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.
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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.