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Joe Sullivan | Growing Up Schlockstar (Futureman, 2019)
Joe Sullivan’s Schlock Star was an obvious hit platter when it came out in 2014, partly because it was such a surprise and pure of spirit and joyful in song. It stood out among that year’s top releases because it didn’t pretend to be anything other than the culmination of an honest day’s work.
Schlock Star felt like a natural, pure collection of natural, pure songs. You could tell within seconds of spinning it that Joe had natural talent, that given the right circumstances, he would always deliver on the promise of that first record. And so he has, here in 2019, with the sequel to Schlock Star, cheekily entitled Growing Up Schlockstar, an even more wonderfully entertaining half-hour-long melodic pop album that, plainly put, is more fun to listen to than you could ever imagine.
It’s almost as if Joe wrote the 10 songs on Growing Up Schlockstar to provide clarity to listeners who have been looking at their growing up years and wondering what it all amounts to. Of course, Joe is most interested in what those turns of calendar pages amount to for his edification, but no matter–we all take from songs what satisfies our souls.
Growing Up Schlockstar is, put simply, about love and happiness. There are songs about suburban nirvana (“Greenfield Acres”), high school sweethearting of the pom-pom variety (“Cheerleader”), celebrating with the one you love (“Birthday”), and true love through time and space (“Time Machine”).
Mostly, what there is is emotion, looking at a life and knowing its value, played through in pop, rock and roll songs that point to the past as much as they embody the here and now. There are spot-on references to Brian May’s guitarring and the sound of Jellyfish and Fountains of Wayne, but moreover there is the sound of Joe, which is the sum of a whole lot of parts.
Emotion is all over these songs. “Birthday” sounds like the lively and loud mix of guitars, bass, drums and cowbell is looking to break out of the hoosegow even if it takes all night. “Greenfield Acres,” the place where youthful dreams were made, glides along like a Jellyfish outtake with the addition of a very Brian Mayish guitar line, joyous harmonies and a lovely melody.
The biggest emotion at play in these songs is love, is attraction, is two hearts beating as one. In the album closer, the Fountains of Waynesy “Space Princess,” attraction is played out within the confines of a space opera. The path of the imperfect, throwback male explorer (“He gambles, drinks, and smokes cigars/But she doesn’t care/She wants to run her fingers through his 1970s feathered hair”) is set. “Super fantastic intergalactic/You don’t mess/With a space princess,” the explorer observes. “I’ve got my phaser/Set to amaze her/She’s the best/My space princess.”
You don’t mess with perfection, and that’s what you get with Joe and his partners-in-song on Growing Up Schlockstar. Andy Reed, who produced and engineered, always capturing the best performances, plays bass. Drummer Donny Brown puts the oomph where it belongs in his usual skillful, emotive way. Joe sings, strums, picks, wails and generally makes his guitars sing. And Brandon Schott adds a large measure of peace and love to the nostalgic childhood look back, “Gifted and Talented.”
Growing Up Schlockstar, with a colorful cover full of childlike wonder by John Bellsmith, is a joy to behold.
Where to Get It (Releases on April 1): Check back for purchase links
Armchair Oracles | “Porcelain Heart” and “All My Time” (2018), “Downsized Life” (2019)
The delightful songs that have so far been released by Norway’s Armchair Oracles, in advance of the band’s upcoming third album, Caught by Light, have brought some welcome light into this life. With these songs, this charming band is well on its way to releasing a joyous collection of melodic pop gems.
These three lovingly crafted songs reach out and touch the sounds of the 1970s and 1980s, while also hugging contemporary sensibilites. All three are extremely catchy earworms drifting atop gorgeous melodies and beautifully-realized arrangements.
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.
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It was inevitable, of course; we couldn’t possibly go too long without another round of adds to our playlist! Herewith, then, are some of the latest new songs and artists now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio.
Nick Piunti | Beyond the Static Nick Piunti’s smashing followup to last year’s 13 in My Head is another outstanding collection of melodic pop classics sporting great, catchy and hooky choruses and top-notch playing from, among others, Nick, the Legal Matters’ Andy Reed, and music pal Ryan Allen, from Ryan Allen and His Extra Arms. Melodic winners abound, from the oh-so-luscious “Heart Stops Beating” and the gorgeous “Quicksand,” which sports one of this album’s most delectable choruses, to the amazing “Six Bands,” about a gal who’s in “six bands, none of them good.” Hopefully, she realizes that she’s spinning wheels that won’t take her anywhere. Nick’s lead vocals are strong and assured and quite musical. One of the finest albums of this young year, and a surefire candidate for top honors in the best of 2015 sweepstakes. Outstanding stuff.
Smith and Hayes | People All Over the World Clay Smith and William Hayes’ third album continues along the sweet, melodic path set by Changed by a Song and Volume II. The duo’s latest musical missive is another mid-to-late period, Beatles-inspired trip down melody lane. We’re playing nine songs from People All Over the World, each one echoing the sound and spirit of John, Paul, George and Ringo and Smith and Hayes: “Slow Down,” “Know It All,” “Didn’t Want to Fall,” “Celebrate My Broken Heart,” “No War Man,” “Don’t Let Your Heart Break,” “Holding On to Love,” “Man in the Moon,” and “Something About Her.” Save a spot in your 2015 best-of list: This one’s a keeper.
Joe Sullivan | “Cheerleader” Fancy a clever, sweet, power poppy love song? Look no further than this newly-minted charmer from the man behind the glorious Schlock Star, one of our Favorite Albums of 2014. Joe marries a creative approach to lyrics with the ability to almost effortlessly craft a hooky melody and intricate harmonies that sing. Folks, make no mistake: It’s Sullivanmania all over again.
Baby Scream | fan, fan, fan and The Worst of… Juan Pablo Mazzola is so full of music that his latest release is a two-for-one, two-album package bursting with melody and harmony-drenched, classic pop songs. To our ears, Juan sounds a bit like Marc Bolan fronting Badfinger, whether he’s playing an original song or a treasured cover; his version of the Scooby Doo theme song is aces. We’re also playing, in rotation, “A Human Being on Mars,” “Everybody Sucks,” “Captain Hook,” “The Girl Next Door,” “Unicorns,” “In a Picture,” “20th Century Baby,” “Cruella De Vil,” and “The Concept.” Rock and pop on with Juan!
Willie Wisely | Parador On the occasion of this album’s 10th anniversary, Pure Pop Radio favorite Willie Wisely has released an expanded collection featuring the original song lineup and 12 additional tracks: two unreleased and 10 alternates. The result is a stereoscopic look at a great record in all of its forms. We’ve added nine tracks, including “Too Quick to Love,” “Stayin’ Home Again,” “Altitudes,” “Through Any Window,” “Freestyle,” “Too Quick to Love (Alternate Take),” “Erase Me (Alternate Take),” “Through Any Window (Live),” and an alternate take of the title track. Willie is one of melodic pop music’s biggest talents, and here is the proof.
The Galileo 7 | Are We Having Fun Yet? and Two New Tracks | Armed with a rock and roll attitude and keen pop smarts, the Galileo 7 deliver an enticing vibe that harkens back to the early sound of the Who. Witness songs such as the rocking and popping “Are We Having Fun Yet” and the garage stomper “Mine! Mine! Mine!” With melody and harmony always in hand, the band can take it slow as well as fast, as with the tuneful mid-tempo, cleverly-named ballad “Some Big Boys Did It (and then Ran Away).” In addition to the aforementioned songs, we’re playing three more present and future classics from 2010’s Are We Having Fun Yet?: “The Sandman Turns Away,” “Run Baby Run,” and the pumping “Can’t Resist.” We’re also playing, in rotation, the band’s new single which pairs the Who-like charger “One Lie at a Time” and the rocking “The God of Gaps.” The Galileo 7 has released two albums since Are We Having Fun Yet?; tracks from them are coming soon to our playlist.
The New Trocaderos | Frenzy in the Hips We’ve been playing four of the six songs on this newly-released EP for awhile. Our thirst for this pop ‘n’ roll super group remains at a fever pitch. Kurt Baker, and Brad Marino and Geoff Palmer from the Connection, create a musical fireball that produces fast and furious, punchy and take-no-prisoners tunes, two of which have been knighted as Coolest Songs in the World by Little Steven’s Underground Garage. Nice! So, exactly which power popping, rock and rolling songs are we spinning in rotation? How about “Money Talks,” “Real Gone Kitty,” “Dream Girl,” “The Kids,” and a hard-hitting power popper, exclusive to this EP, “Luckiest Man in the World.” Breathless fun!
The Explorers Club | All Aboard This five-song EP, recorded live on July 4, 2014 aboard the USS Yorktown in Charleston, South Carolina, shows one of pop music’s best bands in top form, with a punchy horn section in tow. Lovely versions of “Anticipatin’,” “Go for You,” and “Run Run Run,” all from 2012’s Grand Hotel; and delicious, note-perfect versions of the Beach Boys’ “Don’t Worry Baby” and the Zombies’ “Tell Her No” round out the track list. Now recording a new album, this band proves what so many fans already know: the Explorers Club can do no wrong.
Caddy | “Wherever You Go” Here is the second new song in less than a month from Caddy’s much anticipated, forthcoming album, The Better End. Caddy, aka Oslo, Norway’s Tomas Dahl, delivers an upbeat pop number with a mega-catchy chorus and a nifty saxophone break. It’s got all of the melodic pop food groups, kids! Sounds so good!
The Earthmen | College Heart Direct from Australia, this 1990s band gets its due with a lovingly-curated collection of classic cuts and four previously-unreleased, newly-recorded tracks. On the release docket for April 1, we’re spinning five terrific numbers from this album, including the beautiful, building ballad “The Reprise” and the catchy, upbeat “Whoever’s Been Using this Bed.” Also playing: “First Single,” “Personal History,” and “Blue Sky.” A great release from Popboomerang Records.
R. Stevie Moore and Jason Falkner | Make It Be The perhaps unlikely pairing of indie legend R. Stevie Moore and popster Jason Falkner delivers a quirky collection of songs, from which we’ve chosen two to feature on Pure Pop Radio: the Godley and Creme-era 10cc-esque “Sincero Amore” and “Play Myself Some Music.”
Colman | Play to Lose Produced by the legendary Mitch Easter and mastered by the equally legendary Greg Calbi, this collection mixes pop and elements of Americana to deliver a pleasing set full of melody and a whole lot of warmth. Three songs are spinning in rotation on our air: the single-worthy “Straight Face,” “Swing Low,” and the alluring “Three Chords.”
Mothboxer | “Hope the Light is On” A tasty bonus track appended to the just-released collection of three Mothboxer EPs, “Hope the Light is On” is a re-recorded version of a song originally recorded by Kid Galahad in 2004 (Mothboxer main man Dave Ody was a member). It’s the usual Ody opus: a top-notch melody and gorgeous vocal harmonies married to a catchy melody. It’s true, you know: Dave Ody can do no wrong, and here’s the proof.
That’s the skinny for today. More new adds to our playlist coming next week. Thank you for listening to Pure Pop Radio!
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 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 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.
The 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 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 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 | 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 | 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.
mylittlebrother | 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 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.
The 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.
Edward 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 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 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.
Mothboxer | 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.
The 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!
There must be something in the water here at Pure Pop Radio headquarters, ’cause we’re giving away the store! Well, maybe not the store, but certainly a couple of items in the store. What, pray tell, do we have for our winners, Jay?
Yes, we have winners! Our September 2 contest, which offered up a sealed copy of Joe Sullivan’s fantastic, hall-of-fame-worthy debut album, Schlock Star, will soon be winging its way through the U.S. postal service to none other than… <insert drum roll here> …Chipper Saam! Let’s hear it for Chipper, everybody!
Our September 3 contest, which offered up one of the very last physical CD copies of Dan-Pavelich-as-the-Click Beetles’ Wake Up to Music (and a download code, too) also garnered winners, and they are Stephen Curtis (CD) and Michael Anthony Curan (download code). Let’s drum up some hefty congratulations for these guys, okay?
There ya go–more winners of cool Pure Pop Radio contests. Keep an ear out for the next contest we bring to you–you may be the next winner!
Joe Sullivan | Schlock Star | Reed Recording Company, 2014
Review by Alan Haber
If this were another time and place and Sullivanmania had hit our shores in 1964, it would have been Joe striking a rock star pose on the stage of the Ed Sullivan Theater with the legend “Sorry Girls, He’s Married!” jittering lazily at the bottom of our television screens. The idol of millions, a musical matinee bon vivant,and a consummate rock ‘n’ roll craftsman? “Surely such a creature does not exist!” the ubiquitous they would have screamed, hands flailing around their heads. The whole package. The goods.
In today’s world of momentary chart toppers and web site photo bombs, Joe Sullivan emerges upon first listen as the real deal. Don’t let the tongue-in-cheek album title and cover fool you. A portrait of the artist as an animated object, rendered in permanent marker and surrounded by an under-strung guitar and crayons used to color in a couple-plus-three musical notes, adorns the canvas, suggesting that the music inside might have been written and performed for a Saturday morning kids show in Tuscaloosa or a traveling ice show with skating bears and tree trunks. Nothing could be further from the truth, for this is pop and rock music created by an adult for other adults, and adults who are kids at heart. And it hints, every so cautiously, at the humor and pathos contained within. And, of course, the talent. So much talent.
Sullivan, who plays in the live shows of sterling musical conclave An American Underdog, considers himself to be a songwriter that plays guitar, as opposed to a guitar player who writes songs. His craft benefits from his exposure to a “huge collection of records” from the fifties and sixties he had access to in his youth. His life experience turns those sounds on their heads for a contemporary musical knockout punch you won’t soon forget.
This is absolutely the stuff of a legend who rolls out his barrels beginning with song number one, the hooky “Conspiracy Radio,” armed with an opening salvo in the form of an affectionate nod to the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby.” A slightly agitated roll on that song’s opening drum beats raises the flag and spreads the word about the wonderful, still-vital world of radio. With a sweet Ramones glaze and Brian May-like guitar solo, Sullivan pleads with people to be overtaken by the power that finds him “hanging on every word.” “Haven’t you heard?” Sullivan wonders, and you know you have as you’re reaching for a dial to turn to your favorite station rocking your favorite tunes.
If there is a recurring theme within Schlock Star, it’s the plight of girls and boys of various stripes. A powerful portrait of the artist as rock star pulling the rug out from under a girl who thinks her boyfriend is “insane” and plays music that’s “kind of lame” is at the center of the tongue-in-cheek “Rock Star Boyfriend.” “She don’t care,” the narrator sings, perhaps matter-of-factly. The heck with cool tunes: it’s all about guitar shredding and posing for shiny web site splash pages for this girl. In “Girl Next Door,” a guy, with his heart presumably in the right place, trains his telescope on the bedroom of a new next door neighbor from parts unknown. It’s really a sweet story, as the narrator sings: “I’ll be her Gilligan, she’ll be my Mary Ann, she’ll be my Lois Lane, I’ll be her Superman.” And in the bluesy guitar crunch of “Love in Every Bite,” the emotion is all-consuming and flavorful, and in every way just as tasty.
Aided more than ably by producer, engineer and multi-instrumentalist Andy Reed and drummers Donny Brown and Cody Maracek, Sullivan makes tracks that stick and stack up for imminent replay. You can tell the whole bunch of these crackerjack musical minds are having a blast. The explosions are infectious and more than that you can not ask for. This is Sullivanmania, attended by screaming fans who dig the sounds of one of the best records of 2014.
This is the whole package. These are the goods. This is Joe Sullivan, and he is the real deal.
Win a factory-sealed copy of Joe Sullivan’s Schlock Star! Simply fill in the form below, making sure to put “Joe Sullivan rocks!” in the Comment field. Only one entry per person. Deadline for entering is 12 noon ET on Wednesday, September 10. Good luck!
It’s like Christmas or Hanukkah in June and July! It’s like your birthday five or more days in a row! It’s like finding a 100 dollar bill on the sidewalk! It’s the event you’ve been waiting for: It’s the explosion of hundreds of melodic pop songs that are new to the Pure Pop Radio playlist! Holy melody and harmony, Batman!
We’ve already added nearly 200 songs to the playlist, and hundreds more are coming during the next two weeks. Two weeks? “You mean this event, for which I have been training the past couple of days, is going to reap even more rewards than previously thought?” You are correct! Our ace music pickers wound up getting so much more music in than was anticipated that we’re having to expand our explosive event to two weeks. That’s right, you heard the words: Two weeks! So each and every day during the next 14 days (excluding Sundays, when the aforementioned pickers recharge their melodic batteries), we will be adding new songs, recent songs, songs from the past–lots of songs to the playlist! Wow! Just…wow!
Here are just some of the songs and artists whose great music is now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio:
The Britannicas – High Tea. Four years on from this international melodic pop supergroup’s first, self-titled album comes this powerhouse release bursting with all of the hallmarks that satisfy the cravings of listeners all over the world: power pop, Byrds musings, gorgeous balladry, jangle, harmonies and hooks galore. Featuring the great Herb Eimerman from the United States, veteran popster Joe Algeri from Australia and Magnus Karlsson from Sweden, High Tea is a truly classic collection from which we’ve added nine glorious tracks: “Talkin’ ’bout Summer,” “The Moment Passed,” “Come On Boys,” “Bleed Between the Lines,” “A Shag and Cup o’ Tea,” “More Like than Different,” “I Work at the Post Office,” “Will Someone Cover Your Fall,” and “Lyin’ on the Ground.” Make room on your best of 2014 lists for this one, folks.
Joe Sullivan – Shlockstar. Here’s an “oh yeah!” moment if ever there was one. Joe Sullivan, who plays guitar in An American Underdog, knows his way around a guitar and, what’s more, he knows his way around a deep-seated melodic pop hook. He’s put both of these talents to use on his first album, titled Shlockstar. This album could well be the best debut of the year (there’s no release date yet, so keep looking out for this one). And while we’re at it, let’s call this album a serious contender for 2014’s best-of lists. Every song sounds like a friend you want to hug. Warm and fuzzy melodies abound. Take the first song, “Conspiracy Radio.” Say, is that opening echoing the great Phil Spector productions from the sixties? And aren’t those vocals great? And that guitar solo? Dudes and dudettes, this album is made for your CD player’s repeat button. We love this album so much that we’ve added all 10 songs. Listen for the aforementioned “Conspiracy Radio,” “Nurse Tracy,” “Okinawa Girl,” “Sean Patrick’s Balloon,” “Rockstar Girlfriend,” “Look at Me Now,” “Can’t Go Home,” “Girl Next Door,” “Love in Every Bite,” and “Victims of the Sarlaac.” Prepare to be charmed and amazed. (Thanks to An American Underdog’s Andy Reed for turning me on to this great artist.)
Andy Klingensmith – Pangea. Andy Klingensmith is the melodic pop gift that keeps on giving. This young collegiate issued a short EP last month. That’s three superb releases in less than a year. There is nothing this incredibly talented master of intricate harmonies and deeply-felt songs can’t do. We’ve added two songs to our deep inventory of Klingensmith classics: “Pangea” and “The Actress’s Kiss.” All three of Andy’s releases are available on Bandcamp for free or however much you want to pay. Go get them now. You won’t be sorry.
Goodman – Isn’t it Sad? Not even remotely. Straight from New York City comes (Michael) Goodman’s latest collection of catchy pop tunes that will grab hold of your ears and never let go. We’ve graced our playlist with five songs from this as-great-as-Goodman’s-other-releases album: “I’ll Live Without your Love,” “Longing,” “Anywhere,” “The 1,” and “Canopy.” Prepare to be wowed.
Also added to the Pure Pop Radio playlist today:
* A great song from What, Really?’s self-titled EP: “Ophelia (Among the Flowers).”
* Two exceptional tunes from the forthcoming Vanilla album, 2.0: “Hai Karate Girls” and “The Victim of the Rhyme.” Jayson Jarmon should sound familiar, as he’s one of the members of one of the great bands of our time, Liar’s Club. But, really, he should be familiar as a great pop man whose tightly-constructed songs are a wonder to behold. We love Vanilla and can’t wait for the full album to be released.
* Rachael Dunn, whose sister is the great Liverpool, England pop artist Maxi Dunn, is a really cool singer-songwriter in her own right. Her EP, Placing Stars, is a delight. Fans of classic British artist Claire Hamill will find much to love here. We’ve added two songs that we think you’ll love: “Placing Stars” and “Summer Sunlight.” Rachel Dunn makes beautiful music and you can hear it in rotation on Pure Pop Radio.
* Antiqcool – “Emily.” We’ve been playing a whole bunch of tunes from this ultra-talented singer-songwriter, and now comes this new song, a complete delight.
* Sons of Jet. Freshly-scrubbed and new to the pop scene, Sons of Jet have released a very cool retro-sounding single. Of course, we’re playing both tunes–the early, easy pop of “Broken Record” and the upbeat, could-have-been-heard-at-the-Cavern pop-rocker “My Tears for You (No More).” We expect big things from this group of music loving folks.
*Lewis Taylor. Taylor’s great release, The Lost Album, is a wonderful collection of beautifully constructed pop songs featuring great melodies and heavenly vocals. We’ve added the Todd Rundgren-esque “The Leader of the Band” and “Let’s Hope Nobody Finds Us,” a great song that Beach Boys never recorded. More to come, for sure.
Be here tomorrow when we put more songs just added to the Pure Pop Radio playlist in the spotlight. Hundreds of songs to go; don’t miss a single one! And thanks for listening!