Are You Ready? Thursday’s Big Blast of New Music Added to the Pure Pop Radio Playlist Is Here!

day-twoWe’re back with another extra special, vitamin-rich group of great new and new-to-you melodic pop music added to the Pure Pop Radio playlist.

Let’s get right to it, then. We’ll begin by taking an extended look at a fantastic new tribute to Elvis Costello.

beyond-beliefVarious Artists | Beyond Belief/A Tribute to Elvis Costello We’ve talked about the compiler’s art before, and make no mistake about it–compiling a tribute album is an art. Practicing the art for this three-disc tribute to Elvis Costello are compilers Olivia Frain and John M. Borack, both longtime Costello fans. Frain, a dedicated music fan, and Borack, a music journalist who has also served as executive producer for 2002’s Right to Chews: Bubblegum Classics Revisited and 2001’s Shoe Fetish: A Tribute to Shoes, set about contacting artists and putting into motion all of the behind-the-scenes nuts-and-bolts tasks necessary to bring the set to market.

This mammoth collection, gathering together covers of Costello numbers from 50 artists, is a delight to listen to from head to toe. As noted in the set’s booklet, “100% of the proceeds…will be donated to the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation. The Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation keeps music alive in schools by donating musical instruments to under-funded music programs, giving youngsters the many benefits of music education, helping them to be better students and inspiring creativity and expression through playing music.” In an era in which arts programs are often cut from schools, this is a most welcome and vital effort.

Beyond Belief is chock full of choice Costello songs performed by artists who obviously love the source material. And what’s not to love? Costello has been a favorite artist of music fans since he first burst on the scene in 1977 with his debut album My Aim is True. Along the way, he has delivered songs in all manner of genre from rock to pop to R&B to country and back again. Proof of this ability to jump from one style to another at the drop of a tone arm is reflected in the tracks chosen by the artists appearing here.

While some artists stick to the plot of land originally planted by Costello, others reimagine the master’s songs and work with new approaches. David Myhr, late of the Merrymakers and now a favored solo artist, delivers a wonderful version of “Veronica” (co-written with Paul McCartney) that basically sticks to Costello’s blueprint but takes the song at a slightly slower tempo and adds more of a glossy, pop sheen. The Rubinoos trade a blaring horn section for the original’s organ part and temper Costello’s snarl with a bit of a poppier vocal approach in a jazzier, new version of “Pump It Up.” Mike Viola turns in a basically reverent version of a Burt Bacharach co-write, the majestic “God Give Me Strength,” in what amounts to a somewhat more intimate, drawing room-like performance; Viola’s gorgeous vocal is delivered over a bed of acoustic guitar and chamber strings, minus the horn present in Costello’s original version.

Three tracks, in particular, take the art of covering a song to new heights. First and foremost, the award goes to Jamie Hoover and Steve Stoeckel, better known as Jamie and Steve, who pull the rug out from under Costello’s “Blame It On Cain” and shake out the dust like men on a mission, turning in an amped-up, wild a cappella version powered by doo-wop muscle and good, old-fashioned chutzpah. Not only do Jamie and Steve prove how good the song is, they turn it inside out and rebuild it from the ground up. This is a spectacular performance that will have you hitting the repeat button over and over.

To Costello’s original, moody version of “So Like Candy,” a co-write with Paul McCartney, Paul Myers adds some poppy vocals and a ghostly percussion track and approaches Costello’s bridge as if it were coming straight off of a scratchy vinyl copy of the song. It’s a welcome surprise that, along with Myers’ assured vocal, is one of this set’s major delights. Another top shelf approach is that of Lannie Flowers, who takes a basically reverent run through “Radio Sweetheart,” yet surprises listeners by turning the proceedings on their collective head at 1:55 by introducing a decidedly mystical aura for 37 enticing seconds.

What tribute albums such as Beyond Belief offer, aside from giving artists the chance to play in someone else’s sandbox, is proof that good songs will retain their value as each calendar year passes. New coats of paint in the form of new approaches or reverent run-throughs are good for the songwriter’s art, and good, also, for the compiler’s art. With Beyond Belief/A Tribute to Elvis Costello, the compiler’s art has been raised to new heights.

[Twenty-one tracks from Beyond Belief/A Tribute to Elvis Costello have been added to the Pure Pop Radio playlist and are now playing in rotation: “Girls Talk,” Rob Smith; “Brilliant Mistake,” Dennis Schocket and Cliff Hillis; “The Other End of the Telescope,” Butch Walker; “Veronica,” David Myhr; “Kinder Murder,” Popdudes; “No Hiding Place,” Michael Carpenter; “Blame It on Cain,” Jamie and Steve; “Monkey to Man,” Kelley Ryan; “I Hope You’re Happy Now,” Severo; “Pump It Up,” The Rubinoos; “Radio Sweetheart,” Paul Myers; “Tear Off Your Own Head (It’s a Doll Revolution),” Hans Rotenberry; “Possession,” Barry Holdship; “This Year’s Girl,” honeychain; “Green Shirt,” Scott Bennett; “God Give Me Strength,” Mike Viola; “Radio Sweetheart,” Lannie Flowers; “Man Out of Time,” Bill Lloyd; “Almost Blue,” Nick Heyward and the 13 Satellites; “Crimes of Paris,” An American Underdog; and “Mystery Dance,” sparkle*jets UK]   – Alan Haber

(Order at CD Baby or Amazon)

Also new today on Pure Pop Radio:

hidden-picturesHidden Pictures | Ottomans The latest release from Hidden Pictures is a typically entertaining musical knockout punch. Delicious melodic pop pictures are painted with an apparent Deacon Blue-meets-Prefab Sprout vibe. Highlights include the wonderfully catchy “Firm Way to Say Goodbye”; the punchy, tuneful “Girl on Girlfriend”; and “Riffraff,” a rock number with a guitar part sounding like it came from a David Bowie track. These and three more songs are now playing in rotation: “You’re an Adult,” “Hannah, I’m Scared of Your Boyfriend,” and “Firm Way to Say Goodbye.” Another great album from this California group.

tearaways-vol.-4tearaways-vol.-7The Tearaways | The Earle Mankey Sessions, Vol. 4 and The Earle Mankey Sessions, Vol.7 Formed more than 30 years ago, the Tearaways worked with veteran producer Earle Mankey and waxed 50 songs. The results were released in 2014 on these two albums, both necessary purchases for every pop music fan. Great, catchy songs with terrific melodies and harmonies are the order of the day. We’ve added seven songs from Vol. 4 and nine songs from Vol. 7. From Vol. 4, we chose the melodic anthem “Girls Who Love Cars,” the toe-tapper “Stuck On Stupid,” about a guy who can’t quite figure out how to tell a girl he likes how he feels; and the timely “We Don’t Talk, We Text,” about the laziness and lack of proper communication in this world. Also added from Vol. 4: “I Will Wait,” “Jefferson Still Survives,” “Valerie,” and “The Last Goodbye.” From Vol. 7: the self-explanatory “I Pray Guitar”; a rhythmic tribute to “John Wayne”; and “All She Wants Is the Ring,” about a woman who’s in a relationship for its material worth. Plus: “Friends and Enemies,” “I Don’t Know and I Don’t Care,” “More Dollars than Sense,” “I Can Tell You Now,” “I’ll See You Again,” and “I’m All In.” Repeat after us: “Must have. Must have. Must have!”

dave-raveDave Rave and the Governors | Sweet American Music The great Dave Rave returns and hooks up with the Governors for a splendid collection of pop songs, all sporting big melodies and, of course, big hooks. From the driving “Lindsay” and pure pop sixties pleasures of “You Take What’s Yours” to “Pullman Washington” and the Lou Reed vocal vibe of “Night School,” this is an album that will never be far from your ears. We’re happily spinning these four songs, along with the rocking “Trapped.” A big record with big guitars and a whole lot of spirit. And the cover’s really cool.

andy-boppAndy Bopp | Time to Rock! Andy Bopp, late of groups such as Love Nut and Myracle Brah, and currently waxing tunes with Ken Schopf as The Modern Ruins (see next entry), lets loose in his living room armed with only his electric guitar and echoed vocals for a quartet of Sun-era sounding rock ‘n’ roll ‘n’ rockabilly numbers. The tracks: the title track, “Anna Lee,” “Black Heath,” and Santo and Johnny’s “Sleepwalk.” Dig these thrilling and powerful performances, all playing now in rotation.

moderm-ruins-threethe-modern-ruins-bleeding-partyThe Modern Ruins | Bleeding Party and Three Tracks from the Four Track Can’t get enough Bopp? Andy’s got you covered with two new 2015 releases from his duo with Ken Schopf, the Modern Ruins. These songs follow nicely from the vibe of Andy’s solo EP, Time to Rock!, only on these records Andy and his guitars are supported by Ken’s Cocktail Drum kit, percussion and backing vocals. It’s rock ‘n’ roll all the way, from the souped-up Sun-era sound of “All Fall Down (Black Heath),” which also appears on Time to Rock!, to the slow blues of the title track and a spirited, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band-esque version of David Essex’s 1973 top five hit, “Rock On.” These songs, plus three more–“Longtime,” “Rope Walker,” and “There”–are now playing in rotation. From Three Tracks from the Four Track, we’re spinning “Anytime Anyway” and “When It Rains.” Great stuff.

town-and-countrycartographerCartographer | Cartographer, and Town and Country | My Blue Heaven One of our favorite singer-songwriters, Scott Gagner, whose last album, Rise and Shine, was a big hit here at Pure Pop Radio, is the common denominator between these two releases, both from 2008. Both albums find Gagner and friends following a similar musical path to Gagner’s current vibe. In other words, the songs are melodic and inventive and instantly memorable. Great stuff through and through. From Cartographer, we’re playing, in rotation, “The Trouble With You,” “I’m Not Following You,” “Love Triangle for Two,” “Sound Rebounds,” “Waiting,” and “Suburban Girl.” From My Blue Heaven, we’re spinning “Daytime Emmy,” “Bella Vista,” “Better than That,” and “The Rest of the Night.” Scott is currently working on ideas for his next album. We can only hope we don’t have to wait too long.

sitcom-neighborSitcom Neighbor | Charm This wonderful pop music album from 2012 hits the melodic bullseye, sounding like a splinter off the main body of the Sugarplastic. From the beautiful “Amphetamine” to the rocking nod “The Satisfaction of Love” and the bluesy pop of “Vaseline Water Balloon,” this album is full of harmonies and top notch melodies, bursting with tasty nuggets. We’re playing eight songs in rotation: those previously mentioned, and “Let It Go,” “True Love and Medication,” “This Time Tomorrow,” the Beatlesque “Buy Your Farm,” and “Darlene.”

ticketsThe Tickets | The Tickets Musician Walter Clevenger loved the Tickets so much that he gathered together the band’s 1990 cassette-only album, The Tickets Make a Record, and their 1986 single, “She Got Away”/”Yesterday’s Girl” and released both together in 2006 as The Tickets on his own Brewery Records label. The album is an important collection of songs performed by musicians with an obvious love for pop music. We’re playing six: “Dream About Me,” “Everything,” “I Don’t Belong,” “Heartland,” “The One that I Loved,” and “She Got Away.” Great melodies, harmonies and playing abound.

the-general-storeThe General Store | Mountain Rescue It is a pleasure to have the music of the General Store spinning in rotation on Pure Pop Radio. Tam Johnstone, the musician behind the group name, is the son of Elton John guitarist Davey Johnstone; he obviously picked up a musical thing or two from his dad. A mix of country-tinged and pop/rock numbers, Mountain Rescue is represented on Pure Pop Radio by seven songs: the ringing rocker “Early Morning Fuzz,” the Beach Boys homages “Girls from the Mall” and “Nothing Can Come Between Us,” and “Desert Weathered Hiway.” The Neil Young nod “Come Around,” “Great Big World,” and “Over Here” complete the pack.

ian-gommIan Gomm | Demonstrates Ian Gomm, who co-wrote (with Nick Lowe) one of the great pop singles of all time, “Cruel to Be Kind,” and played guitar for the band Brinsley Schwarz, added this terrific EP to his catalog in 2013. The platter is represented on Pure Pop Radio with four choice cuts, pop classics all: the upbeat, catchy “Let’s Stick Together” and “Only You (Knowing Me),” the hit-worthy “Magic Spell,” and the beautiful ballad “Lonely Avenue.” A terrific disc from one of the greats, released by Jerker Emanuelson’s Sound Asleep Records.

souvenirsVarious Artists | Souvenirs: Little Gems of Pop, Volume II The second in a series of collections gathering together various classic pop recordings, Souvenirs: Little Gems of Pop, Volume II kicks off with Richard X. Heyman’s crackerjack 1980 single a-side, “Vacation,” an energetic pop rocker with a typically catchy melody. From there you get, amongst the treasures on hand, Bill Lloyd’s jangly, highly melodic side “Lisa Anne,” from Bill’s 1987 Feeling the Elephant album; Tube Top’s glorious, upbeat power pop song “Oceans Cracked,” from the band’s 1997 album Three Minute Hercules; and Scott Sutherland’s straight-ahead pop song “Book of Seasons” from 1999. These songs are now playing in rotation as part of our playlist; others spinning as we speak are Enemies in the Grass’ “Best Behaviour,” Post Office’s “The Whole Thing’s a Bust,” Jr. Gone Wild’s “It Never Changes,” and Nick Rudd’s Blown’s “One in a Million.” A wonderful collection, released in 2014 by Jerker Emanuelson’s Sound Asleep Records.

**********

Whew! That does it for our two-day new adds extravaganza. We hope you enjoyed the ride through the latest additions to the Pure Pop Radio playlist. All of the songs and artists we talked about today and yesterday are now playing in rotation. Tune in to Pure Pop Radio by clicking on one of the handy listen links below. And make a date to come back often to hear more of the greatest pop music in the universe!

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

Welcome to Pure Pop Radio’s Favorite Records of the Year: Stars of ’14!

stars-5Alan Haber: Proud Music Geek!I have long believed that of the many instruments that help to bring a great song to life, the human voice is capable of the most expression (sleigh bells come in at number two, in case you were wondering). Moreover, the magic that results from a group of people who come together to make a glorious sound that resonates with an audience is incontrovertible proof that music is the fuel that makes the cool kids sing.

The cool kids sang rather sweetly in 2014, a great year for melodic pop music. Whether driving the beat of a song or singing in five-part harmony, artists were inspired to create lasting art in the form of two-, three- and four-minute songs that added value to people’s lives. There is a reason–probably more than one–that great songs stand the test of time, some sounding  as fresh as the day they were born, even decades after they were recorded. And make no mistake–many of the songs that made their way to turntables and CD players this year have that kind of staying power.

Even after 20 years of writing about and broadcasting pop music to the masses, I am still dazzled by much of what I hear. The thrill of discovery is present every time I sit down and prepare to listen. I want every note that fills the room to explode with joy. And, more often than not, I am rewarded with that certain something that drives me to play music on the radio and gather words together to communicate that joy. For me, the magic is still alive and well and lighting my world.

Which brings me to 21 magical records that helped make 2014 a banner year for melodic pop music. I’ve made no attempt to rank them or present them within categories. It is impossible for me to make a distinction between the fourth and fifth best albums of the year, so I haven’t even tried. What follows are simply 21 of my favorite releases of the year: the stars of 2014, if you will–a group of records that will enrich your life in ways that may well surprise you. And they’re presented in no particular order. There were many more records that touched my soul this year; these are the top of the pops. At the very least, they will put a smile on your face, and as the late writer Derek Taylor might have opined, you really can’t say fairer than that. – Alan Haber

And now, in no particular order, please join me in ushering in the Stars of ’14: Pure Pop Radio’s Favorite Records of the Year!

joe-sullivanJoe Sullivan | Schlock Star Coming seemingly out of nowhere, Joe Sullivan and his debut album, Schlock Star, knocked me clean off my feet. Joe’s keenly observed pop songs, about girls and boys and boys and girls and other related topics, are perfect examples of the arts of clever songwriting and performance. In my review of this album, published on September 2 on this site, I said that “Sullivan makes tracks that stick and stack up for imminent replay.” I also stated, without reservation, that  “This is Sullivanmania, attended by screaming fans who dig the sounds of one of the best records of 2014.” No doubt you’ll be hearing a lot more about Joe in the coming years. Joe, as you may have already figured, is the real deal.

marti-jonesMarti Jones | You’re Not the Bossa Me What I know about bossa nova music could fit on the rightmost quadrant of the head of a pin, but thanks to Marti Jones’ radiant album that adds more than a splash of melodic pop to the turntable, I’m something of an expert. Well, not really, but I know what I like and I like the latest chapter of Jones’ music a lot. When I added all of these songs to the Pure Pop Radio playlist on July 9, I said in my playlist report that this is “pop music for discerning listeners….” And indeed it is. I also noted that the songs, “written by [Kelley] Ryan, [Don] Dixon, Bill DeMain, [Paul] Cebar and others, are brought to life with Jones’ magical voice. Jones has never sounded better.” It’s always a celebration when Jones releases a new album. If you think this one is great, well, just wait until the next one spins.

legal-matters-largeThe Legal Matters | The Legal Matters Some albums feel right after only a few notes play. And when the harmonies kick in–when the melodies surround me and take me to some other place–I’m putty in the musicians’ hands. Such was my experience with this debut album by three well-known musicians who came together to form the Legal Matters. In other words, they’re the Rockpile of the melodic pop world. It’s all in the music, I said in my July 23 feature review; the “harmony-drenched law firm of [Andy] Reed, [Chris] Richards and [Keith] Klingensmith” delivers the goods. This is “good, good music for when the snow falls, for when spring turns to summer, during a light rain, and for when fall signals the end of baseball season and the year moves into its closing phase. It’s good for what ails you, a prescription that works wonders no matter the season or circumstance.” It’s really great, and it’s one of my favorite records of 2014.

ed-woltilEd Woltil | Paper Boats, A Reverie in Thirteen Acts The beautiful songs that populate this wonderful album from the Ditchflowers’ Ed Woltil are a wonder to behold. Melody is king and beauty is on display in each of the melodic gems currently playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio. Whether he’s wearing his straight-ahead pop hat on the catchy “Algebra” or crooning softly and emotionally on the beautiful waltz, “Dance With Me One More Time,” Woltil is capturing our hearts. I called this a hall-of-fame-worthy release when I wrote about it in my July 9 station update; four months later, its position remains unchanged. A stellar release from a huge talent.

dave-3Dave Caruso | Cardboard Vegas Roundabout When I reviewed this album on September 17, I testified, up front, about it glorious wonders: “This kind of thing, this magical musical mixture exhibiting the tasty influences of Barry Manilow, the Carpenters, the Beach Boys and, hey why not, Paul McCartney, is a thing of beauty, an artful excursion that can and will enrich your life, take you to your happy places and prove to you that good things absolutely do come in all manner of packages–small, medium, large and beyond.” What more do you need to know, except that these songs should absolutely have a place in your life. Caruso’s Beach Boys/Carpenters homage, “Champion,” alone makes this album a worthy purchase. Cardboard Vegas Roundabout is so good and so tasty that many of the other CDs in your collection will aspire to achieve its greatness. Simply fantastic.

bill-lloyd-reset2014Bill Lloyd | Reset2014 Bill Lloyd has been a huge part of the Pure Pop Radio playlist since his career-making Set to Pop was released in 1994. On the occasion of the album’s 20th anniversary, Bill has recreated that mind-blowing collection with wonderfully-updated remakes and early and live takes. Reset2014 is as much a look back as it is a reinvention. “On the list of Best Records Ever Made,” I noted in my October 29 review, “Set to Pop must sit comfortably alongside similarly great waxings drawn from the catalogs of other great artists.” “With Reset2014,” I wrote, “Bill Lloyd has taken pause to smell the roses from 20 years ago and replant them for future generations.” This is such a great achievement from one of pop music’s greatest artists.

the-britannicasThe Britannicas | High Tea Album number two from this international melodic pop supergroup checks off many of the must-haves on power pop fans’ lists: Byrds musings, gorgeous balladry, jangle, harmonies and hooks galore. Veteran U.S. popster Herb Eimerman, who we’ve been playing on Pure Pop Radio for somewhere in the neighborhood of18 years, Australia’s Joe Algeri, and Magnus Karlsson from Sweden have served up a spot of High Tea that all told constitutes a truly classic collection.

myrtle-parkMyrtle Park’s Fishing Club | Nothing to Be Afraid Of A total surprise, this is perhaps the brightest, most inventive, most sincere and happiest-sounding melodic work of the year. Kate Stephenson, trading under the delightful band name Myrtle Park’s Fishing Club, had written a range of songs that recall the best of the Roches, the Dream Academy and Prefab Sprout, but come alive as uniquely her own creations. The deeply-felt, dense harmonies alone are more than worth the price of admission. Plus, the artwork and hand-lettered lyrics in the accompanying booklet prove that the album package is still alive out there in the world. One of the most truly special albums of this or any other year.

robert-crenshawRobert Crenshaw | Friends, Family and Neighbors Speaking of truly special albums, here is one from the great Robert Crenshaw. “One of the sweetest surprises of the year is this joyous celebration of the love of the clever, catchy song,” I wrote in my October 30 feature review. Pairing a couple of covers, including one of Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” which features Marshall, Dean and John Crenshaw, with seven originals and a surprise bonus track, Crenshaw turns in his best album to date, tackling such diverse subjects as “…the upside of improbability (the lovely, hymn-like “The Night the Detroit Lions Won the Super Bowl”), familiarity in the face of love (the Bill Lloyd co-write, “You’re So Hip to Me”), detachment versus reality (“What if I’m Really Dead?”), and hiding behind the wall of booze (the gospel-tinged “Turn to Booze”).” A wonderful album, beautifully realized.

the-rubinoosThe Rubinoos | 45 In my November 10 feature review, I wrote that “this latest album from the melodic pop band’s melodic pop band is a master class in songwriting and performing that should be at the top of your holiday gift-giving lists.” 45 is stone-cold triumph–a standout album in a career teeming with them. Among the treasures on offer, besides the great voice of Jon Rubin and some of the best harmonies on the planet, is one of the best tracks recorded by any artist this year–a lovingly-rendered a cappella (with percussion) version of Lou Christie’s classic, “Rhapsody in the Rain,” that will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end and drive you to recall the classic sound of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Tommy Dunbar originals like the buoyant “I Love Louie Louie” and the upbeat “Countdown to Love,” which tips its hat to the Paul Revere and the Raiders playbook, are modern day classics. Long may the Rubinoos run.

peter-laceyPeter Lacey | Last Leaf Tender and loving and from the heart, Last Leaf bristles with warmth and genuine emotion. Lacey harkens back to his folk roots, taking inspriation from ” the circles of everyday, country life: on patches of grass surrounded by sprouting trees, and by the water, on a calmly-stated lake. Lacey’s new songs are about the simpler, and more important, things in life; every element of this album is calm and soothing and powerful,” I wrote in my station update on July 7. Beautiful songs like “The Woodwind” and “Boy in the Rings of a Tree” populate this entire album, a treasure by any definition of the word.

jamie-two-everJamie Hoover | Jamie Two Ever Pop music’s premiere journeyman returns with a sort-of sequel to 2004’s Jamie Hoo-Ever, and boy does he deliver. Seven originals, eight covers (only on the CD), and a million reasons to keep this album in hot rotation at your pad. As I said in my station update on October 28, “From ace covers of a couple of Beatles tunes and the Left Banke’s “Walk Away Renee” to a host of originals, including the joyous, almost-completely a cappella “Press Save”; the lovely, gentle Steve Stoeckel co-write, “Lost”; and the bluesy “Oh Darlin’!”-esque “You Took Away the Birds,” Jamie Two Ever practically redefines the word ‘classic.’

kylie-whitney-2Kylie Whitney | Something About Ghosts With a soulful approach and a refreshing touch of honesty, Kylie Whitney has released a classic-sounding album stocked with a wide range of emotions, all conveyed with authority. Although the album is chiefly comprised of originals, most of which were co-written with producer Michael Carpenter, Whitney does deliver a tender read of Don McLean’s “Vincent.” “Bad News Baby” finds Whitney in fine ’60s girl-group mettle, and “Tealite” shines an emotional light on her somewhat fragile vocal. Everything here points to a singer with a bright future.

mylittlebrothermylittlebrother | If We Never Came Down One of the coolest discoveries of the year. Here’s how I summed things up in my October 24 station update: “As perfect as a beautiful day in the country or a clear, wondrous night under the stars, mylittlebrother is a wonderful British band that specializes in lovely, clever, insanely catchy pop songs that capture the imaginations of listeners. Entrancing melodies, gorgeous harmonies and a sense of humanity make this album the find of the year.” The opener, the joyously hopping mid-tempo “Loves of Life, Unite!” and the early rock ‘n’ roll stroll-meets-Teenage Fanclub vibe of “My Hypocritical Friend” are only two of the musical pleasures to be savored. Wonderful.

sam-rbSam RB | Finding Your Way Home Here is a truly lovely album full of truly lovely songs by a New Zealand singer-songwriter who makes truly beautiful music. Here is what I said in my October 28 station update: “Finding Your Way Home features Sam’s beautiful, expressive voice and songs with melodies that will melt your heart.” Sam sings her heart out in such standout tunes as the folk-pop “Blue Sky Day,” the wonderfully catchy, hit-worthy “Say Goodbye,” and the should-be-hitbound and equally impressive title song. Don’t be surprised if Finding Your Way Home soon finds its way to your home.

dowling-poole-2The Dowling Poole | Bleak Strategies The perfect second act after the ashes of the much-missed band Jackdaw 4 had scattered, the Dowling Poole finds that band’s leader, Willie Dowling, teaming up with veteran musician Jon Poole for a similarly imaginative trip down the pop music rabbit hole. Bleak Strategies is hardly a bleak affair, though; rather, it’s a wondrous, album-length expression of strength in the art of composition and performance, with seemingly millions of influences synthesized down to one shared point of view. Full of surprises and all manner of left and right turns, this is your one-stop-shop for XTC-meets-10cc-meets-Kinks, Beatles and Frank Zappa-isms. Put simply, these are pop songs turned on their heads by two men fully poised to do the job right. Any album that segues effortlessly from banjo-fueled vaudeville to straight pop in the same song (the wild and wooly “Empires, Buildings and Acquisitions”) and lays their pop smarts bare with an early-to-late period XTC-like romp (the insanely catchy “A Kiss on the Ocean”) deserves your rapt attention. Grand.

vanishing-actEdward O’Connell | Vanishing Act Four years on from his 2010 debut, Our Little Secret, Edward O’Connell returns with, not surprisingly, another great record.  In our July 10 station update, I wrote that “Vanishing Act is everything a great melodic pop album should be and then some.” Songs include the insanely catchy “My Dumb Luck” (with its George Harrison-esque slide guitar lines), the equally infectious “Severance Kiss,” and “Lonely Crowd,” with a decidedly Tom Petty vibe. With not a single note or clever lyric wasted, Vanishing Act is one of this year’s greatest musical achievements.

linus-of-hollywoodLinus of Hollywood | Something Good Something great is more like it. “Nobody does it better,” Carly Simon once sang, and she might as well have been singing about Linus. His duet with the lovely Kelly Jones on the charming “If You Don’t Love Me You Gotta Let Me Go” is, all by itself, worth the price of admission. His gentle cover of Kiss’ “Beth” breathes new life into the old classic rock staple, putting added emphasis on the melody as welcome, real strings set the song aloft. Spectacular music, catchy as all get out, all the way through.

dana-pop-2Dana Countryman | Pop 2! The Exploding Musical Mind of Dana Countryman Dana Countryman turns the clock back to the panoramic 1970s as the Wayback Machine collects the songs that form the soundtrack of your life–if you’re a sweet, melodic pop fan, and by reading this you might as well flash yout membership card at the door, this is for you. Nobody does this kind of thing better than Countryman, who celebrates “…the kinds of songs they just don’t write and record anymore. His influences, from Gilbert O’Sullivan and Eric Carmen to the Beatles and beyond, are worn on his sleeves and  [are] bathed in his own, unique approach to songwriting and production.” That was my take on this album in my review from October 7. If you’re looking for a warm, musical glow to light your way, then look no further than this collection. It’s like what used to come out of transistor radios a long, long time ago, but it’s now coming from the here and now. Pop 3!, please.

mothboxerMothboxer | Sand and the Rain Mothboxer’s Dave Ody wears his heart, and his influences, on his sleeve on this wonderful new album. Mothboxer just keeps getting better, and this album is their best yet. The influence of the Beach Boys is apparent, however subtly, on the lively and engaging “In the Morning” and the enticing “Looking Out for Summer.” The title cut is clever, technicolor pop. The driving “We’re All Out of Our Minds” is upbeat and rather catchy. Overflowing with great songs, Sand and the Rain is a clear winner and, not surprisingly, one of the best albums of the year.

solicitorsThe Solicitors | Blank Check  Lee Jones’ energetic, widescreen pop songs, hooks always at the ready and raring to go, are fuel for the fire that is Australia’s the Solicitors. A wildly talented singer and songwriter, Jones, along with guitarist Laf Zee and crew tread towards the listener with equal parts vim, vigor and melody. The band means business and their business is clear: knock ’em down with Stiff-era enthusiasm and the joy of performance. One of these days, the Solicitors will venture away from Oz and hit American shores to spread their pop gospel. We patiently wait for that day, but until then we have this new album, one of the best of the year.

(All reviews written by Alan Haber)

We hope you’ve enjoyed our list of 21 of Pure Pop Radio’s favorite albums of the year. These are the Stars of ’14: 21 artists with great songs that will enrich your lives and guarantee your status as one of the cool kids. Which artists and songs will make next year’s cut? See you in about 365 days for the answer to that question and many more! Thanks for reading, and thanks, as always, for listening to 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

Our New Music Explosion Continues and Our First Annual Favorite Records of the Year: Stars of ’14 Feature is Eight Days Away

i-love-music2014 has without question turned out to be a particularly great year for melodic pop music, and as in many previous years, the last few weeks have been top-loaded with sterling releases that prove that any time is a great time for great tunes.

We begin winding up the year with another list of artists and songs just added to the Pure Pop Radio playlist. This time around we feature a couple of our favorites, two artists new to our air, and a surprise track pairing a pop star from across the decades with a new pop star, whose group made a bubblegum smash just two years ago. So let’s get our program off and running, shall we? (Check below for a note about where we’re going next.)

the-rubinoosThe Rubinoos | 45 Just released, this latest album from the melodic pop band’s melodic pop band is a master class in songwriting and performing that should be at the top of your holiday gift-giving lists. We think 45 is the Rubinoos’ best album, which is really saying something. More than anything, the group’s harmonies–always a shining hallmark of their sound–are better than ever, and Jon Rubin remains one of music’s greatest vocalists, regardless of genre. The group’s a cappella (with percussion) version of Lou Christie’s “Rhapsody in the Rain” is one of the standout tracks released by any band this or any other year. Donning the melodic skin of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, it’s nothing less than breathtaking. The doo-wop-meets-early rock ‘n’ roll tribute to Richard Berry’s classic “Louie Louie,” “I Love Louie Louie,” is a smile-inducing tip o’ the hat to the pleasures of the passion of a song that’s been misunderstood for decades. And the upbeat bopper, “Countdown to Love,” sounds like something right out of Paul Revere and the Raiders’ playbook. With great, crisp, clear sound and passion to spare, 45 is one of this year’s finest platters, and we’re playing the whole thing in rotation: “Run Mascara Run,” “Graveyard Shift,” “I Love Louie Louie,” “Does Suzie Like Boys,” “Countdown to Love,” “What More Can You Ask of a Friend,” “Party Insurance,” “You Are Here,” “Rhapsody in the Rain,” “That Thing You Do,” “Kangaroo Court,” “All It Takes,” and “She’s Driving Me Crazy.”

secret-powers-6Secret Powers | 6 Montana’s own power pop magicians are back with their sixth long-player, a delectable collection of–let’s not be shy about it–instantly enjoyable pop songs with surprising turns and the kind of melodies that only come from seasoned, natural talents. Ryan “Shmedly” Maynes and crew have outdone themselves with nine brilliant slices of smile-inducing pop that exhibit more than a hint of Jeff Lynne in their DNA. From the ELO-ish “Spare Parts” to the opener, “Bitter Sun,” with its lovely choral section, and the Stiff label echoes of “The Way the Story Goes,” this is the hot pop potato of the moment. We’re playing the entire album in rotation: all of the aforementioned tracks, plus “Palarium,” “Reservoir,” “She’s Electrical,” “Paula Brown,” “New Moon,” and “Ready to Get Old and Die.” A wonderful, late year surprise.

Myracle Brah | The Peach EP Imagine our complete surprise to find that one of the first bands wmyracle-brahe played religiously on the old, weekly Pure Pop Radio show had released a brand new EP, a fantastic quartet of recordings that does no less than restore your faith in the power of power pop (we’re playing all of them in rotation). Andy Bopp and crew have come up a clear winner with the Big Star-influenced “Sleeping in My Car”; the mid-tempo ballad “Alicent in Time” (complete with great harmonies); ” the psych-pop instrumental “Red Eye #2”; and a lively, lovely cover of the Troggs’ “With a Girl Like You.” We’re playing all four songs in rotation. Side note: Bopp has released a solo EP called Time to Rock that pays tribute, in glorious one-track-mono, to the early days of rock. End-of-the-year presents for music fans everywhere!

tony-and-vernTony Valentino featuring Vern Shank of the Cherry Drops | “I Believe, I Believe” Here is another late-year surprise, pairing an original member of the Standells with Vern Shank from the Cherry Drops, whose 2012 debut, Everything’s Groovy, continues to be a Pure Pop Radio favorite. Valentino plays guitar, bass and sings backup vocals on “I Believe, I Believe,” while Shank sings the lead and harmony vocal. Garage rock-meets-bubblegum in this modern day classic track, which is currently spinning in rotation on Pure Pop Radio. A real treasure! (That’s Tony on the left and Vern on the right in the picture. All hail rock ‘n’ roll!)

deadbeat-poetsDeadbeat Poets | Hallelujah Anyway The latest, just-released long-player from Deadbeat Poets glistens with a wide variety of pop ‘n’ roll tunes that position them at the top of the beat-meets-melody ladder. We’re playing eight great songs from this exciting record: “Baby Doll,” “Love Is On the Right Beat,” “Getting Over You,” “Johnny Sincere,” “A Dark-Haired Girl in Piccadilly Circus,” “The Bag I’m In,” “There Ain’t No One But You,” and “Falling Without Annette.” A terrific record all the way through.

john-hunter-phillipsJohn Hunter Phillips | John Hunter Phillips and the Hurricane Beach Band Here’s the best Beach Boys album released in 2014, from a man who’s not actually in the Beach Boys, but has sung on stage with the band. A tremendous singer who understands and can inhabit the Beach Boys sound like no one else in recent memory, Phillips has recorded a wonderful album full of Boys of Summer-esque songs, from the glorious, harmony-filled “Darlene” to the clever and catchy tribute to the individual Beach Boys, “Dennis, Carl, Alan, Brian, Bruce and Mike (and David)” that features outta site harmonies and a great melody. The limited, deluxe edition of this album includes a second CD jam-packed with alternate versions of the songs, including a number of a cappella takes that will blow your mind in all directions. We’re playing 15 tunes, including “Stay in Kaneohe,” “Back in Hawaii,” “Backseat Driver,” “Darlene,” “I Don’t Feel Bad Anymore,” “The Girl in the Rearview Mirror (2014 Driving Version),” “The Ghost of Hurricane Beach,” “If We Ever Need a Super Man,” “Not So Fast,” “You Can’t Do It Alone,” “I’ll Get Right Back to You” (a duet with Pure Pop Radio favorite, Dana Countryman), “Dennis, Carl, Alan, Brian, Bruce and Mike (and David),” Back in Hawaii (a cappella),” “Backseat Driver (a cappella),” and “Love’s Song.” Superb.

robert-crenshaw-2Robert Crenshaw | Atheist Christmas Hot on the heels of adding to our playlist the whole of Robert’s new album, Friends, Family and Neighbors, we’re adding three songs from his 2012 EP. You’ll have to wait until our second annual Christmas Extravaganza, beginning at noon ET on Christmas Eve day, to hear the title cut, but the second, third and fourth tracks are now spinning in rotation, and they’re typically wonderful: “Breakdown in the Passing Lane,” “23 1/2 Degrees,” and Neil Young’s “Don’t Let it Bring You Down.” We’re happy to be playing so many treasures from Robert on Pure Pop Radio.

bell-gardensBell Gardens | Slow Dawns for Lost Conclusions Another just-released album makes its way to the Pure Pop Radio playlist. We’re playing three beautiful, passionate numbers that will wash over you with a peaceful, easy feeling: “Sail,” “She’s Stuck in the Endless Loop of Her Decline,” and “Take Us Away.”

Duncan Faure | Machine from the Other Side We’ll have more coming duncan-faurefrom the great Duncan Faure in the near future, but for now dig four wonderful pop songs that put the spotlight on Duncan, a pounding, percussive piano, and a decidedly strong, early Elton John influence: “Billy in the Big Band,” “Hullo Baby,” “Leaves,” and “England Doesn’t Sleep.” Great stuff.

That’s it for today. As hinted above, we’ll be taking a bit more than a week off while Alan undergoes and recuperates from surgery. We’ll be back on Tuesday, November 18 with our first annual Favorite Records of the Year: Stars of ’14 feature. See you then! And, while we’re gone, keep listening to Pure Pop Radio (listening links below).

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

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

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

Look Up in the Sky! See Those Colorful Fireworks? We’re Celebrating Day Two of the Pure Pop Radio Melodic Pop Songs Explosion! Wow!

This is the age of beautiful music, this age of international reach. This is the age of 3 am Google searches for the latest, hottest and most melodic songs from more than capable artists who play all manner of instruments: guitars, keyboards, drums, washboards, horns and the like. This is the age of wonder and enlightenment and satisfying our collective conscious need for melodies that shine, hooks that run deep, and harmonies that ring brightly and soundly and satisfy our souls.

We feel very lucky to be able to bring you these sounds of our age, created by master magicians poised to fill the world with hope and majesty and a song or songs that make the hairs on our necks stand up on end. Here, we’re picking up from where we left off yesterday and celebrating day two of our special Pure Pop Radio Melodic Pop Songs Explosion, and exploding these songs are, right in front of our ears.

Here are more artists and songs that are now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio, top-flight examples all of the art of melodic pop.

The Legal MattersThe Legal Matters – The Legal Matters. When master musical magicians Andy Reed, Chris Richards and Keith Klingensmith settled comfortably in the Reed Recording Company’s studio in Bay City, Michigan, they connected like old hands of the art do and crafted 10 songs that sparkled before them–songs that would ultimately sparkle before listeners all around the world. Supported by ace drummer Cody Marecek and guitarist extraordinaire Nick Piunti, who not long ago released his own melodic pop long player to great acclaim, the trio of friends picked up their guitars and applied a little lucky grease to the act of creating classic, harmony-rich tunes that will last a lifetime. And so they have released their work, the kind of gift from above that comes along only when the time is right, and the time–this time– is most assuredly right. We have plucked the lot of these hall-of-fame-worthy songs for the Pure Pop Radio playlist, all of which are now spinning in rotation. The songs? Listen for “Rite of Spring,” which could and should function as this group’s calling card: just listen to the harmonies that grace this wonderful, Teenage Fanclub kind of side; “It’s Not What I Say,” “Before We Get It Right,” “Outer Space,” “We Were Enemies,” “Stubborn,” “Have You Changed Your Mind?,” “The Legend of Walter Wright,” “Mary Anne,” and “So Long Sunny Days.” Dig them all like the treasures they are.

The Dowling Poole's Bleak StrategiesThe Dowling Poole – Bleak Strategies. When we interviewed Willie Dowling somewhere around a year ago, Willie had recently disbanded his incredibly talented group, Jackdaw 4. Willie mentioned that he was in the very early days of a project with music man Jon Poole. Just about a year later, Willie and Jon have released the fruits of their labors, an absolute corker of a disc that will surprise and delight and propel you from your seat in a surprising and delightful way. The album is called Bleak Strategies and it instantly takes its rightful place as one of the best albums of this year. Influenced by all manner of bands that came before, from the Beatles to the Kinks to Jackdaw 4 to 10cc to XTC and Frank Zappa, this collection is top of the pops and full of sudden, surprising and rightly-positioned left hand turns that turn these songs into clever monuments of glory. We’ve added eight tunes to the Pure Pop Radio playlist, and they are: “The Sun is Mine,” “A Kiss on the Ocean,” “Hey Stranger,” “Paper, Scissors, Stone,” “Empires, Buildings and Acquisitions,” “Getting a License,” “Clean,” and “Saving it All for a Saturday.” Pretty fantastic, then and now, Shirley, bestow upon the Dowling Poole a place on some of those best of the year lists that will soon pop up and be heard. Simply smashing stuff.

The Rubinoos and Radio Days' Split 7-inchThe Rubinoos and Radio Days – Split 7-inch. Any time either the Rubinoos or Radio Days releases new material, we here at Pure Pop Radio pretty much jump for joy. It is a sight to behold, let us tell you. Anyway, both of these much-loved bands have put their heads together and each has released a pair of songs within the grooves of an old-fashioned and still-vital slab of vinyl. We’re presenting a great song that is an exciting preview of a forthcoming album from the Rubinoos, a wonderful song called “All It Takes.” We’ve also added the pair of songs from Radio Days: a great cover of the Rubinoos’ “Hurts Too Much” and a new Radio Days tune, “Let’s Move On.” Get this one for your own self. You might think of getting two copies–it’s not unlikely that the grooves on the first one will wear out. A great release, now spinning in rotation on your home for the melodic pop hits, Pure Pop Radio.

Also added to the Pure Pop Radio playlist this week:

* Ali Ingle – “The Locker.” Ali Ingle continues to shine brightly with his wonderful ballad, “The Locker.” Sporting rather clever lyrics, this is one of those songs that must be repeated instantly when it ends. Prepare to hope that Ali scores big with this and future releases and takes his rightful place in the music marketplace.

* Joey C. Jones and the Bubble Gum Orchestra – “Hey Jadey Girl.” Sweetly dipped in a sugary sauce and delivered with a tip of the hat to the Electric Light Orchestra, “Hey Jadey Girl” harkens back to a simpler time when the radio stations of the long-ago day were spinning songs that were all about the hook, and all about the fun of it all. We’re proud and pleased to play this one in rotation for you all. More, if you will.

* The J-Pegs – Mister Sunshine. Just about equal parts mid-sixties harmony, garage rock and jangle, the J-Pegs play through an EP’s worth of classic songs that will set up shop in your inner consciousness. Prepare to rally around such gorgeous creations as the ultra-melodic “Pigeons and Church Bells and Butterflies”; the short and sweet Robert Zimmerman nod, “Hey Robert”; the upbeat, just slightly countrified “Castles by the Sea”; and a song that echoes early sides by the Association with a bit of a dip in the garage rock pool, “Little Details.” They’re all spinning in rotation as we type on Pure Pop Radio. A real find.

* Scott Brookman – Special Session for Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation. A few months into production of our popular melodic pop talk show, Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation, we started asking our guests if they would like to contribute some specially-recorded-for-In Conversation songs. We’ve had a great response in this regard. Our long-time DIY popster friend Scott Brookman delivered a delectable two-fer: a short song intended to entice listeners to add his latest album, Smellicopter, to their collections, and a wonderfully-delivered version of one of Smellicopter’s best songs, “Very Anne.” We present them to you within our rotation and urge you to seek out any and all of Scott’s creations. A splendid time is guaranteed and all that, you know.

* South Rail – Stars EP. South Rail is one of our favorite groups and, what do you know, they’re a hop, skip and a jump from Pure Pop Radio headquarters. We’ve been playing their songs for awhile now, and are pleased as punch to present to you four dynamite songs from their new, Don Was-produced EP, Stars. On Pure Pop Radio, you will hear the pure pop pleasures of “Be that Way Again,” the gorgeous creation that is the country-tinged “On My Way,” the wonderful upbeat treasure “Moss and Stone,” and the country-pop pleasures of “Wide Eyed Smile.” Next, a full length, pretty please?

* Phyllis Johnson – “Mr. Callahan.” We can’t think of an artist we’d like to see release a whole bunch of tunes–preferably within the confines of a gold-plated long-player–than Phyllis Johnson, whose way with a melody is second to none. Here is a shining example of Phyllis’s talents coming together to serve the song, and this is a song, alright. It’s a great song, in fact, and we’re pleased to present its sixties-echoing charms on Pure Pop Radio. Phyllis has managed to soak up more great song forms than most of us have forgotten. Her talents are limitless. Charm us with more, Phyllis.

* The Corner Laughers. “Midsommar.” A rather tasty taster before this much-loved group releases its new album in a few months, “Midsommar” is a typically catchy number with glorious harmonies, a lovely melody, and a reminder that a song can cure all ills. Written and sung by the magical Karla Kane, this is real deal time–a song for the middle of summer, for the beginning of fall or the snowy winter or the welcome to flowers spring. Take a bow, Corner Laughers.

More to come tomorrow. Surely two weeks of adds to the Pure Pop Radio playlist must constitute some kind of mention in the Guinness Book, right?

 

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