Greek Theatre and Bongo Boy Records

The Greek Theatre

The Greek Theatre “Lost Out At Sea”

Swede Sven Fröberg and partner Fredrick Persson deliver a meditation on the ’70s California sound, with echoing hums, deep bass and light guitar instrumentation built for a day at the beach. The pace is slow, but that’s expected with this style of pop; “August Streets” is beautifully rendered.

Fans of The Walker Brothers and CSNY will enjoy the semi-psychedelic epic “Frozen Highway.” You get these heavy passages that break into the songs light melody, and other songs just meander along. My favorite here is the catchy bounce of “Over Protection Doesn’t Work.” Fans of Paul Starling will also enjoy this. Listen with a cold drink nearby.

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Bongo Boy Records out of the Garage, Vol. 1

Bongo Boy Records “Out of the Garage, Vol. 1”

Bongo Boy Records has some of the best garage-punk rock artists and on this first volume, they showcase an eclectic selection of musicians, including legend Mark Lindsay and but mostly lesser known bands that deserved to be heard.

Lindsay’s opener “Like Nothing That You’ve Seen” is a top notch rocker, other highlights include Rage of Angels female-led rocker “Nothing To Brag About,” the stadium friendly “Spin” by Kickbend which could be sports show theme.  Veteran rockers The Catholic Girls and The Satisfactors round out this decent collection.

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The Junipers and Maryjo Mattea

The Junipers

The Junipers “Red Bouquet Fair”

Few bands understand the instrumental and melodic subtleties of late ‘60s baroque sunshine pop better than The Junipers. The band from Leicester, gives us their third album Red Bouquet Fair as it reminds the listener of Curt Boettcher, Harpers Bizarre and The Millennium. Opening with the light instrumental of the title track, then the piano lights up the ballad “Follow Loretta” and the gentle vocals of “Dig Me Up” include light psychedelic effects enhancing the catchy melody. This approach follows through on most of the music here, Mellotron, harmonies and spacey lyrics giving “Burning Pages” a dream-like soothing quality.

Some additional highlights include “Like A Merry Go Round” and the hushed harmonies of “Summer Queen” and “When the Bird Has Flown.” What is missing is the stronger guitar presence found on past albums. Still this is a highly recommended collection of music.

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The Junipers

Maryjo Mattea “Four Minute Symphonies”

MaryJo is a musician who deals in folk, pop, rock and punk genres, but always with a melodic touch to her songwriting. With this EP the Four Minute Symphonies showcase her strong vocals and understated electric guitar accompaniment in the title track.

“Rocket Science” is an obvious single, with a hummable chorus and strong guitar solo in the break. “We Were Here” is a frantic ’90s pop theme that would work well in a sitcom’s credits. Mattea’s piano torch songs are impressive, if a bit overly dramatic. I prefer the bouncy “Wish I May” which falls in the power pop category with its hand claps and harmonies. Give it a chance on your play list.

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Ken Sharp and Siberian Death Crash

Ken Sharp

Ken Sharp “New Mourning”

Veteran musician Ken Sharp has a special place in power pop history as both a top notch music author and singer songwriter. But we haven’t heard his music in over ten years so its a lucky day when we get the 14-track New Mourning. Add to this special guests Fernando Perdomo, Rob Bonfiglio, Prescott Niles and Rick Springfield. “Dynamite & Kerosene” is a sweet opener with Raspberries styled riffs, jangling rhythm and backing “oohs and ahhs” under the chorus. “Let’s Be Friends” continues the party with a layered combo of vocals, guitar and synths. “Solid Ground” is a Philly soul gem, vocally like a Smokey Robinson or Chairman of The Board song it evokes smiles all around. And the rocker “Crash & Burn” is a glam-tastic earworm that recalls both Queen and Badfinger together — truly a goosebump inducing song.

The album is a song cycle chronicling Sharp’s life with references to a musician’s regettable choices on “Bad News” and “LA Can Be Such A Lonely Town.” And even after the midpoint the quality of songs don’t dip, “Satellite” as an example with ELO-like synths and dense drumwork. Its all killer tracks here as the story arc continues from the acoustic ballad “1000 Guitars,” to the neat Beatlesque “Put The Blame On Me.” Easily this makes my top ten list, the best Sharp’s ever sounded and if it takes another decade to follow up, I’ll be waiting with open ears.

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Siberian Death Crash

Siberian Death Crash “The Trojan Cow”

Two brothers (Robert Turner, William Turner) and two friends (Peter Sargent, Benjamin Galinsky) from Manchester, UK put together this understated gem. The opener “Messengers of Faith” is a lo-fi piano ballad similar to The Eels, but the gentle “The SomnAmbulance” is a dreamlike melodic song with compelling harmonies. “Self-Excavating Prophecies” keeps a similar feel, mixing a Beta Band like psychedelic feel to the guitar riffs.

“Donna Lousie” is a little indie bubblegum song that ends too soon, fortunately the band gets retro with a 60’s soul popper about gameplay on “4 Outta 4 (On The Risk Board).” It goes all over the map after that, (with the 9-minute “Shit Tip” sounding like a lost Dandy Warhols track) but this is still one of the best FREE download album I’ve heard so far. You’ve got nothing to lose, so get it!

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New Artists and Freebies: Hailee Rose, The Boys Themselves, Vista Blue and Sally Stitches

Hailee Rose

Hailee Rose “Introducing Hailee Rose”

One of the biggest treats of last week’s Powerpopaholic Fest has been a visit from Dave Rave and his protegee Hailee Rose.  Her debut album captures some of her fantastic voice with help from Rave and his band mates on a series of covers. A classic blues tune “My Babe” is nice opener, kudos to guitarist Chris Wheeler. But Hailee really shines when she belts one out like The Beatles “Oh! Darling” and Aretha’s “Respect.” The recording is crisp and sparsely produced, but doesn’t quite capture the electricity of her live performance. “All Of  The Love” comes closest. Hopefully we’ll hear a lot more from Hailee soon.

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The Boys Themselves – A power fuzz trio from Ann Arbor, Michigan and right away they get props for doing a Jeff Lynne cover. Thank you Christian Anderson, Caleb Dillon and John Fossum, you got my attention – now work on an album next. This A/B single is a FREE download too.

Vista Blue is a collective rock band with members in Nashville, New Orleans and Cincinnati. Members have played in The Loblaws (Mutant Pop), Second Saturday (Excellent Records), and The Robinsons (One Eye, Mooster, Killer Records). Some nice three chord power pop here — all baseball themed! Another great FREE download.

Oh and on top of that collaboration, Mike (leader of Vista Blue) teamed up with members of The Hons and 35 PSI to form this quickie band Sally Stitches. The band’s new EP “End Up on 98” starts off with a Beach Boys meets Weezer styled car song “My Cherokee” and it sets the tone for the rest. Overall lots of fun and also a FREE download.

Glenn Case and Beverly

Glenn Case

Glenn Case “Noble Stuff”

Glenn has been very busy since he impressed us with his brilliant Throw Money LP in 2013. He put forth several albums since, and each has its own distinctive indie charms. Noble Stuff is the latest release and he continues to put his inner narrative to music with great results on the opener “Today is a Song” with its rich fuzz guitar rhythm and a melody about singing a song off key. Then he’s wishing he could write an ear worm like his idol, “Andy Partridge” that “sticks in your mind.”

The guitar work varies in styles from the Rundgren-styled pop of “I Offer You The Broadside of My Jaw” to the folk and rap of “One More Reason” with rapper Sum. He experiments with fuzz sound on the catchy piano pop of “Flood Victim” and “Failure is Always an Option.” While this album is missing the sharp humor we’ve heard in past projects, Glenn’s music is super entertaining and his back catalog is always worth exploring.

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Beverly

Beverly “The Blue Swell”

Catchiest space pop I’ve heard this year, Drew Citron’s ethereal vocals lead Beverly with shimmering noise pop of collaborators Scott Rosenthal (The Beets, Crystal Stilts) and Kip Berman (The Pains of Being Pure at Heart). Its a fuzzy sugar rush on the opener “Bulldozer,” and then the jangle shimmer of “Crooked Cop” is another catchy gem. “Victoria” is another obvious single, with the guitar lines trailing Citron’s vocals as if Enya fronted The Ocean Blue.

“South Collins” is darker and the guitar is heavier, like an oppressive fog over everything. The next few songs have more distortion and are less melodic, “Lake House” and “Contact” feature Citron’s lead buried a bit, until we get to “The Smoky Pines.” A little more easy going, and mesmerizing – its solid dream pop that is highly recommended.

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