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Seven Decades Of Melodic Rock & Roll

Archive for the tag “indie pop”

We Get Stacks And Stacks Of Records!

Well, digital files — and lots of them — but you get the idea.

Here’s the first of several round-ups of worthy new music that has recently crossed our virtual desk.

a2459102903_16Bertling Noise Laboratories, The Flehmen Response: Chicago-based multi-instrumentalist Nick Bertling “writes the songs, plays the instruments, sings the words, [and] records it.” He does all of those things quite well on his second solo outing.

Despite the monicker under which Bertling records, The Flehmen Response is not an exercise in noise pop. Instead, it fits squarely within the melodic rock idiom, alternating effortlessly between upbeat rockers, quieter acoustic expressions, and the occasional left-field sonic exploration.

These contrasts begin immediately on The Flehmen Response.  The opening track, fittingly titled “My Opening Remarks,” is a piano-based rumination on life lived previously, and the promise (and possible dread) of the unknowable future. “Radio” is sunny, slightly rocking pop song, the sort that once frequented the radio. The swaying, acoustic “Sea Shanty” is enlivened by occasionally soaring keyboards. “I Don’t Want To Rock” thumbs its nose at rock ‘n’ roll posturing, while rocking quite nicely indeed. The standout track, “You Won’t Know Me,” will have you singing along unconsciously, even as it takes you on unexpected twists and turns:

The Flehmen Response was released at the tail end of 2015. It’s a shoo-in, however, for my “best of” list for 2016. That is quite an achievement from the perspective of late-January.

a0371773716_16Coke Belda, Nummer Zwei: This is another late-2015 release destined for my year-end “best of” list. Nummer Zwei delivers hit-after-hit-after-hit. It is filled to overflowing with non-stop hooks, beautiful stacked vocal harmonies (supplied exclusively by Belda), and sharp, pointed musicianship that thrills repeatedly without becoming indulgent.

The bouncy “Rainbow” kicks off the festivities, with those layered harmonies on prominent display, and punctuated by synth lines ripped from the mid-70s. “You’re Not In Love” is the first of several “gentle” guitar-based rockers. Its combination of jangle and rhythm will have you bopping along within moments. “Hold Me Tight” explores similar sonic territory, until its vocal harmonies chime in and transport you to the early-60s. “Another  ****ing Song,” the second in a two-song mini-suite of tracks about songwriting, rocks quite nicely for two minutes, and then hits even harder with some of the finest high-register singing put to rockin’ pop music in quite some time:


The hits, though, don’t stop there. Not even close.

“Mustard Trees” is a jaunty, hook-laden pop rocker that walks generally in Beatle-y territory. If you listen carefully toward the end, however, you’ll detect a bit of guitar shredding at the bottom of the mix. Tasty slide guitar nicely compliments the somewhat winsome “Where I Am.” “It Shines For You” is a pounding rocker punctuated by the occasional shiny guitar.

Nummer Zwei is a big leap in quality over Belda’s first solo outing, which itself is quite good. You can get  both for one low price at Belda’s Bandcamp page. That could be the best music deal of the year.

*******

Several tracks from The Flehman Response and Nummer Zwei can be heard in regular rotation at Pop That Goes Crunch Radio, which has a new home and can be accessed directly from this page. Just click on the “Listen Live” headphone icon at the top of the sidebar to your right, and you will land on our player page. You can also click on the “Pop That Goes Crunch Radio” link above the title on this page for more information, and a link to the player page as well.

Happy listening!

 

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Top 10 EPs of 2015

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Andy Reed is a perennial on this blog, whether as a solo artist, a producer, a sound engineer or as a member of The Legal Matters, who grabbed the top slot on my list of the best albums of 2014. It is therefore fitting that his 2015 EP, Relay Vol. 1 captures the top slot of my list of the finest EPs of 2015. Relay is five songs, perfectly conceived and executed, beautifully sung and played. There is no excuse at all not to get it.

The other nine EPs that made my 2015 list fit snugly within the rockin’ pop genre dissected throughout this blog. The Crush, The Persian Leaps and The Foreign Films return from my 2014 list. Yorktown Lads have the distinction of making my top EPs and top LP lists with a pair of fine late-2014 releases.

Links are provided for your sampling, streaming and purchasing pleasure.

1.  Andy Reed — Relay Vol. 1

2.  Jeff Litman — Primetime

3.  The Foreign Films — The Record Collector (Side 3)

4.  Yorktown Lads — $200 EP

5.  Chris Richards and the Subtractions — 3Peat -That Covers That (3)

6.  Persian Leaps — High & Vibrate

7.  The Crush — Someone For You

8.  Hidden PicturesCalifornia Plates

9.  Herb Eimerman — Five Dimensional Man

10. Jay GonzalezThe Bitter Suite

Top 40 Albums of 2015

Caddy -- The Better End

We’ve taken some time off lately. Unfortunately, real life occasionally interferes with what is really important.

Nevertheless, we’re back with a run-down of the top long-players of 2015. This year, the list is expanded from 20 to 40, and there will be no list of the top songs of the year.

The decision was made to focus on longer form works, and recognize more artists for releasing music that is engaging over the course of eight or more tracks. Each of the albums on the following list would be a worthy addition to the collection of any serious music listener. A couple of entries were released in late-2014, but were were much more a part of the previous twelve months than they were of 2014.

Caddy’s The Better End captures the number 1 spot on this year’s list. The August 30, 2015 review on this site noted that Thom Dahl spiced his long-player with “rather liberal doses of layered, often jangling and chiming guitars, entrancing mid-tempo rhythms, swirling harmonies, beguiling tempo shifts and sunny, relaxed vibes straight out of early-70s Southern California.” Run, don’t walk, to your nearest electronic portal and get this record immediately, either digitally, on CD or on vinyl. Its one of the finest releases in recent years.

Although each of the long-players on this year’s list fit within the broad spectrum of melodically-based rockin’ pop, there is substantial variation in the mix, including old-school rock, acoustic pop, baroque pop, Americana, punk rock, and much more. Links are provided for your sampling, streaming and, of course, purchasing.

1.  CaddyThe Better End

2.  PugwashPlay This Intimately (As If Among Friends)

3.  Nick PiuntiBeyond The Static

4.  William DukeThe Dark Beautiful Sun

5.  The New Trocaderos — Thrills & Chills

6.  Love AxeSouth Dakota

7.  Stereo TigerTwo Weeks

8.  The HangaboutsIllustrated Bird

9.  The Junior League Also Rans

10. Susan JamesSea Glass

11. Ryan Allen & His Extra ArmsHeart String Soul

12. Cleaners From VenusRose Of The Lanes

13. Daniel Wylie’s Cosmic Rough RidersChrome Cassettes

14. The TurnbackAre We There Yet?

15. Michael CarpenterThe Big Radio

16. Steve Robinson & Ed WoltilCycle

17. Mono In StereoLong For Yesterday

18. Kurt BakerPlay It Cool

19. The See SeeOnce, Forever & Again

20. The NinesNight Surfer and the Cassette Kids

21. Pop4 — Summer

22. Gordon WeissIts About Time

23. The PopgunsPop Fiction

24. Yorktown LadsSongs About Girls And Other Disasters

25. Gretchen’s WheelFragile State

26. Summer FictionHimalaya

27. Travel LanesLet’s Begin To Start Again

28. Joel BoyeaHere Again, And Lost

29. Three Hour TourAction And Heroes

30. DC CardwellPop Art

31. Trip WireGet In & Get Out

32. Dr. Cosmo’s Tape LabBeyond The Silver Sea

33. Brandon SchottCrayons & Angels

34. The Corner LaughersMatilda Effect

35. WattsFlash Of White Light

36. Nato Coles and The Blue Diamond BandPromises To Deliver

37. Jonathan RundmanLook Up

38. The WeaklingsThe Weeklings

39. Plastic MaccaSensation

40. The ConnectionLabor Of Love

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.

Late Summer Roundup, Volume 3

The calendar, and the weather, says it’s still summer. So here’s the third installment of my roundup of some of the finest tuneage to find its way to my digital desk over the past few months. This time, the focus is on the more rocking end of the spectrum.

Mono In Stereo

Mono In Stereo, Long For Yesterday: Back in the summer of 1984, I combed the traffic-clogged streets of Los Angeles working as a car messenger. College radio was my constant companion. The Minutemen, Husker Du and The Replacements ruled the airwaves, and brought order to those mean streets.

Those days have long since left the rear-view mirror. However, Mono In Stereo, a four-piece band out of Rockford, Illinois, has managed to capture the Spirit of ’84, and has sprinkled it brilliantly over twelve quite fine tunes that run the gamut from blistering punk rock assaults, to pounding anthems that shout their way out of the speakers, to mid-tempo reflections on the past, the present and the future, to Americana-tinged Power Pop, and more. The band calls its approach “Midwest Punk,” and cites its influences as ranging from “Springsteen to Mould, Earle to Costello.” It’s an apt description.

The band lays its cards on the table in the opening track, the rousing “Late Night Confessor” which tips a hat to The Dead Boys’ “Sonic Reducer,” before veering off in its own direction. The pounding title track will have you yelling out its chorus in no time. “What We Sang” is a paean to doing what you love, knowing that others out there certainly feel the same way:

The mid-tempo, “Woke Up In Haight,” has the band showing off a more expansive sound aided, in part, by some sneaky piano supplied by the seemingly ubiquitous Kris “Fingers” Rogers. “Bakersfield” is an eminently catchy Power Pop romp with a country backbone. The closing track, “Another Man’s Time,” is a quiet rumination on crime, punishment, family and mistaken identity:

Long For Yesterday is overflowing with hook-filled, guitar-based rock ‘n’ roll that knows no real boundaries. That’s how the best did it back in ’84, and that’s how Mono In Stereo’s influences do it as well. You can get this timeless music via Bandcamp. You will be glad you did.

Travel Lanes

Travel Lanes, Let’s Begin To Start Again: This four-piece band out of Philadelphia also digs deep into the history of American rock ‘n’ roll, spiking its catchy tunes with liberal doses of R&B swagger, Americana and seeming bar band sloppiness. Travel Lanes, however, is no amateur act. Accomplished playing is instead the order of the day, lifting Let’s Begin toward the head of the class.

Low, crunching guitars and Frank Brown’s menacing vocals let the listener know immediately that the field trip at issue in the opening track, “Class Trip,” might not be the kind of happy event normally associated with elementary school. The next track, “In The World,” lightens the festivities considerably, with its memories of a “summer so sublime.” “Little Out Of Love” sports a mellow, melodic vibe with 70s’s country undertones. “100th I Told You So” is melodic rockin’ pop at its finest. It would climb the charts in alternate universe:

The band returns to darker themes on a couple of slower, largely acoustic Americana tracks,”The Year” — the one where “everything fell apart”– and on the “Death,” both of which are standouts. Hope is not entirely lost, however, as the band quickly serves up the sweet, upbeat “Cream Soda.”

If there are any bum notes, or boring filler, anywhere on Let’s Begin To Start Again, these ears were unable to detect them. Get this highly recommended longplayer from the good folks at Kool Kat Musik.

 

Late Summer Round-Up, Volume 2

This second edition of my late summer round-ups discusses two releases steeped in the Southern California sound of the past, but which are far from being mere retro projects.

William DukeWilliam Duke, The Dark Beautiful Sun: Duke’s second solo outing is aptly titled as it frequently combines, or moves effortlessly between, beauty and sadness, melancholy and joy and darkness and light over the course of eleven finely honed tracks. The overall sound evokes the Laurel Canyon scene of the late-60s and early 70s, with elements of country, folk, and psychedelia playing off against Duke’s higher register lead vocals and the gorgeous harmonies that wind their way through many of the songs. Identifying an artist’s actual influences is always a somewhat subjective endeavor but, undoubtedly, the work of at least some of the artists mentioned in the article linked above played a role in the creation and shaping of The Dark Beautiful Sun.

Duke begins the album with a two hook-filled tracks, both of which are marked by instantly catchy guitar riffs. The riff in the opener, “The Golden Ring,” veers back and forth in a manner that will stick in your head unconsciously for days. The title track takes a subtler approach, its basic riff giving way to a mellower vibe supported by endlessly creamy harmonies:

“Many Years Away” is, mostly, a mild, Western-tinged stomper about loss and regret, with its two pieces separated by a minute-long break featuring a rather pretty guitar solo. “Just Lookin’ For Some Sleep” jangles endlessly, and quite beautifully. Duke’s bright vocals give his cover of Gordon Lightfoot’s Vietnam-war era song, “Summer Side Of Life,” even more tension than the original as it contrasts “green fields” and “young girls everywhere” with “young men   . . . goin’ off to fight.” “Your Laughter Fills The Room” tackles the pain of still vivid memories as Duke sings in the chorus “there’s a storm that’s coming soon/as your laughter fills the room/and our dear friends they can’t seem turn away.” The album fades away with the quietly soaring instrumental, “1977.”

While the Dark Beautiful Sun is certainly rooted in particular place and time, it nevertheless feels quite contemporary. You can get this timeless collection of terrific pop songs either digitally, on CD or on vinyl via Bandcamp, and I highly recommend that you check it out immediately.

 

High Desert Fires

High Desert Fires, Light Is The Revelation. High Desert Fires is a six-piece band hailing from Topanga Canyon in Los Angeles County. Their debut EP, Light Is The Revelation, was recorded in mono and mixed to analog tape. Leader Chris Traynor describes the work as a “spiritual” inspired by the Southern California landscape, particularly the chaparral that dot its hillsides.

The lead track, Azrael, blows in (literally) with desert wind and imparts a comforting vibe over four-and-a-half minutes. The next track, “Fernwoods,” is an early-70’s-styled track, with strings, horns and pitch perfect male-female harmonies:

“High Desert Fires” starts as a quiet rumination. It ends as a mid-tempo R&B instrumental. “Shemahazi” exists suspended in a hazy, drifting dreamscape. “Metaphysical Fight Song” is marked by muscular choir-like vocals and a symphonic backing track. The final track, “Dead Sparrows,” grafts grand orchestration onto a pop song about the cycle of life.

Light Is The Revelation makes its case in barely twenty minutes, and succeeds over-and-over-again. That’s hardly enough, however. The EP leaves you wanting a whole lot “more,” which means that the band has done its job quite well. You can get it on iTunes.

The First Of The Late Summer Round-Ups

Sometimes, great music comes flies by at a fast and furious pace, and its hard to keep up. A whole lot of releases worthy of good press have flown across my digital desk over the past several months. Let’s start the discussion by focusing on two that fall into the less aggressive part of the rockin’ pop spectrum.

Gordon Weiss

Gordon Weiss, Its About Time: Weiss’ second long-player finds him frequently exploring the difference between perception and reality, and themes of personal, professional and artistic in-authenticity in our increasingly connected world. He does so to great effect.

In “Saccharin, Aspartame, Splenda, You & Me,” artificial posturing sours a relationship, causing Weiss to sing plaintively toward its close, “I want you to be true via being true/By being you…and me/And me and you.” In “The Great Imitator,” Weiss assays the artistically derivative in the service of entertainment, asking an eternal question in rather direct terms: “is decent derivative worse than original shit?”

Perhaps the best example of Weiss’ ruminations on the fake and and the false is “I’m Your Fan,” where the rather obsessive narrator claims early on that he is merely a “collector, not a stalker.” But he wonders later why he is unable to establish a connection with his idol even though he “friended you on Facebook” and had a backstage handshake after a concert once upon a time. Weiss’ urgent vocals threaten to take “Fan” into the realm of the creepy, but he pulls back just enough to stay on this side of disturbing even as he pleads by the end “please listen to my demo/I’m your fan”:

The largely acoustic orientation of Its About Time — acoustic guitar and piano sit at the center of most of the tracks — supplies a perfect backdrop for Weiss’ often caustic lyrics. All is not negative, however, as the album closes with the ultimately hopeful, “My Love Still Grows,” with its soaring background vocals and simple statement of purpose — “there isn’t any reason, good or bad, but my love still grows.” Its About Time is an album whose charms grow with each listen. Jeff Cannata’s sharp recording and mixing also make Time a delight to hear with a good pair of headphones. Get it via Bandcamp.

 

Caddy -- The Better End

Caddy, The Better EndTom Dahl does 95% of the playing and singing on this quite fine release, which finds him in a decidedly Teenage Fanclub state of mind. As such, Dahl serves up rather liberal doses of layered, often jangling and chiming guitars, entrancing mid-tempo rhythms, swirling harmonies, beguiling tempo shifts and sunny, relaxed vibes straight out of early-70s Southern California. He does, however, throw in a substantial number of unexpected twists and turns to keep The Better End from becoming a paint-by-numbers facsimile.

“Beautiful Strange” sways by breezily, and quite beautifully, with a deliberate beat and swaying, rhythmic undertone before launching into a distorted guitar conclusion. Just when you think “Something About Carina” is about to hit “Norman 3” head-on, Dahl makes a quick left turn, adds a sweet chorus and cool guitar solo and takes the song to a different part of town. The main riff in the lazy “Here It Comes Again” is straight out of a lullaby, and plays off nicely against the increasingly intense percussion. The more upbeat “Into The Sun” and “Wherever You Go” sound check classic Power Pop. The latter even features a sax solo that would have been at home on any number of lite rock releases in the 70’s. “Saint-Cyr-Sur-Mer” transports the listener to a sunny, late afternoon at the French seaside town of its title.

Dahl has crafted the perfect accompaniment to a day at the beach, a drive up the coast with the sunroof open or the top down, or a day sitting around doing nothing other than drinking lemonade or cocktails. The Better End is simply a beautiful record from start to finish, and a candidate for album-of-the-year. You can download it here, get it on disk (with bonus tracks) from Kool Kat Musik, or on vinyl from Sugarbush Records. A sample can be heard below:

 

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.”

Stereo Tiger: More Great Rockin’ Pop From Michigan

Stereo Tiger - Two Weeks

I wrote recently that some of the very best music these days comes to us from the state of Michigan. Indeed, artists based in the state liberally populated my year-end “best of” lists for 2014, which you can peruse here, here and here.

This month brings yet another fine offering from the state in the form of Stereo Tiger’s debut long-player (they previously released a pair of EPs), Two Weeks. This will easily make my year-end list. In fact, it likely will make my Top 10 since it is hard to imagine that ten LPs will be released this year offering a better combination of songwriting, vocals, musicianship and production than Two Weeks.

Stereo Tiger is less than two-years old, having emerged from a series of impromptu jam sessions involving three of the four band members. Nevertheless, Two Weeks reveals a band with a great deal of self-assurance. Instead of starting the festivities with a rousing, upbeat number designed to hook the listener immediately, Two Weeks begins with the slow burn of “Magic Balloon,” whose soaring harmonies perfectly compliment its psych-rock underpinnings. Distinctly 70’s-styled keyboards announce the next track, “Perfect World,” a bit of (almost) lite rock that would be a massive hit in a more perfect world.

High-gear kicks in by the third track, “Open Up Your Eyes,” which is propelled by an instantly memorable guitar riff and pitch-perfect harmonizing. It nabbed the lead spot on the current installment of my semi-weekly podcast of rockin’ pop nuggets, The Big Show, which attests to its greatness:

“Open Up Your Eyes” is followed by the relentlessly pounding “Runaway,” whose chorus sounds like something blasting from dozens of car stereos one summer back in the day. That doesn’t make it retro. It is, as the band says in a different context on its website, “both familiar and fresh.” Coupled with “Open,” the two tracks deliver a rather potent back-to-back, six minutes of rockin’ pop:

The hits don’t, however, stop there. “Philly Girl” sways along brilliantly, and seemingly without effort. “Did You Ever Love Me” is a hook-laden rocker about romantic disappointment that will have you singing along immediately. Two Weeks closes with an aching ballad, “I Do I Don’t,” which underscores Stereo Tiger’s fluency with a broad range of sounds and textures.

The thirty-eight minutes of music on Two Weeks fly by in what feels like a couple of moments. Nowhere near a bum track is present in the eleven-song collection. Sonic kudos also are in order for Andy Reed and Glenn Brown, who recorded and mastered Two Weeks, respectively. Not only does Two Weeks sound great, but the music goes bang when it needs to go bang, and pulls back nicely when a more subtle attack is in order.

All I can say at this point is: Run as fast as you can and get Two Weeks now, either here or here.

Great New Music Abounds: The Big Show, Season 2, Show 5

The Big Show This action-packed episode of The Big Show is overflowing with new music. Of particular note are three artists whose songs, albums (or both) are destined to find their way onto my year-end lists for 2015:

Love Axe kicks off the show with “Only Gonna Tear You Apart,” a hook-filled track, with a bit of “call and response harmonizing,” from their wonderful South Dakota long-player — one of the finest albums released so far this year.

Propeller’s “You Remind Me Of You” made my Top 30 songs list last year. Their new single, “Wish I  Had Her Picture,” may be the band’s best song to date, with its sweet and smooth vocal harmonies nicely complimenting its bouncy rhythm. Look for this one in my Top 10 for 2015; its that good.

Nick Piunti’s Beyond The Static LP somehow manages to up the ante on 13 In My Head which, in retrospect, could very well have been my favorite long-player of 2013. “Head In The Clouds” is third song from Static to be played on The Big Show. Its a pitch-perfect, mid-tempo guitar rocker punctuated by Piunti’s typically fabulous vocals.

But, wait, there’s a whole lot more great new music for your listening pleasure in this season’s fifth show.

The Kurt Baker Combo tear the roof off the house with a blistering live version of Leiber and Stoller’s “Love Potion No. 9.” Dot Dash infuse their immensely catchy “Rainclouds” with a bit of old school punk rock swagger to great effect. Los Breakdowns deliver traditional Power Pop via the late-70’s with “Off The Record” from their wonderfully titled LP, Rock ‘N Roller Skates.

A bunch of 60’s styled rockin’ pop is featured prominently in the fifth show. Those mad scientists of the four-track recorder, Dr. Cosmo’s Tape Lab, check in with some 60’s swing on “Time Enough For Love.” Grab a cocktail by the pool with this one. Roger Houdaille, recording as Plastic Macca, takes the lo-fi 60’s approach in a decidedly different direction with the rocking and rollicking “Art” from one of his two recently released LPs. Smile Factory, a “pop collective,” contribute perfectly updated British Invasion pop on “There She Is.” The Zags deliver some understated 60’s-styled pop with subtle psych undertones on “Messin’ Around” from their rather tasty, recently released self-titled LP.

New music is rounded out by Caddy, making its second consecutive appearance on The Big Show, with the beautiful and swaying “Bring It Back” from an upcoming LP, and by The Surf School Dropouts whose “Should Have Known Better” features sparkling harmonies and a slinky, instantly memorable guitar riff. The entire twenty-seven song tracklist can be found 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.  Love Axe, “Only Gonna Tear You Apart”

2.  Plastic Macca, “Art”

3.  Los Breakdowns, “Off The Record”

4.  Dot Dash, “Rainclouds”

5.  The Electric Mess, “There’s Nothing You Can Do”

6.  The Zags, “Messin’ Around”

7   Propeller, “Wish I Had Her Picture”

8.  Smile Factory, “There She Is”

9.  Caddy, “Bring It Back”

10. David Bowie, “I Dig Everything”

11. Lisa Mychols, “Its As Easy As 1, 2, 3”

12. Nancy Sinatra, “I Move Around”

13. Josh Woodward, “The Rival Within”

14. Elliott Smith, “Let’s Get Lost”

15. Brandon Schott, “Fire Season”

16. Surf School Dropouts, “Should Have Known Better”

17. Scott Brookman, “She Smiled At Me”

18. Dr. Cosmo’s Tape Lab, “Time Enough For Love”

19. Kurt Baker Combo, “Love Potion #9”

20. The Woggles, “I Got A Line On You”

21. Generation X, “Ready, Steady, Go”

22. Chris Church, “Absolutely Nothing”

23. Nick Piunti, “Head In The Clouds”

24. John Holk & The Sequins, “If She Were You”

25. Carousels, “For You (Sha La La)”

26. The Rooks, “Music Sound Sensation”

27. Cliff Hillis, “End The Telemarketing”

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