Propeller and Paul Bertolino

Propeller

Propeller “Don’t Ever Let This Let You Down”

Propeller (the duo of Greg Randall and Will Anderson) have been consistently producing an album each year since 2013. And each album gets measurably better, with Don’t Ever Let This Let You Down being the best one so far. The opening jangle and steady beat of “Summer Arrives” is matched by the duo’s understated harmonies. The compositions are influenced by Teenage Fanclub, The Replacements, REM and others. “Lose My Way” is another catchy tune with hand claps and a swaying guitar floating above the melody.

The songs are highly accessible, including the energetic “Girl Gone” with a distorted rhythmic riff chorus and strong hooks. No filler here, and certain tracks opt for a heavier Westerberg styled vocal with guitar flourishes, like on “Days Collide.” Even the 4-minute closer “Something Blue” manages to enthrall. Never boring and highly recommended.

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Paul Bertolino

Paul Bertolino “Toy Box”

It’s been a few years since we heard Mr. Bertolino but he’s back to kick ass on his latest 13 track album. Paul starts with a 70’s pop framework but isn’t bound by the period, layering different instruments and sounds when building each song. “Don’t Be So Sure” and “Inaccuweather” are distinctively Paul, with minor chords and rock guitar melody that suddenly shifts to a sad jazz saxophone at the end.

The melodic pop shifts are fast and require multiple listens to appreciate, like on “Super Sam” or “Thick As Thieves.” In a rare break, Paul rocks heavier on “Typical Girl,” but mostly keeps to dramatic pop like on “Sun House In Malibu” that showcases his vocal range and some light horns. While the narratives are soulful, they don’t always have a big hook. Some highlights include “Give Rest To My Mind” and “Face Among The Proud.” Definitely, give this album a look and you will find several favorites.

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Happy Labor Day!

May your upcoming Labor Day weekend contain no labor.

So I will be taking a few days break over this long weekend, enjoy this quick review…

 

The Pengwiuns

The Pengwins “Box Set Vol.4”

The Midwest power pop legends The Pengwins have been selectively releasing 2-sided singles in a box for a few years now. The latest includes “Go Away” with a great Elvis Costello vibe and a catchy melody to make it another Pengwins gem, thanks to a rougher lead vocal from Danny Pengwin. Lannie Flowers adds his unique voice to “Just A Dream,” like John Lennon with a Texas twang.  The demo doo-wop ballad “Ladybug” is included. One of these days I’d love to see a full Pengwins album, but these singles continue to keep me wishing.

SpyderPop Records

This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio Volume 4 and Beach Fossils

This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio Volume 4

Various Artists “This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio Volume 4”

Dana Bonn and Carl Cafarelli host This Is Rock ‘N’ Roll Radio with Dana & Carl (Sunday nights, 9 to Midnight Eastern, www.westcottradio.org) and occasionally they have released compilations of great power pop. And like my own Power Popaholic Fest Soundtracks, the duo selects the artists and their tracks. There are times when I read Carl Cafarelli’s blog Boppin’ (Like The Hip Folks Do) and I feel like I’m reading the thoughts of a long lost twin brother. Although I didn’t grow up in Syracuse, I was a student there in my undergrad years and we seem to have the same cultural experiences and musical preferences (although my love of The Flashcubes pales by comparison.) But I digress…

Volume 4 is chock full of 29 tracks including a few radio IDs. Exclusive tracks from Pop Co-Op (with Spongetones Steve Stoeckel), Ray Paul, Circe Link and much more. All of the tunes are great, as Dana and Carl only select the cream of the crop for their compilations. Some of my favorites include Vegas With Randolph and Lannie Flowers “The Weekend’s Coming,” Lisa Mychols “Almost Didn’t Happen,” The Smithereens “Got Me A Girl,” and The Hit Squad “Best Of Me.” It pushes all those classic nostalgic power pop buttons, so yeah this is a highly recommended compilation. Oh yeah… on Carl’s blog mentioned above, you have an exhaustive bio of each track. Pick it up exclusively at Kool Kat Musik.

Kool Kat Musik

Beach Fossils

Beach Fossils “Somersault”

Brooklyn based band directed by lead singer Dustin Payseur has a good jangling lo-fi indie pop sound. I was not familiar with the band, but its soothing opener “This Year” has elements of sunshine pop, especially with the classical strings added. The standout for me was the subtle piano pop of “Saint Ivy,” especially the smooth Beatlesque guitar coda.

Overall a nice summer album, with a relaxing slow jam “Rise” courtesy of rapper Cities Aviv in the middle. “Closer Everywhere” is another standout with its main harpsichord melody and the sleepy harmonies of “Social Jetlag” are charming. However, the lightweight songwriting makes other tracks here completely forgettable. Still, there is enough to demand your attention. Keep your eye on this band.

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Kris Rogers and Dany Laj

Kris Rodgers

Kris Rodgers “Losing The Frequency”

Kris ‘Fingers’ Rodgers has been a recording & touring sideman for many years. In 2014 he was leading the rock n’ roll trio The Dirty Gems and had a reputation as “rock n’ roll’s secret weapon.”

Well, the secret is out and Rodgers is a pro with stadium-ready pop-rock songs that deserve to be heard. “I Know” is a perfect example of where it all comes together with a banging keyboard and gospel rock atmosphere that reaches for the sky, similar to young Elton John. And his buddies help out; Kurt Baker on bass, Wyatt Funderburk and Zach Jones both lend guitars as an assist here. “Gone On Too Long” is another gem that displays Rogers amazing keyboard work and hooks that would make Billy Joel jealous.

Rodgers soulful vocals are also top notch on “Overrated” and “Rock N’ Roll Radio” is a clarion call for what is now considered an “oldies” format. And although the songs are densely produced they never feel overwrought. It ends with the 8-minute grandiose rock opera “Who’s Gonna Save You Now,” and it’s compelling all the way through! Highly Recommended.

Kool Kat Musik


Kris Rodgers

Dany Laj and The Looks “Alive & Kicking”

Montreal, Québec native Dany Laj has adopted a more pub-rock model with a touch of punk attitude for Alive & Kicking. “Mister Screaming Attitude” is a straight forward rocker, similar to Kurt Baker mixed with a little Paul Westerberg mixed in. The energy Laj has is infectious on “Sweet Pretender” and the angular riff on “Planet of Fun” shows you why he toured with Paul Collins last year and fit right in.

“Defending Champion,” tells the narrative of a guy “who took half his life to figure it out,” and the wry pop of “Mixing A Drink” continues the story. The tempo and flavor of the music are fairly consistent, and the songs without hooks get by on Dany’s grit and musical skill. Definitely worth checking out if you wanna turn it up and bop your head to the rhythm.

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Super Doppler and The Rationales

Super Doppler

Super Doppler “Moonlight Anthems”

Super Doppler (formerly known as Major And The Monbacks) is a rock band from Norfolk, VA consisting of six members: Neal Friedman on keys, guitar, and vocals; Michael Adkins on keys, guitar, and vocals; Cole Friedman on bass guitar; Tyler West on percussion; Harry Slater on guitar, keyboards, and vocals, and Bryan Adkins on drums. The members of the band met in high school, and describe their beginnings as “a loose collective of high school friends with a common interest in late nights and loud music.”

The catchy opener “There There” has a distinct 70’s flavor, like a lost Three Dog Night track with the chiming “la-la-la” backing vocals, and piano rhythm. That retro style is carried forth on the title track, reminiscent of the late Joe Cocker or Greg Allman, with brass adding to the atmosphere, but the jewel in the crown is the next track. “We Are Doing Fine” is a sweet Beach Boys-Beatles amalgam with a big fat sing-along hook in the main verse and trumpet flourishes in the Yellow Submarine style. The remaining songs aren’t as immediately satisfying but vary in style to prevent predictability. “You Should Know” has some great instrumentation, and it’s a soulful performance. “Here Comes The King” is another brass led pop gem with a shifting tone. Overall, it’s a little overlong but still, some great music is here so check Super Doppler out.

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The Rationales

The Rationales “Upstream”

The Rationales earlier works The Distance in Between and Dream Of Fire are steeped in a rich power pop sound. Upstream starts strong with a great opening riff on “Ready To Go” and its chugging chorus is punctuated by a wicked guitar solo. However, with “Trade You” it settles into a mellower MOR style of arena rock. “Climb The Ladder” is another decent rocker that wears out its welcome past the six-minute mark.

The even slower “Under The Gun” has some nice touches with its slide guitar and stadium-sized melody. The band’s skill is evident, but the songs are missing hooks and don’t all resonate strongly compared to past work. However, the rootsy “Dulcinea” is a richly composed gem with layered instrumentation that builds to a peak. Overall, uneven but worth the effort to catch the gems contained here.

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