New single: Lilac || Remember, No Regrets

Lilac are Oisín & Cian Walsh, two brothers from Ireland with great hair. Lilac play fuzzy powerpop, with garagerock influences and dashes of britpop. On A-side Remember, No Regrets the band sounds like a mix of Ty Segall, Mikal Cronin, Ash and Weezer. It’s a spong that would have been a major hit twenty years ago. The video to the songs is built from archival sports footage and a joy to watch, aesthetically consistent with the vintage and colorful coverart for the single. Flipside (I’m) Pretending To Be Sad is a tad heavier but has an infectious chorus. Lilacs are fully DIY, homerecording, self-producing and releasing their single on their own label Rufus Records. They are an instant add to my bands-to-watch list.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Frankie And His Fingers || Universal Hurt

I didn’t plan writing about Universal Hurt, the comeback record of Frankie And His Fingers. The band plays a mix of fuzzy powerpop and indie rock with a radio friendly pop sound. Remember The Format’s Dog Problems? Universal Hurt brings back memories to that album. It’s diverse, it’s got well crafted songs, it’s got slowed down parts, it’s got anthemic choruses, and above  all, plenty of melody to draw you in. Given all these qualities, I mistakenly assumed this band to have plenty of monthly listeners on streaming platforms. To compare, The Format have well over 100k and the follow up to that band (Fun.) surpass 7 million (!) monthly listeners on Spotify. Frankie & His Fingers? Not so much. That’s a pity,  because I am sure there is a large audience for this record. Songs like Celebrate!, Gene Kelly & The Truck My Dad Built, and To Die Would Be A Great Adventure showcase the songwriting skills of the band. It’s impressive to see a band that has been on a ten-year hiatus, with members drifting towards college and other bands like Real Estate and Laura Stevenson, return in such good form. Universal Hurt is an inspired record, and arguably the band’s best work yet. Out now on SubFamily Records.

“I pressed pause on my fashion sense when I was 26 || Maybe if I walk around looking like it’s 2012 I can fool the kids || Maybe this is much sadder than accepting I’m fatter and just leaning into quiet nights and buying things.”

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Smile || The Name Of This Band Is Smile

There is no shortage of bands called Smile. This one is a four-piece from Turin (Italy), who started playing together in 2019 and just dropped their debut record. Smile play uptempo underground pop with a strong ’90s vibe, not unlike Bob Mould but with a clean jangly guitar as the central driver of the songs. The Name Of This Band Is Smile is by no means a perfect record – some songs lack focus and direction and hooks to keep your attention. But, the record offers plenty of moments where you hear the potential of the band. Listen to How The Race Is Done and From Here On for example. The band gives some additional info about the record on their Facebook page:  “This record is a no-filter picture of our first year as a band. A year made of songs, electricity, gigs, and the final delusion of the pandemic. It’s a record about the alienation of everyday life stuck between bad and underpaid jobs, the uncertainty of feelings, and the depression of the lack of alternatives given by capitalist realism.”

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Adam Hattaway and the Haunters || Woolston, Texas

A week ago Wurld Series delivered their second LP, with Adam Hattaway as lead guitarist. For fans of his work there’s already more! Adam Hattaway and The Haunters from Christchurch, New Zealand have just released their third full-length album. The “alternative rock and roll” band has a classic setup with two dueling guitars, bass and drums (there’s also an organ popping up), and I think I hear influences from classics by The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and Teenage Fanclub (I could also call it a mix of power pop, country, soul, R&B and rock). Yet it’s quite an interesting, varied and captivating record, not at least because of the singing style of the front man, who seems to use a different voice for each song, enhanced by the backing vocals of the three other band members. I kept listening to get it all in and when the ten songs were over I started all over again. Standout track Sympathy gives you an idea of what to expect.

Woolston, Texas is out now digitally, on CD and on vinyl LP through Holiday Records. Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Space Cadet || Lion On A Leash

Space Cadet is quite the departure from the in-you-face punkrock Matt Hock and David Walsh used to play with The Explosion. Their debut album Lion On A Leash features  the kind of guitar driven dreamy postpunk that slowly but surely gets under your skin. Hock explains at Glide Magazine: “The record sounds like two guys who love reverb and chorus pedals, The Stone Roses, Cock Sparrer and The Rolling Stones.” A Spotify  playlist curated by the band also notes The Jam, Wire, Joe Strummer, John Cale, Slowdive, Oasis, and Sugar as influences. It’s hard to really pinpoint any of these bands to the sound of Space Cadet, but there is a sense of familiarity to most of their songs. For example, If Only and Scream For You have a ’80s new wave vibe, and Bad Luck clearly nods to Britpop. My favorite tracks are Forever For A While and Start Running Way.  Those two sound effortless and confident, and are among the punchier songs on the album.  They are the recommended entry point for those sceptical about the new musical direction Hock and Walsh take with Space Cadet. Ultimately, I think Lion On A Leash is quite the leap from The Explosion, but it’s worth the trip.  Out now on Wiretap Records.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Wiretap Records

New album: Drip-Fed || Kill The Buzz

Okay, this one may be my favorite surprise among this week’s releases. Hardcore kids may have seen this one coming given the band’s past releases, but for me Drip-Fed wasn’t even a blip on my radar.  I’m glad that has changed because  Drip-Fed have a very interesting sound that’s loud yet dynamic, hardcore yet melodic, and agressive yet catchy. In short: it rocks.

I’ll let you in on how I fell for this record. The first two tracks on Kill The Buzz definitely warmed me up, breaking down my defenses for what comes next. The opening track is particularly strong, with excellent drums and guitar interplay.  But it is track 3, the title track, where everything clicks. That song hits all the right notes at the most unexpected but still perfect time. It starts with a bass riff, quickly mirrored by the drums and guitars, creating a wave of groovy loudness. After 30 seconds or so, the band eases up with cleaner sounding guitars. It’s when the screaming starts, moving towards a gang vocals chorus that feel more like a battle cry. It’s the remainder of the song where I finally get hooked in full. There is an amazing, super catchy middle part to the song, where bass, drums and guitars bouncing off each other. And if that’s not enough, the band slides into an insane guitar solo. The song is less than 3 minutes long, but it’s packed, and it’s blast. And that’s just that one song. The record is full of great moments like that. Drip-Fed keeps you interested and intrigued throughout. This is rockin’ hardcore in the vein of Every Time I Die,  Fucked Up and Touché Amoré (24 Hour Firework Stand), but slightly more accessible, and may appeal to fans of metal and alternative rock as well.  Out now at Head2Wall Records (US) and  i.corrupt Records (EU).

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Head2Wall Records || i.corrupt Records

New EP: Manhattan Jamborees || Manhattan Jamborees

Despite everything, we live in great times musically. Wherever you are, with a few clicks of the mouse  you can access more songs than you could ever listen to, past and present. And so it can happen that three young Japanese guys are influenced by rockabilly, oldies, psychobilly, country music and Japanese pop from the 70’s / 80’s. Manhattan Jamborees – Ryo Kato (guitar / vocals), Keisuke Yamada (bass / vocals), and Hikaru Abe (drums / vocals) – just released their first (self-titled) EP, with five songs in the tradition of Stray Cats, Reverend Horton Heat, Roy Buchanan , Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, Buddy Holly, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Kenji Sawada. I don’t speak Japanese, so no idea what they sing about (except some words in the third song ;-)), but I can feel the music and the enthusiasm. And now you can enjoy it too. What a great time it is.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp 

New album: Early Riser || Vocations

Early Riser are a quirky band from Brooklyn. And by quirky, I am referring to their cello-driven punk sound. That cello gives the songs on their new record (Vocations) a folky vibe, but in a nuanced and subtle way: Vocations essentially is classic pop punk and in no way sounds like Flogging Molly. On the record, founding members Kiri Oliver and Heidi Vanderlee are joined by Nicole Nussbaum & Mikey Erg – who icymi released an excellent solo record a couple of weeks ago. A strength of Early Riser is that all four member sing, with plenty of harmonies and group vocals, giving the song a communal and upbeat feel. My early favorites on the record are Metronome Heart and the title track. For the latter, the band has created one of the most inspired stuck-at-home video’s I’ve seen yet, see below. Vocations is out now on A-F Records in vinyl colors that mirror the album cover.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || A-F Records

New album: A.J. Fullerton || The Forgiver & The Runaway

A.J. Fullerton is an American roots / rock / blues artist, known for his expressive vocals and signature style of fingerpicking and bottleneck slide guitar. For his new album he has gathered a good bunch of musicians around him, who take the soulful, rootsy songs to the next level. Forgiver and the Runaway is out now digitally, on CD, and on vinyl LP through VizzTone Records. Below the official music video for Say You’ll Stay, featuring Jake Friel on harmonica. Listen to the rest of the album via your favorite streaming service.

Add to wantlist: A.J. Fullerton Merch

New album: Miko Marks & The Resurrectors || Our Country

About 15 years ago, Miko Marks was considered “Nashville’s Hottest New Country Star”, loved by the audiences but not so much by the music industry, which reportedly struggled with a black woman in country music. Disillusioned, a long overdue hiatus from music followed, but fortunately the singer-songwriter is back. With co-producers Steve Wyreman and Justin Phipps (Founder of Redtone Records) she wrote songs reflecting hard truths and the expansive emotions they were all feeling, which she subsequently recorded with Redtone’s house band The Resurrectors. This new LP, Our Country, is out now through Redtone Records and streaming across all platforms. A strong collection, rooted in sounds from country, blues, soul, and roots music, which fits Miko Mark’s distinctive vocals well. Below the official performance video for the track Hard Times. Maybe album closing track Not Be Moved is even better.

‘This album is overall a heartfelt prayer for honesty and reflection. I hope it evokes a sense of urgency around systemic racism, injustice and economic disparity that plagues the underprivileged in our country. I hope the message of compassion and unity rings true and encourages listeners to identify, digest the fullness of the music in a transformative way.’ – Miko Marks

Add to wantlist: Miko Marks Shop

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