Categories
Quick Spins

The Best Albums of 2021

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;

  1. Lindsay Munroe w/Raffi – Frogs and Birds
  2. Kevin Robertson – Sundown’s End
  3. The Legal Matters – Chapter Three
  4. Tambourina – Tambourina
  5. Kerry Spitzer – Swan Songs
  6. Bill Sammon – Story Songs
  7. Matthew Sweet – Cat’s Paw
  8. The Braam Brothers – Landscapes
  9. Sorrows – Love Too Late…The Real Album
  10. 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.

Happy listening,

Dan Pavelich

Categories
Pop Sunday

Jeremy / My Shining Star

Jeremy

My Shining Star (Jam)

http://www.jamrecordings.com

Since the turn of the century, Jeremy Morris has been on a serious creative roll, releasing an album every couple of months. Aside from solo projects, the Portage, Michigan based singer, tunesmith and master of multitudes of instruments, claims membership in The Lemon Clocks and The Jeremy Band. He also runs JAM Records, which not only distributes his own music, but efforts by other artists. 

Jeremy’s latest album, My Shining Star, is filled to the finish line with all the aesthetic applications he is championed for. An adventurous spirit – mirrored by songs about the Holy Spirit – bestow the thirteen track collection with a positive presence that energizes the soul.

Bright and sunny vocals of The Beatles and Byrds variety duly magnify the inspiring dialogue on New Perspective, You’re Amazing and the title cut of the album. Streaked with glittering guitars, vigorous tempos and colossal melodies of diverse contours, these irresistible entries serve as certified power pop nuggets. 

Pitching a darker and heavier tone, Love Your Enemy sounds a bit like Led Zeppelin at times. Piercing licks abound, while the dramatic drone of a Mellotron further heightens the intensity of the production. A sweet and steady jangle directs The Afterlife, which wisely notes, “nobody wants to die, but everybody wants to go to heaven,” where  Saying Goodbye carries a melancholic ring and simple, yet effective hooks. 

Designed of dreamy and ethereal textures, Light Of The World glides seamlessly to a mediative rhythm, glowing with celestial beauty. A cover of Norman Greenbaum’s 1969 hit single, Spirit In The Sky proves to be a fitting end to the album. Jeremy’s revolutionary rendition of the song extends to nearly twenty-five minutes in length and contains some additional lyrics he authored himself. In the beginning, Spirit In The Sky follows the same pattern and arrangement as the original version, with its springy cadence and chugging fuzz guitars, before exploding into a dazzling freakout frenzy of improvisational hard rocking moves and grooves. 

Considering how prolific he is, Jeremy seems to instantly conjure ideas from thin air. And what’s even more remarkable is the quality of his music remains uniformly excellent, with My Shining Star tooling in as another sure-fire keeper from this mighty talented fellow. 

Categories
Pop Sunday

Tambourina / Tambourine Dream

Tambourina

Tambourine Dream

(JAM Records 2021) 

Formerly known as Glowfriends, Tambourina recently issued Tambourine Dream, which serves as their debut outing under the new name. The eight-song set has been pressed in limited quantities on vinyl, but is also available on compact disc. 

Although the Kalamazoo, Michigan band changed their moniker, they have remained fully committed to the style of music they have been writing and playing for nearly twenty years. Comprised of the Zimont spouses – April (lead singer, vibrophone, tambourine) and Adam (drums, vocals) – along with another husband and wife team – Mark Andrew Morris (vocals, guitar, glockenspiel) and Holly Klutts-Morris (bass) – the quartet are dyed-in-the-wool shoegazers. 

Like any good album of its ilk, Tambourine Dream boasts the ability to transport listeners to magical realms. So find a comfortable spot, rest your head on a bank of pillows, shut your eyes and allow your imagination to run wild while bathing your ears in a spellbinding symphony of multi-colored shapes and designs.  

High in melodic content and paced accordingly, Tambourine Dream produces wave after wave of unforgettable motions. Propelled by drive, energy and a mesmerizing mood, Where To Start and the seizing swirl of Acknowledge You reel in as top-drawer tunes included on the album. The stirring Stay Home and the jingly sting of Matt & Sarah post as additional gems to be cherished. 

Easy breezy vocals flush with beauty and grace, twinned with virile orchestration based around ping-ponging rhythms, ringing guitars, washes of fierce feedback, shaking tambourines and contrasting hues of dark and light, view Tambourina at the peak of their shoegazing powers. Not only will fans of the genre enjoy Tambourine Dream, but even those who are not versed in this brand of music will get hooked on these hypnotic sounds. 

Categories
Pop Sunday

Jeremy Morris and Ken Stringfellow / Distant Dream

Jeremy

Distant Dream (JAM Records 2021)

 It is always a thrill when our favorite musicians stage a collaboration. Distant Dream is a such a project, which features the pairing of illustrious solo artist Jeremy Morris – and frontman of The Jeremy Band and member of The Lemon Clocks – and Ken Stringfellow, whose shining credits include The Posies, the reformed Big Star, REM and The Minus 5, as well as a solo career. Here on this excellent album, Jeremy takes care of vocals, guitars and songwriting duties, while Ken handles vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards and production chores. 

By sharing the same work ethic and musical values, Jeremy and Ken boast an instant rapport. An affinity for sixties and seventies pop rock spurred the guys into parenting their own visionary creations that have been wowing consumers and critics since the late eighties. Although Jeremy and Ken travel in similar circles, Distant Dream marks the first time they have joined forces.

 The title track of the album is a dazzling beauty, amplified by waves of atmospheric drafts, intertwined with potent keyboard and guitar arrangements. A gorgeous glow further costumes You’re Amazing, which contains an arresting blend of blinking piano chords, vibrant melodies and a feathery chorus.

Ignited by a static beat and twitchy hooks, Alone Together gradually gives way to a wash of electrifying  guitar strokes. The clingy tune effectively communicates the boredom and loss encountered during the lockdown, where ringing rhythms mirrored by a harmonious folk pop tenor define Joy Comes In The Morning, which also references the virus crisis, but ensures the situation is only temporary and better days are ahead. 

A needling groove and a scolding tone dictate This Story’s Ended that shoots dagger-dappled lyrics at an abusive, offensive and rude individual, and the duly branded Stay Positive steps in as a lively lick of encouragement. The sole non-original number on the album is an inspired cover of Big Star’s Thirteen, a brittle ballad greased with teen romance. 

Free of fuss and focusing on tightly-laced songs tempered by power and precision, Distant Dream is every pop rock fan’s passport to paradise. Jeremy and Ken make a great team, so let’s keep our fingers crossed that they continue their partnership. 

Categories
Pop Sunday

Jeremy / Living The Dream

Jeremy

Living The Dream (JAM Records) 2020


He’s a singer, songwriter, multi-dimensional instrumentalist, record producer and owner of the Portage, Michigan based JAM label. That’s Jeremy Morris, who is known to music fans all over the world for the highly accomplished albums he has been spooling out on a regular basis for the past few decades. To say Jeremy releases a new effort every couple of months is no exaggeration. 


Although Jeremy is a master of many musical fashions, his latest album, Living The Dream, concentrates on the pop rock  side of the pole. Keying in at a whopping seventy-six minutes in length, the twenty-five track collection offers a nice mix of original and cover material. 


Costumed in a coat of chiming guitars and sparkling sensations by the score, the title cut of the album launches the set off on an optimistic note, both sonically and lyrically. The aptly coined Keep The Faith also broadcasts Jeremy’s sunny attitude, Devil Next Door races with skittish spy styled rhythms, and Can’t Buy A Thrill imparts the pitfalls of substance abuse to an edgy and electrifying tenor. 


Beaming with vibrancy and color, Your Sweet Relief could pass as a Badfinger classic, and the catchy ring of Can You Hear Me Calling? features Jamie Hoover of The Spongetones handling guitar, drums, keyboards and harmonica, as well as chipping in on vocals. 
The similarly-christened I Want To Stay and Here To Stay further bear a rather like-minded sound, as the songs are spotted with bluesy George Harrison influenced licks sweeping and weeping with humming melodies. Then there’s the hypnotic pulse of the acoustic-laced Flying Away that blooms with perennial beauty and bliss. 


Jeremy’s music has often been defined as Beatlesque, and a generous portion of Living The Dream certainly adheres to such a description. In fact, one of the remakes on the album is Dear Prudence, which melts into another Beatles song, Baby, You’re A Rich Man, before returning to Dear Prudence, resulting in a very cool and unique move.


Jeremy acknowledges his Byrdsian roots on a loyal take of So You Want To Be A Rock And Roll Star that includes his recently dearly departed dad, Bill Morris, on trumpet. Rick Nelson’s delicately poignant Are You Really Real? is revisited with utmost taste and grace, and The Flamin’ Groovies are saluted on the power popping nugget I Can’t Hide.

Jeremy’s shredding abilities are showcased to amazing effects on blistering readings of Rick Springfield’s Speak To The Sky and Norman Greenbaum’s Spirit In The Sky, where The Status Quo’s  Pictures Of Matchstick Men is seriously as great as the initial trippy version.


Raining mettlesome hooks and pitch perfect harmonies, supported by inspiring arrangements and energy to spare, Living The Dream exposes Jeremy in a full-on poptastic mode, leading to an album that is a staple of its genre.