Welcome to The “Hear! Hear!” and Now Podcast, a twice-weekly showcase for new music which will feature reviews of singles and albums from across the pop spectrum. Check back Tuesdays and Fridays at “Hear! Hear!” or subscribe to our podcast via Feedburner or iTunes (coming soon) In the future this podcast may expand to include commentary as well as site exclusives, including full-album listens. But I want to expand this in ways which will excite you as listeners and discoverers of new music. So feel free to email me at any time, if you have suggestions for improving the podcast or ideas regarding bands you feel should be showcased.
The first band profiled here is Alive Way, a Lithuanian rock band already having built a name for itself overseas, both while touring festivals there and while competing (twice) for the Eurovision prize. Their new EP Footprints in the Snow blends the traditional holiday album with their own take on pop rock, making these songs worthy of radio play regardless of the season. You can hear more from the band at http://www.aliveway.net.
Music like this virtually reviews itself. From the opening note, a long sustained organ hit with the gut-punch of Harvey Danger’s “Sad Sweetheart of the Rodeo,” the hook of “Heavy Moon” is immediate, as the band builds steadily upon a meaty layering of Kula Shaker, Oasis-inspired vocals, and the brilliantly elemental melodic structures of Elliott Smith.
The Montreal band, formed in 2009 by sitarist / bassist Rishi Dhir, won the Polaris music prize for debut-album The Seven Seas, and fans have long awaited the proper follow-up, which finally will see the light of day on February 5th. They picked a great opening single, as the video below will attest. But having heard the entire album through a few times now, I can attest the remainder of the album is chock full of keepers, including “Setting Sun,” which blends the hook of Kula Shaker’s “Tatva” with a jangle-pop melody the Gin Blossoms would have killed for in 1996. And “The Sea of Your Mind” is exactly the nine-minute progressive pop jam your mp3 player’s been begging for.
Plug your headphones in, hold on tight and get ready for the ride … but music this good is worth every second. Spread the word!
The first thirty seconds of “My Heroes Are Dead,” the latest single from Los Angeles-based The Rebel Light, flashed me back so abruptly to classic Oasis, I could all but smell the beer spilled during a Gallagher brothers’ throwdown. No that there’s anything wrong with that, mind you, but it definitely sets the aural scene.
The band recorded the album completely on their own dime, tracking vocals in their bathroom and the drums in a woodshed, “in the spirit of all that is indie and good” as they succinctly put it. Whatever your musical tastes may be, this four-track EP, available at Noisetrade on a “name your own price” basis, has more than its share of great hooks. Just like a musical dealer, they reel us in with free product and then jack up the price once they’ve got us on the hook. “Heroes” in particular is so unrelenting in its addictive qualities, I’d mainline it if I could only find a bloody vein.
Year of the Album — #038 The Vaccines – “What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?” (2011, Columbia)
One of my British friends in the music press has been extolling the virtues of the Vaccines for months now, and I stupidly didn’t go to enough trouble to take her advice and seek their music out prior to its American release. Shame on me, because this is one of the catchiest indie rock albums you’re likely to find anywhere!
From the opening eighty seconds of the album, the blistering “Wrecking Bar,” its immediately clear that anything this band writes is going to be fully capable of rocking at Clash-like levels. All my expectations were instantly blown out of the water. From that point it’s a steady succession of radio-ready singles — almost enough to set your mind to reeling. Justin Young is fully capable of leading this band into stadiums around the world, with his elemental, everyman vocals melded with his band’s tight sense of the value of immediate hooks.
It’s hard to draw direct comparisons, but it’s as though the Beach Boys’ relaxed beachcombing tunes have been melded with the punk hooks of the Ramones and the pop smarts of Oasis. The result is an album which slames into the room, beats its way into your heart with pure melodic excellence, and then gets the fuck out the door before you’ve had the chance to get their name. And once you’ve come back from the brink, you’ll want to hit repeat to go through the whole experience again.
I’m not going to go into individual singles here. All you need to know is that What Did You Expect From The Vaccines? is, from front to back, the most impressive debuts this critic has heard in more than a decade. There’s not a weak track in the bunch. It’s clear from the first listen that the Vaccines are destined to become a household name; if radio won’t play them here in the States, it’s time to load up a car with friends, stick the album in the CD player and blast these brilliant pop confections for everyone to hear.
This is perfect music for a musical generation which has been numbed by mediocrity for far too long. Play it loud and proud! The Vaccines are clearly here to stay.
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Feel like proving me wrong? I dare you not to start singing along to “Wetsuit,” the strongest “Beach Boys meet Oasis” tunes in the bunch!