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Tuesday 31 May 2022

Superchunk - Wild Loneliness


I absolutely adore Superchunk, not just for their own music, but also for the impact that their Merge Records label has made on the Indie Scene. It seems fitting that the final post in this 31 Reviews In May is dedicated to them.

This is their 12th album in a three decade career and they haven't half had some sonic adventures. Starting as Indie Alt Rock with a Punk Swagger, No Pocky For Kitty is an album that I turn to far too regularly for someone who's supposed to be about the new. 

The band's Pop sensibilities reached out further and further through the following years bringing the Pop Rock magnificence of Indoor Living and Here's To Shutting Up, the latter pitching them nearer to both Teenage Fanclub and R.E.M.

Then there is their last album, What A Time To Be Alive, as angry an album as those beloved days. Wild Loneliness is a return to Pop Rock and could be their most accessible album yet. A wonderful sound palette matches Mac McCaughan's lyrical strength with his chorus strength.

An orchestral like arrangement on This Night and a Brass accompaniment on Highly Suspect may reveal the band's more mellow attitude to what they do. but the Pop is still plentiful. Refracting even hints at a sort of Psych Power Pop.

Connection is very modern day TFC, whilst there is a great Sax lounge break on the title track. On The Floor is a reminder of those great 90s Melodic Pop showstoppers, yet the c;oser If You're Not Dark reeks of Brit Pop.

McCaughan's almost geek like vocal is ideally suited to the material. With all this poptasticness on show, only Superchunk would begin the album with something as slow as City Of The Dead and what a chorus that song has. There is something here for everyone. Absolutely Wonderful!

You can listen to and buy the album here.


Monday 30 May 2022

Emperor Penguin - Sunday Carvery


Emperor Penguin have a knack of encompassing the history of Pop Rock. Undeniably aided by all four able to take Vocals, they excel across all ages. The 60s of The Move and The Kinks, The 70s of the great Pop Rock album bands and the UK New Wave and the 90s Not Lame days.

Yet they aren't a retro band, everything sounds as up to date and in their quest for variety they never forget that the genre is about melody and particularly the chorus. Too many who go for variety sound unfashionably American, there is no denying that Emperor Penguin are Brit.

On The Motorway underlines this versatility. It is like the Bonzos doing Psych Pop, twists and turns and knowing references abound. How I Won The War is ace mid 60s Jangle Pop whilst The Magic Pop is very Sgt. Pepperish. 

The Ballad Of Billy Farthing is like McCartney leading Lindisfarne., yet Spuknik Sweetheart is splendid UK New Wave 1979. The Shallows is spookily great, Baroque at times, Lightning Seeds in other moments.

You Don't Know What You're Missing could be from a 60s Kitchen Sink film, but still sounds a bit Chris Difford. The vocal on Extraordinary Years could give 80s Duran Duran a run for their money., Love Is The Worst is fine Power Pop and A Gun And A Badge is a cross between The Brothers Steve and The Motors.

There really is great depth across these 13 songs. Aided by a big production, Sunday Carvery is a cracking listen. My only quibble is the drum sound. There is some fantastic drumming, but the sound is a little strange and slightly off putting. That is a minor point though on such a fabulous album.

You can listen to and buy the album here.


Sunday 29 May 2022

The Sun Sawed In 1/2 - Triptych (2CD)

The adventurous Triple project of releases from the splendid The Sun Sawed In 1/2 have been a highlight of my listening activity. Noted as three EPs, all should be more aptly described as mini albums. Now they are combined and released as a 2 CD set with three previously unreleased Bonus Tracks from the sessions.

I've already reviewed the second and third releases. Sirens is here and Before The Fall is here. It doesn't make sense to go over old ground, so I thought I'd tell you why I love the band so much and cover the Beaches In Bali release and of course the three bonus tracks.

Over three decades, the St. Louis Missouri outfit have released eight full length albums as well as the material on Triptych. Starting out as the epitome of a classic Pop Rock group surrounded by similar peers in the 90s, they were the ideal example of a Not Lame label act. 

What they have done in more recent times is embrace Modern Pop, working with outside musicians and collaborators from all around the world. Quite a few have tried this direction, Weezer most notably, mostly dismally. It has either been too out of kilter, too forced or just suffering from awful patched together songs.

The Sun Sawed In 1/2 are the only band to master this shift. Partly, because they've never lost sight of their roots and the ability to shift moods and directions in individual songs. It has allowed an appreciation outside the normal (Power Pop) boundaries and different genre fans to meet in the middle.

The opener in this trio, Beaches In Bali contains five very different songs, all linked by wonderful arrangements and melody. The title track here reminds me a lot of City Boy around the time of Dinner At The Ritz. A Beach Boys chorus with a Baroque Pop backing.

Soft Away is almost Easy listening, the sort of thing that would grace a 70s Pop Rock album and even that changes. This time into a funk jazz ending. Dear Always is a lighters out affair, yet Dried Cherry Blossoms is much pacier, all handclaps and chirpiness.

The Good King Of The Summer is the stand out is essentially something that would fit into the Prefab Sprout catalogue, but as with any The Sun Sawed In 1/2 song there are additions. This time there is Brass and a wonderful harmonic end.

The three additional tracks on the double CD don't let the standards drop. Games is a gentler affair but still allows some big vocal harmonies. If Only I Had You is again reminiscent of 70s Pop Rock, but easily be a Broadway Show song. Starling is the real gem, a song that mixes the best of what this band can do, vocal interplay, changes in tempo and a sneaky Guitar solo.

Hopefully whilst reading this, you are left with the impression that this lot are a special band. Extraordinarily modern whilst still allowing themselves to be dated. Vocally, few can touch the arrangements and the direction changes are wonderful. I don't hear a band as inventive that is still around.

You can by the 2 CD set from Kool Kat. The three separate releases are still available here, where you can listen to 17 of the 20 songs in full.


Saturday 28 May 2022

Jonny Weathers - Dusted Radio


I am a long time fan of Jonny Weathers and I've been waiting for this for quite a while. It has finally been released to the world and so now is the time to tell you about it. With guest appearances from Paul Cook and Phil Collen, this an album to rock your socks off.

The album also coincides with the 31 Reviews In May coming to a close. I'd been listening to so much great melodic guitar pop this month that I wanted to include something with a fair bit of get up and go in it. Dusted Radio is that album, it will blow the cobwebs away and some.

Weathers is a fantastic guitarist that has always seemed to prefer looseness. Well the change here is that there is no slack here. If what went before was Indie Rock, then this is full blown blast out Rock. It is loud and produced in a way to be loud, yet it never forgets the song, even a bit of plank spanking is allowed.

This is a much growlier Weathers vocal. At times, the album gets close to large venue Rock, a real nod to the late 80s. Time Won't Tell Me is closest to Weather's past, a great Pop Rock with a great direction change into a much calmer phase on a couple of occasions.

Radio City is an awesome opener, Cook's drumming is simply awesome. Opium Fireworks is just gripping, fist shaking joy. Indian Rope Tricks starts all INXS before breaking out. How Long Until Its Gone sounds like big Rock from 1971 with an ace riff that is almost Blues Rock.

Soulshine is probably the standout, splendidly addictive, a little bit AOR with a weeping riff. The album caught me by surprise at first, I just didn't expect something so immaculately produced. It's true to say I don't listen too often to Rock these days, Dusted Radio makes me feel I should. The album doesn't come up for air across the 33 minutes. Thankfully!

You can listen to and buy the album here.


Whelligan - In The Mean Meantime


The intention was to review the Whelligan album not long after release, having done the release info here. But that post was so popular, being in the ten favourite posts on IDHAS until last week, that it made sense to hold back for a while.

Co-produced by long time I Don't Hear A Single favourite Nick Frater, In The Mean Meantime calls at every point of my own music favourites. Gentle Pastoral Psych Pop mixed with a Melodic Indie Guitar Pop that is not a million miles from Stephen Duffy. 

This has been the world I've largely fell back on over the past three and a half decades. I do move around a bit, but this is the Don default. A gentleness that is interrupted by big hooks and a harmonic beauty that takes you into the world of great Pop and is almost dream like.

For instance, the magnificent Anyone Who Never Had A Heart is like Adam Faith doing Psych Pop with arrangements by Burt Bacharach. Yet Robot sounds like early Gabriel Genesis and  Believe In That is 80s Indie Pop, reminiscent of an extra cheerful Robyn Hitchcock.

Reset The Clock has a wonderful country twang as the main riff in what is essentially 60s UK Beat and Beyond The Mean Meantime is a fine slice of Prog. In Our Name emphasises the lyrical thoughts across a lot of the album. There is a real "How did it come to this" weariness that could only come from a child of the North. The arrangement here is particularly wonderful.

Rabid Hole goes all BBC Workshop in vibe, with a lyrical cheerfulness accompanying a mindful lyric. The party Dance should be on any album by The Lilac Time that you would care to choose. That is the wonder of this album, it is never ever gonna loose its grasp of melody.

Jamie Whelligan is never gonna raise his voice, mind you as an Everton supporter, he is well entitled too. He's gonna get his point across with charming splendidly arranged addictive music. Thank goodness, because too few can make a fully joined up album as this.

You can listen to and buy the album here. It is available on Vinyl, CD or as a download.


Thursday 26 May 2022

IDHAS Ten Songs Mix 28

Approaching 37 minutes of Guitar Poptasticness on this week's IDHAS 10 Song Mix. So great we are even making up words to describe the wonder of it all. The Mixcloud link is below and at the foot of the page is the Mixcloud Player which takes you directly to the music. 

Here is the playlist of the ten songs this week :

01 Amoeba Teen - King Of The Cut

02 Bedroom Eyes - The Dark Between The Stars

03 Kiwi jr. - Night Vision

04 El Camino Acid - Somebody Like You

05 The Great Speckled Fritillary - Silver Rocket

06 Supercrush - Trophy

07 David West - The Poet Of My Dreams

08 The Mighty Observer - Again

09 Wunderkap - My Dear

10 Man Behind Tree - Japanese Mopeds

IDHAS Ten Songs Mix 28


Amoeba Teen - Amoeba Teen

Apart from getting so frustrated at how regional the UK music scene has become, one of the things that gets my goat most is how these isles are so dismissive about Pop Rock. Call it Melodic Pop, Power Pop, Guitar Pop or whatever you wish and it still gets looked upon as outdated nothingness by potential listeners who gloat about how great bands are with much less talent.

Miserable mediocre songs seem much more easier to write than something that will uplift you, lighten your day and dare you not to singalong. Just what exactly is wrong with being happy? If Amoeba Teen came from the USA, they would be treated as the second coming, but they don't they come from Stourbridge.

2019's Medium Wave was a fine album, but this follow up is in a different league altogether, it is simply magnificent. Reminiscent of those great UK Pop Rock albums from the second half of the 70s, it comes from the have a good time all the time school of music.

Barlight Crawl is so Glam Rock that it wears flares and Mainstream may be the best song that Chinn and Chapman didn't write. It reminds me a lot of Ulysses. There are about five songs in one, chopping and changing direction at will.

Melody Told You is in Jellyfish territory. California Pop blasts out. January has a steel guitar twang to die for, matched only by a killer chorus, a bit in line with a band like Caper Clowns. Putting The Kids Through College could be prime time Squeeze.

You can imagine Mainstream on ITV's Supersonic, it is a little How Do You era 10CC at times. Just Not That Into You is classic New Wave Power Pop. You have all this and you have not yet heard about the closer, King Of The Cut.

The song has everything in its five and a half minutes, it is probably Amoeba Teen's Brit Pop anthem and knocks spots of most what was around at the time. Chiming Guitars adorn lyrical depth, cigarette lighters at the ready or maybe Vape Pens on maximum setting. It is an amazing listen.

I Don't Hear A Single twists left and right, but at its centre is Pop Rock. I like to think that we know what we are talking about and the success of the place has been about knowing its audience. So when I say that this is the best Pop Rock album that I've heard in years, you hopefully know it really is something special.

You can listen to and buy the album here.


Wednesday 25 May 2022

El Camino Acid - Sunset Motel


The second album from the Columbus Ohio quartet is quite a ride. At its heart is a loose sleazy rock out. A noisy riff laden, big sounding, monster of a listen. The sort of album that you used to hear, gripping in its shake yer fist attention grabbing.

This Big Rock is enhanced by a slurred drawl of a vocal that enhances an album caught somewhere between Garage Rock and The Bad Crowes. Get Along is the best example with its second half of the eighties big stage rock that didn't know if it wanted to melt your face or be The Rolling Stones.

There are other examples, mainly front loaded, such as Chang The Banker and Mirror Mirror especially. But half way through something changes. Fight For it is an unsuspected ballad and Somebody Like You is great Pop Rock built around a big riff and a catch all chorus.

Why So Shy could be The Replacements, Near Or Far is a croon with a big 80s chorus. Start Again is 60s Beat and Don't Wanna Lose You could be something from the American Graffiti soundtrack. Hold You In is a crackerjack of a song, wonderfully loose.

Yet there is still time for a massive sounding headbanger in Can't Afford To Be Like This. The album may give the impression of being a bit schizophrenic, but that is probably down to the track ortder. It would have felt less so with more of a mix and match of styles.

Normally, I would edge towards the poppier stuff, but the noisy dirty songs are the things that gripped me most. So few do this sort of thing now and it is done wonderfully well here. Sunset Motel is a real smasher of a listen, even if I do feel like I need to take a shower after a listen.

You can listen to and buy the album here.


Bedroom Eyes - Sisyphus Rock


The previous two Bedroom Eyes albums have been fine listens, but neither would prepare you for this third offering. Jonas Jonsson's previous work was more restrained and atmospheric. This is raucous in comparison, very much a more livelier affair.

Sisyphus Rock is full blown melodic Indie Guitar Pop. A little too loose for Power Pop, but with a lot of the hallmarks of that genre, big riffs, killer choruses and foot tapping joy. Jonsson's voice is wonderfully gentle, a little bit folky, a little bit Tim Booth, a little bit Ian Broudie.

Indeed, a lot of the arrangements are Lightning Seeds reminiscent, as is the pace and memorable chorus led songs. Only One Of Those Things nods towards adventures past, the other songs are much livelier and incredibly upbeat.

The Dark Between The Stars could be a stand alone single that two decades ago would have graced any Top 10. There's a lot present in the close on five minutes, but the riff holds everything together with an almost Al Stewart vocal.

Streaming My Consciousness could be a cheered up Mew and Sisyfuzz quickens the pace considerable and provides yet another top notch chorus and Store Bla is a much more modern beast that throws the kitchen sink at the big hooks present.

There's even a song about Paul Westerberg, but the best is saved until last. You'll have heard Here Comes Godot on the recent IDHAS10 Song Mix. It is a fantastic Power Pop song that underlines what a blast that genre is when done right. Absolutely Highly Recommended Swedish excellence!

You can listen to and buy the album here.


Monday 23 May 2022

Squiggles - Look What We Have Done EP


Squiggles is the project of The Spook School Drummer Niall McCamley and what a joyous fun packed ride this EP is. The sound of new Glasgow? Maybe. McCamley is joined by members of Randolph's Leap and Life Model to provide something for the Summer Walkman.

 I've seen the EP described as Lo Fi, it certainly more Fi than that. Shall we say Medium Fi? It promises much in a world that is currently bereft of great Pop. Great tunes, singalong choruses and hook after hook after hook.

There are hints of The Rezillos, the joy of B52s and the melodic pop central to Glasgow's musical history. The backing vocals sound like they are sung by the female element of The Human League. You may have heard We Only Came Here For Heart on a recent IDHAS 10 Song Mix. The other three songs are every bit as good.

This Is A Wake Up Call could be Terry Hall on the verse and Sparks on the chorus. Everything You Learned To Love You is so B52s that it could be them. Is Your Heart In The Right Place is built around a fine Power Pop Riff.

Then there is the magnificent aforementioned We Only Came Here For Your Heart. Very Glasgow 80s with its twee jangle and then a crunching anthemic chorus and a Classic Rock closing solo. These four songs are as much fun you can have when keeping your clothes on.

The EP is £1 to download or a fiver for a wonderful hand crafted CD, so what have you got to lose? I really really hope that there is something full length to follow this. I was in a bit of a pissed off mood today with missing IPO. This offering has cheered me up no end. It is cheaper than an anti-depressant and works far quicker.

You can listen to and buy the EP here.


Keegan - Daylight Robbery


Keegan are based in Cologne, although their lead singer, Ian Maxwell lives in Northern Ireland. The quartet offer up their sixth album and it is really rather good. It sounds a bit more Indie Melodic Rock than previous offerings, less Power Pop.

I'm reminded a lot of the UK New Wave of the late 70s, although there are lots in common with the Indie Bands that came through in the early 80s, particularly The Alarm, there are heavy ventures into 80s American AOR and even Brit Pop.

The New Wave is particularly excellent. Say It Sweet, which is great Power Pop and On Hold are great examples. Too Shy is a crackerjack of a song, a little more American sounding, but again great New Wave. How The Story Goes even sounds very UK Mr Big like.

If I Go Silent kicks off right in Cheap Trick territory before heading into great AOR. Northern Lights has a killer anthemic chorus, a little Glam in places. Out Of Control is a massive riff-a-thon with a Daltrey-esque vocal. It is a real get up and go affair.

You can imagine Mexico on some 80s Teen Movie and Keegan has far more in common with those great UK Pop Rock bands from the second half of the 70s. Daylight is beautifully produced and that just enhances the listen.

There are some great Riffs here and fine arrangements to be heard. It isn't that the material is that original, but so few are able to manage such a grown up album. A proper album with thought going into track order and material is something that most bands seem to be unable to manage these days. This is a top notch listen, thoroughly enjoyable.

You can listen to and buy the album here.


Sunday 22 May 2022

Anton Barbeau - Power Pop!!!


You never quite know what direction Anton Barbeau is going to take. It is part of the enjoyment, because he is never ever less interesting. I also think, in a similar way to Ian Hunter, people either like his vocals or don't. It has never held either back.

Power Pop is one of Barbeau's most accessible albums of recent times. The songs ring out with melody. It contains some fine songwriting and great choruses. I don't think its Power Pop, but is is a splendid Pop album, lyrically strong with memorable hooks.

The Sound is wonderful Psych, maybe even Psych that you can dance to and The Drugs even ventures into McCartney Pop. Free is really funky and maybe a bit Kraftwerk. Running On The Edge Of The Night could easily be on the Miami Vice soundtrack. It is very very 80s.

Whisper In The Wind sounds like Vince Clark is playing on it and Rain Rain has a real New Romantic Synth duo vibe. Valerie's Waiting is a super offering, built around a big synth riff, it is melancholic and mesmerising.

The title track is the best song on show, a song that is out of kilter on what is a very synth led album. That may disappoint fans of Barbeau's that like him plugging in his guitar. But the man has never stood still and this is the first Julian Cope Tribute that I've heard as a song. It is a great guitar solo too.

I'm not that fond of the short interludes on the album, they tend to confuse rather than break the album up. I am however a fan of the additional vocals from Rosie Abbott that add lots to what is a really inventive affair.

You can listen to and buy the album here.


The Great Speckled Fritillary - Her Majesty's Secret Circus, Vol. 1


Wow! The Great Speckled Fritillary have gone a bit "Use Your Illusion" by releasing two albums on the same day. However the two albums contain no Guns n Roses ridiculousness, but describing where the Vancouver quartet have their feet planted is a bit more tricky.

There is a real Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band vibe in their attitude, but these are not comedy songs, it is just that genre wise the album is here there and everywhere. Keeper Of The People could be The Tubes, yet Fat Little Brain could be Showaddywaddy.

Tax Murderer is very Oingo Bongo. Belladonna starts all plank spanking rock and turns into great showtime 70s Pop Rock, even a little bit Glam Rock. Antient AE goes all big sounding Anthemic Rock with a 60s Beat though.

Baby Star could be a Boomtown Rats anthem. Hammer And Bow ventures into Prog but is still anthemic. Look Away is an absolute Rock Out Closer. Silver Rocket is a potential hit single, fantastic Pop Rock.

At times, I am reminded of Foxy Shazam when they were good, but at other times they could be Show songs. One thing is certain is that this lot can play and there are ace blasts of Farfisa that just make your heart quicken.

There is a lot of Humour and tongues are firmly in cheek, but there are also some great songs on sure. There is so much here on Volume 1 that it is best that I cover Volume 2 separately in a week or two. But do listen to both. You are in for a crazy eventful ride, but it is well worth the admission.

You can buy Volume 1 here. Volume 2 is here. I'll embed a couple more songs here when they are up on Bandcamp.


The Stroppies - Levity


After two great full albums, the Melbourne quartet's third appears to document a growing up. It is an album that you thought they had in them, but I still didn't expect it to be this good. The Fi isn't Lo anymore and songs seem more fully formed or maybe more focussed.

There's less Jangle and a concentration really intelligent arrangements. This is splendid Indie Guitar Pop and the band seem enhanced by the addition of new member, Zoe Monk. This is particularly relevant with her additional vocals, contributing in a way that say Ruth Rogers does in Spygenius.

Levity is less Guided By Voices and more The Sugarplastic and boy, do they remind me of that wonderful band. The Guitar Riffs and driving Bass are as close as anyone has been to the 90s Indie legends. Songs are built on those killer riffs.

Others may compare The Stroppies to Franz Ferdinand at times, maybe even earlier XTC, but it matters not because no one is doing what they do so well. Butchering The Punchline has a splendid Accordion addition and Monk certainly seems to have added keyboards across the whole album to great effect.

Smilers Strange Politely is a fab slice of Psych Pop, hypnotic and enthralling. Tricks On Everything could be a fully plugged in version of The Bordellos, yet Figure Eights is very late 70s New Wave. The Bell even goes all Elastica.

The real stand out is the magnificent opener, The Perfect Crime, a close on five minutes meandering Feelies like joy. But all 10 songs here are an absolute pleasure to listen to because they are so different to anything around now. An essential listen that requires your full attention!

You can listen to and buy the album here.


The Mighty Observer - Under The Open Sky

Wales is buzzing at present. It has always been a far more inventive place than most of the other British Isles constituents, but lately it has been in overdrive. A host of top notch artists across a wide range of genres are admirable and more than interesting.

There are an accompanying collection of Indie labels that are not only the true definition of Indie, but have a love of both the culture and music itself. Recordings in English or Welsh languages have the same care and attention to present something that isn't the norm. This applies across the whole country, North, South and Mid. I'll shut up now or you will have me banging on about my love of Derrero.

In this case, the label is Cae Gwyn Records, a small but perfectly formed affair from Snowdonia. The Mighty Observer is the solo project of multi instrumentalist Garmon Rhys. You would think there would not be an awful lot to say about a 5 song mini album. Well there is!

It may also get more complicated for lovers of words in songs, because three of the five tracks are instrumentals. But stay where you are, because they are great and very different offerings. Talk Amongst Yourself is a lounge driven Funk thing with a great Bass line. 111 heads in a far more ambient direction, but has hints of great Psych.

The real stand out is Low Level Panic, a tune that fills its nigh on 7 minutes hypnotically. There are hints of late 60s and 70s West Coast, yet there are also undertones of Prog. It is the sort of thing that you'd probably listen to on the Harvest label.

Sandwiched in between are the two songs containing vocals and you are left wondering why out and out everyday songs are not tackled more. Again is a wonderful slice of Indie 80s Guitar Pop, very XTC in feel, although I'm not sure if Partridge or Moulding would have written it. Rhys's voice has a gentle pastoral sound that hooks you.

Paid Syllu Mewn I’r Gorwel Rhy Hir is more of a chant, melancholic yet attention grabbing. Instrumentally, I'm reminded a lot of Bill Nelson's solo adventures, particularly from the nineties onward. But Under The Open Sky is such an interesting listen in a mediocre soundalike world.

You can listen to and buy the album here.


Tuesday 17 May 2022

IDHAS Ten Songs Mix 27

It is time for another volume of the IDHAS 10 Song Mix. So, as if by magic, No 27 appears.  34 minutes of guitar led delight. The Mixcloud link is below and at the foot of the page is the Mixcloud Player which takes you directly to the music. 

Here is the playlist of the ten songs this week :

01 Extra Arms - I Don't Wanna Die

02 Bottlecap Mountain - Kool

03 The Chemistry Set - Lovely Cup Of Tea

04 Ginger Wildheart - Detachment

05 Tamar Berk - Hoping This Day Won't Kill Us

06 Vanilla - I Shall Be Re-Released

07 Bedroom Eyes - Here Comes Godot

08 Lantern By Sea - Ghost Story

09 Speedfossil - Luckiest Man In The World

10 The Toms - Witching Hour Glass Figure

IDHAS Ten Songs Mix 27


Lantern By Sea - Rim Of The World


The quartet from Cedar Hills, Utah, seem to have been lumped in with the Indie Folk gang. Comparisons are made to Manchester Orchestra which I see, soundscape wise and Mumford And Sons, which I don't see at all. Lantern By Sea are much more interesting than the insipidness of the latter.

Rim Of The World is certainly Indie, but nearer Indie Pop Rock if anything. The production is absolutely wonderful and this allows the songs to fully encompass all the directions they take. The album does sound a little 80s at time, in a good way, there is a gentleness that washes over you.

A song like Ghost Story bursts into life and could easily appear on Deacon Blue's Raintown, it is a really uplifting affair and perhaps should have opened the album. On the slower numbers, the band even sound more than a little like Elbow.

Lantern By Sea are however far too jaunty at times to be Elbow. Those pacier songs are built around a big riff and really break the album up. Eastern Sun could even be Coldplay. The Stone builds and builds on a very U2 riff.

The arrangements are massive, particularly the Celtic, Gallows which could be Prime Time Runrig. Atmospheric is the word to describe the album. As for Indie Folk, the only song close is Fisherman Song and that doesn't reach 2 minutes. A real sit back and enjoy affair. Well done all!

You can listen to the album here and at all the usual streaming places. You can buy it everywhere. You can find out more about the band here.


The Chemistry Set - Pink Felt Trip (Updated)


When I tell people that I listen to as much Psych and Prog as Pop Rock, people get all quizzical faced. They forget that I Don't Hear A Single majors on Pop Rock, so that is what you are most likely to see featured. However, whenever an album is released in either of those genres that deserves a wider audience and I think will appeal to followers, I will cover it.

The Chemistry Set are one such band. Dave McLean and Paul Lake are now well into The Chemistry Set's fourth decade and are still just as interesting as those early days. They define Psych and Europe despite their Britishness. 

A listen to the first three songs reveals both the variety and sort of trip you are in for. Pink Felt Trip is a fine slice of Space Psych, The Witch is a cover of Mark Fry's 1972 song and ventures deep into Prog. Then there's Lovely Cup Of Tea which is like Madness doing Psych Pop.

Sail Away has a real twang and but for the hippy trippy vibe, could be a Brit Pop song and Legend Of A Mind gives the impression of a gentle LSD Trip, it is like three songs in one, beautifully arranged and uses every second of the six and a half minutes.

Paint Me A Dream wipes the floor with most Psych Pop pretenders, whilst Firefly comes across as a less twee Kula Shaker. Psychotronic Man is a modern day Moody Blues. Then there is The Rubicon is New Wave UK Beat. 

Oh and the closing Self Expression Trinity is simply jaw dropping. It is over 11 minutes long and in three parts and contained within is everything that The Chemistry Set excel at. A magnificent soundscape that encompasses Psych, Pop Rock, Prog and all in between. It is a masterpiece.

Pink Felt Trip feels like the most accessible album by the band yet. There is something for everyone. Inventive, melodic and taking unexpected routes, it is an essential listen. It could only appear on Fruits De Mer and of course it does.

You can pre-order the album from Fruits de Mer here


You can now listen to and buy the download on Bandcamp here. A CD Release will be available via Bandcamp soon.


Sunday 15 May 2022

Blunt Bangs - Proper Smoker


Blunt Bangs are a trio from Athens, Georgia with a history that wouldn't necessarily suggest a great Power Pop album. Reggie Youngblood made his name in the excellent Black Kids, a band more in line with Indie Pop, whilst Smokey DeRoeck is more known in Indie Circles that edge more towards College Rock in bands such as Woods and Deep State.

Joined by Cash Carter of The Cadets on Drums, the trio don't necessarily make up a Power Trio, Proper Smoker is a little lo (er) fi for that. But they have fashioned up a superb Classic Power Pop Album that has all the touch points that make it that.

These 10 songs are incredibly melodic, lead up verses, big choruses, hook laden riffs and a short lead guitar bridge. They remind me a lot of The Speedways in many ways. However they aren't content to rest on the sub 3 minute template.

The band are even more interesting when they expand the songs. Speed Reader turns into a Guitar Fest. The wonderful, Odessa, edges into much wider genres, a little bit The Knack but much deeper than them. It is very New Wave.

The switch of Vocalists works well and adds to the variety, especially on a song like Tom Ford which is a great 2 minute say what you wanna say and get off joy. Hot Potato is a splendid closer, venturing into a much harder Indie direction. You can imagine how great Blunt Bangs are in a live setting.

But it is the Power Pop that will grab a lot of IDHAS fans most. Songs like She's Gone, Decide and Moshi Mishi will delight fans of the genre. That may real some, but there is far more here than verse verse chorus verse chorus bridge. Beautifully played, Proper Smoker is an album from a band that know what they are doing and they do it so well.

You can listen to and buy the album here.


Saturday 14 May 2022

Man Behind Tree - 3


I absolutely love what Subjangle do. Great Promoters of the new, provider of the best weekly update of the new with the essential "Beat The Delete" and a label that puts its money where its mouth is. Darrin and I get on infamously, we share similar attitudes, love music and both manage a warped sense of humour that makes us laugh out loud at each other's snarks.

Musically, we are a little different, we share a massive fondness for Melodic Pop, but where as Darrin moves more towards Dream Pop, I move towards the likes of Psych Pop. Like A Venn Diagram, the middle converging circle is where the best of both directions meet and contains the most interesting stuff you will ever hear.

Man Behind Tree inhabit that middle circle. The German quartet are a splendid listen, Guitar Pop at its very best. With all four members taking vocals, the variety is heightened, although you sense that they are happiest performing West Coast Pop and it is here that they excel most.

Japanese Mopeds, for instance, is as close to modern day Teenage Fanclub that you believe it is the Glaswegians. TFC comparisons can be incredibly lazy, but this song is worthy of that likeness. 99 takes that West Coast comparison further, with some great vocal interplay with a killer Jangle that ventures towards Psych Pop.

Can't Stop Drinking has a mesmeric riff, a little bluesy and a complete contrast to the gentle vocal. Don't Lose Grip even sounds more like late 60s Beach Pop and Moonshiner could be C86, all moody and magnificent.

Better Now You Got It is another example of the superb vocal harmonies present through out and is a Power Pop song that is desperate to get out, but never quite manages it. California Zephyr goes further and is splendid Power Pop.

Then there is the magnificent five minutes that is Picture Your Old Friends. A moody meandering joy that contains the best of what the band do. Built around a Merseybeat riff until a much darker solo takes the song into a weeping Guitar led close. Highly Recommended!

You can listen to and buy the album here.


Friday 13 May 2022

Vanilla - Sideshow


There is not enough Guitar Pop in the world. A genre that makes the bright days brighter and never seems to get the acclaim it deserves. Tacoma's Vanilla are masters of Intelligent Melodic Pop, inventive and catch all catchy.

No two songs ever sound the same, yet all contain unexpected twists and turns and centre on massive choruses. Sideshow does all this with ease, adding a wit and knowledge that makes their albums essential but never ever ordinary.

Sorry! is a classic slice of 60s Beat Pop, Rain is built around a killer Bass Riff, almost soul like but for the sweet sounding vocal. I Shall Be Re-Released contains about ten songs in one, wonderful Indie Pop, even a little bit XTC.

Lonely Was His Name could be a song from the Peaky Blinders soundtrack and The Truth Is Never True is very 60s 1964 UK Beat and End The Day is magnificently moody and melancholic, completely out of kilter with everything else on display here.

Ten Bells is a wonderful example of UK Toytown, a bit like The Flying Pickets doing Psych Pop. Many of you know how much I like Toytown, I hear no better recent example. Then there is the outstanding, It's Drunk And Raining, very Liar's Club and a perfect example of default Vanilla.

You know that you are never gonna hear a bad Vanilla album, but Sideshow is the top of the toppermost. Hooks aplenty, singalong choruses and a deft ability to be different without ever losing sight of the song. Wonderful!

You can listen to and buy the album here.


Bottlecap Mountain - Fib Factory


The fifth album from Austin Texas's Bottlecap Mountain and a follow up to the excellent Dismayland which made the IDHAS Best 100 Albums of 2019. You can read the review of that album here. There are still traces of Country / Americana, but Rock dominates the album, wonderfully so.

Stewart Gersman reveals a lyrical excellence that wasn't obvious on Dismayland. The album sounds more than a bit 70s, particularly Tsar Tsar. Captain Boothroyd has a killer riff, again very 70s Pop Rock. Zihuatenejo is like a sort of Calypso funk.

Kool is all 70s New Wave Power Pop, Tin Can Belief is big Southern Rock and Big Dumb is very U2. The Country is still present, but in a much reduced volume. Bottlecap Mountain still do that incredibly well on Loser's Blues and It's Nothing New, but Fib Factory is all about the band's Indie Rock chops.

Just My Memories sounds like a 60's Death Ballad, Gene Pitney springs to mind. Tin Can Belief has a real College Rock vibe with its big chorus. Then there's Mr Mouse. a song about a errrrrrrrrr mouse, but with lots of hidden meaning.

My main take on the album is the strength of the song writing. It is big sounding and beautifully produced, but the lyrics are loud and clear. Those and the killer riffs make this a pleasure to listen to. A band at the top of their game! Highly Recommended.

You can listen to and buy the album here.


Ginger Wildheart - The Pessimist's Companion


Ginger Wildheart may generate a lot of headlines, the most recent being the self combustion of The Wildhearts, but there has never been any doubt that the man can write and perform a song. The Pessimist's Companion had a very limited release in 2019.

The album gets an all bells and whistles reissue via Little Steven's Wicked Cool. The track order is changed and five new songs added and it remains a splendid example of how Pop Rock can be the most joyous listen when it stops trying to be like everything else.

From the country jingle jangle of Detachment to the Sheer Moodiness of Barbed Wire & Roses. I'd never describe this as being like a Jeff Lynne album, the lyrics are much deeper, the material more varied and a country tinge at times. But at times the vocal does sound more than a little bit Jeffrey.

There are also some splendid piano runs throughout, almost Bruce Hornsby in feel. But the variet is splendid. There Is A House is like a seaside all join in affair and May The Restless Find Peace is a pedal steel led hymn.

It is, however, the big chorus songs that grab you most. The man knows his way around a chorus and the likes of Why Aye (Oh You) which is a bit Gilbert O'Sullivan, Lindisfarne even. prove this. I Love You So Much I'm Leaving is is so damn catchy.

There are two covers present, an inspired version of John Cooper Clarke's I Wanna Be Yours and inessential version of Tom Rush's No Regrets. But all in all, The Pessimist's Companion is a fantastic upbeat listen that deserves to be heard by a much wider audience.

You can listen to and buy the album here.


Wednesday 11 May 2022

The Tender Years - After The Batteries Die


First of all, congratulations to The Tender Years for the Bandcamp description of their mini album. I read so many blurbs and the comparisons made, put the album on and recognise none of the comparisons. I listened to the opener, Emerald Lloyd and thought this is very IRS era R.E.M. and lo and behold that was one of the written references.

To be honest, through the rest of the album, the guitar is far more upfront and more twangy at times to keep the comparison going, but the vocal is very Stipe at times. That's not to say that the Minneapolis quartet are no one trick pony. 

Every Death gets a little bit Bluesy and The Witch Boy is a fine example of Indie Rock, very 80s in feel, think a rockier Housemartins. Nightmare Afternoon is all twang and breaks out with a great early Dire Straits like solo.

My Selfish Self is even pacier Indie Rock. The six songs here are a splendid listen. It is nice to listen to something less intense than usual. The riffs grip you and the guitar solos make you stand up and notice. A great listen. I can't wait to hear more from them in the future.

You can listen to and buy the album here.


Tamar Berk - Start At The End


Start At The End has a real challenge and that is matching its predecessor, The Restless Dreams Of Youth, an album that rightly became a 2021 breakout album and thrilled all who heard it. You can read the I Don't Hear A Single Review here

So the bar is set high and if anything exceeded. There is obviously a lot going on in Berk's head and the caring about the world, dealing with the death of her father and society itself reveals an incredible depth. It would have been easy to bury yourself in woe, but there's little here of that.

There are different directions taken on this follow up, but they split largely in two camps. There is the reflective, almost Aimee Mann like in the way those songs demand your attention. Then there is the Pop Rock, which allows a breakout and provides some splendid sing along moments. 

I'm not sure if there is a Shadow Clues here, but Hoping This Day Won't Kill us comes very close. That is no criticism, because as a whole piece, the album actually betters what has gone before. It is a wonderfully consistent offering that gets better with repeated listens.

Alone Tonight goes all Sheryl Crow, You Already Knew just aches with melancholy and Real Bad Day breaks out into GoGo's pace, a real rock off. Wrong Information is like Enya doing Americana and Alone Tonight may just be the best song that Susanna Hoffs hasn't sung and has a real twang.

Then there is the glorious string arrangement on June Lake, it is almost Baroque, a truly beautiful listen. Lyrically deft and deep, Start At The Emd is an outstanding offering. Tamar Berk may just be the best Female Singer Songwriter around at the moment. I certainly don't hear any better. 

You can listen to and buy the album here.


Sunday 8 May 2022

Extra Arms - What Is Even Happening Right Now

During March's review of Ryan Allen's excellent solo EP (here) I mentioned that the excellent Pop on display was very different to his day job and here is that regular work. Extra Arms are a much louder proposition, wonderfully loud.

Starting out as Ryan Allen And His Extra Arms, the direction then was a little more Garage Punk Pop. Since morphing into Extra Arms, a proper band with an established line up, that punkishness has slightly mellowed into great Power Pop.

This is Power Pop at pace though. The songs are more in your face than a traditional Power Pop album, the band rarely come up for air, noisy upstarts in a world of jangling niceness maybe. It all works beautifully, every fist shaking moment.

The songs never lose their melody and are built on massive riffs and big choruses, designed to be played in sweaty venues. There are hints at times of Sugar at times, but it is just hints. Allen has never forgotten his Punk Roots, it is just that the songs have become even more accessible.

The riffs just drill through your head, the vocals are never shouty when it would be easy to be like peers who adopt that mode. A song like Life In A Cube just rocks your socks off and when it breaks out further, it is simply awesome.

I also note the increasing harmonies. What used to be a call and response, at times develops into more vocal play. Every Extra Arms album offers something more than the last. The band develops more each time. Just don't expect any ballads. What Is Even Happening Now is a splendid listen.

Pre-order here for the album's 3 June release and just wait until you hear I Don't Wanna Die on next week's IDHAS 10 Song Mix. I will add a couple more songs on release date and refresh this post.


Fontanarosa - Are You There?


Over to France now and the magnificent Howlin Banana label. Fontanarosa are a quartet from Paris led by Paul Verwaerde and Are You There is as good an example of Indie Pop Rock that you could imagine. It is a beacon in the darkness of what used to be a thriving genre.

For all the music here, the music that my other half tells me I should slim down to the point that I have to now sneak stuff in, I have favourite areas that I reach for constantly. One is Psych Pop, the other is intelligent Indie Guitar Pop. Fontanarosa are the latter. Comparing a band to XTC is maybe the laziest comparison that you can make, but there is lots of that first XTC period when the keyboards were ditched here.

It is the unusual chords and the strangely addictive riffs and choruses that hook you. It shows that you don't need a wall of sound or big anthems to hook people. Intelligence inventive songs win you over every time.

The Indie jangle compares with the best of the late 80s / early 90s of the likes of Madchester Guitar bands that were revealing that everything wasn't about Dance. OH id is the closest to early XTC, even Franz Ferdinand in feel with an absolutely hypnotic riff.

Hold On equals anything on the edges of Brit Pop, the type of music that wasn't hyped, that you had to discover or have recommended. You wouldn't hear its like in HMV or Virgin. Final Distance is a bit like Ray Davies fronting Radiohead. Backgrounds is not a million miles away from The Sugarplastic.

Way In Out is a much darker, another great riff, another song that hooks you. Are You There? is the sound of great Indie with a cleverness to admire, but without ever losing sight of the chorus. It is a great listen and a reminder that you don't have to be loud to be heard. Great stuff!

You can listen to and buy the album here.


The Toms - Stereo

I'm told that I ignore Power Pop these days. I agree with that only to the point that I don't really cover the "I Love You, You Know I Do, Oh Yes It's True" brigade. I was mentioning on Facebook about the days I would be attending IPO in Liverpool later this month and looking at the line up, my view was largely endorsed.

David Bash is someone undoubtedly linked to all things Power Pop, yet the artist line up is largely great Guitar Pop artists, but how many would you say are indelibly Power Pop. There is a mixture of Indie, Psych Pop, 60s Beat and 70s Pop Rock as well as some incredibly inventive Singer Songwriters. It is called International Pop Overthrow, not International Power Pop Overthrow,

I never ever want to get involved in the "Is It Power Pop?" nonsense. IPO supports great Pop Rock from bands who would like to be superstars, but aren't, but should be. I Don't Hear A Single does the same with the new an under appreciated.

The two most popular reviews over the past 12 months have been albums that I would say are Power Pop. The Toms and The Summer Holiday have been the most popular reviews on IDHAS for months respectively, yet their appeal has been far beyond the genre. Michael Collins is without doubt Power Pop through and through, but Tommy Morolda stretches far wider.

Morolda has branched out into a much wider Indie Pop. Unexpected chord changes, an increased use of keyboards and developed into a much wider Indie Pop area. The melodies are just as strong, the choruses as great, but there is now more in common with The Sun Sawed In 1/2 than 70s New Wave Power Pop.

Stereo is Intelligent Pop of the highest order. Twists and Turns in direction in individual songs, all beautifully produced in a modern way. There is an 80s feel at times in the material, but not the sound. Yet in all this Pop, there is no genre hogging. Pop is the operative word and Stereo is great an example that you will never ear.

A song like Raindance comes across as such a catchy affair, yet the whole three and a half minutes is such an admirably complex affair. Yet I need Somebody is great 70s Pop Rock and I Can't Sleep is more like the Power Pop that The Toms were noted for.

The title track has a real 60s Psych Pop feel updated for the modern age. Atmosphere has an impressive wall of sound, very Spygenius like. Witching Hour Glass Figure mixes Baroque and Pop Rock with twists into almost Toytown. Stereo is incredibly creative and original. A wonderful adventure that shows Pop has no boundaries.

You can listen to and buy the album here.