The power of pop!

Hooray for Minky Starshine; plus, the Brother Kite
By BOB GULLA  |  September 5, 2006

WE LOVE L.A.: Ken and Minky in the studio.
Dashing down the corridors of the hallowed power pop pantheon — whose building blocks include Big Star, Badfinger, the Raspberries and, later the Fastbacks, Matthew Sweet, and our own Velvet Crush — comes Minky Starshine and the New Cardinals, Providence’s latest, and perhaps most intermittent, aspiring hitmaker. Minky, aka Rob Anastasi, has been gone for many a moon, but he did manage to assemble a crack crew for the new record, Hooray for L.A., recruiting people like Kraig Jordan (of the Masons, for preproduction), drummer Paul Myers, and bassist Chris Cugini (the rhythm section of Blizzard of ’78), and keys man Phil Aiken, along with a handful of other talent-abundant locals. “This whole experience has been really great and we want to showcase it, seeing that I don’t play shows that often,” says Anastasi. “I also want people to go out and feel like they can have some fun with music again.”

The record was produced by Ken Stringfellow of the Posies, another critical power pop cornerstone, and recorded over the summer. Anastasi petitioned Stringfellow, who’s still doing Big Star gigs with Alex Chilton and various other production jobs, through Ken’s Website. “He sent me some demos,” said Stringfellow in an e-mail, “and said he was looking for some production help and we corresponded for awhile. He sent me mp3s of his rehearsals so I could do preproduction work from afar. So when we got together to record it went really quickly.”

Hooray for L.A. is a gas. Working within the classic power pop tradition, Minky serves up ’70s-injected, sugar-sweetened musical magic with delightfully faux sincerity, vintage instrumentation, and robust vocal harmonies. “Rescue Me” feels like an outtake from the Byrds’ Sweetheart of the Rodeo (OK, so maybe the Jayhawks is more like it.). “Smile,” with Stringfellow on backing vocals, is an elaborate, thoughtful chestnut, weighted with harmonic details that echo Beach Boy Brian Wilson’s own Smile. “Heaviest Heart” suggests the soaring work of Freedy Johnston.

A particularly poignant aspect of Hooray for L.A. is Anastasi’s purposefully positive focus. When the songs aren’t about the frolics of love and desire, they’re about coping with the loss of those things. There are 16 songs, most of which hail from the Posies school of über-craftsmanship, which gives Stringfellow’s presence particularly strong resonance. “The musicians he had (Paul and Chris from Blizzard of ’78, etc.) were superb,” writes Stringfellow. “I think the songs turned out really well and I enjoyed working on them a lot.”

So is there a power pop renaissance happening in Providence? Is Hooray for L.A. the continuation of something worthwhile in town? On the bill this weekend with Minky is Blizzard of ’78, the phoenix of Delta Clutch and one of the city’s last exceptional power pop acts (with apologies to the most recent version of Velvet Crush, wherever they are). Another talent currently carving out an indie niche for himself is Will Brierly, a guy I’m sure you’ll be hearing more about soon. While not quite power pop, he has a sharp band called the Roller Holsters, some brisk melodies, and a trumpet, which already makes him interesting. So why not check out Minky as he jumpstarts a mini-trend and celebrate the release of Hooray for L.A. at the same time. Pick up your copy today!

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