Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Midweek Roundup.

Edward O'Connell-Vanishing Act. Edward O'Connell's Our Little Secret was the power pop find of 2010, an assured debut arriving out of nowhere to claim the #3 slot on my year-end list. Four years later he's released the followup, and it strides confidently in the footsteps of its predecessor. If you missed out on the debut in 2010 or (less likely) forgot about it, O'Connell specializes in Nick Lowe/Tom Petty/Elvis Costello pop'n'roll and Vanishing Act is another 12 tracks of quality. This becomes immediately apparent with the opener "My Dumb Luck", an Elvis C-style track with an effortless melody that aging rock critics would be writing about with reverence had it come out in 1979. "Lonely Crowd" is another winner with a chorus backed by driving, Petty-like guitar, and "What Have You Done?" is a mini-masterpiece with a transcendent middle-eight (or bridge). Elsewhere, fiddle and pedal steel make "I'm the Man" a nice, country-tinged track and the minor key of "Yesterday's World" gives it an early 80s Squeeze/Smithereens feel. As with the debut, it's almost folly to single out individual tracks as every one of them has something to offer. Speaking of offers, Kool Kat has this disc exclusively before its official release date next week, and they're offering to throw in Our Little Secret with each purchase. Even if you already have the debut, take this deal and give a copy of it to a friend who appreciates good music.

Kool Kat | CD Baby/iTunes links to come

The Paul and John-Inner Sunset. While an obvious Beatles reference, The Paul and John are also the first names of Paul Myers and John Moremen who have teamed up to give us a fine debut EP that, yes, owes a bit to the more famous Paul and John but has other influences as well. Many of you may know Moremen from his solo records and his time as guitarist for The Orange Peels, and Myers was the man behind the Toronto power pop group The Gravelberrys as well as an author of biographies of Todd Rundgren and Long John Baldry. Thankfully the record lives up to their respective CVs. After the 20-second McCartneyesque "Inner Sunrise", we segue into the wonderful "Everything Comes Together", a glorious acoustic guitar-based track that reminds me of The Autumn Defense at their poppiest with some Byrdsian jangle throw in. "Long Way Back" rocks a bit harder and makes good use of the principals' harmonies, and the title track with its stacatto beat and British Invasion melody sounds like the soundtrack to a parade down Carnaby Street. An excellent debut and a nice companion piece to the Edward O'Connell disc reviewed above.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Friday Roundup.

Mike Barnett-Everybody Gets to Dream. Mike Barnett has been entertaining us for the last several years with his brand of George Harrison/Traveling Wilburys-style pop/rock, and on his latest he finds a kindred spirit in producer Salim Nourallah, whose Hit Parade was my favorite album of 2012 and was itself a Beatlesque tour de force. Nourallah applies his sonic flourishes to Barnett's heretofore low-fi sound and the result is Barnett's best album to date. Opener "Who Loves You Blue?" is a nod to Harrison himself, both in the title and with Barnett's use of slide guitar, "I Could Fall" and "Late at Night" benefit from the Nourallah production with some jaunty keyboard use, while the title track is one of Barnett's most contemplative and sublime tracks. There isn't a bad track here, and the lovely piece of chamber pop "To You" closes things out with a smile on your face. Don't miss out on this one.

CD Baby | iTunes

Marble Party-Plush Up. Marble Party is a San Francisco band with a power pop sound that's both modern and retro. The driving lid-lifter "Afterglow" aligns them with the Weezers of the world, "About Her" channels Squeeze and the extraordinary "Song from the Coast" with its tinges of psychedelia recalls The Beatles by way of The Red Button. Never afraid to genre-hop, they turn to country rock to fine results on "Stuck in the Middle", complete with steel guitar, and close things out with the piano-based Jellyfish-esque "Prove Me Wrong". Showing a clever mastery of various power pop styles, Marble Party is one of my favorite finds of 2014 to date.

CD Baby | iTunes

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Power pop on Amazon Prime.

Last week Amazon added a music streaming component to their Prime membership program. For those who already subscribe to a service like Spotify or Rdio or Beats, Prime Music is nothing impressive, given it contains about 5-10% of the number of tracks offered by those services. But for those like me who already have an Amazon Prime membership but don't subscribe to one of the established services, it's a nice add-on that you're not paying extra for.

But what makes it a little tough to use is that there's no real good way to find out which artists/albums/songs it carries without checking them individually to see if they can be added to your Prime library. So in that spirit, and to help out those who have Prime and are power pop fans, I've compiled a list of power pop that I've found available for streaming on the service. By no means is this list exhaustive, and there are some quirks in that sometimes full albums are available but in other instances only certain songs from an album is available. Anywhere, here's what I have so far in the realm of contemporary power pop with some other notables included. If you know of some others, please mention them in the comments.

Apples in Stereo - most of their catalog prior to their two most recent releases. Includes the #1 Hits Explosion comp.
Army Navy - S/T and The Last Place
BC Camplight - most of Hide, Run Away
Ben Folds/Ben Folds Five - Rockin' the Suburbs, Whatever and Ever Amen, The Sound of the Life of the Mind, Live, most of the Best Imitation comp.
Big Star - Third/Sister Lovers
Bill Lloyd - Boy King of Tokyo the only full album, but lots of tracks from others
Bleu - A Watched Pot + several from Besides
Brendan Benson - You Were Right, What Kind of Love
Butch Walker - Butch Walker & The Black Widows
Cheap Trick - Greatest Hits, Dream Police, In Color, Heaven Tonight, The Latest
Cliff Hillis - Better Living Through Compression
Cotton Mather - The Big Picture, several tracks from Kon Tiki
Curtains for You - several tracks from two most recent albums
David Mead - Dudes, Almost and Always, Live at Schuba's (2006)
Electric Soft Parade - The Human Body EP, several from Holes in the Wall and The American Adventure
Everybody Else - S/T debut and Wanderlust
The Exploding Hearts - Guitar Romantic, Shattered
The Format - Interventions & Lullabies
Fountains of Wayne - Sky Full of Holes
fun. - Some Nights, Aim & Ignite
Future Clouds and Radar - S/T
Geoff Smith - Gravity
Gigolo Aunts - several tracks
Household Names - Picture in My Head, several other tracks
Jack's Mannequin - Everything in Transit
Jason Karaban - most of Shift
Jeff Larson - Room for Summer
Jeff Lynne - Armchair Theatre
Jeremy Messersmith - The Reluctant Graveyard, The Silver City
Jet - Get Born
Jim Boggia - Fidelity is the Enemy
Josh Fix - This Town is Starting to Make Me Angry, most of Free at Last
Ken Stringfellow - Touched
Kyle Vincent - most of Where You Are
L.E.O. - most of Alpacas Orgling
Locksley - S/T
The Meadows - assorted tracks
Mike Ruekberg - Acrimony & Cheese
Mike Viola - Electro de Perfecto, Acoustic de Perfecto
The Raconteurs - Broken Boy Soldiers
The Red Button - She's About to Cross My Mind, As Far as Yesterday Goes
Rick Altizer - various tracks
Seth Swirsky - Watercolor Day
The Silver Seas - Chateau Revenge, Alaska, High Society
Sloan - Navy Blues, One Chord to Another, Twice Removed, various other tracks
Smash Palace - Fast Long Loud, most of Do it Again, others
The Spongetones - Number Nine, many others including most of Always Carry On comp
Steven Wright-Mark - My Plastic World, Pop Motel, Sideshow Freak
Title Tracks - In Blank, It Was Easy
Todd Herfindal - Right Here Now, most of Collective, others
Wanderlust - Record Time
Wiretree - Bouldin, Get Up

Friday, June 13, 2014

Friday Roundup.

The Legal Matters-The Legal Matters. Some of my favorite power pop over the last decade has come from the Detroit area, be it Chris Richards or Andy Reed (solo and as An American Underdog) or Nick Piunti. So it's great to see them team up as the "supergroup" The Legal Matters. Richards, Reed and Keith Klingensmith make up the core of the group, with Piunti adding some of his fine guitar work. The results are as you'd expect: one power pop gem after another, from Richards shining on the opener "Rite of Spring" (pure midtempo melodic bliss) to Reed on the George Harrisonesque "Have You Changed Your Mind?" to the three-part harmony of the ballad "Mary Anne". Often supergroups turn out to be a disappointment, but these guys are at the very least the sum of their parts and definite year-end list contenders.

CD Baby | iTunes

Andy Kentler-No Love Lost. Andy Kentler hails from Down Under and before No Love Lost had one solo album to his name in 2004, so he isn't exactly a household name in the power pop community. But after coming across this album, maybe he should be. His music is a fusion of Tom Petty, The Kinks and Big Star and there are plenty of standout tracks here. "Gettin' on Home" opens the album in Petty style, tough and melodic. "Big Hits & Misses" is brash, radio-ready power pop with a big hooky chorus, and "Marnie & Stan" tells the story of a couple of the run in rocking fashion (with "ooh-la-la-la" backing vocals). Kentler saves the best for the latter part of the album, with "Walk Out on Me" pure power pop in the vein of the aforementioned Chris Richards, and the catchy "Nobody's Fool" closing things out.

CD Baby | iTunes

Friday, June 06, 2014

Quick notes on new stuff.

New Hot Nun single! Jeff Shelton and the guys (including the legendary Nash T. Habit) are back with a new single by way of follow-up to last year's rocking good album. This one's called "A Little Too" and can be found on Bandcamp.


Jay Gonzalez-The Bitter Suite. When he's working his main gig playing keyboards for Drive-By Truckers, Jay Gonzalez plays power pop on the side as we saw with 2012's Mess of Happiness. Inspired by Abbey Road, Jay's put together a 13-minute song medley called The Bitter Suite, which he wants to release on vinyl. Hence his Kickstarter project which is about 2/3 of the way to its goal. Support his muse, readers of Absolute Powerpop, and check out the video below:

Friday, May 23, 2014

Memorial Day Weekend Roundup.

The Squires of the Subterrain-S/T. Christopher Earl and friends are back with another trippy release of psych-pop. Unlike their previous release (Sandbox) which applied their psych-pop to Beach Boys-styled tunes, their self-titled latest finds them trading 60s California for 60s London, with Merseypop delights like "History" and "This Charming Place" and the so-goofy-you-know-what-it-sounds-like-by-the-title "Private Gherkin's Psychedelic Silly Mustache Band". Other highlights include the near-jangly (for them) "Attitude and Altitude", and the piano-based, Beatlesque "If Memory Served". But the real treat here is "From Getting High (to a Higher Power)", which manages to encapsulate the pop styles of the big 3 Bs of the era (Beatles, Beach Boys, Byrds) in one track. This just might be their best album to date.

CD Baby | iTunes

High on Stress-Leaving MPLS. We've been following these Minneapolis rockers from almost the beginning in the middle part of the last decade, so it's sad to hear that Leaving MPLS is the last batch of their Replacements-meet-early-Wilco songcraft. But at least Nick Leet & Co. go out on a high note. "Windy City Endings" (with a chorus reminiscent of the 'Mats "I'll Be You") is a great, tuneful rocker, while "Gimme Truth" might be the closest they've come to a classic power ballad. And the wonderful country-folk-rock of the title track captures their spirit perfectly, ensuring we'll miss them down the line.

CD Baby

Friday, May 09, 2014

Weekend Roundup.

The Metal Babies-Ghostly. Taking their name from a classic Teenage Fanclub track, this Australian band follows up the promise of their 2012 debut EP with a fine full-length. And despite their name, this isn't a TF tribute band but instead a combination of power pop styles from jangle to roots rock. Having said that, opener "Spat" could easily pass for a TF track with its melancholy mid-tempo melody and chiming guitars. It's followed up by the aptly-titled "Great", which is a top-drawer jangle-rock number which starts off smooth and rocks out in the end. Elsewhere, highlights included the lovely "Make a Start", the Replacements-rock of "Explanations" (clocking in at 1:01) and the title track, and the Pernice Brothers-esque "All a Waste of Time". An impressive effort from these guys, and this one should end up comfortably in the top half of my year-end list.

CD Baby | iTunes

Dropkick-Homeward. Speaking of bands influenced by Teenage Fanclub, the prolific Scottish band Dropkick return with their annual/biennial release, and Homeward is a fine addition to the canon of brothers Andrew & Alastair Taylor. They don't reinvent the wheel here, so it's safe to say that if you enjoyed any of their previous releases, you'll want this one. Opener "Come Home" has a lovely, laid-back feel that would have been right at home on the latest Autumn Defense album, "Halfway Round Again" jangles like there's no tomorrow, and "Jump Start" boasts a great chorus and organ-based hook. The album closes with the pretty ballad "Carry Me Home", a tune which would make Mark Olson and Gary Louris proud. Already looking forward to the next one in a year or so.

Bandcampwith Vinyl & CD options