Thursday, September 30, 2010

Short takes.

Some quick thoughts on some quality music playing on my iPod/iPhone these days:

Tom Fuller Band-Maristar. I described Tom Fuller's sound as "Tom Petty meets Oasis" a couple of years back on his last album, and Maristar is more of the same goodness. McCartney guitarist and erstwhile power popper Brian Ray helps out here, and the standout tracks here are the trippy rocker "Anthem Man", "Merci Beaucoup", and the string-laden power ballad "Sacred Chamber". For those who like a little classic rock in their power pop, don't brush off Fuller. (UK-only CD release but available digitally in the USA)

MySpace | iTunes | eMusic

Quakers on Probation-Every Living Thing. Great band name here (I guess Amish Gone Wild was taken) for the threesome of Daniel Craig (when he's not playing James Bond), Graig Markel (the only Graig I've seen spell his name that way aside from Nettles), and Daniel Craig (the first Daniel Craig's son). Now that I've exhausted my monthly supply of parenthetical remarks, I'll get down to the business of telling you they play what they like to call "twangle-pop". I hear bits of everyone from the Wilburys to Brian Wilson to the Jayhawks to more obscure artists like Wilder Embry here, and just when you think they're a bunch of laid-back twangle-poppers they throw in a "Happy Birthday Fucker" in the middle of the opening track to make sure you're paying attention. Plus there's a cool cover of "Chevy Van", which just might be the original twangle-pop hit.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes | eMusic

Eric Miller-Half of Purple. First of all, I have no idea what "half of purple" means. Is it the "pur", the "ple" or some other color? Inscrutable album title aside, Miller serves up twelve tracks of classic singer-songwriter power pop, from the earnest yet catchy "Tears of Victoria" to the shuffling "Talking to Myself" to the exuberant rock of "Better Days" to the breezy pop of "Miranda Jane". It's really of a piece with the recent Edward O'Connell album I raved about a few weeks back, with that "mature" power pop sound.

CD Baby | MySpace (full album stream) | iTunes | eMusic

Broken Promise Keeper-Poptimized. With the best "pop"-pun title since Allen Devine's Poportunity, Broken Promise Keeper (a/k/a Atlanta's Rob Stuart) cranks out his annual slab of 80s-influenced power pop with the usual fine results. "Scarred for Life" opens things strongly, 2:20 of no-nonsense, no-let-up dB-styled pop, and "Hyperdriven" pretty much lives up to its title. The playful piano pop of "We Pray for Rain" is another standout, as is the jangly "Bittersweet". My only quibble is how can Stuart call himself Broken Promise Keeper when he's proved so reliable? I guess you can consider it an ironic appellation.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes | eMusic

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Two for Tuesday, 9/28/10

The 88-The 88. Freed from the constraints of their brief major label deal, The 88 continue to be prolific. Their latest, self-titled, release makes it two full-lengths and an EP since 2008's Not Only...But Also and so far they're not sacrificing quality in the process. "Center of the Sun" is the kind of punchy power pop they're known for; "They Ought to See You Know" has a real 70s feel, led by Adam Merrin's organ fills, and "After Hours" might be the quintessential 88 tune with its perky melody, Keith Slettedahl's up-front guitar and vocals and Merrin's ivory-tickling prominent. They also do the slower numbers well, with "As Far as I Can See" and album closer "Lost and Found" serving as Exhibits A & B. (Note: the album just wrapped up a 2-week exclusive on iTunes, and while it's on Napster now it hasn't shown up yet on eMusic)

MySpace | iTunes

Kurt Hagardorn-Leaves. When we last left Kurt Hagardorn in 2007, he gave us the fine Ten Singles and on the new followup he continues his winning (and somewhat unique) blend of Dream Pop, Roots Pop and Americana. The rootsy title track kicks things off in the fashion to be found here, with kind of a Jayhawks-style roosty gait, and "Tail Lights" has a bit of Traveling Wilburys feel to it. Speaking of the Wilburys, a definite influence here is Roy Orbison. "Blown Away" has that melodramatic retro feel to it, and the haunting "Heartbeat" (the standout track on the disc and one of my favorite tunes of the year) finds Hagardorn crooning to an ethereal melody that David Lynch could have worked into one of his films. Leaves is the perfect accompaniment to a rainy Sunday morning.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes | eMusic

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Two for Tuesday, 9/21/10

Joe Reyes-Worry Row. A few weeks ago, I tweeted about this disc as kind of an aside, but in the time since it's really grown on me. Joe Reyes is a music pro, having won a Grammy in 2002 for co-producing a Freddy Fender album and logging lots of studio time in the Texas pop scene playing with the likes of Buttercup and Salim Nourallah. Worry Row, his latest release, is a meticulously crafted, sophisticated pop platter that fans of Michael Penn and Jon Brion will love. The Beatlesque gait and Brion-like production of the title track will draw you in, "Don't Kid Yourself" channels Jim Boggia, and the melancholy "This Wicked Life" will have you mistaking Reyes for his buddy Nourallah. The swirling pop of "Became, Becoming, Became" also recalls Brion and "Unlikely" falls into Cliff Hillis territory. All of this name-dropping is here for a reason - to highlight the pop mastery Reyes displays here on a disc that's become one of my 2010 favorites.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes | eMusic

Rob Skane-Phantom Power Trip. We move from the studio wizardry of Joe Reyes to a more raw, rocking artist in Albany's Rob Skane. Drawing on inspirations like Nick Lowe, Graham Parker and Marshall Crenshaw, Skane's Phantom Power Trip will keep your hips shaking and your toes tapping while you rock and roll. "I Waited" is both a thematic and sonic cousin to Terry Anderson's "All Dressed Up" with The Yayhoos, "You Preach Peace" is primo roots rock, and "Girl Next Door" comes on like Dave Edmunds in Rockpile. And "The Idiot Show" would make Rockpile's other half, Lowe, proud. Get your roots on with this one.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes | eMusic

Sunday, September 19, 2010

CD of the Day, 9/19/10: Timmy Sean-Music From & Inspired By Noisewater.

I always liked Luzer, a power pop band whose output during the previous decade was excellent but sporadic. Back in 2000, they titled their debut album "Greatest Hits", a cheeky move if there ever was one. A decade later, their primary singer/songwriter Timmy Sean has gone solo, and although he's created his debut around an imaginary film called Noisewater he'd be less presumptuous to call this one "Greatest Hits" as it's a power pop tour de force.

After a bit of throat-clearing to advance the conceit (the a cappella "Intro" and the very cool near-instrumental "Noisewater Overture" that sounds like something found on an early ELO album), he gets down to the body of tunes. "Girl from Omaha" is a busy, catchy piano-backed tune that recalls McCartney's "Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five", and that's followed by "Can't Stop the World", a slightly baroque pop track that would fit nicely on a Jellyfish album. "If Your Mother Has Her Way" has the kind of manic piano energy in the vein of "Long Tall Glasses"-era Leo Sayer, and "What You Do" has Todd Rundgren written all over it.

The assured and rollicking power pop of "Don't Waste Your Time" is the most Luzer-sounding track on the album, "Hold On" borrows a bit from the verses of "Evil Woman" (sans its disco chorus), and the bombastic "Wait" closes out the proper song section of the disc with an amalgam of the 70s-inspired pop styles Sean (or is Timmy?) of the previous tracks. We then come back full circle with the "Noisewater Reprise", of a piece with the overture. Although Timmy Sean notes that he grew up in the 80s, the sound here represents the most enduring and beloved power pop styles of the decade previous, and is one of the new decade's most impressive pop discs.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes | eMusic

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Popboomerang on Bandcamp - Freebies Galore!

How does 44 free mp3s from one of the world's greatest power pop labels sound? That's what you can get by visiting Popboomerang's new Bandcamp page. They have two samplers up, one with 13 tracks and the other with 31, featuring artists many of you know and love, along with many others worth checking out. From Bryan Estepa to Russell Crawford to Adrian Whitehead to Grand Atlantic to The Wellingtons (and many more), you can't go wrong.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

CD of the Day, 9/14/10: Picture Day-Wild Aim

There's a certain subgrene of pop/power pop that I like to call "rainy day pop" - tuneful but subdued, hooky but not hyper. It's no coincidence that Picture Day, today's purveyor of rainy day pop, comes from the Pacific Northwest where rainfall is a way of life. Picture Day is the brainchild of The Green Pajamas' Eric Lichter, who wrote the songs here and had them performed by an impressive cast of friends including Ken Stringfellow and Jimm McIver. In many respects the sound here is similar to the Pajamas, only more down-to-earth and personal, despite the guest appearances.

The disc is highlighted by a pair of tracks that take a hard look at war. The brilliant "War Song" opens the disc, a gentle piano-and-acoustic-guitar based pop number that sets the mood for what's to come. Drawing its inspiration from WWII ("Buried in the deep dark frozen/hiding in the hills of France/scattered to the winds in Poland/resurfacing up by chance"), it's both haunting and ear-pleasing. Later in the album is the somber "Average Coming Home", a look at how tough coming home from war is on a soldier.

It's not all war on the battlefield, though. The war inside our hearts and minds is explored on "Mental Kiss", another moody pop gem with a British flavor, and the title track has a pastoral feel like mid-period Kinks or some of Andy Partridge's work in XTC. "God Replace" furthers the album's sophisticated pop milieu, and Stringfellow plays and sings on "Little Bigger", a lovely, stately ballad.

There are a few sonic detours here. "Piano Pins" marries a rapped lyric to a horn-backed rhythm section that sounds very Green Pajama-like, and "Ever Shining Super Effect" is the closest thing to power pop in the traditional sense. Things close in fine fashion with "Whispers Off The Radio", another languid-yet-melodic tune. Like the camera on the album cover, Picture Day captures a distinct feel and mood. It may not be California sunshine, but it's perfect for that rainy day. A definite sleeper candidate for our year-end lists.

CD Baby | MySpace

mp3: Average Coming Home

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

CD of the Day, 9/8/10: Ian Olvera & The Sleepwalkers-The Reckless Kind

After regaling us with his 2007 debut EP Some of Us Dream, Green Bay's Ian Olvera is back with his debut full-length The Reckless Kind, accompanied by his backing band The Sleepwalkers. The Reckless Kind builds on the promise of the EP with its polished Americana-influenced pop that splits the difference between The Jayhawks and Tom Petty.

The stomping "Darkest Weather" opens the album and it has that feeling you get driving the open roads of the Midwest, and it's followed by the poptastic "Sophie Lives Here", a rollicking hook factory. "Don't Want to Talk About It" has a Exile-era Stones/Petty feel to it, a la Wilco's "Monday", and speaking of that Chicago band, "Is This It" also recalls their early heyday with its pedal steel-fueled rock. But the real standout here is the languid "Laundry & Cigarettes", an anthemic ballad that could be a hit in an alternate universe.

Elsewhere, the Wallflowers-esque "Ain't Nobody as Lonely as You" and the lovely, spare "In the Morning" close out the album in fine fashion. The Reckless Kind is a worthy addition to your playlist, and it's always great to see an artist grown from EP to LP.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Labor Day Roundup.

The June Gloom-Wonderland. Calgary's Cameron Purvis has been consistently putting out one power pop/rock release after another, be it under his own name or as Wax Poets, featured here early last year. Purvis's latest project is The June Gloom and their debut Wonderland is one of 2010's best. For the unfamiliar, the most straight-up comparison is a slightly mellower Oasis or Jet, and here "Believe" is the equal or the better of those band's midtempo tracks, "Everything is Grey" stands up to "Don't Look Back in Anger" or "Look What You've Done", and "Lover" rocks with swagger. But what sets this apart as an advance on Purvis's previous releases are tracks like "Cabrini-Green", a song about the infamous Chicago housing projects, the wonderfully nostalgic "Swimming Song", and the catchy could-be-a-hit "If I Had a Bike". With this kind of track record, whatever Purvis wants to call his next project is fine with me - as long as he lets us know the name so we can find it.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes | eMusic

T. Kao-Old Music for Young Hearts. Following up on last week's EPs gone LP post which featured a pair of discs that contained earlier released EPs, we have T. Kao following suit, incorporating much of his 2008 Hundred Flowers EP into his debut full-length. The Ohio-by-way-of-Shanghai singer-songwriter is in the AM/Gus Black mold, and supplementing great tracks from the EP like "Sweet Surrender" and "Every Little Thing" are new tracks are the lovely ballad "Cherry Blossom Girl", the atmospheric "Sunday Morning Sleeping" and the melodic pop/rocker "Top of the World". You might have overlooked the EP a couple of years ago, but don't overlook this full-length, a fine example of a singer/songwriter a cut above.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Brought to you by the Letter "W".

William Duke-The Sunrise and The Night. San Franciscan William Duke first caught our attention in 2005 with his out-of-left-field The Ghost That Would Not Be, which showed he had the musical imagination and pop leanings to craft something other than cookie-cutter pop. Five years on (during which he's been a part of AbPow favorites The Bye Bye Blackbirds), he's back on the Kool Kat label with a more polished yet just-as-sophisticated release, The Sunrise and the Night. The prevailing sound here is dreamy California pop with a bit of a dark side, similar to Cloud Eleven and Pernice Brothers. The lovely "It's Only the Beginning" starts off the disc in fine fashion, "Keep Me in Your Thoughts" is another sunny 70s Cal-pop tune and "The Canyon" treads into Bread-meets-The-Autumn-Defense territory. Elsewhere, "A Moment in the Sun" jangles nicely a la Jeff Larson, and "You're Young and You'll Forget" sounds like McCartney in acoustic mode transplanted to California. The disc also features some fine instrumentals if that's your bag, and if you act now, Kool Kat is offering a 20-track bonus disc that features alternate takes and versions of the disc proper.

Kool Kat | CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes | eMusic

The Waylons-Out of Love. I missed this EP from late last year, but better late than never as they say. With a name like The Waylons, you know there has to be at least an alt-country or Americana component to their sound (you didn't think they were named after Waylon Smithers?), and that's true for this band straight outta Brooklyn. But that manage to hit that sweet spot of tunefulness with their incorporation of pop and indie rock to their sound as well, bringing to mind the aforementioned Pernice Brothers. Heck, even one track is titled "Endless Supplies", an apparent nod to "Endless Supply" from the Pernices' The World Won't End. "Lying in the Sun" is an interesting midtempo opener that's part The Wrens and part Gary Louris-led Jayhawks. "Disappear Me" hints at an Old 97s sound, the upbeat and catchy rocker "Spotlight" is another standout, and the melancholy "Rachel" is almost twee indie pop. A definite must for fans of these genres.

MySpace | iTunes | eMusic