John Hopkins “Sunlight Madness”
Arkansas based pop composer John Hopkins developed this love letter to The Beach Boys SMiLE era and its a wonderful eclectic pop album with bits of DIY folk, and orchestral dream pop. “Morning” starts us with Wilsonesque harmonies in a chant with an awesome a Capella rhythm. It leads in the title track, with effective vocal and guitar flourishes and a rich chorus, ending with rich orchestral interludes between each song. Each track fades seamlessly into each other, often reminding me of Paul Steel’s April & I.
Sometimes the unusual atmospherics (“Downriver”) can get in the way, but that’s a minor point. Each theme is impressive, big standouts include “As You Walk Alone,” “Ceridwen” and “Sunny Sunday Afternoon.” Harmonies and melodies also recall The Association especially on “Clover,” the best track here. For fans of Sunshine or Baroque Pop this is a real treat. After a few listens the magnificence of this album will sink in, despite a few rough edges. This is a brilliant mood piece that would’ve made my top ten last year.
Sam Page “Breach”
After his spirited EP debut, Sam Page has a full length album. He lists his influences as Matthew Sweet and Jack White but on his opener “I Don’t Want To Think About Her Anymore” I also hear some Southern Culture on The Skids and The Presidents of The USA. The guitar melody of “Hold On” has a pretty strong Weezer influence and “Now I Know” has a steady hook that keeps it memorable. Page has a way with bluesy rhythms and lyric on “Pheromones” that make it infectious fun. The guitar skill and warbling vocal on “Thinking About Thinking” is another charmer that brings his background as Philosophy professor in play. This is one performer with potential you cannot ignore, so check it out.