Indie Rock

New single: Autocamper || Blanche / Budge

Some tracks only need 5 seconds to grab you, and the lead track from Autocamper’s latest single does just that. With a simple guitar riff kicking things off, Blanche wastes no time in getting you hooked. As the rest of the instruments join in a couple of seconds later on this upbeat number, it’s clear that this is right up my alley. The feeling persists with the second track, Budge, although it took me about 10 seconds longer to fully realize it. Gently strummed guitars, a catchy keyboard lick, and the laid-back yet melancholic vocals of Niamh Purtill, who reminds me a little of Courtney Barnett, meld together to elevate the track to great heights.

We’ve covered Autocamper before, and our enthusiasm for this band only continues to grow. This is indie pop bliss straight out of Manchester while Autocamper fits in seamlessly with Melbourne bands we adore like Chook Race, Dick Diver and Twerps.

The cassingle is already sold out at Safe Suburban Home, but streaming everywhere.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New single: Sharp Class || Ordinary People

I’ve said this before, but few current bands nail the classic mod sound as well as UK-based Sharp Class. That still applies to their new two-track single. I am particularly fond of Catch My Breath, a song that draws you in from the get-go and would not look out of place on The Jam’s Setting Sons.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Shenanygans || On Monte Verita

Shenanygans are a new psychedelic indie rock outfit based in Switzerland, featuring Irish singers/guitarists (and brothers) Daniel and Kaylem Hannon-Barry, Swiss-Polish bassist/singer “Lucky” Luki Hellmann and Swiss multi-instrumentalist Tom Brunner on drums. For their debut LP On Monte Verita they were inspired by an anarchist commune of that name near Lake Locarno, where in the early twentieth century an eccentric gang of artists painted, philosophized, danced and made music. Their playlist during the recording process ranged from The Band, Billy Joel and The Velvet Underground to Arctic Monkeys, Rex Orange County and Say She She, and when you mix those influences in your mind you have some idea of what to expect. These are twelve dynamic songs full of memorable hooks, compelling melodies and appealing harmony vocals.

On Monte Verita is out now digitally via ICM Records.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Broken Gold || Wild Eyes

Broken Gold are an Austin-based band comprised of punkrock veterans (members of Riverboat Gamblers, The Kickz, Drakulas, A. Sinclair). Their new album Wild Eyes is out now on LP at Chicken Ranch Records. It is a raw and earnest indie rock record.

While not a conventionally talented singer, Ian MacDougall pours his heart out in these songs, and the gravel and sincerity in his voice signals many lives lived, giving the songs an anthemic feel and an emotional edge. Wild Eyes has a touch of americana here, a bit of heartland rock there, and a bit of mid to late career Replacements in between, but ultimately it is a rockin’ affair by a pretty cool band.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Chicken Ranch Records

New album: Vacation || Rare Earth

If I’m not mistaken, this year Vacation (Cincinatti) celebrates their 15-year anniversary. This week, Vacation (Jerome Westerkamp III, Evan Wolff, John Hoffman, and John Clooney) added their ninth full-length album to a discography that also contains two handfuls of shorter format releases.

Contrast their latest LP Rare Earth with early Vacation records, and the transformation is significant. In their earlier days, Vacation exuded a faster, grittier sound, leaning heavily into punk and garage influences. However, the evolution from their early ’10s incarnation to the rock powerhouse showcased on Rare Earth feels like a natural progression when considering their trajectory through subsequent releases. Vacation have always been anthemic, have always been arena sized ready – I wouldn’t be surprised if Dave Grohl extends this band an invitation to join Foo Fighters on their next tour.

While Rare Earth represents Vacation at their most polished and quintessentially rock, it retains the classic elements that makes this band so appealing. Think simple yet potent guitar riffs, a penchant for repetition (both musically and lyrically) that amplifies their impact, and infectious earworms that embed themselves deeper with each spin. With big hooks packed into a loud and irresistibly catchy package, this album delivers on all fronts.

Together with the release of the new Extra Arms, this is a great week for fans of rock music as imagined by punk rockers. Rare Earth is out now through Feel It Records.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Discogs

New EP: Mopar Stars || Burning Question

Amidst a whirlwind of releases this week, one Bandcamp notification stood out. “Mopar Stars just released Burning Question, check it out here.”

Hailing from Philadelphia, Mopar Stars (Philadelphia) were one of my favorite discoveries of 2023. Spearheaded by Nao Demand (known for his work with Poison Ruïn and Zorn) the project evolved that by the time they unveiled their stellar debut EP included talents like Bill Magger (from Positronix), Alex Karraba (TVO, ICD10), and Evan Campbell (Zorn, Sheer Mag). While these musicians all have played in hard rocking bands, Mopar Stars serves as a conduit for their pop sensibilities. The band infuses ’90s alt pop and indie rock influences with late ’70s/early ’80s new wave and power pop nostalgia. Their songs feel both unique and familiar, underproduced to perfection to remain permanent underground darlings. I’ve now heard ten songs by this band, six from the new EP and four from their amazing debut. I have yet to hear a Mopar Stars track that falls short.

The title track is a wave I could ride all day. It’s followed by the infectious headboppin’ Severed Head. Waters Rising strikes a chord reminiscent of Superchunk, while vocally transports you the heyday of ’80s new wave. Gasoline is the fastest and hardest rocking song on the EP with a highly effective single line hook: “I don’t have the patience for it.” Mopar Stars then eases off the throttle for the dreamy Frogs In The Well, constantly hinting upon becoming something louder. By the time EP closer Green Flames, a song with a grungy chorus, wraps up, I am already strapped in for another ride.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Extra Arms || RADAR

For years, we wrote about releases recorded during the pandemic, acknowledging the profound impact of remote recording, isolation, and prevailing dread on the music’s sound and themes. But we rarely mention that an album was recorded post-pandemic and how that context may have affected it sound.

In case of the new Extra Arms, playing together again clearly fueled the band and the infectious enthusiasm and energy shines through. Never a band lacking anthems or hooks, it feels like each and every song on RADAR has the power to reverberate through any building, whether it’s your parents’ basement or your local hockey arena. Extra Arms sound entirely comfortable with who they are, showing that when your songwriting is this solid and your musical compass this well calibrated, you don’t need gimmicks or complex chord progressions to standout. Extra Arms just play their hearts out, guaranteeing a good time for all.

On RADAR, Extra Arms match a modern sound with classic power pop influences, and have the potential to enthuse fans of ’80s powerpop, 90’s punk rock, 00’s indie rock as well. They even sprinkle some alt-country influences here and there. Perhaps the beauty of RADAR lies most in its honesty and straightforwardness. If you like your music catchy, uncomplicated and rockin’, Ryan Allen and his Extra Arms are your go-to band.

RADAR is out now on CD and LP at Setterwind Records.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: American Culture || Hey Brother, It’s Been A While

The new American Culture LP is called Hey Brother, It’s Been A While. The innocent and casual nature of the title becomes a punch in the gut once you discover its remarkable back story – the press release almost reads like a movie plot. However, let’s first delve into the music because, even without the context, this album stands on its own merits. Offering a surprising blend of styles, from Britpop to psych, C86 to alt-rock, and sunshine pop to punk, American Culture keeps finding ways to reinvigorate their indie rock on this record. At first listen, Hey Brother, It’s Been A While exudes a sunny disposition, evoking lazy Summer evenings. Underneath the surface, this record is much, much darker.

In short, the main subject of LP is American Culture’s guitarist and singer Michael Stein and the seriously messed up year he had. The band’s founder and co-guitarist/vocalist Chris Adolf explains: “Michael was homeless last year. He was a missing person for three months. We thought he was dead.” What happened? Stein’s drug habit spiraled out of control amid the pandemic. After a failed attempt to get clean he “eventually ended up stranded in Las Vegas, robbed, held hostage, and living in the tunnels beneath the city.” It came as far as Stein resigning to the fact of becoming a permanent homeless junkie. Fortunately, his parents together with Adolf embarked on a relentless search, something Adolf compares to a Coen Brothers movie including negotiating drug dealers. Eventually, a missing persons report yielded succes. Adolf recounts: “When his dad called me and said they’d found him, my first question was ‘dead or alive?’”

Hey Brother, It’s Been A While tells this story from two vantage points, from the missing band member and the band founder trying to locate him. Miraculously, what could have been a tale of loss, transforms into one of survival.. It turned out as an amazing record as well, one that is sonically pleasing and emotionally heavy – read along to the lyric video to standout Survive and you get an idea. LP out now through Convulse Records.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Convulse || Discogs

New EP: The Dumpies & Night Court || SHIT SPLIT Part Duh

Fitting nine songs on a single 7″ is no small feat, but I don’t think The Dumpies (Astoria, Oregon) and Night Court (Vancouver, BC) believe what they’ve achieved is all that special. Writing short songs that kick in immediately and stop promptly simply is their M.O., it is what comes out of these musicians’ hands and mouths when you put them in a room together. We covered both bands before of course. We loved The Dumpies’ sports icon series and Night Court is one of our favorite bands of the past couple of years.

Put both bands on a 7″ together – courtesy of Hovercraft Records, available at Green Noise Records, and suddenly you realize how well they go together and how complementary they are. The Dumpies and Night Court both sound like they write songs off the cuff and press record as soon as smiles erupt in their practice space. That first-take spontaneity and andrenaline rush is palpable on the nine songs here – five by the Dumpies on one side, four by Night Court on the other. Sure, The Dumpies may lean slightly towards a pop punk sound, and Night Court have their own unique indie/garage/powerpop/punk thing going one, but both sound lo-fi, scrappy and fun as hell.

SHIT SPLIT Part Duh is a must for human beings with short attention spans and who like their music awesome.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp (The Dumpies) || Bandcamp (Night Court) || Green Noise

New EP: For Closure || Hazy Mourning

Here is a new EP I keep returning to this week. It only has three songs, but features some of the best emo tinged alt rock/punk rock I’ve heard since that Custody LP we wrote about last month. I am talking about the Hazy Mourning EP by For Closure, a band of veterans who have a past in UK Subs, The Freeze, F.Y.P., Rhythm Collision, The Killing Flame, Justice League and many many others. The three songs here are a display of skill and infinite passion for creating amazing underground rock. RIYL: Samiam, Bob Mould, Superchunk, Jets To Brazil.

The Hazy Mourning EP is out now digitally through Mindpower Records.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

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