The first annual Pop That Goes Crunch Holiday Show has been uploaded for your listening pleasure while trimming the tree, wrapping presents, drinking eggnog, etc. It delivers good holiday tidings while spinning 25 rockin’ pop tunes by some of the brightest lights in the Power Pop and Indie Pop World.
So, sit back and enjoy the season with Kurt Baker, Michael Carpenter, The Grip Weeds, The Connection, Lannie Flowers, Wyatt Funderburk, The Tor Guides, Cliff Hillis, Stephen Lawrenson, and a whole lot more. And, for good measure, Elvis makes his first appearance on this site and on Pop That Goes Crunch radio with the rollicking, unrestrained “Santa Claus Is Back In Town.”
The complete tracklist appears after the embed.
1. Kurt Baker, “Christmas In The Sand”
2. Maple Mars, “Christmastime In The City”
3. The Honeymoon Stallions, “Snowbirds”
4. Dukes Of Surf, “Aloha Christmas”
5. Shake Some Action, “Christmas In The Sun”
6. Cirrone, “Christmas’ Sun”
7. Michael Carpenter, “Sunny Day For Xmas”
8. The Grip Weeds, “Christmas Dream”
9. The Connection, “Rock ‘N Roll Christmas”
10. Lannie Flowers, “Christmas Without You”
11. Wyatt Funderburk, “Merry Christmas (I’m In Love With You)”
12. Ether Park, “Put One Foot In Front Of The Other”
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:
My profile on a now-defunct site said that one of my earliest memories of music involved sitting in the backseat of my parents’ avocado green late-60s Chevy Malibu listening endlessly to 93KHJ while stuck in traffic in Los Angeles. The Chevy Malibu, with its black top and black vinyl seats, looked like this:
KHJ ruled the roost in Los Angeles for many years. Its Boss Radio format was copied all over the country:
On May 3, 1965, KHJ was the site chosen for the birth of the new format designed by Bill Drake and Gene Chenault. Ron Jacobs was selected as the first Program Director. BOSS RADIO utilized a tight rotation, top drawer talent, and the elimination of almost all non-essential talk. The Johnny Mann Singers’ jingles didn’t hurt either. Within months, the format spread from coast to coast, and Boss Radio was the king in most markets.
The blogsite 93 KHJ/Boss Radio collects an abundant amount of old Boss Radio material, including images of the station’s weekly Top 30 “Records In Southern California.” These weekly Top 30 lists were available for years “wherever records are sold.” Back then, that included department stores. I remember picking them up at the May Company on Pico Boulevard.
The top songs were, of course, played several times a day. Spending a lot of time in the car, or listening to KHJ at home with the flu, would sear those songs forever into your memory.
It wasn’t just repetition that glued those songs to your mind. It was also the nature of the two-and-a-half minute pop song of the-late 60s and early-70s. They were hooks and melody, hooks and melody, hooks and melody. They were intended to stay in your mind for hours, days and weeks.
Here is the Top 30 from February 22, 1967, as it appears on the Boss Radio site.
“Happy Together” by TheTurtles was No. 1.
“Ruby Tuesday” by The Rolling Stones was No. 3.
“There’s A Kind Of Hush/No Milk Today” by Herman’s Hermits was No. 7 (although “No Milk Today” is the vastly superior track).
“I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night)” by The Electric Prunes was No. 10.
“Gimme Some Lovin'” by The Spencer Davis Group was No. 17.
“(We Ain’t Got) Nothin’ Yet” by The Blues Magoos was No. 23.
The greatest double-sided single of all-time, “Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields Forever,” debuted on the chart that week at No. 13.
The following week saw the debut on the chart of “Live” by The Merry-Go-Round, one of the greatest pieces of Southern California “sunshine pop” ever put to wax.
Just reading that list, and looking at other late-60s, early-70s lists on the Boss Radio site, will cause an endless number of songs to run through your mind for a very long time.
This all changed by the mid-70s. Melodic rock on the AM dial was replaced by Bloat Rock (Boston, Kansas, Supertramp), Cock Rock (Foreigner) and Plain Old Boring Rock (Bad Company). Kiss and Queen are certifiable geniuses in comparison. Punk and New Wave were cultural imperatives. They just had to happen.
Fast-forward to today. A company called Zikera has created a wonderful application for iOS and Windows 8 devices called “Groove.” Among other things, it sans your devices to create “Groovy Mixes” of songs that work well together based, in part, on data supplied by Last.fm users. It has become my most used “app” since it automatically creates an endless array of playlists.
I was driving to work the other day and a particular “Groovy Mix” played three consecutive songs that, combined, perfectly capture the essence of the melodic rock that comprised the Boss Radio of the late-60s and early-70s.
The aptly named “Pop Sound” by The Masticators came up first. The Masticators were a late-90s Los Angelers-based Power Pop band made up, in part, by Lisa Mychols, about whom I wrote recently. Futureman Records has issued a 33-track compendium of the band’s entire recorded output. Its worth checking out in its entirety for some of the tightest, most head-bopping-est Power Pop around. “Pop Sound” is just that — a joyous, three-chord celebration of rhythm and melody anchored by Mychols’ confident, sexy vocals and a driving, basic beat:
Next up was “Pete Ham” by Crash Into June, a tribute to the late Badfinger singer/songwriter/guitarist. It begins with this bit of resonance: “What’s that song it sounds like heaven/I heard it once when I was seven/You could say it reminds me of summer days/Summer days.” True that, true that. It continues shortly later: “It’s got the 60’s British feeling/Hooks that keep me on the ceiling/I hear it now, its got that pure infectious sound/It keeps my head all spinning around/Spinning around.”
“Pete Ham” is three-and-a-half minutes of pure jangle pop perfection:
The final song in my commuting trilogy was “She Dreams,” from Michael Carpenter’s 1999 debut Baby. “She Dreams” is perfect, joyful “sunshine pop” that gives “Live” a run for its money:
So, there you have it. The old AM rock radio groove hasn’t disappeared in these days of overly processed, mechanical dance pop. You just have to know where to find it. When you do, you will be transported to another place
The Windbreakers were a Mississippi-based band, comprised primarily of Bobby Sutliff and Tim Lee, that released a half-dozen records in the 80s and 90s in the kind of Byrds/Big Star jangle pop/psychedelic amalgam that R.E.M. rode to great success. Although similar success eluded The Windbreakers, Sutliff and Lee are gifted composers and superb guitar players. One of the best examples of their craft is the simply gorgeous, then-new song they recorded as the title track to the band’s 2002 compilation, Time Machine:
Outside of The Windbreakers, Sutliff and Lee have both done about a half-dozen other records each, and have appeared on various compilations and tribute records as performers, songwriters and producers. In June 2012, however, Sutliff was involved in a serious automobile accident near his home in Powell, Ohio. Lee wrote:
At the time, the prognosis was guarded, albeit not particularly promising. But Bobby survived his multiple injuries, and after a month or so of sedation, he slowly began making progress. Eventually, the pace picked up, and his condition continued to improve at an amazing speed. Before long, he was back home and closing in on 100 percent recovery.
But Sutliff’s un-paid medical bills were enormous. Lee thus organized ab bunch of friends to make a tribute record of Sutliff’s songs, an perform a concert in Atlanta, to raise money to defray the expenses. The resulting record, Skrang — a term coined by Sutliff to describe “the sound of an open chord on an electric guitar” — is likely one of the best things you will hear this year. It features performances by long-time purveyors of melodic rock and Power Pop, and not a single bum performance over 18 tracks.
Velvet Crush and Matthew Sweet get the set off to a rollicking start with the ringing “Second Choice.” John Stirrat, best known for his work as Wilco’s bass player, gives “Girl From Washington” a particularly tender feel in front of Lee’s stellar 6 & 12 sting guitar work. Matt Piucci, an original member of Rain Parade who later recorded with Lee in Gone Fishin’, enlists some of his old bandmates for a fuzzy, psychedelic take on “That Stupid Idea.” The Anderson Council play down their more typical Syd Barretisms on “Griffin Bay,” and turn out one of the best, most rocking tracks on the set. Its much more Grip Weeds than “See Emily Play.” Bill Lloyd goes it alone and gives “Same Way Tomorrow,” a slightly updated, smoother take on the Sutliff solo track from 1987. Michael Carpenter, one of my current favorites, lends his typically terrific vocals to “Long Red Bottle Of Wine,” widens the sound and manages to improve on the original:
I could probably write something effusive about each of the 18 tracks on this set. Its just that good. The first-rate quality of Sutliff’s compositions shine through on each of the tracks. Even though some of the performances purposefully veer into territory that is somewhat different than the original version of the songs, the collection has an overall cohesive quality to it that makes listening from start-to-finish a joy. It’s available for $12 from Paisley Pop, and well worth every dime. All proceeds, of course, benefit Sutliff.
This site is not necessarily about the “latest” music. Its about the past seven decades of a certain type of music. It proceeds from the viewpoint that “if I haven’t heard it, its new to me.” And, of course, “if you haven’t heard it, its new to you, too.”
So, what follows is some music I really liked in 2012. It’s in no particular order. Some of it was released in 2012. Some of it was released more than forty years ago. Some of the older music I knew previously — even liked quite a lot in the past — but which nevertheless resonated more over the past twelve months than it did in years gone by:
Cotton Mather, Kontiki (Deluxe Edition): Back in 1998 when Kontiki was originally released, music discovery was not quite what it is now. On-line resources were limited and were accessed largely by dial-up modem. My music discovery in the old days consisted of reading about something new and different, or driving to the Virgin Megastore to use its many CD listening stations.
I first heard Kontiki in its entirety after it was re-released earlier this year, along with twelve bonus tracks, following a successful Kickstarter campaign. The results are glorious, and Kontiki brings to mind The Beatles’ Revolver with straight-ahead pop songs blending seamlessly with more reflective psychedelic pieces punctuated by wood and string instruments, piano and analog tape tricks.
Starbelly, Lemonfresh(Deluxe Edition): This is another reissue of a 1998 release that I heard for the first time in the past year. Actually, this is a digital-only reissue by Futureman Records of an earlier reissue that added twelve bonus tracks to the stew. Its one one of those records that makes you think on its first listen “damn, this is good.” Its more than seventy minutes of non-stop hooks, melodies, chiming jangly guitars, occasional big beats and consistently clean production. There is not a bum track in the entire twenty-three song collection, although the eleven that comprised the original 1998 release remain the standouts.
Michael Carpenter, SOOP Sampler: Carpenter has released five records of “songs of other people” (“SOOP”) over the years. A twenty-one track digital download sampler from Futureman Records (for a whopping $7) is a good place to start exploring this substantial and consistently great body of work. The highlights on this collection include Carpenter’s versions of The Hollies’ “Look Through Any Window,” “(What’s So Funny About) Peace, Love and Understanding” and “Wild Honey,” which bests the Beach Boys’ original. My favorite, though, is Carpenter’s version of The Zombies’ brilliant and beautiful, “This Will Be Our Year”:
The Supahip, Seize The World: Carpenter recorded this one-off back in 2006 with Mark Moldre. “They set about the idea of writing, recording and mixing a track… arriving in the morning with nothing except maybe some loose snippets of songs, and leaving with a completed track.” And it worked. Seize The World delivers twelve uncluttered, melodic pop songs (you even get “mono” versions of ten of the tracks) that go down easy and will stay in your brain for days, particular the quiet, reflective “No Tomorrow”:
Seth Swikrsy, Watercolor Day: This 2010 release was on my car stereo almost daily for a couple of months this year. Its just addictive. As I wrote previously, the Beatles are an obvious influence on Swirsky’s solo work, yet Watercolor Day feels much more like the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds. Trumpets, french horns, violas, cellos, oboes and trombones appear seemingly out of nowhere, but nevertheless fit perfectly in the mix and saturate the sound with texture.
Cliff Hillis, Dream Good: Hillis wrote, sang and played on Starbelly’s Lemonfresh. His fourth solo outing is my favorite record that was actually released for the first time in 2012. Its a textbook example of perfect pure pop, covering all the necessary territory from mid-tempo pieces with acoustic guitars to full-fledged rockers to grand, more baroque pop, all of which is beautifully sung and played.
Myracle Brah, “Simplified”: Three-chord rock? Think one-chord rock on this one from 2001. That’s why it works. It just pounds its way relentlessly into your brain for a minute, fifty-four seconds and then refuses to leave. Its as simple and as powerful as it gets.
Doug Powell, “When She Awoke”: Powell wrote and performed this one from 1998 on cassette 8 track with Tom Petersson of Cheap Trick. Despite using a recording process that Powell calls “the audio equivalent of drawing in the sand with a stick,” the song nevertheless occupies the opposite end of the pop spectrum from “Simplified.” It’s lush, elaborate and dreamy, and filled to the brim (actually, far beyond the brim) with gorgeous harmonies.
The Jayhawks, Mockingbird Time: “Waiting For The Sun” from 1992’s Hollywood Town Hall ranks in my all-time Top 40. The Jayhawks, though, were never quite the same after Mark Olson left the band in 1996 to follow his inner-Gram Parsons. His return on Mockingbird Time, released in September 2011, marked a return to form for the band. All of the trademark Jayhawks elements are present — the sharp songwriting, the full sound and, most importantly, the beautiful harmonizing of Olson and Gary Louris.
Big Star, “The Ballad Of El Goodo”: I’ve written about Big Star on this site, and I have liked “The Ballad Of El Goodo” for years. But this year, I really came to love this song about hope and perseverance against “unbelievable odds.” It features one of Alex Chilton’s finest vocal performances, great backing harmonies and is one of the band’s best songs. It also directly or indirectly influenced everything else on this list.
So, that’s a capsule of the music that made me the happiest over the past twelve months. How about you?