Favorite Records of the Year: Stars of 2018

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

Happy New Year, and welcome to the list.

About said list…it was the subject of my one and only New Year’s resolution: to keep the number of entries to 15. Well, good luck with that, I told myself, and wouldn’t you know it…I couldn’t make that work. How about 20? No? Okay then, how about 22? Twenty-two it is.

My annual list of the year’s best full-length releases collects what are, to me, the absolute top of the pops–the very bestest of the bunch. I liked and loved and adored many more long players, of course, but these are the ones I thought about and returned to the most.

As in past years, my favorite records of the year are listed in random order. I’ve never been able to compile lists of any kind in order of importance, size, or weight; my number five of today might drop to number 11 or rise two spots tomorrow, depending on my mood. So, random order it is.

Here are some truly exceptional releases–Pure Pop Radio’s Favorite Records of the Year: The Stars of 2018, presented randomly, all shiny and bright, all perfect for a place in your collection of great melodic pop music. A gathering of honorable mentions appears after the main list.

Enjoy.

David Myhr | Lucky Day (Lojinx, 2018)
A beautifully rendered selection of melody-rich songs from one of melodic pop music’s greatest practitioners, Lucky Day is the sound of a master songwriter’s loving embrace.

A warmhearted musical journey, Lucky Day’s 10 lovingly crafted songs, written solo and with some of melodic pop’s top writers, feature beautiful melodies and top-notch playing and singing. All contribute to one of 2018’s best albums. “Room to Grow,” written with Pure Pop Radio favorite Bill DeMain, about giving a romance all the chances it deserves to prosper, is just one gorgeous example of the treasures on offer.

Produced by Brad Jones, Andreas Dahlbäck and Myhr, Lucky Day is a wonderful gift to lovers of melodic pop.

black box Where to Get It: Amazon, Lojinx

The Cherry Drops | Good to the Last Drop (2018)
On-air and mobile deejay Vern Shank’s melange of bubblegum and sunshine pop populates the Cherry Drops’ third welcome, rousing collection of smile-inducing songs that simultaneously evoke memories of favorite old songs and create memories of new numbers written and performed in the manner of the ’60s and ’70s.

Featuring co-writes with fellow Cherry Drop Joshua Cobb and classic popsters such as the Archies’ Ron Dante, the Grass Roots’ Mark Dawson, and the late Gary DeCarlo of Steam, and choice covers of treasured hit classic numbers, Good to the Last Drop is a mighty fun ride.

“One More Try” is a Paul McCartney-esque mid-tempo slice of pure pop topped with Queen-styled electric guitar runs. “Feels Like Summer Love” is a loving nod to ’60s Beach Boys balladry, maybe the truest such tip of the hat in recent memory. The harmonies are gorgeous. The Cherry Drops pay homage to the Lovin’ Spoonful’s classic “You Didn’t Have to Be So Nice,” bringing in original Spoonful member Steve Boone on bass and opening with a lovely a cappella-over-keyboard opening.

A fun time will be had by all.

black box Where to Get It: The Cherry Drops’ Website, CD Baby, Amazon, iTunes

mothboxer open sky coverMothboxer | Open Sky (2018)
Dave Ody’s outfit stretches into some of the most creative, expression-filled songs of its long history on an album steeped in clever songcraft. A coming together and pulling apart experience built around surprising chord changes and elastic melodies, set against primarily alternative instrumental backings, Open Sky is aptly named.

Among the many highlights: “Sunshine Sound,” a slow-to-mid tempo song set sound-wise vaguely in the Beach Boys’ Holland era, and “Million Miles Away,” perhaps the most immediate sounding song on the album, a piano-based tune with harmony vocals that shine.

Open Sky is a keeper, maybe Mothboxer’s best.

black box Where to Get It: Bandcamp, Mothboxer’s Web Store

Alice Bierhorst | Ready for My Close-Up (2018)
The followup to 2016’s The Beacon is an even more astute collection of piano-based musical wizardry from this New York-based artist. High art meets accessible in these 10 songs that recall the works of early Carly Simon, Claire Hamill and Laura Nyro.

The title song is a pleasing, dramatic collision of Broadway and British folk. “Save It for a Rainy Day” is a slow burn of a ballad that shows off Bierhorst’s dynamic vocal range. “Beginners” is a drawing room waltz that rolls atop Peter Kiesewalter’s lively arrangement.

Call it all classical pop or singer-songwriter musings for the 2010s, but do call it yours by adding Ready for My Close-Up to your collection of smart pop. Bierhorst’s melodies reach the highest heights; Bierhorst is ready for her close-up, and then some.

black box Where to Get It: Alice Bierhorst’s Website, Bandcamp

Danny Wilkerson | Wilkerson (Spyderpop, 2018)
Working together with Bleu, who produced this superlative pure pop platter and co-wrote the songs, Danny Wilkerson, the always-and-forever Pengwin, has whipped up a self-titled opus that is by far this year’s most affecting collection of catchy, melodic earworms.

Wilkerson is a thing of wonder. Any and all, for that matter, of these dazzling songs could, and do, serve as examples of how to do it. Like the dynamic leadoff track, “Everybody Loves to Love,” a masterful piece of writing and statement of melodic purpose that begins drawing breath as if it were arranged by Burt Bacharach and goes on to incorporate a variety of tempos and approaches during its alluring five-and-one-half minutes.

All told, Wilkerson is nothing less than a good thing. It is, in fact, a great thing, and another feather in the cap of the mighty Spyderpop record label.

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

McPherson Grant | McPherson Grant (2018)
Paying sweet homage to the melodic pop ruling class headed by Harry Nilsson, Paul McCartney, Klaatu, Brian Wilson and the like, Scott McPherson and Jamie Grant–their last names fused together in joyous harmony–have crafted almost an hour’s worth of sturdy earworms. Endlessly endearing songs like the lovely and charming “Housekeeper,” about cleaning up a romantic life gone sour and empty and honestly assessing the less-than-attractive situation ensure repeatability.

Cut from the catchy cloth of so many ’70s classics, the perky “Come Around Again,” about learning to realize and revel in the bountiful joy in front of one’s face, is propelled by Zak Nilsson’s drums and a sunny disposition that wouldn’t feel out of place during the summer months. And speaking of summer, “Let’s Drive to Summer” recounts a slow-growing, toe-tapping Beach Boys-by-way-of-Holland road course from cold Canada to warm Florida (“We’ll just follow the coast/Our sandals and shorts in tow/Waiting till the palms wave hello”).

Produced, written, played, arranged and recorded by Scott and Jamie (and don’t ask who did what; it’s a mystery even to both halves of the duo), and featuring guest turns by Zak Nilsson and Klaatu’s Terry Draper and Dee Long, Song travels the path negotiated by so many artists who came before them, but in a way that is significantly and characteristically their own. Song is a marvel.

black box Where to Get It: Tiny Volcano’s Web Shop, Kool Kat Musik

The Davenports | Don’t Be Mad at Me (2018)
Scott Klass and crew’s fourth long player, arriving 18 years after their smashing debut, Speaking Of, is the usual collection of literate, assured, thinking person’s pop songs. Anchored by the masterful title song, a tremendously enriching melodically-charged experience about a family light whose world has slowed to a crawl, who is needing help to maneuver through her days, this album swims in waters populated with one incredibly rich song after another.

“Away From Me,” sporting a typically attractive Klass melody, is a vaguely countryish construct about saying goodbye to one side of one’s personality, supported by strings that bend somewhat ominously around the melody. And “I Don’t Know What to Do,” an insanely catchy kind of left-field number co-written by Klass and David Myhr, is built around a clever, rocky riff and does its business in just over two minutes. It’s quite ingenious.

A great album.

black box Where to Get It: The Davenports’ Online Store, Amazon, Kool Kat Musik, iTunes

Caper Clowns | A Salty Taste to the Lake (2018)
The mighty Caper Clowns are back with their sophomore long player, another well-crafted collection of top-flight melodic pop gems. From the undeniably catchy opening confection “The Way I Dream,” which sports a clever acoustic guitar riff and an enchanting melody, to “Sacre Bleu,” a piano-based, harmony wonder that sounds like the kind of song radio should be embracing and sending up to the top of the charts, A Salty Taste to the Lake is a winner all the way. That makes two in a row. Good job, guys.

black box Where to Get It: Kool Kat Musik, iTunes, Amazon

Les Bicyclettes de Belsize | The Twelve Days of Christmas (2018)
A late-year surprise and not only a charming, top-flight holiday-themed album but one of the best melodic pop albums of the year, Charlie Darling’s collection of original from-the-heart Christmas songs will warm you like a heaping cup of peppermint candy cane-flavored good cheer.

Bittersweet holiday tales told in pretty swaths of lovingly rendered melody, and sung with an everyman’s sweetness, color this delightful song cycle; sincere, understated orchestration, a literary approach to lyrical conceits, and a pinch of sleigh bells catch the ear time and again in lovely slow- and mid-tempo-ballads.

Darling’s vocals, sort of a contemporary cross between the tones of the Big Dish’s Steven Lindsay and Pet Shop Boys’ Neil Tennant, are key to making  songs like gentle ballads “Every Christmas,” about missing a love gone away grab hold of your heart. And then the artist changes course: “Andy Partridge (From XTC)” is a spirited pop sprint substituting the names of pop and rock bands through the ages for the various creatures evidenced in “The Twelve Days of Christmas” (Three Dog Night, the Dave Clark Five, Gang of Four, Nine Inch Nails and Joe Strummer (strumming), among them).

One of the best albums of the year, Christmas-oriented or not? Yes, indeed.

black box Where to Get It: Bandcamp

Bill Lloyd | Working the Long Game (Spyderpop, 2018)
Bill Lloyd, one of melodic pop’s most distinguished practitioners of the art, has released one of the very best albums of 2018, with which you will fall in love.

Working the Long Game’s dozen melodic pearls, whether written solo or with top song scribes like 10cc’s Graham Gouldman, Cheap Trick’s Tom Petersson, and Wanderlust’s Scot Sax, are gorgeous, instantly classic gems of the Lloydian variety. Like the co-write with Graham Gouldman, “What Time Won’t Heal,” about letting love in again after a relationship withers away (“What time won’t heal/Love will repair/And if you open up your heart/You’ll find it there”).

The closer, “Shining,” is a beautiful ballad of the one-man-band variety that features some lovely sixties-inspired guitar lines and harmonies. The narrator sings about his true love and you will feel the emotion. It’s all fantastic, so get ready to fall in love.

black box Where to Get It: Spyderpop, Kool Kat Musik, Amazon, CD Baby

Fernando Perdomo | Zebra Crossing (2018)
Recorded in famed Abbey Road Studios and in Perdomo’s own Reseda Ranch Studios, the wearer of many musical hats’ fourth album is a rich tapestry of styles centered around the artist’s considerable composing and instrumental prowess. It’s a clear winner.

Highlights are many. The gorgeous ballad, “I’m Here,” is as good and classy an opening track as one could imagine; a strong melody and emotive vocals make the proceedings shine. The poppy “Sometimes I Feel Like Nothing at All,” cowritten by Beach Boys lyricist Stephen Kalinich, is an inviting tune topped by sensitive strings. And popster Ken Sharp guests on guitar on the should-be-a-radio-hit “Find Love,” a spectacular upbeat, McCartneyesque pop song.

Speaking of Fab connections, an all-in, emotionally reverent cover of George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” credited to the Zebra Crossing All Star Band, finds guest vocalists Diane Birch, Shawn Lee, and Jason and Daphna Rowe and lead guitarist Perdomo taking center stage for a thrilling album closer. What better Beatles track to cover for an album named in tribute to the area in front of the studio the Fabs called home?

black box Where to Get It: Bandcamp, Amazon, Kool Kat Musik

Mick Terry | Days Go By (Kool Kat, 2018)
Mick Terry’s Days Go By is 2018’s standout pure melodic pop album. It’s filled with the kind of songs that used to jump out of transistor radios way back in the when.

Every one of these 10 songs is golden. Witness: “Emily Come Back,” an upbeat, poppy tune that’s sure to please and features this album’s title in the lyric. “Everybody’s Talking” is an upbeat, sixties influenced Motown-meets-Billy Joel song (think around the time of Joel’s An Innocent Man album), a toe-tapping classic if ever I heard one. And “Friends Like That” is another upbeat gem with a great melody, handclaps, horns and a crazy, meaty guitar solo.

Working with producer Jim Boggia, Terry has produced a clear, melodic winner.

black box Where to Get It: Kool Kat Musik, Mick Terry on Bandcamp

Astral Drive | Astral Drive (Lojinx, 2018)
Longtime producer and songwriter Phil Thornalley has made nothing less than the Todd Rundgren album that Todd Rundgren never made in the 1970s. Astral Drive is nothing less than one of the best albums of 2018.

Astral Drive finds Phil Thornalley doing most of the heavy lifting for a joyous tour de force composed of original songs that echo the catchy sounds that the Hermit of Mink Hollow made all those many years ago. Thornalley, a legendary producer and songwriter whose lengthy list of credits includes co-writing Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn,” fell in love with Todd Rundgren’s music when he heard Todd’s song “Useless Begging.” The rest, as they say, is history.

Astral Drive’s go-to, so-much-fun-to-listen-to song “Summer of ’76” practically demands that you sing along, whether you know the words or not. You will love, with all of your heart, the warm ballad “Wishing I Could Change the World,” which honors the classic Todd-meets-Philly-Soul bond, and the glorious, melody-infused, upbeat “Love is Real.”

One of 2018’s biggest and happiest surprises, without a doubt.

black box Where to Get It:  The Lojinx shop, Kool Kat Musik, Amazon, and iTunes

Michael Simmons | First Days of Summer (2018)
Musician and high school educator Michael Simmons, from Yorktown Lads and the much-missed sparkle*jets u.k., has crafted a stylistically diverse collection of songs that expertly lays out the artist’s diverse musical vision and dedication to craft.

From the opening and closing near-perfect, soft-pop bookends “Do Your Best to Care,” a keyboard driven toe-tapper featuring a determined, jazzy electric guitar solo, and the sleepy, closing ballad “Center of the Spiral,” which ends as if a turntable’s needle has become comfortably stuck in a loop within a record’s runoff wax, First Days of Summer speaks to melody-hungry melodic pop fans.

What shines brightly and decisively from within these dozen tracks is the passion that Michael Simmons has for making and playing music (he played most of the instruments on this album). He would do well to keep at this music thing and start planning his next collection with due haste.

black box Where to Get It: Bandcamp

Linus of Hollywood | Cabin Life (2018)
Nearly 20 years after his debut long player landed on planet Earth, Linus of Hollywood has served up 10 scoops of tasty, melodic treats on Cabin Fever, his delightful fifth effort that really, truly is the kind of thing that puts a spring in your step.

Some heartfelt words of wisdom are imparted in the fast-paced pop song “Won’t Let It Get Me Down,” played and sung with gusto. Cabin Life’s tender closing ballad, “It Was You,” details a love story for the ages. Beautifully sung and dedicated to Linus’s wife Augusta, the emotional arrangement marries delicate orchestration to nimble acoustic guitar playing as Linus sings about his true soul mate. “I finally got out of my own way,” he sings. “Everything just felt so easy/And I left behind my yesterday/You saved me from myself, believe me.”

“Drive up to the hills/Take that winding road/I think I remember where it goes,” the title song sings. And that winding road? It goes to one of 2018’s very best albums–Linus of Hollywood’s lovely Cabin Life.

black box Where to Get It: Linus of Hollywood’s web store, Amazon, iTunes

Dana Countryman | Cabaret of Love (Sterling Swan, 2018)
The year is not complete without a musical missive from melodic pop music’s melody and harmony king. Dana Countryman’s Cabaret of Love is one of 2018’s top long players, a joyous song cycle that surveys the feeling that unites us all: love.

Every number is a winner in this Cabaret of Love. “Just See If I Care” is a happy-sounding, hit-the-road-Jill Merseybeat-styled rocker featuring the Spongetones’ Jamie Hoover singing along and playing lead guitar in quite a Fab way. The heartfelt Four Freshmen homage, “The Night I Fell in Love With You,” is an unforgettable, romantic number with an affecting tea room orchestra arrangement and warm lead vocal sung by Tim Smolens from I.S.S. (Ideal Social Situation).

Cabaret of Love is chock full of guest star turns from such pop favorites as Klaatu’s Terry Draper (who turns in a top-shelf, particularly romantic lead vocal on “I’ll Be Shining Above You”), Klaatu’s Dee Long (electric guitar on “Shout”), and Tiny Volcano’s Scott McPherson (vocals on “You’re Still Number One”).

Cabaret of Love is a glorious gift for music lovers everywhere.

black box Where to Get It: Bandcamp, Amazon

Carpenter Smith and Jones | Petty (Big Radio, 2018)
Petty is a sincere and lovely celebration of the music of one of rock’s most magnanimous songwriters and performers, now sadly departed. It is a triumphant achievement, performed with heart by Michael Carpenter and songbirds Abby Smith and Sophie Jones.

The trio’s earthy vocal blend and the perhaps more deliberate pacing of the songs combine to amplify the emotions contained within the lyrics and music for a particularly engaging listen.

“Runnin’ Down a Dream” is recast as a slow, sometimes moody shuffle, a vocal workout bolstered by bracing electric guitars and Carpenter’s forceful drums. “Don’t Come Around Here No More” finds itself swimming atop a dreamy landscape played out with only nimble electric guitar backing beneath the trio’s emotional vocals (the final harmony stack is a joy to behold). And the Traveling Wilburys’ “End of the Line,” which closes this collection, takes on a singalong gospel tone; handclaps and joyous, freeing vocals abound. Prepare for an emotionally uplifting listening experience.

black box Where to Get It: Bandcamp, Kool Kat Musik

The Grand Levé | The Grand Levé (2018)
Göran Hjertstedt, who made the quite grand The Grand Levé with Europe’s (the Swedish rock band, not the continent) Ian Haugland, Ulf Holmberg, Göran Holmberg, Staffan Ebbesten, and Jonas Karlberg, is a music making veteran (best known for the equally grand Longplayer).

Although The Grand Levé fairly obviously shares cell structure with the music of Jeff Lynne, 10cc, Queen, Tom Petty and other members of the usual suspects club, and traffics in motifs pioneered during such periods as the 1960s and 1700s (note the classically-inclined first track, “And Light Appeared,” which straddles influences by either consciously or subconsciously quoting Elton John), the artist Hjertstedt is his own man, and The Grand Levé is his album.

Dig the Electric Light Orchestra vibe of “All in the City.” “Free” is very melody-rich Tom Petty, and “Yesterday Man” is very pure pop and Göran Hjertstedt by way of Longplayer. The mutli-retro “Two to Tango,” a bluesy drawing room number about love and dancing that namechecks Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, is another slice of joy.

The Grand Levé makes its mark because its sound pictures, drawn with love and affection, tell an affecting, collective tale. The Grand Levé is nothing less than a triumph for fans of melodic pop music.

black box Where to Get It: Kool Kat Musik, CD Baby. Stream on YouTube and Spotify

Louise Goffin | All These Hellos (2018)
An exceptional dialog driven by melody and emotion, All These Hellos is a steamer trunk full of memories placed under a microscope to help us figure our place under the sun.

Anchored by Goffin’s lovely, fragile vocals and superb playing from star musicians such as Fernando Perdomo, these 10 songs are quite an attractive showcase for superlative songwriting. The artist is clearly invested in these slices of reflective pop; such is the strength of communication with the listener.

Goffin embraces her pop side with a number of straight ahead, upbeat charmers. “Good Times Call” is a soulful and very catchy sixties-esque pop number about being in love and feeling it. “Life Lessons,” another upbeat pop tune with piano at its core and punctuated by horns, is about being true to yourself and following your heart. And the title song is an inviting mid-tempo number about needing the memories of a childhood place to fade.

A wonderfully rich collection of songs; a terrific album.

black box Where to Get It: Amazon, iTunes

 ∴

Super 8 | Hi Lo (Futureman, 2018)
Paul Ryan, d/b/a Super 8, ended 2018 with another top-flight recording–his third of the year–collecting 11 strong songs about employing hopefulness along one’s path through life.

“Angels and Neil Diamond” is a tremendous piece of writing, an easygoing, acoustic look back on childhood’s glory days, reliving one’s youth through good times and bad. It’s a lovely, affecting song that is followed by proof that the title is holly holy. Ryan presents a clever take on Diamond’s wonderful “Cherry, Cherry,” which is pretty life affirming on its own, especially in Ryan’s recasting of the tune as part garage, part coffee house, and all Super 8.

The Rolling Stones nod, “Good Times” (“Had enough of the bad times”), is a happy stroke in the running order, as is the pop-folk hybrid “Bob Dylan Said That,” about getting by in life with your own vision, and, no doubt, following on from what you’ve learned from the bard’s poetry.

The hits just keep on coming; you’ll love every one of them, delivered in Ryan’s emotive style. And for those of you wondering why the man didn’t go for four albums in a single year, just remember…there’s always this year.

Where to Get It: Futureman, Kool Kat Musik

The Grip Weeds | Trip Around the Sun (Jem, 2018)
This dynamic collection, recorded at the Grip Weeds’ home base, House of Vibes in Highland Park, New Jersey, pushes across the finish line a dozen high energy songs. The band has upped the level of urgency normally associated with their work. In other words, business as usual, with a bit more zing.

In the well-appointed, melody-drenched opener, “Vibrations,” the stage is set with a mix of chiming guitars and rich harmony parts. Not for the first time on this album, I felt as though I were listening to Free Design vocalizing decades after that group’s 1960s and 1970s heyday. The effect that the Grip Weeds have achieved with this song alone is hall-of-fame worthy.

So it should hardly come as a surprise that the band’s deft weaving together of yesterday’s musical signposts and today’s contemporary approaches continue throughout these songs. Take the poppy “After the Sunrise,” for example, which slides from tender acoustic to more upbeat electric guitar stances so expertly, with a lovely melody and sweet harmonies in tow.

The whole pop-rocking ball of wax rolls into the exhaustive closer, the six-minute-long title track, which states its introductory case firmly opened in widescreen, Who territory and concludes with all instruments and vocals blazing and coming together in an impassioned burst of emotion. What a welcome shout of energetic joy this album brings!

black box Where to Get It: The Grip Weeds’ Trip Around the Sun Store, Amazon

Vegas With Randolph | Legs & Luggage (2018)
Legs & Luggage is Vegas With Randolph’s best album yet. It is a marvel. This is a new-phase VWR album that thunders across the plains with harder-edged chutzpah than their previous releases. The guitars are louder and the sound is more aggressive. The sound is more purposeful, but just as catchy and fun as always.

For this new album, the band has recorded songs with flashy hooks just as they have done all along, but this time around, there is perhaps a little more oomph spitting out of the engine. This new-phase VWR is a well-oiled and rocking machine.

It’s not just the sound of this thing, it’s the words sung sweetly, confidently, meaningfully and powerfully all the way through, telling stories of a scholarly seductress (“She’s An Intellectual”), completely fulfilling forever love (“I Have You”), and riding the roller coaster of love even though it might tug back (“Jacob”). Then, there’s “Three Red Hooks,” presenting the power of music as a metaphor for confident performance with perhaps this album’s most creative lyrics (“Rock steady/Kick it like Eddie/Didn’t know if he meant Van Halen or Vedder/But whatever/While we’re together/We’d better turn it up loud/And kick it on out”).

This album is titled Legs & Luggage because the songs are largely about transitioning from one thing to another, about taking chances, about moving on from here to there—about transporting emotion packed neatly, or otherwise, in virtual compartments. Legs & Luggage functions as a bridge to the next chapter in Vegas With Randolph’s life; how that reality will manifest itself is unknown at present. But manifest itself it will.

black box Where to Get It: Bandcamp, iTunes, Amazon

Honorable Mentions (in no particular order, with Bandcamp/CD Baby/website links):

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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 this last August. Welcome to your number one home for coverage of the greatest melodic pop music in the universe from the ’60s to today. Happy New Year!

Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation Podcasts: David Myhr (Airdate: May 16, 2018)

alan headshot from schoolBy Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

On May 16, David Myhr was my very special guest on an all-new hour-long edition of Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation. The topic of conversation, fittingly, was David’s wonderful new album, Lucky Day, which was released by Lojinx. A festival of pure pop pleasures, Lucky Day presents eight songs co-written with some of the best and brightest pop song scribes working today, from Bill DeMain to Linus of Hollywood. The other two tunes are solo Myhr compositions, one of which, “The Perfect Place,” is pretty well perfect.

LJX115 David Myhr - Lucky DayDuring this program, we played, and David spoke about, three songs from Lucky Day: Room to Grow,” written with Pure Pop Radio favorite Bill DeMain; “Lovebug,” co-written by David and another Pure Pop Radio favorite, Linus of Hollywood; and the aforementioned “The Perfect Place.” (Listen to each of these songs on Spotify by clicking on the song titles.)

David also spoke to me about the trip he took from Sweden to the United States, during which he met with his co-writers to come up with snappy songs, some of which appear on Lucky Day. Also on our agenda: David’s work as a senior lecturer at a music university in the north of Sweden, and the big musical surprise in store for folks who purchase the CD version of Lucky Day.

Don’t miss this information-packed and delightful conversation with one of melodic pop music’s great talents. Purchase David Myhr’s Lucky Day at the Lojinx store, and at Amazon and iTunes.

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pprListen to my interview with David Myhr from the May 16 edition of Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation by clicking the play button on the following player, or click on the Pure Pop Radio button to the left to download (then right click and choose “Save audio as” to save the file to your computer). (This interview is presented in scoped format; the songs have been removed due to copyright concerns.)

 


Listen to a wide selection of previously-aired Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation interviews by clicking here.

ppr radio purple background - insetPure Pop Radio plays the greatest melodic pop music from across the decades, 24 hours a day. Listen by clicking on the Live365 Listen Now button at left. Hear us once and you’ll be a listener for life. Join us, won’t you? You’ll be glad you did!

Pure Pop Radio’s signature shows, Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation (Wednesday, 9 pm ET) and Alan Haber’s Pop Tunes Deejay Show (Thursday, 8 pm ET), air exclusively on Pop that Goes Crunch Radio.

New on Pure Pop Radio 5.16.18: Lisa Mychols, David Myhr, Vanilla and Ken Sharp

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

alan headshot from school

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

Spins and Reviews | 5.16.18

Lisa Mychols | Sugar (2018)
PrintScheduled for release on June 15 and just in time for summer’s arrival on June 21, Sugar is perhaps the most appropriately titled album of the year–a joyous, harmony-filled singer’s showcase, imbued with sweet songs sung sweetly. This is the sound of pure pop made for a life under sun-drenched skies spreading light and love over lazy mid-year, carefree days.

Sugar is nothing less than Lisa Mychols’ greatest achievement, and that, as has been said before, is really saying something.

One part girl-group aesthetic and one other part sunshine pop, Sugar’s songs, built around gorgeous, rich harmonies and Lisa’s most assured vocals ever, should have no trouble lifting spirits as they entertain. It would be impossible to deny the pleasing power of beauteous creations such as “Loving You” and the full-on, sugary sweet uptempo wonder “Don’t Wanna Close My Eyes.”

And then there is “He’s Got Me Dreaming,” a girl-group confection running atop a steady rock beat, “Domino,” within which rock steady verses meet pop choruses, and “Next to Impossible,” a sweet, bluesy ballad.

It’s a wonder to behold, this album full of wonders. This is your summer album, sung sweetly by one of melodic pop music’s most enduring, endearing talents. Steve Refling produced, played all of the instruments, and co-wrote all of the songs with Lisa. Sugar is sweet. Don’t miss it.

black box Now Playing in Rotation on Pure Pop Radio: “One Revolution,” “Loving You Baby,” “Domino,” “Don’t Wanna Close My Eyes,” “Goodbye to All Carousels,” “Next to Impossible,” “He’s Got Me Dreaming,” and “Into Oblivion”
black box Where to Get It: Check back soon for purchase links

David Myhr | Lucky Day (Lojinx, 2018)
LJX115 David Myhr - Lucky DayA beautifully rendered selection of melody-rich songs from one of melodic pop music’s greatest practitioners, Lucky Day is the sound of a master songwriter’s loving embrace. It is a warmhearted musical journey you will want to take over and over again.

Lucky Day’s 10 lovingly crafted songs, eight written with some of pop music’s top talents while David was on a trip to the United States and two self-scribed, speak to the heart of what matters to melodic pop music fans; all feature beautiful melodies and top-notch playing and singing. All contribute to one of this year’s best albums.

“Room to Grow,” written with Pure Pop Radio favorite Bill DeMain, is about giving a romance all the chances it deserves to prosper. Listening to this song, I hear a rhythmic kinship to Paul McCartney’s “Arrow Through Me.” The background vocals, as the song progresses, suggest a 1930s sort of vibe. The gorgeous harmonica solo, very Stevie Wonder-like, is played with heart and great skill by Mikael Bäckman. It’s quite a delectable stew.

The pretty ballad “Lovebug,” written with another Pure Pop Radio favorite, Linus of Hollywood, who sings background vocals, came about when David arrived at Linus’s home and said hello to the family dog. Linus’s wife said the dog was a lovebug, and therein lay the inspiration for the title of this classic piece of songwriting. The music is pretty, while the lyrics tell a different, bittersweet story–one of a disconnected romance: “I’m under the water and fighting for air/But your gravity’s pulling me down/They tell me I’ll live but I don’t feel alive at all.” It’s quite an achievement.

“The Perfect Place,” one of two songs on Lucky Day written solely by David, soars with an affecting melody, an ultra-catchy chorus, and live strings that ingeniously bring the number to a satisfying, unique conclusion.

And on and on the album goes–one great song after another that you will treasure forever. Produced by Brad Jones, Andreas Dahlbäck and David Myhr, and recorded at Jones’s Alex the Great Recording in Nashville and at studios in Stockholm, Sweden, Lucky Day is a wonderful gift to lovers of melodic pop. And speaking of gifts, CD purchasers should stay tuned after the 10th song plays; a lucky gift awaits.

black box Now Playing in Rotation on Pure Pop Radio: “Jealous Sun,” “The Perfect Place,” “Lucky Day,” “Wait Until the Moment,” “My Negative Friend,” “Room to Grow,” “If You Really Think It’s Over,” and “Lovebug”
black box Where to Get It: Preorder at Lojinx, and at Amazon and iTunes; stream the album at Spotify, Tidal, Deezer and Apple Music, beginning May 18.

Vanilla |”Itchykoo Park” | Mystik Knights of Takoma (2018)

london underground sign(World Radio Premiere on Alan Haber’s Pop Tunes Deejay Show, Thursday, May 17, 8 pm ET on Pop that Goes Crunch Radio)

Jayson Jarmon’s always intriguing outfit returns with another song slated for inclusion on the group’s upcoming Mystik Knights of Takoma collection. This time around, the Vanillians transform the Small Faces’ classic song “Itchykoo Park” by applying a glittery coat of glam inspiration and a straight-ahead rhythm. The result is almost otherworldly, as they gather to breathe new life into Steve Marriott and Ronnie Lane‘s 1967 masterpiece.

Sung with his usual invested, emotional connection to both music and lyrics, guest vocalist Regan Lane, from Strangely Alright, grabs both with total conviction. In the process, he transforms “Itchykoo Park” into a contemporary, psychedelic parable. “It’s all too beautiful,” Lane sings, and he means every syllable. It’s another can’t-miss slice of Vanilla.

black box Now Playing on Pure Pop Radio
black box Where to Get It: Available May 18 at Vanilla’s Bandcamp site

Ken Sharp | “She Hates the Beatles” | Single, 2018
ken sharp she hates the beatles coverAfter musician and co-producer Fernando Perdomo suggested the title, Ken ran with it and conjured up a guy’s ultimate fear: that the girl he loves hates the Fab Four. From that scary conjuring comes this upbeat, catchy pop song that lyrically, and with a healthy dose of jocularity, pounds the ceremonial nail into a relationship’s coffin.

The song’s lyrics get into the down and dirty of this doomed pairing: “She don’t know John from Paul/But baby what’s the worst of all/She thinks Wings is a TV show and Lennon is a Russian mole.” And, what’s more, to drive her point home even further, the narrator relates that  “…when she turns on the radio, she makes me listen to Barry Manilow.” Now, that hurts!

Never mind that “She Hates the Beatles” sounds more like a mashup of ’70s, Partridge Family and Todd Rundgren aesthetics than Beatlesque–this is a fun, catchy ride. Ken and Fernando split the instrumental duties and Ken sings his Beatle-loving heart out. Yeah, yeah, yeah!

black box Now Playing on Pure Pop Radio
black box Where to Get It: Bandcamp

ppr radio purple background - insetPure Pop Radio plays the greatest melodic pop music from across the decades, 24 hours a day. Listen by clicking on the Live365 Listen Now button at left. Hear us once and you’ll be a listener for life. Join us, won’t you? You’ll be glad you did!

Pure Pop Radio’s signature shows, Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation (Wednesday, 9 pm ET) and Alan Haber’s Pop Tunes Deejay Show (Thursday, 8 pm ET), air exclusively on Pop that Goes Crunch Radio.

Your Lucky Day: David Myhr Guests on Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation. World Radio Premiere: Vanilla’s Small Faces. This Week’s Specialty Shows are All Too Beautiful!

alan headshot from schoolBy Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

This week’s specialty shows are all too beautiful, serving up a lucky day on Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation and a world radio premiere of Vanilla’s punchy Small Faces cover on Alan Haber’s Pop Tunes Deejay Show. And that’s only scratching the surface of what’s in store.

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This Wednesday, May 16 at 9 pm ET on Pop that Goes Crunch Radio, David Myhr guests on an all-new hour-long edition of Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation. The topic of conversation, fittingly, is David’s wonderful new album, Lucky Day, which releases this Friday, May 18, via Lojinx. A festival of pure pop pleasures, Lucky Day presents eight songs co-written with some of the best and brightest pop song scribes working today, from Bill DeMain to Linus of Hollywood. The other two tunes are solo Myhr compositions, one of which, “The Perfect Place,” is pretty well perfect.

LJX115 David Myhr - Lucky DayDavid talks to me about a trip he took from Sweden to the United States, during which he met with his co-writers to come up with snappy songs, some of which appear on Lucky Day. Did you know that, in addition to being a heralded songwriter, David is also a senior lecturer at a music university in the north of Sweden? You’ll hear all about this during the hour. Plus you’ll find out about the big surprise in store for folks who purchase the CD version of Lucky Day!

pop tunes disc smallAlan Haber’s Pop Tunes Deejay Show shifts to once-a-week status beginning this Thursday night, May 17. Thursday nights will kick off at our usual time, 8 pm ET on Pop that Goes Crunch, with super-sized episodes that you won’t want to miss. This week, we’ve got the world radio premiere of Vanilla’s new recording, a spirited cover of the Small Faces’ “Itchykoo Park,” which features none other than Strangely Alright’s Regan Lane.

astral drive coverPlus, you’ll hear new tracks from TSAR’s Jeff Whalen; Astral Drive, which out-Rundgrens Todd Rundgren; Al Shields and the Delahayes; We Are Muffy; the Kennedys; the Tearaways; Gretchen’s Wheel; Rob Bonfiglio; Scot Sax; Seth Timbs; Simon Love; the Electricoke, from the new ’80s-themed compilation, Back in Time; and a choice Beatles cover from the Quick (their 1976 album, Mondo Deco, will soon see reissue from Real Gone Music). And, if that weren’t enough, my snappy deejay patter! It’s an exceptional hour-plus of great melodic pop music.

Don’t miss a minute of this week’s Pure Pop Radio specialty shows on Pop that Goes Crunch Radio. They’re all too beautiful! And tune in to Pure Pop Radio, the greatest mix of melodic pop music from across the decades, 24 hours a day!

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Pure Pop Radio’s signature shows, Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation (Wednesday, 9 pm ET) and Alan Haber’s Pop Tunes Deejay Show (Thursday, 8 pm ET), air exclusively on Pop that Goes Crunch Radio.

ppr radio purple background - insetPure Pop Radio plays the greatest melodic pop music from across the decades, 24 hours a day. Listen by clicking on the Live365 Listen Now button at left. Hear us once and you’ll be a listener for life. Join us, won’t you? You’ll be glad you did!

New on Pure Pop Radio 4.10.18: Lannie Flowers, David Myhr, and Wilson

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By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

Spins and Reviews | 4.10.18

Lannie Flowers | “Lost in a Daydream” (2018)
lannie flowers lost in a daydreamThe vibe is decidedly Beatlesque and practically overflowing with clues for you all–the Ringo Starr drum fills, loping Paul McCartney bass line and horns practically beg for a communal gathering in the Church of Fab. All this and Tears for Fears guitars and Tom Petty dust intertwine to elevate this latest in a series of monthly free songs from Lannie Flowers’ label, Spyderpop Records, to enchanting heights.

This second in Spyderpop’s free song series is made all the more special because none of these freebies will appear on Lannie’s upcoming album, Home, slated for a fall release. “Lost in a Daydream” will certainly offer up a basketful of warm and fuzzies to those for whom 1967 and 1968 are two of the most fertile years in pop music history; for everyone else, this will just be more proof, as if more were needed, that Lannie Flowers is the king of Texas pop and roll.

black box Where to Get It: Spyderpop Records (free download)

David Myhr | “The Perfect Place” | Lucky Day (2018)
david myhr lucky day coverThe fourth song, and new single, to emerge from David Myhr’s new album Lucky Day (coming May 18) is another example of the artist’s mastery of the melodic pop form. Of the four songs we’ve heard so far, this may well be my favorite. An alternately soft and insistent swirl of gorgeous melody, lovely lead and background harmony vocals and bright and shiny production technique, “The Perfect Place” is indeed perfect.

black box Where to Get It: Purchase or listen to “The Perfect Place” by clicking here. Explore the various Lucky Day bundles available here.

Wilson | “Right Here” | Single, 2018
wilson right here single coverThe quartet comprising Pink Hedgehog Records helmsman Simon Felton, Steve Wilson, Marco Rossi, and Chris Rickard delivers a cheery slice of ’60s-styled pure pop that ought to come with a repeat button sewn on its face. Just like David Myhr’s new single (see above), this song is a mix of delights that call out to melodic pop lovers and define the genre. Don’t miss it.

black box Where to Get It: Bandcamp

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Pure Pop Radio’s signature shows, Alan Haber’s Pop Tunes Deejay Show, playing the latest and greatest melodic pop songs from today and across the decades, and Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation, the premiere Internet melodic pop talk show, air weekly on Pop that Goes Crunch Radio.

pop tunes disc smallin conversation new graphic blueListen to the Pop Tunes Deejay Show on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8 pm ET (two different shows every week); In Conversation airs every Wednesday night at 9 pm ET. Don’t miss a minute!

Tune in to Pop that Goes Crunch Radio by clicking on the following snazzy-looking button:

 

New on Pure Pop Radio 3.13.18: Michael Simmons, David Myhr, and Radio Days

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

alan headshot from schoolBy Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

Spins and Reviews | 3.13.18

Michael Simmons | First Days of Summer | Crab Apple, 2018
michael simmons album front cover
You will likely know musician and high school educator Michael Simmons from the much-missed sparkle*jets u.k., from Yorktown Lads, whose Cameron Lew makes quite fine music on his own, or Popdudes, a musical conclave that counts journalist and drummer John Borack among its ranks. Now, it’s time to know Simmons as a solo artist who has produced a terrific long player that will stand, when all of this year’s dust has settled, as one of the best of the year.

First Days of Summer, the music of which was recorded from 2015 to 2017 in sparkling Kitchen-o-Phonic sound, reflecting the location of Simmons’ studio, is contained inside a striking cover bathed in a fiery orange wash with tools of the musician’s trade on the front and song lyrics and credits on the back. This is a stylistically diverse collection of songs that expertly lays out the artist’s diverse musical vision and dedication to craft.

The opening and closing tracks are near-perfect, soft-pop bookends: “Do Your Best to Care,” a keyboard driven toe-tapper featuring a determined, jazzy electric guitar solo, and the sleepy, closing ballad “Center of the Spiral,” which ends as if a turntable’s needle has become comfortably stuck in a loop within a record’s runoff wax, together form a comfortable wrapper within which sit First Days of Summer’s other songs.

Inside this wrapper, you’ll find a variety of catchy sounds, such as the mid-tempo pop-rocker “Fuzzy Green Hat,” steeped in a decidedly Something/Anything?-era Todd Rundgren vibe and all about creative inspiration, no matter where it may come from. The jangly, Andy Partridge-esque bopper “No More Girls” concerns itself with growing up where love is concerned (“I can’t sing about girls no more/No more girls for me/No more songs about girls for sure/A woman’s more my speed/And I know what I will do/I’m gonna sing about you”). “Bucket List,” on fire with a whole lot of Rockpile and NRBQ bluster, celebrates the embracing of true love.

And there’s more. “Let’s Fall in Love” is a lively, beat-driven, Prince-inspired slice of dance pop about second chance romance. The title track, a dreamy, breezy number,  recalls the best of Jeffrey Foskett with a pinch of Burt Bacharach horn embellishment and a wash of Todd Rundgren balladry. It’s sublime.

What shines brightly and decisively from within the dozen tracks on First Days of Summer is the passion that Michael Simmons has for making and playing music (he played most of the instruments on this album). He would do well to keep at this music thing and start planning his next collection with due haste. The sound you hear in the distance is listeners wanting a followup.

black box Where to Get It: Release date is TBD; check Michael Simmons’ Bandcamp page for the latest information

David Myhr | “Room to Grow” (from the forthcoming album, Lucky Day) | 2018
david myhr lucky day coverA joyous, jazzy-by-way-of-Paul-McCartney-esque song from David’s upcoming Lucky Day album, set for a May 18 release, “Room to Grow” was written in Nashville with Pure Pop Radio favorite Bill DeMain. It’s the kind of song that would be equally at home in an intimate club and your own music room. David’s vocal is smooth and emotive, the instrumentation bounces along to the bopping beat, and clever touches like the luscious bridge, lively background vocal arrangement and nimble Stevie Wonder-like harmonica break will put a smile on your face. Now playing on episodes of Alan Haber’s Pop Tunes Deejay Show. A catchy, delectable triumph.

black box Where to Get It: Lucky Day will be released by Lojinx on May 18

Radio Days | El Delfin y El Varano | 2018
radio days el delfin y el varanoSpeaking of diverse musical vision and dedication to craft, Milan, Italy’s Radio Days have, save for one track, stepped outside of their power pop comfort zone to deliver a four-song EP full of wonder. It is after the hard hitting, pounding opener “Time is Over” that the group starts serving up surprises. The beautiful “Sometimes,” a slow-paced ballad bolstered by lovely, close harmonies, is followed by a clever reinvention of the Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend,” recast here as a sensitive ballad adorned with Radio Days’ trademark vocal prowess. The title track, a Dick Dale-meets-just-about-any-’60s-surf-band-you-could-name mid-paced workout, roughly translates, according to Google, as “The Dolphin and the Monitor,” but you’ll probably be happy going with “Cool Instro.” Great stuff.

black box Where to Get It: Bandcamp

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Pure Pop Radio’s signature shows, Alan Haber’s Pop Tunes Deejay Show, playing the latest and greatest melodic pop songs from today and across the decades, and Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation, the premiere Internet melodic pop talk show, air weekly on Pop that Goes Crunch Radio.

pop tunes disc smallin conversation new graphic blueListen to the Pop Tunes Deejay Show on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8 pm ET (two different shows every week); In Conversation airs every Wednesday night at 9 pm ET. Don’t miss a minute!

Tune in to Pop that Goes Crunch Radio by clicking on the following snazzy-looking button:

 

David Myhr Channels ELO in Soundtrack Smash

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Spins and Reviews | 10.11.16 | by Alan Haber

David Myhr | “Spellbound” (From the upcoming film Flykten till Framtiden (My Future Love))

Update (10.14.16): “Spellbound” can be purchased at iTunes and Amazon, and heard on Spotify.

David Myhr and Jimmy Lagnefors, whose soundtrack graces the time travel-themed film Flykten till Framtiden, co-wrote this rather authentic sounding and eminently catchy Jeff Lynne/Electric Light Orchestra homage that plays over the film’s credits and is due to be released as a single in Sweden and the rest of Europe on Lojinx this Thursday, October 14.

Ddavid-myhr-head-shotavid, handling acoustic guitar, piano, bass, and lead and backing vocal duties, works with Jimmy, who plays guitar and sings, and drummer Andreas Dahlbäck to pack all of the hallmarks of an ELO-sounding track into the joyous “Spellbound.” It’s all here: the sweeping melody, strings (arranged by Hans Hjortek and David), horns (sounding as if they’d come straight from ELO’s “Livin’ Thing”), and sweet harmonies. It’s quite marvelous, and we’re honored to bring it to you on the radio.

david-myhr-and-bill-demainDavid and Jimmy collaborated on “Vänta inte på mig” (“Don’t wait for me”), which appeared in last year’s film, Micke and Veronica, and is also playing in rotation here on Pure Pop Radio. David has been recording songs for his next album; we’re looking forward to hearing them soon (for a report on David’s trip to Los Angeles, Nashville and New York, during which he wrote a good number of songs with pop visionaries such as Brad Jones, Blue, Swan Dive’s Bill DeMain (pictured with David at right), and The Davenports’ Scott Klass, click here).

Meanwhile, enjoy David Myhr’s latest smash, flavored and savored with ELO goodness.
black box Now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio.
black box When and Where to Get It: iTunes and Amazon. Listen on Spotify.

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