I’m not here to repeat what I have already said about the Post-punk list, I can only add that this is a partial recollection of some records I spent more time with, without any rank of merit, but unlike that Post-punk, it could have been much longer, as in addition to having left aside the celebrated return of Alvvays, excellent records such as those by Flowertown, The Reds, Pinks & Purples, Tony Jay, the Beths, Jim Nothing, Model Shop, Jeanines, Ruby Haunt, Submotile, Salt Lake Alley and many others could easily have been a part of it… Happy Christmas period to everyone!!! Fabrizio.
- THE SHOP WINDOW “4 Letter Word” [Spinout Nuggets]
There’s something truly captivating about the sophomore album from English 4-piece harmony-laden popsters, an emotionally resonant and refined flurry of irresistible clear catchy melodies, chiming and echoing shimmering jangly guitar riffs, more energetic and vibrant than ever, with a mesmerizing psychedelic sheen. Mining into the jangle-laden British indie pop spectrum between the mid/late 80s and early 90s (Stone Roses, Mighty Lemon Drops, Railway Children, Mock Turtles, Milltown Brothers), albeit also Pennsylvania’s janglers The Ocean Blue somehow come to mind, The Shop Window shows a distinctive knack to churn out 11 tracks with the sparkling quality of a rich and tasty dish bursting with tantalizing flavors, where all the ingredients, at times with Beth Arzy’s backing vocals as bright decor, calibrated in the right dose, harmonize to magic fulfillment.
- LIFE ON VENUS “Homewards” [Self Released]
Moscow-based trio left us at the end of 2020 with the chilly and swooning escapism of “Everything Ends Here”, but despite what the title might suggest it wasn’t a goodbye, instead Life on Venus set their sights on the stars to travel “Homewards” in a dramatic and evocative 3rd album able of both making the listener travel in twinkling and blurring wide open guitar scapes and of evoking gloomy, melancholic, and introspective moods around ghostly romantic vocal airs, drawing loneliness and longing, steeped in a mesmerizing and vibrant meshing of lights and shadows, alienation and dread, and ultimately bursting with passionate emotional energy, imbued with friendship and comfort. A multifaceted sound rooted in the past, comfortably set in the present, yet ceaselessly striving toward some esoteric time portal that overlooks somewhere, up there, in a timeless deep starry space.
- WHIMSICAL “Melt” [Shelflife Records / Through Love Records]
A genuine triumph of mesmerizing Dream Pop and hauntingly invigorating Shoegaze, increasingly a real trademark for the duo, now an esteemed, strong, and distinctive ‘safe bet’ for the dreamy and noisy modern sound that pulls from the “Beautiful Sound” of the late ’80s and early ’90s. Powerful, surges of warm, dense, and expanding wash of guitar layers resonate with a shimmering radiance and harmonize with the beautifully heartfelt and evocative female vocalizations, equal parts fragile and strong, of Krissy Vanderwoude‘s signature crushed crystalline harmonies, rising and falling with intimate human confessions through a swaying, at times raging, sea of angsty and lovelorn emotions. Thoughtful, relatable stories, to stir a romantic soul with dreamy hope and warm comfort.
- RESPLANDOR “Tristeza” [Automatic Records]
The long-awaited fourth album from the long-standing Peruvian band, relocated to Amsterdam, is finally a magnificent reality. Once again under the production-wise of Robin Guthrie, “Tristeza” organically juxtaposes and harmonizes, with elegance and magnetism, fuzzed-out shoegaze distortion, and enveloping dream pop incantations, at once sweeping and introspective, urgent and imaginative. An immersive fusion of evocative sentient textures swarm, bloom, and shiver with frenzied mercurial energies around dreamy layered vocal whispers, whilst beautiful celestial skies and warm orchestral swathes shine warmth and harmony from above and below to transport the listener into a whimsical universe where long-lasting ecstasies free the mind from everyday worries and allow dreams to take hold.
- DOTTIE “Thief” [Self Produced]
Born out of an intense period of personal turmoil, the Austin-based artist meticulously draws the edges of an immersive atmospheric effect-laden washed-out guitar sound of indissoluble algidity, density and depth, intensely dreamy and permeated by an underlying dark jarring restlessness through slow expansions of magnetic resonances, hypnotic contemplative reverberations, and shimmering jangly refractions in constant reconfiguration, which without respite move on saturated droning and ethereal grey mists surrounding shifting breathless vocalizations, to conjure an array of emotions such as helplessness, melancholy, and slight slivers of hope, whilst depth-defying atmospheres of cold and warm, heavy and light, expansive and restrictive take the listener on a cathartic, transformative journey through lost and haunted moods of change. Enables clarity, focus, and safety to explore blurred sorrows, whilst also allowing for serenity and escape to seep in.
- JAPANESE HEART SOFTWARE “Soft” [Self Released]
Make way for velvety and engrossing melodies with a cozy nostalgic charm in the debut album from Melbourne‘s bedroom pop music crafter through a dizzy concoction of enveloping and airy 80s wave synth-style awashed in reverb, shimmering echoing guitar lines, wistful New Order-like low ends and hypnotic syncopated rhythmic patterns, to build angsty melancholic dreams that flourish and fade through a string of soft, stunning, and heart-racing moods as layers of crushed icy bright vocal caresses float achingly through shimmering waves of warm warped twinkling frequencies, inserting fragile intimate confessions of long lost dreams, nostalgic sorrow, and whimsical desires into a final wish of longing to be left to grow.
- CHEVALIER AVANT GARDE “Death Drive” [Too Good To Be True]
What better way for the Montreal-based duo of Euro ex-pat Dimitri Giannoulakis & Filip Minuta to release, after years of hiatus, their fifth album than through the longtime friend label from Brest under the new guise of Too Good To Be True. 9 tracks of immersive, atmospheric, and elegantly intriguing Electro Pop, with subdued moody Coldwave undertones, often redolent of New Order, early The Wake, and overall Factory Records domains, that meander down a lost highway of broken dreams where ghostly vocals wander obsessively, layered with smooth washes of chilly swirling synths, shimmering brittle guitars and dancing clipping rhythms through murky narcotic mists and penetrating sparkling haunted realms, to slowly emerge into a disenchanted insight of subtly lonely melancholy and frozen dread, to convey a hazily mesmeric and expansive sound with natural ease. Music for sensitive and elusive souls, the expression of a refined bittersweet melancholy that encloses within itself the last trembling rays of fall light before it will be ‘sunset all night’.
- CATCH THE BREEZE “Into the Wide” [Self Released]
Three years in the making, Danish Alt-Rock /Shoegaze 3-piece band Catch the Breeze‘s sophomore LP “Into the Wide” blends bursts of dense yet expansive guitar distortion with introspective lulls around beautiful profound vocal harmonies to evoke an uplifting melancholy and longing from life’s unpredictable ups and downs. A painstaking care and commitment in dosing juxtapositions of noise and melody, energy and atmosphere, tension and respite, into a compelling lush and vibrant sonic landscape for a sincere and emotional cathartic reflection, that takes you back to the seething heartfelt essence of a guitar-driven sound that not even time can ever scratch.
- RIBBON STAGE “Hit With The Most” [perennialdeath]
With a strong fondness for the noise-pop days of Dolly Mixture and the Shop Assistants, the New York trio delivers eleven tracks, in under twenty minutes only, of minimal and urgent punk-smeared fuzz pop, with a bubbly The Vaselines buzz, through a shaky mishmash of dryly discordant instruments and highly appealing deadpan vocalizations, that roll over primal syncopated percussions, meandering basslines, and slanted jangly guitar melodies, spliced with grating edges. An engaging, highly relatable, and escapist roller-coaster ride of poetic emotions, injecting hazy, distorted pain-filled obsessions with an ominous undertow of gloom and routine, whilst angsty vocal mercuriality syncs on point with blunt, whimsical lyrical confessions, exploring what it means to be human amid modern dystopic disenchantments and moody romantic blues. When the music seems all the same and everything around you is darker, it is an electrifying record like the debut of Ribbon Stage that puts things into perspective, it makes your day, your month, your year, and sometimes even your life…
- THE SMASHING TIMES “Bloom” [Meritorio Records]
Homespun Psychedelic, Twee, Mod, Freakbeat combo from a Baltimore basement, The Smashing Times take us back to a brighter, more introspective, poetic worldview in their stunning sophomore album “Bloom.” ’80s style proto-C86 rackety melancholic psych-jangled riffage defined by bands like the Television Personalities, Felt, The Dentists, Pastels, the Times, The Soft Boys of “Queen Of Eyes”, diving into “A Splash of Colour” sampler along with the lo-fi ecstatic tendrils of “Kiwi-pop” and Roback’s deserted droning ruminations, intertwine and immerse themselves into the ’60s sunshine-y, flower power and tambourine-lilt jingle-jangle of The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield or early Love, to thoroughly get out of time with natural grace. A sinuous intense array of jangling guitars, light percussions, rolling bass and a sparse harmonica, carry nostalgic Brit-tinged vocal harmonies through swaying and sparkling melodies, shined down upon by warm backup rays of emotional ecstasy, through a heady, heartwarming escape of sluggish, unfurling psychedelic daydreams, conjuring past wisdom whilst giving insight for future dreams.
- NO SUITS IN MIAMI “Nothing Ever Happens” [Shelflife records]
Lund-based Swedish 4-piece band passes the second album syndrome with natural ease, strengthening their songwriting prowess that glistens with jangle indie pop charm of crystalline melodic quality throughout the 11 tracks, mining echoes of Sarah Records, Luxury Records (The Sun Days, Westkust), The Smiths, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, and C86, sparsely washed in shoegaze reverb. Relentlessly fueled by dynamic, lively drumming and the warm heartbeat of serpentine bass lines, smooth arpeggios, and nostalgic, shimmering jangly guitar tones, whether it’s relationship blues, brooding self-reflection, or a walk on the beach tumultuous, meandering skies always churn over angsty emotional vocals, lost to a chaotic world of self-doubt and nihilist moods where hopeless lyrical themes manifest vacant thought forms into “Nothing Ever Happens.”
- DOT DASH “Madman In The Rain” [The Beautiful Music]
Veteran Washington DC 3-piece band, (made of former members of Tree Fort Angst, Glo-worm, Saturday People, Youth Brigade, Emmapeel, Madhouse, and Julie Ocean), unveil their 7th studio album along the course of a decade, “Madman in the Rain”, through a series of 12 thought-provoking, poetic, keenly inquisitive tracks drawn from an urgent and heartfelt 60s/80s-tinged cross-pollination between Power-Pop, Jangle, Beat, College Rock and New Wave with sprinkles of Rhythm’n’Blues. Angsty, at times swanky and vibrant moods, sway and flicker like ghostly reminders of the past, driving a restless romantic Punk soul for just under thirty minutes of essential, enthralling, extremely captivating guitar-driven pop, colored by swirling keyboards, rife with infectious vintage-sounding hooks and expressive urgency throughout. For absolutely brilliant records of sheer Rock’n’Roll like this, we are always in dire need.
- MY RAINING STARS “89 Memories” [Shelflife records]
On the wings of the fairly deserved broad response met by the debut of the Mayverlin project in collaboration with Philippe Lavergne at the end of last year, confidently returns under his My Raining Stars moniker, fueled by the rhythmic energy of Danish multi-instrumentalist Casper Blond, to craft an effortless evocation of breezy and crystalline melodic pop-laced indie guitar sound, which, while wandering on familiar sound aesthetic from the period between the late 80s and 90s (Creation, Sarah, C86), to which the title refers, at times with hints of Britpop, retain a natural fluidity and freshness, through an array of clear and gentle guitar arpeggios, jangly chiming melodies, a dynamic rhythm section, and colorings of airy keyboards that intertwine to build angsty, whimsical moods of heartache and longing, stirring the soul with high and dreamy vocal comfort delivering vulnerable authenticity and nostalgia from life’s rickety road of romance.
- SUGAR FOR THE PILL “Wanderlust” [Make Me Happy / Shelflife records]
Definitely one of the most compelling debuts of the year from the Greek outfit that ably coalesces murky Post-punk suggestions from some members’ previous experiences, ethereal Cocteau Twins-like atmospherics, with, as the Slowdive-inspired name suggests, early 90s wavering fuzzy Shoegaze, and a pinch of Breeders-like alt-college-rock. Expansive shimmering guitar layers, awash in reverb, of noisy-saturated guitar distortion, punctuated by sparkling and piercing emotive echoes, build a hypnotic flow of dreamy resonances, warm lithe basslines, and unrestrained swells that sinuously fluctuate and pulsate towards lost conflicted clear vocal angst, tearing at the soul with bittersweet romantic ruminations of a cathartic and cleansing quality.
- THE VAPOUR VEILS “The Last Hurrah” [Self Released]
The debut album from Swedish ‘Old School’ Indie Rockers combines classic elements of 80s Indie Rock, New Wave and Post-Punk into a stunning atmospheric emotional and resonant ebb and flow rife with energy, pathos, and stirring reflective respites, burning with bouncy drums, sinuous vibrating basslines, sparkling jangly guitar melodies and steamy electric outbursts around compelling heartfelt vocal harmonies to invoke visceral honest introspections about love and life through a modern lens of experience. Although sounding familiar, the album touches, with freshness and sobriety, always appealing emotive strings, clinging to the misdirected euphoria of youth, while exploring the harsh realities of life’s commitments using electrifying sing-along chorus, anthemic soaring tones and memorable echoes from some of the best 80s lyrical sentiments, shining with warmth, melancholy, and nostalgia.
- The DEATH OF POP “For A Minute” EP [Hidden Bay Records / Discos de Kirlian]
Although a concise, yet rich 8-track EP for just under half an hour in the end it is the pure imaginative pop album that I have listened to the most and sticks with me longer, as always happens to me with the combo, now a quartet, led by brother Oliver & Angus James, with a boundless ability to ‘chew’ an elegant and bright smorgasbord of sonic suggestions from 60s/70s vocal harmonies a la Beatles and Beach Boys, pop refinements a la Blue Nile, Pale Fountains and Prefab Sprout and going overseas Steely Dan, enveloping layers of New Wavey synth glaze China Crisis style, swooning shoegaze reverb, mesmeric jangle pop arpeggios, stirring wistful ballads and psych delicatessen ala The Dukes of Stratosphear, all this goodness, but further listening augments the hints, is centrifuged and recreated in 8 heady and dreamy songs of profound charm that take us inside the heart and mind of hopeless romantic dreamers gifted of a creative songwriting flair increasingly rare in the actual standardized music landscape.