Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Pre-Thanksgiving Roundup.

The Well Wishers-Dunwoody EP. You just had to know the prolific Jeff Shelton couldn't go too much longer without a new Well Wishers release. Oh sure, he released the Hot Nun project at the beginning of the year, but it's been almost an interminable two years since the last Well Wishers album. So he's back with Dunwoody, which sounds like the place The Governor ran on The Walking Dead and actually is a suburban enclave outside of Atlanta. So while this EP isn't about a post-apocalyptic world overrun with zombies it does, as Shelton states, "chronicle the imaginary lives of those trapped in Southeastern suburban bliss...or misery, depending on how bad the heat and humidity might be." And as one who himself lives in Southeastern suburban bliss/misery, I guess I'm qualified to review it. The EP does find Shelton in a more laid-back mode but not in full retreat from his customary uptempo jangle rock. And his sense of melody remains completely intact as well as demonstrated on the opener "Peel Away", and "Real Today" and "Open Up Your Eyes" are vintage jangly Shelton/Well Wishers. Just released today, we should all give thanks for more Well Wishers music.

CD Baby | iTunes

Nathan Roberts & The New Birds-Nathan Roberts & The New Birds. Before this album, Toledo's Nathan Roberts had a couple of EPs to his name which I found enjoyable, but his debut full-length is a revelation of pop songcraft. The best way I can describe his music is Wilco-meets-Oasis, and if that sounds incongruous to you I make the comparison because he has a buoyant pop sound that's grounded to some extent in Americana and indie rock. The driving leadoff track "In Stereo" recalls Wilco's "Spiders (Kidsmoke)" (but thankfully doesn't run as long), only to be followed by the slick Pearlfishers/Silver Seas-styled pop of "No Trouble" and "Dead on Arrival". The 70s-era classic rock stylings of the bluesy "Step into the Light" are a nice touch, while the Oasis comparisons come in with "Heaven Knows" which has a bit of "Champagne Supernova" to it (and which is also thankfully not as long). Throw in the lush pop of "Two Dreamers in One Dream", and you have an audacious pop debut on your hands that will be more than worth your while to check out.

CD Baby | iTunes

Friday, November 15, 2013

Friday Roundup.

Gregg Swann-Turn to Stars. As I noted upon his passing from colon cancer in early 2011, not only was Gregg Swann an outstanding power part artist (his 2006 release placed at #11 on my initial year-end list) but he was a gentleman as well in his dealings with me when it came to reviewing his disc. After hearing of his death, I thought we'd never hear new material from him again, but thanks to demo recordings he made in his last year or two along with newly-recorded backing tracks from his band who funded the process through a Kickstarter campaign, we have a new Gregg Swann album. And although it's a bit short and a bit uneven as posthumous albums of this type are, it's still a fitting sendoff and a damn fine record. "Rain Dance" opens on a staccato guitar riff similar to Green Day's "Brain Stew" and starts off the disc in melodic rocking fashion while the midtempo "Stereo Down" recalls the excellent "The Truth Hurts' from his previous album. Elsewhere, "LA, CA" is a fittingly mellow number about Los Angeles that sports a memorable chorus, "Idlewild" features a haunting, slow-burning melody and "Today" makes a fitting epitaph as it sends the album off with a buoyant power pop tune. RIP Gregg.

CD Baby | iTunes

David Brookings-The Maze. After four years largely away from music (along with a move from Memphis to the San Francisco bay area), David Brookings has returned with sixth album and first since 2009's Glass Half Full. The latest features more of his easygoing melodic style, and takes a more personal look at life. The jangly "If I Didn't Make it Back" starts things off in classic Brookings mode and makes us glad he made it back, while the Beatlesque and ornate "Cora" (which even name-drops Gene Simmons) follows as the disc's real standout. The autobiographical "No Regrets" is another highlight, as Brookings looks back on key moments of his life, and while "The Dream is Over" seems like a title for a dirge or an elegy it's instead a rollicking number that shows off Brookings' guitar playing and melodic skill. "Heroin Donna" is another catchy Beatlesque track, and "I've Got No Game Now" is a lovely ballad about the fear of having to date again. It's great to have Brookings back.

CD Baby | iTunes / Stream at official site

Friday, November 08, 2013

It's IPO Time Again!

One of my favorite annual power pop traditions is the release of the new International Pop Overthrow compilation. This year sees compilation #16 from David Bash, the man behind the festivals and the discs. As always, the IPO compilation works on two levels - one as a sampler of some of today's best independent power pop artists, and the other as a chance to sample new artists in the scene. The former is represented by tracks (new and old) from the likes of Lannie Flowers, Dave Rave, Jeremy, Adam Daniel, The JAC, Didn't Planet, Lisa Mychols, Laurie Biagini, Stephen Lawrenson and Private Jets.

Among the new artists, the tracks that caught my ear (and will lead me to investigate these artists further) are Mothboxer, whose "Shame it Always Rains" leads off the compilation and boasts a groovy, psych-pop sound that recalls The Green Pajamas; the straight-ahead power pop of the Cronin Tierney Band's "Harmony", Hawk Bjorn's piano-popping "Who Do You Say I Am"; Cool Whips' "Boom Shang-a-Lang" which you might guess is goofy fun; the edgy, mod sound of Norrish Reaction's "Let it Go"; the fine garage rock of Gooey's "Watch Out"; the Ray Davies-esque "Mrs. Reginald" courtesy of John McMullan; and the jangly pop of Salvadore Dali Llama's (love the name) "City in the Sky".

Head on over to the official IPO site to hear a nice sampler of tracks from the compilation - maybe some of those will strike your fancy. The IPO comp always make a great holiday gift for the power popper on your list, or of course a fine gift from you to yourself.

Kool Kat | Amazon

Friday, November 01, 2013

Friday Roundup.

Greg Pope-Pop Motion Animation. It's always a good day when Greg Pope releases an album, as his body of work as both a solo artist and as frontman of Edmund's Crown is some of the very best power pop of the last decade. And while the adage "brevity is the soul of wit" is true, brevity is also the soul of power pop, and Pope never outstays his welcome as the 11 tracks here clock in around 28 minutes and leave you wanting more. The opener "Partner in Crime" might be his best opening track since Popmonster's "Sky Burn Down" with its staccato guitar riffs and crunchy melody, while "More Like You" is 1:44 of breezy guitar pop. Meanwhile, "The Mattress" is a southern-styled power pop stomp that's right out of Terry Anderson's playbook with its imagery of losing a mattress off a truck, "Don't Wait" is an acoustic guitar-propelled mid-tempo gem, and "Cloud and Thunder" is a gentle, lovely near-ballad that shows Pope can pull off the slow numbers as well as the rockers. And one could almost view the Police-influenced "Meanwhile Back at the Office" as a sequel or allusion to his last Edmund's Crown record, Regrets of a Company Man. All in all, The Pope of Power Pop has delivered again.

CD Baby | iTunes

Brendan O'Neill-Outside Worlds. Singer-songwriter Brendan O'Neill debuts with a promising 4-track EP which features the guitar work of site favorite Rich McCulley. Like McCulley, O'Neill specializes in smooth-sounding roots pop/rock, and the four songs here leave you wanting more. "Orchard Girl" sounds like a long-lost hit single from the 90s with its slow buildup and powerful chorus, all augmented by McCulley's slide guitar. "Tic Tac Toe" is a soulful number that makes great use of O'Neill's vocals, while "White Picket Fences" is a Wilco-like mid-tempo gem. The reflective "Workin'" closes the EP in fine fashion, and the best part of all this is O'Neill is offering up the EP as a free download at the CD Baby link below.

CD Baby | iTunes