Travis Bretzer and The Red Button

Travis Bretzer

Travis Bretzer “Bubble Gum”

Edmonton native Travis Bretzer created this infectious album of bedroom pop that grows on you faster than weeds in the sun. Bretzer’s approach is very simple melodies filled with little hooks and sparse arrangements, similar to Apples in Stereo or early Brendan Benson. The quirky “Heart and Soul” has a fast tempo and a smooth synth for its chorus of “away, away.” It then delivers a brilliant faux country gem “Up In The Morning,” reminding me of The Monkees with its simple lyric,”Up in the morning/not much to do.”

“Are You Ever Gonna Change?” introduces a little psyche-pop guitar to the melody, and the follow-up “Evergreen” gets even more trippy, with acoustic guitar and echoing harmonies, like a lost Beta Band single. The centrepiece here is the gorgeous ballad “Peace, Love and Harmony,”  and on the latter half, we get lots of false endings and the tempos slow with each song that follows. By the time we get to “Vamanos” we get more instrumental, and eventually “A Song For Rashy” is simply a lullaby to doze off to. Oh, yeah this is also a “name-your-price” download, so reward him generously. Highly Recommended.

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The Red Button

The Red Button “Now It’s All This!”

When Seth Swirsky teamed up with Mike Ruekberg in 2007, it’s hard to believe the massive impression they left on the power pop scene. Jem Records picked up the band retrospective —Now It’s All This! featuring a new 6-song EP, bonus “unplugged” rarities, and newly remastered versions of the first two Red Button albums on 2 CDs.

Firstly, let me say the list of artists that can correctly capture the pure pop spirit of The early Beatles is very short. While many can emulate the sound, few can compose original material that stands alongside McCartney and Lennon. I count The Weeklings and The Wonders. The Red Button can also generate the same excitement with its music.

The new material is absolutely consistent, “Can’t Let Candy Go” and “Tracy’s Party” has the Rickenbacker riffs, and hook-filled melodies that never get old. The gentle jangling ballad “Tell Me It’s Over” is a heartbreaker about waiting for expected rejection. Seth’s winsome “Solitude Saturday” has a rich orchestral approach, and the title track is a fitting finale. The unplugged tracks are very close to the originals, but “Genevieve” actually sounds much better without the studio mixing. We have already reviewed The Red Button’s She’s About To Cross My Mind, and As Far As Yesterday Goes and it goes without saying this talented duo is essential listening.

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Compilation Fridays: More bands! More music!

Power Popaholic Fest is coming on June 16, 17 (next week) at Bar Matchless in Brooklyn, NY. Each year we have a soundtrack made with songs by some performers and like-minded artists. Your purchase helps fund the continuation of this long-running music festival dedicated to power pop artists. This year’s soundtrack features Somerdale, The Successful Failures, Lisa Mychols, Lannie Flowers, Cirrone, The Brittanicas, Jose Estragos and The Pop-Coop. Note: Limited time! Some tracks will only be available during the month of June.

Another compilation that we promote regularly is the Coop Communique, championed by artist/writer Dw Dunphy. This is the third and most impressive volume yet. With an array of favorites including Josh Fix (!!), The Ravines, Greek Theatre, Son of Skooshny, Brandon Schott, Andy Klingensmith, Vegas With Randolph and much more. Best of all its a FREE download!  Between Dunphy and Ice Cream Man, you can fill up the old music player on my phone really fast!

Twelve String High and One Way Ticket

Twelve String High

Assorted Artists “Twelve String High”

There are few instruments that have a more recognizable sound and evoke the heyday of folk rock more than the 12 string guitar. Its the primary “jangle” in jangle pop and the Rickenbacker 12 string has the distinct riffs that made The Byrds music legends. This compilation by You are The Cosmos label is chockfull of 23 jangling tunes.

The wide variety of artists and 12-string styles are different enough to prevent predictability in the playlist. Standouts include Erik Voeks (“She Loved Her Jangle Pop,”) The Jangle Band (“Love You Too,”)The Sensitive Drunks (“There She Goes,”) and The Bellowers (“She Reappears.”) And there is no filler here, making this another highly recommended collection for jangle and power pop fans.

Amazon | You are The Cosmos

Twelve String High

One Way Ticket “And Life Just Simply Moves Along”

Recently finishing a tour with Paul Collins, this French power pop band from Besançon has a combination of late 80’s influences; The Jam, Buzzcocks, and of course, The Beat. Most of these songs started as singles, but are now compiled to form the debut LP.

This was also out late in 2016, but worth exploring as the dramatic energy on the opener “In The Upper World” demands attention with its forceful riffs. The follow-up “All Change” has a bigger hook and a great jangling rhythm. Although the lead singer’s accent is thick, they don’t distract from the music as the mix favors the rhythm and lead guitars. “Miss Grievous” and “Beside You” are solid gems with plenty of swagger. You will definitely want to check this band out.

Bandcamp | Vinyl only

Guilt by Association and Bongo Boy Records

Guilt By Association

Various Artists “Guilt by Association 4”

On 11L Radio NY International they had a special show on a pivotal year in music — 1966. I don’t often listen to cover complications, but this was a an exceptional collection. It starts with Chris Collingwood and Potty Mouth doing a faithful version of  The Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Summer In The City.” The artists don’t wildly go off style on the songs, but each artist is able to stand out. Lucy Woodward brings a garage feel to The Yardbirds “Shape of Things,” and Mike Viola adds synths and echo to make “You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me” his own haunting soundtrack. About half the tracks are ballads and they also picked two Beatles songs and a Monkees tune (“Sweet Young Thing.”) Highly Recommended.

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Bongo Boy Records

Bongo Boy Records “Out of the Garage, Vol. 2”

We reviewed Volume 1, but didn’t get to this compilation until recently. A few of those Bongo Boy artists are back, starting with the ageless Mark Lindsay on the rocking “Show Me The Love,” and the wild cover of “Boys” by Cheap Perfume. The funny, catchy  “Kill A Clown (No, Not Really)” by Mike Daly & The Planets makes a perfect soundtrack to this old movie. Highlights include Mia Moravis “A Spy For Love” and The Accelerators do their best Ramones imitation on “Sun Surf and Sand.” Check out this newest collection of tunes!

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Big Star “Complete Third” and Friends & Frenemies

Big Star

Big Star “Complete Third”

Big Star’s third album is a big deal in that it appealed to fans outside of its loyal power pop base, and its raw emotions cemented the band’s legend. At this point the band was cut in half, with Alex Chilton and Jody Stephens doing what they really wanted, commercial considerations be damned. Chilton’s lyrics showcase deep depression and frustration, and his vision was highly influential in the development of alternative rock, still felt decades later.

Recorded in 1974 but not released for the first time until 1978, Third would be subsequently re-released, renamed and re-sequenced many times over the years. While some demos and alternate versions and mixes of songs have dribbled out on various compilations, all extant recordings made for the album are presented for the first time on Complete Third. This definitive collection boasts 69 total tracks, 29 of which are previously unheard session recordings, demos and alternate mixes made by producer Jim Dickinson and engineer John Fry. The set allows the listener to track the creation of the album from the original demos, through sessions and rough mixes, to the final masters of each song. The box set contains extensive notes from original participants and artists influenced by Big Star. It’s comparable to The Beach Boys Pet Sounds Sessions in terms of its thoroughness.

While this may be overkill for the casual fan, this is a “must have” for serious Big Star fans and music audiophiles. Highly Recommended.

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Mystery Lawn Music

Assorted Artists “Friends & Frenemies”

Mystery Lawn is a Northern California label that’s home to many great West Coast power pop bands like The Orange Peels, The Agony Aunts, The Corner Laughers, Anton Barbeau and more. But what I love about a compilation like this is I can discover other bands I have not heard before like The Variable Stars on “The Lights Above Los Gatos” and the light airy vocals of Arts & Leisure on “Can’t Breathe.” And its not all rock and pop, examples of classical (Henry Plotnick) or folk guitar (Black Butterfly Gang) are featured too.

If you dig harmonies and female lead vocals you will love The Flywheels (“Counting To Eleven”) and Alison Faith Levy (“Rainbow Tunnel”) who clearly channels Jackie DelShannon. While not everything here is as infectious as “Oh Please” from the brilliant Marshall Holland, I didn’t really find a really bad track among the 18 songs on display here, and many are exclusive – so pick this one up! Highly Recommended.

Bandcamp exclusive