Country & Folk

New album: Evening Standards || The Shining

Scrappy basement pop anthems designed for massive singalongs

Basement pop champions Evening Standards are back with their fourth album The Shining, and they’re still cranking out irresistible guitar pop like it’s going out of style (spoiler alert: it’s not). The band may have traded Bloomington for Gainesville, but their sound remains a perfect cocktail of alt-country twang and punk rock swagger.

In all honesty, Evening Standards are the kind of band you might miss if you blink. But once you’re in on the secret, you’re hooked for life. The Shining is packed with scrappy pop anthems perfectly designed for singalongs. The dual vocals of Chris Mott and Daun (alumni of Landlord, Purple 7, The Door-Keys, and Fat Shadow) create a vibe that has “your coolest friends jamming in the garage” written all over it. When they belt out lines like “I’m the same as you, honey. I’ve got shit to do” (from Sniffing Glue), you can’t help but relate.

It’s not just the relatable lyrics and catchy vocals that’ll grab you. Evening Standards deliver their tunes with a perfect blend of heart, grit, energy and melody that quickly becomes outright addictive. The Shining is out now on LP at Dead Broke Rekerds who state that this is “probably our favorite record to drop this year,” and honestly, they have a strong case. Highly recommended!

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Dead Broke Rekerds

New album: Max Blansjaar || False Comforts

Layered Instrumentation and Confident Vocals Define A Powerful Debut

Max Blansjaar, born in Amsterdam but raised in Oxford (UK), grew up immersed in the local music scene, promoting and playing shows as a teenager. Now, on his debut album False Comforts, he moves beyond the lo-fi pop of his youth to create something truly impressive.

Blansjaar recorded False Comforts with Katie Von Schleicher at her home studio in Brooklyn. The result is an eclectic yet accessible collection of poppy indie rock tunes. In this interview at Musicngear, Blansjaar explains how he is inspired by bands that “do a lot with little” like Velvet Underground, Neutral Milk Hotel and Elephant 6, because it leaves room for melodies to soar. That’s exactly what you get on False Comforts. Blansjaar’s laid-back, confident vocals perfectly complement the subtly layered and commodious instrumentation, which includes bass, drums, guitar, synth, piano, and saxophone, and drops memorable melodies over them like he was born to do exactly that.

Each song elicits a unique response. The opener Saturnia is built on a bass riff that makes it impossible to sit still. Burning In Our Name starts folky but turns into a head-bopper. Like A Bad Dream sways and swoons, standing out as one of the album’s highlights. Red Tiger is a quiet song that makes you sit down and pay attention to the lyrics – another one of Blansjaar’s strengths. Life On Earth sounds like an indie hit from the ‘00s.

Blansjaar’s talent shines brightly on False Comforts. It’s the kind of record that wins you over one song at a time, and is destined to be revered by music critics and cherished by listeners alike. Out now on Cassette and LP at Oxford label Beanie Tapes.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New EP: Pretty Pretty Please || Soda Pop​ / ​Tequila + Time Away

Band to watch

Looking for summer hits in the making? Minneapolis-based pop/rock duo Pretty Pretty Please make a convincing application with their thirsty debut EP. The relatively new band consists of Ben Tarr and Sam Walsh, who wrote, recorded, produced and performed these two folky songs full of hooks.  Both Soda Pop​ and ​Tequila + Time Away are characterized by energetic acoustic guitar melodies with effective tempo changes, and uplifting harmony vocals. There is no shortage of zest and fun, cheerful nodding or tapping guaranteed.

Soda Pop​ / Tequila + Time Away is out now digitally via Airo Records.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Jason McNiff || Everything’s a Song

British singer-songwriter and guitar virtuoso Jason McNiff kicks off his ninth full-length album with Song of Everything and closes it with title track Everything’s A Song. In between we get tasteful originals full of inspired stories, at times reminiscent of Bob Dylan, plus a cover of Italian protest folk song Bella Ciao as you haven’t heard it before. In total it’s 40 gentle minutes – ten acoustic guitar songs – of bluesy Americana that will keep you glued to your speakers, thanks to captivating wordplay and magnetic vocals. It was difficult to choose which tracks to embed below, and that says it all.

Everything’s a Song, produced by Matt Armstrong, is out now via Tombola Records.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Late Slip || I Love You

Contemporary country meets a 60s girl group sound on I Love You, the expertly produced full-length debut album from New York City’s Late Slip, after previously releasing EPs Other Men (2016) and Reelin’ (2020). We also hear influences from old school rock ‘n’ roll, exotica, surf and garage rock (what’s not to like?!), and somehow the sun spontaneously gets a technicolour filter when you press play.

We are dealing with Chelsea Nenni (vocals, guitar), who has recorded eight super charming retro-pop songs, together with Lewis Pesacov (guitar, bass, keys), Rachel David (bass) and Garrett Ray (drums, percussion). All originals, with the exception of closing track Heart of Glass, a successful Blondie cover.

A vibrant voice that makes you happy and an inviting rhythm section that makes you dance, a blissful soundtrack for this summer. The record is dedicated to songwriter Chelsea’s grandmother, who passed away a few years ago, but will be very proud posthumously.

I Love You, produced, recorded & mixed by Lewis Pesacov, is out now digitally, on CD and vinyl LP, through Party Mermaid Records.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Good Looks || Lived Here for a While

It doesn’t seem all that special what Tyler Jordan (rhythm guitar, lead vocals), Jake Ames (lead guitar), Robert Cherry (bass) and Phillip Dunne (drums) of Austin-based indie folk/slacker rock quartet Good Looks bring to the stage, but somehow it has an irresistible and addictive effect on me. Their first LP Bummer Year made it into the top 3 of my 2022 year-end list, and successor Lived Here for a While hits the mark again. The fact that this album exists is a miracle in itself; immediately after their triumphant hometown debut record release show, Jake was hit by a car, fracturing his skull and tailbone, but ultimately here he is again.

The cover photo by Amanda Julia Steinback suggests that the band continues in the same vein, and that turns out to be the case, although the guitar riffs sound a little more vicious and varied. We get ten indie rock songs with relatable lyrics about all kinds of relationships (“You know music theory, but you can’t feel the vibe // Let me show it to you, it comes from deep inside // Mine was put there by my parents, a place for me to hide // And if I didn’t have it, I probably would have died” – from Self-destructor), songs that have cracked the magic formula for the right balance of loud and soft, fast and slow, heart and soul. And that’s pretty special.

Lived Here for a While, recorded, mixed & produced by Dan Duszynski, is out now digitally, on CD and vinyl LP, through Keeled Scales. Also featuring Vanessa Jollay (back-up vocals) and Dan Duszynski (additional instrumentation and background vocals).

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Discogs

New album: Fantastic Cat || Now That’s What I Call Fantastic Cat

New York City’s charming folk rock supergroup Fantastic Cat named their debut album The Very Best of Fantastic Cat, but on their sophomore LP Now That’s What I Call Fantastic Cat they show they can do even better. Band members Brian Dunne, Anthony D’Amato, Don DiLego and Mike Montali are all gifted songwriters with an appealing voice and skilled hands (and their own careers), but playing many shows together – entertaining cockfights without a winner but with a lot of fun – has only further strengthened their synergy. What they do so well on stage – everything to give the audience a good time – you can now hear to a greater extent in the eleven new songs, with somewhat larger gestures: catchy whoo-hoo and la-la-la-la harmonies, infectious handclaps, memorable melodies, and earworm choruses. Watch the video below for standout track So Glad You Made It, featuring Adam Duritz (Counting Crows) and Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, and you’ll get the picture. There are more than a few hits here, but for real – I’d be willing to bet that these purring cats will have at least ten times as many listeners and fans by the end of this year as they do right now.

Now That’s What I Call Fantastic Cat is out now digitally, on CD and vinyl LP, through Missing Piece Records.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Discogs || Fantastic Cat 

New album: Workers Comp || Workers Comp

Here’s an album that may not be brand new by strict definition, but it definitely deserves a prime spot on your wantlist. Baltimore’s Workers Comp has dropped their self-titled debut LP, essentially a compilation of the trilogy of EPs they released over the past two years. We’ve already raved about the Crazy With Sweat EP, and now you get to dive into the other two gems: One Horse Pony and When In Room (both from 2022). These songs were released on Tape and now, for the very first time all of the outfit’s songs are available on one convenient piece of black vinyl. As a bonus there is a closing track that is brand new.

If you are unfamiliar with these songs, I envy you, because Workers Comp are one of the realest bands out there right now. They are the perfect antidote to all that is artificial about today’s music. Blending elements of Velvet Undergroundesque protopunk with outsider country, Workers Comp are an unique band with a raw and lo-fi edge. Their songs are anthems of solidarity and rebellion that hit you right where it matters. If you have time for just one song, make it Pressure Today. The first time I heard it, I became a fan of this band. Now, with help from ever/never records even non-cassette player owners can now enjoy these tracks the way there were meant to.

“Pressure today from the man in charge // gonna have to pull the conveyor apart // I take a hex wrench off of the workbench // waiting on a lesson to be blessing my heart.”

Workers Comp are Joshua Gillis (Deadbeat Beat, Glad Fact) Ryan McKeever (Staffers) and Luke Reddick (Divorce Horse)

Dusted || The 10 Best Cover Songs Of May 2024

Not all new music is really new, as many artists cover songs. Sometimes these are songs by their favorite artists, eg as a tribute to such a musical hero for a special reason, or they simply feel that a song deserves to be dusted and polished to reacquaint fans with great songs from the past. Other times, bands cover songs as a parody. Regardless of intent, some of those cover versions are so good or so much fun, we’d like to put a spotlight on them. Chosen from a wide range, here are – in random order – ten of our favorite covers from last month – links to the pages where you can add them to your wantlist included.

To be honest, I wanted to kick this off with Swedish rock band The Hives’ take on Blue Swede’s Hooked On A Feeling. You probably know the “Ooga-Chaka Ooga-Ooga” chant from Guardians Of The Galaxy Awesome Mix Vol. 1, but the tune is actually 50 years old. The new version is recorded for Spotify Singles, which means we cannot easily embed it here (you’ll find a link in the honorable mentions later in this post). Fortunately, there’s plenty more to choose from.

Star Star || Cover: The Cynz || Original: The Rolling Stones
On their latest release, JEM Records celebrates Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, after previously honoring John Lennon (2020), Brian Wilson (2021), Pete Townshend (2022) and Ray Davies (2023) with a strong compilation in this series. This new one is also fun, with energetic contributions from favorite bands and artists such as The Midnight Callers, Paul Collins, TheAirport77s, Nick Piunti and The Weeklings. No fillers here, but I like the ragged edge of The Cynz the best.

New single: Daniel Milewski feat. Jacuzzi Boys || Waiting b​/​w Good Times

Daniel Milewski is a singer-songwriter from Miami, who so far has mainly subdued Americana songs to his name, although rock influences occasionally seeped through. For this freshly pressed 45 he collaborated with his long-time friends and fellow citizens from garage pop trio Jacuzzi Boys, and the result is more than the sum of its parts. On both A-side Waiting and B-side Good Times, the four musicians deliver a full band sound in which tough guitar riffs, driving bass lines, stomping drum rhythms and gritty vocals come into their own in equal measure. Balanced and drawn out, honest and energizing, ragged and inspired.

Waiting b​/​w Good Times, recorded with Ryan Haft, is out now digitally and on 7″ vinyl through Saturn House Records.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

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