Power Pop

New album: Tamara Luonto || Honeymoon

The Finnish four piece Tamara Luonto started around five years ago, steadily building a live reputation in their homeland. This week, they dropped their 8-song debut LP Honeymoon (on Humu Records / Hillotehdas / Lempi & Sylvi Discs), and it’s an extremely fun listen, even though I truly have no idea what these songs are about. Tamara Luonto operate on a continuum between punk and indiepop, constantly incorporating influences from powerpop, garage and rock’n’roll. Their songs are charming and full of pop. If you liked that Teini-Pää LP we wrote about a while back, make sure to check this one out as well, or vice versa.

Add to wantlist: Humu Records

New album: Sharp Class || Tales Of A Teenage Mind

A while back we covered a two song single by Midland (UK) mod revivalists Sharp Class. The band’s debut album Tales Of A Teenage Mind is out now, and shows a band ready to breathe new life in the mod movement. This record should come with a warning, because in no time you’ll be getting a haircut and start browsing for Lambretta scooters, new boots, and slim fit suits.

The three lads in Sharp Class cite power pop, soul, rock’n’roll and punk as influences, and it’s impossible not to refer to The Jam while listening to Sharp Class – although The Clash and more recent bands like The Tranzmitors and Fashionism come to mind as well. The band’s sound may sound all too familiar for some, but I see that as one of Sharp Class’ strengths. The ten songs on Tales Of A Teenage Mind are so well executed you have to be a real cynic to dismiss the jolt of excitement Sharp Class brings to the table.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: The Speedways || Talk Of The Town

There are many reasons why I wish I was around to experience the late ’70s, early ’80s powerpop scene. The idea of seeing The Plimsouls, The (Paul Collins) Beat, 20/20, Shoes, The Romantics, and The Records (etcetera!) at the height of their powers would have been amazing. There is one advantage of being born too late though: Nowadays, you can build quite the power pop record collection without having to break the bank. You can simply browse the bargain bins of record stores. Sure, there are several must own ’45s that are going north of $100 on Discogs, but if you are lucky and patient, those will get an repress eventually and be affordable as well.

Here is a record that will instantly blend in that classic power pop collection. It is the new (and third) Speedways LP Talk Of The Town), which follows Radio Sounds (2020) and Just Another Regular Summer (2019). Like its predecessors, Talk Of The Town offers authentic classic powerpop that is decidedly out of style and without a doubt will quickly win over the hearts and minds of power pop fans around the globe.

Of the three records, Talk Of The Town sounds the most pop oriented. This often marks the moment where early and conservative fans jump ship. With The Speedways I do not see this happening, because the progression is noticeable yet subtle. Not only is this still very much powerpop, it is a display of the many faces of powerpop. For example, the title track could have been written by Peter Case for The Plimsouls. That verse in Shoulda Known? Vintage Elvis Costello! Strange Love? Is that a Tom Petty song? Weekend 155? Mixes ’80s new wave with a killer hook in the chorus that may not even be a chorus but is catchy nonetheless.

Talk Of The Town may be the most pop oriented Speedways record, it also is their most accomplished. Each of the 13 tracks packs a punch in term of harmonies, hooks and melodies. Rather than make you sentimental for first wave powerpop bands, The Speedways fill you with gratitude that power pop of this level is still being created in 2022. Co-released by Snap!! Records, Hurrah! Musica, and Beluga Records, Talk Of The Town is one of the finest power pop records of the year.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Beluga

New album: The Windowsill || Focus

There is an abandoned Ford Focus in the jungle on the front cover of the new (fourth already!) Windowsill LP. The image leaves a lot of room for imagination. Did something terrible happen to the owner and his family? Has its owner perhaps chosen a solitary life escaping the many demands of our contemporary society? Is someone hiding in the woods? Did someone steal the car and left it there on purpose? The track list of Focus may provide some hints with song titles like Born To Hike and Ride Into The Night.  And perhaps you have some of your own stories poppin’ up while looking at the great piece of art by Gees Voorhees?

While the art may evoke different associations for different people, the exact opposite applies to the songs on Focus. You get exactly what you’d expect: classic pop punk in the vein of Ben Weasel. But boy, I didn’t anticipate the sheer quality of Focus. What a hit fest this is. Marien Jonker may have nothing left to prove regarding his ability in writing catchy pop punk tunes – listen to the previous Windowsill records and his work with Giant Eagles and The Shivvies for example, but I believe Focus features some of his best work yet. From start to finish, The Windowsill deliver on Focus. Exhibit A: Can’t Stop Love. I can’t recall having heard a better opening track of a pop punk record this year. Exhibit B: Poor Buffalo. Pop punk perfection, reminscent of the most pop oriented Screeching Weasel material. Exhibit C: Love You Better. Truly an anthem for a new tomorrow.

Focus has been four years in the making due to other musical projects, a global pandemic, bad luck in the studio etcetera. That must have been frustrating for Marien and his buddies Ivo, Jerry and Sander. But none of that shows in the final product. Focus is out now on CD through Shield Recordings. LP to follow sometime next year – likely May 2023. I know I’m getting one.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Shield Recordings

New album: Tulu and Wimpy || Fly Like A Cucumber

Scott Gildersleeve (aka Tulu) and Jack Hayes (aka Wimpy Rutherford) were founding members of The Queers. The pair also played together in The Monsignors and Drunken Cholos and had plenty of their own musical projects. In 2014, Tulu and Wimpy started recording Fly Like a Cucumber with Marc McElroy of the Electric Cave Recording Studio in 2014. Sadly, Tulu (aged 56) died just weeks before finishing the record. Wimpy promised to finish the recording “as Scott would have wanted me to.”

Fast forward seven years and Fly Like A Cucumber is finally here. It contains Tulu originals, as well as some unreleased/remixed songs by the Monsignors. With one of the creators no longer around, Fly Like a Cucumber is a bittersweet record. Its release stings a little, especially given the positive reviews the record will surely generate. It offers a varied trove of gems waiting to be discovered. It is not a record to quickly scan. You’d probably miss out the best parts if you do. For me, that is the subtle beautiful classic (soft)power pop song Over You. Build on a lovely jangly guitar lick, it’s a song that I can keep on playing.

Fly Like A Cucumber is out now through Pine Hill Records. This is how Wimpy announced the record: “…finally, I am able to release this truly outstanding record, that I had the pleasure of being able to create with my best friend. I feel it is by far the best record I have ever been involved with in my 40 some years of recording. Tulu, may you stay…Forever Young.”

Add to wantlist: Pine Hill

New album: Nasty Rumours || Bloody Hell, What A Pity!

Take a look at your record collection. Is there room for a killer (fun! catchy!) ’77 punk record? If the answer is YES, well go ahead, give the new Nasty Rumours record a spin. However, I’d argue against it if your shelves are too full, because Bloody Hell, What A Pity! is the kind of record that elicits one response only: I am buying this ASAP!

Nasty Rumours (Bern, Switzerland) may have a familiar sound (FFO: Undertones, Buzzcocks, or more recently Cute Lepers and Impo & The Tents), but their execution is on point on Bloody Hell, What A Pity!  You won’t be skipping any of the 12 songs, and not just because they are so short. They are like hand grenades filled with explosive hooks and melodies that wash over you within seconds. And boy do Nasty Rumours strike hard and often!

Even though these are all originals, the song titles read like one giant tribute to the late ’70s: Get My Kicks From ’76! Modern World! You’ve Got My Number! I Wanna Kill Your Boyfriend! She’s Mental! Play this one front to back. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. If you want to start off your weekend right, let this be your soundtrack.

Bloody Hell, What A Pity! is out now through Wanda Records.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Wanda Records

New EP: Yeah Maybe || Yeah Maybe

Yeah Maybe is the second EP by Tacoma (Washington) duo Yeah Maybe. It’s also the second EP the band released this year – the first was called Ok, Sure. For a band with such a non-committal name, they sure are productive and take their music serious. They’ve already planned a 6-song follow up EP, after which they intend to promote to full length format. I hope labels are taking note, because here is a band I think could make some waves in the indie scene. Equal parts indie rock, grunge and punk rock, Yeah Maybe combine loud guitars and drums,  with pretty sweet melodies.

The band went with an old school approach while recording this new EP, using analog equipment in different stages of detoriation. The band explains: “We went with a very spontaneous on the fly recording process. You could say this EP is a very big homage to the garage rock and punk rock I grew up listening to. You might hear recording errors, hiccups, or other stuff, but that’s whatever I need to stop being a perfectionist anyways. Its lofi rock, so I guess I get a free pass on the mistakes?”

I haven’t found anything wrong yet with this EP yet. Keep em coming, Yeah Maybe.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Grey Blue Ashes || Shallow People

Italy is home to so many great bands in the pop punk/powerpop stratosphere, it’s easy to miss a band here and there. Take Rome threepiece Grey Blue Ashes, a band I haven’t heard before. Shallow People is the band’s (Rome, Italy) second album and most recent output, which follows their 2019 debut. On Shallow People, Grey Blue Ashes are not your typical Italian pop punk band though. They sound like punks who play a lot of ‘90s altpop, and ‘80s powerpop and new wave in their tour van. It’s like Jeff Burke and Bob Mould joined forces out of a shared love for the Dirtnap Records catalogue, early The Police, ’80s powerpop and ’90s britpop, if that makes sense.

Shallow People is out now on pretty spectacular looking Half Blue/Half Yellow w/Black Splatter Vinyl through Otitis Media Records.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Otitis Media Records

New EP: Los Refrescos || Los Refrescos

Los Refrescos, not to be confused with The Refrescos (Spain), are from Santiago (Chile). The band started out unprompted when three of his friends (Tomi and Pipe of Devlive, and Tapia of ninjas mutantes adolescentes and my light shines for you) heard the solo material Darby Trash (Ebullición, Confesional, Pizza Boys) was writing in the pandemic lockdowns. They couldn’t wait to join forces and Los Refrescos were born.

This four-song EP feature the first recordings of the band, and it’s immediately clear what his friends saw in the raw material Trash was churning out. Killer hooks, crisp guitar work, an upbeat rhythm section and super sweet melodies. It’s full on garagepop with a touch of late ’70s pop punk and a whole lot of fun fun fun.

For now, add Los Refrescos on your bands to watchlist, and download their EP for a price of your liking. They are only getting started and hope to record new material soon.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Dot Dash || Madman In The Rain

Singer/guitarist Terry Banks (Tree Fort Angst, St. Christopher, Julie Ocean and the Saturday People), bassist Hunter Bennett (Julie Ocean) and drummer Danny Ingram (founding member of Youth Brigade, Emmapeel, Madhouse) have nothing left to prove. They have made their mark with several memorable and classic records. For the past 11 years, their main project has been Dot Dash, releasing six full lengths in that period. If this is the first time you hear about Dot Dash, i can’t really recommend one out of the six. All of these records are worth checking out. Dot Dash simply seem incapable of making a bad record, and if you’d make a greatest hits record of the band’s discography, it would feature an equal amount of songs from each release. Those who are familiar with the band, will probably smile at the idea of a greatest hits record, and how insanely great that would be.

Dot Dash’s last album dates back to 2018, and I was surprised to discover there is a new one out this week. It’s called Madman In The Rain, and Banks, Bennett and Ingram again do not disappoint. Madman In The Rain will sound instantly familiar to fans – the warm and distinct voice of Banks is such a joy to behold. The band’s sound still has firm roots in eighties music and is a mix of jangly powerpop, mod, punk and indie rock. Songs like Forever Far Out, Tense & Nervous, Airwaves and Saints / Pharaohs are prototypical Dot Dash hits. The new record feels more varied than the average Dot Dash record though. There are more pop oriented and slower songs, and the record closes with Dead Gone, a song that may very well be the most upbeat song in the band’s discography yet – I have to test this assumption later.

Dot Dash have nothing left to prove but they keep going at it, winning over hearts and minds of music fans one at a time. Really, this band deserves a much bigger fanbase. Or like Dot Dash sing “You can’t go on, you can’t go back. You gotta have a heart to have a heart attack.” Madman In The Rain is out now through The Beautiful Music.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

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