Spins and Reviews | 11.15.16 | by Alan Haber
Lovingly crafted and full of heart, Alejandro’s Visions is Steve Eggers’ masterpiece
The Nines | Alejandro’s Visions | 2016
After incorporating a variety of styles into a stream of releases spanning a nearly-20-year-long career, the Nines’ Steve Eggers has delivered perhaps his most heartfelt musical statement—a love letter to the classic song structures that populated the output of artists in the pre-1962 era and the more contemporary sounds that have influenced him.
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, 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.
In the story that drives the songs on Alejandro’s Visions, Alejandro, one of the main characters of the garage-rock-centered Night Surfer, travels back in time to an alternate version of the late 1950s, where he falls in love with a girl named Marie. Unfortunately, it’s a love that doesn’t last.
The songs on Alejandro’s Visions bring Eggers’ ideas to life. Witness such lovingly crafted creations as 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.
A student of popular songs created across the decades, Eggers continues to write and record music that moves him and, as evidenced by his ongoing popularity, his ever-growing audience. Alejandro’s Visions, while perhaps a collection of songs that is unexpected, is moreover a sterling addition to a body of work that stands tall among pop music’s greatest achievements. This is Eggers’ best and most assured work yet, an immensely satisfying work that belongs in every melodic pop music fan’s collection.
Now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio: “And Suddenly,” “Beachfront in New York,” “Can’t Go Back to Ocean Town,” “Darling I Adore You,” “Escape from a Small Town,” “Everybody Knows Me,” “I Have Found You,” “I’m an Old Soul and You’re Old Fashioned,” and “Operator (Coming Home to You)”
When and Where to Get It: Kool Kat Musik, CD Baby, and Amazon (mp3)
Here are four more recent additions to the Pure Pop Radio playlist:
Chris Murphy with Michael Carpenter | “Real Love” This absolutely gorgeous ballad recasting of John Lennon’s song, released in 1996 on the Beatles Anthology 2 as the second new group track after “Free as a Bird,” is one of this year’s major triumphs in melodic pop music. For one thing, 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. Murphy, whose superb solo work can also be heard on Pure Pop Radio, proves, in the space of four minutes and ten seconds, all this and much more. Carpenter plays all of the instruments. Essential listening.
Now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio
When and Where to Get It: iTunes. Hear it on Spotify, and see the lovely video on YouTube
Lisa Mychols | “I’ve Run All Out of Tears (To Cry Over You)” I had the great pleasure and distinct honor of premiering this lovely retro-charmer, the first single from the forthcoming labor of love, Dana Countryman’s Girlville! New Songs in the Style of Yesterday’s Hits, on November 10. The occasion was an exclusive interview with Dana on Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation, during which he talked publicly for the first time about this album, which I predict will be one of the most talked-about long players of 2017.
Close your eyes while listening to this three-minute-long, lovingly-crafted number, built on a genuine love for the girl group and Brill Building sounds of the early 1960s, and you will find yourself transported back to a much simpler time, perhaps, when melody and joy were king. Lisa Mychols’ authentic, warm-hearted vocal is a blast of musical love. Dana paints his soundscape with colorful, period brushstrokes, even as he tops his creation off with a Brian May-like guitar solo from Klaatu’s Dee Long.
You will hear more, much more, about the girl group sounds lovingly celebrated on Dana Countryman’s Girlville! New Songs in the Style of Yesterday’s Hits closer to the album’s January 13, 2017 release by Australia’s Teensville Records. Until then, savor this lead track and smile.
Now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio (exclusively through November 15)
When and Where to Get It: Bandcamp
The Flat Five | It’s a World of Love and Hope From out Chicago way comes this group of harmony-centric harmony hounds. A supergroup of sorts due to the member’s affiliation with artists such as Neko Case and the New Pornographers, the Flat Five took a long road toward making this, their first album, playing a growing number of gigs during which they performed songs written by group member Scott Ligon’s brother Chris. Intent on getting a wide audience for Chris’s songs, they set about recording them. The result is 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 Roches-like “Bottom Buck.” Records like this one don’t come along every day, which makes It’s a World of Love and Hope pretty special.
Now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio: “Florida,” “Buglight,” “Bottom Buck,” I Could Fall in Love with You,” “Birmingham,” and “This is Your Night,” which sounds like a cross between the Free Design and the Association, an unlikely combination perhaps, but oh so tasty.
When and Where to Get It: Bloodshot Records, Amazon, and Bandcamp
Cult of Wedge | Loch Ness Monsters and Motherships This latest musical missive from UK parish Rowley Regis’s Pete Hackett notches a best-album-yet nod for its top-notch selection of catchy songs, all performed with gusto. Hackett’s obvious love of the pop form glistens on the half-dozen songs from this album now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio. Earworms all.
Now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio: “That Song Last Summer,” “When I Was Young,” “Miss America,” “Oh Lindsay,” “Wish Ourselves Away,” and “Shine on Me”
When and Where to Get It: Bandcamp
Carl Funk | Black Horizon Vanilla fans will be familiar with Carl Funk from his widescreen lead vocal on “The Angel of Swain’s Lane” from the group’s 2.0 album (also appearing here), sung, as I said in my October 15, 2014 review of the song, “with deep emotion and old world style.” Carl’s committed, soulful voice drives these songs, carved with (and yes, I am coining a new word) an Amerisoulfulcana blade which fit perfectly among the various pop colors in our on-air mix. Wonderful stuff.
Now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio: “Time and Time,” “Resolution,” and “The Angel of Swain’s Lane”
When and Where to Get It: carlfunk.com