Apollo and Double Naught Spy Car + Stew

Apollo

Apollo “The Lunar Laugh”

I was really impressed with Jared Lekites single last month, so I guess he had more where that came from. Jared teams up with Connor Anderson and tees up a “must-have” masterwork. Although this album is short, each song is instantly catchy and timeless pop that uses inspiration from the ’60s and ’70s without sounding too retro or imitative.

“Man Against Man” is a quick paced rocker about partisanship in government. “Winsome” slows down just enough to a smoother mid-tempo chorus about looking back on childhood and “Apollo” is the LP centerpiece that recalls Lindsey Buckingham at his Fleetwood Mac peak with all the rich production and layered harmonies. Each song transitions well after the other, “On The Road” and “When I’m Alone” are both excellent pop gems. “Beds On Fire” is a slow atmospheric ballad with majestic piano that breaks things up, but then it jumps back on the bouncy pop wagon. Not a single wasted note here, and easily makes it as a candidate for my top ten of 2015 list. Amazon includes an extra track “Some of Shelly’s Blues.” Don’t miss this one!
power pop

Amazon


Stew

Double Naught Spy Car & Stew “Panorama City”

Normally I wouldn’t review this, but Stew is someone I really admire. However he’s kinda sleepwalking here. The band Double Naught Spy Car has been described as “surf/roots/jazz/rock/psych/world/whatyougot” and they team up with pop vocalist Stew of The Negro Problem and Passing Strange fame. Panorama City is best described as spontaneously composed songs with improvised melodies. At times it’s both trippy and meandering.

Stew adds his own beatnik free-improv pop lyrics on top of the mess. Often Stew’s narrative is entertaining especially on songs like “Sweet Jackie’s Revenge” or “Bumpin’ Morton Subotnick,” but nothing here is that melodic or memorable. It’s too pop to be called avant-garde jazz music and too structured to be called abstract pop. It falls somewhere in between – and I didn’t really like it. One exception here is the blues rock guitar melody “President” which alludes to Nixon as a Lothario. While this doesn’t redeem the album, it was the one keeper here. Proceed with caution.
power pop

Amazon

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The Kingbees and Simian Ghost

Arthur Nassson

The Kingbees “The Kingbees”

Singer-Guitarist Jamie James formed The Kingbees in 1980 with Micheal Rummans on bass and Rex Robert on drums. They had formed a tight trio paying homage to the early spirit of rock and roll, and sounds like the “lost link” between the Power Pop sound and Rockabilly. Signed by RSO records they had a hit in Detroit with “My Mistake” the following year. It’s a textbook rock and roll single with a catchy bridge that just sticks in your head.

Comparisons to The Stray Cats are appropriate here, “Sweet Girl To Me,”  “Man Made for Love” and “Fast Girls” are fast paced rockers that have plenty of energy. But they aren’t afraid of slower rockers like “No Respect” or danceable guitar pop on “Once Is Not Enough.” Thanks to Omnivore Records for reissuing this lost gem that shows that after 35 years these Bees have plenty of sting. Highly Recommended.
power pop
Amazon

Simian Ghost

Simian Ghost “The Veil”

Simian Ghost is an alternative pop act from Sandviken/Gävle, Sweden, consisting of Sebastian Arnström, Erik Klinga, Mathias Zachrisson, Maja Agnevik and Wilhelm Magnusson. I’m very picky when it comes to alternative pop, but this band got my attention.

Opening with the rich harmonies of “Float” are very Beach Boys like, and the bright “Cut Off Point” merges nicely into this ethereal atmosphere.  Fans of the recent Orange Peels LP will want to check out this album, as “A Million Shining Colours” is bold and shimmering in its presentation. A few spare acoustics break up the sunshine, like “August Sun” and “Fight Even” but there too many highlights to ignore. Listen to “The Ocean Is A Whisper” or “Be A Good Kid” on good headphones and marvel at the depth of the sound, and “Never Really Knew” is a little more commercial but just as compelling. With 18 tracks it will take a little effort, but totally worth it.
power pop

Amazon

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Arthur Nasson and The Roaring Juniors

Arthur Nassson

Arthur Nasson “The Emperor’s New Sound” EPs

Massachusetts musician-filmmaker Arthur Nasson is a force of nature on the amazing title track, mixing boogie-rock with catchy pop chorus and brilliant guitar break. A little like Todd Rundgren meets Ben Folds, Arthur follows the beat of his own drum here. “Purple Swan” is another gem that starts with an atonal verse that dovetails into a bright piano chorus. He’s also got his progeny in the act with one son Graham doing drums, and brother Colin on guitar. And they do a great job here too.

“Tiger By The Claws” is another winner, with a layered piano melody and bouncy chorus with nice backing harmonies. “Multiverse” is a trippy, but strong song with rich instrumentation that boasts a fantastic guitar solo. The instrumental “Graham’s Gentlemen’s Club” closes out one of the better EPs I’ve heard in a while. Highly Recommended.
power pop

CD Baby


Roaring Juniors

The Roaring Juniors “Perennials” and “Bomb Pop”

Michigan band The Roaring Juniors have been very busy this year. The band still has some rough edges but makes such fun catchy pop you’ll find it hard to nit-pick. “Sweet Marie” is a fast tempo gem about that first date, “The Lamp Burns Above Him” has plenty of jangle and “Short Sleepover” has twang and drum beats to spare, like The Beatles in the Cavern. When the band tries to shift the style, it labors to keep the listener (“Wicked  Scarecrow Blues”) but most of the tunes rock and stomp like “East Side Tilly.”

The band not only produced its sophomore LP, but put out Bomb Pop! – a FREE compilation featuring select tracks from all of The Roaring Juniors discography, including three previously unreleased songs from the 2015 Perennials sessions! So support these guys; you buy one album and get comp FREE. You can’t beat that for value!
power pop

Amazon

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Singles: Vegas With Randolph, The Autumn Defense and Greg Chiapello

Vegas With Randolph has been slowly releasing singles (in preparation for a new album). This one is exceptional, with the driving chorus and dense guitars. “Jacob” is an adrenaline pumping tale of an exhilarating experience, its resulting bumps and bruises, and the triumph of the thirst for the thrill of the ride.

The Autumn Defense goes all “Kermit” on this cover of Joe Raposo’s biggest hit for Sesame Street. Beautifully done.

Greg Chiapello is a soft-spoken troubadour from Brisbane, Australia who is currently working on his debut EP. After hearing “Hot Coffee” you’ll get that caffeine-like high for your weekend!

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Dot Dash and The Doughboys

Dot Dash

Dot Dash “Earthquakes & Tidal Waves ”

We’ve followed Dot Dash for years now, and lead singer Terry Banks continues to perfect the melodic dense rock that combines Guided By Voices and The Clash in equal doses. With the legendary Mitch Easter producing you get short sweet power tracks like the anthems “The Winter of Discontent” and the catchy “Flowers” featuring new lead guitarist Steve Hansgen’s clean guitar riffs.

“Rainclouds” is one of the rare conventional rock tunes here, and “Satellite (Far Out)” boasts a dense atmospheric chorus and amazing guitar solo. The band then veers a little heavier with the “Walls Closing In”, but the melodic sense returns with “Transparent Disguise” “Thru the Dark” and “Semaphore.” It finally slows tempo a little for the ender “Sleep, Sleep.” Overall the band sounds great, a tight post-punk power pop that will appeal to indie rock enthusiasts of any age. Highly Recommended. If you order from Kool Kat Musik it includes a bonus CD of demos/live tracks.
power pop
Amazon | CD Baby


Doughboys

The Doughboys “Hot Beat Stew”

On the band’s fifth album, The Doughboys are still churning out that good ole R&B styled garage rock. And you can tell compared to earlier LPs that the rough barroom sound gets stripped down to it’s essence with minimal production, almost like listening to the band “live” in the studio. “Be My Baby” is a potential hit that sounds so effortless, because Mike Caruso, Gar Francis, Richie Heyman & Myke Scavone play so well together.

The band can still pump out those catchy anthems that sound like lost Rolling Stones classics, as “Shake It Loose” matches Mick and Kieth in their prime. Additional standouts include: “Don’t Come Crying To Me,” “Long Way Down,” “You Can’t Catch Me” and “For Your Love.” The band also explores an acoustic mid-tempo ballad with “Soho Girl” very much in the spirit of The Kinks. And the 3rd person story-song “Travelin’ Salesman” has a southern flavor with a distinctive Bo Diddley influence. You can’t go wrong with this tasty Stew.
power pop

Amazon

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