Islands in the Stream: 5/15/24

Giving some love to acts who deserve more of it

Islands in the Stream: 5/15/24
We like the streams, the streams that go boom

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?

"You're Not a Kid Anymore," Buskin & Batteau
These guys are classic examples of artists you probably don't know by name, but have likely come across without realizing it. David Buskin has been a professional musician for more than 50 years, building a career that includes a number of solo albums, work with other artists, and an impressive list of songs for hire (example: the Clio-winning "Just Watch Us Now," NBC's anthem of the '80s). Robin Batteau's discography also goes back to the early '70s — he teamed up with his brother, professional songwriter David Batteau, for one album as Batteaux in 1971. All of which is to say that it makes perfect sense that "You're Not a Kid Anymore" — from Buskin & Batteau's 2006 release B&B3 — sounds like a lost song from an earlier era, in the best sense. The tight harmonies, the vaguely jazzy chords, the caucaso-funk beat — if you told me this had been recorded by Orleans on a particularly peppy day, I'd believe you. I will be listening to more from these two.

"Heartbeat Is Missing," EEVAH
If "You're Not a Kid Anymore" sounds like Orleans after a few cups of coffee, then "Heartbeat Is Missing" sounds like Sleigh Bells when they're feeling fatigued. Again, I'm not complaining at all — about once a decade, I think I want to listen to a bunch of Sleigh Bells, but my ears get tired after one and a half songs, so whatever EEVAH's doing is evidently much more my speed. Catchy and a lot of fun, too.

"A Dismount," Formal Speedwear
Opening with roughly 30 seconds of proof that a solid boom-bap beat and some whirling/droning synths/guitars will never go out of style, "A Dismount" tickles the same pleasure centers that light up when I listen to the best stuff the Call wrote and recorded during the early '80s. Angsty in a New Wave sort of way, but it sounds like the work of guys who wear jeans and forget to brush their hair. I dig it.

"Manchmal," Hoelderlin
To be honest, I have no idea what's going on here, but listening to "Manchmal" makes me feel like it's the early '80s and everyone is ripping off Michael McDonald's piano riff for "What a Fool Believes," and I'm having a dream in which some artist I've never heard of is playing his own "Fool"-derived song, but because it's a dream, I can't understand a word he's saying. The overall effect is strange, but not unpleasantly so.

"On the Waterfront," Andy Clockwise featuring Jade Macrae
If the Blue Nile are going to take a billion years between records and then most likely break up forever and then frontman Paul Buchanan is also going to take forever to do anything, it's only fair that every once in awhile, some new artist will come along and bite their style so successfully that it eases the pain of knowing we're never getting another Blue Nile album and/or possibly another Paul Buchanan album. I admit that Andy Clockwise sounds like his emotional health is more robust than those fellows, but the icy-hot moodiness that courses through "On the Waterfront" still strikes me as essentially similar.

"Signs & Wonders," Stereo Twins
If you, like me, were a big fan of the unjustly slept-on early '90s power pop legends the Greenberry Woods, you may feel just as shocked and appalled as I do knowing that ex-Woodsers Brandt and Matt Huseman started another group almost ten fucking years ago, and it was called the Stereo Twins, and given that the Stereo Twins have an unconscionable 35 monthly listeners on Spotify and their only album to date came out in 2015, it seems like we're probably not getting another record out of them. "Signs & Wonders" takes less than three minutes to illustrate in vivid color why this is all bullshit. I would have loved you like crazy if I'd only known, Stereo Twins.

"How in Heaven's Name," The Tripwires
The Tripwires sound pretty much the way you'd expect them to after reading that they're four guys with strong ties to a bunch of highly regarded Seattle groups, but who've never really become household names in their own right. In other words, there's some pleasantly salty garage-rock energy coursing through this music's veins; the performances are shaggy, but the songwriting chops are tight. Would it be going too far to call them northwestern spiritual successors to Rockpile? Perhaps. Either way, this track rocks.

"Meteorite," The Rite Flyers
This is the only Rite Flyers song I've ever listened to, so I have no idea how well it represents their overall sound. However, based on this three minutes and forty seconds of evidence, I'm prepared to say that the band gives you an idea of what might have happened if Michael Stipe ended up fronting Cheap Trick. If that strikes you as super fucking strange, I'm with you — but the overall effect is still surprisingly pleasant.

"Good," Lannie Flowers
I don't know what to say about this one other than that if you're looking for a perfectly written, perfectly performed pop song that sounds perfectly current while also sounding like something that could have played over the opening credits of Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Lannie Flowers is exactly the artist you seek. This is some outstanding shit right here.

"Blameless," Nick Piunti
I've often said that part of the pleasure of listening to pop music is knowing the formula but still feeling the thrill of hearing the parts come together. That's Nick Piunti's "Blameless" in a nutshell — he isn't doing anything a thousand other artists haven't already done, but he's still doing it really well, and the end result is still an immaculately written song that serves as a sweetly punchy reminder of the power of jangly/crunchy guitars and a sticky melody. I would like to buy him a beer.