The Dowling Poole and Vaudevileins

Dowling Pool
Dowling Pool

The Dowling Pool “Miles Checks Out” and “Bright Spark” EPs

Fresh off of the band’s spring LP One Hyde Park, the duo of Willie Dowling and Jon Poole deliver a pair of singles, buttressed by 4 live tracks from recent Manchester concerts. Combined its a fine addition to your Dowling Poole collection, and while the singles “Miles Checks Out” and “Bright Spark” are fine B-sides, its the live tracks that are the biggest surprise.

“Miles Checks Out” is a jaunty melody, with bossa nova beat and soaring vocals. But the live tracks (all from the debut album Bleak Strategies) are enthralling. “Saving It All For Saturday” and “The Sun is Mine” removes all the heavy production work and lets the melody stand alone with keyboards and vocal harmonies. It proves just how damn good Dowling and Poole’s songcraft is. “Bright Spark” is a very XTC like bit of psychedelic pop, with at least 5 different melody lines jammed into its 3 minutes and 25 seconds. Overall, this should’ve been combined into a single EP but its highly recommended you get both.

Bandcamp only!


Vaudevileins “Magician”

Review by Mike Olinger: Chicago-based Vaudevileins specialize in the kind of straight ahead rock n roll that has all but disappeared from the Top 40 landscape. Their vibrant, crashing guitars help the energetic songs blast along, only breaking to give room to distorted solos and throbbing drums.

The first half of Magician hammers along at break-neck speed, spiced with Midwest punk harmonies that are surprisingly tight. The second act kicks off with the highly melodic “Hell Jazz” and progresses with more dynamic riffs and measured musical offering like tape echoed ballad “Devils” which is the album’s definitive standout track. Overall Magician is a strong offering that holds its greatest gifts for those who make the journey to the end.


Kurt Baker and Tommy Sistak

Kurt Baker

Kurt Baker Combo “In Orbit”

Baker’s back with a new band; the Kurt Baker Combo (who Kurt formed during a tour in Spain) is Juancho Lopez on bass guitar, Jorge Colldan on guitar and backing vocals, and Sam Malakiam on drums. They signed up with Little Steven Van Zandt’s Wicked Cool Records and we’ve got liftoff.

In many ways it the same Kurt we know and love, the combo of power pop and pub rock on “Upside Down” and “Baby’s Gone Bad” are gems on par with past work. The energy level is still high, on the ’50s rhythm of “Rusty Nail” and bar room blues rock of “Count On Me.” A Cheap Trick-like riff sets up ”All For You,” and the refreshing Rickenbacker chords on “Ugly Way To Be” make both tunes a highlight. A cover of Devo’s ”Jerkin Back ‘N’ Forth” is also a nice change of pace. As with most of Kurt’s music it is highly recommended.

Amazon  | Kool Kat Musik

The Nines

Tommy Sistak “A Good Hat Indeed”

A Good Hat Indeed is the follow up to the first album from Tommy Sistak, Short Songs. The same tradition of early Beatlesque melodies continues with the opener “Not About You,” with a driving riff opening up the multi-tracked harmonies. While its faithful to the source, the chorus of “Its There For You” is a catchy gem that would’ve hit big on AM radio playlists back in the mid ’60s.

The fab “You Can Have Your Way With Me” and “A Better Time” will appeal to Beatle fans, but I’m glad Tommy does vary the style slightly through the album. “If I Only Knew” is a charmer in the skiffle-beat tradition with ukulele and the washboard as primary instruments. “Sure Like Your Love” is a mid tempo ballad that keeps the mood upbeat, and overall while not every melody here hooks you there are enough gems to keep you satisfied.

Amazon | CD Baby | Kool Kat Musik

Ho Ho Holiday Music: Vista Blue, Red Cabin and The JAC


Vitsa Blue and its garage power pop sound has been featured before, now the band has a new collection of FREE holiday music. My fave on this EP is “A ’90s Kind of Christmas” with plenty of references to that era, like the lyric “We’ll sing lots of Weezer songs this Christmas.”

‘Welcome Christmas Time’ is a free song recorded by Red Cabin (aka Jonathan Foster) included on a Christmas Compilation from the Powerpop Academy (JAPAN).

The JAC (aka Joe Algeri) delivers a free Christmas single from down under.

Allen Clapp and The Jayhawks

Allen Clapp

Allen Clapp “Six Seasons” EP

Allen Clapp (The Orange Peels) brings us a solo EP that compares the California weather to his emotional states, and its an impressive musical motif. The catchy start “Moss Falls Like Rain” is classic Clapp with guitar jangle underneath its keyboard melody. “Friend Collector” is another winner combining flowing piano chords and charismatic synthesizers. The album weighs more on sonic textures than melodies for its second half, “Seasons 5 & 6” is a magical two part instrumental. Overall a great little EP that deserves to be heard and is highly recommended.



The Jayhawks “Paging Mr. Proust”
While The Jayhawks have yet to top Rainy Day Music, this is a decent album that’ll keep fans satisfied. “Quiet Corners & Empty Spaces” has that classic Byrdsian jangle and relaxed sound you expect from a Jayhawks album, while “Lost The Summer” is a fuzzy mess that sounds forced. “Lover of The Sun” is a tight Gary Louris gem with a memorable middle eight that stands with his best tunes.

Both “Pretty Roses In Your Hair” and “Leaving The Monsters Behind” have good composition, the latter having a great guitar solo break. The trouble starts when they try Wilco-like experimentation on “Ace,” however “Comeback Kids” has some great storytelling and “The Dust of Long-Dead Stars” cranks up the tempo and energy. As usual the instrumentation is top notch and its a solid addition to the Jayhawks catalog.


Mike Brunacini and The Grand Undoing


Mike Brunacini “Cherry Springs”

Mike “Bruno” Brunacini is a new face on the indie power pop scene, and “Cherry Springs” is his first full length album. “Beginning” shows that he knows a thing or two about harmonies, and a earnest approach about fearlessly doing what you love. The simple guitar melody of “Carousel’s Song” is a highlight here, very similar to Jeff Boller (The Simple Carnival).

The piano melodies of the title track and “Departed Light” feel influenced by Ben Folds, and Brunacini’s vocals are excellent here. He gets a bit poppier on “Hiding The Storm Out” and “Living Electronic Emotions” tells an android’s story that’s just infectious. While not everything here hits the mark, most of it does. Mike’s songwriting skills are impressive on the duet “Shooting Stars” and the catchy “White Noise.” Worth checking out and I expect we’ll see more of Mr. Brunacini.

Amazon | CD Baby

The Grand Undoing

The Grand Undoing “Sparks Rain Down From The Lights Of Love”

Review by Mike Olinger: Boston-based Seth Goodman, who travels the space-time continuum under The Grand Undoing moniker, released his newest post-punk oeuvre this past September – a richly orchestrated, dynamic record that recalls the seminal work of Warren Zevon.

Goodman, a known sparkling wine connoisseur, often sounds intoxicated on record and his psychedelic album title, Sparks Rain Down From The Lights Of Love, leads one to believe this unorthodox loquacity is bound to spill into the material. Yet the actual songs attest to his sharp sense of pop brevity and punchy musicianship. Key tracks like “Key Biscayne” are both lyrically satisfying and gloriously retro while ballads like “Falling From A Plane” exhibit a world-class knack for expressionistic balladry.