Ears-down the best week of the year so far on the music front, things are heating up. The fantastic B-52 imaging band Hayley and the Crushers are scorching the earth.
RISTN favorite ’70s vintage rock band The Sheepdogs are starting to come out of hibernation having released a fine Bay City Rollers worthy single with “Keep On Loving You.”
And Yola is primed and ready to go wearing her diamond-studded shoes in advance of her new album.
Here are five particular ear-gems we are grooving to this week.
Teenage Fanclub – Endless Arcade
With their 11th album and first without founding member Gerard Love, Teenage Fanclub may have dialed down the jangle from their Jangle-Pop formula just a tad, but fear not, the melodic maestros are still very much at the top of their game.
From the Folk-Rock Psychedelic splendor of “Come To Me” to the Zombies evoking gang harmonies on “Back In The Day” Endless Arcade is a relaxed and inspiring listen. “The Sun won’t Shine on Me” bridges the gap between Vintage-Pop and contemporary issues-based songwriting quite nicely and “Living With You” plays the Byrds formula and signature Fanclub sound to perfection.
Spend some time with this one then drift your ears back to the early classic albums Songs From Northern Britain, Bandwagonesque, or even Thirteen. Sure, they may have been gone for a while, but with this new record, it’s like they never left.
The Coral – Coral Island
Should you not be familiar with The Coral and their oeuvre, get with the plan, man. The band pretty much mines all of the genres that your ears hold sacred including but not limited to Garage Rock, AOR, Psychedelia, Post-Punk, and Power Pop. A semi-concept album based on the band’s collective experiences at various seaside resorts on the West coast of England, the songs on Coral Island weave together beautifully with brief spoken-word interludes that serve to give Coral Island a real first-person point in time feel.
Lengthy but never burdensome, at 54 minutes the sheer brilliance and texture changes presented on the record will keep your rapt attention. Highlights are many including the carnival game atmosphere of “Golden Age,” the Melanchology sadness of “Old Photographs,” and the welcome to the pleasuredome optimism of “Change Your Mind.”
Three listens in with this record I can’t help thinking it would be cool to visit the seaside resorts brought to life in these brilliant character studies. But somehow, much like Playland at the Beach in San Francisco, The Boardwalk in Santa Cruz, or N.Y.’s Coney Island, the myth is more than likely vastly more satisfying than the reality.
Or, as Scotland’s own Stevie Dal says more eloquently than I ever could:
This one has taken me by surprise. The Corals new album is an utter gem, I never knew they had it in them but there you go, it’s a funny old world.
It’s a double album, a concept album, set in an old rundown seaside town, washed up and all but abandoned by the tourists, populated only by the characters left behind as the young ‘uns bailed out. Memories and nostalgia, lost and broken dreams, first and unrequited loves etc etc.
This is the band’s spin on classic albums like Ogdens Nut Gone Flake ( Small Faces) and Village Green Preservation Society ( The Kinks) and, while obviously not at that level, it’s a brave and wonderful attempt. If you love effortless guitar pop and glorious tunes you will be onboard. A serious contender for Album of 2021.
All of the above having been said this might be the leader in the clubhouse for best album of the year.
Grave Flowers Bongo Band – Strength of Spring
The riff-laden epicness of this Psychedelic Rock album from Grave Flowers Bongo Band was in heavy rotation at Rock is the New Roll H.Q. this week. “Animal Lord” almost blew the roof off the building with its Black Sabbath if fronted by Marc Bolan brilliance, and the lumbering groove of “Smile” will bust your chest open and make you feel alive.
Gabe Flores weaves his guitar around this set of songs walking that melodic in a hurricane line quite nicely never amping it up to overkill territory while at the same time laying the cosmic pedal down fully to the ground. “Down Man” is like riding an out-of-control rickety wooden roller coaster and “Outer Bongolia” is a freaked-out instrumental that would have fit right in at Austin Powers’ bachelor party.
Dropkick Murphy’s – Turn Up That Dial
Proving that these guys aren’t just a band to be enjoyed on St. Patrick’s day, The Murphy’s perform as advertised and turn up the dial with their latest set of rabble-rousing anthems with their latest, Turn Up The Dial.
The “Queen of Suffolk County” pays tribute to wild women everywhere and is worth the price of admission alone, and you will automatically become Irish after a listen or two of the title track. And, just to prove they can do it, the band slows things down somewhat less than ear-splitting on the poignant and beautiful “I Wish You Were Here.”
If you don’t feel alive after listening to this record at close to full volume then you are more than likely already dead.
No-No Boy – 1975
No-No Boy is the latest nome de plume for multimedia artist and Asian studies scholar Julian Saporiti. On this record, Saporiti explores WW-2 Asian American internment sites, present-day immigrant detention facilities, and refugee camps.
While the entire set is thought-provoking, the centerpiece here is the song “The Best God Damn Band in Wyoming.” Inspired by a visit to a museum in his home state of Wyoming where he noticed a picture of a large swing band with Asian faces much like his staring at him from behind a fenced-in prison yard. After getting over the stunning visual of this unicorn-worthy picture of an Asian swing band that here-to-fore he never knew existed, No-No Boy proceeded to learn more about the inspirational photograph. As it turns out, the photo is of a group of Asian Americans that were interred in a detention camp in Wyoming during the Second World War. Forming a collective of like-minded musicians behind prison walls the swing band would play for local proms and VFW halls in the area and then were returned to prison once the performance was over.
No-No Boy approaches his subject matter using a template of Traditional Folk, Rock, and Americana to take us on a journey that is not always comfortable, but always revelatory.