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Wednesday, 28 April 2021

Some Thoughts On Vinyl

 

Firstly let us stop calling it by this ridiculous name. Record or LP may be more apt because you buy vinyl for floors. Don't misunderstand me, I love the format. I've never sold my collection despite replacing most of it on CD. I don't agree with the better than CD sound, particularly on modern presses, but if people think it is and it makes them buy more music, then all is well.

Don't be fooled by the marketing about it selling more than CD. Records are over twice the price of CD, so unit wise, I think you will find that CDs still well outsell their newer / older competitor. For the buyer, particularly overseas, the cost of postage has risen beyond all expectations and the larger size of vinyl adds to that cost as does the packaging. You have to pay that p and p because sadly there are not that many Record Shops around now and no one visits them unless it is Record Store Day.

For artists, Records can be a vanity project. Nice to look at and show off with, but too many copies end up stacked in their garage. People cry out for them, but many don't buy, either through sheer economics or because something they think is better appears in the long lead times. Just because an artist sells 300 on CD doesn't mean 300 will be sold on record. 

The Super Deluxe Edition nonsense has meant that the record labels have spotted an easy buck. I simply do not understand why anyone wants to buy an Edition that includes both Vinyl and CD and all the extra tracks are largely things not good enough to make the original album.

My biggest problem though is the presentation of releases. The old LP was a joy to behold. The pleasure was also in reading the cover notes or / and the insert. Now you just get the front and back cover and a plain white insert. CDs add the notes not vinyl though, unless you want a nice booklet like those in the Super Deluxe Editions that many can't justify the expense on. So many will be buying an LP just so that they can say they've got one. 

Finally, a tip for you hipsters. An album doesn't sound better played on a £50 Crossley Record Player. Oh and you don't need to spend £20 on Born To Run and Rumours, you can get them much cheaper in Second Hand Record Shops or online with the inserts.

The Legal Matters - Chapter Three

 


I avoid mentioning lockdown and Covid in reviews, not out of callousness, but in a belief that music should be a diversion from the strain. I will mention it here though, because as we see signs of coming out of the tunnel, I can think of no better album to accompany me than one by The Legal Matters.

The trio seem to be joined at the hip. I always assume that if I tell one something, he will tell the others, I don't need to contact all three. This expands into their music which always comes across as brotherly, tight and united. There is a real bond between the three and this album more than any confirms that.



I thought I'd look at a couple of other reviews of Chapter Three, not because I'm a magpie. but to see if those reviews concurred with my thoughts. Being honest, they don't really. I see comparisons to Big Star, Fountains Of Wayne, Weezer and The Beach Boys. There may the odd bit somewhere that does, but largely I don't hear any of that.

The Legal Matters have far more in common with a band like Crowded House and the harmonies are more Simon And Garfunkel or The Everly Brothers. The songs are divided equally between Chris Richards and Andy Reed, but this is no dictatorial song writing, the three work on all the songs together to expand what is initially brought to the table.



The fact that one member writes the odd numbered songs, the other the even, may concern some about track sequencing. It did me as I (wrongly) associated Reed with the slower numbers and Richards with any pace. Well that certainly isn't the case here.

I would never have associated Andy Reed with the wonderful The World Is Mine. It is all barrel piano, a little Toytown Psych and has far more in common with bands Like The Successful Failures. That's All is all Roy Orbison 60's twang and could almost appear on the American Graffiti soundtrack. You would think Reed wrote it, he didn't. 

This also underlines how collaborative the album is. The Painter is spot on 70's Piano Pop yet Please Make A Sound has a cracking 80's synth sound running through it. Make Things Up is splendid twang. A Memory Of Sound is jaunty pop at its very best and the closer, Passing Chord is an absolute vocal masterpiece.



The Legal Matters usually do mellow best and there is plenty here to keep those fans happy. But there seems to be more chances taken on this third album and boy do they work. The harmonies are as tight as ever, but the songs seem to have even more oomph.

There are plenty of bands that harmonise well. Perhaps, a few too many that made that California scene a little done. They should have gone to Michigan, because The Legal Matters could come up with any of those albums easily, but no other band could have come up with something as varied and great as this. Highly Recommended!



You can listen the album here. It is available on CD, Vinyl or Download. 


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Sunday, 25 April 2021

Dropkick - The Best Of Dropkick

 


I have an apology to make and I do so profusely. I've taken Dropkick for granted. I've been listening to them for most of their two decade career through 14 albums. Every album delights, yet in my Pop Rock bubble, I just assume that everyone knows them.

So it has taken this Best Of to give me a good shaking and make me realise that I Don't Hear A Single's audience has expanded. I should also remember that you shouldn't stop mentioning a band just because every album is great. Here is a great chance for newcomers to fill their boots and long time fans to enjoy the Vinyl release.






The band get compared to Teenage Fanclub a lot, but doesn't every Scottish band that plugs in a Guitar. There are obvious comparisons, but truth be known Teenage Fanclub have got much nearer to Dropkick over the period. There is a lot here in common with the West Coast Jangling of The Byrds, no bad thing when it is done so well, too often it isn't.

When the pace picks up on songs, there is a similarity to Tom Petty. When they slow down, it is more Neil Finn and acoustically, Dropkick become far more Americana. However default is 12 strings Jangle Pop Heaven and that is when the band are at the best.






Those slower songs offer up some splendid pop, best represented by the likes of I Wish I Knew and Come Home. Don't Dream Of California is akin to The Explorers Club harmony wise and Nowhere Girl is a top notch Country offering. 

I am also delighted to find Obvious is included. My favourite Dropkick song and I'm delighted that the album is getting a 15th Anniversary Edition in May. 30 songs is a lot of Dropkick for first time buyers, but with an instant collection, you will want to delve further into the Dropkick Back Catalogue. You won't be disappointed. 





You can listen to and buy the album here. It is available as a Sugarbush Vinyl 2LP Edition which also includes a 2 CD set including 20 extra tracks. The CD Version has 27 tracks due to format constraints. You can also buy the Vinyl directly from Sugarbush here.


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Kool Kat Musik Weekly New Release Update



Welcome to the Kool Kat Weekly New Release Update. Kool Kat are distributed in the UK and Europe by I Don't Hear A Single as part of our aim to keep CDs available and affordable. The Kool Kat Links with each album take you to further details on each release..

Please place all UK and European orders by following the details here. Links to Kool Kat's Entire Stock can be found here. Without further ado, here are seven new additions to Kool Kat Musik this Week.


Peter Case - The Midnight Broadcast (Bandaloop Records 2021)      $16





“The Midnight Broadcast” is the most unusual entry in Peter Case’s extensive and eminently admirable career. The sixteen tracks see him in fine voice and interweaving music, sound effects, and spoken word segments to create a simulation of that quasi-mystical sensation that’s inspired so many music lovers and musicians since the invention of radio. 


Kool Kat Link


Apple Music Link


The Chickenbackers - Yeh Right, YEAH! (Kool Kat Musik 2021)      $14





Meet Madrid’s newest hitmakers The Chickenbackers!!  They nail that 60’s Merseybeat sound perfectly with their catchy melodies, tight surfy guitars and great harmonies!  Previously only available on vinyl/download, Fourteen catchy, instantly memorable tunes with a lot of true hit potential!  


Kool Kat Link


Bandcamp Link


Death By Unga Bunga - Heavy Male Insecurity (Jansen Records 2021)      $12





The Norway five offer up their latest album. The perfect mix of punk/garage rock, so far, and already a strong contender for my number 1 album of 2021!”


 Kool Kat Link


Bandcamp Link

 

The Forty Nineteens - New Roaring Twenties (Big Stir Records 2021)      $12





Only The Forty Nineteens could offer such a positive and energetic take on our new decade, and the irresistible energy of their latest offering - radio-ready and full of propulsive guitars and indelible melodies. It's a master class in compact songwriting and stage-ready guitar sonics drawing on the whole history of tuneful, muscular rock and roll.


Kool Kat Link


Bandcamp Link


The Forty Nineteens - Good Fortune (Kool Kat Musik 2017)      $14






The Forty Nineteens can be described as Garage Rock, Power Pop, with a Motor City power plant and good-time raucousness. Their sound was forged in LA's underground alternative scene and continues to grab you now.


Kool Kat Link


Bandcamp Link


Psychotic Youth/Tommy and The Rockets - Scandanavian Flavor (Snap!! Records Spain 2021)  $16





“Scandanavian Flavor” features two of the finest bands from Northern Europe's power pop/punk/garage scene covering old favourites in their signature styles.  You have Sweden's legendary magnificent Psychotic Youth and Denmark's Tommy and the Rockets, who inhabit a magical world where the Ramones and Beach Boys rule the airwaves forever.  


Kool Kat Link


Bandcamp Link


The Freddie Steady 5 - Tex Pop (Original Recordings From 2007)  (Steadyboy Records 2021)  $16




An expanded reissue of The Freddie Steady 5 album that was originally released in 2007, a record that garnered great reviews world-wide and ended up on several "Best Releases of the Year" lists.  “Tex Pop” is a little bit Beatles, a little bit Sir Doug and a whole lot of Texas Pop, Freddie Steady style!    Five bonus tracks are now tacked on along with new cover art created by Flamin' Groovies leader Cyril Jordan.  


Kool Kat Link


Apple Music Link


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Saturday, 24 April 2021

I Love Your Lifestyle - No Driver (Name Your Price)

 


I Love Your Lifestyle are constantly linked with and EMO tag, yet there is little of that comparison left and there never was that much in the first place. This is Indie Pop Rock of the highest order and yet another Swedish triumph.

At times they remind me of a Poppier Mew. They certainly have similar time signatures. Perhaps they are bringing Math Rock to the Pop world, I Have No Point To Make is the closest to EMO and that still wants to break out in a Steven Wilson sort of direction.



There are other variations too. Shilly-Shally is a splendid slice of (almost Power) Pop and Fram Och Tillbaka is wonderfully dreamy pastoral pop. Inner Freakness could easily appear on the Electric Dreams soundtrack. 

Making Nothing Out Of Something is a cracking album closer and sums up the ability that the band have of attaching lyrics about the banal to jaunty intelligent arrangements. There's lots trying to escape out across the album, a couple of the songs have Classic Rock solos and at times there is a real Motors Tenement Steps period appeal.



There's so much to like here, but my preference is that angular Math Pop on songs like Stupid and Car. These type of songs make them stand out from the Indie Guitar crowd, No Driver is a great third album and certainly the band's best thus far.



You can listen to and buy the album here. The album is at Name Your Price, so what have you got to lose?


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Thursday, 22 April 2021

Chris Church and the Vindication of Def Leppard (Ian Rushbury)


 

Ian Rushbury asks Chris Church “how can a former metalhead make possibly the best pop-rock album of 2021?” And why he crossed Joan Jett off his Christmas card list…

The great thing about “I Don’t Hear a Single” is that the majority (if not the entirety…) of the contributors don’t seem to give a good goddamn about what actually constitutes P*w*r  P*p. Which for a blog that talks quite a lot about P*w*r P*p, is very refreshing. While the tastemakers and uber-pundits on the zillions of social media sites which specialise in squabbling, argue until their mummies make them stop, about whether the first Kiss album is P*w*r P*p or not, IDHAS is too busy finding great music in any genre. Like Chris Church, for instance.

Unless you’re hip enough to have heard of him prior to his last album Backwards Compatible, Church is probably a new name to you. The aforementioned Backwards Compatible album really should be in your top ten albums of last year, if you’re a fan of guitar-based music. The follow up, 2021’s brilliant Game Dirt, I’m confident enough to predict, should be in your top five for this year. 

I really needed to know whether you could be a bonafide P*w*r P*p guitar hero and still hang on to your credibility. And although I didn’t actually ask him that outright, I’m pretty sure that in this case, we can agree that the answer is a resounding “hell yeah!”


Game Dirt is a lot less full-on Backwards Compatible – was that intentional?

"I suppose so. I put a lot of effort into Backwards Compatible. I’m grateful to the friends who helped me make it and having those musicians along is a big part of the sound. I felt like I was sort of on a mission to make a record that sat firmly between hard rock and pop and from my perspective, it was a success. 

I love that record, but it came out right when the pandemic hit full-on and the fun it was designed to represent seemed immediately hollowed out a bit because the world pretty much shut down. That was a bit deflating, but there was nothing I could do about it and I’m not the type to whine about my stupid songs not getting enough attention while people all over the world are sick and dying.

I guess I should have known better than to make an album with that much positivity and hope. Haha. So, I had to just let it go. After a while, I decided to make an album completely on my own, with no expectations, just to see if sparks would fly. At that point, I dug in and let the next group of songs find me and Game Dirt started coming into focus.


Does your past in hard rock bands, influenced by UFO, AC/DC and Judas Priest help with your songwriting? Does it inform your approach at all?

"Definitely. As I said, there is a middle ground between melodic heavy rock and power pop that I have always loved. I called it “heavy melody” and even wrote a little piece for a magazine. Loving the music of UFO or Billy Squier as well as Cheap Trick and The Knack always just seemed natural to me, but some folks seem to get twisted about keeping their distinctions sacred. That fascinated me for a minute and definitely influenced Backwards Compatible. 

For the life of me, I can’t figure out why so many power poppers won’t allow themselves to enjoy “Photograph” or “Strutter”, or maybe they do and just don’t want to admit it. Who cares, it isn’t a big deal. But it is quantifiably true that there are many great hard rock songs with all the criteria of what Power Pop is supposed to be on a purely musical level that gets overlooked or dismissed simply because of the volume of the guitars…or the hair and makeup.

The same Beatles-ey ethics of verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, guitar solo, chorus…it’s all there in some of the catchiest hard rock songs and often a lot more fun in my opinion. Anyway, I don’t mean to be prickly about it. I just want to like everything I can like and there’s plenty to like there. That’s a big part of what Backwards Compatible was supposed to represent.



On the Backwards Compatible cover, there’s a character sporting a Def Leppard Tour T-Shirt. Did Leppard change your life?


"Not exactly, but I love a lot of their stuff, even more with the passing of time. Even though my R.E.M. and Replacements–based indie rock mentality seemed to undercut it, I’ve always known that there is an undeniable power in that Pyromania record, and I don’t feel that its popularity was a fluke. 

It’s too heavy for pop, and too pop for heavy, if one were trying to seem cool…but it’s impossible to resist if one were looking for equal parts melody and heaviness. 1983 seemed about right when I thought about Backwards Compatible and the Def Leppard of that year were blowing everyone away, so the shirt seemed like a perfect representation as part of the album art."


When you were in Flat Earth, what was it like opening for Kansas, Kings X, Blue Oyster Cult, The Kinks, Peter Frampton, and more? 


"On one hand, it was a total thrill. On the other, we were so unprepared. We could have used a lot of that to our advantage if we’d had management. It was so bad that, due to a printing error, our first CD didn’t even include any contact information! Scott Cornette, my long time best bud and musical collaborator, was the band’s segue into all that because he was a DJ - not a guy wearing headphones getting paid to hit play in a club, but an on-air personality for a popular radio station. Any of these bands who came through the region that needed an opening band would call people Scott knew, who would then call him. 

We opened for a pretty wide array of bigger names across the spectrum of rock music, including Toad The Wet Sprocket, Billy Squier, King’s X, and more, in addition to the ones you mentioned. As for the shows, Scott is an amazing guitarist and my late great brother Mike was one of the best drummers I’ve ever heard, much less played with, so my job was pretty much just to try and hang in there as we got the job done on stage. 

We always had a great response for an opening band, but not necessarily from all the artists, or their crews. The only artist for whom we opened that was really unpleasant was Joan Jett. She came out during our measly opening band excuse for a sound check to menacingly tell us that the bubble gum and water bottles lying on the drum riser were not to be touched or even looked at. I remember my brother pretty much telling her to f*** off, and her not liking our attitude at all! At the time it was absolutely frightening, but in retrospect, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Heady times."



The opening track on Game Dirt, “Learn” seems (to me) to be a deliberate attempt to wrong-footing the listener. Is it there to ring the changes between this album and Backwards Compatible?


"I didn’t plan that, but I get it. It was the last song I wrote for the record and it was one of those rare ones that come into your brain almost fully formed. I knocked it out and though I was already at a point where almost everything else was done, it just felt to me like it belonged. 

I tend to do that a lot, get almost finished with an album and then another song pops out. Sometimes the new song doesn’t exactly fit. I thought “Learn” sounded pretty good alongside everything else, but it revealed itself pretty quickly that it definitely needed to come first in the song order."


Many tracks on Game Dirt, like “Gravity” and “Fall” are incredibly wistful. Was lockdown making you introspective?


"I really don’t know. I try not to examine where songs come from too much. I think there’s a wistful quality to every album I’ve ever done, even the two albums I’ve done with my progressive metal band Däng. We made two albums [Tartarus: The Darkest Realm and Monstrum ExMachina] where all my lyrics were about the darkest Greek mythology hell, but I tried to give each character pathos and empathy as much as possible. 

Trying to find and convey the sadness within the stories of feared Gods or horrifying beasts is actually great fun for me. There’s also a lot of tongue-in-cheek humour, but the point is that wistful is probably always going to be an adjective that would apply to my music. 

My Pop Rock isn’t often what could be called chipper or carefree and even my more experimental stuff can also contain longing and regret…probably mostly for the listener, but I digress. As for the pandemic itself, it’s too much for me to think about with all the hardships it has caused, including just being able to communicate and share information without so-called leaders trying to divide everyone. A tough time for humans. 

My wife Lori and I both lost our jobs, but have since found new ones and are ok. We both threw ourselves into creative projects, as she has produced a lovely record by our friend Ben Gibbs, which happened concurrent to Game Dirt. I can’t wait for people to be able to hear Ben’s album. I had a great time contributing and absolutely love what those two have come up with for his music. I guess the moral is to keep working and shit usually works itself out. Even that sounds wistful, doesn’t it?"



There’s a Country Rock feel to tracks like “Learn,” “Lost,” “Smile,” and “Know.” Does that go with the territory or are you a closet Blackberry Smoke fan? 


"I’ve never listened to a single note of Blackberry Smoke, but I do love a lot of country-rock music. I didn’t feel like it directly influenced me until around 2000 or so, with Drive By Truckers, Ryan Adams, early Wilco, Joe Henry and a few other things, but I’ve always loved the great country influences in the music of the Rolling Stones, Faces and other mostly British bands. I love the occasional countryish songs from Elvis Costello, Rockpile and Squeeze, to name a few. That UK filter just seems to do something to a country song that makes it work for me." 


There’s a lot of different guitar styles on Game Dirt – who are your favourite/most influential players?


"That is something I could talk about all day, Ian. As for a favourite, and depending on the day of course, the discussion would include Steve Howe, Eddie Van Halen, Jimi Hendrix, and Frank Zappa, all brilliant and diverse, but neither of whom ends up directly influencing my music to a large degree. As for the favourites of mine whose styles do seem to creep into my approach, I’d have to say, Pete Townshend, Jimmy Page [especially on my harder-rocking riffs], Joni Mitchell and Rick Neilsen all could be pointed to as guitarists I’ve…well, ripped off. 

For Game Dirt, though, my biggest guitar influence was Keith Richards. That’s evidenced in no small way by the fact that, for the first time ever, I used his famous 5 string open tuning on several of the songs. Funny thing is, when that tuning is done on a guitar, one usually leaves off the bottom E or 6th [highest] string. I was playing my Telecaster one day and the B or 5th string broke. On a whim, I decided to try that tuning even though there was a gap where the B string should have been. 

For some reason, it clicked with me. The degree of difficulty presented a challenge I didn’t even know I needed. Every time I listen to the solos on ‘Trying’, ‘Smile’ or ‘Learn’ it gives me a sneaky little misanthropic thrill. Stubborn, willful, kinda dumb, that says it all. Reminds me of Nick Lowe’s line from ‘Born Fighter”, where he says, “how I hate it on a plate”. And speaking of guitar, how about those solos in that song? Fantastic!"



You’re a one-man band on Game Dirt. Was this Lockdown enforced or by choice?


"I would admit that the lockdown gave me time to try things I might not normally have had time to try, but I always intended Game Dirt to be an album I did totally on my own. After the good fortune of having so many great guests helping me out on my last album Backwards Compatible, I just felt the urge to do something looser. 

I started out with the directive of trying to somehow musically match how I feel about the mental image of my hero Todd Rundgren’s ‘Something / Anything’ inner sleeve picture, the one where he’s standing with his back to the camera looking out a window, arms raised triumphantly. I had that album opened up on the desk beside my workspace the whole time and measured almost every take I recorded in my mind to whether it made me feel the way I imagine Todd feeling in that moment or not. 

I love playing a song in my head on the drums, all from memory, with no click track and then building it. It’s definitely sloppy, especially considering I’m not a good drummer, but I think it’s charming to record like that in this digitized age. I’ve done it before, but it felt like a new thing somehow with this album. 

As a matter of fact, there’s another album where I played everything myself that was mostly recorded years ago that has been sweetened with brand new backing vocals by the amazing Lindsay Murray, which will see the light of day sometime soon. I guess I’ll end this by saying stay tuned for that!" 


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Cheap Trick - In Another World

 


I know that Cheap Trick are neither new or under appreciated and I gave a lot of my thoughts on the band on the review of 2017's We're All Alright! You can read that review here. So you can catch up on my opinion by reading that review. Nothing really has changed. 

I still don't return to those albums from the past two decades much with the exception of We're All Alright and I still love Woke Up With A Monster from the 90's, There is however an undying loyalty to the band that's lasted 44 years since I bought In Color as a 14 year old. I'll buy every album they ever release due to the effect that they had on this 14 year old. 

I do however, as I do with all my fanboy artists, have a balanced view. Those 00 and 10's albums do get a bad rep. probably unfairly, but I hold Cheap Trick to a much higher standard and their worst is better than a lot of others best. 





I also don't prescribe to the view that if The Beatles were still around they would be Cheap Trick. CT rely on one writer, Rick Nielsen. The Beatles had three varied songwriters. Maybe that comparison could be made with Lennon, although not if was serving up the mawkish Double Fantasy stuff. 

With the strength of We're All Alright, I approached In Another World with a little trepidation, leaving it a few days until I listened to the album and then a few listens before giving an opinion. I'm delighted to tell you that I needn't have worried, if anything this sounds even better. It is a corking listen.





There are a couple of clunkers and although I know that the band love a cover, I have become so tired of hearing the continued flood of versions of Beatles related songs. I mean what can you add to Gimme Some Truth? But 10 out of 13 ace songs is a more than a high hit rate.

There are two versions of Another World, both very different and it is really difficult to choose which is best. The later fast version is typical rocked up Cheap Trick and is tip top, but the slower version is simply wonderful and may be the best track on the album if it were not for the second song on the album.

Quit Waking Me Up is all jolly sing along Brit Pop, a real earworm and everything else here is made even better with its inclusion. The band's best song in ages. It will certainly open up the next Volume of the IDHAS Audio Extravaganza if we ever get round to it with all that is going on here.






The Summer Looks Good On You is a fantastic single, but could maybe have been held back until the Summer is here. Final Days is a Bluesy joy and Robin Zander belts out Light Up The Fire as only Zander can. Here's Looking At You casts more than a glance at those 80's Cheap Trick nuggets.

It is wonderful hearing Zander's voice in such fine form plus Nielsen's song writing seems to be back at the highest level. Also best wishes to Tom Petersson after his recent heart problems. For a band that approaches 50 years together, In Another World is as urgent and relevant as any Pop Rock Guitar band around. Highly Recommended!





You can listen to this album on You Tube here and buy it everywhere. You really should!


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Hooveriii - Water For The Frogs

 


First up, what a superb album. Los Angeles's Hooveriii (the third version of Hoover - geddit) started out as Bert Hoover and a drum machine to a now six piece. They describe themselves as a cross between Bowie in Berlin and Soft Machine. I certainly note the Berlin / Iggy period, but not necessarily Soft Machine. 

At times, they are a bit like Hawkwind with more keyboards, but only a bit. Hooveriii are somewhere between Prog and Psych, but definitely at the melodic end of both. The hooks are many and bar the closer, Gone, there are no epics present. 



The Space Rock is well upfront, but the material is varied. Shooting Star, for instance is a wonderful slowed down moody affair, whilst We're Both Lawyers relies more on 80's Electronica wrapped up in Kraut Rock, hypnotically so.

Control is the stand out here, you can almost dance to it. However, that is run close by Cindy which is so Bowie Low period. Erasure is more heads down, edging towards Goth, yet Hang 'Em High is a splendid slice of late 60's Psych.



So on to the closer, Gone! Now this does go near to Soft Machine, particularly the drum pattern. It is certainly the nearest they get to full blown Prog. It is a mesmerising part of work, trippy but never dull. Approaching ten minutes, it could only end proceedings and reveals that Hooveriii could veer off in many directions if they so wished,



You can listen to and buy the album here. The Vinyl edition can be bought at all good record shops and 

 

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Tuesday, 20 April 2021

Last Days Of April - Even The Good Days Are Bad

 


There's a real argument that Sweden is the home of Great Pop Rock. There rarely seems to be a bad Guitar album from there and the Pop? Well Wow! Yet when us English speakers bang out the end of year thoughts, the country and associated artists get few column inches. I mean the artists provide gems in your own language, so how about a bit more recognition.

Sweden excels particularly in two areas of Pop. Noisy Guitar or chipper chirpy hook laden affairs. Last Days Of April certainly don't do the former and only occasionally the latter. They specialise in atmospheric, beautiful sounding songs that grab you in and lock the doors in your head. 

Karl Larsson is a fantastic songwriter and the band as a collective do a fantastic job in making these into wonderful songs and pure soundscapes. This is the band's tenth album and it has been a long six years since the last, Sea Of Clouds.



Even The Good Days Are Bad is a cracking listen. The front half is all laid back and hook laden with those killer arrangements. The title track is Pastoral Pop at its finest, Run Run Run is all Lloyd Cole and Had Enough has a weeping hook on a song that borders McCartney territory. 

Turbulence reminds me a lot of another of our favourites, Out Of My Hair. It may be the best song on the album although the competition is stiff. The second half of the album picks up the pace. Alone is an Indy joy, rockier, but you are only ever gonna be rocked gently thankfully. 

Hopeless is top notch with Psych Pop bursting to get out, but the pop sensibilities holding it back. Anything Shows the band's Power Pop chops to great effect. All in all, Even The Good Days Are Bad is a perfect Spring album and one of the best that you will hear this year.



The album is released on 7 May. You can pre order the download and get two tracks now here. You can pre order the CD now here and from all good Record shops.


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Saturday, 17 April 2021

The Bright Spots - Broken Bat Singles

 


Brooklyn songwriters Matthew J Kaplan and Matt Schwartzer are two thirds of the trio, The Bright Spots with Drummer Derek Landel. They specialise in intelligent Indie Pop, an area that usually brings comparisons with the obvious such as XTC, The Housemartins, They Must Be Giants and The Sugarplastic blah blah etc etc.

However the trio may occasionally step into similar areas, particularly the wit of all four, but they are nothing like them really. They remind me a lot of Vanilla and before them, Liars Club. The band are equally at home at pace or slowed down, both reveal the quality of the songs.



There's a real quirkiness to what is on display here. Early doors, Broken Bat Singles sounds very New Wave, all unexpected chord changes and great left field lyrics about the mundane. But as the album progresses, there is a more (and I'm searching for a word but this is apt) adult feel to the collection.

Brock Umbrella is a wonderfully written moody melodic joy. Very 60's, almost Psych Pop at times. Broken Bat Single is a cracking slice of lounge. The closer, (Just Like) Wally Pipp is almost 70's Glam Rock and The International Panic comes across as mix between early Bowie and The Proclaimers.



The nigh on seven minutes of Tears, Tears, Tears - I Only Feel Love For You caught me completely surprise. Two very different songs with loads of different turns. The former starts with a Knack like riff and includes an early 60's crying chorus. The latter is pure 1979 UK New Wave.

It is that New Wave that I'm an absolute sucker for. Hang Up And Haunted, I Married A Mandolin and The Worst Of My Love all scratch that itch. But the album is far more than just that. I recommend it highly and I've learnt a new word in Swivelhead. I know a few Swivelheads.



You can listen to and buy the album here.


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Friday, 16 April 2021

The Blips - The Blips

 


The Blips are a five piece from Birmingham Alabama and they offer a more than welcoming loose brand of Guitar Rock. It is the kind of thing that you used to hear regularly, but seemed to fade away in a blizzard of second division mediocrity.

Done properly and cleverly, rather than heads down, this brand of Garage Rock works as well as anything around and I'd add that it is great to have it back when it is as good as this. It is the type of album that the Rumbar label threatens to release, yet never does.



The band rely on melodic riffs and big choruses and the variety is aided by all five of them taking on vocals. This offers alternative takes on what could be slightly similar material, plus there is a swagger that you wouldn't necessarily expect on a debut album.

The Blips remind me of a down and dirtier version of The Speedways. They are a lot noisier, but have just as many hooks and the production is absolutely top notch, something you can't say that often about Indie Guitar albums.



There is a splendid Noo Yawk feel at times which is most prevalent on Throw Me Around and Out To Sea. Inside Out has a slightly Black Crowes feel in the riff, Yes Yes No Yes Yes No is like a humorous version of The Strokes if that is ever possible.

The album is at its best when the melody shines through. Walking Home, in particular has single written all over it. Respect is also due to the closer One And Done, a splendid meandering joy built on 12 bars. The Blips have fashioned a crackerjack of an album and I can only imagine how good they will be live because the material is most suited to that setting.



You can listen to and buy the album here.


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Wednesday, 14 April 2021

Blog Design Updates

 


The IDHAS appearance is being changed. The background has been Black for a long time and it is felt that it should be lighter like our mood. So you may see changes over the coming week. None of us know what we are doing layout wise, so if you hate any design, let us know in the comments. We can then call you all sorts of horrible names behind your back.

Monday, 12 April 2021

The Armoires - Incognito

 



Some bands have used the last 12 months to do nothing, others to moan about everything and too many have got their Acoustic Guitars out and added a few Beatles covers to the groaning weight out there. The Armoires turned what was initially a wheeze into one of the best albums that I've heard in a long time, showing that where there is a will, there is a way. Many of you know of my connection with the Big Stir label and I'm delighted to see how big it has become. I can reveal now that I had one regret is that The Armoires previous album, Zibaldone, got lost in all the Big Stir activity. It is a cracking album and hopefully people will discover it with all the attention that this current masterpiece is getting. It was in the IDHAS Top 10 albums of 2019. 

Rex and Christina were so busy with the label that their band took second place to what was happening with Big Stir. Two things happened to change all that. Firstly John Borack joined on Drums and it released a new found vigour in The Armoires. It was as though they began to take recording seriously again. Secondly, I remember the conversations with Rex as Paris 1919 was about to released. The smirks and sniggers were many as the ruse to release Digital Singles under a different pseudonym was planned. What gobsmacked me was what a fantastic job they made of the cover. It went on from there with continued single releases in different genres under different names.



From there on in those singles took on a life of their own. The Big Stir label artists got involved as did other labels. Having recorded three or four covers, the band revisited their archive, discovering songs that they had never finished due to them supposedly not fitting The Armoires' template and then new songs were added. The secret continued and the band decided to reveal that all these way out singles were them by releasing an album on April 1st collating their adventures. I was initially a bit concerned, because I had heard all these as individual singles. The thought of an album didn't necessarily fill me with glee. I thought all of this stuff has already been released. 

It was only listening to the album complete that I realised how wrong I was. The result is unbelievably great. This is a proper album, a revelation. It threads together wonderfully and reveals what a cracking band The Armoires are. This album will be deservedly played for years to come. I deliberately held back my review because I felt a bit too close to it. I wanted to see other opinions and thankfully my thoughts have been endorsed by the wonderful reviews that Incognito is getting. Not only is it a splendid album that is packed with variety, it is also a rare thing. An album that you listen to from start to finish and who would have thought that from a collection of singles. 



The cover of John Cale's Paris 1919 remains my favourite here. Not because it was the thing that started this off, but because it is an absolute joy of a song. So much is packed into its nigh on four minutes. It sets you off for the joy that is to follow. The wondrous Psych Pop of I Say We Take Off And Nuke The Site From Orbit, the doggone Country ache of Shame And Bourbon and the wonderfully inventive confusing brilliance of Ghost Of Fall Singer In Depopulated Griefscape. All very different, all equally great.

Christina goes all Seekers on Magenta Moon and Rex leads on an ace cover of one of my favourite summer songs, Yellow River and Andy Gibb's Words And Music comes over all Abba. Awkward City Limits goes all 80's with a twist of Reggae bursting to escape. The other song that I have to mention is the band's version of The Night I Heard A Scream for the Futureman Records 20/20 Tribute album. Initially released as a single for Halloween, it was an inspired and unusual choice for that album.

Incognito reveals what a special band The Armoires are. They are like few other acts on Big Stir or anywhere else. More than anything else, the album reveals what a varied roster that the label has. But more importantly, how wrong we were to sit The Armoires in a corner. 



You can listen to and buy the album here and here.


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Sunday, 11 April 2021

So Guitar Pop Rock Is Dead Eh?

 


Amazingly, I Don't Hear A Single reaches the five year mark in July and has reached the 600,000 hit mark. This isn't self celebratory nepotism, but an answer to those who constantly denigrate the genre.
This number is wholly due to the quality of the new music that is around. It also shows that New Music does interest and enthuse people.

Lockdown has helped the growth. These last three months have seen record numbers visiting IDHAS. Incidentally, since Brexit, the European following has grown and grown, particularly in France. There seems less and less Blogs covering new music in this genre than five years ago and this has been a tough 12 months for Musicians.

So my request, as always, is if you like it, please buy it. I purposely do not have Spotify or Apple Music, simply because it gives little benefit to musicians, financially or promotion wise. Physical product sales may still be in decline, so please remember that artists still get the bulk of the money when you buy a download. Likes do not pay bills or go towards funding their next release.


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Kool Kat Musik Weekly New Release Update



Welcome to the Kool Kat Weekly New Release Update. Kool Kat are distributed in the UK and Europe by I Don't Hear A Single as part of our aim to keep CDs available and affordable. The Kool Kat Links with each album take you to further details on each release..

Please place all UK and European orders by following the details here. Links to Kool Kat's Entire Stock can be found here. Without further ado, here are seven new additions to Kool Kat Musik this Week.


The Album Show - Selections From “Cosmo’s Factory” (and more) (Big Radio Records Australia) 2020      $15




After four digital-only releases and performance from various livestreams by the band, here’s the first CD released by The Album Show!  The Album Show (James Van Cooper - lead guitar, vocals, Sophie Jones - rhythm guitar, vocals, Charlie Lee - bass, vocals, and Michael Carpenter - drums, vocals) take on 7 songs from that iconic album, plus a few extra CCR classics that flesh out the record.  Released in July of 1970, “Cosmo’s Factory” was the fifth studio album by Creedence Clearwater Revival. It’s evident the band had a lot of fun doing this as the versions, while pretty much staying true to the originals, are spirited and delivered by four musicians of the highest quality.    


Kool Kat Link


Apple Music Link


Badfinger - No Matter What: Revisiting The Hits (Cleopatra Records 2021)      $15




An eclectic line-up of special guest superstars join Joey Molland's Badfinger to create a full-length album of unique twists on the band's all-time favorite hits!  Includes performances by Matthew Sweet, Todd Rundgren, Rick Wakeman, The Legendary Pink Dots, Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson, Rick Springfield, Terry Reid, Mark Stein (Vanilla Fudge), Sonny Landreth, Albert Lee and Carl Giammarese (The Buckingham)!  


Kool Kat Link


Bandcamp Link


Michael Carpenter and The Banks Brothers - Introducing…  (Big Radio Records Australia) 2021  $15





Longtime fans of Michael Carpenter know that throughout his career, he has worn many hats (solo artist, songwriter for others, producer et al), but here we see him donning a cowboy hat for this country/honky tonk collaboration with The Banks brothers!  The album's twelve tracks move along at a fine pace and you can hear in the voices of all three, who share singing duties. This is a gift to anyone who wants to have their spirits raised.


Kool Kat Link


Bandcamp Link

 

Jon Flynn - Citrus (Kool Kat Musik 2021)      $14




NEW RELEASE ON THE KOOL KAT MUSIK LABEL AVAILABLE APRIL 16 – ACCEPTING ORDERS NOW!! While Jon Flynn’s group Diamond Hands prepare their fourth record that’s due for release later this year, “Citrus”, John’s solo debut, has arrived (Joel Wall, Jon’s bandmate, also has a solo outing coming soon on Kool Kat)!  

While Diamond Hands records have a decidedly 60’s bent to them, the twelve songs on “Citrus” have an 80’s/90’s laid-back Brit Pop vibe that, despite relatively sparse instrumental backing (keyboards, bass and shimmering guitars), still sounds remarkably lush.   


Kool Kat Link


Bandcamp Link


Various Artists  - Big Stir Singles: The Ninth Wave (Big Stir Records 2021      $12




“Big Stir Singles: The Ninth Wave” continues the documentation of the label’s pandemic-era releases by presenting all of the A and B sides released digitally August 28-October 3, 2020, from artists on the global pop rock scene.  The CD features 23 tracks (many of them exclusive) and liner notes from Mike Lidskin of Woody Radio. The CD continues BSR's commitment to giving a physical media home to the immediate, timely, or between-albums dispatches from vital artists in the UK. Pop Rock is alive and well and in very safe hands. 


Kool Kat Link


Bandcamp Link


Rebel Rousers – The Best Of The Rebels Vol. 1 (Raving Pop Blast Records UK) 2020      $17




“Rebel Rousers” was conceived and designed with the “Pebbles” and “Nuggets” series of albums in mind, albums that became popular in the 80’s, finding rare and unknown bands from the 60’s who all made records for small labels and never went onto find mainstream success, often leaving behind great pop music, that only a handful of people ever got to hear.  Since then countless bands all over the world have been inspired by these recordings that were re-packaged and issued as compilations and the term Garage Rock or Garage Punk was born. All the (very Medway-inspired) tracks here are exclusive or previously unreleased.


Kool Kat Link


Bandcamp Link


Strange Creatures – The Best Of The Rebels Vol. 2 (Raving Pop Blast Records 2021)      $17




This is the second in the 'Rebels' compilation album series. A collection of bands, all different, but all with the true spirit of rock and roll racing through their veins.  And, like “Rebel Rouser”, all of the songs present here are exclusive or previously unreleased.  This is a fantastic collection of bands some old, some new, playing great songs  and doing it for a great cause. Profits raised from the sale of this CD will be donated to the R.S.P.C.A.


Kool Kat Link


Bandcamp Link



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Friday, 9 April 2021

Iain Hornal - Fly Away Home

 

It seems like only yesterday that I was singing the praises of Iain Hornal's debut album, The Game Begins With The Lights Out, so I was a bit gobsmacked to discover that it was four years back. You can read the IDHAS Review here and that debut still sounds great.

There were quite a few guests on that album and I mentioned that Hornal would be just as good without them and that gets proven here. Working essentially with Jo Webb, his fellow touring bandmate in Jeff Lynne's ELO and Paul Stewart on drums, this was a lockdown album. But what is most admirable is that it sounds like a studio album despite all involved being in different places.



That enhances the enjoyment and affect because Pop Rock should be big sounding and the past 12 months or so hasn't seen too much melodic pop because of this. Iain Hornal is also in 10CC, being Eric Stewart if you like. On the quieter numbers here, he does have more than a touch of Stewart. 

It'll be no surprise then to hear that Fly Away Home, as an album, occupies the sweet spot between 10CC and ELO. There are some real hooks present that demand the choruses be sang along with. Try A Little Love, for instance, starts all Paul Carrack moodiness only to burst into the catchiest chorus imaginable. You can't get the thing out of your head. 



Fly Away Home has another killer chorus and Everybody Else is wonderful McCartney Pop, very Graham Gouldman-ish with a touch of Philly. How Much It Means is spot on Soft Rock and Find A Home is a beautifully constructed, almost west coast, piano ballad. There's also a co write with Gouldman on I Can't Tell You.

The stand out here though is the opening Wake Me Up, Drop Me Out, a song that contains everything that you would ever need. My one slight criticism is the running order. Hornal does fast or slow equally well, but the album does seem to have too many of the slower songs at the back end of the album. 

It almost becomes a Side Chirpy and Side Cry. The quality of the songs is fantastic, it is just the sequencing that seems a bit out. I really can't recommend this second (definitely NOT saying Sophomore!) album more highly.



You can listen to and buy the album here.


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Thursday, 8 April 2021

Ken Sharp - Miniatures

 

Miniatures is Ken Sharp's lockdown album. The album's title explains the concept, 32 songs in 41 minutes and largely acoustic. It is a marked departure from previous Sharp offerings which have been a bit common denominator Power Pop by numbers.

Quite a few of these songs have a gentle Psych Pop, even Baroque feel and that works really well. There are about a dozen songs here that are great and would be even better in expanded form. The front six in particular are splendid, but as soon as you get into them they are over and that's the problem really.



An album like this will potentially suffer from that problem. These are sketches and they don't really work in quantity. I love the Album Format and I am a great defender of it, but this is not the answer. Plus, it looks as though you've just thrown your demos out. 

It can look like you couldn't finish the songs or they end too early or never begin. Towards the end of Miniatures you are thoroughly bored. You definitely wouldn't play it more than once, which means you may not buy it at all. By the end, the ideas have run out and song titles include Girls' names that are easy to rhyme.



It is a real shame really, because a dozen of these songs expanded would make a fine and very different Ken Sharp album that would be highly listenable and heavily lauded. I've not looked at other reviews, so I'm not sure if I'm alone in these thoughts, but they are a honest appraisal of an album that I'd like to like, but all seems a bit pointless. 

The worst thing that you can call an album is boring and this is just that. I admire Sharp for taking chances, but this doesn't seem to work in any way. A band like The Armoires used the lockdown to come up with something hugely creative and wonderful. That should be the template.


/p>


You can listen to and buy the album here.


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Ex Norwegian And Friends - Sing Jimmy Campbell

 


Many of you know of my aversion to most Tribute Albums. For most subjects, I just think what's the point? So let's get this straight, this album stands up in its own right. To be honest, most people won't have heard one Jimmy Campbell song, Those that have will be delighted with both the faithful versions and the alternative arrangements. The production, as with all Ex Norwegian albums, is absolutely spot on and brings a slightly more modern feel to the gems.

The musical world is littered with lost talents and Jimmy Campbell is the classic example of such. A magnificent songwriter, lauded by his peers, capable of extraordinary songs with  a depth that always managed a chorus hook. Privately, he shunned promotion and battled with shyness and vulnerability. His music sold little despite being streets ahead of many of his competitors. He also hated the music business with a passion.



So for an artist who was so comfortable moving between Pop Rock and Psych Pop, it seems more than fitting that a similarly modern example of such should take this offering on and who better than Ex Norwegian. The band could easily do this alone, but the inspired idea of adding a different lead singer to each song offers even more variety and impact. It is no surprise that one of the finest albums of all time, Rockin' Horse's Yes It Is, provides 5 of these 14 songs. 

That Billy Kinsley and Jimmy Campbell collaboration always promised gold dust and it delivered. The other nine songs divide easily into the Pop love songs and the storming Psych Pop. Whilst a lot of attention will rightly focus on the Yes It Is title track, The Poppermost's Joe Kane does a fantastic version of it, this is just an example of how commercial Campbell could be. It is possibly his most accessible song, although Don't You Ever Think I Cry comes very close. 



John Ford selects the poptastic Missing Kissing Me, a great if slightly unexpected choice and Edward Rogers goes for the splendid Psych Pop of You'll Break My Heart In Two. Psych Pop can be joyous as proven by The Elms Estate on Stayed Out Late Last Night. But the real masterpiece is Half Baked, my favourite Jimmy Campbell song and Rhys Marsh brings an outstanding version. Our very own Kevin Robertson adds a top notch Loving You Is All I Do. Any of these 14 songs is worthy of mention, but I'll close with two of the more unusual versions.

Coke Belda's Countrified take on Forever Grateful and John Howard very nearly steals the show with a simply stunning Baby Walk Out With Your Darling Man, so daringly beautiful. Choosing three songs to embed is really difficult, so I suggest that you go to Bandcamp and listen to the whole thing and then buy it. The only glaring omission here is Michaelangelo, perhaps Ex Norwegian can offer their version of it in future times Roger! This album may very well be the best thing that I've heard this year, it sounds like a new album.



You can listen to and buy the album here and also buy it here.


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Kool Kat Musik Weekly New Release Update



Welcome to the Kool Kat Weekly New Release Update. Kool Kat are distributed in the UK and Europe by I Don't Hear A Single as part of our aim to keep CDs available and affordable. The Kool Kat Links with each album take you to further details on each release..

Please place all UK and European orders by following the details here. Links to Kool Kat's Entire Stock can be found here. Without further ado, here are seven new additions to Kool Kat Musik this Week.

Apologies for the slight delay this week. Normal service is now resumed.


The Armoires - Incognito (Big Stir Records 2021)      $13




Incognito”is a unique collection of the singles the band has secretly released under fictional identities over the past six months The album may be viewed as a collection of singles, an experimental but giddy pop album in its own right, or a sequential journal of a band reinventing itself for its own time and the days to come. All presented in a terrific, well-designed package!


Kool Kat Link


Bandcamp Link


Coke Belda - 5: A Tribute To The Bee Gees Vol. 2 (Kool Kat Musik  2021)      $15




NEW RELEASE ON THE KOOL KAT MUSIK LABEL.  The follow up to his critically acclaimed first Bee Gees tribute effort – “3G’s”- that once again serves as a reminder of how great the brothers Gibb were as songwriters!  Coke’s arranging skills, combined with his sincere, interpretive vocals, assure a lovely listening experience for all.


Kool Kat Link


Bandcamp Link


Billy Bremner’s Rockfiles - Waiting For A Following Wind (Ball & Chain Records Sweden 2021)  $17




The follow up to “Billy Bremner For President” has just arrived and like its predecessor, it is another glowing tribute to Billy’s days playing alongside Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds in Rockpile.  Songs either written by Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds, songs that the band featured in their live shows and songs that Billy played on as a session guitarist. Billy and the band have autographed the front cover of each CD!


Kool Kat Link


Bandcamp Link

 

Ex Norwegian & Friends- Sing Jimmy Campbell (Beyond Before Records  2021)      $12




An inspired and eclectic tribute to the songs of Liverpool's Jimmy Campbell from Ex Norwegian. Featuring an array of guest artists to help create these amazing renditions of some of Jimmy's best  work. Campbell should be a name recognized alongside the greatest poets and songwriters to ever emerge from England. Gone now but never forgotten, Jimmy's magic continues to shine around the globe as more and more musicians pick up on his often-vulnerable confessions. It isn't often that a release is so close to my heart. Jimmy Campbell is one of the great lost songwriters, a musician who could move from pop to psych with ease.  Speaking of moving from Pop to Psych, Ex Norwegian are a band who do that also.  Roger Houdaille is a massive fan of Jimmy's, so his idea to have his band collaborate with 14 artists from around the world to cover the great man's songs made my eyes light up.  When you listen to these songs/interpretations, it will be as though you’re hearing them for the first time, and for many, it will be.”


Kool Kat Link


Bandcamp Link


Kaleidoscope & Fairfield Parlour - Sky Children :The Best Of (Beyond Before Records 2021) CD+DVD      $20




First US compilation for this much beloved, yet often overlooked, UK group capturing highlights from their entire recorded legacy. Emerging from the British 1967 psychedelic scene, Kaleidoscope released two fine albums (“Tangerine Dream”, “Faintly Blowing”) and several non-LP singles with Fontana before switching to Vertigo and evolving into the more folkier and progressive Fairfield Parlour in 1970.  This newly remastered collection is a wonderful homage to one of the more interesting UK psychedelic bands.


Kool Kat Link


You Tube


Lolas - All The Potion In The World (You Are The Cosmos Records 2021)      $22




VINYL-ONLY RELEASE!!  “When Tim Boykin formed the Lolas in 1998, the Birmingham, AL based singer songwriter and guitarist knew exactly what direction he wanted the band to travel in.  Although the band has encountered a run of personnel changes over the years, Tim has retained the role of ringleader and remained remarkably true to his initial vision.  Considering the wealth of great songs they a produce it must have been quite a challenge picking what goodies to include on this eagerly-awaited sonic summary.  Power Pop at its very best.


Kool Kat Link


Bandcamp Link


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