Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Crazy About Secret Powers

I am currently feeling a bit intoxicated because of Secret Powers. In order to become really special to someone a band/artist must have the ability to attract a person to listen to the same music all over again and go back to the old songs after exploring other types of music. Secret Powers does all that and more.

It is no coincidence that I am once again very much drawn to a band labelled as power pop by both the band and the power pop blog community. Most of my all time favorite bands have had an essentially similar approach to music.

Jangly, bouncy, rocking guitar pop, power pop, Not Lame pop... Something that may not be the most innovative music but year after year on gives homage to some of the most cherished melodic pop-rock music of the past decades. Sometimes power pop assimilates features from the current best-selling pop music but power pop is always at its best when it is not trying to develop into anything that doesn't do justice to its guitar-laden, hook-filled, happy/sad mid-tempo magic.

Call it what you like! I call it melodic, bouncy, catchy, sentimental Beatles-influenced non-hipster pop-rock. Or briefly: power pop.

My first contact to Secret Powers occurred only about a year ago. Their second album had gained attention in several blogs that I happened to read at the time when the album came out. It took me a while to find time to check it out. Soon after listening to that album I ended up buying all of the band's albums. I still think there is something strangely magical about the 2nd album (Secret Powers and the Electric Family Choir, 2009) which could mean it is the best Secret Powers album. All Secret Powers albums are equally good but I would say that the 2nd album has an even more special feel to it than the other albums.

Now I find it strange that I wasn't totally convinced about Lies and Fairy Tales (Secret Powers 3rd, 2010) at first. Now I don't seem to have those thoughts anymore. Lies and Fairy Tales has revealed all of its beauty. I am currently drooling over it while waiting for the new 2012 album to arrive.

So, what is great about Lies and Fairy Tales? Ryan ”Shmed(ly)” Maynes, as always, gives us many great songs including Tangerine, Cows, Cracks on the Wall, Opening Band and others. Troy Warling, John Fleming, and Dan Strachan have also taken part in the songwriting. It seems that the other members become more activate little by little which is of course great. Multivoiced songwriting can be a huge asset.

A closer look at Secret Powers music always reveals something added there to make it more interesting as a whole. Something unexpected is very likely to happen in a Secret Powers song. Often that unexpected thing is a cool instrumental solo, a tempo change or, for instance, a lovely part of harmonic oohs and aahs. It could also be a magnificent bridge melody (check out Riding the Shark).

It is stange that you may not even pay much attention to those cool parts even though they are most definitely one of the things that sets Secret Powers apart from your average pop band. These carefully constructed parts spice up the songs and give them new dimensions. Therefore the songs always sound like they were created by people who have vision, style and courage to try new things. Just listen to pretty much any Secret Powers songs and you will hear samples of this creativity. Here are a few examples: the baroque piano solo and the following vocals in Cows, the ”explosion” in Cracks in the Wall, the enormous guitar solo at the end of The Lie, or the very Styx-like part starting at around 2 minutes in Just Might.

I'm So in Love is definitely one of my favourites on the album. The title reveals quite a bit about the song, and I would go as far as to describe the mood ecstatic. The vocal sound reminds a lot of Teenage Fanclub. Don't forget to pay attention to the very nice instrumental bridge.

Ryan Farley's Feels so Good comes with big energy while Troy Warling's New Skin is more peaceful and acoustic. To me, Miss Lonely (also by Warling) might be the most memorable song here. The song indeed is a cradle of peaceful melancholy and harmony and I often find myself enjoying the magical interplay between the drum beat, rhytmic details and the song itself. I think Warling sounds a lot like Glenn Tillbrook which is obviously awesome!

As I said, I am waiting for the new album More Songs About Her to arrive in a couple of days. There is a sampler of the album at Also check out four songs from Lies and Fairy Tales at the band's MySpace.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

A Very Good, Good, Good, Good Thing

Being swept away by politics (can you imagine...) and the current Finnish presidential election campaign has occupied a lot of my time lately. Still, I have found the time to listen to some really great stuff.

Currently I have been very excited about Paul Revere & the Raiders, a band I didn't know anything about until I heard the Wondermints cover version of Louise quite a few years ago. I never got round to checking out the original performer's music although I did listen to the original version many times. A breakthrough occured when I found out about a great new Paul Revere & the Raiders compilation CD called Hungry for Kicks: Singles & Choice Cuts 1965-69 and I decided to take a step forward.

It didn't take long for the band to thoroughly convince me. This compilation is a manifestation of superb 60s pop and ass-kicking soul'n roll: catchy songs, often representing pure bubblegum (with soul) or psychedelic pop and rock. It comes as no surprise that Paul Revere & the Raiders were highly successful and scored numerous hit singles in the latter half of the 1960s.

Some of the most distinctly bubblegum-styled songs include Hungry, Let Me, Cinderella Sunshine, Don't Take It So Hard, and Mr Sun, Mr. Moon. I always find it amazing how many familiar, cherished elements I hear in these songs, having previously gotten to know such fantastic things such as Ohio Express, the Archies, and many soft rock baroque gems. Make good 60s-style bubblegum/baroque music and you are pretty much automatically one of my favorites! There are also moments when the Raiders sound exactly like the Monkees. A great version of I'm Not Your Stepping Stone supports this view.

There is also a good bunch of soul to be heard: Stepping Out, Peace of Mind, and We Gotta All Get Together. The psychedelic side contains such gems as I Had a Dream, Good Thing, Why? Why? Why? (Is It So Hard), The Great Airplane Strike, not to mention Observation From Flight 285 (In 3/4 Time) which is awesome, just awesome!

Generally speaking I can't describe how happy I am to once again discover such awesome music. This compilation by Paul Revere & the Raiders makes me feel like life is a party and every nice person in the world is invited to dance, dance, dance (gotta love that hilarious Beach Boys pastiche Action!).

Lastly, here is a quote from We Gotta All Get Together that might even reveal something about my political views. Enjoy!

This world ain't got no room for narrow-minded people
Now you'd better get ready 'cause a change is about to come!