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.