From the opening blast of “I Better Get Home” from Handclaps and Tambourines, the latest album from Librarians with Hickeys, you will think you have been time-warped all the way back to the middle of the groove line at Austin Powers’ wedding reception. This record is that cool.
Fresh, propulsive, Power Pop in power drive, with a distinct undercurrent of Psychedelia, these bookworms lay down plenty of hookworms. “Lady Overdrive” is a perfect soundtrack for that early summer convertible drive down the Pacific Coast Highway, the ebullient “Over You” sounds like the best of Badfinger if they had been a little less depressed, and the ballad-ish “Stumbling Down Memory Lane” clearly demonstrates that this band is no one Cheap Trick Pony with the songwriting chops to match the Power Pop splendor.
Certainly subject to change as we are only 6 spins into the record so far, a favorite song in the set is “Last Days of Summer,” a song that likely would have been a hit song in the canon of the mid-era Beach Boys. Avoid the temptation to pigeonhole this one into any one particular sub-genre, put on the headphones, and immersive yourself in what is turning out to be one of the wholly satisfying listens of the year.
Color Green consists of the Los Angeles-based duo Noah Kohll and Corey Madden. Brought together on a shared love of Laurel Canyon-tinged Americana, there is a wafting of Grateful Dead, free form Allman Brothers, and The Byrds throughout their eponymous debut record.
“Bell of Silence” has a psychedelic aura about it that would make Pink Floyd proud, “Ill Fitting Suit” is The Grateful Dead by way of Gram Parsons era Burrito Brothers, and “Ruby” slinks along like a classic Doors Song.
And, whatever you do, don’t miss the astral head trip journey that “Verdolaga Dreams” will take you on. Stopping just short of genre-hopping the eclectic mix of Americana, Cosmic Cowboy, and Funk-lite makes this one a platter worthy of multiple spins on your turntable for the rest of the year.
A turbulent record for turbulent times. Reminiscent of Joy Division at their peak, if they had been around long enough to have a peak.
49. Miranda Lambert – Palomino
15 tales of love and chasing the American dream as only Miranda Lambert can deliver. Palomino represents an artist that is maturing before our very ears.
48. Sarah Shook & The Disarmers – Nightroamer
Pedal steel-era country-tinged Rock and Roll. Sarah Shook will make you want to drink, dance, or fight in whatever order you choose.
47. St. Paul and the Broken Bones – The Alien Coast
Paul Janeway and the band venture into new musical horizons. Loosely based on the land in the Gulf of Mexico and unwanted colonization, there is a lot of soul to go with the vocal swagger.
46. Sharon Van Etten – We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong
Sharon Van Etten transfers her pandemic angst into her most personal album to date.
45. Wet Leg – Wet Leg
Hailed as the saviors of post-pandemic guitar rock, their song “Chaise Lounge” may very be the earworm of the year.
44. Jody and the Jerms – Flicker
Upbeat and sonically pleasing Power Pop from Oxford, England. Blondie, The Go Go’s, The Bangles, all of the touchstones with a scent of Americana are all front and center.
43. Father John Misty – Chloe and the Next 20th Century
Floating between bossa nova, swing, big band, and John Barry soundtrack-noir this one is about as expansive as it gets.
42. Sundowners – Pulling Back The Night
With Paul Weller and members of The Coral collaborating there can be nothing less than gorgeous harmonies and Laurel Canyon vibes.
41. The Hanging Stars – Hallow Heart
Terrific cosmic cowboy stuff from a Scottish band that wears their influences on their collective sleeves with aplomb. Listen closely and you will hear some Pink Floyd and mid-era Fleetwood Mac fertilizing the garden.
40. Jon Spencer & The Hitmakers – Spencer Gets It Lit
The Garage Rock dynamo that is Jon Spencer fires up a set of scuzz-laden grooves worthy of a night of Rock and Roll debauchery at CBGB’s. A return to worm town, indeed.
39. Kevin Morby – This is a Photograph
A love letter to Memphis of sorts, the album was inspired by a two-week stay at the historic Peabody hotel where he visited the Lorraine Motel, Graceland, and the exact bank of the Mississippi where Jeff Buckley met his demise.
37. Calexico El Mirador
Forced to stay home, these tour dogs made good use of their pandemic-induced isolation to produce this Desert-Noir classic.
36. The Lazy Eyes – Song Book
These young Aussie popsters channel everything from Revolver-era Beatles to Foxygen all the way to your favorite new psychedelic band of the day. A warm and fuzzy jam of the highest order.
35. Mordecai Smyth – Things Are Getting Stranger On The Shore
A lavishly adorned Psychedelic Pop record. Don’t let the latter-day prog feel of this one-stop you from lounging in the octopus’ garden under the influences.
34. Kai Danzberg – Satellite
All in on Jeff Lynne and ELO down to the spaceship on the cover, you are not going to hear a better hot tub time machine record this year.
33. Fantastic Negrito – White Jesus Black Problems
Never has the story of an indentured Scottish servant who falls in love with a black slave been told with such rock and roll panache. Merging Black Sabbath, James Brown, Frank Zappa, and a whole lot of Prince-ly funk, learning has rarely been this toe tapping.
32. Nicki Bluhm – Avondale Drive
Girl group Phil Spector’s swagger mixes with tropical Tiki vibes and Sheryl Crow singer-songwriter pathos for an immensely pleasing listen.
31. Sheepdogs – Outta Site
The best new band to hit our ear holes in the last 5 years. These guys are what the James Gang could have been having if they stayed together long enough to be fully formed.
30. Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band –Dear Scott
A perfect follow-up to 2017’s Adios Senor Pussycat, here, Head delivers a set of perfectly crafted songcraft.
29. Los Peyotes – Virgenes
Bold, sexy, and ear-catching, Los Peyotes is Tarantino-Noir at its most dangerous. The Surf Punk album of the year without a doubt.
28. Willie Nelson – A Beautiful Time
Another deftly produced record from the twilight of Willie’s career. The guitar picking, dusty vocals, and songwriting remind us that we should all age as gracefully as Willie.
27. Kurt Vile – (watch my moves)
With spit-shined lyrics and Pop sensibilities that would make Matthew Sweet blush, this set of laid-back missives will swirl around in your head long after the last note is played.
26. Monophonics – Sage Motel
With heavy doses of Marvin Gaye and Curtis Mayfield, never has a concept album about a by-the-hour flophouse sounded so grand.
25. Anton Barbeau – Power Pop!!!
There isn’t much Power Pop on this record, but that is pretty much the point. What you do get is a delicious concoction of ABBA if they were a synth band, glam-dusted flower power, and Bowie if he ever went techno.
24. Ceramic Animal – Sweet Unknown
Another fine effort from Easy Eye Sound, Ceramic Animal lays down a palate of T-Rex, Todd Rundgren, with Tame Impala thrown in for those that like their musical touchstones less dated. A fresh record with a vintage feel.
23. Ghosts of Jupiter – Keepers of the Newborn Green
No less than Shindig magazine has hailed this record as a potential album of the year candidate. And who are we to argue. The music has shades of West Coast ‘60s pop, ‘70s psychedelic grooves, and English Canterbury sounds.
22. Goodbye June – See Where The Night Goes
Rock and Roll is not dead And, neither is Lynyrd Skynyrd despite a plane crash it seems. Come for the Southern Rock vibes stay for the AC/DC bombast of the opening track, “Step Aside.”
21. Classless Act – Welcome To The Show
No inhibitions showing with this Sunset Strip-worthy record. All your favorite bands are spirited here in unfiltered, lighter waving style.
20. Hollis Brown – In The Aftermath
After much debate in the halls of Rock is the New Roll as to whether or not to include this on the list, common sense prevailed. After all, Aftermath is a favorite Stones album among many. Here, the presentations are not slavish interpretations and don’t try to replicate the swamp-boogie of the original. Which at the end of the day is extremely cool.
19. Simon McBride – The Fighter
This Blues-Rock guitar slinger from The Emerald Isle channels Paul Rodgers and Bad Company with the best of them. Just listen to the opening track, “Don’t Dare,” and tell us we’re wrong. And, things only get better from there.
18. Banditos – Right On
Mary Beth Richardson is the secret sauce behind Banditos, an eclectic band with touches of Los Lobos, Lone Justice, and the backing band for the Titty Twister bar in Tarantino’s From Dusk Til Dawn.
17. The Coffis Brothers – Turn The Radio Up
Seemingly hailing from Woodstock, laying down tracks that easily could have been songs from From The Big Pink, with Tom Petty and his Heartbreakers as the backing band, this is an Americana treasure.
16. Fernweh – Torschlusspanik!
T Tex meets ‘80s Brit Pop with a lot of Classic Rock nuances sprinkled in is the order of the day on this fine sophomore release. Listen for Paul McCartney and Harry Nilsson touchstones as well.
15. April March – In Cinerama
Truly, a cinematic wonder to behold April March walks that delicate line between the sultriness of Dusty Springfield and the bombast of Shirley Bassey. The French Pop arrangements sprinkled in only serve to enhance an already eclectic listen.
14. The Americans – Stand True
With no less than musical Sensei Rick Rubin in their corner, L.A.-based band, The Americans, are blazing a new Americana trail by putting one fret firmly in the here and now while placing another clearly in the past. If your Jam is Springsteen, Mellencamp, or Petty, these fellas will wet your whistle just fine.
13. Band of Horses — Things Are Great
Another raggedly glorious effort from The Band of Horses, this one is a bit of a return to form. Back to their Indie Rock roots, with a bit more jangle in their step than demonstrated on their previous two albums, Bill Barnwell and his latest band of horses deliver on one of the better Americana releases of the year.
12. Mike Campbell and the Dirty Knobs – External Combustion
A bit more rock than you might expect from the guitar player for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, but that definitely is not a bad thing on this set of Midwest-rooted, Americana-tinged, tunes. Guest turns from Margo Price and Ian Hunter make this one even cooler.
11. Silverbacks – Archive Material
There is more than a hint of The Talking Heads in the DNA of this Irish five-piece. The melodies are catchy with a post-punk flair that will bring to mind Devo.
10. Hurray For The Riff Raff – Life On Earth
Best described as Folk Blues Punk, Alynda Seggara and the rest of the Riff Raff deliver a thoughtful set of songs that seem to reflect on their new found outlook on life with a fresh perspective and a less jaded world view.
09. Horsegirl – Versions of Modern Performance
Artfully blending ‘80’s Indie Rock and ‘90s shoegaze, Horsegirl has risen above the radar to emerge as on of the most vibrant young bands on the scene today.
08. Angel Olsen – Big Time
Much less symphonic and much more introspective, the new Angel Olson L.P. is a study in restraint. Going down like the last call at a honky tonk bar, the subtle arrangements and dreamy pedal steel coalesce with Olson’s dream weaver vocals to create a perfect antidote for a poisoned world.
07. Gymnasium – Hansen’s Pop ‘N’ Rock Music ’22
A who’s who of the Boston music scene pitch in on this robustly energized set of 22 songs that will rekindle your love for Power Pop. The Cheap Trick-induced “Tavern at the End of the World” is worth the price of admission alone, and the ghosts of Pink Floyd that make an appearance on “Down to a Glimmer” will leave you wanting more.
06. Gyasi – Pronounced Jah See
Glittering bombast of rock and roll excess, shades of T Rex, early David Bowie, and all the glam you can fit in one record, Gyasi will be your next favorite guilty pleasure.
05. The Delines – Sea Drift
Sure, the singer is mostly Amy Boone on this one, but the heart and soul of this band is Willy Vlautin, the songwriter and novelist. You probably missed this since it came out pretty early in the year. This one is a collection of William Faulkner’s short stories come to life in a song.
04. Bye Bye Blackbirds – August Lightning Complex
With Lenny Gill back and better than ever, Bye Bye Blackbirds have released their best record to date, which is saying a lot since 2020’s Boxer at Rest was an instant classic. Blending REM, Big Star, and the more listenable aspects of The Replacements, this record is rich in diversity, tones, and texture with first-class songwriting courtesy of bandleader Bradley Skaught who delivers a set of vocal turns that veer between Elvis Costello, lost weekend-era John Lennon, and Alex Chilton.
03. Black Keys – Dropout Boogie
Following quickly on the heels of Delta Kreame, the 2921 deep blues cover, album, this layer record is more loose and lively with a lot of Blues-Boogie to savor. “Baby, I’m coming home” gives a nod to The Allman Brothers “Midnight Rider,” and Kings of Leon’s Angelo Petraglia lends a hand on “Wild Child,” and the king of Boogie himself, Billy Gibbons even makes an appearance.
02. Michael Rault – Michael Rault
Fully entrenched in the studio wizardry of the ‘60s and the ’70s, this is a delicious throwback melding of ‘70s FM rock, pop, and soul.
01. Spoon – Lucifer On The Sofa
With a nod to The Kinks, Prince, and Motown, ten records in, this one might be their best. Good old-fashioned rock and roll, glam, and ’70s riffs all coalesce into one of the best albums of the year.
You will be hard-pressed to find another record that is released this year that will be as perfectly crafted, concisely produced, and all-around fun as this one. Holding his fingers to the frets, his hands to the piano, or his feet to the fire, Kai Danzberg would tell you that his greatest musical influences are Michael Jackson, E.L.O., Jellyfish, Drake Bell, and The Beatles. Listen carefully and you will find every one of these artists making an appearance on his terrific new record, Satellite.
“Lonely Together” jaunts down the highway with a hint of mid-era “I’m In Love With My Car” Queen vibes by way of The Little River Band, and “Voodoo Woman” pumps up the party vibes with more than a little dusting of Elo’s “Evil Woman” if George Michal recorded the song in a New Orleans studio complete with a horn section that is. And, yes there is cowbell.
With “Diva Eyes” and “Oh Baby,” two songs that would have slid in quite easily on any of the E.L.O. Discovery era records, Danzberg’s immense talent in crafting a perfect Pop song is on full display, if you are looking for a musical miss-step in this song cycle there is none to be found.
And, if you are still not convinced, heed the advice on “Turn It Up” and turn up the volume up to 11 to savor this ear-worm-worthy epic that features Roger Manning of Jellyfish on keyboards.
With an entirely new listening experience awaiting around the corner, track to track, your ears are not deceiving you. An early candidate for album of the year may have just surfaced.