Hockey Dad: Blend Inn (Kanine Records)

  I’ll be honest, I love pop music when it’s done right. Therefore, I am determined to bring Hockey Dad’s catchy, occasionally punk, surf rock music to America. It’s the pop music that should be favored over most of what is actually being played on mainstream radio these days. They’re talented young men who just want to make music, surf and skateboard, and it seems to me that they are great at all three. The Australian group consists solely of 23-year-old Zach Stephenson and 21-year-old Billy Fleming. The duo has released an EP and two LPs, the most recent being their sophomore studio album, Blend Inn, which was released just two weeks ago on Feb. 9.

  One band that I believe does pop music better than most is Hanson. Hanson has been spinning out amazing pop and pop rock records for the past 20 years, and two of their albums (Underneath and Shout It Out)  were produced by John Goodmanson. He has also lent his hand and his notable skill in producing albums by Death Cab for Cutie, Blondie, Train, Simple Plan, Wu-Tang Clan, Bikini Kill, and many others. One of those many others just so happens to be Hockey Dad for their latest album.

  Overall, Blended Inn consists of 12 tracks that you will never want to turn off. It will get you amped up and want to be in a mosh pit or be playing an intense game of volleyball on a beach. It’s Nirvana meets The Beach Boys meets the indie lo-fi vibes of the 2010s. Speaking of Nirvana, Hockey Dad get almost too caught up in emulating them  — if that was what they were going for — because the opening riffs of the ironically titled “I Wanna Be Everybody” are overly reminiscent of those in the beginning of “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Despite not being a die-hard Nirvana fan, even I was able pick up on that. Those opening chords are too iconic, too memorable, and too tied to that song to even remotely nod at it without making it sound like Kurt Cobain himself was playing it.

  “My Stride,” “Disappoint Me,” and “Running Out” are remarkable, upbeat tunes, but “Sweet Release” is possibly their best (in my opinion). It is authentic, including an amusing little cough in the beginning and a bit of yelling in the background at times. The duo sound amazing, and their instruments solidify who they are: a talented band who found their niche in the indie pop and surf rock genre. It’s Cheap Trick-esque with a distinct California feeling — being as that southern California is the closest the U.S. has to Australia — that emulates the “roller-skating near the beach with the sun on my skin” feeling. Although, I can’t talk about songs I love off this album without mentioning “Danny.” It’s the fourth track off Blend Inn and it mellows out the cheerful excitement that comes from most of the other songs, but doesn’t rid the passion and control that Hockey Dad seem to have down to a T.

  If summer had a sound, it would be this record. Many people and media outlets have said that about records and songs in the past. One year it was “Call Me Maybe,” another year was “Waterfalls,” and once “Sweet Caroline.” Blend Inn is the next eternal summer soundtrack, with “Homely Feeling” already taking lead as its first single. It’s already taking over the radios and charts in Australia, and I’m sure that momentum will last way into the spring and summer. Now it’s America’s turn to jump on this bandwagon and find out what great, upbeat, surf rock music sounds like in 2018.