Friday, April 30, 2010

EP of the Day, 4/30/09: The 88-No One Here

We had to wait three years for a new 88 release when they signed to Island records, but now that they've gone independent again we've been treated a new disc and now a new EP within little over a year's time. This EP consists of songs they recorded just before their Island adventure, and the title track appeared on their Island release Not Only...But Also. The original version here, though, is much better (and is the same that was heard on the TV show How I Met Your Mother). It's one of their best ballads, and was one of the few things really good from the Island record. But the allure here is the four new tracks.

The best of the batch is "If Anyone Should Call", maybe their catchiest track since Over & Over's "Hide Another Mistake". Mixing Adam Merrin's piano and Keith Slettedahl's guitar and vocals in service of a hook-filled tune is what The 88 are all about it, and this song does it just right. "Think You Broke My Heart" is another vintage 88 track with a bit of a soulful feel, and "I've Got a Name" is a fine torch song ballad. One of 2010's best EPs to date.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

Lala link (as they're shutting down May 31, they're no longer allowing new embeds but if you have a Lala account already you can listen here until then)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Two for Thursday, 4/29/10

Phil Ayoub-Arrivals and Departures. One of the very first discs I featured on this site a little over four years ago was Phil Ayoub's debut disc Schoolbus Window Paper Heart, and he's finally caught up to us with the followup, Arrivals and Departures. The disc's name comes from the fact most of the songs were written while Ayoub was traveling, but it's not some woe-goes-the-traveling-musician album. Instead, it's the kind of bright, radio-friendly pop/rock Ayoub gave us the first time around, once again produced by David Gray sideman Tim Bradshaw. Standouts include "The Bearded Lady", which brings Limbeck to mind; "Get Out (Live a Little, Love a Lot)", one of the catchiest odes to getting out and seeing live music ever written; the gorgeous nostalgia-for-the-70s ballad "Basement"; and the midtempo gem "Flowers at Work". Also of note is the rave-up "Bad Habits", in which Ayoub channels Ike Reilly. Ayoub's an artist deserving of a wider audience, and here's hoping Arrivals and Departures marks his arrival.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

Graydon-Graydon. A little over a year ago I called your attention to a pair of excellent EPs from an LA artist named Matt Miller. Since then, Miller has formed the band Graydon, and their debut full-length is a power pop delight. "You + Me" is a killer opener, reminiscent of Locksley; "What Can You Do" uses slide guitar and horns to conjure up a sound that could be described as George Harrison meets The Format; the piano-based "Anytime at All" sounds like an Oasis/Jack's Mannequin teamup, and "Running Back to Me" has a bit of Jellyfish about it. Managing the feat of sounding classic yet modern, Graydon should be a force to reckon with in the power pop community.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

Monday, April 26, 2010

CD of the Day, 4/26/10: Brett Harris-Man of Few Words

Here's my favorite "find" of the year so far. While high-quality albums from known quantities are always appreciated, there's nothing like discovering great music from someone you've never heard of. Harris is a definitely a pop craftsman first class, and this is an assured full-length debut for the singer-songwriter from Durham, North Carolina.

The infectious "I Found Out" sounds like a combination of David Grahame and Jeff Lynne, "Mansfield" is a bouncy piano-based number with some brass backing and a 70s pop sheen, "Drop the Needle" is a Beatlesque ballad, and "So Easy" would be a hit in a parallel universe where melody still ruled the charts. Plus, it's a good sign when the last three songs are as good as the first three: "Too Late" is another midtempo winner, the title track is fine ramshackle pop, and closer "Over and Over" is a wonderful jazz-tinged number you could see someone playing in a cocktail lounge. While Harris may be a man of few words, here's hoping he isn't a man of few albums.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Two for Thursday, 4/22/10

Secret Powers-Lies and Fairy Tales. If someone told me back in the late summer of 2008 that a new power pop band would emerge and have three great discs out by the spring of 2010, I'd be skeptical. But damned if Shmedley & crew are back with their third disc in about 18 months that's a must-listen. For those unfamiliar, Secret Powers is led by Ryan "Shmedly" Maynes and they serve up high-grade Jellyfish/ELO-influenced pop. Lies and Fairy Tales is no exception. "Orange Trees" was the best track on their previous release, and here things stay in the citrus family with the leadoff track "Tangerine", a hooky number that closes with a "na na na na" refrain and is downright infectious. The hits just keep on coming: "I'm So in Love" is a bouncy Beatlesque bit, "Riding the Shark" (as opposed to jumping it, which these guys are far from doing) is a manic rocker that doesn't quit, while the trippy piano-based "Cows" is udderly delightful. And don't overlook "Opening Band", a wry look at the music biz. I look forward to their next disc, and glad I probably won't have to wait too long. (By the way, they've finally embraced digital distribution, so I can embed from Lala and give you an iTunes link. Now they just need to get the first two available that way.)

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

Knit Delicate-Fulton Hill. As anyone who's read this blog for more than a little while knows, I'm a sucker for bands that can mix power pop and alt-country. And this band from Wisconsin sure knows how to weave a pop tune with a slight twang, as they follow up Pressed, their debut and one of 2007's more overlooked gems. Sounding like the Gary Louris-led version of The Jayhawks mixed in with a little Rich McCulley, they even mix in a little Big Star on the opener "Really Shouldn't Say Those Things" and the brilliant "When I See You". Other standouts include "Love is Not Democracy" and the pop sheen of "Had a Chance", in which they channel America. And they love punny references as much as I do, otherwise they wouldn't have a track called "Spin Cycle" on the disc.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

Monday, April 19, 2010

A Kool way to start the week.

The always reliable Kool Kat label has served up a couple of goodies from artists we know and love at Absolute Powerpop:

Maple Mars-Galaxyland. Maple Mars follows up their outstanding 2007 release Beautiful Mess with Galaxyland, a loose concept album about a theme park orbiting the moon. It's kind of fitting since their music has always had a space-age pop element, drawing from Klaatu and ELO as well as the Beatles and Badfinger. There's plenty to like here: "The Excursion" is top-drawer psych pop, "Big Imagination" channels the laid-back 70s SoCal sound, "Transcendental Guidance" is another of those tracks that sounds like its title, and the string-laden "When Bridges Fall" recalls Cloud Eleven. A real highlight is the resurrection of "New Day", a minor early 70s hit for Mark Radice. The CD comes in a gatefold sleeve not unlike a 70s album, and Kool Kat (the store) is offering up an exclusive bonus disc titled Extra Orbits with five bonus tracks. The whole thing is groovy.

Kool Kat (with bonus) | CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

Frank Royster-Innocence is Bliss. Also following up a fine 2007 release on Kool Kat, ex-Fire Ape Frank Royster is a bit more earthbound in his sound than Maple Mars and his sophomore solo effort Innocence is Bliss is more of the same old school power pop that made his debut a fun listen. Jamie Hoover produced, and fans of the Spongetones will want to give this a listen, as well as those who enjoy the likes of Marshall Crenshaw and Pat DiNizio (solo and with The Smithereens). "Mr. Wonderful" is a killer opener, a jangly number that could have been a hit in the 60s or 70s; "Life's a Bore" is straight from the more rock-oriented sound of the British Invasion; the country-tinged "Can't Make You Smile" is primo roots rock, and "Brena You" is the piano-based McCartney of "Lady Madonna", "Nineteen Hundred and Eight-Five" and "Flaming Pie". Speaking of McCartney (which happens to be the name of his young son, who shows up at the end with in "Looking for a Twinkle"), Royster covers the underrated Beatles classic "Every Little Thing", a personal favorite. As with the Maple Mars, Kool Kat has an exclusive bonus disc for this one too, a real deal.

Kool Kat (with bonus) | CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

CD of the Day, 4/14/10: Elvyn-The Decline

At long last, we've found the missing link between Teenage Fanclub and The Replacements. This discovery comes in the form of Elvyn, an Ontario band that's released its third album over the course of a decade. The influences run deep here, and Big Star lies at the intersection of the two seminal bands referenced above, so there's that sound to consider as well.

"Those Were the Days" kicks off the proceedings, and it's most definitely what the 'Mats would sound like if fronted by Norman Blake: great hooks 'n' harmonies, backed by a slightly ragged yet rocking rhythm section. "I Guess I Was Wrong" is a bit more laid back, with an easygoing countryish sound that betrays a bit of a Byrds/Burritos vibe, and "I'll Come Back" follows suit with another engaging melody.

Elsewhere, "Lotta Lies" takes their sound into indie pop territory, as the double-tracked harmonies recall The Pernice Brothers; "Don't Leave, Don't Go" is a bright, upbeat pop number with a touch of melancholy, and "The Big Bay" has a Posies-like sweep. "Nature of Your Game" is straight-up Americana, in the manner of Joe Pernice's solo masterpiece "Bum Leg", and "I Was There" brings us full circle to Teenage Fanclub's more pensive moments. Wonderfully melodic, there's nothing in "decline" about Elvyn's sound and they've got a definite top 10 of '10 contender on their hands.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Two for Thursday, 4/8/10

The Successful Failures-Three Nights. Exactly one year ago to the date, I wrote of the New Jersey power pop label FDR: "There's an 'FDR Sound': no-nonsense, straight-up, rock-oriented, garage-style powerpop that draws on bands like The Replacements and The Who". Well FDR's latest release is from the redoubtable Successful Failures, and it's emblematic of the "FDR sound". The Failures have always had a humorous edge (as their name itself implies) and we find it here on track titles like "Houston, We Have a Drinking Problem", "Armadillo Boy" and "Leave Me in the Coma". But they're not one-note jokesters; "Waiting for a Ride" does the quiet/loud thing quite nice and quite melodically, "College Scholarship Blues" and "Any Ol' Thing" find them in Americana mode, and "Sinkhole" is an engaging rocker. Fun and melodic, you can't ask for anything more from Three Nights.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

Wild Bores-We Think Alike. The Bores are back in town, as John Whildin remains prolific with two full-lengths and an EP under his belt in little over two years. While his previous releases were quite good, he takes a great leap here with an engaging, tuneful followup. Whildin knows how to open an album, as "In Front of Me" is a wonderfully catch track in the Wilco/Wallflowers vein. "I Still Think She's Mine", complete with horns and a quirky pop melody, recalls Warren Zanes, and "Same Routine" is bright pop. Elsewhere, "Sight of Gold" has a Del-Amitri-with-big-guitars feel, and "Sunshine Lady" is as languid and melodic as its title would indicate. If you like Heartland pop with a kick, well then I guess We Think Alike.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Two for Tuesday, 4/6/10

Brady Harris-Year of the Pug. Year of the Pug is Brady Harris' sixth album, and he's the standard-bearer of the sub-sub-genre known as "Beatlesque Americana". A Texan who now calls LA home, Harris may have his best release on his hands here. With Lennonesque vocals similar to Plasticsoul's Steven Wilson, Harris will appeal equally to fans of Beatle-pop and roots-pop, and the opener "Floating" is a moody mid-tempo number with a striking melody. The rootsy ballad "Sailing on a River" is another winner, featuring the Minus 5's Tucker Jackson on pedal steel, and "Mersey Waltz (Sing a Sad Song)" does its title proud. Other standouts include Michael Penn-like "Slipping By" and "That's All I Need" which is reminiscent of "Hey Jude" without the na-na-na's. One of 2010's finest to date.

CD Baby | MySpace

The Romeo Flynns-Masque of Anarchy. When this CD first crossed my desk, I was a bit concerned. Here were The Romeo Flynns with the followup to their great Detroit-styled power pop 2008 debut Pictures of You, and it was titled Masque of Anarchy and had the cover you see over to the right. My first thought was "Oh God, they've gone and decided to put out a bad prog-metal album." But one spin in the CD player put those fears to rest - while the Flynns have decided to branch out a bit, they haven't abandoned their Motor City and power poppin' roots. They show their ambition here with the loose concept of addressing these tough economic times, but in my eyes the only concept album I believe in is the concept of having 10-12 killer tracks. So after a snippet from a British radio broadcast, they get down to the business of rocking your socks off with the title track and "Dance the White Line". Then they forever endear themselves to me with a great cover of my favorite Badfinger track, "Baby Blue". But they're more than one-trick ponies, as evidenced by the downright jangly "Falling Down" and the Merseyside ballad "Annie". And they know how the pull the curtain down - the closer "Don't Leave Me Now" is the kind of melodramatic power ballad that Cheap Trick is known for. So the lesson here is don't judge an album by its cover, or even its concept.

CD Baby | MySpace

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Justin Kline could use your help.

Normally I don't post these kind of things, but Justin Kline's EP was my favorite of 2008, and he's a good guy who could use some help. I'll give him the floor:
Hey there. This is Justin Kline. Recently, my new album was stolen when a robber broke into a nashville studio I was recording at. Totally sucks. They stole all the gear too. I had a rough mix of only 2 songs from the album...

It was a follow up release to my Six Songs EP. I have a kickstarter project to raise $1200 to release 2 songs on a 7" record. The rewards that go to donators are pretty entertaining...