100. Hong Kong Wigs – Lois
Austin based Hong Kong Wigs walks the same Psychedelic Rock and Roll trail as White Denim. A Power trio led by songwriter Jon Fichter, their new record, Lois, is poised to be one of the best debut albums of 2020. There are highlights a-plenty to savor here with the best of the lot being “Remember,” with Anastasia Wright taking over on lead vocals, along with “Discopop!” a song that not for accidental timing could have been the summer smash of the year both standing tall.
099. Helen Love – Power On
Helen Love, a group not a person, artfully mixes the quick hit Rock and Roll power vibes of The Ramones with the Art-Rock ’60s girl-group pastiche of The B’52s pretty much perfectly. These infectious Cardiff, Wales rockers consist of Helen Love on bratty vocals, Sheena, who is, of course, a punk rocker, and Roxy and Mark on Casio keyboards that double as drums. Low-Tech but high energy, “Debby Take Contol of the Stereo” melds “Pump It Up” and even “Shout It Out Loud” bombast with “Hey Ho, Let’s Go” shout outs, and “Sandra Dee” is pretty must The Go Go’s on speed. Glorious stuff, indeed.
098. Teddy Thompson – Heartbreaker Please
It’s hard to believe that it has been 20 years since Teddy Thompson, son of Richard and Linda Thompson, but with Heartbreaker Please, his seventh album, his tenor sounds better than ever. And, with these tunes firmly rooted in R&B, Soul, and even Country he seems to be a little less produced than earlier efforts making this by a good stretch his best effort to date.
097. The Lickerish Quartet – Threesome, Vol 1.
Anytime that two members of the iconic Bay Area band Jellyfish come together to form a band, color us all in. Here, with Eric Dover and Joseph Manning Jr. coming together with the rest of The Lickerish Quartet it is an event celebrating in Psychedelic Rock heaven even if it’s only an E.P.
096. I Don’t Know How But They Found Me – Razzmatazz
It is ear-boggling to consider that a band that was trying to break-out and reach a wider audience would give themselves a name that is largely confusing and mostly un-googleable. And, that is exactly what this band, known to insiders as the equally ear-scratching monicker of iDKHOW, have done mostly distracting from the fact that this band from Salt Lake City, Utah is one heck of a diversely talented Alt-Pop/Power Pop band of the highest musical order. Their latest record, Razzmatazz has touchstones embedded within it pretty much covering just about every musical genre you can think of including leanings towards our beloved Jellyfish. From the Devo and Talking Heads by way of The Cars and Duran Duran aura of the opener “Leave Me Alone” to the Rufus Wainright by way of Queen beauty of “Nobody Likes The Opening Band” and on to the Marc Bolan Night at the Opera refrain of the most morbid “From The Gallows” there is diversity at every turn that will have you coming back to this one for several more listens.
095. Ron Sexmith – Hermitage
Recorded in his home studio collaborating with his longtime drummer and producer Don Kerr, this set of intimate sounding gems has a bit of a Kinks feel to it that is quite pleasing to the ear. With the typical Sexmith whimsey inherent in songs like “Winery Blues” and “Apparently Au Pair” this one proves once again that the escapism that is generated when music is done well is pleasing to the soul and healing to the heart.
094. Hamilton Leithauser – The Loves of Your Life
After his band The Walkmen disbanded in 2013 it seems to have taken a while for front-man Hamilton Leithauser to find his footing, but with The Loves of Your Life, his latest solo effort, he seems to be well on his way to next-level stardom. Inspired by random moments and characters crossing his path, case in point, “The Old King” written as sort of a Pogues style shuffle about a friend he happened to run into that he had not seen in over 10 years. Each little vignette presented here celebrates extraordinary people leading ordinary lives. This is one of the best records to be released this year.
093. Shemekia Copeland – Uncivil War
Nine albums in Shemekia Copeland, daughter of Johnny Copeland, really should be more of a household name than she currently is. Her unique and incendiary Blues-Rock-Soul style can go belter back of the barroom to Gospel and beyond at the drop of a tonsil. Her newest effort, Uncivil War Puts all of her immense talents on full display, and then some. “Walk Until I Ride” is an updated Gospel number, The Opener “Clotilda’s On Fire” featuring guitar licks that would make daddy proud is an anti-slavery anthem for the modern-day that is about the last slave ship to arrive on our shores long after slavery was declared illegal, and the cover of the Stones “Under My Thumb” takes on a completely new meaning from the voice of someone that has endured domestic abuse on her own home front.
092. The Nude Party – Midnight Manor
Over the last couple of years, Rock and Roll bands like Rookie, White Reaper, and Massive Wagons have announced themselves as one of the torch-bearers of good old-fashioned feel-good Rock and Roll. And, the boys in Nude Party with their latest record Midnight Manor as exhibit A, certainly deserve to be mentioned in that Pantheon. It is not often that a sophomore record can outshine a stellar debut, but here, in this case, the band has definitely stepped their game up several musical notches.
Sure, there are touch-points plenty, The Rolling Stones, Velvet Underground, T-Rex, just to name a trio of them, but make no mistake, this band is their own unique animal. The opener, “Lonely Heather” shares some DNA with Mott’s “All The Way From Memphis,” “Shine Your Light” will bring to mind Todd Rundgren, and “Thirsty Drinking Blues” is epic-era Jagger and the Stones. “Pardon Me Satan” even has a bit of a Latin tinge to it to add even more diversity to a record that satisfies at every turn. Don’t be surprised if this one gets some best album votes when the end of the year rolls around.
091. Rookie – Rookie
From the first couple of guitar chords that jump from the speakers on “Hold On Tight” the lead-off track from the band Rookie’s self-titled debut record, you can tell that you are in for a Rock and Roll swagger sort of listen. Part Slade infested Glam, Part Greg Kihn Band with a side order of The Replacements thrown into the milkshake, this Bloodshot Records release is spectacularly delicious.
090. 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.
089. Chuck Prophet – The Land That Time Forgot
The former Green on Red main man delivers another masterclass in storytelling on this, his 15th solo album. Rocking a bit more than we may be used to from his last couple of outings, this time out he only recorded three of his songs in San Francisco with the rest recorded in a live setting at the Old Soul studios in The Catskills. “Best Shot” has a bit of Roy O. in the DNA, and “High As Johnny Thunders” is about as great a name-check song as you will find.
088. Rose City Band – Summerlong
Back to back years with terrific albums, The Rose City Band blends early-era Poco and Wilco to create a cosmic cowboy sound that never seems dated and is wholly original. The guitar lines with the subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, twang takes this record into a next-level listen that is perfect for a summer day walk in the park are a patio listen with a good set of headphones. Listen closely to “Wildflowers” and you will get a distinct and aromatic scent of The Grateful Dead.
087. Dawes – Good Luck With Whatever
Good Luck With Whatever, the latest Dawes record sounds like Dawes and that is a very good thing. The poignant lyrical sensibility mostly about everyday life are front and center, of course, and this record produced by Dave Cobb and recorded at the RCA studios in Nashville is almost a perfect reflection of a band that just seems to get better with every release without straying too far from their core sound.
086. Tennessee Jet – The Country
Tennessee Jet is part of the young guns of the outlaw country movement right there alongside Chris Stapleton, Eric Church, White Morgan, and Cody Jinks. Bucking the trend a bit by moving from Nashville back to his Oklahoma roots, the album was recorded using Dwight Yoakam’s band giving the record that red dirt feel. A fine interpreter of songs, his version of Pancho and Lefty with guest turns from Cody Jinks and Elizabeth Cook is next level, but the bluegrass version of The Black Crowes “She Talks to Angels” could have been left on the cutting room floor.
085. Thorbjorn Risage & The Black Tornado – Come On In
This outfit is 12 records in and, if you are like us, you have likely not heard of these guys until very recently. But, as Joe Cocker would say, “It’s high time we met.” With a unique brand of Blues that includes two guitars, bass, drums, a pair of saxophones, trumpets, and keyboards, the gravel voice of lead singer Thorbjorn is equal parts, J.J. Cale, Ray Charles, Billy Gibbons, and Leon Redbone.
This is an extremely eclectic listen. This Danish band mixes it up on the jaunty “Come On In,” our early candidate for song of the year along with the J.J. Cale by way of Nic Cave somewhat dark “Two Lovers.” This record kicks it with noir-ish jazz, swampy rock, sultry R&B, uptown funk, and house-rocking blues. We are three listens in with this thing and continue to be stunned.
084. Annie Taylor – Sweet Mortality
Much like Alice Cooper, this Zurich, Switzerland is a rock band with a girl’s name, the lead vocalist’s name is actually Gini Jungi. Their ’60 inspired blend of Psychedelic Grunge has just enough of a Pop veneer to make this one a highly pleasurable listen with shades of The Ramones, The Seeds, and Blue Cheer.
083. Sam Morrow – Gettin‘ by on Gettin’ Down
If Little Feat is your band then Gettin’ by on Gettin’ Down, the latest from Country rocker Sam Morrow is most definitely your groove-laden jam. The eclectic mix of funky licks and swamp rock kicks combine to make this one a delectable comfort food listen. The title track sends out a Lynyrd Skynyrd vibe, “Round ‘n Round” is pure .38 Special, and “Golden Venus” carries with it the spirit of Tony Joe White, great touchstones, all. There is even a bit of Joe Walsh on “Rosarita.”
082. Skyway Man – The World Ends When You Die
James Wallace, the singer-songwriter known as Skyway Man, fully embraces his role as one of the leaders of the Cosmic Country movement on his latest offering, The World Ends When You Die. Self-described as a psychedelic space opera, the record has a mellow feel to it reminiscent of mid-era George Harrison in places, most notably on “Night Walking, Alone” and in other spaces brings to mind The Band front and center like they do on “Old Swingin’ Bell.”
081. Seaway – Big Vibe
With more hooks than an episode of Dangerous Catch Canadian Pop-Funk outfit Seaway offers up an anthemic brand of Festival Rock that is as exuberant as it is hooky. The ’80’s Power Pop influences are floating around this one for sure, but ’90’s Indie-Punk in the Green Day mold may be a better touchpoint.” Still Blue” is a festival-ready, if festivals ever become a thing again, romper, “Sweet Sugar” takes things a bit slower and even has a scent of The Cars, and “Peach” could easily have been an ’80s Cheap Trick tune. This one is the ’80’s Teen movie soundtrack from a film that was never made.
080. Brothers Osborne – Skeleton
As much as I have been really trying not to like Brothers Osborne with the Nashville hits-factory stench we rightly or wrongly associate with brothers John and T.J. Osborne, my ears won’t fail me now and with their latest long-player, Skeleton, they have suckered me back in. Here, on their third album, the Rock and Boogie is amped up a bit more and the Honky Tonk vibe takes on more of an Outlaw Country flavor with a bit of Rock and a little bit of Roll thrown in for good measure. The opener “Lighten Up” is an out and out rocker and should be a terrific festival anthem, “All Night” is a bit of Bro-Country, but when done this earnestly that is not such a bad thing, and the spirit of Mighty Merle even joins the party on “Back on the Bottle.”
Throw in “Dead Man’s Curve,” definitely no relation to the Jan and Dean song, a burning tune of redemption as long as you make it through dead man’s curve, along with the gentle glide of “High Note” and what you have here is a band that blends Country, Pop, Rock, and Americana better than pretty much anyone in the business. And that is a beautiful thing and a feast for the ears.
079. Bette Smith – The Good, The Bad and the Bette
With her career a bit delayed by her father who felt that a musical career outside the church was wrong, Bette was mentored by Squirell Nut Zipper Jimbo Mathis who encouraged her to come down to Mississippi with him to record her debut record, 2017’s Jetlagger. Returning to the scene of the crime with Mathis once again in tow, this time out Patterson Hood and the rest of the Drive-By Truckers were engaged as producers giving a bit of a roots-rock edge to the Country Soul sound. “Fistfull of Dollars” is a mojo in the dojo ’60s romp, “Signs and Wonders” evokes a bit of Tina Turner, and the closing tear-jerker “Don’t Skip out on Me” tells the story of a couple just trying to keep things together. Mariachi horns and all.
078. Cayucos – Blue Summer
The allure of the surf and the sand is definitely calling your name the very instant that you drop the needle down on Blue Summer, the latest Surf-Pop extravaganza from L.A. sunshine band Cayucos. Beach Boys’ touch-points are obvious for sure, but this one goes a bit deeper than that. The tones, textures, harmonies, and knob twirling are varied and all-in ear-pleasing. And the twin brothers at the core of this band Zach and Ben Yudin, never really take themselves too seriously. “Malibu ’79 Long” is a clever homage to “Good Vibrations,””From the Rafters” is full-on “Surfin U.S.A.,” and “California Girl” is most probably the convertible top-down driving song of the year. This is the love letter to summer that you really need right now.
Lydia Loveless – Daughter
Lydia Loveless has always had that perfect mix of country smooth and Rock and Roll swagger. And now, she is back and better than ever with her latest record, Daughter. Clearly wearing her life well-lived heart on her sleeve, this time out she shows a bit more of her vulnerable side most notably on the opener “Dead Writer.” Having made a love-following move from her native Ohio to North Carolina after a tumultuous couple of years since 2016’s Real, Loveless appears to have come out the other side as feisty and no-nonsense as she has been her entire career.
076. Delta Spirit – What Is There
Moving away from his recent burst of solo records, Lead singer Matthew Logan Vasquez is back with his band Delta Spirit with their first proper release since 2014’s Into The Wide. And, it seems, this six-year musical hiatus is just what the musical doctor ordered. Fresh and invigorating in places and dark and semi-brooding in others this is a record that is perfectly crafted for these days living through a pandemic. “How Bout It” is a murder ballad about gambling addiction, album opener “The Pressure ” sounds like a Dawes song on steroids, and “Better Now” is a modern-love love song. There is not a squeaker on this belter of an album.