Friday, September 18, 2015

Mid-September Roundup.

The Junior League-Also Rans. Joe Adragna is back as The Junior League with his latest opus, but the title is false advertising (or false modesty) as these tracks are anything but "also-rans". Like last time out (2013's You Should Be Happy), Scott McCaughey helps out, and this time Sloan's Jay Ferguson contributes keyboards and vocals on "On Off", one of the album's top tracks. Other standouts include "A Dagger and a Kiss" with its insistent guitar hook, and the bright power pop of "Before You Go". You can pre-order the CD from Kool Kat as well.

Kool Kat | iTunes

Static in Verona-Odd Anthem. Another returnee to this pages is Rob Merz's Static in Verona. With each passing release, Merz has gone with a more ethereal, dream-pop sound, and Odd Anthem continues the progression. Still, opener "Anyone Anymore" could pass for traditional power pop while tracks like "Future Ghosts" and "Blink" marry Merz' experimentalism and traditional pop structures. The highlight here is "Then a Hush", which melds psychedelia and shoegaze pop into an intoxicating mix.


John Dunbar-From Expectation to Surrender. Despite being a New Yorker, John Dunbar always registers in my mind as a Brit, no doubt thanks to his British-sounding pop which recalls Ray Davies, Glenn Tilbrook and the like (in fact, Dunbar even released a Rutles-like parody of The Kinks as "The Kunks" back in 2007). His latest (and to my surprise, the first I've featured on this site) is another example of his sardonic, wry look at life and its many characters, and titles like "Two is the Second Loneliest Number", "I Love the Girl You Won't Leave Your Life For" and "The Charlie Brown of Love" should give you an idea of Dunbar's perspective. Of course being wry and clever is all well and good, but the tunes need to keep up with the wordplay and here they do. So make sure to check out Mr. Dunbar if you haven't already.


Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Summer's Over...

...but in the land of power pop, it always sounds like summer. Here are three new releases to get you by as the calendar changes to September (plus you can still celebrate like it's summer through next week's Labor Day).

The Ravines-Everything's Fine. This UK power pop band led by Chris Corney (who's put some fine solo albums out in the last few years) had one of the genre's lost classics in 2005's Manifesto of a Broken Heart, and they've regrouped in 2015 to give us one of the year's best releases. The title track is bright, catchy power pop that falls somewhere between Gin Blossoms and Fountains of Wayne, the jangly "Blue Eyes" and "Dead Letters" could have been hits in the 90s, and what "Tambareen" lacks in accurate spelling it more than makes up for in tunefulness. Plus, the acoustic "Queen Bee" makes a lovely closer. Everything's fine, indeed.


The Allrightniks-Two Places at One Time. Our favorite Virginia rockers are back with their first full-length, having released 3 EPs over the past few years. So this time around you get twice as much of their Spongetones/Janglemen-styled pop. Opener "Nice to Know" has a bit of Rockpile in its DNA as well, "I Can't Wait" has an early Beatles feel, and "200 Milligrams" is just the right dose of power pop. Elsewhere, they even add horns to the mix on "Today is the Day" to fine effect, and the title track would fit right in on a Red Button album.


Jeff Litman-Primetime EP. Primetime is something NYC singer-songwriter Jeff Litman is ready for, as his latest EP is another compact collection of quality tunes. "That's on You" is a killer opening track, sounding like a lost 80s hit with its insistent beat and relentless guitar hook (which later becomes a great guitar solo), while the cynical-yet-tuneful "Debutante" allows Litman to get his Elvis Costello on, and "Nothing" (previously released as a single) finds him in his mid-tempo element. Just have a listen below and you'll be hooked.


Thursday, August 20, 2015

Mid-August Roundup.

Caddy-The Better End. Swede Tomas Dohl is back for his first album in several years as Caddy, and it's another glorious collection of Teenage Fanclub-by-way-of-Brian-Wilson-inspired power pop. Choice cuts: "Here it Comes Again", "Something About Carina".

Kool Kat | iTunes

The Labradors-Hate Summer EP. Italy has been the home of some power pop we've featured here before, most notably Radio Days, and here are Milan's The Labradors with a rocking 4-song EP that recalls Superdrag as well as their aforementioned compatriots. The whole thing's only 12 minutes so instead of reading me writing about, just give it a listen below.


The Key Frames-Monophone Heart EP. This Toronto band is known for its Big Star-meets-Blue Rodeo sound, and most of the tracks on this EP are quality rootsy tunes. But then there's "Tidal Wave", one of my favorite songs of the year and a dead ringer for a lost Sloan track from Patrick Murphy.


Andy Bopp-21213 EP. The erstwhile frontman of Myracle Brah returns with another solo EP, which unlike some of his previous EPs that delved in genres like 50s rockabilly, is more in line with his former's band contemporary power pop sound. The rollicking "Broken Ties" is a standout, as is the bright pop of "Hello". Bopp til you drop with this one.


Tuesday, August 04, 2015

They're back!

Two power pop artists who were big in the previous decade but haven't been heard from in ages are back this week.

Cloud Eleven-Record Collection. Rick Gallego returns for his first record as Cloud Eleven since 2006's Sweet Happy Life. And listening to Record Collection, you'll never know nine years passed by as it's another collection of Gallego's diverse pop stylings. In fact, the title is apt as it sounds like Gallego mined his record collection for inspiration here, from the Beatlesque title track (with a "Penny Lane"-style horn opening) to "The Mystic's Mistake" and "As You Are" (the kind of dreamy pop found on Sweet Happy Life) as well as Bacarach-ian "Too Soon Was Yesterday" and the more traditional power pop of "High as the Rising Sun". And there's a track titled "Indian Guru" that sounds exactly like you think it would. You'll definitely want to add this to your, um, record collection.

iTunes | CD Baby

The Small Square-The Small Square. While Cloud Eleven may be a recognizable name in the power pop community, you may not know The Small Square. But you probably do know the guys who make up the band, Paul Chastain, the primary creative force behind Velvet Crush, and John L. Richardson who's played and worked with Tommy Keene, Gin Blossoms, and Joey Molland/Badfinger. It's been over a decade since the last Velvet Crush album but this album will fill the VC-sized hole in your collection, if not your heart. There's plenty to enjoy here: The melodic midtempo opener "So Low", the Velvet Crush-like power pop of "Dream Faker (Open Your Heart)" and "Otherwhile", and the dreamy psych-pop of "Enough to Know". An excellent collection, and another power popper back in the fold.

iTunes | Bandcamp

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Weekend Roundup.

Zugzwang Netural-The Faded Promise of a Rise and Rally. A "zugzwang" is a situation in a game (typically chess) in which you're put at a disadvantage regardless of which available move you make. In the case of the new EP from Zugzwang Neutral, the only zugzwang move would be NOT giving their sophisticated pop a listen. The sound here is a blend of Michael Penn, Rob Laufer and a less-British-sounding Pugwash, from the graceful opener "Broken Wings" to the midtempo gem "Less to Say" through the standout closing track "Ghost Town".

iTunes | Stream EP here

Mark Pountney-Mark II. Liverpudlian Mark Pountney's second album is his first that caught my attention, and it's a fine, tuneful collection of various Britpop styles. Leadoff track "Tell Me Why" isn't a cover of the Beatles classic, but embodies their sound and spirit, as does "Time to Find Her" which channels the mid-period Fab Four with a subtle "I Feel Fine" guitar lick. "Just Can't Seem to Get You Off My Mind" is a piano ballad that's Hollies-esque, and the also-piano-based "Love in the Morning" has a solo Lennon feel while the trippy closer "Dream" owes a debt to Oasis.

iTunes | Listen at Spotify

Saturday, July 04, 2015

July 4 Roundup.

Some quick hitters on this Independence Day (ironically they're mostly Britpop):

Michael Collins-Last Laugh. He hails from NYC, but Collins sounds like he's from London with this album of bouyant Britpop, and "What Does it Take to Walk Away?" might be the catchiest, most joyous song I've heard this year. Definitely summer-appropriate. iTunes

Chris Cole & The Circus-Still Rolling With the Times. Speaking of Britpop, here's Britpop from an actual Brit. Cole's sound here belongs in a mix with the latest Noel Gallagher album, and highlights include the anthemic "To Find Peace in This Place", the fine "Got to Let Her Go" and the title track which recalls Oasis' epic "All Around the World" if it hadn't been stretched out to seven minutes. CD Baby

Gordon Weiss-It's About Time. After a 7-year absence (perhaps referenced in the album title), Gordon Weiss is back with the followup to Sum of its Parts, another collection of sophisticated, intelligent pop in the vein of Elvis Costello and Wilco. The standout tracks here are "The Ugly Inside", the theatrical "The Great Imitator" and the rocking "Thanks I Get". Bandcamp

Zach Vinson-How We Spend Our Days EP. Nashvillian Zach Vinson's sound is high energy piano pop in the vein of Bens Folds and Kweller, while vocally he resembles fun's Nate Ruess but without that Ruess's bombast. Or in other words, it's very reminiscent of Ruess's old band, The Format, especially on tracks like "You're the One", "Home" and "Something About the Way". iTunes

Thursday, June 25, 2015

CD of the Day, 6/25/15: Reno Bo-Lessons from a Shooting Star.

Reno Bo returns with his first album since 2009's Happenings and Other Things, and it's a gem. While Happenings just made the top half of my best of 2009 list at #47, Lessons from a Shooting Star will easily eclipse that ranking come the end of the year as the ex-Mooney Suzuki and Albert Hammond Jr. guitarist has crafted one ringing power pop anthem after another this time around. "Sweetheart Deal", the first single (as singles go in 2015), is a shoo-in for a best-tracks-of-2015 list, coming off like Brendan Benson fronting Cheap Trick. "How Do You Do" follows with no letup in quality as Bo throws some keyboards in the mix and some excellent slide guitar work from Sadler Veden for a track that reminds me of the ones Jeff Lynne once produced for Dave Edmunds, and the driving melodic rocker "Just Say Go" lives up to its title. Next up, the midtempo "Strange Maps" gives the listener a chance to catch his/her breath without sacrificing any melody, and the melancholy "And I Know She Did" captures the classic Big Star sound. These five tracks would be worth the price of admission alone, but then you have "The Brighter Side" (co-written with the aforementioned Benson) which is another melodic marvel, the Beatlesque rocker "Sleeping Sun", the classic rock of the title track and the Oasis-like closer "Somewhere There's Something". Power pop doesn't get much better than this.