EP Reviews: The Top Boost, Easy Roscoe, Boys on The Beach

Automat

The Top Boost “Turn Around” EP

The Top Boost is Vancouver’s newest garage pop trio (Hunter Gogo, Kirill Yurtsev, Greg Johnston), and their debut EP Turn Around was recorded and mixed in Vancouver and mastered at Abbey Road Studios in London. And it sure sounds fantastic, after a quick intro “What If She Loves You” takes its cue from 1980s song structure and psychedelic 60s jangle. Think bands like The Ocean Blue, Aztec Camera, and The La’s. Each compelling, catchy melody resonates from the romantic “Tell That Girl” to the shimmering “Still On My Mind.” The title track is unusual, it has a swirling melodic chorus interrupted by ascending minor chords that give it a sinister feel. One of the best debut EPs I’ve heard so far this year.

Amazon


Easy Roscoe “Piñata” EP

Nashville rockers that have an easy going, fun approach with their bright vocals and catchy guitar riffs. “Roll Baby Roll” is a great start, and “Green Leather Jacket” is a little Green Day and Gin Blossoms with a bit of Southern attitude. Some nice harmonies and call and response vocals make “By The Water” another gem. Then add a funk rhythm and bass guitar to those harmonies, and “Whoa-o-o” you have a easy party song on “We Cry.” An impressive debut.

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Boys On The Beach “Addiction”

It’s a stretch to call this an EP, more like a single (2 tracks) but this band from Tokyo, Japan knows how to rock. “I Hate This Addiction” has big echoing fuzz chords and dense percussion. Even better is the B-side “It’s Allright, it’s Okay” with Japanese verse and an English chorus. Hope to hear more from these guys!

Bandcamp | Boysonthebeach.net

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The Honeydogs and Champagne

Honeydogs

The Honeydogs “Love & Cannibalism”

The Honeydogs return this year, and lead dog Adam Levy (fresh off his brilliant solo LP Naubinway) unwinds a bluesy pop opener “Vermillion Billows (Shouldn’t Take It So Hard)” with a smart lead riff in the chorus and just like that, The Honeydogs are back. “Devices” has the band sounding tighter than ever, with jazz horn and funk guitar accents. Levy makes music here that is both celebratory and soulful.

“Art & Vandalism” is my favorite here, a Honeydog classic about “counting your blessings” and it has a Steely Dan-like confidence alongside its catchy melody. “Wheels” and “Left Alone” are good upbeat rockers, and “Looking Through the Sun” is another great guitar melody, so no filler here either. The Americana themed “Ordinary Legs” and Caribbean themed “Little Sister” close out this fine album, highly recommended and worthy of many repeat listens.

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Champagne

Champagne “Beach Closed”

Champagne is a band from Cádiz, Spain that explodes on the scene with Beach Closed. The loud opener “Tell Me Why” is a piano-guitar melody that is everything we love about power pop, from the catchy chorus to infectious guitar solo midway through. Despite the euro-accented vocals,”Visiting You” is another gem that rings true with deep riffs closer in style to Weezer or The Gigolo Aunts. It does veer into arena rock territory with “Don’t Feed The Animal” and “The Van,” but the energy level is high and songs still engage you.

“It’s Alright” is a campfire beach sing-along with a simple ukulele and guitar melody and “Where’s Barbara Ann?” is a wonderful Beach Boys themed rocker that’s my favorite here. Another terrific ear-worm is “Plastic Feelings,” with a toe tapping guitar melody and “Weller” is a nice shout out to The Jam frontman. It ends with the lovely harmonies of “Hawaii,” especially the dream-like layered ending. Highly Recommended.

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Arvidson & Butterflies and Weezer

Edward Rogers

Arvidson & Butterflies “Arvidson & Butterflies”

A big thanks to Wayne “The Ice Cream Man” Ford, a power pop blogger/radio DJ who helped bring Swedish power pop musician Roger Arvidson to my attention. Backed by a first rate band known as The Butterflies, its full of jangling Rickenbackers and uplifting themes. Fans of Joe Algeri’s work (The Jangle Band, Britannicas, and The JAC) will feel at home with this album. Starting with“Tired Of Running,” it has that Byrdsian layered rhythms and echoing vocals sure to please.

The album follows this formula, as each song is crisp and inviting and but especially good “Changing All The Time” has a little more weight reminding me of Tom Petty. No filler here, although “Change The World” gets a little preachy with its mantra. Roger even gets a little wild on “Alright” with its head shaking tempo. Another big thanks to Kool Kat Musik for releasing this highly recommended album.

Kool Kat Musik | Amazon (EP only)


Weezer

Weezer “The White Album”

When the band decided to “come back to the shack” on Everything Will Be All Right in the End it appeared Rivers Cuomo had embraced Weezer’s glorious past. So on this newest self titled LP known as “The White Album” Rivers teams up with Dan Wilson (Semisonic) on the opening track “California Kids.” But as an opener it feels like a overproduced throwaway track, with its “ooh-wee-ooh” backing and familiar structure we’ve heard before, almost like a Weezer cover band. The melody on the piano of “Wind in Our Sail” is much better, and the chiming “(Girl We Got A) Good Thing” is a real winner with its joyful chorus and solid guitar break. Whew! Weezer is back.

However we still get lyrical weirdness of “Thank God For Girls,” a male rant/rap that pokes at gender fears and offers absurd analogies without much melody. Also “Do You Wanna Get High?” painfully tries to re-create the era of Blue Album – it almost works, but its Rivers love letter to his wife Kyoto “King of the World,” that feels closest to the “old” Weezer in terms of style. “Summer Elaine and Drunk Dori” continues this nostalgic trip. The good news is that the band still sounds great and makes an effort to tell stories that tie together, and it succeeds for the most part. Even with a few duds, this is the Weezer you know and love. Highly Recommended.

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Gentle Hen and Gretchen’s Wheel

Gentle Hen

Gentle Hen “The Bells on the Boats on the Bay”

Gentle Hen is the creation of Northampton Mass. songwriter Henning Ohlenbusch. The band includes Brian Marchese, Max Gemer, Ken Maiuri, and Tony Westcott. These are emotional, easy going pop tunes starting with the relaxed “I Don’t Know About Anyone Else But” with its catchy chorus and its repeating echo motif.  Its a little like They Might Be Giants without all the nerdy subject matter or accordion — “Jake and Kim Broke Up (Leave Me Out of It)” has a snazzy rhythm and soaring vocal ending.

Overall the music is compelling as “I Wasn’t Looking For This” and “Somebody Else’s Problem” is about the difficulties of breaking up (with a very sweet Kinks reference.)  Sometimes the limitations of Henning’s vocal range are evident on several songs, but the multi-tracking on “the Wrongway Out of Town” make it very palatable. Another fun gem is the stream-of-thought lyrics on “The People You See Regularly Never Grow Old.” Worth checking out!

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Gretchen's Wheel

Gretchen’s Wheel “Behind the Curtain”

Gretchen’s Wheel is the brainchild of Nashville-based Lindsay Murray. Her music is a lush indie-pop with some power pop influences. While her first album Fragile State was produced by Ken Stringfellow (Posies) this new album is assisted by musicians Phil Ajjarapu, Ira Elliot (Nada Surf), Donny Brown, Andy Reed, and Jack Thomas.

The quick tempo “Invisible Thief” starts out good, but “Younger Every Year” is a stunning composition that showcases a lush pop sensibility and Lindsay’s ethereal vocal. “The Good Things” is another song with an easy flowing melody, but the guitar takes center stage on “Live Through You,” delivering a rock solid tune.  “Try To Make It” is another gem written by the power pop legend Sloan, so you just gotta give Gretchen’s Wheel a spin.

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The Monkees “Good Times”

Monkees

The Monkees “Good Times!”

After 20 years, The Monkees return to make an album that celebrates the bands 50th anniversary and revives those past days. Here is an album that mixes old unheard songs with newly written music by the band and  musicians who grew up huge Monkee fans (mostly power pop royalty.) Is it as good as all the hype I’ve read so far?

The answer is a resounding YES. Good Times works best when the modern songwriters write the new Monkee “hits” and though the remaining band members (Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith, and Peter Tork) are senior citizens, they still sound great. Under the care of Monkees archivist and musician Andrew Sandoval, and producer Adam Schlesinger (Fountains Of Wayne) they deliver an album that blends the new with the old seamlessly. The albums first half is flawless, and even though the other half slows down a little, the songs are still awesome. Gets a big fat top ten rating this year no doubt.

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Other blogs have detailed the albums highlighted tracks, so I will spread the link love if you want more reading:

Consequence of Sound

Boppin’ (Like The Hip Folks Do)

The Spaz Review

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