New album: Civic || Future Forecast

Today is extremely loaded with new releases. One I looked forward to the most is the debut full-length from a band that released one of my favorite singles of 2020, the phenomenal Melbourne punkband Civic. The A-side to that single, Radiant Eye, is the opening track on Future Forecasts. I’ve just listened to the rest of record and I’m floored. I could write a long post, but I am pretty sure many much bigger outlets will cover this. I hope they do, because this is a record that deserves to be heard. In short, Civic play late 70’s punkrock infused with awesome guitar riffs and solo’s and the intensity of bands like MC5 and the Stooges. A sound like that could overstay its welcome, with the songs becoming one giant blur of noise, but Civic sidesteps that pitfall on Future Forecasts, by adding plenty of variety in pace and intensity. For example, the awesome groovy rocker As Seen On TV is sandwiched between two straight up punk jams Another Day and Just A Fix. And what is perhaps the darkest sounding track on the record (Shake Like Death) is followed by the much brighter and very fun Back To You. Civic have manufactured an electric listening experience  and musthave for my record collection. They set the bar high for punk releases in 2021, and I am sure Future Forecasts will end up in many AOTY lists.

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

New EP: Star 99 || My Year In Lists

I am fascinated by band dynamics. The synergy of band members’ creativity, the power struggles, the lack of communication, the passive aggressiveness, they all are elements I can appreciate from an objective perspective. But I have a weak spot for bands that start out of comradery. Take Star 99, a San Jose band comprised of four longtime friends : Saoirse (lead vocals/rhythm guitar & artwork), Cole (lead guitar/backing vocals), Chris (bass), and Jeremy (drums).  Their friendship started in the Bay Area scene where they attended and played shows – their past bands include Great Hart, Matsuri, Bread Club, and Drop In, and Saoirse’s solo project. Currently, they reside in San Jose, where they are all active member of the DIY community. For a time, they even lived under  the same roof in San Jose’s Hot Box house.

I like to think that comradery shines through on Star 99’s debut EP My Year In Lists. The band plays a wholesome form of indiepunk and altpop that feels like a breathe of fresh air. It is a sound that fans of bands like Swearin’, Discount, & Tacocat will fall for.  There is not a weak  song on the six song EP, but the first 4 songs (loose, algae, wyoming and sleep talker) are particularly great. They reflect that bay area attitude where melody and sensitivity are not the antithesis but a  fundamental part of punkrock.

Lead guitarist Cole filled me in with some more details on the band and the EP: “Star 99 is the culmination of years of friendship and our EP is a reflection on love, loss, anxiety, self-healing and personal growth. My Year in Lists’ speaks to each of the band members as a response to uncertainty and neuroticism: As life, whether personal or interpersonal, is subject to ups and downs, ‘My Year in Lists’ represents an attempt to exercise intentionality and self-reflection. Our songs are meditations on dating, on picking up the pieces of broken friendships, and on self-inventory and assessment. ‘My Year in Lists’ is a mantra of introspection and a reminder that while life moves on, that it’s normal for us to occasionally leave a foot locked in the past. Also, ‘My Year in Lists’ is the name of a pretty rad Los Campesinos song.” As for the band name, “Star 99′ is inspired by a local SJ adult film store which closed up recently.” What’s not to like about this band?!

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New single: Los Palms || Los Palms

I love to wade through the enormous amount of music that is coming out. But, in all honesty, 99% of the new releases do not click with me. That makes the discovery of a gem all the more valuable, the element of surprise creating an instant dopamine rush. The self-titled debut single by Los Palms is like that. The first ten seconds of Junkie Hotel feel like you have been wandering in the desert in the full sun all day and you suddenly come across a giant pool of fresh water. Los Palms are a band from Adelaide. They have created their own blend of classic California surf rock and Southern American 60’s music, and dubbed it desert jangle. It’s an apt description. The band’s sound elicits images of open plains, heat, dust, cacti, passing tumbleweeds and cowboys on horses riding towards a sunset. The band’s impressive artwork, illustrated by frontman Ant, strengthen that image. Clearly, Los Palms have the aesthetics and sound of a band with ambition.

Los Palms started in 2019, with their first (!) show opening for the Growlers. They are already making waves back home, with their single Roll On being in constant rotation on local radio. They’ve compiled four of their best songs on their first physical release, out March 27. The single is limited to 150 – good luck with getting that one. The band hopes to take their music on the road in Australia later this year, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them do an international tour rather sooner than later. Listen to Lost Phantom for example (video below): a song that hints upon early Allah-las and the Walkmen in their Hundres Miles Off era.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

‘New’ album: Rexxx || Pure Pleasure II

Shame! Shame! Shame! Here is another “can’t believe I missed this one” posts. Let me introduce you to the latest addition to a long lineage of superb Midwest US powerpop bands: Rexxx.  This band from Milwaukee is made up of members of hardcorepunk band Sex Scenes, dreamy indiepop band Surgeons In Heat, and sleazy rock and roll band King Eye & The Squirts. Rexxx doesn’t sound anything like those bands though. This is punk infused late ’70s/early ’80s powerpop done right. From the killer opener Can’t Help It with its infectious guitar riff to the insanely catchy closer Animal, Rexxx’s debut Pure Pleasure II is twenty minute of rock-‘n’-roll worship that demands to be played at maximum volume. Originally, it was released in February of last year, but for those who missed it back then (guilty!), Big Neck Records will release it May 7th on seductive red vinyl. In all honesty, you don’t need a seductive vinyl color when your songs are this awesome.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Brent Seavers || BS Stands For

Brent Seavers plays in The Decibels, not to be confused with The dB’s. He just released a solo LP called BS Stands For, which, of course is a nod to the dB’s classic album Stands For Decibels. Well played, Brent.

Now that we got that out of the way, let’s talk about BS Stands For, because it’s a record that fans of powerpop should definitely give a spin. Whereas The Decibels play their powerpop at a faster pace and move into classic pop punk territory (and they do that really well!), Seaver opts for a classic powerpop sound on BS Stands For; a sound that is reminiscent of Paul Collins (listen to My Little Girl), The Romantics (I Wrote A Song), and more recently John Paul Keith (Flatline). It’s upbeat, instantly likeable, and just plain fun. BS Stands For is an explicit, yet heartfelt love letter to powerpop just waiting to be picked up and answered by powerpop fans over the planet.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Jacob The Horse || College Party Mixtape, Vol. 1

“Sounds like: a punkrock version of The Decemberists.” That truly is a spot-on description on the Spotify page of Jacob The Horse, whose new record College Party Mixtape. Vol. 1 is out now.Like Larry David would say, it’s pretty, pretty, pretty good. It is like Colin Meloy has joined Jeff Rosenstock and Piebald to relive their college days. The result is perfect road trip music: it has soft-loud dynamics, anthemic choruses and essay length lyrics drenched in melancholy. All these elements are on full display in the excellent album opener Stealing From Friends Have Never Been So Easy. If you like that one,  you can safely add this one to the wantlist. Out now on blue vinyl.

Every song’s a copy of a copy of a feeling I had once || Maybe we should just give up on metaphor || Thinking that the modern day’s unworthy of Future introspection or dramatic verbs || Singing about the internet and mobile phones || How our lives are just performances in binary code

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Les Shirley || Forever Is Now

Forever Is Now, the debut album of Montreal trio Les Shirley, has a budget friendly album cover with a hairmetal font. Add in song titles like Easy Target and Pick Up The Phone, and one could mistake this band for a Donnas ripoff. That’s definitely not the case. What do you get? Straightforward catchy pop tunes with a rock and roll edge, and a full guitar sound. Two-thirds of Les Shirley also play in NOBRO, so you may already know that these women have a knack for writing songs that earworm their way through your brain. Les Shirley is a different beast though, sounding somewhere between Wyldlife and Ex-Hex. Do not expect this record to shatter your world in terms of originality or complexity (who cares anyway), but it’s hard to find any fault in songs like sadgirlsclub, Courtney and hit single Fuck It I’m In Love. For radio stations that may object to that last one, Les Shirley even include a radio friendly version (Forget It I’m In Love).

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp 

New single: Slander Tongue || Ride

13 months after they released their excellent self-titled LP, Berlin greasy glamgaragerockers Slander Tongue return in style with a two song single. It is inspired by lockdown fatigue, with the band “in need of a good time.” Fortunately, the two songs sound far from wearied. They have plenty of groove and energy. Out now on Slovenly Recordings.

“Now it’s May and I should be faraway // But I do the same thing as yesterday // This shit goes all year long // And I keep playing that song.“

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Discogs

New EP: Ex Press || Itchy To Move

Drop everything you are doing. Here’s an EP from a new band that absolutely deserves your attention. Don’t worry about your work, you will catch up later, and you will do so fully energized.

Ex Press are Devon Milley & Matthew Fudge, who provide even more evidence that the finest powerpop nowadays comes from Canada. Okay, technically I am not sure whether this counts as powerpop. Ex Press have created their own hybrid of synthpunk, powerpop, new wave and pop punk. On Itchy To Move, Miller & Fudge (not a bad name for a band or a bookstore now that I think of it) are assisted by a strong supporting cast. Most notably, Glassjaw frontman Daryl Palumbo provided keys on the majority of songs and helped recording, mastering and mixing the EP. Palumbo also sings on the lead single Headrest. That single also offers interesting use of horns provided by The Key Group Horns. Watch the video produced by Daniel Fried (TV’s Daniel, Bad Sports, Radioactivity) below. From the high octane opener Mystery to the midpaced moody album closer Act Surprised, it’s hard to really highlight one of the songs. There are no fillers here. Fingers crossed that a physical release is in the works.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Wurld Series || What’s Growing

What’s Growing is the second LP of New-Zealand indie rock band Wurld Series. I quite liked the band’s previous work, but not enough to make the wantlist. Five songs in, I am already searching for the best place to order this new record from. The instrumental intro song Harvester builds up to what is the first standout track on the record: Nap Gate, a classic ’90s indie rock track with fuzzy guitars (video below). It’s followed by Supplication, a short and sweet song with beautiful interplay between an acoustic guitar and a stylophone. We then get Moved In, which may be the most pop-oriented song on the record. It essentially is 96 seconds of catchiness. In the middle of the record the band slows down the pace and opts for some experimentation. Given the accessibility of the first part of the record, some may be put off by these out-of-the-box songs. The interlude kind of works for me though. It nicely slides into the latter part of the record which mirrors the first 5 songs in terms of variety and strength. The songwriting skills of Wurld Series shine particularly bright on Grey Men. The song is short and straightforward, but hook filled and it has excellent guitar work – a recurrent theme in the songs of Wurld Series.

Overall, What’s Growing is a very effective and efficient record. It’s only 30 minutes long, but offers A LOT, with none of the songs overstaying their welcome. It’s a strong collection of songs that should appeal to fans of classic indie rock (Pavement, Neutral Milk Hotel and Guided By Voices, or more recently: Kiwi jr). Out now on Melted Ice Cream (New Zealand & Rest of the World), Meritorio Records (Europe & USA), & Osborne Again (Australia). By the way, lead guitarist Adam Hattaway will release another record next week, keep an eye out for that one.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Meritorio Records

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