Tuesday, December 31, 2019

The Absolute Powerpop Best of 2019: Albums #1-50.

Without further ado, here's the top of the list. #51-100 can be found here, and the honorable mentions here. Look for the top EPs list on Thursday.

50. Nick Nash-Fortress of Gold
49. Shake Some Action!-Thirty Nine
48. Goodman-The Era of Buckets
47. John Rooney-Joy
46. The Needs-You Need the Needs
45. The Lunar Laugh-Goodnight Noises Everywhere
44. David Brookings-Scorpio Monologue
43. The Heartache Connoisseur-Your Name Here
42. Chris Koza-Sleepwalkers Vol. 1
41. Empty City Squares-337
40. The Well Wishers-The Lost Soundtrack
39. Mika-My Name is Michael Holbrook
38. Nick Frater-Full Fathom Freight Train
37. The Nines-Shipwrecked: Eggers Songbook Vol. 1
36. Xavier Calvet-Crosswinds
35. Todd Herfindal-Two Track Mind
34. Slumberjet-World of Sound
33. Fuzzysurf-Fuzzy & The Surfs
32. Braden Bodensteiner-Lived In Sound
31. The Morning Line-North
30. Pernice Brothers-Spread the Feeling
29. The Junior League-Adventureland
28. Farrington-Pictures of Pretty Things
27. Peter Bruntnell-King of Madrid
26. Joe Sullivan-Growing Up Schlockstar
25. Dennis Ellsworth-Common Senseless
24. The Rallies-Upside Down
23. Liam Gallagher-Why Me? Why Not.
22. The Mike Benign Compulsion-Bygones
21. Paul Bertolino-Poseur
20. Mansion Harlots-All Around a Fairground
19. Fallon Cush-Stranger Things Have Happened
18. The Maureens-Something in the Air
17. Matthew Milia-Alone at St. Hugo
16. Scott Gagner-Hummingbird Heart
15. Saul Glennon-North on Broadway
14. ANC4-S/T
13. The Brothers Steve-#1
12. Jeff Lynne's ELO-From Out of Nowhere
11. Nick Eng-Long Shot
10. E.B. The Younger-To Each His Own
9. Doug Tuttle-Dream Road
8. Sofa City Sweetheart-Super(b) Exitos
7. The Dates-Ask Again Later
6. McKeon (Steve Eggers)-S/T
5. Andrew Leahey & The Homestead-Airwaves
4. Jesse Malin-Sunset Kids
3. Jordan Jones-S/T
2. Lannie Flowers-Home
1. Bryan Estepa-Sometimes I Just Don't Know

Monday, December 30, 2019

The Absolute Powerpop Best of 2019: Albums #51-100.

Look for the top half of the list tomorrow (Tuesday). Going with reverse order to heighten the suspense!

100. Latvian Radio-Give in to the Night
99. Bubble Gum Orchestra-Beautiful Music for a Blue World
98. The Unswept-Minor Blemishes
97. Parting Lines-See You on the Other Side
96. Calling Adam-The Year of My Manifestation
95. Local Drags-Shit's Lookin' Up!
94. Justus Proffit-LA's Got Me Down
93. Velveteen Rabbit-S/T
92. Chris von Sneidern-Emerge
91. Mothboxer-Time Capsule Vol. 1
90. Lolas-A Dozen or 7 Tapestries
89. Richard X. Heyman-Pop Circles
88. Tommi Zender-More Songs About Time
87. Andrew Taylor-Somewhere to Be
86. Static in Verona-The Loud Nothing
85. Trip Wire-Once & Always
84. Andrew Goldring-Fluorescent Memories
83. The Whiffs-Another Whiff
82. The Figgs-Shady Grove
81. Mondello-Hello All You Happy People
80. The Northern Pikes-Forest of Love
79. Ronny Tibbs-Lone Fry
78. Colman Gota-And the Losers Choir Sings
77. Josh Rennie Hynes-Patterns
76. Victory Lap-Our Lady of Perpetual Acceleration
75. Francis Lung-A Dream is U
74. Dan Israel-Social Media Anxiety Disorder
73. Kyle Craft-Showboat Honey
72. Cloud Eleven-Footnote
71. Daniel Pellegrini-S/T
70. Alex Jules-Topiary
69. Taylor Knox-Here Tonight
68. Brad Marino-Extra Credit
67. Denny Smith-From the Dark
66. Bryan Scary-Birds
65. Rick Altizer-Bread
64. The Tor Guides-Backwards in Reverse
63. The Sleepends-S/T
62. Johnathan Pushkar-Straighten Up
61. The Bishop's Daredevil Stunt Club-End Over End
60. Kai Danzberg-Not Only Sunshine
59. The Boys With the Perpetual Nervousness-Dead Calm
58. The Tangerines-Rain & Shine
57. The Golden Seals-Something Isn't Happening
56. Foxhall Stacks-The Coming Collapse
55. Fastball-The Help Machine
54. Rob Laufer-The Floating World
53. David Mead-Cobra Pumps
52. Extra Arms-Up from Here
51. Erk-When Night Meets Day

The honorable mentions can be found here.

The Absolute Powerpop Best of 2019: The Honorable Mentions

In preparing this year's list I managed to come up with 125 albums or so. Rather than try to rank them I'll just list them here as honorable mentions, in roughly chronological order of release (or at least when I listened to them chronologically):

Straw Dogs-Your Immaculate Machine
Kettleflower-You Can Run.
Trapper Schoepp-Primetime Illusion
Johnny Stanec-Things Were Better, When
I Was a King-Slow Century
Altameda-Time Hasn't Changed You
Armchair Oracles-Caught by Light
Supraluxe-Sweet & Sticky
The Decibels-Scene, Not Herd
Big Tide-Sync or Swim
Monnone Alone-Summer of the Mosquito
Frederick Julius-Fixers & Elixirs
Dinky-Open Letters
Mike Adams at His Honest Weight-There is No Feeling Better
The Magic E's-Dead Star
Young Guv-Guv I
Richard Turgeon-Go Deep
The Successful Failures-Saratoga
Those Pretty Wrongs-Zed for Zulu
The Pozers-Crybaby Bridge
Steven Bradley-Summer Bliss & Autumn Tears
GospelbeacH-Let it Burn
Eric Crugnale-Time Kills
Ben Arthur-Perspective

These are all really good albums, and might make other folks' best-of lists (maybe yours!) but I listen to so much.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

December mega-roundup 2.

Before we head into the year-end lists next week, here are some more new releases worthy of mention:

Lannie Flowers-Home. After going several years without a new album of studio material, power pop mainstay Lannie Flowers has made up for lost time in 2019. He first released a series of monthly non-album singles throughout the year (all of which were outstanding, naturally) and now caps off the year with the full-length Home. Opener "Running" is the kind of "instant hit" (at least on your hit parade) that he's always good for, but much of the rest of the album isn't the classicist power pop he's been known for but a more introspective singer-songwriter collection of songs. With a lyrical maturity not often found in the genre, Flowers gives us a song cycle of an aging rocker looking at his career and where he stands today as "Just Go to Sleep" tackles post-tour boredom, the bouncy, vaguely Beatlesque title track celebrates the stability of home versus life on the road, and the lovely mostly-acoustic "In Time" finds peace in the dichotomy. Flowers takes his songcraft to another level here, and with its December 6 release date it shows why you never make year-end lists in November.


Braden Bodensteiner-Lived in Sound. Rochester, New York's Braden Bodensteiner just might win 2019's Truth in Advertising award with his album title as he features a lived-in sound on this collection of sophisticated adult pop that recalls the likes of Michael Penn, Neil Finn and Salim Nourallah. The album's 10 tracks are equally good, but more equal than others are the opener "Beautiful Line", "While Dreaming" and the George Harrison-esque "Don't Need a World".


Brady Harris-Keep Your Cover EP. After dabbling in some mostly country music side projects, Brady Harris is back in pop mode on this four-track EP which features three originals and a cover of Spoon's "Me and the Bean". The originals are outstanding - "Tell Me Why" is 2:18 of pop bliss, "Say Hello Wave Goodbye" has a slinky melody, and "Mistake to Make" recalls early Beatles in mid-tempo mode. Not giving this a listen would truly be a mistake to make.


Eric Crugnale-Time Kills. Back in 2010 Eric Crugnale placed #13 on my year-end list with his debut Carol Was Here, and nine long years later he's released the followup. I called the debut "fully-realized mature pop in the vein of David Mead and Seth Swirsky" and that applies to Time Kills as well. "Don't Give Up" is a lovely, piano-based opener, "Turning This Damn Car Around" with its soft verses and crashing chorus has a bit of a Queen/Jellyfish feel to it, and "Wagon" deals in smooth 70s-influenced R&B. This is pop with a capital "P" the way it was in the '70s and '80s.


The Boolevards-Real Pop (Remix). Those of you who have the memory of an elephant will probably recall I featured this album ten years ago, but I bring it up again because The Boolevards have re-released and remixed it with bonus tracks. And I'll quote myself again: "Real Pop is just that, assuming the year is 1965. Two and three-part harmonies, Rickenbacker solos, Merseybeat melodies - it's all here in an expert re-creation of the era," I wrote on its initial release. The six new tracks are of the same feather, and the band hopes to help finance a new album with sales of this reissue, so if this kind of thing is up your alley and you missed it the first time around, remedy this right away.


Andrew Taylor-Somewhere to Be. Dropkick's Andrew Taylor has dropped his second solo album, and like the first it doesn't vary too much from the jangle/folk-rock of his band (perhaps it's a bit more laid-back). Which of course is a good thing, as he and Dropkick have released album after album of highly consistent quality. The top tracks this time around are the title track, "Make a Difference" and the very aptly-titled "More of the Same". I just remain astounded at how prolific he is, as I just saw today that there's a new Dropkick album due out in a couple of months.


Wednesday, December 04, 2019

December Mega-Roundup.

Making up for lost time with a mega-roundup with twice the albums!

Latvian Radio-Give in to the Night. Patrick Westoo & friends continue to deliver the goods on their seventh album, and it's more of the upbeat, buoyant pop they're known for. Combining new wave and power pop, the standouts here are the breezy "21st Century Shakedown" (complete with horns), the danceable title track, and the almost jangly "She's Back to Kill Again".


Goodman-The Era of Buckets. It's been over 2 1/2 years since we last heard from Michael Goodman, but it was worth the wait. His latest collection of tuneful and insistent indie pop is another keeper, with the highlights being the opener "Don't", "Watch Your Mouth" (both reminiscent of AC Newman's work in The New Pornographers), and the heavy power pop of "Shallow (Completely Shallow)".


Fallon Cush-Stranger Things Have Happened. Fallon Cush (a/k/a Australia's Steve Smith) is another returnee to these pages as he continues to mine a consistent career threading the needle between indie rock and alt-country, or as I've said before, Teenage Fanclub meets the Gary Louris-led Jayhawks. "Sleep Her Away" might be the quintessential Fallon Cush song with its sweet chorus, and "The Key" finds the alt-country side of things emphasized a bit more. Also of note are the lovely acoustic guitar ballad "Yaraman" and the Band-esque "Tempo over Time".


Slumberjet-World of Sound. After a 9-year hiatus from their first collaboration, Barry O'Brien & Duncan Matiland team up again as Slumberjet. Both have had fine solo careers (with Maitland's Lullabies for the 21st Century clocking in at #2 on my 2010 year-end list), and here the whole is even better than the sum of the parts with tracks such as the Beatlesque "Round x 2", the infectious and rocking "(Theme from) Our Street", the could-have-been-an-80s-hit-with-its-synths "Across the Divide" and the McCartney-influenced "The Big Snow". A welcome return and a year-end list contender for me.


Saul Glennon-North on Broadway. Saul Glennon is not a solo artist, but rather the name of an Ohio band derived from a Batman comic which riffed on the whole "Paul is Dead" rumor with Saul standing in for Paul and Glennon for Lennon. With that kind of background story, you won't be surprised to see the band draws from 60s and 70s British rock and pop and North on Broadway is a love letter to the area of Cleveland in which they grew up during the 70s. It's also one of the more pleasant surprises I've come across this year with one catchy guitar pop tune after another. From the Todd Rundgren-esque "Hello '76" to the Merseyside sounds of "Meet Me at Morgana" (with shout-outs to McDonald's and the old "special orders don't upset us" Burger King theme) to the whimsy of "Cause I was 15" it works as well as a concept album as it does a collection of cool tunes.


The Inside Passenger (Cliff Hillis)-The Inside Passenger. The Inside Passenger is the alter-ego of the great Cliff Hillis, and this short (12 minutes and change) EP is a departure for him, hence the different name. Instead of the pristine power pop he's know for, Hillis has branched out into a more atmospheric sound which he compares to the likes of Grizzly Bear, Fleet Foxes, Elliott Smith, Sparklehorse and Nick Drake. While this aren't his usual toe-tappers, songs like "Truth Be Told", "Listen to Your Mother" and "If I Swam the Seven Seas" see Hillis's melodic gifts put to use in the context of some beautiful, haunting music. Listen for yourself below.