Alternative Rock

New album: Molly Hanmer & The Midnight Tokers || Get Loose

You don’t hear them like this often: Molly Hanmer writes strong songs, knows how to play guitar and harmonica, is blessed with a sensual but powerful voice, and if that isn’t enough, she also has good taste. Along with her band – Keith Palmer (drums, backup vocals), Alan Hampton (bass), Claudia Miles (back-up vocals), John Bird (keyboards), Mickey Madden (lead guitar), and guests Joe Sublett (saxophones ), and Mark Pender (trumpet) – the American garage rocker / pop punker has released their sophomore full-length album Get Loose, with nine original songs, and a nice cover of CCR’s Born on the Bayou. This is swinging, bluesful soul (or: soulful blues) infused with psychedelic folk, roots rock, and even gospel, both musical and lyrical highlight after highlight. You don’t hear them like this often.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Jackie Venson || Love Transcends

“They say freedom is in the mind // Well we lose our freedom when we get too scared to fight // One step forward is another step farther behind.” After half a minute of music, with these first lines, you know this is a special release. We are talking about Love Transcends, the new full-length album by American singer / songwriter / guitarist Jackie Venson. She wrote the songs across a decade (and added a new version of the classics Down By The Riverside and Up Above My Head), recorded them in a pandemic, played in a style a century old, but completely contemporary in every way. This is soulful blues rock, where Venson’s awesome, powerful distinctive vocals take your breath away, whether she screams or whispers. As if that isn’t impressive enough, she also throws out some stunning guitar solos, and she’s joined by a great band (Marcus Clark on bass, Jon Deas on piano and organ, Rodney Hyder on drums). This is Jackie Venson’s unique sound, the sound of a great star in the making.

Love Transcends is out now digitally and on CD. Add to wantlist: Bandcamp 

PS  Do yourself a favor and also watch the recording of the live concert that Jackie Venson gave in Texas late last year. Enchanting.

New EP: Harlis Sweetwater || Diesel Dirt & Spit

To avoid a speeding fine, it’s recommended that you do not listen to Harlis Sweetwater‘s energetic, gritty blues rock while on the road. His new four-track (digital) EP Diesel Dirt & Spit evokes so much enthusiasm that you’ll no longer be able to control yourself: the sound volume, the drinking pace and the smile on your face will all increase. The singer/guitarist from Orange County, California, has a voice that blows you away, and plays guitar solos that keep you going (he throws great parties with his band, which I would love to experience live). Listen below and you’ll hear what I mean, this is boogie woogie all night looooooooooooong. The EP is subtitled Volume 1, so hopefully more will follow soon.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Dragon Rapide || Mumbo Jumbo

Pop music is not singular. In fact, and I hope our site illustrates this, good pop music is multifaceted. But usually, bands limit themselves to a specific corner of the pop multiverse, and in doing so, they are making it easier for us listeners. After all, it’s kinda nice when you can conclude within a couple of songs that a band is right up your wheelhouse. Here’s a band that threw me off base at first because they are unafraid to wander into different musical directions, and do so unapologetically and with attitude. I am talking about Dragon Rapide, a French band whose latest record Mumbo Jumbo is an intriguing trip trough pop’n’rock’n’roll history.

Seemingly effortless, Dragon Rapide switch from ’80s new wave and postpunk (The Rock Bottom – Week 42, Second Line Parade), to ’90s Britpop (Lost In Space (originally by Aimee Man), This Someone), to bouncy powerpop (A-OK), to indiepop (Ghost, and Your Scar – probably my favorite two tracks on the record). The label (Le Pop Club) namedrops bands like Nada Surf, Teenage Fanclub, Travis, Gang Of Four and R.E.M. as influences, which should give you a further idea of the wide range of sounds on Mumbo Jumbo.

Mumbo Jumbo is the kind of record that is all over the place, and worth diving into.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Le Pop Club Records

New album: Parallel Bars || Malaise

Behind every mouse click on unknown music lies the chance of an awesome discovery. It’s a naive premise, I know, but every now and then a new sound from my speakers really makes my heart jump. That was the case when I came across Malaise, the new (digital) album from Parallel Bars. This is the moniker under which Neil Evans – with the help of friends – has been writing and releasing music for the past 10 years, after his old band Lunatic Dreyfus sort of stopped playing (both the new and old band name refer to The Pink Panther Strikes Again, yet the most recent cover photo shows another pink animal). The track I Need This offers an autobiographical look at the past: “I can’t sing, barely play guitar // That doesn’t stop me from pretending in the car // I had a band, but then we kinda stopped // Tried solo but that really flopped.”

Reason enough to ask Neil what he wants to achieve with his songs: “I have zero expectations for anything with Parallel Bars. It’s about having fun, creative expression, and the process of songwriting through collaboration.” As far as I’m concerned, that mission has been accomplished. Malaise has been a pretty personal project over the past year or so: “Writing original music was partly a distraction from the world, partly a coping mechanism.” The tunes kind of remind me of Urban Dance Squad, Nada Surf, OPM, and other bands that combined rock and rap-like vocals 20-30 years ago, but with a sauce of emo, punk, and ska.. Neil himself admits to being influenced by basically anything with great melody, lyrics, energy, and riffs, like New Found Glory, Zebrahead, 311, The Appreciation Post, Run The Jewels, The Hold Steady, Twenty-One Pilots, and Beach Boys. Anyway, stream the full album below, and try not to think of a pink elephant.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: The Cocktail Slippers || Shout It Out Loud!

Don’t you love it when music sounds the way you hope based on the artwork? Take a look at the cover photo of Shout It Out Loud!, the 5th full-length album (and first in 7 years) by The Cocktail Slippers. You see the Norwegian five-piece all-woman rock outfit in golden panther print, posing enthusiastically, with fireworks in the background. This must be a loud glam rock party, right? right! In the 10 songs on the new LP, produced by the band, and co-produced by hero Stevie Van Zandt and Mike Hartung, you can tell from the fun they make their instruments react to each other that they are a tight-knit gang of friends. All the rock clichés are there – the fist in the air sing-along anthem (She Devil (Shout It Out Loud!)), the sensitive ballad (I’ll Be Here For You – written for the band’s daughters), the cover of a classic (Joe South’s Hush), etc. – and that’s the way it is supposed to be. Moreover, Hope (lead vocals), Vega (guitar), Rocket Queen (guitar), Sugar (bass), and Miss A-OK (drums) master this genre very well. The harmony vocals, the wink to Guns ‘n’ Roses (Night Train) and the satirical spoken word cameo from The Woggles’ Mighty Manfred will only enhance your smile. RIYL The Go-Go’s, KISS, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts.

Stream the full album below.

Shout It Out Loud! is out now digitally, on CD and vinyl LP through Wicked Cool Records.

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

New album: Divine Horsemen || Hot Rise Of An Ice Cream Phoenix

On their 1981 album A Minute To Pray A Second To Die, The Flesh Eaters sang about Divine Horsemen (“Their hearts are in the right place // Right in the palm of my hand”). After disbanding his band a few years later, Chris Desjardins (a.k.a. Chris D.) continued with Julie Christensen on a new punk / folk project, which took its name from this song. In 1988, after a few LPs, Divine Horsemen ceased to exist, but the two L.A. musicians remained in touch, and after 33 years (and The Flesh Eaters’ recent reunion) they now have even released a collection of all-new recordings. It was worth the wait. For their new full-length Hot Rise Of An Ice Cream Phoenix, the singers reunited with onetime Divine Horsemen guitarist Peter Andrus and bassist Robyn Jameson (he tragically died following a street assault, after which his spot was taken over by Bobby Permanent), and in addition drummer DJ Bonebrake (X) and keyboardist Doug Lacy were recruited. The record contains original songs, influenced by European folk, Spanish flamenco, and murder ballads, but also a number of covers, such as the beautiful track Any Day Now by Tim Lee and Susan Bauer Lee (Tim Lee 3), and 25th Floor by Patti Smith and Ivan Kral. This is fine fine folk rock, where the distinctive vocals form a fascinating combination, and the experienced musicians understand how to give a song power and emotion at the same time. RIYL Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Scientists, The Dream Syndicate, The Wave Pictures.

Hot Rise Of An Ice Cream Phoenix is out now digitally, on CD and vinyl LP through In The Red Records.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Discogs || In The Red

New album: Pist Idiots || Idiocracy

I was quite infatuated with Pist Idiots 2019 Ticker EP (how good is Roundhouse?!), and I am happy the band’s highly anticipated debut full length Idiocracy is finally here. And (spoiler!), the record instantly won me over. Idiocracy sounds like the logical next step for the band. Pist Idiots may sound more nuanced and polished on Idiocracy but they don’t give up any of the intangibles that worked on their previous material. Here’s a band that knows how to find the sweet spot between aggression and melody. Pist Idiot’s brand of indie rock’n’roll is gritty, vibrant and full of swagger, and even the lower paced songs (such as album standouts She Yells Jack, Juliette) feel alive and kicking. The choruses of the band, frequently accompanied with memorable lines (“She’s got a new haircut, I wonder if she’s got that old boyfriend”), hook their way in your brain.

Apparently, Pist Idiots are already quite popular in their home country (Australia). With the sheer power of Idiocracy, I can see their succes spread globally. Yeah, I need this in my collection, and hopefully affordable copies will soon turn up here in Europe.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Discogs

New album: Sweet Crisis || Tricks On My Mind

To be honest, after listening to Sweet Crisis‘ full-length debut album Tricks On My Mind when it came out on a packed release day last month, I put it aside. It simply didn’t click with me enough to pay more attention to it, to add it to my want list, to write about it. For some reason the record blasted out of my speakers again this week, and now it did hit me. Strange how that works, but I think the band understands it, because their lyrics for standout track Ain’t Got Soul (video below) is consistent with this: “Rollin’ around, looking for the next big thing // Taking my time , to listen to everything // Then comes a new face, searching for a quick glimpse of fame // The radios drowned, playing the same old thing, over and over and over again.” I now realize that these new faces – Leo Robarts (vocals), Piers Mortimer (guitar), Matt Dudurym (bass), Dom Briggs-Fish (keyboards), and Joe Taylor (drums) – may soon no longer be able to go out on the street without sunglasses and a cap.

Sweet Crisis are a soulful blues rock band from the UK, with an “American” sound that is most reminiscent of the later own work of The Black Keys (also: a mix of Free, Donny Hathaway, and Led Zeppelin). They themselves cite classic rock and soul music of the 70’s as their main influences (they previously did a creditable cover version of Oh Well, in tribute to the late guitar legend Peter Green from Fleetwood Mac), but although they stay true to that quality, their energetic, powerful songs fit very well in 2021. Give it a listen, and if it doesn’t catch on right away, try again later.

“If it ain’t got soul, I don’t want to know, don’t want to know // If it ain’t got soul, I don’t want to know, I just don’t want to know”

Tricks On My Mind is out now on vinyl LP through Headline Records. Add to wantlist: Discogs

Scroll to Top