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Pop Sunday

Librarians With Hickeys / Long Overdue

Librarians With Hickeys

Long Overdue (Big Stir Records)

https://bigstirrecords.com/librarians-with-hickeys


A funny band name is always guaranteed to spark interest, but often overshadows its music. However, that is not the case with Librarians With Hickeys, whose cleverly-chiseled songs are as attention-grabbing as their moniker.


Consisting of Ray Carmen on vocals, guitar, ukulele and keyboards, Mike Crooker on guitar, keyboards and backing vocals, Andrew Wilco on bass and Rob Crossley on drums and piano, the Akron, Ohio-based quartet gathered a universal following with a pair of singles  they issued last year. Encouraged by the positive response, the band began working on a complete album, Long Overdue, which will be released August 14th by Big Stir Records.


The band’s debut album wisely contains the two singles that put them on the map. Radiating to a repertoire rigged with glistening guitars, yearning harmonies and the heart-stopping hum of a harpsichord, Until There Was You is a poptastic prize of the highest order. The subsequent single, Black Velvet Dress is directed by a hypnotizing  beat layered with shimmering textures. 

Photo by Grace Carmen


Punctured with a trippy psychedelic air prompted by the plucking of a backwards guitar, Obsession punches in as another A-grade track heard on Long Overdue, not to neglect the pure pop pleasantries of That Time Is Now featuring acclaimed vocalist Lisa Mychols.


Amplified by driving instrumentation grooving and swinging with a go-go sixties flavor, Looking For Home also receives a big round of applause, while the whimsical Be My Plus One is embedded with the sweet strum of a ukulele. Ray’s daughter Grace lends her vibrant vocal power to the grand and gorgeous Silent Stars, where the hooky and neatly-groomed Next Time yields a brace of cool saxophone fills.

By mating old-school pop properties with frequent art rock flirtations, Librarians With Hickeys have produced an album that is both comfortably familiar and novel. The band’s bright and breezy vocal expressions, compounded by melodic strength, are sure to satisfy fans of artists such as Shoes, The Beach Boys and The Smithereens
Assessing Long Overdue, Librarians With Hickeys have gotten off to a mighty good start. No matter what the current trend is, we all love catchy pop songs, and here’s a band whose contributions are most welcome. 

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Pop Sunday

The Brothers Steve / #1

The Brothers Steve “#1” (Big Stir Records 2020)


The debut album from The Brothers Steve – aptly titled “#1” – was originally released in 2019 and available only on vinyl. But the good folks at Big Stir Records kindly reissued the collection on compact disc so those who don’t own turntables can now enjoy these smashing songs.
Starring Jeff Whalen on vocals and guitar, bassist Jeff Solomon and drummer Steve Coulter – who some of you may be familiar with from the noted Los Angeles band Tsar – and Os Taylor on vocals and Dylan Champion on guitar and vocals, The Brothers Steve specialize in high-velocity power pop that is economical and exciting. If pressed for comparisions, it would be fair to say the band sounds like a cheeky Davy Jones fronting the Kasenetz-Katz Singing Orchestral Circus, capped in a modern presentation.
Spilling forth with stamina and spunk, numbers such as “We Got The Hits,” “Beat Generation Poet Turned Assassin,” “She,” “Angeline” and “”Carry Me” are crammed tight with clawing hooks, sugar-fueled bubblegummy harmonies and hopping rhythms. Focused and fit, The Brothers Steve push all the right levers at all the right times. 
No matter what the fad of the moment is, there always seems to be an audience for rocking guitar pop. And there is no question “#1” is one of the best albums of its ilk to come ringing down the road in recent memory. Slip into your dancing shoes and get ready to bop the night away!

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Pop Sunday

Marshall Holland / Paper Airplane

Marshall.Holland

Paper Airplane (Mystery Lawn Records)

https://marshallholland.bandcamp.com/album/paper-airplane-2

Be sure to circle September 4th on your calendar because that’s the day Marshall Holland’s long awaited fifth studio album, Paper Airplane, will be available. Not only has the San Francisco-based  singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist already issued a pair of singles from the forthcoming set to whet hungry appetites, but yours truly has been fortunate enough to be treated to a sneak preview of the whole album.

The title track has been tapped as the first single from the album. Bathed in a hypnotic light, Paper Airplane floats with ease to Marshall’s soothing purr that emotes the joy of being greeted by a sunny morning, making a paper airplane and imagining climbing  on board and flying high in the sky. The dreamy flower pop mellowness of the song is pierced with a run of hard-hitting licks, and subsequently cops a trick or two from The Fifth Dimension’s 1967 chart-topper, Up, Up And Away. Also selected as a single is the beautifully performed and arranged Waiting For That Peace & Love, which imparts optimism in this challenging and confusing time we currently live in. Gushing with classically-attuned piano work, the contemplatively-conceived sentiment affirms Marshall’s gift for playing and composing music that touches the heart and the soul.

Marshall’s warm and polished vocals, complemented by the orderly construction and melodic metaphysics of his material, frequently echo the kind of soft rock sounds that were so prominent on AM radio during the early seventies. Songs like When The Rain Comes and Look Into My Eyes further reflect the tone and technicalities of the genre Marshall primarily mines. 

While the influence of bands such as Bread, America and Seals and Croft do dominate the proceedings on Paper Airplane, a jangly country folk tenor fires I’m Checkin’ Out, which was authored by co-producer Michael Brooks. Then there’s the sassy power pop of Don’t Do It that could possibly be The Monkees in disguise,  where She Buys A Dress kicks off to a rush of frenzied surf styled drumming before detouring into a new wave realm populated with nervous rhythms, nail-biting hooks and bouncy keyboard drills.

Fashioned of songs that evoke a variety of thoughts and feelings, Paper Airplane is a rewarding effort from a very talented fellow who knows how to mold his art into something special. Those with a sweet tooth for ultra-catchy pop songs are advised to take an audio ride on Paper Airplane and prepare for a harmonious flight. 

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Pop Sunday

Spy Genius / Man On The Sea

Spygenius

Man On The Sea (Big Stir Records 2020)

https://www.bigstirrecords.com/store#!

Made up of singer, guitarist and main songwriter Peter Watts, bassist, vocalist Ruth Rogers, keyboardist, vocalist Matt Byrne and drummer, vocalist Alan Cannings, Spygenius has been a going concern since 2008. The British band’s fifth and most recent venture, Man On The Sea will be released July 10th and being a double album, provides twice the listening pleasure.

Steered by vocals best defined as the missing link between the quirky charm of Robyn Hitchcock and Ian Hunter on a Dylanesque bender, Spygenius ices their  material with industrious structures, unique hook lines and compelling curves in general. Putting a premium on  exploration, Man On The Sea illuminates with color and wonder.

From the vintage dance hall shuffle of Remember Me When I Was Good to the ominous din of Green Eyed Monster to the harmonious jangle of Watch Your Back – which is an admitted renovation  of John Lennon and Paul McCartney‘s You’re Going To Lose That Girl – the project stands as a striking survey of mercurial moods that seriously does offer something for everyone. 

The brooding psychedelic folk of Dolphinarium 1986 mirrors certain aspects of bands like Procol Harum and Traffic, while Ruth Rogers handles lead vocals on the melodious monogram of Spite and the infectiously jubilant Cafe Emery Hill could easily be mistaken as a paisley-laced bubblegum nugget from the swinging Carnaby Street era. Another True Day rolls in as a nifty guitar pop piece, where cuts such as In A Garden and New Street, rock with strength and balance.

By investigating and embodying various sounds and styles, Spygenius not only preserves multiple musical values on Man On The Sea, but the band adds their own individual touch to their thoughtfully-composed essays, which mix philosophical prose with nautical themes. Prepare for a fun and fascinating odyssey!

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Pop Sunday

Richard Turgeon / Postcards From Paradise

Richard Turgeon 

Postcards From Paradise

https://richardturgeon.bandcamp.com/track/postcards-from-paradise-cover

As a teenager, Richard Turgeo received his first taste of Flesh For Lulu when hearing their tune, I Go Crazy on the Some Kind Of Wonderful movie soundtrack. Still a fan after all these years, the San Francisco Bay Area  singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist pays homage to the South London band on his latest download single, which is an adaption of Postcards From Paradise that was initially issued in 1987. 

Copping a British accent with absolute perfection, Turgeon delivers Postcards From Paradise with a swagger and a shine. Built around a wall of rocking clamor, the punchy song is topped by an exhilarating chorus and electrifying melodies. Managed by power and presence, Turgeon’s cover of Postcards From Paradise is just as great as the original recording. 

On a personal note, Turgeon dedicates the cut to his sister Katherine, who introduced him to The Cure – another band cited as an early influence – and has always encouraged and supported his own musical activities. 

If you enjoy Postcards From Paradise – and I am sure you will – make it a point to check out Turgeon’s new album, Sea Change, which is set to be released any day now, but can be pre-ordered from Kool Kat Musik

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Pop Sunday

Brandi Ediss / Bees And Bees And Bees

Brandi Ediss

Bees And Bees And Bees (Futureman Records)

https://brandiediss.bandcamp.com/album/bees-and-bees-and-bees

Brandi Ediss is her own best therapist. As evidenced here on her excellent debut album, Bees And Bees And Bees, the Chicago born singer-songwriter not only courageously confesses her true feelings and intelligently analyzes such issues dealing with loneliness, isolation, insecurity and romance, but does so with acceptance and a keen sense of humor. 

Pitching a pure and pretty voice that commands infinite listenings, Brandi croons her catchy compositions in an intimate and conversational-like tone. Aside from the standard pop rock set up of guitars and drums, sleigh bells, glockenspiels, pianos and handclaps appear on a good number of the songs.

Driven by a strummy ukele, Robot Heart promises to get the toes tapping and the fingers clicking, while Count To Three is marked by a jazzy shuffle and engaging chord changes. Triggered by a neo-country beat, Stupid Boyfriend rings and romps with head-bobbing hooks, where quieter tracks such as Chicago and The Sweetest Words are costumed in atmospheric attire.

Split fairly between perky songs and moody ballads, Bees And Bees And Bees  relays a poetic quality that is evocative and inspiring. A great introduction to a clever and creative artist, Bees And Bees And Bees is guaranteed to receive heavy rotation on plenty of playlists.

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Pop Sunday

The Vapour Trails / Golden Sunshine

The Vapour Trails

Golden Sunshine (Futureman Records) 

https://futuremanrecords.bandcamp.com/album/golden-sunshine

The Vapour Trails hit the jackpot right from the start, as the Scottish band’s debut album, See You In The Next World, was an instant smash, both artistically and sales-wise. Needless to say, expectations run high for the follow-up effort, and I am happy to report Golden Sunshine soars above and beyond the call of duty. 

Suitably christened, the album emits endless rays of warmth and vitality. Positive energy abounds, producing songs of a spiritual nature that transcend space and time. The band’s mastery of sonic innovation also supplies additional layers of spellbinding beauty to their superbly-scripted material. 

The paired pursuits of folk rock and psychedelic experimentation are strongly emphasized throughout Golden Sunshine, particularly on the title cut, which begins on mellow footing, prior to expanding into a mountain of crunchy acid-dusted jamming that reflects a head-on collision between The Byrds and Buffalo Springfield.

Assembled of honey-coated vocals, angelic harmony and rich melodies, Dr. Barnes, Lonely Man and Different Girl, kick in as subsequent stunners, as well as the hauntingly gorgeous Seabird that sweeps and swoons with a Beach Boys flavor, and appropriately concludes to a choir of chirpy feathered friends. A rougher edge guides the meaty, beaty, bouncy Strange, which provides the bluesy toot of a harmonica, while an exotic belly-dancing vibe anchors The Conversation, that includes a burst of blaring trumpets. 

Pulsing with vibrant contours and a groove that energizes the soul, Golden Sunshine revisits Southern California sixties sounds with a here and now mentality. Blending discipline with spontaneity, The Vapour Trails keep their songs consistently fresh and exciting. Chock full of magical moments, Golden Sunshine catches The Vapour Trails singing and playing the kind of music they love and believe in. Such enthusiasm is infectious, which is yet another aspect that makes the band and their new album so special.

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Pop Sunday

Anton Barbeau / Kenny Vs. Thrust

Anton Barbeau Presente

Kenny Vs. Thrust (Big Stir Records 2020) 

https://bigstirrecords.com/anton-barbeau

For the past couple of decades, Anton Barbeau has been churning out one prized project after another. Originally based in Sacramento, California – and currently residing in Berlin, Germany – the prolific singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist has recently returned to the fore with Kenny Vs. Thrust, an album featuring tunes with his American band Kenny – along with material from his European group Thrust

Occupying a realm reeling with psychedelic perspectives, Anton creates wiggy and wondrous dialogues that collect comparisions to the likes of early Pink Floyd, The Idle Race, XTC, Plasticland and Robyn Hitchcock. Delivering his musings in an affected British accent, Anton certainly has a knack for bringing his surrealistic insights to life and luring listeners into the scenarios.

Equipped with spacey patterns and unconventional melodies, “Beautiful Bacon Dream” and “Haunted In Fenland” are all but a couple of choice cuts heard on Kenny Vs. Thrust, as well as the aptly titled “Jingle Jangle,” which snaps, crackles and sparkles with Byrds-buttered guitars in a garage band styled manner. 

Steeled with skittish rhythms and a cracked edge, “Clean Clothes In A Dirty Bag” nails hooky new wave expressions to a lysergic-lubricated vision, and “Land Of Economy” is underlined by thumping percussion and nagging time shifts. A choppy reggae beat, trailed by a touch of tie-dyed electronica, is applied to “Tidy Up Yourself” and “Back To Balmain” bristles and buzzes with trippy synthesizer swirls. 

Playful yet progressive, Kenny Vs. Thrust efficiently combines acid-damaged whimsy with freewheeling performances designed to keep audiences stimulated and alert. Those claiming appreciation for eccentric – and eclectic – sounds and stories are sure to dig this album. 

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Pop Sunday

Big Stir Singles : The Sixth Wave

Various Artists

Big Stir Singles: The Sixth Wave” (Big Stir Records 2020)

https://bigstirrecords.com/big-stir-records-compilations#!

Launched in 2018, Big Stir Records  has deservedly gleaned the reputation as one of the finest labels on the planet. Not only is the Burbank, California-based imprint committed to releasing the highest quality of music possible, but such standards apply to their presentation, as eye-pleasing graphics are a staple of their wares.

Comprised of 23 tracks, Big Stir Singles: The Sixth Wave is the latest installment of the banner’s various artists series. As if these hooky songs aren’t enough to score piles of points, the collection proposes a doubly worthy purpose, with 25% of the profits going to the Sweet Relief’s Musician Assistance Fund.

The humorously-christened Librarians With Hickeys introduce the set with the star-spangled ripples of Until There Was You, followed by The Popdudes’ Ridin’ In My Car that posts as the perfect summer song, bolstered by an upbeat tenor that ably crosses a crisp country folk rock pitch with a sunny Beach Boys‘ vibe. The Popdudes further check in with a version of Daytime Nighttime Suffering that is as honestly as terrific – if not better – than the original recording  by Paul McCartney and Wings.

From Jim Basnight, there’s the gritty Rolling Stones swagger of Big Bang and a cracking cover of This Is Where I Belong that would certainly make The Kinks beam with pride. Blooming with emotion and a sleek orchestral feel, the haunting tremors of Home by Joe Normal & The Anytown’rs  dials in as another pick to click on the collection, where Paula Carino’s Door illuminates with a measured moodiness destined to send shivers down the spine.

The Well Wishers step in with the bracing garage pop bite of We Grow Up, Trip Wire’s Katie Says favors a jangling country pop rock pose, assisted by cool breaks and a tugging melody, and Dolph Chaney’s infectious Automatic Caution Door imparts a tasty art rock ambience. The Corner Laughers contribute a pair of super catchy efforts to the program, including the compelling Queen Of The Meadow and The Accepted Time, which chimes to the tune of a smart melody and a gripping arrangement. 

Brimming with volume and might, No, from The Walker Brigade is destined to rattle windows far and wide, while a couple of XTC songs are rendered in splendid fashion by Glowbox with Earn Enough For Us and Tom Curless and the 46%’s I’m The Man Who Murdered Love. Last but by no means least, Spygenius turns in an impressive Ian Hunter/Mott the Hoople impersonation on Heaven Is Blue, which does indeed incorporate shades of heavenly blues into the  glammy mix.

Every song on Big Stir Singles: The Sixth Wave is utterly fantastic; reinforcing the label’s dedication to the best and the brightest indie pop rock musicians of today. 

Categories
Pop Sunday

The Corner Laughers / Temescal Telegraph

The Corner Laughers 

Temescal Telegraph (Big Stir Records 2020)

cornerlaughers.com 

Guided by the fluid and friendly vocals of Karla Kane – who also strums a mean ukulele – The Corner Laughers further feature the talents of KC Bowman and Khoi Huynh – who both play guitar, bass and piano – and drummer Charlie Crabtree

Temescal Telegraph marks the latest album from the Redwood City, California  band, which magnifies their flair for penning and performing literate songs, bursting with panoramic visages, accompanied by row upon row of ripe melodies. 

Numbers such as the robotic bounce of “Sisters Of The Pollen” and the bright and bubbly “The Calculating Boy” retool new wave influences into a contemporary context, while “Wren In The Rain” projects a haunting quality that radiates with a lonesome beauty. A chiming folk fragrance frames the absolutely gorgeous “Goodguy Sun” and “Changeling” swivels and swings to a frisky country-fried beat.

An exploding guitar solo punctures the chant-like tenor of “Lord Richard,” and then there’s “Skylarks Of Britain,” which begins on a twee tone before ballooning into a ball of bleary-eyed psychedelic distortion. Selected as the first single from the album, “The Accepted Time,” with its catchy rhythm and compelling mood, duly punches in as another showstopper.

As Temescal Telegraph affirms, The Corner Laughers bend towards the arty pop-rock side of the hill. Cushioned with cleverly-conceived material, heavy on hooks and harmonious light, the album carries a quirky enigma that gives the band a distinctive flavor. A superb collection of sonic snapshots, Temescal Telegraph is guaranteed to appear on many “Best Album Of The Year” lists.