Wednesday, September 26, 2007

CD (EP) of the Day, 9/26/07: The Treasury-The Treasury

Usually I don't feature a CD on the site without having had it for at least a few days, if not a week or two, but this one was unfamiliar to me about an hour ago. But thanks to the combination of internet streaming and an instantly appealing sound, today I bring you The Treasury, a North Carolina 4-piece that has an instant contender for EP of the year.

Their sound is a great mix of the Beatlesque and the modern, with a twist of "popicana", a la The Jayhawks or Storyhill. I wouldn't be writing any of this if it didn't pull me in with opening track, and "What's Forever" is a gem, not unlike a lost Posies track covered by Velvet Crush. "All For Love" adds a bit of a Rainbow Quartz-styled psych-pop to the mix, while "Talk Talk Talk" is vintage power pop. "Don't Look Now" brings the tempo, but not the quality, down a notch and yields the Popicana referenes with its great harmonies and laid-back feel, and they close on a winning note with "Memory Lane" which reminds me of a more earnest, less cutesy Fountains of Wayne.

You can discover the EP just as I did by heading over to their official site, or if you prefer: CD Baby | MySpace

Alan Greenspan says it's not irrational exuberance to like The Treasury's debut EP.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Not your Father's Slightly Older Sibling's Roundup

When I've done these roundups in the past, it's often been to mention discs I've enjoyed, but haven't recommended as highly as those I've featured as CD of the Day. To translate that on the Brodeen scale, it's like the difference between "extremely highly recommended" and "big time extremely highly recommended" (We kid, Bruce, because we care).

Anyway, this roundup is going to be different, because all of these discs are worthy of a "CD of the Day" feature, but at the rate I'm cranking those out, it's quite possible one or more of these artists will be getting ready to release a follow-up before they all got done. So here they are, in one convenient blog post:

Neall Alcott-Rittenhouse Square
. Just when I thought there were only two ways to spell the name that's a homonym of "kneel" (Neil and Neal), here comes Mr. Alcott and his two "l"s. In the end, he can spell his name any way he wants if he's going to churn out quality discs like this one, a fine combination of Beatle-pop and Britpop that recalls artists well known (XTC, Michael Penn) and others featured on this site (Steve Robinson, Gary Henson). If this isn't one of the better unheralded discs you'll hear lately, then my name isn't Steeve, er Steave. CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

Frisbie-New Debut. Some bands are appropriately named. Case in point: Chicago's Frisbie, who released the great 2000 disc The Subversive Sounds of Love and then seemed to get stuck on the roof and couldn't come down. Well, seven years later they're back with New Debut (appropriately titled as well) and they've gone for a more "rawk" sound, kind of like when Sloan transitioned from One Chord to Another to Navy Blues. From the opening title track (more cowbell!) to the Tommy Shaw-esque "Half Breed" to the Cheap Trick of "S.F.B." (mentioned by name), it's like putting on an old K-Tel album from the 70s. CD Baby | MySpace

Backbeat-Eye-Dentity. Speaking of appropriately named bands, these Cincinnatians share their name with a classic Beatle biopic (even if Stephen Dorff was in it), and share their sound with classic early Beatles. They used to be known as Story, and they put out a fine disc under that moniker last year (available on eMu), and Eye-Dentity is more of the same. If your favorite Beatle albums were the first 3 or 4, then you'll love this disc (including the cover of "Not a Second Time"). I love the shamelessly retro "Soviet Secrets", which sounds like what the Beatles would have done had McCartney gotten the idea for "Back In The USSR" in 1963 instead of 1968. CD Baby | MySpace

Warm In The Wake-American Prehistoric
. A couple of weeks back when I reviewed the new Ari Shine disc, I laid down my rules for artists going from debut EP to debut LP, and Warm In The Wake's American Prehistoric follows those rules with a fine disc of all-new tunes. We loved the Wilco/Autumn Defense meets Teenage Fanclub sound of Gold Dust Trail, and here are 15 more tracks to enjoy (mastered at Abbey Road Studios, no less). "Airport Girl" and "Antique Knives" are my favorites. eMusic | MySpace

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

What's playing at AbPow 9/18/07

If you notice to the left, I've changed the ipod picture to reflect my pickup of a new Nano. It's a great little player, but I just wish there were cases available for it already given my track record of manhandling iPods (I've broken 2 hard drive-based iPods by dropping them, so I vowed to go flash from here on out). Anyway, here are the last several played:

"Never Leave"-Dave Derby, Dave Derby and the Norfolk Downs. Outstanding singer-songwriter record from the one-time Dambuilder and current "musical director" for comedienne Sarah Silverman. MySpace | CD Baby

"Seraphim", "Poem for the Middle Class"-The Seldon Plan, The Collective Now. As you can maybe judge from those two titles (which came up consecutively on the iPod), The Seldon Plan is an indie pop band. A very good one, though - I really enjoyed their 2005 release Making Circles, and this one is sounding quite good, too, in a Nada Surf kind of way. MySpace | CD Baby

"Abilene"-Knit Delicate, Pressed. I've already mentioned this disc, but I want to reiterate that it's really, really good.

"Hallelujah Chorus"-The Nobility, The Mezzanine. I really love this track, and this is another disc I've come to enjoy immensely; think The Decembrists if Colin Meloy could sing and if they didn't go for baroque, or David Grahame if he were less Beatle-obsessed. Formerly known as Jetpack UK. MySpace | CD Baby

"Zzzzz...."-The Twilight, Tempest in a Teapot. It's funny that this came back-to-back with The Nobility, since The Twilight is a very similar indie pop band that has released an irresistible disc. MySpace | CD Baby

"Heart of Stone"-Cyclones, Walk Fast Head Down. After all of those indie poppers, it was a nice change of pace to hear a more straightforward power pop band, and the Cyclones deliver on that score. From 2005. CD Baby | Official Site

eMu sightings!

The new power pop has been coming slow as molasses from eMusic lately, but there are a few additions of note:

Myracle Brah-Can You Hear The Myracle Brah?
Andy Bopp is back with his first new disc in three years, and the raves are already coming (although not from me at the moment as I haven't listened yet).

The Safes-Well Well Well
. This one came out late last year and has finally made its way to the site - Bruce at Not Lame sez: "Like Cheap Trick doing The Clash. Talk about kicking out the jangle jams! You`ll need to take some aspirin after tuning to this one after all the head-bobbing you`ll do."

The Donnas-Bitchin'
. These ladies are now indies after their first two records were with Atlantic, so we get them on eMu. They certainly do rock.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Video (and Re-evalulation) of the Day: The Red Button-Cruel Girl

Stumbled across this video from The Red Button's She's About to Cross My Mind, perhaps the most "popular" power pop album of the year, given the buzz it's received. In fact, it's 2007's Alpacas Orgling; just like that project, this is an expert re-creation of a particular sound (mid-60s britpop vs ELO in the latter case) from power pop songwriting pros (Swirsky/Ruekberg vs Bleu/Sturmer). I didn't write much about the disc when it came out early this year, not because I didn't like it (it's #8 on my top 50 of the first half, and that's probably a bit too low) but because everyone else was raving about it, and I've never been a big fan of "me too" posts. Now that the hype has died down, I've really come to appreciate the disc even more - "Ooh Girl" might be my favorite song of the year, and "Floating By" and "Can't Stop Thinking About Her" might be in my top 10. Ironically (and perhaps another reason why I initially underrated this disc), the most publicized songs from the disc, "Cruel Girl" and the title track, are probably about my 7th and 8th favorite songs on the disc. Which doesn't mean "Cruel Girl" isn't a quality tune, and without further ado, here's the video:

UPDATE: Upon further thought, another possible reason I wasn't eager to jump on the Red Button bandwagon is that I'm not a real big fan of Swirsky's political views. It has nothing to do with his musical output, of course, and I'd never dream of telling him to "shut up and sing" like some of his political allies have done with outspoken musicians on the other side (cf. Dixie Chicks, Bruce Springsteen).

CD of the Day, 9/11/07: Rollo Time-Rollo Time

You've put in a hard day at work. You've finished fixing dinner. You've put the kids to bed. Now, it's Rollo Time.

OK, apologies to the Miller Brewing Co. aside, any time is Rollo Time if you're a fan of classic power pop in the vein of Superdrag, The Shazam, Splitsville and various other bands whose name starts with "S" (even though they start with an "R"). Hailing from the rather depressingly-named Downers Grove, Illinois, the Rollos deliver the kind of disc that rewards power pop fans for waking up each day and asking "what's new and exciting out there?".

Opener "Maintenance Free" is a Superdrag-styled opener that throws in enough left-field touches (i.e., the break at the 2-minute mark with just the lead singer and piano) to make it something more than cookie-cutter stuff. Meanwhile, "Float Down The River" has such an infectious beat and melody that your foot will still be tapping 5 minutes after the song is over. "Travel The World" rocks out with a bit of Cheap Trick attitude, and "Don't", "Cut Me to the Quick" and "Only If You Wanna" make a fine trio of rockers. Closing out the disc on a quality note is the trippy "Moth & Butterfly", which is most definitely NOT a Heart cover.

CD Baby | MySpace

Thursday, September 06, 2007

What's playing at AbPow 9/6/07

Time to start a new feature here which might strike some as lame, but what the heck, it's my blog.

I'm going to try to at least once a day (which will probably mean once in a while when I get around to it) list the last 10 songs played on my iPod. Rather than some look into what my favorites are, the way I use my iPod almost exclusively is as thus: I have a 1000-1100 song playlist set on shuffle. This playlist is comprised of 200 tracks picked from my 21000+ song iTunes library at random, with the remaining 800-900 being albums I've added in the last two months or so. The purpose of this exercise is multifold: to give everyone a peek into a sample of my daily listening (to the extent anyone cares), and to bring out comments on discs I'm enjoying but otherwise might not blog about (or that I plan to blog about soon). So without further ado, here are the last 10 tracks that popped up on the pod:

"Instead"-Paul Starling, Ghost Waltz. I grabbed this mp3 off his site or somewhere - don't have the whole album (if someone wants to send it to me, I won't complain). RIYL: The Now People, Nelson Bragg, The Wondermints, Brian Wilson, etc. MySpace

"Outerspace"-The Millions, Disrespectfully Yours. These guys rock hard but very melodically; they're probably about as "heavy" as I'm going to listen to on a regular basis. CD Baby | MySpace

"Believe In Me"-Rooney, Calling The World. These guys are major-label types I usually don't write about, which isn't to say they aren't any good. I've enjoyed several songs from this album, especially the ELO-ish "Don't Come Around Again".

"Nightfall at Electric Park"-Great Lakes Myth Society, Compass Rose Bouquet. I only just added this one to the rotation, so I'm not ready to offer up an informed opinion. Indie pop/rock that sounds quite melodic though - Pitchfork deigned to give it a 6.5. eMusic

"Another Losing Season"-John P. Strohm, Everyday Life.

"Getaway"-Ryan Calhoun, What Are We Doing Here.

"Rollerskaters In The Park"-The Afternoons, Baby, You Know The Deal. Melodic Welsh band whose Rocket Summer was a fine 2005 release. This "new" disc is kind of a combo of Rocket Summer and some other tracks. MySpace

"I've Got Love"-The Twilight, Tempest in a Teapot. A really good indie pop disc that warrants further investigation. CD Baby | MySpace

"Miss You CA"-Dean Owens, Whisky Hearts.

"My Friend Hates Me"-P.Hux, Kiss The Monster. The latest from the Huxster. This is another random mp3 I got off his myspace back before that myspace mp3 thingy was shut down. Again, if he wants to send me a copy, I'll review it. :)

Well, this took a bit longer than I thought it would. But I'll try it again tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

CD of the Day, 9/5/07: Ari Shine-A Force of One

When an artist who releases an outstanding EP gets ready to unleash his full-length, there are two things I look for: 1) are the songs from the EP on the full-length? (The answer I hope to get is "no", because adding 5-6 new songs is really just releasing another EP, and often when this phenomenon is present, the new songs usually aren't as good), and 2) do the new songs live up to the standard of the EP?, as it's a lot harder to come up with 10-12 decent tracks than 4-5.

Thankfully, the answers here are "no" and "yes", as Ari Shine had one of last year's best EPs (#5 in our year-end list) with Age/Occupation and has now released his debut full-length, A Force of One. The comparison touchstone for Shine has been late 70s-era Elvis Costello (and "Crank It Out!" from the EP would have fit snugly onto Armed Forces, for sure) but it's more 70s Costello with a modern sheen, not unlike say, Eugene Edwards. Also of note is that the disc is produced by Earle Mankey, a former member of the legendary Sparks.

"Cooler than Me" blasts open the disc with its pounding piano and cranked-up guitars, while its lyrical content (guy apparently pushing 30 tries to pick up a 21-year old) seems a cross between "Hey Nineteen" and "(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes", making it an unforgettable track. "Most Popular Girl In The World" almost sounds like you'd imagine if you just went off the title (i.e., vintage power pop); "She Wants It (More Than Me) features an insistent guitar riff and a Figgs-like sound, while "Beat U" stakes a different claim to the sound of late 70s new wave (think Cars) with its dominant synths.

Other highlights include the synthtastic "Party People", "Beirut 1978", which reminds me thematically of Don Henley's "All She Wants To Do Is Dance" and ironically may be the least 1978-sounding track on the disc; and "It's a Shame", which betrays a hint of jangle. No sophomore jinx here, that's for sure.

CD Baby | MySpace