Wow, just wow. One of the best weeks of the year on the music release front and that isn’t just because Lady Gaga and Jimmy Buffett both have records out this week. The shelter in place policies has yielded some positive benefits in the form of a new E.P. by John Forgety and his family where he takes recent quarantine performances and gathers them all in one place for our listening pleasure. Highlights here include intimate renditions of “Down on the Corner,” “Proud Mary,” and “Bad Moon Rising” along with a version of “Centerfield” recorded in the actual centerfield of an empty Dodger Stadium. Pretty cool, actually.
Here are five properly cool albums that have made our ears tingle this week.
The Reflectors – First Impression
What a spot-on perfect name for the debut record from one of the best Power Pop bands to cross our ear-paths in quite a long time. Citing the Raspberries along with The Buzzcocks as major influences, the crunchy guitar chords and deceptively timeless lyrics will bring you back to the late ’60s early ’70’s at the blink of an ear. All Killer, no filler, every song’s a winner on this one especially on the Big Star vibing “Champagne” and the Garage Rock banging “U Should Be My Girl.” It will be impossible to be in a bad mood after listening to this record.
Nicole Atkins -Italian Ice
Ever since the release of her excellent 2017 record Goodnight Rhonda Lee Nicole Atkins has been on our radar. Here, with her new record Italian Ice she takes her retro wardrobe to the next level. Recorded in Alabama at the Muscle Shoals Studios with two members of the vintage Muscle Shoals rhythm section, bassist David Hood and Keyboardist Spooner Oldham, this elegant record does a lot of genre-hopping. There are sprinkles of ’60s girl group, plenty of Dusty Springfield influences, as well as splashes of Disco-Lite and Classic Country. Guest turns from Spoon’s Brit Daniels, Civil Wars veteran John Paul White, and Avett Brother Seth Avett take this one up to next-level coolness.
Jaime Wyatt – Neon Cross
Just when we thought that Ashley McBryde was our favorite bad-ass rocker du jour, Jaime Wyatt jumps into the fray with Neon Cross. Such a bad-ass that she was once arrested for robbing her heroin dealer. Produced by Shooter Jennings, it seems that he is everywhere these days, from the vulnerable opener “Sweet Mess” her whiskey worn voice that falls somewhere between worn-hard era Tanya Tucker and early-era Melissa Etheridge signals that everything about this used to be lost soul is entirely authentic. The title song is a bit of a rocker while “Rattlesnake Girl,” a song that addresses her sexuality, is Country Rock with an emphasis on the country. Having produced 2019’s fine Tanya Tucker record, While I’m Livin’, Shooter Jennings along with Jamie Wyatt has come up with another stellar performance to add to their respective resumes.
2nd Grade – Hit To Hit
Formed by a collective of like-minded musicians gathered up from the ashes of various Philadelphia area Pop-Punk band, 2nd Grade with their debut record Hit To Hit, deliver an infectious set of Indie inspired Power Pop gems. 24 tightly knit songs in just under 42 minutes, the ride takes you on a gentle roller coaster of jubilance on “Sunkist,” Beach Boys-inspired harmonies on “Not in the Band,” and Replacements worthy energy on the short but extremely sweet “Boys In Heat.” With musical touchpoints, the likes of The Rubinoos, The Replacements, The Greg Khin Band, and Teenage Fan Club your summer Jam just might be here a little bit early.
Vickie Kristina Barcelona – Pawn Shop Radio
This trio of talented female singer-songwriters seems to have come together specifically to pay homage and make this album as a tribute to gravelly-voiced barfly Tom Waits. Individually, they have played with the likes of Trisha Yearwood, Peter Gabriel, and Jackson Browne, but here with their collective voices, they may have found their true calling. Presenting the semi-deep cuts of the Wait’s canon, “Jersey Girl” displays their newfound found harmonic convergence brilliantly, and “Tango Till They’re Sore” takes on a Middle Eastern broadway stage quality with their arrangement here. The song made famous with its appearance on The Wire, “Down In The Hole” is also a stellar standout. This is a layered listen with each round yielding more sonic gems courtesy of a master songwriter lovingly covered by three fangirls that, here’s hoping, won’t make this a one and done affair.