Astropop 3
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Astropop 3

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Title: Allies And Stepping Stones (www.adequecy review)
Publication: www.adequacy.net
Date: 1/26/04
Link: http://www.adequacy.net/reviews/a/astropop3.shtml

Astropop3 has seen it fit to disorient me and thoroughly confuse my sense of time and place.
Sounding something like a British fuzzed-out shoegazer band smashed together with a lo-fi American indie sound is Astropop3. The confluence of styles calls to mind something so distinctly early 90s with a British affectation that it is most surprising that this is a new release and the band hails from Virginia. The group somehow managed to deliver crunchy, fuzzy pop songs with a trace of an English accent. The vocals sound so familiar, and yet I am unable to place them or compare them.

The group opens up with “Forget Tomorrow,” a bouncy pop song that has a lead-in riff that sounds quite like Ryan Adams' “So Alive” and a hook something like Superchunk might have written early on. Quite quickly and unexpectedly, Astropop3 switches directions 180 degrees, and “Cubicles” is a slow, dark, minor chord-laced downer. But mostly these songs are mid-tempo pop numbers with male and female vocals with a healthy dose of distortion. The female vocals call to mind the perky rhythms of groups like Dressy Bessy and Palomar. The vocals add a dash of sugar to the sound.

There’s nothing unpleasant about this. Songs like “Say Anything” and “Bubble Gum Breakup” feature sweet melodies, and tight playing. If fuzzy pop is your thing Astropop3 isne of your new favorite groups.

- Dan, 1/26/04

- www.adequacy.net


Title: Allies and Stepping Stones (indie-music.com review)
Publication: indie-music.com
Date: 02-01-04
Link:

Quote: "Astropop 3 achieves the kind of strong, well-rounded sound that one would normally expect from a band of four or five."

By Benjamin Daniels

Astropop 3 certainly lives up to their moniker on their new release Allies
and Stepping Stones. The album is filled with infectious guitar licks and
consistently melodic hooks. Singer Dan Villanueva has a unique vocal style that could be described as melodic monotone. He achieves a consistent sound that plays well with the music. His vocals mesh with the songs and convey energy without overpowering them, which is a problem many three-piece outfits suffer from.

Astropop 3 achieves the kind of strong, well-rounded sound that one would normally expect from a band of four or five.

Their percussion section is strong and delivers excellent driving rhythms
that keep the songs upbeat and interesting. The entire album is energetic from beginning to end, with enough variations in the songs to keep this band from being a proverbial one "trick pony." The addition of vocalist Angelique Everett on the tracks "Fade On Your Own" and "Bubble Gum Break Up" bring even further interesting variation to the record, as they provide a striking contrast to Villanueva's.

"Never Seen The Sun" is the track that best showcases the band's ability
to pen incredibly catchy and driving pop songs. This is the type of pop rock song you don't hear on the radio anymore, but should. The instrumental track "Spy Tek" demonstrates Astropop's talent for branching out from the typical rock formula, as it creates an alluring soundscape complete with a catchy beat and memorable, spacey guitar leads.

This CD is a great example of a band adept at writing interesting pop rock.

Allies and Stepping Stones never loses focus or becomes redundant at any point. Their talent shines through in every song and certainly places them a step above so many other bands in the genre.



- www.indie-music.com


Title: Allies and Stepping Stones (Amplifier Magazine issue #41 review)
Publication: Amplifier Magazine issue #41
Date: 03/04-2004
Link:

The following review appears in Amplifier Magazine issue #41 (March-April 2004) ASTROPOP 3 Allies and Stepping Stones Planting Seeds (plantingseedsrecords.com) This Norfolk, VA., group led by front man Dan Villanueva plays moody indie pop that seems tailor-made for lonely nights, lying in your bed and taking things perhaps a bit too seriously while listening for "answers" to leak out of your headhones. The ingredients for moping are all here: melodramatic lyrics, swirling guitars to match your tortured soul and Villanueva's sad Brit singing. That said, Allies and Stepping Stones remains a catchy, well done effort. Two of the album's best songs, "Fade on Your Own" and "Bubble Gum Breakup," feature Angelique Everett, whose girly and innocent Juliana Hatfield-type voice blends perfectly with Villanueva's clanging guitar on "Fade." "A knife and open wound / won't my love return soon / with heartfelt melodies / to put your mind at ease," Villanueva sings on "Nothing Without You." He knows what you're feelin', man. - Andy Turner
- Amplifier Magazine issue #41


Title: Allies and Stepping Stones (Spledidezine.com review)
Publication: Spledidezine.com
Date: 03/16/04
Link: www.Spledidezine.com

Spledidezine.com March 16,2004
Astropop 3 "Allies And Stepping Stones" Planting Seeds Records

As much as they're loath to admit it, Americans have been carrying on a secret love affair with England ever since the Revolution, one of the bloodiest break-ups in relationship history. Okay, maybe that whole Beatlemania thing wasn't exactly secret, but most of mid-'90s Cool Britannia slipped unnoticed past the cultural radar on this side of the Atlantic. Those who stumbled across it, like the members of Virginia's Astropop 3, swooned to the keening guitarscapes and bittersweet symphonies of Lush, Ride, Echobelly and all the rest, while secretly wondering what newsagents, council estates and nutters were. The subtleties may have eluded them, but Yanks (and Canucks) know good pop music when they hear it. As a thank you, the Astropoppers offer Allies and Stepping Stones, a jubilant Anglophilic mash note to the Old Country that liberally quotes some of its best texts warmly and accurately.

Britpop's modest successes in North America were due to its status as the anti-grunge -- bright, shiny, often dreamlike music sung by folks who didn't sound like they were in the middle of a bowel movement. There was a sense of innocence, wonder and joy that colored even its darkest, sleaziest moments, and it's that guileless joie de vivre that makes this, the group's third long-player, so engaging. Their charm is tempered with a measure of self-awareness -- opener "Forget Tomorrow" (which sounds quite Kevin Shieldsy in its own right) has singer/guitarist Dan Villanueva peppering his narrative with references to water signs and wonderwalls, backed by crashing cymbals and fuzzy guitars, while "Nothing Without You" threatens to morph into "Grey Cell Green" at the slightest provocation. Remarkably, it never sounds contrived. That said, the salad days of 1994 were a long time ago (a full ten years if my math is correct), so exactly how relevant a US act playing letter-perfect Britpop is to the iPod generation is debatable. Still, hearing Angelique Everett, the fourth Astropopper, coo her way through "Fade On Your Own" brought a nostalgic tear to this writer's eye, compelling him to dig up his scuffed copy of Lush's Split for old time's sake. With the rockbiz quickly running out of genres to recycle, the '90s revival is probably just around the corner.

While its timing may be suspect, nothing can hide the fact that Allies... is a satisfying slab of well-researched British pop, American-style. Where bands like this were during that long, dark winter of rap-metal's discontent is a mystery, but here's hoping that Astropop 3 are merely the first to crawl out of their caves, rub their eyes and start foraging for effects pedals and Ben Sherman shirts. -- Steve English

- www.Spledidezine.com


Title: Allies and Stepping Stones (Babysue.com Review)
Publication: Babysue.com
Date: 04-01-04
Link: www.Babysue.com

From Babysue.com, April 2004 Astropop 3 - Allies and Stepping Stones (CD, Planting Seeds, Fuzzy pop) Using only the bare essentials to get their point across, the folks in Astropop 3 seem to get along just fine without using excessive overdubs, busy arrangements, and dumb studio tricks. The band's simple and direct approach works...making their hummable pop both memorable and unique. And without unnecessary clutter getting in the way, the listener is apt to take note of just how good the band's melodies really are. The band consists of Dan Villanueva, Keith Vanetta, Wendell Nicholes, and Angelique Everett. Villanueva, the main songwriter, has a great knack for writing smooth melodies and his vocals are perfectly suited for indie pop. Ten collectible cuts including "Forget Tomorrow," "Fade On Your Own," and "Bubble Gum Breakup." Good stuff! (Rating: 4+++/Out of 6)
- www.Babysue.com


Title: Allies and Stepping Stones (Shredding Paper Review)
Publication: Shredding Paper #17 (Spring 2004)
Date: 04/04/04
Link:

Shredding Paper #17 (Spring 2004)

Astropop 3 "Allies and Stepping Stones" CD 10/34:21 (*Editor's Pick)

Sounding much like a long lost Velocity Girl record in places, Astropop 3 mixes in some more atmospheric sounds between the jangly indie pop that dominates this, their third full length . I prefer the band when they hit their stride on the bouncy songs; "Fade On Your Own" is one of the couple of songs that feature Angelique Everett's winsome high pitched vocals, and the opening cut, "Forget Tomorrow" are among the two best indie pop songs I've heard this year. Hell, frankly these are about the 10 best indie pop songs I've heard this year, they've got some great fuzzy guitar work, Danny Villanueva's vocals are typically C86 flat but perfect for the songs, and when Angelique takes the mic, well, it's angelic for sure. I could gush about this for ages, but suffice to say that anyone who digs C86 style pop will love this. -Steve

------
In same issue, the band is listed in the SP Chart page

Shredding Radio Top 10 as they appeared on the site February 2004 based on requests and airplay

1. Magnetic Fields "I Think I Need A New Heart" (Nonesuch)
2. The Frechmen "Unlucky Day" (Shelflife)
3. Belle and Sebastian "I'm A Cuckoo" (Rough Trade)
4. Astropop 3 "Bubble Gum Break Up" (Planting Seeds)
5. Yo La Tengo "Styles Of The Times" (Matador)
6. Bearsuit "Itsuko Got Married" (Self released)
7. Tales from the Birdbath "Barbara Tuchman
8. Mighty Stars "Kiss Kiss Kiss" (Avebury)
9. Futureheads "First Day" (Fantastic Plastic)
10.Skywave "Here She Comes" (Blisscent)
- Shredding Paper #17


Title: Allies and Stepping Stones (Pop Matters Review)
Publication: Pop Matters
Date: 4-09-04
Link: http://popmatters.com/music/reviews/a/astropop3-allies.shtml

They're trying to make their mark in society, using all the tricks that they used on me...

Boy, does it suck to be an indie-pop band in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Of late, the Hampton Roads area of Virginia has become notable for producing such artists as Missy Elliot, Timbaland, the Clipse, N.E.R.D., and the Neptunes... and before that, it was notable for being the site of Teddy Riley's Future recording studio.

It has not, however, been what you'd call a hot spot for the independent pop scene; no commercial radio station is willing to play local music with any regularity (if at all), and small venues are few and far between.

As noted in their bio, Astropop 3 have been "persistently trudging through the dingy dive bars of the underground music scene in Hampton Roads, performing their own mixed bag of original music, and relentlessly promoting themselves." Over the course of a career that began in 1995, the band has continued to be fiercely independent, however, clawing their way up the ladder of success on their own terms.

After several cassette releases (some under the moniker Our Starblazers), Astropop 3 formed their own label, Planting Seeds Records, and released their self-titled debut CD in 1998. Since then, they're scored inclusion on a CMJ Certain Damage compilation, appeared alongside acts such as Alkaline Trio and the Smoking Popes on various other discs, and, in 2001, released their sophomore effort, Eclipsing Binary Star. In fact, two songs from the album, "Revenge" and "Same Old Story", could be heard on MTV's The Real World and Road Rules.

Now, in 2004, Planting Seeds has distribution through Parasol Records and their releases can be purchased through Amazon.com, which means that Allies and Stepping Stones, Astropop 3's latest release, may well be positioned to be the group's breakthrough album.

Astropop 3's general musical style hasn't changed dramatically over the course of their career. Frontman / songwriter Dan Villanueva has always worn his influences on his sleeve: a bit of '60s British pop, rather a lot of late '80s / early '90s British pop, and, as of late, a fair amount of today's rock / emo sound. What has changed, however, is the sound of the band's albums.

Villanueva co-produced Allies and Stepping Stones with Brad Rosenberg, and it's remarkable how much more crisp and clear the album sounds when compared to its predecessor. Admittedly, some of the light, breezy charm of the last album is lost with this slightly harder-edged release (there is no "Lost in a Dream" here), but the songwriting is as strong as ever.

Villanueva has clearly learned much from reading the lyrics from his Smiths albums. "Fade on Your Own" contains the very Morrissey-like couplet, "And if it hurts just like before / Our condolences once more / After settling the score / We're still bored". Still, he isn't permanently lost in melancholy; the album opener, "Forget Tomorrow", gently reminds, "No regrets / Don't forget / Tomorrow hasn't happened yet".

While occasional vocalist (though full-fledged band member) Angelique Everett doesn't seem to get as much opportunity to shine on this album, the jangly "Bubble Gum Breakup" is certainly the perfect spotlight. "Fade on Your Own", her other moment in the sun, is also fine, but it's "Breakup" where she best shows the goods.

There was a time when it would've been hard to imagine Astropop 3 breaking through to mainstream success, but times have changed considerably since the band first emerged. In a world where the White Stripes are nominated for Grammy awards, they've got just as much chance as any other indie band if they catch the ear of the right label executive.

Fortunately for Astropop 3, with Allies and Stepping Stones, there's lot of ear-catching material to be had.

9 April 2004

by Will Harris

- http://popmatters.com/music/reviews/a/astropop3-allies.shtml


Title: Allies and Stepping Stones (Rockpile magazine Review)
Publication: Rockpile magazine
Date: 05/04/04
Link:

The following is from Rockpile magazine May 2004 - you can pick yours up at Barnes and Noble - thats where i got mine! ----------------------------------------------------------------- ASTROPOP 3 Allies and Stepping Stones The cover of the fifth full-length album by Astropop 3 is all riled up red lava, like volcanic landslide rendered in a swirly sci-fi style a la Barbarella. The Virginia-based quartet's bright pop is more pretty than explosive. "Cubicles" is carried by lilting vocals and a brassy shimmer of guitar, while Angelique Everett's high, delicate vocals add bright elegance that evokes the ethereal harmonies of classic Brit poppers Lush on the brassy upbeat rocker "Fade On Your Own." Astropop 3 continues to live up to their name with this album of dreamy Brit-pop-flavored rock. (PlantingSeedsRecords.com) -Sarah Tomlinson
- Rockpile magazine


Discography

1998 "Astropop 3"- SELF TITLED (Planting Seeds)
2000 "Light Years Away" Single (Asian Man)
2001 "Eclipsing Binary Star" (Planting Seeds)
2004 "Allies and Stepping Stones" (Planting Seeds)
2006 "Easy To Be Free: the Songs of Rick Nelson" (Planting Seeds) - contributed the track "Life"
2010 Forthcoming LP "Passion, Persistence & Patience"

...as well as countless singles and compilations on various independent record labels.

Photos

Bio

In its decade-plus existence, Hampton Roads' Astropop 3 has endured the rollercoaster that is being working musicians: the countless lineup changes, the tease of commercial success, suffering through drama, loss and heartbreak, then getting up and doing it all over again. Despite the pitfalls of a merciless industry and slow growing scene, AP3 soldiers on, bringing Hampton Roads the original indie-pop music that music fans have loved since 1995.

After the loss of several key band members, AP3 mainstay Dan Villanueva took an 8 month sabbatical and re-emerged in early 2008 with new focus and a pared-down lineup featuring Ciesther Parrilla on bass and vocals, and Paul Pavon (the Atlantic, ex-Fall of Transition) on drums.

Although previous lineups detoured into slightly harder rock, the "new" AP3 went back to their roots with an acoustic and brushes sound. Nowadays, their music is centered around what they've always done best: well-crafted, catchy and timeless pop songs. Dan V continues to provide the backbone of the music and the band, but has made room for bassist/singer Ciesther contribute her own songwriting and harmonies. Newer songs penned by Dan and/or Ciesther plus reimaginings of music from Dan's bottomless archives paves the way for stronger hooks, lush male/female harmonies, and a chance for each band member to shine without getting lost in noise.

Through the changes, AP3 continues to draw rave reviews:

"...it is with much anticipation that I await the band's next album, which the artists are recording now. I have to admit, if the band completely leaves its older sound, I would be quite disappointed. Whatever, though, these artists decide to do, short of death metal, I will listen. Villanueva is a remarkable songwriter, and however he decides to make up Astropop 3 is going to result in a heck of an album..." - Delusions of Adequacy