Friday, July 27, 2007

Absolute Powerpop on a brief hiatus.

I have a major work-related project underway (one of those where you have to spend time in the office nearly 24/7, except to go home and sleep), so I won't be posting at all during the next 6-7 days or so. So stroll through the archives, listen to some bands you may have passed over before, and keep popping!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

CD of the Day, 7/25/07: The ACBs-The ACBs

A bright new face on the power pop scene is Kansas City's The ACB's, with a self-titled debut that should bring a smile to the face of power poppers old and young alike. Fans of classic bands like Cheap Trick and The Cars as well as fans of newer bands like Rooney, Waltham and The Fags should find a lot to like here; in fact, in many respects they remind me of The Fizzies and their fine Contest Popularity disc released earlier this year.

Highlights on this disc are many: Opener "You Did It Once" sets the tone, establishing their high-energy no-nonsense power pop; "Windows Up" brings the tempo down a notch but the melody quotient a notch up; "Sometime" adds falsetto and a bit of funk; "Suzanne" captures their essence perfectly, a sing-along that rocks; the gorgeous "Everyone Wants to See"; and the closer "Oo Jane", in which I can swear I hear a hint of Collective Soul. Great stuff all around, and making the choice to pick this one up should be as easy as A-C-B.

CD Baby | MySpace

Friday, July 20, 2007

EP Friday.

Seems like I haven't reviewed too many EPs this year, so here are 3 for your weekend consideration:

The Weightlifters-Last of the Sunday Drivers. This is the brainchild of Chicago's Adam McLaughlin, former guitarist for the Philly power pop band The Idle Wilds (not to be confused with Idlewild), who were signed to a then-revived Ardent label by Big Star's Jody Stephens in the late 90s. There is a bit of a Big Star sound here, but more like Big Star by way of Teenage Fanclub. It's really quite good stuff, and you can stream the full EP at their (his) site. CD Baby

The Pacific-Sound x3. This LA band not only knows how to rock, but manages to do it in a highly melodic manner. I'm a little surprised their self-titled debut in 2004 didn't garner more attention in the power pop community (thanks to Mark at Rock and Roll Report for bringing them to my attention). The best way I can desribe their sound is a kind of Oasis-Kinks-Cheap Trick amalgam. The good news is that both this new EP and the debut full-length can be found on eMusic.


Jason Lyles-Ethereal. Chattanooga TN's Jason Lyles is more of a rocker than a power popper per se, but there are more than enough hooks and melodies to make Ethereal an enjoyable listen for you Absolute Powerpop readers out there. And the slower numbers might be the best on the EP: "Move On" and the anthemic title track.

CD Baby | MySpace

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

David Bash's Top 25 of 2007 to date.

For those who love the lists, here's the Top 25 of the first half of 2007 from David Bash, Mr. International Pop Overthrow, as posted to the Audities list:
1. The Fast Camels-The Magic Optician
2. Peachfuzz-Catch Your Snap
3. The Scruffs-Pop Manifesto
4. David Brookings-Obsessed
5. The Singles-Start Again
6. The Red Button-She's About To Cross My Mind
7. Fountains Of Wayne-Traffic And Weather
8. The Orchid Highway-The Orchid Highway
9. Paul Starling-Ghost Waltz
10. Sparkwood-Kaleidoscopism
11. Switches-Heart Tuned To D.E.A.D.
12. The Peaces-Is/Are/Was/Were
13. Third Of Never-Moodring
14. The Tangerines-The Tangerines
15. The Procession-Musique Magnifique
16. Johnny Lloyd Rollins-Let's Be Poor Together
17. The Len Price 3-Rentacrowd
18. Zombies Of The Stratosphere-The Well Mannered Look
19. Maple Mars-Beautiful Mess
20. The Cheeks-Raw Countryside
21. Home-Is Where The Heart Is
22. John Hoskinson-Pancho Fantastico
23. The Gilligans-Snoring With An Accent
24. Farrah-Cut Out & Keep
25. Johnny Monaco-Overrated
A lot of these names will be familiar of course, but I have not heard his #1, The Fast Camels. Needless to say, I will be remedying that situation, since it's on eMusic. The other pleasant surprise on the list (of sorts) is at #10, where Sparkwood has a new album out, something else that eluded me. And it turns out with good reason, as the disc has only been released in Japan. I'm going to have to figure out a way to find it, though, as their 2005 release Jalopy Pop was my #18 disc that year (and Bash's #1).

Sunday, July 15, 2007

David Grahame update.

When we last left David Grahame, he was selling his new tracks at $2 a pop from his website, a business model that caused some fair controversy on the Audities list and led to a lot of skepticism from those who would otherwise buy (including myself).

I'm happy to report now that not only is he no longer charging $2/song, he's made all the tracks, along with outtakes from DT & The Disagreeables and Supergenius, available in a 6-song EP CD-R for $5.99 ($7.49 after shipping), so now, a la Jim Cramer, I can put in a "buy" recommendation on this.


Friday, July 13, 2007

CD of the Day, 7/13/07: Steve Robinson - Undercurrent

Today is a special day. Nah, nothing to do with Friday the 13th or anything like that. It's a day I get to feature an artist from my neck of the woods, the Tampa Bay area of Florida. Sure, we're known for the beaches, the weather, Super Bowls (including one won by the Bucs), a Stanley Cup for the Lightning, and the strip clubs of Dale Mabry, but one thing the area isn't notable for is a strong power pop presence (not to slight the late Barely Pink or The Ditchflowers, whose Ed Woltil helps out here). For example, I couldn't do what Gary Miller does and start an exclusive Tampa Bay Powerpop Blog; my posts would come around even less frequently than they'd have done lately.

Anyway, this is a rather roundabout way of introducing one of the better discs of 2007 that I've heard, Steve Robinson's Undercurrent. Robinson is an English expatriate who was a member of The Headlights, Roger McGuinn's backing band, and his sound here straddles the divide between folk and pop without ever losing sight of melody. Even within that ambit, there are a variety of sounds here. Opener "Wooden Hill" leans more to the pop side, with a melody and sound that reminds me of a stripped-down "No Myth". "Please Emmaline" is another winner, a catchy "Bo Diddley"-type number, while "Love Is Real" is as Beatlesque as its title implies. Other standouts include the uptempo "Wasted and Waiting"; "Forget About Love", the disc's rockingest track; "Class Clown" which also reminds me of Michael Penn, and the closer "I'm In Trouble (Again)", which wouldn't have sounded out of place on Bob Evans' Suburban Songbook.

It's too bad this missed the cut for my Top 50 list, as I had just received the disc while compiling it. Rest assured, it will be near the top when the year-end Top 100 rolls around, and if you're looking for something new and different to pick up, grab a copy of Undercurrent. And not just because Steve Robinson is my homeboy.

CD Baby

Side Note: Robinson's first solo release, the fine Away For The Day, is available on eMusic - it includes "The Golden Age of Steam", the best train song since, well, Al Stewart's "Trains".

Some Kool (Kat) Releases.

With Not Lame now out of the record label business (and exclusively into mail order), Kool Kat Musik reigns as the premier USA power pop label, and recently they've given us three fine releases - each of which has something different to offer. I've provided CD Baby links for listening purposes, but you're best served by ordering directly from the Kat, as they have bonus disc offers for each release.

First off is my favorite of the batch, Maple Mars' Beautiful Mess, which clocked in at #40 on our YTD Top 50 List. Rick Hromadka & Co. have served up a winner here, with a sound steeped in many of the classic power pop touchstones that most of you out there have come to know and love. The title track is an instant classic and one of the top tunes of 07 with its heady mix of Beatles, Jellyfish, and glam-rock, and would have fit right in on the fine Class Three Overbite disc that's also on the top 50 list. "Butterfly Effect" and "Paralyzed" are examples of classic riff-and-amp-driven power pop in the vein of The Lolas, "Breathe Deep" is anthemic-sounding, and "Sweetest Dream" calls to mind vintage Cloud Eleven. There's even a track on here called "I'm Not In Love" that's reminiscent of 10cc.* CD Baby | MySpace

For those who dig a more "modern rock" sound, there's the latest from Fooling April, In The Now. I know it might be considered by some as an insult to compare them to bands like Matchbox 20 and Third Eye Blind, but what Fooling April manage to pull off here is the musicianship and songwriting that made these bands popular, but without the cheese and the lowest-common-demoninator mentality. In other words, they have a radio-friendly sound that would make them one of the best things you'd hear on contemporary radio today. Tracks like "Ordinary" and "The Way Back Down" capture this essence, and they even manage a sense of humor (something rare for bands in this subgenre) with "Chick Flix", something any guy with a significant other can relate to. CD Baby | MySpace | eMusic

Finally, for those into truly classic power pop, Kool Kat brings you John Wicks & The Records' Rotate. Wicks is a grizzled power pop vet, around since the late 70s, and he & his band serve up an aural trip back to that time and beyond with a set of outstanding melodic pop/rock. Standouts include "Oh Yeah!", "That Girl Is Emily", the possibly semi-autobiographical "The Lost Years", and the highly Beatlesque "We Can Work It Out".* CD Baby | MySpace

*yes, I know these are covers.

New eMu.

New at eMusic:

The enigmatic Dan Bryk returns with an EP "preview" of his forthcoming album. Discount Store has six tracks, including two versions of the title track. Pop goodness with a touch of quirk.

Canada's excellent The High Dials follow their M.O. from last time around, releasing an EP as a follow-up to a full-length. The Holy Ground has four all-new tracks of their great dense psych-pop-rock.

And a couple of bigger names have shown up: They Might Be Giants' latest, The Else, as well as Spoon's Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, which sounds quite good.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

The Top 50 of 2007 (as of July 8)

OK, here's the long-promised, days-in-the-making Top 50 list of 2007. There are a few late 2006 releases on there (Baldrachi, Buva, Ed James, to name a few), which I'm counting for this year, and there are some brand new ones out that aren't on the list but which I've taken an initial shine to. I will say that it was difficult to compile the list because while there have been a number of very, very good releases, only a handful have truly jumped out at me, making, say #s 5-25 somewhat arbitrary.

Anyway, without further ado, here is the list (along with a bonus top 5 EP list at the end):

The Top 50 of 2007 (through July 8)

1. Josh Fields-Josh Fields
2. Wiretree-Bouldin (now on CD Baby)
3. Additional Moog-Thirty-Three & a Third
4. Keith LuBrant-Searching For Signal
5. Shake Some Action!-S/T
6. Mika-Life In Cartoon Motion
7. Romantica-America
8. The Red Button-She's About to Cross My Mind
9. Signal Hill Transmission-An Empty Space
10. Steve Bertrand-Pain Is a Megaphone
11. Grand Atlantic-This Is Grand Atlantic
12. Adam Miner-Dangerous Eyes
13. The Well Wishers-How I Won The War
14. Buva-All This Humming
15. The Fizzies-Contest Popularity
16. Jason Isbell-Sirens of the Ditch
17. Locksley-Don't Make Me Wait
18. The Sunday Drivers-Tiny Telephone
19. Icecream Hands-The Good China
20. Peter Baldrachi-S/T
21. Everybody Else-S/T
22. John Hoskinson-Pancho Fantastico
23. Mandrew-The Wonderful World of Mandrew
24. Jesse Malin-Glitter In The Gutter
25. Duane Dolieslager-The Opposite of Optimist
26. John Krueger-Later
27. Storyhill-S/T
28. Zombies of the Stratosphere-The Well-Mannered Look
29. Crowded House-Time on Earth
30. Burning Daylight-Whiskey & Romances
31. Class Three Overbite-Rendezvous
32. The Vinyl Skyway-On Telegraph Hill
33. The Broken West-I Can't Go On, I'll Go On
34. Mitch Easter-Dynamico
35. The Sheers-Goodbye World
36. Future Clouds and Radar-S/T
37. The Primary 5-Go!
38. Holmes-Stop Go
39. Travis-The Boy With No Name
40. Maple Mars-Beautiful Mess
41. The Stereotypes-4
42. Arthur Yoria-Handshake Smiles
43. Ed James-In The 21st Century
44. The Tangerines-S/T
45. Limbeck-S/T
46. The Procession-Musique Magnifique
47. Simon Morel-Record #2
48. Johnny Lloyd Rollins-Let's Be Poor Together
49. OK Jones-Elephantoms
50. Devlin Murphy-My First

Top 5 EPs of 2007

1. The Holy Fields-S/T
2. Daniel Wylie-Let's Go Surfing
3. Adam Merrin-Have One
4. Jason Collett-Prodigals
5. The Brides of Obscurity-Extended Play

Sunday, July 01, 2007

A few more eMus.

Added this weekend at eMu (with CD Baby links for those who prefer something more tangible):

Rick Altizer has always been a Christian power popper; aside from his work in Dum Dog Run, most of his solo CDs have had tunes of faith sprinkled in among the "secular" tracks. Now, with Scripture Memory, he's gone fully devotional. This may not be for everyone, of course, but the power pop is still there. (CD Baby)

The latest from The Singles, Start Again, has finally made its way onto the service. Meat and potatoes power pop/garage, you know you want it. (CD Baby)

Canadian power poppers Two Hours Traffic are out with Little Jabs, their second disc, and it's quite good, at least what I've heard so far. (CD Baby)