Jangle Pop

New album: Rural France || RF

I cannot emphasize enough how much I appreciate labels that consistently release terrific records. It is worth a great deal when you get excited whenever a label announces a new release, when you can blindly rely on a label’s good taste. Take Spanish label Meritorio Records. The label’s batting average in 2021 is off the charts. Basically, all of their recent releases are worth your money (i.e., Wurld Series, The Telephone Numbers, Monnone Alone, Real Numbers, Stephen’s Shore).

Meritorio’s latest homerun is the debut LP (RF) from Rural France, a duo (Tom Brown and Rob Fawkes) that actually lives in Rural England (Wiltshire). Rural France plays ’60s pop disguised as ’90s slacker indie rock. The guitars are fuzzy and jangly, and the lo-fi songs are short and forward moving. Oh, and there is the occasional synth lick saying hi, how are you. If you are looking for 25 minutes of worriless escapism powered by solid songwriting, look no further than RF. What I like most about this release is how coherent and accomplished it is as a full album. Usually, it’s easy to pick out the highlights of a record, but this one I would actually recommend listening in full. And the record still keeps getting better with each listen, despite being accessible right from the bat.

For some reason, it took Rural France (“The hardest working, nineties-influenced indie rock band in West Wiltshire”) several years to record and release RF. “The songs were mostly written during the heatwave of 2018, spurred on by Beach Boys bootlegs and a World Cup. Half-drunk on the sun and Brian Wilson’s genius, I’d make the short journey from the garden to my guitar to try and get down some vague ideas that were forming in the haze of that sweltering suburban summer,” Brown explains. Not sure if it had any influence on the band name or the songwriting, but France won that 2018 World Cup.

So yeah, Meritorio hit another one out of the park. And (spoiler alert) the next one is coming soon (Semi Trucks, out November 26).

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Meritorio Records

New EP: Foyer Red || Zigzag Wombat

Brooklynites Elana Riordan, Marco Ocampo and Mitch Myers make up Foyer Red, a band unafraid of playing at different frequencies and wandering untrodden paths. If you think Zigzag Wombat is kind of a weird title, wait until you hear the complex controlled chaos that is Foyer Red’s music. I am absolutely infatuated with EP opener Fribbe, a song that opens with 35 seconds of a jazz trumpet, but then transcends into a weirdly effective mix of mathcore and tweepunk. Perhaps Twee Math is the best description of the six songs on Zigzag Wombat. Fribbe alone is worth the purchase of this EP, but the other songs offer just as much excitement.

Zigzag Wombat is the perfect remedy for cynical music fans complaining about the lack of surprise or innovative ideas in present day guitar music. For those less cynical, Foyer Red offers a reminder of the rush of discovering exciting new music and why it always pays off to keep hunting for new music.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Power Supply || In the Time of the Sabre​-​Toothed Tiger

After the demise of Melbourne’s eclectic rock band Ooga Boogas (most popular track: Sex In The Chillzone – just saying), the four band members went separate ways. However, the paths of Leon Stackpole (vocals), Per Bystrom (drums), Richard Stanley (bass), and Mikey Young (guitar) converged again in the concert venues, and they decided to continue under the fresh moniker of Power Supply. Back on stage, jams became songs, jokes became lyrics, and voila: here’s their full-length debut album In The Time of the Sabre-toothed Tiger, with ten rhythmic songs for those who have ever wondered how a cheerful version of The Velvet Underground would have sounded. This is energetic and bewitching jangly guitar rock with a strong sense of melody and groove. Watch the video for standout track Let’s Do This and Let’s Do That below: “Back here again // It’s been too long” – great to see and hear these four guys together again.

Stream the full album below.

In the Time of the Saber​-​toothed Tiger is out now digitally and on vinyl LP through Anti Fade Records (Australia) and Goner Records (USA).

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Farewell Horizontal || You’re Not An Empath

Melbourne duo Farewell Horizontal return with their second album of 2021 (and third in total) – more on their previous record here. Like their previous record, You’re Not An Empath again is short but sweet, and filled with quality indie rock and jangle pop. Farewell Horizontal is a band that values integrity and is full of heart and empathy: They again will donate most, if not all of the sales of the record to worthy causes. The band likes to stay away from the traps of social media and have their own website to communicate and connect. That website is worth a visit, and I recommend listening to You’re Not An Empath while reading the band’s backstory for each of the songs. Another strong record by an underrated band.

I give up trying to be interesting || yeah I give up taking interests in things that I don’t like || All these paintings are just junk || everyone’s a pretentious drunk || Unless you’ve got some ideas || I give up || Yeah, I give up

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: The Exbats || Now Where Were We

Last month, I read how music writers were already compiling their Album Of The Year lists. It was only September…crazy right? I guess that’s how it works if you are a serious music writer. The advantage of having your own outlet is that you don’t have to worry about deadlines and you can postpone working on year-end lists just a little longer. But my general inclination towards procrastination is not the main reason for waiting out on the AOTY list. It’s simply because there will always be late contenders entering the competition.

Now Where Were We by The Exbats is a primary example. The Exbats are daughter-father duo Inez & Kenny McLain on drums/vocals and guitar/vocals, and Bobby Carlson Jr. on bass. Now Where Were is the The Exbats third album. It is built on the same effective template as their previous albums: Scrappy and honest ’60s pop rounded out by influences from ’70s powerpop and punk, garage and bubblegum pop and blue-eyed soul. Kinda like The Mamas & The Papas x The Shangri-Las x The Archies x The Ramones. Though subtle, the music of The Exbats has steadily been evolving, and I don’t think the band has never sounded better. The songs on Now Where Were We have more depth, diversity and better harmonies than on their previous outings; The result of a more deliberate and more extensive period of songwriting. What hasn’t changed: The Exbats still sound insanely catchy, with memorable choruses you will sing along to in no time.

I have seldom exclaimed listening to my new favorite song by a band on their third album. I think it happened at least 3 or 4 times with Now Where Were We: Coolsville USA, Practice On Me, Best Kiss, and Hey New Zealand are all instant classics. Let me tell you, when one of the funnest bands of this era release their best work yet, you’d better create  some room to update your AOTY lists.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Discogs

New single: Sillicone Values || Streaming TV b​/​w Nothing Wrong With Me

Bristol (UK) postpunk/indiepop hybrid Sillicone Values make a deliberate attempt of showing how little they care on their latest single. They don’t care if they sound like other bands. And, they explicitly mention that they recorded the two songs “without due care or attention.” They probably could care less if anyone listens to these songs, let alone write about them. I am not sure whether the four-piece is too cool to care or whether it genuine disinterest. Unfortunately, I like these two too much not to share. Streaming TV and Nothing Wrong With Me are a time capsule to the underground pop scene in ’80s UK. The only reason I’m sure this is in fact a present day band is that they sing about only feeling safe when they are streaming tv.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New EP: Slack Times || At The Blue Melon Rendezvous

If you like The Feelies, garage pop that is upbeat and jangly, or the Athens indie sound of the early ’80s, Slack Times may well turn out to be your new favorite band. Slack Times are Chris McCauley, Will Stewart and Stuart Norman who, in different cross-links play(ed) together in The Blips, Bad Hops, and Holy Youth. The band name is a nod to the pandemic lockdowns. The trio started recording in the fall of 2020 and released their first EP last spring. That EP already showed a lot of promise, but their new EP is even better *. And with better I mean all killer, no filler. Lead single Can’t Count On Anyone alone is worth the purchase of this EP that is out now on Earth Libraries.

What about that weird title for their EP? Apparently, it’s a reference to an art gallery in downtown Water Valley the band frequently encountered during their walks across the city.

* On the EP, Slack Times is helped out by producer Bronson Tew on drums on the recordings, and Matt Patton on bass.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Emma Russack & Lachlan Denton || Something Is Going To Change Tomorrow, Today. What Will You Do? What Will You say?

Emma Russack and Lachlan Denton are prolific songwriters from Melbourne. Somehow, between recording with their respective bands (Snowy Band, The Ocean Part, Pop Filter and others), they find time to write records together. Something Is Going To Change Tomorrow, Today. What Will You Do? What Will You say? is their latest collaborative project, their fourth (!) in three years. How do they do it? Well, combine friendship, a desire for writing honest pop music, and efficiency – the record was recorded in about 12 hours on tape.

The result is 26 minutes of laid back indiepop tunes with beautiful melodies and harmonies (listen to Long Road for example). Some have an old timey country feel to them (Still Life), some are more folky (Oh Alice, Authenticity), whereas SIGTCTT and WWYDWWYS provide slacker rock mirror images to start and close the album. And then there is Grass Is Greener, which is 100 seconds of indie pop perfection.  SIGTCTTWWYDWWYS  is out now on Bobo Integral (EU) and Spunk Records (AUS).

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Spunk Records

New album: Andrew Taylor and The Harmonizers || Andrew Taylor and The Harmonizers

What did you do during the lockdowns? Did you hybernate bingewatching series all day? Did you work out more? Read more books? Took a lot of walks? For some of us, the restrictions hindered our well-being and proactivity. For others, the lockdowns unlocked opportunities, time and energy to get creative. Count Andrew Taylor in the latter category. The Scot, who also fronts the indie pop powerhouses Dropkick and the Boys With The Perpetual Nervousness, started turning the randomly recorded audio clips, melodies and chord progressions on his phone into actual songs, which he recorded solo in his garage. Soon after, more songs were recorded with the help of his brother Alastair, Ian Grier (also of Dropkick) and long-time collaborator Iain Sloan. They called themselves The Harmonizers.

Within a couple of months, Taylor had about 40 songs which he originally planned, depending on their musical direction, as blueprints for a new solo record, or a Dropkick or Boys With The Perpetual Nervousness record. Early 2021, Taylor decided to pick the best songs from the previous year for a proper vinyl, CD and digital release – with The Harmonizers re-recording and improving the songs that had none of their prior input. I’m grateful he did. The 14 songs on the self-titled record are warm and pleasant, and you have to admire Taylor for being so prolific without making any concessions to the quality of the songs. The melodies are smooth yet jangly, the harmonies are gorgeous, and the balance between more uptempo tracks and more subdued ones is about perfect. It’s classic indie (power)pop for fans of Teenage Fanclub and Wilco.

Andrew Taylor and The Harmonizers is available for streaming on Bandcamp. The CD and LP will be available early December. Pre-orders are up now.
Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Ducks Ltd. || Modern Fiction

With the release of the expanded re-issue of their debut EP Get Bleak, we expressed our hope that more music from Toronto’s Ducks Ltd would soon follow, and look: here’s the full-length album Modern Fiction, with ten new original jangle-pop songs. Tom McGreevy (lead vocal, guitar, bass, keyboards) and Evan Lewis (guitar, bass, drum programming) sound even more confident than before, and that’s completely justified if you know how to write and perform one standout track after the other. The duo is standing on the shoulders of the genre’s pioneers – bands like The Clean, The Chills, The Bats, Television Personalities, and Look Blue Go Purple paved the way – but this record sounds as fresh and clear as possible in 2021 (hence the title – nerd alert – taken from a university course called Gnosticism and Nihilism in Modern Fiction, influenced by Graham Greene novels). Anyway, this is an LP that provides a warm feeling, that more than lives up to my expectations, with melodies to cherish. Labelmates The Beths do backing harmonies on a few songs, and a string quartet can also be heard here and there. Highly recommended for fans of Rolling Blackouts CF.

Modern Fiction is out now digitally, on CD, and vinyl LP through Carpark Records.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Discogs

Scroll to Top