Bright Giant and Kevin Lee & The Kings

Bright Giant “s/t” EP

The Des Moines, Iowa based Josh Davis Band decided to evolve into a more refined and organic style this past January and have reformed as Bright Giant. The new band has a raw energy that mixes rock, country, alternative with a chewy melodic center. It sounds a little like The Mother Hips with less psychedelic influence and more Foo Fighters injected in the mix. Opening with the distortion driven “Women” it finds it’s voice with a foot stomping rhythm and harmonic chorus.”Songbird” is another gem that starts out with heavy rock riff, but the chorus and vocal phrasing is rooted in country-pop. It’s a unique style that is sure to win over roots rockers, metal heads and a few adventurous country fans. “Jesus, The Devil & Me” is another prime example that mixes Charlie Daniels Band narrative with Nirvana styled guitar feedback.

Kevin Lee & The Kings “Dusk Till Dawn” EP

Chicago music veteran Kevin Lee has shared the stage with Pearl Jam, Matthew Sweet, Cheap Trick and a tour with REO Speedwagon. With the addition of Todd Jones (Guitar), Dann Morr (Bass), Erik Strommer (Drums) and Peter Spero (Keyboards) the music is very slick and production is clean on the opener “Next Big Thing” and the arena sound is big on “The Other Side” but the band pulls out the stops on “Slip Away” where the guitars churn out chunky riffs galore. Lee’s vocals at times seem overwhelmed, but they shine on the power ballad “Invisible.” This was my favorite on the EP with a great hook and inspirational melody.

Some holiday leftover reviews…

I heard a few worthy albums and emerging talent toward the years end that deserves some attention even though it’s not strictly power pop. Here are some groups you might want to check out.

V Sparks “Biscuits and Tea” EP

Mix togther equal parts of Mika and T. Rex and you get the baroque styled glam that is the known as V Sparks. This is an excellent, short EP that crackles with energy and over the top pomp with the opener “On My Arm” and the thematic title track which fans of Bryan Scary and Queen would flock to easily. Best of all it’s FREE through Noisetrade – so spread the wealth!
MySpace | Noisetrade

The Stagehands “The Silent City “

The musical drama show Glee was pretty popular last year and this production is a pretty good comparable effort, although not power pop. Stagehands is not just a band, but also a theatrical production which combines the sound and storytelling of Broadway with the power and excitement of rock. They do make use of plenty guitars and beats for songs like “Sailor Man, Sailor Man” and “The Threat.” It’s got something for everyone, and you can name your price on Bandcamp.
MySpace | Stagehands | Bandcamp

Rocket To The Moon “On Your Side”

One of the better emerging young bands I’ve heard recently, this debut is full of fine pop tracks. Hailing from Braintree, Massachusetts this emo quartet is lifted by lead singer Nick Santino’s vocals. “Mr. Right” and “Annabelle” have an almost innocent teen pop feel that those Jonas guys lack. The standout for me was the mid-tempo country pop of “On A Lonely Night” and the ballad “Like We Used To” is a song that’ll make the teen girls swoon. Otherwise the album isn’t that cohesive and feels like a collection of singles and genre experiments (“Sometimes”). If you liked PushPlay this will fit in to your music mix nicely.
MySpace | Itunes | Amazon

Breakers Broken “Reset” EP

Something really different here – a mix of dance funk and indie pop from this Chicago outfit. Vocalist Tim Yamaya almost channels Michael Jackson for “Last Man On The Planet” and the beats and bass work are very catchy here. Not everything here sticks, but it does enough and the great instrumental work (like in “The Climb”) is just mesmerizing. It does create a powerful soundscape of genres fused together and why not give it a shot? Get a FREE sample download here.
MySpace | Amazon

Moruza “Moruza”

The band name is pulled from frontwoman and songwriter Leslie Moruza Dripps. Again this is considered more indie-jazz influenced piano pop, but it’s a treat for listeners who dug Clare and The Reasons last month. It’s Leslie’s compelling vocal and melodic gifts that make the opener “Lonely Heart Road” a winner. The arrangements are sparse, with plucking strings and piano, so you can concentrate on the lyric and melody. Other highlights include the see-saw rhythm of “Psychic Soy” and the folksy percussion of “Bad Man.” The vocals get layered on “Garden In The Sand” and it’s almost a Renaissance-style waltz. Much of the album’s tone is somber, but it’s not all serious, as “Penny” is a bouncy pop gem here. Clearly better than most jazz pop out there, but I wonder how Moruza would fair with a fuller orchestral treatment. Maybe the next album…
MySpace | CD Baby

Best Power Pop EPs of 2009

Funny thing, I was so swamped with regular LPs this year, I honestly didn’t even review a full ten EPs. Partially due to the fact the majority of EPs I hear don’t come from the power pop genre, strictly speaking. However I feel these releases would stand as essential to your 2009 music collection.
  1. Greg Pope “Pete” EP
  2. Bryan Scary & The Shredding Tears “Mad Valentines” EP
  3. Josh Fix “This Town Is Starting To Make Me Angry” EP
  4. Syd “Upswing”
  5. Skoober “s/t”
  6. Michael Carpenter & The Cuban Heels “New Dog Old Tricks”
  7. The Offbeat “To The Rescue” EP
  8. The Friendly Foes “So Obscene” EP
  9. Paul Starling “Aimed Arrows” EP
  10. The Chemistry Set “Alchemy#101” EP
Reviews on these non-linked EPs are coming next, along with my favorite alternative rock albums from this year. Also another cool holiday link at A Good Day For Airplay is The Posies’ Jon Auer singing “Let it Snow” here.

Please Do Not Fight and Hollands

Please Do Not Fight “Move” EP

The four piece band Please Do Not Fight have an quirky indie rock sound with heartfelt emotion, not unlike Death Cab For Cutie. Lead singer Zen Zenith has a tortured vocal that resembles Adam Marsland or Ben Folds. No pissed off angst here, just a calming presence when needed for most of the album. Highlights include the well constructed “I Will Not Forget” and the subtle zen ballad “BAMF.” The addition of synth and violin adds to the infectious atmosphere here. Another gem is “Up Up Up” where it resembles a great straight up alt. pop single and Zen rises to the occasion here. “Hard To Tell” is a solid narrative that starts out “I think I’m drunk, but I’m behind the wheel again…” and it’s another excellent tune that ends a solid EP.

Hollands “Mother” EP

This Brooklyn band mixes rock, punk, folk a bit like Radiohead meeting 10cc in a bar and jamming to Phish. It’s not that accessible on first listen. But give it a chance. The ELO-like touches and electric bass lines add to the majesty of the opener “Air Conditioned Heart.” It’s a big sound that pushes lots of buttons and the follow up is the slower “Cheerio!” that approaches greatness with it’s Pink Floyd reverb dirge and again that great bass rhythm. The next song, “Just Like Them” is a study in contrasts: John-Paul Norpoth’s vocal resembles a Ray Davies ballad, now add a loud punk noise break in the middle. It’s jarring and unpredictable, as is much of the album. “Jackie” is the EP’s highlight, with a well played guitar lead, chorus/verse combo and a laid back hook. If these guys decided to focus on the melody more often like in “Jackie” it would have worked better. What we get are flashes of brilliance that surface every now and then. I would keep my ears open for more.

Giving thanks this holiday season

While you are passing out leftover turkey over the next couple of days, there are quite a bit of NEW holiday releases out there to help cure the post-Thanksgiving blues. So let loose those holiday songs!

Greg Pope “Christmas Snow”

When the king of power pop plays we listen, even if it’s one song. Being from the South, Greg rarely gets any snow on Christmas, so when it comes its extra special. Based on a poem that he used to recite to his four year old, I’m glad he made it into a song we all can enjoy.
MySpace | Amazon

Jana Peri “I Hate The Holidays”

After a hearing her single on the IPO compilation, this was the next logical step. Peri is a true talent, and for those with a bit of Scrooge in your step, check out the single on My Space – soon to appear on CD Baby.
MySpace | CD Baby

Andy Goldberg “Jingle Jangle Pop” EP

It wouldn’t really be the holidays without Andy Goldberg and his tune “Chanukah Guy” about a jew who loves Christmas, featuring Rich Pagano from The Fab Faux on drums. The EP also contains new songs from Andy’s other pop group The Sun Kings – shine a light this season with an excellent holiday EP only at iTunes. Get any of The Goldbergs other CDs on CD Baby.
MySpace | CD Baby | Itunes

Andrew Ripp “Blue Sky Christmas” EP

Criminally underrated, Andrew Ripp has a tremendous vocal, and here it provides with a neat little holiday EP for FREE when you spread the word with Noise Trade. In all a total of three songs, it’s a perfect addition to your holiday music mix.
MySpace | NoiseTrade

David Dewese “Next Christmas”

Forget some meager little holiday single or EP. David Dewese has full blown Christmas album here, listen to the entire thing streaming from his website. A mix of traditional songs (“Silent Night”) and a few originals (“Still, Still, Still”). Done with catchy guitar and piano it’s so far my favorite holiday album.
David’s Website | MySpace | Itunes