The Junior League and Seth Timbs

The Junior League

The Junior League “Also Rans”

Joe Adragna (aka The Junior League) continues to produce excellent music year after year and this new album is no exception. The Junior League has more of a retro-sound to start with Also Rans, as the title track is a shimmering janglefest that’s a little like a jam between The Zombies and REM. And although there is lots of great power pop, its got plenty of stylistic variety.

The sound of producer Scott McCaughey’s (Minus 5) influence is pronounced on the mid-tempo gem “The Stars In Our Eyes.” Then the catchy “Before You Go” has a great hook that doesn’t let go and it leads to the sweet “Please (I Need You To Go)” with its bouncy tempo. We then shift to a modern expansive sound on “On/Off” including a synth piano added by Sloan’s Jay Ferguson, and this approach follows through on the slower “Broken and Mine.” Joe goes light (“Disappearing Act”) and heavy (“If its You”) and you’ll find not a single note of filler. Highly Recommended. Also Rans comes with a 5 song bonus disc and is scheduled for CD release on October 2, exclusively at Kool Kat Musik.

Kool Kat Musik | Amazon

Seth Timbs

Seth Timbs “New Personal Record”

Seth Timbs (Fluid Ounces) has been quietly releasing albums of melodic magic over the last several years, and his latest “New Personal Record” is a testament to his resiliency. “Give Up On Your Dreams” is a brilliant piano melody that stands alongside the great Harry Nilsson’s work. On the rollicking “Uneasy Street” he pounds away on the keys and the strutting melody of “Fill It Up” shows Timbs at his most energetic.

“Cliche” is a piano bar ballad about the worn-out musician who was once a “hot prospect,” but the slow building drama of “Far Away From Here” is a brilliant heartbreak song of a wanted man sending his love away to shield her from the law. The guitar solo here is very moving and makes this one of my favorite on the album.

Seth doesn’t stay in the dumps too long, as “Ugly” is an awkward come-on that turns into a joyful dance, and a statement of self confidence. We end with the Flamenco tempo of “The Thing About Time” and I’m glad to offer this album to you as highly recommended.
Bonus supplement:  I’ve contributed to the 50thirdand3rd blog with an overview of Seth Timbs and Fluid Ounces entire career.


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Kurt Baker and The Nines

Kurt Baker

Kurt Baker “Play It Cool”

Proving to be one of the most productive artists today Kurt Baker is like the Energizer bunny (going and going) quickly moving from his collaboration with The Connection on The New Trocaderos, and he’s back with his favorite producer Wyatt Funderburk on a new high energy album.

It all starts with “Sends Me To Mars” setting a manic pace; its written by Kip Brown (The Wild Hearts) and it fits the Kurt/Connection/Trocaderos style like a glove. “Enough’s Enough” is more straight Kurt Baker style, catchy as hell and deserves multiple repeat listens. The tempo is still speeding when we get to “I Got You” and “Just A Little Bit.” Kurt’s restlessness comes through on his party theme “Monday Night.” The NFL may want to buy this one (my tip, Kurt)!

“Can’t Say No” is like a marriage between Elvis Costello and Green Day, and finally we get a slower (mid-tempo) love song on “Talk Is Talk” with a wonderful Beatlesque chord progression. “Back For Good” has what I hear as a Funderburk-influenced love song with yearning lyrics and a magical middle eight. There are a few songs that tread the same ground, but overall this is another home run for Kurt. Makes my top ten list (was there any doubt?) for 2015.


The Nines

The Nines “Night Surfer and the Cassette Kids”

The Nines are back with a rougher, tougher sound and the keyboard is no longer up front. Steve Eggers is still at the core of this Toronto band with the help of Bill Majoros (the Foreign Films). “It’s All in the Head” opens with deep garage rock riffs, and siren effects creating a rough car chase theme. “Just Another Party” has echoes of early XTC, Adam Ant, B-52s and the ’80s dance rock movement, and its great fun. Steve’s melodic composition skill comes out on “Never Take You For Granted” with it’s killer hook in the chorus.

The best impression is with the driving riff attack on “Wasted,” my favorite here – and very much a power pop classic. The tone slows a bit on “Sweet Tangerine” but picks up with the infectious “She Knows It’s Free,” again with the guitar riff in charge here. “Cathy” is another gem that is the best XTC song you never heard. Attempts to go darker, like on “Jimmy’s Girl” set a mood with descending riffs or synths, but don’t compare as well to the earlier tracks. Fans of early ’80’s sound will love it and its definitely highly recommended.

CD Baby | Amazon

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Nick Flora and Miracles of Modern Science

Nick Flora

Nick Flora “Futureboy” EP

Nick Flora is an unsung talent who has been releasing records for years and I’m shocked he fell under my radar. Vocally he sounds like the love child of Peter Gabriel and Beck singing catchy melodic songs with plenty of bite. Starting with a swaggering glam riff and beat Nick makes “The Business of Breaking Hearts” an unrepentant lothario’s theme music.

Next is “It’s All Coming Together,” a slow build to a harmonious chorus that sticks to your brain. “Take it From The Top” has a rock shuffle and guitar sounds mixed with sparse balladry in the lyrics. The plaintive ballad of the title track is akin to Elliot Smith’s double tracked vocals across acoustic guitar and the final track “For The Sake of Conversation” is another winner. I will begin to explore Nick’s back catalog of work, and I have a feeling I will really enjoy it.


Miracles of Modern Science

Miracles of Modern Science “Mean Dreams”

If you are looking for eccentric chamber pop with brainy approach then MOMS may be for you. Formed at Princeton University, this guitar-less quintet stands out with doublebass, mandolin, violin, cello and drums. “Follow Your Heart (Or Something)” approaches the song as part dance track and part anthem for the insecure.

The violins lead “Don’t Feed The Party Animal” is like orchestral B-52s and the finger-plucking “Mothers in Jeans” builds to  a compelling chorus. This pop occupies the same space as Field Music, and fans of that band will enjoy this as well. While the stories are compelling, it strays from the melodic midway through, it remains interesting to listen to. If you’re in an experimental mood – this could float your boat.


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The Ravines and Sports Fan

The Ravines

The Ravines “Everything’s Fine”

The Ravines is the brainchild of songwriter, producer and front man Chris Corney (The Contrast, The Quireboys) and drummer James Crossley (The Contrast). They burst on the scene years ago with “Manifesto of a Broken Heart,” and Chris returns with a new album, assisted by Andy Hawkins (bass guitar) and backing vocalist Susanna Benn.

Starting off with the title track it brings to mind Crowded House and The Gin Blossoms. It’s got a great hook that sticks in your head and a chorus that deserves repeat listens. It settles in a mid-tempo dense wall of jangle on “Blue Eyes” and Tambareen” with Corney’s multi-tracked vocal really strong here. Both “Dead Letters” and “Working Class Girl” have a hint of Tom Petty and its gorgeous layered harmonies blend with the guitar lead seamlessly. Not everything sticks in your brain, but most songs here do. Highly Recommended.


Sports Fan

Sports Fan “Minor Hits In Major Keys”

Sports Fan is the combo of Dion Read (Piano, Lead Vocals,) Ben Webster (Bass, Harmonies) and Vincent Kemp (Drums, Harmonies) whose brainy piano pop are patterned after Ben Folds Five. “This Is Goodbye” could’ve fallen off of Folds’ first album; it uses some baseball metaphors and has plenty of energy. “Wake Up” jumps around in its composition, with Dion pounding his keys to the rhythm. The love song “Shallow Water” has sweeping chords and “Little White Lies” sharp storytelling that bring to mind the work of Chris Merritt.

Occasionally overly melodramatic, but never boring – a good example being the erratic meter and chords on “It’s Not a Science” and Kemp’s beat keeps pace with each shift. Lots of interesting songs to dig through, and worth exploring. I look forward to hearing more in the future.

Amazon | CD Baby

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The Turnback and Key Frames

The Turnback

The Turnback “Are We There Yet?”

After the strong Beatlesque debut, the Turnback move more toward a heavier sound on this sophomore effort, “Are We There Yet?” Opening with the hard charging riffs of “Faketown” its a cynical rant about the music industry, and bands will have to “cut through the bullshit with a sharper knife.” Even with a harder edge, The Turnback still sings those exceptional 3 part harmonies throughout the album. The standout single “Five Days A Week” has a soaring chorus that will make you a fan after the first listen. And the band still dabbles in 60’s psychedelics with “Revolution Girl,” but often I hear musical cues of late 70’s album era (i.e. Boston) in “A Long Way Home.”

“Unmotivated” slows thing down to a power ballad tempo, as Kenny Sherman leads the vocal to a brilliant layered melody with its descending chords asking us “is the song outdated?” The bright “A Place For Me,” is a proud theme for anyone who’s ever felt out of the mainstream. Uptempo tunes rule here as “July” and “First Song of Summer” follow a theme, and the unconventional “If I Were God” is a response to biblical misinterpretations with a deity telling us to “stop spreading these stories about me.” Each track is solid, including a cover of The Beatles “Tomorrow Never Knows” and overall exceeds expectations from the first album. Makes my top ten of 2015 list for sure, so pre-order it now!


The Key Frames

The Key Frames “Monophone Heart” EP

Toronto’s Key Frames are a driving roots-rock outfit with a strong melodic sensibility, starting with the soaring harmonies and banjo of “Won’t Miss It.” The song has the clear influence of Big Star here. Next the fuzz guitar combines with the banjo for “Tidal Wave,” another ear-worm full of big beats and riffs. “Road To You” takes a trip through the back country, the swagger of Johnny Cash is front and center.

But the power pop gold is found in “True Believer” with its two-minutes of sweet melody and “la la la” backing chorus. Each song is a high quality production and makes this a highly recommended EP without any filler. I look forward to the full length album in the near future.


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