Music

The Postelles: ... And It Shook Me

The Postelles release another album of clean, upbeat guitar pop.


The Postelles

...And It Shook Me

Label: +1
US Release Date: 2013-04-23
UK Release Date: Import
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Several years ago, the Postelles seemed on the verge of exploding. An New York City foursome, they had a connection with Albert Hammond Jr. (the famous rhythm guitarist for the Strokes) and they were getting a lot of blog buzz. They put out The Postelles EP in 2008, which combined New York guitar lines with sugary sentiments and vocals that didn’t buy into the typical New York rocker’s apathetic cool. Their 2010 self-titled album built on the same structure. Postelles songs could be formulaic, but tracks like “Stella” and “Can’t Stand Still” were undeniable bursts of pop energy, tight little balls of guitar driven fun, easy to like. But despite all the comparisons with the Strokes, the Postelles didn’t experience the same kind of breakthrough.

Perhaps because of this, their recently released new album, ...And It Shook Me, works to distance the band a bit from their original sound, leaning more towards power-pop from the late ‘70s. It’s still recognizably the Postelles -- the album contains 12 three-ish minute pop songs, and plenty of verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus. Things race along behind lead singer Daniel Balk’s innocent, pleasant voice. But the group has toned down the early rock and roll bubblegum influence. The “whoa-oh” doo-wop-esque vocals are mostly gone, and Balk sounds a little more seasoned, a little less guileless, straining and cracking and singing in a more full-throated fashion a few times. He reaches back to the Knack for a little vocal twitch, applying a “My Sharona”-like treatment to the ends of couplets as he sings in “Caught By Surprise”, sort of squeezing out “surprise” and “eyes” so they sound like “surpi-iiiise” and “eyeeeeees”, with a little jump in tone during the middle of the word. Sweet, sturdy harmonies pop up during the chorus of “Oh My Luck.” Female singers appear to handle backing vocals and add nice “ooh-oohs” during “Running Red Lights”. There’s also a duet with the singer Alex Winston on “Pretend It’s Love” to keep you guessing.

Similarly, the instrumentation hints at the Knack and Dwight Twilley’s loveable chugging. The Postelles also add a few touches of new-wave synthesizer on tracks like “Tidal Wave” and “Parallel Love” (the song that sounds most like something the Strokes might put together). At times the strumming rhythm guitar sounds acoustic, softening the songs’ punch. Every sound is scrubbed perfectly clean and sunny, as if distortion pedals have yet to be invented. The album’s middle third is particularly effective, as the band moves seamlessly from one easy riff and springy hook to the next. Even when love fails or things don’t work out, everything remains bubbly and upbeat. There’s even a bit of whistling. It’s music for optimists. The Postelles may not yet have reached the heights some predicted, but it doesn’t seem to have soured their outlook.

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Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

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7. Chris Stapleton – From a Room: Volume 1 (Mercury Nashville)

If Chris Stapleton didn't really exist, we would have to invent him—a burly country singer with hair down to his nipples and a chainsaw of a soul-slinging voice who writes terrific throwback outlaw-indebted country songs and who wholesale rejects modern country trends. Stapleton's recent rise to festival headliner status is one of the biggest country music surprises in recent years, but his fans were relieved this year that his success didn't find him straying from his traditional wheelhouse. The first installment of From a Room once again finds Stapleton singing the hell out of his sturdy original songs. A Willie Nelson cover is not unwelcome either, as he unearths a semi-obscure one. The rest is made up of first-rate tales of commonality: Whether he's singing about hard-hurtin' breakups or resorting to smoking them stems, we've all been there. -- Steve Leftridge



6. Carly Pearce – Every Little Thing (Big Machine)

Many of the exciting young emerging artists in country music these days are women, yet the industry on the whole is still unwelcoming and unforgiving towards them. Look at who's getting the most radio play, for one. Carly Pearce had a radio hit with "Every Little Thing", a heartbreaking ballad about moments in time that in its pace itself tries to stop time. Every Little Thing the album is the sort of debut that deserves full attention. From start to finish it's a thoroughly riveting, rewarding work by a singer with presence and personality. There's a lot of humor, lust, blues, betrayal, beauty and sentimentality, in proper proportions. One of the best songs is a call for a lover to make her "feel something", even if it's anger or hatred. Indeed, the album doesn't shy away from a variety of emotions. Even when she treads into common tropes of mainstream country love songs, there's room for revelations and surprises. – Dave Heaton

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