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2nd Grade – “Velodrome / My Bike”

A twofer video that serves up nothing but smiles and swooning strains, Philadelphia power-pop group 2nd Grade give good reason to be excited for their upcoming LP Hit To Hit. The band is lead by Peter Gill (Friendship, Free Cake For Every Creature) and his songwriting grabs from the power pop tradition by nature, but the ‘90s bracket of the genre by design. Where a lot of others have reached for the Bell/Chilton axis, Early Goovies, or Raspberries, there’s more than a hint of Sweet and Kweller in the bones of 2nd Grade. Its simple, but undeniable pop music for those not looking to muddy the waters. Sometimes all we need is a few crisp chords, sun-streaked skies and a cool breeze of pop to get us through the day. Gill understands this and delivers an album that’s got 24 tracks of bite-sized delights. The record is out May 29th on Double Double Whammy.



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The Stroppies – “Burning Bright”

This is another Aussie export that’s just not getting the love it should over here. The STroppies hooked up with UK label Tough Love last year for their debut, Whoosh and it was a subtle suite of jangle-pop buttered with a bit of synth that kept pace with the best releases of the year. The band’s hitting back this year with a mini-LP of sorts that’s only eight tracks, but still packs that same soft slap that made the album a necessary pickup. “Burning Bright’ turns down the heat of their jangle and replaces it with a rambling guitar line and some rolling ripples of piano for a song that helps relieve the ache inside. The song’s about a couple trying to find common ground and realizing that they’re just not going to align, but the split seems to happen amicably. Though there isn’t a clash of sparks, the melancholy sighs still sting a bit. Look Alive is out June 5th.



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Melenas – “No Puedo Pensar”

The new album from Spanish quartet Melenas finds the band exploring a few new sides, and while they’re rooted in the indie-punk scratch of many of their country’s brothers and sisters, hunkering down in Pamplona gives them a bit of a different bite from their compatriots in Barcelona. The band brings in a gauzy, shoegazey quality to “No Puedo Pensar.” Translating to “I Can’t Think,” the song centers around preoccupation to the point of constant distraction. The twinkling haze helps set the song aloft on a foam of pastel noise that lets the melodies hide and seek within the track, buffeting the feeling of being lost. This one is slowly worming its way into constant rotation over here. The new LP is out May 8th (dig)/June 5th (Physical) from Trouble in Mind.



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Flat Worms – “The Aughts”

This upcoming Flat Worms LP continues to be one of the year’s gnarliest scorchers and that’s only further proven with the release of “The Aughts.” With Steve Albini at the controls the band laid down a single-take topper that’s raw and ravaged and fueled by the crumble of a ruling class long gone. The song is built to break — rumbling tension that blows through the restraints in sickened guitar tones and ball peen drum damage. The band issues a very bare bones video, but it works well with the song’s lean and lithe vision of what rock might be in the rubbled remains of 2020. The band’s full length is coming April 10th on Drag City imprint God? Records. Definitely one to put on the list of necessary pickups.



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PRIMO! – “Machine”

Another gem out of the Aussie cabal of excellent musicians today. In anticipation of their upcoming second album, PRIMO releases the driving jangler “Machine” — a sandpapered, yet loosely slung bit of post-punk if there ever was one. The band’s seemingly perfected their sound on this one, and it stands as one of the band’s most engaging songs yet. The standout single crackles with life — anchored by the brittle drum snap, worn-in guitars and those four-part harmonies that make it all gel just right. The band pairs the song with a motor-heavy video that has a ‘70s charm. There are plenty of Aussie exports that tend to get overlooked here and PRIMO’s last album got glossed over here, hoping that audiences abroad don’t make the same mistake twice.

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Mapache – “Read Between The Lines”

West Coast duo Mapache has been more than giving in the run up to their sophomore LP on Yep Roc, with a steady stream of videos pouring out. Each new clip is doused in the late summer sun and cooled by the salt-scrubbed breezes of a slower life. On “Read Between The Lines,” the band lays into a hammock of strum and harmony. The bulk of the album has been unfettered by extraneous production, choosing to focus instead on the pairs interplay and sanguine folk prowess. They don’t stray here, and the video continues a thread of day-in-the-life captures that seem to accompany the lead up to the album, showing the duo enjoying the carefree countenance that soaks into their songs. The record is out next week, and I couldn’t recommend it more.

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Tengger – “Achime”

The last LP from Tengger was a beacon of hope, a calm respite in troubled times, and as the band eases into the release of their follow-up, Nomad, they don’t falter as the deep breath on a cool morning we’d all like about now. Still rooted in shimmering tones, “Achime” also lets in a soft burble of rhythm to the mix, percolating with a cosmic ripple that drives the celestial tones and the vernal glow of life that’s woven into the vocals. The band accompanies the track with an equally gorgeous video, tying their sound to natural wonders as they have in the past. Nature and the splendor of Tengger always seem to be on parallel tracks and here they wet down our souls in the font of rebirth yet again. The LP lands June 7th on Beyond Beyond is Beyond.



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The Native Cats – “Sanremo”

A short while back I shared the a-side to Tasmanian band The Native Cats’ new single for Rough Skies and now the band has sent over a new video for the flip. Not as bracing as the front side, but no less affecting, “Sanremo” is a gauzy creeper doused in post-punk and just a touch of shoegaze haze. The song buzzes with an incessant energy like raw nerves being slowly dulled by their surroundings. The video is equally narcotic, with singer Chloe Alison Escott being dragged towards a body of water like some sort of baptismal captive, shrouded in a veneer of pinks and purples. She gives a little insight into the clip below.

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Lithics – “Hands”

The heavy hitters of 2020 continue to roll out today with “Hands” from RSTB faves Lithics. The Portland foursome makes a jump from Kill Rock Stars to the ranks of Trouble in Mind for their new LP Tower of Age and the fist listen proves they’re still slicing. There’s never a shortage of post-punk popping up in any given year but little of it can cut like Lithics cut. The band’s got Glaxo Babies in their veins, a dose of Contortions minus the sax blast in their brain, and a vocal veneer that goes toe to toe with Au Pairs for its sheer “no bullshit” approach. Their last album was a reminder why wiry hooks and desert-dry delivery still sand the rough edges off of life in the 2010s. The band wields the hook here like a garrote — tensile and deadly. The track crouches for the first half, but when the band lets the restraints loose, “Hands” unfurls its floodwater riffs with full force. This one’s a crusher for sure. With former Trouble in Minders Omni having left the nest, Lithics slot themselves into the stable nicely as the deadpan dealers with a crushed glass grit. Get familiar. Checkout the video for “Hands” above and pick up the new LP June 5th.

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The Stroppies – “Holes In Everything”

Aussie janglers The Stroppies return in fine form today with a new mini-album that wraps up their recording work from the last year. Vaulting off of their excellent album from last year, the band continues to capture the overcast sway of kiwipop from days past, calling back echoes of The Clean, Able Tasmans, and Tall Dwarfs. They buoy their sunny strums with heavy-sighed harmonies and a hummable heft of organ that gives the song staying power. The band’s sticks to your ribs more than some of their peers with an ability to let angst and insecurity bask in the sun of their strums – giving their songs a more substantial kick then some of their cohorts. They continue their run at UK label Tough Love and while this might be another short one (something the band seems adept at) these eight songs still feel like a vital part of The Stroppies’ path. The LP descends to the decks on May 1st.



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