So who are TWINS? The Waterloo, Iowa, foursome grew up on records from the likes of fellow Midwesterners Cheap Trick (Rockford, Illinois), Raspberries (Cleveland, Ohio), Shoes (Zion, Illinois), Luxury (Des Moines, Iowa) and Poison Control Center (Ames, Iowa), and they take their job of carrying the Midwestern power pop torch very seriously. The bands first proper release Tomboys on Parade drops on April 1, 2014 — April Fool’s Day. So here is a debut advance single to whet your appetite.
Bart Davenport “Physical World” Bart Davenport is one of those musicians that can take past influences and funnel it into brilliant original music. The opening track “Wearing the Changes” is part McCartney and part ’60s Motown. And he doesn’t stick in one era of the musical timeline, “F*ck Fame” is like the lost 80′s classic Spandau Ballet never released – this is damn catchy and will stay on my playlist a while.
Davenport’s vocal is of the silky smooth crooner variety, “Dust in The Circuits” is full of cool and soul in the way Morrisey used to be (before he became a bitter old fart). One of the best songs here is “Pamela,” an earworm with a boss nova beat, and “Every Little Step” is wonderful mix of Stevie Wonder and Glenn Tilbrook. A few tunes get a bit sleepy (“Girl Gotta Way”) but the great songs outnumber the so-so ones. Highly Recommended!
Marshall Holland “And The Etceteras” Hailing from Salinas, California, musician Marshall Holland has an easy going casual style with a vintage pop touch – think The Zombies, Crowded House or The Cyrkle. “Take Me” is a note perfect single with tight pop arrangement, and “At 65″ compares well with Phil Angotti. One of the albums best is “Oh Please,” it has a touch of Gene Clark with a sweet Beatles-like chorus. After a few listens it just sticks with you. Holland’s slower moody tunes like “Goodbye September Days” are closer in style to Jeremy Messersmith.
I appreciated the tune “Radio Style,” which comments on sad state of contemporary radio; “blame the on the digital DJs” if you don’t hear what you want. I couldn’t find a real weak track, although the albums second half has a few instrumental fillers. Overall this is a textbook example of quality pop music. Highly Recommended.
The American Professionals “We Make It Our Business” No, its not an global business conglomerate or a Power Point template. The American Professionals are a a San Francisco power pop band lead by Chuck Lindo who has keep the band alive though several personnel changes over the years. The band still cranks out the thick power chords on par with Cheap Trick, The Knack and The Replacements as demonstrated with the opener “Other People.”
“Dr. Holly” is a quick high energy gem about a therapy session with an awesome guitar break mid way through. Bassist Cheryl Hendrickson takes the vocal lead on “Meltdown” and “The Mist” with mixed results. Her sweet voice contrasts with the heaviness of the guitars, which is a bit jarring. It works a little better when she moves from soft to loud on “Healing.” Lindo sure knows catchy rhythms, he’s joined by Hendrickson in a duet on the Gillian Welch cover “The Way It Goes.” “Champion” is a football pep talk with an anthem-like chorus and “Happening To You” is another inspiring melodic song. Highly Recommended.
Donnie Vie “Goodbye Enough Z’nuff” After over 20 years with legendary power pop band Enuff Z’nuff, it looks like lead singer Donnie Vie is finally saying farewell. The band is moving on with Johnny Monaco as lead singer, and Vie has released this solo record with the help of Baz Francis (Magic Eight Ball). It’s mostly done in the “unplugged” style with Vie going through a selection of hits, some live and others in studio. In this case the sadder tunes like “For Now,” “Holly Wood Ya” and “Someday” seems more poignant than the originals, and other tracks lose the power that made them memorable (“These Daze.”) The live tracks do have a few flaws in instrumentation, but Donnie’s voice is clear and expressive.
Donnie Vie and Chip Z’nuff have done acoustic shows in the past, and this is a worthy companion album for fans. I feel the band will never get the recognition it deserves only because it falls in-between the cracks of two fan bases. Too melodic for heavy-glam metal fans, and too much shredding for the Beatlesque power pop fans, but it’s a cult band that you should appreciate as the songwriting is some of the very best out there.
‘The Slingsby Hornets’ Ltd Ed (250) 7″ Vinyl Single
The Hornets are putting out an exclusive 7 inch picture sleeve single, featuring exclusive cover versions of The Beatles ‘All You Need Is Love’ and ‘Hey Bulldog’ performed in the Slingsby Hornets style (Yea! Brian May styled guitars!). It will come lovingly wrapped in a psychedelic 60′s inspired full colour sleeve.
Braidwood “Almost Lost My Nerve” Canadian Brent Braidwood takes his love of early Beatles and turns it into rousing original songs that are hard to dismiss. “Left To Wonder” has the harmonica, tambourine, harmonies and Ringoesque drums guaranteed to put a smile on your face. “Love’s Run Dry” is another fast-paced gem. Braidwood crafts magic here, as he doesn’t emulate the Fabs exactly but takes enough elements to make it a lot of fun for fans of Beatlesque music. A special hats off to lead guitarist Scott Robert Anderson, his riffs on “A Girl Like You” are precise.
During the albums second half a few odd tracks feel out of place like the country blues of “Some Say It’s Murder,” and Brent’s vocal isn’t as compelling on the less Beatley stuff. The exception here is “So It Goes,” that reminds me of early Todd Rundgren. Definitely worth it for fans of Burning Ferns and The Spongetones.
Dragon “Happy Sound Comfort Songs” EP This is a collection of six demos by guitarist, songwriter William Wenaus. Fans of early Weezer will like the dense guitars in “Nacho Cheez” and on “Sunny Ferguson” we get pretty decent love song. Williams vocal limitations are apparent, and the drum machine is a real limitation but with some proper producing I’m sure it would sound fine. The themes of teen isolation are familiar on “Decent Girl” and “No Hope,” but without a trace of irony it does feel a little whiny. There is a germ of boldness in “Ms. Someone,” and if you can look past the flaws its an earnest and charming song.
Burning Ferns “See Saw Seen” Without a doubt, this debut album from a quartet of musicians from South Wales gives us the best Beatlesque album since The Red Button. “John” is a not-so-subtle shout out to Lennon with its sweet chords. The two part harmonies, hand-claps and guitar jangle are all there for the masterful “All Roads Lead To Rome.” The laid back, breezy hooks are all over “Sand” and the thumping bass lines on “Crunch Time” are another highlight among many.
The compositions are different enough to prevent any fatigue, the psychedelics are kept to a minimum with a combination of great 6 and 12 string Rickenbackers doing all the heavy lifting here, so for fans of The Spongetones this album is a “no brainer.” The Burning Ferns don’t simply emulate the Fab Four, but take the music a small step further adding other influences, primarily The Byrds on the last track “Clouds Forming.” Don’t miss this one, its on my top ten for 2014 list.
And The Professors “Our Postmortem” And The Professors is a three-year collaboration among members of The Honeydogs, Brother Ali, Chastity Brown, Heiruspecs, Dessa and the Minnesota Opera. Led by The Honeydogs Adam Levy, Our Postmortem is a mix of chamber pop and orchestral folk rock done with thought provoking lyrics and melodic hooks. Much like the Honeydogs 10,000 Years album, but with even richer orchestral palette. After a simple intro “We Are” adds the guitar lead with strings into a catchy chorus about life’s observations and emotions.
“Watching” is a little Randy Newman styled tune that explains the bands unusual name: “And The Professors don’t make confessions/they don’t care about market crashes or hunting fascists/they don’t feel your pain… they just tell you how it is!” And these pocket slices of life are just amazingly realized, like on “Turn of the Century Recycling Blues.” And the cascading strings and layered instrumentation is equally impressive on the slower methodical “Something Burning” and “Grateful.” One of the best “thinking man’s pop symphony” I’ve heard, check it out!