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):

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 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!

And the Winners Are…

alan headshot from school

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

mcpherson grant album coverTwo copies of Song, the debut CD by Scott McPherson and Jamie Grant, or as they’re known around town, McPherson Grant, were practically itching to wing their way to lucky winners of our latest Pure Pop Radio contest.

And now, the winging shall begin. Congratulations are due to Nadja Witherbee and Gene Good. Let the waiting-by-the-mailbox commence!

More cool Pure Pop Radio contests are coming soon. Stay tuned!

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 (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.

Reviews | 10.10.18: McPherson Grant’s Song

review with graphic and by alan haber final sharpened smallestalan headshot from school

Win McPherson Grant’s debut CD…Enter below!

McPherson Grant | Song (2018)
mcpherson grant album coverFrom Tiny Volcano’s Scott McPherson in Tacoma, Washington to Pop Vultures’ Jamie Grant in Toronto, Ontario in Canada and back again, the various song parts created by these two melody wizards flew. All told, they combined to make the magic that informs the duo’s marvelous debut album, Song.

Paying sweet homage to the melodic pop ruling class headed by Harry Nilsson, Paul McCartney, Klaatu, Brian Wilson and the like, McPherson 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 (“I wish that she’d come everyday/The mess I make should want her to stay”) and honestly assessing the less-than-attractive situation (“Yeah, I know that I will be missing you/Like I’m missing two spoons”), ensure repeatability. (Videos for the songs talked about in this review appear below; all, and more, were created by the multi-talented Jamie Grant.)

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”).

A loving nod to the wonder of, among other things, Klaatu, “The Marvelous and Mysterious Adventures of Sir Ollie and His Ox” marries vaudeville, Queen, opera and a contemporary chorus in a musical ceremony celebrating the life-affirming nature of melodic pop. Klaatu’s Terry Draper essays the drums on this standout track; his Klaatu compatriot, Dee Long, plays keyboards and sings on Song’s opening salvo, “Little Green Men,” about charting a course and extending life in space (“Like Jane and Tarzan we’ll be new age Martians/Like Brad and Janet on our forbidden planet/Making little green men”).

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), Song travels the path negotiated by so many artists who came before them, but in a way that is significantly and characteristically their own.

“It’s the day that you’ve been waiting for,” the duo energetically warble, along with background vocalists Clara and Robin Moir, within the confines of the energetic pop-rocker “It’s the Day.” Speaking of the day, this is the day for discovering your new favorite record. McPherson Grant are here.

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

The Latest Hits! Pure Pop Radio is Your Home for the Greatest Pure, Melodic Pop (until August 25)

alan headshot from schoolBy Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

pure pop radio radioThe latest and greatest pure, melodic pop hits are streaming on Pure Pop Radio, but hurry–you have only until August 25 to bop to the catchiest beats in town!

the turnback new album cover august 2018What’s new and now playing in rotation on Alan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio? “California Moon,” Fernando Perdomo’s new single, featuring Pat Sansone (Wilco, Autumn Defense), is top of the pops, as are four standout, propulsive tunes from the Turnback’s soon-to-be-released album, Spinning the Earth in Reverse.

coverSpeaking of spinning, the Jangle Band’s new single, featuring the Byrdsian “The Guy Who Used to Care,” is playing in hot rotation, as are new songs from Azwel’s latest long player, Phantasmagoria, and new releases from Scott Brookman, Yani Martinelli and Friends; Lannie Flowers (another in his growing line of free songs being released prior to Lannie’s new album coming due in the fall); and McPherson Grant, whose debut album features the Klaatu-ish tune “The Marvelous and Mysterious Adventures of Sir Ollie and His Ox,” supported percussively by Klaatu’s Terry Draper.

wilkerson album coverNew songs from Optiganally Yours, Tsar’s Jeff Whalen, George Usher and Lisa Burns, Michael Slawter, Jeffrey Foskett and Jeff Larson, Sean Solo, Miami Dan and the Hayes Street Band, Farrington, Wilkerson, Tony Valentino, and many more of your favorite artists are also being featured in these last 11 days of broadcasting.

Remember that we will be active as active can be here on the Pure Pop Radio website, even though Pure Pop Radio will be going off the air on August 25. So fire up your Internet radio receptacle, groove to the pop tunes, and we’ll see you on the air.

ppr radio purple background - insetPure Pop Radio plays the greatest melodic pop music from across the decades, 24 hours a day (until August 25). Listen by clicking on the Live365 Listen Now button at left. Hear us once and you’ll be a listener for life. Join us, won’t you? You’ll be glad you did!

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New on Pure Pop Radio: Caper Clowns, McPherson Grant, Kurt Baker Combo, Pacific Soul Ltd., and More

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Spins and Reviews | 11.16.16 | by Alan Haber alan 5 small

Cacaper-clowns-2per Clowns | The Buca Bus Odense is the third-largest city in Denmark, which is important should you or I be traveling to that country with the desire to visit its largest cities. Another reason to visit Odense would be to soak up the atmosphere that undoubtedly inspired this talented quartet to craft this wonderful melodic pop collection. The highlights are too numerous to mention in toto, but here are a few favorites: “A Tale of Romance and Magnetic Trains,” a pure pop delight of the toe-tapping variety; “Mirror Me,” an uptempo driver which wouldn’t be out of place on a Deacon Blue album; “Sleeping on the Edge of the Rainbow,” a beautiful burst of charming balladry, and “The Significance of Teacups,” wholly McCartney-esque (and ELO-esque with a Brian May-type guitar solo)–an earworm that simply won’t let go. Lovely melodies and harmonies and, well, everything, await your ears. Take a well-deserved bow, Rick Kingo, Peter Højgaard, Christian Højgaard and Skipper Storm; you’ve made one of this year’s most assured collections of musical treasures.
black box Now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio: Nearly the entire album: “Pockets,” “A Tale of Romance and Magnetic Trains,” “All We Ever Do is Run,” “The Significance of Teacups,” “Sleeping on the Edge of the Rainbow,” “A Forest of Letters,” “Mirror Me,” “Dressed in Flaws,” “When I’m Alive,” and “Lizard Heart”
black box When and Where to Get It: iTunes, imusic  Amazon UK (mp3 download). Listen on Spotify

mcpherson-grant-big-picture-people-2McPherson Grant | “Big Picture People” Hot off the presses and just emerged from the so-top-secret-you-need-two-passwords-to-get-in laboratory where magic, naturally, sprouts eternal, comes “Big Picture People,” maybe the catchiest earworm yet from the dynamic duo of Scott McPherson and Jamie Grant. With a determined piano opening topped with percussion effects that manages to sweetly recall two Paul McCartney tunes–“Tomorrow” and “Silly Love Songs”–this is the catchy thing of the moment. The lyrics incorporate allusions to McPherson Grant’s song titles and, with tongue planted firmly in cheek, point to the not-actually-nailed-down release date for their forthcoming album (“The melodies slay/Release date delayed/It’s such a bummer”).

Surprising, lively, catchy, and clever (check out the slightly psychedelic/vaudevillian bridge), you won’t be able to get this song out of your head.

As a special treat, click on the audio transport thingy that follows to hear me discuss this song with Scott, and hear “Big Picture People” in its entirety. Meanwhile, look forward to the forthcoming McPherson Grant album, coming real soon. I know I will.


black box Now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio
black box When and Where to Get It:
Look for “Big Picture People” to appear on the forthcoming McPherson Grant album

kurt-baker-combo-in-orbitKurt Baker Combo | In Orbit His combo at his side, bashing out a wicked run of hard-charging riffs and tunes, Kurt Baker is back with his rocking rhythm guitar and committed Elvis Costello-vibing vocals. The results are, as you would expect and, furthermore, require, breathless and immediate, from the seventies Bad Company-by-way-of-Raspberries “Baby’s Gone Bad” to the very Katrina and the Waves bopper, “Rusty Nail.” Co-produced in Spain by Kurt and Jorge Colldan, and released on Little Steven Van Zandt’s Wicked Cool Records, In Orbit is a pop and roll dream come true.
black box Now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio: “Baby’s Gone Bad,” “Modern Day Rock ‘n’ Roll,” and “Rusty Nail”
black box When and Where to Get It: Kool Kat Musik, Amazon, iTunes

pacific-soul-ltdPacific Soul Ltd. | The Dance Divine Kind of a melting pot of sounds, incorporating pop, soul, and everything seventies, this trio, bringing together the talents of Cockeyed Ghoster Adam Marsland, Teresa Cowles, who, by the way, played legendary bassist Carol Kaye in the Brian Wilson biopic Love and Mercy, and recording artist Norman Kelsey. The “Sugar, Sugar” vibe of the Cowles-sung “We Go High” sits alongside the dance romp “Sunset Golden Love” and the Box Tops-y rocker “Pacific Soul Time”on an album that not only makes you feel the groove, it practically turns it on its catchy head.
black box Now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio: “Pacific Soul Time,” “Road Trip,” “Sunset Golden Love,” “Tomorrow Brings Tonight,” and “We Go High”
black box When and Where to Get It: Karma Frog Records

rob-martinezRob Martinez | New Love Environment Pure, catchy pop crafted in Reseda, California at Adam Marsland’s Karma Frog Studios. Albuquerque, New Mexico popster Martinez works through tasty nuggets that promote replayability and will undoubtedly put smiles on the faces of listeners. There are many highlights, but pushing for the top spot is “Love Life,” a musical love letter to the Partridge Family. Sweet.
black box Now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio: “Hangin’ On the Line,” Hard to Take,”  “Love Life,” “and “When She Comes to Town,” another Partridge in the pop tree
black box When and Where to Get It: Karma Frog Records

tunsTUNS | TUNS What happens when Sloan’s Chris Murphy, Super Friendz and Flashing Light’s Matt Murphy, and the Inbreds’ Mike O’Neill trio it up and let loose their pop smarts? Pop and roll ensues on a driving collection of snappy, upbeat songs that burrow into your subconscious. Top-flight collection bodes well for future releases.
black box Now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio: “Back Among Friends,” “Lonely Life,” “Mind Your Manners,” and “I Can’t Wait Forever”
black box When and Where to Get It: Amazon, Kool Kat Musik, iTunes

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New on Pure Pop Radio 7.12.16

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Spins and Reviews | July 12, 2016 | by Alan Haber

A quartet of tremendous additions to our playlist…

the nines when our love was in bloomThe Nines | “When Our Love Was in Bloom” A heavenly treat from the ever-increasingly-versatile Steve Eggers, who sets his sights this time around on the sounds that brought joy to listeners in the years spanning 1948-1962. This beautiful number, a sad, romantic lament, musically recalls the pleasures of Joe and Noel Sherman’s “Graduation Day,” which was first a hit for the Four Freshman and covered by artists as diverse as Bobby “Boris” Pickett, the Arbors, and the Beach Boys. The opening á cappella couplet, which gives way to light orchestral accompaniment, is among the most thrilling 10 seconds of vocal joy experienced in melodic pop music this year. A trailer for the Nine’s next album releasing in August, this is going to be in your head long after the calendar turns this December 31.
black box Now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio.

bill shaouy the other townBill Shaouy | The Other Town An extraordinary selection of songs and performances from this intensely talented member of the online Theme Music community. Beautiful, widescreen arrangements reveal pretty melodies, clever chord changes, and smooth vocals for a most satisfying listening experience. A sincere paean to truth, justice, the American way, and honesty, “Lois Lane,” which opens with a killer a cappella section and a Byrdsian guitar figure, pushes all of the requisite melodic pop buttons as it strikes a blow for integrity (“Reporters once shined/A light on power great and small/If we kept each other honest/We wouldn’t need Superman at all”). The brief and lovely “We Know Not Where” strikes a blow for companionship and adventure experienced together, no matter the destination (“I see south grass/You see west sun/Rolling on as/We sing together”). Joined by Brandi Ediss, Keith Klingensmith, Paul Melançon, Matt Brown, Torbjorn Petersson, Joe Giddings, and other well-known Themesters, Shaouy has produced a top-tier collection.
black box Now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio: “So Alive,” “Lois Lane,” “Candy in Line,” “Nightbreak On a Dime,” “Seventy Miles,” and “We Know Not Where.”

RayPaul_Whimsicality-FinalFrontCover-HR-for website sizedRay Paul | Whimsicality Ray Paul’s importance to the melodic pop community as a promoter of the music to radio programmers, a visionary record label owner, and a vital recording artist are immeasurable. Sixteen years after releasing his ace compilation CD, The Charles Beat, and 36 years after Ray Paul and RPM’s album Go Time, Ray is once again an artist, regaling listeners with enticing tales set to everyone’s favorite power pop beat. Whimsicality, one of this year’s best albums, is a delicious mix of originals and well-chosen covers, such as the Grass Roots’ “Temptation Eyes” and Paul McCartney’s “Oh Woman, Oh Why,” which features the contributions of Emitt Rhodes. Of Ray’s originals, the dynamic “A Fool Without Your Love” and Paul McCartney-esque “Jeannie” are only two highlights, all placing gorgeous melodies and Ray’s strong voice out front. A treat from first note to last.
black box Now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio: The entire album: “I Love It (But You Don’t Believe It),” “You Don’t Have to Prove Your Love,” “Pretty Flamingo,” “A Fool Without Your Love,” “In My World,” “Jeannie,” “All You Ever Wanted,” “Temptation Eyes,” “Oh Woman, Oh Why,” and “‘Til the Day After.”

mcpherson grant the love of her lifeMcPherson Grant | “The Love of Her Life” A sleepy, waking dream of a Bacharachian love song about memories and the light that shines within the heart of a partner whose loss seems overbearing (“In time/You’ll find/The sky slowly clears/That the rain/And your pain/Will soon disappear”). Orchestrated with slightly subdued panache, this is another winner from the recently-appointed duo whose album is in the cards at some point down the line. Hopefully soon.
black box Now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio.

Listen to Pure Pop Radio on the go using your Android and iOS devices! Download Our Mobile App.

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

Listen to and Download Scott McPherson’s Appearance on Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation

scott mcpherson 10Scott McPherson’s May 10 appearance on Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation is now available for listening and downloading on our PodOmatic podcast page.

partridge familyOne-fourth of Pop 4, one-half of McPherson Grant and all of Tiny Volcano, Scott sat virtually across from Alan Haber and talked about some of his favorite pop songs from the ’60s and ’70s. First up: The Partridge Family’s “I Think I Love You.” The closer? Elton John’s “Bennie and the Jets.” How much fun can you have talking about music? This much fun!

Listen to and download Scott McPherson’s appearance on Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation by clicking here. Enjoy!

alan-mic-zPure Pop Radio: In Conversation, the premiere melodic pop interview program hosted by Alan Haber, airs Tuesday nights at 8 pm ET. Archived, podcast versions of interviews are posted on the In Conversation PodOmatic podcast page; click here to listen to shows previously broadcast on Pure Pop Radio.

Listen to Pure Pop Radio on the go using your Android and iOS devices! Download Our Mobile App.

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