Friday, December 30, 2011

Last Post of 2011.

We bid adieu to 2011 with a couple of quality discs:

Trolley-Things That Shine and Glow. This Milwaukee band has kicked around since 1995, playing by South by Southwest and the International Pop Overthrow. Things That Shine and Glow is their latest, and it's an excellent pastiche of 60s and 70s sounds. Most every track here is quite good, but the real highlights are "My Obsession", which sounds like a harder-rocking Grass Roots; "The Calico Cat", a frenetic psych-rock number that wouldn't sound out of place on a Future Clouds and Radar disc; and the pensive title track which features a transcendent chorus. This is really well-done and there's a hint of The Red Button in here in that it's retro but not slavishly so.

CD Baby | Bandcamp | iTunes

The Hangabouts-Illustrated Bird. Continuing today's retro theme, here's the full-length debut from Michigan band The Hangabouts. Unlike the Nuggets-inspired sound of Trolley, The Hangabouts are more Merseyside-influenced with a softer pop sound. "Love Nothing" opens in this fashion, while "Doctor Dragon" has an early-to-mid-period Beatles feel. "November" is more bright pop that will leave a smile on your face, and "She Hates You" is what Lennon writing a McCartney song might sound like. Elsewhere, the early Byrds-influenced closer "I'll Get Over It" is another standout. A fine debut and fine evocation of the lighter pop of the 60s.

CD Baby | iTunes

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Absolute Powerpop Top 75 of 2011: The Top 10

As I had hinted elsewhere, I'm doing something different this year at the top of the list. Because I didn't have a clear-cut, slam-dunk #1 disc of the year, I've decided not to arbitrarily designate one. So instead I'm presenting my top 10 in alphabetical order. They could each be #1, or they could each be #10. Either way I highly recommend them all and hope you already have all or most of them in your collection.

Phil Angotti-People and Places. Sweet, McCartney-esque pop from a veteran musician whom I belatedly came around to. "Me and Donnie Vie" was one of my favorite tracks of 2011.

Cirrone-Uplands Park Road. An audacious debut for this Italian band, who draw as much from Big Star and Badfinger as they do contemporary power poppers. Perhaps 2011's best "traditional" power pop album.

Marco Joachim-Hidden Symphonies. Joachim's previous rootsy, Wilbury-ish release in no way prepared me for this tour de force which I originally only mentioned on the site in passing. A bright ELO/Beatles melange, it really grew on me.

Steve LaBate-The Dead Art of Letter Writing. LaBate's Replacements-meet-The-Clash solo debut was an impressive achievement for a guy better known as a Paste Magazine writer/editor and a member of a rock-comedy act.

David Mead-Dudes. Reuniting with Adam Schlesinger, Mead got his mojo back and came up with the singer/songwwriter album of the year. "The Smile of Rachael Ray" was named NPR's Song of the Day last week and deservedly so as it might have been the most poignant thing he's written.

Meyerman-Who Do You Think You Are? A rare achievement for this New Jersey band - not only did they craft a power pop album with killer hooks and riffs, they also crafted a power pop album that's a meta-commentary on the state of power pop and being in a rock band. On whichever level you enjoy it, it's definitely a revelation.

Michael Oliver & The Sacred Band-Yin & Yanxiety. Since Cliff Hillis decided not to release an album in 2011, Michael Oliver did it for him. Like the former Ike/Starbelly pop wizard, Oliver has an effortless way with a melody and a hook, and he writes intelligent lyrics to boot. What more can you ask for?

The Red Button-As Far as Yesterday Goes. So they'll probably never top 2007's album-of-the-year-on-this-site She's About to Cross My Mind. So what? If Swirsky & Ruekberg can keep releasing discs as pop-perfect as this folowup, I won't complain. Instead of making Cross My Mind 2, they took a chance and decided to tackle the 70s singer-songwriter milieu. I'm thinking that 80s synth-pop will be a tougher nut to crack, though, should they decide to advance another decade next time.

Brandon Wilde-Hearts in Stereo. And here's the David Grahame/Emmit Rhodes/early solo McCartney album of the year. "Candy Apples" and "Ooh La" would be the near the top of my favorite tracks of 2011 list, were I to make one this year.

Miles Zuniga-These Ghosts Have Bones. At long last my favorite half of the Fastball singing/songwriting team released a proper solo album, and it's a gem. Mature, lyrical, hooky and assured, it's a nice blend of pop styles that reveals Zuniga as the songwriting pro he is.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Absolute Powerpop Top 100 75 of 2011, #75-41

As I pointed out last night on my Twitter feed, I had to scale back from a Top 100 to a Top 75 this year because I didn't find 100 discs that I considered "list-worthy". I came up with about 82, and rather than squeeze 18 more in, I dropped 7. Today we'll feature #75-41, tomorrow will be #40-11, and Thursday will be the top 10. The top 15 EP list will follow on Friday.

75-Mike Barnett-Bigger than This
74-Supraluxe-The Super Sounds of Supraluxe
73-Dropkick-Time Cuts the Ties
72-High Fidelity Distribution Co-Analog Style for a Digital World
71-The Geniune Fakes-S/T
70-Deleted Waveform Gatherings-Pretty Escape
68-The Damnwells-No One Listens to the Band Anymore
67-The Hope Trust-Light Can't Escape
66-Richie Reinholdt-Night & Day
65-The Longwalls-Careers in Science
64-The Phantom Six-Electric Rain
63-The Northstar Session-Late Bloomer
62-Warren Zanes-I Want to Move Out in the Daylight
61-Beady Eye-Different Gear, Still Speeding
60-Farewell Milwaukee-When it Sinks In
59-High on Stress-Living is a Dying Art
58-The Liarbirds-Allegedly
57-HiFi Superstar-One Hit Wonder
56-Vie-Noises from the Cat Room
55-Tommy Flake-Second Skin
54-Robbers on High Street-Hey There Golden Hair
53-Brian Hoffer-Into the Boulevard
52-Fountains of Wayne-Sky Full of Holes
51-DC Cardwell-Some Hope
50-Teenage Rasputin-Sorry 'Bout the Moon
49-Fallon Cush-S/T
48-John Wesley Harding-The Sound of His Own Voice
47-Popfilter-Pop This!
46-Draz-Blaring in the Stillness
45-The Ditchflowers-Bird's Eye
44-Buttonjaw-Things You Should Know
43-Gary Henson-Conspiracy
42-Far from Kansas-Rome Wasn't Burned in a Day
41-Scott Gagner-Rhapsody in Blonde

Friday, December 16, 2011

2011 Clearout!

Today I'm going to quickly note several discs I've been enjoying to clear the decks for next week's Best-of-2011 lists. And the best part of all of these fine releases is that you can listen to them in full on Bandcamp, either at the artist page or through the embeds below.

Queen Electric-EP. I'm not sure how a release from power pop luminary Scot Sax went largely unnoticed this summer, but it did. Queen Electric is his new band, and it continues the trend in his sound of a more moderately funky power pop. He touches all the pop bases here, from the heavy rock of "Gonna Let You Down" to the power balladry of "As You Make Me Out to Be". Welcome back, Scot.

Kool Kat | Bandcamp

The Beagle Ranch-A Moment Away. Speaking of welcome returns, we haven't heard from these Canadian janglemeisters since the middle part of the last decade. They're back with 16 tracks of their melodic, jangly rock that are easy on the ears and mostly clock in under 3 minutes. This is top-shelf stuff, and really I wanted to get this one mentioned on the site before it appears in next week's year-end list.

Bandcamp | iTunes

Dany Laj & The Looks-The Match EP. Staying north of the border, Laj & Co. hail from Ontario and have released an impressive EP that brings to mind Nick Lowe, Dave Edmunds, and The Plimsouls. The title track is classic roots-based pub rock, and despite its silly title "Alien Ate Some People" is another enjoyable track in the same vein.


The Vinyl Skyway-Return of the Dead Surfer. I've enjoyed this Cambridge, Mass. band for several years now, and their latest is another masterful amalgam of indie pop and Americana. Fans of The Pernice Brothers and the Gary Louris-led poppier version of The Jayhawks will definitely want to check this out (and for free, no less). "Salvo" and "Golden Lights" are my favorites here.

FREE download from Bandcamp | iTunes

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Well Wishers give you a head start on 2012.

As we teased over the summer, Jeff Shelton and The Well Wishers are back with Dreaming of The West Coast, their sixth full-length release. It's not scheduled for actual release until January, but thanks to the magic of Bandcamp you can listen to the whole thing right here, right now (sorry, no Jesus Jones cover included). As usual Shelton doesn't let us down, so have a listen now and pick up the CD when it comes out.

(Also make sure you stop by their actual Bandcamp page to get a free download of leadoff track "Escape the Light".)

Friday, December 09, 2011


Several artists we've featured here on the site are out with new EPs, so here's a quick look at them:

Steve Robinson-The Time of Our Lives. The English expat who hails from my home region of Tampa Bay is back with his first new music since 2007's outstanding Undercurrent, and this EP continues the folky pop strengths of that disc. Getting help from labelmates The Ditchflowers, Robinson shines on all 5 tracks here, but the real standout is "Bed of Nails", which features a slow build from a mostly acoustic number to swelling choruses and full instrumentation and reminds me a lot of my favorite Undercurrent track, "Wooden Hill". Robinson is a class act, and this EP was worth the wait.

CD Baby | iTunes | Bandcamp

Ike-The Little People, Church and the Steeple. Although the latest from these Philly rockers who put the "power" in "power pop" is nominally a full-length, I consider it to be an EP given that there are only five new tracks here (the remainder of the disc consists of acoustic versions of the five new songs & a radio edit). Still, these five new tracks continue the band's metamorphosis from a traditional power pop band when Cliff Hillis was on board to a harder-rocking sound now that John Faye is in charge. "Rock 'n' Roll Dreams" lets you know this right away with its stadium rock flourishes and Faye's take-no-prisoner lyrics. "If I Can Help It" has the 70s classic rock sound down, and "Just Like That" is vintage power pop with a driving chorus. I like Ike, and you'll like this EP too.

CD Baby | iTunes | Listen at ReverbNation


The Jellybricks-Suckers. Heading west from Ike's Philadelphia we find Pittsburgh's Jellybricks, who have been with us since the 90s. Their latest is more what we've come to know and love from the band, hard-charging power pop not unlike their statemates referenced above. "Rock and Roll Suicide" fits the definition of melodic rock to a "T", "Sold" has me sold with its rollicking beat and tuneful guitar attack, and how often do we get a track named after one of the more obscure elements on the periodic table ("Beryllium")? More good stuff, and the real suckers here will be those who miss out on this EP.

Buy at official site | MySpace | Soundcloud

Friday, December 02, 2011

Replacement Replacements.

Today we feature a couple of bands that draw on The Replacements for inspiration.

Teenage Rasputin-Sorry 'Bout the Moon. This Long Island band makes no secret about their Replacements love, having title their debut EP Here Comes Irregular, a pun of a 'Mats classic. They pick up where they left off with the full-length followup, gaining momentum right off the bat with "Wishin'", a melodic rocking number that features hard-driving verses and a sweet chorus. But like Westerberg, songwriter Jim Keegan is just at home with the slower numbers as "Annabella Milbanke" (with strings) and "Three Cheers" will attest. The mid-tempo rocker "Everybody Loves You" finds the band in song noir mode, and "Carpenter's Son" is the kind of catchy, straight-ahead rocker that will have you thinking these guys are from Minneapolis or Des Moines rather than Long Island. An impressive record for the genre.

CD Baby | iTunes

High on Stress-Living is a Dying Art. High on Stress (featured before on this site) comes by their 'Mats-loving cred a little more naturally, being from Minneapolis themselves. They differ a bit from Teenage Rasputin in that they have of a more Americana-influenced sound, perhaps a little more Hootenany than Pleased to Meet Me. They also know how to open an album, and "Bite Your Tongue" is a driving rocker that recalls Westerberg's solo "Knockin' on Mine". Other highlights include the cascading riffs and waltz-like melody of "Figure Eights", the gritty and compelling "Lost My Invitation", and the beguiling country-rock of "Head", which sounds like a lost Gram Parsons tune with its violin and female harmonies. Living is a Dying Art is High on Stress's third full-length, and they're building up quite an impressive body of work.

CD Baby | iTunes

High on Stress - These Days Are Gone from Here Comes The Flood on Vimeo.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

CD of the Day, 11/22/11: David Mead-Dudes

Longtime readers of this site know that I'm a big David Mead fan, but his last release, 2009's Almost and Always, left me a little cold. It was an admirable effort as Mead's songwriting skills continued to shine, but musically it was a bit too subdued (no pun intended). So I was excited to hear that he enlisted the help of Fountains of Wayne's Adam Schlesinger (who produced his 2001 release Mine and Yours) for this record, hoping he'd return to a more upbeat - dare I say - power pop sound. And for the most part my hopes have been fulfilled, as Dudes may be Mead's most consistently engaging album since his audacious 1998 debut The Luxury of Time.

When he's at his best, Mead can seamlessly transition from a power pop gem to a brilliant ballad that sounds like a standard to what almost seems a showtune and back again. "I Can't Wait" opens the disc, and it's a fine midtempo number with a rolling melody that's reminiscent of the style found on his 2004 album Indiana. "King of the Crosswords" follows, and it's a rousing pop tune (complete with sax) about a crossword puzzle prodigy. Another standout is "Guy on Guy", which finds Mead at his lyrical best about a man who finds himself attracted to other men and features an old-time melody and a playful trombone. "Bocce Ball" is a quick 2-minute ditty with a Latin lilt that's insanely catchy (try getting its "bocce, bocce, bocce ball" chorus out of you head). The title track is another highlight; although the word "dude" begs not to be taken seriously, the song itself is a mature, melodic track and one of Mead's best.

The second half of the disc starts off in power pop mode with "Happy Birthday, Marty Ryan", probably Mead's most electric guitar-centric song in years, and also features "No One Roxx This Town No More", a R&B-inflected, ultra-catchy pop number that's of a piece with "Chatterbox" off 2006's Tangerine. And the holiday-themed "The Smile of Rachael Ray" is the kind of "instant classic"-sounding tune that seems to come second nature to him. The album closes with another winner: "Knee Jerk Reaction", a Paul Simon-like number reminiscent of "Me & Julio Down by the Schoolyard". Dudes is a welcome return to form for Mead, and without a doubt one of 2011's best.


Also, it's highly worth your while (especially if you're relatively new to David Mead) to pick up this free 25-song sampler from Noisetrade, which features many of his classic tracks, some fine unreleased material, and the title track and "I Can't Wait" from Dudes.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Two for Tuesday, 11/15/11

Greg Pope-Monster Suit (Original Soundtrack). The pope of power pop (or should we just call him the "power pope"?) is back with another collection of top-drawer tracks, but this time with a twist. Not only has he taken the world of independent power pop by storm, but now his creative energies have been turned towards independent film as he's on the verge of releasing "Giant Monster Playset", a short film he wrote and directed. Monster Suit is the soundtrack to the short film, but it's not a collection of incidental music with a few songs scattered among it. Instead, it's a full-length disc that stands on its own and fits right in with his previous releases. There's a lot to like here, from the heavy, cascading guitar rock of "Modern Plaything" to the melodic pop of "Soulless Heart" to the anthemic "Hero". The acoustically-strummed "The Chance You Don't Take" harkens back to Pope's Edmund's Crown days, and "Place on the Hill" sounds like a lost classic rock gem. Pope's been on quite the creative run the last few years, and we're all enjoying the ride.

CD Baby | iTunes

The Liarbirds-Allegedly. This Greek band caught my attention in 2008 with their debut EP Second Quartet, and three years later they've emerged with an impressive full-length followup. They have an easy, melodic sound that brings Teenage Fanclub, The Byrds and Cosmic Rough Riders to mind, and opener "Chewing Gum" is an impressive statement to this end, as it merges laid-back verses with an intense power pop chorus. "Running Mind" is another breezy wonder, and "Fortune Tells May Tell You" will have you thinking you're listening to Daniel Wylie's latest. "Soul Keeper" has a retro-60s vibe, while "Disarray" finds them in good form on a slower number. An impressive record, and it's nice to see good news out of Greece for a change these days.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

Friday, November 04, 2011

New music Friday.

Michael Oliver & The Sacred Band-Yin & Yanxiety. Boston's (by way of Buffalo) Michael Oliver has an interesting resume that includes time in a 90s power pop band (Buffalo's Go, Dog, Go!) and a graduate degree from Harvard. So it's no surprise that his latest effort with The Sacred Band, Yin & Yanxiety, boasts both a clever title and intelligent lyrics. But what makes it potentially one of 2011's best are the great tunes and consummate popcraft that he displays here. Oliver displays a variety of pop sounds here - the Matthew Sweet meets Tom Petty opener "Complicated", the Brian Wilson-inspired "Neverlast", and the twee indie pop of "Tell Me What You're Dreaming". But where Oliver finds his most consistent mark is when he goes with straight-up, melodic mid-tempo pop in the vein of Michael Penn, Cliff Hillis and David Grahame with tracks like "Love While it Lasted", "Little Miss Oblivious" and "Stranger from Another Planet". And the best part of all is that there isn't one clunker among the 13 tracks here. I'll close by saying that you should be yanxious to get this one added to your collection.

CD Baby | iTunes

Sam Hawksley-Somewhere in My Mind. Aussie Sam Hawksley has been a consistent purevyor of catchy folk/pop/rock for several years now, but his fifth and latest album might be his best. This may be the result of much of the album being recorded in Nashville, and at times it's reminiscent of another Aussie-gone-Nashville, Bob Evans. The bright, engaging "Thinking About You" is an excellent opener that fits Hawksley's strengths, and "Flying High in the USA" has a bit of a Jayhawks feel to it. Meanwhile, "She's Out Breakin' Hearts" is a fine Tom Petty-style rocker, "Save My Life" boasts a great guitar hook in the chorus, and "Stranger to You Now" and "I Wish" feature some excellent harmonies from Kim Richey and Hillary Lindsey. If you haven't been familiar with Hawksley's fine catalog until now, this is an excellent place to start.

CD Baby | iTunes

Friday, October 28, 2011

Friday Roundup.

The Farewells-Litterbug EP. The Farewells are a Massachusetts husband/wife duo who produce some wonderful folk-infused indie pop a la The Pernice Brothers and The Autumn Defense, and they're back for the first time in nine years with the Litterbug EP. The gentle "Beehive" kicks things off with some "Because"-like harmonies, and the title track is a slow burner that will stick in your brain. But the real highlight here is "Nightlight", a buoyant pop tune that builds to an swelling chorus and has turned out to be one of my favorite tracks of 2011.

iTunes | Bandcamp

Vie-Noises from the Cat Room. Vie (not to be confused with Donnie Vie) is a California pop-rocker with a sophisticated pop sound not unlike artists such as Linus of Hollywood, Ken Sharp and Neil Traynor. "Oh Carly" is a power pop nugget with some fine guitar work, and the acoustic guitar-heavy based "Oh Christine" is another winner (he even throws in a cover of Cheap Trick's "Oh Caroline" to complete the "Oh-girl's-name-that-starts-with-C" trilogy). The Beatlesque piano ballad "My Love" shows his facility with the slower stuff, and the strings and harmony vocals give "Anyway" a melodic urgency. Vie says he's been writing these songs for 14 years, and it was worth the wait as just about every track has something to recommend it. It's overlooked gems like these that keep me looking.

CD Baby | Stream at Official Site | iTunes

Friday, October 21, 2011

Mike and Miles.

Mike Viola-Electro de Perfecto. Mike Viola needs little introduction for readers of this site. From his power pop band Candy Butchers to his work with Bleu (in LEO & The Major Labels) to a budding solo career, the one constant has been great pop songs. On his latest solo effort, Viola steps back a bit to create his most assured, mature recording to date while continuing to deliver the tunes. You might not realize this from the opener, the frenetic "Columbus Day Parade", but "Get You Back" (with Semisonic's Dan Wilson on harmony and FoW's Adam Schelsinger on bass) is magical midtempo pop, and "Soundtrack of My Summer" will be the soundtrack of your autumn with its clever, easygoing melody. Elsewhere, "Inside Out" is catchy as hell, and the closer "When the Stars Against You" is a wonderfully moody take on dealing with life's adversities. You probably don't need me to tell you to buy a Mike Viola album, but if you had the slightest hesitation my advice is to just do it.


Miles Zuniga-These Ghosts Have Bones. It's hard to believe that this is Miles Zuniga's first proper solo album (although he did release a record in 2006 with his side project The Small Stars), but at long last the guy responsible for my most of my favorite Fastball tracks ("Fire Escape", "Airstream", "Mono to Stereo") gets the stage to himself. And These Ghosts Have Bones is worth the wait as Zuniga's pure popcraft is on full display. The Lennonesque opener "Marfa Moonlight" is wonderful, one of 2011's most unforgettable tracks and its lyrics are the source of the album title. "Rock Paper Scissors" is an excellent rocker that would have easily fit in on a Fastball record, while "Feel it in Your Kiss" displays a faint 70s R&B influence. Elsewhere, "Working on a Love Song" is a catchy number filled with irony (the writer of the song finishes it just in time to find its subject left him), and "Junkie Hands" finds Zuniga in a late-period Beatles state of mind. A great solo debut from one of my favorite pop songwriters, and a strong candidate for 2011's top 10.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Midweek Roundup.

An American Underdog-Always on the Run. While you may not recognize the band name, you should recognize the man behind the band - in this case, Michigan's Andy Reed, who has followed up his excellent 2008 release Fast Forward with a backing band this time around. So while the circumstances may be different, the general sound isn't as Reed & Co. continue to mine the Jon Brion/David Grahame/Emmit Rhodes/Elliott Smith pop territory. The bright power pop of "Your Reign is Over" channels Brendan Benson, "Portland" makes nice use of keyboards in a poppy Elvis Costello-meets-Jason Falkner track, and the whimsical title track is a tour de force, sprinkling bits of McCartney, Jellyfish and Jon Brion into a pure pop confection. Reed keeps getting better with each release, and might be ready to take his place among the David Grahames and Michael Carpenters of the genre. This one's a must for my regular readers.

CD Baby | SoundCloud | iTunes

Buttonjaw-Things You Should Know. It was a pleasant surprise stumbling upon this Portland band, who have given us a fine debut disc that brings to mind The Posies and The Gin Blossoms. "Polly Nearly" is nearly a perfect album opener, a catchy, guitar-driven number with hooks to spare, "One-Track Mind" has a twisting melody and some great guitar work, and the midtempo "Breakdown" sounds like it just came off a rock-radio station from the 90s. These guys know their way around a tune, and the best part is that the proceeds from the album are going to help build a safe house in Ghana for trafficking victims. Good music and a good cause, can't argue with that.

CD Baby | iTunes

Mike Barnett-Bigger Than This. Have no fear - your FDA-required minimum daily supplement of jangle is about to be filled once again by Missouri's Mike Barnett, who's back to the solo path after his excellent 2009 album with Dennis Gurley. In case you're not familiar, the touchstone for Barnett's sound is Wilbury-era George Harrison, and opener "The Love I Have for You" is a catchy, jangly gem. "Motorcycle" treads somehwere between the 60s and 70s and recalls Bobby Sutliff, and "Life's Better" sounds like a lost Roy Orbison classic. Jangleheads, this one's for you.

CD Baby | iTunes

Monday, October 03, 2011

Monday Roundup.

Making up for my recent absence with 3 reviews today:

The Ditchflowers-Bird's Eye. Brian Merrill (ex-Barely Pink) and Ed Woltil are back with the followup to 2007's excellent Carried Away, and Bird's Eye is another triumphant collection of sophisticated adult pop. "Sunshine Lifetime" blasts out of the speakers with some horns and Stones-style swagger, "You Could Hurt Someone" is alternately bouncy and brooding, and the ballad "Rainout" is a melodic winner with background vocals from fellow Tampa Bay rocker Steve Robinson. Also of note is the frenetic power pop of "Pictures of You", and the shuffling "Love, The Conqueror" which features ex-Wilco drummer Ken Coomer. A magnificent record.

CD Baby | Listen at Official Site | iTunes

Mozley-S/T. My Google skills have really been put to the test by the mysterious Mozley. As best as I can tell, he's from Arkansas and that may or may not be D.B. Cooper on the album cover. Nevertheless, you don't need his life story to enjoy his self-titled debut, and fans of The Replacements and Big Star will want to check this one out. The shambolic rocker "Never Meant to Be" has a Westerbergian edge to it, "Earthquakes" has a brooding yet melodic feel, and "Leave Tonight" recalls Ryan Adams when he's serious about classic rock while "Wake Up" is a jangly mid-tempo rocker with a Tom Petty vibe. A nice slice of Mid-South rock from out of nowhere.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

The Phantom Six-Plastic Rain. The Phantom Six is a West Virginia garage rock band led by singer-guitarist Mark Poole, and along with his bandmates (who include AbPow favorite Clint Sutton) has crafted a fun, energetic collection of late 60s-styled rock nuggets. "Corianna", full of reverb and stop-start guitars, and "ahhhhh" harmonies sets the tone, and "Inspiration" doesn't suffer from a lack of it. The piledriving "About Love" and the title track recall Dinosaur Jr., while "Lose Control" comes across as Foo Fighters with more gravitas. With one kick-ass rocker after another (even the jangly "Shades of Sunday"), Plastic Rain will appeal to fans of melodic rock, including those of us who loved the Clint Sutton disc even if his contributions here are as a sideman.

CD Baby | Listen | iTunes

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

CD of the Day, 9/20/11: Meyerman-Who Do You Think You Are?

It's easy for me to become complacent about all the power pop (as broadly as I definite it on the site) I listen to, to the point where it can kind of fade into the background. Don't get me wrong - just about all the music I listen to and review on this site is music I really like, or even love, and is worthy of your listening time (and dollars). But a few times a year I get shaken out of my complacency when I get to hear a record that makes me say to myself "this is why I listen to power pop". Who Do You Think You Are?, the debut album from New Jersey's Meyerman, is one of those records.

This is classic Power Pop with 2 capital P's. It's also very "meta" - a power pop album which is mostly about being in a power pop band and a band's relationship with its audience. So while it has the sound of a number of power pop bands running through it like Cheap Trick, The Raspberries, Butch Walker, The Shazam, it has the looking-at-it-from-the-inside sensibility of The Replacements or Local H. Opener "Intro Tonight" basically thanks you for listening, and rewards the favor with an infectious, melodic tune that all but invites you to handclap along. They continue this "opt-in" request with "Permission to Rock You", another throat-clearer that still rocks, and finally get down to business proper with "Get to You", one killer hook and riff after another that you'll swear you heard before but sounds fresh and new.

Elsewhere, "Seconds" is a tough rocker that's wistful yet crunchy, and if "Immaculate Mansions" gives you a 60s/70s classic rock vibe, it's probably because the album was mixed by The Grip Weeds' Kurt Reil, another feather in its cap. "Tour of Japan" continues the self-referential theme with an ode to how our kind of music is more appreciated overseas than in the USA while its "teenage symphonies" line is a nod to Brian Wilson (and by extension, Velvet Crush). Meanwhile, "New Direction" is a footstomping number that explores the tension that occurs when a band offers a new sound which risks alienating its fans while trying keep from sounding stale, and "Indecision & Inertia" honors its title by being a halting, midtempo number, yet still works.

If anything, Who Do You Think You Are? could be considered the "Community" of power pop albums. Like the TV show, it's very much about itself while still delivering the goods, ironic but not sardonic. On the one hand, it rewards you for being in on the joke while on the other it's still an excellent representative of its genre if you'd rather not think too hard about it.

CD Baby | iTunes

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

CD Single of the Day: Peter Baldrachi-In the Dead of Night

Boston's Peter Baldrachi is back with his first new material since 2007's Solid Ground, and it's a teaser 2-track single download-only release in advance of his forthcoming full-length Tomorrow Never Knows (that title sounds familiar, eh?). Normally I don't review singles, but these two tracks are so good I've made an exception. "In the Dead of the Night" is Grade-A power pop, all loud guitars, hooks and harmonies. And the non-album B-side "Picture on My Wall" is so good that it makes me wonder how there could be 9-10 better tracks that beat it out to make the upcoming album. Get these on your iPod or music player of choice right away, you won't regret it.

CD Baby | iTunes

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Two for Thursday, 9/8/11

Baby Scream-Secret Place. Juan Pablo Mozzolla & Co. are back again with their third full-length in three years, and Secret Place finds Baby Scream branching out from the (mostly) mellow Lennonesque pop they've become known for. There's a reggae track ("Cold Weather Reggae"), some neo-soul ("Patiently") and a T. Rex cover ("20th Century Baby") to spice things up, and the opening track "The Last Call" has a rootsy, Band-like feel. But those who come for the languid, melodic pop of the previous releases won't be disappointed either - "Hit and Run" and "London Sun" are standouts in this regard. Mozzolla continues to refine his craft, and we're the better for it.

iTunes | MySpace

Former-The Kids Deserve Cable. Since the release of 2008's And Nothing But the Truth, Former's Denny Smith has been busy with The Great Affairs, releasing 2 full-lengths and an EP. But here Smith puts his alter ego aside for another turn of hard power pop that has more in common with Butch Walker and Cheap Trick than the mellow roots pop of his other band. The frenetic "Head Light" lets you know where you stand right off the bat with a driving hard pop beat that recalls the Foo Fighters. "How Does it Feel?" steps off the accelerator a bit but still rocks out in a Steve Bertrand/Rob Bonfiglio fashion, while "Sister" has that Walker's kind of swagger. And "Lie to Me" is a flat-out classic (see video below). For those who want to emphasize the "power" in "power pop", this is your disc.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

Friday, September 02, 2011

Friday Roundup.

JoDee Purkeypile-October House. If the name sounds familiar to you, it's because JDP was the frontman of The Alice Rose, a Texas band who put out a pair of outstanding Jon-Brion-meets-Squeeze indie pop albums in the last 5 years. The obvious parallel here is Greg Pope; like Pope, Purkeypile plays all the instruments here, and in the same manner as when Pope left Edmund's Crown, the solo flight has allowed Purkeypile to distill the essence of the sound he first forged in the band setting. So this is more Jon Brion than Squeeze, and that's a good thing here as "Disappear from Here" is among the best songs he's written, a swirling pop gem in a minor key. "Your Days Ends as Mine Begins" is first-rate guitar pop, and the rollicking "Company Man" has a Jellyfish by way of Michael Penn vibe. Elsewhere, "Summer Sunday" is a lovely slice of mellow indie pop, and the propulsive "Autumn Mind" channels Neil Finn. I could see this one ending up in 2011's top 20.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

Marshall Holland-Statistically I Should Say. San Francisco's Marshall Holland put out an overlooked gem in 2004 titled Don't Jettison the Memories, an album of first-rate power pop in the style of Brendan Benson and The Posies. He re-released it last year, and has followed that up with Statistically I Should Say, an EP of new material. Don't miss him this around, as this might be the best power pop EP of 2011. From the urgent opener "Your Lies" to the perfect power pop of "I'm OK (for Now)" - the album's best track - to the buoyant, synth-happy "Meet Me by the Blue Balloon", Holland give us a welcome return. So after you've digested this confection, make sure you go back and get Don't Jettison the Memories.

iTunes | MySpace

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Two for Thursday, 8/18/11

Wiretree-Make Up. The career of Kevin Peroni (a/k/a Wiretree) has coincided with the existence of this site; his debut EP was one of the first reviewed here. So it's been interesting to follow him these past 5-6 years and see how his sound has evolved. He's gone from the Tom Petty/Wilburys sound of the debut and Bouldin to more of an indie rock sound with Luck, and has completed the transition here with Make Up. The one constant has been the songwriting, and whatever the subgenre, Peroni has consistently given us fine tunes. This time around, it's the ringing guitar chords of "Make Up", the catchy heartland rock of "Broken Foot" and the rollicking "The Shore", which is reminiscent of Green Day's "Holiday". The disc even closes with the Jayhawks-like country ballad "Josephine". But there are a few remnants of the classic Wiretree sound here with "Tinyhearts" and "Tonight". Overall, it's nice to see him branch out without sacrificing the quality of the tunes, and I look forward to what comes next.

CD Baby | iTunes

Third of Never, Kurt Reil & CJ Grogan-Life Saver (Three Fifths of a Third EP). Grip Weeds alert! Fans of that longtime power pop band will want to grab this split EP, which features lead singer Kurt Reil's Third of Never side project, two tracks from Reil himself, and two others from CJ Grogan (also in Third of Never). Third of Never's title track is excellent (and leads us to hope a followup to 2007's Moodring is the offing), Reil's catchy "Gonna Find My Way" is another standout, as well as his psych-rocking "Wake Up Time". Grogan's "Tracer" is an energetic rocker, but his piano ballad closer "Margaret" meanders a bit. Still, 4 out of 5 ain't bad.

CD Baby | iTunes

Sunday, August 14, 2011

New Well Wishers on the way.

Jeff Shelton's at it again. Perennial site favorite The Well Wishers are due for another new album. It's called Dreaming of the West Coast (where else?), and should be out by year's end.

As a sneak peek, here's "Escape the Light", which I'm sure you'll agree is vintage Well Wishers:

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Two for Thursday, 8/11/11

Tony Cox-On the Way. After a successful and well-received debut in the power pop community with 2009's Unpublished, Tony Cox is back with On the Way, and he's topped himself in the process. As with Unpublished, Tony enlists pop utilityman Nigel Clark (who can be heard with Dodgy, The Offbeat, and his own solo disc) on vocals, and the combination is another winner. Opener "We'll Get High" is a perfect pop confection, a slice of 60s-pop with a hint of soulfulness. "Hold Me Angeline" is reminiscent of Clark's work in The Offbeat, while "The Way" evokes The Association with a Nuggets-styled sheen. And "Curse of Love" could pass for a lost Zombies classic. This could the album of the year for those who love 60s-styled sunshine pop.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

Rollo Time-Victims of the Crown. It's Rollo Time again, as this Chicago-area band returns with the followup to their 2007 self-titled debut. Once again, they show a great facility for melding classic rock and power pop, and that's apparent right off the bat with "You Can Talk" and "Sick and Tired", a pair of tracks that will appeal to fans of bands like The Shazam and Superdrag. "Eyman Prison" tells the story of a frustrated prisoner (of a real Arizona prison) to a power pop beat, while the midtempo janglers "Madeline Says" and "I Can't Believe This Day" are also standouts.

CD Baby | Facebook | iTunes

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Two for Thursday, 8/4/11

Vegas With Randolph-Above the Blue. This Washington, DC band lets no moss grow under their feet - after they released their self-titled debut in 2009, they've issued a series of singles, and here they're collected on Above the Blue. If you missed them the first time around, the singles are really good: "The Better Part" is a punchy pop-rocker, the title track is Secret Powers-styled power pop, and "Some Time to Love" is very reminiscent of Fountains of Wayne. What they add to the singles collection is another of their "song suites", this time called "Double Play". Going from horn-based rave-up to acoustic interlude to straight-up power pop, Vegas With Randolph remain masters of the medley, and the Abbey Road-style album experience is not to be dismissed in the era of the iPod.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

The Quags-Priceless Grains of Sand. It's great to have this Oregon band back for the first time since 2005's Devil's Music. The Quags are on the Paisley Pop label and for those unfamiliar it means classic rock-infused power pop, in this case reminiscent of bands like The Kinks and The Figgs. The opening 1-2 of "Human Thing" and "Favorite Parasite" drive this comparison home, and the laidback "Beautifully Insane" is another treat. Elsewhere, "It Takes Heart" is a Rockpile-styled delight, "Going Through the Convulsions" rocks out, and "Do Yourself a Mischief" closes things on a wonderfully jangly note with a hint of The Who. Here's hoping we won't have to wait six years for the next one.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Two for Thursday, 7/28/11

Honeywagen-Atomic Cafe. This Kansas City band is back from a near decade-long hibernation with Atomic Cafe, and it's a jangly delight of Midwestern power pop. "Throw it All Away" is a gem of an opener, kind of like Ray Davies fronting the Plimsouls, while "Go Someplace" sounds like a lost Byrds classic. "Lust" brings the Rutles' classic "I Must Be in Love" to mind, and "My Virginia" wouldn't be out of place of on a Gin Blossoms record. It's great to have these guys back, so janglers of the world, unite - you have nothing to lose but $14 or so. And Kool Kat is offering up a kool bonus disc - frontman Mike Penner covering A Hard Day's Night (the album) in its entirety.

Kool Kat | Official Site

Brian Hoffer-Into the Boulevard. I was pleasantly surprised to have stumbled upon this Milwaukee singer-songwriter's debut album, which has traces of Brendan Benson, AC Newman and Fountains of Wayne running through it. The upbeat, catchy "Good Day Now" is a near-perfect opener, and the clever "Psychoanalysis" reminds me of Dan Bryk and Lamar Holley. Other highlights include the raved-up "Keep Each Other Cold", the piano-and-guitar-based melody of "Superman Somehow" and the sardonic "When They Drop the Bomb". Hoffer really has a songwriter's ear for lyrics and melody here, and a nice sampling of the disc is below for your listening pleasure.