The next must-have in this powerpop album collection is Jellyfish‘s masterpiece “Spilt Milk” from 1993. I only just got into the band a few years back, having missed them completely throughout my youth for some reason. This is a true gem, and the last of the two albums that Jellyfish released before they disbanded in 1994. It includes the epic song “Joining a Fan Club” which is a tribute to the music fans, collecting 8x10s and putting up posters on the wall. The song is built up in the same way as “Stairway to Heaven” and “Bohemian Rhapsody”, consisting of many different parts merged together in one huge masterpiece.
This is yet another album you’ll be hard-pressed to find any flaws on. Andy Sturmer (lead singer/drummer/main songwriter) worked meticulously for a long time to finish it, at a tremendous cost for the record company. But the result speaks for itself. Tunes like “Bye, bye, bye”, “Sebrina, Paste and Plato”, “Glutton of Sympathy”, “New Mistake” and “The Ghost at Number One” hit you like a brick in the head with intricate arrangements and crisp production. For those of you who are vocal harmony junkies, you will find that Jellyfish will give The Beach Boys and The Beatles a run for their money any day. Now run down to the record store and get a tangible copy of this album, you won’t regret it. Happy listening kids!
Here’s a live performance of “Joining a Fan Club”.
The next album on the list is another one that changed my life and the way I perceived music. Will Owsley is the founder of a legendary powerpop trio called The Semantics, which featured Ringo Starr’s son Zak Starkey on drums. Their sole album Powerbill was only released in Japan and the band never got the break they sought for. You might think that this is the album I’m going to talk about – which I could have gone on about at length – but I’m going to focus on Owsley’s first solo album Owsley released in 1999.
The story as I’ve heard it is that he recorded this album in his home studio, which he financed by touring with Amy Grant. When he started shopping around for a deal a lot of labels liked what they heard but wanted him to re-record the album to make it sound “cooler” or something like that. Owsley refused and waited until he found the label that wanted to put it out as it was, and he was rewarded for his persistence with a grammy nomination for “best engineering”. Ain’t that great?
Anyhow, the album in itself is a masterpiece. Packed with powerpop gems, full of energy and beatle-esque songwriting, it had a great impact on me when I first heard it a year after it came out and inspired me in so many ways, changing the way I write music. “Oh No The Radio” might be one of the coolest opening tracks of all time, and “Coming Up Roses” is a song every songwriter would wish they’d written!
Unfortunately, only one track is available for listening on Owsley’s MySpace. But it’s the beautiful ballad “Sentimental Favorite” so there’s really no reason to complain. I’ve been searching YouTube for any kind of Owsley or Semantics clip withouth luck. If you readers happen to stumble upon a clip, let me know.
By many considered to be the very first album of the genre, this next essential powerpop album is a true gem that everyone should be aware of. The importance of Big Star‘s debut album “#1 Record” from 1972 can hardly be ignored, influenced, as it has, bands like The Posies (whom I focused the last issue on), Teenage Fanclub and Matthew Sweet to mention a few. Big Star is a band that didn’t get its deserved recognition back when they started out in the early 70’s, but has gained some interest in later years – much like Nick Drake.
This is yet another of those albums that, in my opinion, doesn’t have a single weakness. Not a bad track. It’s got the real rocker tracks like “Don’t Lie To Me”, “In the Street” and “Feel”, as well as beautiful ballads such as “Thirteen” and “The Ballad of El Goodo”, which might be one of the most beautiful songs ever written.
Big Star disbanded in the mid-70’s but reformed in 1993, adding Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow from The Posies to the lineup. They also contributed to the 2005 album “In Space” which is a fine piece of work, although it doesn’t even come close to the debut.
Here’s a YouTube clip from The Tonight Show with the new lineup performing “In the Street” (which you might recognize from That 70’s Show, for which Cheap Trick recorded their own version)
The Songbox Fan Crusade compilation will be released through iTunes Music Store on Tuesday 31 March!
The Genuine Fakes contribute two songs – “The Promise” and “I Don’t Want It” and those two tracks make up the second official release from the band. The first was the Posies cover “Somehow Everything” on “Beautiful Escape: The Songs of The Posies Revisited”.
The price of the album will be 90 SEK (ca 9€) and it will be released exclusively through iTunes on March 31, and a couple of weeks it will also be available through other online stores such as CDON.com, Sony Ericsson Play Now Arena and Nokia Music Store.
Title: Songbox Fan Crusade
Artist: Various Artists
Release date: 2009-03-31
Price (SEK): 90
Browsing YouTube I found this fantastic clip with Cheap Trick and the cast from “That 70’s Show”.
The song In the Street was originally performed by 70’s band Big Star. A cover-version of the song was recorded by Cheap Trick in 1999 for use as the theme song for the television show That 70’s Show. Great TV-show, great music and a cool video. Definitely worth checking out!
Check out the new cool blog Pop Injection that focuses on great pop music (and especially powerpop)! The blog assembles articles, reviews and blog entries from various sites around the world and is a truly unique pop resource.
Check it out!!
As you may or may not know – Joey Fake plays guitar in the hardcore band NUTMEG. A couple of years ago I substituted for the original keyboard player on their tour in Poland. NUTMEG plays melodic hardcore which is extremely far from powerpop. A big difference from traditional hardcore is the fantastic organ and wurlitzer tracks. I got so inspired by learning the NUTMEG songs that it really reflects on our up and coming album.
NUTMEG is now on Spotify with their debut album The Trigger. Check it out and listen on the fantastic hardcore tunes and especially the keyboards…
My favorites are Sunday and the fantastic Birthday.
The second album I want you to check out may very well be the one album that has influenced me the most. It’s the phenomenal third album from The Posies entitled “Frosting on the Beater”, released in 1993. I’d say that this is the very album that got me hooked on powerpop in the first place, and in many ways “Frosting” defines the genre for me. It’s impossible to find a weakness on the album, since all of the songs are true gems in their own right.
My favorite song on the album and one of my favorite songs of all time is “Solar Sister”. To this day I cannot seem to tire of it. Actually, it’s hard to tire of any of the songs, but other “must-listens” are “Definite Door”, “Dream All Day”, “Flavor of the Month”, and the hauntingly beautiful closer “Coming Right Along” with the eerie C-tuning on the guitar that I spent a whole afternoon in High School trying to figure out.
These past couple of years I’ve had the pleasure to get to know the frontmen of the band – Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer – and the two still produce the most amazing music, both as The Posies and separately. If you start to delve into their back catalogue you’ll find some of the greatest music written during the past fifteen years or so.
Here’s a YouTube clip of “Solar Sister” that I just found. The harmonies on this song are absolutely killer!
And here’s the album cover: