The Apples In Stereo: Fun Trick Noisemaker (1995)
The Apples are certainly the most straightforwardly pop of all these bands, merging Beatles and Beach Boys-inspired retro pop with psychedelia, bubblegum, and sunshine pop. Later albums added more polish, and I probably spend more time with 1997's Tone Soul Revolution and 2000's Discovery of a World Inside the Moone; but their 1995 debut, while raw and somewhat lo-fi, is packed with joyous hooks and remains thoroughly entertaining.
It kicks off with the rousing "Tidal Wave," a noisy little gem with frontman Robert Schneider playing around with the recording studio; "High Tide," "Glowworm," "Lucky Charm" and "Dots 1-2-3" are all perky bits of bubblegum. There are a few spots where the songs delve into some studio experimentation and drag a bit, but for the most part it's pretty light and moves at a nice clip.
While the band is Schneider's baby, they have a secret weapon in drummer Hilary Sidney, whose girlish backing vocals really aid a number of tunes; and she wows with lead vox in "Winter Must Be Cold." (Sidley's 1-2 vocal leads per album have frequently been highlights; alas, she and Schneider later divorced and she's noticeably absent from the band's most recent work, though she has a few side projects of her own, including the fine High Water Marks.)
Pretty much all of the band's albums have a handful of stand-out tracks, so you can't go wrong, but Noisemaker, while rough around the edges, has a low key charm that's particularly infectious.
Here's the "Tidal Wave" video: