Mondays are as good a day as any to play musical catch-up so here’s a selection of releases that may have missed your radar and yet are worth catching up on for various reasons. From power pop to hard rock to a surprising musical turn that many Silverchair fans probably didn’t see coming, here’s your Music Monday.
Daniel Johns: Aerial Love (EP)
If you’re one of those who connected with and semi-worshipped that skinny, emotionally troubled, post-grunge/alt rock, sunken eyed Aussie who fronted Silverchair for five solid albums (2007’s Young Modern FTW) before their “indefinite hiatus,” then you may want avert your eyes and look away. Far, far away. Aerial Love equates to Daniel Johns having officially and effectively undergone the proverbial caterpillar/butterfly metamorphosis having digested his musical past and regenerated as a bearer of contemporary pop with deeply ingrained R&B sensuality. Johns has found a little Frank Ocean inside there, somewhere, has seen fit to spread those artistically alt wings and the result is shockingly on point. There’s not a guitar to be found on Aerial Love, folks: reconcile with that. Instead, there is Johns’ in piano-guided, confessional mode via his piercing falsetto on “Preach” which gets layered and delicately touched with effects along the way. While the title track is the lead off single, “Surrender,” – for all of its heavy production – is the EP’s emotional pulse and heartbeat. And if it’s a sample of what’s to be found on Johns’ full-length debut, Talk (due out on May 22nd), then it’s an album to eagerly look forward to.
Dead Sara: Pleasure To Meet You
The opinion that Epic Records honestly has no clue what to do with actual rock bands is something of a running joke amongst the High Voltage staff. Because if they did, then perhaps Dead Sara would still be signed to the label. Who knows? But then if they were, we probably wouldn’t have this zero fucks given of a sophomore record, Pleasure To Meet You. Once again, Emily Armstrong, Siouxsie Medley, Chris Null and Sean Friday work under the producing guidance of Noah Shain who, apparently, knows how to extract the musical guts from the band. The fundamentals are all in place: sharp, slinky guitar riffs, deep and dynamic drums and some of the funkier rock bass from someone not named Flea. And you need a foundation that sonically sound for the blisteringly corrosive vocals of Armstrong as she rides the upper rails of her vocal register for a good deal of the record, ferociously belting and raising a bible on “Suicidal” as if it were her last day on Earth. Pleasure To Meet You’s 11 tracks show a band cohesive and tighter, with song structures that still encompass their rock, punk and soul ethos as well as their willingness branch out in terms of incorporating vocal harmonies and even (not kidding) the wail of a saxophone. All part and parcel of their refusal to conform to radio-friendly/hit making standards with unapologetic fearlessness and lyrical teeth. Because no matter how heavy the groove, you just know that you don’t want to be the subject of “Mr. Mr.”
The Mowgli’s: Kids In Love
There’s a certain wheelhouse that the Mowgli’s work within: it’s earnest, open-hearted, feel good, California love-infused (more Mamas & the Papas, less Tupac), sunshine fueled folk pop on the hip and hippie side of the street. It’s not rocket science but Kids In Love (their second album via Photo Finish Records) is a fluid maturation of those running themes while staying pretty damned young at heart. Produced by Tony Hoffer, the tunes are still bright and communal but they take some topical steps forward to grasp life and love’s imperfections, casting a broader net showing that even kids have to grow up. Yet the ridiculously addictive single, “I’m Good” and its claim to want to start a “love revolution” is as indicative of their singular, 7-piece collective mission statement as ever: Love is not dead. With the Mowglis in your ear, chances are it never will be.
WATERS: What’s Real
April saw the release of this sophomore album from Los Angeles’ WATERS and it’s a ton of good stuff easily packaged for consumption. Van Pierszalowski, Brian DaMert, Greg Sellin, Andrew Wales and Sara DaMert pretty much check off all of the required boxes to where What’s Real (both, the album and the track) becomes a fun, yet highly intelligent coalescence of rock and power pop with just a touch of indie valiance. Things jump off with “Got To My Head” and Pierszalowski musing in a thoughtful quiet-loud-quiet-LOUD approach, which only emphasizes the issue at hand. There are moments when (as in “I Feel Everything”) you may feel like you’re listening to a good, old-fashioned Weezer record, which is never a bad thing. Now that’s not to imply mimicry: it’s meant to say – outright – that WATERS has a firm grip on the art of being a really good band and making a really good record.