Reviews: 3.19.19: Gretchen’s Wheel Rides the (Nada) Surf, and Lannie Flowers’ Pop Waltz

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

Gretchen’s Wheel
Moth to Lamplight: A Tribute to Nada Surf
(Futureman, 2019)

Listening to this new collection, a tribute to rockers Nada Surf, with less-than-zero knowledge of the band or its songs, turns out to be the smartest move I’ve made in awhile.

Going in blind, I was able to judge the songs on their own merits and I didn’t have to play the Which Version is Better? game. These are the only versions of eight of Nada Surf’s songs I know. But as good as the songs are, and they are very good, I was mostly taken with Lindsay Murray’s vocals and musicianship.

Lindsay’s ability to weave together harmony lines into living, breathing stacks of joy would be hard to beat under any circumstance. Throughout the eight songs she’s tackled on this album, her vocals, lead and otherwise, shine like the brightest objects in the sky (and quite happily recall the vocal timbre of Aimee Mann). Lindsay’s musicianship is stellar; her bass playing, especially, is inventive and serves the songs to a tee (she also plays the guitars and keyboards with aplomb; Nick Bertling plays the drums and provides the solid bottom end in his usual, top-flight way).

These eight, mostly upbeat songs live and breathe and come alive through a steady, deliberate mix of guitars, bass, drums and a smattering of keyboard flourishes. Top contenders for favedom here at Pure Pop Radio headquarters are the mid-to-fast-paced “See These Bones,” sporting a mix of tempting rhythms and a tremendous vocal harmony performance, and the closing, acoustic “Rushing,” in which Lindsay’s lush harmony vocals and acoustic guitar take center stage to phenomenal effect; she ought to make this track her audio business card–sing to impress and all that.

So, being new to Nada Surf, but not new to Gretchen’s Wheel and the magic that Lindsay Murray employs to dazzle her listeners, turns out to be a recipe for a half-hour well spent. Purchase Moth to Lamplight: A Tribute to Nada Surf beginning this Friday, and see if you don’t agree.

Where to Get It (Releases March 22): Bandcamp

Lannie Flowers | “Anything But Love” (SpyderPop Records, 2019)

Song number 12 in the series of free numbers being released during the run-up to Lannie Flowers’ upcoming album, Home, is a typically engaging treat, this time played out as a supercharged sorta-waltz telling the story of a guy stuck in that age-old I’m-in-love-but-I-messed-up-so-can-I-come-back, can-I-huh? turnabout. The guy knows the score, but he isn’t sure how to turn his situation into a win (“Why is it so hard/To admit that I was wrong,” he wonders.)

Another slice of engaging melodic pop from one of our most cherished singer-songwriters. And it’s a free download from the SpyderPop Records website. What are you waiting for?

Where to Get It: SpyderPop Records

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

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

Our Holly Jolly Christmas Party is Here in Your Town! Gift Suggestions Below…

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

Day three of our Holly Jolly Christmas Party is here to help you with suggestions for holiday tunes you can give as gifts to your family and friends…and maybe even to yourself!

This is also day three of our bountiful Christmas presents giveaway. Today, we’ve got the Monkees’ new Christmas Party and the Grip Weeds’ Under the Influence of Christmas up for grabs. Enter below.

Our 2018 Festive Holiday Gift-Giving Guide has the day off tomorrow, due to a change in schedule here at Pure Pop Radio headquarters. We’ll be back on Friday to continue suggesting some of the great Christmas releases out there, all perfect for gift giving.

And now, here’s a lovely Christmas collection from the hardest working man on today’s music scene…

Fernando Perdomo | Present (2018)
Multi-instrumentalist and supreme multitasker Fernando Perdomo (his new album, a smash, is Zebra Crossing) has put together a lovely, quite entertaining Christmas release called Present. It may not be wrapped in festive paper and topped with a bright red bow, but it’s a gift that will keep on giving and putting a holiday kind of smile on your face.

Perdomo’s facility with melody-rich holiday ballads (“It’s Christmas All Over the World,” “Darling It’s Christmas,” “The Meaning of Christmas,” and especially “December .. The Month of Love”) is just one of the most prominent calling cards presented here, but that’s not all you’ll find: “The Funky Little Drummer Boy” features Eddie Zyne on hard-hitting drums; there’s a slow, dreamy surf version of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”; a sleepy take on “Silent Night,” with just electric guitars in the mix, really satisfies, and a punky, in your face version of “Deck the Halls” helps to make your season bright.

black box Where to Get It: Bandcamp

Thrift Store Halo | “I Still Love Christmas” (2018)
Written by band members Frank Gradishar and Lance Tawzer, this perky, melody-rich celebration of the holiday finds Chicago’s Thrift Store Halo in a fun, spirit-of-the-season-esque mood and espousing a welcome sense of humor.

Everything is on the table at Christmas–greeting cards, holly wreaths, kid-made ornaments, snowmen, egg nog shakes, and “presents wrapped in gold and plaid (like granddad’s pants).” “It’s the one time each year the whole world is filled with joy and cheer,” Frank sings.

You’ll love this one.

black box Where to Get It: Bandcamp

The Weeklings | “Christmas Time is Here Again” and “Revolution Wonderland” (2017)
New Jersey’s Fab Four–Lefty, Zeke, Rocky and Smokestack–convened in the waning months of 2017 to record a pair of holiday classics chock full of the usual Weeklings Easter eggs and brimming with a whole lot of fun.

In case you missed them the first time around, the Beatles’ “Christmas Time is Here Again” got Weeklingsized by incorporating elements from the Fabs’ “Flying,” “The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill,” and “Baby, You’re a Rich Man.” And of “Revolution Wonderland”? Well, in this seasonal mashup, “Revolution” meets “Winter Wonderland” meets “Jingle Bell Rock” meets the coolest shoo-be-doo-wah vibe you’ll encounter this or any other year.

Follow Santa on his sleigh, with all of his reindeer and his custom North Pole GPS to add these full-of-good-cheer tunes to your Christmas gifting lists.

black box Where to Get It: “Christmas Time is Here Again”: Amazon, iTunes
“Revolution Wonderland”: Amazon, iTunes

Big Stir Double-A-Side Christmas Single (2018):
Kai Danzberg | “If Santa”
Blake Jones and the Trike Shop | “String Lights and Hold On”

The eighth in the continuing series of digital singles being released by Big Stir Records strikes a decidedly festive Christmasy chord (or two or more!) with holiday tunes from Kai Danzberg and Blake Jones and the Trike Shop.

Danzberg and Jones travel different-sounding paths on their way to stirring up their pots of Christmas magic. Danzberg’s “If Santa” is an upbeat, joyous Phil Spectory exercise with Paul McCartney bass lines, horns and, of course, bells. Jones presents his Christmas tune as art-rock-meets-quirky for a wholly different holiday experience. Both are more-than-worthy, Christmasy choices for gift-giving this holiday season.

black box Where to Get It: Big Stir Digital Singles

Lannie Flowers “Christmas Without You” (2018)
While his fans wait patiently for his new album Home to land, Lannie Flowers has been releasing new songs each month, independent of that release. “Christmas Without You,” newly remixed and remastered from its 2011 appearance, is the 10th in the series. It’s a typically catchy, jangly, melodic slice of melodic pop about wanting and needing the people we love to be with us at Christmas. “Christmas Without You” is a free download at the Spyderpop Records website.

black box Where to Get It: Spyderpop Records

Win a Pair of Presents!

Enter below to win a pair of melodic presents for the holiday season from Pure Pop Radio (the Monkees’ Christmas Party and the Grip Weeds’ Under the Influence of Christmas). Be sure to fill in all fields (type “Monkees Grip” in the Comment field), and send the completed form to us by tomorrow, Thursday, December 20, at noon ET. US residents only. Good luck!

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

Bill Lloyd’s In Conversation Appearance Is Now Available on Our Podcast Page

bill lloydBill Lloyd’s May 3 appearance on Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation, during which he talked about his smashing new collection of covers, Lloyd*ering, is now available for listening and downloading from our PodOmatic podcast page.

bill lloyd lloyderingThe dozen suits of clothes, if you will, on Lloyd*ering are spiffy to the max, showing, in addition to Bill’s ability to make another artist’s song his own, the wide breadth of musical styles Bill adores and cherishes. So, there are easy jumps on this collection from covering songs from the dB’s and Wreckless Eric to classics from Harry Nilsson and the Lovin’ Spoonful. You get Bill’s take on Bobby Fuller’s “Let Her Dance” and, in the next breath, the Beatles’ “Across the Universe.” Always, you get the sound of Bill Lloyd, the golden payoff for your price of admission.

Listen to Bill talk about the process he uses to choose songs to cover and how he approaches recording them. It’s another rousing hour of in-depth conversation you won’t hear anywhere else. Simply click here to be magically transported to our PodOmatic podcast page and listen to and download this show. And while you’re there, why not check out the other interviews from throughout the history of Pure Pop Radio? You’ll love them all.

alan-mic-zPure Pop Radio: In Conversation, the premiere melodic pop interview program hosted by Alan Haber, airs Tuesday nights at 7 pm ET (4 pm PT). Archived, podcast versions of interviews are posted on the In Conversation PodOmatic podcast page; click here to listen to more than 60 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

Bill Lloyd Talks About his New Covers Collection on Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation

bill lloydBill Lloyd makes a return appearance on Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation next Tuesday, May 3, at 8 pm ET (5 pm PT). The topic of the hour is Bill’s smashing new covers collection, cleverly titled Lloyd*ering; Bill talks about the songs he’s covered through the years and his process for choosing and recording them.

bill lloyd lloyderingThe dozen suits of clothes, if you will, on Lloyd*ering are spiffy to the max, showing, in addition to Bill’s ability to make another artist’s song his own, the wide breadth of musical styles Bill adores and cherishes. So, there are easy jumps on this collection from covering songs from the dB’s and Wreckless Eric to classics from Harry Nilsson and the Lovin’ Spoonful. You get Bill’s take on Bobby Fuller’s “Let Her Dance” and, in the next breath, the Beatles’ “Across the Universe.” Always, you get the sound of Bill Lloyd, the golden payoff for your price of admission.

On this all-new edition of Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation, airing next Tuesday, May 3, at 8 pm ET (5 pm PT), Bill goes behind-the-scenes and talks about the making of Lloyd*ering, a truly wonderful collection of covers of great songs, each and every one delivered by Bill with heart and soul. You won’t want to miss a minute.

alan-mic-zPure Pop Radio: In Conversation, the premiere melodic pop interview program hosted by Alan Haber, airs Tuesday nights at 7 pm ET (4 pm PT). Archived, podcast versions of interviews are posted on the In Conversation PodOmatic podcast page; click here to listen to more than 60 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

Version Vision: Covers in the Key of Bill Lloyd

bill lloyd lloyderingBill Lloyd | Lloyd*ering (SypderPop, 2016)
Review by Alan Haber

It’s easy to be an armchair musician sitting in front of your stereo with the remote in front of you, an ice cold beverage always within reach, and the air instrument of your choice at the ready. Your favorite musician belts out his version of one of your favorite songs, and you shake your head with the might of a gale force wind and bellow, “If you had a clue, you’d be doing that tune this way!

This is why the professionals take on the task of doing the heavy lifting. In the hands of a master musician, one whose vision and ability are well regarded and keenly tuned, a cover version of a favorite song sounds suddenly fresh and new. Such is the case with the twelve favorite songs gathered together on the cleverly titled Lloyd*ering, a new release from SpyderPop that presents proof positive that Bill Lloyd is the man for the job–the job, in this case, being the wearing of someone else’s suit of clothes and making them look just as, or even more, spiffy.

These dozen suits of clothes, if you will, are indeed spiffy, showing, in addition to Bill’s ability to make another artist’s song his own, the wide breadth of musical styles he adores and cherishes. So, there are easy jumps from covering songs from the dB’s and Wreckless Eric to ones from Harry Nilsson and the Lovin’ Spoonful. You get Bill’s take on Bobby Fuller’s “Let Her Dance” and, in the next breath, the Beatles’ “Across the Universe.” Always, you get the sound of Bill Lloyd, the golden payoff for your price of admission.

bill lloyd with guitarA sweet, country-flavored reimagining of Nilsson’s “The Lottery Song,” capped by a highly satisfying, a cappella close, is only one of the highlights of an equally sweet bunch. A weighty take on Badfinger’s “Lonely You” draws out the sadness in Pete Ham’s lyric, surrounding it with ramped up electric guitars and a deeply-felt drum track. A reverent take on the Byrds’ “The World Turns All Around Her” celebrates, with an energetic presence, the song’s gorgeous melody, golden-voiced harmony vocals, and deft electric guitar work.

Bill has an enormous amount of fun playing through the Bobby Fuller Four’s joyous “Let Her Dance,” stomping with glee as the mix of percussive hits, lyrical bass and that incredible melody swirl around him. His take on the Hollies’ equally joyous upbeat confection “Step Inside” may well be the best thing here, which is truly saying something: the glorious harmonies, intoxicating melody and the head-turning key change near the end are simply out of this world, which you might think is the only possible place this kind of magic could be performed.

But, of course, you’d be mistaken, for we regularly encounter this kind of legerdemain right here on earth as the tricks of the trade of such inventive, decidedly brilliant musicians as Bill Lloyd, who dazzles whether he is working in pop, country, rock or who knows where else.

Lloyd*ering, twelve cover versions of favorite songs, are presented here in the key of Bill Lloyd for your listening pleasure, wrapped in an eye-catching package fronted by one of the most colorful, effective covers I’ve seen this year. We’re playing all of these songs in rotation on Pure Pop Radio. Sing along if you know the words.

Listen to Pure Pop Radio on the go using your Android or 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

John Borack Guests Tonight on Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation

john-borackEsteemed pop music journalist John Borack guests on tonight’s edition of Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation, discussing the momentous tribute to Elvis Costello that he produced with Olivia Frain. The program begins at 8 pm ET on Pure Pop Radio. (Click on one of the links below to listen.)

beyond-beliefBeyond Belief: A Tribute to Elvis Costello presents 50 artists paying homage to the writer and performer of such classic songs as “Alison,” “Pump It Up,” “Everyday I Write the Book,” “Welcome to the Working Week,” and “Radio Sweetheart,” among so many others. Artists appearing on Beyond Belief, such as the Rubinoos, Matthew Sweet, David Myhr, Chris Richards and the Subtractions, and Bill Lloyd deliver classic performances that put the spotlight on an artist who has been setting the bar higher and higher since he exploded on the music scene nearly four decades ago.

elvis-costelloComprising 50 songs on three CDs, Beyond Belief is a standout example of the art of compilation. John goes in-depth with Alan Haber, detailing every step from the spark of the idea to the tribute’s release. Musicians, Elvis Costello fans, and lovers of great music alike will be fascinated by this engaging program, during which three songs from this hall-of-fame-worthy set, released by Spyderpop Records, will be played.

Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation is Internet radio’s premiere melodic pop talk show. Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation puts the spotlight on artists, writers, music critics and record company executives who talk candidly with Alan Haber about their work. Archived, podcast versions of interviews are posted on the In Conversation PodOmatic podcast page; click here to listen to more than 60 shows previously broadcast on Pure Pop Radio.

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