All posts tagged: pop

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E.P. REVIEW: MATT COSTA, “Neon Brain”

A warm, rich sound that immediately gives you a good vibe from the opening notes.  Thus, the first cut from Matt Costa’s recent Neon Brain E.P., “Easy Feeling” does just that.  Milky, liquid guitars and soft vocals have a neo-psychedelicness about it (thinking of the slower Rain Parade tracks I’ve loved over the years) and a strong classic-pop (think ’66/’67) sensibility. Case and point, “Balboa Park” could easily have come blasting out of transistor radios at the tail end of the Summer Of Love, with its melody; “Echo In The Sea” has a certain Bookends quality with its finger picked electric guitar and exploding into a Hollies-like chorus (aside from some near-angelic harmonies towards the latter half of the track).  The title cut, “Neon Brain” is an acoustic-driven piece with (what sounds like synthesized) string arrangements, harmonies and a Donovan feel (although there were moments that recall Syd Barrett at his best); “Traveling Through Space” takes a different direction – while it has the classic pop sense, it’s far more experimental and modern sounding, but …

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E.P. REVIEW: RUEN BROTHERS, “Point Dume”

This four song E.P. is a very strong introduction to England’s Ruen Brothers, Rupert and Henry Stanshall.  Shades of Scott Walker, Roy Orbison and spaghetti-western twang permeate these songs with no sense of contrivance; rather, these are well-crafted songs with a classic feel in a modern setting.  Dramatic, sometimes over-the-top but not irritating – and filled with melody and catchiness. Of the four songs, “Motor City” kicks hardest with a mid-’60’s kind of grooviness; heavily bass driven and crisp guitars along with bold arrangements.  “Vendetta” has a Box Tops kind of feel (!) with punch; “Summer Sun” screams Gene Pitney in a powerful, now sense with a tremendous chorus and “White Lies” has a lot of texture and is (arguably) the most radio friendly of the tracks. All in all, a very solid, coherent premiere from this duo.  Also interesting, as they’re British, but sound very American, which I can appreciate.  Good start for the Ruen Brothers. RECOMMENDED Point Dume is available now http://www.ruenbrothers.com/

Hot Off 2014’s ‘Sunken City,’ Mleo Returns With New Single

If you’re a music fan of a certain age (ahem, I’m talking about my age), you cherish the alt-rock of your youth. Sometimes I long for the the mid-90s top 40 with Soundgarden, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and their ilk. Ah, those were the days. That’s why when a band like Mleo and a song like “Ridiculous” comes along, it’s all the more exciting. These LA natives take that sterling sound and infuse it with just enough pop to make it palatable and modern. So, here’s my challenge to you: listen to “Ridiculous” below and try not to seek out their full album, 2014’s Sunken City. My guess is that you’ll be to enchanted to stop your Googling fingers. For more Mleo, find the band on Facebook.

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Album Review: Natalie Myre, “Breaking Forward”

An interesting and damned fine debut from Chicago’s Natalie Myre.  This singer-songwriter has a wonderful voice and a way with writing a song that makes the listening a pleasure trip, and one listen to Breaking Forward is all you’ll need to understand why.  The record strikes a wonderful balance by mixing shades of ’70s-styled piano-driven pop with a bit of country and jazzy flavors — and the sound of the album fits the songs perfectly. “Urge” opens the album and goes from a slightly-country tinged piece into a time shift of upbeat pop, matched with Ms. Myre’s dynamically energetic vocals; “Stay in Your Lane” is a slower, but powerfully passionate piece filled with melody and delicious harmonies, and “Worth Fighting For” has radio hit written all over it – uptempo, catchy and instantly classic.  “In the Meanwhile” has a delicate acoustic guitar body and is beautifully minimal – just the accompaniment and her voice; “I’m Sorry” is another breakneck radio-ready pop gem and “Love Will Win” is elegant in its slowness, building from piano and acoustic guitar and …

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Album Review: Taylor Upsahl, “Visceratonic”

This 16-year old from Phoenix, Arizona has a sweet and soothing voice yet writes songs with a veteran’s sense of structure and melody.  Taylor Upsahl‘s second release, the cleverly titled Visceratonic, belies her age with a strong knowledge how to do what she does so very well. The opening cut, “Portrait Pattern” is piano driven, with some very nice chord patterns and shifts which immediately make you sit up and pay attention.  “Hopes Too High” has a tasteful acoustic guitar body and a fine rhythm with subtle harmonies on  the vocals; “Sunflower” is a breezy, warm strummed song – stripped down to elegant simplicity with just the one instrument and her voice and “Games” is a standout – acoustic pop and catchy.  And again, shifts and twists in the progression is well-executed. “Rain” is another bare-bones performance – here, just piano and vocals and you can feel the emotion in the waves of her voice; “Golden Rims” is an uptempo pop track and another shining moment – the vocal interplay is perfect for this song …

ALBUM: The Aurian Haller Band, ‘House of Words’

Personally, one of the most enriching parts of music is not only the ability to blend styles, genres, and perspectives, but also languages and cultures. Quebec City’s Aurian Haller Band hails from a unique place geographically, making it only natural for them to blend French and Canadian music, customs, and language. One need only take a brief glance down the track list on their newest album, House of Words, to feel the influence of both sides. There’s no denying it; Haller and his band are a new breed of indie folk musicians. The haunting, Neil Young-ish opener, “Wolf at the Door” is underscored with a mournful pedal steel undertone, but the album revs up the funk on its title track. “Les orphelins,” the first bilingual track of the set, conjures French pop in the vein of Jacques Dutronc. Meanwhile, bookending the meat of the album, “Sister Moon” and “River Flow” come together as a pair of sibling tracks — not twins. Together, they give the entire collection a sense of equilibrium, and underscore Haller’s folk-indie cred. The …

EP REVIEW: Monks of Mellonwah, ‘Disconnect’

Last May, I profiled up-and-coming Australian pop outfit Monks of Mellonwah’s single “Never Been Good,” a taste of their then-in-the-works EP,  Disconnect. Much to the relief of fans who’ve seen them on the road supporting folks like Sevendust, the seven-song offering sees its officially release in August. And for anyone who loves their infectious pop with an injection of R&B and a hint of funk, you’ll finally find your perfect summer soundtrack. The highly danceable “Never Been Good” kicks off the party, followed by the rhythmic “Even When It Burns,” a fast-paced burst of energy begging to find its way onto your running playlist. But if you’re afraid the MoM are only going to deliver in-your-face musical punches, “Show Me Something More” illustrates a softer, soulful side that still embraces that amplified energy. Likewise, “Disconnect” recalls piano-heavy bands like the Fray and Keane to craft a truly memorable pop ballad. Meanwhile, remember how I mentioned a sprinkling of funk throughout the tunes? You’ll find it on “Look at Me,” a mainstreaming of classic funky beats set against …

ALBUM REVIEW: Shannen Nicole, ‘Captive’

Talent – real, raw talent – can’t be taught; it’s in your blood, uncontrollably flowing throughout your life, work, and, as Shannen Nicole demonstrates, school. For this high school senior from Oregon, her need to encapsulate the people and experiences that only a 17-year-old could accurately portray led to her stunning debut album, Captive (out July 7). Conjuring songstresses like Adele, Nora Jones, and even a touch of Amy Winehouse, Nicole molds her songs into lush, complex melodies, even if producer Michael Finn pared down the album’s instrumentation to only piano, drums, and strings. More than enough to give Nicole’s voice room to groove. Opening popper “Clueless” quickly gives way to the mysterious “Damsel,” while “Once Upon a Lie” ventures into the realm of ’90s pop with a touch of modern folk, truly speaking to Nicole’s versatility. “Lonely Hearts” channels a hybrid of Natalie Imbruglia and Ellie Goulding, complemented with a thumping upright bass backbeat; first single “She Knows It” vacillates between soulful and anthemic; and closer 2 AM finishes the collection with a gorgeous, simple ballad …

ALBUM REVIEW: The Furious Seasons, ‘My Love is Strong’

From the beginning of time, we have told stories through music. Whether it’s an epic battle of good vs. evil or a tale of woe and heartbreak, setting poetry to tunes is a a no-brainer, and for David Steinhart and his fantastical, visionary songs, it’s second nature. The Furious Seasons’ figurehead is often touted on his ability to meld universal emotions with folk-pop sensibilities and indie inflections, and the band’s latest effort, My Love is Strong, is undoubtedly Steinhart and company at their strongest. Opener “Southern Night” kicks off with a Beach Boys-like chorale, but evolves into a Hammond-tinged anthem perfect for rolling down the windows and singing along. Dare I say it even recalls the best of easy ’70s rock, especially with its call-and-response chorus and short fade-out (a commonplace of yesterday and a rarity of today)? From there, the record flows into “Understood,” an easy ballad with a backbeat and a catchy melody with lyrics that describe betrayal, murder, and eventual comeuppance. The Bruce Springsteen-ish “Perfectly” and the jaunty “Fooled By the Bottle” follow, …

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Review: Jim O’Rourke – “Simple Songs”

Jim O’Rourke can resemble a complicated musical chameleon. Since the late 80s, he has blended a patchwork career in the avant-garde with explorations into cinema, post-, folk- and alt-rock, and membership with acoustic-chamber heroes Gastr del Sol and “punk” purveyors Sonic Youth. In his recent years, as he’s retired to Japan, he’s been more off than on. But he’s always been clear about his forays into POP. It’s candy. Or, more specifically, it’s an exercise purely of the simple, sensory variety. There is sometimes some cerebral urgency to it; you can here the way he toys with idol John Fahey’s tenets of rhythm and gradual expansion and repetition, like a sponge slowly growing in water with each passing tide, on “Women of the World,” off the excellent Eureka. But, more often than not, he is dressing the windows or, if cover art is any indication, inviting us to watch him pleasure himself. On Simple Songs, his first POP outing in a decade, available now on Drag City, he wastes little time reminding us of our …

ALBUM REVIEW: Anne Steel, ‘What’s Mine’

A mainstay of the NYC cabaret and nightclub scene for the past half-decade, Anne Steele’s music is infectious, liberated, and downright happy. But underneath its exuberant hand claps and soaring piano riffs, Steele preaches an important social message about gay rights. An advocate for the LBGT movement, she incorporates her strong perspective and platform into an album chock-full of fun, radio-ready dance tracks. Album opener “What’s Mine” channels Sara Bareilles in its upbeat, piano-heavy melody and introspective theme. Meanwhile, the pairing of “Worst I Ever Had” and “Tough” reflect a universal message in relationships: sometimes you lose (big time) and sometimes you get lucky. “Worst I Ever Had” in particular is something of a expletive-laden catharsis with powerhouse vocals ala Kelly Clarkson that would serve anyone who’s emerging from a broken relationship well — particularly on an angry night-drive (we’ve all been there). But the break-out track is closer “Don’t Tell Us How to Love,” where Steele “stands up for what’s right” in this slow-jam gay anthem that serves as the album’s appropriate culmination. “Even …

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CD REVIEW: Arrica Rose & The …, “Wavefunction”

The word “concept” album took on a negative connotation by the end of the ’70’s.  However, this isn’t the ’70’s and concept albums are a good thing.  It’s nice to have an album be threaded together with songs that tell stories – to read like a novel.  Such is the case with Wavefunction, the new album from Los Angelinos Arrica Rose & The … (yes, “The Dot Dot Dots”).  This collection was designed as an album (as opposed to CD or digital), so the idea was to have a different mood for each side, yet tie it together with two versions of the same song (“Oh The Day (Then The Night)”).  It works. Not over the top in terms of sonic quality – almost delicately under-produced, with dry vocals that fit the songs perfectly (her voice is silky and sultry; she doesn’t need studio trickery) – the first two songs immediately have you in their grips.  “The Song In Your Head” is instantly catchy and upbeat, while “Love You Like That” is a balls-out sexy …

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ALBUM REVIEW: Christina Rubino, “Alive From The Scrapheap”

Some artists claim to be deeply personal, but present only cloudy snapshots of their inner thoughts. Kind of like reading a diary only on days when the owner went to the bank and grocery store. Brooklyn’s Christina Rubino is not that. On her soul-bearing new album, Alive From The Scrapheap, every word, every lyric was drawn from her dramatic past living with addiction and losing parents. A deep, throaty voice reminiscent of ’60s Cher hovers over harmonicas, banjos, a bevy of guitars and a down-home feel that underscores the personal nature of the album. Inspired by ’90s infomercials for 1960s compilation CDs, Rubino decided to devote her life to music after a glimpse of Janis Joplin tearing apart the “Piece of My Heart” chorus. She brings that same passion to this album On “Pending That Last Soul,” Rubino ponders freedom and the yearning for something more, a concept that all of us, but especially, she, can relate to all too well. The tracks on Scrapheap fluctuate from the hopeless realtalk and apologetic honesty of “Seems,” …

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Before We Was Fab: Jesse Belvin, “Guess Who”

When singer/songwriter Jesse Belvin died in a car accident on February 6, 1960, he became the first artist of the rock ‘n’ roll era to join the as-yet-unnamed 27 Club. And while some members of that most gruesome assembly are more notable for the age at which they died than for the work they left behind, Belvin’s music is worth remembering. Even if you think you’ve never heard a Jesse Belvin song, you actually have. In 1954 a song co-written by Belvin, “Earth Angel,” was recorded by the Penguins and reached #8 on the Billboard singles chart. It stands as one of the greatest songs of the decade, and although Belvin had no small amount of subsequent R&B success over the next few years — 1956’s “Goodnight My Love” hit #7 on the R&B chart — he struck out for a new record label and a new sound in 1959. Guided by his wife and manager Jo Anne, Belvin found a home on the RCA Victor imprint and attempted re-cast himself in the mold of …

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New Music: School of Language, “Between the Suburbs”

When when of my favorite new bands, Field Music, went on their first hiatus in mid-2008, David and Peter Brewis made it clear that they were far from done making music. They emphatically proved that point in 2008, when each of the brothers released a fantastic solo project that sounded liberated from the cage of being an “indie band” — David’s School of Language and Peter’s The Week That Was. Field Music has quieted down once again, but no need for fans to stress — the brothers are just as busy as ever. David is now set to release the second album under the School of Language name, Old Fears, on April 7. Fans can now listen to and download the first single from the record, “Between the Suburbs.” It features an insistent drum beat and a decidedly fat, old-school synth line percolating throughout the entire three minutes. Think of a more cheerful, stripped down Japan song if you will. Old Fears will be released via Memphis Industries on April 7. You can order the …

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Drews & Don’ts: 6 Karaoke Songs With (Sort of) Hilarious Lyric Flubs

As you may or may not know, writing for Popblerd is merely what I do during the day; at night, I dive headfirst into the glamorous world of karaoke, where I make my money congenially badgering people into singing in front of strangers. (I also do the “Cupid Shuffle”, like, a lot. It’s a dance comprised of four simple steps, which really speaks to my whiteness dancing abilities.) But the simple fact remains that, while karaoke has gained a lot […]