Thursday, September 21, 2017

A personal note.

I know I only normally post 2-3 times a month, so this near one-month absence is not completely surprising, but I have not posted any reviews since then as shortly after my last post, my younger (and only) brother was suddenly hospitalized and barely a week later passed away. And no sooner did he pass than my family found ourselves squarely in the projected path of Hurricane Irma, forcing us to evacuate. Thankfully the brunt of Irma stayed to our east and the storm weakened spending more time over land than forecast, so my home came out unscathed. But we still lost power/cable/internet for most of last week and given the stress of all that's gone on, I haven't really been in the right head space to write about power pop these days.

But I'm getting there and there's been a lot of great new stuff that either came out just before or since, so I will be posting soon and am certainly not abandoning this blog. Thanks as always for reading, and thank you for your patience.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Late August Roundup.

Trip Wire-Cold Gas Giants. Trip Wire (not to be confused with beloved Seattle pub-rockers The Tripwires) is a San Francisco band/collective that has a couple of pretty good power pop albums under its belt (which you can listen to here), but on their third release they've taken a couple of big steps forward. First, their new album is being released on the imprint of one of the top power pop labels out there, Kool Kat. Second, they've added The Well Wishers' Jeff Shelton to the lineup, and not just to play bass. Of course original members Marty Schneider and Bill Hunt are no slouches either and their "Long Days Gone" is an insistent guitar pop tune with a nifty riff hook, while "Signs" is first-rate jangle pop. Shelton takes the mic for "I'm Not the Enemy", a hard-driving rocker that's of a piece with his Well Wishers output, and other standouts include the strings-and-12-string of "Winter Song", the Byrdsian "These Are the Days", and another Shelton-led raucous rocker, "Growing Old".

Kool Kat | iTunes



Darryl Rahn-Everything is Fine. About the highest compliment I can pay the latest album from Utica, NY singer-songwriter Darryl Rahn is that I've had it in rotation for over a month now and every time one of its songs pops up randomly I get a little smile on my face. Everything is Fine is highly melodic folk/pop/rock that fans of The Jayhawks, pre-Spain-move Josh Rouse and site favorite Shane Lamb would enjoy. The joyous, catchy leadoff track "Running Back" breaks through the line into the open field like a good running back, while "Even as a Ghost" and its "ooh-ooh-ooh" hook is an absolute earworm. Elsewhere, the midtempo "Worry" recalls the prime early days of Ryan Adams, "Souvenirs" is a lovely ballad, and "Look at Her Now" treads into power pop territory. One of the better albums of its kind I've heard lately.

iTunes



The TimeWhy?s-Autumn of Love EP. The oddly-punctuated TimeWhy?s is a Pennsylvania band who unabashedly make 60s-inspired music, leaning to the Beatlesque. Their 4-track debut EP is a treat. "Paint Me Happy" is Herman's Hermits-meets-The Association, "Lying Through Your Lipstick" sounds like a mid-Beatles Lennon track, "I Said Hello" seems inspired by "Penny Lane" and "All I Know" draws from George Harrison via The Beach Boys. Definitely a year-end contender for the best EPs of 2017 list.

iTunes

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Early August Roundup.

Terry Anderson-Jimmy's Arcade. Everyone's favorite Southern pub-rocker Terry Anderson is back with his first album in six years, sans his backing band The Olympic Ass-Kickin' Team. Even without them, Anderson kicks plenty of ass with this collection of tunes interspersed with amusing fake commercials and skits. Jimmy's Arcade is a diverse collection of rock, power pop, and 60s/70s R&B with the common element being Anderson's no-shit-taking-yet-often-humorous delivery. Catching Anderson's fancy this time around is the internet ("Internettin"), a decadent weekend of partying on his girlfriend's dime ("Cash Dat Check"), and (fittingly given this week's "curvy woman" social media meme) a "Big Ol' Woman". And then there are my three favorite tracks on the album - the riff-driven rocker "Knock it Off", his humanist "I Love Everybody", and the gorgeous album closer "Carl Wilson", a tribute to the late Beach Boy legend. If you've been immune to Terry Anderson's charms to date, just think the Nick Lowe of the 70s growing up in the American South and take it from there.

iTunes | Kool Kat




Hemlock Pop-Crushing on What Might Be. Hemlock Pop is the nom de plume of Seattle's Ira Miller, who's played in several local bands including Super Deluxe and makes his solo debut. Miller's sound here is singer-songwriter (power) pop in the vein of Michael Penn, Aimee Mann, Elvis Costello and Michael Carpenter. Opening guitar rocker "Bleed You Out" is the prototypical woulda-been-a-hit-in-the-70s track with its smooth melody and hooky chorus, "Pigeon v. Statue" is both catchy and clever with its Costello-like wordplay, and "Something About Ruby" is a power ballad that deserves 10,000 uplifted lighters. There are plenty of other gems here too, including a cover of The Cure's "Charlotte Sometimes". Smart, sophisticated and tuneful, this is one of 2017's better debuts and better albums, period.

iTunes



Daniel Christian-Coffee EP. It's been nine (9!) years since we last checked in on Daniel Christian, but now is a good a time as any since he's back with a fine new 7-track EP, Coffee. Christian's past releases have been more Americana-vibed, but this one veers much more in the direction of power pop as the opener "A Girl in the Band" with its "Getting Better"-influenced melody and crunchy guitars would indicate. Further confirmation of this shift comes from the upbeat ditty "It's Perfect" and the midtempo "You Don't Know Her" which show off Christian's pop chops. And the closer "Never Wrong" is 4 1/2 minutes of catchy bliss. A real contender for 2017 EP of the year.

iTunes



Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Late July Roundup.

It's EPalooza this week with three fine EPs.

Randy Mantooth-Randy Mantooth EP. No, this isn't the musical debut of the guy who starred on Emergency! back in the 70s, nor is it another guy with the same name. Instead, it's the name of a 3-piece band out of Chicago featuring two former members of Otter Petter (which you may or may not be familiar with) which has released an excellent 4-track debut of crunchy power pop in the vein of Matthew Sweet and Tommy Keene. "Not Love" opens with a noirish feel while "Need It" is sunnier-sounding, and "Tick" and "Haunt" rock in a straightforward manner. Now someone just needs to start a band called Kevin Tighe and do a double bill with these guys.

iTunes



The Buzz-Summer of '17 EP. Washington DC popper J. Forte returns with another Buzz EP and from its title and cover art, it's time to put the top down and cruise the highway with this EP cranking. While "Smithereens" isn't a tribute to the band of the same name, it's a driving guitar pop number that would make them proud, "Tell Me Now" is fine garage rock, "Electric Dreams" jangles on, and "Old Souls" channels Brian Wilson with the surf out.

iTunes



Matthew Bryson-Recording in Progress. So what were you doing when you were 16? Probably stumbling through high school, tentatively engaging the opposite sex, and hoping to get a car (or at least getting to drive one of your parents' vehicles). One thing you probably didn't do, though, was write and record an excellent debut 4-song EP full of top-notch pop like Austin's Matthew Bryson has. With a classic sound going back well, well beyond his years, Bryson serves up 4 fine tracks that have a Beach Boys/Beatles influence; "Her" has an early-60s feel, "Down" is more late-60s sounding, and "Where" gives off a George Harrison vibe. Not bad for someone only five years older than this blog.

iTunes

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Mid-July Roundup.

Andrew Taylor-From the Outside Looking In. Dropkick frontman Andrew Taylor has been accumulating a collection of songs over the last 15 years that he hadn't recorded with his band, and he decided to play and record them completely by himself. Interestingly enough though, the end result sounds a lot like Dropkick, which is a good thing. This means it's another fine collection of top-shelf jangle pop that Taylor and his mates have been known for over the years that's found the golden mean between Teenage Fanclub and Matthew Sweet. Standout tracks here include "I Saw Through You" (with it's "you-ooh-ooh" chorus), the more rocking "Someone", and the album's catchiest track, "Who We Really Are", which reminds me of pre-Hotel California Eagles. So it's Dropkick without the Dropkick, or something like that.

iTunes



Various Artists-Songs, Bond Songs. Andrew Curry, the maestro of themed power pop compilations, is at it again. After his 70s lite rock opus that broke the rules against compilations and topped my 2013 list and 2014's followup covering the "second British invasion" of the 80s, his latest project features the songs of the James Bond movie franchise. As with the other two comps, Curry has enlisted a who's-who of indie power pop and the results are a blast. After Lannie Flowers gets you in the mood with the famous Bond theme, you're off an adventure that will leave you stirred, if not shaken. With such a variety of songs and artists involved (26 of each), everyone's bound to have their personal favorites, and mine here are Wyatt Funderburk's groovy take on "The Look of Love", Ryan Hamilton's "We Have All the Time in the World", Cirrone's "The Living Daylights" and Look Park (Chris Collingwood of Fountains of Wayne) with "The World is Not Enough". Make sure you take advantage of your license to listen below.

iTunes



The Glad Machine-The Glad Machine. The Glad Machine hails from western Massachusetts, and their self-titled debut hits all the classic power pop sweet spots. Reminiscent of bands like The Shazam, The Tories and The Cautions, TGM starts things off with "Homecoming" where "it's 1985 here every day", and follows it with "Wake Up, Girl", more classic power pop with a killer chorus. Meanwhile, "I Wanna Drive" recalls Jellyfish in their less-baroque moments, "87 Highland Avenue" is a well-executed power ballad, and the melodic closer "Cake" is the icing on top, so to speak. Not a bad track in the lot, and it's a welcome return to what power pop sounded like in the 80s and 90s.

iTunes

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Late June Roundup.

Plasticsoul-Therapy. It's been a long wait, and while there have been various new tracks included on compilations in the interim, Steven Eric Wilson - a/k/a Plasticsoul - has finally released the followup to 2009's Peacock Swagger, my #1 album of that year. It's a lot to live up to but thankfully Therapy is a worthy successor. Wilson produces a somewhat more sophisticated brand of power pop than the typical three-chords-and-a-hook band with influences in the vein of John Lennon, Michael Penn and Jon Brion. After opening with the lovely, languid "My Heavy Soul", the rocking title track kicks in, complete with an Elvis Costello-esque snarling vocal and a galloping melody. Speaking of Elvis C, "All Died Pretty" would have fit in nicely on Armed Forces, while "In Her Raincoat" recalls Cheap Trick in their more Beatlesque moments. Elsewhere, the album rocks more than previous Plasticsoul releases with the densely-produced "Come Down from Your Raincloud", the swirling psychedelia of "The King of Hash" and the revved-up "Monkey on a Stick". And the closer "Biff Bang Pow" sounds just as you'd expect, proving that good music really is the best Therapy.

Bandcamp



Cliff Hillis-Many Happy Returns EP. Death, taxes, and a wonderfully melodic new release from Cliff Hillis are life's three certainties. After his last full-length a few years back Hillis has been going the EP route, with Many Happy Returns marking his third straight which is just fine by me, getting 5-6 new tracks every year rather than waiting 2-3 years for 10-12. The highlights this time are the straight-ahead power pop of "Time an Evangelist", the whimsical title track which could have come off a Seth Swirsky/Red Button album, and "With All the World", a fine midtempo number that sounds like music made by a real adult. But really, all six tracks are great; even the one titled "Superfluous" is anything but.

iTunes



The Brigadier-Wash Away the Day. Another repeat artist to these pages is Matt Williams, known to us as The Brigadier. Wash Away the Day is his first new album in four years, and it's a welcome return to the Beach Boys-meets-XTC sunny British pop we've grown accustomed to from previous releases. The buoyant "I Know You're the One for Me Baby" fits that description to a T, and "Rainy Day Friend" throws in enough minor key curves to make it one of his all-time best tracks. Meanwhile, "Feels Like Something" rocks harder than your typical Brigadier number while the breezy "Keep Your Ego Down" will take you back to the 70s. This might be The Brigadier's best yet, and frankly I think he's overdue for a promotion to Major General.

iTunes

Friday, June 09, 2017

Early June Roundup.

Marble Party-Sometimes a Great Ocean. San Francisco's Marble Party returns with the followup to the excellent Plush, which finished #11 on my 2014 year-end list. Aside from their strong pun game with the title, they back up the promise of Plush with another collection of diverse power pop. "Brooklyn Battles Winter" sounds like a slightly revved-up Shins song, "Shotgun Superman" starts off like a Ben Folds piano number only to morph into something off Wilco's Summerteeth, and "Coaster" incorporates horns and a bit of a 70s R&B feel. Elsewhere, "60 Cycle" channels The Beatles, complete with sitar, the 80s-rock-influenced "S.A.M." piles on the synths, and "Lilies of Coldwater" brings Jellyfish to mind. Another tour-de-force from these pop/rockers which should have another spot in my year-end top 20.

iTunes



Stingy Brim-Stingy Brim EP. Stingy Brim is New Zealand's Andrew Thorne, and his debut EP is three tracks (plus a bonus) of classic Cheap Trick-styled power pop. "Gun Monkey" kicks things off in rocking fashion, "Made Up" is the most purely melodic track here and its little piano fill really makes it special, while "Rising Sun" takes a back seat to neither of the first two. I see why "Rolling Back" was added as a bonus track, as its psych-folk doesn't quite jibe with the others but it's an interesting track nonetheless. Hopefully Thorne won't be so "stingy" and will follow this up with a full-length.

iTunes



The Loved-Back to Me EP. Portland's The Loved are back with another EP on the heels of last year's self-titled debut, and it's three more tracks of their signature "three chords and the truth" sound. The title track rocks with melody and abandon, the main riff in "Run Away" recalls classic Oasis/Blur-styled britpop, and "Cruelest Month of the Year" incorporates a "Bo Diddley"-style backbeat into a languid mid-tempo ballad.

Bandcamp