Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Favorite Releases Of 2013

Time again for a list of the releases I liked best throughout the year. Putting them in numerical order is always a difficult and occasionally arbitrary process, but I’ve come up with a Top 25 List, along with some very worthy honorable mentions. With a few noted exceptions, all of these recordings were reviewed on Broken Hearted Toy at some point in 2013.

I’d like to extend my gratitude to all the artists, press agents, and labels that contacted me in regard to reviewing music, and I apologize that due to time constraints, I’m wasnt always able to respond to every message. Your interest and suggestions are greatly appreciated.

To make things easier, I once again separated the Greatest Hits and Various Artists (with a few exceptions that made the Top 25 List) compilations. Here are some noteworthy examples in those categories:

Big Star - Nothing Can Hurt Me Soundtrack

The Hollies - Live Hits

The Three O’Clock - The Hidden World Revealed

Epicycle - You’re Not Gonna Get It

Various Artists - ONXRT Live Vol. 15

The Chills - Somewhere Beautiful

Big Star - Playlist: The Very Best Of Big Star (Review yet to come.)

The Beatles - On Air: Live At The BBC Vol. 2 (Review yet to come.)

Various Artists - Capitalised: Tall Tales And Low Lives Of Edinburgh

Soft Hearted Scientists - Whatever Happened To The Soft Hearted Scientists

And now, on to my Top 25 Favorite Releases Of 2013:

1. Johnny Marr - The Messenger Amazingly, this was the first solo effort from the former Smiths guitarist. Marr taps into his 1980s roots with a flawless collection of energetic songs fueled by his signature guitar playing.

2. Various Artists - Re-Evolution: FDM Sings The Hollies The UK vinyl-only indie label Fruits De Mer brings together 16 current psychedelic and prog rock artists to interpret songs from Manchester’s Finest, mostly from the For Certain Because through Butterfly era.

3. Palmyra Delran - You Are What You Absorb The former member of The Friggs channeled garage rock and the 1960s girl group sound on this energetic and melodic solo effort. 

4. Amy Gore And Her Valentines - In Love Like Palmyra Delran, Gore is a Little Steven Van Zandt-approved garage rock veteran who combines great tunes with a dose of fun. (I’ll post a full review of this soon.)

5. Dot Dash - Half-Remembered Dream The Washington, D.C. band continued to evoke the best of vintage punk and new wave music on its latest release.

6. Phil Angotti - Life And Rhymes At times another introspective work in the vein of his 2011 CD, People And Places, but Angotti also cuts loose with the bluegrass flavored “Daddy’s Country Records” and the sci-fi rock of “I See Spaceships.”
7. Ellis Clark - LP Number 1 An adventurous solo effort from the Chicago singer-guitarist-keyboards player known for his work with The Handcuffs, Epicycle, and Social Act.

8. Dolly Varden - For A While This welcome return from the critically acclaimed alt rock/Country and Western band found vocalist-guitarist-songwriter Stave Dawson mixing wistful autobiographical tales with harder-edged material like “Temperamental Complement.”

9. Agony Aunts - Big Cinnamon A psychedelic side project from the California-indie band The Corner Laughers turns out to be imaginative and silly, with great harmonies.

10. Matthew Sweet And Susanna Hoffs - Under The Covers Vol. 3 This time out, Sweet and Hoffs deftly perform a number of gems from the 1980s, including ones by R.E.M. and The Smiths.

11. Pezband - Dangerous People - Founding member lead vocalist-guitarist Mimi Betinis joins with engineer John Pavletic to spruce up some recently discovered, previously unreleased material from the influential power pop band’s 1970s days. (I’ll post a full review of this soon.)

12. Nicholas Tremulis Orchestra - For The Baby Doll The multi-faceted Tremulis utilizes rock, blues, and soul as he takes a look back at the early days of his career with this CD/36-page book combo.

13. Las Kellies - Total Exposure The three-woman Argentine band has a blast mixing reggae, hip-hop and garage rock on its latest devil-may-care effort.

14. Little Green Cars - Absolute Zero The young coed band from Dublin, Ireland applies great harmony vocals to imaginative songs about ghosts, relationships and John Wayne.

15. Crystal Jacqueline - “A Fairy Tale,” Jack Ellister - “Dawn Dream Club”, and Stay - “Mersey Dream” Although each of these is a vinyl 45, the Fruits De Mer label issued them simultaneously (along with a few other 45s). Most of the tracks are covers of music from the original psychedelic era.

16. The Melismatics - Rising Tide The Minneapolis quintet successfully expands beyond its obsession with 1980s techno pop while keeping the pulsating beats and irresistible melodies flowing.

17. The Abbeys - Please File Under: Twang International Pop Overthrow - Chicago veterans Mike Cohen and Jeff Janulis have become masters of harmony vocals, and augment their power pop with hints of Country and Western and satiric humor on this six-song EP.

18. Norwood Park All-Stars - Northwest Highway Former members of Chicago’s 1980s Norcore punk scene Dave Bergeron and Pete Hlavach rekindle the movement’s rebellious spirit with some powerful, newly recorded songs. 

19. Go Time! - Tight Like Wood Lead vocalist-guitarist and songwriter Scott Niekelski keeps the Chicago band squarely between power pop and hard rock, and adds a few new tricks to his repertoire.

20. Kevin Lee And The Kings - Breakout Singer-guitarist Lee always travels along the harder edges of power pop, and along with his band The Kings, provides an energetic setting for melodic songs about broken relationships. 

21. Beki Hemingway - I Have Big Plans For The World Singer-songwriter Hemingway and her husband, guitarist-producer Randy Kerkman, play catchy power pop with elements of Sheryl Crow and The Continental Drifters on this six-song EP.

22.  Jupiter In Velvet - Shut Off Your Mind - This brash singer-songwriter from the UK trips back to the flamboyant glam rock era and tosses in an authentic cover of David Bowie’s “Starman.”

 23. Ryan Powers And The Secret Weapons - The Goodnight Goodbye Hour Three of The Secret Weapons join singer-guitarist Powers on harmony vocals to help create catchy power pop songs like “Be My Baby” that evoke The Hollies.

24. Laura Biagini - Sanctuary Of Sound The singer-songwriter conjures images of warm weather fun while channeling The Beach Boys and the girl groups sound of the 1960s.

25. Lisa Mychols - Above, Beyond And In Between Like Biagini, Mychols excels at tapping into the dreamy pop of Leslie Gore and The Shangri-Las, but she also takes a more modern approach on songs like “She Lied” and “Another Side Of Time.”

Honorable Mentions: Other 2013 Releases That Put A Smile On My Ears
(In No Particular Order):

The Green Question Mark - Pegasus EP
Susanna Hoffs - From Me To You Digital EP
Static In Verona - Some Things You Knew
Richard Heyman - X 
The Rebel Set - How To Make A Monster
The Paper Kites - States
Jack Scratch - 2012
The Twigs - Jump Right In 
Andy Stone - The Giant Awoke
The Honey Pot - To The Edge Of The World
The Pralines - Beautiful View
The Electric Stars - Sonic Candy Soul
Mooner - Unpronounceable Name
Stephen Lawrenson - OBSCURiOSiTY
Red Clover Ghost - Self Titled
Frosting - Frosting II
Mordecai Smyth - Dial M For Mordecai
Gerry O’Keefe - Whatever Suits You
Jet W. Lee - Western Nightmare
The Unswept - Surf Song EP
Fort Frances - Harbour
Soft Hearted Scientists - False Lights 
Jasko - Thirty Forty
Gary Ritchie - Drake Near The Alley
The So So Glos - Blowout
Crystal Jacqueline - Sun Arise
The Perms - The Aberdeen EP
The Safes - Thanks To You 
Warm Soda - Someone For You
Jack Mack And The Last Stand - The Heavy Chevy EP

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