Posts Tagged ‘Pop’

Robert Sotelo

Robert Sotelo’s third LP, and his first for skewed pop stable Upset The Rhythm, is both sublimely serene and incessantly itchy. His pop comes on like the warm confines of a sweater that reveals itself to irritate the skin. There’s a squirm to songs like “Mister,” or the title track “Infinite Sprawling” but it doesn’t seem to bother Sotelo. He’s lost in the confines of his mind, locked away from the tether of earthly irritation. The pontifications of Sotelo’s pop are, in fact, comforting. He’s lost like you are. He’s nagged and dogged by the same singularities that give you pause, but he’s confident in his croon and it makes it seem right. But what’s that clanking? It’s off behind the buttery guitars and jangled hooks and it seems to be getting closer. More often than not there’s a buzz, the odd xylophone rhythm, the croak of frogs that sets a track off the path and dipping into the bog on that’s built up around the preserve.

He can cloak a track in amber country hues (“Run”) but it’s still tripping over its own feet and it feels good to know that we’re not alone in our own self-conscious tumble through the cosmos. Rob’s pop falls under the same full-moon sway that past primers like Moon Martin were bound embrace. He’s the outsider, but truthfully, he is all of us. He is dipped in pop, but he’s not comfortable with how deep he’s swum in its waters. His head is spinning with doubt, protracted and distracted. Inside his songs we’re narcotized and enjoying the party, but internally we can’t figure out why that stomach pain is so present, where it came from and what it means. Sotelo’s a master of moods and on Infinite Sprawling he’s captured a corner of the lounge that doesn’t get swept that often. Its’s nice picking through the detritus with him for a while.



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The Taxidermists

The sophomore LP from Massachusetts duo The Taxidermists takes a different tack than I’d expect from Feeding Tube, but then again, the label is built on not fostering expectations. The Taxidermists trade in a noisy nook of indie that’s got a shelf full of Sonic Youth, Pavement, No Age, and Eric’s Trip – though from a contemporary standpoint they’re landing right in the kinked-tin travels of someone like Omni. The aural twists come quick and, while not frantic, they are certainly anxious. On the contrast the lyrics seem almost nonchalant. They remain unfussed by the din that grows behind them. The band threads noise through their sound, but they’re in search of as many hooks as the next pair. The dynamic gives the record a nature of being at odds with itself. The vocals give way to a need to be liked, while the guitars yell “fuck you for thinking this will be that easy.”

Thorniness aside, the record wraps itself in a sort of classic New England clatter – the kind that would have once been traced back to fountains of shaggy shake a la Fort Apache, where the curdle in their licks would be well appreciated. It’s a pop record for folks who don’t like pop records. They are punks with a heart that heeds noise, noise nerds with a secret diary full of indie pop lyrics. If anything, the true criticism of the record is that it winds up a bit short. They burn bright and tangle hard, but then the record just hits a wall and they skitter off leaving the listener wanting more. Suppose that’s a good thing, but the hurt is real all the same.






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Kelley Stoltz – “Turning Into You”

New burner on the line today from Kelley Stoltz. The San Francisco institution (20 years going with this release) continues his run of great solo LPs, while also serving as a go to engineer (Rays, The Mantles, Rat Columns) and sideman (Echo & The Bunnymen). His touring with the latter has definitely rubbed off a bit on his songwriting, but he’s spun the influence into some excellent New Wave-refracted pop tunes that crib the jangle and crunch of his early garage days and land his hooks with a softer blow. He’s back on Spanish outpost Banana & Louie, who also issued his 2018 record Natural Causes. Stoltz has a pretty heavy catalog to wade through, but this sounds like its shaping up to be one of his great ones. Check the first taste of My Regime below and look for it out next month.



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Young Guv – “Every Flower I See”

Just in time for summer, Young Guv’s Been Cook is arcing back into the power pop pantheon and ready to fizz things up. The band’s always shone in the short form and the first cut off of the 8-track Guv I skips back to the sunny vibes bouncing ‘round the grooves of Ripe 4 Luv. Last year’s 2 Sad 2 Funk flattened out the pop to something more cynical and slippery, but “Every Flower I See” is sweet and saccharine, full of strums and fuzz and about ready to blow at the seams with cheery vibes. There’s just a touch of bittersweet on the tail end to keep this from rotting the ol chompers, adding some nice balance, but its everything I’ve been waiting for in Young Guv since Ripe hit the turntable. The new record’s out 8/2 on Run For Cover. Check the video above for some instant pop melt.



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Drugdealer – “Fools”

To accept Drugdealer is to buy into the notion that reverence for influences can become so fervent that it scratches up against the edges of schtick. There’s a fine line between what Fred Armisen is doing with Blue Jean Committee and what Michael Collins and crew are doing with Drugdealer. It shouldn’t matter so much – 60’s adherents are a rampant among garage and alt-pop types. Riffling through the racks of Nilsson, Fleetwood Mac, Todd Rundgren and Carol King records should be met with the same acceptance for indulgence. This is specially true since here, with the aid of fellow smooth sailor Mac DeMarco producing, Collins nails the kind of studio rat sloughed confidence and slick earworm styles that dominated the AOR airwaves. Naturally these tropes only came to be seen as passe by a generation of ’90s kids railing against the music that dominated their parent’s car radio – hence the rub. “Fools” is almost uncanny in its appropriation and deadly in its accuracy in mining groove-baiting cocaine-cooled visions of Laurel Canyon folk heroes gone glossy. Love it or lump it (I fall in the former camp), you got to admit they’re pulling it off.



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Tullycraft

Seven albums in and well removed from the heyday of indie-pop that that they just barely caught in their own early years, Tullycraft are back with one of their best. The band was always just a tad late, but wiser and wryer than their classmates, having worn their “out-of-fashion” status proudly on their sleeves. The band made their mark with slogan-worthy ditties like “Pop Songs Your New Boyfriend is Too Stupid To Know About” and sentiments that rang, “Fuck Me, I’m Twee,” which they are. They definitely are. They’ve long been giving the young’uns a few role models to emulate, though, and as they litter zines and band badges across the bar for the taking, they’ve inspired more than a few of those introverts to pick up a powder blue strat and nerd out their own catalog.

Tullycraft are, in fact, textbook twee, but there’s a sense that they’ve been writing that book all along. They’re indie-pop historians and flameholders for the big, bright pastel worlds that are woven out of jangles, boy-girl harmonies, and overly dense lyrics. The hooks here decry parties soundtracked by radio staples, detail relationships built on what you like and not what you’re like, then map out the downfall of shared living spaces with proper doses of humor and ennui. Sean Tollefson and Jenny Mears keep things sweet, sometimes even saccharine, but if you’re looking for indie-pop that lets you escape without a little frosting and felt on your hands, you’d be wise to look elsewhere.

Tollefson spits out literate lyricism with the kind of tongue-twister plot cramming that made John Darnielle sit down and write some actual books to get it all in, but he manages to make each aural acrobatic as infectious as can be. The Railway Prince Hotel distills what’s best about the band and bottles it up for a new generation that could use a little optimism in a natty cardigan. In a lot of ways Tullycraft seems like the gateway drug to a long rabbit hole spent mining old BMX Bandits video clips and Tallulah Gosh b-sides that inevitably ends up with a strange late-night fascination with The Bus Stop label output that your friends write off as a phase. However, on grey days, overwhelming months, and sleepless nights its nice to know that Tullycraft are out there weaving agita into squirreled hooks and private moments of exuberance that wind up secret handshakes for the next generation.



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Autogramm

I’ve long been a sucker for power pop – especially the valley carved out between the tail of ’77 punk and the rising tide of New Wave that created a weirder, woolier variety than was fit to endure the end of the decade. Before pop punk co-opted the template jittery weirdos like Moon Martin could share stages with Tubeway Army, Nick Lowe and DEVO and it all seemed like they were picking up pots from the same pop kitchen. Autogramm have come to life to tap into that world wholesale (perhaps to a bit of a fault). The band, which is comprised of members of The Spitfires, Blood Meridian, Lightning Dust, Hard Drugs, Destroyer, Black Halos, and Black Mountain leaves behind the confines of their indie and psych roots to go method on the skinny tie set’s sandbox.

There are some genuinely great out-of-time moments on the record, that if they were snatched up from the dollar bin dust would easily find their way sandwiched between The Cars, Advertising, and Hubble Bubble on the early morning rock block. The trio has studied their source material and brought to life a familiar beast freshly sprung from plastic and casually rolling the sleeves of its sportcoat for a night out. The record might be just a tad too on the nose for its own good, though, feeling more like dress-up than a power pop progression. There are still bands updating the formula and making it sound fresh (see: Barreracudas, Flasher, Michael Rault) but that doesn’t seem to be what Autogramm have set out to accomplish. Still, few contemporary power poppers are really locking into that nerd-squirm that Autogramm seem to have made their bedrock. That aspect gives this record reason for more than a first listen. The long arm of The Cars reaches out over a legacy of music, but it rarely rears its head as often as it does here. Its tempting to lay back into its embrace.


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Michael Rault on Billy Nicholls – Love Songs

There have been many great surprises this year, but the latest album from Michael Rault is quite possibly among the best. Rault refashioned his sound in the guise of ‘70s pop with a soft heart, echoing the Apple records stable if they’d been mixing it up down in Memphis with Big Star and The Hot Dogs. Its easily the best power pop album to find its way to your speakers in 2018. So, naturally it seemed fitting to have Michael dive deep for a pick in the Hidden Gems series. I’m constantly intrigued at what people pick for these because some true gems get unearthed. Rault stayed true to his pop influences going for the oft overlooked ’74 sophomore album from a true psych-pop purveyor Billy Nicholls. It’s a true lost classic that’s been out of print for far too long. Check out how it came into Michael’s life.

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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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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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