If pop punk’s your thing, I don’t have to introduce you to Geoff Palmer. Here’s a guy who played in the Queers, The Guts, the Nobodys, The Connection, and several bands with his buddy Kurt Baker. His 2019 solo record Pulling Out All The Stops is a modern classic. Recently, Geoff unleashed yet another project onto our planet, together with members of Boston band Lawman: Kewpid. Tunnel of Love is Kewpid’s first release, a two song cassingle. It’s a quick sample, but based on these two songs I hope more music is in the works. Kewpid plays terrific mid tempo pop punk, with vocals that complement the band’s sound perfectly. BTW: make sure to follow Geoff’s Spotify playlist with the best new bubblegum, powerpop and punk of 2021.
Yesterday I was skating on a frozen river, a few degrees below zero and a watery sun on the horizon, meanwhile listening to Mat Weitman’s debut as Hotels on Mars on my headphones. I couldn’t have wished for a more appropriate soundtrack than this rootsy, cinematic songs. The background of the lo-fi audio project is not a cheerful one (as is often the case with art): raw from a breakup and the sudden death of a friend while isolated during lockdown, Weitman processed anxiety through a rapid-fire recording session that became Grief Museum. He complemented his painfully honest nadirs words with multi-genre instrumentation, all performed and recorded at home. The album may stem from waves of dark feelings, but it did lead to an atmospheric and comforting album. Out now in digital and physical forms on Styles Upon Styles Records.
Add to wantlist: Bandcamp
And here’s another great soul 45 on Daptone’s Penrose Records. After two great singles in 2020, Los Yesterdays are back at an even higher level with Nobody’s Clown. Be sure to check out below the fantastic video directed by actionfigureologist / filmmaker David “toyraider” Brocca, starring El Triste – the saddest puppet in Los Angeles – by Puppetmaster213. This is a great example of how film and sound reinforce each other. The single, with Give Me One More Chance on the B side, will be released on March 5. In the Fall a full album should follow.
A few years ago I saw Death By Unga Bunga live, along with only a handful of other paying visitors plus some friends of the five band members. Despite the empty hall, the Norwegian garage rockers went all out – those present became lifelong fans on the spot. Good news, therefore, that the band has added 10 songs to their discography. The new album Heavy Male Insecurity rocks as hard as their previous work, but the lyrics show an unexpected side of the Bunga boys: underneath the tough and badass exterior – machismo, swagger and loud guitars – there is a group of five insecure boys. Primed because of that, I thought the lyrics of the third song were about ‘my body and me’, but that turns out to be My Buddy and Me. Either way, it may be clear that the 5-piece don’t want to grow up, yet they have an important message: there’s a place for every misfit in this stupid world even though it might not always seem that way. And for those who are interested in their bodies, there is a picture disc vinyl with “erotic” photos of the band members (only 100 copies available).
In the last century musician / songwriter Jim Keller played in power pop band Tommy Tutone (listen to 80’s hit 867-5309-Jenny), but with a voice aged by time, whiskey and promises he has been solo for some time now. After Sunshine In My Pocket (2005), Soul Candy (2011) and Heaven Can Wait (2014) he has now released his fourth solo album: By No Means (out now through Elisha James Music). It is quality music that is somewhat reminiscent of the later works of Leonard Cohen or Bob Dylan. He will not win a Nobel prize for literature with his lyrics though (“Maria come home, Maria come home // I don’t want to spend another night all alone”), but that doesn’t matter; the songs are strong, the vocals sound deep and pleasant, the musicians know what to do, and the production is top notch. This is my favorite Sunday morning record for now.
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Tel Aviv musicians Yael Copeland and Shahar Levi met at a music festival where Yael was performing and Shahar was the sound engineer. Together with Sivan Dahan and Yoni Deutsch they form Borito, to celebrate the sweetness in life that can be easily forgotten. Their independently produced debut album What we Have Now contains fun, danceable, dreamy and colorful arrangements influenced by contemporary indie / jangle pop bands (RIYL: Horsebeach, Terry vs. Tori, Hoops, Molly Burch). Listen below to standout track Song for Dawn, the first tune the 4-piece made together. The rest is also worth a listen.
Add to wantlist: Bandcamp
Disclaimer: two songs in, I was convinced that the latest record by Rat Columns would end up in my collection rather sooner than later. It’s hard not to love these two international jangle pop underground gems, which (coincidentally? purposefully?) are titled Hey! I Wanna Give You The World, and It’s your Time To Suffer. Track 3 is another winner (video below), almost sealing the deal. But then, the Aussie band starts to widen their sound, incorporating different instrumentations, rhythms and musical influences. It’s there where I am starting to have my doubts. The execution is convincing though and it will depend on your personal taste how you will react to the remainder of the record. There are elements I am less enthusiastic about, particularly the more danceable parts and, surprise, the parts where the band drops the pace. Conversely, there are elements that work well, I especially dig how the band opens up its sound with well-timed taps on guitar pedals adding some kickass guitar licks. All of these elements likely will pay off on bigger stages and festivals. Arguably, despite the diverse musical directions on the record, Rat Columns has never sounded so accessible without losing the appeal of their previous work. I am keeping this in rotation in the next couple of week, not unlikely that this record will be grower for me. No doubt that I will play those first three songs often this year.
Did you already know Grandmas House? They are an all-female, queer punk trio that play fast and raucous guitar riffs, thumping bass lines and aggressive drums. For the A side of their new single – Always Happy – this video has been released that I don’t want to keep from you. Intriguing in every way: those vocals! those lyrics! that facial expressions! How cool would it be if a full festival meadow in due course chanted “You can’t wipe the smile off my face.” My first thought was that this song made me happy, but my gut tells me to worry about what’s next.
Out March 12. Add to wantlist: Bandcamp
From what I’ve read, Calyx are a band from with quite the live reputation. I am not sure how well known they are outside Pittsburgh, let alone outside the US. That might change with the release of their debut full length Stay Gone. On the record, Calyx offer a vibrant and dynamic take on punkrock. Calyx draws you in from the terrific opener Americana Get a Break, releasing their grip only at the end of the album: a two minute dose of feedback to get you back to earth. A joint release by four (!) labels, it’s another testimony of the resilience of the punk community. BTW, that brown white swirl vinyl looks very pretty. You bet I am excited about this one. RIYL: Discount, RVIVR, The Lippies, Good Luck.
Every review of NRCSSST’s self-titled debut album will be about The Coathangers. That’s because NRCSSST is the brainchild of Stephanie “Rusty Coathange” Luke, but also because the music unmistakably resembles it (Stephanie has a great voice that you recognize from thousands). Thanks to the other band members – co-founder and producer Dan Dixon (PLS PLS / Dropsonic), Chandler Rentz (Snowden), André Griffin (PLS PLS), and Danny Silvestri (Trances Arc) – the music is less garage rock and a bit more electronic. You don’t hear any synths and male vocals on The Coathangers records, but here you do. Whether you prefer one or the other is a matter of taste. If you judge the music without prejudice, you will hear strong songs with a head and a tail, in which guitars and keys are cleverly combined. Out today through SlimStyle Records.
Add to wantlist: Bandcamp