Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Top Ten Records Of 2014

It's mid-december, the nights getting longer, days shorter - so it's time to finish the year 2014 (musically).
It was an incredible year with stunning new music! Here they are - my Top Ten Records of 2014:

1. Dan Wilson - Love Without Fear


Love Without Fear has become an outstanding record with a strong collection of songs.
It starts with the title track Love Without Fear: beautiful harmonies and lyrics create an optimistic, catchy opener which draws the listeners attention to what may come next...
... and you won't be disappointed: songs like However LongDisappearWe Belong Together, When It Pleases You are mature work and perfect musical handcraft. 
The record closes with the amazing Even The Stars Are Sleeping (maybe my personal highlight of the record).
For me the most amazing aspect about this album is the awareness of having a honest piece of work which carries true emotions.


2. Jeremy Messersmith - Heart Murmurs


The singer-songwriter Jeremy Messersmith from Minneapolis has maybe created his masterpiece with his fourth album: Heart Murmurs. While his last record - The Reluctant Graveyard - was centered on death, Heart Murmurs is about love - with all its perspectives, such as addiction, self-laceration and desire.
If you like smart music, an incredible voice, and a record that has all the indication of being an instant classic, you'll be right with Heart Murmurs.




3. Vacationer - Relief

If you're still looking for the perfect summer-record, I think I can help you there: Vacationer - a group from Philadelphia - just released their second album ReliefVacationer are Kenny Vasoli, Matthew Young and Grant Wheeler.


Relief is not just the title of the record - it's the record's proposition.
From start to finish the album is the musical image of vacation, palm trees, wide sand beach and blue sky (the cover fits quite well).
Vasoli says: “Whether through love, exploration or relaxing, we all strive for relief. It’s just a quick flip-of-the-switch away, and think it’s good to be reminded of that.

Make sure you listen to: Onward & Upward, The Wild Life, Paradise Waiting, In The Grass and Heavenly




Official website: vacationermusic.com

4. The Cry! - Dangerous Game

The second studio album by The Cry! is called Dangerous Game. With upbeat songs full of pure energy, catchy guitar riffs and harmonies The Cry! are a reminiscence to the 50s, 60s and 70s. But they are surely more than that! You'll instantly recognize their influences like The Beach Boys, Exploding Hearts and The Sweet. The band brings back Rock'n'Roll, Power Pop, Glam and Punk, which makes them timeless.


Dangeous Game are 10 tracks - and 28 minutes of pure musical fun and Rock'n'Roll.



5. OK Go - Hungry Ghosts



The new record of OK Go - called Hungry Ghosts - was one of the most successful crowdfunding campaigns in 2014. And it was worth it for sure - just listen to the songs or better - watch their stunning videos: 


6. Ryan Adams - Ryan Adams (2014)

Three years after his last record Ashes and FireRyan Adams is back. The new record is simply called Ryan Adams. The album was produced by Adams himself and Mike Viola at his own Pax Am Studios in Los Angeles.


7. Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness

Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness is the debut record of Andrew McMahon's same titled band.

Andrew McMahon is a singer-songwriter and pianist known from bands like  Something Corporate and Jack's Mannequin. In 2013 he released his first solo EP - The Pop Underground.
The album was partially produced and co-written by Mike Viola.
Do yourself a favor and listen to his music NOW!



Listen to the first and second single "Cecilia and the Satellite" and "High Dive" here:



8. Sunday Sun - We Let Go

The new record of Sunday Sun - and after three EPs this is their first full album - is called 'We Let Go'. And it's at least as good as their EP 1 - 3, which may be the best compliment you can pay to them.



The first single will be I Call You Honey:



Order on iTunes: http://bit.ly/SundayiTunes

9. Jeremy Fisher - Lemon Squeeze

Jeremy Fisher is back with Lemon Squeeze. It's available at www.jeremyfishermusic.com (digital, CD, Vinyl).
  


10. She & Him – Classics

The fifth album of Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward consist of classic songs. The arrangements on Classics are handled by a full 20-piece orchestra.  


Deschanel explains: “We are incredibly excited to release a record of our favorite songs. It was a dream of ours to record these songs in a way that highlighted the brilliance of the songwriting and the beauty of their melodies. We had a wonderful time making the record and we hope people have a wonderful time listening to it.” 




Honorable mention:

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty OST


There are very few movie soundtracks that are so different, inspiring and outstanding to outlast the popularity of its movie - the soundtracks of Magnolia or American Beauty are two perfect examples for this.
All of a sudden The Secret Life of Walter Mitty OST happened to me. And it stuck since then.


Side A (yes, on vinyl) opens with the epic Step Out by José González to Dirty Praws (Of Monsters And Men) and Stay Alive(José González) - it left me breathless.



Side B continues without deceleration with two songs from Junip (Far Away and Don't Let It Pass) and the beautiful dreamy Lake Michigan by Rogue Wave. On Side C and D you'll find the gorgeous Rogue Valley with The Wolves & The Ravens but the second half of the record is dominated by cover versions: Escape (The Pina Colada Song) by Jack JohnsonDon't You Want Me by Bahamas, José González with #9 Dream and Space Oddity (it's the original David Bowie song except the first verse which has Kristen Wiig at vocals). A very different version of Maneater (by Grace Mitchell) closes the record.

By the way, if you didn't watch The Secret Life of Walter Mitty yet you should do it, just because the movie is equally good as the soundtrack. It's just an amazing experience.

  


Here Comes The Reign Again: The Second British Invasion

If you have a look at the right side of this blog, you'll find a complete index of artists I wrote about in the last four years. A great deal of these musicians came together on Here Comes The Reign Again: The Second British Invasion. I am lost for words... 



...well, not completely: Here Comes The Reign Again is a compilation by Andrew Curry. It's his second project, his first was Drink a Toast to InnocenceFind all information and updates also at the Facebook page of Here Comes The Reign Again.

Involved artist are: Mike Viola (Everybody Wants To Rule The World), David Mead (Save A Prayer),  Bleu (Don’t You (Forget About Me)), The Nines (Life’s What You Make It), Eric Barao (Tainted Love), Taylor Locke (Dancing With Myself), Cliff Hillis (Wouldn’t It Be Good), Chris Collingwood (Life In A Northern Town), Rachael Yamagata (Do You Really Want To Hurt Me), Kelly Jones (Something About You), Linus Of Hollywood (Every Time You Go Away), Ken Stringfellow (Digging Your Scene), Chris Price (Don't You Want Me), The Corner Laughers (Our House), Big-Box Store (Kids In America), An American Underdog (Things Can Only Get Better) - and many more!

Tinker Bell and the Legend of the Neverbeast OST


"Tinker Bell and the Legend of the Neverbeast" is the new full length Disney movie out in early 2015. The soundtrack features music from KT Tunstall and Bleu.
"Float" (written by Bleu, sung by KT Tunstall), "Strange Sight" (sung by KT Tunstall) and "1000 Years" (a duet by KT Tunstall and Bleu!) are three damn fine songs.  Especially the latter is Bleu at the top of his game.
Listen (and buy) the soundtrack at iTunes:

   

Ransom & The Subset - No Time to Lose

Ransom and the Subset is an American alternative rock band based in Seattle, Washington.
Ransom and the Subset is the brainchild of singer/songwriter/guitarist RanDair Porter. Along with producer/multi-instrumentalist Brian E. King (OranJuly and Parks) and Grammy-winning engineer/mixer Ducky Carlisle (Mike Viola, Bleu, Major Labels, Taylor Locke and the Roughs) the team collaborated to create Ransom and the Subset’s debut album No Time to Lose


Ransom and the Subset is one of the most interesting new discoveries in 2014 (just listen to "Anna" and "Million Out Of Me").

www.ransomandthesubset.com

Tinker Bell and the Legend of the Neverbeast Soundtrack (KT Tunstall, Bleu)

"Tinker Bell and the Legend of the Neverbeast" is the new full length Disney movie out in early 2015. It is about the relationship that develops between Fawn, a compassionate animal fairy who thinks with her heart, and Gruff, a massive beast with glowing green eyes who seems to be on a mission.

The soundtrack may be of interest for the longtime PowerPopSquare reader - it features music from KT Tunstall and Bleu.

"Float" (written by Bleu, sung by KT Tunstall), "Strange Sight" (sung by KT Tunstall) and "1000 Years" (a duet by KT Tunstall and Bleu! ... wait ... !!!) are three damn fine songs. 
Especially the latter is Bleu at the top of his game.

Listen (and buy) the soundtrack at iTunes:

   

Thursday, December 4, 2014

PowerPopSquare Christmas (2014 Edition)

It's only a few days until Christmas Eve - here is my Mix Tape for Xmas 2014 - hope you like it:

 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Adam Levy & The Honeydogs - PPS Mixtape

Here's a mixtape - a kind of introduction to Adam Levy & The Honeydogs.
I hope you enjoy it.

PS: Thanks to Bleu McAuley for inviting me to Adam Levy's music. It needed a whole year to accept his advice, but finally it worked out very well.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Honeydogs

If you'd ask me who is responsible for the biggest surprise or musical impact on me in the recent months it would surely be The Honeydogs.
A lot of people highly recommended them over the last few years - but until a few weeks ago I didn't really look into their musical works. It was such a revelation when I finally did!


The Honeydogs is a band from Minnesota led by singer-songwriter Adam Levy (vocals, guitars, piano, keyboards) along with Trent Norton (bass, vocals), Brian Halverson (guitars, vocals), Peter J. Sands (piano, keyboards, organ), Peter Anderson (drums, vocals, percussion) and producer John Fields.

If you don't know where to start just listen to both of the records below (10.000 Years and Amygdala), or just to the following songs: Damascus Way,  Too Close to the Sun, Test Tube Kid, Ms. Ketchup and the Arsonist, 23rd Chromosome, Blues For Castro, Devil's Advocate, Last War Lullaby

To describe the music or genre of The Honeydogs is just an impossible task: From Indie-Pop to Jazz, from Swing to The Beatles influence, from Elivs Costello to Ben Folds. There is absolutely no way to class The Honeydogs in any musical genre!
Maybe a review from Paste Magazine (for 10.000 Years) may help here:
"A brave, important, utterly unprecedented album...as seductive musically as it is conceptually radical."
You'll find musicians at the top of their game with musically and lyrically the best songwriting far and wide.

Discography:
1995 The Honeydogs
1996 Everything, I Bet You
1997 Seen a Ghost
2000 Here's Luck
2001 Island of Misfits
2003 10.000 Years
2006 Amygdala
2008 Can't Feel the Beating
2009 Sunshine Committee
2010 Chasing the Sun: The Best of The Honeydogs 
2012 What Comes After



Buy all the music directly from the band (digital, CD) at bandcamp HERE.

Gregg Alexander // New Radicals // Cessyl Orchestra (Begin Again OST)

Do you know this intro?


Sure You do. The song ("You Get What You Give") is by a band called New Radicals. They had one hit album - Maybe You've Been Brainwashed Too. So why bother about a one hit wonder?

Mainly because of the man behind all: Gregg Alexander - an American singer-songwriter.
His first album (Michigan Rain) was recorded in 1989 when he was 18, followed by a second record (Intoxifornication) in 1992. Both records were quite unsuccessful. Most artists would stop their career after that - for Gregg Alexander something different happened...


... Six years later he created the New Radicals. The band had no permanent member other than himself and Danielle Brisebois.
The album (Maybe You've Been Brainwashed Too) and the single (You Get What You Give) where both international smash hits.

 
But soon he became tired of the musical fame: "Traveling and getting three hours sleep in a different hotel every night to do boring 'hanging and schmoozing' with radio and retail people is definitely not for me", he said - and stopped the project in a moment by emergency braking.

In the following years he had international success by writing plenty of worldwide hit songs for Santana ("Game Of Love"), Boyzone, Ronan Keating ("Life Is a Rollercoaster"), Sophie-Ellis Bextor ("Murder on the Dancefloor"), Rod Stewart ("I Can't Deny It"), Texas ("Inner Smile"), INXS, Hanson, Enrique Iglesias, Geri Halliwell, Melanie C, and ex-New Radical Danielle Brisebois.
The Game Of Love even won a Grammy.

A handful of demos appeared in the recent years in the World Wide Web. Some of them are either outtakes from Maybe You've Been Brainwashed Too or from the never happened second New Radicals album. Others may be demos for other artists. All of them are sung by Gregg Alexander.

Here's a list of the songs:

- A Love Like That (Outtake from Maybe You've Been Brainwashed Too)
- Come Be My Baby
- My Heart Can't Change
- Blown Away
- Speaking My Language
- My One Thing Is Real
- You're Beautiful
- Inner Child (released by Texas)
- The Game Of Love (released by Santana



You can listen to all of them on Youtube (or just post a comment with your Email down below). It's still not clear how they did surface.

Gregg Alexander fell of the face of the earth again and then reappeared in 2014.
John Carney (writer, director and musician who is known for the Oscar winning movie Once) called him because he wanted him for the soundtrack of his new movie - Begin Again.
Everything just came together and as a result the OST was mainly written by him. Artists like Keira Knightley, Adam Levine and CeeLo Green performed his songs. On the soundtrack you'll also find a group called Cessyl Orchestra - which is no other than Gregg himself (on vocals). I highly recommend the movie and soundtrack (listen to Lost Stars!).

In October 2014 he gave his first interview in 15 years (!) to Scott Feinberg - read it at hollywoodreporter.com.

After that Gregg Alexander disappeared again - but I'm sure it was not the last time we will hear from him.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

PowerPop - Blogs and Websites

I think it's time to give you an overview of all the great other blogs and websites out there about PowerPop.

TooPoppy

TooPoppy is the most important blog for news and musical discovery for me. I'm following TooPoppy for many many years now. And that's mainly because of the well written and straight to the point articles and the fine selection of artists. 

Starting from news of everything related to The Beatles, onwards to IndiePop (Nada Surf, Del Amitri, Guster) and a whole lot of PowerPop (Mike Viola, Jellyfish, Bleu).

Well, that's exactly my taste of good music! Way to go!

PopFair

PopFair is THE number one source for live recordings and compilations of rare or unreleased stuff from the best PowerPop artists out there (e.g. Jim Boggia, Adam Levy, Mike Viola, David Myhr, Pugwash). 
And then there is also a damn fine year-end top 25 list every year.

Hooks and Harmony

Another favorite of mine is Hooks and Harmony - the site is filled with fascinating album and concert reviews, various interviews and plenty of news.
Another entertaining part of the site are articles about the status quo of the music industry - funny and sad at once.

Powerpopaholic

Aaron Kupferberg fills the superb blog frequently with news, interviews, reviews. It's always a good place to discover some new tunes and bands!

Lojinx

Lojinx is not a blog, but the best IndiePop label (from London) since NotLame, I might say it's probably even better! I'd guess that at least a half of the artists I write about can be found at Lojinx!

PowerPop Overdose

PowerPop Overdose is always another good source for news and music discoveries. Good stuff!

Absolute PowerPop

Steve Ferra - the writer of Absolute PowerPop - fills the blog constantly with well-written reviews and news!

CD Baby
www.cdbaby.com

If you're looking for the best independent or pop music store on the web - look out for CD Baby
It's not only the shop with the widest choice of artists - CD Baby can be credited to be the shop with the most enthusiastic shipping confirmation E-Mail EVER!

An excerpt:
(...) our world-renowned packing specialist lit a local artisan candle and a hush fell over the crowd as he put your CD into the finest gold-lined box that money can buy. We all had a wonderful celebration afterwards and the whole party marched down the street to the post office where the entire town of Portland waved "Bon Voyage!" (...)

Well... and that's only a small part of the E-Mail...

Friday, October 3, 2014

Sunday Sun - We Let Go

The new record of Sunday Sun - and after three EPs their first full album - is called 'We Let Go'. It will be available on CD and Vinyl from the 17th of November, 2014.


The first single will be I Call You Honey:


Pre-order on iTunes: http://bit.ly/SundayiTunes

Sunday, September 28, 2014

+ + + New Records - September 2014 + + +

Weezer - Everything Will Be Alright In the End 

I was never a big Weezer fan (shame on me) - but the new record "Everything Will Be Alright In the End" sounds very promising. Cleopatra is the first single - listen here:


The record will be out October 3, 2014.

Minnie Driver - Ask Me To Dance 

The third album of Minnie Driver - which is well-known as an actress, but not as much as musician is a collection of cover songs. The lead single is Waltz #2 from Elliott Smith, which is (depending on your point of view) either courageous or very risky. Well, I like the result.


Ask Me To Dance will be out October 7, 2014.

Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness

I mentioned Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness before - it's definitely a record to look forward to.


Street date: October 10, 2014.

Queen - Queen Forever

Again, I wrote about the record before:

Queen Forever is just a compilation - but a compilation with three new Queen songs.
The first full new Queen song with Freddie Mercury on vocals since Made in Heaven from 1995 (!) called "Let Me In Your Heart Again" is from The Works era (which was circa 1984).


Street date: October 11, 2014

Herbert Grönemeyer - Dauernd jetzt

A German artist in here? And he sings in German?
Well, maybe you should give Herbert Grönemeyer a chance - since he recorded Mensch, the best-selling German album of all time (about 4 million copies). In the past 30 years every record of him was number one in Germany.

His 14th (!) record Dauernd Jetzt will be out October 21, 2014

Two of his most famous songs are here:




Taylor Locke - Time Stands Still

Taylor Locke, known from Rooney and Taylor Locke & The Roughs is working on his first straight solo record. It will be called Time Stands Still


Songs that were already streamed at soundcloud for a limited time are Time Stands Still, No Dice, Running Away From Love and Call Me Kuchu.



Release: 2014

She & Him - Classics 

The fifth album of Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward will consist of “carefully-selected, timeless standards”.
Most of the arrangements on Classics are handled by a full 20-piece orchestra.  

Deschanel explains: “We are incredibly excited to release a record of our favorite songs. It was a dream of ours to record these songs in a way that highlighted the brilliance of the songwriting and the beauty of their melodies. We had a wonderful time making the record and we hope people have a wonderful time listening to it.


Release: Autumn 2014

Guster  - TBA

Another crowd funding campaign is on: the new record of Guster. Read all about it HERE!
The first song is called "Long Night":



Release: January 2015 
 
Ron Sexsmith  - TBA


There's still no real info - just a release date: February 2015 

Cliff Hillis - Song Machine EP

Cliff Hillis has become one of the most interesting artists in indie-pop in the recent years.
Following his stunning record "Dream Good" from 2012 his new EP "Song Machine" is out now (on vinyl, CD and digital).


The EP is and extremely strong collection of songs:
Song Machines opens with Dashboard, whose increasing intensity impresses.
Just One More and Hang On To The Moment are a more laid back tracks with a haunting melody.
Tonight is my personal highlight (if you can choose one song from the record - which is really hard).
Could You Be The Enemy is pure classic Power-Pop - perfect from start to end.
The final track (Goodnight Sunlight) could have been a good Fab Four single - sounds like flattery but fits quite well.

Listen to all 7 songs here:



I also clearly recommend his fabulous cover songs on the records Drink Toast to Innocence: Tribute Lite Rock (Shake It) and Here Comes The Reign Again (Wouldn't It Be Good).