The staff here at Pop-A-Looza HQ just can’t stop watching Coke Belda’s video for his song, “Thank You, Paul,” from his latest record, Coke Belda 4.
The Vapour Trails
Lonely Man (Futureman)
It’s snowing and blowing here in Wisconsin, so nothing could be more welcome than a shiny dose of jangle pop from The Vapor Trails. “Lonely Man,” from The VT’s upcoming album, is equal parts Rembrandts and Herman’s Hermits, and features a chorus that is both somber and uplifting.
This three-song outing includes “See You In The Next World,” from The VT’s last release, remixed by the always-brilliant Nick Bertling. With a nifty bit of Ringo-influenced drumming and a sitar-laden bridge, it’s simply irresistible to my ears. A quality live cover of George Harrison’s “Something” rounds out the release with a smile and a sigh. Well done, gents.
Stephen “Spaz” Schnee know a lot about music, especially the genre of power pop. In the latest episode of his show “CD Junkie,” he gives us the skinny on the band Shoes, and their new box set.
Big Stir Singles: The Fifth Wave (Big Stir)
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.
Blue In The Face b/w I Don’t Want Her (Anymore)
In the interest of transparency, I have to say that I love everything that Jamie Hoover does; solo, with The Spongetones, The Van DeLeki’s, Stepford Knives, etc. I’m such a big fan of this guy’s music that I signed him and released his “Happy Hoover Days” CD on my own Vandalay Records label. I’m already in the bag before hearing a note of this new vinyl single (also available as a download).
Here, he’s teamed with Otis Hughes of Animal Bag, who sings lead on the slightly-spooky “Blue In The face,” which wouldn’t sound out of place on “Beatles For Sale.” Floating on acoustic guitars, it’s got a very similar vibe to “No Reply,” which I absolutely love about it.
Jamie takes the lead on “I Don’t Want Her (Anymore),” which is three minutes of snappy pop perfection. Otis’s harmonies blend excellently with Jamie. Combined with a nifty melody line, if ever a track begged for “Double A-side” status, this is it.
Adding the icing on this delicious pop cake is the always-eye-catching artwork of artist Issa Ibrahim and the beautiful blue vinyl of the platter itself. I tried to take a picture of it on my phone, but a picture just doesn’t do it justice. Buy this record, or download it, TODAY.
The 1979 Sessions (Futureman)
When Tommy Marolda sequestered himself into his home studio one weekend in 1979, he probably didn’t realize that the Lp he was creating would come to be coveted by power pop vinyl collectors. As rare as that platter is, thankfully, our friends at Futureman Records have seen fit to reissue in on CD.
If bands like Shoes, The Knack and The Raspberries mean anything to you, this may just be your next favorite record. Boyish vocals top Beatlesque choruses, weaving through the Revolver-ish “Call The Surgeon (Part 2) to the Rutle-y “Guilty As A Killer Wave.” Marolda is a one-man band with rare aplomb, and these fourteen songs are an absolute joy to take in.
It would not be over-selling “The 1979 Sessions” to say that it is a pop masterpiece, because it most certainly is.
Update: I was incorrect in stating that these recordings and The Toms’ debut are one and the same. These are previously-unreleased recordings, that were tracked during the same whirlwind sessions as the debut. Thanks to Futureman’s Keith Klingensmith for setting the record straight, I’m even more impressed now!
Miracle of Science (Shiny-Tone)
With the release of 1996’s Miracle of Science, alt-pop favorite Marshall Crenshaw had a bit of a career renaissance. Comparisons were immediately drawn between this new record and his stellar 1982 self-titled debut. Much to the delight of guitar-pop fans everywhere, he seemed to have rediscovered his muse, and in a big way.
Here, Miracle of Science gets the reissue treatment from Crenshaw’s own Shiny-Tone Records label. In edition, Shiny-Tone will give another go ‘round to 1996’s #447, 2003’s What’s In The Bag? And 1998’s The 9 Volt Years. All will be welcome to this writer.
“What Do You Dream Of” and “Who Stole The Train” are two of Crenshaw’s best, indeed, he almost sings them with the energy he had in ’82. “Twenty-Five Forty-One” is a great warning song about the downside of getting a place with your girl. The cover of Billy Page’s “The “In” Crowd” is peppy and fun, as is the imaginary TV theme song, “Theme From Flaregun.”
For Crenshaw’s collecting fans, Shiny-Tone adds three additional unreleased tracks; “Rouh Na Selim Nevers (Seven Miles An Hour backwards)”, and demos of “What The Hell I Got” and “Misty Dreamer.” Even without the extra added tracks, Miracle of Science is one of his absolute best, and well worth another listen.
The Well Wishers
The Lost Soundtrack (That Was My Skull)
In 2014, Jeff Shelton and his Well Wishers were commissioned to create a musical bed for an independent film. As these things often play out, the film’s soundtrack was created, yet the film itself remains unmade. Leaving these eleven tracks “in the can” would’ve been a travesty. That fate is rectified by this release.
Shelton is one of the San Francisco Bay Area’s premier songwriters, and it’s easy see why an indie film company would tap him to join their team. “Back Door”,”Build A Life” and “Great Day Out” recall the best work of alt-pop singer-songwriters like Matthew Sweet, Evan Dando and Bob Mould. Melancholy melodies and jangly guitars permeate with comforting results, and the visual nature of Shelton’s writing is superb.