Thursday, June 06, 2019

June singles roundup

Some new singles to get your summer rolling:

JoDee Purkeypile-What I'm Missing/Never is Not. Been quite a while since we had new music from the former frontman of The Alice Rose, so it's great to see him back in the swing with this 2-song single. Both tracks are in his signature form, indie pop that could be Nada Surf crossed with Jon Brion.


Peter Baldrachi-Breathe. Another artist whose output has been sporadic this decade is power popper Peter Baldrachi, who's released a few singles over the recent years but his last full-length was in 2011. His latest single is a rocking gem that will have you wishing for more and makes great use of the pause (a la "No Matter What"), between "stop!" and "breathe" in the chorus.


Freedy Johnston-20 Radios & Tryin' to Move On. One of my favorite singer-songwriters is back for the first time since 2015's brilliant Neon Repairman album with a pair of singles that right now are only available on CD Baby (so I can't embed the tracks). The bouncy folk/rock of "20 Radios" sees Johnston returning to the roots of his 1992 classic Can You Fly? album with some of the same musicians from that album while "Tryin' to Move On" (featuring the same crew) finds Freedy in more of a power pop mode. Neither song is going to be in his pantheon, but they're worth it if you've been any kind of fan of his.

"20 Radios" at CD Baby
"Tryin' to Move On" at CD Baby

Bryan Estepa-I'm Not Ready for This. A familiar name to most of you, Bryan Estepa returns with a new single in advance of his upcoming full-length due in August. "I'm Not Ready for This" finds him in classic form with the kind of bright guitar pop he's given us in the past and which is also reminiscent of fellow Aussie and sometime collaborator Michael Carpenter.


The Confusions-Sunday Mornings. This Swedish band has been around for 25 years or so and I have several of their albums in my music collection but somehow I've never mentioned them on the site until now. Anyway their latest single is a great place to start. "Sunday Mornings" is the kind of buoyant pop song that defies easy categorization so I'll let them describe it: "sounds like Ringo and Paul are in charge of the rhythm, like Phil Spector has recorded the strings, mixed with wild reverb guitars and a chorus that really sticks with you". I'll go along with that.


Thursday, May 30, 2019

Late May roundup.

E.B. The Younger-To Each His Own. E.B. The Younger is the solo debut of Midlake's Eric Pulido and from its 1972 Topps baseball card-inspired cover to its laid-back melodic vibe, To Each His Own captures the spirit of 1970s singer-songwriterdom. Opener "Used to Be" has enough pop lilt to bring fellow 70s-obsessive Josh Rouse to mind, while "When the Time Comes" boasts a countrypolitan sound that could be Glen Campbell crossed with Harry Nilsson. "Down and Out" is as smooth as butter (on Bread?) while "Monterey" comes off as a less smug-sounding Eagles song. And the vaguely tropical, vaguely honky-tonk "On an Island" does recall some of Nilsson's off-kilter moments. This record is kind of a spiritual cousin to Rayland Baxter's Wide Awake from last year, and those who enjoyed that will enjoy this.


Mondello-Hello, All You Happy People. Mondello is the project of Little Rock's John Moran and it features 14 poptastic tracks he's written over the past 20 years. The long gestation period was worth it as the tunes here recall a less smart-alecky Fountains of Wayne on one hand and a male-only New Pornographers on the other. Leadoff track "Sherilyn" is infectious in the best way, and the driving "They Say They Don't Believe It" gets a bit cacophonous but never goes off the rails. "The Girl With Half a Mind" is the track here that channels FoW most openly, while standout "Don't Say Anything Bad About My Baby" throws a little Brian Wilson into the mix. Pure Pop for Happy People.


Fuzzysurf-Fuzzy & The Surfs. Milwaukee's a long way from the beaches of California or the river Mersey, but this Wisconsin band loves them some Beach Boys surf-pop and 60s British Invasion and they mash them up on this highly enjoyable release. From the Spongetones-esque "Problems" to the unfortunately-titled but fortunately tuneful "Vomit" to the later-period Beach Boys of "Killing Time", they honor their idols without sounding too slavishly retro. And that's even with tracks titled "Please Please Me Too" and "Don't Worry Baby" (an original, not a cover). And dig the Muppets-styled album art.


Thursday, May 16, 2019

Mid-May roundup

Joe Benoit-Greetings from Forest Hills, NY EP. Judging by the Ramones homage of the cover, you'd be forgiven for thinking this new EP from former Regulars frontman Joe Benoit is full of short and sweet punk rock tunes. Instead, it's a crackerjack collection of power pop and classic rock that starts off with "Waiting for Revolution", a soaring pop tune that finds the golden mean between The Gin Blossoms and Big Star and is one of my favorite tracks of 2019. "Paying the Toll" is a Cheap Trick-styled number, "Easy to Seem" would sound at home on your local classic rock station, and "Disconnected" finds Benoit in one-man band mode on a searching ballad.


Joe Sullivan-Growing Up Schlockstar. Futureman Records' Michigan machine continues to roll along with Joe Sullivan's followup to 2014's Schlock Star, an outstanding debut which finished #13 on my year-end list. The sequel is more of a "prequel" as Sullivan mines his childhood memories for many of these classic-sounding power pop tunes, including the "Penny Lane"-esque "Greenfield Acres", the midtempo "Gifted and Talented" (complete with Brian May-esque guitars and help from the gifted and talented Brandon Schott) and his mash note to a "Cheerleader". And after closing Schlock Star with a Star Wars-inspired tune Sullivan ends this one with "Space Princess", a clever pop tune which could be about Leia & Han, but isn't necessarily. Fellow Futuremen Andy Reed and Donnie Brown contribute to the proceedings as well, and I could see this one somewhere around #13 at the end of this year too.


Lolas-A Dozen or Seven Tapestries. The last few years have seen several artists which I thought I'd never hear from again re-emerge with new music, and the latest entry in that category are the Lolas, who haven't released a proper album of new music since 2006's Doctor Apache. Tim Boykin & Co. sound like they haven't been away for 13 years as the title track embodies the high-energy power pop they'd been known for, usually clocking in at well under 3 minutes per tune (as all but one track here does). "Bon Voyage" are "Indigo" are another couple of quick and catchy nuggets, and "Lightning Mountain (NSFW)" is only not safe for work if your co-workers can't take power pop awesomeness. Welcome back, boys.


Monday, April 29, 2019

Late April Roundup.

Sofa City Sweetheart-Super(b) Exitos. Since we last checked in on Juan Antonio Lopez's Sofa City Sweetheart (looks at calendar, keeps flipping) in 2008, he's had a couple of sporadic releases in that time but Super(b) Exitos, his latest, is clearly his best and most cohesive effort since the debut EP. The frame of reference for his sound remains to me Elliott Smith at his most Beatlesque, and opener "The Same Old Song (You Were Always on My Mind)" has the kind of bouncy melody and ethereal vocals as Smith circa XO and the "la-la-la" refrain coupled with a nice guitar solo makes this track one of 2019's best to date. "Stanley Waited" is the kind of character miniature that the Kinks specialized in, and "Gwen" is another midtempo number which evokes Smith. Other standouts include lead single "Stop the Thinking" which channels Apples in Stereo, the bright pop of "In This Lifetime" and the lovely "Song for Alex". Lopez says in the release notes that the album is "his life's work" and the overall quality here reflects that and makes it a year-end list contender.


The Top Boost-Dreaming EP. These guys from Vancouver caught my ear with their 2016 debut EP, and they've followed that up with three new tracks here that I'm calling an EP since it's not a single from an album (for the pedantic, they call it an EP on their Bandcamp page but iTunes refers to it as a single). The title track is a wonderful, jangly tune that features background vocals from - you guessed it - Roger Joseph Manning Jr, the man who's everywhere these days. "I'll Be There" is an old-school pop tune with a waltz signature, and "She Will Stay" is the most "power pop" of the three tracks. With only seven total tracks released in three years, they apparently value quality over quantity and when the EPs are this good, who am I to argue?


Oscar Tango-Choice Morsels EP. No, this isn't a release from a dude named Oscar Tango, nor is it someone with the initials "O.T." using the NATO phonetic alphabet. Instead, it's four rocking tracks from Toronto's Ryan Farley that have a classic power pop sound. "London Station" has a catchy "but you can't get over that" chorus that recalls fellow Canadians Sloan, and "Harbour Lights" has a chorus that reminds me of Jay Ferguson's "Thunder Island" for some reason.


Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Mid April Roundup.

Eric Barao-Obsolete EP. The long wait is over as Eric Barao returns with his first new music since 2013. You might be forgiven if you've forgotten about him in the meantime but his self-titled debut was #4 on my year-end list then, and once again the ex-Cautions frontman has enlisted the help of the Boston power pop mafia with Mike Viola and Ducky Carlisle playing on the record among others. Also appearing is Roger Joseph Manning, Jr., the self-styled "Prince of Power Pop" who's become as ubiquitous on indie power pop releases these days as Michael McDonald was on the soft rock scene of the late 70s/early 80s. But enough of the CV, how are the songs? "Nothing to See" kicks things off in grand Beatlesque fashion with an melodica/wordless vocal opening before settling into swirling psychedelia and some fine keyboard work. The title track is a piano-based pop/rocker with vocals from Viola and would have fit nicely into one of his Candy Butchers albums, "Unhappy Ending" rocks steady, and the goofily-titled "My Pussy-Puss" finds Manning joining Barao on vocals in a Queen homage while closer "New Lifestyle" is breezy, melodic pop. This one's going to be tough to beat for EP of the year.


Nick Eng-Long Shot. The polar opposite of Eric Barao when it comes to time between releases, Nick Eng is back with his second alubm in a little over a year. His early 2018 self-titled debut placed at #15 on my year-end list, and Long Shot recaptures its 60s-influenced pop sound. The difference here is that the lyrical content is a little less feel-good than the debut but you'll likely be too busy humming along with the catchy tunes to notice. Top tracks: "For Tonight", "Too Good for Anyone", "Between You and Me" (which jangles like nobody's business) and "Maybe Tomorrow". No sophomore jinx here.


Supraluxe-Sweet and Sticky. Also back is Supraluxe, the band whose debut inspired me to start this blog back in 2006. They've been a bit up and down in my estimation over the years but I enjoyed their previous release and their latest captures their classic Big Star-meets-Elliott Smith classic sound quite often here. "The Answer", "Over the Sun" and "Rainbow on My Shoulder" in particular make me want to party like it's 2006 and bring the "sweet", while other "sticky" tracks like "You Got the Jam", "Honey Attraction" and "Chocolate Gravy" find themselves stretching out a bit (with the latter almost downright funky) to fine effect. If you want something different but still with sweet melodies, the 'luxe will make a fine dessert.


Monday, March 25, 2019

Late March Roundup.

Andrew Leahey & The Homestead-Airwaves. Nashville's Andrew Leahey had caught my ear with his previous two releases but his latest takes a big leap forward, finding the perfect sweet spot between power pop and Americana. With influences including Tom Petty, The Jayhawks and early Wilco, this album comes out of the blocks with its first five tracks being some of the best I've heard all year. "Start the Dance" does just that, and the five-track run culminates in "Queen and King of Smaller Things", a standout number co-written by site favorite Jon Latham. And the rest of the album ain't too shabby either with quality songs like "Moving Like the Weather" and "Karyn". Ill go out on a limb and say it's my favorite for #1 album of 2019 to date.


The Boys With the Perpetual Nervousness-Dead Calm. Named after a classic Feelies track, TBWTPN (as I will call them for short) is the latest project from Dropkick's Andrew Taylor who teams up here with Gonzalo Marcos of El Palacio de Linares for an excellent collection of 12-string jangle pop. Taylor has quite a back catalog between Dropkick and his solo work, but his team-up here with Marcos has definitely brought out the best in him with "TBWTPN" (not the Feelies cover) and "Anything at All" a pair of tracks as good as he's released in years; the latter could have been a big hit in 1967. If you're a fan of either Dropkick or Byrdsian jangle pop, this one's a must.


Cassettes-Wild Heart. They say power pop is a dying genre, a long way away from its heyday in the 60s and 70s (and even its brief 90s revival). But as long as bands like Cassettes keep popping up, power pop will be here to stay. While this Philly band released an EP back in 2014, Wild Heart is their full-length debut and is classic power pop with a capital "C". Singing about girls and movies and songs, their high-energy tracks are full of hooks and crunchy guitars, with "She Gets What She Wants", "Born in the 90s" and "American Movies" the highlights here.


Friday, March 08, 2019

Early March Roundup.

The Dates-Ask Again Later. To paraphrase the old saying, you can't judge an album by its cover, and while the debut from this LA band's cover looks like your typical adenoidal punk-poppers it's not. Instead, this is a beautifully melodic Big Star/Teenage Fanclub-inspired collection of jangle pop that's one of the year's early best. "Any Other Nite" would fit right in on Bandwagonesque, and "Star" would do likewise on #1 Record or Radio City. And get lost in "Summer Girls", probably the quintessential song title for a band like this.


The Popravinas-Willy Nilly. The Popravinas have always struck me as the West Coast equivalent of New Jersey's The Successful Failures, as both bands serve up a mix of rock, power pop, alt-country and roots rock filtered through a humorous yet sardonic outlook. On their latest, the band (pronounced POPE-ravinas) find themselves "Talkin' Out Loud", hanging out in "Tim's Basement", and "Almost Sick" while finding a "Hard Way (to Make an Easy Living)". It's all very fun, and very catchy.


Lund Bros-"Loser" 1993-97 - Remasters and Rarities. Back before they were indie power pop darlings, the Lund Bros started out in the early 90s as a melodic bank who caught attention of Geffen Records, who funded their recordings for a "speculation deal". Geffen rejected them (their loss) for sounding "too much like The Beatles" (as if that isn't a feature and not a bug). Rather than changed their sound for the man, they kept on keepin' on and now they've released those unearthed gems from that era. Despite Geffen's misgivings this is actually more of a harder melodic rock sound than their recent stuff, but still excellent in a Cheap Trick sort of way.

CD Baby

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Late February Roundup.

Ronny Tibbs-Lone Fry. Power poppers and indie poppers unite! - Detroit's Ronny Tibbs has given us 2019's first truly great release. Reminiscent of the likes of Nilsson, Brian Wilson and (a less frenetic-sounding) Bryan Scary, Lone Fry is a pop tour-de-force that opens with the brilliant "30-Year-Old Boy", a piano-based number complete with strings, backing vocals and a soaring melody. "All She Wrote" is first-rate guitar pop which recalls some of The Smithereens' moodier numbers, while "Watching Annie Over" sounds like a more fleshed-out Guided by Voices tune. "Mona Lisa" is another pretty piano-based track, and "Picture of Us" is where the Bryan Scary comparison comes in. Tibbs even throws in a couple of electronic-based danceable tracks with "Sunlight" and "Honourole" and then closes with the conventional power pop of "Breakout". Just call him Mr. Tibbs.


Pale Hollow-Pilots. Still catching up on 2018 with this late-year release which found its way into my top 100 but warrants a special mention here because aside from being a fine album, it's the first we've heard from Cleveland's Michael Allen in 11 years. His 2007 debut was a great collection of folk/rock tunes with classic rock instrumentation which recalled the English countryside circa 1971, and the long-awaited followup continues in the same vein. "Can't You Hear the Highway" opens the album and encapsulates this sound perfectly, its easy-going melody getting a rock treatment. Tracks like "Trouble and "Empire" are almost bucolic, while the title track and especially "Flame On" are catchy uptempo rockers that would sound at home alongside The Kinks and The Faces. An enjoyable listen, although you may find yourself growing sideburns after you're done.


Mark Crozer-My Home is a New Country. Whenever I compose one of these posts, I always do a quick search of my archives to see when the last time I posted on the artist. To my complete surprise I realized I've never featured a Mark Crozer album here despite him releasing several this decade, most of which made my year-end lists, so it's time to remedy this with his latest release. For the unfamiliar, Crozer is a classic power popper who's also spent time as a touring member of The Jesus and Mary Chain and by all means check out his back catalog. On the new one he grabs your attention out of the blocks with "Shock to the Heart", which reminds me of BOC's "Burnin' for You" with its prominent bassline and radio-ready melody. "Where I Come From" is another moody gem, "Turnabout Beach" is a slow-burner that'll grown on you, and "Lay With Me" channels solo Alex Chilton.


Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Early February Roundup.

John Rooney-Joy. John Rooney may hail from Australia, but his latest release is southern-fried power pop mixed by Mitch Easter and produced by Don Dixon. Rooney, who in the previous decade released music under the Coronet Blue name, comes swinging out of the block with "Don't Give Up Now", a fun tune featuring horns and having an R&B feel, "Grant Me Peace" has a Van Morrison vibe, and "What Could Have Been" and "Delicious" bring the pop. Fans of a more soulful power pop sound will want to check this one out.


Four Star Riot-Daylight. Catching up on a 2018 release which made my top 100, Four Star Riot hail from my backyard of Clearwater, Florida but it's not local favoritism that finds them here, it's ten tracks of top-notch pop/rock. There's plenty to like here - from the midtempo Petty-esque opener "Slayed Pretender" to the Gin Blossoms-influenced "Almost Daylight" to the 80s rock of "Oxygen" (which features assistance from Roger Joseph Manning Jr., who seems to get around a lot these days). Other standouts include the dense guitar rock of "Tunnel Vision" and the bright pop of "Anyone".


Roving Reporter-Joie de Vivre EP. Roving Reporter is Seattle-by-way-of-New Orleans's Brett Barrilleaux new project and this 4-track EP is a solid debut of Elliott Smith-meets-Wilco indie pop/rock. "Forget About Me" recalls Smith's poppier offerings circa XO and Figure 8, while "Patterson Brown" is a catchy keyboard-based number. And "Another Note" is a warm, lovely track that goes down smooth. As the cliche goes, I'm looking forward to the full-length here.


Todd Lewis Kramer-January EP. Todd Lewis Kramer is nominally country, or Americana, because he sings with a bit of a twang but his new EP is pretty much ear candy pop (or Popicana, if you prefer). "All of My Days" is one of my first favorite songs of 2019, a buoyant tune which the Gary Louris version of The Jayhawks would be at home with and "She Knows" is another uptempo pop confection, while the closing "Do I Ever Cross Your mind?" is from the Ryan Adams playbook of dusky ballads.


Wednesday, January 16, 2019

New Year roundup.

Donnie Vie-Beautiful Things. I'm kind of hestitant to even mention this album since it's not available now - it falls into what is kind of a nether region of being released as it started on Pledge Music. It's been released to those who pledged and as a result has been circulated on the internet, but you can't just go out any buy it right now. The same thing applies to the Jeff Whalen record, which I ranked in my top 10 of 2018 but is now being released to the general public as a normal release February 15. So is it a 2018 record or a 2019 record?

Getting back to Beautiful Things, it would have made my 2018 list as I came across it in last couple of weeks of December but I guess I can now put it on the 2019 list. It's assured of being there because the latest solo effort from the former Enuff Z'Nuff frontman is a melodic delight which takes his old band's amalgamation of The Beatles and heavy metal and put its thumb on the Beatles side of the scale. The title track is colored-glasses-psychedelia, "Plain Jane" is driving power pop, and "I Could Save the World" is both nostalgia for, and celebration of, classic rock with Roger Joseph Manning Jr. contributing on piano and strings. Make sure you find it, whenever and wherever it comes out.

Sam Hoffman-Fairweather. Another late 2018 release I missed, this jangly gem definitely would have been on the list. Reminiscent of bands like Teenage Fanclub and Dropkick, Nashville's Hoffman delivers a consistently tuneful debut. Highlights: "December", "Glencrest Lane", "All the Places"


Baby Scream-Things You Can Say to a Stranger EP. No year-of-release controversy on this one (it came out January 7): this new EP is the first we've heard in a while from Juan Pablo Mazzola a/k/a Baby Scream and it's good to have him back. "Aching Life" is the kind of jaded Lennonesque number he's known for, while "Fake it Till You Make It" is a minor-key marvel. The EP highlight is the closer "Somebody Kill Me Now", a classic upbeat-melody-hiding-dark-lyrics tune that's first-rate guitar pop.


Thursday, January 03, 2019

The Absolute Powerpop Top 15 EPs and Compilations of 2018.

TOP 15 EPs

1. Checkpoint Charley-Great Jedi Mind Trick
2. Roger Joseph Manning Jr.-Glamping
3. Zander Michigan-Kitchen Sink #2
4. Smash Palace-Right as Rain
5. Hot Nun-Born to Blaze
6. David Woodard-I Used to Be Cool
7. V Sparks-Moderne Life
8. Cupid's Carnival-Clapham Junction
9. The Metal Babies-Goodbye!
10. Mozley-Twelve
11. Crocodile Tears-Tuned Out
12. Jeff Litman-Crowded Hour
13. Nicholas Altobelli-The Day-Olds
14. Tad Overbaugh-Demons in the Dust
15. Andy Reed & Jason Reed-Make Your Move


I really don't have a list, but there are three I want to single out from the year for special mention since they don't (normally) qualify for the main list. All three are from some of the hardest-working people in power pop, and I'm thankful they keep on doing what they're doing.

First is Andrew Curry's Paul Williams tribute, White Lace & Promises, which I featured here in the last month.

Next is Keith Klingensmith's Futureman Records Matthew Sweet tribute, Altered Sweet.

And finally David Bash's annual International Pop Overthrow 3-CD extravaganza. Although I didn't write it up this year, it's always a reliable compilation of power pop artists new and not-so-new and there's a good chance your next favorite band or musician is on there somewhere. Speaking of David, as always I'm looking forward to his year-end lists.

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

The Absolute Powerpop Top 100 Albums of 2018, #1-50.

Happy New Year everyone! Here's the top half of the year-end list:

1. Starbelly-Four
2. Rayland Baxter-Wide Awake
3. Danny Wilkerson-Wilkerson
4. Bill Lloyd-Working the Long Game
5. Nick Piunti-Temporary High
6. Creamer-Creamer
7. Jeff Whalen-Ten More Rock Super Hits
8. Dave Sheinin-First Thing Tomorrow
9. Bird Streets-Bird Streets
10. David Myhr-Lucky Day
11. Jeremy Messersmith-Late Stage Capitalism
12. Painted Doll-Painted Doll
13. Checkpoint Charley-Pomp, Twaddle & Bombast
14. Ken Sharp-Beauty in the Backseat
15. Nick Eng-Nick Eng
16. Valley Lodge-Fog Machine
17. Rob Bonfligio-Trouble Again
18. Adrian Whitehead-Nerd from the Suburbs
19. P. Hux-This is the One
20. Astral Drive-Astral Drive
21. The Late Show-Sha La La
22. The Junior League-Eventually is Now
23. Belle Adair-Tuscumbia
24. Caper Clowns-A Salty Taste to the Lake
25. Jake Shears-Jake Shears
26. The Davenports-Don't Be Mad at Me
27. Dot Dash-Proto Retro
28. Greg Pope-A Few Seconds of Fame
29. Linus of Hollywood-Cabin Life
30. Simon Love-Sincerely S, Love X
31. Sloan-12
32. Tim Jackson-Better Late Than Never
33. Jack Drag-2018
34. Family of the Year-Goodbye Sunshine, Hello Nighttime
35. Two Sheds Jackson-Some Kinda Life
36. Three Hour Tour-You Never Know
37. Caddy-Ten Times Four
38. Cullen Omori-The Diet
39. Knit Delicate-Shelby
40. Aaron Fox & The Reliables-In Transit
41. Darryl Rahn-Making Strangers
42. Rooftop Screamers-Vol. 1
43. Matt Jaffe-Blast Off
44. Streetcar Conductors-The Very Best of Streetcar Conductors
45. Kai Danzberg-Pop-Up Radio
46. Michael Simmons-First Days of Summer
47. Chris Richards & The Subtractions-Peaks and Valleys
48. William Duke-Quatro
49. The Well Wishers-A View from Above
50. Hurry-Every Little Thought