Identical Suns and Gordon Weiss

Identical Suns

Identical Suns “Identical Suns”

Like several other bands, songwriters Todd Stanton and Rene Rodriguez collaborated long distance on their debut album Identical Suns. Although the vocals are a little rough, “Baby I’m Down” has plenty of feeling and the spirit of Springsteen and The Raspberries are evident. “Nothing I Can Do” is a big standout, a rich warm composition very much like Stephen Lawrenson. The California styled pop of “Coulda Sent A Reminder” and “Yesterday Ended At Midnight” have the early ’70s as a main influence with easy strums and beautiful backing harmonies. The catchy “Common Ground” is another highlight with special guest star Christian Phillips of the Sonic Executive Sessions doing backing vocals.

The style changes on the hard rock of “E.M.I.L.Y.” and again on the piano melody “The Turn,” which sounds like Dennis Wilson playing for Golden Earring. It seems like the band is trying to see which style “sticks” best, and a few songs overstay their welcome (“Unraveled”). I liked the mellower compositions, including the sweet ballad “After The Lullaby.” These Suns do have some shining moments, so give them a chance to warm your heart.

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Gordon Weiss

Gordon Weiss “It’s About Time”

Connecticut musician Gordon Weiss delivers his sophomore album, and the energetic “The Ugly Side” is a catchy song about the state of political discourse when each side is perceived as “ugly.” Gordon then goes to “I’m Your Fan,” an inner monologue of a music nerd at a concert. The songs are mostly sparsely produced ( “Spinning Round” is the exception) and strongly composed.

The circular piano melody on “Sticky Thoughts” has a few Beatley moments, but Gordon doesn’t make this a primary focus. It’s the story and the lyrics that add depth and a bit more weight to the title track, “About Time.” This long song starts slowly about the anxieties of the past, and builds to a strong chorus that reminds me of Richard X. Heyman. But for all those with rock star dreams “The Great Imitator” is an epic saga of a musician who fears “If the melody’s catchy, would they say its’ too treacley? If I wrote Hey Jude, would they say it’s too Beatley?” This is an album that deserves to have its poetic stories listened to more than once.

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Reno Bo “Lessons from a Shooting Star”

Reno Bo “Lessons from a Shooting Star”

After spending most of his career performing and touring with the Mooney Suzuki, Albert Hammond Jr. (the Strokes), Caitlin Rose and Andrew Combs, Reno Bo decided to make this his breakout effort; doing almost everything on his own. Reno appeared on the power pop radar in 2010, but this year he’s blown away all expectations with his newest Lessons From A Shooting Star. From the pounding beat and swirling chords of “Sweetheart Deal” its chock full of catchy power pop.

Every song presents itself perfectly, on “How Do You Do” Bo is joined by guitarist Sadler Vaden for a single that is a bit of Dave Edmunds meets Jeff Lynne, and its completely irresistible. “Just Say Go” has the guitar riff lead the song at full speed, and then we slow down on “Strange Maps” to a Jackson Browne like mid-tempo gem with some impressive guitar breaks.

“And I Know She Did” is a shimmering Big Star like ballad and “The Brighter Side” co-written by Brendan Benson sounds like the best song Matthew Sweet didn’t write. “Sleeping Sun” is a standout piano based melody with a big pinch of Beatles, as well as the wondrous pysche-pop closer “Somewhere There’s Something.” In fact, each song is a home run and this album clearly hits the top of my top ten list this year. I don’t award an album a “10” rating lightly, but Reno Bo deserves it. Essential listening.

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Singles: Brandon Schott, The Well Wishers and The Sensibles

Brandon Schott: Get ready for gorgeous melodies from Brandon, this song is an advance from his new album “Crayons and Angels” which is self-funded through Kickstarter here. This tune “Every Little Song” is full of neat little sonic details and also helped by having the talented Kelly Jones backing Brandon up. Soak it in and please invest in great music like this.

The Well Wishers: Well Wishers frontman Jeff Shelton is at it again. “Build A Life” here is an unmastered demo, but it sounds better than most bands finished singles. Keep making music Jeff, and we’ll keep on listening.

The Sensibles: This is an Italian band that keeps improving with each release, and this A-B single is full of guitar crunch and Stella’s accented delivery. “Bibi” is a fun punk pop romp, and “Little Girl” has an early ’60s girl group vibe (think Shangri-La’s) with its catchy chorus.

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The London Souls “Here Come The Girls”

The Connection

The London Souls “Here Come The Girls”

Like mixing peanut butter and chocolate, when its done right you come up with a perfectly delicious combination – and that’s the best analogy of what The London Souls do with music. Mixing 70’s hard rock, pop and soul influences the band recalls Lenny Kravitz in his prime, but with a fresher coat of post-millennial paint.

Based in New York City, guitarist Tash Neal, drummer Chris St. Hilaire and bassist Stu Mahan blasts through the speakers with “When I’m With You,” a power pop nugget as catchy as classic Badfinger. “Steady” adds some soul and funk to the guitar riffs in the manner of Sly Stone. The acoustic “Hercules” is a catchy gem similar in spirit to Led Zepplin’s “Bron-Y-Aur Stomp” with its catchy riffs. “Alone” is a Zombies-Beatles styled composition with a sweet chorus, and you begin to notice as each song shifts in style, preventing things from getting too predictable. From the heavy riffs of “All Tied Down” to southern Allman Bros. style of “Bobby James,” it all works beautifully. This LP is easily a candidate for my top ten list for 2015. Don’t miss it.

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Texas Never Whispers and Johnny Stanec

Texas Never Whispers

Texas Never Whispers “Texas Never Whispers”

Local Austin TX musical veterans like vocalist Tim Regan (Oh No! Oh My!), Dave Quanbury (Twilight Hotel) and bassist Daniel Wilcox (The Ugly Beats) deliver a mature take on Texas-spun indie rock that compares well with Wilco and Old 97s.  Although the band’s name comes from an old Pavement song, the sound is pure melodic alt. country. The album concept is a reminiscence of a past relationship through several songs.

“Record Shop” is an understated opener that leads to the piano blues on “Be Your Man.” It’s all a slow but still compelling on “Midnight Companion” and the ballad “Nashville.” The tempo picks up with the single “Always Drunk” about a sweetie that’s drunk on “poetry or wine,” and then ups the twang on the melodic “Tennessee Memories,” about the “faded echoes” of the protagonist’s romance. A hint of John Lennon’s piano peeks out from “Generous Gambler” and the wonderful melody on “Friends” is another winner. A really fine album that deserves to be heard.

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Johnny Stanec

Johnny Stanec “No Horizon”

Johnny Stanec (First in Space) returns with a confessional, mainly acoustic album that stands in direct contrast to his rock n’ roll band. The easy strum of “Let it Slip Away” grows into a repeatable chorus, and the solid “The Trouble With Spies” recall the late ’90s Toad The Wet Sprocket in spots. This album relies more on Johnny’s confident vocals to carry things, and the production is more stripped down than previous solo efforts.

“Until The Dawn” is one of his better ballads, and the poppiest effort here is the upbeat “Love, Life and The Chances We Missed.” Stanec certainly proves he’s versatile with the poignant “Winter’s Song” and “End of Days.” Give it a try.

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