Eric Matthews "Foundation Sounds"

Alot of new music has been released recently and I’m trying to cover the most common power pop artists first. When I hear Eric Matthews, I pretty much know what to expect. His classically styled orch-pop was near perfection with “Fanfare” from his first album It’s Heavy In Here. Following this triumph, Matthews following albums have tried to build on his lyrical and melodic gifts. But I feel he’s never been able to build up his sound, as much a copy the same breathy wispering vocals onto variations of the same song. How the mighty have fallen… None of these tracks standout much even though he plays on every instrument. Lots of bitterness in the lyrics too. Just how many words rhyme with “despise?” I feel Matthews should devote more time to songwriting. Foundation Sounds has about 17 tracks, and most of them will put you to sleep. “All the Clowns” uses some horns and because of this, its a standout track among the rest. You can download it from e-music. Put I’d rather recommend his last album Six Kinds Of Passion Looking For An Exit. It has better songs.

Ben Kweller "Ben Kweller"

It looks like alot of late 90s power pop guys have decided to mature. It seems to be this years trend. The Nines, Ben Folds, John Mayer and now it’s Ben Kweller. Lots of nice ballads and a some uplifting tunes like “Penny on the Train Track” and “I gotta move” makes for enjoyable listening. Other than the rocker “This is War,” the album takes a very mellow and mature vibe. Most of the tracks are worthy of your attention. Sometimes things get downright sappy with the tune “Thirteen” – however after a few listens, this music will settle in like a good friend. Kweller’s melodic touch is always welcome, however next album, I’d like to see a bit of the “angry young man” without all the happy mush. The best part about this is that it’s available on e-music through this link. or you can get this CD anywhere (i.e. Amazon)

The Lapdancers "The Ghost of Alcohol and Song"

The Lapdancers are a new power pop alternative band that play rough enough to almost cross into emo territory with some great buzzsaw guitar riffs, but still have enough melody to keep you interested. It almost reminds me of the old John Faye group, The Caulfields mixed with The Posies. The album definitely has moments of greatness. “Don’s John” is a rolling epic of a song that demands attention. And “Stuck in My Head” will do just that. My one problem is that some of the ballads are a bit too much like second-rate Toad the Wet Sprocket. Other than the excellent “Just a little bit” – the slower tunes bring the album to a halt and had me pressing the skip button. Overall, a very good effort. It can be download from e-music through this link. It’s most worthy of your download time.

Various Artists "For the Love of Todd"

Here is another one of those tribute discs. This one features the songs of the wizard and true star, Todd Rundgren. Rundgren is truly was an innovative and prolific artist during the 70’s and 80’s and most of his material would be excellent for other power pop artists to cover. Unfortunately, the producers of this album (Third Lock Records) should have done a better job of getting the participation of talented musicians. Despite a few well performed covers by Bill Lloyd, P. Hux and Jamie Hoover (Spongetones), the album is dragged down by some horrible amateur tracks (Nater Kennerly sounds like he’s playing “Love of the Common Man” in a closet). Other groups here I’ve never heard of, like: Van Cooper, Viral Satellite, Ben McMurtrie, David Melbye and Fred Froom, do a so-so job and make me NOT want to seek out their original work. An exception is the group The Woods, who do a great version of Todd’s “Slut”. So other than a handful of tracks, this is not essential listening. But the good news here is that this 1999 album is pretty cheap. You can find this album on Amazon for about $7.00

John Mayer "Continuum"

Warning! This is a regular adult alternative album and not really considered power pop. But when something this good comes forth from the mainstream record industry, I have to sit up and take notice. About 95 percent of the industry would not recognize talent if it bit them in the ass and when I first heard about Mayers’ new release – I read some other critics in the mainstream. Entertainment Weekly gave it a lukewarm reception. An Rolling Stone Magazine gave it four stars. I had to hear it myself. Like my earlier review with The Nines, it looks like John Mayer grew up and matured. I liked Mayer’s first two albums, although I felt they were a bit light-weight. Mayer’s jazz touched pop was not offensive, but hardly something I listen to regularly. Continuum changes all that in a big way. He has adopted a Steely Dan cum Eric Clapton style that fits these slow blues-rock songs perfectly. “Stop This Train” is the best song I have heard about growing up since The Beach Boys “When I Grow Up to be a Man.” No real uptempo tunes here. Just clean mesmerizing blues guitar and heart-felt songwriting. Mayer may lose the young teen fan with this album, but he’s gained some over 30-types respect. You can get the CD almost anywhere.