Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Two for Tuesday: 6/30/09

Charles Ramsey-Good Morning & Good Night. The music of Philly's Charles Ramsey could be summed up best by invoking 3 famous "B"s: The Brill Building, Burt Bacharach, and Brian Wilson. And it's quite reminiscent of a disc last year from another "B": Brent Cash's How Will I Know If I'm Awake. (If I really wanted to pile on the similarities, I could also cite a fifth "B", Ben Sadock). Anyway, enough of the influences and similar artists - they aren't worth a damn if the songs aren't good. That's not a worry here, as you'll find out right away on the bouncy opening title track with its bright melodies and classic 60s-pop horn section. "Odelia" is another highlight, channeling those early Bee Gees records before they went disco, while "Still Waiting" has me looking for Jimmy Webb in the songwriting credits. And he saves the best for the second half of the disc: "She Changes You" might be the best track on the album, with Ramsey in fine voice and a string section that manages to be very prominent yet not overbearing, and the piano-based "My Lost Days" is where the Bacharach comparisons come in. If this kind of pop is up your alley, this will be a major find.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

Kevin McAdams-It's My Time to Lose My Mind. NYC's Kevin McAdams, if nothing else, is going to have one of the top tracks of 2009 when I compile that particular year-end list. "Start Over Again", which opens the disc, is a joyous ELO-styled number that's catchy as hell and which would probably make Bleu jealous. The rest of the album ain't bad either, as McAdams manages to stay on the baroque side of indie pop. The pensive "Us vs World" and "A Different Love Song" find their way into Beck/Grandaddy territory, while the manic "The Bannerman Nightmare" and "Leave Us Alone" will delight Bryan Scary fans. A promising debut.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

It's My Time to Lose My Mind by Kevin McAdams

Friday, June 26, 2009

Friday Finds.

Chase Hamblin-A Fine Time. The cover gives it away. Chase Hamblin's debut EP, A Fine Time, is steeped in 60s/70s trippy pop. At one end of the spectrum it channels 60s revivalists like El Goodo, but at the other end it recalls more modern artists such as Elliott Smith and Grandaddy. The title track is a tour-de-force, melodic in a Beatlesque way but with enough twists and turns and bells and whistles to reward mutliple listens. "Think of the Good Times" starts out with some bossanova and then segues into what sounds like the soundtrack to a hip late 60's film. "Never Let You Go" sounds like a Zombies/Animals hybrid, and the joyous pop of "We're Gonna Make It" and the "Hey Jude"-like "Bye Bye" close this extraordinary debut EP out. "Chase" this one down.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

Shout With Grass-And Then Again. And the Year of the EP just keeps asserting itself. Yet another quality debut EP comes from British Columbia's Max Sensini, who calls himself Shout With Grass. This EP will resonate with fans of Crowded House and the aforementioned Elliott Smith. "Walk the Tightrope" finds Sensini in fine voice, sounding not unlike Ken Stringfellow, and features a piano-based melody reminiscent of McCartney's "1985", while "Hole in the Sky" closes out the four-song EP with a dreamy feel. Another higlight is "Softly in Your Ear", which recalls fellow Canadian Jay Ferguson of Sloan.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

Gidgets Ga Ga-The Big Bong Fiasco. One listen to this disc and you won't have any problem identifying this band as being from Minneapolis, as they capture the classic Replacements/Soul Asylum sound with a 60s power pop sheen. The disc clocks in at a generous 18 tracks, but doesn't wear out its welcome. Since there are so many to choose from, I'll highlight "Beki", "Baby, You're a Star", "The Bomb", the jangly "Hit by a Train", "Offer You Can't Refuse", and "Lullaby", which is anything but. If you like this kind of driving melodic rock, you'll go "Ga Ga" over this one.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

Thursday, June 25, 2009

In honor of Michael Jackson...

...here's one of my favorite artists, David Mead, with a cover of "Human Nature":

Friday, June 19, 2009

Freebie Friday!

Today would be a good day to subscribe to my Twitter feed, as I'm tweeting freebies from Amie Street, most of which I've reviewed in the past on this blog.

Of course as always with Amie Street, these albums may no longer be free by the time you get to them, so act fast.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

CD of the Day, 6/18/09: John Lefler-Better by Design

It often seems like every indie band has a sideman who's a power popper at heart, and behind the emo stylings of Chris Carrabba and Dashboard Confessional lies DC's guitarist/pianist John Lefler, who's put out one of the more impressive power pop debuts with his solo album Better by Design and has an instant contender for album of the year here.

Lefler touches all the power pop buttons here. "Dream Your Life Away" opens the disc with a Jellyfish-inspired track that could have come off Spilt Milk, with its British invasion melody, staccato guitar riffs and snare drums, all delivered with a certain joie de vivre that a power pop fan can almost innately pick up. There's no dropoff next with the title track, with its insistent piano beat and McCartney-esque melody, and the sweet and jangly "Lucy" is 2:16 of pure ear candy.

An opening trio like that is hard to follow, but Lefler hangs in there with several more gems. The midtempo rocker "Afraid Anymore" recalls both Fountains of Wayne and Cliff Hillis, "Hard Act to Follow" (hey, didn't I just use that phrase?) is another 'Fish-styled number with a quality guitar solo, and "Helplessly" is a pretty ballad that does a fine job of letting the listening catch his or her breath.

The latter portion of the disc is rounded out with the file Sloan-styled "Better Than You", the bright rocker "Ordinary Guy", complete with "oh-oh-oh"s and a Matthew Sweet/Gin Blossoms sound, and the dreamy Lennonesque closer "Up My Sleeve". A stunning debut from Mr. Lefler, and one I can see in a lot of power poppers' top 10 lists come year's end.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

No Lala embed (listed as mp3-only there), so here's a link to hear it free on Napster:

Better By Design

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Midweek roundup.

The Seldon Plan-Lost and Found and Lost. These tuneful Baltimore indie poppers are back with their third disc, and it may be their best yet. Calling to mind Nada Surf, The Happies and Matt Pond PA, The Seldon Plan is never short on melody, and "Fire in Day's Field" and the title track will demonstrate that for you right off the bat. Perhaps the track name that best encapsulates their upbeat pop sound is "Run, Go!", but they can also slow things down a bit and still come out with flying colors; the acoustic-based "Philadelphia and a Moment" and the moody "French Cinema" attest to this. Also make sure you check out the catchy "See a Word". Be glad you "found" this one.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

Secret Pop Band-Pardon the Solar Interruption. We head down I-95 a short distance for our next band, Washington DC's Secret Pop Band. Given their name, I can't tell you (unless you have a security clearance) whether they've played Dick Cheney's undisclosed location, but I can let you in on the pop goodness of their debut disc, Pardon the Solar Interruption. Secret Pop Band is the newest outlet for the irrepressible J. Forte, whom many of you may know as the frontman of Ape House and who put out a solo disc of his own a couple of years back (titled - what else? - Secret Pop), and as Forte decided to form a band with the backing musicians from that disc, Secret Pop Band was formed. If you liked either of those discs, you'll want this one, and if you never heard of them (or him), you'll probably want it as well as they belt out one catchy number after another. "Your New England Winter", the breezy "Solar Interruption", and the Kinksian "Week Old Beer" are the highlights, but close behind is the rocking "Sunday's Hard Rock Falls" and the amusingly titled "Rachel Harmony". Give it a listen below.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

AbPow rewind: David Mead's Wherever You Are

One of the first things I ever did on this blog was anoint this EP the best of the decade. I still stand by that proclamation. "Make it Right" just popped up on my iPod, and since we didn't have Lala embeds back then (the dark ages of early 2006), it deserves one now:

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Video of the Day

Before Valley Lodge, comedian/rocker extraordinaire Dave Hill had another band, the amusingly named Uptown Sinclair, who released a self-titled 2001 album that's a must have for any kind of VL fan. Here's a funny video for the disc's biggest "hit", "Girlfriend":

Thursday, June 11, 2009

CD of the Day, 6/11/09: Roger Klug-More Help for Your Nerves

Back for the first time in nearly a decade, Cincinnati's Roger Klug has unleashed a 17-track power pop marvel. Klug bills himself a "pop scientist", and that's an apt description as he takes a mad scientist approach to this disc, experimenting here and there and trying a little bit of everything. In some measures, this disc is reminiscent of Greg Pope's Popmonster, which also threw quite a bit at the wall in its 17 tracks.

So we get the clever opener "Tinnitus", which mixes the metaphoric and literal ringing in one's ears of a song, and the worldplay of "tonight" and "tinnitus". He also gives us the straight-ahead power pop of "Dump Me Hard", the early XTC-sounding "An Artist in the Field", and the hyper-melodic "Girl After My Own Heart", which really does sound quite a bit like Pope. Then the quirk kicks in. "About Time" starts off as a jangly mid-60s number then segues into a wall of noise followed by a Robert Johnson-esque guitar solo before coming full circle, along with a couple of tracks whose names speak for themselves: "Witch from Hell" and "The Day I Had My Brain Removed".

And that only gets us through the first half of the disc. The rocking "Hi-Hat" is a treat, and he nicely juxtaposes the bitterly jealous lyrics of "A Girl Like That" with strings and a Bacharachian melody. Elsewhere, there's the Stones-ish "Souls to Heaven", the piano-noir pop of "Bogeyman" (which recalls Ben Folds' "The Last Polka"), the rave-up "Man's Man" and closer "Your Diary", an eight-minute opus that could almost serve as a condensed version of the album itself. Unlike many artists that come back from a hiatus with something that sounds like they could have knocked it out in a few months, Klug apparently has the used the time to craft what is perhaps the most ambitious power pop album of the year, and there's so much here that it demands repeated listenings.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Two for Tuesday: 6/9/09

Dave Caruso-Elizabeth Parker EP. This EP from Michigan's Dave Caruso bears a 2004 copyright, but only recently emerged on CD Baby and the digital download outlets, so I seriously doubt that more than a handful of AbPow readers have heard of it. Now's the time to remedy that, as Caruso demonstrates pop craft of a high order here. The title track is the standout, a jangly treat that would have fit it perfectly on The Red Button's 2007 album of the year. "I Can't Be on Time" is no slouch either, 2:13 of Michael Carpenter-esque power pop, and "Letter to My Ex" follows in the same vein. A couple of demos (including a version of "Elizabeth Parker" that recalls Elvis C's "Veronica") round out the EP. I'm going to have to make a judgment call on whether this one qualifies for the 2009 EP list, because on merit alone it's a gimme.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

Elizabeth Parker

Ryan VanDordrecht-Hurts Like Hell. It seems like a lot of the good music this year has come in EP form, and this one from Portland's Ryan VanDordrecht (who looks a bit like Elvis Costello in the album photo) is no exception. He was in the bands Castella and Sidestar, who played bills with the likes of The Gin Blossoms and Cake, and his solo debut is high-grade melodic rock. "One More Cigarette" has a Tom Petty-meets-The Smithereens vibe, and "I Ain't Coming Home Tonight" takes off on a more Jayhawks/Son Volt tangent. Elsewhere, the title track recalls the Blossoms' more melancholy moments, while "Your Records" is the poppiest treat on the EP with an irresistible chorus. Here's hoping this one propels him to record a full-length.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

Thursday, June 04, 2009

EP Thursday.

Greg Pope-Pete. It's Greg Pope's power pop world, and we're all just living in it. That's the only conclusion to be made after he's followed up last year's Absolute Powerpop #1-rated album Popmonster with this brilliant 7-song EP. Pope's sound is a compendium of power pop through the ages - from British Invasion to the "mod" sound of The Who to straight-up 70s styled Badfinger/Raspberries pop to the today's modern power pop. The seven tracks here clock in just under 18 minutes, with "Fall Into Your Arms" a blast of an opener like Popmonster's "Sky Burn Down", while the slinky "How Do You Do It" has a....oh hell, all 7 tracks are great, just go listen to them below for yourself. All I can say is "Jeez Greg, give someone else a chance for the top of the year-end lists some time".

CD Baby | MySpace

Pop Archeology Transmission-Welcome to the New Improved Dark Ages. Another act that released a fine 2008 album is back with an EP of new material, as this Portland band releases the followup to It Is What It Is. They're kind of a mix of Derby, Guided by Voices, and The Shins with some Milk & Honey Band thrown in, with no filler among these four tracks. And one can almost hear a little early Elton John on the title track and a bit of Alan Parsons on "Rain on Your Window". Good stuff.

CD Baby | MySpace

Rob Holub-Stranger on 2nd Avenue. OK, here's someone who isn't following up a 2008 release. This is the debut EP from NYC's Rob Holub, who serves up six quality tracks of piano pop, as you might have guessed from the cover. Holub leans to the softer side of pop here, in the manner of the recent Brian Dilts EP. Opener "Pick Me Up" has a Coldplay feel to it, while "Just a Pop Song" boasts a fine chorus. Meanwhile, "Miss Face Book" might be the first Web 2.0 social media-themed track I've come across (perhaps there'll be a Twitter-themed track on the full-length). Go ahead and add him as a friend.

CD Baby
| iTunes

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Stream the new Marshall Crenshaw!

Right here, right now. Initial take: more of the "mellow" Crenshaw we saw on his last release, 2003's What's in the Bag?.

And a new single from Stratocruiser:

Monday, June 01, 2009

Two for Tuesday (Special Monday Night Edition).

The Brilliant Inventions-Have You Changed. This Atlanta duo, comprised of singer-songwriters Josh Lamkin and Eliot Bronson, may have the folk-pop album of the year on their hands. These guys can harmonize with anyone, and have the tunes to go with the harmonies. Fans of Straw Dogs, The Karg Brothers, and The Jayhawks will love this disc. There are plenty of highlights here: the opener "Isn't it Worth it", which sums up their sound in one song; the title track, and its "oh-oh"s in the chorus; "There Goes My Heart", possibly the best track on the album, one which throws some piano and pop beats into the mix; the Rembrandts-esque "Could've Been You", and the shimmering pop of "What About Jennifer". A brilliant invention indeed.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

Secret Powers-Secret Powers and the Electric Family Choir. Last year, this Montana band had one of 2008's left-field pleasant surprises with Explorers of the Polar Eclipse, a kind of ELO/Jellyfish/Bleu melange that made my top 100 but in retrospect should have placed higher. They haven't wasted any time getting out the followup, and the Electric Family Choir is a trippier version of the debut, as the Dharma Initiative-like photo on the cover would indicate. The most brilliant thing here is "Orange Trees", which I can only describe as what The Move might have sounded like if Jeff Lynne was writing songs then like he did while in ELO. Frontman Ryan "Shmedly" Maynes has an agreeably gruff vocal style that makes their stuff sound like the cult classics they could become, but he gives way to another band member (unidentified by the liner notes) on the waltz-like "By the Sea", which quotes the Beatles' "Michelle". Other standouts include the baroque Jackdaw4-like pop of "Lazy Men"; "Misery", a Lynne-like ballad that would make Bleu jealous; and the 80 seconds or so of "Treat Your Mother Nice", which could have fit into Side 2 of Abbey Road without anyone noticing. If these guys want to put out one of these every year, I certainly have no objection. (Actually, I do have an objection: they're apparently so retro that you can't get their music digitally, on iTunes or elsewhere. If they really wanted to be purists, they should have released this vinyl-only.)

MySpace | Not Lame | Kool Kat