The way that bands and solo musicians present themselves has changed considerably over the years. When I began my life as a professional critic, the year was 2004, and I was writing a weekly music column for The Kenosha (Wi) News. It was an honest-to-goodness local newspaper, printed on smudgy newsprint and was delivered, primarily, by being thrown on porches and lawns across Kenosha County.
In 2004, record labels and artists alike sent in what was known as a press kit. It usually came in a folder, and included a band photo, bio, CD, and occasionally a sticker or pin. As the years rolled by, the physical press kit morphed into the online press kit. It wouldn’t be too long, before that, too, disappeared completely. These days, most requests for press come in the form of an email with a link, where the actual music can be downloaded.
It’ll probably come as no surprise that twenty years after penning that first review for The Kenosha News, I prefer the old-fashioned way. I’m a tactile human being, and to me, holding the product in my hands and reading every little album credit, really enhances the overall experience. I’d forgotten that, until The Pozers’ press kit for Crybaby Bridge arrived.
Their CD, Crybaby Bridge, came in a shiny silver folder, complete with promo one-sheet, band photo, bio, and a nice cover letter. This band had me in their corner before I even heard a single note of their music.
Jim Richey formed the band in Texas in 1994, and this new release, coincidentally, carries a decidedly 90’s vibe. By that, however, I don’t mean to say that it sounds dated. Rather, Richey and his bandmates have hit upon a nifty retro-rock sound that, similarly to Tom Petty, Lenny Kravitz, Matthew Sweet and Jellyfish, combines the writing chops of Lennon & McCartney with a jagged, modern guitar sound. If you like that sort of thing (I do), Crybaby Bridge hits all of the right notes.
The opener, Goodbye (I’m Gone), is a crunchy Pepper-inspired number, complete with bouncy bassline and an irresistable chorus. Heck, there’s even a middle 8 before the solo that’s catchy enough to be the chorus of a complete different song. The slinky Two sounds like a more melodic I Am The Walrus, and the bouncy The Only Girl might be mistaken for a Lennon outtake from Rubber Soul.
Telling My Secrets is a real power pop stunner, crispy as all-get-out, and chock-full of muscular rhythm guitars, just this side of fuzzy. Teenage Storybook is more top-notch power pop, with some very nice rhythmic injection.
While all of this record’s eleven tracks are worthy of consumption, the closer, So Long, in ascending Jellyfish mode. Buoyed by pumping bass and teenage harmonies, it’s a pop celebration that’s not to be missed. I don’t hear many fantastic tunes these days, and this track is FANTASTIC.
In short, The Pozers are doing everything an indie rock band can do right. From their excellent press kit (presentation, kids!) to the obvious care taken in songwriting and recording, this band is now firmly one of my favorites. Their music is available in all of the regular places, and they are more than worthy of your patronage. Buy Crybaby Bridge and ENJOY!
By Dan Pavelich
Jay Byham’s self-titled five track solo debut EP is so superb that listeners are going to wish it was a full-length effort. Or make that a double album!
Hailing from Meadville, Pennsylvania, the singer, songwriter and guitarist brought a few friends on board to record Jay Byham. There’s Steve Butler on lead guitar and keyboards – who also co-authored the material with Jay – while Greg Maragos handles bass and David Uosikkinen occupies the drum seat.
Affecting a lilting British accent uniform to both George Harrison and Al Stewart, Jay articulates each and every song on the EP in a clear and concise manner. As well, crisp, compact and razor sharp arrangements and instrumentation rest in perfect accord with Jay’s illuminated vocals.
A profound look at the concept of time, Tick Tock is bundled in warm and bright textures, surrounded by jingling chords and biting drum patterns, crowned with a cool bluesy guitar solo. Powered by bold and bracing rhythms, I Can’t Take It Anymore additionally includes a slightly psychedelic break, followed by some killer guitar action, where Just A Matter Of Time, further files in as a hooky and harmonious energetic rocker. Strains of country folk, pricked with a run of bluesy licks, represent Figure It Out As We Go, and The Only One is a lovely mid-tempo ballad attired in smooth and sparkly melodies.
No muss, no fuss, Jay Byham is all about pure and practical pop rock songs, played straight from the heart and gut. Jay really has a good thing going, so expect to hear more from this tremendously talented fellow in the very near future.
The Successful Failures
James Cotton Mather
Founded a decade and a half ago, The Successful Failures have gone on to become one of the greatest and most respected bands on the indie circuit. Unlike most groups that have been around for such a long period of time, these guys haven’t slacked off and taken a nosedive, but just get better and better with every record they release. And that is certainly quite a complimentary remark, considering how impressive the Trenton, New Jersey band was right from the beginning.
Specializing in a lethal cocktail of power pop and heartland rock, The Successful Failures not only sound spectacular, but enhance their repertoire in the form of cerebral dialogue that encircles witty historical to educational observations. Here on the band’s latest and ninth studio album, James Cotton Mather, we’re zapped back to nineteenth century Maine and guided through the trials, tribulations, turmoil and tragedies of James Cotton Mather. Aside from the thrilling theme and cool music, the album is lavishly packaged and includes a color poster of The Successful Failures and a lyric sheet.
Each track on James Cotton Mather, is potent enough to stand alone, but the method in which these songs are sequenced and connected lead to a cohesive presentation. Not intended for lullaby lovers, the album is a turbo-charged drama aimed to activate the adrenaline and indulge in some serious air guitar in the process. The urgent energy of the songs perfectly reflect the verse depicting the mental anguish of the young man as he engages in battles on stormy seas and in dark and spooky forests.
Flooded with force and fury, yet tempered with layer upon layer of fat hooks and melodies, A Coat For Your Dreams, Let The Power Go Through You, Naval Victories and Freedom Within, are only a quick peek at the ultra- catchy tunes featured on the album. At this point, The Successful Failures have developed their own notable approach, although it’s hard to ignore the double inspiration of the brash bark of The Replacements and the buffed Who-styled chords and rhythms, rimming the material. And of course, there’s also plenty of gritty roots rock moves to be savored.
Not surprisingly, The Successful Failures have cut yet another thoroughly accomplished album. It is not far-fetched to classify James Cotton Mather a rock opera, and so good are these songs, that you can imagine them being staged on Broadway.
By Beverly Paterson
As you may have previously seen, Ken Sharp’s Miniatures scored my pick for Album Of The Year. In my ears, it’s a baroque pop masterpiece that is equally as beautiful on the eyes. No indie pop Lp collection should be without this!
Following Ken Sharp’s Miniatures, are the ten Lp’s that got the most spins at my house. Don’t be offended if your release isn’t included here, chances are that I either didn’t hear it or it nearly missed making this top ten. Also, administrative duties for Pop-A-Looza kept me busier than I would have preferred, which has meant listening to and reviewing, far fewer releases in 2021 than the previous year.
These, in no particular order, are;
- Lindsay Munroe w/Raffi – Frogs and Birds
- Kevin Robertson – Sundown’s End
- The Legal Matters – Chapter Three
- Tambourina – Tambourina
- Kerry Spitzer – Swan Songs
- Bill Sammon – Story Songs
- Matthew Sweet – Cat’s Paw
- The Braam Brothers – Landscapes
- Sorrows – Love Too Late…The Real Album
- Deadlights – Deadlights
Nick Frater’s Earworms and Bill Lloyd’s reissue of his classic Feeling The Elephant, fall into their own weird category. While they tie for Best Cover Art Of 2021, they were also both on my Christmas wishlist, yet didn’t show up underneath the tree, Christmas morning. So, I will now be purchasing them as Nick & Bill are two artists whose work I always enjoy!
Best Tribute Record Of 2021, is easily won by Higher Than A Mountain, The Songs Of Andy Gibb, released by the Curry Cuts label. Gibb’s catalog is deeper than you’d think, and this swell comp proves it.
Lastly, the Best Holiday Release Of 2021, goes to The Yule Logs, a fantastic band from Chico, California, that only plays Christmas and holiday-themed music. Their latest, Fezziwig, is a real hoot!
I hope you’ll further seek out of these releases, as they’re all well-worth owning. Stream (if you must) to preview them, but please actually purchase CD’s, vinyl and downloads, which pay the artists the most for their hard work.
Tall Poppy Syndrome
Come Some Christmas Eve (or Halloween)
It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and there is no better way to celebrate than with a song by a certified supergroup.
Comprised of guitarist Vince Melouney (who held membership in The Bee Gees during the late sixties), drummer Clem Burke (Blondie, the Romantics, the Empty Hearts), bassist Alec Palao (The Sneetches, Magic Christian, Strangers In A Strange Land, current version of The Seeds and music historian), Jigsaw Seen multi-instrumentalist Jonathan Lea and singer Paul Kopf (Strangers In A Strange Land and the revamped Seeds), Tall Poppy Syndrome not only looks good in print, but as a whole, they really lock it altogether.
Originally recorded in 1968 by The Bee Gees and initially titled Come Some Christmas Eve Or Halloween, Tall Poppy Syndrome cut a cover of the song in October that set the indie airwaves alight. A holiday mix of the number was suggested, and so here it is, garnished with a festive flair.
Sparked by a drizzle of glistening sleighbells, Come Some Christmas Eve proceeds to wrap itself in a brightly-colored package of radiant designs and textures. Pithy power chords, anchored percussion, the trill of a Mellotron flute and harmonious rhythms rise to the occassion. Classic garage rock vocals, relaying just the right blend of raw saltiness and melodic muscle, serve to be a faultless fit.
Tapped as Tall Poppy Syndrome’s official debut disc, Come Some Christmas Eve catches the band getting off to a great start. Each individual brings his own special touch to the table, leading towards a smashing display of psychedelic-ringed pop rock. One can only imagine how fantastic an entire album by Tall Poppy Syndrome would be. So give your support to Come Some Christmas Eve and encourage the band to keep at it.
Here at Pop-A-Looza HQ, we’re enjoying the heck out of the latest Lp from Ken Sharp, Miniatures. One of our favorites tracks, Susannah Silently Shining, is also a nifty video. This release is guaranteed to be on our year-end-best list, and we think if you give it a listen, it’ll be on yours, too.
Nick Piunti & The Complicated Men
Heart Inside Of Your Head/One Of The Boyz (JEM Records 2021)
Although the members of Nick Piunti & The Complicated Men have been mainstays of the Detroit, Michigan music scene for many years, the band itself is a fairly new entity. Made up of lead singer, songwriter and guitarist Nick Piunti, bassist Jeff Hupp, keyboardist Kevin Darnall and drummer Ron Vensko, the band issued its debut album, Downtime, in 2020.
Five-star reviews were delivered in droves, and the guys are set to return to the spotlight once again in the form of not one, but two smashing singles.
Despite the name, there is nothing the least bit complicated about the band. In terms of classic power pop, Heart Inside Of Your Head clearly exemplifies such a genre. Nick’s radio-rich vocals sound like a less rootsy version of Tom Petty, while the instrumentation is rock solid and to the point. Navigated by a riveting rhythm, Heart Inside Of Your Head is further layered with muscular melodies and grooving harmonies. Great lyrics as well, which are universally-themed and executed with passion.
On One Of The Boyz, Nick Piunti & The Complicated Men crank the volume to maximum decibels and turn in a fist-pumping anthem that combines the throbbing beat of Slade with the modliness moves of The Jam and the rebel bite of The Clash. Bouncing with intent, the rousing song contains a shouting chorus impossible not to sing along with.
Both these singles fully express Nick Piunti & The Complicated Men’s expertise for composing and playing the sort of hook-packed pop rock that refuses to go out of style.