1) Spygenius, “If You Go A-Roving” 2) Joe Normal & the Anytown'rs, “Don't Hurt Me” 3) Clifford Ulrich, “I'm Going to Miss Her” 4) In Deed, “Don't Need, Don't Care” 5) The Kariannes, “This Song Is a Cure” 6) The Living Dolls, “Everything That Happened” 7) Charms Against the Evil Eye, “Where Are the Living?” 8) The Ex Teens, “Good News (For Shut-Ins)” 9) Popdudes, “Chains” 10) Kenny (Anton Barbeau), “My Adelphi Twin” 11) The Armoires, “(How Did You Make) A Mistake Like Me?” 12) Amoeba Teen, “Suit & Tie” 13) Spygenius, “Let Me In” 14) Joe Normal & the Anytown'rs, “Anytown” 15) Clifford Ulrich, “Like a River Glorious” 16) In Deed, “Marry Myself (Single Version)” 17) The Kariannes, “Every Word Means No” 18) The Living Dolls, “Happy Manors” 19) Charms Against the Evil Eye, “Oscar” 20) The Ex Teens, “The New Victorians” 21) Popdudes, “Dream Baby (How Long Must I Dream?” 22) Giacomo & Carolina (Anton Barbeau), “Jah Rosie, The Dainty Beast” 23) The Armoires, “Not a Good Man” 24) Amoeba Teen, “Caught in the Middle”
BIG STIR SINGLES: THE SECOND WAVE continues Big Stir Records' ongoing CD collections of the A-sides and B-sides from the label's celebrated weekly Digital Singles Series. Featuring twelve pairs of tunes from the global pop scene (with the US, UK, and Sweden represented this time around) and liner notes from Goldmine Magazine's JOHN M. BORACK (author of the recent Shake Some Action 2.0 guidebook to the best in power pop from 1970-2017), the second compilation easily lives up to THE FIRST WAVE and is perhaps the best distillation yet of the “Big Stir Sound” and the community-building efforts of label founders Christina Bulbenko and Rex Broome. It's available now on CD and Digital Download.
As with the first collection, THE SECOND WAVE is anything but a garden variety “label sampler” (although this time around four artists from the BSR roster, including Bulbenko and Broome's own band THE ARMOIRES, do appear). Rather, these are artists from across the broader global pop scene literally bringing their A- (and B-) game with top flight offerings which have already received ample airplay and glowing reviews as they've been issued in the course of the series. It's once again a diary of several months in the life of the guitar-pop zeitgeist, covering January through April of 2019 and showcasing a bumper crop of brand-new and often exclusive tracks.
Opening with the characteristic sparkling jangle of Canterbury's SPYGENIUS, diving straight into the impassioned working man's rock of JOE NORMAL & THE ANYTOWN'RS and the Gene Clark-esque electric folk pop of ARMOIRES bassist CLIFFORD ULRICH, this new set plays like an alternate version of a Sunset Strip gig circa 1967 or a lost playlist from the heyday of '80s college rock. The soaring “Don't Need, Don't Care” from Sweden's IN DEED, the keenly awaited debut of the multinational super-girl-group THE KARIANNES, and Christina's Motown-flavored showcase on THE ARMOIRES' “(How Did You Make) A Mistake Like Me” reaffirm BSR's affinity for the undersung female heroes of power pop.
Psychedelia informs the excellent offerings from Oxford's CHARMS AGAINST THE EVIL EYE and ANTON BARBEAU (appearing here with obscuritanist aplomb under the guises of both KENNY and GIACOMO & CAROLINA. Mainstays of the LA guitar-pop scene THE EX TEENS and THE LIVING DOLLS bring some serious glam vibes to the party while liner notes scribe JOHN BORACK's own POPDUDES (here featuring Singles Series vets MICHAEL SIMMONS and ADDISON LOVE along with Love's father TIM) demonstrate what “retro-rock” really should be, and BSR's newest signings AMOEBA TEEN (of Stourbridge, England) lay into the Jam-like lead single from their new record as well as an exclusive B-side companion piece that's as essential as anything here.
The B-sides are in fact, as always, part of the charm: where else would BARBEAU offer up a synth-dub ode to his cat, or THE ARMOIRES deploy a Meat-Loaf-via-X duet, or ULRICH deliver an honest-to-God hymn with Byrdsy grace? It takes two sides to show off what these bands can do, as in THE KARIANNE's ace cover of LET'S ACTIVE's “Every Word Means No”, sung by KAREN BASSETT as the flip to MARYANNE WINDOW's original on the A, or THE LIVING DOLLS' Ray Davies-inspired shuffle “Happy Manors” as a counter to their hard-rocking lead track. SPYGENIUS get funky on the monstrous exclusive “Let Me In”, TIM LOVE's vocal on ROY ORBISON's “Dream Baby” is uncannily moving, and CHARMS' “Oscar” captures the eerie drive of Barrett-era Pink Floyd while JOE NORMAL meshes New Wave with Springsteen to rousing effect. In short, these are no castoffs or failed experiments... the B's are a quirky treasure trove in their own right.
The preceding volume BIG STIR SINGLES: THE FIRST WAVE (featuring SIMMONS, LOVE, KAI DANZBERG, KARLA KANE, PLASTICSOUL and more) is still available from the label's website, and the Digital Series is well into its third wave, starring PAULA CARINO, DAVID BROOKINGS, LA legends BLOW-UP and more; it'll be anthologized in the Fall of 2019 to complete the first trilogy of compilations.