HEART INSIDE YOUR HEAD
ALBUM: heart inside your head
BAND: nick piunti & the
reviewed by NADJA DEE
Album Art & Design: Megan Piunti
KEY to this album
(Hint: The closer to center white, the more Power Pop)
A mix of current trends in Power Pop, with an 80's nostalgia. Throwbacks to .38 Special guitars, Bryan Adams and Mike Viola. Solid album all the way through.
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NICK PIUNTI & THE COMPLICATED MEN
HEART INSIDE YOUR HEAD
Released 5/20/2022 (JEM Records)
Nick Piunti (Vocals, Electric, Acoustic, and Baritone Guitars, Synth)
Jeff Hupp (Bass)
Ron Vensko (Drums, Percussion)
Kevin Darnall (Piano, Organ, Synth)
Joe Daksiewicz (Electric Guitar)
Ryan Allen (Vocals, Guitar on Tracks 1, 3, 5, 7)
Kristin von B (Vocals 4, 9)
Geoff Michael (Either Strings, Synth, Wurlitzer, Drum Programming or a combo Tracks 1. 2. 6, 7, 8, 10)
All songs written by Nick Piunti
Suburban Trash ASCAP 2022
Nick Piunti is in a category with The Lolas, The Toms, and Sloan, because you know it's going to be an album of high-quality songs worthy of repeated listening. It's not something I say about very many artists in the Power Pop genre of music. But Nick Piunti isn't like a lot of other artists in this narrow sleeve of music. His last album, Downtime, made our Top 10 Album List from 2020 and there's very little doubt that Heart Inside Your Head won't make our Best of 2022 list, unless there's an exceptional explosion of new music in the next eight months. I absolutely LOVE this HEART INSIDE YOUR HEAD album.
However,I'm a little concerned to report that the "men" backing Nick Piunti are still...um, complicated. I was hoping that the last few years would have uncomplicated things a bit, but we're still in the tail end of this dang pandemic. I'm hoping that the "complicated" adjective in The Complicated Men refers to "intricate" (consisting of many interconnecting parts or elements) more than it does "confusing." Who needs confusing men in 2022? Not me. Whatever the definition, Nick seems to get good results from these "men of many parts," so I'll leave it at that.
I don't know why I didn't notice it before, but Nick Piunti's singing voice has gotten eerily similar to another great Power Pop singer, named Mike Viola. On HIYH his voice reminded me of other singers with good, yet slightly gritty voices like Mike Viola and Bryan Adams. Either I was lost inside my head, or I simply wasn't paying enough attention, but this time the similarities were obvious. In fact, this whole album seemed to remind me of songs by both of those great musicians, and for good measure I'd throw in a mix of .38 Special guitars and sounds from Jon Bon Jovi for good measure.
In three words, this album and Nick's voice have an attractive "gritty gravelly gravitas."
Take Track #2 "Heart Inside Your Head" the lead single off HIYH, released August 20, 2021, for example. The palm muted intro reminded me of the guitars used in Bryan Adam's song "Summer of '69," or the hits from 80's Southern rockers .38 Special. As the guitars for the title track "Heart Inside Your Head" begin, I could almost hear "I got my first real six string.
Bought it at the five and dime. Played it till my fingers bled, was the summer of '69."
Track #2 Heart Inside Your Head
Yet, it's not a retro album in the least. To my ears, Heart Inside Your Head, also reminded me of the songs I hear from more recent bands who dabble in a more modern take on Power Pop like The Lemon Twigs, Young Beautiful In A Hurry, and IDKHow. While these bands aren't 100% Power Pop, they sound like a what pre-2000's Power Pop has morphed into a bit.
"Heart Inside Your Head" also has that synth sound that groups like The Cars made their signature sound in the 80s. I feel like this album has a love for the MTv 80's Generation written all over it.
Nick Piunti, according to his PR sheet, hails from Detroit style rock, and the "men with the perpetual complexity," also come from Detroit rock stock. Jeff Hupp (Bass), Ron Vensko (Drums and Percussion), Jeff Daksiewicz (Guitar) and Kevin Darnall (Keyboards) make up the main group of convoluted gentlemen.
We also need to talk about the album cover. It was conceived and designed by Nick's daughter Megan Piunti and invokes the original Milton Bradley Operation Game.
Operation Board Game Commercial
I love the artwork of the Operation Game (Designed by John Spinello). Over 45 Million copies of the game was sold, but John Spinello never saw a dime of that money. He sold the patent for $500 dollars. I need to ask Megan if the cover art has the nose light buzzing because the operator of the tweezers is trying to insert a HEART inside the BRAIN shaped hole?
In any case, I love the homage to the game. In fact, I once designed and painted a tribute to the original Operation patient with my take on an operation for Trans male folks. I donated the painting to an auction for a non-profit and it sold giving 100% of the profits to an LGBTQ Camp.
Track #10 Gloves Come Off
But let's get back to this great album.
Want to know what I love about a Nick Piunti album? It's simple: After only a couple listens, you feel like you've known this album all your life. Take Track #10 "Gloves Come Off" for example. I was singing along to
If this is the love that's dying, it takes two
How 'bout you
How 'bout yoooooouuuuuu
And in my mind, when I knew the "how 'bout you..." part was coming up, I thought that this particular chorus belonged to some other, great, classic Power Pop album that I had been listening to for years. I never imagined it was part of a new Nick Piunti album that I had only received a couple weeks ago. Heart Inside Your Head is just that good an album.
None of this should come as a surprise, Nick Piunti has been writing great songs for years now. I went back and listened to his old band, The Respectables album Sibley Gardens (2008) and those songs are great too. They aren't as mature sounding, as mellow as Nick and the boys can get on HIMH but they're strong songs. I can tell that The Respectables songs have a lot more, uhem, testerone. It's got a definite "swampy" vibe to it.
I also love that he was singing about
Track #3 Slave To It
Track #1 My Mind (Plays Tricks On Me)
Track #5 Trying Too Hard
Was It Something I Said? (Brandon Flowers)
Track #8 Nothing New
Track #9 Keys To Your Heart
If You Intend (10,000 Maniacs)
Track #4 I Want Everything
Track #6 One Of The Boys
Get You Back (Mike Viola)
"holes in his head" back then too. Take the song "Charged By The Minute," from Sibley Gardens
Another hole in my head
Can't stop the feeling you bled
It seems like poor Nick has had quite a few holes, brain-shaped holes, and even hearts in his head. That's it, I'm sending Mr. Piunti a helmet and a few large corks.
If I had to break it down, most of the songs reminded me of so many of my favorite groups:
I felt like Tracks #1, 3, 6, and 10 could be new Mike Viola songs.
Track #2 channeled .38 Special guitars in the best way
Track #4 had Rattle and Hum U2 vibes all over it, if it was guest sung by Bryan Adams. I absolutely love the vocals added by Kristin von B. It really elevates the song to a new level.
Track #5 had me reaching for my Brandon Flowers (The Killers) solo albums
Track #8 felt like Bryan Adams took a song and walked down a Bob Dylan road
and Track #9, strangely, felt like Our Time In Eden era 10,000 Maniacs.
I'm not making any of these comparisons in a critical way by any means. I absolutely LOVE all of those groups but these songs have such a familiarity that I felt like I had to pin down whom they reminded me of for fear that it would drive me crazy otherwise.
The lyrics on this album felt like they represented the feelings of going through an international pandemic. While Downtime was themed around having time off due to the pandemic, HIYH gets into it a little more. There's songs like One Of The Boys that feel like the equivalent to a "kick in the butt." There's hope in the song, literally titled "Hopes Up." I also felt optimism, insecurity and despair. There's a nice callout to XTC on "My Mind (Plays Tricks On Me)" where the lyrics read:
Give it one more try with feeling
While you’re staring at the ceiling
All your senses have been reeling working overtime
Not like you need convincing
But there’s so much you’ve been missing
Hit the replay can you listen for the story line
Nick has a lovely, gritty, gravelly quality his voice, and I couldn't help being reminded of Mike Viola and Bryan Adams. That's already a powerhouse, then you couple that with the gorgeous songwriting, this is one album I made sure to recommend to my classic rock-loving husband. I told him, if you like Bryan Adams, .38 Special, and great music then you're gonna love this new Nick Piunti album.
And just like the song Gloves Come Off, if I love it, and if he's gonna love it...how 'bout you?
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BUY IT (Available May 20, 2022)
DISCLAIMER: HOP ON POWER POP doesn't give stars, a grade or any sort of quantifiable rating. What HOP ON POWER POP does is let you know what H.O.P.P. thought of the music by the band at this particular time. If an album isn't to our liking or fitting into the Power Pop genre enough, we simply won't review it.
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