Aimee Mann and Bill Popp

Aimee Mann

Aimee Mann “Mental Illness”

Aimee Mann’s ninth LP is not exactly a pick-me-up type of pop record, in fact, it is quite the opposite as she told Rolling Stone that Mental Illness is the saddest record she’s ever recorded. It bluntly lays bare painful vignettes of heartache, anger, and remorse. Mann has amazing versatility, as her earlier albums were mostly power pop but recent history as placed her more in the chamber folk category.

The light playful rhythm of “Goose Snow Cone” is the opening track, and the breezy melody showcases the homesickness of a pet and how she’s got to “keep it together when your friends come by.” The restrained tension in Mann’s vocals is her specialty, and it recalls Joni Mitchell at her peak. “Stuck In The Past” is sly waltz of despair, and the darkness envelopes these tunes, like a sweetness with a sour aftertaste on “You Never Loved Me.” It takes a few listens to objectively hear the tragic stories that seem too real to be fiction; “Rollercoasters,” “Patient Zero” and “Lies Of Summer” are also standouts. Mann’s style showcases a sobering record that truly deserves attention.


Bill Popp and The Tapes

Bill Popp and The Tapes “Popp Hits the 60’s”

Singer/songwriter Bill Popp is a veteran indie player on the New York City rock scene. He’s been performing live in NYC venues since the 1970s, and he has been leading his own band, Bill Popp & the Tapes, since 1981. Pop loves his classic 60’s rock influences and lets it show on Popp Hits The 60’s. This is a great EP that starts with the piano and guitar bounce of “ The World She Knows” and the very Badinger-ish ballad “In My Head” has a terrific slide guitar break toward the songs end.

And Popp doesn’t take himself too seriously either, as the hilarious kazoo-assisted “When I Was Stoned” is like a lost NRBQ track. Popp also has a new 2-song EP out called Popp’s Last Flush! which humorously chronicles his biography (and his day job) on “Flushing This Plumbing Job Down The Drain.”  Great fun!

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EPs: The Tripwires, Mooner, and The Gunboat Diplomats

Seattle band The Tripwires are an old favorite here, the band’s newest EP Fat City is chock filled with catchy rock and roll. Each track shines, but highlights include the fantastic guitar work on “Nothing of the Kind” and the rockabilly raver “New New New New New.”  Brothers John and Jim Sangster, along with John Ramberg and drummer Dan Peters are as tight as ever, so get this one – it’s super highly recommended. Get it on Amazon.

It has been a while since we heard from Lee Ketch of Mooner, and here he’s teamed up with Kit Shields to make this album of covers. The duo earns major props for starting it with Jeff Lynne’s “Xanadu” and including the rarely covered Beach Boys oddity “I’ll Bet He’s Nice.” Oh did we mention this is a FREE download?

The Gunboat Diplomats are a mixed bag. Some of this was just cringe-worthy, but they have a few decent power pop tunes here if you seek them out. “She Said” has a tight structure and a catchy chorus. “Sweet Abiding Love” and the Elvis-imitation “Crazy About You” have a vintage vibe and are fun to listen to. Another FREE download.

EP Reviews: Tommy & The Rockets, Paperweight Array, Vista Blue and B-Leaguers

Tommy & The Rockets deliver a great EP that wears its love of power pop on its sleeve, even though these dudes seem a bit too clean-cut to be a “Wrecking Machine.” The melodies here owe a lot to early Beach Boys more than The Ramones, but each track is a fast-tempo theme that crackles with energy. Highly Recommended.

The Paperweight Array is a new band with guitarist Aaron Hemmington (The Sunchymes). The music is more current sounding than the Sunchymes psyche-pop nostalgia. But the great jangle and harmonies are still there. Check out the prog-rock epic “Going Back” with its shifting key changes.

Those baseball themed rockers Vista Blue are back just in time for opening day. It’s very much in the same mold as past releases, with the Ramones-like garage riffs leading the way. Check out “I Wanna Be Your Shortstop” and “Blame It All On The Ump.” Oh, and like all Vista Blue music — it’s a “Pay-as-you-like” download.

From Lincoln UK, The B-Leaguers also have a garage-styled punk pop that aims to look back on youth. In fact “World Famous (In A Little Town)” would’ve been a perfect fit for the T2: Trainspotting soundtrack. They also share the EP with Hooligan Crooners who do grizzled punk on “Head Full Of Chemicals.”

Road To Ruin and The New Trocaderos

Road To Ruin

Road To Ruin “Heartbeat from the Next Step”

Brooklyn band Road To Ruin is a dynamic stew of power pop, glam, electro funk and weirdness. The brainchild of musician Miles Stenhouse, it starts with the Alex Chilton-ish “She’s A Good Idea” featuring a solid harmony in the chorus. Next, the bass minimalist “Useless” plays out with vocalist Katie Ortiz’s seductive delivery.

There are mellow synth-pop tunes, weird stylistic explorations like the Zappaesque “Residue” or the catchy gem “Glad It Wasn’t You” pops up. The funky “Bad Dream Blues” has Ortiz leading again with a swagger that matches the catchy bass, and my favorite “Ossipee” is a little mix of Mott, Ween and Les Claypool. Props go to bass players Sam Lubin and  Mike Haldman. Like a box of chocolates, you never quite know what you’ll get but its still sweet. If you are like me you’ll pick and choose the best goodies here.

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Armchair Oracles

The New Trocaderos “New Trox” EP

The New Trocaderos (Kurt Baker, Geoff Palmer, Brad Marino, Kris Rodgers and Rick Orcutt) have a few bonus tracks off the Thrills & Chills album from 2015 that never released until now.  They made it a cheap bandcamp download that fits nicely into your New Trocaderos/Kurt Baker/The Connection collection. “You Broke My Heart” is classic power pop with a hook filled chorus about not getting the girl. “The Air” is a classic R&B rocker and “Come On Girl” features Geoff and a smokin’ piano solo at the break. Highly Recommended.


Freebies: The White Oranges, Surf Cassette, The John Sally Ride

The White Oranges

Indie-Rock trio from Saginaw, Michigan produced by Andy Reed, so you know it will sound great. The opener “Everybody” is a catchy longer rocker, those 5 minutes rush right by. These tunes are long but good. Fans of Weezer will love this too. Get it now!

Surf Cassette

Nice throwback to the grungey-pop of ’90s with this band from Milan Italy. Unfortunately “Lust For Life” can’t compare to the Iggy Pop classic. Skip to “Mess In My Head” and “Maybe I’m Not Sober” for fuzz guitar bliss.

The John Sally Ride

The brilliant pairing of John Dunbar and Sal Maida (Milk & Cookies) with drummer Sal Nunziato. I love this amazingly tight single and B-side that is a preview of the upcoming LP “A New Set Of Downs” Get it now!