EP Reviews: The Top Boost, Easy Roscoe, Boys on The Beach


The Top Boost “Turn Around” EP

The Top Boost is Vancouver’s newest garage pop trio (Hunter Gogo, Kirill Yurtsev, Greg Johnston), and their debut EP Turn Around was recorded and mixed in Vancouver and mastered at Abbey Road Studios in London. And it sure sounds fantastic, after a quick intro “What If She Loves You” takes its cue from 1980s song structure and psychedelic 60s jangle. Think bands like The Ocean Blue, Aztec Camera, and The La’s. Each compelling, catchy melody resonates from the romantic “Tell That Girl” to the shimmering “Still On My Mind.” The title track is unusual, it has a swirling melodic chorus interrupted by ascending minor chords that give it a sinister feel. One of the best debut EPs I’ve heard so far this year.


Easy Roscoe “Piñata” EP

Nashville rockers that have an easy going, fun approach with their bright vocals and catchy guitar riffs. “Roll Baby Roll” is a great start, and “Green Leather Jacket” is a little Green Day and Gin Blossoms with a bit of Southern attitude. Some nice harmonies and call and response vocals make “By The Water” another gem. Then add a funk rhythm and bass guitar to those harmonies, and “Whoa-o-o” you have a easy party song on “We Cry.” An impressive debut.


Boys On The Beach “Addiction”

It’s a stretch to call this an EP, more like a single (2 tracks) but this band from Tokyo, Japan knows how to rock. “I Hate This Addiction” has big echoing fuzz chords and dense percussion. Even better is the B-side “It’s Allright, it’s Okay” with Japanese verse and an English chorus. Hope to hear more from these guys!

Bandcamp | Boysonthebeach.net

Gentle Hen and Gretchen’s Wheel

Gentle Hen

Gentle Hen “The Bells on the Boats on the Bay”

Gentle Hen is the creation of Northampton Mass. songwriter Henning Ohlenbusch. The band includes Brian Marchese, Max Gemer, Ken Maiuri, and Tony Westcott. These are emotional, easy going pop tunes starting with the relaxed “I Don’t Know About Anyone Else But” with its catchy chorus and its repeating echo motif.  Its a little like They Might Be Giants without all the nerdy subject matter or accordion — “Jake and Kim Broke Up (Leave Me Out of It)” has a snazzy rhythm and soaring vocal ending.

Overall the music is compelling as “I Wasn’t Looking For This” and “Somebody Else’s Problem” is about the difficulties of breaking up (with a very sweet Kinks reference.)  Sometimes the limitations of Henning’s vocal range are evident on several songs, but the multi-tracking on “the Wrongway Out of Town” make it very palatable. Another fun gem is the stream-of-thought lyrics on “The People You See Regularly Never Grow Old.” Worth checking out!


Gretchen's Wheel

Gretchen’s Wheel “Behind the Curtain”

Gretchen’s Wheel is the brainchild of Nashville-based Lindsay Murray. Her music is a lush indie-pop with some power pop influences. While her first album Fragile State was produced by Ken Stringfellow (Posies) this new album is assisted by musicians Phil Ajjarapu, Ira Elliot (Nada Surf), Donny Brown, Andy Reed, and Jack Thomas.

The quick tempo “Invisible Thief” starts out good, but “Younger Every Year” is a stunning composition that showcases a lush pop sensibility and Lindsay’s ethereal vocal. “The Good Things” is another song with an easy flowing melody, but the guitar takes center stage on “Live Through You,” delivering a rock solid tune.  “Try To Make It” is another gem written by the power pop legend Sloan, so you just gotta give Gretchen’s Wheel a spin.


EP Reviews: Hemmingbirds and Nate Leavitt


Hemmingbirds “Half A Second”

Chicago’s Hemmingbirds began as a solo project of singer/guitarist/violist Yoo Soo Kim, but has since emerged as truly talented band. On this latest EP, its blasts out of the gate on the title track a blend of indie rock and catchy power pop in the chorus. It grabs hold and doesn’t let go with subtle layers of instrumentation and balanced noise. “Mess of Things” follows with its tribal beat and rhythmic guitar riffs, in fact the album notes specify that it “isn’t necessarily a concept but more so a feeling. “

“Stay” has some dissonance and a repeating synth loop that reminded me of Tokyo Police Club a little, with a quiet break in between the frantic drums, and it ends with the solid ballad “Lover, You’re Out There” but even here the instrumentation drowns out the piano and lead vocals at some point. While way too short, this EP is highly recommended and worth repeat listens.


Nate Leavitt

Nate Leavitt & The Elevation “Someone Send A Signal”

Not power pop, but solid alt. country and blues pop. Nate Leavitt and bandmates entered the studio at Studio A in Somerville, Mass and coaxed out the spirits of Neil Young, Wilco, Butch Walker and even Alex Chiton here. “Relieve Me” opens up a painful story with longing in each riff and organ chord. It builds in intensity with each verse, and Leavitt’s guitar work is exceptional here.

The ballad “When I Was With You” is a detailed love story where both people connect to the music and then separate. “Take Me Back” is a rousing layered guitar gem with a catchy chorus that hits the sweet spot. Unfortunately, that bit of optimism is followed by mid tempo wallowing in sadness and then on the title track, moving on after heartbreak. “I Can Breathe Again” is emotionally draining, but ultimately this themed album is a gorgeously produced and performed. Highly Recommended.


Freebie Saturdays: Emerging Artists

This is a little like speed speed dating for the musician and the listener. I get a TON of e-mails from bands, many not suitable for review or even consideration. Then I get the stuff that almost makes it. Maybe I only liked one or two songs, but these artists deserve an outlet once in a while. These artists offer their music as an Bandcamp download for FREE, and who knows you may like a lot of them more than I did.
New Paltz kids playing smelly old basement DIY punk pop backed by guitar and a single snare drum. It’s got some charm to it, and songs are under 2 minutes each!

Andy Ketch
Rough as hell Chicago guitarist with a melodic gift, plays both folk and rock.

Daveit Ferris
Irish Musician with a heavy alternative style of power pop offers up a pretty good EP. RIYL: Weezer, Green Day

Slow Buildings
Slow Buildings is the outlet for the songwriting skills of New Jersey singer Jason Legacy. Pretty cool melodic rock – a little like old school Joe Jackson in spots. Just listen to it.

Freebie Friday: Moving To Ashbury, Grant Lindberg, Ben Lee

It’s been a while, but I have lined up some great FREE bandcamp music for you all. And more for you Saturday. Enjoy!

Moving to Ashbury – Swedish power pop along the lines of Green Day or NOFX. “Time to Let Go,” is a catchy guitar melody, the fast paced punk pop of “What Happened to Rock n’ Roll” has plenty of great energy in the guitar licks.

Grant Lindberg – Minneapolis popster Lindberg (Astropop) has been making good music for a few years now. Influenced by Superdrag, Brendan Benson, Cheap Trick, Jason Falkner, Nirvana and Ash. Well he’s consistently improved his songwriting each year. Super Mega has some real winners on it: “Sonic Blues,” “You Alone,” and “Blacked Heart”

And if you really get into Grant’s world – he’s got a collection of outtakes (a whole album’s worth) that’s also available.

Ben Lee – Musician Ben Lee is offering a mix tape for almost free ($1) and you get a pile of impressive guest stars like Zooey Deschanel, Angie Hart, Nina Persson, Sean Lennon and Neil Finn (to name drop a few). Lee wrote these songs specifically for each performer – so check it out.