Note: These reviews originally appeared in the Around Hears section of the Illinois Entertainer.
Year X, the latest release from JIP, has the feel of a band performing in a club. Occasionally, singer-guitarist Jim Gwynn’s material can be nondescript, as on “Hard To Change,” but along with bassist-vocalist Spencer Watson and drummer Brent Fatig, he impresses on energetic tracks like “Not Alone,” as well as the more intricate “Night And Day.” Grammy-nominated Tracy Bonham is a guest lead vocalist on “This Song Will Last Forever,” which she co-wrote with Gwynn.
Singer-songwriter Dan Krikorian glides through the easy-going Americana music of his third release, Windsor Blue, with help from a bevy of studio musicians. “Wait” sets the mood with a toe-tapping Country & Western arrangement, and Krikorian exudes a folksy charm on “Thief Like That” and the title track. “Quincy” is an elegant love song, while “New York City Day” sports a full-bodied production complete with horns and back up singers.
As its name suggests, Top Shelf Lickers is a color-outside-the-lines sort of band. These guys take a stab at numerous genres on their debut, Head First, like shifting tempos and points of view on the coed indie rocker, “Fall For You,” and mixing the 1950’s with reggae on “No One Knows.” Sometimes the results are sloppy, but it’s hard to resist the DIY fun of the harmonica-driven garage rock of “Off My Mind” and the revved up punk of “Mr. McShakes.”