Monday, November 29, 2010

CD of the Day, 11/29/10: Joe Adragna-Fall Back

If the name Joe Adragna doesn't leap right out at you, it's because he's been recording for the past few years as The Junior League, with two fine discs under his belt. Now he's decided to claim his own name, and earlier this year he released a best-of the two Junior League discs titled Parlophony. For his first Joe Adragna album proper he's taken a slightly more introspective approach from the Marshall Crenshaw-styled power pop of the League, enlisting the help of Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey, who need no introduction.

The Buck/McCaughey influence is most notably heard on the janglicious "You're Gonna Die Alone", the disc's best track. Combining Rickenbackers and the vitriol of an Elvis Costello with a catchy melody (and featuring harmony vocals from Susan Cowsill), it's almost worth the price of admission alone. Along those lines, "Leave Me Resigned" also has that early-REM/Young Fresh Fellows feel, and the shuffling "Ladders" recalls Bobby Sutliff. It's not all fun and jangle, though. The moody opener "In a Place (Looking Around)" recalls Salim Nourallah with a slight touch of electronica, the laid-back, beautiful "Like Nothing Else" feels like comfortable clothes put on after a hard workday, and "Far Away" is an outright country weeper, complete with pedal steel.

Adragna comes in for the finish with "Swezey's", a return of the jangle, the feedback-drenched "Depot Park", and the bright and breezy "Help, It's Strange", which is right in his sweet spot. The title track closes things out on a perfect note, a combination of regret, hope and those jangly guitars as it fades to a "bah-dop-bah" refrain. Adragna has really taken a leap forward here, and I can see why he chose to release this under his own name.

CD Baby | Bandcamp | iTunes

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Popicana Weekend.

John Holk & The Sequins-If You See Her. One of the most pleasant surprises I've come across in a while, this Detroit band with a fondness for vintage Western wear and sweet Jayhawks/Gram Parsons-styled melodies has released the twang-pop record of the year. If You See Here is one gloriously melodic track after another, from the opener "No Other Way" to the jangly title track to the wonderfully gentle "Carry the Load", a thematic cousin to "The Weight". But the top track here is "Autograph", a catchy clever number with wonderful harmonies that would make Gram & Emmylou proud. I've thrown around to phrase "year-end top 10" more than ten times this year, but this one is guaranteed a spot. If I can make an analogy, what The Red Button was to 60s Britpop, John Holk & The Sequins are to early 70s country-pop.

CD Baby | Bandcamp | iTunes

And they have good taste in covers, too. Here they are with a live version of "September Gurls":

Brother Slade-No Relation. This Tennessee band wears their hearts and lifestyle on their collective sleeve with a rockin, honky-tonkin' collection of fun, melodic tunes. So often I've compared the sound of bands like this to Tom Petty, but here they cut out the middleman by calling the opening track "Tom Petty Song", and it's one of my favorite tracks of the year, both sounding like Petty and name-dropping him of course (amusingly rhyming him with "yeti" in the process). Songs like "Girl with a Mobile Home", "Look What the Trailer Park Drug In" and "Too Hot to BBQ" are pretty self-explanatory, but they'll stick in your head as well. And "Time Well Wasted" and "You Are the Train" a pair of well-written, well-performed country-rock gems. You can say this one Slade me.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes | eMusic

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Two for Tuesday, 11/23/10

The Brigadier-The Secret of No Success. The power pop concept album about life in an office isn't exactly a novel concept as recent releases from Greg Pope's Edmund's Crown, Owen Sartori and Semion have demonstrated, but in our world the tune comes first. And Matt Williams (a/k/a The Brigadier) puts a tuneful spin on the topic with his latest opus, nowhere more evident than in the jaunty opening track "Doing the 9 to 5", which sees Williams moving away from the Brian Wilson-via-XTC sound of his previous releases into something more along the lines of Badly Drawn Boy. Other standouts include the irresistible (and rocking, as far as Williams goes) "Just a Little Kiss Miss Busy", the George Harrison-inspired title track, and the catchy "Money is the Motivator". His previous releases have been consistent, but here the highs are higher (especially the tracks mentioned here), making this the best Brigadier yet.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

Blake Jones & The Trike Shop-The Underground Garden. My only previous exposure to Blake Jones & The Trike Shop was on an IPO compilation before he sent me his latest full-length, and until now the loss has been mine. This is buoyant, just plain fun and catchy as all get-out pop that draws on everything from dance-hall English pop to the Beatles and Brian Wilson (cf. "The Five Deadly Fingers of Dr. Theremin") with a touch of Zappa thrown in. The fun-house Beatles of "Forestiere Gardens" will leave it's "oh yeah" refrain burned into your brain, the shambolic "Sing Along" will have you doing just that, and "Sun Up" starts as a rewrite of "Magical Mystery Tour" then takes its own magical mystery tour into a synth-pop break and then back again. Some tracks are just plain goofy, like "Fighting the Big Dumb Noise" and "Here Comes the Bus", while others are sublime, like "Send the Band to Liverpool" an amalgam of various styles of 60s pop. If you can get past the quirk factor, there's a lot to like here. And even if some of the tracks here might be goofs, there are 15 of them and anyone with taste in power pop should be able to come up with 10 they'll really like.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes | eMusic

Monday, November 22, 2010

It's a Giant Party!

Kyle Vincent and Tommy Dunbar of the Rubinoos are big San Fransisco Giants fans and in honor of the Giants' World Series win earlier this month, they've recorded "It's a Giant Party". It's a pretty good tune, unless of course you're a Texas Rangers fan.

It's also available on CD Baby for download.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

New David Mead on the way.

David Mead was one of my favorite artists of the previous decade-plus, from brilliant albums like The Luxury of Time, Mine and Yours and Indiana, as well as one my favorite EPs of all-time in 2005's Wherever You Are. His output of late has been a little more erratic; I couldn't get into his side project Elle Macho and while Almost and Always (his last proper album from early 2009) had its moments, it was a bit too easy listening for my tastes (and that's saying something consider how much mellow stuff I like).

Anyway, he's back with a new album he's going to start recording in January titled Dudes and the most exciting aspect of it for me is that he's enlisting Fountains of Wayne's Adam Schlesinger (who produced Mine and Yours) to help out, so I'm hoping it'll be a more "traditional" David Mead album that leans somewhat to the rock/power pop side of things rather than Sinatra/Streisand territory. Mead, not unlike Bleu and Michael Carpenter before him, is offering a series of packages in order to fund the recording that get you all kinds of goodies - from $15 to get the album early to $100 to listen to demos and have input into which are selected for the album, all the way to $2500 where he comes to your house and plays a set. Here's a video telling you all about it:

Too bad Weezer beat him to putting Jorge Garcia on the cover; he would have been perfect for an album titled Dudes.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Two for Tuesday, 11/16/10

The June-Green Fields and Rain. Rainbow Quartz has had a great second half of 2010, with new releases from the likes of The Volebeats, The High Dials, The Parties and The Gurus, but the cream of the crop is Green Fields and Rain, the sophomore effort from Parma, Italy's The June. This is a Grade-A mix of psychedelia and Beatles-pop not unlike some of Noel Gallagher's more poppier offerings in Oasis. The sitars and "Tomorrow Never Knows"-like opener "Feel the Sunshine" is a treat, as is the Merseyside pop of "Good News" (replete with a Beatles-like "oooo" in the chorus). "Pete on the Street" is an irresistible pop confection, and "I'm Looking Out" recalls "Strawberry Fields Forever", favorably. I'm not always the biggest fan of bands going blatantly retro, but these guys have the songs to back it up. You have my permission to swoon over The June.

MySpace | iTunes | eMusic

Lannie Flowers-Circles. A couple of years ago, Texas' Lannie Flowers released "Same Old Story" which was essentially a medley of 36 songs of about one minute each. It received a lot of love in the power pop community but didn't make my lists since it didn't lend itself to my preferred listening habits of shuffling the most recent two months of albums I come across. It was either listen to it all the way through to the exclusion of other stuff, or have one-minute out-of-context snippets pop up randomly in my playlist. It was more my problem than Lannie's, so I'm thrilled to report he's released a new album which consists of 15 proper 3-4 minute tracks. And the talent he showed in 60-second bursts has transitioned nicely to full-length songs as Circles is another year-end contender for me. The title track is killer power pop in the vein of Jason Falkner and Jim Boggia, "Turn Up Your Radio" will have you doing just that (assuming it played stuff as good as this), and "Not in Love" might just be the quintessential power pop track with its straight-up hooks and handclaps. Circle this one on your shopping list.

CD Baby
| MySpace | iTunes | eMusic

A sad day in Power Pop.

Not Lame is closing its doors.

It didn't come as a shock, with the less frequent updates on the site and the steady stream of "blowout" sales as well as the general malaise in the CD-selling business, but it's a sad day nonetheless.

Bruce Brodeen has probably done more for power pop than anyone over the last 10-15 years, and Not Lame will be missed. Here's a video from him explaining his decision (Note that NL's last day will actually be November 24, not the October 31 mentioned in the video)

As always, Bruce has more irons in the fire, and if you want to stay in touch with him regarding his new projects, head over to this page and give him your email address.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

CD of the Day, 11/10/10: Bastards of Melody-Hurry Up and Wait

Time for a shout out to the FDR label, the "other" power pop label from New Jersey (we all know and love Kool Kat). They don't release a high volume of discs, but the ones they do are usually really good, and the latest from NYC's Bastards of Melody is one of their best. The Bastards have been kicking around since the late 90s, but this is their first release since 2003 and it's a gem. This is high-energy yet highly melodic, closer to the classic definition of "power pop" than most others.

What makes Hurry Up and Wait closest to the power pop ethos is its brevity: 9 tracks spanning 30 minutes, with no filler or self-indulgent detours. The chiming, driving opener "Around You" gets down to business quickly, with its sing-a-long chorus and insistent guitar riff. "All I Want to Know" continues in this vein, with a bit of a Beatle sound thrown in (primarily in the killer bridge), and "Dream Jeannine" has a bit more retro power pop sound, recalling The Telepathic Butterflies.

The laid-back "Flunkin' Out" allows the listener to catch his breath after the powerful opening troika with its effortless midtempo sound, while "Exit 10" and its "Getting Better"-like staccato beat and chipper melody is another treat. The guitars are out in full force again on "Cut and Paste", a Lolas, Cheap Trick-styled rocker, and "Gateway Center" is straight-up jangle pop not unlike their regional counterparts Smash Palace. And the boys send you home with the frantic pop-punk of "Unproductive" just in case you were thinking the proceedings might be on the verge of mellowing out. "Power pop like the way it was meant to be" could be the Bastards' slogan, as there's nothing inglorious about this excellent disc.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes | eMusic | Listen at official site

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Sunday Night Roundup.

Ice Cutters-Ice Cutters.The Ice Cutters hail from Wales, and their debut disc is a fine survey of British pop and British-inspired pop. Every time I hear one of their tunes, I'm reminded of someone else, be it Crowded House, Oasis, The Pearlfishers, Trashcan Sinatras, you name it. Plenty to like here from the baroque pop of "Passion and Violence", the Teenage Fanclub-like "Carry the Dream Away", and the rocking "This is a Job". They also don't shy away from the social issues, tackling immigration in "Crossing the Border" and war in "When I Was a Soldier", without coming off too strident. A pleasant surprise.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes | eMusic

The Moving Parts-State Lines. The Moving Parts are led by Columbus, Ohio's Keith Jenkins, who released a pretty good solo EP in 2006 with the Parts as his backing band, but now the band comes front and center on the full length in another fine release of Midwestern-styled power pop/rock. You'll think of The Replacements, Goo Goo Dolls, and early Wilco when listening to this one, especially on the stellar opener "A Few Things", one of the better examples of this style you'll hear this year. "Disappearing Act" has the same kind of driven melancholy you'll find on Westerberg solo albums, while "Heartache vs. Disaster" adds some catchy Gin Blossoms-like melodies to the mix. Also make sure you check out "After I Confess", which has kind of a "big", Foo Fighters-type sound, and the relentless "Worth the Risk". A definite keeper.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes | eMusic

Thursday, November 04, 2010

EP of the Day, 11/4/10: The Foreign Films EP.

Bill Majoros a/k/a The Foreign Films gave us one of the pop masterpieces of the decade with 2007's double-disc Distant Star, and his long-awaited followup is nearing the light of the day. To give us a taste, he's released a free EP on Bandcamp that's a preview of the new album due in the spring. These four new tracks will certainly whet your appetite - "Fire from Spark" has the psychedelic majesty of Distant Star, "City of Bright Lights" has a New Pornographers-like urgency to it, "Imperfect Perfection" has the feel of a James Bond theme from a parallel universe, and "A Message" compares well to Radiohead. And did I mention it was free? Enough blabber, here's the link.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Two for Tuesday, 11/2/10

Buva-Not Scary! Friendly. Tom Wolfe a/k/a Buva is back with the followup to 2006's All This Humming, and Not Scary! Friendly builds on the mellow strengths of that disc and the punchier pop of his debut EP Daydream to give us his most fully realized collection to date. There's a lot to like here, from the ambling Beatlesque shuffle of "Smoke into the Sky" to the bright Dan Bryk-like power pop of "Can't Stop Thinking" to the lovely "Hide Away" to the Badfinger pop of "Funny Faces". And the one-two punch of "Too Tired to Fight" and "You" about midway through tops them all. Best of all, if you pick this up from Not Lame you'll get All This Humming thrown in as well - a Buvariffic deal!

Not Lame | MySpace |

The Great Affairs-Ricky Took the Wheels. The Great Affairs are led by Denny Smith, formerly of fORMER, whose "loud" power pop we reviewed here last year. Unlike fORMER, though, The Great Affairs have a more laid-back "Popicana" sound not unlike The Meadows, or the poppier side of Paul Westerberg. Ricky Took the Wheels is actually their second album, with their self-titled debut out late last year, and like the fine debut this has plenty to offer. "Feels Like Home" is as good as this style of pop gets, featuring jangly guitars and hooks and melodies galore, while "So Damn High" and "You're Not Funny" rock in the Tom Petty vein. Smith and crew know their way around a ballad, too, as "My Apologies" and "A Hundred Other Things" demonstrate clearly. And "Last Good Memory" closes the disc as it began, with an excellent roots rocker.

Kool Kat | MySpace | iTunes