Friday, February 22, 2013

Friday Roundup.

Todd Herfindal-Shine Shine & More Than I singles. Todd Herfindal (ex-Meadows) is back with his first new music in nearly four years, and he's just as melodic as ever. Right now the new music consists of a pair of two-song singles, one of which came out last fall and the other just this past week. The two songs on the "Shine Shine" single were co-written by Herfindal with Rich McCulley, another favorite of the site, and together they've created some of the best Heartland power pop of the past several years. The title track is suitably tuneful and anthemic, while "Right Here Now" has a Gin Blossoms vibe. On the other single, "More Than I" is a bright rocker that's in the Tom Petty vein, and "Gratitude" boasts a sweet George Harrison-styled melody (with slide guitar) and some fine vocals from Herfindal. These are four outstanding tracks, and the best part is Herfindal's made them available with a "name your price" offer at Bandcamp. Here's hoping a full album will follow.

Bandcamp | iTunes (Shine Shine) | iTunes (More Than I)

Ted Billings-American Bedrooms. Boston's Ted Billings was the frontman of Age Rings, an indie pop band with two pretty decent albums to its name that I never got around to reviewing on the site but found their way into my iTunes library. On his solo debut, he's managed a collection of urgent, pensive tracks that should appeal to indie poppers and power poppers alike. Opener "Freedom" finds Billings singing of the scarring impact 9/11 had on his teen years and 20s, cautioning "it's not just me/but it's millions" and recalls Guided by Voices, while the relentless "Painaway" is probably the catchiest track here, with its insistent chorus and fuzzed-out guitars. Billings also sports some Wilco influence here - the raucous "House on Fire" wouldn't have sounded out of place on A Ghost is Born, while "Meet Me in Dreams" and "Goodbye and Good Luck" bring to mind some of Jeff Tweedy's catchier Summerteeth tunes. There's a cohesive sound here throughout American Bedrooms' eight tracks, making it a real album experience.


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Two for Tuesday, 2/19/13

JoDee Purkeypile-Messenger. Former Alice Rose frontman JoDee Purkeypile is back with his second solo album after his triumphant 2011 release October House, and Messenger is a more than worthy follow-up. Once again, Purkeypile purveys polished indie pop with a touch of a British influence - kind of like Glenn Tilbrook meets Jon Brion, with a hint of Elliott Smith. The piano-backed "Cruel Movements" opens the disc and is both melodic and haunting, the insistent guitars of "I Think It's Alright" and "My Inner Me" bring Bends-era Radiohead to mind, and the jaunty "Wired Wrong" has an AC Newman feel to it. The proceedings close nicely with the title track, which boasts a serpentine melody and biting lyrics. This is first-rate stuff, and an early contender for Best of 2013.

CD Baby | iTunes

The Amprays-Brave New Strange. Another act returning to our pages is The Amprays, whom we last heard from with 2007's Low Sun Fire. This Ohio band largely consisting of former members of Rosavelt has a sound that draws from Guided by Voices, The Replacements and Wilco, and those who fondly recall the debut will want to check this one out. "M.I.A.", with its stripped-down sound and plea to "be there" recalls another favorite of this site, Wiretree; "The Farthest Close" reminds me of one of Jeff Tweedy's midtempo numbers on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot without all the bells and whistles, and the raucous but short "4 Blank Walls" is where the Westerberg-meets-Pollard comparisons come in. Elsewhere, the fuzzed-out guitars of "All of This Hasn't Happened" is another example of GbV-styled rock, while "Cold Sweat Goodbye" is the kind of earnest, melodic ballad their forebears effectively used as a change of pace. Again, nothing groundbreaking here - just 9 quality tracks that won't wear out their welcome and feel like music for grown-ups.

CD Baby | iTunes

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Weekend Roundup.

Goodman-What We Want. Goodman is Michael Goodman, a 22-year-old New York-area musician with some impressive pop chops. What We Want is his first full-length (he released an EP in early 2012), and it sounds like the work of a veteran singer-songwriter. Perhaps the artist Goodman most reminds me of is The New Pornographers' A.C. Newman in that his catchy pop is supported by a sense of nervous energy. Opener "Night Person" is a great example of this, with a restlessness right lurking underneath its frenetic melody. Elsewhere, "Waiting" offers a earworm chorus, and "Yawning" almost re-imagines Roy Orbison as an indie popper. My favorite track here is "Fever", which is pretty much a slowed-down "Sugar Sugar" that comes off as that song's neurotic (if not evil) twin. This is some impressive work, and Goodman has the potential to become one of the more interesting artists in the genre.

CD Baby | iTunes

John Amadon-The Bursting Sheaf. If Goodman's point of reference is AC Newman, John Amadon's is Elliott Smith, an artist he resembles vocally as well as stylistically (and geographically as well, hailing from Portland, Oregon). This was apparent on his outstanding debut (2011's Seven Stars) and on the follow-up he gives us more of the same. After clearing his throat with the fun 2-minute instrument "Saltwater Crocodile", Amandon gets down to business with the lovely and laid-back "Walking the Shoulder" which also owes a debt to Alex Chilton (another artist he bears a vocal resemblance to). The piano-backed "Set Stone" moves with purpose, and the midtempo "Two Hunters" features a slightly western noir sound that reminds me of Joe Pernice's "Bum Leg". But Amadon can also rock out a bit, as evidenced by "Sisters of the Blue Horizon" (which really does sound like something that came off Big Star's third album) and "Taking My Field Away" which wouldn't have sounded out of place on Smith's posthumous From a Basement on the Hill. This is top-notch stuff, and a welcome listen for those of us who miss his two greatest influences.

CD Baby | Bandcamp

Friday, February 01, 2013

Friday Roundup.

The Tor Guides-Strawberries & Chocolates. What better way to break up the dreary drudgery of winter than with a bright, sunny slice of Swedish pop? The Tor Guides have the answer with their first album after their 2007 debut, Honeybees & Tangerines. This time it's Strawberries & Chocolates, and the tunes are as sweet as the title. Just like their compatriots The Merrymakers and The Tangerines, The Tor Guides make it sound effortless on tracks such as "Every Little Thing" which features Torbjorn Pettersson's slightly nasal vocals (almost like a Swedish Chris Collingwood) and Jeff Lynne-style production, the buoyant "Summer's Green" (featured on the most recent IPO collection) and the aptly-named "Sweet Apple Pie". The observant among you may have noticed this disc slotted in at #4 on David Bash's year-end list for 2012. Since it really didn't get a proper US release until around the turn of the year (late December on Kool Kat, mid-January on iTunes), I'm going to put it on 2013's account where it probably has a top 10 spot locked up.

Kool Kat
| iTunes

Stephen Lawrenson-Obscuriosity. Stephen Lawrenson's third album (and first since 2009's Someplace Else) might just be his best to date. The Pennsylvanian power popper has signed on with Kool Kat, and he continues to perfect his ELO-meets-Crowded-House-with-a-little-Brian-Wilson sound. The title track is the real highlight here, inverting the usual order of things by making the verses more urgent than the chorus while all the while giving it a "lost classic" feel (in other words, an "obscuriosity"). "Words to Say" adds some jangle to the mix, and the piano-backed "Small White House" captures the mid-to-late-period Beatles vibe with all its attendant bells and whistles. This is top-notch stuff, and fans of this style won't want to miss it.

CD Baby | Kool Kat | iTunes