The Essex Green "Cannibal Sea"

This was another release earlier in the year that I’ve finally gotten to. The Essex Green have been part of the Elephant Six collective and produced some great chamber pop albums. Other than the Minders, I think all the other E6 collective bands, like The Apples In Stereo have quietly faded into history. It seems that the mix of pastoral pop and sixties baroque isn’t produced that much anymore. In fact the last group I remember doing this well was The Ladybug Transistor. The Essex Green on its third album, Cannibal Sea, tries to expand on this idea by adding some country and folk music elements into it’s style. It helps that some members are in both bands. Listening I can’t help thinking that if you tried to find the next incarnation of The Mamas & the Papas for the current generation, you couldn’t pick a better band. All the songs are very well written and full of pristine melodies, heavenly harmonies and elegant Byrdsian arrangements. “Penny & Jack” is one of my favorite tunes here. However, on some songs they go a bit too Dylanesque, noteably “Due de Lis”, “Rabbit” and “Slope Song” — but these diversions aren’t bad. They just belong on a different album. You can download this album from e-music hereAlso note the lovely Sasha Bell sings lead on more songs here. She helps make this album a light and airy pop gem.

Mojave 3 "Puzzles Like You"

This came out over the summer and I never got around to reviewing it. So here it is: A trully ethereal pop/rock album. The music washes over your ears like a warm blanket on a cold day. Mojave 3 is not normally thought of as a pop band, but this lo-fi indie darling has created some wonderful sonic textures. Sounding similar to Belle & Sebastian, The Essex Green, Mother Hips and even a little bit of the early 90’s group, Something Happens. Gone are all of the Brian Eno-like somber musings of earlier albums. Here we have a welcome relaxing trip through several mid-tempo pop songs. Songs like “Truck driving man” is an excellent example of this. Sweet vocal harmonies from Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell make me want to break open my old Ocean Blue CDs. This is highly enjoyable guitar pop with a slow ballad or two to even things out a bit. You can get this from emusic. It’s well worth a download.

Sloan "Never Hear The End Of It"

It’s been a while since the last Sloan album and I feel it’s about time. Although this is a worthy inclusion into the Sloan cannon, the group has a serious case of “Robert Pollard-itis”. That is have 30 tracks, but only about 14 complete songs – the remainder are melodic snippets. It’s as if they decided after a minute of playing a song, “Ok, Let’s do something else.” These songs should have been worked on and expanded or kept in the vaults. As it is they are interesting snippets. However the other songs more than make up for it. “Fading Into Obscurity” is a great Abbey-road styled epic song with changing key signatures and themes. “Before the end of the Race” is a classic Sloan song complete with hand claps and ringing guitars. In fact, lots of the songs sound like they were written prior to the “Navy Blues” period. So they really aren’t changing the Sloan sound any further than previous albums. Maybe these were demos they wanted to release? Anyway, you the listener will have to be the editor here, and pick out the songs you like. Currently this CD is an import you can get on Not Lame or Amazon and it’s a bit pricey. If you are a Sloan fan, get it for sure. Others can wait for a US release.

Jet "Shine On"

You know some critics just can’t be objective. Look at world-famous web site Pitchfork’s opinion about this album. Honestly, I have no idea what they are so pissed at. What we have here is a decent follow up to the smash hit album “Get Born.” The first single “Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is” is a great example of the AC/DC meets Badfinger. With the heavy guitar, screaming vocals and melodic choruses, it makes a great tune, but it falls short of last years “Are you gonna be my girl?” “Get Born” had more songs on it that were in your face and raw. The next song “Bring it on Back” is a decent Black Crows styled ballad and the rest of the album follows with more mid-tempo ballads that are all enjoyable. The stylistic shifts are a bit jarring. From the Oasis styled ballad “Shine On” to the Def Leppard-like arena rock of “That’s All Lies” it really spreads around the influences. It’s hard to give this a bad rating if you like quality rock ‘n roll. There are really no duds on the album. Unlike other critics – the Beatles influences are warmly welcomed here in the world of power pop. Even the tune “Shiny Magazine” could fit on the new L.E.O. album. This may make some music critics cringe that Jet has lost some “street cred” – but it’s not like they suddenly became Smashmouth. Utimately, it’s very good album and should be listened to. They also have a really nice website. Buy it on Not Lame, or most major music outlets.

L.E.O. (Bleu) "Alpacas Orgling"

Well, the wait is over and you can finally sink your teeth into this release. Bruce at Not Lame Recordings is making this one special with all sorts of bonus stuff. You can hear the entire album streaming right here. I listened to what is basically a Jeff Lynne lovefest by a huge group of accomplished Power Pop artists, like Andy Sturmer (Jellyfish) and Mike Viola (The Candy Butchers). This entire recording was a labor of love by Bleu McAuley (Bleu), who did most of the heavy lifting here. I swear you will hear every single Electric Light Orchestra production technique crammed into these songs. “Distracted” is the big single and my favorite tune. I will stop writing here — click on the link and listen yourself.