Well, digital files — and lots of them — but you get the idea.
Here’s the first of several round-ups of worthy new music that has recently crossed our virtual desk.
Bertling Noise Laboratories, The Flehmen Response: Chicago-based multi-instrumentalist Nick Bertling “writes the songs, plays the instruments, sings the words, [and] records it.” He does all of those things quite well on his second solo outing.
Despite the monicker under which Bertling records, The Flehmen Response is not an exercise in noise pop. Instead, it fits squarely within the melodic rock idiom, alternating effortlessly between upbeat rockers, quieter acoustic expressions, and the occasional left-field sonic exploration.
These contrasts begin immediately on The Flehmen Response. The opening track, fittingly titled “My Opening Remarks,” is a piano-based rumination on life lived previously, and the promise (and possible dread) of the unknowable future. “Radio” is sunny, slightly rocking pop song, the sort that once frequented the radio. The swaying, acoustic “Sea Shanty” is enlivened by occasionally soaring keyboards. “I Don’t Want To Rock” thumbs its nose at rock ‘n’ roll posturing, while rocking quite nicely indeed. The standout track, “You Won’t Know Me,” will have you singing along unconsciously, even as it takes you on unexpected twists and turns:
The Flehmen Response was released at the tail end of 2015. It’s a shoo-in, however, for my “best of” list for 2016. That is quite an achievement from the perspective of late-January.
Coke Belda, Nummer Zwei: This is another late-2015 release destined for my year-end “best of” list. Nummer Zwei delivers hit-after-hit-after-hit. It is filled to overflowing with non-stop hooks, beautiful stacked vocal harmonies (supplied exclusively by Belda), and sharp, pointed musicianship that thrills repeatedly without becoming indulgent.
The bouncy “Rainbow” kicks off the festivities, with those layered harmonies on prominent display, and punctuated by synth lines ripped from the mid-70s. “You’re Not In Love” is the first of several “gentle” guitar-based rockers. Its combination of jangle and rhythm will have you bopping along within moments. “Hold Me Tight” explores similar sonic territory, until its vocal harmonies chime in and transport you to the early-60s. “Another ****ing Song,” the second in a two-song mini-suite of tracks about songwriting, rocks quite nicely for two minutes, and then hits even harder with some of the finest high-register singing put to rockin’ pop music in quite some time:
The hits, though, don’t stop there. Not even close.
“Mustard Trees” is a jaunty, hook-laden pop rocker that walks generally in Beatle-y territory. If you listen carefully toward the end, however, you’ll detect a bit of guitar shredding at the bottom of the mix. Tasty slide guitar nicely compliments the somewhat winsome “Where I Am.” “It Shines For You” is a pounding rocker punctuated by the occasional shiny guitar.
Nummer Zwei is a big leap in quality over Belda’s first solo outing, which itself is quite good. You can get both for one low price at Belda’s Bandcamp page. That could be the best music deal of the year.
Several tracks from The Flehman Response and Nummer Zwei can be heard in regular rotation at Pop That Goes Crunch Radio, which has a new home and can be accessed directly from this page. Just click on the “Listen Live” headphone icon at the top of the sidebar to your right, and you will land on our player page. You can also click on the “Pop That Goes Crunch Radio” link above the title on this page for more information, and a link to the player page as well.