Posts Tagged ‘Indie Pop’

Tony Molina – “Wrong Town”

Every new bit from Tony is better than the last. His upcoming sophomore LP for Slumberland is fully entrenched in his acoustic persona, wedging his songs between the heartbroken strains of Elliott Smith, Emmitt Rhodes and the gentlest bits of the Davies brothers. “Wrong Town” is practically begging for Wes Anderson to write the scene it belongs in, throwing the bittersweet gauntlet down in a one minute challenge. From the sounds of the first couple of tracks off of this Molina is well on his way to a newly minted classic. As usual each song gets its hooks into and then fades away like a memory gone too soon. Damned evil in that way, leaving the listener always wanting just a touch more.

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Shy Boys – “Take The Doggie”

Kansas City’s Shy Boys blend an affinity for bighearted pop of the ’60s variety with the knotted College Rock shot straight out of Athen’s ’88 for an instantly recognizable sound that’s always on the tip of your tongue and lapping at the backwaters of memory. Their short, but sweet, track “Take The Doggie” is a tale of dog-knapping with no ill intent and the video, well pretty much hits things on the nose with some crowd-sourced dog shots. Still, the song’s an earworm that can’t be beat and a standout on their upcoming Polyvinyl debut, Bell House.

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Baby Blue – Do What You Like

Melbourne’s Baby Blue tap into a mournful ‘60s pop that swings between grey-skied girl group melancholy and a tough-kneed brand of garage pop. The band’s Rhea Caldwell packs a sharper punch on their sophomore outing, a five-song EP that employs some nice gloss touches that distance them from the bulk of their Aussie indie compatriots. Do What You Like finds more in common with West Coast US stompers like Bleached, though they share a great deal of crossover with fellow Aussie RSTB faves Bloods as well, putting them in good company.

While the breezy pop of opener “I Like You” feels pleasant, but overly familiar, the EP works its into darker dens as it wears on – adding a dark, caustic bite to “Dream Life” and a touch of progressive propulsion to closer “Fire and Ice.” Caldwell’s got her head ‘round the hooks but its when she adds power and darkness to her bag of tricks that the songs begin to stand out. If the standouts here are an indication of where the band is headed, then we should all keep an ear perked for Baby Blue’s next move.



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Tony Molina – “Nothing I Can Say”

Damn right its time for a new Tony Molina jam and the word that a full length is on the way from California’s favorite punk turned soft shell power popper is well received around here. Molina’s sticking with brevity as his bread and butter and that means that this one clocks in just a touch over one minute long, but what a minute it is. Firmly dialed into his Teenage Fanclub adoration, the song doesn’t waste a minute, proving that while most bands would spin out into a couple more choruses to hang that nougaty verse TM can do in only one. I guess if you disagree you can always just lock this on repeat and hunker down into a “Nothing I Can Say” loop. Sounds pretty tempting to me actually.



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Michael Rault

Landing on Daptone’s rock imprint, Wick, begs more than a few comparisons to power pop’s favorite sons, Big Star. For his sake, let’s hope finding love in the arms of soul proprietors ends better for Rault than it did for the long-term prospects of his predecessors. However, in the short term its working out just fine. Produced by Wayne Gordon, chief engineer at Daptone, the album is lush and luxuriant – curling its toes into carpets of strings, pillowing in pink clouds of reverb and generally hunkering down into a Vaseline-lensed soft-focus that’s far removed from the pop of 2018.

If the record is displaced in time, that seems largely by design, though. Rault is pulling decidedly from the “pop” half of his genre’s namesake, favoring the radio-friendly forms of Badfinger, The Raspberries, Emitt Rhodes and Chris Bell’s solo work. Rault has slipped on the ‘70s like a butterfly collar and it looks good on him. Of course, he’s spent time in the decade before, fiddling with T. Rex boogie and glam crunch on his previous album for Burger. However, while that territory has been raided plentifully over the last few years with an easy entry through garage rock’s back door, the AOR sincerity of the time period is harder to emulate without sounding cheesy, a feat that Rault pulls off with seeming ease. He’s cherry picking through solo McCartney, Harrison and the aforementioned Apple acolytes while skirting the pitfalls of Frampton and Speedwagon for an album that’s all pleasure, no guilt.

Lyrically the album is preoccupied with sleeping and dreaming, subject matter that lends itself well to Rault’s sparkling pop diorama. Songs like “Sitting Still” and “Dream Song” (naturally) feel like they’re pumped in on ripples of dry ice and pastel light. The listening field is tipped back and staring at clouds pass by while Rault’s pop vision is projected above. At a scant 35 minutes, the dream is over almost too soon. Best to leave them wanting more I suppose and It’s A New Day Tonight certainly begs for a sequel and soon. Rault’s found his niche in this corner of the ‘70s. I’d say he should get comfortable their but he seems right at home.



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The Love-Birds

In the wake of their Empty Cellar debut single, a sparkling tangle of jangles and clear-sky hooks, San Francisco’s Love-Birds wound up on the radar of a new generation thirsting for guitar’s pop prominence. They funnel the energy of that short-form stunner into an LP that proves they have a deft hold on jangle’s cross-generational evolution – tapping into The Byrds, 12-string history while echoing alt and indie pop hallmarks from R.E.M. to The Flaming Groovies and Teenage Fanclub. They even drag the rudder through the South Hemisphere, picking up nods to The Go-Betweens and The Chills then cold-press all this history down to a record that feels instantly familiar while still coming out fresh as a bay breeze in spring.

While they’re definitely pulling down a full set of sleeves, practically polka-dotted with hearts beating for the past, they swerve the stamp of college-town cover band looking to stun with their ability to belt out “End of the World As We Know It” sans crib-sheet. Instead they’ve bound up the control board glow of late night nineties college radio and, with the aid of San Francisco strummer and legend in his own right Glenn Donaldson, offered up a record that’s intangibly catchy, bittersweet and buoyant. The album captures that feeling when the airwaves were just right and the lo-watt station two towns over came in crystal clear at 12am, letting a few late-night discoveries blossom into lifelong obsessions.

On In The Lover’s Corner, the band feels comfortable picking at songs of love unrequited and scratching the itch of nostalgia that a good many likely have for an era with more to offer than the packaged in amber playlists built on hits rather than heart. The Love-Birds are helping helping further the left side of the dial even as the dial disappears from view.



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Massage – “Lydia”

Good news is afoot in L.A. with the notice that RSTB faves Massage are following up their excellent run of singles with an album due out in July. Oh Boy, produced by Jason Quever of Papercuts, doubles down on the band’s jangle obsession emulating heroes like The Go-Betweens, Razorcuts and Close Lobsters while placing them alongside the current Aussie set’s topliners like Twerps, The Stroppies or Rat Columns. The jangles on “Lydia” practically glint and they set sail a dreamy male / female chorus that’s hooked in heavy to the bittersweet sighs of a love crumbled. The song’s simplicity and mantra-like hook can’t help but crack a smile on the most withered husk, beaming with Left Coast vibes of shimmer and summer sun. Put this album on your list of expected stunners for the back half of 2018.



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Ex-Vöid – “Boyfriend”

In answer to the unspoken question that Ex-Vöid asks – why yes, I have been missing Joanna Gruesome lately. The band, featuring JG expats Alanna McArdie and Owen Williams, picks up flecks of their soft-touch crunch pop but adds a tougher edge to the guitars. “Boyfriend” does a few 90-degree tempo turns before settling into a driving pop burner that’s just as wide-smile fun as anything that the pair were doing with their previous outfit. Hung on a jilted lover narrative, the track is begging to be thrown on the speakers at top volume. It’s a bed jumper of an anthem that speaks well to the promise Ex-Vöid have in store. The song is the first taste off of their debut single for Don Giovanni, but hopefully this is just the beginning of something beautiful and bigger for the trio.




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The Goon Sax – “She Knows”

Great to see The Goon Sax back on a list of upcoming releases. The band leaped out with a stunner of a debut that bundled self-deprecating introspection with bare and honest songwriting. They continue unabated on their first single from We’re Not Talking, thickening the aural pudding just a touch, but retaining the intimacy that made them such stalwarts of the turntable back in 2016. They make a jump to Witchita worldwide and keep things classy on the label that broke ’em at home (Chapter) growing their music to fit their widening view of early adulthood. “She Knows” catapults them from up and comers to serious threats, warbling woe with an insistent hook and an ear to classic South-Hemi jangles from the AUS/NZ music box. Can’t wait to see how this full LP shapes up if this is only the entry point.




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The Essex Green – “Sloane Ranger”

Love it when a band resurfaces that I didn’t even realize how badly I’d missed. I’ve never shied away from my overt love of The Elephant 6 around here, but it always cracks a smile when one of the alums keeps the train rolling. In the same respect that it was great to have Dressy Bessy back on the scene a few years back, its wonderful to see news that The Essex Green is back and still pumping out high quality sunset-hued psych pop that’s warmed by the sounds of the ‘60s and funneling the paisley pop revival right on into a new age.

The band shows no sign of dents or dings, picking up “Sloane Ranger” right where 2006’s The Cannibal Sea left off. Good to see them back on Merge and digging into their prime hooks. Gonna remain excited for the rest of this, but for now, I’ve got to keep this on repeat a few more spins.


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