Favorite Records of the Year: Stars of 2016

favorite records of the year - stars of 2016

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio
(Originally posted 01.03.17)

2016 was a terrific year for melodic pop music from both new and heritage artists, perhaps the best in recent memory. My list of 28 Favorite Records of the Year from 27 artists–The Stars of 2016–is presented below in random order.

It has long been my view that ranking entries on best-of-the-year lists is an impossible task, at least for me. If I made such a list on Monday, would the number nine entry still be in that slot on Tuesday? Perhaps not. Sometimes, I fear, agonizing over a particular placement would be akin to splitting hairs and not particularly a worthwhile enterprise. So, I’ll go with I like these a lot instead.

Here are my Favorite Records of the Year–The Stars of 2016–in no specific order. All are more than worthy of your time, and all should be added to your core collection of the greatest melodic pop music in the universe.

And now, on with the show…

The Stars of 2016

bob lind magellanBob Lind | Magellan Was Wrong Pop bard Bob Lind’s latest is a typically heartfelt collection of songs that deliver his always magical one-two punch: emotional lyrics and beautiful melodies, brought to life with stellar arrangements and production, much of it supplied in grand fashion on this album by the Spongetones’ Jamie Hoover. Gorgeous soundscapes abound, such as the romantic, catchy “From the Road,” awash with poppy background harmonies from Hoover and perceptive, picturesque lyrics from Lind (“In moments others call mundane/My soul is warming by your flame/Turning just like a sailor to the harbor/And I will carry back my songs and tales/Of calms and gales/And sing and tell them all/To you”), and Lind’s emotional cover of Tom Paxton’s “Bottle of Wine.”

Where to Get It: Amazon

Legal Matters cover conradThe Legal Matters | Conrad With this album, the Legal Matters have set a new standard for vocal harmonies in melodic pop music. Andy Reed, Chris Richards, and Keith Klingensmith are the players, and their human voices are their instruments. The songs are sweetly realized, from the opener “Anything,” not the first track on this album tipping its hat to the much-loved Beach Boys vocal vibe, to the upbeat, single-worthy “Short Term Memory,” which tips its drumsticks to Ringo Starr in a delightful fill and puts forth some top-notch electric guitar playing. To listen to this album is a thrilling experience.

Where to Get It: Kool Kat Musik, Amazon, iTunes, CD Universe

the weeklings studio 2The Weeklings | Studio 2 The beat-betrothed, Beatlesque foursome from New Jersey, steeped in the Fab tradition and nom de plumed in the spirit of all that started off holy in Liverpool’s Cavern Club a fair number of years ago, follows up their self-titled long player, affectionately known as Monophonic, with a sterling 12-song set composed of eight superlative originals and four rare John Lennon and Paul McCartney songs not given away to other artists. Recording in Abbey Road’s hallowed Studio 2, where the Beatles made their astounding magic, Glen Burtnik, Bob Burger, John Merjave and Joe Bellia, aka Lefty, Zeek, Rocky and Smokestack, respectively, make considerable Merseyside hay with delightfully brisk and catchy songs steeped in the effervescent spirit of the Fab Four. A splendid time, to be sure.

Where to Get It: Kool Kat Musik, Amazon

caper clowns 2Caper Clowns | The Buca Bus Delicious pure pop from Odense, Denmark delights with a dozen beautifully written and performed pearls. Lovely melodies and vocal harmonies are always present, particularly on instant classics such as the should-be-hit-bound earworm “A Tale of Romance and Magnetic Trains” and the gorgeous ballad “Lizard Heart.” Debut of the year? Most certainly.

Where to Get It: iTunes, imusic, Amazon UK (mp3 download)

kenny herbert forever and beyondKenny Herbert | Forever and Beyond A gorgeous, romantic song cycle inspired by Caroline, the love of his life, Forever and Beyond is Herbert’s melodically-charged survey of the power of true love. The 14 songs on offer, encompassing 1930s, 1950s and modern melodic pop vibes, are tremendously affecting, beautifully drawn snapshots of a happy existence. The pretty “Queensferry Girl” and the catchy, McCartney-esque pop song “It’s All Good” shine among a rich collection of gems.

Where to Get It: Kenny’s website, iTunes

TYIFinal2Nick Piunti | Trust Your Instincts Guitars, bass, drums, powerful vocals, and a whole lot of moxie power the pop on Nick’s latest, high-energy collection. These songs make heads turn and hearts embrace its many charms. “One Hit Wonder” is the big, splashy, pure pop hit here, a clear winner on an album full of winners.

Where to Get It: Kool Kat Musik, Amazon, iTunes and Bandcamp

gleeson curse my lucky starsGleeson | Curse My Lucky Stars Austin, Texas band Gleeson have made their White Album, a sparkling collection of songs varied in approach and tone that makes a case for melodic pop being the genre of the moment. Encompassing beautiful balladry, art-pop, rock and retro charm, Curse My Lucky Stars is a marvel.

Where to Get It: Bandcamp

teddy thompson and kelly jonesTeddy Thompson and Kelly Jones | Little Windows A true, modern classic bathed in retro charm, Little Windows’ rewards are many. There is a decidedly romantic notion at play here, one that slips in and out of hand holding echoes of the Everly Brothers at Cadence, Roy Orbison, Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton, Buck Owens and a thousand other country-pop artists and their golden recordings. These lovely, heartfelt songs, brought to life by two of pop music’s finest vocalists, make up an album that is like a bright lighthouse shining across the sea, drawing you in.

Where to Get It: Teddy Thompson store, Amazon, and iTunes

ray paul whimsicalityRay Paul | Whimsicality Thirty-six years after the release of Ray Paul and RPM’s album Go Time, the artist is once again regaling listeners with enticing tales set to everyone’s favorite power pop beat. A delicious mix of originals and well-chosen covers, such as the Grass Roots’ “Temptation Eyes” and Paul McCartney’s “Oh Woman, Oh Why,” meets wonderfully-realized originals like the dynamic “A Fool Without Your Love” and McCartney-esque “Jeannie.” With Ray’s gorgeous melodies and strong vocals out front, this is a treat from first note to last.

Where to Get It: Kool Kat Musik, Amazon, and iTunes

myrtle park's fishing coverMyrtle Park’s Fishing Club | Benches A monumentally towering testament to melodic and harmonic excellence, Benches is a delight from start to finish. There is nothing quite like Kate Stephenson’s take on melodic pop music, just as there is nothing like her soaring imagination, and her ability to express all manner of emotion and make the listener feel. Working in concert with musical partner John Steel, Kate delivers wondrous songs (and three-dimensional vocal harmony stacks) like “Somebody Called Me an Onion,” a smile-inducing, upbeat, energetic pop number with faux-reggae shadings about peeling back the layers to reveal the full, human package of emotion; and the a cappella wonder “Silent Letter,” a tune about inner beauty and the sanctity of thought that doesn’t always have to be laid bare. For those of you keeping score, this is the second Myrtle Park’s Fishing Club album to wear our Favorite Records of the Year mantle. As it should be.

Where to Get It: Myrtle Park’s Fishing Club’s website, Amazon, and iTunes

the nines alejandro's visionsThe Nines | Alejandro’s Visions Rolling and then filtering the influence of the music of writers such as George Gershwin and Rodgers and Hart into a mix peppered with the harmony styles of the Beach Boys, the Four Freshmen and even doo-wop, and then topping the resulting flow with his love of artists such as the Electric Light Orchestra and XTC, Steve Eggers has delivered a harmony- and melody-drenched soundtrack to an imaginary film, somewhat of a sequel to the last Nines album, Night Surfer and the Cassette Kids. Standout tracks include the beautiful, bittersweet, old-fashioned “When Our Love Was in Bloom,” stacked deep with gorgeous harmonies and an irresistible melody; and the early rock and roll/pop hybrid “Operator (Coming Home to You),” which sports a meaty, catchy, percussive piano riff, opens with an aural allusion to the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby,” and lays out a delectable Jeff Lynne-ish bridge that will make you smile. Alejandro’s Visions is Eggers’ best and most assured work yet, an immensely satisfying collection that belongs in every melodic pop music fan’s collection.

Where to Get It: Kool Kat Musik, CD Baby, and Amazon (mp3)

seth swirsky new album coverSeth Swirsky | Circles and Squares Proving that a creative, heartfelt approach to making music will yield magic almost every time, Seth Swirsky has crafted a collection of songs that draws on all of his strengths, and perhaps incorporates a couple of new ones. Moreover, these songs reveal the truth about all of our lives, right from the first track, “Shine,” his statement of purpose, the one that sets the stage for what comes next. And what comes next is winner after winner, such as the lovely confessional and autobiographical “I Don’t Have Anything (If I Don’t Have You),” in which the narrator allows that life means nothing at all without the proverbial “one”: “I’ve got some baseballs/That are pretty rare/Got a swimming pool/And a fast car/But I don’t care/’Cause I don’t have anything if I don’t have you…I’ve got gold records/Hanging on my wall/But without your love/Baby you can have ’em all…” This 16 song collection is the latest expression of craft from one of pop music’s most important artists.

Where to Get It: seth.comKool Kat Musik, Amazon, and iTunes

lucy wainwright roche and suzzy roches mud and applesLucy Wainwright Roche and Suzzy Roche | Mud and Apples A sparkling duo release from Suzzy Roche and her daughter, Lucy Wainwright Roche. Warm harmonies, clever songwriting and the inclusion of beautifully-sung covers such as Paul Simon’s “Bleecker Street” and the Cascades’ “Rhythm of the Rain” push this 11 track masterpiece into hall-of-fame territory. Roches fans will be charmed, and so will everyone else. Surely one of this year’s top expressions of musical joy.

Where to Get It: Bandcamp

the monkees good timesThe Monkees | Good Times! Good Times! is a classic-sounding Monkees album that happens to have been released 50 years after Monkeemania began. A mix of recordings based on sessions produced during the group’s heyday and new songs written by top-flight, current songwriters of note, this is a fun listen from start to finish. A shining example of how good this album is: The perky, catchy “You Bring the Summer,” written by XTC’s Andy Partridge, fulfilling a childhood dream. A great album.

Where to Get It: Amazon and iTunes

mimi bettinis music soundsmimi betinis basement tapesMimi Betinis | Music Sounds and Basement Tapes Vol. 1 Pezband’s Betinis scores with two sterling releases in 2016 that are really two sides of a rather entertaining coin, so they both rate a spot in this Stars of 2016 feature. Music Sounds is a vivid, quite alive offering of melodic treasures. Its songs are wonderfully realized pop confections that hit the hooky bullseye, like “She Wants You,” which surreptitiously recalls the famed intro to the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby” in the intro, and “Summer Love,” a warm love letter and look back to a seasonal romance (that, perhaps unknowingly, taps the sound of 10cc member Eric Stewart’s guitar playing in the solo).

Basement Tapes Vol. 1 collects tracks that Mimi has been working on over the years, like “Ray of Light,” a melodic sweetness that sounds like an Andy Partridge outtake off of XTC’s Nonsuch album, and simply lovely covers (Paul McCartney’s song for Mary Hopkin, “Goodbye,” and the Hudson Brothers’ “So You Are a Star” are glorious). Saying that some heritage artists are only getting better as time passes by can sound like rather an empty assertion, but my, how that phrase does indeed fit snug as a bug, listening to Music Sounds and Basement Tapes Vol. 1.

Where to Get Them: Pop Music Sounds and CD Baby

winterpills love songsWinterpills | Love Songs The numbers on Winterpills’ seventh album get under your skin; they become you in some celestial kind of way. The vocals of songwriter Philip Price and his wife, guitarist and keyboard player Flora Reed, are the collective glue that holds these proceedings together–the glue that gives them life. Consider “Wanderer White,” a rolling, rhythmic song about a fall from grace, in which Philip takes the lower notes and Flora the higher ones, and “Freeze Your Light,” which starts off as if in a church with a slight, ghostly choral singsong and becomes a folk-into-pop number with a delectable chorus buoyed by the same low-and-high vocals. The poppy bopper and should-be-hit-bound “Celia Johnson” turns the tables with Philip initially taking the high vocal part and Flora following closely. A trumpet and coronet serenade add to the song’s beauty; a lovely, echoed piano part comes in for a beautiful coda. A real treat.

Where to Get It: Winterpills’ web store and iTunes

butch youngButch Young | Mercury Man Butch Young’s miraculous, hall-of-fame-worthy album is a modern classic by way of its dazzling array of 1970s-styled instant classic songs, peppered with a mix of Paul McCartney and Harry Nilsson-esque magic. Every one of these Los Angeles-based artist’s songs is a clear winner, like the title track, “Persephone,” “One Foot In,” and “The Fools of May.” Awesome.

Where to Get It: Kool Kat Musik, CD Baby, and iTunes

the dowling poole one hyde parkThe Dowling Poole | One Hyde Park One Hyde Park, the sterling follow-up to the Dowling Poole’s Bleak Strategies, is a virtual tour de force and, if that weren’t enough, it’s an album influenced by sounds from across the pop landscape that doesn’t actually sound like its influences. Witness “Vox Pops,” which incorporates a very Partridge Family-sounding keyboard line and a very Brian May-sounding guitar solo; “Hope and Glory,” an upbeat pop song; and “Bring Back the Glow,” a smooth, rolling ’70s number. Joy from across the pond.

Where to Get It: Bandcamp, Amazon, and iTunes

chris murphy and michael carpenter real love sleeveChris Murphy with Michael Carpenter | “Real Love” This absolutely gorgeous ballad recasting of John Lennon’s song is one of this year’s major triumphs in melodic pop music. For this rendition, the tempo has been slowed, allowing Murphy to lovingly communicate the depth of the emotional lyric. Murphy’s vocal may well be the best vocal performance of the year. His ability to hold a melody line’s final note in such an artful way, to sustain its resonance and maximize its impact on the listener, is something to behold. Recorded with precision and heart by Carpenter on the occasion of singer Kylie Whitney’s wedding (Whitney also sang background vocals), this new version of this wonderful song is proof positive that covers can reveal new layers of emotion not previously brought to the surface.

Where to Get It: iTunes and CD Baby

emitt rhodes rainbows endEmitt Rhodes | Rainbow Ends Forty-three years after his third album, Farewell to Paradise, was released, this new collection surfaces to critical and listener acclaim, and rightly so. Here are songs that feature all of the Rhodes hallmarks: beautiful, catchy melodies; inventive chord changes; and those velvety, smooth, sturdy and emotive vocals. Perhaps this is no more evident than on the emotional ballad “I Can’t Tell My Heart.” Somewhat reminiscent of Mirror‘s “Love Will Stone You,” this is a showcase for Emitt’s committed, vocal delivery; the gorgeous melody and emotional lyrics combine to sketch the breakup of a relationship and a considered plea for the other party to embrace the option to heal. A wonderful surprise and an instant classic. Welcome back to a truly special artist.

Where to Get It: Amazon and iTunes

daisy house western manDaisy House | Western Man Doug Hammond and his daughter Tatiana’s album for the ages features golden harmonies and great songs that will melt your heart all the way through. The heavenly duo channels the Byrds in the uptempo “She Comes Runnin’ Back” and “Twenty-One,” offers up a catchy, playful vibe with the singalong number “Willow,” and delivers a strong, emotive ballad with the orchestrated tune, “Western Man.” Best news of all: a new album is soon to be released. Happy new year, indeed.
Where to Get It: Bandcamp

brain circus use this jpeg instead of the other oneBrain Circus | Brain Circus This smashing collection of impossible-to-resist songs performed in grand style by ace songwriter and keyboard wizard Brian Curtis, late of the much-loved band the Oohs, serves up 13 numbers in all, performed entirely by this transplanted Virginian. The majestic, heartfelt love song “Finally Found the One,” a musical sculpture formed with smiles and tears and a whole lot of heart, is but one highlight. You’ll detect essence of the Beach Boys, Jellyfish and Queen, among other classic touchstones, but this is all Curtis and don’t you forget it.

Where to Get It: Bandcamp

the flat fiveThe Flat Five | It’s a World of Love and Hope This Chicago-based band of harmony-hounds deserves supergroup status, thanks to the members’ affiliation with artists such as Neko Case, NRBQ and the New Pornographers. Welcome a deliciously wondrous assortment of luscious pop dressed in a variety of comfortable musical clothing that runs the gamut from the Manhattan Transfer-meets-hep cat vibe of the delightful “Buglight” to the Paul McCartney retro-sway of “I Could Fall in Love with You” and the pretty back porch balladry of the Roches-like “Bottom Buck.” Pretty special all the way through.

Where to Get It: Amazon, iTunes, and Bandcamp

bent van looy pyjama daysBent Van Looy | Pyjama Days Based in Paris, France and a member of the band Das Pop, Bent Van Looy’s 2016 release is a lovely, pure poppy collection of sweet-sounding catchy melodies sung with assured style, like the upbeat pop number “My Escape,” beautifully arranged with little Beach Boys vocal flourishes weaved in; “Mr. Fletcher’s Song,” a melodic mid-tempo ballad that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Randy Newman album, and the sumptuous title track, a three-minute genius construct, nicely orchestrated and adorned with a smile-inducing whistle. Pop on.

Where to Get It: Bandcamp

the junipers red bouquet fairThe Junipers | Red Bouquet Fair This charming collection from the Leicester, United Kingdom band recalls the sweet sunshine pop sound of the 1960s and 1970s in such lovely songs as “Summer Queen” and “Like a Merry-Go-Round.” Red Bouquet Fair is no less than the audio equivalent of smiling at your good fortune on a warm day in the park while sipping cool lemonade (the effect is equally transcendent wherever else you may be). The vocals are enchanting and the instrumentation is perfectly played. Lovely.

Where to Get It: Amazon, iTunes, and Bandcamp

tommy and the rocketsTommy and the Rockets | Beer and Fun and Rock ‘n’ Roll This ace project, featuring 10 pop-rockers, co-written, except for one, by super criminal defense attorney Michael Chaney and Thomas “Tommy” Stubgaard, who plays all of the guitars, bass, and provides handclaps, shake the house, as it were. Check out the catchy, Beach Boys-influenced sunshine anthem “Here Comes Summer,” and a couple of  energetic Ramones nods, “Silly Teenage Love” and “You Want Me (But I Don’t Want You)”). Cheery, toe-tapping fun.

Where to Get It: Kool Kat Musik, Amazon, and CD Baby

explorers clubThe Explorers Club | Together This collection of songs imbued with the spirit of the best of the Beach Boys, the Four Freshman, the Association and other time-honored practitioners of the art is one of the sweetest offerings of the year. Here are songs that are beautiful and beautifully sung, lovely and lovelier still, from Jason Brewer, Wyatt Funderburk, Paul Runyon,  Kyle Polk and Mike Williamson. From the southern California harmony- and sun-soaked sound of “California’s Callin’ Ya” to the Four Freshmen-meets-“Graduation Day”-by-way-of-Les Paul ballad “Perfect Day,” Together invites listeners to bathe in the beauty of harmony-filled dreams.

Where to Get It: Kool Kat Musik, Amazon, and iTunes

The Road Ahead

Harmony-filled dreams… Ah, as ever, they feel so right. With 2016 now in our collective rearview mirror, it is time to look ahead into what is just around the corner. Your favorite artists, and those new to the melodic pop scene, are itching to get going…to release their latest creations, crafted with a mix of melody, harmony, and keen performance.

Already, I have heard a few upcoming albums that I predict will knock your socks off. Nick Bertling, who records under the name Bertling Noise Laboratories, has been making a name for himself with a few rather extraordinary platters; the Lab’s latest, releasing later this month, is a covers collection called, in a nod to the great Harry Nilsson, A Little Touch of Bertling in the Night. This is a sweet mélange of favorite songs from yesterday, filtered through today’s singular sensibilities. It is uniquely Bertling, and you’re going to love it.

Dana Countryman, of whom much has been said throughout these pages, all of it sweeping-me-off-my-feet good, is about to release in 10 days, through Australia’s Teensville Records, his passion project, a tribute to the 1960s girl group and Brill Building sounds that continue to bring joy to ears around the world. Dana Countryman’s Girlville!: New Songs in the Style of Yesterday’s Hits will transport you back to a much simpler time, perhaps, when melody and joy were king. Lisa Mychols, Swan Dive’s Molly Felder, and Lisa Jenio are just three of the vocalists that help to bring Dana’s vision to life on an album that you will hug tightly. Look for Dana to appear on Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation soon to talk about this landmark release.

Bill DeMain, whose solo music and treasured albums with Molly Felder as Swan Dive will always have a place here on Pure Pop Radio, has a new record that will soon be released. After hearing and playing on the air a bonus track from Beans, a lovely arrangement of the Beach Boys’ “Wendy,” we hope the release date comes very soon.

The Word is Love

“Spread the word,” the Beatles sang back in 1965. They were talking about love, not melodic pop music written and recorded in the 2010s, but they might as well have been looking forward, as should we all.

In 2017, we look forward to bringing you more of the greatest melodic pop music from the ’60s to today. We’re on the job 24-hours-a-day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. A click of any of the Listen links that follow will connect you with our stream. Spread the word about Pure Pop Radio, if you will and, if you haven’t already, please click the Follow button on the homepage of this very website to ensure that you will be notified by email every time we make a post.

Thanks for reading our list of our Favorite Records of the Year: The Stars of 2016. Add them all to your collection; your ears will thank you, as will I.

alanhaberspurepopradiographiclarge1

Winterpills’ Philip Price Guests on Tonight’s Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation

philip-price-telephoneWinterpills’ Philip Price sits down with Alan Haber for a two-hour marathon session tonight on Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation. The typically in-depth discussion begins at 8 pm ET.

winterpills-love-songsDuring the show, Philip and Alan take a detailed look at the many stops along Philip’s musical career. You’ll find out about the events and influences that helped to inform Philip’s artistic path, which includes stints in many bands including the Maggies and his current outfit, the mighty Winterpills, whose latest album, Love Songs, is a big spinner here on Pure Pop Radio. You’ll hear great tracks from the Maggies, Philip’s solo releases (including an unreleased tune), and Winterpills. Don’t miss this exciting show.

alanhaberspurepopradiographiclarge1-wp header

We’re Groovin’ to the Tunes on a Wednesday! It’s Day Two of Pure Pop Radio’s Four-Day New Music Songfest!

alan-mic-zIt’s a good day–a very good day–that fills your heart with lovely melodic sounds from today’s top melodic pop artists. That day–that very good day– is today…day two of Pure Pop Radio’s Four-Day New Music Songfest.

What do we have on tap for you today? Which new songs and artists are we tapping our feet to? Following on from yesterday’s mix of the Monkees, Mark Lindsay and Susan Cowsill, the Posies, McPherson/Grant, Joe Giddings, Sundown, Hector and the Leaves, and Matt Duncan, we’re posied…uh, poised to serve up another rundown of great music we’re now playing in rotation on the air.

Here we go. We lead off with a couple of releases that will be hogging our air time and nestling comfortably in your CD players and on your turntables…

explorers clubThe Explorers Club | Together Aspiring harmony singers, here is your virtual textbook, a collection of songs imbued with the spirit of the best of the Beach Boys, the Four Freshman, the Association and other time-honored practitioners of the art. Here are songs that are beautiful and beautifully sung, lovely and lovelier still.

Jason Brewer, Wyatt Funderburk, Paul Runyon,  Kyle Polk and Mike Williamson are the right people in the right place at just the right time, serving up delicious melodic constructs that are as soulful as they are true. From the southern California harmony- and sun-soaked sound of “California’s Callin’ Ya” to the Four Freshmen-meets-“Graduation Day”-by-way-of-Les Paul ballad “Perfect Day,” Together invites listeners to bathe in the beauty of harmony-filled dreams.

We’re playing all of the following songs in rotation: “”California’s Callin’ Ya,” “Once in a While,” “Be Around,” “Gold Winds,” “Perfect Day,” “Quietly,” “My Friend,” “No Strings Attached,” “Don’t Waster Her Time,” and “Before I’m Gone,” the album’s penultimate number that sings a sweet a cappella close. Delicious.

winterpills love songsView More: http://chattmanphotography.pass.us/winterpillsWinterpills | Love Songs We’ve been playing this Massachusetts band’s seventh album over and over for days on end, living with the songs’ emotions and sensibilities as if they were our own. These songs get under your skin; they become you in some celestial kind of way. You are frankly powerless to regress from their charms.

These songs function on many different levels, even as they share a single attribute that defines them as part of a whole: the vocals of songwriter Philip Price and his wife, guitarist and keyboard player Flora Reed, are the glue that holds these proceedings together–the glue that gives them life. Consider “Wanderer White,” a rolling, rhythmic song about a fall from grace, in which Philip takes the lower notes and Flora the higher ones. Or “Freeze Your Light,” which starts off as if in church with a slight, ghostly choral singsong and becomes a folk-into-pop number with a delectable chorus buoyed by the same low-and-high vocals.

The poppy bopper and should-be-hit-bound “Celia Johnson” turns the tables with Philip initially taking the high vocal part and Flora following closely. A trumpet and coronet serenade add to the song’s beauty; a lovely, echoed piano part comes in for a beautiful coda. The album closer, the gospel-tinged ballad “It Will All Come Back to You, with appropriate harmony vocal stacks and a tender trumpet solo, is all manner of charm and emotion–even when it amps up the pace and volume towards the end.

The album package is a marvel of grace and intelligent design, with its highly striking cover and Edward Gorey-styled illustration in the foldout of the digipak. And in these days of streaming and downloads overtaking physical media as the music delivery method of choice for so many, a striking package is something to behold and treasure.

Winterpills’ Love Songs is so good, we’ve added six songs to our playlist: “A New England Deluge,” “Bringing Down the Body Count,” “Freeze Your Light,” “It Will All Come Back to You,” “Wanderer White,” and the catchy and hit worthy “Celia Johnson.” This album is a keeper and will be for years to come.

peter lacey new way lanePeter Lacey | “Jonny and the Aspirations” This lively, horn-shaded, Stax-ian rumination on the price of success, or lack thereof, in the music business marks a new chapter in the evolution of Peter Lacey the recording artist. With nary a Beach Boys or folk nod within earshot, “Jonny and the Aspirations” wouldn’t have sounded out of place following Elton John’s “Bennie and the Jets” on Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Peter’s new album, New Way Lane, is only days away; we can’t wait to hear what that album has in store for our, and your, ears. Now playing in rotation, naturally.

gretchen's wheel coverGretchen’s Wheel | Behind the Curtain Nashville-based Lindsay Murray’s second project as Gretchen’s Wheel is a meaty, inspired collection of songs imbued with powerful emotion. Sounding like a musical cousin to Aimee Mann, Lindsay sings with conviction and spirit on songs like the poppy, mid-tempo ballad “The Good Things” and the waiting-to-be-a-hit-single smash, “Try to Make It.” Catchy melodies and intelligent songwriting abound. We’re playing six songs in rotation: “Invisible Thief,” “Younger Every Year,” “The Good Things,” “Live Through You,” “Vapors,” and “Try to Make It.” Good going, Lindsay.

nerf herder rockinghamNerf Herder | Rockingham Geek rockers Parry Gripp, Steve Sherlock, Linus of Hollywood and Ben Pringle take no prisoners with their fifth album, full of in-your-face pop-punk, most of which is not aimed squarely at our rather less-than-punky playlist. Nevertheless, we’ve added three groovy songs punctuated with pop culture references and a whole lot of fun: “The Girl Who Listened to Rush,” “Allie Goertz,” and “We Opened for Weezer.”

tin toy carsTin Toy Cars | Falling, Rust and Bones And now for something sorta, kinda totally different from the usual Pure Pop Radio fare: a mandolin-fronted, pop-washed Americana band from Las Vegas. The band’s website makes its brief clear: “With mandolin, violin, banjo, guitar and upright bass, one might expect bluegrass or something with an old time slant, but add the compositional drumming of Aaron Guidry (Cirque du Soleil), and a songwriting approach more in line with Paul Simon than Bill Monroe, and a new image begins to emerge.” Indeed. The songs we’re playing in rotation–“Not for Nothing,” “Addicted to You,” “Desert Dogs,” and “Down on the Bowery” (a gypsy-folk bopper sounding like an otherworldly Roches)–are your entree to this band’s enticing, inviting sound. We dig it.

tobbe keith artTorbjorn Petersson and Keith Klingensmith | “Open Up Your Eyes” Indie pop stalwarts Torbjorn Petersson and Keith Klingensmith, the latter a member of the much-loved Legal Matters, turn in a delicious cover of a song by Stereo Tiger. If you look up the word “catchy” in the dictionary, this song will undoubtedly play. Harmonies, melody, and top-flight vocals propel this one into your hearts. Now playing in rotation.

laurie biaginiLaurie Biagini | “Stranger in the Mirror” This welcome return to recording finds this Vancouver, British Columbia popster in top form, delivering an infectious shuffle of a tune centered around a strong, catchy melody. Business as usual, as it turns out. Glorious.

strangely alright shake itStrangely Alright | “Shake It” Regan Lane and crew shake the floorboards with this propulsive, beat-driven pop-rocker. Electric guitars blaze and strong, committed vocals carry the melody along. There is enough energy in this recording to power Las Vegas on a really hot day. Nice.

the recreationsThe Recreations | “Swing Together” Thanks to Pop 4’s Scott McPherson for hipping us to this inventive slice of pure pop from Tokyo’s the Recreations. Fronted by pop visionary Yohei, this is a vital mix of soft pop, Burt Bacharach, Jellyfish, swing and jazz that comes together as a wholly unique creation you will never forget. More to come, but for now this one’s in rotation. Enjoy.

adam walsh 2Adam Walsh | “Calico Skies” Here we go again: another fantastic cover from the immensely talented Adam Walsh, whose taste in music is eclipsed only by his own prowess. In Adam’s capable hands, Paul McCartney’s lovely “Calico Skies” gets a slightly sped-up reading, no less emotional than the original. Keep ’em coming, Adam.

preoccupied pipers maydayPreoccupied Pipers |”Mayday” We’ve said, many times, that KC Bowman, he of Pop 4, Agony Aunts, and the Corner Laughers, is the hardest working man in show business, because he’s also got this Preoccupied Pipers project through which he every-so-often releases such catchy nuggets as this uptempo pop-rocker, which clocks in at 1:47 (that’s minutes, not hours), which is Roger Miller territory, but this is not “King of the Road” or “England Swings,” so make of that what you will. In any case, you’ll love this kicker of a tune. Whew.

You might think we’ve run out of gas for today, but we haven’t. We’ve got to stop somewhere and leave some nuggets for tomorrow. So, tomorrow, we will have another run of reviews of the latest songs added to our playlist. See you then!

alan-mic-zeeAlan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio is the original 24-hour Internet radio station playing the greatest melodic pop music from the ’60s to today. From the Beatles to the Monkees, the Posies, McPherson Grant, the Connection and the New Trocaderos, we play the hits and a whole lot more. Tune in by clicking on one of the listen links below.

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

Curry Cuts Path to the ’80s for Retro-riffic British Invasion Compilation

reign

(Win a copy of Here Comes the Reign Again: The Second British Invasion and a Reign t-shirt by filling in the form below. Be sure to type “Reign” in the Comments section. There is a quick turnaround on this contest: Entries must be received by tomorrow night, December 12, at midnight ET. The winner will be chosen on Saturday, December 13. Good luck!)

Producer Andrew Curry, who released his first compilation, Drink a Toast to Innocence: A Tribute to Lite Rock, in April of 2013, follows up in relatively short order with Here Comes the Reign Again: The Second British Invasion. While he’s billed as executive producer of Reign, Curry is better dubbed master curator, or perhaps more appropriately, caretaker of decades gone by.

Dipping this time into the musical waters flowing through the ’80s, Curry has assembled a sterling group of contemporary artists to pay tribute to and/or apply a new coat of paint on songs that were first released more than three decades ago. It is a testament to these songs–and, if Curry knows anything, he knows that the song is job one–that they retain their fortitude so long after first being heard.

To that end, Fountains of Wayne frontman Chris Collingwood turns in a spirited, lovingly rendered version of the Dream Academy’s “Life in a Northern Town,” supported by luscious background vocals from Phillip Price and Flora Reed from Winterpills; The Corner Laughers soup up the beat as they apply their particular magic to Madness’ “Our House”; and Big-Box Store takes a wholly different approach to Kim Wilde’s frenetic “Kids in America,” slowing it down and infusing it with a heartfelt dose of passion.

Jim Boggia and Pete Donnelly turn Adam Ant’s cheeky “Goody Two Shoes” inside out, applying a faux-military drum part and making every note count for a kind of jazzy workout. Similarly, the Davenports dress Wham’s “Freedom” up in power pop overalls, thereby upping the song’s catchy quotient. And Linus of Hollywood puts every ounce of emotion at his disposal into his take on Daryl Hall’s classic “Everytime You Go Away,” originally waxed by Paul Young.

The first lesson one learns listening to compilations such as this is that some aspect of everything you hear today can be traced back to something that came before. The spirit of these songs, denizens of radio first tuned into so long ago, lives on in these new versions of favored classics. The second lesson? Good songs never die, and as chosen and curated by master compilation craftsman Curry, they still rock and roll and fill your body and soul. And in the form of this Reign, they make a great, collective stocking stuffer. – Alan Haber

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

Day Eight is Great! Pure Pop Radio’s New Music Explosion Logs Two Weeks of Cool, New Sounds, and Week Three is Just Around the Corner! Welcome to the Weekend!

weekendHey! It’s the weekend! The weekend’s here! You know what that means, right? It means that week two of Pure Pop Radio’s New Music Explosion is rolling into the weekend and week three, day number nine is merely days away.

Today is day eight, and we’ve got a typically diverse and exciting lineup of new adds to the Pure Pop Radio playlist to lay out for you. Let’s get started!

pop-powerVarious Artists | Pop Power from the Garage – Australian Power Pop * 74-86 We’ve been digging the very sweet, new releases from Australia’s Zero Hour Records. This one shares the basic approach that previous compilations of Australian power pop have taken over the last, many years, although this time around the focus is on the years 1974-1986. This mighty fine collection dishes up 22 great tracks. Of course, we’ve chosen the poppier ones to add to our playlist, and they are: Beathoven – “Do You Remember the Time,” The Clones – “Tired of Hiding,” Lee Cutelle – “You’ve Got the Power Over Me,” Heroes – “Baby’s Had a Taste,” Riffs – “I’m Not Just Another Boy,” The Prefects – “Wait Until Midnight,” Young Homebuyers – “Boyfriend,” and the Eighty Eights – “What Would Your Mother Say.” Your mother would say “Spin ’em if you’ve got ’em!” Listen for these very cool tracks now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio.

lost-boys-1lost-boys-2The Lost Boys | Answers On a Postcard and Not ‘Arf It’s…The Lost Boys This Southampton, England foursome puts their guitars up front where they belong and turns out track after track of catchy, melodic pop music. We’ve taken tracks from Answers On a Postcard and Not ‘Arf It’s…The Lost Boys and added them to our playlist. Listen for “Broken Story,” “From Love to Hate,” “Flowers,” “In My Sleep,” and “Crazy for You (I Guess that I’m).” Great melodies, singing and playing…what more can you ask for?

johnny-popstar-1johnny-popstar-2Johnny Popstar and the Luv Explosion | Whining and Crying and A Day at the Beach A great pop band, with perhaps a smattering of punk aesthetic and influences from across decades of catchy songs, Johnny Popstar and the Luv Explosion is a real find. We hear the Turtles, the Archies, the Dave Clark Five and a host of other sixties and seventies bands bouncing around in this clever mix of sounds. This is the kind of music you might have heard on the radio way back in the day. Heck, it’s music you should be hearing on the radio today. And you will, because a total of 10 Popstar tunes are now spinning in rotation on Pure Pop Radio, including “Daphne Blake,” “Karen Palangi,” “A Day at the Beach,” “Dr. Wiggley,” “Oh Valerie (I Really Hate Your Boyfriend),” “We Could Get Along,” “Oh Louise,” “Social Status Crisis,” “Fit to Be Tied,” and “Don’t Ban the Wolfman.” And yes, “Daphne Blake” is indeed a shout-out to Scooby Doo’s own. Great stuff.

mylittlebrothermylittlebrother | If We Never Came Down 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 makes this album the find of the year. We’ve added seven songs to our playlist: “Lovers of Life, Unite!,” “NoseDive,” “Gold,” “My Hypocritical Friend,” “If We Never Came Down,” “Slow Dance,” and “Profiterolls.” Sort of reminiscent, in spirit, of the Wilson Hospital’s equally lovely, lone album. Truly special and quite magical.

solicitorsThe Solicitors | Blank Check We’re probably the first pop radio entity to have played the Solicitors. Well, we’re at least one of the first. In any case, we were way early spinning tracks from one of Australia’s greatest pop ‘n’ roll bands working today. Lee Jones’ catchy songs, performed with great gusto and made for radio play, are aces all around. The band’s debut album is one of the classic releases of this or any other year. Sounding like a lost act on the Stiff label, the Solicitors make great pop ‘n’ roll music and this album is proof. Several of the tracks here are previously released, and we’ve been playing them for awhile; we’ve now added “If You Let Me Hold You,” “I Need You More,” “For This Evening’s Entertainment,” “(You Should See the) Look On Your Face,” “I Love Your Love,” “My Secret is Safe With Me,” and “Goodbye.” It hardly ever gets better than this.

kurt-bakerKurt Baker – Brand New B-Sides The pop and roll of Kurt Baker is as intoxicating today as it was on his very first release. If anything, Kurt elevates his craft ever higher with each new record. With producer and engineer extraordinaire Wyatt Funderburk at his side, there are no limits to what Kurt can achieve. This latest release, composed of songs that didn’t make 2012’s Brand New Beat album–some of which were released as bonus tracks in France and Japan–is a collection that, quite rightly, sets the bar even higher for future records, so good are the 10 songs included here. We’ve added seven to our playlist: “Emma Stone,” “Since You’ve Been On My Mind,” “What’s that Got to Do with Rock ‘n’ Roll,” “On the Run,” “I’ve Tried Everything,” “Think It Over,” and “So It Goes.” Pure pop with a rockin’ beat, served up by a master.

the-singlesThe Singles | Four Tracks Recorded around 1980 at Unique Recorders in New York City, these four catchy songs pop along like old friends. Great melodies and strong hooks ensure repeat plays. Here’s what we’re now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio:”It’s All My Fault,” “Leave that Girl Alone,” “Off and Running,” and “We’re Not Kids Anymore.” Tony, who sang lead and background vocals and played some bass, was joined in the studio by Les Fradkin, Rich Tuske, Marty Shapiro, JP Patterson and Joe Servello. Fradkin produced “It’s All My Fault” and “Off and Running.” Prepare to smile and tap along with the tunes.

my-brother-woodyMy Brother Woody | Football Musings Set to Music You can now add to the (however slowly) growing pop sports sub-genre begun by The Duckworth Lewis Method, who sing about cricket, My Brother Woody’s album, which concerns itself with football (or, I believe in this case, soccer). We are, as usual, confused about the meaning of sports words in different parts of the world, but we do know our pop music, and this is pop music of the first order. Some fetching melodies and deep hooks propel these great songs into the consciousness. We’re spinning four songs in rotation: “50p Head,” “Panini Sticker Album Blues (1987),” “Bouncebackability,” and “The A-Z of Football.”

the-cryThe Cry | Dangerous Game (US Edition) This isn’t the Cry’s first dance in the pop music arena, but it is their first full-length release here in the United States. This US version of Dangerous Game cobbles together 13 songs that have previously been released in Europe and Asia, plus a new track, “Last Thing that I Do,” a relatively sensitive, mid-tempo ballad with great guitar work that is rather unlike their usual upbeat, more rocking material. Fast or slow, this is a great band that deserves your time and attention. “Last Thing that I Do,” along with a host of other great tracks, is now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio.

winterpillsWinterpills | Echolalia Nine years on from their first, self-titled album, Winterpills returns with a collection of cover songs. But this is not your father’s cover songs album: This isn’t a collection of versions of chart smashes and wedding band favorites. Nick Drake, Jules Shear, XTC and other lesser-known artists get the call here, along with such new-to-the scene groups as the Beatles, Beck and Buddy Holly. The sum total of Echolalia‘s parts is an album that belongs to Winterpills and plays like a song cycle composed of like-minded compositions. We’re playing six re-imagined, emotional, newly shaped songs: Sharon Van Etten’s “One Day,” Jules Shear’s “Open Your Eyes,” Matthew Sweet’s “We’re the Same,” Damien Jurado’s “Museum of Flight,” XTC’s “Train Running Low on Soul Coal,” and Mark Mulcahy’s “A World Away from this One.” A great record.

And so we come to the end of our second week of postings about new music added to the Pure Pop Radio playlist. On tap, we’ve got another week’s worth of very cool releases joining the more than 5,300 other classic tunes on the air; all the fun starts next Tuesday, October 28. We’ve also got a very special review for you, and news of something to look out for here on the Pure Pop Radio website in November. So, stay tuned!

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