The original singing cowboy was Gene Autry which has little to do with the Cowboys of this post. These Cowboys don’t come from Texas, instead they call the flatlands of Bloomington, Indiana home. The band seemed to start gaining some attention when Hozac released their 3rdLP in 2017 and those positive notes continued with last year’s the Bottom of a Rotten Flower which had elements of the Kinks, Who and Guided by Voices along with tight post punk riffs to keep it in the corral.
Continuing their prolific ways, Room of Clons was released by the band last month and has been really clicking with me. Wise Guy Algorithm is great midwest post punk featuring snotty similarities with Uranium Club, Devo and Pere Ubu. The Beige Collection has a great gothic feel to it. Days with its kazoo and Queen Bee Real Estate with it’s saloon piano and bounciness both sound like they could have been an outtake from Kinks Face to Face or maybe the Apples in Stereo. It doesn’t stop there either. The Human Puzzle channels some serious Television in it and Martian Childcare shows that the band can do straightforward pop and like some of the best feature a killer chorus shrouding much darker subject matter.
I can’t say that Room of Clons is their best album because I have yet to get them all. I can say that it’s a subtly great record that is very midwestern in style with nods at other eccentric mid west bands of past and present. Not flamboyant, but done with such a confidence that could be mistaken for flamboyance. Like most great records, it keeps you guessing.
When a band is in the zone the songs seem to come fast and they need an outlet. Lucky for us Philadelphia by way of Indiana Honey Radar seem to have the means to disseminate their tiny noise filled symphonies. They put out two top notch 7-inch singles at the tail end of last year, the Blank Cartoon LP out this month, and they’ve got another single queued up for next month.
The new album takes the punk rock blueprint of short songs filled with hooks packed in like sardines. Guided by Voices are an obvious comparison to the Honey Radar aesthetic, but you could claim to hear Cleaners from Venus and some Tall Dwarfs in there as well. I wonder how long main radar dude Jason Henn can drink from his prolific fountain of song. Will it ever run dry? Who knows, but with the high quality deluge of recent releases, even if it does your ears will be blissfully ringing too hard to notice when it does.
The first thing I noticed about Finnmark! when listening to their debut album Things Always Change was how much the first song on the album Can’t Go On reminded me of Synchronized Sinking by the Lucksmiths. The second thing I noticed was how much better recorded it was than their EP from a couple of years ago. Then I noticed that beneath all their Scandanavian imagery the group are from Leeds in the UK. Apparently the band was started in a kitchen in Gothenburg. No information what they were cooking at the time.
The album has an austere wintry feel to it that feels a little bit like Cats on Fire and sometimes like Wild Swans. Singer Edward Forth has a friendly melodramatic baritone that brings the sparse arrangements to life. On upbeat songs like Transpennine Express and Cardigan Fields the guitars jangle enough to make you move your feet. On Losing My Style they even get a little rowdy and trash someone’s kitchen at a party. The songwriting is top quality throughout the record. The minimalist Northern Coastline is a favorite of mine. Forth is accompanied by an acoustic guitar on this ode to isolation and death that recalls Morrissey’s Everyday is Like Sunday. The only (slight) misstep was the inclusion of a cover of Guided By Voices’Jar of Cardinals (from Vampire on Titus). It’s a good version in that it takes the lo-fi tape hiss of GBV and adds some organ to make it sound almost lush, but their originals are better in my opinion. If you are in the market for one of the best indiepop album of the years you should notice Finnmark! too!!
With Boat on somewhat of a hiatus and Math and Physics Club in the middle of their standard four or so years between albums what is a guy to do in the green and mossy Pacific Northwest? Well, in the case of Boat’s Dave Crane you round up a new bunch of friends, call yourselves Unlikely Friends and cook up a new batch of killer pop pop songs. You will undoubtedly recognize the voice of Charles “Chaz” Bert from Math & Physics Club and you may know Chris Mac (the Indiepop King of Seattle) who runs the Jigsaw record label and mail order and is at least in three bands around town at any given time.
Solid Gold Cowboys will be easy to like if you are already a Boat fan because Crane’s voice and his penchant for writing hooky pop songs. The gunslinger in this game is Bert who usually keeps things pretty mellow when singing in MAPC, but really lets loose on many of these songs adding an quantifiable effervescence into them.
The album is a combination of precise pop hooks akin to Guided By Voices and the sunny sweet bubblegum psychedelia of the Apples in Stereo. Soft Reputation and Satellite Station are the best of examples of this great combination, but that doesn’t really cover it. Ride Off Into the Sunset chugs along like Love and Rockets, Gold Hills Theme nods to the dusty spaghetti western soundtrack music of Ennio Morricone and Gold Coast Marauders has the delicacy of a Left Banke song. Crane usually takes the lead vocal with Bert coming in on the chorus to put the song into the stratosphere.
Considering the backgrounds of these three (Un)likely friends it’s not surprising that they got together to make a record. The unlikely part is that the peanut butter and chocolate combination of the heart on your sleeve style of Boat juxtaposed with the sweetness of Math and Physics Club is satisfying winner.
I loved Talbot Adams‘ single that came out on Douchemaster almost three years ago. It was an understated affair that had elements of Guided by Voices and Simon and Garfunkel. After the break-up up his garage rock/power pop band the Black and Whites, Adams decided to go completely solo, writing and recording everything himself. He also dialed down the volume and sweat a little and recorded a set of acoustic based psychedelic pop.
Space Case records has just released two more fruits of Adam’s solo effort that acts as kind of a travel log. The A-side Red Diamonds finds the singer traveling across Canada and reminiscing about secret spots he’s come across in the great white north. Not Even Europe goes to the old world rhyming the sights in verse as he attempts to forget a bad relationship. His phrasing and slightly English singing accent brings to mind the Moles’ Richard Davies. No doubt, this is classic pop on par with some of the greats.
If you are not the record buying type you can get an entire album of Talbot Adams’ songs called Weekend that contains both songs from his new single, a couple from his previous one and a few more over at his bandcamp page.
These days there is no dearth of garage rock inspired by 90’s bands like Guided By Voices, Dinosaur Jr and Superchunk. That gets you in the door, but it doesn’t mean you get to stay. Hell, would you want them to stay assuming you already have Propeller, Bee Thousand, You’re Living All Over Me, Bug, No Pocky For Kitty and On the Mouth?
The quizzically named Eureka California who hail from Athens, Georgia are making the case for you to add one more fuzzy, slightly psychedelic, nuggets-inspired record to your collection. Does their debut long player which they have christened Big Cats Can Swim merit your hard earned dough? Does it merely ape their idols or is it inspired by them? Do they have what it takes to sustain your interest for an entire album?
I say invite this trio into your house for tea, crumpets and tallboys and hope to god they accept your invitation and stay a while. Their album crackles and pops with great songs that retain the vital and immediateness that you would have experienced if you would have been in their garage when they were recording them. With titles like My Life as a Smokestack, My Kind of Battery and My Boy Black Metal, you get the feeling they copped Pollard’s notebook of song titles. Unlike GBV, many Eureka California songs go longer than a minute thirty. They have a lot of good ideas about crunchy pop songs and infuse a playfulness in them that many bands often forget. This batch of songs will initially make you think of the 90’s and it’s bands, but this record pull from too many different places to be pegged as merely a 90’s throwback. Infusing the Kinks, Big Star and various Nuggets bands into the stew. That’s a good meal, especially after all of those crumpets and tallboys.