We’ve always felt there’s been a void in the world of music since The Fastbacks released their unbelievable string of knockout albums in the 1980s and 1990s. There was something particularly appealing about the band’s genuinely delivered loud fuzz pop injected with sinfully addictive hooks. This is the first time in a long time that a band has given us the same general feeling we get when listening to The Fastbacks…and that band is London, England’s Witching Waves. Like most artists on the always entertaining Happy Happy Birthday To Me label, these folks have a nice raw rockin’ sound that has very little in common with present day processed Cheese Whiz. The songs on Crystal Cafe are presented using only the most basic essential ingredients: drums, bass, guitar, and vocals. And that’s all you really need, of course, because it’s the songs that matter most. These eleven tracks have a slight bubblegummy sound that we particularly love, but most folks probably won’t notice this because of the volume and intensity. Witching Waves is the trio comprised of Emma Wigham, Mark Jasper, and Ed Shellard. We sure hope these folks get the reaction they deserve from this album. In a world of calm and dullness, bands like Witching Waves are keeping the spark alive. Groovy buzzsaw cuts include “Twister,” “Red Light Loop,” “The Threat,” and “Receiver.” Totally cool stuff. Top pick.
Soaring, lush, beautiful, modern dreamy pop played with style. Heroes and Halos is yet another resounding success for the folks in The High Violets. This is the fifth full-length release from this Portland, Oregon quartet. In some ways the tracks on this album remind us of Ivy but with more of an atmospheric overall slant. The High Violets areClint Sargent (lead guitar, vocals), Kaitlyn Donovan (vocals, guitar), Luke Strahota (drums, percussion), and Colin Sheridan (bass guitar). These folks make music that can best be described as pop, but it’s not the kind of predictable dribble that you might normally associate with the word. While these tracks are hummable and accessible, they are also creative and strikingly intelligent. We love the understated elements. Instead of pushing or forcing, these folks just let the music flow from their veins. And it is this natural flow that makes these tracks sound so wonderfully smooth and slightly surreal. Ten perceptive compositions here including “How I Love,” “Break A Heart,” “Bells,” and “Hearts In Our Throats.” Recommended. Top pick.
Hard to believe the group Great Lakes has been around since 1996. But yup, the band has now been around for two decades…and they’re showing no signs of letting up. Originally based in Athens, Georgia, the players are now based in Brooklyn, New York. But even though the geographic location has changed, the sound remains remarkably similar and familiar. The band is driven by the songwriting skills of Ben Crum, a fellow who writes tunes that can pretty much be appreciated by anyone. Crum comes across sounding mighty relaxed and comfortable on Wild Vision, presenting smooth organic tracks that blend elements from folk, pop, and Americana. In addition to Crum the band also includes Kevin Shea on drums, David Lerner on bass, Joe McGinty on keyboards, Phillip Sterk on pedal steel, Heather McIntosh on cello, and Suzanne Nienaber on vocals (the same basic lineup that played on the 2010 release Ways of Escape). Cool, melodic, reflective…if you like the sound of real people playing real music, there’s an excellent possibility you’ll totally dig this stuff. Nine solid tracks including “Swim the River,” “Wild Again,” “I Stay, You Go,” and “Blood On My Tooth.”
Real true gritty loud rock isn’t dead…it’s just hibernating beneath the surface while most folks prefer to drink diluted gunk from a baby bottle. Eureka California is one of the brave bands out there playing music that’s just too raw and real for the masses. These folks have hit another home run with Versus. If you love the sound of guitar bands from the late 1980s right on through the 1990s when everyone seemed to be turning up and turning on, there’s a very good chance you’ll totally dig the sound of these tracks. This is the band’s third full-length release but the first to be recorded in a real recording studio. Thankfully none of the band’s edge has been salvaged in the process. Eureka California is the duo of Jake Ward and Marie A. Uhler. Like most of their new releases, the folks at Happy Happy Birthday To Me have released this on a beautifully designed 12″ vinyl LP, complete with a handy dandy download card. Cool rhythms…groovy guitars in overdrive…and lyrics sung with appropriate abandon…what’s not to love here? Ten gripping cuts including “Another Song About TV,” “Fear and Loathing in the Classic City,” “Caffeine,” and “I Will Write Mine Over Potomac.” Wildly neat. Love it. Top pick.
The guys in DearDarkHead have been making music since 1988, so we’re kinda embarrassed to admit that we’ve never heard ’em until now. Don’t expect anything retro-1980s here, because retro-1980s these guys are not. This album features instrumentals that combine elements from hard rock and underground shoegazer drone. The band’s music once featured vocals but now that both of the previous vocalists are no longer with the band they are (at least temporarily) an all-instrumental band. Considering this fact, you may be very surprised at how powerful these songs are. The band is now comprised of Kevin Harrington on guitar, Robert Weiss on drums, and Kevin McCauleyon bass. For a three piece band these guys have a great big sound. This is a short album that clocks in at just over twenty-five minutes. But in that amount of time, these guys make it perfectly clear they’re in it for the long run. Groovy, compelling, and hypnotic.