Monday, January 19, 2015

First new music of 2015.

Time for the first reviews of 2015, and a couple of familiar names are back.

One Like Son-New American Gothic. This Alabama band made a splash in 2012 with its raucous debut Start the Show, notable because they recorded it on an iPhone. This time around, the boys took part in the 52 Weeks Songwriting Project, and each track was written and recorded within a week. Interesting back stories aside, they've served up another high-energy rocking collection of tunes with some lyrical punch. The opening title track tells the story of a lifelong love with a spin on the classic piece of American art, while "Little Valentine" is a Replacements-style rocker depicting an obsession that comes to a happy end. Elsewhere, we follow a "Punk Rock Prom Queen" while "Sister Mary (Got Her Gun)". And it's all capped off with "A Galaxy Far Away", a 7-minute track that recaps the original Star Wars trilogy, demonstrating that The Force is with them on this disc.

Bandcamp | iTunes

Baby Scream-Fan, Fan, Fan. Juan Pablo Mazolla, our favorite South American power popper, returns with an all-new collection of tunes that are a must if you've enjoyed his music before. This time around, he takes a more sardonic look at the world to accompany his always melodic sound. So we come to learn that "Everybody Sucks", he's "Back to Douche" and of course "Haters Will Hate". All three of these tracks are catchy of course, and he channels the spirit (if not the sound) of Beck in the raved-up "Loner". And the standout track here is the majestic "Human Being on Mars", a midtempo marvel that encapsulates his Lennon-esque sound. Oh and by the way, he also put out another album simultaneous to this, an odds-and-sods collection called the "The Worst of Baby Scream", with 22 more new tracks and five covers that frankly I haven't had a chance to dive into but I'll let you do so by embedding the player for it along with this one.

Bandcamp | iTunes

Monday, December 29, 2014

The Absolute Powerpop Top 75 of 2014.

I was originally set to do a top 100 as I usually do, but as in 2011 I've pared down down the list to 75, as my first run-through of what I listened to last year only yielded 86 titles, and rather than pad it with 14 that I didn't deem "top 100 worthy", I scaled it back to 75. And it's a good thing that the last 3-4 months of the year brought us quite a few excellent discs because this would have been a top 50 around September 1. The top EP list will run tomorrow. Anyway, here's the list - I will annotate it with links as the day goes on:

1. The Tripwires-Get Young
2. Secret Powers-Secret Powers 6
3. Edward O'Connell-Vanishing Act
4. Adrian Bourgeois-Pop/Art
5. Sloan-Commonwealth
6. Linus of Hollywood-Something Good
7. Phonograph (UK)-Phonograph Vol. 1
8. Smith & Hayes-People All Over the World
9. The Well Wishers-A Shattering Sky
10. Latvian Radio-For Love & Spite
11. Marble Party-Plush Up
12. Greg Ieronimo-Bipolar Love
13. Joe Sullivan-Schlock Star
14. Old 97s-Most Messed Up
15. Marshall Holland & The Etceteras-S/T
16. The Ships-The Summer of Our Lives
17. The Dowling Poole-Bleak Strategies
18. Jeremy Messmersmith-Heart Murmurs
19. The Legal Matters-S/T
20. The New Pornographers-Brill Bruisers
21. The Jeanies-S/T
22. The Die Youngs-Nothing's Broken
23. Shake Some Action!-Catch the Sun
24. The Autumn Defense-Fifth
25. The Deathray Saints-S/T
26. Rob Bonfiglio-Freeway
27. The Pearlfishers-Open Up Your Colouring Book
28. First in Space-In the Red
29. The Sleepwalkers-Lost My Mind in Stereo
30. The Orange Opera-Land of Tall
31. Dropkick-Homeward
32. Ransom & The Subset-No Time to Lose
33. David Grahame-Toy Plane II
34. Aerial-Why Don't They Teach Heartbreak at School?
35. The Great Affairs-Dream in Stereo
36. The Rip Off Artists-The Intercontinental
37. The Jellybricks-Youngstown Tune-Up
38. J Scott Bergman-Beautifulordinary
39. Static in Verona-Everything You Knew Before You Knew Everything
40. Rick Hromdaka-Trippin Dinosaurs
41. The Baseball Project-3rd
42. The Tangerines-Turn on the Light
43. Nude Beach-77
44. Goodman-Isn't it Sad
45. Mitch Gettman-Stop Living Like it's the End of the World
46. Damp-S/T
47. The New Mendicants-Into the Lime
48. Sunday Sun-We Let Go
49. The Nines-Nine Lives
50. Jeff Larson-Close Circle
51. Mothboxer-Sand and the Rain
52. Doug Gillard-Parade On
53. Mike Barnett-Everybody Gets to Dream
54. Bubble Gum Orchestra-Beyond Time
55. Eugene Benjamin-Photograph
56. Andy Klingensmith-Bright Again
57. Watts-Flash of White Light
58. Chris Koza-In Real Time
59. The Blood Rush Hour-And Then...The Unthinkable Happened!
60. Wilder Embry-Smolderolderingpictureaid
61. Paul Starling-Suit of Armor
62. Pill Hill-It Tastes a Little Sweeter
63. Magic Eight Ball-Last of the Old Romantics
64. Fernando Perdomo-Girl With a Record Collection (no link, he discontinued this as an album)
65. The Paul & John-Inner Sunset
66. The Mike Benign Compulsion-Here's How it Works
67. Jeffrey Dean Foster-The Arrow
68. The Safes-Record Heat
69. Glenn Case-This Album Has 12 Songs on It
70. Fauna Flora-S/T
71. High on Stress-Leaving MPLS
72. Fremont-Trees to Stone
73. Sunrise Highway-Windows
74. Andy Kentler-No Love Lost
75. Kinematic-Kinecism

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Year-end list update.

I had hoped to have the year-end lists up starting yesterday, but they will be delayed to between Christmas and New Year's.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Three Great Debuts.

Matthew Shacallis-Reach the Stars. Aussie power popper Matthew Shacallis has crafted an impressive debut EP, recalling another power popper with the name Matthew S., Mr. Sweet. "Summer Sun" is melodic bliss, buoyed by Shacallis' Brendan Benson-esque vocals, "Tell Me Girl" recalls his "Sweet" namesake as it wouldn't have sounded out of place on Girlfriend, and "Do You Love Me" has a Zombies vibe. Easily one of the top EPs of 2014, and you can count on seeing this in next week's year-end lists.


The Ships-The Summer of Our Lives. From Australia we travel to Spain, from The Ships sail with another impressive debut. This full-length evokes The Posies and Teenage Fanclub. Standout tracks include the jangly "Want", the uptempo "Second Hand Store" "Hipster"(in which they don't want of any them at their shows) and the relentless "Julia". Spain has always had a healthy power pop scene, and these guys are making it proud.

Amazon | iTunes

The Jeanies-The Jeanies. Rounding out our trio of top-notch debuts is Brooklyn's The Jeanies, who traffic in a more old-school power pop sound reminiscent of Dwight Twilley and The Plimsouls. "I Seen Her Dance" is a rocking gem that will get you in the mood right off the bat, "It's For You" could have been an AM radio hit from the 70s, and "Believe Me Jenny" sounds a decade earlier, almost like a lost La's track. As long as artists like the three featured today keep emerging, power pop will continue to be in good hands.


Friday, December 05, 2014

Weekend Roundup.

Various Artists-A Kool Kat Kristmas Vol. 2. Kool Kat's 2010 A Kool Kat Kristmas was the best power pop Christmas compilation in recent years, so Ray Gianchetti & company decided to greenlight a sequel. And while it may not be as consistently great as the original, Volume 2 is another fine collection of power poppers giving us original holiday-themed tunes. The Pencils' "Christmas is Coming Again" starts things off in majestic fashion, sounding like an outtake from Phil Spector's A Christmas Gift for You, and the Honeymoon Stallions (f/k/a The Goldbergs) follow with the suitably jaunty "Snowbirds". Other standouts include the Tor Guides wishing for "Beatles Vinyl", The Geniune Fakes with the Christmas power ballad "You Always Come Back Home", Shake Some Action's typically jangly "Christmas in the Sun", and Stephen Lawrenson's unmistakeable Jeff Lynne-influenced psych-pop sound on "Glad it's Christmas". As with the first volume, proceeds from the disc will benefit the Susan Giblin Foundation for Animal Wellness and Welfare. Good music for a good cause - you can't beat that.

Listen at Soundcloud | Kool Kat

Secret Powers-Secret Powers 6. Another early Christmas present for power poppers is the return of Secret Powers. I have to admit, I was getting a bit worried about them; after releasing an album a year from 2008 to 2012, Ryan "Schmed" Maynes & the boys from Missoula, Montana had gone dark for 2 1/2 years. But they're back, and what they lacked in imagination in naming the disc they more than made up for with the new tunes. For those joining us in that time frame, what makes Secret Powers great is their heavy ELO/Jellyfish influence and knack for the great melody. The epic ballad "Bitter Sun" serves doubly well as an album opener and a re-introduction, and that leads us into the frantic and hyper-catchy "Palarium" (the most Jellyfish-esque of tracks) and the ELO homage "Spare Parts", which is half "Mr. Blue Sky" and half "Yours Truly, 2095" in its story of an android. Elsewhere, "She's Electrical" glides along on a sweet melody with all the band's attendant bells and whistles, and the closing ballad "Ready to Get Old and Die" evokes McCartney. Great to have these guys back.

CD Baby | iTunes | Listen at Spotify

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Weekend Roundup.

First in Space-In the Red. Johnny Stanec and the boys from Youngstown are back with their fourth full-length, and it just might be their best, trading in the Replacements-style rock of the last album for a purer pop sound. Although you wouldn't tell from the driving opener "Letters from Hell", it becomes evident on tracks like the bouncy "Forward Progress" and the midtempo, Gin Blossoms-like "The Other Side", and "Now or Never" is straight-up power pop reminiscent of Cliff Hillis or Michael Carpenter. And you only have to in the red for $5 for a digital copy at Bandcamp.

CD Baby | iTunes

VA-Here Comes the Reign Again: The Second British Invasion. Andrew Curry has done it again. After last year's compilation of contemporary power poppers covering the lite rock classics of the late 70s, Curry has gotten another all-star cast together to tackle the next decade when all those British bands came out of nowhere thanks to the emergence of MTV. Now while last year's comp was my favorite album of the year, this one - while executed just as well - may not achieve those heights due to my own personal preference for those late-70s tracks versus some of the synth-heavy sounds of the early 80s. Still there's plenty here to enjoy (and even geek out over if you're a bigger fan of the era than I) and like on the last compilation, the best covers here are those that sound like natural extensions of the artists covering them. So the suburban milieu of "Life in a Northern Town" is a perfect fit for Fountains of Wayne's Chris Collingwood, and "Everytime You Go Away" sounds so much like a typical Linus of Hollywood track that I forgot it was a cover when listening to it alongside his most recent release. Also in this category are "Save a Prayer", which is in David Mead's ballad wheelhouse, and the pure midetempo pop of "Wouldn't it Be Good" in Cliff Hillis's hands. Then you have the reinterpretations, and the ones that work here best are Mike Viola slowing down "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" and Graham Alexander doing likewise with Tracey Ullman's "They Don't Know". This is another must for power pop fans.

CD Baby | iTunes