The Top 30 Power Pop Albums for 2012

This was a banner year for power pop as my list expanded to 30. Without a doubt this was the year of “the comeback” with new albums from many old bands looking to reconnect with fans. I also had enough EPs this year to make a top 5 list. Some bands that made the list I never got to post a review for and others I rated very high didn’t make the list due to heavy competition (See Notable Mentions). Hopefully I didn’t miss one of your favorites, and if I did then comment below and tell me.

The Top 30 of 2012

  1. Shoes – Ignition
  2. Kurt Baker – Brand New Beat
  3. David Myhr – Soundshine
  4. Redd Kross – Researching The Blues
  5. Cliff Hillis – Dream Good
  6. Chris Richards – Get Yer La La’s Out
  7. Sunday Sun – I, II, III (really 3 EPs that I count as a full LP)
  8. Sweet Diss and The Comebacks – Emerald City Love Song
  9. 8×8 - The Anatomy of An Apricot
  10. Lannie Flowers – New Songs Old Stories
  11. Kenny Howes – Tornadoes Here and Past
  12. Wes Hollywood – Fantasy Arcade
  13. Smash Palace – Do It Again
  14. The Well Wishers – Dreaming Of The West Coast
  15. Bill Lloyd – Boy King Of Tokyo
  16. Eytan Mirsky – Year Of The Mouse
  17. Throwback Suburbia – Shot Glass Souvenir
  18. Jay Gonzalez – Mess of Happiness
  19. Eytan and The Embassy – Everything Changes
  20. The Secret Powers – More Songs About Her
  21. Corner Laughers – Poppy Seeds
  22. Ruby Free – Introducing Ruby Free
  23. Explorers Club – Grand Hotel
  24. Sitcom Neighbor – Charm
  25. Brad Brooks – Harmony Of Passing Light
  26. Honeymoon Stallions – Moonlighting
  27. Hidden Pictures - Rainbow Records
  28. Bryan Scary - Daffy’s Elixir
  29. Paul Rocha – Crayons
  30. The DBs – Falling Off The Sky

Notable Mentions: The Lemon Clocks – Now Is The TimeThe Sunchymes – Let Your Free Flag FlyMike Keneally & Andy Partridge – Wings Beat Fantastic, Grahame Steinberg (no longer available), Conceptus – Trebly Feelings, Air Traffic Controller – Nordo, The Breakups – Running, Jumping Falling Shouting.

Top 5 EPs of 2012

  1. Two Sheds Jackson – The Collaboration Series, Movement One
  2. Spirit Kid – Happiness
  3. The Wellingtons – Hey Hey
  4. The Jellybricks – Suckers
  5. The Connection – Seven Nights To Rock

Top 5 music compilations of 2012 

  1. The New Sell Out
  2. International Pop Overthrow Volume 15
  3. The Power Popaholic Fest Original Soundtrack Vol.1
  4. Elvis Costello – In Moving Pictures
  5. Jellyfish – Stack-A-Tracks

Next up: My favorite Alternative/Indie albums of 2012, Best reunion album of 2012, Biggest disappointments of 2012.

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17 Responses to “The Top 30 Power Pop Albums for 2012”

  1. Really appreciate all your work on the blog throughout the year. If anyone’s interested, my favorites for 2012 are here – http://richrecruiter.tumblr.com/post/39173900727/top10of2012

  2. Hey Power Popaholic! Just wanted to say I’m really thankful for the #3 spot! Super cool! I’ve got to say the same to you as I said to Absolute Powerpop – which is that I’m really happy to be back as a recording artist after not having released anything since Bubblegun with The Merrymakers (on which we worked with Andy Sturmer of Jellyfish) back in 1998! Things like this makes me think I won’t wait another fourteen years until the next one! Thanks everyone for the support! It really means a lot! Welcome to have a look at my “Thank you 2012″ slideshow here: http://bit.ly/Zz14O2

  3. A little rant, if you will…

    How do we/you grade/judge the quality of power pop (rhetorical question)? As a long-time fan of your blog (best power pop reviews out there, in my opinion), I often wonder what you listen for when you play records with the intent of grading them on the ever-changing curve that is pop evolution. It seems to me that most all new power pop inevitably falls into one of four categories (my opinion):

    – Beatles worshippers – I can’t blame artists in this class. There’s really nothing else to say about it.
    – Jellyfish-ers– Soaring harmonies, outrageous keyboards, and dramatic hooks that border on the theatrical often characterize these bands, and I personally enjoy most bands like this. However, as a long-time disciple of ELO/Jeff Lynne, I find that bands that go after this style without good songs usually end of sounding like a troupe of clowns.
    – 80s throwbacks – These bands seem as though they forgot that 1989 was over 20 years ago, and they write and play as though the Smithereens and the Rembrandts are new-school acts. You’ll often find punk and weird hair metal influences in this stuff.
    – Uber-indie – This is a growing trend in power pop, and this is also the most hit-and-miss category. Inordinately low-fi sounds, bizarre arrangements, and weird/uncomfortable vocals often end up here as long as they have a melody/hook someplace to hang on (pun intended).

    I had the pleasure of mixing A Leaf’s first record (S/T, which you reviewed back in August), and working on their tunes was an educating experience. Their record is not at all dedicated to a genre, but rather the focal point of everything they write is a hook, and once identified, that melody creates everything else around it. Was it perfect? No. Was it mature? Hell yes. I’ve worked with lots of bands where it is like pulling teeth to get the hooks to stay up front, and I firmly believe that too many acts go after the genre when they songs/hooks simply aren’t there.

    Long story short, when it comes to great power pop, I think maturity needs to come first, not identity. The best pop always comes from artists who simply rise to the top of the aforementioned categories, and maturity is always the quality that grabs me regarding those bands. All that being said, David Myhr and Sunday Sun are untouchable among this year’s best. I always tend to grade records on how well they stack up to Spilt Milk, and Soundshine and I, II, III are not only the best of the year, but they are possibly the best of the last five, and I’m willing to argue with anyone on that. The only others that stood out to me are (in no particular order):
    – Redd Kross – Researching The Blues
    – Salim Nourallah – Hit Parade
    – Eytan And the Embassy – Everything Changes
    – Honeymoon Stallions – Moonlighting
    – Two Sheds Jackson – Movement One
    – Explorers Club – Grand Hotel
    – Smash Palace – Do It Again
    – Sweet Diss And The Comebacks – Emerald City Love Songs

    Thank you so much for you dedication to power pop and your excellent reviews. It’s because of you that I am impatiently awaiting the next releases from Cirrone, Bobby Emmett, Bleu, and Farrah, so please keep turning me on to great records I can use to pass the time.

    • Wow, thanks so much for the rant. I appreciate it when a reader “gets it” when it comes to power pop music. And all your categories mentioned are true, maybe I’d add others like “The folkie with power pop leanings” or “The prog rock band with melodic sense aka 70s throwbacks.” As for what makes my list or a high ranking, you’ve nailed most of the criteria. Yes, maturity does count somewhere behind melody which is key.

      Its really tough to narrow down other intangibles that make one a “8” instead of a “9” or a top ten from a top thirty LP. In some cases its what album is the most memorable to me, occasionally its because I didn’t listen to an artist long enough for the “hooks” to take hold, or in the case of Salim Nourallah its simple neglect (I’ll be reviewing it the following week).

      Anyway keep posting your opinions – I enjoy both critiques and kudos.

      • Good discussion. My power pop loves (although there are ALWAYS exceptions) tend to lean toward those artists worshipping at the feet of the early Who singles. Anyway, speaking of the Beatles (ha!), I look forward to your review of the Salim Nourallah. Which I liked a lot.

      • I thought the Nada Surf album was a great power pop album from this year

  4. Shoes Rule

  5. I haven’t heard all the records on this list, but I do have a handful of them. Ignition is a great pick. I agree with Barry above, that GJ’s Leaving Atlanta seems like an odd omission. Here are three more that I really liked: Motel Beds (Dumb Gold), Lightships (Electric Cables) and Mystery Jets (Radlands).

    • Thanks for the mention, RJ. The GJ’s “Leaving Atrlanta” was fun, rocking yet at the same time had an underlying anxiety. (And if you read about the incidents that fueled the album, it’s easy to understand why. Many reviewers surmised that every mention of “she” or “her” on that album was a reference to the city of Atlanta.)

  6. I miss The Breakdowns “The kids don´t…”

  7. Good selection, very close to my preferences! just one point: the 8×8`s one it was released in 2011, at least in the digital format: http://eightbyeight.bandcamp.com/album/the-anatomy-of-an-apricot

    • Agree that 8×8 was technically released last year (late December) as well as my #1 EP pick Two Sheds Jackson. But they did not have a chance at the 2011 list and they were both good enough to survive the year and make it into this years list.

  8. Great list currently downloading 6 or 7 I’ve missed. Kurt Baker David Myhr were top of my list.Check out The Domnicks stonesy, soul, pop “cool runnings” great single. Dom Mariani DM3 and guy from the Clash. Early mini album also worth a look.

  9. Like your list! I definitely have the Chris Richards, Shoes, Smash Palace, dBs, Redd Kross, and Chris Hillis on mine, but also Gentleman Jesse’s “Leaving Atlanta.” Noticed you did not review Salim Nourallah’s album “Hit Parade” this year. That was another good one, imho. Very Beatle-esque.