The Shelters — ‘Jupiter Sidecar’
THE GOOD: California alt-rockers the Shelters dodge the sophomore slump (I guess) on “Jupiter Sidecar.”
THE BAD: Formulaic? You bet.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Tom Petty briefly worked with these guys before his death, co-producing their first album. Members of the Shelters also contributed bits to Petty’s 2014 outing, “Hypnotic Eye.” Did anything rub off?
Maybe. Shelters makes pretty good straightforward pop/rock records with more than enough hooks and riffs to keep you glued to the track list. The guys also inject a fair amount of attitude into most of these cuts.
Personal faves include “Tangled Up” and “Can’t Go Home.” Yet there aren’t any real DUDS here. “Jupiter Sidecar” ends up a mostly upbeat affair you might come back to a few times before moving on. It rocks in all the right places without leaving much of a lasting impression. Then again, the 11-year-old-me felt the same way about “Long After Dark” after purchasing that LP back in 1982.
BUY IT?: Your choice.
My Little Hum — ‘Pioneer’
THE GOOD: American husband-and-wife duo My Little Hum (Dan and Yuri Jewett) delivers an assured second album.
THE BAD: Nope.
THE NITTY GRITTY: The pair split up geographically while putting the songs together. Yuri was furthering her education in New York City while Dan was back home in Oakland. Yuri would write lyrics and send them to guitarist Dan, and this long-distance collaboration continued for the better part of a year. “Pioneer” was the eventual result of all this bi-coastal inspiration.
The record is a dazzling, jangly slice of indie pop recalling everything from ’90s faves such as Belly and That Dog to contemporaries including Hop Along and fellow husband-and-wife team Tennis. There are more than a few intriguing bits, such as the utterly charming “One of a Kind” and haunting “Runway Lights.” The pair even manages to pull off a completely legit (and not tacky) cover of the Christopher Cross yacht rock staple “Sailing.” It’s all so insanely infectious and positively dreamy.
BUY IT?: Yes.
Mika — ‘My Name Is Michael Holbrook’
THE GOOD: British singer/songwriter Michael Holbrook (stage name Mika) comes back with his fifth.
THE BAD: “My Name Is” is as good as a mainstream European pop album can get. Bad? Not necessarily. Shallow? Somewhat.
THE NITTY GRITTY: This guy is kind of a superstar in Europe. He’s topped the U.K. charts a couple of times, acted as a judge on the French version of “The Voice” and even had has own variety show on Italian TV. Here in the States, he never fully crossed over and is considered more of an “alternative” pop act. “My Name Is” isn’t going to change those North American fortunes.
I’ll be a wise guy and say, “We have Jack Antonoff. We don’t NEED Mika.” They’re cut from the same cloth. Both are capable of composing catchy pop masterworks custom-made for glossy production and splashy arrangements. This album’s better moments include epic opener “Tiny Love,” the seamless “Tomorrow” and instantly infectious “Platform Ballerinas.” Nothing disagreeable here.
BUY IT?: Your call.