As a 60+ year old white male, I tend to like 60s type pop/rock music, 70s progressive and guitar blues/rock which isn’t the hot trend anymore – but there is still some good stuff out there if you look for it. This year includes some more current music styles (but no hip-hop) so I must be softening or getting senile. So many of the newer songs have the same exact overamped drum sound with quieter verses followed by shouted choruses – let’s see some variety next year! Most can be found on youtube or other music sites if you want to sample any of the following (my suggestion is in Bold) – so here goes:
1.Robin Gibb – 50 St. Catherine’s Drive – non-disco BeeGees is some of my fave music, but as solo artists the brothers Gibb were never quite as good. This posthumous album is the exception – excellent autobiographical and tuneful songs. There is a bittersweet ache to some of the lyrics especially the final demo to “Sydney” where he sings about happier days with his brothers – this was meant for a future BeeGees album that never was. “The Days Of Wine & Roses” “Avalanche” “Sorry”
2.Nick Magnus – n’monix – classic 70s style progressive rock album from long-time Steve Hackett (Genesis) keysman and the best tracks certainly harken back to Genesis or ELP with mellotron and dynamic bombast mixed with gentleness. Re-Genesis vocalist Tony Patterson sings “Time”“Kombat Kid”
3.Bob Seger – Ride Out – a fun mix of styles with classic rockers like “Detroit Made” “Ride Out” and the Stevie Ray Vaughan tribute “Hey Gypsy” with old SRV sideman Reese Wynans on organ. Some fine Americana turns up too with “Adam & Eve” and the old Steve Earle rocker “The Devil’s Right Hand”.
4.Temples – Sun Structures – the growth of kids playing late 60s psychedelia has been fun to watch with these Brits head of class this year. Sorta Syd era Floyd leavened with early BeeGees harmonies + jangly guitars and whiny mellotron. Like an old Curt Boettcher Sagittarius album with a hint of the Zombies. Very hooky though can’t discern the lyrics. “A Question Isn’t Answered” “Keep In The Dark” “Shelter Song”
5.The Primitives – Spin-O-Rama – UK popsters best known for the 89 track “Crash” sung with the cute candy floss girly vocals of Tracy Tracy. Very catchy tunes include the title track and “Petals”.
6.Neil Diamond – Melody Road – loved early stuff like “Cherry Cherry” – winced during his schlocky big hit era. Quite a surprise resurgence on his last few. The title song describes things well as the songs are instantly memorable. “First Time” “In Better Days” “Something Blue” woulda been hits 45 years ago.
7.Rival Sons – Great Western Valyrie – the print is so small on the jacket who knew this was the title? Long Beach, CA band that combines the best of Led Zep, Bad Co, etc. and with the classic pipes of Jay Buchanan over a hard rockin’ band that growls (though some of the trax are interestingly mellow). Needed a better album cover to sell the goods. “Open My Eyes” is a classic Zep clone. “Play The Fool” “Secret”
8.The Goastt (The Ghost Of A Sabretooth Tiger) – Midnight Sun – basically Sean Lennon & Charlotte Kemp Muhl. Very early Floyd psych with interesting lyrics and classic swirly headphones production. Lennon’s previous albums have been okay, but this is a big leap forward showing his artistic skills on the cover and musical prowess often as nearly a one-man band (“Animals” “Moth To A Flame”). One assumes it would have sold better with a mention of Lennon in the title. “Great Expectations”
9.Midge Ure – Fragile – the title describes his vocals to a tee while the music is a tad closer to progressive than the synth pop of his old band Ultravox. The title track could be a Barclay James Harvest mellotron burner while “Star Crossed” would be great at a laserium. “Become” is closest to old Ultravox.
10.The Pierces – Creation – doesn’t rise to the level of You & I from 2012 but the vocal harmony blend of sisters Allison & Catherine is still amazingly haunting. This import is mostly gauzy bombastic pop. They are from the US but only have success in the UK which is a pity. “Believe In Me” “Kings” “Come Alive”
11.The Intersphere – Relations In The Unseen – German prog hard rock band though they sound more UK. Some songs have a more current guitar rock sound but tracks like “The Ones We Never Knew” or “Out Of Phase” have a more classic 70s progressive feel with great drumming and layers of sound.
12.Merrymouth – Wenlock Hill – indie import side project from Simon Fowler of Ocean Colour Scene (check out their albums too, kids). More acoustic and baroque (“Blink Of An Eye”) than the jangly pop of OCS but still Beatley at times – mainly the title track and “That Man” which sound sorta like 67 era fabs.
13.Train – Bulletproof Picasso – not their best, but still good 2000 era guitar based pop/rock that flies in the face of today’s charts so heavy on Hip Hop dance beats. “Angel In Blue Jeans” “Son Of A Prison Guard”
14.Wunder Wunder – Everything Infinite – the best trax feel like the uncluttered lazy pop of classic Fleetwood Mac leavened with heavy echo. “Midnight Hours” “Coastline” “Wonderful Way” very retro.
15.The Strange Familiar – The Day The Light Went Out – Ohio indie with striking Adele-like smoky vocals and thoughtful lyrics – sound like perfect TV drama background music. “Gone” has that hooky drum stomp too. “Surrender”
16.Gramercy Arms – The Seasons Of Love – not really a band but a musical collective from other bands – lead by Dave Derby. Can sound like Springsteen (“The Night Is Your Only Friend”) or Lennon (“Thin” “Yours Untruly”) but also feel good pop – “Winter Light”.
17.The New Pornographers – Brill Bruisers – their best album of retro sounding power pop. Sorta feel like Blondie with retro synths at times but album still inconsistent. “Brill Bruisers” just hits you over the head with the great pop layers of vocals. “Champions Of Red Wine” “Dancehall Domine” “Fantasy Fools”
18.Bellowhead – Revival – Brit trad folk with less electricity than Fairport Convention or Steeleye Span (uses tuba instead of bass) and perhaps less variety (could use a second-vocalist). Nice sea shanties and folk. The best songs are on disc 1, but the deluxe version is worth it. “Gosport Nancy” ”Roll Alabama”
19.The Empty Hearts – The Empty Hearts – a power pop supergroup with lead voice Wally Palmar of the Romantics et al. Decent rockin’ stompers harkening back to 79 skinny tie bands with some Who mixed in. “Soul Deep” “Loud & Clear” “Perfect World”
20.Jukebox The Ghost – Jukebox The Ghost – at times reminds me of UK pop band the Feeling with pleasant pop voice, catchy songs and the added big drum sound so common today. “When The Lights Get Long” “Girl” “Made For Ending”
Best Orphan Songs 2014 – these songs are downloads, singles, EPs, isolated tracks on hits LPs mostly.
1.Paul McCartney – Hope For The Future – admittedly a bit of a sentimental choice, but still a great power ballad from an unconventional source – the videogame Destiny. Of late it has come out as a single download and 12″, but for such a classic Paul song it deserved to be on a proper album and not get lost.
2.Brian Setzer – Let’s Shake – by far the best song on his Rockabilly Riot! album which is made up of all originals that mostly don’t live up to the great rockabilly of his past. Shows great musical chops by recording backing live with Jerry Lee Lewis style piano and a shouted unison “let’s shake” chorus.
3.Sheppard – Geronimo – a worldwide hit from Australia (#1 there) that hasn’t really caught on here, but should have. Stomp tribal drums with shouted simple lyric “bombs away” and “say Geronimo”.
4.Blondfire – Waves – interesting song with the same pounding drums heard everywhere since Adele. Gentle female vocals and strummed acoustic guitar with synths and heavy echo. (Young Heart)
5.OneRepublic – Love Runs Out – Colorado Springs band takes their 2013 album Native and makes it better by adding songs including this great #15 hit made from piano, claps and drum pounds mostly.
6.The Vintage Caravan – Midnight Meditation – young Icelandic power trio taking Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” driving riff and morphing it a bit (Voyage) – and hey kids, there is even cowbell in the mix!
7.Jim Suhler – I Declare – his new Panther Burn album has a few good songs, but is not as good as his others with Monkey Beat. Great rockin’ blues song with nasty harp from Kim Wilson of the Fab Tbirds.
8.Walk The Moon – Shut Up & Dance – same m.o. as most chart pop/rock songs today – drum stomp, muted verses then shouted unison chorus. Catchy tune and clever lyrics. (Talking Is Hard)
9.Asia – Valkyrie – classic arena-ready power-prog rock-ballad in the same mold as songs like “Go”.
10.Dum Dum Girls – Little Minx – a female use of the same driving “Paranoid” riff but not as heavy.
11.Kongos – Come With Me Now – S. African brothers – the sons of John Kongos of 1971’s “He’s Gonna Step On You Again” – song with a stompin’ tribal beat and accordion riff – huge hit this year finally in US.
12.American Authors – Best Day Of My Life – a decent album but a better song (hit #11 US) with an Americana feel (banjo, mandolin) and the usual loud percussion with chanted chorus. (What A Life)
13.Thompson – Right – the talented family lead by Richard & Linda have their first family release titled appropriately Family. This countryish rocker features son Teddy.
14.Andy Burrows – All This I’ve Heard Before – Fall Together Again is the 2nd solo CD from the drummer with We Are Scientists. Song sounds like Klaatu singing a Beach Boys track from Pet Sounds.
15.Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness – Canyon Moon – same loud drums as current vogue but with powerpop chorus – from his self-titled album. He was originally with the group Something Corporate.
16.Bryan Adams – She Knows Me – the only original song (and bright spot) on his rather dreary covers album Tracks of My Years. This one reunites him with old writing partner Jim Vallance who did all his hits back in the day. Classic sounding arena midtempo rock track.
17.Lenny Kravitz – I’m A Believer – not the Monkees’ song, but a rockin 70s glammy track with claps and shouts of “HEY” to spice things up.
18.Billy J. Kramer – You’re Right, I’m Wrong – strong almost glitter rocker from Liverpool 60s Beatles contemporary’s new album I Won The Fight. Good to see him out on the road with other 60s Brits.
19.Joel Gion – Yes – another neo-psychedelic album (with a fun title for Yellow Submarine fans) – Apple Bonkers (even shows a chalk drawing of one on the album cover). Can’t decipher the lyrics unfortunately.
20.The Black Keys – Gotta Get Away – their new album (Turn Blue) didn’t do much for me, but tucked at the very end is an almost Rolling Stones-like rock track to make up for the dancey mishmash of the rest.
Most overdue upgraded reissue
The Kinks – Lola Versus Powerman And The Moneygoround & Percy – the original cd of this album was awful sounding plus the numbers didn’t even match the tracks. Finally, this 1970 classic got the bonus upgrade with liner notes, bonus tracks and the addition of underrated film album Percy. “Apeman (alternate version)”
Best album by a family member (sister Cheryl):
CK Brown – Believe – very positive messages and very professional sounding thanks to Jim Ratts, Ernie Martinez, Freebo and Robert Tepper. Enjoy the Jim Messina cover “Follow Your Dreams”. Check out her website for more copies: ckbrown.com