Tuesday, February 28, 2006

New at Not Lame, 2/28/06.

Interesting batch of releases featured tonight. The big news is that AbPow favorite Justin Levinson is one of those featured. And speaking of Mr. Levinson, David Bash has informed me that he's been invited to play International Pop Overthrow Boston, thanks in part to our bringing Justin to his attention.

Also featured is the new Vandalays EP we spotlighted last night, and the writeup includes some of our comments on the EP.

Moving along, most of the rest of the featured discs are 2-5 years old. The release by The Other Half from 2001 really does sound great. Unfortunately, it's almost impossible to find anything online about these guys. I have found info on at least three other bands calling themselves The Other Half, including a 60s psychedelic band, a "modern rock" band that compares themselves to Matchbox 20 (on cdbaby and myspace), and a North Carolina punk band. So that makes at least four other halves out there, which to me seems like a mathematical impossibility.

Darin Murphy's Haunted Gardenias is another interesting blast from the recent past (2001). Fortunately, Darin is a little easier to track down online, and this page will yield mp3s from the album, as well as a previous solo effort and what he calls "Fab Fourgeries", about half a dozen Beatles covers he's recorded. Very cool stuff. And he's a multimedia renaissance man; according to his bio, "His uncanny Lennonesque vocals recently landed him a job on Broadway in the new musical LENNON, opening spring 2005." He has a myspace page as well.

Next up is Patrick Storedahl's Ink Block Fingerprint. I'll have to dust off this 2004 release which I have put away somewhere, but there are five mp3s available (with lyrics) at this page. All the tracks can be sampled here.

I could have sworn that Bloom's O Sinner was featured on the main page last year, as I recall tracking it down as a result (I know I didn't find it on cdbaby). This band from Gainesville, FL (Go Gators!) definitely rawks, in an 80s kind of way, and they have a sense of humor too, with song titles such as "Only God Can Stop The Drum Machine Now" and "Don't Tell a Dead Man How To Die". Samples of all tracks can be found at cdbaby, and it's available via eMusic as well. I will note that they were another research nightmare, with at least 3 other Blooms (but not this one) appearing on myspace.

Top 10 of 2006 (so far).

One of the problems with year-end best-of lists is that stuff released early in the year inevitably gets short shrift, what with fading memories and latter year releases being more prominent at the time. So to try and avoid that malady, I'm putting out a best-of list for 2006 right now at the end of two months, and I'll update it at the end of every month thereafter. So without further ado, here's my best of 2006 to date:

1. Supraluxe-Supraluxe
2. Rhett Miller-The Believer
3. Travis Hopper-All The Lights In The City Tonight
4. David William-One Way Ticket
5. Copperdown-Something True
6. Justin Levinson-1175 Boylston
7. The Minus Five-The Minus Five (aka "The Gun Album")
8. The Green & Yellow TV-Sinister Barrier
9. Phil Ayoub-Schoolbus Window Paper Heart
10. Gary Henson-The Coast Is Clear

You'll notice the only one not featured on this blog so far is the Minus Five, which has been getting plenty of its own press. You can sample it here.

Absolute Powerpop on MySpace.

I've started a myspace page for the site. I don't plan on doing much there, but one feature that it'll make it worth your visit is my "song of the day"; MySpace allows you to stream one song from another member at a time, which automatically starts playing upon loading the page. (I've put a link to it over on the right hand side of the page, for handy reference.)

Today I'm streaming Supraluxe's "Love Sweet Love" (only because they're not streaming "Blue Sky" over there), and I'll try to put up a new one each night before I go to bed, usually around midnight. These songs may be from albums I've featured on the blog, or they may not. You'll just have to find out for yourself. And if you like what you hear, click on "view" on the music player to go right to the band's myspace page.

UPDATE: Rich from Supraluxe put up "Blue Sky" (talk about responsive), so that's the song of the day. You can still stream "Love Sweet Love" at their page.

My Top 20 of 2005, #8: Graham Cousens-Living Room Sessions

Back last week when I was giving the new Josh Rouse album the stinkeye, my main complaint was that in many spots, it was too stripped-down. I made the comment that "I'm not normally a big fan of acoustic music (although there are exceptions, if the songs are really good)". Here is the exception. Graham Cousens' Living Room Sessions is pretty much Graham and his guitar, and the whole thing was recorded on his PowerBook. If you had told me that before I heard it, I probably would have run away screaming. Thankfully I heard it first, on the recommendation of a friend.

What sets Cousens apart from your garden variety coffeehouse performer? A keen sense of melody, a warm and inviting voice, and some great tunes. I've seen it written that Cousens sounds like a happier Eric Matthews, and I'll buy that. He also sounds like early solo McCartney, Emmitt Rhodes, with some Matthew Sweet and Tom Petty included for good measure. The opener "Julia" sets the tone well, a jaunty number in the mode of "I've Just Seen a Face". "Comfort Me" jangles along reminiscent of Petty's "Wildflowers", and two of the slower numbers, "When I Was Around" and "Emily", are so pitch-perfect that I could listen to them on a continuous loop all day long. (And I'm not kidding - I've already played "Emily" three times while composing this post.)

It also appears that you can download the whole thing for free at his site by clicking on "Tracks". I almost feel a bit guilty for providing this link, because this one deserves a purchase rather than a download. But he's provided this on his site, so take him up on the offer, and if you like it, don't make him regret doing so by buying it. Only $11 at Kool Kat. Or, if you only want the download, but want him to make a few bucks, it's available at eMusic as well.

CD of the Day, 2/28/06: David William-One Way Ticket

Edinburgh, Scotland's David William proves he has the pop goods with his extraordinary debut album One Way Ticket. If I didn't know better (and I suppose I truly don't), I'd swear this was Neil Finn putting out an album under a pseudonym. Not only does William sound like Finn (at least as much as anybody this side of Shane Nicholson), his songs have the effortless pop grace of Finn's best work.

Apparently those like me who troll CD Baby for the next exciting new thing agree with this assessment, as the first batch of discs they received have sold out in about three days' time. I'm not even going to bother to get into describing individual tracks - they're all that good. But here's two you can download directly:

Come and Go

Then go to this page and stream the rest of the tracks in their entirety. And then you'll just have to give CD Baby your email address so they can notify you when they have this one back in stock, because you'll be wanting it - badly.

Either I'm getting way too easy to please (lately at times I feel like I've been gushing like a slightly more articulate version of the Chris Farley character on SNL who could only say "you are awesome" while interviewing McCartney), or 2006 is shaping up to be an incredible year for power pop. Two months in, and I'm already building a top 10 that's going to be tough to crack.

Monday, February 27, 2006

EP of the Day: The Vandalays-Happy Ever After

Having already made a Seinfeld reference today, I suppose it's fitting that my EP of the day comes from Chicago's The Vandalays. Happy Ever After is the sequel of sorts to their 2004 release (re)begin, billed as the first power pop concept album. (Not sure whether or not they beat The Breakup Society's James at 35 to the punch; that power pop "concept" album bears a Feb 13 2004 release date, at least according to Pop Matters.)

In any event, Happy Ever After is a nice 6-song blast of power pop, kind of somewhere between Cheap Trick and Barenaked Ladies, with a touch of the Smithereens thrown in. Things start in fine fashion with the outstanding "Tracy", and "I'm Not Sleeping" and "Out/In The Night" keep the momentum going. But the highlight is the midtempo "Ramona", which jangles like there's no tomorrow.

The best place to sample it is at cd baby. Now when are The Von Nostrands going to release an album?

New stuff at eMusic.

Here are a couple of interesting releases just added to eMusic:

Badfinger-Say No More. The final studio album released under the Badfinger name, from 1981. I've never heard it, but hey, it's Badfinger.

Hector on Stilts-Same Height Relation. I picked this one up last year, it's not bad. A little quirky, off the power pop beaten path, but worth a listen.

Master of My Domain.

I've registered the domain name www.absolutepowerpop.com as well, and it redirects to this Blogger site. So if you find yourself needing to manually type in the address for this site, you can save yourself the "blogspot". There is a small ad, however, at the bottom when you're redirected via the non-blogspot address.

My Top 20 of 2005, #9: Randy & The Bloody Lovelies-Lift

Randy & The Bloody Lovelies' Lift was one of the truly special and unique releases of 2005. I was quite happy to see it be featured by Not Lame the other night, as this album deserves all the exposure it can get.

But while Not Lame used contemporaries like Ben Folds and the Argument for comparison purposes, Lift takes me back to the sophisticated piano pop and distinctly English-influenced pop that was commonly heard in the first half of the 1970s. The piano men most in evidence here as influences are Randy Newman and early Elton John, and I even hear some Gilbert O'Sullivan and Leo Sayer (the Leo Sayer of "Long Tall Glasses" that is). There's a bluesy, almost cabaret-style undercurrent to many of these tracks as well. And the vocals here remind me of Chris Rea circa "Fool (If You Think It's Over)". All in all, piano pop doesn't get much more tuneful and sophisticated than Randy Wooten & Co. have managed here.

There are so many great tracks on this album that I almost feel I'm slighting some by pointing out others. But particular standouts are "Pop" (as in "I'm about to"), "Isabella" (featuring a great slinky piano groove), "Red Carpets" (the outstaning opener), the early Elton-influenced "New Disguise", and the beautiful ballads "Wondrous Things" and "Blue Horizons". If what I've described is remotely your bag, do your best to scrounge $13-15 from your couch cushions, break open the piggy bank, or dip into your child's college fund and pick this one up.

And make sure you check out their site. Let it launch, and watch the amusing Kiev character in the hotel lobby. Just make sure you click on him and select "shut up" when you stream the album, which you can do so there with a few well-placed clicks. You could start at the beginning, but go right ahead to "Pop", one of my top 10 tracks of the year. If you're put off by Kiev, or can't figure out how to shut him up, go over to their myspace page, where you can stream "Pop", "Wondrous Things", "Blue Horizons" and the also-outstanding "Twilight Kids".

Oh, and did I mention that you can get this album via eMusic? One more reason to subscribe if you haven't already.

CD of the Day, 2/27/06: David Stanley-Finding My Way

Another disc I enjoyed last year was David Stanley's Finding My Way. Stanley falls more into the singer-songwriter category, but he can put some power into his pop as well. At times he reminds me of Neil Finn ("The Kissing Tree", "Sad Girl"), but on others I hear some Michael Carpenter ("Brand New Beat", "Counting The Days"). There really isn't a bad track on this album, although it's a bit on the short side (8 tracks plus a "radio edit" of "The Kissing Tree"). I suppose it's a case of quality over quantity.

The best (and really only) place to sample it is the cd baby page linked above. The only place I'm finding it online is at iTunes. His site is about as bare bones as it gets, and the myspace page for David Stanley yields a 19-year-old in Largo, FL (a few miles to my SW) with a Ferris Bueller fixation.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

CD of the Day, 2/26/06: Archer Avenue-We Watched The Headlights; We Watched The Stars

Archer Avenue is a band from San Antonio that produces a style of alt-country inflected power pop that we've heard from fellow Texans like Rhett Miller and the Deathray Davies. Perhaps the reviewer who compared them to a mix of the Old 97's and the Gin Blossoms had it down best.

Their brand new release is We Watched the Headlights; We Watched the Stars (dig that semicolon in the title). Things get off to a raucous start with the rocking "Cops Don't Care"; "Radio" is cut from the same cloth; "Breakdown on N. St. Mary's" is where the alt-country influence is most profound, and they dial it down a notch on the fine "Cars and Airplanes".

If you go to this page, you can stream the full album (for a limited time, they say, so hurry up and get over there). It's not available via eMusic (yet), but Left of the Dial (nice nod to the Replacements), an EP of theirs that contains three tracks from the album along with three others, is on eMu here. Best place to buy the full-length, if not directly from the band, is at CD Baby.

My Top 20 of 2005, #10: Smash Palace-Over The Top

Philly's Smash Palace is a veteran band that keeps cranking out great albums over the years. Once signed to Epic back in the late 80s, Palace has hit its stride over the past seven years with three quality self-released cd's, capped by the very late 2004 release (close enough for me to count it as '05), Over The Top.

Over The Top was pretty much the best jangle-rock album of the year. Standouts on this one abound, from the opener, "Steal Her Thunder" to my favorite "Juliet to Me". The level of consistency from track-to-track on this one is what makes it a true keeper. If you're a fan of the classic janglers, from The Byrds to Tom Petty, this one is a must-buy.

And there's good news - I just saved a bunch of money on my car insurance. (Sorry, couldn't resist). Actually the good news is that the album is available on eMusic here, as well as their previous two releases. Their official site has four full streams from Over The Top, including the two I singled out above. And you can buy it at the usual power pop retailers.

But wait - there's more! (I really have watched too many commercials in my lifetime). Palace is releasing a brand-new best-of album covering their three latest releases, along with two brand new tracks: "Like I Do" and "Thinking About Her", with the latter being streamed at their myspace page. The best-of is to be officially released in May, but if you email Smash Palace's Stephen Butler and ask him real nice, he'll sell you an advance copy now.

Also note that Mr. Butler produced the MezzRow disc that was our most recent CDotD, as well as playing on and co-writing several of the tracks. I knew there was a reason that disc jumped out at me.

More on David Mead.

Once again, reader Bob M has come through with some new David Mead news. Yesterday Mead had this announcement:
David's new album TANGERINE is officially slated to hit shelves May 16, but you can start hearing it for yourself NOW, exclusively on his MySpace page. We will be streaming all twelve songs between now and the release date, adding one new song per week. "Tangerine," the lead-off track, is an overture comprised of bits and pieces of all the songs, and will remain up as new songs are rotated in and out in the order they are sequenced on the album. So be sure to stop by, have a listen, leave a comment if you would like and let your other MySpace friends know about David's new record.
Interesting. That explains the instrumental "Tangerine", which we discussed the other day. Time to bookmark his myspace page.

And another track, "Hard to Remember", is up right now. Me likey.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Rhett Miller alert!

One of my first posts on this blog was to drum up attention for the forthcoming release The Believer, by Old 97s frontman Rhett Miller, due out this Tuesday.

Well, it so happens that I've just found out (courtesy of an alert poster on the Audities list) that the entire album is streaming uncut at Rhett's myspace page. So get on over there right now and start listening to an album that's probably in my top 5 of 2006 to date, and then hit your cd retailer of choice up for it on Tuesday.

By the way, until yesterday (when this other version popped up on my iPod while on my trip) it was gnawing at me where I had heard "Fireflies" before (a track on which Miller here duets with Rachel Yamagata); it turns out that he had given it to the band Firecracker, whose So Long Someday album was a fine alt-country/Americana release in its own right last year, and whose version of this song also features a guest female singer for the duet parts. And there's even more Old 97s involvement with So Long Someday - guitarist Ken Bethea helps out as well. Definitely recommended if you enjoy this genre too, as I do.

New at Not Lame, 2/24/06.

Just back in from Disney MGM...hope the break enabled many of you to catch up on sampling the stuff I've been posting about. I'll just take a quick personal note to vent about something here. George Carlin once said that everyone who drives faster than you is a maniac, and everyone that drives slower is an idiot. Never was that more true tonight westbound on I-4 between Orlando and Tampa. I've never seen so much braking for no apparent reason and passing on the right on an interstate before (end rant). Anyway, here's what's new at Not Lame while I was out:

First off, the Green & Yellow TV release retains the top spot on the page, which is a bit odd. And also featured is the new Arctic Monkeys release, about which virtual forests have been clearcut for all the words written about it. My take: as UK flavors of the month go, they're not bad.

Randy & The Bloody Lovelies - Lift

I will have much, much more to say about this quite excellent release in a couple of days (hint, hint).

The Tah-Dahs - Le Fun

This one's new to me, although what I'm reading about it makes me want to track it down. That there's a track titled "John & Yoko & Ted & Alice" amuses me. They do have a free download available at their site:

The Cute Band

Well reviewed in indie circles, for what it's worth. eMusic doesn't have the album, but has the track "Temporary" on this comp.

UPDATE: They have a myspace page, where they're streaming "Alcoholic", "Temporary" and "Dallas", a non-album track.

The Lashes - Get It

One thing I like about Not Lame's featuring of new releases is that even though I often have (or have sampled) a record and passed on it, the mere fact of their highlighting it prompts me to give it a second chance, and often I end up liking it quite a bit. The recent Tody Castillo release was one example of this. So having had an advance of this cd for about a month (and maybe listening to it once), and having failed to deem it worthy of placement on my iPod, NL's recommendation (and the quoting of the AMG review comparing a track to Big Star) was enough to get me to listen to it again.

Right off the bat, I realized why I put it aside. I'm not terribly fond of the lead singer. Usually I can take less-than-perfect voices, but here it was his style that put me off. And the track AMG says sounds like Big Star doesn't sound like it to me, nor do any of the songs really grab me even despite the lead singer. So we'll agree to disagree. I will note that Pop Matters falls into my camp. Still, with NL and AMG touting it big time, you should definitely listen for yourself. The best place to do so is their myspace page. eMusic has their independently-released (Get It is on Columbia) EP, titled The Stupid Stupid.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Blogging break.

Going to be stepping out for about 36-48 hours here (blogging may resume late Saturday night). You can blame this guy:

It's time for a family trip to Disney World. Thank goodness I have that iPod loaded with power pop.

My Top 20 of 2005, #11: Valley Lodge-Valley Lodge

(We now return you to our regularly scheduled countdown of the top 20 of 2005.)

This is album is good. Very good. Very, very good. Great, in fact. It came out around Thanksgiving, so I conservatively slotted it at #11. A couple of months later, I'd have to say it probably deserves a spot a few notches higher at least. (Maybe the Grammys are on to something with making their eligibility year November-October.) Valley Lodge is the project of John Kimbrough (Walt Mink) and Dave Hill (Uptown Sinclair). If the pedigree of those names means anything to you, you know you're in for something good.

This is darn near power pop perfection. Influences from the power pop greats abound here - there's some Matthew Sweet, some Super Deluxe, a smattering of Jellyfish, and even some Tal Bachman (they nicked the chorus from "She's So High" for the track "If It Takes All Night", but it's a good nicking). There's even a little bit of Red Hot Chili Peppers in the surprisingly funky (for a power pop album) "All of My Loving". The falsetto backup vocals throughout the album are a nice touch. This is as strong a release, end-to-end, as you'll find.

And I don't have to be psychic to predict what you'll be doing for the next 35-40 minutes or so: streaming this gem in its entirety from their official site. As far as I'm concerned, there are only two classes of true power pop fans: Those who have already bought this one, or those who will buy it (there's really no question of "if" on this one) at CD Baby, Not Lame or Kool Kat. It's officially check-in time at the Valley Lodge.

CD of the Day, 2/24/06: MezzRow-MezzRow

MezzRow is a South Jersey band that sounds more like Liverpool meets Nashville than Asbury Park, and their eponymous debut album is a treat. Coming up with some analogues for this band is a bit tough since they do an expert job of melding all their influences; "Brit pop meets Americana" as it says on their CD Baby page, and I hear a bit of everything from Steve Earle at one end of the spectrum to The Verve on the other end. Maybe I can best explain their sound in the context of Marah, who hails from the same general area: it's kind of like the songs from Float Away With The Friday Night Gods with the production values of Kids In Philly, minus the Springsteen worship.

The album starts off with a bang; the first three tracks "Blue & Red", "Pictures" and "Tear" are an impressive an introduction as any, and "Embassy Stairs" is where the Marah comparison really hits home. You can stream the first three, along with "Got Me All Wrong", at their myspace page. No mp3s I could find, so CD Baby is your best bet for the remaining samples and purchasing. These guys are only in their early 20s, and with a promising debut like this already on record, it'll be interesting to see where they go from here.

UPDATE: Somehow I missed the fact that Smash Palace's Stephen Butler produced this disc, as well having a hand in co-writing and playing on some of the tracks here. That'll teach me to pay attention to liner notes more often.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

David Mead update.

Helpful reader Bob M. has alerted us to the existence of a new David Mead track on his myspace page (Mead's that is, not Bob's). It appears to be title track of his forthcoming album Tangerine, which according to Mead's myspace blog will be released in May.

Tangerine is a sort of instrumental; there is only some wordless singing on the track, which is short (1:40). I'm not going to jump to any conclusions off this one, but the fact that Mead has a new one coming out in May is excitement enough.

UPDATE: Never one to make fun of somebody else's hair, I nevertheless can't help but notice that Mead is a cinch to land the lead role should Eraserhead 2 ever be green-lighted.

I wonder what a David Lynch power pop album would sound like?

EP (and eMusic find) of the Day: Adam Panic-We All Do

With the power pop demographic probably mostly in its 30s, 40s and 50s, it's refreshing to see young whipper-snappers taking it up. Arizona's Adam Panic just celebrated his 20th birthday last month, but he already has three fine power pop EPs under his belt, including his latest, We All Do.

This one is right up the alley of fans of Eugene Edwards, Big Kid and even the Attractions-era Elvis Costello. There isn't a weak track among the five here, with the highlights being the rocking title track, the hook-laden "Buy Me Out", and the jangly "Peach". And it's available for the price of five of your downloads at eMusic. Or you can spend $4.95 at iTunes, or $8 at cdbaby, which is the best place to sample the whole thing. You can steam "We All Do" and "Peach", as well as a track from one of his previous EPs, at his myspace page. So don't "Panic", just listen.

Administrative note.

I've put an email link over on the right, for anyone who may want to contact me privately. The power pop cognoscenti will get a kick out of the address I'm using.

My Top 20 of 2005, #5: The Well Wishers-Under The Arrows

I know what you're thinking: Where did #6-#11 go? Don't worry - they're coming. But exigent circumstances led me to go out of order here for the Well Wishers' brilliant sophomore release, Under The Arrows. Specifically, Not Lame (who released this on their own label) is currently streaming the album in its entirety from their main page, and they usually focus on a release in that manner for less than a week. So by the time I would have normally rolled around to this one (in about a week), the streaming might have been gone.

Why all the fuss? This release has it all - jangly guitars, Beatlesque melodies and harmonies, choruses that won't quit, yet it retains a modern sound and doesn't sound like a tribute album. Plus, it appears that Jeff Shelton & Co. have a soft spot for Foreigner, as two consecutive tracks are titled "Double Vision" and "Break It Up". The latter is maybe the most rocking of the bunch. Meanwhile, the 4th of July holiday gets the theme song it deserves with "Fourth of July" (take a seat, Neil Diamond). My personal favorites are some of mellower ones: "Before The Race Was Run", which sounds like solo Ken Stringfellow, and "Only Sky", whose "is it meeee/is it youuuu" refrain burrowed its way into my head and still can't get out. Not Lame is offering up a 96kbps full-length mp3 of this track here:

Only Sky

Similar to the Golden Apples, who put out a better Big Star album last year than Big Star itself, The Well Wishers put out a better Posies album than the reformed Posies did. So take this limited opportunity to preview this great album in full over at Not Lame, and buy it if you like it.

eMusic update.

My #14 album of 2005, Peter Bruntnell's Ghost in a Spitfire, was added this morning to eMusic, so subs should check it out here.

My Top 20 of 2005, #12: Jim Boggia-Safe In Sound.

Philly's Jim Boggia certainly gets around, having played with many fine musicians over his career as (mostly) a session man and touring sideman. His second solo album, Safe In Sound, finds him calling in some favors from big names and creating a great power pop album. The MC5's Wayne Kramer helps out, as does Aimee Mann, Pete Thomas from Elvis C's Attractions and Jill Sobule, but the real coup was getting the reclusive underground pop legend Emmitt Rhodes to co-write a track and contribute backing vocals.

As any avid movie watcher will tell you though, a great cast doesn't necessarily make a great movie. But that's not the case here as Boggia has come up with a bunch of future classics. Highlights are many, including the track co-written with Rhodes, "Let Me Believe (Evan's Lament)", a bouncy Beatlesque number; the propulsive "Live The Proof"; and the opening number, the should-have-been-a-hit "Shine".

No mp3s for this one, but he's got three tracks, including "Live The Proof", streaming at his myspace page. You can get some 30-second snippets here, and it's for sale in the Amazon Marketplace for only $5 new, a real bargain. It's not available on eMusic, but his first solo album, Fidelity Is The Enemy, is.

CD of the Day, 2/23/06: RadioJones-RadioJones

This one was a real buried gem from last summer. RadioJones (or is it Radiojones?) is pretty much a mainstream-sounding band in the vein of The Wallflowers or Counting Crows, but what sets them apart is the quality of the tunes. And unlike most albums, which are front-loaded, this one gets better as it goes on. While the first three tracks are nice enough, it's not until about the fourth track, the ballad "Wait", that they really get on a roll; from there, the uptempo "Think" jangles along in fine fashion; "We All Dance" is quality Americana, and "Don't Tell Sandy" has a chorus that will worm its way into your head. Another standout is "Helpless", an excellent midtempo number, complete with whistling in the break.

The first three tracks are available as free downloads from their site:


"We All Dance" can be streamed at their myspace page, and the rest of course can be sampled at the cdbaby page.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Welcome Coolfer readers!

Coolfer is my probably my favorite music blog out there. They do a great job of covering all the angles in the music industry today, both in the area of the music biz as well as the music itself. And they do it all without a hipper-than-thou attitude (cough, Pitchfork, cough) yet they have the ability to cut through a lot of the BS out there. And yes, they do like power pop and they're not ashamed to admit it.

So I gave them a shout to let 'em know about this blog, and here's what Coolfer had to say:
Absolute Powerpop is a blog dedicated to, yes, power pop. It has links to albums available at eMusic, lists of power pop bands playing SXSW and a lot of posts on unheralded and unheard-of power pop artists and bands. Since the genre doesn't get much mainstream play -- outside of Fountains of Wayne -- a resource like this is worth its weight in gold.
Much appreciated. To new readers coming over, welcome, and I hope you find us worthy of the comments above.

New at Not Lame, 2/22/06.

The Green & Yellow TV-Sinister Barrier

Been there, talked about that.

The Animators-Home by Now

This one goes back to 2003. It's available on eMusic here, you can do the 2-minute samples here, and you can get these two mp3s directly from their site:

Girl #3

There's a link for an additional mp3 from the album there, but it's broken. Quick verdict: not sure. Some songs sounded OK; I'll have to investigate further. They compared with Wisely, whom I like but don't quite go nuts about the way they (and others) do.

Jumping Windows-Belly of the Beast

The Enuff 'z' Nuff comparison Not Lame gives this one is dead on. Liking what I hear so far, from their myspace page.There are a couple of mp3s for download here, but you have to register first. The cdbaby samples are very limited (only 3 I think), so sample the myspace, then sample the additional tracks at Not Lame. One of their tracks is titled "Radio Friendly". Gotta love that.

Holiday With Maggie-Skyline Drive

This one's an import - I guess you can call it Swedish emo. Swemo anyone? Don't see any mp3s available, but you can sample in some more depth here. "Is It Worth It?" sounds like a really good track.

The Dreadful Yawns-The Dreadful Yawns

Had to go back and listen to this one, noticed that just about all my plays in iTunes for this were back in August. Now I realize why they didn't make a great impression on me. It's nice enough; laid-back Americana is what I'd call it. It's not dreadful by any means, although I did have to stifle a yawn. Unfortunately, the band isn't offering up any mp3s at their site, but they do have a myspace page.

mp3 of the Day: Paper Airplane Pilots-The Way It Goes

I don't know if this is going to be a regular feature or not, but I have my iPod on pretty much constantly, and if a song comes on that I really like and haven't posted about already (and that song is available as a free mp3 download), I'll make it my "mp3 of the day". And the song I just heard that I love is "The Way It Goes" by Paper Airplane Pilots from their recent Western Automatic Music release. This track is a bit different than the rest on that fine album, with a bit of a glam rock feel to it, a la T.Rex or Sweet (Paper Lace anyone?). Download it here:

The Way It Goes

You can also grab a couple of other tracks from the album at their site, and you can get the whole thing at Kool Kat or Not Lame.

First (Second) Thoughts on Josh Rouse's Subtitulo.

To those who may be new to the blog and are reading all the cumulative posts, or for those who have been reading all along and may be thinking the same thing, I'd imagine by now it seems I like everything that I hear, so positive have all the comments been on virtually all the music I've discussed. Those who know me personally, however, know that I can be as acerbic as the next guy, perhaps even moreso.

The reason why I've had very little negative to say is that it's pretty much not the point of this blog. If I hear a new band and think they stink, I'm not even going to bother to write about them. For the most part, it's all about getting the stuff I like publicized to as many as I can, to try and spread the gospel, as it were. But one area in which I won't be averse to registering my disapproval is if a veteran artist disappoints me. So this is where Josh Rouse's Subtitulo comes in.

I received an advance copy of this a couple of days ago, and despite my earlier, optimistic pronouncement on what I had heard from the album, one word comes to mind after hearing it in its entirety: slight. Slight in the sense that it seems to be largely a very low-key, laid-back, almost acoustic affair, and slight in the sense that the songs don't grab me melodically. I'm not normally a big fan of acoustic music (although there are exceptions, if the songs are really good; one of my upcoming best of 2005 is an example), and with a few exceptions, that's what Subtitulo is. I appreciate the fact that it appears Rouse has found inner peace having moved to Spain, and that's great, but if he wants to be Spain's answer to Jack Johnson, it doesn't mean I have to keep raving about his records.

Perhaps it's also his prolificacy catching up to him; he's been releasing albums every 12-18 months lately, and maybe the well ran dry a bit (padding a 10-track, 30-something minute album with an instrumental wasn't a good sign on that score). I still do like the first couple of songs I raved about earlier (perhaps they should have formed the basis for an EP instead of a full-length), and it's also possible this album may grow on me. It's certainly not bad. But I'm pretty confident in stating it's no Nashville, or 1972, or Under Cold Blue Stars. And I hope that he's not following in the footsteps of a very similar artist, Freedy Johnston, who also had a run of three consecutive brilliant albums in the early-to-mid 90s (Can You Fly, This Perfect World, Never Home) before following them up with a low-key affair (Blue Days, Black Nights) and kind of losing his muse thereafter. I'll still be eagerly awaiting the next Josh Rouse album, but right now I'm kind of hoping it shows up in 2008 instead of 2007.

New releases in at Not Lame.

Not Lame just put its new releases up this morning. I notice the top featured disc is The Green & Yellow TV that was our CDotD yesterday, and the only other one I already have heard is the Dreadful Yawns. Busy afternoon at work for me, so I'll have my regular post on these up tonight, either before or after Florida-Tennessee hoops (at least Lost and Invasion are in reruns tonight, or it'd be tomorrow).

My Top 20 of 2005, #13: Pugwash-Jollity

It hasn't been easy being an XTC fan for the past 15 or so years. After a brilliant run in the 80s capped by "Oranges and Lemons", all we have to show for proper XTC releases (aside from compilations) are 1992's Nonsuch and 2000's Apple Venus/Wasp Star combo. For a couple of years now, there's been a rumored release of an album titled Tunes to Help You Breathe More Easily, but it seems to be the Chinese Democracy of the power pop set. Actually there have been a few new XTC songs trickling out ("Say It", "Spiral" and "Where Did The Ordinary People Go?") but no imminent release date for a full-length.

So what's a music-starved XTC fan to do? Get a copy of Pugwash's 2005 release Jollity. A vehicle for singer/songwriter Thomas Walsh, it has the XTC pedigree - the strings were arranged by former XTC member Dave Gregory, and the man himself, Andy Partridge, co-wrote the album's final track, "Anchor", with Walsh. Really, this is about all I should need to tell you if you aren't already familiar with this release. The songs live up to the influence and the style, and there's also some Eric Matthews (who adds trumpet on "Black Dog" - not the Zep song) as well as Brian Wilson (who apparently is a Pugwash fan) in here as well. Standouts include the Wilson-influenced opener "It's Nice to be Nice", and "Poles Together", which will have you checking the liner notes to see if Partridge co-wrote that one too.

The Pugster isn't offering up any mp3s of this one on his site, so the best place to listen is here. There are a couple of mp3s from previous album available for download at the Pugwash site, however.

UPDATE: Nice catch from alert reader Brihoos in the comments: Pugwash has a myspace page here, under Pugwalsh (sic), where he's streaming 2 b-sides (or one C-side, as he calls it): "To My Maker" and "Home to Me".

Frank Ciampi update.

As promised, Frank has made all three of his tracks available for download at his myspace page. Therefore, I've disabled the link to the mp3 that I had put up. If you missed the previous post, get over there and grab those tunes, they're great.

CD of the Day, 2/22/06: The Ride Theory-In This City

Today's featured disc comes from the Great White North - Hamilton, Ontario's The Ride Theory, whose sophomore effort, In This City, is a real keeper for fans of 60s-themed rock/pop.

The Ride Theory can best be described as the British Invasion meets Detroit. Why these guys aren't signed to Rainbow Quartz yet I don't know, but they have the whole garage/psych/Beatle-y thing going here. Get on board "I'm on Board", the leadoff track which comes right out of the garage circa Detroit 1969 and Ohio 2005 (The Greenhornes). "Motel Woman" is more of the same, albeit with more a mod-period Who twist. But then they switch gears mid-disc with "My Girl June", an acoustic number with sweet harmonies that sounds like a lost McCartney Beatles For Sale track, and follow that up with "All That I Know", which harkens back to Lennon's Rubber Soul contributions. Perhaps the best track on the disc is "On Fire", where these two styles meet.

You want some mp3s? We got em:

I'm on Board
Motel Woman
My Girl June

And whole thing can be streamed at their website (just look for the embedded audio player to the left of the gramophone). It doesn't look like any of the usual power pop retailers are carrying this one (time to get on this one, guys), so for now the best place to get it is at their site (under "merch"), or if you want it right now on your iPod, get it at iTunes.

This one was a very pleasant surprise to stumble across.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

(Free) EP of the Day: Status Green

Status Green isn't going to reinvent the wheel, or leave you breathless with superlatives. They're a veteran Jersey bar band whose claim to fame at the moment is having opened for Bon Jovi a few weeks ago in Connecticut.

But they can sure rock. And they've recorded four tunes that deliver the goods, and all four of them are available for free at their site. The real standout is "You Were Looking", five minutes of meat-and-potatoes yet catchy and melodic rock. There's kind of a retro garage purity at work here that lots of younger wannabe White Stripers would kill for.

Here are the mp3s (unfortunately, the "You Were Looking" mp3 is of lower quality):

It Ain't Me
What You're Wasting
The Outside
You Were Looking

They also have a myspace page where you can stream these four tracks. There doesn't appear to be an actual disc for sale at their site or elsewhere, but according to the myspace page they're going to release a full-length in April, including these four tracks. I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for that one.

Meanwhile, if you're in the Northeast US (and I've noticed that quite a few of you are), you could do worse than check these guys out when they come to town. Personally, I'll take 'em over Bon Jovi any day of the week.

eMusic Alert!

As speculated on this blog the other day, eMusic now has Future Women, the latest from The M's, available today in its entirety.

My Top 20 of 2005, #14: Peter Bruntnell-Ghost In a Spitfire

Peter Bruntnell's Ghost in a Spitfire is not a power pop album, but this UK singer-songwriter's British version of Americana was an outstanding effort. I'm a bit pressed for time at the moment and since this isn't a power pop release per se, I'll turn it over to his site, which states:
Although his tent has been pitched in the Americana camp he's a very British songwriter who on the evidence of this latest album and especially on tracks such as Fear Of Lightning has more in common with Teenage Fanclub than the likes of usual comparisons Neil Young and Evan Dando. Lyrically he's never been tempted to stray from matters close to home and as a result he's been praised for the sucinct authenticity of his past five albums and Ghost In A Spitfire is no exception - its very title betraying a theme rarely found amongst his western peers.
If you want to sample, here's an mp3 of the title track:

Ghost In a Spitfire

Best place to get samples of the rest of the album is here.

"The new phone book is here! The new phone book is here!"

Pardon me while I have a Navin Johnson moment here; I just noticed that Google finally picked up this blog.

Power Pop at SXSW (The Final Chapter).

Going to wrap up the last three days of SXSW downloads in this post. There is some truly outstanding stuff in this batch, hence all the additional comments.

Marah-The Demon of White Sadness
The Latebirds-Set Free The Radio (I need to remember to blog about these guys; Radio Insomnia was one of the overlooked discs of 2005)
Hotel Lights-AM Slow Golden Hit (this is Darren Jessee's band - he was the bassist for Ben Folds Five, this track is the highlight from their great S/T 2004 album)
The Spinto Band-Oh Mandy (one of my favorite tracks of 2005)
Bill Ricchini-She Don't Come Around Here No More
The Mendoza Line-Mysterious In Black
The Silent League-Breathe
The Electric Soft Parade-Cold World (discussed here)
The Amazing Pilots-All My Wasted Days
The Foxymorons-Harvard Hands
Luke Doucet-Broken One (great, great track)
The Len Price 3-Christian In The Desert
The Village Green-Under The Covers (from one of the top EPs of 2005)
Richard Swift-As I Go
Okkervil River-No Key, No Plan (more on them later, although they're not power pop)
Salim Nourallah-The World Is Full of People Who Want To Hurt You (discussed here as well)
Moonlight Towers-Everybody Knows Why (another great one)
The Brokedown-Down In The Valley (from yet another of 2005's great EPs)
Jason Collett-We All Lose One Another (see here; this was the best song on the album)
Sam Roberts Band-Brother Down (I was hoping they'd go with "Don't Walk Away Eileen", one of the best power pop songs of the decade, but this isn't bad either).

CD of the Day, 2/21/06: The Green and Yellow TV-Sinister Barrier

The Green and Yellow TV's third album, Sinister Barrier, is yet another early best-of-2006 contender. I'm going to give myself a break here, and let Popbang Radio take over:
The Green and Yellow TV have created an exceptional album full of Brian Wilson-esque harmonies, Pink Floyd dynamic intense sense, Jellyfish's whimsical musical lushness, The Wondermints' melodic gift, and Queen's power; all wrapped into something that is unique, special, and truly outstanding.

Five stars, 10 out of 10, two thumbs up, what else can be said about this A+ effort from a band that just "has it"! The Green and Yellow TV is essential listening for any fan of melodic, well crafted, perfectly produced, outstanding power pop.
What they said.

There's also a definite psych pop element to this album; I hear some High Dials and Telepathic Butterflies in there as well. And you can impress all your indie friends with this one; the band is Pitchfork-approved, having garnered an 8.6 for their debut album. (Even in that review, however, Pitchfork takes a slam at the power pop scene).

If you want to see what all the fuss is about, you can go directly to the source and grab these mp3s:

Carrot and a Stick
Temporary Fix

Stream three more at full-length (plus "Temporary Fix") here, and check out 2 minutes of each of the rest at the cdbaby link. eMusic subscribers can get their second album, Record X, here.

This is one TV where you won't want to change the channel.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Power Pop at SXSW (Part 2).

Earlier today, we gave you the downloads of choice for the Wednesday performers; now here are the ones to grab from Thursday's lineup:

Winterpills-Pills For Sara
The Cloud Room-Hey Now Now
The Minus 5-Retrieval of You
The Capes-Tightly Wound
Jay Bennett-5th Grade (I think this is a new unreleased track)
AJ Croce-Don't Let Me Down (Jim's son)
Peel-Moxy Blues
Palaxy Tracks-Grey Snake
Levy-Rotten Love
Immaculate Machine-Phone No. (they're featured at the Not Lame front page right now, for fans of the New Poronographers)
Novillero-The Hypothesist (great band)
Damien Jurado-White Center
Glen Phillips-Released (ex-Toad the Wet Sprocket frontman, great track)

Here's the full lineup for Thursday; as on the last post, if you see a band that has an mp3 available that warrants mentioning, please do so in the comments section.

eMusic Disc of the Day: The Pillcrushers-Welcome to the World

When sifting through the dozens and dozens of new releases that come out each day at CD Baby, I'm constantly seeing some variant of the "If Artist X and Artist Y had a baby, and Artist Z was the babysitter, this is what it would sound like" analogy used by a band to describe its sound. It's effective, though, but getting a bit old. So to tweak it to remain up to speed with current affairs, I'll use this one to describe The Pillcrushers' Welcome To The World: it's as if Tom Petty and Matthew Sweet went quail hunting, and Badfinger was playing on the pickup truck radio on the way over.

They have a couple of mp3s available at their site:

Is It True

Get the 30-second sample blitz of those two and the rest from eMu here. If you're not an eMu subscriber (and why the heck aren't ya?) or if you prefer the feel of polycarbonate plastic in your hands, you can get the cd for a very reasonable $8 at Paisley Pop (should be the first one on that page).

Power Pop at SXSW (Part 1).

Music festival SXSW is almost upon us, and they've just released the schedule of artists and bands to play. The great part of this for the vast majority of us who won't end up attending is that they make an mp3 for most of the artists available for download at their site.

So here's a list of downloads that I would recommend for you, the reader, from the opening day (Wednesday) acts. I'll do a post for Thursday's later today or tomorrow, and, so on, for each day. These will be plenty to get you started:

David Mead-Wherever You Are (!)
Derby-Sunk a Few (more on them to come on this site)
The Capitol Years-Juicers
Oranger-New Comes and Goes
The Whigs-Violet Furs
Modern Skirts-My Bully
Irving-White Hot
The Heavy Blinkers-Try Telling That to My Baby
Matt Mays & El Torpedo-On The Hood
The M's-Future Women (we discussed them here the other day)
Of Montreal-Wraith Pinned to the Mist and Other Games
Sam Champion-Slow Rewind
Chris Mills-Chris Mills Is Living The Dream
Healthy White Baby-Soul
Maritime-Parade of Punk Rock T Shirts

Also, here are some alt-country/Americana acts that I've taken a shine to:
Limbeck-People Don't Change
Dan Israel-Good Times

The Mudville Project-The Tea
Collin Herring-The Other Side of Kindness

The full Wednesday list is here. If you think I've missed someone of interest from Wednesday's lineup that has an mp3 available (note that some acts like The New Pornographers don't), please let us know in the comments.

CD of the Day, 2/20/06: Justin Levinson-1175 Boylston

Wow. 2006 is shaping up to be quite a year for great new discoveries. We're barely halfway through February, and here comes another one: Justin Levinson. His debut, 1175 Boylston, sounds like the work of a seasoned pro.

Now while anyone these days with a piano-based sound and some pop smarts gets compared to Ben Folds, the comparison is truly earned here. This cd reminds me, more than any other I can recall, of the Ben Folds Five debut album ( one of my top 10 albums of the 90s), not only musically but in spirit as well. Opener "Sunny Day" is as catchy and bouncy as they come (complete with slide trombone courtesy of Levinson himself), and just when you've caught your breath, "Empty Line Cliche" follows with more of the same. The Folds sense of humor is there as well on the album closer "Nice to See You Guys", in which Levinson & Co. break out the banjos and kazoos (!). But he has more than simple pop ditties on his mind; both "Sky Is Falling" and "Fireflies" address the unpopular Iraq war in a thoughtful manner and without sacrificing the underlying melodies. The strong backing vocals on many of the tracks also remind me of the Five, with the main difference being that Levinson is unafraid to use guitars.

At this point you're saying "enough already - where can I listen to this?" Well, you're in luck. First of all, you can download - yes, download - 3 tracks including "Sunny Day" and "Sky Is Falling" at Justin's Pure Volume site. (Note: these tracks are downloadable by clicking on "download" within a Flash application, which means the normal right-click saving options aren't available. Set your browser's mp3 preferences to "save to disk" instead of opening in, for example, winamp). Over at his myspace page, the same three can be streamed along with a rough demo of a newly written non-album track. And as usual you can stream 2-minute samples of additional tracks and buy the album at CD Baby.

The way things are going - with accomplished debuts from the likes of Levinson, Supraluxe, Travis Hopper and who knows who else to come - the veteran power pop artists are going to have to really start stepping up to the plate to make my year-end of best-of list for 2006.

My Top 20 of 2005, #15-Terry Anderson & The Olympic Ass-Kickin' Team

Well it is fitting that we highlight this release during the Olympics. And if "ass-kickin' rock'n'roll" were an Olympic sport, these guys would be bringing home the gold. Did you love Rockpile? Into NRBQ? Then you'll love this release from Anderson & Co, especially now that Nick Lowe has become a "crooner". Anderson is, as he puts it, "in the tradition of singing drummers such as Mickey Dolenz, Levon Helm and whoever that guy in Night Ranger was." This is probably the most "fun" power pop release of 2005, an antidote for whatever might have you down on a given day, so I'm not going to try and overanalyze it. Suffice it to say that although Anderson displays a great sense of humor on many of these tracks, it doesn't end up being "quirk for quirk's sake" like you'll hear with other bands that attempt to inject some levity into their tunes. My personal favorites are "Inez" and "Gityoassupda Road", the latter of which is a constant thought of mine while driving around in my home area of Pinellas County, Florida, which has the double whammy of being the state's most densely populated county while having an incredibly high number of senior citizens on the road.

First of all, you must visit the band's site, and whatever you do, don't click "Skip Intro". And check out Terry's own blog. Then listen to the samples at CD Baby. Then gityoassovato here, or here, and buy the damn thing.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

New at Kool Kat Musik.

We've been kind of partial around here to Not Lame, but another "Kool" place to buy power pop is Kool Kat Musik. Although KKM sells all genres of music, they have a specialty store within that concentrates on our kind of stuff. And Ray, the guy in charge there, has promised to keep me apprised of the latest they receive. So without further ado, here's what the Kat has new for us:

Robert Post-Robert Post

I've been spinning (or should I say my iPod's hard drive has been spinning) this one for a couple of months. Post is from Norway, and has emerged big time in Europe (the disc is only available as an import in the US). Post gives us pure pop of the highest order, from the bouncy, anthemic "Got None" to the Neil Finn-esque "High Tide" and even a little David Mead in "There's One Thing". Although some might lump him in with the David Grays and James Blunts of the world, Post is a superior artist and deserves the same, if not more, success.

You can sample his wares at his official site (just click on "media"), and stream four tracks (including "Got None" and "There's One Thing") at his myspace page.

Patrik Tanner-Soft.

This is a 2004 release I picked up early last year, and it's a good one. With an album titled "Soft", you're kind of know what you're getting. And Tanner delivers the goods - this is quality singer/songwriter pop. My favorite track is the Beatlesque "Hello Tomorrow", complete with chimes at the end.

The best place to sample is the cdbaby page, and yes, Virginia, he has a myspace page with four streaming tracks.

Abandon Ship-The Best Game

This one is brand new, and I have to confess I'm not familiar with these guys. I will note that on name alone, they'd make a good double bill with Barnacle Bill. (I've always called for a double bill of Anthrax and The Cure, but they've never listened to me.) Anyway, I'm doing what any of you who might be interested in checking them out would do, and that is to listen to the samples at their cdbaby page (where it's out of stock, by the way). They self-describe by saying "this is indie pop", and from what I'm hearing as I type, it's a spot-on description. It sounds like fans of the Spectacular Fantastic will enjoy this one.

My Top 20 of 2005, #16-The Golden Apples-Cooler Jets Will Prevail

One of the big stories of 2005 in the power pop scene was the "reunion" of Big Star and release of the album In Space, the first to bear the Big Star name since 1978. Unfortunately, the album turned out to be something of a dud. Although it had its moments, it came off as kind of a half-baked Alex Chilton solo disc, with a couple of lesser Posies songs thrown in for good measure. It was kind of telling that the best track on the album came from original drummer Jody Stephens; telling because he really had minimal creative input on the classic Big Star albums.

No, if it was a new Big Star album you wanted last year, you would have been better served picking up The Golden Apples' Cooler Jets Will Prevail. And in case you had any doubts, the first track itself is titled "Big Star", and sounds like "In The Street" updated for the 21st century (forget the That 70's Show abomination). It's the best Big Star homage since Paul Westerberg and the Replacements sang "Alex Chilton". This is power pop at its power poppiest, and the highlights continue from there: "McKinley Hill" has the 70s Chilton swagger and attitude and a tres cool melody, "Momentum Is Now" has a fist-pumping, cigarette lighter-waving vibe, and "Around Me" is a dead ringer for Big Star's "Don't Lie to Me". So sell your copy of In Space to the used cd store, and go buy this one.

The best place to sample it is at their myspace page, although among the songs I mentioned above, only "Big Star" is streaming there. And the best place to buy it is here, from the good folks at Not Lame.

EP of the Day: Frank Ciampi

"EP" may be a misleading term here, since as far as I know Frank Ciampi doesn't even have an officially sanctioned EP for sale; instead, he has three tracks streaming at his myspace page, where I got the picture above. Officially released or not, they're three great tracks. The Ben-Folds-meets-Mike-Viola "Anna" was one of my favorite tunes of 2005, the same influence is on display with "The Same", and "Anyway" is a brilliant Brian Wilson homage.

A while back, Frank was giving away cd-rs with these three tunes, but I'm not sure if he's still doing that. I've emailed him to see what's up, so watch this space - I may have a link to get you a cd-r, or permission to post some mp3s. If nothing else, you have some nice tunes to stream on a Sunday morning (or afternoon, depending on where you are).

UPDATE: Just heard back from Frank, and he told me he plans to enable downloading of the three tracks on the myspace page. In the meantime, he's given me permission to post an mp3:


Click on "download" at the bottom of the page to do so. When he does make them available, I'll disable this link and you should refer to his myspace page.

UPDATE II: Above mp3 link is now disabled, as Frank has made all 3 tracks available for download at his myspace page.

CD of the Day, 2/19/06: Stuart Valentine-Melody's True

Stuart Valentine's Melody's True was an album that was criminally overlooked in 2005. Maybe it's the hair - on the cover, he does kind of look like Eugene Levy as Rockin' Mel Slirrup from SCTV. In any event, this one falls somewhere between the finely crafted pop of Pat Buchanan (this Pat Buchanan, not that one), and the darker, indie pop of Elliott Smith or even Nick Drake. Valentine has been around a while, as he puts it:
I've been playing music since I was way too young to get into bars. The better known bands are probably The Out Crowd, Paramore and Richmond Fontaine. I've been part of six published albums in my life, toured all over and even stumbled into the movie DIG! I started as a drummer and then learned to play other instruments and write songs. This is my first solo album, produced by Brian Coates who has worked with The Dandy Warhols.
Particular highlights here are the opener, "Downtown In Time", and the title track "Melody's True", which is complete with a melody that is true and some "uh ohs" in the chorus; it could have been a hit in a parallel universe somewhere. Judge for yourself, here's an mp3:

Melody's True

You can stream this one, "Downtown in Time", and two more at his myspace page. It'll be worth your time. And who knows, between this one and the David Doll, perhaps we're establishing an inverse relationship between hairstyle choices and musical ability.

Eugene Levy....or Stuart Valentine?

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Something that may only interest me.

As an ELO freak since my pre-teen years, I always find it interesting when a contemporary artist covers an ELO track. Today, I noticed one of the more unusual ELO covers, from Grandaddy on their upcoming Just Like The Fambly Cat album: they're covering the outro from the A New World Record track "Shangri-La". Not the whole song, just the outro - the part in which Jeff Lynne sings "I will return to Shangri-La" over a swelling wordless chorus and copious strings.

Making things more intriguing is that frontman Jason Lytle has said that this will be the last Grandaddy album, and the Shangri-La outro is the final track on the album, making this a very cool homage to ELO. Just Like The Fambly Cat is due out May 8, but thanks to the magic of the internets, an advance of this has leaked, and I can confirm that this is pretty much a note-for-note cover.

Top 20 of 2005, #17: Feel-Invisible Train

(Apologies for the low-res cover; it was the best I could find for this largely overlooked release).

Another gem from last year was Invisible Train, the second album by the LA-based band Feel. The main man behind Feel is Scott Sax, a sought-after session musician who was once part of the legendary power pop band Wanderlust. Feel is more mellow-sounding than Wanderlust, and that's not a bad thing. Notable tracks include "This Moment", which sounds like early-period solo McCartney, "Fall", a truly wonderful ballad evocative of Bread, and my favorite of the bunch, "Goodbye Baby", which is the best slow Tom Petty song that he never wrote. If you're in the mood for more pop than power, this is one to add to your collection.

Various tracks from Invisible Train can be sampled (and bought) at the Not Lame link above, as well as at the band's site. They do have a myspace page, which streams "Oh Life" from Invisible Train, as well as "Got Your Name On It" from their debut album. And as plugged in to things as I can be, somehow I didn't know that Feel has recently released an EP of new material until I discovered it at their site while putting together this post. Unfortunately, the paypal link to buy it is down at the moment. Ye gads - I might actually be forced to use snail mail to order it.

New and notable on eMusic.

If you were impressed (or at least 50% as impressed) as I was by the Travis Hopper debut I touted the other day, you may have noticed that the man most responsible for that cd after Hopper himself was Salim Nourallah. Nourallah is an outstanding solo artist in his own right, and eMusic just added his most recent release, last year's Beautiful Noise, to its site. Beautiful Noise is kind of a low-key affair (although Nourallah can get it cranked up at times), reminiscent of some of the slower numbers on Wilco's Summerteeth and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, only without all the bells and whistles. And if you like Beautiful Noise, you can also download his previous release, Polaroid, as well as his album with brother Faris, usefully titled the Nourallah Brothers.

Also just in is the latest release from a band that had an impressive debut as any I've heard back in 2002 with Holes In The Wall. I'm talking about the UK's The Electric Soft Parade, who make their bow on eMusic with The Human Body EP. ESP have the ability to sound like a number of different bands; at times they have a more 60s-70s Beatlesque sound; and at others they have a more modern Teenage Fanclub/Blur/Oasis sound. Highlights on the EP include "Cold World" and "Stupid Mistake".

Being reminded of Holes In The Wall makes me think I should start a series of overlooked albums of, say, the last 10 years. Maybe after the 2005 Top 20 is done.

CD of the Day, 2/18/06: Simon Morel-Songs From The City

Released last June, Australian Simon Morel's debut album, Songs From The City, is a solid collection of singer-songwriter pop, from the Squeeze-ish opener "Sick and Tired" to the 80s-sounding standout "Gold Plated", and the beautiful ballad "Stained". Other highlights include the uptempo "Point of View" and the ruminative closer "Home Address".

You can stream "Gold Plated", "Stained" and "Point of View" at Simon's myspace page, and "Sick and Tired" can be streamed here. And the rest can be sampled at the cdbaby page, where of course you can buy it if you like it.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Featured on Not Lame, 2/17/06.

The M's - Future Women

Not familiar with this band, but the namedrops of Ray Davies, Damon Albarn, Marc Bolan, and John Lennon make it sound interesting. You can download the following mp3 from the album:

Plan of the Man

And you can stream four more tracks at the Not Lame link above. It also appears that this album will be available via eMusic once its official street date of February 21 rolls around; there's already a page for it here, with only "Plan of the Man" available for download (but it's free above). I am liking that track.

Fire Marshals of Bethlehem - Songs For Housework

A friend sent me a copy of this last year and after going back and listening to it, I have to say that it's pretty good. Somewhere in between Neko Case with the New Pornographers and maybe a poppier Caitlin Cary. More extensive samples can be found here; the band's site doesn't offer streams or mp3s.

Swan Dive - Popcorn and a Mama Who Loves Me Too

What makes Not Lame great? I scour CD Baby and a few other sites. Not Lame scours the globe. This one's from Thailand, of all places. The cd, that is - the band itself is from Nashville. Sample it at the Not Lame link above; no streams at the band site for this one. It can also be found at iTunes.

New Radiant Storm King-The Steady Hand

We already told you about this one the other day.

I'm taking a pass on the rest, especially the one that sounds like Hillary Duff and Avril Lavigne.

This just in from the Stopped Clock Dept.

Those who have been with me here since the early days (you know, late last week) know that I have no love lost for Pitchfork. But I will give them props for being right about this one. I really did enjoy Idols of Exile quite a bit last year - it's great singer-songwriter pop. It was just released in the US, but I bought it from a Canadian retailer last summer when it came out up there on the strength of my enjoyment of Collett's first solo disc, Motor Motel Love Songs.

In fact, I even concur with the reviewer's choices of the standout tracks on the album. But I guess I shouldn't give them too much credit; Collett is a member of indie darlings Broken Social Scene, so it's not like they're suddenly throwing out a 7.6 to, say, a Michael Carpenter release.

UPDATE: I'm not doing my job here if I hype a release and don't link to where you can hear it. So sample it here (click on "music"). I don't think he has a myspace page; like James Cooper yesterday, there's a teenager with the same name at the obvious myspace address.

My Top 20 of 2005, #18: Sparkwood-Jalopy Pop

Sparkwood's Jalopy Pop is much in the same vein as my #20, Checkpoint Charley: Catchy as hell, influenced by Jellyfish/Queen/Fountains of Wayne, etc. I'd even say there's some ELO influence in here as well, and a bit more of a 50s/60s vibe than Checkpoint. Standouts here include "Emergency", "In Your Lovin' Arms", and "D".

Some abdridged mp3s and a music video can be had at the band's site, and you can get some full-length streaming at their myspace page. It's all good - this Jalopy is one smooth-running machine.

UPDATE: I just noticed that Jalopy Pop was David Bash's #1 album of 2005. For those of you who don't know who he is, David is the man behind International Pop Overthrow, which is power pop's Lollapalooza, SXSW and Woodstock rolled into one. Actually IPO is several regional shows around the USA (and elsewhere) throughout the year. Here's the current schedule:

Nashville: March 15-19 and 21-22
Chicago: April 21-May 6
Liverpool: May 24-29
Los Angeles: July 28-August 13
San Francisco: August 16-22
East Coast U.S. (Philadelphia, New York, Boston): November

Make sure you go to one of these if it's in a city near you.

Celebration Time!

In just our 9th day of blogging, AbPow celebrates its 1,000th visitor to the site! I'm grateful for the response so far, and to quote Steve Martin, I'd like to thank each and every one of you who's visited:


So, here's to our 1000th visitor, a person from Reston, Virginia who obviously has good taste in web sites. I raise my Supraluxe mug of root beer (it's noon time, a bit too early to drink) to you:

CD of the Day, 2/17/06: Barnacle Bill-Towards The Pebbled Shore

Avast ye maties! Yar, today's CD for ye is Barrrrnacle Bill's Towards The Pebbled Shore. (When I picked this one out a week or so back, I promised myself I wouldn't go with the pirate talk. But I'm weak, I tell you, weak.) BB is a 3-piece out of NYC featuring two principal singer/songwriters: Yianni Naslas and Stu Klinger. I've always considered it a good thing for a band to have at least two creative voices of relatively equal ability; instead of getting one guy's sixth to tenth-best tracks, for example, you get a different guy's best five. The ultimate example of this dynamic was The Beatles, but even contemporary power pop bands like Fastball (Scalzo/Zuniga) and Sloan (Murphy, Pentland, Ferguson *and* Scott, except on the last one), have demonstrated the value in this arrangement.

For Barnacle Bill, the Fastball comparison is apt. Klinger is the Scalzo of the band, more of the classic power popper, sounding a lot like Fountains of Wayne on the leadoff track "Best For Last" and "Santa Fe", while Naslas is the Zuniga, a bit more laid-back, although he can turn it up as well, as demonstrated on "See You Through". This is a fine debut, and once it gets in front of the right ears, I can see it becoming a popular release in the power pop community.

The good news is that you can stream this album in its entirety (although you have to select one track at a time) at their website. And of course it can be purchased at CD Baby for $10. Yarrrr!