Welcome to your Monday dose of new music cocktails! This week we’re serving up six delectable singles from around the globe, featuring artists from Canada, England, Germany, Iceland, Scotland, and the US. As always, there is a little something for every taste. We’ve got indie rock, retro-country, Icelandic soul, electro-synth pop, and indie pop. Let’s kick things off in Seattle with some indie power pop pioneers.
The Posies – “Radiance” (Seattle, USA)
RIYL: Big Star, Teenage Fanclub, Matthew Sweet, The Connells, The Devlins
Seattle-based indie band The Posies are the embodiment of rock & roll resilience. The group – whose earliest hit was the 1993 classic “Dream All Day” – released their eighth album this spring. Solid States is the first album in six years and their first since the recent passing of two band members, drummer Darius Minwalla and bassist Joe Skyward. Founding members Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow have seen the band through many changes since they formed in 1990. They disbanded for a time and pursued side gigs with Big Star and R.E.M., but The Posies remain their true constant, much to fans’ delight.
“Radiance” is the new album’s closing track and a great example of saving the best for last. Polished and mature, the jangly power pop of their past has matured into reverb-heavy guitars and bright, euphoric harmonies. “It’s time to become what you are,” they sing on the chorus. They have indeed become paragons of radiant resilience. This spring they toured the U.S. with a new drummer and will tour Europe in October and November.
The Posies are: Jon Auer (guitar, vocals), Ken Stringfellow (guitar, keys, vocals), and Frankie Siragusa (drums).
Daniel Romano – “Valerie Leon” (Welland, Ontario, Canada)
RIYL: Lee Hazlewood, Hank Williams, Serge Gainsbourg, Rufus Wainwright
One of Canada’s most versatile artists, Daniel Romano is a master craftsman in multiple areas. He can list “critically acclaimed singer/songwriter” on his CV as well as poet, visual artist, leathersmith, producer and independent record label owner. He’s one busy man, and on May 29 he released a follow-up to his 2015 hit album, the Juno-nominated If I’ve Only One Time Askin’.
The self-proclaimed “King of Mosey” reinvents vintage sounds on the rollicking “Valerie Leon” from his fifth solo album, Mosey. With its upbeat, ‘60s-era psychedelic feel (and a video that features Bettie Page and other dancers!), “Valerie Leon” is far from a country song. His vocal phrasing is more akin to old-school Hank Williams paired with a sweeping symphonic pop score reminiscent of Serge Gainsbourg. This song is a fine piece of retro ear candy.
Júníus Meyvant – “Neon Experience” (Reykjavík, Iceland)
RIYL: Ásgeir, Van Morrison, Ray LaMontagne
Icelandic crooner Unnar Gísli Sigurmundsson – better known as Júníus Meyvant – is one of our favorite Nordic singers. His self-titled debut made our list of top EPs last year. After waiting nearly a year for news of a full-length follow-up, we are happy to hear that Floating Harmonies releases next month.
This first single, “Neon Experience”, is another taste of what made us fall in love with his brand of Arctic soul in the first place. His effortless fusion of folk and soul with lush orchestration makes him one of a kind. “Neon Experience” is as jubilant as the previous singles (“Color Decay” and “Hailslide”) from his debut EP. Both of those tracks are included on Floating Harmonies, so new fans can finally experience the joy we have known since discovering this amazing talent in 2014.
Lovespeake – “Sundive” (Sandvika, Norway)
RIYL: Phoenix, Peter Bjorn and John, Todd Terje
Drawing inspiration from multiple decades, Norwegian indie electropop group Lovespeake fuse ’60s-era pop with ’80s-influenced synth pop and ’90s-style dance. The result is a huge, hook-filled sound that puts a smile on your face and groove in your step. Two of Lovespeake’s founding members were formerly with the popular group Eye Emma Jedi, but this new project is a six-piece outfit with an even bigger sound.
“Sundive” is electrifying and sparkling from the first note. “It’s gonna be a hell of a thing,” is exactly what you’ll think as you sing along on the chorus. The flourishes of funky disco riffs will have you dancing in no time. If this song can’t get your Monday jumpstarted, you might as well go home and crawl back into bed. “Sundive” is from the group’s debut album, DNA, out now on the Toothfairy label.
Lovespeake are: Alexander Pavelich, Andrew Murray, Andreas Westhagen, Christian Balvig, Elisabeth Nesset, and Martin Kaasa
Von Spar – “Chain of Command” (Cologne, Germany)
RIYL: techno, synthpop, post-punk
Another single that escaped our radar when it released in April is “Chain of Command” from German electronic synthpop outfit Von Spar. This is an instantly addictive song with a playful pairing of classical and disco undertones. Although it’s not completely new (the album StreetLife was first released in Germany in 2014), “Chain of Command” is no less timeless. Hopefully the album will receive the global attention it deserves now that is has been reissued on the independent British label Tin Angel Records. Von Spar formed in 2003 and have quite a following in Germany, so it’s high time the rest of the world takes notice of this talented group.
Digital and physical copies of StreetLife are available from the group’s Bandcamp page.
Von Spar are: Sebastian Blume (synth, piano), Christopher Marquez (bass, guitar), Phillip Tielsch (guitar), and Jan Philipp Janzen (drums/percussion, programming, piano).
wojtek the bear – “dead from the waist up” (Glasgow, Scotland)
RIYL: Belle & Sebastian, Camera Obscura, Travis
Scottish indie band wojtek the bear have penned quite a soaring breakup ode. Their self-released debut single, “dead from the waist up” is a breezy, mid-tempo indie pop gem. However, underneath the gentle melody lies a jaded cynicism. The opening lines (“I’m dead from the waist up / and there’s nothing much below”) set the tone but don’t draw blood. But wait. When the chorus rolls around, the phrase “I’d rather die by a thousand cuts than do this again” paints a vivid picture. Whether the song is about ending a personal relationship or just breaking a bad habit remains unclear. This ambiguity only enhances the song’s overall appeal.
The only hint that the band’s name is inspired by the real Wojtek the Bear comes in the second verse. “There’ll be no statue…” is not a blatant nod to the famous bear who was a corporal in the Polish army in the 1940s. Statues were erected in honor of Wojtek after he retired and lived his final days in the Edinburgh Zoo, so perhaps the line isn’t coincidental. Regardless, this Glaswegian quartet delivers smart, catchy indie pop. They share the poetic imagery of Frightened Rabbit and the musical dynamics of Belle & Sebastian, so give this one a proper listen. These guys are going places. Hopefully we’ll hear news of a record deal soon.
wojtek the bear are: Thomas Killean, Graham Norris, Martin McClements, and Neil Raeside.
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