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The Most Heard Tracks On Pop That Goes Crunch Radio — January 2017

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Pop That Goes Crunch Radio plays the best of seven decades of melodically-based rock ‘n’ roll. You can tune-in by clicking the “Listen Live” headphones wherever you seem them on this site. We can also be heard on the Tunein and StreamLicensing apps.

The tracks that garnered the most listens in January 2017 are a nice snapshot of what we play commercial-free, 24/7:

1.  Andy Reed, “I Love A Long Goodbye” (Relay Vol. 1, 2015)

2.  Aerial, “Japanese Dancer” (Why Don’t They Teach Heartbreak At School?, 2014)

3.  David Brookings And The Average Lookings, “The Basement Room” (S/T, 2016)

4.  Pernice Brothers, “Weakest Shade Of Blue” (Yours, Mine & Ours, 2003)

5.  The Autumn Defense, “Winterlight” (S/T, 2007)

6.  Chris Richards and the Subtractions, “Thirteen” (That Covers That Vol. 1, 2012)

7.  Dave Caruso, “Champion” (Cardboard Vegas Roundabout, 2014)

8.  The Idea, “Private World” (Pop Matters (Various Artists), 1995)

9.  Wondermints, “Out Of Mind” (Mind If We Make Love To You, 2002)

10. And The Professors, “Turn Of The Century Recycling Blues” (Our Postmortem, 2013)

Thanks for listening.

Best LPs Of 2016 — Part 3

a3676489916_16We conclude our rundown of the Best LPs Of 2016 with the best of the best. Also, be sure to check out the list of five other 2016 longplayers deserving of a listen.

10.  The Cleaners From VenusLast Boy In The Locarno: Martin Newell returns with twelve tracks of great stories, intriguing character studies and winsome nostalgia surrounded by deft melodies and the usual assortment of unexpected twists and turns. Listen and buy here.

9.  Trolley Caught In The Darkness: Trolley distills the entire history of psychedelic — and psych-inspired — rock ‘n’ roll into this blistering twelve song set. Listen loudly and buy here.

8.  Cotton MatherDeath Of The Cool: This one summons the spirit, depth and quality of Kontiki, one of the greatest albums of the 1990s. That’s all you need to know. Sample and buy here.

7.  SomerdaleShake It Maggie: The guys in Somerdale are proud proponents of a style of music — Power Pop — that is “so out of style, its cool.” And this is certainly one of the coolest records of the year — ten proper tracks, and a reprise — recalling the days when radio was king. Listen and buy here.

6.  Tuns — S/T: Chris Murphy of Sloan, Mike O’Neill of The Inbreds and Matt Murphy of The Super Friendz join forces to release perhaps the greatest unassuming record ever released. This one delivers nine perfectly conceived rockin’ pop songs expertly executed. Sample and buy here.

5.  Teenage FanclubHere: How does one compose a pithy sentence about a release by an all-time favorite? One doesn’t. Just sample and buy here. You’ll get the point.

4.  Coke BeldaNummer Zwei: This late-2015 release is a delight from beginning to end, mining all manner of classic pop styles amid sharp songwriting and musicianship and beautiful production. Listen and buy here.

3.  Nick PiuntiTrust Your Instincts: Piunti is a perennial on these pages, and this release does not disappoint as he delivers ten stellar examples of some of the finest rockin’ pop on the planet. Listen and buy here.

2.  The Legal MattersConrad: State of the art pop from the Fab Three, with a little help from their friends. Sample and buy here.

1.  Ryan Allen and His Extra ArmsBasement Punk: The sheer energy packed into these eleven tracks takes Basement Punk to a photo finish victory. Allen’s often quite personal songs soundcheck the great pop rock of the 60’s through the 90’s in a manner that remains contemporary and fresh. Listen and buy here.

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Bubbling Under

A few other albums released in 2016 deserve some love, as well:

Tommy and the RocketsBeer And Fun And Rock ‘n’ Roll: What the Ramones might have sounded like had they grown up in a Southern California beach community and had Danish roots. Listen and buy here.

Bill ShaouyThe Other Town: Shaouy operates as kind of a one-man XTC. Check out “Christopher Walken Told Me,” in particular. Sample and buy here.

Starry Eyed CadetPlaces We Don’t Belong: A sharp update of 80’s dream pop stylings. Listen and buy here.

Rob Clarke And The Wooltones, Are You Wooltoned?: Need a fix of 1966? Listen and buy here.

The Jeckylls, The One I Want, The One I Need: Siting at the crossroads where Mod and Power Pop meet. Listen and buy here.

Best LPs of 2016 — Part 2

a1972111786_16The countdown continues with a discussion of the “middle ten” on our list of the best longplayers of 2016.

20.  HurryGuided Meditation: This Philadelphia-based trio lets it fly with shimmering, jangly guitars, dreamy atmospherics and clean harmonies over nine spot-on tracks evoking the easy days of summer. Listen and buy here.

19.  Ray Paul Whimsicality: Paul hits all the right notes as he puts a slightly contemporary gloss on the basic British Invasion sound over seven original compositions, and three covers including the Manfred Mann classic, “Pretty Flamingo”.  Sample and buy here.

18. The ArmoiresIncidental Lightshow: The Amoires offer a kaleidoscope of sound over twelve tracks that touch upon baroque pop, psych pop, jangle pop and Power Pop, among other subgenres. The harmonies of Christina Bulbenko and Rex Broome, as well as the musicianship, are superb throughout. Sample and buy here.

17.  The Well WishersComes And Goes: Once again, Jeff Shelton releases hit-after-hit of timeless, crunchy, instantly recognizable — and quite comforting in these uncertain times — rockin’ pop. Listen and buy here.

16.  DropkickBalance The Light: This Scotland-based band releases some of the most consistently engaging takes on the peaceful and easy Southern California guitar rock of the late-60s and early-70s. Sit back and let this one calm frazzled nerves. Listen and buy here.

15.  The JunipersRed Bouquet Fair: The Junipers are purveyors of the most elegant pysch pop, and Red Bouquet Fair combines the psych and the pop masterfully over twelve transcendent tracks. Listen and buy here.

14.  Nada SurfYou Know Who You Are: The flowing, layered guitar strums supported by rhythms that alternate between the pounding and the deceptively restrained make this a top accompaniment for speeding down an open highway. Sample and buy here.

13.  Arvidson & Butterflies — S/T: This is pure pop for people in the know, as Arvidson and pals deliver twelve singalong excursions into all manner of 60s-influenced pop rock. Listen and buy here.

12.  Bertling Noise LaboratoriesThe Flehmen Response: This late-2015 release was my “go to” listen for the early part of 2016. Nick Berling writes perfect pop tunes tinged with more-than-occasional melancholy. Just listen to “Sea Shanty.” You’ll know exactly what we mean. Listen and buy here.

11. PropellerFall Off The World: Greg Randall and Will Anderson deliver ten hook-filled rockin’ pop nuggets that should be played loudly at your next party. Your guests will swoon over “Wish I Had Her Picture,” and wonder where they heard it back in the 70s. Listen and buy here.

Best LPs Of 2016 — Part 1

a1483495219_16We decided to add context to out annual “best of” lists instead of simply providing long lists with no discussion. So, our look at the Best 30 LPs of 2016 will come in three installments.

Because good music does not necessarily hue to annual time periods, our list contains a couple of late-2015 releases that, in actuality, are 2016 LPs to us. By the same token, late-2016 releases will need to wait until next year.

As always, some of the distinctions here sit on a rather fine line. Each of the albums of our list, however, is highly recommended.

Without further adieu:

30.  Andy KlingensmithFantasy Island: On his first longplayer, Klingensmith applies contemporary rhythms to his basic psych-folk template to great effect. Listen and buy here.

29.  Colman GotaTape: Gota’s hook-filled adult guitar rock reminds us that the phrase “alt rock” did not always induce eye rolls. Sample and buy here.

28The WeeklingsStudio 2: The New Jersey-based band’s second stellar collection of Beatles-inspired rockin’ pop with spot-on harmonies, Rickenbacker guitars, sweet ballads and an ode to Chuck Berry. Sample and buy here.

27.  Butch YoungMercury Man: Young takes his inspiration from the later-period Beatles. The right doses of horns and orchestration add drama to his complex melodies. Sample and buy here.

26. Ed RyanRoadmap: Ryan’s old-school Power Pop never wears old or thin. These ten rockin’ pop tracks are guaranteed to put a smile on your face. Listen and buy here.

25. Gretchen’s WheelBehind The Curtain: Lindsay Murray’s second longplayer is more rocking than last year’s Fragile State, which also made our year-end list. Get this, though, for her voice, a beguiling mix of strength and fragility. Listen and buy here.

24.  Mimi BetinisMusic Sounds: This is one of more varied albums on our list, as Bitinis effortlessly mixes and matches classic pop and rock stylings over this thoroughly enjoyable eleven-song set. Sample and buy here.

23.  Steve IsonOn The Way Up: Ison’s sound is rooted in British singer-songwriters of the late-60s and early-70s, with indelible nods to Bowie and Donovan. There is not a bum track to be found. Listen and buy here.

22.  Cheap StarSongs For The Farrelly Brothers: This one sit in decidedly late-period Teenage Fanclub territory, with layered acoustic guitars and restrained harmonies. The version of the Lemonheads “Into Your Arms” found here might even top the original. Sample and buy here.

21.  Diamond Hands — S/T:  Not a single song on this eleven-track, hook-and-jangle-heavy romp through various 60’s rock styles reaches the three-minute mark. Is this retro? Hell yeah, and that’s a very good thing when laid down by the four capable hands that comprise this Los Angeles-based duo. Listen and buy here.

Best EPs of 2016

a0299150950_16We kick off our year-end “best of” lists with a discussion of the finest EPs we’ve heard over the past year.

The nature of an “EP” is subject to interpretation these days. However, for our present purposes, if it has between three and eight songs, its an EP. We will be discussing the finest LPs of the year in the coming days, and will conclude the year-end festivities by a look at distinguished works that do not quite fit either category — non-LP singles, multi-artist compilations, tributes, and the like. Call that one “odds and ends.”

Enough chit chat. Let’s get down to business.

10.  Baby ScreamLife’s A Trap: Juan Pablo Mazzola continues to revel humorously, and brilliantly, in the bitterly sardonic on this eight-track tale of regret, boredom, disappointment, disgust and (occasional) happiness. Life’s A Trap is somewhat laid back in comparison to Mazzola’s prior efforts, and is perhaps best played at the end of an evening that failed to live up to expectations. Listen and buy here.

9. Matti Jasu and the Loose TrainGone To The Dogs: Jasu populates this eight-track offering with peaceful easy feelings and pointed guitar work. This duality is best experienced on the yin-yang back-to-back duo of “Race You Down To The Ground,” with its swaying, early-70s Southern California vibe, and “Creature From The Past,” with is serious riffage. Listen and buy here.

8. The Persian LeapsYour City Underwater: These St. Paul-based noise pop aficionados make their third consecutive appearance on our year-end EP list, as they skillfully blend fuzz and sugar for thirteen minutes of powerful hooks. Listen and buy here.

7.  Merry WidowsPassword: “Sky And The Sea,” the second track on this five-song outing, may be the finest take on the sound of the The Go-Betweens we’ve ever heard. Password is simply a delight from start to finish, rooted firmly in the classiest guitar pop of the 80s. Listen and buy here.

6.  Fascinations Grand Chorus — S/T and Actor/Actress: On these two EPs, this Brooklyn-based duo whip up seven pop confections from some of the finest ingredients of the 60s. Dig the organs, the slinky surf guitar, the girl group vocalizing and a production style that would make Joe Meek quite proud. Listen and buy here.

5.  Animal DaydreamCitrus:  This Gothenburg, Sweden-based duo makes beautiful, sun-drenched West Coast psych pop with jangling guitars, soaring harmonies and the occasional sing-along melody. Listen and buy here.

4.  Stephen’s ShoreOcean Blue: This Stockholm, Sweden-based band makes beautiful, sun-drenched West Coast psych pop with jangling guitars, soaring harmonies and the occasional sing-along melody. Somehow, the story repeats itself. Ocean Blue, however, ranks higher than Citrus on the strength of the opening forty-five seconds of “If You,” during which you will be transported instantly to the deck of a boat sailing the sunny seas. Listen and buy here.

3.  Donny Brown — S/T: On this six-song EP, Brown finds himself in the finest singer-songwriter tradition of the 70s as he pens sharp, incisive lyrics against the backdrop of exquisite arrangements and expert musicianship. Listen and buy here.

2.  Cliff HillisLove Not War: Hillis is one of the finest contemporary American songwriters. This seven-song EP is everything we have come to expect from him: richly detailed slices of life and love set amid instantly compelling hooks and instrumentation. Sample and buy here.

1.   The AboveThere Is A Reason: This entire history of the British Invasion, and its immediate aftermath, is encapsulated in this six-song EP that ruled our personal airwaves for quite some time this year. The running twelve-string guitar on “Say You’re Cool” and the drama of the hook-laden “Just Can’t Forget About That Girl” deliver some of the finest rock moments of the past several years. Listen and buy here.

Instincts Pay Off For Nick Piunti

piuntiGuest Review By Dave Caruso

With the hook-filled and infectious Trust Your Instincts, Detroit-area Power Pop veteran Nick Piunti has made his best album so far.  This is not hyperbole.  There are many reasons why so many music reviewers and bloggers are making such a big deal about it.

Make no mistake, Trust Your Instincts has all the hallmarks of a great Nick Piunti album (and they’re all great).  Fans will recognize his edgy, guitar-based band arrangements, his signature wordplay (see “As Far As I Throw”), his themes of loss and longing and the familiar pop influences which pervade the grooves.

Nick has been writing and recording since the early days of his first band Dwarf (1972 – 1986).  More recently, he released a handful of albums with his band, The Respectables (2005-2010).  But with each new solo release (2013 – today), Nick’s songwriting has grown incrementally tighter and more commercial and his artistry has continued to mature.  This is especially noticeable in the finer details, like his well-crafted bridge sections, and his meta last line of “Stay Where You Are:” “I think I’m gonna fade out.”

Piunti has never sounded more confident.  His vocals and harmonies (see “One Hit Wonder”) are his strongest yet. The album mix is gorgeous.

His world-class band (primarily Nick on vocals and guitars, Donny Brown on drums, Andy Reed on bass & synth, Ryan Allen on additional guitars) is firing on all cylinders and in harmony with one another.  Nick has clearly trusted each player with more freedom within the song arrangements.  At every opportunity, they conspire to lob sneaky little molotov cocktails of melodic catchiness at your ear canals, setting off chain reactions in stereo.  (See “Blame in Vain.”)

On Mr. Piunti’s previous album, the lack of keyboards threatened to limit the amount variety of depth in the arrangements.  But with his latest endeavor, there’s more color and texture in the guitar chords bass parts and stereophonic effects than ever before, making the overall sound fuller and more interesting without the need for synth layering.  Just listen to “Stay Where You Are” and “This Ain’t the Movies” for proof:

 

 

No opportunity for a musical hook is wasted and yet, thanks in no small part to the steady and tasteful drumming, there’s still plenty of space for the music to breathe.  “Vaguely Familiar” demonstrates this perfectly.  I also like the way the ending chord doesn’t resolve.

 

One thing is certain about Trust Your Instincts. Nick has learned to listen to his own advice.

Trust Your Instincts by Nick Piunti is available at iTunes, Amazon.com, Bandcamp and more.

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Dave Caruso is a melodic pop indie songwriter, singer and multi-instrumentalist from Detroit, Michigan.  His influences include: Elvis Costello, Neil Finn, Elton John, Del Amitri, Ben Folds, The Beach Boys and The Beatles.

Power Pop Delights From Somerdale

maggieSomerdale’s Shake It Maggie is the “sleeper” of the year. You might consider it, upon an initial listen on two, to be serviceable, poppy rock ‘n’ roll inching its way slowly toward AM radio success circa 1978 only to be halted, like so many others in its day, by the steamroller of disco in its commercial heyday.

This assessment would only be half right, however. Shake It Maggie is poppy rock ‘n’ roll, by design. But listen it to it a few times. There is nothing at all serviceable about it. Instead, Shake It Maggie delivers ten stellar tracks, and a reprise of the opener, that will easily propel it into my year-end Top 10.

Somerdale announces its intentions immediately on said opening track, “Take It From The Top,” which is two minutes of lovingly constructed bubblegum about blowing a chance at radio success because they’re “shakin’ like power pop, so out of style its cool.” “Waiting For You,” the next track, probably was playing on AM radio, somewhere, back in ’78.

The band cites Sloan as an influence, and this is readily apparent. Check out, for example, the chorus of “The News,” and you’ll see what I mean:

 

“She’s Leaving California” might be dismissed by some as garden-variety “hard rock.” Listen carefully, however. It’s actually the kind of song Patrick Pentland has penned, and sung, many times to great effect in Sloan:

 

Whenever I hear “Bigger Than The Universe,” I picture kids busing it to the beach singing along at the top of their lungs in unison. “The Coolest Kid In The Room” is updated, old school Power Pop of the kind The Shazam used to do so brilliantly, filled as it is with exuberance and sharp vocals. It also has cool hand-claps:

 

The word that comes most to mind to describe Shake It Maggie is “delightful.” And I mean that in the best sense. It brings endless smiles, even on the more serious tracks. Sometimes, can you really ask for anything more?

Get it digitally from Bandcamp for a mere seven clams, or on disk from the fine folks at Kool Kat Musik.

 

 

New Podcast: The Mixtape Show

mixtape“The Big Show” is our signature show now focusing on new (and “newish”) music. It airs every other week on Pop That Goes Crunch Radio.

We recently premiered a new weekly show, “The Mixtape Show,” whose premise is simple: 90 minutes of familiar favorites that sound great together with a single interruption at about the mid-point to flip the tape over and get you caught up on what you just heard. A description of each of the shows running on Pop That Goes Crunch Radio, including the times of broadcast, can be found here.

The inaugural episode is now up on Mixcloud. It can be heard by clicking below. The complete tracklist is found beneath the embed. Check back for new shows, weekly.

Tracklist:

1.  Cotton Mather — “My Before And After

2.  DM3 — “Foolish”

3.  Guided By Voices — “Motor Away”

4.  The Jayhawks — “Waiting For The Sun”

5.  Sloan — “Undewhelmed (Original Hear & Now version)”

6.  Jellyfish — “Too Much, Too Little, Too Late”

7.  And The Professors — “We Are”

8.  Lannie Flowers — “Come On Girl”

9.  Kurt Baker — “Emma Stone”

10. Myracle Brah — “Love Is”

11. The Grip Weeds — “Love’s Lost On You”

12. Pernice Brothers — “Subject Drop”

13. Golden Smog — “V”

14. Shoes — “She Satisfies”

15. The Jellybricks — “Not So Old”

16. Cliff Hillis — “Keep The Blue Skies”

17. The Posies — “Suddenly Mary (Demo Version)”

18. The Autumn Defense — “Canyon Arrow”

19. Material Issue — “A Very Good Idea”

20. Phil Ajjarapu — “Sing Along Until You Feel Better”

21. The Red Button — “Cruel Girl”

22. Old 97’s — “Driver 8”

23. Hoodoo Gurus — “I Want You Back”

24. Matthew Sweet — “Girlfriend”

25. Chris Richards and the Subtractions — “Don’t Do Anything Tonight”

25. The Greenberry Woods — “Smash-Up”

The Legal Matters Lay Down Some Sonic Truth

conradThe release of the follow-up by a band responsible for the single best long-player in a prior year is cause for great expectation. Even if the prior album ascended to a career-best apex that could never again be approached, the follow-up would at least be “very good” barring unforeseen circumstances. Not to worry in the case of The Legal Matters, however. The band’s new album, Conrad, is at least as good as their self-titled debut, which captured the top slot on my year-end list of the finest albums of 2014. Time will tell if it is even better than the freshman effort.

That Conrad is something special is apparent from the first few seconds of the lead track, “Anything,” whose simple, comforting guitar intro announces immediately that you are in very good hands. The layered vocal harmonies that kick in first at the infectious chorus of “Anything” — and which appear in ways expected and unexpected throughout Conrad — serve as separate instruments that augment the superb musicianship that characterizes the entire album.

The production on Conrad is also first-rate. Listen to “Anything” twice. First, listen in the center of the mix, as if the song was playing on a standard-issue car stereo as you negotiate rush hour traffic. Then, put on headphones and listen actively to  the individual components as they weave around each other forming a more complex tapestry of sound:

This attention to detail, particularly as it generates unexpected twists and turns, shines throughout Conrad. The next track, “I’m Sorry Love” builds drama and tension for its first three-quarters of a minute, only to cut the impending doom with a playful, almost music hall-like break. “Minor Key” continues the yin-yang, promising darkness by title but delivering brightness by sound.

Although Conrad plays largely in the mid-tempo playground — about which there is absolutely nothing wrong — the band does cut it loose on occasion. “Short-Term Memory” is nearly three-minutes of riffs and harmony, accented by a tasty guitar solo. “She Called Me To Say” is quite sneaky — structured acoustically and sung by Andy Reed with his characteristically sweet vocals before deciding its really a crunchy guitar rocker.

In the end, its these unexpected things that make Conrad so endearing and relentlessly interesting. “Lull And Bye,” the tenth song in the set, is but a minute of gorgeous harmonizing and a simple piano. Its totally out of left field, and absolutely brilliant.

Conrad does not know a bum note over its thirty-five or so minutes. There is no wasted space, no needless repetition, just eleven songs that use the time allotted to deliver sonic truth. It hits retail October 28, with all formats — CD, LP, download — available from Omnivore Records. The LP even comes with a bonus download of a vocal-only mix of all eleven songs. Avail yourself of that. Nobody will release better vocals this year.

We’re Giving Away Three Copies Of Ryan Allen’s New CD!!

allenBasement Punk, the new long-player by Ryan Allen and His Extra Arms, is a shoo-in for our year-end Top Ten list. You can read the full review right here.

Early reviews are in full agreement.

Alan Haber wrote on his Pure Pop Radio blog that Basement Punk “takes charge with strong melodies and ace playing and never lets up.” Don Valentine wrote of Allen on his I Don’t Hear A Single blog that “[m]any of you know how I bang on about Dom Mariani and Tommy Keene, well they now have a contender and a serious one.” Powerpopaholic gave Basement Punk an “8” rating, calling it “Highly Recommended.” The Soul of A Clown blog stated that the songs on Basement Punk “create the perfect blend of melody with a bit of attitude.” Power Pop News proclaimed, “[s]imply put, Basement Punk is great rock ‘n’ roll.”

It most certainly is, and we are giving away three copies of Basement Punk on disk. Among other things, our review notes that the album’s lead track, “Watch Me Explode,” “splits the difference between Power Pop and Punk Rock — assuming, of course, that the two genres really are that different.”

Are they different? If so, how?

Tell us by sending an e-mail to popgoescrunch@gmail.com by 3:00 p.m. Pacific time on Friday, October 7, and perhaps you will walk away with a free copy of Basement Punk. There are, of course, no “right” or “wrong” answers.

In the meantime, you can stream the entire album, in full, right here.

Enough chit chat. Start entering.

 

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