New album: Starter Jackets || Dead Malls

It’s Spring, it’s the weekend. Perfect time for some sunny pop punk and powerpop from Chuck Taylor powered All-Star band Starter Jackets, who just dropped their sophomore LP Dead Malls  – Rad Girlfriend Records expect to ship the LP early July.

Starter Jackets feature members (and singer/songwriters) of Local Drags, The Copyrights, Hospital Job and Attic Salt. And if you are familiar with those bands, you won’t be surprised by the sound on Dead Malls: extremely melodic (I’m talking earworm material) mid-paced poppunk, with no shortage of group singalongs. To my ears, Dead Malls is a major step up from the band’s debut Decisions – that record felt too much like a collection of throwaway songs from the members’ main projects. Perhaps I should revisit Decisions and give it another chance though, because on Dead Malls Starter Jackets take the best parts of their respective bands and pile on hit after hit.  Check out three of my early favorites below. Rad record, from a rad band on a rad label.

Dead Malls is available for pre-order now in all kinds of mystery colors through Rad Girlfriend Records.
Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Rad Girlfriend

New album: Rat Tamango || As I Live and Breathe

Rat Tamango are a high energy blues rock trio from Adelaide, South Australia. On their debut full-length As I Live and Breathe, Paris Clark-Proud (vocals, guitar, piano), Kynan Duke (bass) and Daniel Duke (drums, percussion) forge influences from blues, hard rock, funk, garage and psych into a unique sound. The first two songs, Show Me What You Got and Gone, come at you like a heavy steamroller. But just when you think you know what kind of album this is, the band slows down with a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s I Loved Another Woman (later Robert Johnson’s Rambling On My Mind follows, in two very short parts), albeit they put their own stamp on it. Because that’s the kind of album – 13 songs – it is: diverse and surprising, with satisfying tempo and instrument changes, clever song structures and raw vocals, always powerful, well played and continuously captivating. It’s not hard to imagine packed concert halls clapping and stamping along. Very cool.

As I Live and Breathe is out now digitally and on vinyl LP (self-released). It’s is dedicated to Peter Green – a successful tribute. The track Loved Another Woman is missing from Bandcamp, but is on the record and streaming services.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Discogs

New album: Zeno Jones || Stonewater Music EP

We know Zeno Jones from garage blues rock duo Cold Beverage, with whom he released the recommended LP Hot Wax last year. In 2011, he’d already put out a traditional, self-titled country blues album, and now he’s once again taking the spotlight on his own: on his electrified delta blues Stonewater Music EP, you’ll hear his raw vocals, as well as his howling guitar, old suitcase drum and rusty tambourine.

Last November, the skilled guitarist won Louisville’s Regional Qualifier for the International Blues Challenge, with some studio time as a reward. That led to eight songs, all recorded in a single live take, that have been brought together on this mini album. Understandably, the tunes are more stripped down and rock a little less hard without Cold Beverage’s powerhouse drummer Rodney B. (active here as producer), but they’re no less intense. This is heartfelt blues/roots music from a born musician who writes some pretty good songs in the traditional way – his originals can compete with his covers of John Lee Hooker’s Burning Hell and Joost Abbel’s To The Moon – and who also knows how to play them convincingly.

In the end, Zeno Jones didn’t win the competition in Memphis – Eric Ramsey was victorious in the solo/duo division, The Wacky Jugs was chosen as the best band – but luckily we can enjoy his sound: the Stonewater Music EP is out now digitally and on CD (self-released). Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Half Smile || Half Smile

Half Smile is a new band of three from Atlanta, Georgia. That’s about all the information I can find about the band. I do like the self-titled record they just dropped though – I have to assume it’s their debut. Half Smile play a brand of indie rock that is rough around the edges and has some solid ’90s altrock and emo influences. Most of the record moves at a decent pace, giving their sound a punky or garagy vibe – a sense that is strengthened by the complete lack of polish in the production.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Nectar || No Shadow

Nectar’s sophomore album No Shadow is a fine example of artwork drawing you in, music making you stay.

Let’s start with the art. Painted by Nectar’s own Kamila Glowacki over a period of four months, it’s a modern realism piece easy to mistake for a photo from a distance and I think it looks great. If you love displaying album art in your home, you can’t go wrong with purchasing this record. If you do, as a bonus you get ten indie punk and altpop tunes that were created equally meticulous. I particularly like the more upbeat/punchy stuff of Nectar, and songs like Routine, Scab, TMF, and Unusal You are strong nominees for your Spring/Summer playlists.

No Shadow is out now through Lauren Records.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Lauren Records

New album: The Soul Jacket || KICK Radio

Spanish funk rock outfit The Soul Jacket have released their new full-length album, an entertaining concept album that gives the feeling of listening to an American FM station for 35 minutes, while you’re on the road in the late 60’s. Somewhat similar to Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time In Hollywood soundtrack, but by one band. And with success: KICK Radio plays some pretty good music!

The LP is a fitting vehicle for the six musicians of The Soul Jacket to demonstrate their mastery of styles such as southern soul, funk, acid jazz, garage rock, reggae and Tex-Mex – the whole is varied, but coherent. Given the concept, the idea is that you listen to the album – eleven upbeat tracks – from start to finish without pausing, shuffling or skipping. This is possible via all streaming services, but below is a taste of what to expect: first single Scratch My Back is a funky party anthem, Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In) is a cool, more than six minutes long cover of the 1967 psych classic – written by Mickey Newbury – that is also reminiscent of Another Brick In The Wall. Tune in!

KICK Radio is out now digitally. Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Say Sue Me || The Last Thing Left

It’s been more than four years since South Korean indie pop/rock quartet Say Sue Me (세이수미) released Where We Were Together, an album that has made quite a few rounds on my record player, that even ended up at No. 2 on my 2018 year-end list. During the pandemic, when touring was not possible, Byungkyu Kim (lead guitar), Sumi Choi (vocals, rhythm guitar), Jaeyoung Kim (bass) and Sungwan Lim (drums) quietly started working on a new full-length, and here’s the result. Self-recorded and self-produced at the band’s own Busan studio, The Last Thing Left is more subdued and less bouncy than its successful predecessor – a sign of the times but also of maturing, I guess (“Nobody seems to care for truth // I’m getting far from my youth” – from Around You). The 10 new songs, leaning heavily on themes of love, loss, loneliness, grief and healing (the band’s original drummer, Semin Kang, passed away in 2019), need a few listens to win you over. The charm, melancholy and brightness have remained though, just like the angelic vocals and jangly guitar melodies (with surf and twang twists). This is timeless music to cherish, music that can comfort you at any time.

The Last Thing Left is out now digitally, on CD and vinyl LP through Damnably Records and Beach Town Music.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: 3LH || Silver Dream Road

Fans of bands like Together Pangea, Tijuana Panthers and The Growlers will also love Californian four-piece 3LH, but actually it’s a must-listen for anyone into surf-infused garage rock. Rafa Heredia (guitar, vocals), Johnny Villanueva (keys, guitar), Kevin Carranza (drums) and Favian Vega (bass) just released their full-length debut album Silver Dream Road and we’re going to be playing it a lot this summer. You’ll hear ten triumphant songs that rock energetically – melodic guitars, gritty vocals, catchy hooks and infectious harmonies – but at the same time convey a relaxed vibe. If you have friends with taste (and plenty of beer in the fridge), this record will make your backyard party a guaranteed success.

Silver Dream Road is out now digitally and on vinyl LP via My Grito Industries.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || My Grito

New album: Spread Joy || II

31 minutes. That’s the cumulative time it takes to listen to Spread Joy’s self-titled debut (2021) and their follow-up II, which is out now through Feel It Records. 31 minutes may seem barely enough to play a full live show. But Spread Joy (Chicago) won’t need much more to convince you of their aptitude in playing tight and exciting no wave punk. Like on Spread Joy’s debut, the angular guitar work and the sweet bass riffs are again in perfect synergy, and the vocal chords of Briana Hernandez are a great fit to that sound- Hernandez effortlessly switches between sounding edgy, suspenseful, dangerous, pissed off and sweet on II.

II is a varied, and at time almost hypnotic record. It starts at a blistering pace with Ow and Spa Schedule, before moving into pop territory with the major hit Repetition. Ich Sehe Dich is also quite poppy, almost like a throwback to the B-52’s. My current favorite is Chatter, where Hernandez talksings and shrieks over a sweet repetitive guitar riff. Cool stuff, really!

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Discogs

New album: Pkew Pkew Pkew || Open Bar

The music of Pkew Pkew Pkew (Toronto) is tailor made for the weekend. It’s loud, it’s fun and perfect for hangouts and singalongs with your friends. In terms of songwriting, the band has made quite the leap from the sheer bluntness and obnoxious of their debut LP – which I absolutely loved. On the band’s latest record (Open Bar), and helped out by Craig Finn (The Hold Steady), Pkew Pkew Pkew succesfully incorporates classic rock influences in their powerful punk sound. In that sense, Open Bar shares several of the strengths of last year’s excellent Sam Coffey And The Iron Lungs’ Real One: anthemic punk rock that will set smaller venues on fire but will also work on a larger stage. It’s Pkew Pkew Pkew at their boldest and most creative yet – the result of a lacking hard deadline and a producer (Jon Drew) down to trying new stuff.

Open Bar is out now through Dine Alone Records. It’s a new Pkew Pkew Pkew record! It’s the weekend. All is good!

Add to wantlist: Dine Alone Records

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