Here's a look at three recent releases that have made their way across my desk and are definitely worthy of your time (and ears)...
Eytan Mirsky – Funny Money
Mirsky’s sixth full-length record is most definitely his finest; it’s stuffed with a dozen tunes that showcase the NY-based singer/songwriter’s sharp lyrical observations and way with a winning melody. Aided by multi-instrumentalist/producer Jon Gordon, Mirsky often heads into some relatively uncharted (for him) territory on Funny Money. For example, there are a few uncharacteristically Rolling Stones-like moments on “I’m Gonna Fight It,” which features some cool “Brown Sugar”-like guitar riffing, and “I Saw Something in You,” which also makes good use of some vocal harmonies (Mirsky’s own) on the chorus. Then there’s probably the most tender number Mirsky has ever penned, the absolutely wonderful “Watching Dawson’s Creek.” Over a gently fingerpicked acoustic guitar backdrop, Mirsky nostalgically paints a sweet aural portrait of bonding over the Katie Holmes TV show with a lost love. Terrific bridge on this one, too.
Elsewhere, the soulful, catchy kiss-off “You Gave Me Sugar” is ever-so-slightly reminiscent in spots of that one Maroon 5 song (except it doesn’t suck) while “My Dog Likes Your Dog” is a hilarious, early ‘60s-influenced ditty---with an accordion solo!---that finds the protagonist using his pooch as a means to pick up a girl, using ultra-smooth lines such as “You bring some bits and kibbles, I’ll bring some wine." (The punch line? He bought the dog just to get the girl.)
Other tunes touch on girl group-styled melodies (“It’s a Jungle Out There”, which Ronnie Spector should cover), ‘60s garage (“Good Hair Day”), a bit of pretty-sounding moodiness (“Plusses and Minuses” ) and Mirsky’s patented power pop stylings, with his lead vocals often recalling the Smithereens’ Pat DiNizio. It’s no joke: Funny Moneyis one of the best records I’ve heard so far this year. Grade: A
The Jetz – Cracked Up
“Kinda got started, but we never got it done,” sings The Jetz’s Alex Kinder on the leadoff track on Cracked Up, the stirring, power poppin’ title cut. That could have been the official slogan of the band from Hertfordshire, UK, who released a lone single in 1977, split in 1979, and didn’t resurface until a compilation of vintage demos was released in 2011. But The Jetz have finally “gotten it done,” releasing their first proper album (and first new material) after 36 years – and it’s a doozy.
Each of the dozen tunes here is a exhilaratingly perfect example of what power pop should be – these are all short (12 songs in 33 minutes), snappy songs with melodies that draw you in on the first listen, plenty of guitars, assured lead vocals with just the right amount of attitude, some nicely placed vocal harmonies, and the secret ingredient that is too often missing in current power pop – power. And there is no sense in singling out particular songs to talk about, because everything here is just fab. Seriously - run, don’t walk and get yourself a copy of this; in case you’ve become a bit jaded, Cracked Upis enough to make you believe in the power of rock and roll again. Grade: A+
Joey Sykes – Classic New Rock
Joey Sykes is a highly talented singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist who, in addition to fashioning a solo career, is currently serving as a guitarist in The Babys alongside original members Tony Brock and Wally Stocker. Sykes’ latest solo record – which he self-produced, also handling all guitars and bass - is not unlike the type of sturdy pop/rock that the Babys have been known for, with a little classic, early ‘80s-era Rick Springfield melodicism thrown in for good measure. Classic New Rockis an impeccably produced amalgamation of AOR and sparkling pure pop, and it’s one of those timeless-sounding records that would have sounded great on the radio in pretty much any of the past four decades – but especially now.
The cool rockin’ “That’s American Life” gets things off to a fine start with an insistent melody, nifty backing vocals that provide a second hook to an already memorable tune, and a solid backbeat provided by drummer Kenny Aronoff. Other prime bits of Sykes’ classic new rock include the supremely radio ready “I Go There,” the charming, mid-tempo “When Life Goes Right” (whose soaring chorus is instantly smile-inducing), the sweetly mournful “It Isn’t Easy,” the propulsive power pop of “In Case You Wanna Know” (more cool backing vocals here) and the slightly mysterious-sounding “I Broke My Baby,” which simultaneously sounds modern and ‘60s-influenced and features another killer chorus..
The big ballad here is titled “He Never Cried,” and it’s a touching, heartfelt love letter from a son to a father that Sykes colors with mandolin, pedal steel and violin. A DIY cover of Raspberries’ “Go All the Way” helps provide Sykes with some power pop cred, and on the whole, Classic New Rockcertainly lives up to its title. Grade: A-