“New” album: Menagramo || Menagramo

Every serious music fan knows this John Lennon lyric: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” Italian folk punk duo Menagramo experienced it: in March 2020, a few days before lockdown, they released their album Ribcage (via Professional Punkers), with a big tour in the agendas and a lot of expectations about the future. Bad timing, force majeure. However, Walter Sala (guitar, vocals) and Enrico Manganaro (washboard, vocals) didn’t give up: in the meantime they put out some nice covers (such as Beastie Boys’ Egg Raid on Mojo and Rancid’s St. Mary), and they wrote some new songs. When Wild Honey Records showed interest in the new work for an EP, they eventually came up with an even better idea, now available as a self-titled LP: a repress of Ribcage, expanded with four fresh tracks and other, more colorful design. As Jeffrey Fry said: “That’s what life is about. We don’t get redos, but we do get second chances.” And so now there is pink vinyl with 18 acoustic punk tunes – raw, heartfelt and driven – showing that Wally and Enri are unstoppable anyway.

Menagramo’s self-titled full-length is out now digitally and on vinyl LP through Wild Honey Records.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New EP: The Laughing Chimes || Zoo Avenue EP

From the moment we discovered the music of Southeast Ohio’s The Laughing Chimes, we’ve been fans of teenage brothers Evan and Quinn Seurkamp. They now follow up their convincing debut full-length album In This Town with the Zoo Avenue EP, which is released by the never-disappointing Slumberland Records – a great combination. You’ll hear six fresh jangle pop tunes that would all be hits in other times. Opening track Ice Cream Skies immediately grabs you with an irresistible guitar melody and “pa-da-pa” harmonies, only to embrace you even more tightly with Laurel Heights (which we already knew as a single, then Laurel Heights Court). The title track is another highlight that won’t let go, but really there are no weak moments here. This is perfect pop that brings back the summer.

The Zoo Avenue EP is out now digitally and on cassette through Slumberland Records.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Slumberland

New album: Melissa Carper || Ramblin’ Soul

Texas singer/songwriter/upright bassist Melissa Carper is well on her way to becoming a very big name in the country world. While last year’s Daddy’s Country Gold wasn’t her first album, it finally garnered critical acclaim and wider audiences (and a high spot on my year-end list, for what it’s worth). She’s already back with a new LP, called Ramblin’ Soul, with which she should be able to continue the triumphal march. Once again you’ll hear a sound from a bygone era, in which country, soul, jazz, R&B, bluegrass and western swing merge, once again it’s the distinctive vocals of Carper that steal the show. That doesn’t mean it’s more of exactly the same: the 13 new tracks – including covers by Brennen Leigh (Hanging On To You) and Odetta (Hit or Miss) – are more diverse and upbeat, delivered with more confidence and humor. An earworm like Boxers on Backwards is probably the strongest example of that fresh breeze, but actually everything here is enjoyable. Authentic, unique and uplifting.

Ramblin’ Soul, produced by Dennis Crouch and Andrija Tokic, is out now digitally on CD and vinyl LP via Mae Music / Thirty Tigers. With contributions from Dennis Crouch (bass), Chris Scruggs (guitars), John Pahmer (organ, piano), Matty Meyer (drums), Billy Contreras (fiddle), Rory Hoffman (piano, nylon string guitar, clarinet), Wes Langlois (rhythm guitar), and Larry Marrs, Sierra Ferrell, Kyshona Armstrong, Nickie Conely and Maureen Murphy for harmony vocals.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Melissa Carper

New album: X Ray Cat Trio || Haunted

The British rock ‘n’ rollers of X Ray Cat Trio are back with their new (third) full-length album, called Haunted, featuring ten energetic, cinematic, dangerous and danceable tunes. El Nico (vocals, guitars, theramin), Adam Richards (bass) and Howlin’ Ric (drums) throw a party that will leave you sweating and bruised. With the help of Ben Powling (sax), Kieran O’Malley (fiddle) and Chris Dylan Lloyd (pedal steel), they’re throwing the best influences from the 50’s and 60’s in the air – rockabilly, garage rock, surf, punk, doo-wop and country – and what comes down is as cool as can be. Do you also have the urge to shout “Yee-haw!” loudly?

Haunted is out now digitally, on CD and vinyl LP through Property Of The Lost Records.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || PropertyOfTheLost

New album: Fort Frances || Look At What Tomorrow Brought Us

The most listened to song by Chicago-based band Fort Frances is their relaxed cover of DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince’s Summertime from ten years ago, but it’s time to change that. On their new full-length album Look At What Tomorrow Brought Us you can hear ten original songs that are all better. Expect captivating roots rock with a capital S – it doesn’t get much more Soulful than this.

Recovering from Covid and with family expansion on the way, bandleader and songwriter David McMillin realized that “time is precious and that songs should reflect the gift to live and work and laugh and cry.” Both the lyrics and the music here breathe newfound optimism, just look at the words that close the record: “I got high hopes for the long run // May your heart beat like a billion drums.” McMillin has a great powerful voice, is a master on guitar, piano and bass (Aaron Kiser provides drums and additional vocals), but above all he writes delightful songs that deserve millions of plays.

Look At What Tomorrow Brought Us is out now digitally via Roadblock Records – streaming only for now.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Rainn Byrns || New In Town

Talented DIY musician Rainn Byrns has traded sunny Texas for rainy South London, but his music could have been made in Melbourne. From his home studio he translated his youthful and slightly worrisome or bored view on the world around him and his personal well-being into eleven summery songs, that have now been brought together on his full-length debut album New In Town. His guitar playing and vocals are at times reminiscent of Kurt Vile or Mac DeMarco, but the sound – courtesy of backing band The Byrnouts – is a bit fuller and looser at the same time. Although the lyrics cut dark feelings, they ultimately turn out to be optimistic, and the melodies are sweet and cheerful. This is melancholic jangle pop so bright that Byrns is understandably wearing sunglasses in the cover photo.

New In Town is out now on CD and vinyl LP through Futureproof Records.

Add to wantlist: Futureproof || Rough Trade

New EP: Sarah Mary Chadwick || Flipped It

Some music is so intimate, vulnerable, raw and heartfelt, that as a listener you almost feel burdened that you are witnessing it. Anyone who has seen Daniel Johnston or Conor Oberst live will understand what I mean. I now also have that experience when hearing Flipped It, the new single by New Zealand singer-songwriter Sarah Mary Chadwick. She recorded the track during the sessions for last year’s Me & Ennui Are Friends, Baby LP, but she couldn’t find a comfortable place for it on that record. She accompanies herself on the piano, but that is in the service of the lyrics – it is the vocals that hit hard. B-side All Those Things We’ll Never Do, from the Please Daddy sessions (2019) is almost as heartbreaking. Goosebumps and tears fight for priority.

The self-produced Flipped It EP is out now digitally (5 songs) and on vinyl 7″ (2 songs) through Kill Rock Stars.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Kill Rock Stars

New album: Breanna Barbara || Nothin’ But Time

Fuzz Club has another winner. Six years after her debut LP Mirage Dreams, Breanna Barbara is back with her second full-length album, called Nothin’ But Time. Although the New York City-based musician has been collaborating with trip-hop hero Tricky in the meantime (she wrote most of the new tunes while touring with him), for this new music you’ll have to look in a different corner of your local record store. The first part of the album delivers uptempo garage psych, for fans of The Limiñanas, Ghost Woman and The Paranoyds, but towards the end the artist slows down towards dark slowcore and dreamy indie pop that could have come from Portishead or Cat Power. The songs vary in tempo and atmosphere, but they are always full of blues, grand gestures and honesty – somewhat theatrical, held together by powerful vocals. Barbara explains: “I wanted each song to come from a genuine place. I’m very sensitive and emotional, and I’m at my best when I’m coming from a true place.” It proves to be a good starting point for an intriguing and exciting journey.

Nothin’ But Time is out now digitally, on CD and vinyl LP through Fuzz Club Records. Produced, engineered and mixed by Andrija Tokic, and with contributions from Ben Trimble (guitar, keys, back-up vocals), Charles Garmendia (drums, percussion), “Tall Juan” Zaballa (guitar, bass, keys, percussion, back-up vocals), Evan Heinze (guitar, keys, back-up vocals), Jack Lawrence (bass), Derry deBorja (keys, synth), John Palmer (organ, keys), Kyshona Armstrong (back-up vocals), Alexis Saski (back-up vocals), John and Liz Estes (strings), Jose Aybar (bass) and Ricardo Allesio (keys).

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Discogs || Fuzz Club

New album: S.C.A.B. || S.C.A.B.

Scab won’t be the first thing that comes to mind when you have to come up with a band name, but in the case of New York City-based four-piece S.C.A.B., it’s simply the first letters of the band members’ names – initially a working title, but you know how it goes once you get used to it, especially if you can see it as a metaphor for protection and healing for a a tight-knit group of best friends who’ve always been there for one another. Sean Camargo (vocals, guitar, lyrics), Cory Best (guitar), Alec Alabado (bass, synth) and Brandon Hafetz (drums) just released their sophomore, eponymous full-length album (self-produced), pairing street-smart poetry with a New York sound. “Found another way into a world I wanna see and find out about”, that’s how opening song Why Do I Dream Of You begins, and from which everything that follows seems to flow from. A track like C86 may reveal their influences, but with Six Songs Into Your Spotify Playlist they make it clear that they live in the present. This is melodic indie rock with vibes of assertive post-punk and dreamy shoegaze – jangling guitars in the foreground and nostalgia in the background – and as restless as the city that never sleeps.

S.C.A.B. is out now digitally and on vinyl LP through Grind Select. RIYL: Beach Fossils, DIIV, Ducktails.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New single: Hidden Pictures || Randi

American musician Richard Gintowt has once again written and recorded two great new songs for his band Hidden Pictures, two tracks which I would include in my playlist if I had a radio station. In both Randi and Only Memories, the guitars jangle fine melodies under appealing lyrics (“You never cared much for power pop // Put on Big Star and your face would drop”), hand claps and “yeah’s” included. Such perfect pop music only takes two minutes to make a lasting impression.

Randi is out now digitally via I Love Doby. Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

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