The Foreign Films-Ocean Moon (New Songs and Hidden Gems). Bill Majoros spent most of the previous decade working on and releasing his 3-disc epic The Record Collector, the proper followup to his brilliant 2007 double-disc debut Distant Star. His latest offering is Ocean Moon, a more modest 9-track disc which starts off with six new tracks then revisits a trio from The Record Collector, recontextualizing them into a loose concept album of sorts about being in love, both with a woman and with the music of the 60s. The six new songs are all quite excellent, from the Zombies-like opener "Dream With Me Tonight" to the "sha-la-la-la-la" chorus of "Katie and the Crystal Hearts" to the latter-day Jeff Lynne stylings of the title track. Will these six new songs end up as part of some multi-disc release in the next few years? Stay tuned, but tune into these new ones now.
High on Stress-Hold Me In. Like many, six years ago I was bummed to hear that Minneapolis rockers High on Stress broke up, and like many I'm thrilled that Nick Leet & company have reunited. Hold Me In sounds like they never went away, delivering a dozen tracks in the vein of The Replacements-meets-early Wilco. "Work Release" is a great opener, with "my heart's on work release" a metaphor worthy of some of Westerberg's best. "Dakota" features a country beat, "Never Got That Far" is a great folk-rocker with ex-Billy Pilgrim Andrew Hyra joining on vocals, and speaking of guest stars, Laurie Lindeen (of ZuZu's Petals and Westerberg's ex) duets with Leet on what's perhaps the album's best track, the yearning "Wish This Moment Gone". A return to form, if not an improvement on form.
Surrender Human-Surrender Human. The Chapel Hill NC music scene might not be what it was in the 90s, but three veterans of that era have teamed up in their best effort to bring them back. Matt McMichaels (vocals, guitar) of the late great Mayflies USA joins Ben Folds Five bassist Robert Sledge and drummer Tony Stiglitz (Jett Rink, Chris Stamey) as Surrender Human, and their debut disc finds them in fine form. It's a mix of 90s slacker-era indie rock with an older and wiser pop sound, and fans of any of the bands these guys played in or with will love it. The bright rocker "Boxcar Reel" lets you know what you're in for, the catchy "Let You Down" could have been a staple on college rock radio stations 25 years ago, and "Girls Not Talking" is some nifty power pop. Surrender to this one.