Tag Archives: Kelly Jones

T.G.I.F. – Ten More Bridesmaids

You’ve seen the Top Ten for 2010, and the full list is still being whipped into shape, but there’s no harm tipping the cap to ten more albums that didn’t make the top of the list but were great purchases during the year. Some finished high on other lists – including one that straddled the top on many of them – while others can claim a handful of people like me in their fan club.

Huge followings don’t affect my barometer, nor does a lack of a visible fanbase make me think less of the artist. I like what I like; there’s no such thing as a guilty pleasure. Guilty pleasures are for cowards.

So here, in no particular order, are Ten More Bridesmaids to check out. Hopefully a few of these are already spinning repeatedly at your place too.

01) Manic Street Preachers – Postcards From A Young ManSome say they went commercial with their tenth album; I say they have one of their most irresistible collections of songs in years. Why are they not huge in the US?

02) Paul Collins – King of Power Pop. Maybe a slew of living room concerts inspired him to revisit his more energetic power pop side, and revisit his Beat days. The Flamin’ Groovies and Box Tops covers are icing on the pop cake.

03) Dwight Twilley – Green Blimp. The Man of A Thousand Comebacks makes yet another one, but Green Blimp is very much a return to form. You can almost hear him ripping himself off on these tracks, but in-house sampling is fine when it’s this good.

04) The Parting Gifts – Strychnine Dandelions. Greg Cartwright from Reigning Sound collaborating with Coco Hames of The Ettes, and I would have bounced it higher if Greg sang everything. Great guests including Dave Amels and Dan Auerbach, and the songs are stellar – of course.

05) Arcade Fire – The Suburbs. I like this album quite a bit, but not with the overwhelming fawning that it is getting across the board; I suspect it will finish atop this year’s Village Voice Poll (nah, they’ll cop out for Kanye West…). More of a consistent album than usual and it is growing on me.

06) Jason and the Scorchers – Halcyon Times. Dare I say it? The Scorchers are back. New rhythm section, but Jason Ringenberg sounds young and refreshed, and Warner Hodges is once again a guitar slinger to be bowed down to. Your move, Del Lords!.

07) Stereophonics – Keep Calm And Carry On. Another band that inexplicably doesn’t find success in America, and I’m dumfounded. Kelly Jones and crew just keep getting better and better; maybe one day we’ll catch up with the rest of the globe?

08) Locksley – Be In Love. Maybe it’s the reputation as a band for teens? Their second album is a big leap forward, stuffed with energetic, bouncy, dance-worthy pop songs and great vocals. Remember – no guilty pleasures!

09) Marah – Life Is A Problem. The sound of a band falling apart and being glued back together at the same time. Organic, loopy, rough, heartfelt, strange and exciting, it’s by turns depressing and magical; listening to it is like eavesdropping. I see light at the end of this tunnel.

10) Pernice Brothers – Goodbye Killer. Really, have these guys ever made anything less than a compelling album? Joe Pernice has to be one of the most under-appreciated songwriters around; here his gems echo everything from 60’s singles to late 20th century indie angst. Meant to be listened to cover to cover.

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NEW ALBUM! Jeff Litman: Postscript

jeff-litman

When you hear that a classically trained guitar player from a music school is making a pop album, your expectations are probably like mine. But as skilled a guitarist as Jeff Litman might be, Postscript rarely features his playing as the focal point. It’s Litman’s skills as a songwriter, vocalist and arranger that are highlighted, and wisely so. Frankly, this debut offering floored me.

Litman has an immediately likable voice, and proves throughout the album that he’s as dynamic a singer on broad choruses as he is on more stripped-down and nakedly exposed vocals like “It Wasn’t Me”; he’s able to jump around the scales effortlessly and comfortably. The album’s crystal clear production (courtesy Litman and drummer/utility infielder Andy Thompson) really lets everything shine from subtle background vocals to string arrangements…and just as importantly, Litman’s words. Sure, these are love won / love lost songs, most songs are, but they are fresh and bright, one after another. (Okay…maybe the riff that opens “Let You Go” is a kissing cousin to “You Make My Dreams Come True” by Hall and Oates, but you get my point).

“Anna” and “Complicate” make a very strong 1-2 punch to open the album, both songs about being with the wrong person at the wrong time. But Litman can just as easily bury a bitter shot within a bright melody (“Everything You’re Not”) as he can pine away on a beautiful ballad (e.g. “Wife” and the title track). And the seamless harmonies between Litman and Kelly Jones on “Maine” couldn’t be tighter if they were conjoined twins; the country-ish track chugs along like a perkier version of “Winter Valley Song” by Fountains of Wayne.

Other sound-alike touch points? First and foremost Mike Viola, and I mean that as a strong compliment; Viola is one of the best in the business. I also thought of contemporaries like Frank Bango and Jim Boggia as well as the more well-known predecessors McCartney, Squeeze and (more as solo artists than as a band) Jellyfish. These artists, like Litman, feature more complex arrangements than what I would consider everyday power pop music, yet are much more vibrant than the definition that “singer-songwriter” tends to conjure up.

Postscript is brimming with great songs and is certain to make my Best-of-2009 list at year’s end.

Visit Jeff’s homepage here.

You can also hear sound clips and/or purchase Postscript at CD Baby.

A live version of “Maine” (with links to other videos in the right column)

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2008 Countdown: 25, 24, 23, 22, 21

Finally! The countdown of the 25 best albums of 2008.  
The Doctor says...play it louder!

 

25. The Mop Tops:  Ground Floor Man

 I had to double-check the player when “You Crucify Me” came over the speakers just to make certain I didn’t slip a brand new Walter Clevenger album in by mistake. (Note to Walter: get busy!) But that’s an honest mistake considering the label is Sound Asleep Records, and producer Eric Ambel worked his magic in Brooklyn’s Cowboy Studios. No matter that it’s yet another Swedish band usurping the classic hybrid of British Invasion pop and American roots rock, The Mop Tops have served up a platter of brilliant music that will thrill anyone whose radar touches down anywhere near the intersection of Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds.

Tomas Nilsson’s songs are joyful, foot-tapping and memorable, all the more appealing with jangling 12 string guitars and snare-tapping drumbeats snapping from the speakers. Remember three-minute songs that got in, killed, and got out? Well, “Pink Wet Dream” might not have made it past radio’s censors, but forget them – roll that window down and enjoy cranking a dozen of them, loud.

 

24. The Crash Street Kids:  Transatlantic Suicide

Of course a band with a name like obvious will have almost a note-perfect imitation of their heroes, and on this album that’s “Cigarettes And Starf*ckers” (their asterisk, not mine). But while Ryan McKay has that sarcastic, condescending Ian Hunter-ish sneer down perfect (for that song, anyway), Ricky Serrano’s guitar is as channeling Mick Ronson and Johnny Thunders as much as it is Mick Ralphs. And within that triumvirate of influences lies this rock opera concept album within called The Supersonic Star Show, where glam meets hair metal and kicks its ass.

If you’re not familiar with this band, that makes three albums worth of ass-kicking to date after Let’s Rock and Roll Tonight and Chemical Dogs. I hear everything from Sweet and T Rex to harder rocking Jellyfish and Queen, but mostly I hear a wonderfully infectious intersection of powerpop, glam and sleaze rock that gets me every time. The songs are great on their own; the storyline just makes it more fun (note: CD comes with a bonus DVD to convert the doubters).

 

23. The Doughboys:  Is It Now?

You can go home again. Pop wunderkind Richard X. Heyman often referred to his time spent years ago in the garage band The Doughboys. Lo and behold, four decades later they not only reform but issue an exciting garage pop record that sounds at once contemporary and timeless. Armed with a few classic covers including “Route 66” and “I’m Cryin”, plus new appropriately raw songs from Heyman, this is anything but a reunion photo op for the former Café Wha? house band.

Gar Francis replaced original guitarist Willy Kirchofer (who sadly passed away as the material was being recorded over the past few years), and although you might not know his name, or vocalist Myke Scavone, or bassist Mike Caruso, a quick spin through their past reveals associations with a myriad of bands from Tommy James to Ram Jam to Billy Idol. Heyman, who can play anything, is on his favorite instrument, the drums. Is It Now bridges the gap between classic 60s garage singles and the current reanimation exploding with Cavestomp and The Underground Garage. What a great and unexpected surprise!

 

22.  The Gaslight Anthem:  The ’59 Sound

I usually have a bone to pick with any CD that starts with the sound of a needle dropping onto a vinyl record, as if to say “we’re old school rock”. But when you back it up musically, like The Gaslight Anthem does with its Springsteen-from-Dublin approach, all is forgiven. Like The Boss, they’re from Jersey, and this energetic, sing-along, punk-tinged quartet bleeds Bruce’s social observations, wanton loneliness and escapist angst without sounding like a wannabe copycat band. Musically they’re closer to a combination of the rhythmic Edge-like guitar chop of U2 and the sonic political energy of The Clash and…well, early U2.

Having “anthem” as part of their name is appropriate; their literate, lyrical songs resonate with importance and are sold with the passionate vocals of Brian Fallon. I can’t listen to “The Patient Ferris Wheel” or “Meet Me By The River’s edge” without stifling the reflex to pogo up and down, pumping my fist…not the best combination when driving. Of course, once I noticed that former Flogging Molly guitarist Ted Hutt produced it that explained everything. Hard to believe a band gets this good in two and a half years, but this album is so impressive that I’m grabbing their earlier effort on good faith.

 

21. Kelly Jones:  She Bang

Okay, so “There Goes My Baby” has far too much “Don’t Get Me Wrong” DNA in it to be completely original, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t one of the most incredibly infectious singles of the year. Kelly Jones has a pop-perfect voice and her collaboration with wunderkind Mike Viola is an ideal partnership of skills; the production by the masterful Ducky Carlisle elevates everything another notch. There could be five singles here if radio has its head out of its ass…in a just world this would explode on the scene like Cyndi Lauper’s She’s So Unusual.

Call it girl-pop, Brill Building magic or Spector-esque…I call it a quantum leap from her previous (good) album, public notice has been served.

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Check back daily this week for more of the countdown!

(and hopefully soundclips!)

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