Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Michael Carpenter - Hopefulness - 2001

Michael Carpenter's debut album Baby was a stunningly diverse collection of good rock & roll and, most importantly, good production. Carpenter is, first and foremost, a producer; so not only are the songs important, but the execution matters for every bit as much. That's why Baby succeeded, and why ultimately Hopefulness does too. Carpenter's second solo album is a concept album -- of sorts. The set of 12 tracks is lyrically and thematically all tied to Carpenter's recent marriage. On paper, that sounds forced and terribly sappy, of course, but when listening to the actual album, the emotion comes through. Carpenter has had little trouble showing affection for what he loves; his influences are worn on his sleeve, and now he doesn't hide his emotions about his marriage, either. It's hardly typical rock music fodder -- no fast, red sports cars, no "hot girls in love" as Loverboy once sang about -- just one contented, honest songwriter who wants to invite all his fans to his wedding reception, via this CD. Carpenter does get that intimate with the listener, too, and that's why this is such a warm and inviting listen. Those who were intrigued by Baby may find there's a lot to love here: the opening "Kailee Anne" sounds a lot like early Joe Jackson, and the rollicking anthem "Faith" would not have been out of place on the debut. The album is mellower than Baby, too, and this does produce mixed results -- but there is not enough of a reinvention here to possibly scare away anyone impressed with Carpenter's prior work. To round out the album, Carpenter throws in two excellent covers: one of the Beach Boys' rocker "You Need a Mess of Help to Stand Alone" and Sam Cooke's "Wonderful World." -AMG

Monday, May 28, 2012

New Americans - New Americans - 2000

True blue, American-as-apple-pie music isn’t always easy to come by in a pop scene where many try as hard as they possibly can to sound British, but the exciting new duo of Dan Touhy and Casey Fundaro, aka New Americans, dish it up quite nicely on their debut, eight-song effort. Eschewing typical power poppin’ soundscapes for a more singer-songwritery Approach—think what might have occurred had Seals left Crofts in ’71 and hooked up with Jimmy Webb and Gene Clark for an LP’s worth of musical fun and frolic—Touhy and Fundaro pretty much hit the nail on the head every time out on New Americans. From the plaintive love song “Anna” to the jaunty “Comin’ to an End” and the lyrically bitter (yet hummable) “So Alone,” everything works. Touhy’s no-frills lead vocals suit the material to a tee, while Fundaro provides some nifty background vocal parts (his eerie falsetto bkg’s on the beautiful, heartfelt ode to a loved one who has passed, “Looking Down,” may be the finest moment on the disc). Awash with deeply felt lyrics, 12 string guitars and songs that stick, New Americans is  certainly a promising debut. -John M. Borack, Alan Haber's Pure Pop

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Veteran popper Dan Kibler makes his Kool Kat label debut with a terrific, guitar-filled, roots pop effort!

Dan's jangly and twangly (with some pedal steel flourishes sprinkled about), self-titled Kool Kat debut was co-produced by Michael Giblin (Cherry Twister/Parallex Project). Michael also plays bass and keyboards on the record. The record merges a pop/alternative air with traditional, straight from the heart, no chaser, country heartbreak. It's masterful, and it's original. This is guitar-entwined, roots pop at its finest folks! Dan is capable of taking a simple melody and infusing his heart felt lyrics with bite. Timeless sounds abound here, driven by Dan's gorgeously rough-hewn vocals, the thousand pound chops of the guitar-wielding Dan and John Fritchey, and the classy rhythm section of Giblin and Tony Melchoirre. "The razor sharp pop that forms the backdrop for his melancholy musings lingered for weeks after the first listen!" - Music Reviews Quarterly "His twin gifts are his hickory-smoked vocals and songwriting perched smartly in between introspection and sing-along popcraft." - Option Magazine "His music is rootsy as hell, but without any real or imagined Southern accent." - MOJO Magazine "I believe than Dan is a great creative talent who seems to get better with age. His thing is intense emotion, and he channels it through a great voice that gives his songs such texture. He lets you hear it in the way he can sing with a cracked, angelic grace over waves of guitar electricity, all nicely played with conviction by a great, backing band!" - Max Humphries Includes an extremely cool cover of The Zombies' "I Can't Make Up My Mind"!



Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Pyramidiacs - Teenage Complications - 1998

From one of Australia`s very best pop bands....don`t be confused as it was called "Teenage Complications" but a legal hassle changed the name. Their third time hits the mark stronger than their previous two CDs, `All You Can` and `Teeter Totter` (both available, limited copies of All You Can, tho). Both of those CD`s were consistent displays of their influences (basically, any band who ever played a Rickenbacker!!) and you`d be none the worse to own them, but if you don`t own any, then this is THE place to begin. Strummed to "10" and into the red 12-stringed chiming, their sound is distinctively Australian, echoing the classic strains of The Mad Turks and Someloves and merging them with Teenage Fanclub and Material Issue. "Fans of Teenage Fanclub, fans of The Chevelles, fans of DM3 and all power pop fans in general...this album is a MUST for your collection!"-Amplifier. " It`s not often you run across an album with such consistency, but this is one of those records you`ll never tire of. A living textbook of the modern power pop form" -Big O. Driving, propulsive rhythms and crystalline production make their gritty-ish, but clean take on the POWER in POP one of the best examples of the genre around. Stunningly and grippingly recommended to put at the top of any want list, it`s that good. -Not Lame

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Pugwash - Jollity - 2005

Released in Ireland on September 23rd 2005 Jollity was an instant hit with the press and public alike, becoming The Pugs most successful release to date. 4 and 5 star reviews abound (Irish Times, Hot Press, Evening Herald) the band set out on a promotional jaunt around their native land with a unique power-house 3 piece plus I-Pod set up. The culmination of which was a packed Monday night gig in Dublin’s famous Whelans venue.
Jollity is jam-packed with jelly pop, baroque sensibilities and mellow whimsy. Featuring the band and friends alongside legends of the pop/rock genre such as Dave Gregory and Eric Matthews

Monday, May 21, 2012

Kimberley Rew - Tunnel into Summer - 2000

If you had to predict what a Kimberley Rew solo album would sound like (and this one is his formal debut, discounting the 1982 compilation The Bible of Bop), based on his tenure in the Soft Boys and Katrina and the Waves you would figure that it would contain some good songs -- this is the man who wrote "Walking on Sunshine" and "Going Down to Liverpool" -- and have some good, chiming guitar playing. But, since Rew took a back seat to Robyn Hitchcock in the Soft Boys and to Katrina Leskanich in Katrina and the Waves, you might expect that he wouldn't be much of a singer or frontman. The surprise of Tunnel Into Summer, therefore, is that he turns out to be an entirely competent singer, sounding like a somewhat more engaged Hitchcock with his pronounced English accent. He doesn't have the presence as a singer that experience gives you, but he has no trouble carrying a tune, and he sings his own lyrics enthusiastically. Not surprisingly, the other elements in his music are in place: the guitars do dominate the pop/rock arrangements, and they ring out pleasantly; and there are several excellent songs. There may not be any hits in the making like "Walking on Sunshine," but the catchy opening number, "Simple Pleasures," and "Plas yn Rhiw" (a British geography title as unfriendly to American ears as Paul McCartney's "Mull of Kintyre") deserve to join the short list of the songwriter's best efforts. Also not surprising is that, as a solo artist, Rew splits the difference in terms of style between his two major group affiliations. His solo music recalls the work of the Soft Boys and Hitchcock's solo work, and given that ex-Soft Boy Andy Metcalfe produced and played on many of the tracks and that Hitchcock also guested on a few, that's to be expected. But Rew is not interested in the same lyrical conundrums that Hitchcock explores so obsessively. His writing is optimistic, not convoluted, which recalls the more overtly pop songs he contributed to Katrina and the Waves. It may be that the result won't quite please Hitchcock or Katrina fans, but with this release Rew deserves to start gathering some fans of his own. -AMG

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Chris Richards and the Subtractions set to release Get Yer La La’s Out on May 29th

Detroit power pop trio Chris Richards and the Subtractions will release their latest full-length Get Yer La La’s Out on Gangplank Records on May 29th. Produced by Gangplank-founder David Feeny at his own Tempermill Studios just outside of Detroit, the album contains 10 songs of hook-laden, melody-intensive pop confection (The vinyl version of La La’s will feature an additional track- a cover of Dogs by the Who and will be released in mid June).

In addition to singer/songwriter Chris Richards, the Subtractions feature a powerful rhythm section in bass player Todd Holmes and drummer Larry Grodsky who have been fixtures on the Detroit scene since their time in 80’s and 90’s outfits Hippodrome and The Pantookas.

Richards’ love of power pop, which combines an affection for the music of the British Invasion along with 90’s bands such as Teenage Fanclub and The Velvet Crush, is reflected in their guitar-driven approach.

The Subtractions last record, Sad Sounds of the Summer, received glowing reviews from The All Music Guide and a sundry of Power Pop leaning publications as well as countless “Best Of” lists in 2009- including - David Bash Best of 2009 List, John Borack’s Best of 2009, #3 on the overall Best of the Year Audities List, Beat the Indie Drum-Essential Albums of 2009, Not Lame/Bruce Brodeen- Best of 2009, Pop Chef (Spain), Power Pop Station (Brazil), Power Pop Review (UK), Absolute Power Pop and Power Popaholic. Richards’ 2004 Mystery Spot was voted as one of the “Best of the Decade” by Power Pop Action (Spain).

The band’s sound also has global appeal, thanks to power pop’s enduring popularity far beyond its British and American shores. According to Richards, “I've been fortunate to have my records released and do well in Spain, Sweden, Japan, and Australia and both the press and fan reaction have been amazing. It's a challenge trying to let fans in multiple countries know we’ve got a record out, but there’s such a great network of the genre’s fans out there that word just seems to spread.”

The recording of Get Yer La La’s Out took place over multiple sessions in late 2011 at Detroit’s Tempermill Studios, produced and mixed by Tempermill owner and multi-instrumentalist David Feeny (Blanche, American Mars).

For more info visit - and

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Greenberry Woods - Big Money Item - 1995

The Greenberry Woods' instrumentation and yearning vocal style tend to the emotionally manipulative, heart-on-sleeve side, but lyrics often rise above the vacuous boy-girl stuff that defines the genre. "Love Songs" surveys the cliched landscape with a sly, knowing eye while working completely within the musical formula. At 18 tracks, most hovering under the three-minute mark, Big Money Item serves up a dizzying over-abundance of sugary riches. While some selections remain lightweight trifles, enough substantial moments overflow the cone to coat the listener in captivating sticky goo. "Invisible Threads" combines sudden gear shifts with a phased, baroque pop underpinning. There's the stately soft-psych of "Parachute," and a dew-eyed tip of the hat to Crowded House balladry in "For You." "Nervous" pumps up the fuzz for some garage-y power-pop while "Go Without You" breaks into Bay City Roller handclaps. "Oh Janine"'s soaring chorus recalls both The Beach Boys and Eric Carmen's Raspberries. Even at its most superficial and derivative and unapologetically nerdy, Big Money Item is just so chock full of fatal hooks almost starts to feel that fresh and innocent again. -AMG


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Peter Holsapple - Out of My Way - 1997

One of the key figures on the North Carolina jangle pop and new wave scene, Peter Holsapple is perhaps best known to his fans as singer, guitarist, and songwriter with the dB's, but he's also worked with a wide range of other acts, been a sideman with R.E.M. and Hootie & the Blowfish, and was a member of the roots rock supergroup the Continental Drifters. -AMG


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Frank Lee Sprague - Merseybeat - 2004

Frank Lee Sprague, King of the Guitar; the mastery of Frank's nimble fingers play the fretboard like a concert grand piano. If Steinway made a guitar, it would sound like Frank was playing it, for sure. The guitar is Frank's open-ended canvas, on which he can paint any musical picture. For proof, seek out one of this modern musical master's classical recordings. The 'Axe Man Who Cometh', the 'Gee-tar Guru', the
aforementioned 'King of Guitar'. There is simply no one likeFrank Lee Sprague!" -Alan Haber, Buhdge Magazine, Feb 2008

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Flirts - 10¢ a Dance - 1982

When the Flirts' debut album, 10 Cents a Dance, came out in 1982, the female trio found themselves being compared to the Go-Go's more than anyone. However, while the Go-Go's, who were huge at the time, were a major influence, the Flirts had an equally fun-loving personality of their own. The Go-Go's' influence is hard to miss on "We Just Wanna Dance," "Jukebox," and the wildly infectious surf ditty "On the Beach," but you won't hear them echoed on "Passion" -- a sexy Euro-disco/synth-funk gem that was a hit in dance clubs, despite receiving little radio airplay. (This album contains the three-minute version of "Passion" -- dance club DJs favored the nine-minute version that O Records released on a 12" single). While the Go-Go's were a new wave/power pop band who loved the 1960s girl-group sound, the Flirts were a new wave/power pop group who loved the 1960s girl-group sound, but also got into high-tech Euro-disco, dance-pop, and synth pop. The guitar-powered Go-Go's wouldn't have recorded anything as European-sounding and synthesizer-driven as "Calling All Boys," which sounds like it could have been produced by Giorgio Moroder even though the whole album was produced by Bobby Orlando. From power pop to dance-pop, 10 Cents a Dance is about as fun-loving as it gets. -AMG


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Bonnie Hayes - Good Clean Fun - 1982

Much more so than the contemporary New York or London scenes, California punk was very open to female singer/songwriters. From Penelope Houston of the Avengers to Exene Cervenka of X, the San Francisco and Los Angeles punk scenes were emphatically female-friendly, treating women as active, leading participants rather than novelties or pretty faces. It was no accident that the Go-Go's and the Bangles, from Los Angeles, succeeded where so many New York- and London-based female-fronted bands failed. Singer/songwriter and keyboardist Bonnie Hayes was the leader of the Punts, one of San Francisco's best punk bands, but Hayes had more on her mind than the usual three-chord ramalama. Coming from a musical family well-steeped in jazz, blues, and soul (Bonnie's brother Kevin, the Punts' drummer, later joined Robert Cray's band; another sibling, Chris, was lead guitarist and a major songwriter in the R&B-laced pop powerhouse Huey Lewis & the News) and clearly fond of Spector-style '60s girl groups, Hayes took the Punts in a more melodic and musically varied direction; renaming themselves Bonnie Hayes & the Wild Combo, the group signed with LA's Slash Records and released 1982's Good Clean Fun, probably the finest album of the entire early-'80s California girl pop scene. Yes, even better than Beauty and the Beat or All Over the Place. First and foremost, the songs on Good Clean Fun are almost embarrassingly catchy. The first two tracks, "Girls Like Me" and "Shelly's Boyfriend" (both used to fine effect in Martha Coolidge's 1983 cult film Valley Girl), are three-minute classics with more vocal and musical hooks than many whole albums. While the other eight tracks are slightly less immediate, every single one of them has a catchy chorus or appealing riff that imprints itself in the listener's memory. The Hayes siblings, along with guitarist Paul Davis and bassist Hank Maninger, also have the instrumental chops to pull off considerably more sophisticated tunes than anyone was likely to find on, say, a Josie Cotton album. Able to slip from the restrained turmoil of the surprisingly non-whiny indie band lament "Coverage" to the impassioned hard rock of the devastating closer "The Last Word," Bonnie Hayes & the Wild Combo also reveal an unexpectedly jazz-influenced bent on the extended instrumental sections of "Dum Fun" and "Raylene." Aside from the musical heft of the album, Hayes is an acute lyricist with a knack for both clever Elvis Costello-style wordplay and vividly realistic imagery. "Shelly's Boyfriend" is a sympathetic portrait of the frustrations of teenage love, but the immediacy of the lyrics lifts it above similar tunes. Other songs, like "Inside Doubt" and "Separating," deal with more complex emotions without losing the power pop bounce that makes the album so instantly appealing. Good Clean Fun works brilliantly on every level, and only Slash Records' limited distribution muscle -- and possibly the unfortunately cheesy cover art -- kept it from being a hit. As it stands, Good Clean Fun is a neglected '80s pop masterpiece. -AMG


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Josie Cotton - Convertible Music - 1982

Josie Cotton is a classic example of an artist whose entire career is overshadowed by one song. This album's hit, the in-dubious-taste "Johnny Are You Queer?," was such a controversial song at the time of its 1982 release that the rest of this fine album was overlooked in the brouhaha. That's a shame, because Convertible Music is a classic of the whole California girly pop scene of the early '80s, on a level with the Go Go's' Beauty and the Beat, Bonnie Hayes' Good Clean Fun, and the first Bangles EP. The songs, mostly either by Cotton herself or her producers, Bobby and Larson Paine, are neat '60s pastiches with elements of surf (the glorious opener, "He Could Be the One"), Shangri-Las-style melodrama (the sultry "I Need the Night Tonight"), and Farfisa-driven swoony pop bliss ("Rockin' Love," "So Close"). Cotton's voice, which can switch from a bratty whine to a sexy purr from one line to the next, is perfect for this kind of disposable pop, and the production, though a tiny bit slick at times, is sympathetic to the unapologetic good times on display. Convertible Music is one of the most perfectly named albums ever; this is the sort of music that sounds best with the top down on the way to the beach. -AMG



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