most industrial, goth, classical or Hip Hop. I’m still kind of old so its not likely I’m going to move that far from where I’ve started.
If you are new to the Tales From The Dropbox, I only put in albums that I like. So, there are no negative reviews. If I didn’t like a record or was lukewarm or bored, or I missed it along the way, then it’s not going to show up. I’ve got enough to do in my life without wasting energy on things that don’t bring enjoyment or the cash necessary to buy enjoyment! It is called work because its not fun. If work was fun then you could use the terms interchangeable – I’m not there yet. I do actually miss quite a few things because there were over 15,000 releases last year and there are only so many hours in the day. 24 hours I think, right? So if you don’t see it, you can point out what I’ve missed and lead me to discover a record that gives you joy. Truly exciting!
So, the next couple of issues of the Dropbox Notes is designed to accomplish a couple of important tasks:
1. Catch up on releases that I dropped but didn’t have time to give you a capsule review;
2. Give you my thoughts on my favorite records of last year;
3. Post the complete list of releases that made the dropbox;
4. Update you on the new releases in this month’s dropbox.
Whew! That’s a bunch of stuff. So, I’m going to break those tasks up into pieces and post as I go. So, there will be dribs and drabs for the next thirty days or so. Please bear with me. 2015 is already looking good for new music and we will get there….together! ….and hopefully all in one piece…
Finally, I hope that your 2015 is an exciting, prosperous, healthy, and successful year. After the major news events of the past couple of months including #icantbreathe, Ferguson, Ottawa parliament shooter, last week’s Paris attack on a newspaper, and last month’s Australian hostage situation, it, at least on the surface, appears that the degeneration of the human soul is accelerating. Hopefully these tragic events are only an anomaly.
Last year there was also some brilliant evidence of the compassionate and empathetic human spirit where people took it upon themselves to make the world a better and safer place. It is these stories of courage and compassion during difficult situations that give me hope that evil will not win even though these same “good” events don’t get the same press attention. And perhaps these quiet and individual efforts to erase the evil of murder committed in the name of religion will someday create a roar of positive life affirming goodness and we can begin again to enjoy life without the threat of darkness.
Looking forward, and back, at the same time. Happy New Year!
Now to the regular program…
First, you should take a look at what you might have missed in the second half of 2014. My last observations were in July, so here is the list of releases from the second half of 2014 that made the Dropbox:
August 07, 2014 Dropbox
Anti-Flag – A Document of Dissent 
Army Navy – The Wilderness Inside 
Courteeners – Concrete Love [Deluxe Version] 
Spoon – They Want My Soul 
Rise Against – The Black Market 
Nico Vega – Lead to Light 
The #1s – The Number Ones 
Ghost Wolves – Man, Woman, Beast 
Downtown Fiction – Losers & Kings 
Bleachers – Strange Desire 
Bishop Allen – Lights Out 
Big Deal – June Gloom [Deluxe Edition] 
Allison Weiss – Remember When 
Angus And Julia Stone – Angus And Julia Stone [Deluxe Version] 
Colony House – When I Was Younger 
Engineers – Always Returning 
Gaslight Anthem – Get Hurt (Deluxe Edition) 
Grumbling Fur – Preternaturals 
Interrupters – The Interrupters 
J Mascis – Tied to a Star 
Joyce Manor – Never Hungover Again 
Muffs – Whoop Dee Doo 
Stiff Little Fingers – Original Album Series [5CD]
Rentals – Lost In Alphaville 
Baby Ghosts – Maybe Ghosts 
Bats – Volume 1 [3CD] 
Dry The River – Alarms In The Heart 
Literature – Chorus 
Raglans – Raglans 
Real Friends – Maybe This Place Is the Same and We’re Just Changing 
Thousand Foot Krutch – Oxygen Inhale 
Dead Stars – Slumber 
Twin Atlantic – Great Divide (Deluxe Version) 
Ty Segall – Manipulator 
Cymbals Eat Guitars – Lose 
Allah-Las – Worship The Sun 
Dylan In The Movies – Sweet Rebel Thee 
Dirt Farmer – Free BBQ 
Darlings – Made Of Phantoms 
Arkells – High Noon 
Empire! Empire! I Was a Lonely Estate – You Will Eventually Be Forgotten 
Lucero – Live from Atlanta 
Courteeners – How Good It Was EP 
Neighbors – Failure 
Neighbors – Will You Please Be Quiet, Please 
Wax Witches – Center Of Your Universe 
Philip Selway – Weatherhouse 
Quietdrive – The Ghost of What You Used to Be 
Game Theory – Blaze of Glory [Expanded Edition] 
So, which of these releases should you have not missed? Well, the next Tales From The Dropbox Notes will cover the key releases that belong in everyone’s collection! (No…. the Foo Fighters record is not one of them. Sadly, not in the top releases of 2014. Solid record, but not one that I’m going to keep coming back to listen. Shelf life = 3 months, perhaps 6 months at best.)
September is going to be a great month for music. Traditionally, this is the time of year where a number of new releases hit the market because like it or not, Christmas is the time for giving and giving starts early. To that end, you have a couple of things that are not scheduled to hit the marketplace until later this month.
As an added note, I’ve been thinking for a while about the state of indie music (to be fair I’ve not really spent much time thinking about the state of affairs given that there are many more important events and issues to occupy my time) and hopefully, my inclusion of a playlist of recent singles ( for lack of a better term – these should be singles, but there is no commercial distribution/ review etc.) that should find a place in your own playlist and eventually, if there is any good in the world, actually end up on the radio so that some of these bands actually achieve some commercial success that will be more valuable in the long run than my meager version of critical acclaim. Given the fast pace of new music and the flood of new releases hitting the market in a number of countries, there is definitely a lag before a great song finds enough support that it ends up on radio. As what passes for indie/alternative radio now is decidedly dance/pop or new folk, programmers should take note – there is a broad palate of music that passes for indie/alternative now and not all of it fits neatly into the mass marketed force fed genres marketed by the radio stations.
So with that somewhat length introduction, there really are a number of spectacular new releases, some of which are already on radio and others which will never find a place in that world but hopefully will find a place in your heart.
Arctic Monkeys new release AM was recorded in California and the subject of extensive coverage and hype in this week’s NME. Scheduled for release next week in the UK and the U.S, AM is the 5th full length and was recorded in Los Angeles and Joshua Tree and if you believe the hype, this is “the greatest record of their career.” I’m not sure I would go that far, but there is a definite twist in direction. The psychedelic flourishes are still present, but there is a smoothness to both the lyrics and the “beats” which make this closer to a crossover pop record than a traditional rock record. The playing is very tight and the hip hop influence, although present, are filtered through the Monkeys, rock sensibilities. Josh Homme makes an appearance on a couple of tracks, which will sell a few copies, but the tone of this record is not frenetic, rather it is a late night driving around the city record with your buddies at 3 A.M after hitting the clubs. Perhaps, the best example of this is on the track “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?” There is a flow to this record unlike anything the Arctic Monkeys have done before and undoubtedly this will end up on a number of year end best of lists. Try” Do I Wanna Know,” “R U Mine?” and “I Want It All.”
Prolific would be an understatement to describe Ty Segal. In the past 5 years he has released solo records while playing and releasing albums in a number of other “bands” usually with Mikal Cronin. On Sleeper, Segal’s latest release, the garage elements are still present, but this is a much more introspective offering. And also much more focused. Often accused of just bashing away on his guitar, the songs here are as if Ty was channeling Oasis. Written following the death of his father, the songs presented here capture the reflection of Segal himself in his father’s life and present a compelling study of loss, loneliness, and Ty’s own relationship with other people in his life. Sung with the same earnestness present in all of his records, the directness of the lyrics make for captivating listening. These are still garage pop nuggets – think Neil Young’s “Harvest” as sung by Noel Gallagher and you perhaps have the correct context for this record. Try “The Keepers”, “The Man Man” and “She Don’t Care.”
The long awaited record by Manchester based four-piece The 1975, entitled simply The 1975 fully realizes the components present on the earlier EPs a number of which I have covered previously. It is rare that the actual product matches the hype, but The 1975 have matched those expectations on their debut. The dropbox has the full on steroid deluxe version, with essentially all of the songs from the previous EPs. Some of the songs on the actual LP should be familiar as “The City” appeared on IV as did the title track “The 1975.” They have prior to this released 4 EPs: Facedown, Sex, Music for Cars and IV. For those of you just catching up, The 1975 are a melodic and atmospheric synth pop band with an ear for the hook. A little bit like Owl City, they traverse a less sugary aspect of this particular genre. Varied, interesting, and intimately likeable, the album should find a home in most collections. Try “Sex”, “Girls” (Live at Dot to Dot Festival Manchester 24.05.2013) and “Robbers”(Live at Radio 1’s Big Weekend July 10, 2013).
Never thought I’d see another Three O’clock record – ever. Original purveyors of the Los Angeles based paisley underground of the early 1980’s (with The Dream Syndicate, Green on Red, and the Rain Parade), the Three O’clock were somewhat classicists within that scene playing psychedelic rock of the late 1960’s as if it was being experienced for the first time in the 80’s. Flash way forward to 2013, and the Three O’clock are back and actually touring having played Coachella earlier this year and performing live on Conan O’Brian. Starting out as The Salvation Army in 1981 (only to be sued over the use of the name). What is remarkable is that following the bands breakup in 1988 all of the original members played in other amazing bands, several of which I’ve offered in the dropbox over the past couple of years:
Michael Quercio briefly joined Game Theory in 1990. Thereafter, he founded Permanent Green Light, who released two albums, and, later, The Jupiter Affect.
Louis Gutierrez played with Louis and Clark (I loved this record!) and then became a principal member of Mary’s Danish.
Jason Falkner joined Jellyfish (who were the prototype alternative/college rock band of the early 1990’s), then The Grays, before launching a successful solo record career in the mid-1990s.
Troy Howell started the group The Eyes of Mind, who recorded on Bomp Records. He also played with Cee Farrow and the band OOSoul (double oh soul).
The Hidden World Revealed is a compilation of some of their greatest hits as well as a number of unreleased and never before heard rarities and demos. My favorite is the dB’s sounding “Around The World” but I think you’ll discover why the Three O’clock deserved the success they briefly garnered in the later 1980’s incorporating the doors sounding organ into garage riffs. Try also “Jet Fighter” ( Great original Video from the early 1980’s – Check out the new wave dancing!) , “I Go Wild (Alternate Version)” and “Seeing Is Believing.”( Take A look: Three O’clock Live In-Store at Freakbeat Records Sherman Oaks 06.23.13)
Note: I saw them play with the Rain Parade sometime in 1984 at, I think, the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver. As I recall it was a great show. At the time, cowpunk was huge in Vancouver and this was in the minds of some – close.
I’ve already proclaimed my passion for Rise Against previously. So I’ll cut to the chase. How is it that this band’s B-Sides are better than many albums put out by other bands? Is it the passion? While the band considered these songs to not be worthy of inclusion on the main releases, the songs on this collection entitled Long Forgotten Songs comprise a number of interesting B-sides and covers compiled over the length of the bands career. You’ve got to appreciate consistency as the quality of these songs is excellent over the period. The most interesting thing about this collection however is that it is remarkably cohesive. There are several excellent cover songs covering a wide range of “popular artists” including Bruce (Springsteen of course!) (“The Ghost Of Tom Joad”), Face to Face (“Blind”), Bob Dylan (“Ballad of Hollis Brown”), Malvina Reynolds (“Little Boxes”), Minor Threat (“Minor Threat”), Black Flag (“Nervous Breakdown”), Lifetime (“The Boy’s No Good”), Journey (“Any Way You Want It”), Nirvana (“Sliver”), and a version of Danny Elman’s song from Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas movie, “Making Christmas.” Try” Death Blossoms”, “Generation Lost” and “Sliver”. Need further evidence of the awesome power of Rise Against? Try: Live at Rock Am Ring 2010 (Full Show) – Simply amazing!
Going backwards in time….all the way back to 2012, I came upon a record I missed the first time around. It happens. Swedish rockers Durango Riot (from Karlskoga, Sweden) hit the sweet spot with their punk n’ roll influenced album Backwards Over Midnight. This was actually recorded here in Pasadena CA much to my surprise (and probably theirs). This album, like last year’s album by You and Me At Six, is really a melodic rock record with catchy melodies all sung by a gruff voiced swede over a spaghetti western movie. Take my word for it, this is a fun rock record worthy of your time. There is a little Parkway drive influence present here (which is a good thing) so, if this is in your style zone – pick it up. Try “Shiny Season”, “Everybody´s Got to Go” and “Backwards Over Midnight.” (Live in Nürnberg, Löwensaal 09.10.12).
Franz Ferdinand are back and fresh. You might recall listening to this band a long time ago (remember “Take Me Out”?), but with their new record, entitled Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action,Franz Ferdinand will be omnipresent again in popular radio. Already down here the new and remarkably catchy “Right Action” (from which the title to the album is lifted) single) is huge and likely to be overplayed. However, before it does, take a trip through this release which essentially is a return to form for the band. This is catchy dance rock for the most part, but there are some left turns along the way that keep the album interesting. Remarkably, for me, the single is not the best track on this record. It is the pop scorcher “Fresh Strawberries” that makes the playlist. So, do some exploring and your efforts will be well rewarded. Try” Fresh Strawberries” (live at “Lots of Poor Losers” aka Lollapalooza Brazil March 30, 2013), “Goodbye Lovers and Friends” and “Right Action).”
Ever heard of experimental chamber pop? Well that is precisely the genre that Julia Holter occupies on her magnificent third album Loud City Song. The Cal Arts grad lives in Los Angeles, and on the local scene is hailed as a masterwork largely because of the quality ensemble present on this record and the charm that evokes memories of the late 50’s. This album, apparently based on the MGM film Gigi, evokes a completely different mood from traditional indie pop scene and although the source material is dated (Holter has said that the album is her own loose interpretation of Gigi— both the musical and the original 1944 novella by the French writer Colette – the plot in a nutshell is “A Parisian girl is raised to be a kept woman but dreams of love and marriage.”). Fascinating and compelling, the centerpiece of this record are the two songs “Maxim’s I” and “Maxim’s II” which is the night club from the movie and the jazz influences are palpable. Try “Maxim’s II”, the beautiful rendition of Barbara Lewis’’ “Hello Stranger” (live at Cecil Sharp House, London August 20th, 2013 ) and “This Is a True Heart” (live at Cecil Sharp House, London August 20th, 2013) . A diamond of a record and a unique record for its time.
Ah…the Libertines undoubtedly were one of the greatest bands to come from Britain. Really, I know…you probably have never heard of them. Look em’ up. They were paparazzi favorites as the drug addicted lead singer and head Libertine (Pete Doherty) dated Kate Moss. Out of the ashes of the Libertines, Doherty formed Babyshambles, and since forming in 2003, Sequel To The Prequel represents only the third full length offering from the band. But what an offering. Compared to the first two albums Down in Albion (2005) and Shotter’s Nation (2007), Sequel To the Prequel is inspired and contains the spark that makes the Libertines records great. Most importantly, be prepared – Babyshambles is prototypically British and this is a very English sounding record. So, try to ignore what will be an avalanche of very bad press – Babyshambles are a train wreck at the best of times and as they are habitually late (e.g. 90 minutes late for their showcase for this record coupled with Doherty’s mostly unstable personality, the press are brutal waiting for spectacular failure. However, the results on this record present little indication of the self-created and manufactured road blocks to success of the past, and the end result is brilliance. Try “Seven Shades of Nothing” (Bar Fontania, Paris, March 22, 2013) “The Very Last Boy Alive,” And “Nothing Comes to Nothing.”
King Tuff traverses the same musical territory as Ty Segal but not nearly as prolific. Signed to Sub Pop after his debut Was Dead found underground success, King Tuff actually made Billboard reaching No. 21 on the Heatseekers Chart and No. 2 on CMJ’s college chart with the self-titled King Tuff. So, what makes Was Dead so special? So few were pressed that it has quickly become a high priced collectible. So, who is King Tuff? Kyle Thomas. He’s been using that name on-and-off for a long time, but pre-2007, he was Kyle, one-eighth of the freak folk band Feathers, makers of gentle, Eastern-tinged acoustic tracks. With Dinosaur Jr.’s J Mascis, he was in the stoner rock band, Witch. King Tuff is his outlet for the garage pop offerings he was writing during the period 2003-2006 that didn’t quite fit with his other projects. Was Dead is not as cohesive as the critically acclaimed King Tuff record, but who cares. Jammed with solid garage pop reflective of Alex Chilton’s early work and wearing his Detroit influences on his sleeve, the results are charismatic and catchy – exactly like a garage rock record should sound. The Big Star influences ripple throughout the record, particularly on tracks like “Connection” and “A Pretty Dress.” Try “Dancing On You,” (Live at The Glasshouse April 17, 2013 includes “Bad Thing”) “Freak When I’m Dead” (Live at Music Feeds Studio) and “Ruthie Ruthie.”
Superchunk were always the forerunners of indie music as we know it today. If you were around in the early 90’s they represented the torchbearers for independent music, like Fugazi, who were producing consistently cool music with little or no money and without the assistance of a major label. On I Hate Music, Superchunk returns with renewed energy rarely found in bands who have been around as long as they have. Formed in Chapel Hill NC in 1989, Superchunk was synonymous with that scene and despite having found indie cred, they were unable to break through commercially. Like previously albums this is well written indie rock that will make you smile. And this is what is disturbing. How can a band make such an upbeat downer record? Dedicated to a friend of the band who died last year, the album explores themes of loss e.g. innocence, friends, youth, isolation etc. On balance I think the results show a band coming to grips of where they are now – a little older, a little wiser, and experiencing their own transitions, all with a sort of class. Try “Overflows,” “FOH” and “Me & You & Jackie Mittoo.”
Formerly known as the Chucky Danger Band, Canadian indie rockers Paper Lions, should be Sirius XM stars. And for the life of me I cannot figure out why they are not huge in America. Perhaps it is they are from Belfast, Prince Edward Island. Now located in Charlottetown, PEI the band crowd funded this latest offering, My Friends, their 4th long player the follow up to the Trophies EP and the results are power pop perfection. If you like this genre, then you will love this record. There are some Weezer flourishes here and there as well as some Fountains of Wayne (e.g. Little Liar”) melodies, but the record with its Beach Boy harmonies stands out for the excellent songwriting and production. My Friends in a less than perfect world should be huge in the U.S. Try “Little Liar,” which is also on this months playlist (Check the video out – hear some real Canadian accents. This is a semi-acoustic version from the Here On Out Sessions), “San Simeon” and “My Friend.”Live from Dias Iron Works Welding Shop in Liberty Village August 26, 2013).
London trio White Lies has a secret weapon – a tenor Harry McVeigh who can bring a stunning quality to White Lies songs. Accused of being too generic in the past, Big TV, the band’s third full length takes great steps to shed that criticism, but it will still fail to excite professional critics. And perhaps that is the point. It is hard to garner any acclaim when the sound of the band is derived from more noteworthy acts such as Interpol and Joy Division where the centerpiece is the vocals over an atmospheric beat. However, this album is filled with better songwriting than the two prior efforts which were cringe producing, and the complexity of the songs is vastly approved. It took me a few listens to find the groove so as to truly enjoy the songs. This deluxe edition offers demos and this is where you discover the power of McVeigh’s vocals, particularly on the demo of “There Goes Our Love Again.” So, rather than fall victim to temptation to merely conclude that this is a generic offering by a pleasant sounding band, mix it up. Try” There Goes Our Love Again (Demo)”, “Tricky to Love” and “Change.” Here they are live at BBC Radio 1′ in Swindon from last year: White Lies BBC Radio 1s.
Torch bearers for a new generation of pop punk, Oakland’s Emily’s Army combine elements of their forebearers including the Ramones, Green Day,Blink-182, and Lookout! Records to update the sound, and keep it fun. When I say forebearers, I am using the term in its literal meaning as Emily’s Army is comprised of brothers Cole and Max Becker (vocal, guitar and bass, respectively), guitarist Travis Neumann, and drummer Joey Armstrong (son of Green Day‘s Billie Joe Armstrong, who also produced the LP). So, with that, you get a collection of pop punk songs to play at the summer barbecue, not too serious, dance worthy, and after a few spins you catch yourself singing along. Will this record end up in your collection forever. Likely not. But for a moment in time, its perfect. Try “Kids Just Wanna Dance”, “War” and “Lost at 17.” (I am amazed at the proficiency of these kids – yes kids – still in high school!)
Another group of Swedes making headway in the dropbox, Sad Day For Puppets on Come Closer, the bands third long player, wear their 90’s alt-rock influences on their sleeves and it is all good. Vocalist Anna Ekland’s sweet melodies carry these tunes which in many ways harken back to the golden age of the alt-90’s with song structures like the Lemonheads’ Shame About Ray, but in all reality, I could care less about the lyrics because, like Janet Devlin and Die Antwoord’s Yolandi Vissar, Anna Ekland’s vocals are beautiful, spellbinding, and the melodies as if written by the Beach Boys. I dare you not to like this record. Theoretically the band describes their music as vocals over noise, but on first listen you will get the bands deceptive direction – simple melodic rock with stunning vocals. Try “Senseless”, “Human Heart” and “Shiver & Shake.” To bad there is so little video available, but maybe in some parts of Sweden You Tube doesn’t exist. Truly a shame.Here there are in 2009 playing “When You Tell Me That You Love Me” at a Sonic Cathedral night at The Borderline on November 16, 2009.
While I enjoy cover songs, it is the rare band that does a good job on an entire record full of them. A stellar example of this is Rod Stewart who has on several occasions served up steaming piles of terrible cover albums which actually !@$@ sold a ton of records. Sad, really. So, while a little skeptical when one of my long time favorites Tommy Keene announced a couple of months ago that he was going to release a record of covers. I’ve seen Tommy live on a couple of occasions and the covers played live sound like he wrote them for the artist who made them popular. So, on Excitement At Your Feet, scheduled to be released later this month, Tommy plays the most unusual set of covers and each case the song takes on new meaning and renewed life, that is if you could even identify the original. The record mines cult gems and even well-known artist’s such as the Rolling Stones the songs are deep cuts in the catalog. So, give it a spin and be surprised. Try “The Puppet (Echo & the Bunnymen)” “Ride On Baby (Rolling Stones)” and “Out of the Blue (Roxy Music).” Here’s a bonus: Tommy playing “Kill Yer Sons (Lou Reed) live at Hemlock Tavern in San Francisco.
Ellicott City, Maryland’s Dangerous Summer are back with their fourth album, entitled Golden Record this month and continue the promise of their last record, 2011’s War Paint. It seems that Hopeless Records is one of the very few punk rock labels still left alive and kicking in the wake of the recent label catastrophes of the past few years. I’m not sure this record will develop a huge following, but it is in the dropbox because my great hope is that this type of punk rock, like Rise Against, continues to thrive because I will lose my mind if all that is left is KROQ and the mindless dance pop that characterizes the playlist. Really, it is too easy to criticize the playlist so, I in an effort to present an unbiased viewpoint have provide the link here for this week’s list: KROQ Playlist.
You will see Imagine Dragons, Lorde (just !@#$ terrible), the endlessly played “Mountain Song” and the Red Hot Chili Peppers which have now reached a point of saturation that I actively switch the radio off when I hear any of their music. Really, KROQ has pummeled me into submission. And they are actually proud of what they play. I used to love that station, now it is generic and unlistenable and they overplay everything. Brutal. Sorry…I’m back now. I snapped.
Back to Dangerous Summer. Like most of this month’s releases there is a wide variety of music. The Dangerous Summer represents only a small portion of the spectrum but it is important. This is emo in its original form and still relevant although many will be dismissive. This record is well written and Al Perdomo is a master at capturing the feeling behind these songs. So, give it a chance, change it up, and freshen your musical palate. Try” Catholic Girls” (Acoustic Version) “Honesty” (Acoustic Version) and “We Will Wait In The Fog.”
In a similar vein, The Almost with their new record Fear Inside Our Bones continues to traverse a more traditional punk rock road. And perhaps that is the difficulty with new punk records. People have become so used to listening to pop music, whether it is fed on radio or more likely by the proliferation of Cinderella music shows (American Idol, X Factor, being the two largest and most popular miscreants) that perhaps we forget that music is meant to move people in a variety of ways, and language is a part of that process. Formed by former Underoath singer/drummer Aaron Gillespie in 2005, as a more melodic outlet for songs that did not fit Underoath’s hardcore ethos, on Fear Inside Our Bones, the band has found its true identity and have produced an album of melodic punk rock thoughtful and inspiring, but without the hardcore elements present on the first two releases. And the result is a thoroughly entertaining rock record. You should check out the great cover of Andrew Gold’s 1977 AM Radio smash hit “Lonely Boy.” The hard edges are still present but this is how modern rock should sound – no indie dance pop here. Play loud. Try “Ghost,” (Live at the Balcony in Westchester) “So What” and the Nirvana influenced “Come On.”
As we are currently in a discourse about punk rock, it should come as no surprise that you would find Philadelphia based Restorations new album entitled LP2 in the dropbox. Upon first listen it sounds like Rise Against mentioned earlier, but this is largely because Restoration’s vocalist Jon Loudon sounds distinctly similar to Rise Against’s Tim McIlrath, and if you listened to opener “D” you would think they are the same band. However, there is much more going on here musically as the band incorporates a number of genre shifting elements into the complex songs from metal, pop, street punk, 90’s alternative rock to weave into a unified whole that is a definite foot tapper. Try “The Plan”, “D” and “Quit.”
Changing pace significantly, Toronto’s Trouble & Daughter are my new pop obsession. Really. You would never guess that something this warm and sunny would come from the north. This has the same vibe as much of the new Australian pop scene with its bright sparkly boy-girl vocals and simple catchy melodies which are instantly likeable. The trio of James Mascola (vocals), Jenni Pleau (vocals), and John Doherty (guitar, vocals) creates alt-county flavored folk rock that will capture your heart. The only negative is the fact that Alcohol & Nicotine is too short as it is only an EP. Hopefully a full length will soon follow. Anyway, try: “The West Coast,” (live from The Rivoli in Toronto, Ontario November 2012) and another version of The West Coast from the Condo Sessions, “If You Want It All” and “ Rooftops.” (Live on a rooftop, of course.)
New to the garage rock duo genre (White Stripes, Black Keyes) British duo Drenge, on their self-titled debut, don’t just bash it out. As we approach the mid 2000-teens, if anyone is paying attention, there is a new garage rock revival in full blossom. The difference between Drenge and other new-garage revivalists is that Drenge sounds like Gene Vincent and the others sound like the Seeds. This is not a bad thing, only different. British garage rock has a decidedly different flavor than the U.S. version and it is precisely those differences that make Drenge such an interesting record. At this point in our relationship you all know that I love this genre of music – from both sides of the pond. Check out Ty Segal, Mikal Cronin, King Tuff and below, King Khan & the Shrines and the Dirtbombs.
What is enjoyable about all of these garage bands is their divergent and unique takes on a genre that is almost 60 years old. There must be something deep inside man or woman that creates empathy for this sound so that after all of this time and a few generations that this music still resonates. Its hypnotic and sexy, and as performed by Drenge, the music tinged with psychedelic flourishes. Brothers Rory and Eoin Loveless pummel you with their version of this genre and its catchy as hell and enjoyable. There is something here that reminds me of Jeffrey Lee Pierce and the Gun Club circa Miami and of course, I have a like-on. Try “Backwaters,” I Want To Break You In Half” and “Nothing.” (Live at Edinburgh Electric Circus, August 26, 2013).
Continuing the garage rock explosion, King Khan & The Shrines, after 6 years, release their latest Idle No More and the results are very positive. Continuing his updated Little Richard act, Arish Khan, the leader of the Shrines at times containing up to nine members, play a much more traditional version of the garage pop and roll and to good effect. Now based in Berlin Germany having moved there because this type of 60’s beat influenced garage rock has a larger following, King Khan’s greatest contributions are consistent adherence to garage rock’s fundamental principles while mixing in a health dash of 60’s soul music. Lyrically the album traverses the transitions that Arish has faced over the past several years with the passing of his friend Jay Reatard (“So Wild”), a tribute to his wife for putting up with his shxx (Pray for Lil), and his own descent into madness (“Of Madness I Dream”). Try “Of Madness I Dream”, “Darkness” and “I Got Made.”
Finishing up the trio of new garage releases, Detroit’s Dirtbombs return with their tribute to 70’s bubblegum pop tribute, in the form of Ooey Gooey Chewy Ka-blooey! Mixing punk and soul into their garage mix machine, on their 6th album, Ooey Gooey Chewy Ka-blooey! the Dirtbombs, in their fifteenth year, take a new tack by harkening back to the early 70’s bubblegum era and laying its own mark on this traditional sound. Recall the Osmonds, Monkeys, Davey Jones, Archies, 1910 Fruitgum Company? No? Well then this will be a new sound for many, but it ruled the AM radio dial two generations ago. Just listen to “We Come in the Sunshine” As writer, front man, vocalist Mick Collins explained the album, which took more than two years to make:
The “concept” is that this is a Bubblegum album: the Dirtbombs as done by Don Kirshner and Kasenetz & Katz. I wasn’t trying to make a period piece; I was more seeing if I could pick up where bubblegum left off around 1975. I had the benefit of 40 years of hindsight, so I could pick and choose the bits I thought would work.
This is a fun record and those who were actually around at the time will recognize several songs have elements of the original hits that spawned these 10 originals. Try” Hey! A Cookie” “We Come in the Sunshine” and “It’s Gonna Be Alright.”
The Suburbs were part of the original Minneapolis scene that spawned Husker Du and The Replacements, but their journey was markedly different. Not truly punk rockers, they were part of the emerging alt-rock scene and in the early 80’s it looked like they were going to break through into the mainstream – but they didn’t. So in 1987 they broke up. Done.
So imagine my surprise to find a new record after 27 years. (Recall that this could be a trend – recall Magazine last year recording an album after 30 years of being broken up?). Si Sauvagefeatures founding members Chan Poling, Hugo Klaers, and Blaine John “Beej” Chaney, plus new band mates Steve Brantseg and Steve Price and special guest vocalists like Janey Winterbauer and Aby Wolf. Original guitarist Bruce C. Allen passed away in 2009.
So, what does a band sound like making a new record after so long? Well, given that they have in the past 27 years played a couple of shows a year in very small venues, remarkable tight and alive. There is more of a bluesy feel to the record which is essentially a straight rock record. I love the horns on the record which provides energy to a number of the songs which actually jumps with energy. Try “Reset the Party”, “Turn the Radio On”, and “Si Sauvage.” Here they are on MTV in 1984 with “Love is The Law.” (More 80’s new wave dancing!)
German three-piece Uncle Ho have been around since 1994 but albums are few and far between. Since it’s not often the dropbox finds a release from Germany, perhaps it will help explain the rarity – German bands usually sing in German. Hence, I’m usually not too interested.
What was interesting in The Manufacture of Madness was the way the album harkens back to the period in the late seventies affectionately known as the NWOBHM (New Wave of British Metal) that spawned Def Leppard, Motorhead, Girlschool, Iron Maiden, Tygers of Pantang,Saxon, etc. This was compared to the old wave of British Heavy Metal featuring Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Deep Purple. “You Are Mine” could have been lifted off the first Def Leppard record. If you recall the birth of the genre, the goal was to keep it sharp, quick and still be heavy, all of which is accomplished by Uncle Ho on this record.
There is definitely more than a little INXS feeling and vibe on this album. This is a late night party record. For those of you whom still have hair – headbangin’ is appropriate. Try” I Wanna Do it Again”, “ “You Are Mine”, and “Talk! Talk! Talk! Talk! Talk!”
From the opening of “Alright” you will know that there is something different going on with New York Trio Ballet’s record I Blame Society. There are touches of power pop ala Fountains of Wayne, with a dash of Magnetic Fields, and my favorites from the early 90’s Los Angeles’ Sugarplastic, throughout the record. If you like those touchstones, you will like this record. Some will note the Jesus and Mary Chain as another touchstone, but what makes this different is that the band makes it all seem fun without being simply derivative.
The synth-pop is lovely and the only real regret is that the auto-tune vocals are a little cold. I could only imagine if Greg Goldberg, Craig Willse and Marina Miranda had the confidence to sing in a natural tone. However, on I Blame Society, the band’s third album the rest of the album is pure pop perfection. Try” Alright”, “Feelings” (which sounds like an outtake from a John Hughes movie performed live with special guest Allo Darlin’s Elizabeth Morris live at The Lexington, London on August 1st, 2013),and “All the Way” (which could be an outtake from the Jesus and Mary Chain).
On No Regerts (misspelling intentional), the debut from Seattle pop-punk band Chastity Belt carry on a long held Seattle tradition of providing exceptionally smart indie rock dealing with complex subjects in this case how the focus of one’s sexual desire becomes inappropriately important in one’s life and the situations that influence and shape that focus. Formed in college and self-taught musicians, the band, like Savages, from earlier this year, have released a markedly focused and competent record that will also likely end up on several year-end best of lists. Lead vocalist Julia Shapiro asks the questions that kids who are transitioning from college often ask – “are we having fun, yet? and the answer is likely not yet but we are trying. Try “Black Sail” (Live on KEXP Seattle, December 29, 2012), “Healthy Punk” ( “I drink when I want to get drunk”) (Columbia City Theater, Seattle, WA, 21 February 2013)
and the happy sounding “Evil”.
The Cheatahs’Extended Plays is precisely that – two EPs pasted together to form a full length release and doesn’t suffer for the effort. The Cheatahs achieve an update of the early 90’s shoegaze genre and if you recall Ride, Swervedriver and My Bloody Valentine, then you are probably properly oriented to the direction of Extended Plays. The London based band consisting of a Canadian, German, American and one Brit, do a really good job of resurrecting what made that scene so popular in the first place by staying true to the form and emphasizing the control of distortion and feedback while retaining the vocal nuances of those earlier bands trademark sounds. Sure, there are some lyrical weakness, but so what. The idea of the shoegaze scene was to float – shoegaze bands didn’t look at the audience anyway, they felt them. And this album will make you feel good. Try: “Coared”, “The Swan” and “Fountain Park.”
I have covered a fairly large number of bands this month, but time prevents me from getting to them all. Don’t miss the two EPs from London Grammar (whose full length will be in the dropbox next month), Okkervil River, Islands and the new Dodo’s record. And if you have read this far, the best pop rock record of the month by far is by Pacific Air, which I’ve played the virtual cover off. I’ll post the playlist in a few days!
Have a great month and let’s be safe out there.
Here is this month’s list:
Franz Ferdinand – Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action 
Ty Segall – Sleeper 
Uncle Ho – The Manufacture of Madness 
Trouble and Daughter – Alcohol and Nicotine 
Ballet – I Blame Society 
Chastity Belt – No Regerts 
Cheatahs – Extended Plays 
Pacific Air – Stop Talking 
Dirtbombs – Ooey Gooey Chewy Ka-blooey! 
London Grammar – Metal And Dust 
London Grammar – Wasting My Young Years [‘2013]
1975 – The 1975 [Deluxe Edition] 
Three O’Clock – The Hidden World Revealed 
Okkervil River – The Silver Gymnasium 
Tommy Keene – Excitement at Your Feet 
Suburbs – Si Sauvage 
Arctic Monkeys – AM 
Babyshambles – Sequel to the Prequel [Deluxe Edition] 
Polyphonic Spree – Yes It’s True 
Rise Against – Long Forgotten Songs B-Sides and Covers 2000-2013 
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.
I 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 http://youtu.be/f4EE4bIFixQ . 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.”
Fitting somewhere between Jet and the Black Keys, Los Angeles basedBeware 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: http://dai.ly/xzxuxk ), 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.”
I 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 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: http://youtu.be/d2bMimAZtPw ( Is that snow?)), “Murder in a Motel,” and “The Pressure.”
Keeping 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 27-04-2013http://youtu.be/waZnZ9ARjeA ) and “Hope Your Happy.”
The 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.
Some 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.”
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.”
British 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.”
Rule 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.”
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 Punknews.org “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!
Did 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.”
On 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.”
New 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” (http://youtu.be/VZi2CMZT3zc ) instantly hummable. Try “Caught By Surprise,” “And It Shook Me”, and “Running Red Lights” (http://youtu.be/ZeSgKrStQG0 ).
Who 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(http://youtu.be/TTgC6BszjQk ). 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)”
On 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,” (http://youtu.be/tl4vg-de0n4 ) , “Light Me Up,” and “I Don’t Mind.”
If 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, (http://youtu.be/wC29jfNE7PQ ) and “Palm of Your Hand.”
Memphis 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.”
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” (http://youtu.be/II0uqBUewD0 )has real staying power. The first single “Harlem” (http://youtu.be/NVOUTkFkMNU ) 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.”
Really, 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” (http://youtu.be/-1rzsT2t2YY ) and Funny You Should Ask.”
On 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:
Beware of Darkness – Orthodox 
Fox And The Law – Scarlet Fever 
Saint Alvia – Static Psalms 
Jonas & The Massive Attractions – Live Out Loud