Big Stir Singles: The Third Wave

Big Stir Records was founded in 2016 by Christina Bulbenko and Rex Broome of Burbank-based band The Armoires. In a few short years, they’ve built an impressive roster of artists that draw a multitude of influences from the mid-to-late 60s, from psychedelia to British Invasion, from folksy harmony rock a la The Byrds and Jefferson Airplane, to the orchestral rock of the 80s and beyond.

In order to generate more immediate exposure for their artists, Big Stir has offered three “Singles” compilations, including their latest, “Big Stir Singles: The Third Wave.” Available as digital downloads or physical media, these compilations offer a perfect way to familiarize yourself with many artists that are outside of the major label orbit, and are generating creative, heartfelt music.

Today was a great day to give this one a spin, and to share my impressions about the music with you. Visit the Big Stir Website to purchase either CDs & Vinyl or Digital Downloads of music from the label’s artists.

Keep up-to-date with what’s happening in the Big Stir universe on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and MixCloud. They also have a sister label, the Detroit-based Futureman Records. The Big Stir Magazine features interviews, artwork, comics, fiction, musical memories and more.

Here’s the music you’ll find on this 79-minute sampler:

Kai Danzberg, “Finally Free”…A “story” song, reminiscent of middle period Paul McCartney Beatles tunes, as well as the cabaret leanings of Ray Davies & The Kinks. It also includes “Uncle Albert / Admiral Halsey”-style interludes, with scratch megaphone effects over spoken segments.

Paula Carino, “Flying Dream”…A nice, floating, folksy tune with overtones of the early Buckingham/Knicks Fleetwood Mac, as well as a R.E.M. / Byrds “jangle” guitars for good measure.

Blow Up, “Reckless Hearts” …a solid, anthemic stomper in the spirit of Tom Petty. The midsection guitar solo begins as a nice Duane Eddy-style bottom strings country lick and resolves into more of the Petty (and John Mellencamp) Americana twang.

Steve Rosenbaum, “Am I Your Drug Of Choice”…An “Industrial” flavor on this one, with a big, fuzzy guitar solo in the middle and near the end. The song is less centered on a lyrical narrative, in favor of establishing a persistent and deliberately heavy groove.

In Deed, “I’m Alright (When I’m With You)”…A top choice for those who are solidly into the Bangles school of female power pop. Very easy to imagine this one coming out of an 80s TV screen on MTV’s Top 20 Countdown.

David Brookings & The Average Lookings, “Destiny”…A solid power pop track with emphasis on twangy guitars, booming bass, and tight harmony vocals. Classic bridge from the verses into a an instrumental passage that leads back to the chorus.

Butch Young, “Captain Serious”…A trippy, lilting, melodic excursion that recalls the Rubber Soul period of The Beatles, as well other bands of the era who found themselves at the pathway to the 1967 Summer of Love. There’s also a sweet Brian Wilson melancholy style that floats throughout the track, and a nice “fits the song like a glove” guitar solo.

The Brothers Steve, “Angeline”…A guitar-based power pop workout that rides on top of what could almost be a 60s surf rock excursion a la Dick Dale and other kings of the genre. Rythmic shifts and a few stop / start dynamics, you can almost hear Graham Nash wailing with the Hollies as the band works its way through a tight and tuneful track.

Jim Basnight, “Never Get Lost”…Another great example of the “Rubber Soul / Revolver” era of the Fab Four, with a strong chaser of Badfinger, especially when it comes to the backing vocals. Wonderful late 60s, Pacific Ocean Highway with the top down music.

Librarians With Hickeys, “Black Velvet Dress”…Haven’t met the band personally, but I’d bet the farm that they’ve spent some quality time listening to Bob Mould. It has that propulsive, high octane feel of Sugar, and even some of the more melodic Husker Du tracks. Explosive yet tight power pop.

Sundial Symphony, “Merri Goes Round”…Another track where the British Invasion tips its hat to Brian Wilson on the way to San Francisco, circa 1967. This one will feel fresh and familiar to you, all at once.

Kai Danzberg, “Not Only Sunshine (Unplugged Mix Featuring Helma)”…A trip through Mod 60s London, Lulu riding with Jeff Lynne on top of a double decker bus as the band plays along.

Paula Carino, “Green-Wood”…a heavier, moodier female power pop take than Paula’s “Flying Dream,” somewhat like Chrissy Hynde fronting the Go-Go’s. Nice riff-based playing behind the vocals.

Blow Up, “What Goes On (Live at the Roxy 1985)”…Subtract a couple of decades from 1985 and you’ll find yourself immersed in the California club scene, at the dawn of psychedelia.

Steve Rosenbaum, “Until It Happens To You”…Merseybeat, another dreamy slice of being bitten by the love bug, and sharing its ups and downs in a song. Echoes of The Byrds and other 60s bands that built their music on hooks and harmonies.

In Deed, “Holy Ground”…Dreamy, moody, a nice descending chord change on the verses. Vocals are at the top of the mix, where they should be for this song, as they’re the highlight.

David Brookings & The Average Lookings, “Tired Of Waiting For You”…It’s no secret that the Ray Davies influence runs deep throughout the Big Stir catalog, so it’s nice to see him acknowledged in this unplugged Kinks cover.

Butch Young, “Beautiful Dreamer”…A big, symphonic sound on this one, with slide guitar…another great example of the influence of Jeff Lynne and ELO. It captures the feeling of the 80s perfectly.

The Brothers Steve, “Carolanne”…This begins nicely, with cleanly-strummed electric guitar and vocals, then the band enters. Appropriately psychedelic lyrics…”Is that the sun going down, you look so small to be on the ground,” and some fine “na na na na, woo hoo” punctuations between the verses and chorus. A sailing and distorted guitar solo is the cherry on this particular sundae.

Jim Basnight, “Restless Night”…More anthemic twangy power pop, with every expected dynamic right in place, as it should be. All of the great 80s bands like the Brandos and BoDeans come rushing back in memory. Jim’s done his homework, and it shows.

Librarians With Hickeys, “Alex”…Haight Ashbury, The Ed Sullivan Show on a black and white TV, and those cool Roger McGuinn shades while David Crosby sings harmony vocals. This one will take you back to all of that. Fantastic track.

Sundial Symphony, “Looking For Sunsets (In The Early Morning)”…The album wraps up with another nod to psychedelic San Francisco, with a Jefferson Airplane dynamic in its sing-along chorus.