"The Undertones' 1979 debut is a perfect album. The Northern Ireland quintet's brief story is no different than that of literally dozens of other bands to form in the wake of the Clash and, more importantly, the Buzzcocks, but the group infuses so much unabashed joy in their two-minute three-chord pop songs, and there's so little pretension in their unapologetically teenage worldview, that even the darker hints of life in songs like the suicide-themed "Jimmy Jimmy" are delivered with a sense of optimism at odds with so many of their contemporaries. There's no fewer than three all-time punk-pop classics here; besides that song, the singles "Teenage Kicks" and "Get Over You" are simple declarations of teenage hormonal lust that somehow manage to be cute instead of Neanderthal; perhaps it's Feargal Sharkey's endearingly adenoidal whine, or the chipper way the O'Neill brothers pitch in on schoolboy harmonies, like a teenage Irish Kinks."

The Mantles

What makes the Mantles the Mantles? Maybe it's the idiosyncratic motion and energy of Michael Olivares' vocals, the way they alternately stroll and hop assuredly over the music. Or maybe it's the band's sound itself, familiar and classic yet increasingly distinctive, and growing—with acoustic texture; keyboard hooks and licks; and resonant and representative drumbeats—to its deepest, warmest, fullest, and most colorful on their third album, All Odds End, a record that is quintessentially Mantles from the sheer sonic splendor and elation—and biting words—of the album-opening "Island" on through to the final harmony of "Stay."

For this album Olivares, Weatherby, and lead guitarist Justin Loney were joined by Matt Bullimore on bass, a New Zealand native and member of Oakland’s Legs, and Carly Putnam on keyboard. These two new members energize the band into exploring territory that ranges from the staccato bursts and messy wisdom of "Police My Love" (which draws from a crazy variety of lyrical inspirations), to the country lilt of "Undelivered," to the casually anthemic SF-to-LA tilt of "Best Sides." People move, bands fall apart, cities change, but the Mantles abide and grow stronger, embodying their many-faceted name—planetary core-deep; incandescent; enveloping—a bit more with each new day, year, song and album. The Mantles are more and more the Mantles, and listening with dedication is like getting gifts. All Odds End, but the group continues to bloom.

Melted Toys

"Crunching post-punk bass lines, reverberating shoegaze guitars, and wailing psychedelic powerpop vocals all thrown together in a fiery kiln produced Melted Toys. The San Francisco group’s hazy and infectious demos are already making waves in their hometown. Now, a recent record deal and nationwide tour are giving the group some playing room, setting the ground for Melted Toys’ vividly lo-fi aesthetic to take proper shape." --Noise Pop

The Smittens

"The Smittens [are] a Burlington, Vermont-based twee pop band with a jones for the usual: Beat Happening, Belle & Sebastian, the Archies, and Magnetic Fields."

"Vermont's The Smittens have turned American twee into an art. They're as soft as Ohio's Bears and as polished as Tullycraft. Three part harmonies utilizing the holy trinity of twee singing: The cute girl, the nerdy guy, and the dopey baritone. The effect is quite fetching. They call themselves "bubblegum," not twee, but this is just semantics." --Teenage Ghost Cat

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