Música en España: Shennon and Lotton, Lukah Boo, Julio Cable

2016 was a very busy year “across the pond” in Spain – which is a very strong market for power pop artists (Am I right, Kurt Baker?) and continues to produce great music in English and Spanish. A big thanks goes out to Rock Indiana label in Madrid. Here are some of my favorites…

Shennon

Shennon and Lotton “PM Songs”

Guitarist, vocalist and composer Pepe Murgadas and his band (Roque Esteban, Xavier Belda, Pepe Esteban and Ximo Espinosa) are from Valencia, here to fill the world with Beatlesque melodies. His sound is very smooth and romantic with ballads like “Again” and “More Than Life Itself” shine with perfect musicianship. The upbeat mid-tempo songs like “I Saw That Photograph” effortless bring out those catchy hooks and each song here is a winner, without a wasted note. In fact next to my other favorite Beatles-styled bands of 2016, The Weeklings and Radio Days the music is less nostalgic and more modern sounding. The album is all in English and Super Highly Recommended.

Amazon

Lukah Boo

Lukah Boo “La Sombra de Ayer”

The title means “The Shadow of Yesterday” and Lukah Boo (Toni Sáenz) is the lead singer of Madrid-based band The Happy Losers. This is his second solo effort and he still pulls at the heartstrings with his opening guitar ballad “Ocho Y Diez” but most of the album is uptempo power pop like “Huyendo De Ti” and “Hamburgo.” The music has glossy production that recalls mid 80’s pop like on “La Lluvia No Descansa” and “Si No Estas Tu.” The hooks are evident even if you don’t know the words, so check it out. Highly Recommended.

Amazon

Julio Cable

Julio Cable “Centramina, Beatles y Mazinger Z”

More Beatles huh? Well yeah but this artist has a bit more Pete Townshend, than Fab Four in his blood. Julio Cable is a guitarist from Cádiz and formed the band Los Fundo Los Mundos in the late 80’s. The powerful riffs crash through on the opener “Farmacia de guardia” and the solid follow up “Sin Hablar.” The combo of guitar lines on “Para volver a ti” and “ooh ooh” backing chorus is the closest the band gets to The Beatles, but he has more in common with “The King of Power Pop” Paul Collins. Highly Recommended.

Bandcamp only

A shout out and Diamond Hands

The amount of music I missed this year is staggering, and its been sensory overload with lists from my fellow bloggers. A big thank you goes out to my fellow active music critics in the power pop community who made year-end lists; Absolute Powerpop, Pop That Goes Crunch, Pop Fair, Power Pop Station, Alan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio and of course, IPO’s David Bash. Note the albums that appear in all of our lists, these are the gems you should get first. My goal is to check out and review some of the higher ranked LPs that I missed or just didn’t review in 2016, until the 2017 releases pour in.

 

 

The Unswept

Diamond  Hands “Diamond Hands”

By far it seems one of the biggest releases I missed was this debut album from the band “Diamond Hands.” This L.A. band is the duo of Jon Flynn and Joel Wall and they have an uncanny knack for melody and retro-influenced instrumentation all under 3 minutes. “Not The Same” brings the jangle and hook to the front and the follow up “Maybe Tomorrow” is even better with its Beatlesque chorus and tight harmonies. They break out the cowbell for the Raspberries-like “See You Again,” even though lyrically its very basic. So many highlights here, “Just Another Day” brings back the Rickenbacker and the rolling piano on “Come Home” is like RAM-era McCartney. No filler – all killer here. It would’ve been wedged into my top ten and its a FREE download, so no excuses – get it now!

Amazon | Bandcamp

The Best Power Pop Albums of 2016

This was a good year for music, a tough year to sort out – I have definitely heard a generation gap with artists this year. So much so I came up with two lists, the first was power pop specific (with the usual retro-influences)…

Top 25 Power Pop Albums of 2016

  1. The Legal Matters “Conrad”
  2. David Brookings and The Average Lookings
  3. Radio Days “Back In The Day”
  4. Ken Sharp “New Mourning”
  5. Nick Piunti “Trust Your Instincts”
  6. The March Divide “Saturdays”
  7. TUNS “TUNS”
  8. Somerdale “Shake It Maggie”
  9. Seth Swirsky “Circles and Squares”
  10. Teenage Fanclub “Here”
  11. Ryan Allen “Basement Punk”
  12. The Explorers Club “Together”
  13. The Posies “Solid States”
  14. The Nines “Alejandro’s Visions”
  15. Eytan Mirsky “Funny Money”
  16. The Monkees “Good Times”
  17. Greg Pope “Guiding Star”
  18. The Well Wishers “Comes and Goes”
  19. Emitt Rhodes “Rainbow Ends”
  20. Trolley “Caught In the Darkness”
  21. The Weeklings “Studio 2”
  22. Adam Levy “Naubinway”
  23. The Twilight Hours “Black Beauty”
  24. Watts “Black Heart of Rock and Roll”
  25. Starling Electric “Electric Company”

Note: honorable mentions to all the others I’ve reviewed this year. If I rated you a “7” or higher – you rocked, and I wish you continued musical success in 2017.

Best artist compilation (single album) released in 2016

  1. The Anderson Council “Assorted Colours”
  2. S.L.D. (Sounds Like Digging) “Indigo Grey”
  3. Andy Reed “Introduction To Andy Reed”

Best Box Set of 2016

  1. NRBQ “High Noon”
  2. International Pop Overthrow Vol. 19
  3. Big Star “Complete Third”

Best 10 EPs of 2016

  1. Cliff Hillis “Make Love Not War”
  2. The Top Boost “Turn Around”
  3. Donny Brown “Donny Brown” (* note: technically released late in 2015, reviewed in Jan.)
  4. Cartoon Spirits “Crustacean”
  5. The Above “There Is A Reason”
  6. Son of Skooshny “Confection”
  7. Colorworks “Dream of Mangos”
  8. The Kickstand Band “Summer Dream”
  9. Hemmingbirds “Half A Second”
  10. Animal Daydream “Citrus

One cannot live by indie power pop alone, and the alternative/indie rock genre has seen its audience changing.  I hear the base elements of power pop in these bands (melody, hooks, guitars) so you could’ve thrown many of these into my main list (although I only reviewed Joyce Manor, The Lemon TwigsMrs. Magician and Weezer.) But I kept them separate this year, if you are looking for more of a “melodic rock” sound. In fact, many music critics consider this mainstream “power pop.”

Top 20 alternative/indie rock albums of 2016

  1. CRX – “New Skin”
  2. Nada Surf “You Know Who You Are”
  3. Green Day “Revolution Radio”
  4. Joyce Manor “Cody”
  5. Spirit Club “Slouch”
  6. Public Access TV “Never Enough”
  7. Crying “Beyond the Fleeting Gales”
  8. Plates of Cake “Becoming Double”
  9. Mrs. Magician “Bermuda”
  10. Palace Winter “Waiting For The World To Turn”
  11. The Lemon Twigs “Do Hollywood”
  12. Weezer “White Album”
  13. Bob Mould “Patch The Sky”
  14. Whitney “Light Upon The Lake”
  15. Elephant Stone “Ship of Fools”
  16. The Pack A.D. “Positive Thinking”
  17. Car Seat Headrest “Teens Of Denial”
  18. Pavo Pavo “Young Narrator in The Breakers”
  19. Cheap Trick “Bang Zoom Crazy… Hello”
  20. Dodgy “What Are We Fighting For”

The Weeklings and Steve Somerset’s Shadow Kabinet

The Weeklings

The Weeklings “Studio 2”

Looking for pure unadulterated Beatlesque fun? The Weeklings are a great choice, with the sound and spirit of the legendary moptops circa 1965. Recorded at Abbey Road Studios, in the very same studio as The Beatles themselves. Musicians Glen Burtnik, Bob Burger, John Merjave and Joe Bellia are not your average cover band, as the band members have years of experience. Some have played with McCartney, Styx, Marshall Crenshaw and others. Some have even performed in Beatlemania on Broadway.

The songs are all originals with a few very rare Beatle covers. Start with the Rickenbacker strums of “Morning, Noon & Night” it is a note perfect melody down to the harmonica flourishes. The big single here is “Little Elvis” which has huge riffs and compares well to “That Thing You Do!” for catchiness. I could continue, but almost every song here kicks ass. This is above and beyond your average Beatlesque effort. Makes my top ten list, and should be in your music collection.

Amazon

Steve Somerset's Shadow Kabinet

Steve Somerset’s Shadow Kabinet “Nostalgia For The Future”

The Shadow Kabinet is the personal vehicle of Steve Somerset, talented singer, songwriter, and melodic story-teller. Nostalgia For The Future was recorded in 2013, but only now sees the light on Kool Kat Musik. Somerset’s style is solidly set in the psychedelic pop world and you’ll hear Sgt. Pepperisms everywhere.

The epic title track is a winding tale with sitar, long bending chords and Steve’s vocal is a bit like Lennon at his trippiest or a more sober Anton Barbeau. The guitar of “Angelville” continues the slow tempo with a spacey theme. “The Notebook” is a very English sounding tale about a personal keepsake. The textured “Dust Descends As Light” could have been a lost Pink Floyd track from Wish You Were Here. Additional highlights include “Lame Duck” and “The Glass Half Empty House,” but the ending track “Let It Go” is a perfect Lennoneque mind game sure to amaze. Plug in the headphones and enjoy this one.

Kool Kat Musik

The Nines and Simon Felton

The Nines

The Nines “Alejandro’s Visions”

A labor of love for Steve Eggers, with the help of Bill Majoros (the Foreign Films) this is a cinematic album that harkens back to the 1950s, from doo wop to the advent of rock and roll. Its like an audio movie musical with the cacophony of sounds opening up “Alejandro’s Visions,” and leads to the best Beach Boys meets The Platters song  you ever heard  in “I Have Found You.” The album concept is a familiar “boy-meets-girl” trope but its done both seamlessly and brilliantly.

“My Sweet Marie” brings to mind an early Buddy Holly concert, and then the charmed couple visit a amusement park in “Escape From A Small Town” with both rockabilly swagger and sweet harmonies throughout. Eggers heartfelt vocals are in peak form here, culminating in the a cappella “When Our Love Was In Bloom,” and his strongest dramatic statements “Operator (Coming Home To You)” and “And Suddenly” compare well with the best work Jeff Lynne (ELO) has ever done. Other songs recall old Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals, but overall this was an album that was impossible to put down, and that’s enough to make it a welcome addition to my top ten albums list of 2016. 

CD Baby | Kool Kat Musik

Simon Felton

Simon Felton “Return To Easton Square”

Another collection of therapeutic/confessional songs from Simon Felton (Garfield’s Birthday) that range from sombre to silly. The catchy piano  of “Alibi” has interesting lyrical phrasing “I wanna be your glass of wine…” Simon still has a way with melody as demonstrated on the Donovan-like psychedelic “Goodbye (Again)” and ”It Must Be (A Nightmare).”

While some corny stuff finds its way in “Good Morning Britain” (which sounds like an update of “Act Naturally”) there are plenty of compelling songs here. More highlights include “I Would (If I Wanted To)” and “It’s Obvious.” Give this one a chance and add it to your playlist.

Bandcamp