Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Vote for Wiretree!

I don't normally do this, and by doing this I'm not inviting every artist I've blogged about to enlist me in helping to win an online contest, but I'm a big fan of Kevin Peroni a/k/a Wiretree's music, and I think it would be extremely cool to see him on Austin City Limits. So I'm asking my readers to vote for Wiretree in a contest that is running to get an independent artist a spot in the 2007 Austin City Limits Music Festival lineup.

Click the banner below if you so choose, and give Kevin a boost (he's made it to Round 3 but is 13th now and needs to make the top 5 to advance to the final round). His full-length debut Bouldin is #2 on my top 50 of 2007 in case you're still unfamiliar with him.

Friday, August 24, 2007

CD of the Day, 8/24/07: Ken Sharp-Sonic Crayons

Ken Sharp has been something of a power pop renaissance man, having started out as a music writer (having authored or co-authored 10 books), and then actually releasing his own albums (1301 Highland Avenue and Happy Accidents) to great acclaim on Not Lame's label. It's been seven years since Happy Accidents, and now Ken is back with Sonic Crayons. The wait has been worth it, as he's given us a strong contender for Top 10 of 2007 honors.

While his previous two discs were outstanding in a lighter, sugary manner, Sonic Crayons has a meatier, crunchier sound and features help from Enuff Z'Nuff's Chip Z’Nuff and Donnie Vie. On discs this good, it almost seems unfair to pick out individual songs lest others be slighted. Nevertheless, those more equal than others include "Better Every Day", "Melody Hill" (a contender for Top 20 tracks of 2007 honors), the rocking "New Attitude", the languid and Beatlesque "So Simple Radio", the catchy as-all-get-out "Get Yourself Together" and the beautiful ballad "Why Girls Cry".

It's available through the usual suspects, but your best bet is ordering it directly from Ken at his myspace page where you can also listen to four of the tracks including three highlighted above. Joe Jackson might have admonished us once to "look sharp"; now I'm advising you to get Sharp.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Better Latebirds Than Never.

It's been a long time since I posted a video, but with The Latebirds popping up on my iPod, I was inspired to Google them and found this video for "Dream Dream", a great track from a great album (Radio Insomnia):

CD of the Day, 8/22/07: The Orchid Highway-The Orchid Highway

(Note: This was the best picture of the disc I could find online and my scanner isn't working; if you click on the picture above, it won't go right to the "buy the cd" link.)

Those of you who saw David Bash's midyear top 25 last month may have noticed a band that hasn't been talked about a lot in the power pop coummunity listed at #8: The Orchid Highway. Well, I'm going to do my part to change that, as their self-titled full-length debut is worthy of the spot on David's list (and undoubtedly, one on mine at year's end). Some have called this Vancouver band Western Canada's answer to Halifax's Sloan, and while there may be something to that, they have a bit more of a singular sound.

I've always thought that every great power pop album should have at least one undeniably "killer" track on it, and these guys come through in spades: "Sofa Surfer Girl" leads off the disc, and you might end up wanting to hear it two or three times before moving on to the next one. Opening with chords reminiscent of "Dig a Pony", it goes right in to a more traditional Beatlesque sound with one hook after another. If these guys had been around in the late 90s with this one, it very well could have found its way onto the radio along Ben Folds, Semisonic and Fastball. "Sofa Surfer Girl" is a tough act for the rest of the album to follow, but the Orchids are up to the task: "Medicine Tree" is a fast-paced pop/rocker that earns them the Sloan comparison; the largely acoustic and trippy "Let's Stay In Instead" has a winning melody; "Next World" has a Nugget-y, Rainbow Quartz-like sound to it that reminds me of another Canadian act, The Telephatic Butterflies; and "Pop Tart Girl" sounds just like you'd imagine. Also not to be overlooked are the McCartneyesque "Tea With Shandra", and the tres cool closer "Legion Hall", with a middle section that could have come straight from an old Del Shannon record.

This disc hasn't found its way to the Kool Kats, Not Lames and CD Babies of the world, so you'll have to order it directly from the band at their MySpace or their official site. They've also recently played IPO Los Angeles and are set to perform at IPO Vancouver, so get out and see them if you're in that neck of the woods.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

A herd of eMus.

Finally, some serious pop action on eMusic over the last couple of days. This is what's new and notable:

Starter-Through The Morning Sky. This Madrid-based band came out of nowhere last year to place #65 on our top 100 of 2006, and now they're apparently getting US-based distribution. If this one is missing from your collection, remedy that oversight now.

The Chevelles
- several releases. Recently, eMu's added a number of Chevelles titles, including their best-of, Delerium, and the excellent Girl God. This is pure power pop with a capital "P", from Australia's answer to The Lolas (or perhaps that should be the other way around, since the Chevelles have been around longer).

AM-Soul Variations. The latest from this poppy singer-songwriter, whose Troubled Times was a fine release and also available on eMusic. Comes with a special eMusic bonus track.

Luke Temple-Snowbeast. I enjoyed his 2005 release Hold a Match For a Gasoline World, so be sure to at least sample the latest from this singer-songwriter with a keen pop sense.

Milton & The Devil's Party-How Wicked We've Become. Intellectual power pop? The band is comprised of professors of literature at Widener University, and their somewhat esoteric lyrical moments are in service of great Figgs/Elvis Costello/Graham Parker-sounding pop/rock.

Imperial Teen-The Hair the TV the Baby and the Band
. If you could find "indie pop" in the dictionary, this band would be staring you right in the face. Here's their latest.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Saturday Blurb-o-rama, Roundup, whatever you want to call it.

Still making up for lost time here, so I figure I'll trot another batch of discs for your consideration.

Brett Terry-Retrospective Lives. Fine singer-songwriter stuff for those like their pop a bit folky. Standout track: "Left The Earth Today". CD Baby | Official Site

Dean Owens-Whisky Hearts. The third disc from this Scottish singer-songwriters has turned out to be one of the more pleasant surprises for me this year, striking me as something of a cross between Bob Evans' Suburban Songbook, Willie Nile's Streets of New York, and Ryan Adams' Gold. Recorded in Nashville, Owens utilized local help like Will Kimbrough, Robert Reynolds of The Mavericks, Jen Gunderman (Jayhawks) and Thad Cockrell, a fine artist in his own right. And where else are you going to find a track that sounds like Springsteen ("Years Ago") followed by one that sounds like Josh Rouse ("Beth on the Trampoline"). I'm probably giving this one short shrift by not breaking it out as a CD of the Day, but I've spilled too much ink already to go back. MySpace | CD Universe (import)

Green Peppers-Domino Mornings. England's Neon Tetra is one of those labels that I'm beginning to consider picking up its releases on spec, kind of like Rainbow Quartz in the US. Already home to Daniel Wylie and The Hazey Janes, two artists who can do no wrong in my book, they bring us Jim McCulloch's Green Peppers, a kind of loose-knit gathering of McCulloch, and whichever one of his buddies happened to pass by the studio while he was recording. This vibe undoubtedly led to the disc's best track, "Honest Injun", featuring ex-Del Amitri frontman Justin Currie on lead vocals. Meanwhile, the rest of the disc should appeal to those who enjoy the other Neon Tetra artists. And while it's an import, you can snap it up on eMusic. MySpace | eMusic | Kool Kat

The Cosmosonics-Junk Rock....for Lovers! For those like the glam side of power pop, Pittsburgh's Cosmosonics are your guys. Standout track: "Rave It Up!", the title of which could serve as the band's mission statement as well. MySpace | Official Site

The Grip Weeds-House of Vibes Revisited. Any power pop fan worth his or her salt knows the Grip Weeds well, and here they come full circle by re-releasing their 1994 classic, House of Vibes, the disc which put them on the map. If Little Steven is calling one of your tracks ("Salad Days") the coolest song in the world, well you know you've done something right. But there's more to it than this, and anyone who's come to the Weeds late (as well as anyone who came to them early) needs to pick this one up. Bonus tracks galore, interviews with band members, it's all here. Standout track: "Salad Days", of course. CD Baby | Kool Kat (w/even more bonus tracks)| MySpace

The Small Stars-Tijuana Dreams. This side project of Fastball's Miles Zuniga (under the nom de plume of Guy Fantasy) is a real treat, especially for those who preferred his stuff in Fastball over Tony Scalzo's (even though all the big hits were Scalzo's, save "Fire Escape", the exception that proves the rule). Anyway, just imagine what Paul McCartney would have sounded like had he grown up in a Tex-Mex setting, and you have Tijuana Dreams. Favorite track: "Love Is Grand". CD Baby | MySpace

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Overlooked Gem of the Day: Sugarhit-Takin' for a Ride

Every once in a while I feel compelled (usually as the result of random iPod play) to bring up a a two or three-year old release that seems to have been overlooked by the power pop community at large, and today's installment brings us Sydney's Sugarhit and their 2004 EP Takin' For a Ride.

They're appropriately named, at least as to the "Sugar" part (had they debuted in the 70's, the "hit" part would likely be true as well), as you get sugary-sweet vocals and melodies over a solid rhythm section, yielding power pop bliss. "Brand New Baby" (not to be confused with the Semisonic semi-hit of the same name) sets the tone from the start with its catchy melody, and "We Go Round" follows with a sound that might best be described as "playful garage". This leads to the disc's best track, "Wherever We Want", whose chorus I defy you to get out of your head after hearing it. "Save My Love" is another delight, and was featured in a Not Lame Podcast. Like all of the best EPs, this is quality over quantity, so if you missed this one when it came out, don't overlook it again.

Kool Kat | Not Lame

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A few eMus.

Still getting my sea legs here, I plan on having another "blurb-o-rama" in the next day or two, and perhaps a CD of the Day or two. In the meantime, things remain pretty quiet on the power pop front at eMusic, but there are a few releases to note.

The latest from Aussie powerpopper Danny McDonald, Summer City, has been added. Sez Bruce at Not Lame: "As with the best of Australian Power Pop, Fans of DM3 and The Chevelles will want to check out McDonald closely. For fans of shimmery guitar pop, hooks and ringing chords...they are all here. Add some surf, garage and earthy country yearnings in the fully framed picture of what Australia Pop is all about, you have Danny McDonald".

Helpful reader Mike pointed out in comments to the last post that the John P. Strohm disc, Everyday Life, is on eMu as well, so in case you didn't see the comment, I figured I'd mention it in a post.

I also neglected to mention that the new Josh Rouse disc, Country Mouse City House, is on there too. While nobody was a bigger fan of Rouse through his 2005 release Nashville than myself, I found last year's Subtitulo to be a disappointment, and while the new one is better, it doesn't quite measure up to his brilliant run of Under Cold Blue Stars/1972/Nashville. But you can judge for yourself.

Finally, although he isn't power pop, I've always had a soft spot for Al Stewart, and his 2005 release A Beach Full of Shells is now on the site as well. Like new discs from many other artists who were big decades ago, it's a latter-day release that has its moments but doesn't rank with his best.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

We're back!

Didn't plan on 2+ weeks of blogging inactivity, but things have been quite a bit chaotic for me recently, on many levels. Anyway, to play catch-up, I've going to mention a bunch of discs that caught my fancy in the meantime (or just before) in a "blurb-o-rama"-type fashion (apologies to the Power of Pop guys), along with some other tidbits.

First of all, one reason I haven't at least had an eMusic "filler"-type post up in this period is that they really haven't added anything compelling from a power pop perspective lately, save for the new Crowded House disc, Time on Earth.

Now, on to the discs:

Adam Bernstein-Dust Off The Timeless Night. Great singer-songwriter pop, with great melodies and thoughtful lyrics. Somewhere in between Mead/Rouse/Johnston, Ben Folds (more in the manner of sensibility rather than piano) Steven Mark, Paul Schneider and Joe Ongie. Highlight track: "The Poets of Avarice". This one has serious year-end list potential. CD Baby | iTunes

John P. Strohm-Everyday Life. The ex-Lemonheads guitarist/drummer and entertainment-lawyer-by-day has an excellent, midtempo batch of tunes here with hooks galore and a wry outlook on life. Highlight: "Waiting for the World to End". Kool Kat | MySpace

Knit Delicate-Pressed. I could make a joke about the fabric of their sound, or how they weave great tune after great tune, but I won't pull that thread. Instead, I'll just tell you that his Milwaukee band has come out of left field with a disc full of rocking, melodic tunes with a just a hint of poppier alt-country (think Summerteeth-era Wilco, or Fight Songs-era Old 97s) that fits just right. Highlight: "Redline". CD Baby | MySpace

Mark Norris & The Backpedalers-Stranded Between Stations. The Buffalo News described this disc as "The Basement Tapes recorded with Ray Davies instead of Bob Dylan", and they do have something there. To me, it's quality roots rock that will appeal to fans of Walter Clevenger, Brian Jay Cline, and Bill Lloyd. Highlight: "To Old Relations". CD Baby | MySpace

Stepsonday-Little Light. Here's some excellent indie pop that puts melody before quirk or attitude. Think Nada Surf or The Shins, but a bit different. And all I can say is that "1234" is one of my favorite songs of the year. CD Baby (only $8!) | MySpace | eMusic

Third of Never-Moodring. If I told you there was a new band featuring members of The Grip Weeds and The Smithereens, and asked you to imagine their sound in your head, then you'd come up with Third of Never. A mix of classic rock, jangle, psych and power pop that won't surprise you, but won't disappoint either. This one's been on my iPod for a while, and isn't wearing out its welcome. Highlight Track: "DJ". (also features a nice cover of "Let My Love Open The Door") CD Baby | MySpace

Tom Caufield-Mystic Chords of Memory. Bruce at Not Lame featured this one last time out, and with good reason. There's something here for everyone, which kind of makes sense as this is a sampling of songs he's written over the years rather than for a single album. So you get a mix of regular power pop, singer/songwriter material, soft pop and roots rock, all in one disc. Plus, Brad Jones produced the title track. What more can you ask for? Highlight: "First Girl on the Moon". CD Baby