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.

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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!

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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.”

Rob Martinez, Gordy Garris and Coke Belda

Rob Martinez

Rob Martinez “Today My Mind”

If you like your power pop with classic ’60s and ’70s influence, Martinez hits his stride here. “Let Me Tell You Why” and “When We Meet” has that bouncy rhythm and sing-along hooks that easily could’ve made the AM radio charts back in the day. We get a little psyche-pop “Sooner or Later” with sitar and finger cymbals, but it tries a bit too hard. Much better is the grand “Time” which is a post-Beatlesque look back with a perfect point of view and Martinez vocal soars.

The Earle Mankey production is solid and Martinez is joined by Adam Marsland doing all the instrumentation here, they sound like they’re having fun on the rocker “Get It Right” and the title track. Not really any filler, unless you count the Prince-inspired finale “Will U B My Lover” with the entire roster of Karma Frog Records joining him. Overall, a really fine album that deserves to be heard.

Karma Frog RecordsCD Baby

Gordy Garris

Gordy Garris “Never Give Up”

Young pop-rocker Gordy Garris is a strong vocalist and his opener “Let Me In” has a big anthemic chorus that will stick in your head.  The songs across the album are all about relationships, and their ups and downs, as “Out Of My Mind” he wonders why he’s even in one.

Standouts include “Good Times,” with its hook-filled harmonies, the multi-tracked “Move Me,” and the shimmering-guitar of  “Wanted Man,” with its violin accents. Many of the romantic ballads are decent, if unremarkable but there is enough here to recommend. Gordy never gave up, so you should definitely give him a listen.

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Coke Belda

Coke Belda “3(Gs): A Tribute To The Bee Gees”

Coke Belda creates this fantastic tribute to the Brothers Gibb on his third album. Belda adds his own fine musicianship to these Bee Gees classics, so in many ways, it sounds fresh and new. He avoids most of the disco era, remember early in the Brothers career they competed with The Beatles, as evidenced by “Claustrophobia.”

What he’s done is pick buried treasures from the Gibb catalog such as “Run to Me,” (from To Whom It May Concern) “I’ve Gotta Get a Message to You” (from Idea) and B-sides like “Sir Geoffrey Saved the World.” These underappreciated gems are polished by Coke with vocal assistance from Gretchen Wheel’s Lindsay Murray, and mastered by former Merrymaker Anders Hellgren. Highly Recommended.

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Karla Kane and Forty Nineteens

Karla Kane

Karla Kane “King’s Daughters Home for Incurables”

Karla Kane is the main vocalist behind The Corner Laughers, and she’s branched out with a sweet folk-pop album. Kane uses her ukulele to weave a simple melody full of traditional old world charm and her lithe vocals are like a warm comfy sweater on the title track. “Wishing Tree” is closer to The Laughers style of melodic pop, with angelic harmonies and minor chords with spoken word poem by favorite Martin Newell.

The Anglo-centric theme continues on the simple “Skylarks of Britain.” The joyous “Lilac Line” is another gem with a spritely chorus of “Lolly Leopard, I could live forever with you.”  and the lovely “Don’t Hush, Darling” is a lullaby of female empowerment. Even The Laughers favorite “Grasshopper Clock” gets the unplugged treatment. The spartan arrangements keep the songs intimate and make this a great album for a quiet night.

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Forty Nineteens

The Forty Nineteens “Good Fortune”

If Karla Kane is a bit too mellow for your mood, then you can’t go wrong with California based band, The Forty Nineteens. This is power pop with a garage band ethos and the hook-filled opener “And Such and Such” makes it easy to come on board. There is plenty of variety here as “Easy Come Easy Go” has a punkier approach, and “My Camaro (Have Some Fun)” mines the retro guitar melody from “Tequila.”

The band tries a psyche-pop turn with “Purple Microdot,” and the vocal harmonies don’t quite work – but its trippy all the same. Thankfully there are lots of good songs here, and rarely did I hear a dud. More recommended songs are “Let Love In,” a great cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Time is On My Side” and the sweet finale “Two Pillows.” Highly Recommended.

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Another Wilbury gone: RIP Tom Petty

 

Tom Petty has died of Cardiac Arrest. He was only 66, finishing the last leg of his 40th Anniversary Tour with The Heartbreakers. Born in Gainesville, Fla., and played in the local bands The Epics and Mudcrutch, until he formed his own band, the Heartbreakers. He even teamed up with power pop legend Dwight Twilley. Twilley and Phil Seymour also sang on Petty’s first album on “Strangered In The Night” and Phil’s the main backing singer on Petty’s first breakout hit “Breakdown” and on “American Girl”; and as Petty notes in the liners to his boxed set, it was Twilley who suggested that the guitar riff at the end of “Breakdown” be moved to the beginning, as that was clearly the hook. ”

He scored big radio hits with his third album, 1979’s Damn the Torpedos, when “Refugee” entered the Top 20 in early 1980. He scored another Top 20 hit with “The Waiting,” from 1981’s Hard Promises, and another with “You Got Lucky,” from 1982’s Long After Dark. Eventually, he joined The Traveling Wilburys, a supergroup that also comprised Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Roy Orbison and Jeff Lynne. We only have two Wilburys left. Then Petty ditched the Heartbreakers, but got Jeff Lynne to jump-start his solo LP, 1989’s Full Moon Fever. Then came 1994’s Wildflowers and 2004’s Highway Companion, and hits like “I Won’t Back Down” and “Free Fallin’.”

Petty wrote “Even the losers get lucky sometimes,” but Petty was no loser, nor was he very lucky. It was a natural talent, hard work and stubborn persistence that made him a legend.