Friday, March 08, 2019

Early March Roundup.

The Dates-Ask Again Later. To paraphrase the old saying, you can't judge an album by its cover, and while the debut from this LA band's cover looks like your typical adenoidal punk-poppers it's not. Instead, this is a beautifully melodic Big Star/Teenage Fanclub-inspired collection of jangle pop that's one of the year's early best. "Any Other Nite" would fit right in on Bandwagonesque, and "Star" would do likewise on #1 Record or Radio City. And get lost in "Summer Girls", probably the quintessential song title for a band like this.


The Popravinas-Willy Nilly. The Popravinas have always struck me as the West Coast equivalent of New Jersey's The Successful Failures, as both bands serve up a mix of rock, power pop, alt-country and roots rock filtered through a humorous yet sardonic outlook. On their latest, the band (pronounced POPE-ravinas) find themselves "Talkin' Out Loud", hanging out in "Tim's Basement", and "Almost Sick" while finding a "Hard Way (to Make an Easy Living)". It's all very fun, and very catchy.


Lund Bros-"Loser" 1993-97 - Remasters and Rarities. Back before they were indie power pop darlings, the Lund Bros started out in the early 90s as a melodic bank who caught attention of Geffen Records, who funded their recordings for a "speculation deal". Geffen rejected them (their loss) for sounding "too much like The Beatles" (as if that isn't a feature and not a bug). Rather than changed their sound for the man, they kept on keepin' on and now they've released those unearthed gems from that era. Despite Geffen's misgivings this is actually more of a harder melodic rock sound than their recent stuff, but still excellent in a Cheap Trick sort of way.

CD Baby

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Late February Roundup.

Ronny Tibbs-Lone Fry. Power poppers and indie poppers unite! - Detroit's Ronny Tibbs has given us 2019's first truly great release. Reminiscent of the likes of Nilsson, Brian Wilson and (a less frenetic-sounding) Bryan Scary, Lone Fry is a pop tour-de-force that opens with the brilliant "30-Year-Old Boy", a piano-based number complete with strings, backing vocals and a soaring melody. "All She Wrote" is first-rate guitar pop which recalls some of The Smithereens' moodier numbers, while "Watching Annie Over" sounds like a more fleshed-out Guided by Voices tune. "Mona Lisa" is another pretty piano-based track, and "Picture of Us" is where the Bryan Scary comparison comes in. Tibbs even throws in a couple of electronic-based danceable tracks with "Sunlight" and "Honourole" and then closes with the conventional power pop of "Breakout". Just call him Mr. Tibbs.


Pale Hollow-Pilots. Still catching up on 2018 with this late-year release which found its way into my top 100 but warrants a special mention here because aside from being a fine album, it's the first we've heard from Cleveland's Michael Allen in 11 years. His 2007 debut was a great collection of folk/rock tunes with classic rock instrumentation which recalled the English countryside circa 1971, and the long-awaited followup continues in the same vein. "Can't You Hear the Highway" opens the album and encapsulates this sound perfectly, its easy-going melody getting a rock treatment. Tracks like "Trouble and "Empire" are almost bucolic, while the title track and especially "Flame On" are catchy uptempo rockers that would sound at home alongside The Kinks and The Faces. An enjoyable listen, although you may find yourself growing sideburns after you're done.


Mark Crozer-My Home is a New Country. Whenever I compose one of these posts, I always do a quick search of my archives to see when the last time I posted on the artist. To my complete surprise I realized I've never featured a Mark Crozer album here despite him releasing several this decade, most of which made my year-end lists, so it's time to remedy this with his latest release. For the unfamiliar, Crozer is a classic power popper who's also spent time as a touring member of The Jesus and Mary Chain and by all means check out his back catalog. On the new one he grabs your attention out of the blocks with "Shock to the Heart", which reminds me of BOC's "Burnin' for You" with its prominent bassline and radio-ready melody. "Where I Come From" is another moody gem, "Turnabout Beach" is a slow-burner that'll grown on you, and "Lay With Me" channels solo Alex Chilton.


Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Early February Roundup.

John Rooney-Joy. John Rooney may hail from Australia, but his latest release is southern-fried power pop mixed by Mitch Easter and produced by Don Dixon. Rooney, who in the previous decade released music under the Coronet Blue name, comes swinging out of the block with "Don't Give Up Now", a fun tune featuring horns and having an R&B feel, "Grant Me Peace" has a Van Morrison vibe, and "What Could Have Been" and "Delicious" bring the pop. Fans of a more soulful power pop sound will want to check this one out.


Four Star Riot-Daylight. Catching up on a 2018 release which made my top 100, Four Star Riot hail from my backyard of Clearwater, Florida but it's not local favoritism that finds them here, it's ten tracks of top-notch pop/rock. There's plenty to like here - from the midtempo Petty-esque opener "Slayed Pretender" to the Gin Blossoms-influenced "Almost Daylight" to the 80s rock of "Oxygen" (which features assistance from Roger Joseph Manning Jr., who seems to get around a lot these days). Other standouts include the dense guitar rock of "Tunnel Vision" and the bright pop of "Anyone".


Roving Reporter-Joie de Vivre EP. Roving Reporter is Seattle-by-way-of-New Orleans's Brett Barrilleaux new project and this 4-track EP is a solid debut of Elliott Smith-meets-Wilco indie pop/rock. "Forget About Me" recalls Smith's poppier offerings circa XO and Figure 8, while "Patterson Brown" is a catchy keyboard-based number. And "Another Note" is a warm, lovely track that goes down smooth. As the cliche goes, I'm looking forward to the full-length here.


Todd Lewis Kramer-January EP. Todd Lewis Kramer is nominally country, or Americana, because he sings with a bit of a twang but his new EP is pretty much ear candy pop (or Popicana, if you prefer). "All of My Days" is one of my first favorite songs of 2019, a buoyant tune which the Gary Louris version of The Jayhawks would be at home with and "She Knows" is another uptempo pop confection, while the closing "Do I Ever Cross Your mind?" is from the Ryan Adams playbook of dusky ballads.


Wednesday, January 16, 2019

New Year roundup.

Donnie Vie-Beautiful Things. I'm kind of hestitant to even mention this album since it's not available now - it falls into what is kind of a nether region of being released as it started on Pledge Music. It's been released to those who pledged and as a result has been circulated on the internet, but you can't just go out any buy it right now. The same thing applies to the Jeff Whalen record, which I ranked in my top 10 of 2018 but is now being released to the general public as a normal release February 15. So is it a 2018 record or a 2019 record?

Getting back to Beautiful Things, it would have made my 2018 list as I came across it in last couple of weeks of December but I guess I can now put it on the 2019 list. It's assured of being there because the latest solo effort from the former Enuff Z'Nuff frontman is a melodic delight which takes his old band's amalgamation of The Beatles and heavy metal and put its thumb on the Beatles side of the scale. The title track is colored-glasses-psychedelia, "Plain Jane" is driving power pop, and "I Could Save the World" is both nostalgia for, and celebration of, classic rock with Roger Joseph Manning Jr. contributing on piano and strings. Make sure you find it, whenever and wherever it comes out.

Sam Hoffman-Fairweather. Another late 2018 release I missed, this jangly gem definitely would have been on the list. Reminiscent of bands like Teenage Fanclub and Dropkick, Nashville's Hoffman delivers a consistently tuneful debut. Highlights: "December", "Glencrest Lane", "All the Places"


Baby Scream-Things You Can Say to a Stranger EP. No year-of-release controversy on this one (it came out January 7): this new EP is the first we've heard in a while from Juan Pablo Mazzola a/k/a Baby Scream and it's good to have him back. "Aching Life" is the kind of jaded Lennonesque number he's known for, while "Fake it Till You Make It" is a minor-key marvel. The EP highlight is the closer "Somebody Kill Me Now", a classic upbeat-melody-hiding-dark-lyrics tune that's first-rate guitar pop.


Thursday, January 03, 2019

The Absolute Powerpop Top 15 EPs and Compilations of 2018.

TOP 15 EPs

1. Checkpoint Charley-Great Jedi Mind Trick
2. Roger Joseph Manning Jr.-Glamping
3. Zander Michigan-Kitchen Sink #2
4. Smash Palace-Right as Rain
5. Hot Nun-Born to Blaze
6. David Woodard-I Used to Be Cool
7. V Sparks-Moderne Life
8. Cupid's Carnival-Clapham Junction
9. The Metal Babies-Goodbye!
10. Mozley-Twelve
11. Crocodile Tears-Tuned Out
12. Jeff Litman-Crowded Hour
13. Nicholas Altobelli-The Day-Olds
14. Tad Overbaugh-Demons in the Dust
15. Andy Reed & Jason Reed-Make Your Move


I really don't have a list, but there are three I want to single out from the year for special mention since they don't (normally) qualify for the main list. All three are from some of the hardest-working people in power pop, and I'm thankful they keep on doing what they're doing.

First is Andrew Curry's Paul Williams tribute, White Lace & Promises, which I featured here in the last month.

Next is Keith Klingensmith's Futureman Records Matthew Sweet tribute, Altered Sweet.

And finally David Bash's annual International Pop Overthrow 3-CD extravaganza. Although I didn't write it up this year, it's always a reliable compilation of power pop artists new and not-so-new and there's a good chance your next favorite band or musician is on there somewhere. Speaking of David, as always I'm looking forward to his year-end lists.

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

The Absolute Powerpop Top 100 Albums of 2018, #1-50.

Happy New Year everyone! Here's the top half of the year-end list:

1. Starbelly-Four
2. Rayland Baxter-Wide Awake
3. Danny Wilkerson-Wilkerson
4. Bill Lloyd-Working the Long Game
5. Nick Piunti-Temporary High
6. Creamer-Creamer
7. Jeff Whalen-Ten More Rock Super Hits
8. Dave Sheinin-First Thing Tomorrow
9. Bird Streets-Bird Streets
10. David Myhr-Lucky Day
11. Jeremy Messersmith-Late Stage Capitalism
12. Painted Doll-Painted Doll
13. Checkpoint Charley-Pomp, Twaddle & Bombast
14. Ken Sharp-Beauty in the Backseat
15. Nick Eng-Nick Eng
16. Valley Lodge-Fog Machine
17. Rob Bonfligio-Trouble Again
18. Adrian Whitehead-Nerd from the Suburbs
19. P. Hux-This is the One
20. Astral Drive-Astral Drive
21. The Late Show-Sha La La
22. The Junior League-Eventually is Now
23. Belle Adair-Tuscumbia
24. Caper Clowns-A Salty Taste to the Lake
25. Jake Shears-Jake Shears
26. The Davenports-Don't Be Mad at Me
27. Dot Dash-Proto Retro
28. Greg Pope-A Few Seconds of Fame
29. Linus of Hollywood-Cabin Life
30. Simon Love-Sincerely S, Love X
31. Sloan-12
32. Tim Jackson-Better Late Than Never
33. Jack Drag-2018
34. Family of the Year-Goodbye Sunshine, Hello Nighttime
35. Two Sheds Jackson-Some Kinda Life
36. Three Hour Tour-You Never Know
37. Caddy-Ten Times Four
38. Cullen Omori-The Diet
39. Knit Delicate-Shelby
40. Aaron Fox & The Reliables-In Transit
41. Darryl Rahn-Making Strangers
42. Rooftop Screamers-Vol. 1
43. Matt Jaffe-Blast Off
44. Streetcar Conductors-The Very Best of Streetcar Conductors
45. Kai Danzberg-Pop-Up Radio
46. Michael Simmons-First Days of Summer
47. Chris Richards & The Subtractions-Peaks and Valleys
48. William Duke-Quatro
49. The Well Wishers-A View from Above
50. Hurry-Every Little Thought