The Power Popaholic is a premier music blog that focuses on the genre of power pop and melodic rock. We also report on live shows, tour dates, gossip, MP3’s, videos and just about anything a power pop fan could want.
Oui! Tommy Lorente has really come out strong here, and in his native language has produced a classic power pop album. After Tommy’s first LP, I compared him to Kurt Baker and wondered what direction was next. He has matured nicely. “Poor Tchack Pow” is so catchy you don’t even need to know French to sing along with the chorus. “Arthur” is another terrific gem about a pep talk to the heartbroken title character translated to “Tell me, tell me, tell me Arthur” featuring solid hooks all around.
The bouncy “Le Rêve Américain” (The American Dream) is about pursuing his dream in Memphis strutting like “king,” drinking bourbon and listening to rock and roll. It settles into a nice groove with “Pareil Au Même“ (Same At The Same) with another sing-along chorus. “J’ai Connu Mieux” (I Know Better) is part Bo Diddley and part Paul Collins. Its all compelling, without a note of filler – although with the fast pacing we don’t get a ballad, and that could make all this a little easier to digest. Still, this is a highly recommended LP for any power pop fan. And that says a lot! Et ça en dit beaucoup!
Álex Diez is a veteran pop artist from Madrid, Spain. He played in the mod band Los Flechazos to great success in the 80s and 90s, and after the turn of the century, he formed the indie-pop band, Cooper. His fifth full-length album focuses on meticulously crafted melodies sung in Spanish with layered harmonies and brass. The title “Time, Temperature, Agitation” refers to the old method of developing photographs.
The big highlight is the opener “El Último Tren” (The Last Train) complete with a fuzz riff ending. Next, “Salto” (Jump) reminds me of that old Katrina & The Waves hit “Walking On Sunshine” in tempo and spirit. “Ya Llegó El Verano” (Summer is here) is a naturally sunny melody full of optimism. You can hear the Beatles influence in the guitar playing, and the production is top notch. If you like your power pop with a touch of español, check out Cooper!
David Myhr (The Merrymakers) returns after six years and like many power pop legends of the last century, his quest for musical satisfaction continues on a more mature path. He has gathered an all-star group of songwriters to collaborate with him; Bleu, Linus Of Hollywood and Bill DeMain to name a few. He also enlisted producer Brad Jones in Nashville who explains: “My goal was to show David branching out from his youthful power-pop to a more reflective sound.”
David’s harmony-filled opening number “Jealous Sun’” a gem is buoyed by its simple acoustic melody and its sing-along catchiness. This is typical Myhr, and it just keeps coming. “Negative Friend” is full of McCartney-like piano and layered effects (kazoos, even!) “Room To Grow” starts out subtly and then picks up a breezy casual melody with minor keys, it literally grows on you. But the real showpiece here is the catchy and inspirational “The Perfect Place” with swelling strings it simply brilliant. After this David shows his romantic side, with the soft pop of “Every Day It Rains,” “Lucky Day” and “Lovebug.” Every song hits the mark, no filler and it is on my short list for 2018’s top ten list. The CD version of the album has four additional singles including the sweet ELO-inspired “Spellbound.” Don’t miss it.
David Myhr - The Perfect Place (from new album Lucky Day) - YouTube
Dropkick knows how to jangle – they’ve been at it for 14 albums. The band, based on Scotland’s east coast, are Andrew Taylor, Ian Grier Mike Foy, and Alan Shields. Like a mix of Teenage Fanclub, Big Star and The Jayhawks the opener “Out Of Tune” is undeniably catchy and instrumentally precise. “It’s Still Raining” is another big highlight, with frontman Andrew Taylor’s soft lead cruising on top of a jangling rhythm. Even the sparse ballad “Faraway Places,” showcases Taylor’s soul with the lyrics; “There are ways to grow up without getting older.”
More highlights include “Come Around,” the warm fuzzy riffs of “Giving Way,” “Fed Up Thinking About You.” Dropkick’s chiming guitar chords and great harmonies make this a highly recommended album.
Burlington, Vermont’s Phil Yates has released three albums and has been a fixture in the local clubs for years. But he’s packed up and moved to a bigger music scene in Chicago. In this final Vermont hurrah, he lets his power-pop freak flag really fly on the opener “My Favorite Bag,” a solid catchy melody with a speedy tempo. Yates also knows how to get a powerful narrative out about domestic violence on the impressive “Nothing Happened.” The production is dense and at times threatens to overwhelm the vocals, but the music is what ultimately wins you over. Yates vocals sound like a cross between Anton Barbeau and Tom Petty.
Yates also airs some dirty laundry with “Fixin To Die” and “One Man’s Trash (Sour Grapes)” about his struggles as a working musician. Frustrations with insomnia are the focus of the forceful “Peter Francis Geraci” and the state of our politics is accurately summed up on “Bite Your Tongue.” Definitely, music that deserves to be heard.
UK musician Paul Ryan, aka Super 8 is a laid back troubadour as he opens with “Tomorrows’ Just Another Day,” with its Spanish styled horn flourishes over a strumming melody. Ryan excels at acoustic compositions; you’ll hear varied influences from Wilco, Lou Reed, and Bob Dylan. “Catsuit” is a good highlight, with Ryan’s harmonized vocals and harmonica building a richly layered gem. Equally fun is the soulful mid-tempo “Last Final Cigarette” where you contemplate life; as he intones “Guess we’re all looking for something.”
Another notable highlight is the rhyming mantra of the title track and the deep melodies on “Traveling Light” with its impressive chorus.”Hey! Non-Believer” is like a lost Beck tune from his early period. For some, this may be a bit too laid back and sparse – for others it’s a soulful potpourri stew. The songwriting is thought-provoking, and the styles shift enough to prevent any predictability. So if you are so inclined, pick it up and let it sink in.
Power pop faves The Connection return with a strongly themed LP about breaking up with your girl on We Wish You Success. Starting with “You Know” it gives you everything you want; quick tempo, sing-along chorus and steady riffs with a terrific solo break. “Color Me Unimpressed” is a great tune that describes the internal monologue of a guy wondering why he’s going out with someone so incompatible. The title track adds a honky-tonk rhythm when going through the break up as lead singer Brad Marino sings “Don’t wanna waste my breath /cuz your tone-deaf /I’ll just watch you dig a deeper grave.”
No bad songs or filler here, as the band maintains cruising speed. In some sense, the band isn’t growing or expanding and playing it safe with its tried-and-true rock and roll. But fans love it, and it yields great songs like “Mechanical Heart,” “Heaven or Hell,” and “The Girl is Trouble.” Another Highly Recommended gem from New England’s Hit Makers.
London retro rockers Green Seagull are firmly rooted in 1966-69 psychedelic pop, with trippy Farfisa organ, Rickenbacker jangle, and light harmonies. “Not Like You And Me” and “Scarlet” open the set with a paranoid tone, but it quickly showcases the talent here. If you enjoyed The Strawberry Alarm Clock or the Lemon Pipers, then songwriters Paul Nelson and Paul Milne have the goods for you.
“Dogsbody,” is like a hippie-like musing and the baroque organ in “Remember The Time” recall The Left Banke or The Cowsills. Another solid tune is “(I Used to Dream In) Black and White” with fantastic three-part harmonies and contrasting that with crisp guitar riffs. However many tunes simply lack the hooks to make them stick or worse they remind you of the period excesses that paved the way to progressive rock. With that in mind, several standouts include the layered bubblegum gems “Shrubbery Road,” “Girls Are Coming To Town,” and The Kinks-like “I Live and Let Live.” While it doesn’t break new ground, for sonic accuracy it’s definitely recommended.
Arthur Alexander is a power pop legend, born in Warsaw, Poland then immigrated to NYC where he helped form The Poppees in the mid-‘70s, often dubbed “The Fab Four Of The Bowery.” They played regularly at Max’s Kansas City and CBGB’s and became the very first new artist signed by the visionary Greg Shaw to his Bomp! Records label. Then he started another band Sorrows in the early ‘80s, signed a label deal with CBS Records and released two albums, before moving to LA to produce other artists. Finally, after all this time Arthur is releasing his first solo LP.
These songs have been collecting for decades, and its great to finally hear Arthur unleashed. He touches on all different genres from New Wave, Blues, Punk, and Rock.“One Bar Left” is a rousing rocker that is undeniably catchy and loaded with energy. Arthur’s vocals are slightly grizzled, but expressive and clearly melodic on “Psycho-Automatic,” with a touch of ’80s instrumentation and solid beat. You’ll hear The Monkees meets George Thorogood on “(She Got Me) Wang Dang Doodle” and Beach Boys guitar and harmonies on the ballad “It’s You.” Yet, its all uniquely Arthur’s sound. And yes, some of this sounds like filler tracks from The Poppees/Sorrows era. And yes, it could’ve used some editing, but enough are keepers here; “Shot In The Heart,” “Ecstasy,” and the Beatlesque “I’ll Get Your Love Someday.” Fans of John Wicks (The Records) and Paul Collins (The Beat) will also enjoy this LP. Highly Recommended.
ONE BAR LEFT - Arthur Alexander, Single Trailer - YouTube
The Orange Peels “Trespassing”
The Orange Peels sound shift that began with Begin The Begone continues, as leader Allen Clapp adds more textures into his jangling melodies. Having moved to the Northern California mountains, the entire album has an expansive new wave feel. Starting with “Camera 2,” it has more synth layered into the melody that contrasts with its organic strumming. The guitar influences of John Moreman recede in the distance as those hypnotic synths take over. “Running Away” and “Room 222” both have a robotic quality, but Clapp’s warm choruses shine through in each case.
“Dawn Tree” boasts floating harmonies and strings that recall Field Music or The La’s. The ambitious title track piles the synth-pop melodies on top of each other and it feels like a futuristic techno soundscape/dance track. Thankfully Clapp hasn’t forgotten how to do power pop, as “All Our Tomorrows” is a joyful guitar gem that boasts a strong hook. While The Orange Peels have always delivered strong material, it has gradually evolved away from its power-pop roots. Fans have grown alongside the band and find it just as hypnotically satisfying. Highly Recommended.
Chris Richards & The Subtractions “Peaks and Valleys”
Chris Richards and The Subtractions take the next steps in the band’s evolution. Newly added guitarist Andy Reed, who also works with Richards in their other band The Legal Matters and adds his formidable skills. Regulars Todd Holmes(bass) and Larry Grodsky(drums and percussion) round out The Subtractions. And the band’s sound has shifted to be more in line with The Legal Matters crisp melodic style.
Opening with “Half Asleep” it balances the call-and-response guitars with a layer of harmonies and rich chord shifts that puts the band on a new level. “Just Another Season” is a mellower melody with some nice guitar subtleties, but it kicks back in gear with “The Coast Is Clear,” a west coast feel is all over those jangling guitar rhythms. The “hits” keep coming, with the music flowing in high energy peaks (“In A Sense”) and slower tempo valleys (“Wrapped In A Riddle”) throughout. After the album’s midpoint, it settles in a bit with some nicely written songs like “The End of Me” and “Maybe That’s All.” Fans of Big Star, Teenage Fanclub, and Matthew Sweet will enjoy the entire album and the cover of Big Star’s “Thirteen” and Sweet’s “Someone To Pull The Trigger” fit well here too. It’s all highly recommended and fits into my top ten list for 2018.
Chicago garage-punks Vamos is different from what I usually review but they have a raw sound that is impossible to ignore. Vamos (Ryan Murphy-guitar/vocals, Will Wood-bass, Josh Lambert-drums) formed during Chicago’s epic blizzard of 2011 and began playing the city’s thriving DIY scene. Murphy describes 1-2-3 as “a controlled descent into madness and mayhem [where] ghostly echoes and reverberations chase edgy, unforgettable melodies.”
I have to agree with that on the big opener “Force of Nature.” The punk buzzsaw anthems “2Ded4Lyfe” and “Do Wanna” both have Ramones-like energy. “Outsiders” is a damn catchy power pop gem. There is a little bit of filler here, but the good stuff here definitely makes up for it. Other great cuts include “I Don’t Care,” “Creeper,” and “I Feel Righteous” which reminded me of early Sweet mixed with Love and Rockets. This is a great example of power pop punk. Highly Recommended.
Bart Davenport is back with his new band The Bedazzled, featuring Jessica Espeleta (bass, backing vocals), Wayne Faler (guitar), and Andres Renteria (drums). They seem to float through their new pop album Blue Motel. It’s best described as a mix of ‘80s English pop and West Coast yacht rock. The title track features light jangling rhythms and synths, with Bart’s crooning vocals above it all.
A highlight for me was the subtle minimalist melody of “Halloween By The Sea,” with its lyrical lament on American decline. “What’s Your Secret (Cleo)” lifts the mood a little more with its playful bass line. However much of the album’s tone is slow tempo soulful musings and this makes the album drag a bit. On the rare occasion, like “Grownups” the jangling melody is upbeat – a little like The Ocean Blue. Fans of Prefab Sprout and Aztec Camera might enjoy this album. Check it Out.
It’s been over ten years since Adrian’s been heard, and while his first album was fairly Beatlesque, his latest is little closer to Elton John meets Crowded House on the opener “Folie a Deux.” It’s a great song that drives home the chorus over its guitar strummed melody, and the follow-up is the bluesy progression “Blaming The Snake,” full of colorful lyrics and jazzy brass accents.
That hushed acoustic “Sigmund Freud” is very much in the mold of the late, great Elliot Smith circa XO. Adrian stays in this folk-pop style for the next few tracks. “The Gilded Cage” is another big highlight that mines some wonderful chord progressions and sweet lyrics about friendship, and even a George Harrison-like electric guitar break. The title track is another winner, with an autobiographic spin. The production is top notch and it will grow on you after a few listens. Highly Recommended.
Ken Sharp was given a challenge by producer Fernando Perdomo. Write a song with the title, “She Hates the Beatles!” Since Ken is a huge Beatle fan, it wasn’t easy but he did it. I mean, who in their right mind could hate the Beatles, right?
Geoff Palmer is having a friendly rivalry with his bandmate Brad Marino. Both guys play for The Connection and both put out solo singles this week. Fans of the band, Tommy and the Rockets or New Trocaderos will love it. Which one do you choose? You don’t have to! Get’em both!
Thrift Store Halo is working on a follow up to last year’s LP. This single is a great start. It’s classic Power Pop calling to mind Elvis Costello, Paul Weller, and Nick Lowe.
Sloan is one of the most consistently great and longest lasting power pop bands around. Of the four guys who founded Sloan — Jay Ferguson (guitar and vocals), Patrick Pentland (guitar and vocals), Chris Murphy (bass and vocals), and Andrew Scott (drums and vocals) — I got Jay (he’s the one in the hat) to talk to me about the band a little, in promotion for the new album, 12.
How often do the four of you meet to discuss music?
Jay: I would say that never occurs. We got together at our rehearsal space to play each other our individual home demos to see what people had been working on, or perhaps look for enthusiasm one way or another for particular songs to pursue.
Has the songwriting process changed a lot since you started as a band? Was it always so democratic?
Jay: Not so much. Before Sloan, we all played in different bands where we wrote or contributed songs and sang….so it made sense to continue on that path when Sloan started. Andrew doesn’t really sing lead on our first LP, Smeared, but he contributed by writing music to a couple songs. There’s an outtake of Andrew singing lead vocals on “Median Strip”, a song he wrote the music and lyrics for…but Chris ended up singing it on the LP. By our second album, Twice Removed, we all were taking turns singing lead on at least 2 songs.
Do you challenge each other? Can someone say, “We should do it this way”?
Jay: Sometimes someone might offer an option if someone is stuck on how to perform or record a track…but generally, it’s down to the songwriter on how the song should be done.
Does anyone have “veto power” when picking a song for the album?
Jay: I’m not sure what you mean. Some of us will take thoughts from other members but mostly, you get to choose your own tracks you’d like to pursue. Sometimes one is persuaded by others to pursue a track they like.
Were you inspired at all by Nirvana for “All of The Voices?”
Jay: Let me ask Patrick….he says he’s aware it sounds like Nirvana production-wise, but he wasn’t necessarily aiming for that…but wasn’t steering clear of it either.
Tell me your biggest musical influences.
Jay: Impossible to choose one. For me personally, I’d say I’m influenced by The Beatles (together & solo), The Smiths, The Velvet Underground, The Bee Gees, Nilsson…but I’m inspired by lots of stuff. There’s a bit of a Diana Ross solo nod on one of my songs on the new LP….but I’m only speaking for myself.
Is performing still vital to the band’s promotion, or is it looked at as just an opportunity to connect with your fans?
Jay: Both. It’s definitely an opportunity to connect with fans, but also it’s where we make our bread and butter. Once upon a time, equal income could be generated from record/CD/cassette sales, but in the musical climate over the past many years, touring generates the lion’s share of the income that keeps our business model running.
Tell me the differences between your Canadian and American fans.
Jay: In Canada, depending on the city, we play to more people…and amongst those people, due to having had actual radio hits or being more well known, there’s a chance some folks may only know your big 5 or 6 songs. Of course there’s also still the big fans who know the deep album cuts etc. In the USA, because we never really had massive hits…the average Sloan fan is more likely have gotten into our band via LPs as opposed to radio play, so they may generally regard a popular song (i.e. “Everything You’ve Done Wrong”) with the same enthusiasm as an LP cut (ie. “Suppose They Close The Door”). That’s the primary difference I tend to see.
Any planned projects after this latest (12) album tour?
Jay: In 2012 and 2016, we created and toured behind box set reissue versions of our Twice Removed and One Chord ToAnother albums respectively. The next project after the 12 campaign will likely be a box set reissue of our 1998 Navy Blues album and a tour following where we’d play the entire LP front to back. That’s probably not until autumn 2019 at the earliest.
Thanks, Jay. We look forward to seeing you in concert soon!
Songwriter Steven Fox is back as the enigmatic Secret Friend with a new series of songs split into two sides and sung by a variety of artists, including some power pop favorites. Side One is six new songs produced by Secret Friend. Side Two has the exact same six songs produced by other artists. The sides do compete with each other, so you could mix your own perfect EP here. Fox is a talented songwriter and knows how to create ambiance. All the performances are good, but some tracks stand out more than others.
The opener “Castaway” sung by Taylor Locke (Rooney) is an amazing song with layer upon layers of harmonies and makes good use of the double meaning of the song title. And while Roger J. Manning Jr. (Jellyfish) does a great job on “Undeniably Blue,” it drags on for over 7 minutes. Jimm McIver’s “Difficult” is more in keeping with the theme, and the chorus is catchy here. The band Perfectly Violent Dream does a great job with their version of “All The Things We Had.” I also liked Wyatt Funderburk’s version of “Over Now,” from the guy’s POV. Overall, a good album to pick through.
Nick Frater is a multi-instrumentalist from Croydon, UK. He starts out with an impressive opener “Built To Last,” one of the best retro-Raspberries singles I’ve heard this year. It’s almost impossible to top, but “Paperchase” leads with a nice tropical beat and a solid chorus.
“More Than This” is another strong melody that is like a mix of Squeeze and Andrew Gold. The bouncy “Remoaner” is another winner that sounds like BBC sitcom theme with a little Jeff Lynne in its DNA. Overall not a bad track, and one of the better EPs I’ve heard this year. Highly Recommended.