Results for power-pop

interviews

Top Albums of 2005

The“Best Records”list: It's“a sacred thing”in pop music fandom, says Jim, requiring a discerning ear and laser-like focus. Thankfully, our hosts are here to help. After sifting through hundreds of records, and countless days spent listening (perhaps to the discontent of their wives), they‘ve managed to pick out their absolute favorites. Here’s what Jim and Greg say they'll still be listening to in 2006.

Go to episode 2
specials

The Elephant 6 Collective

The recent death of Olivia Tremor Control co-founder Bill Doss has Jim and Greg thinking about the legacy of the musical collective he was a part of: The Elephant 6 Recording Company. This week, they revisit their conversation about Elephant 6 with the collective's chief producer, Robert Schneider. For those new to this crazy universe, Elephant 6 was a label started by childhood friends from Ruston, Louisiana. The bands that came out of this group of music-lovers included some of the most beloved of the indie rock nineties: Neutral Milk Hotel, Olivia Tremor Control, and Apples in Stereo. Schneider was the chief songwriter, producer, and lead singer of Apples in Stereo. He explains how he and his friends first heard the psychedelic pop of the Beach Boys, The Beatles, and Pink Floyd hanging around Ruston's college radio station as kids. The collective's most important albums, among them The Olivia Tremor Control's Dusk at Cubist Castle and Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, bear the sonic mark of those early listening sessions.

Greg calls The Olivia Tremor Control the trippiest of the Elephant 6 groups. He and Jim discuss their debut release, Dusk at Cubist Castle, a double album whose subtitle,“Music from an Unrealized Film Script,”points to the music's psychedelic nature. Greg calls Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel the“soul child”of the collective. Jeff went for a stripped down approach that was moving and easily identifiable for many listeners. This is evident in the band's 1998 release In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, a concept album about tragedy, and at times, Anne Frank. The longest lasting of all the Elephant 6 acts is Apples in Stereo. In addition to being the collective's four-track guru, Schneider was always the“pop craftsman.”In 2007 Apples reformed and put out New Magnetic Wonder, a return to power pop form for the group, and one of their best recordings to date.

Go to episode 353
classic album dissections
Radio CityRadio City available on iTunes

Big Star Radio City

During this episode Jim and Greg celebrate the legacy of Big Star with a Classic Album Dissection of their first two records, #1 Record and Radio City. Both albums have recently been re-released as a double album, and a new Big Star box set is due out next week. As Jim and Greg discuss, the band changed the history of American music without selling very many records. With a sound that combined Memphis Soul with British Invasion rock, they laid the groundwork for "Power Pop" and influenced bands including R.E.M., Wilco and The Replacements. The original Big Star lineup included former Box Tops singer Alex Chilton, Chris Bell, Andy Hummel and Jim and Greg's guest this week, drummer Jody Stephens.

Following their discussion with Jody Stephens, Jim and Greg each discuss and play a song. Greg chooses to highlight the opening track from #1 Record called "Feel." The song was written and performed by Chris Bell. While Alex Chilton is the name most people associate with Big Star, Bell really created it. Most of his incredible work didn't see the light of day until after his death at age 26, but Greg thinks songs like“Feel,”illustrate the power of his voice and lyrics–many of which convey the problems he faced in his short life.

Jim plays a song written and performed by Alex Chilton from the second album called September Gurls. As he discussed with Jody earlier in the show, this was a breakout song for the band and one that was immediately adored by critics and fans including The Bangles, who later covered it. Jim's not sure what the song means, but for him it's more about the mood that Chilton created. With its sweeping melodies and“pan-sexuality”it's a power pop classic.

Go to episode 198
reviews
Lines, Vines and Trying TimesLines, Vines and Trying Times available on iTunes

The Jonas Brothers Lines, Vines and Trying Times

Only in the Sound Opinions universe can we move from Nine Inch Nails to The Jonas Brothers. But the sibling trio has hypnotized young listeners and will no doubt be a major presence on the chart this summer. Lines, Vines and Trying Times is the sibling trio's 4th album, and as Jim points out those teen fans have graduated from Harry Potter to the Twilight series. The Jonas Brothers are trying to mature as well, but Greg hears clearly that they aren‘t ready for adulthood. He didn’t mind their juvenile power pop, but thinks they've lost their pep and are trying too hard. Jim goes further and states that he hates the Jo Bros. Despite public vows of chastity, they present contradictory messages about women in the songs. And what was once just annoying is now annoying and pretentious. Lines, Vines and Trying Times gets a double Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 186
Elephant Shell (Remixes) - EPElephant Shell available on iTunes

Tokyo Police Club Elephant Shell

After getting raves with their 2006 EP, Tokyo Police Club have finally released a full-length album called Elephant Shell. The four-piece band from Ontario signed to Saddle Creek Records to record 11 songs, but don't expect a denser album. This effort is still a quick jaunt into garage rock, power-pop, and new wave that ends before you know it. But, neither Jim, nor Greg, is complaining. Jim loves their great sense of melody and high-energy enthusiasm. His only quibble is with the band's minor diversion into indie-rock pretension. But, overall he gives the record a Buy It. Greg also loves the tightly constructed arrangements, but notes that the band's lyrics still haven't developed much. He appreciates their exuberance but thinks they still have room to grow. He gives Elephant Shell a Try It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 125
Wincing the Night AwayWincing the Night Away available on iTunes

The Shins Wincing the Night Away

Our Rock Doctors patient and tons of fans have been anxiously awaiting The Shins' third album, Wincing the Night Away. The band got notice after its first two albums received critical praise and industry buzz. Natalie Portman's character in Garden State even proclaimed that their music would“change your life.”Now the Albuquerque band attempts to change more lives with their new Sub Pop release. Jim admits that he previously found the Shins' brand of "power-pop" more wimpy than powerful. But he thinks the band has added more depth and more kick to their sound without sacrificing their light, jangly sound or poetic lyrics. He gives the album a hearty Buy It. Greg agrees. He appreciates that despite the band's increased success and increased budget, the sound remains modest. He predicts fans will need to give Wincing the Night Away a few listens before really“getting it,”but also gives the album a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 61
ChallengersTwin Cinema available on iTunes

The New Pornographers Twin Cinema

The first album up for review this week is by the Canadian indie-pop supergroup The New Pornographers. Band leader A.C. Newman, along with Destroyer's Dan Bejar, Neko Case and a cast of other songwriters and musicians have recorded their fourth album together, Challengers. The album is another collection of melodic, hook-filled songs, but Greg admits that Bejar almost steals the record with his track, "Myriad Harbor," a power-pop meets hip-hop composition. He loves the tongue-in-cheek, carefree attitude of many of the songs, but doesn't think the album is as good as its predecessor, Twin Cinema. Because the energy level is uncharacteristically down for the band, Greg gives this New Pornographers effort a Try It. Jim was glad to hear the band went for something different. They did three albums of pure, effervescent pop, and now they've added orchestrations to the mix. He gives Challengers a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 90
dijs

Greg

“She's Not a Little Girl”Green

For his turn at the Desert Island Jukebox, Greg wants to add a song by one of his favorite“Power Pop”bands. The term was actually coined by Pete Townshend during The Who's pre-rock opera era. It now describes a slew of bands who use a lot of big melodies, tight arrangements, harmonies and prominent guitar riffs. The Midwest produces a lot of power pop bands, including Green. The band has had many incarnations, but it's the constant force of Jeff Lescher that gives the group its edge and puts them above the rest for Greg. He takes their song, "She's Not a Little Girl" with him to the desert island.

Go to episode 198

Jim

“Alive”Dumptruck

It's Mr. DeRogatis' turn to visit the Desert Island Jukebox, and he ties the show up nicely with a selection from the band Dumptruck. Steve Wynn played with one of Dumptruck's founders, Kirk Swan, during the segment. Swan and his partner, Seth Tiven, put out their debut album D is for Dumptruck in 1994. It was heavily influenced by what Paisley Underground bands like The Dream Syndicate had been doing on the West coast. Dumptruck incorporated more folk rock and power pop into their music than contemporaries, and were also influenced by Big Star, Fairport Convention (who also count Greg Kot and Sound Opinions guest Colin Meloy as fans), and the band Television. Like Dumptruck, Television was comprised of two guitarist-vocalists: Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd. Jim explains that outside of Television, he has never seen two guitarists work as well together as they did in Dumptruck, as you can hear in Jim's DIJ pick, "Alive." Listeners desiring more Dumptruck should check out Haul of Fame: A Collection, for which our host provided liner notes.

Go to episode 21

Jim

“Lust to Love”The Go-Go's,The Go-Go's

While recently flipping through the stacks of his musical library, Jim came across Beauty and the Beat, the 1981 debut album from California's The Go-Go's. The all-female New Wave band is probably best known for their hit single "We Got the Beat," but Jim is a bigger fan of another Beauty and the Beat song, "Lust to Love." Written by two of the band's five members, guitarists Jane Wiedlin and Charlotte Caffey,“Lust to Love”turns the table on the tired trope of men being the only ones with sexual appetites and is emblematic of the band's underappreciated-at-the-time power pop songwriting talent.

Go to episode 473

Jim

“The Bulrushes”The Bongos

To conclude this week, it's Jim's turn to drop a track into the Desert Island Jukebox. Jim becomes a bit nostalgic and recalls fond teenage memories of the thriving music scene of Hoboken, New Jersey, the hometown of classic power-pop outfit, The Bongos. Taken from the seminal album, Drums Along the Hudson, which has just been reissued, the track "The Bulrushes" connotes a“messianic”rock and roll coming of age. Jim calls this The Catcher in the Rye of power-pop, and an essential choice in his Desert Island Jukebox.

Go to episode 85
features

Instrumental: Rickenbacker Electric 12-String Guitar

Rickenbacker 12-string This week, we kick off a new feature called Instrumental where we examine the history of iconic instruments of rock. We start with the electric 12-string guitar and its most famous manufacturer, Rickenbacker. After the acoustic 12-string guitar was popularized by blues artists like Lead Belly and by the '60s folk revival, Rickenbacker began making an electrified version. After George Harrison used it on The Beatles' "A Hard Day's Night," a 12-string craze began. The most notable adopter of the instrument was Jim (later Roger) McGuinn , who used it to define the sound of The Byrds on tracks like "Mr. Tambourine Man" and "Turn! Turn! Turn!" The Beatles and The Byrds set the template for countless bands in the ensuing decades who used 12-strings, from power pop acts like Raspberries and Big Star, to jangle pop bands like R.E.M. and The Bangles, to contemporary artists like Temples.

To help discuss and demonstrate the Rickenbacker electric 12-string, we're joined by Daniel Escauriza and Shelby Pollard of Chicago Music Exchange. Jim and Greg also offer their favorite examples of Rick-heavy songs: "Awaken" by Yes and XTC's "All of a Sudden (It's Too Late)."

Go to episode 601
news

Music News

iTunes announced that it will be offering cut-rate downloads on several albums in its catalog. The albums, which retail for $5.99 and $6.99, are part of a new series called“Next Big Thing.”The bargain bin includes albums from up-and-comers like LCD Soundsystem and Peter Bjorn and John. Jim and Greg are happy to see that the giant digital music retailer is waking up. Six bucks is a perfectly legitimate amount to pay for such good albums, and this is a move that's certain to please consumers, if not record labels.

Also in the news, pop star Avril Lavigne is being called out for a couple instances of plagiarism. First, power pop band The Rubinoos launched a legal case against Avril, claiming that her single "Girlfriend" was lifted from their 1979 song, "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend." Avril denies this, but the similarities are pretty striking. Then, gossip blogger Perez Hilton pointed out another suspicious similarity. The first 20 seconds of Avril's "I Don't Have to Try" sound nearly identical to electroclasher Peaches' track "I'm the Kinda." Jim and Greg think the evidence is stacking up against Avril, but are quick to point out that all rock music has been cribbed from one source or another.

Next Jim and Greg relay their experiences that at the recent Police reunion show in Chicago. Greg was pretty unimpressed, and says that the show was definitely not worth what people paid. Jim was less harsh, but agrees with Greg that the Police have always been better on album than live.

The Police concluded their tour at Giants Stadium as part of the Live Earth concert. Again, the band didn't wow our hosts, but it was Kanye West's performance that was the most strikingly bad. In fact, with the exception of a few performances, most of Live Earth was pretty underwhelming to Jim and Greg. And the world seemed to agree. Ratings were quite poor, especially compared to the success of previous attempts like Live 8. Jim is all for music influencing people to make change, but he didn't hear anything truly inspirational coming out of this crop of musicians. And Greg found the event to have a great lack of focus, though both hosts are all for Al Gore replacing Bono as music's new crusader.

Go to episode 85
world tours

New Zealand

The Clean

Lorde is just the biggest name in a long line of important musicians coming out of New Zealand. So this week, Jim and Greg fire up the jet to take the Sound Opinions World Tour to the other side of the world. As a guide, they're joined by Wellington-based critic Nick Bollinger, host of The Sampler on Radio New Zealand and author of several books including the recent memoir Goneville.

They focus on an influential era in kiwi rock emerging in the early 1980s known as the Dunedin Sound that's closely associated with the legendary New Zealand indie label Flying Nun Records. Based around the southern university city Dunedin, the Flying Nun bands drew upon early psychedelia, American garage rock, and The Velvet Underground to create a distinctive jangly guitar-based sound, much of it released on lo-fi 4-track recordings. But while the key bands like The Clean, The Chills, and The Verlaines shared an aesthetic, Nick argues that their musical approaches actually were varied. By the late ‘80s and early ’90s, the Dunedin Sound had fully evolved to incorporate the shoegaze of Bailter Space and even the dance beats of Headless Chickens.

A key part of New Zealand's culture is its indigenous population. Maori, Samoan, and other indigenous groups make up nearly 20% of the population and have had a major impact on the island nation's pop music. Nick traces the history of Maori music from the Hendrix-esque guitar styling of The Human Instinct to the reggae boom of the '70s to the embrace of hip-hop. He also makes recommendations for great contemporary kiwi artists, including singer-songwriter Aldous Harding, power-poppers Kane Strang, electro-soul artist Electric Wire Hustle, and the eclectic producer Lord Echo.

Go to episode 605