Thursday, January 31, 2008

CD of the Day, 1/31/08: Codaphonic-The Ballad of Codaphonic

Codaphonic is back. The Nashville band who gave us one of top EPs of 2006, Good Morning Radio, is back with The Ballad of Codaphonic, their first full-length. And as the saying goes, if you liked the EP, you'll love the full-length (which repeats none of the EP tracks - yay!).

For those who didn't hear the EP or click through the link to my review of it above, the Codaphonic sound is bright, hook-filled power pop with a bit of subversive edge a la Harry Nilsson or Barenaked Ladies, with a bit of Sloan thrown in for good measure. "Never Slows Down" serves as both an opening track and a mission statement for the disc, with its crunchy guitars, bubbly synths and enough "ba ba"s, "la la"s to get you going over its entire 1:54. "A Lot Like Me" gets by on a great guitar hook for its first 2/3s, then turns it over to some great piano; "Long Night" is borderline alt-country; "The Most Important Thing" is British Pop with a touch of Nilsson; "Nothing to Do" adds horns to the power pop mix; and "Sun vs. Moon" does likewise in a manner reminiscent of Sloan. Quality all around, and a top 10 of 2008 contender.

So check them out if you haven't already - everything you need is at their site: streams, mp3s and a place to order.

Codaphonic Site | MySpace

mp3s: The Most Important Thing | Sun vs. Moon

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

CD of the Day, 1/29/08: Pale Hollow-Pale Hollow

Now here's an exceptional disc. Pale Hollow is Cleveland's Michael Allen and he recorded this album in Detroit, but don't be fooled - this is the sound of the English Midlands rather than the US Rustbelt, and he's given us a tasteful disc of the highest craft. Think Muswell-era Kinks as interpreted by Teenage Fanclub with an attention to craft and detail, and you have an early Best of 2008 favorite (Yes, the disc came out in December of 2007. So sue me.)

"Don't It Leave You Lonely" opens the disc and gives you a great idea of what you're in for the rest of the way. Coming down like a great lost Laurel Canyon 70s-era track, its breezy melody and midtempo beauty let you know that a pro is at work. "Sugarcane" follows with a more rocking sound, almost Neil Young-ish in parts but with a wonderfully melodic middle eight that will leave you humming. "Let the Change Begin" almost sounds like a grown-up Oasis; "Roll The Stone Away" reminds me of prime Peter Bruntnell; "Satisfied Mind" is excellent folk-rock in a Donovan-meets-Al Stewart manner, and "Soul Explosion" would make Ray Davies proud.

A very pleasant surprise indeed, and kudos to Kool Kat for unearthing this gem. While it may not appeal to the under-35 crowd, music fans of any age would be well served to add this one to their collection.

CD Baby | MySpace

NOTE: The four tracks at MySpace are downloadable, although it's hit or miss at the moment.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Audities Best of 2007 List.

The votes are finally in, comments (mostly grousing) to follow:

1. Fountains Of Wayne -- Traffic And Weather (685 points)
2. The Red Button -- She’s About To Cross My Mind (501)
3. The Nines -- Gran Jukle’s Field (326)
4. Future Clouds & Radar --Future Clouds & Radar (269)
5. Paul McCartney -- Memory Almost Full (268)
6. Bruce Springsteen -- Magic (241)
7. Amy Winehouse -- Back To Black (231)
8. John Hoskinson -- Pancho Fantastico (225)
9. Wilco -- Sky Blue Sky (217)
10. The Broken West -- I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On (206)
11. Nick Lowe -- At My Age (205)
Robert Plant and Allison Krauss -- Raising Sand (205)
13. Crowded House -- Time On Earth (202)
14. Spoon -- Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (198)
15. Rooney -- Calling The World (194)
16. The New Pornographers -- Challengers (192)
17. Maple Mars -- Beautiful Mess (171)
18. Lewis Taylor -- The Lost Album (168)
19. Farrah -- Cut Out And Keep (165)
20. Ken Sharp -- Sonic Crayons (156)

And the rest of the Top 50
21. The Shins -- 155
22. Frisbie -- 136
23. The Clientele -- 134
24. Jason Falkner -- 130
25. Ryan Adams -- 129
Jackdaw 4 -- 129
27. Ian Hunter -- 126
28. Silverchair -- 123
29. Band Of Horses -- 105
Jens Lekman -- 105
31. Myracle Brah -- 102
Automat -- 102
33. Ice Cream Hands -- 100
Kaiser Chiefs -- 100
35. Apples In Stereo -- 92
36. Lily Allen -- 90
37. P. Hux -- 88
38. LCD Soundsystem -- 86
39. Rilo Kiley -- 85
Ted Leo and the Pharmacists -- 85
41. Travis -- 84
Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings -- 84
43. Everybody Else -- 83
44. The Weakerthans - 82
Relient K -- 82
46. Graham Parker -- 81
47. Nushu -- 78
The Well Wishers -- 78
49. Mike Viola -- 76
50. Nicole Atkins -- 74
Josh Rouse -- 74

Well the Audities #1 didn't even crack my top 125. Of course my list is more focused on power pop and some offshoots whereas the Audities lists invariably have a lot of "indie rock" on them. However, FoW is as power pop as it gets, but Traffic & Weather just didn't do anything for me. It's not that I have anything against them - their previous three proper releases would have been on my lists had I done them those years, especially 1999's Utopia Parkway. This effort sounded like FoW by the numbers, and although they've always had a "formula" (just ask Robbie Fulks), this disc was all formula and little inspiration when it came to the tunes. The short stories they're famous for in the lyrics continue to be great, but it seemed that they were concentrating on the lyrics at the expense of the music this time around. It wasn't a bad disc, just not a particularly memorable one.

Meanwhile, what seemed to me uninspired efforts from big names (McCartney, Wilco, Crowded House) took high spots, the inevitable result of democratization of a list (97 participants here) where name recognition often trumps quality. Of course it's all subjective, but that's where I come down. I thought The Red Button might take the prize, but I'm still glad to see my #1 at #2 here. The Nines won last year, so third place wasn't a surprise. Interestingly, although I prefer last year's Calling Distance Stations to Gran Jukle's Field, I had the former at #23 last year and the latter at #10 this year, mainly due to this year's top 25 being weaker from 5-25 than last year's was. I'm also glad to see The Broken West, Ken Sharp and Maple Mars get their due. Speaking of name recognition, I see Jason Falkner at #24; luckily, this was a Japan-only release or it would have likely received an unwarranted top 10 spot.

I'm not even going to discuss Amy Winehouse.

Weekend roundup.

Dave Foster-Blue Circle. Excellent singer-songwriter pop from the frontman of Bubble, a beloved NYC power pop band that put out some fine discs around the turn of the century. "One Day" is a wonderful midtempo number that's Neil Finn meets Ron Sexsmith, and the bouncy "Neverending" brings to mind PJ Olsson. Other highlights include the modern beats of "All My Friends" and the lush balladry of "How Are You". Check it out. CD Baby | MySpace

Bob Collum & The Welfare Mothers-Set The Stupid Free. In the description of his previous disc, 2004's outstanding The Boy Most Likely To..., it says "File under "Alt-Country Rock Power-Pop and Roll". The new one here leans a bit more alt-country, but it's a great listen nonetheless. The roots pop of the title track is a particular highlight; "Virginia Mystery" shares this pop sensibility in the service of a more rocking number; and the ballad "Nevermore" shines as well. CD Baby | MySpace

Blank Pages-On My Street. New Jersey's FDR label is one of the more underrated power pop labels around. In addition to recent releases from The Successful Failures and the fine compilation About a Girl, they've released On My Street, the latest from statemates Blank Pages. This is meat-and-potatoes, straight-ahead power pop with a flavor (or is it smell?) of the garage. Top tracks: opener "Easily Misled", "Killing Conversation", and the title track. CD Baby | MySpace

Friday, January 25, 2008 (and Absolute Powerpop Radio) widget added

Over on the right, you'll notice a widget that shows the most recent tracks played in my iTunes. I don't normally listen to iTunes at the computer (although I'm doing so at the moment I type this, and perhaps this will inspire me to do more often), so it will usually only update when I sync my iPod every 2-3 days. But if nothing else it may point out a few more artists for you to check out - many of the tracks have a little play button next to them which will allow you to listen to them at

UPDATE: I ponied up the $3 for a subscription, so now we have Absolute Powerpop Radio via on the site, too. My preliminary experience is that it's mostly the bigger name artists I have in my iTunes, but there were some other lesser-knowns in there.

SECOND UPDATE: Now that the radio has kicked in a while, I've noticed it's playing a lot more of the independent artists I've featured on this site rather than mostly bigger names, making it more truly Absolute Powerpop Radio.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

CD of the Day, 1/24/08: Various Artists-International Pop Overthrow Vol. 10

Year in and year out, the IPO compilations are the best bang for the power pop buck going. The latest edition has been out a while, and I finally get around to it today. I always look at these comps as comprising three categories: great tracks by "known" artists (this year The Orchid Highway, Evan Hillhouse, Admiral Twin, The Afternoons, Nelson Bragg, Chris Brown, Kelly's Heels, The Well Wishers, etc.); new tracks by known artists that are teasers for their next disc (Naomi Star, The Ringles, The Pulltops, The Tearaways); and the best reason for picking up the discs: the unknown artists who hit you out of left field with a great track. Needless to say, it's the latter category that I want to concentrate on here.

A couple of months back, I touted Morton Richter as someone who caught my ear from this comp, but in the time since, there have been several more:

Brownline Fiasco. Their fine track "Milk & Honey" is on Disc 1, and their late 2006 release New Revolution is worth your listening time. They're a "christian rock" band, but don't let that put you off - the preaching is kept to a minimum and the big hooks are there with the power pop sound of bands like Cheap Trick, The Knack, etc. CD Baby | MySpace

The Dirty Royals. Their IPO entry, "Cover Up The Sun", is one of the catchiest tracks on the whole compilation. It's great jangle pop that has a bit of a Swedish feel to it. Interestingly, they're Anglo-American, and their only proper release to date, the EP Obsessed America (which doesn't have this track), has a somewhat different, more punkier sound, but is still worth checking out. Keep an eye out for what these guys do next. CD Baby | MySpace

All Day Sucker
. This LA band contributes "Picture", a new track from their forthcoming disc The Big Pretend. It's catchy as hell, with a radio-ready pop sensibility. Their 2004 self-titled debut is worth a listen as well, especially the amusing "Worst Case Scenario". CD Baby | MySpace (with several additional new tracks streaming)

David Levin. The title track from his new disc Criminal is featured here, and it's a great singer/songwriter soft rock track which will appeal to fans of Neil Finn, Ben Folds, etc. CD Baby | MySpace

These four are by no means the end of discovery on the disc; I'm still checking out some of the artists that are new to me, and who knows, I might have another one of these posts. It's truly the best value in power pop.

Meanwhile, I can't let a review of IPO 10 go by without singling out the first track on Disc 2: Kelly and Kimberley's "moc.emalton". In case the title intrigues you, just read it backwards. You may never visit their site again without hearing this track in your head.

Buy It Here

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Midweek Roundup.

Shy Talkers-Shy Talkers. Fine debut from this New Jersey band which touches many of the power pop bases. You've got the classic rock sound of "Now That It's Over", the piano pop of "Early December", the modern-rock "All You Ever Wanted", the early-Beatle/Merseyside-ish "Do You Still Love Me?", the psychpop of "Intergalactic Highway" and the ragtime-y "Someone's In Love With You", just to name a few. There's about as much genre-hopping here as the Nines did on Gran Jukle's Field (only without the disco). Give it a listen - you're bound to find something you like. CD Baby | MySpace

The Redfords-Miracle at Sunrise. Brevity may be the soul of wit, but it's also a virtue of good power pop discs. Clocking in at 29 minutes over 10 tracks, Chicago's The Redfords don't waste your time in getting down to the business of delivering high-energy, modern power pop. Fans of Weezer, Rooney and others of their ilk will love this disc; titles like "Junk Food Mafia", "Heart Attack" and "Tattoo" are going to be more descriptive of their tunes that I can be. And even the obligatory power ballad ("So Strange") is pretty good. Robert would be proud. CD Baby | MySpace

Andrew Rosas-23rd and 2. Some artists wear their influences on their sleeve, others incorporate them more subtly into their sound. Andrew Rosas is one of the former, as this may be the most blatantly Big Star-sounding record since the Golden Apples' Cooler Jets Will Prevail from a few years ago. Rosas has a voice that splits the difference between Alex Chilton and Chris Bell, and he has the stop-start guitar sound of those two down to a science. The title track is pure Bell a la "I Am The Cosmos", while "Looking Out" and "Everything That You Say" are in the vein of "In The Street" and "Your Concern" is an homage in sound to "Thirteen". CD Baby | MySpace

Jim Matio-Painted With a Bad Brush. Harrisburg PA's Jim Matio (apparently also known as The Philly Breh) has a gem of a disc here, alternately Beatlesque and indie-sounding in the manner of Elliott Smith and The Shins. There are several highlights here: "That Girl Is Gonna Kill You", which reminds me of Michael Penn; the McCartneyesque "Mine"; the roots pop of "Thank You"; and the lovely "Lovely". CD Baby | MySpace

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Absolute Powerpop Store.

I'm sure you've noticed the PayPal widget over on the right - I noticed one of these on Powerpopaholic's page and thought it might be a decent way to get rid of some CDs I have laying around. I just want to make it clear that these are CDs that I have purchased, NOT promos received from artists.

All disc prices are postpaid, and if you're interested in say, 3 or more, I can give you a discount - just email me. (Note: Due to the hassle factor of international shipping, I'm going to have to restrict sales to US addresses).

Sunday, January 20, 2008

CD of the Day, 1/20/08: In Elvis Garage-Winning by Cheating

While I tend to make fun of obscure locations of artists as power pop "hotbeds", there's no irony involved when I describe Sweden as such, given their long and storied history of great guitar pop. And In Elvis Garage (from Malmo) does the tradition proud with their excellent debut Winning by Cheating.

There's a lot to like here. Opener "Dazed and Distraught" is a bouncy number that reminds me of Sloan's "Everything You've Done Wrong", horns and all; "Outdated Charts" is a 1:26 burst of Merrymakers-style pop; the same description applies to "The Sun Rises Girl Forgets"; "No Such Thing" has more of a modern sheen but is still catchy as hell; "Residue" earns them the New Poronographers comparisons; and "Wavering" is piledriving surf pop a la Hawaii Mud Bombers. The rest of the tracks not mentioned here are just as good as well; there are no weak ones to program out or skip over. An early best of 2008 contender.

Kudos to Ray at Kool Kat for getting this one distributed in the USA - reward him for his good taste by picking up a copy.


Saturday, January 19, 2008

Weekend freebie.

I hate to sound like the guy from the TV commercials, but I mean it when I say "ACT NOW - LIMITED TIME OFFER". Until January 24th, you can download for free Fifth, the latest from the fine Liverpool power pop band Junebug. What they lack in imaginative album titles they make up for with quality tunes. Last year's Fourth was in our Top 125, and the three before that weren't chopped liver, either.

So get it while you can. In the meantime (or if you're reading this after the 24th), you can check them out here: CD Baby | MySpace

Friday, January 18, 2008

David Bash's Top 125 of 2007 (and more).

Here are David "Mr. IPO" Bash's lists, including his top 125 (I seem to have started an arms race in the size of year-end lists this year), and ancillary lists (top EPs, etc.). I always discover a few keepers that passed me by on his lists and I'm sure you will too. After I've had a change to digest it, I may append some comments to this post:

I. Top 125 Albums 2007

1. Ice Cream Hands-The Good China (Dust Devil)
2. The Fast Camels-The Magic Optician (Neon Tetra)
3. Peachfuzz-Catch Your Snap (Teenacide)
4. The Nines-Gran Jukle's Field (TAS Gold)
5. The Scruffs-Pop Manifesto (Self-Released)
6. David Brookings-Obsessed (Self-Released)
7. The Resonars-Nonetheless Blue (Get Hip)
8. The Red Button-She's About To Cross My Mind (Self-Released)
9. Fountains Of Wayne-Traffic And Weather (Virgin)
10. Mark & The Spies-Mark & The Spies (Screaming Apple)
11. Nushu-Nevermind Lullaby (Self-Released)
12. The Singles-Start Again (Sound Artifacts)
13. The Orchid Highway-The Orchid Highway (Self-Released)
14. The Tripwires-Makes You Look Around (Paisley Pop)
15. Paul Starling-Ghost Waltz (Self-Released)
16. The Procession-Music Magnifique (Retone)
17. Sparkwood-Kaleidoscopism (Excellent)
18. The Fore-Black & White (Beatnik Geek)
19. Graham Day And The Gaolers-Soundtrack To The Daily Grind (Damaged Goods)
20. Jackdaw 4-Bipolar Diversions (369)
21. Switches-Heart Turned To D.E.A.D. (Atlantic UK)
22. The Len Price 3-Rentacrowd (Wicked Cool)
23. Black Tie Revue-Code Fun (Gearhead)
24. The Peaces-Is/Are/Was/Were (Cherry Bomb)
25. Third Of Never-Moodring (Jam)
26. The Go-Howl On The Haunted Beat You Ride (Cass)
27. John Hoskinson-Pancho Fantastico (Tallboy)
28. Myracle Brah-Can You Hear The Myracle Brah (Rainbow Quartz)
29. The Tangerines-The Tangerines (Self-Released)
30. The Gilligans-Snoring With An Accent (Maize)
31. Kelly's Heels-Neither Use Nor Ornament (Warmfuzz)
32. Fancey-Schmancey (What Are)
33. Lolas-Like The Sun (Jam)
34. The Cheeks-Raw Countryside (Cargo)
35. The Pleasure-The Pleasure (Cargo)
36. Johnny Lloyd Rollins-Let's Be Poor Together (Self-Released)
37. Maple Mars-Beautiful Mess (Kool Kat)
38. The Broken West-I Can't Go On, I'll Go On (Merge)
39. Farrah-Cut Out & Keep (Self-Released)
40. Zombies Of The Stratosphere-The Well-Mannered Look (Self-Released)
41. Automat-Automat (Not Lame)
42. The Makes Nice-This Time Tomorrow (Frenetic)
43. The Apples In Stereo-New Magnetic Wonder (Yep Roc)
44. Johnny Monaco-Overrated (The Wrong Crowd)
45. Grandville-Grandville (TV Eye)
46. Home-Is Where The Heart Is (Manzilla)
47. The Primordials-Fourteen Prime Numbers (Screaming Apple)
48. The Well Wishers-How I Won The War (Self-Released)
49. Frank Ciampi-Big Top Woman (Self-Released)
50. Kaiser Chiefs-Yours Truly, Angry Mob (Universal Motown)
51. Deadbeat Poets-Notes From The Underground (Pop Detective)
52. Mary Weiss-Dangerous Game (Norton)
53. Richard X. Heyman-Actual Sighs (Turn-Up)
54. Peter Berry & The Shake Set-.For Goodness Shake! (Spinout)
55. Jeff Tracy-Moments In Time (Aardvark)
56. Teaneck-Masters Of Achievement (Quince)
57. George Burton-1965 (Applebeat)
58. Vibeke Saugestad-The World Famous Hat Trick (Sprett Ball)
59. Jeff Murphy-Cantilever (Black Vinyl)
60. The Color Bars-Kairos At Infinity (Paranoiac)
61. Marmalade Souls-Marmalade Souls (Rainbow Quartz)
62. Young Sportsmen-Death To Palaces (Self-Released)
63. Jason Falkner-I'm Ok.You're Ok (Noise McCartney)
64. The Backroom-Reagan Era Rocket Ship (Remedial)
65. The Sketches-Secret Alphabets (Self-Released)
66. Tenniscourts-Tenniscourts (Pop Ulysses)
67. Hiroaki Watarai-Secret Melodies (Wattack)
68. Wonderwall-Delicate Balance (Neon Pie)
69. Martin Newell-A Summer Tamarind (Cherry Red)
70. Ken Sharp-Sonic Crayons (Jet Fighter)
71. Poplord-Poplord (Self-Released)
72. IT'S MY PARTY!-R.S.V.P. (Mister Cat)
73. Rooney-Calling The World (Geffen)
74. The Urges-Psych Ward (Off The Hip)
75. Fred Jiminez-Il Est Temps Maintenant! (Self-Released)
76. The Leftovers-On The Move (Rally)
77. The Frauds-Hiding Out Loud (Orange Rock)
78. The ACB's-The ACB's (Self-Released)
79. The Wellingtons-For Friends In Faraway Places (Popboomerang)
80. Morten Richter-Message From The Slum (Rush)
81. Office-A Night At The Ritz (New Line)
82. Ronderlin-The Great Investigation (Tomt)
83. Paul McCartney-Memory Almost Full (MPL Communications)
84. The Primary 5-Go (Re-Action)
85. Blackout 101-Blackout 101 (Self-Released)
86. The Bishops-The Bishops (1-2-3-4)
87. Junebug-Fourth (Planet Cool
88. The Good Time Charlies-Pillars Of The Community (Not On Your Radio)
89. The Krinkles-The Mordorlorff Collection (Self-Released)
90. The Breakup Society-Nobody Likes A Winner (Get Hip)
91. The Fizzies-Contest Popularity (Self-Released)
92. The Maharajas-In Pure Spite (Low Impact)
93. Bobby Sutliff-On A Ladder (Paisley Pop)
94. Kaiser George & The Hi-Risers-Transatlantic Dymanite! (Spinout)
95. The Royal Purple-Psychoacoustics (Umbrella)
96. Fooling April-In The Now (Kool Kat)
97. The Foreign Films-Distant Star (Self-Released)
98. Dee Rangers-Blue Swedes (Screaming Apple)
99. The Mercies-The Mercies (Record Babies)
100. The Cherry Bluestorms-Transit Of Venus (Roundhouse)
101. Third Floor Story-Third Floor Story (Self-Released)
102. Lucky Soul-The Great Unwanted (Ruffa Lane)
103. The Ugly Beats-Take A Stand With The Ugly Beats (Get Hip)
104. Ideal Free Distribution-Ideal Free Distribution (HHBTM)
105. The Lost 45s-What Time Do You Call This? (Biff! Bang! Pow!)
106. The High Strung-Get The Guests (Park The Van)
107. Signal Hill Transmission-An Empty Space (P.A. Juice)
108. Rabbits On Trampolines-Rabbits On Trampolines (Self-Released)
109. The Prime Movers-Back In Line.(Self-Released)
110. Dolour-The Years In The Wilderness (Quince)
111. The Condors-Wait For It (Self-Released)
112. The Electric Soft Parade-No Need To Be Downhearted (Truck)
113. Arthur Yoria-Handshake Smiles (12)
114. The Pillbugs-Buzz For Aldrin (Self-Released)
115. Grand Atlantic-This Is Grand Atlantic (Popboomerang)
116. Rockfour-Memories Of The Never Happened (Anova)
117. The Malibus-Keep An Eye On The Malibus (Mai Tai Sun)
118. The Fratellis-Costello Music (Interscope)
119. Paul Steel-April & I (Raygun)
120. The Get Quick-See You In The Crossfire (Rainbow Quartz)
121. Ari Shine-A Force Of One (Bongo Beat)
122. Smashing Time-Make Some Noise (The Headache Machine)
123. Martin Gordon-The World Is Your Lobster (Radiant Future)
124. Feedbacks-Sunday Morning Record (Rock Indiana)
125. Jeffrey Scott-The Herald: The Printed Word Of Jeffrey Scott & His
Amazing Band (Self-Released)

II. Top Reissues Of Recent Vintage

1. Richard Snow-Richard Snow (Side B)
2. The Grip Weeds-House Of Vibes Revisited (Ground Up)
3. Favorita-Favorita (Popsicle)

III. Top 6 EPs

1. The Treasury-The Treasury (Teetering)
2. The Avenues-The Avenues (Self-Released)
3. The Waking Hours-How Does It Feel (Self-Released)
4. The Nice Outfit-Kissing Jocelyn (Self-Released)
5. Ian Axel-I'm On To You (Self-Released)
6. The Holy Fields-The Holy Fields (Self-Released)

IV. Top 5 Compilations-Single Artists

1. The Sails-Drum Roll Please (Fabtone)
2. Splitsville-Let's Go!: The Best Of Splitsville (Zip)
3. The Afternoons-Baby, You Know The Deal (Rock Indiana)
4. John Wicks And The Records-Rotate: An Anthology (Kool Kat)
5. The Pillbugs-Monclovia (Rainbow Quartz)

V. Top 5 Compilations-Various Artists

1. International Pop Overthrow Volume 10 (Not Lame)
2. Sweet Relief-Various Rock And Power Pop Artists (Jam)
3. Hook Heaven2-22 Tracks From The Pop Underground (Not Lame)
4. Shake Some Action (Not Lame)
5. Unsigned, Sealed & Delivered V 2.0: In Pop We Trust (Bullseye/Frontline)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

CD of the Day, 1/17/08: The Pendrakes-Sunday Punch

Once again, we bring you to the power pop hotbed of Omaha, Nebraska. A few days ago I told you about The Third Men, and today here are The Pendrakes with their fine debut, Sunday Punch. The band is led by Minneapolis transplant Paul Novak, and a definite Twin Cities/Midwestern influence can be found in the band's sound, which straddles the lines between power pop, heartland rock and Americana.

There are plenty of high points on the disc: opener "Dead Man Brake" and "Big Changes" are fine 'Mats-style rockers; "A Real Go Getter" has a bit of country swing to it that brings back some of Rhett Miller's lighter moments in the Old 97s; the title track has a Spoon feel to it; "Anyway Girl" is straight-ahead jangly power pop; and the slow waltz of "Vandalia Heights" even features some fine accordion work. There's quite a bit of subgenre-hopping here, but all of it is infused with a fine pop sensibility. More from Omaha, please!

CD Baby | MySpace

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

CD of the Day, 1/16/08: The Crayons-What's Wrong With You?

Two reasons I'm reviewing this disc: first, it's a quality release from a power pop band with a track record, and secondly, there's a hot babe on the cover and maybe that will drive some extra viewers to the site. OK, it's mostly reason #1 since the pleasures derived from the site are supposed to be auditory, not visual. (Side note: when Googling this disc for some background, one of the first hits I came across was something about a puppy that ate a box of crayons. If you click the link, it was "answerer no. 9" who used the magic search phrase).

Anyway, enough digressions. The Crayons are a 4-piece band from Albany, New York who put out the most excellent What Color Are You? several years back and are now here with the followup. Like the previous release, this one was produced by The Churchills, and if you're a fan of that band, you'll love this one. But even if you don't know The Churchills from The Stalins, there's a lot here to like. Opener "God Hates Me" sounds like The Posies crossed with solo Paul Westerberg; "Unlucky Charm" is a fine midtempo number that earns some of the Del Amitri comparisons they've received; "Here and There" adds some britpop to the formula; and the driving, anthemic "Sliding" should go right onto anyone's iPod. So if you're not interested in power pop that's almost as hot as the babe on the cover, I have to ask "What's Wrong With You?"

CD Baby | MySpace

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

EPs of the Day, 1/15/08: Justin Levinson-Bury Your Love; The Nice Outfit-Kissing Jocelyn

Two EPs for consideration today:

Justin Levinson-Bury Your Love.
Levinson was one of the early discoveries of this blog nearly two years ago (how time flies) when he released 1175 Boylston, an excellent piano-pop disc. But whereas 1175 Boylston was rooted more in the piano pop of Ben Folds, Bury Your Love is more the piano pop of Elton John circa the early 70s during his Tumbleweed Connection/Madman Across The Water period. No more so is this evident than in the length and breadth of the opening track "Heavy Weight", which clocks in at nearly six minutes and features a Davey Johnstone-like guitar solo. "Home" further distances itself from 1175 Boylston, with liberal use of pedal steel and acoustic guitar, and wouldn't have sounded out of place on Ryan Adams' Gold. Meanwhile, the title track is roots pop, and "When It Rains on Your Parade" could almost be called Dylanesque. The only exception to the new Levinson sound here is "Daisy May", which is a bouncy Folds-ish type of track. Overall, it's an interesting departure for Levinson, and full marks to him for not repeating his first disc. CD Baby | MySpace

The Nice Outfit-Kissing Jocelyn. This Milwaukee band has delivered a short-but-sweet 4-song EP of inspired power pop. And by "short", I note that the four tracks clock in at just over nine minutes total, but nevertheless it's quality over quantity. The sound here is a combination of The Kinks, The Figgs, and The Greenhornes. But guys, if you're going to have a track titled "One Minute Forty-Five", it ought to be 1:45 in length, not 2:15.
CD Baby | MySpace

Monday, January 14, 2008

The siren strikes again.

Clint Sutton's disc sold out on CD Baby.

UPDATE, 1/16/08: Back in Stock. Almost as hard to buy as a Wii.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Special Bonus CD of the Day, 1/12/08: Clint Sutton-Clint Sutton

Two things that don't often happen on this blog: I post two CDs of the Day, and I break out the siren. But I just didn't want to wait until tomorrow or Monday to spread the word about Clint Sutton's self-titled debut, which will shoot right to the top of my Best of 2008 list. This disc reminds me more than anything of one of my favorite power pop discs of the 90s, Matthew Sweet's 100% Fun. It's got the big crunchy guitars, the sugary sweet melodies, and hooks galore.

Leadoff track "Somebody Told Me" knocks it right out of the park on the first pitch, and will have instant appeal to fans of the great "S's" of powerpop: (Sweet, Superdrag and The Shazam), and followup "Stone's Throw" is virtually its equal. There isn't a bad track here, but to quote Orwell, some here are more equal than others: "Foregoing the Breakdown" dials things down to midtempo, but loses nothing in melody and drive; "Tomorrow" rocks with a Beatlesque bounce; "Theory" adds some nice harmonies and synths to the mix; "Song You Like" almost jangles; and "Watershed Broke" closes the album, not with a ballad whimper, but with a bang. In fact, there are no ballads here to break up things, just 11 tracks that really put the power into power pop.

Just head over to the Baby and listen to the samples. If this doesn't shoot to the top of your "must get" list, please turn in your powerpop enthusiast membership card at the door.

CD Baby | MySpace

CD of the Day, 1/12/08: Tony Low-Time Across The Page

Southern-fried power pop/jangle pop has a long and glorious tradition - from the dBs, R.E.M., The Windbreakers, Mitch Easter, et al, it's been a consistent source of quality music over the years. And upholding the tradition is North Carolina's Tony Low, former member of The Cheapskates and here with his third solo disc, Time Across The Page.

Fans of roots poppers like Walter Clevenger, Bobby Sutliff and Marshall Crenshaw will appreciate this disc as well, especially the opener "Winter of Black Ice", which features a great guitar riff that serves as the underpinning for an outstanding track. "This Old House" tweaks the formula with some mariachi horns, while "Spirals" has the type of R.E.M.-does-Brian Wilson feel of "At My Most Beautiful". Meanwhile, "Where Are You Now?" and "One Fine Day" are about as good as jangle pop gets. If you're a fan of this power pop subgenre, this one is a must buy.

CD Baby | MySpace | eMusic

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

CD of the Day, 1/8/08: Freddy-Doublespeak

Britpop just ain't what it used to be. The movement that gave us Oasis, Blur and (early) Radiohead during the 90s seems to have split into those who want to meld the pub with the dance floor (Killers, Arctic Monkeys) and those who want to make inoffensive stuff that will get played on the radio (Coldplay, Keane). So it's fallen to non-Brits like Calgary's Freddy to pick up the mantle of "classic" Britpop with his second full-length, Doublespeak.

Opener "Massive" is just that, an Oasis-styled anthemic number that you could easily picture Liam Gallagher in your mind's eye sneering through. The BPMs go up after that with the title track, which reminds me of some of ELO's stuff circa Discovery. "Permanent Damage" is a wonderful midtempo number, and the danceable "Grow Up" casts the battle of the sexes in a humorous light. Other highlights include "Open Yourself" and the pretty piano ballad closer "Fluid".

CD Baby | MySpace

Side Note: The Canadian and US Postal Services combined to deliver his CD to me in a whopping 26 days. I know it was the holidays, but sheesh.

Monday, January 07, 2008

A couple of quick eMus.

James Quality disc produced by Jamie Hoover, much in Hoover's style. Powerpopaholic has more on Deem. Fittingly, at his site Deem has been offering up a download of a song from his disc each month since it was released last summer.

Also, the Early Edison disc I mentioned the other day is on eMu, as a helpful commenter pointed out.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Weekend Roundup.

Four more discs to jumpstart the new year:

Andy Lehman-Landline. The first influence listed on his myspace page (and also mentioned at the CD Baby page) is Butch Walker, and I also hear some Andy Sturmer influence here as well. There are some real outstanding tracks including "I Don't Think of Love (The Way That I Used To)", "Time to Go" (which reminisces about listening to the Bee Gees on the radio), and "Lightning Fell". This one's grown on me in the weeks I've been listening. CD Baby | MySpace

Michael Trent-Michael Trent. This one will be right up the alley of Michael Penn fans as well as artists like Jon Brion, Plasticsoul and Duane Dolieslager. Standout tracks: "I'll Be Home Soon" (where the Penn reference hits home), "Most Sincere Apology" (great upbeat track), "Already Gone" (which reminds me of one of my favorite Penn songs "Whole Truth"), and the catchy "Keep Movement". Discs like these make me think I should do my year-end lists the following June in the interest of accuracy given the 2007 discs that come late to my attention. CD Baby | MySpace

The Third Men-Boost. This Omaha band's debut will be a godsend to those who lover older-school power pop in the vein of The Toms, The Only Ones, The Records, and The Grip Weeds. Opener "High" is a classic example of this sound, and the fake crowd noise gives it a special touch. "What a Day (to Call it a Day)" could have come off a Nuggets collection, and "Pen and Paper" evokes psychedelic-era Byrds. The Turtles-ish "Come on Home" is the personal favorite here. There's certainly nothing third-rate about The Third Men. CD Baby | MySpace

Sean Ashby-Brass and Gold. This former Sarah McLachlan sideman steps out with a solo disc that sounds nothing like his former employer (of course I wouldn't be mentioning it here if it did). It's quality singer-songwriter pop/rock, from the rocking 1-2 opening of "Dreamin'" and "This Machine" to fine slower tunes like the title track and "Nova Girl". CD Baby | MySpace

Friday, January 04, 2008

EP of the Day, 1/4/08: Cartographer-Cartographer

Time to introduce you to the first quality EP of 2008 (OK, it bears a 2007 copyright, but in my book stuff that comes out in December usually goes on the next year's account): the self-titled debut from Cartographer, the project of San Franciscan Scott Gagner.

The CD Baby page for the disc describes it as "Heavily melodic power pop, ranging from crunchy rockers to acoustic neo-psychedelia", and that's as apt a description as any. The EP starts with "The Trouble With You", which reminds me of Wilco circa Summerteeth and also of Warren Zanes' "When We Began", followed by the uptempo rocker "I'm Not Following You". Meanwhile, "Love Triangle for Two" sounds like a lost Joseph Arthur track, especially given that Gagner bears a striking vocal resemblance to Arthur, and "Waiting" has the kind of breezy melody, midtempo arranagement and hooky chorus that I just eat up.

All in all, Gagner has mapped out a fine debut here. CD Baby (no MySpace)

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Breaking news.

Every once in a while here I get to break some news (which I never get around to fixing). It's a measure of how atrophied my journalism skills are since my days as sports editor of my high school newspaper that I've actually sat on this nugget of information for about two weeks before finally getting around to revealing it, but better late than never I suppose.

Anyway, the big news is that Seth Swirsky has informed me that there will be a new Red Button disc this year (June being the target date) as well as a solo followup to his 2004 release Instant Pleasure. So mark your calendars, and if you were contemplating suicide or anything like that in the near future, I've just given you two reasons to live.

Some overlooked 2007 discs.

As comprehensive as I try to be, there are still some discs that get by me, or that I get too late to consider for the year-end list. Here are three 2007 releases that would have made the year-end lists had things broken a bit differently:

The Tripwires-Makes You Look Around
. This was featured as Not Lame's top disc a few weeks back, and with good reason. A solo project of ex-Model Rocket John Ramberg, this is high-quality "old school" power pop that traces its lineage from Rockpile in the 70s to artists like Terry Anderson today. But it's not all meat and potatoes, as there are some nice flourishes here too as well: the "Bang a Gong" nod in "Arm Twister", the Left Banke-ish "Big Electric Light" and the jauntiness of "I Was Afraid of That". A quality re-imagining of pre-80s power pop. CD Baby | MySpace

Big Kid-Big Kid III. This LA band has two quality power pop releases to its name, along with one of the top power pop songs of the decade ("When I Met The Girl" from All Kidding Aside), so expectations were high for disc #3. As some of the commenters on the CD Baby page for the disc have noted, it definitely sounds as if they have a new lead singer, but to me the overall sound is pretty much the same. Opener "Gold" is a hooky delight, and other highlights are the midtempo "Love's a Slow Song" and "Perfect Sunrise", and the high-energy "The Door". CD Baby | MySpace

Early Edison-Better Late Than Never
. Speaking of high-energy, here's a great disc in the vein of recent discoveries like The Fizzies and The ACBs as well as the Rooneys and Weezers of the world. They can do the driving anthems like anyone else, but what sets them apart is their work on the numbers that slow down a notch or two like "Since I Left You", "Wish You Were Mine" and my personal favorite, the closer "White Socks". It's never too late to give these NY power poppers a listen. CD Baby | MySpace

UPDATE: Here's a pretty cool video Early Edison put together (done as an homage to early 20th century silent horror films and an Official Selection at the 2007 NYC Horror Film Festival) for "Wish You Were Mine":

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

CD of the Day, 1/2/08: Smash Palace-Everybody Comes and Goes

What better way to ring in the new year than with the first big-name power pop release of 2008, Smash Palace's Everybody Comes and Goes, the followup to 2005's Over The Top, which placed at #10 on my Best of 2005 list. The veteran Philly band is known for their jangle pop sound, but here they add a few wrinkles to keep things fresh.

Opener "She" is classic Palace: Jangly guitars, a Beatlesque melody, great chorus. But "Didn't Anyone Tell You?" follows with a bit of a more "modern power pop" sound in the manner of Fountains of Wayne, while "When You're Down" has a late 60s sheen that brings to mind The Grip Weeds. Meanwhile, "Dressed In Black" and "Don't Ask Me Why" return to the more traditional Palace sound. Other highlights include "She Can't Understand", which reminds me a bit of "Love Grows" in the verses, and the album's best track, "Hoping", a jangly delight which would bring a smile to Roger McGuinn's face.

Although the official release date of the album is January 22, copies are available now at the CD Baby link below. There's no better way for a power popper to start the year than with this one.

CD Baby | MySpace