Sunday, 13 August 2017
Wow! Chicago's V Sparks are Glam inspired chaos. The New Sensation EP has so many ideas across it's six tracks that you have to think that October's upcoming album is just going to blow your head off. With so many ideas, not all are going to work, but the sheer ambition just leaves you applauding loudly.
Of course, a new take on Glam Rock has been done before to limited success, think Mika or Scissor Sisters and there is a bit of that here. The difference with V Sparks is that the potential talent is much broader and the influences far wider.
The wonderful Death Of A Star is a standout, all big Guitar at a rapid pace with chord changes and Rush refrains enveloped with hook after hook and fighting with Queen influences. It's a stormer of a song that completely grips you. There could b a whole album contained within it's three minutes.
The title track starts off like poor 80's Disco, but not for long, it sounds like a modern day version of The Cars. Sebastian begins with a Muse like intro before ascending into pure unadulterated Glam Rock. The opener, Hey Love, again has loads of different hooks fighting for attention and a great Glam chorus.
It doesn't always work, there's a great song waiting to get out of Join The Freak Show, but I'm not sure about the spoken word part. Amongst all this melody and ideas, the closer, Contender is far more straight ahead and that works beautifully too.
There's been big hopes from these quarters in the past. Foxy Shazam's self titled third album promised similar things to be followed by mediocrity, There is so much promise here though. If the album consolidates this EP, it will be up there for my Album Of The Year. New Sensation was an enthralling surprise, one of the best things that I've heard this year.
You can listen to and buy New Sensation here.
Saturday, 12 August 2017
I first came across Terry Shaughnessy as the front man of The Universal and what a great front man he is. commanding the stage. Songs From Another Life is very much a nod to the better days of Brit Pop. Great songs, played well, no frills.
The album is very reminiscent of Ocean Colour Scene and the re-emergence of Paul Weller as some sort of Brit Pop Godfather. The difference is that the songs aren't as one dimensional, have more depth and are arranged far better.
There's strings and brass and the songs are not as shouty as those two examples. As a devotee of The Jam, I am no Weller solo fan. I think he gets away with mediocrity because of who he is. This is the sort of album, he could and should make and I'd love him again.
I had a conversation last night about how the current scene is a mixture of everyone wanting to experiment badly, usually with synths. The thing that suffers is the songs, so it's refreshing to hear an album as good as this. Do we really want more meandering shoegazing, no we don't. We want proper songs, played well, something to sing along with rather than nod our head to.
The great news is that Shaughnessy has offered up exactly that. The choruses are big, the arrangements are great. Where as you may be used to an album like this to throw in the odd slower acoustic led number, Songs From Another Life has plenty of them.
Those slower songs are acoustic based, reflective, but have a real depth and quality to them. But it's the anthemic up tempo numbers that grab you more, particularly Volcano. Can You Feel It is a real riff led modern Mod Pop song. Shine On could be 70's Glam Rock with it's stomp backdrop. Let It Burn is a pure Rock Out.
Songs From Another Life is a refreshing change from all the nonsense that is currently around. Song driven, as I noted earlier, it's the sort of album that Paul Weller should make and doesn't. Very different to a lot of the Power Pop, I report on, but with similar hooks.
You can buy it here and elsewhere.
Friday, 11 August 2017
I've never done lists, I've never seen the point. My favourites change weekly and a lot of the time, you are comparing Apples with Oranges. I have always picked an album of the year and for I Don't Hear A Single's first year and for the first time ever, I named two albums as my joint albums of the year.
Nick Piunti's Trust Your Instincts album is his best yet and that shared the spotlight with Somerdale's third album, Shake It Maggie. Nick Piunti is on Marty Scott's revived Jem Recordings Label and the fantastic news is that Somerdale are now signed to Jem. Having the weight of Jem behind them, a label that includes The Anderson Council, Nick Piunti and The Bayonets on it can only help give Somerdale the success they clearly deserve. I really do rate them that highly.
The album really is so good that it deserves wider attention, so the band returned to the studio to add four new songs to the original masterpiece. All four are great additions and you've probably heard them on the radio. I know my colleagues at KOR Radio are well into them.
I've incorporated my original review below. You can buy the album for download or as it should be heard, CD, at Amazon US and Amazon UK.
Now this is the territory that I always feel at home in. New Jersey's Somerdale are a three piece power pop group that would easily be at home in 1975 UK fighting it out for a Top 5 spot with some Chinn and Chapman prodigy.
The album really is high class Pop Rock. In ASH's nine years, this is the sort of thing we usually celebrate. However, it's normally some lost album that we fawn about, Jigsaw, Pilot, Ace, you name 'em. We've often mused about why there are no new bands doing this now. Well now we have Somerdale.
This sort of 70's Medium Wave Territory is something I spend a lot of time listening to and trust me, I know my stuff. I also get to listen to a lot more badly done stuff than good. "Shake It Maggie" has been the biggest surprise for me for a long time. It's fantastic.
Don't get the impression that the album is derivative, because it's not any way. It doesn't wear it's influences on it's arm. the songs just gently remind you of that time.
"Take It From The Top" could be Liverpool Express and should probably be the lead single. "Waiting For You" could be Jigsaw. On other songs, you hear 10CC, The Arrows, Andrew Gold, the list goes on.
"Puddles Of Me" could be prime time Badfinger. "She's Leaving California" hints at a rocking John Miles. The biggest surprise is that Somerdale are American, they sound so English. Finally for the Power Pop Kids, well there's "The Coolest Kid In The Room", pure Fountains Of Wayne.
I remind readers often that this place is not for the gushing, I receive a lot of music and it's always appreciated. However I have a policy of only reviewing things that I like. I've done hatchet jobs on things that I don't in the past, I'd rather not these days, it's unfair and I just choose not to review them.
So when I tell you that this is the best thing I've heard in ages, you can trust that remark. Shake It Maggie is, it's a superb listen and right up my street.
I Don't Hear A Single's Radio Show reaches Number 8 this week. Broadcast on KOR Radio at 8pm UK Time on Fridays, repeated at the same time on Saturdays. Due to increased popularity, a Monday Night Repeat has been added at 8pm and there are plans for some more US Friendly times.
You can listen to it here.
Also, a reminder that the show is archived the following week on Mixcloud. You can listen to the first seven shows here.
Without further ado, here's the playlist for Tonight.
01 Trickster - Let It Lie
02 The Rationales - Ready To Go
03 Propeller - Summer Arrives
04 Fangclub - Common Ground
05 Karla Kane - The Lilac Line
06 Nick Heyward - Baby Blue Sky
07 The Sunset Spirit - No Time To Pretend
08 The Naturals - I Don't Need A Car
09 The Rubinoos - Nowheresville
10 Vegas With Randolph Featuring Lannie Flowers - The Weekend's Coming
11 Tony Wright - Opposites Attract
12 My Little Hum - Geography Lesson
13 The Nature Strip - Tide Song
14 Matthew Sweet - Music For Love
15 The Armoires - Fort Ashby
16 Big Big Train - The Second Brightest Star
Wednesday, 9 August 2017
One of the biggest surprises that I've had after the release of Nick Heyward's new album is people that I know saying that they are surprised at how good he is. I thought most of my circle knew that, yet there are still people who think of him as the youngster in a cricket jumper who was around for a bit in Haircut 100.
People still associate him with the Teen Pop of Love Plus One and either assume what followed was more of the same or the end of it all. Incidentally, Haircut 100's second album, without Nick, Paint And Paint has recently been released as a 2 disc affair by Cherry Red and that's excellent too.
After that splendid first Haircut 100 album, Heyward released three great solo albums in the 80's to diminishing returns. However he returned in 1993 and we all know how modern music writers think music began with Brit Pop and Oasis and Blur, so someone may remember his return as all references lately seem to start at that point.
The one great thing about Brit Pop was the Pop around the edges. There was plenty of it if you listened, most notably by the likes of Dodgy, The Bluetones and The Supernaturals, but much more too. One such inspiring album was the poptastic From Monday To Sunday from Nick Heyward. It lit up the year.
It was all jangly and wonderful with the lead single, He Doesn't Love You Like I Do and the magnificent Kite. This was followed by the equally ace, Tangled and the The Apple Bed, which could be my favourite album on the Creation label. The latter was released in 1998 and until now it was his last solo affair.
He released an album of poems narrated by Greg Ellis in 2001, Open Sesame Seed and the excellent collaboration with India Dupre, The Mermaid And The Lighthouse Keeper. There has never been a drop in quality, so the hope was that his anticipated return wouldn't be a let down. Well it isn't, not in any way.
Woodland Echoes is a brilliant listening experience. It's also very a much more reflective affair, reflective in a way that something like XTC's Skylarking is. It is also an album of two halves. Lots of different styles, but the jaunty pop that most fans adore is all in the second half.
Before you get to that, there are some fine songs to get your ears attuned to. The McCartney Beatles strum of Love Is The Key By The Sea with some great harmonies, the Country Folk of Mountain Top, the shuffle of Who? and the funky backdrop of The Stars. All are great songs.
It's that second half of the album that brings that seductive pop, Baby Blue Sky and in particular, the magnificent Perfect Sunday Sun. The latter could be the best thing Heyward has ever written with it's jangle hook and lyrical depth. It's a crackerjack of a song.
Ass to these two gems, more jangle and an infectious chorus on on I Got A Lot and the captivating love song, I Can See Her and you have a real feel good, beautifully written album. That's even without mentioning, the sweeping Jayhawks like closer, For Always.
You can always tell how good an artist is by the price of their Back Catalogue on Amazon. You won't pick up any Nick Heyward CDs up for buttons.
You can buy the album everywhere and there are some special editions here. I should also give a mention to a recent Live Show that you can watch online or on some UK TV Platforms. The set for Vintage TV is excellent. Vintage TV is really providing some great Live stuff. It's not the rubbish cut and paste video site that it used to be. You can watch the set here.
You can hear 30 second sound samples of each track here. There are also videos for Baby Blue Sky and Mountaintop here.
We talk about how Power Pop has become a catch all category that captures anything that is melodic pop and that offends some and irritates others, thinking it holds them back. Well there is no doubt at all that Los Angeles's The Singles are Power Pop.
You can go to any of the three main surges in Power Pop, Merseybeat, Late 70's New Wave and the early 90's break out and the band would happily fit in. At times it's straight ahead Cavern stuff, but there are more times when they nod to the other two ages and it's that that is the most interesting.
Sweet Tooth is a cracking little record, songs that chime and hooks that hit you from the off. It's also a real grower of an album. What at first seems a little simplistic, add layers on repeated listens, particularly songs like You're The Only One and the wonderful, Phone Call.
Dawn is like one of those ballads that the Glam Rock bands used to do, their slowie if you like and in keeping with that theme, Nobody Knows is Bay City Rollers Pop like with hints of mid 80's Scots Pop. Voodoo has a real 60's UK Beat Backdrop.
The likes of Gone and If You Want Me, You Can Have Me are just great melodic pop, in fact the whole album is. It's real singalong and air guitar stuff, exactly what a great Power Pop album should be. It's not revelatory, but so few are doing this kind of album these days, it's make a refreshing change.
A song like Sweet Tooth deserves to join the Power Pop Classics and the aforementioned Phone Call is my particular fave, it's all a bit spiky and psychy, far more aggresive than the rest of the album, superbly so. I can't recommend the album highly enough.
You can buy the album at the links here.
Saturday, 5 August 2017
Amidst all this Power Pop and Pop Rock paraphernalia, people tend to forget that I am first and foremost a music fan and collector. I just became noted for Power Pop through the past 20 years or so, but my tastes go far deeper. As noted by Mew opening last night's Radio show, I'm as home with Prog as Pop.
There's a Power Pop connection with Boston's The Rationales. Their early days offered up songs that sounded like they had been recorded in Ardent Studios, very Big Star, but as their ten year career has developed, they have become far more than that.
Upstream is an American Rock album, but don't let that dissuade you. because there's a lot of different styles contained within what is an exceptional effort. Indeed after distancing the band from Power Pop, the opener Ready To Go could be The Motors, a real slice of 70's UK Pop Rock with some killer guitar.
Just to show that variance, Trade You has a real Afghan Whigs feel and a real Southern Rock meandering guitar solo. Under The Gun is a sweeping gem, like a rocked up Wilco, the hints of Steel Guitar exploding into far more. A crackerjack of a song.
All The While starts all Doolin' Dalton era Eagles, even getting funky, only to be followed by the Southern Rock chug of Climb The Ladder. Take A Ride With Me is all Fleetwood Mac Rumours vibe, but it's the closer Dulcinea that grips you most.
I've seen The Rationales labelled as Americana, I don't see that at all. There is a connection with the better end of that catch all genre, say the rockier songs of Wilco or the harmonies of The Jayhawks, but the band have far more depth than that.
Whilst this still feels like songwriter David Mirabella's band, the six piece complement each other beautifully. They've developed into a proper band and it shows. There's a depth to their songs that is admirable and engaging. Upstream is one of the best albums that you'll hear this year.
You can listen to and buy the album here.