The Dowling Poole and Vaudevileins

Dowling Pool
Dowling Pool

The Dowling Pool “Miles Checks Out” and “Bright Spark” EPs

Fresh off of the band’s spring LP One Hyde Park, the duo of Willie Dowling and Jon Poole deliver a pair of singles, buttressed by 4 live tracks from recent Manchester concerts. Combined its a fine addition to your Dowling Poole collection, and while the singles “Miles Checks Out” and “Bright Spark” are fine B-sides, its the live tracks that are the biggest surprise.

“Miles Checks Out” is a jaunty melody, with bossa nova beat and soaring vocals. But the live tracks (all from the debut album Bleak Strategies) are enthralling. “Saving It All For Saturday” and “The Sun is Mine” removes all the heavy production work and lets the melody stand alone with keyboards and vocal harmonies. It proves just how damn good Dowling and Poole’s songcraft is. “Bright Spark” is a very XTC like bit of psychedelic pop, with at least 5 different melody lines jammed into its 3 minutes and 25 seconds. Overall, this should’ve been combined into a single EP but its highly recommended you get both.

Bandcamp only!


Vaudevileins “Magician”

Review by Mike Olinger: Chicago-based Vaudevileins specialize in the kind of straight ahead rock n roll that has all but disappeared from the Top 40 landscape. Their vibrant, crashing guitars help the energetic songs blast along, only breaking to give room to distorted solos and throbbing drums.

The first half of Magician hammers along at break-neck speed, spiced with Midwest punk harmonies that are surprisingly tight. The second act kicks off with the highly melodic “Hell Jazz” and progresses with more dynamic riffs and measured musical offering like tape echoed ballad “Devils” which is the album’s definitive standout track. Overall Magician is a strong offering that holds its greatest gifts for those who make the journey to the end.


Kurt Baker and Tommy Sistak

Kurt Baker

Kurt Baker Combo “In Orbit”

Baker’s back with a new band; the Kurt Baker Combo (who Kurt formed during a tour in Spain) is Juancho Lopez on bass guitar, Jorge Colldan on guitar and backing vocals, and Sam Malakiam on drums. They signed up with Little Steven Van Zandt’s Wicked Cool Records and we’ve got liftoff.

In many ways it the same Kurt we know and love, the combo of power pop and pub rock on “Upside Down” and “Baby’s Gone Bad” are gems on par with past work. The energy level is still high, on the ’50s rhythm of “Rusty Nail” and bar room blues rock of “Count On Me.” A Cheap Trick-like riff sets up ”All For You,” and the refreshing Rickenbacker chords on “Ugly Way To Be” make both tunes a highlight. A cover of Devo’s ”Jerkin Back ‘N’ Forth” is also a nice change of pace. As with most of Kurt’s music it is highly recommended.

Amazon  | Kool Kat Musik

The Nines

Tommy Sistak “A Good Hat Indeed”

A Good Hat Indeed is the follow up to the first album from Tommy Sistak, Short Songs. The same tradition of early Beatlesque melodies continues with the opener “Not About You,” with a driving riff opening up the multi-tracked harmonies. While its faithful to the source, the chorus of “Its There For You” is a catchy gem that would’ve hit big on AM radio playlists back in the mid ’60s.

The fab “You Can Have Your Way With Me” and “A Better Time” will appeal to Beatle fans, but I’m glad Tommy does vary the style slightly through the album. “If I Only Knew” is a charmer in the skiffle-beat tradition with ukulele and the washboard as primary instruments. “Sure Like Your Love” is a mid tempo ballad that keeps the mood upbeat, and overall while not every melody here hooks you there are enough gems to keep you satisfied.

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Allen Clapp and The Jayhawks

Allen Clapp

Allen Clapp “Six Seasons” EP

Allen Clapp (The Orange Peels) brings us a solo EP that compares the California weather to his emotional states, and its an impressive musical motif. The catchy start “Moss Falls Like Rain” is classic Clapp with guitar jangle underneath its keyboard melody. “Friend Collector” is another winner combining flowing piano chords and charismatic synthesizers. The album weighs more on sonic textures than melodies for its second half, “Seasons 5 & 6” is a magical two part instrumental. Overall a great little EP that deserves to be heard and is highly recommended.



The Jayhawks “Paging Mr. Proust”
While The Jayhawks have yet to top Rainy Day Music, this is a decent album that’ll keep fans satisfied. “Quiet Corners & Empty Spaces” has that classic Byrdsian jangle and relaxed sound you expect from a Jayhawks album, while “Lost The Summer” is a fuzzy mess that sounds forced. “Lover of The Sun” is a tight Gary Louris gem with a memorable middle eight that stands with his best tunes.

Both “Pretty Roses In Your Hair” and “Leaving The Monsters Behind” have good composition, the latter having a great guitar solo break. The trouble starts when they try Wilco-like experimentation on “Ace,” however “Comeback Kids” has some great storytelling and “The Dust of Long-Dead Stars” cranks up the tempo and energy. As usual the instrumentation is top notch and its a solid addition to the Jayhawks catalog.


The Weeklings and Steve Somerset’s Shadow Kabinet

The Weeklings

The Weeklings “Studio 2”

Looking for pure unadulterated Beatlesque fun? The Weeklings are a great choice, with the sound and spirit of the legendary moptops circa 1965. Recorded at Abbey Road Studios, in the very same studio as The Beatles themselves. Musicians Glen Burtnik, Bob Burger, John Merjave and Joe Bellia are not your average cover band, as the band members have years of experience. Some have played with McCartney, Styx, Marshall Crenshaw and others. Some have even performed in Beatlemania on Broadway.

The songs are all originals with a few very rare Beatle covers. Start with the Rickenbacker strums of “Morning, Noon & Night” it is a note perfect melody down to the harmonica flourishes. The big single here is “Little Elvis” which has huge riffs and compares well to “That Thing You Do!” for catchiness. I could continue, but almost every song here kicks ass. This is above and beyond your average Beatlesque effort. Makes my top ten list, and should be in your music collection.


Steve Somerset's Shadow Kabinet

Steve Somerset’s Shadow Kabinet “Nostalgia For The Future”

The Shadow Kabinet is the personal vehicle of Steve Somerset, talented singer, songwriter, and melodic story-teller. Nostalgia For The Future was recorded in 2013, but only now sees the light on Kool Kat Musik. Somerset’s style is solidly set in the psychedelic pop world and you’ll hear Sgt. Pepperisms everywhere.

The epic title track is a winding tale with sitar, long bending chords and Steve’s vocal is a bit like Lennon at his trippiest or a more sober Anton Barbeau. The guitar of “Angelville” continues the slow tempo with a spacey theme. “The Notebook” is a very English sounding tale about a personal keepsake. The textured “Dust Descends As Light” could have been a lost Pink Floyd track from Wish You Were Here. Additional highlights include “Lame Duck” and “The Glass Half Empty House,” but the ending track “Let It Go” is a perfect Lennoneque mind game sure to amaze. Plug in the headphones and enjoy this one.

Kool Kat Musik

Ronnie D’Addario and The Favorite Things

Bob Clarke and The Wooltones

Ronnie D’Addario “Falling For Love”

It’s always a treat finding “lost” power pop of the past. Ronnie D’Addario has been a musician for many years, mainly as a session player for Tommy Makem of The Clancy Brothers. His solo albums showcase his love of Beatles-styled melodies, and Falling For Love is a real treasure. The title track was written for The Carpenters in 1981, and even though it was recorded by them – it was never released. D’Addario’s original sounds like a perfect fit for the late Karen Carpenter.

D’Addario’s songwriting and composing is very much like Gilbert O’Sullivan or Emitt Rhodes, with a solid hook on “Just Let Me Look At You.” The bouncy McCartney-like piano melody of “I’m On To Something” is another gem, along with the amazing harmonies on “Steps” and “Waiting In The Wings.” A few songs feel more like Carpenters tunes (“Two Little Children” and “Just Passing Through”) and there is not a dud in the bunch. Highly Recommended, and his other albums are worth checking out too. FYI, he’s passed his talent down to his sons who are also known as The Lemon Twigs, a very impressive indie pop group that’s just begun to make major waves.

CD Baby

Favorite Things

The Favorite Things “Coming Clean”

Four long time Minneapolis musicians joined forces to form The Favorite Things, taking their name from The Replacements song, “Favorite Thing” and the band counts them as a big influence. You’ll also hear echos of REM, Nada Surf, and The Gin Blossoms. The opener blasts through (“Coming Clean”) with its fast tempo and energetic chorus.

“Ashes” and “First Time” continues the party, fans of 90s-styled indie rock will enjoy the rich familiar sound. The albums second half eases up the intensity slightly with the alt. country rocker “Friday Night In Tennessee,” but gets back on the buzzing riffs with “In The Summer.” The tempo and style doesn’t vary much from there, and as a result the songs sound homogeneous. But the talent is there and I’m sure The Favorite Things will continue to grow as artists. Check them out.