Freebies, Singles and More: Dan Rico, Everet Almond, Justine and The Unclean, Andy Reed, YYY

Chicago musician Dan Rico’s take on glammed-up blues pop is solid here on “Flesh & Bone,” sure to bring up memories of Marc Bolan. “Gold Volvo” also features some nice guitar work.

Everet Almond delivers a demo EP, “The Starlight” is a good acoustic number with attitude. “Summertime” has that McCartney bass line, and “Call My Name” features piano by his son Waylon (age 6). A fun little EP that’s a FREE download.

Brand new single from the upcoming Rum Bar Records release Justine and the UncleanGet Unclean’ has lead singer Justine Covault pleading with her idiot boyfriend, also check out the related “Love Got Me Into This Mess” both are FREE Downloads and both rock!

The super talented Andy Reed released this single under the moniker The Reed Brothers featuring Jason Reed. This advance single will be part of a full-length concept album in 2018.

Minneapolis synth player YYY does the whole Pet Sounds album. Features many guests and to some, this is interpretation may be sacrilege. On the other hand, it’s tough to mess up Brian Wilson and some of this is quite lovely (“You Still Believe In Me” and “Caroline No”). A FREE download.

Travis Bretzer and The Red Button

Travis Bretzer

Travis Bretzer “Bubble Gum”

Edmonton native Travis Bretzer created this infectious album of bedroom pop that grows on you faster than weeds in the sun. Bretzer’s approach is very simple melodies filled with little hooks and sparse arrangements, similar to Apples in Stereo or early Brendan Benson. The quirky “Heart and Soul” has a fast tempo and a smooth synth for its chorus of “away, away.” It then delivers a brilliant faux country gem “Up In The Morning,” reminding me of The Monkees with its simple lyric,”Up in the morning/not much to do.”

“Are You Ever Gonna Change?” introduces a little psyche-pop guitar to the melody, and the follow-up “Evergreen” gets even more trippy, with acoustic guitar and echoing harmonies, like a lost Beta Band single. The centrepiece here is the gorgeous ballad “Peace, Love and Harmony,”  and on the latter half, we get lots of false endings and the tempos slow with each song that follows. By the time we get to “Vamanos” we get more instrumental, and eventually “A Song For Rashy” is simply a lullaby to doze off to. Oh, yeah this is also a “name-your-price” download, so reward him generously. Highly Recommended.


The Red Button

The Red Button “Now It’s All This!”

When Seth Swirsky teamed up with Mike Ruekberg in 2007, it’s hard to believe the massive impression they left on the power pop scene. Jem Records picked up the band retrospective —Now It’s All This! featuring a new 6-song EP, bonus “unplugged” rarities, and newly remastered versions of the first two Red Button albums on 2 CDs.

Firstly, let me say the list of artists that can correctly capture the pure pop spirit of The early Beatles is very short. While many can emulate the sound, few can compose original material that stands alongside McCartney and Lennon. I count The Weeklings and The Wonders. The Red Button can also generate the same excitement with its music.

The new material is absolutely consistent, “Can’t Let Candy Go” and “Tracy’s Party” has the Rickenbacker riffs, and hook-filled melodies that never get old. The gentle jangling ballad “Tell Me It’s Over” is a heartbreaker about waiting for expected rejection. Seth’s winsome “Solitude Saturday” has a rich orchestral approach, and the title track is a fitting finale. The unplugged tracks are very close to the originals, but “Genevieve” actually sounds much better without the studio mixing. We have already reviewed The Red Button’s She’s About To Cross My Mind, and As Far As Yesterday Goes and it goes without saying this talented duo is essential listening.


The Glad Machine and Ed Ryan

The Glad Machine

The Glad Machine “The Glad Machine”

Once in a while, you find a band that just does everything right. Western Massachusetts band The Glad Machine has all the right elements, the big hooks, big guitars and the reliable rhythms that make it a joy to discover. The quartet is helmed by vocalist Brad Thayer with Neal Robinson (Bass), Greg Saulmon (guitar) and Mike Franklin (drums). The list of influences is a who’s who of power pop; Cheap Trick, The Posies, Jellyfish, and Superdrag.

“Homecoming” is a great opening theme, and it comes across like a lost 90’s rock classic, with some smooth reverb guitars and a pounding beat. “Wake Up Girl” and “Wave” has more hard rock elements similar to bands like Semisonic or The Marvelous Three. The easier mood and harmonies of “I Wanna Drive” and Cheap Trick-styled composition “Tonight” suit the band even better, and make it stand out from songs that could sound too similar. The band gets more adventurous with “18 Days” and “A Song For Steven” including some solid story-telling lyrics. Overall a pretty substantial debut, and it’s highly recommended.

Amazon | CD Baby

Ed Ryan

Ed Ryan “Furious Mind”

Ed Ryan (The Rudies, Jupiter Jets) continues his solo journey here as he absolutely shreds on the opener “You’re My Kind of Fun,” a song that demands you turn up the volume. Now that he has your attention, Ed goes melodic on the follow-up “Here I Am” with some nice ’60s touches; the bouncy chorus, strings, and church bell flourish. Ed channels a little Ramones in the excellent “Rocket Ship,” and other recommended songs are “I Know, I Know” and the heavy jamming rhythm on “Can’t Drag Me Down.”

It’s when Ryan takes on longer songs like “Take Me Home” and “Faulty Connections,” that the limitations of his songwriting and overuse of vocal overdubs start to show some strain. That’s not to say he doesn’t shine on slower songs, as “Lullaby” is a soulful and poetic gem and the mid-tempo “Back In The Day” is a fantastic closer. Overall, a worthy follow up to last year’s Roadmap. It’s music that deserves to be heard.


Scott Gagner and The Favourites

Scott Gagner

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.

Amazon | CD Baby

The Favourites

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!

Kool Kat Musik (LP + CD)

Monday Freebies and Singles

Cirrone’s music video debuted this Saturday with “All Night, All Right” from the EP Kings for A Night. It’s a great party tune!

Tom Baker and The Snakes fresh from their last album Lookout Tower we get a 2-fer for FREE from that album. Raw rock the way it was meant to be played.

Vista Blue is back with some timely Halloween music. As with most Vista Blue FREE music, it’s great garage doo-wop rock with nice fuzz guitar, fans of The Ramones will love this stuff. ENJOY!

Static In Verona, the band name for Chicago musician Rob Merz – has gone further away from slickness to a more bedroom pop aesthetic on his new full-length album. Secrets Like Shadows makes good use of the echoing fuzz production and electro-pop flourishes. Recommended songs “Sleeping In (Dreams),” “Burning Flowers,” and “Last Night.” FREE download.

Down Time is a Denver band with a sweet bedroom pop vibe, full of harmonies and echoing reverb. Great little EP “for a long desert drive.”