Categories
Pop Sunday

Big Stir Singles: The Ninth Wave

Various Artists

Big Stir Singles: The Ninth Wave (Big Stir Records 2021)

https://bigstirrecords.bandcamp.com/album/big-stir-singles-the-ninth-wave

 
Manned by Rex Broome and Christina Bulbenko – of the ace band The ArmoiresBig Stir Records is easily the hardest working label in the biz. For the past few years, the Burbank, California based roster has been releasing a weekly singles series, then compiles the songs onto collections, with Big Stir Singles: The Ninth Wave counting as the latest chapter in their never-ending sonic sojourn.

It is highly fitting DJ Mike Lidskin of Woody Radio has written the liner notes, because these tunes are so remarkably good that the disc truly  sounds like the greatest radio station imaginable. So not only is Big Stir impressively productive, but the quality of their fare is consistently cut of a top-grade fabric. 

The Brothers Steve’s Beat Generation Poet Turned Assassin races steadily along to a chipper punk pop pose, where Pink Floyd meets Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars on Athanor’s cosmic-coated Approximately Eternity. From Nick Frater, there’s the rapturous rush of the Hollies styled Let’s Hear It For Love, as well as a striking cover of Gilbert O’Sullivan’s sad and somber Alone Again Naturally, which is transpired into a dazzling production, driven by glistening piano chords and punctured with a searing guitar solo.

Jim Basnight signs on with the Rolling Stones flavored snarl and drawl of Best Lover In The World and the ambitiously-crafted Prince Jones Davies Suite, a medley of Prince, David Bowie and Kinks missives. The Viewers fuse stadium rock flash with keen pop sensibilities on the gripping Beautiful, and the bracing chime of Dolph Chaney’s  My Old Fart celebrates the joy of maturing with your sweetheart in a charming narrative revolving around cats, books and  Sunday crossword puzzles.

Irene Pena’s inspired reprise of Fountain of Wayne’s The Summer Place rings with intent to a sharp new-wavish angle, and  The First Song Of Summer by Blake Jones parents a cool art rock feel, pronounced by inventive keyboard moves and loping tempo changes. Blessed with a gorgeously-soulful set of pipes, Rosie Abbott turns in a spine-tingling performance on Hold On,” and Chamberlain from The Persian Leaps shimmers to an infectious clip of jangly licks, a flighty chorus and insistent drum drills. 

David Brookings checks in with the  chugging All I Love Is Rock And Roll, and the frisky acoustic-framed Livin’ Through The Plaque, which offers a cheeky commentary on dealing with virus crisis rules and regulations. Last but by no means least is Mike Daly & The Planets, whose Falling Out Of Love Song recites the drama of an on and off relationship to an inviting array of musical moods. Rich and melodic vocals, accompanied by powered and polished instrumentation, a punishing break and a crown of psychedelic riffs complete the epic track. The band further shines brightly on Star, an energetic burst of soaring hooks and harmonies, splashed with a showing of neat harmonica trills.

And speaking of such, every song here is a star. Trying to pick favorites is indeed a challenge, since each number contains its own divine spark. So switch the dial to Big Stir Singles: The Ninth Wave, and get ready for some serious ear-pampering! 

 

Categories
Pop Sunday

Action Now: 20/20 Re-Envisioned

Various Artists

Action Now: 20/20 Re-Envisioned

(Futureman Records/Big Stir Records 2020)

https://futuremanrecords.bandcamp.com/album/action-now-20-20-re-envisioned

No matter how commercially successful or how wildly obscure, there seems to be a tribute album for just about every group or artist imaginable. Nesting somewhere between the two extremes is 20/20, a band that reaped regional attention and acclaim amid the thriving Los Angeles power pop scene of the late seventies and early eighties. 

Throughout the years, numerous groups have cited the band as an inspirational presence. Therefore, Action Now: 20/20 Re-Envisioned holds forth as a long overdue love letter to the group. Aside from the great music marinated within the grooves, all proceeds from the disc will go to MusiCares, which is 20/20’s chosen charity.

From Plasticsoul’s take of the energetic bristle of “Nuclear Boy” to Pop Co-Op’s cover of “Yellow Pills,” which sounds like David Bowie performing the cult classic at a somewhat slower stride than the initial version, Action Now: 20/20 Re-Envisioned is crowded with tasty treats. Despite the grim theme, The Armoires slap a bright and jingly spin on “The Night I Heard A Scream,” and Popdudes deliver “She’s An Obsession” in a pure and punchy pop rock manner bubbling with radio-rich qualities.

The fist-pumping title track of the collection is brought to you by Librarians With Hickeys, while The Brothers Steve’s remake of “Beat City” projects an appropriately catchy beat. Irene Pena’s interpretation of “Tonight We Fly” swings and soars with melodic excitement, and Chris Church’s copy of “Remember The Lightning” crackles and crunches with solid brass guitar riffs and robust hooks.

The Toms pour a splash of new wave quikiness onto their reprise of “Out Of This Time,” where Ransom and The Subset’s reading of “Fast Car” races with driving rhythms and high-octane harmonies, and The Hangabouts season the utterly infectious “A Girl Like You” with a sweetly-scented fragrance.

Sterling selections from Coke Belda, The Slapjacks and Joe and Tracy Sullivan are additionally included on Action Now: 20/20 Re-Envisioned. After sinking your ears into these credible homages, you will not only be spurred into revisiting 20/20’s deftly-crafted catalog of righteously rocking pop tunes, but you will also want to give a listen to the original recordings of the musicians who contributed their time and talent to this mighty fine effort.

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!