Wednesday 27 December 2017

20 new songs from 2017

All new songs, pretty much all new acts, in what used to be the annual compilation I made for friends who have more important things to spend their money on than new records, or just not enough time.

"Used to be" because I'm not making CDs of this one, unless you fulfil the unlikely criteria of wanting a CD, I used to give you an annual compilation and you're reading this. Really? Get in touch.

I'm making no claims on this compilation's authority - I know, brilliant records by The Stroppies, Suggested Friends, The Love-Birds and Swiftumz, for example, aren't included - but I'll brook no argument on its quality.

Mental Haven - Hater

Malibu Entropy - Rips

Heart Paste - RVG

Know Where to Go - Dag

What Time Is It In Portland? - Bonny Doon

Go On Down - Snails

The Isle Of Arran - Loyle Carner

Samantha - Dave & J Hus

Figure It Out - Sprinters

Stupid Things - Girl Ray

Oh Well - Wurld Series

My God Has A Telephone - The Flying Stars Of Brooklyn, NY

How Quickly Your Heart Mends - Courtney Marie Andrews

Big School - Mo Troper

Old Time Feeling - Mope Grooves

Washing Machine - Marble Gods

Say Sue Me - Good For Some Reason

Climate Change - Display Homes

Latent Teenage Fantasy - The Whooperups

Secret - Honey Harper

Sunday 17 December 2017

Honey Harper - Universal Country

In which William Fussell from Mood Rings and Promise Keeper packs up the keyboards, ditches the trance, waves goodbye to electropop and decides he wants to make music "that sounds like The Carpenters and Simon Garfunkel having a baby, and then Merle Haggard and Townes Van Zandt made a baby. Then those two babies grow up and get married in Texas."

It's an excellent decision. This music sounds like it was written during the morning's first glass of whiskey and recorded after the evening's last beer. It's country music at its most vulnerable and passionate, all drowsy and romantically resigned.

In a year where country has informed some of the best indie records - Dag's Benefits Of Solitude and Bonny Doon's debut, for starters - where Courtney Marie Andrews has made one of the best albums and where even Son Volt made a comeback, Honey Harper's earnest romanticism stands tall.

Thursday 14 December 2017

Mo Troper - Exposure & Response

Matthew Sweet said about powerpop: “Somebody who’s just discovered The Who, the Raspberries and The Kinks will make it sound new and organically interesting again. People ought to stop saying, ‘Rock is dead’.”

Powerpop supremo Mo Troper has a song, Big School, on his new album that I had to check isn’t a cover version. It’s got a pop perfection that suggests it’s always existed. If you get it, and surely you will, then it’ll probably be in your life forever.

Exposure & Response sets out its stall with Rock And Roll Will Change The World. I can’t dispute its optimism and can only revel in this album’s simple teenage beat of extreme emotions where either school’s just about to break for summer or your girl left you and you’re waiting by the telephone.

A final word for Dictator Out Of Work, which sounds like a lost Beulah song (man, I love Beulah), all trumpets, melancholy and sweet despair. I love this Mo Troper album, too. Rumours of rock’s death are greatly exaggerated.

Wednesday 13 December 2017

Whenyoung - Actor

Actor is sharply metallic, lean, punchy, sensual and in-your-face immediate. It sounds massive. If the charts still counted then this would be released in early January rather than mid-December so they could have a proper hit. It’s a hit all the same.

The references might be obvious - The Strokes and all their 70s NYC forebears, and they might have some Libertines and Ash records in their collection - but Actor transcends its influences.

Whenyoung could turn out to be just another rock band, they might rather unfortunately be named after The Killers’ When You Were Young, or they might be your new favourite band. None of that matters. It’s all about this one song now.

Tuesday 12 December 2017

First Base - Not That Bad

First Base stick to what they know - bubblegum punk - because they’re very good at it. If it sounds like they can dispense two-minute pop songs with ease - and it does, these songs are effortless, carefree and fun - then remember it’s taken them 4 years to follow their debut album and there have only been a handful of singles in twice that time.

If writing pop songs was as easy as First Base make it seem then everyone would be doing it. The template is pretty much unchanged since, well, whatever you think the golden age of rock’n’roll is. First Base’s template is early Beach Boys, Fresh by the Raspberries and the first 5 Ramones albums. 

So there are - of course there are - songs about girls (Judy, Sandra), but First Base really nail their aesthetic with a love song to a guitar (This Guitar Of Mine) declaring with utter devotion that “she sounds like trash but she’s always right by my side”. 

They even make a bid for Eurovision powerpop glory with Ding Dang Dong. Pop music doesn’t really get much more simple and joyous than this.