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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
Pop Sunday

Nick Frater / Fast & Loose

Nick Frater

Fast & Loose (Big Stir Records 2020)

https://www.nickfrater.com/

September 18 is a date to celebrate, because that is the day Nick Frater – who hails from Croydon, England – releases his fifth studio album, Fast & Loose. Those already acquainted with the multi-tasking musician need not be informed of his forte for siring ingenious songs bleeding with radio-friendly frequencies. Nick’s radiant vocals, rife with melody and movement, are custom fit for the type of songs he writes so well.

Operating at an arresting tempo, supported by cracking guitar licks and ringing organ chords, Luna produces memories of Paul McCartney and Wings, and although Cocaine Gurls mentions The Talking Heads, Stevie Nicks and Steely Dan, the song crosses a rocking Cheap Trick inspired bite with the wry wit of Elvis Costello

Locked and loaded with infectious breaks and divine harmonies, Let’s Hear It For Love is a bona fide power pop marvel, while the title track of the album is a blazing instrumental, pronounced by an inviting interplay of slick dance rhythms and ripping rock grooves. Switching the dial to the easy listening station, there’s finely-engineered ballads such as Moonstruck, That Ship Has Sailed and Endless Summertime Blues, which emphasize Nick’s appreciation for the moodier and more experimental side of The Beach Boys

Filled to the limit with top-floor sounds and expressions, Fast & Loose captures Nick’s golden gift for reprising classic pop rock styles into his own understanding of the current moment. Diligently-designed songs, matched by a consistently punctual delivery, provide the album with pint after pint of scrumptious sonic delights.

Ever the generous guy, Nick recruited a group of good pals to contribute their talents to Fast & Loose, including Spygenius, The Stan Laurels, Whelligan, Super 8, Emperor Penguin, Do Me Bad Things and Steve Lowe

Not one to remain idle, Nick is now hard at work on his next album. Until then, spin the heck out of Fast & Loose and have fun singing and swinging along with these great songs. No mask or social-distancing required! 

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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. 

Categories
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!

Categories
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!

Categories
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. 

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. 

Categories
Quick Spins

Trip Wire / Katie Says

Trip Wire

Katie Says b/w Go For A Ride

http://www.bigstirrecords.com

Big Stir Records continues their digital singles series, with Trip Wire’s “Katie Says” b/w “Go For A Ride.”  The San Francisco quartet blasts out two punchy 90’s-styled alternative rock tracks, which sound better with each subsequent listen.

Channeling Bob Mould with the sublimely-bleak “Katie Says,” Trip Wire sounds as if it might’ve been hiding in your college roommate’s record collection all along. Likewise, “Go For A Ride” is built with a wall of guitars gritty enough to make Matthew Sweet tear up. Two ace tunes for a buck? Killer deal.

D.P.

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Quick Spins

We Grow Up

From Big Stir Records;

“Surprise Benefit Single Announcement! BIG STIR RECORDS is proud to assist THE WELL WISHERS and Jeff Shelton in offering a special benefit single benefitting Center for Disaster Philanthropy’s COVID-19 Response Fund. “We Grow Up” is a brand new track with all proceeds going to the fund, and it’s out now at www.bigstirrecords.com/big-stir-digital-singles for $1 or any additional donated price you care to set. WELL WISHERS mastermind Shelton says of the track:

Written and recorded during the second week of California’s “Stay In Place” mandate as a response to the 2020 Coronavirus Crisis, the driving force behind “We Grow Up” was reflection, hope, family, and charity…all bolstered by a four-minute blast of uplifting power pop melodicism.

Most importantly, all proceeds from this charity single will be donated to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy’s COVID-19 Response Fund. This fund focuses specifically on supporting nonprofit organizations working directly to respond to the pandemic among the most vulnerable populations in order to help build their capacity for response.
disasterphilanthropy.org/cdp-fu…/cdp-covid-19-response-fund/

Please give as much or as little as you can. Enjoy the music.
Spread the word. Help where you can.”

Categories
Quick Spins

Big Stir Singles: The Fifth Wave

Various Artists

Big Stir Singles: The Fifth Wave (Big Stir)

http://www.bigstirrecords.com

Way back in the prehistoric 1990’s, cool record labels used to distribute sampler CD’s of their artists to record stores. They were usually in a stack at the front of the store, with other freebies like stickers and band flyers. Cool indie labels like Sub Pop, Mammoth and Enigma, used this as a marketing tool, to expose the music-buying public to their roster. In a move that puts a smile on my face, Big Stir Records is reviving the tradition.

Volume five in this series boasts a whopping twenty-three tracks, almost guaranteeing something for everyone. The including bands are old school, in that these tunes were inspired by classic guitar bands ranging from The Beatles to ELO to Teenage Fanclub and back again.

The GoAllTherWays open in glorious jangle with “Silly Girl,” before Mod Hippie lets loose with “Saturday Show,” rooting in equal parts Matthew Sweet and The Monkees. How can you not be energized by that? The Tor Guides bring the California sunshine with the buoyant “Just A Smile,” and The Forty Nineteens set their hyper-pop sights atop a reworked Bo Diddley beat, that’ll make you wanna get up and dance.

The stunner of the collection is the beautiful “Summer Blue” by Lannie Flowers. With enough clever chord changes and soothing harmonies to make Collingwood & Schlesinger blush, it just may be the best song I’ve heard in a couple of years. Wait, scratch that “may be.” It is.

D.P.