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The Big Show #30

bigshowOur signature hosted rockin’ pop show returned recently after a long hiatus, placing its focus squarely on new (and “newish”) music, a lot of which undoubtedly will make our year-end “best of” lists.

This installment runs the gamut with contributions from long-established artists (Teenage Fanclub, Cotton Mather, The Anderson Council) to recent faves of this site and Pop That Goes Crunch Radio (Nick Piunti, Ryan Allen and His Extra Arms, The Legal Matters) to lesser known artists releasing interesting melodically driven music (Swanning, Starry Eyed Cadet, Ette). Kurt Baker makes an appearance fronting the closing track by Bullet Proof Lovers, whose seven-track self-titled album gets a full-court press from those purveyors of real rock ‘n’ roll at Rum Bar Records beginning October 7, 2016.

The full track list appears after the embed.

Tracklist:

1.  Ryan Allen and His Extra Arms —  “Alex Whiz”

2.  Nick Piunti — “One Hit Wonder”

3.  Somerdale — “She’s Leaving California”

4.  The Persian Leaps — “See Me Unaware”

5.  The Person & The People — “I’ve Seen This Place”

6.  The Kickstand Band — “Stay Inside”

7.  Cotton Mather — “Candy Lilac”

8.  The Anderson Council — “Girl On The Northern Line”

9.  Hurry — “When I’m With You”

10. Andy Klingensmith — “Madeline”

11. The Junipers — Esmeranda

12. Teenage Fanclub — “The Darkest Part Of The Night”

13. The Legal Matters — “Don’t Look Back”

14. The Homewreckers — “In America”

15. Rob Clarke and The Wootones — “End of The End”

16. Erik Voeks — “She Loved Her Jangle Pop”

17. Cheap Star — “Into Your Arms”

18. Fast Cars — “Do You Really Want More”

19. Fernando Perdomo — Stay With The Friends

20. The Sons Of Mod — “I Think You’ve Heard It Enough By Now

21. The Above — “Just Can’t Forget About That Girl”

22. The Monos — “Pop Heart”

23. Starry Eyed Cadet — “Worlds Collide”

24. Swanning — “Swanning”

25. Ette — “Attack Of The Glam Soul Cheerleaders Parts 1 and 2”

26. Bullet Proof Lovers — “She’s Gonna Leave”

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.

 

Power Popsicle Brain Freeze, Take 2

File Aug 17, 4 24 13 PMToday, your humble servant supplies a second helping of some of the finest bits of rockin’ pop spinning on the Ice Cream Man’s ginormous compilation — Power Popsicle Brain Freeze — available for zero dollars and zero cents from the fine folks at Futureman Records. You can get the 139 track collection right here.

The rules are the same as on the prior post: the order of the tracks means absolutely nothing, and the focus is on artists and bands not previously discussed in these pages.

So, without further adieu . . .

Rob Clarke and The Wooltones, “End Of The End”: This delectable slice of updated mid-60s jangle pop by this Liverpool-based band features subtle psychedelic undertones along with Clarke’s smooth lead vocals and understated background harmonies. Cue it up and bask in the late-summer breeze:

The Floor Models, “Letter From Liverpool”: The Floor Models are a “re-born” 80’s combo. “Letter From Liverpool” is bittersweet jangle about faded memories and the enduring power of familiar sounds as the years march by. It is, quite obviously, a great companion to “End Of The End,” and could even cause your eyes to moisten as it winds to its close:

The Shinks, “Golden Leafs”: All I know about this band is that they hail from Stockholm, Sweden. Whoever they are, they have released one heck of a song from deep, deep, deep in left field. The opening, simple piano medley in this swaying, mid-tempo track will grab you immediately and not let go for nearly four-minutes:

That Driving Beat, “Wishing And Hoping.” The Driving Beat is an eleven-piece band from Stockholm, playing in the Northern Soul, Freakbeat and Garage playgrounds. “Wishing And Hoping” has a cool, mid-60s cosmopolitan flair with soulful horns and even more soulful vocals:

Soulbird, “Soulwater”: Soulbird produces subtly soulful pop music, with an occasional country infusion, in London, England. “Soulwater” imparts an early-70s Southern California vibe, punctuated by barque flute stylings:

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So, there’s another five excellent tracks from Power Popsicle Brain Freeze to add to your personal playlist. Check back soon for news on another five standout tracks.

We Get More Records And The Hits Keep Coming

Today brings reviews of three more fine recent releases that found their way to our virtual desk.

PropellerPropeller, Fall Off The World: Propeller’s third long-player shows Greg Randall and Will Anderson to be masters of the pithy, hook-filled pop song set amid a wash of punchy guitars and non-stop boisterous rhythms. “Pithy” is an operative description here. The ten-song set clocks in at less than thirty-minutes, just enough time for the guys to say their peace.

And they say it quite well.

They get it started with “Can You Hear Us Now,” which sounds instantly recognizable. A couple of extra bass notes in the intro, and you’ve got Bram Tchikovsky’s “Girl Of My Dreams.” Is that a bad thing? Not if your are sound checking one of the great pop songs of the late-70s. Randall and Anderson only use “Girl” as fleeting template, before taking “Can You Hear Us Now” to a louder place and more than justifying the Husker Du tag on their Bandcamp page. The next track, “Mismatched Shoes,” sounds as though it was blasting from a local college radio station non-stop, all summer long back in ’86.

All of this, however, is just warm-up for the show-stopping, three minutes of pure pop goodness that is “Wish I Had Her Picture”:


The hits, though, keep coming at breakneck speed.

“She’s So Alive” jangles its way into your heart, mind and soul. The bopping “It’s Kinda Why I Like You” attests to the power of simplicity when employed by the right hands. “You Remind Me Of You,” which made one of my previous “Year End” lists, injects liberal doses of sugar into the basic rocking mix:


Fall Off The World concludes, quite fittingly, with “Turn On The Radio,” a lyrical and sonic paean to The Ramones and the power of rock ‘n’ roll radio. It gets in and gets out at 1:55 — a perfect ending to Propeller’s best longplayer to date.

You can get Fall Off The World, right here as a “name-your-price” download. Chip in some cash, though. You won’t regret it.

 

TrolleyTrolley, Caught In The Darkness:  The latest release by this venerable Milwaukee-based band time-travels effortlessly from the 60s to today, making the occasional pit stop at a number of places and times in-between. Trolley is usually characterized as purveyors of “psych-pop.” For the most part, though, Trolley’s brand of psychedelia is more of the 1966 variety, than of the trippier experiments of 1968, with its swirling keyboards complimented throughout by relentlessly pounding beats.

Those beats get the festivities underway, as a short drum roll announces the start of the title track, an exposition of a darkened heart playing off, in yin-yang fashion, against an exuberant, sunny soundtrack. The happy “Thursday Girl” has a thoroughly sunny disposition. The opposition of darkness and light returns on “Step Into The Clear,” whose soothingly sweet opening soon gives way to a more sinister feel. As tinkling bells struggle for supremacy against gloomy guitars, the singer notes in a bit of bored resignation that “I’m wasted/but such is life”:


The band’s penchant for mixing it all up is evident throughout Caught In The Darkness. Complex rhythms take the fuzzy keyboard-oriented “She Has It All” to unexpected places.  The British Invasion feel of “All The Way” is spiked with a more contemporary array of sounds. “She Helps Me Celebrate” is Power Pop, circa 1980. What I noted about the generally less “trippy” feel of Trolley’s overall approach is, however, thrown completely out the window on the closing track, “Take My Love,” a seven-and-a-half minute excursion into the dreamy unknown.

Caught In The Darkness is a album conceived from great ideas, and executed with great care. You can strap yourself in for the fantastic voyage right here.

 

The PulseThe Gordy Garris Group, The Pulse: The Gordy Garris Group hails from Saginaw, Michigan, and enlisted Andy Reed to record their second studio longplayer. The Pulse is, for the most part, a set of acoustic guitar-based indie rock about loneliness, heartbreak and self-realization.

Garris, who has already written more than 200 songs at age 2o, has a knack for penning tunes that sneak their way into the subconscious. I drove around town with The Pulse on the car stereo one day, only to find myself humming one of its tracks unknowingly a couple of days later. The track in question, “Energy,” is the standout in the collection, a rumination on romantic longing set against strummed guitars and a pounding beat:


Other tracks mine similar territory, but manage to remain fresh. “Night Fall” begins with ethereal harmonies, and is enlivened by subtle keyboards. A muted acoustic guitar and a nice string arrangement compliment Garris’ vocals perfectly on the winsome “You Got Me.” “Bad News” is driven by staccato rhythms. “Perfect” features gorgeous steel guitar playing.

Garris says his influences include Green Day and Coldplay. I hear a lot of Josh Rouse on The Pulse. That might just be me, but its a good thing in any event. You should stream and buy The Pulse right here.

 

The “Signature Sound” On Pop That Goes Crunch Radio

51Mo7M-Z1xLAt its new home, Pop That Goes Crunch Radio now has more than 2,600 tracks spinning in regular rotation. We are still adding them as fast as we can.

We have culled that mighty playlist into a 300+ track playblock that we call “The Signature Sound.” This playblock, featuring the hand selected “best of the best” from our library, will run every Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoon from 3 pm Pacific (6 pm Eastern) to 5 pm Pacific (8 pm Eastern).

The playblock features favorites by well-known artists such as Teenage Fanclub, Sloan, The Pernice Brothers, The Go-Betweens, Cotton Mather, The Jam, Blondie, Elvis Costello, Big Star, The Kinks and, of course, The Beatles, but also includes many tracks from artists that made our year-end “best of lists” over the past three years. The 2015 lists can be found here and here. If you have only two hours to devote to the radio in any given week, this is the place to spend them. Guaranteed.

Not convinced? Well, here is one of the finest tracks gracing the “Signature Sound” playblock:

Happy listening!

 

The Big Show #5: Back To The 70s

Ramones -- Rocket To Russi

This edition of The Big Show time travels back to the 1970s with seventy minutes rockin’ pop, New Wave and old school Punk Rock for your listening pleasure.

It starts with the first song I ever heard by The Ramones, “Sheena Is A Punk Rocker” from their third long-player, Rocket To Russia. As I mention on the show, I was eleven years old when their first LP was released, and eleven-year olds did not have access to anything like that in 1975. By 1977, however, things had started to change and, aided by the utter derision of an old-school music appreciation teacher that told her classes that they should not under any circumstances listen to that demon music called “punk rock,” I was primed to move beyond the mainstream.

“Back To The 70s” also includes one of my all-time favorite songs, “Teenage Kick” by The Undertones, a track from The Buzzcocks’ Singles Going Steady (probably the single best compilation ever put together) a set of less-well-known Power Pop from the late-70s by The Secrets* (the asterisk is intentional), Gary Charlson and The Names, as well as the original version of “Hangin’ On The Telephone,” a classic track by Nick Lowe, The Kursaal Flyers riffing off The Who, and a whole lot more.

“The Big Show” airs on Pop That Goes Crunch radio on Wednesdays at 6 pm Pacific, Fridays at 11 am Pacific and Saturdays at 11 am Pacific. The shows are usually uploaded to Mixcloud on Sunday mornings.

The show can be heard below. The complete tracklist appears below the embed.

 

Tracklist:

1.  The Ramones, “Sheena Is A Punk Rocker

2.  The Pranks, “I Don’t Wanna Lose That Feeling”

3.  The Flashcubes, “Its You Tonight”

4.  The Rezillos, “Top Of The Pops”

5,  The Undertones, “Teenage Kicks”

6.  The Jags, “Back Of My Hand (I’ve Got Your Number”)

7.  The Secrets*, “It’s Your Heart Tonight”

8.  Gary Charlson, “Real Life Saver”

9.  The Names, “Why Can’t It Be”

10 The Buzzcocks, “I Don’t Mind”

11. The Fans, “You Don’t Live Here Anymore”

12. Eddie & The Hot Rods, “Do Anything You Wanna Do”

13. Bram Tchaikovsky, “Girl Of My Dreams”

14. The Beckies, “Midnight And You”

15. Shoes, “Tomorrow Night”

16. Off Broadway, “Stay In Time”

17. The Nerves, “Hangin’ On The Telephone”

18. The Beat, “Walking Out On Love”

19. Gary Valentine, “The First One”

20. Nick Lowe, “Mary Provost”

21. The Kursaal Flyers, “Television Generation”

22. The Moderns, “Ready For The 80s”

Putting iTunes Radio To The Test, Indie Pop Style

iTunes Radio

I listen to a lot music during my two-hour daily commutes to and from work. Each way involves going over a bridge, through three tunnels and zigging and zagging down narrow streets with seemingly perpetual construction. There are many opportunities to go stark raving mad. Good music therefore is key. Its essential.

I decided the other day to put iTunes Radio to the test. The cool kids are not supposed to like this. Gizmodo says its a “sucky money-maker,” “boring, and packed with shortcomings and missed opportunities.” Its a mere Pandora clone, but with about twenty-seven times the number of tracks.

Meh.

Gizmodo really isn’t very cool, anyway. Its “review” is pretty lame and closes with a suggestion to make the service better in a way that it acknowledges probably “can’t be profitable.” Apple, of course, is in the business of not being profitable.

Nevertheless, anything with twenty-seven million tracks sitting on its servers has the opportunity to be pretty interesting. Pandora has about a million. It gets pretty boring, pretty quickly.

So, for my little test, I created a radio station from the music of Stephen Lawrenson, whose recent work, Obscuriosity, is a candidate for album-of-the-year. You can check out the gorgeous twelve-string driven brilliance of its best track, “Words To Say,” right here. That was the vibe I was trying to achieve for my morning commute.

“Stephen Lawrenson Radio” certainly delivered the goods . . . for a while. I got cool tracks from Greg Pope and Throwback Suburbia. Some tasty mid-60s vibes were delivered by Marco Joachim, whom I had never heard previously. His song “Those Days” sounded great on the freeway.

The Connection, about whom I wrote recently, chimed in with some more hook-filled goodness right out of 1964. This one is so good, in fact, that you should listen to it in this post:

And, who out there would not smile when being served up Kurt Baker doing Nick Lowe’s classic “Cruel To Be Kind“? Listen to that one right here, too:

So far, so good.

But when iTunes Radio starts veering off course, it can go haywire.

Although I don’t have much of an interest in hearing Nirvana these days, “Come As You Are” remains a great song. But, two songs later, I was “treated” to Bruno Mars. Whatever Bruno Mars has to do with Stephen Lawrenson is far beyond me. That then gave way to Linkin Park (great stuff if you were 17 about 10 years ago), The Fray, some dull latter-day Alice Cooper, and Mumford & Sons. Weird, but perhaps understandable in some far-off way. There is no rational explanation, however, for trying to make me listen to Pink. Not gonna happen. Ever.

Order, though, was quickly restored to the world by Teenage Fanclub doing “I’ll Make It Clear”:

Perhaps iTunes Radio needs to learn the user’s preferences. There are some twenty-seven million tracks from which to choose, which is quite a collection. I skipped the Bruno Mars to Mumford set entirely. I trashed the Pink tune immediately. Maybe they’ll be sent to my digital oblivion.

Nevertheless, on what was its second day of its availability to the public-at-large, iTunes Radio wasn’t bad. It was actually pretty good. Indie pop listeners can certainly dig getting big doses of the likes of Throwback Suburbia, Kurt Baker and The Connection selected algorithmically for them.

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