Friday, October 28, 2011

Friday Roundup.

The Farewells-Litterbug EP. The Farewells are a Massachusetts husband/wife duo who produce some wonderful folk-infused indie pop a la The Pernice Brothers and The Autumn Defense, and they're back for the first time in nine years with the Litterbug EP. The gentle "Beehive" kicks things off with some "Because"-like harmonies, and the title track is a slow burner that will stick in your brain. But the real highlight here is "Nightlight", a buoyant pop tune that builds to an swelling chorus and has turned out to be one of my favorite tracks of 2011.

iTunes | Bandcamp

Vie-Noises from the Cat Room. Vie (not to be confused with Donnie Vie) is a California pop-rocker with a sophisticated pop sound not unlike artists such as Linus of Hollywood, Ken Sharp and Neil Traynor. "Oh Carly" is a power pop nugget with some fine guitar work, and the acoustic guitar-heavy based "Oh Christine" is another winner (he even throws in a cover of Cheap Trick's "Oh Caroline" to complete the "Oh-girl's-name-that-starts-with-C" trilogy). The Beatlesque piano ballad "My Love" shows his facility with the slower stuff, and the strings and harmony vocals give "Anyway" a melodic urgency. Vie says he's been writing these songs for 14 years, and it was worth the wait as just about every track has something to recommend it. It's overlooked gems like these that keep me looking.

CD Baby | Stream at Official Site | iTunes

Friday, October 21, 2011

Mike and Miles.

Mike Viola-Electro de Perfecto. Mike Viola needs little introduction for readers of this site. From his power pop band Candy Butchers to his work with Bleu (in LEO & The Major Labels) to a budding solo career, the one constant has been great pop songs. On his latest solo effort, Viola steps back a bit to create his most assured, mature recording to date while continuing to deliver the tunes. You might not realize this from the opener, the frenetic "Columbus Day Parade", but "Get You Back" (with Semisonic's Dan Wilson on harmony and FoW's Adam Schelsinger on bass) is magical midtempo pop, and "Soundtrack of My Summer" will be the soundtrack of your autumn with its clever, easygoing melody. Elsewhere, "Inside Out" is catchy as hell, and the closer "When the Stars Against You" is a wonderfully moody take on dealing with life's adversities. You probably don't need me to tell you to buy a Mike Viola album, but if you had the slightest hesitation my advice is to just do it.


Miles Zuniga-These Ghosts Have Bones. It's hard to believe that this is Miles Zuniga's first proper solo album (although he did release a record in 2006 with his side project The Small Stars), but at long last the guy responsible for my most of my favorite Fastball tracks ("Fire Escape", "Airstream", "Mono to Stereo") gets the stage to himself. And These Ghosts Have Bones is worth the wait as Zuniga's pure popcraft is on full display. The Lennonesque opener "Marfa Moonlight" is wonderful, one of 2011's most unforgettable tracks and its lyrics are the source of the album title. "Rock Paper Scissors" is an excellent rocker that would have easily fit in on a Fastball record, while "Feel it in Your Kiss" displays a faint 70s R&B influence. Elsewhere, "Working on a Love Song" is a catchy number filled with irony (the writer of the song finishes it just in time to find its subject left him), and "Junkie Hands" finds Zuniga in a late-period Beatles state of mind. A great solo debut from one of my favorite pop songwriters, and a strong candidate for 2011's top 10.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Midweek Roundup.

An American Underdog-Always on the Run. While you may not recognize the band name, you should recognize the man behind the band - in this case, Michigan's Andy Reed, who has followed up his excellent 2008 release Fast Forward with a backing band this time around. So while the circumstances may be different, the general sound isn't as Reed & Co. continue to mine the Jon Brion/David Grahame/Emmit Rhodes/Elliott Smith pop territory. The bright power pop of "Your Reign is Over" channels Brendan Benson, "Portland" makes nice use of keyboards in a poppy Elvis Costello-meets-Jason Falkner track, and the whimsical title track is a tour de force, sprinkling bits of McCartney, Jellyfish and Jon Brion into a pure pop confection. Reed keeps getting better with each release, and might be ready to take his place among the David Grahames and Michael Carpenters of the genre. This one's a must for my regular readers.

CD Baby | SoundCloud | iTunes

Buttonjaw-Things You Should Know. It was a pleasant surprise stumbling upon this Portland band, who have given us a fine debut disc that brings to mind The Posies and The Gin Blossoms. "Polly Nearly" is nearly a perfect album opener, a catchy, guitar-driven number with hooks to spare, "One-Track Mind" has a twisting melody and some great guitar work, and the midtempo "Breakdown" sounds like it just came off a rock-radio station from the 90s. These guys know their way around a tune, and the best part is that the proceeds from the album are going to help build a safe house in Ghana for trafficking victims. Good music and a good cause, can't argue with that.

CD Baby | iTunes

Mike Barnett-Bigger Than This. Have no fear - your FDA-required minimum daily supplement of jangle is about to be filled once again by Missouri's Mike Barnett, who's back to the solo path after his excellent 2009 album with Dennis Gurley. In case you're not familiar, the touchstone for Barnett's sound is Wilbury-era George Harrison, and opener "The Love I Have for You" is a catchy, jangly gem. "Motorcycle" treads somehwere between the 60s and 70s and recalls Bobby Sutliff, and "Life's Better" sounds like a lost Roy Orbison classic. Jangleheads, this one's for you.

CD Baby | iTunes

Monday, October 03, 2011

Monday Roundup.

Making up for my recent absence with 3 reviews today:

The Ditchflowers-Bird's Eye. Brian Merrill (ex-Barely Pink) and Ed Woltil are back with the followup to 2007's excellent Carried Away, and Bird's Eye is another triumphant collection of sophisticated adult pop. "Sunshine Lifetime" blasts out of the speakers with some horns and Stones-style swagger, "You Could Hurt Someone" is alternately bouncy and brooding, and the ballad "Rainout" is a melodic winner with background vocals from fellow Tampa Bay rocker Steve Robinson. Also of note is the frenetic power pop of "Pictures of You", and the shuffling "Love, The Conqueror" which features ex-Wilco drummer Ken Coomer. A magnificent record.

CD Baby | Listen at Official Site | iTunes

Mozley-S/T. My Google skills have really been put to the test by the mysterious Mozley. As best as I can tell, he's from Arkansas and that may or may not be D.B. Cooper on the album cover. Nevertheless, you don't need his life story to enjoy his self-titled debut, and fans of The Replacements and Big Star will want to check this one out. The shambolic rocker "Never Meant to Be" has a Westerbergian edge to it, "Earthquakes" has a brooding yet melodic feel, and "Leave Tonight" recalls Ryan Adams when he's serious about classic rock while "Wake Up" is a jangly mid-tempo rocker with a Tom Petty vibe. A nice slice of Mid-South rock from out of nowhere.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

The Phantom Six-Plastic Rain. The Phantom Six is a West Virginia garage rock band led by singer-guitarist Mark Poole, and along with his bandmates (who include AbPow favorite Clint Sutton) has crafted a fun, energetic collection of late 60s-styled rock nuggets. "Corianna", full of reverb and stop-start guitars, and "ahhhhh" harmonies sets the tone, and "Inspiration" doesn't suffer from a lack of it. The piledriving "About Love" and the title track recall Dinosaur Jr., while "Lose Control" comes across as Foo Fighters with more gravitas. With one kick-ass rocker after another (even the jangly "Shades of Sunday"), Plastic Rain will appeal to fans of melodic rock, including those of us who loved the Clint Sutton disc even if his contributions here are as a sideman.

CD Baby | Listen | iTunes