Edward O’Connell and The Above

Edward O’Connell “Vanishing Act”
Edward O’Connell was “Our Little Secret” back in 2010, and finally we get a follow up with similar results. A smart mix of influences: Tom Petty, Roger McGuinn, Bob Dylan, Warren Zevon and Elvis Costello. Now with a larger cast of supporting players (including P.Hux!) the sound is richer than before, and O’Connell hits his stride here. “My Dumb Luck” is an great opener, a contemporary guitar ear-worm that can live on “repeat.” Next, “Lonely Crowd” is a bit more subdued, but it sends a thoughtful message about his audience. “Every Precious Day” pumps up the jangle, making it a catchy single.

“What Have You Done?” is similar to Elvis Costello in structure, the chord and vocalization shifts makes it another highlight amongst many. “I’m The Man” is a country flavored song about a murderous wife. Like the debut, the musicianship is impeccable but its tough to keep the energy going (“Yesterday’s World”). Still, O’Connell manages to keep the sweetness on the slow tempo “Last To Leave” and put out a great finale “The End Of The Line.” Such effort does not get wasted, and it makes my top ten of 2014 best LP nominee list.

CD Baby | Amazon | Kool Kat Musik (with bonus disc)

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The Above “Waterbury Street”
It’s hard to find a more period accurate retro-rock band than The Above. Even more than the debut album, the band’s technical skill has increased and with the sophomore LP “Waterbury Street” you’d swear this is a lost rock band circa 1966-68. Lead singer David Alan Horowitz is patterned after Ray Davies and the music is a combination of pop, rock and blues most closely associated with The Kinks, The Who, The Animals and The Creation.

What makes the band standout is also the exceptional songwriting. “Coming Around” and “Do You Have Healthy Mind?” are both hip shaking perfection and even the song “The Prisoner” relates to the era (all about the 1967 British TV show). “Goons” is another gem sounding like The Who’s early mod hits. The R&B stomp of “Dog Without A Bone” keeps the variety going, and the Rickenbacker jangle of “Ordinary Life” is infectious. I couldn’t find a dud or ounce of filler here. Highly Recommended for sure!

Bandcamp

Sir Video (Timmy Sean) and Lucy Schwartz

Sir Video “Light Years” EP

Many remember Timmy Sean from his outstanding LP several years ago. Well he’s back, sort of… in his disco-era alter-ego Sir Video. This isn’t more than dance pop similar to The Orion Experience, but a bit more retro with guitars breaking into the party on “Oh No They’re On The Radio.” Next “Take My Breath Away” is very much in the boy band mode, and next “She’s A Killer” is straight out of the Michael Jackson/Stevie Wonder ’80s pop template. I liked “Do What You Wanna” and for the most part this uses that eras production without its most dated excesses. We concentrate so much on ’60s and ’70s nostalgia here, its refreshing to hear the neon decade’s re-working through a new artist.

CD Baby

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Lucy Schwartz “Timekeeper”

This album was one of the good ones that got away from me last year. Lucy Schwartz is one of the most talented female vocalists I’ve heard in a long time. Her album effortlessly segues from pop to rock to soul in a dazzling display of versatility, and it took me a few listens to really become a fan. Starting with “Ghost in My House,” its a mid-tempo pop song with a soulful singalong chorus that showcases Lucy’s distinct vocal, somewhat between Nicole Atkins and Sara Bareilles.

The heavy beat and guitar strum opens up “Turn Your Light On Me” a solid pop single, and the organic girl-school rhythm of “My Friend” keep focus on Lucy’s catchy songwriting. But what won me over is the lush torch song “Feel So Fine,” so seductive that it will give you goosebumps. The orchestral touches and atmosphere of “Curse” and “Marie Antoinette” seem more suited to Enya and the quirky “Time Will Tell” is like a lost Suzanne Vega tune. But just when you think it’s fallen into predictability, she pulls out a gem like the Beatlesque “Captain Sunshine” and I’m back on the bandwagon.  In retrospect, highly recommended.

Amazon

The Britannicas and Pujol

The Britannicas “High Tea”
The power pop trio, comprised of  Herb Eimerman (USA),  Magnus Karlsson (Sweden), and Joe Algeri (Australia) are back! “Got A Hold On Me” starts our jangley Byrds-Beatles power pop goodness, written by Eimerman. Karlsson’s “Talkin’ ’bout Summer” is reminiscent of Chris Stamey till it gets to the harmony-filled chorus and Algeri’s hard guitar fuzz dresses up “The Moment Passed.” The psychedelic “Bleed Between The Lines” has a trippy retro Rickenbacker rhythm line. Unlike the debut, the tracks don’t feel forced into any Merseybeat template, and it feels like more of a group effort doing what they like and sounding natural at it.

Ironically none of the band members are British, although late ’60s rock is clearly the guiding influence. “A Shag and A Cup O’ Tea” could’ve been a real funny novelty song, but instead is a whimsical come-on. Each band member brings unique qualities for their respective songs, they work well on Kinks inspired “I Work At The Post Office” and Mod flavored gem “More Like Than Different.” The echoing production of “Will Someone Cover Your Fall” chugs along, then add to this an excellent cover of Del Shannon’s “I Got You,” and there are plenty of gems here to place this in the highly recommended category. Get it now!

CD Baby | Amazon


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Pujol “Kludge”
Tennessee punk rocker Daniel Pujol lays down a stylistic DIY styled punk pop album with frantic beats, distorted guitar chords and sound effects. The slow building “Judas Booth” leads to a the fuzzy glam chorus “The world don’t know my feelings” as it makes a confident melodic noise.

Next “Manufactured Crisis Control” is a classic punk ballad, but the big standout is “Pitch Black” a collection of crunchy chords and melody set to a toe tapping beat. “Circles” is another catchy song that’s slightly more pop (reminded me of Pretty & Nice). You’ll hear influences ranging from Slade, AC/DC, Cheap Trick and Redd Kross. The quirky, detailed production can be distracting but beneath the punk pastiche are some damn fine tunes. One of the most creative indie/rock/punk albums this year and worth exploring. Get a FREE sampler from Noisetrade.

Noisetrade Sampler (FREE) | Amazon

Matthew Sweet’s new Album

Matthew Sweet is in the process of making a new solo studio album with his longtime band members and special guests. You can be part of the adventure on Kickstarter, with various goodies available to supporters. Album is expected by Spring 2015.

Help Fund Matthew’s New Album

The Paul and John “Inner Sunset”

No, its not any Beatles or biblical Apostles, but Paul Myers (The Gravelberrys) and John Moremen (The Orange Peels). Written over the past three years in San Francisco, then recorded at Allen Clapp’s Studio in Sunnyvale, CA. The Paul & John’s new LP is anchored by the excellent single “Everything Comes Together” with its SoCal hook and catchy sing-along melody. “Long Way Back” is a bit rougher rock, like Springsteen meets The Smithereens. The harmonies work well there, but they really shine on the slow tempo ballad “How ‘Bout That.” The title track is another winner, full of optimistic lyrics and layered guitars, its Brit-pop melody pleads “don’t let the darkness drag you down.”

Myers lyrical prowess is solid with the jangle-filled “Brickland,” a wonderful picturesque song and Moreman does a brilliant job on the multi-chorded “Can’t Be Too Careful.” Nothing here misses the mark, and its all conceived an a very deliberate way, with the album being bookended by two short ballads, the Paul Simon-ish “Inner Sunrise” and “Inner Sundown.” Highly Recommended and added to my top ten list for 2014.

Bandcamp | Amazon