(A) Essential (B) Recommended (C) For fans only (D) Avoid

Wendy Ip - Fan Favorites So Far

delirious? - Deeper

The Juliana Theory - Music from Another Room

Dave Rave and Mark McCarron - Another Side of Love

Force Vomit - Give it Up for the Trustfund Rockers

The Dent - Neurotica

Richard Kaufmann - Common Senses

The Racketeers - Mad for the Racket

Various artists - Pop Under the Surface Volume Four
Various artists - Pop Greetings Volume Two: Illinois
Various artists - Pop Greetings Volume Three: Minnesota

Fan Favorites So Far

“She wants to be Peter Pan
But she will always be just Wendy
She can only fly in the back of her mind
In her heart she will find the time” 

Ip is an aspiring young singer-songwriter of Asian descent. Born in Manitoba, Canada and currently residing in New York. All interesting factoids, no doubt, but most crucially, in this age of Britney Spears wannabes – here’s a lady who models her musical ambitions on emulating Paul McCartney, Elvis Costello, Todd Rundgren & Ray Davies. Meaning: Ip specializes in pop music that is intelligent, mature, melodic and yes, fun. Add to the list the intricate stylings of Laura Nyro, Carole King, Rickie Lee Jones, Sam Philips & Joni Mitchell and the result is indeed pleasing.

This is most evident on material like the erudite “At the Seams,” the autobiographical “Just Wendy,” the wistful “Our Little Room” and the affecting “Can’t Get Mad” where Ip utilizes the piano to outstanding effect. Ip’s debt to the British Invasion becomes apparent in the powerpop inflections of the jumping “So This Is My Life” and the jaunty “Elaine” where tried-and-tested popcraft collides with Ip’s feisty exuberance.

Based on the evidence presented on Fan Favorites So Far, Wendy Ip has every chance of living up to the high standards she has set for herself in the years to come. (A)


Deeper: The Definitive Worship Experience

If U2 had the taken the logical route that October had presented them with, maybe Bono and co would have ended up sounding a bit like delirious? instead of trampling down the path of sell-out and compromise. Sorry if that sounds judgmental and harsh but listening to the way delirious? has successfully melded faith and the rock aesthetic, one begins to appreciate how far U2 have gone since those promising days.

Enough! Delirious? is perhaps the biggest British band that consists of evangelical Christians today – enjoying a level of acceptance that is now usually accorded to musicians of their faith. Deeper is an excellent introduction to the inspiring work of this worthy band and contains songs that both believers and non-believers should have no problem appreciating e.g. “I Could Sing Of Your Love Forever,” “Deeper,” “Shout to the North,” “I’ve Found Jesus” and “Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble?”

The highest recommendation, whatever your faith. (A)


Music From Another Room
(Tooth & Nail)

An enigmatic group that blurs the divide between emo and powerpop, The Juliana Theory has blessed the indie pop world with two distinctive full-length records, Understand This Is A Dream (1999) and Emotion is Dead (2000), which have collectively sold beyond the 100,000 units mark. This ‘odds & sods” EP ends The Juliana Theory’s association with Tooth and Nail as the band begins life as a major label artist. As leader Brett Detar clarifies in the liner notes – “This EP is merely a collection of different songs from different time periods” – but that fact does not diminish the undisputed value of the individual songs.

“This is The End of Your Life” clearly references Pink Floyd’s “Shine On You Carzy Diamond” in structure and arrangement but amazingly is able to inject far more emotion and power that Waters, Gilmour and co ever managed. “Liability” finds TJT taking the bare bones of The Police’s post punk new wave energy and crafts an angry diatribe against charlatans and false prophets. “Breathing by Wires” is a dreampop nugget that details the ills of the modern world and beats Radiohead at its own game. Whilst “Piano Song” showcases the inherent versatility of the band’s songwriting and range – a gorgeous ballad that Elton John used to excel in – which brings the phase one of The Juliana Theory’s brilliant career to a fitting close. (A)


Another Side of Love

(Bongo Beat)

Prolific pop fave Dave Rave (real name: David DesRoches) & gifted guitarist Mark McCarron have produced quite possibly the sleeper classic of 2001 with this gorgeous album of intricate, jazzy, warm, mainly acoustic collection of love songs.

Rave, of course, is better known as an ex-member of Teenage Head and valued session musician for the likes of Alex Chilton, Steve Wynn, Daniel Lanois etc and Another Side of Love finds Rave discovering the perfect foil in McCarron in a set of appealing material is as eclectic as they are consistent.

Particularly enjoyable are pure gems like the breezy “Love’s Overjoyed,” the Steely Dan-like “Fast Talker,” the melancholic “Just Friends,” the Caribbean-evoking “Lovers in Babylon” and the flamenco-flavoured “Free,” The Funny Thing We Do” & “Silence.”

Still very much pop, Rave and McCarron should be applauded on talking the less-travelled route in presenting an experience that is at once charming and vital. (A)  


Give It Up For The Trustfund Rockers

Force Vomit viz. Nizam, Dino, Neng & Wan Vomit, requires some explanation for music fans unfamiliar with the peculiarities of Singaporean indie rock. Force Vomit position themselves somewhere between the punk pop of the Ramones (hence the 'family' names) and the colloquial Malay brand of Western rock called 'Mat Rock,' Force Vomit bring an alternative sensibility to what is very much mainstream Malay rock vernacular. Except that the 'Mat Rock' Force Vomit deals in, is more of a 60s variety, incorporating elements of Dick Dale surf rock, the Shadows' slick instrumental rock and Buffalo Springfield folk rock into their approach.
Make no mistake, this is distinctive stuff and something many outside of South East Asia would be totally unfamiliar with its angles and perspectives. The melodies may be a tad clichéd and at times too common for comfort but Force Vomit attacks its chosen targets with verve, aplomb & yes, tongue firmly in cheek. How else could one describe such passionate guitar dynamics as found in "Liberator," "Siti," "Johnny Levitate," "Aisakos Don't Die" & "The Kids Don't WTF"? 
Guaranteed to screw up every conception one might have of what modern Western rock may achieve, let these mischievous sonic anarchists thrill, amuse and entertain you.


Neurotica EP
(Thursday Morning) 

Listen very carefully, boys and girls, faithful visitors to the Power of Pop - this is what I declare - Neurotica will make a 'dent' (ouch!) on your pop consciousness the moment you introduce its 5-tracks into your lives. This realization hits you between the eyes when the opening "End of the World" with its delicate tune & folky ambience but then the even better "Several Sides of Sadness" bowls you over with its melancholic sweetness. Only to be matched by "Over You," a perfect pop ballad that REM would have killed to have written. And there's more... the edgy title track gives the Dent that essential rock weight before "Weightless" brings back the sensitive singer-songwriter focus (think: Neil Finn, Nick Drake, John Lennon) to rapturous acclaim.

Hailing from Fairfield, Connecticut - this distinctive quartet (viz. Mitchell Linker, Jeff Norberg, D. Rauh and Dennis Cotton) - have already issued two previous releases - a 6-track eponymous EP and the full-length Beauty Cries. Based on the (brief) evidence on Neurotica, the Dent should have no difficulty enthralling fans of emotional melodic folk-tinged rock - you know who you are. Count me in as well! (A)


Common Senses
(Record Cellar) 

If it's Record Cellar, you can be guaranteed of pop music that is pure and rustic, warm and heartfelt yet never compromising on the highest melodic craft. Here at the Power of Pop, the arrival of a Record Cellar CD is always a treat and we would number Frog Holler, Rolling Hayseeds, Chet Delcampo, John Train et al as firm PoP faves. 

Kaufmann's Common Senses epitomizes the Record Cellar spirit, having led the Rolling Hayseeds through two fine albums, this debut solo work reveals that there is a bridge between soft pop and Americana. Recalling the quality songwriting of Harry Nilsson, Todd Rundgren, Jules Shear, Gram Parsons & Jimmy Webb, Kaufmann's versatile nature & eclectic repertoire - from country-folk ("You Never Listen") to breezy folk-pop ("Greenlaw Neck"),  from blue-eyed soul ("The All Fools Dance") to epic ballad ("For Crying Out Loud"), from meaty funk ("Shiver") to fragile jazz-pop ("Shooting Stars & A Full Moon"), Kaufmann never fails to amaze and impress. (A)


Mad for the Racket

Take two punk rock legends viz. Wayne Kramer (MC5) & Brian James (The Damned/Lords of the New Church), add notable punk personalities like Stewart Copeland (The Police), Dugg McKagan (Guns ‘N’ Roses), Clem Burke (Blondie) to the mix and what do you get? The kind of vintage, visceral & venerable punk rock music the likes of modern-day limp pretenders can only have wet dreams about.

Hard to believe that the roots of modern punk goes back almost 25 years now but Kramer and James can rightly be credited with shaping its embryonic form with their shredded “take-no-prisoners” guitar attack – based on the pioneering work of Keith Richards.

Not to say that the vital material on Mad for the Racket belongs to the past – no way! This is very much modern rock of the here and now as raucous songs like “Chewed Down to the Bone,” “Prisoner of Hope,” “Tell a Lie” & “I Want It” have a lasting appeal that many of the duo’s disciples are unable to match. Mad for it! (B)


Pop Under the Surface Volume Four
(Zip/Yesterday Girl) 

Pop Greetings Volume Two - Illinois
Pop Greetings Volume Three - Minnesota
(Yesterday Girl) 

Can you have too much of a good thing? Well, obviously, Stefan Johansson of Swedish indie label Stefan Johansson doesn't think so, and we should be grateful that he does feel that way. These three CDs represent a wonderful showcase for the myriad delights that the underground powerpop scene provide for the dedicated and the curious alike.

Pop Under the Surface Volume Four boasts stellar contributions from relatively better known artists like Evelyn Forever, Lolas, Western Electric, the Decibels, Bobby Sutcliff, Eytan Mirsky, Helium Angel, Cliff Hillis, P76, Jeffrey Foskett, Dipsomaniacs and Cockeyed Ghost - though to be fair, overall, the standard is consistently high. (B)

Pop Greetings Volume Two - Illinois continues Yesterday Girl's peek at the powerpop action in different localities. However, apart from Phil Angotti's "Better Day" and Julian Leal's "Again," this seven track CD is a tad disappointing. (C) That said, Minnesota is a veritable gem. From Moneypenny's fluid "Ballerina" (Renee Firner has a great set of pipes!) to Chris Dorn's wonderful Beatifics (where's that sophomore album, Chris) with the dynamic "Meantime," complete with the Dorn trademark of the irresistible choral hook; from the Vandalias' vibrant "Julie Come Around" to the sublime folk-pop of Todd Newman/Lori Wray; from Uberscenester's mod perky "He Gets All High" to Jason Sack's sophisticated "Kinda Love," Minnesota comes on tops. (A)