Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Absolute Powerpop Top 100 of 2015, #1-50

So here it is, the top 50 of 2015. 51-100 can be found here, and the year's top EPs are coming tomorrow. One special mention that I didn't include in the list was Jon Latham's Real Bad News. It's an Americana/alt-country album that probably didn't fit in on a power pop list (although it's a fine line involved in leaving it off, given some other selections). Had I included it, it would have been in the middle of the top 10. Some other random thoughts: If this really is Michael Carpenter's last album, he's going out on top; if someone told me at the beginning of the year that Bryan Adams would make my top 10 I would have laughed, but I enjoyed his new Jeff Lynne-produced album more than the one from the man himself; Mitch Gettman is an artist I haven't written about, but I've really enjoyed his last few albums, so I'll advise you to check him out; and it didn't get much buzz, but warhorse singer-songwriter Freedy Johnston came back with his best album since his early-mid 90s heyday. Finally, you probably already have, but if you haven't check out Powerpopaholic's top 25 of the year as well. Our top two are the same (albeit in different order), along with 3 others that both make our top 10. And then we each have some the other doesn't list at all, proving that there's a ton of great music out there from 2015. Here's hoping 2016 lives up to its predecessor.

1. Michael Carpenter-The Big Radio
2. Reno Bo-Lessons from a Shooting Star
3. Mooner-Masterpiece
4. Wade Jackson-Whiskey Alpha Delta Echo
5. Elvyn-Valley of the Kilowatt Hour
6. Nick Piunti-Beyond the Static
7. Sam Vicari-Giving Up
8. Bryan Adams-Get Up
9. Martin Courtney-Many Moons
10. Coke Belda-Nummer Zwei
11. Tobias Jesso Jr-Goon
12. Pop4-Summer
13. Steve Robinson & Ed Woltil-Cycles
14. Three Hour Tour-Action and Heroes
15. Tad Overbaugh-Beauty & Barbed Wire
16. Marco Rea-Wallpaper Music
17. The Nines-Night Surfer & The Cassette Kids
18. Mitch Gettman-Dichotomy
19. Michael Collins-Last Laugh
20. Freedy Johnston-Neon Repairman
21. Jeff Lynne's ELO-Alone in the Universe
22. Minky Starshine-Pop Jewelry
23. Greg Pope-Fanboy
24. The Orange Humble Band-Depressing Beauty
25. The Ravines-Everything's Fine
26. Stereo Tiger-Two Weeks
27. The Junior League-Also Rans
28. Sports Fan-Minor Hits in Major Keys
29. Ryan Allen & His Extra Arms-Heart String Soul
30. Yorktown Lads-Songs About Girls and Other Disasters
31. Tommy Keene-Laugh in the Dark
32. Cloud Eleven-Record Collection
33. Zombies of the Stratosphere-In Technicolor
34. Kontiki Suite-The Greatest Show on Earth
35. The Roseline-Townie
36. Mark Pountney-Mark Two
37. The Small Square-S/T
38. Taylor Locke-Time Stands Still
39. Hidden Pictures-Ottomans
40. People on Vacation-The Chronicles of Tim Powers
41. Ocean Carolina-Maudlin Days
42. Brandon Schott-Crayons & Angels
43. Scot Sax & Suzie Brown-Our Album Doesn't Like You Either
44. Kevin Martin-Future Friends
45. Wilder Embry-Smolderoldingpictureaid
46. Kyle Vincent-Detour
47. Dan Israel-Dan
48. Billy Shaddox-I Melt, I Howl
49. Tom Rich-American Fantasy
50. Ryan Hamilton-Hell of a Day

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Absolute Powerpop Top 100 of 2015, #51-100.

Another year in the books, and it was an excellent one for power pop. Whereas last year I had to scrape up a top 75 instead of the full 100 for the first time in site history, this year I had to drop about 10-15 to make the cut for 100. The year-end list plan is as follows:

Today (12/28): #51-100
Tomorrow (12/29): #1-50
Wednesday (12/30): The top 15 EP list.

So here's #51-100:

51. John Faye-Meddling Kid
52. Mikal Cronin-MCIII
53. Caddy-The Better End
54. Steve Baskin-Dead Rock Star
55. The Supernaturals-360
56. Pugwash-Play This Intimately
57. Saul Zonana-Devolving
58. Chris Murphy-Ghost Town
59. Big Talk-Straight in No Kissin'
60. The Stereo Twins-Good News
61. Supraluxe-Morphine Creek
62. The Sylvia Platters-Make Glad the Day
63. The Grip Weeds-How I Won the War
64. Kurt Baker-Play it Cool
65. Noel Gallagher's High-Flying Birds-Chasing Yesterday
66. Jared Rabin-Something Left to Say
67. Daniel Wylie's Cosmic Rough Riders-Chrome Cassettes
68. Jonathan Rundman-Look Up
69. Timmy Sean-Songs of the Week
70. The Saucy Jacks-You Make Your Own World
71. Pasadena 68/Dakota Showdown-S/T
72. The Pollocks-Johnny Sunshine and the Rainbows
73. Nic Hessler-Soft Connections
74. Static in Verona-Odd Anthem
75. The Turnback-Are We There Yet?
76. The Fraidies-Try Again
77. Junebug-Pongo vs The Corporate Vampires
78. Benton Leachman-Bury the Hatchet
79. Summer Fiction-Himalaya
80. Honeywagen-Jamboree
81. Plastic Macca-Sensation
82. Blindswitch-S/T
83. Dragmatic-At Least We're Not Dead Yet
84. The Allrightniks-Two Places at One Time
85. All Day Sucker-Denim Days
86. Salim Nourallah-Skeleton Closet
87. Brian Jay Cline-Trick Photography
88. Justin Avery-Careless
89. Phil Yates & The Affiliates-No Need to Beg
90. Travel Lanes-Let's Begin to Start Again
91. The Modulators-Try Try Try
92. Jesse Valenzuela-Hotel Defeated
93. One Like Son-New American Gothic
94. Dave Rave & The Governors-Sweet American Music
95. Chris Cole & The Circus-Still Rolling With the Times
96. Baby Scream-Fan, Fan, Fan
97. William Bradford-S/T
98. Anthony Plain-Continuing on My Plan
99. Rob DeLion-Rolling Thunder
100. John Dunbar-From Expectation to Surrender

Friday, December 11, 2015

Mid-December Roundup.

Zombies of the Stratosphere-In Technicolor. Back with their third album and first since 2010's Ordinary People, NYC's Zombies of the Stratosphere (named after a 50s sci-fi serial) regale us again with another fine collection of Hollies/Kinks/Zombies-styled late-60s Britpop. "Poor Gallahad" is a great opener that you'd believe Ray Davies wrote, "Emily Lies" is first-rate psych-pop, and the title track is jangle heaven. Meanwhile "She's Counting the Days" might be a lost Left Banke track, and "Mr. Fairfax" would fit right in on a Nuggets compilation. So until a real time machine is invented, listening to this album is going to be the closest thing to traveling back to 1969.


Andy Reed-Relay Vol. 1. Longtime favorite Andy Reed returns with a new EP released under his own name (after the last few as An American Underdog) and it's full of the quality pop we've come to expect from him. "Dreaming of the West Coast" is a mid-tempo gem that has a dreamy quality, and the same can be said for "Love is Gone". The EP also features "Darlin, Don't You Know", released earlier as a single, and a cover of Sloan's "I Love a Long Goodbye" from their underrated album Pretty Together. Based on the fact the title of the EP says "Volume 1", I'm now looking forward to Volume 2.

Bandcamp | Kool Kat

Pasadena 68/Dakota Shakedown-Pasadena 68/Dakota Shakedown. We were wondering what Nick Leet's next move would be after the breakup of High on Stress, and now we know - a split full-length with his new band Pasadena 68 and his friend and former 90's bandmate Mike Hjelden's Dakota Shakedown, who share the same musical sensibility. In this case, that sensibility is classic Midwestern power pop/rock a la The Replacements and Gin Blossoms. Melodic rockers "This Day is Your Life and "Pardon the Mess" should dispel any concern about no new High on Stress music, and Dakota Shakedown's "Shut Out the Night" and "Slow Burn" are cut from the same cloth. Twice the rock, twice the fun.


Friday, November 20, 2015

Mid-November Roundup

Elvyn-Valley of the Kilowatt Hour. After releasing The Decline in early 2010, an album that so impressed me it ended up at #4 on my year-end list, Elvyn is finally back after 5 1/2 long years with Valley of the Kilowatt Hour, a followup that they had been teasing for over a couple of years now. They released the single "AM" in September 2013, and since then Valley has been one of my most anticipated albums. So was it worth the wait? The answer is pretty much yes. Following on with more of their sound which finds the sweet spot between power pop, classic rock and Americana, there are a number of excellent tracks to be found here. Opening single "Ellie" recalls Teenage Fanclub, "This is the End" is the kind of jangly power pop you'll hear from Tom Petty or Paul Westerberg, and "Here We Surrender" has a "Things We Said Today" Beatlesque feel to it. Elsewhere, "Landslide Cities" channels Sloan circa Navy Blues, "Turning Me Down" finds them going alt-country, and the poppy "True Luv Can't Hide" finds them at their melodic and harmonic best. Plus, "AM" still rocks two years later in its vaguely Smithereens-ish way. The bottom line: another top 10 finish this year seems assured.


Michael Carpenter-The Big Radio. And oh yeah, Michael Carpenter has a new album out too, his first release of all originals since 2009's Redemption #39. That's the good news. The bad news is he has said this will be his last solo album of new material. This would be a disappointment of course, but he's given us so much wonderful music over the last 15 years of so that I can't begrudge him moving to other endeavors. And if The Big Radio is his swan song, it's a helluva finale. Distilling everything we've come to love about his music (which would have made him a superstar in 1975), The Big Radio has one killer track after another, from the catchy opener "Don't Open the Door" to "She's in Love With Herself" and "I Kissed That Girl" (which put the power in "power pop") to "Chrissie Hynde", a tribute that honors her lyrically and musically. And "Run Away" might be my new favorite track of his. Most Michael Carpenter albums sound like a greatest hits album of songs you haven't heard yet, and The Big Radio is no exception, finding him at his best. Currently, it's only available as download from Bandcamp but will be on CD in January.


Friday, November 06, 2015

Early November Roundup.

Three Hour Tour-Action and Heroes. Darren Cooper graces our music devices again with another Three Hour Tour album, his first since 2010's Looking for Tomorrow. As with his past releases, Action and Heroes is first-rate power pop that sounds like Matthew Sweet meets The Replacements, and Cooper has some top-notch help on hand including Adam Schmitt and Brad Elvis. From opener "March of the Fakers" (which recalls Guided by Voices) to melodic, rocking "Afterlife" to the jangly "Nowhere Bound", there's plenty to love here on a disc that should make my year-end top 20.

Kool Kat | iTunes

Kevin Martin-Future Friends. San Diego's Kevin Martin thrilled us a few years back with Throwback Pop, a bracing collection of Jellyfish/Queen-inspired pop, and now he's back with the long-awaited and much-delayed (the release date on Bandcamp was pushed back several times) followup. Those expecting Throwback Pop 2 may be slightly disappointed, but this is still a fine collection of pop tunes with a few twists. "Julia" and "Loaded Gun" are a couple of 1980s-sounding tracks, heavy on the synths and drum machines, while "Not Gonna Let it Go" and "I'm Doing Fine" are quality piano pop. Martin does have a few tracks that are, er, throwbacks to the previous disc - "The Unknown" has that Jellyfish/Queen vibe, and the lilting "Diamonds" is first-rate balladry. (Interestingly, an early version of disc had "Problems", a track that featured a rap interlude, and a cover of the Motown classic "I Just Want to Celebrate".)


Dan Israel-Dan. Minnesotan singer/songwriter Dan Israel has been one of those artists I've enjoyed over the last ten years or so but not to the point where I got motivated to write about him here. Well for me the 13th time around (this is Israel's 13th full-length, although I've only heard about 4 or 5 of them) is lucky as his first-name-titled record has become my favorite of the lot. Israel's sound falls into the roots rock territory, with hints of Tom Petty, The Jayhawks and Paul Westerberg. This is a poppier, more straight-ahead collection and tracks like "Be With Me", "Can't Believe It" and "You Don't Love Me Anymore" boast excellent melodies and hooks. If you're new to Dan, start here and the dive back into his vast catalog.


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Mid-Late October Roundup.

Mooner-Masterpiece. I enjoyed Mooner's previous release, 2012's Unpronounceable Name EP, well enough to feature it on the site. But it didn't prepare me for the big leap in quality they've taken for their first full-length, the not-too-inaccurately titled Masterpiece. They reprise the two best songs from the EP (the angular, Spoon-style rocker "Shapeshifter" and the anthemic, epic "Never Alone") but it's the new material that really shines, from the melodic rocker "Anytime" to the mid-70s-style pop of "Dream", the Sloan-like "I Don't Believe You", and the hyper-catchy Cheap Trick-influenced first single "Alison", possibly the best track written about meeting a girl at church camp. This one's a top ten contender.


Sports Fan-Minor Hits in Major Keys. Dion Read and the boys are back again, this time with their full-length followup to 2013's Shallow Water EP. Read has become a master of piano power pop, between his releases with The Afterthoughts and now Sports Fan, and Minor Hits in Major Keys might be the best piano pop album of the year (and this year includes a new Ben Folds release). "This is Goodbye" nails the kind of big-sounding relationship song that Folds regularly knocks out, but without the juvenile rancor, while "Wake Up" is excellent driving pop. Other highlights include the Beatlesque "Shallow Water" and the grand ballad "Social Butterfly", which adds a bit of Queen/Jellyfish to the mix.


Tom Rich-American Fantasy. Nova Scotian Tom Rich provides an impressive debut with his American Fantasy (which may or may not involve pouring green paint over a naked woman), a collection of winning power pop tunes. Rich sounds a lot like another artist I've featured often on this site, Justin Kline, and the standouts here are the opener "The Gentleman's Lament", the midtempo synth-aided "American Girl" (not a Tom Petty cover), the lovely "The Circus", and "Over & Over", which reminds me of bit of Robbie Dupree's soft-rock classic "Steal Away". Rich has the pop chops to spare here, so check this one out.


Saturday, October 10, 2015

Early October Roundup.

Brandon Schott-Crayons & Angels. This introspective SoCal singer/songwriter is back with another collection of pop gems, featuring a sound that's a blend of Joe Pernice, Elliott Smith and Jon Brion. There's a lot to like here, from the bouncy, Beatlesque "Henry" (which first appeared on a split EP with Andy Reed's An American Underdog) to the baroque "Verdugo Park" to the lovely "Every Little Song", a duet with Kelly Jones. Also of note are the power-popping "Seeing You in Stereo" and a cover of Elvis Costello's "Riot Act". So in what may be my worst pun yet, I'd recommend you give this one a Schott.


Marco Rea-Wallpaper Music. Italian (by way of Glasgow) singer-songwriter Marco Rea is one of my favorite finds this year, as his debut album is a McCartney-esque delight. The catchy "Someone's Picture" is pure piano pop, while "Time" is the kind of ballad Macca would have put on Side 2 of the White Album. "Sunday" is another uptempo piano pop pleaser, and the epic ballad "To" recalls a lower-key "Maybe I'm Amazed". Impressive stuff. This is available on limited-edition cassette (together with digital download) from Bandcamp.


William Bradford-William Bradford. William Bradford might be the first artist from Arizona I've featured in all my years here (although power pop luminaries Gin Blossoms hail from the state as well), and his debut disc is a fine collection of Wilco/Tom Petty-influenced pop/rock. Standouts include the jangly "Hear Your Heart", the 70s-styled singalong pop of "The Pier", and the Lennonesque "Just Like Yesterday". Don't overlook this one.


Friday, September 18, 2015

Mid-September Roundup.

The Junior League-Also Rans. Joe Adragna is back as The Junior League with his latest opus, but the title is false advertising (or false modesty) as these tracks are anything but "also-rans". Like last time out (2013's You Should Be Happy), Scott McCaughey helps out, and this time Sloan's Jay Ferguson contributes keyboards and vocals on "On Off", one of the album's top tracks. Other standouts include "A Dagger and a Kiss" with its insistent guitar hook, and the bright power pop of "Before You Go". You can pre-order the CD from Kool Kat as well.

Kool Kat | iTunes

Static in Verona-Odd Anthem. Another returnee to this pages is Rob Merz's Static in Verona. With each passing release, Merz has gone with a more ethereal, dream-pop sound, and Odd Anthem continues the progression. Still, opener "Anyone Anymore" could pass for traditional power pop while tracks like "Future Ghosts" and "Blink" marry Merz' experimentalism and traditional pop structures. The highlight here is "Then a Hush", which melds psychedelia and shoegaze pop into an intoxicating mix.


John Dunbar-From Expectation to Surrender. Despite being a New Yorker, John Dunbar always registers in my mind as a Brit, no doubt thanks to his British-sounding pop which recalls Ray Davies, Glenn Tilbrook and the like (in fact, Dunbar even released a Rutles-like parody of The Kinks as "The Kunks" back in 2007). His latest (and to my surprise, the first I've featured on this site) is another example of his sardonic, wry look at life and its many characters, and titles like "Two is the Second Loneliest Number", "I Love the Girl You Won't Leave Your Life For" and "The Charlie Brown of Love" should give you an idea of Dunbar's perspective. Of course being wry and clever is all well and good, but the tunes need to keep up with the wordplay and here they do. So make sure to check out Mr. Dunbar if you haven't already.


Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Summer's Over...

...but in the land of power pop, it always sounds like summer. Here are three new releases to get you by as the calendar changes to September (plus you can still celebrate like it's summer through next week's Labor Day).

The Ravines-Everything's Fine. This UK power pop band led by Chris Corney (who's put some fine solo albums out in the last few years) had one of the genre's lost classics in 2005's Manifesto of a Broken Heart, and they've regrouped in 2015 to give us one of the year's best releases. The title track is bright, catchy power pop that falls somewhere between Gin Blossoms and Fountains of Wayne, the jangly "Blue Eyes" and "Dead Letters" could have been hits in the 90s, and what "Tambareen" lacks in accurate spelling it more than makes up for in tunefulness. Plus, the acoustic "Queen Bee" makes a lovely closer. Everything's fine, indeed.


The Allrightniks-Two Places at One Time. Our favorite Virginia rockers are back with their first full-length, having released 3 EPs over the past few years. So this time around you get twice as much of their Spongetones/Janglemen-styled pop. Opener "Nice to Know" has a bit of Rockpile in its DNA as well, "I Can't Wait" has an early Beatles feel, and "200 Milligrams" is just the right dose of power pop. Elsewhere, they even add horns to the mix on "Today is the Day" to fine effect, and the title track would fit right in on a Red Button album.


Jeff Litman-Primetime EP. Primetime is something NYC singer-songwriter Jeff Litman is ready for, as his latest EP is another compact collection of quality tunes. "That's on You" is a killer opening track, sounding like a lost 80s hit with its insistent beat and relentless guitar hook (which later becomes a great guitar solo), while the cynical-yet-tuneful "Debutante" allows Litman to get his Elvis Costello on, and "Nothing" (previously released as a single) finds him in his mid-tempo element. Just have a listen below and you'll be hooked.


Thursday, August 20, 2015

Mid-August Roundup.

Caddy-The Better End. Swede Tomas Dohl is back for his first album in several years as Caddy, and it's another glorious collection of Teenage Fanclub-by-way-of-Brian-Wilson-inspired power pop. Choice cuts: "Here it Comes Again", "Something About Carina".

Kool Kat | iTunes

The Labradors-Hate Summer EP. Italy has been the home of some power pop we've featured here before, most notably Radio Days, and here are Milan's The Labradors with a rocking 4-song EP that recalls Superdrag as well as their aforementioned compatriots. The whole thing's only 12 minutes so instead of reading me writing about, just give it a listen below.


The Key Frames-Monophone Heart EP. This Toronto band is known for its Big Star-meets-Blue Rodeo sound, and most of the tracks on this EP are quality rootsy tunes. But then there's "Tidal Wave", one of my favorite songs of the year and a dead ringer for a lost Sloan track from Patrick Murphy.


Andy Bopp-21213 EP. The erstwhile frontman of Myracle Brah returns with another solo EP, which unlike some of his previous EPs that delved in genres like 50s rockabilly, is more in line with his former's band contemporary power pop sound. The rollicking "Broken Ties" is a standout, as is the bright pop of "Hello". Bopp til you drop with this one.


Tuesday, August 04, 2015

They're back!

Two power pop artists who were big in the previous decade but haven't been heard from in ages are back this week.

Cloud Eleven-Record Collection. Rick Gallego returns for his first record as Cloud Eleven since 2006's Sweet Happy Life. And listening to Record Collection, you'll never know nine years passed by as it's another collection of Gallego's diverse pop stylings. In fact, the title is apt as it sounds like Gallego mined his record collection for inspiration here, from the Beatlesque title track (with a "Penny Lane"-style horn opening) to "The Mystic's Mistake" and "As You Are" (the kind of dreamy pop found on Sweet Happy Life) as well as Bacarach-ian "Too Soon Was Yesterday" and the more traditional power pop of "High as the Rising Sun". And there's a track titled "Indian Guru" that sounds exactly like you think it would. You'll definitely want to add this to your, um, record collection.

iTunes | CD Baby

The Small Square-The Small Square. While Cloud Eleven may be a recognizable name in the power pop community, you may not know The Small Square. But you probably do know the guys who make up the band, Paul Chastain, the primary creative force behind Velvet Crush, and John L. Richardson who's played and worked with Tommy Keene, Gin Blossoms, and Joey Molland/Badfinger. It's been over a decade since the last Velvet Crush album but this album will fill the VC-sized hole in your collection, if not your heart. There's plenty to enjoy here: The melodic midtempo opener "So Low", the Velvet Crush-like power pop of "Dream Faker (Open Your Heart)" and "Otherwhile", and the dreamy psych-pop of "Enough to Know". An excellent collection, and another power popper back in the fold.

iTunes | Bandcamp

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Weekend Roundup.

Zugzwang Netural-The Faded Promise of a Rise and Rally. A "zugzwang" is a situation in a game (typically chess) in which you're put at a disadvantage regardless of which available move you make. In the case of the new EP from Zugzwang Neutral, the only zugzwang move would be NOT giving their sophisticated pop a listen. The sound here is a blend of Michael Penn, Rob Laufer and a less-British-sounding Pugwash, from the graceful opener "Broken Wings" to the midtempo gem "Less to Say" through the standout closing track "Ghost Town".

iTunes | Stream EP here

Mark Pountney-Mark II. Liverpudlian Mark Pountney's second album is his first that caught my attention, and it's a fine, tuneful collection of various Britpop styles. Leadoff track "Tell Me Why" isn't a cover of the Beatles classic, but embodies their sound and spirit, as does "Time to Find Her" which channels the mid-period Fab Four with a subtle "I Feel Fine" guitar lick. "Just Can't Seem to Get You Off My Mind" is a piano ballad that's Hollies-esque, and the also-piano-based "Love in the Morning" has a solo Lennon feel while the trippy closer "Dream" owes a debt to Oasis.

iTunes | Listen at Spotify

Saturday, July 04, 2015

July 4 Roundup.

Some quick hitters on this Independence Day (ironically they're mostly Britpop):

Michael Collins-Last Laugh. He hails from NYC, but Collins sounds like he's from London with this album of bouyant Britpop, and "What Does it Take to Walk Away?" might be the catchiest, most joyous song I've heard this year. Definitely summer-appropriate. iTunes

Chris Cole & The Circus-Still Rolling With the Times. Speaking of Britpop, here's Britpop from an actual Brit. Cole's sound here belongs in a mix with the latest Noel Gallagher album, and highlights include the anthemic "To Find Peace in This Place", the fine "Got to Let Her Go" and the title track which recalls Oasis' epic "All Around the World" if it hadn't been stretched out to seven minutes. CD Baby

Gordon Weiss-It's About Time. After a 7-year absence (perhaps referenced in the album title), Gordon Weiss is back with the followup to Sum of its Parts, another collection of sophisticated, intelligent pop in the vein of Elvis Costello and Wilco. The standout tracks here are "The Ugly Inside", the theatrical "The Great Imitator" and the rocking "Thanks I Get". Bandcamp

Zach Vinson-How We Spend Our Days EP. Nashvillian Zach Vinson's sound is high energy piano pop in the vein of Bens Folds and Kweller, while vocally he resembles fun's Nate Ruess but without that Ruess's bombast. Or in other words, it's very reminiscent of Ruess's old band, The Format, especially on tracks like "You're the One", "Home" and "Something About the Way". iTunes

Thursday, June 25, 2015

CD of the Day, 6/25/15: Reno Bo-Lessons from a Shooting Star.

Reno Bo returns with his first album since 2009's Happenings and Other Things, and it's a gem. While Happenings just made the top half of my best of 2009 list at #47, Lessons from a Shooting Star will easily eclipse that ranking come the end of the year as the ex-Mooney Suzuki and Albert Hammond Jr. guitarist has crafted one ringing power pop anthem after another this time around. "Sweetheart Deal", the first single (as singles go in 2015), is a shoo-in for a best-tracks-of-2015 list, coming off like Brendan Benson fronting Cheap Trick. "How Do You Do" follows with no letup in quality as Bo throws some keyboards in the mix and some excellent slide guitar work from Sadler Veden for a track that reminds me of the ones Jeff Lynne once produced for Dave Edmunds, and the driving melodic rocker "Just Say Go" lives up to its title. Next up, the midtempo "Strange Maps" gives the listener a chance to catch his/her breath without sacrificing any melody, and the melancholy "And I Know She Did" captures the classic Big Star sound. These five tracks would be worth the price of admission alone, but then you have "The Brighter Side" (co-written with the aforementioned Benson) which is another melodic marvel, the Beatlesque rocker "Sleeping Sun", the classic rock of the title track and the Oasis-like closer "Somewhere There's Something". Power pop doesn't get much better than this.


Thursday, June 18, 2015

Two for Thursday, 6/18/15

Wade Jackson-Whiskey Alpha Delta Echo. Both a nod to Wilco's famous album as well as the spelling of the artist's first name in the phonetic alphabet, Whiskey Alpha Delta Echo is the second album from Aussie musician Wade Jackson, and it's quite simply one of 2015's best so far. The allusion in the title is apt, as the sound here is Big Star-meets-Wilco with its melodic minor-key rockers with a twinge of Americana (Austrliana?). After the moody opener "Dark Mirror" (which answers the question "What would The Smithereens sound like as a folk-rock band?"), we're treated to the jangly "Valentine's Day" and the trio of "Catch My Eye", "Coming Back" and "Carolina", all of which invoke #1 Record-era Big Star, with "Coming Back" perhaps my favorite track of the year. This album really hits the sweet spot between power pop and Americana, and my next step is checking out Jackson's back catalog.


Brian Jay Cline-Trick Photography. Trad-rock-popper Brian Jay Cline is back with his first album since 2009's Nashville Tracks, and fans of Marshall Crenshaw, Walter Clevenger and Bill Lloyd are going to want to check this one out. Leadoff track "Zoo York City" is Cline's tribute to the Big Apple and sounds like a lost Willie Nile track, while "New Tattoo" has the pub-rock feel of a Nick Lowe or Graham Parker. Elsewhere tracks like "High Horse" and "Counterclockwise" are classic Cline and if you have any of his other albums in your collection, this one's a must-add. (Incidentally, the ReverbNation playlist embedded below includes Cline's entire catalog as the first ten songs are from Trick Photography and the rest are his other songs in alphabetical order)


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

What I've been enjoying lately.

A quick look at some of my favorite releases over the last month or so:

Steve Robinson & Ed Woltil-Cycle. Tampa Bay's premier folk-poppers team up for one of 2015's best, a graceful and melodic collection of tunes that bring the pastoral side of XTC to mind. ["Love Somebody"; "Hello, Hello (We're Back Again)]. iTunes

Phil Yates & The Affiliates-No Need to Beg. Top-notch power pop that reminds me of Ken Stringfellow ("Burn it Down, Bernadette; "The Grass is Always Greener") (P.S. That's Lizzie Borden on the cover) iTunes

Stereo Tiger-Two Weeks. More great power pop from Michigan, like Mike Viola fronting Rooney. ("Magic Balloon", "Runaway")

The Weightlifers-St. Paul EP. Adam McLaughlin & Co's third EP (and first in seven years), and it's of a piece with the first two - thoughtful, moody, and melodic. ("High Drama"; "Man of Constant Sorrow"). iTunes | Spotify

Supraluxe-Morphine Creek. This is their best since the 2006 debut, the record which helped inspire me to start this blog. Lives up to their self-description of Elliott-Smith-meets-Big-Star. ("Circles"; "La La L.A.") iTunes

Jimmy Haber-Joy Acid Pact. Orlando rocker Haber delivers the goods with his shiny, vaguely psych power pop with a populist edge to it. ("Once I Strung 'em Up"; "Bad Day to Be Me") iTunes

Friday, April 17, 2015

We have (a) new Pope!

Greg Pope-Fanboy. The Pope of Power Pop is back! I'm speaking of course of Greg Pope, one of the genre's best and most prolific artists of the last decade-plus, be it in Edmund's Crown or as a solo artist (Popmonster was my #1 album of 2008). And for those who remember Edmund's Crown, you might be interested in knowing drummer David Sprouse joined Pope on the most of the tracks here, and the opener "New Beginning" wouldn't have sounded out of place on their last release, Regrets of a Company Man. Pope also takes a page from Jeff Tweedy, involving his sons in the album as 17-year-old Asher Pope co-wrote "Pretend it's Yesterday" (a lovely acoustic ballad) and plays acoustic guitar on several tracks, while 15-year-old Noah plays drums on "How it Ends". Meanwhile, quality numbers like the title track (which speaks to us obsessives of all stripes) and "Greater Threat" will end up on that best of Greg Pope playlist you'll undoubtedly compile someday soon. When it comes to Greg Pope, I can't help but be a bit of a "fanboy" myself here, and at his site he's offering up a 23-track deluxe edition of the album that includes acoustic work tapes, demos and the like of the main tracks.

Deluxe Edition | iTunes

Johnny Stanec-No Horizon. Speaking of prolific, Johnny Stanec seems determined to stay on your music player of choice, with his third solo disc out now hot on the heels of last fall's First in Space album. When solo, Stanec trades in the Replacements-style rock of his band for more of a singer-songwriter vibe in the vein of Jesse Malin or Ryan Adams. "Let it Slip Away" starts off slowly and acoustically, and then builds into a full-band anthem, while "The Trouble With Spies" sounds like a track that could have been heard on the radio in the late-90s heyday of the likes of Semisonic and Third Eye Blind. The standout for me, though, is the folk-rockish "Winter's Song", which recalls peak-era Blue Rodeo. A solid effort.

CD Baby | iTunes

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Just a Tad of Honeywagen.

Honeywagen-Jamboree. Mike Penner, Scott Christensen & Co. are back with their followup to 2012's Atomic Cafe and their Midwestern jangle pop/roots rock is better than ever this time around. After starting with the rocking "Angel", they bring us the groovy "She Wants" (which shares some melodic DNA with "I Feel Fine"), while other highlights include the Plimsouls-like "Lose My Mind" and jangly "Another Hour". This one's available exclusively from Kool Kat at the link below.

Kool Kat

Tad Overbaugh-Beauty & Barbed Wire. If the name Tad Overbaugh seems vaguely familiar to you, it's because he was the frontman of roots rockers The Kickbacks, featured on this site back in the day. Beauty & Barbed Wire is Overbaugh's solo debut, and it's one of 2015's best to date. Although Overbaugh hails from the Boston area, he sounds more like heartland rockers Paul Westerberg and Tom Petty, and leadoff track "Lethal Charm" wouldn't have sounded out of place on Full Moon Fever. "Done With This Town" is a infectious alt-country tune that demands to be a theme to a TV show about someone moving to a new city, "End of the Decade" and "Scars Along the Way" show Overbaugh's way with a melody, while "Tip My Girl" laments the fate of being a stripper's boyfriend in classic country-rock fashion. With his tunes mixing the bitter with the sweet, Beauty & Barbed Wire stands as an aptly-named album.

Bandcamp | iTunes

Friday, March 06, 2015

Don't forget the Motor City.

Nick Piunti-Bayond the Static. The premier hotbed for power pop lately has become the Detroit area, with the likes of Chris Richards, Andy Reed, Andy Klingensmith, The Romeo Flynns (and you can go back to bands like The Romantics and The Knack) and the two artists featured today. First up is Nick Piunti (formerly of The Respectables) who returns with the followup to his brilliant 2013 release 13 in My Head, which came in at #2 on my list that year. Beyond the Static is a more-than-worthy successor, as Piunti knocks out the hooks and melodies one after the other in the most classic of power pop styles. "It's a Trap" (Admiral Ackbar finally gets a theme song) and "Heart Stops Beating" draw you in from the start, while "Time Machine" and "Seven Days a Week" (the latter featuring vocals from Richards) are two of the more melodic rockers you'll hear all year. Elsewhere, "Head in the Clouds" incorporates a bouncy Beatle-y melody and "Quicksand" could have been a hit in the 80s. There isn't one "off" track here among the 11, and Piunti might just meet or exceed that #2 ranking this year when it comes to my 2015 list.


Ryan Allen & His Extra Arms-Heart String Soul. Another member of the Detroit power pop mafia I listed above is Ryan Allen, and he plays on the Piunti album as well. But it's his own second release with the Extra Arms that stands on its own, another collection of top-shelf power pop. "Should Be Me" is a brilliant opener, frenetic and melodic with the refrain "the song on the radio/should be me", and I would not quarrel with that notion one bit. "Born Radical" sounds like Gin Blossoms if they really rocked (and was also the title of an album he released with his previous band The Friendly Foes, although that one had no title track), "Angela '97" traces a relationship over 17 years with rocking aplomb, and "Not Hanging Out" could have fit snugly on Big Star's #1 Record if it weren't for a reference to texting. If albums like Piunti's and Allen's keep coming out I may need a separate "non-Detroit" category to give other releases a fair shake at year's end.

CD Baby | Bandcamp

Friday, February 20, 2015

Best of 2014 Power Pop Lists, Combined

I've been meaning to do this since early January when David Bash's lists came out, and now I've finally gotten around to it. I wanted to combine the top lists of Bash, myself, and Powerpopaholic into one consensus power pop ranking for 2014. As Powerpopaholic only went with a top 50, I limited myself to my own and Bash's top 50, and to be ranked here a disc had to be in at least two of the three lists. There were two discs that all three of us had almost eerie agreement on. One was at the top (Linus of Hollywood where we all went top six) and one was at the bottom (Rick Hromdaka's Trippin' Dinosuars came in at 40-39-40). There was a lot of diversity with only 11 releases appearing in all three lists, although part of that might be due to David Bash's refusal to rank download-only releases. I had 23 in common with Powerpopaholic and 12 in common with Bash (The Pearlfishers was the only one Bash & I had that Powerpopaholic didn't), while Powerpopaholic had 18 in common with Bash.

To compile the combined list, I averaged the rankings with the lower averages the better. I took a screenshot of my Word doc since I stink at creating tables (click to embiggen). (Legend: PP-Powerpopaholic, DB-David Bash, AP-Absolute Powerpop)

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Some quick hitters.

A quick look at several releases I've been enjoying recently:

DC Cardwell-Pop Art. Aussie DC Cardwell returns with the follow-up to 2011's Some Hope, and brings us another round of mild-mannered, Beatlesque pop. Favorites: "In the Cloud" (where you can get this release), "Magic for Everybody" (a piano-pop gem) and "Record Store Day" (an ode to the old-school way of buying music).

CD Baby | iTunes

Greg Hoy-The 21 Day Myth. Greg Hoy has been a pop chameleon throughout the last decade, releasing numerous albums with styles as varied as straight-up power pop, Sun Records-style rockabilly, and near-heavy metal. This time around he's gone with groove, with the results resembling the minimalist-yet-melodic beats of Spoon. "The Talk Goes Stiff" and "Fiend 4 Your Soul" are the standouts here.

CD Baby | iTunes

Antony Plain-Continuing on My Plan. I don't know much about England's Antony Plain, but his newest release caught my ear. It also caught my eye, as Plain looks a bit like John Lennon on his album cover but it's songs that warrant mention here, a mix of 60s and 70s power pop styles from the groovy rocking opener "Invisible Man" to the midtempo "Truth is Closer" to the string-laden "Boy". (Note: the album is streaming in full at the CD Baby link below)

CD Baby

Steve Baskin-Dead Rock Star. This Atlanta-based singer-songwriter is back with his third album, and this one is the best of the lot. It has a "big" sound, with big hooks and big melodies that remind me of fellow Atlantan Butch Walker. The opening 1-2 punch of "Single Thing About You (Chinchilla)" will leap out of your speakers, and Baskin has some facility with a ballad too ("Nobody Died Today"). Plus there's a pretty good cover of "Killer Queen" thrown in the mix. One of 2015's early best.

CD Baby | iTunes