Saturday, April 12, 2014

Weekend Roundup.

The Sleepwalkers-Lost My Mind in Stereo. The SLeepwalkers are Ian Olvera & company, whose last two records came out as The Ian Olvera Band, and then Ian Olvera & The Sleepwalkers. Along with the subtle shift in band names, there's been a subtle shift in their sound as well. Where once it was Jayhawks-meet-Tom-Petty, now it leans more to the Petty side of things with some slight nods to pop-punk not unlike Archie Powell & The Exports. Opener "My Best Wasn't Good Enough" advertises this change, rocking with attitude and melody, as does the frenetic "Come Around". Other standouts include the rocking and catchy "Talking Out of Turn" and the laid-back nod to their earlier sound in "Chicago". Top-notch stuff with a Saturday night feel to it.


Static in Verona-Everything You Knew Before You Knew Everything. Also returning to our pages is Rob Merz and his Static in Verona projecc, following up his 2012 EP Some Things You Knew with this appropriately-titled release. Here Merz delves further in dream-pop, opening with the densely melodic "Bitter Branches" and following that with the percussion-heavy, vaguely electronic "Rosemary (Bury Me)" which still sports the hooks. There are still some nods to traditional power pop here, courtesy of "Roman Candle", but the sound here is summed up by the majestic "Friendly Fires" and its pop-friendly soundscapes. If you want to hear something a bit different that the usual power pop, but from an artist we know has the melodic bonafides, this one's a good investment.

CD Baby } iTunes

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Midweek Roundup.

Goodman-Isn't it Sad. NYC's Goodman is back with his second full-length, following up last year's What We Want. Isn't it Sad is another collection of tuneful indie pop, with the standouts being the power-popping title track, the midtempo "I'll Live Without Your Love", and the 80s-influenced "Like What They Like". A must for fans of AC Newman and Robert Pollard.

Bandcamp only

Evil Arrows-EPs 1 & 2. Evil Arrows is the latest project from Bryan Scary, well-known to readers of this site and the power pop community in general. His early releases were tuneful but suffered from a bit of ADD, but he later dialed it down and now with Evil Arrows he's honed his craft and put out an engaging pair of EPs with more apparently to come. We'll take these first two, released within about a month or so of each other, as one album. From EP1, "Romancer" finds Scary in playful mode, with a rollicking tune festooned with a lot of "la la la"s, "Silver Bird" has a Jellyfish vibe to it with its baroque piano parts, and "The Lovers" reminds me of Queen. On EP2, things take a turn for the cheeky with the frantic "Last Living Doll" and "Putting My Heart on the Pyre" recalling Scary's early work, while "Shadow Lovers" channels the early 70s glam rock of Sweet and Gary Glitter. It's great to have some more Scary power pop again.

iTunes (EP1) | iTunes (EP2)

The Orange Opera-Land of Tall. The Orange Opera is led by Kevin Hambrick, who has written hundred of songs over the years and was even featured in a documentary about being a musician in Fort Wayne, Indiana. His experience shows in his intricate popcraft, which fits in thematically with the two artists featured above as piano-based indie pop. Opener "Coy" is clever and catchy, somewhere in between Ben Folds and The Format, and "Happy" fits that bill as well. And don't miss "We Were Laughing", which is McCartney's "Nineteen Hundred & Eight Five" meets Jellyfish.

CD Baby | iTunes

Friday, March 21, 2014

Weekend Roundup.

Greg-Ieronimo-Bipolar Love. About once a week, I sift through the latest releases on CD Baby. It's a somewhat painstaking process that takes a couple of hours, and as the saying goes you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find a prince. But coming across debuts as tight and power popping like Greg Ieronimo's debut EP, Bipolar Love, makes the whole enterprise worth it. Ieronimo's crunchy power pop comes in somewhere between Cheap Trick and vintage Weezer, as you'll hear once you click on "Roller Coaster Ride" below. The more jaunty yet rocking "Catch Me" has a hint of Jellyfish to it, as does the more acoustic guitar-based "Lucky Day". There's not a bad track among the seven featured here - "Home" recalls Foo Fighters in power pop mode, and "Goodbye Love" is a Beatlesque treat. One of the best debuts I've heard in months, if not years, Bipolar Love will be extremely tough to dislodge from my top of my 2014 year-end EP list.

CD Baby | iTunes

Damp-Damp. Damp is a guy named Ryan from Oregon (that's about all the biographical information I could glean) who makes some highly melodic indie pop on his debut album. Although it's primarily piano-based, Damp's music is more Shins or Ben Kweller than Ben Folds as demonstrated by opening duo of "Time" and "What's to Come from What Has Been", a pair of gorgeous tracks. Although these two tracks might lead you to believe he's a bit earnest and straightforward, there's plenty of playfulness on display here as well, from the almost-vaudeville piano of "Ye Ol' Bitch" to the baroque pop of "What's Wrong, Oh So Wrong" to the (actual) blues of "Cherry Pickin' Blues" to the catchy-yet-kazoo backed "I'm Thinking of You". This a an audacious, fun debut that also makes my panning for gold on CD Baby worth it.

CD Baby | iTunes | Official site (w/a few full-length tracks)

Friday, March 07, 2014

Weekend Roundup.

The Mike Benign Compulsion-Here's How it Works. Our favorite Milwaukee power-poppers are back with their third - and best - album to date. Benign & Co. perfect their Squeeze/Elvis Costello-styled pop with tracks like "Mrs. Kean" (which has a bit of Ray Davies to it), the stomping "Haley Daley" and the minor chords of "No Dumb Luck". Plus, to make the Elvis C comparison complete Benign throws in a track called "Imperial Bedroom" which would make the man himself proud. You won't find this one on CD (unless you burn one yourself), it's digital download and vinyl-only. That's just how it works.

CD Baby
| iTunes | Bandcamp

Ed Woltil-Paper Boats. Ed Woltil has been a mainstay of Tampa Bay area power pop scene, most recently as one-half of The Ditchflowers, who turned in a couple of top-notch albums over the last 5-6 years. This time around Woltil goes for a bit more intimate, laid-back sound on his solo excursion, not unlike label mate Steve Robinson. So while you may not dance to these tunes, their craft is impeccable from the beguiling opener "Algebra" and its catchy chorus to the lovely "In Plain Sight" to the lightly bluesy "Someone Else's Life". This is grown-up pop for fans of artists like David Mead, Josh Rouse and Neil Finn, but how many teens are reading this anyway?

CD Baby | iTunes

Gen Pop-Waiting for Disaster. Guess it's Wisconsin day at Absolute Powerpop, since in additional to Mike Benign these pop/rockers hail from the Cheese State as well. Their debut disc is warm and catchy with a hint of The Lemonheads and The Gin Blossoms' style of 90s power pop. Opener "Warm Sun" will draw you in while the quirky "You Scare Me" will bring Weezer to mind. Meanwhile the standout here is "Top of the World", a midtempo number that sounds like it could have been a hit for somebody about 20 years ago. A promising debut that you can name your price for on Bandcamp.

CD Baby } Bandcamp | iTunes

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Two Four for Tuesday, 2/18/14

To make up for no new posts last week, I'll double the usual two featured discs with a quick look at four:

Shake Some Action!-Catch the Sun. James Hall is back again with another collection of top-drawer jangle-pop with Catch the Sun, his fifth full-length as Shake Some Action!. "Colors Exploding" is just as groovy as its title implies,
"Wait for the Summer" is the kind of 60s/70s power pop that Hall does best, and "Moonlight Mind" jangles so hard it would make Roger McGuinn jealous. You know what you're getting with an SSA album, and you're getting more of it this time around.

CD Baby | iTunes

The Rationales-Dream of Fire EP. Also back with new material are The Rationales, who bring us a strong 5-track EP this time around. As before, they offer up a mix of power pop and Americana with leadoff track "Drunk All the Time" a great Tom Petty-esque raver with a memorable chorus and the Replacements-styled "Last Words" the standouts here.

CD Baby | ITunes

Ryan VanDordrecht-Beast of Love. Upon the release of his debut EP in 2009 I wrote the usual "can't wait for the full length" comment, and lo and behold five years later here it is. This Portland musician specializes in tuneful pop/rock with a touch of Americana and the top tracks here are the anthemic Jayhawks/Gin Blossoms-like "Great American Life", the jangly "Wild Ones" and the 70s-styled rocker "You Got a Hold on Me". Good stuff here.

CD Baby | iTunes

Preston Cochran-Waiting for the Day. This is the third album for Virginia's Preston Cochran, but the first that caught my ear. Cochran has a slick yet tuneful adult-contemporary sound that brings the likes of Matt Nathanson and Graham Colton to mind. My favorites here are the laid-back "Shoes in the Sun", the melodic title track, and the midtempo gem "Footnotes", which reminds me of Josh Rouse. A bit more "pop" than "power pop", but definitely worth a listen.

CD Baby | iTunes

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Two for Thursday, 2/6/14

The Autumn Defense-Fifth. The Autumn Defense is somewhat of a "bigger" band than I usually feature on this site, being a side project of Wilco's John Stirratt and Pat Sansone. Nevertheless their last release, 2010's Once Around, topped my year-end list and Fifth will be a strong contender for this year's as well. On their first three albums, they couldn't decide whether to be Bread or the Gary Louris-led version of The Jayhawks and they finally synthesized that difference on Once Around. Fifth continues that trend with a strong stylistic voice that will appeal to power poppers and country rockers alike. "None of This Will Matter" might be quintessential AD track, with its pop sensibility, easy melody and swelling chorus. The same applies to "I Can See Your Face" as well, while "I Want You Back" finds them in Pernice Brothers chamber-pop territory. And they really hit their stride on the piano-backed "Calling Your Name" which has a hint of the Beatlesque about it, and the jangly "Things on My Mind". Kool Kat is offering up on a deal on this with 2 bonus discs, so check it out.

Kool Kat | iTunes

Finest Grain-Can't Control It. I had the previous album from this Indianapolis band in my iTunes library but it didn't motivate me enough to write about it. That's changed with their latest, a real step forward that's a catchy and crunchy collection of "heartland power pop". The infectious "Back to You" opens things up, recalling The Gin Blossoms and The BoDeans, while the rollicking title track and "Again and Again" bring The Old 97s to mind. Other standouts include the near-ballad "Smile" and the wonderful "Hands are Tied", which recalls Big Star's janglier moments. It's always nice when a band you kind of like puts out an album you really like, and Finest Grain has done it here.

CD Baby | iTunes

I don't have an embed, but you can listen to whole thing here.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Weekend Roundup.

Bubble Gum Orchestra-The Discovery. A 2013 release I missed was the latest from Michael Hildebrandt, a/k/a Bubble Gum Orchestra. As there haven't been any hints of Bleu and Mike Viola reconstituting L.E.O., this is where you'll have to get your fix of new "ELO" music. As on his previous releases, Hildebrandt is anything but subtle with his ELO homages and the title of this disc alone indicates that. So it wouldn't be a surprise that the best track on the disc is an "Evil Woman"-styled proto-disco/rock track called "Evil, Evil Girl". Other treats include ihe jaunty "Lovely Days, Lovely Nights", which has a hint of "Mr. Blue Sky" about it; the frenetic "There Goes My Baby", and the catchy "Until You Say Go". Fun stuff, and since Jeff Lynne isn't going to be walking through that door anytime soon, a must for ELO fans.

CD Baby | iTunes

Baby Scream-Greatest Failures. Juan Pablo Mazzola has had enough releases as Baby Scream to warrant his first-ever compilation, which he's self-deprecatingly titled Greatest Failures. While they may be "failures" from a commercial perspective, there's no failure of quality here and for those who have until now been immune to the charms of his Lennon-esque musical stylings this is a great opportunity to catch up. Thanks to Bandcamp, you can visit (or re-visit) all these tracks yourself, but if you want to know my favorites they're the languid "Mars", the sneering rocker "Every Day (I Die a Little Bit)", the gentle and melodic "The Riots", and the twisty "Nicole". How does the old song go? "I scream, you scream, we all scream for Baby Scream".

Bandcamp | iTunes