Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Leatherwoods - Topeka Oratorio - 1992


The Leatherwoods were a loose duo comprised of Kansas-to-Minneapolis transplants Todd Newman and Tim O'Reagan, with assistance from utility man "Pablo Louseorama" (aka Paul Westerberg, who co-wrote two songs while contributing guitar, bass and keyboards). Topeka Oratorio is a lost classic that skirts the edges between exuberant power pop and mournful folk-rock, a record that's all the more lovable because it's so utterly minor. The well-observed songs are mostly small-town sketches and bittersweet, overly romanticized romances: imagine Mark Eitzel's worldview fused with the deft musical drive of (early) Marshall Crenshaw and you'd have the lilt of gems like "She's Probably Gonna Lie," "Wastin All My Time," the bubblegummy "Jamboree" and the outright rocker "Don't Go Down." "Lost dogs don't ever have their day," Newman notes on "Happy Ain't Coming Home," one of several wrenchingly gorgeous ballads, and so it was with the Leatherwoods. -Trouser Press



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Friday, January 30, 2009

Johnossi - Johnossi - 2007


Johnossi are singer/guitarist John Engelbert and drummer Oskar "Ossi" Bonde, and for a duo, this Swedish pair packs quite a punch. You wouldn't think so from the folky, acoustic intro to "The Show Tonight," which opens their eponymous debut album, not, at least, until Engelbert's electric guitar storms in and kicks the song toward hard rock. But Johnossi delight in bashing around genres, from the bluesy ballad "The Lottery," which slams into Southern rock and boasts a "Free Bird"-styled soaring guitar solo, to the porch picking blues of "Man Must Dance," which slides surprisingly into sharply angular post-punk. "Dance" is irrepressible and "Execution Song" equally so, an insatiable slab of '60s garage. "Rescue Team" positively swaggers around British Invasion territory with a fabulously infectious singalong chorus, mod for the modern age, Engelbert's Little Richard's "oohs" adding to the fun. Less catchy but more intense is "Press Hold," a superb mix of late-'60s-styled rock with an indie inflection and a Western flair. "Santa Monica Bay" also slides between genres, a supple shift from coursing R&B into '70s-styled hard rock, while "Glory Days to Come" is equally driving, a Western with gloom-pop overtones and hard rock underpinnings. The music may shift dramatically, but the pair's themes rarely do, with most revolving around soul-searching and/or angsty situations. Some are poignant, like the wishing-for-a-happy-home "Family Values"; some are reassuring, like the self-explanatory "There's a Lot of Things to Do Before You Die"; although (uniquely) the pretty, yearning "Summerbreeze" is outright nasty. With plenty to chew over lyrically and music to knock your socks off, Johnossi prove the power of two's might. -AMG



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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Wheatus - Wheatus - 2000


Wheatus is a showcase for the songs of singer/guitarist Brendan B. Brown, who has a taste for catchy, guitar-driven pop/rock, a gift for gab, and a snotty attitude. "Teenage Dirtbag," Brown's anthem for high school losers (featured, appropriately, in Amy Heckerling's film Loser), which combines humiliation with humor and even a happy ending, is carried along on familiar riffs, a hooky chorus, and smart-aleck lyrics. And that's the story for most of the songs on this album, though Brown reveals broader experience in a heartfelt cover of the Erasure hit "A Little Respect" and sounds less like a high school student than an aspiring rock star impatient with his record company publicist on "Hey, Mr. Brown." Whatever their nominal subjects, from the perils of obsessive romance ("Love Is a Mutt From Hell") to a white boy's hapless attempts to acquire hip-hop culture ("Wannabe Gangstar"), Brown's songs appeal because of their peppy pop/rock energy and the clever lyrics. This is a guy who refers more than once to Iron Maiden but whose music is more suggestive of Cheap Trick (especially on "Leroy," which recalls "Surrender"), and all the better for it. Bassist Rich Liegey, who left the band before the release of this record, has one song, "Punk Ass Bitch," that shows he's no slouch as a songwriter either and makes you wonder what his next project will be. But Brown is more than capable of handling the load, and with any luck this relatively short album will be the beginning of a great career. -AMG



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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Valley Lodge - Valley Lodge - 2005


In an era when scores of guitar-driven rock bands are formed across the globe with each passing hour, Valley Lodge is definitely one of them. But don't let that stop you from cozying up to their nothing-short-of-delightful self-titled debut--you'd be doing yourself a huge disservice and, more importantly, the band would be seriously bummed out about it.
Your own best interests and the band's feelings aside however, Valley Lodge's twelve-song debut combines raw guitars and gyration-worthy grooves with sharp lyrics and the kind of pop hooks that get lodged in your head in that kind of way where you'll just be brushing your teeth or something and you'll notice a song playing over and over again in your head until finally your brush grinds to halt. As a minty white drool makes its way down your chin, it hits you: "Dammit, it's that Valley Lodge again!" The look on your face will suggest annoyance, but inside you'll be feeling good, really, really good about it. Now get back to brushing, sailor! -CD Baby

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Busy Signals - Busy Signals - 2007


This Chicago-based quintet clearly believes in the notion that "old punk is best punk," and for a bunch of young whippersnappers, they roar through a set of tunes in the 1977 manner with as much snot, firepower, and élan as you could hope for. The Busy Signals are a long, long way from reinventing the wheel on their self-titled debut, but they know how rock & roll works and lay it out with skill and confidence. Lead singer Analucia (no last names for this bunch) shows a healthy portion of Chrissie Hynde-style attitude and equally impressive vocal chops, while Kevin and Eric both deliver top-shelf guitar firepower without getting in one another's path. The rhythm section keeps things fast and lean (the album zips by in less than 24 minutes) and drives these tunes like the proverbial Airmobile; "Matter of Time," "Plastic Girl," or "Stereo" would have sounded pretty swell on any random Sire Records LP released between 1977 and 1979. Blast from the past? Not quite, but The Busy Signals sure get the first part of that equation right. -AMG



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Monday, January 26, 2009

Monday Featured Artists - V/A - Who Are Those Guys? Vol.1


"Who are these guys?" or "When did this come out?"
Those are two questions that I ask myself almost daily. I don't really listen to much radio (the radio stations in Chicago leave alot to be desired), but I am continually being turned to new artists either from friends or just plain ol' surfin' the web. I am constantly wondering "How did I miss this disc?" That said, I want to turn you on to some artists that I have found recently. I think you will dig this comp, and please support the bands


The Higher Elevations are a Swedish quartet on a German label, with a very British sound. Their new disc, The Protestant Work Ethic is packed with melodic & power-driven songs, with a nod to the mod revivalist/post punk sound of the late 70s. Get It!

The Birdinumnums - Andrew Chojnacki of Peachfuzz and Pam Moore of The Neptunas, Cheap Chick and Madame Pamita got together in a converted sweatshop and began playing together. Over one hot summer, they wrote and recorded 6 songs that tell of drug addled Hollywood, high school angst and unrequited love and sent them through the blender of Fountains of Wayne, The Sonics, Cheap Trick and Big Star. She Say Go is a must for your Power Pop Collection!
The Ugly Beats - If it were up to The Ugly Beats, it would be 1966 all over again. Based in Austin, they embrace the --> mid-'60s garage rock and are as close as you're likely to get to the days of teen canteens without a time machine! Their latest offering Take A Stand With... deserves to be heard!

The Reactions - Hailing from Tasmania, yes I said Tasmania, These guys have gigged with some heavy hitters including The White Stripes, The Dirtbombs, The Black Keys, The Living End, The Greenhornes, Dallas Crane, Jebediah, The Hard Ons, The Drones, The Mess Hall and Rocket Science. They even got a mention in the Rolling Stone Yearbook 2004. Their second album, High Technology was released in 2008 through Off The Hip records in Melbourne.

The Mid Beats - from Leicester, Midlands, United Kingdom, TheMid Beats recorded and produced thier debut album on an 8 track tape machine using vintage techniques to achieve an authentic and real sound. Drums and percussion were recorded using just one microphone, guitars and organs using old valve amps and vocals/ harmonys recorded live together around one microphone to conserve tracks. Pick up thier latest, You Can't Complain and enjoy!

Sally Crewe & The Sudden Moves - Catchy hooks and harmonies dominate Crewe’s work and give us a decidedly modern approach to New Wave. Sally Crewe & The Sudden Moves have just wrapped up a UK tour supporting The Wedding Present. Their latest release Your Nearest Exit May Be Behind You is a New-wave tinged power pop album that would sound great at home , work or just sitting in traffic.

Thee Wylde Oscars - From Melbourne this quartet believes the "unfounded hypothosis that the arts of the lower strata can somehow enlighten the more evolved classes". This is primitive, lo-fi more power than pop and just pure fun music at it's finest. While currently unsigned their music is avialable for download here! Support these guys!

The Madd - Okay, take The Beatles, The Hollies, The Electric Prunes and any other band from that era and add some high-octane caffine, blend it on "11" and you got The Madd. Hailing from Rotterdam They call thier debut disc Ongeneeslijk Biet (roughly translated as Incurable Beet) because once you're infected, you'll never recover and you'll be needing more and more and more of the incredible Madd!

The Runarounds - An absolutely brilliant New Wave-influenced, anthemic, guitar dominated garage pop rock band outta Spain! The Runarounds bring to mind The Plimsouls, The Real Kids, Paul Collins' Beat, Flamin' Groovies, Teen Appeal, The Records (Chris Jent period), and The Barracudas (so there is a definite Brit slant) to name a few! Their latest release Waiting For The Hurricane features lotsa crunchy and jangly guitars and harmonies!

The Mess Makers - The Mess Makers like to play a short songs and short sets. Two members of have PHD’s, the singer has ADD. "Short attention span = short sharp cuts of angry wisdom". They write songs about crushes, lack of sleep, uncomfortable moments and having an asthma attack. Their debut album Wipe Your Face is out now on Off the Hip Records


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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Edson - Every Day, Every Second - 2004


The third full-length album from the Swedish quintet Edson builds on the strengths of its predecessors by stripping things away. This isn't "minimalist" music, in the sense of being austere or uninviting. But from the opening track, "And Then She Flung Me the Truth," which consists of not much more than Helena Soderman's piano and Pelle Carlberg's vocals, to the equally quiet closing ballad, "In the Meantime," Every Day, Every Second has a miniaturist quality, a feeling of intimacy conveyed by Carlberg's confessional, conversational lyrics and the hushed tones of the arrangements. Even on the soaring single "One Last Song About You Know What," which has an achingly lovely chorus that Coldplay would kill for, Edson play and sing as if they're trying not to bother the people in the next apartment. Elements of classic '70s singer/songwriter pop creep into the songs at times, particularly in Soderman's prominent piano, which occasionally echoes Carole King and Todd Rundgren on songs like the haunting "Underdog/Overdog." The real points of comparison, however, are the elegant constructions of classic Prefab Sprout and the D.I.Y. bedroom pop of U.K. indie heroes like the Field Mice.-AMG



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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Hindurodeo - Nalladaloobr - 2003


Sometimes, deep inside the tall, mysterious stack of new jewel cases that balances precariously near the edge of the reviewer’s desk, there lies a hidden gem, a musical surprise that elicits smiles on first listen and upon further examination gets the official “happy discovery” assignation. Hindurodeo’s sophomore effort, Nalladaloobr, is one such find, a fantastic 13-song collection steeped in tuneful cynicism that dares you to go ahead and love it.Hindurodeo champions the disaffected card-carrying intellectual elite of power-pop, a moniker sadly no longer even remotely connected to the term “popular”. These songs manage to tout this latest generation coming of age in the new millennium while at the same time poking fun at them. Songwriter, bassist, lead vocalist, and main creative force Joel Sayles does this in a convincing manner, his acerbic vitriol filtered through pleasant, well-crafted songs that sport melody, harmony, and infectious hooks.With seven years between records, there was plenty of time to create fine music—and Nalladaloobr delivers the goods. Each track has its merits. Sayles hooks up again with bandmates Dirk Freymuth (guitar) and Jimi Englund (drums) to create pretty sounds that often camouflage the message of malcontent. -popmatters.com

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Friday, January 23, 2009

The Jellybricks - Power This - 2004


While the Jellybricks have always been considered a power pop band, their first two discs didn't immediately recall classic Beatle-isms so much as they sounded like a lot of catchy, guitar-driven indie rock of the late '90s. That all changes on their much-delayed third disc, Power This, which -- despite its title -- is their most sugary "pop" album yet. Producer Cliff Hillis gives Power This the same treatment he's used on his own albums -- the controlled bursts of chiming (but powerful) guitars and pounding drums are mixed up-front, but so are the vocals, lending everything a very clean and bright mix. And while guitarist Bryce Connor's songs are gruff and rocky, the lion's share of tunes -- sung by the band's main vocalist, the sweet-voiced Larry Kennedy -- are smoother than anything the band has yet produced. Like before, some of it doesn't stick on the first listen, but it's generally because these songs are full of little tricks and turns -- unusual turns of verse like in "Simple Me," or the gorgeous guitar solo on "Takes Too Long" -- that unfold on repeat listens. Power This, unlike Soap Opera or Kinky Boot Beast, sounds firmly like the work of power pop revivalists, and fans of the style should find much to love.-AMG

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

McFly - Room On The 3rd Floor - 2004


When a vacancy appears in pop music, it doesn't take long to fill it. As Busted moved out of pure pop into more serious material, the way was left open for McFly to capture teenage girls' hearts with their debut album, Room on the 3rd Floor. Named after the character in the Back to the Future trilogy and sounding like an updated 2000s garage band with close harmonies and raw guitars, McFly opened their album with two number one singles, "5 Colours in Her Hair" and "Obviously," so Room on the 3rd Floor really couldn't fail -- and it didn't, hitting the top on its first week of release. "That Girl," the third single released, could have sat easily on a Beach Boys album from the 1960s, or possibly even the early Beatles with the count of "one two three four" before a guitar crashes in. "Surfer Babe" (fairly predictably) and "Down by the Lake" were also Beach Boys-sounding tracks. It's not that good, however -- just a fun summery mid-2000s pop album from four lads who sound as if they were enjoying themselves singing mostly about girls. "Met This Girl" also took its influences from the Rolling Stones of the 1960s with a touch of Manfred Mann's fast-paced blues. "Everybody likes to party on a Saturday night," claimed the lads on the track "Saturday Night," and if you were about 13 years old and female, this was the album of summer 2004. -AMG



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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Dons- Dawn Of The Dons - 2002


The Dons are made up of half of fellow Not Lame band Receiver. The leader of that band, Ken West, plays lead guitar for the Dons and Receiver's guitarist, Don Mogill, is the leader of the Dons, writing all the songs and providing lead vocals. The Dons play straight-ahead power pop-influenced guitar rock; energetic, with loud guitars and soft vocals, these songs are finely crafted and shaped by the past. The Dons break no new ground here, but they sound pretty good while trodding in the footsteps of modern-day power pop giants like Matthew Sweet, Velvet Crush, and Teenage Fanclub. Mogill has a good pop voice, smooth and high with a trace of grittiness at times. He and West create very nice harmonies together. Songs like "Cakewalk" and "Diane" showcase their lush harmonies. There are no standout tracks, good or bad; the record flows from one song to the next on a cotton-candy cloud of melody and harmony. A very promising debut by a band with their heart and ears in the right place. -AMG




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