Friday, October 29, 2010

CD of the Day, 10/29/10: Slumberjet-Slumberjet

The latest entrant into the subgenre of British power pop that started with XTC and continues to this day with the likes of Pugwash, Captain Wilberforce and Duncan Maitland is Slumberjet. Although technically they're not British (they hail from Dublin), Barry O'Brien and the lads have given us an impressive debut album and yet another best-of-2010 contender. O'Brien may be familiar to a select few of you thanks to his excellent 2004 EP, Spark, and here he and his band build on Spark's promise.

"The Strangest Game" starts off the festivities, a propulsive pop tune that features some fine keyboard work from the aforementioned Mr. Maitland. "The Letter" follows, a catchy midtempo treat, and on its heels is the album's most ambitious track, the excellent ballad "Sisters in the Sky". Eric Matthews contributes the brass & strings, and Maitland's piano gives "Sisters" the feel of one of XTC's classic ballads like "Chalkhills & Children". "C Song" is a busy power pop number that has a Jason Falkner feel, and the melancholy "Cut Me Out" boasts more hooks than a coat rack.

The buoyant "Under the Waves" kicks off the second half of this disc, helped along by Matthews' horns, and "Gone" is a power pop pastiche of styles, showing off O'Brien's songwriting skill. "You Stole" is plainly the prettiest thing on the disc, another XTC-style ballad that features Matthews' fine work again (as well as his backing vocals). Closing things out, "Breakfast Time" is a punchy popper that reminds me of David Doll/Automat, "Truth" channels Pugwash (not surprising since two of his sidemen help make up Slumberjet), and "Thanks" is a trippy psychedelic tour de force with backwards guitars that sums up the album's strengths in four minutes even. It seems as though with every disc I review lately the competition for the year-end list gets fiercer and fiercer, and Slumberjet have certainly staked their claim.

CD Baby | MySpace

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

CD of the Day, 10/27/10: Three Hour Tour-Looking for Tomorrow

Darren Cooper's Three Hour Tour is back, and thankfully this time we didn't have to wait almost ten years like we did for 2008's B-Side Oblivion. Once again, Cooper enlists Adam Schmitt (who plays bass, co-produced, co-engineered and mastered) and Velvet Crush's Paul Chastain, and once again he's given us one of the year's best power pop albums.

What makes Looking for Tomorrow even better than B-Side Oblivion is Cooper's desire to punch things up a little more. The whole disc sounds loud, and leaps out of your speakers. "Pig in Disguise" is the clarion call here as Cooper "lays (his) cards on the table" with a high-energy rocker which recalls Guided by Voices. "For Now We Say Goodnight" cranks up the amps as well and features some excellent drumming from John Richardson, whose drumming resume reads like a who's who of power pop and Americana. We get a relative chance to catch our breath after that opening 1-2 with "On Television", a more midtempo track with a great chorus and fine guitar work from Cooper. And you won't want to escape from "Alcatraz", possibly the most Beatlesque track on the album, while "All Time Low" is another driving rocker.

Things don't fall off on the back end of the disc either. "All We Need" is a dense, Revolver-sounding winner, while the title track slows things a bit with acoustic guitars you can hear in service of a Badfingeresque anthemic melody. "Dead Reckoning" is outright jangle-rock with 12-string guitars and a Byrdsian melody, and "Gone" rocks as hard as anything else on the album. And in keeping with the spirit of the disc, Cooper closes the proceedings with a cover of the Who's "Heaven and Hell", and when put side-by-side with the rest of the album it could pass as an original for the unfamiliar. Brad Elvis channels Keith Moon on the drums here, and you can almost picture Cooper smashing his guitar at the end. Looking for Tomorrow is one of the year's best, and hopefully Cooper & Company will settle into a new album-every-2-or-3-years cycle, a tomorrow I'll be looking for.

Kool Kat | Not Lame | MySpace

Friday, October 22, 2010

CD of the Day, 10/22/10: Scott's Garage-Soul Magnet

One of my favorite discoveries of 2008 was Scott's Garage and their self-titled debut album which placed a very high #13 on my year-end list. Led by Scott Baird and Gary Hankins, the Garage has become one of the leading lights in Southern-styled power pop a la Mitch Easter, Let's Active and early R.E.M., and their brand-new followup Soul Magnet follows nicely from the debut and adds a touch of humor and (yes) soul to the mix.

Things kick off with the bright power pop of the title track, featuring some nice guitar work from Hankins (who also contributes lead vocals), and sounding like a Southern-styled Smithereens or Goldbergs. "The Girl With the Yippy Dog" brings a bit of Terry Anderson-styled humor to the mix, as our protagonist loves the girl but hates the dog ("I wish she had a Labrador", he laments). "December Stars" is a melodic gem, and the cheekiness continues with "You Were Such a Tool (I Remember High School)", a jangly power pop number that says what we'd all want to say to that certain person we unfortunately meet up again at a reunion (or these days on Facebook). "Kaledioscope" lets you know you've got a southern rock band on your hands, with a bit of a swamp boogie sound, and the midtempo "Wasting Time" has all the power ballad trappings. Speaking of Facebook, "Add Me as Your Friend"'s title speaks for itself, as Hankins does everything but mention Farmville in his ode to social media while still maintaining a catchy tune.

Elsewhere, "Rosetta Stone" sounds like a Mitch Easter/Don Dixon classic, "Underground" and "Time to Think" rock hard and melodic, and the uptempo "High Above the Fray" closes things on a high note in Chuck Berry style. Soul Magnet is a Southern-fried power pop treat, and you can enjoy with or without barbecue. The Garage is open.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes | eMusic

Monday, October 18, 2010

Monday roundup.

Back from hiatus!

Zombies of the Stratosphere-Ordinary People. Zombies are big these days in pop culture, and if there were any justice in the world the Zombies of the Stratosphere would be as well. This NYC band follows up their excellent 2007 debut The Well-Mannered Look with another collection of quality tunes suffused with a mid-to-late 60s Britpop sensibility, drawing from The Hollies, The Kinks and yes, The Zombies. "Our Life in Shadow Falls" manages a real XTC synthesis, combining Andy Partridge's pastoralism with Colin Moulding's chipper pop, the breezy pop of "Love Song 99" would sound great on an AM radio, and the title track brings a hint of psychedelia to the table. Elsewhere, "Peter Stokes" is the kind of character portrait for which Ray Davies was well-known, and "One Day Older" and "The Other Side of the World" are jaunty retro-pop. Lurch over to one of the links below and check these guys out.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes | eMusic

Orange & Atlas-Euphoria. Orange & Atlas is a Dallas-by-way-of-Oklahoma band fronted by Erick Orange and Atlas Levan, and they're another in a long line of Midwestern pop/rockers in the vein of Gin Blossoms and (a mellower) Fastball, and their latest release Euphoria is a treasure of mid-tempo pop. Opener "Drunk Love" sets the moody tone, and "This Letter" is pure pop bliss with a yearning melody and a vaguely jazzy feel. "I Fall" recalls the late great Wanderlust (Scot Sax's band), and "Kids Are Falling" has an anthemic quality to it. While this may invoke a mild Euphoria, it's a euphoria nonetheless.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes | eMusic

Thursday, October 07, 2010


I've become extremely busy at work, with a lot of spillage into non 9-to-5 hours, and I anticipate being so for next week as well. Therefore, I highly doubt I'll be able to post any new reviews during this time, so I thank you all for your patience and readership and I'll be posting again as I soon as I get the time to again.