Saturday, 3 April 2021

Los Yesterdays - Nobody's Clown/Give Me One More Chance

You'll know from their first two 45s that Los Yesterdays are pretty good. Well, they just turned up the heat and are now great - their new double sider is a double knockout.

Nobody's Clown is a big city soul ballad. It's 1963 (the band name should give you a clue where their heads are at), Be My Baby is on the radio but you need something deeper. You've dropped from love's euphoria to dumpsville, population you, and this is the only song answering your call.

Give Me One More Chance is better still. A trip through Spanish Harlem, stealthy guitars with a Chicano strut, the post-midnight sound where club soul smoke meets rhythmic punch.

Sunday, 28 February 2021

Trevor Beld Jimenez - I Like It Here

Straight up country pop, no freak folk additives, no weird beard transgressions, and no fucking "alt". I Like It Here is country and it's pop, and it was obviously recorded in California - close your eyes and hear the Pacific Ocean surf crashing quietly, see the sun setting over Laurel Canyon.

Even more obviously, this was written by someone who grew up with the radio dial set on AM, where every day you heard The Carpenters, Merle Haggard, Carole King, Bob Dylan and Townes Van Zandt. It sounds like it was recorded in Gold Star Studios with a crack set of session musicians - maybe stars that never were but ones with such quality they'll never have to park cars and pump gas - who are having a particularly good day at the office.

In fact, it was produced by Jonny Nieman and Brent Rademaker of GospelbeacH (and many more, you know the score). This is the best record of its type since Honest Life by Courtney Marie Andrews.

Sunday, 31 January 2021

Second Hand - Heart Shaped

The sound of young Belfast via Texas is pretty damn special. It's nothing you haven't heard before - Kendall Bousquet's nom de band isn't an accident - but when you hear it done this well, you've got to take notice.

It's Waxahatchee campfire sonic burn-out and Dinosaur Jr listless melancholy that's so insistent it eventually grabs you by the throat and shakes your head until you see stars.

You remember when Teenage Fanclub shook off the grunge baggage with Bandwagonesque? Well, that, only if they'd be on K Records instead of Creation.

Amazingly, Kendall recorded these songs in the first eight months of learning to play guitar and self-record. On this trajectory, the next batch will be solid gold classics. This debut is close enough to that standard now:

Wednesday, 30 December 2020

2020: 20 songs by 20 new acts

What a year! Generally, sure, but for music 2020’s been quite a vintage. What have we learned? Well, San Francisco is setting the scene, but ignore Gothenburg, France, Australia and all points in between at your peril.

A list without Star Feminine Band, deathcrash and Sally Anne Morgan is evidence that this overview doesn’t have all the hits, but suggests that there’s so many new sounds on offer to widen our musical imaginations.

Very few 7” singles this year - the vinyl revival for new releases is about limited albums on heavy splattered vinyl. Luckily, my OnlyFans account is quite lucrative but for those without money-spinning sidelines, bandcamp remains the place to go.

No predictions for 2021, although maybe Slumberland will open their chequebook, sign every Bay Area band and become a billion dollar media conglomerate. Even more excitingly, periods of economic stagnation and social inertia ignite the most combustible music scenes. So until rebellious adolescents react defiantly, this is what some of 2020 sounded like.

Friday, 11 December 2020

Typical Girls

In which Gothenburg trolls San Francisco by taking a shot at the 2020 pop board and scoring a bullseye.

If 2019's most exciting new music was coming from Gothenburg - avant-garde electronic ambience, freak-folk, hijacking Felt's guitars that sound like pins popping in your head - then 2020 has been ruled by San Francisco's jangle, DIY pop and sunny psych.

So members of various Gothenburg bands have formed Typical Girls and released an ep that sounds like it could have been recorded and released in San Francisco. This is just so much fun. They even cover The Troggs' With A Girl Like You and make it sound a bit like Massachusetts by The Bee Gees.

Final score: Gothenburg 10, San Francisco 10. So long as both cities keep producing records this good, there'll be no favourites, just time for celebration.

Wednesday, 4 November 2020

Lunchbox - After School Special

This is just pop music. Sure, the time might be right for protest songs, for bands to confront social problems rather than personal issues. But one of pop music's main functions is as distraction from the everyday, as reminders of a better world, of hope and of personal celebration. Lunchbox make pop songs - really good pop songs - and they're a very welcome distraction.

After School Special is a record where it never rains in southern California. It's an immediate sugar rush like The Archies. It's got dancefloor snap like The Go! Team. It's full of punchy horns and jangly guitars like The Housemartins.

Lunchbox break absolutely no new ground here. That's the whole point. There's no great profundity - it's just pop music with all the attendant colour, glamour and magic. It's enormous fun. And sometimes that's what we need.

Tuesday, 3 November 2020

deathcrash ‎– People thought my windows were stars

deathcrash's eternal songs sound like they've been buried for thousands of years and uncovered in an ancient rite, like wholly intact extinct animals revealed in Siberia's melting permafrost, and given an afterlife on vinyl.

Where last year's Slumber single was granted its powers by Arab Strap's Girls Of Summer, this latest record was brought to life by studying Slint's Spiderland. One side of the 12" ep is songs for m, i-iv (deathcrash aren't big on capital letters), a post-rock suite in four parts, each roughly lasting a light year, taking as long as it does for new galaxies to emerge.

Black Country, New Road are - rightly - getting a lot of attention, but they're going to have to share the post-rock limelight with deathcrash who are quietly excellent. And don't have a saxophone player or threaten free-jazz improv.