Greg Pope and John Dowler’s Vanity Project

Greg Pope

Greg Pope “Guiding Star”

After a career-spanning overview with Favorites, the Nashville “pope of power pop” Greg Pope returns with a lower key album in Guiding Star. “Innocent Breakdown” is a promising start with its anthemic chorus and staccato rhythm. “Four Leaf Clover” is a mid-tempo gem with a great bass line, in the vein of Badfinger. While the music isn’t punctuated by big riffs, the melody and dense production do dominate.

The optimism shines through the prog rock influenced title track and “Sun is Gonna Rise.” The gentle “Pretend It’s Alright” is another hopeful look toward the future with Pope’s understated vocal. The bedroom philosophy of “If You Want Answers” reveals that Pope is just “making this up as I go.” No filler here as Pope does a great job weaving tunes with a few experiments, notably the drum solo “Bruce.” Guitar fuzz comes back on the short “Eggshells,” and once again Pope has delivered a highly recommended album. Add it to your collection.

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John Dowler's Vanity Project

John Dowler’s Vanity Project “Splendid Isolation”

John Dowler is a veteran of the Australian indie rock and power pop scene (Spare Change,Young Modern, Zimmermen) and this “Vanity Project” includes Justin Bowd (guitar), Julien Chick bass), Mark McCartney (guitar) and Michael Stranges (drums). His music is combination of styles ranging from Van Morrison to DM3, and it does grow on you quiet well. The low key “Off The Coast Of Me” uses nautical analogies to explain his blues, and the mid-tempo jangle on “Unsolved Mystery” is also compelling.

“My Face” feels like an NRBQ song, and the tender “Don’t Blame It On Your Wife” is a very gentle reminder not to take her for granted. My favorite here is the rocking “Oakleigh” with its impressive riffs and layered guitars. From there it gets uneven, with country styled ballads and bar room rockers. Still a worthy listening experience.

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