Friday, May 31, 2013

Weekend Roundup.

Justin Kline-Doormat EP. A couple of weeks ago, I posted about the availability of Justin Kline's new EP on NoiseTrade, but at that time I really hadn't had a chance to give it much of a listen. Now that I have, it warrants more attention as it's a cinch to end up on my year-end best EP list. Doormat marks a return to power pop form for Kline, whose last release Cabin Fever Songs was enjoyable but more acoustic-based. The tinkling piano and crunchy guitars of the title track open things in highly catchy fashion reminiscent of Jellyfish; "I Wanna Feel Normal" boasts a sprightly McCartneyesque melody; "Mr. Victor" could be a lost late 60s/early 70s Kinks track, and the kinetic "Drop the Ball" doesn't drop the ball at all with its dictionary-defined power pop. The only knock I can make against this is that it's only 4 songs, but it's a clear case of quality winning out over quantity.

CD Baby | iTunes

The Bottle Kids-Such a Thrill. Kool Kat is probably the top power pop label & online store out there these days, and they're just as supportive of old school power pop as they are new acts. So it's a natural for them to be releasing the new CD from The Bottle Kids, who are a 2013 act but have an old school power pop feel. This shouldn't be too surprising as the band is essentially singer/songwriter Eric Blakley, who was the lead guitarist on Paul Collins' most recent album. There are a lot of parallels to Collins' sound here, as well bands like The Rubinoos and The Plimsouls, especially in skinny-tie power pop-sounding tracks like "Kissing You" ("who's k-k-kissing you?), "Yes You Can" and the title track. Blakley does like to mix it up a bit, though - "I'm in Love With You" is an epic power (pop) ballad that's George-Harrison-meets-Eric-Carmen, and "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World" is jangly, Red Button-style 60s pop. But it's the rave-ups that dominate, and be careful, because the chorus of "Careful What You Wish For" will get stuck in your head, and "Clap On" finds Blakley singing the lyrics as fast as guy from Reunion's "Life is a Rock". Everything old is new again.

CD Baby | iTunes | Kool Kat

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Midweek Roundup.

The Nature Strip-Stars Turn Inside Out. Aussies Peter Marley and John Encarnacao have teamed up to form The Nature Strip, and their debut effort Stars Turn Inside Out has been one of 2013's more pleasant surprises, a winning mixture of rock, jangle pop and power pop that sounds both modern and retro. The Byrds-meet-Moody-Blues 60s rock of "Beautiful Rain" opens the album (and provides the lyric which gives the album its title), while "Three Foot High Sissy Bar" shakes off the languor with its glam rock beat and insistent guitars and "Fly Through" is optimistic jangle-pop. Other highlights include the breezy pop of "It's Inside You", the Lennonesque "What a Life" and the lovely ballad "Hero". But the real standout here is "Worst One", vintage-sounding power pop that could have stepped off one of Big Star's classic discs. This one's another year-end best-of contender.

CD Baby | iTunes

Tony Low-Tone-Wah EP. Tony Low is back with his first album under his own name since 2008's Time Across the Page, and this 6-track EP picks up where that album left off - southern-fried jangle pop in the vein of Bobby Sutliff and Mitch Easter. These tracks have more of a retro-60s feel than the last batch, though - "Smoke from Space" and "The Secret" sound like something you'd fine in an old record store, and "Bass Guitar" specifically references Beatle Boots. Meanwhile, "There 'n' Gone" has a Byrds feel, and "Pirate Ships and Baby Bottles" is a gentle, laid-back number. If you want to party like it's 1967, Tone-Wah is the EP for you.

CD Baby

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

New Justin Kline EP.

Favorite of the site and all-around good guy Justin Kline has a new EP out, titled Doormat. It's available from NoiseTrade, which means you can download it for free but you can also do the right thing and throw him a few bucks so he can keep making these EPs.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

CD of the Day, 5/9/13: VA-Drink a Toast to Innocence: A Tribute to Lite Rock

Perhaps the most anticipated release of 2013 to date has been Andrew Curry's "Monsters of Lite Rock" project, funded by Kickstarter, to assemble a compilation of those sort-of-cheesy "lite rock" (also known as "yacht rock") hits of the late 70s and early 80s covered by today's power pop artists. The Kickstarter was successful, and the fruits of Curry's (and the artists') labor is here with the double-disc, 28-track Drink a Toast to Innocence. The lineup Curry has assembled is impressive, featuring the likes of Bleu, Mike Viola, Willie Wisely, David Myhr, Michael Carpenter, Linus of Hollywood, Seth Swirsky and so many more of my (and your) favorite artists.

As with most covers compilations, Toast features the usual mix of faithful re-creations and bold re-imaginings. To what degree you prefer either is always affected by the level of your fondness for the original and the covering artist, but there are plenty of each to choose from here. To me, however, my favorite covers have fallen into a third category: covers that sound like they could have originals by the covering artist. In other words, they make the cover their own. The two here that stand out in that regard are Greg Pope's cover of Poco's "Crazy Love" and Lannie Flowers' version of the Orleans staple "Dance With Me". In Pope's case, it's a great match of cover and artist; by taking the original and speeding it up just a microsopic bit it sounds like one of his typical slightly off-kilter pop gems, while Flowers turns "Dance With Me" into one of his usual rollicking (and rocking) power pop numbers by adding a honky-tonk piano to the mix in contrast to the highly laid-back original.

In the re-imagining department, there are several standouts. The Davenports turn Randy Van Warmer's borderline treacly "Just When I Needed You Most" into a driving power pop track, Lisa Mychols speeds up the David Soul (of Starsky & Hutch fame) ballad "Don't Give Up on Us" and gives it the full-band treatment, while Willie Wisely takes the sexual subtext of The Atlanta Rhythm Section's "So Into You" and makes it the text, complete with moaning female vocals in the outro. Also rocking things up a bit is Vegas With Randolph and their version of Little River Band's "Cool Change". Plus I give them credit for keeping a straight face while singing lines like "The albatross and the whales/they are my brother".

As for the faithful covers, there are plenty to choose from here. Kyle Vincent, whose style is pretty much 70's lite rock and would be a natural to cover any of the songs featured here, is perfect on Ambrosia's "How Much I Feel"; ex-Merrymaker David Myhr captures the spirit of 10cc with "The Things We Do for Love", and the two halves of The Red Button play to their strengths - Mike Rukeberg with the power poppy "Believe it or Not" (theme from "The Greatest American Hero") and Seth Swirsky's eerily channels Henry Gross almost note-for-note on "Shannon", the ultimate tear-jerking dead dog song. Boston buddies Bleu and Mike Viola take on "Baby Come Back" and "Steal Away", each of which sound exactly you'd hear them in your head singing these tracks, but I'll give Viola kudos for starting to sing "What a Fool Believes" at the end of "Steal Away", since the latter was pretty much a rip-off of the former.

Ironically there's no cover here of "Same Old Lang Syne", the Dan Fogelberg lite rock classic from which the title of the compilation derives. Curry has said it was on the list of songs submitted to the artists to cover, but nobody took it up. Hmmm...sounds like an opening for a Volume 2. The lack of Fogelberg notwithstanding, this is without doubt the best covers compilation since Not Lame's Right to Chews from 2002, which had power poppers covering early 70s' bubblegum classics, and it deserves to be highlighted outside the immediate power pop community.

CD Baby | iTunes | Bandcamp

Thursday, May 02, 2013

New Goodman single.

I don't normally review singles but I'll make exceptions from time to time for artists previously featured on the site, and Goodman is one such exception. On the heels of his fine full-length What We Want, he has a two-song release ("Use Me"/"Dawdling") available now on Bandcamp at "name your price". The first track is not a cover of the Bill Withers classic but instead a new composition, as is "Dawdling", and they're both in the vein of the "jumpy power pop" that characterized What We Want. So if you liked that album, you know what to do here.