Scott Gagner “Pins & Needles”
Singer/Songwriter Scott Gagner has gradually built up his solo sound over the past two albums, but his newest, Pins & Needles really has breakout potential. Working with Pete Thomas (Elvis Costello’s The Attractions, Matthew Sweet), and Ken Stringfellow (The Posies, Big Star) they give Scott’s sound a real richness and depth. Opening with “Someone” it’s a mid-tempo rocker that reminded me of the late great Tom Petty, and the creeping organ ups the soulful “Heart Attack” with some great lyrics about being “a victim of love, not heart disease.” And an alt-country style narrative plays through the gem “El Rancho Inn” describing the aftermath of a crime. The sound is comparable to Wilco or late-era Jayhawks.
But then “The Ghost of Me & You” bumps the whole production up a notch. The slow contrasting harmonies on “By The Waters of Minnetonka” and “Lazy Afternoon” paint a gorgeous sonic atmosphere. The music has more of a California style – fans of Brian Wilson, Amiee Mann and Roger McGuinn will find a lot to love here. It all comes together on “Strawberry Hill” with references to Fats Domino, creating a true classic. In fact, I could not find a single false note or ounce of filler. The album closes with a touching rendition of “America the Beautiful,” and you couldn’t make a more beautiful album. Highly Recommended and it makes my end of the year “best of” list.
The Favourites “New Feeling”
Another piece of “lost” power pop history has been uncovered. Nottingham band, The Favourites arose from the ashes of the band Plummet Airlines and The GTs in late 1977, lead by vocalist Darryl Hunt and guitarist Duncan Kerr. They played many local gigs in those early months, showcased solid hooks and catchy melodies comparable to The Records and The Vapors. They released a few singles and only lasted two years. Early standouts include a cover of Abba’s “S.O.S.,” “Favourite Shoes/Go” and “Angelica.”
You actually hear the band’s sound change more to New Wave with songs like “Cold” and “One Of Those Dreams” reminding me of very early XTC. By 1979 the band was done. But we have a total of 14 tracks and its a perfect time capsule of late‘70s early ’80s UK power pop. Much has never been released or heard before so enjoy!