Michael Carpenter and The Speak

Michael Carpenter

Michael Carpenter “The Big Radio”

You’d have to go back almost six years for Michael Carpenter’s last big solo release. Few artists are as reliable as the Australian singer-songwriter, producer, and engineer. You’re just guaranteed to get excellent power pop and he doesn’t disappoint here.  The opener “Don’t Open That Door” is another classic melodic gem, with layered guitars and harmonies underneath a catchy hook. The pounding drum starts “She’s In Love With Herself,” a fast paced put down that breaks into guitar nirvana between each chorus. And the gems continue with “Blind,” the powerful “I’ve Been Lovin’ You” and each tune that follows (not a note of filler here). He gives a shout out to a major influence “Chrissie Hynde” and even a deep bluesy rocker with “Too Late.” Right now its a download only, but CDs are coming in January.

There is a rumor that this may be Michael’s last album, and I can only hope that he doesn’t permanently hang up his recording hat (I’ll wait another six years or more if he keeps giving me music like this). Even though Michael is often dubbed “a one man dynamo” who runs his own label, works as a recording engineer, writes for an Australian recording magazine, etc. I selfishly want more of his great songwriting and performing. Like his last solo album, this easily gets a spot somewhere in my ever crowded top ten list for 2015.


The Speak

The Speak “Beautiful People” EP

The Speak are from Brighton UK, led by singer-songwriter Nick Conroy who “takes up where the sixties left off.” While clearly starting with those classic influences (The Beatles, The Who) The Speak are not some slavish retro band, but a modern pop group that concentrates on melody, synth and solid guitar craft.

“I’ll Be Fine” starts with a rousing Lenny Kravitz-like riff, and gets you moving with a catchy chorus (try to spot all those sixties references). “Beautiful People” and “Sorry” have their moments of slickly produced psyche-rock. “Invisible” reminds me of of Trevor Rabin-era Yes in spots, and “Life” is another highlight with plenty of arena rock grandeur. The band self produced and distribute this one, so pick up a physical copy on their website.

CD Baby

Read More

EP reviews: The Persian Leaps, Goodman, Yes You Are

The Persian Leaps “High and Vibrate”

This Minnesota band brings us a wall of heavy fuzz guitar riffs on “The Infection” and the big standout here “Dottie. Queen of The West.” The tempo and approach remind me of Echo & The Bunnymen or The Smiths. A faster pace and steady beat on “Frozen” is another solid song with ringing guitar chords and harmonies thanks to Adam Brunner(bass guitar), Drew Fosberg (lead guitar) and Michael McCloskey (drums). “Anthem” keeps the pace and makes this a highly enjoyable EP – check it out!


Goodman “Goodman”

These four tracks were originally cut from Michael Goodman’s upcoming release, not because of quality, mind you, but because a 16-song album seemed excessive. “Lessons Learned In Love” has a bedroom pop vaudevillian style, with a cool coda full of Beach Boys styled harmonies and old piano echo. “Telegram Girl” has a mod hook and its a real gem about breaking up, as he intones “Why should I waste my life on you?”  The shuffling beat of “Movies” is another fun song with hand-claps and echoing vocal brimming with cool confidence. I really look forward to the full length after hearing this!

Yes You Are

Ex-Tilly and the Wall lead singer Kianna Alarid is part of a new band that plays an intense pop style with sing along hooks in the chorus and snyth-covered rhythms. A bit too close to mainstream pop in “Echo,” but “World Without End” is a little Annie Lenox mixed with U2. Listen for free at http://weareyesyouare.com/sound/

Read More

EP Reviews: Andy Reed, Chris Richards, Pelicans and Their Allies

Andy Reed “Relay Vol.1”

This is Andy’s first solo release since 2008. This is part one in a series of EPs to be released. Relay Vol.1 is a best of breed EP starting with the slow building theme “Waves” and the California easy melody “Dreaming Of The West Coast” being a big highlight, with its strings and crisp harmonies. The echoing influences of The Beach Boys and Fleetwood Mac are evident in the rich tapestry of “Darlin, You Don’t Know.” It finishes with the finely crafted melody of “I Love A Long Goodbye” and it leaves you begging fore more. This easily is in the running for top ten EP this year. Bandcamp only.

Chris Richards and The Subtractions “3peat”

Chris Richards delivers some covers from their favorite artists. A faithful version of Elvis Costello’s “No Action” is a great start, and continues with songs by Sloan, The Kinks, Cheap Trick, The Rolling Stones and George Harrison. Best of all this is a FREE download, so get it while its hot!

Pelicans and Their Allies

This new duo of Robert Higgs (lead vocal and guitarist) and Dayana Yochim (vocal and multi-instrumentalist) make smart, quirky indie pop with an assortment of instruments from guitars to glockenspiels. Fans of Field Music and Decemberists will enjoy this, especially the bouncy pop hooks in “Just Like July” and the sunny “I Guess You Already Knew That.”


Read More

Smash Palace and The Maureens

Smash Palace

Smash Palace “Some Kind of Magic” EP

Steven & Brian Butler (the main force behind Smash Palace) continue to put out some of the most pristine rock songs, and they are joined by Fran Smith Jr. (bass) and David Uosikkinen (drums) from The Hooters, plus Wally Smith (keyboards) and fan favorite Cliff Hillis (guitar). What seems new here is a conscious effort to avoid sounding too retro.

The opener “My Mistake” is a contemporary rock song with Smash Palaces’ signature jangle rhythm. “Haddontown” has a California feel; like Crosby, Stills & Nash mixed with Tom Petty and its the standout single here. “Part of The Plan” has a great driving guitar that leads the lyric and the solo at the break is pretty sweet too. This is a short, but sweet EP without a stray note — its highly recommended for fans. Newbies might want to start here.


The Maureens

The Maureens “Bang The Drum”

The Maureens are a band from Utrecht, Netherlands and they make exciting and melodic alternative pop, but unlike last years debut the band takes a much softer approach on Bang The Drum. The band still has crisp clear harmonies and strong melodies when we start with “Heartbreak” and “Catch Me When I Fall” which recalls Teenage Fanclub or The Pearlfishers.

The slower “September” draws from early ’70s easy listening pop and the arena balladry of “Caroline” is similar to late-era Moody Blues. The softer songs on the albums latter half, while boasting solid musicianship didn’t hook me like the debut album did. But gems like “Bloom” will impress with the guitar and rich choral harmonies similar to Abba. Overall, this is a highly recommended listen and I hope to hear more from these talented artists.




Read More

Wednesday Mini-Reviews: Mooner, Homer Marrs and Agent 13

I saw the potential in Mooner two years ago as a real talented band. Now my instincts have been rewarded with the first single from Mooner’s debut full-length LP “Masterpiece” Available on vinyl and digital October 9th, 2015 via Aerial Ballet Records. Awesome!

Homer Marrs and the Excellent Adventure
Homer Marrs and the Excellent Adventure is a Chicago-based indie rock act that similar to They Might Be Giants but feel a bit goofier – anyway we have a FREE EP download and you can be the judge.

Agent 13
Agent 13 make archetypal rock and roll. It’s classic but its not ‘Classic Rock’, it’s familiar but its not ‘Retro’. But most importantly, its got guitar lead melodies. Kinda reminds me of the The Heartless Devils from several years ago. And for seven bucks you get a big pile o’ music.

Read More