Alternative Rock

New album: Vacation || Existential Risks And Returns

It’s summer, and as you may have noticed, we will be posting less frequently this month. What better band to do a post about than Vacation? The Cincinatti (Ohio) indiepunkers have been quite prolific in the past, with their Southern Grass double album in 2017 as their most ambitious project, but their new album is their first in three years. Like on their previous records, expect a catchy and energetic blend of punkrock, powerpop, grunge and GBV-fi – the band self-describes as grit pop. I’ve always enjoyed this band’s records. One of Vacation’s strengths is that they know how to balance between more noisy experimental songs, and really infectious and hooky pop songs. Existential Risks And Returns is no exception. Stand out tracks for me are Colored By Numbers, Luminary Jerry, and Quantum Cafe, but from past experiences, I already predict that’s subject to change.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Discogs

New EP: Sweet Teeth || Acid Rain

It’s a good release week for fans of heavy and melodic guitar driven altpop. Sweet Teeth are from Sweden but they have a very American sound that will appeal to fans of Bob Mould and Dinosaur Jr. The guitars are loud and layered, and the melodies strong on the band’s 7-song debut mini-LP. Have a taste of My Heart Is Big And Broken and Her, and let the Acid Rain wash over you.

Sweet Teeth features members from a wide variety of prominent Swedish acts such as Disfear, Year of the Goat, and Dollhouse. Fingers crossed this is the start of something bigger for the band.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New EP: Stay Put || Stay Put

In all honesty, there is a reason not to buy the debut 7″ of Plymouth (UK) band Stay Put. And that is its generic orange cover. It’s the only thing I don’t really care for. Anything else is pretty good to pretty great. With a release on Crew Cut Records, and a classic hardcore band name, I did not expect the band to sound like a ’90s alternative guitar band. But they do, not unlike a heavier version of the Lemonheads or a slightly lower paced version of early Superchunk. The vocals are buried a bit too low in the mix for my taste, but what a solid start from a very promising new act!

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Crew Cuts

New EP: Meal || Jimmy

Each day we receive many Bandcamp notifications of new releases. When we hear something we like, we usually try to find the band on Spotify and add one or two songs to our new music playlist. It’s always a surprise to see how many monthly listeners a band has on the platform, and for a blog like ours it becomes a sport to find cool new artists with as few listeners as possible. Here is a band that currently has zero (!) monthly listeners. I don’t mean that as a brag, but as an encouragement to become an early adopter, because they sound pretty good.

I’m talking about Meal, a band I only know four things about: they are from Finland, they started the band in 2019, they are impossible to google, and their (debut?) EP is out now on cassette on State Champion Records. The six songs on the Jimmy EP jump from indie rock to post punk with angular guitars to altpunk, sometimes all in one song like the standout title track. Another band that deserves way more listeners.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || State Champion Records

New album: Women Of the Night || Sub Rosa

New York City cool is back. Please meet the Women of the Night, three guys with the right looks, hairstyles and sunglasses. Singer / songwriter / guitarist Jordan D’Arsie, drummer Kyubae Lee and bassist / slide guitarist Gray Watson play a headstrong mix of proto-punk, new wave, psych, glam and garage rock. The interesting thing is that you’ll hear all kinds of well-known influences on their debut album Sub Rosa, but it isn’t possible to name them exactly; it resembles bands like New York Dolls, The Strokes, Television, Velvet Underground and Modern Lovers, but it’s different and elusive. These are three guys with their own sound, riffs and vocals. This is cool, this is good, this could get big. Listen to songs like The Stranger and Dark Horsey and it won’t take much effort to imagine that these are going to be hits. Sub Rosa is out now digitally and on vinyl LP through Declared Goods (USA) and Heavy Soul Records (UK).

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Heavy Illusion || Reality TV

Heavy Illusion is an American psychedelic rock band, led by brothers Ricky (vocals / guitar / keyboards / bass / trumpet) and Tyler North (drums). They’ve just released their seventh (digital) album, Reality TV, a quest for how we view the world through the lens of the media: what’s our reality? Ricky wrote great lyrics like “See…our progress in motion // Hear…our endless devotion // When we build ourselves a future we can thrive in // Feel…a live imagination” (from Carry On). The music sounds sunnier and less hallucinatory than what you would expect based on this theme. These are progressive rock jams that have a clever and varied structure, surprisingly entertaining. Stream the full album below.

Out now digitally. Add to wantlist: Bandcamp 

Throwback Thursday: Popsicko || Natassja

In the mid ’90s, Lagwagon frontman Joey Cape started My Records. His first release was Happy Meals, a fun compilation featuring bands like Nerf Herder, Bodyjar and Armchair Martian I still play every now and then. Back then of course, compilation CDs were the go-to strategy to discover new bands. In this case, there were several bands unknown to me that stood out. But the song I was blown away the most was the perfect powerpop of Against You by Popsicko. Naturally, I started looking for more music of this band, and was shocked to read that the frontman of the band (Keith Morris) had recently died in a car accident. An thus, the band’s output was limited to only one full length album, the ominously titled Off To A Bad Start. It’s a great collection of alt-pop, powerpop and pop punk songs, and a bittersweet document of a band on the verge of breaking out. The remaining Popsicko members went on to play in bands like Summercamp, The Rentals, Sugarcult and Bad Astronaut.

Now, 25 years later, Popsicko is getting renewed recognition thanks to Big Stir Records, who decided to release a standalone single of the stellar Popsicko song Nastassja, with Gettin’ Used To You on the flipside. Not only is there a great joy in revisiting these songs, and rediscovering the sheer power of the songwriting of Popsicko, it’s also great to read more about the band. The Santa Barbara Independent published an oral history of Popsicko last week that is full of interesting facts and includes quotes from members of bands like Nerf Herder, Lagwagon, Pennywise and Foo Fighters. Its author, S.W. Lauden (who also drums in The Brothers Steve), wrote an accompanying piece about his personal connection to the band as well. Both articles and the Big Stir release are well timed, well deserved and sincere tributes to a heartfelt and soulful band that may be gone, but not without leaving a lasting legacy.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Discogs

Gimme 5! Zeno Jones and Rodney B. (Cold Beverage) Share 5 Records That Influenced Their Debut Album ‘Hot Wax’

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

Two weeks ago I raved about Hot Wax, the debut album by guitar-drum duo Cold Beverage. They play rock & roll garage blues with surprising structures, heavy riffs and raw vocals – very cool imho. Unfortunately, no physical release is planned yet, but the good news is that the songs are now available on all of the streaming services. Do yourself a favor and give it a listen on Spotify and add it to your wantlist on Bandcamp.

Given the nature of the music, I wanted to know what the band members themselves are listening to, and I’m really glad guitarist Zeno Jones was willing to answer that question. Not only did he come up with a great selection that says a lot about the two band members, but he also knows how to describe it in an enviable way. Anything mentioned below that I don’t already have, I’d love to add to my record collection. How about you?

New album: Cowbell || Waiting For Yesterday

Of all the musical instruments, the cowbell is probably the coolest to pick as a band name, even if the music has little to do with the legendary Saturday Night Live sketch starring Blue Öyster Cult. On their fourth album Waiting For Yesterday, Cowbell mixes influences from rock ‘n’ roll, soul, blues, folk, and garage rock into a fresh sound of their own. These are 11 varied, wonderfully constructed tracks, in which a lot’s going on, with appealing lyrics. Each song is a surprise, as if this is a summer movie soundtrack that has to express the emotions of different scenes. Think of a compilation featuring artists like The Byrds, Mazzy Star, John Paul Keith, The Maharajas, Reigning Sound, and The Wheels, but all played by Jack Sandham (vocals / guitar / keys) and Wednesday Lyle (vocals / drums / percussion), this time assisted by Fabio D’Agostino (guitar / sitar / synth) and Tom Wright (bass). Just as cool as their band name.

Out digitally via Damaged Goods and on vinyl LP through the band’s own Cool Jerk Records.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Beat Up || Satisfied?

The band name, the cover art, the palm muted guitars in the opening seconds of the record…they set me on the wrong foot in terms of what to expect from Beat Up’s new record Satisfied? But isn’t music all about messing around with the expectations of the listeners? At the same time, I am not sure whether Beat Up care all that much about expectations. Probably they just play what they like. They clearly found their own niche that harbors elements of punk, indie rock, post punk and alternative music, sometimes all in the same song. The vocal melodies of Beat Up also are quite unique. It’s like Robert Pollard (of GBV) has been listening to street punk and celtic punk bands a lot. I am even hearing some Dag Nasty influences in album opener Us Vs. Them.  In the end, the question mark in the album title almost reads like Beat Up want to taunt listeners out of their comfort zone. They even close out the record testing our attention span with three 5 minute songs, that are actually quite great. Satisfied? I’d say mission accomplished.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

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