Sunday, September 15, 2013

Kurt Baker's Excellent "Brand New Beat" is Power Pop at its Best

Regular readers of this blog know of my fondness for power pop music. Well, thanks to the syndicated radio series Little Steven’s Underground Garage, hosted by Steven Van Zandt, I’ve discovered another artist who’s a prime example of the genre. Little Steven’s show always showcases a “Song of the Week,” and he recently featured Kurt Baker’s “Weekend Girls,” a tuneful blast of pop rock sunshine. It led me to check out Baker’s 2012 release, Brand New Beat. It’s a fantastic album that will appeal to fans of 70s & 80s artists like The Cars & Elvis Costello. The album kicks off with the rocking “Hit The Ground,” and from then on it’s track after track of power pop excellence on songs such as the electric “Partied Out,” the fine ballad “She’s Not Sorry,” and the bright summer love tale “She Can Do It All.” You’ll hear echoes of Marshall Crenshaw, Cheap Trick, The Beatles & The Beach Boys in the sparkling harmonies, catchy lyrics and jangly guitars, on songs like “Everybody Knows" & the all out rocker "Qualified." There’s even a touch of the pop punk sound of The Ramones, another group Baker cites as an influence.

The production & arrangements are excellent, and the band (including producer Wyatt Funderburk on Guitar & Bass, Kris Rodgers on Keyboards, Geoff Palmer on Rhythm Guitar and Adam Cargin on Drums ably backs Baker on every track. The sound of vintage pop rock is captured perfectly on this great disc. Brand New Beat is a terrific set of “pure pop for now people,” to borrow the title of a Nick Lowe record. This is a great release by an artist whose music deserves to be heard. If you’re a power pop fan, a classic rock fan, or enjoy any of Baker’s influences, this Portland native (formerly of the band The Leftovers) will have your toes tapping and your hands clapping. Baker also has several EPs available, including 2012’s Want You Around and his awesome debut, Got It Covered (2010), a fantastic set of covers featuring the artist’s own power pop favorites, including terrific versions of Lowe’s “Cruel To Be Kind,” Rick Springfield’s “I’ve Done Everything For You” and The Vapors “Turning Japanese.” Highly recommended.

Here are links to videos for “She Can Do it All,” & “She’s Not Sorry” from Brand New Beat, and “Cruel To Be Kind” & “I’ve Done Everything For You” from Got It Covered.

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