Tuesday, January 05, 2021

The Absolute Powerpop Top 100 of 2020, #1-50.

And without further ado, here's the top half of the list in reverse order to heighten the suspense.

The Top EPs of 2020 list will be up in the next few days.

50. The Breakup Society-Before the Intervention Ruined Everything
49. Bryde-The Volume of Things
48. Nick Costa-Tell My Mother I Love Her
47. Paul Melancon-The Get Go's Action Hour!
46. Kev Sherry-Foxy Orthodoxy
45. Eric Harrison-Gratitude
44. Sunbourne Rd-Teenage Lyrics
43. Mo Troper-Natural Beauty
42. Joel Sarakula-Companionship
41. Nick Pipitone-Thiensville
40. Sadler Vaden-Anybody Out There?
39. Nada Surf-Never Not Together
38. Painted Doll-How to Draw Fire
37. Blitzen Trapper-Holy Smokes Future Jokes
36. Brian Jay Cline-Power Lines in Paradise/Love & Quarantine/True Lies & Other Stories*
35. Mason Summitt-Negative Space
34. Brian Bringelson-Desperate Days
33. Ezrat-Carousel
32. Kyle Vincent-Whatever it Takes
31. Rob Martinez-Maybe Miss America
30. Eugene Edwards-A Week of Sundays
29. Marshall Holland-Paper Airplane
28. Dan Israel-Social Distance Anxiety Disorder
27. Brendan Benson-Dear Life
26. Andrew Weiss & Friends-The Golden Age of Love & Chemistry
25. Mike Viola-Godmuffin
24. Eric Hutchinson-Class of 98
23. Dave Caruso-Radiophonic Supersonic
22. Greg Pope-Wishing on a Dark Star
21. Glenn Thomas-Reassure Me There's a Window
20. Steve Balbi-I Think I Know for Sure
19. Surrender Human-Surrender Human
18. Nite Sobs-Do the Sob!
17. Dead Stars-Never Not Here
16. Rob Fetters-Ship Shake
15. Nick Frater-Fast & Loose
14. The Coffis Brothers-In the Cuts
13. Ryan Tanner-Crushed Romantic
12. High on Stress-Hold Me In
11. Dolour-The Royal We
10. JP Cregan-Twenty
9. The Szuters-Sugar
8. The Suitesixteen-Mine Would Be the Sun
7. Warren Zanes-The Biggest Bankrupt City in the World#
6. Taylor Young Band-Mercury Transit
5. The Foreign Films-Ocean Moon
4. Coke Belda-Coke Belda 4
3. The Lees of Memory-Moon Shot
2. Nick Piunti & The Complicated Men-Downtime
1. Rick Hromdaka-Better Days

(Note: In case you're looking for Joe Giddings' Better from Here, which was ranked highly on some other lists, it originally came out in 2016 and was ranked #39 in my list that year)

*rather than have him dominate my EP list, I treated his 3 2020 EPs as one album and ranked it accordingly

#this was released to his PledgeMusic (or whatever crowd-funding platform he used) subscribers in 2018 but not released publicly until this year

Friday, January 01, 2021

The Absolute Powerpop Top 100 of 2020, #51-100

Here we go. Although I haven't been doing the usual reviews lately, it doesn't mean I'm still not listening to new music. So here is the back end of the 2020 Top 100 list with the front end to follow in the next day or two. The usual list caveats apply: I liked all of these albums - in fact, I liked a lot more than 100 albums released this year, so if your favorite seems too low, it doesn't mean I didn't like it, and it also probably means I've listened to a lot more stuff than you have. And of course, everyone has their own preferences, so no two lists will be alike. Anyway enough throat clearing, here's #51-100:

51. The Well Wishers-Shelf Life
52. The Nines-Reflections
53. Skydragster-Skydragster & The Hit Song Writing Machine
54. Gal Gun-Critical Hit
55. Intercooler-Read the Room
56. Theo Katzman-Modern Johnny Sings: Songs in the Age of Vibe
57. Diamond Hands-III
58. The Great Affairs-Everybody Moves, Nobody Gets Hurt
59. The Electric Soft Parade-Stages
60. Dave Kuchler-It's Pronounced...
61. Goodman-Goodman vs the Nostalgia Machine
62. Dropkick-The Scenic Route
63. Kiwi Jr-Football Money
64. Toleco Dunes-The Lost Girl
65. Trevor Beld Jimenez-I Like it Here
66. Eyelids-The Accidental Falls
67. The Yum Yums-For Those About to Pop
68. Tommy Ray-First Hits Free
69. Librarians With Hickeys-Long Overdue
70. Travel Lanes-On
71. Mothboxer-Accelerator
72. Tom Curless & The 46%-Almost Ready for the Future
73. The Tummies-9:30 Girl
74. Reno Bo-You Can See it All from Here
75. Bread & Butter-Psycho World
76. Cupid's Carnival-Color-Blind
77. Butch Walker-American Love Story
78. Icecream Hands-No Weapon But Love
79. Ryan Hamilton & The Harlequin Ghosts-Nowhere to Go But Everywhere
80. The Dowling Poole-See You, See Me
81. Open Sound-Album 1
82. The Invisible Strings-Kicking the Sky
83. Sanglorians-Odalisque
84. Ken Yates-Quiet Talkers
85. The Weeklings-3
86. Alpine Subs-Sweethaven
87. Steve Savona-20 Year Session
88. Silver Sun-Switzerland
89. Keith Slettedahl-You Know You Know
90. Devin Farney-Mega Deja Vu
91. Circa Waves-Sad Happy
92. Bill Lloyd-Don't Kill the Messenger
93. The Vapour Trails-Golden Sunshine
94. The Bye Bye Blackbirds-Boxer at Rest
95. Ward White-Leonard at the Audit
96. The Roseline-Good / Grief
97. El Goodo-Zombie
98. Anton Barbeau-Kenny vs Thrust
99. Peter Baldrachi-Slow Recovery
100. Chris Church-Backwards Compatible

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Year-End Lists

Although my individual reviews have gone on hiatus, I do plan on making the year-end lists. They'll probably appear between Christmas & New Year's.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Rick Hromadka-Better Days.

The former Maple Mars frontman is back with his second proper solo release after 2014's Trippin' Dinosaurs and it's a welcome return to form. Enlisting help from a wide variety of current-day power pop luminaries too many to mention (see his site for a full listing), Hromadka says "I'm Here to Entertain" and entertain he does with tracks such as that one which has a "McCartney goes to the circus" feel, "Better Days", which has the classic Maple Mars sound, and the heavy ELO-influenced pop of "Searchlight". Great stuff, and the best power pop album of the second half of 2020 so far.

Get it at his site. And listen to the whole thing below:

Friday, August 28, 2020

Late August Roundup.

Marshall Holland-Paper Airplane. San Francisco's Marshall Holland is back with his first pop album in 6 years, and it's a welcome return. Holland's brand of winsome pop draws on bands like The Posies and artists like Brendan Benson and Ken Sharp. Some of these songs speak to our world today, like the driving, Attractions-era Elvis Costello stomp of "Our Fate" and the anti-Trump "Whatcha Gonna Do". Elsewhere he gives us timeless-sounding tracks like "When the Rain Comes" and "Waiting for the Peace & Love" which display his effortless-sounding pop as well as the McCartney-esque, largely acoustic "When a Hand Holds a Bird". And the sophisticated 70s singer-songwriter title track recalls Seth Swirsky. Another best of 2020 contender.


J.P. Cregan-Twenty. We've waited even longer for a new J.P. Cregan full-length as it's been 8 years since Man Overboard, and it's also great to have him back. Twenty is a concept album (or to use today's preferred term, a "song cycle") about his 20 years of marriage but you don't need to follow the concept to enjoy his sweet pop confections. "History of Man" is a great opener with melody and drive, and "In California" sounds like a old folk song brought to life with its martial beat and harmonica. "Pay to Play" is the kind of upbeat power pop you get from Michael Carpenter and Cliff Hillis, and "The Belle of USC" recalls the skinny tie sound of the late 70s. And "Fern, Destroyer of Worlds!" could almost be a lost Guided by Voices track. There's not a bad track here (I'm not counting the interstitial bits).


Robby Miller-Robby Miller EP. I don't know much about this guy and I forgot how I stumbled on to this EP about six weeks ago, but it's good stuff and "Lovesick Again" is the kind of silly pop that gets stuck in your head for good. "Freya" and "Take a Smile" are classic guitar pop, and "This Guy" and "Perfect Form" are perfectly fine ballads, but the gooey pop of "Lovesick Again" and its 80s-sitcom theme song sound is something else. You'll be hearing "Can't go in to work/whole body hurts/guess who's lovesick again?" on repeat in your brain if you dare listen.


Friday, August 07, 2020

Early August Roundup.

The Szuters-Sugar. If the name "The Szuters" rings a bell for you, it's maybe because you became aware of them in the original incarnation in the mid-90s, where they became quite popular in Japan (a power pop cliche, I know). They later changed their name to Magna-Fi and went to a harder, modern/alt rock sound, played Ozzfest, supported Sevendust on tour and broke up by the end of the decade. Well brothers Mike and CJ Szuter reformed The Szuters, came back with a classic power pop sound and the byproduct Sugar is one of 2020's more pleasant surprises in a year of unpleasant surprises. Opener "Two We Will Always Be" has an early-Beatles sound, the piano-based "Don't Lie to Me" has a bit of Todd Rundgren to it, and "Baby Don't You Be So Blue" channels The Raspberries. Elsewhere "The Things That You Said" has a Jon Brion-in-Jellyfish vibe and closer "The Most Beautiful Girl" should have been chiming out of AM transistor radios in the 70s. This is Power Pop with two capital Ps, and though the general sound may be familiar, the songs themselves are fresh and exciting. Easily a top 10 candidate for the year-end list.


The Lees of Memory-Moon Shot. Superdrag was one of the great power pop bands of all time, spanning the 90s through the mid-2000s. The creative force behind the band, John Davis, has had various projects solo and otherwise since that time but lately has teamed up with Brandon Fisher as The Lees of Memory over the last several years. While the Lees have had several singles, EPs and even a double album which have all been just fine, Moon Shot is the first Lees release that stands with the best of Superdrag. Hearing the crunchy guitars and melodies of "Lonely Everywhere" along with Davis's voice will bring you back to those days, as will the take-no-prisoners heavy pop of "Crocodile Tears". The spacey rock and indelible chorus of "Free & Easy" is a real triumph as is the loud-but-languid "No Floor No Ceiling". This Moon Shot is definitely more Apollo 11 than Apollo 13.


Nite Sobs-Do the Sob!. This Austin, Texas 3-piece has a real throwback sound and Do the Sob! is 13 tracks of catchy-as-hell pop which all clock in under 2:46. They bill themselves as "skinny ties and four eyes" (all 3 members are bespectacled) and that's just about enough to describe their sound given their debt to the likes of Buddy Holly and Marshall Crenshaw. Hooks and harmonies galore and all of these songs are excellent, but my two favorites are "I Need to Hear It" and "Vowelerie"; your mileage may vary. So ignore The Pretenders and start your Sobbing.


Monday, July 13, 2020

Mid-July Roundup.

Dolour-The Royal We. Shane Tutmarc is back with the first new Dolour record in over a decade and it's one of 2020's best to date. The Royal We is filled with great pop tunes, none more so than leadoff track and first single "Yes and No" which as I'm fond of saying would be a hit in alternative universe. That's followed by "The Snake Eye", fittingly titled because its melody will slither into your brain and the extremely catchy "Drunk Dial". Other standouts include the bossa-nova influenced "Wake Up the Sun", featuring the vocals of Luella, the sardonic "I Can Quit at Any Time", the 70s smooth R&B-influenced "I'm Over It" and the grandiose pop of "Words I Thought You Said". First-rate adult pop for fans of Cliff Hillis, Michael Carpenter as well as softer poppers like Kyle Vincent or Brent Cash.


Dead Stars-Never Not Here. From the sleek sophisticated pop of Dolour we switch to the harder-edged, Replacements/Guided by Voices-style power pop of Brooklyn's Dead Stars. This is their fourth full-length but the first they've caught my ear and they marry melody to loud guitars in fine fashion. The opening duo "Dreams Don't Come True" and "Hold My Breath" will appeal to the Superdrag fan in you while "Cool Summer" is a classic grunge rocker, "February Ghost" does the quiet/loud Pixies/Nirvana thing well and "Story of Your Life" has a bit of "Come as You Are"'s DNA in it. Roll down the windows and crank it loud.


Jim Trainor-Glass Half Full EP. When you think about it, Glass Half Full is a great title for an EP because it describes how one might feel about a really good EP as opposed to a full-length album. And this is a really good EP of classic Beatlesque power pop. "The Only One" reminds me of George Harrison's poppier moments, "Claire" features a stacatto lead-in that's classic to the genre (think "Getting Better"), the midtempo "Sometimes" has a bit of Lennon in it, and closer "Dolly Rae" almost builds into a mini "Hey Jude". Good stuff, and not every day you get fresh power pop from Idaho.