New album: Outtacontroller || Come Alive

I love it when an album opens with a call to action. Of course, that call should feel urgent and authenthic to actually strike a chord. Come Alive, the title track of the new Outtacontroller is exactly that. “Are you still here? Do you still care?,” Outtacontroller wonders. It’s a rhetorical question. I mean, it must be right? A new Outtacontroller record? Plenty of reason to get excited, because these Canadians (Halifax, Nova Scotia to be precise) always deliver. Most importantly, an abundance of hooks.

Come Alive is no exception. By now, you should be familiar with the main ingredients of an Outtacontroller release: garage powerpop with pushy urgent drumming, simple but effective guitar riffing and the delayed (but guaranteed!) gratification of killer hooks. Come Alive delivers on all fronts without ever feeling redundant of like a been there done that record. Outtacontroller sound like they are just getting started, like they can’t wait to get your garage party started. The hits on Come Alive are too many to highlight. Here are a couple of personal favorites though: Time To Crash (prototypical Outtacontroller), Hit And Run (those sweet guitar licks!), Show Me How It’s Done (glammy and earwormy), and Hanging Over You (sooooo catchy).

Outtacontroller has been teasing some of these songs in the past 18 months or so, and Come Alive definitely makes good on the promise of those tracks. Come Alive is another win for Outtacontroller. It is out now, and currently appears to be streaming only – which kinda worries me, since I’d like to add it to the collection soonish…guys?

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp 

New album: The Ramalamas || Le Cape Noir

The self-produced fifth album from Sydney swamp rockers The Ramalamas is literally and figuratively a thrilling one: the 16 tracks here form the original motion picture soundtrack to imaginary long lost 1968 horror/drama cult classic Le Cape Noir (The Black Cape). Chris Nielsen (vocals, guitars), Peter Kirwan (guitars, pedal steel), Matthias Engesser (bass), Paul Leadbetter (keys) and Scott Armstrong (drums) play danceable garage psych topped with a dirty country and surf sauce. To emphasize the cinematic feel, some tunes are instrumental, and you’ll also hear cracking skits with dialogues by Australian actors Sacha Horler and Nick Galea. This isn’t the first soundtrack to an imaginary movie, but rarely has it turned out as well as this one.

Le Cape Noir is out now digitally and on vinyl through Half A Cow Records.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Pleasure Center || Jangle In Pity City

Pleasure Center are a four-piece from St. Louis, Missouri. I assume the band name refers to the reward circuit in our brain, because that is exactly where the ten band’s debut LP Jangle In Pity City will quickly find a home. This is top notch power pop that feels spontaneous, rockin’ and full of memorable melodies. Pleasure Center sounds very poppy, but never glossy or too polished, and there is a good bit of jangle on the record. The vocal chords have a touch of sandpaper to them, which gives the songs an even more rockin’ sound. Sonically, Jangle In Pity City fits nicely between the most recent Local Drags and Starter Jackets LPs.

It always brings me joy to hear a new band opting for a classic powerpop sound and absolutely nailing it. Nice to have you around Pleasure Center. Keep writing tunes like these.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Crossword Smiles || Pressed & Ironed

Pressed & Ironed may be the debut full length of Crossword Smiles, but its two members are guitar pop veterans. I’m referring to Tom Curless (Your Gracious Host) and Chip Saam (The Hangabouts and host of the Indie Pop Takeout radioshow). It should therefore come as no surprise that Pressed & Ironed sounds accomplished and mature, and is full of quality guitar driven power pop.

Curless and Saam cover a lot of bases on the record, and a lot of these songs seem to have their origins in ’80s college radio. I am partial to the rockers on the record (Feet On The Ground, Lotus, Take It On The Chin), but Crossword Smiles manage to evoke a lot of different influences. From Shoes and the dB’s to Steely Dan, from R.E.M. to Joe Jackson and Elvis Costello.

I do find myself skipping three of the songs (October Leaves, Walk Softly and Second Guesser), which I guess is a logical consequence of the broad scope of the record and my lack of tolerance of slower and softer material. But overall, there is no shortage of underground radio hits on this one – my current favs below. Out now on CD and LP through Big Stir Records, who ICYMI also released a(nother) fine Nick Frater record recently.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Flash || Flash

Flash are from the Gipuzkoan coast in Basque Country. Their self-titled LP was released earlier this month and kinda is an enigma. It’s hard to grasp how something so loud, played at such a blistering pace can sound so fresh and melodic. Hearing this record is like hearing Chubby And The Gang for the first time. It’s the moment where you suddenly are on a rollercoaster ride that increases your heartrate, slows down time and you want to invite all of your music friends to the party. Listen to how Antitodo comes crashing out of the gates; listen to how a single cough sends Ansiedad into killer punk overdrive; listen to how the out of tune guitar in Saco De Arena proves that imperfections are punk’s greatest fertilizer.

What an exciting record. Flash is out now on LP through La Vide Es Un Mus.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New single: Choke City || Bringing Me Down

Here is a quick post with the simple goal of sharing some excellent throwback ’70s sleazy and punky rock’n’roll. Meet Choke City. Their latest two-song single had great energy and is reminiscent of The Heartbreakers, the NY Dolls and The Stooges. Hope a full length is up next!

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Glossy Clouds || Mess and Mania

Glossy Clouds is the arty music project of Jérôme Bralet and Hugo Merle from Lyon, France, convincingly assisted by three female guest vocalists. They just released their full-length debut album Mess and Mania, they also made a video for all the songs. After several spins I’m still not sure this band fits our blog, but I can say it’s pretty good. The duo cites Arctic Monkeys, Queens Of The Stone Age and Pink Floyd as influences, but I think we should also mention Arcade Fire and Talking Heads: “We have this soul and gospel side to us. We really love to make groovy rock (…) and want to create a sexy glam atmosphere.” I hear funky pop music injected with post-punk influences – colorful, danceable and catchy – although a few tracks, like My Devil, are indeed a lot heavier then the hit songs here, like She’s Borderline. An ambitious, versatile and successful debut LP.

Mess and Mania is out now on all streaming services and on CD through KWS Blank Canvas Music. Add to wantlist: HMV

Gimme 5! Neil Evans Shares 5 Albums That Have Impacted Parallel Bars

With ‘Gimme 5!’ we take a peek into the collections of artists we admire. The premise is simple: artists WE like share five records THEY love.

It’s exactly one year ago that I stumbled upon Parallel Bars, an “irreverent and irrelevant” solo project by American artist Neil Evans. I really liked his album Malaise, which reminded me somewhat of bands that combined rock and rap-like vocals 20-30 years ago, but seasoned with emo, punk, and ska influences (for example, listen to the earworm I Like What I Like). Today he releases his new full-length album, What Are You Doing?, a question the musician probably asks himself. The opening tune with the telling title Too Young To Quit, Too Old To Care reflects his attitude:  “Another dumb song you can roll your eyes at // Another dive in my mind for the panic attacks.” Obviously, Neil Evans is far too modest (or unjustly insecure about his qualities). The ten fresh Parallel Bars songs pick up where the ten previous ones left off, although the sound focuses more unequivocally on light-hearted emo rock, with relatable contemporary lyrics. Very likeable.

Neil previously indicated that he’s influenced by just about anything with great melody, lyrics, energy, and riffs, but I didn’t expect the albums he chooses below. Hold on tight for a surprising and eclectic episode of our Gimme 5! feature, with a wonderful insight into the soul of a musician who should receive more appreciation – from the audience, but also from himself.

New album: Geoff Palmer || Standing In The Spotlight

Kurt Baker covered Mondo Bizarro with the K7s and Brad Marino covered Subterranean Jungle. But the latest Ramones (related) cover album by a member of The New England Mafia arguably is the most surprising and boldest yet. Who else than Geoff Palmer would have picked Dee Dee Ramone’s polarizing rap/rock/punk solo record Standing In The Spotlight – released as Dee Dee King in 1989.

Palmer’s version of Standing In The Spotlight is another example of his genuine love and passion for music. And how he’s still broadening his horizons and developing his skillset. This arguably is the most diverse Palmer record yet. Part of that of course has to do with the source material which is all over the place. But if you take a step back, you have to be impressed by the craftmanship on this record.

Surely Palmer had a lot of fun recording these songs. Not just because he could finally rap on a record, or that he was joined by a long list of friends that contributed to the record (the liner notes includes Kurt Baker, Brad Marino, Zach Sprague, Kris Rodgers, Mass Giorgini, Phil Reid, and many others). Surely the killer harmonies you can produce with said friends, and the addition of instruments like the sax, piano, and glock all contributed to the fun. But that’s not all. I can’t help but believe that, at some point during the recordings, what once started out as a fun idea suddenly started to feel like a great idea. And the group of friends fully went with it. There is a total lack of parody or cynicism on this record. It’s a loving treatment of a hit-and-miss record. It is a joy to listen to and in my book an improvement over the original.

Standing In The Spotlight is out now through Stardumb.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Stardumb

New EP: The Umbrella Puzzles || On The Meadow

A Slowly Dawning Realization, the full-length debut album from Californian lo-fi indie pop project The Umbrella Puzzles, was one of my favorite releases of last year. The good news is that there is a new EP, even better news is that On The Meadow is just as fun as its predecessor. All five tracks here are lovable jangle pop gems, but each tune has something unique that will make your ears prick up. Our friend Evan Seurkamp (The Laughing Chimes) plays 12-string guitar on Get What You Want, but otherwise everything you hear – vocals, guitars, bass, keyboard, harmonica – is the work of Ryan Marquez. You can see the singer-songwriter in action below: it seems so simple what he does, but few have the gift to create songs that are each so strong that you can’t really choose which one to share.

On The Meadow is out now digitally and on CD through Subjangle.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Discogs

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