The Foreign Films and The Tonighters

The Record Collector

The Foreign Films “The Record Collector”

Commanded by Bill Majoros and assisted by a collection of musicians like Steve Eggers (The Nines), Carl Jennings, and the late Wim Oudijk to name a few, The Record Collector is an expansive box set.

Like Robert Harrison’s (Cotton Mather) recent I-Ching song cycle, the music is varied in style and touches several themes. There are six sides to the entire project and many songs can be heard on Bandcamp. The vinyl version includes 3 records and a 12 page booklet with a short story “Emily Blue and The Star on The Moon.” The songs all relate to the story of a lonely star-struck girl and her adventures.

Starting With “Shadow in The Light” it builds to a solid chorus, with lots of energy, but then we hit the ELO-like epic “The Sun Will Shine Again” as it slowly wraps around you with its harmonies and guitar solos, it feel like an album finale in “Let It Be” fashion, not a second song. “Junior Astronomer’s Club” has a swirling psyche-pop feel, Majors vocals are soft and brimming with earnestness. The harmonies are extraordinary, for example on “Cinematic Kiss (in Dreams).”

At points the psychedelics approach Pink Floyd proportions like on “Emily Blue,” and “Emily’s Dream Sequence” but its the power pop gems here that will ring your bell. Some great ones early on are “Broken Dreams,” and “Lucky Streak.” There are a few outlier pop songs like “Land of 1000 Goodbyes” with guest Kori Pop delivering with her silken vocals. Kori and Bill make a great duet on “State of The Art.” There are elements of Bowie-like glam, folk-pop, and blues sprinkled throughout, but with 31 tracks it’s a lot to take in. As a passion project, this succeeds because Majoros puts a lot of craftsmanship into each musical phrase and the overall story. A concept album can be like a large meal, you take in each morsel and savor it. Highly Recommended.

Amazon breaks this into 2 albums: Junior Astronomers Club & The Record Collector

 

The Tonighters “Kathleen Rose” EP

A new UK band from Newcastle that has a great power pop sound. Check out the opener “Kathleen Rose” and the acoustic “Flower.” Lead singer Billy G does a crackerjack job. I can’t wait to hear more — someone sign this guy to a label! Listen and hope downloads are coming soon.

They Might Be Giants and Daniel McGeever

They Might Be Giants

They Might Be Giants “I Like Fun”

Over the course of their 30-plus year career, prolific pop experimentalists John Flansburgh and John Linnell have always been a little obsessed with death and the macabre, but on I Like Fun, it’s an overt theme – and every track touches it. Starting with “Let’s Get This Over With” a piano rhythm and pounding bass drum, sets up the bouncy lyric ”Even when you’re out of work/you still have a job to do.” It then jumps into the big single “I Left My Body” which is classic TMBG (the album was even recorded in the same Manhattan location as their classic 1990 LP Flood,) with its harmonies and catchy melody.

The band can still rock out “An Insult To The Fact Checkers” and the power pop of “The Bright Side” proves the guitar riffs still belongs on a TMBG album. But there is plenty of weirdness here, from the classical piano stylings of “Mrs. Bluebeard” to the nerdy dance pop “Push Back The Hands.” And while some of it sounds gimmicky (“The Greatest”) there are more than enough memorable songs like the “Last Wave,” a final statement on the subject; “We die alone, we die afraid… and the grave is the loneliest place.” In another artists hands, this album could sound like a funeral dirge, but with the Johns you get a lively party.

Amazon

Daniel McGeever

Daniel McGeever “Cross The Water”

McGeever is a pop singer/songwriter who builds perfect dramatic song structures using classic tools of the trade: guitar and piano. The opener “Julia” builds a mid-tempo love song that recalls Elton John or Paul McCartney with a chorus brimming with sweet harmonies. The emotional appeal of McGeever’s music also reminds me of Graham Gouldman or Gilbert O’ Sullivan. The album starts out hopeful, “Life’s A Game” has McGeever belt out the chorus, and it leads to the wistful “Wedding Day,” with its nostalgic feel.

On tracks like “Return” the piano takes on a slight baroque quality, but as the album continues the compositions are more classical folk like “For Violet.” Most of the album is love balladry, but the best romantic gem here is “Our Love Will Remain” and McGeever’s double-tracked harmonies are especially good. “It’s Not Over All Yet” finishes our story with a six-minute epic Billy Joel meets David Gates flourish, dramatically stating “in the face of adversity there is always a little hope.” A great romantic album that stands up to multiple listens, and highly recommended.

Amazon

Música en España: Ramirez Exposure, Mama, Hank Idory

2017 was also a very busy year “across the pond” in Spain – which is a very strong market for power pop artists and continues to produce great music in English and Spanish. A big thanks goes out to Rock Indiana label in Madrid. and Pretty Olivia Records in El Altet, Alicante. Here are some of my favorites… excelente música para ti.

Ramirez Exposure

Ramirez Exposure “Young Is The New Old”

Valencia-based artist Víctor Ramírez has an impressive musical resume. After having supported Jacco Gardner on tour in Spain last year, he enlisted Ken Stringfellow (Posies, Big Star) and Marc Jonson to produce his solo album, even covering Jonson’s “Suddenly Sunshine.“ Opening with the spacey, bouncy pop of “Hazel Love” it shows amazing melodic skill with a light touch. The joyful “Sweetheart” is a mid-tempo gem with a tight composition and “The Heartbreak Kid,” named after a favorite movie is about listening to your subconscious to make bold life choices. You definitely hear a subtle Brian Wilson influence across each song. And the song quality is maintained from beginning to end. This is another album that easily could’ve made my top albums list for 2017.

Amazon


Mama

Mama “Toque De Queda”

José María Granados is a veteran power pop musician and Mama is one of Spain’s most venerable bands. Translated to “Touch of Delay,” delivers a superb collection of power pop in Spanish, from the opening strums of “Uno Mas” it bounces along, and the big single “Acto De Fe” (Act of Faith) is super catchy even if you don’t know the language. Songs are mostly 3-minute bursts of irresistible choruses and energetic guitars. Many great tunes here. Highly Recommended.

Amazon

Hank Idory

Hank Idory “Hank Idory”

Also from Valencia is another artist, Hank Idory with more of a chamber pop approach; smooth vocals mixed with soft harmonies that recall bands of the sunshine pop era like The Millennium or The Association mixed with a crisp modern production style. The meticulous arrangements will win over power pop fans even if you don’t understand the language, like the gentle “Lo mejor de mí” or gorgeous ascending bridge of “El tiempo siempre miente.”  Only rarely veering into the conventional, its clean Rickenbacker chords and chiming harmonies make this my favorite Spanish language release of 2017.  Highly Recommended.

Amazon

Daisy House and Tommy Zamp

Daisy House

Daisy House “Crossroads”

Formed in 2012, Daisy House played compelling folk pop, but with last year’s Crossroads, the band has jumped more into the melodic rock sandbox. Daisy House is made from the duo of Doug Hammond on guitar, bass, keys, and his daughter Tatiana on vocals.

The booming drums, and bass guitars open up “Languages,” a gorgeous song with Tatiana’s strong harmonies anchoring a catchy chorus about “peace and love.” Ever wonder what would’ve happened if Joni Mitchell had joined The Byrds? This is as close as you’ll get to that. The title track is a nice combo of bass rhythms and acoustic strums, but the Byrdsian jangle is a big highlight on “Leaving The Star Girl” and “The Girl Who Holds My Hand,” even Doug’s vocal sounds like Gene Clark. There is still plenty of sensitive folk balladry here like the mid-tempo “Remembering The Arc” for Doug and haunting piano tune “Albion” showcasing Tatiana’s beautiful voice. Overall, great musicianship elevates this album above most I’ve heard in 2017. Highly recommended.

Amazon | Bandcamp


Tommy Zamp

Tommy Zamp “You Don’t Know Me”

Rocker Tommy Zamp (Fixer, Circus Life) has a sound similar to Butch Walker, Izzy Stradlin or Extreme. His solo LP came out last year and was included in several best-of lists, as it is an unabashed love letter to New York City.

“Pretty Girls” is a cheerful glam tune that opens the album, and you almost expect a dance number to go along with it. The heavy fuzz guitar melodies continue with “Tattoos Of Stars” and its hand claps to go with its tour of the neighborhood. “Romeo” and “Beautiful Losers”  have a dense pop sound similar to Cheap Trick with a guitar riff following Tommy’s swaggering vocal. Many highlights here include “Let It Go,” the chunky riffed “Time” and “Calling Mother May.” Not everything sticks, the ballads drone on a bit much — but there is enough here to make it a highly recommended listen.

Amazon | CD Baby

Danny de la Matyr and Luke Fitzpatrick

Danny de la Matyr

Danny de la Matyr “Crybaby”

Dallas native Danny De La Matyr has been widely praised last year. Jody Stephens (Big Star) said “Crybaby is a beautiful record. Danny’s voice is soft but emotive, in part because of his sweet melodies.” Danny has mentioned his favorite artists are Paul McCartney, XTC, Todd Rundgren and his LP made quite a few “best-of” lists, so I sought it out.

Crybaby starts with the Big Star-ish mid-tempo “Drift Away” and the acoustic “Waterslide” which makes good use of Danny’s hushed vocals. But the slow building gem “How Can It Be?” is very similar to Paul Bertolino’s 70’s influenced style. The jangling guitars and echoing “Lines” bring to mind Dwight Twilley at his melodic best. Other gems include the Beatlesque “Skeleton Key” and the brilliant key track “Misfire” which is one of the better songs I’ve heard this year. The anthemic “Fade To Grey” has an Elton John feeling to it. The rocking guitar also comes out on “Rippin’ my Soul Out,” overall a great album that also could’ve made my list last year. Highly recommended.

Amazon

Luke Fitzpatrick

Luke Fitzpatrick “Sun Songs”

Sydney based songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Fitzpatrick is a power pop fan who draws inspirations from The Beach Boys, Phil Spector, and Todd Rundgren. Each song is 2 minutes or under, done in a DIY bedroom pop style, as “Through” layers vocals, piano and hook-filled riffs. The lyrics are as simple as any from the golden era of rock and roll as heard on “Don’t Forget About Me.” Fitzpatrick has a method of establishing a simple verse-chorus couplet that burns into your brain, like the catchy “Tell Them.”

The limitations of this style are apparent midway through, as the tempo and rhythms of the songs tend to blend together, and it sometimes feels more like a demo or sketch, for example, “Chance is Gone” just begs for a fuller production. Still, this is a fun set of music sure to impress power pop fans looking for melodic ear candy. Oh yeah, this is also a FREE download, so no excuses!

Bandcamp