Ocean Alley – Lonely Diamond (5 out of 5)
If ever there was a band that literally sounds like the geography of where they are from Australian band Ocean Alley would fit that bill perfectly. Combining psychedelic overtones, surf guitar, and ’70s Pop you can almost feel the wind and sense the surf crashing on the beach as each song swells and drifts into the next.
The touchpoints here may be obvious with the bending notes of David Gilmour and the languid riffs of Pink Floyd front and center, but this one goes deeper than that. The swirling “Tombstone” has a bit of Supertramp in its DNA, “Up In There” soars and meanders with a more contemporary feel, and “Stained Glass” is a blissful epic that would have fit quite nicely on the Breakfast In America Album. There is even a touch of Little River Band in “All Worn Out,” a ballad that is to our ears the best of the lot.
For extra credit go back and spend some time with their 2018 album, Chiaroscuro, a record that had four singles make it onto the triple j Hot 100, the Aussie equivalent of Billboard.
Marker Starling – High January (3.5 out of 5)
There is a certain ’70s singer-songwriter pathos to just about every song on this latest release from Marker Starling, also known as keyboardist vocalist Chris A. Cummings. The stark and enveloping Bedroom Pop on this record not only transforms you into a bubble of butterfly ribbons but also lays you down in a field of Steely Dan and Todd Rundgren influenced musical Nuggets. “Starved For Glamour” could have been on a deluxe edition of Aja, and “A Little Joy” is tailor-made for inclusion on an early-era America record. Produced by Sean O’Hagen of The High Llamas, High January is a fully formed full-band affair giving the proceedings a warm feeling made, even more, intoxicating with the presence of Laetitia Sadler classing up the joint on guest vocals.
The song structures and the use of vintage instruments in the production process only prove to enhance the vintage AOR vibe of the record. If anything is wrong with this album it would be the sameness that starts to creep in around the twenty-minute mark or so. The vocals aren’t overly active, maintaining the same mellowness for most of the 34 minutes. But, if you are looking for a kick-back sort of listening experience while you knock down a couple of Bombay Saphire martinis then this just might be your escapist jam.
Pop Co-Op – Factory Settings (4 out of 5)
Your ears only need to do a sound check of the influences that the band calls out for themselves when asked what was in their record selection growing up and you will know instantly the joie-de-vie inherent in this intoxicating North Eastern Band. Among others, the key contributors to their musical DNA would be The Beatles, Squeeze, The Beach Boys, The Kinks, Rockpile, and Elvis Costello, just to name a few. The vibe is mostly Power Pop with a healthy dose of Americana and Psychedelic dustings dropped in just to make things even more interesting. On this, their sophomore effort, the band offers a more mature set of songs with more concise songwriting courtesy of Steve Stoeckel and Bruce Gordon. With shining examples including “Catching Light” and “Underworld” demonstrating the band’s Power Prop proficiency. They also cut a mean rug on the ballad front, case in point “Sleeve,” a solo Mccartney era-inspired stunner.
There is nothing not to like on this record with “The Price of Admission” complete with preamble cowbell, the Chuck Berry inspired “Won’t Be Me,” and “Requiescat”, a song that could have been a single on George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass, as clear genre-diverse winners.
The Corner Laughers – Temescal Laughers (4 out of 5)
It is somewhat difficult to comprehend that a band that centers itself around a lead singer that wears cat-eye glasses, plays the ukelele and cites bird watching as one of her hobbies could be cool, let alone hip, but that is exactly what this band is, and even more so. The lyrics and melodies are catchy as hell and the songwriting has a complexity about it that separates the group from most of the hipster Power Pop bands of the day. While on previous records, the ukelele is the star of the show, here, Karla Kane’s go-to instrument is used as sort of an accent piece, hummingbird-like floating and landing in just the right places making its presence known at just the right time. Every track on this immensely underrated record is brilliantly constructed and immensely ear-pleasing. Whether it is “Sisters of the Pollen” with a sort of vim and vigor that is sorely lacking in today’s music or “Goodbye Sun,” a shimmery pastoral beauty that is perfect lounging in the garden sweetness, every nuance of this record will make you wonder why you have never heard of this band before.
The new record, Truth or Consequences, comes out on March 13th on Polyvinyl, their first album for the label. A nice slice of Indie Pop pie, this New Zealand band floats in the Best Coast pool of warm vibes and sunshine.
From his upcoming Sub Pop release Kyle Thomas, otherwise known as King Tuff, lays down a George Harrison vibe on the first single.
Husband and wife Indie Pop duo Tennis release their first single in advance of a new record set to come out in 2020. The song has a bit of a ’60s Burt Bacharach vibe going for it that is oddly refreshing.
Described as the missing link between The Magnetic Fields and The Proclaimers This Sextet from Glasgow, Scotland has been making music for over a decade now.
A clever mix of Pop sensibilities and clever songwriting their songs are short bursts of sunshine Pop with bits of Post Punk thrown in for good measure.
Their latest, chock-full of descriptive song titles including the ode to The Ramones, “Hey Ho, No Go,” “Who Does Susan Think She Is” along with the highly excellent “The One I Loathe The Least” are all narrative gems.
The band name itself comes from, ‘Just Joan’, a column in the Daily Mirror and the entire-set wears the groups Scottish heritage loudly and proudly.
Laetitia Tamko, better known as Vagabon, in 2019 released one of the best under the radar Indie Pop marvels of the year. Cameroon born and N.Y. Based, the record is a lush blend of pastoral beauty and lush stings accompanied be other-worldly vocals.
A warm synthy slow morning Neo-Soul slow jam courtesy of Moonchild from their 2019 release, Little Ghost.