Friday, July 31, 2009

Video of the Day

Here's an imaginative, stop-motion video for Bob Evans' "Hand Me Downs", from his latest album Goodnight, Bull Creek:

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Catching up with some familiar faces.

Three artists are out with new albums and they're all known quantities, so I'm just going to say a word or two about them and put up the Lala embeds.

Steven Mark-One Small Room. The common theme here is going to be if you liked the previous album(s), you'll like this one, and it certainly applies to the latest from this singer/songwriter, who shouldn't be confused with Steven Wright-Mark. Mark serves up another helping of his Elliott Smith-meets-Lennon pop, and throws in a cover of "The Logical Song" as well.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

Fooling April-Three. This Philly band (whose first two album were on Kool Kat) is back with their third album, oh-so-cleverly titled Three. It's more of their modern-sounding piano-based pop that will appeal to fans of Jack's Mannequin, Harvey Danger and that Folds guy. It can be downloaded at the Bandcamp site for a price of your choice.

Bandcamp | MySpace | iTunes

Philip Vandermost-The Long Path. This California rocker caught the ear of Bruce Brodeen of Not Lame last year with his debut Automatic August, and played one of last year's IPO festivals. Now he's back with a new disc that hit the street this week. RIYL: Coldplay, Crowded House, Guster.

MySpace | iTunes

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

New Two Hours Traffic!

The finest Canadian power pop band this side of Sloan, PEI's Two Hours Traffic, is set to release Territory, their followup to 2007's Little Jabs, on September 8. To whet our appetites, they've released an mp3 of the title track.

Get it here:

Two Hours Traffic-Territory (mp3)

And here's a bonus video of their hit from Little Jabs, "Stuck for the Summer":

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

CD of the Day: 7/28/09, Scott Warren-Quick Fix Bandage

Quick Fix Bandage is the debut solo album from the frontman of Signal Hill Transmission, a band that has had an interesting history. They debuted in 2005 with Tomorrow, The Stars, a largely alt-country disc, followed it up with 2007's An Empty Space, which saw them move in a pronounced power pop direction (and featured "Cherry is a Girl", which would make my short list of top power pop songs of the decade) and then signed with ATO Records in 2008, hooking up with Pete Yorn & Liz Phair's producer and releasing the Starting Gun EP, in which they tried a bit too hard to be radio-ready.

The common thread in all the SHT albums, though, was Warren's songwriting ability, and now that he's gone solo he's managed to come almost full circle and release a laid-back, country-influenced pop album in the style of solo Rhett Miller and sometimes songwriting-partner Todd Herfindal of The Meadows, who helped engineer the album. "Before You Say Goodbye", which opens the album, is about as good as anything Warren's written, from its easygoing melody to its light country instrumentation. "Along for the Ride" and "Same Old Scene" are spare but lovely; and the atmospheric pedal steel of "For the Ride" should make happy all of those who wonder why Jeff Tweedy doesn't do these kinds of song anymore; and "Speed of Sound" will appeal to those who loved SHT's power-popping efforts. Warren closes the proceedings with a slowed-down cover of America's "Sister Golden Hair", which is nice but hurt my brain to listen to as the faster-paced original is so embedded in my memory that I found myself mentally singing along about 2-3 lines ahead throughout. I will give him credit for not doing a rote cover, however (cough, cough, Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs).

Buy CD here | MySpace | iTunes

Friday, July 24, 2009

New music from Michael Penn!

It's pretty amazing to realize that this year marks the 20th anniversary of Michael Penn's solo debut March, and that it's been that long since the great "No Myth" marched up the Top 40 (good luck with tunes like that today). Anyway, I've been a big fan of MP since I first saw the "No Myth" video on MTV, and I'm excited to bring you the news that he has some new material out, his first since 2005's Mr. Hollywood Jr. 1947.

These three tracks (which can be streamed in full and/or purchased below) are from the upcoming IFC miniseries Bollywood Hero, starring Chris Kattan. They're all quite good: "Untouchable", given its title and the subject of the miniseries, has some Indian instrumentation but is otherwise classic Penn; "In Two Worlds" is a duet with wife Aimee Mann, and "This is the Life" is the real standout of the three, a classic slow-build Penn ballad in the vein of "Bucket Brigade" or "I Can Tell".

And here's that "No Myth" video that hooked me back in the day:

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Three for Thursday.

Three discs to chew on in this late week roundup, two from familiar faces and one from a new one.

David Brookings-Glass Half Full. Nashville may have been getting all the Tennessee-related attention around here lately, but here's some equal time for Memphis as favorite son David Brookings returns with his fifth solo album since 2000. Brookings has long been a favorite in the power pop community with his easygoing melodic style, and has drawn comparisons to the likes of Jim Boggia, Mike Viola, Matthew Sweet and Michael Penn. With Glass Half Full, it'll hardly take an optimist to warm up to this collection of tracks. "Don't Wake Me Up" gets things off to a rollicking start with its McCartneyesque feel, "I Wish I Could Be With You" is as sweet as its melody, "Love Goes Down the Drain" mines some Jellyfish/Viola sounds, "Hazel" jangles and shines, and "Still Not Crazy Yet" is pop at its brightest. This might be his best yet.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

Your Gracious Host-Easy Red. All I can say is that Tom Curless (a/k/a Your Gracious Host) is one productive guy. Not content to rest on the laurels of last fall's double-album self-titled debut, he's returned as YGH about nine months later to bring us Easy Red, 11 more tracks of the same winning indie-flavored power pop we loved on the debut. Standout tracks on this disc include the urgent "Alibi", which reminds me of Teenage Fanclub mixed with mid-70s Roxy Music, the angular "Rescue Me", the Andy Partridge-like "Blue Sky", and the pretty, languid title track. At this rate, I'll be back in the spring reviewing the 3rd YGH disc, and I'll be happy to do so.

CD Baby | MySpace

Billy Schafer-First to Believe. The debut mini-album (7 tracks) from this San Francisco singer/songwriter has been a revelation. Although it didn't bowl me over at first, it really has grown on me and become a real favorite. Schafer's style is similar to artists like Elliott Smith, Gus Black, AM, and Mark McAdam. Two tracks really stand out here as some of my favorites of the year - the opener "Wondering", which sounds both contemporary and classic, and the lovely "My Mona Lisa (The One)", whose chorus has been embedded somewhere in my brain for quite a while now. Both tracks make excellent and tasteful use of strings as well. The other five tracks are no slouches either, with "April Fool for You" and "The Dream is Alive" worthy of particular note. A very nice debut.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

CD of the Day, 7/21/09: Brian Jay Cline-Nashville Tracks

If you've only joined the power pop community in, say, the last four or five years, you may not have heard of Brian Jay Cline. Personally, I discovered him in early 2005 when his last record, One More for the Road, came out. After doing so, I had to seek out his back catalog. So it's quite possible you right now could be me circa 2005 if Nashville Tracks is your first exposure to this great roots-poppin' artist, while the rest of us are just grateful he's seen fit to release his first new disc in nearly five years.

If artists like Marshall Crenshaw, Walter Clevenger, Bill Lloyd and The Melroys are your bag, you'll wonder how you got by without Cline for all these years. The title of his latest is as unpretentious as his sound - these are tracks he laid down in Nashville, and if you had to guess without knowing the title, Nashville is where you'd probably think they were recorded. All the tracks here are good, but some are more equal than others. "Rave Up" finds him as a twangy Buddy Holly; "Talk of the Town" is right in that Lloyd/Crenshaw sweet spot; and "Lying at the Speed of Sound" has enough sass to make kindred spirit Terry Anderson proud. Elsewhere, "Last Chance" has a bit of a bluesy feel and one could easily picture someone like Robert Cray covering it, and "Road to Ruin" tackles our recessionary times.

The only quibble I have about the disc is that I can't share a Lala (or any other digital music provider) embed below; Cline is old school to the extent that his stuff isn't on iTunes or the other digital download places. You'll just have to check out the samples at Not Lame or his MySpace if you're unfamiliar with him.

(Meanwhile, things have really gotten to the point where it seems like every second or third record I'm writing about lately comes from Nashville or a Nashville artist; at the rate things are going, I might have to bifurcate my year-end list into Nashville and Non-Nashville in fairness to the rest of the world.)

Not Lame | Kool Kat | MySpace

Sunday, July 19, 2009

New Codaphonic EP - free!

We've always enjoyed the Harry Nilsson-influenced Codaphonic around these parts, so I'm pleased to pass on the news that they're making Edison's Rival, their brand-new EP, available for a free download.

Get it here.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Thursday Roundup.

Michael Harrell-Jericho Blues. After releasing one of 2007's best EPs, Greetings from the Village, Nashville's Michael Harrell is back with Jericho Blues, his debut full-length. The album picks up where the EP left off, with 10 tracks of what might be called the "Nashville power pop sound". "Give Me a Beat" channels Greg Pope and Edmund's Crown, while "Paint by Numbers" is Superdrag-esque. Other highlights include the Beatle-y "Action, Reaction, Dissatisfaction", the rocking "Katherine", and the lovely country-tinged "Tennessee Valentine". Harrell is a real talent, and Jericho Blues is definitely year-end-list material.

CD Baby | MySpace

Mathew Street-Plastic Wings. Mathew Street - the road - is legendary in the music world, being the address for Liverpool's Cavern Club, where some guys in the early 1960s were well known for playing when they started out. Mathew Street - the Montreal pop/rocker - is less known but does his namesake street proud with his debut EP Plastic Wings, a collection of four quality Britpop-styled tunes. "Fine Glasses of Wine and Champagne" is one of those grab-your-attention-right-away pop tunes that reminds me some of The Feeling and Kit Ashton, "Because" and "Behind the Glass" are top-drawer power ballads, and the rollicking "Magic Mint" reminds me of Fastball. Now that he's distinguished himself from the famous road, just don't confuse him with Matthew Sweet.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

Jeremy Nail & The Incidents-EP. Another artist from 2007 back with new music is Jeremy Nail, whose Letter was a favorite that year. Unlike Michael Harrell above, who went from EP to CD, Nail has gone from a full-length to an EP, and at only three songs I'd call more of a CD single. But they are three really good tunes, in the same Ryan Adams/Paul Westerberg-hybrid style of the full-length. Have a listen below.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

More Bleu for you.

Bleu's A Watched Pot, which I told you about a while back, has finally hit retail this week. I never did a formal review of the disc, because, well it's Bleu, and it's great, and if you're a power popper it's essential. Anyway, your Bleu experience is not complete without this bonus EP of outtakes from the Watched Pot sessions, which you can either get free or for the amount you're willing to pay from the good folks at Noisetrade:

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Quirky Pop Tuesday.

Lamar Holley-Confessions of a College Student. One of these days, I'm going to compile a "United States of Power Pop" that references power pop artists in each state of the country. Off the top of my head, I can think of several states that are unrepresented, but I can now cross Utah off the list thanks to SLC's Lamar Holley. His Confessions of a College Student is billed as a pop musical, or "theater-pop" as he calls it, and it's a wonderfully melodic and quirky album that works as a whole or as standalone tunes. Mixing in a little Jellyfish, a little Ben Folds, some Beatles, and a lot of Brill Building, there's plenty here to like. "Forgotten Friends" brings the 'fish to mind, "Pretend That She's Ugly" is where the Folds comparisons come in, and "This is True" is a baroque blast. Tuition will only cost you $15, so it's a bargain.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

Fred Van Vactor-Everything Good All at Once. If the Lamar Holley is up your alley, then you should also like the debut disc from this Oregon artist. While the sound is somewhat similar, Van Vactor comes at his material more from a slack aesthetic than Holley's theater geek. Regardless, this is buoyant pop that's catchy, quirky and clever. "Bottle of Wine" is great midtempo power pop, "Falling in Love with Jill Kotowski" is equal parts Dean Friedman's "Ariel" and Ben Folds' "Kate", and "L-O-V-E A.D.D." is as clever as its title. The only quibble I have here is that Van Vactor pushes the quirk factor a little too far late in the album with the goofy "Mexican Guitar" and the answering-machine-message-set-to-background-music "No More Gardening...", which Folds beat him to with "Your Most Valuable Possession" and kept under two minutes while this one drones on for nearly four. Nevertheless, there's enough here to please any pop fan.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

Everything Good All At Once

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Wednesday Roundup.

Benjamin R-The Other Side of Nowhere. This LA singer-songwriter (whose real name is Robert Selvaggio) has crafted a fine pop album that puts him right there with other contemporaries from the City of Angels such as AM and Gus Black, and also recalls Pete Yorn in places, especially on the engaging opening track "Quit". The uptempo "Falling Apart" is another standout, bringing Keith LuBrant to mind, and the melancholy "Tell Me I'm Wrong" also hits the right melodic notes. He also has a way with the ballads too, as he demonstrates on "Beautiful (Ugly Now)", while "Time is Running Out" has a bit of Jon Brion to it. An impressive debut.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

John's Revolution-Today Your Love, Tomorrow the World. When I first heard this disc and saw the cover, I could have sworn these guys were from England. After all, they have a big Britpop sound that owes a lot to Oasis and the Stereophonics. But no, they're from Italy, although I even question this given that the band is comprised of four guys named Alex Eschgfaeller, Othmar Schoenafinger, Juergen Lanthaler and Boris Egger. Whatever their origin, they have a rocking sound that definitely does put the "power" in power pop. "Dreammachine" gets in your face, not unlike Oasis' "Shakermaker"; "Pocket Symphony", with its mix of quiet and loud, yet all melodic, sounds like it came from a Jet album, while "Cosmos" is John Lennon by way of Noel Gallagher. But my favorites here are the brash "Walk Away" and the groovy 60s rock of "Pop Child". If I have any say in the matter, this disc will be "Today Absolute Powerpop, Tomorrow Your iPod".

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

Today Your Love, Tomorrow The World

Monday, July 06, 2009

Odds and ends.

I Don't Like Cricket, I Love It!

Pugwash alert! One of the best lines from 10cc's immortal "Dreadlock Holiday" could be the mission statement of The Duckworth Lewis Method, a new band featuring Thomas Walsh (a/k/a Pugwash) and Neil Hannon of The Divine Comedy. These two Irishmen have parlayed their love of cricket into a concept album about the sport. Released globally today, this is a must for Pugwash fans (as well as cricket fans, but you don't have to be one to enjoy it). In case you're wary, have a listen below:

MySpace | iTunes

Your Favorites, free.

Many of you recall Bright Nights, Bright Lights, the outstanding release from The Favorites which placed at #15 on my 2008 year-end list. The band is now making the disc available free, gratis, without charge, yours for the taking, courtesy of NoiseTrade. A deal too good to pass up:

Friday, July 03, 2009

New Dan Bryk album

Dan Bryk has a new disc out, Pop Psychology. And it's available for download at his site, either free at 128 kbps by joining his email list, or you can pay as little as 50 cents a track for a higher quality version.

His stuff is great, whether solo or with bands like Down by Avalon, so check it out.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Retro Thursday.

The Boolevards-Real Pop. This Illinois band gives us the first of two retro-rockin' discs featured today. Real Pop is just that, assuming the year is 1965. Two and three-part harmonies, Rickenbacker solos, Merseybeat melodies - it's all here in an expert re-creation of the era. And like many acts of the era, The Boolevards are led by brothers - John & Joe Nowik, along with guitar slinger Hugh Murphy. They serve up a generous 17 tracks here, with the highlights being "It's Great", "It's OK", and "It Stinks" (OK, I made that last one up). "Look to the Sun" and "Hot on the Trail of Love" are standouts as well. If you have a picture of Peter Noone hanging on your wall, run - don't walk - to pick this one up.

CD Baby | MySpace: None! - they didn't have MySpace in 1965) | iTunes

Listen to full album at the band's site

Peter & The Penguins-How to Choose a Sweetheart. Like The Boolevards above, this Norwegian band is oh-so-retro. But they have a bit more of a diverse take, branching out to include some Beach Boy-style sounds as well as well as some surprise sounds at the end. Of course, the Rickenbackers are out in force, so the difference is more of degree. "Sweetheart" is all hooky harmony, while "The Walk" is jangly fun, and Beatle lovers need to hear "There Goes Pete Best". They also throw in a rousing cover of Lavern Baker's "Bumble Bee", and perhaps the album's most interesting track is the midtempo closer "Give Me a Clue", which trades early-mid 60s Merseybeat for the late 60s/early 70s pastoral sound of The Kinks. (Note: the band's self-released "label" is Penguphone Records, a nice little touch.)

CD Baby | Myspace | iTunes