Here are my Top 10 rock and pop albums from 2011, from Fountains of Wayne and the Jigsaw Seen to Dan Markell and the Sean Hutton Supershow … listed in alphabetical order:
FOUNTAINS OF WAYNE – SKY FULL OF HOLES: Witty and observant lyrics have always symbolized the maddeningly infectious songs of Fountains of Wayne. The band’s tunes read like little dramas, starring a wide variety of characters and situations that come alive on disc. Aside from sporting an awareness for composing animated tales, Fountains of Wayne play a grand brand of power pop. Jaunty breaks, joined by scads of seizing melodies and arresting vocals cushion their material, and such elements are delivered in bushels on Sky Full of Holes. Chalk up yet another winner for Fountains of Wayne!
THE INSOMNIACS – JUST ENJOY IT!: For more than twenty years now, these guys have been knocking out nothing but power popping garage rock. Never have they ever compromised their style and they’ve also managed to sustain the top of the line quality of their material. Racing onward with hotwired energy, streams of chunky riffs, springy rhythms and cool cheerleader type choruses, Just Enjoy It! recalls the finest moments of the Kinks, the Who, the Jam and the Romantics, while all the while putting a new spin on such a heavily trodden groove.
JAMIE AND STEVE – THE NEXT BIG THING: When Jamie Hoover and Steve Stoeckel are not busy making music with their fabled band the Spongetones, they perform as a duo. Equipped with a sound not too different than what we’ve come to know and love with the Spongetones, the twosome clearly excel at writing and playing first class pop rock. Teeming with jungles of juicy melodies, Everly Brothers-meet-the-Beatles fashioned harmonies and chiming guitars galore, “The Next Big Thing” really should be the next big thing!
THE JIGSAW SEEN – WINTERLAND: Kingpins of orchestrated psychedelic pop rock, the Jigsaw Seen produce music buzzing with power and beauty. Curtains of godly choruses correspond in precise unison with the moody measures of rumbling organs, where tasty guitar chords of the acoustic and electric stripe, and firmly developed hooks and rhythmic patterns are the chief ingredients tooling this majestic album. Splashed with rays of edginess and quirkiness, “Winterland” challenges the listener but is also very entertaining and maintains an accessible beat.
DAN MARKELL – ELEVEN SHADES OF DAN MARKELL: Standard guitar pop with just the right balance of adventure allows “Eleven Shades of Dan Markell” to stand out in a crowded field. Dan keeps the pace interesting and humming, prompted by smartly crafted tempos and original arrangements. Every song here, with its compact build and hooks as thick and sticky as molasses, begs to be heard time and time again.
NORB PAYR – SUNDAY MORNINGS: Acoustic country folk rock is the name of the game here. Crisp and twangy guitars hold hands with elegant piano fills, while a bluesy harp adds a bit of grit and grime to the pot. The vocals are engaging and the melodies are unforgettable. Burning with sincerity and passion, Sunday Mornings is an exceptional effort of its ilk, steeped deep in the vein of artists like Gene Clark, the Flying Burrito Brothers and the Jayhawks.
THE RED BUTTON – AS FAR AS YESTERDAY GOES: As far as yesterday goes, the members of the Red Button are fully immersed in the music of yore, and do a dynamic job recreating the hues, tones and inflections of the past. But the songs are totally fit for today and are as fresh and lovely as a daisy. Stamped silly with stirring choruses, potent structures and songs that are simply addictive, “As Far As Yesterday Goes” proves the Red Button are one of the best contemporary retro bands to be had.
THE SEAN HUTTON SUPERSHOW – FATE OF THE WORLD: Destructive forces are headed towards the earth, and it’s up to the Sean Hutton Supershow to save us helpless humans from the evil gremlins. That’s the theme of this great album, which reveals the triple influences of purebred power pop, glitzy glitter rock and jingly jangly folk pop. Brandishing a solid sound throughout, Fate of the World restores the faith in both humanity and rock and roll.
TOL-PUDDLE MARTYRS – FLYING IN THE DARK: Drunk on catchy hooks, sparkling vocals and tautly wound instrumentation, Flying in the Dark captures everything wonderful there is about traditional pop rock. Snippets of cherished faces like John Lennon, Ray Davies and Elvis Costello may manifest here and there, but there’s no denying Tol-Puddle Martyrs boast an identity all their own. An unbelievably good record!
TERRY ‘BUFFALO’ WARE – REVERB BABYLON: Guitarist Terry “Buffalo” Ware has been around the block more than a few times, but in view of his latest project, he is as spirited as ever and still has a boatload of cool ideas to be exercised. Here, he sinks his strings into the material with fire and hunger. Comprised solely of instrumentals, the emphasis is on surf rock, but every so often patches of other forms of music arrive in the mist. A dab of doo-wop, a bout of blues and some honky tonk country give Reverb Babylon an extra couple of ounces to the bounce. A must have for all fans of guitar rock instrumentals!