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Got Any Singles? Quick Spins

The Vapour Trails / Taylor Swift / Dolph Chaney / Katrina

The Vapor Trails

That’ll Do It (Futureman)

https://futuremanrecords.bandcamp.com/album/underneath-tomorrow

That’ll Do It is one of seven swell songs from The Vapor Trails’ latest E.P., Underneath Tomorrow

The follow-up to last year’s brilliant full-length Golden Sunshine, it’s brimming with enough hooks to legally label the whole darn thing as a legit ear worm.

That’ll Do It evokes a mid 1960’s Carnaby Street vibe, with a dash of Boyce and Hart for good measure. Beginning with a twist on the classic Paperback Writer riff, this one combines youthful lead vocals and harmonies that pull you in, sounding both fresh and familiar at the same time. A gritty, biting solo tempers the tasty pop leaning of the track, before the listener is lured into the last few bars with echoey harmonica. This is everything pop music should be.

Taylor Swift

Willow (Republic)

https://www.amazon.com/evermore-Taylor-Swift/dp/

A lot of musicians took the energy usually reserved for touring, and channeled it into the recording studio. Taylor Swift released Evermore last December, a more introspective, acoustic release, in contrast to the pop sounds of Lover.

Willow is a nifty single, and finds Swift exploring a folkish path that Mandy Moore and creative partner Mike Viola have been mining for several years now. I like the way that Swift switches gears here, and Willow is one of her best. With a slightly-Latin lilt and more than a couple of hooks, I can hear this track being covered by a variety of artists.

Dolph Chaney

Now I Am A Man (Big Stir)

https://bigstirrecords.bandcamp.com/album/this-is-dolph-chaney

We’ve only got one so far, from Dolph Chaney’s upcoming This Is Dolph Chaney release on Big Stir, and it’s a dilly. Chaney channels prime Matthew Sweet on this selection, complete with the bone-crushing guitars of Sick Of Myself. Big drums propel the whole she-bang, leaving no doubt that power pop is not only alive and kicking, but still capable of a Chuck-Norris-style roundhouse.

Though this is the only track currently available, you can pre-order the full album for digital download or on compact disc. Que bueno!

Katrina

Holiday (Music Manager)

Home – Hearts Loves & Babys – Katrina from Katrina & The Waves

From the instantly-likable Hearts, Loves & Babys, Holiday is a diamond among…well, other diamonds. This is an anthemic fist-pumper, which reminds me a bit of Slade’s Run Runaway. With a galloping rhythm that just makes you feel energized, it also shows that Ms. Leskanich hasn’t lost a bit of those famous pipes.

While Holiday has been ricocheting around in my brain this week, I’d be remiss if I didn’t try to get you to pull the trigger on the full Lp. I believe if you order a physical copy, she’s including an autographed 8×10 as well. Go.

By Dan Pavelich

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Quick Spins

Suburban Urchins, Paul McCartney & Cliff Hillis

Suburban Urchins

Born In The Suburbs

http://suburbanurchins.bandcamp.com/

I should start this by saying that Suburban Urchins will appeal to fans of The Kinks. This rough-and-tumble outfit from Tasmania isn’t about smooth edges, but bringing the goods in the form of an iron-fisted right cross.

4000 Miles Away begins with a wind-up, propelled by big drums and power chords. With literally energy for miles, it leads way to I Don’t Wanna Go, an isolation song that’s a real fist-pumper. Scott Riley’s vocals and guitar are perfectly supplemented by the keys of Ernie Oppenheimer, who deftly sprinkles synth and Farfisa throughout.

My fave of the set is the anthemic No More Black Dogs, which feels right out of The Davies’ Brothers playbook, in all the right ways.

Paul McCartney

McCartney III

www.paulmccartney.com

Paul McCartney brings his own namesake trilogy to a close with McCartney III. With most of the world in lockdown mode in 2020, Macca split his time between days at his recording studio, and evenings with his daughter and grandkids.

I’m a big fan of the first two installments of the trilogy, the first producing Every Night and Maybe I’m Amazed, the latter, Coming Up and Waterfalls. Working by oneself can produce results far different that a full band effort, and I think McCartney flourishes in this setting.

The instrumentation, which relies predominantly on acoustic instruments, is the perfect stage for Sir Paul’s now-weathered vocals. Find My Way is a peppy number fuel by harpsichord and guitar riffs that mimmic horn stabs. Lavatory Lil and Slidin’ are a couple of top-notch rockers, and Winter Bird/When Winter Comes is a pretty acoustic musing, and one of McCartney’s best.

All around, this is a really pleasant listen. With vibes to spare and a lot of really strong songs, I can’t recommend McCartney III enough.

Cliff Hillis

Life Gets Strange 

cliffhillis.bandcamp.com

The undeniable sign of a great release? Repeat listens. I’ll bet that in the past two days, I’ve listened to this e.p. at least ten times. From the first verse of the opener, the rambling Let’s Pretend, to the fadeout of the pretty Alien Eyes, I was comfortably hooked.

Cliff Hillis sounds remarkably like Bill Lloyd, who you know I’m partial to. These six tracks are nestled somewhere between the feisty Americana of Cracker and the always-reliable Tom Petty, but without any Southern vocal affectation. Hillis’s friendly, warm voice is perfectly accompanied by the contrast of crisp acoustic guitars and rougher electrics. The production is absolutely on-point.

Life Gets Strange was released in 2020, and I sincerely regret not hearing it earlier. It certainly would have made my year-end-best list. Highly Recommended.

By Dan Pavelich

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Pop-A-Looza TV Quick Spins

Bing Crosby & Frank Sinatra / White Christmas

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Got Any Singles? Quick Spins

Dan Pavelich’s 1st Annual Means-nothing Awards

Please note: These awards mean nothing beyond the fact that I like what the recipients did. There were tons of albums, songs and videos that I never heard or saw. 2020 was a shitty year in general, but an extraordinary one for great independent music. It would have been impossible to acknowledge or consume all of it.

DP

Coolest Release of the Year

Michael Slawter & The Pleased To Meet Me’s – Dear Bastards (Flexidisc)

Record of the Year

Marshall Holland – Paper Airplane

Song of the Year

The Vapour Trails – Lonely Man

Best Vinyl Releases (Tie)

Maurice & The Stiff Sisters – Welcome To Love

Gretchen’s Wheel – Such Open Sky

Best Cassette Release

Dw Dunphy – Test Test Test

Top Ten Singles of the Year  (In no particular order)

Ken Sharp – Girl

Ed Ryan – Even Time

Nick Frater – Let’s Hear It For Love

Tenderhooks – 20-20 Vision

More Animal – I Won’t Forgive You

The Empty Hearts – Coat-tailer

Katrina – Drive

Mike Daly & The Planets – This Is My Life

Coke Bela – Thank You, Paul

The Pretenders – The Buzz

Top Ten Long Players of the Year (In no particular order)

The Well Wishers – Shelf Life

Katrina – Hearts, Loves and Babys

honeychain – Pocketful of Good Luck

Tom Curless and The 46% – Almost Ready For The Future

Bill Lloyd – Don’t Kill The Messenger

It’s Karma It’s Kool – Woke Up In Hollywood

Nick Piunti and The Complicated Men – Downtime

Pop Co-Op – Factory Settings

Gary Ritchie – Head On Swivel

The Toms – The 1979 Sessions

Music Video of the Year

Tiny Bit Of Giant’s Blood – Girl Over Here

Best Children’s/Family Releases (In no particular order)

Lindsay Munroe – I Am Kind

Rena Strober & Friends – Imagine That

Red Yarn – Backyard Bop

Flor Bromley – Fiesta Global

Diana Panton – A Cheerful Little Earful

Congrats to all of the winners!

Categories
Pop-A-Looza TV Quick Spins

Bing Crosby & Frank Sinatra / White Christmas

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Got Any Singles? Quick Spins

New Christmas Singles!

Nick Piunti & The Complicated Men

Christmas Morning

https://nickpiuntimusic.bandcamp.com/track/christmas-morning

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.

Irene Pena

Will You Turn Up (For Christmas)

https://irenepena.bandcamp.com/album/will-you-turn-up-for-christmas

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 & SUPER 8

Red Bird

http://Lisamychols.bandcamp.com

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.

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Quick Spins

The Bookends / The Well Wishers /The Vapour Trails

The Bookends

Calliope (JEM)

http://www.jemrecordings.com

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.

The Well Wishers

Shelf Life (TMSM)

https://thewellwishers.bandcamp.com

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

Golden Sunshine (Futureman)

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

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.

By Dan Pavelich

Categories
Got Any Singles? Quick Spins

Got Any Singles? Nick Frater / Tenderhooks / More Animal / The Empty Hearts

Nick Frater

Let’s Hear It For Love 

https://bigstirrecords.com/big-stir-digital-singles

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.

Tenderhooks

20-20 Vision

https://www.facebook.com/tenderhooks

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.

More Animal

I Won’t Forgive You

https://moreanimal.bandcamp.com/album/post-millennium-breakdown

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.

The Empty Hearts

Coat-Tailer

https://www.facebook.com/Theemptyheartsband

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.

Dan Pavelich

Categories
Quick Spins

Lindsay Munroe, Katrina Leskanich, and honeychain, Reviewed

Lindsay Munroe

I Am Kind

Lindsaymunroemusic.com

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

Katrinasweb.com

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.

honeychain

Pocket Full of Good Luck

honeychainmusic.com

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.

By Dan Pavelich

Categories
Got Any Singles? Quick Spins

Got Any Singles? Gretchen’s Wheel / Marshall Holland / Katrina

Gretchen’s Wheel/You Should Know 

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.

Katrina/Drive

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!

Dan Pavelich