Memorial Day EPs: The Smart Folk, Wishing Rock, The Morning Line, Angelo Celli

Yeah The Smart Folk are another brand of 60s-inspired mod, pop and indie-rock, the six songs tell stories of traveling, identity and the uniqueness of Australian leisure time. This has plenty of summer jangly, melodic guitar and is perfect for a lazy, sunny afternoon.

Wishing Rock is a hard rock band from Baltimore. “17 Seconds” is bright start, even if the vocals are a bit muddled. The band mellows out on latter tracks like “Piscataway.” Hey, and its a FREE download – so enjoy.

The Morning Line brings a chunky West Coast rock to the table. The lead vocalist  Peter Craft reminds me of Ed Roland (Collective Soul.) “Anybody Else” and “All Mine” are very catchy jangle-pop gems — so check it out and yes it’s also a FREE download.

Angelo Celli (Bracket) has some simple acoustic guitar songs here, but like most of Celli’s tunes they are good. Really like those multi-tracked vocal melodies and another FREE download for your Memorial Day BBQ.

Nine Violets and The EyeRollers

Nine Violets

Nine Violets “Chapter One”

After an appearance at IPO Liverpool, I was impressed by the big single “I Will Let You Down,” so I contacted Nine Violets lead singer Matt Johnson and promptly agreed to distribute the band’s unsigned debut. “I Will Let You Down” has a Beatlesque feel, catchy hook, and the follow up “24-7” is a driving jangle pop gem. Matt recorded everything with partner Paul Copley at Laurel House Studios in Wakefield, West Yorkshire.

A strong melody and strings support the compelling “Same Old Story.” The ballad “Mrs. Happy” has the uncanny feel of a lost Hollies tune and Matt sounding very much like Alan Clarke. “Sonnet” channels Oasis with its layered production and the Beatle-isms are subtle with the exception of the obvious “Ballad of The Beatles” and “Sgt. Major.” While a few tracks could use more polish (Nice backing vocals on “Still Crazy” are nearly inaudible) the songs are well structured and well worth a recommendation. This debut is a perfect example of getting the scoop on a band before they get really big.

Bandcamp exclusive

The EyeRollers

The EyeRollers “Hidden Holidays”

Hard rocking power pop from Hamilton, Ontario – and the band just completed a tour with The Nines.  The EyeRollers have taken The Cheap Trick template and added a modern twist here, and while the opener “Both Ways” is a pretty MOR rock tune, the follow up “Turn Around” is a fantastic example of melodic rock and roll with a great hook.

“Majorica” also features a great guitar riff and plenty of vocal personality with its psyche-pop sheen. “How Would I Know?” and “Back In School” have a heavier vibe and are also keepers. “Till You are Gone” starts almost ballad-like, and then turns into a Nirvana tune. The album is a short 7 songs, but what they lack in quantity, they make up in quality here. It also helps that the production and mixing are stellar. Overall, another damn fine debut. Highly Recommended.

Bandcamp

Cirrone and Curry Cuts’ 007 Tribute

Cirrone

Cirrone “Kings For A Night” EP

Italy’s Cirrone remains one of Europe’s top power pop bands and it’s great to hear them again. The opening single “All Right All Night” is a dance track that reminded me of 10cc mixed with The Strokes; cool, slick and super catchy. The mid-tempo “Everything’s fine now” is closer to the signature Cirrone sound, and its follow-up “It’s Gonna Be The Right Time” has a smooth bassline and clean backing harmonies with a West Coast rock feel.

The slow building ballad “Unforgotten Dream” again makes a case that the Cirrone brothers are a lost link to the greatness that was Badfinger. It ends on a bouncy note with “Love Comes Again,” and even though the song meanders into bluesy space (a la Pink Floyd) the guitar work is exceptional. What else can I say — another perfect power pop album destined to make my top 10 of 2017.

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Andy Oliveri and the Mountaineers

Various Artists “Songs, Bond Songs.”

The music of the James Bond movies, like Bond himself, has had a hold on popular culture for over 50 years. The themes of most films have been ingrained into our brain through marketing and repetition over the years — so it makes sense to gather a list of top creative talent to re-interpret them. And like all of Andrew Curry’s compilations over the years, he gets the best power pop artists he can find and they go to work.

Lannie Flowers puts some guitar muscle into the “James Bond Theme” with a few other themes weaved into a John Barry medley of sorts. Another highlight of this collection is that many female-led songs are covered by males here, like The Stereo Twins (“From Russia With Love”) and Jason Berk (“Goldfinger”). Most artists are content to stay faithful to the original, some doing a better job than others; Popdudes (“Live and Let Die”) and Zack Jones (“All Time High”) capture the spirit of the songs perfectly.

Occasionally an artist goes off-script and makes the song much better, like Gary Frenay’s amazing take on “Moonraker” or Lisa Mychol’s high octane “Man With The Golden Gun.” A lot of quieter acoustic versions of themes too, like Wyatt Funderburk’s “Look Of Love” or the Mike Viola techno-ballad version of “Nobody Does It Better.” Other favorites include the duos of Jeff Litman and Andi Rae Healy on “You Only Live Twice” and Durga McBroom & Fernando Perdomo on “License To Kill.” Overall a great music value (26 tracks) and another Highly Recommended collection.

Bandcamp | CD Baby

The Blood Rush Hour and Coleman Gota

The Blood Rush Hour

The Blood Rush Hour “Who Folds First”

Robert DeStefano and his band The Blood Rush Hour excel at many diverse styles of music. They twist power pop, prog-pop, indie-pop and even operatic rock together seamlessly. The production techniques are flawless and they resemble studio masters like 10cc, Allan Parsons Project, Todd Rundgren, and Roger Joesph Manning Jr. (Jellyfish.) Who Holds First probably has some of the band’s finest songs.

Starting with “No More Excuses” it features harmonies akin to The Manhattan Transfer, between a strong guitar lead as Robert DeStefano delivering a scathing political commentary on our partisan stalemate. But as brilliant as DeStefano is, he occasionally goes out of his way to make the music esoteric like the elaborate “He Left The Party (Far Too Soon)” and rock opera castoff “Find Another Russian Dancer.” That doesn’t mean these aren’t good songs, but they seem over-worked on first listen. This is the definition of a “slow grabber” album that needs a few listens to fully appreciate. If “The Space That We Have Made” vocals sounds familiar that’s because it’s Christian Phillips (Sonic Executive Sessions) on lead and he makes this track shine.

“6,4,5, And Sometimes 1” is a catchy, wry commentary on today’s pop “artists” who are too lazy to write originals and “when the genius of creating is replaced by confiscating” other artists work. 10cc, Brian Wilson, and Donald Fagen are all sarcastically name-dropped here. “God’s Wall” is another winner with a memorable chorus.  The instrumental passages are nice (“On Folding”) but filler compared to the simple rock and roll earworm of  “I’m The One.”  Some very poetic orchestral balladry on “I Still See You” and “In Between Time” adds a dash of ELO-styled synths and soaring harmonies making it another highlight. “What Does It Take?” is a nice coda here, with Christian’s vocal giving a hopeful message. Overall Highly Recommended.

CD Baby | Amazon


Coleman Gota

Coleman Gota “Fear The Summer”

Coleman Gota’s latest is easily his most accessible album, with great guitar riffs on each tune. Coleman’s drawl is similar to Tom Petty and he’s embraced Petty’s sound as well on “Can I Get It Back” and “Call It Quits.” But Coleman is more than a sound-alike here, he’s mastered the heavy power pop riff on the catchy reverb-drenched “Fear The Summer” and the brilliant guitar-loving gem “What Goes On In My Head.”

It’s not all repetitive riffs,”For A Reason” is a blues influenced song about bad luck, with some great instrumentation and structure that reminded me of Randy Newman. Gota’s whole reasoning for music is explained on “Make A Stand,” just the simple musical statement “you wanna leave a mark, 15 seconds of fame its all you get today.” It’s also got a wicked solo in the break, and “One Mistake” is a more cautious message, with a compelling melody. Many of these songs aren’t that deep, but they have a sing-along quality to their repeating lyrics. Without a single note of filler this is a highly recommended album that might end up on my top ten list somewhere this year.

Amazon | Kool Kat Musik

Chris Price and Eric Matthews

Chris Price

Chris Price “Stop Talking”

Chris Price’s sophomore album took over 3 years to create, recorded in-between his work as a producer on the albums by Emitt Rhodes and Linda Perhacs and his role in the quintet Bebopalula, which released an EP last year. Bob Dylan once said “Behind every beautiful thing, there’s some kind of pain,” and Chris Price’s Stop Talking is mostly about pain and loss, but told with an elegance and beauty that’s impossible to ignore. The vignettes of each song reveal something disturbing under the surface of each catchy melody, done through Price’s sober singer-songwriter stylings.

The title track is a response to all the noise and anxiety out there, as he begs “stop talking about love I don’t think it’s real/stop talking about the pain I don’t want to feel.” It’s followed by “Hi Lo,” one of many depression-themed songs (“Once Was True,” “Anhedonia”) even the strong uplifting melody of “Man Down” is in contrast to the lyrics sung from a killer’s point of view. The bleak storyline continues on the creepy “Pulling Teeth,” like an evil Lee Hazelwood tune, with distorted strings backing a slow chorus. Highlights also include the frustration of “Father To The Man” about putting your dad in a nursing home and the ballad “You and Me (And Everyone Else),” a heart-wrenching goodbye to a loved one.

It takes a psyche-pop turn with “Algebra In The Sky” which sounds like a lost Lenny Kravitz tune, and then the album finishes up with a series of apocalyptic songs; “One of Them” and “Just In Time.” It took a few listens, but each macabre tune sticks with you and haunts your subconscious. A unique vision and highly recommended.

Amazon | Kool Kat Musik

Eric Matthews

Eric Matthews “Too Much World”

For me, Eric Matthews has been equally brilliant and frustrating over the years. A big fan of his debut, I grew disillusioned with his ever increasing esoteric chamber pop albums after 1997’s Lateness Of The Hour. With Too Much World, some of the things that drew me to Eric’s music are back as his meticulous production work is matched by some well-written gems, like the opener “Pink” and piano-led “God Loves His Children.”

It’s nice to know the years have not dimmed Matthews abilities, no matter how far he goes down the rabbit hole of orchestral instrumentation on “Dragonfly” and Matthews statement that this album is “about having consumed too much world, that is choking out my connection to the world of spirit, of people..” One of the better songs here “Exactly Like Them,” has a great guitar riff alongside Eric’s trademark vocals, a driving pop force that deserves attention. This approach is repeated on “Never Mind Now” and its stands out too.

Several songs are more spiritual, like “Shadows Fall” and they often run over the four-minute mark, and meander along till we get to the epic title track which asks “who’s hand is in control?” with a catchy bossa nova rhythm. If you’ve ignored Matthews career in the aughts, this is a good one to bring you back into his world. Highly Recommended.

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