Nick Piunti and The Complicated Men continue their 2020 hot streak with Christmas Morning, a nifty bit of rocking yule, equal parts Paul Westerberg and Bryan Adams. A gritty comment on Christmas commerciality that is definitely this year’s Christmas ear worm.
Combining spooky surf guitar runs with a sweet melody, Will You Turn Up (For Christmas) is quickly becoming a favorite to accompany holiday decorating at my house. This one wouldn’t sound out of place on the great Phil Spector Lp that is so beloved. Nicely done!
Lisa Mychols and Paul Ryan (SUPER 8) give us Red Bird, a dreamy winter pop tune full of twinkling bells and floaty, ethereal vocals. Cheerful in all the right ways, it’s a welcome addition to the seasonal songbook. Pretty.
The Bookends pick up right where The Bristols left off, with their JEM Records debut. Filled to the brim with double-tracked vocals, jangly guitars and catchy choruses, these fourteen original tunes are more fun than a barrel of Monkees.
Karen Lynn and Sharon Lee anchor the band, augmented by guitarist Frank Labor, and multiple drummers. Clearly influenced by the guitar pop of the 1960’s, Face The Facts and Mr. Know It All sound like a couple of lost Boyce & Hart numbers. My fave of the set, however, is the slinky She’s Got It, which shows that these ladies aren’t afraid of shifting gears. Very cool.
I was just telling someone the other day, that not only was I amazed at how prolific a songwriter Jeff Shelton is, but also at his ability to keep a standard of quality that few can match. Last Year’s The Lost Soundtrack was phenomenal, as was 2018’s A View From Above.
We Grow Up drives like an overland trucker, as does All The Same. Filled with muscular guitar arrangements and a 90’s pop sensibility, these tracks would fit well on a playlist between Bob Mould and Matthew Sweet. Shelton and his Well Wishers are equally adept on the alt-country Holidays Await and the groovy Only The Rain. Shelf Life is top-shelf.
The Vapor Trails caught my ear earlier this year, with their swell single, Lonely Man. Reminiscent of quality, classic guitar pop from Herman’s Hermits to The Rembrandts, it was the perfect teaser for their full-length, Golden Sunshine.
These twelve tracks are brimming with hook-laden goodness, and quite often make the listener feel like they are literally basking in the Golden Sunshine. The One That Got Away is dreamy in a Phil Angotti/The Idea way, and Different Girl slinks with a groove that is irresistible. Harmony vocals are sweet and well-thought-out, complimenting the abundant guitar jangle to perfection. Highly recommended.
Nick Frater’s got a new full-length on the way, and this digital single is our first little glimpse. Let’s Hear It For Love is a buoyant power pop number, though there is an ethereal quality in the melody that sounds both happy and sad at the same time. Brilliant.
Hailing from Brighton, England, Tenderhooks reveal an anthem for the horrible year that we all seem to be trapped in. 20-20 Vision is a slinky little rocker that pulls no punches (cool video, too), recalling the very best of Cracker and White Album-era Beatles. More, please.
Recording under the moniker More Animal, multi-instrumentalist Bo Ledman has a real winner with his track I Won’t Forgive You. It’s a middle finger to The Orange Menace and his enablers, wrapped up in a grungy pop song that’s simply irresistible. It’s on repeat play here at Pop-A-Looza HQ, and we’re looking forward to a deep dive into the full-length that hatched it.
These guys are a power pop lover’s dream-come-true. Wally Palmar, Andy Babiuk, Clem Burke and Elliot Easton uncork another three-minute gem, played with the youthful exuberance of men half their age. Big snare and guitars, hooky chorus and harmonies, the stuff pop dreams are made of.
From Munroe’s website; Lindsay Munroe is a multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter and mother of three who lives in Massachusetts. She likes to bake, loves bird watching and does some crotchet in her spare time. In 2018 Lindsay followed her passion and began doing singalongs for kids. Her lively, engaging singalongs brought joy to kids and parents all around New England and many more enjoyed her YouTube channel “Singalong with Lindsay.”
While that description might also be similar to that of her peers, it says little of the sincerity and warmth that Munroe possesses. I Am Kind, a duet with Raffi, begins a parade of sixteen tunes, each touching in their own way. Munroe’s crystalline voice is stunningly pitch-perfect and bell-like, which elevates these already-buoyant tunes to another level. There is also a subtle theme working through this material, that everyone has moments when they feel like an oddball, which is a message that any human being can take to heart. Highly recommended.
Katrina (of Katrina and The Waves)
Hearts, Loves & Babys
Katrina Leskanich sounds rejuvenated on her latest, Hearts, Loves & Babys, which is arguably one of the strongest releases of her career. Much like 1989’s Break Of Hearts Lp, this one covers a lot of bases and shows the many moods that Leskanich is able to elicit.
The lead vocals are powerful and spot-on, having lost absolutely nothing over the years. The first two singles to be released, Drive and I Want To Love Again, are sure-fire hits in any decade, the demise of terrestrial radio notwithstanding. These are big songs just made for highway driving with the windows rolled down. Other moments, like the sweet Who We Are and the cover of I Can’t Give You Anything But Love, are equally as lovable. Bravo.
Pocket Full of Good Luck
Regular readers of this column already know that the staff here at Pop-A-Looza HQ is enamored of this Los Angeles trio. Frontwoman Hillary Burton is a skilled writer, blending pop sweetness with punk-inspired attack. You’ve got to be inventive in a trio setting, and thankfully, honeychain is more than up to the task of supplying the listener with variety.
Spaceman, an aural bungee jump, brings muscular guitar and drums for miles, with a chorus that Liz Phair would die for. Flee Los Angeles slinks and grinds equally, conjuring up images of anti-culture heroes causing apocalyptic trouble, while Wrong Side Of Town blends a power pop chorus with skanking verses. The pretty, acoustic Late Night Movie Show closes out the proceedings, leaving only the anticipation of where honeychain will go next. Pocket Full of Good Luck is guaranteed to be on many year-end-best lists.
Gretchen’s Wheel is a well-established favorite here at Pop-A-Looza HQ. On You Should Know, a preview track from the upcoming Lp, Such Open Sky, we get a crunchy bit of pop that would feel at home on a Fountains Of Wayne long-player. While we await the official release, we’re content to spin this track over and over. And over. And over.
Marshall Holland/When The Rain Comes
From one of the best Lp’s of 2020 (Paper Airplane), When The Rain Comes, by Marshall Holland. It’s a nifty, buoyant little number that feels like a dream collab between Tom Petty and Beck. Holland’s always-earnest vocals lushly surround the chorus hook that your ears have been searching for. The rest of Paper Airplane is just as wonderful.
Yes, THAT Katrina! She’s still walking on sunshine, with her swell new single, Drive. Her voice is in great shape, and this rockin’ single is a must-have for your summer (what’s left of it) soundtrack. Our staff loves this tune, and you will, too!
Imagine That! The Sesame Street Music of Joe Raposo & Jeff Moss
It’s no stretch to say that over 100 children’s CD’s cross my desk in a year, and I listen to the bulk of them, for better or for worse. Rarely, have I been so impressed by a release in this genre, that my socks were literally blown off. I only wish that it happened more often.
Listening to Imagine That! Was like taking in a first-class Broadway show. You know how when you see a professional production, and as soon as the singing begins, you’re so taken aback that you remark to yourself, “Oh, Wow! These people aren’t fooling around!”? This CD will give you that same sensation.
Rena Strober’s pitch-perfect voice is as friendly as they come, and her renditions of classic Sesame Street songs are delightful. Somebody Come And Play immediately transported me back to my Kodachrome childhood in the 1970’s, when it seemed like the sun was always shining. Kermit The Frog’s trademark Being Green is wistful, if not a bit sad, and it’s sentiments related to the world today are not lost on me.
My fave of the set, however, is Im Pretty/I’m An Aardvark, sung with all due silliness by guests French Stewart and Jason Alexander. They get lost in their characters, and the listener does, too. To be fair to the extremely talented Miss Strober, though, it’s a great moment that is surrounded by only great moments. Highly recommended!
From the press kit;
Imagine That! The Sesame Street Music of Joe Raposo & Jeff Moss is being released in celebration of National Guide Dog Month in September. A portion of the proceeds from all digital and hard copy sales of the album will go to Guide Dogs of America and the Gavin R. Stevens Foundation, whose mission is to find a treatment and cure for blindness, focusing on Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis (LCA).
Red Yarn’s latest, Backyard Bop, is perfectly fitting for the times we live in. Thankfully, though, it’s not full of doom and gloom, but brimming with optimism and wonder. Red Yarn and singing partner, Miss Jessie, reintroduce kids to their own backyard, and all of the things they may have missed while staring at their computer screens.
If you’ve ever wondered what it would sound like if Jeff Tweedy and Rhett Miller recorded an album of material for kids and families, this is it. The title track and Jump For Joy are irresistible, with tinges of rockabilly and roots music buoying the proceedings. My Own Backyard offers the listener a front-row seat to their own, personalized nature show, and Cats & Dogs is hopeful that entrenched hostilities will one day dissolve. Amen.
Having aged into my 50’s, I can tell you from experience that it can be a melancholy time. You’ve undoubtedly seen too many friends and family members pass away, and you’ve seen just how ugly something like cancer can be, how it literally drains the life out of a human soul. Maybe you’ve become a caregiver to one or both of your parents, and seen how that solemn duty inevitably affects every aspect of your own life, usually for the worse.
Mike Daly and The Planets‘ This Is My Life, takes that melancholy one step further, singing from the point of view of someone afflicted with cancer, hoping that they can hang on to their life for as long as possible. It’s a dark subject to be sure, but flows with an undercurrent of hopefulness; hope for another day of life tomorrow, hope that there will be another sunrise to feel the warmth of, hope that our loved ones will also be there with us. Very well done.
Jimi Jimi is a nice piece of new-wavish pop, from The Shivers’ latest, Unreleased Tracks from 1988-1991. Their combination of Smithereens’-style guitar grind peppered with Wendy Morrison’s pleading vocals, is all kinds of awesome. We’re looking forward to digging deeper into this release and the rest of the band’s catalog.
The latest from Tom Curless is a tasty nugget that sounds both fresh and vintage. It has an early-MTV vibe to our ears, sticking somewhere between Greg Khin’sBreak-up Song and Martin Briley’sSalt In My Tears. We’re enjoying the rest of the Lp, titled Almost Ready For The Future, but if you’re unfamiliar with Curless, this is a fantastic place to start.
The American South has no greater ambassador of guitar-driven pop than Bill Lloyd, Tom Petty’s origins notwithstanding. Don’t Kill The Messenger, the title track from Lloyd’s latest long-player, is an anthem for truth tellers everyone, scorned for stating the obvious. Wrapped in layers of guitars that have both power and jangle, it’s irresistible to our ears, here at Pop-A-Looza HQ.
Columnist Beverly Paterson introduced most of us to Marshall Holland, and, boy, has his track Paper Airplane become our office’s ear- worm of the moment. Holland’s vocals have a floating feel to them, giving this a song a warmth that is equal parts James Taylor and Beck. We will be digging into the rest of his catalog shortly!
Honeychain’s Spaceman reminds us a whole lot of the indie scene in Chicago in the early 1990’s. If you would’ve told us that it was a great lost Veruca Salt single from ’92, we’d believe you. Powerhouse guitars and drums propel this top-notch rocker, buoyed by Hillary Burton’s nonchalant vocal. Aces.
In today’s often dark and chaotic times, we all could use a smile to lift our spirits, and Rolie Polie Guacamole does just that. My introduction to the band was their latest video, for their song, Avocado. Without giving away why it will make you smile, I’ll just say that it’s well-worth taking three minutes to watch it.
Rolie Polie Guacamole is made up of two Brooklyn boys, Frank Gallo and Andrew Tuzhilin. Regular readers of this column know that when it comes to children’s music, I like a little something different. Gallo and Tuzhilin check that box, emphatically. Firetruck, Pizza Pie and the aforementioned Avocado, are irresistible to ears of any age.
I especially enjoyed Sammi The Cat, a story song about a stray cat in Brooklyn, and the surprises that she find’s in the subway. There is charm, friendliness and warmth throughout Avocado, which your family will undoubtedly enjoy. Very highly recommended.