Here Comes The Reign Again and Ice Cream Man Power Pop

Martin Carr

Here Comes The Reign Again “The Second British Invasion”

After last year’s Tribute to Lite Rock, producer Andrew Curry moved his attention to 1980’s British pop. You get updated takes on era-defining hits by Duran Duran, Human League, Culture Club, Frankie Goes To Hollywood and more. If there is one thing I remember about many of these songs, was a brashness and optimistic defiance that reflected the 1980’s “New Wave” ethos. In today’s era our collective anxiety yields some mixed results, as the mood of some songs tend to be wistful, if not downright melancholy.

Favorites here include Fountains of Wayne singer Chris Collingwood doing “Life In A Northern Town,” and Cliff Hillis improves on “Wouldn’t It Be Good.” I liked the subtleties of Mike Viola’s take on Tears For Fears “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” and Freedy Johnston’s version of Naked Eyes’s “Promises, Promises.” It didn’t quite work for me on Jim Boggia & Pete Donnelly’s “Goody Two Shoes” or Ken Stringfellows’ “Digging Your Scene.” But Rachael Yamagata’s piano ballad of “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?” is sung with more pain and emotion than Boy George ever could.

A lot of artists have deliberately gone “low-fi” in direct opposition to the slick production of the past, but there are some faithful approaches featured especially Bleu’s “Don’t You (Forget About Me) and “West End Girls” by Secret Friend. With 27 tracks there is a favorite for everyone, mine included “Dancin’ with Myself” by Taylor Locke and The Corner Laughers “Our House.” Even if some of these songs aren’t as familiar to you, this set is highly recommended.

Bandcamp | CD Baby (coming soon!)

Ice Cream Man  “powerpop and more”

IPO

Fellow power pop blogger Wayne Lundqvist Ford has been producing self-contained radio shows for a while now. He has more of a preference for English Mod, Northern Soul and Garage power pop, and he’s got a great ear for the stuff. After 50 shows he’s still going strong, and now he’s gathered samples from a ton of bands and with the help of our friends over at Futureman Records and has made a massive song collection a FREE downloadable treat.

We are talking 64 tracks of music. These are primarily artists who are criminally ignored by  main stream radio stations and deserve to be heard, including some of my favorites (Bryan Estepa, Tommy Lorente, Baby Scream, The Solicitors, The Legal Matters and The Turnback – just to name a few). Bravo Ice Cream Man!

Futureman Records

Immigrant Union and Gay Elvis

Martin Carr

Immigrant Union “Anyway”

Immigrant Union, an Australian alt-country band lead by Brent DeBoer (The Dandy Warhols) and Bob Harrow (The Lazy Sons) have released their second LP in advance of a US Tour. The mix of songs have elements of folk, psyche and pop done with a fair amount of Byrdsian jangle and steel pedal guitar.

Starting with “Shameless” its a little like The Jayhawks, leaning on the steady rhythm as the focal point. The folky “Alison” is a major highlight, an ear-worm that burrows into your head about a guy who finally realizes he’s being taken advantage of by his girlfriend. “I Can’t Return” is another gem with a memorable chorus that gets denser as it goes along. “Wake Up And Cry” starts with a circular arpeggio that reminds me a little of The La’s played at half speed. This review continues on The Seattle Post-Intelligencer website.

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Readymade Breakup

Gay Elvis “Has Left The Building” EP

Gay Elvis is the name of the bass player from Readymade Breakup, and its also the name of the new side project for the band. After posting a free single “Morning Cigarette,” in 2012 its been quiet until this newly minted EP. “Good Man” is a pretty sweet starting track, with Gay Elvis and Paul Rosevear playing their vocals off each other and the dramatic guitar licks – it all ends too soon.

“Sing when I’m Alone” is another quality song with some standout drumming by John Leidersdorf between choruses. Fans of Readymade breakup will easily enjoy this and the slow rock-blues anthem “Lucky.” It’s a fresh direction for the band, and best of all this EP is absolutely FREE, so scoop it up while its still on Bandcamp.

The Power Popaholic Interview: Linus of Hollywood

In case you missed it Linus of Hollywood has a new album out called “Something Good,” and we highly recommend it. I had a good long conversational styled interview with Linus about his career in music. He started with the band Size 14, to Nerf Herder, playing with Roger Manning, Jr. and other members of Jellyfish. It’s been over 8 years since his last album so we talk about some of the new songs too. Enjoy!

Martin Carr and Cliff Hillis

Martin Carr

Martin Carr “The Breaks”

Former Boo Radley frontman and songwriter Martin Carr returns to action with “The Breaks” a solo album about not fitting in and not getting what we want. Carr’s polished single “The Santa Fe Skyway” has orchestra flourishes and his bright British vocal is comparable on this side of the pond to someone like Allen Clapp (The Orange Peels).

“St. Peter In Chains” is a great narrative pop theme with a solid beat and hummable chorus, and “Mainstream” brings us a “poison lullaby” about no longer being an “alternative” musician. “Mountains” and “Sometimes It Pours” are both subtle studies of melodicism and personal observation. “Senseless Apprentice” has a great guitar and organ tandem, with a mid sixties styled shake (and a slice of John Lennon). Some great lyrical advice follows on “No Money In My Pocket” and comparisons to Ray Davies also work here. “My style seems borrowed” he crows on “Mandy Get Your Mello On,” but borrowed or not its one of the best tracks here. Highly Recommended.


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The Cherry Drops

Cliff Hillis “Song Machine”

He’s like the Energizer bunny of indie pop, going and going. Just when you think Cliff Hillis has reached a peak – he pulls this amazing EP out and impresses you all over again. Cliff has been very busy touring , and he’s released this fan-funded EP. And thank the Lord for that; this is a clear contender for the best EP of 2014. Like his last full length, he’s got a variety of styles here.

The pensive “Dashboard” leads to a soaring vocal in the chorus about listening to his favorite tunes on the road. George Harrison styled slide guitar starts off “Turn On A Dime,” a super catchy ear-worm that proves Hillis continues to write memorable hits. “Just One More” has a bit more laid back feel, about asserting yourself – complete with gentle horn flourishes. Next, “Hang On To The Moment” is another gem that reaches deep; this a perfect slow rock ballad to dance to. There is not a weak moment throughout the concise seven tracks here. Some of the songwriting reminds me of Adam Schlesinger (Fountains of Wayne) where comfort can be found in the warmth of these melodies. The song “Could You Be The Enemy” even claims in the lyric “Satisfaction Guaranteed” and I would apply that to this EP. A rare treat that should not be missed.


Amazon | Tallboy Records

Pugwash and Sloan

Pugwash

Pugwash “A Rose In A Garden Of Weeds: A Preamble Through The History Of Pugwash”

It isn’t news to most power pop fans that Pugwash is the one of the best bands in Ireland. The band has made the commitment to visit the US on tour this October and it only makes sense to release a great retrospective for the occasion. Lead by the talented multi-instrumentalist Thomas Walsh, the band is the sonic heir to both Electric Light Orchestra and XTC.  The pedigree is further burnished, as Andy Partridge and Dave Gregory have assisted the band on occasion. But you’ll also hear other influences from The Byrds and Beach Boys to Paul McCartney. Pugwash has made six five albums to date (not counting compilations), and each one is represented here with care to showcase the bands incredible versatility and melodic skills.

If you’ve never heard the band before (shame on you) this is a chance to redeem yourself and get all the good tracks in one neat little package. On CD it includes some detailed history, liner notes and photos in the enclosed booklet. And if you are really looking for a treat,  you’ll see this band live – here are the latest tour dates. Definitely, this gets my vote for best single band retrospective album of 2014.

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Sloan

Sloan “Commonwealth”

Toronto-based quartet Sloan has been playing the most consistent quality power pop for over 20 years, and longer than any other band (still active) in the genre. After the career nadir which was 2011’s Double Cross, the band does something off the beaten path once again. This 15-song collection sees Sloan creating one of the most ambitious recordings of their career. Like the touchstone LP Never Hear The End of It, you’ve got a pile of great tracks and like The Beatles’ White Album, each band member creates a unique album section with its own layered personality.

You can listen to one of my favorite tracks below, Jay Ferguson’s “Three Sisters,” with its winding bass lead and delicate harmonies. I go into detail on each section of the album, as this review continues on The Seattle Post-Intelligencer website.

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