Starling Electric and Colman Gota

Starling Electric

Starling Electric “Electric Company”

Seven years is a lifetime for a band like Starling Electric and its been that long since we reviewed their debut album. But singer/songwriter Caleb Dillon soldiered on to finish Electric Company. Like the last album, a myriad of influences from melodic ’60s and ’70s pop, prog and rock are the base of this musical soup. Based out of Ann Arbor, Michigan the band’s players have changed a little, but the sound is consistent and the songs resonate even more. 

“No Clear Winner” blares out a chord before it quietly gets to the verse. Then Dillon has the blaring chorus sound like Peter Gabriel had joined Guided By Voices. Some lovely song fragments float in, like “Expression One” but after this we are treated to the joyous “Permanent Vacation,” the magical melody of “Arrowsmith” and fuzz-drenched “Mild Thing.” The elegant Brian Wilson styled orchestration meets CSN baroque harpsichord on “Young Man of The Mountain” continues this string of  great songs. “Bad Blood” has an irrepressible beat and hand-claps, then we get to “Zodiac,” a catchy mid-tempo gem about a girl with an precognitive abilities. The Rundgren-like structure of “(Save Me From This) Amy” is another brilliant tune amongst the bunch with rarely any misstep in its 16-track running time. This is simply a great album that deserves to be on my top ten list for 2016. Super highly recommended.

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Colman Gota

Colman Gota “Tape”

Last year Colman Gota (Insanity Wave) embarked on a successful solo career, and Tape is a really good follow-up. If you can imagine Tom Petty with less alt country, and a lot more alt rock you’ll enjoy Gota’s music. “Waiting for a Change” starts us off with a dense riff and driving chorus. Even catchier is “Another Chance” with its “ba-ba-da-ba” backing harmonies and hand claps. But its the title track that explains it all as Colman sings “I fell in love with rock and roll/that kind of music soothes my soul.”

Colman is more focused and you can hear the difference; “Sing Your Song” and “A Long Week Ahead” speak of long nights on the road, and domestic bliss. My favorite here is “Do What I Want,” a great message about living life the way you want, all set to a great hook. There is no filler here, and even the indulgence of a horn section in “Something I Don’t Need” make it a great party tune. Highly Recommended.

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Dum Dog Run and Love In October

Edward Rogers

Dum Dog Run “DDR 2: Still Dum After All These Years”
A decade later the heavy rock band DDR is back. Lead singer Rick Altizer is back playing rock loud and proud, and this time they add some keyboards in the mix. The DDR sound is a bit like Judas Priest meets Van Halen with guitarist Jade Hanson making the most of the late 80’s style. Like the title, the music is light-hearted, macho and still a labor of love for the players involved.

Rick’s vocal’s are still perfection on the opener “Transmareo,” about a dream car mix of Trans Am and Camero. The biographic “David Lee Roth” drops all sorts of VH lyrics, riffs, solos and tributes through this fun song. Speaking of macho, they have a tune called “Machismo” which recalls Altizer’s power pop past. Rick does get a chance to rant on “Off The Hook,” taking on the critics in the music press – and its dissing of Kiss. “Get To The Chopper” is another impressive song that encourages air guitar playing. Despite a few artistic indulgences, this is a solid album that grows on you with repeat listens and deserves to be highly recommended.

CD Baby | Amazon


 

Love in October

Love in October “Love in October III” EP

Love in October is composed of brothers Erik and Kent Widman hailing from the northern mountains of Sweden, now residing in Stockholm, Sweden and Chicago, IL. Love in October III is their first release since 2011 and ends the band’s four-year hiatus. The EP is a bouncy, positive slice of modern pop than manages to to be catchy without the pretentious attitude of most pop bands.

“Teenage Evolution” is a pop single that’s both approachable and danceable. “Time Shifter” and “Date Night” are a bit more standard pop (yawn!), but thankfully “My Old Future” adds a sweet guitar rhythm and a melodic chorus similar to Weezer. In the lyrics he mentions “Han Solo’s ghost would be proud of me,” I would be quiet proud adding Love in October to my playlist this May.

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The Posies and ReadyMade Breakup

The Posies

The Posies “Solid States”

The Posies prove they are survivors, as both Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow have dealt with major blows over the last few years – the death of drummer Darius Minwalla last year, and former bassist Joe Skyward passing away this past March from cancer. The duo has soldiered on, and have “modernized” their sound a bit in the process.

The opener “We R Power” is a defiant anthem that builds the guitar riffs with each chorus, like The Posies of old it fits in nicely with the bands catalog. The follow ups; the understated “Unlikely Places” and “Scattered” retains that signature melodic power, with the duos harmonies in full bloom coming from a genuine longing. “Titanic” and “Rollercoaster Zen” are where the band starts to veer into a sound thats more like Animal Collective or Grizzly Bear. It still works due to the bands knack for catchy rhythmic skills, and Stringfellow’s vocals are just hypnotic. But it just doesn’t work for me with on the synth pop of “M Doll” and “The Definition.”  Still there are great songs to be mined here; “Squirrel vs Snake” is one of them, with its tuneful metaphors. The bands trauma leaves scars, and in the healing process allowed them to takes risks, so fans should be open to exploring the new sound. Highly Recommended.

Amazon | Lojinx

Love in October

Readymade Breakup “Live With It” EP

Asbury Park’s best kept secret has been in semi-retired mode, living adult lives until recently, the band decided to come back with a live recording. Opening with the best song Iggy Pop or Lou Reed never wrote, “Kiss My Ring” is a great single with swagger to spare. “Adolescent Fantasy” and “Low Life Creep” are fuzz guitar punk gems in the spirit of The Jam and The Ramones.

After these high energy singles, it seems the band comes back to earth on “Everything is Crumbling” as the lead singer Paul Rosevear states “My mind is fried…” Thankfully its back to the snarling on “Whiskey & Jellybeans,” and the whole minute and a half song  is about losing your teeth, “They were white/then yellow/then loose… then fell out.” It would be funny if it didn’t sound so angry. What is also unique about this release is you get it bundled with a neat-o tee shirt!

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Younghusband and Carousels

Younghusband

Younghusband “Dissolver”

One of the young bands I found scouring SXSW’s performers list was British quartet Younghusband. Like other neo-pyschedelic artists (Jacco Gardener or The Junipers comes to mind) lead vocalist-guitarist Euan Hinshelwood does a good job with melodic guitar lines framed by catchy rhythms. Opening with “Waverly Street” its a light harmony with fluid guitars underneath, similar to early Apples in Stereo, but the slower plodding followup “Heavy Expectations” has more of a Velvet Underground aesthetic.

Its the upbeat gems that will win you over like the catchy “She Lies Awake” and the densely packed gem “Blonde Bending” with its sweetly layered chorus. Sometimes a very simple arrangement like “Better Times” grows into a winner with its unexpected chord shifts. While not every song hits the melodic mark, enough do to make this a worthy investment of your time. I look forward to this young bands continued development.

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The Carousels

The Carousels “Love Changes Like the Seasons”

2014 debut release from this eight-member Scottish band delivers impressive psychedelic folk/country songs with captivating vocal harmonies. The use of chiming 12-string guitar chords is the main accompaniment here. “(I Hope I Never) Get You Off My Back” will appeal to fans of Paul Starling and the audiophile will hear an echo of The Beatles “Please Please Me” in “Call Along The Coast.” The music is lovely and stylistically consistent but the drawback to this is that no single track stands out and it makes for homogeneous listening.  The slide guitar on “Deep Mid Winter” and the Pet Sounds-like production techniques on songs like “Drifting Back” distinguish it a little better than the rest. Still its worth exploring if you love group harmonies like The Hollies, Byrds or The High Dials.

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The Dowling Poole and Bill Lloyd

Dowling Poole

Dowling Poole “One Hyde Park”

The Dowling Poole takes the whimsy and stagecraft of the first album, Bleak Strategies and turns the knob up to “11.” Willie Dowling (Jackdaw 4) and Jon Poole (Cardiacs) have made quirky XTC styled pop with even more layered narrative elements, as the brilliant opener “Rebecca Receiving” is gloomy song about aging played to a bouncy march in a world “shattered and torn.” The manic tempo continues on “Fight, Fight, Fight” with a twisted organ chiming in on the melodic joy of horns, guitars and “ba-ba” harmonies.

“When She Knows, She Knows” is another example of psychedelic Brit madness and “Vox Pops” is full of high melodic sarcasm, with a nice Brian May-like guitar break midway through. The next several track play out like late-era 10cc with “Hope and Glory” and “Bring Back The Glory” having a dream-like quality. “Whatever” actually goes off into a prog-rock trip, before we circle back to the epic title track, with its swelling chorus of “Barbed Wire On The Chelsea Bridge…” Overall no filler, but its also not as immediately catchy as the first album. After repeat listens, you’ll appreciate every “ba-ba” and pop culture witticism. Highly Recommended.

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Bill Lloyd

Bill Lloyd “Lloyd-ering”

We all love comfort food. That’s what country-power pop veteran Bill Lloyd released on Lloyd-ering.  The goal of a covers album is to introduce the music to those who aren’t familiar with the original and/or make it there own. Lloyd definitely accomplishes this with a very eclectic selection of pop tunes.

The joyful update on the Bobby Fuller Four “Let Her Dance” turns into a much needed Lloyd gem. The key here is Lloyd picks songs that are less familiar to the average listener. Excellent covers of the Byrds “The World Turns Around Her,”  The Hollies “Step Inside” and Badfinger’s “Lonely You” are simply perfection. And the instrumental prowess on The Raspberries “Goin’ Nowhere Tonight” begs to be played at full volume. On the ballads, its less so, as both Lennon’s “Across The Universe” and Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Coconut Grove” are songs where the original vocals are more distinctive. Otherwise, this is a sweet collection while we await Lloyd’s next LP full of originals. Highly Recommended.

Amazon | Listen & buy on Syderpop Records website

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