Friday, February 05, 2016

Early February Roundup.

Joey Sykes-Classic New Rock. Those of us in the power pop community have known Joey Sykes over the years for his former band New English and his fine 2010 solo album Human, Being Human (which placed #27 on my year-end list then). Lately, though, he's been getting more exposure as the new guitarist for 70s/80s hitmakers The Babys, and with new fans on board he's released another solo album. The title both sums up Sykes' sound and his career and this is top shelf power pop that recalls the likes of Badfinger and Wanderlust (as well as solo Rob Bonfiglio). Not a bad track here, but "That's American Life", the piano-backed "When Life Goes Right" and the midtempo "Finish Line" are the standouts. One of 2016's best out of the gate.

Kool Kat

Johnny Stanec-Farewell, Sadness. Johnny Stanec is no stranger to this site, staying prolific over the last 6-7 years with numerous releases from his band First in Space, which broke up in 2014, and as a solo artist. His latest is another fine collection of Heartland pop/rock, somewhere in the sweet spot between Ryan Adams and The Gin Blossoms. So at one end you get singer-songwriter-styled tracks like the opener "Tired of Today" and the other there are quality rockers like "The Sky is Falling" and "Find Your Place". And "In Conclusion" is a perfect album closer, a wonderful track about finding humility in life.


The Four Chords-The Four Chords. I haven't been able to find out a whole lot about this band after finding them on Bandcamp, so I'll just let their music speak for themselves: Straight-ahead classic power pop that's implied by their one-chord-too-many name. Or as they put it, "The Four Chords have a keen pop sense and combine multi-part vocal harmonies with a large dose of over the top rock n' roll--power chords, big guitar solos and guilty pleasure arena rock." Just stream it below, and if you like you can name your price at Bandcamp.


Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Cleanup time.

Time to get in the 2016 swing with a quick look at some late 2015 releases I didn't get to in time and a few from the new year.

The Modulators-Try Try Try. Kool Kat released this one late in 2015, and it did manage to squeeze onto my year-end list. These guys have been around since 1980, and this is their second album after re-forming in 2009. Their sound is classic 70s/80s power pop with a bit of the "skinny tie" element. Standout tracks here include "Upper Hand" (with its recurring riff that reminds me of "Picture Book"), the jangly "What's on Your Mind", and "Lucky Stars", which would have been a hit in 1971. Get it a Kool Kat with a bonus EP.

Kool Kat

Hector & The Leaves-Little Bee EP. London's Tom Hector and his Leaves have given us 2016's first standout EP with four tracks of sunshine-y pop that I'd describe as Brian Wilson meets Badly Drawn Boy. Matt Williams (known to readers of this site as The Brigadier) helps out, and the best part is that EP is free to download on Bandcamp.


The Matt Truman Ego Trip-AM 1670 EP. And the second standout EP of 2016 comes from Ohio's Matt Truman. He says the EP is inspired by 1970's AM Radio, and that will be obvious once you take a listen. "Starry Eyes" and "Hard to Get" just the right mix of rock and melody a la Badfinger/The Raspberries, while "First Kiss" is just the right kind of mellow. And I swear I once had a receiver that looks just like the one on the cover.


One Like Son-Ugly. And finally we have the incredibly prolific One Like Son, who put out two albums in 2015 (New American Gothic and Classic) or four, if you count this one and Leftovers (an odds-and-ends collection) which were released to Bandcamp on December 31. This one's going on my 2016 ledger, and it's a bit of a departure for the boys who normally go the high-energy route with their sound. In fact you could say the title's ironic as this might be the prettiest collection of tunes they've released, from the father-and-son-themed opener "Crimes and Misdemeanors", to the nearly folky "Stella" to the power balladry of "Midwest Summer Nights". When most artists go years between releases, these guys keep cranking them out and so far the quality has kept pace with the quantity. Guess I'll be writing about them again in six months.


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Absolute Powerpop Top 100 of 2015, #1-50

So here it is, the top 50 of 2015. 51-100 can be found here, and the year's top EPs are coming tomorrow. One special mention that I didn't include in the list was Jon Latham's Real Bad News. It's an Americana/alt-country album that probably didn't fit in on a power pop list (although it's a fine line involved in leaving it off, given some other selections). Had I included it, it would have been in the middle of the top 10. Some other random thoughts: If this really is Michael Carpenter's last album, he's going out on top; if someone told me at the beginning of the year that Bryan Adams would make my top 10 I would have laughed, but I enjoyed his new Jeff Lynne-produced album more than the one from the man himself; Mitch Gettman is an artist I haven't written about, but I've really enjoyed his last few albums, so I'll advise you to check him out; and it didn't get much buzz, but warhorse singer-songwriter Freedy Johnston came back with his best album since his early-mid 90s heyday. Finally, you probably already have, but if you haven't check out Powerpopaholic's top 25 of the year as well. Our top two are the same (albeit in different order), along with 3 others that both make our top 10. And then we each have some the other doesn't list at all, proving that there's a ton of great music out there from 2015. Here's hoping 2016 lives up to its predecessor.

1. Michael Carpenter-The Big Radio
2. Reno Bo-Lessons from a Shooting Star
3. Mooner-Masterpiece
4. Wade Jackson-Whiskey Alpha Delta Echo
5. Elvyn-Valley of the Kilowatt Hour
6. Nick Piunti-Beyond the Static
7. Sam Vicari-Giving Up
8. Bryan Adams-Get Up
9. Martin Courtney-Many Moons
10. Coke Belda-Nummer Zwei
11. Tobias Jesso Jr-Goon
12. Pop4-Summer
13. Steve Robinson & Ed Woltil-Cycles
14. Three Hour Tour-Action and Heroes
15. Tad Overbaugh-Beauty & Barbed Wire
16. Marco Rea-Wallpaper Music
17. The Nines-Night Surfer & The Cassette Kids
18. Mitch Gettman-Dichotomy
19. Michael Collins-Last Laugh
20. Freedy Johnston-Neon Repairman
21. Jeff Lynne's ELO-Alone in the Universe
22. Minky Starshine-Pop Jewelry
23. Greg Pope-Fanboy
24. The Orange Humble Band-Depressing Beauty
25. The Ravines-Everything's Fine
26. Stereo Tiger-Two Weeks
27. The Junior League-Also Rans
28. Sports Fan-Minor Hits in Major Keys
29. Ryan Allen & His Extra Arms-Heart String Soul
30. Yorktown Lads-Songs About Girls and Other Disasters
31. Tommy Keene-Laugh in the Dark
32. Cloud Eleven-Record Collection
33. Zombies of the Stratosphere-In Technicolor
34. Kontiki Suite-The Greatest Show on Earth
35. The Roseline-Townie
36. Mark Pountney-Mark Two
37. The Small Square-S/T
38. Taylor Locke-Time Stands Still
39. Hidden Pictures-Ottomans
40. People on Vacation-The Chronicles of Tim Powers
41. Ocean Carolina-Maudlin Days
42. Brandon Schott-Crayons & Angels
43. Scot Sax & Suzie Brown-Our Album Doesn't Like You Either
44. Kevin Martin-Future Friends
45. Wilder Embry-Smolderoldingpictureaid
46. Kyle Vincent-Detour
47. Dan Israel-Dan
48. Billy Shaddox-I Melt, I Howl
49. Tom Rich-American Fantasy
50. Ryan Hamilton-Hell of a Day

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Absolute Powerpop Top 100 of 2015, #51-100.

Another year in the books, and it was an excellent one for power pop. Whereas last year I had to scrape up a top 75 instead of the full 100 for the first time in site history, this year I had to drop about 10-15 to make the cut for 100. The year-end list plan is as follows:

Today (12/28): #51-100
Tomorrow (12/29): #1-50
Wednesday (12/30): The top 15 EP list.

So here's #51-100:

51. John Faye-Meddling Kid
52. Mikal Cronin-MCIII
53. Caddy-The Better End
54. Steve Baskin-Dead Rock Star
55. The Supernaturals-360
56. Pugwash-Play This Intimately
57. Saul Zonana-Devolving
58. Chris Murphy-Ghost Town
59. Big Talk-Straight in No Kissin'
60. The Stereo Twins-Good News
61. Supraluxe-Morphine Creek
62. The Sylvia Platters-Make Glad the Day
63. The Grip Weeds-How I Won the War
64. Kurt Baker-Play it Cool
65. Noel Gallagher's High-Flying Birds-Chasing Yesterday
66. Jared Rabin-Something Left to Say
67. Daniel Wylie's Cosmic Rough Riders-Chrome Cassettes
68. Jonathan Rundman-Look Up
69. Timmy Sean-Songs of the Week
70. The Saucy Jacks-You Make Your Own World
71. Pasadena 68/Dakota Showdown-S/T
72. The Pollocks-Johnny Sunshine and the Rainbows
73. Nic Hessler-Soft Connections
74. Static in Verona-Odd Anthem
75. The Turnback-Are We There Yet?
76. The Fraidies-Try Again
77. Junebug-Pongo vs The Corporate Vampires
78. Benton Leachman-Bury the Hatchet
79. Summer Fiction-Himalaya
80. Honeywagen-Jamboree
81. Plastic Macca-Sensation
82. Blindswitch-S/T
83. Dragmatic-At Least We're Not Dead Yet
84. The Allrightniks-Two Places at One Time
85. All Day Sucker-Denim Days
86. Salim Nourallah-Skeleton Closet
87. Brian Jay Cline-Trick Photography
88. Justin Avery-Careless
89. Phil Yates & The Affiliates-No Need to Beg
90. Travel Lanes-Let's Begin to Start Again
91. The Modulators-Try Try Try
92. Jesse Valenzuela-Hotel Defeated
93. One Like Son-New American Gothic
94. Dave Rave & The Governors-Sweet American Music
95. Chris Cole & The Circus-Still Rolling With the Times
96. Baby Scream-Fan, Fan, Fan
97. William Bradford-S/T
98. Anthony Plain-Continuing on My Plan
99. Rob DeLion-Rolling Thunder
100. John Dunbar-From Expectation to Surrender

Friday, December 11, 2015

Mid-December Roundup.

Zombies of the Stratosphere-In Technicolor. Back with their third album and first since 2010's Ordinary People, NYC's Zombies of the Stratosphere (named after a 50s sci-fi serial) regale us again with another fine collection of Hollies/Kinks/Zombies-styled late-60s Britpop. "Poor Gallahad" is a great opener that you'd believe Ray Davies wrote, "Emily Lies" is first-rate psych-pop, and the title track is jangle heaven. Meanwhile "She's Counting the Days" might be a lost Left Banke track, and "Mr. Fairfax" would fit right in on a Nuggets compilation. So until a real time machine is invented, listening to this album is going to be the closest thing to traveling back to 1969.


Andy Reed-Relay Vol. 1. Longtime favorite Andy Reed returns with a new EP released under his own name (after the last few as An American Underdog) and it's full of the quality pop we've come to expect from him. "Dreaming of the West Coast" is a mid-tempo gem that has a dreamy quality, and the same can be said for "Love is Gone". The EP also features "Darlin, Don't You Know", released earlier as a single, and a cover of Sloan's "I Love a Long Goodbye" from their underrated album Pretty Together. Based on the fact the title of the EP says "Volume 1", I'm now looking forward to Volume 2.

Bandcamp | Kool Kat

Pasadena 68/Dakota Shakedown-Pasadena 68/Dakota Shakedown. We were wondering what Nick Leet's next move would be after the breakup of High on Stress, and now we know - a split full-length with his new band Pasadena 68 and his friend and former 90's bandmate Mike Hjelden's Dakota Shakedown, who share the same musical sensibility. In this case, that sensibility is classic Midwestern power pop/rock a la The Replacements and Gin Blossoms. Melodic rockers "This Day is Your Life and "Pardon the Mess" should dispel any concern about no new High on Stress music, and Dakota Shakedown's "Shut Out the Night" and "Slow Burn" are cut from the same cloth. Twice the rock, twice the fun.


Friday, November 20, 2015

Mid-November Roundup

Elvyn-Valley of the Kilowatt Hour. After releasing The Decline in early 2010, an album that so impressed me it ended up at #4 on my year-end list, Elvyn is finally back after 5 1/2 long years with Valley of the Kilowatt Hour, a followup that they had been teasing for over a couple of years now. They released the single "AM" in September 2013, and since then Valley has been one of my most anticipated albums. So was it worth the wait? The answer is pretty much yes. Following on with more of their sound which finds the sweet spot between power pop, classic rock and Americana, there are a number of excellent tracks to be found here. Opening single "Ellie" recalls Teenage Fanclub, "This is the End" is the kind of jangly power pop you'll hear from Tom Petty or Paul Westerberg, and "Here We Surrender" has a "Things We Said Today" Beatlesque feel to it. Elsewhere, "Landslide Cities" channels Sloan circa Navy Blues, "Turning Me Down" finds them going alt-country, and the poppy "True Luv Can't Hide" finds them at their melodic and harmonic best. Plus, "AM" still rocks two years later in its vaguely Smithereens-ish way. The bottom line: another top 10 finish this year seems assured.


Michael Carpenter-The Big Radio. And oh yeah, Michael Carpenter has a new album out too, his first release of all originals since 2009's Redemption #39. That's the good news. The bad news is he has said this will be his last solo album of new material. This would be a disappointment of course, but he's given us so much wonderful music over the last 15 years of so that I can't begrudge him moving to other endeavors. And if The Big Radio is his swan song, it's a helluva finale. Distilling everything we've come to love about his music (which would have made him a superstar in 1975), The Big Radio has one killer track after another, from the catchy opener "Don't Open the Door" to "She's in Love With Herself" and "I Kissed That Girl" (which put the power in "power pop") to "Chrissie Hynde", a tribute that honors her lyrically and musically. And "Run Away" might be my new favorite track of his. Most Michael Carpenter albums sound like a greatest hits album of songs you haven't heard yet, and The Big Radio is no exception, finding him at his best. Currently, it's only available as download from Bandcamp but will be on CD in January.