Thursday, December 31, 2020

The Bats - Foothills


The troubled state of the world has escaped the attention of no one, of course, and we are under no delusion that when we wake up in the morning of the first day of 2021 all will be better. However, as we end another year of covering music we wish to make the subject of our final feature of the year a superb record that not only contains excellent songs, but also represents several qualities that qualified it as our choice for hope and normalcy in troubled times. Foothills is the tenth album from New Zealand south island four-piece The Bats. Ten albums is, itself, a feat. But the fact that the albums are spread out over nearly four decades highlights those other qualities we mentioned. To be together that long requires friendship, trust, give and take, and likely a great sense of humor. The time span also suggests a comforting normalcy. These people have jobs, families and friends, and interests outside of music. That music is hugely important to them is obvious from the length of their career (and by their connection with their audience if you are fortunate enough to see them live). But music is worked into their lives rather than their lives chained to the music. And this is why we waited six weeks to write up one of our favorite albums of the year -- to close out the year celebrating friendship, normalcy and artistic achievement to end 2020 and give us hope for 2021.

The Bats’ music is invariably melodic with a mid-tempo pace, folky accents, jangling guitars, playful basslines and sturdy drumming. The songs range from the pastoral to pop/rock, and although the arrangements tend to be straightforward, the band adds subtle embellishments such as keys and fuzzed or tremolo guitars that amplify the effect of the song without becoming distracting. Thematically, the songs are self-contained stories by Robert Scott (who also is a visual artist) embellished by the band. His sketches are prefect, evocative with just enough detail to invite the listener to color in between the lines. It probably doesn’t need to be said that the sound of a band together this long is completely locked in like a single organism. Yet, the cohesion is remarkable. We found that choosing favorite songs from Foothills is an impossible task, so we just picked few to show the range of styles. However, as music fans who are very familiar with The Bats’ catalog, Foothills stands among their best albums in terms of both standout songs and even more in terms of consistency. It is a celebration of quality indie guitar pop, and it symbolizes our hopes for a more normal future.

The Bats are, and always have been, Robert Scott, Kaye Woodward, Paul Kean, and Malcolm Grant. Foothills is out now via Flying Nun Records.




Bandcamp for Foothills

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Milky Wimpshake - Confessions Of An English Marxist


With nearly 30 years in the music biz, there is reason to think that Newcastle Upon Tyne's Milky Wimpshake just might make it as a band. The outfit likes a good bassline, a jangling guitar, a literate but sardonic approach, and more than a little bit of punk attitude. Sounds like something we would happily cook up in our musical kitchen if we could. But since we haven't the talent, we recommend you turn your ears to Confessions Of An English Marxist, the latest LP from the band. Humor, social commentary, some politics and a load of fun. If you can't go out safely, why not sit at home, have a milky wimpshake and listen to someone else's confessions?

At this point Milky Wimpshake are Pete Dale, Christine Rowe, and Emma Wigham, with guest contributions by Rachel Kenedy of Flowers and Adam Fairhall. Confessions Of An English Marxist is out now via Bobo Integral.



Bandcamp for album

Monday, December 28, 2020

"Darling" by Real Numbers

 "Darling" is a song to fall in love with, and maybe to fall in love to. Impossibly bright and charming, it recalls the best of the jangling guitar and keys indie pop of the '80s. Better yet, it is but one of the five tracks on the upcoming Brighter Then EP by Minneapolis quartet Real Numbers. Your brain may be whispering 'Sarah Records' in the background, but you won't be surprised to learn that the EP will be released by Slumberland Records (North America) and Meritorio Records (Europe). And while you'll have to wait almost a month for Brighter Then, "Darling is available right now. Check out the Bandcamp link.



Bandcamp for single

Slumberland Records page to pre-order EP

Saturday, December 26, 2020

"Can't You See" by The Boys With The Perpetual Nervousness

 We are slowly crawling out of our holiday cocoon, and thought we should share "Can't You See", the new single from The Boys With The Perpetual Nervousness. It is a terrific indie pop gem that ends too quickly. But that is more reason to preorder the album, Songs From Another Life.

The Boys With The Perpetual Nervousness is Andrew Taylor of Scotland and Gonzalo Marcos of Spain. The album is due February 5 via Bobo Integral.


Bandcamp for single

Bandcamp for album


Tuesday, December 22, 2020

"I Don't Want To Be With Anyone" by Dannika


Most years we do not post often Christmas week, because we are off skiing or doing other things with family. COVID has put a damper on many of those activities (including our annual ski trip to Canada). However, life has compensated by giving us more projects for clients than we had anticipated.

However, we could not help taking a break to bring you "I Don't Want To Be With Anyone", the first single from the upcoming album Gems by Melbourne's Dannika. The project of musician, songwriter and filmmaker Dannika Horvat and three friends, they produce indie pop that seems to have a gloss of something special. Take a test drive with the single, and set a calendar alert for January 29, when Gems will be released via Spunk Records and Osborne Again Music. The other members of Dannika are Liam Parsons, Stefan Blair, and Paul Ceraso.


Bandcamp for single

Bandcamp for Gems

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Neil Brogan - Weird Year


Neil Brogan has an enviable record of noteworthy musical work. From Girls Names to Sea Pinks to his new solo album, Weird Year. His sweet spot is a combination of tautly constructed jangle pop and California guitar pop. His themes tend toward the bittersweet and introspective. What makes is so special for us, aside from an undeniable knack for crafting engaging melodies, is his writing. He is evocative by concise, sketching a picture while letting the listeners fill in the spaces while the sweet guitar tones fill their heads. Sea Pinks delivered ten albums in ten years. We would count ourselves as very fortunate if Neil delivers ten solo albums of this quality in the next decade.

Weird Year is out now in digital format. See the Bandcamp link below.


Bandcamp for Album

Various Artists - Strum & Thrum: The American Jangle Underground 1983-1987


New York label Captured Tracks has launched a new series called Excavations, intended to result in compilations of forgotten music of the period from the '70s through the '90s that reflects -- and inspired -- the type of music on which the label focuses. We think the series is a terrific idea. And we think the label hit a home run with the first release: Strum & Thrum: The American Jangle Underground 1983-1987. Compiling 28 great tunes from the unsung and largely forgotten jangle/college rock bands of the mid-'80s, the record will thrill any jangle pop fan and likely any college rock fan regardless of whether they have actually heard any of these songs before. We consider it an absolute treasure. Without any meaningful production budget of fancy technology, these bands made memorable music by applying the simple basics of good writing, energy, and passion. And they proved that they didn't need anything else.

Strum & Thrum: The American Jangle Underground 1983-1987 is out now in digital and vinyl formats. The 2XCD version sold out, but it is being repressed and can be pre-ordered now.

Bandcamp for album

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Permits - Time Permits


As we are fans of Melbourne-area bands The Shifters, Pop Singles, Dag and Chook Race, we were eager to dive into an album by Permits -- a project boasting members of each of those bands. Not surprisingly, these gents have a lot of material that hasn't fit in their other bands' records, so they joined forces and gave the songs new life in Time Permits. The themes are observational, and the pace and vibe have a Velvet Underground feel. The band's instincts were correct, this material deserved to be recorded for us to enjoy and this record is a very nice end of the year surprise.

Permits is Tristan Davies, Tam Matlakowski, Dusty Anastssiou and Rob Remedios. Time Permits is out now in digital and cassette formats via Tenth Court.

Bandcamp for Time Permits

Various links to source Time Permits

Tenth Court


"Rage On" by Tim Cohen

We have been alerted that Bobo Integral, one of the fine Spanish labels we follow, will release a solo album by Tim Cohen of The Fresh & Onlys and Magic Trick. The San Francisco artist has released the lead track, "Rage On", as the first single. Featuring a detailed but mellow arrangement and Cohen's warm weathered voice, it gives us a change to snatch some calm pleasure in a hectic holiday season.

You Are Still Here is Tim Cohen's sixth solo album, and will be released in vinyl and digital formats on March 26.

Bandcamp for album

Twitter for The Fresh & Onlys

"Home" by Millar Jukes

Before we leave today we are sharing a fun, country blues single by a Scotsman who has emigrated to Australia. Enjoy "Home" on Soundcloud or watch the video, in which Millar Jukes shows his penchant for moving around and eating out of cans. We endorse the former, but are a bit wary of the latter (note, we think drinking beer out of cans is perfectly normal).

"Home" is out now -- check your preferred digital music source.



Soundcloud for "Home"

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

The Cupholders - The Cupholders Christmas Shitshow Mixtape Vol​.​1


A great holiday offering - 40 tunes by Seattle area artists for 'name your price' with the proceeds going to Keep Music Live Washington to help save hometown community-based music venues. The album was put together by The Cupholders: Bart Cameron of The Foghorns, Casey Ruff of Casey Ruff & the Mayors of Ballard, and Sam Russell of Sam Russell & The Harborrats. The songs in the collection include songs by The Cupholders, its members other projects, and songs by friends, associates and acquaintances. There were no genre restrictions, so the listener will delight in a wide array of musical expression. 

We've given you a taste below, but consider doing good by buying good music. We thank you!



Bandcamp for Album

Monday, December 14, 2020

"At Attention" by Northern Portrait

Our less-than-patient wait for new material from Northern Portrait, our favorite Danish indie pop band, is over. True, the new album The Swiss Army won't be out until 2021, but the first single is here already. "At Attention" struts the more muscular, wide-screen end of the jangle pop spectrum. It seems to fill our Monday with more confidence and energy, and we suggest it may do the same for you.

"At Attention" and The Swiss Army are available via Matinee Recordings.


Matinee Recordings page for single

Sunday, December 13, 2020

"A Joke" by Mystery Guest


Melbourne's Mystery Guest enthralled us with their lovely album Octagon City earlier this year (our feature here). Fortunately for our ears, the Metro Tunnel Creative Program and Melbourne Music Week included Mystery Guest among the Melbourne artists invited to create and contribute original music during COVID-19 lockdown. The resulting Home Made Sound contains many and varied delights, with Mystery Guest's "A Joke" catching our attention. Allegedly, it is about love, death and gags, and it it lovely start to finish. Stream it below.

Mystery Guest is Caitlyn Lesiuk (guitar, organ, electric piano, vocals) and Patricke Telfer (drums). On this single bass was played by Daevid Gravalien, flute was provided by Sophie Weston, and Joel Carey supplied backing vocals. "A Joke" is out now in digital format via Tenth Court, which also released Octagon City.


Various links to source "A Joke"

Tenth Court' website

The Yellow Melodies - Sunshine Pop EP2

 Rafa Skam and his band mates in The Yellow Melodies are not, to our knowledge, doctors of medicine. But on this rainy, early winter day the five songs on Sunshine Pop EP 2 are the mental vitamin D medicine that beats any other prescription. From "Follow the Sun" through the last note of "The Sunshine In Your Eyes" the record is packed with pop melodies and feel good vibes. Consider it essential for your mental health.




Bandcamp for EP2

Friday, December 11, 2020

Skink Tank - Skink Tank EP


It almost is hard work keeping up with the jangle-oriented guitar bands of Melbourne. We say "almost" because while it takes time, it is pure pleasure. In terms of volume and quality Melbourne has pulled up to the top tier with New York, Glasgow and a few others. Today's fairly fresh discovery is Skink Tank. This trio is rambunctious, positive, tuneful, and based on their self-titled, seven-track EP, talented. There is plenty of passion, although it seems that they don't want to be seen as trying too hard. It is all blue-collar and Friday-night fun. We are disappointed that we can't just head out the door and see them live in a neighborhood bar. However, we have a few weeks of test driving this EP, and we assure you that is sounds damn fine in your own home. Our mood improves each time we play it. And for that, our partners thank Skink Tank, our kids thank Skink Tank, our dogs thank Skink Tank, our cats ... well, to be honest, the cat ignores us completely.

Skink Tank are Maggins on bass and vocals, Ricko on guitars and vocals, and Ally on drums and vocals. The EP is out now in digital and cassette formats via Psychic Hysteria.


Bandcamp for Skink Tank EP

Psychic Hysteria

"Found Out" by Locked Hands

We are starting our day with a downloadable nugget from Scotland - "Found Out" by Locked Hands. This project's brand of electronic pop eschews routine templates and never fails to deliver thrills. "Found Out" grabbed our interest instantly with a stuttering dub beat, then blending in shadowy vocals. Short and punchy, it is a track that earns a lot of replays around here.

Locked hands is one of the projects of Belfast-to-Edinburgh's Sean Ormsby, who also is co-head of label Errant Media.

Errant Media on Twitter

Errant Media's Bandcamp (previous releases)

Thursday, December 10, 2020

"Back to Me" by Cool Sounds


Lets give a release day warm welcome to "Back to Me", the lead single from Cool Sounds' upcoming full length Bystander. We can always count on this band to deliver warm, pleasing melodies and sweet guitar lines. And while the press release promises social commentary over the dulcet tones, "Back to Me" begins the proceedings with some calm reassurance. We needed that.

Cool Sounds are Dainis Lacey, Nick Kearton, Ambrin Hasnain, Steve Foulkes, Jack Nichols, and Pierce Morton. Bystander will be released on February 12 via Osborne Again and Spunk Records in Australia and New Zealand, and by Nice Guys in the rest of the world. If you want vinyl, you might consider pre-ordering it. The limited edition white vinyl is already sold out.



Bandcamp for Bystander

"Skogen" by Stephen's Shore


Here is today's first jangling delight, "Skogen" by Stockholm's Stephen's Shore. The band was formed in 2011 and previously released an EP and an LP (both available on their Bandcamp page). They now are preparing to release new EP Brisbane Radio. While two EPs and one LP in a decade is not a furious production pace, our experienced ears advise us that this five-piece makes up for the leisurely pace by focusing on high quality output. "Skogen" is the second track to be released from the EP, following the title track.

Stephen's Shore are Viktor Sjodin, Erik J. Undehn, Jimmy Ottosson, P.A. Blomqvist, and Mattias Berqvist. "Skogen" and "Brisbane Radio" are available digitally via Meritorio Records. The EP will be released in digital and limited edition vinyl formats on January 22, also via Meritorio.


Bandcamp for Brisbane Radio

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

"Make Kin" by Nightshift


When we learned that Glasgow's Nightshift includes members of Spinning Coin, 2 Ply and Robert Sotelo we instantly were interested. And listening to "Make Kin", the first single of upcoming album Zoe, shot our interest to Code Red levels. Smooth and slinky, this is percussive, post punk goodness of the highest order.

Zoe will be out in late February via Trouble In Mind, and we are eager to have it.


Trouble In Mind Records page for Zoe

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Fixtures - Weak Automatic EP


Brooklyn band Fixtures embraces a wide variety of influences, all of them worthy of consideration. Then they turn the crank on their very own music machine and churn out a hook-filled, noisy version of indie pop/rock. And for extra flavor they now have added a saxophone. The result -- as evidenced by their new EP Weak Automatic -- is joyful, positive and thrilling. For our ears the songs are a satisfying combination of pop music craftsmanship and jam band. What better (legal) way to get energy for that mid-week slump?

Fixtures are Kris Liakos (vocals/guitar), Jah McGuire (bass), Alain Paradis (guitar/vocals/keys), Robin Fowler (drums/percussion), and Jules Block (sax). Weak Automatic EP is out now in digital and cassette formats via Bobo Integral Records.


Bandcamp Weak Automatic

"Common Sense" by Melby


Happy day! One of our favorite Nordic bands, Swedish quartet Melby, is back with new single "Common Sense". While retaining the charm of their past work, the new song expands their range from their psych pop roots to a more sophisticated pop with a bubbling groove. We like it quite a bit, and suggest that you may as well.

Melby are Matilda Wiezell, Are Engen Steinsholm, David Jehrlander, and Teo Jernkvist. "Common Sense" is out now as a digital release via Sweden's Rama Lama Records and Germany's Sinnbus.



Bandcamp for "Common Sense"

Various links for "Common Sense"


Common Sense is out on Rama Lama Records (ROW) and Sinnbus (GSA) on December 8th. The track was recorded with and produced by Alexander Eldefors.

Monday, December 7, 2020

Half Japanese - Crazy Hearts


With Crazy Hearts we find Jad Fair's Half Japanese project four decades and nineteen albums into their career. While the band has long been known for their default tendency to create noisy music, they more recently have given more emphasis to pop sensibilities while still living large in the garage rock/psychedelic pop channels. Crazy Hearts is not only a good example of that transition, it is an excellent pop album boasting varied songs, a generous spirit, and a vulnerability that seems more pointed with Jad's talk/sing delivery.

In addition to Jad Fair, Half Japanese is John Sluggett, Giles Vincent Rieder, Mick Hobbs and Jason Willett. Crazy Hearts is out now via Fire Records.


Bandcamp for Crazy Hearts

Various links for Crazy Hearts

Friday, December 4, 2020

Pop Filter - Donkey Gully Road


Is Donkey Gully Road a mystical place, a historic location, or a scenic landmark? Not to our knowledge (although friends and partners might suggest that our knowledge is a low bar to clear). But it is a street in Yapeen, Victoria, Australia on which resides a recording studio at which Pop Filter recorded their second release of 2020, and for which the album was named. And after living a bit with Donkey Gully Road, we now find the name quite significant and very memorable, because the album is both.

In our opinion, the album is significant not just because it is one of the better guitar pop albums our ears have experienced this year, but because it is yet another edition of the consistent output of Melbourne's The Ocean Party turned Pop Filter. And it is memorable both because of the quality of the individual songs and the overall coherence of the album. In this case "coherence" is not meant to suggest homogeneity. With six songwriters contributing material there is ample diversity in style and voice. But with their long friendships and extended period as a band, Pop Filter's ability to work each other's music imbues a kinship to the tracks. We think many bands gauge their work to hit a chord with their audience, which is only natural and to be expected. We get a different vibe from Pop Filter. In their case, it is more like a group of friends who get together to kick the ball around and have small-sided games every weekend. You can watch, and it will please them if their play pleases you, but the game is for them -- for their enjoyment and an expression of their friendship. For our part, we're just happy they record their music. 

It never seems fair to pick songs for a feature of a recording by Pop Filter (or the predecssor The Ocean Party), because all the songs are worthy and two each reflect he songwriting talents of one of the members. We have taken the approach of highlighting different styles rather than rating songs. We submit that you would do yourself a disservice if you didn't click on the Bandcamp link and listen to the entire album. Donkey Gully Road is out now via Spunk Records, Osborne Again, and Bobo Integral.

Bandcamp Donkey Gully Road

Spunk Records page for album

Bobo Integral page for album

Thursday, December 3, 2020

The Reds, Pinks & Purples - You Might Be Happy Someday


Infused with melancholy and ambivalence and then gift-wrapped in superb jangling dream pop wrappers, the eight songs comprising You Might Be Happy Someday just may make more than a few year-end indie pop lists. Whether that makes The Reds, Pinks & Purples happy on the given day, we can only speculate. But if you are an indie pop fan shrewd enough to grab this 12", you will be happy and you will be happy now.

The Reds, Pinks & Purples is the home recording project of Glenn Donaldson, whose past projects include the esteemed The Skygreen Leopards and Art Museums. You Might Be Happy Someday is out in vinyl (while it lasts--this is its second pressing) and digital formats via the UK's Tough Love Records. The project also will have a full LP out in the new year via Slumberland Records.

Bandcamp for album

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

KO:MI - We Said We Didn't Know But We Knew


We Said We Didn't Know But We Knew is an exotic but eminently accessible tapestry of Nordic indie folk, electro pop and alternative pop. The creators are Finnish band KO:MI, comprised of  Sanna Komi (vocals, violin, songs and lyrics), with Mikko Joensuu (vocals), Suvi Linnovaara (clarinet and flute), Saara Viika (cello), Markus Perttula (double bass and vocals), and Teemu Tanner (backing vocals). Sanna is also known and respected for her work with Pintandwefall, Kynnet, and Cats of Transnistria, and we have followed her career with interest and pleasure. As KO:MI, she seems especially free to pursue her thematic and musical vision, and has crafted an intellectually intriguing exploration of relationships with the background of a challenging social environment. And the music, well, that is classic Komi, combining traditional and experimental in ways that please the ear and challenge expectations. One moment she is a pop star cooing in your ear, the next moment she is an ambient producer, and the next a choir on Sunday morning. Dazzling and satisfying in equal measure.

We Said We Didn't Know But We Knew is out now via Helsinki's Soliti Music.



Bandcamp for album

Soliti Music page for KO:MI