Thursday, December 30, 2010

The first of many 2010 oversights.

I'm sure I'll have many oversights from 2010 list, and here's one that comes to mind right now: Truth Is from Nick Young. Young's name may not be familiar, but the band he went solo from may be - Burning Daylight. Their 2007 Whiskey & Romances was a Popicana delight, and so is this album. I don't have time to give it a proper review, so just trust your own ears and give it a listen below:

CD Baby | iTunes

The Absolute Powerpop Top 10 EPs of 2010.

As promised but a little late, here is our Top 10 EP list for 2010. Also I'm proud to announce for the third straight year, David Bash's exhaustive year-end lists will be featured on this site. Look for 'em by mid-January.

10. The Young Tremors-Very Nice, Very Nice
9. Will Reid-Promises and Failures (This year's example of someone doing the Ryan Adams sound better than Ryan Adams himself)
8. Misfit Kid-Hellway to High
7. Creighton Doane-Pilot Error
6. Baby Scream-Identity Theft
5. Jared Lekites-Looking for Diamonds
4. The 88-No One Here
3. The Foreign Films-The Foreign Films EP
2. Justin Kline-Triangle
1. Beight-B8.

My #1 came out late in the year, so I didn't have a chance to get a review in. It's the followup to 2005's File in Rhythm for Brad Senne's side project, and it's excellent indie pop that has power pop elements to it. I can still hear "Cecilia" in my head as I type this. Here's an iTunes link as well:

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Absolute Powerpop Top 100 of 2010, #50-1

Without further ado, here's part two:

50. The Candles-Between the Sounds
49. Orange & Atlas-Euphoria
48. Brady Harris-Year of the Pug
47. Archie Powell & The Exports-Skip Work
46. Leo London-Leo London
45. Chris Abad-No Glory
44. Marc Danzeisen-Released
43. The Moving Parts-State Lines
42. Kurt Hagardorn-Leaves
41. Ian Olvera & The Sleepwalkers-The Reckless Kind
40. Marc Clayton & The Lazy Suns-Marc Clayton & The Lazy Suns
39. Smash Palace-7
38. Butch Walker-I Liked it Better When You Had No Heart
37. Buva-Not Scary! Friendly
36. Pernice Brothers-Goodbye, Killer
35. Joel Streeter-Matador
34. Neil Nathan-The Distance Calls
33. The June Gloom-Wonderland
32. The Great Affairs-The Great Affairs
31. Brother Slade-No Relation
30. Justin Currie-The Great War
29. Gin Blossoms-No Chocolate Cake
28. Oranjuly-Oranjuly
27. Joey Sykes-Human, Being Human
26. Huw Jacob-Higher Every Day
25. Aaron Fox & The Reliables-Late Too Soon
24. Graydon-Graydon
23. Brett Harris-Man of Few Words
22. Secret Powers-Lies & Fairy Tales
21. Farrah-Farrah
20. Title Tracks-It Was Easy
19. Taylor Locke & The Roughs-Grain & Grape
18. Joe Adragna-Fall Back
17. Sunrise Highway-Sunrise Highway
16. Dino-Fool's Gold
15. Seth Swirsky-Watercolor Day
14. The June-Green Fields & Rain
13. Eric Crugnale-Carol Was Here
12. John Holk & The Sequins-If You See Her
11. Slumberjet-Slumberjet
10. The Posies-Blood/Candy
9. Joe Reyes-Worry Row
8. Lannie Flowers-Circles
7. Bastards of Melody-Hurry Up and Wait
6. Billy Goodrum-Weightless
5. Timmy Sean-Music From & Inspired By Noisewater
4. Elvyn-The Decline
3. Edward O'Connell-Our Little Secret
2. Duncan Maitland-Lullabies for the 21st Century
1. The Autumn Defense-Once Around

A few words on my choice for #1. First off, it may come as a surprise to many of you since I never actually reviewed it on the site (although those who follow my Twitter feed saw me praise it more than once). The reason for this is that The Autumn Defense, being a relatively well-known act featuring two members of Wilco, don't exactly need a review from me to get noticed. Generally I spend my time on this site bringing to light the obscure and the overlooked and the independent, DIY pop artist.

Having said that, though, I'd be remiss not to point out what I loved so much about this album. It's the ultimate distillation of their sound - they finally embraced their folk/rock leanings and combined them with the melodic, 70s soft-rock sound they've cultivated over the last decade. Previously they had leaned too fair in one direction (folk/rock 2001's The Green Hour) or the other (2003's Bread-inspired Circles) or forgot the distinctive tunes altogether (I cannot recall one song from 2007's self-titled album). Here, they start off strong with possibly my favorite song of the year, the Beatlesque "Back of My Mind", continue strong with "Tell Me What You Want", the rare song where relatively unmelodic verses strengthen the powerful, propulsive chorus, add the Pearlfishers-like "The Swallows of London Town", the mellow and inviting "Step Easy" and the perfect chamber pop of "Every Day", which favorably recalls their all-time best track "Bluebirds Fall" (from a split EP with Hem). For 11 songs, John Stirratt & Pat Sansone finally live up to their potential.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Absolute Powerpop Top 100 of 2010, #100-51

Hard to believe this is fifth year of Absolute Powerpop, and the fifth year of making this list. I've had the privilege of listening to hundreds of excellent discs, and my iTunes library sits somewhere around 38,000 tracks, about 95% of which is from these five years. For today, here is the bottom half of the list:

100. Wild Bores-We Think Alike
99. The Mike Benign Compulsion-Rollicking Musical
98. Rob Laufer-Excruciating Bliss
97. The Offbeat-In Love Field
96. Miracord-In Water
95. Mark Bacino-Queens English
94. Phil Ayoub-Arrivals & Departures
93. Joe Moralez-If I Could
92. Crowded House-Intriguer
91. Snakehips-Month of Sundays
90. Free Energy-Stuck on Nothing
89. Zombies of the Stratosphere-Ordinary People
88. Picture Day-Wild Aim
87. Miles Kurosky-The Desert of Shallow Effects
86. Magic Kids-Memphis
85. Geoff Smith-That's Gravity
84. True Love-¡Pas Net!
83. Well Wishers-Post Modern Romantic
82. The Figgs-The Man Who Fights Himself
81. The Romeo Flynns-Masque of Anarchy
80. The Bradburys-Don't Pump the Swingset
79. The Bulletproof Vests-Attack!
78. The Tangerines-In Season
77. Scott's Garage-Soul Magnet
76. The Great Affairs-Ricky Took the Wheels.
75. The Young Veins-Take a Vacation!
74. Mick Rhodes-'Til I Am Dust
73. Jackdaw4-The Eternal Struggle for Justice
72. Knit Delicate-Fulton Hill
71. Bleu-Four
70. Matthew Pop-Reinventing the Cosmos
69. The Big Sweet-Shot of Bliss
68. The Sails-A Headful of Stars
67. Eric Miller-Half of Purple
66. Tom Fuller Band-Maristar
65. Ted Lukas & The Misled-Learn How to Fall
64. Teenage Fanclub-Shadows
63. Taylor Locke & The Roughs-Marathon
62. Willie Nile-The Innocent Ones
61. Gavin Guss-Mercury Mine
60. Freedy Johnston-Rain on the City
59. The Silver Seas-Cheateau Revenge
58. Any Version of Me-Wasted Sun
57. Rich McCulley-Starting All Over Again
56. Michael Behm-Eargasm
55. Ike-Tie the Know With All You Got
54. Three Hour Tour-Looking for Tomorrow
53. The 88-The 88
52. Damien Lott-Damien Lott
51. The Passports-Is it True?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Top 100 coming soon.

Just a heads up for those looking that my Top 100 list should be up starting Thursday, probably in two chunks with 100-51 first and then 50-1 on Friday. I do reserve the right to shorten or lengthen it once I've gone back through the year's releases. The EP list will follow between Christmas and New Year's.

A note for those wondering: Greg Pope's dominance of these lists (#1 disc of 2008, #1 EP of 2009) will take a pause this year as his new disc came out just too late for 2010 purposes (last Monday) and will instead be considered for 2011.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Two for Tuesday, 12/14/10

Eric Crugnale-Carol Was Here. Getting in under the wire for my 2010 year-end list (which is coming next week) is Long Island's Eric Crugnale and his excellent debut Carol Was Here. This is fully-realized mature pop in the vein of David Mead and Seth Swirsky, and the lovely, Bacharachian title track draws you in right from the start. "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" is smart guitar pop, and "I'm So Glad" has a soulful feel to it that recalls Scot Sax & Wanderlust. There's no doubt that the whole album sounds like something unearthed from the 1970s, and the production from Kevin Bents (whose The Means was a favorite of ours a couple of years back) is top-notch. Other highlights include the bouncy, catchy "Unreliable Friend", the McCartneyesque 1:39-in-length "Never Thought", and the gentle, inspiring "Leave Your Worries Behind", which sounds like an oft-covered standard but isn't. A mightily impressive debut that sounds more like the work of a 20-year pro.

CD Baby | Official Site | iTunes

Baby Scream-Baby Scream. Baby Scream is Argentina's Juan Pablo Mozzolla, and he's become a regular around these parts with a full-length, and EP and now another full-length in space of about 2 years. If you like the first two releases, you'll love this one, and if you missed them this is a good a place to start as any. The Teenage Fanclub-ish "Powerpop Crush" announces Mozzolla's intent, and the moody "Exile" is a treat. Additionally, the martial, staccato "Getting Better"-like beat of "Mental Case" is irresistible and the social conscience of "Watching the End of the World (on TV)" is backed up by its intelligent melody and structure. Mozzolla has been known to channel John Lennon in his vocal style, and "What About You" finds him channeling the snarling Lennon of "How Do You Sleep" to good effect. Another high-quality outing that wears its influences well.

MySpace | iTunes | CD/Vinyl (from England)

Monday, December 13, 2010

New Greg Pope album - free! (for a week)

Wow - a nice holiday gift for everyone: the new Greg Pope album Blue Ocean Sky, and it's free for the downloading until December 20th. I haven't had a chance to listen yet, but unless he's now into death metal or Yoko Ono-like screeching, it should be great.

Download it at his official site.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

CD of the Day, 12/7/10: Various Artists-A Kool Kat Kristmas

With Not Lame sadly out of the picture, Kool Kat continues to take the power pop ball and run with it and they've leveraged their impressive stable of artists to come up with what not is only the best power pop Christmas album you've heard, but perhaps one of the best albums of the year.

Each artist contributed an original tune, and they all play to their strengths. Maple Mars' "Christmas Time in the City" celebrates Christmas in LA, the lyrical opposite of "White Christmas"; The Smith Brothers give us their signature breezy pop with "Every Day is Like Christmas", and Mike Giblin and Parallax Project's "All I Want for Christmas is a Chance" might be one of their best tracks ever. Meanwhile, Keith LuBrant's "The Christmas Spirit" is an energetic highlight, The Strands' "The Christmas Gifts" is a Ramones-like ode to finding where your parents hid the gifts, and Frank Royster serves up his usual fine retro-pop with "Christmas is Fun".

The real standouts, though, are a couple of somewhat tongue-in-cheek tracks. The Britannicas go for some old-school country rock with "Chris Hillman Christmas", in which they'd "rather listen to Jesus than to Wilco" and they'd "rather go back to jail than to see the Eagles reform again". And closing out the disc is The Goldbergs' "Channukah Guy", in which Andy Goldberg professes his love for all the trappings of Christmas, and is catchy as anything he's done (which is saying something).

And not only does A Kool Kat Kristmas have the tunes, but its heart is in the right place:
$5 FROM EVERY CD SOLD WILL BE DONATED TO THE SUSAN GIBLIN FOUNDATION: The late wife of Mike Giblin of Parallax Project, Susan Kroah Giblin held degrees both as a Paralegal and as a Certified Veterinary Technician, a degree that she obtained after going back to school at the age of 35. As one of Central PA's greatest friends to cast-off and wayward animals, she was a 17 year volunteer at the Helen O. Krause Animal Foundation, and served as its medical coordinator for nearly a decade. She also maintained a fostering room in her home which was rarely empty, and was well-known for her compassion, empathy, and personal connection with both patients and their owners. The Susan Giblin Foundation for Animal Wellness and Welfare was formed to honor the memory and continue the work of Susan Giblin, a Certified Veterinary Technician and noted animal advocate, who passed away from leukemia at the age of 46. The Foundation's mission is to raise and dispense funds to support animal caregiving organizations, to foster awareness and education of complementary therapies, and to support the continued education of those in the animal medical field

Between the quality power pop and the great cause, this is the one power pop disc to buy this holiday season above all others.

Kool Kat | Kool Kat Kristmas MySpace Page

Friday, December 03, 2010

Latest from Kool Kat.

Two new releases from Kool Kat worth checking out:

Blank Pages-Absolute Uncertainty. These Jersey power poppers graced the pages of the site almost three years ago with On My Street, and now they've jumped from one Jersey power pop label (FDR) to another with their latest. There's nothing flashy about these guys (check out the album cover) - instead, this is the kind of straight-ahead, no-frills power pop we all know and love. "Let it All Out" might just be the best unintentional ode to power pop as frontman Greg Potter sings of "A stolen verse, a clever line/a borrowed story, a silly rhyme". "Help Me" is another fun rocker, the midtempo "This Way" knows its way around a hook, and "I've Said All I Can Say" says it all. If you pick this up from Kool Kat, they'll throw in a bonus disc titled "The Early Years" that features unreleased Blank Pages tracks from the 90s.

Kool Kat | CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

The Sterling Loons-March to the Tune. Some of you may be familiar with this Seattle band from their groovy 2004 debut What to Do In Trouble, and six years later they're back with the followup. This is classic 60s Nuggets-styled pop (surprised that Rainbow Quartz didn't nab them) that mixes psychedelia, power pop and garage. Opener "Old Nick" is a good dose of Freakbeat fun, while "Morning Sunshine" channels the sound of what could be a slightly off-kilter Kinks. Elsewhere, the Loons show their variety with the somewhat C&W-sounding "Simple Life", the mod sounds of "Beauty's Eyeing the Beholder" and the Merseyside pop of "All Aboard". A 60s-inspired tour-de-force, this is one tune you'll want to march to. And yes, Kool Kat has a bonus disc for this one too with seven unreleased tracks.

Kool Kat | MySpace

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Free "new" Fountains of Wayne track.

For a special on NPR's All Things Considered, Fountains of Wayne took the circa-1890 poem "Song of the Passaic" and set it to their own style of music. The song is available as a free download from their official site, so go get it!

Monday, November 29, 2010

CD of the Day, 11/29/10: Joe Adragna-Fall Back

If the name Joe Adragna doesn't leap right out at you, it's because he's been recording for the past few years as The Junior League, with two fine discs under his belt. Now he's decided to claim his own name, and earlier this year he released a best-of the two Junior League discs titled Parlophony. For his first Joe Adragna album proper he's taken a slightly more introspective approach from the Marshall Crenshaw-styled power pop of the League, enlisting the help of Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey, who need no introduction.

The Buck/McCaughey influence is most notably heard on the janglicious "You're Gonna Die Alone", the disc's best track. Combining Rickenbackers and the vitriol of an Elvis Costello with a catchy melody (and featuring harmony vocals from Susan Cowsill), it's almost worth the price of admission alone. Along those lines, "Leave Me Resigned" also has that early-REM/Young Fresh Fellows feel, and the shuffling "Ladders" recalls Bobby Sutliff. It's not all fun and jangle, though. The moody opener "In a Place (Looking Around)" recalls Salim Nourallah with a slight touch of electronica, the laid-back, beautiful "Like Nothing Else" feels like comfortable clothes put on after a hard workday, and "Far Away" is an outright country weeper, complete with pedal steel.

Adragna comes in for the finish with "Swezey's", a return of the jangle, the feedback-drenched "Depot Park", and the bright and breezy "Help, It's Strange", which is right in his sweet spot. The title track closes things out on a perfect note, a combination of regret, hope and those jangly guitars as it fades to a "bah-dop-bah" refrain. Adragna has really taken a leap forward here, and I can see why he chose to release this under his own name.

CD Baby | Bandcamp | iTunes

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Popicana Weekend.

John Holk & The Sequins-If You See Her. One of the most pleasant surprises I've come across in a while, this Detroit band with a fondness for vintage Western wear and sweet Jayhawks/Gram Parsons-styled melodies has released the twang-pop record of the year. If You See Here is one gloriously melodic track after another, from the opener "No Other Way" to the jangly title track to the wonderfully gentle "Carry the Load", a thematic cousin to "The Weight". But the top track here is "Autograph", a catchy clever number with wonderful harmonies that would make Gram & Emmylou proud. I've thrown around to phrase "year-end top 10" more than ten times this year, but this one is guaranteed a spot. If I can make an analogy, what The Red Button was to 60s Britpop, John Holk & The Sequins are to early 70s country-pop.

CD Baby | Bandcamp | iTunes

And they have good taste in covers, too. Here they are with a live version of "September Gurls":

Brother Slade-No Relation. This Tennessee band wears their hearts and lifestyle on their collective sleeve with a rockin, honky-tonkin' collection of fun, melodic tunes. So often I've compared the sound of bands like this to Tom Petty, but here they cut out the middleman by calling the opening track "Tom Petty Song", and it's one of my favorite tracks of the year, both sounding like Petty and name-dropping him of course (amusingly rhyming him with "yeti" in the process). Songs like "Girl with a Mobile Home", "Look What the Trailer Park Drug In" and "Too Hot to BBQ" are pretty self-explanatory, but they'll stick in your head as well. And "Time Well Wasted" and "You Are the Train" a pair of well-written, well-performed country-rock gems. You can say this one Slade me.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes | eMusic

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Two for Tuesday, 11/23/10

The Brigadier-The Secret of No Success. The power pop concept album about life in an office isn't exactly a novel concept as recent releases from Greg Pope's Edmund's Crown, Owen Sartori and Semion have demonstrated, but in our world the tune comes first. And Matt Williams (a/k/a The Brigadier) puts a tuneful spin on the topic with his latest opus, nowhere more evident than in the jaunty opening track "Doing the 9 to 5", which sees Williams moving away from the Brian Wilson-via-XTC sound of his previous releases into something more along the lines of Badly Drawn Boy. Other standouts include the irresistible (and rocking, as far as Williams goes) "Just a Little Kiss Miss Busy", the George Harrison-inspired title track, and the catchy "Money is the Motivator". His previous releases have been consistent, but here the highs are higher (especially the tracks mentioned here), making this the best Brigadier yet.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

Blake Jones & The Trike Shop-The Underground Garden. My only previous exposure to Blake Jones & The Trike Shop was on an IPO compilation before he sent me his latest full-length, and until now the loss has been mine. This is buoyant, just plain fun and catchy as all get-out pop that draws on everything from dance-hall English pop to the Beatles and Brian Wilson (cf. "The Five Deadly Fingers of Dr. Theremin") with a touch of Zappa thrown in. The fun-house Beatles of "Forestiere Gardens" will leave it's "oh yeah" refrain burned into your brain, the shambolic "Sing Along" will have you doing just that, and "Sun Up" starts as a rewrite of "Magical Mystery Tour" then takes its own magical mystery tour into a synth-pop break and then back again. Some tracks are just plain goofy, like "Fighting the Big Dumb Noise" and "Here Comes the Bus", while others are sublime, like "Send the Band to Liverpool" an amalgam of various styles of 60s pop. If you can get past the quirk factor, there's a lot to like here. And even if some of the tracks here might be goofs, there are 15 of them and anyone with taste in power pop should be able to come up with 10 they'll really like.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes | eMusic

Monday, November 22, 2010

It's a Giant Party!

Kyle Vincent and Tommy Dunbar of the Rubinoos are big San Fransisco Giants fans and in honor of the Giants' World Series win earlier this month, they've recorded "It's a Giant Party". It's a pretty good tune, unless of course you're a Texas Rangers fan.

It's also available on CD Baby for download.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

New David Mead on the way.

David Mead was one of my favorite artists of the previous decade-plus, from brilliant albums like The Luxury of Time, Mine and Yours and Indiana, as well as one my favorite EPs of all-time in 2005's Wherever You Are. His output of late has been a little more erratic; I couldn't get into his side project Elle Macho and while Almost and Always (his last proper album from early 2009) had its moments, it was a bit too easy listening for my tastes (and that's saying something consider how much mellow stuff I like).

Anyway, he's back with a new album he's going to start recording in January titled Dudes and the most exciting aspect of it for me is that he's enlisting Fountains of Wayne's Adam Schlesinger (who produced Mine and Yours) to help out, so I'm hoping it'll be a more "traditional" David Mead album that leans somewhat to the rock/power pop side of things rather than Sinatra/Streisand territory. Mead, not unlike Bleu and Michael Carpenter before him, is offering a series of packages in order to fund the recording that get you all kinds of goodies - from $15 to get the album early to $100 to listen to demos and have input into which are selected for the album, all the way to $2500 where he comes to your house and plays a set. Here's a video telling you all about it:

Too bad Weezer beat him to putting Jorge Garcia on the cover; he would have been perfect for an album titled Dudes.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Two for Tuesday, 11/16/10

The June-Green Fields and Rain. Rainbow Quartz has had a great second half of 2010, with new releases from the likes of The Volebeats, The High Dials, The Parties and The Gurus, but the cream of the crop is Green Fields and Rain, the sophomore effort from Parma, Italy's The June. This is a Grade-A mix of psychedelia and Beatles-pop not unlike some of Noel Gallagher's more poppier offerings in Oasis. The sitars and "Tomorrow Never Knows"-like opener "Feel the Sunshine" is a treat, as is the Merseyside pop of "Good News" (replete with a Beatles-like "oooo" in the chorus). "Pete on the Street" is an irresistible pop confection, and "I'm Looking Out" recalls "Strawberry Fields Forever", favorably. I'm not always the biggest fan of bands going blatantly retro, but these guys have the songs to back it up. You have my permission to swoon over The June.

MySpace | iTunes | eMusic

Lannie Flowers-Circles. A couple of years ago, Texas' Lannie Flowers released "Same Old Story" which was essentially a medley of 36 songs of about one minute each. It received a lot of love in the power pop community but didn't make my lists since it didn't lend itself to my preferred listening habits of shuffling the most recent two months of albums I come across. It was either listen to it all the way through to the exclusion of other stuff, or have one-minute out-of-context snippets pop up randomly in my playlist. It was more my problem than Lannie's, so I'm thrilled to report he's released a new album which consists of 15 proper 3-4 minute tracks. And the talent he showed in 60-second bursts has transitioned nicely to full-length songs as Circles is another year-end contender for me. The title track is killer power pop in the vein of Jason Falkner and Jim Boggia, "Turn Up Your Radio" will have you doing just that (assuming it played stuff as good as this), and "Not in Love" might just be the quintessential power pop track with its straight-up hooks and handclaps. Circle this one on your shopping list.

CD Baby
| MySpace | iTunes | eMusic

A sad day in Power Pop.

Not Lame is closing its doors.

It didn't come as a shock, with the less frequent updates on the site and the steady stream of "blowout" sales as well as the general malaise in the CD-selling business, but it's a sad day nonetheless.

Bruce Brodeen has probably done more for power pop than anyone over the last 10-15 years, and Not Lame will be missed. Here's a video from him explaining his decision (Note that NL's last day will actually be November 24, not the October 31 mentioned in the video)

As always, Bruce has more irons in the fire, and if you want to stay in touch with him regarding his new projects, head over to this page and give him your email address.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

CD of the Day, 11/10/10: Bastards of Melody-Hurry Up and Wait

Time for a shout out to the FDR label, the "other" power pop label from New Jersey (we all know and love Kool Kat). They don't release a high volume of discs, but the ones they do are usually really good, and the latest from NYC's Bastards of Melody is one of their best. The Bastards have been kicking around since the late 90s, but this is their first release since 2003 and it's a gem. This is high-energy yet highly melodic, closer to the classic definition of "power pop" than most others.

What makes Hurry Up and Wait closest to the power pop ethos is its brevity: 9 tracks spanning 30 minutes, with no filler or self-indulgent detours. The chiming, driving opener "Around You" gets down to business quickly, with its sing-a-long chorus and insistent guitar riff. "All I Want to Know" continues in this vein, with a bit of a Beatle sound thrown in (primarily in the killer bridge), and "Dream Jeannine" has a bit more retro power pop sound, recalling The Telepathic Butterflies.

The laid-back "Flunkin' Out" allows the listener to catch his breath after the powerful opening troika with its effortless midtempo sound, while "Exit 10" and its "Getting Better"-like staccato beat and chipper melody is another treat. The guitars are out in full force again on "Cut and Paste", a Lolas, Cheap Trick-styled rocker, and "Gateway Center" is straight-up jangle pop not unlike their regional counterparts Smash Palace. And the boys send you home with the frantic pop-punk of "Unproductive" just in case you were thinking the proceedings might be on the verge of mellowing out. "Power pop like the way it was meant to be" could be the Bastards' slogan, as there's nothing inglorious about this excellent disc.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes | eMusic | Listen at official site

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Sunday Night Roundup.

Ice Cutters-Ice Cutters.The Ice Cutters hail from Wales, and their debut disc is a fine survey of British pop and British-inspired pop. Every time I hear one of their tunes, I'm reminded of someone else, be it Crowded House, Oasis, The Pearlfishers, Trashcan Sinatras, you name it. Plenty to like here from the baroque pop of "Passion and Violence", the Teenage Fanclub-like "Carry the Dream Away", and the rocking "This is a Job". They also don't shy away from the social issues, tackling immigration in "Crossing the Border" and war in "When I Was a Soldier", without coming off too strident. A pleasant surprise.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes | eMusic

The Moving Parts-State Lines. The Moving Parts are led by Columbus, Ohio's Keith Jenkins, who released a pretty good solo EP in 2006 with the Parts as his backing band, but now the band comes front and center on the full length in another fine release of Midwestern-styled power pop/rock. You'll think of The Replacements, Goo Goo Dolls, and early Wilco when listening to this one, especially on the stellar opener "A Few Things", one of the better examples of this style you'll hear this year. "Disappearing Act" has the same kind of driven melancholy you'll find on Westerberg solo albums, while "Heartache vs. Disaster" adds some catchy Gin Blossoms-like melodies to the mix. Also make sure you check out "After I Confess", which has kind of a "big", Foo Fighters-type sound, and the relentless "Worth the Risk". A definite keeper.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes | eMusic

Thursday, November 04, 2010

EP of the Day, 11/4/10: The Foreign Films EP.

Bill Majoros a/k/a The Foreign Films gave us one of the pop masterpieces of the decade with 2007's double-disc Distant Star, and his long-awaited followup is nearing the light of the day. To give us a taste, he's released a free EP on Bandcamp that's a preview of the new album due in the spring. These four new tracks will certainly whet your appetite - "Fire from Spark" has the psychedelic majesty of Distant Star, "City of Bright Lights" has a New Pornographers-like urgency to it, "Imperfect Perfection" has the feel of a James Bond theme from a parallel universe, and "A Message" compares well to Radiohead. And did I mention it was free? Enough blabber, here's the link.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Two for Tuesday, 11/2/10

Buva-Not Scary! Friendly. Tom Wolfe a/k/a Buva is back with the followup to 2006's All This Humming, and Not Scary! Friendly builds on the mellow strengths of that disc and the punchier pop of his debut EP Daydream to give us his most fully realized collection to date. There's a lot to like here, from the ambling Beatlesque shuffle of "Smoke into the Sky" to the bright Dan Bryk-like power pop of "Can't Stop Thinking" to the lovely "Hide Away" to the Badfinger pop of "Funny Faces". And the one-two punch of "Too Tired to Fight" and "You" about midway through tops them all. Best of all, if you pick this up from Not Lame you'll get All This Humming thrown in as well - a Buvariffic deal!

Not Lame | MySpace |

The Great Affairs-Ricky Took the Wheels. The Great Affairs are led by Denny Smith, formerly of fORMER, whose "loud" power pop we reviewed here last year. Unlike fORMER, though, The Great Affairs have a more laid-back "Popicana" sound not unlike The Meadows, or the poppier side of Paul Westerberg. Ricky Took the Wheels is actually their second album, with their self-titled debut out late last year, and like the fine debut this has plenty to offer. "Feels Like Home" is as good as this style of pop gets, featuring jangly guitars and hooks and melodies galore, while "So Damn High" and "You're Not Funny" rock in the Tom Petty vein. Smith and crew know their way around a ballad, too, as "My Apologies" and "A Hundred Other Things" demonstrate clearly. And "Last Good Memory" closes the disc as it began, with an excellent roots rocker.

Kool Kat | MySpace | iTunes

Friday, October 29, 2010

CD of the Day, 10/29/10: Slumberjet-Slumberjet

The latest entrant into the subgenre of British power pop that started with XTC and continues to this day with the likes of Pugwash, Captain Wilberforce and Duncan Maitland is Slumberjet. Although technically they're not British (they hail from Dublin), Barry O'Brien and the lads have given us an impressive debut album and yet another best-of-2010 contender. O'Brien may be familiar to a select few of you thanks to his excellent 2004 EP, Spark, and here he and his band build on Spark's promise.

"The Strangest Game" starts off the festivities, a propulsive pop tune that features some fine keyboard work from the aforementioned Mr. Maitland. "The Letter" follows, a catchy midtempo treat, and on its heels is the album's most ambitious track, the excellent ballad "Sisters in the Sky". Eric Matthews contributes the brass & strings, and Maitland's piano gives "Sisters" the feel of one of XTC's classic ballads like "Chalkhills & Children". "C Song" is a busy power pop number that has a Jason Falkner feel, and the melancholy "Cut Me Out" boasts more hooks than a coat rack.

The buoyant "Under the Waves" kicks off the second half of this disc, helped along by Matthews' horns, and "Gone" is a power pop pastiche of styles, showing off O'Brien's songwriting skill. "You Stole" is plainly the prettiest thing on the disc, another XTC-style ballad that features Matthews' fine work again (as well as his backing vocals). Closing things out, "Breakfast Time" is a punchy popper that reminds me of David Doll/Automat, "Truth" channels Pugwash (not surprising since two of his sidemen help make up Slumberjet), and "Thanks" is a trippy psychedelic tour de force with backwards guitars that sums up the album's strengths in four minutes even. It seems as though with every disc I review lately the competition for the year-end list gets fiercer and fiercer, and Slumberjet have certainly staked their claim.

CD Baby | MySpace

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

CD of the Day, 10/27/10: Three Hour Tour-Looking for Tomorrow

Darren Cooper's Three Hour Tour is back, and thankfully this time we didn't have to wait almost ten years like we did for 2008's B-Side Oblivion. Once again, Cooper enlists Adam Schmitt (who plays bass, co-produced, co-engineered and mastered) and Velvet Crush's Paul Chastain, and once again he's given us one of the year's best power pop albums.

What makes Looking for Tomorrow even better than B-Side Oblivion is Cooper's desire to punch things up a little more. The whole disc sounds loud, and leaps out of your speakers. "Pig in Disguise" is the clarion call here as Cooper "lays (his) cards on the table" with a high-energy rocker which recalls Guided by Voices. "For Now We Say Goodnight" cranks up the amps as well and features some excellent drumming from John Richardson, whose drumming resume reads like a who's who of power pop and Americana. We get a relative chance to catch our breath after that opening 1-2 with "On Television", a more midtempo track with a great chorus and fine guitar work from Cooper. And you won't want to escape from "Alcatraz", possibly the most Beatlesque track on the album, while "All Time Low" is another driving rocker.

Things don't fall off on the back end of the disc either. "All We Need" is a dense, Revolver-sounding winner, while the title track slows things a bit with acoustic guitars you can hear in service of a Badfingeresque anthemic melody. "Dead Reckoning" is outright jangle-rock with 12-string guitars and a Byrdsian melody, and "Gone" rocks as hard as anything else on the album. And in keeping with the spirit of the disc, Cooper closes the proceedings with a cover of the Who's "Heaven and Hell", and when put side-by-side with the rest of the album it could pass as an original for the unfamiliar. Brad Elvis channels Keith Moon on the drums here, and you can almost picture Cooper smashing his guitar at the end. Looking for Tomorrow is one of the year's best, and hopefully Cooper & Company will settle into a new album-every-2-or-3-years cycle, a tomorrow I'll be looking for.

Kool Kat | Not Lame | MySpace

Friday, October 22, 2010

CD of the Day, 10/22/10: Scott's Garage-Soul Magnet

One of my favorite discoveries of 2008 was Scott's Garage and their self-titled debut album which placed a very high #13 on my year-end list. Led by Scott Baird and Gary Hankins, the Garage has become one of the leading lights in Southern-styled power pop a la Mitch Easter, Let's Active and early R.E.M., and their brand-new followup Soul Magnet follows nicely from the debut and adds a touch of humor and (yes) soul to the mix.

Things kick off with the bright power pop of the title track, featuring some nice guitar work from Hankins (who also contributes lead vocals), and sounding like a Southern-styled Smithereens or Goldbergs. "The Girl With the Yippy Dog" brings a bit of Terry Anderson-styled humor to the mix, as our protagonist loves the girl but hates the dog ("I wish she had a Labrador", he laments). "December Stars" is a melodic gem, and the cheekiness continues with "You Were Such a Tool (I Remember High School)", a jangly power pop number that says what we'd all want to say to that certain person we unfortunately meet up again at a reunion (or these days on Facebook). "Kaledioscope" lets you know you've got a southern rock band on your hands, with a bit of a swamp boogie sound, and the midtempo "Wasting Time" has all the power ballad trappings. Speaking of Facebook, "Add Me as Your Friend"'s title speaks for itself, as Hankins does everything but mention Farmville in his ode to social media while still maintaining a catchy tune.

Elsewhere, "Rosetta Stone" sounds like a Mitch Easter/Don Dixon classic, "Underground" and "Time to Think" rock hard and melodic, and the uptempo "High Above the Fray" closes things on a high note in Chuck Berry style. Soul Magnet is a Southern-fried power pop treat, and you can enjoy with or without barbecue. The Garage is open.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes | eMusic

Monday, October 18, 2010

Monday roundup.

Back from hiatus!

Zombies of the Stratosphere-Ordinary People. Zombies are big these days in pop culture, and if there were any justice in the world the Zombies of the Stratosphere would be as well. This NYC band follows up their excellent 2007 debut The Well-Mannered Look with another collection of quality tunes suffused with a mid-to-late 60s Britpop sensibility, drawing from The Hollies, The Kinks and yes, The Zombies. "Our Life in Shadow Falls" manages a real XTC synthesis, combining Andy Partridge's pastoralism with Colin Moulding's chipper pop, the breezy pop of "Love Song 99" would sound great on an AM radio, and the title track brings a hint of psychedelia to the table. Elsewhere, "Peter Stokes" is the kind of character portrait for which Ray Davies was well-known, and "One Day Older" and "The Other Side of the World" are jaunty retro-pop. Lurch over to one of the links below and check these guys out.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes | eMusic

Orange & Atlas-Euphoria. Orange & Atlas is a Dallas-by-way-of-Oklahoma band fronted by Erick Orange and Atlas Levan, and they're another in a long line of Midwestern pop/rockers in the vein of Gin Blossoms and (a mellower) Fastball, and their latest release Euphoria is a treasure of mid-tempo pop. Opener "Drunk Love" sets the moody tone, and "This Letter" is pure pop bliss with a yearning melody and a vaguely jazzy feel. "I Fall" recalls the late great Wanderlust (Scot Sax's band), and "Kids Are Falling" has an anthemic quality to it. While this may invoke a mild Euphoria, it's a euphoria nonetheless.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes | eMusic

Thursday, October 07, 2010


I've become extremely busy at work, with a lot of spillage into non 9-to-5 hours, and I anticipate being so for next week as well. Therefore, I highly doubt I'll be able to post any new reviews during this time, so I thank you all for your patience and readership and I'll be posting again as I soon as I get the time to again.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Short takes.

Some quick thoughts on some quality music playing on my iPod/iPhone these days:

Tom Fuller Band-Maristar. I described Tom Fuller's sound as "Tom Petty meets Oasis" a couple of years back on his last album, and Maristar is more of the same goodness. McCartney guitarist and erstwhile power popper Brian Ray helps out here, and the standout tracks here are the trippy rocker "Anthem Man", "Merci Beaucoup", and the string-laden power ballad "Sacred Chamber". For those who like a little classic rock in their power pop, don't brush off Fuller. (UK-only CD release but available digitally in the USA)

MySpace | iTunes | eMusic

Quakers on Probation-Every Living Thing. Great band name here (I guess Amish Gone Wild was taken) for the threesome of Daniel Craig (when he's not playing James Bond), Graig Markel (the only Graig I've seen spell his name that way aside from Nettles), and Daniel Craig (the first Daniel Craig's son). Now that I've exhausted my monthly supply of parenthetical remarks, I'll get down to the business of telling you they play what they like to call "twangle-pop". I hear bits of everyone from the Wilburys to Brian Wilson to the Jayhawks to more obscure artists like Wilder Embry here, and just when you think they're a bunch of laid-back twangle-poppers they throw in a "Happy Birthday Fucker" in the middle of the opening track to make sure you're paying attention. Plus there's a cool cover of "Chevy Van", which just might be the original twangle-pop hit.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes | eMusic

Eric Miller-Half of Purple. First of all, I have no idea what "half of purple" means. Is it the "pur", the "ple" or some other color? Inscrutable album title aside, Miller serves up twelve tracks of classic singer-songwriter power pop, from the earnest yet catchy "Tears of Victoria" to the shuffling "Talking to Myself" to the exuberant rock of "Better Days" to the breezy pop of "Miranda Jane". It's really of a piece with the recent Edward O'Connell album I raved about a few weeks back, with that "mature" power pop sound.

CD Baby | MySpace (full album stream) | iTunes | eMusic

Broken Promise Keeper-Poptimized. With the best "pop"-pun title since Allen Devine's Poportunity, Broken Promise Keeper (a/k/a Atlanta's Rob Stuart) cranks out his annual slab of 80s-influenced power pop with the usual fine results. "Scarred for Life" opens things strongly, 2:20 of no-nonsense, no-let-up dB-styled pop, and "Hyperdriven" pretty much lives up to its title. The playful piano pop of "We Pray for Rain" is another standout, as is the jangly "Bittersweet". My only quibble is how can Stuart call himself Broken Promise Keeper when he's proved so reliable? I guess you can consider it an ironic appellation.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes | eMusic

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Two for Tuesday, 9/28/10

The 88-The 88. Freed from the constraints of their brief major label deal, The 88 continue to be prolific. Their latest, self-titled, release makes it two full-lengths and an EP since 2008's Not Only...But Also and so far they're not sacrificing quality in the process. "Center of the Sun" is the kind of punchy power pop they're known for; "They Ought to See You Know" has a real 70s feel, led by Adam Merrin's organ fills, and "After Hours" might be the quintessential 88 tune with its perky melody, Keith Slettedahl's up-front guitar and vocals and Merrin's ivory-tickling prominent. They also do the slower numbers well, with "As Far as I Can See" and album closer "Lost and Found" serving as Exhibits A & B. (Note: the album just wrapped up a 2-week exclusive on iTunes, and while it's on Napster now it hasn't shown up yet on eMusic)

MySpace | iTunes

Kurt Hagardorn-Leaves. When we last left Kurt Hagardorn in 2007, he gave us the fine Ten Singles and on the new followup he continues his winning (and somewhat unique) blend of Dream Pop, Roots Pop and Americana. The rootsy title track kicks things off in the fashion to be found here, with kind of a Jayhawks-style roosty gait, and "Tail Lights" has a bit of Traveling Wilburys feel to it. Speaking of the Wilburys, a definite influence here is Roy Orbison. "Blown Away" has that melodramatic retro feel to it, and the haunting "Heartbeat" (the standout track on the disc and one of my favorite tunes of the year) finds Hagardorn crooning to an ethereal melody that David Lynch could have worked into one of his films. Leaves is the perfect accompaniment to a rainy Sunday morning.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes | eMusic

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Two for Tuesday, 9/21/10

Joe Reyes-Worry Row. A few weeks ago, I tweeted about this disc as kind of an aside, but in the time since it's really grown on me. Joe Reyes is a music pro, having won a Grammy in 2002 for co-producing a Freddy Fender album and logging lots of studio time in the Texas pop scene playing with the likes of Buttercup and Salim Nourallah. Worry Row, his latest release, is a meticulously crafted, sophisticated pop platter that fans of Michael Penn and Jon Brion will love. The Beatlesque gait and Brion-like production of the title track will draw you in, "Don't Kid Yourself" channels Jim Boggia, and the melancholy "This Wicked Life" will have you mistaking Reyes for his buddy Nourallah. The swirling pop of "Became, Becoming, Became" also recalls Brion and "Unlikely" falls into Cliff Hillis territory. All of this name-dropping is here for a reason - to highlight the pop mastery Reyes displays here on a disc that's become one of my 2010 favorites.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes | eMusic

Rob Skane-Phantom Power Trip. We move from the studio wizardry of Joe Reyes to a more raw, rocking artist in Albany's Rob Skane. Drawing on inspirations like Nick Lowe, Graham Parker and Marshall Crenshaw, Skane's Phantom Power Trip will keep your hips shaking and your toes tapping while you rock and roll. "I Waited" is both a thematic and sonic cousin to Terry Anderson's "All Dressed Up" with The Yayhoos, "You Preach Peace" is primo roots rock, and "Girl Next Door" comes on like Dave Edmunds in Rockpile. And "The Idiot Show" would make Rockpile's other half, Lowe, proud. Get your roots on with this one.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes | eMusic

Sunday, September 19, 2010

CD of the Day, 9/19/10: Timmy Sean-Music From & Inspired By Noisewater.

I always liked Luzer, a power pop band whose output during the previous decade was excellent but sporadic. Back in 2000, they titled their debut album "Greatest Hits", a cheeky move if there ever was one. A decade later, their primary singer/songwriter Timmy Sean has gone solo, and although he's created his debut around an imaginary film called Noisewater he'd be less presumptuous to call this one "Greatest Hits" as it's a power pop tour de force.

After a bit of throat-clearing to advance the conceit (the a cappella "Intro" and the very cool near-instrumental "Noisewater Overture" that sounds like something found on an early ELO album), he gets down to the body of tunes. "Girl from Omaha" is a busy, catchy piano-backed tune that recalls McCartney's "Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five", and that's followed by "Can't Stop the World", a slightly baroque pop track that would fit nicely on a Jellyfish album. "If Your Mother Has Her Way" has the kind of manic piano energy in the vein of "Long Tall Glasses"-era Leo Sayer, and "What You Do" has Todd Rundgren written all over it.

The assured and rollicking power pop of "Don't Waste Your Time" is the most Luzer-sounding track on the album, "Hold On" borrows a bit from the verses of "Evil Woman" (sans its disco chorus), and the bombastic "Wait" closes out the proper song section of the disc with an amalgam of the 70s-inspired pop styles Sean (or is Timmy?) of the previous tracks. We then come back full circle with the "Noisewater Reprise", of a piece with the overture. Although Timmy Sean notes that he grew up in the 80s, the sound here represents the most enduring and beloved power pop styles of the decade previous, and is one of the new decade's most impressive pop discs.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes | eMusic

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Popboomerang on Bandcamp - Freebies Galore!

How does 44 free mp3s from one of the world's greatest power pop labels sound? That's what you can get by visiting Popboomerang's new Bandcamp page. They have two samplers up, one with 13 tracks and the other with 31, featuring artists many of you know and love, along with many others worth checking out. From Bryan Estepa to Russell Crawford to Adrian Whitehead to Grand Atlantic to The Wellingtons (and many more), you can't go wrong.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

CD of the Day, 9/14/10: Picture Day-Wild Aim

There's a certain subgrene of pop/power pop that I like to call "rainy day pop" - tuneful but subdued, hooky but not hyper. It's no coincidence that Picture Day, today's purveyor of rainy day pop, comes from the Pacific Northwest where rainfall is a way of life. Picture Day is the brainchild of The Green Pajamas' Eric Lichter, who wrote the songs here and had them performed by an impressive cast of friends including Ken Stringfellow and Jimm McIver. In many respects the sound here is similar to the Pajamas, only more down-to-earth and personal, despite the guest appearances.

The disc is highlighted by a pair of tracks that take a hard look at war. The brilliant "War Song" opens the disc, a gentle piano-and-acoustic-guitar based pop number that sets the mood for what's to come. Drawing its inspiration from WWII ("Buried in the deep dark frozen/hiding in the hills of France/scattered to the winds in Poland/resurfacing up by chance"), it's both haunting and ear-pleasing. Later in the album is the somber "Average Coming Home", a look at how tough coming home from war is on a soldier.

It's not all war on the battlefield, though. The war inside our hearts and minds is explored on "Mental Kiss", another moody pop gem with a British flavor, and the title track has a pastoral feel like mid-period Kinks or some of Andy Partridge's work in XTC. "God Replace" furthers the album's sophisticated pop milieu, and Stringfellow plays and sings on "Little Bigger", a lovely, stately ballad.

There are a few sonic detours here. "Piano Pins" marries a rapped lyric to a horn-backed rhythm section that sounds very Green Pajama-like, and "Ever Shining Super Effect" is the closest thing to power pop in the traditional sense. Things close in fine fashion with "Whispers Off The Radio", another languid-yet-melodic tune. Like the camera on the album cover, Picture Day captures a distinct feel and mood. It may not be California sunshine, but it's perfect for that rainy day. A definite sleeper candidate for our year-end lists.

CD Baby | MySpace

mp3: Average Coming Home

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

CD of the Day, 9/8/10: Ian Olvera & The Sleepwalkers-The Reckless Kind

After regaling us with his 2007 debut EP Some of Us Dream, Green Bay's Ian Olvera is back with his debut full-length The Reckless Kind, accompanied by his backing band The Sleepwalkers. The Reckless Kind builds on the promise of the EP with its polished Americana-influenced pop that splits the difference between The Jayhawks and Tom Petty.

The stomping "Darkest Weather" opens the album and it has that feeling you get driving the open roads of the Midwest, and it's followed by the poptastic "Sophie Lives Here", a rollicking hook factory. "Don't Want to Talk About It" has a Exile-era Stones/Petty feel to it, a la Wilco's "Monday", and speaking of that Chicago band, "Is This It" also recalls their early heyday with its pedal steel-fueled rock. But the real standout here is the languid "Laundry & Cigarettes", an anthemic ballad that could be a hit in an alternate universe.

Elsewhere, the Wallflowers-esque "Ain't Nobody as Lonely as You" and the lovely, spare "In the Morning" close out the album in fine fashion. The Reckless Kind is a worthy addition to your playlist, and it's always great to see an artist grown from EP to LP.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Labor Day Roundup.

The June Gloom-Wonderland. Calgary's Cameron Purvis has been consistently putting out one power pop/rock release after another, be it under his own name or as Wax Poets, featured here early last year. Purvis's latest project is The June Gloom and their debut Wonderland is one of 2010's best. For the unfamiliar, the most straight-up comparison is a slightly mellower Oasis or Jet, and here "Believe" is the equal or the better of those band's midtempo tracks, "Everything is Grey" stands up to "Don't Look Back in Anger" or "Look What You've Done", and "Lover" rocks with swagger. But what sets this apart as an advance on Purvis's previous releases are tracks like "Cabrini-Green", a song about the infamous Chicago housing projects, the wonderfully nostalgic "Swimming Song", and the catchy could-be-a-hit "If I Had a Bike". With this kind of track record, whatever Purvis wants to call his next project is fine with me - as long as he lets us know the name so we can find it.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes | eMusic

T. Kao-Old Music for Young Hearts. Following up on last week's EPs gone LP post which featured a pair of discs that contained earlier released EPs, we have T. Kao following suit, incorporating much of his 2008 Hundred Flowers EP into his debut full-length. The Ohio-by-way-of-Shanghai singer-songwriter is in the AM/Gus Black mold, and supplementing great tracks from the EP like "Sweet Surrender" and "Every Little Thing" are new tracks are the lovely ballad "Cherry Blossom Girl", the atmospheric "Sunday Morning Sleeping" and the melodic pop/rocker "Top of the World". You might have overlooked the EP a couple of years ago, but don't overlook this full-length, a fine example of a singer/songwriter a cut above.

CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Brought to you by the Letter "W".

William Duke-The Sunrise and The Night. San Franciscan William Duke first caught our attention in 2005 with his out-of-left-field The Ghost That Would Not Be, which showed he had the musical imagination and pop leanings to craft something other than cookie-cutter pop. Five years on (during which he's been a part of AbPow favorites The Bye Bye Blackbirds), he's back on the Kool Kat label with a more polished yet just-as-sophisticated release, The Sunrise and the Night. The prevailing sound here is dreamy California pop with a bit of a dark side, similar to Cloud Eleven and Pernice Brothers. The lovely "It's Only the Beginning" starts off the disc in fine fashion, "Keep Me in Your Thoughts" is another sunny 70s Cal-pop tune and "The Canyon" treads into Bread-meets-The-Autumn-Defense territory. Elsewhere, "A Moment in the Sun" jangles nicely a la Jeff Larson, and "You're Young and You'll Forget" sounds like McCartney in acoustic mode transplanted to California. The disc also features some fine instrumentals if that's your bag, and if you act now, Kool Kat is offering a 20-track bonus disc that features alternate takes and versions of the disc proper.

Kool Kat | CD Baby | MySpace | iTunes | eMusic

The Waylons-Out of Love. I missed this EP from late last year, but better late than never as they say. With a name like The Waylons, you know there has to be at least an alt-country or Americana component to their sound (you didn't think they were named after Waylon Smithers?), and that's true for this band straight outta Brooklyn. But that manage to hit that sweet spot of tunefulness with their incorporation of pop and indie rock to their sound as well, bringing to mind the aforementioned Pernice Brothers. Heck, even one track is titled "Endless Supplies", an apparent nod to "Endless Supply" from the Pernices' The World Won't End. "Lying in the Sun" is an interesting midtempo opener that's part The Wrens and part Gary Louris-led Jayhawks. "Disappear Me" hints at an Old 97s sound, the upbeat and catchy rocker "Spotlight" is another standout, and the melancholy "Rachel" is almost twee indie pop. A definite must for fans of these genres.

MySpace | iTunes | eMusic