Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Everybody Wants to be Teenage Fanclub these days.

Last year I ran a post titled "Everybody Wants to be Neil Finn these days" in response to a spate of Finn soundalikes I ran across. And as you can see from the title, the same phenomenon seems to have cropped up with respect to TF. So if you worship at the altar of Norman Blake, here you go:

Mr. D-Wings & Wheels. This one came to my attention when Ray at Kool Kat featured it in his weekly update, and it's a fine example of the midtempo pop hooks and sweet harmonies that make for the classic TF sound. Plus it's available on eMusic. MySpace

The Wonderful Guinea Pigs. The good news: this is one of the better "discs" I've heard this year; this Swedish band has the goods, with "Mirror to Mirror" and "Desperate Days" being two of the better songs i've heard lately and they capture the TF sound to a "T" (and an "F"). The bad news: I used the term "disc" because they don't have a proper one for sale yet. Normally, I don't advocate file-sharing, but their 13-track demo/promo is floating around out there if you're resourceful enough. Just make sure you buy it when they release it properly. In the meantime, you can listen to them on their MySpace.

The Swedish Polarbears-Worship This!"EP"
. Another Swedish band with a TF-fetish. But these guys don't monkey around (guess I'm mixing my animal metaphors) with their influences - they wear them on their sleeves, as witnessed by their signature track, "Norman Blake". Like their Swedish brothers above, they don't have a proper release out, but all 4 tracks are streaming at their myspace. Here's the "Norman Blake" video:

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

CD of the Day, 10/30/07: Smith and Hayes-Changed by a Song

I like to kid quite a bit about some of Bruce Brodeen's catchphrases on Not Lame, such as the variations of "highly recommended" that he uses. Another one he uses quite a bit is "major find", when unearthing an obscure or older title that should have received more publicity (and he does a fine job in that department). Anyway, "major find" is the phrase that kept coming to mind after listening to Smith and Hayes' Changed by a Song, because this is a major find for fans of David Grahame, and by extension Emmit Rhodes and McCartney. (In fact, I almost broke out the siren again, but I don't want to overuse it.) Like Grahame, Clay Smith and Bill Hayes are music business pros who know their way around a song as well as around a studio.

The title track kicks off the festivities, and it's a fine tune with great harmonies and Revolveresque guitars. Next up is another standout - the Wilburyish "You Be The World". But things really go to another level with "Nothing But Love", a slow-building ballad that Grahame fans will do a cartwheel over (and which features a timpani). Other standouts include "Before You Know It", cut from the same cloth as "Nothing But Love"; "Directions Are Inside", which gives off a bit of a Rutles vibe; "Child of Yesterday", which features the best middle eight on the disc; and the Nines-ish "Last Thing I Do". And you even get a "Her Majesty"-like closer with "It Must Be Love", strummed on a ukelele on what sounds like an old scratchy 78.

There isn't a bad track on the entire disc, and someone's going to have make room in my top 20, if not top 10, for this one on the year-end list.

CD Baby | Streams from Official Site

Monday, October 29, 2007

CD of the Day, 10/29/07: Daniel Palmer-Home Sweet Home

It's been a while since we featured a singer/songwriter as CD of the Day, but Daniel Palmer's Home Sweet Home has broken the dry spell with 11 quality tunes that will appeal to fans of popsters such as Warren Zanes and David Mead, as well as fans of rootsier artists like Steve Earle and Jeff Tweedy.

Opener "Singing The Same Song" shows Palmer's pop side, and it reminds me of some of the better tracks off the last Don DiLego disc, which may not be concidental as DiLego is part of Palmer's backing band. "Sometimes", meanwhile, has more of an alt-country sound, but before you can pigeonhole it off the first minute or two, it explodes into a great singalong chorus and a swelling of horns. "Brand New" follows, with its staccato Beatlesque beat reminding me of "If You Could Stay" from Zanes' Memory Girls disc. Other highlights include the midtempo and very radio-friendly "Strong Baby, Strong" and "Silent Alarm", as well as the dreamy closer "Keeps Me Wondering".

CD Baby | MySpace (available there as a $5 download)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

CD of the Day, 10/25/07: The Nines-Gran Jukle's Field

It's probably not an understatement to say that The Nines' Gran Jukle's Field might be the most anticipated power pop release of 2007; after all, 2006's Calling Distance Stations was perhaps the most well-received disc of the year in the power pop community, placing #1 on the year-end Audities list (as well as a pretty high #23 on my list). So the question on everyone's mind is "Does it live up to expectations?" In a word: no. But that's not a bad thing. Whereas Stations had a fairly cohesive sound (80s Moody Blues meets XTC meets ELO), Gran Jukle's Field is an exercise in pop eclecticism - their motto here could have been Monty Python's "And Now For Something Completely Different".

It's perhaps no accident that Bleu (of recent L.E.O. fame) and Jason Falkner were involved with this disc, as opener "Insanity (The Sanest Thing You've Got)" is a rollicking delight that's pure Jellyfish in a McCartney-meets-Queen way. While Falkner's stamp might be all over that track, Bleu's is apparent on the track he produced, "Dance Just For Me", in which he lends his LEO production sound to Steve Eggers' plaintive tale of being in love with a stripper. Meanwhile, Eggers & Co. induldge their love of smooth R&B/disco-inflected pop with "Don't Be a Fool" and "I Am Lost", the latter of which would have fit in unnoticed on the last Scissor Sisters disc. Not your style? Then try "Chantel Elizabeth", part drinking song, part sea shanty. And if you act now, you also get the bossanova of "Safe" (which reminds me of The Pernice Brothers' "Cronulla Breakdown"), the pastoral-era-Kinks sound of the title track, and the countrified "Find Our Way Back Home". Finally, for those who wanted Calling Distance Stations II, you have a quartet of tracks ("Eileen", "She Hijacked Me", "Virginia" and the "Sexy Sadie"-ish "Monotony's Song") that could be packaged in a red can and sold as Nines Classic.

And after all that, I just have to say "Wow". Although you may get genre whiplash from listening to it, every song on the disc is excellent, and I definitely see them higher than #23 on my 2007 list and an Audities repeat at #1 wouldn't shock me either.

CD Baby | MySpace

EP of the Day, 10/25/07: Michael Harrell-Greetings From The Village

I almost included this in yesterday's roundup, but decided it was worth breaking out by itself. Michael Harrell has himself a contender for my year-end top EPs list with Greetings From The Village, an auspicious debut for the 21-year-old Nashvillian. Harrell references The Kinks and Teenage Fanclub in his self-description, and to that I can add Brendan Benson, and even a hint of Bob Evans.

The disc starts rather perversely with a track titled "The End", but it sounds like more like an opener than a closer; the sound here might best be described as AC Newman meets Edmund's Crown. "A Different Kind of Love" is a more straightfoward power pop track that mixes in electric piano to nice effect and yields the Teenage Fanclub comparison. And it's "Pretty When You Cry" that reminds me of Bob Evans with its pedal steel pop. "O Father" follows, a song about Harrell's faith, which is a good a time as any to mention that Superdrag's John Davis helped out on the disc, and this track would have fit nicely on Davis' solo debut. Meanwhile, "Another Day" isn't a McCartney cover, but it shares his pop sensibility, as does the acoustic closer "Private Joke".

A very promising debut, and here's hoping for a full-length next year.

CD Baby | MySpace

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Mid-week Roundup.

Had no intention of going a week without posting, but stuff happens and all that. So to make up for lost time, here's a whole buncha stuff that I've been meaning to give a shout out to:

Doug Bryan-Mad Love. Powerpopaholic beat me to this one, and his review pretty much covers the bases. Bryan will appeal to fans of Herb Eimerman, The Spongetones and early Shoes as well as roots poppers like Brian Jay Cline and Walter Clevenger. "Long Gone", the opener, sets the tone in equal parts great yarn and great tune, and the real standout is "Corporation of Love", both witty and poppy in a Barenaked Ladies kind of way. CD Baby | MySpace

Beachfield-Brighton Bothways. Beachfield is Glenn Thompson, a former sideman for The Go-Betweens, and his debut here is often reminiscent of that band but with more of a pure pop sensibility. Standout tracks: "Wintertime Again" with it's whoa-ho-ho's, the Crowded House-esque "Come Down", and "Suburban Life". It's out in Europe & Australia, and is available from Tower in the USA for an 11/5 release. MySpace

Tony Vincent-A Better Way EP
. Been digging this one, a short-but-sweet EP of fairly sugary pop with a bit of an 80s sheen. This might be too wimpy for some, but even power pop fans can have their guilty pleasures. CD Baby | MySpace

The Pearlfishers-Up With The Larks. Bruce at Not Lame featured this one this week, and it deserves another mention. This might be one of the best pure pop discs in the classic sense of artists as varied as Paul McCartney, Jimmy Webb as well as being a counterpart in some ways to the Red Button. The Red Button comparison comes into play big-time with "London's in Love", one of may favorite tracks of the year-to-date. Throw in the fact that Teenage Fanclub's Norman Blake produced four of the tracks, and you have a real winner on your hands. If you don't want to pay import prices for the disc, you can get mp3s from Amazon for $7.99, not a bad deal. But make sure you pick this one up in some format. MySpace

The Silver Seas-High Society. This band used to be known as The Bees (U.S.), and so as not to be confused with the more well-known British band of the same name, they went with this moniker. By any name, this is a fine disc of mid-tempo pop that features another top 20 song-of-the-year contender, "The Country Life". eMusic | MySpace

The Condors-Wait For It. OK, now that we've dispensed with the poppier (some might say wimpier) pop discs in this roundup, here's some power pop in the form of LA's The Condors. Leadoff track "Waiting Half The Night" picks you up, shakes you, and doesn't let go. In fact, you could say it's punk pop for grownups; instead of some adenoidal twentysomething whining about this, that or the other thing, you get a band that knows the style, is comfortable in its own skin, and is ready to rock. CD Baby | MySpace

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

More good stuff from eMusic (plus last 10 on the iPod).

Some quality releases:

Icecream Hands-The Good China. I would have featured this one as a CD of the Day back when it came out earlier this year, but it wasn't released in the USA. The veteran Aussie power poppers are back and better than ever on this one.

The Makes Nice-This Time Tomorrow. Hey, didn't these guys just put on an album? Anyway, on the heels of Candy Wrapper here they are with another helping of Nugget-y goodness.

Neall Alcott-Rittenhouse Square
. We alerted you to this one about a month ago, and now it's on eMusic; if you didn't want to spring for the CD, here's your big chance.

Brad Brooks-Sanctified Into Astroglide. Quite a few of you out there enjoyed Brad's 2007 release Spill Collateral Love - now eMu features his previous disc from 2000, another slice of highly eclectic pop.

"Hate Being Lonely"-Ben Forrest Davis, Roughs. (This one is really sneaking up on me)
"Stranger Things Have Happened"-Foo Fighters, Echoes Silence Patience
"Bright Blue Hell"-Rosavelt, The Story of Gasoline
"Places"-Georgie James, Places (this disc is about as good as boy-girl indie pop gets - Roll over AC Newman and tell Neko Case the news)
"Judgment Day"-Bill Deasy, The Miles (singer-songwriter similar to AM & Gus Black)
"All The Way Down"-Pawnshop Roses, Let It Roll (not bad faux Black Crowes)
"Basement Parties"-Matt Pond PA, Last Light
"Hello This Is Goodbye"-Ben Forrest Davis, Roughs
"Sleep"-Jackdaw4, Bipolar Diversions
"Cotton Island"-The State of Samuel, Here Come The Floods

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

CD of the Day, 10/16/07: The Amprays-Low Sun Fire

Kevin Grasha doesn't have your ordinary musician's biography. First of all, Grasha is a journalist who, according to his site, "has interviewed Kim Deal of the Breeders, Barack Obama, at least three convicted murderers, and a man who auctioned on eBay appearances of a cup filled with water that Elvis allegedly drank in the 1970s." Meanwhile, he also underwent an emergency craniectomy (that's brain surgery) a few years back. More conventionally, he was once in Rosavelt, a band who put out a fine record in 2004 called The Story of Gasoline only to break up later.

But all of this would be merely another human interest story if his record didn't rock. But it does, and Low Sun Fire by The Amprays (Grasha's band/project which includes a couple of other ex-Rosavelt members) is music for the ears of anyone who's into The Replacements, early Wilco and Guided by Voices. "Levitate" comes roaring out of the gate, nailing their sound with guitars and hooks all wrapped up in 2:24. "Less Than Safe at Last" is reminiscent of the better moments of Paul Westerberg's solo career; "I Woke Up" would have fit in nicely on Wilco's AM and "The Stuntman" is where the Robert Pollard comparisons come in. While The Amprays may be not reinventing the wheel here, they're certainly doing their best to keep it spinning in a manner that you can rock to.

CD Baby | "I Woke Up"(mp3) | "The Stuntman"(mp3)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Monday miscellany.

Some random bits as we face another work week:

* I've never been a big fan of Melissa Etheridge and her whole "female Springsteen" sound (although I am a big fan of the actual Boss and I highly recommend Magic). But "Message to Myself" from her new disc is a great (power) pop track and has found its way onto my iPod. It's streaming at her myspace.

* I guess the siren sells records. Earlier this year the Josh Fields disc constantly went out of stock at CD Baby, and now I notice that The Foreign Films has done likewise.

* Kool Kat is featuring Ben Forrest Davis' Roughs among the new releases this week. "The gorgeous debut by former and founding member of Sugarcult released on Ric Menck's Bird Song imprint" is how they describe it, and I have to say I like what I've heard. I mention this disc because it's available at eMusic, in case you haven't burned through your monthly credits yet.

Friday, October 12, 2007

CD of the Day, 10/12/07: Jackdaw4-Bipolar Diversions

OK, now things are getting serious. There have been a lot of outstanding discs this year, but it's been more depth of quality rather than peaks of quality. In other words, many of the discs that were in my top 20 or so for this year to date would have had a hard time cracking the top 20 of 2005 or 2006. But Bioplar Diversions, the sophomore effort from London's Jackdaw4, should have no problem cracking any year's power pop top 20 or better.

There was a lot of buzz over their first disc, 2004's Gramophone Logic, but I found it a bit inconsistent; here, they reach their full potential with the best Jellyfish-influenced disc since Checkpoint Charley & Sparkwood cracked my 2005 Top 20. They knock it right out of park with "SOOMA (All This Vision)" in which they display a gift for both melody and humor (SOOMA stands for Shines out of My Ass, as in "the sun") along with a nod to Queen. "Frobisher's Last Stand" marries the Jellyfish sound with that of Doug Powell; "Jesus Wants My Soul Back" smacks of music hall McCartney; the title track lives up to its title, with a manic first half followed by a "depressive" and mellow orchestral second half; and "My Little Gangsta" goes for a more glam sound and reminds me of the Class Three Overbite disc. But that's just the first half of the disc. The second half is just as good, especially "Illuminati", which will have you swearing that Sturmer, Falkner, Manning & Co. really have reunited under a different name.

Many recent bands have tried to make a "Jellyfish record", but have only succeeded with a track or two or three. Jackdaw4 have truly done it here, creating a record that is more than the sum of its parts or its influences. It's kind of ironic that Andy Sturmer was the driving force behind LEO, as Alpacas Orgling was a pitch-perfect homage to ELO that stood on its own as a great album, and here we have Jellyfish essentially receiving the same treatment.

The disc is officially out in ten days, but Kool Kat said a few days ago that they have it enroute, so if you place your order now you shouldn't have to wait that long. In the meantime, sample some tracks at their MySpace.

UPDATE: Not Lame is all over this one as well, and they're offering three bonus tracks as well (per Bruce), so keep checking this link as well.

This week's eMusic.

Some interesting stuff on good ol' eMu this week:

Morten Richter-Message From The Slum. This one's actually not new this week, but newly discovered by yours truly. I came across Richter (who hails from Norway) while sampling the latest IPO 3-disc set and his track "Pop-Up Window" well, popped out at me. Further investigation revealed the disc on eMusic, and it's a glam-rock, power pop delight.

The State of Samuel-Here Come The Floods. You could be forgiven for mistaking this Swedish band for another of Robert Pollard's side projects, as there's a definite GbV influence here, the songs clock in at barely 2 minutes (or less) and there are titles like "The Residents of Gloom" and "Slow Day For the UFOs". But no, SoS is their own band, and this is high-quality indie pop. And speaking of Pollard.....

Robert Pollard-Coast to Coast Carpet of Love. If it's Friday, that must mean there's another Robert Pollard record out, and actually there are two of them (he also released Standard Gargoyle Decisions this week, but the critical consensus is that it sucks). This one is being hailed as an excellent power pop record, although I haven't had the chance to listen to it yet. As usual, Pollard isn't a real eMu-friendly artist given the number of tracks on his discs - here you have 16 of 'em averaging the typical 2 minutes per.

Rockfour-Memories of the Never Happened. It's not every day you come across a rock band from Israel, but here you go. These guys used to be with Rainbow Quartz, but this one finally saw a US release on the Cooking Vinyl imprint.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Video & eMusic Download of the Day, The Deadstring Brothers "Meet Me Down at The Heavy Load"

Detroit's Deadstring Brothers have been around for a while, and they released their third disc, Silver Mountain, this week. Their sound is easily described: Exile on Main Street-era Stones. Sure there's a bit of Gram Parsons, Faces and Black Crowes in there as well, but as soon as you start playing this video, you'll be thinking Exile (the album, not the band).

And as of today, it's on eMusic here, along with their first two discs (I highly recommend Starving Winter Report).

Monday, October 08, 2007

CD of the Day, 10/8/07: The Foreign Films-Distant Star

For the third time* in this blog's history, here comes the siren:

There are discs about which I can wax poetic, and then every once in a while I come across one that makes me feel like Chris Farley in those old SNL skits where all he could do was slobber over a celebrity and saw "you were awesome". Such is almost the case for The Foreign Films' Distant Star (I say almost because this post is going to be a bit longer than just "it's awesome"), a 2-CD masterpiece of psych pop that takes the sound of luminaries like John Lennon, Robyn Hitchcock, XTC, contemporaries like Cotton Mather, Robert Harrison solo (the disc is very reminiscent of Future Clouds and Radar, only more consistent), Robert Pollard, Deleted Waveform Gatherings, and mixes it up to create something that stands astride its influences as its own artistic statement.

All of you Matherites out there should truly be stoked by this one; on the heels of Stockton's release featured last week, this one will be truly up your alley. The Foreign Films is actually Hamilton, Ontario's Bill Majoros, and he's a vocal cousin to Lennon and Harrison (Robert, not George). Majoros has been a vet of the music studios for 15 years, as sideman and producer, and it shows on his debut as frontman (he wrote all the tracks as well) as the disc is a sonic as well as melodic delight. Given the band name, it's almost a cliche to describe the sound here as "cinematic", but if the shoe fits...

As far as the individual tracks go, there's 22 of 'em, and I haven't found a bad (or even mediocre) one in the bunch. This is the type of disc that cries out to be listened to the old-fashioned way: all at once, consecutively, preferably on a nice set of headphones. Which is not to say it doesn't work on the iPod either; when these tracks came up randomly among those from other artists, they stood out as well. I guess it's obligatory that I single out a few; coming to mind first are the disc's bookends, opener "Remember to Forget" drew me in the first minute I heard it as a sample on CD Baby, and the closing suite, the 8 1/2-minute "The Snowglobe" is one of the few of those that actually work. "Invisible Heart" is another standout - it's one of the more rocking tracks on the disc - and "Clouds Above Radio Towers" is the quintessential Cotton Mather-meets-GbV track. But there's really no drop-off in the others either. I do throw the phrase "top 10 of the year contender" around a lot (probably more than 10 times a year, for sure), but this is a top 5 contender and maybe even higher. I'll just wrap it succinctly: Get. This. Album. Now. (It's priced at $12.97, typical for a single disc)

CD Baby | MySpace

*for those keeping score, the other two sirens were for Travis Hopper and Josh Fields. In retrospect, the Hopper was an excellent album, but maybe not quite siren-worthy. Fields, on the other hand, still deserves his.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

CD of the Day, 10/3/07: Stockton-Euphonia

At long last, here's the debut CD from Stockton, who teased us with the brilliant "Dreamworld" last summer on their myspace page. For those who need a refresher, Stockton is 2/3 of the late, great Cotton Mather (guitarist Whit Williams and drummer Dana Myzer) plus ex-20/20 member Ron Flynt. Along with former Mather frontman Robert Harrison's Future Clouds and Radar, we now have two Mather-related projects available in the same year after a six-year drought since 2001's The Big Picture.

Mather comparisons are inevitable here, and it doesn't hurt that Flynt isn't that different vocally from Harrison. But I always thought that Williams was Mather's secret weapon; normally in power pop, guitar virtuosity takes a distant back seat to the song, but Williams is one of the rare power pop guitarists who has his own distinctive sound (just think of "My Before and After" and "40 Watt Solution" for instance), and this makes Euphonia more the "new Cotton Mather record" than Future Clouds and Radar (which was no slouch either). His mark on the disc becomes apparent very early, with the extremely strong opening quintet of "Free Drinks", "My Foreign Legion" (there's a Matheresque title if I ever heard one), the aforementioned "Dreamworld" and "Pipe Dream Blues", several of which feature harmonies sung over Williams' Revolver-like guitar play, almost like a mash-up of "Because" and "Rain". In fact, these four tracks as a unit trump any combination of four tracks from The Big Picture (unless it's "40 Watt Solution" played four times).

Which is not to imply that there's a cliff-like drop-off after the first four tracks. "See Rock City", "Lowbrow", and "Make It Right" would be the highlights of most band's albums, and here they're fighting for fifth place. And album closer (not counting the "Dreamworld" reprise) "Night Is Over" is an altogether different treat, sounding nothing like Mather but instead like kind of a laid-back "Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)". To make a long story short, we have another top 10 of 2007 contender on our hands here.

MySpace | Kool Kat | iTunes

eMusic update.

With yesterday's massive bloc of additions (1067 albums), there were bound to be a few of interest and here they are:

Greg Summerlin-All Done In Good Time. His followup to 2005's Young Meteors, kind of an indie rock/britpop hybrid.

The Trolleyvox-Your Secret Safe/Luzerne. A disc-set, the first one electric and the second acoustic. I think Foo Fighters got there first, but if you enjoyed their previous stuff, you'll like this one.

The 1900s-Cold & Kind
. Kool Kat's Baron Saturday says "This, their first full-length, really lets them spread their wings and impressively showcase a range of styles, including Americana, chamber pop and dreamy singer-songwriter wistfulness".

John Fogerty-Revival. Billed as a return to his CCR sound, and there's even a track called "Creedence Song".

The Green Pajamas-Box of Secrets: Northern Gothic 2. An excellent effort from the PJ's, been listening to this one for about a month now. Psych-pop at its best.

The Incredible Casuals-World Championship Songs 1980-2007. As you might have guessed from the title, this is a best-of collection for this veteran Cape Cod band that's an offshoot of NRBQ. Pub-rock with a sense of humor. Only downside here is that it's 24 tracks, a good chunk of a monthly eMu allotment.

Peter Kearns-No Such Thing as Time. This New Zealand producer gets on the other side of the mixing board with his first solo release, and it's high quality singer-songwriter pop with a Beatlesque flair.