Power Pop

New album: Ryan Hamilton || 1221

While Ryan Hamilton was busy making other plans, the pandemic meant that a touring life couldn’t happen. The prolific singer-songwriter isn’t very good at sitting still though, so he went for a plan B: releasing one song a month in 2021, on the 12th of every month, all year long. Such a musical tear-off calendar is easier said than done, but he succeeded, recording in isolation at his home studio in Texas, working remotely with go-to producer Dave Draper who added his magic from the UK. Although the 12th month has yet to begin, all 12 singles have now been brought together on the physical album 1221. It’s 12 pieces of excellent power pop – as we’ve been told personally: influenced by Tom Petty, Weezer, David Bowie, and Oasis – varying in tempo and rock ‘n’ roll level, but always really appealing, thanks to the well-found hooks, balanced instrumentation, relatable lyrics, and above all those distinctive, pleasant vocals. The first track in January was a cover of Spin Doctor’s How Could You Want Him (When You Know You Could Have Me), and we got two other covers that the musician made his own: Catherine Wheel’s Satellite (in April) and The Refreshments’ Banditos (in September). In addition, Bob Schneider and Chuck Prophet & Kurt Lipschutz provided previously unreleased original songs for this record, Babies and Big Man respectively. The self-written songs, however, are at least as strong. Standout track Deja Vu I Love You should be a radio hit, but actually so are Shots Fired, Do The Damage, and If Life Was A Movie. And we can already hear that the December tune, Ready To Love Again, is a beautiful piano ballad that leaves you hopeful for a new start. Will this finally be the big, worldwide breakthrough for the sympathetic, hard-working musician? If anyone deserves it, Ryan Hamilton is the one.

“A Soundtrack with all your favorite songs // A smile and some tears // A feeling like forever // And that damage disappears”

1221 is out now digitally and on CD through Wicked Cool Records.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: The Pulsebeats || Lookin’ Out

Whenever Josh “Lord” Rutledge calls a record easily one of the best punk rock albums of 2021, you bet it immediately goes to the top of my listening pile. I am referring to The Pulsebeats’ Lookin’ Out. It’s the third full length by the band from Santander (Spain), and one that quickly transformed the band from a blip on my radar to the center of my attention.

There is something contagious when a band sound as energized and inspired like The Pulsebeats. None of the songs on Lookin’ Out sound alike, but the common denominator is the fun The Pulsebeats clearly are having performing these songs. The songs go from fast punkrock to powerpop to garagerock’n’roll, with influences ranging from the early days of rock’n’roll, to the early days of NYC punk to the powerpop of the late ’70s and the punkrock of the mid ’90s. But for me, The Pulsebeats are at their best and most likeable form in their poppy songs, like Burn The Guy, Life As A Movie, and the Undertoneseaque title track.

I am resisting the urge to namedrop bands that come to mind while listening to this one. But If you like the kind of music we write about on our blog, you are sure to like at least a couple of the bangers on Lookin’ Out. Or, if you are like me, you will like most of them and will quickly have this on heavy rotation. Lookin’ Out will be out on Rum Bar (US) early next year, but the CD is already out on Spanish label Folc Records, who also released that killer Sanitizers EP recently.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp 

New album: Deactivations || Deactivations

One thing I love about working on this blog is the kindness of most artists we cover, and how easily approachable and down to earth they are. Passionate but not pretentious, they care about the music regardless of making any serious money or playing for big crowds.

Deactivations is a fine example of this. Deactivations are a new band consisting of 3/4 of the members of The Passengers. I stumbled on their self-titled debut record on Bandcamp and took an immediate liking to the record which balances between solid indie rock and pop punk. In some songs Deactivations remind me of those US bands in the ’80s and early ’90s that blended pop and punk so well like Big Drill Car, Doughboys and early Down By Law. In other songs (e.g., Busy Signal, My Direction), they also remind me of the solo work of Dr. Frank of Mr. T. Experience. But I wouldn’t necessarily call Deactivations a pop punk band. There is plenty of power pop, and college rock as well.

Deactivations guitarist and singer Mario Viele – the three members share vocal duties, provides some background on the record.  “We just tried to make a good record to share with our friends and community. Our previous band (The Passengers) came about after we’d all been younger and had touring punk bands (Sex Robots , The Modern Machines, Liarbirds, etc.) and our two albums with that band were about chilling out a little more, exploring songwriting and midtempos and stuff. After one of us moved away we decided to press on as a trio with a new name and throw together a record that leaned back a little more to our roots of up tempo punked out RnR to give the band a shot in the arm in our new formation. The record is pretty lean, not a lot of overdubs, we tried to just write ten good songs and put them down hot without too much thinking about it. I think the result’s pretty cool. Stuck in a Loop fulfills my lifelong dream of writing a song using just one chord.”

Running score for Deactivations? Pretentions: zero. Quality songs: ten. The record is officially out on the next Bandcamp Friday (Dec. 3rd), but you can already listen to it in full. Stream now, buy on Bandcamp Friday.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

Gimme 5! Ryan Hamilton Shares 5 Albums That Influenced ‘1221’

With ‘Gimme 5!’ we take a peek into the collections of artists we admire. The premise is simple: artists WE like share 5 records THEY love.

When I ordered Ryan Hamilton‘s solo debut album Hell Of A Day (2015) at the time, he wrote a personal thank you note, which shows how sympathetic this guy is. Since then, the Texan singer-songwriter has been continuously releasing new music, with a new LP every year: The Devil’s In The Detail ‎ (2017) and Traitors Club Year 1 (2018) by Ryan Hamilton & The Traitors, and This Is The Sound (2019) and Nowhere To Go But Everywhere (2020) by Ryan Hamilton And The Harlequin Ghosts. Little Steven heard it right (again): this is a cool musician who creates cool songs, an artist that deserves a cool label and more appreciation. During 2021, when touring was not possible due to the pandemic, Ryan has been releasing a new single the 12th of each month via Wicked Cool, for his project 1221. They include originals of his own as well as some covers, including The Refreshments’ Banditos.

The 2021 standalone singles will be bundled as one full album, titled 1221. Prior to its release this Friday, we asked Ryan about his sources of inspiration for all those great songs, and he was kind enough to answer in detail. His choices make perfect sense if you are familiar with his sound, but they give a new dimension to listening with his explanations.

New album: Johnny Jetson || Overheated

Tattooed Millionaires frontman Johnny Jetson started rockin’ out in the gritty lower east-side (NYC) in the 1980s. He moved to L.A. in the 1990s, where he formed The Space Age Playboys with Warrior Soul frontman Kory Clark. That band received some serious tailwind in the early days of file sharing and for a while topped the charts at MP3dotcom. His next band The Tattooed Millionairres became the first unsigned band to reach one million streams online. The succes made Johnny a wanted commodity and he wrote, played, recorded and party’d with the likes of Steve Jones (Sex Pistols), Tommy Lee (Motley Crue), Chris Holmes (WASP), and Snoop Dogg. His band toured with Metallica, Motorhead, Monster Magnet, Backyard Babies and Hardcore Superstar.

This week Johnny Jetson releases his latest solo collection Overheated. Featuring ten throwback anthems of glamrock’n’roll, Overheated is the logical successor of the record he released last year (Make Your Move). The songs of Johnny Jetson are no nonsense pretentionless bangers, all about having a good time. Surely, Jetson succeeded with Overheated.

Jetson closes out the album with Rodney On The Rock, a Ramonesesque tribute to legendary DJ Rodney Bingenheimer. “Stay tuned for more rock-‘n’- roll radio!”

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Nick Frater || Earworms

Can you judge a record by its cover? It’s one of my go-to strategies while browsing the internet for new releases. Sure, it’s no waterproof system, but there is just so much music out there and often the artwork (and bandname) is a good indication of the style and quality of music.

In the case of the new Nick Frater record, the not so modestly and yet appropriately titled Earworms, I was already positively biased towards the record because I liked the artwork so much. An additional factor in my positivity bias was that Big Stir Records, who have a knack of finding gems in the hit or miss world of powerpop and guitar pop, would release the record. That album art (by Adam Mallett) is a subtle play on the Beatles’ Revolver and the album title Earworms. The cover features a collage of images from Frater’s life and music.

Sonically, Frater’s music also feels like a collage of styles and influences. Album opener It’s All Rumours is probably my favorite track. It’s classic ’70s radio friendly powerpop. As a whole, the album may be a bit too polished and easy going for me personally, but I appreciate what Frater is going for: “I wanted to make an album that sounds and feels like a lost treasure from the mid ’70s melodic rock scene,” says Frater. “I’ll leave it to your ears to decide, but I think we got pretty close!”

In response, I’d say Frater nailed it with songs like It’s All Rumours and What’s With Your Heavy Heart. If you have a taste for ’60s and ’70s guitar pop, give this one a spin.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New single: Lonely Girls || Reflections

Dutch drummer Kees Schaper has been playing as a live/session musician behind artists like Tim Easton, Jett Rebel and Tim Knol for over 15 years, but I mainly know him from garage rock band The Miseries: their self-titled album was number 11 in my year-end list of 2015, and live they were also very entertaining. I still hope that one day this will be continued, but for now Schaper has started a new project under the moniker of Lonely Girls, in which all lessons learned come together. Reflections, the A-side of their first single, is a classic melodic power pop song in which the complete expert bag of tricks is opened to reach perfection in two and a half minutes. The B-side is a nice folky cover of Nick Lowe’s Lately I’ve Let Things Slide, which does the original more than justice. With this, Lonely Girls will quickly find company.

Reflections is out now digitally and on limited 7″ vinyl through I Love My Label / Milkcow Records.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Katujen Äänet || Kaiken Jälkeen

I can’t recall having heard of Katujen Äänet before, but the band has been part of the punk scene of Finland for over ten years now. In that period they released their debut album Sulle, Joka Yksin Aina Oot and several 7″ singles. They just released their sophomore album Kaiken Jälkeen. I am glad I stumbled on it because it is one killer record.

Listening to Katujen Äänet is like a throwback to late ’70s punkrock and powerpop, with just a dash from ’80s new wave for good measure. The songs on Kaiken Jälkeen essentially are pop songs put through a punk blender, and the results are tasty and contagious. Listen to songs like Matkalla Taas, Mitä jäljelle Jää and Nuori, Viaton Ja Sekaisin Kaikesta for example. Hits! The crisp production and the fact that the songs are sung in Finnish only adds to the coolness and sense of authenticity of Katujen Äänet.

Another release that is not on Bandcamp or Soundcloud, so you have to with the video and Spotify links below. Stream Kaiken Jälkeen now, buy the CD, or wait a little longer for the vinyl (thanx again, Adele).

Add to wantlist: Discogs || Stupido Records

New Album: Poison Boys || Don’t You Turn On Me

Their name and demeanor already give away what to expect with Poison Boys. Leather jackets? Check. Tight pants? Check. Loud and fast rock’n’roll? Check. Johnny Thundersesque sleazy guitar licks? Check. Late ’70s punk attitude? Check.

Chicago four-piece Poison Boys tick off a lot of the right boxes on their sleazefest second album Don’t You Turn On Me. And let me tell you, I am finding it terribly hard to play this record at a socially acceptable volume. The first (title) track on the record is the first highlight on Don’t You Turn On Me. Songs like Day By Day, Little Speedway Girl, Can’t Get You Off My Mind, and Nothing But Darkness also stand out for me. No lack of adrenaline rushes and dopamine releases with Poison Boys.

If you like this one, make sure to also check Killer Hearts most recent record, or vice versa. Bands like this provide a welcome escape from reality to the glampunkscene of the late ’70s.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Guerrilla Monzón || PCH

Buckle up for our latest discovery: Guerrilla Monzón is an enthusiastic three-piece from Brooklyn, New York, who passionately play primitive garage rock with attractive power pop tricks. Jason Sanchez (guitars, vocals), Eric Gordon (bass, vocals), and Reymon Sinsay (drums) gained experience in past rock bands 56k and Oh No & The Tiger Pit, and under the moniker of Guerrilla Monzón they’ve developed a sound that’s a little less lo-fi and punk. The trio now have their debut album PCH released, which was well produced by Brett Parnell. Maybe we should call it a mini-album – after about 19 minutes you’ll have to click on repeat (you’ll want to click on repeat!) – but more importantly: these are 7 catchy songs, with great hooks, and vocals that wouldn’t look out of place at the better metal bands, songs that will get you enthusiastic yourself too. In addition to the 4 fine original tracks, they not only cover Elvis Costello’s This Year’s Girl in an excellent way, but they also recorded new versions of their own work: Pronto by Oh No & the Tiger Pit, and Rey by 56k (it may be clear that this one is about the drummer of the band, but all songs are about real people on some level). Our latest discovery is a great one, isn’t it?

PCH is out now digitally. Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

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