Tag Archives: Weezer

New Album! Oranjuly

Oranjuly is the name for the one-man whirlwind named Brian King, whose obvious love of The Beach Boys, Jellyfish and other harmony-intensive pop bands bleeds through his music. Not certain if the choice of name combines his favorite fruit with his favorite month, but the band name isn’t important – the music under the banner is. And that’s what I’m touting tonight.

You want me to drop more names? Various songs recall Todd Rundgren, Badfinger, Weezer, Van Duren, Big Star and fill-in-your-pop-hero here. And of course, those Beach Boys. Listen to the keyboards and bass line of the opening track and tell me you don’t think of both “Good Vibrations” and “Wouldn’t It be Nice”, even though his track “Her Camera” sounds like neither. And when those a capella harmony vocals come in on the bridge? Holy crap.

My two favorite songs are the delicate “At Any Time” (think Bleu or Mike Viola) and the bouncy “I Could Break Your Heart” – especially that irresistable chorus couplet. But it’s deeper than earworm hooks; even with the pop-single lengths of three minutes plus, King flashes some instrumental chops, too. “Mrs. G” wraps up the coda with rollicking piano and tasty guitar leads, but even a stripped down song like “South Carolina” floats its hook over acoustic guitar and piano…and bass/drum support right out of the McCartney/Starr playbook.

I remember when a solo album meant just that – a talented performer was playing all the instruments and singing all the parts. King is very impressive here, filling the voids with strings and keyboards and horns and absolutely nailing the vocals. Very, very strong album – I’ll certainly remember this at year-end time. 

Check out the Oranjuly website.

Buy the album from Not Lame.

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Under The Radar: Coward

Sometimes you hear a band and think they’ve got something happening that will surely grow in time; you’re witnessing the awkward first steps of a future success. But sometimes, that just doesn’t happen. I could have sworn that Long Island power-pop-punk band Coward was going to make some noise; they were on a major and getting the big push. But…no.

Even when pulling this out today and writing I was certain they made it under another name, but I came up dry.  I did recently track down Joey Sykes, the guitar player and co-writer of many of the songs; he’s got a new album which I’m reviewing for another publication. Producer Jerry Finn (who also handled Blink 182, Sum 41, Green Day and several other pop punk masters) sadly passed away in 2008.

As their MySpace page says, plenty of bands came along later and found success with the same sound. These guys just never made it. Doesn’t mean the album isn’t a good listen! So maybe they’re under your radar, too.

From my original Consumable Online review:

How’s this for irony? The band kicks off the record with a tune called “Cliche” that apes every 1970’s rock move right down to the synthesizer fills and the “C’mon C’mon” vocals. Pretty ballsy – are they in on their own joke, or what?

Must admit that when I got this CD I wasn’t enthused. Front cover band name in “neon lights” (Heavy Metal Alert #1) and on the back cover of the CD, a tight shot of that “devil horn salute” fist raised, pinky and index finger extended) that usually means a moron is attached directly below.

Well, glad I continued. “Fell Down”, the second cut, mines that territory that houses pop bands from The Cars to Silver Jet – attention grabbing, hooky numbers that follow the tried and true power chord formula. However, most of the songs like “Boring” and “My Wisdom” even take it a step further, echoing New Wave heroes like The Jags and The Fools more than modern power pop.

Others like “Swallow” and “I’m All Right” kick in with a harder edge (think Green Day). Good harmonies, chunky guitars and tight playing throughout the record make it enjoyable, albeit short, ride. My favorite is probably the snappy “Popularity Kills” – silly, but with an infectious chorus that you can’t get out of your head.

Probably best heard at high volume with the windows rolled down, there’s lots of promise here, whether they’re truly into this style or just aping a la Weezer. But next time I hope they leave that damn synthesizer at home.

Cheap grab at Amazon.

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Under The Radar: Welsh Rabbit

Welsh Rabbit was another band I stumbled across on those late-night “sounds like” tangents that I have been addicted to for most of my life. Back in 1991 all I was able to get my hands on was West 11th Love Letters. I wrote it up for Cosmik Debris but lost track of them soon afterwards and figured they might have been yet another band who high-fived the brass ring but didn’t grab hold.

As you can see from this CD Baby comment page, I wasn’t the only person being pleasantly surprised. It also appears like I have a fellow Tangent Monkey in the commenter who cites following a recommendation based upon his purchase of The Rosenbergs. You’ll note references to Weezer, Elvis Costello and The Beatles, although I think the Soft Boys and Big Star references more accurately pick up the dissonance they employ.

But we all agree that they’re a band worth checking out. Here are my original thoughts on that first EP…

I must admit when I heard the first few notes of “Where You Are,” I would have bet the farm that the singer would launch into “I Wanna Hold Your Hand,” but it was merely a tip of the cap to the Fabs (as is the closing vocal harmony). West 11th Love Letter is a low-frills EP collection of some basic tracks laid down in vocalist/guitarist Nick Levine‘s basement. The sound is good, but more impressive is the charm of the songs; they’re amazingly strong for a first recorded document.

Somehow “Do You Want To Dance” juggles the indie cred of early REM with the hypnotic guitar work of The Edge in his prime. “My Summer Girl” and “Tonight” both have great hooks and show that the band can handle midtempo as well as power pop. Bassist Kyle Chilla, drummer Ian Campbell and keyboard player Rolf Nordhausen form a tight quarter with Levine. Overall the lead vocals are pretty good, although the harmonies are stronger; the guitars go for the jangle over the flash. For the first five tracks, anyway.

Nothing prepared me for the closing song, though. “Rollin'” is a ten-minute track that doesn’t waste a second. Somehow the pop path veers off into Neil Young meets Radiohead territory, and it works. Haunting, pulsating guitar work drives the song as the melody gains steam and the vocals build into a crescendo, tagging a minor chord to reset the mood. I know that most of their songs are now a little shorter and sharper, but this is one that I hope they keep playing at full length – it’s a stirringly emotional piece of music that few bands outside of Built To Spill can pull off well.

Looks like they are now a trio (Nick, Kyle and drummer Jordan Selman) and finally have a full-length album out called Don Quixote vs. Sancho Panza. I’ll have to grab that along with the other EP I missed, Forward Motion.

Welsh Rabbit on MySpace

Welsh Rabbit website

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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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T.G.I.F. – Mashup!

Puree and Easy

Puree and Easy

Mashup!

Sure, sometimes it comes out like a mess, but often it’s inspired. Here is a ten-spot plus a bonus round – enjoy!

===

Every Car You Chase

Smells Like Billy Jean

We Will Rock And Roll You In Beverly Hills

Madonna For Nothing

We Will Rock Your Mama

Do You Believe We Will Shake You All Night Long?

Owner Of A Lonely Bad

Toxic Love Shack

Never Gonna Give Your Teen Spirit Up

Take Me Out For A Milkshake

Hey We Will Rock Ya

clap fly

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Under The Radar: The Stellas

Proms Gone Bad

Proms Gone Bad

 

The Stellas: Cry Baby Cry

The first release from the North Carolina rock band The Stellas is just a seven-track EP, and for some people that might not seem like enough. Count me among those who would rather hear a band get in, make their point and get out than wade through seventy minutes of junk drawer logic trying to find the good stuff. In the case of Cry Baby Cry, there really isn’t a wasted moment; three of the tracks could be singles and the rest are solid enough to make you jot their name down as a band to keep an eye on.

Some of the promo quotes about their alternative pop sound referenced Fountains of Wayne, but beyond the similar nature to hide an odd topic in a catchy melody, I don’t see it. Ditto any resemblance to The Kinks, and as a lifelong fan of Ray and the boys, it wasn’t for lack of trying; with few exceptions The Stellas’ sound is more dense and thick. Far more accurate are the Weezer comparisons, which become evident within ten seconds of both the title track and the opening cut “Burnout”, although with “In Stereo” I’d be just as quick to name-check Superdrag.

Arty video for “In Stereo” (note: sound is almost nil for first 60 seconds)

A live video of “Burnout” recorded in April 2008.

Personally, I think The Stellas shine brightest on songs like “I’m On The Outside” and especially “18”, where their stop-and-start chopping melodies set up the sing-along choruses. Like the better energetic rock bands that have a powerpop core and a punky edge (think Plain White Ts, All American Rejects, etc.) their songs are tight and sharp. Hopefully they’ll hit the road in larger circles; for now it looks like they’re headed out for an Armed Forces Tour in Southeast Asia.

Semper Fi,  Stellas.

Cry Baby Cry is available via CD Baby.

Check out some additional sound clips on their MySpace page.

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2008: The Disappointments

Last week I wrote about the comebacks of 2008, artists who I didn’t expect much from surprising me with a really solid effort, or in some cases, a game-changing release. Today I’m looking at the other side of the coin – the five biggest disappointments of 2008..

It's not about what I want, it's about what's fair!

The Pretenders: Break Up The Concrete

It’s not a bad album, per se, but it’s really a Chrissy album, in’nit? There are some sprightly moments in “Don’t Cut Your Hair” and “Boots of Chinese Plastic”, but they sound like retreads from the first post-mortem Pretenders bands. Other parts could be stabs at alt-country or torch song collections. There’s no cohesion, no sound, no band identity – so why use the legendary moniker? After being thrilled that Martin Chambers had finally been brought back to the fold last time around – he’s only one of the ten best rock drummers ever – I am even more pissed off that he’s once again been relegated to…well, what do you call someone who is no longer a “pretender”, the real deal? I’m glad Chrissie is still making music, but this is like Mick or Keith calling their solo work Stones albums.

click here to continue reading the full article…

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