Best Albums of 2019: Tiny Ruins – Olympic Girls

Tiny Ruins is a band out of Aukland, New Zealand that Hollie Fullbrook put together to release her solo material. Described as the sonic equivalent of dancing around the moon, Tiny Ruins is a beautifully understated gem.

With a voice that is warm and textured at the same time, one can close their eyes and open their ears to hear a bit of Joni Mitchell in Fullbrook’s gentle vocal delivery, particularly so on the song “Bounty.”

The title track, “Olympic Girls,” has a more pastoral feel to it and would not have been too far out of place on a back in the day Pentangle album.

The song “Holograms” (Fleetwood Mac on acid) evokes a tinge of Carole King in it’s DNA, seems to be the centerpiece of the record.

Every song on this record seems richer and more expansive than the last. This is an album that demands a sit down and let this one wash over you sort of listening experience with multiple sessions yielding layers upon layers of musical morsels to delicately digest.

Best Albums of 2019: John Diva and the Rockets of Love – Mama Said Rock is Dead

Just look at these guys and you can tell what their full throttle M.O. is. Unabashed devotees of Sunset Strip Glam and Sleaze Rock they are all about booze, broads, and Rock and Roll.

The sound is is an intoxicating mix of the bands you loved when you had hair. “Rock ‘N’ Roll is Dead” is a Hybrid of Bon Jovi and the Def Leppard era when the drummer had two arms, and “Lolita” could be the love child of Poison and Motley Crue.

Smooth riffs, anthemic choruses, sweet guitar solos, these guys bring back a bygone era before mortgages, kids, wives and divorces sucked up all of your disposable income. Steel Panther, beware. The new kings of The Sunset Strip are coming after your throne.

Five Cool Ones – Five Cool Albums That Were Released This Week (February 2, 2019)

With a couple of live albums to note, Jesse Dayton’s rough and rowdy On Fire In Nashville and Linda Ronstadt Live In Hollywood, it has been a solid but not spectacular week of new album releases.

Blank Range – In Unison

Another one of those great hybrid bands from Nashville, Blank Range combines melody-driven Rock, country-tinged Americana with bits of Psych-Folk thrown in for good measure. Think Wilco meets Drive By Truckers on this one.

The Woggles – Please Leave My Mind

A crowd favorite on Stevie Van Zandt’s Underground Garage Sirius XM radio station, these guys could have been Austin Power’s house band. This 4 song E.P. released in advance of a more proper record to come out later in the year is groovy man groovy.

Unloved – Heartbreak

With a 60’s-noire femme fatale sort of vibe, a lot of their songs are featured on the television show Killing Eve, this record is a cinematic near masterpiece. Evoking Amy Winehouse, Dusty Springfield and early Burt Bacharach, singer/songwriter Jade Vincent totally immerses herself in each of the songs. This one may end up being the most interesting album of the year.

Business of Dreams – Ripe for Anarchy

The Indie-Pop band Business of Dreams can’t quite figure our if they are firmly rooted in the 80’s or the 90’s.  With visions of 80’s Brit-Pop bands sprinkled throughout their vibe visions of The Lightning Seeds or Aztec Camera will will be wafting in the air after a couple of listens.

Van Duren – The Van Duren Story

Van Duren was at one time a part of the underground Memphis power  pop scene along with the boys in Big Star and Alex Chilton. This album grabs 12 songs from the recently released documentary, Waiting: The Van Duren Story. If you are a fan of Big Star, Badfinger, or The Raspberries this one one is music to your ears.


Five Cool Ones: Five Cool Albums Released January 25, 2019

The month has been pretty crackin’ so far, and the really cool releases seem to be hitting their stride. From old timers like the Dandy Warhols and Conor Oberst and even Santana on to the relative newcomers Mike Krol and Ratboy, as Jack White would say, “It’s getting ready to get loud.”

Rival Sons – Feral Roots

Before Greta Van Fleet stole a lot of the buzz Rival Sons were the latest band that was going to save Rock and Roll. Our money is on these guys. With a lead singer that soars somewhere between Jim Morrison and Paul Rodgers and rhythm section that is Double Trouble worthy, this is the Rock and Roll record of the year. We are calling our shot now.

Trapper Schoepp – Primetime Illusion

When you listen to Trapper Schoepp for the first time you will reminisce back to the first time you heard Whiskeytown, Wilco, or The Old ’97s in their prime. Enough gloss to keep the toes tapping but just enough ramshackle to keep things interesting. The Gram Parsons comparisons might not be exactly on the mark, but not far off either. There is a bit of a replacements vibe in the mix as well.

Rosie Carney – Bare

This one goes from a really pleasant listening to stunning with multiple listens. With a voice that brings to mind the late Eva Cassidy and songs that will make you forget that she is barely 20, this one is headed to chart topping territory come the end of the year. Just let this one envelope your soul.

Better Oblivion Community Center – Better Oblivion Community Center

You probably know these guys better by their real names, Conor Oberst and Phoebe Bridgers. Oberst’s boyish croon meets Phoebe’s anguished ethereal vocals for a listen that will bring you bake to the Bright Eyes Days. Bridgers is pretty much everywhere these days with her Boygenius record with Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker having been released only a few months ago. Coming a bit out of the blue the band announced themselves on the late show with Stephen Colbert

Santana – In Search of Mona Lisa

This beauty of an e.p. by Santana was recorded after, during a day off in the middle of a concert tour in France, the band stopped by the Louvre in Paris and Carlos was so inspired he stopped into a nearby studio and laid down 3 tracks with the band accompanying him. “Do You Remember Me,” “In Search of Mona Lisa,” and “Lovers From Another Time.” And that’s not all. Look for a new Rick Rubin produced album to be released towards the middle of the year.


Best Albums of 2019 (So Far)

No time like the present to start compiling the best albums of the year. Stay tuned to this space as this list will be constantly updating.

001. The Delines – The Imperial

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Every song could be an episode of True Detective on this one. The songwriting is living on the edge middle America Noir with every character seemingly living on the razors edge. Brooding Country-Soul courtesy of Willy Vlautin and his muse Amy Boone.

002. Liz Brasher – Painted Image

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This one is likely to be on the list of best debut albums of the year. With vintage Dusty Springfield old school grooves mixed with contemporary Blues swirling throughout there is a definite new age feel to the record to complement the vintage sounds. “Cold” baby sounds like Otis Redding’s long lost sister.

003. Red Rum Club – Matador

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With Matador, as debut albums go, Liverpool sextet The Rum Club has delivered a record that is sure to be on most of the Best-Of lists once the end of the year rolls around. With a distinct gumbo of a sound that is part 80’s Brit-Rock, part Psychedelic Rock, Part 60’s Surf-Garage, part Tarantino-Noir, and all cool, the texture of the album changes from track to track with even more influences filtering through the ears upon multiple listens.


004. The Twilight Sad – It Won’t Be Like This All the Time

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Given the dark often gloomy tenor of this record it should come as no surprise that Robert Smith of the Cure is a big fan of this Scottish four piece band. In fact, he was sort of a musical muse on this record. A grower of an album, after a few listens of this you will definitely feel alive.

005. Maggie Rogers – Heard It In A Past Life

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It is her singing voice that carries the day here as Maggie Rogers moves effortlessly between singer songwriter fare and electronic pop. Fully prepared not to enjoy this album, the jaunty 80’s Olivia Newton John vibe of “Give a Little” and the more folk-centric jam of her debut single “Alaska” made a believer out of these ears.

006. The Steel Woods – Old Woods

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This Americana and Outlaw Country by way of Southern Rock band is the real deal. The opening couple of riffs on the lead off song, “All of These Years” will have you digging out your old Lynyrd Skynyrd records, and if that’s not enough, their cover versions of “Whipping Post” along with Petty’s ” Southern Accents” will direct your attention to the music that these guys discovered when they were growing up.

007. Sharon Van Etten – Remind Me Tomorrow

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The consistent tone and perspective change on this, Sharon Van Etten’s fifth album, makes this one an extremely enjoyable listen. “Seventeen” is likely to be on many best songs of the year listings.




Best Albums of 2019: The Red Rum Club – Matador

The Red Rum Club – Matador (Rating 5 out of 5)

With Matador, as debut albums go, Liverpool sextet The Rum Club has delivered a record that is sure to be on most of the Best-Of lists once the end of the year rolls around. With a distinct gumbo of a sound that is part 80’s Brit-Rock, part Psychedelic Rock, Part 60’s Surf-Garage, part Tarantino-Noir, and all cool, the texture of the album changes from track to track with even more influences filtering through the ears upon multiple listens.

Starting with the trumpet blazing opener “Angeline” the band comes out with all guns blazing. The song has a definite cinematic feel to it. Thinking back to the final episode of The Sons of Anarchy, this would have been a perfect soundtrack to the last scene with the police chasing Jax Teller into the sunset.

You have now been duly warned, “Would You Rather Be Lonely” is an earworm of a song that you wont be able to shake for a quite a while. A DNA kit might be needed to figure out the various influences that envelope this one, and that is a very good thing. It starts out with Ventures worthy Surf Rock, but quickly morphs into a Rock anthem with the entire band kicking in to show off their immense musical and harmony chops.

“Honey”, another belter of a song, brings comparisons to Low Cut Connie from the other side of the pond, one of several songs that will serve the band well on the summer festival circuit in 2019, and mark our words, you are going to be hearing “Nobody Comes Out Alive” on a cable or streaming series in the very near future, maybe even on the next True Detective, or the new season of Ray Donovan. And, just a note to the band, I know you need to make money, but If I hear this on a BMW commercial with a video of a car barreling down the Pacific Coast Highway, after toasting you with a robust “Good On Ya”, there will be a tinge of another great band gives up their artistic soul regret likely resulting in a three day bender with Matador on constant replay. Then again if this happens, everybody wins.

In a bit of a Sophie’s choice internal dilemma, if we must choose, “Calexico” comes out as a favorite song on the album. Since the album was only officially released a couple of hours ago and I have only listened to the record 4 times, and “Calexico” probably more than ten times now, this ranking may change, however as of now, the song remains the same. Checking off all of the musical touch points; infectious rhythm, passionate vocals, subtle mariachi horns, all showing off a band that is as tight as any in the business right now.

Stick with “Nobody Get’s Out Alive” past the first 30 seconds or so when panic sets in as the wheels seem to start coming off with the song drifting ever so slightly into U2 territory. But fear not, in very short order the entire affair seems to shift into some eclectic and brilliant mix that could have been a long lost early INXS single. All is right with the world as this one stacks up as one of the top three tunes on the album.

Ending with the title track “Matador” is somewhat of bold move, but in some ways it seems to make perfect sense. The vibe slows down with the musical landscape significantly widened, making this a perfect closer to the album, and a song in my minds ear, I can see as a beautiful closer to a great live show as they tour the country.

I only have one question for this, one of my new favorite bands. What are you doing Super Bowl Sunday?

— Bernie Sparrow —