Today brings reviews of three more fine recent releases that found their way to our virtual desk.
Propeller, Fall Off The World: Propeller’s third long-player shows Greg Randall and Will Anderson to be masters of the pithy, hook-filled pop song set amid a wash of punchy guitars and non-stop boisterous rhythms. “Pithy” is an operative description here. The ten-song set clocks in at less than thirty-minutes, just enough time for the guys to say their peace.
And they say it quite well.
They get it started with “Can You Hear Us Now,” which sounds instantly recognizable. A couple of extra bass notes in the intro, and you’ve got Bram Tchikovsky’s “Girl Of My Dreams.” Is that a bad thing? Not if your are sound checking one of the great pop songs of the late-70s. Randall and Anderson only use “Girl” as fleeting template, before taking “Can You Hear Us Now” to a louder place and more than justifying the Husker Du tag on their Bandcamp page. The next track, “Mismatched Shoes,” sounds as though it was blasting from a local college radio station non-stop, all summer long back in ’86.
All of this, however, is just warm-up for the show-stopping, three minutes of pure pop goodness that is “Wish I Had Her Picture”:
The hits, though, keep coming at breakneck speed.
“She’s So Alive” jangles its way into your heart, mind and soul. The bopping “It’s Kinda Why I Like You” attests to the power of simplicity when employed by the right hands. “You Remind Me Of You,” which made one of my previous “Year End” lists, injects liberal doses of sugar into the basic rocking mix:
Fall Off The World concludes, quite fittingly, with “Turn On The Radio,” a lyrical and sonic paean to The Ramones and the power of rock ‘n’ roll radio. It gets in and gets out at 1:55 — a perfect ending to Propeller’s best longplayer to date.
You can get Fall Off The World, right here as a “name-your-price” download. Chip in some cash, though. You won’t regret it.
Trolley, Caught In The Darkness: The latest release by this venerable Milwaukee-based band time-travels effortlessly from the 60s to today, making the occasional pit stop at a number of places and times in-between. Trolley is usually characterized as purveyors of “psych-pop.” For the most part, though, Trolley’s brand of psychedelia is more of the 1966 variety, than of the trippier experiments of 1968, with its swirling keyboards complimented throughout by relentlessly pounding beats.
Those beats get the festivities underway, as a short drum roll announces the start of the title track, an exposition of a darkened heart playing off, in yin-yang fashion, against an exuberant, sunny soundtrack. The happy “Thursday Girl” has a thoroughly sunny disposition. The opposition of darkness and light returns on “Step Into The Clear,” whose soothingly sweet opening soon gives way to a more sinister feel. As tinkling bells struggle for supremacy against gloomy guitars, the singer notes in a bit of bored resignation that “I’m wasted/but such is life”:
The band’s penchant for mixing it all up is evident throughout Caught In The Darkness. Complex rhythms take the fuzzy keyboard-oriented “She Has It All” to unexpected places. The British Invasion feel of “All The Way” is spiked with a more contemporary array of sounds. “She Helps Me Celebrate” is Power Pop, circa 1980. What I noted about the generally less “trippy” feel of Trolley’s overall approach is, however, thrown completely out the window on the closing track, “Take My Love,” a seven-and-a-half minute excursion into the dreamy unknown.
Caught In The Darkness is a album conceived from great ideas, and executed with great care. You can strap yourself in for the fantastic voyage right here.
The Gordy Garris Group, The Pulse: The Gordy Garris Group hails from Saginaw, Michigan, and enlisted Andy Reed to record their second studio longplayer. The Pulse is, for the most part, a set of acoustic guitar-based indie rock about loneliness, heartbreak and self-realization.
Garris, who has already written more than 200 songs at age 2o, has a knack for penning tunes that sneak their way into the subconscious. I drove around town with The Pulse on the car stereo one day, only to find myself humming one of its tracks unknowingly a couple of days later. The track in question, “Energy,” is the standout in the collection, a rumination on romantic longing set against strummed guitars and a pounding beat:
Other tracks mine similar territory, but manage to remain fresh. “Night Fall” begins with ethereal harmonies, and is enlivened by subtle keyboards. A muted acoustic guitar and a nice string arrangement compliment Garris’ vocals perfectly on the winsome “You Got Me.” “Bad News” is driven by staccato rhythms. “Perfect” features gorgeous steel guitar playing.
Garris says his influences include Green Day and Coldplay. I hear a lot of Josh Rouse on The Pulse. That might just be me, but its a good thing in any event. You should stream and buy The Pulse right here.