Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Mid-April Roundup.

Conrad Korsch-On the Threshold. Conrad Korsch, the bassist in Rod Stewart's touring band for the last 10+ years, steps out on his own with a top-notch collection of power pop. Opener "1+1+U" recalls Matthew Sweet circa 100% Fun, "Earthlings" sounds like a lost hit from the 80s, and "We Write Our Own Eulogies" has more hooks than a tackle box. If your taste in power pop runs in the glossier-sounding side of things, this one's for you. Plus it's Rod-endorsed:



CD Baby (for samples)

Swedish Polarbears-The Great Northern. Swedish Polarbears are back! You can be forgiven for not being excited as me, but these guys had an EP of sorts back in 2007 that I wrote about here, and were never really heard from again until recently when they released a couple of singles in advance of their long-awaited (by me at least) full-length debut. To say these guys (who are in fact Swedish) are influenced by Teenage Fanclub might be an understatement as one of those 2007 tracks was titled "Norman Blake", and they also tip their sonic hat to countrymen The Tangerines and The Merrymakers. So you get melodic gems like "Sleeping/Dancing", the jangly "Sun of a Gun" and "Rewinder". And "Stay Young" does indeed sound like a lost Teenage Fanclub track. How Swede it is.

iTunes | Listen at Spotify



Mark Roebuck-The World and All Within. Virginia's Mark Roebuck has been kicking around the power pop scene since the 1980s, in bands such as The Deal and Big Cirle, and releasing some solo albums. (He also recorded an acoustic folk-rock album with fellow-at-the-time bartender Dave Matthews in 1989 as Tribe of Heaven) His latest finally brings him to my pages, and it's a wonderful collection of Byrds/Big Star/Badfinger-styled pop. "One More Fall" opens the album in fine fashion with some Byrdsian flair, and "Billboard Blue" follows in the same vein. Other tracks of note include "King William County's the Place" which has a British-sounding rustic-era Kinks feel, the lovely ballad "Holden", and the rocking "God is a Gun". So if you haven't caught up with Mark Roebuck in his many musical incarnations over the years, this is as good a time as any.

iTunes

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Late March Roundup.

Broken Promise Keeper-Broken Promise Keeper. Georgia's Rob Stuart is back for the first time in six years as Broken Promise Keeper, and BPK doesn't break the promise of prime power pop this time around with Stuart's best effort to date. The sound here is similar to fellow southern power poppers The dBs and Scott's Garage, with the standout tracks being the effervescent "She's So Cool", the Merseyside-influenced "Sasquatch Love" and the jangly "Get My Message". Don't miss out on the bouncy "Play Ball" either.

iTunes



Latvian Radio-Until Tomorrow Gets in the Way. One of my favorites, this New York Band which I've compared in the past to Brendan-Benson-meets-The-Shins is back with another collection of bubbly pop tunes. The indefatigable "Power Lines and Bedroom Blinds" is an instant favorite, while "From the Top of a Building" and "Weight of the World" are shining exemplars of their signature frenetic pop sound. They even use the Bo Diddley beat on "Letter to the National Enquirer", and close out the album with the lovely, reflective title tune. Don't let tomorrow get in the way of adding this one to your collection, get it today.

iTunes



Dropkick-Balance the Light. Speaking of bands that release consistently excellent albums, perhaps none are more consistent than the Scottish roots-poppers Dropkick, who with Balance the Light release their 12th or 13th (I've lost count and am just guessing) full-length album. This one's another fine addition to their canon and if you've liked their Teenage Fanclub-style pop in the past, you'll love this one. Tracks to go on your Dropkick best-of: the breezy "Slow Down", the pensive opener "Save Myself", and the brilliant "Out of Love Again", which perfectly distills their sound.

iTunes

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Mid-March Roundup

VA-If it Feels Good Do It-A Sloan Tribute. Keith Klingensmith & co at Futureman Records have put together one of the best power pop tribute albums I've heard, and given how long Sloan's been out there I'm kind of surprised it took until 2016 to get one. What makes Sloan such a great band for this kind of compilation is that they're the rare band that has four legitimate singer-songwriters. Specifically, you have the 70s AM radio pop of Jay Ferguson, the traditional Shoes-style power pop of Chris Murphy, Patrick Pentland's classic/hard rock-influenced tunes, and the Pink Floyd-esque art-pop of Andrew Scott. So that gives the contributors some extremely fertile ground to draw from, and the results here are pretty great. I'm personally partial to Ferguson's tunes, and here Stereo Tiger and Klingensmith open and close the comp with fine covers of "C'mon, C'mon (Let's Get it Started)" and "I Wanna Thank You" respectively (both from Sloan's career-great Navy Blues album). Another Ferguson track that finds the perfect match of artist and material is The Well Wishers' version of "The Lines You Amend", which sounds like one of Jeff Shelton's creations to begin with. Nick Piunti rescues "Right or Wrong" off Sloan's somewhat forgettable Action Pact and also makes it his own, while other standouts include The Anderson Council's take on Pentland's great rocker "Iggy & Angus" and Andy Reed's fine reading of Murphy's "I Love a Long Goodbye" from the underrated Pretty Together. The only misstep here is an odd version of Ferguson's "Don't You Believe a Word" which Hidden Pictures chose to cover with processed, synthesized vocals (I'm hoping there's a version of that track where they sang it straight as they looked a good match on paper for the tune). The only omission that disappointed me here is that nobody covered Murphy's brilliant and complex "Fading into Obscurity" from the song-medley album Never Hear the End of It. I make rare exceptions for compilations on my year-end lists (like 2013's #1 Drink a Toast to Innocence), but I just might be doing so again in 2016.

Bandcamp



Cheap Star-Songs for the Farrelly Brothers. The French band with my favorite power pop legend-based hybrid name is back with their first full-length since 2009's Speaking Like an Elephant, and it's an excellent return. They're kind of an auxiliary Posies, as they've toured with them and Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow play on all their records (including this one) and have produced them as well. So yes, there's an obvious Posies influence here, as well as bands like Nada Surf and Teenage Fanclub. Just about all the tracks here as equally as good, with the moody, driving "Memories", the very Posies-like "Separated from You" and the rocking "What's the Point" more equal than others. (NOTE: I was too lazy to reach out to them to see if these were tracks actually written for a Farrelly Brothers movie, but if not it's a helluva random title).

iTunes



Propeller-Fall Off the World. First of all, let's talk about that cover. It's an homage to the classic K-Tel album covers from the mid-70s, specifically Music Express, which I once owned and you can see here, so they grabbed my attention there. And the San Francisco band has backed it up with ten seriously power-poppin' tunes, any of which would have proudly found their way onto one of those K-Tel albums. Their sound is kind of a more rocking Teenage Fanclub or a poppier Replacements, and tracks like "Can You Hear Us Now" and "Mismatched Shoes" will have your head bobbing and toes tapping right along, while "Wish I Had Your Picture" channels The Raspberries to great effect. No gooey ballads here, just one kick-ass track after another that can serve as the soundtrack to summer 2016. And it's "name your price" at Bandcamp.

Bandcamp

Friday, February 19, 2016

Mid-February Roundup.

Today's a bit different as we feature one brand new album, one from last year, and a gem from six years ago that I just recently discovered.

Scott Warren-Good Love. Between his stellar work with Signal Hill Transmission and his solo output to date, Scott Warren has gone down in my book as an underrated pop genius. Good Love is his first album since 2012's brilliant Dyed in the Wool (my #3 album that year) and a bit of a throwback to his Signal Hill Transmission days in that's more of a straight-ahead rock album. "Good Love" and "Cold Feet" offer a melodic 1-2 punch that puts the "power" in "power pop", "Why Won't You Come Around?" finds Warren more reflective, and "I Love You, I Love You" has a rollicking, vaguely honky-tonk feel to it. Elsewhere, the lovely country-tinged ballad "Fall in Line", and the gentle McCartney-esque "Life" are standouts, and Warren closes with a nice cover of Lindsey Buckingham's "Trouble". While there's nothing here as mind-blowing as "A Sinking Feeling" and "Tongue-Tied" from his last album, Good Love is a great collection of pop/rock tunes and an early best-of-2016 contender.

Bandcamp



Eugene Benjamin-Life. Eugene Benjamin's Photograph was of 2014's nice surprises for me, and late last year he followed that up with Life, another fine collection of roots-influenced rock in the style of Tom Petty, George Harrison and John Hiatt. Tracks like "His Town", "She Got Soul" and "Reunion" go down smooth and easy as well as the louder rockers like "Baby Grace". You can slot this in somewhere around the middle of my 2015 year-end list had I heard it in time.

iTunes



Ray Pearen-Everything is Spinning. I don't normally seek out albums from six years ago, but I stumbled across this album after a track from 2007's The Holy Fields EP came up on shuffle and got me to wondering if they'd released anything since. Typically, bands I don't hear from in many years have broken up, so I'll Google the frontman and see if he's released anything under his own name or with a new band. This led me to finding out The Holy Fields' Mike Gennaro played on this 2010 release from Ray Pearen, a Canadian musician who happens to based out of my home area in Tampa. So I gave it a listen and it's one of the best power pop-meets-Americana albums I've heard in recent years and easily would have made my top 10 of that year. The opening track "Drive" has fast become my new favorite song, one of the best songs Tom Petty never wrote, while the title track rocks in the same vein and "Waiting" has a kind of timeless pop pedigree in which I hear traces of Buddy Holly and The Beatles. "Run Away With Me" is another dazzling rocker, and while the album closes with three ballads, they're all of top quality. It's a shame this got overlooked in 2010.

iTunes



Friday, February 05, 2016

Early February Roundup.

Joey Sykes-Classic New Rock. Those of us in the power pop community have known Joey Sykes over the years for his former band New English and his fine 2010 solo album Human, Being Human (which placed #27 on my year-end list then). Lately, though, he's been getting more exposure as the new guitarist for 70s/80s hitmakers The Babys, and with new fans on board he's released another solo album. The title both sums up Sykes' sound and his career and this is top shelf power pop that recalls the likes of Badfinger and Wanderlust (as well as solo Rob Bonfiglio). Not a bad track here, but "That's American Life", the piano-backed "When Life Goes Right" and the midtempo "Finish Line" are the standouts. One of 2016's best out of the gate.

Kool Kat



Johnny Stanec-Farewell, Sadness. Johnny Stanec is no stranger to this site, staying prolific over the last 6-7 years with numerous releases from his band First in Space, which broke up in 2014, and as a solo artist. His latest is another fine collection of Heartland pop/rock, somewhere in the sweet spot between Ryan Adams and The Gin Blossoms. So at one end you get singer-songwriter-styled tracks like the opener "Tired of Today" and the other there are quality rockers like "The Sky is Falling" and "Find Your Place". And "In Conclusion" is a perfect album closer, a wonderful track about finding humility in life.

iTunes



The Four Chords-The Four Chords. I haven't been able to find out a whole lot about this band after finding them on Bandcamp, so I'll just let their music speak for themselves: Straight-ahead classic power pop that's implied by their one-chord-too-many name. Or as they put it, "The Four Chords have a keen pop sense and combine multi-part vocal harmonies with a large dose of over the top rock n' roll--power chords, big guitar solos and guilty pleasure arena rock." Just stream it below, and if you like you can name your price at Bandcamp.

Bandcamp


Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Cleanup time.

Time to get in the 2016 swing with a quick look at some late 2015 releases I didn't get to in time and a few from the new year.

The Modulators-Try Try Try. Kool Kat released this one late in 2015, and it did manage to squeeze onto my year-end list. These guys have been around since 1980, and this is their second album after re-forming in 2009. Their sound is classic 70s/80s power pop with a bit of the "skinny tie" element. Standout tracks here include "Upper Hand" (with its recurring riff that reminds me of "Picture Book"), the jangly "What's on Your Mind", and "Lucky Stars", which would have been a hit in 1971. Get it a Kool Kat with a bonus EP.

Kool Kat



Hector & The Leaves-Little Bee EP. London's Tom Hector and his Leaves have given us 2016's first standout EP with four tracks of sunshine-y pop that I'd describe as Brian Wilson meets Badly Drawn Boy. Matt Williams (known to readers of this site as The Brigadier) helps out, and the best part is that EP is free to download on Bandcamp.

Bandcamp



The Matt Truman Ego Trip-AM 1670 EP. And the second standout EP of 2016 comes from Ohio's Matt Truman. He says the EP is inspired by 1970's AM Radio, and that will be obvious once you take a listen. "Starry Eyes" and "Hard to Get" just the right mix of rock and melody a la Badfinger/The Raspberries, while "First Kiss" is just the right kind of mellow. And I swear I once had a receiver that looks just like the one on the cover.

Bandcamp



One Like Son-Ugly. And finally we have the incredibly prolific One Like Son, who put out two albums in 2015 (New American Gothic and Classic) or four, if you count this one and Leftovers (an odds-and-ends collection) which were released to Bandcamp on December 31. This one's going on my 2016 ledger, and it's a bit of a departure for the boys who normally go the high-energy route with their sound. In fact you could say the title's ironic as this might be the prettiest collection of tunes they've released, from the father-and-son-themed opener "Crimes and Misdemeanors", to the nearly folky "Stella" to the power balladry of "Midwest Summer Nights". When most artists go years between releases, these guys keep cranking them out and so far the quality has kept pace with the quantity. Guess I'll be writing about them again in six months.

iTunes