Wednesday, April 30, 2008

End-of-month Roundup.

Down by Avalon-Down by Avalon.This Chapel Hill, NC band has given us a quality debut that will appeal to fans of Coronet Blue, The Nines and The Moody Blues. Although he isn't the lone Brit in the band (that would be drummer David Needham), frontman Alan Martin lends the proceedings a distinctly English air. And providing the keyboards is none other than Dan Bryk, an accomplished solo artist in his own right. The midtempo piano number "Losing Ground" is the standout on this disc. Those who enjoyed Pale Hollow will like this disc as well.
CD Baby | MySpace | ReverbNation (full stream)

The Sons of York-Chicks, Dudes, Bad Attitudes. The title of this Winnipeg band's debut EP pretty much tells what you're going to get: rocking guitars, sons about girls - in other words, Power Pop with a capital "P". "Who Ya Kiddin", the fantastic leadoff track, out-Weezers Weezer and out Rooneys-Rooney; "Say What You Say" reminds me of the fine Millicent Friendly disc from a couple of years ago, and "If Ya Can't Get a Girl" will have your head a-bobbin'. Rock On!
CD Baby | MySpace

Ben Patton-The Unquiet and Apart. Vermont's Ben Patton has been nothing if not prolific - this is his third solo album, and he also recently put out his second disc as one-half of Muller & Patton. Patton is a straight-ahead power pop singer/songwriter, and he reminds me quite a bit of Saul Zonana and Michael Penn in his less obscure moments. "Nothing to Declare" is the highlight here, a peppy number that will have your toes tapping, and one recurring theme in the disc is his apparent disappointment in today's teenagers as heard in "I'm Afraid of Young People" and "Fairview County Kids". Judging from the photos at his site, Patton doesn't appear to be much more than 30, so it's not a case of an old guy yelling "get off my lawn". Anyway, some good listening to be had here. CD Baby | Official Site

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

CD of the Day, 4/29/08: Scott Murray-Vinyl Generation

"Vinyl Generation" is an apt moniker for myself and probably the lion's share of my readership, and the faux classic Columbia Records LP label on the cover brings back a lot of memories. But all of this nostalgia-mongering wouldn't mean a thing if the disc inside wasn't top-notch, and thankfully Connecticut's Scott Murray (not to be confused with the Scott Murray - now known as Scott Moses Murray - who released the fine Stutter a few years back) has delivered the goods on his debut.

Murray, whose day job is that of a catering chef, has cooked up a disc of pop/rock that fans of artists like Jim Boggia, Jordan Zevon and Shane Searles will love. The CD opens with a great one-two punch: "Steal It" and "So Far" about as hooky and melodic as pop gets; good luck trying to get either one of them out of your head. The piano number "Farewell Taxi Ride" follows and draws on the early 70s incarnations of Elton John and Billy Joel, not entirely surprising given that Liberty DeVitto, Joel's longtime drummer, mans the kit on this disc. Meanwhile, "Change Your Tune" is a melodic marvel that reminds me of Del Amitri in their more Beatlesque moments, and "C.S.I." channels the Laurel Canyon sound but doesn't seem to have anything to do with the hit TV show.

Some of you may have noticed this one at #16 on the Top 25 of 2008 list from last week; now you know what the fuss was about. And here's some good news: you can stream the entire disc at his site.

CD Baby | Scott Murray Official Site

Monday, April 28, 2008

If Larry King wrote a power pop column.

I have a bunch of stuff to comment upon, but not enough to devote a full review to, so in the spirit of Larry King's old "dot dot dot" USA TODAY columns (complete with random, off-topic remarks and parodied mercilessly by The Onion), here goes:

If you loved Big Star's "Thirteen" and wanted a whole album that sounds like that, you could do worse than Whiskey Priest's Hungry...Speaking of hungry, I could go for a corned beef sandwich right about now...The new Phantom Planet disc: I don't get it...How about those Devil Rays? three-game sweep of the Red Sox...I know I'm late to the game, but I finally picked up John Borack's "Shake Some Action" book. It's awesome, and guess which blog is at the top of the list on page 167?...Speaking of Shake Some Action, the Seattle band by that name has a free download ("Looking For Someone") from Sunny Days Ahead, the upcoming followup to their self-titled debut...George Carlin was right: everyone who drives faster than you is a maniac, and everyone who drives slower than you is an idiot...He sounds nothing like his dad, but the new Jordan Zevon disc is quite good...One of these days, I'm going to work "I Drink Your Milkshake" into one of my reviews...You can stream the new Sloan disc here; my initial reaction is better than Never Hear The End of It, but maybe that's just because this one is only 13 tracks unlike Hear's 30...Which reminds me - for someone who listens to the iPod on random play like me, discs with more than 13-14 tracks on them are a bit of an annoyance as they tend to monopolize my listening...For example, I liked the recent Tim Morrow disc, but it has 22 freakin' songs on it. Every time I turned around, it was like "Tim Morrow again?"...I'm looking forward to the new Old 97's record, but I hope it doesn't suck like Drag It Up, where it seemed the rest of the band made was making Rhett Miller confine all his pop instincts to his solo about that Roger Clemens?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Midweek Roundup.

Now that the top 25 of 1Q08 is out and I'm on the bad side of Bryan Scary fans, it's time to get back to the business of featuring discs:

Eric Salt & The Electric City-The Hail Mary.
Quality debut disc from this Boston band, which Bruce at Not Lame compared to The Figgs. I certainly hear that comparison, as well as latter-day Replacements, especially circa Don't Tell a Soul. Standout tracks: "Pearls", the power ballad "Open Doorway", the poppy "Never Intended" and the rave-up "Corner Store". Now when it comes to Boston and "hail mary", you'll have something other than Doug Flutie to come to mind.
CD Baby | MySpace

It's Over!-That Girl. This Kansas City band has come up with a fine disc of sprightly indie pop, and should appeal to those who enjoyed the Cheeksters disc. Opener "To Be In Love" is a real highlight, melding the indie pop sound with early Beatles while "Hallelujah" reminds me a bit of early Beulah (and not because hallelujah rhymes with Beulah). Other highlights include the shuffling "Good as Gold" and "Open Up Your Heart", which you could almost hear being played in the Cavern Club.
CD Baby | MySpace

Josh Fix-Free at Last
. This one's been out since last fall, but I haven't seen it get much play in the power pop community. Fix is from San Francisco, and there's quite a bit of Queen and Jellyfish influence here. Anyone who loved the recent Jackdaw4 disc will flip over opener "Don't Call Me In The Morning", the piano ballad "Rock and Roll Slut" is a standout, and "Tiger on a Treadmill" is a winner as well.

eMusic | MySpace

Thursday, April 17, 2008

CD of the Day, 4/17/08: The Galaxies-Here We Go!

At the moment, I'm going through the 2008 releases I've listened to so far to prepare the top 25 of the first quarter of 2008 list I've been promising for a while now (ETA: tomorrow). And as I started compiling the list, I noticed that one of the discs that's going to end up near the top is one that I have yet to feature on the site. So to remedy that oversight, I bring you an LA band that has popped up out of nowhere to give us one of the most infectious, fun, melodic and just-plain-great releases of the year, The Galaxies, with Here We Go!

The mood is set within about 10 seconds with a great opening guitar riff and frontman Bobby Cox's yelped-out "whoo" getting sort-of-title track "Here We Go Again" underway. It's a near-perfect exemplar of power pop, a kind of cross between the driving energy of the new Ike disc and the melodicism of Eugene Edwards. "You Promised" follows with a sweeter, jangly, almost Swedish-pop sound, and "Baby I Believe" has the classic pop sound down in the manner of The Goldbergs. Other standouts include "Love Has Found Me", the poppy bossanova of "Lost and Lonely" and "We Go On". With only 9 no-filler tracks, Here We Go! proves the adage that brevity is the soul of a good power pop disc.

CD Baby | MySpace

Monday, April 14, 2008

CD of the Day, 4/14/08: Edward Rogers-You Haven't Been Where I've Been

NYC's Edward Rogers is back. Some of you may remember his fine 2004 disc Sunday Fables (which you can pick up for a bargain $5 at Not Lame), and the just-released You Haven't Been Where I've Been is the equally worthy followup.

This disc certainly has the pedigree. Roger McGuinn himself adds his trademark 12-string jangle to "Blind Man's Blue" as well as banjo to "It Took Years and Years and Years", while The Church's Marty Willson-Piper rocks out on "Graveyard Voices". Also guesting are Pete Kennedy (of the Kennedys) and Smithereens drummer Dennis Diken. Plus, the whole thing is mixed by Mitch Easter. Thankfully, the disc sounds as good as it looks on paper. While on first listen the title track sounds like a rocking statement of defiance, it takes on additional meaning and depth considering Rogers suffered the loss of a limb and nearly died a few years ago. "I'll Always Leave The Light On" is another quality jangler, and "Far Reflection" is a quality Brit-sounding ballad like the kind Ray Davies is known for. Rogers was born in England before moving to New York City, and there is definitely an Anglophilic undercurrent to the disc, not unlike the Pale Hollow disc from earlier this year.

While most of us are fortunate not to have been where Edward Rogers has been recently, it's at least gratifying to see that he's come through his personal difficulties with an outstanding disc that's worth the price of admission.

Kool Kat | MySpace

Thursday, April 10, 2008

CD of the Day, 4/10/08: Adrian Bourgeois-Adrian Bourgeois

More proof that bloodlines can matter in music - on the heels of our Pinder Brothers review, here's Adrian Bourgeois, son of Brent Bourgeois of the 80s band Bourgeois Tagg, which worked quite a bit with Todd Rundgren. Adrian's his own man, though, and he's not going to need his last name to get his high-quality solo debut noticed. In fact, I am sorely tempted to break out the siren for this one.

This is a Grade A tour-de-force of pop (power and otherwise) stylings that we all know and love here at Absolute Powerpop. "Mr. Imaginary Friend" hooks you into this disc from the beginning, with its Michael Carpenter-like jangle and breezy melody. "Clown Review" follows, a stunningly beautiful track that channels both Elliott Smith and Michael Penn. "Juniper" is a Beatlesque delight in the vein of the more sublime moments of The White Album and Abbey Road ("Because" in particular). Meanwhile, the slightly bombastic "Dream On" is reminiscent of Oasis when Oasis were good; I've already mistaken the ballad "To Be (The First Man on Earth)" for David Grahame when it came up randomly on my iPod, and "Silk From Ashes" recalls the aforementioned Mr. Rundgren. And those are just the first six tracks. There's no dropoff in the second half either: "Melt In My Mind" has a bit of a Bacharachian/Brian Wilson vibe and the midtempo "My House" might be as good as anything on the album.

There's really no other conclusion to draw than to say this one just shot to the top of your "Discs to buy" list, and it's shooting right up my top 10 of 2008 list as well (to be finally unveiled next week, I promise).

CD Baby | MySpace

Monday, April 07, 2008

Monday Roundup.

A few discs to start off the work week:

Various Artists-Thank You Friends: An Almost There Records Tribute to Big Star. Typing that title is going to take me as long as it does to type the review. Unwieldy moniker aside, this is a quality tribute disc and a great way to get into Big Star's music if you haven't already. There are some artists on here that some of you may be familiar with: Joe, Marc's Brother is a natural for "You Get What You Deserve"; Grand Champeen, whose Dial T for This was a fine recent release, captures the melancholy of "Daisy Glaze" perfectly; and Moonlight Towers (whose Like You Were Never There from 2005 is a must-have) gets the honor of covering "September Gurls", one of the greatest power pop songs of all time in this reviewer's humble opinion. CD Baby

Standing Waves-Light Fuse. Lay on Ground. Run Away. The title is always good advice, especially after you've done the first thing. No need to run away from this disc, however, as this Minnesota band has offered up a first-rate collection of pop/rock that in the spirit of today's roundup has a bit of a Big Star/Teenage Fanclub influence. Highlights here include the melancholy "Astronomy", the Third/Sister Lovers-influenced "Aftercrash (5 sec)", and the near-funk of "Rocky's Butcher Shop", which wouldn't have sounded out of place on one of Alex Chilton's adventurous solo discs. Also a standout is "Einstein's Marriage", a Michael Penn-ish delight. My advice: Buy Disc. Place in CD Player. Listen.
CD Baby | MySpace

The Fools-10. This is the tenth release for this Boston band (hence the title), and somehow I managed to miss out on the first nine. I'll have my ears out for #11, though, as 10 is a winner (if not a 10 itself) - it's excellent power pop in the vein of bands like Coronet Blue, The Nines and Third of Never. The driving "Time Will Not Erase Us" works as both a defiant stand by a veteran band and an anthemic rocker that even quotes Tom Petty's "The Waiting". "No Free Love" is a fine midtempo tune, and "Time Goes Slipping By" reminds me a bit of The Meadows. A nice find of a band that's been under the radar all these years.
CD Baby | MySpace

Thursday, April 03, 2008

CD of the Day, 4/3/08: Lo Fine-Not For Us Two

Lo Fine is Massachusetts' Kevin O'Rourke, and his latest, Not For Us Two, is a great find for fans of the early Pernice Brothers, Nada Surf and the new Gary Louris disc. In fact, if you can imagine Matthew Sweet fronting the Scud Mountain Boys, you'll have an excellent idea of the sound here.

Track after track on this disc reveals an understated aching beauty, and several stand out. The personal favorites here are "Words Like We", a lovely midtempo number that brings to mind Darren Jessee's Hotel Lights; the Overcome-by-Happiness-era Pernice sound of "Cemetery Road"; and the pedal steel-drenched "Remotely Together". The neighbors will never call the cops on you playing this disc, but it's the perfect soundtrack to a rainy morning or a late night wind down.

CD Baby | MySpace

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

CD of the Day, 4/2/08: Warren Pash-Plastic Rulers

Most of you may not know the name Warren Pash, but the Canadian expatriate by way of Nashville is a pro's pro in the music business who most notably co-wrote the #1 Hall & Oates hit "Private Eyes". He's also released a few solo discs over the years, and his brand new release Plastic Rulers is definitely a treat.

Pash reminds me of another Warren, Warren Zanes, with his professional pop/rock sound. There's also a hint of Tom Petty here, especially in the driving opener "Living The Dream". "Strange Recess" wouldn't have been out of place on Full Moon Fever either, with its jangly guitars and Byrds-by-way-of-Petty feel. "Take It or Leave It" adds some funk and swagger to the mix, and "Child's Play" sounds like what would happen if Michael Carpenter produced a Bob Dylan album. Meanwhile, the ballad "Love Is Gonna Come My Way" is where I'm reminded of Zanes, and the Stones-ish "U.S.A." is an enjoyable romp.

Rock 'n' roll for grownups. What a concept.

CD Baby | MySpace

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

EP Roundup.

Time to resume things with a look at a couple of EPs and a CD single, two of which come from familiar names:

Scot Sax-While She Was Working. Most of you know the Wanderlust and Feel frontman, and the quality LA pop he's been responsible for in both incarnations. This EP, however, is a bit of a departure. A good one, though. As Sax himself says, he felt he should have changed him name to Rodriguez after the sessions, and there is a definite Latin/urban feel (pardon the pun) to these tunes. "Bad 4 U" starts off in familiar territory then veers away; "Not Today" sounds like the work of a different but interesting artist, sort of Alejandro Escovedo meets Beck. Check out the samples. CD Baby | MySpace

Wild Bores-ReIntroducing Wild Bores. Wild Bores is Nashville-via-Chicago's John Whildin, and the sound here captures a mix of both of those cities: roots rock with a midwestern feel. The four tracks here are all outstanding in a Summerteeth-era Wilco kind of way, albeit a bit less ornately produced. A year-end EP contender, subject to being superseded by the scheduled full-length which is supposed to include these four tracks. CD Baby | MySpace

The Alice Rose-Body Offering (single). The Alice Rose burst onto the scene with their fantastic 2006 disc Photographic Memory, and they're getting to ready to release the followup. In the meantime, they've made available the first single from the disc, "Body Offering". It's a fine track, in the same Jon Brion-meets-Squeeze style that we saw on the debut. The b-side, "Wear That Cross", is no throwaway either. Get the single on iTunes.

MySpace | iTunes