To my blog readers — I have not been able to update my blog this past week due to a personal tragedy at home. I have listened to very few things this past week. I have to overcome my personal trauma and I will catch up on Sunday. Please check the Powerpopaholic very soon.
I absolutely love it when long time side men for a popular rock act go solo. Just like Rusty Anderson and Brian Ray went solo (previously in Paul McCartney’s band) – Craig Bartock was the guitar player for Heart, Blondie and many others. With that much experience – you’ve got dynamite potential for a great solo album. And that’s what we have here. Bartock’s sound has alot of great influences (Beatles, Beach Boys and early Genesis) but sounds totally unique. His voice reminds me alot of Mike Viola and the Candybutchers. His approach to songwriting and melody is alot like Roger Manning or Yazbek. To put it mildly I was slowly blown away by this music. The song “Myopic Day” is a wonderously trippy Squeeze meets Candybutchers single. The guitar playing is simply amazing here too. Some songs have a dramatic symphonic vibe, like “The Dollhouse.” The song swings between heavy riffs and high harmonies. Every song here has a great hook. Looks like Craig has raised the bar for your favorite album here. You can hear it on his my space page. You can buy it from CDBaby, Amazon or itunes.
Another CD this past summer that came out was “The Supahip” a Michael Carpenter and Mark Moldre collaboration. It got quiet alot of good press on Not Lame – and wanted to give it a fair listening to. Moldre and Carpenter recorded the album alot like a spontaneous casual jam between friends. In a sense, it has an intimacy like the Beatles “Let it Be” sessions did. The 12 tracks are presented in stereo and mono. We know this was done for the audiophiles out there, but it doesn’t do much for me. Some of these tracks are just amazing. “Satellite” is my favorite song here. Beatle-esque melodies pour out of this track and it gives the Velvet Crush a run for it’s money. “Around the Sun” is an awesome mix of Pink Floyd and Beach Boys. Even a cover of Nik Kershaw’s “Wouldn’t it be good” is nicely rendered. Like all Carpenter’s work – great songs and expert production are all over this album, even though it is a more casual affair compared with his SOOP collection. The only song that I disliked was “The Radio” – an angry rant that didn’t really fit with the mood of the other songs that well. This is still essential listening if you love power pop. Thanks for another one, Michael. You can pick up this gem at Not Lame or Amazon.com
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.
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.