Thursday, October 19, 2017

Walty-Walty EP.


How long has it been since we've had new music from Johnny Walter a/k/a Walty? I'll just say the last time I featured him on this site, the link at the bottom of the post was to his MySpace page (and I was referencing what Bruce at Not Lame had to say about him*). For those who understandably don't remember Walty or missed him circa 2007, he has an agreeably pleasing singer/songwriter power pop sound and the new EP will not disappoint those who enjoyed him the first time around. The chunky rocker "I'm in Love With Everything" starts things off a bit goofy in the lyric department, and "Chinese Disco" (which actually has a disco beat) could have been a minor regional hit in 1978. Walty hits his stride with "Old Friend", a great tune steeped in classic power pop that might just be a bit meta considering how long it's been for him. Elsewhere, the midtempo "Only One" channels Neil Finn and closer "Underground" is a catchy straight-up rock track. An enjoyable EP where all the songs don't sound the same.

iTunes



*Speaking of Bruce Brodeen, although he closed up Not Lame many moons ago he's continued to stay active in the power pop scene with Pop Geek Heaven. However, he's now finally retiring for good, and I'd just like to say that he was one of the inspirations for this site and for all of us who write about power pop and keep the flame alive. I'm not sure anybody's done more to bring contemporary power pop to more ears than Bruce, and I hope that whatever he does next is something Extremely Highly Recommended.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Mario Rojas-Lost Angelino.


Mario Rojas is an LA singer-songwriter who boasts of a "major in FM and a minor in AM" and Lost Angelino, his second album, is solid evidence that he graduated near the top of his class. Demonstrating a knack for rootsy melody, Rojas serves up 11 tracks that bring to mind artists like Elvis Costello, Ryan Adams and Bill Lloyd. The easygoing rockers "Temporary Crown" and "Face Down" set the tone off the bat, while "Beatle Boots" is a pop gem with some mild horn backing. Other standout tracks include "Blue Light Follow", the roots-poppin' "Everything's Right", and "Cryin'", which channels Adams to good measure.

iTunes



Monday, October 16, 2017

First IN Space-A Different Animal.


Going to start trying something different here as I'm planning on doing one release at a time three or so times a week rather than 3-4 at one time every couple of weeks. (Also Johnny Stanec keeps emailing me asking when I'm going to review the new First in Space and I forgot to do so last roundup).

First IN Space returns with their fifth full-length album and first since 2014, although frontman Johnny Stanec during that time has released two solo albums in the similar style of the band's classic Midwestern power pop/rock, so it's like they never went away. So is the new album really A Different Animal? The chiming guitars in the minute-plus intro to opener "Living in the Dark" evoke U2 in a way, while the song itself doesn't stray too much from their sound. The uptempo "The Bitter End" is the catchiest track here, giving the Gin Blossoms a run for their money, while "Never Going Back Again" recalls Don't Tell a Soul-era Replacements. The rest of the album provides a steady diet of tuneful rockers worth your listen, but the "different animal" here is the closer "Enough". A moody, midtempo piece that builds up to an inspiring crescendo, it gives the collection an album "feel" rather than 10 random tracks. Stanec & Co. don't really break the mold here, but if ain't broke, don't fix it.

iTunes

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Early October Roundup.

Scott Gagner-Pins & Needles. Scott Gagner is back with the followup to 2014's Rise & Shine, and he's brought the help - among the luminaries contributing here are The Posies' Ken Stringfellow (who helped out last time) and Pete Thomas, Elvis Costello's drummer in The Attractions. This is about as good as singer-songwriter rock gets, from the bright opener "Someone" to the Americana-ish "El Rancho Inn" to the psychedlic pop of "The Ghost of Me & You". There's also straight-up power pop ("You Don't Know"), a lovely piano ballad ("Place in This World") and the album closer, a wonderful version "America the Beautiful" that was originally recorded for his grandmother's funeral as she wished.

iTunes



The Safes-Tasty Waves. I've always enjoyed these unreconstructed power poppers from Chicago, but their latest is a leap forward in songcraft and their best to date. Reminiscent of The Lolas and other similar early 2000s bands, they also draw on influences such as Rockpile and Guided by Voices to produce a bunch of quick-hitting melodic gems (no track here tops the 3-minute mark). They're all fun, but special marks go to "Hometown", "Crystal Ball", and "Mind of its Own".

iTunes



Mozley-X. The most reclusive man (band?) in power pop serves up his (their?) 10th release, hence the title. I've been writing about Mozley on these pages for over 6 years and I'm still no closer to knowing anything about the artist than I was then, given the complete lack of an internet presence except for these releases that seem to drop every 6 months or a year. X is 8 more tracks of Replacements/Big Star-styled rock. Highlights here are the opener "Staying Home Tonight", "Roll the Dice" (which has become one of my favorite Mozley tracks) and the Westerbergian "Dopamine Machine". Long live Mozley, whoever the hell you are.

iTunes



Jon Latham-Lifers. Regular readers will know that my second-favorite genre after power pop is Americana, and last year I had a top 20 Americana year-end list. Normally I don't review that genre here, but I feel compelled to give a mention on these pages to Jon Latham, who had my favorite Americana album of 2015 (Real Bad News) and follows that up with Lifers. Coming in somewhere between Steve Earle and Jason Isbell (before Isbell got all sober and respectable), Latham's tunes crackle with rootsy rock-n-twang and excellent songwriting. Just about every song has a story to tell, from the "Lifers" of the music scene to "Kimberly Met Billy", a 21st century "Jack & Diane" that drops so many 80s rock references that I couldn't stop smiling. And "Learning Now" is a melodic rock tune that will even catch the ear of power poppers. If your tastes run at all in the Americana field, Jon Latham is your new favorite artist.

iTunes


Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Back in the swing.

Thank you to everyone who wished well in the comments to my last post, and thank you all for sticking with the site while I got through the last month. Now it's time to get back in the swing and since I have a backlog of quite a few releases that I want to cover, this post and the next one or two to follow will be in a slightly different format - I will cover many more than the usual 3 releases but only write a few sentences on each. I know the priority for most of you reading this site is discovery of new music, not my purple prose, so here goes:

Ottopilot-Life After Love and War EP. California band with a "modern rock" sheen but accomplished in power pop ("Loaded Gun") and country rock ("Count on Me"). Radio-friendly (even with today's radio) stuff.

iTunes



Richard Turgeon-In Between the Spaces. If you like your power pop with no frills, then Richard Turgeon's the man for you. Just 10, rockin', power-poppin' tracks that tackle Bigfoot, turning 30, frostbites and gravity. Uniformly hooky and tuneful. UPDATE: Now available in CD format on Kool Kat.

iTunes | Kool Kat



Shake Some Action!-Crash Through or Crash. James Hall, everyone's favorite jangle-rocker of the last 10 years, returns with his sixth album. The latest is 14 new tracks of what we've come to expect from Mr. Hall, which means no syrupy ballads, no weird electronic flourishes and no spoken-word interludes. Just guitars, guitars and more guitars. FYI: he also has just released a deluxe 10th anniversary edition of SSA's self-titled debut, chock full of bonus tracks and demos.

iTunes



Bubble Gum Orchestra-Sixthoverture. Michael Hildebrandt returns with his sixth BGO album, and this one might be his best. Here he trades in his sometimes slavish (but always enjoyable) imitation of ELO for a sound instead more ELO-informed, and the result is liberating, from the joyous "A New Kind of Love Song" to the a tribute to the band that influenced ELO the most ("The Beatles Made Me") to the fine piano ballad "Elizabeth". Only available as a download from the BGO website.

Buy and listen to here

Static in Verona-Secrets Like Shadows. Yet another vet of the AbPow pages returns with a new one as Rob Merz' Static in Verona releases its fourth full-length. If there's such a thing as "ethereal power pop", Merz has invented it as tracks like "Madeline" and "Sleeping In (Dreams)" have an atmospheric quality without sacrificing melody or drive, and some can even approach the anthemic ("The Royal We"). Available as a "name your price" download on Bandcamp.

iTunes



The Obleeks-The Obleeks. Fine debut from this Big Star-influenced Chicago band. After the opening 30-seconds of "Break Forth, O Beauteous Light", the drums and guitars kick in with "After the Sunrise" and the fab "Have You Thought About Me Lately?", making a great 1-2 (or 2-3) punch. Other standouts include "I'll Wait" and "Poisoned Well", with the latter featuring a insidious riff. Best part? All ten tracks clock in at 2:40 or less, making for a breezy listen.

Bandcamp




Thursday, September 21, 2017

A personal note.

I know I only normally post 2-3 times a month, so this near one-month absence is not completely surprising, but I have not posted any reviews since then as shortly after my last post, my younger (and only) brother was suddenly hospitalized and barely a week later passed away. And no sooner did he pass than my family found ourselves squarely in the projected path of Hurricane Irma, forcing us to evacuate. Thankfully the brunt of Irma stayed to our east and the storm weakened spending more time over land than forecast, so my home came out unscathed. But we still lost power/cable/internet for most of last week and given the stress of all that's gone on, I haven't really been in the right head space to write about power pop these days.

But I'm getting there and there's been a lot of great new stuff that either came out just before or since, so I will be posting soon and am certainly not abandoning this blog. Thanks as always for reading, and thank you for your patience.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Late August Roundup.

Trip Wire-Cold Gas Giants. Trip Wire (not to be confused with beloved Seattle pub-rockers The Tripwires) is a San Francisco band/collective that has a couple of pretty good power pop albums under its belt (which you can listen to here), but on their third release they've taken a couple of big steps forward. First, their new album is being released on the imprint of one of the top power pop labels out there, Kool Kat. Second, they've added The Well Wishers' Jeff Shelton to the lineup, and not just to play bass. Of course original members Marty Schneider and Bill Hunt are no slouches either and their "Long Days Gone" is an insistent guitar pop tune with a nifty riff hook, while "Signs" is first-rate jangle pop. Shelton takes the mic for "I'm Not the Enemy", a hard-driving rocker that's of a piece with his Well Wishers output, and other standouts include the strings-and-12-string of "Winter Song", the Byrdsian "These Are the Days", and another Shelton-led raucous rocker, "Growing Old".

Kool Kat | iTunes



Darryl Rahn-Everything is Fine. About the highest compliment I can pay the latest album from Utica, NY singer-songwriter Darryl Rahn is that I've had it in rotation for over a month now and every time one of its songs pops up randomly I get a little smile on my face. Everything is Fine is highly melodic folk/pop/rock that fans of The Jayhawks, pre-Spain-move Josh Rouse and site favorite Shane Lamb would enjoy. The joyous, catchy leadoff track "Running Back" breaks through the line into the open field like a good running back, while "Even as a Ghost" and its "ooh-ooh-ooh" hook is an absolute earworm. Elsewhere, the midtempo "Worry" recalls the prime early days of Ryan Adams, "Souvenirs" is a lovely ballad, and "Look at Her Now" treads into power pop territory. One of the better albums of its kind I've heard lately.

iTunes



The TimeWhy?s-Autumn of Love EP. The oddly-punctuated TimeWhy?s is a Pennsylvania band who unabashedly make 60s-inspired music, leaning to the Beatlesque. Their 4-track debut EP is a treat. "Paint Me Happy" is Herman's Hermits-meets-The Association, "Lying Through Your Lipstick" sounds like a mid-Beatles Lennon track, "I Said Hello" seems inspired by "Penny Lane" and "All I Know" draws from George Harrison via The Beach Boys. Definitely a year-end contender for the best EPs of 2017 list.

iTunes

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Early August Roundup.

Terry Anderson-Jimmy's Arcade. Everyone's favorite Southern pub-rocker Terry Anderson is back with his first album in six years, sans his backing band The Olympic Ass-Kickin' Team. Even without them, Anderson kicks plenty of ass with this collection of tunes interspersed with amusing fake commercials and skits. Jimmy's Arcade is a diverse collection of rock, power pop, and 60s/70s R&B with the common element being Anderson's no-shit-taking-yet-often-humorous delivery. Catching Anderson's fancy this time around is the internet ("Internettin"), a decadent weekend of partying on his girlfriend's dime ("Cash Dat Check"), and (fittingly given this week's "curvy woman" social media meme) a "Big Ol' Woman". And then there are my three favorite tracks on the album - the riff-driven rocker "Knock it Off", his humanist "I Love Everybody", and the gorgeous album closer "Carl Wilson", a tribute to the late Beach Boy legend. If you've been immune to Terry Anderson's charms to date, just think the Nick Lowe of the 70s growing up in the American South and take it from there.

iTunes | Kool Kat




Hemlock Pop-Crushing on What Might Be. Hemlock Pop is the nom de plume of Seattle's Ira Miller, who's played in several local bands including Super Deluxe and makes his solo debut. Miller's sound here is singer-songwriter (power) pop in the vein of Michael Penn, Aimee Mann, Elvis Costello and Michael Carpenter. Opening guitar rocker "Bleed You Out" is the prototypical woulda-been-a-hit-in-the-70s track with its smooth melody and hooky chorus, "Pigeon v. Statue" is both catchy and clever with its Costello-like wordplay, and "Something About Ruby" is a power ballad that deserves 10,000 uplifted lighters. There are plenty of other gems here too, including a cover of The Cure's "Charlotte Sometimes". Smart, sophisticated and tuneful, this is one of 2017's better debuts and better albums, period.

iTunes



Daniel Christian-Coffee EP. It's been nine (9!) years since we last checked in on Daniel Christian, but now is a good a time as any since he's back with a fine new 7-track EP, Coffee. Christian's past releases have been more Americana-vibed, but this one veers much more in the direction of power pop as the opener "A Girl in the Band" with its "Getting Better"-influenced melody and crunchy guitars would indicate. Further confirmation of this shift comes from the upbeat ditty "It's Perfect" and the midtempo "You Don't Know Her" which show off Christian's pop chops. And the closer "Never Wrong" is 4 1/2 minutes of catchy bliss. A real contender for 2017 EP of the year.

iTunes



Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Late July Roundup.

It's EPalooza this week with three fine EPs.

Randy Mantooth-Randy Mantooth EP. No, this isn't the musical debut of the guy who starred on Emergency! back in the 70s, nor is it another guy with the same name. Instead, it's the name of a 3-piece band out of Chicago featuring two former members of Otter Petter (which you may or may not be familiar with) which has released an excellent 4-track debut of crunchy power pop in the vein of Matthew Sweet and Tommy Keene. "Not Love" opens with a noirish feel while "Need It" is sunnier-sounding, and "Tick" and "Haunt" rock in a straightforward manner. Now someone just needs to start a band called Kevin Tighe and do a double bill with these guys.

iTunes



The Buzz-Summer of '17 EP. Washington DC popper J. Forte returns with another Buzz EP and from its title and cover art, it's time to put the top down and cruise the highway with this EP cranking. While "Smithereens" isn't a tribute to the band of the same name, it's a driving guitar pop number that would make them proud, "Tell Me Now" is fine garage rock, "Electric Dreams" jangles on, and "Old Souls" channels Brian Wilson with the surf out.

iTunes



Matthew Bryson-Recording in Progress. So what were you doing when you were 16? Probably stumbling through high school, tentatively engaging the opposite sex, and hoping to get a car (or at least getting to drive one of your parents' vehicles). One thing you probably didn't do, though, was write and record an excellent debut 4-song EP full of top-notch pop like Austin's Matthew Bryson has. With a classic sound going back well, well beyond his years, Bryson serves up 4 fine tracks that have a Beach Boys/Beatles influence; "Her" has an early-60s feel, "Down" is more late-60s sounding, and "Where" gives off a George Harrison vibe. Not bad for someone only five years older than this blog.

iTunes

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Mid-July Roundup.

Andrew Taylor-From the Outside Looking In. Dropkick frontman Andrew Taylor has been accumulating a collection of songs over the last 15 years that he hadn't recorded with his band, and he decided to play and record them completely by himself. Interestingly enough though, the end result sounds a lot like Dropkick, which is a good thing. This means it's another fine collection of top-shelf jangle pop that Taylor and his mates have been known for over the years that's found the golden mean between Teenage Fanclub and Matthew Sweet. Standout tracks here include "I Saw Through You" (with it's "you-ooh-ooh" chorus), the more rocking "Someone", and the album's catchiest track, "Who We Really Are", which reminds me of pre-Hotel California Eagles. So it's Dropkick without the Dropkick, or something like that.

iTunes



Various Artists-Songs, Bond Songs. Andrew Curry, the maestro of themed power pop compilations, is at it again. After his 70s lite rock opus that broke the rules against compilations and topped my 2013 list and 2014's followup covering the "second British invasion" of the 80s, his latest project features the songs of the James Bond movie franchise. As with the other two comps, Curry has enlisted a who's-who of indie power pop and the results are a blast. After Lannie Flowers gets you in the mood with the famous Bond theme, you're off an adventure that will leave you stirred, if not shaken. With such a variety of songs and artists involved (26 of each), everyone's bound to have their personal favorites, and mine here are Wyatt Funderburk's groovy take on "The Look of Love", Ryan Hamilton's "We Have All the Time in the World", Cirrone's "The Living Daylights" and Look Park (Chris Collingwood of Fountains of Wayne) with "The World is Not Enough". Make sure you take advantage of your license to listen below.

iTunes



The Glad Machine-The Glad Machine. The Glad Machine hails from western Massachusetts, and their self-titled debut hits all the classic power pop sweet spots. Reminiscent of bands like The Shazam, The Tories and The Cautions, TGM starts things off with "Homecoming" where "it's 1985 here every day", and follows it with "Wake Up, Girl", more classic power pop with a killer chorus. Meanwhile, "I Wanna Drive" recalls Jellyfish in their less-baroque moments, "87 Highland Avenue" is a well-executed power ballad, and the melodic closer "Cake" is the icing on top, so to speak. Not a bad track in the lot, and it's a welcome return to what power pop sounded like in the 80s and 90s.

iTunes

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Late June Roundup.

Plasticsoul-Therapy. It's been a long wait, and while there have been various new tracks included on compilations in the interim, Steven Eric Wilson - a/k/a Plasticsoul - has finally released the followup to 2009's Peacock Swagger, my #1 album of that year. It's a lot to live up to but thankfully Therapy is a worthy successor. Wilson produces a somewhat more sophisticated brand of power pop than the typical three-chords-and-a-hook band with influences in the vein of John Lennon, Michael Penn and Jon Brion. After opening with the lovely, languid "My Heavy Soul", the rocking title track kicks in, complete with an Elvis Costello-esque snarling vocal and a galloping melody. Speaking of Elvis C, "All Died Pretty" would have fit in nicely on Armed Forces, while "In Her Raincoat" recalls Cheap Trick in their more Beatlesque moments. Elsewhere, the album rocks more than previous Plasticsoul releases with the densely-produced "Come Down from Your Raincloud", the swirling psychedelia of "The King of Hash" and the revved-up "Monkey on a Stick". And the closer "Biff Bang Pow" sounds just as you'd expect, proving that good music really is the best Therapy.

Bandcamp



Cliff Hillis-Many Happy Returns EP. Death, taxes, and a wonderfully melodic new release from Cliff Hillis are life's three certainties. After his last full-length a few years back Hillis has been going the EP route, with Many Happy Returns marking his third straight which is just fine by me, getting 5-6 new tracks every year rather than waiting 2-3 years for 10-12. The highlights this time are the straight-ahead power pop of "Time an Evangelist", the whimsical title track which could have come off a Seth Swirsky/Red Button album, and "With All the World", a fine midtempo number that sounds like music made by a real adult. But really, all six tracks are great; even the one titled "Superfluous" is anything but.

iTunes



The Brigadier-Wash Away the Day. Another repeat artist to these pages is Matt Williams, known to us as The Brigadier. Wash Away the Day is his first new album in four years, and it's a welcome return to the Beach Boys-meets-XTC sunny British pop we've grown accustomed to from previous releases. The buoyant "I Know You're the One for Me Baby" fits that description to a T, and "Rainy Day Friend" throws in enough minor key curves to make it one of his all-time best tracks. Meanwhile, "Feels Like Something" rocks harder than your typical Brigadier number while the breezy "Keep Your Ego Down" will take you back to the 70s. This might be The Brigadier's best yet, and frankly I think he's overdue for a promotion to Major General.

iTunes

Friday, June 09, 2017

Early June Roundup.

Marble Party-Sometimes a Great Ocean. San Francisco's Marble Party returns with the followup to the excellent Plush, which finished #11 on my 2014 year-end list. Aside from their strong pun game with the title, they back up the promise of Plush with another collection of diverse power pop. "Brooklyn Battles Winter" sounds like a slightly revved-up Shins song, "Shotgun Superman" starts off like a Ben Folds piano number only to morph into something off Wilco's Summerteeth, and "Coaster" incorporates horns and a bit of a 70s R&B feel. Elsewhere, "60 Cycle" channels The Beatles, complete with sitar, the 80s-rock-influenced "S.A.M." piles on the synths, and "Lilies of Coldwater" brings Jellyfish to mind. Another tour-de-force from these pop/rockers which should have another spot in my year-end top 20.

iTunes



Stingy Brim-Stingy Brim EP. Stingy Brim is New Zealand's Andrew Thorne, and his debut EP is three tracks (plus a bonus) of classic Cheap Trick-styled power pop. "Gun Monkey" kicks things off in rocking fashion, "Made Up" is the most purely melodic track here and its little piano fill really makes it special, while "Rising Sun" takes a back seat to neither of the first two. I see why "Rolling Back" was added as a bonus track, as its psych-folk doesn't quite jibe with the others but it's an interesting track nonetheless. Hopefully Thorne won't be so "stingy" and will follow this up with a full-length.

iTunes



The Loved-Back to Me EP. Portland's The Loved are back with another EP on the heels of last year's self-titled debut, and it's three more tracks of their signature "three chords and the truth" sound. The title track rocks with melody and abandon, the main riff in "Run Away" recalls classic Oasis/Blur-styled britpop, and "Cruelest Month of the Year" incorporates a "Bo Diddley"-style backbeat into a languid mid-tempo ballad.

Bandcamp

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Late May Roundup.

A quick look at some quality new releases:

Ruby Free-Shades. Maple Mars' Rick Hromdaka teams up again with Lisa Cavaliere (his wife) as Ruby Free, and the result is another wonderful laid-back album of 70s-inspired husband & wife pop. Highlights here are the guitar pop of "Take a Ride", the psychedelic shuffle of "Walking Along", the Paul-and-Linda inspired "Say Goodnight" and a note-perfect cover of The Carpenters' "Superstar". An album with great melodies - and charm. One of 2017's best.

iTunes | Kool Kat



The Mike Benign Compulsion-Kid. Our favorite Milwaukee power poppers are back again with a concept album of sorts about childhood and growing up, complete with the Let it Be-styled cover with photos of the band as youngsters. It's another collection of top-notch Squeeze-meets-Elvis Costello pop with standout tracks "Gadfly", "Kid" (with its memorable hook), and the rocking "The Best Years of Our Lives". And keep listening through - the 10th track, "Generations", might be the best here, sounding like a lost early-80s hit.

iTunes



Pasadena 68/Dakota Shakedown-Good Night Air. Ex-High on Stress frontman Nick Leet's Pasadena 68 has once again teamed up with friend and former 90's bandmate Mike Hjelden's Dakota Shakedown for another split album. DS gets the first five tracks, and P68 the last five and despite being a split LP the bands' similar Replacements-rock sensibilities make for a seamless experience. DS' "Hurry Up and Wait", with its Westerbergian mix of yearning and fire, is their standout here, while P68's rootsy, laid-back "Peace Garden State" is a gem as well.

iTunes





Party Battleship-Cake + Flames. The New Pornographers have a new album out, and as always it's worth picking up. However, if you want an American version of them there's another male/female-fronted supergroup of sorts which collects some of the best power poppers of Charlotte, NC. Shalini Morris (Kissyfish, Vinyl Devotion, Mitch Easter), Donnie Merritt (Lodestar, Mark Crozer and the Rels), John Morris (Tyre Fyre, Electrolux, Snagglepuss) and Adam Roth (Bellglide, The Catch Fire, Laburnum) join forces here for a rocking collection of driving pop tunes. The ones here to catch are their opening "Theme Song", "Almost Overton", and the Marshall Crenshaw-esque "The Fifth Season", but they're all pretty good. Party on!

iTunes

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Quick singles update.

As I've noted on many occasions, I don't normally review singles. But as I've also done on others, when artists of note have singles out I'll make an exception.

Bryan Estepa-Rattled and Rolled. It's been over 10 years since Estepa had Michael Carpenter produced his outstanding debut album All the Bells and Whistles, and the two got together last month, jammed a bit and came up with this single in a day. It's an excellent midtempo tune that will appeal to both, and proceeds go to The Heart Foundation.

Bandcamp



Lannie Flowers-Kiss a Memory b/w Everything a Man Could Want. We haven't gotten new music from Lannie Flowers in quite a while - his last release was 2012's New Songs Old Stories, but that itself consisted of full-length versions of several of the snippets that made up his 36-song Same Old Story medley. So it's great to hear these two new tracks, and they're vintage Flowers which means classic power pop melodies with a bit of a Texas twang.

iTunes



Radio Days-I'm in Love With You, Haruka. Italy's Radio Days are heading out on their first Japanese tour, and in promotion of it they've released a 2-track single with the new title track and a cover of the Undertones' "Teenage Kicks". It's of a piece with their existing catalog so it has their typical 60s Merseyside sound.

Bandcamp





Thursday, May 04, 2017

Early May Roundup.

The Hangabouts-Kits & Cats and Saxon Wives. The Hangabouts are back with their long-awaited followup to 2011's Illustrated Bird, and it's another delightful collection of 60s/Merseyside-influenced pop with a touch of psych and boy/girl harmonies (and with very fab cover art). The opening title track nails this sensibility with a mid-60s melody and noodling guitars, which is followed by the jangly and jaunty (and mostly instrumental) "Cricket Time". The clever and catchy "Evelyn Wood" is a real gem here, both in its sound (which is what Fountains of Wayne would sound like if their touchstone were the 60s instead of the 70s), and the lyrics, which use the titular speed-reading teacher as a metaphor for a woman who wants to go too fast in a relationship. Also worth particular mention are the Beatlesque "Selling Out", the twee and lovely "Twelve Songs" and the sunny pop of "Taking You to Leave Me". In the end, there's but one word to describe this album: groovy.

iTunes



Colman Gota-Fear the Summer. This is the third album for this pop/rocker from Spain (not counting his work in Insanity Wave), but the first I've reviewed here and it's about damn time I got around to him. On his recent releases Gota was been working with genre legend Mitch Easter (who engineers here) and there's an element of his southern-fried power pop sound present here, with the crunchy guitars of the opening title track and the straightforward melodic rock of "What Goes on in My Head" (complete with cowbell). Elsewhere, the soaring melodies of "What You Want Me to Be", the piano-backed midtempo "For a Reason", and the classic power pop of "Call it Quits" are among the standouts here. All in all, it's a solid collection of Tom Petty-styled power pop which you shouldn't fear adding to your music collection this summer.

iTunes



The Over Unders-Bet on Us EP. Wisconsin's The Over Unders are a literal band of brothers, led by Sam and Matthew Hellman and who have released two EPs the last two years with Bet on Us the followup to last year's self-titled debut. They remind me quite a bit of Fight Songs-era Old 97s, and the catchy opening track "Come On" wouldn't have sounded out of place of that album while "Won't Go Home" and "Out West" have a Gin Blossoms-meet-The Replacements vibe. Plus, the debut EP is of a piece with this one and is worth seeking out as well so there's essentially a fine full-length album here when you put them together.

iTunes

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Mid April Roundup.

Greg Ieronimo-Never Leaving California. Greg Ieronimo, who wowed us with his 7-track debut EP in 2014, doubles our fun here with his followup 14-track full-length release Leaving California. Ieronimo is Power Pop with two capital Ps, as his way with both a hook and crunchy guitars recalls many of the classic artists of the genre. Whether its the Matthew-Sweet-circa-100%-Fun blast of the title track or the bouncy staccato beat of "You Love Me" or the shoulda-been-a-theme-song-for-a-modern-day-Monkees-reboot "Best Day of Our Life", Ieronimo's knack for melody and eagerness to rock shine through. Elsewhere, "Outta Sight" is a better Weezer song than Weezer has put out in recent years, and "Beautiful Disaster" would slip in nicely on a Cheap Trick album. Another outstanding release in what's already shaping up to be a great year for power pop.

iTunes



Gregg Stewart-Gregg Stewart. Speaking of Greg(g)s, Gregg Stewart, the former frontman of Americana band Stewboss, brings us his self-titled solo debut that he says is inspired by the year 1978, his favorite year in music. And with his blonde hair and beard, he's got the Andrew Gold/Jay Ferguson look down as well. Leadoff track "R is for Rockstar" is an amusing look at how to act like a hotel-trashing, groupie-loving 70s rocker, "Let's Go Find a Night" channels solo Mick Jagger, and the driving, catchy "You're the One" practically begs you to roll down the car windows and sing along. Also worth cranking up are rockers "Stone Cold Fox" (which Stewart says is a tribute to Joan Jett) and the soulful "Give it All You Got". So party like it's 1978, and be glad you don't have to wait in a gas line while listening to these tunes.

iTunes




Bread & Butter-Bread & Butter. And speaking of 1978, Seattle's Bread & Butter comes out of the blocks with an album full of songs that you would have likely heard on your local AOR station had they existed back then. Even though you've pretty much heard it before, they make it fresh - "Worst of Times" kicks off the proceedings with a sound that's big enough and with enough swagger to make you feel like they've re-invented the rock wheel. "Desperation" and "Keys to the City" distill Kiss and Cheap Trick, and "Shoot My Mouth Off" shows their way with a mid-tempo rocker. These guys just have the sound of something bigger, and if revivalists like Oasis, The Strokes and Jet can hit it big, there's no reason this crew can't. (Other the general fragmentation of the music biz and declining market share of rock in the last 15-20 years, but who's counting?)

iTunes

Friday, April 07, 2017

Early April Roundup.

Corin Ashley-Broken Biscuits. Corin Ashley has been through a lot since we last heard from him in 2013 with the wonderful New Lion Terraces. In January 2016, he suffered a parietal lobe stroke which left him unable to move the fingers on his left hand and with a paralyzed vocal cord. After some hard work with a neurosurgeon who had experience with musicians recovering from brain injuries, Ashley re-learned how to sing and play the guitar and was back on stage by the end of the year, and he's also managed to release a new album which may actually be his best yet. While his previous releases were more chamber/baroque-pop oriented (one of his albums wasn't called Songs from the Brill Bedroom for nothing), this one has a more immediate appeal, as though Ashley is seizing his new lease on life. The fairly raucous opener "Little Crumbles" recalls McCartney in rock-and-roll mode, the delightful "Wind Up Boy" (with vocals from Tanya Donnelly) is another upbeat pop treat and "In Appropriate Fashion" is straight-up power pop. But fans of the old Ashley have no need to fret either - "Magpie over Citadel", "Junior Partner" and "Powder Your Face With Sunshine" are pristine chamber pop numbers. A triumphant return, and one of 2017's best to date.

CD Baby



Danny de la Matyr-Crybaby. You can be forgiven if Danny de la Matyr's name doesn't sound familiar, but if you're a long-time reader of this site you might recall his band called The Sheers, who put out the fine Goodbye World back in 2006/2007. We haven't heard much from him since, although he's worked with Rhett Miller, Jesse Malin and more recently Luther Russell, both solo and with Those Pretty Wrongs, Russell's project with Big Star's Jody Stephens. During all that time he was putting together his solo debut, and it was worth the time. After a couple of lovely, Elliott Smith-style tracks to open the album, things perk up with the slinky melody and staccato guitars of the title track, the power balladry of "How Can it Be?" and the chiming power pop of "Lines". Other standouts include the Beatlesque "Skeleton Key", the rocking "Misfire" and the anthemic piano pop of "Fade to Grey". A solid disc from start to finish.

Bandcamp



Wiretree-Towards the Sky. Kevin Peroni has been releasing quality indie-rock/power pop albums as long as I've doing this blog, and on his fifth full-length the Austonian comes through again. From the understated opener "Let Me In" to the driving, ELO-like "J.F. Sebastian" (an homage to the Blade Runner character?) to the classic Wiretree sound of "Dive" to the trippy title track, Towards the Sky is a welcome addition to the Wiretree canon. And "Didn't Know Your Name" might be the album's best track, with its steady build toward a driving climax.

iTunes

Friday, March 24, 2017

Late March Roundup.

The Tripwires-Fat City Let's Go! (EP). They're baaaaack! The Tripwires, everyone's favorite Seattle supergroup (consisting of members and former members of The Model Rockets, The Minus 5, Screaming Trees and Mudhoney) and who had this site's #1 album of 2014, return with a 6-track EP that will probably be my #1 EP of 2017. Nobody does pub-rock in the fashion of Rockpile and NRBQ better these days, and this EP delivers the goods with the chunky, bouncy title track as well as "Nothing of the Kind" (which adds a bit of Merseybeat to the mix), the raveup "New New New New New" (that's 5 "new"s, not 4 or 6) and the riotous "I Hear You Calling". John Ramberg & Co. have done it again.

Bandcamp



Christopher Galen-The Master Plan. Christopher Galen (who also goes by the more anonymous-sounding Chris Smith) is a singer-songwriter from Colorado who's fashioned a fine album of mid-tempo pop/rock that should appeal to fans of Cliff Hillis, Rob Laufer and Bill Lloyd. The appropriately-titled "In the Beginning" kicks off the album with a driving and hypnotic guitar-keyboard riff and reminds me of solo McCartney. It's a bit long at 7:12 but I didn't mind. Other standouts include the Elliott Smith-meets-"Blood and Roses" Smithereens "Terms and Unconditions", the power-popping title track, the lovely, largely acoustic ballad "Too Late", and "Nothing Else", a fully-realized pop song that might be the album's best.

iTunes



The Rallies-Serve. We return to Washington state with Tacoma's The Rallies, whose Serve is one heckuva debut album and answers the musical question "What if Tom Petty was part of Crowded House?". Mixing sweet melodies with jangly rock, they crank out one ear-friendly tune after another here, from the mostly acoustic opening "rally" "Don't Give Up" to excellent pop/rockers like "Whatever You Tonight" and "No One Knows", to the jangle pop of "So Right" and "These Are the Words". Serve's bright and shiny sound will serve as a perfect backdrop for the spring.

iTunes

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Thursday, March 02, 2017

Early March Roundup.

Hornal-The Game Begins With the Lights Out. Iain Hornal has been quite the prolific sideman over the last several years, playing with Jeff Lynne's ELO, 10cc and The Feeling among others. Now it's his turn to be in the spotlight as he releases his solo debut, and it's of a piece with the artists he's played with. "Staring at the Sky", with its spacey intro and light harmonies, recalls a Lynne ballad, while The Feeling's Paul Stewart and Ciaran Jerremiah with Billington & Quinn join Hornal on "Jennifer", which is bright and buoyant as much of that band's output. (They also join on the lovely ballad "Pictures of Past"). More friends help out here as well, with the legendary Graham Gouldman and Kevin Godley of 10cc providing vocals (and not a small bit of inspiration) to album closer "Say the Word", a wonderful slice of eccentric British pop complete with spoken word interlude from IT Crowd actor Matt Berry. But the top track here is one that doesn't have any flashy guests: the catchy "She Doesn't Have Anyone", yet another #1 single from an alternate universe. An early 2017 top 10 contender.



iTunes


The Drywall Heels-The Drywall Heels EP. Power pop doesn't come more straightforward or more fun than this debut EP from Toronto's The Drywall Heels. "You Should Know"'s hooks reel you right in with its "oh-uh-oh-oh-oh" chorus and Raspberries-meet-Cheap Trick sound, "Richmond Hill" is a 1:31 blast of guitar pop, the ghost of Big Star haunts "Claudia" and "Lauren (Let Me In)" would make fellow countrymen Sloan smile. With all five tracks clocking in under 3 minutes each, it'll leave you wanting more. And the best part is that it's "name your price" at Bandcamp. (Technical note: this was released on December 23 but since it was so late in the year I'm counting it for 2017 list purposes)

Bandcamp (name your price)



The Lunar Laugh-Mama's Boy. Jared Lekites (featured here earlier as a solo artist) and Connor Anderson team up for their second album as The Lunar Laugh and like the first it splits the difference between power pop and folk/rock to fine effect. The title track is a rollicking pop tune that recalls the awkwardness and pain of growing up, while the midtempo "Sticks and Stones" wouldn't sound out of place on an Autumn Defense album. Elsewhere, Lekites shines on "Work in Progress", a great track reminiscent of Gary Louris's version of The Jayhawks and album closer "Nighthawks & Mona Lisa" (released earlier as a single) just might be their signature song with its warm mix of melody and harmony.

Bandcamp (digital, CD & Vinyl)