Irish power pop band seem like Big Stars

The #1s(pronounced number ones, not hashtag ones) are a power pop band from Ireland, and their eponymous album is one of the best rock releases of the year.

The Number Ones, is one of 2014’s most re-listenable albums, as it rapid fires hook after hook after hook and never sounds less than exhilarating.

These are bite-sized pieces of bubblegum about girls and heartache, not groundbreaking adventures, but they’re well-executed and seem self-aware of the tropes their mining which keeps things from getting rote.

The #1s’ name is reminiscent of Big Star’s debut album, Number 1 Record, but their music seems more influenced by Cheap Trick, The Strokes, The Ramones (The 1,2,3,4! countdown on “Sixteen” in particular) or even the Alex Chilton-adoring Replacements than Big Star.

While the songwriting and hooks are polished, the #1s’ sounds is decidedly fuzzy, and it gives the album an early Smith Westerns-type charm. Many of the songs on the album last less than two minutes, Each song is present to bludgeon you with a hook, then politely move on so the next song can take its turn.

These catchy, pared-down tunes are particularly welcome in 2014’s sonic landscape. 2014 is a year when the esoteric FKA Twig put out one of the most well-regarded pop albums of the year, and reliable garage-rocker Ty Segall put out an excellent, but sprawling double album.

Ultimately, The Number Ones‘ thrills are surface-level but substantial and make for one of the year’s finest guitar pop albums.

New album is kind of a Tuff listen.

King Tuff’s new release boasts increased quality of production, but it is fairly lacking in terms of quality overall.

Black Moon Spell,King Tuff’s follow-up to 2012’s awesome, eponymous release is a sizable disappointment, especially after the extremely enjoyable King Tuff.

Whereas, King Tuff seemed to draw aural inspiration from ’60s garage rock and British Invasion bands, Kyle Thomas, King Tuff’s government name, seems to have taken the primary inspiration for Black Moon Spell from hair metal.

The guitar sounds on this album sound crisp, clean and beefy, which isn’t an inherently bad thing, but King Tuff opened with the cheekily titled “Anthem”, and the slop was part of the charm. Black Moon Spell opens with “Black Moon Spell”, which does an excellent job of aping the sound of an arena-shaking anthem, but without the requisite hook.

However, it isn’t just a new sound that makes this the weakest album in King Tuff’s body of work, Black Moon Spell is equally marred by what hasn’t changed. Thomas’ lyrics have always skewed toward the humorous or absurd, but on this album the jokes fall flat.

“Headbanger” is an ode to a headbanging girl accompanied by headbanging music. It doesn’t come across as funny, it comes across as sub-Tenacious D genre pastiche. With sophomoric humor intact, but fleeting songwriting chops, it is incredibly hard to enjoy parts of this album.

This album is also done a disservice by its self-referential nature. “Beautiful Thing” would seem to be a sequel to the previous album’s thoroughly excellent, “Bad Thing”. “Bad Thing” is an excellent song that managed to make a sentiment of self-loathing into a fist-pumping earworm, “Beautiful Thing” celebrates an object of affection, but manages to sound hollow and listless.The songs on King Tuff are just so thoroughly better that I have no idea why Thomas would intentionally compare and contrast his two most recent albums.

Black Moon Spell briefly meanders into familiar sonic territory with “I love you Ugly”, but doesn’t spend the time there doing anything worthwhile. Things are pared down to King Tuff‘s production values, and the virtues of some ugliness are extolled, but it’s more of a simple jingle than a song, and after its 61-second duration it’s on to the next big, glossy track.

It’s clear this album was intended to be funny, tuneful and, most importantly, RAWK! With its burly guitar sound it definitely does one of those things exceptionally well. Unfortunately, Black Moon Spell captures the brainlessness of the genre it apes, but none of the catchy choruses.

This album would be an underwhelming joke metal album, like a much worse version of the Eagles of Death Metal, but knowing how much more King Tuff is capable of makes it regrettable.