Sam Kogon

From its surreal title and occult cover art to its grand buffet of vintage sounds and period production moves, Sam Kogon’s Psychic Tears is a lavish, painstakingly detailed work of modern-retro guitar pop. But what distinguishes the Brooklyn artist from the psychedelic pop herd is not his access to Mellotrons, Vox Continentals, and Russian fuzz boxes. It is Kogon’s vast and fluid command of chamber pop harmony and arrangement. It’s his long-arc melodic genius and his sweet, understated crooning—the real reasons why we revere Sir Paul, Brian Wilson, The Shins, or New York’s own baroque pop institution, The Left Banke, for whom Kogon served as lead singer during a short-lived reunion in 2015.
Psychic Tears sounds robustly old school without much at all in the way of explicit references (though the chugging boogie of the delightful Marc Bolan homage “I’m Letting Go” makes a brief exception). Kogon’s retro is seldom studied or doctrinal; this is just the way he hears it, his natural voice as a composer/arranger. Many standout tracks depart from the period vibe entirely, notably “I Was Always Talking,” a timeless pop duet with Frankie Cosmos; and the nervy new wave rocker “I Could Kick Myself,” which channels the barely controlled downhill energy of Elvis Costello and the Attractions circa This Year’s Model.

Released not long after his skills were authenticated by several collaborations with The Beach Boys’ Al Jardine, Kogon’s pop-wunderkind 2015 debut Before You Knew Me attracted the attention of the Beyond Beyond Is Beyond label, leading to this short-order follow up and a big step up in production values. Recorded at the Figure 8 studio of NYC-scene stalwart Shazad Ismaily (Lou Reed, Tom Waits), Psychic Tears was produced by Celestial Shore’s Sam Owens and mixed by Gabe Wax (Speedy Ortiz, Here We Go Magic, Beirut, The War On Drugs, Cas McCombs). Kogon wisely kept his core ensemble together for this effort, leveraging their road-tested chemistry and the inspired fancy-bits string parts provided by longtime collaborator Finnegan Shanahan.

Big Love

Big Love is a power pop band who formed on the 55th anniversary of The Day The Music Died. The group is fronted by chief songwriters Caleb Lewis and William Smith (formerly of Dumb Talk / aka Bill Waters), who are producing all of the music in a home studio in upstate New York.

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