The Junior League-You Should Be Happy. Joe Adragna has had a bit of a musical identity crisis. After releasing two top-notch discs as The Junior League in the latter half of the last decade, Adragna re-released the Junior League material under his own name and then gave us 2010's fine Fall Back. He's even called himself Parlophony from time to time. But now he's dusted off The Junior League name for his latest collection of tunes, and the famous Shakespeare quote about roses and names comes to mind as You Should Be Happy continues Adragna's string of excellent releases. As on Fall Back he's assisted by Scott McCaughey, which dovetails perfectly with his Marshall Crenshaw-meets-R.E.M. sound and opener "Keep it Home" with its roots-pop sound and prominent harmonica is its exemplar. The jaunty piano-backed "Hey Misery" is both Brian Wilson-esque and Beatlesque, and the lovely, lightly-jangly "One Step Forward (Another Step Back)" finds Adragna just as home with more introspective numbers. And the legendary Susan Cowsill adds vocals on the raved-up title track and the gorgeous ballad "I Don't Think I'm Kidding (This Time)". So many of the artists I feature on this site are deserving of a much wider audience, but Adragna's songcraft and musicianship really ought to have him prominent in the adult-alternative/Austin City Limits circle of music today. I'll take him over Mumford or any of Mumford's sons.
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Bobby Emmett-Brighter Days (Mono Edition). Bobby Emmett came out of nowhere, wowing us with 2009's Learning Love, making my top 10 that year. Instead of making that Brendan Benson-meets-Big Star type of album again, Emmett has gone full retro on this one, releasing it in mono and making it sound like it came out in 1966. (The album is billed as the "mono edition", but I don't know if a stereo edition is in the cards or not). Brighter Days is full of mid 60-style reverb, British Invasion guitars and the like, and it's a groovy treat. "Poison Love" kicks things off with a bang - there's even a break where Emmett screams "Yeaaahhh!" - and immediately segues into "Stay All Night", which sounds like a lost early-Beatles track. Elsewhere, the Kinks-ian "Never Take Me Alive" is another standout, as is the Strawberry Alarm Clock-like title track. Brighter Days does such a good job of capturing the essence of 1960s rock that I almost hope there isn't a stereo edition.
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