Tag Archives: jamie hoover

Reviews: 12.11.19: Do You Hear What I Hear? Stockings Full of Musical Holiday Cheer Abound!

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

Do you hear what I hear? You will when you add the following tasty musical holiday treats, newly released, to your gift lists (and don’t forget yourself; you deserve some gifts, too!).

Christmas will be here soon (there are only 13 shopping days until the big day), so read on and give the gift of holiday pop music!

The Weeklings | “Gonna Be Christmas” (Jem, 2019)

Lefty, Zeek, Rocky and Smokestack usher in the holiday season with a jubilant, Weeklings-ized version of a gorgeous song that first appeared on Zeek’s 2007 solo EP, Christmas Can’t Wait.

Sporting lovely, widescreen harmonies and the catchiest of holiday melodies, this warm, upbeat celebration of the joy felt every December 25th seems like a standard that will garner spins for many years to come.

Smokestack’s larger-than-life drum part and Lefty’s fluid, sliding bass line are particular gifts that drive this quite-alive recording and keep on giving with each successive listen.

It goes without saying at this point in the Weeklings’ career, but for those of you who aren’t aware of who is actually who, Lefty is Glen Burtnik, Zeek is Bob Burger, Rocky is John Merjave, and Smokestack is Joe Bellia. All are veteran musicians working at the peak of their powers, as will be evidenced by the forthcoming, incredible, third Weeklings album, about which I will have much to say in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, Christmas 2019 is off and running with this classic track from New Jersey’s Fab Foursome.

Where to Get It: Amazon, Apple Music, Google Play. Listen on Spotify

Jamie Hoover | Happy Hoover Days
The Bradburys | “Everywhere It’s Christmastime” b/w “Silver Bells”
(Vandalay, 2019)

Dan Pavelich’s Vandalay Records offers up two delicious doses of Christmas cheer for 2019–a four-song EP from the Spongetones’ and Jamie and Steve’s Jamie Hoover, and a two-track single from Pavelich’s group, the Bradburys.

Hoover, a longtime Pure Pop Radio top favorite (of 25 years standing!), does it all on Happy Hoover Days; he’s responsible for every note played and sung.

Two choice covers–a supercharged take on Gene Autry’s evergreen “Sleigh Bells” and an emotional reading of Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s classic perennial “I Believe in Father Christmas”–sit side by side with an original, medium-paced rocker, “The Real Star,” co-written with Nashville songsmith Catesby Jones , and fifth Spongetone Greg James’ lovely ballad, “There’s a Star,” which appeared in a different version on the Spongetones’ 2001 must-have collection, Mersey Christmas.

Hoover’s always thoroughly invested, emotional vocals and playing drive each of these new recordings. He remains one of indie pop’s most versatile and entertaining writers and performers, a true beacon of artistry who never fails to deliver the goods. This more-than-welcome EP is just another example of how to do it.

The Bradburys, fronted by Vandalay Records’ guiding light, Dan Pavelich, digitally wax a pair of tuneful Christmas classics on a double-A-side single that’s sure to please.

The jangly “Everywhere It’s Christmastime,” penned and sung by Pavelich, is a catchy holiday nugget, built atop a sweet melody and laced with lovely, lyrical lead guitar work by John Scholvin, and an understated yet joyous coda powered by the sound of a choir and seasonal bells.

A cleverly conceived, cheerful cover of another of Christmastime’s perennials, “Silver Bells,” mixes Elvis Presley-fyed verses with ’50s rock ‘n’ roll choruses for a rollicking good time.

Pavelich, who writes and draws the wonderful comic strip Just Say Uncle, has fashioned a must-listen-to pair of holiday songs that are perfect for anyone on your gift list.

Where to Get It: Jamie Hoover’s Happy Hoover Days: Kool Kat Musik | The Bradburys’ “Everywhere It’s Christmastime” b/w “Silver Bells”: Apple Music

The Brothers Steve
“I Love the Christmastime” b/w “Listen Up! It’s Christmastime”
(Big Stir, 2019)

If you’re pining for a pair of catchy, Tsar-torial holiday tunes, The Brothers Steve’s new single is tailor-made for you.

Featuring three members of the much-loved band Tsar, including Steve Coulter, a writer who goes by the nom de plume S.W. Lauden, the Steves’ pair of musical gifts are a glittery holiday treat. The upbeat “I Love the Christmastime” is an ABBA-meets-New-Wave-meets-The-Archies-meets-early Beatles kind of celebration, complete with my favorite instrument, sleigh bells. And the thoughtful ballad, “Listen Up! It’s Christmastime” is driven by a lovely melody.

The 54th in the ongoing series of digital singles released by Big Stir Records is a holiday smash. (Side note: Steve Coulter, using his nom de plume, is the co-editor with musician and writer Paul Myers of Go All the Way, a neat book of essays about power pop by well-known writers and musicians, available at Amazon.)

Where to Hear It and Get It: Big Stir Digital Singles

The Taters | Shiny and Brite (2019)

An aptly-named Christmas album if ever there was one, Shiny and Brite finds Richmond, Virginia’s Taters, a longtime Pure Pop Radio favorite group, bringing their trademark musicality and playful joie de vivre to digital and silver disc formats.

As anyone who has seen the Taters play live and dug their everything-fits-if-we-let-it approach to covers can attest, you never know what you’re going to hear when the group sets to making music. This joyful mix of originals, like the tuneful “Last Lone Noel” and the Roy Orbison-y ballad, “My First Christmas With You,” and Taterized versions of well- and little-known Christmas classics is a holiday treat built on a solid foundation of love and respect for these wonderful songs.

Witness the bouyant cover of the Beach Boys/Ronettes’ “I Can Hear Music,” which features an a cappella break atop a swath of sleigh bells that’s squarely in the classic style of Hawthorne, California’s finest; the gorgeous a cappella mix of “Peace on Earth” and “Silent Night”; the supercharged version of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s “Christmas Dream,” as originally sung by Perry Como, here incorporating the theme from the television comedy classic Hogan’s Heroes; and the lovely take on “The Little Drummer Boy,” with Chris Mendez’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover”-esque drum part.

“Peace on Earth/Silent Night” live at The Tin Pan in Richmond, VA, 12/9/17

Craig Evans, Brad Tucker, Gregg Mars and Chris Mendez’s collection of odes to Christmas joy is a wonder to behold and a perfect complement to your holiday soundtrack.

Where to Get It: Bandcamp

Kenny Herbert |”This is Our Christmas” (2019)

A pretty, orchestrated ballad written by Kenny and Bob Heatlie after Kenny and his wife Caroline visited Edinburgh, Scotland’s Princes Street Market, this sounds as though it’s been instilled in the forevermore section of the everlasting vault of holiday song classics since forever ago. Kenny’s lovely vocal and another melody that seems sent from the heavens above ensure this one will be played, well, forevermore.

Where to Get It: Apple Music

The Lunar Laugh | “Christmas Cheer” (2019)

An upbeat, jolly song about the joys of Christmas, this catchy number was recorded on December 21, 2018, live and in person at VZD’s Restaurant and Bar in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Written and performed by another Pure Pop Radio favorite group, this song sings.

Where to Hear It and Get It: Bandcamp

The JAC (Featuring the Christmas Crew) | “Broken Gnome” (2019)

Anyone trying to hang on to a strained relationship may find a kindred spirit of sorts in Joe Algeri’s 2019 Christmas offering. Pairing an introspective lyric with an upbeat guitar pop track, “Broken Gnome” charts the course of a soon-to-be-extinguished love-light. Or does it? “What will the new year bring / Just let me be a leaf in the wind / Our light’s burning bright and still / I’m a little scared.” A world-class group of musicians help Joe bring this creation to life: Herb Eimerman, who like Joe is a member of the beloved Britannicas, Stefan Johansson, Lars Brusell, and Andy J Prinkkila.

Where to Hear It and Get It: Bandcamp

The Hangabouts | “Colors of Christmas” (2019)

This always engaging Ann Arbor, Michigan foursome unwraps a warm, soulful soft pop musical gift full of Christmas cheer. Pleasing chords and a lovely melody drive this song about the hues of the holiday (“Lights shine from every frosted window / Melting the winter time blues”). This one will put a smile on your face, for sure.

Where to Get It: Bandcamp

Various Artists | A Kool Kat Kristmas Vol. 3 (Kool Kat, 2019)

Five years on from Vol. 2, Ray Gianchetti’s Kool Kat Musik returns with a third holiday go-round featuring artists that have previously released music on the label. You’re sure to find a few (or more) favorites in this tasty holiday grab bag.

We found more than a few kool kats amongst these offerings: Everet Almond’s uptempo, poppy “Have a Very Very Very Merry Christmas”; The Decibels’ catchy, power pop anthem, “Christmas Wish,” with a neat Roger McGuinn-like guitar solo and a snatch of “Joy to the World” in the close; and The Seasons Greeters’ rocking, Stray Cats-meets-Dave Edmunds “Santa’s Leaving Town.”

More tasty treats: Tommy and the Rockets’ “December Snow,” upbeat and poppy all the way; Ed Ryan’s rocking slice of power pop, “Noel (You’ve Gotta Sing)”; and, last but not least, Emperor Penguin’s truly different country-and-western song, “Lonesome Cowboy,” sounding sort of like the Sons of the Pioneers if they were pop pickers, until, that is, the ending, when the band rocks out. “Merry Christmas to cowboys everywhere!”, indeed. Yee-haw!

Where to Get It: CD: Kool Kat Musik. Listen and download: Futureman Records (Note that $5.00 from the sale of every CD and download goes to the American Cancer Society).

Kai Danzberg and Scott McPherson | “The Day Before Christmas”
(Big Stir, 2019)

Hanover, Germany’s own Kai Danzberg, an increasingly familiar name in melodic pop circles, teams up with Tiny Volcano and Pop 4’s Scott McPherson for a lively co-write that makes quite a lot of merry. It’s a big and happy holiday treat with a poppy heart, sugary and surefooted. Don’t be surprised to find yourself singing along at first listen. Full of joy.

Where to Get It: Big Stir Digital Singles (part of the exclusive Big Stir Holiday Maxi-Single), Bandcamp

Alan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio is the premier 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 in August 2018.

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

Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation Podcasts: Jamie and Steve (Airdate: August 16, 2017)

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio alan 5 small

in conversation new graphic blue

jamie and steve sub texturalJamie Hoover and Steve Stoeckel, better known these days as the melodic pop duo Jamie and Steve, sat behind the Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation virtual microphones on August 16 to take me and listeners through the ins and outs of their latest hit EP, Sub Textural.

Jamie and Steve talked about three of the smashing songs on Sub Textural: the poptastic “Sword of Love,” the autobiographical “410,” and the basically a cappella “Cry,” a top-flight tour de force that closes out the proceedings. It’s the kind of in-depth back-and-forth that you can only hear on the Internet’s premiere melodic pop talk show.

pprListen to my interview with Jamie and Steve from August 16 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).

(42.57)


Listen to the songs played during this interview by clicking on the following
Spotify links:

“Sword of Love: | https://open.spotify.com/embed/track/0mR9TA5UKtf4URTPbWt1gM

“410” | https://open.spotify.com/embed/track/4KA10Sr3TePqhPRCQlgq5b

“Cry” | https://open.spotify.com/embed/track/2N0dZh3AP6wLXXN8z0J51f

Look out for more current and archived Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation interviews.

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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:

Benjamin Gibbard, Circe Link and Christian Nesmith, and More on this Tuesday’s Night’s Pop Tunes Deejay Show; Plus Jamie and Steve on In Conversation and, Yes, Thursday Night!

pure pop radio radioAnother power-packed run of Pure Pop’s signature shows on Pop that Goes Crunch Radio is set to fly out of your Internet receptacle speaker beginning tomorrow night.

pop tunes disc smallFirst up is the latest all-new edition of Alan Haber’s Pop Tunes Deejay Show, kicking off at 8 pm ET tomorrow night. You will most certainly dig the latest from Death Cab for Cutie’s Benjamin Gibbard, a cover of Teenage Fanclub’s sprightly popper, “What You Do to Me”; Circe Link and Christian Nesmith’s “I’m On Your Side,” from the new compilation This is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio Vol. 4; The Surfin’ Burritos’ Buddy Holly-meets-the-Ramones “All Over You”; Bill DeMain’s “Honey Bear”; and much more. Plus the usual smattering of deejay patter from me!

in conversation new graphic blueWednesday night, August 16 at 9 pm ET, an all-new Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation takes over the airwaves. This week, Jamie Hoover and Steve Stoeckel, better known as Jamie and Steve, sit virtually across from me to talk about their new release, Sub Textural. It’s another wide-ranging chat–the type you will only hear on the Internet’s premiere melodic pop talk show.

pop tunes disc smallFinally, on Thursday night, August 17 at 8 pm ET, another edition of the Pop Tunes Deejay Show rolls with a potpourri-style mix of melodic pop tunes from across the decades. The playlist is a secret right now, but stay tuned for some tasty clues to what will be spinning for your ears only.

jamie and steve sub texturalSet your alarm clocks and calendar pages for tomorrow night at 8 pm ET for the Pop Tunes Deejay Show; Wednesday night at 9 pm ET for Jamie Hoover and Steve Stoeckel on Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation; and Thursday night at 8 pm ET for this week’s second, potpourri-style mix of great tunes on another edition of Pop Tunes. A great time will be had by all.

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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:

Bob Lind, Jamie Hoover, and Mark Bacino In Conversation Shows Now Available for Listening and Downloading

Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation on PodOMatic!

Recent Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation shows starring classic singer-songwriter Bob Lind, the great Jamie Hoover, and melodic popster Mark Bacino are now available for listening and downloading on In Conversation’s PodOmatic podcast page.

bob lind posebob lind magellanBob Lind spoke to Alan Haber on August 23 about his brand-new album, Magellan Was Wrong, just out on Big Beat/Ace. On the docket: the stories behind three of Bob’s new songs–“Blind Love,” “Magellan Was Wrong,” and “From the Road”–and a celebration of the iconic song “Elusive Butterfly,” 50 years young this year.

jamie hover photo smallJamie Hoover spoke to Alan, also on August 23, about producing many of the songs on Bob’s album, Magellan Was Wrong. He also spoke about what it’s like to produce Bob, how he goes about arranging Bob’s tunes, and how Bob’s music has affected his own work. It’s a fascinating behind-the-scenes discussion. Plus, he talked about “Elusive Butterfly,” a song that has meant so much to him.

mark bacinoClassic melodic popster Mark Bacino appeared on In Conversation on July 26 to talk about his typically-catchy new song, “Not that Guy.” In addition, we set the WABAC (pronounced Wayback) Machine for 1998, when Mark’s first album, Pop Job…the Long Player!, was released on Parasol Records. Mark talks about the album’s song “Kay.”

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Bob Lind, Jamie Hoover, the Beatles, and Classic Pop and Rock Star in this Week’s Specialty Show Lineup

mic-small 10Gather ’round your Internet radio receptacles this week for some top-flight specialty shows starring classic singer-songwriters Bob Lind and Jamie Hoover, the Beatles, and some of the greatest classic rock and pop artists of all time. It’s another cool week of fun specialty shows on Pure Pop Radio. (And don’t forget: The debut of Jammin’ James Riley’s Catching a Wave makes a big splash next Monday night, August 28, at 8 pm ET!)

bob lind posebob lind magellanTomorrow night, Tuesday, August 23, classic singer-songwriter Bob Lind talks with Alan Haber about his new album, Magellan Was Wrong, on Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation at 8 pm ET. Bob goes in-depth on three of the album’s songs, talking about what he was trying to get across, his writing process, and his views on a number of informative topics. He also talks at length about his iconic song “Elusive Butterfly,” which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. You’ll hear “Elusive Butterly,” as well as “Blind Love,” “From the Road,” and the title song from Magellan Was Wrong.

jamie hover photo smallA few minutes after Bob’s interview concludes, frequent In Conversation guest Jamie Hoover speaks about his role as producer of many of the songs on Magellan Was Wrong. He talks about what it’s like to produce Bob Lind, how he goes about arranging Bob’s tunes, and how Bob’s music has affected his own work. As a bonus, you’ll hear Jamie’s version of “Elusive Butterly,” which appeared on his great Lind Me Four EP in 2008.

needle meets vinylOn Wednesday night at 8 pm ET, Brian Bringelson works the turntables for show number 40 of his Needle Meets Vinyl series, spinning a Beatles three-fer and songs from the Shins, the B-52s, Stephen Stills, Harry Nilsson, the Dave Brubeck Quartet, America, and David Crosby & Graham Nash, among other great artists. Don’t miss this episode, quite possibly Brian’s best set yet.

the-beatles-things-we-said-todayWinding up this week’s run of specialty shows on Pure Pop Radio is the latest episode of the weekly Beatles roundtable, Things We Said Today. This time around, Ken Michaels, Steve Marinucci, Al Sussman and Allan Kozinn preview the Beatles’ Live at the Hollywood Bowl CD, releasing on September 9. In addition, Al reports on the just-concluded Chicago Fest for Beatles Fans, where Klaus Voorman, Peter Asher, Billy J. Kramer, Joey Molland, Mark Hudson and author Bruce Spizer were among the guests. Also, recent interviews with Paul McCartney, appearing in Rolling Stone and The New York Times, are discussed.

jammin james rileywaveIt’s another week of can’t-miss listening on Pure Pop Radio. Gather round your Internet radio receptacles for the best specialty programming around. And get ready for the debut of Jammin’ James Riley’s Catching a Wave next Monday night, August 29, at 9 pm ET!

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Bob Lind and Jamie Hoover Guest on Next Week’s Double-Play Edition of Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation

mic-small 10Bob Lind, one of music’s most iconic writers and performers, guests on next week’s brand-new, double-play edition of Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation along with Jamie Hoover, who produced many of the songs on Lind’s latest album, Magellan Was Wrong. Alan Haber speaks to both musicians next Tuesday night, August 23, right here on Pure Pop Radio.

bob lind magellanLind and Hoover appear in lively, information-packed, separate interviews. Lind, whose interview airs first at 8 pm ET, goes in-depth on three of the songs on Magellan Was Wrong, talking about what he was trying to get across, his writing process, and his views on a number of informative topics.

bob lind poseLind also talks at length about his iconic song “Elusive Butterfly,” which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. You’ll hear “Elusive Butterly,” as well as “Blind Love,” “From the Road,” and the title song from Magellan Was Wrong.

Fjamie hover photorequent guest Jamie Hoover’s interview airs at approximately 9:06 pm ET in the second half of this historic double-play edition of In Conversation. Jamie speaks in his role as producer of many of the songs on Magellan Was Wrong. He talks about what it’s like to produce Bob Lind, how he goes about arranging Bob’s tunes, and how Bob’s music has affected his own work. As a bonus, you’ll hear Jamie’s version of “Elusive Butterly,” which appeared on his great Lind Me Four EP in 2008.

Alan’s interviews with Bob Lind and Jamie Hoover kick off a long string of new talks with pop music’s greatest artists, all of which will be airing in the weeks to come on Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation. Don’t miss a single moment!

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Looking for New Music? You’ve Come to the Right Place!

alan-mic-zWe’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Our most favorite thing in the world is to take receipt of music from both new and heritage melodic pop artists, spin it, and add it to our ever-growing playlist. Every day is akin to unwrapping presents; the treasures contained within these virtual packages are sweet gifts that we’re thrilled to be able to pass on to you.

Here are five of the latest groovy additions to our playlist, now playing in rotation (more new adds posts coming next week):

vanilla on a night like thisVanilla | “On a Night Like This” Jayson Jarmon’s ace outfit is once again releasing one song a month on the way toward completing their next album, this time around mystically titled Mystik Nights of Takoma, a moniker that conjures up images of a bunch of lodge brothers and their bartenders, all decked out in bright red smocks and fezzes, gathered around a glowing, weathered oak table late into the night, imbibing and chewing the fat and bottomless tubs of Turkish Taffy until last call or the inevitable call home that starts with “Um, can I get a ride?”

vanilla mystik nights of tacomaBut first things first. The bouncy “On a Night Like This,” a typically catchy Vanilla number about a guy whose words can’t be trusted when the bubbly is flowing his way, is sung with smooth pop finesse by Tube Top’s Gavin Guss, who is ably supported by Jayson, who wrote the song and slings a sweet acoustic guitar and nifty solos over his shoulder; Sean Gaffney, who plays electric guitars, bass, and sings backing vocals; Dana Sims, who mans the drums; and Eric Robert, who makes the Hammond B3 sing. What a melody! What a song!

Our love for Jayson’s writing and Vanilla-esque execution knows no bounds, so we’re confident that, even if Mystik Knights of Takoma doesn’t contain a sequel to the much-loved “Monkeypox!,” which has been adopted as the Pure Pop Radio clubhouse’s call-to-arms Kumbaya song, it will rank high in esteem whichever way the wind blows.

Stay tuned for a special Vanilla contest coming next week to this space. In the meantime, don’t listen to this superb number without your fez on, oh no!

stepford knivesStepford Knives | “I Don’t Want Her (Anymore)” Jamie Hoover’s latest project, with Otis Hughes, is the wonderfully-named Stepford Knives, which may or may not call to mind an image of sharp tools exhibiting zero emotion that still manage to live on the cutting edge. These Stepford Knives, however, are full of emotion and pop goodness, delivering a powerful take on a great song from the late David Enloe, guitarist for the Woods.

This insanely catchy, hook-filled song explodes with fireworks-powered percussion, lots of gutsy guitars, a strong melody, and in-your-face vocals. Mastered to impress (and boy does it!) by Dave Harris, the song’s quite-alive psychedelic light show-powered video, created by Phillip D’Angelo, is an essential component of the complete Stepford Knives package (see it here).

Bravo, Messrs. Hoover and Hughes, and don’t let too many days flutter away before your next wonderful creation hits our ears!

erik voeks 6-1 singleErik Voeks | “Being in Love With You” and “She Was Doomed” Just released and already reaching top-flight status here at Pure Pop Radio, this classic-sounding one-two pop punch continues Erik’s run of great new songs. “Being in Love With You,” about a relationship at odds with itself, starts out as a tender  ballad and quickly becomes a power pop number with teeth, and a great, hooky melody.

“She Was Doomed” is an uptempo raver powered by another great melody; guitars, guitars, guitars; delicious vocal harmonies, and a pounding drum turn.  Co-producer Patrick Hawley played the drums and percussion, and Cameron Hawk sang background vocals on “Being in Love With You.” Credit Erik with everything else. Another terrific release from one of Pure Pop Radio’s favorite artists.

kenny herbert woodstockKenny Herbert | “3 Days of Summer (Woodstock ’69)” Hot on the heels of the release of his wonderful new album, the romantic song cycle Forever and Beyond, Kenny Herbert returns with a rocking, sentimental look at the magic of Woodstock. Cleverly inserting Crosby, Stills and Nash harmony bits that also echo Stephen Stills’ “Love the One You’re With” amidst the lyrical look back at a very different and well-remembered time, Kenny sings about the historic festival and the devoted music fans who endured three days of mud and rain and peace and harmony and came together as one.

“They danced to all their heroes, making rock ‘n’ roll history,” Kenny sings with heartfelt emotion. Guitarist Rab Howat, bassist Roy Martin, and drummer Martin Wykes bash out this terrific tune; Rab and Nobby Clark sing the backgrounds. David Valentine, from the band RAF, produced to great effect. A wonderful song from one of our favorite music men.

the monkees good timesThe Monkees | Good Times! We just reviewed this fantastic release by Micky, Mike, Davy and Peter (read Alan’s take here). We’re now playing all of the tracks on this glorious album in rotation: “Birth of an Accidental Hipster,” “Good Times,” “Gotta Give it Time,” “I Know What I Know,” “I Was There (And I’m Told I Had a Good Time),” “Wasn’t Born to Follow,” “Little Girl,” “Love to Love,” “Me and Magdalena,” “Our Own World,” “She Makes Me Laugh,” “Whatever’s Right,” “You Bring the Summer,” and two bonus songs available as part of the iTunes version of this album: “Terrifying” and “Me and Magdalena (Version 2).” Absolutely wonderful.

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.

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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

Are You Ready? Thursday’s Big Blast of New Music Added to the Pure Pop Radio Playlist Is Here!

day-twoWe’re back with another extra special, vitamin-rich group of great new and new-to-you melodic pop music added to the Pure Pop Radio playlist.

Let’s get right to it, then. We’ll begin by taking an extended look at a fantastic new tribute to Elvis Costello.

beyond-beliefVarious Artists | Beyond Belief/A Tribute to Elvis Costello We’ve talked about the compiler’s art before, and make no mistake about it–compiling a tribute album is an art. Practicing the art for this three-disc tribute to Elvis Costello are compilers Olivia Frain and John M. Borack, both longtime Costello fans. Frain, a dedicated music fan, and Borack, a music journalist who has also served as executive producer for 2002’s Right to Chews: Bubblegum Classics Revisited and 2001’s Shoe Fetish: A Tribute to Shoes, set about contacting artists and putting into motion all of the behind-the-scenes nuts-and-bolts tasks necessary to bring the set to market.

This mammoth collection, gathering together covers of Costello numbers from 50 artists, is a delight to listen to from head to toe. As noted in the set’s booklet, “100% of the proceeds…will be donated to the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation. The Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation keeps music alive in schools by donating musical instruments to under-funded music programs, giving youngsters the many benefits of music education, helping them to be better students and inspiring creativity and expression through playing music.” In an era in which arts programs are often cut from schools, this is a most welcome and vital effort.

Beyond Belief is chock full of choice Costello songs performed by artists who obviously love the source material. And what’s not to love? Costello has been a favorite artist of music fans since he first burst on the scene in 1977 with his debut album My Aim is True. Along the way, he has delivered songs in all manner of genre from rock to pop to R&B to country and back again. Proof of this ability to jump from one style to another at the drop of a tone arm is reflected in the tracks chosen by the artists appearing here.

While some artists stick to the plot of land originally planted by Costello, others reimagine the master’s songs and work with new approaches. David Myhr, late of the Merrymakers and now a favored solo artist, delivers a wonderful version of “Veronica” (co-written with Paul McCartney) that basically sticks to Costello’s blueprint but takes the song at a slightly slower tempo and adds more of a glossy, pop sheen. The Rubinoos trade a blaring horn section for the original’s organ part and temper Costello’s snarl with a bit of a poppier vocal approach in a jazzier, new version of “Pump It Up.” Mike Viola turns in a basically reverent version of a Burt Bacharach co-write, the majestic “God Give Me Strength,” in what amounts to a somewhat more intimate, drawing room-like performance; Viola’s gorgeous vocal is delivered over a bed of acoustic guitar and chamber strings, minus the horn present in Costello’s original version.

Three tracks, in particular, take the art of covering a song to new heights. First and foremost, the award goes to Jamie Hoover and Steve Stoeckel, better known as Jamie and Steve, who pull the rug out from under Costello’s “Blame It On Cain” and shake out the dust like men on a mission, turning in an amped-up, wild a cappella version powered by doo-wop muscle and good, old-fashioned chutzpah. Not only do Jamie and Steve prove how good the song is, they turn it inside out and rebuild it from the ground up. This is a spectacular performance that will have you hitting the repeat button over and over.

To Costello’s original, moody version of “So Like Candy,” a co-write with Paul McCartney, Paul Myers adds some poppy vocals and a ghostly percussion track and approaches Costello’s bridge as if it were coming straight off of a scratchy vinyl copy of the song. It’s a welcome surprise that, along with Myers’ assured vocal, is one of this set’s major delights. Another top shelf approach is that of Lannie Flowers, who takes a basically reverent run through “Radio Sweetheart,” yet surprises listeners by turning the proceedings on their collective head at 1:55 by introducing a decidedly mystical aura for 37 enticing seconds.

What tribute albums such as Beyond Belief offer, aside from giving artists the chance to play in someone else’s sandbox, is proof that good songs will retain their value as each calendar year passes. New coats of paint in the form of new approaches or reverent run-throughs are good for the songwriter’s art, and good, also, for the compiler’s art. With Beyond Belief/A Tribute to Elvis Costello, the compiler’s art has been raised to new heights.

[Twenty-one tracks from Beyond Belief/A Tribute to Elvis Costello have been added to the Pure Pop Radio playlist and are now playing in rotation: “Girls Talk,” Rob Smith; “Brilliant Mistake,” Dennis Schocket and Cliff Hillis; “The Other End of the Telescope,” Butch Walker; “Veronica,” David Myhr; “Kinder Murder,” Popdudes; “No Hiding Place,” Michael Carpenter; “Blame It on Cain,” Jamie and Steve; “Monkey to Man,” Kelley Ryan; “I Hope You’re Happy Now,” Severo; “Pump It Up,” The Rubinoos; “Radio Sweetheart,” Paul Myers; “Tear Off Your Own Head (It’s a Doll Revolution),” Hans Rotenberry; “Possession,” Barry Holdship; “This Year’s Girl,” honeychain; “Green Shirt,” Scott Bennett; “God Give Me Strength,” Mike Viola; “Radio Sweetheart,” Lannie Flowers; “Man Out of Time,” Bill Lloyd; “Almost Blue,” Nick Heyward and the 13 Satellites; “Crimes of Paris,” An American Underdog; and “Mystery Dance,” sparkle*jets UK]   – Alan Haber

(Order at CD Baby or Amazon)

Also new today on Pure Pop Radio:

hidden-picturesHidden Pictures | Ottomans The latest release from Hidden Pictures is a typically entertaining musical knockout punch. Delicious melodic pop pictures are painted with an apparent Deacon Blue-meets-Prefab Sprout vibe. Highlights include the wonderfully catchy “Firm Way to Say Goodbye”; the punchy, tuneful “Girl on Girlfriend”; and “Riffraff,” a rock number with a guitar part sounding like it came from a David Bowie track. These and three more songs are now playing in rotation: “You’re an Adult,” “Hannah, I’m Scared of Your Boyfriend,” and “Firm Way to Say Goodbye.” Another great album from this California group.

tearaways-vol.-4tearaways-vol.-7The Tearaways | The Earle Mankey Sessions, Vol. 4 and The Earle Mankey Sessions, Vol.7 Formed more than 30 years ago, the Tearaways worked with veteran producer Earle Mankey and waxed 50 songs. The results were released in 2014 on these two albums, both necessary purchases for every pop music fan. Great, catchy songs with terrific melodies and harmonies are the order of the day. We’ve added seven songs from Vol. 4 and nine songs from Vol. 7. From Vol. 4, we chose the melodic anthem “Girls Who Love Cars,” the toe-tapper “Stuck On Stupid,” about a guy who can’t quite figure out how to tell a girl he likes how he feels; and the timely “We Don’t Talk, We Text,” about the laziness and lack of proper communication in this world. Also added from Vol. 4: “I Will Wait,” “Jefferson Still Survives,” “Valerie,” and “The Last Goodbye.” From Vol. 7: the self-explanatory “I Pray Guitar”; a rhythmic tribute to “John Wayne”; and “All She Wants Is the Ring,” about a woman who’s in a relationship for its material worth. Plus: “Friends and Enemies,” “I Don’t Know and I Don’t Care,” “More Dollars than Sense,” “I Can Tell You Now,” “I’ll See You Again,” and “I’m All In.” Repeat after us: “Must have. Must have. Must have!”

dave-raveDave Rave and the Governors | Sweet American Music The great Dave Rave returns and hooks up with the Governors for a splendid collection of pop songs, all sporting big melodies and, of course, big hooks. From the driving “Lindsay” and pure pop sixties pleasures of “You Take What’s Yours” to “Pullman Washington” and the Lou Reed vocal vibe of “Night School,” this is an album that will never be far from your ears. We’re happily spinning these four songs, along with the rocking “Trapped.” A big record with big guitars and a whole lot of spirit. And the cover’s really cool.

andy-boppAndy Bopp | Time to Rock! Andy Bopp, late of groups such as Love Nut and Myracle Brah, and currently waxing tunes with Ken Schopf as The Modern Ruins (see next entry), lets loose in his living room armed with only his electric guitar and echoed vocals for a quartet of Sun-era sounding rock ‘n’ roll ‘n’ rockabilly numbers. The tracks: the title track, “Anna Lee,” “Black Heath,” and Santo and Johnny’s “Sleepwalk.” Dig these thrilling and powerful performances, all playing now in rotation.

moderm-ruins-threethe-modern-ruins-bleeding-partyThe Modern Ruins | Bleeding Party and Three Tracks from the Four Track Can’t get enough Bopp? Andy’s got you covered with two new 2015 releases from his duo with Ken Schopf, the Modern Ruins. These songs follow nicely from the vibe of Andy’s solo EP, Time to Rock!, only on these records Andy and his guitars are supported by Ken’s Cocktail Drum kit, percussion and backing vocals. It’s rock ‘n’ roll all the way, from the souped-up Sun-era sound of “All Fall Down (Black Heath),” which also appears on Time to Rock!, to the slow blues of the title track and a spirited, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band-esque version of David Essex’s 1973 top five hit, “Rock On.” These songs, plus three more–“Longtime,” “Rope Walker,” and “There”–are now playing in rotation. From Three Tracks from the Four Track, we’re spinning “Anytime Anyway” and “When It Rains.” Great stuff.

town-and-countrycartographerCartographer | Cartographer, and Town and Country | My Blue Heaven One of our favorite singer-songwriters, Scott Gagner, whose last album, Rise and Shine, was a big hit here at Pure Pop Radio, is the common denominator between these two releases, both from 2008. Both albums find Gagner and friends following a similar musical path to Gagner’s current vibe. In other words, the songs are melodic and inventive and instantly memorable. Great stuff through and through. From Cartographer, we’re playing, in rotation, “The Trouble With You,” “I’m Not Following You,” “Love Triangle for Two,” “Sound Rebounds,” “Waiting,” and “Suburban Girl.” From My Blue Heaven, we’re spinning “Daytime Emmy,” “Bella Vista,” “Better than That,” and “The Rest of the Night.” Scott is currently working on ideas for his next album. We can only hope we don’t have to wait too long.

sitcom-neighborSitcom Neighbor | Charm This wonderful pop music album from 2012 hits the melodic bullseye, sounding like a splinter off the main body of the Sugarplastic. From the beautiful “Amphetamine” to the rocking nod “The Satisfaction of Love” and the bluesy pop of “Vaseline Water Balloon,” this album is full of harmonies and top notch melodies, bursting with tasty nuggets. We’re playing eight songs in rotation: those previously mentioned, and “Let It Go,” “True Love and Medication,” “This Time Tomorrow,” the Beatlesque “Buy Your Farm,” and “Darlene.”

ticketsThe Tickets | The Tickets Musician Walter Clevenger loved the Tickets so much that he gathered together the band’s 1990 cassette-only album, The Tickets Make a Record, and their 1986 single, “She Got Away”/”Yesterday’s Girl” and released both together in 2006 as The Tickets on his own Brewery Records label. The album is an important collection of songs performed by musicians with an obvious love for pop music. We’re playing six: “Dream About Me,” “Everything,” “I Don’t Belong,” “Heartland,” “The One that I Loved,” and “She Got Away.” Great melodies, harmonies and playing abound.

the-general-storeThe General Store | Mountain Rescue It is a pleasure to have the music of the General Store spinning in rotation on Pure Pop Radio. Tam Johnstone, the musician behind the group name, is the son of Elton John guitarist Davey Johnstone; he obviously picked up a musical thing or two from his dad. A mix of country-tinged and pop/rock numbers, Mountain Rescue is represented on Pure Pop Radio by seven songs: the ringing rocker “Early Morning Fuzz,” the Beach Boys homages “Girls from the Mall” and “Nothing Can Come Between Us,” and “Desert Weathered Hiway.” The Neil Young nod “Come Around,” “Great Big World,” and “Over Here” complete the pack.

ian-gommIan Gomm | Demonstrates Ian Gomm, who co-wrote (with Nick Lowe) one of the great pop singles of all time, “Cruel to Be Kind,” and played guitar for the band Brinsley Schwarz, added this terrific EP to his catalog in 2013. The platter is represented on Pure Pop Radio with four choice cuts, pop classics all: the upbeat, catchy “Let’s Stick Together” and “Only You (Knowing Me),” the hit-worthy “Magic Spell,” and the beautiful ballad “Lonely Avenue.” A terrific disc from one of the greats, released by Jerker Emanuelson’s Sound Asleep Records.

souvenirsVarious Artists | Souvenirs: Little Gems of Pop, Volume II The second in a series of collections gathering together various classic pop recordings, Souvenirs: Little Gems of Pop, Volume II kicks off with Richard X. Heyman’s crackerjack 1980 single a-side, “Vacation,” an energetic pop rocker with a typically catchy melody. From there you get, amongst the treasures on hand, Bill Lloyd’s jangly, highly melodic side “Lisa Anne,” from Bill’s 1987 Feeling the Elephant album; Tube Top’s glorious, upbeat power pop song “Oceans Cracked,” from the band’s 1997 album Three Minute Hercules; and Scott Sutherland’s straight-ahead pop song “Book of Seasons” from 1999. These songs are now playing in rotation as part of our playlist; others spinning as we speak are Enemies in the Grass’ “Best Behaviour,” Post Office’s “The Whole Thing’s a Bust,” Jr. Gone Wild’s “It Never Changes,” and Nick Rudd’s Blown’s “One in a Million.” A wonderful collection, released in 2014 by Jerker Emanuelson’s Sound Asleep Records.

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Whew! That does it for our two-day new adds extravaganza. We hope you enjoyed the ride through the latest additions to the Pure Pop Radio playlist. All of the songs and artists we talked about today and yesterday are now playing in rotation. Tune in to Pure Pop Radio by clicking on one of the handy listen links below. And make a date to come back often to hear more of the greatest pop music in the universe!

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

Welcome to Pure Pop Radio’s Favorite Records of the Year: Stars of ’14!

stars-5Alan Haber: Proud Music Geek!I have long believed that of the many instruments that help to bring a great song to life, the human voice is capable of the most expression (sleigh bells come in at number two, in case you were wondering). Moreover, the magic that results from a group of people who come together to make a glorious sound that resonates with an audience is incontrovertible proof that music is the fuel that makes the cool kids sing.

The cool kids sang rather sweetly in 2014, a great year for melodic pop music. Whether driving the beat of a song or singing in five-part harmony, artists were inspired to create lasting art in the form of two-, three- and four-minute songs that added value to people’s lives. There is a reason–probably more than one–that great songs stand the test of time, some sounding  as fresh as the day they were born, even decades after they were recorded. And make no mistake–many of the songs that made their way to turntables and CD players this year have that kind of staying power.

Even after 20 years of writing about and broadcasting pop music to the masses, I am still dazzled by much of what I hear. The thrill of discovery is present every time I sit down and prepare to listen. I want every note that fills the room to explode with joy. And, more often than not, I am rewarded with that certain something that drives me to play music on the radio and gather words together to communicate that joy. For me, the magic is still alive and well and lighting my world.

Which brings me to 21 magical records that helped make 2014 a banner year for melodic pop music. I’ve made no attempt to rank them or present them within categories. It is impossible for me to make a distinction between the fourth and fifth best albums of the year, so I haven’t even tried. What follows are simply 21 of my favorite releases of the year: the stars of 2014, if you will–a group of records that will enrich your life in ways that may well surprise you. And they’re presented in no particular order. There were many more records that touched my soul this year; these are the top of the pops. At the very least, they will put a smile on your face, and as the late writer Derek Taylor might have opined, you really can’t say fairer than that. – Alan Haber

And now, in no particular order, please join me in ushering in the Stars of ’14: Pure Pop Radio’s Favorite Records of the Year!

joe-sullivanJoe Sullivan | Schlock Star Coming seemingly out of nowhere, Joe Sullivan and his debut album, Schlock Star, knocked me clean off my feet. Joe’s keenly observed pop songs, about girls and boys and boys and girls and other related topics, are perfect examples of the arts of clever songwriting and performance. In my review of this album, published on September 2 on this site, I said that “Sullivan makes tracks that stick and stack up for imminent replay.” I also stated, without reservation, that  “This is Sullivanmania, attended by screaming fans who dig the sounds of one of the best records of 2014.” No doubt you’ll be hearing a lot more about Joe in the coming years. Joe, as you may have already figured, is the real deal.

marti-jonesMarti Jones | You’re Not the Bossa Me What I know about bossa nova music could fit on the rightmost quadrant of the head of a pin, but thanks to Marti Jones’ radiant album that adds more than a splash of melodic pop to the turntable, I’m something of an expert. Well, not really, but I know what I like and I like the latest chapter of Jones’ music a lot. When I added all of these songs to the Pure Pop Radio playlist on July 9, I said in my playlist report that this is “pop music for discerning listeners….” And indeed it is. I also noted that the songs, “written by [Kelley] Ryan, [Don] Dixon, Bill DeMain, [Paul] Cebar and others, are brought to life with Jones’ magical voice. Jones has never sounded better.” It’s always a celebration when Jones releases a new album. If you think this one is great, well, just wait until the next one spins.

legal-matters-largeThe Legal Matters | The Legal Matters Some albums feel right after only a few notes play. And when the harmonies kick in–when the melodies surround me and take me to some other place–I’m putty in the musicians’ hands. Such was my experience with this debut album by three well-known musicians who came together to form the Legal Matters. In other words, they’re the Rockpile of the melodic pop world. It’s all in the music, I said in my July 23 feature review; the “harmony-drenched law firm of [Andy] Reed, [Chris] Richards and [Keith] Klingensmith” delivers the goods. This is “good, good music for when the snow falls, for when spring turns to summer, during a light rain, and for when fall signals the end of baseball season and the year moves into its closing phase. It’s good for what ails you, a prescription that works wonders no matter the season or circumstance.” It’s really great, and it’s one of my favorite records of 2014.

ed-woltilEd Woltil | Paper Boats, A Reverie in Thirteen Acts The beautiful songs that populate this wonderful album from the Ditchflowers’ Ed Woltil are a wonder to behold. Melody is king and beauty is on display in each of the melodic gems currently playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio. Whether he’s wearing his straight-ahead pop hat on the catchy “Algebra” or crooning softly and emotionally on the beautiful waltz, “Dance With Me One More Time,” Woltil is capturing our hearts. I called this a hall-of-fame-worthy release when I wrote about it in my July 9 station update; four months later, its position remains unchanged. A stellar release from a huge talent.

dave-3Dave Caruso | Cardboard Vegas Roundabout When I reviewed this album on September 17, I testified, up front, about it glorious wonders: “This kind of thing, this magical musical mixture exhibiting the tasty influences of Barry Manilow, the Carpenters, the Beach Boys and, hey why not, Paul McCartney, is a thing of beauty, an artful excursion that can and will enrich your life, take you to your happy places and prove to you that good things absolutely do come in all manner of packages–small, medium, large and beyond.” What more do you need to know, except that these songs should absolutely have a place in your life. Caruso’s Beach Boys/Carpenters homage, “Champion,” alone makes this album a worthy purchase. Cardboard Vegas Roundabout is so good and so tasty that many of the other CDs in your collection will aspire to achieve its greatness. Simply fantastic.

bill-lloyd-reset2014Bill Lloyd | Reset2014 Bill Lloyd has been a huge part of the Pure Pop Radio playlist since his career-making Set to Pop was released in 1994. On the occasion of the album’s 20th anniversary, Bill has recreated that mind-blowing collection with wonderfully-updated remakes and early and live takes. Reset2014 is as much a look back as it is a reinvention. “On the list of Best Records Ever Made,” I noted in my October 29 review, “Set to Pop must sit comfortably alongside similarly great waxings drawn from the catalogs of other great artists.” “With Reset2014,” I wrote, “Bill Lloyd has taken pause to smell the roses from 20 years ago and replant them for future generations.” This is such a great achievement from one of pop music’s greatest artists.

the-britannicasThe Britannicas | High Tea Album number two from this international melodic pop supergroup checks off many of the must-haves on power pop fans’ lists: Byrds musings, gorgeous balladry, jangle, harmonies and hooks galore. Veteran U.S. popster Herb Eimerman, who we’ve been playing on Pure Pop Radio for somewhere in the neighborhood of18 years, Australia’s Joe Algeri, and Magnus Karlsson from Sweden have served up a spot of High Tea that all told constitutes a truly classic collection.

myrtle-parkMyrtle Park’s Fishing Club | Nothing to Be Afraid Of A total surprise, this is perhaps the brightest, most inventive, most sincere and happiest-sounding melodic work of the year. Kate Stephenson, trading under the delightful band name Myrtle Park’s Fishing Club, had written a range of songs that recall the best of the Roches, the Dream Academy and Prefab Sprout, but come alive as uniquely her own creations. The deeply-felt, dense harmonies alone are more than worth the price of admission. Plus, the artwork and hand-lettered lyrics in the accompanying booklet prove that the album package is still alive out there in the world. One of the most truly special albums of this or any other year.

robert-crenshawRobert Crenshaw | Friends, Family and Neighbors Speaking of truly special albums, here is one from the great Robert Crenshaw. “One of the sweetest surprises of the year is this joyous celebration of the love of the clever, catchy song,” I wrote in my October 30 feature review. Pairing a couple of covers, including one of Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” which features Marshall, Dean and John Crenshaw, with seven originals and a surprise bonus track, Crenshaw turns in his best album to date, tackling such diverse subjects as “…the upside of improbability (the lovely, hymn-like “The Night the Detroit Lions Won the Super Bowl”), familiarity in the face of love (the Bill Lloyd co-write, “You’re So Hip to Me”), detachment versus reality (“What if I’m Really Dead?”), and hiding behind the wall of booze (the gospel-tinged “Turn to Booze”).” A wonderful album, beautifully realized.

the-rubinoosThe Rubinoos | 45 In my November 10 feature review, I wrote that “this latest album from the melodic pop band’s melodic pop band is a master class in songwriting and performing that should be at the top of your holiday gift-giving lists.” 45 is stone-cold triumph–a standout album in a career teeming with them. Among the treasures on offer, besides the great voice of Jon Rubin and some of the best harmonies on the planet, is one of the best tracks recorded by any artist this year–a lovingly-rendered a cappella (with percussion) version of Lou Christie’s classic, “Rhapsody in the Rain,” that will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end and drive you to recall the classic sound of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Tommy Dunbar originals like the buoyant “I Love Louie Louie” and the upbeat “Countdown to Love,” which tips its hat to the Paul Revere and the Raiders playbook, are modern day classics. Long may the Rubinoos run.

peter-laceyPeter Lacey | Last Leaf Tender and loving and from the heart, Last Leaf bristles with warmth and genuine emotion. Lacey harkens back to his folk roots, taking inspriation from ” the circles of everyday, country life: on patches of grass surrounded by sprouting trees, and by the water, on a calmly-stated lake. Lacey’s new songs are about the simpler, and more important, things in life; every element of this album is calm and soothing and powerful,” I wrote in my station update on July 7. Beautiful songs like “The Woodwind” and “Boy in the Rings of a Tree” populate this entire album, a treasure by any definition of the word.

jamie-two-everJamie Hoover | Jamie Two Ever Pop music’s premiere journeyman returns with a sort-of sequel to 2004’s Jamie Hoo-Ever, and boy does he deliver. Seven originals, eight covers (only on the CD), and a million reasons to keep this album in hot rotation at your pad. As I said in my station update on October 28, “From ace covers of a couple of Beatles tunes and the Left Banke’s “Walk Away Renee” to a host of originals, including the joyous, almost-completely a cappella “Press Save”; the lovely, gentle Steve Stoeckel co-write, “Lost”; and the bluesy “Oh Darlin’!”-esque “You Took Away the Birds,” Jamie Two Ever practically redefines the word ‘classic.’

kylie-whitney-2Kylie Whitney | Something About Ghosts With a soulful approach and a refreshing touch of honesty, Kylie Whitney has released a classic-sounding album stocked with a wide range of emotions, all conveyed with authority. Although the album is chiefly comprised of originals, most of which were co-written with producer Michael Carpenter, Whitney does deliver a tender read of Don McLean’s “Vincent.” “Bad News Baby” finds Whitney in fine ’60s girl-group mettle, and “Tealite” shines an emotional light on her somewhat fragile vocal. Everything here points to a singer with a bright future.

mylittlebrothermylittlebrother | If We Never Came Down One of the coolest discoveries of the year. Here’s how I summed things up in my October 24 station update: “As perfect as a beautiful day in the country or a clear, wondrous night under the stars, mylittlebrother is a wonderful British band that specializes in lovely, clever, insanely catchy pop songs that capture the imaginations of listeners. Entrancing melodies, gorgeous harmonies and a sense of humanity make this album the find of the year.” The opener, the joyously hopping mid-tempo “Loves of Life, Unite!” and the early rock ‘n’ roll stroll-meets-Teenage Fanclub vibe of “My Hypocritical Friend” are only two of the musical pleasures to be savored. Wonderful.

sam-rbSam RB | Finding Your Way Home Here is a truly lovely album full of truly lovely songs by a New Zealand singer-songwriter who makes truly beautiful music. Here is what I said in my October 28 station update: “Finding Your Way Home features Sam’s beautiful, expressive voice and songs with melodies that will melt your heart.” Sam sings her heart out in such standout tunes as the folk-pop “Blue Sky Day,” the wonderfully catchy, hit-worthy “Say Goodbye,” and the should-be-hitbound and equally impressive title song. Don’t be surprised if Finding Your Way Home soon finds its way to your home.

dowling-poole-2The Dowling Poole | Bleak Strategies The perfect second act after the ashes of the much-missed band Jackdaw 4 had scattered, the Dowling Poole finds that band’s leader, Willie Dowling, teaming up with veteran musician Jon Poole for a similarly imaginative trip down the pop music rabbit hole. Bleak Strategies is hardly a bleak affair, though; rather, it’s a wondrous, album-length expression of strength in the art of composition and performance, with seemingly millions of influences synthesized down to one shared point of view. Full of surprises and all manner of left and right turns, this is your one-stop-shop for XTC-meets-10cc-meets-Kinks, Beatles and Frank Zappa-isms. Put simply, these are pop songs turned on their heads by two men fully poised to do the job right. Any album that segues effortlessly from banjo-fueled vaudeville to straight pop in the same song (the wild and wooly “Empires, Buildings and Acquisitions”) and lays their pop smarts bare with an early-to-late period XTC-like romp (the insanely catchy “A Kiss on the Ocean”) deserves your rapt attention. Grand.

vanishing-actEdward O’Connell | Vanishing Act Four years on from his 2010 debut, Our Little Secret, Edward O’Connell returns with, not surprisingly, another great record.  In our July 10 station update, I wrote that “Vanishing Act is everything a great melodic pop album should be and then some.” Songs include the insanely catchy “My Dumb Luck” (with its George Harrison-esque slide guitar lines), the equally infectious “Severance Kiss,” and “Lonely Crowd,” with a decidedly Tom Petty vibe. With not a single note or clever lyric wasted, Vanishing Act is one of this year’s greatest musical achievements.

linus-of-hollywoodLinus of Hollywood | Something Good Something great is more like it. “Nobody does it better,” Carly Simon once sang, and she might as well have been singing about Linus. His duet with the lovely Kelly Jones on the charming “If You Don’t Love Me You Gotta Let Me Go” is, all by itself, worth the price of admission. His gentle cover of Kiss’ “Beth” breathes new life into the old classic rock staple, putting added emphasis on the melody as welcome, real strings set the song aloft. Spectacular music, catchy as all get out, all the way through.

dana-pop-2Dana Countryman | Pop 2! The Exploding Musical Mind of Dana Countryman Dana Countryman turns the clock back to the panoramic 1970s as the Wayback Machine collects the songs that form the soundtrack of your life–if you’re a sweet, melodic pop fan, and by reading this you might as well flash yout membership card at the door, this is for you. Nobody does this kind of thing better than Countryman, who celebrates “…the kinds of songs they just don’t write and record anymore. His influences, from Gilbert O’Sullivan and Eric Carmen to the Beatles and beyond, are worn on his sleeves and  [are] bathed in his own, unique approach to songwriting and production.” That was my take on this album in my review from October 7. If you’re looking for a warm, musical glow to light your way, then look no further than this collection. It’s like what used to come out of transistor radios a long, long time ago, but it’s now coming from the here and now. Pop 3!, please.

mothboxerMothboxer | Sand and the Rain Mothboxer’s Dave Ody wears his heart, and his influences, on his sleeve on this wonderful new album. Mothboxer just keeps getting better, and this album is their best yet. The influence of the Beach Boys is apparent, however subtly, on the lively and engaging “In the Morning” and the enticing “Looking Out for Summer.” The title cut is clever, technicolor pop. The driving “We’re All Out of Our Minds” is upbeat and rather catchy. Overflowing with great songs, Sand and the Rain is a clear winner and, not surprisingly, one of the best albums of the year.

solicitorsThe Solicitors | Blank Check  Lee Jones’ energetic, widescreen pop songs, hooks always at the ready and raring to go, are fuel for the fire that is Australia’s the Solicitors. A wildly talented singer and songwriter, Jones, along with guitarist Laf Zee and crew tread towards the listener with equal parts vim, vigor and melody. The band means business and their business is clear: knock ’em down with Stiff-era enthusiasm and the joy of performance. One of these days, the Solicitors will venture away from Oz and hit American shores to spread their pop gospel. We patiently wait for that day, but until then we have this new album, one of the best of the year.

(All reviews written by Alan Haber)

We hope you’ve enjoyed our list of 21 of Pure Pop Radio’s favorite albums of the year. These are the Stars of ’14: 21 artists with great songs that will enrich your lives and guarantee your status as one of the cool kids. Which artists and songs will make next year’s cut? See you in about 365 days for the answer to that question and many more! Thanks for reading, and thanks, as always, for listening to Pure Pop Radio!

Click here to download our app for listening on the go with Android and iOS devices!

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

Day Nine is Fine! We’re Still On an Adding Binge…See What’s New and Now Spinning on Pure Pop Radio!

what's-newWhat’s new, you ask? Why, it’s another list of 10 of the most recent adds to the Pure Pop Radio playlist. We like diving in, and we bet you do too, so without further ado, here we go!

always-coverDwight Twilley | Always A new Dwight Twilley album is always a cause for celebration and we’re celebrating alright, by adding a dozen songs from this latest platter, titled Always. Always is another solid collection of pop-rockers and gorgeous ballads from one of our most dependable and talented artists. Whether you’re a longtime Twilley fan, or new to Dwight’s legendary sound, you’re going to love this record. We’re playing, in rotation, the title track, “A Million Miles Wide,” “Lovers,” “Into the Flame,” “Everybody’s Crazy,” “Everyday,” “‘Til the Jukebox Dies,” “We Were Scared,” “Happy Birthday,” “I See It in Your Eyes,” “Fools Like Me,” and “Tomorrow.” Pop and rock on with Dwight!

jamie-two-everJamie Hoover | Jamie Two Ever Second in what we hope will be a long-running series, and the sequel of sorts to the much-loved Jamie Hoo-Ever, Jamie Two Ever presents Mr. Hoover hip deep in comfortable pop-rock waters, delivering yet another top-flight collection of timeless melodies and performances. As we always say when Jamie releases a new record, this is a given–a rock solid treat for fans of great songs crafted by pop music’s premiere journeyman. From ace covers of a couple of Beatles tunes and the Left Banke’s “Walk Away Renee” to a host of originals, including the joyous, almost-completely a cappella “Press Save”; the lovely, gentle Steve Stoeckel co-write, “Lost”; and the bluesy “Oh Darlin’!”-esque “You Took Away the Birds,” Jamie Two Ever practically redefines the word “classic.” We’re playing the entire album in rotation; in addition to the aforementioned songs, we’re spinning “Wait,” “Righteous Side of Love,” “Misery,” “Honest Work,” “Georgia Rose,” “I’m Looking through You,” “The Jim Joanne Massacre,” “Take Care of You,” “Star,” “There’s a Place,” and “Oh Babe Take Me Home.” Truly spectacular. A new Jamie Hoover release means all is right with the world.

sam-rbSam RB | Finding Your Way Home Here is a greater-than-great new release from Australia’s Sam RB, who we’ve been playing on Pure Pop Radio for awhile. Finding Your Way Home features Sam’s beautiful, expressive voice and songs with melodies that will melt your heart. We’re playing all of the songs from this spectacular album: “Blue Sky Day,” “No Need to Say,” “Busking,” “The Smile in His Eyes,” “Shooting Star,” “It Rains Down” “Funny Thing That,” “There is a Place,” “Just Say It’s True,” the title track (a hit waiting to zoom up the charts!), “Calloused Fingerprints,” “Don’t Think Twice,” “Thank You” (another hit waiting to break at radio), and “Say Goodbye.” Sam RB just keeps getting better and better.

brett-harrisBrett Harris | Mr. Sunshine Yet another longtime favorite here at Pure Pop Radio, Brett Harris is a masterful songwriter and performer who also keeps getting better and better. His new EP adds more greatness to his classic catalog. We’re playing three songs in rotation, all catchy and sung with lots of heart: the title cut (a hit single if ever there was one), “Out of the Blue,” and “When you Get the Chance.” We’re thrilled to have Brett back with new songs. Dig them all!

smile-factorySmile Factory | “Man in a Minute” So hot, the wax is still wet on this poppy, mega-catchy, wonderful song from a new group comprised of familiar and perhaps not-so-familar names. The Legal Matters’ Keith Klingensmith (vocals) and the Tor Guides’ Torbjorn Petersson (guitars and vocals), you probably (and should) know. The other players? Atlanta’s own Lee Wiggins on drums, David “Zeus” Henderson on bass, and Bill Shaouy on keys. Brandi Ediss and Karen Basset provide backing vocals. Nothing could be sweeter and finer than this glorious example of why melodic pop music is the best kind of music in the whole wide world. Really infectious and quite joyous and we’re pleased as punch to be bringing it to you in rotation. Beautiful.

successful-failuresThe Successful Failures | Captains of Industry, Captains of War A good old-fashioned pop-rock album by a bunch of guys who know their stuff. In the case of these songs, that stuff is bursting with lots of guitars, great harmony vocals, some country tinges, and a bit of what REM would sound like if they were more of a pop, and not a rock, band. We’ve added almost all of the songs on this album: “Stagger Lee and Woodrow Wilson,” “Milwaukee,” “Hit the Ground Running,” “1954,” “Meal Parade (Always Be Around),” “Falling Out,” “Navigation by the Stars,” “Knew Me On Sunday,” “O Carolina,” “Sunny in My Head,” and “John Henry.”

the-satisfactorsThe Satisfactors | The Satisfactors Say hello to your go-to Fall ’14 supergroup, New Jersey’s own Satisfactors. What do you get when you bring together the Doughboys’ Gar Francis (aka Jimmy Target), the Grip Weeds’ Kurt Reil (aka Curtis Roy), the Easy Outs’ Bruce Ferguson, and Kenny Aaronson, who’s played with Bob Dylan, amongst other legends? You get a whole lot of muscle, grrring guitars, and a whole lot of in-your-face songwriting and vocalizing. You get a pop-rock album that pays no apologies for keeping the neighbors up at night. We’re playing nearly the whole album in rotation: “She Got Charm,” “I Love Girls,” “You’re So Crazy,” “Hey Mama,” “Sweet Sunshine,” “Johnny Commando,” “Take Your Troubles Away,” “Hit Me, Hit Me, Hit Me,” “Gimme My Rock ‘n’ Roll,” “Girl Just Wants to Dance,” and “Had it With You.” We’re dancing the night away–how about you?

magic-eight-ballMagic Eight Ball | Last of the Old Romantics UK pop-rock trio Magic Eight Ball’s new album, releasing soon, hits all of the tempting sweet spots, presenting both ballads and up-tempo pop-rockers, always focusing on great melodies and a powerhouse voice in Baz Francis. We’ve added six songs to the Pure Pop Radio playlist: “What Happened in ’92,” “Come Get Your Kicks,” “Yeah, I’m Serious,” “California in the Fall,” “Red Hair Wrapped Around Her Neck,” and “On the Days that You Wish You Could End It All…” A round of applause for Baz and the boys!

loose-pillsLoose Pills | Rx We’ve got a taster from Loose Pills’ album that rocks and pops: the upbeat power popping “I Don’t Want It” and the emotional, strong-willed, melodic rock-pop of “Get Drunk, Play Records.” Cool stuff.

the-286The 286 | EP Within our rather large playlist, we have soft spots all over for bands that celebrate the legacy of Jeff Lynne and the Electric Light Orchestra. The latest band to fly the flag proudly is this London “rock orchestra,” probably a fitting way to describe the outfit that has turned out quite the wonderful, six-song collection of ELO-tastic sounds. We’re running all six songs through our playlist: “Hello,” “Let the Rain Fall Down,” “Miracle on 286th Street,” “Little Louisa,” “Battalion 286 (Monmouth Minuet),” and “Suite: Beyond the World.”

That’s it for today. We’ll pick things up again on Thursday and Friday of this week, when we will unveil more of the latest artists and songs that have been added to the Pure Pop Radio playlist. Tomorrow: A hot review for an equally hot album that is without question one of the best of this year. See you then!

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