New Release Round-Up
Ratboys: Printer's Devil (2020)
Ratboys are a noise pop band led by Julia Steiner, catchy bubblegum-tinged power pop with a bit of an edge. Steiner reminds me of Charly Bliss's Eva Hendricks, a schoolgirl squeak in her voice that gives the crunchy pop a buoyant energy. It's mostly upbeat rockers, with a couple midtempo tunes weaving in a mellower pastoral road trip vibe (i.e. the engaging "My Hands Grow"). Brought this one along to the gym yesterday and it was a perfect work-out accompaniment. Go buy it at Bandcamp.
Sophia Alllison (a.k.a. Soccer Mommy) is part of a recent wave of women singer-songwriters (see also Lindsey Jordan a.k.a. Snail Mail) who seem to have cut their teeth on 90s indie rockers like Liz Phair and PJ Harvey (in contrast with prior singers cut more from a Joni Mitchell/Judy Collins mold), giving their home-brewed folk-tinged-rock a tougher edge with more pointed songwriting. While prior releases had a lo-fi bedroom recording feel, Color Theory is more polished; my friend Jim perfectly summed it up as "more realized and thought out without any loss of a sense of immediacy or emotional punch." The production gives the still-introspective songwriting a big, boomy feel that fills the room, yet without sacrificing the intimacy that makes the music attractive. Been spinning this one all weekend; lead-off "Bloodstream" is quickly engaging, "Lucy" is unusually hard-driving, and extended centerpiece "Yellow Is The Color Of Her Eyes" more downbeat yet totally absorbing. Go buy it at Bandcamp.
I posted on Real Estate's prior release, 2017's superb In Mind, just a few days back. Their new release picks up where that one left off, understated jangly indie pop with a bit more of a lush sheen than earlier recordings. As is characteristic of their albums, there are a couple noteworthy pop numbers -- the chiming title track, the slightly loungey, electronica-infused "Paper Cup," the perky, harmonized "November" -- while mostly creating a consistent laid back quiet weekend atmosphere with a few more orchestral flourishes than in the past. Lovers of modern-day indie folkers like Bon Iver and Fleet Foxes, and the quieter side of Teenage Fanclub, can't go wrong with Real Estate. Go buy it on Bandcamp.
Debut EP from singer-songwriter Chelsea Spear, guilelessly confessional storytelling with ukelele. Reminds me of lo-fi bedroom singers like the Softies and, more recently, the Prettiots, cute and charming with unusual attention to observational details in the lyrics. (I'm still trying to figure out what "Happy Birthday, Chicken Boy" is about, but it's fun, though sounds a lot less like Guided by Voices than the title would suggest.) The songs are ready-made for a quirky indie film. Really nice stuff, check it out on Bandcamp.
Like Travels With Brindle, I discovered this through a Twitter friend. Chicago-based singer-songwriter Todd Leiter-Weintraub offers a fun spin on Americana-tinged pub rock and power pop, a difficult-to-pin-down sound that calls to mind everyone from Scruffy the Cat to Son Volt to They Might Be Giants. It's playful and engaging, balancing DIY lo-fi strummings with fully realized slightly-twangy rock & roll. Plus interesting sidebars like a lovely little Americana tune with a female vocalist ("You Wrote This Song"). Check it out on Bandcamp.
Kyle Forester, Hearts In Gardens (2020)
I could keep going (yeah, quite a backlog here), but I'll stop with one of my favorite recent releases. Kyle Forester has played with various indie bands (i.e. Ladybug Transistor); his latest solo release is delightful low-key indie pop, catchy jangles and deeply-insinuating hooks. Strains of Real Estate in the mellower tunes, but also some more rousing power pop (as on the title track and the bouncy "Another Day"). It's the sort of thing that's guaranteed to bring a smile to your face, winningly non-pretentious. Go check it out on Bandcamp.