New album: Action Park || You Must Be This Tall To Die

Action parks are at the bottom of my list of places I like to be at – don’t get me started on rollercoasters. So if you call your band Action Park, and your record You Must Be This Tall To Die, let’s just say you are way behind before the game has even begun. And that’s exlusive of the impossible to google bandname/album title combo. But I must admit having warmed up to this record rather quickly.  Action Park play punkrock for fans of the mid-to-late 90s punkrock explosion. I have a lot of fond memories of that era, though admittedly, not all of my purchases of that era held up as well as I hoped. You Must Be This Tall To Die sounds like a record that will. What I appreciate about Action Park is how in each of their songs, they seem to pay tribute to a different band. For example, 24 Months sounds inspired by the Bouncing Souls, whereas Waiting For The Rain reminds me of a band like Weston. Other songs hint upon The Ergs, Sicko and Dillinger Four and others that are on the tip of my tongue.

The combination of familiarity and well executed punkrock tunes make for a very enjoyable collection of songs. Will Action Park reignite a new wave of punkrock popularity? Unlikely. But it sure is nice to hear bands from 2021 sound like this. Not bad for a record grown of necessity according to the band: “This sonic document is the product of countless hours of painstaking physical, mental, and emotional labor. The guiding force throughout what has no doubt been one of the longest, darkest, and decidedly most bizarre chapters in any of our stories… This thirty-one minutes of music was the thread we were all collectively hanging by that kept us back from the edge.”



Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Blunt Bangs || Proper Smoker

Imagine having written one of the major hits of the indie scene of the ’00s, and having toured that for a decade. How do you follow that in a changing musical landscape? If you are like Reggie Youngblood (Black Kids), you don’t quit. You start a new band with veterans of the Athens (Georgia) scene (i.e., Christian “Smokey” DeRoeck (Woods, Deep State, Little Gold) on guitar and vocals, and Cash Carter (Tracy Shedd, The Cadets) on drums) that sounds quite different. But rather than going for a sound that is even more poppin’ than Black Kids, your new band is way more rockin’.

Proper Smoker, the debut record of Blunt Bangs is quite the surprise. It blends indie rock with power pop influences, and from the get go sounds fresh and fun. The video for attention grabbing album opener She’s Gone essentially is a tribute to some of the classic albums that offer the blueprint of Blunt Bangs’ sound. And although this record sounds uncomplicated, and does not try to reinvent the wheel in any way, these songs are so well put together. Clearly, the band had a lot of fun playing the kind of music they enjoy themselves. And isn’t that the best recipe for a great record?



Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Ernest Jenning Record Co.

New album: Sweet Nobody || We’re Trying Our Best

Life’s not perfect, and human beings are the opposite of infallible. The best we can do is try our best, a mantra my mom programmed in my brain ages ago, and still becomes active whenever I have to do something that is new or scary or filled with uncertainty. It helps to explain why I instantly sympathize with Sweet Nobody’s second album which is titled We’re Trying Our Best. The circumstances in which this album came to live were far from ideal. There was of course the curse of the pandemic: We’re Trying Our Best would have been released 12 months ago in a pandemic free world. More importantly, singer/lyricist Joy Deyo had to cope with chronic pains caused by a hard-to-diagnose ilness while writing the record. And yet, rather than a dark or sad record, We’re Trying Our Best sounds more like a celebration of life. Press play on Five Star Diary and let the indie pop of Sweet Nobody wash gently over you. It showcases the gorgeous and melancholic qualities of Deyo’s voice and how it complements the jangly and breezy guitar licks perfectly. It’s not the only standout track on the record; uptempo songs like Rhoda and White Lies are instant attention grabbers as well. I am also intrigued by Other Humans and If I Should Die Tonight, two emocountrypoppowerballads that pull at the heartstrings. [post continues below]

New EP: Smirk || EP 12″

Smirk is a solo project from Nic Vicario (Autistic Youth, Crisis Man, Public Eye). Six months ago, I wrote about the debut LP by Smirk, which compiled the band’s first two EP’s. I liked the groovy and hypnotic lo-fi punk songs on that one a lot, but I am even more excited about the band’s third EP, which is out now on 12″vinyl on Total Punk Records. The EP has a slightly crisper production that brings out the anxious energy of the music even better. Vicario has retained and refined his cool groovy guitar riffing, but the songs sound more direct, accessible, and melodic without losing any punk attitude. Songs like Staring At Screens, So Original and Imaginary Harry are an absolute blast. Play this one loud!



Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Total Punk

New album: The Reflectors || Faster Action

Time to update those AOTY longlists: Modern masters of classic power pop The Reflectors (LA) have a new record out. Well, technically Faster Action will be out on september 24, but you can already stream it in full on Bandcamp. And, if you are like me, you are likely to pre-order it three songs in from either Snap!! Records (Spain), Beluga (Sweden), or Time For Action (Germany).

Even though I usually like my powerpop faster and louder, I found it hard to resist The Reflectors’ debut First Impression, and it made #7 in my album top 50 of 2020. Still, I honestly was concerned the band would slow down and sound overpolished on their sophomore record. Fortunately that is far from the case. The songs on Faster Action are upbeat and on average may actually provide faster action – what’s in a name? And although the songs sound smooth, the band does not overdo it. Faster Action offers a wealth of hooks and ear candy, and songs that are as uncomplicated and direct as they are fun.

There are so many instant hits on Faster Action, I can safely say this would have hit the charts if it was released 40 years ago. If you are a fan of the power pop of that era, you cannot go wrong with Faster Action.


By the way, Time For Action has a special version of the LP that plays from the inside-out. Pretty cool.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Time For Action (Germany) || Beluga (Sweden)

New album: Cheeky || Freaky Deaky: The Cheeky Discography

Well, this is a nice surprise from Jeff Rosenstock’s Really Records: the full discography of Cheeky on one conventient platter of clear blue vinyl! If you are unfamiliar with Cheeky, they were a short lived (2007-2009) four piece from Long Island with a knack for writing catchy old school pop punk, and a fearlessness to fight the increasing toxic elitism and machoism in the punk scene.

The band’s guitarist and vocalist Kate Eldridge went on to form the mighty Big Eyes. If you are a fan of that band, you are sure to like this anthology. Essentially, if you like your pop punk edgy and rockin’, you are sure to like this release as well. Other Cheeky band members went on to perform with bands such as The Babies and Sleater Kinney.

Freaky Deaky compiles Cheeky’s complete output: the Choke on a Cheeseburger EP, Art Of The Underground Single Series 7″, What The Heck 12″, their split single with Tenement, and their Live At The Boneyard cassette.



Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Really Records || Discogs

New album: Langkamer || West Country

UK four-piece Langkamer blend rock ‘n’ roll and alt-country into a unique indie rock sound. After two EPs, they now have released their full-length debut album West Country. The 12 new guitar-driven songs vary in tempo and style, sometimes sweet and at other times raucous and abrasive, but always infectious and intriguing. If you write such fine songs, it doesn’t matter that you are The Ugliest Man In Bristol. I wouldn’t be surprised if Langkamer manages to attract a really large audience, but especially restless souls can indulge themselves in West Country.

West Country is out now digitally and on vinyl LP through Breakfast Records / TINA Records.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Breakfast Records

New album: Wildflower || The Ocean Rose

We go to great lengths to keep up to date with new albums and singles from our (potentially) favorite artists, through countless Bandcamp alerts, label mailings, music magazines, record store newsletters, and so on (check out this list of upcoming releases we look forward to). Sometimes it’s difficult to listen to new work, because some bands have names that are not googleable, not everything is available on every platform, and some songs are not even shared online at all. For example, when I was looking for the sophomore LP The Ocean Rose by Portland five-piece Wildflower today, initially I came across another Wildflower, from Santa Barbara, who coincidentally released the EP Into The Night in the same week, with three beautiful acoustic ballads. That even bands with the same name come up with good music at the same time. illustrates nicely how much there is to choose from. Anyway, let me not waste any more words on this little first world problem, but let’s travel to the miniature world of nostalgia and wonder – where past meets present – that The Ocean Rose offers. Close friends Mathew Maiello (keyboards, sax, clarinet), Jason Eckerson (bass), Roby Moulton (drums), Alex Winthrop (electic guitar, slide), and Adrian O’Barr (acoustic guitar, distinctive vocals) play nine warm songs about the simple pleasures of life on the Atlantic ocean. With each spin you’ll extend the summer by 39 minutes and 30 seconds!

The Ocean Rose is out now digitally and on 12″ vinyl LP through Night Bloom Records. RIYL Woods, Neil Young, Rose City Band.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Night Bloom

New EP: The Pre-Amps || Four by Four

Nowadays, some music is still made as in the good old days, as is once again underlined by UK four-piece The Pre-Amps. The 1960s-influenced pop / rock band made some name for themselves by covering their heroes (The Box Tops’ The Letter, The Beatles’ Nowhere Man, The Beach Boys’ Sloop John B, and so on), but are now also writing their own songs. At the end of 2019 they released their debut single Doesn’t Change, followed by Hard To Say b/w With My Baby in early 2021, and those tracks are now bundled together with new tune Learn To Love You on the EP Four by Four. Robert William Gray (bass), Scott Charlton (drums), Lyndon William Philliskirk (keyboards), and Kelvin Banks (guitar / harmonium) can all call themselves songwriter and singer, and here they show that perfect jangle pop songs with captivating melodies and great vocal harmonies are still being created these days. We look forward to a full-length album with more of these gems.

Four by Four is out now digitally, and next week also on 7″EP, through Spanish label Hurrah! Música.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: I Feel Fine || The Cold In Every Shelter

If you sound as classic emo as this, a paradoxal band name can feel strangely comforting. But perhaps I Feel Fine is just a statement to discourage further interrogation – we’ve all been there in the past 18 months. Anyhow, Brighton (UK) based I Feel Fine’s debut full-length The Cold In Every Shelter is a generous release. This is not a throwaway collection of songs that were quickly recorded over the weekend. No, here is a band that clearly spend a lot of time refining their songs, adding elements and cool instrumentation. It makes for a record that reveals new parts to enjoy with each listen.

Admittedly, I dismissed the record after a quick first scan, but fortunately my fellow ATW blogger Dennis made me revisit the record. The Cold In Every Shelter is the kind of record where the rewards depend on the time and attention you are willing to spend on it. And once you do, you cherish the escapism it provides. The cathartic group vocals obviously stand out (not all vocals on the record are the full band singing their hearts out, yet it does feel that way), and the tasteful instrumentation provide such a tasteful backdrop. The Cold In Every Shelter is a soothing record that prepares you for the colder, wetter and darker seasons. And, dare I say it, you don’t need to be into emo to enjoy this record. RIYL: The World Is Beautiful And I Am Not Afraid To Die, The Hotelier, Hostage Calm. Oh, and make sure to watch I Feel Fine’s video for Selfsame, it may be the best looking video I’ve seen all year.



The Cold In Every Shelter is out now through Venn Records (UK), Smithsfoodgroup DIY (Netherlands), Friend Of Mine (Japan), Pundonor Records (Spain), Refresh Records (United States), Midsummer Records (Germany), and K-Nardage Asso (France).

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

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