The Ultimate Power Pop Roundup: 10 Essential Bands and FREE MP3s
Big hooks. Singalong choruses. Earworm melodies. Guitars. Handclaps. When these stars align, I think Power Pop. So, what bands will become the next Cheap Trick, Posies, Material Issue or Big Star? POPDOSE traveled around the world to find the very best.
Now the purists might debate me on what qualifies as Power Pop in this list and what does not — because purists will happily debate anything — but let’s not get caught up in semantics. Let’s rock!
Here are some of the best damn rock songs to cross my desk since I started at POPDOSE. Pack your bags, it’s time to hit the road.
High On Stress – Bite Your Tongue
In a city as ass-smackingly cold as MPLS, good food, great sex and hot bands keep the locals alive. Prince, Husker Du and The Replacements all hail from there, and in their footprints walks High on Stress. The band served as Slim Dunlap’s backing band prior to his stroke — and here’s hoping they all hit the stage again someday. Late 2011 saw the release of the band’s stellar third platter, Living is a Dying Art.
As soon as opening track, “Bite Your Tongue,” kicks in, you’ll be playing air guitar, air bass and air drums as you sing along to the winning chorus — warning: do not attempt all four while driving in rush hour traffic.
Long before I discovered them, the critics hath spoken:
“Fresh from opening Tommy Stinson’s gig last Monday, Twin Cities quartet High on Stress lets its Replacements freak flag wave on its third and best album yet, “Living Is a Dying Art.” The disc features a guest spot by Whiskeytown’s Caitlin Cary on one of its softer gems, “Head,” but is mostly loaded with hard-bashing, semi-twangy barroom rock centered around Minot, N.D.-reared frontman Nick Leet’s clever everyman lyricism.” -- Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
Goodman – Night Person
The press photo might make Michael Goodman look like a teen angel in a Glee dream sequence, but damn can this kid rock. His sound brings to mind the black gold you can only find on dusty 45’s in your cool aunt and/or uncle’s record crates. Melancholy lyrics battle buoyant melodies, crisp chord progressions and tight rhythms. Goodman plays most of the instruments himself — guitars, synth, Hammond organ, dulcimer, harmonium and bass — but his friends join in on drums, synth bass and “essential handclaps.” What We Want is essential listening for fans of the Monkees, Zombies, Kinks — hell, Beatles, Blur — take one hit, you will be hooked.
You can get his entire album, What We Want, for only $5 over at bandcamp.
Hart Lake Mystery – Solace Seeker
We swing back to Minneapolis for a winning track from the Hart Lake Mystery. Their new EP was recorded in two days late last summer — and you can get it for FREE over at their Bandcamp page. Comparisons to the Mats and Paul Westerberg are going to happen, and why not, they hit all the right notes.
Don’t take my word for it. Jon Auer of one of the best-ever power pop bands, the Posies, said “I’ve been enjoying this fine catchy track from Hart Lake Mystery recently…Smart lyrics + rocking gtrs = digging it.”
Connect with Hart Lake Mystery on facebook.
Boy – Little Numbers
To keep this round-up from becoming a total sausage fest, let’s head to of all places, Germany, for an insanely catchy ditty from two girls called BOY. Valeska Steiner is from Zürich and Sonja Glass is from Hamburg. On the eve of their debut album, Mutual Friends (due February 26, 2013), the girls released a free EP, Music From Boy, on Noisetrade. Sexy, hand-clappy power pop single, “Little Numbers,” has the makings of a global chart topper as momentum builds on both sides of the pond (7 million YouTube views and counting).
Three Green Trees – River
When Stéphane Siewecke, the sole Canadian in the Swedish quartet Three Green Trees, sent me a link to his band’s treasure-packed Soundcloud page, he pitched his band with this line: “We sound like what would happen if Coldplay and The Beatles had sex. Feel free to disagree completely with that sentence.” The cocky as hell line caught my attention, but it was the music that hooked me quick. The Coldplay influence is evident on the aaaaahmazing single, “River.” “Pyramid Schemes” is another anthemic track that will someday inspire stadiums filled with
lighters cell phones. Three Green Trees will readily appeal to fans of A Silent Film, Editors, fun., Hall and Oates and Airborne Toxic Event.
The Lawlands – Youth
The Lawlands would be a great touring partner for Three Green Trees. Very rich, dark and alluring guitar rock reminiscent of the National, Magnetic Fields and the bands I mentioned above (save for Hall and Oates). Grab hold of this absolutely enchanting single. As the Lawlands put together their debut album, connect with them on facebook and Soundcloud.
Dinner and a Suit – Too Late
Don’t hate them because they’re beautiful. When I found out this Music City trio was named one of Seventeen’s 17 Bands Everyone Should Be Talking About, I started to get that queasy Jonas Brothers feeling in my stomach. When I heard their dazzling single, “Too Late,” I decided to shut my smug yap hole…
… after one more smug comment. I guess we have the shortage of available URL’s to blame for the totally corny band name. What are fans going to chant as the lights go down on their upcoming tour (kicking off February 15th including a gig at SXSW). “Dinner and a Suit” doesn’t roll off the tongue as easily as “Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!’ or “Let’s Go Murphys!” but I digress.
Teen Mom – I wanna go out
Teen Mom sounds like they’re straight outta the late 80’s — in all the best ways. Fuzzy, reverb drenched, post punk that could fill a dancefloor once everyone’s had enough Red Bulls to keep up with the hyper kinetic rhythm section. Teen Mom’s white hot EP, Mean Tom is available right now via Bandcamp.
Firewater – A Little Revolution
Firewater, aka: former Cop Shoot Cop frontman Tod A, has been releasing albums for years — most recently he hooked up with Alt Country powerhouse Bloodshot Records. Its an interesting partnership since Firewater’s music is a heady mix of world music, gypsy punk, Turkish maqsoum, Punjabi bhangra and Jamacian ska. International Orange! came out last fall and has been on heavy rotation on my iPod ever since. It is essential listening for fans of Beck, John Doe, Gogol Bordello and Balkan Beat Box (whose Tamir Muskat handles mixing duties here).
and last, but certainly not least, a second track from one of my favorite albums of 2012…
Gavin Guss – Riga in the Fall
Aaaaah it’s good to be home.
Late last year, the Emerald City’s Gavin Guss stepped into the spotlight (after touring with the likes of Nada Surf, Fountains of Wayne and even Jon Auer) for the very winning On High — one of my Top Albums of 2012. If every track on the album wasn’t so damn good, I would call this single an “album highlight.”
Pick up On High on vinyl and MP3 here.