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.
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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.
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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.
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