Rob Bonfiglio “Freeway”

Rob Bonfiglio

On his third LP, the veteran musician (guitarist/songwriter/producer with multi-platinum pop act Wilson Philips; guitarist & co-conspirator for former RCA power-pop band Wanderlust) still knows how to create joyous power pop, like the opener “Lonely World” by contrasting the sweet chorus with the isolating lyrics “What is love, what is wealth, when you’re all by yourself?”

This effort has a more laid back California feel than previous albums, using more contemporary pop rhythms with rich melodies. “Almost Blue” is a smooth Eagles-like tune with some great slide work in the break. “I am Tomorrow” is another great song with a simple pop beat that builds into a complex tapestry of melody with sharp backing harmonies. “Beautiful” has a good mix of chord shifts and dramatic romantic lyrics. The pop craftsmanship here can’t be discounted, it’s absolutely gorgeous. Not that Rob has forgotten how to rock, “Best Plans Never Made” is an excellent rocker with a nod to Ringo and Paul, catchy swagger and the dense guitar outro.

The album goes through adult themes like hope, forgiveness and the frustrations of life and love. Bonfiglio’s pop sensibility is similar to Andrew Gold with the bouncy “Under The Gun” and the sunny “Golden State” with its sunny, deliberate tempo and some heavenly harmonies very reminiscent of Bob’s famous father-in-law. Overall a low pressure album that hits all the right notes, even with the slight instrumental “Prelude”and it makes my year end list for 2014.

Amazon | CD Baby

 

The Posies “Failure”

Special re-mastered edition of The Posies debut album out now!

Back in 1988, teenagers Jonathan Auer and Ken Stringfellow created a demo tape that they handed out at shows. Created at Jon’s makeshift 8-track studio in his parents TV room, little did they realize they were making power pop history. Despite some inexperienced quirks, the band has the Posies sound-craft fully realized on the second track “The Longest Line” with guitar hooks, catchy melody and sunny harmonies. The talent was evident, as this was the best DIY power pop debut since The Shoes.

Most of the album is a flawless mix of influences old (The Hollies) and new (XTC) from the epic “Under Easy” to the guitar jangle genius of “I May Hate You Sometimes.” Although this wasn’t as widely heard or finely produced as later Posies albums, it still resonates with old fans and sounds as fresh today as it did back then. This edition comes with 8 bonus tracks and a little booklet with old reviews and notes. Highly recommended, of course!

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The Ugly Beats and The Roaring Juniors

The Ugly Beats “Brand New Day”

Austin, Texas band The Ugly Beats have been making glorious 1960s garage-styled power pop for over ten years now, and their newest release is testament to this approach.  However on this album there is less a reliance on the stomping rough style (like The Troggs) and more actual melodies and harmonies that get in your head quickly. “Up On The Sun” starts with a fast tempo guitar attack and “Throw Me A Line” has a driving rhythm that compels you to clap along with the countdown.

The punchy riffs of “I Want That Girl” and “Gone For Good” are more irresistible treats with energy and cool to spare. Every cut here is great, even the bouncy instrumental “Beataroo” works wonders. What you have here is a band at their peak and a smokin’ retro all-American power pop album. Fans of the Animals, Outrageous Cherry or The Above are sure to love this one too. Highly Recommended.

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The Roaring Juniors “Almost Grown”

If it seems only a month or two since we reviewed The Roaring Juniors, its because we did. The Ann Arbor based band is back for more punk pop fun with its newest EP. Stylistically the band is more consistent here, channeling The Ramones, Replacements and The Buzzocks. The opener “Movers and Shakers” is the highlight here, with its killer guitar hook. From there the energy level stays high on “Very Clydesdale,” a snearing punk anthem, but lyrically gets lazy on “Angel Friend” which is an excuse to cuss. Still catchy though. Only available on Bandcamp.

Jeff Larson and Smash Palace

Jeff Larson “Close Circle”

Like an old friend visiting, Jeff Larson’s new album is another comforting pop tonic. Larson’s regular crew include Jeff Pevar (CPR, Crosby, Stills & Nash), Gerry Beckley & Dewey Bunnell (America) and Jeffrey Foskett (Beach Boys). The opener “Rescue” is a pensive plea about aging and hope, sung with an earnest and simple guitar strum. “Following The Echoes” is a bit closer to that Eagles/America light rock sound. The layered vocal chorus of “Every Hour On the Hour” is a real treat with added backing vocals from Jeddrah Leiterding.

My favorite song is “Rain Soaked Cloud,” about a broken relationship with a great instrumental break here by Jeff Pevar. Larson tends to get so mellow on “Even When The Rains Come” or “Goodbye Ocean Street Beaches” that I tend to drift off, but we pick up the pace with “How Long Running.” Often the love of people and places is the theme, like on “Arizona” and “The Lay Of The Land.” With his “close circle” of friends Jeff invites us into his comfort zone. And its a nice place to be.

CD Baby | Kool Kat Musik | Amazon


Smash Palace “Extended Play” EP

New Jersey natives Smash Palace are back with an EP  that’s a perfect summertime soundtrack, chock full of guitar themes and catchy hooks. It’s notable that along with the Butler brothers is Fran Smith Jr. (bass) and Dave Uosikkinen (drums). And this 5-song set stands alongside their best work.

We start out with “Isn’t It Just Like Me” a strong jangling rocker in the mold of Tom Petty, with the self loathing lyric “Isn’t it just like me to cause all this pain and misery.”  Next, “Walk Alone” is an aching reflection of a lost love, layered with so many wonderful Rickenbackers in the chorus — it’s just amazingly tight. Another highlight is “Hold On” with its steady beat and statement of faith, to “hold on to what you believe in.” Really each track is great here and its one of the best EPs of the year, you’ll want to listen to it “Again and Again.” Highly recommended (of course)!

Amazon

New T-Shirts are ready! The Fest is almost here!

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With the Power Popaholic Fest only 2 weeks away, we are selling Power Pop tees in advance of the show. They are a custom design you can’t get anywhere else for $20. Tees will be sold at the show for the discounted price of $15.00!

There is a limited supply, so be the best dressed at the Fest. Order now or get one at the show.