The High Dials and Tam Johnstone

The High Dials “Yestergraves” EP
The High Dials have evolved their style, shedding the psychedelic influences and moving up a few decades to the late ’80s on Yestergraves. Fans of Depech Mode and The Cure will find a lot to like in the title track. The next song “Echoes and Empty Rooms” is a cool update on The Psychedelic Furs sound. While this is all well and good, I kind of miss the old synth-free band that focused on a more guitar centric melodies.



Tam Johnstone “Cockatoo”
Loved Tam Johnstone’s work years ago on the great The General Store album, so I was totally into this roaring 1920′s soundtrack that’s oddly compelling. If you liked Paul McCartney’s period Music Hall single “Honey Pie” — imagine an entire album of this stuff.

All done with a tongue-in-cheek attitude and great radio acting as well. The slow melody/radio play of “Under The Moonlight” is contrasted by goofy absurdity of “Be-Bop Skiddly-Doo” including faux Louie Armstrong vocals. Just imagine if 10cc played at the Overlook Hotel, and you’ll get the sweet ballad “I Still Dream Of You.” And the title track is another hilarious vamp that combines The Muppet Show theme with Monty Python humor. Honestly, Tam’s talent shines underneath all the period trappings and weirdness. Go really, really retro and give it a listen.

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Damp and Terry Draper

Damp “Damp”
Damp is the duo of Ryan Bredehoeft and Jerry Bennett. They are primarily a piano and guitar pop band from Oregon. Both “Time” and “What’s to Come from What Has Been” focus on baroque melodies and harmonies recalling Elliot Smith mixed with early Billy Joel. Two versions of “Ye Ol’ Bitch” are next, one with a rootsy Beck style and the other sung like a stage showtune. And both are pretty catchy.

Both “A Song” and “This Too Shall Pass” sound like demos and that’s an issue with a few of these songs – they sound like filler.  But sometimes the melodies are so good you can look past the lo-fi delivery like “I Love You” and  “Swimming Lessons.” They get too cute on the kazoo backed “I’m Thinking of You,” but at least they don’t take themselves too seriously. The gems here are worth seeking out.

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Terry Draper “When The World Was Young”
Draper was part of the legendary band Klaatu, he’s made several solo LPs and this is his latest. Terry’s approach is now more romantic adult oriented pop music, and a slew of guests contribute here including Jamie Hoover, Ray Paul and Vinnie Zummo.

“All The King’s Men” is a pleasant pastoral song, and “(I’m So Happy To Be) Alive” and “Carry On” showcases Draper at his most Klaatu-like. “The Tea Horse Road” and “To Whom It May Concern” both have their moments, and the title track is a beautifully rendered epic ballad. Klaatu fans are sure to enjoy the highlights, and its only available through Terry’s website, so get’em while they last.

Exclusively on Terry Draper’s site

Twins and Doug Gillard

Twins “Tomboys On Parade”
Twins wave their power pop flags high, and produce a rocking happy-go-lucky style of music that’s easy to fall in love with. “Teach Each Other,” follows the Big Star tradition of intricate melodies, memorable riffs and clear harmonies. “Long Way Down” has another catchy riff, with enough quirky vocal styling to keep it interesting.

“Thankful” is downright bizarre lyrically and vocally the harmonies remind me of The Loving Spoonfuls. “Babe City” also has a optimistic, almost inebriated approach with heavy riffs and “ba, ba, ba” choruses. Even the Kinks-like ditty “Ardsley Lane” is a joyful acoustic gem. Like the video we posted last month, this is an infectious fun party album. Highly Recommended.




Doug Gillard “Parade On”
Doug Gillard is one of those special musicians not enough people pay attention to, and should. He’s played with Guided By Voices, Nada Surf, Lifeguards, Death Of Samantha, Gem, Bambi Kino, Sally Crewe, Mascott, and many more. With Parade On, he starts with the best George Harrison song he never wrote “Ready For Death” a catchy hummable melody about the inevitable. “Angel X” is a fast paced tune with some great layered keys and amazing guitarwork.

The melodic subtleties of “I Shall Not Want” remind me of Alan Parsons a bit. Both “Come Out and Show Me” and “No Perspective” have some obvious GBV fingerprints. One of the best songs here is “Oh My Little Girl,” a  jangle-filled melody, that could’ve used a more forceful vocal but still shines bright. The title track is another catchy earworm that you’ll find yourself humming along to. The flat production doesn’t always benefit the songs, but that said its a fine collection of tunes worth your time.


Drake Bell “Ready Steady Go”

It’s been a long time since we’ve heard from young pop star/actor Drake Bell. The former “Drake & Josh” star has always had a taste for vintage sounds, and has no interest in following the conventional Disney pop star template. Ready Steady Go! brings the slick rockabilly sound to a new generation of fans with the help of his childhood idol, Brian Setzer. While this is primarily a covers album, the originals really shine here. The first single “Bitchcraft” is a well played 50′s swing single similar to The Cherry Poppin’ Daddies. It would be nice to stick to a single musical era, but Drake wanders through his music collection for some variety.

You gotta love his picks here. It takes guts to cover The Kinks “Sunny Afternoon” which reflects his real-life situation. His admiration for executive producer Brian Setzer is so deep he covers two Stray Cats songs “”I Won’t Stand In Your Way” and “Runaway Boys.” Some tracks are just too ingrained for me to look at anew, but his more obscure picks like The Jags “Back Of My Hand” and The Move’s “California Man” work seamlessly with his vocal stylings, sounding great. The latter song and Cask Mouse’s “Bull” also showcase Drakes excellent guitar skills. He closes the album with a smooth lounge ballad “Give Me A Little More Time” and it definitely leaves you wanting more. Highly Recommended.


I was fortunate to speak with young pop star/actor Drake Bell, we discuss his new album, voice acting and he gets to voice his side of the story when posted a story that started a twitter war between him and fans of Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande.


Below is the official video for “Bitchcraft”

Spirit Kid and The Tangerines

Spirit Kid “Is Happening”
It’s been too long since I’ve heard Spirit Kid (aka Emeen Zarookian) and this new album is a joy to listen to. Heavily influenced by late ’60s bands and sounding a lot like Apples in Stereo’s Robert Schieder, the opener “Everything is Old” has an excellent chord structure and catchy baseline makes it pretty darn irresistible. A perfect mix of classic and modern sounds.

“Slow It Down” ironically picks up the tempo, with solid harmonies and frantic guitar shredding after the chorus. Then “Is This Heaven?” really shows us a longing ballad with jangle rhythm perfect for that slow dance at your senior prom. “Making Excuses” bookends pure Who from the “Who’s Next” era and then we get Dick Dale styled guitar accents on the catchy “Too Good For Winning.” The influences aren’t overdone, and each melody drives it home. Without a doubt, so far this is very high on my top ten list – an instant classic. After a long winter, I feel like spring has really arrived.



The Tangerines “Turn On The Light”
The third full length album from the Swedish power pop duo. “Turn On The Light” and “It’s Alight”  are a light jangle-filled confections, fans of Byrdsian strums will find hard to resist. The Tangerines have found their formula; a version of Spongetones-lite as Per’s vocal gently explains blissful satisfaction on the song “Once In A Lifetime.”

The Beatlesque bounce on “It’s A Girl’s Girl’s World” quickens the tempo and the story of “She’s So Fluffy” draws on the Ray Davies storytelling style and musical composition. The album goes through 16 tracks, most clocking in under 2 minutes. The only thing you could argue is that the sound can get a bit homogeneous, until you reach the faux-roots “Up The Country” and “All Through The Years” which mimics CSNY’s “Our House.” Otherwise this is a fine album, fans of mid 60′s pop will thoroughly enjoy.

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