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Def Leppard, Pop Co-Op & Claudia Robin Gunn

Def Leppard / Diamond Star Halos

https://www.amazon.com/Diamond-Star-Halos-Def-Leppard

The sixteen-year-old in me wants Diamond Star Halos to be chock-full of songs as good as Foolin’ and Photograph. The grown-up me, who is actually writing this review, knows just how unfair that this. This is one of the few bands out there, from their original scene, still recording new material and playing stadium shows.

The opener, Take What You Want, is a real pile-driver, and vocalist Joe Elliot sounds strong. Followed by Kick, which almost sounds like a lost Slade track, it’s not hard to get sucked into this record. While harmonies and rhythm guitars are stacked thick, this release is nowhere near the over-produced sound that broke the band in the 80’s.

Goodbye For You, maybe my favorite track here, is a lush ballad adding piano and strings to the mix, as well as a matured choice in chord selection. I especially like the classical guitar solo, which provides a tasty contrast to the big wall of electric guitars that supports the rest of the record. Really great songwriting this time around, in fact, several of these songs bounced around in my noggin for a few days after hearing them. More of this, lads. Please!

***

Pop Co-Op / Suspension

https://futuremanrecords.bandcamp.com/album/suspension

In the interest of full disclosure, I have to say that, not only am I already a fan of this band, but I plunk down my own hard-earned dinero to buy their CD’s. These men deserve my patronage, no free promo copies for me, wouldn’t even ask. If you somehow missed their previous releases, 2020’s Factory Settings and 2017’s Four State Solution, they’re your homework assignment.

The airy Suspension opens the disc on an optimistic note, complimenting the ethereal cover art perfectly. Beatles-by-way-of-XTC might sound like an overused compliment, but there you have it. This is smart, lushly-produced music that was created with care. A headphone listen of these tracks is a definite must.

Steve Stoeckel’s bouncy Hofner bass and Stacey Carson’s pumped-up drumming are the jet engine that propels the irritable I Just Love To Watch Her Dance, Run and Hide and Unquestionably I-95. Bruce Gordon’s masterful vocal arrangements are layered with perfection, and are both powerful and gorgeous (Again, break out those headphones, kids). Joel Tinnel’s adept guitars morph accordingly from track to track, providing just what is needed, from chorusy cleans to dirty aggression. 

Suspension will undoubtedly land on many a year-end-best list, as it should. CD’s are still available through the mighty Futureman Records, but you can expect that situation to change in the coming months. Get behind these lads!

***

Claudia Robin Gunn

https://claudiagunn.bandcamp.com/

Every once in awhile, we music critics get a breath of fresh air. We savor it, slowly filling our lungs before a relaxed exhale. We look up to a brilliant blue sky, and wonder why the cottony cloud billows have been gone for so long. Claudia Robin Gunn’s Sing For The Sea – Little Wild Ocean Friends, is that.

Gunn’s latest project is a celebration of the oceans and its inhabitants, which instantly put me in a serene, tropical state of mind. These tunes are expertly under-produced, leaving voice and acoustic guitar to paint brief vignettes that leave the listener wanting more. Baby Blue Whale is immediately memorable, and has been in my head since first listen.

It’s impossible to pick a favorite out of the twenty-four included tracks, though I particularly like Eagle Ray, Inky The Octopus and Sea Sponge Land. For ecology-minded parents, Sing For The Sea is a great way to introduce the wee ones to thinking more globally, while enjoying to first-rate family music that comes from a place of kindness and inclusion. Very well done.

By Dan Pavelich

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Pop Co-Op / Factory Settings

Pop Co-Op

Factory Settings (Futureman)

http://www.popco-opband.com

From the band’s website; “POP CO-OP is a group of four geographically dispersed musicians who focus on making the music they want to hear. They formed in 2016 as a result of Spongetones bassist Steve Stoeckel inviting friends on social media to collaborate in songwriting: Stoeckel threw out titles and music, asked for lyric snippets, assembled the snippets from contributors into full song lyrics, and recorded the song. Along the way, Stoeckel enlisted the guitar talents of Joel Tinnel, who introduced him to Bruce Gordon (aka Mr. Encrypto). Gordon already had several CD’s to his credit and subsequently introduced Stacy Carson to the group.

The group had so much fun creating a first song together that they decided to form a band and release an entire album. The effort was truly cooperative: each member wrote, recorded, engineered, produced, and mixed these 12 songs in every combination. “POP CO-OP” was the obvious band name.”

If this had been the only positive result of the creation of the internet, it would have been worth it. These four acquaintances mesh perfectly together, in a musical melange that is equal parts friendship, fun, craftsmanship, and reverence for the very best of what is often humbly referred to as pop music.

“No Man’s Land,” which heralds these eleven splendid tracks, begins with a stomping Dave Clark Five beat and the best melody this side of Andy Partridge. Switching gears, “Keen To Be Near You” is a soft, Jane Austin-inspired ballad with lovely touches of mandolin and a vocal by Stoeckel that will melt even the hardest of hearts.

I think my favorite of the set, however, is the rollicking “Won’t Be Me,” which sounds like Billy Gibbons being backed by Chuck Berry and Rockpile. I really can’t get enough of this one, in particular.

Also, when you’re finished devouring “Factory Settings,” you’ll want  to pick up the quartet’s 2017 debut, “Four State Solution.” It’s a seriously inspired start to what will undoubtedly be an illustrious discography.

D.P.

http://popco-opband.com/

https://popco-opband.bandcamp.com/album/factory-settings

https://popco-opband.bandcamp.com/album/four-state-solution