Friday, March 06, 2015

Don't forget the Motor City.

Nick Piunti-Bayond the Static. The premier hotbed for power pop lately has become the Detroit area, with the likes of Chris Richards, Andy Reed, Andy Klingensmith, The Romeo Flynns (and you can go back to bands like The Romantics and The Knack) and the two artists featured today. First up is Nick Piunti (formerly of The Respectables) who returns with the followup to his brilliant 2013 release 13 in My Head, which came in at #2 on my list that year. Beyond the Static is a more-than-worthy successor, as Piunti knocks out the hooks and melodies one after the other in the most classic of power pop styles. "It's a Trap" (Admiral Ackbar finally gets a theme song) and "Heart Stops Beating" draw you in from the start, while "Time Machine" and "Seven Days a Week" (the latter featuring vocals from Richards) are two of the more melodic rockers you'll hear all year. Elsewhere, "Head in the Clouds" incorporates a bouncy Beatle-y melody and "Quicksand" could have been a hit in the 80s. There isn't one "off" track here among the 11, and Piunti might just meet or exceed that #2 ranking this year when it comes to my 2015 list.


Ryan Allen & His Extra Arms-Heart String Soul. Another member of the Detroit power pop mafia I listed above is Ryan Allen, and he plays on the Piunti album as well. But it's his own second release with the Extra Arms that stands on its own, another collection of top-shelf power pop. "Should Be Me" is a brilliant opener, frenetic and melodic with the refrain "the song on the radio/should be me", and I would not quarrel with that notion one bit. "Born Radical" sounds like Gin Blossoms if they really rocked (and was also the title of an album he released with his previous band The Friendly Foes, although that one had no title track), "Angela '97" traces a relationship over 17 years with rocking aplomb, and "Not Hanging Out" could have fit snugly on Big Star's #1 Record if it weren't for a reference to texting. If albums like Piunti's and Allen's keep coming out I may need a separate "non-Detroit" category to give other releases a fair shake at year's end.

CD Baby | Bandcamp

Friday, February 20, 2015

Best of 2014 Power Pop Lists, Combined

I've been meaning to do this since early January when David Bash's lists came out, and now I've finally gotten around to it. I wanted to combine the top lists of Bash, myself, and Powerpopaholic into one consensus power pop ranking for 2014. As Powerpopaholic only went with a top 50, I limited myself to my own and Bash's top 50, and to be ranked here a disc had to be in at least two of the three lists. There were two discs that all three of us had almost eerie agreement on. One was at the top (Linus of Hollywood where we all went top six) and one was at the bottom (Rick Hromdaka's Trippin' Dinosuars came in at 40-39-40). There was a lot of diversity with only 11 releases appearing in all three lists, although part of that might be due to David Bash's refusal to rank download-only releases. I had 23 in common with Powerpopaholic and 12 in common with Bash (The Pearlfishers was the only one Bash & I had that Powerpopaholic didn't), while Powerpopaholic had 18 in common with Bash.

To compile the combined list, I averaged the rankings with the lower averages the better. I took a screenshot of my Word doc since I stink at creating tables (click to embiggen). (Legend: PP-Powerpopaholic, DB-David Bash, AP-Absolute Powerpop)

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Some quick hitters.

A quick look at several releases I've been enjoying recently:

DC Cardwell-Pop Art. Aussie DC Cardwell returns with the follow-up to 2011's Some Hope, and brings us another round of mild-mannered, Beatlesque pop. Favorites: "In the Cloud" (where you can get this release), "Magic for Everybody" (a piano-pop gem) and "Record Store Day" (an ode to the old-school way of buying music).

CD Baby | iTunes

Greg Hoy-The 21 Day Myth. Greg Hoy has been a pop chameleon throughout the last decade, releasing numerous albums with styles as varied as straight-up power pop, Sun Records-style rockabilly, and near-heavy metal. This time around he's gone with groove, with the results resembling the minimalist-yet-melodic beats of Spoon. "The Talk Goes Stiff" and "Fiend 4 Your Soul" are the standouts here.

CD Baby | iTunes

Antony Plain-Continuing on My Plan. I don't know much about England's Antony Plain, but his newest release caught my ear. It also caught my eye, as Plain looks a bit like John Lennon on his album cover but it's songs that warrant mention here, a mix of 60s and 70s power pop styles from the groovy rocking opener "Invisible Man" to the midtempo "Truth is Closer" to the string-laden "Boy". (Note: the album is streaming in full at the CD Baby link below)

CD Baby

Steve Baskin-Dead Rock Star. This Atlanta-based singer-songwriter is back with his third album, and this one is the best of the lot. It has a "big" sound, with big hooks and big melodies that remind me of fellow Atlantan Butch Walker. The opening 1-2 punch of "Single Thing About You (Chinchilla)" will leap out of your speakers, and Baskin has some facility with a ballad too ("Nobody Died Today"). Plus there's a pretty good cover of "Killer Queen" thrown in the mix. One of 2015's early best.

CD Baby | iTunes

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Back to 2014.

A couple of excellent releases from 2014 that either came out very late in the year or got by me:

Smith & Hayes-People All Over the World. Every four years we have the Olympics, the World Cup and U.S. Presidential Elections to look forward to. OK, maybe not that last one. But the latest four-year tradition seems to be a new Smith & Hayes album. Debuting in 2007 with the great Changed by a Song (my #5 disc of that year), and then following up with Volume II in 2011, they're back again with People All Over the World as 2014 changes to 2015. (I snuck this in at #8 in my 2014 list but I'd have no argument with you if you wanted to view at as a 2015 release especially as it's only gone to CD this week). Once again, the veteran Oregon pair deliver the Beatlesque/Wilburyesque goods with a collection of tunes that rivals their debut. The opening title track even borrows a bit from the similar Oasis tune "All Around the World" (but is mercifully about half that song's length) while "Slow Down" is a real gem with its harmonica and minor-key melody, sounding like a lost George Harrison track. "Waiting for the Wheel" pulls out the Beatle bells and whistles, and the piano-based "Didn't Want to Fall" has McCartney written all over it. And the majestic "Don't Let Your Heart Break" recalls some of Jeff Lynne's classic ballads. I'd say this was a top 10 candidate, but I already put it there, so pick it up if you've missed it especially now that it's available on CD.

CD Baby | iTunes

The Fraidies-Try it Again. Melding indie rock with a power pop sensibility, this Seattle band has produced an auspicious debut that also came out late last year. Produced by a name some of you may be familiar with (Gary Reynolds of The Brides of Obscurity), Try it Again combines the sound of indie rockers with pop leanings like Portastatic and Dr. Dog with the more straight-up power pop sounds of bands like The Shazam and Cheap Trick. The brilliant "Xs on Your Eyes" opens up in grand melodic fashion, catchy and rocking both. "You've Got a Brand New Calculator" comes off as an off-kilter Badfinger tune, and "The Powers That Be" has that famous stacatto beat that stretches back to the Beatles' "Getting Better" while taking off on a carnival-like bridge. And "Your Mouth is a Radio" just straight-up rocks. So don't be a fraidy cat - give it a listen.

CD Baby | iTunes

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