1. “Whistling Your Name” – Cadence Kid. Even in the inundated field of electro-pop, some things still stand out: Cadence Kid’s staccato opening synth salvo here grabs attention, and the chorus solidifies the interest.
2. “Are You Real” – The Gifted. There’s some seriously funky bass lines going on in this otherwise smooth electro-pop jam. Happy Friday.
3. “Never Gonna Learn” – Ded Rabbit. The Vaccines + Tokyo Police Club = “Never Gonna Learn.”
4. “Hello, N.S.A.” – Rock, Paper, Cynic. A hilarious power-pop parody of a love song (and of our current political state) that chooses as its object of affection the National Security Agency. To catch the attention of the beloved, RPC mentions just about every potential word and phrase that might catch the attention of the agency. Don’t try this at home?
5. “Chasers” – The Academic. The Academic continues that never-ending stream of UK outfits keeping that guitar-rock dream alive, following Arctic Monkeys, The Vaccines, and the like.
6. “Downstairs” – Castlebeat. The helter-skelter guitar of hyperactive indie-rock meets the drum machines and synths of ’80s new wave to create an oddly dancy, fun track that seems familiar in all the right ways.
7. “Why” – Amongst All. Brash, upfront pop-punk in the early ’00s style: “Feeling This”-era Blink and the like. If you love new bands that take you on memory trips without being derivative or boring, this track should push the buttons for you.
8. “Derby Girl” – The James Rocket. Jangly, ’90s-style indie-rock that sounds more like indie-pop today. Whatever name you call it, it’s quirky, jumpy, and fun. TJR is the sort of band that good-naturedly makes self-deprecating Guided By Voices jokes.
9. “Decisions” – Fire Hot Opera. I don’t usually cover this sort of funky, soulful work, but there’s something electric about the combination of vocalists, the jazz-inspired instrumentation, and the energy of the track that just draws me in.
10. “JAKL” – Bellwire. Slacker rock has never sounded so tight and fresh: Bellwire manages to sound both immaculately put together in the arrangement and lovably shambolic in the lyrics and vocal performance. Radness.
11. “Holiday (Feat. Caroline Mauck)” – Don’t Chase Felix. Sometimes you just need a breezy, sunny, lovely pop song about going on holiday. Have a great weekend, y’all.
Here’s some videos that are more focused on “fun” than yesterday’s.
Here’s my highest praise for a pop-art video: The Elwins’ “So Down Low” looks like OK GO could have made it. It’s mindboggling, smile-inducing, and demands repeat plays to catch all the bits. That’s how it’s done, folks.
From the opening frames that compare the Space Needle to a french fry to the final shots of the band (Blimp Rock) in a blimp, this Archer-esque animation style clip is a hoot.
Do you love Wes Anderson? Prepare to love Sea of Bees’ homage to Moonrise Kingdom in the “Test Yourself” clip.
Here’s another tribute to summer camp, with the oh-so-charming Pen Pals singing a awww-inducing, 90-second indie-pop ditty about why camp is the best. The visual style makes me think of camps I never went to but can imagine perfectly in my head. (The one I went to looked nothing like this one, but I still got nostalgia anyway.)
Bellwire’s clip for “Time Out” is like the dream of the indie ’90s revisited: yards of yarn, googly eyes, people dancing through the frame, a haircut, and lots of gawky bounding about. It’s pretty much a perfect analog to the sound.
Ah, the reveries of youth: a kid finds himself as a superhero in this video for Tuff Sunshine’s “Dreamin'”.
Careening around the downstairs of a house is an unusual concept for a video, but somehow Off the Record’s clip for “Whitley” makes it work. I want to know what’s going on upstairs.
Here’s the last drop of tunes from January. On to February!
1. “Bad Blood” – Fred Thomas. This is the indie rock equivalent of an LCD Soundsystem song: deep bass groove, highly emotional lyrics in a speak/sing milieu, unexpectedly hooky melodies from unusual places. It’s basically the promise of indie rock 1979-1992 coming to fruition. Damn.
2. “Story of My Life” – Martin Sexton. Yes, this is a One Direction cover. It basically sounds like One Direction covered Martin Sexton. Yes. You need this in your life.
3. “Soul Shine” – Sam Joole. In addition to smooth singer/songwriter stuff, Joole does reggae. I don’t cover reggae, but this one is so smooth and includes such infectious horns that it stole my heart. Mad props.
4. “Bells and Buzz” – Matt and the McCues. If you were listening to early ’00s indie-pop (verses), ’90s alt-rock (chorus) and bass-heavy ’80s indie-rock (breakdown!) on three stereos at once, you’d end up with this track. It’s an unusual stew, but Matt and the McCues make it work.
5. “If Only” – Ships Have Sailed. If you’re looking for pop-rock with an artsy bent (but not too artsy, you want to sing along, right?), Ships Have Sailed is showing themselves as a solid bet. Get your head-bob and hum on with this great track.
6. “Following the Plan” – Bellwire. Noisy, jangly guitar-pop with Guided by Voices vibes and unironic “whoo-hoo-hoo!”s in it: who can ask for more in a pop song?
7. “Upside Down” – Lime Cordiale. If The Killers, MGMT and Muse all collaborated on a track, they couldn’t come up with something more towering than this.
8. “Pins” – Natalie McCool. Like a grittier Lorde, McCool is on the fast track to a lot of people knowing who she is.
9. “MAD” – Honey & the 45s. Funky, sassy, soulful, gripping: this band knows how to make that old-school soul live.
10. “Spat Out Spit” – Lady Lamb the Beekeeper. Lady Lamb is endlessly fascinating in her lyricism, song construction, and arrangements. Her newest track is no disappointment on any of those fronts.
11 “Hammer and a Nail” – Vienna Ditto. This slinky, enticing, cinematic track is like soul and film noir all wrapped into one. Awesome.
12. “Paying” – Sarah Bethe Nelson. If you’re a fan of long, minimalist folk-type tunes OR singer/songwriter women OR despondent rock tunes from the ’70s OR good things, you’ll be all up in this.
13. “Safe” – Emily Ann Peterson. Raw, deep emotion expressed in a piano-and-vocals one-take, complete with hall gorgeous reverb and all.
14. “Electric” – Föllakzoid. Y’know, I’m usually not into Chilean deep groove, psychedelic, bass-heavy dance vibes, but this one sucked me in and kept me going for twelve minutes. Twice. Going on a third time.
Stephen Carradini and Lisa Whealy write reviews of instrumental, folk, and singer/songwriter music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.