Power Pop

New album: Monty Vega & The Sittin’ Shivas || Affordable Excellence

Portland r’n’r lifers Monty Vega & The Sittin’ Shivas play Beach Boys and bubblegum infused ramonescore that is unpolished and infectious. If I had to do a three-word review, I’d say their latest (mini) album Affordable Excellence sure is Fun, Fun, Fun.

Compared to their previous two records, Affordable Excellence is the first full-band release of Monty Vega & The Sittin’ Shivas – now a five piece. Songs like Bad Connection show the benefits of this approach. It is a massive pop punk hit with infectious vocal harmonies coming straight out the book of surfrock’n’roll. Affordable Excellence is full of songs like that. It’s not just the hooks that will put a smile on your face, the band has a good sense of irony as well. Listen to Me for example, a Ramonesesque anthem for narcissists. The antithetical Bruce Springsteen song Too Jersey is another one. Like I said before, if you’re looking for some Fun, Fun, Fun, give this one a try!

Add To Wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Local Drags || Mess Of Everything

This doesn’t happen often, but for once I received and listened to the physical copy of a record before its digital release. I’m talking about the new Local Drags LP Mess of Everything – out now through Stardumb (LP) and Memorable But Not Honorable (Tape). I guess Stefan Stardumb was in a hurry to make some much needed room in his office, with all those highly anticipated boxes of Apers and Groovie Ghoulies vinyl reissues lying around.

Pre-ordering the new Local Drags (essentially a solo project by Lanny Durbin) was a no-brainer. I loved his two previous Local Drags albums, as well as his recent release with Starter Jackets. Mess Of Everything marks a new step in Durbin’s career. It’s not a giant leap, this still very much is a Local Drags LP. But it is noticeably different from Keep Me Glued and Shit’s Looking Up. Like the artwork, Mess Of Everything is more abstract, more colorful, and less easy to grasp in a couple of listens. While Durbin draws from a punkrock lineage, he has created something contemporary and fresh without losing any of his melodic touch. Mess of Everything sees Durbin exploring different instruments (is that a slide guitar?), tones and take a more ambitious and layered approach. Luke McNeill (The Copyrights, Starter Jackets, Hospital Job) did a great job recording this record as well.

One of the strengths of Local Drags has always been the stripped down quality of the songs that automatically find their way underneath your skin. Mess Of Everything offers deeper levels to explore. Standout songs like Good For Nothin and Total Down, two songs that mark the end of Side A and start of Side B (ending one side and starting another on a high note, I love that sequence), are great examples of Durbin broadening his songwriting to something bigger, with great harmonies to sooth your soul and tickle your ears.

Mess of Everything is not a copy of Keep Me Glued and Shit’s Looking Up. It shows growth and a fearlesness to mix things up. The result is a truly great indiepunk/indierock record that still gets better with each spin.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Stardumb || Discogs

New EP: The Krayolas || King of Pop

Last summer, American garage rock outfit The Krayolas released the album Happy Go Lucky, a remastered 40th anniversary edition “in Technicolor” of their 1982 debut LP Kolored Music. A welcome reissue, showing just how excellent San Antonio’s (Texas) 4-piece was back then, with hits that have stood the test of time. This week they return with a new 5-track EP, defiantly titled King of Pop. They still master the craft, it turns out. You’ll hear soulful power pop as infectious as can be, full of strong melodies, sing-along choruses and catchy hooks. Title track King of Pop (You’re On Top) stands out, but the 15th anniversary remix of organ-driven party tune Catherine from 2008 CD La Conquistadora is also finger licking good.

King of Pop is out digitally via Saustex Records. Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Owen Adamcik || Owen Hollywood & The Starcrossed Hearts

Here’s an artist that by now should be on your radar. Not just because he appears to release a new record every couple of weeks, but because of the promise that Owen Adamcik’s productivity harbors. His latest record is his most ambitious and most accomplished yet. A concept album of sorts, Adamcik wrote the record from the perspective of a high school rockstar (Owen Hollywood) in a fictional touring rock band (The Starcrossed Hearts). While Owen Hollywood may a fictional character, Adamcik takes on the role with full conviction. Meanwhile, his band (essentially all Adamcik) does a good job of channeling Exploding Hearts – Lip Bites sure sounds like a Guitar Romantic outtake, doesn’t it? Owen Hollywood & The Starcrossed Hearts is a record that is full of hooky and garage-y powerpop tunes with punk attitude. Still pretty lo-fi, but more polished than previous Adamcik releases, this is definitely a record to get excited over.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Various Artists || Lower Than Underground Vol. 1

Do you like underground pop and punk? Do you like cover songs? Do you like fanzines? Do you like music festivals? Old Bad Habits Label and Shambotic Recordings have got you covered! The first volume of the Lower Than Underground series fanzine has exclusive interviews and articles “by and for Nick Godfrey and his Precious recordings taken by Jim of the Jasmine Minks, Rocker Rosehip, Damo Suzuki of Can, Darren & Caroline of Next phase Normal records and The Manhattan Love Suicides, Kissamatic Lovebubbles, Tim Wells, I, Ludicrous, politics in music by Tim Rippington, record store day by Darren Lockwood, connection between punk and indie pop by Dimitris Patsonis, 1st interview of the next big thing of Greek pop The Secret Postcards,” and much more.

It comes with a 22-cover song cd, 6 of which are exclusive to the comp. It’s the kind of cover compilation that is perfectly balanced between well known hits and deep cuts, and with a variety of approaches and styles by the covering artists. Highly recommended, and if you need an additional reason to purchase this: Proceeds of the sale of the fanzine and comp will help fund the 1st Athens Pop Underground fest & convention, happening in Athens, Greece, at the end of spring (19-20 of May 2023). Lower Than Underground Vol. 1 is a win win win win!

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Dave Strong || Dave Strong

Look! There goes Dave Strong following the footsteps of his The Guts buddy Geoff Palmer, finally releasing his first solo full length. The self-titled debut marks the unexpected yet inevitable emergence of Strong as a solo artist, which began with the killer Little Girl single two years ago. The single was followed by several others, and all of these singles are now brought together and released on LP (through Phameless Records), and CD and Tape through This Is Just A Record Label. Of course, you could apply the understated matter-of-fact name of the label also to Strong’s debut. It’s just a record. But if you’ve been following Strong on social media, you’ll find that this record means much more to Strong, an underdog artist who had to overcome several personal battles to get to this point.

The self-titled record documents Strong finding a style of his own. The cover songs on the record are a good indicator of that style, from pop punk to good old rock’n’roll. Strong opens the album with a rendition of Katie is a Chainsmoker  – one of two The Guts’ songs included on the record that Dave wrote back in the day for the band (Still Thinkin’ About You is the other). Strong also covers a Ramones song and an Eddie Cochran classic. With his original songs, Strong presents himself as pop punk kid at heart with a fondness of oldies but goodies rock-‘n’-roll, and rockabilly as well. Those styles match well together and the songs on his solo debut are instantly likeable. Keep doing your thing Dave, we’ll be listening!

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Phameless

New single: Friends Of Cesar Romero || Spiral Eye Roll

This is not the first time we write about Friends Of Cesar Romero, and based on past experience, it won’t be the last. The three-song Spiral Eye Roll single is the latest release in the Doomed Babe series. For those keeping score, we are up to episode 34(!).

By now, we know exactly what to expect with FOCR. Accessible, crisp and scrappy powerpop and pop punk hits that are upbeat and super catchy. J. Waylon Porcupine, who is the kind of prolific and consistent songwriter that simultaneously fills you with envy and gratefulness, sounds particularly inspired on this one. The Spiral Eye Roll single is 5 minutes of pop punk bliss.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Liquid Mike || Liquid Mike

The last time we checked in with Liquid Mike (Marquette, Michigan), the future of the band was in doubt. With drummer Cody Marecek moving to a different part of the country, I kinda expected the band to call it quits. I recall Liquid Mike’s Mike Maple sounding pessimistic about the band’s future in a social media post. But lo and behold, this week a new Liquid Mike record dropped, simply called Liquid Mike. It was recorded remotely last Winter, and despite the increase in physical distance, Cody still is involved in writing songs and recording drums. Zach Alworden joined on bass, and brought new inspiration with his playing style.

Inspired is the word that keeps coming to mind while listening to the 11 songs on the record. Energetic another. Liquid Mike sounds like the people involved simply plugged in their instruments, pressed record and had a blast together. The record combines the spontaneity of first takes with the tightness of a well oiled machine. Liquid Mike sounds super catchy, accessible and good mood inducing on this one, like they found another gear. Happy to see Liquid Mike alive and kicking, even more happy with how good and how much fun this record is. Barely 18 minutes long, the Liquid Mike album doesn’t demand much of your time, but believe me, it’ll be time well spent.

Liquid Mike is streaming now. Kitschy Spirit Records is handdubbing the record on a limited run of Tapes.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Eyelids || A Colossal Waste Of Light

American supergroup Eyelids – Chris Slusarenko (Guided by Voices), John Moen (The Decemberists), Victor Krummenacher (Camper Van Beethoven), Jonathan Drews (Sunset Valley) and Paulie Pulvirenti (Atomic 61) – are back with a new full-length album, A Colossal Waste of Light, produced by Peter Buck (R.E.M.). So you know what to expect: quality guitar pop with captivating melodies and mesmerizing vocal harmonies, in the jangly tradition of Flying Nun and Paisley Underground. Past performance is no guarantee for the future, but the 13 powerful songs here easily live up to the high expectations.

A Colossal Waste Of Light is out now digitally, on CD and vinyl LP through Jealous Butcher Records.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Discogs || Jealous Butcher

New album: The Decibels || When Red Lights Flash

The last time we’d heard about Sacramanto (CA) power pop masters The Decibels was four years ago (to the week), when the band released their excellent Scene, Not Herd LP. Apparently, the band started writing new songs soon after said release, but the pandemic brought the process to a halt. A shame, but to be fair, it did open the door for this solo gem of a powerpop album by Brent Seavers. By the time The Decibels resumed recording When Red Lights Flash, they had changed subtly, or so they mention in the press release. To my ears, When Red Lights Flash still very much sounds like a Decibels power pop record, it’s exactly the kind of ear candy I’ve come to associate with the band. It does sound like the poppiest version of the band’s brand of powerpop yet. The ’60s pop filter of The Decibels has never been this strongly calibrated.

We frequently use the term timeless to describe the music we cover on our site, a logical consequence of the types of genres we prefer. If you are looking for a definition for what timeless music is, just listen to When Red Lights Flash front-to-back. You won’t easily find a better explanation. So many great guitar pop tunes! CD out now through Kool Kat Music, vinyl expected to arrive in Fall.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp  || Kool Kat

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