Pop4 and Wade Jackson


Pop4 “Summer”

An amazing collaboration by a group of power pop superstars, the Pop4 brings together Andrea Perry, Scott McPherson (Liar’s Club), KC Bowman (Corner Laughers), and Kirk Adams (Vanilla). These artists clearly love the joys of 1970s pop and while the retro influences are present, it doesn’t feel like a gimmick because the music is well written and genuine. With 16 gems, this is a real treat.

Starting with “I Will Become Love,” a vocal choir followed by the pastoral “Beautiful,” led by Perry is very reminiscent of the late Karen Carpenter. “Blow Wind Blow” has a such groovy vibe I almost expected more cowbell here, and the sunny standout “Einstein and Sunshine” is clearly a nod to ELO’s “Mr. Blue Sky.” Perry’s angelic “Don’t You Be Like That” and “I’m So Jealous” are very much in the ballpark with KC Bowman’s alter-ego band The Agony Aunts. “Jaded” is a clear homage to Harry Nilsson, while “Julianne Irish” is done in a whimsical vaudevillian style like Andy Partridge. I could keep going but you get it already. Its another nominee for best LP of 2015, if not one of the most fun albums ever. Summer is almost over, so pick it up from the band’s website.

Pop4 website


Wade Jackson

Wade Jackson “Whiskey Alpha Delta Echo”

Although heavily influenced by Americana and alt. country, Australian Wade Jackson’s first track “Dark Mirror” has more of a Byrdsian jangle and Californian mood. The modern “Valentine’s Day” has an echoing alt. pop style, but comparisons to Big Star really come out on  “Catch My Eye”, “Coming Back” and “Carolina.”  “Coming Back” is also very comparable to The Autumn Defense with a hypnotic chorus and solid harmonies. While the approach is consistent, it begins to get a little predictable after a while – however this is definitely an album that delivers quite a few favorites for my playlist.


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Secret Friend and Jeff Litman

Secret Friend

Secret Friend “Sleeper”

Secret Friend is the nom de plume of Thailand-based songwriter and recording artist Steven Fox. His music has been impressive before, but here he’s inspired by his native Thailand and the Peruvian rain forests to create a transcendental concept album. A virtual who’s who of power pop greatness contribute vocals to this album. “Blue Sky” is a pastoral dream with Kelly Jones crystalline vocal drawing you in, and its bass synths contrasting with the atmospheric dance rhythms. The experimental percussive effects highlights “Something’s Happening” with Linus of Hollywood effortlessly channeling Glenn Tilbrook and Stevie Wonder.

The lyrics are simple, often repeating and concentrate more on rhythmic patterns than melody. “Anyday Now” has some neat electronica mixed with a strumming guitar as Steve Eggers (The Nines) sings along. “I Don’t Know You” sung by Wyatt Funderburk, is a soothing synth melody similar to ELO in parts, but it too veers off into dreamland. Willie Wisely is given the most vocal duties on a trio of songs, notably “And Ever” with its ethereal vibe. Another standout is “Nobody Listens” sung by Bradley Dean Whyte it slowly builds layer by layer to its catchy chorus. And Steven does contribute a few of his instrumentals in the mix. Unlike straight pop, the songs continue well past the 4 minute mark, and have elements of prog rock, electronica and world music mixed in. One of the most magical albums I’ve heard this year so far, so it is highly recommend.

Get it on Bandcamp.

Jeff Litman

Jeff Litman “Primetime” EP

Its been ten years and Jeff Litman’s transformation from fresh face to street-worn music veteran is near complete with his latest EP. “That’s On You” starts with a ’80s piano that becomes a wicked melody that builds to the swaggering chorus, like if Hall and Oats were played by Elvis Costello. “Debutante” follows that with the same vibe, with a catchy guitar riff driving the song about the cynical cycle of the celebrity musician.

“Nothing” is a lighter mid-tempo composition reminding you not to sweat the small stuff and the bouncy title track once again brings to mind Mr. Costello. The mood changes on the last two tracks, but the epic “Don’t Slow Down” feels like the most personal statement Jeff’s made since his debut. Overall this tight EP boasts no filler and its all killer. Highly Recommended.


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Ryan Hamilton “Hell Of A Day”

Ryan Hamilton “Hell Of A Day.”

Texas singer Ryan Hamilton(Smile Smile, People On Vacation) played the Austin’s SXSW Festival in 2010 and met up with Jaret Reddick (Bowling For Soup) and their friendship led to a lot of songwriting and finally a (self-funded) solo album. And it’s a rare thing that an artist can appeal across generations with a timeless power pop sound, but Ryan does it with flair similar to Wyatt Funderburk or Fountains of Wayne. Its also no surprise that this album was produced by Linus of Hollywood.

First, the sing-along chorus of “Be Kind Rewind” is apologetically sunny and bursts forth with horns in the chorus, every bit an anthem to empowerment because “we can do whatever we like.” But the real single follows, as “Karaoke With No Crowd” is an ultra-catchy gem that will leave you singing along and things continue to roll from there. The troubled boyfriend is the protagonist for most songs, as “Letter Verb” and “Respond To My Email” are defiant responses to rejection, as well as great melodies. Another rocking tune is the riff packed “Medicine” that pulls out all the stops and “Records and Needles” is a love letter to classic rock, mentioning luminaries like The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and The Rolling Stones.

“Freak Flag” is a sequel of sorts to “Karaoke” where you need to celebrate your individuality, and forget the brainwashing of pop culture’s poisonous influence. Its not just that each song here is an ear-worm, but the message is important and really resonates after a few listens. Add to that a great cover of REO Speedwagon’s “Take It On The Run” and you’ve got an album that easily becomes a nominee to our 2015 top ten list.


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The Bellfuries and The Anderson Council

The Bellfuries

Bellfuries “Workingman’s Bellfuries”

Austin, TX band The Bellfuries are back, and they go way back to the “roots” of power pop by incorporating ‘60s pop melodies with R&B rhythms and soul on their latest album Workingman’s Bellfuries. Vocalist and chief songwriter Joey Simeone chooses not to get hung up on genre categories, but fans of The Everly Brothers, Carl Perkins, or Richie Valens will surely love this music.

Wonderfully produced the band starts with “Loving Arms,” a danceable country shuffle with a sweet hook. The traditional songs like “Bad Seed Sown” benefit from Simeone’s strong vocal and dynamic phrasing. “Make The Mystery No More” has a Phil Spector-like arrangement, using the multi-tracking to deliver great harmonies. “Letter To My Maybe Baby” and “Beaumont Blues” are my favorites here; pure Everly inspired magic. It also includes a great cover of The Beatles “She’s A Woman.” Its no wonder that there are no weak points or filler in this entire album. Highly Recommended!


The Anderson Council

The Anderson Council “Listening Party” EP

Peter Horvath and team had a good idea with Listening Party, as it would feature each of its band members recording an original single and then a favorite cover song. Opening with Christopher Ryan’s “Questions About Animals” it sounds almost nothing like a Council song, and feels heavily influenced by Jason Falkner. More familiar styling is heard on “Almost Anything” and “Yeah,” and they are real good songs too.

As for the covers, they are deep cuts that are not immediately familiar save one. First is a dense, less psychedelic version of The Smoke’s “My Friend Jack” and then the obscure Peter Gabriel song “And Through The Wire.” A cover of Jellyfish’s “Joining A Fan Club” has plenty of raw power and enthusiasm, although Peter strains to sing those high notes. Fans will enjoy this one, so check it out. FYI: The Anderson Council will be a Power Popaholic Fest on September 12th

CD Baby



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Brandon Schott and One Like Son

Brandon Schott

Brandon Schott “Crayons & Angels”

Brandon Schott has always been an artist who knows better than most how to set the mood. After the great Verdugo Park EP, he’s expanded this into a full album with the help of Andrew Curry, Andy Reed and Jason Wormer. The childlike innocence of the instrumental “Dandelion” leads into the album’s biggest song “Henry,” a richly layered portrait of a boyhood optimism, complete with harmonies, horns and toy piano. “Cerulean Seas” is another like-minded song that sails along, as most compositions here are strongly influenced by Pet Sounds and Sir McCartney. Another gem is “Every Little Song,” a beautiful duet with Kelly Jones, where the melody twists with each key change.

Plenty of instrumental filler is found between many songs, tying the theme together but I suspect they are more snippets that didn’t fit elsewhere (“Sunglow”) and this make the albums middle a bit lightweight. However many strong compositions remain like “Seeing You In Stereo” and “Dear Daisy” is a catchy guitar led melody. The grand “Wisteria” is an exceptionally good atmospheric instrumental, and the wonderful “Dandelion Rain” is the best love song I’ve heard this year. Add to this the Elvis Costello cover “Riot Act” and you’ve got a winner. Highly Recommended.


 One Like Son

One Like Son “Classic”

While the novelty of a debut recorded on an iphone has passed, One Like Son (aka Stephen Poff) continues to pump out some great music from his Montgomery, AL studio. “As Seen on TV” has that big repeating riff, and a memorable melody. “Down To Hollywood” follows the Cheap Trick template, and the casual “Summer Days” reminded me of Extreme’s acoustic pop. Overall, the music seems more hard rock oriented than past releases.

“A Praise Song” is like a superhero theme from a Christian rock band, with its buzzsaw sound and an infectious bounce. Not everything flows as smoothly; some metal guitar indulgences are tiresome (“Borderline” and “It Knocks Me Out”) and the lack of any ballads makes this 13 track album a heavy lift. Stephen does sprinkle in some good songs, like the mid-tempo “Five Good Years” and energetic “Whispers” to end things. Give it a try, and you’ll find a favorite tune within.


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