Friday, June 27, 2008

Favourite Sons - That Driving Beat - 1965


A rediscovered gem from the mid 60`s that was released and just did not stick. Hard to understand why because the moddy, soul infused stylings fit snug with Small Faces, Downliners Sect and early Pretty Things, Stones and High Numbers/The Who. Music fans who dig finding new bands that evoke this era of sound will find much to enjoy on the 12 tracks here. Cool Find! -Not Lame

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Outta Here!

I need to work on my sunburn so I am leaving for Hilton Head with my family for a long overdue vacation. I would appericate it if you all could check on the cats!
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Donuts - Sgt. Jack's Pepper Mill - 2004


Much like their culinary namesake, the Donuts embrace and, at times, contrast the notion that they are nothing more than musical empty calories. You can't resist them even though you know that they are bad for you. When it's all over, you will be disgusted with yourself for having succumb to the fleeting pleasures that they provided. The Donuts consist of dime-store musical savant J. Bearclaw, drunken stumblebum Johnny Taint, the enigmatic Peter Extravaganza and an impeccably coifed UFO/Hot Chocolate devotee simply named Fathead ("One name, just like Cher!" enthuses Fathead). The plan to form the 'Nuts was hatched when Bearclaw, Taint, and Fathead attended an AC/DC concert in the spring of 2001. In an epiphany similar to the one that knocked Saint Paul on his ass on the road to Damascus, the boys were overcome with a vision of the perfect rock band: equal parts marketing, fashion sensibility and Mickey's malt liquor ©. Fathead would provide the powerhouse drumming and Bearclaw and Taint would supply vocals and guitar. ("Taint is like a combination of Bob Dylan and Lou Reed, and that's just his singing!" raves Fathead.) The combo was rounded out when Chuck Vadge was brought aboard to play bass, notwithstanding his near total lack of musical ability. Twelve weeks later, however, Chuck Vadge was replaced by Peter Extravaganza. ("Chuck had absolutely no experience playing the bass when he joined the 'Nuts; Peter comes to the band with a good three months of bass playing under his belt!" gushes Fathead.) -CD Baby

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Milkshake Jones - Gala Days - 2007


Based out of Harrisburg, PA, Milkshake Jones is a quartet that blends the sound of classic power pop with a dash of alt-country twang and a rock guitar edge. Fronted by songwriter and primary vocalist John Micek, the group also features Mark Burke on guitar, Marni Micek on bass, and Paul Murr on drums. After developing a local following in Harrisburg, the band started heading out for short tours and playing shows with the likes of Mitch Easter and Tim Lee, the latter of whom collaborated with John Micek for a song on Milkshake Jones' debut EP, released by the Paisley Pop label in 2003. -AMG

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Milkshake Jones - Gala Days - 2007
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Barry Holdship Four - The Jesse Garon Project - 1996


Barry Holdship is one of those artists who seem so out of step with the sounds of the current Top 40 that his style becomes more timeless and timely than anything else you'll hear on the radio this or any other year. Blending the seemingly innocent charm of Bobby Fuller, Gene Pitney, Elvis, and Buddy Holly, then mixing in a dash of Lennon and McCartney and tossing in a few slices of country and power pop, Holdship is definitely a man of the moment, but that moment could have been at any stage during the 50-plus years since rock & roll was born.
Holdship's stunning first solo album (billed to the Barry Holdship Four, a nod to one of his heroes, Bobby Fuller) was released in 1997. A brilliant mix of traditional rock, country, power pop, and soul, Holdship was accepted by many of the trendy L.A. scenes and became an important player in all of them. -AMG



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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Gas Giants - From Beyond The Back Burner - 1999


Robin Wilson and Philip Rhodes seize the opportunity to rock harder with the Gas Giants, their first band since the Gin Blossoms. Paired with guitarist Daniel Henzerling, Wilson and Rhodes stick to the basic tight, power pop sound of the Blossoms, but they turn up the volume and jack up the humor for the Gas Giants' first album, From Beyond the Back Burner. At times, their humor can be positively juvenile — witness all the flatulence references in the band's name and title, not to mention "Stinking up the Charts" — but it's clear that the band, and Wilson in particular, have embraced this chance to loosen up. The result in an unassuming, good-natured, and melodic hard-pop album. Not everything on the record works — a couple numbers are a little too silly, a couple are a little too generic — but it sounds like the band is having a good time, so it's easy to forgive what little filler there is and just groove along to good times. -AMG

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Handclaps and Harmonies - Presents Handclaps and Harmonies - 2007


Well crafted version of pop rock, reminiscent of your favorite golden oldies of yesteryear. Four part vocal harmonies and a great horn section
Many years ago, the brothers' Handclap played many shows all throughout the world. Something just wasn't right. Something was missing. Meanwhile, on the other side of the tracks, the Harmonie brothers were faced with the same dilemma. So many shows were played, but always ended in that same empty feeling... until one fateful night! And on that night, stars came into perfect alignment. Everything in the world was peaceful. The heavens opened up, and Handclaps and Harmonies struck it's first chord. Finally, the joining of two great families. Brothers in music. Brothers in blood. Handclaps and Harmonies was born! -CD Baby

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Beatifics - How I Learned to Stop Worrying - 1996


Lyrically bitter but musically sweet, How I Learned to Stop Worrying demonstrates the Beatifics' ability to mask their often heartbreaking tales with sunny pop melodies in the style of Matthew Sweet and the Velvet Crush. Anchored by a steadily drummed beat, "Almost Something There" immediately sets the album's tone with its jangling tones and aching vocals, while "This Year's Jessica" creates a hybrid of early-Beatles' pop sheen and the Replacements' raw, disheveled rock. With its handclaps and angelic harmonies, the '60s-flavored "Happy to Be Sad" would not sound out of place on the soundtrack for That Thing You Do. The Beatifics don't really break any new ground here, but few bands sound as good recycling their influences as this quartet does on tracks like "Something/Anything?" and "Crazy Lovesick Heart." A consistently satisfying debut, How I Learned to Stop Worrying provides no reason to believe that the Beatifics can't become one of the truly memorable power-pop bands of the '90s and beyond. -AMG

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Green Peppers - Domino Mornings - 2007


Having flirted with the music business for nearly 25 years now, you'd think Jim McCulloch, aka Green Peppers, would have learnt it's a tough cookie to break. Or maybe just a mug's game?Then again, for a man who's currently in demand more than at any stage of his career, I guess one more solo album - with a little help from some of his equally (if not more so, in some cases) revered friends.Probably best known for his work in the Soup Dragons and BMX Bandits but more recently for his contribution to Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan's The Ballad Of The Broken Seas, McCulloch proves on several occasions here that he is a pretty adept songwriter in his own right.Campbell returns the favour here by adding backing vocals and strings across several compositions, while Ross Sinclair and Paul Quinn - both former occupants of the Soup Dragons' drummer's stool - keep the rhythm essentially steady throughout. When added to the vocal skills of Daniel Wylie and Justin Currie (Del Amitri) plus the production talents of Raymond McGinley (Teenage Fanclub, BMX Bandits), the roster of indie legends, particularly from North Of The Border, reads quite impressively.Musically, Domino Songs, is quite a wistful collection that seems to mirror Isobel Campbell's former employers Belle And Sebastian more than anything McCulloch has been involved in either past or present.It's tentative in places, such as on the McCartney-esque 'Stepping On The Cracks' or folksy title track. McCulloch seems more at ease on the slightly more upbeat 'Shabby Horses', by far the shining light among this collection, or the acerbic 'I Will Always Be The Same', which delves into country and folk quite admirably without trying to sound like either.What this album does lack on the whole though is consistency, and although McCulloch is obviously up there with the best of them when it comes to proficient musical arrangements, the fact Domino Mornings is only his second solo venture into lyrical composition in a quarter of a century surely tells its own story. -Dom Gourlay [DROWNED IN SOUND]

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Monday, June 23, 2008

Starbelly - Everyday and Then Some - 2002


Apart from the notable departure of one Cliff Hillis, one of the band's two lead singer/songwriters, not much of Starbelly's formula changed in the four years since its debut, Lemon Fresh. But even though Dennis Schocket's songs were among the most full and joyous on the debut, Everyday and Then Some is a decidedly more melancholy affair, focusing on mannered and somewhat downhearted reproductions of late-period Beatlesque pop. But apart from this shift, the elements of the debut — from the warm, full production and cinematic harmony vocals — are still in place. That's kind of why it's surprising that very little of Everyday and Then Some takes hold the way songs like "This Time" or "When Will You See" did, and why — even though it does improve after repeat listens — very few of the tracks here make any real impact. Maybe it's just a case of a repeated formula producing diminishing results, or maybe the long gap between albums caused the band to over-think, but Everyday and Then Some just doesn't seem to burn quite as brightly. That said, Starbelly does utilize the same formula this time that they did last time, and that means that fans of the debut most certainly won't be disappointed — "Baby's Eyes" and "Mother of Pearl," in particular, rank amongst the band's best work. -AMG

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Gang of Four - Entertainment! - 1979


Entertainment! is one of those records where germs of influence can be traced through many genres and countless bands, both favorably and unfavorably. From groups whose awareness of genealogy spreads wide enough to openly acknowledge Gang of Four's influence (Fugazi, Rage Against the Machine), to those not in touch with their ancestry enough to realize it (rap-metal, some indie rock) — all have appropriated elements of their forefathers' trailblazing contribution. Its vaguely funky rhythmic twitch, its pungent, pointillistic guitar stoccados, and its spoken/shouted vocals have all been picked up by many. Lyrically, the album was apart from many of the day, and it still is. The band rants at revisionist history in "Not Great Men" ("No weak men in the books at home"), self-serving media and politicians in "I Found That Essence Rare" ("The last thing they'll ever do?/Act in your interest"), and sexual politics in "Damaged Goods" ("You said you're cheap but you're too much"). Though the brilliance of the record thrives on the faster material — especially the febrile first side — a true highlight amongst highlights is the closing "Anthrax," full of barely controlled feedback squalls and moans. It's nearly psychedelic, something post-punk and new wave were never known for. With a slight death rattle and plodding bass rumble, Jon King equates love with disease and admits to feeling "like a beetle on its back." In the background, Andy Gill speaks in monotone of why Gang of Four doesn't do love songs. Subversive records of any ilk don't get any stronger, influential, or exciting than this - AMG

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Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Motors - 1 - 1977


Nick Garvey and Andy McMaster first worked together as members of Ducks Deluxe, one of the tougher and more rollicking bands to emerge from the British pub rock scene, so when punk rock raised the ante on volume and attitude by the time their next band, the Motors, released their first album in 1977, they were more than willing to meet the challenge. While The Motors 1 is a long way from punk rock, it certainly reflects what many pub rock refugees learned from punk — namely, keep playing straight-ahead rock tunes, but kick up the volume and tempo and forget trying to sound like the Band. The Motors 1 kicks off with the superb "Dancing the Night Away", an excellent fusion of pop melody with big guitar firepower, and the song is so effective that it sets a standard the rest of the disc can't quite match. But they do come close in spots, especially on the cranked-up "Phoney Heaven" and the Springsteen-esque "Bring in the Morning Light", while the neo-reggae lurch of "Cold Love" confirms these guys didn't have to limit themselves to four-square rock & roll. Nick Garvey and Bram Tchaikovsky are a formidable guitar combination on this album, while Rick Slaughter's drumming is sharply energetic and Andy McMaster is a truly valuable point man on bass, keyboards, and guitars. The Motors 1 is a fine set of meat-and-potatoes rock & roll played with the right amount of sweat and more smarts and craft than you might expect — if more pub rockers had made records like this earlier in the 1970s, Johnny Rotten and Joe Strummer might have had to find something else to rebel against. -AMG

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The Pillbugs - Monclovia - 2007


Ohio-based quintet the Pillbugs proclaim themselves “the world’s most psychedelic band”. It’s true that these cosmic cowboys have certainly flung the doors of perception wide open with style on their previous four albums. And if prolific stood for “most psychedelic” they’d have a very strong case indeed. After all, they were the first rock band to debut with a double-CD release containing new and original songs, not to mention a second album including a bonus 3-D Viewmaster reel. The group’s latest long player, Monclovia, follows close on the heels of this summer’s, wait for it, double-CD offering Buzz For Aldrin and provides the perfect 12-song gateway to the intoxicating, perfumed garden inhabited by the Pillbugs. Drawing on Beatles-influenced sitar-spun melodies circa Revolver, interlaced with backwards guitar and spacey, psych-folk imagery reminiscent of the Byrds, this compilation, including remixes, concentrates on the band’s catchiest and most accessible guitar heavy psych-sound. Lysergic tales sing of flying spaceships ("4 Sec Nightmare in a 5 Sec Dream"), and cosmic spacemen ("Make Like Arthur Lee") rub shoulders with the recurring character, the “King of Zorg”, while highlights are provided by two new numbers, “Here’s to the End of Time” and “Faceless Wonder”, that open this impressive collection of retro-psych-pop. -Popmatters.com

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Saturday, June 21, 2008

Bram Tchaikovsky - Strange Man, Changed Man - 1979

Bram Tchaikovsky (born Peter Bramall) began playing in local pub rock bands in Lincolnshire, England, in the late '60s. He joined the Motors in 1977 and was relegated to mere sideman status by the nucleus of the band, songwriters Andy McMaster and Nick Garvey. While waiting on pre-production work for the second Motors album, Tchaikovsky took the opportunity to do some recording of his own. The resulting single, "Sarah Smiles," drew enough interest for him to leave the Motors and form his own band. In addition to its leader, the band Bram Tchaikovsky consisted of Mike Broadbent (bass, keyboards) and Keith Boyce (drums). They signed to the new Radar label in 1978 along with Stiff expatriates Nick Lowe and Elvis Costello. The band showed a great deal of promise with their first album, Strange Man Changed Man, fitting in nicely with the growing power pop movement.
Strange Man Changed Man remains Bram Tchaikovsky's finest moment. Produced by his former Motors bandmate Nick Garvey on a shoestring budget, the resulting thin sound only serves to enhance the songs which owe as much to '60s pop as they do to pub/punk rock. The pure pop of "Girl of My Dreams" (a minor hit in the U.S.) perfectly encapsulates late-'70s Brit-pop and stands as one of the classic singles of the era. -AMG

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The Waking Hours - The Good Way - 2003


The Waking Hours existed a few decades too late — at least too late to gain the sort of plaudits they deserve. Had the quintet been making music during the Technicolor '60s or the power pop '70s (or even the new wave '80s), it's a good bet their music would have been camped out up and down the Top 40 charts, considering how melodically robust and unstintingly catchy its songs are. In 2003, however, the band was forced to bypass most of the fruits of fame and settle instead for making one of the most melodious, tuneful records of the new year. It is an indication of how dramatically pop trends have changed (some would say, not necessarily unfairly, how dramatically pop trends have degraded) that The Good Way, the band's second outing, is considered an "underground" blip on the pop music radar in much the same way as equally ebullient albums by such like-minded fellow-travelers as the Wondermints and the Grip Weeds, and that it was dependent on internet exposure to generate much of its buzz. A buzz, incidentally, that the album very much deserves. The music is, without exception, outstanding. Avoiding the retro tag via a bright, crisp, state-of-the-art production, The Waking Hours nevertheless tie together the volatile explosiveness of garage rock, the energy of the early British Invasion ("Whispered News"), the airless crunch of classic '70s pop/rock ("Jade," "Hearts," and "Sunshine"; the latter a single so potent it was included in a video game), the flash of glam rock, and the stainless-steel power-chords of Cali punk ("Used to It," "Revenge"), with the most ethereal collection of summer-touched hooks and gauzy three- and four-part harmonies since — well, since The Waking Hours, actually. With Tom Richards' quintessential shaggy-haired, dreamboat vocals and the band's consistently spot-on playing (the basslines of new addition Lisa Mychols are particularly impressive), The Good Way is one for the scrapbook. -AMG

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Friday, June 20, 2008

Blank Pages - On My Street - 2007


Somewhere amid the suburban sprawl of southern New Jersey, Blank Pages has been brewing its tasty concoction of guitar-driven power pop from more than a decade. With the release of On My Street, their new album on the FDR Label, the band continues the tradition of churning out pop hooks that get into your head and won’t come out. While Blank Pages’ powerful pop exudes the hooks and harmonies of classic pop acts like XTC and Wings, On My Street updates their sound and draws inspiration from modern purveyors of indie-pop like Jason Falkner and Sloan. The group features songwriter and guitarist Greg Potter, drummer Ed McCaffrey, guitarist Jason Brown and bassist Wayne Philipp. -CD Baby

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Dressy Bessy - Dressy Bessy - 2003


Dressy Bessy believes in keeping it simple. No fancy chords, wasted notes, or glitzy orchestration for them. Just verse-chorus guitar/drums/bass bubblegum and snappingly catchy pop tunes — lots of them. Their two albums and their singles collection are remarkably consistent documents from one of the strongest indie pop bands to come down the pike in a while. That being said, this album is a bit of a change in direction for the group. Dressy Bessy retains the hooks and simple approach and adds a newfound harder sound. The guitars have some bite to them, and singer Tammy Ealom's usually sugar-spun vocals occasionally sound angry; on "This May Hurt (A Little)" she sounds like she is getting ready to kick some unfortunate jerk in the shins. Georgie Blue matches grinding guitars with Ealom's off-kilter vocals and produces a track that wouldn't sound out of place on one of Blondie's first LPs. Elsewhere, there are plenty of finger-snapping peppy pop tunes that betray the influence of early new wave and power pop bands like Blondie and the Ramones. They haven't entirely thrown off the influence of indie pop groups like Talulah Gosh on the cute "New Song (From Me to You)" and "Hey May." The album's stripped-down sound and approach may leave the listener wishing the band had found a little space for some flashy chords or glitzy orchestration to break things up a bit. Still, it is hard to argue with an album as pure and true as this. -AMG

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Superdrag - Regretfully Yours - 1996


In the glut of grungy power pop bands that flooded the mid-'90s, it was pretty easy to write off Superdrag as "just another rock band." The difference is that Superdrag is essentially a pop band, as Regretfully Yours proves. While the band's sound itself is nothing terribly exciting, most of the songwriting lives up to the promise of the album's saccharine-rush single, "Sucked Out" — full of hooks and tightly constructed. This is somewhat surprising, considering the album was the band's first for a major audience, and the norm of the time period was for producers and labels to reduce every rock band to a Seattle clone. Regretfully Yours will certainly satisfy the pop/rock and pop-punk crowds — Weezer and Bad Religion fans alike — but indie rock lovers should look to the band's early independent singles. -AMG

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Speeds - Sing It Loud - 2006


After two promising EPs, this Steel City trio finally deliver their solid, big-time poppin', 10-song full length debut! This is top-notch Brit-inspired Power Pop that's chock full of crunchy guitars, hooks and terrific (Beatle-like at times) harmonies! Think Supergrass, The Shazam, The Jellybricks, Cheap Trick, and early Rich Creamy Paint and you get a real good idea of what's happening here! Delivered crisply, tightly, and with a no-frills approach! "Sunset Drive" is a great Beatles/Marmalade-inspired ballad! We're pleased as punch to be associated with this! -koolkatmusik

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The Jags - Evening Standards - 1980


The Jags are a fondly remembered one-hit wonder of the late-70s U.K. power pop explosion. The quartet was formed in 1978 by the Yorkshire-based songwriting team of Nick Watkins (vocals) and John "Twink" Adler (guitar), with Steve Prudence (bass) and Alex Baird (drums). In July of 1978, they signed to Island Records and released a promising four-track EP. Their debut LP in 1980, Evening Standards, included the memorable, though highly derivative, "Back of My Hand," which had reached the U.K. Top 40 the previous fall. The follow-up, "Woman's World" barely scraped its way on to the charts. Though Evening Standards featured a really solid set of punchy power pop songs, critics focussed instead on Watkins' Costello-like delivery, writing the band off as merely mimics. As steam ran out of the power pop craze, the band attempted to change their sound a bit. -AMG

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Doug Powell - Curiouser - 1998


Power pop is fundamentally music written for the radio that nowadays plays nowhere near the radio. The talented Doug Powell handles multiple instruments and technical aspects, but more importantly writes simple pop songs. For Curiouser, Powell recorded "flaws and warts" onto an eight track and released the raw product in an attempt to emulate the freshness and excitement of spontaneity and creation. Surprisingly, Curiouser is not raucous or noisy, but a solid pop record. The sound is fine and the songs are well-structured enough to avoid that demo rip-off feeling. If the liner notes didn't indicate the rudiments of this experiment, none would be the wiser. Of course the project reeks of evil-genius Todd Rundgren, but the tunes are unmistakably Powell's. "Just Like Montgomery Cliff" shares a strange celebrity fascination with the Clash. Powell's former Nashville neighbor, Cheap Trick's Tom Petersson, helps out on "When She Awoke" (later laid down with the rest of Swag). The great piece "Torn" also graces the excellent Nashpop collection. "Cross My Heart" exudes pure obsessive romanticism: paralyzing and fascinating. Sometimes Powell's forlorn feeling recalls Freedy Johnston, but with better vocals. Curiouser actually gets better as it rolls. Don't see Doug Powell shooting up the charts, and of course he deserves much more credit than he'll ever get, but, in a perfect world, he rides the top of the pops. -AMG

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Foxboro Hot Tubs - Stop Drop And Roll!!! - 2008


American Idiot did the unthinkable for Green Day: it made them respectable. Arriving at the mid-point of the 2000s, it was the quintessential big important rock protest record of the George W. Bush era, embraced by listeners who never bothered with the neo-punk trio before, listeners who now turned to the group as some kind of voice of a generation — an impression only heightened by their duet with U2, a veritable passing of the torch that raised expectations for the sequel to American Idiot. Sensible punks that they are, Green Day opened the escape hatch and bolted, creating new identity as the Foxboro Hot Tubs, an unabashed old-fashioned garage rock band with a debut called Stop Drop and Roll!!! seemingly designed to play nonstop on Little Steven's Underground Garage Radio for all of 2008. -AMG

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Monday, June 16, 2008

The Quit - Minus Tide - 2008


Who needs a Dinosaur Jr. reunion? Beyond? Naah, we’ve got The Quit right here in Seattle to do all of our alternative rocking. At least I think they’re making music now. They were just on MySpace so I’m pretty sure their EP is not from some buzz bin even though Scott Shoemaker and Nash McBride have all the screeching fuzz and frenetic rhythm of 25 year guitar veterans. The Quit is so charming and poppy I can almost overlook the fact that I listened to albums just like it on repeat in high school. Were it not for thick curls I’d be thrashing my hair around every time I listen to “Talk to Me”--highly danceable. These guys definitely don’t slow down until you get to the pace of “Clouds Collide,” set by Charles Pinnell’s drums and Chris Borgia’s bass, and even that picks back up. I have to give them credit for making me feel both young and old at the same time. -[Nicholas Hubbard] thewigfitsallheads.com

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Television - Marquee Moon - 1977


Marquee Moon is a revolutionary album, but it's a subtle, understated revolution. Without question, it is a guitar rock album — it's astonishing to hear the interplay between Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd — but it is a guitar rock album unlike any other. Where their predecessors in the New York punk scene, most notably the Velvet Underground, had fused blues structures with avant-garde flourishes, Television completely strip away any sense of swing or groove, even when they are playing standard three-chord changes. Marquee Moon is comprised entirely of tense garage rockers that spiral into heady intellectual territory, which is achieved through the group's long, interweaving instrumental sections, not through Verlaine's words. That alone made Marquee Moon a trailblazing album — it's impossible to imagine post-punk soundscapes without it. Of course, it wouldn't have had such an impact if Verlaine hadn't written an excellent set of songs that conveyed a fractured urban mythology unlike any of his contemporaries. From the nervy opener, "See No Evil," to the majestic title track, there is simply not a bad song on the entire record. And what has kept Marquee Moon fresh over the years is how Television flesh out Verlaine's poetry into sweeping sonic epics. -AMG

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Sunday, June 15, 2008

Feel - Feel - 2002


Scot Sax managed to sustain a solo career after the breakup of '90s alt-rockers Wanderlust, but he was bitten by the bug to start another band by the start of 2001. Sax hooked up with guitarist Billy Alexander, bassist Mark Getten, and drummer Dave Shaffer around the same time, and by the summer they had formed a group. Nameless for a short time, the Los Angeles foursome played around the Southern California area and started to garner label interest due to their energetic shows. Curb Records signed the group by the spring of the next year, and the name Feel finally stuck as they recorded their eponymous debut. The album was released in the fall of 2002, unveiling their pop/rock sound for the very first time on CD. -AMG

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Feel - Feel - 2002
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Resonars - Bright And Dark - 1999


The Resonars' Bright and Dark, released on the Get Hip label in 1999, was the second album by this Tucson "group," but actually features only leader Matt Rendon playing all of the instruments on these four-track recordings (made at his Coma Cave home studio). This modern-day cubist rocker snips bits from this genre and that one, pasting them together to create something that sounds like a long-lost artifact from the mid- to late '60s. Rendon's key influences, evidently, are rock bands, folk-rock artists, and British Invasion groups of that halcyon era, including — but certainly not limited to — the Byrds, the Easybeats, and especially the Hollies ("Carrie Don't Care" could be a continuation of the Hollies' "Carrie Ann"). The mod-psych influence of early Who (especially Rendon's manic Keith Moon-style drumming) and Rubber Soul to Magical Mystery Tour-era Beatles is also evident here, due in no small part to Rendon's fascination with soaring multiple harmonies, or, as one writer accurately described it at the time: "Picture The Notorious Byrd Brothers combined with Hollies harmonies and "Rain"-era Beatles psychedelic touches." "Goodbye Melanie" has a Middle Eastern flair, and the sped-up cover of "I'll Keep It With Mine" features ringing Byrds-style guitars (quoting liberally from Them's "Here Comes the Night") and octave-leaping vocals. "If He's So Great" is another Byrds-inspired track with ringing 12-string Rickenbackers, while "Under the Blazing Stars" references "Eight Miles High." Most of Rendon's songs are upbeat and buoyant, handsomely crafted and fleshed out with herky-jerky tempo changes, but there are a few exceptions. "Bathyscope," for instance, is a warm psychedelic pop gem awash in wavering layers of vocal effects laden with echo. -AMG

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Saturday, June 14, 2008

I thought I would post some of my favorite EP's today, Enjoy! Rate this posting:

Beat Caravan - Beat Caravan, Vol. 2 - 2004


I got nothin'!! Picked this on up because I thought the cover was cool. You just gotta listen, I think you will enjoy this one!!

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The Rosenbergs - AmeriPop - 1999


Okay, I'm going out on a limb. The Rosenbergs are the best unsigned band in America. Granted, I haven't heard every one of them, but what I have, this band leaves in the dust. The songs here are confident, cocky pop that sounds both British (Oasis, Radiohead, Be Bop Deluxe) at the same time as American (Cheap Trick) while ultimately defining itself by its own rules. Dense, cosmic guitars rush by like a movie soundtrack, the vocals are heavenly (in word as well as presentation), and it all adds up to a unique, mature force that is instantly recognizable. Live at the Atlantis conference last year, they rocked -- great stage presence, good looking, and sounding like 10 pieces instead of 4. If these guys aren't on the cover of Rolling Stone in a year, then all A&R people should be fired. -James Mann

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The Nerves - 25th Aniversary 10" - 2001


This is an example of how Powerpop has to sound: catchy & with tons of energy!! This has members of Plimsouls & Paul Collins Beat!! 6 songs taken from their one & only (and rare) ep and demos!
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The Quick - Alternative...to what? - 1998


The Quick pack a lot of guitar pop punch. Very reminiscent of 80's Power Pop...this is catchy, hummable stuff that doesn't sacrifice muscle for melody.For those fans of Tommy Tutone, Twilley, and the Shoes who have been at a loss for the last few years, The Quick should put some bounce back in their step. -[James Mann] Amplifier

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Cheap Trick - Found All The Parts - 1980


This EP consists of four cuts that hadn't found their way onto Cheap Trick's releases as of yet. Of note is their version of the Beatles' "Day Tripper." A nostalgic bit of history. - James Chrispell, All Music Guide

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Slender Means - Rock & Roll Machine - 2007


This Seattle quintet is absolutely gimmick-free, dedicated to churning out the kind of passionate, heartfelt rock that bands like Big Star and the Replacements did in the pre-eyeliner eras. – Stranded In Stereo

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The Mellowmen - Get Out Of Shape With The Mellowmen - 2004


Though they have the same name as a Four Freshmen-style pop vocal group of the 1950s (best known for singing backup with Elvis Presley on several film soundtracks and for their bass singer, Thurl Ravenscroft, who went on to sing "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch"), the Swedish group called the Mellowmen take their musical cues from a different era. Echoes of AM radio circa 1967-1977 percolate through the Mellowmen's music, from the Beatles and Wings through Elton John, Neil Diamond, Electric Light Orchestra, and countless beloved one-hit wonders. -AMG

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David Doll - David Doll - 2005


A groovy EP with hints of The Beatles, The Monkees and Squeeze, and if this EP is sign of what is yet to come, we can't wait to hear the full length debut! Plenty of "La La La"'s and harmonies, laced with sugary melodies! - Popbang Radio


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The Weightlifters - Last Of The Sunday Drivers - 2007


The Weightlifters is the brainchild of Chicago's Adam McLaughlin, former guitarist for the Philly power pop band, Idle Wilds, which was signed to the Ardent record label by Big Star drummer Jody Stephens in the mid 90s. In addition to releasing a couple full-length records, Idle Wilds notably appeared on the well-received "Poptopia!: Power Pop Classics Of The '90's" compilation with bands like Jellyfish, The Posies, and Matthew Sweet, as well as on the recently-released Big Star tribute album, "Small World", with Wilco, Teenage Fanclub and others. -CD Baby

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Friday, June 13, 2008

Splitsville - Incorporated - 2003


"White Dwarf" opens Splitsville's fourth album Incorporated on a very high note. It is a mini-epic with breathtaking dynamics, passionate vocals, wall of guitars, and loads of feeling, as well as some truly majestic chord changes. The rest of the album can't help but pale in comparison, but it is a very strong, modern, power pop album. The band is poised as ever between the harmony-drenched sound of Teenage Fanclub and the energetic drive of Weezer, and they have come up with a handful of tracks that either of those bands would have gladly added to an album. The best song, other than "White Dwarf," is "I Wish I Never Met You," which rings true like a track off Matthew Sweet's Girlfriend or the Fannies' Bandwagonesque. The other standouts are "Headache," a chiming ballad with a neat Beatles' lift, "Sasha," which has great keyboards and an inventive arrangement, and "The Mentalist," a sweet-sounding ballad that builds and builds with the group ending up with some wonderful vocal harmonies. A few tracks fall into the tap of being too cutesy lyrically, like the fairly wacky throwaway rocker "Trouble." A few tracks have too heavy a guitar attack; "The Next One" is reminiscent of radio-friendly post-grunge, only without much of a melody. Incorporated is a tiny step down from the heights of Splitsville's previous album, the very fine Complete Pet Soul, but is a step above the average power pop revival CD. Certainly fans of the band won't be let down, and fans of the style should make sure to add it to their collection. -AMG

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The dB'S - Stands For Decibels - 1981


On their debut, the dB's combined a reverence for British pop and arty, post-punk leanings that alternate between minimalism and a love of quirky embellishment, odd sounds, and unexpected twists; Stands for Decibels is clearly a collegiate pop experiment, but rarely is experimentation so enjoyable and irresistibly catchy. Singing and songwriting duties are shared equally by Chris Stamey and Peter Holsapple — Stamey, more quirky and psychedelic-leaning with a winsome, pure-pop whine, is nicely balanced by Holsapple's more earthy drawl and straightforward approach. The album stands not only as a landmark power-pop album, but also as a prototype for much of the Southern jangle that would follow. [Stands for Decibels remained criminally unavailable in the U.S. for years. When IRS reissued it on CD in 1989, Holsapple's "Judy" was added as a bonus track.] -AMG

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The dB'S - Stands For Decibels - 1981
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Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Explorers Club - Freedom Wind - 2008


To say that the Explorers Club are trying to channel the mid-'60s Beach Boys on Freedom Wind isn't meant as complaint or praise or any other subjective judgment. It's objective. They are trying to channel the Beach Boys, utterly, totally, completely, and they're not pretending otherwise. From the reverb and the ever popular Ronettes drum break starting "Forever" and the album off to the close harmonies and the lyrical subject matter and more, even the studio chatter, this is a Beach Boys clone, tribute, borrowing, imitation, call it what you will. And the band isn't hiding it at all or pretending otherwise — to the point where the CD booklet is produced to seem like a scuffed and well-loved vinyl sleeve starting to rub off a bit around the record's circumference. So all this said, what to say about it? Perversely enough, the fact that they are so direct about it almost makes the whole thing more worthwhile than the endless number of bands that have worn their Brian Wilson fetish on their sleeves but can't get anywhere near what makes that band so great. By wishing they were the band themselves — or wishing they were the Wondermints backing up Brian Wilson, at least — the Explorers Club have produced a nearly unchallengeable album. If you love the Beach Boys' work in its "starting to be dreamily insular" phase, you'll enjoy every last note on here as the familiar combinations they are, different but the same, even while shaking your head with a chuckle at the sheer nuttiness of it all. If you don't like the Beach Boys, you won't like this. There it is; there's all that can be said. -AMG

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The Smithereens - Especially for You - 1986


The Smithereens' superb full-length debut Especially for You marries an unapologetically nostalgic affection for the melodic crunch of the British Invasion era with an equally unapologetic helping of postmodern melancholia. In tandem with Don Dixon's moodily atmospheric production, Pat DiNizio's lovelorn lyrics and world-weary vocals reveal the dark underbelly of his otherwise crisply infectious songs, lending standout tracks like "Strangers When We Meet," "Behind the Wall of Sleep," and the minor hit "Blood and Roses," both a unique flavor and an immediate familiarity. -AMG

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Woggles - Teen Dance Party - 1993


Drawing their inspiration from the raw nostalgia of '60s rock, the Woggles added their own hybrid of surf, R&B, rockabilly, and blues upon their 1987 formation. Based out of Athens, GA, the band eventually released a handful of EP on Zontar, Estrus, and Lance Rock Records between 1990 through 1993, Estrus Records packaged the bands first full-length, Teen Dance Party, in 1993. Following the Zontar Sessions album a year later on Estrus, Telstar Records put out the Woggles third full-length, Get Tough, in 1997, amongst another batch of 7"s in between. The mini-album Wailin' With the Woggles came out on One Louder Records the following year. -AMG

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Wondermints - Mind If We Make Love to You - 2002


During 2000-2001, Wondermints cemented their already direct '60s influences by serving as the backing band for Brian Wilson's solo tours, documented on the concert albums Live at the Roxy Theater and Pet Sounds Live. Upon returning, they went into the studio and recorded Mind If We Make Love to You, a record that ably displays some steady gains in musicianship and expertise from playing some of the best pop music of all time in front of audiences all over the world. As on previous records, the band sparkles simply by playing up their influences instead of hiding them. Surprisingly, though, the Beach Boys inspiration apparently came from their early-'70s phase instead of their classic '60s era; "Ride," with backing vocals from Wilson himself, is immediately obvious, featuring a soulful vocal from the Carl Wilson playbook (first bluesy as on "The Trader," later heavenly as on "God Only Knows") and a progression of short "feels" instead of the usual verse-chorus-verse format. Elsewhere, Wondermints again call on spirits of the past — from the Association (for "Out of Mind," on which Curt Boettcher must surely be smiling) to the Zombies ("Shine on Me") to even the Grateful Dead ("Time Has You") — but any hint of a stale sound is saved by gorgeous hooks, clean production, and an over-all beautiful construction. Occasionally the similarities are to fellow latter-day pop savants like Jason Falkner or even the Ocean Blue, but Wondermints ably display all they've learned during their nearly endless summer of touring with the golden boy of '60s pop. -AMG

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Todd Rundgren - Runt: The Ballad of Todd Rundgren - 1971


Upon its release, Rolling Stone called The Ballad of Todd Rundgren "the best album Paul McCartney" never made, and even if the album doesn't sound particularly McCartney-esque, it does share the homespun, melodic charm of the best of his early albums. Arguably, it's better than Paul's solo work, since it is focused and subtle, never drawing attention to Rundgren's considerable skills as a writer and producer. He tones down the hard rock and his impish wit, lending the album a sense of direction missing on Runt. That's not to say he abandoned his sense of humor — as if the cover shot of Rundgren sitting at a piano with a noose around his neck left any doubt. This time around, it takes some careful listening to hear the jokes, such as the opening Floyd Cramer piano lick on "Range War." On such clever in-jokes as "Chain Letter," as well as ballads like "Hope I'm Around," the artist reveals himself as an exceptional craftsman and songsmith. In fact, Ballad is considerably more song-oriented than its predecessor, with very little of the jams and instrumental sections that occasionally bogged down Runt. Here, even propulsive pop tunes such as "Bleeding" and "Long Flowing Robe," along with the hard rocker "Parole," are as much about the song as the performance, which is probably appropriate for an album called The Ballad of Todd Rundgren. Another thing about that title — it may be a joke, but the album inarguably offers a glimpse into Rundgren's inner world through a combination of introspective ballads, off-hand jokes, musical virtuosity, outright weirdness, and unabashed showmanship. And that's the charm of The Ballad — it's the slyly sardonic masterwork of a loner who may be sensitive, but is certainly not shy. -AMG

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The Speedies - You Need Pop - 2005


The Speedies weren't a Trouser Press house band, but the precocious kids' connections to the magazine in the late '70s were many. One of the power poppers – then attending my high school alma mater -- interned at our tiny Times Square office. The quintet was managed by a member of the TP staff; another produced their 1979 debut single, "Let Me Take Your Foto." I wrote their bio. The Speedies were a huge local phenom (their popularity with teenaged girls was something to behold, as was the customary cereal-throwing at their shows) who -- like such other great New York new wave bands of the '70s as the Planets, Marbles, Mumps and Miamis – ended their existence without being documented on album. They've since grown up to become extraordinarily accomplished in various fields – rhythm guitarist Greg ("Greg Zap") Crewdson is an internationally renowned art photographer and Yale professor, lead guitarist Eric ("Eric Pop") Hoffert helped create Apple's QuickTime software, drummer Allen ("Allen Zane") Hurkin-Torres is a State Supreme Court judge in New York and bassist John ("John Carl") Carlucci works on the business side of Warner Bros. (That leaves singer John Marino, who lives and sings in Las Vegas.)
You Need Pop includes the gimmicky prophetic fun of "Let Me Take Your Foto" (used, in 2005, in commercials for an HP printer) in its original form and a funny new mix as well as eight other slices of dated but entertaining pop, surging with on energy, substantial talent and adolescent strut but not straying far from home: "Avid Fan," "Math Teacher," "Urban Mania," "You Need Pop." (But not “We Wanna Be Your Breakfast Cereal”...) Clem Burke of Blondie produced two of these songs ("Time" and "Something on My Mind"), which were originally issued on a 1981 single. -[Ira Robbins] Trouser Press

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Monday, June 9, 2008

Tremblers - Twice Nightly - 1980


When Peter Noone, a top-selling artist who is and was Herman's Hermits released this disc in 1980 on Beach Boy Bruce Johnston's CBS distributed label and toured behind it, the five-piece band had to live in the shadow of the successful pop band that the lead singer was known for. Noone has said that Boston was one of the best stops on the tour — perhaps because the fans in that city were hip to what Peter was doing: rocking out. There is an Elvis Costello cover, "Green Shirt," but it is the tunes written or co-written by Peter Noone that are strking. "She Was Something Else" is a modern-day Herman Hermits tune — with a hook that won't quit. The music has gotten better with age! With two copies of the vinyl on file, it is the compact disc which has really turned this writer on to the music. It was ahead of its time. "I'll Be Taking Her Out Tonight" has that Go Go's/Costello/ Joe Jackson keyboards and edge. Had CBS put out four or five discs by the Tremblers the band may have been enormous. Noone is a consummate showman whose work onstage The Pirates of Penzance or on his ever-present Teen Idols Tour proves he can't sit still anyway — it was probably his incessant touring that got Sony to re-release this on CD. The song lyrics, originally printed on the vinyl sleeve, are missing here. There is only the reproduction of the front and back cover, with empty pages in the gatefold. -AMG

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Kelly's Heels - Neither Use nor Ornament - 2007


Throw the melodies and harmonies of the 60s up in the air, smash them into submission with the full-on attack and energy of punk, add a distinctive vocal style a la Costello or Tilbrook, and you have Kelly's Heels. Led on guitar and vocals by Bob Kelly, supported by the ferocious drumming of Jim Kimberley and the groovy bass lines of Isobel Morris, this is a band you can't afford to miss. Though you can hear the influences of the British greats - The Beatles, The Kinks, The Who - in the music, the band blends those influences into a mix that is both highly contemporary but also timeless, producing a rich variety of stunning songs. Whether it's the energy and punkish swagger of Bombshell Baby, or the heart-rending poignancy of the ballad Walk Alone, the versatility of Bob Kelly's songwriting is a revelation. Londoner Bob Kelly formed his first band with classmates at school in England at the age of 9. His first band The Ashes gigged regularly around London playing a fast-and-furious brand of post-punk power pop. Following a band name change to Kelly's Heel's, Bob met Jim Kimberley, whose ability to match and, in some cases, challenge, on drums the relentless pace set by Bob on guitar, has led to a positive creative partnership. The addition of the beautiful Isobel Morris on bass and backing vocals completes the line-up.The versatile Mr Kelly has also recently provided guitar contributions to the BBC3 comedy series Thieves Like Us, and will also soon be heard on backing vocals on the forthcoming new Rinaldi Sings album. -CD Baby

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Nada Surf - High/Low - 1996


The Weezer wannabe tags were certainly understandable when it came to Nada Surf's debut; besides a similarity of intent (a quick, punchy post-grunge pop/rock album with quick, punchy post-grunge pop/rock songs), the production from Ric Ocasek sealed the deal for many. The fact that the band had been going for a while before Weezer's own 1995 splash seems to have been ignored, admittedly. But if Nada Surf never came up with anything that had the influence and lingering impact of Pinkerton, say, High/Low is a nicely frazzled and fun release that actually bears a little similarity at points to prime Cheap Trick. To be sure, it's not an exact comparison (Caws is nowhere near the singer Robin Zander is, for a start), but in terms of spiky intensity shot through with just enough emotional yearning, Caws has the job down well. His guitar playing does the business well enough, while the Lorca/Elliot rhythm section similarly shows its skill track for track. Elsewhere, Ocasek brings his usual sharp ear to the proceedings, while engineer Bruce Calder does a great job of capturing songs that brim with crackling fierceness and a solid, thick punch in equal measures. "The Plan," with its careening verses offset by Caws' deceptively calm but focused delivery, not to mention sudden midsong shifts down several speeds, and the galloping, downright uplifting yet indecisive "Treehouse" are two good reasons not to dismiss the band or album out of hand. One of the more amusing twists on the proto-emo formula comes with "Popular," which rather than taking the point of view of the wounded outsider talks about the high school winners, a mournful yet crunching arrangement and ranted verses providing the contrast to the wryly deadpan chorus. -AMG

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Nada Surf - High/Low - 1996
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Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Brigadier - The Rise and Fall of Responsibility - 2008


Some artists make recordings. The Brigadier (a.k.a. Matt Williams) makes records.
The Brigadier’s albums sound as if they were meticulously assembled in a 1979-era world-class million dollar studio. Electric Light Orchestra, 10cc, and Queen are all sonic reference points, as well as more recent artists like Teenage Fanclub.
Except that Matt doesn’t utilize a world-class studio. Instead, he uses a computer, a keyboard, and a guitar in the corner of his living room. And he posesses a very interesting microphone preamp, as you’ll discover in the following interview. If The Brigadier isn’t a great example of imagination triumphing over gear, I don’t know what is.The Brigadier’s brand new album, The Rise and Fall of Responsibility, is a solid collection of Teenage Fanclub-meets-Jeff Lynne studio pop goodness. And at precisely the point in the album when you think you’ve got his sound pegged, he throws in two superb electro-disco tunes (The Melancholy Days and This, is Why) that amazingly don’t feel out of place with the previous guitar-centric tracks. -songsandsonics.com

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The Montgomery Cliffs - Snap, Crackle, Power Pop - 2008


The Montgomery Cliffs are a three man power-pop band. They have released several albums (a pop opera included)over the last decade. Based out of New York, this award winning band is led by singer-songwriter, Joey Salvia. Salvia, is best known for his radio/broadcasting work. He is heard daily on The Michael Kay Show,(ESPN) where he writes theme songs and comedy bits. He has also released a few solo efforts. Dennis Carollo (drums) and Wayne Thomas Kurz (guitar) round out this power house trio who make a big sound while ripping through some very catchy songs. Here, you get a mix of The Cliffs recordings, including the popular holiday classic, Christmas Lights, tunes from thier debut, Andiamo!, and their self-titled release. All but track 18 was produced by the very talented,Andy Bopp. -Tunecor.com

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Saturday, June 7, 2008

Stratocruiser - Stratocruiser - 2002


Their first release! Featuring former members of Bullwinkel Gandhi, Doleful Lions and The Gladhands, Stratocruiser have a knack for moving between different sub-genres without discernable effort, picking out the best parts and reassembling them in a new, unexpected way and most enjoyable fashion. They twist primordial guitar riffage with swirling classic keyboard sounds and walls of jangle to create a sound that is tried, tested but electrifying. Like many of the neo-retro band that now dot the landscape, they demonstrate a vast and encyclopedic knowledge of every trick in the book. Strong, impassioned vocals, layered guitars, creamy instrument tones, thick harmonies and solid, hummable melodies comprise the core Stratocruiser experience. Mixed by Robert Slege(ex-Ben Folds Five), there`s plenty of 60`s jangle in the vein of The Shambles, The Cobbwebbs and plenty of Byrds harmonies and jangle, too. Mix in some late 70`s power pop/new wave stylings, some late 80`s XTC psych and a bit of 90`s thump and Strato rocks ragin` full on. -CD Baby

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The Black Hollies - Casting Shadows - 2008


Jersey City quartet the Black Hollies inhabit the space between the apex of mod and the dawn of psych-rock. Sophomore release Casting Shadows essentially exists within the same parameters as debut Crimson Reflections: The whole record (ten tracks at around 35 minutes) is one huge hook drenched in familiarity. On tracks like "Paisley Pattern Ground," the band shamelessly explores its influences and comes out sounding like a shroom-eating, American answer to the Len Price 3, while "Hamilton Park Ballerina" follows similar hallucinogenic channels. The pushy "Under a Winter's Spell" would have benefited from a lighter touch, and they bring nothing new to the "Who Do You Love?"-aping "Running Through My Mind." All sins are forgotten, though, by the end of the fuzzy, sitar-drenched "Patient Sparrow." The Black Hollies may not challenge seasoned listeners, but to fans' delight, they're keeping music's psychedelic past alive. Casting Shadows' most glaring fault is its ambition: The Black Hollies often try too much in the space of one song, although things never get completely muddled. Nonetheless, when a wealth of ambition is the biggest problem with your second album, is there really a problem at all? -[Chris Henderson] .houstonpress.com

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Friday, June 6, 2008

The ACB's - The ACB's - 2007


The acb’s formed sometime in 2006 in Kansas City, MO, the city where they were all born and raised and where they continue to live. In December 2006 they self-released their first album, The acb’s. They have influences, yes. Mostly they’re artists who know how to write bona fide HITS. Michael Jackson is a big one. Also early Beatles. Maybe a little Matthew Sweet. And then of course there are more contemporary artists like Wolfdeerhorse and Bear Eyes. What, you’ve never heard of them? Anyway the bottom line is that the acb’s are interested in kicking out the kind of jams that you can enjoy on a physical as well as cerebral level. Melody, harmony, rocking and rolling—music with emotion that compels you to dance in maybe even not such a cool way. The opposite of all that robotic new wave bullshit that’s finally starting to pass. So yes. Harmony. Dancing. Fun. Cool people that aren’t pretentious. Embracing your insecurities. Maybe sweating a little bit but not so much that it becomes gross for the other people in attendance. This is what the acb’s stand for. Please come see them (us). -d.hudnall

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