Seattle band The Tripwires are an old favorite here, the band’s newest EP Fat City is chock filled with catchy rock and roll. Each track shines, but highlights include the fantastic guitar work on “Nothing of the Kind” and the rockabilly raver “New New New New New.” Brothers John and Jim Sangster, along with John Ramberg and drummer Dan Peters are as tight as ever, so get this one – it’s super highly recommended. Get it on Amazon.
It has been a while since we heard from Lee Ketch of Mooner, and here he’s teamed up with Kit Shields to make this album of covers. The duo earns major props for starting it with Jeff Lynne’s “Xanadu” and including the rarely covered Beach Boys oddity “I’ll Bet He’s Nice.” Oh did we mention this is a FREE download?
The Gunboat Diplomats are a mixed bag. Some of this was just cringe-worthy, but they have a few decent power pop tunes here if you seek them out. “She Said” has a tight structure and a catchy chorus. “Sweet Abiding Love” and the Elvis-imitation “Crazy About You” have a vintage vibe and are fun to listen to. Another FREE download.
Corin Ashley is glad to be here, and we are glad to have him back. He was deep in the recording process when he suffered a stroke last year. Corin fought back to regain the ability to sing and play guitar again, and amazingly play on stage and finish this album in a single year.
There is something about “Little Crumbles” that reminds me of McCartney’s Back to The Egg. Like Macca at the time, its aggressive rock approach is a celebratory jam of rebirth. “Broken Biscuit #3” is a quick psyche-pop pastiche, then it launches into the gem “Wind Up Boy” with assistance from Tanya Donelly (The Breeders, Belly) which chugs along full of sweet strings and catchy couplets. The Beatle-isms are out in full flourish with “Edison’s Medicine” a not so distant cousin of “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.”
“Broken Biscuits #9” is the personal story of the struggles that left Corin “in tatters, scattered to the wind.” The combo of bouncy and bitterness on “In Appropriate Fashion” is straight out of the Elvis Costello playbook. Towards the end of the album, the songs are more elaborately constructed, “King Hollow” working quite well, while others seem to linger too long. The six-minute “Jellyfish” isn’t a tribute to the famous band (although there are a few musical cues) but the cruel fate that left him partially paralyzed. Overall a highly recommended album.
Lisa Cavaliere and singer-songwriter Rick Hromadka make up the duo of Ruby Free and they deliver an even better album on their sophomore effort Shades. They are aided by power pop veterans Joe Giddings (Star Collector), Jim Laspesa (Dave Davies, Susanah Hoffs), and Rick Gallego (Cloud Eleven).
“Take A Ride” is a rollicking road tune with the perfect mix of California attitude and a catchy chorus that makes this a great opener. “Walking Along” is fiendish hooky, like a Steve Miller Band classic that won’t leave your head. “Say Goodnight” and “Owe To The Man” are laid back gems that encourage repeat listens. Lisa also does a very capable solo cover of Karen Carpenter’s “Superstar” and Rick ruminates on the state of modern marriage in “Talk To Me.”
Shades allow both artists to shine together and on solo vocal leads. Styles vary enough from the country ballad “Billboards and Buses” to the Tom Pettyesque “Already Dead.” Clearly, no duds here as it earns a spot as a nominee for my top ten for 2017 list. Highly Recommended.
After a six-year break, Captain Wilberforce (Simon Bristoll) returns with his reputation for compelling melodies. He’s got a smoother, more polished sound here thanks to his new bandmates; Carl Banks (drums), Rob Simpson (guitars) and Massimiliano Borghesi (bass/vocals). Opening with the grand sweep of “The Johnny Depp Memorial Cafe,” it has the feel of classic pop, think Elton John, Crowded House or Squeeze. “Good Times, You Said” is more of a McCartney ballad with heavy guitars punctuating the chorus. The very slow building “Someone To Love” makes good use of a guitar break, with acoustic flourishes or its the trickle of piano on “You Can’t Have Me” that gives the melody real depth.
The comparison to The Finn Brothers really stands out on “Lazarus” with its well-crafted harmonies. But my favorite here is the Beatlesque “King Of Decision” that mixes a wonderful piano bridge with layered guitar rhythm. Stylistically it has a little of everything, but the tone is mellow with an undercurrent of dark psyche-pop. Fans will appreciate all the little subtleties here, Simon’s songwriting is like an American version of Martin Newell. Highly Recommended. Bonus: While it is a “pay-as-you-wish” download, Kool Kat has the album with a 5 Song Bonus EP included. So worth it!
Michigan multi-instrumentalist Tom Curless (aka Your Gracious Host) is back with Boomerang, as a rock tune is followed light pop ballad in alternating order. You will hear influences all over the place from Todd Rundgren to David Gilmour and everything in between. The title track is a catchy melody anchored by solid riffs, and “Never Been So Blind” has a booming drum kit alongside the harmonies and guitars.
I just found the heavier stuff more memorable than the mid-tempo stuff, for example, “Sweetness” is like a lost Bob Mould demo from the ’90s with its wall of fuzz sound and echoing beat. Bob Mervak is an equal partner here with his solid keyboard work, especially on the inspiring “You See Right Through Me.” While not everything sticks here, there are other notable tracks like the jangling melody in “Rest of us in the Third World” and the very Big Star inspired closer “Spritely.” This one is a grower, so stick with it and you will be impressed with these gems.
BREAKING NEWS: The April 22 Paul Collins concert at Glen Cove has lowered ticket prices to allow more fans at attending to enjoy the sounds of great power pop, up close and personal. Tickets at the door are $10.00 – This is the last appearance of Paul Collins prior to his Worldwide European Tour starting in May.
Bassist Derrick Anderson, known for his work with the Bangles and Dave Davies (the Kinks) is breaking out in a big way on his solo debut. Prior to that his band The Andersons! were a popular LA power pop band, so he certainly has a top pedigree. In fact, he’s got an all-star line-up of past bandmates helping out. His smooth inviting vocals are key in the ear-worm opener “Send Me Down A Sign” full of jangle and harmony as well as the gem “Waiting For You,” with a bit of help from the Smithereens. Anderson knows to shift his style and tempo easily, so the mid-tempo rock “You Don’t Have To Hurt No More,” almost resembles a lost Squeeze hit. The Kinks-like riffs populate “Phyllis & Sharon” and buddy Matthew Sweet gives an assist with the bouncy and crunchy rocker “Happiness.”
Almost every song here hits the right buttons, “A Mother’s Love” and “My Prediction” rely on crisp melodies and brilliant musicianship. It takes a fast-paced live turn on “Stop Messin’ About,” with an energy that recalls Little Richard mixed with Paul McCartney. The Bangles lend their “do-do-do” backing vocals to “When I Was Your Man,” a song that just won’t leave your head. Easily this is one of the best releases I’ve heard in a long time, with a perfect balance of style and song composition. A true example of a “must-get” album that makes my top ten list for 2017.
Few young bands survive the cards The Dolly Spartans have been dealt. Their debut cracked the top 10 in CMJ, were awarded Record of the Month and Artist of the Month, in The Deli Magazine. Then in 2015, Dolly Spartans 22-year old guitarist Christopher Elmer died suddenly of a drug overdose. The band has channeled that loss into more music, as lead singer Michael Eliran described the new EP as “…about coming to terms with the idea that the passing of time can bring joy one day and pain the next.”
The opening track “When The Wheels Stopped Moving” recalls early Coldplay or Radiohead with its dynamic chorus. The frantic guitar rhythms of “Hangin’ Out” are tied to solid emotions about trying to break out of the funk that accompanies a loss. “I Hear The Dead” is chugging-alt rock theme that brings to mind The Smiths and the title track is a dramatic mantra to live each day because “I’ve given up a lot to be myself.” A solid alt. rock EP that deserves to be heard. Highly Recommended.