Tag Archives: Fountains of Wayne

Fountains Of Wayne is Back!

Pop lovers rejoice…FOW is back!

Fountains of Wayne are now aligned with Yep Roc Records artists, readying their fifth full-length LP titled Sky Full Of Holes, due for release this summer. The first single is online and available to stream or download (free!).

From the website: “Richie & Ruben” leads the charge, a sunny, character-driven jangle-pop track about a pair of inept knuckleheads with a talent for blowing seed money on questionable enterprises (a bar called Living Hell, a fashion boutique with a kid from FIT who lied about graduating).

Click here to stream the single

You can sign up to FOW’s list through email or Facebook to get a free download.

Sounds like another classic chestnut to me. I cannot wait to hear the whole album, and I’m especially geeked that they are on Yep Roc – a label that has proven time and time again that they are artist-friendly and audience-aware.

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Top Ten Albums of 2010 – #4

I first came across The 88 when I heard one of their songs and thought a band was channeling The Kinks. Little did I realize that a few short years later, this band would be backing Ray Davies on tour, essentially standing in for my favorite band of all time. And although you might not know the band nor the names of anyone in the group, you’ve no doubt heard their music peppering the soundtracks of many television shows and films.

Video: “Theme from “Community

Their knack for hooks and melody exudes an inescapable charm, and lead singer Keith Slettedahl darts around the scale with the ease of Fred Astaire on a dance floor. The current lineup (with keyboard player Adam Merrin,  bassist  Todd O’Keefe and drummer Anthony Zimmitti) is a tight-knit unit, and their sound is as strong on a delicate ballad as a full blown rave-up. I really like the way the keyboards are used on this album, adding flavors from garage rock to piano pop to the music hall DNA The Kinks mined in the early 70s.  

Video: “All ‘Cause of You” (live)

I felt they were on quite a roll from album to album but thought the last one (This Must Be Love) was a bit of a dip. A solid record, it just was more sedate than the other efforts; I think they’re at their best when playing more uptempo fare. So this eponymous album, their fifth, was a return to form in my book and one of the best listens of the year.

Fans of Fountains of Wayne, The Zombies, XTC, The Kinks…hell, anyone with a pop heart will eat this stuff up. Great vocals, great songwriting – go buy their records so you won’t have to sit through tripe like Gossip Girl.

Video: “They Ought To See You Now

Listen to tracks at Amazon – on sale for $5 today!

The 88 homepage

The 88 on MySpace

 

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Top Ten Albums of 2010 – #10

Farrah is a vastly underappreciated pop band whose catalogue is swimming in great songs. Their latest self-titled effort is no exception; in fact it’s the Fountains of Wayne record that you didn’t get this year. (Check out “Scarborough“, a kissing cousin to FOW’s “Valley Winter Song”.)

“Swings and Roundabouts”, the opening track, is about as perfect a cross between Paul McCartney and ELO that you will ever hear. Like “Just Driving” and the pulsing piano pop of “If You Were Mine” , it screams radio hit. Hell, there isn’t a duff track on the album.

Video: “Swings and Roundabouts

Equally adept at delicate ballads (“Wasting Time”, “DNA”) and infectious pop rockers, Farrah is simply bloody brilliant. Jez Ashurt has a knack for hooks and melody and his lead vocals are instantly engaging (as are his duets – Kim Richey excels on “Abby’s Going Out”).  Everyone in the band adds vocals as well; kudos to Andy Campbell on guitar, drummer Dana Myzer and bassist Michelle Margherita. Absolutely criminal that they’ve barely made a dent in the US, but that is par for the course.

So you might as well head to Amazon and get your copy now. And grab Cut Out And Keep while you’re there. And Moustache. Good luck finding Me Too.

And then tell everybody you know.

Farrah on MySpace.

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T.G.I.F. – Ten Absent Artists

I hope they're not lost...

As I’m going back and revisiting the year, I’m reminded once again of those artists I hoped to hear from who didn’t pop up and release an album. Some of them might just be in the normal development cycle, but for others it’s an unusual gap between efforts. I know they won’t all go on forever, but there are many who are still creating at a high level and I selfishly want more from them. I am the customer, after all, and rumor has it that I’m always right.

It’s not too much to ask, is it? Jason and The Scorchers reformed and released an absolute gemDwight Twilley came out with a brand new album this year after a half-decade of vault outtakes. Robert Klein has a new comedy release scheduled for January. I’m not going all Tinkerbell on you here, but things can happen. (Clapping hands is optional.)

So here are Ten Absent Artists – I hope each of them read this and kick it into high gear. I promise to be appreciative of the effort, and I’m hopeful that my anticipation will be replaced by a huge smile.

01) Walter Clevenger – He’s been more centered on his production work than recording. Maybe he’s busy, maybe it’s the frustration of releasing wonderful albums that failed to launch him into the mainstream. But I wish he’d keep punching that wall until it falls. Stop breaking my Paper Heart.

02) Tonio K – A repeat submission, I’m sure, and I know he’s out there because his work shows up on other people’s albums. I wish he’d just saddle up and form a band – Nashville, LA, whatever – and record his own material again. Don’t that make you want to jump right up and start to dance?

03) Fountains of Wayne – There have been a few collaborations with others, from songwriting for Russell Brand to the apparently one-off Tinted Windows project. We need your pop genius, now. Don’t give up.

04) Joe Jackson – You came out in that same “angry man” wave as Graham Parker, Elvis Costello and John Hiatt. Guess who is the only one not releasing new material? Pretty soon now, you know you’re gonna make a comeback.

05) Richard Belzer – you might think this is an odd choice, but Belz was a great stand up comic long before he made a living playing Detective John Munch. Call me a rooster on acid, but i think since he’s been popping up on celebrity roasts, he might have an album in the can.

Waiting to be rocked.

06) The Montgomery Cliffs – Man, I miss this band so bad. Great songs, great presence, big sound and a killer sense of humor. That band, she was good! Hope they reunite or Joey Salvia will have to continue to play for Republicans.

07) Artful Dodger – A lot of pop bands have reunited in the past few years, some for the cash, some out of curiosity, some purely out of the respect for their music and their fans. Artful Dodger never got the credit they deserved the first time around, and their 2006 show in Cleveland proved they still had it. Will bands who copped their style be jealous? I say there’s honor among the thieves.

08) The Faces Rod is back to spewing out collections of pop standards, but Ron, Mac and Kenney hooked up with Glen Matlock and Mick Hucknall to play a series of shows and apparently not only have more dates in 2011 but some new material to record. Rod passed, so let him go!  Seize the day, mates! And this time stay with me.

09) Love NutAndy Bopp moved from Love Nut to Myracle Brah to solo and collaborative efforts, but the pure pop power of Baltimucho needs to be revived. You could just change anything that you want, ’cause that’s alright.

10) The Kinks – Yes, I know there’s another Ray Davies album on the way. Yes, I know he and Dave have sibling issues. I hoped Pete Quaife‘s passing would have woken them up to how tentative life is, since Ray’s bullet hole didn’t do it. Come on, boys…give the people what they want.

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Under The Radar: Cartoon Factory

So many pop bands, so little time…

Ten years ago I came across a Greenville, South Carolina band called The Cartoon Factory on a late night surfing expedition; I was attracted to their energy and knack for a good powerpop hook. I thought their debut album was pretty good, and although it doesn’t appear they they ever issued a follow-up album (a 2002 release featured songs from an earlier configuration of the band under a different name), they’re still around and playing gigs, although Chuck Chapman seems to be the only original member still standing.

Powerpop is a broad term, so what do they sound like? Their website has some free downloads of pop covers like “Ah Leah”, “I’m a Believer” and “(I Want To) Rock and Roll All Night” as well as handful of great originals written in that same vein. Good harmonies, pop crunch; I’d say their self-appended comparison to Fountains of Wayne and Weezer is a decent starting point, as are the references I make below. If those names put a smile on your face, give these guys a listen.

My original review ran in Cosmik Debris in 2000…

Although the name might connote animated characters (or Jim Carrey’s short-lived sitcom debut), this quartet is a high-energy power-pop band that sets its sights on harmony and melody. You can’t be taking things too seriously when you have a track called “Monkey Girl” lead off your record. Factor in a band that has two Bay City Rollers fans paired up with two guys leaning more towards classic rock, and the combinations can get pretty interesting. For example, the melody of “Tongue Tied” sounds like The Cars taking a stab at Joe Jackson‘s “Is She Really Going Out With Him?.”

“Deaf Dumb And Blind” starts out like Eric Carmen‘s “Hey Deanie” before sliding into the infectious chorus. Only the closer “I Live For You” falls flat here, a disappointing arena thud-rock entry. The band is tight – David Swift‘s guitar and Louis Sijon‘s power drumming are solid, and the harmonies are spot on. Bassist Chip Anderson and guitarist/vocalist Chuck Chapman (the aforementioned Rollers fans) are also fans of the arena-sized power pop of Cheap Trick and KISS.

However, the production of the self-titled disc muzzles the bombast and goes for a crisp and clear sound; power chords are there, but glass isn’t shattering. “Hopeless” is a very catchy song that opens with a classic guitar riff that deserves to shake the house. But I’d rather have catchy songs than catchy production any day – I’ll bet that “Without You” and “Whirlwind” rock the house live. Keep an eye on these guys.

The Cartoon Factory website.

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New Album! Fountains of Wayne

First Rate show in the Second City

First Rate show in the Second City

I often engage in discussions with other writers on a wide array of topics. Among the pedantic exercises that such people joust about are lists – the ten best this, the three things that, ad infinitum. One of the more challenging questions raised has been which bands have come right out of the chute with a string of killer albums, and when does the slack usually begin to show? In other words, a band whose first album was killer, and then the sophomore slump was avoided, and then it kept on for a bit. And we’re talking albums, not a repackaging of singles in a twelve-inch format (sorry, Beatles!), and in truth the conversation was concerned more with post-60s artists (sorry, Neil Young). Sure, the Police and REM and U2 are supremely popular, but did they really strike gold immediately, then consistently? Even Bruce Springsteen has people on both sides of the fence. When the conversation eventually focused on the last 25 years, the field thinned dramatically.

But even when you go back to the dawn of rock, the magic number seems to be three, maybe four albums at best. We all know the adage that an artist has their whole life to write their first album, and…well, it used to be six months to create their second, but now it’s more like three years. Whatever. Many artists has solid runs but after an unspectacular debut. Some never even got to four albums before imploding. Seems like the majority might have gotten a great two and then hit a speed bump, temporary or otherwise.

Everyone has a personal favorite, of course – you won’t talk a card-carrying Nickleback fan out of arguing to the death that their mulleted posers haven’t recorded a wrong note. Ever. Which is why these things are best done in consensus, lest the water of truly worthy get diluted with the emotions of the moment. You know, like the IMDB list of the greatest films of all time, an inordinate amount which have apparently been released in the past twenty years, some as recently as this month. More whatever.

Which brings me to the subjects at hand – Fountains of Wayne. Maybe the most consistent career-opening salvo since Elvis Costello, in my book. Literate, funny, poignant, incredibly catchy and just off the beaten path enough to avoid the mainstream (“Stacy’s Mom” excepted, of course) but real masters of songcraft, harmony and…well, art. Go listen to their albums if you don’t believe me.

They’ve long had a reputation for being slightly more exciting than moist toast in concert, despite the nature of their music, and I have witnessed some clips that attest to nervousness at best and indifference or boredom at worst. But this 2005 live recording, now available on DVD from Shout, really changed my mind. And the bonus recordings!  These stripped down recent studio sessions (as a trio) where they are tracking the songs live – no overdubs – are wonderful. No matter what Robbie Fulks thinks.

Check out my full review in Blurt Online.

FOW wiki.

That killer 1-2-3-4 punch.

They've got a flair.

They've got a flair.

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Under The Radar – The Supers

Supers

When The Supers dropped this pop puppy on the world almost a decade ago, it may not have made much of a splash on major radio but it exploded in the power pop community. Boasting hooks upon hooks, clean production, great vocals and that bombastic energy only powerpop can bring, it got a flurry of great reviews. I saw the band live at a pop fest in Raleigh and was wowed; like many I could not understand why these songs were not on the radio.

What, Doc? You don’t understand? Cue Dan Ackroyd

After a follow-up album titled Mystery on Pop Mountain (again, great artwork, this time spoofing The Hardy Boys) I didn’t hear much from them again as they moved on to other projects. I didn’t even realize that they released Re-Arrange in 2006! So it’s understandable if these guys have fallen under your radar. Check them out!

thesupers

This piece ran in PopMatters back in 2000…

Boasting a cartoon cover and an album title that the late Don Martin would be proud of, Toronto’s The Supers are every bit as energetic as their super-hero alter egos. With hooks galore and a couple of strong singer/songwriters in Maury Landry and Graham Powell, The Supers sound a lot like The Jags or even Fountains Of Wayne, albeit with much higher octane. And for that, large credit is due drummer Jeffrey MacPherson, who seemingly kicks every song in the ass just to make sure it doesn’t lag. (And Tim Bovaconti, you’re no slouch either — god forbid I mention three people in a four man band!)

There’s what, a billion records coming out every day? Better have a strong lead-off track, and “Turn” is a killer; lyrically clever and containing several jumps that will have you punching the gas pedal in time. Ditto “Fall” and “So Many Crooks”, although slower songs like “Even Fools” will please that sad drunk cowboy in all of us. The Supers know how to build a song, also, whether it’s a pretty vocal like “Only You” or the ironic “Pill”, which starts out drowsy and climbs key changes along with the mood of the lyrics. “Little Secret” might be too good for radio because it’s a pure pop song, but “Always In Pain” might have just enough edge to it so that the alterna-geeks will listen. Only the very odd “Near Death Experience” defies inclusion; I can hear “Within You Without You” buried in there somewhere, but what it’s covered with I don’t care for.

Not to slight the music, but I have to mention the packaging again — anyone who has ever read a comic book will enjoy the way the “ads” page is used to list song and credit information, the colorful and wonderfully done insert and even the approval stamp from the “Rock Code Authority”. So props to you, Marc Lafoy and Kurt Swinghammer, for the best work I’ve seen in a while.

Even though you, like me, have at least nine bands in your collection with the word “Super” in their name, Spklanng! finally lets you wash the phrase “Wang Chung” out of your system. As the record label says, try pop!

Website for The  Supers

The Supers MySpace site

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