Back in the eighties my day off usually involved doing a circuit of downtown Vancouver record stores, new and used. Ah, the excitement of new finds! Fast forward to the new millennium and the blogs on my blogroll have largely replaced physical record stores as the places to discover great new tunes. Their year-end, best-of lists are particularly helpful in filling in any great artists I’ve missed (and I miss a lot!). This year I got a lot of great tips from one of the leading powerpop blogs: Absolute Powerpop. He’s not the most prolific blogger – posts tend to come in quarterly installments these days – but what goes up is pretty pure on the quality side of things. Thus today’s tribute, my Absolute Poprock distillation of his site’s influence.
Dutch band Afterpartees have an easygoing, almost slacker rock and roll sound evident on songs like “Call Out Your Name” with it’s addictive background lead line but they can also turn on a more urgent and uptempo rock vibe as showcased on “Ultimate Warriers.” But I think like “Easy Money” from the Life is Easy album best with its swinging sense of fun. Shifting to the UK Amoeba Teen have been at it a long, long time, and it shows in the quality songcraft featured on the compilation album, Selection Box Vol. 1. So much to love here but I’m grooving pretty hard on “Under Your Skin” with its dreamy Teenage Fanclub aura. Over now to the American west coast where Van William melds that warm California sound with some Alaskan cool (being a native of both locales) nicely captured on his wonderful duet with Sweden’s First Aid Kit, “Revolution.” But it’s also there on the more folky “Cosmic Sign,” a song I initially mistook for a new Family of the Year single, it’s so reminiscent of that band’s signature crisp acoustic guitar and lush vocal harmonies. Back to the UK with Alfa 9, a band that won’t be rushed. They seem to put out a new album every 6 years. But if last year’s My Sweet Movida is anything to go by, they are more than worth the wait. I love the almost title track “Movida” with it’s strong Ennio Morricone-isms, i.e. a strong western electric guitar twang and that moody whistling. But the standout single has to be the Byrdsian “Different Corner” with it’s killer jangle and harmony vocal-stoked hooks.
Alfa 9 – Different Corner
For something a bit different, check out the psych rock sound of Painted Doll. “Together Alone” kicks off like the bastard child of Blue Oyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear the Reaper” and never looks back. By contrast, Nicholas Altobelli is all sweetness on his EP The Day-Olds, particularly on tracks like “Everybody Knows the Truth” and “Waiting on the Stars.” But I find myself drawn to the dorky delight that is “Why Can’t You Love Me Love Like You Used To?” where Alotobelli appears to be channeling Ben Vaughn’s deadpan delivery. Now if you want a solid album purchase dial up Brett Newski’s Life Upside Down. This baby is chock full of tasty should-be hits, showcased nicely on the album’s featured single and video, “Ride.” But I’ve chosen “The Afternoons” as your must-hear track. The opening guitar lines leap out, setting the pace for a rollicking bit of what used to be pure AM radio hit playlist material. Time for a bit of melodic yearning and I was impressed with Grace Basement’s serious yearn factor on their recent LP Missippi Nights. To back that up, I’ve cobbled my own double A-sided single with two tracks from the album, the majestic “Summertime is Coming” with the Springteen-esque “Standing on the Corner.” Last up on blog-as-store tribure is Tad Overbaugh, whose “Open Road and Blue Sky” is a Tom Petty-infused bit of wonderful, from his three song EP Demons in the Dust. Just three songs? We need a whole album of this.
The man behind Absolute Powerpop has exquisite taste. Hop over to his site and dig into his back catalogue of quality posts. And click on the artists above to go their internet locales to find out about new releases and tours coming near your town.