When Cheap Cassettes first appeared on the power pop scene with their ‘All Anxious All The Time’ album, they didn’t really sound ready to be appreciated by the world at large. The demo quality recordings had spirit, but the song writing wasn’t great, and the overall package lacked the necessary hooks to make it memorable. A few of years on, the ‘See Her In Action’ EP was a massive improvement on every level. The short collection of songs provided riff after riff of classic retro sounds; the choruses were big and – overall – Cheap Cassettes’ quick and cheap approach to recording showed a massive confidence. For lovers of middle period Replacements, Boston heroes Watts and The Dirty Truckers, the Cheapos were now pretty much guaranteed to bring a thrill or six.
Get ready to begin the new year with a great soundtrack!
You might not know their name, but Canadian power poppers Dany Laj and The Looks released one of 2021’s finest albums. Their ‘Ten Easy Pieces’ came loaded with massive retro hooks, chiming guitars and a world of fun harmonies that reinforced a very natural style. Even with Dany reaching for a few uncomfortable high notes in places, the record screamed power pop cool, and its lead single ‘Don’t Keep Me Guessin‘ was easily one of the catchiest things to emerge from across the Atlantic since Kurt Baker gave the world his ‘Brand New Beat‘ LP all the way back in 2012.
A new power pop sensation, The Shang Hi-Los, emerged at the end of 2020. Their debut EP, ‘Kick It Like A Wicked Bad Habit’, served up five tracks of guitar driven, bubblegum inflected fun, big on harmonies and bigger on hooks. If their talents were under any doubt, a spirited cover of Chicago’s ‘Saturday In The Park’ which stoked up the guitars without losing any of the original’s 70s pop flair showed how versatile this new, all star band could be.
Although their name might not be among garage punk’s most familiar, The Heartdrops released a couple of enjoyable albums back in the late 90s. Their debut, ‘This Is The Heartdrops’ (issued on Melted Records in 1997), served up a relentless collection of riff-based numbers, almost guaranteed to make an indelible impression. The band never got the big break they deserved at the time, but the internet has always been a handy tool for rediscovering overlooked artists and lost gems, and this three track freebie is a superb introduction to The Heartdrops’ world of riffs. The three songs were originally issued on a shared EP with The Spills in ’99 – effectively the band’s swansong – but decades on, the tunes sound as good as ever, and certainly don’t sound like the work of a band that would soon throw in the towel.
It’s only been a few weeks since Rum Bar Records gave out the excellent ‘XOXOXO, Volume One’ sampler showcasing some of their current roster and upcoming releases, but the label is already giving away yet more music to satisfy your underground rock and pop needs.
‘Rocktober II’ features a few current bits and pieces, but in a brilliant contrast to ‘XOXOXO’, it digs much further back into the label’s history, providing a superb recap for those who’ve only just discovered Rum Bar and their family of musicians.