Monday, December 31, 2007

Last post of 2007 - New Year's Eve Roundup.

With all of my limited (at this time of year) time for the blog being devoted to assembling the year-end lists, I've started to get a backlog of discs I've been meaning to mention. So before I head out for New Year's Eve (and before I spend tomorrow watching football), here are a few discs to consider while waiting for the big ball to drop:

The Janglemen-Tearjerker & 9 Others. The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed that this late-year release made the top 125 at #74 yet had no previous mention on the site. That oversight is remedied now, as this New York City band wins the Truth-In-Advertising Award; "jangle" is the operative sound here, and they'll appeal big time to fans of Bobby Sutliff, Walter Clevenger, Roger McGuinn, etc. In other words, Rickenbacker heaven. CD Baby | MySpace

Marco Joachim-Songville. Staying with our theme of NYC artists with a something-other-than-NYC sound, this singer-songwriter will appeal to anyone who loved Bob Dylan's stuff with The Traveling Wilburys. Opener "There" has a real "End of the Line" feel to it, and "Dream Away" will bring to a smile to anyone who enjoyed the Smith & Hayes disc. Great stuff. CD Baby | MySpace

Soft Gong-Pretend You Need Me. These guys hail from the power pop hotspot of Boise, Idaho, and have an interesting origin story. They started out playing cover tunes as the house band for a marketing company, and gradually branched out to doing their own stuff. Perhaps the absurdity of corporate life contributed to the wry lyrical perspective found in tracks like "Night School Sweetheart" and "My Sweet Embraceable Defeat". First-rate power pop here, and maybe David Bash should look into an IPO Idaho. CD Baby | MySpace

Dion Read & The Afterthoughts-The Shoes & Gloves EP. An impressive debut from this piano-based Aussie. He cites the Bens (Folds, Lee, Kweller - and Affleck) as influences, and you can hear certainly hear them (OK, maybe not Affleck). It's only four songs, but it's worth every penny as the quality is high. Had this one come earlier in the year, I'd have found a spot on the top 10 EP list for it. CD Baby | MySpace

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Absolute Powerpop Top Songs of 2007.

Here we go - rather than rank them, I'm just giving the whole long list of songs that stood out above the rest this year for me. I reserve the right to make additions to this list, because I know I probably left one or two out. In alphabetical order by artist:

Adam Bernstein-"The Poets of Avarice"
Adam Miner-"Fool"
Additional Moog-"El Guiro"
America-"Work to Do"
Arch Stanton-"Steady by Your Side"
Ben Forrest Davis-"This Is Home"
Bruce Springsteen-"Living In The Future"
Collective Soul-"Hollywood"
Crowded House-"She Called Up"
Dave Derby-"Come On Come On"
Deadstring Brothers-"Heavy Load"
Dean Owens-"Miss You CA"
Duane Dolieslager-"Carousel"
Early Edison-"White Socks"
Endrick Brothers-"Beautiful Rejection"
Everybody Else-"In Memoriam"
Future Clouds and Radar-"Build Havana"
Georgie James-"Need Your Needs"
Grand Atlantic-"Burning Brighter"
Green Peppers-"Honest Injun"
Hundred Air-"Makeout City"
Icecream Hands-"Anyway"
Jake Stigers & The Velvet Roots-"Girl"
Jason Isbell-"Dress Blues"
John Krueger-"Can't Take That Away"
Josh Fields-"Steal The Air", "Clock Keeps Ticking", "Photograph"
Keith LuBrant-"Too Late"
Kevin Kane-"Last to Know"
Ken Sharp-"Why Girls Cry"
Knit Delicate-"Bright Summer Sun"
Michael Harrell-"The End"
Mika-"Grace Kelly", "Stuck In The Middle"
Mitch Easter-"Sudden Crown Drop"
Morten Richter-"Pop-Up Window"
Myracle Brah-"Hurry Now"
OK Jones-"Electric Bed"
Pat DiNizio-"Any Other Way"
Pinto-"Here Comes The Love"
Romantica-"The National Side"
Rooney-"Don't Come Around Again"
Shake Some Action-"Someone Else's Friend"
Signal Hill Transmission-"Cherry is a Girl"
Smith & Hayes-"Nothing But Love", "Kaleidoscope"
Sono Oto-"Granny Smith"
Sparkwood-"Bop Bop Song"
Steve Robinson-"Wooden Hill"
The ACB's-"Windows Up"
The Amprays-"Levitate"
The Backroom-"Lost Without You", "'Loads of Love'"
The Color Wheels-"Green Means Go"
The Dirty Royals-"Cover Up The Sun"
The Fizzies-"In a House"
The Foreign Films-"Remember to Forget", "Polar Opposites"
The Holy Fields-"11th Floor"
The Hope Trust-"Mountain I Can't Climb"
The Incurables-"Lucky 7's", "Anytime Soon", "The Last Day of the Rest of Your Life"
The Lovetones-"Alone"
The Nines-"I Am Lost"
The Nobility-"Hallelujah Chorus"
The Orchid Highway-"Sofa Surfer Girl"
The Pearlfishers-"London's In Love", "Womack and Womack"
The Red Button-"Can't Stop Thinking About Her", "Floating By", "It's No Secret", "Ooh Girl"
The Silver Seas-"The Country Life"
The Stereotypes-"Butterflies"
The Storyboards-"Not a Love Song"
The Sunday Drivers-"She"
The Treasury-"Don't Look Now"
The Twilight-"Apple Pie Suburbia"
The Well Wishers-"Seashells"
Third of Never-"DJ"
Tor Guides-"You (and Everything You Do)"
Zombies of the Stratosphere-"Another Day"

UPDATE: Two omissions I had no business leaving off (thanks to the commenter for the first):
Wiretree-"Whirl", "Big Coat"
Jeremy Nail-"Paper Doll"

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Absolute Powerpop Reader Top 10 of 2007.

As promised, here's the result of the reader poll, and there's agreement at the top (first place votes in parentheses):

1. The Red Button-She's About to Cross my Mind 35 (1)
2. Jackdaw4-Bipolar Diversions 31 (1.5)
3. The Shins-Wincing The Night Away 30 (2)
4. The Nines-Gran Jukle's Field 28
5. Everybody Else-Everybody Else 23
6. John Davis-Arigato! 22 (1)
7. The Broken West-I Can't Go On I'll Go On 19 (1)
tie. Fountains of Wayne-Traffic and Weather 19
9. The Foreign Films-Distant Star 17
tie. The Orchid Highway-The Orchid Higway 17

Also receiving first place votes: Admiral Twin, Andrew Bird, Dinosaur Jr, David Celia, Endrick Brothers, Lewis Taylor, The Wellingtons.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Absolute Powerpop Top 100 125 Discs of 2007, #1-5

5. Smith & Hayes-Changed by a Song. This really was the McCartney/Wilbury/David Grahame-styled disc many of us have been waiting for; for the Beatleheads out there, this was the disc of the year. Somewhere out there, Jeff Lynne is wishing he wrote "Nothing But Love".

4. Wiretree-Bouldin. This was the first great disc of 2007, and it held up through the entire year. Kevin Peroni followed up on one of 2005's best EPs and proved he was capable of a quality full-length. He's managed to create his own idiosyncratic sound that might be best described as the Wilburys meet indie rock. "Whirl" is one of those songs that I can never tire of, and makes the hours spent in search of something new to listen worthwhile.

3. Josh Fields-Josh Fields. I enjoyed this so much that I felt it necessary to fudge the EP/LP divide. Clocking in at seven songs, it's probably closer to an EP than a full-length, but it's just long enough to compete with the big boys. It's a perfectly realized example of radio-ready popcraft with hooks galore and even pretty good lyrics for the genre. The opening 1-2 of "Clock Keeps Ticking" and "Steal The Air" is about as fantastic and dynamic a kickoff to a disc that I've heard, and the slower numbers like "Dragons" (a killer rewrite of "She Talks to Angels" and I mean that in a good way) and the lovely "(Take a) Photograph" are equally as outstanding. Someone get this in front of some radio PD's.

2. The Foreign Films-Distant Star. Very few discs truly blow me away upon first listen, but this one did (hence the siren in the original post). This was the Cotton Mather record we thought we'd never hear again, even moreso than the Mather offshoots, Future Clouds and Stockton (each fine discs in their own right), that were released this year as well. That Bill Majoros pulled this off in the context of a double disc makes it all the more of an achievement.

1. The Red Button-She's About to Cross My Mind. As has been well-chronicled on this blog, I originally gave short shrift to the disc when it came out (although not that short, given that I had it at #8 at midyear). But this was the one disc that I kept coming back to, and the more I came back to it, the more I loved it. Whereas a piece of pop genius like "Ooh Girl" was apparent to me at first listen, it took a few trips back to fully appreciate a track like "Floating By", which might have been the best example of the "McCartney sings the cheery verses while Lennon sings the cynical bridge" dynamic since "We Can Work It Out" with Swirsky in the McCartney role and Ruekberg as Lennon. That the track is filled out with a Alpert/Bacharach horn section accompanied by Ruekberg's "ah-ah-ah" singalong of the horn parts propels it into the next dimension. Meanwhile, the couplet "She holds my attention/she breaks my resolve/she poses more problems than I'll ever solve" from "Can't Stop Thinking About Her" brings a smile to my face every time I hear it, and then there's the closer "It's No Secret", which with its near-perfect melody, heartfelt lyrics and wonderful harmonies makes it the natural successor to The Beatles' "If I Fell". Don't make the same mistake I initially did - while it's easy to dismiss this as a tuneful pastiche or a genre exercise, there's a real depth to it that rewards repeated listens. While some may cynically refer to the entire power pop genre as an effort to remake The Beatles or Big Star or Badfinger, this is one disc that deserves to be called an equal to its forebears. Here's hoping this wasn't a one-off project.

The Absolute Powerpop Top 100 125 Discs of 2007, #6-25

A couple of notes: 1) the reader poll will follow this weekend after the top 125 is finished; I decided not to interrupt the top 125. 2) As you've probably noticed this is 6-25, not 1-25; a separate post will follow later today (early afternoon Eastern Time USA) for the top 5 that will include comments on each of them.

6. Romantica-America
7. Mika-Life In Cartoon Motion
8. The Fizzies-Contest Popularity
9. Additional Moog-Thirty Three & a Third
10. The Nines-Gran Jukle's Field
11. Adam Miner-Dangerous Eyes
12. Ben Forrest Davis-Roughs
13. Ken Sharp-Sonic Crayons
14. Deleted Waveform Gatherings-Complicated View
15. Steve Robinson-Undercurrent
16. The Pearlfishers-Up With The Larks
17. Keith LuBrant-Searching For Signal
18. The Twilight-Tempest in a Teapot
19. Steve Bertrand-Pain is a Megaphone
20. Third of Never-Moodring
21. The Broken West-I Can't Go On, I'll Go On
22. Everybody Else-Everybody Else
23. Frank Ciampi-Big Top Woman
24. Future Clouds and Radar-Future Clouds and Radar
25. The Zombies of the Stratosphere-The Well-Mannered Look

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Absolute Powerpop Top 10 EPs of 2007.

Let the year-end list-making commence! It was a slow year for EPs that really came on in the last few months.

Here are the top EPs of 2007:

1. The Treasury-The Treasury
2. The Holy Fields-The Holy Fields
3. Derby-Derby EP
4. The Weightlifters-Last of The Sunday Drivers
5. Satisfaction-Cougars, Sharks & Flying Sparks
6. Michael Harrell-Songs From The Village
7. Arch Stanton-Highland & Marine
8. Sono Oto-The Apple
9. Daniel Wylie-Let's Go Surfing
10. Ian Olvera Band-Some of Us Dream

Just missing:
Warm In The Wake-Gold Dust Trail
Adam Merrin-Have One

UPDATE: I may have to blow up this list and start over again as I just came across The Foxboro Hot Tubs. For those who haven't heard, the Tubs are actually Green Day in disguise, and last week they released a free-download, 6-song EP that's vintage 60s garage rock and extraordinarily well done. Their official site no longer shows the download link (it's just a moving clock, nothing else), but if you use this Google cache of the site, you'll find the mp3 link is still active (click "hear it", then on the next page, click "download mp3s").

I'd probably slot this one in at #4, but I'll leave the list intact with this addendum.

A few quick eMus.

The Backroom-Reagan Era Rocketship. See here.

Brad Brooks-Spill Collateral Love. Reviewed here.

And finally, a 1993 disc from The Pearlfishers, Za Za's Garden, was added as well.

CD of the Day, 12/15/07: Frank Ciampi-Big Top Woman

Here's one that's been worth the wait. Back in early days of this blog (February 2006), I gave props to Frank Ciampi, who at that time basically had 3 songs out and which were only available at his MySpace page. Fast forward to December 2007, and at long last we have Big Top Woman, the full-length album which displays the promise those three early tracks displayed.

The operative sound is piano-based power pop, but with a Brian Wilson influence; you might almost say it's Ben Folds meets The Wondermints. The three oustanding tracks that I blogged about earlier are all here, in the 7-8-9 slots, but the new stuff meets or exceeds the quality of those. The horns and time shifts in "Little Girl" are worth the price of admission alone; "Madeline Maybe" will stick in your head - no maybes about it; "Waiting For Someone" would have fit in nicely on Smile (yes, that Smile), while "The Miss Jenny" is like the middle eight of McCartney's "Uncle Albert and Admiral Halsey" taken to full song-length. There isn't a bad track here to be found, and Ciampi has gotten his disc in just in time to make the big list coming out next week.

MySpace (Where you can also buy the disc or the mp3s)

Friday, December 14, 2007

EP of the Day, 12/14/07: Ian Olvera Band-Some of Us Dream

It seems lately that I've been featuring quite a few bands in the roots rock/country rock/"popicana" vein, but I go where the good music takes me. And once again it's time to feature a band in this genre. Today it's Green Bay's Ian Olvera Band, who are a late contender for the top EP list (coming tomorrow!) with Some of Us Dream.

"When You're Down" kicks things off with its relentless driving beat and catchy chorus as if it were almost a poppier version of Tom Petty's "Runnin' Down a Dream". The stacatto, "Getting Better"-style beat of "Derailed" follows and it's "ba-da, ba-da" chorus will have your toes tapping for hours. Olvera lets off the gas pedal a bit with "The Biggest News", a melancholy alt-country piece, but gets right back on the horse with "Treacherous Timbers", which has a song noir feel to it. All in all, it's a quality EP that's worth a spin.

MySpace | CD Baby

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Time for the reader Top 10 lists.

In my earlier post today on my plans for the year-end lists, I neglected to mention that I'm ready to receive your top 10 of 2007 list (feel free to include EPs), and that I'll be doing so for the next seven days (deadline: Wednesday December 19). Like last year, I'll tally them up and reveal the results. Please submit them to me via email at the link over to the right (scroll down past the Google ads).

New Music from a couple of AbPow favorites.

Two big-time favorites of mine have released some new music for digital download: Derby and Josh Fields.

We'll start with the boys from Portland, Oregon. Derby's still yet to release Posters Fade, their full-length followup to 2005's AbPow Album of the Year This Is The New You, but in the meantime they've given us a download-only EP that's a teaser for the disc. Available at CD Baby, it shows them further refining their sound. They've upped the BPM on "Streetlight" and even the midtempo "If Ever There's a Reason" without sacrificing their melodic gifts, while opener "Argyle" brings to mind "Jet Set", the wonderful opener from New You. (And to confound, they have a new track titled "This Is The New You" on the EP as well).

Meanwhile, 2007 Album of the Year contender Josh Fields has three new songs available for purchase via Snocap on his MySpace page: "Malibu", "Sleepwalking", and "Everywhere I Shouldn't Be" (non-album track "Bigger Than Life" is available as well, and all but "Sleepwalking" are streaming on the MySpace player). These tracks are of a piece with those on his self-titled debut and are definitely worth the .99 each.

Year-End Lists Update.

I know many of you are looking forward to the top 100 of 2007 list, and although I don't have it finished yet, I do have the top 100 pretty much selected and grouped by 20s (i.e., 1-20, 21-40...81-100). I need to finalize the order, which I should do over the next few days. And in culling the top 100, my "honorable mention" category started getting a bit large in number, so actually it's going to be a top 125.

I also plan to unveil the list in a different manner this year. First off, I will start with the top 10 EP list instead of doing it after the top 100, er 125. Look for that list by the weekend. And more significantly, I'm going to unveil the top 125 over a period of days instead of all at once, probably in increments of 25 over next Monday-Friday.

In the bigger picture, the one overarching theme I noticed this year is that fewer discs seemed to jump out at me as truly, truly great than did so last year. For example, when I look back at last year's list, I see Bryan Estepa's All The Bells and Whistles at #28; if it had been a 2007 release, it'd probably be close to cracking the top 10. On the other hand, the number of very good discs seemed to be higher this year; whereas last year, I felt like I struggled to fill the top 100, as noted above I'll be listing 125 this year. Whether this is a reflection of my own listening (the more I hear, the more jaded I get) or is really a reflection of that subjective thing we call "quality" is an open question.

(And yes, I will also be compiling a "best songs" list, although that will likely wait until between Christmas and New Year's).

Monday, December 10, 2007

Monday blurbs.

Time to highlight some discs I've been meaning to mention on the site:

Arch Stanton-Highland & Marine. Outstanding EP from these Minnesotans . "Steady by Your Side", "Take It Back" and "Through the Motions" make this one a top-10 EP contender. I like their influences list on MySpace, and they do them proud here. CD Baby | MySpace

Hundred Air-Makeout City. Hundred Air is the new band for ex-Mayflies USA (a late lamented NC power pop band from the turn of the century - check em out when you have the chance) Adam Price, and they kind of straddle the divide between power pop and indie rock. I love the title track (which reminds me of the Old 97's "Barrier Reef") and the other seven on this mini-LP aren't bad either. CD Baby | MySpace

Jeff Tracy-Moments In Time. The Blue Cartoon frontman steps out on his solo debut, and provides a pleasing set of power pop (and gives me a chance to show off some mean alliteration). With tracks titled "New Blue You" and "Out of the Blue", he's obviously drawing song-naming inspiration from Jeff Lynne. CD Baby | MySpace

Coronet Blue-Welcome to the Arms of Forever
. Aussie John Rooney is back with his power pop supergroup/collective (featuring Mitch Easter, Don Dixon and Ian Mclagan of The Faces) for the followup to their self-titled 2002 debut, and it's quality midtempo/slightly retro-sounding pop in the vein of Third of Never, another similarly situated group. CD Baby | MySpace

ShyAway-Rise and Shine Little Sleepyhead. Nice "little" EP from Lincoln, Nebraska's Tim McCarty, and it features the kind of Midwestern popicana that we know and love around these parts. "Sleepyhead" sounds like a lost track from The Jayhawks' Rainy Day Music, and the rest follow in a similar manner. CD Baby | MySpace

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

CD of the Day, 12/5/07: Jeremy Nail-Letter

Back in 2001, I was a huge Ryan Adams fan. He was coming off the previous year's Heartbreaker, a classic disc, and the follow-up Gold was #2 in my year-end list while Whiskeytown's delayed-release swan song, Pneumonia, was right behind at #3. (My #1 was this.)
But I soon became disenchanted with Adams for much the same reason I stopped collecting baseball cards in the early 90s: there were just too many releases to keep track of, the quality went down, and everyone was jumping on the bandwagon. But somewhere in the plethora of unreleased and bootlegged studio discs that accompanied the plethora of official releases was a rock album he cut with his then-backing band The Pinkhearts. That album found him channeling Paul Westerberg circa The 'Mats, and had some quality tracks like "Win" and "Candy Doll" and hinted at a potential path he could have taken.

Which brings us to Jeremy Nail, who with his debut disc Letter may have finally delivered the Adams-Westerberg hybrid disc we've (I've) been waiting for. Reminscent of Adams, he's sometimes billed solo and sometimes with his backing band (The Incidents), and like both of them at their best, he combines rock, pop and Americana with quality songcraft. The driving opener "Paper Doll" is Exhibit A for this premise with its haunting melody and quality guitar work. Elsewhere, "Last Goodbye" conjures some of Adams' best work from Pneumonia-era Whiskeytown with a great midtempo roots melody and female harmonies; "Lucky Girl" is playful pop, something that might sound like Jellyfish if Sturmer et al were more obsessed with Bruce Springsteen and Steve Earle rather than The Beatles and Queen; "Beautiful Storm" brings anthemic BritPop into Nail's roots mix; "Wake Up, Julianne" brings to mind the late period 'Mats of All Shook Down; and "Afterdark" adds a little Neil Finn. And as I'm wont to close my reviews with a bad pun, let me just say that he really Nailed this one.

CD Baby | MySpace | mp3s at Sonicbids

Monday, December 03, 2007

Another Monday freebie.

In what is rapidly becoming a tradition around these parts, we have another free download on a Monday. After last week's Adam Miner giveaway, this week we have another Canadian artist (coincidence?), Dave Stephens, who's giving away not one but both of his two discs, last year's Stories For Copper and 2004's Here We Go at his official site. Both are excellent discs, and Stories For Copper placed #60 in the Absolute Powerpop Top 100 of 2006. Head on over, and all he asks is that you spread the word about him. Sounds like a deal.

CD of the Day, 12/3/07: The Incurables-Songs for a Blackout

It's always refreshing when an act lets its music do the talking. If you go to the CD Baby page of the St. Louis' The Incurables, they give you a simple three word description: "American rock music", and in the "sounds like" box on MySpace, it's simply "5 dudes that have been in a lot of bands". Well, they're right on both counts. Songs for a Blackout is a brilliant example of quintessentially American rock music that does sound as played by five guys who have been around the musical block.

More specifically, their sound here is heartland-influenced pop/rock in the vein of The Wallflowers, del Amitri and Minibar, with a touch of the Beatlesque. Frontman Jimmy Griffin has the perfect voice for this type of music, lining up somewhere between Jakob Dylan and Justin Currie. Opening track "Lucky 7's" makes an immediate impression with it's "c-c-come along" refrain; "Our Favorite Place" drops in a piano-based middle eight that sets it part; the mid-tempo tracks "Anytime Soon" (my favorite track on the disc) and "Rather Be Lonely Than Sorry" could be a mashup of Joe Pernice, Paul McCartney and Cotton Mather; "Gravedance" rocks out relative to the rest (complete with handclaps); and closer "The Last Day of the Rest of Your Life" is a real stunner, a 5 1/2-minute "epic" that channels the Pernice Brothers "Flaming Wreck" and the Meadowlands' "13 Months in 6 Minutes" with a wonderful guitar outro.

This one definitely has a spot on the big year-end list, and more likely than not will be in the top half versus the bottom.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

CD of the Day, 11/28/07: Sparkwood-Kaleidoscopism

I normally don't like to post too much on discs that aren't readily available in the USA (and much of the world) but I do make exceptions when the situation warrants, and now that I have finagled a copy, it's time to extol the virutes of Sparkwood's Kaleidoscopism.

If you're familiar with the Texas band Sparkwood, it's no doubt due to their great 2005 disc Jalopy Pop, which made my 2005 top 20. Kaleidoscopism is cut from the same cloth, falling somewhere between the pop smarts (and smart alecks) of Fountains of Wayne and the effervescent vibe of Jellyfish with touches of Queen and ELO. In fact, their sound can almost be summed up by a single song: Queen's "Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy", a cover of which they've thoughtfully added to the disc as a bonus track.

The opener "Welcome" isn't a 30-second introductory track but rather nearly 5 minutes of what could be described as the Beach Boys meet Jellyfish. "Ooh Sha La" sounds like what its title implies: a bouncy, peppy number that will stick in your head. But as earworms go, nothing here tops "The Bop Bop Song", another title that speaks for itself and where the Jellyfish comparison is most apt. And they pull off the slower numbers with aplomb as "Glaze In My Eye" and "Days Ago" close the disc (at least the proper non-bonus portion of it) in fine fashion.

But as I alluded to in the opening paragraph, there's a catch. Kaleidoscopism was only released in Japan, and frontman Bart Padar informs me that there is no domestic release planned at this time. So if you want it, you'll have to shell out import prices. But I've done the dirty work for you and found the cheapest US price on the net, $20.73 plus shipping from an eBay seller - not cheap by any means, but better than the $30-35 it's going for at Amazon and CD Universe. I can say that if you loved Jalopy Pop, you'll feel you're getting your money's worth, and given the time of year perhaps you can get someone to buy it for you as a Christmas present. In the meantime, you can stream three tracks at their MySpace.

Monday, November 26, 2007

(Free) CD of the Day, 11/26/07: Adam Miner-Playing House

Now here's something that's cool on many levels. Earlier this year, Adam Miner put out a great disc, Dangerous Eyes, which I unfortunately gave the shortest and quickest "CD of the Day" review (it deserved a bit more ink). That certainly would be accomplishment enough for any artist. But no - Miner has recorded another disc, one he was working on before and after Dangerous Eyes, and as an early Christmas present he's giving it to the world for free.

And while normally you get what you pay for, Playing House is not a bunch of leftovers or tracks that aren't worth shelling out for - it's a cohesive, high-quality disc of its own. As his press release states, Playing House is "his Sgt. Pepper-sized solo record in homage to the most influential rock band of all time" and "stays faithful to the psychedelic spirit that producer George Martin and the Fab Four invoked during that golden age of pop." In contrast to Dangerous Eyes, which had a real production sheen about it, Playing House is more homespun sounding. Which is not to say low-fi, just a bit warmer and laid-back. There are a number of highlights - "I Myself and Me", which has a bit of an "Obi-La Di, Ob-la-da" beat on the chorus; the largely acoustic "Honie Please", which calls "Blackbird" to mind; the "Penny Lane"-ish "Pinery Park", "Ogdred Weary" which sounds like a McCartney White Album outtake, and the rocking "Get In My Space".

Best of all, it's free for download from his official site. Make sure you also get the Sgt. Pepper-like cover artwork, where you can have fun picking out the 21st century celeb photos he's assembled.

And if for some reason you're not familiar with Dangerous Eyes, I'd say you owe to him to check it out if you enjoy this free release: MySpace | CD Baby

Thanks, Adam.

NOTE: It appears that the first track may cut off at 39 seconds. I'm waiting an email response back to see if that's intentional or not.

UPDATE: It's been fixed. And it's a quality track as well.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A couple of quick eMu adds.

eMu has reached back a few years to add these two:

Twinklehead-Made For These Times. Fun light pop from Norway - see more here from Not Lame.

The Tyde-Twice. The oustanding second disc from these LA poppers was one of my favorites of 2004, and it includes the great track "Go Ask Yer Dad".

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Just in case you were wondering.

Pre-Thanksgiving Roundup.

Since most of you will have a nice long weekend off, I've assembled a roundup of discs that you can use that extra time to give a listen to, none of which are turkeys:

The Soundabout-Chasing Ghosts. Pasadena, California is primarily known for being the home of the Rose Bowl (and parade) as well as for the little old lady in the Beach Boys song, but it's also home to Daniel Cleland, a/k/a The Soundabout. Cleland lists the Beatles, XTC, The Shins and My Morning Jacket as influences, and while some mixture of these bands yields an approximation of his sound, I also hear heartland rock like the Wallflowers in the opener "The Things You Come to Love". "As It Goes" has the buoyancy of some of the Shins' better efforts, while "Finding My Way There" shares its anthemic quality with The Jayhawks' "Smile". Another winner here is "Underground" with its "ooh-ooh-ooh" hook. Viva Pasadena! CD Baby | MySpace

The Slingsby Hornets-Introducing The Slingsby Hornets
. I can't say that this is the crowning artistic achievement of the year in power pop, but I will say that this is one of the more fun and unique releases of the year. The brainchild of Englishman Jon Paul Allen, it's billed as "the sound of the best 70's school disco you never went to". The 10-track disc alternates originals and cheesy 70's covers such as "Love Will Keep Us Together", "Calling Occupants", and "My Sharona" (plus this hidden bonus track, a cover of the theme to "Jamie and the Magic Torch"). But it's the originals that make the disc: "The Man From Yesterday" slots in somewhere between Jellyfish and Teenage Fanclub; "I Love That Sound" has a bit of a T-Rex thing going for it; "Stop The Rain" is a pretty, psych-pastoral piece, and "Purple Roses (Fade Away) actually reminds me a bit of Cotton Mather. CD Baby | MySpace

Pinto-Hook Me Up. If you liked the self-titled disc from The Tangerines that came out early this year, you'll love this one; it's quintessential Swedish power pop, full of pleasing melodies, midtempo jangly sounds and earnest but slightly accented vocals. Highlights include the wonderful opener "Here Comes The Love", "We Breathe Too Much", "This Picture Needs a Frame" and "Talk to Me", the latter sounding like a lost Latebirds track. CD Baby | MySpace

The Backroom-Reagan Era Rocketship
. Stumbling across this Chicago band's debut disc was a pleasant surprise - they have a polished, radio-ready sound without sounding overly derivative or lowest-common-denominator-oriented. "Lost Without You", the leadoff track, is so good that I urge you to click the MySpace link below this very second and give it a listen. It really ought to be on the radio. And while the remaining 14 tracks have a tough act to follow, several stand out in their own right, including the Posies-ish "Forevermore", the peppy indie-poppy "Better Time Than Now", and the driving "'Loads of Love'", which merits its own 46-second introductory track. CD Baby | MySpace

Saturday, November 17, 2007

CD of the Day, 11/17/07: Kevin K-Cool Ways

I generally always include the album cover for each disc I feature as CD of the Day; picutres always liven up a site and it's nice to keep the visuals in this age of digital downloads. But sometimes the album cover serves more than a decorative purpose. Quite often it can almost serve as a substitute for the review itself; in many instances, you can judge a disc by its cover.

One look at the cover of Kevin K's Cool Ways above and you can pretty much guess the sound. This is old-school power pop. And I mean "old school", as Kevin's been around since the beginning of the 1980s and Cool Ways is his 16th disc. Nevertheless, his profile in the power pop community has been low (no sign of him at the Not Lames and Kool Kats, although he seems to be in popular in Europe as evidence by a best-of released in Europe). I'm not sure why, because if Cool Ways is indicative of the rest of his catalog, we've been missing out on a good thing.

"She's Got The Look" and the title track open the album in highly melodic, rocking fashion, reminding me quite a bit of Silver Sun. "Makeup and Breakup" has a Cheap Trick feel, while "Getaway" borrows a line from The Replacements' "Talent Show" ("feeling good from the pills we took") and brings in some sax. "Night of the Living Dolls" has more of a punk feel, and although Warren Zevon beat him to the topic 20 years ago with "Detox Mansion", "Rehab" is still a searing sendup of pampered Hollywood stars and their addiction to rehab.

Just listen to the samples at the CD Baby and wait for the smile to come to your face. Cool Ways certainly is, and you'll be asking yourself why haven't I heard of this guy before?

CD Baby | MySpace

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Foreign Films (among others) added on eMusic!

Eagle-eyed reader Al M. has alerted me to the fact that The Foreign Films' Distant Star is now on eMusic. It's a contender for the year-end top spot, and normally I don't advocate using up 22 of your monthly downloads on a single disc, but I'm making an exception here. He also pointed out that Robo Sapiens, the new disc from Roger Joseph Manning Jr's electronic project, Malibu, is on there as well.

Not to mention a couple I managed to find by myself: The Resonars' Nonetheless Blue, a fine psych/jangle pop disc that has been on the front page of Not Lame for weeks, and the Michael Harrell EP, Greetings From The Village, that I featured last month.

Buongiorno, Under The Tangerine Tree!

Despite having an Italian heritage (father's side), I barely know three words of Italian. Nevertheless, I'm happy to link to a new power pop blog, Under The Tangerine Tree, which is written in Italian. Of course you can run it through a web translator (which will give you funny sentences like "they exited alone bands of extreme metal") or you could just note the bands featured, look for names of comparable bands in the text of the post and check them out at CD Baby or MySpace or wherever samples can be found. In fact sometimes I feel I could just distill my reviews into a simple format like this without all the need to do actual writing:

Artist Name-Artist Name-Location of Artist
RIYL: Artist #1, Artist #2, Artist #3
CD Baby Link/MySpace Link

And if I were feeling ambitious, I could list a few of the top tracks. So when it comes down to it, language really isn't a barrier. Anyway, they've got some nice selections on this site, including a couple of Americana discs I've been digging lately (Seven Doors Hotel and Far From Kansas). Check it out!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Smith & Hayes on eMusic!

Smith & Hayes' Changed by a Song was added to eMu this morning. I'll say it again, if you're into Beatlesque songs in the manner of David Grahame, jump all over this one.

Friday, November 09, 2007

CD of the Day, 11/9/07: The Hope Trust-The Incurable Want

The Hope Trust is Denton, Texas' Kelly Upshaw, and he's hit my musical sweet spot here with a mix of pop and Americana. His MySpace likens his sound to a mix of Neil Finn and Wilco, and it also reminds me of personal favorites like The Latebirds and Additional Moog.

There are highlights aplenty. "Break You Down", with its melodic mid-tempo sound buttressed by a tasteful pedal steel, could have fit right in on Bob Evans' Suburban Songbook; "Run It Through" and "Two In The Bush" bring to mind Joe Pernice's earlier days in the Scud Mountain Boys and his Big Tobacco solo disc (in fact, Upshaw sounds like a huskier-voiced Pernice). Meanwhile, "OK, Alright" is where he leans to the Neal Finn side of his sound, if Finn used pedal steel in his songs, and "Parting Shot" is where the Wilco comes in, at least the Wilco of the Summerteeth era, and "Don't Want to Fight" is straight ahead roots-influenced rock in a Wallflowers/Minibar vein.

This is high-quality stuff, and if your musical tastes run in this area, The Incurable Want is (to coin a phrase) extremely highly recommended.

CD Baby | MySpace

EP of the Day, 11/9/07: The House of Summer Nights-The House of Summer Nights

Here's a pretty cool EP that mixes and matches a bunch of pop sounds that we like around here. There's some power pop, some Americana, some rock, and it all adds up to a tasty melodic stew. The title track starts things off in a kind of Wallflowers/Tom Petty mode, and then kicks into high gear with a horn section. The piano-based "We Were Young" follows, reminding me a bit of The Argument, while the languid "Umbrella Sky" brings to mind the latest Cloud Eleven disc. Good stuff. CD Baby | MySpace

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Pearlfishers (and more) on eMusic!

The most excellent Pearlfishers release, Up With The Larks, was added to eMusic today, as well as a CD single for "The Umbrellas of Shibuya", which features the Larks single along with two non-album tracks, once of which is the fine "Everybody Knows It's a Dream".

Also added is one of the year's top EPs, The Treasury, which we raved about a couple of months back.

Finally, I neglected to mention last week that the Pillbugs' Rainbow Quartz debut, Monclovia, was added as well. This is kind of a "best-of" The Pillbugs' three independent releases, along with a couple of new tracks.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

CD of the Day, 11/1/07: Ash Avenue-And Then We Ignite

Ah, the 90s. Aside from being a decade of relative peace and prosperity, it was the last decade in which you could reliably turn on the radio and hear decent pop/rock from bands like The Gin Blossoms, Collective Soul, The Wallflowers, Del Amitri, Fastball, Better Than Ezra, etc. Nowadays the only time I turn on the radio is catch a sporting event while I'm out driving. The point I'm making here? Actually, I'm not sure I have a point. Oh yeah - if this were the mid-90s instead of the mid-00s, a band like Chicago's Ash Avenue would have a good shot at some decent radio airplay. Instead, they'll have to rely on touring, word-of-mouth, the internet and the kindness of strangers.

If And Then We Ignite, the band's debut disc, doesn't take you back to the days when Clinton was in office and Bush wasn't (WARNING: analogy only valid for the next 14 months or so), then I'm not sure what will. Anyway, hit radio's loss is your gain here: 12 tracks of quality tunes that straddle the line between power pop and what is now called "adult alternative". "Mistake Me Home" gets things going with a driving sound that's somewhere between the Gin Blossoms and the poppier moments of The Replacements; "Disposable King" is a mid-tempo beauty which wouldn't sound out of place with all of those Teenage Fanclub wannabes I wrote about yesterday; "New Year's Day" is almost pop-punk; "Trash Romance" might have Jakob Dylan wondering if he didn't write it; and "Rise & Shine" is a great Heartland-styled rocker that reminds me of the BoDeans.

CD Baby | MySpace | eMusic

What's playing at AbPow 11/1/07

Last 10 on the iPod:

"Big Kids Wanna Rock"-Myracle Brah, Can You Hear The Myracle Brah?
"Honore"-Dick Prall, Weightless. (Fine singer-songwriter out of Chicago; ex-Toad The Wet Sprocket frontman Glen Phillips joins him on a couple of tracks) MySpace
"Coward of the Conscience"-Milton & The Devil's Party, How Wicked We've Become
"Addy Will Know"-SNMNMNM, Crawl Inside Your Head (enjoyable indie pop band that's been around a while) CD Baby
"England's Green"-Steve Robinson, Away For The Day. CD Baby
"Ramon Finds Waterfalls"-Cotton Mather, The Big Picture
"All The Love In The World"-Stockton, Euphonia
"Time's a Killer"-Sleepykid, Monday Morning Smile. Kool Kat
"All She Wanted"-Jamie Hoover & Bill Lloyd, Paparazzi (great 2004 release from these two pop luminaries, get it if you missed it)
"We've Become Ghosts"-The Foreign Films, Distant Star

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Everybody Wants to be Teenage Fanclub these days.

Last year I ran a post titled "Everybody Wants to be Neil Finn these days" in response to a spate of Finn soundalikes I ran across. And as you can see from the title, the same phenomenon seems to have cropped up with respect to TF. So if you worship at the altar of Norman Blake, here you go:

Mr. D-Wings & Wheels. This one came to my attention when Ray at Kool Kat featured it in his weekly update, and it's a fine example of the midtempo pop hooks and sweet harmonies that make for the classic TF sound. Plus it's available on eMusic. MySpace

The Wonderful Guinea Pigs. The good news: this is one of the better "discs" I've heard this year; this Swedish band has the goods, with "Mirror to Mirror" and "Desperate Days" being two of the better songs i've heard lately and they capture the TF sound to a "T" (and an "F"). The bad news: I used the term "disc" because they don't have a proper one for sale yet. Normally, I don't advocate file-sharing, but their 13-track demo/promo is floating around out there if you're resourceful enough. Just make sure you buy it when they release it properly. In the meantime, you can listen to them on their MySpace.

The Swedish Polarbears-Worship This!"EP"
. Another Swedish band with a TF-fetish. But these guys don't monkey around (guess I'm mixing my animal metaphors) with their influences - they wear them on their sleeves, as witnessed by their signature track, "Norman Blake". Like their Swedish brothers above, they don't have a proper release out, but all 4 tracks are streaming at their myspace. Here's the "Norman Blake" video:

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

CD of the Day, 10/30/07: Smith and Hayes-Changed by a Song

I like to kid quite a bit about some of Bruce Brodeen's catchphrases on Not Lame, such as the variations of "highly recommended" that he uses. Another one he uses quite a bit is "major find", when unearthing an obscure or older title that should have received more publicity (and he does a fine job in that department). Anyway, "major find" is the phrase that kept coming to mind after listening to Smith and Hayes' Changed by a Song, because this is a major find for fans of David Grahame, and by extension Emmit Rhodes and McCartney. (In fact, I almost broke out the siren again, but I don't want to overuse it.) Like Grahame, Clay Smith and Bill Hayes are music business pros who know their way around a song as well as around a studio.

The title track kicks off the festivities, and it's a fine tune with great harmonies and Revolveresque guitars. Next up is another standout - the Wilburyish "You Be The World". But things really go to another level with "Nothing But Love", a slow-building ballad that Grahame fans will do a cartwheel over (and which features a timpani). Other standouts include "Before You Know It", cut from the same cloth as "Nothing But Love"; "Directions Are Inside", which gives off a bit of a Rutles vibe; "Child of Yesterday", which features the best middle eight on the disc; and the Nines-ish "Last Thing I Do". And you even get a "Her Majesty"-like closer with "It Must Be Love", strummed on a ukelele on what sounds like an old scratchy 78.

There isn't a bad track on the entire disc, and someone's going to have make room in my top 20, if not top 10, for this one on the year-end list.

CD Baby | Streams from Official Site

Monday, October 29, 2007

CD of the Day, 10/29/07: Daniel Palmer-Home Sweet Home

It's been a while since we featured a singer/songwriter as CD of the Day, but Daniel Palmer's Home Sweet Home has broken the dry spell with 11 quality tunes that will appeal to fans of popsters such as Warren Zanes and David Mead, as well as fans of rootsier artists like Steve Earle and Jeff Tweedy.

Opener "Singing The Same Song" shows Palmer's pop side, and it reminds me of some of the better tracks off the last Don DiLego disc, which may not be concidental as DiLego is part of Palmer's backing band. "Sometimes", meanwhile, has more of an alt-country sound, but before you can pigeonhole it off the first minute or two, it explodes into a great singalong chorus and a swelling of horns. "Brand New" follows, with its staccato Beatlesque beat reminding me of "If You Could Stay" from Zanes' Memory Girls disc. Other highlights include the midtempo and very radio-friendly "Strong Baby, Strong" and "Silent Alarm", as well as the dreamy closer "Keeps Me Wondering".

CD Baby | MySpace (available there as a $5 download)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

CD of the Day, 10/25/07: The Nines-Gran Jukle's Field

It's probably not an understatement to say that The Nines' Gran Jukle's Field might be the most anticipated power pop release of 2007; after all, 2006's Calling Distance Stations was perhaps the most well-received disc of the year in the power pop community, placing #1 on the year-end Audities list (as well as a pretty high #23 on my list). So the question on everyone's mind is "Does it live up to expectations?" In a word: no. But that's not a bad thing. Whereas Stations had a fairly cohesive sound (80s Moody Blues meets XTC meets ELO), Gran Jukle's Field is an exercise in pop eclecticism - their motto here could have been Monty Python's "And Now For Something Completely Different".

It's perhaps no accident that Bleu (of recent L.E.O. fame) and Jason Falkner were involved with this disc, as opener "Insanity (The Sanest Thing You've Got)" is a rollicking delight that's pure Jellyfish in a McCartney-meets-Queen way. While Falkner's stamp might be all over that track, Bleu's is apparent on the track he produced, "Dance Just For Me", in which he lends his LEO production sound to Steve Eggers' plaintive tale of being in love with a stripper. Meanwhile, Eggers & Co. induldge their love of smooth R&B/disco-inflected pop with "Don't Be a Fool" and "I Am Lost", the latter of which would have fit in unnoticed on the last Scissor Sisters disc. Not your style? Then try "Chantel Elizabeth", part drinking song, part sea shanty. And if you act now, you also get the bossanova of "Safe" (which reminds me of The Pernice Brothers' "Cronulla Breakdown"), the pastoral-era-Kinks sound of the title track, and the countrified "Find Our Way Back Home". Finally, for those who wanted Calling Distance Stations II, you have a quartet of tracks ("Eileen", "She Hijacked Me", "Virginia" and the "Sexy Sadie"-ish "Monotony's Song") that could be packaged in a red can and sold as Nines Classic.

And after all that, I just have to say "Wow". Although you may get genre whiplash from listening to it, every song on the disc is excellent, and I definitely see them higher than #23 on my 2007 list and an Audities repeat at #1 wouldn't shock me either.

CD Baby | MySpace

EP of the Day, 10/25/07: Michael Harrell-Greetings From The Village

I almost included this in yesterday's roundup, but decided it was worth breaking out by itself. Michael Harrell has himself a contender for my year-end top EPs list with Greetings From The Village, an auspicious debut for the 21-year-old Nashvillian. Harrell references The Kinks and Teenage Fanclub in his self-description, and to that I can add Brendan Benson, and even a hint of Bob Evans.

The disc starts rather perversely with a track titled "The End", but it sounds like more like an opener than a closer; the sound here might best be described as AC Newman meets Edmund's Crown. "A Different Kind of Love" is a more straightfoward power pop track that mixes in electric piano to nice effect and yields the Teenage Fanclub comparison. And it's "Pretty When You Cry" that reminds me of Bob Evans with its pedal steel pop. "O Father" follows, a song about Harrell's faith, which is a good a time as any to mention that Superdrag's John Davis helped out on the disc, and this track would have fit nicely on Davis' solo debut. Meanwhile, "Another Day" isn't a McCartney cover, but it shares his pop sensibility, as does the acoustic closer "Private Joke".

A very promising debut, and here's hoping for a full-length next year.

CD Baby | MySpace

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Mid-week Roundup.

Had no intention of going a week without posting, but stuff happens and all that. So to make up for lost time, here's a whole buncha stuff that I've been meaning to give a shout out to:

Doug Bryan-Mad Love. Powerpopaholic beat me to this one, and his review pretty much covers the bases. Bryan will appeal to fans of Herb Eimerman, The Spongetones and early Shoes as well as roots poppers like Brian Jay Cline and Walter Clevenger. "Long Gone", the opener, sets the tone in equal parts great yarn and great tune, and the real standout is "Corporation of Love", both witty and poppy in a Barenaked Ladies kind of way. CD Baby | MySpace

Beachfield-Brighton Bothways. Beachfield is Glenn Thompson, a former sideman for The Go-Betweens, and his debut here is often reminiscent of that band but with more of a pure pop sensibility. Standout tracks: "Wintertime Again" with it's whoa-ho-ho's, the Crowded House-esque "Come Down", and "Suburban Life". It's out in Europe & Australia, and is available from Tower in the USA for an 11/5 release. MySpace

Tony Vincent-A Better Way EP
. Been digging this one, a short-but-sweet EP of fairly sugary pop with a bit of an 80s sheen. This might be too wimpy for some, but even power pop fans can have their guilty pleasures. CD Baby | MySpace

The Pearlfishers-Up With The Larks. Bruce at Not Lame featured this one this week, and it deserves another mention. This might be one of the best pure pop discs in the classic sense of artists as varied as Paul McCartney, Jimmy Webb as well as being a counterpart in some ways to the Red Button. The Red Button comparison comes into play big-time with "London's in Love", one of may favorite tracks of the year-to-date. Throw in the fact that Teenage Fanclub's Norman Blake produced four of the tracks, and you have a real winner on your hands. If you don't want to pay import prices for the disc, you can get mp3s from Amazon for $7.99, not a bad deal. But make sure you pick this one up in some format. MySpace

The Silver Seas-High Society. This band used to be known as The Bees (U.S.), and so as not to be confused with the more well-known British band of the same name, they went with this moniker. By any name, this is a fine disc of mid-tempo pop that features another top 20 song-of-the-year contender, "The Country Life". eMusic | MySpace

The Condors-Wait For It. OK, now that we've dispensed with the poppier (some might say wimpier) pop discs in this roundup, here's some power pop in the form of LA's The Condors. Leadoff track "Waiting Half The Night" picks you up, shakes you, and doesn't let go. In fact, you could say it's punk pop for grownups; instead of some adenoidal twentysomething whining about this, that or the other thing, you get a band that knows the style, is comfortable in its own skin, and is ready to rock. CD Baby | MySpace

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

More good stuff from eMusic (plus last 10 on the iPod).

Some quality releases:

Icecream Hands-The Good China. I would have featured this one as a CD of the Day back when it came out earlier this year, but it wasn't released in the USA. The veteran Aussie power poppers are back and better than ever on this one.

The Makes Nice-This Time Tomorrow. Hey, didn't these guys just put on an album? Anyway, on the heels of Candy Wrapper here they are with another helping of Nugget-y goodness.

Neall Alcott-Rittenhouse Square
. We alerted you to this one about a month ago, and now it's on eMusic; if you didn't want to spring for the CD, here's your big chance.

Brad Brooks-Sanctified Into Astroglide. Quite a few of you out there enjoyed Brad's 2007 release Spill Collateral Love - now eMu features his previous disc from 2000, another slice of highly eclectic pop.

"Hate Being Lonely"-Ben Forrest Davis, Roughs. (This one is really sneaking up on me)
"Stranger Things Have Happened"-Foo Fighters, Echoes Silence Patience
"Bright Blue Hell"-Rosavelt, The Story of Gasoline
"Places"-Georgie James, Places (this disc is about as good as boy-girl indie pop gets - Roll over AC Newman and tell Neko Case the news)
"Judgment Day"-Bill Deasy, The Miles (singer-songwriter similar to AM & Gus Black)
"All The Way Down"-Pawnshop Roses, Let It Roll (not bad faux Black Crowes)
"Basement Parties"-Matt Pond PA, Last Light
"Hello This Is Goodbye"-Ben Forrest Davis, Roughs
"Sleep"-Jackdaw4, Bipolar Diversions
"Cotton Island"-The State of Samuel, Here Come The Floods

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

CD of the Day, 10/16/07: The Amprays-Low Sun Fire

Kevin Grasha doesn't have your ordinary musician's biography. First of all, Grasha is a journalist who, according to his site, "has interviewed Kim Deal of the Breeders, Barack Obama, at least three convicted murderers, and a man who auctioned on eBay appearances of a cup filled with water that Elvis allegedly drank in the 1970s." Meanwhile, he also underwent an emergency craniectomy (that's brain surgery) a few years back. More conventionally, he was once in Rosavelt, a band who put out a fine record in 2004 called The Story of Gasoline only to break up later.

But all of this would be merely another human interest story if his record didn't rock. But it does, and Low Sun Fire by The Amprays (Grasha's band/project which includes a couple of other ex-Rosavelt members) is music for the ears of anyone who's into The Replacements, early Wilco and Guided by Voices. "Levitate" comes roaring out of the gate, nailing their sound with guitars and hooks all wrapped up in 2:24. "Less Than Safe at Last" is reminiscent of the better moments of Paul Westerberg's solo career; "I Woke Up" would have fit in nicely on Wilco's AM and "The Stuntman" is where the Robert Pollard comparisons come in. While The Amprays may be not reinventing the wheel here, they're certainly doing their best to keep it spinning in a manner that you can rock to.

CD Baby | "I Woke Up"(mp3) | "The Stuntman"(mp3)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Monday miscellany.

Some random bits as we face another work week:

* I've never been a big fan of Melissa Etheridge and her whole "female Springsteen" sound (although I am a big fan of the actual Boss and I highly recommend Magic). But "Message to Myself" from her new disc is a great (power) pop track and has found its way onto my iPod. It's streaming at her myspace.

* I guess the siren sells records. Earlier this year the Josh Fields disc constantly went out of stock at CD Baby, and now I notice that The Foreign Films has done likewise.

* Kool Kat is featuring Ben Forrest Davis' Roughs among the new releases this week. "The gorgeous debut by former and founding member of Sugarcult released on Ric Menck's Bird Song imprint" is how they describe it, and I have to say I like what I've heard. I mention this disc because it's available at eMusic, in case you haven't burned through your monthly credits yet.

Friday, October 12, 2007

CD of the Day, 10/12/07: Jackdaw4-Bipolar Diversions

OK, now things are getting serious. There have been a lot of outstanding discs this year, but it's been more depth of quality rather than peaks of quality. In other words, many of the discs that were in my top 20 or so for this year to date would have had a hard time cracking the top 20 of 2005 or 2006. But Bioplar Diversions, the sophomore effort from London's Jackdaw4, should have no problem cracking any year's power pop top 20 or better.

There was a lot of buzz over their first disc, 2004's Gramophone Logic, but I found it a bit inconsistent; here, they reach their full potential with the best Jellyfish-influenced disc since Checkpoint Charley & Sparkwood cracked my 2005 Top 20. They knock it right out of park with "SOOMA (All This Vision)" in which they display a gift for both melody and humor (SOOMA stands for Shines out of My Ass, as in "the sun") along with a nod to Queen. "Frobisher's Last Stand" marries the Jellyfish sound with that of Doug Powell; "Jesus Wants My Soul Back" smacks of music hall McCartney; the title track lives up to its title, with a manic first half followed by a "depressive" and mellow orchestral second half; and "My Little Gangsta" goes for a more glam sound and reminds me of the Class Three Overbite disc. But that's just the first half of the disc. The second half is just as good, especially "Illuminati", which will have you swearing that Sturmer, Falkner, Manning & Co. really have reunited under a different name.

Many recent bands have tried to make a "Jellyfish record", but have only succeeded with a track or two or three. Jackdaw4 have truly done it here, creating a record that is more than the sum of its parts or its influences. It's kind of ironic that Andy Sturmer was the driving force behind LEO, as Alpacas Orgling was a pitch-perfect homage to ELO that stood on its own as a great album, and here we have Jellyfish essentially receiving the same treatment.

The disc is officially out in ten days, but Kool Kat said a few days ago that they have it enroute, so if you place your order now you shouldn't have to wait that long. In the meantime, sample some tracks at their MySpace.

UPDATE: Not Lame is all over this one as well, and they're offering three bonus tracks as well (per Bruce), so keep checking this link as well.

This week's eMusic.

Some interesting stuff on good ol' eMu this week:

Morten Richter-Message From The Slum. This one's actually not new this week, but newly discovered by yours truly. I came across Richter (who hails from Norway) while sampling the latest IPO 3-disc set and his track "Pop-Up Window" well, popped out at me. Further investigation revealed the disc on eMusic, and it's a glam-rock, power pop delight.

The State of Samuel-Here Come The Floods. You could be forgiven for mistaking this Swedish band for another of Robert Pollard's side projects, as there's a definite GbV influence here, the songs clock in at barely 2 minutes (or less) and there are titles like "The Residents of Gloom" and "Slow Day For the UFOs". But no, SoS is their own band, and this is high-quality indie pop. And speaking of Pollard.....

Robert Pollard-Coast to Coast Carpet of Love. If it's Friday, that must mean there's another Robert Pollard record out, and actually there are two of them (he also released Standard Gargoyle Decisions this week, but the critical consensus is that it sucks). This one is being hailed as an excellent power pop record, although I haven't had the chance to listen to it yet. As usual, Pollard isn't a real eMu-friendly artist given the number of tracks on his discs - here you have 16 of 'em averaging the typical 2 minutes per.

Rockfour-Memories of the Never Happened. It's not every day you come across a rock band from Israel, but here you go. These guys used to be with Rainbow Quartz, but this one finally saw a US release on the Cooking Vinyl imprint.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Video & eMusic Download of the Day, The Deadstring Brothers "Meet Me Down at The Heavy Load"

Detroit's Deadstring Brothers have been around for a while, and they released their third disc, Silver Mountain, this week. Their sound is easily described: Exile on Main Street-era Stones. Sure there's a bit of Gram Parsons, Faces and Black Crowes in there as well, but as soon as you start playing this video, you'll be thinking Exile (the album, not the band).

And as of today, it's on eMusic here, along with their first two discs (I highly recommend Starving Winter Report).

Monday, October 08, 2007

CD of the Day, 10/8/07: The Foreign Films-Distant Star

For the third time* in this blog's history, here comes the siren:

There are discs about which I can wax poetic, and then every once in a while I come across one that makes me feel like Chris Farley in those old SNL skits where all he could do was slobber over a celebrity and saw "you were awesome". Such is almost the case for The Foreign Films' Distant Star (I say almost because this post is going to be a bit longer than just "it's awesome"), a 2-CD masterpiece of psych pop that takes the sound of luminaries like John Lennon, Robyn Hitchcock, XTC, contemporaries like Cotton Mather, Robert Harrison solo (the disc is very reminiscent of Future Clouds and Radar, only more consistent), Robert Pollard, Deleted Waveform Gatherings, and mixes it up to create something that stands astride its influences as its own artistic statement.

All of you Matherites out there should truly be stoked by this one; on the heels of Stockton's release featured last week, this one will be truly up your alley. The Foreign Films is actually Hamilton, Ontario's Bill Majoros, and he's a vocal cousin to Lennon and Harrison (Robert, not George). Majoros has been a vet of the music studios for 15 years, as sideman and producer, and it shows on his debut as frontman (he wrote all the tracks as well) as the disc is a sonic as well as melodic delight. Given the band name, it's almost a cliche to describe the sound here as "cinematic", but if the shoe fits...

As far as the individual tracks go, there's 22 of 'em, and I haven't found a bad (or even mediocre) one in the bunch. This is the type of disc that cries out to be listened to the old-fashioned way: all at once, consecutively, preferably on a nice set of headphones. Which is not to say it doesn't work on the iPod either; when these tracks came up randomly among those from other artists, they stood out as well. I guess it's obligatory that I single out a few; coming to mind first are the disc's bookends, opener "Remember to Forget" drew me in the first minute I heard it as a sample on CD Baby, and the closing suite, the 8 1/2-minute "The Snowglobe" is one of the few of those that actually work. "Invisible Heart" is another standout - it's one of the more rocking tracks on the disc - and "Clouds Above Radio Towers" is the quintessential Cotton Mather-meets-GbV track. But there's really no drop-off in the others either. I do throw the phrase "top 10 of the year contender" around a lot (probably more than 10 times a year, for sure), but this is a top 5 contender and maybe even higher. I'll just wrap it succinctly: Get. This. Album. Now. (It's priced at $12.97, typical for a single disc)

CD Baby | MySpace

*for those keeping score, the other two sirens were for Travis Hopper and Josh Fields. In retrospect, the Hopper was an excellent album, but maybe not quite siren-worthy. Fields, on the other hand, still deserves his.