Army Navy: Army Navy

I am going to say something Army Navy will love, followed by something that will make them want to kill me. Army Navy’s self-titled album is a dandy collection of jangly pop rock that will have fans of Robyn Hitchcock and Teenage Fanclub jumping for joy. Singer Justin Kennedy has a delicate but steady voice, and his melodies are instantly hummable. Now for the part that will make their blood boil: they’re a power pop band, which is usually the kiss of death for a band’s commercial prospects. Still, who knows: Jack’s Mannequin’s first album was a power pop record, and they’re doing just fine, thank you. That said, Jack’s Mannequin never wrote anything as dreamy and harmony-laden as “Dark as Days” or “Slight of Hand,” the latter of which just scored a spot on the soundtrack for “Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist.” Will Kennedy’s connection to Ben Gibbard (they were both in the band Pinwheel) carry Army Navy over the power pop barrier? God, we hope so. We understand the bias against power pop – most of the bands that play it admittedly suck – but Army Navy deserves better than that. Here’s hoping they get it. (The Fever Zone 2008)

Army Navy MySpace page

  

Andy Bopp: This Guitar Kills Singer Songwriters

To paraphrase an old expression, this Bopp apparently never drops. Taking leave of his day job at the helm of the Myracle Brah, and his sometime side project Love Nut, Andy Bopp ups the ante on multi-tasking via a solo sojourn ironically dubbed This Guitar Kills Singer Songwriters. The result is a 12-song set that sounds more like a batch of demos, all sung solo but with earnest and engaging intent. Fleshed out, the tunes would find a fit with his usual power pop motif, but stripped to their essence, they draw distinct similarities to early Todd Rundgren, Jason Falkner and the Posies’ Jon Auer, both in amplitude and attitude. Like them, Bopp tends to dwell on heartfelt platitudes and downcast emotions, especially as evidenced by the despairing “Broken,” a wistful “If You Go Away” and the lo-fi pair “Good Day to the Night” and “Hearts of Fire.” Indeed, the high standard Bopp sets as a singer/songwriter should dissuade this guitar from engaging in any malicious mayhem. (Rainbow Quartz 2008)

Andy Bopp MySpace page

  

The Little Ones: Morning Tide

The Little Ones are one of those indie pop bands that are able to create music that transcends the makeup of each member. And even then, that describes so many bands that you have to be very special to stand out. Well, what the Little Ones do on their debut, Morning Tide (on Alexandra Patsavas’ Chop Shop label), is create catchy, witty and well-arranged music that is equal parts modern cool (think the Shins) and retro bounce (think a more guitar-driven Erasure). It’s the kind of album that sticks in your head and makes you pay attention without even realizing you’re paying attention, deeming the Little Ones the kind of act that should have staying power in a messed up music industry. But that’s not to say Morning Tide is anything more than very good. Let’s face it, the high tenor, almost-falsetto vocal thing of Ed Reyes and others is getting old (the Shins’ James Mercer and Radiohead’s Thom Yorke receive a pass here). That, and some of these tracks are riveting (the title track, “Rise and Shine” or “Like a Spoke on a Wheel”) while others are just bland and derivative (“All Your Modern Boxes” or “Gregory’s Chant”). See what the fuss is about, and temper your expectations just a bit. But the Little Ones will likely be around for a while. (Chop Shop)

The Little Ones MySpace Page

  

UB40: Greatest Hits

Another singles compilation from a band that has already assembled 18 such collections? Yes, and here’s why: singer Ali Campbell, after 30 years with the band, has left the group (his brother Duncan is replacing him), so if you’ve just gotta have that comprehensive – if not exactly definitive – Ali Campbell-led UB40 compilation, this is it. The most shocking thing is how tolerable some of those questionable covers feel today; indeed, the version of Al Green’s “Here I Am (Come and Take Me)” sounds pretty damn good here, though perhaps that’s because it comes after their (ahem, million-selling) cover of “(I Can’t Help) Falling in Love with You” and before they suck the soul out of “The Way You Do the Things You Do.” The originals obviously are the prize moments here, and the band’s best singles are all present (“If It Happens Again,” “Don’t Break My Heart”). UB40’s music didn’t change the world, but they did make it a happier, more peaceful place. Buy this and Labour of Love (the first album, not the second or third), and your collection is complete. (Virgin 2008)

UB40 MySpace page

  

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