And now at long last, the Absolute Powerpop Top 5 of 2008:
5. Pale Hollow-Pale Hollow. The best classic rock/British pop disc of the year, and it's the product of a guy from Cleveland, Michael Allen. With touchstones from Neil Young to The Kinks & solo Ray Davies to Peter Bruntnell to Al Stewart to Oasis, and a bunch of great songs to do those influences proud, Allen has made a disc that will instantly appeal to anyone who grew up in the 60s or 70s.
4. Cliff Hillis-The Long Now. With the best "pure pop" album of the year, Hillis has reached that state of musical zen where it all seems so effortless. I described him in the original review as the "golden mean of power pop" and there's something for everyone here, whether your tastes run to the crunchier or softer sides of the genre. Plus, "Elevator" and "Northern Lights" are two of the catchiest tracks of the year.
3. Adrian Whitehead-One Small Stepping Man. It's always nice to be pleasantly surprised. Last spring, I was excited to be getting the new Bryan Estepa disc from Popboomerang (with justification as it ended up #10), and the label threw in a couple of other discs I wasn't expecting, one of which was this one. And what a breath of fresh air it was. Hands down the best Beatlesque disc of 08, Whitehead serves up one chewy pop confection after another.
2. Clint Sutton-Clint Sutton. Back in April when I unveiled an early-year best-of, I had this disc at #1 and it was a semi-controversial pick. "All the songs sound the same", "not enough melodic variety", etc. were among the criticisms. To which I respond: if you do one thing and do it extremely well, you don't need to be a virtuoso. Sutton has stripped power pop down to its most basic elements: loud, crunchy guitars and sweet melodies. No bells and whistles, no string-laden ballads, no baroque flourishes and no spoken-word interludes. Just 11 tracks of kick-ass melodic rock that despite their relative lack of variance, still sound fresh to me every time I go back and listen to them.
And at #1.................
1. Greg Pope-Popmonster. I knew Greg Pope was a talent in his days fronting Edmund's Crown, but given a chance to fly solo he really outdid himself. A true one-man effort (Pope played all the instruments, wrote all the songs, and did everything except design the tres cool album cover - maybe the best of the year in that field as well), Popmonster is kind of the anti-Clint Sutton: Pope jumps around from indie rock to power pop to classic rock to Americana and pulls all of these styles in a uniformly excellent manner. Clocking in at 16 tracks, it runs the risk of solo self-indulgence, but never crosses that line or wears out its welcome. While some albums demand to be played in sequence as a cohesive whole, Popmonster is like a jukebox filled with your favorite songs and is perfect for shuffling on an iPod.