Favorite Records of the Year: Stars of 2018

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

Happy New Year, and welcome to the list.

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

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

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

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

Enjoy.

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

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

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

black box Where to Get It: Amazon, Lojinx

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

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

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

A fun time will be had by all.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A great album.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

black box Where to Get It: Bandcamp

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

black box Where to Get It: Bandcamp

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

black box Where to Get It: Bandcamp, Amazon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A wonderfully rich collection of songs; a terrific album.

black box Where to Get It: Amazon, iTunes

 ∴

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

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

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

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

Where to Get It: Futureman, Kool Kat Musik

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Alan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio is the premiere website covering the melodic pop scene with in-depth reviews of new and reissued recordings, and a wide variety of features. We’ve been around since the first weekly Pure Pop Radio shows, which began broadcasting in 1995, and the 24-hour Pure Pop Radio station, which ended this last August. Welcome to your number one home for coverage of the greatest melodic pop music in the universe from the ’60s to today. Happy New Year!

“I’d Love One of Those Great Melodic Pop Albums for My Holiday Gift.” That’s Easy.

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

Our 2018 Holiday Gift-Giving Guide is in full swing. We’ve got more suggestions for great gifts for your melodic pop-loving friends and family. We lead off today’s post with the new album from Louise Goffin…

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

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

The mystical duet with Rufus Wainwright, “Chinatown,” benefits from a lovely melody, peerless singing, and an exquisite string arrangement by Van Dyke Parks. This song, about magic and inspiration alive in a moment, is perfectly placed, coming right before the equally spiritual feel of “Turn to Gold,” its ambience bolstered by a stream of percussive and instrumental grace.

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

“Bridge of Sighs,” the mid-tempo ballad that closes these proceedings, is about investing in a relationship while wondering what the payoff is. The gorgeous chorus is sung in harmony; wordless bursts of harmony come alive towards the end.

It’s difficult to talk about a Louise Goffin album without broaching her lineage. She is, of course, the daughter of… well, if you don’t know, you’ll investigate, and if you do, consider yourself ahead of the game. Adding All These Hellos to your shopping list puts you ahead of the game, too.

black box Where to Get It: Amazon, iTunes

Kai Danzberg with Lisa Mychols | “Just Let Me Know”
(Big Stir, 2018)
Up-and-comer Kai Danzberg teams with powerhouse singer-songwriter Lisa Mychols for a catchy, high-energy pop tune that is sure to please. Heavy snare hits, guitars, keys and thumping bass merge for a breathless, explosive four-minute thrill ride that bodes quite well for Danzberg’s upcoming 2019 album on Big Stir, Not Only Sunshine. Terrific.

Where to Get It: Big Stir Digital Singles

Super 8 | Hi Lo
(Futureman, 2018)
He said he’d pull off the tough go of a 2018 hat trick, getting three albums out in a single year, and he’s done it, done it good.

Paul Ryan, d/b/a Super 8, has ended the year with another top-flight recording, 11 strong songs about employing hopefulness along one’s path through life. A fine slice of subject matter, you’ll likely agree.

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

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

The hits just keep on coming; you’ll love every one of them, delivered in Ryan’s emotive style. And for those of you wondering why the man didn’t go for four albums in a single year, just remember…there’s always 2019.

Where to Get It: Futureman, Kool Kat Musik

P. Hux | This is the One
(Nine 18, 2018)

Eleven songs strong, as much rock as pop, with typically melodic and memorable results, This is the One is a great addition to the Parthenon Huxley catalog. Hux handles all of the guitars and pours the coffee; the supporting players, from drummer Ricky Wise and bassist David Phenicie to keyboard player Dan Clarke and beyond, keep the melodies flowing in catchy numbers like “Running Home to You,” “Real Tough Day,” a mid-tempo melodic relationship song, and the quite catchy “Honey Sweet Baby.” Hux fans: this is the one for you.

black box Where to Get It: CD Baby, Amazon, P. Hux Store

More Great 2018 Releases, Perfect for Gift Giving

We’ve reviewed many terrific 2018 releases recently, any of which would make great gifts for the melodic pop fans in your life. Here are just a few (click on the links to read our reviews and then add the releases to your shopping list):

radio1

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

Need Gift Ideas for the Melodic Pop Fans In Your Life? For You? We’ve Got ’em, All This Week

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

We are now officially in the 2018 holiday gift giving season. I know…it seems like only yesterday, blah blah blah… Well, it does, but here we are again, faced with making those decisions that, year after year, are just plain hard to make.

Well, we’re here to make it all easier for you. We’re here to help you to choose gifts for the melodic pop fans in your lives (and for yourself). Relax. Below, you’ll find  new reviews of new 2018 releases, in-depth as always, along with links that will take you to the very websites from which you can purchase them. You’ll also find links to previously posted reviews of albums you should consider.

Be with us every day this week. There’s a whole lot of gold out there from which to choose the perfect melodic pop presents for your friends and loved ones. Let’s get started.

Mikah Wilson | Sunshine Grooves
(You are the Cosmos, Burger Records, 2018)
A real find, Los Angeles’s Mikah Wilson pretty much defines the state of sunshine pop in 2018. Let’s just say that if your jam is 1960s Beach Boys, Curt Boettcher, current sensations the Wrecking Two and their like-minded compatriots, this will be your jam, too. Comprising “Sunshine Grooves” and the two songs contained on the “Sweet Jules” single (“Sweet Jules” and “Look at the Way”), this is the soft-pop EP of the moment. Don’t miss it.

black box Where to Get It: You are the Cosmos, Bandcamp

Various Artists | White Lace and Promises: The Songs of Paul Williams
(Curry Cuts, 2018)

Curry Cuts’ loving tribute to singer, songwriter and all-around entertainer guy Paul Williams, White Lace and Promises, releases on December 7 in digital form and around a week or so later in physical form and on streaming platforms. I’ve already sung its virtues here, where I waxed poetic about some of the tracks. I’ve now heard the entire megillah, so it seems prudent for me to wax poetic some more.

It’s obvious, to me at least, that the artists who have signed on to Andrew Curry’s latest tribute harbor a great affection for Paul Williams’ work; each of the 23 tracks here functions as a great big hug, a happy thank you to the artist for doing what he does so very well.

Here are some of my favorites, standout tracks all:
* “Someday Man.” Zach Jones turns in an affectionate, somewhat faster version than Paul Williams’ cut
* “You and Me Against the World.” Lisa Mychols ramps up the tempo on this classic. The harmonies and electric guitars really shine
* “Rainy Days and Mondays.” Cliff Hillis sings this lovely song, made famous by Karen and Richard Carpenter, solo
* “I Won’t Last a Day Without You.” Chris Price gives the Carpenters’ version a bit of a run for its money, turning in a lead vocal that is sincere and without question his best yet
* “You Give a Little Love.” This song from famed film Bugsy Malone gets a joyous Broadway kind of treatment from the Corner Laughers’ Karla Kane, and it’s fabulous
* “An Old Fashioned Love Song.” Cait Brennan turns one of Paul Williams’ greatest songs into a deeply-felt, alternative romp, centered around Cait’s intense, emotional vocal

“You know you’re gonna be remembered for the things that you say and do,” Karla Kane sings as part of “You Give a Little Love.” Wise words that have deep meaning. The world is going to remember the great works of musical art that Paul Williams and his collaborators have given to the world; here, 23 artists have paid homage to that art, and we, the world’s listeners, are the grateful recipients. White Lace and Promises: The Songs of Paul Williams is essential listening.

black box Where to Get It: Releases December 7 in digital form and about a week later in physical form and on streaming platforms; you can pre-order on Curry Cuts’ Bandcamp page

Karla Kane | “Goodguy Sun” b/w “Sisters of the Pollen”
(Big Stir, 2018)
Bkarla kane - sisters of the pollen coverkarla-kane-goodguy-sun-coverig Stir Records, helmed by good guy Rex Broome and good gal Christina Bulbenko from the Armoires, have set into motion a series of delicious digital singles with this double-sided wonder from the Corner Laughers’ Karla Kane, whose 2017 folk-pop solo album, King’s Daughters Home for Incurables, was a big spinner on Pure Pop Radio.

“Goodguy Sun,” written by Cleaners from Venus’s Martin Newell, is a charmingly melodic, very British mid-tempo ballad with the Bye Bye Blackbirds’ Bradley Skaught playing alongside usual fellow travelers Khoi Huyhn and KC Bowman (Gina Sperindle contributes lovely vocal harmony). Kane’s “Sisters of the Pollen,” a mesmerizing folk-pop pearl recorded with husband Huyhn, closes out with an a cappella workout and the actual sound of bees doing their business. Delicious.

black box Where to Get It: Bandcamp, Big Stir Records

Irwin | Ride On (2018)
Jamie and Steve’s Jamie Hoover worked with Bill Irwin, from late-1980s-1990s Georgia pop-rockers Impulse Ride, to produce this tasty EP, pairing four new tracks with two previously unreleased Impulse Ride tracks from 1994. The new tracks, mostly mid-tempo, tuneful slices of pop, were written by Irwin and Hoover and feature both on a variety of instruments. Of the new songs, “King,” a soulful Beatlesque power ballad with Paul McCartney-inspired bass and an indelible melody, and “Georgia Peach,” an easygoing sway of an Americana-soaked pop song with a lovely, joyous melody, are tops.

black box Where to Get It: CD Baby, Amazon

Kenny Herbert | “I’m Growing Old With You” (2018)
Kenny Herbert’s charming pop confections were a mainstay of my playlists throughout Pure Pop Radio’s 23-year history. I continue to be enthralled by everything Kenny adds to his considerable, collectible catalog. His latest release is a typically melodic, uptempo love song, inspired by Caroline, the love of his life. It has a lovely Bobby Goldsboro-meets-Gallagher and Lyle vibe about it. It’s one of those very special recordings that just makes you feel good to be alive.

Here’s a live take on this wonderful song:

Where to Get It: iTunes

More Great 2018 Releases, Perfect for Gift Giving

We’ve reviewed many terrific 2018 releases, any of which would make great gifts for the melodic pop fans in your life. Here are just a few (click on the links to read our reviews and then add the releases to your shopping list):

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

 

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

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By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

Spins and Reviews | 5.16.18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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New on Pure Pop Radio 08.09.17: Raspberries Live, Lisa Mychols, and Poppermost

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Spins and Reviews | 08.09.17
By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

Raspberries | Pop Art Live (Omnivore, 2017)

Raspberries - Pop Art LiveFor a thrilling listening experience back in 1976, you could do worse than planting Raspberries’ Best featuring Eric Carmen on your turntable. Every one of the 10 tracks on offer was bang-zoom top-flight–“Go All the Way,” “Tonight,” “Ecstasy,” and “Overnight Sensation (Hit Record)” to name just four. Plus, the first few songs on side one were programmed to start a hairbreadth after the one before it, elevating the excitement level about a million percent.

Listening to Best, I always wondered what it would be like to be at a Raspberries concert. It seemed to me that nothing could quite compare to the emotional payoff experienced by people this close to the band up on a stage that probably shook wildly with every beat bounced upward and then showered down on the audience. Plus, all of that singing along…

Now, with the release of Pop Art Live, fans like me can finally feel the power of a you-are-there Raspberries performance. Recorded on November 26, 2004 at the House of Blues in Cleveland, Ohio, this beautifully mixed and mastered document puts listeners in the cross hairs of a dynamic performance of 28 group classics and covers of choice songs from the Beatles and the Who. It is an invigorating experience.

The band is in fine voice and plays throughout the show like they hadn’t just gotten together for a reunion performance 30 years later. Working together as a cohesive unit on stage, they are clearly on a mission, invested in every note as they work to please every audience member, all of them hungry for a taste of Raspberries history.

Augmented by a trio of musicians called “The Overdubs” that helps to flesh out their sound, Eric Carmen, Wally Bryson, David Smalley, and Jim Bonfanti work every inch of the room as they play the hits and key album tracks and just generally whoop it up, Raspberries style. The highlights are many–“Nobody Knows,” “Overnight Sensation (Hit Record),” “Might as Well,” “Starting Over,” “Should I Wait,” and “Come Around and See Me” spring to mind–but the whole program is a collective highlight and delight, which is probably more to the point.

To say that Jim Bonfanti’s drums are the propulsive glue that holds these proceedings together would be an understatement; he has lost none of his power and is even more powerful than he was before. It should go without saying that the rest of the band is also performing at the height of their powers, but I’ll say it: This magical foursome was on that November night.

Kudos to Omnivore Recordings for releasing this astounding, pulse-pounding document, and kudos to you for buying it. Because, of course, you will be…right?

black box Where to Get It: The Omnivore Recordings Store (Preorder for August 18 release), Amazon, iTunes

lisa mychols let's stay togetherLisa Mychols | “Let’s Get Together” (2017)
A new track from Lisa Mychols, regardless of the type of song she tackles, is always a gift to be treasured. Here, Lisa pays tribute to the great Reverend Al Green with a sizzling, soulful take on Green’s 1972 number one chart hit. The thing that jumps out at me listening to Lisa’s vocal is how uncommonly good it is. She’s pulling out all the stops and, in doing so, delivering her best vocal yet. And that’s really saying something. All instruments are played with heart by Steve Refling. Wow.

black box Where to Get It: Bandcamp

poppermost here comes the rain actual coverPoppermost | “Here Comes the Rain” (2017)
A lovely, acoustic arrangement hugs a metaphorical lyric about changing one’s path in life, and a new, catchy, Poppermost song is born.  Sounding vaguely like something out of the early Simon and Garfunkel catalog, colored by Klaatu sentiment (“I’m looking for a sweeter season”), Alex Oliver and Roy Rendahl’s latest release is another melodic feather in their cap. Gorgeous.

Where to Get It: Bandcamp

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New on Pure Pop Radio 05.15.17: Robyn Gibson’s Bob of the Pops Vol. 1, Cirrone, The Cool Whips, and More

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Spins and Reviews | 05.15.17
By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

Robyn Gibson | Bob of the Pops Vol. 1 (2017)
bob of the pops front coverA buoyant exercise in the art of homage, Bob of the Pops Vol. 1 finds The Junipers’ multi-instrumentalist Robyn Gibson having a good old time putting his warm, wide-eyed spin on 14 favorite songs. This free download on Bandcamp is the bargain release of the year and, quite surely, one of the best collections we’ve heard in ages.

The reason for that? Bob of the Pops Vol. 1 is fun to listen to; every song essayed bears Gibson’s unmistakable stamp, his softhearted vocals casting a warm glow over every melody line and emotional keystone communicated. In his hands, these classic constructs breathe new life into familiar musical landscapes.

robyn gibsonThe Beatles’ “Nowhere Man,” certainly a familiar and iconic number, fairly drips with the joy Gibson obviously had recording it. The opening, harmony drenched a cappella couplet is sweetly delivered; the song reveals itself as a modern-day folk song, every harmonic element glimmering with life and hope. The Hollies’ “Listen to Me” adopts a bit of a softer pace than the original, the soft harmonies taking a smidge off of the edge of the proceedings for a bit of a warmer performance.

Similarly, The Who’s “I Can’t Reach You” feels more personal, and again it’s Gibson’s assured, sweet vocal harmonies that do the trick. Tracey Ullman’s 1983 top 10 “They Don’t Know” practically glows with charm. And just to show he has a sense of humor, or because he knows, as do we all (probably), Gibson rolls through the theme song to the 1970s television smash, Laverne and Shirley, in a kind of England Dan and John Ford Coley-meets-The Ramones way. Sort of sweet punk, short and delicious.

bob of the pops back coverA collection that purports to be brought to life by such musicians as born-as-anagrams Boryng Bison and Sonny Orbbig, bridges the gap between a Beatles classic and a well-known soundalike homage (The Rutles’ “With a Girl Like You”), and sits comfortably within a wrapper designed to mirror the presentation of the old British Top of the Pops album series (with the Leave it to Beaver-ish “Bob,” a staid pipe in hand, subbing for the usual sexy model depicted), deserves a place in your heart.

black box Now playing on Pure Pop Radio: “They Don’t Know,” “With a Girl Like You,” “I Can’t Reach You,” “Yes I Will,” “He Doesn’t Love You Like I Do,” “Strawberries are Growing in My Garden,” “Did I Say,” “Nowhere Man,” “How Long,” “Making Our Dreams Come True,” “Listen to Me,” and “The End/Listen for You,” a Gibson original
black box Where to Get It: Bandcamp

cirrone kings for a nightCirrone | Kings for a Night (2017)
The extended play, studio followup to Alessandro, Bruno, and Mirko Cirrone’s 2011 Uplands Park Road shares near total lineage with that classic album; four of its songs were first worked on during the Uplands sessions. The upbeat, Badfinger-ish pop-rockers “Everything’s Fine Now” and “It’s Gonna Be the Right Time,” the swaying charm of “Love Comes Again (Radio Edit),” and the gorgeous mid-tempo ballad, “Unforgotten Dream” continue the brothers’ time-honored tradition of mixing melodic vocalizing with strong instrumentation for a catchy, knockout musical punch. A full-length album is intended to follow this five-song taster, to which we say we can’t wait.

black box Now playing on Pure Pop Radio: “Everything’s Fine Now,” “It’s Gonna Be the Right Time,” “Unforgotten Dream,” and “Love Comes Again (Radio Edit)”
black box Where to Get It: CD Baby, Bandcamp

the cool whips baddiesThe Cool Whips | Baddies (2017)
Naturally, the follow-up to Portland, Oregon’s 2014 long-player debut Goodies goes by the name Baddies, but it’s a joke, son, so don’t get your knickers in a twist…unless your appetite for good old pop ‘n’ roll has bit the dust. To wit: The Farfisa-powered “Linda Lu,” all thump and bop and circumstance, is an exciting, primal listen; “Time Will Tell” sounds like it emerged through a time portal connected to a garage in 1965; “Splash” plops playfully beat by beat with Beatles bops; and “Inside Outsider” fashions an upbeat Monkees vibe for two toe-tapping minutes. Rollicking fun.

black box Now playing on Pure Pop Radio: “Another World,” “Splash,” “Linda Lu,” “There Must Have Been Sugar in It,” “Time Will Tell,” “Move Like That,” “Inside Outsider,” and “Live in a Dream”
black box Where to Get It: Bandcamp

Also added to the Pure Pop Radio playlist and currently spinning in rotation:

lisa mychols Lisa Mychols | “Loving You” (2017) CD Baby

red caravan ho humRed Caravan | “Ho Hum” (2017) Bandcamp

anchor and bear 2Anchor and Bear | “Hard to Say You’re Sorry” (2017)

r. stevie moore and jason falkner make it beR. Stevie Moore and Jason Falkner | Make It Be (2017) | “Sincero Amore,” “Don’t You Just Know It,” and “Play Myself Some Music” Kool Kat Musik, Amazon, Bandcamp

michael slawterMichael Slawter | An Assassination of Someone You Knew (2017) | “Count to 10,” “Too Dumb for You,” and “My Marion” Bandcamp

the deep six brand new dayThe Deep Six | “Brand New Day” (2017)

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New on Pure Pop Radio 05.11.17: Cait Brennan, Bryan Estepa, The Wellingtons, Kenny Herbert, Pat Walsh, and More

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Spins and Reviews | 05.11.17
By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

cait brennab thirdCait Brennan | Third (2017)
Quite simply, and before I say anything specific about Cait Brennan’s miraculous, astounding, audacious new album, the pairing of this one-of-a-kind artist and multi-instrumentalist and ace producer Fernando Perdomo is surely one of those fortified-in-heaven happenings that make life on earth a wonderful thing. Captain Obvious here, in other words.

Soaking up the atmosphere at Memphis, Tennessee’s legendary Ardent Studios, where, it may be hard to believe, Big Star only scratched the surface of artists who waxed classic recordings, Brennan and Perdomo made the magic that lines the virtual walls of Brennan’s new album, Third.

It’s one thing to have great songs when going into a studio–any studio–but it’s another to have the chutzpah and the moxie to make them so great that they emerge on disc fully-formed as state-of-the-art classics, which is exactly how the baker’s dozen songs on Third turned out.

What the hell was in the water when Brennan and Perdomo cooked up the ingredients that, stirred in just the right way, made the amazing “Catiebots Don’t Cry” a reality? Because more of that kind of crafting, okay? This gut-wrenching you-love-her-I-love-her-what-are-we-gonna-do-about-it slow-to-mid-tempo burner is a skewed kind of aromatic love song that would have been great had it just been delivered with Brennan singing solo over a gutsy piano track, but with the considered pop and roll stew played out with Perdomo, whose delicious ’70s-styled wah-wah guitar lines are something to behold, and Brennan, whose multi-tracked, three-dimensional vocal harmony stacks are a thing of beauty, it’s something else entirely that dares you and your band to even try to better it. And, I would bet the house on this, you won’t ever.

The equally amazing and spitfire rave-up that is “Shake Away” carries on the rich vocal harmony tradition set by “Catiebots Don’t Cry” in the form of a Motown/Stax-fortified rave-up, and believe me, this thing about getting love right shakes, baby, in a kind of boom-boom way. There’s a whole lot of shaking going on in this pounding number charged with maximum voltage; this thing is practically, deliberately breathless. Speaking of breathless, “A Hard Man to Love” is defiantly so; the grounding, pounding piano pushes the proceedings along until every element gets toppled by the late-song, packed-tight verse that Brennan sings so precise and quick. It outdoes that old Federal Express fast-talking spokesperson, leaving him flat in the dust.

Not every song on Third bristles with quick temperament: “Perish the Thought” is a thoughtful ballad that closes with a clarion a cappella call to arms that will send shivers up and down your spine. And “Bad at Apologies,” a mid-tempo ballad about attraction at all costs (“Another minute without him/I would probably die”), pours buckets of emotion on the flames of obsessive love.

A roller coaster ride through all of life’s travails, Third is an emotional wake up call for all humans negotiating the pathways of their existence. That it pops and rolls like the best works of melodic art is a given. Cait Brennan’s third go-round is astonishing, bold, and seemingly effortless. Captain Obvious, signing out.

black box Now playing on Pure Pop Radio: “Bad at Apologies,” “He Knows Too Much,” “At the End of the World,” “A Hard Man to Love,” “Catiebots Don’t Cry,” “Shake Away,” “The Angels Lie,” and “Perish the Thought”
black box Where to Get It: Amazon, Omnivore Store

bryan estepa rattled and rolledBryan Estepa | “Rattled and Rolled” (2017)
Just 11 days shy of a year ago, we added tracks from Sydney, Australia singer-songwriter Bryan Estepa’s wonderful album, Every Little Thing. He returns to Pure Pop Radio with this fine, melodic track, on which he is joined by ace musician Michael Carpenter; Bryan slings the guitars, Michael slings everything else (he also produced, recorded, mixed & mastered). What stands out most of all are Bryan’s astoundingly assured vocal, always on target; Michael’s humming Hammond organ; and the fact that the proceedings were recorded in just eight hours. Echoing the sensibilities of The New Pornographers, Tom Petty, and Bob Dylan, this killer track whets our appetites for more. So, off with you then, Bryan Estepa.

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

The Wellingtons End of the Summer front coverThe Wellingtons | End of the Summer (2017)
Today’s second entry from Australia (Melbourne, this time) finds this lively quintet returning to the pop boards with their first album in six years. While the songs are, by and large, a bit too loud for our humble airwaves, four are absolutely perfect. “1963” is a cheery, upbeat, happy-sounding jangly charmer with an intoxicating melody. “She Rides the Bus” is a mid-tempo ballad swirling in Beatlesque ambiance. “So Easy” rides the ABBA waves for a ba-ba-esque celebration of catchy. And the hooky title song would sound good, well, on the radio. So, let’s spin it, shall we?

black box Now playing on Pure Pop Radio: “End of the Summer,” “1963,” “So Easy,” and “She Rides the Bus”
black box Where to Get It: Kool Kat Musik, Bomp Store

kenny herbert i'm comin homeKenny Herbert | “I’m Coming Home” (2017)
One of our favorite singer-songwriters working today, Kenny Herbert continues to write and record wonderful songs that come from the heart. His latest, written and recorded with David Paton (Pilot) and Nobby Clark is a typically pretty tune. Lovely harmonies, a sumptuous melody, and a catchy chorus are in tow. Gorgeous.

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

pat walsh bygone daysPat Walsh | “Bygone Days” (2017)
Another Pure Pop Radio favorite, Pat Walsh always delights with his wonderfully melodic songs. “Bygone Days” features another carefully modulated vocal, another terrific melody. Another, another and on and on. Beautiful.

black box Now playing on Pure Pop Radio
black box Where to Get It: Not currently available. Listen on YouTube

Also added to the Pure Pop Radio playlist and currently spinning in rotation:

the outryders - let's live for today The Outryders | “Piangi Con Me (& Live for Today)” (With Joe Algeri and Herb Eimerman) (2017) Bandcamp

lisa mycholsLisa Mychols | “He’s Got Me Dreaming'” and “Don’t Wanna Close My Eyes” (2017) (“He’s Got Me Dreaming” CD Baby; “Don’t Wanna Close My Eyes” CD Baby)

irene pena Irene Peña | “Shut It Down” (2017) (From Trying Not to Smile) Patreon

radio days i'm in love with you haruka Radio Days | “I’m In Love With You, Haruka” and “Teenage Kicks” (Undertones cover) Bandcamp

the dahlmanns forever my babyThe Dahlmanns | “Forever My Baby” and “The Last Time”
Pop Detective Records

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