New album: The Goa Express || The Goa Express

Wednesday January 13, 2021, at 10:25 PM. That was the moment I discovered The Goa Express. The young five-piece from Northern England played at the Eurosonic Noorderslag (ESNS) showcase festival – an online edition due to a certain lockdown – and although their performance lasted less than thirteen minutes, it was the indisputable highlight for me. A few singles have been released since then, but it has been a long wait for the self-titled full-length album, which has now finally arrived (they say themselves that it not only captures their long lasting friendship together, but also a universal and shared feeling of growing up – hence the cover art). The band, featuring James Douglas Clarke alongside his brother Joe and best friends Joey Stein, Naham Muzaffar and Sam Launder, has only become closer and better through many, many hours of playing together over the last ten years. They deliver a dynamic mix of indie and garage rock – influences from Oasis meet those of The Strokes – that is gripping and inspired. The ten songs here (none from the ESNS show) are guitar-driven, with unstoppable melodies and charismatic vocals with a ragged edge. More than a few earworms, the best thing I never had.

The album isn’t on Bandcamp or Soundcloud in full yet, and I don’t like Spotify embeds, so I’ll leave you here with two of their videos – you can listen to the whole thing on all streaming services.

The Goa Express’ self-titled album is out now on vinyl LP (self-released).

Add to wantlist: The Goa Express

New singles: Amusement || Walk Out To Sink b​/​w You Will Never Hear This & Dead On The Inside

When a new band debuts with not one but two killer singles, I am going to make this short. Here’s Amusement, a new act by members of From Ashes Rise, Arctic Flowers and Deathreat that sounds like a major departure from those projects. The sole common denominator is its loudness, but Amusement opt for crunchy fuzzy guitars and pop melodies delivered with passion. Pretty sure the people involved looked at the Dinosaur jr., Hüsker Dü, Superchunk and Bob Mould portion of their collections and thought: wouldn’t it be fun to play something like this?

The first two singles by Amusement are statement releases. This band knows how to rock, and how to enter the scene with a bang.

The Walk Out To Sink b​/​w You Will Never Hear This 7″ is out now on Extinction Burst. Dead On The Inside 7″ is out now on Council Records.

Add to wantlist (Walk Out To Sink b​/​w You Will Never Hear This): Bandcamp
Add to wantlist (Dead On The Inside): Bandcamp

New single: Tiikeri & V​ä​nsuut || Split

Described as “… a 4-track love letter to 1970’s Finnish punk, which is sure to please anyone who likes their punk rock catchy and melodic,” Tiikeri (Finland) and V​ä​nsuut (Japan) show they are up to the task.

In the case of Tiikeri, I’m not surprised. I was (am!) a huge fan of the LP they put out this year. V​ä​nsuut are new to me, but how can you not be intrigued by the idea of a Japanese band emulating punk from Finland? They have a sound that is more raw relative to Tiikeri, but their part of the single is equally exciting. What an amazing throwback single to the poppy chaos of late ’70s punk!

45rpm 7″ single out now via Open Up And Bleed Recordings (Finland) and Vox Populi (Japan).

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Discogs

New post: Beans on Toast || The Toothpaste And The Tube

Where we ordinary people say ‘it is what it is’, a creative and prolific singer-songwriter like Beans on Toast aka Jay McAllister translates that as ‘you can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube’. It’s a saying that fits well with the thirteen pure ‘acoustic punk’ songs on the newest LP by the London-based cult folk artist. We get a quite diverse album that doesn’t shy away from heavy and personal subjects, but above all evokes a warm and comforting feeling, not least thanks to the charmingly gritty vocals and surprising elements (from children’s voices to bagpipes). Whether it’s an uplifting sing-along about the AI revolution (AI) or a sensitive ballad for those we’ve lost along the way (Send Me A Bird – below is the video with a sparse and touching live version), this is a very entertaining listen.

The Toothpaste and the Tube, recorded with blues duo Ferris & Sylvester, is out now digitally, on CD and vinyl LP (self-released on Beans On Toast Music). For fans of Billy Bragg, Frank Turner, Gambles.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Beans on Toast || Discogs

New album: The Sino Hearts || Phantom Rhapsody

I’m all ears whenever The Sino Hearts release new music. Zunisono Zhong, who is the mastermind behind The Sino Hearts, is adept in creating the best cocktails out of elements of powerpop, garage rock, punk and mod music.

Following the success of last year’s Lightening The Darkness, where the band admirably fulfilled the promise hinted at on their two earlier, slightly uneven yet undeniably awesome albums, Phantom Rhapsody enters the spotlight with the bar set high. It prompts the question of whether Zhong will maintain his trajectory towards becoming one of the eminent songwriters in the punky powerpop’n’roll sphere. Based on my first impressions, the answer is a resounding YES!

The Sino Hearts blast through a jukebox of hits on Phantom Rhapsody. While the influence of iconic bands like Exploding Hearts and modern power pop luminaries such as The Speedways is discernible, The Sino Hearts have managed to transcend these influences. They’ve evolved into true originals, while remaining the true believers of the power of rock’n’roll they’ve always been.

You’ve got to hand it to the people involved, especially considering the challenges faced during the pandemic era in China. Recording amidst disruptions caused by relentless COVID testing, sudden border closures, and mandatory home quarantines undoubtedly posed multifaceted challenges. Yet, the fact that they’ve managed to produce such a remarkable record stands as a testament to The Sino Hearts’ unwavering determination and resilience.

Phantom Rhapsody is out now on Soundflat and Topsy Turvy Records.

Add to wantlist: Soundflat 

Dusted || The 10 Best Cover Songs Of November 2023

Not all new music is really new, as many artists cover songs. Sometimes these are songs by their favorite artists, eg as a tribute to such a musical hero for a special reason, or they simply feel that a song deserves to be dusted and polished to reacquaint fans with great songs from the past. Other times, bands cover songs as a parody. Regardless of intent, some of those cover versions are so good or so much fun, we’d like to put a spotlight on them. Chosen from a wide range, here are – in random order – ten of our favorite covers from last month – links to the pages where you can add them to your wantlist included.

In November there were cover releases from Cat Power (Sings Dylan: The 1966 Royal Albert Hall Concert), Juliana Hatfield (Sings ELO) and Joecephus and The George Jonestown Massacre (Call Me Animal: A Tribute to the MC5), but otherwise it was a slow month cover-wise. Yet we can once again list ten successful ones.

Enjoy the Silence || Cover: Iron Chic || Original: Depeche Mode
New York punks Iron Chic are back with the new digital single Ancient Pistol (self-released), featuring a heavy version of Depeche Mode’s 1990 synth-pop hit Enjoy The Silence on the virtual flipside. Dark, atmospheric and intense.

New album: The Brights || Oyster Rock!

The Brights, hailing from Sydney’s Gadigal territory, make listening to their first full album LP a breeze. Oyster Rock! is a diverse and highly accessible affair, with sunny melodies and poignant undertones. The fusion of beachy vibes, alt-country nuances and folk touches coalesce within the familiar confines of jangly indie rock.

Rather than striving for uniqueness, The Brights focus on crafting the best songs imaginable. As a result, most of the record sounds pleasingly familiar with most of the songs inviting comparisions to well-loved bands. Opener Waiting reminds me of Bonny Doon, for example, while Quiet As A Cloud wanders in Real Estate territory, and Everyone In Town definitely has some healthy Pavement fingerprints over it. Other songs draw comparisons to the likes of Nic Hessler, Woods and Twerps. To be clear, this namedropping takes nothing away from the high level of songwriting skills of The Brights.

What sets The Brights apart is that they’ve mastered all these different subgenres of indie pop and indie rock. It’s as though they handpicked influences from different shelves, each direction perfectly complementing the essence of individual tracks. Meticulously crafted yet retaining a sense of spontaneity, each of these songs is worth spending time with.

Oyster Rock! is out now on Meritorio Records and Stable Label.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Meritorio

New album: Rainsticks || Here Come The Warm Jets

I missed the first three albums by Rainsticks (Nashville), but album #4 Here Come The Warm Jets definitely grabbed my attention. The band, who on the new record are comprised of Asher Horton (Guitars, Keys, Vocals), Ben Parks (Drums, Bass, Percussion, Vocals), and Emily Hall (Vocals), play jangly guitar pop. There are hints of classic power pop bands like Big Star and The Stems, but of contemporary power pop revivalists like 2nd Grade as well. Meanwhile, standout songs like Go In Blind and It’s Five O’Clock Nowhere sound like they come straight from the reputable Bay Area jangle pop scene. Expect strummy, jangly and chiming guitars and melodies that fit the description sweet and timeless to a T.

As a token of gratitude, Rainsticks finish Here Come The Warm Jets by covering a song written by one of the members’ dad, Frosty Horton. Nice kids, eh?

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: The Jasmine Minks || We Make Our Own History

Forty years after their birth and more than twenty years after their last album, Scottish indie pop band The Jasmine Minks return with a new LP, appropriately titled We Make Our Own History. Although they already had earned their place in the hall of fame through their work on Creation Records, these eleven fresh songs are a welcome addition. Melancholic music close to perfection, driven by jangling guitars and the charmingly distinctive vocals of frontman Jim Shepherd (you may remember last year’s solo debut The Circle). Standout tracks She Knows and Never Been Lucky immediately sound like modern classics, but actually all 38 minutes here are heart-warming and timeless.

We Make Our Own History, recorded & mastered by Pat Collier, is out now digitally and on vinyl LP through Last Night From Glasgow / Spinout Nuggets. Featuring Jim Shepherd (vocals, guitar), Martin Keena (bass), Dave Musker (organ, synths, theremin, electric piano), Tommy Reid (vocals, drums, guitar), Wattie Duncan (guitars) and Chris Narayan (tambourine).

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Last Night From Glasgow || Spinout Productions

Throwback Thursday: The Plastic Fish Factory || Come Inside

Most of the time we look ahead, but we are very aware that there is still much to discover in the past. Such as the music of The Plastic Fish Factory, an indie folk-pop band emerged from the live scene of Ghent, Belgium, featuring Kurt Vanpeteghem (vocals, guitar), Luc Waegeman (bass, foot percussion), Bart Westerduin (guitar, bass) and Kristel Eggers (accordion). The three songs from their CD single Come Inside, with which they made their debut in 1997, have now been re-released by Wagonmaniac, a beautiful and rightly tribute to frontman/songwriter Vanpeteghem, who died far too young last year. The tracks are bluesy and melancholic and have stood the test of time effortlessly – beautifully orchestrated and with goosebump-inducing vocals. The Plastic Fish Factory’s full-length album Get Out will also be available again, in January 2024.

Come Inside is out digitally through Wagonmaniac Music.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

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