Friday, April 29, 2011

Friday Roundup.

Bryan Estepa-Vessels. Our favorite Aussie this side of Michael Carpenter is back with his third solo album, and Vessels is another mark of excellence for Bryan Estepa. Like his buddy and countryman Carpenter (who helped mix), Estepa has the knack of making pop songs sound easy, and he infuses them with a bit of a country-rock style. The beguiling, laid-back "Won't Let You Down" opens things nicely, and "Hard Habits" draws on The Band. But Estepa is not afraid to tackle purer pop as the bouncy beats and handclaps of "Tongue Tied" and "Alone" will attest. And the soulful ballad "Pull Ourselves Together" might be the prettiest song I've heard this year. Another first-rate effort.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

Frozen Relics-Uncovered. A nice EP debut from this Minnesota duo, who feature a straight-ahead power pop sound that's heavy on the hooks. Leadoff track "Beautiful Girl" mines the classic power pop subject matter with a Fountains of Wayne/Weezer flourish, while the peppy pop of "No Second Chances" has almost a Motown-like feel to it. The anthemic "Burnin'" tackles environmental concerns without being too preachy and while giving a nod to short-term concerns. "One Step Closer" is more pleasing power pop, and "Hymn for Our Children" is a quality instrumental number and is backed by their promise to donate $1 from each full album purchase to the Children’s Miracle Network – Gillette Children’s Hospital.

CD Baby
| iTunes

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

CD of the Day, 4/27/11: Supraluxe-The Super Sounds of Supraluxe

Things always get a little sentimental at Absolute Powerpop when Supraluxe is concerned, since they were the first band reviewed on the site and had an impact on the the creation of the site as well, all of which is well-chronicled here if you want to check out the archives. More pertinent to you the reader is the fact they've released their third disc, The Super Sounds of Supraluxe. While their first album was a pop masterpiece, they made their AOR move with the followup, Wake Leave Home Sleep, which had its moments but didn't sound very much like the debut. The message here for those who loved the first album is "come on in, the water's fine" as Super Sounds marks a return to the Elliott Smith meets Brendan Benson sound we've known them for.

Things start off strongly with the gentle "Every Little Piece", which namechecks Fleetwood Mac and has a feel of solo Lindsay Buckingham, and the catchy mid-tempo rocker "Setting Sun". But they really hit their stride with "Lester Bangs", not quite a paean to the legendary rock critic but a celebration of the love of playing music that hews to his spirit. The song may be a bit meta, but it's a gem and captures that "Supraluxe sound" we all came to appreciate on the debut.

There are plenty of other quality tracks here as well: "Go Nowhere" has a loose-limbed vaguely-country vibe that makes it sound like came off Wilco's Summerteeth; "Sunday's Not So Bad", a leftover from the sessions for the debut, has that E.Smith feel, and "New York City's Not Alright" finds them in rock-noir mode. And not to be overlooked are the 70s SoCal-sound homage "Back to the Land" and the strange but lovely "Nail Biter" which runs with its title metaphor and some spry synths. All in all, a welcome return to form for this Minneapolis band and a must for those who fell for the debut.

CD Baby
| Bandcamp | iTunes | eMusic

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Two for Tuesday, 4/19/11

Steve LaBate-The Dead Art of Letter Writing. Atlantan Steve LaBate is an interesting guy. He's a writer/editor for Paste Magazine, and is best known musically as "Christie Brinkley" in the punk-comedy band Attractive Eighties Women. He goes solo here, and it's apparent his real idol is Paul Westerberg as The Dead Art of Letter Writing might be the best Replacements record to come down the pike since Pleased to Meet Me. 'Mats fans will immediately identify with this record from the opening guitar riff of "Reckless Hearts", which comes right out of Westerberg's "Knockin' on Mine". There's also a Stones influence evident, as well as early Wilco ("Wind-Up Toy" is a cousin to tracks like "Outta Site Outta Mind" and "Monday"). Other standouts include the midtempo "Channel Surfer", the raucous, Clash-like "Cops in Alley", and the "Rocks Off" rock of "Ratskellar". This is power pop/rock 'n' roll for true believers, and LaBate speaks the truth.

CD Baby | iTunes | eMusic

The Genuine Fakes-The Genuine Fakes. The Fakes have been billed as Sweden's Fountains of Wayne, and they do share that American band's brand of effervescent power pop if not their oh-so-clever lyrics and character studies. On their Kool Kat debut (also known as "The Striped Album") they do open things with a FoW touch, a self-titled track which serves as sort of a theme song for the band. From there on out, it's one well-constructed power pop track after another, complete with hooks and melodies galore. The standouts here are "The Promise", "Something New" and "If You Then I", but all of the tracks are of a uniform high quality. The only drawback is that there is a bit of sameness from track to track (even the cover of Beyonce's "Irreplaceable" is done in their frenetic power pop fashion), making them the perfect band to put in shuffle mode with your other favorites. As always, Kool Kat is offering up an exclusive bonus disc with the regular disc purchase, so make sure you stop there for a copy.

Kool Kat | Listen at Bandcamp

Friday, April 15, 2011

Catching up with some old friends.

As Absolute Powerpop has been going for five years now, we've built up quite a list of artists that have had music reviewed on the site, and I don't always have time to do full reviews for everything they do in the future. So as a service to those who enjoyed their previous releases, here are some words about new music from some artists we've featured before.

Artist: Bob Collum.
Last Seen on AbPow: October 2009 with Twisted Lines & Mixed Up Rhymes
New release: The New Old Thing (EP).
A few words: This Englishman has always mixed pop with country, and here he leans on the country a bit more. Still quality stuff, though, and fans of his previous work will want to check this one out. The rockin' "Crawford County" is the highlight here.
Links: Buy at official site | MySpace

Artist: Shake Some Action!
Last Seen on AbPow: May 2008 with Sunny Days Ahead, although they released the decent Fire and Ice in the interim.
New release: White Lies and Bloodshot Eyes.
A few words: This is a kind of odds-and-sods collection for James Hall & Co., with a bunch of b-sides, demos, etc. But for the most part it sounds like a cohesive album, and might even be better than the previous proper release. "I Get Tongue Tied" (left off Fire and Ice) and "One Way Ticket" are two great tracks. This is a digital-only release.
Links: iTunes | eMusic | Listen at official site

Artist: Danny Echo
Last Seen on AbPow: March 2009 with his self-titled debut.
New release: Rock Bottoms Up.
A few words: The debut reminded us of Cheap Trick/Oasis, and this one goes one step further into harder rock territory. A fun disc to get your rock on, with the "whoos" of "Your Breaking Down" reminding me of Andrew W.K. and "Better You Than Me" firmly in AC/DC territory.
Links: CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

Artist: Jesse Sprinkle
Last Seen on AbPow: January 2009 with Surrounded by Lights.
New release: Streamstory
A few words: This new release runs to the folkier side of Sprinkle's folk/pop but is a must for those who enjoyed his previous work. "Your Touch is Gold" and "In Loving Memory" are the highlights here.
Links: CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Two for Tuesday, 4/12/11

John Laprade-World Class Faker. Brooklyn's John Laprade follows up his 2008 EP Blind with his debut full-length, and he shows all the makings of a budding pop craftsman. He masters a variety of styles, from the bright power pop of "Soul Shaker" and "Blind" (yes, he's re-worked a few tracks from the EP), the Popicana of "Last Time" and "Tennessee" (which is "right next to Arkansas"), to the expert balladry of "Anything at All" and "Infinity". Also of note is the appearance of legendary guitarist Richard Lloyd (Television, Matthew Sweet) on the rocking "Knock You Down". I've had this disc for a couple of months in advance of its release, and listening to these tracks again for this review felt like reuniting with old friends, a real indication there are some quality tunes here.

CD Baby | Listen at official site | iTunes

Eliot Bronson-Blackbirds. Bronson is one half of The Brilliant Inventions, a duo who put out one of 2009 best folk-pop albums, Have You Changed. Flying solo here, Bronson leans more to the folk than the pop, but there are a number of understated gems here and his gift for melody remains intact. Those who lean to the pop side of things will love "Everywhere I Go", a beautiful midtempo number that has the kind of chorus that will burrow its way into your brain, and the buoyant "If You Need to Be Free", which will appeal to fans of the Shane Lamb disc I recently featured. And the folkier tunes are not without their charms either: Leah Calvert's wonderful harmony work on "Old Car" and "Black-Eyed Susan" recalls the Caitlin Cary/Ryan Adams dynamic of Whiskeytown. In other words, Bronson has of the best folk-pop albums of 2011.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

CD of the Day, 4/6/11: Cirrone-Uplands Park Road

In the 90s it was Oasis who took the sound of 60s and 70s rock of The Beatles, the Stones, The Who and others and brought it into the present day. In the 00s it was Jet who found success with this template. And now picking up the torch in the 10s is Italy's Cirrone (originally known as Apple Scruffs), a band of three brothers who are making the old sound new again in what's my favorite discovery of 2011 to date.

The lovely Beatlesque "Here is My Song" announces their arrival, while the title track mixes Oasis-style swagger and Big Star-like guitars and song structure. The quiet/loud dynamic of "I Still Remember" recalls Sloan, and "Let the Wind Blow" melds the McCartney of "Here, There & Everywhere" with the McCartney of "I've Got a Feeling". By about the fifth track rolls around, the Chiltonesque power poppin' "All I Know", you get the feeling these guys can do no wrong.

"Brand New Life" is another impressive piece of work, starting out as a pretty ballad that builds to a rocking 2-minute crescendo of guitar outro, something you don't hear a lot on power pop albums these days. "How Does it Feel?" is a piece of cheerful, "Good Day Sunshine"-styled pop with all the attendant bells and whistles, and "Your Eyes Are Wide Open" has that Lennon-by-way-of-Noel Gallagher feel.

The back half of the disc is no letdown, either, no mean feat in an age when so many discs peter out around this time. "Just Tell Me" is a moody, midtempo rocker that could be the best track on a lot of other albums, and the boys prove proficient at psych-pop with the trippy "You're Not Alone". "Here We Will Go" earns points for being different than the rest, an assertive rocker with some horn help, and "In the Sun" is a "Because"-styled ballad with ethereal harmonies. Again, there isn't anything here you haven't heard before in some form or another, but like the best power pop it makes it all seem fresh again. It'll be criminal if these guys don't find a wider audience like their forebears mentioned at the beginning of this review.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes } eMusic