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.

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

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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

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New on Pure Pop Radio: The Nines’ Alejandro’s Visions: A Harmony- and Melody-Drenched Delight, Chris Murphy with Michael Carpenter, Dana Countryman, and More

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Lovingly crafted and full of heart, Alejandro’s Visions is Steve Eggers’ masterpiece

The Nines | Alejandro’s Visions | 2016

the-nines-alejandros-visionsAfter 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.

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Steve Eggers

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.

black box 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)”
black box When and Where to Get It:
Kool Kat MusikCD Baby, and Amazon (mp3)

Here are four more recent additions to the Pure Pop Radio playlist:

chris-murphy-and-michael-carpenter-real-love-sleeveChris 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.
black box Now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio
black box When and Where to Get It: iTunes. Hear it on Spotify, and see the lovely video on YouTube

dana-countrymans-girlvilleLisa 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.
black box Now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio (exclusively through November 15)
black box When and Where to Get It: Bandcamp

the-flat-fiveThe 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.
black box 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.
black box When and Where to Get It: Bloodshot Records, Amazon, and Bandcamp

cult-of-wedge-loch-nessCult 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.
black box 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”
black box When and Where to Get It: Bandcamp

carl-funk-black-horizonCarl 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.
black box Now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio: “Time and Time,” “Resolution,” and “The Angel of Swain’s Lane”
black box When and Where to Get It: carlfunk.com

More tomorrow.

Alan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio is the original 24-hour Internet radio station playing the greatest melodic pop music from the ’60s to today. From the Weeklings to Dana Countryman, Pop 4, Tiny Volcano, and Kurt Baker, we play the hits and a whole lot more. Become a fifth Weekling by clicking on one of the listen links below.

Listen to Pure Pop Radio on the go using your Android and iOS devices! Download Our Mobile App.

Click on the image to listen to Alan Haber's Pure Pop Radio through players like iTunes

Click on the image to listen to Alan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio through players like iTunes

Don’t Miss Tonight’s In Conversation Double Shot: Dana Countryman Tells All, and Lefty and Zeek Weekling are in Studio 2 Heaven

Tonight’s double shot of Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation is a can’t-miss night of all kinds of fun.

the-weeklings-abbey-roadthe-weeklings-studio-2-smallLefty and Zeek Weekling’s recent appearance on In Conversation rolls again at 8 pm ET. Find out all about the group’s historic sessions in the House that the Beatles Built: Abbey Road, London, England’s Fab mecca, where Lefty, Zeek, Rocky and Smokestack recorded their smashing new album, Studio 2, which will be released on November 18 by the House that Builds the Hits, Jem Records.

dana-countryman-bwPure Pop Radio favorite Dana Countryman’s next album, due out in January, is preceded by a wonderful single that releases tomorrow, Friday, November 11. Dana joins Alan Haber on In Conversation tonight at 9:15 pm ET to talk about the song and the album in an exclusive chat you won’t want to miss! That’s right: Dana unveils the scoop about his exciting new album exclusively on In Conversation tonight. You won’t want to miss it! You’ll hear the new song, exclusive to our humble station through November 15 (it’s destined to be one of your favorite tracks of the year) and Dana’s voice-and-piano demo! Wow!

Stay tuned to Pure Pop Radio: We’re playing the greatest melodic pop music in the universe from the ’60s to today, 24 hours a day!

Alan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio is the original 24-hour Internet radio station playing the greatest melodic pop music from the ’60s to today. From the Weeklings to Dana Countryman, Pop 4, Tiny Volcano, and Kurt Baker, we play the hits and a whole lot more. Become a fifth Weekling by clicking on one of the listen links below.

Listen to Pure Pop Radio on the go using your Android and iOS devices! Download Our Mobile App.

Click on the image to listen to Alan Haber's Pure Pop Radio through players like iTunes

Click on the image to listen to Alan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio through players like iTunes

The Weeklings and Dana Countryman Star in this Week’s Specialty Show Lineup. Plus: Weeklings Two-Fers! You Can Win the Weeklings’ New Album on CD and Cassette!

mic-small 10This week’s lineup of specialty shows on Pure Pop Radio is set to wow listeners with the premiere of the first single from Dana Countryman’s upcoming super secret album on the great Australian label, Teensville Records, the kickoff of our Eight Days a Week marathon, celebrating the imminent release of the Weeklings’ new album, Studio 2, and a whole lot more. Plus: Dig our hourly Weeklings Two-Fers, now playing through November 18. Now, looking ahead…

the-weeklings-on-abbey-roadNext week: A Pure Pop Radio First Airing:
A very special edition of Ken Michaels’ Beatles extravaganza Every Little Thing with the Weeklings! Details forthcoming.

Okay. Let’s get to the info you need to know! Here’s the quick hit list of this week’s shows:

  • Jammin’ James Riley’s Catching a Wave (Tonight, 9 pm ET)
  • Scott McPherson’s The Weird and the Wonderful (Wednesday, November 9, 1 pm ET)
  • Glen “Lefty Weekling” Burtnik’s in-studio appearance on the old, weekly Pure Pop Radio show (Wednesday, November 9, 9 pm ET)
  • Lefty and Zeek Weekling on a rebroadcast of Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation
    (Thursday, November 10, 8 pm ET)
  • Dana Countryman on an all-new Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation (Thursday, November 10, 9:15 pm ET)

And here’s the inside scoop on each of this week’s shows:

  • the-weeklings-studio-2-smallWe’re celebrating the imminent release of the Weeklings’ fab new album, Studio 2, recorded in Abbey Road’s same-named Beatles sanctuary, with our Eight Days a Weekling marathon. Beginning today, hear hourly Weeklings Double Shots through Friday, November 18; Glen “Lefty” Burtnik’s 1997 in-studio live performance on the weekly Pure Pop Radio Show (Wednesday, November 9, 9 pm ET), and a rebroadcast of Lefty and Zeek’s appearance on Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation (Thursday, November 10, 8 pm ET).
    Your handy-dandy cutoutable Eight Days a Weekling schedule can be found here. Also here: Find out about this week’s contest to win not only a Studio 2 CD but also the album on cassette with three Beatle cover bonus tracks unavailable anywhere else. (Look for the contest this Thursday, November 10).
  • dana-countrymanPure Pop Radio favorite Dana Countryman’s next album, due out in January, is preceded by a wonderful single that releases this Friday, November 11. Dana joins Alan Haber on In Conversation to talk about the song and the album in an exclusive chat you won’t want to miss! You’ll hear the song, exclusive to our humble station through November 15 (it’s destined to be one of your favorite tracks of the year) and Dana’s voice-and-piano demo! (Thursday, November 10, 9:15 pm ET)
  • waveThis week’s all-new edition of Jammin’ James Riley’s Catching a Wave features part one of a two-part interview with none other than Dean Torrence of Jan and Dean and tracks from the Atlantics, Dick Dale, the Beach Boys and so much more. (Monday, November 7, 9 pm ET)
  • scott-mcphersons-the-weird-and-the-wonderfulPop 4 and Tiny Volcano’s Scott McPherson checks in with the sixth all-new episode of The Weird and the Wonderful lunchtime show (Wednesday, November 10, 1 pm ET). This time around, it’s a tribute to the great band Prefab Sprout, featuring tracks from the band and artists covering and tipping their musical hats. It’s an hour of pure delight!

Pure Pop Radio has your specialty show needs covered this and every week!

Alan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio is the original 24-hour Internet radio station playing the greatest melodic pop music from the ’60s to today. From the Weeklings to Dana Countryman, Pop 4, Tiny Volcano, and Kurt Baker, we play the hits and a whole lot more. Become a fifth Weekling by clicking on one of the listen links below.

Listen to Pure Pop Radio on the go using your Android and iOS devices! Download Our Mobile App.

Click on the image to listen to Alan Haber's Pure Pop Radio through players like iTunes

Click on the image to listen to Alan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio through players like iTunes

Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation Podcast Page Updated with Three New Shows

Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation on PodOMatic!

Pure Pop Radio’s In Conversation PodOmatic podcast page has been updated with three new shows first broadcast earlier this month.

lucy wainwright roche and suzzy roches mud and applesAlan Haber’s exclusive interviews with Suzzy Roche and her daughter Lucy Wainwright Roche, Tricia and Dana Countryman, and the Weeklings’ Lefty and Zeek Weekling are now available for listening and downloading from In Conversation’s PodOmatic podcast page.

tricia countryman march2016the weeklings at abbey roadHear Suzzy Roche and Lucy Wainwright Roche talk about their recently-released smash album, Mud and Apples. Listen to Tricia Countryman talk about her new solo album, Sometimes When I’m Dreaming…; husband Dana joins in to discuss his arrangements of the album’s songs, and much more. Join Lefty and Zeek Weekling (Glen Burtnik and Bob Burger) for a detailed account of the Weeklings’ time spent at Abbey Road Studios recording their upcoming second album.

It’s all for you and ready to listen to and download now–three new, smashing interviews done the Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation way!

Alan Haber: Proud Music Geek!Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation, the premiere melodic pop interview program hosted by Alan Haber, airs Tuesday nights at 8 pm ET. Archived, podcast versions of interviews are posted on the In Conversation PodOmatic podcast page; click here to listen to shows previously broadcast on Pure Pop Radio.

alan-mic-zeeAlan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio is the original 24-hour Internet radio station playing the greatest melodic pop music from the ’60s to today. From the Beatles to the Monkees, the Posies, McPherson Grant, the Connection and the New Trocaderos, we play the hits and a whole lot more. Tune in by clicking on one of the listen links below.

Listen to Pure Pop Radio on the go using your Android and iOS devices! Download Our Mobile App.

Click on the image to listen to Alan Haber's Pure Pop Radio through players like iTunes

Click on the image to listen to Alan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio through players like iTunes

Win Tricia Countryman’s Sometimes When I’m Dreaming CD

tricia countryman march2016Tricia Countryman’s new solo album, Sometimes When I’m Dreaming…, is a wonderful, melodic treat. Produced by husband Dana Countryman, this is nothing less than a lovely musical journey built on classic song craft and Tricia’s golden voice.

You can win Tricia’s Sometimes When I’m Dreaming… CD by filling in the form below and sending it on to us by next Wednesday, July 20 at noon ET. (This is a new entry deadline; this contest was part of a story about this week’s specialty shows posted yesterday and may have been missed by some readers.)

Please enter only once, and don’t forget to include your email address and type “Tricia” in the Comment box. Good luck!

Listen to Pure Pop Radio on the go using your Android and iOS devices! Download Our Mobile App.

Click on the image to listen to Alan Haber's Pure Pop Radio through players like iTunes

Click on the image to listen to Alan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio through players like iTunes