Tally Hall "Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum"

Here is another overlooked gem from 2005. Tally Hall is a group of young musical prodigies from Michigan. The keyboardist Andrew Horowitz won the 2004 John Lennon Scholarship Competition, presented by Yoko Ono and BMI, for writing “Good Day.” Since then, with the support of the uber-popular www.albinoblacksheep.com, Tally Hall’s music and related videos have attracted an unprecedented amount of internet attention.They sound like a mix of Barenaked Ladies and They Might Be Giants in places and do a fine job of mixing choirs, strings, brass and multiple influences from Beach Boys to Beastie Boys. The production has a nice clean sheen to it all, like a 10cc album. They do a great job on songs like “Greener” and “Apathy” that has even a bit of early Weezer thrown in. Of course, there are some silly Zappa-TMBG styled songs like “The Whole World and You.” The best part here for us power popaholics is that the CD is as cheap as a cup of coffee! Get a used copy on Amazon.com for about three bucks!

Listen to “Good Day”

The High Llamas "Can Cladders"

Sean O’Hagan continues to develop his Brian Wilson-lite style. “Can Cladders” is the sixth LP from the High Llamas and it has some female vocals similar to 2003’s “Beet Maize and Corn”. The lush, orchestral swirls make for pleasant pastoral listening, alot like Sondre Lerche’s recent efforts. O’Hagan’s vocals seem to flow into songs and sounds great on “Winter’s Day”. I have to say no one today uses a Banjo and Harp for better melodic effect than him. I would call this a return to proper form, without all the electronic noodling that plagued 1998’s “Cold and Bouncy”and 1999’s “Snowbug”. The album doen’t quite reach the highs of earlier efforts, and often repeating sections of the melodic choruses can get a bit tiresome. But aside from that this is a solid release that will please most fans and let’s others know there’s still a place in the public consciousness for baroque, string-laden orchestral pop. Listen to “Old Spring Town” to hear one of the album’s high points. It’s for sale on emusic and you can also visit the High Llamas Web Site and lots of other places.

Listen to “Bacaroo”

Listen to “The Old Spring Town”

Listen to “Sailing Bells”

Fugu "Fugu-1"

This was an album that slipped through the cracks for me. If you are a French band named after a Japansese pufferfish, then you play great baroque power pop right? Fugu is led by singer, composer, and multi-instrumentalist Mehdi Zannad, and has worked with Stereolab, Saint Etienne and Tahiti 80. For this 2001 release, “Fugu-1” Mehdi called on the talents of over 25 players, including strings, a horn section and countless other instrumental effects in a manner fitting a Brian Wilson or George Martin. The harmonies are flawless and are on par with The Winnerys. The lush melodies and gorgeous arrangements are not to be missed. In fact he outdoes Sean O’Hagen’s early work with the High Llamas (FYI: A new High Llamas album is out and a review is coming soon). He also has a new album out I also hope to review soon called “As Found”. Listen to tracks here and here at MySpace and visit his website for more info. You can pick up this first album at e-music

Listen to “Meanwhile”

A Brief Intermission and correction

There is a first time to everything and I have modified my rating of Bryan Scary “The Shedding Tears” from a 7 to a 9. Normally I would never do this, but this album has continued to grow on me and get better with each listen. It will also make my top 10 for 2007. It is also finally available on Not Lame Recordings for those without an emusic account.

I wanted to take a brief moment to write about a very controversial movie I saw last night. I rented Terry Gilliam’s Tideland. Gilliam has always been one of my favorite filmmakers and I always rush to see his work. Unfortunately Tideland for me was a painfully bad movie and a missed opportunity. On the DVD intro, Gilliam readily admits that most people will be offended by it and most critics either love it or hate it. I won’t say I hate this film, because there are flashes of Gilliam magic in it. But alot like The Brothers Grimm, much of the storytelling is erratic and the “message” does not come through. Gilliam’s love of details and minutia goes out of control on the screenplay for Tideland, effectively rendering the film tedious. The gruesome aspects of the movie are handled well and I actually expected something much worse. I found the same theme and fantasy motif much better done last year on Pan’s Labyrinth. Alot like Brian Wilson, it looks like Gilliam’s best work is behind him and a new generation of filmmakers are taking the lead in fantasy films these days. I took enough time to rant about non-musical stuff so, more music reviews will be posted tomorrow. Back to your regularly scheduled program!

The Migrators "Goodbye Uncle"

The Migrators are truly a international band. They formed in China, it’s members are from Italy and Belgrade and they have a love of alternative pop music. Written in 1999 “Goodbye Uncle” is a rock opera with many influences and styles. Primarily it’s part Pink Floyd “The Wall” meets ‘Til Tuesday with a splash of The Jam thrown in. I will not get into the story so much, as it needs to be experienced with the music. Some tracks here are stronger than others. I like the “The Paradox” a good new wave slice of pop with synths. “Shiny Kids” is also a good tune that recalls early Kate Bush. Some of the tunes suffer under the weight of lots of narrative. The song “Long End” resembles Elastica’s “Connection” a bit but, my favorite is an instrumental called “Vector” with it’s grand guitar playing and driving beat. There are enough good songs here and if you like synth in your pop, this fits the bill. The CD comes with a beautiful color booklet and 19 tracks. It’s for sale at CD Baby

Listen to “Vector”