Drake Bell “Ready Steady Go”

It’s been a long time since we’ve heard from young pop star/actor Drake Bell. The former “Drake & Josh” star has always had a taste for vintage sounds, and has no interest in following the conventional Disney pop star template. Ready Steady Go! brings the slick rockabilly sound to a new generation of fans with the help of his childhood idol, Brian Setzer. While this is primarily a covers album, the originals really shine here. The first single “Bitchcraft” is a well played 50′s swing single similar to The Cherry Poppin’ Daddies. It would be nice to stick to a single musical era, but Drake wanders through his music collection for some variety.

You gotta love his picks here. It takes guts to cover The Kinks “Sunny Afternoon” which reflects his real-life situation. His admiration for executive producer Brian Setzer is so deep he covers two Stray Cats songs “”I Won’t Stand In Your Way” and “Runaway Boys.” Some tracks are just too ingrained for me to look at anew, but his more obscure picks like The Jags “Back Of My Hand” and The Move’s “California Man” work seamlessly with his vocal stylings, sounding great. The latter song and Cask Mouse’s “Bull” also showcase Drakes excellent guitar skills. He closes the album with a smooth lounge ballad “Give Me A Little More Time” and it definitely leaves you wanting more. Highly Recommended.

Amazon

I was fortunate to speak with young pop star/actor Drake Bell, we discuss his new album, voice acting and he gets to voice his side of the story when Buzzfeed.com posted a story that started a twitter war between him and fans of Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande.

 

Below is the official video for “Bitchcraft”

Spirit Kid and The Tangerines

Spirit Kid “Is Happening”
It’s been too long since I’ve heard Spirit Kid (aka Emeen Zarookian) and this new album is a joy to listen to. Heavily influenced by late ’60s bands and sounding a lot like Apples in Stereo’s Robert Schieder, the opener “Everything is Old” has an excellent chord structure and catchy baseline makes it pretty darn irresistible. A perfect mix of classic and modern sounds.

“Slow It Down” ironically picks up the tempo, with solid harmonies and frantic guitar shredding after the chorus. Then “Is This Heaven?” really shows us a longing ballad with jangle rhythm perfect for that slow dance at your senior prom. “Making Excuses” bookends pure Who from the “Who’s Next” era and then we get Dick Dale styled guitar accents on the catchy “Too Good For Winning.” The influences aren’t overdone, and each melody drives it home. Without a doubt, so far this is very high on my top ten list – an instant classic. After a long winter, I feel like spring has really arrived.

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The Tangerines “Turn On The Light”
The third full length album from the Swedish power pop duo. “Turn On The Light” and “It’s Alight”  are a light jangle-filled confections, fans of Byrdsian strums will find hard to resist. The Tangerines have found their formula; a version of Spongetones-lite as Per’s vocal gently explains blissful satisfaction on the song “Once In A Lifetime.”

The Beatlesque bounce on “It’s A Girl’s Girl’s World” quickens the tempo and the story of “She’s So Fluffy” draws on the Ray Davies storytelling style and musical composition. The album goes through 16 tracks, most clocking in under 2 minutes. The only thing you could argue is that the sound can get a bit homogeneous, until you reach the faux-roots “Up The Country” and “All Through The Years” which mimics CSNY’s “Our House.” Otherwise this is a fine album, fans of mid 60′s pop will thoroughly enjoy.


CD Baby
| Amazon

Alex Chilton Rediscovered

With a new biography that I reviewed recently, Alex Chilton is finally getting some much deserved attention in the mainstream media. Listen below to a conversation between Soundcheck host John Schaefer and author Holly George-Warren, as they discuss Chilton’s path from child superstar to unpredictable outsider to elder statesman of alternative rock.



Fakeband and Gregory Pepper

The Fakeband “Shining On Everyone”
The Fakeband are an impressive indie band from Spain (thanks to Rock Indiana Records) with bright guitars and swirling chords. The opening salvo “On Top Of The World” sung with American accents, is a richly melodic tune along the lines of Crowded House or The Gin Blossoms.

But the band isn’t easily pigeonholed in one style,”If You Fool Me’”is similar to West Coast Pop with a rhythm that reminds me of Stealers Wheel, and “Parking Lot” is a slower roots ballad similar to The Autumn Defense. The sax and soulful keyboard comes out on “Healing Time,” and even more brass comes out on “Get You Back,” sounding like a lost Foundations oldie. The band also does bar boogie a la Dire Straits with some excellent musicianship on the rockers “She Told Me” and “Something About You.” Overall, its got something for everyone and highly recommended.

Amazon

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power pop

Gregory Pepper and His Problems “My Bad” EP
If you liked the Paul Starling album I reviewed the other day, then you’ll enjoy Ontario native Gregory Pepper and His Problems. Once again DIY bedroom pop is the name of the game “Anything Is Passable” is a nice Wilsonesque ballad. “Is This Thing On?” goes off into awesome-ville with a thick reverb heavy riff.

Most of the tunes are short little sketches, with some nice arrangements. One of my faves here is “Hated Every Minute,” a wonderful sad sack theme with a twist. “My Bad” is far from bad and its a free download in Bandcamp.

Bandcamp

The Cry and Paul Starling

The Cry “Dangerous Game”
The Cry are back with a terrific power pop album, as the opening chords of “Discotheque” are part Lou Reed, The Soft Boys and Ramones wrapped up in those strutting lead riffs. The pop punk vibe of “Hanging Me Up” keeps up the quick uptempo pace, and “Nowhere To Go” adds a touch of greaser doo-wop styled vocal harmony.

“Shakin’” is particularly catchy with the wicked chorus “Shakin’ like a vibrator..” Similar to The Connection, the party continues through all 10 tracks meant to be played loud. And although it would be nice to toss a ballad to give us a breather,  you’ll find this a fine workout that’s filler free and a sure-fire contender for my top ten list this year.

Bandcamp | Amazon

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Paul Starling “Suit Of Armor”
Paul channels the nadir of 60s singer-songwriter era with “Natale Wood Reciting Lines” and the catchy chorus of “Watching The Candles Burn” makes it another standout. He has some wonderful shifting keys in “We’re All Becoming Policemen” and the echos of Brain Wilson’s melancholy are all over “If,” a yearning love song that really hits the mark.

“The Push & The Pull” gets inventive lyrically with a line like “I love you much more than anything/you’re the Benjamin Franklin to my kite string.” The production is pretty sparse which suits most songs, with Paul’s strumming guitar leading the way. It losses stream towards the albums end, but fans of melodic retro folk pop will surely enjoy this.

Bandcamp