Friday, April 26, 2013

CD of the Day, 4/26/13: Phil Angotti-Life and Rhymes

After 2011's excellent People and Places which placed in my top 10 that year, Phil Angotti returns with another album of superbly crafted McCartney-esque pop. Like People and Places, Life in Rhymes (as its title hints) finds Angotti drawing from personal experience for many of these tracks, adding a layer of warmth to the sweet melodies underneath. In many respects he's similar to David Grahame, both in terms of his vocals and the McCartney influence.

"Hopeful Kids" starts off the album in buoyant fashion with a sprightly melody and its piano bridge as he looks wistfully back on his school days and what the future would hold, and the vaugely jazzy, soul-inflected "Unusual Me" follows, sounding as if just climbed the charts in 1974. The pensive "Difficult World" channels solo Macca, and the title track finds Angotti looking back on his songwriting career in melodic fashion. Elsewhere, "In Liverpool" finds him in the "holy land", and "Too Late Tomorrow" has a "Hey Jude"-like feel with its extended chorus outro and a fine guitar solo from Angotti.

The later portion of the disc adds a few more highlights - the jangly "Nancy" has an "I've Just Seen a Face"-like simplicity, and "Daddy's Country Records" tells the story of how his father weaned him on classic country artists like Buck Owens and Johnny Cash and tells him to "knock off that 60s pop/and learn to be country", advice he takes for this track. This is another winner from Angotti, and a return to the top 10 this year isn't out of the question.

CD Baby | iTunes

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Two for Thursday, 4/18/13

Bryan Estepa-Heart vs Mind. Aussie Bryan Estepa has become one of the more consistent power pop artists on the globe today, not unlike his compatriot and sometime collaborator Michael Carpenter. And like Carpenter, Estepa's brand of pop has a subtle country-rock influence underpinning its sweet melodies and catchy tunes. On Heart vs Mind, Estepa's fourth album, he delivers a somewhat more laid-back sound than before, evident from the start with "(If You Follow) We Might Just Get Near", a track that would have sounded at home in the early 70s alongside Bread and Poco. "Seachange", the first single (or promoted track) from the album, is another mellow gem with an easy melody. The guitars get louder on "Them Fighting Words", "In a Minute" is first class uptempo pop, and "Nothing at All" is an exquisitely-crafted ballad. If you enjoyed Estepa's previous albums, this one's a must, and if you're new to him this ain't a bad place to start.

CD Baby | iTunes

Chase Hamblin & The Roustabouts-VAUdeVILLE. Chase Hamblin's debut EP was a slice of trippy, baroque pop so it's no surprise that his debut full-length with backup band The Roustabouts is a full-on evocation of Vaudeville as its title indicates, complete with intermissions and reprises. But for one like me whose view of concept albums is that having 8-12 good songs is the only concept I care about, the burning question here is are the songs any good? Fortunately the answer is "yes". "Can You See the Beast?" is a rollicking opener that sets the tone, "Beautiful Things" is top-notch Apples in Stereo-styled pop with playful keyboards, "Quiet Life" sports a bit of honky tonk, and "I've Got a Brain" is playful pop that recalls The Format. And the whole thing does cohere, so there's no need to gong them off the stage or pull out the hook.

CD Baby | iTunes

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Midweek Roundup.

Brady Harris Band-NoHo Confidential. Brady Harris rolls on with his latest release, another slice of his unique Beatlesque Americana. This EP, credited to his backing band and named after his Northern Hollywood locale, is 6 more easy-on-the-ears tracks to add to the Brady Harris canon. Opener "Kate, Stay Late" is definitely more Beatlesque than Americana, with its piano-based pop melody, George Harrison-style guitars, and its wordless harmony vocals. "Mexico" is another winner, a breezy, effortless-sounding number with a slight Latin flavor, and while "Northern Soul" is more jangle than Northern soul, that's a feature, not a bug. No need to keep this one confidential.

CD Baby | Bandcamp

Jeremy Porter & The Tucos-Partner in Crime. While The Replacements may have reunited recently for an EP of covers, the album of the year so far for the 'Mats fan is the latest from ex-Offramps frontman Jeremy Porter & his Tucos. While Porter doesn't quite approach the brilliance of Paul Westerberg (and I'm sure he'd be the first to admit it), the spirit of the 'Mats is presenc in Partner in Crime as rowdy rockers give way to heart-on-the-sleeve slower numbers and vice versa. So you get the one-two punch of "Castaways" and "Little Miss Awesome" as well as the plaintive country-influenced "Wedding Day", which is a thematic cousin of Westerberg's "Nobody" but stands on its own terms as a standout itself. Speaking of standouts, "Pizza Girl" is infectious rocking fun, "What You're Doing Today" is some find midtempo Americana, and the title track is one of those heart-on-the-sleeve, last-call-at-the-bar slower tunes I was talking about.

CD Baby | iTunes

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Two for Tuesday, 4/2/13

Eric Barao-Eric Barao. If you're familiar with Eric Barao, it's most likely due to the fact that he was the frontman of The Cautions, a Boston-based power pop band which gave us the fine 2006 album Proceed With...The Cautions. Barao was also involved the L.E.O. project around that time and has been a staple of the Boston power pop scene. On his solo debut Barao enlists the help of Bleu, who co-produces, and it's reflected in the style of the album, which is more reminiscent of Bleu's eclectic pop stylings than the straight-up Weezer/Rooney-styled power pop of The Cautions. There's a lot to like here, beginning with frenetic piano pop of "On Holiday", which recalls Bryan Scary and is quite the nifty little tune. The power balladry of "Trying Too Hard" and "In Love With a Broken Heart" bears Bleu's touch, and the midtempo "New Earth" has a Jon Brion sensibility. Elsewhere, the jaunty pop number "Alive (But Barely Breathing)" is another standout, as is "Scratch Ticket" which is catchy enough to be theme song for the Massachusetts Lottery, but probably won't. And the tracks not mentioned here are exquisitely well-crafted, immaculately crafted pop tunes as well, making this an early contender for the power pop album of the year. Take a listen through Bandcamp below and I'm pretty sure you'll agree.

CD Baby | iTunes

The Incurables-The Fine Art of Distilling. Jimmy Griffin and the boys are back with the followup to 2007's Songs for a Blackout, which was one of my favorites of that year but seemed to be largely overlooked in the power pop community. The Fine Art of Distilling is a worthy successor for this St. Louis band, boasting a further refinement of their Wallflowers-meet-del Amitri sound buoyed by Griffin's endearingly raspy vocals. Opener "16 Lives" starts things off in an interestingly melodic fashion, veering from slow verses to a catchy chorus backed by stacatto guitars. Meanwhile, any disc this year will be hard-pressed to match the 1-2 punch of "Famous Last Words" and "F M". The former is an outstanding Tom Petty-styled rocker with jangly guitars, and the latter is an earworm of the first order with its "is there anyone alive/on the other side of my radio" chorus hard to shake in a good way. Also of note is the barroom noir of "I Will Burn", the hook-laden "Break the Heart of the World" and the lovely, largely acoustic romp "A Proposal" that closes the disc. This is the kind of pop/rock that actually made the radio Griffin refers to in "F M" as recently as the late 90s, and thanks to the internet we're no longer reliant on the FM dial to find music of this quality.

Amazon | iTunes