Ray Paul and Broken Promise Keeper

Ray Paul

Ray Paul “Whimsicality”

Ray Paul is a Boston performer very much in the mold of his idol Paul McCartney, on his opener “I Love It (But You Don’t Believe It)” is a straight ahead rocker with a Macca hook and Rickenbacker rhythm. In addition Ray’s vocal timbre is similar, so “You Don’t Have To Prove Your Love” could be mistaken for the ex-Beatle on first listen. But Ray Paul has  a bit more bounce to his melodies on “A Fool Without Your Love” and “In My World.” Add in guest appearances by Clem Burke (Blondie), Emitt Rhodes, Terry Draper (Klaatu), Kurt Reil (Grip Weeds), Gar Francis, and you’ve got a top notch album.

A faithful cover of Manfred Mann’s “Pretty Flamingo,” sounds even better than the original in my opinion. Ray’s skill writing those “silly” little love songs like “Jeannie,” is evident as it carefully constructed a narrative about a widower. And a cover of the Grass Roots “Temptation Eyes” is slowed down as the chords resemble “my Guitar Gently Weeps.” He covers Macca’s own “Oh Woman, Oh Why” with a spirited bluesy performance. I may be nitpicking, but I would’ve liked less covers and more originals. Still, this is highly recommended album and… catch Ray performing at next month’s Power Popaholic Fest!

CD Baby | Amazon

Broken Promise Keeper

Broken Promise Keeper “Broken Promise Keeper”

Broken Promise Keeper (aka Rob Stuart) is an Atlanta musician who has been a reliable purveyor of power pop for many years and his latest self-titled album still delivers the goods. Starting with “Here We Go” the quick tempo, manic beat and harmonies in the chorus set a good tone even if Rob’s vocal tends to be a bit nasal. “She’s So Cool” is a bit more measured and the mid-range vocal is best utilized here.

However for goofy fun you can’t beat “Sasquatch Love.” This is a great single in the vein of They Might Be Giants about falling in love with a girl who’s “ten foot tall and covered in hair” and its my favorite track here. “Get My Message” and “Play Ball” have good rhythms worth following; the latter song about a dad’s take on Little League Baseball. There are plenty of decent songs here (no real filler) so give this one a chance!

CD Baby | Amazon

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Mrs. Magician and Bryan Estepa

Mrs. Magician

Mrs. Magician “Bermuda”

San Diego’s noise pop band Mrs. Magician hits the bullseye on their second full-length release. Its punk filtered through 60s thru 90’s power pop, where “Phantoms” foreshadows the gleeful self loathing people have as “everything’s automatic/dogmatic/I’ve had it!” Its all set to catchy layered garage riffs that echo in your head. If Nirvana was power pop band then they’d sing “Eyes All Over Town,” its fuzz guitar riffs sped up to a bouncy beat. Lead vocalist Jacob Turnbloom’s does a great job getting to the heart of nihilism on “Tear Drops” where the ba-ba chorus undercuts the lyric “Life sucks. Tough shit.” His sound and style reminds me of A.C. Newman (The New Pornographers) throughout the album.

There is still a glossy sweetness to the music as Jacob’s layered vocal tells you to “Just burn in hell” like a satanic Beach Boys on the song “Don’t Tell Me What to Do.” Virtually no filler on this brilliant study of contrasts, as another gem “Where’s Shelly” has the harmonies shine through revealing the evil underbelly of tropical paradise. The catchiest melody here, “No More Tears” is about going off the grid and “burying your head in the sand.” This is a brilliant album that makes my top ten list.


Bryan Estepa

Bryan Estepa and The Tempe Two “Every Little Thing”

Bryan Estepa and The Tempe Two (David Keys on Bass and Russell Crawford on Drums) remains one of the best kept musical secrets down under on Every Little Thing. A combination of California and Americana roots styled pop, it starts with a few folk-styled ballads “Think of You” and “At Least You Did Not Know” easing into the the guitar pop of “Object of My Disaffection” which recalls Neil Young’s “Lotta Love” mixed with a little Fleetwood Mac.

“Sooner or Later” is another good ballad that brings to mind Paul Williams. “Don’t Hurry Baby” is a little twist on Brian Wilson, looking at the girl from the dad’s point of view and “Empty Handed” has some smartly added guitar distortion in the solo. But primarily this is Estepa at his most self-reflective in soul searching mode. A grower for sure, and definitely worth repeat listens. Fans of Paul Williams, The Jayhawks, and Elton John will enjoy this one. Highly Recommended.


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Rooney and Bent Van Looy


Rooney “Washed Away”

Rooney was one of those rare power pop bands that achieved commercial success early on. I guess the opening line of the title track sums it up the state of the band now, “I’m so washed up… I need more time.” With just Robert Schwartzman helming this version of the band, it uncomfortably tries to modernize its sound and remove most of the gritty melodicism that made it one of the most exciting bands to hear when the single “Blueside” burned up the charts in 2003.

There are still guitar based tracks here, but only after several shallow synth-beat-heavy pop songs. “All The Beautiful People” is a vapid theme for those Hollywood red carpet parties. The sun soaked “Don’t Be A Hero” sounds like a lost boy band, with its Beach Boys-like lyric “Corona, tequila, a little marijuana…” Feels to me like its pandering to millennials, and it isn’t until mid-way through the guitars come out on “Washed Way,” and “Love Me Like There’s No Tomorrow” that it starts to sound like the “old” Rooney. The feel good “Come On Baby” has the requisite handclaps, jangle riffs, and catchy chorus, but the best song here is the melodic ballad “Sad But True” written for Schwartzman’s directorial movie debut, Dreamland. Maybe they need to revive themselves the way Weezer recently did by going “back to the shack.” Anyway, its decent listen and an enjoyable album fans will embrace.


Bent Van Looy

Bent Van Looy “Pyjama Days”

Belgian-Parisan pop singer Bent Van Looy made a big impression on me with his debut produced by Jellyfish alum Jason Falkner, so I was eager to hear this new album. His natural relaxed vocals are a big sell along with his knack for catchy melodies, “30 Days Without Sun” opens with a flowing piano and smooth studio production. The Falkner touch is clearly heard on “High and Dry,” with its layered guitars and handclaps in the chorus. No real filler on this album has it comfortably shifts from mid-tempo “Downtown Train” to bouncy ear-worm “1000 Deaths.”

It gets a bit more low-key in spots “One Way Dialogue” and “Today and Forever,” ditch the drama to pay attention to self reflection. But when Bent turns up the volume, he produces masterful melodies like the title track, and “My Escape.” Fans of great pop songwriting like Sondre Lerche, Neil Finn or Ron Sexsmith will thoroughly enjoy this. Highly Recommended.



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Don’t Get Duped: How to Ensure Your Concert Tickets Are the Real Deal


Every year, events all over the world see expectant fans hoping to beat the rush and secure themselves a ticket before they all sell out. Unfortunately, not everyone can be lucky, and many are forced to hunt down scalped tickets in order to be a part of the event.

These tickets are already extremely overpriced, so it only adds insult to injury that a lot of the time they’re not even authentic. These sorts of scams are becoming increasingly common, and it’s a trend that needs to be stamped out before it grows any bigger. Here’s how you can avoid getting duped and help to shut down the culture of fake ticket cons.

What Exactly Is a Scalper?

Scalpers are people who mass-buy event tickets in order to sell them for a slightly inflated price once the official vendors have sold out. They prey on people’s passions, knowing many regard the chance to see their favorite artists as priceless.

Historically, scalpers could be found hanging around venues before the concert started, pawning off their ill-gotten gains to fans who have been turned away at the door. However, the advent of the internet has allowed them to take their scam one step further. While scalpers would have had to go to great lengths to create fake tickets to sell in person, online they can easily take your money without ever having the product to sell in the first place.

This means that there has been a drastic rise is fake ticket purchases. Whether it’s in person or online, it’s time to make sure you know how to avoid getting duped next time you buy a scalped ticket.

How to Spot a Fake Ticket

More often than not, a fake physical ticket will be obvious to spot. They are usually printed on low quality paper or the printing will be smudged and faded. However, just because it doesn’t obviously look like a fake ticket, doesn’t mean it’s authentic.

Because of this, it’s always sensible to ask to see a physical receipt for the ticket. If they have genuinely bought it firsthand, then this shouldn’t be a problem to provide. If they come up with an excuse to avoid having to do so, then another tactic you can use is checking the serial number, or barcode, with the original distributor before you make the purchase.

Not only will this ensure that the ticket is real, it will also help you avoid buying a lost or stolen ticket that has since been cancelled, as companies keep a record of those that have been reported missing.

Choosing the Right Vendor

Obviously, your first port of call is to purchase a ticket from an official seller. Sites, such as Ticketmaster or Live Nation, are always a trustworthy place to start. Although the classic ticket release rush is still a problem on these sites, some vendors are now releasing several batches over time to help ease this issue. Similarly, some have even begun to re-sell tickets from fans who can’t make it in an attempt to reduce scalping, so buying these kinds of tickets is a great option to avoid falling victim to a scam.

If you do end up having to turn to Craigslist or eBay, then be sure to look for sellers who are well reviewed. If there are several comments from happy customers and a long history of successful transactions, then you’re probably good to go. This option is always preferable to making the purchase on a random website that you’ve never heard of before.

Making Payments Online

Another unfortunate element of concert ticket scams is that often they’re set up in order to collect your payment details and cause even more financial damage. Particularly with tickets sold from fake sites, there’s the very real possibility of it being a well thought out data collection scheme. Because of this, it’s wise to be extremely stringent when making these sorts of payments online.

It’s always best to opt for trusted payment options, such as PayPal, where you are ensured a significant level of buyer safety; if the transaction is made via direct debit, then it’s much harder to get your stolen money back. Alongside this, running a Virtual Private Network while browsing potential sellers and making payments is essential. This handy piece of software encrypts your data, so even if malicious hackers are piggybacking these fake websites, they won’t be able to steal any of your details.

Don’t Support The Problem

Buying scalped tickets is occasionally a necessary evil. No one wants to miss out on the event of a lifetime just because they missed out on the initial ticket release. However, if we ever want to stop mass ticket purchases being sold on for extortionate prices, the best thing we can do is not support the practice.

As scalped ticket prices are beginning to rise, everyone in the industry is worrying about the repercussions it will have on live shows. If the prices get too high, then it’s likely that the live music scene will be the one to suffer. So, while it may suck to miss your favorite artist, making the decision to stick to trusted sellers may be the best in the long run.

About the Author: Caroline is an entertainment and online security blogger, who specializes in avoiding scams and getting around geo-restrictions. She hopes these tips will encourage you to think twice before purchasing scalped tickets and take the necessary precautions before you do. Check out other articles by Caroline at Culture Coverage and Secure Thoughts.


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EP Reviews: Hemmingbirds and Nate Leavitt


Hemmingbirds “Half A Second”

Chicago’s Hemmingbirds began as a solo project of singer/guitarist/violist Yoo Soo Kim, but has since emerged as truly talented band. On this latest EP, its blasts out of the gate on the title track a blend of indie rock and catchy power pop in the chorus. It grabs hold and doesn’t let go with subtle layers of instrumentation and balanced noise. “Mess of Things” follows with its tribal beat and rhythmic guitar riffs, in fact the album notes specify that it “isn’t necessarily a concept but more so a feeling. “

“Stay” has some dissonance and a repeating synth loop that reminded me of Tokyo Police Club a little, with a quiet break in between the frantic drums, and it ends with the solid ballad “Lover, You’re Out There” but even here the instrumentation drowns out the piano and lead vocals at some point. While way too short, this EP is highly recommended and worth repeat listens.


Nate Leavitt

Nate Leavitt & The Elevation “Someone Send A Signal”

Not power pop, but solid alt. country and blues pop. Nate Leavitt and bandmates entered the studio at Studio A in Somerville, Mass and coaxed out the spirits of Neil Young, Wilco, Butch Walker and even Alex Chiton here. “Relieve Me” opens up a painful story with longing in each riff and organ chord. It builds in intensity with each verse, and Leavitt’s guitar work is exceptional here.

The ballad “When I Was With You” is a detailed love story where both people connect to the music and then separate. “Take Me Back” is a rousing layered guitar gem with a catchy chorus that hits the sweet spot. Unfortunately, that bit of optimism is followed by mid tempo wallowing in sadness and then on the title track, moving on after heartbreak. “I Can Breathe Again” is emotionally draining, but ultimately this themed album is a gorgeously produced and performed. Highly Recommended.


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