Ransom & The Subset and Brandon Schott

Ransom and The Subset

Ransom and the Subset “No Time To Lose”

One of the glossiest power pop debuts this year, the Seattle based band is led by singer-songwriter RanDair Porter, and he’s enlisted heavy hitters Brian E. King (OranJuly, Parks) and Ducky Carlisle (Mike Viola, Major Labels, Taylor Locke) to help play and produce the album. Each song is finely crafted rock, “Anna” is a compelling dramatic melody about an anxious fan and “Leaving With You” is just awesome with its shimmering guitar lead and multi-tracked harmonies. Porter also recruited Mike Musburger (The Posies) on drums and Mike Squires (Harvey Danger) on bass guitar for this track. You’ll hear Ducky’s fingerprints all over “Million Out Of Me” with its Bleu-like arrangement and quick tempo hand-clap rhythm section.

While Porter’s vocal range is limited, his songwriting more than makes up for it, the title track is a narrative about a the plight of a desperate woman. And his style isn’t that easy to categorize; “Sticking Onto You” goes a bit overboard, adding the kitchen sink with Blue Swede’s “Ooga Chaka” in the verse. But its not about arbitrary genre definitions, its about the music… and the music is very good. “Questions” is an emotional piano based melody, and “Girl I’m Not Afraid” has a bit of Rockpile in its DNA. Overall, this is a solid debut with more than enough gems demanding repeat listens.


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Brandon Schott

Brandon Schott “Verdugo Park” EP

As a preview to his next full length, the talented Brandon Schott gives us some sweet melodies with “Verdugo Park.” On the title track he channels Harry Nilsson, and then gives us a mellow Beatlesque sitar instrumental “Lapiz Lazulli” and a cover of Richard & Robert Sherman’s 1962 song “Castaway.”

It’s also worth noting that Schott had a sober single ballad “You Take My Breath Away” last year, the other side being the Beach Boys styled “Now” and proceeds of this A-B single go to support The Benjamin Center in Santa Monica, CA – a branch of the Cancer Support Community. I can’t wait for the new LP and this just increases the anticipation.

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Aerial and The Well Wishers

Aerial

Aerial “Why Don’t They Teach Heartbreak At School?”

With all the recent excitement about Irish band Pugwash’s recent US tour, I want to bring to attention a power pop trio from Aberdeen, Scotland called Aerial. They roll out of the gate with the forceful “Cartoon Eyes, Cartoon Heart,” reminding me of both The New Pornographers and Weezer. The title track is another winner,  a lighter pop approach similar to Fountains of Wayne about the drama of teenage heartbreak. The follow up “Japanese Dancer” is a fast paced riff centered melody that you’ll want to hear over and over again. The slower, romantic “Every Word You Say” keeps the dense guitars in place and the hits keep on coming.

“Great Teenager” is an excellent song about never growing up and wanting to retreat into that world, “It may be ten years later, but I’d make a great teenager.” The vocal harmonies and beat have more than a little Beach Boys DNA here. The narrative continues, as the grown up who knows life is tough all over in “More Than Alcohol,” and these stories all fit together seamlessly. Each song is great, no loose ends either as “Dear Anna” is a modern version of Pet Sounds “Caroline, No.” I could go on, but its safe to say that this one of the best albums of the year, and makes my big 2014 list. Kool Kat Musik has an exclusive 4 demo additional CD included.

Amazon | Kool Kat Musik

The Well Wishers

The Well Wishers “A Shattering Sky”

Well Wishers frontman Jeff Shelton is like the Energizer bunny… he just keeps going! And after 6 albums he’s still cranking out excellent music. The dense wall of Rickenbacker guitars that are part of Shelton’s signature sound return, starting with the catchy opener “Vincennes”  a rousing anthem that’s sure to get you playing the air guitar.

“Shelia” is another winner with its danceable chorus. Another great highlight is the alt-country gem “Right Here at Last” with an assist by Bradley Skaught of Bye Bye Blackbirds. Shelton’s consistency is reassuring to fans, as he varies the approach enough to keep things from getting too predictable. “Goodbye” is another jangling gem. Fans of REM, Bob Mould and The Spinning Jennies will love this. Super Highly Recommended.

CD Baby | Amazon

The Alarms and The Lisa Mychols 3

The Alarms

The Alarms “Real Tough Love”

The Alarms are a perfect example of modern power pop mixing the classic garage sound of The Seeds with the melodic shine of Oasis. We’ve heard from lead singer and guitarist Robert Gay before, but here the talent is exponentially multiplied across ten deeply impressive cuts.“The Axe” is a rousing start-off, like an American version of Supergrass its dense wall of guitars drives the track along with its echoing beat. “Break It Easy” is a marching ballad, with a driving bass and slow organ, very much like The Doors, but Robert’s vocal is what carries this one.

He does an even better job on “The Only One.” This a gorgeous ballad in the tradition of George Harrison, and it lingers long after it ends. The mood shifts on the nugget “May My Heart Be Cast Into Stone” originally done by The Toys in 1966. This is a great “lost” song that gets revealed by The Alarms chiming guitars and clean harmonies. Another gem “Avalon” is very much like a classic Zombies rock anthem, and then the garage rocker “Famous Kids” keeps the party going. The title track reminds me of The Godfathers, a combination of punk and 60’s psyche-pop. Robert honors the past, but is firmly rooted in the present. The Alarms have been going off in my head, telling me this is one LP that you can’t ignore.

Bandcamp | Itunes

Lisa Mychols 3

The Lisa Mychols 3 “The Lisa Mychols 3″ EP

Lisa was one of the highlights of Power Popaholic Fest and she played music from this EP as her set. “Getting rid of that old confusion,” Lisa intones on “Back To The Truth” with her bandmates Ricky Tubb (drums) and Tom Richards (guitar). There is no confusion on my part, Lisa wants to rock harder again. And that lead single is a great example, with its killer hook.

And she continues on “Ready For Action” and “The Fool” where a full force driving riff dominates those songs. The harmonies are still there, and Lisa’s lovely vocal is still the focal point for these songs, but Richards guitar is given much more weight and prominence than past Mychols projects. Fans should seek this out and I hope Lisa continues to amaze us with her new trio on future projects.

CD Baby | Amazon

 

Michael Carpenter, The Pengwins and Jack Skuller

While I rarely highlight singles, a lot of them have reached my inbox lately.  I wanted to share and even though I didn’t “rate” them, they are most worthy of your attention:

Martin Carr

Michael Carpenter “Too Late/I’ve Been Lovin’ You”

A long-time favorite of this blog, Michael Carpenter has returned to the studio, and he’s taken a break from the covers and delivered some original compositions. “Too Late” is blues-rocker that has a strong pop melody and “I’ve Been Lovin’ You” is a dense guitar chorus that makes most Carpenter songs a joy to listen to.

Bandcamp

The Pengwins

The Pengwins “Vol.2″

The legacy of The Pengwins continues to drip out in exclusive box-set singles like last years “Vol.1: Naive/Life After High School”.  This year we have Vol.2 “If U Want 2/Look Around” and its a wonderful new combo. “If U Want 2″ was newly recorded and is the real gem here, with echoes of The Shoes and The Beatles it was even recorded in Abbey Road studios.

Lannie Flowers sounds great as always, the second side “Look Around” was originally recorded in the late ’70s and has more of a Cheap Trick vibe. If you order direct from SpyderPop Records, you get a special cardboard box, 7″ single with a bonus CD of the songs, plus guitar picks, photos, and other goodies.

CD Baby

Jack Skuller

Jack Skuller “Can You See Me | Hard To Want”

Jack Skuller is a young modern musician called by some “the anti-Bieber,” or “a mini Jack White.” Skuller cites his influences as Little Walter, Buddy Holly and Elvis Costello. This year he was the recipient of the Holly Prize, an award made possible by the Songwriters Hall of Fame and Songmasters as a tribute to the legacy of Buddy Holly, a Hall of Fame inductee. One listen to the single, and I was impressed. Check it out.

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RIP: The last ride of Paul Revere.

Paul Revere, leader of Paul Revere and the Raiders passed away Saturday 10/4 at his home in Idaho. He was 76.

As one of the most popular bands of the 1960s, Paul Revere and The Raiders were second only to The Beatles and The Rolling Stones during their glory years (1966-1969) with a boatload of memorable singles like “Kicks,” “Hungry” and “Indian Reservation.” Dick Clark introduced them to the country on American Bandstand, a gesture Revere never forgot. The band continued to tour the oldies circuit, and as you can see and hear from the video I posted, he had a magnetic personality and a great sense of humor. The band even appeared on The Batman TV show at the time. He will be sorely missed.