Sunday, January 31, 2016

Saul Zonana - Live From Studio Z

Every January I look forward to combing through the "Best Of" lists from my favorite blogs.   It's always exciting to discover Power Pop releases you missed (even if its a bit discouraging that you missed them).   I particularly love combing through the "Best of" lists from Steve at Absolute Powerpop and Aaron's Powerpopaholic blog and I always appreciate Aaron's posting of David Bash's expansive Top 125 list.

This year, I've particularity been enjoying a couple of 2015 releases I missed. I'm loving "Make Me Over" by A Fragile Tomorrow.  Quite a step for that young band.   I'm also loving the latest album from Saul Zonana, "Devolving".   Saul is a favorite of mine and his latest album is just great. It should have easily made into my top Power Pop albums last year, had I not missed it.  Only nine tracks this time but eveyone a gem.

I've loved every release Saul's made in his 15 year recording career.  He always manages to weave in great chord progressions into smart pop songs. In recent years, he's incorporate some prog elements but he hasn't lost his pop smarts.  I'd recommend every album he's released.  Saul does a great job of distributing his music and you can purchase almost every track he's released on his web site.    I've compiled just a few tracks he hasn't officially released.  These are the audio from several "live in the studio videos" that he recorded in his home studio in Nashville last year. Great tracks.  If you don't know Saul's music, consider these a taster.  You'll want to purchase the rest of this talented artist's catalog.

1 Boogyman
2 I Gotta Go
3 Foreverandever
4 Shame Of It
5 What I'm Lookin' For
6 Notice (Live)
7 Will You Down (Live)

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Top 25 Power Pop Releases of 2015

Well this year flew by and so did December. I'm taking a chance that I'll miss a great one squeaking in under the wire in the last few days of the year, none-the-less, here is my first pass at the top 25 for 2015:

1. Taylor Locke - Time Stands Still
A remarkably coherent record from start to finish. Taylor Lock's first solo record is an homage to 1970's pop. Great songs throughout.  I played this all year. My favorite this year.

2. Caddy - The Better End
The latest effort from Norwegian popper Tomas Dahl is a stunner and transcends his previous punkier efforts.   This one slows down and takes us beyond the Teenage Fanclub references to an album that stands up to constant listening.  Beautiful songs with great arrangements.

3. Pugwash - Play This Intimately as If Among Friends
The latest by Thomas Walsh and the crew is wonderful even if it was unexpectedly mellow. Still Pugwash seems to be able to do no wrong. One of the years best - as usual!

4. Adam Levy - Naubinway
The first solo effort from the Honeydogs singer songwriter Adam Levy is dedicated to his son, who took his own life. But to be sure Naubinway is a wonderful life-affirming record. Great melodies abound even as Levy works through the tragedy.

5. Reno Bo - Lessons From a Shooting Star
The sophomore effort by Nashville based singer Reno Bo is a classy rocker with good variety.   At different times, the album sounds like Dave Edmunds, Tom Petty or Tommy Keene. Loved this one.

6. Steve Robinson and Ed Woltil - Cycles
The duet record from former Ditchflower Ed Woltil and British guitar player Steve Robinson is a triumph, full of pastoral songs that recall late era XTC.  Great throughout.

7. Michael Carpenter - The Big Radio
I don't get why this record is supposed to be Michael Carpenter's "last" album.  He is still in top form and this one is one of his best..  Solid roots rock with poppy touches at a new high level.  Say it isn't so Michael!

8. Cloud Eleven - Record Collection
It's been 9 years since the last record from Rick Gallego.  Just like each of the four efforts that precedes it, this one is full of smooth poppy tunes that sound like summer (think the beach boys).  Glad to hear a new one from Rick.

9. Secret Trees - Till We Find Ourselves
I always love to come upon new albums by new artist and this album is a jewel  The group checks an obvious influence by covering Tears for Fears.  Amazing production for a such a new band.

10. Jared Lekites and The Lunar Laugh - Apollo
The new duet project by Jared Lekite and partner Connor Anderson is a step change from the earlier efforts from Lekites.  The songs are great and recording is stellar.   I added the singles that Jared released this year to fortify the short album.

11. The Maureens - Bang The Drum
This second album by the Dutch pop gains unexpected depth.  The first album sounded like a Swedish Power Pop album from the 90s.  This one adds lots of harmony vocals and evokes a 70's soft rock vibe.  Very nice.

12. The Grip Weeds - How I Won the War
The latest album by prolific New Jersey psych popsters rocks.  This band keeps getting better and better.

13. Chris Stamey - Euphoria
Stamey's last album "Lovesick Blues" was a quiet chamber pop affair but this latest one is as nakedly poppy as anything he's done in his long career.

14. Coke Belda  - Nummer Zwei
The most "Swedish" of Power Pop albums comes from Germany this year.  Coke Belda solicited help from former Merrymaker David Myhr.   A very good idea and a very good album.

15. Tommy Keene - Laugh In The Dark
I don't know how often we say that "Tommy Keene is back" but this album is as good as anything he's ever done. Great classic Power Pop from Tommy as usual.

16. Brandon Schott - Crayons and Angels
Brandon Schott has produced a great album that channel his pure chamber pop vocals in a number of settings.

17. The Nines - Night Surfer and the Cassette Kids
Interesting direction by Steve Eggers.  It sounds like he's been listening to his old copy of XTC's Black Sea.  Punkier than before, Egger's can't help but pen great songs whatever the setting.  I also liked the two EPs that The Nines put out.

18. Kurt Baker - Play It Cool
Our favorite Maine based rocker has a new collection of 3 minute gems - and its very good.  No one does this type of thing better.

19. Michael Sherwood & Christian Nesmith  - Groovy Lemon Pie
Evidently this album has been in process for several years.   It is dense and full of dramitic Power Pop. Very ambitious through messy at times, this one tries to channel Jellyfish.

20. Elvyn - Valley of the Kilowatt Hour
Though its been 5 years since Elvyn's last album the Canadian band is in fine form.   This one has a Fountains of Wayne vibe.

21. Greg Pope - Fanboy
A new one by Greg Pope promises rockin' pop fun. This one does not disappoint.

22. Three Hour Tour - Action and Heroes
It's great to hear a new one from Champaign Illinois rockers.   This album rocks hard though the chord patterns recall the Beatles less this time.

23. Jimmy Haber - Joy Acid Pact
I really liked this psychedelic rave up.  Lots of fun.  A new power pop dance party by a Beatles and Who fan.  This one shows some real development compared to his last.

24. The Junior League - Also Rans
Though I wasn't expecting such a rockin effort from Joe Adragna since his last effort was more subdued.   A true return to form.  Nice effort with novel chord patterns.

25. Ryan Hamilton - Hell Of a Day
Though Wyatt Funderburk issued an odds and sods compilation this year, we didn't get any new material.   However Wyatt used his talents to produce the solo effort by Ryan Hamilton.   "Hell of a Day" has a similar vibe to Wyatt's work with slick production and Fountains of Wayne tongue and cheek pop tunes.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Catching Up With KC Bowman

Time to check in with Blog favorite KC Bowman.  KC has spent the last four years involved in a new set of projects; the Agony Aunts, Pop4 and the Corner Laughers. in those projects KC writes and performs but often takes a back seat on vocals.  

Even as he has supported these other projects, KC has continued to cut his own tracks, recently concentrating on covering tunes by others.  He's been kind enough to post these as a series of free downloads but I've included a compilation of the tracks for a concentrated listen.  Dive into the special world of KC Bowman.  Always great fun.

1 Optimist John
2 Old Trope Academy
3 Geishas
4 Don't Be Shy (Cat Stevens Cover)
5 Twenty-Four Meransers (Twirl Radio Mix of Agony Aunts Track)
6 The Brakes of Your Brain
7 Smothered in Hugs (Guided By Voices Cover)
8 Delusions
9 Super 8 (Jason Isbell Cover)
10 Ponciest Pilot
11 Somebody Wants to Love You (Partridge Family Cover)
12 The Super Bad Report (Soft Buttrock Reboot)
13 Medical Time
14 Fool in the Rain
15 Talk "Til It Rhymes
16 Let's Be Still (The Head and The Heart Cover)
17 Helium (Does The Rest)
18 Enlightens Sevens
19 Canada USA
20 Tractor Rape Chain
21 Joy (Phish Cover)

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Acoustic Mann

My October post is a compilation of acoustic tracks by Aimee Mann. Most of these tracks were recorded early in Aimee's solo career during the early 1990s, a time when she was co-writing songs with Jon Brion and Jules Shear.   In my opinion, they are some of Aimee's best and benefit from these stripped down arrangements.   The initial bunch were taken from a bonus CD that accompanied the German release of Whatever.  Waiting for the next Aimee Mann release....

1 I Should've Known
2 Say Anything
3 Stupid Thing
4 That's Just What You Are
5 The Other End (Of The Telescope)
6 Sugarcoated
7 I've Had It
8 Put Me On Top
9 Voices Carry
10 Fifty Years After The Fair
11 Save Me
12 Freeway
13 Ghost World
14 4th of July
15 Little Bombs
16 Could've Been Anyone
17 Girls Talk

Sunday, September 13, 2015

A Buddy Judge Sampler

Buddy Judge is an enigmatic figure in the history of Power Pop. Perhaps best known as one of the three singers in the Power Pop supergroup the Grays, Buddy's first recording was in 1988 with his band "The Buddy System". in 1994, he joined forces with Jason Falkner, Jon Brion and Dan McCarroll to form the short lived supergroup "the Grays".   The Grays sole album "Ro Sham Bo" is a personal favorite of mine and of many Power Pop fans.  After the breakup of the Grays, Buddy released his one and only solo album "Profiles in Clownhenge" a quirky concept album about clowns and the circus, scored replete with tubas and calliopes. (Actually though a weird concept, the album is wonderful and well worth looking for.)

Buddy spends the later half of the nineties as an indispensable sideman for Aimee Mann and Michael Penn among others.  He worked with Aimee on her Bachelor No. 2 and Magnolia albums and becomes interested in scoring movies and TV.  And that's what he's been concentrating on since then.   Most recently he seems (along with Jim Boggia) to have been caught up in the burgeoning Power Pop Ukulele scene(!) and he co-leads the The Ukulele Orchestra of the Western Hemisphere group.

Below is a long standing project to incorporate some of the most fun incidental instrumental music from Buddy's along with some rare tracks from his long career.   I've included some of the extra tracks at the end of Buddy's "Profiles in Clownhenge" solo record along with some solo and group demo tracks by Buddy and the Grays.   Loyal Gray fans probably have most of these tracks but perhaps will enjoy the (relatively) new solo tune from 2012 along with the soundtrack material incorporated.  For those new to Buddy, there are lots of great songs to enjoy.  Let's hope we get another installment of great music from this talented musician.

1 Vision - Bonus track from "Profiles in Clownhenge"
2 Just Another Girl - Bonus track from "Profiles in Clownhenge"
3 Flower Girl - Soundtrack Instrumental from "Flower Girl"
4 The Alt-Waltz - Soundtrack Instrumental
5 I Found You - From 2012 "Mother's Day" single
6 It's a Picnic  - Soundtrack instrumental From "According to Spencer"
7 Beautiful People - Bonus track by The Buddy System
8 Animal Spy Jazz - Soundtrack instrumental
9 Oh Nevermind - Single from "The Buddy System"
10 The Levy Waltz - Soundtrack instrumental from "Sir! No Sir!"
11 Complicated - B-Side Rolling Stones cover by the Grays
12 Nothing - Grays demo track
13 This is Forever - Soundtrack instrumental from "Flower Girl"
14 A Perfect Day - Extra track from "Profiles in Clownhenge"
14 In The Bath - Soundtrack instrumental from "Disturbing the Peace"
16 Everybody's World - Demo version
17 Sitting Curbside - Soundtrack instrumental from "According to Spencer"
18 Oh Nevermind - Outtake grays version
19 Nothing - Grays acoustic version
20 Umbrella Dancers - Soundtrack instrumental From "Certifiably Jonathan"
21 Complicated - Live version of Stones track by the Ukulele Orchestra of the Western Hemisphere
22 We Are Going to the Hukilau - Solo Ukulele track

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Eric Matthews - Lids, Nails, and Screws

Exciting news last year that Eric Matthews had added his Chamber Pop talents to the cross continental collaboration project Sheloom.  The idea of Eric working with multi-instrumentalist Jordon Zadorozny (the mastermind behind Blinker the Star) and Italian singer Filippo Gaetani promises great things.

The new threesome produced one terrific Eric track and as these things often go, the new album promised for 2014 has yet to materialize.   Until that time, I've put together my second Eric rarities compilation (I've re-upped the first).  Thanks to Mick and Eric himself for sharing many of these tracks.

1 It Takes a Wrecking Ball - New (as yet unreleased) Sheloom track featuring Eric on vocals
2 Too Old to Fall in Love - From R. Stevie Moore Tribute "Best of 'Copy Me': RSM Tribute Project"
3 We're Open Tonight - Unreleased Paul McCartney cover
4 Exactly Like Them - Track from unreleased album "Too Much World"
5 Stellar Stranger - Japanese bonus track from "The Lateness of the Hour"
6 Lids, Nails, and Screws - B-side of "Fanfare" EP
7 The Big Side of You- Japanese bonus track from "Six Kinds of Passion Looking For an Exit"
8 Shop Girl - Unreleased Instrumental written by Mark Eitzel
9 So Clean - Japanese bonus track from "Six Kinds of Passion Looking For an Exit"
10 Pink - Track from unreleased album "Too Much World"
11 Show Me - Unreleased ABC cover
12 Untitled - Japanese bonus track from "The Lateness of the Hour"
13 A Certain Kind - B-side of "Fanfare" EP
14 Every Christian Lion Hearted Man - Solo demo of Bee Gees cover
15 If We Lived on Top of the Mountain - Pizzicato One track featuring Eric on vocals

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Pugwash - Play This Intimately

It's almost time for the new Pugwash album "Play This Intimately (As If Among Friends)" drops on September 4th and its likely to be one of the best of the year.   Not much more that hasn't been said about Thomas and the gang.  Probably the best artists recording Power Pop today.   Everything we've heard from the new album on the Pledgemusic site has been top shelf.  Can't wait - but I've been listening to this live studio session from last year to tide me over.  The recording quality is excellent and it serves as a live "best of" compilation. looking forward to the new one on September 4th.

1 Take Me Away
2 Answers On a Postcard
3 Fall Down
4 Here
5 There You Are
6 Dear Belinda
7 Apples
8 Wait Till The Morning Sunshine
9 The Finer Things in Life
10 Be My Friend in Life
11 It's Nice to be Nice