Friday, January 18, 2008

More on Music 2007: Best of Power Pop

Anyone who knows me understands that the great musical love of my life is power pop.  Give me a solid crunchy guitar line, deep bouncy bass, solid feel drumming, an interesting vocal arrangement (being able to sing technically well not always required), add a killer harmony line and some hand claps (real claps none of that computer generated nonsense) and I am your best musical pal in the world!  As Paul Westerberg so eloquently stated:  "I am in love with that song."

What follows is in my opinion, some of the best in Power Pop that was released in 2007 -- now some of this is an extension of some previous thoughts on the music of 2007.  And while the industry is going down the tubes.  Too bad for all of the so-called music executives and the recording association which seems to be in the business of suing fans rather than finding ways to get music to them, bummer for the old business model (is the sarcasm high enough?).

I receive no kickbacks for any of my recommendations (although I am open to the idea of free CDs or MP3s -- come on, who doesn't love to get a free CD in the mail?? -- Ok, I don't mean it) so enjoy these recommendations free from corporate support over the selections and choices:

1.       Everybody Else "Everybody Else" This is an absolute kill you dead debut that will thrill fans of Marvelous 3, The Knack and even that old English power pop chestnut, Squeeze.  I have had this one playing everywhere I've gone since I picked it up early in 2007.  It's an upbeat, melodic, hook-heavy good time without a weak tune to be found anywhere.  This is no jangle rock, its punchy party rock, so what are you waiting for? 

2.       Fountains of Wayne "Traffic and Weather" If I only had enough cash to buy one Fountains of Wayne CD, it would be this one.  Everything this band does is gold but after to listening to all of FOW's albums habitually since they began doing their thing, Traffic and Weather is the most consistently catchy and exciting of them all.  They are so much more than "Stacy's Mom" or the some of the tunes from the Tom Hanks' That Thing You Do.  This CD is packed with great songs, "Someone To Love", "Yolanda Hayes", "This Better Be Good", "Strapped For Cash", "Revolving Dora", "I-95".   Smart and sing-along Power Pop gets no better than this, my friends (there's the McCain moment).

3.       Cartel "Cartel"  I've been as loose with the definition of "What is Power Pop?" as anyone and this album is more emo-pop if it has to be categorized.  But there's something immediately gratifying about listening to this Cartel release.  Naturally, there are plenty of slamming, crunchy power chords to be found but its more entertaining and enjoyable because of the presence of some mid-tempo and different songs that allow this talented group to stretch out and really separate themselves from the emo-pop crowd.

4.       Bleu "Happy Birthday" The super-talented Bleu released Happy Birthday to iTunes (maybe other outlets, too) back in July.  Its an eight-song compilation of tunes that he has apparently written about friends for their birthdays.  As strange of a concept as that seems to be, the proof that it works is evident in a wildly varied collection of winning numbers. My favorites are the lo-fi "Ducky" which is complete with great lines like "he's so cool/he's a Frigidaire" or how about "if I'm a Spock/He's a Captain Kirk/The opposite of suck/That's our Duck".  Next up is "Alex" which is a
Utopia-era Rundgren, keyboard-driven rocker.  If you like Bleu, there's no way that you won't be entertained by Happy Birthday.

5.       Catchpenny "From Where You Are" Minneapolis-based Catchpenny open up their terrific debut with an all-out rocker titled "Tell Me Tomorrow" and it's a great way to set the stage for the hooky choruses and two-part harmonies to be heard all over this one.  There's nothing fancy about Catchpenny.  The songs here are tight and with any justice would be playing all over the airwaves.  From Where You Are is a radio-ready wonder, reminiscent of All-American Rejects, Owsley and American Hi-Fi.

6.       Ed James "In The 21st Century" Thrill to the Power Pop sounds of the 21st Century courtesy of Ed James.  Ed starts our journey with the effortlessly tuneful "Out Of This Town", a crunchy, chugging power-chorded beast.  It's followed by the pretty, Posies-meets-PFR wonder of harmony called "She's The One".  "Girl Gone Bad" is a marvel, it's as if Ed hired Andy Sturmer to front Adrian Belew and The Bears.  "Miss Polly" is massively catchy with it's doot-doot backing vocals and clever, ultra-fun lyrics. Recollections of the '80s come rushing back to us when we hear the Utopia-flavored pop on display when listening to "And When She Smiles". Now...keep in mind, I've only covered the first five tracks!  This is truly a must have release that solidifies Ed James' status as a major Power Pop player.

7.   Holmes-"Stop Go". Singer/Songwriter/Producer Roy Shakked is Holmes and his latest release Stop Go is a refreshing cross-section of musical genres. Holmes serves up punchy Rock, tuneful Power Pop and even smooth R&B with the help of top-notch musicians the likes of Lyle Workman and Brett Simons.  It doesn't get much more fun than the title track, which delivers exactly what its title promises.  The whistle-along melodic treat that is "Another Week" recalls other tune-masters like Bleu and The Argument.  "Five Days A Week" is a smooth Power Pop ride right out of the Joe Jackson songbook.  You've probably heard Holmes already as his music has been featured on many television shows and album compilations.  Chances are you'll be hearing a lot more of him everywhere else very soon.

8.   Rick Altizer-"Scripture Memories - Pop Symphonies".Maybe this is a controversial choice but it's a tuneful one.  Altizer has created a very original collection of Jellyfish/Beatlesque sounding songs that's lyrics reflect Altizer's commitment to his faith.  I recall reading that his goal was to put Bible verses to tunes as a way for others to remember scripture readings.  This may not be everyone's cup of tea because of the decidedly Christian themes throughout, but I happen to believe its fun and beautiful music.

9.   Collective Soul "Afterwords" Collective Soul is a band of survivors. They came to the forefront during the peak of the Grunge era and have been putting out consistently riff-heavy music ever since.  Their new CD Afterwords reinforces this once more.  It is a tightly weaved run through moods and hooks and riffs.  Ed Roland and crew are a tight, polished and talented group; in fact, they're as professional of a rock outfit as there is in the business today.  Check out tracks like "Hollywood", New Vibration" and "All That I Know" for perfect demonstrations of this fact.

10.   Foo Fighters "Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace" Not much needs to be said about the Foo Fighters other than they are a great mainstream rock band that you don't have to be embarrassed to appreciate.  Their new album is more top-notch, power rock with attitude and energy.  Plus, most of their songs are very melodic listens.  Echoes. is a fast starter, the first five tunes are as strong as anything they've written in a long time.

11.   Spoon "Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga" It looks like this new one by Spoon is pretty popular and I'll have to go along with that mindset.  This is definitely the catchiest and poppiest Spoon release to date.  Sometimes the sparseness or "space" within a Spoon tune is a wonder to behold.  This is especially evident in danceable numbers like "Don't You Evah" and "Finer Feelings". "Don't Make Me A Target" and "Rhthm & Soul" are also standouts here.

12.   Ken Andrews "Secrets of the Lost Satellite" The main man behind such fine bands as Failure, On and Year of the Rabbit goes solo with this new collection of mid-tempo, mood heavy music.  Andrews makes some incredible noise, not just on this new release but with everything he does.  The instruments, his vocals, everything; it all really envelops the listener in so many different tones and strange harmonies.  Secrets of the Lost Satellite is another fine example of this.  Again, this is nowhere near Power Pop, but its interesting and rewarding music.

13.   The Ditchflowers "Carried Away" Tampa-based Ditchflowers have mixed sharp melodies, thoughtful lyrics and wonderful production into a pleasing package titled Carried Away.  Ed Woltil and Brian Merrill head up this talented cast of musicians who offer songs of longing, faith and getting older into tuneful tales of intrigue.  The Ditchflowers have excelled here, merging sophisticated pop not unlike Steely Dan and XTC with the straight-ahead rock of artists like The Smithereens and The Kinks.  The songs "Home Away From Home" and "All The Time In The World" feature pretty pop that fit in seamlessly with country-flavored tracks like "Since I Met You" and "Walkin' Back".

14.   Wiretree "Bouldin"  Wiretree is a great new project from singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Kevin Peroni.  This full-length winner melds a variety of influences with an acoustically-based sound to form an instantly enjoyable, bright and catchy listening experience.  I've heard Wiretree's sound compared to The Smithereens, Tom Petty and Brendan Benson.
But I also hear Dear 23-era Posies and early (i.e. good) Goo Goo Dolls. This is really an exciting new Indie Pop release.

So, enough, already... go get 'em.

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