Friday, January 27, 2012

Friday Roundup.

Oberon Rose-Wunjo. With Wunjo, Connecticut's Tom Oberon has crated a stunning debut of melodic psych-pop that stakes out the early pole position for the best of 2012. Drawing from influences both classic (The Kinks) and modern (Elliott Smith, Wilco), Oberon cranks out one quality tune after another here. "Young Goodman Brown", the opener, sounds as if it could have been a featured song in a Wes Anderson movie, while the jangly "One Man Show of Sorrow" recalls Bill Majoros' brilliant Foreign Films album. The title track and ballad "Without Feathers" bear a heavy E.Smith presence, and the Beatlesque "Ballad of the Taller" could pass for one of Robert Harrison's slower tunes with Cotton Mather. Elsewhere, "Buried Alive" makes nice use of a slide guitar hook to go with a catchy melody, "Dance of the Bee" adds a touch of glam, and "So is the Flow" is grade-A psych pop. This is quite possibly the best album of its kind since the aforementioned Foreign Films and it's kind of disc that should find fans outside of the power pop subgenre.

CD Baby | iTunes

Bubblegum Orchestra-Out of This World. This is where David Bash's year-end lists come in handy even for someone as immersed in the power pop genre as I am - there are always a few I still miss as this 2011 ELO homage would have warranted a place in my year-end list as well had I heard it then. And when I say "ELO homage", I'm not kidding around here. Whereas Bleu's LEO project was more a subtle, Rutles-like ELO tribute, BGO here has basically taken its mission to reimagine the double-album classic Out of the Blue, right down to the double-album length, the title, the cover art and references in the songs. Sonically though, it might be more the ELO of 1981's Time as the opener "Agnes is Back" makes clear with the lyric "here is the news". I could spend all day cataloging the ELO references ("Night in Shangri-La", the interstitial "Where Are You Now, which sounds like - and quotes- OOTB's "Believe Me Now"), but I'll just leave it by saying that although it's no Alpacas Orgling, it's quite an enjoyable ride and a must for ELO fanatics.

CD Baby | iTunes | Sample at Official Site

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Thursday Roundup.

Two discs from 2011 that warrant a listen:

Amateur Hour-This Year's Epiphany. Missed this one when it came out last summer, but had I heard it then it would have likely grabbed a place on the top 75 list. While hailing from the DC area, Amateur Hour have a trad-rock sound that comes to the fore on the great "Goodbye Memphis", frontman Dan Perriello's tribute to Alex Chilton. Unsurprisingly there's some Big Star influence here, albeit more as filtered through The Replacements, and some other standouts include the insistent title track and the gritty midtempo rock of "Any Other Day". The album was recorded in 3 days with minimal overdubs, and it has an immediate feel that so many other albums lack. Fans of the aforementioned bands as well as The Riffbrokers, Pale Hollow and High on Stress will definitely want to give this one a spin.

CD Baby


HiFi Superstar-One Hit Wonder. I did hear this one in 2011 and it placed in the year-end list, but I never formally reviewed it. In case the band name doesn't ring a bell, that's because these guys used to be known as BrownLine Fiasco until 2009. A definite improvement on the name and also a definite improvement on the new album, which finds them refining their vintage power pop sound. With a sound that bridges modern-day power pop purveyors like Weezer and Rooney with classic bands like Cheap Trick there's something here for everyone. The driving opener "Closer" gives you a good idea of what to expect, while "Give Me a Try" delves into the meta-rock that Meyerman pulled off on their great album last year with its depiction of an aging rocker trying to stay relevant. "Love is Enough" finds them maintaining the melody while slowing things down, and "Knock on Wood" will turn your frown upside down with its buoyantly cheery melody and arrangement. A strong effort under any name.

iTunes | Kool Kat


Thursday, January 12, 2012

David Bash's Other Best of 2011 Lists

Here are the remainder of David Bash's lists, including best reissues, compilations, box sets, etc.:

II. Top 5 Compilations-Various Artists

1. International Pop Overthrow Vol. 14 (Pop Geek Heaven)
2. Pop Geek Heaven Presents Power Pop Prime Vol. 7 (Pop Geek Heaven)
3. Hi Fi Christmas Party Vol. 3 (Vandalay)
4. Pop Garden Radio Presents-The Rock On The Road Tour Season Two (Pop Garden Radio)
5. It’s Happening, Vol. 2 (Shindig)**

III. 2012 Releases I’ve Heard And Am Excited About (In Alphabetical Order)

Peter Buzzelle-Museum Of Peter Buzzelle (Self-Released)
David Myhr-Soundshine
Secret Powers-Album #5 (not actual title)
Stew & The Negro Problem-Making It
Throwback Suburbia-Shot Glass Souvenir
Uncle Green-Rycopa
The Well Wishers-Dreaming Of The West Coast

Reissue Categories

This was one helluva year for box sets!

Those marked with an * are LP-only.

I. Top 75 Proper Albums

1. The Beach Boys-The Smile Sessions (Capitol)
2. The Association-And Then…Along Comes The Association: Deluxe Expanded Mono Edition (Now Sounds)
3. The Left Banke-Walk Away Renee/Pretty Ballerina (Sundazed)
4. Material Issue-International Pop Overthrow: 20th Anniversary Edition (Hip-O Select)
5. The Kinks-Something Else: Deluxe Edition (Universal)
6. The Kinks-Arthur: Deluxe Edition (Universal)
7. Harper’s Bizarre-Feelin’ Groovy: Deluxe Expanded Mono Edition (Now Sounds)
8. The Hollies-Evolution (Guerssen)*
9. The Resonars-Bright And Dark (Burger)*
10. R.E.M.-Life’s Rich Pageant: Deluxe Edition (Capitol)
11. Paul McCartney-McCartney: Deluxe Edition w/book (MPL)
12. Sandy Salisbury-Sandy (Rev-ola)*
13. The Byrds-Younger Than Yesterday: From The Original Master Tapes (Audio Fidelity)
14. The Monkees-Instant Replay: Deluxe Edition (Rhino Handmade)
15. The Association-Insight Out: Deluxe Expanded Mono Edition (Now Sounds)
16. The Supremes-More Hits By The Supremes: Expanded Edition (Hip-O Select)
17. Nick Heyward-Tangled (Cherry Red)
18. The Webstirs-Re Present: Smirk (Ginger)
19. The Beau Brummels-Bradley’s Barn: Deluxe Edition (Rhino Handmade)
20. Gerry Rafferty-City To City: 2 CD Collector’s Edition (EMI)
21. The Wombles-Keep On Wombling (Dramatico)
22. The Hollies-Butterfly (Guerssen)*
23. The 13th Floor Elevators-Easter Everywhere: Deluxe Edition (Charly)
24. The Kinks-Face To Face: Deluxe Edition (Universal)
25. The Mamas And The Papas-If You Can Believe Your Eyes And Ears (Sundazed)
26. Sugar-Copper Blue (RykoDisc)*
27. Traffic-John Barleycorn Must Die: Deluxe Edition (Universal)
28. The Hollies-Bus Stop (Sundazed)*
29. Gilbert O’Sullivan-Himself (Salvo)
30. Spirit-The Original Potatoland (Retro World)
31. The Kinks-The Kink Kontroversy: Deluxe Edition (Universal)
32. The Pretty Things-S. F. Sorrow: Collector’s Edition (Repertoire)
33. The Hollies-Beat Group! (Sundazed)*
34. Billy Joel-Piano Man: Deluxe Edition (Columbia/Legacy)
35. The Left Banke-The Left Banke Too (Sundazed)
36. Tudor Lodge-Tudor Lodge (Esoteric)
37. Gunhill Road-Gunhill Road (Wounded Bird)
38. The Leopards-Magic Still Exists (Bomp)*
39. The Modulators-Tomorrow’s Coming (Kool Kat)
40. The Kinks-Kinda Kinks: Deluxe Edition (Universal)
41. The Association-Renaissance: Deluxe Expanded Mono Edition (Now Sounds)
42. Dulcimer-And I Turned As I Had As A Boy (Repertoire)
43. Donovan-Sunshine Superman: Stereo Special Edition (EMI)
44. Sleepy Hollow-Sleepy Hollow (Aurora)
45. Ike & Tina Turner-River Deep, Mountain High (Hip-O Select)
46. The Wombles-Superwombling (Dramatico)
47. July-July (Guerssen)*
48. Caravan-In The Land Of Grey And Pink: 40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition (Deram)
49. The Collage-The Collage (Now Sounds)
50. Apple-An Apple A Day… (Guerssen)*
51. Tee Set-Emotion (Pseudonym)
52. Blues Magoos-Psychedelic Lollipop (Sundazed)
53. Phil Seymour-Archive Series Vol. 2 (Fuel)
54. Elmer Gantry’s Velvet Opera-Elmer Gantry’s Velvet Opera (Repertoire)
55. Butterscotch-Don’t You Know It’s Butterscotch (Angel Air)
56. The Kinks-Kinks: Deluxe Edition (Universal)
57. Abba-Super Trouper: Deluxe Edition (Polar)
58. Rainbow FFolly-Sallies Fforth (Guerssen)*
59. Wichita Fall-Life Is But A Dream (Tune In)
60. Hot Knives-Hot Knives (Grown Up Wrong)
61. Thin Lizzy-Jailbreak: Deluxe Edition (Universal)
62. Nick Heyward-The Apple Bed (Cherry Red)
63. The New Wave-Little Dreams: The Canterbury Recordings (Now Sounds)
64. Suzy Quatro-Suzy Quatro (7T’s)
65. Jethro Tull-Aqualung: 40th Anniversary Special Edition (EMI)
66. 13th Floor Elevators-Bull Of The Woods: Deluxe Edition (Charly)
67. Neighb’rhood Childr’n- Neighb’rhood Childr’n (Sundazed)
68. Wadsworth Mansion-Wadsworth Mansion (Fuel)
69. The Merchants Of Dream-Strange Night Voyage (Tune In)
70. The Wombles-Remember You’re A Womble (Dramatico)
71. Suzy Quatro-Quatro (7T’s)
72. The Leaves-All The Good That’s Happening (Grapefruit)
73. The Offhooks-Outside Looking In (State)*
74. Blues Magoos-Electric Comic Book (Sundazed)
75. The Wombles-Wombling Songs (Dramatico)

II. Top 10 Two-Fers and Three-Fers: Proper Albums

1. New Musik-From A To Be/Anywhere (Lemon)
2. The Hollies-Bus Stop/Stop, Stop, Stop (BGO)
3. Design-Design/Tomorrow Is So Far Away (RPM)
4. Al Stewart-Images: His First Three Albums (EMI)
5. Peter & Gordon-Lady Godiva/Knight In Rusty Armour/In London For Tea (BGO)
6. The Long Ryders-10-5-60/Radio Tokyo/5 By 5 (Primo)
7. The Lovin’ Spoonful-Do You Believe In Magic/Daydream (Edsel)
8. Design-Day Of The Fox/In Flight (RPM)
9. The Lovin’ Spoonful-You’re A Big Boy Now/Everything Playing (Edsel)
10. The Lovin’ Spoonful-What’s Up Tiger Lily?/Hums Of The Lovin’ Spoonful (Edsel)

III. Top 25 Compilations, Single Artist

1. R.E.M.-Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage 1982-2011 (Warner Brothers)
2. Roy Wood-Music Book (EMI)
3. The Zombies-Odessey & Oracle: The CBS Years 1967-1969 (Repertoire)
4. Dave Davies-Hidden Treasures (Universal)
5. Lesley Gore-Magic Colours: The Lost Album With Bonus Tracks 1967-1969 (Ace)
6. Katch 22-Major Catastrophe: The Katch 22 Story 1966-1969 (RPM)
7. Neil Diamond-The Bang Years: 1966-1968 (Legacy)
8. The Zombies-Begin Here: The Complete Decca Mono Recordings 1964-1967 (Repertoire)
9. The Critters-Awake In A Dream: The Project 3 Recordings (Now Sounds)
10. The Herd-Paradise Lost: The Complete UK Fontant Recordings (Grapefruit)
11. Nino Tempo & April Stevens-Hey, Baby! The Nino Tempo & April Stevens Anthology (Ace)
12. Jackie DeShannon-Come And Get Me: The Complete Liberty & Imperial Singles Vol. 2 (Ace)
13. The Poets-Wooden Spoon: The Singles Anthology 1964-1967 (Grapefruit)
14. Kippington Lodge-Shy Boy: The Complete Recordings 1967-1969 (RPM)
15. The Five Stairsteps-The Complete Curtis Mayfield Years (Outta Sight)
16. Kyle Vincent-C Sides: Rare & Unreleased Vol. 3 (SongTree)
17. Kiki Dee-I’m Kiki Dee: The Fontana Years 1963-1968 (RPM)
18. The Caravelles-You Don’t Have To Be A Baby To Cry (RPM)
19. Rescue Co. No. 1-Life’s Too Short: The Singles Anthology 1971-1975 (Angel Air)
20. The Roosters-All Of Our Days (Break A Way)
21. The Girls From Petticoat Junction-Sixties Sounds (Real Gone Music)
22. The Pleasure Seekers-What A Way To Die (Cradle Rocks)
23. Mike Stuart Span-Children Of Tomorrow (Grapefruit)
24. Sandy Denny-19 Rupert Street (Witchwood Media)
25. The Velvet Illusions-Acid Head (Tune In)

IV. Top 10 Compilations, Various Artists

1. Sugar, Sugar: The Birth Of Bubblegum Pop (Sony)
2. Fading Yellow Volume 13-Lazy Days: U.S. 60s Pop Sike & Other Delights (Flower Machine)
3. Picadilly Sunshine, Part Six: British Pop Psych And Other Flavours 1967-1970 (Particles)
4. Fading Yellow Volume 11-A Pastiche Of U.S./Canadian ‘60s Pop Sike & Other Delights (Flower Machine)
5. Fading Yellow Volume 12-A Lighhearted Life: Another Collection Of Euro, UK & Australian ‘60s/Early ‘70s Pop Sike And Other Delights (Flower Machine)
6. Picadilly Sunshine, Part Five: British Pop Psych And Other Flavours 1966-1969 (Past & Present)
7. Our Loves Are Shaped By What We Love: Motown’s Mowest Story 1971-1973 (Light In The Attic)
8. Northern Soul’s Guilty Secrets (Kent)
9. Fading Yellow-Timeless Pop-Sike and Other Delights: Euro 45s 1968-1972 (Flower Machine)*
10. Where The Boys Are: The Songs Of Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield (Ace)

V. Top 20 Box Sets: Single Artist

1. The Beach Boys-The Smile Sessions Box Set (Capitol) (As If It Could Be Anything Else!)
2. The Hollies-Clarke, Hicks & Nash Years: The Complete Hollies April 1963-October 1968 (EMI)
3. The Kinks-The Kinks In Mono (Sanctuary)
4. E.L.O.-The Classic Albums Collection (Sony Music)
5. The Byrds-The Complete Columbia Albums Collection (Sony Music)
6. Elvis Presley-Young Man With The Big Beat: The Complete ’56 Masters (RCA/Legacy)
7. Diana Ross & The Supremes-50th Anniversary: The Singles Collection 1961-1969 (Hip-O Select)
8. The Who-Quadrophenia: Director’s Cut Super Deluxe Ltd. Edition Box Set (Universal)
9. The Temptations-50th Anniversary: The Singles Collection 1961-1971 (Hip-O Select)
10. Michael Mazzarella-Songwriter (Kool Kat)
11. Pink Floyd-The Dark Side Of The Moon Immersion Box Set (EMI)
12. Nivana-Nevermind: 20th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition (Universal/Sub Pop)
13. Barclay James Harvest-Taking Some Time On: The Parlophone/Harvest Years 1968-73 (EMI)
14. Be Bop Deluxe-Futurist Manifesto 1974-1978 (Harvest)
15, Derek And The Dominos-Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs: 40th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition (Polydor)
16. The Smiths-Complete (Rhino)
17. Lindisfarne-The Charisma Years: 1970-1973 (EMI)
18. The Robbs-Before, Then, & After (Wet World)
19. Marshmallow Overcoat-The Complete Sound (Garage Nation)
20. 13th Floor Elevators-The Albums Collection (Charly)

The Michael Mazzarella collection isn’t actually a box set, but as it’s made up of five discs I really didn’t know where else it could go.

VI. Top 10 Box Sets: Various Artists

1. Circus Days: The Complete Series Volumes One-Six (Otherside)
2. Dutch Invasion-10 CD +DVD (BR Music)
3. Looking Back: 80 Mod, Freakbeat & Swinging London Nuggets (RPM)
4. Phil Spector Presents: The Philles Album Collection (Legacy)
5. Electric Sound Show-An Assortment Of Antiquities For The Psychedelic Connoisseur (Particles)
6. Titan!: It’s All Pop! (Titan)*
7. Electric Psychedelic Sitar Head Swirlers Vol. 6-10 (Past & Present)
8. Electric Psychedelic Sitar Head Swirlers Vol. 1-5 (Past & Present)
9. Filling The Gap Volumes 1-5 (Psychic Circle)
10. Ember Rock (Fantastic Voyage)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

David Bash's Top 100 of 2011.

As has become a yearly tradition of late, I turn things over to the esteemed David Bash of International Pop Overthrow for his always-comprehensive year-end lists. Today we'll start by going right to his top 100; tomorrow, the ancillary lists. Take it away, David:

Hi Everyone,

Here are my lists of favorite albums of 2011. As is my usual custom, I've broken this down into several categories, as I'm just not comfortable ranking unlike entities on one list.

Contemporary Categories

The year 2011 marked the emergence of LP-only releases, as well as download-only releases (I’m not in favor of the download-only model, but I have to acknowledge it). Those marked with an * are LPs and those marked with an ** are downloads.

I. Top 100 Albums

1. Kurt Baker-Rockin’ For A Living (Stardumb)*
2. The Secret Powers-What Every Rose Grower Should Know (Self-Released)
3. Wiretree-Make Up (Cobalt Works)
4. The Nines-Polarities (TAS GOLD)
5. Groovy Uncle-Play Something We Know! (State)*
6. Cirrone-Uplands Park Road (Escape)
7. Brandon Wilde-Hearts In Stereo (Self-Released)**
8. The Story UK-Joyride On Memory Lane (Rainbow Quartz)
9. Vegas With Randolph-Above The Blue (Caged Giant)
10. Long Play 33 1/3-Being Nowhere (Self-Released)
11. Pugwash-The Olympus Sound (EMI)
12. An American Underdog-Always On The Run (Pop Factory)
13. Fountains Of Wayne-Sky Full Of Holes (Yep Roc)
14. The Galileo 7-Are We Having Fun Yet? (Teen Sound)
15. The Red Button-As Far As Yesterday Goes (Grimble)
16. The Smithereens-2011 (Eone)
17. The Wellingtons-In Transit (Zip)
18. Pyewacket-1967 (It’s About Music)
19. Brandon Schott-13 Satellites (Golden State)
20. Greg Pope-Blue Ocean Sky (Self-Released)
21. Michael Oliver & The Sacred Band-Yin & Yanxiety (Self-Released)
22. Suzy & Los Quattro-Hank (B Core)
23. Supraluxe-The Super Sounds Of Supraluxe (Self-Released)
24. Ulysses-Ulysses (Self-Released)
25. The Breakdowns-The Kids Don’t Wanna Bop Any More (Rock Indiana)
26. Janey And The Ravemen-Stay Away From Boys (Soundflat)
27. Phil Angotti-People And Places (Our House)
28. The Grip Weeds-Under The Influence Of Christmas (Rainbow Quartz)
29. Meyerman-Who Do You Think You Are? (Pretty Decent)
30. Dwight Twilley-Soundtrack (Varese Sarabande)
31. Beady Eye-Different Year, Still Speeding (Dangerbird)
32. Poplord-Poplord Vs. The Universe (Fowl Tone)
33. Jonny-Jonny (Merge)
34. Dum Dum Girls-Only In Dreams (Sub Pop)
35. Peter Berry & The Shake Set-Berry Go Round (Jansen Plateproduksjon)
36. The Liarbirds-Allegedly (Restless Wind)
37. The Turnback-Drawn In Chalk (Self-Released)
38. Daniel Wylie-Fake Your Own Death (Self-Released)
39. The Vinyl Skyway-Return Of The Dead Surfer (Self-Released)
40. The Dahlmanns-All Dahled Up (Pop Detective)
41. Trolley-Things That Shine And Glow (Easter)
42. The Pepper Pots-Train To Your Lover (Black Pepper)
43. Laurie Biagini-A Go Go Girl In A Modern World (Self-Released)
44. Meet Redondo Beat-Meet Redondo Beat (Self-Released)
45. R.E.M.-Collapse Into Now (Warner Brothers)
46. Simon Felton-Surrender Dorothy! (Pink Hedgehog)
47. Tan Sleeve-Too Big To Fail (Transparency)
48. Freddy Monday-Everything Anyhow (Self-Released)
49. Bubble Gum Orchestra-Out Of This World (Self-Released)
50.Tony Cox-On The Way (Self-Released)
51. Deleted Waverform Gatherings-Pretty Escape (Rainbow Quartz)
52. Allen Clapp & The Orchestra-Mixed Greens (Mystery Lawn)
53. Curtains For You-After Nights Without Sleep (Spark & Shine)
54. The Sugar Stems-Sweet Sounds Of The Sugar Stems (Dream On)
55. The Bad Examples-Smash Record (Waterdog)
56. The Higher State-Freakout At The Gallery (13 O’Clock)
57. Longplayer-Longplayer (Space Place)
58.Tommy Flake-Second Skin (Self-Released)
59. Maxi Dunn-The Neglected Gambit (Self-Released)
60. 8 x 8-The Anatomy Of An Apricot (Self-Released)**
61. Sara Lowes-Back To Creation (Self-Released)
62. The Jigsaw Seen-Winterland (Vibro-phonic)
63. Kelly’s Heels-Playing Into Your Hands (Warm Fuzz)
64. Brent Cash-How Strange It Seems (Marina)
65. Mumble-Happy Living (Marathon)
66. The Davenports-Why The Great Gallop? (Mother West)
67. The Anydays-Move! (Self-Released)
68. Kings Of Last Call-From Memory (Self-Released)
69. Peter Baldrachi-Tomorrow Never Knows (Prodigal Son)
70. Dropkick-Time Cuts The Ties (Sound Asleep)
71. The Ditchflowers-Bird’s Eye (Sunshine Drenchy)
72. The Foxes-The Foxes (Self-Released)
73. The Real People-Think Positive (Self-Released)
74. The Red Plastic Buddha-All Out Revolution (Space Cat)
75. The Color Bars-Prosopopoeia (Self-Released)
76. The Latebirds-Last Of The Good Old Days (Second Motion)
77. The Bangles-Sweetheart Of The Sun (Down Kiddie)
78. The Wags-The Wags (Self-Released)
79. The Cleaners From Venus-In Chimp World (Kool Kat)
80. The Cry-The Cry (Self-Released)
81. Fortune 500-Flavor Of The Year (Self-Released)
82. Skeleton Staff-Psychomorphism (Swizzle)
83. The Real Numbers-Welcome To The Numberhood (Self-Released)
84. 54321-What We Did With Our Days (Crazeology)
85. The Brights-A Trivial Pursuit (Lemon Pop)
86. Your Gracious Host-Sleepers Awaken (Self-Released)
87. Richard Snow & The In Laws-Am I Really That Boring? (Valley)
88. The Feeling-Together We Were Made: Double Album Edition (Universal)
89. The Handcuffs-Waiting For The Robot (OOFL)
90. Sexy Heroes-InterroBang (Pop Detective)
91. Gary Ritchie-Hum, Sing…Repeat! (Fancy Two Tone)
92. The Skywalkers-Year One (Self-Released)*
93. Bowling For Soup-Fishing For Woos (Brando)
94. The Wind-Hear, Em Skear’em (Self-Released)
95. Richard X. Heyman-Tiers and Other Stories (Turn Up)
96. Dreaming In Stereo-2 (Forward Motion)
97. The Bye Bye Blackbirds-Fixed Hearts (Rainbow Quartz)
98. Captain Wilberforce-Ghost Written Confessions (Self-Released)
99. The Cleaners From Venus-The Stopping Train (Kool Kat)
100. China Syndrome-Nothing’s Not Worth Knowing (Self-Released)
Kurt Baker’s “Rockin For A Living” was also released on Oglio as a 6-song EP, but it’s the 10 song full-length LP I’ve ranked here.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

2012 off to a great start.

Two excellent new discs to kick off 2012:

Justin Levinson & The Valcours-This Side of Me, This Side of You. Boston-area piano popper Justin Levinson has been around about as long as this site, going to back to his impressive 2006 debut 1175 Boylston. Back then, he sounded like he wanted to be Ben Folds but with each subsequent release he veered into Ryan Adams territory, with mixed results. Now he's back with a backing band and seems to have found a happy medium with his strongest release since the debut. The breezy piano-and-guitar number "Water Wears the Rock" opens the proceedings in fine fashion, while "You Become a Ghost" is a Folds-type number that would have fit right in on 1175 Boylston. But the real strengths here are Levinson's forays into 70s singer-songwriter pop, including "Let You Go" (which features Will Dailey, a fine artist in his own right) and especially "Say What You're Gonna Say", a soulful number with horns that's easy like Sunday morning and my new favorite song of 2012. It's good to see Levinson back on track.

CD Baby | iTunes

Pete Donnelly-When You Come Home. If the name seems familiar, it's because Donnelly is the bassist for The Figgs, Graham Parker's occasional backing band and respected pub-rockers in their own right. In 2009 we saw frontman Mike Gent offer up a fine solo disc, and now it's Donnelly's turn to shine with his first solo release in 11 years. While there are some Figgs-sounding tracks here, Donnelly has blazed a more eclectic path here, from the gentle and melodic "Far Away Angel" to the Beatlesque piano pop of "Original Wonder" to the vaguely loungy-feel of "Can't Talk at All". Meanwhile, Figgs fans will appreciate rockers like "22nd St", "The Only One" and the title track. All in all, it's a fine solo foray from a guy who sounds like he had a lot of musical ideas just waiting to be implemented.

CD Baby | iTunes |