Friday, October 30, 2009

George Usher Group - Days Of Plenty - 2001

New York's George Usher Group opens Days of Plenty with the Big Star-sounding "Smoke That Kiss," with Usher playing the role of Alex Chilton. The song's quirky stops and starts and relentless jangly guitar get the disc off to a rollicking start. Using a rich array of instruments -- including mellotron, organ, French horn, violin, and cello -- the group assembled 12 varied pop songs on their sophomore disc. "Channel 104" features some of the warmest pop hooks on the disc, offering up the liveliest harmonies and guitars of the album. Guitarist Doug Larcey and bassist Dennis Ambrose assist Usher on vocals. Drummer John Bellon rounds out the main quartet featured on the disc. The disc's pace slows down on the title track, a fresh, easy listening triumph that sounds wonderfully effortless. As the disc continues, many of the songs sound familiar, as the group utilizes some time-tested rock/pop conventions, all the while making them their own. Despite the undeniable pop influences throughout the record, the band never uses them as a crutch, instead embracing them and adding their own signature sound to the mix, like on the steady toe-tapper "Crowded Mind" and the relaxed poetry of "Our World." Throughout the peaks and valleys of the album, Usher adds a soft, personal touch to the songs, never hiding behind a wall of sound, instead taking enough musical risks to keep it all interesting. "Baby, Where'd You Go?" and "Unfinished Prayer" offer up Usher's most sincere and heartfelt lyrics of the disc, as well as some of the simplest and most satisfying instrumentation. "Long Long Never" concludes the disc with an extended jangle rock roller-coaster ride. Recorded in New York City and New Jersey and mixed by Mitch Easter, Parasol Records released Days of Plenty in 2001. -AMG

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Layaways - We've Been Lost - 2004

The Layaways started off as the solo project of David Harrell, but with the addition of Nathan Burleson on drums and Mike Porter contributing bass guitar and vocals The Layaways became a full band. Now, while there aren't any overtly 'synthy' songs presented here, each and every track is pure pop, with the occasional synthesizer playing a role in the music. The songs may be pop songs, but none of them are particularly aggressive or ultra-danceable. They're more of the gentle popsongs that linger in the back of your mind for days, popping up at unexpected places and times. The Guitars that lead most of the songs are very smooth, gently gilding the melody along through the songs. The muted vocals don't leap out from the songs, but blend in as a contributing element to the whole, rather than leading them. The only exception to that is "Lying And Stealing", which has the lead vocals take on a 70's rock flavor that's.. interesting. Of the 11 tracks presented here, "Silence", "Nothing Left To Burn" and "Bombs Away" are the three that I found myself going back to the most often. But if you're in the mood for something a little more downtempo that has a folksy/New Wave feel to it, this will be right up your alley. - Jason Baker @

The Layaways - We've Been Lost - 2004/rs

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Bigger Lovers - This Affair Never Happened... And Here Are 11 Songs About It - 2004

Philly group the Bigger Lovers keep true their vision of intelligent power pop on their third album, This Affair Never Happened...and Here Are Eleven Songs About It. And thankfully, the group still possesses the flashes of blindingly pure and melodic guitar pop that marked 2002's excellent Honey in the Hive -- in fact this album even exceeds that high-water mark. "I Resign" is a sugar-crusted pop confection that should go down in the annals with forgotten classics like Big Star's "September Gurls" or the Records' "Starry Eyes" for its unabashed pop melodicism. "Ninja Suit" is the kind of dead-right swooning pop anthem (complete with swelling backup vocals) that the Velvet Crush have been circling toward, but never quite reaching, for years. (And anyone who has seen drummer Patrick Berkery do his thing live with the Lovers or with the Pernice Brothers will notice that he hits them much like the Velvet Crush's Ric Menck.) The Bigger Lovers succeed at both ends of the power pop spectrum, able to knock of cheeky, pastel-toned quirk like "Slice of Life" at the one end and earnest, spine-tinglers like "Peel It Away" at the other. In the latter, Ed Hogarty's bright, sharp leads wind their way around Brett Tobias' muttering and stuttering rhythmic tones -- and it's that ear-pleasing guitar interplay that bolsters many of the tunes. Music criticism is often guilty of hyperbole, overt enthusiasms and overstatement -- but rest assured that the Bigger Lovers are one of the best bands trolling the timeless power pop landscape in the new millennium. That's no hyperbole. -AMG

The Bigger Lovers - This Affair Never Happened... And Here Are 11 Songs About It - 2004/rs
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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Star & Micey - Self-titled debut album released on Ardent Music

In the midst of the buzz surrounding Big Star’s “Keep An Eye On The Sky” Box Set and the reissue of Chris Bell’s “I Am The Cosmos” comes another Ardent related story that should also be on your radar. The Ardent Music label has just released Star & Micey's self titled debut record. While playful in nature, Josh Cosby, Geoff Smith, and Nick Redmond have created a collection of songs that reflect a churning emotion in heart. Notable Memphis musicians who make cameo appearances include Jody Stephens (Big Star) on "Nelson," Luther Dickinson (North Mississippi Allstars, The Black Crowes) on "So Much Pain,” and Rick Steff (Lucero, Cat Power) on "She's on Fire.”

Star & Micey -She's on Fire

CD is available via CDBaby and Amazon

Digital version available via ($5 – 320k MP3s, FLAC, Apple Lossless), iTunes, Amazonmp3, emusic, rhapsody and all the top digital retailers.

Ardent Music is the upstart mainstream record label based out of the legendary Ardent Studios (whose client list includes The White Stripes, The Dead Weather, Cat Power, Smashing Pumpkins, Isaac Hayes and Led Zeppelin, just to name a few). Ardent Music's first two signings are Memphis acts Star & Micey and Jump Back Jake. Its sister label, Ardent Records, is the label that originally launched power-pop pioneers Big Star.

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The Deal - Brave New World - 1988

In 1986 after a couple years with no interest from record companies, the band agreed to split up. In yet another strange twist, just before they finalized their plans, Jody Stephens who was now running Ardent studios in Memphis, called Fullerton and arranged for the group to come down and record an album. Stephens would then try to find a label willing to release the finished product. The record Brave New World was finished in 1897 and featured Stephens and Alex Chilton as well as the Deal's best songs and performances yet. Despite a few nibbles from interested labels, no new deal was struck and the band released the record themselves. The record was a critical success (and the band was voted one of the top 20 unsigned bands in America by Musician magazine) but the group's limited finances and a lack of distribution meant it didn't sell a lot of copies. Disgusted with the music business, the Deal broke up for keeps in 1988. The band members reacted to the split in unique ways. Mike Clarke walked away from his drums (literally, he just left them in the band's rehearsal space) and never played again. Haines Fullerton began a strange transformation into a mystical quasi-religious guru of sorts, complete with a small band of followers. He committed suicide in 1996. Only Mark Roebuck never left the music world, playing his brand of pop in a number of Charlottesville bands like SubSeven and Big Circle.
In 2003, Not Lame released Goodbye September, a retrospective disc that compiled tracks from the Bearsville sessions as well as many other recordings from various stages of the band's star-crossed career, bringing the music of the Deal to a new generation of power pop devotees. - Tim Sendra


Thanks Steve
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Monday, October 26, 2009

The Deal - Goodbye September - 2003

Technically, Goodbye September is a 20-year retrospective of Charlottesville, VA, power pop heroes the Deal -- but not really. Due to a seemingly impossible -- yet all too common -- run of bad luck, the Deal's music has never been released until now. In 1980, the group began to show off their Big Star-influenced pop sound at gigs around town, after jelling around the lineup of Mark Roebuck, Eric Schwartz, Haines Fullerton, Hugh Patton, and Jim Jones. They caught the ear of Ramones manager Linda Stein, who agreed in turn to manage the Deal. All was well until the band's contract with Bearsville Records was hung out to dry in the aftermath of a feud between Warner Bros. and the label. Their debut EP would sit on a shelf for 20 years. Adversity continued to follow the Deal for the rest of the '80s and '90s. The band broke up, rejoined, lost members, gained followings, and lost its chance so many times, it seemed no one would ever hold a recording by the Deal. In the early '90s, Roebuck and Fullerton developed a relationship with an aspiring singer/songwriter named Dave Matthews. In 1994, a song co-written by Fullerton and Matthews appeared on the latter's Under the Table & Dreaming, the album that would launch the Dave Matthews Band's star sky high. Two years later, Fullerton would commit suicide after a descent into religious idealism. The music of the Deal was doomed. Luckily, two of the band's fans from its Charlottesville days went on a quest to assemble all the recorded output of the band, with the intention of finally releasing the material. Finally, in March of 2003, they were successful. Through the efforts of longtime Deal fans Tim Anderson and Tom Bickel, Not Lame Records released Goodbye September, which compiled 13 tracks from the Deal's Bearsville sessions, as well as many other recordings from every corner of the band's career. -AMG

The Deal - Goodbye September - 2003/rs
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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Parallax Project - I Hate Girls - 2009

Parallax Project was supposed to be a loosely organized, shifting collection of musicians. That's what founding member Michael Giblin envisioned when he set out to create his first solo album, 2002's "Oblivious". But like Rocky and Post-It notes, where you're headed and where you end up are often two different things. In assembling a band to promote the album, he ended up with a crack live unit that drew upon a collective love of 60s Mod, 70's new wave, and Elvis (the skinny, mousy British one - see "Half" and "You & Me" on the new one for proof). Over the course of the next few years, the band honed its edge and flaunted its love of the Ray Davies songbook, the result of which was "Perpetual Limbo". Produced by Don Dixon, their third full length release (and Kool Kat debut) "I Hate Girls", now flaunts the fruits of Michael's time spent touring, hanging, and recording with The Plimsouls and Magic Christian! And Plimsouls-inspired it certainly is throughout - see songs like "All The Same" and "Coming Around" for proof! But there's also much more going on here. Imagine if Difford and Tillbrook of Squeeze got together with Ronnie Lane of the Faces to write a song - you'd probably wind up with "The Day After Tomorrow"! The crunchy guitar-lead "Waiting To Pull The Trigger" features some very cool Difford/Tillbrook-like dual lead vocals. In fact, one fan was overheard to say "It sounds like Difford and Tillbrook fronting the Smithereens!" The title track has some Faces swagger with some tasty Ian McLagan-like electric piano during the outro. All capped off with a very cool cover of Martha and The Vandella's "Needle In A Haystack"! Solid from start to finish!

Now Available at Kool Kat Musik


Friday, October 16, 2009

Wonkavision - Wonkavision - 2007

Wonkavision is an indie rock band with loads of moogs, power guitars and vocal harmonies a la 60s. Firstly inspired by the north-American band The Rentals, Wonkavision is mostly characterised by the contrast between the sweetness of their melodies and the sarcasm of their lyrics.
Their debut album Wonkainvasion was released in 2004 in Brazil, and won a national award for the best indie rock album that year. In 2007, Wonkavision signed with the Tokyo based label PowerPop Academy and released an English version of the same album in Japan.

Wonkavision - Wonkavision - 2007/rs
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Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Tubes - The Completion Backward Principle - 1981

The Completion Backward Principle was the first release on EMI/Capitol by San Francisco-based the Tubes. It found the outrageous septet working with producer David Foster, who gives the record a high-gloss sheen. It's a pairing that, while possibly surprising to fans of the band's earlier releases, actually works quite nicely. The ballads (the Top 40 hit "Don't Want to Wait Anymore" and the Toto-esque "Amnesia") don't suit the band, but most everything else does. There's a pair of catchy new wavish rockers in "Talk to Ya Later" and "Think About Me," the wacky "Sushi Girl," and the R&B-flavored "A Matter of Pride." The Completion Backward Principle rightfully earned the Tubes new fans and set the table for their commercial breakthrough, Outside/Inside, two years later.-AMG

The Tubes - The Completion Backward Principle - 1981/rs
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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Teenage Frames - 1% Faster - 1999

Bearing the strongest resemblance to the mod-punk of the Jam, along with echoes of power-pop heroes past (especially the Who and the Replacements), the Teenage Frames' 1% Faster is perhaps a bit too punky to fit the rigid conventions of power-pop classicists, but it's energetically performed, and the best songs indicate a growing grasp of classic pop composition. -AMG

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Roy Loney & the Phantom Movers - Out After Dark - 1979

After a protracted layoff from music, Loney came back in a big way with his first solo record. With help from ex-Flamin' Groovies Danny Mihm and James Ferrell, this is a feverish little slice of rock & roll, with Loney's overwrought, hiccuping vocals adding just the right bizarre touch. There's a great cover of "Return to Sender" and plenty of terrific and often funny Loney originals ("Born to Be Your Fool," "Used Hoodoo" and "Scum City"). Fans of roots-rock and the Loney-led Groovies years will love this. -AMG

Roy Loney & the Phantom Movers - Out After Dark - 1979/rs
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Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Knack - Serious Fun - 1991

Only half of this album title is factually correct, and it's a good thing: a "serious" Knack would be a big mistake. As for the "fun" part, that's right on the money; Serious Fun is an utterly unpretentious slab of power pop that has the emotional depth and artistic merit of a Little Lulu comic book. Musically, the songs are neat little packages of appropriately crunchy guitar hooks and harmonies, with all the Beatlesque elements that make the knack so beloved by their fans and hated by their detractors. The production, by Fieger's old high-school buddy Don Was, is terrific, adding some sorely needed oomph to Prescott Niles' bass and Billy Ward's drums and giving the whole thing a more vibrant presence than any of the Knack's first three albums had managed. -AMG

The Knack - Serious Fun - 1991/rs
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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Chris Richards - Mystery Spot - 2004

Chris Richards moves to the head of the modern-day power pop class with his first solo record, Mystery Spot. His work with the Phenomenal Cats and the Pantookas was solid and engaging pop, but this disc moves beyond that and should put him in the big leagues next to guys like Michael Penn, Matthew Sweet, and Velvet Crush. He has everything that those guys do. Hook-filled tunes you will be humming before they are half over, ringing guitars, soaring harmony vocals, heart-tugging lyrics about girls, girls, and more girls. Although the disc is on a microindie (or maybe because it is), the production is first-rate; Richards and Dave Feeny came up with a guitar-heavy sound that rocks, but has a light and poppy feel. Hmmm, power plus pop....That must be where they got "power pop" from back in the day. Tracks like the thudding "She Belongs to Me" and the chunky "Come Clean" are textbook examples of that sound. Elsewhere, Richards conjures the ghost of Marshall Crenshaw on "Everyday Girl," drops some sweet pedal steel into the mix on the pair of beautiful ballads "Draining" and "She's Just Falling Out of Love," sits behind the electric keys and brings it down a bit on the sweet "Gracefully," and rocks quite convincingly on the excellent opener "Is There Anybody Else?" The rest of the album is packed with great tracks, not a stinker in the bunch. If you dig Falkner, Sweet, Keene, or any of the other giants of the power pop continuum, you need to seek this record out.-AMG

Chris Richards - Mystery Spot - 2004/rs
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Monday, October 5, 2009

B.B.B.'s - The Best of the B.B.B.'s - 1998

This is an oddly fascinating record, as it covers the nearly two-decade career of a band all but unheard of outside of a 25-mile radius of Rochester, NY. As such, Best of the B.B.B.'s, Volume 1 shows why it is that some local bands stay local. This is not to imply that this band, a power pop group led by singer-guitarist Luther Holtzman, who's the only constant member on these tracks, is without merit or talent, merely that there's a notable lack of world-beating ambition on display here. These 25 tracks, recorded between 1982 and 1997, include such parochial standbys as a Christmas single (actually two of the best tracks here), a radio jingle for a local business, and a snippet of live tape recorded at a dance marathon at the University of Rochester. Holtzman's other songs are genial guitar pop along the lines of the Raspberries, Shoes, or other Beatles-fixated power poppers of the '70s, and they too have the relaxed "this is just a hobby" vibe of a guy making records intended to please no one but himself. In an age where most albums are micro-managed and focus-grouped down to the tiniest detail for maximum commercial impact, this genuine indifference is quirkily satisfying. -AMG

B.B.B.'s - The Best of the B.B.B.'s - 1998/rs
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