Sunday, December 24, 2017

Top 25 Power Pop Releases of 2017

In 2017, it seemed that Power Pop albums were released in fits and starts throughout the year.  Still, after I reflect back on this list, there were quite a lot of great efforts.

1. Pugwash - Silverlake
The latest masterpiece from Thomas Walsh is actually more of duet effort with Jason Falkner than a full band record..    As such, it benefits from somewhat amped up sound and leaner more aggressive playing.   Simply the most consistent and talented Power Pop singer recording today...

2. Bill DeMain - Transatlantic Romance
The first full length release from Swan Dive co-leader Bill DeMain is chock-full of sixties pop references to seminal artists like Harry Nilsson and Randy Newman. An unexpected delight of an album.

3. The Nines - Colour Radio (American Transistor)
Steve Eggers releases a lot of music and though all of it is worth listening, some releases hang together more than others.   This years's album did it for me.  Lots of nice studio experimentation.   Some sounds like McCartney, others like Stevie Wonder and always great songs.   The first tune a passable send up of "Do Ya" by the Move.

4. Chris Price - Stop Talking
LA based pop singer Chris Price keeps some pretty ratified company.   He's played with Taylor Locke and produced the comeback release from Emit Rhodes.  His first album was a pop masterpiece recorded entirely on an iPhone.  This years sophomore release is a beautiful, somewhat more serious affair.   Some really gorgeous songs here.

5. Sitcom Neighbor - Shag
The third release by rocker John Murphy is the best rocker on this year's list.  This album rocks from start to finish with hooks galore.

6. Mothboxer - The Secret Art of Saying Nothing
The latest Mothboxer starts in a heavier prog mode than prior efforts.   However by the back half of the album, leader Dave Ody is back to his tricks planting ear worms deep into your consciousness.  This one is worth listening all the way through.

7. Charles Jenkins and the Zhivagos - The Last Polaroid
The new one by former Ice Cream Hands singer Charles Jenkins is a return to Power Pop form.  Its the most brightest, most rockin' release for a number of years from the talented Mr. Jenkins.

8. Corin Ashley - Broken Biscuit
There is a dramatic story behind the new release from Corin Ashley.  He suffered a stroke while recording it and had to teach himself to play again.  This effort is the result his journey back.   Its a fine pop release on its own merits. A true return to form for Corn.

9. Cliff Hillis - Many Happy Returns
I'm on record as a big fan of Cliff Hillis.   This year was a repeat of last year.   Another "almost LP" that I surrounded with demos and outtakes Cliff released throughout the year.   Some great tunes here as usual.

10. Derrick Anderson - A World Of My Own
The solo record by Derrick Anderson, the singer of "The Andersons" is solid Power Pop hit.  Some tunes evoke The Wondermints.  Others rock like the Smithereens.   Not a note out of place on this one.

11. Plasticsoul - Therapy
I've written about this one a couple of months ago.   Songwriter Steven Wilson produces out a strong song cycle of John Lennon influenced rock.   In the Cotton Mather mode but Plastcisoul puts out the better album this year.

12. Jesse Terry – Stargazer
MOR Americana crooner Jess Terry surprises with an immaculately produced album that contains several exemplary Power Pop tracks among the well produced Americana.    This one has Jeff Lynne influenced strings.  Terry's voice is almost too perfect, evokes Kyle Vincent for me.   Worth checking out.

13. Ruby Free - Shades
The latest effort by Power Pop stalwart Rick Hromadka is a solid album and may be the best things he's produced to date.  Not a weak tune on it.

14. Cotton Mather - Wild Kingdom
The second collection of tunes that Robert Harrison recorded as part of his 64 tune Songs for the I Ching series is an uneven lot.   Not nearly as consistent as the first group "The Death of the Cool".   Still, Robert proves he is ever the pop genius.  Some wonderful tracks in here.

15. Blinker The Star - 8 Of Hearts
Prog Rocker Jordon Zadorozny takes a slight step towards electronica with his latest but in so doing simplifies his song writing.   This ends up being the most poppy Blinker The Star effort in a several years.

16. Aimee Mann - Mental Illness
Though Aimee Mann's latest effort doesn't blaze many new trails, it's her first solo album in 5 years.  Always enjoy Aimee's output.

17. The Wellingtons - End of the Summer
The best "summer" pop music comes from down under.  The Wellingtons know how to crank out the hooks and this one doesn't disappoint.  Some of the year's best singles came from this one.

18. Captain Wilberforce - Black Sky Thinking
Actually this one is the final version of an album that Captain Wilberforce leader Simon Bristoll has been releasing over the last couple years.   This version boasts some new tracks and a new order.   Really nice effort throughout.

19. Richard X. Heyman - Incognito
A new album by Richard X. Heyman is always cause for celebration.  Heyman has released another incite-full set of earnest pub rock.

20. The Lunar Laugh - Mama's Boy
This is the second group album from co-writers Jared Lekites, Connor Anderson and Campbell Youngm.   This one is a slightly more folky affair.   Lekites pop chops shine throughout the album.

21. Eric Matthews - Too Much World
This album was actually recorded back in 2008 but finally sees the light of day this year.   Its a fine chamber pop effort from Matthews.   Nobody really sounds like Matthews and I'm a big fan.

22. Rob Martinez - Today My Mind...Tomorrow the World
I enjoyed the sophomore effort by Rob Martinez.   More than anything in my list this year, this one recalls the golden days of Not Lame records.

23. Doug Tuttle - Peace Potato
Boston based indie rocker produces his third solo release and like the others it has Guided By Voices low fi vibe.   But this one leans towards sweet pop hooks as the collection of short tracks progresses.   Very nice.

24. Fernando Perdomo - The Golden Hour
I do think that this is Florida based multi-instrumentalist Fernando Perdomo's most consistent effort.  It serves up polished hooks with terrific production throughout.   I wonder what it would sound like for Perdomo to join forces on with a crooner like Kyle Vincent or Jesse Terry?

25. Shake Some Action - Crash Through Or Crash
Always a reminder of how Power Pop can rock.   Shake Some Action shows us how its done.  Album after album.   Great band.   Another nice album.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

The Return of Colin Moulding

As the year winds down, there have been two notable Power Pop releases in tradition of XTC; one I expected and the other a surprise.   I've been anticipating "Silverlake" the new album by Pugwash with help by Jason Falkner.   Its a stunner and a strong candidate for best Power Pop release of the year. More on that later.... 

I was not expecting new material by XTC co-leader Colin Moulding.   "Great Aspirations" is the new EP by TC&I, the duo project of Colin Moulding and Ex-XTC drummer Terry Chambers.  Its the first new material from Moulding in many years.and even though there are only four tracks, its great to hear Colin back performing.  Some fine tracks with trademark XTC hooks on this EP.   I've collected several additional tracks where Colin has contributed vocals to other artist's projects in recent years to help round out my listening.  Really glad to hear new material from Colin and hope to hear more soon...

Great Expectations EP
1 Scatter Me
2 Greatness
3 Kenny
4 Comrades of Pop

Other Recent Colin Appearances
5 Brain Damage
6 The Man Who Died Two Times
7 It's Raining Again
8 Check Point Karma
9 Are We To Believe
10 Take The Money and Run
11 Down a Peg (Demo)

Monday, October 30, 2017

Cliff Hillis - Many Happy Returns Companion

Cliff Hillis has provided a soundtrack to my summer for years - and though its well into fall I'm still listening Cliff's EP from this summer "Many Happy Return".   As usual, great tunes and terrific playing throughout.   The only disappointing thing is the relatively brevity of Cliff's offerings.  Still, Cliff continues to release tantalizing demos on SoundCloud and many of them are very fine indeed. I've included another collection of these demos as an accompaniment to the Many Happy Returns EP.  Enjoy these and support Cliff.

Many Happy Returns EP
1 Time An Evangelist
2 Many Happy Returns
3 Superfluous
4 With All the World
5 Hey Pretty Face
6 Never in a Million Years

Many Happy Returns Companion
7 Wake
8 Writing's On the Wall
9 Brilliant Mistake
10 These Days
11 Rachel Maddow
12 Listen To Your Mother
13 Instrumental #43
14 Caution (Rock Opus Mix)
15 Last Train to Nowhere
16 Pretty Little Cemetery

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Great New Plasticsoul Album

One of my favorite albums of the summer has been Therapy by Plasticsoul. Leader and songwriter Steven Wilson has truly produced a strong suite of tunes that channel that mid-period Beatles vibe ala Cotton Mather.   The songs are strong and Wilson snarls and spits his way through them with a serious jangle.  Strongly recommend this fine album.  It will certainly make its way on to my top 25 albums of the year list.

Wilson has been busy posting ideas and demos through the years as he culls his best stuff for the album.  Though the official release certainly contains his strongest material, a number of the cast-offs are very good indeed.   I've collected a number of the unreleased tracks here.   Pick up the the official album and enjoys these demo tracks.

1 No Ordinary Life
2 Build My Invention
3 Caliber Karma
4 Nothing to Write Home About
5 Suicide (The Degradation of Miley)
6 The Good Life
7 Laughing Boy
8 California Blues
9 Cats
10 World Without Ideas
11 Skylarks and Other Birds
12 On A Sunday

Sunday, July 2, 2017

KC Bowman - Rose Period

Thanks to Aaron over at the must read "Power Popaholic" blog who reminded me to check in with KC Bowman.   It's been a couple of years since put together my last compendium of KC tracks and since that time I've found that KC has been busy releasing music gratis under a number of names with a number of collaborators.

The tracks on this collection have been released as KC Bowman tracks, Preoccupied Pipers Tracks, Vinny's Vipers tracks and one cover track from the super group Pop 4.  Many of these songs are covers and nearly all of them were released as name-your-price downloads.  As usual I've pulled them together until KC releases his next complete album.
Can't wait.

1 Moon Over Marin (KC Bowman covers the Dead Kennedys)
2 Rose Period (KC Bowman Original)
3 My Approach (Preoccupied Pipers)
4 Let's Go Crazy (Preoccupied Pipers cover Prince)
5 Now to War (Preoccupied Pipers cover Guided By Voices)
6 Love's in Need of Love Today (Preoccupied Pipers cover Stevie Wonder)
7 Minor Doorsteps (Preoccupied Pipers)
8 Second Dart (KC Bowman Original)
9 Mayday (Preoccupied Pipers)
10 Prayer Breakfast (Vinny's Vipers)
11 Sir Edmond the Entersplainer (Vinny's Vipers)
12 Help Is On It's Way (Pop 4 cover Little River Band)
13 Shutdown Mode (Demo)
14 Poisonous Peach 2 (Acoustic Demo)
15 Goodbye Minced Oaths (Acoustic Demo)
16 Fountainhead (Acoustic Demo)
17 Rose Period (Acoustic Demo)
18 Second Dart (Acoustic Demo)
19 My Approach (Acoustic Demo)
20 Poisonous Peach (Acoustic Demo)

Monday, May 29, 2017

Scott Sutherland and the Doll Test

I'm a dB's fan and as such, I'm always starved for any new crumbs by Peter Holsapple, Chris Stamey and the band.  I'm enjoying the new single by Peter and I like the odd cover leaking out from Stamey central.   Still, because of the relative scarcity of material from my heroes I'm excited when I stumbled onto music from bands that sound like they have been influenced by  Peter and Chris.

The Doll Test is perhaps my favorite band in this category.  Lead by Scott Sutherland who spent quality time singing and playing in Seatlle's excellent Model Rockets and The Chemistry Set, The Doll Test released one LP and and an EP before receding into the mists of under recorded bands.   The quality of both of these releases is quite good.    Listen to "Scared Out of Your Mind" or "Rains All the Time" from the 2006 EP Gasoline and Banks and you'll get the picture.  The band does a convincing job of creating catchy songs that sound like they could have been lifted from the dB's second album "Repercussion".  Cool hooks well played. In 2008, the band released a fine full length follow up entitled "Mosque Alarm Clock" and then were heard from no more.
in 2013 Scott Sutherland resurfaced leading a somewhat punkier band called the "King County Queens".   Their LP is available as a download. Definitely worth checking out.  But Scott Sutherland hasn't been sitting still since 2013.   He's been publishing a series of demos and covers on his YouTube page.  Though in various degrees of finish, there is some fine psychedelic pop here. I've collected a series of Scott's originals here as a sampler (he has recorded his share of covers as well).  Well worth your while to check out this underappreciated artist.   Hope he finishes some of these with full band.

1 Holes and Highs
2 That's When I
3 The Kids on the Farm/Mariner's Lament
4 Edge of the Map
5 Leper of the Pack
6 Es Solamente
7 Light in the Window in the Fog
8 Ode to a Bull
9 Tinsel in the Rubbish Bin
10 Nothing is Better Than Right Here
11 Evergreen State Onions
12 Tears and Blood
13 Nobody Could Prove He Was Wrong
14 Greek Fire and Siege Machines
15 Riding With Sam and Dave
16 We Could Have Done Something Else
17 Dolly Jim
18 Macbeth
19 BB Gun Fight
20 A Hard Man
21 I'm Really Together (I Even Think I Should Be)

Sunday, February 5, 2017

New Real Estate On The Way

Looking forward to the new album "In Mind" by the band Real Estate due to drop on March 17.  The work of this band along with their lead singer Martin Courtney has turned into a big thing for me recently.   Inhabiting the post Velvet Underground school of rock occupied by such bands as The Feelies and Luna, Real Estate has been releasing fine albums since 2009. Early records were more sparse but as they've matured, the melodies have been brought more front and center.

What vaulted them to the top of my list was the 2015 solo effort "Many Moons" by singer Martin Courtney. I didn't really pick up on this stellar album until last year but its been stuck at the top of my list since,.  in Many Moons, the trademark Real Estate minimalist sound attains a jangly "English Folk" cast and the chord changes and hooks are better than ever. (Reminded me of one of my favorite albums "Three Cheers for the Invisible Hand" by the Philadelphia band The Canadian Invasion).

As a taster before the new album drops, I'm posting a compilation of recent radio studio appearances by Martin Courtney along with some cover songs by Real Estate.  Love this band.   If you don't know them, I'd suggest giving Real Estate a try.

1 Foto - in studio performance
2 Vestiges - in studio performance
3 Northern Highway - in studio performance
4 Awake - in studio performance
5 Time - in studio performance of Richard Hell song
6 Airport Bar - in studio performance
7 Here Comes Sunshine - Real Estate cover of Grateful Dead song
8 Major Leagues - in studio performance of Pavement song
9 And I Love Her - acoustic performance by Real Estate of Beatles Song
10 Linger - in studio performance of Cranberrie's song
11 Snow Days - acoustic performance by Real Estate

Monday, January 2, 2017

Top 25 Power Pop Releases of 2016

2016. What an absolutely bizarre year!  Here's hoping that 2017 will make more sense all round.  Still there was lots of quality Power Pop produced in 2016.

1. Paul Steel - April & I: Carousel Kites
An end-of-year masterpiece by Paul Steel slips in under the wire.  Paul has been working on this epic during a difficult year for him, but you wouldn't know it.  Those who have followed Paul's past efforts won't be surprised by the Beach Boys and Jellyfish influences. The surprise hre is the trio of Steely Dan influenced tracks in the middle.   Wonderful melodies.  Sterling production.  The best Power Pop album of the year IMO.

2. Seth Swirsky - Circles & Squares
Seth is here with another cycle of new sunshine pop.    Though we've heard a few of these as demos on his web site, Seth has woven new versions together into a tuneful tapestry.  It's all puppy dogs and summer love.  Great album.

3. Cotton Mather - Death of the Cool
Robert Harrison releases the first set of songs from his 64 track "Songs from the I Ching" project and the album kicks like Cotton Mather album of old.   I played the hell out of this one.  It skyrockets right up with Cotton Mather albums of old.

4. The Dowling Poole - One Hyde Park
The second full length collaboration by Willie Dowling and Jon Poole.   This one check all the boxes.  Beautiful Jellyfish influenced ballads along snotty punk poppy rockers that sound like they could slot into a bid 90s Blur record.  Another great effort by the dynamic duo.

5. Starling Electric - Starling Electric Company
This Michigan band has two releases in my top 25 this year.  This one is the rocker of the two.  Channeling some of the cues from the shoegazers along side hooks influenced by the Beach Boys.  A great album though out.

6. David Brookings and the Average Lookings -  S/T
David Brookings produces his best effort in years and it rocks hard.  No other album invokes the rocking DNA of early Elvis Costello or early Candy Butchers like this.  I love David's new band.

7. Erik Voeks - So The Wind Won't Blow It All Away
After years of leaking out singles Erik finally puts out an entire album and it is a fabulous effort throughout.  Channeling a more careful take on the mid-west pop made famous by Tommy Keene.  This album takes up right where Erik's 1993 epic "Sandbox" leaves off.  Keep these coming please Erik!

8. The Legal Matters - Conrad
Another great album by the Michigan Power Pop "supergroup" of Andy Reed, Chris Richards and Keith Klingensmith.   I think that this one is actually even stronger than the first.

9. Look Park - S/T
OK,  so there aren't quite as many power hooks as Fountains of Wayne, but when Chris Collingwood sings highly tuneful songs, it sounds like FOW to me.   Some great tracks here on Chris's solo debut.

10. Nick Piunti - Trust Your Instincts
This power pop album may have the most "power" of any album in my top 25 this year.  It also includes the strongest set of tunes that Nick Piunti has produced to date.  Lots of fun to listen to in the car.

11. Bob Evans - Car Boot Sale
Yet another tuneful solo effort by Kevin Mitchel, the lead singer of Australian alternative band Jebediah.  This Bob Evans has more variety than efforts past and contains some absolutely sweet Power Pop songs. Recalls his prior epic "Suburban Songbook", a good thing indeed.

12. Peter Bruntnell - Nos Da Comrade
The English folk pop artist returns with his third effort that straddles folk, alternative and power pop.  As always its tuneful and worth listening throughout.  Peter Bruntnell is a criminally underrated and a favorite of mine.  

13. Honeydogs - Love & Cannibalism
I'll never miss an album by Adam Levy and his band-mates.   Though this one feels like a somewhat arbitrary collection of tunes, it still contains some of my favorite songs of the year.  Obviously this is a band effort not just another solo project by Adam.

14. Starling Electric - Castlevania
Perhaps the most personal effort on this list. Starling Electric lead singer Caleb Dillon has been sharing this masterpiece within a select inner circle.  He decided to release it for free on Bandcamp this fall so it's available to all of us.  Strong shades of Elliot Smith and the introspective side of Robert Pollard.  Not to be missed.

15. The Explorer's Club - Together
Beach boys scholars The Explorer's Club release their latest.  It's their best.  Full of songs that invoke the blissful days of summer.

16. Bent Van Looy - Pyjama Days
I'm a big Jason Falkner fan and every time I listen to Belgian rocker Ben Van Looy, I have to double check to see if I am actually listening to the great unreleased album by Jason.  It makes sense since this is the second album that Jason has produced for Bent.   Though, it doesn't say it, I would not be surprised if Jason had a hand in writing some of these songs.

17. Teenage Fanclub - Here
I always will celebrate a new album by Teenage Fanclub. "Here" is not their best its still a solid efforts with a stripped down take on the trademark Teenage Fanclub sound.

18. John Cunningham - Fell
Don't know why I didn't hear more about this return-to-form from British chamber pop artist John Cunningham.  This one ranks with anything he's done before.  Beautiful tunes.  Big Beach Boys influence.  Beautiful album.

19. Arvidson & Butterflies - S/T
The most "Swedish" of Power Pop albums comes from Gothenburg Sweden (as it should) this year and its very good indeed. Roger Arvidson delivers an album that sounds like it could have been released in Sweden in the 90s.  Rockin' songs with hooks galore.  So sweet it made my teeth hurt!

20. Sheloom - The Baron Of The Fjord
The second cross-continent collaboration by Blinker the Star singer Jordon Zadorozny, and Italian prog rocker Filippo Gaetani includes an important new member, chamber pop star Erik Matthews.  This a beautiful dense album that you should check out if you haven't heard it.  Spectacular.

21. Radio Days - Back in the Day
Italian rockers Radio Days alternate between mid period Beatles tributes and more updated punky Power Pop tunes.  Lots of great songs here.

22. Greg Pope - Guiding Star
The latest album by prolific artist Greg Pope cast a darker more alternative cast than albums past.  The hooks are here if you listen and stand up to repeated listening..

23. Cupid's Carnival - Everything is Love
I loved this John Lennon-esque collection of pop songs from the band formerly known as "Cherrystone".   Perhaps the most unabashedly late Beatles of anything on this last.

24. Cheap Trick - Bang Zoom Crazy…Hello
Another album by Power Pop dinosaurs Cheap Trick.  Does it matter?  YES is matters.  Some of the best three minute Power Pop songs of the year were on this album.  Great that these guys are still bringing it.

25. The Nines - Alejandro's Visions
This is a retro soundtrack concept by the Nines and it sometimes is a bit too fey for my tastes.   However, Steve Eggers is a force to be reckoned with and always brings us great songs.