Saturday, 11 September 2010

End Of Summer Blues

No one likes seeing the end of summer especially in England where sunny days are never at a premium.With the ending of one season comes the dread of the shorter gray days and the unending rain.On a positive note due to my lack of posts lately here is another play list of songs which happen to come from all the bands I've discovered in the past few weeks. The songs might not fall under the aegis of powerpop like other music reviewed here in the past but nevertheless my intention is that some of you discover some new bands that you wouldn't have otherwise found.

For those who are possibly wondering where the review of Liverpool's IPO Fest is it will still be posted even if it's a bit late.

Enjoy the play list! For those who don't have access to Spotify my apologies.

August Discoveries 2010

Here's a brief overview of some of the bands whose songs appear on the play list.

The Blue Van hail from Denmark.Their sound seems to be more reminiscent of a gritty blues sound from the 70's. Those of you who were fans of Free should like this track which comes from the CD Dear Independence which was released in 2006.

Not sure how I could have missed the music of Baby Woodrose who coincidentally come from Denmark also! This particular song could have come from a best of garage mix from the late 60's. Those of you who favor that particular genre should thank me for this gem.

Next is cover of I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night originally done by The Electric Prunes. So impressed with Davie Allen and the Arrows that I've included 2 tracks here.

If you enjoy pristine harmonies and songs that only improve with age like a good bottle of wine next track by the Straw Dogs will satisfy. One can always wonder how such a good band with 5 albums to their name can fall under the radar but many of us have exposure to such a plethora of music both old and new, some overplayed and undiscovered.

Last 2 songs on the play list from Josh Pyke and Or, The Whale also fall under the category of alt-country.

Feel free to leave comments if you particularly enjoyed any of these songs and please above all support these musicians.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Sizzling Summer Powerpop Playlist

Ages since our last appearance; real life has gotten in the way again. Until the next post which will be our review of Liverpool's International Pop Overthrow Fest in May here's a playlist of some favorite tracks from 2008 - 2010. Apologies to those who don't have access to Spotify.

1. Let's Go - Stephen Lawrenson
2. Pray For Delay - Anne Soldaat
3. Couldn't I Just Tell You - Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs
4. Twice If You're Lucky - Crowded House
5. Up Against The Glass - Botticelli's
6. Quit - Benjamin R
7. I'm Not A Kid Anymore - Sloan
8. Close To the Sun - Grip Weeds
9. She Revolves - Quarter After
10. Second Scene - Gurus
11. Here We Go Again - The Galaxies
12. Don't Ask Me Love - The Madd
13. A Whole Lot Better - Brendan Benson
14. If I Could Break Your Heart - Oranjuly
15. Change - Young Veins
16. The Sun's Gonna Shine In the Morning - Dennis Diken with Bell Sound

Sizzling Summer Playlist

Sunday, 11 April 2010

God of Malfunction - The Contrast Come Back To Life

What's it like in a few words? The Searchers meet Smithereens whilst Prog meets Pop

The Contrast can always be relied upon to provide the listener with an album chock full of great ideas, signature harmonies and sonic goodies without any particular quirks other than maybe singer/writer David Reid's downbeat vocal and affected pronunciations (moon becomes m'herne for example) which sits suitably at odds with the confectionist appeal of his opulent hooks. Although the pick and mix is changeable from one album to another, with gems dotted here and there, there's no doubt that the highpoint to date was 2005's 'Forgot To Tell The Time' where the band had finally made the record they'd been threatening for the previous five years since their debut in 2000.

Five years on the band has reached somewhat of a career hiatus with only 2007's less distinguished 'Underground Ghosts', a label change to Steve Van Zandt's Wicked Cool, plus an excellent but really (for fans) water treading compilation 'Perfect Disguise' to occupy. What's important now is whether in 2010 their new album builds on the promise of that career high of five years past or are they merely languishing in the skids?

We commence with a laugh, a hollow reedy synth arpeggio echos Rattus Norvegicus IV period Stranglers as an insistent chorus rams the catch right home and seriously connects by the time you give the opener its third airing.

Next, the first and correctly chosen single 'Coming Back to Life' says Blondie so much I can almost hear the Debbie Harry cover haunting us impossibly from 30+ years ago - Underground Ghosts indeed. Definitely one of the strongest tracks on the album - a Farfisa-ish poppy organ drives a groovy short little mover to its logical conclusion enough to make you want to press the repeat button in an instant.

The third slice 'Take Me Apart' is classic new wavish 2 1/2 minute pop single material, but also takes in an early 60's Gary U.S. Bonds vibe. Beautifully dressed, this has got all the important ingredients in one glorious concoction - a lovely, wobbly short sharp guitar solo, fab bop-bop-shoo-wop backup vocals and great drumming as is customary on all Contrast records. Undoubtedly, this should be the next single.

Elsewhere on our imaginary side 1 'I Am An Alien' betrays some Prog allegiance as the distinct application of the antique theremin apes the same in Uriah Heap's prominent whistling howl in 'Sweet Lorraine', whilst 'Gone Forever' has the Searchers written all over it with guitars all a-jangle and amazingly this screams "This should be the third single!"

Turn your iPod over and with title track 'God of Malfunction' we are right back in Prog land. Harmony guitars open, giving in to riffy lurches which seem to musically check Aqualung era Jethro Tull in a multitude of characteristics - only the flute is missing - even the subject matter is right on target. Nice one.

Moving along, 'Better Than They Seem' visits the Beatlesque psyche period somewhat via XTC and all who sail in her. 'She's A Disaster' sports nice synth/guitar interplay a-la-raga rock and majestic, controlled, crushed drum fills from the incredible Thorin Dixon, who comes on like a caged Keith Moon.

Tussling between the Prog and the Pop 'Thought You Were Strong' emerges as a late favourite all riff heavy but more light alloy than heavy metal - thankfully!

I've not commented on David Reid's lyrical content - I may be doing him a disservice here but I think he'd be the first to admit that he uses language for its sound and effect rather than its meaning, so I've long since tried to figure out what he might be trying to say to us - if anything.

However, the grand finale piece 'False Admission' grabbed my ear first time around more for a little lyrical trick before the music gripped on subsequent plays. We start with a nice dragging walking pace - an attractive guitar figure introduces the song and each verse. Impending drama is hinted as the song grows into moderate movie epic proportions, returns to walking pace and peters out to subdued feedback. As you begin to appreciate the song construction overall the lyrical trick staged around the title which rhymes 'False Admission' with both 'badly written..' pause and then also 'fiction' becomes less apparent, as do the lyrics themselves.

In my introduction I posed the question of whether the band was hitting greater highs or merely resting on past glories. After 10 years and 6 albums and little commercial feedback, it must get more and more arduous to keep pulling rabbits from hats. Well, I'm glad to report that the break, the move to a new label and the superb CinemaScope production of strong advocate and mentor Little Steven have made a difference. It's very much evident that on this album the Contrast's strengths have been expanded, highlighted and squarely aimed into a record which will prove to be their most polished, accessible, and best yet.

Finally, there's gonna have to be a hundred or so better albums this year for 'God of Malfunction' not to end up on the Powerpop Review Best of 2010. You owe it to yourself to invest and give this hardworking band a well deserved place in the first division. Get 'God of Malfunction' - Out this Tuesday 13th April
Cover: The album cover particularly recalls the prog sleeves of Roger Dean with its spindly long legged elephants not a million miles from their large eared flying cousins which adorned Osibisa's first 2 or 3 albums from the early 70's. Perhaps David Reid harbors some deep rooted Prog pretensions from his youth as do these two writers?
In our reviews I = We - where we basically both listen, inwardly digest, write separate reviews, then merge the two in the first person.
Hear the first single 'Coming Back To Life' on the band's own website.


God of Malfunction - Wicked Cool Records 2010
Perfect Disguise:Introducing the Contrast - Wicked Cool Records 2007
Underground Ghosts - Rainbow Quartz Records 2007
Forget to Tell the Time - Rainbow Quartz Records 2005
Fade Back In - Rainbow Quartz Records 2004
Wireless Days - Rainbow Quartz Records 2002
Mystery #1 - Rainbow Quartz Records 2000

Sunday, 31 January 2010

The Best Albums of 2009

With a mere 3 posts in 2009 (and even now - still fashionably late) you'd be forgiven for thinking we wouldn't be in a position to list our favorites of the year. Well, despite some major upheavals in our personal lives which definitely impacted our ability to appear here on a regular basis, our ears have not been shirking their honeyed duties. As a result, we bring you a bumper round-up of what we believe to be not only one of the best years of the decade, but also the perfect end to one of the best decades since Rock 'n' Roll first flickered into existence.

In a year where the mainstream music industry on one hand is piling the dung heap higher than ever with evermore glossy karaoke TV talent shows and on the other still failing to address the licensing and territory issue which threatens to drag it even further into the mire, choosing to have governments and clod-hopping authorities turn music fans into criminals rather than provide the download culture with a comprehensive reasonable, universal and fair solution - which surely is within their power alone to provide - the alternative/real music industry is turning out better and better music in greater numbers than ever before.

Hundreds of great albums were released this year, making it difficult to keep up with the onslaught. Quite a few appearances from old faithfuls were mostly welcome: Superdrag, Tommy Keene, Von Bondies, Cheap Trick, Terry Anderson, Green Pajamas, Ian Hunter, Mother Hips, NRPS, NGDB, Parallax Project, Mother Hips, Willie Nile, Kyle Vincent, and Naomi Star amongst them, but overwhelmingly, the majority of names were brand new (or almost new) to us - long may it continue.

In keeping with previous years, genres blur and it's hard to say what's pop and what's not. So we present a variety of lists which cover our chief area of taste but also others which for one reason or another, beg inclusion. As usual, these-are-some-that-we-have-loved, so we can't put them in any kind of order, except alphabetical. However, we have numbered them for convenience sake.

The Best Power Pop Albums of 2009
  1. All Star United - The Good Album
  2. American Suitcase - Pillowsky
  3. Andy Lehman & The Night Moves - Lowcountry
  4. Anne Soldaat - In Another Life
  5. Ben Folds Presents - University A Cappella
  6. Benjamin R - The Other Side Of Nowhere
  7. Bigbang - Edendale
  8. Biscuit - Cinnamon Fade Out
  9. Bishop Allen - Grrr...
  10. Black Hollies - Softly Towards The Light
  11. Blame Ringo - Lucky Number 9
  12. Bob Evans - Goodnight, Bull Creek
  13. Bob Mould - District Line
  14. Bobby Emmett - Learning To Love
  15. Brendan Benson - My Old, Familiar Friend
  16. Campbell Stokes Sunshine Recorder - Makes Your Ears Smile
  17. Cass McCoombs - Catacombs
  18. Casper And The Cookies - Modern Silence
  19. Cheap Star - Speaking Like An Elephant
  20. Cheap Trick -The Latest
  21. Chris Richards - Sad Sounds Of The Summer
  22. Cornershop - Judy Sucks A Lemon For Breakfast
  23. Creede Williams - After The Letters
  24. Dashboard Confessional - Alter The Ending
  25. David Brookings - Glass Half Full
  26. David Mead - Almost And Always
  27. Deleted Waveform Gatherings - Ghost, She Said
  28. Dennis Diken With Bell Sound - Late Music
  29. Dexateens - Singlewide
  30. Dolly Rocker Movement - Our Days Mind The Tyme
  31. Duckworth Lewis Method - The Duckworth Lewis Method
  32. El Goodo - Coyote
  33. Eric Knox - Top Ten
  34. Everclear - In A Different Light
  35. Fate Lions - Good Enough For You
  36. Films - Oh, Scorpio
  37. First In Space - This Is Not Here
  38. Fun - Aim And Ignite
  39. Glenn Tilbrook And The Fluffers - Pandemonium Ensues
  40. Gourds - Haymaker
  41. Greater California - All The Colors
  42. Howie Day - Sound The Alarm
  43. Humbugs - On The Up Side
  44. Ian Tanner - Things Never To Say Out Loud!
  45. Jason Falkner - All Quiet On The Noise Floor
  46. Jeff Litman - Postscript
  47. Jeremy Miller Band - Way Too Fast
  48. Jet - Shaka Rock
  49. Johan - 4
  50. John Brodeur - Get Through
  51. June - Magic Circles
  52. Junior League - Smile Shoot Smile
  53. Kyle Vincent - Where You Are
  54. Leftovers - Eager To Please
  55. Lovetones - Dimensions
  56. Madd - Are Pretty Quick
  57. Madness - The Liberty Of Norton Folgate
  58. Marc Carroll -Dust Of Rumour
  59. Mark Cronk - Playing Katchup
  60. Martin Carr - Ye Gods & Little Fishes
  61. Matt The Electrician - Animal Boy
  62. Meat Puppets - Sewn Together
  63. Michael Carpenter - Redemption #39
  64. Miles Nielsen - Miles
  65. Mika - The Boy Who Knew Too Much
  66. Minky Starshine - Unidentified Hit Record
  67. Minster Hill - Capturing Clouds In A Bottle
  68. Mockin' Birds - Spread Your Wings
  69. Morningwood - Diamonds And Studs
  70. Naomi Star - Through The Eyes
  71. New York Dolls - Cause I Sez So
  72. Official Secrets Act - Understanding Electricity
  73. Orange Peels - 2020
  74. Parallax Project - I Hate Girls
  75. Passports - Is It True
  76. Peter Holsapple & Chris Stamey - Here And Now
  77. Pogo Pops - Where The Action Is
  78. Pronto - All Is Golden
  79. Pugwash - Giddy
  80. Reno Bo - Happenings And Other Things
  81. Research Turtles - Research Turtles
  82. Resonars - That Evil Drone
  83. Riverdales - Invasion Usa
  84. Riverwinds - Riverwinds
  85. Roger Klug - More Help For Your Nerves
  86. Secret Powers - And The Electric Family Choir
  87. Scott Warren - Quick Fix Bandage
  88. Shazam - Meteor
  89. Sheer - Here And Now And Long Before
  90. Solly - You Know What You Should Do
  91. Sons Of Great Dane - Why Ramble
  92. Spiral Stairs - The Real Feel
  93. Spongetones - Scrambled Eggs
  94. Spongetones Present Jamie & Steve - English Afterthoughts
  95. Stephen Lawrenson - Somewhere Else
  96. Stereophonics- Keep Calm & Carry On
  97. Stellastarr - Civilized
  98. Strangefinger - Into The Blue - Remarkable?
  99. Soundtrack Of Our Lives - Communion
  100. Summer Set - Love Like This
  101. Surrogate - Popular Mechanics
  102. Taylor Mills - Under The Surface
  103. Telepathic Butterflies - Circle Man
  104. Tody Castillo - Windhorse
  105. Tommy Keene - In The Late Bright
  106. Tomorrows - Jupiter Optimus Maximus
  107. Train - Save Me San Francisco
  108. Tripwires - House To House
  109. Two Hours Traffic - Territory
  110. Valley Lodge - Semester At Sea
  111. Von Bondies - Love Hate And Then There's You
  112. Webstirs - So Long
  113. Wheels On Fire - Get Famous
  114. Wild Bores - Wild Bores
  115. Willie Nile - House Of A Thousand Guitars
  116. Wiretree - Luck
  117. Yeah You's - Looking Through You

The Best Alt Country/Roots/Organic of 2009
  1. 1220 - Killin' For A Livin'
  2. Andy Lehman & The Night Moves - Lowcountry
  3. Avett Brothers - And Love And You
  4. Ben Folds Presents - University A Cappella
  5. Ben Harper& Relentless 7 - White Lies For Dark Times
  6. Blue Rodeo - All The Things That Are Left Behind (2cd)
  7. Boo Hewerdine - God Bless The Pretty Things
  8. Bottle Rockets - Lean Forward
  9. Brad Peterson -The Ductape Album
  10. Brian Jay Cline - Nashville Tracks - Maybe
  11. Brother Trucker - The Flyover
  12. Calico Brothers -Tell It To The Sun
  13. Carbon Leaf - Nothing Rhymes With Woman
  14. Chris Isaak - Mr. Lucky
  15. Chris Knight - Trailer II
  16. Chuck Prophet - Let Freedom Ring (2009)
  17. Clarks - Restless Days (2009)
  18. Cracker - Sunrise In The Land Of Milk And Honey
  19. Cross Canadian Ragweed - Happiness And All The Other Things
  20. Deadstring Brothers - Sao Paulo
  21. Dinosaur Jr - Farm
  22. Don Gallardo - Sweetheart Radio Revolution, Etc.
  23. Elvis Perkins - Elvis Perkins In Dearland
  24. Gilded Palace Of Sin - You Break Our Hearts We'll Tear Yours Out
  25. Gloriana - Gloriana
  26. Gomez - A New Tide
  27. Grand Atlantic - How We Survive
  28. Hot Dogs - Nothing But A Bad Day
  29. Ian Hunter - Man Overboard
  30. Ike Reilly - Hard Luck Stories
  31. Jason Isbell - And The 400 Unit
  32. John Fogerty - The Blue Ridge Rangers Rides Again
  33. John Wesley Harding - Who Was Changed And Who Was Dead
  34. Jon Allen - Dead Mans Suit
  35. JTQ - New World
  36. Karima Francis - The Author
  37. Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson - Rattlin' Bones
  38. Kings Of Convenience - Declaration Of Dependence
  39. Kingsbury Manx - Ascenseur Ouvert!
  40. Leaving Tx - Late Gettin' Started
  41. Lemonheads -Varshons
  42. Levon Helm - Electric Dirt
  43. Locksley - Be In Love
  44. Low Anthem - Oh My God, Charlie Darwin
  45. Maplewood - Yeti Boombox
  46. Megafaun - Gather Form And Fly
  47. Michael Martin Murphey - Buckaroo Blue Grass
  48. Minus 5 - Killingworth
  49. Mother Hips - Pacific Dust
  50. Nanci Griffith - The Loving Kind
  51. New Riders Of The Purple Sage - Where I Come From
  52. Nitty Gritty Dirt Band - Speed Of Life
  53. Paolo Nutini - Sunny Side Up
  54. Pines - Tremelo
  55. Pinto -Short Songs About Konging
  56. Quantic And His Combo Barbaro - Tradition Intransition
  57. Refreshments - A Band's Gotta Do What A Band's Gotta Do
  58. Rhett Miller - Rhett Miller
  59. Roger And The Rockets - Walking Band
  60. Sam Baker - Cotton
  61. Scott Miller - For Crying Out Loud
  62. Sister Hazel - Release
  63. Statesboro Revue - Different Kind Of Light
  64. Stereo Deluxe - When The Party's Over
  65. Terry Anderson & The Olympic Ass Kickin Team - National Champions
  66. Thea Gilmore - Recorded Delivery
  67. Them Crooked Vultures - Them Crooked Vultures
  68. Timothy B. Schmit - Expando
  69. Tom Caufield - The Times Are Never So Bad
  70. Train - Save Me San Francisco
  71. Uncle Kracker - Happy Hour
  72. Webb Wilder - More Like Me
  73. Western States - Bye & Bye
  74. White Lies - To Lose My Life
  75. Wilco - Wilco (The Album)
  76. Wrinkle Neck Mules - Let The Lead Fly

A Dozen & 1/2 Fab EP's From 2009

  1. Chris Richards - That Covers That
  2. Codaphonic - Edison's Rival
  3. Cobbwebs - Demos
  4. Greg Pope - Pete
  5. Honeydogs - Sunshine Committee
  6. Jeremy Nail & the Incidents - EP
  7. John Brodeur -Slutty Nurse
  8. Josh Abbott Band - Brushy Creek
  9. Joshua James - Sings Songs
  10. Leisure Society - A Product Of The Ego Drain
  11. Mini - Must Try Harder
  12. Paul Westerberg - The Ghost Gloves Cat Wing Joy Boys
  13. Riffbackers - Sometimes
  14. Rooney - Wild One
  15. Sloan - Hit and Run
  16. Syrups - Hear Here
  17. Tearaways - Knackered
  18. Whiskey Dawn - Dear Nashville

Special Mentions for 2009

Big Star - Keep An Eye On The Sky [Box Set] - Essential Box Set Of The Year for the brilliant but unappreciated Archie Bell support set alone - a 1000 musicians smile in ironic recognition!
Brothers Streep - Anna Paquin - Greatest Comedy Song With A Power Pop Flavor from these young gifted South African satirists
Bruce Springsteen - Working On A Dream - Bruce's single is perhaps the Most Pop Thing he's done Since 'Hungry Heart' - more like this please Bruce.
Clay Broome - Sunscreen Secrets - Clay, I love this! - When does it get official release?
Clem Snide - Hungry Bird - Consistently Great Singer/Songwriter still delivering the goods
Noel Gallagher - The Dreams We Have As Children - Fave Live Album
Prince - Crimson & Clover - Fave Bubblegum Cover of the Year
- Music From The North Country - Most welcome Anthology of the Year
Jon Boden
- Songs From The Floodplain - Best UK Folk Album of the Year
Chris Smither - Time Stands Still - Best US Folk Album of the Year
Sadies & John Doe - Country Club - Great New Partnership
Avenues (From Leeds UK) - The Saddest Demise Of A Brilliant Band
Booker T Jones - Potato Hole - Best Fabulous Return
Graham Coxon - The Spinning Top - Massive Change Of Direction Award goes to Graham for his embrace of something like Nick Drake bedsit country
New York Dolls - Cause I Sez So - Favorite Re-Emergence
Spinal Tap - Back From The Dead - Welcome Re-serving of the Year
Richard Lloyd - The Jamie Neverts Story - Best Hendrix Covers We've Heard all Decade
Tragically Hip - We Are The Same - Favorite Canadians of the Year
Wolfmother - Cosmic Egg - Best Trad Hard Rock Album

We've largely sidestepped tributes, compilations and reissues - not that there weren't some great examples of each, bur we had to draw the line somewhere. Looking forward to more great music in 2010.