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Seven Decades Of Melodic Rock & Roll

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State Of The Art Power Pop From Ryan Allen

a3676489916_16First impressions of new music are often misleading. The tendency to over-rate, or under-rate, upon an initial listen is ever-present. It has happened hundreds and hundreds of times over the years.

Not so with Basement Punk, the third long-player by Ryan Allen & His Extra Arms. My first reaction was that Allen delivers “one-hit-after-another.” Repeated listens confirms that Allen delivers “one-hit-after-another” — no if’s, and’s or but’s.

Basement Punk is an eleven-track, thirty-four minute romp through state-of-the-art Power Pop, with sound checks of old school punk rock, mid-60s pop rock and early-90s fuzz pop. Allen handles all of instrumentation — guitar, bass, drums, keys, percussion and lead and backing vocals — with expert execution. Mixing and mastering by the inimitable Andy Reed ensures that Basement Punk hits all the right sonic spots, particularly when played as loud as the material demands.

And it demands attention from its very first notes of feedback on the rousing, and perfectly titled, “Watch Me Explode,” which splits the difference between Power Pop and Punk Rock — assuming, of course, that the two genres really are that different. That “Watch Me Explode” works so perfectly is confirmed by the unconscious head-bopping and foot-tapping it inspires:

Album flow is often overlooked, but not here as the jangly “Chasing A Song” works as the perfect follow-on to “Explode.” In turn, it sets the table for the brilliant “Alex Whiz,” the best of set to these ears. I’m not a fan of comparisons to the work of others, but, what the heck. Put “Alex Whiz” on Teenage Fanclub’s Bandwagonesque or Thirteen and it would feel quite at home with its gentle fuzzy pop stylings:

The hits they keep-a coming.

“Basement Punks” is a spirited paean to the DIY-spirit. The sweet nostalgia of “Mal & Ange” picks up sonically and lyrically where “Alex Whiz” left off, except from the opposite perspective.  “Gimmie Some More” is a straight-up rocker that stays decidedly outside the middle-of-the-road.

Allen ups the tempo nicely on a punkier pair — “Two Steps Behind” and “Without A Doubt.” Two mid-tempo tracks, however, round out Basement Punk with aplomb and grace.

“People Factory” spikes mindless conformity with an unforgettable melody ripped from 1965. The closer, “Everything In Moderation” provides words (perhaps)  by which to live after laying down a perfect initial riff you swear you’ve heard before, but you haven’t. 

That pretty much sums up Basement Punk, a work of great originality steeped in familiar rock ‘n’ roll traditions. If it has any flaws, I have yet to hear them, and it easily will find a slot in my year-end Top 10. Get it right here, digitally, beginning September 30, on or disk from the fine folks at Kool Kat Musik.

And speaking of disks, we will be giving some away, real soon. Watch this space for more details.

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We’re Giving Away 3 Copies Of Nick Piunti’s New Release!

piuntiNick Piunti is on a roll.

His 2013 release, 13 In My Head was one of the best long-players of 2013. The title track landed at No. 3 on our list of the best songs of 2013. His 2015 release, Beyond The Static was our third favorite long-player of last year.

Piunti’s 2016 long-player, Trust Your Instincts, hits the retail outlets on September 9. It may be his best effort yet: ten tracks featuring his increasingly sharp and incisive writing, tough and shiny guitar riffing, and the best damned vocals in the entire rockin’ pop world. Even better, Piunti is expertly assisted by some of our other faves: Donny Brown on drums, percussion and backing vocals; Andy Reed on bass and synth; and Ryan Allen on guitars, backing vocals and percussion. In reality, this is classic rock ‘n’ roll with big hooks and expert production. It is also a candidate for album of the year.

Even much better, you can win a free copy of the CD! That’s right, we are giving away three copies of Trust Your Instincts, courtesy of the fine folks at JEM Records.

Here is what you need to do:

Send an e-mail to popgoescrunch@gmail.com by 3:00 p.m. Pacific time on September 8, and answer two questions.

1. Why do you like Nick’s music?

2. What is your favorite ice cream flavor?

Be creative. The best three submissions win. We’ll announce the winners on the morning of September 9.

In the meantime, you can stream the first two tracks from Trust Your Instincts, in full.

Here’s the title track, in all of its Power Pop glory:

 

And, on “One Hit Wonder,” Piunti pens a tale of a music industry shooting star that nevertheless has universal applicability:

 

Enough chit chat for now. Get e-mailing!

Power Popsicle Brain Freeze Take 4

File Aug 27, 3 39 20 PMHere’s our discussion of five more essential tracks from the 139 track download available from the fine folks at Futureman Records, via our very good friend, the Ice Cream Man. You can get it right here, absolutely free. And, you don’t even need to give them an e-mail address. So, commence downloading. You have nothing to lose.

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Vista Blue, “Davey Got Drafted”: Vista Blue produces hook-laden rockin’ pop out of Nashville and Cincinnati. Their influences include The Ramones, Fountains of Wayne and Weezer, which tells you everything you need to know about the sound of this pounding earworm about the sorrow and the ecstasy that ensues when one pal gets the chance to make it to the big leagues, but the other does not. Baseball and Power Pop? You can’t beat that:

 

Braddock Station Garrison, “Forgotten Teenage Dream”: This bit of old school Power Pop by this D.C.-based band has spinning in regular rotation on Pop That Goes Crunch radio for the past year, and for good reason. Its got almost everything we love most: tasty, clean guitars, strong lead and background vocals, and a tinge of Americana:

 

Building Rockets, “Inverted Jenny”: The sound of Building Rockets is described as “a little like The Pixies and Wilco covering Fountains of Wayne songs while ‘Abbey Road’ plays in the background.” “Inverted Jenny” is head-boppin’ rockin’ pop featuring a perfect, slightly deranged surf guitar solo, kind of like the Pixies made semi-famous:

 

David Brookings and The Average Lookings, “The Basement Room”: “The Basement Room” might be the single best track on the entire Power Popsicle Brain Freeze collection. Brookings’ sharp vocals, the melodic interplay of the guitars, the propulsive yet not overpowering percussion give “The Basement Room” a great sense of movement that sounds best while speeding down the highway:

 

The Lost Boys, “December Forever”: The Lost Boys produce melodic indie pop in Southampton, England with a decided British feel. “December Forever” builds tension through the entirety of its short stay on your listening device, concluding with a virtual wall of sound:

 

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The twenty songs discussed over the pas four posts make for a fine hour-long playlist. We are not done yet. Check back soon for additional highly recommended tracks from Power Popsicle Brain Freeze.

Power Popsicle Brain Freeze, Take 3

File Aug 20, 9 20 35 PMSpend a few minutes with us today s we continue our deep dive into the 100% free and legal, 139-track extravaganza put together by our pal, The Ice Cream Man, and “distributed” by the fine folks at Futureman Records. Get it right by clicking this.

Here are five more essential tracks — we are now up to fifteen — that should be spinning in regular rotation on your favorite listening device:

The Mayflowers, “Move Over”: The Mayflowers have been turning out rockin’ pop from Japan since 2003. “Move Over” gets the compilation’s festivities started with a bang as it offers serious riffs, pounding beats, and spot on harmonies. Cue it up after a late night. It will kick out the jams and melt the accumulated fog:

 

Merry Widows, “Password”: Merry Widows is an Australian-based band that traces its roots to the early-90s, and cites the Go-Betweens, R.E.M. and Crowded House among its influences. “Password” sounds exactly as those influences would indicate — jangling guitars, descending basslines and non-stop harmonies — and they do it quite well. “Password” also features a great tag line for the digital age — “I’ve got your metadata on my mind”:

 

Donny Brown, “Now You Can Break My Heart”: Donny Brown crafts meticulous pop music that is beautifully written, sung and arranged. “Now You Can Break My Heart” uses a gorgeous melody as a platform for an affecting and original take on romantic disappointment:

 

The Armoires, “Double Blades”: The Armoires, hailing from Burbank, California, contribute the most musically ambitious track on Power Pop Brain Freeze. Christina Bulbenko and Rex Broome sing the entire song together — their main inspiration is the New Pornographers — thus providing a unique, almost singular, voice, and the song is propelled by a relatively simple, but quite effective and memorable, piano line and an exquisite viola courtesy of Bulbenko’s daughter, Larysa. The overall effect is upbeat psychedelia. Give this one a careful listen. There is a whole lot going on:

 

Orbis Max, “Without Love”: This track by an “internet recording collective” is full-on, late-60s styled psychedelia, down to it its chorus of “without love, we are nothing/without peace, there will be nothing.” It also has great hooks, and a wailing guitar, to compliment its genuine trippiness:

 

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So, there you have it, another five stellar tracks into which to sink your teeth, each of which are highly recommended.

Check back soon for five new suggestions.

 

The Ice Cream Man Scores A Hat Trick

a0153222958_16Pop That Goes Crunch radio has now streamed more than 100 editions of the Ice Cream Man Power Pop And More Show, on which Wayne Ford spins a beguiling mix of Power Pop, New Wave, Punk Rock, Mod, Ska, Garage Rock, Northern Soul, etc., etc., etc.  The show airs three times a week — Thursday at 7 pm Pacific, Friday at 1 pm Pacific, and Saturday at 8 am Pacific.

Wayne has just released his third annual, 100% free and 100% legal compilation downloads. This one, cleverly titled Power Popsicle Brain Freeze, delivers a whopping 139 tracks. That is nearly seven hours of music! You can get it from the Futureman Records site on Bandcamp, and they won’t take your money even if you were so inclined to offer it. Get it right here, no risk at all.

So, where to start?

Well, your humble servant is here to help, with the first in a series of posts on some of the finest spins on Power Popsicle Brain Freeze. We’ve happily added many tracks from the download to Pop That Goes Crunch Radio. The scientific word for the actual number is “oodles.”

So, without further chit chat, let’s start digging. The focus will be on artists and bands that have not been discussed previously on this site, and the order is pertinent to nothing in particular.

The Stoplight Roses, A Bomb Goes Off. The Stoplight Roses hail from Atlanta, Georgia, and take their name from the Nick Lowe tune of the same title. A Bomb Goes Off lays out a bit of personal history, and nicely encapsulates the band’s overall mix of vintage Power Pop, Garage Rock and Alt-Country. Its also one of the finest songs of the year:

Arvidson & Butterflies, Tired Of Running. Roger Arvidson and crew hail from Gothenberg, Sweden. Their self-titled debut is a must buy for jangle-holics who also like the occasional stomper. The relentlessly uptempo Tired Of Running jangles with them best of them, and features some nice harmonizing to boot:

Butch Young, Persephone. Butch Young’s long-player, Mercury Man, achieved a rare feat on Pop That Goes Crunch Radio — we added the entire album. Young spends his time in and around the pop-psych genre. “Peresphone,” one of the standouts on Mercury Man, finds him in decidedly Beatle-y territory, without succumbing to cliche:

Solarflairs, Stereo Alley. Solarflairs is a Power Pop-inspired band from Memphis, Tennessee. They have two tracks on Power Popsicle Brain Freeze. We’re partial to the sharp guitar that propels Stereo Alley, which would feel quite at home on a mid-late 80’s indie pop playlist:

Ed Ryan, Everything’s Gonna Be Alright: Ryan’s recently-released long-player, Roadmap, is a rocker with nonstop hooks. You know, a characteristic of almost all rock ‘n’ roll back in the day. That makes it timeless, not timed out. Everything starts with a sharp guitar riff, which gives way to a classic, fulsome Power Pop sound:

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So, there’s five stellar tracks to get you started with Power Pop Brain Freeze. Check back soon for five more.

New Perfect Harmony From The Legal Matters

artworks-000173869094-rrhrps-t500x500We’ve been very, very busy with real life these past six months.

But, we’re back with some exciting news.

The Legal Matters dominated our year-end lists for 2014, capturing the top slot on our album chart, and the number 3 slot on our singles chart. For good measure, band member Andy Reed grabbed the top slot on our list of the best EPs of 2015.

The band’s new album, Conrad, is being released by the very cool Omnivore Recordings, on October 28. However, a free “preview,” of sorts — an “intro” — is available for free at the Noise Trade marketplace. It is highly recommended that you check it out. Immediately.

What will you get?

First, there is a track from the new long-player, “Anything,” which features all of the elements that propelled the self-titled debut to the top of our 2014 album list: strong, bittersweet, lead vocals by Chris Richards, perfect swirling group harmonies, and clean, often jangling guitars. By the time a slide guitar kicks in at the 2:27 mark, you have all the makings of an instant classic.

You will also get a previously unreleased version of the sublime Teenage Fanclub track, “Don’t Look Back,” which is the best kind of cover. It remains generally true to the original vision, but the band spikes its version with loads-and-loads of harmony at which the original only hinted.

The “intro” is rounded out by two tracks from the 2014 release.

“The Legend Of Walter Wright” is the aforementioned Number 3 song of 2014. “We Were Enemies” is one of the more dramatic tracks from the previous long-player, as it alternates effortlessly between low-key acoustic sorrow and pounding, pulsing storm.

Now, stop reading this, get over to Noise Trade, and download  The Legal Matters: An Intro immediately. Another link is right here.

Then, wake up real early on October 28 and get the long-player. You can’t go wrong. It is simply not possible.

The Sloan Tribute: It Sounds Great, Get It

Sloan TributeVarious Artists, If It Feels Good Do It — A Sloan Tribute: On-line searches for “tribute albums” will yield numerous rants bellyaching about the very concept of the “tribute album.” Its kind of cool to trash tribute albums, even if the music they impart is good, or even great. Snooze.

The good folks at Futureman Records have assembled a collection of thirty-one covers of some of the finest songs released by the Toronto-based quartet, Sloan, over the course of their two+ decades of releasing consistently tasty works of melodically based rock ‘n’ roll. Call it Power Pop, if you like. Indeed, many of the contributing artists to If It Feels Good will be quite well-known to visitors of this site. Many have placed high on my lists of the best songs, LPs and EPs over the past three years.

Undoubtedly, one approaches an album such as If It Feels Good from an inherently biased perspective based on one’s assessment of the source material. My personal collection counts more than 150 tracks by Sloan. I would be predisposed to enjoying If It Feels Good.

Never mind, though. Futureman has succeeded in releasing the finest tribute album I have heard. The collection is expertly curated and assembled, down to the artwork which is reproduced at the top of this post. The performances on If It Feels Good are, without a fault, first-rate. The interpretations of tracks from Sloan’s large catalog are thoughtful and remain, with one exception, generally “true” to the originals, even while the artists put their own spins on the soundscapes. The recording, production and mastering are superb throughout, and glue the collection together into a cohesive whole. If It Feels Good is more than worth your valuable time and money.

I could easily write about each of the thirty-one tracks on If It Feels Good. There is not a duffer in the bunch. I’ll focus, however, on some of my favorites.

Stereo Tiger, which grabbed the number 7 spot on my list of the best longplayers of 2015, kicks off the festivities with a nice version of “C’mon C’mon,” that is slightly brighter than Sloan’s original. The drums also kick in a bit stronger and the vocals, like most on the collection, shine throughout the track.

The Hangabouts, another top 10 finisher on my 2015 list, manage the seemingly impossible. They sweeten a Jay Ferguson track — the brilliant “The Answer Was You” — by adding acoustic guitars and smoothing the vocals relative to Ferguson’s naturally smooth style. You should hear this one right now:

Paul Melancon contributes a strong vocals in front of The New Insecurities on the bittersweet “It’s In Your Eyes.” Chris Richards handles the complex lead vocal on “Coax Me” with aplomb. It would be easy to mistake “Right Or Wrong” as a Nick Piunti original. The voice and sound are unmistakable, yet the final result is rooted firmly in the source material. The Well Wishers pull off a similar feat, to great effect, on “The Lines You Amend.”

Another standout is Pop 4’s expanded version of “Flying High Again” (the original clocks in at less that a minute-thirty). The male-female vocal and harmonizing lift the virtual supergroup’s version to the top of the collection:

“Misty’s Beside Herself” ranks as one of my favorite Sloan tracks. Paul Myers adds electronics to the track, and pulls it off brilliantly. Phil Ajjarapu contributes a nice version of “Set In Motion” to the collection. Head Futureman, Keith Klingensmith, shines brightly on “I Wanna Thank You.” A track from my Number 1 EP of 2015, Andy Reed’s version of “I Love A Long Goodbye,” also appears here, and is, of course, essential.

Will you find yourself firing up If If Feels Good, and listen to start to finish? Maybe, maybe not. At the very least, stick the thirty-one tracks into a big playlist, hit shuffle, and marvel at the great skill, care and love devoted to covering some of the finest songs released by one of the best bands of the past two decades.

You can get it right here.

We Get Stacks And Stacks Of Records!

Well, digital files — and lots of them — but you get the idea.

Here’s the first of several round-ups of worthy new music that has recently crossed our virtual desk.

a2459102903_16Bertling Noise Laboratories, The Flehmen Response: Chicago-based multi-instrumentalist Nick Bertling “writes the songs, plays the instruments, sings the words, [and] records it.” He does all of those things quite well on his second solo outing.

Despite the monicker under which Bertling records, The Flehmen Response is not an exercise in noise pop. Instead, it fits squarely within the melodic rock idiom, alternating effortlessly between upbeat rockers, quieter acoustic expressions, and the occasional left-field sonic exploration.

These contrasts begin immediately on The Flehmen Response.  The opening track, fittingly titled “My Opening Remarks,” is a piano-based rumination on life lived previously, and the promise (and possible dread) of the unknowable future. “Radio” is sunny, slightly rocking pop song, the sort that once frequented the radio. The swaying, acoustic “Sea Shanty” is enlivened by occasionally soaring keyboards. “I Don’t Want To Rock” thumbs its nose at rock ‘n’ roll posturing, while rocking quite nicely indeed. The standout track, “You Won’t Know Me,” will have you singing along unconsciously, even as it takes you on unexpected twists and turns:

The Flehmen Response was released at the tail end of 2015. It’s a shoo-in, however, for my “best of” list for 2016. That is quite an achievement from the perspective of late-January.

a0371773716_16Coke Belda, Nummer Zwei: This is another late-2015 release destined for my year-end “best of” list. Nummer Zwei delivers hit-after-hit-after-hit. It is filled to overflowing with non-stop hooks, beautiful stacked vocal harmonies (supplied exclusively by Belda), and sharp, pointed musicianship that thrills repeatedly without becoming indulgent.

The bouncy “Rainbow” kicks off the festivities, with those layered harmonies on prominent display, and punctuated by synth lines ripped from the mid-70s. “You’re Not In Love” is the first of several “gentle” guitar-based rockers. Its combination of jangle and rhythm will have you bopping along within moments. “Hold Me Tight” explores similar sonic territory, until its vocal harmonies chime in and transport you to the early-60s. “Another  ****ing Song,” the second in a two-song mini-suite of tracks about songwriting, rocks quite nicely for two minutes, and then hits even harder with some of the finest high-register singing put to rockin’ pop music in quite some time:


The hits, though, don’t stop there. Not even close.

“Mustard Trees” is a jaunty, hook-laden pop rocker that walks generally in Beatle-y territory. If you listen carefully toward the end, however, you’ll detect a bit of guitar shredding at the bottom of the mix. Tasty slide guitar nicely compliments the somewhat winsome “Where I Am.” “It Shines For You” is a pounding rocker punctuated by the occasional shiny guitar.

Nummer Zwei is a big leap in quality over Belda’s first solo outing, which itself is quite good. You can get  both for one low price at Belda’s Bandcamp page. That could be the best music deal of the year.

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Several tracks from The Flehman Response and Nummer Zwei can be heard in regular rotation at Pop That Goes Crunch Radio, which has a new home and can be accessed directly from this page. Just click on the “Listen Live” headphone icon at the top of the sidebar to your right, and you will land on our player page. You can also click on the “Pop That Goes Crunch Radio” link above the title on this page for more information, and a link to the player page as well.

Happy listening!

 

Top 10 EPs of 2015

a3090438272_16

Andy Reed is a perennial on this blog, whether as a solo artist, a producer, a sound engineer or as a member of The Legal Matters, who grabbed the top slot on my list of the best albums of 2014. It is therefore fitting that his 2015 EP, Relay Vol. 1 captures the top slot of my list of the finest EPs of 2015. Relay is five songs, perfectly conceived and executed, beautifully sung and played. There is no excuse at all not to get it.

The other nine EPs that made my 2015 list fit snugly within the rockin’ pop genre dissected throughout this blog. The Crush, The Persian Leaps and The Foreign Films return from my 2014 list. Yorktown Lads have the distinction of making my top EPs and top LP lists with a pair of fine late-2014 releases.

Links are provided for your sampling, streaming and purchasing pleasure.

1.  Andy Reed — Relay Vol. 1

2.  Jeff Litman — Primetime

3.  The Foreign Films — The Record Collector (Side 3)

4.  Yorktown Lads — $200 EP

5.  Chris Richards and the Subtractions — 3Peat -That Covers That (3)

6.  Persian Leaps — High & Vibrate

7.  The Crush — Someone For You

8.  Hidden PicturesCalifornia Plates

9.  Herb Eimerman — Five Dimensional Man

10. Jay GonzalezThe Bitter Suite

Top 40 Albums of 2015

Caddy -- The Better End

We’ve taken some time off lately. Unfortunately, real life occasionally interferes with what is really important.

Nevertheless, we’re back with a run-down of the top long-players of 2015. This year, the list is expanded from 20 to 40, and there will be no list of the top songs of the year.

The decision was made to focus on longer form works, and recognize more artists for releasing music that is engaging over the course of eight or more tracks. Each of the albums on the following list would be a worthy addition to the collection of any serious music listener. A couple of entries were released in late-2014, but were were much more a part of the previous twelve months than they were of 2014.

Caddy’s The Better End captures the number 1 spot on this year’s list. The August 30, 2015 review on this site noted that Thom Dahl spiced his long-player with “rather liberal doses of layered, often jangling and chiming guitars, entrancing mid-tempo rhythms, swirling harmonies, beguiling tempo shifts and sunny, relaxed vibes straight out of early-70s Southern California.” Run, don’t walk, to your nearest electronic portal and get this record immediately, either digitally, on CD or on vinyl. Its one of the finest releases in recent years.

Although each of the long-players on this year’s list fit within the broad spectrum of melodically-based rockin’ pop, there is substantial variation in the mix, including old-school rock, acoustic pop, baroque pop, Americana, punk rock, and much more. Links are provided for your sampling, streaming and, of course, purchasing.

1.  CaddyThe Better End

2.  PugwashPlay This Intimately (As If Among Friends)

3.  Nick PiuntiBeyond The Static

4.  William DukeThe Dark Beautiful Sun

5.  The New Trocaderos — Thrills & Chills

6.  Love AxeSouth Dakota

7.  Stereo TigerTwo Weeks

8.  The HangaboutsIllustrated Bird

9.  The Junior League Also Rans

10. Susan JamesSea Glass

11. Ryan Allen & His Extra ArmsHeart String Soul

12. Cleaners From VenusRose Of The Lanes

13. Daniel Wylie’s Cosmic Rough RidersChrome Cassettes

14. The TurnbackAre We There Yet?

15. Michael CarpenterThe Big Radio

16. Steve Robinson & Ed WoltilCycle

17. Mono In StereoLong For Yesterday

18. Kurt BakerPlay It Cool

19. The See SeeOnce, Forever & Again

20. The NinesNight Surfer and the Cassette Kids

21. Pop4 — Summer

22. Gordon WeissIts About Time

23. The PopgunsPop Fiction

24. Yorktown LadsSongs About Girls And Other Disasters

25. Gretchen’s WheelFragile State

26. Summer FictionHimalaya

27. Travel LanesLet’s Begin To Start Again

28. Joel BoyeaHere Again, And Lost

29. Three Hour TourAction And Heroes

30. DC CardwellPop Art

31. Trip WireGet In & Get Out

32. Dr. Cosmo’s Tape LabBeyond The Silver Sea

33. Brandon SchottCrayons & Angels

34. The Corner LaughersMatilda Effect

35. WattsFlash Of White Light

36. Nato Coles and The Blue Diamond BandPromises To Deliver

37. Jonathan RundmanLook Up

38. The WeaklingsThe Weeklings

39. Plastic MaccaSensation

40. The ConnectionLabor Of Love

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