Pop That Goes Crunch!

Seven Decades Of Melodic Rock & Roll

Archive for the tag “Burt Bacharach”

Late Summer “Mini” Reviews

Time does have a tendency to fly away. Here are some short takes on some of the best albums of 2013 that have been recently spinning on my music device:

Eric Barao, Eric Barao: Barao’s lushly produced debut album recalls Elvis Costello’s Imperial Bedroom with its swirling melodies, complex arrangements, occasional instrumental flourishes and tales of broken hearts. The lead track, “On Holiday,” with its tension-release structure and Barao’s strong vocals, is a candidate for song of the year:

 

Nick Piunti, 13 In My Head: Piunti’s debut evokes one of my other all-time favorites, The Replacements. He employs a more basic approach. Bass, guitars and drums propel succinct bursts of timeless powerpop that could have been recorded at any time since 1972. Piunti’s Paul Westerberg-meets-Faces-era-Rod-Stewart vocals, and pitch-perfect backing harmonies, should make this a car stereo favorite for years to come. Selecting a “best” song is difficult — there is not a misfire among the ten tracks — but the mid-tempo “On the Way Out” is a good place to start:

 

The Dead Girls, Fade In/Fade Out: Think Big Star, but about a dozen pounds heavier. Fade In/Fade Out has all of the requisite melodic rock elements discussed throughout this site, but amped up with big riffs and occasionally even bigger percussion. “Find Your Way To Me (Oh My Soul)” is the best six-minute plus song Big Star never recorded. For good measure, the band closes the collection with a perfect, harmony-filled cover of Chris Bell’s enduringly beautiful “You And Your Sister”:

 

Scott Brookman, Smellicopter: Brookman has been quietly self-releasing sunny pop gems for quite some time. His 2000 release, For Those Who Like POP, has gotten quite a few spins on iPhone. Smellicopter, though, is his best excursion to date into Beach Boys/Bacharach territory. The second track, “Summer’s Two Weeks Notice” might be the best exemplar of Brookman’s basic style with its decidedly Pet Sounds vibe, but I’m kind of partial to more jaunty “Very Anne”:

 

Lisa Mychols, Above Beyond & In Between: I’ve written previously about Mychols as a member of the Masticators and Nushu. Her third solo album is a perfect distillation of everything that was once great about AM radio, transported to 2013. Its twelve tracks of non-stop hooks and melodies that would sound great on a long, sunny day at the beach. It proudly flashes its influences, but is no mere nostalgia project. A proper, well-produced video for the terrific ballad “Ferris Wheel” can be found here, but Mychols’ own homemade, low-fi clip for the upbeat “Foolin’ The World” is far more endearing:

* * * * * * * * * *

So, there’s five of my favorite albums of 2013. Each are worthy of extended play. Tell me what you think.

Advertisements

The Sun Sawed in 1/2’s Rational Exuberance

Elephants Into SwansSometimes I’m in the mood for straightforward bass-guitar-drums and voice rock and roll. Other times, though, I reach for more elaborate, intricately arranged and lushly detailed pop. Elephants into Swans, the new record by The Sun Sawed in 1/2 — their first in thirteen years — fits squarely into the latter category. Its one of the best, most exuberant releases in quite some time.

The Sun Sawed in 1/2 is (very) often compared to Jellyfish, and for good reason. Its sound is equal parts brash, quirky, serious, not serious, psychedelic, fun, and purposefully over-the-top. Elephants into Swans is all of that. It’s also smart, melodic and filled with hooks that increasingly grab your attention upon repeated listening. And, for good measure, it picks up steam as it proceeds, making it the rare record that does front-load its virtues.

It all kicks into high gear by the third track, “Brittle Star,” a sunny up-beat tune about a mercurial girl made of “lightning, passion and rope.” “Countess I Fear Something’s Wrong,” probably my favorite track in the set, is about stolen opportunity –“they cut your song out/with pinking shears and rusted years/they gauged and gauzed it/I press to make repeat then I scan and pause it” — that concludes with a nice Beach Boys flourish for no real reason other than it just sounds great. There’s never anything wrong with that:

Indeed, “sounding great” is the partly the reason for Elephants into Swans to be. “She Offers Her Heart” adds horns to the chorus to up the exuberance factor: “She offers me her heart/and now I’m in love and now I’m in love/and now I’m in love and now I’m in love.” You can’t get any more enthusiastic than that.

Horns also help give “This Girl’s My Lullaby” a swinging, 60’s adult pop feel that veers into decidedly Bacharach territory:

The record closes with more horns on the unrelentingly upbeat and optimistic “Waltzing In Clover.” What else can be made out of these words: “I’ll marry the whole of you/Ten ways amazed for the rest of my days/I’ll marry the whole of you/I’ll drink your gaze sunlit sparkly glazed/I’ll marry the whole of you/You you you you you you’re my love”:

By the end of it, with the words “waltzing in clover” sung over themselves in a dizzying carousel of joy, you can’t help but think: “all you need is love,” in the words of one of The Sun Sawed In 1/2’s other major influences. Indeed, that could very well be the point made by the entire record.

Elephants into Swans can be downloaded for $9 on Bandcamp, a cheap price for such gleeful happiness.

Michael Simmons’ Its The End Of The World: The Ultimate DIY Recording

Michael SimmonsIt’s The End Of The World As We Know It And I Feel Live may be the ultimate “do it yourself” recording. Simmons is a member of Sparkle*Jets U.K., a Southern California band, whose sound is described as “a distinctive marriage of ’60s and ’70s rock and whimsical guitar pop.” That’s close enough. It certainly sounds something like that.

It’s The End Of The World is a collection of covers — some acoustic, some not– that Simmons performed “live” entirely by himself. How does one person play “live,’ particularly on the several multi-part tracks that comprise the collection? Here’s what Simmons says:

My tracks are usually still ‘live’ with all the normal mistakes you’d expect, but I play all the instruments. It’s what it would be like if I could clone myself and got together to jam on songs I don’t really know. Most of these songs were first attempts of songs I don’t know how to play.

* * * * *

Recording was typically done on multi-track equipment, but each take was done ‘live’ in one go, with a camera running. Some songs (mostly the 2nd half of the album) were recorded live with a webcam or iPhone, which is why they don’t sound as good.

Okay, I know what you’re saying. This guy recorded a bunch of songs that he doesn’t really know how to play. He admits that his record contains a number of “mistakes.” He acknowledges that some of the songs sound crappy. Why on earth should you spend your time listening to this “recording”?

Well, you should. Its darned good, and chock full of excellent interpretations of classic pop rock gems.

The first track, Squeeze’s “(This Could Be) The Last Time,” sets the tone for the entire loosely constructed and playful set. Simmons starts with a riff from the original that sounds like the opening riff from “Is That Love,” also by Squeeze, before getting down to business in the song at hand. “Spooky,” done originally by Classics IV and then by The Atlanta Rhythm Section, breezes along quite jazzily before Simmons outdoes himself by singing all of the parts of the Brothers Gibb, and harmonizing with himself to great effect, on “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart?” Simmons’ self-harmonies by virtual cloning are also quite tasty on his superb version of ELO’s “Bluebird Is Dead”:

Two tracks later, Simmons gives “She Said, She Said” a slightly heavier, bassier treatment than The Beatles’ original version. It works quite well:

The acoustic iPhone recordings kick in soon thereafter. “The Most Beautiful Girl In The World,” made famous by Charlie Rich back in 1973, gets a dramatic, stripped down and soulful reading by Simmons devoid of the schmaltz of the original hit. Perhaps even better, however, is Simmons’ version of the Elvis Costello/Burt Bacharach-penned “Toledo.” Simmons notes at the outset that “I don’t have a flugelhorn,” thus requiring him to hum a couple of the brass parts amid his gorgeous vocals:

It all comes to a close four songs later with 25 seconds worth of The Beatles’ “Hello Goodbye,” a perfect ending to a set that does not even come close to taking itself too seriously. It’s just “good, clean fun,” and Simmons’ obvious love of the songs he covers is readily apparent. What more can you want in the middle of winter?

You can “name your price” for a digital download of It’s The End Of The World on Bandcamp. Simmons also has posted videos for each of the tracks on You Tube. Check ’em out.

A Perfect Pop Gem

A mantra of mine lately has been “if it jangles, I’ll listen to it.”  I never thought of myself as a “jangle pop” person back in the 80’s when “jangle pop” became a genre, but I always had a soft spot for the more melodic parts of the left side of the dial. The Replacements’ “I Will Dare” beat their “Dose Of Thunder” hands down. I could listen to Husker Du’s “I Apologize” and “Hate Paper Doll” any day of the week.

The Red Button takes a decidedly mellower approach to the same melodic formula. Their first album, “She’s About To Cross My Mind,” put 1965 and 1966 into an update machine to craft the perfect pop record that stays in your mind for days, weeks and months at a time.  The word “girl” figured prominently. The ninth song on “Rubber Soul” is, of course, “Girl.” I put their “Free” on a playlist right after The Beatles’ “Rain.” Two more perfect companions might never be found.

Their new record, “As Far As Yesterday Goes” might be even better. Its reach certainly is greater.

Redbutton

Flourishes of Burt Bacharach’s sophisticated 60s pop come in an out. The title song could have been on The Zombies’ “Odyssey and Oracle.” “Easier” does Emitt Rhodes better than Emitt Rhodes does Emitt Rhodes. And, keeping with tradition, there is “Girl, Don’t,” a perfect power pop gem. Jangles can be heard throughout. They also can get breezy with “On A Summer Day”:

<p>On A Summer Day – The Red Button from Seth Swirsky on Vimeo.</p>

“As Far As Yesterday Goes” is my favorite collection of 2011. It’s smart and catchy. It wears its influences without being nostalgic or derivative. It’s sophisticated without being bland. It has an edge without being trendy or falling into alternative rock cliches. And, just like in 1966, its less then 40 minutes long. Brevity is a virtue.

Go get it.

 

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: