Alternative Rock

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

New album: Veronique Gayot || Animal

French blues rock singer Veronique Gayot calls herself the wild cat. Her debut album was titled Wildcat (2019), the successor is called Animal. However, her raw vocals have more in common with a tiger than with a cat (and while we use the obvious metaphors: the drums stomp like rhythmic elephants, the guitars screech like well-tuned peacocks). About 30 years ago, similarly gritty voices as Alannah Myles and Melissa Etheridge scored hits with this kind of hard rocking blues songs, in 2021 Veronique Gayot deserves that success too. Watch the video for standout opening track Wicked Shot below, listen to the rest of the album via your favorite streaming service.

Out now on CD and vinyl LP via Grand Cru Records. Add to wantlist: Veronique Gayot 

New album: Jack Droppers & The Best Intentions || Dad Rock

Based on the title Dad Rock and accompanying cover photo you could conclude that the third independently released album by Jack Droppers & The Best Intentions is a gimmick, but this is actually one to take seriously. Frontman Jack Droppers has become a father (on the back of the record sleeve he has his first child Naomi in his arms; the tenth song on the record bears her name and the eleventh, closing song was written for her: Welcome to the Party). Anyway, along with The Best Intentions (Laura Hobson, Devin Sullivan, James Kessel, Garrett Stier, and Josh Holicki) he’s recorded a collection of strong songs with compelling lyrics that will appeal to fans of Butch Walker, Jesse Malin, and Bruce Springsteen. This is infectious true American rock ‘n’ roll that deserves packed stadiums. I enjoy the album so much more than I expected based on the cover art, but I’ll pass on the limited edition Dad Rock patch they offer for sale. Listen below to the opening and closing song of the record.

Out now digitally, on CD and vinyl LP.  Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New single: Otts || One Two Three Stand

Otts are a three-piece from New-Zealand who effortlessly blend alternative rock with punk attitude and pop sensibilities. The band released two singles last year called Old Tree Tire Swing, and Over There To Shake. Their latest single again is made up of the letters of the band: One Two Three Stand. Both songs on the single rock like crazy, and the louder you play them, the better they will sound. I am keeping an close eye on Otts: Outstanding Teamwork Tremendous Songs.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Patty PerShayla & The Mayhaps || Cheap Diction

Singer / songwriter / multi-instrumentalist Patty PerShayla has a beautiful name, but more importantly, she has a great powerful voice that she knows how to use in the right raw way. After her solo EP Oracle Bones (2019) and many cover requests, she has now released the full length debut album Cheap Diction, together with guitarist Lucas Powell and drummer Alec Klinefelter. Here the power trio plays ten energetic songs, inspired by blues and classic / progressive rock, with a nostalgic feel (there are even guitar solos) but completely contemporary in terms of lyrics and sound. “I’ll lose my balance if I // Tiptoe around your feelings // You might have the floor, sure // But I’m dancing on the ceiling”, PerShayla sings on opening track Walking on My Hands. Like I’m upside down from this music.

Out now digitally, on CD and vinyl LP. Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Fred Lee & The Restless || Sleepwalking In Daylight

Fred Lee is the alter ego of Swedish musician Fredrik Lindkvist, who in the past 20 years played in several punk bands (Knugen Faller, RIWEN, Royal Downfall, Sista Brytet, Totalt Jävla Mörker). Now he follows the path Frank Turner (with whom he has a great voice in common) also took, from hardcore to folk-rock. He wrote some narrative, soulful songs, put together backup band The Restless, with whom he recorded this strong, powerful debut album Sleepwalking In Daylight. The ten new tracks may not be as fast and loud as in the punk days, but they might hit harder (and will appeal to a wider audience). This sound can make festival fields go wild.

Out now digitally and on vinyl LP via Lövely Records. Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Freight Train

New album: Freedom || Freedom

There’s no shortage of hard-to-google bands on this blog, but we have a new leader on the board that will be hard to beat. The name of the band? Freedom. The title of the new record? Freedom. So yeah, my information about the release is limited to this: Freedom are from Stockholm and this is their first LP. It’s currently digital only, but will be available on LP this summer; order directly through the band on Bandcamp or contact them at their Facebook page.

The music is pretty great though. Freedom plays blue collar music with soulful vocals – it’s hard not to think about Bruce Springsteen when listening to this record. Fans of Gaslight anthem and particularly Nato Coles And The Blue Diamond Band will go wild for the band’s sound. While Freedom opts for a slightly more authentic rock sound relative to those bands, they play their songs at sufficient pace to also draw in fans of punk, garage and powerpop. All in all, for an impossible to google band, Freedom are an awesome find.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

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