Wednesday, January 16, 2019

New Year roundup.

Donnie Vie-Beautiful Things. I'm kind of hestitant to even mention this album since it's not available now - it falls into what is kind of a nether region of being released as it started on Pledge Music. It's been released to those who pledged and as a result has been circulated on the internet, but you can't just go out any buy it right now. The same thing applies to the Jeff Whalen record, which I ranked in my top 10 of 2018 but is now being released to the general public as a normal release February 15. So is it a 2018 record or a 2019 record?

Getting back to Beautiful Things, it would have made my 2018 list as I came across it in last couple of weeks of December but I guess I can now put it on the 2019 list. It's assured of being there because the latest solo effort from the former Enuff Z'Nuff frontman is a melodic delight which takes his old band's amalgamation of The Beatles and heavy metal and put its thumb on the Beatles side of the scale. The title track is colored-glasses-psychedelia, "Plain Jane" is driving power pop, and "I Could Save the World" is both nostalgia for, and celebration of, classic rock with Roger Joseph Manning Jr. contributing on piano and strings. Make sure you find it, whenever and wherever it comes out.

Sam Hoffman-Fairweather. Another late 2018 release I missed, this jangly gem definitely would have been on the list. Reminiscent of bands like Teenage Fanclub and Dropkick, Nashville's Hoffman delivers a consistently tuneful debut. Highlights: "December", "Glencrest Lane", "All the Places"


Baby Scream-Things You Can Say to a Stranger EP. No year-of-release controversy on this one (it came out January 7): this new EP is the first we've heard in a while from Juan Pablo Mazzola a/k/a Baby Scream and it's good to have him back. "Aching Life" is the kind of jaded Lennonesque number he's known for, while "Fake it Till You Make It" is a minor-key marvel. The EP highlight is the closer "Somebody Kill Me Now", a classic upbeat-melody-hiding-dark-lyrics tune that's first-rate guitar pop.


Thursday, January 03, 2019

The Absolute Powerpop Top 15 EPs and Compilations of 2018.

TOP 15 EPs

1. Checkpoint Charley-Great Jedi Mind Trick
2. Roger Joseph Manning Jr.-Glamping
3. Zander Michigan-Kitchen Sink #2
4. Smash Palace-Right as Rain
5. Hot Nun-Born to Blaze
6. David Woodard-I Used to Be Cool
7. V Sparks-Moderne Life
8. Cupid's Carnival-Clapham Junction
9. The Metal Babies-Goodbye!
10. Mozley-Twelve
11. Crocodile Tears-Tuned Out
12. Jeff Litman-Crowded Hour
13. Nicholas Altobelli-The Day-Olds
14. Tad Overbaugh-Demons in the Dust
15. Andy Reed & Jason Reed-Make Your Move


I really don't have a list, but there are three I want to single out from the year for special mention since they don't (normally) qualify for the main list. All three are from some of the hardest-working people in power pop, and I'm thankful they keep on doing what they're doing.

First is Andrew Curry's Paul Williams tribute, White Lace & Promises, which I featured here in the last month.

Next is Keith Klingensmith's Futureman Records Matthew Sweet tribute, Altered Sweet.

And finally David Bash's annual International Pop Overthrow 3-CD extravaganza. Although I didn't write it up this year, it's always a reliable compilation of power pop artists new and not-so-new and there's a good chance your next favorite band or musician is on there somewhere. Speaking of David, as always I'm looking forward to his year-end lists.

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

The Absolute Powerpop Top 100 Albums of 2018, #1-50.

Happy New Year everyone! Here's the top half of the year-end list:

1. Starbelly-Four
2. Rayland Baxter-Wide Awake
3. Danny Wilkerson-Wilkerson
4. Bill Lloyd-Working the Long Game
5. Nick Piunti-Temporary High
6. Creamer-Creamer
7. Jeff Whalen-Ten More Rock Super Hits
8. Dave Sheinin-First Thing Tomorrow
9. Bird Streets-Bird Streets
10. David Myhr-Lucky Day
11. Jeremy Messersmith-Late Stage Capitalism
12. Painted Doll-Painted Doll
13. Checkpoint Charley-Pomp, Twaddle & Bombast
14. Ken Sharp-Beauty in the Backseat
15. Nick Eng-Nick Eng
16. Valley Lodge-Fog Machine
17. Rob Bonfligio-Trouble Again
18. Adrian Whitehead-Nerd from the Suburbs
19. P. Hux-This is the One
20. Astral Drive-Astral Drive
21. The Late Show-Sha La La
22. The Junior League-Eventually is Now
23. Belle Adair-Tuscumbia
24. Caper Clowns-A Salty Taste to the Lake
25. Jake Shears-Jake Shears
26. The Davenports-Don't Be Mad at Me
27. Dot Dash-Proto Retro
28. Greg Pope-A Few Seconds of Fame
29. Linus of Hollywood-Cabin Life
30. Simon Love-Sincerely S, Love X
31. Sloan-12
32. Tim Jackson-Better Late Than Never
33. Jack Drag-2018
34. Family of the Year-Goodbye Sunshine, Hello Nighttime
35. Two Sheds Jackson-Some Kinda Life
36. Three Hour Tour-You Never Know
37. Caddy-Ten Times Four
38. Cullen Omori-The Diet
39. Knit Delicate-Shelby
40. Aaron Fox & The Reliables-In Transit
41. Darryl Rahn-Making Strangers
42. Rooftop Screamers-Vol. 1
43. Matt Jaffe-Blast Off
44. Streetcar Conductors-The Very Best of Streetcar Conductors
45. Kai Danzberg-Pop-Up Radio
46. Michael Simmons-First Days of Summer
47. Chris Richards & The Subtractions-Peaks and Valleys
48. William Duke-Quatro
49. The Well Wishers-A View from Above
50. Hurry-Every Little Thought

Monday, December 31, 2018

The Absolute Powerpop Top 100 Albums of 2018, #51-100.

Let the lists begin! A little later this year but that's allowed me to get some later releases in. Of course, it never ends and I'll inevitably discover a 2018 album or two in early 2019 that should have placed on the list. Ring in the New Year tomorrow with the top half of the list, and the other lists (EPs, Americana, miscellany) will go up Wednesday or Thursday.

51. Joel Sarakula-Love Club
52. Mick Terry-Days Go By
53. Wyatt Blair-Inspirational Strawberries
54. Brian Jay Cline-The Avenue
55. The Great Affairs-Ten & 2
56. Matthew Sweet-Wicked System of Things
57. Brother Reverend-The Tables Turn Too Often
58. Pale Hollow-Pilots
59. Mario Soutschka-Long Stories Short
60. Brett Newski-Life Upside Down
61. Glowbox-Fossil Fuel
62. Vegas With Randolph-Legs & Luggage
63. Fernando Perdomo-Zebra Crossing
64. The Vinyl Skyway-Long Cool Journey
65. Oberon Rose-Tell Me All About It
66. Four Star Riot-Daylight
67. Mystic Braves-The Great Unknown
68. Henry Chadwick-Marlon Fisher
69. Ryan Allen & His Extra Arms-Headacher
70. Dropkick-Longwave
71. Michael Slawter-Last Call for Breaking Hearts
72. Minky Starshine-Dirty Electric
73. Adam Miner-Christina
74. Grace Basement-Mississippi Nights
75. Dan Israel-You're Free
76. Paul McCann-Here Comes the Rapture
77. Andy Bopp-Wherewithal
78. The Amprays-Sleepchaser
79. Zombies of the Stratosphere-The Physical Kids
80. The Spindles-Past and Present
81. Mooner-Satisfaction/Promise
82. Richard Turgeon-Lost Angeles
83. Chris Price-Dalmatian
84. Afterpartees-Life is Easy
85. The Grip Weeds-Trip Around the Sun
86. The Hope Trust-Passengers
87. Mike Viola-The American Egypt
88. Daniel Romano-Nerveless
89. Young Scum-Young Scum
90. The Genuine Fakes-Issues
91. Big Sunset-Big Sunset
92. Amoeba Teen-Selection Box Vol 1
93. Van William-Countries
94. Scot Sax-Drawing from Memory
95. Bubble Gum Orchestra-Zentopia
96. LowRay-Friends & the Fakers
97. Alfa 9-My Sweet Movida
98. The Speedways-Just Another Regular Summer
99. Kyle Craft-Full Circle Nightmare
100. Devin Farney-Stealing Sand from the Sandbox

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Year-end lists update.

For those checking in and looking for the lists, I should have them up either later this week or by New Year's Eve at the latest. Thanks for your patience.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Early December Roundup.

Various Artists-White Lace & Promises: The Songs of Paul Williams. Andrew Curry has done it again. The man behind some of this decade's best compilations (including the "lite rock" Drink a Toast to Innocence for which I broke my own rules to make #1 of 2013) has turned his attention to 70s songwriter extraordinaire Paul Williams. While Williams' impish blond mop-top and glasses guise is well-known enough from TV and movies to stylize on the cover, the average music fan may not be able to rattle off all the songs he wrote for others which became hits in the 70s and early 80s. His most notable successes came from the Carpenters, whom he put on the map with songs such as "Rainy Days and Mondays", "We've Only Just Begun" (from which the compilation gets its title with the lyric "white lace and promises") and "I Won't Last a Day Without You" among others.

The usual all-star cast of indie poppers contribute here, with Cliff Hillis nailing "Rainy Days and Mondays", Corin Ashley faithfully covering "We've Only Just Begun" and Chris Price's enthusiastic reading of "I Won't Last a Day Without You". But Williams was more than the Carpenters - Cait Brennan turns into a wonderfully trippy version of Three Dog Night's "Old Fashioned Love Song", The Davenports add their power pop style to "Evergreen", Barbra Streisand's smash hit from the 70s version of A Star is Born, and Andy Reed gives the cheesefest which is Kermit the Frog's "Rainbow Connection" his all. But while the covers of the well-known hits by your favorite current-day artists are what pull you in, the real treats here are the covers of lesser-known tracks, some of which Williams recorded himself. Greg Pope's "Waking Up Alone" could pass as his one of his own tunes, and Plasticsoul's "Still Alive" rocks way harder than anything you might associate with Williams.

Given that Williams' m├ętier was lite rock, this compilation makes a great bookend with the aforementioned Drink a Toast to Innocence, so this one is a must-have holiday gift for fans of timeless pop music.


Hot Nun-Born to Blaze. Hot Nun is Jeff Shelton's vehicle for rocking harder and louder than he does with the jangle-oriented Well Wishers, and this latest EP delivers more of the rawk you didn't know you needed but can't do without after hearing. From "Livin' a Dirty Mind" to "Anyway" to "Back to Now", Shelton & friends live up to their own description of "imagine you're at a weekend kegger and Judas Priest and The Archies are jammin out to some Cheap Trick while Bob Mould and the McDonald brothers from Redd Kross chime in". Their mission statement can be summed up in the title of the final track: "Rock and Roll is My Advice".


David Woodard-I Used to Be Cool EP. Nashville's David Woodard has stumbled upon the perfect title for all of us middle-aged power poppers who came of age in the 70s and 80s (although I myself was never cool), and his debut EP reminds me of the godfather of Nashville power pop, Bill Lloyd (who himself has a great new album out which I may or may not get to before it ranks very high on my year-end list). Opener "We Didn't Know" is a wonderful wistful song which looks back on lost youth, while the title track is a jangly delight and "Chase After Me" recalls the kind of smart pop Lloyd is known for. Woodard closes out the EP with a quality cover of The Beatles' "Help!" and he also has a pretty good Christmas single out as a separate release.


Monday, November 19, 2018

Mid-November Roundup.

P. Hux-This is the One. It's been a while since I reviewed a Parthenon Huxley (P. Hux for short) album, but this is the one that got my attention. Most of you don't need an introduction but for those who aren't familmiar, Huxley has been a veteran of the music scene for many years, both as a solo artist and with ELO II. The rocking title track tells us "this is the one we've been waiting for" and it's not wrong, an opener reminiscent of McCartney's "Rock Show", while "September Clouds" has a Tom Petty feel to it. The 70s rock of "Just Sayin'" with its call-and-response chorus is another standout, and "Inside Your Shoes" is pop brilliance. And if you want well-crafted ballads, "Running Home to You" and "Honey Sweet Baby" fill the bill. Hux's best in years and a worthy addition to your collection.


Greg Pope-A Few Seconds of Fame. Another artist who needs no introduction on this site is the Pope of Power Pop, Greg Pope. One of the more consistent power poppers of the last 15 years, both solo and with Edmund's Crown, Pope is back with another top notch collection of southern-fried DIY power pop. Once the chunky guitars and shimmering melody of "Forget About You" comes out of your speakers, it's like reuniting with an old friend - and the hits keep coming. "She's Already There" sparkles and shines, and Pope's albums are always good for one unforgettable track. This time it's "Cave Days" in which Pope chronicles a day in the life of a caveman, set to an insanely catchy melody. Also don't miss the martial melody of "Planet Earth" and "Dreams About You, which recalls Elliott Smith in his more rocking moments.


Zander Michigan-Kitchen Sink #2 EP. Zander Michigan (the stage name of Alexander Melidis) isn't quite power pop, but it's somewhere between pop and rock and undeniably catchy. "Yoga Poses" boasts a keyboard hook and a chorus that will burrow its way into your brain. "Set Me Free" is heavy guitar pop, and "Watch Your Body Sing" might even be catchier than "Yoga Poses" with another clever piano hook. The 4-song EP concludes with "Colors in Your Eyes", another memorable number which starts as a stately piano ballad but transforms into something louder with ringing guitars in its second half, not unlike Coldplay's "The Scientist".