Reviews: 12.19.19: Last-Minute Melodic Stocking Stuffers!

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

And now, a few more melodic Christmas goodies to add to your gift lists (another 11 are reviewed here). There are only five more shopping days until the big day, so you’d better get clicking…

Have a very Merry Christmas and a happy New Year, everyone. We’ll see you again in January, with the kind of reviews and articles you expect from the premier website covering the many moods of melodic pop music.

Dana Countryman and Matt Tyson, featuring Scott Bennett | “It’s Christmas Time” (2019)

Pure Pop Radio favorites Dana Countryman and Matt Tyson stir up a cheery, upbeat, non-alcoholic cocktail echoing the sounds of the Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, and Jeffrey Foskett–a joyous two minutes and forty-five seconds worth of catchy musical magic. With a rocking guitar solo played with “I Get Around” aplomb by Scott Bennett, this is Southern California pop under sunny holiday skies.

Where to Hear It and Get It: Bandcamp

Bearkat | A Very Bearkat Christmas (2019)

Aka Katy Pearson (Anchor & Bear), Bearkat’s richly drawn holiday collection, bringing together a pair of previously-released EPs–2012’s It’s Christmas Time and 2013’s A Winter Suite–and two new recordings, is an endearing survey of vocal harmony pop painted atop spare instrumentation and a whole lot of holiday heart.

Pearson’s sweet voice quietly dazzles, whether as a strong solo instrument or as elements within rich harmony stacks. Her songs paint a snowy, emotional portrait of holiday feelings, each one alive with lovely melodies.

Here is just one example, the banjo-driven, folky, harmony-laden, wintry wonder, “Snow”:

And here is another, a breathtaking, a cappella version of “Auld Lang Syne,” sung passionately by Pearson and her husband, Brian Bringelson, also from Anchor and Bear:

Where to Hear It and Get It: Bandcamp, Apple Music. Listen on Spotify

Zach Jones | “I’ll Be Home (Xmas Day)” b/w “Joy to the World” (2019)

Zach Jones paints his pair of holiday tunes with a quite different, yet catchy, soulful brush. The emotionally-cast, mid-tempo ballad “I’ll Be Home (Xmas Day)” and the slightly funky instrumental take on perennial carol “Joy to the World” are soulful pop gems. A wonderful holiday listening experience.

Where to Get It: CD Baby, Apple Music

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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Welcome to Day One of Pure Pop Radio’s New Music Explosion! We’ve Got Musical Treasures Galore!

new-music-explosion-smallWelcome to day one of our two-day-long New Music Explosion! We’re bursting at the seams with songs and artists new to the Pure Pop Radio playlist. Grab a cold beverage and settle into your comfy chair, because we’ve got a heapin’ helping of new adds to share with you.

And away we go!

the-lunar-laugh-apolloThe Lunar Laugh | “Apollo” The first song from the forthcoming album, also named Apollo and releasing in just under two weeks from now, is this lovely slice of pure, melodic pop about pretenders to the rock and roll throne. “You’ve been perched high on your soapbox/Pledging your love for classic rock/But you don’t know the words to Revolution/Or Rock N Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution.” Well said. Connor Anderson and Jared Lekites have done an amazing job with this number; we wait with great anticipation for the back eight. Terrific.

jimmy-haberJimmy Haber | Joy Acid Pact “He must be related to you,” you’re saying but no, we figure, no relating here (although the twin sons of different mothers thing may have to be called in to play), other than getting what Jimmy’s offering on his second solo album, a full-speed-ahead power pop record. A founding member of the pop-punk band Degenerates, and one of the makers of music in the Maladaptive Solution, whose songs can be heard in rotation on Pure Pop Radio, Jimmy worked with pop legend Michael Carpenter, who produced, engineered and recorded these songs (other creative folks were on board, too). We’ve added six songs to our playlist, including the horn-fueled, Tom Petty-esque “Jane Stare at the Sun,” the manic guitar workout “What Doesn’t Kill You,” and the mid-tempo melody-riffic “Searching.” Also spinning: “Otherwise Occupied,” “Bad Day to Me,” and “Big Black Hole.” Super stuff.

propellerPropeller | “Wish I Had Her Picture” and “Can’t Feel These Things” Greg Randall and Will Anderson deliver a couple of classic power pop songs with deep hooks and sumptuous melodies. The description of the band’s music on their Bandcamp page, where you can download these songs for free, says you’ll encounter “Crunchy guitars. Verses as hooky as choruses and rollicking rhythms that would frighten most metronomes. Mixed and served loud.” Sounds about right. Very cool and now playing in rotation.

vegas-with-randolph-jacobVegas With Randolph | “Jacob” These Washington, D.C. favorites bring the power with their latest release, the fiercely upbeat guitar workout, “Jacob,” that, perhaps, presents the killer roller coaster as a metaphor for attraction. “She took him to amazing heights/Then dropped him to the deepest lows/And threw him for a loop…” This is one of VWR’s greatest, most propulsive numbers, with pounding drums and hair raising guitar lines. Loud and proud of it. Killer song.

brian-wilson-no-pier-pressureBrian Wilson | No Pier Pressure Brian Wilson’s vocal blend is at the heart and soul of this new album, which mixes songs featuring current music artists and treasured, fellow travelers such as Beach Boys Al Jardine and David Marks. The mix of voices, combined seamlessly to deliver the rich background vocals you would expect from Brian, are the collective star attraction. The gentle samba rhythms of “On the Island,” sung by She and Him’s Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward, are charming and inviting. The pure pop warmth of “Saturday Night,” performed with fun.’s Nate Ruess, is particularly inviting; this is a wonderfully catchy tune with equally catchy background vocal harmonies. And the luscious harmonies in the pretty “This Beautiful Day,” sung with Al Jardine and David Marks in tow, are almost worth the price of admission. We’ve added the aforementioned songs, and “The Right Time,” “Guess You Had to Be There,” “Somewhere Quiet,” “Tell Me Why,” and “Our Kind of Love.” Brian is back, and you’re invited.

the-thigh-highsThe Thigh Highs | These are the Thigh Highs Based out of our old stamping grounds, this Brooklyn, New York trio hits the mark with a lighthearted approach and groovy pop chops seasoned with a pinch or two of garage ethos. From their 2014 EP, we’re playing the Byrdsian “Carroll Gardens” and the slighty-psychedelic “Submarina,” both sung by guitarist, keyboardist and vocalist Gerry (G.F.) Newland. Cool tunes from a cool band.

preoccupied-pipers-talk-til-it-rhymesPreoccupied Pipers | White Bicycle Plan, “Super 8” and “Talk ’til It Rhymes” On December 3, 2014 we added to our playlist a couple of songs from this band that counts the Corner Laughers’ K.C. Bowman as a member. Back then, we revealed that the members of Preoccupied Pipers “…were drawn from locations far and wide and mostly picked from the ashes of a band called Lawsuit.” That’s still true, and make of that what you will. We’ve since heard a 2008 album the band made called White Bicycle Plan, which we liked a whole lot. (The White Bicycle Plan is a real thing, by the way; you can read about it here.) We’ve added six songs from WBP: “Junk Yard Car,” “Goldberg Machine,” “Barnacle Life,” “Giggle Down the Drain,” “Hi Becomes Lois,” and “Passport of Life.” “Super 8” is a 2014 cover of Jason Isbell’s song from his 2013 album, Southeastern (Isbell is a former member of Drive-By Truckers), and “Talk ’til It Rhymes” is a fun tune recently recorded. As with everything that K.C. Bowman has a hand in, this is pure joy.

identical suns lullabyIdentical Suns | “After the Lullaby” Co-writer Todd Stanton and I chatted about this heartfelt, sad, hopeful and pretty song about wanting to know what a child thinks about in his dream state. How does a child function when lullabies don’t affect them any longer? And there is the bigger question: When a child grows up and is at that age, do they hang on to a part of their parents and let their wisdom inform their path in life, or do they forge ahead alone? These are complex questions sometimes left unanswered after lifetimes of concern for the well being of all of our children. The lovely melody and tentative, fragile vocal will melt your heart. An important song, now playing in rotation.

caddy-new-songCaddy | “Bring It Back” Caddy’s latest song, which we’re now playing in rotation, is due for release in May, as is the album it is taken from, The Better End. “Bring It Back” is a mid-tempo melodic wonder that will hook you in seconds. The gorgeous chorus will never leave you, and the equally-gorgeous vocal blend will have you smiling. Beautiful.

hudson-brothersThe Hudson Brothers | Totally Out of Control We’ve been remiss in gracing our playlist with a good number of tracks from this classic pop band. So here’s our first musical salvo…five songs from the Hudson’s 1974 album that establish the brothers’ mastery of the pop form. We’re now playing, in rotation, “Be a Man,” “Dolly Day,” “Lover Come Back to Me,” “If You Really Need Me,” and “La La Layna.” This is how it’s done, folks.

chris-korzenNezrok/Chris Korzen | Florida’s Chris Korzen, who has recorded under his own name and under the band name Nezrok, is new to our playlist. Chris works in a variety of genres; we’ve added some Pure Pop Radio-friendly tunes to our on-air mix. From Nezrok’s Broken Sound album, we’re playing the ’50s-cum-country toe-tapper “Life Is What You Need” and the pure pop number “Thinking It Over.” From Chris’s solo album, Sandbox Thesis, we’re playing the R. Stevie Moore-esque “Can’t You See” and the Beatlesque “For Today.” We’re also playing the shades-of-Todd-Rundgren “Nirvana.” Good stuff.

big-lonelyBig Lonely | Close Your Eyes, Keep Talking This Canadian band works up a catchy brand of pop-rock on their album from the winter of 2014. We’re playing three songs in rotation: the rhythmic “Tapes,” the pop-rocker “You Want It All,” and the powerful ballad, “All My Lucky Senses.” A promising longplayer.

wesley-fullerWesley Fuller | “Change Your Mind” and “Melvista” Australian Wesley Fuller delivers a double pop punch with a catchy T. Rexian thumper, “Change Your Mind,” and a melody-charged song with a big hook, “Melvista.” We’ll look forward to more from this emerging talent.

matt-tysonMatt Tyson | Pure Pop Radio Jingle It’s a jingle, it’s a song, it’s a marvel, is what it is. Pure Pop Radio favorite Matt Tyson stuffs a liberal dose of Jan and Dean, the Beach Boys and other sun kisses into this incredible creation. Many thanks, Matt. It doesn’t get better than this.

Here’s a New Music Explosion Extra Plus! We recently added a new song from the Corner Laughers’ forthcoming album, Matilda Effect, and a whole lot of songs from the Grip Weeds’ new album, How I Won the War. So, we happily present to you the video for the Laughers’ “Fairytale Tourist” from Matilda Effect, coming this June. Also: A very cool promo video about the Grip Weeds’ powerhouse new record, How I Won the War. Dig ’em both!

new-music-explosion-smallMore to come tomorrow as we head into day two of our New Music Explosion! Enjoy these and other songs and artists now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio, your home for the greatest melodic pop music from the ’60s to today. And remember…we’re on 24 hours a day!

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


Start the Week Off with Pure Pop Radio’s New Music Monday! You Want New Tunes? We’ve Got ’em!

more-new-musicLet’s kick off a new week with some new music just added to the Pure Pop Radio playlist. What have we got? How about a hot, new album from one of your (and our) favorite groups? How about a new song from the spectacular Corner Laughers? How about…more?

Let’s get the new music adds spinning!

grip-weeds-warThe Grip Weeds | How I Won the War Destined to slot in the upper reaches of this year’s best-of lists, How I Won the War is a commanding, powerful song cycle that fuses echoes of the Who and other prime sixties bands with the Grip Weeds’ trademark wit, song and performance prowess. We’re playing 10 tracks in rotation: “Life Saver,” “Other Side of Your Heart,” “See Yourself,” “Vanish,” “Force of Nature,” “Heaven and Earth,” “Over and Over,” “Rainbow Quartz,” “Lead Me to It,” and a pulsating, psychedelic cover of the Beatles’ “The Inner Light.” A great album and without a doubt the band’s best.

matilda-effectThe Corner Laughers | “Fairytale Tourist” As charming and delightful as anything the band has released, “Fairytale Tourist” mixes a quasi-Motown beat with the Corner Laughers’ usual brand of fanciful, musical mirth. Another delightful vocal from Karla Kane, and another wonderful track to savor. From the forthcoming album, Matilda Effect, coming soon.

matt-keatingMatt Keating | This Perfect Crime New to Pure Pop Radio is the 11th album from a master of gorgeous melodies. We were totally taken with the songs on offer; we’ve added five to the playlist, including “When They’ve Thrown You Away,” “Nothing to Figure Out,” the title track, “This Must Be Love,” and “Before the War.” We hope to be spinning more music from Matt Keating in the near future.

the-galileo-7-false-memory-lanethe-galileo-7-staringThe Galileo 7 – False Memory Lane and Staring at the Sound This is our second time adding tracks from this fantastic band that echoes the sound of the Who, Small Faces and other sixties pop and rock bands. We’ve now added songs from the 7’s 2014 album, False Memory Lane, and the 2012 long player, Staring at the Sound. From the former, we’re spinning the title track, “You’re Not Dreaming,” “Nobody Told You,” “I’m Still Here,” “Tide’s Rising,” “Fools,” and “Don’t Want to Know.” From the latter, we’re playing “Anne Hedonia,” “The Only One You’re Hurting (Is You),” “More Time,” “Hiding from the Sun,” “Not Gonna Miss You,” “Leave Me Alone,” and “Ella.” Very British and very, very good.

tim-anthonyTim Anthony | “Day Into Night” This new track from Tim Anthony is a typically catchy song with a nifty middle-eight and a gorgeous chorus. Now playing in rotation. We look forward to a new album from Tim.

matt-tysonMatt Tyson | Pure Pop Radio Jingle Matt Tyson’s albums are a big part of the sound of Pure Pop Radio these days. Matt has recorded a lovely, atmospheric jingle for us in the style of the Beach Boys’ SMiLE. To say that we SMiLE every time we hear this would be an understatement.

adam-walshAdam Walsh | Three Tracks We added three great tracks from Adam this past January 27th. We now have three more–two originals slated for an EP that will hopefully be released later this year, and a smashing cover of Neil Young’s classic, “Long May You Run.” The nephew of Pugwash’s Thomas Walsh, Adam is a talented artist you will be hearing more from as time marches on.

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Good Monday to you! Thanks for checking out the latest in our ongoing series of adds to our ever-growing playlist. And don’t forget to listen to Pure Pop Radio, broadcasting the greatest melodic pop music in the universe from the ’60s to today, 24-hours a day (listen links below)!

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

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

The Surfin’ Harmony King Rides the Waves: Matt Tyson’s Melodious Monuments to Good Time Music

by alanvneckAlan Haber  (See below for 35 songs that have been added to the Pure Pop Radio Playlist)

The act of musicians paying tribute to a favorite artist’s art for the purposes of expressing adulation and exposing some other idea or sound to fans is not a new concept, but it is a great and honored tradition that is happily carried out by adept craftspeople who know a thing or two about quality and wish to communicate their joy.

the-beach-boysIn the case of musicians paying their respect to the Beach Boys (and Jan and Dean and others that have blossomed under the California sun), it is a longstanding tradition that continues to this day. Witness XTC’s spot-on “Pale and Precious” as an example from years back, and point to the work of current pop artisans like Dave Caruso, who captures the Boys of Summer’s sound and spirit in the audio bottle known as “Champion,” and Dana Countryman, whose vocal arrangements evoke the kind of depth of construction favored by the Beach Boys’ central spirit, Brian Wilson. And also factor in the songs of The Dukes of Surf, Hawaii based and steeped in the same melodic tradition.

All of this adulation and expressing the joy of influence would mean nothing at all if artists didn’t infuse their loving tributes with a piece of their own hearts. In the case of Matt Tyson–singer, songwriter, artist and such a smart cookie–heart is the center of the attention he gives to what has come before. In his music, Matt starts with the central concept of the meeting of minds between melody and harmony. He constructs a framework within which he plants the spark that gives birth to the idea that grows the song and places the cherry–an explosion of sweet vocalizing–on top. That’s not easy to do; Matt pulls the whole deal off as if it were second nature to him. And it probably is.

world-partyThe Philadelphia Inquirer has reported that, prior to making the album Goodbye Jumbo in a studio with better equipment than he was used to, World Party’s Karl Wallinger recorded “…a lot of Beatles and Beach Boys songs… His goal was to figure out exactly how those records were made.” In Matt’s case, he probably listened, greatly admired the Beach Boys sound and, knee deep in that euphoria, started sculpting songs that would celebrate his joy. The point is, I think, he figured it out.

matt-tyson-summertime-girlsPlaying all of the instruments and singing all of the vocals himself about 99.9 percent of the time, Matt tucks his influences in his pocket and turns out song after song kissed by golden sunshine. Matt’s latest album, Summertime Girls, begins with a gorgeous Jan and Dean-inspired a cappella opening to “My Old Bel Air.” The harmony stack is deep; if the six seconds it takes to get through that a cappella bit were all the song had to offer, it would probably be enough to satisfy. But there is the song–a car song, no less, that is all about the love for the 1950s version of the hovercraft. “All these custom cars, yeah they look real nice/They sit around at shows for a trophy prize/But my ’57 Chevy is not for show/It’s old and worn but always ready to go,” Matt sings. The song is a tribute to an ideal that still resonates: The things that define us in our lives matter.

In another car song on Summertime Girls, Matt tells the story of the “Five Window Coupe.” Anchored by Brian Wilson influence, the singer takes listeners on a detailed tour of his ’34 Coupe. “Nothing can touch my Plymouth five window Coupe,” he sings over a decidedly considered, slowed down beat, laying on the harmonies as if they were the main ingredient in the icing slathered on top of a delicious, five-layer chocolate cake. These songs are about more than cars: Girls figure into the landscape, too. In the title song, Matt’s mix of joyous harmonies and Hal Blaine-styled drumming takes you to the summer soaked beach to check out the scenery.

matt-tyson-keep-an-eye-onThe same attention to detail is paid to all manner of songs on all of Matt’s albums like 2007’s Keep an Eye On. “My Car, My Board and You” sums up the summer scene of the mind in beautiful ballad style, with Matt’s usual vocal and instrumental dexterity in tow. And let’s not forget the melodies–dreamy, three-dimensional, and true. “The Calm Song,” a co-write with Barry Thomson, who played all of the instruments, is nothing less than a perfect pocket symphony with surprising and satisfying changes. It is a musical marvel sporting swirling harmony constructs and room to breathe. The a cappella parts particularly shine and delight.

matt-tyson-nowNmatt-tyson-malibu-jukeboxow!, from 2008, begins with a lovely, upbeat, summer soaked love song to a girl named Marianne (“Marianne (Makes Everything Different)”) and continues with a wonderful Beach Boys-meets-Jan and Dean nod (“Fun When the Weekend Comes”). On 2010’s Malibu Jukebox, Matt celebrates the whole ball of wax that figures into his songs with the catchy, name-checking vibe of “The Ooh Wah Song.” 2009’s California Myth is another total melodic celebration, with great girl songs (the upbeat “Judy Knows Malibu,” and “My Kind of Girl,” percussion heavy with a layer of sleigh bells and a punctuating bass line that could have been waxed at Gold Star). Add to that a whole lot of spirit. Catch a wave, anybody?

matt-tyson-california-mythIt is rare to come across an artist whose vision is as true as that which fuels the songs that populate these albums. In Matt Tyson’s music, the art of homage, and of reinvention, is at the heart of all things. In our lives, adept craftspeople like Matt Tyson are important–vital, even, as they lift our spirits when they need lifting, which may well be more often than not these days. It is all about the art, and the state of the art is just fine.

Pure Pop Radio explodes with new music adds![We’ve added 35 songs from five of Matt Tyson’s albums. All are now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio. The breakdown: “My Old Bel Air,” “Down by the Beach,” “Summertime Girls,” “Five Window Coupe,” “Aloha Wagon,” and “Only in My Dreams” (from Summertime Girls, 2014); “The Ooh Wah Song,” “Belief,” “Cars, Surfboard and Girls,” “You Shoulda Been Here Yesterday,” “Playin’ in the Sun,” and “That Kind of Girl” (from Malibu Jukebox, 2010); “I Just Can’t Reach the Beach,” “California Myth,” “Felicity,” “Land Lovin’ Beauty,” “Top Down,” “The Big Kahuna,” and “Judy Knows Malibu” (from California Myth, 2009); “Marianne (Makes Everything Different),” “Fun When the Weekend Comes,” “You Know What I Mean,” “Go Little Malibu,” “New Girl in the Neighborhood,” and “MCMXLV” (from Now!, 2008); “Keep an Eye On Gina,” “It Don’t Mean Much Now,” “My Car, My Board and You,” “Surf’s Up,” “Wish I Was the Sunshine,” “Ride With Me,” “The Calm Song,” “Tell the Teacher I’m Surfin’,” “Summertime,” and “Lucky in Love” (from Keep an Eye On, 2007)]

Matt Tyson’s CDs are available at CD Baby.

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