Categories
Pop Sunday

The Armoires / Incognito

The Armoires

Incognito (Big Stir)

https://bigstirrecords.bandcamp.com/album/incognito-2

Oh, those sly rascals! Between October 2020 and April 2021, The Armoires released eight excellent singles under different pseudonyms. The reason the Burbank, California band staged such an exercise was to venture beyond their comfort zone and indulge in sonic promiscuity without apology.

All those songs have now been compiled onto a collection appropriately titled Incognito. While the core members of The Armoires are Big Stir founders Rex Broome on vocals and guitar and Christina Bulbenko on vocals and keyboards – along with bassist and vocalist Clifford Ulrich, violist Larysa Bulbenko and drummer John Borack – an assortment of loyal label mates also submit their talents to select cuts.  

Strands of paisley pop elegance tangles and wrangles with classical interludes on a swell cover of John Cale’s Paris 1919, where Bagfoot Run wheels in as a bluegrass-battered number, and the world-weary Homebound is a standard country ballad. Then there’s Awkward City Limits, which totters back and forth between tense moodiness, sweeping viola fills and thrashing rock rhythms.

Governed by grandiose and gloss, Ohma, Bring Your Light Into This Place mixes elements of church revival bliss with Broadway flash into a powerhouse production of dramatic dictation, mountain-sized melodies and goose-pimple inducing harmonies. A sashaying beat and clawing hooks brand the garage rocking  Walking Distance, and a rendition of Christie’s Yellow River remains relatively true to the original bubble-gummy swamp rock version. 

A dash of Brit pop, a touch of grunge and a splattering of wiggy psychedelic effects penetrate I Say We Take Off And Nuke The Site From Orbit, a copy of XTC’s Senses Working Overtime throbs and bobs with animated new wave perspectives, and Magento Moon keys in as an absolutely gorgeous slice of art pop. 

Modeled on the mercurial vision of The White Album and The Turtles Present The Battle Of The Bands, The Armoires move from one style to another with natural instinct. A fun and spontaneous feel fuels Incognito, letting you know a great time was had, cooking up these splendid songs. Slip on those headphones and enjoy!

Beverly Paterson

Categories
Pop Sunday

Chris Church / Game Dirt

Chris Church 

Game Dirt

Big Stir Records 2021

https://bigstirrecords.bandcamp.com/album/game-dirt


Chris Church has been writing and playing a wide scope of sounds and styles for the past thirty years. Orbiting everywhere from pop to heavy metal to experimental art pieces, the Lenoir, North Carolina resident clearly possesses a voracious appetite for music in general. Here on his latest album – Game Dirt – the one-man band pursues a fetching form of progressive pop rock.

Equipped with a voice jointly recalling the grainy bite of Michael Stipe and the rootsy brogue of Adam Durwitz, Chris sings his imaginatively-engineered songs with passion and purpose. A crisp and crunchy tone floods Game Dirt, allowing the material to yield a live and lusty feel that sinks right into your ears and bones. 

Bursting with a jolly demeanor crafted of a foot-stomping beat, windy harmonies and a showing of smashing guitar licks, Learn has wisely been tapped as the first single from the album. Dominated by a penetrating pulse and a hard rocking swagger, Know kicks in as another not to be neglected number, as well as the Todd Rundgen flavored Fall, where pristine melodies collide with a punchy rhythm section to unified effects. 

An aggressive edge slinking with intensity, strengthened by a stabbing hook drives Down, the jumpy jubliance of Smile serves as a countrified power popping delight, and the blindingly beautiful Sunrise communicates a positive message while a flowering of celestial voices, swirling breaks and ringing riffs radiate warmth and security.

Although each song on Game Dirt conveys a different mood and color, they all hang nicely together. You certainly won’t get bored listening to this dynamic album, and will be amazed at the way Chris so effortlessly scales the varied angles and slopes found within his quirky yet catchy songs.

Beverly Paterson

Categories
Pop Sunday

Dolph Chaney / This Is Dolph Chaney

Dolph Chaney

This Is Dolph Chaney (Big Stir)

https://bigstirrecords.com/dolph-chaney#!


Although Dolph Chaney has been making music since the late eighties, the Chicago-based singer, songwriter and guitarist didn’t receive widespread recognition until his album, Rebuilding Permit was released by the Big Stir label in 2020. Not only did the disc rope in rounds of raves from the public and music journalists, but led to Dolph winning the impressive seat as Woody Radio’s Artist Of The Year.

So now Dolph has returned to the spotlight with This Is Dolph Chaney, which offers remodelings of songs from the handful of albums he recorded prior to Rebuilding Permit. The thirteen track collection was produced by Nick Bertling, who also chips in on background vocals and instrumentation.

Powered by a jumpy beat and juicy melodies, Cuddle Party ranks as one of the many stand-out tracks on This Is Dolph Chaney, as well as the dizzying static of Now I Am A Man, which features guest vocals from Lindsay Murray of Gretchen’s Wheel. And then there’s the twangy tremors of Pleasant Under Glass, that includes the breezy harmonies of Kevin Robertson and Scott Robertson (of The Vapour Trails). 

Jazzy rhythms, seasoned with a shot of soul-styled six-string flourishes, are heard on the seductive Under The Overpass, where the springy I Wanted You pops and prances with digging hooks and breaks. A bare-bones arrangement, augmented by the haunting tenor of a Mellotron and sleepy but emotionally-charged vocals, shape Sideless World and Worship Song chimes brightly with tingling melodies and ear-pleasing licks.

Shooting and playing straight from the hip, Dolph keeps it real. There is nothing the least bit forced or pretentious about This Is Dolph Chaney, as raw talent and spontaneous energy ride his songs, not fussy and fancy technology. An honest and heartfelt affair, This Is Dolph Chaney is sure to catch fire and gather continual accolades for the Windy City musician.    

Categories
Got Any Singles? Quick Spins

Got Any Singles? Grey DeLisle, The Dupont Circles, Dolph Chaney & Joseph Williams

Grey Delisle’s latest single, Valentine, is a pretty, wistful ballad, guaranteed to tug at the heartstrings. Delisle’s emotional voice carries the melody as if it might be the last song she ever records (it isn’t). If you find the vocal on this a bit familiar-sounding, it might be because she’s also a voice actor, having played Daphne in Scooby Doo cartoons for years. Very nice.

https://www.amazon.com/Grey-DeLisle

***

The Dupont Circles produce a nifty brand of power pop, but they sure do take a looong time getting the stuff out. The tracks on their long player, In Search Of The Family Gredunza, took some 30 years to percolate and see the light of day. Our fave rave is Jokes On Zandra, a rough and ready rocker that recalls the best of The Replacements, with a dash of the Davies’ brothers thrown in for good measure.

https://thedupontcircles.bandcamp.com/

***

Until we review Dolph Chaney’s This Is Dolph Chaney, we recommend you check out his wink-and-a-nod track, My Good Twin. Chaney must be influenced more than a bit by Matthew Sweet, as this track made us want to give another spin to Sweet’s 100% Fun. Very well done, produced by the always-reliable Nick Bertling, who also takes a seat behind the kit.

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

***

Toto vocalist Joseph Williams’s latest solo outing features a collaboration with former bandmate David Paich on Black Dahlia. You’d be forgiven if you mistook its mid-tempo slickness for the new Toto single, as it’s got that band’s trademark vocal harmonies and rhythmic interest. Cool.

https://www.amazon.com/Denizen-Tenant-Explicit-Joseph-Williams/

By Staff

Categories
Pop Sunday

Big Stir Records / The Yuletide Wave

Various Artists

Big Stir Singles: The Yuletide Wave

(Big Stir Records 2020)

https://bigstirrecords.bandcamp.com/album/big-stir-singles-the-yuletide-wave-2

Nobody in their right mind has to be told 2020 has been a major downer. But the year is ending on a great note, because Big Stir Singles: The Yuletide Wave has arrived! Offering twenty-two holiday-related songs, the collection is primed to lift the spirits and restore hope and faith. It’s only fitting Big Stir Singles: The Yuletide Wave begins with a song addressing the situation we are currently experiencing. And that track is Nick Frater’s Wash Your Hands Of Christmas, which speaks of the lack of  lovely things we normally celebrate during the season. Despite the subject matter, the song sparkles and shines with beauty and bliss.

 Alison Faith Levy’s All I Want For Chanukah Is A Ukele strums and hums to the noggin-nodding burr of a ukele, and The Brother Steve’s I Love The Christmastime weighs in as a peppy piece of power pop perfection. Michael Simmons channels Frank Sinatra with impressive effects on the crooning Christmas Waltz and from Spygenius, there’s Revels Without A Claus that jumps and jerks to a wonky dance hall shuffle.

Wrapped in atmospheric attire, involving  jazzy horns and novel melodies, I Remember You At Christmas by Anthanor plugs in as a poignant paean to a former sweetheart, while The Decibels cleverly combine the traditional hymn, Angels We Have Heard On High with segments of the sixties garage rock nugget, Gloria with hard-hitting appeal.

The Stan Laurels crib a cue from the warm vocals and detailed construction of The Beach Boys on the shimmery Noche Buena, and Kai Danzberg & Scott McPherson’s frisky The Day Before Christmas vividly recalls the anticipation felt as a child waiting for the fat man on a sleigh to deliver wish list toys and games.

 Swinging and spinning with gripping chords and happy harmonies, Groovy Time Of The Year by The Bobbleheads is indeed groovy. Propelled by a bouncy beat and a sugar-coated bubblegummy chorus, the absolutely irresistible All I Want Is You For Christmas by Kimberely Rew and Lee Cave-Berry sounds like a joint effort between The Archies and Fountains Of Wayne, and Blake Jones & The Trike Shop’s String The Lights And Hold On pitches an ear-pleasing repertoire of choppy drumming, incisive licks and fetching hooks.

Excellent entries from Librarians With Hickeys, Irene Pena, The Forty Nineteens, Anton Barbeau, Dolph Chaney, The JAC, Addison Love, The Stillsouls and Kelly’s Heels with Steve Rinaldi further complete this prized package of sonic greetings.

Stuffed to the pores with catchy songs, Big Stir Singles: The Yuletide Wave can actually be enjoyed anytime of the year. You don’t have to practice a certain religion or believe in Santa Claus to appreciate these tasty treats. Every day is a holiday when it comes to a record flashing the Big Stir imprint, and here’s yet another production asserting their care, knowledge and recognition of quality music.

Categories
Pop Sunday

Big Stir Singles: The Yuletide Wave

Various Artists

Big Stir Singles: The Yuletide Wave

(Big Stir Records 2020)


Nobody in their right mind has to be told 2020 has been a major downer. But the year is ending on a great note, because Big Stir Singles: The Yuletide Wave has arrived! Offering twenty-two holiday-related songs, the collection is primed to lift the spirits and restore hope and faith.

It’s only fitting Big Stir Singles: The Yuletide Wave begins with a song addressing the situation we are currently experiencing. And that track is Nick Frater’s Wash Your Hands Of Christmas, which speaks of the lack of  lovely things we normally celebrate during the season. Despite the subject matter, the song sparkles and shines with beauty and bliss. Alison Faith Levy’s All I Want For Chanukah Is A Ukele strums and hums to the noggin-nodding burr of a ukele, and The Brother Steve’s I Love The Christmastime weighs in as a peppy piece of power pop perfection. Michael Simmons channels Frank Sinatra with impressive effects on the crooning Christmas Waltz and from Spygenius, there’s Revels Without A Claus that jumps and jerks to a wonky dance hall shuffle.

Wrapped in atmospheric attire, involving  jazzy horns and novel melodies, I Remember You At Christmas by Anthanor plugs in as a poignant paean to a former sweetheart, while The Decibels cleverly combine the traditional hymn, Angels We Have Heard On High with segments of the sixties garage rock nugget, Gloria with hard-hitting appeal.


The Stan Laurels crib a cue from the warm vocals and detailed construction of The Beach Boys on the shimmery Noche Buena, and Kai Danzberg & Scott McPherson’s frisky The Day Before Christmas vividly recalls the anticipation felt as a child waiting for the fat man on a sleigh to deliver wish list toys and games.

Swinging and spinning with gripping chords and happy harmonies, Groovy Time Of The Year by The Bobbleheads is indeed groovy. Propelled by a bouncy beat and a sugar-coated bubblegummy chorus, the absolutely irresistible. All I Want Is You For Christmas by Kimberely Rew and Lee Cave-Berry sounds like a joint effort between The Archies and Fountains Of Wayne, and Blake Jones & The Trike Shop’s String The Lights And Hold On pitches an ear-pleasing repertoire of choppy drumming, incisive licks and fetching hooks.

Excellent entries from Librarians With Hickeys, Irene Pena, The Forty Nineteens, Anton Barbeau, Dolph Chaney, The JAC, Addison Love, The Stillsouls and Kelly’s Heels with Steve Rinaldi further complete this prized package of sonic greetings. Stuffed to the pores with catchy songs, Big Stir Singles: The Yuletide Wave can actually be enjoyed anytime of the year. You don’t have to practice a certain religion or believe in Santa Claus to appreciate these tasty treats. Every day is a holiday when it comes to a record flashing the Big Stir imprint, and here’s yet another production asserting their care, knowledge and recognition of quality music.

Categories
Pop Sunday

mylittlebrother / Howl

mylittlebrother

Howl (Big Stir Records) 2020 

https://mylittlebrother.bandcamp.com/album/howl


Formed 2012 in Cumbria, England, mylittlebrother features lead singer and pianist Will Harris, guitarist and vocalist Dan Mason, bassist and vocalist Robin Howson and drummer and vocalist Simon Buttress. The quartet recently released their long-awaited second full-length album, Howl, which is rich with sterling surprises.


Armed with a lovely voice emphasizing his British accent, Will sings his shrewdly-scripted  songs on Howl with equal measures of warmth, charm and intensity. The band is truly terrific,  delivering daring instrumental stunts, complemented by waves of in-the-pocket harmonies. A perfect pop song from head to toe, Responsibility romps and rolls to a biting hook, punctured with a burst of whistling sixties styled organ thrills. Built upon an attractive arrangement, a giddy chorus of “ba ba ba ba ba’s” and a flicker of freaky guitar gestures, Janey further embodies mylittlebrother’s knack for producing catchy pop rock. Quirky fret-fingering also arrives on the ear-splitting backwards distortion of Fallen, while Goldmine shakes and shuffles to a rather funky feel.


Starting off in a streamlined rock setting, Chicago is actually three songs mashed into a suite of sorts. The track ultimately transpires into a ravishing piano piece, flooded with melody and light. Majestic piano work is once again exercised on Time Of Our Lives, a sweeping ballad sure to steal the soul, and the title cut of the album favors a hard-edged rhythm and temper.


Comparisions to artists such as The Coral, The Granddaddys and Teenage Fan Club have often been pinned on mylittlebrother. But as Howl attests, they really sound like nobody except mylittlebrother. And that in itself is a good enough reason to give a listen to these engaging songs.

Categories
Pop Sunday

Leslie Pereira & The Lazy Heroes / Good Karma

Leslie Pereira & The Lazy Heroes

Good Karma (Big Stir Records) 2020

https://bigstirrecords.bandcamp.com/album/good-karma


Comprised of lead singer and guitarist Leslie Pereira, her wife Paula Venise on vocals and percussion, Rob Lontok on bass and Jeff Page on drums, Leslie Pereira & The Lazy Heroes have been  deservedly deemed one of Los Angeles, California’s finest bands. Exciting live performances, bolstered by the quartet’s fantastic 2017 debut album, “Fight For Now,” securely sealed their royal reputation.

The band’s long-awaited sophomore effort, “Good Karma,” clocks in as a relevant companion to their first album. While acknowledgments to the punk-padded power pop philosophy of acts such as Blondie, The Go Go’s and The B52’s are present, Leslie Pereira & The Lazy Heroes modernize their insanely catchy songs with maximum value. 
Firing on all cylinders, the group celebrates the joy of playing in a band on the suitably christened “Time To Rock” that simultaneously rolls and roars to a nagging beat. The title track of the album ping pongs with pogo-worthy rhythms, and “If I Could” springs forth with ringing riffs and sugar-sweet melodies. 


A sense of suspense steers “Chrome” that grinds and glides with adventurous curves, where a sense of snarky humor marks the bold and brazen “Race Car,” which is aimed a sorry individual who has apparently failed at every aspect of life. Proving to be a dazzling duo, Leslie and Jeff alternate vocals – with Paula contributing  a curtain of cool harmonies –  on the absolutely awesome “Slip,” an angst-ridden sentiment of love gone bad featuring a shot of crunchy ACDC styled guitar gyrations. A bit of a swagger, a hint of a smirk and a gripping groove direct “Hot Tamale,” which posts as another standout number included on the collection. 


Leslie’s tuneful vocals, projecting a sweeping edge, combined with the band’s killer instrumental instincts, are the stuff that makes “Good Karma” tick and click. Produced by Karen Basset of The Pandoras fame, the album embraces the band’s talent and passion from top to bottom. Twitching and bouncing with electricity, “Good Karma” deposits a dozen hook-happy songs that demand instant bodily reactions. So get the feet moving and rock on! 

Categories
Pop Sunday

Big Stir Singles / The Seventh Wave

Various Artists

Big Stir Singles: The Seventh Wave (Big Stir Records 2020)

https://bigstirrecords.bandcamp.com/album/big-stir-singles-the-seventh-wave


Stationed in Burbank, California, Big Stir Records is not only impressively prolific, but the quality of the label’s output remains consistently high. Along with releasing a never-ending stream of great discs by bands and solo artists, the banner regularly produces Big Stir Singles compilations, which contain both the A and B sides of digital singles recorded by acts from nearly every nook and cranny of the world.


The imprint’s most recent collection – Big Stir Singles: The Seventh Wave – offers an extra treat, as a number of these songs have never been aired until now. You’ll also notice that much of the material relates to the confusing and chaotic times we are presently experiencing. 


Stacked with storming riffs, a driving backbeat and a punchy chorus, Far Away from The Incurables cuts a dashing power pop pose, and The Ex-Quaranteens sign in with We’ll All Drink Alone Together, a mid-tempo crooner-type ballad rimmed with country-laden pedal steel guitar gestures. From Broken Arrows, there’s the anthemic folk rock of Worst Of The Rest, which is wrapped in a bundle of ringing and jingling six-string sensations. Anton Barbeau and Kenny’s Land Of Economy spins and soars to a dizzy display of daring melodies and surrealistic lyrics that resemble a curious coupling of 10CC and Robyn Hitchcock. 


A double shot of penetrating garage rock is provided by The Forty Nineteens in the form of Crocodile Tears and Late Night Radio, the latter which features legendary Standells guitarist Tony Valentino. The Vapour Trails make good with the atmospheric bluster of A Bit More Fire, where Strange moves to a grittier gait projecting in an early seventies underground rock vibe pockmarked with bluesy harmonica fills.

 
The Corner Laughers step up to the plate and hit a home run with the jaunty Calculating Boy, and Nick Frater unveils a spine-tingling showing of his amazing vocal prowess on Intro. The fast and frantic If Romance Is Dead Then I Want To Be Dead Too from Carol Pacer & The Honey Shakers teams hillbilly aspirations with reckless punk rock energy to exciting effects, while the band deposits a completely different demeanor on Love Does, a sweet and tender acoustic-based ballad.
Contributions from Rick Hromadka  include the big and bright harmony popfest of Searchlight that should send fans of The Beach Boys and Todd Rundgren into orbit, and Dreams Of A Hippy Summer, which floats and flutters with flowery psychedelic frequencies. Kai Danzberg and Dear Stella’s Let Him Go lets loose a lashing of trippy space-age soundscapes, and The Empty City Squares check in with History Rhymes, a hook-heavy slab of hypnotic pop-rock grandeur. 


Bumper to bumper with catchy tunes, Big Stir Singles: The Seventh Wave is the yardstick which all albums of its kind should be measured. Nothing but top picks here, my friends.

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