Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Dilettantes - 101 Tambourines - 2007


Joel Gion's reputation as wryly charismatic observer of the chaos in the Brian Jonestown Massacre was cemented thanks to the film Dig!, but what's been a bit obscured as a result is that he's a fine performer in his own right. Calling his band's debut effort 101 Tambourines is partially a sly homage to his own preferred instrument of choice, but the Dilettantes make for an enjoyable delve into familiar but thoroughly fun rock & roll kicks. The band's guitarists, Jefferson Parker and Brock Galland, also sing and contribute songs, and the resultant combination provides an enjoyable variety to the album. Parker's own singing is a gentle but right-on glaze on his songs such as "Don't You Ever Fall" and "Never Go Without," which suits the understated bite of his tunes well, while Galland's performances on songs like "Kiss & Run" are both jaunty and just wounded enough (suiting that particular song's sentiments well). Gion's own lead vocals take understandable center stage, though, and his strong but sly speak-singing is assured and thoroughly entertaining. Hearing how he stretches out the title of "Subterranean Bazaar" is a great instance of how he takes the frontman role with style, while "Like Crazy" -- which in its own way is one of the best tributes to Tommy James' "Crimson and Clover" yet recorded -- allows him to take a more ruminative but no less sharp delivery. The band's music unsurprisingly draws on the same general stew of psychedelic sounds old and new that BJM favored; if not as immediately distinct, it's definitely enjoyable, particularly lightly tripped-out moments like Parker's "Brightly Lit New Dark Ages," with its flanged lead guitars and vocal harmonies mixed with swirling reverb, and Galland's murkily beautiful conclusion to "You're Gonna Need More Time." -AMG




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Friday, February 27, 2009

The Mommyheads - The Mommyheads - 1997


With a name like the Mommyheads, one might not expect much from this San Francisco quartet, but the songs on this self-titled album offset the trite moniker by sporting a mature pop sound. Though never sounding exactly like any one particular band, the Mommyheads share elements of their musical approach with Jellyfish, Ben Folds Five, and Semisonic, among others. The lead track, "Jaded," beautifully drapes despondent lyrics over a tranquil melody. The upbeat "In the Way" and the more subdued "I'm in Awe" exhibit such melodic flow that your toes will be tapping along before you can stop them. Once you get past the name, the Mommyheads will satisfy any craving you might have for lush pop melodies. -AMG

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Switchfoot - New Way to Be Human - 1999


Introspective, probing lyrics define Switchfoot's sophomore effort, New Way to Be Human, which Charlie Peacock produced for his re: think label. In the 1990s, Peacock was best known for working with Christian rock and pop/rock artists — he co-wrote Amy Grant's "Every Heartbeat" and had produced Sarah Masen, Michelle Tumes, and other Christian singers. Switchfoot's lyrics also deal with spiritual concerns, but there's nothing preachy or exclusionary about this CD. Alternative pop/rock songs like "Incomplete," "Under the Floor" and "Let That Be Enough" (all of which were written or co-written by Switchfoot singer/guitarist Jonathan Foreman) deal with trying to find meaning and purpose in life — the lyrics really stem from Foreman's introspection and self-examination, not a desire to force any particular religion down the listener's throat. One of the best songs on the album is "Company Car," which questions materialism and is almost Hindu-ish in its outlook. Not perfect but intelligent and generally appealing, New Way to Be Human is an album that fans of 1990s' alternative rock can appreciate, whatever their religious views may be.-AMG



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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Chris Richards - Pathetic History - 2001


Power pop is about hooks. And power. Not to mention a little bit of soul. For all of his ten-year musical career captured on this record, Chris Richards has been laying down powerful hook after hook with as much soul as a suburban kid from MI could be expected to have. Richards is a power pop classicist: Beatlesque melodies, Raspberries-style guitar crunch, heartfelt lyrics about love lost and found, and beautiful vocal harmony. You can file him right alongside other modern pop classicists like Matthew Sweet or Velvet Crush or Mayflies USA and feel good about it. Pathetic History covers songs by three different bands Richards formed and throws in a few solo tracks as well. Hippodrome, from the early '90s, is represented by two tracks. They are pretty straightforward rockers with lots of guitar. The three solo tracks from the mid-'90s are in much the same vein with a poppier feeling and a fuller sound. Nice, but what really makes this CD the gem it is are the tracks by Richards' bands from the late '90s, The Phenomenal Cats (cool Kinks reference) and the Pantookas. Richards began to expand his sound, using piano to great effect and throwing in horns, strings, and more heavenly backing-vocal harmonies. Tracks like "Greatest Lullaby," with its rollicking piano and "Maybe I Need You," with its bongo and piano chorus, call to mind a modern day Left Banke. The Phenomenal Cats even cover the Left Banke's classic "I've Got Something on My Mind" and do quite a credible job. The two standout tracks are the Pantookas' "I Need a Heart," an electric piano-driven song built around what else but incredible vocal harmonies. By the time the second chorus rolls around, you'll be singing along. It's that catchy. "Holiday" is a solo demo from 2000 that Richards says is inspired by his love of Jason Falkner's music. The tight chord progressions and yearning vocals do bring Falkner to mind; it is a great little rock song. Chris Richards is an undiscovered talent. If you like classic pop music, power or otherwise, you should discover him. Simple as that. -AMG

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Beatifics - The Way we never Were - 2002


A full six years after the release of 1996's How I Learned to Stop Worrying and following an extended period of personnel instability that left singer/songwriter Chris Dorn the only full-time member of the band, the Beatifics returned with an equally strong second album. The Way We Never Were was completed with friends and former bandmates helping out in varying combinations, but since Dorn's appealing voice (he's one of the few power pop singers who isn't constantly aping the Big Star top-of-the-range tremulousness trick) and muscular songwriting have always been the Beatifics' strengths, the shifting casts don't distract. His songwriting has grown more consistent in the intervening years, with all of the songs barring the fragmentary instrumental "Part Two" (which is just a funky, homemade-sounding coda to the dreamy, strings-enhanced "Between the Lines," sounding like one of the filler tracks on the McCartney album) featuring memorably catchy choruses, inventive arrangements, and the occasional sharp-tongued line. The immediate highlight is the brilliantly hook-filled "In the Meantime," which marries a killer up-and-down fuzz guitar riff to the most instantly unforgettable chorus on the album, but the gentle acoustic "Outro" sounds like Elliott Smith without the self-pity, and the opening "Sorry Yesterdays" actually recalls the poppiest elements of Flip Your Wig-era Hüsker Dü. Though only the likes of Peter Gabriel can get away with regular six-year gaps between albums, The Way We Never Were is worth the wait.-AMG




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Monday, February 23, 2009

Monday Feature - V/A - Who Are Those Guys ? v.3


Here is the third installment of Who Are Those Guys? PPO has searched all corners of the Earth to find and share with you music from unknown and lesser known bands. Most people have never heard of these groups, but now you have the opportunity to enjoy and savor every note, beat, and rhythm. Now get out and support these hard working artists.

Sorry - From out of Auburn WA, these boys play complex and thought provoking pop music. Their latest EP, RSVP, embraces sophisticated harmonies coupled with catchy, crunchy guitar hooks are nothing short of excellent! Sorry has certainly put their musical knowledge to good use in producing this beautiful example of power pop.

The Hippie Love Gods - Singer-songwriter-musician Shawn O'Neal is the personification of The Hippie Love Gods, currently making vibes from Grayton Beach, Florida. The latest release entitled Cheers, Peace, and Love is described as "A slodi rock outside in 8 psychedelic colors with a chewy bluesy folk rock center". I don't need to say more.

Tyler Esposito - A Singer / Songwriter from Houston, TX. whose musical background is steeped heavily in classic power pop and 90's Alternative. Think Badfinger meets Weezer with a little Beach Boys thrown in for added flavor.Tyler is currently unsinged but keep checking his site for more information.

Curlee Wurlee - Curlee Wurlee are a French/German/English garage band formed in Düsseldorf in 1998. The band are comprised of organist/vocalist Cécile Musy, guitarist/vocalist Michael Roden, bassist Gereon Helmer and drummer Michael Larisch. In 2006 they released their brilliant second longplayer "Oui oui..." on Soundflat Records, one of the most significant underground labels in the European garage scene.

Show Me The Skyline - Larzz Principato, the main member of Show Me The Skyline, has had his guitar glued to his body for the better part of the last five years. But, when you are obsessed with music, young, and gifted with the ability to create something that makes people crave more, sometimes you’ve got no choice. At just 16 years old, this young artist, is determined to make his mark. Check out their EP Rain or Shine now available on iTunes! , Amazon MP3!, and Rhapsody!


The Californias - A mixture of the Wrens, Elvis Costello, and a more straightforward Jellyfish, Atlanta's Californias make confident, full-bodied indie pop. Like their name would suggest, their music is sunny, upbeat, and oh-so bittersweet.While the music might evoke images of sun, surf and smiles, Their latest cd "Bright" is no period piece. What separates The Californias from their cheerful competitors is the sense that The Californias aren’t acting -- they believe in their posi-pop 100 percent.

Mondo Primo - The band hitherto known as Feable Weiner, is releasing a record August 19th most aptly titled 2FN HOT. The record is produced by Matt Mahaffey who's known for his work with Beck, Hellogoodbye, and Self. As Feable Weiner, the band extensively toured nationally and internationally with the likes of Bowling for Soup, as well as label-mates The All American Rejects and Cruiserweight. Now armed with a new name, new record, and a far-from-new tour van, Mondo Primois primed for a lengthy campaign of infusing fun into the typically earnest and humorless indie rock landscape.

Los Immediatos - Besides Italy, Spain seems to be the european Mekka of beat and r'n'b bands truely devoted to the swingin' sixties. Los Immediatos from Toledo are just another great example for this assumption. Their latest release, Second Chance, is a hip-shakin' beat dance craze with a strong affinity for 60's pop and it leads back to the glory days of bands like the Who, the Small Faces , the Byrds and Los Brincos. All you out there, dig Los Immediatos!

L’Avventura - From the Bay Area, L’Avventura has just released thier incredible debut, Your Star Was Shining. The talents of Jeff Davis, Fergus Griffin, and Aldo Silver are brought to light on this slick and sophicated mixture of rock and pop. Well written and performed this disc begs to be played again and again. A sure top 10 for 2009.


Trolley - A power pop mod combo based out of Milwaukee, WI, that regularly tours the midwest and beyond. They have toured with the likes of New Found Glory and Reel Big Fish and have shared the stage with Dick Dale, Los Straightjackets, Cotton Mather and many like-minded pop-freak outfits. Combining all the great influence of sixties pop and mod along with seventies punk and new wave, "Last Chance Dance" is truly a gem for the ages, but look for a new release in the near future.

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Flakes - Back To School - 2005


The Flakes are tardy. They always have been. This album has been 8 years in the making, and they still can't get it together in time for the school year! Ah well, what do you expect from a buncha long-haired no-good-nics! Anyways, they FINALLY get it together to bring you the most exciting slab-o-wax (yes, and CD) since long hair ruled the planet. (oh, forgetting that little thing that happened in the 80's...umm, and the 70's too...) So, then what is this? It's a brand-new, 60's-garage-punk-manic-freakbeat Flakestravaganza!!! -Amazon



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Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Van Delecki's - Letters from the Desk of Count S. Van Delecki - 1996


The Van Delecki's Letters From the Desk of S.Van Delecki isn't much of a departure from Jamie Hoover's band, the Spongetones -- lots of harmonies, pure pop melodies, and plenty of hooks. The album, for the most part, is more relaxed and has fewer blatant Mersey references with light acoustic, folky arrangements playing a bigger role. And while the Spongetones album that preceded this project moved into the same territory, this one is more effectively executed.-AMG



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Friday, February 20, 2009

Squires of the Subterrain - Big Boy Pete Treats - 2002


The legendary British psychedelic eccentric Big Boy Pete (aka Pete Miller) could not have found a more simpatico latter-day spiritual heir, collaborator, counterpart, and interpreter than the Squires of the Subterrain (aka Christopher Earl). With Big Boy Pete Treats, that meeting of the minds is precisely what materialized, and it is an inspired pairing. Perhaps Miller felt the age had passed at which he could have credibly performed the sentiments conveyed in many of these songs -- all composed back during his heyday in the '60s -- but whatever reason he had for ultimately handing them over to Earl 30-odd years later for recording purposes, all enthusiasts of psychedelic pop at its most adventurous and skewed owe him a debt of gratitude for dusting off and making available a group of oddball gems, originally rejected by English publishers as "too far out" even for the lysergic era. Earl does a sensational job of making the songs (about half of which he helped to finish, contributing significant enough parts to earn co-writing credit) his own, sweetening the pot by slightly softening some of the more feral elements of Miller's songwriting muse, even as the resulting recording, produced by Miller himself, maintains the inimitable Big Boy Pete hallmarks, like the one-of-a-kind cow-psych ("Flashbacks" and the rockabilly-on-amphetamines of "I Do Declare"), the helium-fed fairy tales ("Genius Man," "Henry Nut"), the lurching, Looney Tunes tempos ("There You Go"), aurally damaged excursions ("Be Yourself"), and bewildering sci-fi ("Half a Crown/Party Reprise"). The formal idiosyncrasies of the songs aside, the album amasses a subtle, almost subliminal exoticness that helps to impress itself in your gray matter: layer upon layer of unhinged effect, an undertow of hidden vocal countermelodies emerging out of rabbit holes, cleverly contorted and warped melodic turns that almost imperceptibly disorient. Big Boy Pete Treats is truly a funhouse of the mind and a smorgasbord for the ears, and but for a few lackluster moments, exactly the wayward feat you would expect from the collaboration. -AMG




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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Swan Dive - You're Beautiful - 1997


This is another excellent collection of '60s-influenced pop and folk from the team of Bill DeMain and Molly Felder. DeMain is a master songwriter, able to deftly craft infectious hooks and melodies. His vocals aren't quite as good as his songwriting, but luckily Felder's soothing voice is featured in most songs. Instruments such as pedal steel guitar, flute, and xylophone flesh out the tracks. Though obviously influenced by the music of another time, Swan Dive's songs have achieved their own timeless quality. While very much in the pop idiom, they avoid the clichéd bubblegum sound, with a maturity and intelligence that make them unique. Ranging from the upbeat and airy "Free" to the sad and wistful heartbreak of "Charade" to the Brazilian touches which highlight "Little Clown," a lot of stylistic ground is covered. All of Swan Dive's releases are recomended, and it's tough to pick one over the other, but You're Beautiful is as good a place to start as any.-AMG



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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Lucky Bishops - Grinstone - 2002


On Grimstone the Lucky Bishops continue to make quality music that recalls vintage psychedelic and power pop styles. While not breaking new ground in those genres, which might be impossible to do at any rate in 2002, the songs and execution are much better and more varied than those of more earnest revivalists of those genres. Late-'60s and early-'70s progressive pop-psychedelia, more British- than American-influenced, are their touchstones far more so than garage rock. "You Come Alive" and "Napoleon" are pretty rousing, upbeat fusions of Who-like swirl with a more harmony- and pop-based attack, and "The Children" has the kind of swirling organ that went out of style around the last time Traffic broke up. There's a constant sunniness to the melodies and vocals that manages to stop a little short of the cutesy and cloying, with songs such as "In Everything I Saw" and "Wait for No One" recalling aspects of Brian Wilson and Todd Rundgren without sounding too reverential. It's a nice listen, though not penetrating enough (more evidently in the lyrical than the musical department) to rate as a major statement. -AMG

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Sloan - One Chord to Another - 1996


Following the bungled American release of Twice Removed, it seemed unlikely that Sloan would survive, let alone record an album as wonderful as One Chord to Another. On the group's previous album, Sloan had refashioned itself as a power pop band, often with terrific results, but on One Chord to Another the songwriting blossoms. Filled with catchy, jangling riffs and memorable melodies, the record is a tour de force of hooks and harmonies, filled with exceptionally strong songs and forceful performances, which give the record a firm, rocking foundation. Few power pop records of the '90s are as infectious and memorable as One Chord to Another. -AMG



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