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Big Stir Records of Burbank, CA have established themselves as one of the prime sources for contemporary guitar pop, including janglepop, psych-pop, powerpop, pop-rock, and beyond. I have received a number of albums from them since my multi-part feature on the label last issue. First up is a reissue of ALLYSON SECONDS' debut album Bag of Kittens, originally released in 2009 on the Transistor label. The songs were written by Anton Barbeau, who plays an assortment of keyboards, guitars and percussion on the album. There are also a number of guest musicians here, including members of The Soft Boys, The Mutton Birds, and Cake. The album covers a broad musical territory while holding together cohesively as a complete album. Piano balladry meets electronic beats in I Used to Say Your Name; Put Your Finger on Me subverts soulful pop with bursts of discordant noisy guitar; and Dig My Pig puts an off-kilter spin on airy, jangly 80s indiepop. On a Bicycle Built for Bicycle 9 combines shades of psychedelic-era Beatles with pop-rock oomph and soaring cinematic strings, the tune addictively catchy and the lyrics perplexingly bizarre. Tie My Laces is a top quality track that nods towards late 60s West Coast folk-pop, with a lazy summer atmosphere tinged with melancholy, and cello and trumpet adding an extra layer of depth and sophistication. There are vivid lyrics inspired by the natural world, and Anton contributes some shamanistic throat singing to great effect. An eclectic, inventive album with many great tracks within.

LESLIE PEREIRA & THE LAZY HEROES comprise Leslie Pereira on guitar and lead vocals, her wife Paula Venise on percussion and vocals, Jeff Page on drums and vocals, and Rob Lontok on bass and vocals, the first three of these having previously been in 90s band It's Me Margaret. Their second CD album, Good Karma, was engineered by Karen Basset of The Pandoras and The Kariannes, and is packaged in an LP-style gatefold sleeve with fold-out lyric sheet. If I Could combines sweetly melodic, harmony-laden janglepop with driving surf-rock riffage. In My Back Yard looks back on a teenage romance with a strawberry blonde girl, the musical setting bringing together super-melodic pop and boisterous punk energy. Slip is from the heavier, darker side of the band's sound, influenced strongly by hard rock, with one of the male singers contributing the sort of brash vocal delivery expected of that genre. Time to Rock is a meeting of riff-driven rock and bouncy pop melody, the lyrics celebrating female musicians and encouraging more women to pick up a guitar and form a band. Theirs is a fun sound, the indie pop/heavy rock combination working a whole lot better than you might expect.

Big Stir are known for their online singles series showcasing pop-rock and related genres from several countries, with each batch of singles being compiled into a CD album accompanied by sleeve notes from bloggers, journalists and DJs with an enthusiasm for these types of music. Big Stir Singles: the Seventh Wave features the A and B sides of all 12 singles from May and June 2020, with Mike DeAngelis of There Once Was a Note providing the sleeve notes. THE CORNER LAUGHERS appear with The Calculating Boy, from their recent album Temescal Telegraph; a tale of a mathematical savant set within a joyous, ultramelodic janglepop arrangement. BROKEN ARROWS' The Worst of the Rest is a folk-rock pairing of political protest and chiming guitars. THE FORTY NINETEENS are joined by The Standells' Tony Valentino for Late Night Radio, an exhilarating mix of powerpop and garage rock. KAI DANZBERG & DEAR STELLA's Let Him Go is anthemic pop propelled by an insistent electro beat; if this had have been released in the 80s it would surely have been a massive hit back then and hailed as a classic today. ANTON BARBEAU & THRUST give us the madcap psych-tinged pop of Please Look at My Teeth. THE VAPOUR TRAILS round off the album with A Bit More Fire, superb psych-pop bursting with chiming jangle, vocal harmonies and swirling backwards effects.

Big Stir Singles: the Eighth Wave covers July and August 2020's batch of online singles, accompanied by sleeve notes from Beverly Patterson of Pop-A-Looza. SPYGENIUS appear with the super-catchy pop greatness that is Cafe Emery Hill, with its joyous vocal harmonies and effective use of key changes and a cheery fairground music interlude, while their psych-folk influences are evident in 13 Years (May Song), in which glorious flute soars and flutters like a bird in flight. There's the gutsy janglepop of THE BROTHERS STEVE's Carry Me, followed by Keep It Quiet by THE SPEED OF SOUND, combining poppy ba-ba-bas with drawled vocal recitations imparting a sense of rock 'n' roll cool. LIBRARIANS WITH HICKEYS' That Time is Now is vocal harmony- and handclap-adorned janglepop that would have fitted right in on the Bus Stop label in the early 90s. mylittlebrother contribute Janey, bright sunny pop infused with intense psychedelia, and D.E.F., another strong pop track in which a bouncy melody and rhythm contrast with the bleakness of the lyrical subject matter. These are all fantastic songs which are well worth checking out.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this issue's Big Stir feature, with reviews of the new albums by THE STAN LAURELS, DOLPH CHANEY, CHRIS CHURCH and THE ARMOIRES. In the meantime, all albums reviewed here are available at www.bigstirrecords.com


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Text © Kim Harten, 2021.