Velvet Crush and Suit of Lights

Velvet Crush

Velvet Crush “Pre-Teen Symphonies”

Looking back on 1994’s Teenage Symphonies to God, it established The Velvet Crush as a power pop powerhouse comparable with Teenage Fanclub and Matthew Sweet. Omnivore has a look back with this collection of demos and live tracks on Pre-Teen Symphonies. Engineered by Mitch Easter (who also added some guitar) the demos have the energy and spirit of the times, with the signature tune “Hold Me Up” still holding up years later. Another gem “Time Wraps Around You” displays the respect for “the summer of love” with harmonies that feel warm and inviting.

These early demos were pretty rare at the time, and includes a cover of Three Hour Tour’s “Turn Down.” The live tracks (recorded at Chicago’s Cabaret Metro) have Tommy Keene added as lead guitarist delivering a solid performance. This is an essential addition the original Teenage Symphonies and a treasure for Velvet Crush fans.

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Suit of Lights

Suit of Lights “Break Open the Head”

Suit of Lights is an alt. rock band founded by Joe Darone (The Rosenbergs, Fiendz) and on his newest album, he looks to build an ambitious concept album that deals with issues of the mind. It’s experimental in some respects and will challenge the listener, as the title track is a perfect example. “Break Open the Head” starts out fairly dull until we get to the a pitch change in the catchy chorus. “New Frontier” has a theatrical style with a circus-like theme buried mid-way, it reminded me of The Blood Rush Hour with more of a prog rock approach.

“Higher Self” lays out the album’s psychological concept followed by “Monsters,” a highlight track about paranoia and insecurity. “Revolution of You” is an uplifting prog theme with some edgy guitar and orchestral backing. This will not be everyone’s cup of tea, as it is a pretty dystopian vision overall especially “Reality 2.0” and “Circling the Drain of History” with its march tempo about “our brains full of mush.” However if you’re looking for music that tries to make you think — this is worth repeat listens. Give it a try.

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Those Pretty Wrongs and Corey Landis

Those Pretty Wrongs

Those Pretty Wrongs “Those Pretty Wrongs”

Those Pretty Wrongs is the collaboration of Big Star drummer Jody Stephens and good friend Luther Russell. The album was recorded using Big Star’s old instruments, including Chris Bell’s acoustic and electric guitars from the great #1 Record. As a result, the opener “Ordinary” sounds like a long lost Big Star track, with Stephens doing a moving vocal performance and some sweet backing harmonies delivering the message that its “okay to be ordinary.”

From there, “I’m For Love” is has an upbeat 1970s radio-friendly melody and strong guitar solo. “Lucky Guy” again uses that indelible acoustic guitar and harmonies similar in style to David Crosby or Jeff Larson. “Empty City” is likely the best song here with a grand piano melody, similar to Pet Sounds in spots. From there it moves into more indie folk pop with the exception of the “The Cube,” with its creeping chords and circus piano touches. While Stephens vocals strain at times, its the songs that ultimately make this album a success. Highly Recommended.

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Corey Landis and The Attacks

Corey Landis and The Attacks “Corey Landis and The Attacks”

Corey Landis is a piano rocker, along the lines of Ben Folds and early Billy Joel as he bangs away on the keys with a flair for the melodic and dramatic. Add to this, the album was produced by legendary Beatles audio engineer Geoff Emerick. On the opener “Accident” he marvels at the flashing lights and broken glass, rather than confront his own issues, with an energetic tempo. “Hard Reaction To Love” and “See You Next Tuesday” is about a dysfunctional love-hate relationship, with the former being a stronger melody.

While Landis vocals are a bit strained on “All Things” his furious piano work makes up for it, and he slows the tempo on “Loose Ends” and “Depleted.” Overall the song craft and the story telling are first rate, but many tunes miss the hooks needed to encourage repeat plays. Landis loosens up a bit more towards the albums end, and “The Ballad of Mikey Stone” and “Dress For The Weather” are a lot of fun and worth adding to your playlist for sure.

Bandcamp only

Pretty Voices and The Above

Pretty Voices

Pretty Voices “Jangular”

St. Petersberg’s Pretty Voices delivers a solid punk pop and the song “Scenius Genius” opens with a matter of fact introduction “So many bands, so many choices, take us home tonight because, we are the Pretty Voices!” The band reminds me a little of Adam Marsland’s band Cockeyed Ghost from the late nineties but with a garage rock aesthetic.

Guitarist Nick St. Hilaire’s sing-talk “Britney” and “Mean Song” are a catchy pop nuggets with a Ramones-like touch about girls who just won’t give up and are “f*ckin’ sad.” Also recommended is the love song to vinyl  “Crackle Pop,” and steady riffs on “El Camino.” It’s all done with an authenticity and quirkiness that brings to mind of the all American band jamming in a typical teen party during “House Party.” Definitely worth checking out.

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The Above

The Above “There is a Reason”

After 2 years Brooklyn’s best retro rock band is back. Following up the brilliant Waterbury Street, The Above have a solid six songs that fit squarely in the British Invasion era style, but most notably Ray Davies and The Kinks on the opener “Holding Back.” Next “There is A Reason” and “Say You’re Cool” expands the sound further to emulate Traffic, The Doors and The Byrds. Just check out those harmonies on “Just Can’t Forget About That Girl” and you’ll be a fan.

The band combines all these influences to give us something unique and familiar at the same time. The cool Rn’B style on “You Look Unwell” is highlighted by a blistering guitar performance. For fans of mod power pop and great songwriting this is essential and only available on Bandcamp. Highly Recommended.

Bandcamp

The Anderson Council and Chris Bolger

The Anderson Council

The Anderson Council “Assorted Colours”

The swirling infectious melodies from an American band with a distinct British “flavour,” this collection reminds us why The Anderson Council’s power pop is some of the best ever recorded. The New Jersey band has been around since the late nineties and has a history of making great mid-sixties influenced pop singles. The band has evolved beyond those influences to its current indie pop brilliance, and its “greatest hits” compilation has some new music produced by another NJ legend, Kurt Reil (The Grip Weeds.)

Opening with “Sitting On A Cloud,” its got everything you’d want in a song; jangling Rickenbackers, harmonies, and a catchy chorus that’s easy to sing along with. This formula is used with “Girl On The Northern Line,” “Pinkerton’s Assorted Colours,” and fans of The Beatles, mod-era Who, and The Jam will love it. Anderson Council singer-songwriter Peter Horvath’s tight melodic structures make these songs a joy to hear,  especially the newer “Magical,” with its great minor chord changes. Then “Never Stop Being ’67”  and “Gardening Man” are great examples of the psychedelic pop genre. The band’s sound starts to move beyond those influences on “Friday’s Girl” where they come closer in approach to that other Jersey power pop band The Smithereens. If you’ve missed the bands regular output over the years, then pick this one up and you’re all caught up – even the new songs blend right in. Super highly recommended.

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Chris Bolger

Chris Bolger “No Promises”

Chrism Bolger is a talented New Jersey musician who did slip under my radar this spring, brought to my attention by Dennis Diken (Smithereens) who plays on the album.“Easier” is terrific single with a Beatle-like riff similar to “Lady Madonna” that goes into a sing along chorus. Next the bluesy sax and piano pay tribute to “Barbara Feldon” the actress who played Agent “99” on the late ’60s show Get Smart.

The title track is a slower acoustic ballad that slows some momentum, but the jangling “Atlantic City Expressway” is a fine song that lifts the mood. The album settles into a series of mid-tempo of pub rock tunes a bit like Tom Petty on the rockers “Tear That Cabin Down” and “What’s It Got To Do With Me?” Other highlights include “Everything,” “She May Look My Way” and “Ships. Its music that deserves to be heard.

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The Zags and Romance & Rebellion

RThe Zags

The Zags “Icy Red”

The Zags return with a little more garage aesthetic, but the band still can craft a decent hook with the opener “Dada Plan” and its “da da da” chorus, a bit like T-Rex. “Bedroom Door” is a good follow up with a late 70’s feel (must be the cowbell). With the next several songs clocking in at under 2 minutes, not everything has sticking power, but “The Shake” and “Going In Circles” have a Pete Townshend-like mod guitar style. Other songs come close, like “Replaced” and “Nothing You Know” but miss the bullseye. Definitely worth checking out.

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Romance & Rebellion

Romance & Rebellion “Romance & Rebellion” EP

Slick L.A. pop band with a knack for catchy melodies delivers its first EP. Fans of the most recent Rooney and Wyatt Funderburk will definitely enjoy this one.”James Hotel” is an fast tempo’ed single about a crazy one night stand with its dance-able beat. “More Than Friends” is a mid-tempo gem and lead vocalist David LaViola is near perfect in approach about suffering in the “Friend Zone.” Another highlight is “Next Best Thing” a potential hit that evokes raw emotion and is also catchy as hell, with a sweet guitar break. I really look forward to hear more from this band. Highly Recommended.

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