Power Pop

New album: Blunt Bangs || Proper Smoker

Imagine having written one of the major hits of the indie scene of the ’00s, and having toured that for a decade. How do you follow that in a changing musical landscape? If you are like Reggie Youngblood (Black Kids), you don’t quit. You start a new band with veterans of the Athens (Georgia) scene (i.e., Christian “Smokey” DeRoeck (Woods, Deep State, Little Gold) on guitar and vocals, and Cash Carter (Tracy Shedd, The Cadets) on drums) that sounds quite different. But rather than going for a sound that is even more poppin’ than Black Kids, your new band is way more rockin’.

Proper Smoker, the debut record of Blunt Bangs is quite the surprise. It blends indie rock with power pop influences, and from the get go sounds fresh and fun. The video for attention grabbing album opener She’s Gone essentially is a tribute to some of the classic albums that offer the blueprint of Blunt Bangs’ sound. And although this record sounds uncomplicated, and does not try to reinvent the wheel in any way, these songs are so well put together. Clearly, the band had a lot of fun playing the kind of music they enjoy themselves. And isn’t that the best recipe for a great record?

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Ernest Jenning Record Co.

New album: The Reflectors || Faster Action

Time to update those AOTY longlists: Modern masters of classic power pop The Reflectors (LA) have a new record out. Well, technically Faster Action will be out on september 24, but you can already stream it in full on Bandcamp. And, if you are like me, you are likely to pre-order it three songs in from either Snap!! Records (Spain), Beluga (Sweden), or Time For Action (Germany).

Even though I usually like my powerpop faster and louder, I found it hard to resist The Reflectors’ debut First Impression, and it made #7 in my album top 50 of 2020. Still, I honestly was concerned the band would slow down and sound overpolished on their sophomore record. Fortunately that is far from the case. The songs on Faster Action are upbeat and on average may actually provide faster action – what’s in a name? And although the songs sound smooth, the band does not overdo it. Faster Action offers a wealth of hooks and ear candy, and songs that are as uncomplicated and direct as they are fun.

There are so many instant hits on Faster Action, I can safely say this would have hit the charts if it was released 40 years ago. If you are a fan of the power pop of that era, you cannot go wrong with Faster Action.

By the way, Time For Action has a special version of the LP that plays from the inside-out. Pretty cool.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Time For Action (Germany) || Beluga (Sweden)

New album: Big City || Big Kisses

Although NYC glamr’n’r outfit Big City started out in 2013, Big Kisses is only their first LP. So don’t feel bad when this is your first taste of the band, It’s mine too. That first taste is exquisite though. There is a sense of familiarity to the sound of Big City, and they seem to draw influences from all cardinal directions of ’70s rock ‘n’ roll. Artists that come to mind while listening to this LP include Bruce Springsteen, Thin Lizzy, New York Dolls, Todd Rundgren, Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, David Bowie and Big Star. And yet, the songs on Big Kisses never sound redundant. Despite the somewhat lo-fi production, you can tell that this is a talented group of musicians: plenty of layers, plenty of dynamics and plenty of instruments. I’m really curious how the music of Big City translates to a live setting – likely even better.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: The BQs | Tentatively Escaping

At Add To Wantlist, we love to post about bands that fly under the radar. Raleigh (North Carolina) band The BQs are a good example. Their new record Tentatively Escaping immediately grabs my attention, and yet I can’t find any info on the band. I have to assume the band is named after its frontman and main songwriter Brian Quast. Here is another guess: The BQs are big fans of the fuzzy powerpop of Teenage Fanclub and the guitar magic of War On Drugs: The songs on Tentatively Escaping sound like a hybrid of both those acts, and it works surprisingly well. I know nothing about the BQs, but they deserve to be more than a blip on the radar.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New EP: Mr. Teenage || Automatic Love

Are you feeling meh? Here’s the perfect cure. Stop what you are doing right now. Just turn the volume up and press play on the song below. I promise you will feel better afterwards.

What a track right? And the best news is that there are three additional songs on this debut single by Mr. Teenage, who are from Melbourne, Australia. What is striking about this single, which was originally self-released last year and will be released on a 7″ by Drunken Sailor on September 17, is that each song has a distinct sound. The title track mixes punkrock’n’roll with a robotic chorus that has an 80s new wave vibe. Waste Of Time, is more straightforward punkrock where the vocals channel Joey Ramone. And then there is The Loser, a garage pop hit heavily influenced by ’60s girlgroup. Add that to the guitar heavy powerpop perfection of the song you’ve just heard (Kids) – A song that showcases the awesome voice of the band’s frontman Nic Imfeld, and you have a must own single.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New single: Uni Boys || Long Time No See

Uni Boys self-released two highly enjoyable records in 2020 which I kind of lost track off and had to include in my overlooked records end-of-the-year retrospect. The LA band’s first release of 2021 is a two song single, and the band’s first to get pressed on vinyl (thanx Curation Records!). Both songs won me over on the first spin. Uni Boys sounds like an authenthic ’70s powerpop band. I can see fans of the music of Matthew Melton (Bare Wires, Warm Soda) warm easily to this single as well.  Both songs set a high standard for the band’s next full-length. But, if they can pull it off we’re talking AOTY contenders. One word review of this single: HITS!

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Curation Records

New album: Fastbacks || Mural Amphitheater, Seattle, WA, August 25, 1986.

We all have bands we should definitely like, but for various reasons never really gave the chance. Perhaps you were listening to different stuff when they were at their best, or perhaps their back catalogue has become too daunting to dive into. Or, the constant flow of new music makes it hard to find time to check out older stuff. A prime example of this for me is Fastbacks. This is a band with a poppy punk sound (or vice versa) that is right in my wheelhouse, yet I don’t own any music from.

So when Bachelor Records recently dropped us a note on how proud they were to release a live album from one of their favorite bands, my first response was a sense of guilt. But it was the positive, motivating kind of guilt, because it made me actually check out the recording of this 1986 show in the band’s hometown of Seattle.  And wouldn’t you know, this one clicks with me in spite of the first two songs not sounding particularly good; the opening of the show wasn’t recorded on the multitrack, so audience recordings have been used instead. The rest of the record, newly remixed but not fixed or overdubbed, sounds decidedly better, and I finally understand why this is a band that I should’ve checked out long ago. This truly is some catchy punky powerpop, and the voice of singer and bass player Kim Warnick is great. And the 15 song set, including several covers like Good Lovin’ by The Young Rascals, and a raucous version of Somebody To Love by Jefferson Airplane, offers a great introduction to the band’s discography. The video of the show is pretty cool as well, and the static video recording in combination with the dance moves of the audience offers a somewhat unnerving time capsule to a different era.

So yeah, thanx to Bachelor Records, I finally spend some time with Fastbacks, and I’m in! Help me out, which one of their records should I definitely check out?

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Bachelor Records

New album: Motorists || Surrounded

The Motorists debut album Surrounded evokes an immediate sense of nostalgia, particularly to the jangly powerpop of the ’80s but also to the postpunk and other guitar-oriented genres from that era. Craig Fahner, Matt Learoyd, and Jesse Locke make up the band from Canada. They started three years ago, although the member have a history of being in bands together going back to their teenage years. Past bands of Fahner, Learoyd and Locke include Feel Alright, Leather Jacuzzi, Tough Age, Simply Saucer, We Knew and Chandra.

Motorists first caught my ears with their excellent 2020 EP From The Wreckage. Its follow up Surrounded is by no means a perfect album, and the fact that Motorists do not try to hide their imperfections is part of their charm. It gives the song an authentic rough-around-the-edges feel and I’m pretty sure the band will sound more or less like this at their live shows. Fahner (guitar) and Learoyd (bass) alternate and complement each other well, and in combination with the steady beat of Locke, they give each song a distinct vibe. The power pop oriented songs are my favorites, and Through To You is the kind of underground hit that wouldn’t look out of place on any powerpop lost hits compilation from the 70s or 80s. The more postpunk oriented songs like title track Surrounded work as well, particularly because Motorists has a talent for offsetting angular riff heavy verses with catchy and straightforward choruses. I am definitely buying this co-release by We Are Time, Debt Offensive and Bobo Integral Records.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Discogs

New album: Friends Of Cesar Romero || War Party Favors

Friends of Cesar Romero is kind of an enigma. It’s a band that has consistently been churning out tunes with hit potential, yet somehow stayed off the radar. War Party Favors is the bands eleventh (!) full length, and there is a large batch of EPs and singles as well. Most of these releases are digital only, which is great in terms of flexibility and speed of releasing new music, but may explain the elusiveness of the band. The principal member and songwriter of Friend of Cesar Romero is J. Waylon Porcupine, who is from Rapid City (South Dakota) and a proud member of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe.

Porcupine has a huge back catalogue of over 300 songs, mostly recorded and produced solo. It’s an insane number, and yet the songs on War Party Favors, like most of Porcupine’s songs, never outstay their welcome. They are poignant and melodic powerpop songs with a punk edge, and Porcupine’s voice has a grit size that matches the music perfectly. Snappy Little Numbers is releasing the record on CD, and I am hoping it’s the start of a bigger fanbase, because the songs of Friends Of Cesar Romero deserve to be heard.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Liquid Mike || Stuntman

Liquid Mike is a five piece from Marquette, Michigan who just dropped their debut album Stuntman. Liquid Mike’s principal songwriter is Michael Maple, who started the band after his previous band (We Should Be Laughing) more or less dissipated with band members moving to different areas. I wrote about another project of Maple (MikeTeeeVeee) earlier this year, and if you like to hear early versions of some of the songs on Stuntman, make sure to check Maple’s bandcamp page.  Liquid Mike features one other WSBL member (synth player Monica), and is joined by three other songwriting and recording musicians: Raymond Little of The Thirties (guitar), Heather Evans (bass), and Cody Marecek of Yard Waste (drums). That accumulation of talent may help to explain why this band sounds so damn good. Liquid Mike clearly is collective with great taste in music unfitted to write songs that suck. The band’s sound is somewhere between indie punk and indie rock, with sufficient pace, energy and melody to appeal to punk and powerpop fans, and with enough diversity to appeal to fans of classic indie rock and ’80s US underground pop. Fans of bands like The Promise Ring and Laika’s Orbit should also take note of this band.

It’s discoveries like these why we started this website. My current favorite track on the record is Employee Of The Month, but I haven’t found myself skipping any of the other songs yet.  Don’t expect Liquid Mike to be a flash-in-the-pan one-hit-wonder. A new batch of songs is already in the works. Not bad for a band that has to go through lengths to get some practice done. As Maple explains: “For as long as we’ve been together, we’ve only rehearsed outside in the middle of the woods with a gas generator in a place called Forestville. It’s the only spot we have where we can be loud.”

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

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