While a great many of us probably think of Nada Surf as the band that wrote “Popular,” there’s a great history of the band who’ve put out effortless pop albums that never let you down. Personally, I adore their record Let Go, but I’ve always played out every release they’ve offered. Now, the band returns with The Stars are Indifferent to Astronomy, which comes out January 24th via Barsuk. One of the special things about the following track is the way the song quietly erupts after seemingly coming to slow halt, demonstrating that the band still has complete control of their pop genius. If you’ve ignored the group, do yourself a favor and revisit their catalog, but only after you listen to this great little number.
Download: Nada Surf – When I Was Young [MP3]
The Texas punk rock scene is alive and well, especially with the likes of Bad Sports, Video, Mind Spiders, etc making waves, in 2011. But, there’s a well kept secret going on in Houston with the Energy, a band who recently released their album Get Split on Team Science Records. While they’ve got a little bit in common with the likes of Black Flag, they have a steadier drumming section, and seem to have cooled on the ferocity, making their sound much more palpable for every day listeners. It’s good to see Houston bringing on some rock, strengthening the punk rock in the great state of Texas.
Download: The Energy – I Can’t Stand Up [MP3]
I’ve waited since 2009 for Cats on Fire to introduce me to brand new music. They’re set to return in 2012 with a brand new effort full of new tunes on Soliti Music sometime this coming Spring. My first listen to this brand new track, “My Sense of Pride,” reveals everything that I’ve waited for over the last few years: it’s got elements of light twee, but in a casual way where it avoids the realm of nostalgic kitsch. There’s also a bit of solemnity to the track, which for those who’ve listened closely, has always lurked quietly beneath the surface. I’m going to come out and say it though; this is possibly one of the best bands around, so take heed and enjoy this new offering.
Download: Cats on Fire – My Sense Of Pride [MP3]
One of the bands that we really got behind this year was Guards, and they’ve just hooked up with the folks over at White Iris to release a brand spanking new 7″. This new track is super rambunctious, and I absolutely adore the way the guitars stutter along before they burst into this breezy pop chorus. Of course, the band then returns to the stuttering guitar lines before jumping completely back into the joyousness that epitomizes everything I enjoy about listening to this band. You can get your hands on this 7″ now, so what are you waiting for?
Download: Guards – Do It Again [MP3]
One of the fads of the last decade or so has been alt-coutnry, and with so many bands out there, it’s been hard to really find that one great alt band that wins everyone over. Fortunately for us, and you, Austin band Guns of Navarone have crafted an exceptional record full of well-written tunes in the vein of alt-country. Prize and Battlefield is the name of the record, and they’ve just tossed out another great single that exemplifies the band’s sound. It’s a bit of that country feel, but there’s hints of underlying pop, as well as a gruffness that accompanies the vocals. Now’s your chance to join us in our praise for one of Austin’s great bands.
Download: Guns of Navarone – Gatsby Did It All For a Girl [MP3]
Interestingly, Wild Arrows has a bit of a post-hardcore influence, but listening to this single from their new EP ,The Punks Don’t Know What Punk Is, has not trace of that style in there at all. From the moment you get into the track, there’s nothing but playful pop lurking about. and it’s the pop of the good kind. It’s light-hearted with very little kitsch to it, so you can’t help other than to feel the effortless bounce from within. With main musician Mike Law’s storied past in the business, it will be interesting to see where he goes with the rest of the EP.
Download: Wild Arrows – Cloudbursting [MP3]
After the release of the Human Highway record, featuring Nic from Islands, I truly expected a lot more of a mellow approach to singwriting. But, then Nic went out and threw Vapours at us. It’s not that I minded, but I was looking forward to a more contemplative side of the man, which might be what we’re getting when Islands release A Sleep and A Forgetting on February 14th via Anti- Records. He seems calm here, willing to lay down a great harmony to build the song around. He’s great when he’s spastic, but this is an interesting touch on an ever-changing career.
Download: Islands – This Is Not a Song [MP3]
Fresh off the excellent release of New Heaven, Pittsburgh’s 1 2 3 are back with a brand new single, and with that single, they’ll be offering you two brand new tracks. As of right now, I’m pretty sure you can grab these tracks from the band’s site for free, so you’ll need to get your hands on these new jams. However, the single itself is for “Scared but Not That Scared,” which is one of the standout tracks you’ll find on the record. It’s got this cutting guitar line working in and out of these excellent bits of melodic pop. It’s a record filled with hook after hook, so you’ll want to head back and revisit the work from these guys.
Download: 1 2 3 – Scared But Not That Scared [MP3]
Everyone has been talking about the reunion of the “classic” line-up for Guided by Voices since their return to the road last year. And while the January physical release of Let’s Go Eat the Factory Out is still a bit off, the band is pushing out another new single for your ears. This new number is a bit slower than the previous single, but Pollard’s vocals definitely have that tone that made him such a memorable frontman from the beginning. If you’re a true fan, you’re probably on board; if not, you can still get into this track, and band, before the new album hits stores.
Download: Guided By Voices – Doughnut For A Snowman [MP3]
Long have we adored Headlights over here at ATH, so when word leaked that singer Erin Fein was going out on her own as Psychic Twin, we got really excited. We posted a track not long ago, and now we’ve got another one to offer you. This one has a similarly darker quality to Fein’s music, though her voice still maintains that coy playfulness that drew us in so long ago. It seems to me like she’s got a knack for this sort of thing, so we look forward to see what else she’s got up her sleeve in 2012.
Download: Psychic Twin – I Want to Forget [MP3]