Thursday, July 28, 2011

Two for Thursday, 7/28/11

Honeywagen-Atomic Cafe. This Kansas City band is back from a near decade-long hibernation with Atomic Cafe, and it's a jangly delight of Midwestern power pop. "Throw it All Away" is a gem of an opener, kind of like Ray Davies fronting the Plimsouls, while "Go Someplace" sounds like a lost Byrds classic. "Lust" brings the Rutles' classic "I Must Be in Love" to mind, and "My Virginia" wouldn't be out of place of on a Gin Blossoms record. It's great to have these guys back, so janglers of the world, unite - you have nothing to lose but $14 or so. And Kool Kat is offering up a kool bonus disc - frontman Mike Penner covering A Hard Day's Night (the album) in its entirety.

Kool Kat | Official Site

Brian Hoffer-Into the Boulevard. I was pleasantly surprised to have stumbled upon this Milwaukee singer-songwriter's debut album, which has traces of Brendan Benson, AC Newman and Fountains of Wayne running through it. The upbeat, catchy "Good Day Now" is a near-perfect opener, and the clever "Psychoanalysis" reminds me of Dan Bryk and Lamar Holley. Other highlights include the raved-up "Keep Each Other Cold", the piano-and-guitar-based melody of "Superman Somehow" and the sardonic "When They Drop the Bomb". Hoffer really has a songwriter's ear for lyrics and melody here, and a nice sampling of the disc is below for your listening pleasure.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Catcing up with some more old friends.

Here's another round of artists previously featured here who have new material out:

Artist: The Great Affairs
Last Seen on AbPow: November 2010 with Ricky Took the Wheels.
New release: Happy Ender EP.
A few words: fORMER's Denny Smith is back with the third Great Affairs release in about 18 months time, and this EP is more of their laid-back, tuneful best. Happy Ender was recorded over two days in the studio and it has a loose-limbed feel, with the peppy "Bird on a Wire" the highlight. Smith also advises there's a new fORMER album in the works, always welcome news.
Links: CD Baby | iTunes | ReverbNation

Artist: Michael Gross & The Statuettes
Last Seen on AbPow: August 2010 with Telepath.
New release: Imaginary Signs EP.
A few words: Gross & Co. have been quite busy these days, and the new EP is a continuation of their heartland rock sound. The one departure here is "A Revelation", which reminds me of Bends-era Radiohead.
Links: Bandcamp | iTunes

Artist: The Brigadier
Last Seen on AbPow: November 2010 with The Secret of No Success.
New release: Holiday Special EP.
A few words: Matt Williams returns again with a seasonally-themed EP, this one summer-related. The standout here is the leadoff track "When the Sun Comes Out", which captures summer's optimistic, carefree nature while being a damn catchy tune.
Links: CD Baby | Bandcamp | iTunes

Artist: Radio Days
Last Seen on AbPow: October 2008 with Midnight Cemetery Rendezvous.
New release: C'est La Vie.
A few words: This Italian band is back with another disc of their Paul Collins Beat (with whom they shared a 7" release)-styled power pop. The followup to their debut EP is an excellent one, from the Beatlesque "Sleep it Off" to the Teenage Fanclub-influenced "Enemies for Friends" to the jangle pop of "Sweetest Lullaby".
Links: Bandcamp (two tracks) | iTunes

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Stream the new Matthew Sweet!

Here it is, in all its glory. Haven't had a chance to listen yet myself, but note how meta Track 7 appears to be.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Two for Thursday, 7/14/11

Brandon Wilde-Hearts in Stereo. I first came upon this Brooklyn singer-songwriter thanks to his fine 2006 debut Songs From the Deep Sleep, but it didn't prepare me for how brilliant his new followup is. Wilde will appeal to fans of Paul McCartney, David Grahame and a host of other melodic popsters. The moody and haunting "Dayglow" opens in the vein of post-Crowded House Neil Finn, while the frantic "Time Bomb" sounds as if it came from a Brendan Benson album. The jangly "Candy Apples" channels Grahame and Emitt Rhodes, and it's all prelude to the album's best track "Ooh La", which takes all these influences to another level, sounding not unlike Elliott Smith if he were actually a happy person. This is first-rate pop, and another that will be ranked highly upon year's end.

CD Baby | iTunes

Richie Reinholdt-Night and Day. Here's some excellent roots pop straight outta Missoula, Montana (also home to AbPow favorites Secret Powers) that will catnip to those who like Marshall Crenshaw, Walter Clevenger, Bobby Sutliff and the like. "Lucky Stars" is an absolute gem, and "Home Now" has a bit of Dylan in it. Elsewhere, "Soft Hearts" is the Everly Brothers gone rockabilly, "Opium" is a hard-edged rocker that adds some depth to the proceedings, and "Dream Noir" lives up to its title. Reinholdt's sound might be retro, but quality roots pop like this never goes out of style.

CD Baby | Bandcamp | iTunes

Friday, July 08, 2011

CD of the Day, 7/8/11: The Red Button-As Far as Yesterday Goes

In 2007 Seth Swirsky & Mike Ruekberg, established power poppers in their own right, teamed up as The Red Button to give us one of the top power pop albums of the decade with She's About to Cross My Mind. It was our #1 album of that year and came the closest to capturing both the sound - and more importantly, the spirit - of an early-to-mid period Beatles album. It wasn't a Rutles-style pastiche but rather a collection of a dozen or so extremely strong tunes that evoked the era without aping it. And what propelled it to the next level is that you had two distinct singer-songwriters bringing their songs to the table, with Ruekberg playing Lennon to Swirsky's McCartney. So needless to say, expectations are high for the followup, and for the most part the expectations are met. There's a little bit less Beatles here, with an element of 70s-styled singer-songwriter sound in its place, but the end result is bound to please anyone who loved the first album. Things start strongly in the vein of the first album with Ruekberg's excellent and insanely catchy "Caught in the Middle", right out of the Help!-era playbook with Rickenbacker and harmonica galore. (His "I Can't Forget", which appears later in the album, is another great Beatles '65 homage.) Following is the sophisticated pop of Swirsky's title track, a moody midtempo number that compares favorably to some of the debut's standout tracks like "It's No Secret" and "Floating By". Speaking of "Floating By", the piano-based "Picture" is this album's closest cousin with its Bacharachian feel. The passionate Ruekberg rocker "Girl, Don't" ups the jangle factor, while his lovely "Easier" evokes "Something". Swirsky meanwhile pines for a pair of ladies named "Genevieve" and "Sandreen", with the former the subject of a string-laden pop confection, and the latter a very 70s-sounding tune that's just as much breezy Stevie Wonder as breezy McCartney. Elsewhere "On a Summer Day" lives up to its title with its carefree melody and some great vocal interplay between our two principals, and the vaguely funky "You Do Something to Me" draws its inspiration from Paul Simon's early solo career. And like the debut with "It's No Secret", the album closes in strong fashion with "Running Away", a piano and guitar number that shifts the focus from the girls-of-their-dreams to an inward look that casts all that came before it in a different light, a well-played turn that grounds the album nicely. Part of what made the debut a power pop phenomenon was that it came as a revelation; followups by definition in these cases always come without this advantage. But if it were possible to "unhear" the debut, As Far as Yesterday Goes would be just as much a jaw-dropper. and coming up with 12 near-perfect pop songs is never as easy as it sounds. For that, this album will rightfully earn its spot at or near the top of my 2011 list, and should earn an immediate spot on your music player of choice. CD Baby | iTunes | sample at Official Site