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