Top Albums of 2021

Honestly, I’m pretty over lists at this point. They’re arbitrary and don’t really reflect anything but someone’s tastes, except here where they reflect the tastes of three individuals…because that’s how we roll. So, take this list with a grain of salt. These are the records we thought were the best, which mostly just means these are the ones we listened to on repeat throughout the year! Feel free to leave a comment on what you think we missed, or why we’re dumb; we love good comment trolls.

Also, because this list is really about crediting the art that made us happy, we wanted it to make you happy too, so we included purchasing links where we could. Read more

Missed This New Tune from the Lodger

Having returned with the excellent Cul-de-sac of Love, the Lodger seem to be back in full swing with their songwriting. Last week they released this charming track, a bouncer if you will, jumping right off with a pounding piano and drum stomp. For me, this is something that feels very much like the band are hitting their stride once again, with one foot firmly in the history of Brit pop, and one banging out hook-laden pop as we push forward into the future. Throwing this up, just in case you, like me, missed it a week ago!

The Lodger Share I Don’t Wanna Be It

Last week, the Lodger released Cul-de-sac of Love, their first LP in over 10 years, but albums never die, so they’ve got a fresh video for standout “I Don’t Wanna Be It.” For me, this offers up the side of the band that I’ve grown to love, still pulling those jangling guitar strings yet holding back on the tempo to allow for a little breathing room. Here they wash that space with a little synth work, and a softened vocal melody; it opens up the song and makes gives the tune longevity, allowing it to sit with you hours after the track (and album) have faded out. The video treatment has the tune spliced with footage of the band amidst a scrolling forest jaunt, diving into the natural realm where pop fans are most comfortable! The LP is available world-wide now!

Stream Cul-De-Sac of Love from the Lodger

I’m a huge fan of the Lodger, and why they’ve been away for a good amount of time, their return with Cul-De-Sac of Love was a great news. It drops today, and my copy is apparently on its way to my home, so I haven’t spent as much time with it as I plan. My first runs through the whole LP show the band toying with various approaches to their craft, but with Ben Sidell’s voice still remaining the core of their appeal. Honestly, it reminds me of the likely follow up to Flashbacks, employing those catchy guitar chops while still offering up a really subtle approach to pop vibes. I’ve really been drawn towards “Perfect Fit” on these morning run-throughs, but go on and pick your fave…there are plenty of great tracks to choose from here. It’s available all over the world right now!

The Lodger Return with Cul-de-Sac of Love

Not going to lie, but I haven’t really thought about The Lodger since their 2010 album Flashbacks, other than the handful of times I toss “The Good Old Days” into a DJ rotation. But, don’t ever let that think that I don’t swoon almost immediately thinking back to all the joy the group brought me…and so many others. Out of nowhere, the band have seemingly popped up with Cul-de-Sac of Love, a brand new record spread across various great labels for the world. The sharp guitar riffs break off somewhere between Orange Juice and New Order, fleshing the song out towards the chorus to add in a more melodic feel to that angular brand of post-punk. My adoration continues, as they continue to impress with their ability to kind of dance that fine line between dance-floor joyousness and swoon indiepop. Just jam, please. This new LP drops on March 12th via We Were Never Boring (in the States).

Your Favorite Colour Drops Debut Single

You might not know Your Favorite Colour, but here’s to hoping the music finds its way into your home. The backstory, and one reason for my adoration, is that Ben, the songwriter here, is from The Lodger…a band so vastly underrated that its criminal. These two tunes have slight hints at the the past sound, though they’re slightly more subdued in regards to energy; it closely resembles some of the stuff The Lucksmiths were known for crafting. Central to the power will be the melody, though I like the quiet of “A Quick Goodbye,” sincere and intimate, even as extra layers billow through your speakers. Not sure what this means for the future, but for now, another great reason to celebrate Thursday. Also, it gives me reason to go back and listen to THIS GEM.

Really Enjoying This New Iles Song

ilesFrom the second I clicked on this new Iles tune, I figured it was going offer me something in the way of The Lodger; it’s got that same high energy high step guitar line, creating a stomp of the feet.  Then the vocals enter carrying the tune off into a dreamier realm; it creates a rad little juxtaposition, filled with slow melodies and high energy.  This is the lead single off of the album titled Apartments, which should be out this Spring via Forged Artifacts.

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Welcome Return of the Lodger

the_lodgerNow, I’m not sure how I missed this track popping up a few weeks ago, but I’m so glad that I stumbled back upon the Lodger.  They’ve been one of my favorites acts over the last five years, and I was sad, thinking they’d seemingly taken a permanent hiatus.  But, this new jangle pop deliciousness is precisely why I’ve found the band so endearing; it’s while I continue to shout their name even if I’m one the only ones listening.  The guitars are crisp and the vocals are absolutely spot on in this new single.  Plus, it’s just a blistering pace, clocking in with two minutes of the best pop you’ll hear today. Go on, dig it.

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Download: The Lodger – Fast [MP3]

Northern Portrait – Pretty Decent Swimmers EP

Rating: ★★★★☆

It’s been almost three entire years since we’ve heard anything new from Northern Portrait, but this four song affair will make us forgive the gap between releases, as this is some of the most accomplished music the band has crafted to date.  The Pretty Decent Swimmers EP may only be a short little stop gap until a full-length comes our way, but fans old and new will surely find solace in the well-manicured pop of these Danes.

It’s early in the year, but you’re going to have to try real hard to find such a splendid piece of pop musical openings for the rest of the year.  There’s a casual entrance, building the listener’s internal tension, and then unleashing enchanting bliss at the 36 second mark.  You can sing along to the chorus of “Happy Nice Day,” aided by the perfect vocal control of singer Stefan, which never hurts the audiences ability to attach themselves to the music.

“Greetings From Paris” is an eternally satisfying track, full of literary allusions and a ringing guitar line that infects any pop lovers soul.  It’d be easy to take Stefan Larsen’s voice and make Morrissey comparisons, but this song demonstrates the softer quality of the vocals, stripped of the over-bearing sexuality.  I have to admit, I’m a sucker for monosyllabic lyrics sung in repetition like the “la la la las” that close out this little gem.

If you were wondering if Northern Portrait was going to pick up a little bit of the energy, then wait until you get to “Bon Voyage.”  The cutting guitar lines are extremely sharp, which provides a natural bit of pacing to the song…almost a dance floor shuffle.  But, like other pop classicists, The Lodger, there’s a bit of restraint, focusing instead on the harmony within the tune rather than force you to stomp your feet.  Closing out the song is a soaring bit of vocal melody and a tinkering it of piano…you don’t get better than that.

And it all comes to a grand close with the longest track, “I Feel Even Better.”  Larsen here seems to express a bit of solemnity, if only in the way he delivers his vocals.  Sure, the lyrics guide one to think there’s a bit of a reawakening, but you can hear the distant pain that the narrator had to live with at one point.  For me, the attached arrangements present in the background reinforce the pristine sound of twanging guitars that seek out your heart.  A perfect bookend to the whole listening experience.

If you aim to be frustrated about anything on Pretty Decent Swimmers then you’re going to find difficulty in that search.  There’s not a single misstep or faltering moment, but rather a complete collection of four songs exemplifying pop writing at its very finest. Cheers to you Northern Portrait: and welcome back!

Pretty Decent Swimmers is available now from Matinee Recordings.

Magic Bullets – s/t

Rating: ★★★½☆

San Francisco of late hasn’t really offered up a lot of genuine pop records, instead it has a great deal of bands weirding out if you will.  That is until you hear the delightful sounds coming from the self-titled album by Magic Bullets. There’s a lot of obvious influences that you’ll hear on this, their second album, but regardless of where they’re coming from, the group is sure to be up for good things in the future.

It’s hard to tell if the band is using California as their starting off point, or if they’re just channeling classic Orange Juice riffs.  They’ve got sharp guitar hooks fueling the song, and the drums give it an extra bit of spring.  You might find a hint of Robert Smith in the vocals, but the overall atmosphere of the song is much more vibrant, creating less of a mood swing and more of a foot stomper.  A similar effect is employed in “Lying Around,” the single for the band, but the pseudo-yelp in the vocals can only evoke a magical quality you’ll find in the band’s name.  Bubbling bass work here goes a long way to give a bit of a groove, and one you’ll use to get your friends moving about your house.

Still, this isn’t your typical album chocked full of jangle pop, as slow-movers exist to provide an underlying level of depth.  “They Wrote a Song About You” catches you in the arms of your lover, twirling you about, as the vocals have a smooth croon, which is different than early exposure to the band.  “China Beach” moves really slowly, but careful guitar strumming provides listeners with a chance to give themselves over entirely to the emotive quality here.  As other songs seem to encourage you to catch up with Magic Bullets, this song asks that you slip into the song itself, going gently into the swirling beauty of the chorus.

Surely everyone will find joy in songs like “On Top of the World” with its ringing guitars reminiscent of recent work by The Lodger.  This is the music you can dance to while your arms flail about and your feet struggle to catch the beat.  It’s a track that lets you get lost in joyousness and carefree times.  Similarly, “Sigh the Day Away” goes all nostalgic, reflecting guitar oriented dance tracks of the mid-80s (this is before the cursed invention of laptop dance).  You’ll hear songs like these, with their solid percussive elements, and you’ll have no choice other than to give yourself over to the rhythm, as you should.  Just let yourself go.

Magic Bullets self-titled album has a lost of trademark sounds taken from various other groups, which I suppose could be the one knock against the group, but when you’re able to perfect such qualities, taking them to your own place, then you’re a success.  Every bit of this album sounds familiar, friendly and danceable.  Grab your friends by the hands, drag them to your living room dance floor and enjoy this pleasurable record.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/04-Track-04-1.mp3]

Download: Magic Bullets – Lying Around [MP3]

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