Sunday, August 27, 2006

There's a new sheriff in town (Top 33 1/3 updated).

Given this blog's symbiotic tie with Supraluxe and how great their disc is, it's not without some hesitation that I report its toppling from my #1 spot of 2006, where it's stood since the inception of Absolute Powerpop. But that day has come, and it's thanks to an Aussie who records under an assumed name. Those who read regularly will know that I'm speaking of Bob Evans and his new release Suburban Songbook. It was sometime over the weekend when I heard the horns kick in on "Comin' Around" that I said to myself, "this album is really, really great". So I started listening to it over and over, and virtually every track confirmed that diagnosis.

I had planned on doing an update at the end of the month to commemorate the two-thirds mark of the year, but given that I'm tryin' to reason with hurricane season and unsure of whether I'll even have power on September 1, I'll provide the update a few days early. Also note the fairly high perch given to The Format's Dog Problems, another disc that wasn't quite on my radar when the previous list was compiled in early July. So without further ado, here's the latest list:

1. Bob Evans-Suburban Songbook
2. Supraluxe-Supraluxe
3. Andrew LeDrew-Ladies Lookout
4. Rhett Miller-The Believer
5. The Format-Dog Problems
6. Chris Brown-Now That You're Fed
7. The World Record-Guitars Forever
8. Copperdown-Something True
9. David William-One Way Ticket
10. Gregg Swann-Everybody's Got to Be Somewhere
11. Geoff Smith & The Tonewheels-S/T
12. Cheap Trick-Rockford
13. Jeff Larson-Swimming In The Make Believe
14. Monkeeman-Monkeeman
15. Edmund's Crown-Regrets of a Company Man
16. Fresh Mowed Lawn-Fresh Mowed Lawn
17. Red Guitar-Beauty Will Save The World
18. The Hazey Janes-Hotel Radio
19. Travis Hopper-All The Lights In The City Tonight
20. The Nines-Calling Distance Stations
21. Justin Levinson-1175 Boylston
22. Phil Ayoub-Schoolbus Window Paper Heart
23. Orson-Bright Idea
24. Pop Is Art-Epiphany (technically 2005 I think, but recently uncovered).
25. The Rewinds-The Rewinds
26. Third Floor Story-Songs From The City
27. Gary Henson-The Coast Is Clear
28. Warren Zanes-People That I'm Wrong For
29. Willie Nile-Streets of New York
30. The Vestals-Songs About Girls...and Other Mysteries
31. Waterloo-Out of the Woods
32. The Mains-The Higher You Get
33. The Junior League-Catchy
33 1/3. (Top EP): Kit Ashton-Blindsided

Friday, August 25, 2006

Interesting news on the new Pernice Bros. record.

Last month we mentioned the release of "Somerville", the first track from the forthcoming Pernice Brothers disc, Live a Little, due October 3. Now thanks to their always-helpful mailing list, there's some new information about the album (and it's available for pre-order):
For one thing, there’s the reunion of Joe Pernice and producer Michael Deming, who worked on the recordings of Joe’s previous band, the Scud Mountain Boys, as well as the very first Pernice Brothers record, Overcome By Happiness. This one has strings and horns, which has not been part of the formula (and it IS indeed a formula) since OBH. But, and this is a mighty exception, it’s much more of a rock record than that was, representing the running of big fat analog tape while sweaty guys played loud rock music on well-crafted instruments through amplifiers and pounded on sweet, old, drum kits.
But the most intriguing news is that the album will contain an updated version of the Scud Mountain Boys' (Joe Pernice's previous band) classic "Grudgef***". However, this version will be different:
instead of the gentle, almost lazy, plaintive plodding of the original recording, the Pernice Brothers version out-Badfingers Badfinger and that’s good. You can feel its pain.
Now that I can't wait to hear. "Grudgef***" is one of the best songs Pernice has written; the original can be heard here.

Plus, they have a pre-order that would make Bruce at Not Lame smile: those ordering early with a get a 17-disc bonus disc of demos, etc. Although I wasn't particularly enamored of their last disc, Discover a Lovelier You, the combination of how good "Somerville" is and the news above is enough to make this my most anticipated disc of the year.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

CD of the Day, 8/23/06: Rob Laufer-The Iron Age

Rob Laufer is a pro. A pro's pro, in fact. He's played George in Beatlemania, he's played with Frank Black and Fiona Apple, he's produced, he's written for commercials, and he wrote "Reactionary Girl" (a great track) for Robin Zander's first solo disc. And now he's released his first solo disc in 11 years, The Iron Age. It was worth the wait.

This is a disc that will appeal to fans of David Grahame (another Beatlemania alum - he played Paul), Jon Brion and David Baerwald (remember David & David?). It's great singer/songwriter pop/rock, and it contains one of (if the not the) best songs I've heard this year: "Did You See Her Dance". It's a perfect combination of Grahame, Marshall Crenshaw and McCartney. There are plenty of other highlights as well: rockers "Inside Story" and "Open", the ballads "Mister Perry" and "Sweet Downfall", as well as the Brionesque "Angelyne" and the jaunty "In The Frame", currently used in an HP television ad.

Four tracks from the disc are streaming at his myspace page, while the full disc can be sampled and bought at CD Baby. There's also a music player at his site, but I couldn't get it to work.

UPDATE: Per the comment from NY Mary, note that The Iron Age is available on eMusic, and her comment also contains a link to her post on the album.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Video of the Day.

Jellyfish covering "No Matter What" on German TV. The quality of the video is a bit iffy, but it's still worth a watch.

mp3 of the Day.

Not Lame is offering up a free download of Doug Powell's "Feel For You", from his latest odds-and-sods collection, Four Seasons. This was one of the songs he demoed for possible involvement in The Cars, and it's a classic-sounding Cars track. In fact, it's better than any of the new tracks The New Cars laid down. Get it here.

Friday, August 18, 2006

CD of the Day, 8/18/06: Braden Blake-A Year In Pajamas

Another overlooked disc of recent vintage was the 2004 release of A Year In Pajamas by Seattle's Braden Blake, whom many of you may know from the semi-legendary power pop band Super Deluxe. It should appeal to those who enjoyed/enjoy/will enjoy the Plasticsoul disc I featured yesterday, except that the production isn't quite as dense here. In fact, the title is based on the fact that the disc was recorded in Blake's own home studio while he wore pajamas.

The sound here is less the straight-ahead power pop of Super Deluxe than it is comparable to Elliott Smith, Michael Penn, The Pernice Brothers and two of my favorite new bands of the last couple of years, Derby and Supraluxe. There's also something of a Neil Finn influence here as well. The first two tracks, "espris de Corps" and "Under The Wheels" are great mid-tempo, largely acoustic numbers in the E. Smith vein, while "She Hasn't Left Me (Yet)" is a more electric-sounding affair that bears a Penn-like sound. But the real stunner here is the lovely "Peter Pan", with its gorgeous Beatles-circa-"Because" harmonies. Other standouts include "Dear Paramour", the jangly "Laid" and the Pernicesque "One Way Trips". The highest compliment I can pay this disc is that's it one of those albums that get better every time you listen to it.

CD Baby | MySpace | Rhapsody

Lapdancers on eMusic.

eMusic has added the new Lapdancers album, Ghost of Alcohol & Song, today. You may remember we featured their new video earlier this month.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

CD of the Day, 8/17/06: Plasticsoul-Pictures From The Long Ago

Since there's been a recent paucity of power pop discs that have caught my ear, I'm going to (temporarily at least) feature some overlooked discs from the last couple of years that warrant mentioning.

For those of you who yearn for Jon Brion's return to the studio for a proper followup to his only solo disc, 2000's Meaningless, I can't help you, but I can point your way to the next best thing: Pictures From The Long Ago, the debut release from Plasticsoul, a/k/a Steven Wilson. Pictures came out about a year ago, but kind of slipped under the radar at the time (translation: I didn't have this blog last year). It's a wonderful disc full of densely-produced, meticulously crafted pop that isn't afraid to go for baroque. Aside from the Brion influence, other prominent touchstones include the solo (and mid-period Beatle) work of John Lennon, whom Wilson bears the eeriest vocal resemblance to this side of Cotton Mather's Robert Harrison. If you think I exaggerate, check out his live-in-the-radio-studio cover of "I'm Only Sleeping" available for download from his myspace page; it's a dead ringer for the "unplugged" version found on the Beatles Anthology. Also, there's a definite Michael Penn influence at play, which comes as no surprise since Wilson is an active member of the Michael Penn mailing list, to which I also subscribe.

The song-to-song quality on this disc is outstanding, making it almost something of a seamless work, but there are some that are more equal than others. "Broken Bones", the leadoff track, sets you up perfectly for what's to follow with its Lennonesque vibe. The loping melody of "You Choose Me" has the vintage Brion sound, and "Over and Over" is perhaps the most rocking track on the disc and would have fit well on a Cotton Mather album. And while I prefer my songs 3-4 minutes long, and usually consider a track pushing 7 minutes to be in self-indulgent territory, I can't make that complaint about the album closer "Sleep Baby Sleep" which clocks in at 6:59 and serves as a perfect summation of the disc.

You can stream "Broken Bones" and "Heartbeats and Baby's Breath" at the myspace link above, and sample the rest at CD Baby. This may have not been in my top 20 for last year (although if I re-did it today, who knows?), but if you missed it the first time around, you're in for a real treat today.

UPDATE: I neglected to mention that this disc is available on eMusic.

Icecream Hands on eMusic.

eMusic has been steadily adding releases from the great Aussie power pop band Icecream Hands over the past several weeks, and now the following releases can be found there:

Broken UFO (2002)
Why'd You Have To Leave Me This Way? (single) (2002)
Sweeter Than The Radio (1999)

Good stuff - a welcome addition to anyone's power pop collection.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Roundup time.

There haven't been too many new discs that have caught my fancy over the past few weeks, hence the relative lack of recent posting. So it's time to toss out a couple of discs that I've enjoyed over the last couple of months that I haven't gotten around to mentioning:

The Eisenhowers-Almost Half-Undressed. The Eisenhowers are a Scottish band who, as their bio states, are "clearly inspired by the likes of Elvis Costello, Aimee Mann, XTC and Crowded House". I can't quibble with that description, although the quirk factor is a bit high here. Interestingly, they have a track-by-track description of the album here. Four of the tracks can be downloaded at the myspace link below.
CD Baby | MySpace

The Yayhoos-Put The Hammer Down. The Yayhoos are kind of a supergroup of sorts, featuring most notably Dan Baird (Georgia Satellites frontman) and Terry Anderson (he of the Olympic Ass-Kickin' Team). While not power pop in the classic sense, this is good-time rock'n'roll in the vein of Baird and Anderson's more notable projects. The rocked-up covers of "Love Train" and the B-52's "Roam" are worth the price of admission alone.
Buy | mp3 | mp3 | eMusic

UPDATE: Thanks to reader Supernaut78 for noticing the Yayhoos on eMu.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

New at eMusic today.

Two releases of note that showed up at eMusic today:

Dave Stephens-Stories for Copper. The 2006 release from this Canadian is a fine one, and Bruce at Not Lame recommends him to "fans of David Grahame, Doug Powell, Emitt Rhodes(lots!) and Phil Angotti".

The Singles-Hypnotized EP. This is a 3-song EP (or CD single) of new material from this Detroit band that has a real retro 60/70s sound. Good stuff, even if it is about 7 total minutes of listening.

Today's video.

All of this talk of Marshall Crenshaw in the preceding Junior League review reminded me that I wanted to pass along this video:

CD of the Day, 8/9/06: The Junior League-Catchy

When you title an album "Catchy", you're either being ironic or confident. In the case of the Junior League (actually singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Joe Adragna), it's clearly the latter. Adragna has crafted a fine disc of breakup and post-breakup songs in a power pop setting that calls to mind many of the touchstones of the genre.

Opener "These Tender Things" is anything but tender in its sound, a blend of Kinks-rock and garage pop. "This Is What We Are" might be the standout on the disc, providing the answer "damn great" to the musical question "What would Marshall Crenshaw sound like if he were backed by The Smithereens?" Following is the mid-tempo "Let Me Win", featuring some nice falsetto vocals by Andragna on the chorus. "This Beautiful Room Is Empty" reminds me of Crenshaw again (Andragna really can sound a lot like him) as well as Eugene Edwards, as does "Hear My Voice" which jangles and sounds like Crenshaw covering the Byrds covering Bob Dylan. (cf. Crenshaw's cover of "My Back Pages"). And if you think I'm pushing the Crenshaw comparison too far, listen to the sound clip of "The Enemy" over at the CD Baby page for the disc, or stream "Would You Believe" at his myspace page, and judge for yourself. (Interestingly, among the myriad influences cited at his myspace page, MC is not one of them, and neither did the handful of other reviews I read mention MC either, so maybe it's just me).

Anyway, this is a highly recommended disc, two thumbs up, four stars (truly not a bad track to be found), and all that. And damn, it's catchy.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

All things Gin Blossoms.

Major Lodge Victory, the Gin Blossoms' first new studio release in 10 years, hits the stores today, and it's a good one even though the title is about as cryptic as Fountains of Wayne's Welcome Interstate Managers. It's available on eMusic as well, so you don't even have to leave your house to pick it up. Lead single "Learning The Hard Way" can be streamed at their myspace page.

Also, if you're a Blossoms fan, make sure you pick up Simple Minded Way, the latest from Robin Wilson's side project, The Longshadows. The samples are non-existent at the cdbaby page linked above, but you can check out a few tracks at The Longshadows' myspace page. It's mellower than typical Gin Blossoms fare, but still a recommended disc.

Finally, although it's not new, guitarist Jesse Valenzuela's 2002 release Tunes Young People Will Enjoy is a great disc as well; it probably would have made at least my top 20 of that year. Right now, it's out of stock on CD Baby, but the interested and resourceful among you can find it I'm sure - that's what Google is for.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Video for Friday.

Here's Butch Walker & The Lets-Go-Out-Tonites with "Bethampethamine (Pretty Pretty)". Great track from a great album, and yes, that's Avril Lavigne in the video.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Good Music for Good People.

That's Not Lame's motto, and they've come through with two new releases that are getting the red-carpet treatment. Both have music players so you can stream the whole disc before deciding whether to buy, and both have all kinds of extra goodies that you can get if you pre-order.

First and foremost is Michael Carpenter's SOOP #2 (Songs of Other People). For more details, check out our earlier post on the topic. Anyway, go here for all the stuff, and the special bonus offer includes downloads of two great discs, 2005's Seize The World by The Supahip (a side project of Carpenter's with Mark Moldre) and 2004's Rolling Ball, Carpenter's most recent solo disc of original material. This is a great deal if you're new to Carpenter and don't have either of those discs.

The other Not Lame offer is for a Best-of collection from The Spinning Jennies. I have to confess I'm not that familiar with them, but I am a big fan of ex-Jennie Jeff Shelton's The Well Wishers, whose Under The Arrows was my #5 disc of last year. Not Lame's special offer here includes a download of the Well Wishers' first disc, Twenty-Four Seven, which is also recommended as well.

The only quibble I have with any of this is that the music players on both need to be cranked up a bit. Even at the max setting, the sound is about 50% of normal, necessitating turning the computer speakers way up.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Video of the Day.

This video comes from The Lapdancers, a new power pop band that's a side project from members of Sugarcult and Bad Astronaut, and features Emile Millar, Thom Flowers, Marko 72 and Mick Flowers. I have Emile's solo effort, Stay Here, somewhere on my shelf; it's been a while since I listened to it, but I remember it being a pretty good singer-songwriter disc.

Anyway, "Still Here" sounds promising for their full-length, Ghost of Alcohol & Song, which is due to hit the streets on Tuesday. The track is also available for download from their myspace page, as well as a non-album cover of Elvis Costello's "No Action".

CD of the Day, 8/2/06: Throwback Suburbia-Eight Tracks

Here it is, folks: the latest band for those of you who loved Jellyfish and The Tories, and love their latter-day acolytes like Sparkwood, Checkpoint Charley, Millicent Friendly, et al. I'm speaking of Portland, Oregon's Throwback Suburbia, who've come of out nowhere to hit us with Eight Tracks, which subscribes to the theory of "all killer, no filler".

As they point out themselves, there's also a Cheap Trick and Butch Walker influence at work here, and opener "Lonely Without You" wouldn't have sounded out of place on Walker's new disc. "The Ride" mines Jellyfish/Tories territory, while "Starting Over" incorporates a more "modern rock" sound a la Weezer/Rooney. These three tracks are representative of the high-energy, highly melodic sound of the remainder of the album, culminating in the proto-power ballad "Do We Cry?".

Fortunately, there are plenty of avenues to check out their sound. You could start at their myspace page, where four of the tracks are available for download. If it's better-quality streaming you want, six of the tracks are in 128kbps aac format over at their site (make sure you have the Quicktime plug in on your browser). And the other two can be sampled at CD Baby, where you can buy the disc for $8. It's also available at iTunes for the same price. Either way, this one won't be thrown back.