A couple of excellent releases from 2014 that either came out very late in the year or got by me:
Smith & Hayes-People All Over the World. Every four years we have the Olympics, the World Cup and U.S. Presidential Elections to look forward to. OK, maybe not that last one. But the latest four-year tradition seems to be a new Smith & Hayes album. Debuting in 2007 with the great Changed by a Song (my #5 disc of that year), and then following up with Volume II in 2011, they're back again with People All Over the World as 2014 changes to 2015. (I snuck this in at #8 in my 2014 list but I'd have no argument with you if you wanted to view at as a 2015 release especially as it's only gone to CD this week). Once again, the veteran Oregon pair deliver the Beatlesque/Wilburyesque goods with a collection of tunes that rivals their debut. The opening title track even borrows a bit from the similar Oasis tune "All Around the World" (but is mercifully about half that song's length) while "Slow Down" is a real gem with its harmonica and minor-key melody, sounding like a lost George Harrison track. "Waiting for the Wheel" pulls out the Beatle bells and whistles, and the piano-based "Didn't Want to Fall" has McCartney written all over it. And the majestic "Don't Let Your Heart Break" recalls some of Jeff Lynne's classic ballads. I'd say this was a top 10 candidate, but I already put it there, so pick it up if you've missed it especially now that it's available on CD.
CD Baby | iTunes
The Fraidies-Try it Again. Melding indie rock with a power pop sensibility, this Seattle band has produced an auspicious debut that also came out late last year. Produced by a name some of you may be familiar with (Gary Reynolds of The Brides of Obscurity), Try it Again combines the sound of indie rockers with pop leanings like Portastatic and Dr. Dog with the more straight-up power pop sounds of bands like The Shazam and Cheap Trick. The brilliant "Xs on Your Eyes" opens up in grand melodic fashion, catchy and rocking both. "You've Got a Brand New Calculator" comes off as an off-kilter Badfinger tune, and "The Powers That Be" has that famous stacatto beat that stretches back to the Beatles' "Getting Better" while taking off on a carnival-like bridge. And "Your Mouth is a Radio" just straight-up rocks. So don't be a fraidy cat - give it a listen.
CD Baby | iTunes