Arts & Leisure. The people of Test Pattern Records broke my heart recently. Baby Grand, the adorable band from Sacramento called it a day after releasing the indiespensable "Arts & Leisure" in 2012. But half of its members quickly "hit the reset button and see what happens" quoting guitarist Cory Vick, who alongside Gerri and Tim White, plus Becky Cale, re-assembled into Arts & Leisure, releasing their debut album, "Choose Your Adventure", this July. Not so faraway from their previous incarnation, but with the volume pumped up, right where indiepop meets power pop. You're going to hear instant killing melodies and harmonies, courtesy of Gerri and Becky's intertwined vocals, a never-ending collection of delicious hooks echoing every decade of the best pop music, and a beat so joyous you're going to recall genre myths like Talulah Gosh. One of the best records of the year.
The Salient Braves. We move to Yorkshire, UK, to meet Matt Bailey's project, a vehicle for the songs he has been writing for over two decades. He defines himself as an unskilled musician who struggles with the technical aspects of recording, which explains why it took him so long to release his songs. But judging its debut EP, "Somewhere Sordid", out since October on Dufflecoat Records (yes, again), that's very hard to believe. Sing-along choruses, undeniably British in-your-face vocals, melodies that won't let you go, and a very rare sense of authenticity (a tricky word to use today, but he deserves it). You'll think this is a lost recording gem from a C-86 finest acts. More soon, please.