Temples – Volcano
These guys churned out a masterpiece of neo-psychedelia entitled Sun Structures in early 2014. Three years later, here’s the stunning second album by U.K. band Temples, and it could possibly be the best album of 2017 (but I’m a big neo-psychedelia fan so what do I know). Volcano begins (erupts?) with a “Baby, You’re a Rich Man” drum beat, a gorgeous keyboard melody, and James Bagshaw’s dreamlike vocals echoing through the time-warped canyons of the 1960s. It’s “Certainty,” released as a single back in the fall of 2016. The majestic cathedral keyboards continue as the drums get off to a gallop on “All Join In,” the Left Banke jams with Iron Butterfly on the incredible “I Wanna Be Your Mirror” – chamber pop on acid! – and one of the greatest guitar hooks of the year (or is it a keyboard) rules on “Born into the Sunset.”
The rest of Volcano keeps that vibe, uh, vibrating, with flashes of late-60s Beatles (“Oh! the Saviour”), bouncy Motown (“Open Air”), Mozart-meets-Sparks (“Mystery of Pop”), T. Rex-style glam (“Roman God-Like Man”)…right up to the jangly last track (and second single) “Strange or Be Forgotten.”
Formed in Kettering, England in 2012, Temples are singer/guitarist James Bagshaw, bassist Tom Walmsley, keyboardist/guitarist Adam Smith, and drummer Samuel Toms. And not only do they sound like they’re trapped in 1968, they also look the part, with Bagshaw’s curly locks, the rest of the band’s punky page-boy dos, and an assortment of outfits out of the coolest closets of Carnaby Street. Right now they’re on tour in the U.K. only, but they’ve ventured to the States in the past, so keep an eye ’n’ ear out!
Alvvays – Antisocialites
From Toronto, Canada comes the band Alvvays (pronounced “Always”), and their sophomore release following a 2014 debut. Antisocialites is shimmering dream-pop at its dreamiest (“In Undertow,” “Dreams Tonite,” “Already Gone”), poppiest (“Your Type,“ “Hey”), punkiest (“Plimsoll Punks”), and all three (the album’s shining moment and tribute to/fantasy about the Jesus and Mary Chain’s Jim Reid, “Lollipop (Ode to Jim)”).
Were it 1978, this would be dubbed “new wave” and inevitably compared to Blondie. And were it 1998, it would be “alternative” and probably compared to the band Garbage. Singer Molly Rankin emulates the beauty and brashness of Ms. Harry and Ms. Manson as she tosses off lines like “You’re the seashell in my sandal / That’s slicing up my heel” and “You look like Iggy Pop / Circa ’73 or ’4”!
Providing the propellant behind Ms. Rankin are guitarist/co-producer/co-songwriter Alec O’Hanley, keyboardist Kerry MacLellan, bassist Brian Murphy, and drummer Chris Dadge. The band is currently in the midst of a sold-out stretch at the Mod Club in their hometown of Toronto, after which they head to Europe for a few months. They sold out a show at Brooklyn Steel in October, so hopefully Alvvays will alvvays return to NYC.
And speaking of Canada…
1976 Neil 2017 Neil
Neil Young – Hitchhiker and The Visitor
Recorded in one night back in 1976 but only seeing the light of day in September 2017, Hitchhiker presents Neil Young, his voice, his acoustic guitar, and occasionally his harmonica, breezing through ten tracks of red-eyed, head-nodding stoner stuff, most of which would appear in more polished form on later albums like Rust Never Sleeps, Hawks & Doves, American Stars ’n Bars, Comes a Time, and the Decade collection. Here we find the original (short) version of “Powderfinger,” the original (long) version of “Campaigner,” the title cut “Hitchhiker,” which appeared not too long ago on 2010’s Le Noise, and two previously-unreleased songs, “Hawaii” and “Give Me Strength.”
Apparently the execs at Reprise Records felt the album was too demo-like for release at the time, so there it sat, collecting dust on the shelf, while Long May You Run, Young’s collaboration with Stephen Stills as the Still-Young Band, ended up being his 1976 release. Until now…so sit back, roll another number (for the road if you like), and nod along as Neil tells of “Pocahontas,” “Captain Kennedy,” and scoots over to the piano for “The Old Country Waltz.”
On the other side of the Neil Young coin, and out just a couple of weeks ago, is The Visitor. Recorded with L.A. rockers Promise of the Real (led by Lukas Nelson, son of Willie), this is heavy-duty Neil, stomping through the door with “Already Great,” a response to Trump’s campaign slogan “Make America Great Again.” We also get angry Neil (“Fly by Night Deal”), laid-back, Tonight’s the Night-style Neil (“Almost Always,” “Change of Heart”), crazy Neil (the eight-minute-long, Buffalo Springfield-like “Carnival”), sing-along Neil (“Children of Destiny”), loose ’n’ goofy Neil (“When Bad Got Good”), and good old philosophical Neil (album closer “Forever”).
Always there with his distinctive sound and timely lyrics, count on Neil Young to be rock’s…rock!
images courtesy musiceyz.co.uk, en.wikipedia.org, stereogum.com, alvvays.bandcamp.com, aquariumdrunkard.com, relix.com, kawarthanow.com
YouTube videos courtesy TemplesVEVO, KEXP, Alvvays A, neilyoungchannel, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real / Warner Music Group