II (on Flying Nun) is Bandwagonesque-esque happy-sad (and noisy!) guitar rock with a heavy-duty rhythm section and just as many hard parts as hooks. Excellent support comes from the missed-but-mighty Soft Pack’s frontman Matt Lamkin, who’s Where I’m Matt hit via Volar Records last fall. Think of it as R. Stevie Moore’s Warren Zevon album; it zig-zags from new wave to post-punk to power-pop and home-tapery with conviction and charm. And L.A.’s French Vanilla are a no-wave-y/post-punk-y L.A. outfit in the vein of The Bloods, Y Pants, PragVEC, even Pylon or The Raincoats — discord under control, as heard on a promising LP just out on Danger Collective.
Canada’s Courtneys don’t quite make the power-pop the press suggests, but they’ve definitely got lots of power. Their recent