Islands in the Stream: 3/28/24

Giving some love to artists who oughta have more fans

Islands in the Stream: 3/28/24
Islands, stream, etc.

Islands in the Stream is a periodic series that highlights songs I've liked by artists who have a relatively low number of monthly listeners. It's like a public service with a dash of the thrill of discovery. What else could you ask for?

"Let Me Into Your Heart," Little Wins
Little Wins is the solo side project launched by SISTERS member Andrew Vait, and on paper, it's nothing if not ambitious: According to the act's bio, Vait set out to use this music to interrogate his "complicity in systems of oppression as a white male in the music industry," explore his family's "battles with clinical depression and addiction," and "honor and pay tribute to the Black artists who have shaped modern music and culture."

For all that, "Let Me Into Your Heart" is simply a pretty, eminently listenable pop song, which is absolutely not a knock against Vait's goals or execution; after all, it'd be all but impossible to achieve all that within the constraints of a four-minute track no matter how talented you are. I guess maybe this is just another reminder that appearances can be deceiving and you don't really know what anyone's going through? Anyway, again: Good song.

"Out of Reach," The Legendary House Cats
Legendary House Cats are another side project — this one for producer John Girgus, who seems to have shifted toward using the LHC banner for instrumental music. This strikes me as a shame, at least based on "Out of Reach," which comes from the Cats' 2017 album Greatest Blips, Vol. 1 and has all the coolly crafted emotional grandeur of something you might have heard during off-peak hours on your local modern rock station in the late '80s or early '90s.

"I Want Everything," Michael Carpenter
This track marks the spot where we embark on a run of pretty cool power pop cuts from artists most people have never heard of. I know nothing about Michael Carpenter, but his discography makes me feel like he's an artist who's willing to try anything to maintain momentum between albums of original material — up to and including recording a lot of covers that run the gamut from cult classics ("When I Write the Book") to worldwide hits ("I Want It That Way"). In a just world, Carpenter would be able to pay the bills with stuff like "I Want Everything" — this is rock-solid, fat-free, pure pop that a lot of better-known artists would be proud to call their own.

"I Can't Quit Her," Chris Richards and the Subtractions
These motherfuckers boast an anti-whopping 70 monthly listeners on Spotify, which is simply rude — "I Can't Quit Her" is pulled from the relative back pages of their catalog, coming from their 2009 LP Sad Sounds of the Summer, but it sounds like the work of a mature, fully formed creative unit. This is one case where the album title tells you pretty much everything you need to know; like Velvet Crush's Teenage Symphonies to God, it's equal parts description and mission statement. Most excellent.

"A Piece of My Own," The Grip Weeds
If you're a hardcore Beatles fan, you don't need me to tell you that the Grip Weeds took their name from Musketeer Gripweed, the character played by John Lennon in How I Won the War. I wouldn't necessarily say "A Piece of My Own" screams Lennon, but that also isn't necessarily a bad thing; although this is definitely Beatlesque stuff, it'll remind you more of the smartly written and layered material from the period when the band was firing on all cylinders.

"Bad Rerun," Colman Gota
This song leads off Gota's awesomely titled 2015 album Play to Lose, and it conjures forth a world in which Tom Petty decided he wanted to be Nick Lowe when he grew up. (I can empathize.)

"Mind Going Down," Eric Bazilian
I wish I didn't feel like I had to explain this to most readers, but I do, so here goes: While you may not have heard of Eric Bazilian, you almost certainly have heard stuff he's done. Aside from being a creative principal in the Hooters, he was also instrumental in the early success of Cyndi Lauper, and oh by the way he also wrote the Joan Osborne mega-smash "One of Us." I wish all that had led to a situation that lent itself to more than the occasional, independently released Bazilian solo record, but alas, we must content ourselves with what we have. "Mind Going Down" comes from Bazilian's 2001 solo release The Optimist, which is well worth exploring.

"Another Wrong Way Out," Falling Stars
How the fuck does this band have fewer than 500 monthly listeners? What more do you people want out of a pop song? Listen to "Another Wrong Way Out" and tell me what you'd change. If the answer is anything other than "nothing," I'm not sure I trust you anymore. Regardless, I need to dive into the rest of this band's catalog, because based on this song, they've got a lot to offer my ears.

"Nothing at All," Andrew Cash
Canadian readers may recognize Andrew Cash as a former member of Parliament, specifically from the Toronto district of Davenport, where he served from 2011 to 2015. But long before that, he was a relatively prolific recording artist of some renown — first as a member of the band L'Étranger, then as a solo act, then as part of a variety of assorted other projects. "Nothing at All" obviously comes from that middle period; it's a cut from his second solo LP, 1989's Boomtown, which did fine in Canada and did fuck-all in the United States. Our loss, really; this song is superior to quite a bit of the stuff that charted here that year. I particularly dig the ratty slide guitar.