Sunday, December 24, 2006


MOUNTAIN CON Sancho Panza (Big Record Company) Being a bit of an old school rock enthusiast, rap and hip-hop tends to be a turn off. However, whenever any cutting edge imaginative group of artists manages to mix and match hip hop beats with classic pop-rock, I am the first to jump up and scream – “Aw Yeah!” Case in point – Seattle’s Mountain Con, whose innovative amalgams e.g. the jaunty powerpop slam dunking “Escape Artist,” the folk-rock funky “House Party in the New Dark Ages” and the irresistibly insistent “Rocket Out of Trash” echoes Beck, Grandaddy, the Beastie Boys and a healthy dollop of Bob Dylan! Refreshing.

MONDO JET SET Henry After A Nightlife (Pink Hedgehog) Ostensibly, Mondo Jet Set is a British indie rock band that makes all the right moves, maybe even cynically so. I mean, for the 1st three tracks, Mondo Jet Set appears to be merely mimicking the shoe-gazing flavour of the month. Then “Siren Song” hits you right between the eyes with its campy melody and heartfelt white squall and the modus operandi takes on a distinct quality. From the ethereal “On Amber” onwards, Mondo Jet Set stretches out their wings and takes flight. “Disco” is a fantastic glam approximation, “Firing at the Sky” is an intense bloodletting and “You Know Your Lover” is lovely dreamy jazz pop.

VARIOUS ARTISTS Five Way Street: A Tribute to Buffalo Springfield (Not Lame) Strange as it may seem, this is the first tribute band this legendary band has mustered thus far. Ironic when you consider that one of its members viz. Neil Young has had more than his fair share of tribute albums down the years. Better late than never, I suppose. Though Buffalo Springfield was a short-lived band, their influence extends to this day. Part of the Laurel Canyon zeitgeist that fused rock ‘n’ roll, pop, folk, R&B, blues and country into a heady mélange, Buffalo Springfield deserves to take its place as an integral part of the 60s pop pantheon. Highlights of this set – Noctorum viz. Marty (The Church) Willson-Piper and Dave (Traffic) Mason – with a spine-tingling “Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing,” Maplewood’s sensitive “I Am A Child,” The Gripweeds’ muscular “Down to the Wire,” The Windbreakers’ ethereal “Expecting To Fly,” Jeff Larson’s exciting “Questions” amongst others. Add also significant contributions from Walter Clevenger, George Usher Group, The Kennedys and Western Electric and you will agree that Five Way Street is a celebration that any fan of 60s pop-rock would want in on.

THE FAGS Light ‘Em Up (Idol) With nary a tune that lasts longer than 4 minutes, The Fags are, what you might call, a quintessential power pop band. With three chords and melodies that have you humming along and energy that will keep you bopping till the very end, the Fags simplify this whole business of rock ‘n’ roll to the basics. F-U-N! Think about every kind of guitar rock that has thrilled and killed you in the last 4 decades and what the Fags has done is distilled this potent brew into a fresh sound that is also comfortably familiar. Good stuff!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


JEREMY Faithful and True (Jam) When I grow up I wanna be Jeremy. I mean, he’s a talented musician, genuine nice guy and a man of God. And also highly prolific! Faithful and True is the third volume in Jeremy’s worship and praise series and it’s different from the CCM, folks might be familiar with. It’s Jeremy’s patented 60s-infused jangle-folk-rock (with 70s prog underpinnings!) presented as love songs to the LORD. A powerful combo.

EVAN HILLHOUSE Self-titled (Striped Rock) On his debut CD, Evan Hillhouse references the Beatles, Jon Brion, the Zombies, Nilsson, Jellyfish, Bacharach, Jason Falkner and Queen. Literally and musically, no doubt, astute listeners will make the connection. Here’s the clincher, Hillhouse is fresh out of high school (the same age as my eldest son!) and plays every instrument here ala Todd Rundren & Prince. Hearing is believing!

THE ET AL Baby Machine (Monotones) This UK quartet draws heavily from the edgy, scratchy, big music of the post-punk era. Echo & the Bunnymen, U2, the Skids, Joy Division, Teardrop Explodes. In modern times, comparisons can be easily made with Radiohead, Snow Patrol and any number of shoe-gazing influenced outfits. Nothing particularly ear-catching but the insistent “Wardens” is a good starting point.

SCHNAUSER Kill All Humans (Pink Hedgehog) Is this an (in)joke? Because I find it a little hard to swallow that this collection of genuine-sounding freakbeat psychedelia was put together by a band from Armenia. Presumably it’s a project band featuring the likes of Anton Barbeau, Marco Rossi (Cheese), Geoff Cabis (The Bitter Little Cider Apples) and the like. So nod along like you get the joke and enjoy this crisp, authentic tribute to psychedelia.

ROGER TARRY Driving Song EP (Self-released) Where did this come from? This EP features three tracks of unbridled wild beauty – so fragile yet unrestrained. Softly whispered lyrics that recall Nick Drake or Tim Buckley – with pastoral soulfulness that beckons the listener to simply wallow in rustic contemplation. Understand that there’s an album out as well. Can hardly wait. Highly recommended!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Hearing David Morgan for the 1st time is indeed a revelation. This accomplished jazz pianist and producer made his pop-rock debut with "Ordinary Glory" and it is chock full of the kind of tunes that PoP regulars will warm up to instantly. David was kind enough to be the next in line for PoPINIONS.

Where do all those gorgeous melodies come from?

Music really is a language and I've been fortunate to have been exposed to so much great music in my life. I've learned a lot of different styles of tunes and songs, a lot of jazz,standards and classical music and have a pretty big storehouse of melodies in my brain. For me, a song is really about the melody. When I write a song, the melody usually comes first, but it's usually not premeditated. It comes when I'm driving my car or doing the dishes. Having a tape recorder around is the only way I ever remember anything.

Is songwriting a pleasure or hard work?

A little of both, but the work part of it is pleasure too. I love writing songs, I love the whole process. The fleshing out of an initial inspiration can be hard, but I try not to push it too much. These things come when they come.

Can you name an musical influence that most people won't pick up on & why?

My teacher when I lived in New Orleans, Ellis Marsalis. Everything about him is real and every solo he takes is so full of melody and swing. His playing and influence is pretty huge in every aspect of what I do.

Does being a accomplished producer in your own right make the recording process easier?

Yes and no. Making an album is another part of what I do that is great fun, even the sticky situations I find myself in sometimes. I'm not an engineer at all, so I really focus on the music, the songs and how to make a recording that will bring out the best in the song and the artist. My goal is to take an initial vision from the artist and hopefully get a finished product that is emotionally moving and better than anyone dreamed of. The right team is critical-engineers, players, songwriters... It's really a team effort.

"Ordinary Glory" is your debut solo release - why did it take so long as you have been playing since age 5?

I have three jazz CD's out. "Comment" from 1992, "Hands Of Time" from1995 and "The David Morgan Trio-Live at the Blue Note" from 1999. This is just my first pop release.

What next after "Ordinary Glory"? What would you like to achieve in your pop-rock career?
I have a whole album's worth of new songs that need lyrics. So, I'd like to finish writing and record it. I'd like to get on a label that can put some good solid promotion behind it. This next album will be more focused on the piano with less guitar overdubs and more stretched out solos. I'd like to record most of it live in the studio as opposed to doing it in pieces, like "Ordinary Glory". My pop career-good question. I'd like to build it up to a point where I can do theatre tours and sell them out and I want to continue to write songs and produce great artists, like Neshama Carlebach, who I've been working with for over 10 years. From an artistic standpoint, I want to continue to develop my music, never resting on anything for too long.

Sunday, December 17, 2006


City Electric is a Chicago band with great potential and a promising EP - Five Easy Pieces - to boot. Scott Schaafsma tells us a little more about City Electric...

Why an EP instead of a full-length album?

We decided to record the EP first even though we had enough good songs for a full record. We want to save the full length for a larger unified statement. That’s why so many of our live staples did not make the EP. We were a trio at the time of recording and it was done mostly live with no pro-tools or computer in three days so we wanted to clearly document a sound we were excited about during the recording without disturbing our large plans for the full-length. However I will say that we’re most proud of what lies in the details of Five Easy Pieces. On first listen it’s a straightforward solid listen. But I believe repeated listenings will prove there’s more than meets the ear.

What do you hope to achieve with the EP?

Something classic but not cliché and unconventional. We don’t imagine City Electric as a short-term indie fad band. We’d like our records to sit on the same side of the shelf as the ones you’d never sell back no matter what music you’re currently into. You’re keeping ‘Teenage Riot’ You’re keeping ‘Sticky Fingers’ If in a few months you’re selling ‘Be Your Own Pet’ or ‘This Band has a Name that is Long and Obtuse Perhaps You’ve Forgotten’ we don’t want to go with it.

What would you say are the primary inspirations for the writing and recording of the songs?

All these songs were written on guitars tuned from modifications on Nick Drake or John Fahey acoustic tunings. Five Easy Pieces, much like the movie its named after, is a about quietly loving people and places and quietly letting them go –without the proper celebration. Whether it a girl, God or a bedroom in a city.

The recording process was directly influenced by a lot of our heroes in-and-out of the studio in a few days, first recordings. Just bare bones. Sonically, we were after similar sounds as Jeremy’s recordings with O’Rourke, etc. We love those records.

'Quiet Life" is more immediate than the other tracks, almost a melodic pop ballad, how does that sit with the stated experimental slant of the band? Is there even a conflict at all?

Good question. That is the conflict that drives City Electric. If you have something to say chances are people have heard it before. However, if you can find the right way to say it maybe someone will listen. The concepts on a City Electric record (or any rock record for that matter) aren’t new but we’d like to think folks might hear ‘em and relate cause we’re constantly searching experimenting for the best way to say ‘em. That’s City Electric in a handshake.

Where does City Electric go from here?

To the topper most of the poppermost, Kevin. Thanks for askin’.

More about City Electric at

Got some really great news from Aidil (Couple)!!
Couple has been chosen to be in the final round of Rolling Stone (USA) magazine's Best Bands on Myspace contest.

Right now the Rolling Stone magazine staff has chosen the Malaysian powerpop band to be one of the top 5 bands of the day.

What Couple needs you to do is to go to the link below and vote for Couple by leaving a comment saying how much you like the song "Now That I Can See" and Couple:


Saturday, December 16, 2006


BIG LIFE DESIRE Your Love Is (Whimsical) English singer-songwriter Keith Harbottle is Big Life Desire and Your Love Is is Keith’s debut (3-track) single. The general vibe here is 80s post punk/new wave which is fine by me. Though the pleasant Your Love Is may be designated the A-side, it is the two B-sides that prick these ears. “In Pieces” has an interesting Asian flavour with a Blur bent whilst “She’s Got It All” is a catchy ditty, which recalls Ray Davies of the Kinks in his structure and delivery. A promising debut.

SNOW PATROL Eyes Open (Polydor) Building from the breakthrough success of Final Straw, Eyes Open has been declared a commercial and critical success on both sides of the Atlantic. Soaking in the indie rock anthems of “You’re All I Have” and “Hands Open,” it’s not difficult to understand its mass appeal. And when the repertoire includes a radio-friendly ballad like “Chasing Cars”… Mixing up the agreeable reference points of U2, Catherine Wheel, Coldplay and Keane, this British outfit has struck gold with a formula that works and how!

KLAATU Sun Set 1973 – 1981 (Bullseye) Truth be told, while I have heard of Klaatu (the Beatles “association” and all that), this collection of previously unreleased (on CD) pre-Capitol singles, rarities and outtakes represents my first exposure to the band. What an introduction! Lovingly collected by the folks at Bullseye, Sun Set is a wondrous demonstration of the inventive pop genius of John Wolocshuk, Dee Long & Terry Draper. Guess it’s time to do everything in my power to get hold of all those Klaatu albums, proper.

JAMES COOPER Second Season (Paisley Pop) So even powerpop has gone global. Cooper is Australian-born, residing in England and his album is released in the US of A! To be accurate, Cooper does keep Second Season eclectic with a generous helping of country, folk & jazz ballads mixed in with the powerpop guitar rockers. Sure, you’re gonna be bopping to the energetic “Everything To Everyone,” the feisty “Christine” and especially the standout cut “Love In London.” And then mellow out with the lovely sentiments of “Beautiful As You,” “When the Wall Came Down” and “Sammy.” First class!