Power Pop

New album: Kevin Robertson || The Call of the Sea

A clinic in crafting tasteful and delicate guitar pop

Leave it to Kevin Robertson (of Vapour Trails) to write a pretty great record full of jangly power pop songs that will be overlooked by many, underrated by some, yet deserving of airplay and inclusion in many music collections and playlists.

Robertson recorded his latest album, The Call of the Sea, with Scott Robertson, Nick Bertling, and the occasional special guest (e.g., Nick Frater and Tom Williams on the Americana-tinged Search For Replies). Opening the record with standouts Ghosting and The Guilt Trip is a power move by the trio and a statement of what to expect: ear candy operating on the Big Star-Teenage Fanclub spectrum.

But rather than begging or screaming for attention, the guitar pop on The Call of the Sea feels like a gentle tap on the shoulder, a polite person asking: “Hey, how are you? I’ve got some songs you might like if you’ve got some time to spare, thank you.” And because you’re terrible at saying no to kind people, you give the record a fair chance, only to discover a songwriter at the top of his game, giving a clinic in crafting tasteful and delicate guitar pop as a vessel for his sweet and timeless pop melodies.

CD available now through Futureman Records and Subjangle.

Add to Wantlist: Bandcamp || Futureman

New album: Yours & Mine || The Shadow You Cast

Radio-friendly songs that feel like a firm and sincere hug

Yours & Mine is a New York City-based band centered around songwriter/singer/guitarist Greg Baldwin, with Kris Hayes on bass and Dan Wintersteen on drums. On their full-length album The Shadow You Cast you will hear twelve radio-friendly songs at the intersection of alternative rock and powerful pop. The appealing lyrics reveal an experienced life with its share of setbacks (“A soul to sink // A drop to drink // It’s not what you think, it’s what you know” – from closing track Gimme Gimme Rock & Roll), the pleasant vocals combine empathy with persuasion, and the effective Rickenbacker guitars sketch an ever-changing scenery that invites the listener to wander around. A fascinating masterclass in melodic content that feels like a firm and sincere hug.

The Shadow You Cast is out now digitally (self-released).

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New EP: Shake Some Action! || Trip to Yesterday

Mod culture still appeals today, if executed so well

Over two years have passed since Shake Some Action! released their well-crafted Wide Awake LP, and now we can enjoy some cool new work. Four power pop songs influenced by the British invasion to be precise, brought together on the Trip to Yesterday EP. A quick look at the revealing title or stylish cover art and you know: we are going way back into Mod culture here. The energetic Rickenbacker guitar riffs and infectiously sung choruses fit in seamlessly, so does the video for standout opening track Rage Into the Daylight, set to footage from John Harris’ 1964 film Where’s the Bus.

The band has now been reduced to a solo project in which Seattle-based musician James Hall is responsible for vocals, guitars, bass and drums, but the sound does not suffer at all. These are four hits.

Trip to Yesterday, performed & produced by James Hall, is out now digitally. Also featuring Corey Knafelz (guitar riff) and David Bos (guitar solo) on the track Can You Feel It.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Ian St George || Emergency Index

Crunchy guitars and catchy hooks define new album by Thee Arcadians and Gland Pageant member

Well, here’s another power pop/alt-pop record to get excited about: Emergency Index is the debut album from Ian St George, known for his work with Thee Arcadians and Gland Pageant, as well as his label Dead Bell Records. St George, who sings and plays over a handful of instruments on the record (including piano and sax), is joined by Jeff Morkeski, James Walsh, Aaron Noble, and Adam Langelotti.

Together, they’ve crafted an alt-pop gem in The Lemonheads and Superchunk vein. The band’s crunchy sound and strummy, jangly guitar work shows a deep understanding of what makes this genre tick. College radio-ready hits abound, including the catchy rocker Kimberley (fans of The Speedways should take note) and power pop gems Everything Goes Wrong (FFO: The Whiffs) and No One Really Knows (RIYL: The Reflectors) – instant earworms from the first play. But Ian St George offers more variety than you might expect based on this trio of tracks. Definitely worth diving into!

Emergency Index is out now on LP on Dead Bell Records.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Neon Bone || Eager To Please

Five albums deep, German pop punks Neon Bone still find ways to elevate their songwriting game

There’s a good reason why Neon Bone are darlings of the pop-punk underground. Their brand of pop-punk is old school but not derivative, sugary but not cloying, upbeat but not frantic, and bubblegummy without losing its flavor after a few chews. The band’s fifth(!) album, Eager To Please, just dropped on Kevin Apers’ Monster Zero Records, and it delivers on all fronts.

Blending Ramones-style energy with ’60s doo-wop and rock ‘n’ roll, Neon Bone channels the relaxed vibe of The Queers’ Don’t Back Down, while sounding like a less polished, gimmick-less version of Masked Intruder. Five records in, Neon Bone still find ways to elevate their songwriting. Tracks like Dreams, Ice Cream Parlor, and Don’t Fall In Love With Her sound like pop-punk covers of golden oldies (and that’s a compliment), while I Wanna Know and Pull The Other One are classic pop-punk hits in the making. Told You So even has early Weezer vibes written all over it.

Did I mention this record is a whole lotta fun?

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Monster Zero

New EP: The Private Eye || In The Public Eye

Mod-pop meets punk rock in a hook-filled debut

Well, here’s another brand new band to rave about. Let me introduce you to The Private Eye from Orange County. Founded by Benjamin Jordan (guitar & lead vocals) and Jacob Morgan (bass) sometime in the past 12 months, the band wastes absolutely no time to put their talent on display.

While self-described as mod-pop, I’d say The Private Eye’s sound is just as much a thrilling cocktail of garage rock-influenced punk. They’re not quite The Zeros, Protex, or The Jam, but they channel elements of all three. Remember The Number Ones, the Good Vibrations label revivalists from Ireland? Consider The Private Eye as their Californian counterpart.

The six tracks on In The Public Eye are raw, snotty, and energetic, revealing a band with a strong pop pulse and knack for melody. If you’re after hooks, The Private Eye serves them up by the dozen. I don’t know about you, but this band has got me all excited and I have no inclination of hiding it.

The EP isn’t on Bandcamp yet, but it’s streaming on other platforms. I’ve included a video that functions as a playlist of the full EP below.

Add to wantlist: ?

New album: Laughing || Because It’s True

A Debut That Feels Like an Instant Classic

Montreal’s Laughing is what happens when four talented musicians from Nap Eyes, Monomyth, Human Music, Quivers and Fountain join forces with a shared mission: crafting the perfect pop song. Their debut LP Because It’s True  proves they’ve come impressively close. It is out today via Meritorio Records.

Laughing deliver pure guitar pop bliss on their debut. Part of the appeal for me is that the band takes clues from so many bands I love but sound more like peers and equals than copycats. Their sound evokes jangly power pop (Teenage Fanclub), alt-pop (Lemonheads), and Australian indie pop (check out Pebbles). Will She Ever Be A Friend Of Mine pays homage to Big Star, while Don’t Care dips into jangly alt-country territory.

As sunny and instantly enjoyable these songs are from the get-go – good vibes guaranteed, Because It’s True reveals its true value with repeated listens. The craftsmanship shines through in strong melodies and heartfelt performances. Relaxed, inspired guitar work and a hint of slacker charm make it all sound effortless. There’s a humble quality to these songs – not from lack of confidence, but as if Laughing knows they’ve created something special without needing to shout it from the rooftops.

This great-sounding record is destined for year-end lists (including mine), but its appeal goes beyond the moment. Don’t be surprised if years from now, we’re talking about Because It’s True in the same breath as It’s A Shame About Ray or Grand Prix – timeless classics whose melodies stood the test of time.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Meritorio

New single: The Drolls & Gentlemen Rogues || Split EP

Two New Tracks And Two Covers From Two ATW Faves

A split single featuring not one but two ATW favorites? Sign me up! I’m talking about a Snappy Little Numbers love connection between The Drolls and Gentlemen Rogues.

Let’s start with Gentlemen Rogues, who contribute Young Til’ We Die. Contrary to what the title might suggest, this isn’t a 7 Seconds cover but a prototypical Gentlemen Rogues song. Few current bands play this kind of powerful and rockin’ alt-pop as well as this Austin outfit and this is the latest proof – make sure to check out their recent full-length if you haven’t already. Their second track is in fact a cover, transforming The Rolling Stones’ Connection into something unmistakably their own, complete with an intro and outro that subtly yet deliberately nods to the Misfits.

On the flipside, we find The Drolls’ contributions. Though still a relatively new band, The Drolls (Seattle) bring veteran experience to the table – being two parts Sicko, one part Chinchilla, both ’90s cult favorites. This marks their third release in two years (read our thoughts on the previous releases elsewhere on the site), and they continue to impress. Their original tune Burned Out is a vibrant, colorful indie pop-punk gem, while their take on The Housemartins’ Happy Hour is bouncy and sparkling.

Two new songs by two cool bands plus two great covers? That’s one hell of a deal.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || SLN

New album: Pontiac Flare || The Blueprint

Impressive Solo Outing by Nathan Tucker (Strange Ranger, Cool Original, First Rodeo)

Imagine dropping a power pop masterpiece online with zero fanfare. Confident move or total madness? Either way, Philadelphia’s Pontiac Flare has done just that with their debut album The Blueprint – and oh my, it’s impressive. This solo project from Nathan Tucker (of Strange RangerCool Original, and First Rodeo fame) arrives seemingly out of nowhere. Tucker handles nearly all the instruments, with his buddy Tyler Bussey lending his piano skills on the opening track.

Tucker serves up a delicious brand of power pop and indie rock with nods to Alex Chilton, Evan Dando, Matthew Caws and Bob Mould, plus a dash of alt-country for good measure. The Blueprint manages to sound both timeless and modern – it could easily pass for a lost ’70s gem or a ’90s alt-pop classic, yet it fits perfectly alongside contemporary acts like 2nd Grade, Hurry, and Tony Molina. The songwriting here is top-notch, with Tucker showcasing a talent for putting the irony and bittersweetness of our daily struggles into lyrics that hit you hard.

It’s mind-boggling how an album this great can fly under the radar, but let’s change that, shall we? Tucker plans on taking Pontiac Flare on the road. His live band includes Melissa Brain from Golden Apples, Ben Polito from Big Slip, Negative World Status, and his solo power pop project Benny P (new record coming soon), and Sam Wenc (Post Moves).

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New EP: Loose Lips || Loose Lips

Members of The Prize, The Unknowns & Chubby and the Gang Team Up for an Explosive Debut

What do you get when members of The Prize, The Unknowns, and Chubby and the Gang join forces? Meet Loose Lips from Melbourne, a band that had my speakers trembling with anticipation and my heart racing before I’d heard a single note.

And when I did? Wow. I’m instantly sold on this all-caps ROCK’N’ROLL quartet of songs. It’s an old-school love affair between punk rock, power pop, and pub rock that makes for essential listening. Whether this is a one-off project or the start of something bigger, I’m all in. For now, this debut EP is cassette-only, but surely, somewhere out there, label owners are engaged in a no-holds-barred cage match for the rights to press this to wax – and sign this band for any of their future releases.

The self-titled debut from Loose Lips demands to be played loud. So crank it up and enjoy!

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

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