I’m sure if you remember this album at all it’s more for Jim Carrey’s brutally hilarious takedown “Imposter” than the original #1 one hit wonder which was “Informer.” But for an 11-year-old gangly white kid in small-town Indiana, there was nothing cooler to blast from a boombox than 12 Inches of Snow, unless you count the UB40 album Promises and Lies which equally burned up the pop charts at the moment. I didn’t care at the time whether Snow’s sound was at all authentic. I just loved the beats, damn it, and having yet to immerse myself in the world of hip-hop, this dub-meets-Toronto hybrid had the right mix of percussive simplicity and lyrical complexity to keep me pressing repeat constantly. Listening to the album with a decade and a half of space between me and my early-90s self, I have to admit the album sounds as dated as expected, yet “Runaway” and “Informer” still hold up well as pop singles, instantly flashing me back to those days when I’d obliviously walk up and down a mile-long stretch outside our rural home annoying farmers with my flawless imitations of the epic, indecipherable chorus.
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A hat-tip to Starstorm over at Mixed Tape Masterpiece, whose constant stream of retro reminders will keep you flashing back to the glory days of alt-pop radio cheese thanks to his shoeboxes full of mix-tapes he’s rescued from his childhood. So far as I know, he has yet to find “Informer” on one of his tapes, but it can’t be more than a matter of time …
I was gonna be a racing driver
Going hundreds of miles an hour
In a fast car around a track
You were gonna love me
‘Til the stars fell from the sky
And I was gonna love you, girl, right back
Los Angeles’ Troup has been getting a lot of radio love in the region for their debut album Last Chance For Romance, which has an alt-pop mix of Wilco and Tonic. The standout of the album is easily “Runaway,” a rich sweet nugget of 90s pop nostalgia which manages to be catchy and upbeat despite being about the woman Alex Troup let get away. Though most of the 90s rock bands I grew up on will likely be relegated to a discount bin, Troup goes after a loftier goal — bringing the alternative rock of that era into the realm of classic rock. In the end it’s all about how good the song is, and “Runaway” is a repeater — once you have the hook in your head you’ll be singing it everywhere you go. This is proof a song doesn’t need to be complicated to be a keeper.
Brian Jarvis – “Beautifully Broken” (2012, Soundwave)
Brian Jarvis has a singer-songwriter pop sound which instantly reminds one of bands like Vertical Horizon back during the late 90s alternative pop heyday. Yet there’s a distinct soul-searching touch to these songs which is deftly handled — “Beautifully Broken,” was written barely a day after the loss of his father, but the melody builds on a bouncing keyboard backdrop, with frantic stuttering percussion and background vocals One Republic would kill for. The result is a song about loss which looks forward more than it dwells in the past.
There’s nothing vague here; Jarvis paints vivid pictures, but does so with pop music in mind – the hooks, therefore, propel the songs. “Some days I want to run away, some days I want to stand right in place,” he sings on “Runaway,” hitting the nail on the head. “You can’t look back …” is the theme of these eleven songs which make up Beautifully Broken. The result is an album which plays brilliantly as an exploration of loss which dares to be upbeat and honest. The thundering percussion touches on “Tidal Wave,” as the song breaks down into a full-on celebration of living life while we can, showcases Jarvis’s ability to carry us away in song. “I’m in the wake of a tidal wave, brings me back around again and I will make it through …” he sings, and in this moment we believe.
Take his advice: start by letting go of your preconceptions. The music will speak fully for itself. That’s the mark of a songwriter worth paying attention to.