30 Reviews in Five Days, Pt. 3

by John M. Borack

OP

The Orange Peels – “Begin the Begone” (Mlm Records)
Densely produced and quite often disarmingly pretty (“New Moon”), Begin the Begone is another solid album by the Peels, albeit one that probably won’t win them many new converts. I probably would have graded it higher had I not been put off by the ill-fitting big drum sound and annoyingly experimental numbers such as “Post & Beam.” Grade: B-

Sunshine Collective – “Up to Something Good” (No label listed)
Had this 11-track disc delivered on the promise of the snappy sunshine pop of the leadoff track, “Up to Something Good,” I wouldn’t be complaining, but it doesn’t, so I guess I am. Still, Stephanie Richards’ lead vocals are cute and often enticing, and her partner Brian Arbuckle’s multi-instrumental skills are impressive. Grade: C+

The Webstirs – “Now You’ve Really Done It” (Ginger Records)
With lead singer Preston Pisellini (love that name) sounding a bit like Matthew Sweet, the band providing a crisp, powerful instrumental attack, and armed with a barrelful of good ‘n’ varied tunes, Chitown’s Webstirs return with a power pop album that doesn’t come off like a cliché or a Beatles tribute. And believe me, that ain’t no easy feat to pull off, but now they’ve really done it. Sorry. Grade: B+

Smash Palace – “Some Kind of Magic” (Zip Records)
Only four songs, but they’re all just swell. “My Mistake” sounds like it leapt straight off an ‘80s playlist; “Haddontown” is a jangly pop jewel; “Part of the Plan” is a riffin’ rocker with a tasty guitar solo; and “The Thick of It” could have been Rick Springfield’s follow up to “Jessie’s Girl” (Those verses! So great!). The Butler brothers know their way around a hook, and when the band also includes fellow pop mavens Fran Smith, Jr. and Cliff Hillis, well, you can’t really go wrong, can you? Yes, that was a rhetorical question. Grade: A-

Nick Piunti – “Beyond the Static” (Two Brains Recording Co.)
The follow up to 2013’s wonderful 13 in My Head is another stellar collection of short ‘n’ sweet power poppin’ ditties, impeccably produced and forcefully played by Piunti and some fellow Michigan pop dudes, including Andy Reed, Chris Richards, and Ryan Allen, among others. The best thing here is the leadoff cut, the crazy catchy “It’s a Trap,” which you’ll find yourself singing along to in short order. The rest is not quite up to that high standard – it’s hard to top near perfection, y’know – but it’s still pretty darned good, and the guitars sound quite splendid, too. Grade: A-

The Connection – “Labor of Love” (Rum Bar Records)
10 cool songs in 30 minutes, and the overall effect is that of a Rockpile reunion where Messrs. Lowe, Edmunds and Co. are alternately hopped up on bennies and Ramones records (“Labor of Love”), channeling the British Invasion (“Pathetic Kind of Man”), throwing a country-esque spanner in the works (“Let the Jukebox Take Me”), and getting all semi-patriotic while doling out Chuck Berry riffs at warp speed (“Red, White & Blue”). Brad Marino and Geoff Palmer are like human jukeboxes of all things cool, and Labor of Love is a gas from beginning to end. Grade: A-

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