Dave Bash’s Top 125 albums of 2015

DavidBashAs you might know, International Pop Overthrow CEO and Founder David Bash has an extensive list of the years best power pop music in several categories. I will showcase his “top 125” on this post. He also gets into the Top EPs, Top Live albums,  Top Compilations, Tributes, Re-issues, etc.  so definitely check out his complete list on Facebook.

Many of these albums where on my top 25 and if I had a top 50, I would easily add them, but Dave does a great job each year and I have to review a few I missed! Here it is:

  1. The Grip Weeds-How I Won The War (Jem)
  2. Ryan Hamilton-Hell Of A Day (Fannypack)
  3. Pugwash-Play This Intimately As If Among Friends (Omnivore)
  4. Martin Courtney-Many Moons (Domino)
  5. The Butterscotch Cathedral-The Butterscotch Cathedral (Trouble In Mind)*
  6. John Howard & The Night Mail-John Howard & The Night Mail (Tapete)
  7. The Gurus-Espacio Abierto (Rock Indiana)
  8. The Stereo Twins-Good News (Self-Released)
  9. Jimmy Haber-Joy Acid Pact (Self-Released)
  10. The Turnback-Are We There Yet? (Self-Released)
  11. The Wellgreen-Summer Rain (The Barne Society)*
  12. The Nines-Night Surfer and The Cassette Kids (TAS Gold)
  13. Yorick van Norden-Happy Hunting Ground (Excelsior)
  14. Reno Bo-Lessons From A Shooting Star (Electric Western)
  15. The Maureens-Bang The Drum (Self-Released)
  16. Elvyn-Valley of the Kilowatt Hour (Little Wagon)
  17. The Junior League-The Also Rans (Kool Kat)
  18. The Belltowers-Day Breakaway (Proper)
  19. Serpent Power-Serpent Power (Skeleton Key)
  20. The Wind-Re Wind (Self-Released)
  21. The Cherry Drops-Life Is A Bowl Of Cherry Drops (MuSick)
  22. Greg Pope-Fanboy (Octoberville)
  23. Daniel Wylie’s Cosmic Rough Riders-Chrome Cassettes (Daniel Wylie)
  24. Pop 4-Summer (Satellites Group)
  25. Squeeze-Cradle To The Grave (Virgin)
  26. Ex Norwegian-Pure Gold (Dippy)
  27. Taylor Locke-Time Stands Still (Lojinx)
  28. Groovy Uncle & Suzi Chunk-Life’s A Gift (Trouserphonic)
  29. The Most-Invasion Completed (Copase Disques)*
  30. Zombies of The Stratosphere-In Technicolor (Self-Released)
  31. The Connection-Labor of Love (Rum Bar)
  32. A Fragile Tomorrow-Make Me Over (Mpress)
  33. Mikal Cronin-MC III (Merge)
  34. The On and Ons-Calling (Citadel)
  35. C. Duncan-Architect (Fatcat)
  36. Junebug-Pongo vs. Corporate Vampires (Planet 8)
  37. William Duke-The Dark Beautiful Sun (Familiar)*
  38. The Corner Laughers-Matilda Effect (MLM)
  39. Dr. Cosmo’s Tape Lab-Beyond The Silver Sea (Sugarbush)
  40. The Beatophonics-The Beatophonics (Echophonic)
  41. Sam Vicari-Giving Up (Sick City)
  42. Jordan Andrew Jefferson-The Only Way Out Is In (The Oxide Shed)
  43. Brandon Schott-Crayons & Angels (Curry Cuts)
  44. David Divad-Healing Hands (Self-Released)
  45. Susan James-Sea Glass (Self-Released)
  46. Cloud Eleven-Record Collection (West Coast)
  47. The Magnetic Mind-…Is Thinking About It (Heavy Soul!)
  48. The Ravines-Everything’s Fine (Self-Released)
  49. Fireking-Double Trouble (Blueberry Pie)
  50. Summer Fiction-Himalaya (Burn Brightly)
  51. Nic Hessler-Soft Connections (Captured Tracks)
  52. Mark Pountney-Mark II (Inner Smile)
  53. Dr. Cosmo’s Tape Lab-Coconut Summer Drop In (Canteen)
  54. Tommy Sistak-Short Songs (Self-Released)
  55. The London Souls-Here Come The Girls (Feel)
  56. The Guise-Forthcoming (Sound Ideas)
  57. John McCullagh and The Escorts-New Born Cry (359 Music)
  58. The Modulators-Try Try Try (Kool Kat)
  59. The Weeklings-Monophonic (Jem)
  60. Zach Jones-Love What You Love (Pioneer)
  61. The Shakers-A Whole Lotta Shakers! (Soundflat)
  62. Jacco Gardner-Hypnophobia (Polyvinyl)
  63. Three Hour Tour-Action and Heroes (Martian Record Corp.)
  64. Leaders In The Clubhouse-Won (Self-Released)
  65. Glamweazel-The Art of the Meltdown (Self-Released)
  66. Tame Impala-Currents (Interscope)
  67. Honeywagen-Jamboree (Rock O Plane)
  68. The Lunar Laugh-Apollo (Lekites)
  69. Kurt Baker-Play It Cool (Rum Bar)
  70. Steve Robinson & El Woltil-Cycle (Sunshine Drenchy)
  71. Eureka Machines-Brainwaves (Wrath)
  72. The School-Wasting Away and Wondering (Elefant)
  73. Mama-Estandar (Rock Indiana)
  74. Onions-Shame of The Nation (Self-Released)
  75. The Parkas-In Stereocolour (Self-Released)
  76. The Webstirs-Now You’ve Really Done It (Ginger)
  77. The Stoneage Hearts-Hung Up (On You) (Off The Hip)
  78. The Loons-Inside Out Your Mind (Bomp)
  79. The Kennedys-West (Self-Released)
  80. Wilson-Old School, New Rules (Pink Hedgehog)
  81. Dave Rave & The Governors-Sweet American Music (RaeBeat)
  82. BC Camplight-How To Die In The North (Bella Union)
  83. Tobias Jesso Jr.-Goon (Arts & Crafts)
  84. The Supernaturals-360 (Satchel Britchett)
  85. Slim Loris-Love Fear (Self-Released)
  86. Kontiki Suite-The Greatest Show On Earth (Self-Released)
  87. Nick Piunti-Beyond The Static (Self-Released)
  88. Peter Fedofsky-The Sound & The Fury (Self-Released)
  89. Steve Thompson & The Incidents-Rainbows & Arrows (Self-Released)
  90. Jeff Lynne’s ELO-Alone In The Universe (Columbia)
  91. Simon Love-It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time (Fortuna Pop!)
  92. Gordon Weiss-It’s About Time (Gornpop)
  93. Vanilla-2.0 (Self-Released)
  94. Split Sofa-Thornby Park (Daisychain)
  95. The Flower Machine-Tangerines and Opium Trees (Self-Released)*
  96. Cameron Lew-Welp… (Self-Released)
  97. Dana Countryman-Pop 3! Welcome To My Time Warp! (Sterling Swan)
  98. Dot Dash-Earthquakes & Tidal Waves (The Beautiful Music)
  99. Pseudonym-Revolving Door (Trivial Pop Songs)
  100. The Sunchymes-Present… (Calliope)
  101. The Orange Peels-Begin The Begone (MLM)
  102. The Cool Whips-Goodies (Self-Released)
  103. The Ballantynes-Dark Drives, Life Signs (La-Ti-Da)
  104. The Allrightniks-Two Places At One Time (Grandin Road)
  105. Paul Starling-The Wild Wolf (Self-Released)
  106. Autos Detroit-Startup Completed (Self-Released)
  107. The Unswept-Today! (Draco)
  108. The Lilac Time-No Sad Songs (Tapete)
  109. The Piper Downs-Heartbreak’s A Disease (Couldn’t Get Signed)
  110. The Ace-Riot Of Sound (We Dig This)
  111. All Day Sucker-Denim Days (Big Wow)
  112. Kyle Vincent-Detour (SongTree)
  113. Lips & Sticks-Songs From The Shelf (Self-Released)
  114. Koes Barat-Koes Barat (Sub Pop)*
  115. Caddy-The Better End (Kool Kat)
  116. Larry O. Dean-Good Grief (Zenith Beast)
  117. Marston-The Invisible Girl (Self-Released)
  118. Brian Wilson-No Pier Pressure (Capitol)
  119. Steve Baskin-Dead Rock Star (Self-Released)
  120. Ryan Allen & His Extra Arms-Heart String Soul (Two Brains)
  121. Magic Bus-Transmission From Sogmore’s Garden (Self-Released)
  122. Ronnie D’addario-A Very Short Dream (Homburg)
  123. The Seasongs-Buscando El Sol (Self-Released)
  124. Suite 100-The Only Cure For Gravity (Self-Released)
  125. One Two Die Four-Another (Self-Released)

The Top 25 Power Pop Albums of 2015

This was a very good year for power pop. In a few cases, albums I previously gave a rank of “8” are included in the top 25 and others I ranked “9” dropped off compared to the rest (instead of expanding my list). Sometimes ranking an album “8” or “9” at the time is based on its immediacy and doesn’t take into account if its a grower (aka an album that grows on you). Also this year I’ve elected not to make a video, but will include my 30 minute radio show*, which plays some of the music from selections below:

TOP POWER POP ALBUMS

  1. Reno Bo “Lessons from a Shooting Star”
  2. Michael Carpenter “The Big Radio”
  3. Tommy Keene “Laugh In The Dark”
  4. Three Hour Tour “Action and Heroes”
  5. The Turnback “Are We There Yet?”
  6. Nick Piunti “Beyond The Static”
  7. Ryan Hamilton “Hell Of A Day”
  8. The Orange Peels “Begin the Begone”
  9.  Mooner “Masterpiece”
  10.  Sam Vicari “Giving Up”
  11.  Kurt Baker “Play It Cool”
  12.  The Connection “Labor Of Love”
  13.  Pop4 “Summer”
  14. Michael Sherwood & Christian Nesmith “Groovy Lemon Pie”
  15.  Ryan Allen & His Extra Arms “Heart String Soul”
  16. The Lunar Laugh “Apollo”
  17. Fireking “Double Trouble”
  18. Adam Levy “Naubinway”
  19. Ex-Norwegian “Pure Gold”
  20. Elvyn “Valley Of The Kilowatt Hour”
  21.  Coke Belda “Nummer Zwei”
  22.  Greg Pope “Fanboy”
  23.  Love Axe “South Dakota”
  24. Yorktown Lads “Songs About Girls and Other Disasters”
  25.  Late Cambrian “Golden Time”

TOP 5 EPS

  1. Andy Reed “Relay Vol.1” EP
  2. The New Trocaderos “Frenzy In The Hips”
  3. Hidden Pictures – California Plates
  4. Donny Brown “Hess Street”**
  5. The Zags – The Zags

BEST COMPILATION

International Pop Overthrow Vol. 18

Comment: One thing I noticed this year was several artists experiencing life altering events as inspirations for their music (Adam Levy, The Orange Peels, Ex-Norwegian) and some emulated the late 1970s for inspiration (Pop4, Andy Reed). But I still love a great melodic hook – and that’s what put them on this years list.

Tomorrow:  It was unusual to see so many rock veterans produce albums after long periods of inactivity, I will have a list and mini reviews of major label artists from 2015.
* Note: The radio show was made when my list wasn’t quiet finished, so please forgive any errors.

** Note: Technically this was a late 2014 album, but I reviewed it in 2015.

Coke Belda and The Expected

Coke Belda

Coke Belda “Nummer Zwei”

On his debut album German musician Coke Belda proved his mastery of power pop style and production techniques. Belda takes the next step by crafting irresistible ear candy on Nummer Zwei (Number Two).  The illustrious Alan Haber introduces the very Jeff Lynne-like “Rainbow”  with its layered harmonies and strong synth lead. “You’re Not in Love” has a shimmering guitar rhythm and a catchy melody. And each song that follows keeps the quality high, “Hold Me Tight” is another winner that recalls Pilot.

The joys and frustrations of songwriting are part of the ballad “Songwriting” and “Another  ****ing Song,” the latter ending with high falsetto harmonies. While the musical techniques are sharp, its the song composition that really impresses here, “Where I Am” is a great example that hits all the right dramatic notes with George Harrison styled guitar flourishes. Belda is also fairly consistent with his style, there is no doubt that this makes my top ten list this year. As a bonus, if you buy Belda’s new LP, you’ll get a free download of his debut album!

Bandcamp only


The Expected

The Expected “Radio Night” EP

The Expected is a melodic rock/power pop band from Finland. The opener “Free Me” is a model of quiet/loud contrast with a riff heavy chorus of “Free Me Now or Forever Be Damned.” It’s a great single that deserves a spot on your playlist.  The title track “Radio Night” is a showcase for lead singer Janne Äyräväinen and his layered harmonies with echoing guitar goodness are in the chorus. “Songs Of Hate” has a more anthemic chorus and is driven by drummer Tero Rikkonen’s beats.  The European accents are barely noticeable and overall we have a great start for this rocking quartet. Check it out.

Amazon | CD Baby

Ex-Norwegian and Alphanaut

Ex-Norwegian

Ex-Norwegian “Pure Gold”

Roger Houdaille is a genuine pop savant, and after a near death experience, he took to the studio with his band Ex-Norwegian to work on his 6th album. Classic influences are all here; the Beatles, the Kinks, Bowie and the Move. Notable guest stars are Fernando Perdomo on slide guitar and Chris Price on organ. What you end up with is pure rock and roll bliss.

“It’s A Game” has those beats, but also got strong melodies and the guitars are everywhere. And the follow-up “Asking Too Much” has thick glam riffs across a chorus of Roger and Michelle Grand’s vocals. “Beeside” is another gem with slower droning rhythm and the frantic chords and beat of “On The Sidelines” is a little Ramones and Blondie combined. Each track carries a stylistic shift, “Keep Under Cover” is brilliant lyrical twist which asks “What good is art when it hurts your head?” It stays unpredictable throughout, and each track is compelling. This is the best Ex-Norwegian album in a while and earns a spot on my top ten list this year. Yes it’s “Pure Gold,” Roger!

Bandcamp only

Alphanaut

Alphanaut “Meanwhile Back on Earth”

Alphanaut was conceived as a musical collective by Los Angeles-based songwriter Mark Alan, coordinating the talents of a wide variety of musician friends and acquaintances. Like a cross between OMD, David Bowie, and modern electro pop, the opener “Think Too Much” has a great hook in the chorus.

If you’d like a slow disco groove “Electricity” plays a lot like George Michael without the crooning. Lots of nice retro synth experimentation here (not something I normally listen to) but “Is This My Country?” is a standout. Similar to The Art of Noise, its subtle and keeps you hooked. Also recommended are “The Catalyst” and “Father’s Day.”

Amazon

Michael Carpenter and The Speak

Michael Carpenter

Michael Carpenter “The Big Radio”

You’d have to go back almost six years for Michael Carpenter’s last big solo release. Few artists are as reliable as the Australian singer-songwriter, producer, and engineer. You’re just guaranteed to get excellent power pop and he doesn’t disappoint here.  The opener “Don’t Open That Door” is another classic melodic gem, with layered guitars and harmonies underneath a catchy hook. The pounding drum starts “She’s In Love With Herself,” a fast paced put down that breaks into guitar nirvana between each chorus. And the gems continue with “Blind,” the powerful “I’ve Been Lovin’ You” and each tune that follows (not a note of filler here). He gives a shout out to a major influence “Chrissie Hynde” and even a deep bluesy rocker with “Too Late.” Right now its a download only, but CDs are coming in January.

There is a rumor that this may be Michael’s last album, and I can only hope that he doesn’t permanently hang up his recording hat (I’ll wait another six years or more if he keeps giving me music like this). Even though Michael is often dubbed “a one man dynamo” who runs his own label, works as a recording engineer, writes for an Australian recording magazine, etc. I selfishly want more of his great songwriting and performing. Like his last solo album, this easily gets a spot somewhere in my ever crowded top ten list for 2015.

Bandcamp


The Speak

The Speak “Beautiful People” EP

The Speak are from Brighton UK, led by singer-songwriter Nick Conroy who “takes up where the sixties left off.” While clearly starting with those classic influences (The Beatles, The Who) The Speak are not some slavish retro band, but a modern pop group that concentrates on melody, synth and solid guitar craft.

“I’ll Be Fine” starts with a rousing Lenny Kravitz-like riff, and gets you moving with a catchy chorus (try to spot all those sixties references). “Beautiful People” and “Sorry” have their moments of slickly produced psyche-rock. “Invisible” reminds me of of Trevor Rabin-era Yes in spots, and “Life” is another highlight with plenty of arena rock grandeur. The band self produced and distribute this one, so pick up a physical copy on their website.

CD Baby