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Seven Decades Of Melodic Rock & Roll

Archive for the tag “alternative rock”

Top 20 Albums Of 2014

The Legal MattersI heard a whole lot of albums over the past twelve months. The following is my attempt to distill it all down to the very best of the year.

There is substantial overlap between the artists on this list, and the artists on my Top 30 songs list, which you can find here. That is to be expected. The best songs of the year typically are not “one-offs.” Most appeared on albums to which I found myself returning many times during the year.

The Legal Matters’ self-titled “debut” grabs the top spot on my list. Its combination of incisive songwriting, beautiful production, memorable melodies and the best vocals of the year (particularly, of course, those sublime harmonies) propelled it to the top of the class. My original review can be found hereAerial’s Why Don’t They Teach Heartbreak At School? came in at a close second with its clever and sometimes witty writing, and its brilliant melding of classic Power Pop and West Coast Pop sensibilities. My original review can be found here.

Each of these long-players on my list deserve a spot in any serious music collection. They fall squarely in the “indie pop” realm, but are nevertheless varied in approach and intent. The list includes the driving and fast-paced rocking pop of The Sugar Stems, the exquisitely crafted and personal melodic pop from Dave Caruso, the classic jangle pop of The Britannicas and The Carousels, the bright and shiny updated Power Pop of Ransom and the Subset and The Jellybricks, a walk through the Nuggets compilation with The Above, some early-80s-styled melodic rock from Edward O’Connell, and the quiet, almost chamber pop of Fauna Flora, among its mix.

Click on the links to listen and purchase — which you should. Quite happily.

1.  The Legal MattersThe Legal Matters

2.  AerialWhy Don’t They Teach Heartbreak At School?

3.  phonographphonograph Vol. 1

4.  Linus Of Hollywood Something Good

5.  The Paul & JohnInner Sunset

6.  Dave CarusoCardboard Vegas Roundabout

7.  MothboxerSand And The Rain

8.  DropkickHomeward

9.  Ransom and the SubsetNo Time To Lose

10. The Britannicas High Tea

11. The Well WishersA Shattering Sky

12. Edward O’ConnellVanishing Act

13. The CarouselsLove Changes Like The Seasons

14. The AboveWaterbury Street

15. The New MendicantsInto The Lime

16. Rick Hromadka Trippin’ Dinosaurs

17. Sugar StemsOnly Come Out At Night

18. The Jellybricks Youngstown Tune-Up

19. Joe SullivanSchlock Star

20. Fauna Flora — Fauna Flora

You can here tracks from these great albums, and many others, at the streaming Pop That Goes Crunch radio station, which you can reach right here.

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Top 30 Songs Of 2014

Song MachineFor this year, I expanded my list of the best songs of the year to 30. I heard upwards of 2,000 songs released this year. Consequently, the 30 that made my list are truly the best of the best.

Following the list, is an embed of a podcast where I “count down” the Top 30, and add some commentary. Complete versions of each song can be heard in the countdown. Last year’s Top 20 can be found here.

This list is biased heavily toward songs released in the first ten months of the year. That does not mean that songs released since October are not worthy of being listed. Those songs, however, did not have sufficient time to percolate so that they could be assessed adequately against songs that I have been on my listening devices for many months. They will be eligible for inclusion in next year’s list.

I also decided not to include any covers or live versions of songs. Instead, the focus is on original music released over the past twelve months. Well, one track (“The Kids”) was released in the waning days of 2013, but is much more of a “2014 song” than a song of the prior year.

As always, it is difficult to make fine line distinctions between great songs, and your mileage may, of course, vary. Mine could also vary over time, but this is how I see it at the end of 2014.

1.  Cliff Hillis, “Dashboard” (Song Machine EP)

2.  Linus Of Hollywood, “Biography” (Something Good)

3.  The Legal Matters, “The Legend Of Walter Wright” (S/T)

4.  phonograph, “Don’t You Bring Me Down” (phonograph Vol. 1)

5.  The Paul & John, “Long Way Back” (Inner Sunset)

6.  Aerial, “Why Don’t They Teach Heartbreak At School” (Why Don’t They Teach Heartbreak At School)

7.  Dave Caruso, “The Art Of Erica” (Cardboard Vegas Roundabout)

8.  Nick Piunti, “Quicksand” (single)

9.  The Hazey Janes, “(I’m) Telescoping” (The Language Of Faint Theory)

10. Mothboxer, “In The Morning” (Sand And The Rain)

11. Dropkick, “Halfway Round Again” (Homeward)

12. Ransom and the Subset, “When Will I See You” (No Time To Lose)

13. The New Mendicants, “Cruel Annette” (Into The Lime)

14. The Carousels, “My Beating Heart” (Love Changes Like The Seasons)

15. The New Trocaderos, “The Kids” (single)

16. The Crush, “Around” (Future Blimps EP)

17. The Well Wishers, “I Believe” (A Shattering Sky)

18. The Persian Leaps, “Pretty Boy” (Drive Drive Delay EP)

19. The Above, “Do Your Have A Healthy Mind” (Waterbury Street)

20. Edward O’Connell, “The End Of The Line” (Vanishing Act)

21. Propeller, “You Remind Me Of You” (single)

22. Chris Richard & The Subtractions, “Call Me Out” (Decayed)

23. Greg Ieronimo, “Roller Coaster Ride” (Bipolar Love)

24. The Person & The People, “Vitamin C” (What A Drag)

25. The Bon Mots, “Gallahad” (Best Revenge)

26. Sugar Stems, “Haunted” (Only Come Out At Night)

27. Muscle Souls, “Mark On The World” (Mark On The World EP)

28. Rick Hromadka, “Dreams Of A Hippy Summer” (Trippin’ Dinosaurs)

29. The Britannicas, “Got A Hold On Me” (High Tea)

30. Gen Pop, “Warm Sun” (Waiting For Disaster)

The Big Show #7: Going Themeless

The Big Show #7The next several installments of The Big Show are “themeless.” They simply present 20 hand-selected rockin’ pop songs (new, old and in-between) for your music discovery and distinct listening pleasure.

Show #7 kicks off with an alternate and slightly more rocking version of one of favorite songs by The Grip Weeds — “Rainy Day #3” — “pre-titled” as “Rainy Day #1 & 2.”

New music checks in with a wonderful track by the reconstituted Cleaners From Venus and a rather fun song by newcomer Joe Sullivan, whose long-player (produced and engineered by the great Andy Reed) can be purchased for a mere seven clams from Futureman Records.

Show #7 also includes Teenage Fanclub and the Pernice Brothers doing songs that rank among my favorites by two of the Greatest Bands of All-Time: “Your Love Is The Place Where I Come From” and “The Weakest Shade Of Blue,” respectively. The festivities conclude with The Zombies doing one of the Greatest Records Ever Made, “This Will Be Our Year.” Superlatives abound.

So, give it a listen, and tune in frequently to the main mix at Pop That Goes Crunch radio, streaming 24/7.

The complete tracklist appears below the embed.

 

Tracklist:

1.  The Grip Weeds, “Rainy Day #1 and 2”

2.  20/20, “Yellow Pills”

3.  Grant Lee Buffalo, “The Shining Hour”

4.  The Cleaners From Venus, “Cling To Me”

5.  Ballard, “I Know That You’re Watching Me”

6.  The Who, “So Sad About Us”

7.  And The Professors, “Turn Of The Century Recycling Blues”

8.  The Sharp Things, “Flowers For My Girl”

9.  Husker Du, “Could You Be The One”

10. Redd Kross, “Sick Love”

11. Velvet Crush, “Time Wraps Around You”

12. The Jayhawks, “Waiting For The Sun”

13. The Byrds, “Its All Over Now, Baby Blue”

14. Joe Sullivan, “Rock Star Boyfriend”

15. The Maureens, “Outta Sight”

16. Pernice Brothers, “Weakest Shade Of Blue”

17. Teenage Fanclub, “Your Love Is The Place Where I Come From”

18. The Green Tambourine Band, “I’m Free”

19. The Orange Peels, “Grey Holiday”

20. The Zombies, “This Will Be Our Year”

 

 

5 Reasons To Listen To Pop That Goes Crunch Radio

Records, Records, RecordsPop That Goes Crunch radio is streaming seven decades of melodically-driven rock and roll twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. You can check it out through the link posted just above.

I now have some data on the “most” popular and the “least” popular tracks spinning in rotation based on listener retention. Here’s five of the most popular songs in the current playlist. A couple were released within the past year, a couple were released in the 1990s. Complete tracks are embedded to give you an idea of what is currently “hot” on Pop That Goes Crunch Radio:

Wyatt Funderburk, “Summer”:  Funderburk mixes the bitter and the sweet as well as anyone on the scene today. He also pens great couplets like: “Time and love are conflicted and unpredicted but who can complain?/Happiness and contentment are nothing but sentiment without heartache and pain”

Evil Arrows, “Jennifer Kills The Giant (Once A Week)”: Bryan Scary plans to release up to 60 songs this year under the Evil Arrows moniker. The five-song EP 1 is available right here. “Jennifer” is proof positive that “simple,” when done right, has an elegance all its own:

The Sun Sawed in 1/2, “Janet Greene”: This relentlessly pounding ode to a woman “slightly greater” than Bardot, Monroe and Farrah will ring in your ears for days on end:

Wilco, Nothing’severgonnastandinmyway (Again): Jeff Tweedy occasionally takes himself too seriously, but not on this slightly off-kilter, slightly satirical piece of pop brilliance. Its one of my favorite songs on my favorite Wilco album:

Spacemaid, “Baby Come On”: Insubstantial. Sickly sweet. Cotton candy. Bubblegum. And, of course, just perfect:

What are you waiting for? Run, don’t walk, over to Pop That Goes Crunch radio, where you can hear these cool five songs, along with more than 800 others spinning non-stop around-the-clock.

Now Streaming — Pop The Goes Crunch Radio

records7

As a compliment to this blog, I launched my own on-line streaming radio station at Live365. It streams 24-7, and plays the music discussed on this blog, and a whole lot more.

The station profile says in summary form that it spins a lot of different types of melodically-driven rock ‘n roll — “Power Pop, New Wave, Indie rock, lo-fi, British Invasion, Garage Rock, Psychedelic, West Coast Pop, Baroque Pop, Chamber Pop, Brit Pop.”

More specifically, you will hear today’s best indie pop artists, particularly those that placed a track on my  Top 20 of 2013Eric Barao, The Sharp Things, Nick PiuntiAn American Underdog, Stephen Lawrenson, Wyatt Funderburk, Lisa Mychols, And The Professors, Vegas With Randolph, Bye Bye Blackbirds, etc. The artists featured in my recent Indie Pop Playlist post feature prominently, as do those in my earlier two posts on playlists I created and uploaded. Those can be found here and here.

You also will hear Power Pop dating to its inception in the 1970s, both well-known (The Raspberries, Big Star, The Plimsouls), and somewhat obscure (The Pranks, The Secrets*, Gary Charlson, The Shivvers).

Early New Wave and Punk Rock is prominently featured, and represented by the likes of Elvis Costello, The Clash, Blondie, The Jam, and Joe Jackson.

The alternative rock scene starting in the early-1980s checks in with R.E.M., The Replacements, Husker Du, The Pixies, Guided By Voices, and others.

There are also doses of 60s rock from The Beatles, The Kinks, The Small Faces, Manfred Mann, The Beach Boys, The Zombies, Love, The Move, The Creation, The Pretty Things, etc.

For good measure, you’ll also hear earlier trailblazing pioneers of melodically-driven rock — Buddy Holly and The Everly Brothers.

So, stop by frequently. I plan to rotate tracks into the playlist — more than 44 hours long — from my personal library on a weekly basis. Just follow this link.

Top 20 Songs of 2013

I decided this year to compile a list of my 20 favorite songs of the past twelve months. Although I review albums on this site, most of my listening is done via playlists that I either compile myself, or which are generated by an iOS “apRecordsp” based on information in the Last.fm database.

As always, it is difficult to make fine line distinctions between great songs that come from a similar sensibility. Certainly, any of the songs in my Top 10 could have landed at No. 1. I could make that case for some of the tracks in the 11-20 positions, as well. And, over time, my assessments could change, as they did during the year. Nevertheless, this is how I see them at the end of 2013. Full tracks are embedded, or can be heard via the included link.

1.   Eric Barao — “On Holiday” (S/T): An audacious, lushly produced roller-coaster of a song that confidently kicks off one of the year’s best albums. Listen.

2.   The Sharp Things — “Light In My Harbor” (The Truth Is Like The Sun): The key lyric — “I love your face/and the tales it tell, its true/you’re the light in my harbor” — spends a lot of time in my mind. The piano, horns, strings, soulful vocals and jazzy interlude make it irresistible. Listen.

3.   Nick Piunti — “13 In My Head” (13 In My Head): Hands down, the best rocker of the year. It looks backward and forward in both sound and outlook, behind driving guitars and Piunti’s classic vocals:

4.   An American Underdog — “Good Girl” (The A/B EP): This one builds and builds in a sweeping, almost cinematic fashion to an emotional conclusion. And, as we have come to expect from Andy Reed, the track is beautifully sung, recorded and played (with some assistance). Listen.

5.   Stephen Lawrenson — “Words To Say” (Obscuriosity): Melancholy rarely sounds this pretty. I’m a sucker for the kind of jangly 12-string Rickenbacker guitar that anchors this update of a classic mid-60s sound. Listen

6.   Wyatt Funderburk — “Love Will Lead The Way” (Novel and Profane): A perfect pop song, without a bell or a whistle anywhere in sight. Simplicity is often the ultimate in elegance:

 

7.   Lisa Mychols — “Make Believe” (Above, Beyond & In Between) — As she usually does, Mychols takes me back to the days of sitting in the backseat of my parents’ old Chevy Malibu listening to AM radio. Listen.

8.   And The Professors — “Turn of the Century Recycling Blues” (Our Postmortem): They describe themselves as “orchestral pop rock,” and I’ll buy that. One of the more jaunty tracks on a brilliant album that deserves much more attention than it has received:

9.  Vegas With Randolph — “You Set The World On Fire” (Rings Around The Sun): A rocking ode to science, philosophy and the advancement of human knowledge in an era where those things are sometimes in doubt. Free your mind, and check it out right here.

10. Bye Bye Blackbirds — “Waiting For The Drums” (We Need The Rain): This is also a perfectly constructed, simple pop song. I defy you to try to sit still while listening:

11.  Agony Aunts — “Mother Make Sleep” (Big Cinnamon): Purposefully obscure lyrics, minimal changes, and an old-school guitar solo yanked from the mid-70s. In a word, perfect. Listen.

12.  Brandon Schott — “Verdugo Park — Part 2” (The A/B EP): Schott handles all sounds, except for bass, on this soaring track with undertones of the Zombies’ classic, Odyssey & Oracle. Listen.

13.  honeychain — “Lucky One” (Futura): Driving old-school new wave/punk rock, kind of like the Buzzcocks mashed with the Go-Go’s. Listen.

14.  The Connection — “Melinda” (Let It Rock!): This is buried as track 13 on Let It Rock!, and thus is probably often ignored. It’s yet another simple, perfectly arranged pop song that will leave you singing “I write the songs/She sings alone” in your head for hours on end. Listen.

15.  The Sun Sawed in 1/2 — “Brittle Star” (Elephants Into Swans): An exuberant piece of joyful Power Pop, featuring some of the strongest lead vocals of the year. Listen.

16.  Andrea Perry — “Spring” (Four): This sounds like a missing track from Cotton Mather’s Kontiki, which is quite a good thing since that is one of my all-time favorite pop albums. Perry’s winsome vocals play off perfectly against the subtle and quietly driving rhythm. Listen.

17.  Andy Klingensmith — “Template Song” (Pictures Of): This sounds unlike anything else on this list. Its just an acoustic guitar and Klingesmith’s gorgeous, multi-layered vocals. Its simply stunning:

18.  The Well Wishers — “Open Your Eyes” (Dunwoody): Jeff Shelton delivers a perfect traditional guitar-driven pop song about life’s regrets, and possible transcendence. Listen.

19.  Lannie Flowers — “Dance With Me” (Drink A Toast To Innocence). I did not want to include cover songs on this list, but this cover of the Orleans’ smash hit is such a wonderful creative re-imagining (that while nevertheless remains essentially true to the original) that it could not be avoided. I can imagine a bride and a groom dancing happily to this version at their wedding. Listen.

20. The Dead Girls — “Find Your Way Back To Me (Oh My Soul)” (Fade In/Fade Out): At more than six minutes in length, this track is of epic proportions for a pop song. It nevertheless offers a pitch-perfect combination of Neil Young circa 1973 and Big Star without sounding at all retro. Listen.

So, there you have it, the best of the best of 2013. They make a spectacular playlist.

Christmas Without Cancer: Great Tunes, Even Better Cause

Christmas Without Cancer

Dan Pavelich wears many hats. He’s a singer, guitarist, journalist and cartoonist. He runs the indie label, Vandalay Records. He’s previously released three sets of holiday fundraiser CDs under the Hi-Fi Christmas Party banner.

This year, Pavelich has put together a collection of original (and sometimes exclusive) power popping Christmas tunes called Christmas Without Cancer. He explained the rationale behind the collection on an Indiegogo crowdfunding page earlier this year:

Only a few months ago, we lost a cousin to cancer. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the first time cancer has struck our family. My wife, daughter & I have also seen several friends diagnosed, though, thankfully, they received the miraculous recoveries that so many pray for every day . . .

As I have often done in the past, I have turned to my fellow musicians for help. Surely, I thought, we could raise some money, raise awareness and raise some holiday spirits, too. A holiday CD called ‘Christmas Without Cancer’ is how I hope to do this. Everyone involved has generously donated their music, looking for nothing in return, beyond being a part of the healing, answers and hope that so many families are in need of. 100% of the proceeds from the sales of the CD are going to The American Cancer Society.

I proudly contributed to the funding of the CD, and the results are superb. Several of the artists involved — The Grip Weeds, Michael Carpenter, Lisa Mychols, Brandon Schott — have been discussed many times previously on this blog.

I have yet to hear a “bad” Lisa Mychols song. Her contribution here, “In Love With Love,” is a bittersweet mid-tempo rocker about long-distance yearning during the holidays that sounds anything but maudlin thanks to Mychols’ bright and shiny vocals and the track’s chiming guitars:

Carpenter delivers a previously released track, the joyful “Wake Me Up When Its Christmas Time.” I mention it here, in part, because it features a glockenspiel, which has become almost de riguer to be mentioned on this blog of late. It also has a cool and breezy feel, perfect for listening while wrapping gifts:

The “fun” and the “breezy” is perennial on this collection, anyway. Who can possibly resist bopping to the beat of Frank Royster applying his cool vocals to the Power-Pop-meets-bachleor-pad romp, “Christmas Is Fun”?:

Pavelich, himself, checks in with his own project, The Click Beetles, on the equally joyful “So Glad Its Christmas”:

The disk also delivers a “California Christmas” and a “Kenosha Christmas.” Its penultimate track, Bill Lloyd’s acoustic “Day After Christmas,” about “cleaning up and throwing out the messes you’ve made”– you know, turkey bones, beer bottles, miscreant friends — is, at bottom, all about hope and new beginnings.

And that’s the purpose behind the disk — hope, new beginnings and, of course, healing. So go right here or here, and get fifteen stellar pop songs for a mere $12. They will fill your house with Christmas cheer while you help to fight cancer. You can’t beat that.

In the meantime, check out full versions of some of the other cool tracks in the collection:

Brandon Schott’sWinter In The Sun“.

Mimi Betinis’A Christmas Song“.

Sgt. Popgrass’If I’m Not Home For Christmas“.

The Mockers Declare Peace On Christmas And Win

The Mockers -- War On Xmas Is Over

Check out the “feel good” Christmas song/Christmas video of the year. Its “(There’s No War on Christmas) When Christmas Is In Your Heart” by The Mockers, a peaceful call to arms against the Grinches and the Scrooges who would tear us apart by religion, race, ethnicity, etc. etc. etc. during the “holiday” season.

After taking a quick jab against “Bill and Ann and Rush and Glen, and all their coterie,” the band delivers a “three-minute powerpop sermon on the true meaning of Christmas” whether you use an “X or a C” and whether you say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays.” Yes, indeed, as per The Mockers, “you’re only saying Peace On Earth, in many different ways.”

So, sit back and enjoy three minutes and change of traditional Powerpop — bass, guitar and drums, aided by an occasional keyboard and glockenspiel — amid a video montage of happy holiday memories shown in cool vintage photos submitted by friends:

Peace on Christmas has broken out, indeed!

You can purchase The Mockers’ double-sided Christmas single right here.

The Sharp Things Deliver Some Sonic Truth

The Sharp ThingsThe Sharp Things’ second release this year, The Truth Is Like The Sun, is informed by a long-span of music history. While its predecessor, February’s Green Is Good, also incorporated “baroque” pop elements, the feeling on The Truth Is Like The Sun is often more “baroque” than “pop.” Its arrangements are bigger, more sweeping and more orchestral than its predecessor. It is anchored by piano, strings and brass, and then sprinkled occasionally by a dulcimer, a banjo, and a glockenspiel to make things even more interesting.

The Truth Is Like The Sun thus takes an even more scenic route to its destination than did Green Is Good. It is the most distinctive release I have heard this year. It may also be the single best.

“Flesh And Bone” likely will draw numerous comparisons to The Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows,” both sonically and thematically. The track about being “lost in the enchanting reverie of you” is one of the standouts in the collection:

The prior song, “Lulubelle” takes a quieter, gentler tact and almost feels like a long-lost holiday song. Perry Serpa’s pitch perfect vocals lead into a multi-voice chorus amid swirling brass and winds:

A theme of “reverie” returns in “Light In My Harbor,” with its key lyric, “I love your face/And the tales it tells, it’s true/You’re the light in my harbor.” Here, we get soulful vocals from Serpa, layered backing harmonies and a nice jazzy piano fill about half way through:

The remaining tracks on Truth fit into this basic construct, and then expand upon it. “Talk To Me” has a cool mid-70s “lite rock” feel, and riffs off of Randy VanWarmer’s “Just When I Needed You Most.” “View From A Room” updates The Left Banke. The lead track, “Can’t Get Started,” about which I wrote here, builds dramatically to a quick wall of sound at its conclusion.

The Sharp Things have now released twenty songs on two albums this year without a single misstep. The ten on Truth Is Like The Sun are each beautifully written, arranged, sung and played. You can “name your price” and pick up perhaps the best album of the year right here. Do it as quickly as you can.

Dig The Old School Retro Power Pop Of The Fans

The Fans -- You Don't Live Here Anymore

I’ve come into possession lately of a lot of old-school Power Pop from the late-70s and early-80s. Most of it would have been called “new wave” or “punk rock” at the time, although some of it pre-dates the invention or popular use of those two terms. All of it, though, featured bright guitars, driving beats, close harmonies and a rejection of the slurry mass of goo that most commercial “rock and roll” had become in the 1970s. “New Wave” was a misnomer. This stuff was retro. It sounded like 1965, but often on speed.

One such frenetic retro rocking Power Pop outfit was The Fans. The were formed in Bristol, England in 1978, and released a couple of singles on the wonderfully titled “Fried Egg” label before disbanding after a couple of years.

Try not to move, bop your head, tap your feet, etc. while listening to “You Don’t Live Here Anymore.” Its as simple as it gets — “I don’t want you ’round here anymore/I don’t want you knocking on my door/I don’t want you ’round here in the morning/’round here in the evening/around here any time at all” — and propelled by a pounding beat, crystal clear vocals and no adornment whatsoever.

All of that, of course, makes it brilliant, and far better sounding thirty-five years later than its much more popular “album oriented rock” contemporaries:

Unlike a lot of old school Power Pop, the Fans’ short-lived output is not lost forever to history. A 17-track of odds and ends, including “You Don’t Live Here Anymore,” is available from CD Baby for $16.97. It’s worth checking out.

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