Melodic pop confections that trigger visualizations of singers and drummers nodding to the downbeat--it's what I call "Nod-Pop": early Beatles, Hanson, that first Spin Doctors album.
My new favorite Nod-Pop album comes from an artist who's best known for trading music video rotation slots with Laurie Berkner on the Noggin network: Justin Roberts. Imagine Fountains of Wayne's Welcome Interstate Managers but with songs written from a kid's perspective (actually "Stacy's Mom" and "Fire Island" already are) and you'd get pretty close to Roberts' 2006 release Meltdown!.
The track "Maybe the Monster" features something like eight of my 20 favorite pop hooks of the year. The remainder of the list would be crammed with moments from "My Brother Did It", "Our Imaginary Rhino", "It's Your Birthday", and the title track.
And the mellow ballad "Sand Castle" features sweet and sleepy Bacharach-style trumpet as an echo to the vocal.
Roberts was recently profiled on apple.com, for his use of GarageBand to develop more densely layered pop arrangements than he had on his previous five CDs.
Regardless of the tools, Roberts and producer Liam Davis have made a brilliant album that deserves to be heard (and purchased) by more than parents of preschoolers with premium cable service.