By John M. Borack
POP! Fights the Flames
We’ve only just flipped the calendar to March, and I can already announce with some degree of certainty that I have heard the compilation of the year (or is it Compilation of the Year?). POP! Fights the Flames is a 34-track, digital-only collection teeming with wonderfully engaging pop tracks of many different stripes by some well-known indie pop artists and several who are new to the fray. If that isn’t enough to pique your interest, it’s also a compilation for a cause: 90% of the proceeds will go directly to assist those affected by the recent horrific fires in Australia.
Some of the familiar names include Nick Frater, whose 2019 LP Full Fathom Freight-Train made several year-end best-of lists; he’s represented this time with “So Now We’re Here.” Exclusive to this collection (like many of the tracks), it’s another fab Frater tune that leans toward a slightly ‘60s garage type of vibe. Also showing up with a winner is talented LA-area multi-instrumentalist Chris Price, whose “Cozy” sounds like a perfect hybrid of Harry Nilsson and Emitt Rhodes, while power pop chanteuse Lisa Mychols makes an appearance with the perky “See You in June.” David Myhr’s “stripped down remix” of “The Perfect Place” is simply stunning and tracks from the Explorers Club, Wyatt Funderburk, and the Nines will certainly be coveted by pop fans.
Elsewhere: Timmy Sean’s “Come on Mandy (2020)” is a boppy little ditty; Dana Countryman’s “It Happens Every Time” pulls a page from the ‘60s AM radio songbook, as Countryman is wont to do; Chris Church’s “Your Sun is About to Shine” is a typically cool popsong (and one that sounds a heck of a lot like Rob Bonfiglio, by the by); and Johnathan Pushkar’s “The Girl Next Door” is a swingin’ little Merseybeat number pulled from his excellent debut record.
One of the cool things about a various artists comp such as POP! Fights the Flames is ferreting out outstanding songs by acts that have flown a bit under the radar. As such, one of the top tracks on this collection is Dear Stella’s “Before You Die,” which is three-and-a-half-minutes of loud guitars meeting up with an impassioned vocal by Stefanie Drexler—it’s power pop with maximum power and it’s a total gem. Falling under that same “under the radar but it’s marvelous” umbrella are The Wrecking Two’s “Should I Worry” (joyous sunshine pop); the Last Bees’ “Can’t Wait” (more primo Merseybeat); Cabin Essence’s pretty “For Your Love” (the band’s name should give you a clue as to their influences); Andy Collins’ “On Top of the World” (an impeccably sung and produced mid-tempo pop bauble that ever-so-vaguely recalls the early ‘70s hit “Reflections of My Life”); and Pop4’s beautifully ethereal “What’s it Gonna Be Like.” Can’t forget Will Courtney’s “Hard Time” (a gorgeous ballad) and Kevin Pollack’s “Man About Town” (a soulful treat with a hot guitar solo), either.
Two other shout outs must be given: Famous Groupies’ “Be There My Love” sounds for all the world like a 1973-vintage Paul McCartney demo (not a huge surprise given that the band took their name from a 1978 Wings song) and Matt Tyson’s “A Little More Love” sounds like ELO having a pow-wow with the Archies with synths bubbling up all over. Nice!
There are plenty other fine pop-rock moments to be found on POP! Fights the Flames and the cost for this big bundle of melodic splendor is a minuscule $15.00—and to reiterate, it’s for a more than worthy cause. The label’s goal is 3,000 album downloads in three months, so point your browser to https://goldstarrecordings.bandcamp.com/music right now and go get it.