Last week, MOJO, Uncut and Rough Trade, among others, already published their music year end lists. With six weeks or so to go in 2020, there is of course the risk that they will miss some new albums. Like this one! The combination of the singing skills of songwriter / arranger / band leader / ‘vocal powerhouse’ Samantha Martin and the soul / funk sound of Delta Sugar make The Reckless One an album that would not have been out of place in the aforementioned lists. My favorite song is original Don’t Have To Be – see below – but you should at least also check out Bob Dylan cover Meet Me in the Morning.
The Last released their debut L.A. Explosion in 1979 on the legendary Bomp! Records. I only discovered the record when my all-time favorite bands, Descendents, cited them as their primary inspiration. I fell in love instantly. L.A. Explosion sounds like a beachy mashup of Nerves and the Clash. Despite their pop sensibilities, great harmonies, and sheer variety in songwriting, the Last never made it out of their L.A. scene. To add insult to injury, their DIY attempt to record their sophomore album ended in a warped sound, and zero label offers. Fast forward 40 years (!), modern technology fixed the original tapes and the record is out at last. It’s a bittersweet release that I can’t wait to have in my collection. Fingers crossed that they will do a deluxe remastered reissue of L.A. Explosion next.
New band alert! Brooklyn based Heavy Lag say they play dirt pop, which is an apt description of their fuzzy and punky take on powerpop. The A-side has the second best use of an intro sample of the year (#1 here). It is short, and so catchy I played it thrice before moving to the B-side. That offers another killer track, reminiscent of Marked Men. Curious to hear what these guys will cook up next.
Add to Wantlist: Bandcamp
SBDC stands for Stupid Bitches & Dumb Cunts, which suggests these riot grrrls don’t take themselves to seriously. Fortunately, their new record on Kingfisher Bluez is no gimmick. It is a strong collection of very catchy pop punk songs. More punk than Holly & the Italians, and more rawk than fellow Canadians Pale Lips. SBDC takes a well-trodden path, but their execution, especially in the vocal department, puts them ahead of the pack.
Early this year, Romero released a two song single which is still one of my highlights of 2020. Today, they released their latest recording, a self-described “golden old soul that smoothes out the bumps of at-home frustrations and reassures you on the existential path ahead.” Slightly lower paced, but with the same swagger of their previous work, it is another showcase of the sheer vocal power of singer Alanna Oliver.
Looking back to the past to forge the future. That’s what Seth Bovey was aiming for with his history book about garage rock. The author is a professor of English at a university, but 40 years ago he also played in several garage bands. The scientist’s hand is clearer than the musician’s experience in the book; above all, it provides a thorough and detailed overview (no lack of references), roughly arranged chronologically and by location. Although many bands are mentioned in the six chapters, it is useful that the book ends with a list for recommended listening – many “garage punk unknowns”, but of course a classic like Psychotic Reaction by Count Five is not missing, see below – and recommended compilations and compilation series. Oh man, my wantlist has expanded a lot when I was reading this – you’ve been warned.
Want to hear more? I’ve collected songs mentioned in the book in this Spotify playlist.
It was worth the wait, The Parson Red Heads are back with a new LP. As they put it themselves: ‘An album full of dreams, self-reflection, and weary yearning (…) beautiful vocal melodies and harmonies, sparkling pedal steel-driven cosmic Americana and folk rock, coupled with (…) layered synths, organs and mellotrons, songs that build and drive to chaotically beautiful peaks.’ I couldn’t have said it better. Listen to stand-out track All I Wanted below.
If there is one thing this compilation of obscure mid-eighties US bands shows, it’s that great jangle pop is not exclusive to the UK, AU and NZL. That’s not to say that the bands on display are mere copycats of the C86 or the Flying Nun sound. They incorporate American influences to create their own version of jangle. Slightly more production, a bit more powerpop, a lot of catchiness. All in all, this is a very strong start of Captured Tracks‘ new Excavations series – inspired by the infamous Pebbles, Killed by Death, and Numero Group compilations. It is not cheap, but you get four sides of melodic guitar catchiness as well as an 80+ page booklet with an oral history of this particular music scene. Musthave.
I know, this 7″ from TV’s Daniel (Daniel Fried from Bad Sports, Mind Spiders, Radioactivity, among others) is over a year old, but the flip side has become one of my favorite Friday night anthems lately. I like the A side of the single – Maybe We’ll All Die, but what I really love is the B-side (always check the B-side!). Sing along: It’s Better Than It’s Been!
Slumberland Records is celebrating 30 years of quality twee, shoegaze, jangle, indiepop and poppunk releases with a singles series. I’ve had its latest installment, by Bay Area (SF) postpunkers Neutrals, on constant repeat. It has the immediate appeal of those classic late ’70’s punk singles that are now way overpriced on Discogs. The full single is available for streaming on Spotify, but it is the A-side that is the true gem here.