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Archive for the tag “psych 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.

We Get More Records And The Hits Keep Coming

Today brings reviews of three more fine recent releases that found their way to our virtual desk.

PropellerPropeller, Fall Off The World: Propeller’s third long-player shows Greg Randall and Will Anderson to be masters of the pithy, hook-filled pop song set amid a wash of punchy guitars and non-stop boisterous rhythms. “Pithy” is an operative description here. The ten-song set clocks in at less than thirty-minutes, just enough time for the guys to say their peace.

And they say it quite well.

They get it started with “Can You Hear Us Now,” which sounds instantly recognizable. A couple of extra bass notes in the intro, and you’ve got Bram Tchikovsky’s “Girl Of My Dreams.” Is that a bad thing? Not if your are sound checking one of the great pop songs of the late-70s. Randall and Anderson only use “Girl” as fleeting template, before taking “Can You Hear Us Now” to a louder place and more than justifying the Husker Du tag on their Bandcamp page. The next track, “Mismatched Shoes,” sounds as though it was blasting from a local college radio station non-stop, all summer long back in ’86.

All of this, however, is just warm-up for the show-stopping, three minutes of pure pop goodness that is “Wish I Had Her Picture”:


The hits, though, keep coming at breakneck speed.

“She’s So Alive” jangles its way into your heart, mind and soul. The bopping “It’s Kinda Why I Like You” attests to the power of simplicity when employed by the right hands. “You Remind Me Of You,” which made one of my previous “Year End” lists, injects liberal doses of sugar into the basic rocking mix:


Fall Off The World concludes, quite fittingly, with “Turn On The Radio,” a lyrical and sonic paean to The Ramones and the power of rock ‘n’ roll radio. It gets in and gets out at 1:55 — a perfect ending to Propeller’s best longplayer to date.

You can get Fall Off The World, right here as a “name-your-price” download. Chip in some cash, though. You won’t regret it.

 

TrolleyTrolley, Caught In The Darkness:  The latest release by this venerable Milwaukee-based band time-travels effortlessly from the 60s to today, making the occasional pit stop at a number of places and times in-between. Trolley is usually characterized as purveyors of “psych-pop.” For the most part, though, Trolley’s brand of psychedelia is more of the 1966 variety, than of the trippier experiments of 1968, with its swirling keyboards complimented throughout by relentlessly pounding beats.

Those beats get the festivities underway, as a short drum roll announces the start of the title track, an exposition of a darkened heart playing off, in yin-yang fashion, against an exuberant, sunny soundtrack. The happy “Thursday Girl” has a thoroughly sunny disposition. The opposition of darkness and light returns on “Step Into The Clear,” whose soothingly sweet opening soon gives way to a more sinister feel. As tinkling bells struggle for supremacy against gloomy guitars, the singer notes in a bit of bored resignation that “I’m wasted/but such is life”:


The band’s penchant for mixing it all up is evident throughout Caught In The Darkness. Complex rhythms take the fuzzy keyboard-oriented “She Has It All” to unexpected places.  The British Invasion feel of “All The Way” is spiked with a more contemporary array of sounds. “She Helps Me Celebrate” is Power Pop, circa 1980. What I noted about the generally less “trippy” feel of Trolley’s overall approach is, however, thrown completely out the window on the closing track, “Take My Love,” a seven-and-a-half minute excursion into the dreamy unknown.

Caught In The Darkness is a album conceived from great ideas, and executed with great care. You can strap yourself in for the fantastic voyage right here.

 

The PulseThe Gordy Garris Group, The Pulse: The Gordy Garris Group hails from Saginaw, Michigan, and enlisted Andy Reed to record their second studio longplayer. The Pulse is, for the most part, a set of acoustic guitar-based indie rock about loneliness, heartbreak and self-realization.

Garris, who has already written more than 200 songs at age 2o, has a knack for penning tunes that sneak their way into the subconscious. I drove around town with The Pulse on the car stereo one day, only to find myself humming one of its tracks unknowingly a couple of days later. The track in question, “Energy,” is the standout in the collection, a rumination on romantic longing set against strummed guitars and a pounding beat:


Other tracks mine similar territory, but manage to remain fresh. “Night Fall” begins with ethereal harmonies, and is enlivened by subtle keyboards. A muted acoustic guitar and a nice string arrangement compliment Garris’ vocals perfectly on the winsome “You Got Me.” “Bad News” is driven by staccato rhythms. “Perfect” features gorgeous steel guitar playing.

Garris says his influences include Green Day and Coldplay. I hear a lot of Josh Rouse on The Pulse. That might just be me, but its a good thing in any event. You should stream and buy The Pulse right here.

 

Timeless Music From Kurt Baker and Cleaners From Venus

Kurt Baker, Play It Cool

Kurt Baker, Play It CoolKurt Baker is a hit machine. He has the uncanny ability to record song-after-song filled with hooks, sing-along choruses and memorable melodies. You can call it Power Pop, if you want. Back in the day, though, Baker’s sound was just called “rock ‘n’ roll.” Whatever the label, his new long-player, Play It Cool, hardly disappoints. It delivers twelve rockin’ pop nuggets that should keep you movin’ and groovin’ over the coming cold months of winter.

The festivities start with “Sends Me To Mars,” a riff rocking garage stomper. Then, “Enough’s Enough” finds itself in more familiar Baker territory, with big vocals, hooks galore and some tasty keyboard parts. It’s a chart-topper . . . somewhere:

The next track, the breakneck “I Got You” will get you boppin’ along like its 1979. “Just a Little Bit” slows things down, but just a little bit. The basic riff of “Can’t Say No” sound-checks Joe Jackson’s “I’m The Man” as it tells the tale of a busted relationship that just won’t go away:

Play It Cool remains throughout quite indebted to the history of the rock ‘n’ roll form, but without residing in lifeless suspension at some wax museum. “Talk Is Talk” is a cool mid-60s rockin’ pop song, complete with 12-string guitar and vintage electric piano. “Prime Targets” might have been playing on “new wave” radio back in ’82, with its space age analog synth parts taking center stage. “Back For Good” time travels further to the glory days of AM radio with sweet harmonies and an easy-going chorus. The LP comes to a close with “I Can’t Wait,” which is probably playing right now in a bar near you. This is timeless music for today’s people. 

Play It Cool is, well, just cool. It’s also one of the finest slices of rock ‘n’ roll released the year. Get it via Bandcamp, either digitally or on disc from those stellar purveyors of real rock ‘n’ roll at Rum Bar Records.

Cleaners From Venus, Rose Of The Lanes

Cleaners From Venus, Rose Of the Lanes: Martin Newell returns with another fabulous collection of low-key pop and psych tunes recorded entirely on a Tascam DP-006 Pocketstudio with the assistance of Audacity freeware. As noted by the folks at Soft Bodies Records, the company that released Rose of the Lanes, these are “songs of immense distinction.” They’re stripped down and seemingly effortless. They are, however, constructed with great care, and Newell’s writing continues to be marked by a keen attention to detail. These are songs that make you take notice immediately.

The title track sets the tone for the fourteen that follow. Its consisted largely of a simple strummed acoustic guitar, a muted lead guitar, and rather uncomplicated drumming and percussion. Its nothing fancy at all. Its melody, however, conveys a beautiful, swaying melancholy that doesn’t easily let go:

“Little French Blue” is more muscular, with a slightly fuzzy electric guitar sitting in the middle to  compliment Newell’s urgent vocals. “Isn’t She The Biz” practically defines simplicity. Its hook is so basic — “isn’t she the biz/isn’t she the buzz” — that it seems like its been done thousands of times previously. It hasn’t, though. Its pure Newell, and completely original:

“Queen Khartoum” adds a bit of exoticism and a slow, burning lead guitar to the mix. “Third Summer of Love” bounces around amid slashing 80’s “alt rock” guitars, while asking the question “what if those hippies had been right all along?” “Lazy Elaine” is positively “old timey.”

But its the more “pop” songs that ultimately carry the day on Rose of the Lanes. The jangling “Liverpool Judy” is another slice of pop perfection, with yet another simple chorus — “Liverpool Judy/Liverpool Jude/you were the only one for me” — that thoroughly resonates. The even more jangling “Billy Liar” plays homage to the novel and film of the same name. The brooding “Denmark Street” places the listener on the historic London street famous for its publishing houses, recording studios and music shops, but threatened by continuing “redevelopment.”

Rose of the Lanes is, simply, a wonderful record of rich textures and engaging melodies hiding behind a casual facade. It’s a thoughtful record that is rooted in the great pop craft of the best of the past fifty years of English rock, and a shoo-in for my “Best Of” list this year. Get it via Bandcamp.

Sunday Round-Up From The Car Wash

Jeyllybricks

Stuck for a couple of hours at a Wi-Fi enabled car wash to see if they can remove evidence of malicious “keying” by a bunch of unruly heshers in a shopping center parking lot? That presents a grand opportunity to update you on some more recent additions to Pop That Goes Crunch radio.

The Jellybricks, “Probably Me” — Bright and shiny guitar-driven Power Pop by a favorite over at the station, who now have seven tracks spinning in rotation. Love the key line of the chorus: “something’s gotta give, and it’s probably me/there’s a hole in my chest where my heart used to be”:

Orgone Box, “Ticket With No Return” — The Active Listener blog, which is featured at the Blogroll to your right, recently released the “retweaked and perfected” digital version of the 90’s classic long-player, Centauar, on Bandcamp. I added four tracks from Centaur to the station recently, which is more than usual from one album. “Ticket With No Return” is pop-psych perfection, featuring the kind of handmade attention to detail found on such other favorites as Cotton Mather’s Kontiki:

Greater California, “The Foolish Son” — This is five years old. It deserves a whole lot more attention, particularly as summertime starts coming into view. Its beautifully constructed West Coast Pop driven by gorgeous harmonies to savor as the days grow longer:

Gen Pop, “Warm Sun” — Some jaunty, breezy guitar pop from Wisconsin. They’ve got a nine-track, name-your-price download over at Bandcamp that you should check out in full. But in the meantime, drink down the bittersweet summer drink of “Warm Sun” punctuated by some way cool glockenspiel:

Goodman, “Isn’t It Sad” — Michael Goodman creates one-man-band Power Pop with garage rock undertones from his perch in Brooklyn. The rockin’ title track from his new longplayer will have you poppin’ and boppin’ all day long:

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Well, that’s all I’ve got time to share with you today, since my vehicle is close to looking new again. After you’ve checked out these five songs, give a listen to the radio station, right here.

 

New Music Sunday: Almost Spring Edition

The Legal Matters

I’ve recently added a bunch of additional tracks to Pop That Goes Crunch radio, both new and old. Here is some of the best “new” music added over the past week, kicking off with a bit of Springtime:

The Legal Matters, “Rite Of Spring”: The Legal Matters is a “rockin’ pop project containing equal parts Chris Richards, Andy Reed and Keith Klingensmith,” each of whom is well-represented on this site and on the radio station. “Rite Of Spring” is our first taste of a long-player scheduled for a summer release. You need go no further than this to hear the best vocal harmonies of the year, set amid jangly guitars, subtle keyboards and some way cool jingle bells:

The JAC, “Love Dumb”: Joe Algeri and crew deliver a bit of perfectly propulsive Power Pop ahead of an upcoming LP. This one will have you singing along before completing your first listen:

The Sunchymes, “Mr. Buckstone”: “Checking The Weather” from 2012’s Let Your Free Flag Fly is quite a popular track on the radio station. This new slice of West Coast Pop wraps a tale of fib-telling boor in a rather pretty package, resplendent with shiny harmonies, “ba-ba-bas” and sweet mellotron flourishes:

The Zags, “Tattoo”:  This is bright and shiny Power Pop in the grandest early-70s tradition with subtle glam and garage rock undercurrents. You’ll also start singing along to this one long before its over:

Loop Line, “All I’m Waiting For”: Loop Line is two guys — one living in the U.S., the other in Japan — who created a 21-track record via file sharing. They describe their sound as “a combination of 60’s pop and 90’s indie rock, with as many vocal harmonies as each song can possibly hold.” That’s an apt description — their just released long-player, Tides, sports what seems like a thousand harmonies. “All I’m Waiting For” must have several hundred itself:

Each of these songs, along with nine-hundred others, are spinning 24/7 on Pop That Goes Crunch radio. Why not check it out?

 

Soft And Loud Melodies From Andy Klingensmith And Glenn Robinson

Today’s reviews feature two albums from very different ends of the spectrum that nevertheless should both find their way onto the music device of any discerning fan of melodic pop and rock ‘n roll.

Andy Klingensmith, Bright AgainAndy Klingensmith, Bright Again: Klingensmith significantly ups the ante over 2013’s Pictures Of on this six-track EP intended to “bridge” his first two full-length releases. Although Klingensmith’s stunning, multi-tracked vocals and acoustic guitar remain at the forefront like they did last year, he also plays bass and keyboards on Bright Again while Riley Smith adds drums and Jay Gummert contributes subtle flutes and clarinets. There is nothing at all fleeting or half-baked on this “bridge” EP. The songs are rich and complex, and the arrangements yield a number of surprises that will keep your finger reaching for the repeat button.

The title track kicks of the set and builds consistently from its relatively breezy opening verses until it lands at an emotional conclusion some five minutes later amid swirling instrumentation. It likely will find a spot on my year-end list of the best songs of 2014 in eleven months:

The next track, “No Control,” starts in a somewhat conventional acoustic fashion until unexpected chord changes  wind their way in and out of the song. “Oh Miss No Name” features a cascade of harmonies surrounded by a steady, transfixing rhythm. It would feel quite at home on a Crosby, Stills & Nash album.”The Parade” is a quiet rumination on how memory effects how we see ourselves. An electric guitar comes seemingly from nowhere to nicely frame the two slightly different halves of “The Penultimate Color.”

The EP closes with “Peels & Feels,” an immersive sonic essay on expectation and hope, which makes it the perfect conclusion to this fully realized follow-up to Pictures Of:

In all respects, Bright Again exceeds Klingensmith’s stellar debut in both reach and grasp, and points to even bigger and better things from him in the months and years ahead. Its available as a “name your price” download, right here.

Glenn Robinson, Modern MistakesGlenn Robinson, Modern Mistakes: Twenty seconds into this debut solo project from Robinson — a drummer in many Rhode Island and Massachusetts bands over the past decade-and-a-half — and you know exactly where he is going. Its fast and loud, featuring driving guitars, propulsive percussion and ferocious vocals. Its anchored throughout by Robinson’s keen feel for melody, making the ten brief tracks on Modern Mistakes fly by in couple of a head-bopping moments. 

Those first twenty seconds mentioned above? They fly out of the speakers from”The Worst,” in which Robinson conjures Black Flag at its most melodic and hummable:

The hooks keep on coming. “Gimme Insanity” would have had the kids singing its basic tag line — “gimme, gimme insanity/gimme, gimme insanity” — over-and-over again back in ’82. “Wavelength” is classic Power Pop, distinguished by Robinson’s raspy vocals:

Robinson says he wrote and first demoed “The Last Winner” in 2005: “I never once changed anything about it. It was one of those songs that kinda wrote itself. It’s ridiculously simple and fun to play.” Its a particularly fierce piece of pop-punk, to boot. “Hang Around And Stay Awhile” is also an older track, which Robinson first recorded in 2007. Its driven by a sinewy guitar riff snatched from 1977:

Modern Mistakes breaks no new ground, but Robinson did not set out to blaze any trails. Instead, he delivers twenty-seven minutes of ear-to-ear aggressive melodies to liven up your day. You can download Modern Mistakes for $5, right here, or get a CD for $10 from Kool Kat, right here.
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Three Tasty Pop Teasers From Agony Aunts

When I was young, the prospect of listening to anything by a band that called itself as a “Bay Area supergroup” would have been an aural horror show in the making. Journey was “Bay Area music” back then. Emerson, Lake & Palmer was a supergroup. Heck, Journey consisted of former members of Santana and The Steve Miller Band. It was a “Bay Area supergroup” all by itself.

But time marches on. I’ve lived in the Bay Area for the past fifteen years.

Agony Aunts bills itself as a “Bay Area psych-pop supergroup.” It features members of The Corner Laughers and The Orange Peels, among others. The first two lines of The Corner Laughers‘ song, “Chicken Bingo” — “They asked us where we came from, we said San Francisco/They asked again, we said outer space” — is noted as my “favorite quotation” on Facebook. The circle becomes complete.

Agony Aunts‘ 2010 release, Greater Miranda, is a delectable concoction of sunshine pop, power pop, chamber pop and bubblegum pop, punctuated by occasional psychedelic flourishes and anchored by quizzical lyrics like “[h]e flaunts a billion fortunes and sleeps with frayed eyes split.” Whatever that means, it sure sounds great. The whole record is also beautifully sung and filled to the brim with glistening male-female harmonies. They get special props for constructing a one-minute plus piece of meringue, “RB & YM,” around five words (“Rob Black and your money”) and a bunch of “buh, buh, buhs.” Not taking things too seriously is a major virtue on this blog.

Agony AuntsThe band recently dropped three songs in advance of the November issuance of their next long player, Big Cinnamon. They’re just as good as anything on Greater Miranda.

The lead track, “Twenty-four Mergansers” is 100% hook until about the 1:38 mark. That’s when a synth that would have made Emerson, Lake & Palmer proud back in ’71 takes over, followed by a wall of cascading guitar sound. Calm is soon restored, however, to allow the hooks to lead the way home:

“Family Drugs” sticks a swaying, almost laid-back mid-70s arrangement around a song about bottling up “spaniel rage.” Its all sewn together by those perfect male-female harmonies.

“We Got The Jekyll” is a more straight ahead (at least for them) mid-tempo rocker about dealing with one’s demons, or so it seems because “the Lord will provide you with endless supplies of dirt.” It closes with some more 70’s-sounding synth work fighting with demonic laughter for center stage:

Based on these early teasers, Big Cinnamon promises to deliver big when it is released in full this fall. I have made my peace with “Bay Area music” and “supergroups.”

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