Monday, July 25, 2016

Late July Roundup.

King Mixer-Hang On. King Mixer is Chicago's Eric Howell, whom some of you may remember from his Greatest Hitch, Vol. 1 debut in 2008 (which itself was a culmination of a 15-year career in singing/songwriting). This time around, King Mixer may be an appropriate moniker as Howell provides us a mix of pop, rock, power pop and Americana with the common denominator being quality melodies. Standout tracks include "Let it Go", Cheap Trick-styled power pop you'd find on a 45 on your record player in the days gone by; the Beatlesque staccato guitars of the catchy "Back to You"; the 70s-influenced midtempo piano number "Somethin' Else", and the pure pop of "One Too Many". Also seek out the single "45" which can be found at his Bandcamp page.


Ryan Krga-A Testament EP. One of 2016's more promising debuts is this 3-song EP (maxi-single?) from another Chicagoan, Ryan Krga. All three songs are top-notch here: "What Makes Me Blue" is fine guitar pop that has a bit of a Guided by Voices feel; the moody "She Gets Results" channels Michael Penn; and the title track wouldn't be out of place on a Teenage Fanclub record. Can't wait to hear more from Mr. Krga.


Wesley Fuller-Melvista EP. This young Aussie brings the glam and power pop on a rocking 5-track EP. "Change Your Mind" borrows the underlying beat from Gary Glitter's infamous "Rock and Roll Part 2", the title track is unadulterated sunshine pop, "Shock Me" is both guitar pop and dance pop at the same time, and "The Dancer" would sound right at home between "Ballroom Blitz" and "Little Willy" on a Sweet mixtape.


Friday, July 08, 2016

Early July Roundup.

Justin Levinson-Yes Man. 10 years. That's how long Absolute Powerpop has been around, and that's also how long it's been since Justin Levinson debuted on the power pop scene with 1175 Boylston. The debut was Ben Folds-styled piano pop and since then he's veered into alt-country and most recently a bit of light soul-inflected singer-songwriter pop with 2012's This Side of Me, This Side of You. Now with Yes Man, Levinson has come full circle with his most straight-up pop album since his debut. Opener "Together Forever" is a bouncy confection that's well-timed for summer; the title track is a Beatlesque romp, and the waltz-time baroque pop of "Safety in the Rain" recalls Jellyfish. Elsewhere, "Broken Heart Running" is the type of piano-based pop found on the debut, and closer "Colleen Compassion" evokes a lost Ben Folds track in both sound and title. In all this is one of 2016's best so far as even the tracks not noted here are worthy of note. The tenth anniversary truly can be the sweetest.

Sample and buy at Amazon

Ken Sharp-New Mourning. Speaking of 10-year anniversaries, it's almost been that long since Ken Sharp's last album, 2007's Sonic Crayons, which at that time was his first album in seven years and which came in at #13 on my best-of-2007 list. So it's a bit of an understatement to say this album was long-awaited, and it doesn't disappoint. Of course Sharp has an excuse for the delays between albums - when he's not recording, he's writing and writing prolifically about music with 18 published books to his credit including a series titled "Play On! Power Pop Heroes" which chronicles the leading lights and forerunners of the genre. And if Sharp's going to keep putting out albums (however infrequently) like New Mourning, he's going to be worthy of a chapter of his own as his latest is his best and most consistent. From the classic power pop of "Dynamite & Kerosene" and "Let's Be Friends" to the Motown-influenced "Solid Ground" through the 70s MOR balladry of "L.A. Can Be Such a Lonely Town" and the string-laden closing power ballad "Loser", New Mourning is 14 tracks of solid gold and also a clear contender for Best of 2016.


The Loved-The Loved EP. The Loved are a three-piece band from Portland, Oregon who push all the right retro buttons on their debut EP, right up to the album artwork. Dense guitars and a languid melody make for a great combination on the first single "How Do You Fall in Love", while the midtempo "Sun Moon Stars" features a hypnotic vibe and "Lost at Sea" rocks with "three chords and the truth", as the band described itself in their Facebook bio. Give it a listen below, and it'll be Loved by you as well.