Reviews: 4.24.19: Armchair Oracles’ Guitar Pop Shines, and Lannie Flowers McCartneys Things Up

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

Armchair Oracles
Caught by Light (Kool Kat Musik (CD), 2019)

Comprising 10 songs drawn in bewitching colors, doused with the spirit of decades of classic guitar pop and seasoned by Norway’s quartet of the moment, Caught by Light jumps to the front flank of 2019’s finest releases.

Armchair Oracles, twisting and turning in and around the essence of bands such as Badfinger and Teenage Fanclub, roll out a virtual guide to being safe and at home in this life.

The breathtakingly beautiful “Don’t Let It Break You,” a muscular power ballad with soft shoulders, sings a song of hope and guidance as the narrator offers sage advice to a young friend (“Don’t let the hard times break you or leave you all behind / You’ll be good if you stand your ground”). “Several Stories” tells a melodic tale of someone who understands how to rebound from a fall from grace (“Whenever I am down / You will be around to make it better”).

Songs such as the provocatively titled “She Gets Me High,” a concise, crafted-with-care ballad about the narrator’s safe place (“I close my eyes / I hold my breath and then exhale / She lifts me up and gets me high”) continue the listener’s journey through an invigorating program of melodically-sewn musical life lessons. (We reviewed three tracks previously released as singles here; all three–“Porcelain Heart,” “All My Time,” and “Downsized Life”–are extraordinarily good.)

An unmissable long-player from Atle Skogrand (vocals and guitars), Bjørn Gamlem (guitars), Jan Ove Engeseth (bass), and Charles Wise (drums).

Where to Get It: Kool Kat Musik (CD), Digital: Bandcamp (Vinyl, too), Amazon, iTunes

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Lannie Flowers | “What Did I Know” (SpyderPop, 2019)

A love-her-but-not-for-a-lifetime toe-tapper in the best uptempo Flowers in the Dirt-era Paul McCartney tradition, “What Did I Know” continues the ongoing offering of fabulous free songs given away each month by Lannie Flowers and SpyderPop Records, during the run-up to Lannie’s forthcoming album, Home. (And, by the way, none of these free songs will be on Home.)

This is the 13th of the “Flowers” picked and presented to fans of one of melodic pop’s greatest assets, and it’s a doozy, free for the taking on SpyderPop’s website. Christmas continues to come early, am I right?

Where to Get It: SpyderPop Records’ website

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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 the 24-hour Pure Pop Radio station, which ended last August.

Welcome to your number one home for coverage of the greatest melodic pop music in the universe from the ’60s to today.

Reviews: 3.14.19: Joe Sullivan’s Growing Up Schlockstar: Love and Attraction, and Armchair Oracles Hearts You

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

Joe Sullivan | Growing Up Schlockstar
(Futureman, 2019)

Joe Sullivan’s Schlock Star was an obvious hit platter when it came out in 2014, partly because it was such a surprise and pure of spirit and joyful in song. It stood out among that year’s top releases because it didn’t pretend to be anything other than the culmination of an honest day’s work.

Schlock Star felt like a natural, pure collection of natural, pure songs. You could tell within seconds of spinning it that Joe had natural talent, that given the right circumstances, he would always deliver on the promise of that first record. And so he has, here in 2019, with the sequel to Schlock Star, cheekily entitled Growing Up Schlockstar, an even more wonderfully entertaining half-hour-long melodic pop album that, plainly put, is more fun to listen to than you could ever imagine.

It’s almost as if Joe wrote the 10 songs on Growing Up Schlockstar to provide clarity to listeners who have been looking at their growing up years and wondering what it all amounts to. Of course, Joe is most interested in what those turns of calendar pages amount to for his edification, but no matter–we all take from songs what satisfies our souls.

Growing Up Schlockstar is, put simply, about love and happiness. There are songs about suburban nirvana (“Greenfield Acres”), high school sweethearting of the pom-pom variety (“Cheerleader”), celebrating with the one you love (“Birthday”), and true love through time and space (“Time Machine”).

Mostly, what there is is emotion, looking at a life and knowing its value, played through in pop, rock and roll songs that point to the past as much as they embody the here and now. There are spot-on references to Brian May’s guitarring and the sound of Jellyfish and Fountains of Wayne, but moreover there is the sound of Joe, which is the sum of a whole lot of parts.

Joe Sullivan, grown up Schlockstar

Emotion is all over these songs. “Birthday” sounds like the lively and loud mix of guitars, bass, drums and cowbell is looking to break out of the hoosegow even if it takes all night. “Greenfield Acres,” the place where youthful dreams were made, glides along like a Jellyfish outtake with the addition of a very Brian Mayish guitar line, joyous harmonies and a lovely melody.

The biggest emotion at play in these songs is love, is attraction, is two hearts beating as one. In the album closer, the Fountains of Waynesy “Space Princess,” attraction is played out within the confines of a space opera. The path of the imperfect, throwback male explorer (“He gambles, drinks, and smokes cigars/But she doesn’t care/She wants to run her fingers through his 1970s feathered hair”) is set. “Super fantastic intergalactic/You don’t mess/With a space princess,” the explorer observes. “I’ve got my phaser/Set to amaze her/She’s the best/My space princess.”

You don’t mess with perfection, and that’s what you get with Joe and his partners-in-song on Growing Up Schlockstar. Andy Reed, who produced and engineered, always capturing the best performances, plays bass. Drummer Donny Brown puts the oomph where it belongs in his usual skillful, emotive way. Joe sings, strums, picks, wails and generally makes his guitars sing. And Brandon Schott adds a large measure of peace and love to the nostalgic childhood look back, “Gifted and Talented.”

Growing Up Schlockstar, with a colorful cover full of childlike wonder by John Bellsmith, is a joy to behold.

Where to Get It (Releases on April 1): Check back for purchase links

Armchair Oracles | “Porcelain Heart” and “All My Time” (2018),
“Downsized Life” (2019)

The delightful songs that have so far been released by Norway’s Armchair Oracles, in advance of the band’s upcoming third album, Caught by Light, have brought some welcome light into this life. With these songs, this charming band is well on its way to releasing a joyous collection of melodic pop gems.

These three lovingly crafted songs reach out and touch the sounds of the 1970s and 1980s, while also hugging contemporary sensibilites. All three are extremely catchy earworms drifting atop gorgeous melodies and beautifully-realized arrangements.

I heart Armchair Oracles, and you will too.

Where to Get It: CD Baby (all three songs)

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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 the 24-hour Pure Pop Radio station, which ended last August.

Welcome to your number one home for coverage of the greatest melodic pop music in the universe from the ’60s to today.