Tag Archives: Michael Carpenter

It’s a PPC Summer!

Like he has the last two years, Angelo from Power Pop Criminals assembled a superb sampling of sparkling summer songs* meant to be blasted at high volume. Yesterday was the Summer Solstice, after all, so we don’t want to waste any time as the daylight starts fading away!

This year’s compilation features The Knack, The Waking Hours, Michael Carpenter, The Nines, The Liquor Giants and twenty more bands. As always, Angelo added awesome artwork* as the icing on the cake.

Click here to read about the set and download.

If you haven’t gotten the 2009 and 2010 collections, do so. Hope you find a few familiar favorites* alongside some new gems. That’s the whole point.

(*Almost all alliteration accidental.)

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Top Ten Albums of 2010 – #8

If the overt visual homage to Jesus Of Cool didn’t tip you off that there’s some Nick Lowe influence here, one spin through this excellent debut disc will clearly prove that Edward O’Connell is a product of his influences. Had he Photoshopped Elvis Costello’s head on those shoulders instead of a paper bag, you’d have his two major ingredients clearly identified.

Pop guy influenced by Nick Lowe? Maybe that’s why I immediately thought of Walter Clevenger when I heard Our Little Secret. If like me you are pining for Clevenger to release another album, I implore you to grab this one, for it pushes all the same buttons (I bet you could play “With This Ring” to a Clevenger fan and fool him).

What separates O’Connell from most artists with melodic chops is strong lyrical songwriting. Gotta figure that a law student knows his way around a lexicon, and like Elvis Costello, there’s a lot going on in and between the lines. I was gobsmacked at just how good this album is wall-to-wall. The lyrical wordplay of “Acres of Diamonds”, “Happy Black” and “We Will Bury You” is at a level I would expect from a vet like John Hiatt. How could I never have even heard his name before when he drops this as his debut?

Jangly, chiming guitars. Massive hooks and choruses. Superior vocals. Organic warmth. A sound that recalls (in addition to the aforementioned geniuses) Tom Petty, The Byrds, Richard X. Heyman, Teenage Fanclub, Michael Carpenter and their ilk. As fulfilling on the tenth play as the first. Why he has a bag over his head like The Unknown Comic is beyond me; this is clearly a major pop release that deserves widespread attention.

Let’s not make this (ahem) Our Little Secret – spread the word far and wide. We just might have a major pop star on our hands.

Listen to clips at Amazon or CD BABY

Edward O’Connell website

Edward O’Connell on MySpace

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Under The Radar: Monkeeman

 

Hop aboard. Not the last train from Clarksville.

Hop aboard - it's not the last train from Clarksville.

My first dip into Monkeemanmania was with the album Jumping on the Monkey Train (review below) and if you dig this, you need to seek out Burn To Shine amd Life in the Backseat as well. Monkeeman? Yep. More proof that great music is everywhere if you have the patience to seek it out.

Monkeeman_DEF.indd

Usually when a European band has this much 12-string jangle and 60s Britpop DNA, the smart money is on Sweden (Merrymakers, anyone?). But Monkeeman…well, Monkee-men, technically…is a German quartet so well versed in pop song craft that they could be from Missouri. Reportedly, at one point Ralf Luebke alone was Monkeeman, but the entire band deserves credit for this project – bassist Thomy Jordi, drummer Achim Farber and Zoran Grujovski on guitars and keyboards (the latter two co wrote the songs with Lubke). “Moving in Circles” is a killer leadoff track utilizing chiming pop guitars, soaring vocals and a strong chorus that will have you singing along before you even figure out the words. While that’s the high point of the album, what follows is well-crafted buoyant pop music that is well worth the journey.

Lubke’s voice is often eerily reminiscent of Michael Penn, without the depressing angst and baggage, of course. “No Kicks” and “Glad That You Love Me” mine the Penn trail so well they could fool Aimee Mann. Power pop aficionados will find that comparisons to Andy Bopp (“Painkiller”) and Michael Carpenter (“The Man In My Head”) are not out of line, either. The stellar “About a Boy”, all stops, starts and Lennonisms, is another that demands repeat play. There no rut here – good variety of tempos, some humor (“Crazy Ann”, as well as the requisite bonus track) and plenty of memorable hooks. Go get this!

Here are some links to newer Monkeeman music…

Monkeeman MySpace page – many streaming songs.

Monkeeman videos for “Lonely Guy” (<- amazing!),  “Universe” and “Glad That You Love Me

Monkeeman main website.

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Tributes

I got a couple of emails from readers of yesterday’s post who were loving the Beatles cover comp and asking about tributes, since I’m on record as an obsessive fan of such efforts. On more than one occasion I’ve made my mixtape entry a covers collection (even pilfering a Replacements track title – I’LL BE YOU – for one of the more recent efforts) and I always love when I get them in return. (I’ll have to dig up that comp and post it here in the near future.)

I’ve found that the best ones are usually from independent projects on small labels where the scope will go outside the artist roster. By licensing tracks from other worthy bands that would appeal to the same audience as the internal ringers, the label is saying “we are putting the project first” rather than “this is a cheesey effort to get even the crappiest band on my roster some attention“. Frankly few of these get airplay anyway, so those weaker efforts just wind up in the band’s garage where they belong.

The major labels often blow it as well; too often their efforts wind up using big name artists that have no clue. Of course, with their overhead mapped against the unlikely hit potential, these are not frequent releases. But like the tiny labels trying to build around one good band with filler, the big boys have proven that they’re equally adept at creating a PLE (painful listening experience).

A list of the greatest tribute albums ever deserves more time and thought than I have to spare right now, but I do want to float out a couple of my favorites as well as clue you in to a little known collection assembled by a fellow blogger. These aren’t necessarily the five best, although my favorite tribute ever is included. 

Winner and still champion

Winner and still champion

SING HOLLIES IN REVERSE (eggBert): A majestic collection of power-pop artists including Bill Lloyd, Jon Brion, The Wondermints, Mitch Easter, Tommy Keene and Material Issue. Compiled by the late Greg Dwinnell, this was an all-hits no-misses effort where even the artwork and liner notes were first rate. Greg’s eggBert label also issued a wonderful Bee Gees tribute called MELODY FAIR that was almost as good.

Kovering the Klassics

Kovering the Klassics

THIS IS WHERE I BELONG (Rykodisc): Steve Forbert, Jonathan Richman, Bill Lloyd (the KING of tribute album appearances), Fastball, Fountains of Wayne, Cracker, Minus 5…a solid list of great commercial bands drawing from one of the Koolest Katalogues around. A little better than GIVE THE PEOPLE WHAT THEY WANT, which was released around the same time, although “Ring The Bells” by The Model Rockets from the latter might be the best cut of all. (If you can find a copy of SHANGRI-LA on Communion Records, that’s also highly recommended! (Note – if you listen to the Amazon clips, realize that the matchup of artist and song is incorrect).

Whipped Gum and Other Delights

Whipped Gum and Other Delights

RIGHT TO CHEWS (Not Lame): For the bubblegum pop listener in all of us, Not Lame’s impeccable release was complied by John Borack (longtime reviewer and author of Shake Some Action) and features some of the best artists in the current power-pop scene.  Great takes on The 1910 Fruitgum Company, The Ohio Express and Tommy Rowe by Michael Carpenter (genius) , Walter Clevenger (ditto), The Lolas and others. Not Lame has released several great tribute albums for artists as diverse as Gene Clark, Jeff Lynne/ELO and The Cars, among others; every one of them has several chestnuts worth roasting.

Bone Up on these great covers

Bone Up on these great covers

While you’re waiting foa any of the above to arrive in the mail, why not enjoy a great tribute mix right now? Angelo from Power Pop Criminals assembled these brilliant cover comps that are available as free downloads. And on that same page, the excellent rarity and out-of-print Bobby Fuller Four tribute OUR FAVORITE TEXAN.

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