-- Denver's Apples in Stereo have just released a very fine career retrospective called #1 Hits Explosion. Funny guys (and girl). In spite of the K-Tel title, they've never had a hit, and probably never will, but that shouldn't stop you from checking out a criminally underrated band. This is deliciously sweet power pop with psychedelic trimmings. The guitars go all the way to 11, and there are more hooks here than can be found in a fishing and tackle shop.
-- All the latest Beatles hoopla has sent me thumbing through the old record collection, looking not for Beatles music (that would be too obvious), but rather for bands that have been influenced by The Beatles. I know, there are thousands of 'em. But a couple have managed to fool me in the sense that if I didn't know any better, I'd swear I was listening to a long-lost John and Paul rocker. In the Early Beatles Soundalike category, I give you "Lies" by The Knickerbockers, circa 1966. The Knickerbockers only had one great song, and this is it. Otherwise, they were a frat party band from New Jersey who did nothing memorable. But oh, that song. And in the Latter/Psychedelic Beatles Soundalike category, I give you "Camp Hill Rail Operator" from the 1997 album Kontiki by Austin, Texas misfits Cotton Mather. They were from Texas, but they'd have preferred to be from Liverpool, and they captured the Revolver/Rubber Soul era just about perfectly.
-- London folk punk Frank Turner's new album Poetry of the Deed is a real grower, and is quickly moving up my Best of 2009 list. Turner's earlier music was a little too beholden to Billy Bragg. Nothing wrong with that influence, but sometimes he didn't sound like his own man. He does here, though, with a batch of witty, sharply written punk/pop tunes. "Live Fast Die Old" dares to question the unspoken assumption that real punks need to burn out fast, and "Try This At Home" features the memorable lines:
They're just people who play music
And some of them are just like us
And some of them are dicks
Love that rhyme. And the sentiments.