Brower Buzzsaws LP

Holy Glam, Batman! I never heard of this guy BROWER from Virginia, but he’s definitely heard of T. REX and SWEET. Can’t think of much shit that fits this sound outside the ’70s…bedroom studio glam proto pub rock, maybe MICKEY JUPP’s LEGEND, but just the boogie rockers. Certainly not the first to mine this sound as of late, but the tunes speak for themselves, and this is an unexpected killer start to finish, like TANK for the 21st century.

Brower Live and Contagious LP

As we hopefully near the end of the COVID pandemic, what we are left with is a deluge of bedroom four-track albums or bathroom laptop solo epiphanies. However, this album will stand as the last live concert album to be recorded before the March 2020 shutdown. I left the mystery alone whether the live recording is in the vein of the BLACK LIPS Los Valientes del Mundo Nuevo album recorded “live” in Tijuana, or more authentically, THIN LIZZY’s Live and Dangerous, which the art on this album cover reverently replicates. Regardless, it’s a fun raucous ride throughout. Sporting sounds from glam, English disco, and funk punk, the influences range from MUD and STATUS QUO to early KISS and late PHARMACY. The supporting band includes Josephine Network on guitar and Hershguy on drums. The songs pull from a range in BROWER’s career, so it’s a great intro if you haven’t heard this treasure before.

Christian Blunda Funky Punks in Space LP

Solo album from the MEAN JEANS frontman—a pandemic project three years in the making, and as the title indicates, kind of punk, kind of funk, angsty space-themed, and with keyboard synthesizers carrying most of the tunes. A concept album that stands strong, with a bit more sincerity than the Jingles Collection. Nothing like a pandemic to spin you into a fun, escapist space ride that is epic like an ephemeral soundtrack to an unseen sci-fi movie. I’m thinking of those futuristic ’80s action/horror movies that could dictate mood with a few extended atmospheric notes on a keyboard. He executes this well; I’ll put it up there with when WANG CHUNG made the phenomenal soundtrack to the epic 1985 film To Live and Die in L.A., but with aliens.

Josephine & Hershguy Stocky Tunes LP

The first listen I was getting a lot of sonic inputs from early K Records, SPARKS, post-post-art-punk, ROXY MUSIC, neo-No Wave, glam theater rock…almost in a disparate hi-talent show of the kids too cool and too talented for marching band. On second, third, and many more listens it all melds together into the singular voices of Josephine Network and Hershguy, refreshingly hard to put your finger on, but so good. It’s so unique that the album includes its own Stocky Yiddish Dictionary where I learned that “cockamun with a bissel hunnick” means “shit on you with a little honey.”

Paint Fumes Real Romancer LP

These guys deliver a really tight, high-energy earful of what I think is a nice combination of punk’n’roll and power pop. It’s mid-tempo, but it’s really driven, like they’re coming at you. It’s got a cohesiveness that is remarkable, like everybody is on the same page. It’s obviously catchy, or I wouldn’t even be listening to it. Time for an air drum solo. Thanks. This is their fourth LP, but the first I’ve heard of them. I feel like I’ve been missing out. This is an excellent record. Highly recommended.

The Ar-Kaics Ar-Kives, Volume One: Singles & Unreleased LP

This is a collection of singles from this Virginia band who’ve been morphing their own take on ’60s-style lo-fi garage for years. You can sense the influence of the lineage, but the music has its own unique sound, without duplicity. Tunes range from defiant anthems (“Can’t Stand This Place”) to sludgy stomps (“Cut Me Down”). The band had COVID cancel US, European, and Japanese tours, but were able to release these early out-of-print singles dating back to 2013 and some demos instead. It’s a great place to start if you’ve never heard their other releases. Not just for fans of the Back From the Grave scene, but for anyone who digs fuzzy, snotty songs with a little attitude. European release by Bachelor. In the US, it’s on Dig! Records from Virginia, which has been putting out vinyl for five years but this release was given the 001 catalog number—apparently that’s been on the back burner waiting for a pandemic.

The Ar-Kaics Live in the Shit LP

This is a live recording captured from a February 2020 show in their hometown of Richmond, VA, right before live music shut down. The frantic intensity of the performance comes out and smacks you with a quick pace as each song rushes in right after the next in a perfect garage punk cadence. It’s a tight, quick set and all the slightly off notes and tuning only add to the authentic energy of it. There’s a good mix of old and newer songs with an excellent unreleased new track, “Outsider.” An excellent addition to their growing catalogue.

The Whiffs Another Whiff LP

I truly and optimistically think guitar pop will never go fully out of style. Pop songs that leave a little sand in your teeth and have a little punch—they’re always worth the three-minute investment of time. So the WHIFFS were kind enough to give you fourteen good investments in one convenient package. This is like the album equivalent of when chefs say “fine ingredients simply prepared.” You can tell where all the influences are sourced from, but it’s all so well-presented and natural that it’s pure satisfaction throughout, without sounding like unnecessary nostalgia tripping (despite the “remember the good old days?” lyrical bent in the excellent head-bobber “Seventeen”). So keep on strumming those six strings and hammering out tightly-structured belters—I’ll keep on listening.

The Whiffs Scratch ‘N’ Sniff LP

Scratch ‘N’ Sniff is the sophomore suite of songs from the WHIFFS, whom Dig Records have billed as “Kansas City’s foremost power pop foursome.” From the oft-mimicked Hard Days Night cover art to the above statement, I was not eager to like this, writing it off as parody.  After tucking into each syrupy, twelve-string Rickenbacker-layered song, the record quickly became hard to turn off. This album reminds me of a lot of happiness that will soon get stuck in your head. The record seeps with great melodies and tight songwriting that becomes something more relatable and oddly familiar than first perceived. The album’s thirteen tracks each build on each other, without any weak filler. Sounds like the BYRDS covering the REPLACEMENTS, feels like Paul Weller when he rocked a turtleneck. Start with “Wanted” and “Pretender”—there is not a moment wasted, and the tracklist continues on with modern-world glee.