THE RACONTEURS Broken Boy Soldiers (V2) Yet another addition to the long list of supergroups, the Raconteurs consist of Jack (White Stripes) White, Brendan Benson & the rhythm section of the Greenhornes viz. Jack Lawrence & Patrick Keeler. Considering the pedigree of its members, no surprise that Broken Boy Soldiers is a solid debut with powerful rockers lined with psychedelic garage and classic rock influences that will leave hard rock fans with a smile on their faces.
SHINETH 11 of 10 (Self-released) This Swedish duo (Sebastian Roos & Anders Berlin) parlays a strong melodic pop sensibility into a hard rock foundation. Which makes for a strictly hit or miss approach. However, if you can imagine a hybrid of Dream Theater and Jellyfish and not balk at the prospect, then Shineth is for you. http://www.shineth.de/
SPARKS Hello Young Lovers (In The Red) The legendary Mael brothers are back with another idiosyncratic orchestral/operatic pop album. There’s a cold, calculating sheen on most of the material but mitigated by a tongue-in-cheek levity and impressive musical prowess that makes Hello Young Lovers essential listening for all Sparks fans, old and new. http://www.allsparks.com/
FRESH MOWED LAWN Self-titled (Not Lame) Tim Rose was/is the main songwriter in the critically acclaimed pop underground band The Sun Sawed In ½ and Fresh Mowed Lawn is Rose’s first solo project. True to form, this lovely debut contains a slew of well-crafted, melodic gems with greater emphasis on soft pop elements than the Sun was known for. Still intact is Rose’s penchant for quirky and whimsical arrangements. An accomplished outing! http://www.freshmowedlawn.com/
THE ARGUMENT EP (Self-released) I discovered the Argument recently and their simply wonderful sophomore album, Recess Serenade. To these ears, the Argument had the chops to be a modern-day equivalent of Jellyfish (along with the Format) with the emotional energy of emo punk married to the melodic vigor of powerpop. Unfortunately, the Argument is no more and this competent EP is its swan song. Five great examples of modern powerpop is reason enough to check it out. http://www.theargument.net/
RAY MASON A Man and His Silvertone (Captivating Music) Ray Mason has been performing and recording on the fringes of the pop underground for some time now and by and large I have always found his music simple, honest and interesting. On this, Mason’s 10th album, he goes “plugged,” stripped down to songs, voices and an electric guitar. Surprisingly, Mason holds your attention for most of the album with straightforward rock songs with heartfelt sentiments shorn of artifice and studio gimmickry. It’s all Ray… fans of Billy Bragg & Neil Young will appreciate this. http://www.raymason.com/
FINAL FANTASY He Poos Clouds (Tomlab) Owen Pallett has delivered a sophomore effort that is so unique and special, that it has to be listened to, in order to be fully appreciated. Favoring a chamber pop sound that is faithfully constructed with classical baroque instruments, it is unlikely that you will encounter any other rock album this interesting. Reminiscent of the Divine Comedy and Scott Walker, this are not your typical pop songs with strings tacked on but modern rock interpreted as classical music. Not for all rock tastes but an achievement to be heralded nonetheless. http://www.tomlab.com/
MITRA All Gods Kill (Idol) Not my cup of tea for sure but Mitra delivers unrelenting hard rock-thrash metal which is heavy on the riffs and light on the tunes. Predictably, the subject matters they cover tend to be about death, violence and blasphemy. Perhaps my thoughts about Mitra are best summed up by one of the song titles here – “Things Are About To Get Ugly.” Indeed. http://www.mitramusic.com/