Michael Carpenter-S.O.O.P. #5. Michael Carpenter concludes his 5-disc covers project with a twist - it's a duets album. This development jolts some life into the series, and features contributions from fellow power poppers such as Marty Rudnick, James Cooper and Chris Murphy. Although its stumbles out of the gate with "Where the Bands Are" (Carpenter strains to replicate Bruce Springsteen's gruff vocals), high points abound: Rudnick's Roger McGuinn-like vocals make The Byrds' "She Don't Care About Time" a treat, Dominique English guests to fine effect on Fleetwood Mac's "I Don't Wanna Know" and Carpenter & Cooper team up on what could almost be called a bubblegum version of George Harrison's "Awaiting on You All". The combination of covering deep album tracks for the most part ("Wouldn't it Be Nice" and "Already Gone" being the exceptions) and the duets elevate this one to more than a karaoke exercise and close the project on a high note. But now here's hoping his next release is original material.
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Dave Birk-Speed Queen Mystery Date. Fountains of Wayne fans, this is the record to tide you over until Chris Collingwood and Adam Schlesigner put out a new one. Minneapolis' Dave Birk captures the essence of FoW, from their high-gloss power pop to their suburban smart aleck worldview. It's an influence Birk does nothing to hide - the title of the opening track, "Hey Jody", recalls FoW's "Hey Julie"; "All Things Retro" borrows its melody wholesale from Utopia Parkway's "It Must Be Summer", and the title track tells a detailed story of a possible relationship between young urbanites. Plus there's "Country Music 101", a primer on writing country music that threads the needle between mocking the genre and celebrating it. So while Birk hasn't reinvented the power pop wheel here, I have to say I enjoyed Speed Queen Mystery Date more than any FoW album since Welcome Interstate Managers and there's some real talent at work here.
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