Sunday, March 30, 2008

Audio Saccharine

I really enjoy Receiver’s Inspiration Overload (2001). I spotted it in John Borack’s power pop book Shake Some Action – The Ultimate Power Pop Guide (great book!). Borack himself used to play drums in the band, but on Inspiration Overload powerpop queen Lisa Mychols plays all percussions. Mychols also sings background vocals – sounding amazing.

This album was produced by Robbie Rist (who seems to appear quite often in power pop circles) and it’s a very strong collection of 11 catchy, energetic, and sugary songs written by Kenny West and Kerry Chicoine. It’s very loud pop - exactly the kind of stuff I tend to enjoy very, very much. Killer melodies, absolute sweetness, all wrapped up inside those distorted guitars and great riffs. It’s a simple path to happiness.

Oleander is my #1 favourite song on the album, it has pure low-tone magic, and those melodies.. They’re so good. Faster, Wind Up Girl and Inspiration Overload are also amazing tunes, to mention but a few. Also, it’s enchanting for a girl to discover power pop songs that carry your own first name.. Erica Kane is a wonderful tune. It isn’t even the only power pop song with that name (there’s Game Theory’s Erica’s Word, too), which is absolutely cool.

I just can’t get enough of music like this. Audio sugar and loud pop instrumentation– that’s my thing.

Receiver’s Inspiration Overload at (with sound samples)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Touching You, Touching Me

It’s sad that The Darkness split up. They were a great British rock band
with good songs and nice tongue-in-cheek image and attitude. When their debut album Permission to Land (2003) came out I heard the hit singles on the radio, saw the videos on TV and I liked all that stuff. It’s really hard not to smile when you hear a song like I Believe in a Thing Called Love. That kind of music should really be played more on the radio! Fun and happy music is something that is completely underrated these days.

It was my friend who encouraged me to listen to more of The Darkness. I listened to the debut album and it felt good. It was a bit heavier kind of music than what I tend to listen to, but the good melodies and Justin Hawkins’s unique singing voice helped me to get into it. The singles such as Get Your Hands off My Woman and Love Is Only a Feeling highlight the album.

The second album was even better. One Way Ticket to Hell… And Back (2006) was a bit lighter and definitely more melody-centered than its predecessor. One Way Ticket, Is It Just Me?, and Dinner Lady Arms are excellent songs. Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time is stunningly beautiful. In fact, everything about this album is excellent. Justin Hawkins captures a plenty of emotion in these songs. It’s really amazing how beautifully he utilizes his entire vocal range and sense of dynamics.

The amazing Hazel Eyes is worth mentioning, and so is Bald (gorgeus stuff!). Allman Brothers-like guitars and huge layered background vocals give this album lots of Queen feel (check out the harmonies on Blind Man – they’ll surely give you chills!). This album was produced by Roy Thomas Baker (which seems totally obvious now – especially given that I’ve recently been listening quite a lot to The Cars…). I’m not a big lyrics person, but I know these songs also have fun and witty lyrics.

All in all, The Darkness created some awesome melodic hard rock with nice sentimentality. Their music is capable of making anyone smile. Just listen to those songs (and perhaps watch the music video for Girlfriend) and it’ll make your day!

Justin Hawkins left the band but the remaining members of The Darkness continue making music as Stone Gods. I guess I could check out their stuff sometime.

The Darkness at MySpace
Stone Gods Website

More Cars Videos

I watch these music videos over and over again. Ric Ocasek is awesome. He's got some seriously good presence in these videos.

I also recently purchased The Cars Unlocked DVD and it's such a thrill. I think I'll write some thoughts about it soon. Here are the video tips: (great songs, great videos)

Tonight She Comes (1985)

You Might Think (1984)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Sun That Never Goes Down

In order to include at least something relevant in this blog I should tell something about The Beach Boys and me.

Although everything I listen to is based very much on The Beatles, The Fab Four have never been as big
for me as The Beach Boys. I surely love The Beatles, and I really don’t tend to compare bands like this because it’s basically impossible, but I have to make an exception when it comes to The Beach Boys. Although I’m not 100% sure (I never am when it comes to music) Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys might be the biggest and dearest thing that I’ve even encountered in my search of the most perfect pop music.

My dad has liked The Beach Boys ever since the 60s when he was just a young boy. Consequently, I heard that music several times in my childhood. It was that stuff that my dad called surf music. I remember thinking that it sounded pretty exciting. In the end of 2004 I started listening to some Beach
Boys greatest hits CD and noticed that I really liked what I heard and ended up listening to those already quite familiar songs (e.g. I Get Around) dozens of times.

Something about rock’n’roll has always intrigued me. I remember when I was 8 years old I found some old cassette of 50s rock’n’roll and songs like Rock Around the Clock. I liked that music so much that I wanted everyone else to hear it, too. The Beach Boys’ music has lots of rock’n’roll in it, so it’s no wonder that I’m attracted to that stuff.
Finally, I heard about an album called Pet Sounds (1966). It was my huge favourite Lasse Kurki (from the awesome Finnish power pop band Lemonator) who praised it in Soundi rock magazine.. I didn’t need any more encouragement, I rushed into the nearest library, picked up the album and listened to it for the first time on December 2nd, 2004.

That album soon became everything to me, and it still is. It is a warm blanket, something to cry and laugh for, and stunningly beautiful melodies, harmonies and sounds, perhaps the most beautiful melodies ever. That album made me fall in love Brian Wilson’s beautiful voice. That fresh tone and wide vocal range have really affected my sense of vocal aesthetics. Brian is surely one of my favourite singers. These days anyone who sounds like Brian Wilson gets my attention…

n fact, I’ve even seen The Beach Boys live! It was of course just Mike Love and Bruce Johnston but the music was perfect, and it was performed beautifully. The year was 2006, and I saw that concert with my dad in Helsinki. Man! Those harmonies were seriously good. I wish I could see Brian Wilson on concert someday, too. He’d probably have those Wondermints guys with him, and I have to say that I love them.
Now, here are some of my favourite Beach Boys albums. Surfer Girl (1963) was the second full BB album I ever listened to. This music really sounds very different from that extremely sophisticated pop that Brian Wilson created in the mid-60s, but I like it just as much. On the other hand, you can already hear all that tremendous beauty of Brian Wilson and the harmonies in songs like Surfer Girl.

The thing that makes The Beach Boys my favourite band is not just Pet Sounds. It’s the pure, bare, sincere joy that these songs and melodies contain, and of course Brian Wilson’s melancholy, too (check out The Surfer Moon and In My Room - let alone Don’t Worry Baby on Shut Down Vol. 2! (1964)). Surfer Girl is a solid album with great songs. Also, surf instrumentals always make me happy. I’ve actually started listening to some instrumental surf
bands/music, and I love that stuff. It’s energetic, happy and features guitars with metallic sounds (somehow this whole concept rings a bell…).
All Summer Long (1964) is another great album. I don’t think any of The Beach Boys’ 60s albums is bad, but some albums really are better that others. I Get Around, All Summer Long, Hushabye, and Wendy highlight the All Summer Long album. All the other songs are of course also good – apart from that one filler (Our Favorite Recording Sessions). It’s kinda weird how these amazing albums were basically always spiced up with that (humorous but) useless filler track… That was the policy of the record company. Well, those tracks actually make the great songs sound even better. Girls on the Beach, Do You Remember?, Little Honda.. This material is oh so very good.
The Beach Boys Today! and Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!!) (both 1965) are already showing some serious Pet Sounds vibes. Surf guitars are gone, and the music is seriously starting to sound like Phil Spector’s wall of sound. The b-side of Today! can even be seen equally as good as Pet Sounds, and it actually might be a bit more emotional and tender. Please Let Me Wonder, Kiss Me Baby, and those other songs.. Man! They will melt your heart (if they already haven’t).

Summer Days features some perfect pop pieces, too. Help Me, Rhonda appears in its chart-topping form. California Girls, Let Him Run Wild, the wonderful a cappella And Your Dreams Come True and my favourite You’re so Good to Me are just a couple of examples of the greatness of this album. Bonus track The Little Girl I Once Knew
that originally only appeared as a single is also a perfect song.

I haven’t really listened to much of Smiley Smile (1967). Instead, I’ve given some serious attention to Brian Wilson’s SMiLE (2004). That is good stuff, one could say… 1967’s Wild Honey is very good with its soulfulness. Wild Honey, Aren’t You Glad, I Was Made to Love Her, Country Air, and Darling are very good songs with nice arrangements and Carl Wilson starting to take more lead vocal responsibility in the band.
1968’s Friends is also a nice record, quite strange of The Beach Boys, actually.. (Smiley Smile is certainly even more bizarre, though). Friends, Wake the World, Be Here in the Mornin’, and When a Man Needs a Woman are charming little songs, and they’re also basically the last chance to hear Brian Wilson in his youthful vocal glory. 20/20 (1969) contains some pretty good tunes, too.

Sunflower (1970) is fab. There’s again lots of soul and it really fits The Boys. On this album the sound of the band has really changed: it’s not the 60s anymore. Dennis Wilson shows his talent on Slip on Through and Gotta Know the Woman. Deirdre, Add Some Music to Your Day, and Our Sweet Love are also awesome.
What is also great about The Beach Boys is that there still is lots of music to discover! The 70s stuff isn’t probably nearly as perfect as the stuff from 1963 to 1970, but there must be some real gems. Also, this story ends now. I will congratulate anyone who reads this whole writing. It’s too long, again..
The Beach Boys Official Website

Cars Magic

The Cars’ fifth album Heartbeat City (1984) has appeared to be much easier to get into than Panorama (1980) or Shake It up (1981). Those albums surely contain some awesome stuff, but at this moment I find Heartbeat City a bit more enjoyable.

Heartbeat City is a real 80s record with extremely loud drum sounds and lots of synthesizer. At first it is a bit tough with those drums. They’re so… big. But you’ll get used to them. And when you start listening to these tracks, you’ll forget the entire drums and focus on the great melodies and all the magic instead.

Heartbeat City is an impressive mixture of darkness and light. There are darker songs like Hello Again, Stranger Eyes, and It's Not the Night, and brighter songs like Looking for Love, Magic, and You Might Think. Finally, there’s Drive. (What should I say about that song...) Well, it surely is very good. On the other hand, it’s a bit sad that it’s the only Cars song people hear these days, because radios (at least in Finland) don’t seem to play any other songs from this amazing band. The Cars deserve to be treated better by Finnish radio.

All in all, this album is excellent. All songs are very good in every way. I especially enjoy Ric Ocasek’s quirky vocal style. On this album Ocasek’s vocals are even more delightful than on earlier Cars albums, I think. It’s pretty amazing how sweet and pretty it can get when singing in new wave style!

More Cars blabber will certainly come later (I think I’ll talk about something else for a change, too…).

The Cars at MySpace

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Hey, Show Some Love! You Ain’t so Tough!

British The Feeling really impressed me with their debut album Twelve Stops and Home (2006). I started listening to it for some reason.. I guess I wanted to check out some new pop that came out that year. A couple of listens later I was hooked and unable to stop listening to this beautiful pop piece that seemed to fit my summer and early autumn perfectly with its genuine happiness and melancholy. Something about the whole of this music sounded very familiar, but it wasn’t really power pop. It was 21st century soft rock.

These songs really are something! The extremely well produced and chirpy vocals on I Want You Now are irresistible. All in all, it’s an exceptionally happy and fresh song. The same is mostly true of Never Be Lonely and Fill My Little World. The latter is probably my favourite song from this album. You can’t go wrong with its happy and sad feel, and those extremely sweet vocals.

There’s basically nothing wrong with this album. All songs might not cause enormous bursts of euphoria, but there certainly are no fillers. Kettle’s on is charming, Anyone is beautifully melancholic, Strange continues being melancholic, and also deals with some good thoughts about not being ashamed of oneself. Same Old Stuff and Helicopter are awesome. In the end of the song, Helicopter turns into something complete different – sounds like Radiohead ’95, very good, I’d say! Blue Piccadilly ends the album perfectly. Sounds like Queen/Jellyfish (I’m not complaining, not at a

The new album (Join With Us, 2008) that recently came out also appears to be very good. The Feeling’s sound has become a bit bigger and warmer, and now includes violins. Those beautiful piano patterns take control in some songs, again. It’s also a very strong album: no particularly weak tracks on it. Without You was love at first hearing. The beautiful yearning for London is stunning and heartfelt. Dan Gillespie Sells is also a great singer with a friendly and warm voice.

The first single, I Thought It Was Over, is obviously great, and despite its disco beat it really sounds different from that 2000s “new wave” disco pop. At this moment, some of my other favourite songs include Turn It Up, and Won't Go Away.

The Feeling has been very successful. The first album peaked at #2 and Join with Us was already #1. Their music has obviously got some serious airplay (in 2006, their songs were played in the UK radios once in every five minutes!). Good for them, it’s always nice when hard work is rewarded.

The Feeling official Website

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Cars Rule

I have barely listened to anything else but The Cars during the past week. I love that stuff. Their music videos are also cool (some of them totally hilarious!), so I’ve spent some quality time on YouTube, too.

As a power pop fan I’ve naturally focused first on The Cars’ early records. The debut album (The Cars, 1978) is awesome. My Best Friend's Girl, Good Times Roll, You're All I've Got Tonight, Bye Bye Love – it’s impossible to dislike these songs. Just What I Needed is also one of the greatest songs ever. This material is mostly basic power pop: nothing too complicated, excellent songs and melodies, solid singing and playing.

Moving in Stereo is a very interesting, yet catchy song with Benjamin Orr utilizing his low vocals nicely. Songwriter Ric Ocasek also provides several songs with his quirky but extremely enjoyable vocals. Greg Hawkes’s synth lines and Elliot Easton’s solo guitar work decorate the album. Then there are of course those huge Queen-like harmonies that producer Roy Thomas Baker (who had actually produced several albums for Queen) wanted to be added to the album. Those harmonies are of course great. Seriously, who doesn’t like layered multipart harmonies? (Yeah, ok, some people.. Maybe.)

This self-titled debut album is pretty much as good as everyone claims it to be. Still, I’m not really sure if it actually is The Cars’ best. For some reason, I seem to love their second album Candy-O (1979) even more than its predecessor. Maybe that’s because Candy-O contains a bit more emotion-appealing songs, and it’s also weirder as an album. (Nice cover art, btw...)

The opening track of Candy-O is Let’s Go, a nice party song with handclaps. Then comes Since I Held You, a song whose chorus reminds me of The Flamin’ Groovies. It’s a very nice and beautiful song. All I Can Do is also very lovely. Double Life, Got a Lot on My Head (that nearly sounds like an unnoticed power pop classic), and Dangerous Type are also very good songs.

Shoo Be Doo is something very strange that appears in the middle of the album. It’s a very short song, and it sounds like Joy Division or something like that (JD’s awesome, btw!). Shoo Be Doo’s weird, but I like it. Title track follows it, sounding excellent. In that song and Night Spots this album really begins to show some darker feel. I haven’t really thought about it before, but yeah, Candy-O is darker than The Cars’ first album. Great albums, both of them!

Also, I have to say that I’m totally fond of the Complete Greatest Hits CD. I don’t tend to like greatest hits albums, but this is an exception. All 20 songs on it are perfect. I would replace one or two songs with some others but it’s not such a big thing. It’s a nice feeling when you can’t stop listening to the album until the final track, the wonderful You Are the Girl.

My next assignment: listen to the rest of The Cars’ albums. I’ve already listened to Heartbeat City (1984), but I’ll discuss that later. This post is already too long..

The Cars at MySpace

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

My First Video Post!

It surely is an attractive one... I really wanted to check this video thing, so I thought it'd be nice to try it out with The Cars. This is The Cars performing at Live Aid in 1985 in front of like 2 billion people (or something). I really don't think any power pop classic song has ever been performed in front of a bigger audience than this (or has it?).

Just What I Needed is an amazing song. I'm completely into The Cars at the moment. They were a wonderful pop band.

It's good to see you again too, Ben...

Monday, March 10, 2008

Picture This

One of my recent new wave-related musical interests is Blondie. The reason why I originally started listening to Parallel Lines (1978) was that I felt the urge to listen to some famous classic pop (not always those wonderful and mind-blowing indie powerpop bands that no one has ever heard of…).

The album starts with a wonderful version of The NervesHanging on the Telephone. The rest of the album is equally good. It’s easy to love albums like this: excellent songs from beginning to end, great vocals and playing, beautiful melodies, and some nice powerpop kick-ass feel. Many people would probably regard this music as some sort of punk, but it’s only because they haven’t been introduced to the wonderful concept of power pop... Parallel Lines is power pop (and new wave).

This album is filled with great new wave-style keyboards that I’ve recently learned to love even more than before. Debbie Harry is also one singer master. He sings everything exactly how it’s meant to be sung. She always impresses me with her vocals - be it mysterious like Fade Away and Radiate, extremely beautiful like Pretty Baby, impish like One Way or Another, or just happy and cheerful like I'm Gonna Love You Too.

Other songs worth mentioning are 11:59 that features an amazing organ solo, Picture This that is again very pretty, and the disco classic Heart Of Glass that matches surprisingly good with these new wave power pop tunes.

And, again, I have no idea what Blondie’s other albums are like because I haven’t listened to them yet. I’ll do that when I have time (and when I’ve finished listening to those 100 billion other bands I intend to check out…) On the other hand, everyone seems to think Parallel Lines is Blondie’s best album, and I would say that it really seems good enough to be like any band’s best album.

Blondie on MySpace

Sunday, March 9, 2008

More Awesome Stuff from Tim Boykin

[While incessantly listening to The Cars, I surprisingly find myself being able to concentrate on some other music, too. Temporarily, that is…]

Tim Boykin rocks. He knows what great bubblegummy pop should sound like. That is beautiful melodies, loud and jangly guitars, huge harmonies, extremely fresh and chirpy vocals - exactly what we find on The Lolas’ 2004 album Something You Oughta Know.

There are many excellent tracks on this album. I can’t help loving songs like Dana the Chromium Girl, Plenty of Dogs, and It’s You I Want. On Little Deedra Timmeh & The Lolas totally sound like Silver Sun, a British band whose debut album is one of my all-time favourites. Light Up Every Doorway and Something You Oughta Know are oh so pretty. Tim’s Mom is also awesome. Can’t hear what Tim is actually singing, but I guess it isn’t necessary. Listening comprehension is the worst section in my English skills.

Something You Oughta Know contains 15 tracks. Usually that is too much, because albums with more that 10-12 tracks and not a single redundant one are very rare. Unfortunately, this album isn’t one of those perfect creations. There are some tracks that don’t seem to be so very good. But, as always, should we care about the bad sides when we have those amazingly fresh and perfect other songs? We probably should. Please, dear pop songwriters, no more fillers/weaker songs!

Hmm.. I really don’t think we should be so strict. In fact, the whole concept of favourite songs leads us to find certain songs less good than some other songs. If you like a specific song more than some other, you will probably think that the latter is.. not as good as your favourite. Then, those songs that you think aren’t so good might be considered very good by somebody else (who loves them). Man, this is difficult! And I’ve been dreaming about becoming a rock/pop critic…

Maybe I’ll just continue listening to The Cars. That is pure heaven… (until the weaker tracks come – fortunately, I haven’t found many of those yet!)

The Lolas website

Saturday, March 8, 2008

This Is Pop

Recently, I’ve started to become very interested in new wave music of the 70s and 80s – again. This same thing happened about two years ago and made me do some research about this amazing stuff and listen to some bands. Now I feel it’s even bigger than then. I feel the urge to listen to many, many bands. Unfortunately, I have to do other things, too, and therefore I can’t listen to music 24/7. Damn!

One of my very first new wave interests was the great British XTC. I listened to Fossil Fuel - The Singles 1977-92 and was quite puzzled at first. Slowly, I started noticing that these songs are actually great fun! I believe this was the big new wave breakthrough for me. I learned to see the beauty of Andy Partridge’s peculiar vocal style, those ultra fast-paced (and bouncy!) rhythms and various weird keyboard/synth lines, and that was it. I had fallen in love with XTC.

XTC’s early singles are hilarious! Science Friction, Statue of Liberty, Are You Receving Me?, and of course the new wave pop anthem This Is Pop are all perfect. Then, I also listened to XTC’s first album White Music (1978) and found more crazy stuff there, like I’ll Set Myself on Fire, a song that seems to be about... setting oneself on fire. Generally, XTC’s early music is labelled as punk, which I find a bit strange. It surely has some punk qualities, but I believe it’s still much weirder than Ramones and stuff. Punk, new wave, punk/new wave – who can really tell what music is what?

Then, I learned that XTC had also created some very much more traditional pop. I found Skylarking (1986), one of the greatest pop albums ever. Here, XTC’s music has basically turned into power pop. Produced by Todd Rundgren, Skylarking is a really wonderful album that combines traditional pop songwriting with some exciting and fresh arrangements. Basically, this album is a collection of songs of excellent quality. Grass, The Meeting Place, That's Really Super Supergirl, Ballet for a Rainy Day, Season Cycle, Earn Enough for Us – they’re all wonderful! In the end of the album you’ll also find several interesting tracks such as The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul, and of course Dear God, which was some sort of a hit in the 80s.

My knowledge of XTC surely is very limited, because I still have most of their albums unlistened. I think I’ll take advantage of this new wave affection that I have. Anyway, XTC is a huge influence in pop music. XTC’s influence can be heard in 90s and 00s power pop, for instance.

XTC on MySpace

Friday, March 7, 2008

Just What I Needed

This music truly is something I happily welcome. During the past few days, I’ve been listening to The Cars, and the number of songs I like just keeps increasing. Just What I Needed is really one of the greatest songs I’ve heard in a long time. There’s some amazing melodic quality there..

As a great new wave band The Cars scored some pretty big hits, like Drive (btw, I found out like yesterday that it’s a Cars song… Had heard it a million times on the radio but never knew whose song it was.) The Cars were a group of great musicians and they had two lead singers, Ric Ocasek and Benjamin Orr. Ric is a familiar name, credited as producer on some of my favourite albums, like Weezer’s Blue Album. Ben, on the other hand, is something completely new and exciting for me. Although he isn’t among us anymore, he can be seen performing on many Cars videos on YouTube, and well, that guy had some good charisma..

This may not be the easiest kind of music to listen to, although The Cars’ early music has some real power pop qualities. Their later stuff sounds very good, too, ‘cause I’m generally very interested in 80’s new wave synth-pop/rock. Now I really want to dig deeper into this music.

The Cars at MySpace

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Rocking Spangles is a great place for nice music tips. I spotted this album there on the forum and thought I could use some more rocking stuff. Nowadays, I stick to my dear power pop most of the time, so anything great and different is always welcome. Now, I’ve been listening to The Star SpanglesDirty Bomb (2007) for a couple of weeks and I think it’s awesome music.

To be honest, this album isn’t really very different from power pop… I think it actually is power pop most of the time. At some points it surely is rock instead of pop, but that’s a really good thing. I like music with loud, rocking sounds and rocking feel, so it really doesn’t have to be so powerpoppy all the time...

Melodic rock with excellent songs and sounds, solid instrumentation and nice vocals, music that is quite easy to listen to right from the start.. That’s all it takes to thrill me (and I don’t think it actually is that easy…). The Spangles present some very good songwriting on this album. My favourites include e.g. Make Yourself Useful Babe, Gangland, and I’m on a High. Tell Lies is a really entertaining Beatles-meets-Ramones song. This Side of the Sun is fabulous with its wonderfully easy-going beat. For me, that song has already become some sort of a summery anthem. Someone in You is a great ending to the album.

This is so great music. I really wouldn’t mind finding more bands with music that is this good. will probably help me with this a bit… That’s cool.

The Star Spangles at MySpace