Power Pop Plus: Time for More Reviews!

 

Greg Pope – A Few Seconds of Fame (Octoberville)
Tennessee native Greg Pope is back with another winning collection of tough-but-poppy rockers that feature him as a one-man-band, singing and playing up a storm. “Forget About You” and “She’s Already There” come crashing out of the gate with slashing guitars, compressed drums and supercharged melodies, and from there it’s song after song of rollicking pop-rock with Pope’s trademark sonic imprint clearly evident (and most welcomed). When he slows things down on “The Real You” the results are just as grand, and when he slows things down on “Learn to Love” and “She’s Already There, Part II,” he oftentimes sounds like a one-man Crosby, Stills and Nash. Talented dude, that Greg Pope. Grade: A-

 

David Myhr – Lucky Day (Lojinx)
“Jealous Sun” leads off David Myhr’s second solo effort, and the wonderful co-write with Bleu sets the tone for this marvelous record: it’s a sunshiney blast of melodic perfection with one of those “stick with ya” melodies that Myhr has specialized in since his days in the Merrymakers. Everything else here is pretty great as well, particularly the orchestrated pop sounds of “The Perfect Place,” the understated, silky-smooth title track (co-written with Brad Jones, who also co-produced the album) and the sweet “Lovebug,” co-written with Linus of Hollywood. Lucky Day is perhaps a tad mellower than his previous work, but this allows the intrinsic beauty of Myhr’s tunes to shine brightly. (Four excellent unlisted bonus tracks round out the CD, including a faithfully upbeat take on Brad Jones’ “My Messed-Up Friend” (from Jones’ classic Gilt-Flake disc), an ace Byrdsy reworking of Graham Nash’s “Military Madness,” and an Aztec Camera cover.) Grade: A

 

Lisa Mychols – Sugar (Strataplastic)
Speaking of sunshine, the lovely Lisa Mychols seems to spread just that wherever she goes, and it’s no different on Sugar: her vocals and music ooze a sweet, feel-good vibe, alternating as they do here between a gleeful, updated girl-group sound (“Loving You,” “Don’t Wanna Close My Eyes,” “He’s Got Me Dreaming”) and more thoughtful ruminations (“My Friend and Me,” “Messages to the Muse”). Although she is a talented multi-instrumentalist, Mychols leaves all the playing to producer Steve Refling and concentrates on those beatific vocals that add a taste of honey to everything on Sugar. Grade: B+

 

Jeff Whalen – 10 More Rock Super Hits (Supermegabot)
“The genius behind the fabulous rock group Tsar is coming to save us all with a rock/glam/bubblegum/pop hybrid that will unify the galaxy and blow your mind up.” So sayeth Jeff Whalen’s website, with more than a little good-natured hype tossed in for good measure. But I’ll be damned if Whalen’s self-described rock/glam/bubblegum/pop hybrid isn’t some of the catchiest stuff I’ve heard this year. It’s not as in-your-face as the Tsar records (“Kathy Fong is the Bomb” remains one of the coolest tunes of the past twenty years), but with the help of producer Linus of Hollywood, Whalen’s new material comes off like a cross between Fountains of Wayne and the 1910 Fruitgum Company. The first three tunes—“Goofing Around,” “Jendy!” and “Ground Game for Worm”—are flat-out killer, and the rest doesn’t lag far behind. (“Shanghai Surprise” is a jaunty little ditty, “Don’t Give it Up” is a primo pop tune with some splendid backing vocals, and ‘Soylent Blue” is the dramatic big ballad.) A totally unexpected treat that is certain to rank quite high on my year-end best-of list. Prepare to have your mind blown up and your galaxy unified. Grade: A

 

Super 8 – T-T-T-Technicolour Melodies (Futureman)
Super 8 – Turn Around Or… (Futureman)
The brainchild of one Paul Ryan, Super 8’s two recent LPs are low-fi, homespun explorations of lyrical quirkiness and muted musicality. There are some nice moments (particularly on Turn Around Or…), but overall both releases are slightly undercut by Ryan’s somewhat shaky vocals. Imagine a slightly oddball amalgamation of Bob Dylan and Robyn Hitchcock singing tunes from The Beach Boys Love You, and you’re in the ballpark. Whether that’s where you like to play ball is up to you. A cover of BMX Bandits’ “Serious Drugs” on Turn Around Or…is a nice touch. Grades: C+ (Technicolour Melodies) and B- (Turn Around Or…)

 

The Spindles – Past and Present (Self-released)
The term “power pop” gets bandied about quite often—including by yours truly—but finding a record that’s old school power pop through and through (and filled with the requisite propulsive and/or jangly guitars, vocal harmonies and snappy melodies) is getting tougher and tougher. Thankfully for fans of the genre, the Spindles are here to bring power pop (back) to the people with Past and Present. The dozen tracks are uniformly swell, with echoes of power poppin’ forebearers such as the Hollies (the band expertly covers “Look Through Any Window” here), as well as Raspberries and—especially—The Records, particularly in the vocal department. The jangly perfection of the leadoff cut, “Prisoner of War,” sets the tone for what follows, with an unforgettable chorus and “September Gurls”-like guitars, while the nearly-as-great “Whenever We’re Together” and “I Want My Baby Back” (love the pre-chorus) both feature the vocal and instrumental prowess of fellow Chicago-area popster Graham Elvis (nee Graham Walker), late of the Elvis Brothers. The disc closes out with a fab cover of the EB’s “Santa Fe,” putting the cap on a wonderfully engaging record. More information at www.thespindlesband.com. Grade: A

 

The Turnback – Spinning the Earth in Reverse (Kool Kat)
The follow-up to 2015’s Are We There Yet? is another winner for The Turnback, as they continue to combine a beefy guitar crunch with a forceful melodic grasp. Todd Giglio and Kenny Sherman’s vocal harmonies are sharp, as are the band’s tunes: for example, on the self-explanatory, politically charged “Stand for Something (or Go Sit Down),” the crisp guitars and Barry Nagel’s imaginative, Keith Moon-inspired drum fills form a bed on top of which Giglio lays down an impassioned vocal, spitting out lines such as “Hey there, whatcha waiting for?/A sequel to the Civil War?/It seems we’ve seen it all before/Everybody’s slashed and torn.” It’s indicative of an album that’s damned powerful even when the music is quieter (as on the wistful remembrance, “In Memory Of”). Grade: B+

 

The Rubinoos – A Night of All Covers (Wasabi)
Subtitled “Live at Koenji High, Tokyo,” this is a fun-filled 13-track live disc from the Rubes, who have long had a reputation for reimagining the songs of others alongside their own tasty original compositions. Here they show off their versatility by dressing up songs by everyone from the Beatles (“I Want to Hold Your Hand”) and the Who (“The Kids are Alright”) to the Flamingos (“I Only Have Eyes for You”) and the Ventures (“Walk Don’t Run”). It’s all impeccably sung and played, as per usual, with a few sonic surprises thrown in (The Sonics, the Ramones). Soft pop guru Kyle Vincent make a guest appearance on lead vocals on Paul Revere and the Raiders’ “Kicks.” God bless the Rubinoos. Grade: A

 

Linus of Hollywood – Cabin Life (Magic Beach)
More sweet, summery sounds from Mr. Linus, one of those rare artists who seems to be peaking with each successive release—meaning, of course, that just when you think he can’t possibly top his last release…he tops his last release. His latest pinnacle, Cabin Life, touches on sunshine pop, straight-up power pop, singer/songwritery goodness and more, all expertly performed (mostly) by Linus, perfectly arranged (particularly the backing vocals) and sung in his winning, boyish voice. Personal faves are “At All,” “Summer on Your Shoulders” and “Won’t Let it Get Me Down.” Great stuff. Grade: A

 

The Condors – Joie de Vivre (Big Stir)
Six-song EP from a Southern California-based combo led by one Pat “Pooch” DiPuccio who throw around crunchy guitar riffs that fans of the Smithereens will dig and weld them to some pretty hooky tunes. Nothing fancy and sometimes veering close to bar band territory (see “Girl Trouble,” which features the throwback of a lyric, “I was just looking for a roll in the hay”), but cool nonetheless. Grade: B

 

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