Jeff Larson and Smash Palace

Jeff Larson “Close Circle”

Like an old friend visiting, Jeff Larson’s new album is another comforting pop tonic. Larson’s regular crew include Jeff Pevar (CPR, Crosby, Stills & Nash), Gerry Beckley & Dewey Bunnell (America) and Jeffrey Foskett (Beach Boys). The opener “Rescue” is a pensive plea about aging and hope, sung with an earnest and simple guitar strum. “Following The Echoes” is a bit closer to that Eagles/America light rock sound. The layered vocal chorus of “Every Hour On the Hour” is a real treat with added backing vocals from Jeddrah Leiterding.

My favorite song is “Rain Soaked Cloud,” about a broken relationship with a great instrumental break here by Jeff Pevar. Larson tends to get so mellow on “Even When The Rains Come” or “Goodbye Ocean Street Beaches” that I tend to drift off, but we pick up the pace with “How Long Running.” Often the love of people and places is the theme, like on “Arizona” and “The Lay Of The Land.” With his “close circle” of friends Jeff invites us into his comfort zone. And its a nice place to be.

CD Baby | Kool Kat Musik | Amazon


Smash Palace “Extended Play” EP

New Jersey natives Smash Palace are back with an EP  that’s a perfect summertime soundtrack, chock full of guitar themes and catchy hooks. It’s notable that along with the Butler brothers is Fran Smith Jr. (bass) and Dave Uosikkinen (drums). And this 5-song set stands alongside their best work.

We start out with “Isn’t It Just Like Me” a strong jangling rocker in the mold of Tom Petty, with the self loathing lyric “Isn’t it just like me to cause all this pain and misery.”  Next, “Walk Alone” is an aching reflection of a lost love, layered with so many wonderful Rickenbackers in the chorus — it’s just amazingly tight. Another highlight is “Hold On” with its steady beat and statement of faith, to “hold on to what you believe in.” Really each track is great here and its one of the best EPs of the year, you’ll want to listen to it “Again and Again.” Highly recommended (of course)!

Amazon

New T-Shirts are ready! The Fest is almost here!

T-shirt_image_close_up

With the Power Popaholic Fest only 2 weeks away, we are selling Power Pop tees in advance of the show. They are a custom design you can’t get anywhere else for $20. Tees will be sold at the show for the discounted price of $15.00!

There is a limited supply, so be the best dressed at the Fest. Order now or get one at the show.

Cruise Elroy and Future Caveman

Cruise Elroy “EP1 and EP2″

A while ago I discovered a talented up-an-coming New York musician named Chris Merritt who has a gift for combining catchy melodies and scientific lyrics into lo-fi symphonies that caught my attention. A few years later he’s taken some of those gems and polished them up for his new band Cruise Elroy.

The production is crisp and dense, often using layered piano, organ, 8-bit sounds and multi-tracked vocals. The pair of EPs here is mixed bag of brilliant singles and experimentation.  On EP 1 the highlights include “Shorty,” “Tarmac” and the epic “Rain King” with its woven harmonies.
On EP 2, you get a little more experimenting with “Sisyphus” and the very Steely Dan-like “Killer” plus the best pop single of the bunch “Amelia.” If you’re looking for the “next big thing” then Cruise Elroy should be on your radar.

Ep1 | Ep2

Future Caveman

Future Caveman

And that’s not all, folks! Merritt is also in another band with a harder edged sound called Future Caveman. No review yet, as the album isn’t officially out but several tracks have been leaked on YouTube for listening.

Not much on the website, but they have an active Facebook page. From what I’ve heard so far its got some heavy guitar oriented songs, but Merritt’s melodies and harmonies shine through. Stay Tuned!

Linus of Hollywood “Something Good”

Is is more that “Something Good” — this is something great. We’ve not heard from Linus since 2006 Triangle. And this was worth the wait starting with “Caught Up In A Feeling.” It hits the power pop sweet spot, with hand claps, driving beat and hummable chorus… simply a perfect opener. “Ready For Something Good” starts with a simple Caribbean rhythm, but it quickly builds into a fast-paced song bursting with optimism and a driving chorus, where “a better day is waiting for me.” Linus-land is all bright and shiny here, where you could hook up with “A Girl That I Like,” the anticipation and joy of young romance bounces along the melody line. Much like Wyatt Funderburk’s debut last year (He plays on the opening track!) it effortlessly transforms your mood. “Don’t F**k It Up” adds a bit more guitars and a layered “la la” backing chorus very similar to Squeeze, Linus even sounds like a younger Glen Tilbrook here. You get the sense that in the olden days of the almighty record label they would’ve “cleaned” this lyric, but it expresses the sentiment with genuine emotion.

“Biography” is a mid-tempo guitar song similar in style to Michael Carpenter. It confidently tells the girl that their time together was indelible and “no one will ever love you” as strongly. “Whoever’s Around” is another shimmering gem that has a slight country twang and steel pedal guitar solo with the dense production. The mood shifts to forlorn on “I Don’t Wanna Go Home If Your Not” and a cover of the Kiss ballad “Beth.” Linus has a snappy country-pop duet with Kelly Jones on “If You Don’t Love Me, You Gotta Let Me Go.” The elegant “When It’s Quiet” is another welcome change with strings and rising guitars in the chorus. Every single track here shines, and the variety of tempos, styles and instrumentation prevent this from being too predictable.

Finding a shining example of the genre with all the emotion, catchiness and studio gloss is extremely rare, making this one high atop my 2014 list for best album of the year.

Amazon

Richie Parsons and The Psycho Sisters

Richie Parsons “Honey and Tears”

Veteran musician Richie Parsons has been a part of the Boston area music scene for years, and now he’s finally put together a debut album produced by Ken Stringfellow (Posies). The clear, rich melody of “When Fall Begins,” reminds me at times of the last Sunrise Highway album. “LOve Letter” is another gem with fantastic layered jangle. Next comes the “wall of sound” Phil Spector approach on the echoing ballad “Evelyn.” The instrumentation here is excellent, and you’ll hear influences of The Beach Boys, and even modern country music with the strong twangs of “Summer.”

Richie’s style also reminds me of Roy Orbison in spots, especially on a cover of Glen Campbell’s “Hey Little One” with his wailing vocal treatment. “Mix Tape” is a pure power pop delight, and after a few listens it really sticks in your head. Lots of highlights here and overall Highly Recommended.

CD Baby | Amazon | Kool Kat Musik

The Psycho Sisters “Up On The Chair Beatrice”

Despite the horror-themed name, The Psycho Sisters are not “psycho,” nor are they sisters. They’re sisters-in-law, Susan Cowsill (The Cowsills) and Vicki Peterson (The Bangles). And both have been in family-based bands since childhood. Once Vicki married John Cowsill, the two became related and it took a long time, but the duo finally recorded an album together.

Starting out with the sweet harmonies of “Heather Says” its a story of an evil 4th grade girl who makes life difficult. “Never Never Boys” (co-written by Peterson and Bob Cowsill)  is a great country pop single that’s full of hope and catchy hooks. The rock guitar and fiddle makes “Numb” a unique approach to a rocker that brings to mind the Wilson sisters band Heart. “Fun To Lie” is a jangling gem that recalls The Bangles and “What Do You Want From Me” is a strong response to an ex-boyfriend who doesn’t know when to quit. A poignant coda here is “Cuddly Toy,” written by Harry Nillson that was a big hit for the Monkees. It was done to honor the passing of Susan’s reported favorite Monkee, lead singer Davey Jones. Highly Recommended.

Amazon