Reviews: 3.19.19: Gretchen’s Wheel Rides the (Nada) Surf, and Lannie Flowers’ Pop Waltz

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

Gretchen’s Wheel
Moth to Lamplight: A Tribute to Nada Surf
(Futureman, 2019)

Listening to this new collection, a tribute to rockers Nada Surf, with less-than-zero knowledge of the band or its songs, turns out to be the smartest move I’ve made in awhile.

Going in blind, I was able to judge the songs on their own merits and I didn’t have to play the Which Version is Better? game. These are the only versions of eight of Nada Surf’s songs I know. But as good as the songs are, and they are very good, I was mostly taken with Lindsay Murray’s vocals and musicianship.

Lindsay’s ability to weave together harmony lines into living, breathing stacks of joy would be hard to beat under any circumstance. Throughout the eight songs she’s tackled on this album, her vocals, lead and otherwise, shine like the brightest objects in the sky (and quite happily recall the vocal timbre of Aimee Mann). Lindsay’s musicianship is stellar; her bass playing, especially, is inventive and serves the songs to a tee (she also plays the guitars and keyboards with aplomb; Nick Bertling plays the drums and provides the solid bottom end in his usual, top-flight way).

These eight, mostly upbeat songs live and breathe and come alive through a steady, deliberate mix of guitars, bass, drums and a smattering of keyboard flourishes. Top contenders for favedom here at Pure Pop Radio headquarters are the mid-to-fast-paced “See These Bones,” sporting a mix of tempting rhythms and a tremendous vocal harmony performance, and the closing, acoustic “Rushing,” in which Lindsay’s lush harmony vocals and acoustic guitar take center stage to phenomenal effect; she ought to make this track her audio business card–sing to impress and all that.

So, being new to Nada Surf, but not new to Gretchen’s Wheel and the magic that Lindsay Murray employs to dazzle her listeners, turns out to be a recipe for a half-hour well spent. Purchase Moth to Lamplight: A Tribute to Nada Surf beginning this Friday, and see if you don’t agree.

Where to Get It (Releases March 22): Bandcamp

Lannie Flowers | “Anything But Love” (SpyderPop Records, 2019)

Song number 12 in the series of free numbers being released during the run-up to Lannie Flowers’ upcoming album, Home, is a typically engaging treat, this time played out as a supercharged sorta-waltz telling the story of a guy stuck in that age-old I’m-in-love-but-I-messed-up-so-can-I-come-back, can-I-huh? turnabout. The guy knows the score, but he isn’t sure how to turn his situation into a win (“Why is it so hard/To admit that I was wrong,” he wonders.)

Another slice of engaging melodic pop from one of our most cherished singer-songwriters. And it’s a free download from the SpyderPop Records website. What are you waiting for?

Where to Get It: SpyderPop Records

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Alan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio is the premiere website covering the melodic pop scene with in-depth reviews of new and reissued recordings, and a wide variety of features. We’ve been around since the first weekly Pure Pop Radio shows, which began broadcasting in 1995, and the 24-hour Pure Pop Radio station, which ended last August.

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

Robyn Gibson’s Bob of the Pops Vol. One is in the Spotlight Tomorrow on Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation

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robyn gibsonThe Junipers’ Robyn Gibson pops by Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation tomorrow to chat about his (in our words) “buoyant exercise in the art of homage,” Bob of the Pops Vol. 1. We’re so excited for you to hear this rather charming conversation that we’re airing it twice tomorrow, May 31: noon and 8 pm (both times ET).

bob of the pops front coverBob of the Pops Vol. 1 gathers together 14 glorious, sweetly-sung covers of some of Robyn’s favorite songs from (mostly) the 1960s and 1970s. These mostly reverent renditions of such beloved chestnuts as The Beatles’ “Nowhere Man,” The Who’s “I Can’t Reach You,” and The Hollies’ “Listen to Me” star in this collection that is a free download on Bandcamp (run, don’t walk!).

Robyn says fun is the point of these recordings, and he’s absolutely right–if you close your eyes, you can actually feel the fun just dripping from these covers of some of the greatest pop songs of all time. You’ll hear all about how Robyn approached recording and a whole lot more.

As a bonus, and to whet your appetite for Bob of the Pops Vol. 2, which will be available from Futureman Records before you know it, you’ll hear Robyn talk about one of the tracks contained therein: his version of The Dukes of Stratosphear’s “Vanishing Girl” (sounding so much like The Hollies). Bring it on!

Don’t miss The Junipers’ Robyn Gibson talking with me on Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation about Bob of the Pops Volumes 1 and 2, tomorrow at both noon ET and 8 pm ET. See you on the radio.

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Overnight Sensations: The Hangabouts’ 12 (and a Half) Song Triumph

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Spins and Reviews | (Originally posted on 04.18.17)
By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

The Hangabouts | Kits and Cats and Saxon Wives (Futureman, 2017)

the hangabouts kits and catsBreaking all the rules of the difficult sophomore album syndrome–how to successfully follow up that first, smash recorded salvo has been a recurring music biz pickle since, well, name your favorite year–John Lowry, Greg Addington, and Chip Saam have earned a couple of days’ worth of rest-easy-and-exhale time while the world greets their new album (12 songs and a mystically-appointed piece of connecting tissue strong) as the triumph it truly is.

In other words, you did it, gents. Kits and Cats and Saxon Wives, the latest release on Keith Klingensmith’s bulletproof Futureman Records, is one of those coming together moments that pretty much defy gravity and scale somewhat effortlessly to the top of the pops. An Easter basketful of cleverly adorned melodic pop constructs, it’s a timeless collection that announces itself as your best friend, or at least a delightful neighbor whom you wouldn’t mind borrowing a cup of sugar from every single day.

Kits and Cats and Saxon Wives, rather a musical sort of title that you can tap your feet to (try it–you’ll see!), announces itself climbing out of a ’70s bag of tricks adorned with luscious harmony vocals; varying tempos; dreamy, hypnotic guitar lines, and a surprising soft slam on the brakes as the title song slides to a breathless close. “Twelve Songs” beats with a sweet, pure pop heart, even as it tells the story of a love that may never be (in a catchy, sincere, Fountains of Wayne kind of way).

the hangaboutsKits’ first single, the delightful “Sinking Feeling,” brought to life and a higher plane by the predictably lovely guest vocals of Swan Dive’s Molly Felder, who recently graced the grooves of Dana Countryman’s fabulous Girlville album, is a stone-cold smash and a shining example of how to write a living, breathing, catchy pop song. “Cricket Time,” an upbeat bopper imbued with the spirit of early Elvis Costello, snaps along for three minutes worth of should-be-a-radio-hit magic. And the really rather ingenious, insanely catchy pop wonder “Evelyn Wood” cleverly illuminates the story of a girl who needs to sloooooow down (listeners of a certain age will appreciate that the real Evelyn Wood was the creator of a reading comprehension technique that could get you from here to there in super-lickity-split time…so, not so slow was she).

Looking the dreaded sophomore album syndrome squarely in the eyes and dousing its flames handily, The Hangabouts have clearly crafted one of those hall-of-fame-worthy albums that have made this year a delightful one to observe, sing along to, review, and play on the radio. Which brings me, quite happily, to this: Pure Pop Radio exclusively premiered and played “Evelyn Wood,” “Twelve Songs,” and “Sensation Overnight,” a lovely ballad, on April 19 (thanks to Keith and the band). Six other songs are playing in rotation on a non-exclusive basis.

black box Now playing on Pure Pop Radio: “Evelyn Wood,” “Twelve Songs,” “Sensation Overnight,” “Kits and Cats and Saxon Wives,” “Cricket Time,” “Sinking Feeling,” “Selling Out,” and “Follow the Sunshine”

black box Where to Get It: Bandcamp

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