New on Pure Pop Radio 1.25.17: Feet First in the Dowling Poole! Jump In…The Water’s Fine!

new on pp banner hybrid 2-use this one, it's fixed

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

Spins and Reviews | 1.25.17 | by Alan Haber

TDP 1HP - CD Booklet Pages 16 & 1

(Left to right) Willie Dowling and Jon Poole

The Dowling Poole | Miles Checks Out, Bright Spark, and Deep Breath EPs (2016)

Willie Dowling, late of the much-loved Jackdaw 4 conclave, and Jon Poole, workhorse musical magician of Cardiacs and Wildhearts fame, first joined forces as the Dowling Poole in 2014, releasing the smashing, hall-of-fame worthy long player Bleak Strategies. The equally amazing, if not more so, One Hyde Park followed last April.

Folding into their classic and melodic sound a deep well’s worth of influences and making good on an unspoken pledge to surprise both themselves and their listeners with gonzo song construction that makes everything they record pop like fireworks, Dowling and Poole remain fearless creators whose music is stimulating and, above all, fun. Their three most recent EPs follow along on this most alluring path.

Just seven months after One Hyde Park proved conclusively that there were no limits to their boundless creativity, the dynamic duo returned with the first of three consecutive EPs, extending the hitting streak that has resulted in such a strong and assured run of releases.

dowling poole - miles checks out ep

All three EPs feature one new track and two acoustic recordings of favorite songs recorded live in 2015 in Manchester, England. The first release features the brand-new “Miles Checks Out,” a typically clever and catchy number mixing, in the accepted Dowling Poole style, allusions to James Bond theme songs, prog, straight-ahead pop, and varying time signatures–the kind of patchwork quilt that the solo Roy Wood probably wouldn’t mind calling his own. In tow are live, glorious, acoustic versions of “Saving It All for a Saturday” and “Getting a License,” both originally heard on Bleak Strategies.

dowling poole - bright spark ep

The second EP, released at the end of last November, puts another wildly imaginative number front and center: “Bright Spark,” a bopper of an upbeat workout that is perhaps the most straight-ahead structure-wise of the three new songs, but no less inventive and catchy. Live, acoustic versions of “The Sun is Mine” and “Where the Memories Fester,” both also originally from Bleak Strategies, complete the lineup.

dowling poole - deep breath ep

A third EP, coupling the new song “Deep Breath” with thrilling live, acoustic recordings of two more songs first heard as part of the Bleak Strategies lineup–“A Kiss on the Ocean” and “Paper, Scissors, Stone”–was released just before this past Christmas. “Deep Breath” is a moody, melodic, dramatic art-pop construct, nodding in classic fashion to rich Queen-style operatic-pop harmony stacks, a lá “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Also veering to and fro into varying time-signatures and approaches, it’s a hypnotic winner.

Willie Dowling and Jon Poole function as the prime movers in the Dowling Poole as two halves of the same creative brain. They can always be counted on to conjure up a joyous array of songs that incorporate varying styles and provide a great listening experience for their listeners. This is the stuff of legend–what a joy it is to write about and play on the radio the work of the Dowling Poole.

black box Now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio: From Miles Checks Out: “Miles Checks Out,” and “Getting a License (Acoustic Live in Manchester).” From Bright Spark: “Bright Spark,” and “The Sun is Mine (Acoustic Live in Manchester).” From Deep Breath: “Deep Breath,” “A Kiss on the Ocean (Acoustic Live in Manchester)” and “Paper, Scissors, Stone (Acoustic Live in Manchester).”

black box Where to Get Them: 369 Music on Bandcamp

alanhaberspurepopradiographiclarge1

listen sun blue 4-30-17

listen sun grey 4-30-17

app box 4-30-17

streamlicensing-badge

New on Pure Pop Radio: Picking in the Panic Room, Disconnected at Third Man Records, and More

new on pp banner hybrid 2-use this one, it's fixed

Spins and Reviews 12.7.16
Alan Haber — Pure Pop Radio
(Originally posted on 12.07.16)

jacob panic 2016Jacob Panic | Jacob Panic (2016)
Picker extraordinaire Jacob Panic traverses his banjo’s fretboard with a sure-footed sense of purpose on five tunes borne from fertile ground rooted in pop and bluegrass. This self-titled EP finds the Baltimore-Maryland singer-songwriter’s multi-instrumentalist clothes, which he wore for 2012’s Pop Grass, in storage; for this release, he concentrates on the banjo as a crack team of players backs him up on his ace originals.

Recording in Nashville with producer Randy Kohrs (Grammy® winner for Jim Lauderdale’s The Bluegrass Diaries), Panic paints with a baroque brush on the four-on-the-floor stomper, “The Lie that You Told,” and takes a second, loving look at one of the top tracks from Pop Grass, the beautiful, lyrical “Hold Your Freight Train.” Panic recently opened for Ricky Scaggs and Kentucky Thunder, which says a thing or two about how good this masterful player is. Jacob Panic is always welcome here at Pure Pop Radio.

black box Now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio: The entire EP: “The Flame,” “Drown,” “A Lie that You Told,” “Hold Your Freight Train,” and “Hocus Opus”

black box Where to Get It: Bandcamp

stephen poff at third man recordsOne Like Son, “Disconnected” Historic platter recorded direct to disc via the Voice-o-Graph by Stephen Poff in the Record Booth at Third Man Records in Nashville, Tennessee. The booth is a “refurbished 1947 Voice-o-Graph machine that records up to 2 minutes of audio and dispenses a one-of-a-kind 6″ phonograph disc to the user,” according to the Third Man Record Booth web page. The skip at the end, an otherworldly thing, occurred during the recording, adding a certain charm to the proceedings.

A song about trying to break through to what the heart yearns, “Disconnected” originally appeared on One Like Son’s 2001 album, Goodbye. Poff’s intimate, updated reading of this number into the Voice-o-Graph is a whisper of a melodic moment in time; close your eyes and you are there with the artist, in the Third Man Record Booth, singing along at least in spirit. We are proud to be playing this recording on Pure Pop Radio.

black box Now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio

black box Where to Get It: Not currently available

Also recently added to the Pure Pop Radio playlist:

– Bread and Butter, “Desperation”

– Paul McCartney, “In the Blink of an Eye”; Carl Davis, “Walking in the Park with Eloise”; The Shadows, “Foot Tapper”; Dave Berry, “Little Things”; Rupert’s People, “Reflections of Charles Brown” (all from the soundtrack for the animated film, Ethel and Ernest)

– Gerry Beckley | Carousel (“Nature’s Way,” “Minutes Count,” “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying,” “Lifeline,” “To Each and Everyone,” “Serious,” and “Carousel”)

– Teenage Fanclub | Here (“I’m in Love,” “The Darkest Part of the Night,” “I Have Nothing More to Say,” and “It’s a Sin”)

– The Dots | Island in the Sun (“I’ve Been Looking for the Time,” “Wilford Lane,” “Here With You,” “The Stars are Bright Tonight”)

– Tony Low | Rendezvousing (“Do the Mikey,” “Eternal Dawn,” “Hey Now,” and “Should’ve Known”)

– Mike Daly and the Planets, “Never Too Late”

– Louise Goffin, “(You Make Me Feel Like a) Natural Woman”

– Sir Video | Live at Ardmore Hall (“Take My Breath Away,” “This Magic,” and “Do What You Wanna”)

– The 1957 Tail-Fin Fiasco | The 3 Song Drive EP (“Kiki vs. Alice from the Breakers,” “Big Yellow Box,” “Byron Bay,” and “Blended”)

– Tony Valentino of the Standells, “Is This What U Want?”

– Tuns | Tuns (“Back Among Friends” and “Throw It All Away”)

– Baby Scream | Life’s a Trap (“Life’s Better When Ur High,” “Climbing Down,” “We Can’t Go Back to 17,” “Wish You Were Beer,” “Jokes,” and “Midnight Snack”)

alanhaberspurepopradiographiclarge1

listen sun blue 4-30-17

listen sun grey 4-30-17

app box 4-30-17

streamlicensing-badge

Joy Spins Eternal Saturday, April 22, for Vinyl Lovers Everywhere. Record Store Day 2017 Rolls into Your Town

alan By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio
(Originally posted April 19, 2017)

Your mission this week, and not nearly an impossible one, is to compose your want lists and check them twice and, what’s more, map out your travel plans for Record Store Day 2017, happening in your town, and yours too.

Record Store Day (RSD), 10 years young this year, is the vinyl fan’s national holiday and quite the occasion for a big group hug. Taking place Saturday, April 22 at independent record stores worldwide, it’s the place to be to snag special RSD exclusive platters, fill in holes in your collections of archival and current artists, and meet with fellow vinyl hounds to talk shop, if by “shop” we mean, and we do, the musicians we love and, by the way, which albums and artists are in your top 10.

gary gebler trax on wax

Trax on Wax’s Gary Gebler

Trax on Wax, located in beautiful Catonsville, Maryland (also known as Music City), is the official record store of Pure Pop Radio. Owner and vinyl guru Gary Gebler has participated in eight Record Store Days; he’s seen it all. In the following exclusive interview, Gary talks about how more mainstream artists have become a part of the annual celebration, Elton John’s status as the first worldwide Record Store Day Legend, the ongoing and increasing popularity of Big Star, and that familiar record store smell:

elton john 17-11-70What’s on your Record Store Day list this year? How about an extended vinyl version of Elton John’s famous, early live album, 17-11-70, with six never-before-heard songs and a newly-remixed version of “Amoreena,” a bonus track included on the CD reissue of the album back in 1995? How about The Count Five’s Psychotic Reaction album from 1966 in mono on 180-gram vinyl? Zombies fans will want to snag a copy of a special 45–on pink vinyl, no less–pairing a previously unheard version of “A Rose for Emily” and the version of “This Will Be Our Year” that everyone knows and loves.

Whatever your desires, an indie record store near you on Record Store Day 2017 will likely be able to fulfill them. Our hearts are with Trax on Wax; we hope yours are pledged to support your favorite local independent record stores, wherever they may be.

Happy hunting and spinning!

Learn more about Trax on Wax by clicking here.

alanhaberspurepopradiographiclarge1

listen sun blue 4-30-17

listen sun grey 4-30-17

app box 4-30-17

streamlicensing-badge

Favorite Records of the Year: Stars of 2016

favorite records of the year - stars of 2016

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio
(Originally posted 01.03.17)

2016 was a terrific year for melodic pop music from both new and heritage artists, perhaps the best in recent memory. My list of 28 Favorite Records of the Year from 27 artists–The Stars of 2016–is presented below in random order.

It has long been my view that ranking entries on best-of-the-year lists is an impossible task, at least for me. If I made such a list on Monday, would the number nine entry still be in that slot on Tuesday? Perhaps not. Sometimes, I fear, agonizing over a particular placement would be akin to splitting hairs and not particularly a worthwhile enterprise. So, I’ll go with I like these a lot instead.

Here are my Favorite Records of the Year–The Stars of 2016–in no specific order. All are more than worthy of your time, and all should be added to your core collection of the greatest melodic pop music in the universe.

And now, on with the show…

The Stars of 2016

bob lind magellanBob Lind | Magellan Was Wrong Pop bard Bob Lind’s latest is a typically heartfelt collection of songs that deliver his always magical one-two punch: emotional lyrics and beautiful melodies, brought to life with stellar arrangements and production, much of it supplied in grand fashion on this album by the Spongetones’ Jamie Hoover. Gorgeous soundscapes abound, such as the romantic, catchy “From the Road,” awash with poppy background harmonies from Hoover and perceptive, picturesque lyrics from Lind (“In moments others call mundane/My soul is warming by your flame/Turning just like a sailor to the harbor/And I will carry back my songs and tales/Of calms and gales/And sing and tell them all/To you”), and Lind’s emotional cover of Tom Paxton’s “Bottle of Wine.”

Where to Get It: Amazon

Legal Matters cover conradThe Legal Matters | Conrad With this album, the Legal Matters have set a new standard for vocal harmonies in melodic pop music. Andy Reed, Chris Richards, and Keith Klingensmith are the players, and their human voices are their instruments. The songs are sweetly realized, from the opener “Anything,” not the first track on this album tipping its hat to the much-loved Beach Boys vocal vibe, to the upbeat, single-worthy “Short Term Memory,” which tips its drumsticks to Ringo Starr in a delightful fill and puts forth some top-notch electric guitar playing. To listen to this album is a thrilling experience.

Where to Get It: Kool Kat Musik, Amazon, iTunes, CD Universe

the weeklings studio 2The Weeklings | Studio 2 The beat-betrothed, Beatlesque foursome from New Jersey, steeped in the Fab tradition and nom de plumed in the spirit of all that started off holy in Liverpool’s Cavern Club a fair number of years ago, follows up their self-titled long player, affectionately known as Monophonic, with a sterling 12-song set composed of eight superlative originals and four rare John Lennon and Paul McCartney songs not given away to other artists. Recording in Abbey Road’s hallowed Studio 2, where the Beatles made their astounding magic, Glen Burtnik, Bob Burger, John Merjave and Joe Bellia, aka Lefty, Zeek, Rocky and Smokestack, respectively, make considerable Merseyside hay with delightfully brisk and catchy songs steeped in the effervescent spirit of the Fab Four. A splendid time, to be sure.

Where to Get It: Kool Kat Musik, Amazon

caper clowns 2Caper Clowns | The Buca Bus Delicious pure pop from Odense, Denmark delights with a dozen beautifully written and performed pearls. Lovely melodies and vocal harmonies are always present, particularly on instant classics such as the should-be-hit-bound earworm “A Tale of Romance and Magnetic Trains” and the gorgeous ballad “Lizard Heart.” Debut of the year? Most certainly.

Where to Get It: iTunes, imusic, Amazon UK (mp3 download)

kenny herbert forever and beyondKenny Herbert | Forever and Beyond A gorgeous, romantic song cycle inspired by Caroline, the love of his life, Forever and Beyond is Herbert’s melodically-charged survey of the power of true love. The 14 songs on offer, encompassing 1930s, 1950s and modern melodic pop vibes, are tremendously affecting, beautifully drawn snapshots of a happy existence. The pretty “Queensferry Girl” and the catchy, McCartney-esque pop song “It’s All Good” shine among a rich collection of gems.

Where to Get It: Kenny’s website, iTunes

TYIFinal2Nick Piunti | Trust Your Instincts Guitars, bass, drums, powerful vocals, and a whole lot of moxie power the pop on Nick’s latest, high-energy collection. These songs make heads turn and hearts embrace its many charms. “One Hit Wonder” is the big, splashy, pure pop hit here, a clear winner on an album full of winners.

Where to Get It: Kool Kat Musik, Amazon, iTunes and Bandcamp

gleeson curse my lucky starsGleeson | Curse My Lucky Stars Austin, Texas band Gleeson have made their White Album, a sparkling collection of songs varied in approach and tone that makes a case for melodic pop being the genre of the moment. Encompassing beautiful balladry, art-pop, rock and retro charm, Curse My Lucky Stars is a marvel.

Where to Get It: Bandcamp

teddy thompson and kelly jonesTeddy Thompson and Kelly Jones | Little Windows A true, modern classic bathed in retro charm, Little Windows’ rewards are many. There is a decidedly romantic notion at play here, one that slips in and out of hand holding echoes of the Everly Brothers at Cadence, Roy Orbison, Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton, Buck Owens and a thousand other country-pop artists and their golden recordings. These lovely, heartfelt songs, brought to life by two of pop music’s finest vocalists, make up an album that is like a bright lighthouse shining across the sea, drawing you in.

Where to Get It: Teddy Thompson store, Amazon, and iTunes

ray paul whimsicalityRay Paul | Whimsicality Thirty-six years after the release of Ray Paul and RPM’s album Go Time, the artist is once again regaling listeners with enticing tales set to everyone’s favorite power pop beat. A delicious mix of originals and well-chosen covers, such as the Grass Roots’ “Temptation Eyes” and Paul McCartney’s “Oh Woman, Oh Why,” meets wonderfully-realized originals like the dynamic “A Fool Without Your Love” and McCartney-esque “Jeannie.” With Ray’s gorgeous melodies and strong vocals out front, this is a treat from first note to last.

Where to Get It: Kool Kat Musik, Amazon, and iTunes

myrtle park's fishing coverMyrtle Park’s Fishing Club | Benches A monumentally towering testament to melodic and harmonic excellence, Benches is a delight from start to finish. There is nothing quite like Kate Stephenson’s take on melodic pop music, just as there is nothing like her soaring imagination, and her ability to express all manner of emotion and make the listener feel. Working in concert with musical partner John Steel, Kate delivers wondrous songs (and three-dimensional vocal harmony stacks) like “Somebody Called Me an Onion,” a smile-inducing, upbeat, energetic pop number with faux-reggae shadings about peeling back the layers to reveal the full, human package of emotion; and the a cappella wonder “Silent Letter,” a tune about inner beauty and the sanctity of thought that doesn’t always have to be laid bare. For those of you keeping score, this is the second Myrtle Park’s Fishing Club album to wear our Favorite Records of the Year mantle. As it should be.

Where to Get It: Myrtle Park’s Fishing Club’s website, Amazon, and iTunes

the nines alejandro's visionsThe Nines | Alejandro’s Visions Rolling and then filtering the influence of the music of writers such as George Gershwin and Rodgers and Hart into a mix peppered with the harmony styles of the Beach Boys, the Four Freshmen and even doo-wop, and then topping the resulting flow with his love of artists such as the Electric Light Orchestra and XTC, Steve Eggers has delivered a harmony- and melody-drenched soundtrack to an imaginary film, somewhat of a sequel to the last Nines album, Night Surfer and the Cassette Kids. Standout tracks include the beautiful, bittersweet, old-fashioned “When Our Love Was in Bloom,” stacked deep with gorgeous harmonies and an irresistible melody; and the early rock and roll/pop hybrid “Operator (Coming Home to You),” which sports a meaty, catchy, percussive piano riff, opens with an aural allusion to the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby,” and lays out a delectable Jeff Lynne-ish bridge that will make you smile. Alejandro’s Visions is Eggers’ best and most assured work yet, an immensely satisfying collection that belongs in every melodic pop music fan’s collection.

Where to Get It: Kool Kat Musik, CD Baby, and Amazon (mp3)

seth swirsky new album coverSeth Swirsky | Circles and Squares Proving that a creative, heartfelt approach to making music will yield magic almost every time, Seth Swirsky has crafted a collection of songs that draws on all of his strengths, and perhaps incorporates a couple of new ones. Moreover, these songs reveal the truth about all of our lives, right from the first track, “Shine,” his statement of purpose, the one that sets the stage for what comes next. And what comes next is winner after winner, such as the lovely confessional and autobiographical “I Don’t Have Anything (If I Don’t Have You),” in which the narrator allows that life means nothing at all without the proverbial “one”: “I’ve got some baseballs/That are pretty rare/Got a swimming pool/And a fast car/But I don’t care/’Cause I don’t have anything if I don’t have you…I’ve got gold records/Hanging on my wall/But without your love/Baby you can have ’em all…” This 16 song collection is the latest expression of craft from one of pop music’s most important artists.

Where to Get It: seth.comKool Kat Musik, Amazon, and iTunes

lucy wainwright roche and suzzy roches mud and applesLucy Wainwright Roche and Suzzy Roche | Mud and Apples A sparkling duo release from Suzzy Roche and her daughter, Lucy Wainwright Roche. Warm harmonies, clever songwriting and the inclusion of beautifully-sung covers such as Paul Simon’s “Bleecker Street” and the Cascades’ “Rhythm of the Rain” push this 11 track masterpiece into hall-of-fame territory. Roches fans will be charmed, and so will everyone else. Surely one of this year’s top expressions of musical joy.

Where to Get It: Bandcamp

the monkees good timesThe Monkees | Good Times! Good Times! is a classic-sounding Monkees album that happens to have been released 50 years after Monkeemania began. A mix of recordings based on sessions produced during the group’s heyday and new songs written by top-flight, current songwriters of note, this is a fun listen from start to finish. A shining example of how good this album is: The perky, catchy “You Bring the Summer,” written by XTC’s Andy Partridge, fulfilling a childhood dream. A great album.

Where to Get It: Amazon and iTunes

mimi bettinis music soundsmimi betinis basement tapesMimi Betinis | Music Sounds and Basement Tapes Vol. 1 Pezband’s Betinis scores with two sterling releases in 2016 that are really two sides of a rather entertaining coin, so they both rate a spot in this Stars of 2016 feature. Music Sounds is a vivid, quite alive offering of melodic treasures. Its songs are wonderfully realized pop confections that hit the hooky bullseye, like “She Wants You,” which surreptitiously recalls the famed intro to the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby” in the intro, and “Summer Love,” a warm love letter and look back to a seasonal romance (that, perhaps unknowingly, taps the sound of 10cc member Eric Stewart’s guitar playing in the solo).

Basement Tapes Vol. 1 collects tracks that Mimi has been working on over the years, like “Ray of Light,” a melodic sweetness that sounds like an Andy Partridge outtake off of XTC’s Nonsuch album, and simply lovely covers (Paul McCartney’s song for Mary Hopkin, “Goodbye,” and the Hudson Brothers’ “So You Are a Star” are glorious). Saying that some heritage artists are only getting better as time passes by can sound like rather an empty assertion, but my, how that phrase does indeed fit snug as a bug, listening to Music Sounds and Basement Tapes Vol. 1.

Where to Get Them: Pop Music Sounds and CD Baby

winterpills love songsWinterpills | Love Songs The numbers on Winterpills’ seventh album get under your skin; they become you in some celestial kind of way. The vocals of songwriter Philip Price and his wife, guitarist and keyboard player Flora Reed, are the collective glue that holds these proceedings together–the glue that gives them life. Consider “Wanderer White,” a rolling, rhythmic song about a fall from grace, in which Philip takes the lower notes and Flora the higher ones, and “Freeze Your Light,” which starts off as if in a church with a slight, ghostly choral singsong and becomes a folk-into-pop number with a delectable chorus buoyed by the same low-and-high vocals. The poppy bopper and should-be-hit-bound “Celia Johnson” turns the tables with Philip initially taking the high vocal part and Flora following closely. A trumpet and coronet serenade add to the song’s beauty; a lovely, echoed piano part comes in for a beautiful coda. A real treat.

Where to Get It: Winterpills’ web store and iTunes

butch youngButch Young | Mercury Man Butch Young’s miraculous, hall-of-fame-worthy album is a modern classic by way of its dazzling array of 1970s-styled instant classic songs, peppered with a mix of Paul McCartney and Harry Nilsson-esque magic. Every one of these Los Angeles-based artist’s songs is a clear winner, like the title track, “Persephone,” “One Foot In,” and “The Fools of May.” Awesome.

Where to Get It: Kool Kat Musik, CD Baby, and iTunes

the dowling poole one hyde parkThe Dowling Poole | One Hyde Park One Hyde Park, the sterling follow-up to the Dowling Poole’s Bleak Strategies, is a virtual tour de force and, if that weren’t enough, it’s an album influenced by sounds from across the pop landscape that doesn’t actually sound like its influences. Witness “Vox Pops,” which incorporates a very Partridge Family-sounding keyboard line and a very Brian May-sounding guitar solo; “Hope and Glory,” an upbeat pop song; and “Bring Back the Glow,” a smooth, rolling ’70s number. Joy from across the pond.

Where to Get It: Bandcamp, Amazon, and iTunes

chris murphy and michael carpenter real love sleeveChris Murphy with Michael Carpenter | “Real Love” This absolutely gorgeous ballad recasting of John Lennon’s song is one of this year’s major triumphs in melodic pop music. For this rendition, the tempo has been slowed, allowing Murphy to lovingly communicate the depth of the emotional lyric. Murphy’s vocal may well be the best vocal performance of the year. His ability to hold a melody line’s final note in such an artful way, to sustain its resonance and maximize its impact on the listener, is something to behold. Recorded with precision and heart by Carpenter on the occasion of singer Kylie Whitney’s wedding (Whitney also sang background vocals), this new version of this wonderful song is proof positive that covers can reveal new layers of emotion not previously brought to the surface.

Where to Get It: iTunes and CD Baby

emitt rhodes rainbows endEmitt Rhodes | Rainbow Ends Forty-three years after his third album, Farewell to Paradise, was released, this new collection surfaces to critical and listener acclaim, and rightly so. Here are songs that feature all of the Rhodes hallmarks: beautiful, catchy melodies; inventive chord changes; and those velvety, smooth, sturdy and emotive vocals. Perhaps this is no more evident than on the emotional ballad “I Can’t Tell My Heart.” Somewhat reminiscent of Mirror‘s “Love Will Stone You,” this is a showcase for Emitt’s committed, vocal delivery; the gorgeous melody and emotional lyrics combine to sketch the breakup of a relationship and a considered plea for the other party to embrace the option to heal. A wonderful surprise and an instant classic. Welcome back to a truly special artist.

Where to Get It: Amazon and iTunes

daisy house western manDaisy House | Western Man Doug Hammond and his daughter Tatiana’s album for the ages features golden harmonies and great songs that will melt your heart all the way through. The heavenly duo channels the Byrds in the uptempo “She Comes Runnin’ Back” and “Twenty-One,” offers up a catchy, playful vibe with the singalong number “Willow,” and delivers a strong, emotive ballad with the orchestrated tune, “Western Man.” Best news of all: a new album is soon to be released. Happy new year, indeed.
Where to Get It: Bandcamp

brain circus use this jpeg instead of the other oneBrain Circus | Brain Circus This smashing collection of impossible-to-resist songs performed in grand style by ace songwriter and keyboard wizard Brian Curtis, late of the much-loved band the Oohs, serves up 13 numbers in all, performed entirely by this transplanted Virginian. The majestic, heartfelt love song “Finally Found the One,” a musical sculpture formed with smiles and tears and a whole lot of heart, is but one highlight. You’ll detect essence of the Beach Boys, Jellyfish and Queen, among other classic touchstones, but this is all Curtis and don’t you forget it.

Where to Get It: Bandcamp

the flat fiveThe Flat Five | It’s a World of Love and Hope This Chicago-based band of harmony-hounds deserves supergroup status, thanks to the members’ affiliation with artists such as Neko Case, NRBQ and the New Pornographers. Welcome a deliciously wondrous assortment of luscious pop dressed in a variety of comfortable musical clothing that runs the gamut from the Manhattan Transfer-meets-hep cat vibe of the delightful “Buglight” to the Paul McCartney retro-sway of “I Could Fall in Love with You” and the pretty back porch balladry of the Roches-like “Bottom Buck.” Pretty special all the way through.

Where to Get It: Amazon, iTunes, and Bandcamp

bent van looy pyjama daysBent Van Looy | Pyjama Days Based in Paris, France and a member of the band Das Pop, Bent Van Looy’s 2016 release is a lovely, pure poppy collection of sweet-sounding catchy melodies sung with assured style, like the upbeat pop number “My Escape,” beautifully arranged with little Beach Boys vocal flourishes weaved in; “Mr. Fletcher’s Song,” a melodic mid-tempo ballad that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Randy Newman album, and the sumptuous title track, a three-minute genius construct, nicely orchestrated and adorned with a smile-inducing whistle. Pop on.

Where to Get It: Bandcamp

the junipers red bouquet fairThe Junipers | Red Bouquet Fair This charming collection from the Leicester, United Kingdom band recalls the sweet sunshine pop sound of the 1960s and 1970s in such lovely songs as “Summer Queen” and “Like a Merry-Go-Round.” Red Bouquet Fair is no less than the audio equivalent of smiling at your good fortune on a warm day in the park while sipping cool lemonade (the effect is equally transcendent wherever else you may be). The vocals are enchanting and the instrumentation is perfectly played. Lovely.

Where to Get It: Amazon, iTunes, and Bandcamp

tommy and the rocketsTommy and the Rockets | Beer and Fun and Rock ‘n’ Roll This ace project, featuring 10 pop-rockers, co-written, except for one, by super criminal defense attorney Michael Chaney and Thomas “Tommy” Stubgaard, who plays all of the guitars, bass, and provides handclaps, shake the house, as it were. Check out the catchy, Beach Boys-influenced sunshine anthem “Here Comes Summer,” and a couple of  energetic Ramones nods, “Silly Teenage Love” and “You Want Me (But I Don’t Want You)”). Cheery, toe-tapping fun.

Where to Get It: Kool Kat Musik, Amazon, and CD Baby

explorers clubThe Explorers Club | Together This collection of songs imbued with the spirit of the best of the Beach Boys, the Four Freshman, the Association and other time-honored practitioners of the art is one of the sweetest offerings of the year. Here are songs that are beautiful and beautifully sung, lovely and lovelier still, from Jason Brewer, Wyatt Funderburk, Paul Runyon,  Kyle Polk and Mike Williamson. From the southern California harmony- and sun-soaked sound of “California’s Callin’ Ya” to the Four Freshmen-meets-“Graduation Day”-by-way-of-Les Paul ballad “Perfect Day,” Together invites listeners to bathe in the beauty of harmony-filled dreams.

Where to Get It: Kool Kat Musik, Amazon, and iTunes

The Road Ahead

Harmony-filled dreams… Ah, as ever, they feel so right. With 2016 now in our collective rearview mirror, it is time to look ahead into what is just around the corner. Your favorite artists, and those new to the melodic pop scene, are itching to get going…to release their latest creations, crafted with a mix of melody, harmony, and keen performance.

Already, I have heard a few upcoming albums that I predict will knock your socks off. Nick Bertling, who records under the name Bertling Noise Laboratories, has been making a name for himself with a few rather extraordinary platters; the Lab’s latest, releasing later this month, is a covers collection called, in a nod to the great Harry Nilsson, A Little Touch of Bertling in the Night. This is a sweet mélange of favorite songs from yesterday, filtered through today’s singular sensibilities. It is uniquely Bertling, and you’re going to love it.

Dana Countryman, of whom much has been said throughout these pages, all of it sweeping-me-off-my-feet good, is about to release in 10 days, through Australia’s Teensville Records, his passion project, a tribute to the 1960s girl group and Brill Building sounds that continue to bring joy to ears around the world. Dana Countryman’s Girlville!: New Songs in the Style of Yesterday’s Hits will transport you back to a much simpler time, perhaps, when melody and joy were king. Lisa Mychols, Swan Dive’s Molly Felder, and Lisa Jenio are just three of the vocalists that help to bring Dana’s vision to life on an album that you will hug tightly. Look for Dana to appear on Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation soon to talk about this landmark release.

Bill DeMain, whose solo music and treasured albums with Molly Felder as Swan Dive will always have a place here on Pure Pop Radio, has a new record that will soon be released. After hearing and playing on the air a bonus track from Beans, a lovely arrangement of the Beach Boys’ “Wendy,” we hope the release date comes very soon.

The Word is Love

“Spread the word,” the Beatles sang back in 1965. They were talking about love, not melodic pop music written and recorded in the 2010s, but they might as well have been looking forward, as should we all.

In 2017, we look forward to bringing you more of the greatest melodic pop music from the ’60s to today. We’re on the job 24-hours-a-day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. A click of any of the Listen links that follow will connect you with our stream. Spread the word about Pure Pop Radio, if you will and, if you haven’t already, please click the Follow button on the homepage of this very website to ensure that you will be notified by email every time we make a post.

Thanks for reading our list of our Favorite Records of the Year: The Stars of 2016. Add them all to your collection; your ears will thank you, as will I.

alanhaberspurepopradiographiclarge1

listen sun blue 4-30-17

listen sun grey 4-30-17

app box 4-30-17

streamlicensing-badge

Maggie Roche: Goodbye, Sweet Songbird

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio
(Originally posted 1.23.17)

the rochesA wave of sadness passed through my soul as the news emerged Saturday of the passing of Maggie Roche, the sweet songbird from deepest New Jersey whose singular voice intertwined for decades with her sisters Terre and Suzzy as the Roches. Her beautiful songs, imbued with her loving spirit, will live on.

Marrying lyrical poetry and heaven-sent melodies, Maggie wrote about the human condition, about life’s long and winding road and the twists and turns one takes along the way. From “Hammond Song” and “Quitting Time,” both from the Roches’ 1979 self-titled debut, to the playful “My Winter Coat,” from the sisters’ 1995 album, Can We Go Home Now, her magical perspective and way with words always shone brightly.

So did her sense of humor, through which she communicated all manner of emotion. For proof, look no further than the testament to love that is “My Winter Coat.” Sure, it is ostensibly about a coat whose “fit is generous and loose,” a garment with which to keep warm that is “made of a material that will not rust.”

This is a song about love, of course, sewn up in a garment that makes you feel like you’re “walkin’ around in your bed all day.” There couldn’t possibly be anything better to wrap around you, a point that is communicated in verse after verse punctuated by magical rhymes. “I hope you don’t think I’m merely trying to be clever,” the Roches sing to sew up the story. “I wish this coat would last forever.”

In our lives, we gravitate toward artists who can expand the world to allow us to see more clearly the parts of it that we may not fully understand or appreciate. Artists encourage us to be adventurers, to learn more about ourselves, to step out of our comfort zones and in the process find out more about what makes us who we are.

This is a forever journey that we find ourselves traveling. Through her songs, Maggie Roche was a spirited companion and guide. Safe travels, sweet songbird.

alanhaberspurepopradiographiclarge1

listen sun blue 4-30-17

listen sun grey 4-30-17

app box 4-30-17

streamlicensing-badge

I Love that Song! #14: “Mrs. Vandebilt” by Paul McCartney and Wings

alanBy Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio
(Originally posted 12.01.16)

So you’re in the jungle, you’re living in a tent, you have zero financial obligations, you have all the time in the world, and you just plain don’t care. Is this a call for celebration?

paul mccartney and wings mrs. vandebiltRight off the bat, I’m probably being too literal, trying to make sense of the lyrics of Band on the Run’s “Mrs. Vandebilt,” one of the great showcases for Paul McCartney’s runaway bass inflections, because that first verse is a slightly-changed, tumbling tip of the hat to British comedian Charlie Chester. Which is really here nor there in the grand scheme of things.

Which is not to say that there is any scheme being practiced within this delicious tour de Macca, other than the crafting of yet another insanely catchy slice of pop and roll by one of the masters of the insanely catchy slice of pop and roll form. “Take things as they come to you!”, McCartney seems to be saying in these lyrics, which might be the case if you’re looking to make a case, but I submit to you that the lyrics could well be carefully positioned red herrings unless you don’t believe in such things and, really, well, that’s kind of getting off the case at hand.

“Mrs. Vandebilt” is a four-on-the-floor, beat-buoyed road trip driven by one of, if not the, world’s most inventive bass players. And don’t argue with me, now! We must not have dissension among the ranks!

“Mrs. Vandebilt” is all about the ever-present, runaway bass line and, of course, the up-and-down, go-high-then-low-then-high-again melody line. The first 72 seconds, and really most of this track, bear this out, painted as they are with just a few aural brushstrokes–rhythmic, acoustic guitar chord stabs, bass, percussion, vocal, and what sounds like some understated keyboard layering close to the first chorus. Then, Howie Casey’s liquid saxophone draws deserved attention for seven punctuated seconds.

A beautifully-rendered electric guitar solo (which recurs later, as does Casey’s sax) is another of the many reasons that this skillfully crafted track, like so many of McCartney’s ingenious constructs, never, ever fails to please; another one is what really is the meat of this four-and-a-half-minute moment: the rip-roaring, get-out-of-the-way, leave-my-kitten-alone close, a let’s-let-loose-at-all-costs, band-on-the-run refrain that plays sweet havoc with what has come before. Above, and for that matter below, the repeated “Ho, hey ho!” cries, McCartney’s runaway bass, sliding up and down the fretboard with determinedly enthusiastic plucks, steals the show, exiting stage right with a quick, descending run of notes before the track fades, clearing the decks for the tour de Lennon that is “Let Me Roll It.”

band on the runThere is a picture of McCartney in the booklet of the 2010 archive collection reissue of Band on the Run, in which the headphone-appointed artist is decked out in his electric blue shirt, sleeves rolled up, his left arm crossed against his chest, his right arm pointing upward and his right hand resting against his lips, pursed into a knowing smile that says, “Man, just wait ’till you hear what I’ve got up my (rolled up) sleeves.” If a picture truly speaks volumes, this one is akin to the length and breadth of the Encyclopedia Britannica.

If I close my eyes, I can see myself sitting on the edge of my bed in my college dorm room, listening to the Band on the Run album over and over as a long-haired friend sits on my no-speed bicycle, pedaling in place with abandon. “You know, this is a really great album,” my friend says as the memory tape rolls in my brain. And when “Mrs. Vandebilt” comes on, the pedaling stops in its tracks. My attention, as well as my friend’s, is suddenly focused on that insistent bass line, and as the track hits midway, my friend and I are plucking the strings of our Hofner air bass guitars even as the track fades, and without even thinking, I walk slowly to my turntable in somewhat of a daze and put the needle back to the beginning and the air Hofner plucking begins again.

Which is why I love this song.

alanhaberspurepopradiographiclarge1

listen sun blue 4-30-17

listen sun grey 4-30-17

app box 4-30-17

streamlicensing-badge

New on Pure Pop Radio: Dana Countryman’s Girlville! Sparkles!

new on pp banner hybrid 2-use this one, it's fixed

Spins and Reviews | (Originally posted 1.10.17)
By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

Dana Countryman’s Girlville! New Songs in the Style of Yesterday’s Hits
(Teensville) 2017

dana countryman's girlvilleAnd now for something completely different? Not completely, actually, because this heartfelt, loving tribute to the sounds of 1960s girl groups shares the same depth of commitment and heart that Dana Countryman put into his much-loved pop songs trilogy, concluded in 2015 with Pop 3! Welcome to My Time Warp!.

The only tangible difference here is that the 19 songs on offer are sung by an array of talented female vocalists chosen by Dana because they could match him heartbeat for heartbeat and bring to life his wonderful, period-esque songs, written from the perspective of a 16-year-old girl living in the early 1960s.

Both familiar and perhaps new-to-you vocalists such as Lisa Mychols, Swan Dive’s Molly Felder, Pop 4’s Andrea Perry, Kelly Harland, Lisa Jenio, Julie Johnson Sand, Kathy Hettel, and Tricia Countryman, along with Tana Cunningham and Mary Chris Henry, beautifully communicate the joy that has been woven by Dana and his co-writers into the fabric of this musical homage to the catchy sounds of a comparatively simpler time.

The characters who populate these songs have nothing more in mind than being smitten with boys, being jealous of girls who like the boys they like, true love, loving a Beatle, and twisting at Granny’s house. A simpler time? Most certainly, and certainly a period of their lives during which everything is full of wonder, even if it doesn’t always feel that way.

dana countryman and dee long

(left to right) Dana Countryman and Klaatu’s Dee Long

A sense of wonder permeates the proceedings throughout this delightful album, for which Dana plays most of the instruments and sings backup vocals (guests include the artist’s good luck charm, Klaatu’s Dee Long). And the highlights are many, such as the Phil Spector-y toe-tapper “Chemistry,” sung by Kathy Hettel in the guise of a girl bored in chemistry class until she partners up with the boy who sits behind her for a class project. The pair falls in love, holds hands and sits side-by-side, learning about, yes, chemistry.

“Proud to Be His Girlfriend,” sung with honest emotion by Lisa Mychols, is the simple story of a girl who is proud to be her guy’s gal. It’s a gorgeous mix of ’60s Brian Wilson and Carole King innocence. “My Heart Belongs to One Boy,” sung beautifully by Lisa Jenio, should rule the AM radio charts, and if it were around back in the good old days, it probably would have.

I’ve always felt that Dana’s music would have ruled the charts back in whichever day you might choose to focus on. The reason is simple, I think: His mantra when writing songs is always to entertain, to brighten the listener’s day. You know that feeling you get when something you hear, whether it’s a song on the radio or coming out of your home stereo or computer speakers, takes root in you in just the right way and you feel a certain type of tingling? That’s what happens when you connect with popular art that moves you.

Dana’s music moves me and always has–I’ve certainly written enough about it and played so much of it on the radio. Call it the Countryman Effect or simply accept it into your consciousness, but accept it without question and let it be a part of your life. Girlville! New Songs in the Style of Yesterday’s Hits is a joyful experience that you and I and everyone else will be remembering and enjoying for a long time to come.

black box Now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio: The entire album: “Girlville,” “It’s Not Your Fault,” “I’ve Run All Out of Tears,” “My Heart Belongs to One Boy,” “How Do You Know When You Love a Boy?,” “I’m in Love with George Harrison,” “Bom Sh Bom Bom,” “Pretty Good Sign,” “Because I Love Him,” “Chemistry,” “Jealous Girl,” “One Last Dance Together,” “Love Till the End of Time,” “Little Shy Boy,” “Proud to be His Girlfriend,” “Twist Party at Granny’s House,” “I’ll be Good For You,” “Little Bitty Snowflake,” and “Johnny Still Loves Me”
black box Where to Get It: Bandcamp, Kook Kat, iTunes

alanhaberspurepopradiographiclarge1

listen sun blue 4-30-17

listen sun grey 4-30-17

app box 4-30-17

streamlicensing-badge