“That’s Their Pet Sounds” : This week starring…Barry Manilow’s “Even Now” (1978)

Mission statement:

No matter who we are in this absurd, brief, and messy life we can all lay claim to a peak, a shining moment where we were the best we could be, where all the stars aligned and we fuckin’ delivered the goods.

Welcome to “That’s Their Pet Sounds” our latest semi-regular feature where we will endeavor to spotlight, and celebrate a heretofore uncool, sometimes mocked, occasionally underrated, polarizing, not as acclaimed as they should be,  “what the hell?” artist’s grandest artistic achievement i.e. their greatest album.

*”That’s Their Pet Sounds” is named after the Beach Boys landmark 1966 LP which is universally regarded as one of the greatest albums ever made but yeah, you probably knew that.

And who better to start with than one of the most maligned and popular artists ever….



Barry Manilow’s BEST ALBUM : 1978’s “Even Now”

Background: “Even Now” was Barry’s 5th official studio album and went on to sell 3 million freakin’ copies. He remained so fond of it, and of that time in his career, that in 1996 he released an album of his favorite pop songs from 1978 or thereabouts by other artists and called it, wait for it, “the Summer of ’78”. He even went so far as to write a song with that same title swooning over what a great year it was. Make no mistake, Barry was really, really into 1978. Yup, even Barry knew that “Even Now” was the one.
It is important to note that all Manilow albums during his seventies heyday were essentially collections of potential singles or at least sounded like them…which means the only cohesive theme tying them together as LP’s were the fact that all the songs were performed by Barry. He was an unabashed pop artist who made singles for the radio. That’s what he did. That was his job.

Why it’s his Pet Sounds :

Okay, before we begin have to attach a disclaimer to this : at this stage in life, I absolutely detest “Copacabana”, it’s just, I fuckin’ can’t… but that wasn’t always the case, which is to say as a kid, sigh, I thought it was pretty cool. I did….but reason I bring it up is because many people will write this album off straight away because of “Copacabana’s” presence i.e. it’s the opening damn track. And look, there is a liberal coating of schmaltz on a good portion of the album ( it’ll inevitably get all over your hands…or ears, case in point “Can’t Smile Without You”, that one really oozes) …but cast your cynicism aside, because once you get past those guys and go deep, you’ll discover that “Even Now” is Barry at his melodic, lovelorn best. Yes, sentimentally over the top but also kind of dark, dazed and lost and, it goes without saying, ridiculously tuneful.

Every track is sung with complete earnestness and nearly always features a dramatic key change around the last chorus or so ( you know those award show performances where all of a sudden a gospel choir or gaggle of harmonizing children rise from beneath the stage to join in on that final chorus and take things completely over the top, well it’s like that except it’s just Barry singing).


Okay, elephant in the room officially acknowledged, onward… 


The Songs: 

Want a song about not appreciating someone until it’s too late ? That’s the lush “A Linda Song”.

How about some loss, loneliness and regret ? Well the whole latter half of the record does a u-turn from corned out “joy” of “Copacabana “ and “Can’t Smile”. “Where Do I Go From Here”, “Even Now”, “I Just Want To Be the One” and  “Sunrise” supply plenty of emotional question marks.

And the guitar riff in “Leaving in the Morning” sounds like a slowed down version of the heavenly opening chord of Cheap Trick’s “Surrender” and as such is totally bitchin’.

The defining track on the album is the aforementioned darkly optimistic (really) and mournful “Sunrise”. In fact the cover of the album is literally a photograph of the song. It’s a world weary ballad about resigning yourself to this thing called life and trying to hang in there whilst contemplating your place in the universe and features a pretty gorgeous piano line that perfectly captures “the sad”.


“I can be dark too bitches”

Anything sub-standard ? Well yeah, “Losing Touch” is unpleasant and the kitsch of “I Was a Fool” can grate but those are tiny gripes.

In Conclusion:

“Even Now” is Barry at his most consistent and has more top notch tracks per capita than any of his other 30 (!) studio albums. And for an album of singles really, it hangs together exceptionally well. It’s vintage AM radio gold. It’s perfectly calibrated lush, and melodic pop music. It’s his Pet Sounds.

Hear it here:





Weekly New Wonders Playlist !


Here’s some of the coolest pop music, discovered over the past week or so, to inhale. Welcome to the Weekly New Wonders playlist. Please note, this is another one of those weeks when a good handful of tracks are only available on Soundcloud and not Spotify as of this writing so imploring you to head to Soundcloud first so you don’t miss anything ( one of those handful could be your next true love after all) !

Listen on Soundcloud:

Listen on Spotify:

Shormey “Cruise!”

There is something special about “Cruise!” I can’t quite put my finger on. It’s like some weird combination of Toro Y Moi, a faceless old disco 12″ from 1979 you’d find in a random pile of records and a lost Brenda Fassie ( late legendary Diva) bootleg from the 80’s. It’s hazy and catchy and a little bit weird and sounds like nothing else I’ve heard today. Shormey exults us all to “Cruise!” in the quietest way possible and it’s damned near impossible not to be charmed.

Hold “Time”

The Clash were always expert at intertwining the sour with the sweet, telling stories, and conveying sights no matter how unpleasant or challenging they were, and making them “palatable” for the masses i.e. making them pop. “Time” by Hold sounds not unlike a classic Mick Jones led track off of 1980’s “Sandinista!”: cuttingly critical and observational, radiating frustration ( in this case after a conversation with an overt racist) but paradoxically served up in a melodic blanket. It’s completely infectious exasperation.

Baby Jey “Someday My Space Cowboy Will Come”

Sweetly dizzy and hallucinogenic, all about waiting for that thing to happen, “Someday…” is a living fever dream and it’s difficult to resist it’s lush and tuneful charm. Yeah, it’s kind of funny, as any song specifically referencing a jalapeño in it’s first verse generally would be, but it also sports the line “If the breeze is right dead leaves will come alive”, which is ridiculously poetic.

Weekly New Wonders Playlist !


Hey, here’s the latest in exceptional new music, ’tis the Weekly New Wonders playlist. There’s a lot to absorb but I swear there are some quality vitamins in here that will do you good, so please indulge all the way. Going forward, in addition to the full aforementioned playlist, we’re going to do a “Best of the Wonders” (or something like that) at the end of each month featuring the Top 6 so be on the lookout for that soon.

And wait, one more Important Notice !! : the Soundcloud playlist is 7 songs longer because those tracks are not yet available on Spotify, so for this week gonna especially encourage you to check out the former so you don’t miss anything ! Onward…

Soundcloud is here:

Spotify is here:


Margot “Tired”

Understated, winding and turning, shimmering and pretty, “Tired” is basically a sigh in song form.  There’s a line within it that goes “Oh God, won’t you get off your phone and tell me how you feel. I’m tired”, which just about sums it all up. The guitar within somehow manages to both chime and sound utterly defeated and it all makes for something exceptionally fine.

Johnny Payne “Lazy Love”

“Lazy Love” is the long lost cousin, or modern day offspring (take your pick), of Nilsson’s “The Moonbeam Song” and Gilbert O’Sullivan’s legendary ” Alone Again (Naturally)”, the latter being one of the darkest # 1 songs ever, which is to say it sounds like it’s wistfully wandered into 2018 straight out of 1971. Plush and simple, awash in sorrowful sun going down strings, and starring both drums and guitars that literally cry, it’s taken from Johnny’s forthcoming ep, and is a fantastically sweet thing.

Weekly New Wonders Playlist !

Screenshot 2018-07-21 21.55.19

Well here we are again, open heartedly offering up a playlist with the best new tracks that have surfaced over the past week, which is to say here’s the latest Weekly New Wonders Playlist. And we’ve been gifted with some very special things so please open your heart to ’em. You can listen on Spotify or Soundcloud, links below…

Spotify here:

Soundcloud here:

Beckie Margaret “Garden Roses”

“Garden Roses” is echoey, mournful, and transportive, and Beckie Margaret’s crying, siren-esque vocal absolutely shines: when she hits the high notes, it calls to mind the  legendary Shara Nelson of Massive Attack “Blue Lines” LP fame. What a lovely thing, wish it were even longer.