Friday, December 21, 2012

The Absolute Powerpop Top 100 of 2012, #1-50.

And here's what you've been waiting for, the top half of the top 100. A few words on my #1 pick follow the list:

1. Salim Nourallah-Hit Parade
2. Shoes-Ignition
3. Scott Warren-Dyed in the Wool
4. Cliff Hillis-Dream Good
5. Kevin Martin-Throwback Pop
6. David Myhr-Soundshine
7. Jay Gonzalez-Mess of Happiness
8. Lannie Flowers-New Songs Old Tories
9. The Honeymoon Stallions-Moonlighting
10. Ruby Free-Introducing Ruby Free
11. Oberon Rose-Wunjo
12. Sitcom Neighbor-Charm
13. Bill Lloyd-Boy King of Tokyo
14. Gavin Guss-On High
15. Paul Rocha-Crayons
16. Tim Husty-A Step Back
17. Holmes-Complication Simplified
18. Throwback Suburbia-Shot Glass Souvenir
19. Chris Richards & The Subtractions-Get Yer La La's Out
20. Redd Kross-Researching the Blues
21. Secret Powers-More Songs About Her
22. JP Cregan-Elba
23. Jeff Litman-Outside
24. Jackdaw4-Dissecticide
25. The Blood Rush Hour-Shrink
26. Smash Palace-Do it Again
27. The Stars Explode-Between the Lines
28. Aimee Mann-Charmer
29. Wanderlust-Record Time
30. Didn't Planet-We're Going Nowhere
31. AC Newman-Shut Down the Streets
32. Steven wright-Mark-My Plastic World
33. The Breakups-Running Jumping Falling Shouting
34. The World Record-Freeway Special
35. Dave Birk-Speed Queen Mystery Date
36. Stay-The Fourth Dimension
37. Rob Bonfiglio-Mea Culpa
38. Slink-Desert Gem
39. Hidden Pictures-Rainbow Records
40. Jared Lekites-Star Map
41. Latvian Radio-Kill the Static
42. Minky Starshine-Womanity
43. Trapper Schoepp & The Shades-Run, Engine, Run
44. Mike O'Neill-Wild Lines
45. Dan Miraldi-Sugar & Adrenaline
46. Frank Bango-Touchy Feely
47. Eliot Bronson & Yonder Orphans-Milwaukee
48. The Roseline-Vast as Sky
49. The CRY!-The CRY!
50. Electrolic-Live on Land

I went with Salim Nourallah's Hit Parade at #1 for several reasons - it was the album I enjoyed the most, the one that grew on me the most with repeated listens, and most of all it felt to me like a contemporary Beatles album with Nourallah playing all four parts. The wonderful "38 Rue de Sevigne" opens the album with a slow build into full-fledged McCartney-esque goodness, while the title track and "God Damn Life" (which are both thematic cousins of "Working Class Hero") bear a profound John Lennon influence. Meanwhile, the ringing guitars and lyrics that speak of disappointment yet hope in someone else of "The Quitter" feel like George Harrison, while the faux-disco "Travolta" mixes humor and pathos in much the same way Ringo's Beatle tunes did. In the past I've always enjoyed Nourallah's songcraft even though it felt cold and distant at times, but here he takes a warm and wistful look back at life from middle age (life's "hit parade" as it were) and the result is the best album of his career.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Absolute Powerpop Top 100 of 2012, #51-100

Here's the bottom half of the top 100, with the top half to follow tomorrow.

51. Paul Bohan-For Now & Ever
52. Any Version of Me-A Matter of Time
53. Jason Karaban-Shift
54. Bryan Scary-Daffy's Elixir
55. Even-In Another Time
56. fun.-Some Nights
57. Dan Kibler-Dan Kibler
58. The Figgs-The Day Gravity Stopped
59. The Condors-3 Item Combo
60. Nick Frater-Throw Money
61. Nada Surf-The Stars are Indifferent to Astronomy
62. HighMay-The Upside
63. Well Wishers-Dreaming of the West Coast
64. Bryan Dunn-Sweetheart of the Music Hall
65. Pete Donnelly-When You Come Home
66. Peter Buzzelle-Museum of Peter Buzzelle
67. The Shins-Port of Morrow
68. Justin Kline-Cabin Fever Songs
69. Jud Norman-Baby Step
70. The Afternoons-Fan Fiction
71. Matt Webster-Army of One
72. Conceptus-Trebly Feelings
73. The Mike Benign Compulsion-Martha
74. Fallon Cush-April
75. Hannah Cranna-A Real Nice Parade
76. Eric Miller-Voices of Mirrors
77. The Honey Wilders-Singles for Singles
78. The Pozers-The Sun's Going Down
79. Dale Murray-Dream Mountain Dream
80. Acid-Acid
81. Snakehips-Must Be Present to Win
82. Drobinko-Drobinko
83. Kurt Baker-Brand New Beat
84. Ken Stringfellow-Danzig in the Moonlight
85. Saul Zonana-Fix the Broken
86. Archie Powell & The Exports-Great Ideas in Action
87. Brendan Benson-What Kind of World
88. Mark Lane-Something New
89. Kevin Bents-The Honors
90. The Brixton Riot-Palace Amusements
91. The Successful Failures-Here I Am
92. Lightships-Electric Cables
93. Veneer-Songs About Gardening
94. Mozley-II
95. Hall of Ghosts-A Random Quiet
96. Hot Freak Nation-Lifetime to Lifetime
97. Nelson Bragg-We Get What We Want
98. One Like Son-Start the Show
99. The Squires of the Subterrain-Sandbox
100. Mark Heineke-Lovely

Friday, December 14, 2012

EP Friday.

Blair Gilley-Almost Home. Nashville rocker Blair Gilley, after fronting a couple of bands, goes solo with impressive results on his debut EP which brings to mind the likes of Oasis and Green Day in their poppier moments. This is "modern-sounding" power pop that also calls to mind Rooney, especially on the anthemic opener "Hopelessly". The power ballad "My Communication" slows things down to a degree but works equally as well, and the real winner here is the closer "What You Do to Yourself" which sports an indelible chorus. A brash and impressive debut.

CD Baby | iTunes

The Metal Babies-The Metal Babies EP. This band from Sydney caught my eye with their name, an obvious homage to a classic Teenage Fanclub song. The caught my ear as well with their sound, which despite their name isn't a slavish attempt to recapture the TF sound. Instead, they have kind of a "heartland rock" sound which shows on the "This Cloud of Mine", while the opener "In the Dirt" has a Tom Petty feel (as well as an always-welcome "woo hoo hoo" in the chorus). Elsewhere, "Trainwreck" is an enjoyable rocker and the midtempo "Willing to Wait" boasts some fine guitar work. Nothing flashy here, but five above-average tracks that will be welcome on your music player of choice.


Sunday, December 09, 2012

Help Justin Kline help kids at Christmas.

Passing this on from Justin Kline:

Hey there, Justin Kline here with a favor to ask…

My new Christmas song "Once a Year" is available for digital download via NoiseTrade… and 100% of the proceeds will benefit TOYS FOR TOTS... (or you can download it for free too)

Happy Holidays,
Justin Kline

Friday, December 07, 2012

Political Power Pop.

In honor of this very political year (what with a US presidential election and all), here are a pair of releases from artists we've featured before who've decided to make a political statement with their power pop:

Neil Nathan Inc.-Sweep the Nation. We last heard from this rocker in 2010 with the excellent The Distance Calls, and now he's back as "Neil Nathan Inc.", ready to Occupy your music player of choice with Sweep the Nation, an attack on crooked corporate capitalism. Of course you can get political commentary from virtually nook and cranny on the Internet, so the key here is whether the music behind the viewpoint holds up. And here it does, from the kinetic (and appropriately-titled) Matthew Sweet-style opener "Jumpstart" to the anthemic title track to the Tom Petty-esque "For the Lucky Ones". In some respects, Swept the Nation is power pop's answer to Bruce Springsteen's Wrecking Ball, another mad-as-hell-and-not-going-to-take-it-anymore album that still sounded great when you weren't paying attention to the lyrics. Fittingly this album isn't available from any of the big corporate outlets, but only on the artist-friendly Bandcamp.


UPDATE: Now available through CD Baby.

Khalid Hanifi-A Brief Respite from Shooting Fish in a Barrel. Khalid Hanifi has been a welcome presence in the power pop scene for over a decade, whether recording under his own name or as The Maypops. Here Hanifi, an Afghan-American, trades his mild-mannered singer/songwriter power pop to rail against the treatment of his ancestral land and the corporate-military complex behind it. And as in the case of Neil Nathan's record, Hanifi still manages to express himself through some solid songcraft. The loping "Free the World to Death" pulls no punches, and "The Splendor of Empire" is first rate dream-pop with a serious kick. Elsewhere, the acoustic-based "Rock and Roll Frankenstein" and "Whose Idea Was That" sport lovely melodies, and "Hog Futures" is the kind of catchy power pop Hanifi made his name with.

CD Baby | iTunes

Friday, November 30, 2012

Friday Roundup.

Hidden Pictures-Rainbow Records. Hidden Pictures hail from Kansas City and boast an impressive pop pedigree. Lead vocalists Richard Gintowt and Michelle Sanders were in the band OK Jones, which had a couple of fine releases in the middle part of the last decade, and Erik Voeks (of the legendary 1993 power pop album Sandbox) plays bass. And while it all looks good on paper, it sounds just as good to the ear. For the most part, Rainbow Records is buoyant, effervescent pop - opener "Calling Christine" and closer "Oldies 104.3" bookend the album with sugar galore and find the band as a less indie rock-oriented New Pornographers. Meanwhile, "Solo Record Shop" and "Boyfriend A.D.D." rock a bit more but keep the sweet melodies going. This might be the perfect summer record of 2012, but even in winter you'll want to have it to keep you warm.

Bandcamp | iTunes

Mooner-Unpronounceable Name EP. The third EP from this Chicago band led by brothers Lee & David Ketch is a real treat for lovers of meaty, melodic guitar pop. They claim Television and Tom Petty as influences and it's not hard to hear it in "Shapeshifter", with its angular guitar hook and insistent melody, while "Overrated" rocks relentlessly. The other tracks, the midtempo "White Lines" (which builds slowly and ends up in Petty territory) and the power ballad-turned-guitar freakout "Never Alone" also show the band's talent for unpredictability.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Pre-Thanksgiving Roundup.

J.P. Cregan-Elba. JP Cregan's 2009 debut Man Overboard was one of the more pleasant surprises of that year, placing #12 on my year-end list. Now he's back from exile with his followup full-length Elba, and serves proof the debut was no fluke. Opening track "Wreck" is a great slice of melodic pop which practically swings with its playful guitar riff and horns, "Here it Comes Again" is straight ahead power pop in the Cliff Hillis/Michael Carpenter vein, and "Saw Her on the Metro" has enough of a wall of sound that it recalls a Jeff Lynne production. But in addition to the traditional power pop sound, Cregan moves into foik/rock territory on a few tracks, including the winsome acoustic-based "Susie, Please" and the near-rockabilly of "I Want to Let You Know". This is definitely another strong candidate for the year-end Top 20 in what's shaped up to be a very strong year for power pop.

CD Baby

The Pozers-The Sun's Going Down. Another artist unveiling their sophomore effort is The Pozers, whose debut disc Embrace Your Addiction got quite a bit of love in power pop community back in 2004 before yours truly got immersed in the scene, and on the basis of their fine newly-released followup I'm going to have to back and check that one out. As for The Sun's Going Down, it's a tour de force of power pop styles produced by none other than Roger Manning. The fuzzed-out guitars of "Spacecar" answer the question of what Guided by Voices would have sounded like in 1968, the loping yet melodic "All She Wrote" could pass for a lost Nuggets classic, and "The Separation" expertly evokes Pet Sounds-era Beach Boys. They may be retro, but when you get retro this right you can't be wrong, and that's no pose.

CD Baby | iTunes

Sunday, November 18, 2012

CD of the Day, 11/18/12: VA-International Pop Overthrow Vol. 15

One of the more welcome annual traditions in the power pop community is the release of David Bash's International Pop Overthrow compilation, guaranteed to be 3 CDs of top-shelf power pop with new tracks from old favorites and a wide variety of tracks from up-and-coming power poppers. Volume 15 is no exception, including many artists who have been featured on these pages such as The Condors, Private Jets, Clockwise, The Foreign Films, The Afternoon, Vegas With Randolph, Throwback Suburbia and The Shamus Twins. But it's the new discoveries that make these compilations special, even for those who consider themselves well-plugged in to the scene.

Disc 1 starts off, however, with one of the genre's icons. As most of you know, Shoes are back with the first album in ages and the fine "Head vs Heart" is one of the better tracks off their highly recommended return, Ignition. Among the lower-profile artists, the standouts here include the Stonesy rawk of Marvin Etzioni's "The Grapes of Wrath", Fireking's jangly "So You Say You Lost Your Baby", the Who-like power chords of The Seasongs' "New Love" and the 60s pop of "Yesterday" by The Secrets.

Disc 2 opens with the harmonic, melodic pop/rock of King Washington's "The Gears", and The Sunychmes' "Revelations in Her Mind" is a great introduction to their 60s California sound found on their latest disc, Let Your Free Flag Fly. Other treats include the Brill Building pop of "The Coast is Clear" from The Housekeeping Society, Norman Kelsey's 70s R&B-influneced "On the Rebound", and the 70s AOR of "No One to Blame" by the wonderfully-named Salvador Dali Llama.

Disc 3 features the great retro-pop of Portland's The Cry ("Modern Cinderella") and the Beat Rats ("Only 16"), the trippy psych-pop of The Pondhawks' "Drive", some fine Popicana from the (unfortunately-spelled) Pengwins in "Naive", and the bright 60s pop of The Airwaves' "Miracle". And things close on a high note with Ed Tulipa's "Barbie", a catchy midtempo Beatlesque tune. These IPO compilations always make a great holiday gift for the power popper on your list, and not a bad present to buy yourself.

Kool Kat | IPO site (with streaming IPO 15 tracks)

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Two for Thursday, 11/8/12

Bondo Camaro-Bondo Camaro vs Any Mammal. It's been quite awhile since we heard from Arthur Yoria (2007 to be precise) but he's resurfaced as part of Bondo Camaro, a LA band that's kind of grunged up his pop sound but left the melodies intact on their debut EP. Opener "Chemistry" gives us the formula for what's to follow, distorted guitars in the background with a sweet power pop melody, reminiscent at times of Matthew Sweet or a fuzzed-out Teenage Fanclub. "Put You to Sleep" is another standout as it asks the question "Is there such a thing as stoner power pop?" and answers "yes". This is probably nothing like anything you have on your music player of choice at the moment but you'll want to remedy that right away. Exclusively on Bandcamp right now.


The Condors-3 Item Combo. Speaking of artists we haven't heard from in 5 years, here are The Condors with the long-awaited followup to... Wait for It. This time around it's more garage pop than garage rock, with excellent results. "Here I Go" and "Slice of Life" are almost jangle-rockers, while "Queer Fascination" brings The Grip Weeds to mind. Elsewhere, "Holiday" has a Smithereens feel to it and "Seraphina Way" is a pleasing midtemp rocker. With their old-school power pop sound, the Condors may hail from LA but they sound like New Jersey.

CD Baby | iTunes

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Two for Tuesday, 10/30/12

Kurt Baker-Brand New Beat. The frontman of The Leftovers has been quite busy lately as a solo artist with various EPs and cover collections, but this is his first proper full-length release of new material. There may never be a more appropriately titled opening track this year than "Hit the Ground" with its lyric "we hit the ground running" as that's exactly what Baker does here with some high-energy power pop. "Don't Go Falling in Love" is another winner, which boasts some clever lyrics about a Halloween party (how timely) and an infectious chorus. Although for the most part the tempos are fast and the guitars rocking, Baker also shows off some skill with the slower tunes, such as "She's Not Sorry". But mostly this is old-school power pop done quite well.

Bandcamp | iTunes

Willow-Charcoal and Blue. Willow is the latest project from our old friend Mike Barnett, whom we've featured as a solo artist and part of Barnett/Gurley. If you liked his earlier releases, you'll love this one as it provides a steady dose of jangle. This time around, he's joined by Jerry & Denise Risner, the latter of whom provides some outstanding backing vocals on Wilbury-esque tracks like "Holiday" and "Good Love is Hard to Find". We also get two versions of the fine "Counting on You", one with Barnett on lead vocals and the other with Denise Risner. Once again, Barnett proves the master of low-key, front-porch-0style jangly pop, whatever his band name.

CD Baby
| iTunes

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Two for Thursday, 10/18/12

The World Record-Freeway Special. Andy Creighton & Co. haven't been heard from since 2006's Guitars Forever, but they make up for lost time by releasing what would be called in old days a double album. There are 18 tracks here, and you get 5 bonus ones if you go the old-fashioned route of vinyl and they do a fine job of keeping the quality up with the quantity. The dominant motif here is midtempo power pop, in the vein of Big Star or Teenage Fanclub, which might come as a bit of surprise to those who remember the boisterous "Were #1" from Guitars Forever (and which reappears here in a remixed form). And while "Cats on the Roof", "Call the Doctor" and "She's Not a Liar" rock out to some degree, the best tracks find them in straight pop territory such as "Marsha (Think it Over)" and "I Met the Girl (I'm Gonna Leave You For)" while the laid-back "Candy" and "Be Nice" are also rewarding. It's great to have these guys back.

Official Site (CD/Vinyl) | iTunes

Eliot Bronson & Yonder Orphans-Milwaukee. When we last left Eliot Bronson (formerly of The Brilliant Inventions), he released 2011's Blackbirds, in which he leaned more to the folk side of folk-pop. This time around he's added a backup band and cranked things up a bit, displaying more of a heartland rock sound not unlike Ryan Adams and Paul Westerberg. This becomes apparent on the driving "One Mississippi", a rocker you could easily hear Adams or Tom Petty doing. "Waiting on a Sign", "Emily" and "It Don't Get Easier" also follow in this vein and the latter especially is a treat. Elsewhere, "Down to Me" is top-drawer Popicana, and "Longshot" and the title track are the kind of the folky-pop gems that drew us to him in the first place.

CD Baby | iTunes

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Midweek Roundup.

Electrolic-Live on Land. Electrolic is the latest project from Scott Gagner, who's released discs under his own name and Cartographer that have been featured on this site. This time around, he's teamed up with Steve Enstad for a work that's similar to his previous offerings but a bit more electronic and psychedelic. "Hello Hello" is a catchy opening number that serves the purpose of its title, while "Benefit of the Doubt" is the kind of lush, intricate pop Gagner has become known for, but with a synth twist. The highlight here is "Refreshing", which at its roots is a jangly pop song but becomes a distillation of what the album is all about with its drum loops and psychedelic sheen. Also of note are "After the Fall" (another jangler at heart) and "Belmont Pedigree" (a twisty rocker recalling later-period Wilco). While this is all a bit off the beaten power pop path, it's still rewarding and enjoyable listening.

CD Baby | iTunes

Paul Rocha-Crayons. Californian Paul Rocha describes Crayons as "British Invasion by a left-handed American" and his take correctly pegs the album as a somewhat quirky, tongue-in-cheek evocation of Beatlesque pop. Rocha's pop is similar to artists like Roger Klug and XTC, and opening track "Sevens into Nines" gives you a good idea where he's coming from as it segues from sweet pop into a White Album-like guitar freakout into a bombastic pop song. Meanwhile, "Peaches and Lemon Lime" takes a slight psych turn (love that sitar) in its straight-ahead power pop, "Medicine Ride" is McCartneyesque chamber pop, and "Don't Go in the Water Now" and "Fairies in the Yorkshire Glen" have that Andy Partridge pastoral feel. Elsewhere, Rocha offers up his twisted yet melodic outlooks on Amelia Earhart, peace signs on the wall, and why nobody names their babies Adolph (or OJ or Lee Harvey) any more. Another excellent pop disc in a year full of them.

CD Baby | iTunes

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

New Marco Joachim single.

While Marco Joachim's 2007 debut Songville was a fine album recommended on this site, he really took a quantum leap with last year's Hidden Symphonies, a Beatlesque marvel that made my top 10. Now he's back with a new single with a 70s R&B-influenced feel, "Made in the USA". and you can have a listen below:

CD Baby | iTunes

Friday, September 28, 2012

Weekend Roundup.

Scott Warren-Dyed in the Wool. The former frontman of Signal Hill Transmission is back with his second solo album after 2009's fine Quick Fix Bandage. As I mentioned in that review, Warren never likes to make the same album twice, and here he veers from Bandage's popicana to a more indie pop sound not unlike a psychedelic Shins or Jo Dee Purkeypile's The Alice Rose. "Divisible/Indivisible" opens with a spry melody buoyed by Janelle Williams' trumpet and some well-placed whistling while "When She Comes Around" sounds like Paul McCartney if he were a 21st century indie popper. Elsewhere, the pretty melody of "When in Rome" and the "la-la-la" chorus of "Sinking Feeling" (which also features the "shooby-do-wa" refrain from "Revolution 1") help these two tracks stand out from the rest. And closer "Tongue-Tied" might be the best of the lot with its halting melody and bells and whistles that make it sound like a lost track from Wilco's Summerteeth. Another winner for Warren.

CD Baby | iTunes

The Lazy Suns-The Lazy Suns EP. This is the latest from Mark Clayton & Co., who were known as "Mark Clayton and The Lazy Suns" a couple of years back when I gave them I a brief shout-out on this site. The new EP is a enjoyable melange of power pop meets Americana, somewhere in the general direction of Tom Petty and The Wilburys. Opener "Bundled" is straight-up country rock, "Last Train Home" is top-shelf jangle pop and "Start All Over" closes with the guitar solo from Badfinger's "No Matter What". And the final track "Troubled Sea" is a sing-along sea shanty that was featured on the TV Show "The Deadliest Catch" and sports The Hooters' Eric Bazillian on hurdy-gurdy. So there's quite a bit to enjoy here if your tastes run into this sub-genre.

CD Baby | iTunes

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Two for Tuesday, 9/18/12

Sitcom Neighbor-Charm. LA's Sitcom Neighbor is a three-piece band led by John Murphy, and their second release (I missed 2007's eponymous debut) is a power pop delight that falls somewhere between The Posies and XTC. Opener "Amphetamine" belies its title with a languid pop melody and featuring a memorable acoustic guitar hook, "The Satisfaction of Love" comes across as a less quirky Colin Moulding XTC tune, and the midtempo "Let it Go" makes great use of its wordless backing vocals and twisting melody to recall Abbey Road-era Beatles. Elsewhere "Buy Your Farm" and closer "Darlene" find the band in a more rocking mode without sacrificing melody. An impressive record, and now I need to seek out the debut.

CD Baby | iTunes

Los Angelfish-Welcome to Los Angelfish. Last year Tim Culling had my second favorite EP of 2011 with Goodbye Western Sun, and here he returns with Michael Fink as Los Angelfish, serving up more of the roots-inflected pop/rock we enjoyed last time around. Opener "Winning Score" recalls vintage Paul Westerberg, while the piano-based "You Can Only Try So Hard" has a Wilco feel to it. Other standouts include are the bluesy "You'll Fly Away" and the Tom Petty-style closing rocker "Every One Knows". If Culling caught your ear last year, you'll definitely want to grab this one.

CD Baby | Soundcloud (all tracks)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Upcoming power pop.

I'm firmly convinced 2012 has been a far better year for power pop than 2011, and here come two more upcoming releases that will be vying for a top spot on a very competitive year-end list.

First up is the long-awaited return of David Grahame, who hasn't put a proper full-length album since 2004's DT & The Disagreeables, but has now teamed up with Lane Steinberg for a project titled - you guessed it - Grahame Steinberg. It's due out next month, and below is a 10-minute sampler of all the tracks. It almost works a medley unto itself, and it stands to be the most interesting power pop collaboration since Seth Swirsky and Mike Ruekberg got together:

Also back for the first time in several years is The World Record, last heard from with the great Guitars Forever in 2006. They're making up for lost time by giving us an 18-track double "album", also available in 23-track form on LP, due on October 9. To whet your appetite, they have a 7-track sampler up for your listening pleasure. Andy Creighton & Co. sound just as good as ever (EDIT: here's the full album now for streaming):

Friday, September 07, 2012

Friday Roundup.

Tim Husty-A Step Back. Pennsylvania's Tim Husty released this album at the very tail end of 2011, but I'm going to count it as a 2012 release. I mention this only because A Step Back is likely to end up fairly high on my year-end list as Husty has managed to make retro sound fresh in an effort that should appeal to fans of Marshall Crenshaw, Eugene Edwards and Gentleman Jesse. Whether it's the pre/early-Beatles rock'n'roll of "Be All Mine", "I'm Done" (complete with Lennonesque harmonica) and "Who's to Blame" or the more sophisticated pop of "She is Loved" and "Linear Man" or the epic Jimmy Webb-like closer "Goodbye", Husty has 60s pop down cold, almost like a one-man Red Button.

CD Baby | iTunes

Jason Karaban-Shift. LA's Jason Karaban returns with another quality album of singer/songwriter pop/rock that's of a piece with his earlier work featured on this site. Opener "Misplaced" is a richly-produced, anthemic tune that recalls Coldplay at their best, "Succeed 101" (originally released as a single) manages to be both breezy and melodic, and the driving "Tumbleweeds" finds itself in Tom Petty territory. But the real standout here - especially for us power poppers - is "Devil That I Know", a track co-written with Toad the Wet Sprocket's Glen Phillips that's the catchiest thing he's released and deserves to be a hit somewhere.


Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Midweek Roundup.

Ruby Free-Introducing Ruby Free. Ruby Free is Maple Mars' Rick Hromadka side project team-up with wife Lisa Cavaliere, and it's a sonic return to those carefree 1970s days when spouses like Paul & Linda McCartney, Richard & Linda Thompson, Sonny & Cher, and (non-spouses) Gram Parsons & Emmylou Harris would record laid-back classics. Opener "Bongos & Beards" is a wonderfully chirpy opener with a McCartneyesque melody, the jangly "Slow Parade" has just the right psychedelic touch, and the piano psych pop of "Good Company" would have fit right in on Wings at the Speed of Sound. "Tiny Stars" borrows the famous Motown bass line in service of a catchy melody, and closer "One Last Song" with its ethereal melodies and strings closes things in appropriately epic fashion. The album is a wonderful evocation of a subgenre we didn't realized we missed. And yeah, there's also a song here called "Sonny & Cher".

CD Baby | iTunes

Steven Wright-Mark-Plastic World. NYC's Steven Wright-Mark is back with his first release since 2008's Sideshow Freak, and he picks right up where he left off with his Matthew Sweet-meets-Elvis Costello blend of singer-songwriter pop. "I Wanna" bolts out of the gate with a swagger that's both mission statement and an electric power pop number, "Almost Summer" channels Fountains of Wayne, and Wright-Mark shows off his sardonic sense of humor with "My Friends Are Trash". Elsewhere, "Lean" sounds like a lost Tommy Keene classic, and closer "Your Name" might be the best pure pop on the album. It's Steven Wright-Mark's plastic world, and we're all living in it.


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

CD of the Day, 8/29/12: The Honeymoon Stallions-Moonlighting

Andy Goldberg is back! Last heard from (with the exception of a track on Kool Kat's Christmas album in 2010) as The Goldbergs with 2008's Under the Radar, the Long Island purveyor of hooks (lines and sinkers as well) resurfaces with a new band name but the same top-notch power pop. Hearing the opener "If it Wasn't for You" will be putting on an old pair of slippers as Goldberg makes the melodies sound easy, and if this were 1975 "Radio Song" would actually be on the radio. Meanwhile, the piano-based "Every Now & Then" conjures memories of Badfinger and "A Little Love Tonight" closes the album on a real high with perhaps his catchiest number to date. There are a few stylistic detours here which mostly work as well - "Gonna Fall in Love" is bluesy power pop, "By the Moon.." is almost a torch song, and "Driftin'" is janglier than normal for Goldberg. Add it all up, and you have a triumphant return for one of the top power poppers of the last 6-7 years.

CD Baby | iTunes

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Midweek Musings.

Lannie Flowers-New Songs Old Stories. I wanted to like Lannie Flowers' 2008 debut album Same Old Story, but it was really a tease - one short snippet after another in a medley of thirty-something overall song fragments. In 2010, he released Circles, which consisted of proper full-length songs and it was a revelation, placing #8 on my year-end list. To follow that up, Flowers went back and resurrected nine tracks from Same Old Story to record as full songs, based on requests from his fans. Having done that, he's bucking for a return trip to my top 10 as he continues his mastery of power pop. The Who-like "Another Weekend" opens things in rocking fashion, "Come on Girl" has an early-Beatles/Merseyside feel to it and "Give Me a Chance" is picture-perfect jangle pop. Now he just needs to do a few more volumes of the remaining 25 songs from Same Old Story.

CD Baby

The JAC-Faux Pas. Aussie Joe Algeri has been around a while, as a member of Jack & The Beanstalk and most recently the power pop supergroup The Britannicas, as well as several solo records to his credit. His latest is a solo effort, but he's chosen to go by "The JAC" here. Faux Pas is a pop record through and through, full of the various styles Algeri has shown throughout his career, ranging from the ramshackle 60s pop of opening track (and mission statement) "Play All the Instruments" to the straight-ahead power pop (if not straight-ahead lyrics) of "I Just Want to Be Weird" to the almost punk-pop of "Julie Got Angry". There's plenty of good ol' goofy weirdness here with fun tracks like "I'm a Glass of Orange Juice" and the Ray Davies-esque "Romano the Dog". And just to make the whole experience extra fun, Algeri includes a bonus disc of 10 covers titled Drugs, Trucks & Jesus. You can't say you won't get your money's worth from this one.

Kool Kat | Bandcamp

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Midweek Roundup.

The Blood Rush Hour-Shrink. Now here's a pleasant pop surprise. The Blood Rush Hour are a four-piece Welsh band led by Robert DiStefano, and Shrink is an effervescent piece of British pop that channels Jellyfish and XTC. Opener "The Way Back Home" with its piano-and-horns backing as well as the buoyant "Delme" bring to mind fellow Brits The Feeling, while the frenetic back-and-forth stylistic shifts of "Into the Fire" and "My Life With the Omni One" have a Bryan Scary-meets-Jellyfish vibe. Elsewhere, "The Trauma Factory" and "Gone (Where Nobody Can Find Me)" show their appreciation for pre-Beatles British pop, and "The Tale of Sir Lancelot" along with closer "Show Me Your Self" also effectively show off their pop chops. This is an impressive a power pop debut as I've heard in the last couple of years, so don't shrink from picking this one up.

CD Baby | iTunes

Justin Kline-Cabin Fever Songs. Taking a break from his usual peppy pop tunes, site favorite Justin Kline is back with a lower-key, contemplative effort this time around which nonetheless shows off his gift for melody. The lo-fi, largely acoustic version of Kline sounds quite a bit like Elliott Smith or Connor Oberst, and the opener "Nighttime Girl" is an irresistible slice of folk/pop. Despite the lack of a "big" sound, "Your Mystery" manages to get the toes tappin', and "Carol Lynn" is a gorgeous number that would have fit in perfectly as a change-of-pace on one of his previous albums. A perfect album for a rainy Sunday afternoon.

CD Baby | iTunes

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

New EPs from old friends.

Supraluxe-Fuzz. The band which indirectly led to the creation of this site is back with a brand new EP after last year's return to form of The Super Sounds of Supraluxe. This one's called "Fuzz", which was the band's name in its original incarnation, and bassist Rich Pearson told me it was an intentional attempt to sound more consistent after the sonic adventures of Super Sounds. It certainly does have that classic Elliott Smith-meets-Big Star Supraluxe sound, with "A Little Radiation" and "Heavy Mustang" both dense and melodic. "Absinthe on the Beach" is another standout, a bright pop song that fits the mold of their sound. Great to see them back so soon, and word is that they have another 13 or songs lined up for their next full-length.

CD Baby | iTunes

Heap-Defriended. NYC rockers Heap are back with their first release since 2008's Oddball, and with these seven new high-energy melodic tracks it's like they never left. "Finger of Fate" rocks with swagger, "I Bet You Could" has a Rockpile pub-rock feel to it, "Noel Ford" continues their tradition of character stories going back to Oddball's "Running With Roosevelt Colson" and "Idiot Lust" channels 80s hair/glam metal. Fans of Cheap Trick, The Replacements and The Figgs will want to click the "like" button on this one.


Monday, August 06, 2012

Summer of Sax.

Over the last 18 years or so, Scot Sax has been a big deal in the power pop community whether it be his solo material or band efforts with Wanderlust, Feel and Queen Electric. So it's noteworthy to have two Scot Sax-related releases out this summer, one of which features a Wanderlust reunion.

Wanderlust-Record Time. It's been a year of power pop reunions (Shoes and dBs among others), and none is more welcome than Wanderlust's. With bandmates Rob Bonfiglio (a fine solo artist in his on right), Mark Getten and Jim Cavanaugh back in tow, Sax led them in recording a "live in the studio" record of new material. Instant classics abound, from the opening rocker "Lou Reed" to the melodic and soulful "Blow Away" to classic rock sound of "Fork in the Road". It's been 12 years since their last album, but it doesn't sound like a day has passed.

Kool Kat

Scot Sax-The Los Angeles Years. Also newly out via Bandcamp is a 15-song collection of unreleased "songs written and recorded in the fun-loving, sushi eatin', sunny songwriting days from the Warner/Chappell years in Los Angeles 1999-2005", as Sax himself puts it. While Sax was penning tunes for megastars like Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, he continued to record his own material and some of these tunes stand among his best. "Cell Phone Again" recalls his slightly-mellower sound in Feel, "Busy Being Free" is a charming, bouncy, piano-based number, and "OK, You're Beautiful" sounds like it had to have been a hit for somebody at sometime. This must-have for Sax fans is a digital-only release at Bandcamp.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Weekend Roundup.

Dropkick-Paper Trails. Death, taxes and Dropkick. Three things you can count on as this Scottish band releases an album a year like clockwork, and 2012's entry is Paper Trails. They specialize in the melodic pop of bands like Teenage Fanclub and Cosmic Rough Riders with a touch of alt-country, suffused with Pernice Brothers-like harmonies, and the standouts this time around are the Summerteeth-era Wilco-esque numbers "Words Best Left" and the title track, the jaunty "Another Day" and the irresistibly jangly "Annabelle". Always great stuff, and we'll see them again in 2013.


Dan Miraldi-Sugar & Adrenaline. When you think about it, "Sugar & Adrenaline" might be the perfect title for a power pop album. Ohio's Dan Miraldi does his level best to live up to the title with tracks like "Few Rock Harder", a great Butch Walker-type tune complete with "uh-huh"s in the chorus, the punchy pop of "The Runaround", and the charming retro rock of "Record Collection". But Miraldi succeeds with the slower and mid-tempo tunes as well with "Yonder St. Sebastian" and "The Many Shades of Blue".

CD Baby | iTunes

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

New Foreign Films single.

Although Bill Majoros has yet to release a proper full-length followup to his brilliant 2007 double-CD release Distant Star, he has managed a somewhat steady stream of singles and EPs over the past year or two and now he's back with a new single, which you can get for free at Bandcamp (and which you can listed to below):

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Wednesday Roundup.

Snakehips-Must Be Present to Win. This veteran Memphis band first came to my attention a couple of years ago, and their latest trades in the traditional midwest-style rock and roll of bands like The Replacements. Opener "Tennessee" pays homage to their home state while not overlooking its faults, "Swinger" channels the Afghan Whigs, and the bright, poppy "New Day" sparkles and shines. Like the last time, I have to remark at how vocally similar frontman Mark Harrison is to Willie Nile, and fans of the NY rocker will enjoy this as well.

CD Baby | iTunes

Matt Webster-Army of One. Englishman Matt Webster has been around for a while, playing in a Sheffield band called Deluxe some 10-15 years back, and finally has released his first solo album. It's a winning collection of melodic Britpop, and should appeal to fans of Daniel Wylie and Noel Gallagher. "Done & Dusted" and "Bells & Whistles" open the disc with memorable hooks and sing-along choruses, while the melancholy piano-and-strings-based "The Ghost" is perhaps the album's top track, reminiscent of Oasis' "Don't Look Back in Anger". Elsewhere, "Every Bit of My Bones" adds a little danceability a la ABC, and the acoustic "2.0" gives a novel title to the old story of a guy who promises his woman he's changed. An impressive debut.

CD Baby
| iTunes

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Midweek Roundup.

Cliff Hills-Dream Good. About four years ago, I wrote that Cliff Hillis "is the golden mean of power pop - punchy enough to satisfy fans of Fountains of Wayne or Cheap Trick, but melodic enough to satisfy fans of Squeeze, Michael Carpenter and Paul McCartney". That was the last time Hillis released a solo disc, and now he's back with Dream Good which is just as good as The Long Now if not better. Hillis has a preternatural gift for melody and the immediate hooks of "Keep the Blue Skies" threaten to make it your new favorite song after just one listen. "Sing it Once Again" is an acoustic-guitar based gem with handclaps, "Ways and Means" finds him rocking like his days in Ike, and the moody, melodic Beatlesque "Welcome to You" would have fit in snugly on the last Red Button album. Just take about 35-40 minutes and listen below - it's easily one of the year's best.

Kool Kat | iTunes

Salim Nourallah-Hit Parade. A search of my archives reveals that somehow I've never featured a Salim Nourallah album here despite the fact that he's been a prolific artist producing high-quality pop for many years now. Nourallah is part of the "Texas pop/rock mafia" that features the likes of Rhett Miller, Joe Reyes, John Dufilho, John Lefler and others, who all tend to produce or play on each other's albums. Anyway, Hit Parade is perhaps the apotheosis of Nourallah's career, a fully-realized pop masterpiece. There's plenty to reward repeated listenings - for example, opener "38 Rue de Sevigne" sounds like your typical slow acoustic opening number until it isn't, "Travolta" sounds like an amusing faux-disco number until a closer listen to the lyrics reveals it to be the story of a man in crisis with a marriage pending, and "Never Felt Better" ends up belying its title. Nourallah's songcraft is at its peak - the Lennonesque title track burrows into your head, while "Goddamn Life" and "The Quitter" are top-notch guitar pop. With the surfeit of music out there, we don't always have the time to let albums grow on us, but this one is worth the effort in that department. I liked it on first listen, loved it a month later, and now I'm thinking it's my favorite album of the year so far. (Wish I had better samples for this, but the snippets below with the previews at Amazon/iTunes should give you a good idea of the sound).

Amazon | iTunes

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

New Cotton Mather Single!

Before anyone gets too excited, a few caveats: they have reunited, but only for a handful of shows; they don't have new original material, but they have released a new single. It's called "I'll Be Gone", and according to their Soundcloud page, it's "a long time staple of their live show, written by the Swedish pop genius Ola Framby. The track features Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame icon Ian 'Mac' McLagan on keys." Regardless of its origin, it's great to hear Robert Harrison's voice backed by Whit Williams' guitar and Dana Myzer's drums.

You can pick up a copy at iTunes.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Two for Tuesday, 7/3/12

Michael Carpenter-S.O.O.P. #5. Michael Carpenter concludes his 5-disc covers project with a twist - it's a duets album. This development jolts some life into the series, and features contributions from fellow power poppers such as Marty Rudnick, James Cooper and Chris Murphy. Although its stumbles out of the gate with "Where the Bands Are" (Carpenter strains to replicate Bruce Springsteen's gruff vocals), high points abound: Rudnick's Roger McGuinn-like vocals make The Byrds' "She Don't Care About Time" a treat, Dominique English guests to fine effect on Fleetwood Mac's "I Don't Wanna Know" and Carpenter & Cooper team up on what could almost be called a bubblegum version of George Harrison's "Awaiting on You All". The combination of covering deep album tracks for the most part ("Wouldn't it Be Nice" and "Already Gone" being the exceptions) and the duets elevate this one to more than a karaoke exercise and close the project on a high note. But now here's hoping his next release is original material.

Bandcamp | iTunes

Dave Birk-Speed Queen Mystery Date. Fountains of Wayne fans, this is the record to tide you over until Chris Collingwood and Adam Schlesigner put out a new one. Minneapolis' Dave Birk captures the essence of FoW, from their high-gloss power pop to their suburban smart aleck worldview. It's an influence Birk does nothing to hide - the title of the opening track, "Hey Jody", recalls FoW's "Hey Julie"; "All Things Retro" borrows its melody wholesale from Utopia Parkway's "It Must Be Summer", and the title track tells a detailed story of a possible relationship between young urbanites. Plus there's "Country Music 101", a primer on writing country music that threads the needle between mocking the genre and celebrating it. So while Birk hasn't reinvented the power pop wheel here, I have to say I enjoyed Speed Queen Mystery Date more than any FoW album since Welcome Interstate Managers and there's some real talent at work here.

Bandcamp | iTunes

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Tuesday Roundup.

The Slingsby Hornets-Borrowed and Blue. Jon Paul Allen (a/k/a Frank Slingsby) is back with his fourth album of half-covers and half-new material and the results are once again appealing. On the covers side, his rocked-up "Lady in Red" (Chris DeBurgh) and "Yesterday Once More" (The Carpenters) are his most daring reinterpretations to date while David Essex's "Rock On" also succeeds. Meanwhile among the new tracks, the Tommy Keene-like "It's Gonna Rain" is the standout. If you enjoyed the Slingsbys' mix of covers and new tracks before, you'll want this one.

CD Baby | iTunes

Jeff Larson-The World Over. Consistency, thy name is Jeff Larson. He should have a patent on the laid-back, melodic sound of mellow SoCal rock that he cranks out every year or two, and once again he's assisted by Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell of America as well as Jeffrey Foskett. So you know what you're getting here, but if you were to going to update your "Best of Jeff Larson" playlist, you'd want to pick "Monday Clouds, Tuesday Rain", "Approaching Midnight" and "Point of Rising" (which rocks a bit harder than Larson's usual fare).

CD Baby | iTunes

Mark Lane-Something New. Something New is LA singer-songwriter Mark Lane's first release since 2004's Golden State of Mind, and it's a treat for fans of artists like David Mead and Josh Rouse (the pre-move-to-Spain Josh Rouse, that is). Among the highlights, the ornate opener "For Whom it Concerns" brings back memories of Luxury-of-Time-era Mead, "Back in the Swing" and "Please, Lillianne" are lavish piano pop with a hint of the Beatlesque (incidentally, Lane played all the instruments here except strings), and the midtempo rocker "The King of Silence" has a noir feel to it. Fine stuff, and make sure you have a listen below:


Monday, June 18, 2012

Monday Roundup.

One Like Son-Start the Show. While most of us with iPhones use them for such illustrious activities as playing Angry Birds or downloading fart apps, the band One Like Son used theirs to make Start the Show. Scattered across the southern USA, the band members recorded their bits wherever they could with an iPhone and put the whole thing together. And the best compliment of all is that from listening to it, you'd have no idea they didn't book weeks of studio time. Of course this would be all be an amusing novelty if the tunes didn't hold up, and here they do. OLS falls into the "Fountains of Weezer" camp as far as their power pop style goes, and they serve this subgenre well with the title track and several others. But they also manage to successfully break from the high-energy, manic pop/rock with the Beatlesque "Buried" and the contemplative "L.A." It's good stuff, and it would be fitting to listen to it on your iPhone.

Kool Kat | iTunes

People on Vacation-The Carry On EP. People on Vacation is the duo of Smile Smile's Ryan Hamilton and Bowling for Soup's Jaret Reddick, who've come together "on vacation" from their regular bands to craft an EP that's poppier and more mature than one might expect from their regular gigs. "Better Off Dead" reminds me of an Americanized Teenage Fanclub, the charming piano-and-guitar "It's Not Love" gets by on its whistle-along "luh-uh-uh-uh-uv" chorus, and "Where Do We Go Now" is quality dream-pop. All in all, it's six tracks of polished pop that should be up there for EP of the Year.

Amazon | iTunes