Pop That Goes Crunch!

Seven Decades Of Melodic Rock & Roll

Archive for the tag “Starbelly”

A Power Pop Playlist Collected By Algorithm, Assembled By Hand

RecordsGroove” is one on the most used apps on my music device. The best thing it does is scan your music collection to create playlists based on your listening habits and tags in the Last.fm database. A “groovy mix” can be based on a genre of music. or a particular artist.

The other day, I created a quick “groovy mix” based on Chris Richards & The Subtractions, particularly the track “Sleep All Day” from the wonderful 2012 release Get Yer La La’s Out. I then trimmed the list to 15 songs, spanning 44 minutes — the approximate amount of time that could be comfortably squeezed onto vinyl — eliminating duplication of artists and less worthy songs, but maintaining a couple of the less well-known tracks from compilation CDs in my collection.

After revising the sequencing — but keeping “Sleep All Day” as the lead track — I uploaded the playlist to the 8 Tracks site. It is embedded below, and can be heard in full by clicking on arrow in the embedded image.

What will you hear other than “Sleep All Day”?

For one, there are a number of tracks by artists discussed in prior posts on this site, particularly in this one and this one.

But also included are: (i) “Portland” — one of the best tracks on Always On The Run, the 2011 release by An American Underdog; (ii) the tight and rocking “Above The Blue,” by Vegas With Randolph; and (iii) “Goodbye,” by the should-be-far-better-known Brad Jones.

Three covers are included: (i) Doug Powell’s slightly over-the-top version of “I Woke Up In Love This Morning,” a Top 15 hit by The Partridge Family,” (ii) Stephen Lawrenson’s take on The Beatles‘ “Yes It is,” and (iii) Lannie Flowers’ very cool re-imagining of Orleans’ Top 10 hit, “Dance With Me,” which closes out the set.

Complete track list:

1. “Sleep All Day” — Chris Richards & The Subtractions

2. “Above The Blue” — Vegas With Randolph

3. “My Favorite Revolution” — Eugene Edwards

4. “Last Thing On My Mind — The Finkers

5. “I Woke Up In Love This Morning” — Doug Powell

6. “Goodbye” — Brad Jones

7. “Hourglass” — Starbelly

8. “Portland” — An American Underdog

9. “A Girl That I Once Knew” — Three Hour Tour

10. “Yes It Is” — Stephen Lawrenson

11.”Waiting For A Sign” — Kelly’s Heels

12. “If You’ll Be My Adam” — Skeleton Staff

13. “Don’t Look At The Sun” — Chewy Marble

14. “I’m In Love” — Myracle Brah

15. “Dance With Me” — Lannie Flowers

* * * * * * * * * *

I hope you enjoyed this playlist. Perhaps you just heard your next favorite song.

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Starbelly’s Lemonfresh: Still Tasty After All These Years

Starbelly's Lemonfresh

Easy come, easy go.

A piece I wrote last year on the digital download-only reissue of the expanded version Starbelly’s 1998 release, Lemonfresh, has evaporated into the digital ether. So I am updating it and re-publishing it, here.

Back in 1998, three guys put out a limited release, eleven track CD of Rubber Soul/Big Star-oriented chiming guitar pop on Not Lame Recordings called Lemonfresh to great acclaim. The CD sold out, and disappeared. Not Lame reissued the CD in 2009 with twelve bonus tracks and a CR-R of a live show. Not Lame went out-of-business in 2010. You can buy the CD re-issue of Lemonfresh used for about $60 — if you can find it.

But nothing really dies in the age of the internet. So enter Futureman Records. Futureman, though, does not merely issue “records.” It also re-issues lost Power Pop classics, exclusively by digital download, from its perch on Bandcamp. The twenty-three track reissue of Lemonfresh is available now for the princely sum of $10, in virtually any digital format you desire.

Lemonfresh is as fresh today as it was fourteen years ago. The “record” is seventy-plus minutes of non-stop hooks, melodies, chiming jangly guitars, occasional big beats and consistently clean production. It has all of the stuff to be a massive hit in a different world. But in our world, we can just drink down its poppy goodness.

The opening track, “This Time,” sets the tone for all that comes afterward. It’s a one-minute forty-three second look at romantic disentanglement — attempted, imagined or achieved — set amid perfect vocal harmonies, concise guitars and driving beat:

“She’s So Real” is the kind of song that will play in your head for hours after listening, with its direct statement of lyrical and musical purpose, and the tasty interplay between the lead vocals and background harmonies:

“What You Will” might very well have the blueprint for half of everything Wilco has done since 1999’s Summerteeth. It’s all about personal illusion, or delusion — “Look under your bed/it’s all in your head” — punctuated by strings and those pitch perfect harmonies, once again:

Indeed,Lemonfresh features just about the consistently best vocals you will hear on any rock record, well, this year — even though it was recorded in the late-1990s. Guitarist Cliff Hillis and bassist Dennis Schocket trade lead vocals over the course of the twenty-three tracks, lending the songs a distinct yin-and-yang feel that keeps the proceedings all the more interesting over the course of an hour-and-change. And, as is required in this genre, Lemonfresh features a song about a particular girl. “Letters To Mary” closed the original 1998 release, and would have felt at home on Abbey Road:

There truly is not a weak track on the expanded version of Lemonfresh. That’s quite an achievement over twenty-three songs. Play it in your car and it will keep your head bopping throughout that long, boring commute.

Although Hillis left the band after Lemonfresh was released, and the band hasn’t put out anything new since 2002, he has said that the original members of Starbelly, along with his replacement, are working on new songs for a future release. The band also in playing at one of the shows in the New York installment of this year’s International Pop Overthrow.

In the meantime, though, give Futureman 43 cents for each of the twenty-three songs on Lemonfresh. That’s a steal.

Put The Needle On The Record: Bright And Shiny Power Pop

Put The Needle On The Record

The last two posts have discussed the AM rock and roll radio experience of the late-60s and early-70s. That kind of music — un-pretentious, hook-and-melody-laden and devoid of big statements and philosophizing — can still be found if you know where to look.

One of those places is right here, in this post. Embedded below is a playlist that I uploaded to 8 Tracks containing full-length versions of songs from my personal collection. The playlist has fourteen tracks, clocking in at about 46 minutes. That’s a reasonable approximation of the quantity of music contained on the LPs from days gone by. The title –“Put The Needle On The Record”– was chosen with that in mind.

Several of the acts represented — The Shazam, The Grip Weeds, Starbelly, Eytan Mirsky, Lannie Flowers, Sun Sawed in 1/2 — have been discussed in recent posts on this site. Many of the songs have that “Raspberries quality” — ringing guitars, simple declarations of romantic yearning, and that trademark “bright and shiny” sound — discussed in last week’s post. The best examples are the songs by Myracle Brah, Starbelly and Love Nut — each of which feature the incomparable Andy Bopp as either the principal artist or producer — and the tracks by Chris Richards and the Subtractions and  Blue Cartoon.

Here is the track list:

1.   “Talk To Me” — Myracle Brah

2.  “Calling Sydney” — The Shazam

3.  “Infinite Soul” — The Grip Weeds

4.  “She’s So Real” — Starbelly

5.  “Don’t Do Anything Tonight” — Chris Richards and the Subtractions

6.  “Another Week Or Two” — Eytan Mirsky

7.  “It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This” — Eugene Edwards

8.  “Give Me A Chance” — Lannie Flowers

9.  “You Should Have Known Better” — Blue Cartoon

10. “If You Go Away” — Love Nut

11. “I Love You Baby (But I Hate Your Friends)” — The Dahlmanns

12. “Janet Greene” — Sun Sawed in 1/2

13. “Valerie Loves Me” — Material Issue

14.  “Time Wraps Around You” — Velvet Crush

Best Listens Of 2012

Michael Carpenter

Michael Carpenter

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?

Starbelly’s “Mother Of Pearl”: A Turn Of The Century Classic

As I noted the other day, I recently contributed a piece on the expanded version of the second re-release of Starbelly’s 1998 Lemonfresh to a relatively new site call The Cultural Purveyor. I guess my job there is to spread the word about resurrected, lost Powerpop classics since I  wrote previously on that site about the re-released and expanded version of Cotton Mather’s 1994 masterpiece, Kontiki.

I digress, although Starbelly has become a mainstay on my morning and afternoon commutes to and from work. That brings me to the track that first drew my attention to the band. That would be the original version of “Mother Of Pearl,” the re-recording of which appeared on the band’s second long-player, 2002’s Everyday And Then Some.

On its own, the “official album” version of “Mother Of Pearl” stands out as a stellar track, one of the best on Everyday. The real brilliance, though, is in the original version song, recorded with the band’s initial three-piece line-up. Its occasionally muffled vocals set against a strong, melodic chorus, ringing guitars, and typically beautiful harmonies will lodge the track firmly in your subconscious for days. If that’s not enough, the subtle hip-hop rhythm and long fade-out with mysterious whispers gives the whole thing an American gothic feel, an effect that is enhanced further by the song’s official video:

The original version of “Mother Of Pearl” is available on Not Lame’s Six Years of Powerpop, which can still be purchased digitally or streamed on services such as Rhapsody. Its easily in my Top 40 of all-time.

Not Lame's Six Years Of Powerpop

 

 

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