By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio
Our 2018 Holiday Gift-Giving Guide is in full swing, with reviews of new and new-to-you releases that make great gifts for your melodic pop-leaning family and friends. We lead today’s post off with a new song from New Jersey’s Fab Four…
The Weeklings | “Running Away” (Jem, 2018)
Something different from the Beatles-inspired fab foursome from New Jersey way? Sure, why not! Gritty, hard-hitting and a bit persnickety, and with just a few itty-bitty gear references (a bit of “I Am the Walrus,” a snip of “Revolution 9”), this is really more a faster, teeth-gritting take on the sound of the Rembrandts’ “My Own Way” from that band’s L.P. release (at least, that’s how I hear it). Lefty Weekling dishes up a growl of a lead vocal, and Smokestack Weekling makes every urgent whack of his drums count like they’re everybody’s business. It’s entirely possible I missed a whole heap of the usual contingent of Easter eggs that these boys usually bury in their works, but in the case of this blast of a tune in which the Weeklings mix it up, I don’t think that really matters. Taken at face value (and no, that’s not a Phil Collins reference), this is killer..
Bill Lloyd | Working the Long Game (Spyderpop, 2018)
Bill Lloyd, one of melodic pop’s most distinguished practitioners of the art, has released one of the very best albums of the year with which you will fall in love.
Now that I’ve got that not-really-a-surprise statement out of the way, let’s dig in. Working the Long Game’s dozen melodic pearls, whether written solo or with top song scribes like 10cc’s Graham Gouldman, Cheap Trick’s Tom Petersson, and Wanderlust’s Scot Sax, are gorgeous, instantly classic gems of the Lloydian variety.
Perhaps the most endearing of this album’s top tracks is Lloyd’s cowrite with Graham Gouldman. “What Time Won’t Heal” is about letting love in again after a relationship withers away (“What time won’t heal/Love will repair/And if you open up your heart/You’ll find it there”). This is a very Gouldmanesque track sporting a lovely melody, which sounds for all the world like something that might have been penned and recorded back in the glorious 1960s. And you know that’s the kind of thing that floats this old pop fan’s boat.
“Yesterday,” cowritten with Petersson, is an outstanding, insanely catchy upbeat pop tune in which the events of the previous day, among which was the breakup of a relationship, are cataloged. The outlook for the new day is sunnier: “I won’t miss a day like yesterday.” In a perfect world, this song should be zooming up the charts and exploding at radio. And you’d better believe that if Pure Pop Radio were still streaming out to the masses, it would be. Lloyd shines on drums and guitars, and Petersson makes his bass sing.
“Interrupted,” another upbeat specimen, written with Sax, is another can’t-miss track that puts the spotlight on Lloyd’s energetic and expressive drumming and in-your-face guitar work (shredding is this tune’s buzzword). And the closer, “Shining,” is a beautiful ballad of the one-man-band variety that features some lovely sixties-inspired guitar lines and harmonies. The narrator sings about his true love and you will feel the emotion (“When I was there all alone/You pointed me home”).
Fall in love with one of this year’s best albums.
Caper Clowns | A Salty Taste to the Lake (2018)
The mighty Caper Clowns, whose fantastic debut album was featured in these pages back in November 2016, are back with their sophomore long player, another well-crafted collection of top-flight melodic pop gems.
From the undeniably catchy opening confection “The Way I Dream,” which sports a clever acoustic guitar riff and an enchanting melody, to the pretty ballad “Kissing Daylight” and the upbeat, harmony-infused “Me for a Friend,” from which this album gets its title, A Salty Taste to the Lake is a winner all the way. Perhaps my favorite track is “Sacre Bleu,” a piano-based, harmony wonder that sounds like the kind of song radio should be embracing and sending up to the top of the charts.
I love Caper Clowns, and you will too. Pick up this second in what we hope will be a long line of great releases, and while you’re at it, add their debut to your collection. You won’t be sorry.
Mothboxer | Open Sky (2018)
Dave Ody’s outfit stretches into some of the most creative, expression-filled songs of its long history on an album steeped in clever songcraft. A coming together and pulling apart experience built around surprising chord changes and elastic melodies, set against primarily alternative instrumental backings, Open Sky is aptly named. Because the canvas on which Ody is working is open and expansive.
“Sunshine Sound” leads the pack as a slow-to-mid tempo song set sound-wise vaguely in the Beach Boys’ Holland era. Songs like “We Could Be Right” bristle with an inventive melody and chord structure, ending in a guitar/drums battle. A number of songs fall directly into each other: “All that Goes Around” connects to “Never Enough,” an atmospheric ballad with lots of air and breathing space, which hits into “Million Miles Away,” perhaps the most immediate sounding song on the album, a piano-based tune with harmony vocals that shine.
And there’s more, many more delights to be discovered in Ody’s latest collection, including a song just added to the album at the very last minute because, well, it’s a late-blooming keeper with a great, catchy chorus. It’s a thumper with a great melody, and it’s called “Five Long Days.”
Open Sky is a keeper, maybe Mothboxer’s best.
Where to Get It: Open Sky is set for a December release. Watch this space, or visit the Mothboxer website for up-to-the-minute details on where to get this terrific album
More Great 2018 Releases, Perfect for Gift Giving
We’ve reviewed many terrific 2018 releases recently, any of which would make great gifts for the melodic pop fans in your life. Here are just a few (click on the links to read our reviews and then add the releases to your shopping list):
- Jay Stansfield | “A Song for Edward” (Reviewed 9.20.18)
- Bryan Estepa | “No Ordinary” (Reviewed 9.20.18)
- Nick Piunti | Temporary High (Reviewed 9.6.18)
Alan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio is the premiere website covering the melodic pop scene with in-depth reviews of new and reissued recordings, and a wide variety of features. We’ve been around since the first weekly Pure Pop Radio shows, which began broadcasting in 1995 and ended this past August. Welcome to your number one home for coverage of the greatest melodic pop music in the universe from the ’60s to today. Happy holidays!