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.