With climate change you gotta wonder if there some Laurel Canyons blooming with succulents and bougainvillea up there in the formerly great whit north. For record number two Halifax, Nova Scotia’s Monomyth swap out their rhythm section, keep the psychedelic pop hooks and come up sporting their best paisley. The songwriting duo of Seamus Dalton and Josh Saltzer continue to split the vocal duties and their admiration of local heroes like Sloan, Superfriendz and Thrush Hermit while adding from Teenage Fanclub harmonies and the erudite pop sensibilities of the Weather Prophets.
Happy Pop Family is a wonderful tour de force and one of the best pure pop records of the year. The cool and beautiful Palpitations features a pristine melody interrupted by grungy heart attack chords. Aloha with its airy Teenage Fanclub harmony that kicks off the record isn’t even the best song here. That honor goes to the infinitely catchy Re:lease life (Place 2 Go) which plays like a travel log and has an off the cuff feel to it that reminds me of the Go-Betweens’ Darlinghurst Nights. Did I overdo it there? No, it’s that good!
I’m usually not a fan of split singles or split releases due to the strong possibility of having to pay twice as much for half of what I want, but if ever there was a split release that shoots a that theory to shit it is this Ginnels & Tangible Excitement! split 12″. Tangible Excitement! is Scott Stevens of Summer Cats, Stew Anderson of Boyracer and Mark Monnone of the Lucksmiths along with some help by the likes of Gary Olsen (Ladybug Transistor), James Hoare (Ultimate Painting/Veronica Falls) and Jeremy Underwood (Gold-Bears). It’s an all-star lineup with a performance to back up their stats. Opener Northland Food Court has a Love Forever Changes vibe to it courtesy of its Mexican tinged acoustic guitar riff and Olsen’s trumpet. It’s a stunner and worth the price of admission, but there’s more. Baby’s Seen This Scene Before has the sound of an indiepop classic and Effectively Wild is the almost Boyracer-like with it’s buzzy guitars knocking another one out of the park.
There’s no time to catch your breath unless your’re slow to the turntable to flip the record because the Ginnels side ain’t no minor league fare. Mark Chester is a prolific fellow who has a number of releases on cassette and recently a few on vinyl via Tenorio Cotobade. Here we get three great new Ginnels songs. Easier When I’m Gone has a chorus that is part Teenage Fanclub and part Superchunk and easily get’s stuck in your head. Whew! Reason To Be Helpful might just be my favorite Ginnels song yet with its thumping soulful bass, cool lazy guitar riff and super furry vibes. This is one split release you need to buy two of so you can file one under Ginnels and the other under Tangible Excitement!
After last year’s Plumes compilation caught us up on what the Ginnels had been up to over the course of their previous three albums, they are back with album number four, A Country Life. Plumes was a sublimely excellent collection of songs separating the wheat from the chaff. A Country Life is a richly stalked silo of brand new songs that leads me to believe there never was any chaff in the Ginnels catalog.
A Country Life paints a bucolic scene with its psychedelic, hazy, jangling songs. Previously Ginnels records were mostly Mark Chester solo affairs, but on A Country life he’s got some help on drums and guitar making this more of a band effort. To tell the truth it isn’t vastly different from before, which is ok since before was quite good. Songs like Woodlands and Car’s Parked and Honestly and Not What You Think are upbeat jangling affairs that are inviting and fun. The quieter, gentler ones like the Great Escape and Settle Down and Ashton Memorial are perfect for kicking up your feet after a long day in fields, or in front of the computer.
The Ginnels fourth album is pretty little thing. Recommended to fans of Elliot Smith, Apples in Stereo, early Divine Comedy, the Feelies and Teenage Fanclub with a good appreciation for tricks of the light and other subtleties of the countryside.
There was a shoegazing dilemma this past Sunday night in Seattle for those of us with a penchant for music made using loads of guitar effects pedals. Option A was for the hot and cool brand of noisy tremolo pop of Austin’s Ringo Deathstarr at El Corazon, and the B option was London based grungy flannel clad gaze of Cheatahs over at the Tractor? Having already seen Ringo Deathstarr a few times I went for option B.
Cheatahs come from London, but the four guys in the band are from Canada, Germany, the US and the UK. Their debut self-titled album is just out on Witchita and follows up the Extended Plays record from last year that compiled their first couple EP’s. There are obvious similarities to Swervedriver in the same way that back in the 90’s Gene looked to the Smiths for inspiration. Like was the case with Gene, I’m sure that Cheatahs have their detractors for sounding too derivative, but when you’ve got the songs to back up your boast of sound it goes a long way in quieting any detractors. As loud as they are with their feet on the pedals they drown out the babble anyway. Beyond Swervedriver and some Dinosaur Jr, you can hear Teenage Fanclub and early Buffalo Tom. I’m not going to kid you, these guys are full on 90’s revivalists, but they make it fun and throw in some switch-ups to keep it interesting.
The show itself was a blast. It felt like I was at a Dino Jr or Swervedriver show 20 years ago. The two guitar players Nathan Hewitt and James Wignall slashed and dove around on stage and dialed up nebulous waves of feedback on every song. Fall may have been the highlight of the night with its My Bloody Valentine-like guitar refrain, but really every song was blisteringly good. Northern Exposure, Cut the Grass and Mission Creep were nothing to sneeze at either. All the songs revved at optimal RPM and at one point I pinched myself to make sure it was real. Realness was confirmed as I walked out of the Tractor with my ears ringing.
stream: Cheatahs – Fall (from Cheatahs out now on Witchita)
These are the remaining US tour dates for Cheatahs:
27 Feb, Los Angeles Echo
01 Mar, San Francisco Brick & Mortar Music Hall
01 Mar, San Francisco Amoeba Records
04 Mar, Brooklyn, NY Baby’s All Right
05 Mar, Philadelphia Boot & Saddle
06 Mar, Washington U Street Music Hall
In case you hadn’t noticed there’s a ton of great pop bands springing up in Seattle that are totally geared towards my tastes. Blooper go for my Razorcuts, Jason Falkner and Teenage Fanclub (who’s Song To the Cynic they cover) jugular. They released their Ballard Avenue EP last year which flew under my radar, but Blooper are now locked in my sights with their big jangly Rickenbacker fueled riffs and an excellent new EP on the way. Secret Song is from that upcoming EP and if you are a fan of buzz-saw powerpop, let me be the first to let the cat out of the bag.