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Quick Spins

Andy Gibb, The Legal Matters & Jenn Cleary

Various Artists

Higher Than A Mountain: The Songs Of Andy Gibb (Curry Cuts)

https://currycuts.bandcamp.com/album/higher-than-a-mountain-the-songs-of-andy-gibb

When it comes to these tribute compilations, nobody does it better than the Curry Cuts label. Indeed, their previous releases, Songs, Bond Songs, and Here Comes The Reign Again, are high-ranking favorites here at Pop-A-Looza HQ.

Higher Than A Mountain is a revelation, in that it serves to jog our collective conscience into recalling what may have been forgotten….that Andy Gibb had a very impressive, albeit short, career. Pop 4 opens the comp with (Love Is) Thicker Than Water, Gibb’s first Gold single. The vocals on this one are simply to die for.

The Corner Laughers follow with Shadow Dancing, which nearly bests the original. Lisa Mychols takes on (Our Love) Don’t Throw It All Away, complete with chill 70’s electric piano and breathy vocals. With remaining tracks provided by the likes of Coke Bela, Greg Pop, The Armoires, Irene Pena and Ken Sharp, this release is the perfect combination of reverence and nostalgia.

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The Legal Matters

Chapter Three (Futureman)

https://futuremanrecords.bandcamp.com/album/chapter-three

In the interest of full disclosure, the three guys that make up The Legal Matters are all friends of mine. I’ve been a Chris Richards fan since 2009’s Sad Sounds Of Summer, recorded with his excellent band, The Subtractions. Chris records for Keith Klingensmith’s Futureman Records, as do I. The third Legal Matter, Andy Reed, produces and engineers all parties mentioned here. Talk about yer nepotism.

Chapter Three is as comfortable as a favorite sweater, bathed in production techniques that recall Apple Records’ later output. If things like tea towels on toms and mellotron keys strike at the pleasure centers of your brain, you’ll love every second of this 41-minute long player.

 Andy Reed’s The World Is Mine creeps along in sneering John Lennon fashion, while Chris Richards’ sweet That’s All floats with ethereal harmonies. The advance single from the album, the buoyant Light Up The Sky, still sounds as good as the first time I heard it. On the same level as the best of bands like Fountains Of Wayne or The Red Button, it’s an almost other-worldly good piece of music. Few bands have a song this strong, or the immaculate harmonies that Richards, Klingensmith and Reed have in combination. Top shelf.

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Jenn Cleary

All Together Now! 

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Jenn Cleary’s latest, All Together Now!, “…offers children and families messages of connection, community, and caring for each other and our environment.” Considering what most of us have experienced in the last year and a half, that’s exactly what we could use more of. Love Right Now was suggested by Cleary’s mother, for that very same reason. 

Continuing on in the same spirit, the pretty All Kinds Of Families acknowledges that families need not be made up of blood relatives exclusively. Considering that Cleary’s family includes an adopted daughter, this song is especially touching.

All of these songs are filled to the brim with warmth, and the hope that we may someday get to a place filled with kindness and compassion for others, as well as our natural world. That’s a sentiment that shouldn’t be hard for anyone to get on board with. Very well done.

Categories
Pop Sunday

Big Stir Singles / The Seventh Wave

Various Artists

Big Stir Singles: The Seventh Wave (Big Stir Records 2020)

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


Stationed in Burbank, California, Big Stir Records is not only impressively prolific, but the quality of the label’s output remains consistently high. Along with releasing a never-ending stream of great discs by bands and solo artists, the banner regularly produces Big Stir Singles compilations, which contain both the A and B sides of digital singles recorded by acts from nearly every nook and cranny of the world.


The imprint’s most recent collection – Big Stir Singles: The Seventh Wave – offers an extra treat, as a number of these songs have never been aired until now. You’ll also notice that much of the material relates to the confusing and chaotic times we are presently experiencing. 


Stacked with storming riffs, a driving backbeat and a punchy chorus, Far Away from The Incurables cuts a dashing power pop pose, and The Ex-Quaranteens sign in with We’ll All Drink Alone Together, a mid-tempo crooner-type ballad rimmed with country-laden pedal steel guitar gestures. From Broken Arrows, there’s the anthemic folk rock of Worst Of The Rest, which is wrapped in a bundle of ringing and jingling six-string sensations. Anton Barbeau and Kenny’s Land Of Economy spins and soars to a dizzy display of daring melodies and surrealistic lyrics that resemble a curious coupling of 10CC and Robyn Hitchcock. 


A double shot of penetrating garage rock is provided by The Forty Nineteens in the form of Crocodile Tears and Late Night Radio, the latter which features legendary Standells guitarist Tony Valentino. The Vapour Trails make good with the atmospheric bluster of A Bit More Fire, where Strange moves to a grittier gait projecting in an early seventies underground rock vibe pockmarked with bluesy harmonica fills.

 
The Corner Laughers step up to the plate and hit a home run with the jaunty Calculating Boy, and Nick Frater unveils a spine-tingling showing of his amazing vocal prowess on Intro. The fast and frantic If Romance Is Dead Then I Want To Be Dead Too from Carol Pacer & The Honey Shakers teams hillbilly aspirations with reckless punk rock energy to exciting effects, while the band deposits a completely different demeanor on Love Does, a sweet and tender acoustic-based ballad.
Contributions from Rick Hromadka  include the big and bright harmony popfest of Searchlight that should send fans of The Beach Boys and Todd Rundgren into orbit, and Dreams Of A Hippy Summer, which floats and flutters with flowery psychedelic frequencies. Kai Danzberg and Dear Stella’s Let Him Go lets loose a lashing of trippy space-age soundscapes, and The Empty City Squares check in with History Rhymes, a hook-heavy slab of hypnotic pop-rock grandeur. 


Bumper to bumper with catchy tunes, Big Stir Singles: The Seventh Wave is the yardstick which all albums of its kind should be measured. Nothing but top picks here, my friends.

Categories
Pop Sunday

Big Stir Singles : The Sixth Wave

Various Artists

Big Stir Singles: The Sixth Wave” (Big Stir Records 2020)

https://bigstirrecords.com/big-stir-records-compilations#!

Launched in 2018, Big Stir Records  has deservedly gleaned the reputation as one of the finest labels on the planet. Not only is the Burbank, California-based imprint committed to releasing the highest quality of music possible, but such standards apply to their presentation, as eye-pleasing graphics are a staple of their wares.

Comprised of 23 tracks, Big Stir Singles: The Sixth Wave is the latest installment of the banner’s various artists series. As if these hooky songs aren’t enough to score piles of points, the collection proposes a doubly worthy purpose, with 25% of the profits going to the Sweet Relief’s Musician Assistance Fund.

The humorously-christened Librarians With Hickeys introduce the set with the star-spangled ripples of Until There Was You, followed by The Popdudes’ Ridin’ In My Car that posts as the perfect summer song, bolstered by an upbeat tenor that ably crosses a crisp country folk rock pitch with a sunny Beach Boys‘ vibe. The Popdudes further check in with a version of Daytime Nighttime Suffering that is as honestly as terrific – if not better – than the original recording  by Paul McCartney and Wings.

From Jim Basnight, there’s the gritty Rolling Stones swagger of Big Bang and a cracking cover of This Is Where I Belong that would certainly make The Kinks beam with pride. Blooming with emotion and a sleek orchestral feel, the haunting tremors of Home by Joe Normal & The Anytown’rs  dials in as another pick to click on the collection, where Paula Carino’s Door illuminates with a measured moodiness destined to send shivers down the spine.

The Well Wishers step in with the bracing garage pop bite of We Grow Up, Trip Wire’s Katie Says favors a jangling country pop rock pose, assisted by cool breaks and a tugging melody, and Dolph Chaney’s infectious Automatic Caution Door imparts a tasty art rock ambience. The Corner Laughers contribute a pair of super catchy efforts to the program, including the compelling Queen Of The Meadow and The Accepted Time, which chimes to the tune of a smart melody and a gripping arrangement. 

Brimming with volume and might, No, from The Walker Brigade is destined to rattle windows far and wide, while a couple of XTC songs are rendered in splendid fashion by Glowbox with Earn Enough For Us and Tom Curless and the 46%’s I’m The Man Who Murdered Love. Last but by no means least, Spygenius turns in an impressive Ian Hunter/Mott the Hoople impersonation on Heaven Is Blue, which does indeed incorporate shades of heavenly blues into the  glammy mix.

Every song on Big Stir Singles: The Sixth Wave is utterly fantastic; reinforcing the label’s dedication to the best and the brightest indie pop rock musicians of today. 

Categories
Pop Sunday

The Corner Laughers / Temescal Telegraph

The Corner Laughers 

Temescal Telegraph (Big Stir Records 2020)

cornerlaughers.com 

Guided by the fluid and friendly vocals of Karla Kane – who also strums a mean ukulele – The Corner Laughers further feature the talents of KC Bowman and Khoi Huynh – who both play guitar, bass and piano – and drummer Charlie Crabtree

Temescal Telegraph marks the latest album from the Redwood City, California  band, which magnifies their flair for penning and performing literate songs, bursting with panoramic visages, accompanied by row upon row of ripe melodies. 

Numbers such as the robotic bounce of “Sisters Of The Pollen” and the bright and bubbly “The Calculating Boy” retool new wave influences into a contemporary context, while “Wren In The Rain” projects a haunting quality that radiates with a lonesome beauty. A chiming folk fragrance frames the absolutely gorgeous “Goodguy Sun” and “Changeling” swivels and swings to a frisky country-fried beat.

An exploding guitar solo punctures the chant-like tenor of “Lord Richard,” and then there’s “Skylarks Of Britain,” which begins on a twee tone before ballooning into a ball of bleary-eyed psychedelic distortion. Selected as the first single from the album, “The Accepted Time,” with its catchy rhythm and compelling mood, duly punches in as another showstopper.

As Temescal Telegraph affirms, The Corner Laughers bend towards the arty pop-rock side of the hill. Cushioned with cleverly-conceived material, heavy on hooks and harmonious light, the album carries a quirky enigma that gives the band a distinctive flavor. A superb collection of sonic snapshots, Temescal Telegraph is guaranteed to appear on many “Best Album Of The Year” lists. 

Categories
Pop Sunday

Garden Of Earthly Delights / An XTC Celebration

Various Artists

Garden Of Earthly Delights – An XTC Celebration (Futureman)

https://futuremanrecords.bandcamp.com/

Arriving on the scene in the late seventies, XTC proved to be a bit too quirky and clever for the general public. Yet the British band gained favor with the critics, developed a loyal fan base and have been cited as a prime influence by many musicians. 

For those not acquainted with the genius of XTC, the band really can’t be categorized. Mainly inspired by the holy trinity of sixties pop, psychedelia and art rock, the band also regularly dipped dashes of punk and new wave into the bin for modernized measures. Courageously experimental, XTC still managed to flaunt a distinctive sound that allowed instant recognition. Novel songwriting and arranging skills, compounded by a natural and nervous energy, granted the band’s material with an equal balance of sophistication and primal instincts. 

A double CD set, consisting of 32 tracks, Garden Of Earthly Delights features a smartly-selected cast of musicians from the indie community who are not only avid admirers of XTC, but render the band’s compositions with knowledge and respect. Not your average tribute album, Garden Of Earthly Delights avoids simply going through the motions as the artists telegraph their own personalities into the songs. 

Considering the volume of songs, there is obviously a lot to digest here. But because each entry is so catchy and the sequencing is astutely-organized, Garden Of Earthly Delights reins in as an easy and enjoyable listen.

Attempting to pick the best of the bunch is impossible, but for starters, there’s Coke Belda and El Inquito Rogue’s take on the bippity boppity “Standing In For Joe,” and the comparably sunny spunk of “Everything’ll Be Alright” from The Corner Laughters. Chris Price lends a gentle acoustic touch to “The Ballad Of Peter Pumpkinhead” and Bebopolula’s “Vanishing Girl” retains the same Monkees-meets-Turtles flower power pop flourishes of the original recording, which XTC actually released under the pseudonym of Dukes of Stratospheare

Gretchen Wheel’s emotive version of “The Last Balloon” is positively dazzling, while Randy Sky’s “Books Are Burning” carries a haunting feel, and Chris Church’s “Stupidily Happy” rings and rocks to a cool beat. Pete Donnelly turns in a terrific treatment of the robotic romp of “This Is Pop,” where The Kickstand Band’s “Life Begins At The Hop” wiggles with nifty squiggles. 

Bottled tight with harmony and color, Garden Of Earthly Delights – An XTC Celebration stresses the inventive spirit of the band in full force. Wall-to-wall with credible covers, created with love and reverence, this collection effectively salutes XTC’s flair for mixing ambition with a fun factor. An exciting audio adventure is guaranteed! 

By Beverly Paterson