Thursday, August 08, 2019

Early August Roundup.

Erk-When Night Meets Day. Erk is Berlin's Erk Wiemer, and although this is his third album (the first two came in out 2005 and 2009) he's new to me and I'm sure to you. What makes Erk worth your acquaintance is his unabashed pop sound, the kind of classicist pop that incorporates everything from Bacharach to the Brill Building to Motown to the likes of The Beach Boys and ELO, all of which is in service of the catchy tune. Leadoff track "Living My Life Without You" captures his essence, with Motown horns, Beatlesque guitars and an uptempo beat. "Taking My Time" finds Erk dueting with Diane Weigmann which recalls Matthew Sweet teaming up with Susanna Hoffs except this is an original 60s-inspired tune. "Malibu Beach's in Berlin" is Brian Wilson meets Paul McCartney, "Move On" seems ready to break out into "Happy Together" at any time, "I'm Standing Here" is Nilsson by way of the Left Banke and I was looking for a Bacharach/David writing credit on "Better Sad Than Dead". A joyous pop tour de force, When Night Meets Day is one of the more fun albums you'll listen to this year.

iTunes



Matthew Milia-Alone at St. Hugo. Alone at St. Hugo is the solo debut of Detroit's Matthew Milia, better known as the frontman of the Americana band Frontier Ruckus, a band I had enjoyed over the years. Here Milia trades in the rootsier sound of FR for a more pop-oriented direction and the result is an unqualified success. Milia has said the album pays tribute to bands such as Big Star, Teenage Fanclub, and The Lemonheads, and opener "Alive at the Same Time" is prime indie pop that sounds like a happier, better-adjusted version of Elliott Smith. "Puncture" also draws the Smith comparison as it's densely epic in scope and length, the amusingly-titled "Sometimes I Feel Like My Arm's Falling Off" would be at home on a Pernice Brothers album, "Attention Students" is a power pop paean to lost love and old school days, and in the end Milia finds himself "Abruptly Old and Caffeinated". The lyrics are clever as well, a step above the usual fare.

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Breakfast in America-Side Hustle! This Edmonton band named after Supertramp's classic album has given us a quality debut EP. They describe their sound as "California surf grunge" but I hear more of a quirky pop sensibility as shown on "Mean Old Man" which is kind of Tom Petty meets Beck while "Pizza Boy" could pass for a less art-conscious version of Spoon. The real highlight here is "San Juan Capistrano", a pleasing power pop number that fits somewhere in between Petty and The Jayhawks.

iTunes


Friday, July 26, 2019

Late July roundup.

Todd Herfindal-Two Track Mind. It's been a long wait but ex-Meadows frontman Todd Herfindal is back with a new album, his first since 2013's Right Here Now. As always Herfindal is ably assisted by longtime collaborator Rich McCulley, who plays on and co-wrote several of the tracks here, and Two Track Mind is another collection of his roots-infused power pop. Opener "Bright White Light" has a "Wanted Dead or Alive" vibe to it, and "Muddy Water" is a stomping rocker while "Lucky One" has the signature Tom Petty-influenced sound of The Meadows. Other standouts include the midtempo "Bound for the Sun" and the straight-up power pop of "Sweet and Low (Get That)". A welcome return.

iTunes



Scott Gagner-Hummingbird Heart. Hummingbird Heart is the latest from Scott Gagner and a fine followup to 2017's Pins & Needles. Gagner remains one of today's more thoughtful singer-songwriters and this latest collection is another example. His songs range from folk/rock to power pop and once again the legendary (and indefatigable, judging by how many records he shows up on) Ken Stringfellow of The Posies collaborates. Leadoff track and lead single "Bella" definitely leans to the power pop side of the equation and it wouldn't be out of place on a Posies album while "Baby Gets What Baby Wants" is another catchy number complete with handclaps. "Other People" is a real highlight, a wonderful folk/rock song which gradually builds to a peak, complete with piano and a late guitar solo, the title track is a languid beauty with sweet backing vocals from Omega Rae, and the roots rock of "You Can't Break a Broken Heart" belongs on a late-70s playlist somewhere. And that's just the first half of this 13-track album, which should place highly on my year-end list.

iTunes



Farrington-Pictures of Pretty Things. LA's Farrington is one of the more exciting new artists to come across my radar this year and their debut album is a love letter to glam 70s rock/pop (and mastered by Andy Reed). After a couple of throat-clearing rockers to start the album the fun begins with tracks influenced by Elton John ("Stones"), Queen ("When I Was You", "The Love Show"), Jeff Lynne/ELO ("Hey Mr. Rock'N'Roll"), Jellyfish ("Stupid Plastic War", "Maybe if You Leave Her", "Blue"), and even some Ken Sharp ("Long Way to Nowhere", "Violins"). If you're looking for a new favorite band, you can do a lot worse than Farrington.

iTunes



Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Early July roundup.

Xavier Calvet-Crosswinds. Spaniard Xavier Cavlet's debut album Firebird caught my year a couple of years ago, but nothing in it prepared me for this outstanding followup as he's traded in Firebird's rootsier sound for a janglier 80s pop sound. There's not much jangle though in the opener "The Runner" which lives up to the driving nature of its title and builds to a pulsating crescendo, but "Lovers for All Time" and especially "Hard to Believe It" split the difference between The Smiths and Tom Petty. Although the momentum flags a bit mid-album, "Get a Job" and "Windy Winter" restore the power pop, the Jayhawks-esque "Meet Me in the Crowd" returns to Calvet's roots, and the ballad "Old Days" closes things with a touch of Brian Wilson.

iTunes



Static in Verona-The Loud Nothing. Speaking of stylistic shifts, the last few albums from Rob Merz's Static in Verona have drifted from his power pop roots to more of an esoteric dream-pop sound. With The Loud Nothing, Merz opts for a more direct approach in his sound while still retaining the signature Static in Verona sound. The title track informs of this shift right away with its wall-of-sound production in service of a wonderfully melodic number, while the urgent "Ruin the Riot" lets you know that the more direct sound is no fluke and the hook-filled "Fade to Gray" leaves you catching your breath. Merz' eclecticism hasn't gone, though - "Daggers" (with ethereal vocals from Seraphina) finds him mixing the electronic and experimental with his pop, as does the cacophonous "Stuck With Silver". With the pendulum having swung back a bit, this might be the quintessential Static in Verona album.

iTunes



Paul Bertolino-Poseur. Paul Bertolino is another artist who had a fine 2017 album (Toy Box) that I didn't write about at the time who's back with a new release that's compelled me to mention. Bertolino can bring the power pop, but his true muse is 70s AM radio and the sax-infused, R&B-influenced "On the Downslide" opens Poseur in suitably funky (and catchy) fashion, and "Parade" wouldn't be out of place on a Jackson 5 or an Osmonds album. Meanwhile, the power ballad "Ghosted" finds Bertolino in full falsetto a la Phillip Bailey, and the flute and sax on "All the Way to Chicago" really does transport you back to 1975. There's straight-ahead power pop to be found here too with "Pressing On", "Tap Out" and "Doll". But if you grew up on radio that one minute played Stevie Wonder or Billy Preston one minute and Paul McCartney or Todd Rundgren the next, Poseur will get you in that spirit again.

iTunes

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Mid-June roundup.

The Lunar Laugh-Goodnight Noises Everywhere. Jared Lekites and Connor Anderson team up once again as The Lunar Laugh with their third full-length (and first on the Kool Kat label), and Goodnight Noises Everywhere finds them emphasizing the pop side of their previous power pop/folk-rock mix. Lekites' "Welcome to the World" welcomes us to the album with its bouncy, Brit-poppy sheen while Anderson's "Old New Kid in Town" nods to their earlier folk/rock sound but also ups the BPMs; in fact, tracks like "Another Casualty" and "Waiting for a Sign" find them in borderline 1980s synth-pop territory. But there are plenty of less-modern sounding tracks that are a delight here as well, especially the warm, front-porch vibe of "Tell Me a Story" and the power pop of lead single "By the Light of the Living Room". Something for everyone.

Kool Kat



The Bishop's Daredevil Stunt Club-End Over End. This Chicago band has been making records for the past decade but they've finally perfected their Sloan/Matthew Sweet-style power pop this time around as End Over End might have been more accurately titled Hit After Hit if this were the 1970s. "Get Up Get Up" is the quintessential power pop album opener, with its big guitars, big melodies and exhortations to get up, while "Starpower" channels Cheap Trick and The Cars. "The Henry Norman Hotel" has a touch of Guided by Voices in it (although it's twice the length of a typical GbV track), "Lifeguard" brings the Sloan comparisons, "Burndown at Sundown" rocks hard, and "Christine You're Mean" will have you reaching to hold up your lighter (or more realistically today, your cellphone light) in the dark. Primo power pop, in the classic sense.

iTunes



Dinky-Open Letters. Dinky hails from Birmingham, England and their second album (I'll have to go back and listen to the first) is first-rate Britpop, most similar to Oasis when they were rocking a bit more and not openly aping The Beatles. Standout tracks include the gritty yet melodic opener "The Romance in Murder", the poptastic "Jennifer Against the World" and the 90s power pop of "Lights Go Out". They also show a great facility for the slower numbers too - the piano-and-strings ballad "Magnetic Fields" and the lush-sounding "More Than I Was Before" are tuneful treats as well.

iTunes

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.

iTunes



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.

iTunes



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.

iTunes



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.

iTunes


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.

iTunes



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.

iTunes



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.

iTunes



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.

iTunes



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.

Bandcamp



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.

Bandcamp