Words by Art Jipson
Every month Off Shelf contributor and Your Tuesday Afternoon Alternative host Art Jipson brings you the best singles of the month and puts together a playlist for your enjoyment. Below you’ll find nine highlighted songs that stood above the rest, which is followed by the entire playlist. Please follow our Spotify account so you don’t miss any future playlists!
Ryan Allen – ‘Feeling You Feeling Me’ from ‘What a Rip’ (Dad Pop Records)
Classic indie-punk influenced power pop continues to march into the consciousness of discriminating music fans through the work of artists and bands like Ryan Allen and his Extra Arms. Imagine Tom Petty, Michael Nesmith and Paul Westerberg sitting at a bar discussing how to write a great song. It all starts with a hook. Whether the focus is on the voice, guitar or percussion, a well-made song has a solid hook. Ryan Allen finds inspiration from the music of the 1960s in his latest release while channels his inner Petty, Nesmith and Westerberg in the songs on ‘What a Rip’ and in particular ‘Feeling You Feeling Me.’ On that song the guitars, melodies and arrangements bring the listener into an intimate relationship with the hook. Also, recommend the Monkees-eque songs ‘On My Mind’ and ‘Already Gone.’
Speaking of an interest in the music of the past, Tele Novella’s latest record continues the band’s fascination with the ethereal and atmospheric elements of 60s pop music. At times orchestral pop and in other moments, Texas inspired experimental psychedelia. The dreaminess of songs like ‘Paper Crown’ twirl strands of indie pop, music of the 1960s and sound collage together in a mixture of music that sounds as if it were plucked from a pleasant distant past. Familiar yet rooted in alternatives, ‘Paper Crown’ has a dynamic that is dark and magnetic. The song has a welcome feeling like when you pull out a scrapbook and see past pictures and notes about people that you cared about that you had forgotten. The unexpected sonic elements in Tele Novella’s songs always keeps a listener on their toes. Few vocalists are as courageous as Natalie Gordon as she unflinchingly drops register as she sings to convey the lyrical idea. Also, recommend the melancholy singsong of ‘Never’ and the slow build (is that yodeling?) of ‘Technicolor Town’.
Cricketbows – ‘Raised on Rock and Roll’ from ‘Raised on Rock and Roll’ Single (Mosquito Hawk Exquisite Recordings)
This first single from the forthcoming full length of the same name, ‘Raised on Rock and Roll’ lists the various artists who have influenced the band – The Beatles, Elvis, Bowie, Prince and others. The song is more than a shopping list of musical influences. The theme of lyrical ideas taken from classic rock and roll help illustrate the power of growing up listening to music. The image of having a small radio under the covers listening to songs that you just have to hear immediately as they are aired even though it is far past your bedtime is nicely captured in the song. The musicians in this band sway and bend to the gravity of the music made here. In particular, the voices of Chad Wells and Aarika Voegle circle one another around their shared passion for rock and roll. The power of music to transcend the problems we face in life becomes cathartic as the song fades to the lyrics “turn the radio up, turn the radio up, turn the radio up….” Also, recommend the pastoral B-side ‘Gracious Peasant’. We are very excited about the upcoming release of the full-length album.
No One Sphere – ‘Happyville’ (self-released)
Dave Mann’s latest single recorded under the name No One Sphere stands as a testament to his skill as a songwriter. The mix by Roderick j. Edens (Reptile Tile) and mastering by Mark Gardener (Ride) add dimension and heft to this part shoegaze, part powerpop song. What makes you happy? Where are you happy? The idea that place and space have such influence on how we feel is explored in this wall of sound guitar driven tune. Wave after wave of guitar wash over the ears that heighten the emotional intensity of this song. Nothing is out of place in the expansive arrangement. Mann’s impassioned vocals about happiness or the lack thereof draw a picture for the listener. The driving percussion and refracted bass only add to the soundscape presented here. Also, recommend the band’s last single ‘Bad Behavior’. Note that ‘Happyville’ is available for free download on the band’s bandcamp page. And you want to take the time to go get this song.
Brooklyn-based Nervous Dater has a way with melding emotions to the music. The first track on their latest album, ‘Middle Child’ captures the sense of powerlessness being a child in the middle. What does it feel like to not be taken seriously by others to the point where you ‘cry in the shower’ so that no one else can hear you? This song brings that emotional dissonance together with an indie rock sound that captures that feeling perfectly. The vocal by Rachel Lightner makes one wonder if she was a middle child herself because she paints the picture so perfectly. The song has an almost up beat arrangement that hides the seriousness within the lyrics. Also, recommend the straightforward rocker ‘The Dirt’ and the conspiratorial ‘Tin Foil Hat’.
Cloud Nothings feel like a guilty pleasure. The incredibly catchy indie rock that they make is so seductive and immediate that it feels like cheating on a diet. The music is so gratifying that one has to fight the idea that it is all right to enjoy it. Nevertheless, enjoy it you will. ‘Nothing Without You’ – the first single from the excellent ‘The Shadow I Remember,’ will draw comparisons with their previous music (especially ‘Enter Entirely’). Cloud nothings have become a ferocious guitar attack that have not forgotten the cardinal rule of guitar bands: keep the melody, rhythms and hooks intact. ‘Nothing Without You’ includes Macie Stewart of Ohmme and adds a wistfulness to the song. This one will stay with you. Recommend the entire album.
The Glasgow, Scotland band carry a nostalgia for the hippie culture of the 1970s in this simple almost sparse song that relies on a steady percussion and syncopation that moves the tune along for the listener. The steady drive of the percussion is echoed in the repeated vocal of “reread, piece together.” The interplay between “piece” and “peace” shows an intention to connect random ideas within the vocal. Singer/keyboardist Eothen Stearn has also notes that the song stitches together words and ideas because of dyslexia. The movement of ‘Piece Together’ travels between a gentle tenderness and fuzzy indie rock sensibility, which will bring an emotional fulfillment. Also, recommend the angular ‘Fences.’
What started as a solo project for Michael Doherty has evolved into a folk-rock trio. On the group’s first full-length record, they explore an atmospheric indie folk rock sound that showcases Doherty’s vocals. ‘New Music’ delves into the joy of discovering new music whether it is tied to friendships or the new music that one creates as a musician. The excitement of sharing new discoveries is given a pretty musical form here. The soaring falsetto reinforces the expressive yearning of searching and discovery. The song has a pretty arrangement that serves to surround Doherty’s delicate delivery. Also, recommend the catchy 70s feel of ‘Big Pop.’
One that got away from us:
After six years, The Moons return with a fourth studio album, ‘Pocket Melodies,’ that picks up the task squarely where they left it. The kickoff track, ‘Today’, brings psychedelia, British invasion and Brit pop together in an inescapable tune. ‘Today’ highlights incredibly snug harmonies, spotless jangly guitar lines, bouncing bass, striking piano and jumpy percussion that keeps things moving. Is that bongos we hear in the background? The vocals slide along and move into falsetto on the chorus. The throwback feels complete and still ground in the present. Also, recommend ‘riding man’ and the Paul Weller collaboration ‘Tunnel of Time.’
If you have recommendations for future editions of this column, please contact Dr. J at email@example.com. Remember the brief before you contact us, the music either needs to be released in the particular month or is a song that should be celebrated as a “missed” catch. You can find Dr. J on social media on twitter and Instagram at drjytaa.