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2013 FBG Album Poll - Results Thread (1 Viewer)


Future of the Left - How to Stop Your Brain in an Accident

29 Points, 2 Votes, 1 Top 5 Vote

Ranked Highest By: Ahrn

Previous Albums On Our Countdown: The Plot Against Common Sense (#42 in 2012), Travels With Myself and Another (#10 in 2009)

Album Review: So here it is: the stunning and unexpected return to top form of the UK’s most criminally underrated rock band. It’s a surprise, because not since their 2007 debut ‘Curses’ have Cardiff rockers Future Of The Left sounded this thrilling. Where last year’s disappointing third album ‘The Plot Against Common Sense’ was characterised by tongue-in-cheek silliness and fussy arrangements, the follow-up ‘How To Stop Your Brain In An Accident’ is direct and heavy as hell – as it should be. It is a serious album for serious rock fans, even though taking anything seriously isn’t exactly Andy Falkous, Jack Egglestone, Jimmy Watkins and Julia Ruzicka’s strong point.

The power of ‘How To Stop Your Brain…’ can be partly attributed to the welcome return of British rock’s toughest and most acidic guitar sound. A hangover from frontman Falkous’ nine years in Mclusky, the sound in question is less like a guitar and more like some mutant strain of power electronics. It was, across their previous two albums, slowly being phased out of FOTL’s DNA. But here it is again, broken down into 14 thumps of pure atomic fury, and the result is something like the strangest and sorest funk music imaginable.

Setting the tone, opener ‘Bread, Cheese, Bow And Arrow’ is a study in extreme minimalist rock, and Falkous’ lyric “I’m just a man: a simple thing” is the perfect introduction to the album’s rawness. Purged of the vocal harmonies, kitschy organ and sing-song melodies that cluttered the band’s increasingly soft sound, all that’s left is three and a bit minutes of coiled tension and measured violence: a focused, post-hardcore give-and-take between space and roar, restraint and face-melting release.

The album continues in the same vein with ‘Future Child Embarrassment Matrix’ and ‘I Don’t Know What You Ketamine’ – the former a doom-rock juggernaut with a heavy acceleration in pace, the latter resembling an industrial retread of ‘Small Bones, Small Bodies’ from ‘Curses’. ‘She Gets Passed Around At Parties’, meanwhile, is pure late-’80s American post-punk – a danceable blend of clipped bass and crunchy power riffs.

All this back-to-basics songcraft will be like the Second Coming for fans of early Future Of The Left, but the poor saps will #### a conker when it comes to ‘Things To Say To Friendly Policemen’. A bratty two minutes of hyper-speed noise-punk complete with a kazoo-powered chorus, it brings Mclusky’s 2002 classic ‘Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues’ immediately to mind.

Elsewhere ‘The Real Meaning Of Christmas’ and ‘The Male Gaze’ change things up without compromising the album’s hard-nosed tone, and add indie and melodic college rock to the mix. Then there’s ‘French Lessons’, FOTL’s first foray into balladry. Equally surprising is ‘How To Spot A Record Company’ – which, with its Siouxsie guitar flourishes and spooky progressions, is basically goth-rock.

Though ‘Singing Of The Bonesaws’ – with Falko feigning a posh English accent – recalls the weak and irritating silliness of their last album, as usual the frontman’s acerbic lyrics are a blast as he skewers the most preposterous aspects of modern British culture with the kind of scalpel-sharp precision not seen since Jarvis Cocker. But more importantly, against the impossibly evil sonic backdrop, his devilish barbs have never sounded so delicious.

Avicii - True

29 Points, 2 Votes, 1 Top 5 Vote

Ranked Highest By: Nick Vermeil

Album Review: Two years ago the Swedish D.J., producer and denim model Avicii released “Levels,” a clangorous and joyful club anthem that was a global hit so vast that it reinforced the fact that the United States isn’t really the center of global pop, at least not the way it once was.

America has no real radio infrastructure for dance music, which means even a song like “Levels” has little hope of moving beyond the Electric Daisy Carnival circuit and into the broader pop consciousness, although everywhere else that’s exactly where it resided. At least in this country, American sonic imperialism still works.

But a lot has changed since “Levels.” Dance music is becoming normalized, even here, and has been seeping into other genres, from traditional pop to R&B. D.J.-producers like Calvin Harris, by working with superstars like Rihanna, are beginning to gain a dollop of the respect they garner elsewhere.

Into that environment arrives Avicii’s full-length debut album, “True” (PRMD/Island), which, thanks to the success of “Levels,” has the whiff of a fait accompli about it. At least it did until the Ultra Music Festival in March, when Avicii turned his high-profile set into a roots jam session, to the befuddlement of almost everyone, and the outright anger of many. I’m sure someone would have screamed “Judas!” if they’d gotten the joke.

“Hey, you got your bluegrass in my techno!” is a perfectly valid complaint most of the time. And yes, on a few songs on “True,” with the help of the bluegrass stalwart Dan Tyminski and the longtime country songwriter Mac Davis, that is more or less what Avicii attempts.

But don’t see “True” as the album in which dance music imports the sounds of the American heartland into the club in hopes of digging up new audiences, or even new ideas; see it as the one in which country takes its place front and center in global pop.

That is the subtext of the guitar-laden stomper “Wake Me Up,” already another huge hit that undermines American centrality in global pop, and especially the unexpectedly lovely “Hey Brother,” which features the keening vocals of Mr. Tyminski. (How much of a risk is it to use the main voice from an album, the “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” soundtrack, that has sold over seven million copies in the United States?)

Even though they’re unexpected twists in Avicii’s otherwise clean ascent, these songs don’t arrive in a vacuum. They sit comfortably next to the king-size crossover country and folk of recent years — think Mumford & Sons, or the dubstep song on the last Taylor Swift album. Even Keith Urban has a fake club song on his new album. And that’s to say nothing of the emergent trend of club remixes of country hits by the likes of Dee Jay Silver and DJ DU. (And yes, there was disco-country in the 1970s, for what it’s worth.)

Marry that to the recent impulse among a certain more classicist stripe of dance-music act to bring the genre back to organic roots — Daft Punk’s last album repudiates the last couple of decades of computer music — and Avicii’s musical choices feel savvy and timely. (Along with the selections of his manager, Ash Pournouri, who receives a writing credit on almost every song on this album.)

That Avicii is testing himself, and his public, is clear. “Heart Upon My Sleeve,” which features vocals from Dan Reynolds of the alt-rock preservers Imagine Dragons, opens up like an acoustic Queensryche song. “Shame on Me” is swing music, more or less, and a less successful hybrid than Avicii’s roots experiments.

Compared with “Wake Me Up” and “Hey Brother,” the rest of “True” doesn’t offer much challenge, even if it is thoroughly effective in places. “Dear Boy” is completely straightforward electro-infused house, and it’s sharp. “Lay Me Down,” produced in part by Nile Rodgers, who is having a banner year, and featuring a bracing vocal by Adam Lambert, is completely valid modern disco, faithful to the genre as it once was but not a slavish throwback. It’s another escape into yesteryear by an artist carrying today — and tomorrow — on his shoulders.
----New York Times


Janelle Monae - The Electric Lady

29 Points, 2 Votes, 1 Top 5 Vote

Ranked Highest By: D House

Previous Albums on Our Countdown: The ArchAndroid (#19 in 2010)

Album Review: Janelle Monae's The Electric Lady arrives fully formed, in a delightfully conceptual way. When someone of Prince's pedigree elects to guest star on your album, you know you're doing something right. Continuing on the sci-fi, dystopian, Afro-futuristic, R&B world-building of 2010's The ArchAndroid, Monae once again tackles sexuality, gender and social empowerment issues in an automated and allegorical fashion — though the eyes of android avatar Cindi Mayweather. Reading between the lyrics, lines like, "Am I a freak because I love watching Mary," "exploding in a bathroom stall" or "Robot Love is queer" lay out a powerful sexual subtext that Monae simultaneously owns and remains cryptic about. This is arguably as much a rock album as a soul project and, at 19-tracks, the sophomore opus is gloriously sweeping and cinematic in scope. The Prince-guesting track, "Givin' Them What They Want," lives up to its title, romping guitar stomps and all, while "Q.U.E.E.N." and "Electric Lady" (starring Erykah Badu and Solange Knowles, respectively) both take advantage of a "women who run the world" funk-soul vibe and Monae's exceptional ability to outshine and complement the guests. The '80s, pseudo-reggae-style vibe of "What an Experience" doesn't quite stick the "authenticity" landing, but the mainstream, pop-friendly "Can't Live Without Your Love" and Esperanza Spalding-starring "Dorothy Dandridge Eyes" more than make up for it. Spotless in execution, The Electric Lady musically reaches for the future, yet is firmly beholden to the past. "I'll reprogram your mind," she intones on "Q.U.E.E.N.," which is effectively the hook for Monae as an artist and the project as a whole. Existing in layers, The Electric Lady revels in its polarity. The overriding statement, however, is that Janelle Monae has arrived. -- Exclaim

Disclosure - Settle

29 Points, 3 Votes

Ranked Highest By: themeanmachine

Album Review: “As much as you like to control your environment, the reality is: everything changes.” These words come from motivational speaker and self-proclaimed “hip-hop preacher” Eric Thomas on the fire-and-brimstone-filled “Intro,” the obvious opener to Disclosure’s Settle. When U.K. garage and bass has had a unyielding foothold across the pond for the better part of a decade, it’s been consumed heavily—with only a few notable outliers like Burial—by a minority subculture stateside. But with their debut full-length, the brothers Lawrence are threatening to smash that wall while eschewing the fratty, shirtless culture that all but encompassed the U.S. embrace of dubstep.

A few tracks are immediate stars: “Intro” is just the launchpad for the first proper track and latest single, “When A Fire Starts To Burn.” It’s a brilliant swan-dive into Disclosure’s bloodstream, a throbbing song hearkening back to the insatiably mesmerizing repetitious spins of Fatboy Slim (it’s even been accompanied by a video that’s equally late-’90s with its Spike Jonze look). Despite the duo’s age, they remain committed to the music of the past, sampling the likes of Kelis and Slum Village. Like many a beat record, there are guests abound. But Guy and Howard Lawrence have meticulously tapped into rising talent that seamlessly compliments their pulsing beats, including Friendly Fires‘ Ed Macfarlane, Jamie Woon and Jessie Ware. No one is here to cover up bald patches in Disclosure’s work, rather, they serve the opposite effect, completing a gourmet dinner with fine wine.

The prominent R&B influence takes hold early into the record with “White Noise,” a dancefloor fire-starter featuring AlunaGeorge, and the propulsive “Defeated No More” featuring Macfarlane. The gorgeous low-key “Latch”—another easy high point—further solidifies this. The track crackles with obsessively fearsome infatuation underneath Sam Smith’s emotive vocals, making a dance song that’s filled with ghostly personality. If Settle runs the course of a night (a short night, as it clocks in at exactly one hour in length), Help Me Lose My Mind, to which London Grammar’s Hannah Reid lends her sultry vocals and co-writing skills, closes it out with a beautifully downbeat slow burner.

Nothing on Settle is left wanting. Disclosure’s debut full-length, after a series of tight and well-curated EPs, has high points as high as any record this year. It’s also an incredibly dense album at 14 tracks. It’s a lesson in curation: Where so many albums suffer from not being able to keep up with their best bits, Disclosure simply omitted anything that could have been considered second-rate.

Cayucas - Bigfoot

29 Points, 3 Votes, 1 Top 5 Vote

Ranked Highest By: Brony

Album Review: Just when it seemed the wave of beachy bands that swept over indie rock in the late 2000s had finally crashed, along came Cayucas and their debut, Bigfoot. While Zach Yudin's deceptively innocent melodies and boyish vocals recall the likes of the Drums and Surfer Blood, his take on this sound is a little quirkier and more introspective; if those bands are frolicking in the sun and sand, then Yudin is lying on a towel reading a good book. Indeed, he took a fairly scholarly approach to writing and crafting Bigfoot's songs, culling samples from eclectic mid-20th century sources like the Animals and Harry Belafonte and piecing them together into collage-pop that was nostalgic for no time and place in particular, yet capable of evoking specific memories. With the help of producer Richard Swift -- whose own music shares a similar, vaguely retro but not too dusty feel -- Yudin replaced those samples on Bigfoot with original instrumentation that still has that vibe of rootless déjà vu (and at times, his fondness for catchy juxtapositions of nostalgic sounds and modern situations suggests a more laid-back, West Coast Vampire Weekend or a sunburned version of the Shins). Some of Bigfoot's previously released tracks remain standouts, particularly the calypso-meets-indie of "Cayucos," which Yudin was working on back when the project was still called Oregon Bike Trails; this homage to the kind of seaside resort town that comes alive for a few months and then exists as a memory for tourists is so evocative that it's easy to see why he changed his nom de musique to Cayucas. Likewise, "East Coast Girl" is another thoughtful vignette of vacations, expectations, and how they play out. However, Bigfoot has plenty of other charms over the course of its eight tracks: with its music box sweetness and old-school key changes, "A Summer Thing" could be the Beach Boys' version of "Sloop John B" played backwards; "High School Lover" feels like an update on the songs that bands played in the middle of '60s beach movies, but when Yudin tells a girl she should have been his back in high school, it shows that not all of Cayucas' nostalgia is sweet. Cheery in the moment but with a lingering poignancy, Bigfoot is a soundtrack to shared memories of summer, first love, and all the bittersweet things that can happen when those two meet. -- AllMusic

Here come the 1 vote, 30 point albums


Dirty Fences - Too High to Kross

30 Points, 1 Votes, 1 Top 5 Vote

Ranked Highest By: JZilla

Album Review: Having released their first full-length album Too High To Kross on April 9th on Volcom Entertainment, they have promoted their first single “Heaven is Tonight,” exemplifying the once lost punk rock sound we’ve all been missing. The rest of the album leaves nothing to be desired with no filler tracks or shortcomings just jam after jam after jam.

It is undeniable that Dirty Fences pulls a great deal of influence from prominent punk rock groups of the past such as The Ramones and Johnny Thunders. Their strong melodic riffs transport you back to the glory days of CBGB’s. The energy of a live show shines right through in every track, especially in songs like “Kreistalrite’ that just make you want to go out and skateboard.

Despite the band’s strong consistent energy, Dirty Fences is not all driving bass lines and punchy drums, the song “King’s Cross” displays the bands variance in style with softer guitar and slightly slower tempo enticing listeners to sing along during the chorus. The band is certainly not afraid to chip in vocally, the song “White Lies” still centers on a single voice but the band chimes in for gang vocals during the chorus.

Too High To Kross is a real blast from the past, like discovering an amazing old band from the best period in punk rock. It is certainly worth noting that although strongly reminiscent of iconic punk and rock and roll bands Dirty Fences retains their individuality through uniquely powerful guitar riffs and surprisingly well structured songs. Solid fun loving rock bands like Dirty Fences are refreshing but unfortunately a rarity in today's time, hopefully their influence as well as influence from bands like FIDLAR will spark the resurgence of straightforward punk/rock and roll.

Too High To Kross doesn’t miss a beat, tearing along all thirty two minutes without a single misstep. It's hard to imagine intensity of one of Dirty Fences live shows after just listening to the record, but it is undoubtedly a feverishly erratic experience. Songs like the single “Heaven is Tonight” and “Kreistalrite” are prime examples of the bands consistent high energy present throughout the album, while “King’s Cross” demonstrates the bands ability to venture outside that consistent ferocity. Dirty Fences have not only taken all the right keys from our favorite punk and rock and roll bands of the past but also has taken on the task of reinventing that sound into something completely unique and new, Too High To Kross is the perfect execution of those concepts and will hopefully influence others the same way the great punk and rock and roll albums of the past influenced them.

Jonathan Wilson - Fanfare

30 Points, 1 Votes, 1 Top 5 Vote

Ranked Highest By: Eephus

Album Review: On the positively baked Gentle Spirit, from 2011, Jonathan Wilson offered a stellar update of the early-'70s Laurel Canyon sound. For Fanfare, he is obviously inspired by the production techniques of that decade on both sides of the Atlantic. This is one of the most delightfully ornamented recordings to come down the pipe in quite some time. Its sound is so warm and inviting, it almost proves a distraction from the songs. Wilson's guest list is impressive: David Crosby, Graham Nash, Jackson Browne, Benmont Tench, Mike Campbell, and others contribute. But mostly it's Wilson: guitars, piano, drums, bass, mellotron, bells, synths, B-3, vocals, and more. Deciphering the musical trail on Fanfare is a hell of a lot of fun. The influence of Crosby's If I Could Only remember My Name, CSN's self-titled debut, CSNY's Deja Vu, Stephen Stills' first Manassas record, Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, ELO's Eldorado, Steely Dan's Can't Buy a Thrill, and numerous other recordings saturate this album's pores. Yet, if Wilson weren't capable of doing something new with his sources, the familiar would relegate it to the closet of nostalgia. As a songwriter, his ability to craft diverse, instantly attractive melodies, bridges, and hooks allows his songs to sit alongside those that inform them. Check the easy, driving country rock on "Love to Love," the breezy folk-rock in "Moses Pain" heightened by Campbell's guiding slide guitar, and Browne's and Nash's backing vocals that make it soar, and the shifting, crunchy rock slowness in "Illumination" for examples. Wilson's ability as a producer is akin to Todd Rundgren's: he can combine, arrange, and orchestrate his influences to create something new from the instantly familiar. This is evident in the opening title track where Baroque pop orchestrations (Eldorado) are wedded to Dark Side of the Moon's spacey nocturnal tensions -- dig James King's wailing saxophone solo. "Dear Friend" and "Her Hair Is Growing Long" are sequentially suite-like in their collective nods to Woodstock, CSN's self-titled debut, and the latter's acknowledgement of the Beatles' "Golden Slumbers" in the guitar break. Wilson's lyric phrasing illustrates vivid images, all framed by inviting, self-styled textural nuances. Crosby's and Nash's vocal appearances on "Cecil Taylor" fit so seamlessly with his, the twilight, darkly lit melody almost breaks its frame. "Illumination" channels the pace and cadence of Neil Young's Crazy Horse, but its lushness expands the plodding groove. Tench's piano on the instrumental "Lovestrong" matches Wilson's blistering David Gilmour-esque guitar break. Fanfare travels easily between intimacy and more psychedelic-influenced euphoria because Wilson's songwriting remains his ace in the hole. For all its laid-back deference to his production, it's tight, clever, and artfully constructed. Together they make for an album that will likely endure the test of time. -- All Music


Charli XCX - True Romance

30 Points, 1 Votes, 1 Top 5 Vote

Ranked Highest By: Steve Tasker

Album Review: Internet platforms aren't genres, and maybe it's time to call a moratorium on treating them like they are. In 2006, when Charlotte Aitchison turned 14, she started recording a later-shelved album she has more recently disowned as "####### terrible MySpace music." Now, almost seven years later, her proper debut album as Charli XCX can hardly avoid comparisons to Tumblr, from fans and detractors alike.

A simple misreading of the UK singer and songwriter's biggest hit might explain this focus on technology-based shorthand. Swedish electro-pop duo Icona Pop's 2012 global smash "I Love It", co-written by Charli XCX but not on True Romance, emphasizes a generational divide: "You're from the 70s/ And I'm a 90s #####." Sure, Aitchison was born in 1992, but her use of social-media formats also long frequented by droves of people born in the 1970s isn't exactly remarkable in 2013. As that catchy kiss-off's Republica-on-EDM wattage illuminates, Charli XCX is a would-be 90s pop star, too. And in only the best sense.

True Romance shares its title with an unbelievably well-cast 1993 movie written by Quentin Tarantino, who was reassembling cultural detritus way before mash-ups and microblogging. Charli XCX's approach to pop is similarly postmodern (how 90s does that sound?), pulling from moody 80s synth-pop, sassy turn-of-the-millennium girl groups, and state-of-the-art contemporary producers to create something distinctive and immediately memorable. She clearly understands the internet, having shared two original mixtapes and two influences mixtapes before her official full-length, but this carefully pruned set is no data dump. And there you'll see a glimmer of True Romance's most throwback aspect: its evident pop ambition, an overriding sense of an imagined mass audience for music that's radio-ready yet outsider-friendly. It's almost like Napster-- and the filler-crammed album sales model that preceded it-- never happened.

In fact, by the time Charli XCX was a teenage electro-house devotee, illegal file-sharing's early free-for-all had already given way to iTunes and other legal download services. Robyn had already released her self-titled comeback album. So it might be only natural that Charli XCX would keep the pre-bubble faith that people will pay for emotionally direct, bubblegum-catchy, yet stubbornly left-of-center songs about falling in and out of love. But the generous hooks on the previously released singles here, such as the gospel-kissed prechorus of the yearning "Stay Away" or the Santigold-savvy lilt of love-and-the-bomb brooder "Nuclear Seasons", are extraordinarily welcome just the same. Even better are newer singles such as the gorgeously bitter "You (Ha Ha Ha)", which inhabits its cloud-rappy Gold Panda sample like they were made for each other, and the almost-as-gorgeously blissful "What I Like", which recounts a still-young relationship with the cheeky frankness of Lily Allen or the Streets, and the sing-songy near-rapping of the Spice Girls.

The several songs on True Romance that hadn't previously surfaced in videos or other releases aren't quite as strong, but they're effective enough to suggest Charli XCX's best work might still be ahead of her. The Todd Rundgren-sampling "So Far Away", with the sun-dappled lushness of the Avalanches, is a clear highlight; Charli XCX's vocals are usually plain-spoken, but the anguished break-up plea "Set Me Free" proves she can reach for Jessie Ware-like dramatics when appropriate. The pitch-shifting "no one is forever" intro added at the start of opener "Nuclear Seasons" probably should've been given its own track-- and later on the album it is, when the same backing vocal forms the base of the cloudy, broken-hearted "Grins". Elsewhere, the haunted confession "How Can I", while solid enough, is a reminder that Charli XCX's lyrics so far tend to fall relatively flat; when, on swooning finale "Lock You Up", she sings, "It hits me like a ton of bricks," she leaves the cliché untweaked.

And then there's "Cloud Aura", a lovelorn, engagingly laid-back bit of groove that lets Grimes' "Genesis" video co-star Brooke Candy rap horribly about Chris Brown. Candy's guest verse previously appeared on 2012's uneven Super Ultra mixtape, and it was near-universally panned. It isn't any better now. But in an era when too many up-and-comers are all too eager to please, this stubborn refusal to back down displays another quality in short supply: genuine irreverence. The songwriting and production credits on True Romance include Usher's "Climax" co-conspirator Ariel Rechtshaid and "I Love It" collaborator Patrick Berger, among others, who also share some credit (and blame). But like 90s pop stars turned 10s pop sophisticates Justin Timberlake and Beyoncé, Charli XCX stamps her personality across the entire project, and True Romance suggests she'll be worth following for a while. On Tumblr, Instagram, and whatever comes next, sure, but musically most of all.
--Pretty sure if anyone read this they can guess what site it's from.

Brett Dennen - Smoke and Mirrors

30 Points, 1 Votes, 1 Top 5 Vote

Ranked Highest By: mon

Album Review: “I’ve got a hard reputation,” singer-songwriter Brett Dennen sings on the jogging, Paul Simon-esque album opener “Sweet Persuasion.” It sets a mood on just-released Smoke and Mirrors and (re)establishes Dennen as a master of the hooky alt-pop tune. It also offers the first of many confessions that are at once emotionally accessible and kind of hard to buy into. Dennen as a heartbreaker? Dennen as anything akin to a bad boy? (I played the achingly-sweet slow dance, “Only Want You,” for my husband who surmised that Dennen had penned the track for his pet Guinnea pig.)

It’s on “Wild Child” that Dennen draws the shortest line of connection. The rollicking, feel-good folk-rocker is the instant anthem of all rebels and hippies (especially those who are rebellious free spirits in more so in their own minds than outwardly). That was the first song that Dennen wrote for Smoke and as the album’s flagship it’s already inundated the airwaves. There’s also a video for the single — a sun-dappled nature trek in which Dennen encounters a horse, slices an apple with a pocket knife and looks like he got dressed in John Denver’s closet.

The singer-songwriter says that “Wild Child” reconnected him to his roots. Fed up with outside pressure and influence on who he needed to be as a musician, and tired from touring, he retreated to his mountain house in the Sonora Pass region of the Sierra Nevada. It’s an area where, as a kid, Dennen hiked and worked as a camp counselor.

But if Smoke represents a return to the great outdoors for Dennen, the Charlie Peacock-produced project showcases less wilderness, more polished simplicity. Each track is self-contained, from the fingerpicking-into-lush strings of “Only Want You” to the fuzzed-out garage(ish) rock of “When We Were Young.”

That song, with its the uber-relatable line, “High school was a catastrophe, it was a failure factory,” hints at the Dennen of “Comeback Kid (That’s My Dog).” But here, the singer’s unusual voice is matched-to-the-point-of-blending with the percussive guitars and electronic warbles.

Perhaps it’s because it follows the insouciant energy of “When We Were Young,” by the smooth and somber title track is mostly forgettable. It’s well-written and poignant, but Smoke has more engaging tracks of the thoughtful ilk. “Don’t Mess With Karma,” likely a condemnation of those who stand in the way of gay marriage, is rhythmically intriguing, with layered guitar parts and pretty harmonies. (The female singer takes the low harmony to Dennen’s rangy tenor.)

The CSN-flavored “Who Am I” also examines personal politics. The atmospherics feel modern, but the steel guitar is straight out of the ‘70s. Just try to listen to that song with out suddenly needing to dust off your copy of Deja Vu.

While the album ends with the solid “Not Too Late,” it’s “Out Of My Head,” a snappy, hand-clappy dance track that feels like the punctuation point. That song, left off preview copies of Smoke, bursts out of the gate at full tilt and builds from there. Less folk, more pop. And, while it does manage to tuck in a reference to Dennen’s nature escape (“I went up into the mountains and climbed / I got away from the all the sadness and the static / I won’t be caught up in that anymore”), the track gets a lot of milage from the ricocheting line, “Get out of my head, get into my heart.”

If “Sweet Persuasion” raises questions about super-nice-guy Brett Dennen’s so-called hard reputation, then “Out Of My Head” is the balance with its quirky romance and feel-good bounce. It’s Dennen without any smoke and mirrors; the songwriter his fans love and want, despite what any business-minded “outside influences” might think.
-- Blurt Online
No one like JZilla's picks :(


ASG - Blood Drive

30 Points, 1 Votes, 1 Top 5 Vote

Ranked Highest By: JZilla

Album Review: ASG frontman Jason Shi's voice is the most distinctive part of his North Carolina band's sludgy psychedelia and poppy Southern heavy rock. Which isn't a knock: They're a good band, but it's that voice that adds the "poppy" to the previous description. It also makes me think more about rock radio than metal. Shi drives home the hooks with an upper register semi-falsetto that's melodic when it needs to be, with an occasional gruffness. It can bring to mind 90s alternative bands (Jane's Addiction with a Southern twang) as well as a skate rock group you caught on a Powell-Peralta video during the early part of same decade (maybe, in part, because Shi resembles Tony Hawk). When he really puts his back into a note, it sounds like he's levitating.

The band's third LP, 2008's Win Us Over, hit me a little after it was released and then became a regular part of my rotation. Their new fourth album, Blood Drive, their first for Relapse, made sense on first listen. The 12-song collection was produced by Grammy-winning engineer Matt Hyde, who's worked with ASG previously. He's also produced albums for Monster Magnet, Sublime, No Doubt, Slayer, Porno for Pyros, and Sum 41, and he knows how to get the big, bright sounds that work best with this band. The quartet aren't afraid of grooves. They don't cower from fist-pumping anthems. It's sunny music that should makes fans of Torche and Queens of the Stone Age perk up their ears.

It's not all Shi: ASG know how to write memorable riffs and hooks that really do stick with you. Though they just go by ASG these days, the initials were originally short for All Systems Go, a sentiment that's likely more suited to these guys than whomever sued them way back when and claimed the name for themselves: They pause here and there to insert an acoustic passage, a blues riff, some deep-voiced Americana, or a patch of echoing psych, but for the most part, ASG remain revved up.

The lyrics don't match the usually upbeat sound, and that disconnect helps make the band even more interesting. On Blood Drive, Shi's words often focus on the apocalypse and the sky. We get "Earthwalk"'s "All night earth cries beautiful sounds," "Hawkeye"'s "Lights out we ride/ Tearing holes in a sunken sky,"
 "Stargazin"'s "Born to ride/ Helplessly into a burning sky," and "Mourning of the Earth"'s "Roman candles in the sky." There's also self-mutilation ("I bled for you, come now and bleed for me, too/ Then stitch me up again"), burial ("Spread my remains close by where the weeping willow stood/ I'll be born again"), and plenty of general pain and failure. But it's not melancholic or dour. It's the restlessness of a song like "Thunder Road". It's the end of the world in Jane's Addiction's "Stop". This is angst you can sing along to while drinking beers in the backyard with your friends.

There's also a punk attitude here. On the radio-hit-in-another-universe title-track, Shi shouts: "Got a long list of foes and a shorter list of friends." You get the feeling that this isn't entirely true-- ASG are a likable band who've been around a long time-- but it does feel right in this music, where the emotion is a large part of the appeal. And on "Blues for Bama", he sings "comes as you were" in a lower, scruffier register before singing it again closer to his usual tone. It's a nice nod to Nirvana, and also entirely fitting: Like Nirvana, this is a rock band that can make us dance to songs about "a lifetime of #### and disfigurement."
-- Again, only one site writes reviews like this
...No one likes my #1 either


The Wonder Years - The Greatest Generation

30 Points, 1 Votes, 1 Top 5 Vote

Ranked Highest By: Northern Voice

Album Review: While there are lots of bands out there making earnest and emotionally charged music, none of them are able to capture little moments in time quite like the Wonder Years, who take listeners on another trip down memory lane with their fourth album The Greatest Generation. Where their last album, Suburbia I've Given You All and Now I'm Nothing, captured the tiny dramas happening just beneath the surface of a town, this album finds the band turning their focus inward to deliver a heartfelt treatise on the pains of growing up. The album isn't so much about getting older as it is about the choices we all have to make and live with, capturing each songs subject as they not only examine the paths they've taken to get to where they are, but the paths they wish they could have taken as they curse themselves for their own failings. Combining the infectious likability of their bittersweet pop-punk with the these kinds of universal concepts, the Wonder Years are a band that continue to prove themselves to be both easy to like and hard to ignore as they convert the kinds of life-changing moments we all experience into yet another wonderfully honest and earnest album. If you're a fan of autumnal pop that wears its heart on its sleeve as it shouts its feelings out to anyone who will listen and you're not a fan of these guys, The Greatest Generation is here to realign your priorities for you.

-- All Music



Hollis Brown - Ride on the Train

31 Points, 2 Votes, 1 Top 5 Vote

Ranked Highest By: landrys hat

Album Review: The sophomore release from this Queens quartet continues to mine the intersection of angsty guitar pop, twangy Americana and Stonesish rock they debuted in 2009. Vocalist (and songwriter) Mike Montali also continues to charm with a voice that takes in the quivering vulnerability of Robin Wilson, the keening alto of Neil Young and the bluesy tint of Chris Robinson. Four years from their first album, the band has been road-honed into a tight, powerful outfit, but the arrangements have the extemporaneous feel of musicians are reacting to their singer's story telling. The title track takes listeners on a thematic ride that starts slowly with the push of a hollow bass drum, gains speed with growling electric guitar chords, breaks down in contemplative depression and finally regains its locomotive traction.

Montali's songs of second chances are accompanied by guitars that are tentative with their force, backing lyrics perched between asking, suggesting and telling. The music turns hopeful with the expectant possibilities of "Faith & Love" and melancholy for the introspective "If It Ain't Me." Lead guitarist Jon Bonilla shows off his chops with solos on the workingman's lament "Doghouse Blues" and the driving blues-rocker "Walk on Water." Tracks 1, 4, 6 and 8 are drawn from a 2012 EP that added Michael Hesslein's keyboards, but given that set's limited circulation, it's great to have these tunes available again. Hollis Brown seemed fully formed back in 2009, but the extra years of playing out and writing has more deeply assimilated their influences and tightened the resonance between lyrics, vocals and instruments.
--No Depression
I expected to be alone on my #2 overall but apparently at least one other person liked it, which is nice. :hifive: #nospotlighting


White Denim - Corsicana Lemonade

31 Points, 2 Votes, 1 Top 5 Vote

Ranked Highest By: landrys hat

Previous Albums on Our Countdown: Fits (#25 in 2009)

Album Review: With Corsicana Lemonade, the rampant diversity of White Denim takes a turn away from the fiery acid-punk math-rock explorations of previous releases, into mellower territory which singer/guitarist James Petralli describes as “a barbecue record”. There are still bursts of virtuoso playing, broadened to include electric piano, organ and mellotron; but they're reined into more fluid, melodic songs that recall the Southern country-funk boogie of Little Feat and the Allman Brothers Band, and the goodtime grooves of Steve Miller, an influence audible in the twirling guitar riffs of “Come Back”. The lyrics dwell on age, family and endurance, but the backporch party vibe imparts a warm glow to proceedings.

--Independent (UK)


Fall Out Boy - Save Rock & Roll

31 Points, 2 Votes

Ranked Highest By: dal boys phan

Album Review: A four-year hiatus and coolly received solo projects behind them, US emo heroes Fall Out Boy previewed their typically outlandishly titled comeback album by revealing that they'd realised they were grownups now, with mortgages and kids. However, fans needn't fret that they've returned with songs about pension plans and lawnmowers. "We can stay young together," they proclaim, their recipe for eternal youth seemingly involving yelling very loudly. Each track fuses punk-pop, boyband production values and Heart-style power-balladry to make a big enough noise to accompany fireworks in stadiums. Adult concerns do crop up occasionally: Where Did the Party Go tackles rock-star disillusion, Just One Yesterday does wistful nostalgia, and Death Valley suggests we all embrace hedonism because the grim reaper lurks. Otherwise, it's business as usual, with slightly appeal-broadening knobs on. Quiet bits, then loud bits, and words about alienation wrapped up in catchy choruses to unite thousands. Ker-ching.


Mayer Hawthorne - Where Does this Door Go?

34 Points, 2 Votes

Ranked Highest By: dal boys phan

Album Review: Mayer Hawthorne has become one of the most interesting figures in music since taking the stage name live in 2008. Growing up near Detroit, Mayer was born in a town that was once a musical landmark for soul, which led to his career beginnings as an emcee and DJ and slowly turned into something special. Diving head first into the heart of Detroit, Mayer began making soul and R&B music, doing a damn good job paying homage to his founding fathers.

Throughout his last two albums, there’s been an obvious musical evolving, creating more deliberate and occupied songs, but never fully delivering a complete album. Singles like “The Ills,” “No Strings,” and “The Walk” showcase Mayer at an all-time high with his retro-inspired soul pop. But with his new album, Where Does This Door Go?, Mayer recruited a handful of producers such as Pharrell, John Hill, and Jack Splash to take his album to the next level. The result? A genre-bending ode to the past but also a beacon to the future.

Where Does This Door Go? is 13 tracks (excluding an intro and interlude) demonstrating Mayer’s impeccable ear for melody and groove. “Backseat Lover” sets the tone of the album with a hollowed synth and signature Motown bass lines that are layered throughout all 52 minutes. Diversity has held Mayer back in the past, but not this time around. “Allie Jones” features the signature retro Hawthorne sound of the past, but modernized, again driven by thick bass lines and his immensely improved crooning. The next three songs “The Only One,” “Wine Glass Woman,” and lead single “Her Favorite Song” show the impact and growth from working with multiple producers. Each touches on various vibes and draws from a variety of genres and styles that derive from Michigan.

While A Strange Arrangement and How Do You Do have featured notable artists such as Snoop Dogg, no song stood out as taking a risk. However, this time around, that is not the case, as the recruitment of the story-telling wordsmith Kendrick Lamar in “Crime” results in easily the biggest risk Mayer’s taken in his career. Although both artists are fantastic in their own right, on paper this sounds like a musical massacre. But to the internet's dismay, it worked out to a T, showcasing both artists’ strong points. A sampled sitar provides the mystique, while Mayer provides the smooth narration of a late night party getting busted by the Five-Oh. As noted, Mayer’s signature croons have improved immensely, which is exemplified on the chorus as he sings. Kendrick follows, delivering his bars the only way Kendrick can – with velocity, ferocity and a soothing nature.

After the emotional story of “Reach Out Richard” and the sex groove of “Corsican Rose” comes the greatest highlight of the album with title track “Where Does This Door Go?” Equipped with whimsical string arrangements and a bouncing bass line and anchored by Mayer’s delicately placed and hauntingly beautiful howls, the track feels like it was pulled from a 60’s Beatles’ session. Sadly, it’s followed by the weakest song on the album, with “Robot Love” coming across as what should have been a b-side for “Designer Drug.” But as expected, the album comes right back with the one-two punch of “The Stars Are Ours” and the Hall and Oates inspired ballad, “All Better” ending on a soft but timely high note.

Ultimately, Mayer Hawthorne has created his most complete and compelling piece of art yet, taking risks, experimenting, and looking to expand his already defined palate. He stated that his goal was to make an album that you could play straight through at a party and he’s done more than just that. It’s an album you can play at any party, play in your car on the way home and take with you on the go. Pulling from legends of the past, Mayer has crafted an album that’s worthy of its predecessors and will be relished of those in the future
--Absolute Punk
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Okkervil River - The Silver Gymnasium

34 Points, 3 Votes

Ranked Highest By: Disco Stu

Previous Albums on Our Countdown: I Am Very Far (#36 in 2011), The Stage Names (#3 in 2007)

Album Review: Consistency can be a mixed blessing for any artist, but that’s especially true in indie-rock, where new sounds and next big things have always had the advantage over old, dependable standbys. It was understandable, then, why after five solid albums, Okkervil River’s Will Sheff saw the need to shake things up on the band’s last record, 2011’s I Am Very Far. A busy, blustery subversion of the band’s usually ornate folk-rock, it was the first Okkervil River record self-produced by Sheff, and, not coincidentally, also the first that seemed more concerned with sonics than songs.

Sheff must have purged the desire to experiment from his system, because Okkervil River’s newest, The Silver Gymnasium, returns the reins to a proper producer (John Agnello, Dinosaur Jr.’s go-to guy) and the band to the brisk, toe-tapping rock that’s always fit it best. Shearwater’s Jonathan Meiburg even swings by to lend his unmistakable backing bellows to five songs, just for old times’ sake. All that makes it easy to write off The Silver Gymnasium as another Okkervil River album that sounds exactly like an Okkervil River album, but it’s no worse for that familiarity. Unlike the labored Very Far, this time the songs seem to pour out of Sheff, fueling the band’s jauntiest, peppiest record since 2007’s The Stage Names.

Like most of its predecessors, this Okkervil LP has a theme. Sheff set the record in the mid-’80s in Meriden, New Hampshire, his small childhood town. That may sound like a recipe for cloying nostalgia, but Sheff’s songwriting is consistently lively and in the moment, and aside from a few references to VCRs and Atari, he avoids painting the era with broad, Wedding Singer-style kitsch. Instead, the album evokes the period through small, expressive production shifts. Agnello—who cut his teeth in the ’80s engineering Cyndi Lauper and John Cougar Mellencamp records before reinventing himself as an indie-rock producer—models the album after the bright polish of Born In The U.S.A. and other blockbusters of the day. Chipper “Glory Days” synths run through the delirious poppy “Down Down The Deep River,” while crisp horns lend “On A Balcony” an E-Street-esque punch. Even the limber, light funk of “Stay Young” feels like a subtle nod to an era when, encouraged by their new reach on MTV, previously buttoned-up artists popped their collars and cut loose a little bit. Another band might have played up those ’80s accents as a gimmick, but The Silver Gymnasium isn’t interested in those kinds of extremes. It’s the work of a band that’s learned it doesn’t need to completely reinvent the wheel in order to keep things fresh.
--AV Club
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Unknown Mortal Orchestra - II

35 Points, 2 Votes, 1 Top 5 Vote

Ranked Highest By: Time Kibitzer

Album Review: Very rarely does a record cover as much ground as this trio’s sophomore release. There’s hardly any negative space—II is dense with textures, tones and character, from the contemplative picking and chordal hopscotch in opener “From the Sun” on through. The group has grown tremendously since their 2011 self-titled debut, trading meek, fragile indie-pop for this full-bodied, adventurous set. These tracks were tenderly meticulously written, unpretentious and accessible, yet melodically intricate. Genre-shifting is a recurring theme—retro funk, blue-eyed soul, post-punk, ’60s psychedelia and elements entirely their own are heard side by side. The record has moments for any day or mood, from the heartbreaking recluse anthem “Swim and Sleep (Like a Shark)” to the sun-bleached “So Good At Being In Trouble” and the sweetly hazy “The Opposite of Afternoon.” The bristling wah stabs in “One at a Time” give way to a sugary, fulfilling refrain. The production is minimal, leaving II feeling pure and honest.



Drenge - Drenge

35 Points, 2 Votes, 2 Top 5 Votes

Ranked Highest By: JZilla & Eephus

Album Review: When preparing to listen to a band with a name like Drenge, you’re not exactly going to be expecting a relaxing aural massage to provide some low-key R+R for your lobes and drums from the get go. It’s onomatopoeia in a sense: ‘drenge’ could easily be a verb, and if you were to define it, it would certainly involve bringing down a crescendo of energy-efficient, dirty aggression onto an unsuspecting bystander. In reality, the word is actually the Danish for ‘boys’, but that isn’t to say you won’t feel like you’ve been on the receiving end of an intense ‘drenging’ after wrapping your ears around this superb debut record.

Drenge have come along firmly within a honeypot of drums/guitar duos that can boast varying degrees of acclaim (and blues) from the past 12 months. It would be premature to draw comparisons that are too intrinsic to the pioneers of the motif, but there is a definite witchcraft in the superbly-surnamed Loveless brothers that divulges a feral, completely uncultivated rockslide with a sensationally intelligent membrane that plays peek-a-boo within the swathes of untamed recoil. These two come from a sleepy village in the Peak District, and it’s definitely safe to say that their music will be the filthiest thing to have ever found itself in their postcode.

The record itself is ultimately a plethora of influences alchemized into an advancing hazard that blitzes everything in its path. It’s frantically fast and races from track to track, with lyrics that do not beat anywhere remotely close to the perimeters of a bush. Opening track People In Love Make Me Feel Yuck amalgamates a blues-laden riff (that Josh Homme would positively salivate over), with a frenzy of crashing cymbals, all whilst Eoin Loveless groans simplistic gear-grinders with obscene grit. Dogmeat is in the same bracket, and you would be hard pushed to find out whether the first two tracks of Drenge, or Eiffel 65’s debut single, had more blues. Each track gives way to its successor around the 2-minute mark, making the onslaughts bitesize and wondrously easy to digest.

Drenge is littered with sardonically charged bursts on what’s wrong with the world, but it’s not a case of the duo taking themselves too seriously, or punctuating their streams with the overbearing self-loathing of your grunge imitators. Rory and Eoin Loveless have smashed the nail’s head into smithereens on this front, almost taking the proverbial piss out of such trivial quantities. The noteworthy tracks that continue to arrive at a furious rate of knots give a crude insight further and further into their repertoire. I Want To Break You In Half and Bloodsports are equipped with DIY-fitted chugs that are mainlined into your bloodstream, maintaining the ceaseless acceleration that will “make you run to the hills / make you piss your pants.” Remember that bush we mentioned?

This debut LP is 100% raw, but it’s that sardonic, exquisite wit which works in a thoroughly inconspicuous manner that makes the urgency dynamic. The riffs remain untamed and bestial, no more so than in Face Like A Skull, which channels everything from a Bleach-era Cobain-esque cocktail of riffs to a stream of lyrics that display supremely the brilliant cynical satire of two ethereal minds. Drenge does not stop accelerating, increasing the strength of its dose all the while, until it’s closing track. Contextually appropriately titled ####about displays a delightful chord progression strummed at an alarmingly slow pace. The title of the track says it all, but whether inadvertently or not, it shows another, tranquillizing string to the duo’s bow, but nevertheless increases the sardonic intensity right until the very end.

Drenge’s debut is excellent, and it will no doubt have you appropriately ‘drenged’. The tracks, bar an 8-minute thrash and a frightful, ironic change of tact in the closing stages, are confined to 2-minute onslaughts that don’t offer a break to catch your breath. Its brash, brutish façade accelerates in a way that keeps the commendable aphorism hidden at a glance, but its intensity is an infectious science, alchemizing its influences into a championing 37-minute mass movement. They even made an appearance in a Labour MP’s open resignation letter following a scintillating set in a tiny tent at Glastonbury. They couldn’t have cared less…
-- No Ripcord

Pissed Jeans - Honeys

36 Points, 2 Votes, 1 Top 5 Vote

Ranked Highest By: Ahrn

Previous Albums on Our Countdown: King of Jeans (#30 in 2009)

Album Review: A great irony has been present for much of Sub Pop’s history: From Bleach to Bloom, the Seattle-based label has had pretty good luck both anticipating trends and taking advantage of new ones. This starts, of course, with bands like Nirvana and Mudhoney, neither of which had their most successful days on the imprint, but both of which can claim an incalculable amount of influence on rock music to germinate after their early-‘90s peaks. Today, more than two decades after the surfacing of the “Seattle sound,” signees like Fleet Foxes and Beach House are elongating and elaborating Sub Pop’s tradition of representing acts that, while not necessarily making a run at any kind of chart-domination, will make a dent in Billboard standings and pop up on late-night TV the weeks after dropping a new album.

Go back further than any of that, though, and you’ll find that SP’s OGs are eternally overdriven bands like Green River and Scratch Acid that mostly did the opposite of what a desperate major-label exec might request. These are the guys that presumably jibed with Bruce Pavitt’s original mission statement for his company, and theirs is the tradition Pissed Jeans align with. The Pennsylvania-based quartet are spiritual descendants of feral flocks like Flipper, The Jesus Lizard, and McLusky. And on Honeys, their fourth album total and third for Sub Pop, Pissed Jeans offer up 12 tracks that rival those bands at their very finest.

Four years separate Honeys from Pissed Jeans’ last album, King of Jeans, but there’s not much here to suggest it needed to gestate that long. Instead, the LP is actually a tightening of and an improvement on the band’s greatest strengths. Where each of the band’s first three LPs had a song of at least seven minutes, nothing on Honeys tops five; “You’re Different (In Person)” and “Cat House”, rather, count among Pissed Jeans’ most economical songs yet. And while those first three albums were often carried by sheer force, this one has a more contoured sequencing conducive to a supremely balanced listen – the Sleep-y lumber of “Chain Worker”, the turbulent “Male Gaze”, and the neck-snapping charge of “Health Plan” all show up in the exact right spots. Lots of bands are as pummeling as Pissed Jeans, but few have proven themselves so capable of making a true album’s album.

Right, and also: Matt Korvette. A band this heavy is nothing without an absolute behemoth of a frontman, and dude has always measured up – anybody who’s heard the way he comes in on 2005’s “Ugly Twin (I’ve Got)” can attest to that. Here, as per always, Korvette brings his vein-popping, larynx-lacerating, not-so-much-“cathartic”-as-violently-soul-purging delivery to a collection of songs that just wouldn’t be the same without it. Of course, as a lyricist, Korvette has always been a special figure in his field, too, satirizing the quotidian with songs like 2007’s notorious “I’ve Still Got You (Ice Cream)”. That idiosyncratic charisma pops up plenty here – “Health Plan” is one of the funniest things he’s done – and when it does, it contrasts with the heave of the music without being a distraction.

Unlike a band such as ####ed Up – who, in case you’ve forgotten, did that song with Cults’ Madeline Follin – Pissed Jeans might not be a gateway to hardcore/pig####/whatever this exceedingly noisy music they make is. In other words, there are hooks here, not to mention a near-hummable melody or two on “Loubs”, but nothing like a “TV Party”. Instead, Honeys is 36 minutes of an excellent band doing what it does best, approachability be damned. It’s an anachronism, yes, but records as essential as this one only show up a few times a year in any era.
--Consequence of Sound

The Avett Brothers - Magpie & the Dandelion

36 Points, 4 votes

Ranked Highest By: Nick Vermeil

Previous Albums on Our Countdown: The Carpenter (#50 in 2012), I and Love and You (#18 in 2009), Emotionalism (#16 in 2007)

Album Review: What do the Avett Brothers have in common with Kanye West? Most people would probably say not much. Their styles of music are obviously wildly different, their personalities are at the extreme opposite ends of the spectrum, and the last time I checked the Avett’s aren’t dating a member of the Kardashian clan. However, take a closer look at the liner notes for the Avett’s latest effort, Magpie and the Dandelion and their main similarity is easy to see. Rick Rubin, the legendary producer whose talents date back to founding Def Jam Records in the 1980s, produced both the Avett’s Magpie and Kanye’s latest, Yeezus. These are two albums, released within a few months of each other, were produced by the same guy and couldn’t be less alike. Or are they?

The Avett Brothers have certainly came a long way since first bursting out onto the scene and into the iPods of adoring fans across the country. Their sound has undoubtedly grown bigger and larger, fuller and brighter. Take for instance the second track on Magpie: “Morning Song.” Towards the end of it, there’s practically a full-on choir belting out the hook, which in the grand scheme of the Avett’s discography, is a wild departure from their earlier, understated tracks like “January Wedding” or their breakout hit, “I and Love and You.” Lyrically, the themes are bigger as well. Magpie’s first single, “Another is Waiting,” focuses on the downfall of celebrity, while older Avett songs explore more intimate themes spotlighting the intricacies of human love and relationships.

Magpie is chock full of tracks that show the Avett Brothers are (very wisely) growing their sound, while remaining true to their core principles and what listeners like about them to begin with. Even one of Magpie’s strongest songs, “Open Ended Life,” alludes to this fact with it’s chorus stating, “I was told to keep an open ended life/to never trap yourself in nothing.” The last thing the Avett Brothers are doing is trapping themselves, but all the while they still execute this delicate dance of staying grounded with who they really are- arguably thanks to Rubin’s help. A connection to their earlier work can also be traced from Magpie to their 2012 effort, The Carpenter, but that’s purely by design. Magpie was recorded at the same time as The Carpenter, and is an unofficial sequel to it, but don’t be misled: Magpie is not filled with rejected Carpenter tracks and B-sides. It stands on it’s own as quite possibly one of the more robust Avett records, which is a bold statement considering the majority of the Avett’s output in their long career has been robust.

This is an album that demonstrates that the Avetts are in transition, much like Kanye West’s Yeezus showed West in transition. These are two artists who first started making music around the same time, (the Avett’s first album through a label was 2003’s A Carolina Jubilee, and West’s first two mix-tapes were released that very same year). Perhaps that’s the reason why they were both smart enough to bring in Rubin at a crucial time in their musical trajectories. After exactly a full decade of laying down tracks, it’s inevitable for artists to hit a wall, but the Avett Brothers, much like West, have avoided any trace of a musical wall with flying colors.

It’s clear with this latest effort that the Avett Brothers don’t care much for recent trends and don’t chase after something they think their fans “want” them to be, but instead is a pure taste of raw musical expression, and the resulting effort is that each track is better than the next. There’s no telling where this road takes the Avetts, but there’s no doubt I want to go to their next destination — wherever it may be.
--American Songwriter

Jack Johnson - From Here to Now to You

38 Points, 2 votes, 1 Top 5 Vote

Ranked Highest By: mon

Album Review: On his 2013 album From Here to Now to You, the surfing soft rock superstar Jack Johnson continues the subtle shift in his sound that began on his previous album, To the Sea. Like he did there, Johnson again spices up the sweet and sleepy acoustic ballads that are his claim to fortune and fame with some songs that have a little more bubbly, uptempo pop in their DNA. He and his able band put some surprising bounce in lighthearted rockers like "Shot Reverse Shot" and "Washing Dishes"; give his tale of playing in punk bands as a teen, "Tape Deck," a nice shaggy loping feel; and get almost funky on the jam band-friendly "Radiate." These tracks give the album a few nice jolts of energy, though jolt may be the wrong word. Maybe more like gentle nudges. Certainly not drastic enough to detract from the reliably mellow mood Johnson creates on the rest of the album as his quiet and peaceful tunes work like a shot of musical melatonin. Songs like the sweetly romantic "I Got You," the gently questioning "Don't Believe a Thing I Say," and the truly lovely ballad "Change" are like melodic cocktails guaranteed to give you a light and breezy buzz with no hangover the next day. When he gets a little melancholy, which he does a couple times, he does it in such a pleasant way that the slightly dark sentiments float by like stray clouds. Only one song lets down the side, the treacly and slightly odd ode to parenthood "You Remind Me of You," which equates children with clones and sounds way too silly compared to the rest of the record. This one stumble aside, From Here to Now to You is another impressive record from Johnson. The way he mixes sounds, styles, and moods on the album is, like it was on To the Sea, a nice step in the right direction; the songs are typically strong; and the whole thing goes down as easily as ice-cold soda pop on a hot summer day.

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Jim James - Regions of Light and Sound of God

40 Points, 2 votes, 1 Top 5 Vote

Ranked Highest By: Disco Stu

Album Review: For his solo debut, My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James turned to a pair of deeply spiritualized works for inspiration. The first was Lynd Ward’s wordless woodcut novel Gods’ Man, which follows an artist unwittingly lured into a Faustian bargain. The other was Marvin Gaye’s soul searing state-of-the-world takedown What’s Going On. Both are unswervingly bone-bare and uncompromising. James’ heady Regions of Light and Sound of God fits alongside them well. Call it a hymnal for those wandering through the modern age in search of enlightenment.

A slight atmospheric hum ushers in the opening track “State of the Art (A.E.I.O.U),” a slow, sonorous lullaby with a dark edge. There’s a nod to a nursery classic as James intones, “And when the dawn brakes/The cradle will fall/And down will come baby/Cradle and all.” The song gradually builds, maintaining its diaphaneity and poise throughout.

For the most part, this entire record is a downbeat affair. At times, it’s so mellow that it makes My Morning Jacket seem like a potential headliner for the next Family Values tour. One exception is “Know Til Now,” a spaced-out disco tune reminiscent of Gaye’s tortured Here, My Dear, which chronicled his failed marriage to Anna Gordy. There’s a continuing parallel to be found with the Motown legend’s darker years on the bittersweet “Actress.” “You’re good at making everyone believe that they love you/A little wink of the eye/A little glimpse of the thigh/And we’re in heaven,” sings James, partly besotted, partly sick with himself for falling in love with a woman he knows is a mirage.

Across these nine tracks, James restrains the soaring, After the Gold Rush vocal work that was his trademark on earlier MMJ songs like It Still Moves’ “One Big Holiday” and “I Needed It Most” from At Dawn. A much wider palate is on display—smoother, more assured—which speaks highly of his growth as a singer over the last decade and a half.

Finisher “God’s Love to Deliver” musically recalls James’ infatuation with George Harrison, which fully manifested itself with 2009’s Tribute To collection of covers released under the since-abandoned semi-pseudonym Yim Yames. Lyrically, this is his Big Message Moment. He begins, “I have a dream/Oh, Dr. King/Well I know what you meant/We were all equal in your eyes, at least/God speaking through you.” It’s a bit much, but it’s somewhat easier to digest since it drips with sincerity.

Taken as a whole, Regions of Light and Sound of God feels almost otherworldly, like James stepped out of space and time for a flash, then returned bearing songs inspired by a place that only he could see. Captivating to its core, it will undoubtedly soundtrack countless mushroom-fueled spirit quests and soul-searching walkabouts for light years to come.
Started from the bottom, now we're at #30


Drake - Nothing Was the Same

40 Points, 2 votes, 2 Top 5 Votes

Ranked Highest By: themeanmachine, Abraham

Album Review: Drake's not your average Best Rapper Alive. Jay Z, Kanye West, Lil Wayne: These fellas gladly accepted the designation at their peaks. With his superb third studio album, Drake, 26, purrs back onto the scene in total control of hip hop's most expansive vision — which happens to take a dim view of simplistic notions of success (including the idea of a best living rapper). Nothing Was the Same bristles with epiphanies, absurdities, and plenty of bluster, but it's all fodder for a hyperrealistic portrait of Aubrey Drake Graham, not some coronation ceremony.

To Drake's detractors, he's like a boyfriend who's needy at home and aloof around your pals: an egotistical softy. This lush, un-hurried album reveals a surer character, rebuking other rappers who talk smack ''just to get a reaction'' and even, on ''Too Much,'' close relatives who refuse to be helped: ''My uncle used to have all these things on his bucket list/Now he's acting like, 'Oh well, this is life, I guess.''' Always, he's preoccupied with failed connections.

Meanwhile, the music itself — largely produced by his stalwart collaborator Noah ''40'' Shebib — explores affinities with songs that overlap and build on each other. It's a thinking rapper's paradise: On ''From Time'' alone, he debates with singer Jhene Aiko about the nature of love, fondly remembers women he met at Hooters and Macy's, and breaks down advice from Dad. That's real talk of the highest order. And it's why no one else can touch him — long as he might for the company
--Entertainment Weekly

Jake Bugg - Shangri-La

40 Points, 3 votes, 1 Top 5 Vote

Ranked Highest By: JZilla

Album Review: Recorded with producer Rick Rubin at The Band's former Shangri La studio in Malibu – hence the album title – Shangri La depicts an artist expanding exponentially beyond the rudimentary rockabilly diatribes of last year's eponymous debut. If it's not quite the jump from Bob Dylan to The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, it's the closest recent equivalent, a prodigious rate of development for such a tyro talent, all the more remarkable for not being reliant on significant musical progression, so much as raw songwriting ability.

Rubin is not to everyone's taste as a producer – there are issues with his fondness for excessive compression and loudness – but he's perfect for Bugg. The sort of naked focus that he applied to Johnny Cash works beautifully on the spiky protest skiffle of songs like "There's a Beast and We All Feed It" and "Slumville Sunrise", the former featuring fast, scuttling patter in the manner of "Subterranean Homesick Blues", the latter just one of several songs about escaping restrictions of circumstance and expectation.

The album's split between folk-rockers like "Messed Up Kids", a no-future tableau that's like Bugg's earlier "Seen It All", but from a more poetic viewpoint ("It's a washed-out Saturday, a sky of pastel shades, under breeze-block palisades"), and surlier electric rockers such as the loner anthem "What Doesn't Kill You", driven by brusque punk chording. But whichever mode he works in, Bugg's tenor cuts straight to the quick, whether snarling through the galloping rocker "Kingpin" or regretful about the unavoidable erosion of a relationship in "Kitchen Table", over electric piano and guitar lines in melancholy collusion.

As the strident "Storm Passes Away" brings the album to a close, it's hard not to notice the echoes of Woody Guthrie, both in the forthright, ringing vocal tone, and in the apparent ease with which Bugg conjures up evocative and enduring images to express the condition of the common man – a worthy task for such an uncommon talent.
--Independent UK
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Queens of the Stone Age - Like Clockwork

42 Points, 4 votes, 1 Top 5 Votes

Ranked Highest By: Ahrn

Previous Albums on Our Countdown: Era Vulgaris (#50 in 2007)

Album Review: Josh Homme has had a few difficult years in the run-up to recording and releasing ...Like Clockwork. In 2010, a routine knee surgery resulted in Homme's clinical "death" for a short time, leading him to being bedridden for three months. The incident deeply shook the frontman, stating that he left something behind on the operating table. Although he was deeply depressed, his band mates convinced him to start work on a new Queens of the Stone Age album.

While the album was recorded, Homme couldn't shake the near-death experience from his mind and it comes pouring out through this LP, the darkest and creepiest one the band has made. It also happens to be their best in over a decade.

The foreboding tone and thoughts of Homme's "death" are noticed immediately on the opener, Keep Your Eyes Peeled. "If life is but a dream, then wake me", Homme screams over a sinister bass and warped guitar riff that slides into a sinking harmonious bridge. I Appear Missing is even more blatant. Homme sings, "Pinned like a note in a hospital gown/Deeper I sleep/Further down/A rabbit hole never to be found", as the music alternates between a gentle, lullaby riff that grows louder and louder, almost as if the instruments themselves are trying to bring him back to life.

Even when moving on to other subjects, the music mostly stays under the surface, with only glimpses of sunlight coming around. The Vampyre Of Time and Memory is piano-centered, with the mournful melody offering an anchor for Homme's voice. The tiny bits of guitar borders between jazzy licks and sharp soloing. Kalopsia uses a heartbeat as the drumbeat, while the guitar riffs meticulously inches forward, until a sharp guitar screech kicks the band forward for the chorus.

Still, it's not all doom and gloom on this album. If I Had A Tail and My God Is The Sun offers a reprieve, while still being extremely strong material. The former has a seesaw, sexy swagger that became the Queens of the Stone Age signature. The latter is a straight-up hard rock song with a chorus that will be stuck in your head for days. The guitars cascading down the neck, increasing in intensity and pitch as the band sings out towards the sky, seemingly reaching for the sun itself.

Besides the rough path Homme had to this album's gestation, the other noteworthy factor is the list of guest stars spread out over the track listing. While many of these big names play a role in their respective songs, they never overshadow the music, to the point where you have to actively listen to hear their contributions. Trent Reznor's vocals are hidden in the background of Fairweather Friends, but the song's other musician is noticeable the second his hands hit the piano. Elton John's work on the keys give the song a propulsive touch that take it from good to great. On the next track, Smooth Sailing, Homme gets his cockiness back, throwing out lines like "God only knows/so mind your behavior" and "I blow my load/over the status quo." Add in the backing falsetto of Scissor Sisters' Jake Shears and you have one of the funkiest songs in the band's catalog.

On paper, such an assortment of special guests and different moods would appear to create a disaster. Instead, all the personalities put themselves in the background to let the songs shine and the moods are laid out in such a manner with the music that the flow is nearly perfect. ...Like Clockwork is easily the best release from the band since Songs for the Deaf. It may not have been worth Homme's near-death, but this record is a perfect example of making something great out of bad circumstances.
--No Ripcord

Yo la Tengo - Fade

45 Points, 4 votes, 1 Top 5 Votes

Ranked Highest By: The Dreaded Marco

Previous Albums on Our Countdown: I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your ### (#17 in 2006)

Album Review: What a gross prospect that a 30-years-going (and at least 20-years-miraculous) band like Hoboken’s finest have to contend with critical acclaim, that tempestuous thing that doubts itself every so often when a band simmers for too long. Yo La Tengo does nothing but simmer, and their excellent records are proof that a band need not boil over to consistently make the best American music in the universe.

Yes, 2009’s Popular Songs was close as they get to repeating themselves, generic title intact, triple-boring endless coda devastating (“The Fireside” was, sure, the worst thing they’ve ever recorded). But you could still glean “If It’s True,” “Nothing to Hide” and “Periodically Double or Triple” from it, three of their easiest tunes since “Sugarcube” if not 1992’s “Upside-Down.” Then there’s the preceding two records, 2006’s riotous Nuggets-styled jukebox I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your ### and the mysteriously disliked Summer Sun, which spent the twilight hours of the decade’s remainder swelling into this reviewer’s favorite album of 2003. Summer Sun’s thunder was mostly stolen three years prior by the haunting …And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out, presumably because critics didn’t think they could enjoy two very quiet albums in a row. 1997’s I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One was their jack-of-all-trades switchblade, their Sign ‘o’ the Times by most accounts, and before that their noisiest record, Electr-O-Pura, which damn near equaled anything they’ve ever done. Except for Popular Songs, every one of these is a great record. I suppose something about my post makes me not to be trusted that they don’t dip. Trust this: bands rarely get to age 30 without having streaks of miraculous albums. And OK, they relegated a lot of the crap to EPs and anthologies and other B-crap. Remember when they banged up a garage as the Condo ####s? Hoodlums.

Despite the fact that the young year’s Fade is a great album—their best since, yup, Summer Sun—this is the odd reversal of a band who’s always given fans plenty to chew on now servicing critics to regain recognition. Inside jokes of song titles are out. As are 12-minute organ workouts. Humor is sparse. Nothing sounds like a cover tune from the vinyl deeps. Fade is just 10 distinctive, beautiful songs in 45 minutes meant to show their languid new peers (Real Estate, Beach House, Grizzly Bear, what have you) who’s boss. It shouldn’t work. It’s to that roaring 20-year streak’s goodwill that it does.

They save their songiest new song for the opener that most flaunts the “electronic” additions of Tortoise’s John McEntire (big deal, they’ve been looping drones since 1989’s “Barnaby, Hardly Working”). “Ohm” counters its funky shaker and one-chord drone with the most memorable and out-front lyrics of possibly the band’s career: “Sometimes the bad guys go out on top/ Sometimes the good guys lose/ Been trying not to lose our hearts/ Not to lose our minds.” Whether it’s about the fiscal cliff or their own uncertainty over whether they’ll ever have the energy to do another one (“But nothing ever stays the same/ Nothing’s explained”), they confront the mortality of everything on a six-minute track that never jams because the tune never lets go, cresting with doo-doo-doos and then a melody-unwinding guitar solo halfway through. They never did write an anthem, so here’s their “Teen Age Riot,” three decades late. Call it “Old Age Shrug,” since the title “Ohm” is one of those things that’s never explained.

The remaining nine tunes perform another feat they’ve rarely indulged: showcase individual parts. Sick of their murmured lo-fi getting shafted by people who’d otherwise admire their chops, they brighten each element in the mix on Fade, so you can really hear the delicate snap of the snares on “Well You Better,” the flamenco-like soloing on “Stupid Things” against vaporized fuzz bass, the acoustic guitars on “The Point of It,” the fine-china string quartet on “Is That Enough.”

Despite sanding off many of their hallmarks, every track eventually kicks in, like the fast “Paddle Forward” that you barely notice at first because the slow ones are so beautiful, and “Two Trains” which makes like Imperial Teen at half-speed and could’ve fit perfectly onto …And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out. “Cornelia and Jane” is a classic Georgia Hubley torch song, with more audible momentum and horns that return for a closer with, wow, arena-rock drums. Because only “Ohm” and “Before We Run” dribble over six minutes, there’s little here to distract people from remembering every tune, which isn’t really the point of Yo La Tengo, but proves they can do straightforward/upfront/etc. nevertheless. Just remember that proving new things doesn’t negate old ones; the pastoral elegance here should inspire people to go back and learn more about Summer Sun, which is more delicate, subtle, oddly shaped. But Fade stakes out its own winning terrain. The speedy Muzak soul of “Well You Better” is Ira Kaplan’s most impressive vocal performance ever, no? Aren’t you glad you can hear it with such clarity?
Here's a band I never expected to see on one of our countdowns:


The Mavericks - In Time

48 Points, 2 votes, 2 Top 5 Votes

Ranked Highest By: pettifogger, dal boys phan

Album Review: From beginning to end of the Mavericks' reunion album "In Time," the genre-busting band embodies the very best of the melting-pot experience that's a fundamental component of the American character. Singer-songwriter Raul Malo and his Nashville-based compatriots draw freely, and joyously, from regional cultures spanning North and South America on a collection that will be hard to top as the year's most scintillating pop music outing.

The party begins in the opening track, "Back in Your Arms Again." A fat, twangy chord from an echo-drenched country guitar shares space with a lilting strummed Hawaiian uke, which are quickly joined by a peppery Tex-Mex keyboard and timbales that ride along as propulsive rhythm section jumps in. Then Malo's soaring tenor arrives, bringing palpable romanticism to a tale about the sweetness of reunion that applies equally to the song's romance-minded protagonist as his band's own return to the spotlight.

The spirit of inclusiveness never lets up, infusing the pedal-to-the-metal punch of "Lies," the mariachi-spiked breakup celebration in "Fall Apart" and the Tex-Mex fiesta of "All Over Again." And if there isn't a pop vocal Grammy Award next year for Malo's stunning display on the eight-minute operatic Latin-pop-gospel epic "(Call Me) When You Get to Heaven," awards overseers ought to just pack it in and say "Adios."

Malo, whose Cuban heritage comes out in the dance-mindedness of nearly every track, also co-produced the album with Niko Bolas, and they've captured a sound as tangibly uplifting as pop music gets. The Mavericks are back and indeed, just in time.
In true countdown teaser style:

- There are at least 5 female fronted pop/rock groups still to come, which will finish the highest?

- Will a band that once finished #1 on our poll miss completely?

- 3 bands have a chance to finish in the top 10 for the 3rd time each, who are they, will they all do it?

- Will we have a new #1 or will a past winner once again take the top spot?

In true countdown teaser style:

- There are at least 5 female fronted pop/rock groups still to come, which will finish the highest?

- Will a band that once finished #1 on our poll miss completely?

- 3 bands have a chance to finish in the top 10 for the 3rd time each, who are they, will they all do it?

- Will we have a new #1 or will a past winner once again take the top spot?
Black people

In true countdown teaser style:

- There are at least 5 female fronted pop/rock groups still to come, which will finish the highest?

- Will a band that once finished #1 on our poll miss completely?

- 3 bands have a chance to finish in the top 10 for the 3rd time each, who are they, will they all do it?

- Will we have a new #1 or will a past winner once again take the top spot?
Thanks Kasey!

In true countdown teaser style:

- There are at least 5 female fronted pop/rock groups still to come, which will finish the highest?

- Will a band that once finished #1 on our poll miss completely?

- 3 bands have a chance to finish in the top 10 for the 3rd time each, who are they, will they all do it?

- Will we have a new #1 or will a past winner once again take the top spot?
Thanks Kasey!
:thumbup: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=seCkv_aqSF8 (contains swearing)

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This answers one of the questions above, BTW.


Frightened Rabbit - Pedestrian Verse

54 Points, 4 votes, 1 Top 5 Vote

Ranked Highest By: The Dreaded Marco

Previous Albums on Our Countdown: The Winter of Mixed Drinks (6th in 2010), The Midnight Organ Fight (5th in 2008)

Album Review: For Frightened Rabbit’s first album since 2010’s excellent The Winter Of Mixed Drinks, the band wanted to break out of some pre-established patterns: It moved to major label Atlantic Records after three albums with British indie FatCat; the album was written as a group, instead of singer-guitarist Scott Hutchison exiling himself somewhere to do all the writing and arranging; and Hutchison wanted to break free from himself. At the beginning of the songwriting cycle for the album, he bought a new notebook and wrote “Pedestrian Verse” on the cover to motivate himself: “Every time I opened the book to work, those words on that lovely brown cover challenged me,” Hutchison wrote for Clash Magazine. “Don’t go writing about ‘the sky falling,’ mate, or how she is your ‘world.’ Don’t you ####### dare!” The intent was for Pedestrian Verse to be about other people instead of looking inward “like some sort of whiny ******* harpist.”

Events in his life eventually found their way onto Pedestrian Verse, but an album without Hutchison’s biting self-effacement wouldn’t be a proper Frightened Rabbit album anyway. Over the years, the group has been lumped in with the proud tradition of sad Scottish bastards, and Pedestrian Verse’s moody “Nitrous Gas” shows why. “Leave the acute warm-heartedness / Go where the joyless ******* lives / He’s dying to bring you down with him / Suck in the bright red major keys / Spit out the blue minor misery / I’m dying to bring you down with me.” But Hutchison’s songwriting voice doesn’t so much wallow as make cutting remarks from the end of the bar. (Sometimes literally—see “#### This Place,” from the group’s 2011 tour EP.)

Perhaps more accurately, Hutchison falls in with another proud Scottish tradition: the ability to make the gloomy anthemic. Just as the melancholic “Things” opened The Winter Of Mixed Drinks and gave way to the exuberant “Swim Until You Can’t See Land,” the slow simmer of “Acts Of Man” segues into the triumphant “Backyard Skulls” (another excellent song about the hidden secrets of suburbia). It, “Late March, Death March,” “Housing (In),” and “Oil Slick” follow the path established by Frightened Rabbit songs like “Swim,” “I Feel Better,” “The Modern Leper,” “Go-Go-Girls,” “Nothing Like You,” and “The Greys.”

But the album diverges from precedent, too. The bass and percussion of “Holy” recall early New Order (like “Broken Promise”). A fine layer of distortion permeates the martial drum beat, bass, and occasional backup vocals in “Dead Now,” a song that captures the spectrum of Pedestrian Verse: It starts quietly, with drums, bass, and Hutchison’s vocals, but gradually builds into something exuberant. The song has nice, inconspicuous production flourishes, as the guitar tones change, extra instrumentation bubbles up to the surface and drops down, and Gordon Skene’s keys catalyze a conclusion that sounds joyful—only Frightened Rabbit could make the repetition of “There is something wrong with me” a triumphant sing-along moment. “Will you love me in spite of these tics and inconsistencies?” Hutchison asks, but he knows the answer to the question already. The music that carries those words makes it sound less like beseeching and more like a raucous embrace of his shortcomings.

That could describe Frightened Rabbit’s M.O. in general. Hutchison intended “Pedestrian Verse” to be a self-directed warning, but as a title for his band’s latest album, it reads as proudly defiant.
-- The AV Club

J Roddy Walston & the Business - Essential Tremors

55 Points, 2 votes

Ranked Highest By: landrys hat

Previous Albums on Our Countdown: J Roddy Walston & the Business (#22 in 2010)

Album Review: The fact that J. Roddy Walston and the Business haven't yet hit a wider audience is almost baffling. The Baltimore-based group has largely grown by word of mouth — people seeing their live shows and spreading the news — which has gained them enough exposure to play small sets at large festivals such as Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza. However, your average-Joe music lover has still probably never heard of them. So, if any album were to get them over that hump, "Essential Tremors" would be it.

The band has always had a straightforward, gritty, no-frills rock and roll sound, but "Essential Tremors" has brought them into their own. They have developed a pop sensibility (similar to early Kings of Leon material) that will resonate more widely, and they have integrated an eclectic use of genres.

The tracks bring to mind vocal elements of Dr. Dog and Jack White with guitar and drums that channel artists ranging from Led Zeppelin and ZZ Top to Elvis and Johnny Cash to Alabama Shakes and The Black Keys to Bob Dylan and Mumford and Sons. With comparisons to those kinds of commercially successful artists, recognition for the band should soon be within reach.

Walston stepped up his game lyrically and has opened up emotionally for this effort. From the title of the album being a reference to a degenerative nervous-system disorder he has, similar to Parkinson's Disease, that causes his hands to shake — he has mentioned it in previous songs but never to this extent — to the lyrics on tracks such as "Boys Can Never Tell," his writing is honest and poignant.

The band is playing fun music that isn't reinventing the wheel necessarily, but it is full of soul and doesn't for a second feel tired.

The pacing of the album is a mix of slow-jams and heart-pumping rock and roll. Many of their songs incorporate the 12-bar blues structure and blend it with rockabilly doo-*** rhythms, groovy R&B falsetto and down-to-earth folk vibes. Plus, their use of steel guitar is pretty sick.

"Essential Tremors" is, hands down, J. Roddy and the Business's best album yet. If you haven't checked them out before, this record is certainly worth a spin.

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