Thursday, June 27, 2013

Two for Thursday, 6/27/13

Nick Piunti-13 in My Head. If the name Nick Piunti isn't familiar to you then perhaps you know him from his time as frontman for Detroit's The Respectables, a band featured on these pages in years past. While I certainly enjoyed The Respectables, nothing prepared me for this solo turn by Piunti which I'm putting in pole position for top power pop album of 2013. 13 in My Head has everything you'd look for in a power pop album - crunchy guitars, great melodies and big hooks, and features assistance from the likes of Andy Reed and Ryan Allen. The title track opens things up nicely and really will make you feel 13 in your head again (especially if you were 13 during the 70s or 80s), followed by "On the Way Out" which is simply one of the catchier songs I've heard all year and reminiscent of Paul Westerberg in pure pop mode (a la "Dyslexic Heart"), complete with a "na-na-na-na" chorus. "Good Thing Going" keeps a good thing going, and "It All Comes Down" comes down squarely in Cheap Trick territory. The hits keep coming (if this were 1975) with "She's a Good Time" offering classic rock flourishes in service of another catchy tune, the bright rock of "Reasons" and the stacatto Beatlesque guitars of "Farewell Goodbye". Throughout, Piunti's slightly raspy, slightly snarling, vocals keep things from getting too saccharine (heck, there isn't even one outright ballad to be found here). 13 in My Head should be soundtrack for any power popper's summer this year.

CD Baby | Bandcamp

Anny Celsi-January. June might be a strange time to release an album titled January, but Anny Celsi is welcome any time of year on your music player of choice. Following up on 2010's Tangle-Free World, Celsi dials back the jangle a bit on a more introspective yet still melodic collection of songs with a wintertime theme. "Au Revior, My Darling" is a great pop tune to open the album, bouncing along with that famous Motown bassline and handclaps and harmonies, followed by the midtempo gem "Travelogue" which really evokes a lazy day traveling along. The winding melody of "Kaleidoscope Heart" brings Aimee Mann to mind, and the piano-and-guitar number "Sank Without a Bubble" ambles along quite nicely. Capping things off here is a lovely cover of Steve Forbert's "Wait", a favorite of mine since the original was released back in 1979, and which perfectly captures the wintertime feel of the album. Once again, Celsi is assisted by pros such as Rich McCulley and Nelson Bragg, and the result is a classy and enduring slice of laid-back pop.

CD Baby | iTunes

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Two for Thursday, 6/20/13

Travel Lanes-Hey, Hey, It's Travel Lanes! Philly's Frank Brown has been in the power pop scene for quite a while now, in bands such as Flight of Mavis and Buzz Zeemer, and most recently went solo with 2005's excellent Out of the Blue. He now returns with 3 of his fellow Philadelphians as Travel Lanes, and their 7-song debut EP is a treat for fans of Tom Petty and The Replacements. The catchy "Scared of Girls" opens the EP, with Brown's Elvis Costello-styled vocals and the driving rock beat recalling EC's own "Red Shoes", and "Intervention" could pass as one of his mid-80s guitar ballads. "Delinquent" is a sardonic and melodic mid-tempo tune that's Graham Parker meets Nick Lowe, while "Let You Down" closes the EP in riff-rocking fashion. No frills here, just high-quality rock like they used to make it.

CD Baby | iTunes

Third of Never-Downrising. Kurt Reil doesn't let the grass grow under his feet - while not churning out records with his main band The Grip Weeds and releasing solo material, he's giving us new music with side project Third of Never, and Downrising marks that band's full-length followup to 2007's Moodring (with a split 2011 EP in between). Downrising features more of Reil's retro rock, kind of The Grip Weeds meet The Smithereens (literally so to an extent as Dennis Diken guests on drums). In between the various interstitial instrumental tracks that give it a 20th-century album feel are some top-drawer tunes. The driving "Automat" is a standout, with verses that recall The Moody Blues in their more rocking moments and a chorus that channels the Weeds. Also of high quality is the jangly "Green Roses", while "So Long" is classic psychedelic rock and "On My Way" betrays a hint of The Move. A classic example of classic rock.

CD Baby | iTunes

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Midweek Roundup.

Joel Sarakula-The Golden Age. London-by-way-of-Australia's Joel Sarakula is a top-notch synthesist, taking pop styles from the 60s through the present day and mixing them up to create a tour de force that should appeal to anyone with a ear for melody and song structure. Sarakula first caught my attention in 2009 with City Heart, which found him primarily a piano popper. But as good as that album was, it didn't prepare me for the leap forward he takes here. The lean, spare piano sound of "I Will Deliver" starts things off in auspicious fashion, reminiscent of Spoon's "I Turn My Camera On" by way of Blur, while "Old Yellow Photographs" is a jaunty 60s, Merseyside-style pop romp. The Elvis Costello-influenced "The Lows" is a minor-key marvel, and "Only One Still Dancing" finds Sarakula singing in a Mika/Scissor Sisters-like falsetto that also reflect those artists' 70s influences. Elsewhere, "Matchstick Girl" is Teenage Fanclub-style guitar pop, "Good Books" is joyous, no-frills piano pop, and the lovely closer "Who's Gonna Love You Now" bears a Burt Bacarach influence. Another top 10 candidate for 2013.

Bandcamp | iTunes

Mozley-EP. The mysterious Mozley strikes again. In an age where with a computer and an internet connection you can find out almost anything about anybody, this Arkansas rocker (I only know he's from Arkansas because it says so on the CD Baby page) remains an enigma with no website, Bandcamp page, YouTube channel or Twitter feed. In fact, I'm not even sure Edward Snowden could find him. So be thankful I regularly check out the CD Baby new release pages, because I can't think of another way to find out if he has a new release. Anyway, after a strong debut album in 2011 and a fine followup last year, he's back with a new 4-song EP that continues the Replacements/Big Star-themed sound of the two full-lengths. Moody rocker "Took it Easy on You" opens things and sounds as if it came from All Shook Down, and the (for him, ironically-titled) "Remember My Name" boasts a memorable keyboard hook while "Closer to It" has a Pixies/Nirvana feel. While it may not be the year's top EP, I'm including it here since there's probably no other way fans of the first two albums are going to find out about it otherwise.

CD Baby