Tag Archives: kool kat musik

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.

Reviews: 4.24.19: Armchair Oracles’ Guitar Pop Shines, and Lannie Flowers McCartneys Things Up

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

Armchair Oracles
Caught by Light (Kool Kat Musik (CD), 2019)

Comprising 10 songs drawn in bewitching colors, doused with the spirit of decades of classic guitar pop and seasoned by Norway’s quartet of the moment, Caught by Light jumps to the front flank of 2019’s finest releases.

Armchair Oracles, twisting and turning in and around the essence of bands such as Badfinger and Teenage Fanclub, roll out a virtual guide to being safe and at home in this life.

The breathtakingly beautiful “Don’t Let It Break You,” a muscular power ballad with soft shoulders, sings a song of hope and guidance as the narrator offers sage advice to a young friend (“Don’t let the hard times break you or leave you all behind / You’ll be good if you stand your ground”). “Several Stories” tells a melodic tale of someone who understands how to rebound from a fall from grace (“Whenever I am down / You will be around to make it better”).

Songs such as the provocatively titled “She Gets Me High,” a concise, crafted-with-care ballad about the narrator’s safe place (“I close my eyes / I hold my breath and then exhale / She lifts me up and gets me high”) continue the listener’s journey through an invigorating program of melodically-sewn musical life lessons. (We reviewed three tracks previously released as singles here; all three–“Porcelain Heart,” “All My Time,” and “Downsized Life”–are extraordinarily good.)

An unmissable long-player from Atle Skogrand (vocals and guitars), Bjørn Gamlem (guitars), Jan Ove Engeseth (bass), and Charles Wise (drums).

Where to Get It: Kool Kat Musik (CD), Digital: Bandcamp (Vinyl, too), Amazon, iTunes

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Lannie Flowers | “What Did I Know” (SpyderPop, 2019)

A love-her-but-not-for-a-lifetime toe-tapper in the best uptempo Flowers in the Dirt-era Paul McCartney tradition, “What Did I Know” continues the ongoing offering of fabulous free songs given away each month by Lannie Flowers and SpyderPop Records, during the run-up to Lannie’s forthcoming album, Home. (And, by the way, none of these free songs will be on Home.)

This is the 13th of the “Flowers” picked and presented to fans of one of melodic pop’s greatest assets, and it’s a doozy, free for the taking on SpyderPop’s website. Christmas continues to come early, am I right?

Where to Get It: SpyderPop Records’ website

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

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

Reviews: 3.13.19: Wes Hollywood’s Dynamite, and Yorick van Norden’s Melody-Rich The Jester Sings

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

Wes Hollywood | Dynamite (Kool Kat, 2019)

From Chicago to your town, Wes Hollywood’s Kool Kat CD debut hits the ground running with a fun, zippy mix of tunes saluting the sounds of early Elvis Costello, Dave Edmunds, and sixties British Invasion bands. Two guitars, bass and drums rule here.

From track to track, all relatively short, you never know where you’re going to land even as guitars are the primary ingredient. “Dirty Manhattan” is loud, speedy, and in-your-face; “Nothing to See Here” is an uptempo number with a melodic bass line; “Evelyn” is pure, early Elvis C., with a surprising blink-and-you’ll-miss-it quiet bridge–just Wes and guitar–towards the end.

Wes Hollywood

Hollywood ups the ante with songs like “Fall Up a Ladder,” a mid-paced ballad that manages to reference the Kinks and Squeeze and slip in a waltz tempo that increases in intensity with a minute to go. “Dandelion” sounds for all the world like a mix of early Elvis Costello and British Invasion moxie. But it’s the straight-ahead pure pop of the closer (with a Stiff Records cold ending), “No One Loves You,” that neatly pleases this reviewer’s heart the most. It’s a catchy two-and-a-half minute earworm, for sure.

Wes Hollywood’s Dynamite, brought to life by Wes (guitar and vocals), guitarist Pete Javier, bassist Spencer Matern, and drummer and vocalist Tom Shover, is pure dynamite.

Where to Get It: Kool Kat Musik

Yorick van Norden | The Jester (Excelsior, 2018)

Yorick van Norden’s miraculous album is a strong gathering of melody-rich songs crafted with care by a songwriter who possesses a keen sense of melodic structure.

Hailing from the Netherlands, van Norden is clearly influenced by some of the top melodic stylists of the rock and pop eras. This sophomore release (his debut, Happy Hunting Ground, came out in 2015) makes a strong statement, and is proof positive that melody continues to be king.

The Jester’s opener, the psych-drenched “The Forest of the Mind,” echoes the sensibilities exhibited in similar-sounding work by XTC and the Big Dish. The jaunty, jangly “Another Day in London Town” and “More than Words” sound as if they could have been plucked from the fertile song wells of any number of 1960s British Invasion stars. Yet, they are uniquely van Norden.

Van Norden’s ballads are as inviting as his more upbeat numbers. “Suite No. 1,” a gorgeous, orchestrated flight of fancy, is a pure pop masterwork, a very affecting, enlightened construct. “Winter,” with its Four Freshmen-like harmonies and Beach Boys and Association sensibilities, is a waking dream of a tune, an instant classic. And “Light Up Love,” which sounds like a close cousin of Paul McCartney’s “Put It There,” marries lovely harmonies with a strong melody and a plucking bass-as-percussion bottom.

The shining light that closes van Norden’s sophomore journey, “Suite No. 2,” is a seven-and-a-half minute coming together of song sections clearly influenced by classic, melodically-centered artists such as Harry Nilsson, Emitt Rhodes, and the aforementioned McCartney. It is a stunning offering that closes with a softened instrumental explosion of themes and feeling, one that paints the soundfield with traditional pop and rock instrumentation, orchestration and heart.

With melody as its heart, Van Norden’s The Jester is a shining example of the best that melodic pop has to offer.

Where to Get It: Amazon, iTunes

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

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

Reviews | 10.30.18: Everet Almond’s Triple Pop Play on CD

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Everet Almond | An Introduction to Everet Almond (Kool Kat Musik, 2018)

Everet Almond | Windsor Field (Kool Kat Musik, 2018)
Everet Almond | Everet Almond (Kool Kat Musik, 2018)

everet almond drums from fb pageWhat I know about Everet Almond I could fit literally on the head of a pin and still have room left for a whole lot more; he’s played drums and percussion with Bryan Scary in Evil Arrows and self-released a number of download-only EPs under the Almond name and as Windsor Field.

What I also know is that this tuneful body of work, very much in the melodic pop style, is now receiving a welcome release on a series of three first time CDs from Ray Gianchetti’s Kool Kat Musik. And now I know even more about this superlative one-man-band, which will certainly leave a little less room on the aforementioned pin. (I also know that it would hardly be out of line to dub the do-it-all Almond the Emitt Rhodes of the 2010s.)

The three releases in Kool Kat’s series shine with weighty slices of melodic pop that more than deserve a place in music collections defined by memorable melody. Let’s take a look at them.

An Introduction to Everet Almond
everet almond - an introduction to coverThe first Kool Kat collection, titled An Introduction to Everet Almond, collects the artist’s first three EPs, originally recorded and released digitally from January 2015 to February 2018: Four Track(s), Left of Center, and Everet Almond Three.

The 14 songs on An Introduction to Everet Almond chart the start of Almond’s musical path, which begins perhaps tentatively as the artist tests the waters before him and ends with more assuredness and a tighter lock on his creative tools. From the early, lo-fi, poppy “Are You a Man” to the uptempo, soulful belter “NYC,” replete with punctuating horns and background vocals, this is the sound of Almond moving quickly ahead, sounding in gear and on target.

Windsor Field
everet almond - windsor field coverBefore adopting the Everet Almond moniker, Almond recorded as Windsor Field; these tracks, now released on Kool Kat as being by Almond in a collection called Windsor Field, catapult the artist’s sound into the pop stratosphere. They are full-fidelity recordings of assured compositions performed with a boatload of gusto.

A trio of Windsor Field’s numbers pretty much define the state of Almond as Field: the upbeat, piano-based, perky “Cry” is an infectious, catchy gem with attractive harmonies; the lovely, folk-pop “Come Home” jumps along atop a plunky bass line and a sweet melody; and the Cars-like “To Your Head” hits with clever background vocal bursts and another enticing melody.

Everet Almond
everet almond - everet almond coverAlmond’s full-length, self-titled collection, the third in Kool Kat’s series and the first release recorded as a full-length, is a joyous listen from start to finish; ears will perk up to the catchy pure popper “I Love You,” courting a delicious melody and joyous harmonies, and, by contrast, the upbeat, guitar-based, harmony-laden pop-rocker “Don’t You Need Me?”. The ultra-poppy “Beautiful Neighbor” boasts all of Almond’s strengths, not the least of which is the song’s rich harmony component and a particularly clever, pumping piano part.

So now I, and you, know a whole lot about Everet Almond. You, and I, are witness to a wealth of wonderful, melodic pop music crafted by a most talented artist. Get listening and singing along, won’t you?

black box Where to Get It: All at Kool Kat Musik’s Online Pop Catalog Store: An Introduction to Everet Almond, Windsor Field, and Everet Almond (self-titled latest release)

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Alan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio is the premiere website covering the melodic pop scene with in-depth reviews of new and reissued recordings, and a wide variety of features. The 24-hour Pure Pop Radio stream, which ran from 2013 to August 25, 2018, succeeded the weekly Pure Pop Radio show, which began in 1995. Welcome to your number one home for coverage of the greatest melodic pop music in the universe from the ’60s to today.

Still Whimsical After All These Years: Ray Paul’s “I Need Your Love Tonight” is Top of the Pops

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Ray Paul | “I Need Your Love Tonight” | This is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio Volume 4
(Kool Kat Musik) 2017

ray paul i need your lovveJust one month shy of a year since the release of Whimsicality, Ray Paul’s glorious, rock ’em, sock ’em return to recording, which in July of 2016 we called “one of this year’s best albums… a delicious mix of originals and well-chosen covers,” Ray returns with another, so-very-catchy slice of pop, and it’s a doozy.

“I Need Your Love Tonight” mines both the sweet and crunchy sides of the Raspberries sound (with just a hint of The Grass Roots) for four minutes of indisputable proof that this heritage artist, whose work passionately promoting indie pop artists is well-known and treasured, is top of the pops.

Ray’s signature, booming bass and strong vocals (stronger than ever, actually), Terry Draper’s drums, tambourine and piano, and Bill Nadeau’s crunchy guitars distinguish “I Need Your Love Tonight,” co-produced in grand style last month by Ray and Terry at Terry’s Swamp Manor studio in Oak Ridges, ON, Canada. The track is certain to be one of the highlights of the much-anticipated This is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio Volume 4 compilation, being released by Ray Gianchetti’s Kool Kat Musik label.

Pure Pop Radio is proud to be the first independent radio outlet to play “I Need Your Love Tonight” outside of Dana and Carl’s This is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio show. The song is now gracing our air and playing in hot rotation. We dig us some new Ray.

black box Now playing on Pure Pop Radio
black box Where to Get It: Coming soon

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Listen to World Premiere Spins from the Greek Theatre’s Kool Kat CD Debut Tonight

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Spins and Reviews | 05.08.17
By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

TONIGHT: We kick off a two-week world radio premiere spin of two tracks from The Greek Theatre’s Kool Kat Musik CD debut, Broken Circle

We’ve added hundreds of new and new-to-you tracks to our playlist in the last few weeks. We’re excited to be bringing you the latest and greatest melodic pop music in the universe, 24-hours a day.

the greek theatre broken circleWe’re also excited to exclusively be bringing you, for the next two weeks, the world radio premieres of two tracks from The Greek Theatre’s smashing, forthcoming first-time CD release of their album Broken Circle on Kool Kat Musik. Previously released on vinyl in a limited edition by Sugarbush Records, Broken Circle is a mind-tripping, mesmerizing melange of psychedelia and melodic substance.

Pure Pop Radio-friendly tracks “Stray Dog Blues” (with a hint of Van Dyke Parks seasoning) and “Lost Out at Sea” marry Pink Floydian ambiance with Harpers Bizarre shading. There is atmosphere to spare in these recordings; uniquely, they sound as though they could have been on any mid- to late-period Floyd album and, in an alternate world scenario, would have been welcome as bonus tracks on really any Harpers long player.

Listen for Swedish psych masters The Greek Theatre’s “Stray Dog Blues” and “Lost Out at Sea” playing exclusively on Pure Pop Radio for the next two weeks. Thanks go out to Kool Kat’s Ray Gianchetti for the opportunity to share these great tracks with the world on an exclusive basis.

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