Saturday, July 29, 2006

Cheap Trick back on eMu (sort of).

Cheap Trick's new disc, Rockford, came and went from eMusic in a matter of weeks, if not days, upon its release last month, and no reason was ever given. So it was interesting that today a CD single of "Perfect Stranger" appeared on the site (it's two tracks with "Welcome to the World" being the other). Perhaps Rockford won't be far behind in returning.

Friday, July 28, 2006

CD of the Day, 7/28/06: Jeff Larson-Swimming In The Make Believe.

Some of you who perused my top 33 1/3 of 2006 may have noticed a few of the discs didn't have links to other posts on the site extolling their virtues. One of those was Jeff Larson's Swimming In The Make Believe, which clocked in at #24.

Rather than try to be eloquent and get into a song-by-song breakdown, I'll just keep it simple. This is the best soft pop, California pop, sunshine pop, Eagles/America/Beach Boys-influenced record I've heard in a long, long time. One great track after another, and if any of this sounds remotely enticing to you, buy the disc. There's no pretension here, no grand artistic statement, just a disc with cover art that has the sun setting over the ocean and song titles like "You Remind Me of the Sun", "Southaways", "Summer Fades" and "Leaving California". There's going to be a new America album coming out later this year, and if it's half as good as Swimming In The Make Believe, it'll be comeback album of the year. Meanwhile, it's no coincidence America's duo of Gerry Buckley and Dewey Bunnell play on the record as well as Chicago's Robert Lamm. So if it's a pedigree you need, that should say a lot as well.

Where to sample? The best place is probably either at CD Baby or Not Lame. It's not on eMusic right now, but his EP release from last year on the same label, Two Part Confessional, is, so I imagine it's a matter of time before it's available there. So if you want The Eagles without the misogyny or America without the muskrats, Swimming In The Make Believe is the disc for you.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

CD of the Day, 7/27/06: Bob Evans-Suburban Songbook

Bob Evans is the nom de plume of Jebediah's Kevin Mitchell. If you're not familiar with Jebediah, don't fret - neither am I. Mitchell (whom I'll refer to here on out as Evans) apparently uses the Bob Evans name when performing solo to differentiate his solo work from his band work. Either that, or he's a big fan of the restaurant. Naming issue aside, he could be called Satan McHitler for all I care, given how good Suburban Songbook is - I'll probably end up having 50-60 discs worthy of my top 20 this year, but this one will definitely have a spot.

Although Evans hails from Perth, Australia, Suburban Songbook was recorded in Nashville and produced by Brad Jones. That last tidbit alone should tell you most of what you need to know - Jones has been the producer of some great albums in recent years (Josh Rouse's Nashville, David Mead's Tangerine, the last few Shazam albums, I could go on) Also helping out is ex-Wilco drummer Ken Coomer. It's not that Coomer is the world's greatest drummer, but somehow when he's involved the records seem to be great (pre-YHF Wilco, Swag, The Latebirds).

With this pedigree, Suburban Songbook does not disappoint. Opener and leadoff single "Don't You Think It's Time" is a wonderful acoustic ballad, and like with so many Aussie artists, there's a definite Neil Finn influence. Next up is the album's standout, 3:29 of pure jangle called "Friend", and that's followed by "Nowhere With You", a bouncy Beatlesque number. "Sadness & Whiskey" is a great midtempo number equal parts Rouse and Mead, and "Don't Walk Alone" would have fit right into place on either of the last two Warren Zanes discs. Meanwhile, "Comin' Around" is straight up power pop, and the "hidden track", "Me and My Friend", ventures into Elliott Smith territory. Suburban Songbook is truly singer-songwriter pop of the highest order.

Here's an mp3:


That comes from his myspace page, where you can check out three other tracks as well. Unfortunately, for those outside Australia, there's a catch: you won't find the record in stores or from domestic e-tailers, as this is an Aussie-only release so far. (eMu folks, don't get excited - the Bob Evans on there is a different artist). I normally don't advocate grabbing stuff through the magic of filesharing when it comes to indie artists, but given how expensive this disc would be to import at the moment, I promise to look the other way if you promise to buy it when it becomes available domestically. It'd be a shame for it to go unheard around most of the world otherwise.

Meanwhile, here's a video interview with Bob (er Kevin):

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

New look at Not Lame.

Not Lame unveiled more than their weekly new releases last night - they gave us a new layout as well, with the featured releases divided into multiple categories. Looking not unlike a Jeopardy! board, we have the new releases broken down into four categories (three, actually, but over four columns): New Major Label/Large Indie, Reissues, Indie Power Pop, and More Indie Power Pop. And with more categories come more releases: 43 in all (any possibility that existed that I might restart the "New at Not Lame" posts is now officially 100% out the window). Among the new featured releases are several we've spotlighted here: Craig Bartock, The Format, Orson, and The Tyde.

Also, some of the new indie releases they spotlight are available on eMusic: The Sails, Bigwheel, Taylor and the Puffs, The Copyrights, The Playwrights, Glossary, as well as The Format. Grabbed Bigwheel and Glossary myself.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

CD (and eMusic disc) of the Day, 7/25/06: The Winnerys-Daily Urban Times

It's usually cause for celebration when a new Rainbow Quartz CD comes out, and today is no exception with the release of The Winnerys' sophomore effort, Daily Urban Times. The Winnerys (pronounced "winner is") hail from Madrid (yes, the one in Spain) and serve up 60s-style power pop. That means a lot of early Beatles, Byrds, Hollies, Dave Clark Five, Kinks-influenced tracks, and they do their influences proud. That's apparent right from the opening jangle of "Get Into My Life", a blast of Hard Day's Night-era Beatles and "Big Times" stays Merseyside. Other highlights include "My Little Good Friend", a McCartneyesque ballad, and the Hollies-influenced "Five Five Five". The disc spans 15 tracks in all, and if close your eyes while listening to it, you'll swear you were transported back to the 1960s.

Daily Urban Times is available on eMusic as of today, as is their debut. eMu is probably the best place to sample it, since they don't have a myspace page or an official site with streams or samples. The CD can be bought at Kool Kat, or through other online retailers, as Rainbow Quartz has pretty good distribution.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Weekend roundup.

Here are some short takes on a few discs I've been meaning to blog about:

The Blank Stares-All Blown Up. I've been enjoying this San Francisco band's release for about a month or so; it's a great mix of glam rock and power pop, and you get a cheesy horror/sci-fi album cover in the deal as well. Highlights: The T-Rex-like "Song That Brought The World to Ruin", the early Teenage Fanclub-like "Here She Comes"; and "Turn Up The Sound (Pop Disaster)", which is anything but a pop disaster.
CD Baby | MySpace

Ryan Calhoun-What Are We Doing Here? Ryan Calhoun may seem to be staking out territory in the sincere singer-songwriter genre, a la David Gray, John Mayer, etc., but the quality of the songs makes him more than an also-ran here. As he says, "I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel or be the next cool indie artist. I just want to write great songs." Mission Accomplished. (Personal favorite: "On and On", one of 3 myspace tracks available for download.)
CD Baby | MySpace

The Tell Alls-Feeding Frenzy. This one rawks. Bruce at Not Lame says this reminds him of "classic Tommy Keene guitar runs and vocal lines, The Replacements` pop sides, Matthew Sweet(lots)" etc. I'd say the Keene comparison is most spot-on here. Highlights include "Start a Commotion", "Ashley's Song" (downloadable at myspace), and "Through a Veil". Really good stuff.
CD Baby | MySpace | eMusic

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

eMusic Disc of the Day: Daniel Wylie-The High Cost of Happiness

This is one of those times it really pays to be an eMusic subscriber. The latest from Daniel Wylie, The High Cost of Happiness, was added today, and here's why it's a big deal. Aside from the fact that it's a brilliant album from the man who was the creative force behind the Cosmic Rough Riders (who continue on without him, but it's not the same), the cd is not being released in the USA, and isn't even due out in the UK for about another 11 days. So instead of waiting a couple of weeks and paying an expensive import price, you can download it for roughly $2.75-$3.

If you're not familiar with Wylie or the Riders, the sound here is where The Byrds, The Beach Boys and Teenage Fanclub meet, or California by way of Glasgow. Although there's not a tremendous amount of stylistic difference from track to track, they're virtually all outstanding. Wylie has said this is the best batch of songs he's written, and I can't quibble with that assessment.

The best place to start is with the three songs from the album streaming at his myspace page. If those float yer boat, just go ahead and download the album from eMusic if you sub, or take advantage of the offer over on the right and sign up for 25 free downloads. The eMusic page linked above also will allow you to sample all the tracks in 30-second snippets, whether or not you subscribe.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Another eMusic list.

I've now gone back and done a Best of 2004 list on eMusic, so feel free to check it out.

New L.E.O. Tracks!

Reader Howard tipped me off to the fact there are two new L.E.O. tracks now up at their myspace page, and further investigation reveals the news that they have signed a deal with Cheap Lullaby to release the L.E.O. disc, likely in October. As for the new tracks, "Ya Had Me Goin'" is a great take on "Evil Woman". Now that I've accumulated eight tracks from the album from their various myspace postings, I can say with great confidence that Alpalcas Orgling will be in my year-end top 20.

Video of the day

The conceptual video for ELO's "Hold On Tight". You'll notice Jeff Lynne's hair is about as short as it ever was. Getting a haircut alone set back the release of 1981's Time by about three months.

CD of the Day, 7/18/06: LeDrew-Too Commerical

For those of us who have become big fans of the Brothers LeDrew over the last couple of months, I'm happy to report coming across Too Commerical, the solo disc from 1997 by Chris LeDrew, simply credited to "LeDrew". (hat tip to commenter Woodsie on the original post for alerting me to its existence).

While not the jangle-pop perfection of Brothers In Stereo or Andrew's Ladies Lookout (currently holding down my #2 spot for 2006), Too Commercial is outstanding nonetheless, at least from the seven tracks I've heard (and you can hear too) on The title track rocks out a bit more than the other two discs, but "Sweet, Sweet Bronwen", "Not Anymore" and "Gettin' Outta Here" jangle right along with Brothers In Stereo and Ladies Lookout.

Four of the seven tracks on garageband are available for download (The last three I mentioned above plus "What's Wrong, Arthur John?", a fine track that reminds me a bit of The Kinks' "Picture Book"). I just snagged a copy on eBay for $9 shipped, but there's one other available for $6.99 plus shipping from a different seller, so get it while you can. I'll have to post an update when I get the disc and have a chance to hear the other four tracks.

Monday, July 17, 2006

New Pernice Brothers track.

I'm a huge Pernice Brothers fan, and although I got diminishing returns from their last two albums, their first two, 1998's Overcome by Happiness and 2001's The World Won't End, are two of my all-time favorites. So it was equal parts excitement and trepidation I felt when I got word that they made the song "Somerville" from the forthcoming album Live a Little (due out "in the fall of 2006") available for download in both audio and video formats.

The verdict, after about four listens: a very fine song, better than anything on last year's Discover a Lovelier You. One trend from that album, and which continues on this track, is that Joe Pernice's vocal style has changed from the breathier Colin Blunstone-like sound of the first two albums to a bit more immediate and unadorned sound, and the vocals are also more upfront in the mix. Meanwhile, the guitar hook in this track sounds like a slightly slower version of the one in "Working Girls (Sunlight Shines)" from The World Won't End. Here's hoping this track is representative of the rest of the new disc.

"Enough blabbing", you're thinking by now; "where can I download it?" Directly from their site. They ask for your email address to put you on their mailing list, but their mailings are fairly infrequent, and usually amusingly written as well as informative (in fact, it was from such an email that I found out about "Somerville"). The video is a goof, 3:50 of Joe riding a bike (shot from the neck down) while balanced atop what look like metal tubes.

Friday, July 14, 2006

New Michael Carpenter music.

Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that Michael Carpenter is held in high esteem in these parts, and he's about to unleash his latest, SOOP #2. SOOP stands for Songs of Other People, and #2 stands for, well, his second album of covers. Four tracks from the new one are available for the streaming at his myspace page.

Whereas SOOP #1 took on the legends (The Beatles, Dylan, Springsteen, Petty), SOOP #2 features covers of contemporary power pop artists like The Shazam, Myracle Brah, David Grahame, Chris von Sneidern, Bobby Sutliff, etc.

While it may be some time before SOOP #2 shows up on eMusic, MC's most recent studio release, 2004's Rolling Ball, can be found there and is recommended as well.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

eMusic Best of 2005 list.

I was so inspired by compiling the 2006 list that I made one for 2005. Most of the comments are cut-and-pastes from my earlier posts here.

eMusic Best of 2006.

I created a list on eMusic with comments (most of which mirror lengthier posts on this site) of the discs they carry which were on my best-of list for 2006. And in compiling the list, I've noticed several have been recent adds that I somehow missed; Justin Levinson, The Mains, Chris Murphy and The Vestals have all been added in recent days/weeks. I tried to list the key tracks for each disc for those who haven't sampled these artists yet, so hop on over, and/or subscribe if you'd like to add these songs to your collection for only about 22-25 cents each.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Cheap Trick gone from eMusic.

Was in the process of putting a list together on eMusic of my Best of 2006 that they carry, and when I went to add Cheap Trick's Rockford, I noticed it was gone - the link was dead, and it didn't show up in a site search. Too bad; hope you eMu subs got a chance to grab it while it was up. Not sure what happened there, and I'm too busy at the moment to investigate. If you have any insight, let us know in the comments.

UPDATE: Perhaps it has something to do with this. Just pure speculation on my part, though.

eMusic Disc of the Day: The Format-Dog Problems

I knew as soon as made my Top 33 1/3 of 2006 list that there'd be worthy candidates that I either forgot about out or grew to appreciate almost immediately thereafter. Like clockwork, one such disc has emerged today - The Format's Dog Problems. Two things propelled this fine disc to my attention, even though I've had it digitally for a month or so. First, it became available today on eMusic (it's also the street date for the disc). Secondly, about 3 or 4 of the tracks popped up randomly during my afternoon listening.

This is really a great album, call it indie pop, power pop, or whatever - it's just great pop, melodic, inventive and dynamic. I've seen it called by some as the Pet Sounds of indie pop, and while that might be hyperbole, it's not that far off the mark. Aside from some Beach Boy influences, I can pick out everything from Queen to XTC to contemporaries like The Shins in here as well. The title track even reminds me a bit of Rufus Wainwright's more theatrical moments. In addition to the usual guitar, bass and drums, you have horns, chimes, and all sorts of baroque instrumentation which appear from time to time. The tracks that are the most pure power pop are "Time Bomb", "She Doesn't Get It" and "The Compromise", but all of the others are standouts as well.


The Compromise
She Doesn't Get It
Dog Problems

Stream em at myspace, or stream 30-second samples from eMusic. For those who are not eMusic subs you can download the whole album for $7.99 at Nettwerk's site, and the album is available in cd form as of today from your favorite e-tailer (or retailer, if you have a local cd shop that's hip enough). But whatever your format of choice, just make sure you get it.

Top 33 1/3 of the first half of 2006.

The more I listen, the more I like. And because I generally listen to the most recent stuff I have, the releases from earlier in the year start to fade a bit from memory, so I have to rely on a generalized sense of how much I liked them. This is all a roundabout way of saying that while I can say pretty clearly that these are my 33 1/3 favorite discs of the first half of 2006 (the 1/3 is my favorite EP), the rankings are a bit arbitrary. Actually, more than a bit. The difference between, say, #6 and #16 isn't that great, nor is the distance between #16 and #26. They're all good, and they're all recommended. Meanwhile, I shudder to think where I'll be at the end of the year, with another six months of discs to consider.

1. Supraluxe-Supraluxe
2. Andrew LeDrew-Ladies Lookout
3. Rhett Miller-The Believer
4. Chris Brown-Now That You're Fed
5. The World Record-Guitars Forever
6. Copperdown-Something True
7. David William-One Way Ticket
8. Gregg Swann-Everybody's Got to Be Somewhere
9. Geoff Smith & The Tonewheels-S/T
10. Cheap Trick-Rockford
11. Monkeeman-Monkeeman
12. Fresh Mowed Lawn-Fresh Mowed Lawn
13. Red Guitar-Beauty Will Save The World
14. The Hazey Janes-Hotel Radio
15. Edmund's Crown-Regrets of a Company Man
16. Travis Hopper-All The Lights In The City Tonight
17. The Nines-Calling Distance Stations
18. Justin Levinson-1175 Boylston
19. Phil Ayoub-Schoolbus Window Paper Heart
20. Orson-Bright Idea
21. The Rewinds-The Rewinds
22. Third Floor Story-Songs From The City
23. Gary Henson-The Coast Is Clear
24. Jeff Larson-Swimming In The Make Believe
25. Warren Zanes-People That I'm Wrong For
26. Willie Nile-Streets of New York
27. The Vestals-Songs About Girls...and Other Mysteries
28. Waterloo-Out of the Woods
29. The Mains-The Higher You Get
30. Magneto-Resistance Is Futile
31. The Green & Yellow TV-Sinister Barrier
32. Chris Murphy-Elbow Room
33. David Mead-Tangerine
33 1/3. Hotel Lights-Goodnightgoodmorning EP

CD of the Day, 7/11/06: Edmund's Crown-Regrets of a Company Man

Edmund's Crown is back. The self-styled purveyors of "southern power pop", who made a splash in the genre with 2003's Collected, have just released Regrets of a Company Man. With its conference room table cover and tracks like "Company Man" and "Stuck in an Office", you might be forgiven if you thought Regrets was going to be an album of Dilbert-rock. But it's more than that, much more.

In fact, leadoff track "Keep Your Feet on the Ground" is one of the brighter openings to an album I've heard this year, and sounds more like a romp through the park on a sunny day than a trip to the water cooler, despite the admonition of the title, and "Damsel" follows with a blast of Southern-fried Kinks. The aforementioned "Company Man" is next, a gorgeous (dare I say power?) ballad about a rocker who trades in the leather and jeans for a shirt and tie, undoubtedly a fate of many we review on this site who are brilliant artists but unappreciated by the marketplace. And while it may be the same narrator in the next track, "Stuck in an Office", the fast-paced power pop of the tune is his way of saying his spirit will not be crushed. Meanwhile, "Nashville Star" is the antithesis of "Company Man": the singer here quits his day job to take his guitar to Nashville in hope of stardom.

Other standouts include "Not That It Matters", a near-perfect slice of jangle pop that details a relationship in its post-breakup phase; "Keith Richards" in which the singer presents his case that "Keith Richards is still God" to an Eric Clapton partisan; and "Eight Years Ago", another outstanding mid-tempo jangler.

Here are some mp3s for your listening pleasure:

Feet on the Ground
Company Man
Keith Richards

The disc is available at CD Baby, 18 tracks in all including five bonus demos of additional songs that showcase the band's rocking side, for the bargain price of $10. If you'd prefer to stream the four songs available for download, they're at their myspace page. Rocking but not overbearing, catchy but not saccharine, and literate but not pretentious, Regrets of a Company Man is a high quality power pop disc that will undoubtedly contend for my year-end top 20.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

CD of the Day, 7/8/06: Craig Bartock-The Finer Points of Instinct

It's always gratifying to see a sideman to a famous act finally get the chance to spread his wings and go solo, and over the past couple of years the power pop genre has seen several examples of this phenomenon yield great discs. From Fran Smith Jr. to Fran King, from Brian Ray to Rusty Anderson, from Phil Ayoub to Joe Kennedy and Darren Jessee (Hotel Lights), we've seen many discs where the sideman outshone their more famous collaborators. And of course I wouldn't have gone through all this preamble if today's disc, Craig Bartock's The Finer Points of Instinct, wasn't another such example.

Bartock in this case plays guitar (and writes) for current incarnation of Heart and his solo debut is a power pop tour de force with influences that range from Jellyfish ("Dollhouse", "15 Minutes"), Elliott Smith ("Goodbye", "Lazy, Listen"), The Beatles ("Nevermind"), Eric Matthews ("Lucky"), solo McCartney ("100 Reasons"), Brian Wilson ("Things I Know") and in my favorite track on the album, Teenage Fanclub ("Myopic Day"). Bartock obviously had a lot of songs stored up, as the disc spans 16 tracks. While things trail off a bit on the back end, you should have no trouble finding 12-14 songs you'll love, more than can be said for most discs.

Stream five of the tracks I mentioned above (including "Myopic Day") at his myspace page, and listen to whole thing at Rhapsody (you can listen to 25 free tracks a month, or get a free two-week trial with the software without having to enter any personal info). If you're ready to buy, or want to sample the rest without trying Rhapsody, head on over to CD Baby. This is a great disc, reminding me a lot of one my top 20 from last year, Jim Boggia's Safe In Sound (who not coincidentally is another sideman gone solo).

Saturday, July 01, 2006

New Song of the Day.

At the rate I've been updating the "Song of the Day", it's been more like Song of the Month. Anyway, I've finally updated it with a great, great track that may have eluded many of you out there. It's "Bluebirds Fall" by The Autumn Defense.

For the uninitiated, The Autumn Defense is the side project of Wilco bassist John Stirratt, and consists of Stirratt and multi-instrumentalist Pat Sansone (who has subsequently joined Wilco). They're a more straightforward band than Wilco; the sound is more traditional pop. They've put out two proper albums, 2001's The Green Hour and 2003's Circles. The former is quite good, but it's on the latter that they really hit their stride, coming up with a soft-pop 70s California sound with some modern flourishes; Circles is kind of Elliott Smith meets Bread. Here's my favorite track from Circles:

Why I'm Like This

And here's my favorite track from The Green Hour:

Full 5 Paces

Anyway, even some of those who have a passing familiarity with The Autumn Defense may not have realized they released a couple of additional songs on a 2004 split EP with Hem titled Birds, Beasts and Flowers. And one of those songs is "Bluebirds Fall", a brilliant Elliott Smith-like track with a haunting melody hook that will get stuck in your head. It also reminds me quite a bit of Crowded House's "Four Seasons In One Day". So head on over to my myspace profile to have a listen, or check it out at their myspace page with a couple of additional tracks. And good news - there's a new Autumn Defense CD due in October (when else?).

CD of the Day, 7/1/06: Crazed Outlook-Crazed Out

Crazed Outlook are four guys from Pennsylvania, led by frontman Matt Crazed (that can't be his real name), who describe their sound as "Elvis Costello meets The Killers". I hear a lot more of Elvis C than the Killers, which isn't a bad thing. Crazed Out is the title of their latest opus, and it's definitely worth a spin.

Crazed (the singer) sounds quite a bit like John Wesley Harding, and the opener "Spellbound" wouldn't be out of place on one of Harding's more rocking efforts. "Karma" is a great mid-tempo number with a bit of jangle. They then break out the horns on "Undateable", which has a late-70s Graham Parker pub-rock vibe, while "Pop Diva" is their sneering take on the Britneys, Christinas and Jessicas of the world ("Who cares about her when she's 25?").

Check them out on myspace and stream "Spellbound", "Karma" and "Don't Kiss Me", and you can sample the rest and grab the album at CD Baby. If you're a fan of any of those acts I've mentioned here (Elvis C, JW Harding or Graham Parker), this one'll be right up your alley.