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.

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*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.

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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.

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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.

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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".

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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.

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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.

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