Pop Co-Op and Paul McCann

Pop Co-Op

Pop Co-Op “Four State Solution”

A group of like-minded musicians from different geographic locations decided to make a power pop album. Not a new idea, as 8×8 and The Britannicas have done this very effectively. The results are dependent on the musicians involved. Steve Stoeckel (The Spongtones) is joined by Bruce Gordon, Stacy Carson, Joel Tinnel, and others so the spirit and influences are good (Beatles, XTC, Squeeze, etc.)

What you get is a mixed bag of great and not-so-great tunes. “If Everything Was Easy” and “Feint of Heart” have fast-paced pop melodies. But it does venture into different directions, from long psychedelic “Lila,” to the very messy “When Wave Was New.” Ultimately there are some singles that shine, like “Malaprop” and the Who-like “It Aint Easy Being A Boy.” Definitely worth exploring.

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Paul McCann

Paul McCann “The Magician” EP

Paul McCann is a singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist from County Cavan, Ireland. Paul has been singing and playing various instruments in bands since 1996 (including power pop band ‘The Plan’ and highly acclaimed Johnny Cash tribute ‘Get Rhythm’) and has performed with Pugwash, The Strypes, Duncan Maitland, and Nelson Bragg (Brian Wilson Band/Beach Boys), among others.

While not new, I was pleasantly surprised by the catchy opener “Keep The Devil Within” and richly melodic ballad “All The Words You Say.” The title track is more a blues rocker with an atmospheric alt. pop stadium approach and “Widow Maker Blues” is a banjo lead blues song featuring Majella O’Reilly on vocals. His style has everything power pop fans could want and more, so while Paul works on his follow up we have this short EP to make sure he stays on your radar.


The Simple Carnival and Timothy Monger

The Simple Carnival

The Simple Carnival “Smitten”

Pittsburgh musician and animator Jeff Boller has returned and like his last album Girls Aliens Food, it is heavy on melody and simple romantic charm.  Smitten is a meticulously crafted group of love songs similar to early Todd Rundgren. The title track is a romantic soft pop gem perfect for a slow dance, then “Lunch For Dinner” ups the tempo and sophistication with layered harmonies in the chorus.

It’s easy to dismiss the soft and simple “Everything That Grownups Know,” until you listen to the lyrics about anxiety and shyness. In fact the upbeat pop of “Go Away I Like You Too Much” is rare amongst the self-depreciating tracks “Geek Like Me” and disco-lite “Kiss Her You Dummy.”  While not as immediate as Boller’s last effort, it still has enough honest emotion and craftsmanship to make this LP a highly recommended one.

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Timothy Monger

Timothy Monger “Amber Lantern”

Timothy Monger is a Michigan musician with a great sense of mood and melody on Amber Lantern, a concept LP about a weekend gig. The brilliant “Power Trio” is a great song about playing in a dive “tired of feeling shitty all the time,” with a terrific jangling melody and guitar break. I wish there were more of these tunes! The production is crisp and rich, it comes across well on “Everything” and the slow building “Heyward” with its fuzz guitar solo and horn flourishes.

Most of the album is folk-pop (“Sleepless”) with acoustic and strings, the melodies occasionally rising to triumphant moments as in “Outside The Venue” and “Requiem for a Ramp.” Give this one a try as you may find it resonates emotionally and definitely deserves to be heard.


Saturday Freebies: The Kickstand Band, Space Engineer, Action Jets, Neil Nathan

The Kickstand Band makes news again with this cover of The Chiffons tune for Valentine’s Day. Wonderfully produced it would’ve fit nicely on Dana Countryman’s Girlville.

Space Engineer is the work of Sydney based songwriter Terry Lyndon. He’s got a nice mellow jangle pop sound and uses it over these mostly melancholy songs. Check it out, as its a FREE download.

Okay, it’s not a freebie, but this Phoenix, AZ trio called Action Jets has the right attitude and some decent musical chops. With a more polished production, these guys would really shine.

Neil Nathan‘s latest “Diamond in the Sky & Song of the Firefly” is a FREE preview of his newest LP. Its mellow introspective music that signals Nathan’s next creative direction.

Road To Ruin and The New Trocaderos

Road To Ruin

Road To Ruin “Heartbeat from the Next Step”

Brooklyn band Road To Ruin is a dynamic stew of power pop, glam, electro funk and weirdness. The brainchild of musician Miles Stenhouse, it starts with the Alex Chilton-ish “She’s A Good Idea” featuring a solid harmony in the chorus. Next, the bass minimalist “Useless” plays out with vocalist Katie Ortiz’s seductive delivery.

There are mellow synth-pop tunes, weird stylistic explorations like the Zappaesque “Residue” or the catchy gem “Glad It Wasn’t You” pops up. The funky “Bad Dream Blues” has Ortiz leading again with a swagger that matches the catchy bass, and my favorite “Ossipee” is a little mix of Mott, Ween and Les Claypool. Props go to bass players Sam Lubin and  Mike Haldman. Like a box of chocolates, you never quite know what you’ll get but its still sweet. If you are like me you’ll pick and choose the best goodies here.

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Armchair Oracles

The New Trocaderos “New Trox” EP

The New Trocaderos (Kurt Baker, Geoff Palmer, Brad Marino, Kris Rodgers and Rick Orcutt) have a few bonus tracks off the Thrills & Chills album from 2015 that never released until now.  They made it a cheap bandcamp download that fits nicely into your New Trocaderos/Kurt Baker/The Connection collection. “You Broke My Heart” is classic power pop with a hook filled chorus about not getting the girl. “The Air” is a classic R&B rocker and “Come On Girl” features Geoff and a smokin’ piano solo at the break. Highly Recommended.


Spygenius and Once & Future Band


Spygenius “‘Pacéphale”

The ever inventive pop band Spygenius changes its chameleon colors over and over on the latest LP pronounced “pah-seh-fahl.” It’s a French word that means “headless” with a “P” added to it. The P is a nod to Pataphysics. The lovely start of “Shall I Show You My Mirror” opens to a chorus with compelling harmonies and catchy hook that sticks. It’s followed by the beatnik blues rock of “Backdoor Son of Man” and turns again on the subdued Robyn Hitchcock-like “Heathen.”

While the band’s eclectic style is refreshing, a few tunes here really standout. “The Friendly Stars That Glow” is a jangle pop gem, “Eucalyptus & Cigarettes” has a lovely baroque composition and “And Her Snakes Were Decked With Smiles” is a bouncy bit of English power pop. Even though the LP is all over the place, that sense of fun and melody is never far behind. Highly Recommended.


Once and Future Band

Once & Future Band “Once & Future Band”

I rarely review a prog rock band unless I hear something special. But this debut by Oakland’s Once & Future Band reminded me a lot of Dynamo Bliss, with its incredible opener “How Does It Make You Feel?” which is like Jon Anderson of Yes mixed with Schnauser. “I’ll Be Fine” is similar to a 10cc-Pink Floyd epic ballad with terrific effects and overdubbed guitar that shreds brilliantly through the song.

The album quickly goes mellow after these opening songs, despite a synth and bass jazz-inflected gem “Rolando,” it never picks up that early momentum. But just finding this style of prog rock with its craftsmanship is always a welcome treat. I just wish there was more, but I would still recommend you check this out.