Rooney “Washed Away”
Rooney was one of those rare power pop bands that achieved commercial success early on. I guess the opening line of the title track sums it up the state of the band now, “I’m so washed up… I need more time.” With just Robert Schwartzman helming this version of the band, it uncomfortably tries to modernize its sound and remove most of the gritty melodicism that made it one of the most exciting bands to hear when the single “Blueside” burned up the charts in 2003.
There are still guitar based tracks here, but only after several shallow synth-beat-heavy pop songs. “All The Beautiful People” is a vapid theme for those Hollywood red carpet parties. The sun soaked “Don’t Be A Hero” sounds like a lost boy band, with its Beach Boys-like lyric “Corona, tequila, a little marijuana…” Feels to me like its pandering to millennials, and it isn’t until mid-way through the guitars come out on “Washed Way,” and “Love Me Like There’s No Tomorrow” that it starts to sound like the “old” Rooney. The feel good “Come On Baby” has the requisite handclaps, jangle riffs, and catchy chorus, but the best song here is the melodic ballad “Sad But True” written for Schwartzman’s directorial movie debut, Dreamland. Maybe they need to revive themselves the way Weezer recently did by going “back to the shack.” Anyway, its decent listen and an enjoyable album fans will embrace.
Bent Van Looy “Pyjama Days”
Belgian-Parisan pop singer Bent Van Looy made a big impression on me with his debut produced by Jellyfish alum Jason Falkner, so I was eager to hear this new album. His natural relaxed vocals are a big sell along with his knack for catchy melodies, “30 Days Without Sun” opens with a flowing piano and smooth studio production. The Falkner touch is clearly heard on “High and Dry,” with its layered guitars and handclaps in the chorus. No real filler on this album has it comfortably shifts from mid-tempo “Downtown Train” to bouncy ear-worm “1000 Deaths.”
It gets a bit more low-key in spots “One Way Dialogue” and “Today and Forever,” ditch the drama to pay attention to self reflection. But when Bent turns up the volume, he produces masterful melodies like the title track, and “My Escape.” Fans of great pop songwriting like Sondre Lerche, Neil Finn or Ron Sexsmith will thoroughly enjoy this. Highly Recommended.