New on Pure Pop Radio 5.2.18: Michael Carpenter Special: The Supahip’s The Two Sided Face and Carpenter, Smith and Jones’ Tom Petty Tribute

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alan headshot from schoolBy Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

Spins and Reviews | 5.2.18

Michael Carpenter Special:

The Supahip | The Two Sided Face (2018)
Carpenter, Smith and Jones | Petty (2018)
covercoverThe many, varied hues on the palette from which Michael Carpenter draws to paint his long line of musical masterpieces are particularly plentiful these days. Following on from a rich, vibrant collection recorded with Australian country legend Allan Caswell, and his sterling, melodic work with his band the April Family, Michael has reignited the fires that fuel the Supahip, a duo he formed with Mark Moldre, and joined with angelic voices Abby Smith and Sophie Jones to celebrate the music of the late Tom Petty. The results are magnificent across the board.

The Supahip’s Seize the World, released in 2006, mesmerized with its canny mix of genre-bending numbers and, not surprisingly, begged for a sequel. That second shot at their brass ring has been realized in the form of the duo’s smashing new long player, The Two Sided Face. Embracing rock,  pop and country, these songs emerged after days begun with a slate so clean you could eat off of it: Michael and Mark arrived at the studio each morning with nary a note written and left at the end of the day with not only a written song, but one that was also mixed.

the supahip

The Supahip: Michael Carpenter (top), Mark Moldre (bottom)

This perhaps unorthodox way of working pays huge dividends; the proof is in the grooves crafted by two friends whose shared passions are like two sides of the same coin. These passions give rich texture to songs such as the lively “With the Radio On,” a vaguely country smooth groove mixed with melodic pop convention; the slow burning  country toe-tapper “Fourarms,” about needing extra limbs to keep up with the daily traffic of life, and the four-on-the-floor Rolling Stones nod, “Motor,” an Exile on Main Street let-it-all-hang-out workout with resilient slide guitar parts and insistent drumming pushing through the armature. It’s all quite a wonderful thing.

Carpenter, Smith and Jones’ Petty, a sincere and lovely celebration of the music of one of rock’s most magnanimous songwriters and performers, now sadly departed, shares with the Supahip a deep passion for its mission but takes a softer, earthier approach on the way to its destination. Teaming up with angelic songbirds Abby Smith and Sophie Jones as Carpenter, Smith and Jones, Michael plays all of the instruments. The trio’s earthy vocal blend and the perhaps more deliberate pacing in the songs combine to amplify the emotions contained within the lyrics and musical notes for a particularly engaging listen.

smith and jones“Runnin’ Down a Dream” is recast as a slow, sometimes moody shuffle, a vocal workout bolstered by bracing electric guitars and Michael’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).

“Learning to Fly” ascends in ballad form with glorious lead and harmony vocals from Abby and Sophie and Michael’s lyrical guitar playing. The Traveling Wilburys’ “End of the Line,” which appears here as the closing song, just as it did on the first Wilburys album, takes on a singalong gospel tone; handclaps and joyous, freeing vocals abound. Your inclination will be to join in with your own vocals, but resist the temptation and enjoy the work that Carpenter, Smith and Jones have crafted. It’s quite spectacular.

Whether creating original songs or drawing different kinds of emotion from other songwriters’ material, Michael Carpenter, Mark Moldre, Abby Smith and Sophie Jones bring their best to the table. Both The Two Sided Face and Petty are proof positive that this is the case, that we are all rich beyond our wildest dreams with this music in our lives.

carpenter smith and jones new single coverblack box Where to Get It: The Supahip’s The Two Sided Face is available in digital form at the Big Radio Records Bandcamp page (the CD will be available around June 1). Purchase the digital download of Carpenter, Smith and Jones’ Petty on their Bandcamp page (the CD will also be available around June 1). Petty’s first single is “Listen to Her Heart.”

 

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Pure Pop Radio’s signature shows, Alan Haber’s Pop Tunes Deejay Show, playing the latest and greatest melodic pop songs from today and across the decades, and Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation, the premiere Internet melodic pop talk show, air weekly on Pop that Goes Crunch Radio.

pop tunes disc smallin conversation new graphic blueListen to the Pop Tunes Deejay Show on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8 pm ET (two different shows every week); In Conversation airs every Wednesday night at 9 pm ET. Don’t miss a minute!

Tune in to Pop that Goes Crunch Radio by clicking on the following snazzy-looking button:

 

New on Pure Pop Radio 3.14.18: Linus of Hollywood and The Weeklings

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alan headshot from schoolBy Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

Spins and Reviews | 3.14.18

Linus of Hollywood | Cabin Life | Magic Beach, 2018
LOH - Cabin Life Cover V2-3
You’ve got to be carrying around on your shoulders a teeming bushelful of confidence to name your album Your Favorite Record, but that’s what the regally-named Linus of Hollywood called his very first long player in 1999, an instant soft-pop classic boasting liner notes from none other than soft-pop queen Margo Guryan, who perhaps prophetically asked in those notes, “Can you recall the first time you tasted ice cream?”

I remember very well getting Your Favorite Record and playing songs from it on my weekly Pure Pop Radio show. I remember that very first taste of ice cream, the flavors of which have only grown stronger over the years. And now, nearly 20 years later, Linus of Hollywood has served up another 10 scoops of tasty treats on Cabin Fever, his delightful fifth effort that really, truly is the kind of thing that puts a spring in your step.

The album kicks off with the sprightly title song that functions as a rallying cry for the rest of the album. Playful musically and emotionally warm, the lyrics talk about leaving the fast paced world for a spell, trading daily annoyances like ringing telephones for mountain air and singing birds. A blissful getaway is yours for the driving to the hills: “Throw all your troubles in the fire,” Linus sings, “Don’t it feel so right to live this cabin life?”

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. In pure when-life-gives-you-lemons-make-lemonade mode, Linus implores listeners to keep going when something comes along and tries to stop you in your tracks. Singers, especially, take note: “So tell me that I can’t sing/And tell me that I won’t amount to anything/But I won’t let it get me down…No I’ll never let it get me down tonight.” Or ever.

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.”

Looking at the vibrant, colorful illustrations on the lovingly detailed front and back covers that make up the beautiful package design by Brad Bond, you can just feel the inspiration that fueled the writing of these songs (they were all written in cabins in the Lake Arrowhead, California area).

“Drive up to the hills/Take that winding road/I think I remember where it goes,” the title song sings. It goes to one of this year’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

The Weeklings | “In the Moment” | Single, 2018
New Jersey’s Fab Four let loose some powerful beat-driven sounds recorded at London’s Abbey Road Studios during the making of the quartet’s most recent album, Studio 2. “Anything you want, I’ll be there to give you,” they sing with melodic and harmonic force. “Cause every time I see you, I love you more.” Life, in the moment! Guitars! Sounds-like-Paul-McCartney-is-playing-the-bass bass lines! Keith Moon-y drums! (Really!) And a whole lot of “And Your Bird Can Sing” spirit! (Really!) Another can’t-miss missive most welcome, you can be sure!

black box Where to Get It: Amazon, iTunes

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Pure Pop Radio’s signature shows, Alan Haber’s Pop Tunes Deejay Show, playing the latest and greatest melodic pop songs from today and across the decades, and Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation, the premiere Internet melodic pop talk show, air weekly on Pop that Goes Crunch Radio.

pop tunes disc smallin conversation new graphic blueListen to the Pop Tunes Deejay Show on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8 pm ET (two different shows every week); In Conversation airs every Wednesday night at 9 pm ET. Don’t miss a minute!

Tune in to Pop that Goes Crunch Radio by clicking on the following snazzy-looking button:

 

New on Pure Pop Radio 3.13.18: Michael Simmons, David Myhr, and Radio Days

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alan headshot from schoolBy Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

Spins and Reviews | 3.13.18

Michael Simmons | First Days of Summer | Crab Apple, 2018
michael simmons album front cover
You will likely know musician and high school educator Michael Simmons from the much-missed sparkle*jets u.k., from Yorktown Lads, whose Cameron Lew makes quite fine music on his own, or Popdudes, a musical conclave that counts journalist and drummer John Borack among its ranks. Now, it’s time to know Simmons as a solo artist who has produced a terrific long player that will stand, when all of this year’s dust has settled, as one of the best of the year.

First Days of Summer, the music of which was recorded from 2015 to 2017 in sparkling Kitchen-o-Phonic sound, reflecting the location of Simmons’ studio, is contained inside a striking cover bathed in a fiery orange wash with tools of the musician’s trade on the front and song lyrics and credits on the back. This is a stylistically diverse collection of songs that expertly lays out the artist’s diverse musical vision and dedication to craft.

The opening and closing tracks are 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, together form a comfortable wrapper within which sit First Days of Summer’s other songs.

Inside this wrapper, you’ll find a variety of catchy sounds, such as the mid-tempo pop-rocker “Fuzzy Green Hat,” steeped in a decidedly Something/Anything?-era Todd Rundgren vibe and all about creative inspiration, no matter where it may come from. The jangly, Andy Partridge-esque bopper “No More Girls” concerns itself with growing up where love is concerned (“I can’t sing about girls no more/No more girls for me/No more songs about girls for sure/A woman’s more my speed/And I know what I will do/I’m gonna sing about you”). “Bucket List,” on fire with a whole lot of Rockpile and NRBQ bluster, celebrates the embracing of true love.

And there’s more. “Let’s Fall in Love” is a lively, beat-driven, Prince-inspired slice of dance pop about second chance romance. The title track, a dreamy, breezy number,  recalls the best of Jeffrey Foskett with a pinch of Burt Bacharach horn embellishment and a wash of Todd Rundgren balladry. It’s sublime.

What shines brightly and decisively from within the dozen tracks on First Days of Summer 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. The sound you hear in the distance is listeners wanting a followup.

black box Where to Get It: Release date is TBD; check Michael Simmons’ Bandcamp page for the latest information

David Myhr | “Room to Grow” (from the forthcoming album, Lucky Day) | 2018
david myhr lucky day coverA joyous, jazzy-by-way-of-Paul-McCartney-esque song from David’s upcoming Lucky Day album, set for a May 18 release, “Room to Grow” was written in Nashville with Pure Pop Radio favorite Bill DeMain. It’s the kind of song that would be equally at home in an intimate club and your own music room. David’s vocal is smooth and emotive, the instrumentation bounces along to the bopping beat, and clever touches like the luscious bridge, lively background vocal arrangement and nimble Stevie Wonder-like harmonica break will put a smile on your face. Now playing on episodes of Alan Haber’s Pop Tunes Deejay Show. A catchy, delectable triumph.

black box Where to Get It: Lucky Day will be released by Lojinx on May 18

Radio Days | El Delfin y El Varano | 2018
radio days el delfin y el varanoSpeaking of diverse musical vision and dedication to craft, Milan, Italy’s Radio Days have, save for one track, stepped outside of their power pop comfort zone to deliver a four-song EP full of wonder. It is after the hard hitting, pounding opener “Time is Over” that the group starts serving up surprises. The beautiful “Sometimes,” a slow-paced ballad bolstered by lovely, close harmonies, is followed by a clever reinvention of the Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend,” recast here as a sensitive ballad adorned with Radio Days’ trademark vocal prowess. The title track, a Dick Dale-meets-just-about-any-’60s-surf-band-you-could-name mid-paced workout, roughly translates, according to Google, as “The Dolphin and the Monitor,” but you’ll probably be happy going with “Cool Instro.” Great stuff.

black box Where to Get It: Bandcamp

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Pure Pop Radio’s signature shows, Alan Haber’s Pop Tunes Deejay Show, playing the latest and greatest melodic pop songs from today and across the decades, and Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation, the premiere Internet melodic pop talk show, air weekly on Pop that Goes Crunch Radio.

pop tunes disc smallin conversation new graphic blueListen to the Pop Tunes Deejay Show on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8 pm ET (two different shows every week); In Conversation airs every Wednesday night at 9 pm ET. Don’t miss a minute!

Tune in to Pop that Goes Crunch Radio by clicking on the following snazzy-looking button:

 

New on Pure Pop Radio 1.17.18: Andy and Jason Reed Make their Move, Farrington Serves Up Enlightenment, and Tommy and the Rockets Have Fun in the Summer Sun

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By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio alan 5 small

Spins and Reviews | 1.17.18

Andy Reed and Jason Reed | Make Your Move (2018)
andy reed and jason reed coverAndy Reed, whose engineering, performing and songwriting resume measures many miles long (The Legal Matters, et al), and his brother Jason help to usher in the new melodic pop year with this sterling five-song EP.

These moving parts, dynamically recorded by Andy with special attention and polish paid to the bottom end, demand a listen clear through from start to end, sharing, as they do, similar sonic elements. From the opening salvo, “The Longest Pause,” which proceeds from a quiet, considered intro to a more aggressive, melodic end tempered by a tender, acoustic guitar close, to the title song, an energetic, toe-tapping ode to ’80s pop-rock, and a sure-fire radio hit if ever there was one, the brothers Reed are clearly in sync and on point.

black box Where to Get It: Bandcamp

farrington jan 2018 coverFarrington | “Open the Doors to Enlightenment” (2018)
James Patrick’s nom de plume returns with an utterly delightful faux psych-meets-soft pop-meets-The New Vaudeville Band confection, three and a half minutes of blissful melodic twists and turns, topped with a dose of hazy mysticism and an aural entry into this harmony-drenched sonic world (door opens, and you’re in). Most definitely Farrington’s best and most inviting track, with Klaatu’s Terry Draper turning in a fun cameo and Fernando Perdomo producing, and a bargain at 99 cents on iTunes. (This song is also a track on the forthcoming EP, Same Play Different Actors.)

black box Where to Get It: iTunes

tommy and the rockets summer sun coverTommy and the Rockets | Let’s Have Fun in the Summer Sun (Beluga Records, 2017)
These four quick-as-a-summer-breeze blasts of sand-and-surf-stoked air are just what the doctor ordered for those of us currently braving the winter cold. Three originals (“Come On Baby,” for example, is a Ramones-fueled four-on-the-floor bubblegum treasure with a rocking electric guitar spot) and a sped-up cover of the Beach Boys’ “Little Honda” will have you tapping your feet double time. Feel good music for a good–no, great–feel.

black box Where to Get It: Bandcamp

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Pure Pop Radio’s signature shows, Alan Haber’s Pop Tunes Deejay Show, playing the latest and greatest melodic pop songs from today and across the decades, and Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation, the premiere Internet melodic pop talk show, air weekly on Pop that Goes Crunch Radio.

pop tunes disc smallin conversation new graphic blueListen to the Pop Tunes Deejay Show on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8 pm ET (two different shows every week); In Conversation airs every Wednesday night at 9 pm ET. Don’t miss a minute!

Tune in to Pop that Goes Crunch Radio by clicking on the following snazzy-looking button:

 

Favorite Records of the Year: Stars of 2017

favorite records of the year - stars of 2017- a

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio alan 5 small

Every year around this time, I sit down to start work on this feature and I marvel at the sheer number of wonderful albums released during the previous 12 months. And then, I’m off and running.

The process of reviewing contenders for this list results in a survey of the absolute top of the pops that came out during the last 12 months. There were a lot of great indie records released in 2017. These are the ones that I came back to the most.

There are 21 entries in this year’s feature–18 albums and three singles, all followed by links you can click on to purchase them. They are presented in no particular order. As in years past, I do not rank them; I have trouble deciding which album should sit at number five versus number six and anyway, if I did rank them, the placements would likely vary depending on the day. So they are presented as a group of highly listenable creations, all of which I recommend without reservation, every day of the week.

And so, without further ado, here is Pure Pop Radio’s Favorite Records of the Year: Stars of 2017. The choices are mine; the pleasure, listening to them, is all yours.

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Bill DeMain | Transatlantic Romantic
Built around the Nashville, Tennessee artist’s piano and lovely vocals, and co-producer Jim Hoke’s tasteful string and horn arrangements, Transatlantic Romantic is a delicious, wonderfully arranged song cycle stacked high with sweet, beautifully written and performed classic-sounding songs in the style of Harry Nilsson, Randy Newman, Van Dyke Parks, and Harpers Bizarre. Case in point: “Lemon Yellow,” a lovely waltz blessed by Van Dyke Parks-meets-George Martin strings, Randy Newman-esque piano, and the charming story about the love of a car that came “all the way from Germany.” There is charm to spare in this gem of an album, a warm, beating heart full of joy. Purchase

bill lloyd it's happening now coverBill Lloyd | It’s Happening Now
It’s Happening Now bathes listeners in the warm glow of tremendous acoustic-based songs evoking mid-’60s folk-pop aesthetics. Lovely melodies, nimble acoustic guitar playing, and emotive vocals combine for an affective listening experience from a contemporary music master. A couple of heartfelt numbers are among the best songs that Lloyd has written thus far: the gorgeous, beautifully orchestrated and tenderly sung “Happiness,” about really and truly and completely giving in to love (“Happiness/As much of a choice as a chance/You simply decide that you’ll dance/This time…/Then maybe you’ll finally be blessed with/Happiness”), and “Let Me In Your Life Again,” a gentle upbeat plea for rekindling a romance (“Back inside your grace/Warm in your embrace/Only face to face/Do I feel anything so true”). It’s Happening Now is Bill Lloyd’s finest hour, by far. Purchase

the bye bye blackbirds take out the poison coverThe Bye Bye Blackbirds | Take Out the Poison
Bradley Skaught’s Oakland, California-based outfit’s best offering yet presents 11 finely wrought, emotionally charged songs in an album stocked full of classic tracks. Variety is the key: “Let Your Hair Fall Down,” an out-and-out pop workout, complete with horns and sounding as if it were plucked from the J. Geils playbook, sits comfortably alongside such numbers as the mid-tempo, string-laden country ballad, “Duet,” which features a lovely vocal by Lindsay Paige Garfield, who co-wrote the song with Skaught. A career-defining release. Purchase

karla kane king's daughters home for incurables coverKarla Kane | King’s Daughters Home for Incurables
The Corner Laughers’ Karla Kane steps into the spotlight with this enchanting solo set bringing together modern folk and soft pop sensibilities. Kane’s lovely vocals and melodies power these heartfelt songs, such as the gorgeous ballad “Under the Oak in May” and the amazing, percussive piano marvel “All Aboard,” which sports a traveling, train-inspired beat and builds to a seductive close. A true marvel of an album. Purchase

fun of the pier 1442Fun of the Pier | 14:42
Nottingham, England’s Fun of the Pier paints their debut album in bright, happy folk-pop hues for a pleasing listening experience. Songs such as “Past/Future” and “(In My) Time” are drenched in lovely, clever and catchy melodies.  Beautiful ballads “Lost and Lazy” and “I Live this Life (She Said)” hearken to classic artists such as Claire Hamill and Kate Rusby (and there is a correlation worth noting). 14:42 is a wonderful, delightful collection of songs, expertly performed, with Helen Luker’s alluring vocals particularly noteworthy. Purchase

kelley ryan telescopeKelley Ryan | Telescope
astroPuppees veteran Ryan’s long player is a master class effort of melodic proportions, stocked deep with luscious, carefully crafted compositions. Telescope’s enticing mix of balladry and radio-friendly should-be-top-of-the-pops creations includes the catchy, mid-tempo closer “Real Gone Girl,” with its enticing melody and lovely, memorable and magical harmonies; and the gentle, so pretty “Pulling for Romeo,” from which this album gets its title (“You’re at the end of your rope/Don’t need a telescope…”). How does this album fit into the current melodic pop landscape? It fits like a glove. Purchase

dave caruso buddhaDave Caruso | Buddha Pesto Manifesto
Dave Caruso’s new songs, which form the whole of this career-defining new album, play with the duality of the times in our lives when decisions must be made. Easy or hard to fathom, these decisions are the fabric of our lives, set within this album to glide along atop durable melodies that beat to the heart of the matter. The album’s closer is a particular highlight: “I Get to Make You Laugh,” delivered emotionally by way of Caruso’s tender vocal and keyboard, finds the narrator self-realizing that another man has the woman’s commitment at the same time that the narrator has her soul. Coming three years after the bravura performances captured within Caruso’s breakout album Cardboard Vegas Roundabout, Buddha Pesto Manifesto sets a high bar for future musical endeavors. Purchase

cindy lee berryhill the adventuristCindy Lee Berryhill | The Adventurist
A deeply felt, melodic, invigorating and emotional song cycle looking back on and celebrating Berryhill’s time with Paul Williams, the creator of Crawdaddy, the first, authoritative rock publication of record, The Adventurist shows the future unfolding for Berryhill one day at a time with each new step forward informed by steps already taken. The album’s heart-filled center is the heartbreakingly honest, emotionally melodic “Somebody’s Angel” (“The first time I kissed somebody new/I cried when I thought about you/And all the good times we had and the living we’d been through,” Berryhill sings. “Now I’m here for you forever or long as I am able/I gotta be somebody’s angel.”) The Adventurist, a remarkable, many-hued cycle of life, will grab hold of your heart as it summons your deepest emotions to the surface and affects you to your core. (Omnivore) Purchase

cait brennab thirdCait Brennan | Third
A miraculous, astounding, and audacious album pairing Brennan, a one-of-a-kind artist, and multi-instrumentalist and ace producer Fernando Perdomo, Third is surely one of those fortified-in-heaven happenings that make life on earth a wonderful thing. Recorded at Memphis, Tennessee’s legendary Ardent Studios, fortified with Big Star heart, Third is a roller coaster ride through all of life’s travails, an emotional wake up call for all humans negotiating the pathways of their existence. The album’s highlight? “Catiebots Don’t Cry,” a gut-wrenching you-love-her-I-love-her-what-are-we-gonna-do-about-it slow-to-mid-tempo burner, a skewed kind of aromatic love song featuring Brennan’s multi-tracked, thing-of-beauty three-dimensional vocal harmony stacks. This Third is astonishing, bold, and seemingly effortless. (Omnivore) Purchase

the blood rush hour who folds firstThe Blood Rush Hour | Who Folds First
The followup to 2014’s astounding And Then… The Unthinkable Happened is just as miraculous and entirely satisfying, encompassing a variety of song styles, all finely wrought melodic microcosms and performed with perfection. Who Folds First brings the hits and a few happy surprises, like the Manhattan Transfer-like, a cappella opening that introduces the Todd Rundgren-esque “No More Excuses,” and “The Space that We Have Made,” about getting to the heart of the matter, a triumphant Steely Dan-ish number sung by Pure Pop Radio favorite Christian Phillips, who devised the three-dimensional vocal arrangements with Hour leader Robert DeStefano. Joyous and quite special. Purchase

chris price stop talking coverChris Price | Stop Talking
Stop talking? Hardly. The aim is for you to listen to these wonderful songs, recorded by Price between 2013 and 2016, and tell your friends about them, thereby creating a groundswell of support for this exceptional artist. From the catchy Paul McCartney-meets-Stephen Bishop-meets-Rupert Holmes “One of Them” to the tender, Nilsson-esque “You and Me (And Everyone Else),” co-written by Price and The New Pornographers’ Joe Seiders, and the toe-tapping, orchestrated charmer “Once Was True,” which puts a lovely chord progression and melodic structure center stage, Stop Talking is a classy keeper. (Omnivore) Purchase

the weeklings live at darryl's house coverThe Weeklings | Live at Daryl’s House Club Vol. 1
Ten Beatles classics, inhabited and driven with red-hot enthusiasm by this ever-passionate New Jersey foursome, blow like missiles out of your speakers for a fun time that, yeah, yeah, yeah, cannot help but be had by all. Top tracks? Take your pick: “I Saw Her Standing There” (energy to spare and take-that drumming), “Nowhere Man” (tight, three-dimensional harmonies), or “Helter Skelter,” (a pulse-pounding showcase for the band and Lefty’s in-your-face vocal). Or, really, any of the other tracks on offer. Short of being transported to an alternate universe where the actual Beatles are playing at a club in your neighborhood, this is as real as this fab thing gets. (See below for more Weeklings fun.) Purchase

coke belda 3gs cover for websiteCoke Belda | Coke Belda 3 (Gs): A Tribute to the Bee Gees
The long-awaited followup to 2013’s Coke Belda I and 2015’s Nummer Zwei breathes new life into the art of musical homage. This alluring celebration of the charms of the Brothers Gibb, a virtual explosion of Bee Gees joy, hits the mark at every turn. Playing all of the instruments and singing all of the vocals, save for a welcome guest appearance from Gretchen’s Wheel’s Lindsay Murray, Coke delivers smile after smile. “Claustrophobia,” arranged and played as a sweet Merseybeat romp, will book you on a virtual time travel trip back to the 1960s. The album closer, a beautiful take on “Our Love (Don’t Throw It All Away),” a top 10 Billboard chart hit for Andy Gibb in 1978, written by Bee Gee Barry and keyboardist Blue Weaver, is a welcome, perhaps unexpected nugget. Follow with glee. (Bonus Belda joy follows below.) Purchase from Kool Kat (CD), Purchase from Futureman (Digital)

Pins_and_Needles_Cover_Art_Scott_GagnerScott Gagner | Pins and Needles
A way-more-than-worthy followup to 2014’s five-star Rise and Shine, Pins and Needles elevates Scott Gagner’s art to six stars, at least. Boasting 10 literate, affecting pop songs and a lovely, emotional reading of “America the Beautiful,” the album is one of the great pleasures of 2017. Top numbers include the bluesy “Heart Attack” (“It seems I was a victim of love/Not heart disease”), the classic pop sounds of “The Ghost of Me and You,” and the aforementioned “America the Beautiful.” Lovely through and through. Purchase

bob of the pops vol. 2bob of the pops front coverRobyn Gibson | Bob of the Pops Vol. 1 and Vol. 2
Buoyant exercises in the art of homage, Bob of the Pops Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 find The Junipers’ multi-instrumentalist Robyn Gibson having a good old time putting his warm, wide-eyed spin on some of his favorite pop songs from across the decades. All across this lovingly essayed two-volume landscape, Gibson’s softhearted vocals and obvious love for the material cast a warm glow over every melody line and emotional keystone communicated. In Gibson’s hands, these classic constructs breathe new life into familiar musical landscapes. From Vol. 1, The Beatles’ “Nowhere Man” fairly drips with joy; the opening, harmony drenched a cappella couplet is sweetly delivered, and the song reveals itself as a modern-day folk song, every harmonic element glimmering with life and hope. Among the other top spins: The Hollies’ “Listen to Me” and the Who’s “I Can’t Reach You.” Vol. 2’s take on the Monkees’ “Girl that I Knew Somewhere” and Matthew Sweet’s “I’ve Been Waiting” are winners, as is “Bob’s” version of a well-known little group from Liverpool’s “There’s a Place.” Unmissable, and so much fun. Free Downloads

smellicopter twoScott Brookman | Smellicopter Two
Four years and seven months on from the mighty Smellicopter, Richmond, Virginia’s favorite son returns with this top-flight five-song sequel, a sterling collection of pop songs that should not only please fans but also draw in new Brookman connoisseurs. From the opening marriage of ’70s Todd Rundgren and late-’90s June and the Exit Wounds ambiance, “Consideration,” to “Old Bones Found,” a clever, catchy mix of pure pop styles, Smellicopter Two delivers the goods. Purchase

dana countryman the joy of popDana Countryman | The Joy of Pop
The fourth time’s the charm, although it certainly can be said that the previous three times have been equally charming; The Joy of Pop is nothing less than a joy, another in a growing line of wonderful retro-pop albums from a master of melody. With compatriots like Matt Tyson, Dana’s wife Tricia and Klaatu’s Dee Long in tow, you’re bound to have a rousing good time bathing in the glow of such gorgeous songs as “August Dream,” a Broadway-styled creation influenced, no doubt, by the work of Richard Carpenter, Burt Bacharach and Gilbert O’Sullivan; “Tell Me that You Love Me,” an early-1960s mid-tempo ballad dripping with Buddy Holly-isms; and “Can’t Stop Thinking ‘Bout You,” a jangly number graced with Dee Long’s beautiful guitar work. There is even a jolly holiday number, “It’s an Amazon.com Kind of Christmas,” that begs to be played year-round. Joy? There plenty to go around here. Purchase

Richard X. HeymanRichard X. Heyman | Incognito
One-man-band Richard X.’s 12th album, no less than his best work by far, is powered by stellar playing, singing and songwriting that gets better with each passing year. Dazzling songs and equally dazzling performances greet you at every turn. In the pure popper “A Fool’s Errand,” the narrator tells the world that his love for his partner is solid and for the ages. “Her Garden Path” is a muscular track with a grandly attractive riff that chronicles a man’s escape from a woman’s web. And the horn-infused, soulful pop number “So What” finds Richard sounding as though he’s channeling the Rascals’ Felix Cavaliere. All of Richard’s albums are fantastic listens, but if you’re new to Richard’s work and you wonder where you should start, Incognito is a great place to jump in. Purchase

winterpills colorblindWinterpills | “Colorblind”
Upon first hearing this Massachusetts band’s music and, in particular songwriter Philip Price’s top-flight, three-dimensional songs, I could do nothing except flip for joy. This single, not yet represented on an album, is a great example of what Winterpills does best, and that is envelop the listener with lovely melodies and hooks galore. Beyond that, this description from the group’s Bandcamp page sums the process up nicely: “‘Colorblind’ features an infectious wall-of-sound vocal hook, samples recorded into an iPhone in a DC parking lot, out-of-tune pianos colliding over a burned-out city, a fat R&B beat, all poured through the alchemy of producer Justin Pizzoferrato’s overdrive brain.” Add this song, and all of Winterpills’ glorious albums, to your collection today. Purchase

coke belda photoCoke Belda | “Operator (That’s Not the Way it Feels)”
Coke Belda, who is ably represented above in this year’s Favorite Records of the Year feature, released this past November this heartfelt reinvention of Jim Croce’s top 20 hit. “My lovely wife, Verónica, introduced me to Jim Croce many years ago,” says Coke on his Bandcamp page. “I was captivated by his tunes and voice and I always thought this song was a clear power-pop song disguised as an acoustic piece.” Playing all of the instruments and singing all of the vocals, Coke has introduced Croce’s perennial to new listeners, as well as listeners who grew up with the song when it was first released. Stellar work. Purchase

the weeklings paperback writerThe Weeklings | “Paperback Writer”
New Jersey’s Fab Four reconvened in the studio during the last few months of 2017 to record and release a couple of jolly Christmas singles–“Revolution Wonderland,” a mash-up of the Beatles’ “Revolution” and the perennial Christmas classic “Winter Wonderland,” and a lively take on the original Fabs’ “Christmas Time is Here Again,” with dollops of “Flying” and “Baby You’re a Rich Man” skillfully sewn in. Last September, they released this, and here’s that word again, joyous slice of Weekling-ized fun, reviewed by me thusly: “Lefty, Zeek, Rocky and Smokestack huddle together and Weekling-ize the number one 1966 Billboard chart Beatles smash with an in-your-face-and-your-ears-too injection of contemporary immediacy, tight-knit harmonies, a surprising and smile-inducing…break, rhythmic whirligigs, Lefty’s spot-on Paul McCartney-esque bass runs, and a daring dose of Monkees derring-do for a rip-roaring, must-play-it-again-and-again two minutes and 47 seconds-long eargasm.” Still sounds about right. Purchase

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Pure Pop Radio’s signature shows, Alan Haber’s Pop Tunes Deejay Show, playing the latest and greatest melodic pop songs from today and across the decades, and Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation, the premiere Internet melodic pop talk show, air weekly on Pop that Goes Crunch Radio.

pop tunes disc smallin conversation new graphic blueListen to the Pop Tunes Deejay Show on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8 pm ET (two different shows every week); In Conversation airs every Wednesday night at 9 pm ET. Don’t miss a minute!

Tune in to Pop that Goes Crunch Radio by clicking on the following snazzy-looking button:

 

New on Pure Pop Radio 09.05.17: The Weeklings’ Wild Take On the Beatles’ “Paperback Writer,” New Sincerity Works’ Latest, and Poppermost’s Melody Explosion

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Spins and Reviews | 09.05.17
By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio alan 5 small

the weeklings paperback writerThe Weeklings | “Paperback Writer” (Single, 2017)
Lefty, Zeek, Rocky and Smokestack huddle together and Weekling-ize the number one 1966 Billboard chart Beatles smash with an in-your-face-and-your-ears-too injection of contemporary immediacy, tight-knit harmonies, a surprising and smile-inducing…break, rhythmic whirligigs, Lefty’s spot-on Paul McCartney-esque bass runs, and a daring dose of Monkees derring-do for a rip-roaring, must-play-it-again-and-again two minutes and 47 seconds-long eargasm. I think that about covers it.

black box Where to Get It: Amazon, iTunes. Listen on Spotify

NSW_WONDER_LUSTNew Sincerity Works | Wonder Lust (2017)
Mike Tittel’s outfit sits on the fringe of where pop and rock meet for drinks on a Sunday afternoon, crafting inspired bellwether works fueled by a variety of influence. Alternative leanings meet pop songcraft meet a traditional rock and roll base on songs like “Find a Way Home,” an atmospheric mid-tempo ballad whose lengthy intro sets an emotional mood; “To Be Kissed Like That,” a lovely song that builds nicely and sports sensitive guitar lines; and the title number, a lively pop-rocker that sounds for all the world like U2, if Bono and company had more finite pop leanings. Tittel, aided and abetted by a more than able fellowship filled out by Roger Klug, whose singular pop-rock has been a Pure Pop Radio staple for two decades, Greg Tudor, Bob Nyswonger, Mike Landis, and Lauren Bray, has made a fine specimen, a record for dipping into for listeners inspired by the art of craft.

black box Where to Get It: The New Sincerity Works store

SongsforTheDifferent360pxPoppermost | Songs for the Different (2017)
Las Vegas popsters stake their claim for top-flight regional melodism with a generous sampling of their wares and come up with a collection that soft pop fans are sure to love. A collection of previously-released tracks and new single “Let It Shine,” a Cowsills-worthy explosion of sixties and seventies pop with lovely harmonies, Songs for the Different glows with a multitude of period smiles, from the Free Design vibe of “Tracy” to the swinging, harmony-rich clapalong reworking of the Monkees’ “Tapioca Tundra,” originally released on the Monkees’ The Birds, The Bees and the Monkees album in 1968. Alex Oliver and Roy Rendahl’s sense of the power of song steeped in strong melodies puts them at the top of the soft pop class, making this album a must-listen-to experience.

black box Where to Get It: CD Baby

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Pure Pop Radio’s signature shows, Alan Haber’s Pop Tunes Deejay Show, playing the latest and greatest melodic pop songs from today and across the decades, and Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation, the premiere Internet melodic pop talk show, air weekly on Pop that Goes Crunch Radio.

pop tunes disc smallin conversation new graphic blueListen to the Pop Tunes Deejay Show on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8 pm ET (two different shows every week); In Conversation airs every Wednesday night at 9 pm ET. Don’t miss a minute!

Tune in to Pop that Goes Crunch Radio by clicking on the following snazzy-looking button:

New on Pure Pop Radio 08.31.17: Jerry Yester’s Vital Pass Your Light Around and Phil Angotti’s Majestic Such Stories

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Spins and Reviews | 08.31.17
By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio alan 5 small

Yester - Pass Your Light Around OV-246Jerry Yester | Pass Your Light Around (Omnivore, 2017)
The list of artists Jerry Yester was associated with back in the 1960s and 1970s suggests his path in the music was lit by angels; he played in bands as diverse as the Lovin’ Spoonful, the Modern Folk Quartet, and Rosebud, and sat in the producer’s chair for albums by artists such as the Association, Tim Buckley, and the Turtles.

Yester, who started out playing in a duo dubbed the Yester Brothers with his equally talented brother Jim (who was a member of the Association and, in fact, still is), recorded various tracks through the 1970s yet never released a solo album. Enter Omnivore Records, which came to the rescue and righted a decades-old wrong with this glorious collection of 15 songs that act collectively as a master class in pop singing and songwriting.

These wonderful songs, written with Larry Beckett, who worked with Tim Buckley, run the gamut from the country-tinged celebratory pop of the joyous “My Dusty Darling” to the pretty, almost hymnlike “Brooklyn Girl,” which features some of the most intricate, close and affecting harmonies you could imagine hearing; and the amazing “All I Can Do is Dance,” a very Association-like performance that also puts the emphasis on singing that will do nothing less than send shivers up your spine.

Omnivore has been at the forefront of the much-appreciated and important movement to rescue and bring to light important catalog and previously-unheard recordings.  Being able to appreciate music from years past allows listeners to better understand and put into context the breadth of an artist’s career. With Pass Your Light Around, the company has released what can only be viewed as one of the most vital releases of 2017.

black box Where to Get It: The Omnivore Shop (Pre-order) (releases October 6)

phil angotti such storiesPhil Angotti | Such Stories (2017)
A staple of Pure Pop Radio playlists since the early 2000s, Chicago musician Phil Angotti’s music, whether performed solo or with his group the Idea, is always an engaging listen. This new album, a stripped-down collection of personal, acoustic songs with just guitars, accordion and dulcimer in the mix, offers a chance to hear Phil’s songs in an intimate setting.

These heartfelt songs resonate deeply with meaning and emotion. “Brown Eyes Never Lie,” against a vaguely old English folk backdrop, peers into a soul that’s lost its way, and offers a way back: “You can always get it back/So smile a little smile/Sad eyes don’t look good on you/And sorrow’s not your style.” The narrator of “Sunny Day on the East Side” is out for a stroll amidst random observations, when the sun goes down and it’s time to take stock: “And now it’s late and the sun is gone/We’re walking home/Sing a Beatles song/We laugh as if there is nothing wrong/It was a sunny day on the east side.” Is he hiding some regret?

Perhaps the centerpiece of this album is the joyous “Singing in the Yard,” in which a young boy auditions for a life in song (“In a small backyard he waits and stands alone/A broomstick and a ball for a microphone/You can hear his voice from across the fence/Patiently waiting for his audience”). By the end of the song, he finds himself assessing his position, a commitment to his burgeoning art: “It’s time to go, his friends are off to play/Though he wants to be one of them, he’s miles away/Though he wants to go along/He’s worlds away.”

An insightful collection of songs, beautifully sung and played, Such Stories is such a draw of honest emotion set to lovely melodies that I can’t help but recommend it wholeheartedly to one and all.

black box Where to Get It: CD Baby, iTunes. Listen on Spotify

alanhaberspurepopradiographiclarge1-wp header

Pure Pop Radio’s signature shows, Alan Haber’s Pop Tunes Deejay Show, playing the latest and greatest melodic pop songs from today and across the decades, and Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation, the premiere Internet melodic pop talk show, air weekly on Pop that Goes Crunch Radio.

pop tunes disc smallin conversation new graphic blueListen to the Pop Tunes Deejay Show on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8 pm ET (two different shows every week); In Conversation airs every Wednesday night at 9 pm ET. Don’t miss a minute!

Tune in to Pop that Goes Crunch Radio by clicking on the following snazzy-looking button: