Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Absolute Powerpop Top 100 of 2009, #1-5.

5. Wiretree-Luck. Kevin Peroni is making himself a regular fixture at the top of my list, as 2007's Bouldin finished in the top 5, and had I had a best EPs of 2005 list, the debut EP would have been #2 that year (behind David Mead). Among the artists I've reviewed on this site the last (nearly) four years, Wiretree has one of the more distinctive sounds, and Luck built on this sound and expanded it.

4. Throwback Suburbia-Throwback Suburbia. You know the old cliche about something that's a quintessential example of what it is - "If you looked up 'x' in the dictionary, there'd be a picture of this right next to it". Well when it comes to power pop, this Oregon band's sophomore effort might just be its epitome. Nothing groundbreaking here, just 13 tracks that hit all the right buttons, and serve as the answer to the question "what does power pop sound like?"

3. Michael Carpenter-Redemption #39. Michael Carpenter has become such a consistent fixture in the power pop community that it's very easy to take what he does for granted. But it's not easy to make it sound effortless, and on his sixth solo album, he displays a new lyrical depth that takes this collection of songs to another level. Carpenter is a mature, and maturing, artist who seems congenitally incapable of making a bad record.

2. fun.-Aim and Ignite. This is the first time I've had a disc ranked this high that I didn't previously review on the site. There are a variety of reasons for this which aren't very interesting, so let me just apologize to anyone who reads this site that's only finding out about this disc now, because you've missed out on the most rollicking, tuneful, buoyant, joyous disc of 2009. Nate Ruess disbanded The Format, but with his new band he's put out a disc that not only equals but exceeds 2006's brilliant Dog Problems. Mixing Queen, ELO, Mika, show tunes, and anything else he can throw in, Ruess outdoes himself here with a disc that should find an audience well beyond power poppers. Perhaps there's never been a more appropriately titled band - the disc is fun, period.

1. Plasticsoul-Peacock Swagger. It seems that at its roots, power pop is a search for the Beatlesque. Not an pure aping of the Beatles per se, but the ability to capture the mix of melody, musicianship and innovation in a more or less traditional rock form that was their hallmark. Lots of artists and albums try for this, but fall short in way or another. But I daresay that Steven Wilson, a/k/a Plasticsoul (fittingly named a McCartney phrase that inspired the titling of Rubber Soul) gets pretty much all the way there. Of course, it doesn't hurt to have a voice that sounds eerily like John Lennon either. And on Peacock Swagger, Wilson manages to capture the right mix of tunefulness, attitude and eclecticism that's found on most Beatles and Lennon albums.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Absolute Powerpop Top 100 of 2009, #6-50.

I will have a top 5 post either later today or tomorrow morning, but for now here's #6-50, in countdown format:

50. Bruce Springsteen-Working on a Dream
49. Charles Ramsey-Good Morning & Good Night
48. Grand Atlantic-How We Survive
47. Reno Bo-Happenings & Other Things
46. Terry Anderson & The OAK Team-National Champions
45. El Goodo-Coyote
44. Wax Poets-Wax Poets
43. The Alice Rose-All Haunt's Sound
42. Almost Charlie-The Plural of Yes
41. Michael Behm-Saving America
40. The Pollocks-Wine Diamonds
39. The Humbugs-On the Up Side
38. La Fleur Fatale-Silent Revolution
37. The Perms-Keeps You Up When You're Down
36. First in Space-Geronimo
35. Secret Powers-Secret Powers & The Electric Family Choir
34. Dropkick-Abelay Hotel
33. Scott Warren-Quick Fix Bandage
32. The Orange Peels-2020
31. Kyle Vincent-Where You Are
30. Bob Evans-Goodnight, Bull Creek!
29. Ike Reilly-Hard Luck Stories
28. Andy Kirkland-No Name Gallery
27. Chris Richards & The Subtractions-Sad Sounds of the Summer
26. The Shazam-Meteor
25. Sons of Great Dane-Why Ramble?
24. Bleu-A Watched Pot
23. Vinyl Candy-Land
22. The Tomorrows-Jupiter Optimus Maximus
21. Campbell Stokes Sunshine Recorder-Makes Your Ears Smile
20. Fastball-Little White Lies
19. Don Gallardo-Sweetheart Radio Revolution Etc.
18. Roger Klug-More Help for Your Nerves
17. Valley Lodge-Semester at Sea
16. Wilco-Wilco (The Album)
15. John Lefler-Better by Design
14. The Tripwires-House to House
13. Lamar Holley-Confessions of a College Student
12. JP Cregan-Man Overboard
11. Shane Lamb-Disengage
10. Bobby Emmett-Learning Love
9. This Modern Station-All That We Leave Behind
8. Cheap Trick-The Latest
7. Jeff Litman-Postscript
6. The Duckworth-Lewis Method-The Duckworth-Lewis Method

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Absolute Powerpop Top 100 of 2009, #51-100.

I'm not sure if 2009 was a down year or what, but all I know is that whereas last year I went with a top 125 because there were too many good discs missing out on the top 100, this year I had to struggle to come up with 100. Here's the back half of the top 100, with the top 50 to come tomorrow:

51. Brendan Benson-My Old, Familiar Friend
52. The Literary Greats-Ocean, Meet the Valley
53. Cheap Star-Speaking Like an Elephant
54. David England-Little Death
55. Curtains for You-What a Lovely Surprise to Wake Up Here
56. Barnett/Gurley-Evidence
57. Minky Starshine-Unidentified Hit Record
58. Deleted Waveform Gatherings-Ghost, She Said
59. Jeff Larson-Heart of the Valley
60. Tommy Keene-In the Late Bright
61. Fred Van Vactor-Everything Good All at Once
62. Benjamin r-The Other Side of Nowhere
63. Young Fresh Fellow-I Think It Is
64. Clockwise-Faders on Stun
65. Jason Falkner-All Quiet on the Noise Floor
66. Brian Jay Cline-Nashville Tracks
67. Paul Starling-Doors & Windows
68. Cameron Purvis & The Spartans-Foolsgold
69. Brett Kull-The Last of the Curlews
70. Greg Koons & The Misbegotten-Welcome to the Nowhere Motel
71. Mika-The Boy Who Knew Too Much
72. The Brilliant Inventions-Have You Changed
73. David Mead-Almost & Always
74. The Damnwells-One Last Century
75. Jason Karaban-Sobriety Kills
76. Mike Gent-Mike Gent
77. Parallax Project-I Hate Girls
78. The Leftovers-Eager to Please
79. Straw Dogs-Love & Then Hope
80. Canadian Invasion-Three Cheers for the Invisible Hand
81. Michael Harrell-Jericho Blues
82. Chris Swinney-Try This at Home
83. Tony Cox-Unpublished
84. Minster Hill-Capturing Clouds in a Bottle
85. Baby Scream-Ups and Downs
86. Adam Marsland-Go West
87. Matt Beck-Anything Which Gives You Pleasure
88. Vegas With Randolph-Vegas With Randolph
89. The Antennas-S/T
90. Supraluxe-Wake Leave Home Sleep
91. John's Revolution-Today Your Love, Tomorrow the World
92. Evan Hillhouse-Transition
93. L'Avventura-You Star Was Shining
94. The Evening Rig-Is Doin' Stuff
95. The Kavanaghs-The Kavanaghs
96. Willie Nile-House of a Thousand Guitars
97. Landon Pigg-The Boy Who Never
98. David Brookings-Glass Half Full
99. Latvian Radio-Seven Layers of Self-Defense
100. Sarakula-City Heart

Monday, December 14, 2009

Keeping up with Jason Karaban.

With all of their artists I've reviewed and come to enjoy over the past several years, it's impossible to keep up with them all, especially when they release singles or EPs. Usually I stumble on to these releases by accident, and that's what happened with some new music that came out earlier this year from Jason Karaban.

Karaban released Sobriety Kills at the end of 08/beginning of 09, and he's followed that up with a digital-only EP (Mayfly) and a digital-only single ("Succeed 101"). They're of a piece with his earlier work, so this is less a review than it is a heads-up to anyone like me who likes Karaban but wasn't aware these releases were out.

Mayfly on iTunes
| "Succeed 101" on iTunes | MySpace

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Weekend Roundup.

Don Gallardo-Sweetheart Radio Revolution Etc. This East Nashvillian has crafted an engaging and tuneful second full-length (his first came in 2002) that will appeal to fans of Tom Petty, Ryan Adams, Steve Earle and those who enjoyed the Shane Lamb disc reviewed in this space a couple of months back. The fine "Sittin' on Top of the World" opens the disc not unlike the way Petty opened Echo with another track called "Top of the World", "I Give Up" is a beautiful ballad that puts most of the prepackaged stuff known as contemporary country to shame, and "Before the Devil Knows They're Dead" is an excellent rocker with a hint of Paul Westerberg and Ryan Adams. Speaking of Adams, "Shooting Star" brings Whiskeytown to mind, and "Days Long Gone" is another strong rocker. Things close with the captivating "Take Me Home", a gentle tune that fades into an a capella "la la la" singalong. Without a doubt one of the better alt-country/Americana releases I've come across this year.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

The Copper Kings-Hellos and Goodbyes. This Seattle band has a driving power pop style that sounds more like the Heartland than the Pacific Northwest. Similar to First in Space and Daylight Titans, they grab your ears with the leadoff track "Disarray", a propulsive rocker that doesn't let go. "Am I Too Late" is anthemic in quality, and the midtempo "January 1" is another winner. Other standouts include the jangly/alt-country-ish "Best Laid Plans", the Collective Soul-esque "Turn Away", and the excellent closer "Forever Someone Else", which has a Gin Blossoms quality about it. Wondering where they got their name? According to Wikipedia, the real-life Copper Kings were three wealthy industrialists "known for the epic battles they fought in Butte, Montana and the surrounding region during the Gilded Age over the control of the local copper mining industry". All I can say is give these Copper Kings a shot in the epic battle for control of your iPod.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

Hellos and Goodbyes

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Two for Tuesday, 12/8/09 (a day late).

Paul Johnson & The About Last Nights-Gameshow Rockstar. Are you ready to rock? Paul Johnson and his band are, and Gameshow Rockstar is power pop with the emphasis on the "power". Although they hail from Hattiesburg, Mississippi, this isn't "southern rock", it's high-energy power pop that draws from Cheap Trick and the Foo Fighters, among others. The title track could have been written by Dave Grohl, while "Ghost Radio" is classic 70s rock with cowbells and major riffage. Elsewhere "Money on the Mattress" recalls Weezer and Sloan in full-on rock mode, "Break U" shows they've mastered the art of the power ballad, and "Tell Myself" features a great melodic chorus. No reinvention of the wheel here, just 10 rockin' tunes to blast with the car windows open.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

Tody Castillo-Windhorse. Windhorse is the long-awaited followup to Castillo's 2005 self-titled debut, a really special disc. In my review of that disc, I called him "Texas' Ron Sexsmith", and that comparison continues to apply on Windhorse, perhaps even moreso as the more rocking numbers from the debut are largely missing here. Aside from the vocal similarity, they share a singer/songwriter sensibility that glides from pop to folk/rock and back. "The Other Side of Love" is a great example of that sound, and is also reminiscent of fellow Texan Salim Nourallah. "Best Thing Ever" is another standout, vaguely sounding like a slowed-down "Sexy Sadie", and "Sad Decision" recalls the Traveling Wilburys in parts, especially with its Harrisonesque slide guitar. And speaking of the Wilburys, the bright "Spoken Up Sooner" could pass for a Tom Petty tune. While Windhorse may be not be as totally immediate as the debut, Castillo has shown that the talent and songwriting ability demonstrated on that disc was no fluke.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Fate Lions freebie!

About three months ago, I touted Good Enough for You, the fine debut from Fate Lions. Now they're offering it up gratis, at their bandcamp site. Click the link below and enjoy!

Fate Lions on Bandcamp

Monday, December 07, 2009

Free Justin Kline EP!

It's getting to be that time of the year again as I compile the year-end CD and EP lists. So it's fitting that Absolute Powerpop's #1 EP of 2008, Justin Kline's Six Songs, is now available for free through Noisetrade. And in the more-good-news department, he should have a new EP available any week now, which will also be available free. Get Six Songs here:

Thursday, December 03, 2009

CD of the Day, 12/3/09: Ike Reilly-Hard Luck Stories

Ike Reilly is back. The Illinois singer/songwriter/rocker is a personal favorite, ever since his 2004 masterpiece Sparkle in the Finish made its way to the top of my list that year. Reilly is one of our best poets, coming at things from his hard-drinking, hard-living, Irish-American perspective; he's the musical equivalent of Tommy Gavin.

Reilly isn't a power popper per se, but power pop is part of his palette, along with Americana and classic rock. And Hard Luck Stories is his catchiest disc since Sparkle in the Finish. After the bluesy, funky "Morning Glory", "7 Come 11" finds Reilly in his rocking and storytelling element, and "Girls in the Backroom" tells the story of an Iraq War vet in a Willie Nile-styled rocker.

Elsewhere, "Good Work (If You Can Get It)" is a mesmerizing half-rapped, half-sung number with a singalong chorus; "The Reformed Church of the Assault Rifle Band" is a good-timey Exile-era Stones-type number; and "Sheet Metal Moon" splits the difference between power pop and Springsteen. Reilly also employs a couple of name artists: Shooter Jennings joins him on "The War on the Terror and the Drugs", which sounds like it would be political but is more a drunken singalong about women, and Cracker/Camper van Beethoven's David Lowery duets on "The Ballad of Jack and Haley", a track that does sound like Reilly fronting Cracker. The disc closes with "The Golden Corner", which is kind of like "Jungleland" without the bombast. The Springsteen references are appropriate here, as this disc may be to today's bleak economic times what The River was to the Rust Belt/Sun Belt upheaval of the late 70s/early 80s.

Right now it's only available digitally, with a CD release planned in February.

MySpace | iTunes | eMusic

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Midweek Roundup.

Theoball-Theoball EP. Theoball is a band from Norway, led by Angelo Cannavo and Magnus Torbjørnsen, and their debut EP is a slice of Teenage Fanclub-styled pop that shows quite a bit of promise. "Camel" opens the EP with in fine jangly style, while the jaunty "Evelina" and the retro "Then I'll Run" have a British Invasion feel to it. "So Far (Out of Reach)" is more rock-oriented in a Neil Young way, and "The Great Day You Saved Me" brings them back around to the TF sound. The Year of the EP keeps marching on. A most impressive and melodic debut.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

Rabbit Children-Thou Shalt Have a Time Machine. This Chicago band offers up a winning combination of indie pop, . Opener "Escape" will suck you right in with its clever hooks and moody texture, not unlike Wiretree, while the Shins-like "Fingers Crossed" is a melodic treat. Other standouts include the playfully inventive (and jangly) "Keip", the piano chamber pop of "Bill, The Butcher", the Spoon-esque "Who Knows?" and the pretty-sounding Elliott Smith homage titled - what else? - "Pretty".

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

Friday, November 27, 2009

CD of the Day, 11/27/09: Plasticsoul-Peacock Swagger

We interrupt your Black Friday shopping to bring you an album you can't buy on Black Friday. That's because Plasticsoul's Peacock Swagger, the brilliant followup to 2005's Pictures from the Long Ago, won't be released until this coming Tuesday, December 1. But it's so good that I have to review it early, to give you that kind of pre-Christmas aniticpation you had as a kid.

Plasticsoul is Steven Wilson, a California artist who falls squarely into the Michael Penn/Jon Brion wing of power pop. His 2005 debut was such a treat that I went back and reviewed it even though I didn't start this blog until a year later. The followup was worth the wait. Whereas the debut didn't stray far from the Brion/Penn template, Wilson paints from a larger sonic palette here. The two-headed opener "You Sentimental Fucks/Life on Other Planets" answers the musical hypothetical "What would have Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey have sounded like if Lennon wrote it instead of McCartney?" (The fact that Wilson sounds quite a bit like Lennon helps answer that question as well.) Speaking of Lennon, "Cock Rock 101" is to, well, cock rock, as "Yer Blues" was to the blues, simultaneously sending it up and reveling in it.

We then come to as strong a trio of tracks as can be found a disc this year: "Champion Tragic Boy", which Michael Penn fans will love, featuring Brandon Schott on the chamberlin in the Patrick Warren role. Next up is "Fishwife" (which made its debut on the IPO 12 compilation), a jangly sitar-laden track that's instantly unforgettable, and rounding out the terrific trio, "Cancer", perhaps the definitive track on suffering with the Big C, complete with Revolver-styled backward guitars and sound effects in service of a great melody despite the subject matter.

Wilson lets us catch our collective breath with the gentle, acoustic-based "What Do You Know About Rock & Roll?" and the midtempo "Shame", which is borderline alt-country complete with pedal steel. This sets us up for the rocking "New Town, DIfferent Day", replete with "sha-la" backing vocals in the chorus, and the gorgeous "San Francisco", perhaps the best paean to the city since Tony Bennett's. Closing out the disc are the wonderfully psychedelic "My Three Friends" and "Rainy Season", a "Hey Jude"-styled number featuring a sing-along outro.

My only quibble: The disc doesn't include "Throwaway", the absolutely brilliant track that was on last year's IPO comp (#11). Not that Peacock Swagger suffers by its absence, but the now apparently ironically-titled track would have made a nice addition. And that quibble aside, I'll note that the race for the #1 disc of 2009 remains wide open in my book and things just got a bit more complicated.

CD Baby | MySpace

UDPATE (11/30): The official Plasticsoul site has the disc on sale a day early, with a special deal: the first 20 orders get a free copy of John Hoskinson's Pancho Fantastico, and you have the option of getting Pictures from the Long Ago for only $5 extra.

Listen to "Cancer" here, originally on another comp:

And a live video of "New Town, Different Day":

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Embed Tuesday.

A bunch of power poppers have discs out today, and I'm embedding the Lala widgets for each so you can give a listen. (For those outside the USA, I'm including a MySpace link and those in the EU can always check Spotify for these tracks).

Telepathic Butterflies-Wow & Flutter!. These French-Canadian Rainbow Quartz vets are back with their fourth disc. Their 2004 release Songs from a Second Wave is a must-have (esp. the great "Bonhomie", which I'm embedding as well), and last year's Breakfast in Suburbia was pretty good, so I have high hopes for this one. The touchstones here are The Kinks, The Hollies and the Fab Four. MySpace

The Singles. The Singles have been on a roll lately issuing (what else?) singles. The latest is the He Can Go, You Can Stay single, which features that track from their last full-length Better than Before, along with two new songs. This is the fourth "single" they've released this year, the previous three were A/B sides with 2 new tracks each. For the uninitiated, they're a Detroit band that specializes in British Invastion-styled power pop. MySpace

Cinderpop-Cinnamon Winter EP
. This Vancouver band put out the wonderful A Lesson in Science last year, and this EP includes its title track and "Boomerang" from that disc, plus three unreleased tracks that sound quite excellent. They have kind of a baroque style of indie pop - think Elliott Smith with a lot of piano. MySpace

Friday, November 20, 2009

CD of the Day, 11/20/09: Bobby Emmett-Learning Love

This is what power pop is all about. Detroit's Bobby Emmett cut his teeth in The Sights, a band that put out three quality Kinks-influenced albums earlier this decade, but now that he's gone solo he's unleashed his inner power popper and the result is a top 10 contender. Sounding very much like Brendan Benson (another noted Detroit power popper) fronting Big Star, Emmett knocks out one killer track after another.

"Queen of Hearts" opens the disc, and it'll kick your ass. With its crunchy opening guitars and a classic power pop melody following it, Emmett incorporates some "Back of a Car"-styled riffs throughout the track and your attention is grabbed. "Broken Hearted" recalls The Lolas, and "She Can't Be Mine" adds some baroque piano to the mix with a frenetic beat a la Bryan Scary. "Still Wanna Be With You" will fool your Benson-loving friends into thinking it's one of his lost tracks, and the spelling of "Moving Ahn" is an obvious homage to Big Star and incorporates a "She's So Heavy"-style outro.

The second half of the disc isn't quite the 100% slam dunk the first is, but there are some worthy tracks here as well. "November" is a trippy Oasis-styled ballad/anthem, "Even Though You're Mine Tonight" sounds Bensonesque, and "Never Waited So Long" with its reverb, chimes and slide guitar is a Wall-of-Sound treat. "Love is Real" closes things out, starting as a strong pop/rocker and ending with a jazzy lounge flourish.

A truly outstanding solo debut for Mr. Emmett, and if you want a CD copy you'll have to order directly from him, as the disc is only out in general digital distribution right now. Give it a listen right now below.

Link for CD purchase | MySpace | eMusic | iTunes

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Two for Thursday, 11/19/09

The Tripwires-House to House. There's something about hearing this Seattle band's fun-loving, good-time power pop that brings a smile to my face when I hear one of their tracks. Following up their 2007 debut Makes You Look Around, The Tripwires (consisting of members and former members of The Model Rockets, The Minus 5, and Screaming Trees among others) assert themselves as the 21st Century Rockpile. The opening salvo of "Drawing a Blank" and "(Something in a) Friday Night" will convince you of this comparison, and "Another Planet Now" and "Soundalike" find them at their midtempo melodic best. And I could easily see Nick Lowe (in his heyday) writing a song called "Ned Beatty's in Love". Meanwhile, "Let's Get You Started" could be covered by a band like OK Go without straining, and "Zig Zag" might be their quintessential track. Rock on!

Kool Kat | MySpace | iTunes

Justin Levinson-Predetermined Fate. In early 2006, Levinson was one of my early "finds" - his debut 1175 Boylston was a bright, fresh and tuneful blast of piano pop that was as good as anything Ben Folds has done recently. Having tackled that subgenre, he mixed in some folk/rock with the piano pop on his 2007 EP Bury Your Love, and with his new disc, Predetermined Fate, the metamorphosis is complete. Going strictly with a rootsy, countryish folk-pop sound, he's made a move not unlike Ben Kweller did earlier this year with his Changing Horses album. Highlights include the pedal steel-drenched "Bandaid on a Bullet Wound", about a marriage gone bad; "Losing You to Tennessee", which sounds like Ryan Adams in country mode; and "Hopelessness", which has a "The Weight"-style melody. Which leaves the question: where is Levinson predetermined to go next?

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

Monday, November 16, 2009

CD of the Day, 11/16/09: Parallax Project-I Hate Girls

Mike Giblin might not be a household name in the power pop community, but his bands certainly should. After being in the great Cherry Twister with Steve Ward and Ross Sackler, Giblin started Parallax Project in the early decade, putting together whoever he happened to be playing with at the time to release albums like Oblivious and Perpetual Limbo, discs power poppers everywhere should have in their collections. (Incidentally, the band is named after this Allegany University astronomy project, from Giblin's home state of Pennsylvania,) Now he's back with album #3 on the Kool Kat imprint, and he enlisted the legendary Don Dixon to produce and The Plimsouls' Eddie Munoz on guitar. The result is a pop gem that's catchy and soulful at the same time.

Opener "All the Same" sets the bar high, an uptempo treat that channels Squeeze and the Kinks, and built around a "Day Tripper"-style guitar riff. The tongue-in-cheek title track is in the same vein, as Munoz' guitar work on these tracks is a step above the usual power pop fare. Meanwhile, "Half" is a fun tribute of sorts to early Elvis Costello - Dixon provides Steve Nieve-like work on the organ a la "Radio Radio" here. Giblin's effective here when the beats slow down as well - "Watching the World Revolve Around Her" is one of the year's better ballads, and "The Day After Tomorrow" is an earnest yet melodic number. True to the spirit of the proceedings, the disc closes with a cover of the The Velvelettes' "Needle in a Haystack", a Motown chestnut that doesn't sound a bit out of place. And if you like that cover, let it be known that Kool Kat is offering up a bonus disc of covers if you order directly from them, featuring tracks like ELO's "Telephone Line", The Kinks' "Well Respected Man", and possibly my favorite Faces song "Cindy Incidentally".

Kool Kat (w/bonus disc) | CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Spongetones alert!

Out today is English Afterthoughts, an album from Spongetones Jamie Hoover and Steve Stoeckel (officially billed as "The Spongetones present Jamie and Steve"). I gave it a once-over listen today, and it could easily pass for a proper Spongetones release. That means more Beatles-and-60s-British-pop-inspired tunes, jangly guitars, the whole thing. Check it out below, and it's available from your music e-tailer of choice:

iTunes | eMusic

Monday, November 09, 2009

John Brodeur freebie.

Once again, senility sets in - I thought I had reviewed John Brodeur's fine Get Through earlier this year on the site, but I didn't. So in addition to calling your attention to that disc, let it be known that Brodeur is offering up a freebie EP of four covers ("Head Over Heels", "Talk Dirty to Me", "What it Takes" and "Xanadu") in honor of Halloween (get it? trying on other people's songs). The Photoshopped (at least I hope it's Photoshopped) cover is a tad disturbing, though.

John Brodeur - Slutty Nurse EP

And here's Get Through for your listening pleasure:

Thursday, November 05, 2009

CD of the Day, 11/5/09: Supraluxe-Wake Leave Home Sleep

Without Supraluxe, there wouldn't be an Absolute Powerpop. OK, I probably would have found another disc to hype that inspired me to start the blog, but it was in January 2006 that I touted their debut disc to the Audities list, which got them noticed in the power pop community, and which made me think "there are a lot of other deserving artists out there like Supraluxe, and nobody else is really doing a power pop blog". The rest is history, and here we are, the better part of four years later. And so it's come full circle, as the cliche goes, with Supraluxe at long last releasing the followup to their debut.

Wake Leave Home Sleep finds Supraluxe with a more unified sound. Obviously in my view the debut was brilliant, as they veered from propulsive pop tracks like "Blue Sky", "Love Sweet Love", rockers like "Tokyo" and "Run Rabbit Run", and moody melodic numbers that came in somewhere between like "Summer Chalet" and "The Big Comedown". I guess the best way to analogize things is that if we were in the 70s, the first album would be their stab at AM Radio, and this album is their AOR move. It's a markedly different album than the debut, but one that stands worthy on its own. The title track kicks thing off, starting with a gentle, acoustic bent not unlike their hero, Elliott Smith, but steadily builds into a biting rocker as the song's protagonist seems through the humdrum of everyday life. Immediately you know they're on to something more ambitious.

Another touchstone for the band is Steely Dan, and although they don't mimic that band's jazz/rock fusion, they meld some of the Dan's time signatures and sardonic suffer-no-fools attitude into their sound, and the tough-rocking "On the Coast" incorporates some of that late 70s SoCal sound into it. Perhaps the best way to describe it is "free-form pop/rock". Many of the tracks such as "Data Control" and "Oh December" manage to shift within themselves from straight-up rock to a kind of jazzy pop to pure powerpop, not necessarily always in that order. Meanwhile, "Hey Lordy" and "Slow Ephedrine" have the more "traditional" Supraluxe sound of the first album. And "The Big Come On" works as sort of a sequel (or prequel) to the debut's "The Big Comedown".

All in all, it's an impressive step in the band's evolution. While there's nothing as instantly catchy as "Blue Sky" or "Love Sweet Love" here, it's a great headphone album that rewards repeated listens and is an impressive testament to the musicianship of Rich Pearson, Bob Burns and Jim Risser. So make your daily routine in the near future Wake Leave Home (Listen to Supraluxe) Sleep.

Not Lame | Kool Kat | MySpace

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Two for Tuesday, 11/3/09

Sarakula-City Heart. Direct from Down Under comes this Aussie piano-popper with a disc that's just one hook after another. Sarakula's been touring with AbPow favorite Bob Evans, and there's a double bill I'd love to see if I weren't halfway across the world. City Heart is his followup to last year's Souvenirs, which passed me by but won't know. "Turn it Up" begs you to do just that; if it were 1974 or 1984, this poptastic number would fit right on the charts alongside Elton John or Billy Joel. "Cold War Love", which opens the album, sounds like a lost track from McCartney's Band on the Run; "Matchstick Girl" is another hook-a-rama, and the moody "Driving With the Devil" recalls the sophisticated, bloozy piano pop of Randy & The Bloody Lovelies. Also don't overlook the Bacharachian "Skyline Blue". A definite treat.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

D. Rogers-Sparks on the Tarmac. Just like celebrity deaths, Popboomerang releases seem to come in threes, and while we spotlighted Russell Crawford and the Deserters last week, the Aussie label also released this singer-songwriter disc as well recently. It's a bit of a departure for the label as Rogers is more of a folkie than a popper, but there's enough quality stuff here to please anyone on the lookout for a good tune. "Poison Pen" finds the sweet spot between Neil Finn and Elliott Smith, "The First to Know" conjures the sound of Salim Nourallah, and "Knocked Down the House" adds horns to what is perhaps the album's most upbeat track. It's not the stuff to jump off the CD at you, but if you take the time to give it a listen, you'll be wowed by its rainy-day beauty.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Popicana pair.

Shane Lamb-Disengage. Every year it seems like I come across a singer-songwriter who makes a great "Ryan Adams album". Of course I'm speaking of the Ryan Adams of Gold and Heartbreaker, not the Ryan Adams who became a parody of himself. In 2007 it was Jeremy Nail, last year it was Tyler Burkum, and this year it's Shane Lamb. Hailing from Nashville (where else?), Lamb mixes pop, classic rock and Americana, and comes through with one quality tune after another. "Free" grabs you right off the bat, with its memorable chorus, horns-and-organ backing, and some fine guitar work from Pat Buchanan, a name which may be familiar to many of you (no, not that Pat Buchanan). "I Would" is the kind of languid, midtempo number that you'd expect on a disc like this, and "To Get You Through" has a Jayhawks-style drive to it. Also don't miss the Springsteenesque "The Change in Me", a 2:10 slice of upbeat roots rock (complete with sax) that falls somewhere between "Working on the Highway" and "Stand on It".

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

The Literary Greats-Ocean, Meet the Valley. I could have sworn I reviewed this Atlanta Houston band's 2007 excellent self-titled debut, but a search of the site revealed that I only listed it at #55 at year's end without further comment. I'll try to remedy that here on their newly released follow-up. They fit the Popicana/roots-rock mold as well, and there's no sign of a sophomore slump on this one. "That Mountain Yonder" might sound like the title of Del McCoury's latest bluegrass opus, but instead it's a meaty rocker with pop smarts (dig the "ooh-woo-ooh-ooh-ooo" refrains), and "Show Me the Coast" rocks with heart and melody. Other highlights include "Oh Abilene", which reminds me of some of the Black Crowes' moodier work, the excellent "Dreadnought", which tackles the fear of flying and comes up with the music to match it, and the pop-rockin' "Ruby Sapphire", a Signal Hill Transmission-type number. They definitely do live up to their name, as this disc has a literary, almost Southern Gothic, feel to it.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

Monday, October 26, 2009

A pair from Popboomerang.

Australia's Popboomerang is one of my favorite labels out there, constantly releasing one power pop gem after another. Although perhaps nothing will top last year's trifecta of Adrian Whitehead, Bryan Estepa and Danna & The Changes, their latest pair of releases deserve a spot in your rotation.

Russell Crawford-Floating Aimlessly. Crawford made his debut with the excellent 2006 EP Hearing All That's Heard, which placed #3 on our year-end EP list that year and was produced by Michael Carpenter. Additionally, Crawford is one of Carpenter's Cuban Heels, the backing band MC used on two EP releases last year. Carpenter also mixed and mastered the new full-length, which raises the question where does Michael Carpenter end and Russell Crawford begin? To answer the obvious, there are a lot of stylistic similarities between the two, but Crawford is his own man here. "Overachiever" is a piano-based number with attitude, bringing Ben Kweller to mind, "Bad Luck" chronicles Crawford's grade school days with wit and melody, and the busy "Lisa" adds some nicely-placed chimes into the mix. Other standouts include the MC-co-written lovely ballad "If You Ask Me", the bright pop of "Melody", the piano boogie of "Shake It", and the pure power pop of "Leave it All Behind". It's nice to see the promise of the EP realized.

Kool Kat
| Not Lame | MySpace

Deserters-Pale Morning. While Russell Crawford is something of a known quantity, Melbourne's Deserters qualify as a plesant surprise. Not quite power pop, they instead have a more rustic sound that brings to mind early Wilco, Waterloo and to some extent, My Morning Jacket, but with an Aussie twist. Leadoff track "Waking Birds" captures their essence, sounding like the aforementioned references but as if they were fronted by Neil Finn. First single "Take It as It Comes" is a tough rocker, and "I Think It's Alright" has a real front-porch rock quality to it. "Race Me Home" has an anthemic, classic rock feel, and "Looking My Way" shows they can handle the soft, string-laden ballads. A fine example of - what do we call it - Australiana?

Not Lame | Kool Kat | MySpace

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

CD of the Day, 10/21/09: This Modern Station-All We Leave Behind

Nashville strikes again. The home of so many artists that have brought us quality releases in 2009 gives us This Modern Station, whose debut disc All We Leave Behind is a melodic breath of fresh air. They tread that fine line between power pop and Americana, sounding at times like an American Teenage Fanclub and at others like early Wilco.

The driving opener "Long Overdue" sets the tone, with hooks galore and a stomping beat that's reminiscent of Being There-era Wilco tracks like "Outta Site (Outta Mind)" and "Monday". "Next Best Thing" follows in the same vein, while the midtempo "Just Another Heartache" recalls The Favorites (who placed in our top 20 last year) and Red Guitar. "Evangelina" is another driving number, reminiscent of Todd Herfindal and The Meadows, and "Sunday Morning" brings the rock.

Kicking off the second half of the disc, "Ruby" finds the band into a bit of pop-noir, telling the story of a wayward woman to a moody melody not unlike The Smithereens' "Blood & Roses", while "Playing With Fire" proves the boys can handle the ballads as well. Closing things out, "I Think I'm in Love Again" is another infectious rocker, and "The Highway Never Ends" is quality straight-up Americana. "Popicana" fans, and those who liked the later-day Gary Louris-led Jayhawks are going to flip for this one. With nary a duff track to be heard, this one's a definite year-end Top 20 contender.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

Monday, October 19, 2009

EP of the Day, 10/19/09-Bryan Scary & The Shredding Tears-Mad Valentines.

As kind of a pit stop between full-length releases (2008's Flight of the Knife and a new one planned for 2010), Bryan Scary & The Shredding Tears have a new EP out, Mad Valentines. I've stood pretty much alone in the power pop community as being a bit underwhelmed by Scary, feeling his music has been hyperkinetic for hyperkinesis' sake - Jellyfish with A.D.D., if you will. And after hearing the first track on this EP, "Andromeda's Eyes", in which Scary revs it up to Ludicrous Speed, I began to think he was becoming a parody of himself.

But then a funny thing happened with the rest of the EP. He dialed it back about 15%, and the remaining five tracks are the kind of effervescent, joyous Jellyfish-inspired pop that I knew he had in him. "(It's a) Gambler's Whirl" would have fit nicely on ELO's Discovery (a/k/a Disco Very); "The Garden Eleanor" sounds like Jeff Lynne producing Mika (that "I don't care if she cuts off her hair" hook is embedded in my brain); "Maria St. Claire" is the closest Scary gets to a ballad, and it's wonderful; and "Bye Bye Babylon" and "The Red Umbrella" find Scary in full bells-and-whistles mode, but in service of the song, not the sound.

Finally a Bryan Scary release I can get behind. Probably means everyone else who loved the first two finds it a letdown.

(Note: it's available digitally right now, but not on CD until October 27.)

MySpace | iTunes

Friday, October 16, 2009

Friday Roundup.

The Prime Ministers-Compromiser. Detroit's The Prime Ministers have been around for 10 years and four albums, and they finally get the attention they deserve on this site with album #5, Compromiser. The PMs serve up Motor City-styled high-octane power pop similar to other hometown bands like The Offramps and The Respectables, and they don't miss a beat (or a hook). Although they're not afraid to rock, they're also not afraid to tackle the topic of getting older as they hit their mid-30s. "Double Rings" and "Learned from the Best" are a fearsome one-two punch the open the disc, but "Only 35" finds them grappling with getting older to a Clash-like reggae beat. Meanwhile, "Late in the Day" tackles the topic of aging rock bands playing amphitheaters past their prime, and "Safe & Sound on Microchips" gives Internet 2.0 a rock theme. Rockin' power pop with heart and wit, the Prime Ministers may find themselves Compromisers with life, but not with their sound.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes


Bob Collum & The Welfare Mothers-Twisted Lines & Mixed Up Rhymes. Oklahoman-in-England Bob Collum has become a reliable source of Popicana, that certain mix of alt-country, Americana, roots pop, and power pop that artists like Brian Jay Cline and Walter Clevenger have made semi-famous, and his new EP (with backing band The Welfare Mothers) is another gem, following up on 2008's Set the Stupid Free. "My Little Hurricane" is 2:13 of Popicana bliss, while "She Hates Me" is quality straight-up country, and "Behind the Bottle" sounds just like you think it does. "Devil in the Details" adds some power pop to the recipe, and "Knockdown Dragout" recalls Nick Lowe's "Raging Eyes". Yet another outstanding entry in the Year of the EP.

CD Baby | MySpace

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Two for Tuesday, 10/13/09

Jake Laufer-Notes from the Sherpa Underground. DC-gone-California's Jake Laufer is a singer-songwriter with hooks, lyrics and a strong pop sensibility, and with Notes from the Sherpa Underground (Sherpa Underground being the name of his band), his first disc in nine years, he puts it all together. Reminding me of a cross between Nick Pipitone and Elvis Costello with a bit of Matthew Sweet in the mix, Laufer pumps out one quality tune after another. The standouts here include "Only One in Town" (think Costello fronting the Gin Blossoms), "Subway Girl" (Tommy Keene meets the Smithereens), the mod beats of "Song Called Nora", and the gorgeous "The Only Way". Plus, he throws in a revved-up, rocking cover of "Hungry Like the Wolf". What more can you ask for?

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes | Amie Street

"Only One in Town" mp3

John Shaugnessy-Re-occurring Dream. If you're looking for a down-to-earth, classic rock-infused slice of power pop, Philadelphia's John Shaughnessy is your man. Shaughnessy enlisted the Philly power pop mafia (Smash Palace's Stephen Butler and IKE's Brett Talley produce) to help him out here, and it's a fine collection that will appeal to fans of those artists as well as Tom Petty and Collective Soul. The acoustic-based title track is a treat, and the uber-catchy "Feelin' Good Again" hits all the high notes. Other key tracks include the upbeat "Dorothy Reminds Me", the heartfelt fallen soldier ballad "Next of Kin", and the 70's rock of "Chasing the Wind". You'll be glad to have these tracks re-occurring on your iPod.

Not Lame | MySpace | iTunes

Thursday, October 08, 2009

CD of the Day, 10/8/09: Wiretree-Luck

One of the more common criticisms leveled at the power pop genre is that it all sounds the same, it's generic, everybody tries to sound like someone else, etc. It's a facile criticism, usually made by someone who doesn't listen to that much power pop. Nevertheless, this criticism doesn't apply to Kevin Peroni, whose Wiretree has an idiosyncratic sound - whenever one of his tunes randomly pops on my iPod, I have no trouble identifiying it as such. As I've touched on before, Wiretree's sound is best described as a hybrid between the Wilbury-era production Jeff Lynne brought to that band as well as Tom Petty and George Harrison and the poppier side of indie rock that artists such as Elliott Smith brought to the table.

With a brilliant 2005 debut EP and 2007's full-length Bouldin (which made my top 5 that year) under his belt, Peroni has a lot to live up to with Luck, and succeeds for the most part. The first chords of "Across My Mind" pass through the ears like meeting an old friend as the familiar acoustic guitar, drums and baroque piano that made the EP and Bouldin great are back in service of another shuffling, catchy melody. "Back in Town", the first single (mp3 download below), leads with xylophone reminiscent of Wilco's "A Shot in the Arm" and its sound does owe a lot to Summerteeth, which in my opinion was Jeff Tweedy's (and Jay Bennett's especially) finest moment. That 1-2 punch sets a daunting standard for the rest of the disc, but it's a challenge met. Particular standouts are "Information", in which Peroni rocks with a tougher edge without sacrificing the tune, the byzantine melody of "Satellite Song", in which Wiretree goes toe-to-toe with fellow Austinites Spoon, and the lovely "Heart of Hearts", which captures the "classic" Wiretree sound.

With any Luck, this will be the disc that propels Wiretree before a much larger audience. It retains their signature sound yet broadens it to point where I could see the intelligentsia of indie rock and the poobahs at Pitchfork giving it a thumbs up if they take the time to check it out. Here's hoping they do.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

mp3 of "Back in Town"