Tommy Wallach and The Sapwoods

Tommy Wallach “I Meant It to Be Sweet”

Today I take a detour from power pop into the single talent that is Brooklyn-based writer and musician Tommy Wallach. A pop troubadour with a gift for melody and nuanced style, not unlike a cross between Sondre Lerche and Rufus Wainwright. “Cold As Christ” is a bouncy tune that questions his courage, and his voice is just amazing here. “Misanthrope” and “Occam’s Razor” both pour out emotions, “Life is not as simple as a song” he sings to an audience looking for solutions.

Its not all gloomy though. Tommy gets pretty jazzy on “To Keep You Dancing” and “The Charade Of The Encore” adds a fiddle to the country-like ditty. The dramatic ballads dominate this album, but if you are looking for a lighter subject he has a FREE Decca EP that offers some great songs including a cover of Paul Simon’s “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover” and the piano bar classic “Drunk.” Talent like this deserves to be heard.


Amazon

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The Sapwoods “Timekeeper”
The Sapwoods are an Iowa City band created by singer-songwriter Justin Swafford and guitarist David Suchan, with Miranda Peyton on keys, Brian Speer on bass and Derrick Cook on drums. Peaks and Valleys is an album with a diverse group of songs opening with the single “Relax, Be Real, Be Yourself,” a rocker that’s part Counting Crows, part Wilco. It then goes to a weak reggae beat for “Are You Lightning?” before adding guitar again on “Let Go.”

Swafford has good vocal skills, reminding me of Charles Jenkins (Ice Cream Hands) but sometimes it doesn’t fit the song, like on the disjointed “Drifters” or “Same Old Reeling.” The musicianship here is pretty good, “Serve You Right” and “Two Wounded Soldiers” are solid compositions and “The Offer” has a good chorus, but I wish more hooks were here. This sounds like a band clearly looking for an identity. The skill sets are there, but nothing grabbed me like that opening tune.


Amazon

The Power Popaholic Interview: Martin Newell



Martin Newell is a poet, author, musician, gardener and general troublemaker. As the main singer/songwriter from the Cleaners From Venus, he self-released his albums on cassette and did his best to avoid the music industry while building a fan base, becoming an inspiration for many DIY musicians. Martin talks about some advice he got starting out, meeting and working with Andy Partridge (XTC) and his memories of the 1960′s.

I have such a good time chatting with Martin, I pull a Zelig and my own voice starts to unconsciously imitate his accent! Martin also has been adding funny promotional videos for his album “Return To Bohemia” called Mule TV. It’s obviously a Monty Python inspired video series with looney interviews with a tune thrown in.
Episode 1 | Episode 2 | Episode 3 | Episode 4 | Episode 5 | Episode 6

The Cleaners From Venus “Return To Bohemia”

Martin Newell is probably the most Anglophilic singer songwriter I’ve ever heard. As the driving force behind cult indie rockers Cleaners from Venus, he produced a new album hot after the new re-mastered box sets of the Cleaners DIY years. Newell is at a stage in life where you tend to look back, and Return to Bohemia is like an old friend spinning stories at the pub.

“Cling to Me” is a classic Cleaners type of lo-fi tune, with a fuzzy guitar lead, overdubbed jangle and drum machine with Newell echoing lead. “He’s Going Out With Marilyn” is another jangle gem about teen jealousy. The mood shifts dramatically with “The Days of May,” a somber acoustic song about the passage of time. Newell’s songwriting is as sharp as ever, “The Royal Bank of Love” is a fantastic song, but really needs the lush detailed production instead of the sparse instrumentation. It works better on “Mrs Gale and Her New Lover,” and the free association fun of the title track. “King of The Sixties” is another catchy gem along with the echoing “I Wanna Stay In.” Fans of the Cleaners will love this collection although it may take a few plays for the uninitiated to fall in line. A treasure.

Amazon

Power Popaholic Fest Soundtrack Vol.3 release party!



It’s finally here! The Power Popaholic Original Soundtrack Volume 3 is ready for you! 16 tracks of can’t miss rock and roll all in support of this summer’s Power Popaholic Fest in Brooklyn, on August 29 & 30. Some of this music has never been released anywhere yet and other tracks are exclusive to this collection. This is currently only available as a download on Bandcamp. We will have some special CD versions for sale at the show. This video above is the Lisa Mychols Three with the opening track! Listen and enjoy!

Bandcamp only

Edward O’Connell and The Above

Edward O’Connell “Vanishing Act”
Edward O’Connell was “Our Little Secret” back in 2010, and finally we get a follow up with similar results. A smart mix of influences: Tom Petty, Roger McGuinn, Bob Dylan, Warren Zevon and Elvis Costello. Now with a larger cast of supporting players (including P.Hux!) the sound is richer than before, and O’Connell hits his stride here. “My Dumb Luck” is an great opener, a contemporary guitar ear-worm that can live on “repeat.” Next, “Lonely Crowd” is a bit more subdued, but it sends a thoughtful message about his audience. “Every Precious Day” pumps up the jangle, making it a catchy single.

“What Have You Done?” is similar to Elvis Costello in structure, the chord and vocalization shifts makes it another highlight amongst many. “I’m The Man” is a country flavored song about a murderous wife. Like the debut, the musicianship is impeccable but its tough to keep the energy going (“Yesterday’s World”). Still, O’Connell manages to keep the sweetness on the slow tempo “Last To Leave” and put out a great finale “The End Of The Line.” Such effort does not get wasted, and it makes my top ten of 2014 best LP nominee list.

CD Baby | Amazon | Kool Kat Musik (with bonus disc)

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The Above “Waterbury Street”
It’s hard to find a more period accurate retro-rock band than The Above. Even more than the debut album, the band’s technical skill has increased and with the sophomore LP “Waterbury Street” you’d swear this is a lost rock band circa 1966-68. Lead singer David Alan Horowitz is patterned after Ray Davies and the music is a combination of pop, rock and blues most closely associated with The Kinks, The Who, The Animals and The Creation.

What makes the band standout is also the exceptional songwriting. “Coming Around” and “Do You Have Healthy Mind?” are both hip shaking perfection and even the song “The Prisoner” relates to the era (all about the 1967 British TV show). “Goons” is another gem sounding like The Who’s early mod hits. The R&B stomp of “Dog Without A Bone” keeps the variety going, and the Rickenbacker jangle of “Ordinary Life” is infectious. I couldn’t find a dud or ounce of filler here. Highly Recommended for sure!

Bandcamp