"Galaxyland is a psychedelic masterpiece!" - Mike Lidskin/Twirl Radio
Galaxyland (Kool Kat Musik)
By Robert Steven Silverstein (Music Web Express)
Kool Kat MusiK really hits its stride with the 2010 CD release of the latest Maple Mars album entitled Galaxyland. Founded by singer-songwriter and electric guitar ace Rick Hromadka, the four piece Maple Mars have recorded their definitive pop masterpiece that spans generations while drawing from the world of pop gone by. A triple threat musician, Rick Hromadka is a real hero among the pop intelligencia and the IPO crowd and there’s no escape from his galaxy of pop sounds. One early comparison I thought about while spinning Galaxyland was a cross between the classic ‘60s pop band The Association as produced by Jimi Hendrix! Hromadka has a great guitar sound that Hendrix would dig while his healthy respect for pop’s past puts him on the right road. The sound of the Galaxyland CD fully captures the vast Maple Mars pop composite. Backed by Ron Pack (vocals, drums), Trevor Zimmerman (vocals, bass) and Steve Berns (guitars), Rick serves the Maple Mars spirit well and kicks it into overdrive on what will come to be viewed as the group’s best album to date. Also, don’t just buy the download, but check out the expertise put into the design and color schemes of the CD cover art, booklet and packaging. Back in the ‘60s a cover like that would stop you in your tracks and it would probably be bought immediately, back when album jackets were considered art. You can go follow Rick and Maple Mars on Facebook where you can often find him postulating on the meaning of just what qualifies as a classic album! Such devotion to the pop art form springs to life in Galaxyland. As far as the definition of pop “classic”, may I be so bold as to infer that Maple Mars comes pretty darn close on Galaxyland I might add.
See my interview with Rick Hromadka here: https://mwe3.com/reviews/MapleMarsGL/
ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER by ROBERT KINSLER
The International Pop Overthrow readies 13th annual two-week takeover of L.A. and O.C.
July 22nd, 2010, 11:52 pm ·
It wouldn’t be summer in Southern California without a good heatwave, at least a couple exciting baseball games … and plenty of musical confections at International Pop Overthrow.
Indeed, founder David Bash’s power-pop-apalooza, better known as simply IPO, is marking its 13th annual stretch of shows this summer, scattered at nearly a dozen venues throughout Los Angeles and Orange County from July 23 through Aug. 8.
Fans of power-pop — that timeless, highly melodic brand of rock that counts the Beatles, Cheap Trick, the Bangles, the Raspberries, Fountains of Wayne and the Smithereens among its pantheon of champions of accessible songcraft — will surely find plenty to love at any (or all) of the IPO dates.
As a guide, I thought I’d single out a few of the more noteworthy acts with new releases, almost always sold (and signed) at these shows. But note: most only perform for about 20 minutes. Best to arrive to IPO gigs on time!
Maple Mars are somewhere between the psychedelic pop of Brian Wilson’s SMiLE and the riotous drive of Big Star comes this band’s latest dozen-track collection, which keeps accessible while never letting down its artistic guard. Lead singer-guitarist Rick Hromadka, guitarist Steve Berns, bassist Trevor Zimmerman and drummer Ron Pak dish out trippy ballads (“Big Imagination,” “When Bridges Fall”) with as much zeal as their more explosive material (“Borrowed Sunshine,” “Somewhere Back There”) and haunting dreamscapes (“The Excursion”). See the band July 23, at 7:30 p.m. at The Joint in an especially strong bill that also includes the Galaxies, Smash Fashion and Twenty Cent Crush, $10.
Musosribe - Bill Kopp’s Music Blog
Album Review: Maple Mars – Galaxyland
Intelligent, well-produced powerpop generally draws its inspiration from a rather short list of influences. While the most mediocre powerpop tends to chase its own tail – serving up predigested, overly derivative pop you’ve heard before – the better quality stuff manages to have it both ways: remaining firmly grounded in the powerpop tradition of its foreberars, and still offering something new and exciting.
The latter is tougher than it might seem. I have no problem at all with derivative acts: Take my favorite critical punching bag, Oasis. They served up little in the way of originality. Did it keep them from creating a couple great albums (and some good ones? It did not.
In any event, Maple Mars‘ new album Galaxyland succeeds against the odds. While it’s true that to be successful in the powerpop genre, you simply have to pay a stylistic debt to the canon of influences (Beatles, Who, Raspberries, Big Star, etc.) it remains possible to maintain one’s individuality. But to do that you have to have that identity to begin with. Maple Mars does.
Right out of the gate, the band makes a stylistic nod to the works of Tommy Keene and Teenage Fanclub. “The Excursion” has the lyrical texture of Keene’s work, and the instrumental attack has that sweet/sour balance of poppy grunge for which Scotland’s finest are known. As an added bonus, the song’s subject matter is a perfect leadoff to a loosely-defined album concept a la Jason Falkner’s “The Invitation” or (dare I say) “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”
So on Galaxyland Maple Mars establish early that their antecedents are once or twice removed from the Founders of Powerpop. That’s fine: they’re a young band. One takes inspiration from where one finds it.
Especially on its bridge, “Starting Over (Again)” suggests that these Maple Mars guys (mostly Rick Hromadka) have been partaking of the Grip Weeds. The song features punchy arrangement slathered with creamy harmonies. Had Galaxyland been released fifteen years ago, it would have driven Jordan Oakes crazy: which of several fine tracks to include on the latest Yellow Pills collection? Dual lead guitar fills conjure smile-inducing memories of Thin Lizzy.
Fender Rhodes piano is the foundation of the ballad “Big Imagination.” With a feel similar to Pilot, the track is impressively arranged, with the instrumentation expanding as the song unfolds. That 1970s approach of wedding big (yet brief) stadium-size guitar solos to midtempo/ballad arrangements is in full flower here.
Maple Mars show that their understanding and appreciation of powerpop goes fairly deep. They cover Mark Radice’s 1972 song “New Day.” Now, Radice is a fine artist, but his name will elicit blank, unknowing stares from most music fans. They’re more likely to know who, say, Van Duren is. But the song is a gem, performed here in a baroque-rock style similar to another criminally underappreciated band, North Carolina’s Gladhands.
“Transcendental Guidance” mixes the acoustic side of Badfinger, the soft, chiming rock of Pilot and the lyrical focus of Beach Boys from that same time period. “Citizen Roger” looks (relatively) forward: the song would easily fit on Redd Kross’ 1993 Phaseshifter. The song starts as a midtempo tune, but builds the ferocity of its attack as it develops. And as I’ve written many, many times before, I’m a total pushover for effective use of “ba ba ba” as lyrical material. Maple Mars nails it here, delivering the ba ba ba with an anthemic boom. The song’s outro features that plus a killer riff that’s repetitive in the best way, making the track a highlight of an excellent album.
“When Bridges Fall” is the latest in a proud line of mini-baroque numbers from rock artists. The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby,” Paul Revere and the Raiders’ “Undecided Man,” you get the idea. Here the orchestration is kept simple and straightforward, and has just the right amount of edge to make it closer in feel to No Answer-era Electric Light Orchestra.
If “Borrowed Sunshine” wasn’t intended as a Tommy Keene tribute, it should be. The song conjures up all of the best of Keene’s style, balancing wistful, bittersweet feel with a sort of unbridled joy. And the song’s second half adds even more texture, heading into “oooh” territory. It’s worth noting that few bands this side of 1960s-era Beach Boys have the ability to credibly sustain “ooh” as the lyric for more than a few bars. Maple Mars can be added to that list.
“Add the Numbers” features a pleasingly stripped-down arrangement that suggest what Jellyfish might sound like with less instrumentation, and if the songs were written on guitar rather than keyboards. Despite its name, “Head Turner” is not an ode of love to Linda Blair, but it is a love song.
Galaxyland wraps up with “Somewhere Back There,” a bright and bouncy tune that restates all of the album’s best qualities. Ringing guitars, an insistent beat, those oh-so-1967 descending piano lines, clever sound effects…it’s a sturdy pop tune with kitchen sink production. A Queen-like guitar solo gives the track just the right feel, helping to make it a timeless powerpop song, rather than one that’s firmly rooted in a particular sub-sub style.
And that quality is true of the whole album. If you like powerpop, you’ll like Galaxyland. Simple as that
Broken Hearted Toy Blog
The space age art on the cover of Galaxyland, the latest release from recent International Pop Overthrow participants Maple Mars, gives an indication of the CD’s imaginative mix of power pop and psychedelic rock. Most of the tracks were composed and produced by vocalist Rick Hromadka, who plays several instruments, in addition to lead guitar. He has a penchant for big and ambitious arrangements that occasionally lean toward progressive rock, particularly on “Big Imagination” and “New Day.” But overall, Galaxyland is filled with fetching melodies and tight harmony vocals.
“Somewhere Back There” is straight up pop, ala mid-1960s Beatles or Hollies, and Hromadka’s singing captures the era perfectly. His vocals are one of the CD’s consistent pleasures, whether it’s on “Head Turner,” an intricate, acoustic tribute to beauty and nature, or on the energetic opening track, “The Excursion.” After an acoustic intro, “Starting Over” offers a catchy celebration of the saving power of love, while the heartfelt soul-searching of “When Bridges Fall” benefits from a lilting string arrangement. - Terrence Flamm
Foxy Digitals - Maple Mars "Galaxyland"
The fourth album of power pop bliss from this LA quartet, led by singer-songwriter/guitarist Rick Hromadka, continues to mine the golden influences of Big Star, Pink Floyd, Cheap Trick, The Beatles, and Flaming Lips. That pedigree sets you up for a varied album with tinges of psych pop, avant garde elements, wall-to-wall production (by Hromadka and fellow guitarist Steve Berns, admittedly inspired by Jeff Lynne), and soaring harmonies straight out of Power Pop’s early 80s heyday.
The band complement each other well, leaving egotistical guitar wankery at the studio door, all in the service of the perfect hook. Highlights include the Todd Rundgrenesque “New Day,” the dreamy “Transcendental Guidance,” the catchy “Add The Numbers” and the lovely “Head Turner.” Oh, and the release has one of the best covers of the year! 8/10 -- Jeff Penczak - foxydigitalis.com (30 June, 2010)
Italian Galaxyland Review
VENERDÌ 23 LUGLIO 2010
Disco del Giorno 23-07-10: Maple Mars - Galaxyland (2010; Kool Kat)
A tre anni di distanza dal gustosissimo Beautiful Mess ritornano i Maple Mars, che poi in sostanza significa che a tornare è Rick Hromadka, originale autore losangelino che dei Maple Mars è in pratica la mente unica. Si parla dei quartieri pop della Città degli Angeli, ed avendo in mente le tinte pastello del precedente album di studio ci si potrebbe/dovrebbe aspettare il solito concentrato di "liquido sole californiano" che in quaranta e passa anni di storia ha deviato milioni di appassionati trascinandoli dai Byrds ai Cloud Eleven. L'apertura The Excursion semra un buon viatico in tal senso, forse meno soft di quanto ci si aspettasse, certo, ma pur sempre uno standard pop-psych di quelli che a Hromadka riescono sempre bene. Il fatto è che stavolta Rick ha voluto dare sfogo a tutta la propria creatività, senza limitarsi a sviluppare la parte di essa che molti di noi hanno imparato ad apprezzare nel corso degli anni (e degli album).
Galaxyland, sorta di album concettuale dedicato ad un'ipotetica città spaziale, migra infatti ovunque sia possibile cercare tracce di vita pop, senza disdegnare nulla e mantenendo in ogni caso una coesione di fondo che conferisce forza e credibilità all'intera collezione. Se le preferenze dell'autore sono naturalmente dirette alla psichedelia melodica della già citata traccia inaugurale, di New Day e di Trascendental Guidance, bisogna rendere omaggio ai tentativi di esplorazione anche floydiani di Prelude: New Day e ad altre divagazioni sul tema che alla vigilia non erano per nulla scontate. Parliamone. Starting Over (Again) aggiunge al pacchetto dosi supplementari chitarristiche che sconfinano nei territori occupati anni fa dai Cheap Trick. Nel frattempo, Borrowed Sunshine pare il titolo perfetto per un brano che sembra estratto da una chart britpop del '96, ed Head Turner dimostra quanto tatto abbia Rick nel trattare delicati frammenti acustici. Il bello arriva in fondo, però, perchè il brano migliore della raccolta, almeno per il sottoscritto, è senza dubbio Somewhere Back There, tormentone bubblegum dove sembra di assistere ad una performance dei Jellyfish fronteggiati da Matthew Smith.
In conclusione, Galaxyland è un album che mi sento di consigliare a varie categorie di appassionati e, chiaramente, a tutti quelli che oggigiorno, quando si parla di pop chitarristico, si possono definire onnivori. Rick Hromadka rimane uno dei maestri della scena di L.A. in fatto di pop psichedelico, ma in questo caso ha deciso di non accontentarsi e ha dimostrato di essere, passatemi la definizione cestistica, uno dei migliori all arounder della costa occidentale. - Emmanuel Nolo Marian
Robert Pally Review
«Galaxyland» ist das vierte Album der Band um Rick Hromadka (ehemals Double Naught Spies). Qualitativ sind bei den zwölf Songs keine Ermüdungserscheinungen auszumachen, im Gegenteil. Rick Hromadka, Sänger und Hauptsongschreiber versteht es gekonnt Versatzstücke aus Power Pop, Pop der frühen Siebziger und Psychedelik zu einem organischen, vielschichtigen und vor allem harmonischen Ganzen zu verquicken. Was dabei auffällt, sind die ausgefeilten Gesangspassagen, die manchmal Wendungen nehmen, die man nicht erwartet. «Big imagination» ist, was die Strophen anbelangt relativ unspektakulär. Für den Chorus nimmt der Song aber eine überraschende Wendung. In «Citizen roger» machen Maple Mars einmal mehr Anleihen bei Pink Floyd. An anderen Stellen werden Bezüge zu Jellyfish gewahr, wie auch schon auf früheren Alben. Und mit «New day» (Song von Mark Radice von seinem Debüt von 1971) beweist Hromadka überdies ein sicheres Händchen für exzellente unbekannte Coverversionen.
8.5 out of 10
Psychedelic Central reviews Galayland
Maple Mars is fronted by Rick Hromadka (formally of LA pop icons Double Naught Spies), accompanied with producer/guitarist Steve Berns, bassist Trevor Zimmerman and drummer Ron Pak.
"Galaxyland" is the 4th and latest (2010) release for Maple Mars, which is an extraordinary multi-layered timeless space-age concept album; that miraculously expresses Rick Hromadka's seemingly effortless ability to consistantly pioneer furocious hybrid psychedelic powerpop tunes after another.. Although "Galaxyland" is uniquely self-styled; some of the songs strongly recapture the essence and feel of the delightful Beatlesque melodies and classic early work of the 1970's modern rock era in reminiscence to bands such as ELO, Cheap Trick and Bad Finger, among others.. which venture into a more experimental direction and outwardly possess a dynamic and creative energy that packs a punch far beyond the 3 minute bubble-pop balladry; with roaring hard rocking guitars over mid-tempo grooves and heavy motifs; that transcends time and trend bringing the old standard melodic pop formulas to soaring heights!
I would like to further note, that although "Galaxyland" reflects some of the great earlier predecessors as mentioned; it boldly stands out on its own! In the sense; that often when artist attempt to intertwine past and futuristic sounds that echoes their inspirations; they may come up with an array of outlandish songs with good vocal talent and instrumentation; while producing a nice sounding album with a particular song or two that may be good...but they are not Great!!! For the reason being, the songs lack thier own genuine self-styled emotional energy that characterizes the songs; by trying to overly embrace and imitate thier predecessors in a newfangled approach; that more often than not mutilates the authenticy of thier music! Rick Hromadka on the other hand, has beautifully accomplished combining the elements of the past, present and future in a bona fide tenor of his own that is outpouring with unpredictable deep bone chilling emotional energy and talent that is stupendously ripping and rolling far beyond just good vocals.. "Galaxyland" does not have a good song.. it has many great songs with the potential of becoming futuristic classics! From "The Excusion" and "Tanscendal Guidance"; which are stellar psychedelic - pop tunes; the thundering power-pop in "Starting Over", to the sweet charming harmonies of "New Day", and the folkier sensualistic "Head Turner"; all of which are fantastic songs.. among other invigorating tracks on the album garnering superb honorable qualities; that has made listening to "Galaxyland" a beautiful enlightened experience! Highly Recommend!
Jan (editor) Psychedelic Central
Galaxyland review from UK!
MAPLE MARS – Galaxyland (Kool Kat)
A vehicle for singer, songwriter, guitarist and Emmy winning sound designer Rick Hromadka, the LA quartet have been knocking around for the best part of a decade, releasing their debut album back in 2001. This is their fourth and, save for a cover of New Day by forgotten 70s singer Mark Radice, is all written by Hromadka and loosely hangs around the idea of a theme park in lunar orbit.
It’s a bit like being given a tour of his record collection as you pick up kindred influences like Jellyfish, 10cc, The Beatles, ELO, Klaatu, and, on opening track The Excursion, perhaps a dash of The Wannadies too. On numbers like the 60 psychedelic pop Transcendental Guidance and Starting Over (Again) the lyrics can feel a bit clunky, but that’s readily forgiven when you hear something as lovely as the strings backed baroque pop of When Bridges Fall, Somewhere Back There’s California sunshine beat or the romantic tenderness that spills over the slow waltzing Head Turner. There’s no UK distribution, but you can download from Amazon or track copies down atKool Kat Musik Kool Kat Musik
Mike Davies (Roots and Branches)
Cool, totally catchy modern guitar pop. Maple Mars is the band spearheaded by Rick Hromadka...a fellow with a genuinely cool knack for turning a tune. The press release that accompanied this disc compared the music to Pink Floyd, Cheap Trick, Jellyfish, and The Beatles...all of which are appropriate depending on which song is being discussed. Rick writes songs that are classic in nature...ultimately listener friendly and wonderfully catchy. Even the cover tunes work...Hromadka provides well-crafted renditions of Mark Radice's "Prelude: New Day" and "New Day." Beautifully resilient pop cuts include "The Excursion," "Big Imagination," "Citizen Roger," and "Somewhere Back There." Smart modern pop with a cool kick. Top pick.
5 out of 5 Stars! - (LMNOP.com)
Absolute Power Pop
A welcome return from Maple Mars frontman Rick Hromadka greets us on Galaxyland. The spacey concept album starts with "The Excursion" filled with detailed rhythms, guitar melodies and expansive psyche pop touches that compare well with Lynne-era Move. Following this is "Starting Over (Again)" which has a gorgeous 70's styled big rock guitar sound, fans of the band Boston will love this. Give credit to Rick and his band: Steve Berns (guitar), Ron Pak (drums) and Trevor Zimmerman (bass) for the fantastic production and memorable melodies. "Big Imagination" has a heavy gloss that combines Steely Dan with Klaatu, and it's a real keeper. And the band brings on the prog pop heavy guns with Mark Radice's "Prelude: New Day" and it continues with the acoustic "New Day." It starts to get bit preachy with "Citizen Roger" like an early Yes and Pink Floyd hybrid. The lyrical message works better on "Borrowed Sunshine" an excellent song that speaks to today's recent lack of faith in institutions, and the "struggle to see things through." It ends on a high note with the bouncy gem "Somewhere back there" full of layered harmonies. I feel Rick has taken Maple Mars to the next level here. Kool Kat is now offering the album with a bonus disc with five additional tracks. Highly recommended indeed! - Powerpopaholic
Keeping the bands with food-related names theme going, we'll also feature another track by Los Angeles-based Maple Mars, off their brand new album Galaxyland. Rick Hromadka's really put together a psychedelic masterpiece, and I'm looking forward to serving a piece up for you! - Mike Lidskin (Twirl Radio)
Maple Mars follows up their outstanding 2007 release Beautiful Mess with Galaxyland, a loose concept album about a theme park orbiting the moon. It's kind of fitting since their music has always had a space-age pop element, drawing from Klaatu and ELO as well as the Beatles and Badfinger. There's plenty to like here: "The Excursion" is top-drawer psych pop, "Big Imagination" channels the laid-back 70s SoCal sound, "Transcendental Guidance" is another of those tracks that sounds like its title, and the string-laden "When Bridges Fall" recalls Cloud Eleven. A real highlight is the resurrection of "New Day", a minor early 70s hit for Mark Radice. The CD comes in a gatefold sleeve not unlike a 70s album, and Kool Kat (the store) is offering up an exclusive bonus disc titled Extra Orbits with five bonus tracks. The whole thing is groovy. - Absolute Powerpop
Maple Mars -- Beautiful Mess (Kool Kat)
Rick Hromadka keeps rolling. His layered bright power pop sounds are married to strong songwriting on a wonderful third album that pretty much picks up where his last disc left off. For all of the gloss and flash and pristine harmonies, many of Hromadka’s songs have real emotional weight. So it’s not just about catchy hooks as there are real feelings coming from almost every track.
Hromadka believes in the power of music (wasn’t that a Triumph or Rush lyric...never mind...), which comes through on track after track. He makes this belief blindly obvious on the lush “Listen”, where a pillow of acoustic guitars lulls the ears, preparing them for the cotton candy melody that carries the verses. It has a bit of a psych-pop feel, with a bass part that anchors the song and keeps it from floating away in the ether. This song is comparable to the best of Cloud Eleven.
One other song, “Between Two Worlds”, merits comparison to Cloud Eleven (another great contemporary pop group led by a man named Rick -- are we at the forefront of the Rick Rock movement?), this time, by way of The Beach Boys. Certainly, the desolate piano intro, with Hromadka singing in the wilderness, has a certain Brian Wilson quality to it. As the other instruments join in, this heads into Todd Rundgren-spiked-with-a-bit-of-Jellyfish territory. The song then moves into guitar land, with a beautiful extended guitar solo (and the above referenced Rick Gallego adding some pedal steel). This song is calculated to give the listener a melty feeling. Right before the fade, a piercing synth part comes in, as if Hromadka is showing you that he had even more icing for this cake.
This track follows his ace cover of a stone cold classic, 10CC’s “I’m Not in Love”. It’s a pretty daring choice, since the song is so distinctive, both as a composition and as a production. Hromadka doesn’t mess with the basic arrangement -- how could he, as it is perfect. Instead, he focuses on smaller details. This is almost like remix, as he finds different places to put in angelic backing vocals. On the whole, this is more restrained, allowing for focus on the elegance of the melody. I should also note how spot on Hromadka is on the lead vocals. As with his own compositions, Hromadka is fully engaged with the material. This doesn’t top the original, but it is pretty swell on its own.
Hromadka still rocks, by the way. “Butterfly Effect” is another thoughtful piece of riffy power pop. Hromadka surveys the damage caused by a relationship that apparently just can’t work, although there has been a lot of hard work to keep it going. I can’t suss out if this is a battle between love and lust (“getting caught up was so exotic/until it all became so chaotic” may be a hint). But he hits the nail on the head when he sings “love will never come painless.” Truer words were never sung. Even with the big flash guitar, the melody has an emotional pull, and that tension works well.
Speaking of flashy guitar, you get a big dose of that on the hyper poppy title cut. If Queen came from California, and didn’t become Jellyfish, this is a song they would have waxed. This song sounds like a sunnier “Killer Queen”, a fact made apparent when Hromadka lays down some Brian May guitar, and borrows some production tricks from that Queen classic. Throw in some Beach Boys styled backing vocals and a head bopping chorus, and we have yet another winner.
Three albums down the line, Hromadka shows no signs of stopping. This album is as good, if not better, than the first two. Buy it now and it’s likely there will be a fourth one just as good. - Mike Bennett(habloennui.blogspot.com)
Maple Mars - Beautiful Mess
#2 for 2008! Shindig Magazine
David Bash (Amplifier/IPO Founder) "Circular Haze is absolutely, without question, the best album of pure psychedelic power pop you’ll hear this year."
Bruce Brodeen (Not Lame Recordings) "Extremely Highly Recommended!"
Mike Bennett (Fufkin.com) "On this second Maple Mars record, Rick Hromadka and his bandmates make the studio a gigantic canvas, and they layer on guitars, backing vocals and keyboards in
equal measure with the numerous catchy bits. This is retrofuturistic guitar
Jeremy Morris (Jam Records) "Here it is!!! One of the best power pop releases of 2003."
Goran Obradovic (Popism) "After spending some time “undercover” as one of the Double Naught Spies and the Maple Mars' debut album a coupla years ago, Rick Hromadka comes back with his best work to date."
Kerry Kompost (Newspaper Taxi) "Definitely a 2003 top-ten!"