Saturday, March 21, 2020

March Roundup.

Mike Barnett-Scattered Debris. Mike Barnett is back with his one-man Traveling Wilburys-inspired roots rock, and this collection is a mix of new and re-recorded previously-released tunes he's done with other projects such as his Barnett/Gurley outing several years ago, hence the title. He has favorites such as Salim Nourallah, Joe Reyes and the aforementioned Dennis Gurley helping out here, and the optimistic (poptimistic?) tunes here are the best - the easygoing "I'm Gonna Be OK" and "I Hope" are highlights. But it's all as comfortable as an old pair of shoes.


Dave Kuchler-It's Pronounced... New Jersey's Dave Kuchler is an old school power popper, and when I say "old school" I'm talking about the fact that he's had these songs kicking around for 25-30 years as life got in the way before he could put them on a record. Also during this time Kuchler was in the overlooked band Soul Engines, and some of these were tracks written for the aborted followup to their classic album Closer Still. Thankfully these tunes have seen the light of day and fans of Marshall Crenshaw and Brian Jay Cline will enjoy the jangly roots pop of "If I Saw You" and "Better Things to Do", which fit in nicely with his cover of "When You Walk in the Room". Kuchler's also not averse to throwing in some horns and some R&B flourishes here and there and he'll take you back to a time when the Jersey shore meant Springsteen and Southside Johnny and not Snooki and The Situation.


VA-Garden of Earthly Delights: An XTC Celebration. Keith Klingensmith and Futureman Records have done it again with another lavish (49 tracks!) and comprehensive tribute project, this time taking on the legendary XTC. As you'd come to expect it has a star-studded lineup of indie power pop with nearly 2/3 of the acts present having been featured on this site over the years. So rather than single out individual tracks (there are a few "re-imaginings" but most are fairly faithful to the originals), I'll just go with a few of my general impressions. One, it's been a long time since I've listed to a lot of XTC as I did in the late 80s and early 90s and it's great to hear these tunes again. Another is that their songs (especially Andy Partridge's) are fairly idiosyncratic (often in their "Englishness" for lack of a better term). So whereas a lot of the covers on say, Futureman's Sloan tribute sounded like the cover artists making them their own, here no matter who's singing it's tough not to hear Partridge and Moulding. Still it's a great chance to hear some of your favorite artists tackle some pop classics.


Sunbourne Rd-Teenage Lyrics. It's great to hear power pop from around the world, and Italy's brought us some great acts like Radio Days and The Labradors. You can add Sunbourne Rd to the list with their Beatlesque full-length debut Teenage Lyrics. While the raved-up opener "Baby! Baby! Baby!" earns its exclamation marks, "Different Life" and "Fire from the Sun" are mid-tempo standouts with a hint of Lennon. And the wall of sound of "Scars" brings ELO to mind. They have a couple of prior EPs under their belt and I plan to check them out as you should too.


Bird Streets-Ghosts EP. John Brodeur's teamup with Jason Falkner brought us the brilliant 2018 Bird Streets album, one of the year's best. While this isn't the proper follow-up to the debut (not sure Falkner is even involved here), Brodeur has released four new tracks he's had kicking around for a while, and they're pretty good. The real highlight is the final track "Fallout", which is on par with the best of the full-length and "Round My Way" is a punchy classic rock-sounding track.


Travel Lanes-On. Frank Brown is back with his third Travel Lanes album, and it's a tight 8-song collection of quality rock that finds the mean between Tom Petty and Elvis Costello, or perhaps an American Graham Parker. Brown moves from the straight-ahead rock of "True and Tried" to rockabilly of "Answer My Prayers" to the Americana of "It's Time". And "Big Heart" comes right from the Elvis C ballad playbook. Sometimes it's good to stay in your Lanes.


Friday, February 28, 2020

Late February Roundup.

Pete Molinari-Just Like Achilles. British singer-songwriter Pete Molinari has been around a while - this is his fifth album - and he's amassed a fair number of celebrity fans such as Yoko Ono (with whom he performed a couple of Lennon tunes onstage), Jakob Dylan (who sang a live version of one of this album's songs with him) and Evan Rachel Wood (who appears in a video for one). His latest is my first exposure to him, and well I can say the celebrities are onto something here. Although his earlier albums were more folk-based this one is a pure pop delight. Opener "Goodbye Baby Jane" is first-rate Britpop, "Steal the Night" has an irresistible, anthemic chorus, "I'll Take You There" channels the Merseyside sound and "Waiting for a Train" is top-notch jangle pop. A tuneful tour-de-force.


The Suitesixteen-Mine Would Be the Sun. The Suitesixteen is the brainchild of British Columbia's Rob Nesbitt, frontman of the early 90s power pop band Bum. He's been working on this album on and off for the last 16 years and its 16 tracks (sense a pattern here?) are a testament to the process. The songs here run from Green Day-like pop-punk ("Start at 13", "It's Not True") to the GbV-influenced ("Bob Greene", "My Wife, Doom, Singular, Fate") to Big Star-styled power pop ("A Very Well Known Secret", "Burn and Cool", "Taught Me a Lie"). Given its length of gestation and the variety of styles, it plays like a greatest hits album from an alternate universe and is an early Best of 2020 contender.


Hanemoon-Mammals. Back in the early-mid 2000s, there were a couple of similarly-named bands with similar-sounding albums called Seaside Stars and The Sealevel and they released some wonderful breezy jangle pop. The common denominator in those bands was Hans Forster and he's back under a new guise as Hanemoon with a brand new album. And yes if you liked those "sea" bands you'll like this one. Similar in sound to Dropkick and Teenage Fanclub, his songs such as "Bang the Wire" and "Where the Cars Collide" will have you feeling right at home, while "Sunset Alvarado" and "The Captain's Daughter" are also standouts.


Friday, February 07, 2020

Early February Roundup.

The Misdom-Abbey Roaded 2.0 EP. This Spanish band has been kicking around for the past decade but only just came to my attention with their latest 4-song EP, and as you guess from the title there's a strong Beatles influence at work here. "12 de Octobre" opens the proceedings in agreeable, shuffling fashion while "One Way" recalls Lennon's "Free as a Bird". And "Roses" and "Town" are bright late 60s/early 70s British pop. They have a few prior releases worth checking out as well, and fans of the late great The Sunday Drivers should enjoy them too.


Dropkick-The Scenic Route. I could tell you that this is the album where Scottish mainstays Dropkick changes up their sound and incorporates some harder rock or reggae influence or some danceable beats, but I'd be lying. Nope, their 16th album is much like the 15 that came before it and The Scenic Route is one more data point to prove that the only things you can count on in life are death, taxes and Dropkick. But as long as they keep making album after album of top-notch jangle pop/folk in the vein of Teenage Fanclub and The Jayhawks I'm not gonna complain. The standouts here are the breezy opener "Feeling Never Goes Away", the lovely ballad "Disappearing" and "Tomorrow".


Tommy Ray!-First Hits Free. This is the debut solo album from the lead singer of The Cry! and you can tell from the exclamation points alone that you're in for some high-energy, fast-moving power pop with a pop-punk edge. If you partook of the recent couple of Cry albums you'll know what to expect, otherwise think The Clash in their poppier moments or The Exploding Hearts. It's all very infectious, from the 1978 vibes of "Life Goes On to "Hey Susanne" (which reminds me a bit of "I Fought the Law") to the 60s rock of "Coming Back". This is fun stuff, and I can see it ending up on Little Steven's Underground Garage.


Friday, January 17, 2020

New year, new music

Time to kick off 2020 with a new album, EP and single!

Rob Martinez-Maybe Miss America. Albuquerque pop-rocker Rob Martinez is back with his third album on Adam Marsland's Karma Frog label and though I enjoyed his first two (one of which I had in a year-end list) I just realized I hadn't featured him on the site. Time to remedy this with Maybe Miss America, his most assured work to date. For the unfamiliar, Martinez is a purveyor of adult pop in the vein of Neil Finn and Cliff Hillis, and on this one he opens with the 1-2 punch of the mid-period Beatles-influenced "The Letter" and the poptastic "Summer of Love", a deft mix of Merseyside and Brian Wilson. Other highlights include the groovy "All I Ever Wanted", which wouldn't be out of place on a Red Button album; the McCartneyesque ballad "Genevieve Chasteau"; and the jangly title track. Suddenly now there are 99 spots left on my top 100 of 2020.

Karma Frog

Brian Jay Cline-Songs for a Generation of X's EP. You just can't sleep on Brian Jay Cline. When I was compiling my year-end lists a couple of weeks ago I checked the link for his Critics Darling album I was including and discovered he had released another EP mid-year which I missed. And then on top of that, he released this new EP last week. So my advice is to bookmark his Bandcamp page and keep checking at least once a month. This latest EP again finds Cline doing what he does best - rootsy pop/rock a la Marshall Crenshaw and Bill Lloyd. "Two Left Feet" is a gem complete with harmonica, "Permanent Midnight" has an 80s feel to it with the rangy guitars and synths in the background and "High and Lonesome" is an earnest, building rocker. And Cline even tries out reggae with "Knockout" which succeeds in despite of itself. Keep 'em coming, Brian!


Rooftop Screamers-"Our Lucky Night" featuring Keith Slettedahl. Former Throwback Suburbia drummer and songwriter Mike Collins' Rooftop Screamers project continues apace with new music featuring various frontmen from the indie power pop community, and his latest for 2020 is "Our Lucky Night" which finds Keith Slettedahl, former lead singer of The 88, on vocals. The song has a great winding melody and with Slettedahl on board it can easily pass for a lost 88 track.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

The Absolute Powerpop Best of 2019: Albums #1-50.

Without further ado, here's the top of the list. #51-100 can be found here, and the honorable mentions here. Look for the top EPs list on Thursday.

50. Nick Nash-Fortress of Gold
49. Shake Some Action!-Thirty Nine
48. Goodman-The Era of Buckets
47. John Rooney-Joy
46. The Needs-You Need the Needs
45. The Lunar Laugh-Goodnight Noises Everywhere
44. David Brookings-Scorpio Monologue
43. The Heartache Connoisseur-Your Name Here
42. Chris Koza-Sleepwalkers Vol. 1
41. Empty City Squares-337
40. The Well Wishers-The Lost Soundtrack
39. Mika-My Name is Michael Holbrook
38. Nick Frater-Full Fathom Freight Train
37. The Nines-Shipwrecked: Eggers Songbook Vol. 1
36. Xavier Calvet-Crosswinds
35. Todd Herfindal-Two Track Mind
34. Slumberjet-World of Sound
33. Fuzzysurf-Fuzzy & The Surfs
32. Braden Bodensteiner-Lived In Sound
31. The Morning Line-North
30. Pernice Brothers-Spread the Feeling
29. The Junior League-Adventureland
28. Farrington-Pictures of Pretty Things
27. Peter Bruntnell-King of Madrid
26. Joe Sullivan-Growing Up Schlockstar
25. Dennis Ellsworth-Common Senseless
24. The Rallies-Upside Down
23. Liam Gallagher-Why Me? Why Not.
22. The Mike Benign Compulsion-Bygones
21. Paul Bertolino-Poseur
20. Mansion Harlots-All Around a Fairground
19. Fallon Cush-Stranger Things Have Happened
18. The Maureens-Something in the Air
17. Matthew Milia-Alone at St. Hugo
16. Scott Gagner-Hummingbird Heart
15. Saul Glennon-North on Broadway
14. ANC4-S/T
13. The Brothers Steve-#1
12. Jeff Lynne's ELO-From Out of Nowhere
11. Nick Eng-Long Shot
10. E.B. The Younger-To Each His Own
9. Doug Tuttle-Dream Road
8. Sofa City Sweetheart-Super(b) Exitos
7. The Dates-Ask Again Later
6. McKeon (Steve Eggers)-S/T
5. Andrew Leahey & The Homestead-Airwaves
4. Jesse Malin-Sunset Kids
3. Jordan Jones-S/T
2. Lannie Flowers-Home
1. Bryan Estepa-Sometimes I Just Don't Know

Monday, December 30, 2019

The Absolute Powerpop Best of 2019: Albums #51-100.

Look for the top half of the list tomorrow (Tuesday). Going with reverse order to heighten the suspense!

100. Latvian Radio-Give in to the Night
99. Bubble Gum Orchestra-Beautiful Music for a Blue World
98. The Unswept-Minor Blemishes
97. Parting Lines-See You on the Other Side
96. Calling Adam-The Year of My Manifestation
95. Local Drags-Shit's Lookin' Up!
94. Justus Proffit-LA's Got Me Down
93. Velveteen Rabbit-S/T
92. Chris von Sneidern-Emerge
91. Mothboxer-Time Capsule Vol. 1
90. Lolas-A Dozen or 7 Tapestries
89. Richard X. Heyman-Pop Circles
88. Tommi Zender-More Songs About Time
87. Andrew Taylor-Somewhere to Be
86. Static in Verona-The Loud Nothing
85. Trip Wire-Once & Always
84. Andrew Goldring-Fluorescent Memories
83. The Whiffs-Another Whiff
82. The Figgs-Shady Grove
81. Mondello-Hello All You Happy People
80. The Northern Pikes-Forest of Love
79. Ronny Tibbs-Lone Fry
78. Colman Gota-And the Losers Choir Sings
77. Josh Rennie Hynes-Patterns
76. Victory Lap-Our Lady of Perpetual Acceleration
75. Francis Lung-A Dream is U
74. Dan Israel-Social Media Anxiety Disorder
73. Kyle Craft-Showboat Honey
72. Cloud Eleven-Footnote
71. Daniel Pellegrini-S/T
70. Alex Jules-Topiary
69. Taylor Knox-Here Tonight
68. Brad Marino-Extra Credit
67. Denny Smith-From the Dark
66. Bryan Scary-Birds
65. Rick Altizer-Bread
64. The Tor Guides-Backwards in Reverse
63. The Sleepends-S/T
62. Johnathan Pushkar-Straighten Up
61. The Bishop's Daredevil Stunt Club-End Over End
60. Kai Danzberg-Not Only Sunshine
59. The Boys With the Perpetual Nervousness-Dead Calm
58. The Tangerines-Rain & Shine
57. The Golden Seals-Something Isn't Happening
56. Foxhall Stacks-The Coming Collapse
55. Fastball-The Help Machine
54. Rob Laufer-The Floating World
53. David Mead-Cobra Pumps
52. Extra Arms-Up from Here
51. Erk-When Night Meets Day

The honorable mentions can be found here.

The Absolute Powerpop Best of 2019: The Honorable Mentions

In preparing this year's list I managed to come up with 125 albums or so. Rather than try to rank them I'll just list them here as honorable mentions, in roughly chronological order of release (or at least when I listened to them chronologically):

Straw Dogs-Your Immaculate Machine
Kettleflower-You Can Run.
Trapper Schoepp-Primetime Illusion
Johnny Stanec-Things Were Better, When
I Was a King-Slow Century
Altameda-Time Hasn't Changed You
Armchair Oracles-Caught by Light
Supraluxe-Sweet & Sticky
The Decibels-Scene, Not Herd
Big Tide-Sync or Swim
Monnone Alone-Summer of the Mosquito
Frederick Julius-Fixers & Elixirs
Dinky-Open Letters
Mike Adams at His Honest Weight-There is No Feeling Better
The Magic E's-Dead Star
Young Guv-Guv I
Richard Turgeon-Go Deep
The Successful Failures-Saratoga
Those Pretty Wrongs-Zed for Zulu
The Pozers-Crybaby Bridge
Steven Bradley-Summer Bliss & Autumn Tears
GospelbeacH-Let it Burn
Eric Crugnale-Time Kills
Ben Arthur-Perspective

These are all really good albums, and might make other folks' best-of lists (maybe yours!) but I listen to so much.