Thursday, September 29, 2016

Late September Roundup.

Bubble Gum Orchestra-Sticky Love Songs Vol. 1 and 2. If it's the classic ELO sound you desire, you had to have been excited last fall when Jeff Lynne released a new album as "Jeff Lynne's ELO". It turned out to be fine, but it sounded more like a latter-day Jeff Lynne solo album than ELO in its heyday. This of course meant your next option was to wait for Michael Hildebrandt to release another Bubble Gum Orchestra album. That wait is over, as not only is there a new BGO album, but there's the equivalent of 2 new albums as Hildebrandt has gone Out of the Blue here with the 20-track Sticky Love Songs Volume 1 and 2. With 20 tracks to play with, Hildebrandt spreads out a bit here. Of course you get the vintage ELO sound in tunes like "You Called to Tell Me" and "My World Blue" (a Jeff Lynne title if there ever was one), but you get the straight-up Beatlesque "Peppermint Smile", the more rocking "You Gave Up on Love" (with guest vocals from Lannie Flowers), and even some acoustic guitar on the acid love song "You're Not the One That Got Away". Closing it all is the self-referential "BGO Motel", a track as catchy as it is clever. You won't find this at the usual sites, so click on the link below to listen and purchase.

Sample and buy here

Greg Pope-Guiding Star. The man I named the Pope of Power Pop is back with his sixth full-length solo release (not counting the Pete EP and his best-of compilation) and once again he's delivered another fine collection of southern-fried power pop. Featuring a Stranger Things-inspired cover, Guiding Star demonstrates why Pope is the one of the more consistent artists in the genre. Opener "Innocent Breakdown", with its nervous, insistent beat shows Pope (a one-man band who can drum with the best) isn't content to sit on his laurels, while "Four Leaf Clover" lashes at the singer's dudebro ex in service of a catchy chorus. Elsewhere, "Sun is Gonna Rise" rocks with gusto, the acoustic guitar-based shuffle "I Think Not" is classic Pope, and "If You Want Answers" may or may not have them, but it's a great listen and could have been a hit in another era. No longer the "company man" he was back in his Edmund's Crown days, Pope is now older and wiser and Guiding Star is as humanistic as power pop gets.


Ryan Allen & His Extra Arms-Basement Punk. Every time I turned around there's another great new release from the Michigan power pop scene. Last time out it was the latest from Nick Piunti and today it's Ryan Allen and His Extra Arms. (Next time it may be The Legal Matters, who have a new one out in a few weeks). Basement Punk is Allen's third album and builds off the promise of last year's Heart String Soul. "Watch Me Explode" is the kind of frenetic rocker that's perfectly situated as the album opener, and "Chasing a Song" is a brilliant bit of pop in the vein of Big Star. "Mal n' Ange" is another winner, sounding like an early-70s English classic rock track complete with guitar solo between the second and third verses, while "Gimmie Some More" is a fun "In the Street"-style rocker. Between the Greg Pope album above and this one, it's a great time for one-man bands.


Thursday, September 08, 2016

Early September Roundup.

Nick Piunti-Trust Your Instincts. One of 2016's more anticipated releases in the power pop community is finally out, as Nick Piunti stays on his new album every 18 months schedule with Trust Your Instincts. Piunti, whose last two releases finished #2 and #6 in my year-end lists, bids for the top 10 again with another insanely catchy collection of power pop tunes. There aren't really any ballads here, but the one difference between this one and the last two is that the tempos have slowed just the slightest. The opening title track is a typical Piunti barnburner, and "One Hit Wonder" rocks as well (someone let Piunti have a big hit so he can be the subject of this song), while "Blame in Vain" and "Dumb it Down" are wonderful midtempo tunes. Elsewhere, "Ready for Whatever" and "This Ain't the Movies" would have been spun by Casey Kasem in a Top 40 Countdown in 1978, and the Gin Blossoms-esque "Stay Where You Are" closes the album with some acoustic guitar prominent in the mix. As usual, Piunti is backed by fellow Michiganders Andy Reed and Ryan Allen (who has a new album of his own out in a few weeks) to fine effect. So trust your instincts on this one, and pick up a copy starting tomorrow.

Bandcamp | iTunes

Val Emmich-Whatever's Chasing You. New Jersey's Val Emmich is probably better known to you as an actor, even if you don't know him by name. He was Alex on HBO's Vinyl, Liz Lemon's coffee-boy fling on 30 Rock, and was in four episodes of Ugly Betty. He's also a fine musician with several albums under his belt and it's his latest here that grabbed my attention. With a sound that recalls Pete Yorn, Ben Kweller and even Tom Petty, Emmich's tunes are radio-friendly. While "I Want to Hang Out" and "Nobody Makes it on Their Own" are a fine 1-2 opening punch, it's "Slow Connection" that won me over with country/roots-influenced chorus that reminds me a bit of Chris Isaak. Other standouts include the Americana-tinged ballad "Almost Lost You" and the spare pop of "I Shouldn't Bother". You can check this one out while I dig into his back catalog.