EP reviews: Cartoon Spirits, The Kickstand Band and The James Rocket

Cartoon Spirits

Cartoon Spirits “Crustacean EP”

Cartoon Spirits are determined to bring power pop back to where it belongs: the Pacific Northwest. Gray skies and drizzle can only be battled with hooks, fuzzy guitars, and raspy harmonies. The Portland band has just released its debut recording, Crustacean EP.  Its hard to argue their point, as “Remake The Stalls” is a catchy bit of modern pop magic, with solid guitar riffs and a timely opening falsetto. The trio of Michael Faherty (guitar), Loredana Corallo (bass) and Jeff Davis(drums) are a tight unit on the follow up “Common Law,” with fine job shredding to the layered vocal harmonies. “Back to The Cult” is another catchy tune that reminded me of Squeeze a little. Overall this is a great great debut. Highly Recommended!


Kickstand Band

The Kickstand Band “Cut’Em Loose” EP

Another modern power pop band with a great sound, The Kickstand Band is from Detroit, Michigan with a good back catalog of excellent music that deserves to be heard. “How It Feels” has a confident fuzz rhythm and layered guitar melodies.The leads, Gordon Smith and Allison Young give us some great harmonies on “Next To Me.” Young goes solo on “Regret You” and her sweetness shines through on the chorus. This “yet-to-be-discovered” band is making its music available at a “name-your-price” point, so take advantage of the musical goodness!

The James Rocket

The James Rocket “We Are Here For You b/w Derby Girl”

The James Rocket are a 5 piece from Brooklyn, NY delivering a sweet quick single sure to please, “We Are Here For You.” Lead singer James William Roy is reminiscent of They Might Be Giants with a little more alt. rock fuzz. And check out the bands 2012 debut, the first track “Paper Valentines” is free. Love the spunky guitar buzz melody! Highly recommended!

Read More

Cliff Hillis and Dropkick

Cliff Hillis

Cliff Hillis “Love Not War” EP

Cliff is back! Another EP loaded with excellent songs. The catchy title track is finely crafted gem that works on several levels in the pristine production. The follow up “The Buddha’s Belly” has a little honky-tonk styling that just encourages spontaneous dancing. From there the styles shift from folk pop (“Don’t Drown The Wind”) to mid tempo power pop (“Mayor Of Midnight,”) each song a worthy gem that deserves repeat listens. Of course highly recommended, so pick it up!



Dropkick “Balance The Light”

The prolific Scottish band formed by brothers Andrew and Alastair Taylor and friend Ian Grier continues to develop some of the best pop on its latest album. The bands influences include The Jayhawks, The Byrds, and Wilco with a West Coast easy going sensibility.  “Save Myself” is a slow mellow confessional that beautifully opens up mid-way through the song to an instrumental cacophony. The tempo stays the same on the excellent ballads “I’m Over It” and “I Wish I Knew.”

The album theme is a meditation on sadness after a breakup, “Where Do You Think I Went Wrong?” continues the relationship post-mortem. “Out Of Love Again” is a highlight with its jangling guitars and sharp harmonies. Another gem is “Homeward,” with its Neil Young-like melody, and the most upbeat song here “Slow Down” compares well with Teenage Fanclub. Despite it being a somber listen, the compositions are well written. Highly Recommended.

Amazon | Kool Kat Musik

Read More

Freebies: The Bishop’s Daredevil Stunt Club, Matti Jasu and The Four Chords

The Bishop’s Daredevil Stunt Club is back and with another quality power pop single. These guys keep getting better as “Have You Met You” has plenty of energy to spare with strong synths and driving beat. And it’s a FREE download. Check it out! 

All the way from Finland comes Matti Jasu and The Loose Train, they’ve got a mellow rock folk sound on “Gone To The Dogs.” The simple harmonies and guitar start “What Goes On” is a diary of Jasu’s day done with heart and sweetness.

The Four Chords have a keen pop sense and combine multi-part vocal harmonies with a large dose of power chords and a love of classic pop songcraft. Influences include The Who, Cheap Trick, Beatles, Big Star, Dwight Twilley, Replacements, Tom Petty, Manic Street Preachers, Ramones, Redd Kross and many others.

Read More

EP Reviews: Loop Line, Suntrodden and Animal Daydream

Loop Line

Loop Line “Wakes” EP

We covered Loop Line’s debut not so long ago, now Luke and Paul return with another catchy EP. “Nothing About You” features blistering guitar spurts with echoing harmonies which fans of Weezer would appreciate. Next we get the pensive rhythm of “Grin” where the two vocals and instruments (guitar and keys) collaborate uneasily. “Parts Unknown” has a lovely fuzz guitar sound and Beach Boys-like backing vocals, but the lead melody doesn’t quite standout. “Dusty Keys” fares much better, and overall this is worth checking out. Get a “name-your-price” download at Bandcamp.


The Expected

Suntrodden “Suntrodden I ” EP

Atlanta native Erik Stephansson (aka Suntrodden) delivers minimalist pop of  with a light vocal that recalls Elliot Smith or Beach House. “Sunrise To Sunset” uses simple guitar chords, shakers and tambourines to build the warm atmosphere. “Float Away” is a wistful ballad about the loss of control, but hope emerges in “It’s Never Over” a gentle lullaby for Erik’s infant son. The relaxed sounds feel like the calm before a storm brews — and the music has that sense of anticipation. Experience it.


The Expected

Animal Daydream “Citrus” EP

Animal Daydream is Daniel Fridlund Brandt and Alexander Wahl, a soft rock duo from Gothenburg Sweden. The highly addictive West Coast style of the jangling guitars on the title track are very much like a hybrid of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Teenage Fanclub. “Sun (Turn Around)” has a magical pop-pysche chorus with its cascading bass line and “All That You Can Give” has rich thick harmonies and a deep percussive sound that recalls The Association. “In My Room” gets a little more into spacey folk rock, but overall this is a band to keep your eye on. Highly Recommended.


Read More

Torbjorn Petersson and Paul Melancon

Torbjorn Petersson

Torbjorn Petersson “Kool as a Kat”

A series of song fragments sprinkled in with some genuine great tunes, Petersson shines on the shimmering melody of “Lisa Love.” And the layered “Shades of You” has a bit of a Traveling Wilburys vibe with Torbjorn’s understated vocal (which reminds me a little of Pete Shelley.) Although the song sketches are short, they are distractions here, so thankfully most of music that turns out to be full songs are really good.

This was all a project where Torbjorn was challenged to write and record an album in only one month. I’d say it was a success. More highlights include “I’m Telling You Now, ” the McCartneyesque “The Trouble With Love” and the epic closer “What If I Was Wrong.” As another huge bonus, this album is FREE download, so pick it up now!

Bandcamp only

Torbjorn Petersson

Torbjorn Petersson “Summerbound” EP

The following month, Torbjorn produced this follow-up EP and no surprise its just as good as the music made earlier. “Absent Minded Me” has an easy going melody and the catchy “What In The World” has shades of Jeff Lynne that make it a big highlight here. The backing “ba-ba-ba” vocals are also in “Love Went To Paris” a light romance story, and the fast paced message about the power of music are in “Two Minutes of Your Time.” No filler here and Highly Recommended!

Bandcamp only

Paul Melancon

Paul Melancon “Super Rocket X​-​1” EP

Its been a long time since I’ve heard from Atlanta musician Paul Melancon. Well he shakes off the rust and is working on his third solo LP. This EP is just a taste of Melancon’s magic — and its only 2 bucks. “Super Rocket X-1” boast a wicked guitar opening riff that repeats in the chorus that seems influenced by the following artists he covers here. A faithful cover of Pink Floyd’s “Time” and Radiohead’s “Airbag” follow. Also impressive is the Bowie cover “Rock n’ Roll Suicide,” sure I’d prefer more originals here, but now that I’ve heard some I’m on the look out for more. Stay tuned.

Read More