Every year, when music critics compile their “best of” lists, there seems to be a tendency to pick a group of artists that few have heard of, or records that scream “artistic license” –which is often code for “unlistenable.” One of the things I love about my colleagues at Popdose is that none of us are shy about singing the praises of artists who are thoroughly mainstream, or have such a lovable pop sensibility that they should be thoroughly mainstream. Me? I love pop music. I love the hooks, the recycled riffs, the catchy choruses, and all the other stuff that makes for great ear candy. What I like even more is when I hear artists who aren’t really pop music types delve into to that realm. And so it goes with this week’s Mix Six. The artists represented aren’t necessarily pop (as in pop-U-lar), but they’ve certainly channeled elements of power pop into these songs. So dose up on your audio insulin, ’cause here we go with some very sweet, sweet sounds!
When you take a bit of Hanson, a dollop of Cheap Trick, and a dash of Fountains of Wayne, and combine with a Smashing Pumpkin, what do you get? If you said “WTF,” you’d be wrong. The rest of you know that Tinted Windows is a power pop band that delivers song after song of irresistible tunes on their impressive debut. I’m not sure what’s going to happen to the band after this project, but if they continue, I’m sure their fan base (which is already impressive) will grow into the stratosphere.
“Do You Know Who I Am?” Echo & the Bunnymen (download)
Echo & the Bunnymen have always had a pop sensibility, but their music was also rather dark and moody at times — appealing more to the new wave crowd than the Top 40 kids. Thanks to John Hughes for including “Bring on the Dancing Horses” on the Pretty in Pink soundtrack, the band was able to get a good amount of exposure to kids who had never heard their music. Unfortunately, that bit of cross-promotion really didn’t help them in shedding their new wave appeal. And maybe that’s a good thing, ’cause when the group produces an overtly power pop gem like “Do You Know Who I Am?” it’s possible they’re poised to attract fans who where born in 1992 — and love ’80s new wave.
“Bang!” the Raveonettes (download)
For the Ravonettes, the mantra is: Forget radio. To reach a prime demographic these days, they headed to the soaps — especially the evening ones. The Raveonettes, by hook or crook, did that with Gossip Girl when two of the songs on In and Out of Control were featured on the show. What surprises me is the “Bang!” didn’t get any air time on Gossip Girl, the reboot of 90120 or Melrose Place. After all, it’s pretty damn catchy in a Ting Tings sort of way and it was a single off the album. Ah well …
“Make You Mine,” the Fondas (download)
Having Little Steven as a fan of the band has been a boon to the Fondas’ career. This Detroit band is fronted by the sultry Julie Benjamin on vocals, and backed by Steve Shaw and Mark Niemenski on guitars, Nick Sokolowski on bass, and Chip Sercombe on drums has been on high rotation on Steven’s syndicated radio show, and it’s not hard to see (and hear) why: they certainly have ’70s era rock chops. But c’mon! This group has come serious power pop goin’ on.
“Hand Me Down,” Visqueen (download)
If you didn’t know the heart-wrenching story behind this album, you’d think that Visqueen was just another rock band with a catchy sound. And yes, the album has some wonderful power pop, but after reading how the album came about, the songs have a deeper and richer meaning. This song has been on my iPod since it was released, and features Neko Case on co-vocals.
“Going Down to Liverpool,” the Bangles (download)
Before the Bangles irritated the hell out of us (I mean, irritated the hell out of me) with “Manic Monday,” “Walk Like an Egyptian” and “Eternal Flame,” I was just ga-ga for their debut album, All Over the Place. And really, who wouldn’t be with their solid pop songs, great harmonies, and the fact that they could actually play their instruments (unlike the Go-Go’s when they started). I really hoped they would continue down their kinda-sorta indie pop route, but alas … Anyway, I don’t begrudge anyone trying to make a buck in the music business, but there’s a little something called integrity that seems to evaporate when big wads of cash get thrown around, and it seems the Bangles were not immune to that particular $iren song when Different Light came out in 1986.