Summer Children and Simon Felton

Summer Children

Summer Children “On The Go With Summer Children”

As the first major release from Adam Marsland’s Karma Frog label it highlights the versatility of his engineering and producing skills. The pairing of songstress Leslie Wenzell and guitarist Dan Akira is a good one. The Summer Children influences are mainly pop and country of the 70’s. Starting with the gem “Here I Go!” it’s both bouncy and catchy with a terrific guitar lead and some steel lap twang. The country pop style is more pronounced on “Poor Natalie” and “Who Ya Callin Trash?” Akira lets his inner Johnny Cash out for “Mighty Fast Car” and Wenzell channels Tammy Wynette on “The Bluest Heart.”

Another highlight is the harmonious “Summer Children,” which recalls The Free Design and The Association. My favorite here is the strong composition “Stand Beside Me” where Wenzell’s pipes resemble The 5th Dimension’s Marilyn McCoo. As you’ve guessed, the band touches a variety of genres and if you’re open to traditional Americana this is a fine debut.

Karma Frog Records | Amazon

Simon Felton

Simon Felton “Emotional Feedback”

Third release from Garfield’s Birthday frontman, explores a sad look back at a relationship. The mood is set with the wistful “Two Fine Lovers/A Warning,” and the piano melody “Sympathy No.4” is a sad sack theme in every sense, as “Safe Bet” picks up with the pace a bit with a hopeful harmony in the chorus of “tell me things are better than they sound” but even here he’s “a loser” and “dead end.”

Paul Williams early work tread similar somber ground and there are several songs that are real keepers, like “Throw It All Away” and “Coffee and Lies.” Both are beautifully descriptive vignettes and with a minimum of theatrical drama. While the honest self deprecation with a song or two is fine, its the main course here. If you are in that sort of mood, than this will fill the void nicely.

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Vacation time!

Dear fellow power popaholics, I am taking a summer break this week. After that get ready for the upcoming Power Popaholic Fest!

If you are planning to attend please visit our Facebook Event Page, and let us know you are coming. Even better you can get advanced tickets at The Rock Shop for the 9/11, 9/12 dates. No advanced tickets will be at Bar Matchless on 9/19.

oh and if you’d like you can also get The Power Popaholic Original Soundtrack Vol.4


September
is coming fast, and I will have reviews for a massive pile of new music… Kurt Baker, Marshall Crenshaw, Tommy Keene, Ben Folds, The Nines and Pugwash all have albums coming out in the next few weeks.

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Pop4 and Wade Jackson

Pop4

Pop4 “Summer”

An amazing collaboration by a group of power pop superstars, the Pop4 brings together Andrea Perry, Scott McPherson (Liar’s Club), KC Bowman (Corner Laughers), and Kirk Adams (Vanilla). These artists clearly love the joys of 1970s pop and while the retro influences are present, it doesn’t feel like a gimmick because the music is well written and genuine. With 16 gems, this is a real treat.

Starting with “I Will Become Love,” a vocal choir followed by the pastoral “Beautiful,” led by Perry is very reminiscent of the late Karen Carpenter. “Blow Wind Blow” has a such groovy vibe I almost expected more cowbell here, and the sunny standout “Einstein and Sunshine” is clearly a nod to ELO’s “Mr. Blue Sky.” Perry’s angelic “Don’t You Be Like That” and “I’m So Jealous” are very much in the ballpark with KC Bowman’s alter-ego band The Agony Aunts. “Jaded” is a clear homage to Harry Nilsson, while “Julianne Irish” is done in a whimsical vaudevillian style like Andy Partridge. I could keep going but you get it already. Its another nominee for best LP of 2015, if not one of the most fun albums ever. Summer is almost over, so pick it up from the band’s website.

Pop4 website

 

Wade Jackson

Wade Jackson “Whiskey Alpha Delta Echo”

Although heavily influenced by Americana and alt. country, Australian Wade Jackson’s first track “Dark Mirror” has more of a Byrdsian jangle and Californian mood. The modern “Valentine’s Day” has an echoing alt. pop style, but comparisons to Big Star really come out on  “Catch My Eye”, “Coming Back” and “Carolina.”  “Coming Back” is also very comparable to The Autumn Defense with a hypnotic chorus and solid harmonies. While the approach is consistent, it begins to get a little predictable after a while – however this is definitely an album that delivers quite a few favorites for my playlist.

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Secret Friend and Jeff Litman

Secret Friend

Secret Friend “Sleeper”

Secret Friend is the nom de plume of Thailand-based songwriter and recording artist Steven Fox. His music has been impressive before, but here he’s inspired by his native Thailand and the Peruvian rain forests to create a transcendental concept album. A virtual who’s who of power pop greatness contribute vocals to this album. “Blue Sky” is a pastoral dream with Kelly Jones crystalline vocal drawing you in, and its bass synths contrasting with the atmospheric dance rhythms. The experimental percussive effects highlights “Something’s Happening” with Linus of Hollywood effortlessly channeling Glenn Tilbrook and Stevie Wonder.

The lyrics are simple, often repeating and concentrate more on rhythmic patterns than melody. “Anyday Now” has some neat electronica mixed with a strumming guitar as Steve Eggers (The Nines) sings along. “I Don’t Know You” sung by Wyatt Funderburk, is a soothing synth melody similar to ELO in parts, but it too veers off into dreamland. Willie Wisely is given the most vocal duties on a trio of songs, notably “And Ever” with its ethereal vibe. Another standout is “Nobody Listens” sung by Bradley Dean Whyte it slowly builds layer by layer to its catchy chorus. And Steven does contribute a few of his instrumentals in the mix. Unlike straight pop, the songs continue well past the 4 minute mark, and have elements of prog rock, electronica and world music mixed in. One of the most magical albums I’ve heard this year so far, so it is highly recommend.

Get it on Bandcamp.


Jeff Litman

Jeff Litman “Primetime” EP

Its been ten years and Jeff Litman’s transformation from fresh face to street-worn music veteran is near complete with his latest EP. “That’s On You” starts with a ’80s piano that becomes a wicked melody that builds to the swaggering chorus, like if Hall and Oats were played by Elvis Costello. “Debutante” follows that with the same vibe, with a catchy guitar riff driving the song about the cynical cycle of the celebrity musician.

“Nothing” is a lighter mid-tempo composition reminding you not to sweat the small stuff and the bouncy title track once again brings to mind Mr. Costello. The mood changes on the last two tracks, but the epic “Don’t Slow Down” feels like the most personal statement Jeff’s made since his debut. Overall this tight EP boasts no filler and its all killer. Highly Recommended.

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Ryan Hamilton “Hell Of A Day”

Ryan Hamilton “Hell Of A Day.”

Texas singer Ryan Hamilton(Smile Smile, People On Vacation) played the Austin’s SXSW Festival in 2010 and met up with Jaret Reddick (Bowling For Soup) and their friendship led to a lot of songwriting and finally a (self-funded) solo album. And it’s a rare thing that an artist can appeal across generations with a timeless power pop sound, but Ryan does it with flair similar to Wyatt Funderburk or Fountains of Wayne. Its also no surprise that this album was produced by Linus of Hollywood.

First, the sing-along chorus of “Be Kind Rewind” is apologetically sunny and bursts forth with horns in the chorus, every bit an anthem to empowerment because “we can do whatever we like.” But the real single follows, as “Karaoke With No Crowd” is an ultra-catchy gem that will leave you singing along and things continue to roll from there. The troubled boyfriend is the protagonist for most songs, as “Letter Verb” and “Respond To My Email” are defiant responses to rejection, as well as great melodies. Another rocking tune is the riff packed “Medicine” that pulls out all the stops and “Records and Needles” is a love letter to classic rock, mentioning luminaries like The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and The Rolling Stones.

“Freak Flag” is a sequel of sorts to “Karaoke” where you need to celebrate your individuality, and forget the brainwashing of pop culture’s poisonous influence. Its not just that each song here is an ear-worm, but the message is important and really resonates after a few listens. Add to that a great cover of REO Speedwagon’s “Take It On The Run” and you’ve got an album that easily becomes a nominee to our 2015 top ten list.

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