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Five More Top Notch 2013 Pop Releases From The Place Where Melody Is King

I’m still catching up on discussing recent releases that have been spinning my music devices of late. Here’s five more, proceeding in a linear fashion from “quiet” to “loud.”

Andy Klingensmith, Pictures Of: There are only two instruments here — voice and guitar. Or rather many “voices,” as each song with lyrics contains cascades of gorgeous, layered harmonies amid perfect guitar playing. It’s not at all “crunchy” pop, but acoustic pop with an occasional psychedelic sheen in the Simon & Garfunkel vein. Its also the best cool, late-night album you likely will hear for quite some time. Check out “Template Song,” in particular, and let your worries wash away:

Andrea Perry, Four: Perry’s fourth long-player should be played between Cotton Mather’s Kontiki and Emitt Rhodes’ The American Dream. It has the same handcrafted feel as do those two classics. It touches all of the right chamber pop notes with its use of strings, piano, xylophones, among others, alongside Perry’s dreamy yet substantive vocals. It features contributions from KC Bowman of Agony Aunts and The Corner Laughers, about whom you can read about in the post directly below this one. Four reveals its many virtues slowly but surely, and deserves repeat listens:

Laurie Biagini, Sanctuary of Sound: Dusty Springfield would have made records like this had she hailed from Southern California. Biagini creates the sunniest possible mid-60s Sunshine Pop up in Vancouver, playing most of the instruments and handling the lead and backing vocals herself. The Beach Boys run all through Sanctuary of Sound. The album is so unrelentingly upbeat that I couldn’t stop tapping my foot and bopping my head as it played in the background while doing work earlier this week. Feel the warm sand between your toes:

The Connection, Let It Rock: This is garage rock for now people. The Rolling Stones provide the basic template — The Connection cover “Connection” — and the band’s fingers are firmly planted in the kind of melodic rock that once ruled the airwaves. Let It Rock is not some mere retro project, however. It just, well, rocks, and it does so timelessly. The mid-tempo “Melinda” also features some of the coolest “la la la’s” put to wax or to “zeros” and “ones” in quite some time:

honeychain, Futura: This one takes a trip to 1979 and wraps Blondie, The Ramones, The Buzzcocks, The Go-Go’s and countless other kindred spirits from back in that day around Hillary Burton’s capable hands. The sound nevertheless always remains contemporary. The hooks on this five-song EP come at you non-stop, often launched by pummeling percussion, driving bass and equally hammering guitars:

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So there’s another five recent and somewhat recent releases worth checking out. Quiet or loud, slow or fast, they nevertheless come from the place where melody is king.

Three Tasty Pop Teasers From Agony Aunts

When I was young, the prospect of listening to anything by a band that called itself as a “Bay Area supergroup” would have been an aural horror show in the making. Journey was “Bay Area music” back then. Emerson, Lake & Palmer was a supergroup. Heck, Journey consisted of former members of Santana and The Steve Miller Band. It was a “Bay Area supergroup” all by itself.

But time marches on. I’ve lived in the Bay Area for the past fifteen years.

Agony Aunts bills itself as a “Bay Area psych-pop supergroup.” It features members of The Corner Laughers and The Orange Peels, among others. The first two lines of The Corner Laughers‘ song, “Chicken Bingo” — “They asked us where we came from, we said San Francisco/They asked again, we said outer space” — is noted as my “favorite quotation” on Facebook. The circle becomes complete.

Agony Aunts‘ 2010 release, Greater Miranda, is a delectable concoction of sunshine pop, power pop, chamber pop and bubblegum pop, punctuated by occasional psychedelic flourishes and anchored by quizzical lyrics like “[h]e flaunts a billion fortunes and sleeps with frayed eyes split.” Whatever that means, it sure sounds great. The whole record is also beautifully sung and filled to the brim with glistening male-female harmonies. They get special props for constructing a one-minute plus piece of meringue, “RB & YM,” around five words (“Rob Black and your money”) and a bunch of “buh, buh, buhs.” Not taking things too seriously is a major virtue on this blog.

Agony AuntsThe band recently dropped three songs in advance of the November issuance of their next long player, Big Cinnamon. They’re just as good as anything on Greater Miranda.

The lead track, “Twenty-four Mergansers” is 100% hook until about the 1:38 mark. That’s when a synth that would have made Emerson, Lake & Palmer proud back in ’71 takes over, followed by a wall of cascading guitar sound. Calm is soon restored, however, to allow the hooks to lead the way home:

“Family Drugs” sticks a swaying, almost laid-back mid-70s arrangement around a song about bottling up “spaniel rage.” Its all sewn together by those perfect male-female harmonies.

“We Got The Jekyll” is a more straight ahead (at least for them) mid-tempo rocker about dealing with one’s demons, or so it seems because “the Lord will provide you with endless supplies of dirt.” It closes with some more 70’s-sounding synth work fighting with demonic laughter for center stage:

Based on these early teasers, Big Cinnamon promises to deliver big when it is released in full this fall. I have made my peace with “Bay Area music” and “supergroups.”

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