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.


Thursday, June 18, 2015

Two for Thursday, 6/18/15

Wade Jackson-Whiskey Alpha Delta Echo. Both a nod to Wilco's famous album as well as the spelling of the artist's first name in the phonetic alphabet, Whiskey Alpha Delta Echo is the second album from Aussie musician Wade Jackson, and it's quite simply one of 2015's best so far. The allusion in the title is apt, as the sound here is Big Star-meets-Wilco with its melodic minor-key rockers with a twinge of Americana (Austrliana?). After the moody opener "Dark Mirror" (which answers the question "What would The Smithereens sound like as a folk-rock band?"), we're treated to the jangly "Valentine's Day" and the trio of "Catch My Eye", "Coming Back" and "Carolina", all of which invoke #1 Record-era Big Star, with "Coming Back" perhaps my favorite track of the year. This album really hits the sweet spot between power pop and Americana, and my next step is checking out Jackson's back catalog.


Brian Jay Cline-Trick Photography. Trad-rock-popper Brian Jay Cline is back with his first album since 2009's Nashville Tracks, and fans of Marshall Crenshaw, Walter Clevenger and Bill Lloyd are going to want to check this one out. Leadoff track "Zoo York City" is Cline's tribute to the Big Apple and sounds like a lost Willie Nile track, while "New Tattoo" has the pub-rock feel of a Nick Lowe or Graham Parker. Elsewhere tracks like "High Horse" and "Counterclockwise" are classic Cline and if you have any of his other albums in your collection, this one's a must-add. (Incidentally, the ReverbNation playlist embedded below includes Cline's entire catalog as the first ten songs are from Trick Photography and the rest are his other songs in alphabetical order)


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

What I've been enjoying lately.

A quick look at some of my favorite releases over the last month or so:

Steve Robinson & Ed Woltil-Cycle. Tampa Bay's premier folk-poppers team up for one of 2015's best, a graceful and melodic collection of tunes that bring the pastoral side of XTC to mind. ["Love Somebody"; "Hello, Hello (We're Back Again)]. iTunes

Phil Yates & The Affiliates-No Need to Beg. Top-notch power pop that reminds me of Ken Stringfellow ("Burn it Down, Bernadette; "The Grass is Always Greener") (P.S. That's Lizzie Borden on the cover) iTunes

Stereo Tiger-Two Weeks. More great power pop from Michigan, like Mike Viola fronting Rooney. ("Magic Balloon", "Runaway")

The Weightlifers-St. Paul EP. Adam McLaughlin & Co's third EP (and first in seven years), and it's of a piece with the first two - thoughtful, moody, and melodic. ("High Drama"; "Man of Constant Sorrow"). iTunes | Spotify

Supraluxe-Morphine Creek. This is their best since the 2006 debut, the record which helped inspire me to start this blog. Lives up to their self-description of Elliott-Smith-meets-Big-Star. ("Circles"; "La La L.A.") iTunes

Jimmy Haber-Joy Acid Pact. Orlando rocker Haber delivers the goods with his shiny, vaguely psych power pop with a populist edge to it. ("Once I Strung 'em Up"; "Bad Day to Be Me") iTunes

Friday, April 17, 2015

We have (a) new Pope!

Greg Pope-Fanboy. The Pope of Power Pop is back! I'm speaking of course of Greg Pope, one of the genre's best and most prolific artists of the last decade-plus, be it in Edmund's Crown or as a solo artist (Popmonster was my #1 album of 2008). And for those who remember Edmund's Crown, you might be interested in knowing drummer David Sprouse joined Pope on the most of the tracks here, and the opener "New Beginning" wouldn't have sounded out of place on their last release, Regrets of a Company Man. Pope also takes a page from Jeff Tweedy, involving his sons in the album as 17-year-old Asher Pope co-wrote "Pretend it's Yesterday" (a lovely acoustic ballad) and plays acoustic guitar on several tracks, while 15-year-old Noah plays drums on "How it Ends". Meanwhile, quality numbers like the title track (which speaks to us obsessives of all stripes) and "Greater Threat" will end up on that best of Greg Pope playlist you'll undoubtedly compile someday soon. When it comes to Greg Pope, I can't help but be a bit of a "fanboy" myself here, and at his site he's offering up a 23-track deluxe edition of the album that includes acoustic work tapes, demos and the like of the main tracks.

Deluxe Edition | iTunes

Johnny Stanec-No Horizon. Speaking of prolific, Johnny Stanec seems determined to stay on your music player of choice, with his third solo disc out now hot on the heels of last fall's First in Space album. When solo, Stanec trades in the Replacements-style rock of his band for more of a singer-songwriter vibe in the vein of Jesse Malin or Ryan Adams. "Let it Slip Away" starts off slowly and acoustically, and then builds into a full-band anthem, while "The Trouble With Spies" sounds like a track that could have been heard on the radio in the late-90s heyday of the likes of Semisonic and Third Eye Blind. The standout for me, though, is the folk-rockish "Winter's Song", which recalls peak-era Blue Rodeo. A solid effort.

CD Baby | iTunes

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Just a Tad of Honeywagen.

Honeywagen-Jamboree. Mike Penner, Scott Christensen & Co. are back with their followup to 2012's Atomic Cafe and their Midwestern jangle pop/roots rock is better than ever this time around. After starting with the rocking "Angel", they bring us the groovy "She Wants" (which shares some melodic DNA with "I Feel Fine"), while other highlights include the Plimsouls-like "Lose My Mind" and jangly "Another Hour". This one's available exclusively from Kool Kat at the link below.

Kool Kat

Tad Overbaugh-Beauty & Barbed Wire. If the name Tad Overbaugh seems vaguely familiar to you, it's because he was the frontman of roots rockers The Kickbacks, featured on this site back in the day. Beauty & Barbed Wire is Overbaugh's solo debut, and it's one of 2015's best to date. Although Overbaugh hails from the Boston area, he sounds more like heartland rockers Paul Westerberg and Tom Petty, and leadoff track "Lethal Charm" wouldn't have sounded out of place on Full Moon Fever. "Done With This Town" is a infectious alt-country tune that demands to be a theme to a TV show about someone moving to a new city, "End of the Decade" and "Scars Along the Way" show Overbaugh's way with a melody, while "Tip My Girl" laments the fate of being a stripper's boyfriend in classic country-rock fashion. With his tunes mixing the bitter with the sweet, Beauty & Barbed Wire stands as an aptly-named album.

Bandcamp | iTunes