Pop That Goes Crunch!

Seven Decades Of Melodic Rock & Roll

Archive for the tag “Baroque Pop”

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.

Mark Helm’s Lost And Found Classic

Mark Helm -- everything;s ok

Mark Helm released his one solo album, everything’s ok, in 2001. Reviews were great. “Elegant…more hooks than a fly fisherman’s vest,” declared the Washington Post. An “orch-pop noir gem,” gushed Gary “Pig” Gold.

Years passed. The road of life took its unexpected twists and turns. Helm ultimately found his way to Nashville, and to a career as an English professor. Music seemed to be a part of the increasingly distant past.

Helm, however, dusted off everything’s ok in July 2015, and reissued the long-player on Bandcamp, along with a generous (and growing) collection of odds and ends. This is a work of broad eclecticism. Its sounds run the gamut from guitar-propelled Power Pop to quiet orchestration to acoustic folk to “alt rock” to baroque pop. Its themes capture life’s ups and downs, the good, the bad, the in-between and the indifferent. It is at once a deeply personal work, but it nevertheless conveys universal truths and familiar emotions. Its “handmade” quality is reminiscent of Cotton Mather’s Kontiki, in execution and in the way Helm expertly melds disparate pop and rock elements into a cohesive whole whose overall quality exceeds the combined virtues of its various parts.

everything’s ok begins with “So Faraway,” its spare instrumentation and harmonies imparting a hymnal quality to this brief tale of loss. Next, the rocking “Galaxy Of Cars” rips the hooks right off of that fly fisherman’s vest, and delivers a chorus that will unconsciously ring around in your head all day long:

“What Holds The World Together” emerges from a dream and sits in delicate suspension, broken only by a brief baroque interlude. “[T]his is a very obvious nod to ‘strawberry fields’/’penny lane,” Helm says in the notes that accompany the reissue. The acoustic “Haircut” would feel quite at home on Big Star’s Third. “Week Of Days” begins with a blast of distorted guitar. Then, a muscular sound takes over and nicely compliments the song’s themes of romantic ambiguity and mystery. “Airplanes and Radiosignals” is a quiet rumination about crossed signals and how, sometimes, its “hard to tell what’s real, what’s ridiculous.” That everything’s ok is an ambitious, challenging and ultimately quite stunning work is evidenced by the beautiful, orchestral piece, “Sweet Dreams Baby,” which appears about three-quarters of the way in:

The digital reissue of everything’s ok is rounded out by a collection of ten bonus tracks, including a nice, digital four-track acoustic recording of “God Only Knows,” and Helm’s covers of Gene Clark’s “American Dreamer” and ELO’s “Strange Magic,” both of which appeared originally on tribute LPs released by Not Lame Recordings.

everthing’s ok is a great “lost and found” record, rising unannounced to enliven the second half of the year. This is music that can be enjoyed equally on a dark and lonely night, or on the brightest and sunniest of days. Its also a steal — 26 tracks for a mere $5. Run, don’t walk, to Bandcamp and get it. Or, you can simply click right here.

The Big Show, Season 2, Show #7

The Big Show

The seventh installment of the second season of The Big Show is another really, really big show — another 30 rockin’ pop tunes streaming your way for more than 90 minutes. Here are some of the highlights, focusing particularly on lesser-known acts that deserve much wider attention:

Susan James is a Southern California-based purveyor of fine acoustic folk mixed generously with tasty baroque pop flavorings. Her recently released album, Sea Glass, is destined to make my year-end list as it features song-after-song of perfectly updated West Coast pop stylings. Show 7 features “Calico Valley,” whose jaunty tone and melodic string arrangement nicely compliment James’ gorgeous vocals as she sings about environmental mismanagement. You can get Sea Glass right here.

Trip Wire was featured previously in these pages. The San Francisco-based band’s recently released long-player, Get In & Get Out, is rock and roll as it should be, mixing elements of Power Pop, Garage Rock, and 90’s-style alternative rock. Their Bandcamp page quite aptly describes the band’s overall approach: “Our songs are short and catchy and we encourage you to listen and then move on to the next one as we do not jam.” Show 7 features one of the catchiest, and best, tracks on Get In & Get Out, the punchy “1973,” which will have you grooving to it immediately. Get it here.

Cameron Lew is the bass player, and one of the singers, in The Yorktown Lads, featured in these pages earlier this year. His debut solo album, welp, is in the finest of DIY traditions — recorded in his bedroom, featuring Lew playing a bevy of different instruments and utilizing the services of “some cheap AKG Condensor” and a “really crappy mic from the 80s.” You wouldn’t know it, though. The LP sounds quite good — I hear a lot of not-so-well recorded music, and this is not that — and serves as a nice platform for Lew to explore various melodic rock styles. Show 7 features the lead track, “Adieu,” a cool and breezy bit of late-60s-influenced pop. Get it here.

The Pacific Northwest is becoming quite a hotbed of melodic rock ‘n’ roll. Strangely Alright, hailing from the Seattle area, is the latest to push great tunes across my virtual desk. “If I Don’t Laugh I’m Only Going To Cry” builds from humble acoustic origins into an epic wall of sound, while featuring a memorable sing-a-long chorus and Regan Lane’s strong, glam-influenced vocal. You can check out the band’s body of work here.

Show 7 also features music by perennial favorites of these pages, including The Connection, Andy Reed, Sloan, The Ramones, Teenage Fanclub, and The Go-Betweens. It also features two sets of songs from the early days of “alternative” music.

As always, the entire tracklist is below the embed. Crank up the volume, and check out Pop That Goes Crunch radio, streaming the finest in melodic rock n’ roll 24/7.

Tracklist:

1.  Hidden Pictures, “California Plates”

2.  Stereo Tiger, “Runaway”

3.  The Connection, “Treat You So Bad”

4.  Shark Tape, “Long Time Coming”

5.  Trip Wire, “1973”

6.  The Jeanies, “Amilee”

7.  Cameron Lew, “Adieu”

8.  Andy Reed, “Darlin’, You Don’t Know”

9.  Strangely Alright, “If I Don’t Laugh I’m Only Going To Cry”

10. The Reivers, “Sound And The Fury”

11. The Primitons, “All My Friends”

12. Full Fathom Five, “A Little Hope”

13. The Jangle Band, “This Soul Is Not For Sale”

14. Your Gracious Host, “If You Ever Have Your Doubts”

15. Sloan, “Carried Away”

16. Soft Picasso, “Blue-Eyed Boy”

17. Susan James, “Calico Valley”

18. The Autumn Defense, “Estate Remains”

19. Braddock Station Garrison, “Johnny Stone Stole My Girlfriend”

20. The Big Believe, “Creatures”

21. LazyEye, “Katie Jones”

22. The Ramones, “Danny Says”

23. Teenage Fanclub, “Everything Flows” (Acoustic)

24. The Go-Betweens, “Surfing Magazines”

25. The Fad, “The Now Sound”

26. The Lads, “Neighborhood Kids”

27. New Hearts, “Just Another Teenage Anthem”

28. The Beau Brummels, “Laugh, Laugh”

29. The Nashville Ramblers, “The Trains”

30. Material Issue, “I’d Wait A Million Years.”

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.

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.

The Sharp Things: Green Is Very, Very Good

Sharp Things: Green Is GoodThe Sharp Things is a “a New York City-based chamber pop collective” led by Perry Serpa. By day, Serpa is a principal in Good Cop Public Relations, whose past clients include Sonic Youth and Evan Dando of Lemonheads fame. Green Is Good is the Serpa and company’s fourth long-player, and its one of the more intriguing releases in quite some time.

“Chamber pop” is an apt description for Green Is Good, which seamlessly stitches together dozens of different influences into a cohesive quilt of modern pop. No two songs on the collection sound quite the same. That’s a very good thing in hands as sure as Serpa’s which are equally comfortable with late-60s baroque pop, soul, modern rock, disco and country.

The opening track, “Blame The Bankers,” is catchy, horn-drenched soulful agitprop. “The Piper” is a quiet, contemplative tune that could have been done by The Kinks around 1970. “Here Comes The Maestro” would have gotten the entire house onto the dance floor in the mid-80s.

All of this is just warm-up for the transcendent sunshine pop of “Flowers For My Girl,” the best song in the collection. “She keeps on talking, but I’m not at home/My mind is reaching back to afternoon on Sunday/Kissing, laughing, running ’round your bed/So sorry, haven’t listened to a word you said,” it begins before building to a veritable street parade of pure joy by the time the chorus hits:

“Goodbye To Golders Green” takes the opposite tack over a decidedly minimal, minor chord arrangement.

“I Know You’re Gonna Break My Heart” has the kind of sophisticated adult country pop feel of a Jimmy Webb tune sung by Glen Campbell in the late-60s, with Serpa and guest singer, Laura Cantrell, supplying perfectly weary, soulful vocals:

“Dogs of Bushwick” is an autobiographical look at the frustrations of a songwriter felt over many years. “Its a dangerous endeavor/And its much like a drug/Cos you think that your’re winning/But, its never enough/Till the money’s gone/Still the urge is twice as strong,” Serpa sings against a slow swirl anchored by a piano and strings:

Green Is Good is indeed very, very good. There is not a bum track out of ten. It is currently available as a “name your price” download on Bandcamp. That means you could have it for “free.” But, put a couple of dollars in the tip jar nevertheless. It is well worth it.

A Happy Way To Spend The Fourth Of July

This one was pulled right out of the time machine. The Merry-Go-Round were a great band out of Hawthorne, California. Their “big” hit, “Live” made it to No. 63 on the national charts, and was covered by the Bangles in the early-80s. It’s playing at the beginning of the clip below of their day on The Dating Game in 1967.

The definitive collection from their brief existence is called, naturally, “The Definitive Collection” and is worth checking out. Writing in the All Music Guide, Tim Sendra noted:

The Merry-Go-Round is a breathtaking blend of chiming folk-rock guitars, British Invasion harmony vocals, baroque pop arrangements, and pure pop songcraft that sounds daisy fresh in 2005. The Beatles are a huge influence, there is plenty of Paul McCartney in [Emitt] Rhodes’ sweet vocals and their vocal harmonies. You can hear the Byrds a bit, some Left Banke (especially on the sweeping orchestral pop gem ‘You’re a Very Lovely Woman’), some L.A. garage on rockers like ‘Where Have You Been All My Life’ and ‘Lowdown’; the group definitely didn’t exist in a vacuum.

Rhodes recently released his first recorded material in 35 years.

But, back to the time machine:

After reminding viewers that The Dating Game is “in color,” Johnny The Announcer says “we couldn’t think of a happier way to spend the Fourth of July than with the Merry-Go-Round.” Rhodes is Bachelor No. 2 who, according toJim Lange, projected a “warmth” that made him a teen idol. Bachelor No. 1, the bass player, perhaps took the Sgt. Peppers thing a wee bit too seriously.

The kitsch value of this is spectacular:

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