Monday, September 10, 2018

Early September Roundup.

Caddy-Ten Times Four. Tomas Dahl is back again as Caddy after his work with Aussie band The Stanleys and he continues to be one of power pop's best-kept secrets. Ten Times Four, as the title implies, is Dahl's fourth Caddy album and might be the best of the lot. "Miracle Turn" is a driving midtempo pop tune that recalls classic Teenage Fanclub, while "Somewhere Beautiful" is another earworm and lead single "Contagious" recalls The Raspberries. Other standouts include the 70s rock of "Avoiding Me Avoiding You" and the sweet harmonies among the crunchy guitars of "Safe Travels". With not one bad track, Dahl goes 10-for-10 here and has one of 2018's best to date.

Kool Kat | iTunes



Rayland Baxter-Wide Awake. Nashville singer-songwriter Rayland Baxter has been better known through his first two albums as a roots-rocker, more known in Americana circles. With Wide Awake, Baxter turns his songcraft to a more pop-oriented sound and has also fashioned one of 2018's best. The lead single "Casanova" is my favorite track of 2018, with its slinky (Kinks-y?) melody and infectious chorus (try to get "back to the hole that I came from" out of your head). But the fun doesn't stop here - "Angeline" is a McCartney-esque track with baroque backing, "79 Shiny Revolvers" is a wonderfully melodic track that tackles America's gun violence, "Amelia Baker" owes to Ray Davies as well, "Hey Larocco" recalls the Jayhawks at their poppiest, and the lovely ballad "Without Me" bears a Harry Nilsson influence. If you want a melodic gem of an album that strays off the beaten power pop path, Wide Awake is a must.

iTunes



Johnny Stanec-The Future of Nothing. Johnny Stanec is nothing if not prolific - The Future of Nothing is the eleventh album released under his own name or his band First in Space in the last 11-12 years or so. His latest doesn't break the Midwestern power pop a la The Gin Blossoms mold of his body of work but it's one of the best-sounding examples of it. Opener "I'll Be Your Ghost" is pleasingly melodic, "Feeling Lost" has that BoDeans/Connells feel to it, while "Phases of the Moon" and "The Strangest Sound" delve into Jayhawks-styled Americana. If you have any or all of his previous ten releases, you'll want this one.

iTunes

Friday, August 24, 2018

Late August Roundup.

The Great Affairs-Ten & 2. Denny Smith returns again with The Great Affairs and their latest is a harder-rocking, crunchier-sounding affair that reminds me more of Smith's former band, fORMER. No longer content to play in the Gin Blossoms' sandbox, Ten & 2 owes more to Cheap Trick, KISS and maybe even Bon Jovi. This is vintage 80s/90s AOR with the standouts being "What You Get is Gone", "Unfound" and "Back to Boston", which could become a Fenway Park anthem in the near future. Rock on!

iTunes | Kool Kat



Bird Streets-Bird Streets. It's been quite a while since we heard from John Brodeur and in that time the New York popster has hooked up with Jason Falkner, who co-writes and produces this new Brodeur joint under the name Bird Streets. And damned if it doesn't sound like a Jason Falkner album, which is always a good thing. This is apparent on the chorus of opener "Carry Me" which has that Jellyfish feel, while the other highlights are the anthemic "Stop to Breathe", the angular mid-tempo rocker "Direction" and the trippy "Heel". A first-rate collection of tunes which will appeal to Brodeur fans as well as Falkner/Jellyfish fans.

iTunes



V Sparks-Moderne Life EP. This Chicago 5-piece got on my radar last year with their fine EP New Sensation, but they've taken a leap forward here with the followup. These guys specialize in high-energy pop with manic tempos, synths and pianos, and high-register vocals that recall Bryan Scary, The Format/Nate Ruess and Queen. The latter band is clearly the influence on "The Game of Everybody Knows It's You", which is the best Queen rip I've heard in ages, drawing on A Night at the Opera's "Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon". The frenetic "Remodel" and "Hollywood" are also standouts. This is high octane-fun that's perfectly suited to an EP because frankly 10-12 tracks like this would be exhausting.

Bandcamp (out on the 28th)


Saturday, August 04, 2018

New playlist!

After a year and a half, I've finally updated the Spotify playlist over on the right. It's a bunch of stuff I've featured on the site lately and a bunch of stuff I haven't, so dig in!

Thursday, August 02, 2018

Early August Roundup.

The Late Show-Sha La La. Grizzled (and I mean grizzled) vets of the power pop scene will remember Portable Pop, the 1980 release from NYC band The Late Show which landed at #46 of the 200 most essential power pop albums in John Borack's Shake Some Action: The Ultimate Power Pop Guide. They went on to record a followup in 1983 that never saw the light of day to record label issues and essentially weren't heard from again - until now. Now based out of Indianapolis, the original lineup is back with a followup. Although I can't say it was worth the wait as 38 years is too long to wait for just about anything - it's certainly worth your listening time. It's power pop in the classic sense, chock full of hooks, guitars and melodies, right from the Knack-like opener "To Let it Go" to Big Star-in-their-quieter-moments-sounding "Tears" to the acoustic guitars in the verses and electric in the chorus of "Hello Linda". The album has a timeless sound to it, and it's one more entry in a banner year for power pop. It's good to have these guys back, but none of us are going to survive another 38-year wait for the next one.

iTunes




Michael Roberts-There is No Blue. Michael Roberts was one of 2016's pleasant surprises with the Welshman's debut Suspended in This Space placing in the top half of my year-end list. He's back with the followup, and while it's not as consistently brilliant as the debut it's a fine collection of 70s-AM-singer-songwriter-styled pop. The standouts here are the baroque "Stardust Symphony", the pastoral "It's for Real", the breezy pop of "And Again", and the lovely "Turn Your Face into the Sun".

Kool Kat




William Duke-Quatro. San Francisco's William Duke (also of The Bye Bye Blackbirds) is back for the first time in three years with what you might have guessed from the title is his fourth album, and Quatro may truly be his best. Known for his dreamy California pop in the vein of Cloud Eleven or the Pernice Brothers, Duke this time cranks up the guitars a bit for more straight-ahead power pop sound. "Caroline and the Silver Sun" is pure jangle pop, and "Junk #2" which off its title you might be forgiven for expecting a breezy instrumental is instead a catchy rocker with some bite. "Hotels End" and "As Good as it Gets" feature the dreamy pop sound you've come to expect from Duke, while "Complications #1" veers into Jayhawks-styled popicana. While the styles might change song-to-song, the common denominator is Duke's songwriting craft and Quatro is a welcome return.

Bandcamp

Friday, July 20, 2018

Nick Piunti / Danny Wilkerson

Nick Piunti-Temporary High. Over the past five years Nick Piunti has established himself as one of the scene's preeminent power poppers (his last three albums finished at 7, 6 and 2 in my year-end lists) so it's not an understatement to say this was one of the year's most anticipated releases. Which leaves a couple of questions: Does it disappoint? Hell no. Is it his best? That's like asking which of your children are your favorite. Suffice it to say there will be 9 releases fighting over the top 10 this year because Piunti's accustomed spot is spoken for. Endlessly catchy and endlessly rocking, Temporary High finds Piunti at his best from the opening title track through the Elvis Costello-like "You Invented Hell" through the poptastic "If This Was Right" to "Contagious", the closest thing here to a classic power ballad. The high here may be temporary, but it's one you can return to whenever you want.

iTunes



Danny Wilkerson-Wilkerson. July 20 may go down this year as Power Pop Christmas because in addition to Nick Piunti's gem above, Danny Wilkerson has today released his debut album and it's also a very strong release. Wilkerson, who has worked with Lannie Flowers in the Pengwins among others over the years, has teamed up with Bleu who produces and co-wrote the songs here, in addition to providing backing vocals. And the power pop royalty isn't limited here to Bleu - Roger Joseph Manning Jr. plays on the record, along with New Pornographers drummer Joe Seiders and Pat Buchanan, formerly of Idle Jets and a couple of outstanding solo records of his own. And it sounds as good on disc as it looks on paper. The bouncy, catchy "Everyone Loves to Love" opens things, sounding like a cross between Bleu and Jellyfish as might be expected, "Enough for Somebody" throws horns and glockenspiel into the mix and is a bombastic delight, and first single "Let it Go Tonight" is an anthemic beauty. And the hits keep on coming: the McCartney-esque "Endless Haze" boasts a wonderful string arranagement, "Too Much of a Good Thing" almost brings to mind Bleu's L.E.O. project, and "Carry the One" is some fine power balladry.

CD Baby

Monday, July 09, 2018

Streetcar Conductors / Tom Curless

Streetcar Conductors-The Very Best of Streetcar Conductors. Naming your debut album The Very Best of is a cheeky thing to do, but technically true (of course it's just as technically true that it's The Very Worst of). Nevertheless Jonathan Moore and friends live up to the billing here as this does play like a greatest hits album from a parallel universe as right off the bat we get "Pushover", a Jellyfish-vibed number that pushes all the power pop (belly)buttons, and with Carmen Charters providing harmony vocals and its prominent synths "Let's Not (and Say We Did") could pass as a New Pornographers track. Other "greatest hits" include the 70s singer-songwriter pop of "Other People's Happiness", the ambivalent ode to selfies "Pictures of Ourselves", the 60s-influenced "Staring at the Sun" and the sophisticated adult pop of "True Love, They Say". One of 2018's more impressive debuts.

iTunes



Tom Curless-Songs of Movement. If the name Tom Curless doesn't jump out at you, it's probably because you know him better from the seven albums he's released as Your Gracious Host. Curless stated that he felt a bit different on this record which is why he went with his name, but it's in the same vein as those YGH releases you've come to know and love over the last ten years - in fact this might be his best since 2012's 1Up2Down. "Gennessee County Stomp" kicks things off with a Tom Petty-styled rocker while "The Dream is a Lie" could pass for a lost Posies track. "Oceans of Love" is as lovely and ethereal as its title implies, "Always Bloom Forever" is straight-ahead power pop, and "Accelerated Moon" recalls Gary Louris' Jayhawks. Another quality release from Futureman Records, which has released more quality records in six months than many labels do in a year.

Bandcamp

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The Spindles / Three Hour Tour

The Spindles-Past and Present. The Spindles are a Chicago 4-piece who are not to be confused with the California folk/rock band The Spindles who were active in the previous decade. These Chicago Spindles (I should start calling them that like how R&B legends The Spinners were referred to as "The Detroit Spinners" in the UK) have a clean, Midwestern power pop-meets-British Invasion sound on Past and Present, which is titled as such given the album contains nine originals and three covers (a faithful rendition of The Hollies' "Look Through Any Window" and two tracks from The Elvis Brothers, who were active in the 80s and 90s, had quite a following in the Midwest and whose members play some on the album). Among the originals, "Prisoner of War" is a great choice to lead off the album with its bright melody and jangly guitars, "Whenever We're Together" with its "ooh" harmonies and Merseyside influence could have been a hit in 1965 while "Almost the Same" calls to mind another famous Illinois power pop band, Shoes. And "I Want My Baby Back" is thankfully not a cover of the famous Chili's commercial jingle but rather a Raspberries-styled power pop number featuring hooks galore. With its power pop influences spanning the decades from the 60s to the 80s, Past and Present pays homage to power pop history in the best way, and should be part of your future.

CD Baby




Three Hour Tour-You Never Know. Darren Cooper returns to our music devices again with another Three Hour Tour album, his first since 2015's Action and Heroes. As usual for him, You Never Know is first-rate power pop that sounds like Matthew Sweet meets The Replacements, with help from Adam Schmidt and - small-world alert - Brad Elvis of The Elvis Brothers. There's plenty to enjoy here, from the title track which calls to mind the late Tommy Keene to the Robert Pollard-esque "Gray Waves" to the power ballad "Here it Comes". Cooper also pays melodic tribute to one of great drummers of all time in "The Ballad of Buddy Rich" and throws in a nifty instrumental number in "Pascal the Hypnotist".

iTunes