Wednesday, December 23, 2009

An Electrifying Edifice of Ebullient EP's Featuring Breakers Broken, Braxton Parker, and Steven Casper & Cowboy Angst

ResetBreakers Broken - Reset

Absolutely golden, shimmering pop.  That’s what Breakers Broken bring to their new E.P. Reset.  Harkening back to the glory days of true, gorgeously produced pop, Breaker’s Broken somehow manage to remind me of some of the best 80’s pop bands like Curiosity Killed the Cat mixed with, of all things, Michael Jackson.  Sounds bizarre but it’s a massively refreshing mix of pure unadulterated hooks and melodies, blended with dancefloor energy, and, dare I say it, fun.  Yes, music still can be fun.

“Last Man on the Planet,” is the standout here, blending some of the best, most Michael Jackson like vocals I’ve heard in ages.  Not derivative or Xeroxed, but clearly Jackson-esque in tone and phrasing.  Imagine if Jackson had one day fronted Level 42 at their poppiest, or Wet  Wet Wet and you’ll get the feeling.  Big synths, circular drums, dancing strobe lights and swirling lasers.  The short instrumental “How Novel,” keeps the energy rolling high with it’s big synth intro, undulating bass groove, scattering guitar, and intricate drum line, merging seamlessly into “When She Needs Me,” another blast of delicate, R&B infused, synth pop.  Boppy, bouncy, bountiful, complete with undeniable vocal hook and hum-along melody.  “Falling System,” brings on the white boy soul a la Vitamin Z and their addictive single “Burning Flame.” It doesn’t take more than a moment for the bass to find it’s groove, then the perfect tenor bursts in like sunlight streaming through a breakfast nook window.  The dubbed in rap of  "Girl Behind the Bar,” doesn’t work for me, sounding a bit producer forced, but there’s no denying the talent here. In truth, it’s been a while since anyone wrote pure pop like this, and Breakers Broken deserve to find an audience.

Buy here: Breakers Broken - Reset

Braxton ParkerBraxton Parker - CD Preview EP

A while back, my esteemed partner, The Pope, wrote of Loomis and the Lust, as a band nearly indescribable in style, poppy yet rocking, rough yet polished. In the end, The Pope gave up on trying to find a label and just settled for rock and roll.  Now, just a few weeks later, Braxton Parker comes charging down that same multi-intersecting rock and roll highway.  Blessed with an ear for a melody that would make the writers in most pop punk bands drool with envy, Braxton Parker bursts out with a punchy, crunchy, but definitively poppy brand of rock and roll.

Debuting here on his 3-song EP, Braxton effortless unleashes his rock savvy and definite charms.  “City Lights,” is a full-on, charging rock rave-up, with chiming, circular guitar lines.  Punky in style, this isn’t punk, and God, it isn’t pop emo.  In fact, listening to the glory of the bridge and the catchy-as-catchy-can-be chorus, it’s clear this is a pop song.  Just one infused with more power and passion and energy than we’re used to from most watered-down bands.  In fact, somehow, Braxton manages to defy all decade generalizations in one song.  In some aspects it sounds as clean and AM friendly as some of the jauntier tracks from the seventies, yet some of the guitar lines seem to echo so much of the eighties early Athens scene.  Still the energy is clearly post-Green Day of the nineties, and the tone is pure now.  I’m not sure exactly what to call it, so I’ll just steal my partner’s line, and call in rock and roll.  Pure, fun, hooky, rock and roll.  “Not Yet,” brings a little more crunch and muscle to the guitars, driving the song like the best of the early 80’s powerpop bands.  Braxton’s vocals are a great blend of snotty and full of sneer, while still being incredibly harmonious and sweet.   And once again, he proves he knows his way around a hook.   And somehow he manages to write a chorus is sweet and nasty all at once.  It certainly is powerpop, but more expanded, less condensed and tight than that genre implies. 

Buy here: Braxton Parker

Topanga Ranch MotelSteven Casper & Cowboy Angst - Topanga Ranch Motel

Roots music, at its finest, has the ability to conjure up images of dusty places, wooden-floored bars, beer swilling patrons, and endless, empty horizons.  On this, his third release, Steven Casper & Cowboy Angst manage to bring all those images to life, and more, mixing in the plaintive yearning of a broken heart, and the motoring muscle of some southern-fried boogie rock.  Steven's voice is distinctly weathered and whiskey soaked to bring this songs to vivid and weary life, while the band cooks along behind him, a southern band in full flight.  Effortlessly, these guys spice up their dusty country with the chops of southern rock, or mix their rocking with heaps of rootsy flavor.  Guess it depends upon your perspective.

What doesn't depend upon perspective, however, is the quality of the songwriting and the performances here.  "Through with You," graced by some excellent, near haunting violin, truly elevates off the disc.  Steven's voice is perfectly worn, and soars as he tells the tale of this broken love.   The band churns around behind him, tossing in some tasty licks and beautiful dual guitar and lead runs.  "Takes me Back," does just that, taking me back to the hot and dry summer days of my youth.  Beginning with a gorgeous acoustic passage, the longing in Steven's voice is infectious as he reminisces on days long lost.  "I Want to Know," ups the boogie in true beer-swilling roadside bar fashion, while  "Down Home Girl," motors on down the highway riding a chugging southern riff, some stellar guitar work, and a violin frenzy.  Beautiful, ageless stuff.


Buy here: Topanga Ranch Motel

Breakers Broken

Braxton Parker

Steven Casper

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