This Kansas City band is the real deal when it comes to punchy guitar hooks. Like a lot of great power pop, the subject of ACB’s music is about getting the girl. Singer and guitarist Konnor Ervin can belt out great singles with consistency of Matthew Sweet or Rooney. It opens with the blast of “You Did It Once” a sure fire hit, and then follows with the excellent “Windows Up” that mines Velvet Crush territory. The next track, “Key in the Car” will make you forget about Weezer, because this song rivals “The Sweater Song” from the blue album. The choral bits added to “My Movies” are nice details that I can appreciate, and all sung with authenticity. The approach of this sonic guitar flury with Konnor’s vocal style also take from Ric Ocasek and The Cars as well. Perhaps in a fair world these guys would get all the attention Maroon 5 or Spoon gets, as “Suzanne” has the kind of rockin’ jam and melody that will cause involuntary head bobbing to anyone within earshot. Things get heavier with “Come On” and “Callin’ Omaha” gets into Posies territory. Even when thing slow down for “We’ll Walk On The River” – it’s crashing drums and “la la la” backdrops make it memorable.The bottom line is that this is an amazing debut that I missed last year, and deserves to be on a top ten list somewhere. If you didn’t get it, shame on you — now repent and pick it up!
David Doll’s new band Automat is the definition of a great power pop band. Cues from Beatles, Badfinger, 10cc, Dwight Twilley and Big Star are all here on display. And rather than feel forced, it’s a natural part of the Automat sound. This is another great 2007 release that I just missed and it showed up on a few top ten lists. Automat is the real deal here, with a portion of the tracks coming off of David Doll’s EP release of last year (Emusic has this). It starts with the blast of “I Don’t Mind” adding those loud rhythmic guitars and David’s great vocals which are similar in timbre to Cliff Hillis (IKE). “Comeback Special” is a perfect single that will give you goosebumps and will have your body moving in no time. It has more hooks than a seaside bait shop and will “sha-la-la” into your brain. It’s what power pop is all about. “Long Way To Go” has a bit of the Raspberries and Rubinoos mixed together here for a dazzling effect. And of course, the Beatlesque tunes like “Sleep” and “Alright” are most welcome to these ears. The latter chorus, David intones “Here comes heaven and here comes love, it’s everything I thought it would be.” Are we talking about a girl here or the music? The chorus of the Badfingerish “Round and Round” is complete with dualing guitar riffs a la Beatles “The End.” These are truly beautiful songs all capped off by the riff-heavy instrumental “Independence Day.” As Bruce would say “extremely highly recommended” – I second that emotion.
I got several e-mails mentioning this as a year-end contender, and to be fair, it passed me by last month. So I will open the new year with this review. Most respected powerpopaholics knows who Mitch Easter is, but for the others, here is the skinny: Mitch is best known for producing R.E.M. during their rise to fame and as front man for the 80’s new wave pop band Let’s Active as well as a member of the Chris Stamey proto-Db’s band, Sneakers. In addition, he’s produced albums for The Velvet Crush, Ken Stringfellow (The Posies) and others. But I recognize him as one of the originators of the “jangle pop” movement. After almost twenty years later, the urge to release a solo record emerges.
“Dynamico” is a hell of debut. The same energy that typified the best of Let’s Active is here in spades. It mixes the classic jangle pop with heavy prog rock influences throughout. “Time Warping” opens things well with subtle hooks and hard driving rhythms. “You/Me” shows a bit of the heavier prog guitars with head banging drum work. Considering his hiatus from performing, he sounds great and carries all the tunes here. Another gem here is “Ton of Bricks” that starts off soft and roars to a cool guitar bridge. Every song is good, if not great and fans of Camper Van Beethoven will love the lyrical twists with the melodic assault. “Why is it so Hard?” has that familiar R.E.M. jangle and multi-tracked hooky goodness. “Glazed” adds a Beatlesque touch as well, and you begin to notice this isn’t some “mid-life crisis” for an active producer in the music business, but a true work of pop craftsmanship. A brilliant album without a doubt. This would have made my top ten, had I heard it earlier in 2007.
Listen to “Time Warping”
First, I’d like to thank everyone who voted. Next, I’d like to point out that our second ranking was really the “other” or “fill in your own band here” choice. This included bands like The Go, The Shins, Fountains of Wayne, and Ed James. Doing some looking through the year, I missed an awful lot of great bands that are on other top ten lists and I apologize for that. Because the genre “power pop” is so malleable, it could mean “The Shins” brand of alt-pop or “Smith & Hayes” brand of Beatlesque pop. This is by no means a definitive list. But it is a guide to the top ten albums powerpopaholic readers enjoyed this year.
The Red Button
“She’s About to Cross My Mind”
“Gran Jukles Field”
Future Clouds and Radar
“Up With The Larks”
“Calling The World”
“Cut out and Keep”
Ice Cream Hands
“The Good China”
“The Shedding Tears”
I’ve always been aware of the Pillbugs, as a good retro band and in the past I’ve heard a few songs here and there. Shame on me that I never really gave this band a proper listen. After hearing “Monclovia” I have become an instant raving fanboy. Other than The Oohs, I can think of no other group that melds every pysch-pop influence into each song with the expertise of a gourmet chef. This album is a perfect introduction to the band, by selecting some of the best tracks from previous releases and a few new ones. Similar to Outrageous Cherry or The Resonars, The Pillbugs bring you a pristine psychedelic experience in sound. Only these guys don’t just use one set of influences from the era. They use all of them. The opener “Here’s to The End of Time” revives Beatles Magical Mystery Tour era pop. Followed by “Faceless Wonder,” a mix of classic Moody Blues and The Zombies. Gorgeous hooks are all over each song. The production techniques are absolutely flawless here as well. The Sitar lead “Good To Be Alive” blows away George Harrison’s “Within You Without You” from Sgt. Pepper. “All in Good Time” is a perfect single, like The Left Banke meets Brad Jones. The whimsical “Make Like Arthur Lee” even has a touch of Jethro Tull. “Charlie Blue Car” has a rousing Moodies meets Monkees vibe. Then “Hold Me So Near” brings us a gentle Gene Clarke meets Beau Brummels sound. Other influences include, Traffic, Cotton Mather and early Pink Floyd. I could go on forever, as this is the best retro sounding album since XTC’s “Dukes of The Stratosphere.” If you like any sixites psyche-pop, this is essential listening.
Listen to “Spaced Out”