We’re welcoming back Ted Frank to The Second Disc for a look at the latest offering – Volume 18 – from the fine folks at International Pop Overthrow! Producer/curator David Bash, graphic designer Steve Stanley and their team have created another instant classic with their latest and greatest collection of the best, most diverse and most delicious pop music circa 2015!
In the year that saw the Numero Group’s superb Ork Records Collection, Omnivore Recordings’ immediately indispensible Power Pop Christmas celebration of The dB’s & Friends’ Christmas Time Again! (side note: Skylar Gudasz’s “The Sounds of Christmas” just might be the most heartrending holiday song since The Pretenders’ “2000 Miles”), and some of the best offerings in years from the likes of Tommy Keene, Squeeze (!), and Wilco, not to mention two Album of the Year contenders from an upstart (relatively speaking) like Royal Headache and a near-decade old band like The Cairo Gang, 2015 could easily be considered the resurgent year of mainstream Power Pop! As Aaron Kupferberg of powerpopaholic.com and host of Brooklyn’s annual Powerpopaholic Fest once stated in regarding the ever-fluctuating definition of power pop, “what’s constant (re: power pop) is that new bands will keep coming along, and each will share a common lover for melody and unmistakable musical hooks.” 2015 proved there are still plenty of hooks & melody to be had!
David Bash’s International Pop Overthrow Festival is a perennial favorite of The Second Disc; this year’s impressive 3-CD offering is no exception to the exceptional material Bash and company have featured for nearly two decades running! Although the collection really hits its sequencing stride with the second disc (no pun intended!), the first disc offers a radio-friendly channeling of The Strokes’ sonic palette with the wily reach of a Gwen Stefani-type on “So There You Are” by Charlie Roe (no relation to Tommy Roe J) & The Washing Machine. Following Roe’s offering is another radio-ready instant favorite. “Lose Yourself” by The Evening Attraction brings together an early 2000s pop soundscape (think Keane or even the Hives and you get the picture) with a pure shot of punk grit. Disc One also features what may just be IPO’s new official anthem in the form of Jeremy Band’s “The I.P.O. Song,” as well as Marston’s “Shabby Shakes,” a rollicking homage to “Day Tripper.” Demonstrating the sheer range on Disc One, Ray Paul employs a fine balance of McCartney and Nick Lowe that is all his own on “In My World,” while the grandeur of Vinyl Floor’s “Colorblind” could easily warrant them a tour date with a band like Queensryche. “My Mind” by Marlene Markussen is a tortured ballad of the first order. The highlights from Disc One are almost too numerous to mention…but we’ll try anyway!
Highlight Tracks from Disc One – “Take You Out” arrives from Gooey, redolent of The Go-Betweens’ 16 Lovers Lane with the added wit of any Morrissey effort. This disc also showcases some of the cleverest lyrics in recent days, “As if you really didn’t need to know/You could be a writer or historian/Be the worst behaved to wear a halo/You’ll still be the one valedictorian,” from Steve Rosenbaum’s “First in Class.” Finally, Sarah Siddiqui’s “I Like It” is so intimate, stripped bare, and confessional that it is beautifully unsettling. Again, Disc One affirms that “pop” is such a malleable term.
Disc Two of this packed collection showcases less of pop music’s sunshine jangle and more of the shadings, sonic palette, and angular variety of a New Wave album – especially with the inclusion of songs like Luann Olson and Randell Kirsch’s “This is My Face” that integrates Eastern-instrumentation and immediately states, “I have a light side/ I have a dark side/one’s on the outside/ and one’s on the underside…I want you to want both of me.” Olson and Kirsch’s song is more of a slow burn, but on Disc Two you’ll also hear mid-tempo disco-soul numbers such as Sue Hedges’ silky “Blue on Blue” and an outright, Elvis Costello-like rocker in Junebug’s “She’s an Ape, Not a Monkey.”
Highlight Tracks from Disc Two: Kylie Hughes wistful opening track, “Dream Dream Dream,” the Warm Morning Brothers delicately mesmerizing “The Boy and Marlene’s Ghost,” Harvest Moon’s beyond toe-tapping “Wanna See You Dancing,” Claire on a Dare’s edgy, crunchy “She Knows/Photographic Memory” which could be a tribute to Chrissie Hynde, and finally, in the year of Fleetwood Mac’s three-disc reissue of the classic album, Tusk, Brent Daniel does a phenomenal channeling of Lindsay Buckingham on a personal favorite track of this year’s entire IPO offering, “So Long.”
And then there is…Disc Three, which fully embraces more of the conventional guitar jangle sound. With this kind of pop sensibility and garage feel, this disc could easily serve as a perfect set list for Little Steven’s Underground Garage. Slight themes emerge here, as well. Vanilla’s “Perfect Year” and Jerry Juden’s “Now Is Only Now, Now” are perfect New Year’s companion songs in their deft discussion of renewal and the passing of time. Additionally, a personal perennial favorite of IPO, The Tearaways, have an answer for Dylan’s “Back Page” ad (if you will) with their newest song, “Much Too Old To Feel This Young” while The Virtues also playfully address aging (in tuneful, Hammond Organ fashion) with the lyric “One day you will see the man in the child” in their song “Twice.”
Highlight Tracks from Disc Three: Not to be redundant, but The Tearaways are always a favorite. Then there is a real songwriting talent, one caught somewhere in between the ranks of a Ben Folds and a contemporary Broadway composer, found in the band, Real Numbers and its song, “Wonderful.” Finally, two personal favorites are the Arcadeans’ distillation of corporate life malaise and the disposable culture on “Another Day” (which contains witty opening dialogue/banter) and Eric Frisch’s masterful take on a “Jingle Bells”-riff sampling elements of that Christmas classic and shaping it into a perfectly crafted love song with “Pretty Girls.”
2015 was certainly a good year for pop music in general. New and perennial names alike provided some of the best albums in years posing the question: What can 2016 possibly have in store?! To quote Carlos Santana, though: “I realized a long time ago that instrumental music speaks a lot more clearly than English, Spanish, Yiddish, Swahili, any other language. Pure melody goes outside time.” Although there are no outright instrumental tracks here on IPO Volume 18 (for a timeless, instrumental 2015 album check out Max Richter’s sublime meditation on sleep aptly titled, From Sleep), the hooks and melodies found on IPO Volume 18 are aplenty and speak volumes! After all, it’s hooks and melody, if nothing else, that transcend language and remind us how truly timeless music can be!
You can order International Pop Overthrow Volume 18 at Pop Geek Heaven!