Somerdale and Fernando Perdomo

Somerdale

Somerdale “Maggie Says It Again”

During our last Power Popaholic Fest, I was honored to have Somerdale play and I got to meet the band and Jem Records Marty Scott.  He credits a review brought his attention to Somerdale, where they are featured on Jem’s roster with a re-issued release of last year’s album. It was my #8 top album pick of 2016 and now long sold out.

The re-titled Maggie Says It Again is expanded to 15 tracks with “Say It Again,” “Don’t You Know,” and “Broken English” as the new songs. They fit in perfectly —  with “Say It Again” being the best of the new crop. Overall the album rocks with that 70’s pop-rock influence, thanks in part to Chuck Penza’s lead vocals and those driving riffs. Fans of Badfinger, The Raspberries, The Who and Cheap Trick should not hesitate to grab this one, as it remains super highly recommended. Plus, its got an exclusive Holiday bonus song – “Merry Christmas Time.” No excuses!

Amazon | Kool Kat Musik

Fernando Perdomo

Fernando Perdomo “The Golden Hour”

As one of the most accomplished writer-musician-producers in California, Fernando Perdomo releases his 4th and (so far) best solo album. It starts with a dramatic piano intro and then the smooth slide guitar of “Sleep” mixes its Beatlesque bass line and layered harmonies to great effect. The tempo picks up with “Spotlight Smile” and its Californian hook “Magical love is here, won’t you let it near to your heart?” making it a great tune.

Fernando is a bit like Todd Rundgren it comes to songwriting and opens up with the self-examination of “The Light” and “Fine.” The dense song structure is memorable and his guitar skills are exemplary. His deep voice lends itself to love ballads like the memorable “Sunset” with its cascading chord structures, reminding me of a Burt Baracharch-Brian Wilson hybrid. No filler here and the rich production deserves your best pair of headphones. Additionally, gems like “Love Loss Repeat” and “I Feel (Therefore I Am)” lays out Fernando’s honesty in a Neil Diamond kind of way. Super highly recommended and another addition to our growing list of nominees for best album of 2017.

 

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Sitcom Neighbor and Sunshine Bloom

Sitcom Neighbor

Sitcom Neighbor “Shag”

The band Sitcom Neighbor is essentially singer-songwriter-guitarist John Murphy with veteran producer Steve Refling (Seth Swirsky, Nelson Bragg, Nushu, etc.) After an impressive sophomore LP in 2012, I didn’t see how Murphy could fashion anything better, but he has. This is a note-perfect power pop album, with “Tourist Attraction” taking his signature 1970’s rock style to the next level — with a jangling hook similar to The Spongetones. “Pimpmobile” is a flawless follow-up, with its Badfinger riffs and Ringoesque drum fills describing a “white Cadillac with gold wheels.” Next, “Your Turn Next” is a densely packed rocker with a wicked guitar break.

No filler, all killer here as the layered guitar sounds and multi-tracked harmonies flow over the tracks “Let Me Be Your Man,” the haunting “Goodbye,” and bouncy “Lucky Day.” The sound is consistent without being too predictable. In fact, Plasticsoul’s Steven Eric Wilson declared the “new Shag album is so brilliant it actually makes me angry.” Agreed and it earns a rare “10” rating and a certain contender for 2017 album of the year. Don’t miss it.

CD Baby | Amazon

Sunshine Bloom

Sunshine Bloom “Power Pop is Dead”

West Midlands UK band Sunshine Bloom is lead by vocalist James Jeffery (bass), with Shaun Evans (keys), Robert Bentley (guitar) and Jack Jefferies (drums) as they certainly disprove the album ironic title.

It opens with the piano melody “Friends With Detriments” that pays a tribute to Jellyfish with its bouncy tempo and harmonic flourishes; fans of Ben Folds and ELO will enjoy this too. “I, Me, You” has a distinct ’80s power pop guitar feel, the showpiece here is “Have Wings, Will Travel” with its breezy and infectious melody. It ends with a prog rock epic “Farewell Waltz,” featuring a wonderful guitar break midway through. Overall, highly recommended and a band to keep your eye on.

CD Baby | Amazon

 

Fastball and Raspberries

“Fastball”

Fastball “Step Into Light“

One of the most successful and consistently great power pop bands that emerged with the turn of the century has been Fastball. And the band’s latest does not disappoint. Guitarist Miles Zuniga and bassist Tony Scalzo have been the steady force that keeps things together, each share songwriting duties and both have different styles that complement each other. Scalzo with his hook-filled simplicity and Zuniga with his roots-influenced emotion. And its this variety, with the impressive composition and catchy melodies that make this album a gem.

Starting with the driving “We’re On Our Way,” it brings to mind past radio-ready rockers the band is so well known for. “Best Friend” is another great song, with its optimistic riff that asks, “Wouldn’t you like to be my best friend?” Next, the moody acoustic guitar melody of “Behind The Sun” shows off those crisp harmonies. But my favorite here is the ear-worm “I Will Never Let You Down,” with its earnest twangy lead and sing-along chorus.

It then takes a detour with “Love Comes In Waves,” with its quick-tempo riffs reminded me of the band Shoes, and then we are back to the classic Fastball sound with “Just Another Dream.” Overall not a single wasted note, even when Scalzo lets loose with the indulgent “Secret Agent Love” that feels like it was as much fun to play as it was it listen to. And that’s another key to this album. It’s a damn good listen all the way through with fresh sounds everywhere. Makes my top ten album list of 2017! Super highly recommended.

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The Raspberries

Raspberries “Pop Art Live“

“…the house lights went down, we looked at each other and said the words that we never thought we would ever say: ‘We’re at a Raspberries concert.’ Then it began . . . ” —Ken Sharp and Bernie Hogya from the liner notes to Pop Art Live.

On November 26, 2004, the stage at Cleveland’s House of Blues was set for a reunion most thought could never happen—the Raspberries Live In Concert! It had been over 30 years since the original four members of Raspberries last played together, Pop Art Live captures the opening night as the band powers through 28 tracks of hits and a few covers. Mixed by long time Raspberries’ associate Tommy Allen, the band sounds amazing as they recreate the sound that carried the power pop torch during the early 1970’s. This performance led to the successful reunion tour in 2005.

The hits are all here from “Go All The Way,”“I Wanna Be With You,” “Let’s Pretend,” and “Overnight Sensation (Hit Record),” “Tonight,” “Nobody Knows,” plus several Beatles covers and the Who’s “I Can’t Explain.” Another treat is The Choir’s “It’s Cold Outside,” which was a band most of the original Raspberries came from. Another great feature is the lesser known hits here like “I Saw The Light” and “Come Around And See Me.” Founding members Eric Carmen, Wally Bryson, David Smalley, and Jim Bonfanti pull out all the stops to deliver the definitive live experience and triumphant return of these legendary power pop pioneers. My vote for best “live” album of 2017!

Amazon | Kool Kat Musik

Lo Tom and Any Version Of Me

Andy Oliveri and the Mountaineers

Lo Tom “Lo Tom”

David Bazan and his Seattle band Pedro The Lion teamed up with members of Starflyer 59 to form the supergroup, Lo Tom. It’s Bazan and friends TW Walsh, Jason Martin and drummer Trey Many. The low-pressure setting delivers a memorable, well crafted LP, starting with the driving “Covered Wagon” led by the smooth dual guitar rhythms of Walsh and Martin.

Like indie rocker Robert Pollard(Guided By Voices,) Bazan’s melodies stick with repeated plays and the guitar work of Walsh and Martin are refreshingly effective. Missing are Bazan’s religious overtones and songs like “Overboard” and “Bad Luck Charm” are more abstract in the messages sent. “Find The Shrine” mines an AC/DC styled riff throughout the song, but the album’s second half runs out of steam. Worth checking out even if you’re not a big Pedro fan.

Amazon

Any Version Of Me

Any Version Of Me “VI (Side One)”

Parisian Guillaume Lepine is back with his retro flavored British pop on VI (Side One). “New Year” opens with a Kinks-styled dance hall tune and continues to stay in the late 60’s era and recreates the sound flawlessly. He goes back to Beatlesque well on “Two Days” which borrows liberally from “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da.”

The sunshine pop of “Some Saturday Morning” is another highlight with its Beach Boys styled harmonies and layered keyboards move seamlessly into the slide guitar of “Four Walls.”  Then it goes psychedelic with “Little Girl Lost” and acid-dripped riffs of “Thanks Ronnie.” It’s like finding a lost bin of old nuggets and the music is considerably better produced than previous AVOM releases. Best of all, this is a FREE download, with the promise of Side Two coming later this year. For fans of 60’s rock and pop, this is highly recommended.

Saturday Singles: Nezrok, Jared Lekites, Tommy Lorente

Nezrok “Andy Please”
The short story: At a New Jersey Record Show guitarist Chris Korzen found a cassette of what he thought were previously unheard Big Star songs. The music was actually written by a friend of the band – Van Duren. Van had been doing some writing with Jody Stephens, and in 1975, recorded these demos with legendary producer Andrew Loog Oldham. Chris connected with Van and long-time friend Chris Bolger, who suggested recording one of the songs “Andy, Please.” They were joined by keyboardist Dave Amels, guitarist Joe Howell and Smithereen’s drummer Dennis Diken. An amazing lost piece of Big Star history is now available.

Jared Lekites “Freebird” 
Jared Lekites is dropping the last of his solo tracks while he gears up with this band on the next Lunar Laugh album. “Freebird” is another catchy tune with sweet rhythm. This is followed by a trio of not-so-obvious covers, including Paul McCartney’s “Temporary Secretary,” the Beach Boys “I’d Love Just Once To See You”  and Coke Belda‘s “Hold Me Tight.” A great find here.

Tommy Lorente “Sexe Luxe Etc.”
The coolest power pop artist in France, Tommy Lorente is back. As he readies his sophomore album, listen to this new single “Sex Luxe Etc.,” and this is how you do power pop in French – roughly translated as “She loves me no doubt, a little more than you.” Looking forward to the new album, this track is a FREE download.