Jay Gonzalez and Donny Brown

Ben Wilkins

Jay Gonzalez “The Bitter Suite” EP

Drive-By Truckers multi-instrumentalist Jay Gonzalez gives us a follow up to his Mess of Happiness with a five “song cycle” EP. It starts with the hum of a theremin and launches into the bright “Light Side of the Leaves,” one of the better tunes here with its 70’s rock tone and its glossy chorus. You’ll hear influences from Bread, Todd Rundgren and even Supertramp.

Each song dovetails into the next so seamlessly, its often hard to distinguish them, but “Almond Eyes” offers up a playful ballad that is an easy favorite, and the closer “Shanarock Lane” is a solid narrative gem with nice closing harmonies that fade back into that theremin. Unfortunately some of the other songs feel a bit threadbare, but it’s still an enjoyable highly recommended EP.
power pop


Donny Brown

Donny Brown “Hess Street” EP

Former drummer of The Verve Pipe delivers a fantastic EP that touches on the full variety of his melodic talents. Donny’s influences are closer to Brian Wilson, Paul McCartney and he reminds me of Glen Philips (Toad The Wet Sprocket) in spots.

“Lucky Number” starts out slow and pans out to a rich harmonius chorus. The “Driving Song” is a pleasant easy going highway drive. But the best songs are the magical “Bitter Rival,” like a lost Andrew Gold classic, and “The Night I Fell For You,” one of the most romantic melodies I’ve ever heard. “Call Me” is a faux 1920’s bit of flapper pop that ends things on a light jazzy note. This one sneaks up on you and is one of the best EPs I’ve heard this year.
power pop


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Greg Pope and Ryan Link

Greg Pope

Greg Pope “Fanboy”

Dubbed “The Pope of Power Pop” by Steve at Absolute Powerpop blog, Greg has made his band a family affair with his sons contributing to the latest album; Asher Pope on guitar and Noah Pope on drums.

Like most of Greg’s work, you get plenty of solid power pop gems including the awesome biographical title track about growing up a fanboy “who’s 47 but still a kid.” A story about the risks of rock stardom is the focus of the catchy “King Of The Scene.” One of the my favorite songs here is the subtle tempo and crunch of “Greater Threat” with its growing menace in the chords. Another highlight is the running verse of “Pretend It’s Yesterday” with its wonderful overdubbed guitar melody and gentle vocal.

On his own site, Greg is offering up a 23-track Fanboy Deluxe Edition of the album that includes acoustic work tapes, and demos. This is a great album that I proudly recommend, so get it!
power pop

CD Baby | Amazon | Fanboy Deluxe

Ryan Link

Ryan Link “Reverberations” EP

West Coaster Ryan Link was in the Boston power pop band Miss Fortune, when he was bitten by the acting bug and decided to join the Broadway production of Rent in 2003 followed by a revival of Hair in 2009. He returns to music with Reverberations.

Starting with “Under The Rug” its a catchy alt. country theme and “Not Going Anywhere” is a solid biographical story about persistence of the heart. The spacey title track didn’t work for me, but “Maladjusted” is light, shuffling treat. It’s a short (but sweet) sampler, and hopefully we’ll hear more from Ryan in the near future.
power pop

Amazon | CD Baby

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The Kurt Baker Combo and The Lowlands

Kurt Baker Combo

The Kurt Baker Combo “Muy Mola Live!”

Other than the New Trocaderos, singer Kurt Baker offers up a smokin’ live album recorded at Salty Peet’s Rock Shack in Kenosha, WI in June of 2014. He has some of album faves like “Weekend Girls”, “Partied Out”, “Everybody Knows”, and “Don’t Go Falling In Love.” In addition the band covers some 60’s classics like “Love Potion No. 9″ (Searchers), “Cry For A Carajillo” (Beatles), and “Don’t Look Back” (The Remains). Since Baker has moved off to Spain, we miss him here and this is likely the closest you can get to a Kurt Baker concert now. And if you order from Kool Kat Musik, you’ll get a bonus track: a cover of “Nothing But A Heartache” (Mainstream).
power pop

Kool Kat Musik | Amazon


The Lowlands “The Whale”

If you like beautiful indie rock arrangements then let me direct you to Seattle’s The Lowlands. Led by songwriter Tom Rorem with a deceptive soulful calm bubbling under the surface storm of piano keys on “Passionate Soul”. I’m reminded of Seth Timbs band, Fluid Ounces or Ben Folds with a lot less sarcasm. Lots of details fill out the story of “Captain,” about a doomed airliner and the meaning of life, using a jaunty piano meter and rich harmonies. It ends with a superb guitar and piano combo, and you’ll find many songs here just rock out in the last half, as “Dust” is another example.

“Hands and Feet” is another example of rich infectious melody that’s impossible to ignore. While not every song is classic, the skill and musicianship here keep these songs from getting predictable. Rorem’s clear vocal is compelling, even on the dry title track. Overall, this short album does just enough to add it to my recommended list.
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The Grip Weeds “How I Won The War”

The Grip Weeds

The Grip Weeds “How I Won The War”

Going way back to the roots, the Grip Weeds were named after John Lennon’s character Private Gripweed from the 1967 film How I Won The War. Using the movie’s anti-war theme as a starting point, they signed with Jem Recordings and put out a masterful concept album, thanks in large part to lead singer/drummer Kurt Reil , his wife guitarist Kristen Pinell, his brother Rick Reil and bassist Dave DeSantis. The band doubles down on the rich psychedelic prog sound that started with Strange Change Machine.

The prog-pysche rock starts with the colorful title track, a combination of explosive melody lines with a drum-reverb drenched guitar chorus. A mix of The Byrds, Yes and Cream all wrapped up in one. “Rise Up” is a rougher garage approach, Kurt’s aggressive lead vocal is contrasted by the bands smooth harmonies.

Although there is a lot to go through (17 monster tracks) the jangling hooks are all over “Life Saver” and the dream-like “Other Side Of Your Heart.” You’ll get more familiar Grip Weeds buzzing guitar sound with “Force of Nature,” and Kristin get to sing lead on the mid-tempo “Over and Over.” We also have a nice tribute to the band’s first signed label “Rainbow Quartz.” The band also throws in a few instrumentals to pad things out, but we do close with a great cover of The Beatles’ “The Inner Light.” I always look forward to the Grip Weeds music and this album is pure shock and awe. Highly Recommended.
power pop

Grip Weeds Direct
| Amazon

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Singles: Peter Lacey, Propeller and The Roaring Juniors

Peter Lacey “Wayward Song”

Peter Lacey’s music has been compared to that of Brian Wilson, sharing a similar talent for harmonies and lush musical arrangements. This is a wistful dream of a song, which brings to mind The Moody Blues.
Get the vinyl at Pink Hedgehog Records

Propeller “Wish I Had Her Picture/Can’t Feel These Things”

Propeller delivers this FREE 2 song-single that really impresses. Crunchy guitars that form dense rhythms and hook filled choruses meant to be served loud. Enjoy!

Roaring Juniors “See You (All The Time)” and “Sweet Marie”

Ann Arbor, Michigan band brings us a old school music in the jangling tradition of The Rubinoos.  These tracks will be on the bands next full length Perennials. This is a great preview that just gets me excited for the upcoming LP this spring.

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