Worth Taking – Art Imitates Art

Self-released, 2014

I bet these San Francisco pop-punkers have a lot of Brand New and Drive Thru Records CDs in their collections – which is great, cause I do, too. The band’s fourth album sits right on the cusp of many of the pop-punk hallmarks, i.e. poppy but not too bubblegum, powerful but not overly dramatic, and polished but not to the point of overproduction. If you still have a soft spot in your heart for the punk sounds of the early 2000s, this is a great reminder of what made that time so memorable.

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The Rentals – Lost In Alphaville

Polyvinyl, 2014

After a decade and a half since their last LP, The Rentals return with less fuzzy, crunchy geek rock that focuses more on colourful indie-rock with dual gender vocals and a mix of guitar- and synth-rock. A more muscular version of their early days, there’s power pop, retro-rock and plenty of pop harmonies that display their eccentric side. Matt Sharp and his rotating cast of players may have reworked some earlier tunes here, but these new versions give the songs a proper platform.

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Beach Day – Native Echoes

Kanine, 2014

Garage pop, surf rock and ’60s girl group sounds with a punk backbone, the formula for this now duo hasn’t changed much, with giant hooks and Kimmy Drake’s irresistible vocals over a syrupy atmosphere. Some New Wave nods and extra fuzzy guitars are on board, and Beach Day’s vintage tone still appears more early ’90s alt-rock influenced than anything – in that dreamy, post-punk way that reels you in everytime.

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TRWBADOR – Several Wolves

Owlet, 2014

Following up their self-titled debut, Welsh duo TRWBADOR’s sophomore furthers their distinctive and accessible brand of acoustic-electro-pop. There’s more emphasis on the dancefloor beats this time out, nudging Several Wolves more towards The Knife territory than twee folk ambles, though it’s the band’s ability to combine the two musical poles – the female vocals as compelling on both – that stand them out from the crowd. Tidy.

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Invincible Czars – Play Reynolds & Stopschinski Vol. 1

Future Banana Replacement, 2014

Inspired by post-punk and classical music, this time the Czars rework two living composers in the rock/theatre scope. The band make use of lightning quick guitars and violins in a dramatic display of skill and adventure that includes variations of aggressive rock, cinematic, progressive and orchestral sounds. Even with flutes and saxophones on board, it’s still often in the metal/punk vein, as the ‘Czarified’ work truly shines in its own right while paying the utmost respect to the original composers.

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Ark Life – The Dream Of You & Me

The Greater Than Collective, 2014

Featuring Jesse Elliott of These United States fame, Ark Life takes the indie-folk sounds of Elliott’s past work and adds a soulful classic rock element as well as endless backing harmonies. Gospel and R&B influences also creep in, though it’s still largely an Americana album, and the wordplay centres around community and friendship, in a mature coming-of-age sort of way.

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