Friday, June 30, 2023

Jagger Holly - Rivoltella

A pop-punk double album may seem a little excessive. But in the hands of Jagger Holly, it's excessively awesome. Out now on Monster Zero, OUTLOUD!, Memorable But Not Honorable, and Hey Pizza! Records, Rivoltella is the best pop-punk full-length to be released since, uh well, the last Jagger Holly album! The Austrian trio has really outdone itself on its third proper album. A double album within the pop-punk world is not entirely unprecedented (The Suitesixteen pulled it off quite spectacularly), but it's quite rare. What pleases me about Rivoltella is that it doesn't try to be anything more than a great pop-punk record (or, to be more accurate, two great pop-punk records). Jay Dee sticks to what he does best: writing perfect pop songs with gigantic hooks and heartfelt lyrics. And for this release, he fully splits singing and songwriting duties with the equally talented Matt DeeCrack. Rivoltella isn't some indulgent rock opera or failed descent into experimentation. It's simply a super-sized work of masterful pop-punk. Remarkably for a 29-track release, it maintains a high level of quality all the way to the end. And it manages to run for nearly an hour without wearing out its welcome. In no way would I have recommended trimming this down to a single LP. There would be too many essential songs to cut, and honestly this album works perfectly at this length. 

As you would expect from a pop-punk album this epic, Rivoltella touches upon just about every sub-style within the genre. Some songs are super poppy. Others are fast and snotty. Some are heavily Ramones-inspired. A few lean towards power pop. A few have a foot in rock and roll. The band nails all of it. This is an album steeped in the classic tradition of '90s pop-punk, yet it shows how this sound can remain current and vital well into the 21st Century. There are some obvious hits like "Summer Sun," "Good To You," "Baby, It's You," "Keep Dreaming," and a terrific cover of Exploding White Mice's "Out of My Head." Yet the deep cuts prove to be just as rewarding. How many bands wish they could write one song as good as "Can't Stop"? "True To You" has got to be the best track 29 on any album ever! 

What do you do if you're stuck at home in the middle of a pandemic lockdown? If you're the guys in Jagger Holly, you write songs. And if you write enough good songs, why stop at a single album? The harder part for Jagger Holly was more likely getting all these tracks recorded — which required visits to many studios in multiple countries and tremendous perseverance in the face of illnesses, canceled travel plans, and numerous other disruptions. After all that, it doesn't seem like giving Rivoltella an hour of your time is an unreasonable ask. Sometimes more is more!

Chinese Junk - Fly Spray

Now this is how you do it! U.K. trio Chinese Junk captured my attention last year when Big Neck Records released their Raw Deal EP here in the States. I quickly identified the "kings of pound shop rock" as a band of considerable promise. That promise has been fully realized on the full-length release Fly Spray — also released by Big Neck. Fly Spray is the kind of record I don't hear enough of these days — a throwback to the lo-fi garage punk budget trash that ruled the '90s. Imagine if the Rip Offs had been a little more into the Ramones and a lot dumber (in a good way). From the first chord, Fly Spray is a head-bobbing, toe-tapping, shout-along good time. Over the course of 14 tracks, the band crosses the two-minute mark only once (on the band anthem "Budget Stomp") and clobbers you with songs about electric chairs, unwanted callers, plastic surgery accidents, day drinking, pest control, and being overworked and underpaid. And the tender love ballad "I Don't Know What I Want (But I Know That You Ain't It)" is not to be missed. Seriously: it takes real smarts to write songs this stupid! Fly Spray is an absolutely brilliant effort and a shining example of what all garage punk should aspire to be.


Monday, June 26, 2023

The Master Plan - Grand Cru

On the heels of last year's summer smash single "Ooh Baby Ooh," the greatest of all garage rock supergroups now receives the full-length treatment from the mighty and renowned Rum Bar Records. Comprised of The Dictators' Andy Shernoff, The Fleshtones' Keith Streng and Bill Milheizer, and Waxing Poetics' Paul Johnson, The Master Plan is a long-running institution of timeless rock and roll. The newly-issued compact disc Grand Cru is an absolute monster of an album — as it should be since it cherry-picks ace tracks from the band's long out-of-print LPs Colossus Of Destiny and Maximum Respect. Shernoff, Streng, and Johnson all contribute songs, and the cover selections (Family's "Second Generation Woman" and Wendy Rene's "Bar-B-Q" along with the aforementioned rave-up rendition of The Hollywood Flames' "Ooh Baby Ooh") are all formidable. The talent in this band's lineup is of course staggering. All of these players are in vintage form and perfect sync as they kick up a soul-stirring mix of doo-wop, late '50s/early '60s rock and roll, rhythm & blues, garage rock, and surf. To say that the typical Rum Bar fan will enjoy this disc would be the understatement of the year. And the timing of this release could not be more perfect: this album was made to be the soundtrack to your 2023 summertime fun. It's hard to single out individual tracks given how bulletproof this entire album is. That said, Shernoff's "14th Street" would hold its own on any oldies radio station. Streng's "I Wanna Feel Something" will definitely have you feeling something: most likely joy or excitement or momentary invincibility. Johnson's "You're Mine" kicks up enough energy to wake the dead. It's probably sacrilegious to say that "What's Up With That?" surpasses the version from The Dictators'  D.F.F.D., but my ears can't lie.  

Featuring exclusive original album cover art by the great Cliff Mott and packaged with a double-sided foldout poster insert, Grand Cru is a must-own package for fans of The Master Plan, Dictators, Fleshstones, and rock and roll in general. These tracks were mastered by Kurt Bloch and sound like a million bucks plus tax. This is an album to blare while you're manning the grill, drinking by the pool, partying on the beach, or driving with the windows down on a perfect summer's day. If you seek nothing more and nothing less than garage rock at its absolute finest, this is the best 13 dollars you'll ever spend.

Friday, June 23, 2023

The Midnight Callers - Rattled Humming Heart

When Jem Records president Marty Scott reached out to press and radio to urge us to listen to The Midnight Callers' new long player Rattled Humming Heart, I knew the album was going to be something special. Jem already has some of the best publicity and promotion in the world of independent music. Scott didn't need to make a statement to the press. But he did anyway because he felt that strongly about this release. He said this was the best second album he'd released in seven years. And let me tell you: he wasn't blowing smoke. 

The Midnight Callers released an acclaimed debut album titled Red Letter Glow on Jem in the fall of 2020. It was an unfortunate time to release a debut record, but the reviews were stellar. The follow-up Rattled Humming Heart builds on the promise of Red Letter Glow and then some. It's rare for a band's sophomore album to blow away its debut, but Rattled Humming Heart is one of those cases. Red Letter Glow showcased the band's impressive vocal and songwriting talents. But on Rattled Humming Heart, The Midnight Callers fully realize their musical identity: a fresh, modern take on classic power pop. Band members Chris Paine (rhythm guitar/vocals), Martin Stubbs (vocals/lead guitar), Julien Budrino (vocals/drums), and Marley Myrianthopoulos (vocals/bass) set out to craft an album that would capture their love not only for some of the greatest musical acts of the past 50 years but also for their hometown of New York City. Across these 11 tracks, the band openly emulates some of the most legendary bands of the power pop genre and also tips the cap to the heyday of glam rock. "Baby Let Me Be" sounds like the best Raspberries song in five decades. "Closer" could pass for a deep cut gem by The Knack. "Maggie" gives me Big Star goosebumps without coming off like a copy. "Girl on the Run" sounds like Shoes and Dwight Twilley jamming at Tom Petty's house. But while all this power pop classicism clearly inspires The Midnight Callers, it never limits them. "New York Tramp" manages to combine the influence of The Strokes and Cheap Trick in a wonderfully surprisingly and fully contemporary way. "Step!" marries a T. Rex groove to booty-shaking rock and roll. "What Goes Around" adds a modern sheen to Who-like power chords and harmonies. "Without Ya" is the power pop anthem that Queen might have written. 

In collaboration with producer Kurt Reil, The Midnight Callers have crafted an extraordinary sophomore album. Rattled Humming Heart is a love letter to New York and to rock and roll itself. The band members have taken their talents for writing hook-laden tunes and singing exquisite harmonies and leaned more deeply than ever into their love for '70s pop and rock. What results is a genuinely modern rock album that will delight fans of vintage power pop. When we talk about how rock and roll will never die, it's because of bands like this!

Sunday, June 18, 2023

Norcos Y Horchata - Aloha Motherfuckers

It's no secret that Norcos Y Horchata is one of my favorite bands. I urge anyone who doesn't already own the band's album Forever Disheveled to acquire it as soon as possible. This is a band that plays gritty Midwestern punk rock and roll with heart, smarts, and a wonderfully unique sense of humor. In just the last couple years, Amado has gone from being one of my favorite guitar players to being one of my favorite present-day songwriters. When Alex Kish and I had the chance to interview Norcos Y Horchata for Born Too Late earlier this year, that was a proud moment for me. During that interview, the band teased an upcoming EP. I am pleased to say that said EP, titled Aloha Motherfuckers, has arrived. And it absolutely smokes! Aloha Motherfuckers kicks off with a title track that is nothing short of an anthem. This rip-roaring love letter to Detroit is perhaps the finest track that NYH has produced to date. "Everyone's An Expert" is the ultimate song for our times and is so dead-on that it hurts. The band's previous track "...Out For Smokes" struck me as the most profound song yet written about what ails the world today. "Everyone's An Expert" could almost be considered a sequel, and it sure hits the nail on the head. Finishing out the EP with a big blast of punk rock fun is "I Gave Up Drinking For Good (Now I'm Drinking for Evil"). It's not easy for a song to live up to a title like that, but this one sure does. 

With a big boost from recording engineer Dan Kinnaley and mastering engineer Gabe Usery, Norcos Y Horchata has attained its strongest-ever sound on record. And song-wise, Aloha Motherfuckers is nothing but home runs. In addition to the digital release this past Friday, this EP will have a vinyl release next month. The 7" will be limited to 300 copies, so you might want to get your pre-orders in now via Bandcamp. Those of you outside the United States should email the band to arrange your purchase. This bad boy is gonna go fast. I pity the fool who isn't hip to Norcos Y Horchata! 

Saturday, June 17, 2023

Danny The K - "Roller Derby Girl"


Danny The K is no stranger to readers of this blog. At least three of his bands (Watts, The Peppermint Kicks, and The Shang Hi Los) have garnered rave reviews from my desk, and it's no stretch to consider him one of the finest songwriters in contemporary rock and roll. When I heard that Dan was doing a solo release, I was excited to hear what he was up to. He's got everything from hooky glam and arena rock to Clashy punk to classic power pop in his bag of tricks. The title of lead single "Roller Derby Girl" had me thinking along the lines of power pop and '70s bubblegum  — something very close to the songs he wrote for The Peppermint Kicks. When I heard the song, I was not disappointed. "Roller Derby Girl" is textbook power pop and a legit song-of-the-summer contender. This, my friends, is classic Dan Kopko: a riff-o-rama earworm laden with silky harmonies and more hooks than The Home Depot. This, along with the rest of the upcoming Cigarettes & Silhouettes EP, is 100% Danny's baby. He wrote, played, and produced every note. But even with complete creative control, he has not strayed from what he does best. Any fan of his bands is guaranteed to dig solo Danny The K as well. If you love power pop or any kind of hooky rock and roll, "Roller Derby Girl" will be heaven to your ears. Cigarettes & Silhouettes releases July 14 on Rum Bar Records!

Taxi Girls - "After Effect"

Taxi Girls — my favorite new band and perhaps yours as well — have been kind enough to treat us to a couple singles in advance of their highly anticipated debut EP Coming Up Roses (releasing July 7 on Wild Honey and Dirt Cult Records). As a music fan, I love the opportunity to savor these teasers one track at a time. "After Effect," the band's new single, is especially worthy of being savored. Overall, it's a super-fun high energy punk rock tune. But I really appreciate the little details that make the track awesome. That bass riff grabs you from the get-go, and the rhythm work truly drives this song (the band specifies a rate of 150 miles per hour, which seems accurate). The sentiment of the song is simple yet immensely relatable. It explores those moments in life when you drive yourself crazy wondering how a situation will resolve itself. The song mimics that internal tension beautifully — contrasting a classically punky lead vocal in the verse with a catchy harmony chorus that surely inspires live crowds to sing along with the utmost exuberance. Add in some amazing lead guitar work, and you've got yourself a classic punk rock song. Crank this at max volume, and you'll feel unstoppable! 

Part of the thrill of discovering Taxi Girls is that I'm still getting a feel for what this band is all about. "Sunshine" was a thrilling debut single. "After Effect" is totally different yet equally good. Considering the vocal, musical, and songwriting talent that Jamie, Vera, and Lynn bring to the table, I'm assured that the rest of Coming Up Roses is going to be something special. Thankfully we have less than three more weeks to wait!

Sunday, June 11, 2023

BellRays - "Ball of Confusion"

I-94 Recordings presents the eighth installment in its Detroit covers 7" series, and boy is it ever a doozy. When I heard that the mighty BellRays were covering The Temptations' "Ball of Confusion" for this series, I was pumped. Lisa Kekaula is one of our greatest living soul singers, and this five-decade-old song remains frighteningly relevant in 2023. Kekaula and Bob Vennum have kept The BellRays going strong for over three decades now. On this release, Mark Cisneros (bass) and Ron Miller (drums) round out the band formidably. I figured that a BellRays cover of "Ball of Confusion" could not miss, and I was not wrong. The band's rocked-up rendition of this classic is as inspired of a recording as you'll hear all year. Kekaula's vocal is pure fire, and Vennum rips it up Detroit rock style on guitar. If you had never heard the original version of the song, you'd swear that these lyrics were written about today's world. To give the song an updating, the band has added lyrics referencing the likes of Big Pharma, active shooters, inflation, and warring political ideologies. This version honors the songwriting genius of Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong while adding a genuinely contemporary urgency. Hearing these lyrics sung with such power and conviction over top a thundering punk rock and roll attack absolutely gives me chills. So much has been said about the current sad state of things, but nothing sums it up quite like Lisa Kekaula belting the lyrics "Ball of confusion — that's what the world is today!" My god, this track ought to be all over the radio and blaring from a million households. That vocal is just unbelievable! On the flip, "I Fall Down" is a high quality original song that could have been a single in its own right. With its killer hook and bluesy mid-tempo rock style, this tune sounds like something you might have heard on AOR radio circa 1987.  

Your question now is not "Do I really need this single?" but rather "Which versions of this single must I own?" Several variations are already sold out. But at the moment of this review, copies remain available on Riverside Red, Pacific Blue, In the Pink, Dijon, Olive Green, Pumpkin, Dragonfruit, and classic black vinyl. Superstar artist Ben Brown designed the cover, and of course it looks amazing. This is one of the most essential pieces of vinyl to come out in quite some time. Hit up the I-94 web site to snag this smoking hot release along with all of the previous installments in the Detroit covers series. Installment #9 from the Zero Boys will be out soon! 

Saturday, June 10, 2023

Night Court - Humans!

Night Court continues to be one of the best and most prolific bands in modern punk rock. For a lot of bands, three full-length albums is an entire career. For Night Court, it's merely a year-and-a-half's work! Out now on Snappy Little Numbers and Debt Offensive Records, Humans! contains 16 tracks of poppy lo-fi garage punk with touches of post-punk and indie rock. Jiffy, Dave-O, and Emilor continue to impress me with the efficient minimalism of their songwriting. The average song length on this release barely exceeds 90 seconds, and only three tracks cross the two-minute mark. Yet no song sounds unfinished or partially realized. These tunes are crafted to get the job done quickly and leave you wanting more. And leave you wanting more they shall! It's one thing to be prolific, but it's another thing to be able to turn out 15 original songs (plus a terrific cover of ABBA's "SOS") and have every single one of them be a winner. That's the genius of Night Court: they're tearing into these noisy, high-speed punk tunes that are secretly perfect pop songs. There's really no other band out there that sounds quite like this. The band's musical style is remarkably inventive yet still completely satisfying. Whether you're a garage punk person or a pop punk person or a punk punk person, what Night Court is doing right now should excite you a whole lot. This band is on a roll, and we fans are reaping the benefits. Humans! is Night Court's best album yet. Smash those links below to order the vinyl!

Thursday, June 08, 2023

Psychotic Youth - Can This Be the One

The legends are back! 38 years into its career, Sweden's Psychotic Youth is poised to release its 16th album, Happy Songs, this fall. In advance of the LP, the band has just released a teaser single called "Can This Be the One." Psychotic Youth has covered a lot of ground over the decades — from power pop to garage rock to pop-punk to surf. "Can This Be the One" is power pop all the way and in particular an homage to the sound of 1979. Jorgen Red Westman remains in top form as a songwriter on this energetic and catchy track. If you fondly recall purchasing the first Beat album and Elvis Costello's Armed Forces back in '79 (or wish you could have!), this song will be very much to your liking. Psychotic Youth has still got it! Happy Songs will release October 27th on vinyl and compact disc. 

Wednesday, June 07, 2023

Justine and The Unclean - The Signal Light

Justine and The Unclean are a band I've liked very much over the years — as five previous reviews will attest. I was surprised when I realized that new full-length The Signal Light is the band's first album release in four-and-a-half years. Since late 2020, Justine Covault has been busy running her widely-beloved label Red on Red Records and putting all sorts of amazing music into the world. But she has continued to write and record with The Unclean (Janet Egan King on bass, Charles Hansen on guitar, and Jim Janota on drums). Last week a new album finally saw the light of day on Red On Red. Not surprisingly after all this time, Justine and The Unclean have amassed some incredible material. While their last mini-album, Heartaches and Hot Problems, was a fantastic release, The Signal Light takes things to another level. Even as I approached this album with high expectations, I was totally floored when I heard it. I didn't think it was possible, but Justine and The Unclean have gotten even better over these last few years! 

What I love about The Signal Light is that it shows many sides of Justine and The Unclean. That rapid-fire punk-pop style that was the band's signature a few years back can still be heard on a couple tracks. But on this release, Justine and The Unclean are simply a great rock and roll band, period. Justine can write a great song in just about any style, and of course she's backed by a band that can pull if all off and then some. Lead track "Sweet Denial" is a hard-hitting rocker with hooks for days — definitive power pop in my book. From there, the band rides a hot streak straight to the end. New versions of recent Justine gems "Picking a Fight' and "You and Me Against You and Me" are even better than the originals. "Fourth Love" is perfect pop with a country soul. "Vengeance" kicks up some Rolling Stones–influenced magic. "Drug Seeking Behavior" is haunting, gorgeous pop in a '60s style. The title track is the ultimate homage to Boston garage rock. Closing ballad "When I Stopped Loving You" will tear your heart out if you're even half-way paying attention. Lyrics have always been a strong suit for Justine, but with these songs, she's cutting deeper than ever before. In the press release, she praises her bandmates for their ability turn her "inner turmoil bullshit into killer rock-n-roll." But let's be honest: all that inner turmoil bullshit is what makes Justine a great artist. She writes about life, loss, and love with incredible honesty and hard-earned wisdom. And of course she sings every word in such a way that you feel it all deeply. The Signal Light is full of songs about bitter breakups and doomed relationships, yet it also explores topics as varied as addiction, abuses of power, and the pandemic. In addition to being a remarkable love letter to Boston, the title track is anthem of hope and resilience. The song's lyrics are absolutely insane — honestly some of the finest poetry I've ever encountered in a rock tune. 

Everything comes together for Justine and The Unclean on The Signal Light. This is an extraordinary collection of songs brought to life by one of the most skilled and powerful rock and roll bands going and splendidly produced by the great David Minehan. There have been a whole lot of great albums released this year already, and The Signal Light is up there with the best of 'em. Grab a compact disc today from Red on Red Records! 

Sunday, June 04, 2023

Vista Blue - Runaway

My goodness — how long has it been since I last reviewed Vista Blue? It has been almost 48 hours. What a different world it was just two days ago. I was two days younger, and the Philadelphia Stars still had a winning record. I had never tried the chicken strips from Sheetz. I was so innocent then. But I awoke today with news of another EP from one of my favorite bands! 

I always like it when bands I love release full collections of covers. There's just something neat about songwriters I admire paying homage to the songwriters they admire. It's like a window into the soul of a musician. Mike and Mark from Vista Blue recorded Runaway a few days back. Mike remarks that the songs selected are from bands that have been huge influences on his songwriting for a long time. They have been arranged to sound like they could have been Vista Blue originals, but the larger goal here is to bring attention to the original versions and get people to check out the bands that recorded them. Needless to say, the band didn't go with any obvious choices. As much as I'd like to hear Vista Blue take a stab at, say, "The World Has Turned and Left Me Here," that would not be nearly as educational. The band went pretty deep here, and that's commendable. And with all these songs coming from the general world of indie pop and twee, that gives this EP a poppier feel that really hits a sweet spot for me. The songs covered are Imperial Teen's "Runaway" (from 2012's Feel the Sound), All Girl Summer Fun Band's "Ticking Timebomb" (from 2003's 2), Television Personalities' classic single "14th Floor", and Camera Obscura's "Come Back Margaret" (from 2006's Let's Get Out of This Country). To say that Mike picked great songs to cover would be an understatement. These are amazing songs that the world should know. Of course they've been given the proper Vista Blue treatment to delightful effect. No Vista Blue fan will be disappointed. But the band's real hope is that you'll like these songs so much that you'll want to hear the original versions, explore the full catalogs of the bands that authored them, and eventually "send them love letters." Sounds like a plan to me! Music is a beautiful thing.

Saturday, June 03, 2023

Brad Marino - "Ramones and Stones"

I'm always excited for new music from Brad Marino, and he's back with a ripping new single that's not to be missed! "Ramones and Stones" is essentially Marino's musical mission statement. The premise of the song is that the only two bands Marino can't live without are the Ramones and Rolling Stones. Any longtime Marino fan could surmise that these are the two biggest influences on his songwriting. This track makes it all perfectly clear. "Ramones and Stones" is a total banger and easily one of Marino's finest singles. Coming off the tremendous success of the Basement Beat album, Marino continues to keep it simple in that timeless Ramones style. The lyrics examine Marino's thoughts (some of them quite hilarious) on other notable classic rock and roll artists. But when all is said and done, Marino proclaims, "I just need Ramones and Stones." A lot of you will relate! On the virtual B-side, "Dame Darcy" is a new version of an old Rydells song penned by Chris Lamy from The Jabbers. All in all, another great release from one of our top modern-day rock and rollers!

Friday, June 02, 2023

Carissa Johnson - Blue Hour Deluxe

One of my favorite things about Rum Bar Records is that Lou frequently loves a piece of music so much that he'll re-release it just to get it back out into the world. Many of my most-loved Rum Bar releases were CD reissues of albums that were highly deserving of being heard by the label's worldwide fan base. To that list, I can add Carissa Johnson's masterpiece Blue Hour Deluxe

Blue Hour Deluxe includes all of Johnson's 2021 long player Blue Hour along with her band Carissa Johnson and the Cure-Alls' The Good EP and a collection of unreleased demos and alternate mixes called L'Heure Bleue, After Dark. The whole package comes in at a whopping 22 tracks, which is a heck of a deal for a $13 CD or $12 download. As I listened to Blue Hour Deluxe, I found myself perplexed that Johnson is not a household name in popular music. Blue Hour is an extraordinary album and clearly the work of one of the most talented songwriters and singers of present times. Musically, it's unlike anything else I've heard in quite some time — combining synth-driven new wave power pop with a dreamy modern rock edge and a singer/songwriter's intimacy. Largely inspired by the isolating time Johnson spent living in locked-down Los Angeles in spring 2020, the album is so intensely personal that it comes off like a musical diary. Yet that's what makes it so powerful. Johnson sings openly and honestly about loneliness, alienation, and the yearning to escape a suffocating existence. While these songs tell her own story, they are relatable on a universal level that transcends the specifics of pandemic isolation. 

Recorded with producer Benny Grotto in Boston in 2021, Blue Hour is essentially a whole album full of singles (Johnson, in fact, has done music videos for every track). These songs are profound and emotionally stirring, yet all that substance never comes at the expense of big, satisfying hooks. Johnson is an incredible vocalist and a remarkable artist to boot. At a lean ten tracks, Blue Hour will leave you wanting more. Thus the bonus material here is highly welcomed. Knowing that Malibu Lou is going to push Blue Hour Deluxe with all his might, I anticipate a whole lot of people will be discovering this modern classic for the very first time in the coming weeks. If you find yourself as wowed as I've been, be sure to check out Johnson's YouTube channel and Bandcamp for your additional listening pleasure!

Vista Blue - "Bandcamp Friday Is Here!"

Yay! Bandcamp Friday is here! You can happily shop Bandcamp today knowing that the bands will receive 93% of your money. Wait a minute: apparently there is no Bandcamp Friday this month — or next month. Who knew that such a sacred holiday could be indiscriminately canceled? This is an outrage! But Vista Blue has got us covered. Leave it to this band to release the first Bandcamp Friday theme song on the eve of this Bandcamp Friday that's not actually a Bandcamp Friday. 

Let's face it: Bandcamp Friday definitely deserved an anthem of its own. Bandcamp is a vital platform to this indie/punk thing of ours. And while Vista Blue's timing of this release may lead to confusion, chaos, and tears across the globe, the beauty of  "Bandcamp Friday Is Here!" is that it will already be on your device when it's time to celebrate the next Bandcamp Friday and all the ones after that. On top of that, the band's choice to release the song last night will surely sit well with all those who maintain that every Friday ought to be Bandcamp Friday. There are no laws against Bandcamp Friday creeping. In typical Vista Blue fashion, "Bandcamp Friday Is Here!" is a pop-punk hit straight from the textbook. It's got an earworm chorus, a melody you can hum all day, and guitar hooks out the wazoo. I won't spoil the lyrics for you, but the second verse made me laugh so hard that I almost spat out my plant-based milk. Backing  "Bandcamp Friday Is Here!" on this virtual 45 is "Bandcamp Friday the 13th," which Mike co-wrote with John Galvin from Kelsey Badgrammer. As the title suggests, this song is about Bandcamp Friday AND Friday the 13th. How can these two things possibly be combined? Listen and find out!

As is the case with the majority of Vista Blue's releases, "Bandcamp Friday Is Here!" is a free download on Bandcamp. So you can "buy" it guilt-free today knowing that 82% of zero dollars is exactly equal to 93% of zero dollars. As for me, I'm always happy to have any new music from Vista Blue. Should you choose to celebrate this non-sanctioned Bandcamp Friday, may I suggest the purchase of the new Saturday Morning Lineup compilation from Memorable But Not Honorable Records? It's a collection of pop-punk covers of cartoon theme songs. I chose not to formally review it since I'm unfamiliar with most of the cartoons and didn't want to be a poser. But I will say that Vista Blue's rendition of the Heathcliff theme is absolutely amazing (I'll embed it below for your convenience). And the artist lineup features some of my absolute favorites from the pop-punk world (such as Lesser Creatures, The Putz, and Geoff Palmer). Now go out enjoy this non–Bandcamp Friday!

Thursday, June 01, 2023

Kicking Bird - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, the debut album from Wilmington, North Carolina's Kicking Bird, is one of those albums that can't be assigned to any one genre of music. I might loosely describe it as indie rock with a power pop heart, but such an oversimplification still falls woefully short. On this release, Kicking Bird really owns its lack of originality. This is ironic because Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is one of the most unique and fresh-sounding records I've heard in quite some time. Influences are sometimes palpable, but they're all over the place and all-encompassing. Most of the time, I'm sure a song sounds familiar but can't for the life of me pinpoint the specific influence. And when I can, I'm pleased as punch (Yay! I'm not the only one who realizes that Hefner's "The Hymn for the Cigarettes" is one of the greatest songs ever written!). The delightful "Stuck" manages to be discernibly Weezer-ish without succumbing to the shortcomings of almost every other discernibly Weezer-ish song in the universe. There's a real skill in stealing from so many places and with such a personalized spin that it all comes out sounding like something that hasn't been done before. Husband-and-wife songwriters Shaun and Shaylah Paul have contrasting yet wonderfully complementary styles that contribute greatly to Original Motion Picture Soundtrack's engaging flow. This album literally plays like the soundtrack to a trip to the beach. More than anything else, this is a fun record. These songs are clever and quirky and musically playful without one hint of pretension, and the hooks are always front and center. This is a truly stellar collection of songs from a band that's blessed with considerable talent and just as much charm. If you want to hear one of the best records of the year, hit up Ft. Lowell Records and get your paws on Original Motion Picture Soundtrack!