Dana Countryman and The Bishops Daredevil Stunt Club

Dana Countryman

Dana Countryman “Pop2! The Exploding Musical Mind of Dana Countryman”

Dana Countryman is back! After the debut LP almost exactly one year ago he returns with a solid light pop delight. Unlike last year’s debut Dana isn’t showcasing a mix of different pop styles, he sticks with the mid 70’s romantic sound that was popularized by AM radio staples like The Carpenters, Gilbert O’Sullivan and Andrew Gold.

Dana is extremely comfortable with this style, “Baby I’ll Be Your Star” is a great theme with its crisp melody lines and sax lead, it reminded me of the Hudson Brothers or Eric Carmen. The romantic harmonies of “Just Look In My Eyes” is dripping with so much sweetness, it approaches epic Barry Manilow status. When he chimes “I wake up every morning with a Great Big Goofy Grin,” he sings this affirmation like its his life mantra. Then Dana sings a duet with Beach Boys styled vocalist John Hunter Phillips on “I’ll Get Right Back To You” and its a perfect match as Dana’s vocals are uncannily like Al Jardine — this is another winner. It can get way too corny, “Momma Said I’m Not Supposed To Roll And Roll” is an over the top fifties boogie, but its fun too. Overall, this is bright, bouncy sweet pop music that recalls the top 40 from 40 years ago. If you are a nostalgic sap like me, you’ll love it. Highly Recommended!


 The Bishop's Daredevil Stunt Club

The Bishop’s Daredevil Stunt Club “Veva, Hold On!”

This Chicago band is one of those rare finds where you’ll be saying “Where have these guys been hiding?” Lead by singer songwriter Billy Giricz, the Bishop’s Daredevil Stunt Club is an alternative rock band that draws influences from The Posies, Radiohead, Stone Temple Pilots and Matthew Sweet. He’s assisted by Dan Passarelli on bass, Paulette Bertrand on keys, Darin Gregg on guitar and Luke Smith on drums.

Opening with “Bob’s Yer Uncle,” you hear clear vocals, steady rhythm and solid song structure. Next my favorite track, “Days At The Pool” is a hypnotic slice of life that draws you in. Paulette adds her vocal on “Treat Yourself”as the harmonies weave into the background. “Singlehandedly” is a highlight similar to Weezer or The Replacements, but it almost goes off track with the six minute droning of “Jaws of Life.” The charming Lou Reed-like title track keeps things fun, and helps make this an enjoyable (but short) LP. Check it out.


Vinyl Records Edition: The Turtles

There is a movement about and quietly the vinyl record is making a comeback. Some artists slough through this process knowing it appeals to a select (but growing) group of audiophiles. There is a false sense that with the ubiquity of digital music, vinyl is the new “artisanal” method for distribution. As the article in Slate states “the vinyl boom can be seen as yet another manifestation of the societal fetishization of all things “vintage” and analog, which is pretty clearly a response to digitization.” The statistic is that 75% of these sales are for rock music – my guess is if you look further, its for classic 60’s artists too. That brings us to this special vinyl record review:

Ransom and The Subset

The Turtles “45 RPM Vinyl Singles Collection”

Few bands navigated the tumultuous shift in popular rock style from clean cut pop harmonies of the British Invasion to the Psychedelic era than The Turtles. Lots of great bands just couldn’t make that shift, and just didn’t have the versatility. The list of casualties is long; The Beau Brummels, The Hollies, The Association, The Cryan Shames, etc. And even among contemporaries like The Grass Roots or The Monkees (who also thrived during that time) The Turtles did more than survive. They blazed a trail forward, with an unmatched satirical edge to their music.

Add to this the talents of Howard Kaylan, Mark Volman and Jim Pons (all who would move on to Frank Zappa’s Mothers), arranger/producer/bassist Chip Douglas and John Barbata. Kaylan’s vocals have stood the test of time, as one of the most distinctive in rock and roll, and the bands sense of humor was unlike anyone else at the time. You can hear this on the many singles of this newly-remastered vinyl disc box set. What stood out for me was the quality of the B-sides of these records. Songs like “Outside Chance,” written by a young Warren Zevon or the under-rated “Sound Asleep” which deserves a second listen. These 16 singles were personally compiled and packaged by the band in very limited quantities.   The Turtles 45 RPM Vinyl Singles Collection will be released via FloEdCo/Manifesto Records.

Get it from The Turtles | Amazon

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.


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.


Aerial and The Well Wishers


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