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Top Rock Albums of 2013

The Best Rock Albums of 2013

(Also, make sure you check out our Best Rock Songs of 2013)

Lots of strong music again this year across the rock music landscape, but truthfully, there were only a handful of superb albums from start to finish.  I’m not sure that’s really a bad thing, as in today’s digital download world, an album is less important as the delivery mechanism for excellent music.

My list is a lot different than all of those at the big time websites. That’s because they’re smarter, and I have better taste in music.  Check out the list and let us know what we missed; and if you’re new to RARA’s Farm, we are Rock And Roll Animals, and this is where we hang out, and we’d love to have you join us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or right here in the Comments section.

Just like our list of the Best Songs of 2013, each album is linked to iTunes if you want to check it out or purchase it.

Here’s our Top two dozen:

Bonus Selection: Where the Kids Are – EP – Blondfire – Not technically an album, but every one of these four songs is superb. Hopefully we’ll see a full-length soon from this dynamic brother-sister combo who mix good old American rock with Brazilian influences.  Best tracks: Waves, Where The Kids Are, Hide And Seek. (Read the RARA’s review here)

24. Damage – Jimmy Eat World  – There’s something to be said for consistency. These four Arizona lads have been together for eight albums and twenty years. Their sound has softened and sweetened a bit, but it’s still good stuff. Best tracks: Lean, Book Of Love, I Will Steal You Back.

23. The 1975 – The 1975 – It’s not perfect, in fact, I feel the music is a little slicker and less raw than I’d prefer from these lads from Manchester, but there’s some creative artistry for sure from Matthew Healy and the band. Best Tracks: Chocolate, Sex, Girls.

22. Paramore – Paramore – The band’s first Farro-free effort, as brothers Zac and Josh left the band after their third album.  The music revolves around Hayley Williams’ vocals, but it also offers a refreshingly rougher sound at times (as well as some fluffy stuff I typically skip over). Best tracks: Fast In My Car, Now, Anklebiters.

21. The Next Day – David Bowie – Bowie is back with his 24th studio album. It’s a nice offering, hearkening back to some of his earlier sounds. Pop rock songs, with meaningful lyrics about our world today. Best tracks: Day, You Will Set The World On Fire, The Next Day.

20. By the Lamplight – Larry and His Flask – Hillbilly, Cajun punk at its finest. These guys have a unique raucous sound and are an absolute blast, a different kind of blast for sure, but that’s what we love about rock ‘n roll. Best tracks: Pandemonium, Home of The Slave, Out Of Print. (Read the RARA’s review here)

19. The Bones of What You Believe – CHVRCHES – Just love Lauren Mayberry’s vulnerable vocals, but there’s a lot more to this trio from Scotland. One of the best new Alt-Rocks on the scene this year. Best tracks: The Mother We Share, Lies, Under The Tide.

18. Revolution – Jupiter Falls – The album highlights the band’s diversity; at times they sound like 70′s or 80′s classic rock, current era Alt-hardcore, or turn of the century metal. Fantastic guitar work, memorable licks and powerful vocals throughout. Best tracks: Forgiven, To The Point, Story Of A Liar. (Read the RARA’s review here)

17. AM – Arctic Monkeys – This, their fifth album is a showcase for guitarist Jamie Cook and continues to show their evolution as a band.  Not their best effort ever, but still excellent Alr-rock with a snarl.  Best tracks: Do I Wanna Know? R U Mine? Mad Sounds.

16. Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies – Volbeat – Heavy metal with a rockability twist from these Danish rockers. Anthrax guitarist Rob Caggiano makes a great first impression for this band that is rocketing up the heavy metal scene. Best tracks: My Body (Young The Giant cover), Lola Montez, Pearl Heart

15. Reflektor – Arcade Fire – Without a doubt, my most anticipated release of the year. It’s a bit pretentios, and not as good as their previous offerings, but there’s plenty to like on this one as the Montreal rockers continue to push their limits. Best tracks: Normal Person, Flashbulb Eyes, Afterlife.

14. Hail to the King – Avenged Sevenfold – One of America’s best metal bands continues to evolve. A bit more commercial than their earlier stuff, but they don’t sacrifice any of their core values. Best tracks: Acid Rain, Hail To The King, This Means War.

13. Night Visions – Imagine Dragons – This is actually a late 2012 release, but we didn’t listen until this year when it became the most successful new Alt-rock offering in years. Best tracks: Hear Me, It’s Time, Demons.

And, our Top Dozen:

12. Signed and Sealed in Blood – Dropkick Murphys – These blue collar Irish punk rockers continue to defy expectations. In this, their seventeenth year, they release their most main stream offering. A few big hits on a very deep album. Best tracks: : The Boys Are Back, Rose Tattoo, Burn.

11. The Sticks – Mother Mother – From the stark opening notes of the ethereal “The Omen,” this album grabs your attention and locks you in for a forty-eight minute journey through genre-defining rock ‘n roll. Best tracks: Bit By Bit, Let’s Fall In Love, Dread In My Heart. (Read the RARA’s review here)

10. Shangri La – Jake Bugg – Bugg’s distinctive voice is not for everyone, but I love it, and the way the 19 year-old churns out poppy punk-infused ditties. Best tracks: Slumville Sunrise, What Doesn’t Kill You, Me An d You.

9. Bigfoot – Cayucas – The album, the brainchild of singer Zach Yudin, has an absolutely distinctive Alt-Rock sound highlighted by a cool sixties surf vibe that dominates their intriguing ethereal debut. Best tracks: Cayucos, High School Lover, Will The Thrill. (Read the RARA’s review here)

8. Vessel – twenty one pilots – This duo has a sound all to themselves. A little ukulele, killer drums, sweet keyboards and Tyler Joseph’s infectiously unique vocals power the band’s first major label release. Best tracks: Migraine, House of Gold, Holding On To You.

7. Twistification – The Last Royals – It’s an absolute blast to listen to as this duo just churns out fun, catchy rock tunes. Still cannot fathom why this one did not explode on the music scene, with a half-dozen potential hits on the album. Best tracks: Friday Night, All Over Again, I Hate California. (Read the RARA’s review here)

6. I Love You. – The Neighbourhood – No album this year starts off as strongly as this one. The first three songs are all stellar tracks.  The rest of the album is pretty damn good. A slinky dirty and absolutely addictive debut. Best tracks: Sweater Weather, Female Robbery, Afraid.

5. Modern Vampires of the City – Vampire Weekend – In general, it’s a bit more stripped down than their excellent first two albums, but there are exceptions, like the rollicking Diane Young that make every song a sonic surprise. Best tracks: Diane Young, Unbelievers, Everlasting Arms.

4. Waiting For the Dawn – The Mowgli’s – This album is a masterpiece. It’s a cool summer groove just overflowing with sweet rock ‘n roll gems and in a refreshing change from much of the music dominating today’s airwaves, The Mowgli’s offer up a host of tracks about love, hope and unity. Best tracks: San Francisco, Time, Emily. (Read the RARA’s review here)

3. Melophobia – Cage the Elephant – The term melophobia means fear of music, but there’s nothing to fear on this release. On this, their third album, Cage The Elephant continues to evolve as one of this country’s premier rock bands. Their 2011 release, Thank You, Happy Birthday was our album of the year, this one was close…  Best tracks: Spiderhead, Telescope, It’s Just Forever. (Read the RARA’s review here)

2. Blunderstone Rookery – Stephen Kellogg – I used to be annoyed reading through these lists and finding an author who spotlighted a little known artist near the top of their list. Now, I’ve done it myself, but this album from an uber-talented singer-songwriter is absolutely deserving of its lofty ranking. The collection of songs is as creative as it is supremely enjoyable. It’s a rambling tour through Kellogg’s memories and a great listen.  Best tracks: Thanksgiving, Good Ol’ Days, Forgive You Forgive Me. (Read the RARA’s review here)

1. Tape Deck Heart – Frank Turner – This was almost pre-ordained. Turner is a former punk front man turned rock ‘n roll troubadour. He’s a talented vocalist, guitar player and maybe the best lyricist in the business.  Tape Deck Heart is a rare marriage of stirring song-writing and creative passionate music. Turner is a talented poet, sincere story-teller and tremendous musician and this album is the first time he’s put it all together. Fabulously diverse stuff that demands attention. Best tracks: Four Simple Words, Recovery, Good & Gone, Oh Brother, and many more… (Read the RARA’s review here)

So, there you have it, the best rock albums of 2013. Let us know what you think. What did we nail? Where did we fail? And, make  sure you check out our Best Songs of 2013, too.

Rock On!
Cretin

Best Rock Songs of 2013

2013 best rock songs

The Best Rock Songs of 2013

(Make sure you check out our Top Rock Albums 0f 2013)

2013 was a year packed with interesting entertaining rock offerings.  Most commercial radio seems fixated on synth-driven, watered-down, safe music for the masses.  At times, I’m a sucker for that stuff, too, but far more often, I enjoy my rock with a little guitar, as you’ll see below…

Click on the sing titles to check out and grab your own copy of each song.

Bonus Track: Golden, Holly Maher – Our own BrokenBirdie sums this one up perfectly: This Nashville native “really knows how to mix sassy and sweet perfectly…” Maher is not an easy fit into our rock ‘n roll genre, but she’s a blossoming singer songwriter with lots of potential.

24. What Doesn’t Kill You – Jake Bugg – Garage rock 21st Century style. This 19 year-old has a great sound, sometimes punk, sometimes folksy, and this is the best offering from his second album.

23. Do I Wanna Know? – Arctic Monkeys – Really like the guitar intro on this one, and just love the focus on Alex Turner’s vocals, which are his best yet.

22. Safe and Sound – Capital Cities – An example of the synth and drum machine recipe that dominates today’s airwaves, but this one is creative and catchy. 

21. Harlem – New Politics – A bit of a guilty pleasure. Bubble gum rock, but it’s got infectious lyrics and a memorable guitar riff that you’ll never get out of your head.

20. High School Lover – Cayucas – This one has a slick late 60′s surf rock feel which fits this band from Santa Monica perfectly.

19. Unbelievers – Vampire Weekend – It’s a great showcase for Ezra Koenig’s vocals, and unbelievably, this is actually the band’s highest charting song of their career.

18. 17 Crimes – AFI – This one is carried by Adam Carson’s drums. It’s got a great singalong chorus about a nasty topic. I should have moved this up to #17 just for the symmetry.

17. Recovery – Frank Turner – It’s fun catchy song with deep meaningful lyrics from one of today’s best rock ‘n roll poets from Tape Deck Heart, one of this year’s best albums.

16. Sweater Weather – The Neighbourhood – The first single off of their debut album I Love You and it was a breath of fresh air on the Alt-Rock scene. The first of two tracks from the West Coast band on the list.

15. Wake Me Up – Avicii – My wife rarely turns me on to excellent new rock, but this is an exception. This one makes a great driving song, but it’s excellent in any environment and crosses so many musical genres. Love the music bed…

14. Drive Me Home – The Reason – A big rocker from a veteran Canadian band who sound like Kings of Leon, just with a little more talent and a lot more passion and less pretentiousness.

13. Deal with the Devil – Pop Evil – Reminds me a bit of Alice and Chains which is always a good thing. Love Leigh Kakaty’s vocals, but the music from his band mates is even better.

12. Diane Young – Vampire Weekend – Bit of a different feel, where Koenig’s vocals highlight early; and then the song masterfully devolves into a clever mash-up of sounds eerily reminiscent of the late 80’s dance remixes from Sigue Sigue Sputnik.

11. Hail to the King – Avenged Sevenfold – Best hard rock band around, and this song is a prime example why. Searing guitar solos, hard driving rhythm and killer vocals.

10. Cut Me Some Slack – “Nirvana” featuring Paul McCartney – OK, I named the band… It’s Dave Grohl’s fantastic contribution to Sound City. Paul bringing back haunting “Helter Skelterish” vocals accompanied by the living members of Nirvana, and it works amazingly well.

10. Waves – Blondfire – It’s a great summer vibe, and a tune that highlights the beautiful vocals of Erica Driscoll and an absolutely mesmerizing groove.

9. Bit By Bit – Mother Mother – One of today’s most underrated bands, and this provocative quirky song is the best one from their fantastic album The Sticks. It’s aggressive Alt-rock with a unique blend of boy-girl vocals.

8. Lola Montez – Volbeat – Killer guitar work from new addition Rob Caggiano (Anthrax) and an excellent spotlight for Michael Poulsen’s powerful and distinctive vocals.

7. The Boys Are Back – Dropkick Murphys – Bagpipes and a rousing chorus power this rocker. Just love Ken Casey’s beautifully ragged and harsh vocals. It’s Irish rock at its best, well almost…

6. House of Gold – Twenty One Pilots – Ukelele driven ode to Tyler Glenn’s mother featuring his quirky but perfectly fitting vocals as this duo continues their ascension into rock stardom.

5. Rose Tattoo – Dropkick MurphysThis is Irish rock at its best. Tender mandolin opening with more of a classic Irish story teller vibe and a memorable chorus. They also released a version with Springsteen on vocals as a Boston Marathon victims’ fundraiser which is just as good as the original.

4. Thanksgiving – Stephen Kellogg – It’s a masterpiece, a ten minute masterpiece, but worth every second of it. Poignant, meaningful lyrics, passionate vocals and superb music. This one should become the definitive Thanksgiving song.

3. San Francisco – The Mowgli’s – A positive, happy, upbeat song, and it’s just fun as hell. This octet delivers a wall of sound, and the music is simply addictive. A great song made better by the great vibe.

2. Afraid – The Neighbourhood – Jesse Rutherford’s vulnerable vocals and deeply introspective lyrics are fantastic, and the song is absolutely great. It is the highlight track from the band’s excellent debut I Love You.

1. Four Simple Words – Frank Turner – This one starts with soft piano accompanied by acoustic guitar, then evolves into a raucous punk rock throwdown. It’s everything wonderful about rock ‘n roll wrapped up into one song. Oh, and the lyrics are perfect, too.

 

There you have it. My list… What did I miss? Let me know in he comments below, and make sure you Follow Us on Twitter and Like our Facebook for rock music updates all year long.

Rock On!
Cretin

Mother Mother: The Sticks Album Review


The Sticks Mother Mother Album Review
The Sticks Mother Mother Album Review

Mother Mother: The Sticks

From the stark opening notes of the ethereal “The Omen,” this album grabs your attention and locks you in for a forty-eight minute journey through genre-defining rock ‘n roll. “Something about the world today makes a boy feel a bit insane, From daffodils to acid rain to Antichrist on a tidal wave… With a couple of sticks and a couple of stones, I’ll dig a pit and lay my bones.” Dark, cheerful, skeptical, and sometimes fun, it’s a roller coaster, and a great ride. Truthfully, not much more you can ask for in a rock album.

Truth be told, I’m quickly becoming an avid Mother Mother fan. The band. fronted by brother/sister combo, Ryan and Molly Guldemond, offers a refreshing and creative approach to rock music. It’s edgy, passionate rock, and oh so welcome in today’s increasingly stale cookie cutter environment.  Their sound is unique and totally their own, but if pressed for a comparison, I’d offer Cage The Elephant merged with Grouplove.  And, that’s damn good company.

Their 2011 offering, Eureka was one of RARA’s Farm’s Top 10 albums of the year, a year where he had Cage The Elephant and Grouplove at the top of the list (see the Best of 2011 here).

On The Sticks, we see the quintet out of Vancouver, B.C. continue to evolve.  The album is generally contemplative about the “God awful shitty feeling of dread in my heart” feeling that permeates our world today. The magic to those lyrics is the juxtaposition of Ryan’s saccharine sweet vocals  delivering the depressingly dramatic lines.  The lyrics throughout the album are priceless, and the music pure cutting-edge mastery.  It’s a trait of the album; a rare combination of stellar music and fantastic lyrics throughout, a true aural masterpiece.

The fourteen tracks on the album weave together masterfully. The Sticks is an album, not a collection of loosely associated tracks.  The songs were written on the road over a fairly brief period of time and mesh together expertly.  Many of the offerings feature nicely layered boy/girl vocals, with Ryan taking the male leads while Molly and keyboardist Jasmine Parkin trade-off the female leads.

“Let’s Fall In Love,” the first single off of the album is an absolute addiction. The song is driven by Jeremy Page’s bass and Ali Siadat’ drumming, and also features a great guitar riff from Ryan Guldemond. The music is damn near perfect, and the vocals even better.  Ryan’s vocals stand out and offer a truly fresh feel.  His guitar work is also excellent throughout the album, and I’d recommend taking a spin through the tracks just focusing on the guitar work – again, creative, original stuff that just works fantastically.

The album weaves nicely between poppy, melancholy and aggressive rocking cuts, as illustrated in the excellent run of songs beginning with “Infinitesimal,” “Happy” and “Bit By Bit.”  It’s a small slice indicative of the breadth and depth of this diverse album destined to be one of those rare offerings that defines a year.

I’ll leave you with a few lyrics from my favorite track on the album, the provocative, energetic “Bit By Bit.” “I’m getting on a mountain, away from the people on the ground and Some cop sticking up my wagon. Chop chop we gonna build a cabin, up top on a pretty little mountain, Fuck off all you people on the ground, ya!” Just make sure you grab a copy of the year’s first can’t miss album to keep you good company during your journey through the sticks…

(Check out the album below, and buy it now on iTunes – trust us on this one)

Rock On!
Cretin

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2011 Top Rock Songs

2011 was an interesting year for rock music, with a tremendous focus on artists with original sounds.  Sure, a few of these tunes have a familiar feel, but far more offer us a unique new sound.  That’s  exciting stuff and leaves me anxiously awaiting 2012. Check out the RARAsFarm Top 25 and let us know what you think.

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Bonus Track: Songbird – The Drowning Men. This album was released in 2009, but just re-released in the US this year. “Songbird” is a fantastic song that evokes darker memories of The Arcade Fire.

25. Shake It Out – Florence and the Machine. She’s back with a new album. Honestly, Ceremonials is not as powerful as 2009’s Lungs, but this tune is solid.

24. Get Some – Lykke Li. The Swedish muse told us this one was about power, everyone still believes it’s about sex.  Either way – the song rocks.

23. Sing – My Chemical Romance.  This is probably the most mainstream song the band has ever released.  It’s a synth-laden anthem in waiting.

22. Burn – Papa Roach. This was one of the few new ones on their live Monsters of Annihilation album. Glad we didn’t need to wait for their next studio album for this one.

21. You Are A Tourist – Death Cab For Cutie. The band’s first number one hit, and well deserved. The guitars and layered vocals are beautiful.

20. The Roller – Beady Eye. Liam Gallagher seemingly channeling the Beatles, and it works very well.

19. If You Wanna – The Vaccines. A fun little ditty that will leave you singing. Reminds me lots of their UK brethren The Kaiser Chiefs.

18. Howlin’ For You – The Black Keys. This one was off of their previous album Brothers. The trance-like bass and drums are addictive.

17. Go Outside – Cults. A great debut from the young duo out of Manhattan. The sound is fresh and new. and features a xylophone solo.  Nice…

16. Help Is On The Way – Rise Against. The band’s highest charting song, and first to really garner some overdue mainstream attention.

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15. Changing – The Airborne Toxic Event. The West Coast rockers do it again. This one again features superb vocals from Mikel Jollet.

14. Baby Don’t Dance – Mother Mother – Ryan Guldemond’s unique vocals highlight this quirky hit from North of the Border.

13. New Low – Middle Class Rut. Finally a commercial success for this under appreciated band out of Sacramento.

12. Pumped Up Kicks – Foster the People – The hip, happy song with the dark lyrics swept the world and the festival circuit this summer.

11. Black Night – Dodos. The freight train drums and addictive lyrics powered this song to the band’s most significant airplay.

10. The Sound of Winter – Bush. Gavin and Company are back after a ten year hiatus. and sounding as good as ever.

9. Crystal Vases – The Last Royals. This catchy tune reminisces on a relationship gone bad, and is the highlight of the band’s excellent debut EP.

8. Shake Me Down – Cage the Elephant. The best song on our album of the year, Thank You Happy Birthday. The lyrics reflect on life’s disappointments while hoping for something better. (Check out The Albums of the Year)

7. These Days – Foo Fighters. It’s Dave Grohl’s favorite song that he’s written, ever.  Mine, too.

6. Colours – Grouplove. Christian Zucconi’s unique vocal stylings, grunts, groans and a distinctive sound make this the best offering off their excellent debut.

5. What About Us – Handsome Furs. This one brings back memories of a great 90’s rock dance tune from another excellent young Canadian band.

4. Lonely Boy – Black Keys. The only band with two songs on this list, and this might be their best ever. Great stuff off the just-released El Camino.

3. My Body – Young the Giant. These California rockers, created this gem in ten minutes at the conclusion of what was otherwise a crappy day. Amazing.

2. Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall – Coldplay. I think it’s their best ever, and we’ll be listening to this one forever.

1. The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie – Red Hot Chili Peppers. It started with a bass chord Flea couldn’t get out of his head.  It morphed into be the best Rock song of the year.

You can sample all of the songs below…

Rock On – Cretin

The Best Albums of 2011

When I started this, I suspected that when we look back on 2011, we wouldn’t consider this an amazing year for music.  Unlike the amazing contributions we heard both twenty and forty years ago, this year’s contributions seemed a bit  more mediocre.  Nonetheless, after digging through the candidates, it became clear there were a few future classics out there.

So, grab your favorite beverage, crank up the music and check out the RARA’s Farm Farmer’s Dozen, the Top 12 albums of 2011.  Take a look and a listen, and let us know what you think:

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Bonus Selection: The Last Royals EP (read the RARAs Farm review)
This eponymous debut from a talented band out of New York City was one of the best discoveries of 2011.  Everyone knows their wildly popular “Crystal Vases,” but the rest of the EP is just as good, and quite diverse, especially for a four song sampler.  These guys have a ton of potential; look for their first full length album, Twistification hitting the streets soon.

12. Angles, The Strokes
Returning after a five year respite, the lads from New York are back, and in great form.  All of the classic garage sound we’ve come to love from the band, as well as some more modern stuff, and an occasional retro rock flashback – the result is a long overdue strong return. The first cut “Machu Pichu” is a great example of their newer sound.

11. White Rabbit, Egypt Central (read the RARAs Farm review)
The second album from this Memphis based quartet was one of the best hard rock offerings of the year.  Kick Ass features a wide variety of polished powerful rock and has prompted well deserved airplay on stations like SiriusXM’s Octane. The title track is an excellent hard rock tune, while “Goodnight” spotlights more of the ballad side of their repertoire.

10. Move Like This, The Cars
These guys are back for the first time since the eighties.  The only original member missing is the late Benjamin Orr who passed away ten years ago.  The rest of the band sounds eerily similar to their trademark sound that made them New Wave royalty.  It’s odd that so many other bands are tapping into that 80’s vein nowadays, but these true masters couldn’t get a sniff of airplay.  Nonetheless, it’s a nice overlooked return effort.

9. Codes and Keys, Death Cab for Cutie
Benjamin Gibbard and Chris Walla took a new approach for Death Cab on this album, eschewing their previous guitar laden sound for more of a keyboard driven groove.  It’s a refreshing change and makes the album more enjoyable than their previous six.  “You Are a Tourist” and “Stay Young and Go Dancing” are prime examples of the excellent new sound.

8. Torches, Foster the People
A nice debut from the L.A. trio includes their huge breakout hit “Pumped Up Kicks.” Their sound is modern through and through and Mark Foster’s vocals truly unique.  Admittedly there are a few weak tracks on the album, but the good far outweighs the bad.  Make sure you check out “Helena Beat” and “Don’t Stop.”

7. Covering Ground, Chuck Ragan
The long-time punk rocker turned folk troubadour gifted us with this excellent collection of introspective songs early this year. His gravely voice is paired perfectly with the stripped down instruments: an acoustic guitar, a fiddle and a stand up bass.   The songs reflect on a tough life on the road and the loved ones in his life.  Grab a whiskey and give it a listen.

6. Suck It and See, The Arctic Monkeys
Album number four is the band’s best yet.  It’s a different sound for the foursome, and a welcome change.  “She’s Thunderstorms” is a great opening cut on an album packed with excellent tunes all the way through to the closer  “That’s Where You Belong.” “Piledriver Waltz and “Black Treacle” are two of the stronger offerings. Listening to the band I’m reminded of a comfortable old favorite: Echo and the Bunnymen – good stuff!

5. Eureka, Mother Mother (read the RARAs Farm review)
In our album review, we described their unique sound as a diverse collection of alt-country-dance-funkadelic-harmonic rock. It’s impossible to classify their sound as anything but original; they sound like Mother Mother, period. Their sound is all their own, and it’s great stuff. The group revolves around the infectious harmonies of brother/sister combination Ryan and molly Guldemold. The Canadians really shine on “Baby Don’t Dance,” “The Stand” and “Chasing It Down.”

4. El Camino, The Black Keys
The Akron based duo broke through last year with the hugely popular album Brothers. This one might be even better.  There’s a bit more commercial appeal to this one, and the songs will translate well into live versions on their forthcoming tour. It’s straight forward, stripped down raw rock and roll; sounds a bit like a modernized version of Bad Company, if you can imagine that.  “Lonely Boy” is one of the best songs of the year, and has plenty of competition on the rest of the album. “Money Maker” and “Hell of a Season” are two other powerful tracks.

3. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds
Noel Gallagher and friends prove that there is life after Oasis for both brothers.  Liam’s Beady Eye project was decent, but Noel’s new offering is great stuff.   The talented guitarist penned all of these tunes and nails the vocals throughout. Some of the tunes will remind you of What’s The Story Morning Glory era Oasis (“Dream On” and “AKA What A Life”), which is a good thing, and all of them are well produced and written. Favorite track: “The Death of You and Me.”

2. Never Trust a Happy Song, Grouplove (read the RARAs Farm review)
A great collection of songs from this quintet who met by chance at an artists’ retreat in Crete a few summers ago. The band has put together a fantastic assortment of Alt Rock anthems.  The feel of each song is distinctive yet they weave together nicely thanks to the consistent strong vocals from Hannah Hooper and Christian Zucconi. “Chloe” is the best cut on the album, but has plenty of company including “Colours,” “Lovely Cup,” and iPod favorite “Tongue Tied.”

1. Thank You Happy Birthday, Cage the Elephant
Fantastic album that also has a cool back story: The band basically had an album in the can ready to release when they realized no one was really passionate about what they recorded. They started over leveraging songs that the band members were planning to use for their own side projects.  The result is a tremendous passion-filled trip from the opening notes of “Always Something” through all dozen tunes.  “Around My Head,”  “Aberdeen” and “Shake Me Down are already classics for the quintet from Kentucky. It’s only their second album, but these guys are key linchpins for the future of American Rock and Roll.

There you go, twelve great albums that will define 2011 music for years to come.   Let us know what you think; what did we leave out? what doesn’t belong? And, if you want to take a trip down memory lane, check out how these discs compare with some classics: The Best of 1971 and The Best of 1991.

Rock On – Cretin

 

Wednesday Evening Random Thoughts

So – Orlando Calling has come and gone.  We asked for press access to the inaugural event so that we could dazzle you with our amazing coverage, but the Festival organizers ignored us.  Truthfully, I can’t really blame them, we’re still a small player on a huge stage.  You can help us for next year – follow us on Twitter and Like us on Facebook. Then tell your friends to do the same thing.  And finally – post on our Facebook page, share your pictures, provide your thoughts, and offer tips on new music, beer tasting and your favorite Modern Family episodes.  OK – got it?

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As for the first iteration of Orlando Calling, we’ve talked to a bunch of people who were there, and all of the reports have been positive.  Personally, Day 1 was much more appealing with The Killers, Gogol Bordello, Pete Yorn and The Pixies among the many bands spread across their five stages.  Day 2 had a totally different vibe with Bob Seger, Kid Rock, The Doobie Brothers and Blake Shelton headlining.  Truthfully a little schizophrenic.  Next year, they need to decide what they want to be when they grow up and have the entire weekend gel better as far as the line-up is concerned.  Seriously, what would a Bob Seger fan think when they saw the antics of Gogol Bordello???

Although we weren’t there, a few of our website members (oh yeah – you can register there, too) did attend, and we’ll be sharing some reviews shortly.

We’ve reviewed a bunch of great new music lately to tide you over.  Here are quick links to the last handful, if you want to check them out:

They were all good – honestly (we are not just schmoozing for more free music, although we are certainly open to that).  My favorite was Grouplove’s effort – and fortunately, they’ll be hitting the Sunshine State shortly for a few shows in early December.

We also had a great interview with Lovedrug’s Michael Shepard.  The band has a great story, a unique sound and their talented front man is a helluvanice guy.

Finally, I’ll leave you with this little tidbit from The Last Royals, who we interviewed a few months back.  Here’s a recording studio that is truly a “head” of its time: Crystal Vases

 

Mother Mother – Eureka

Eureka! Yup, I’m a little late, but I finally got my hands on Eureka, the third album from Mother Mother, a talented and under-appreciated quintet from Vancouver, British Columbia. Definitely worth the wait for this diverse collection of alt-country-dance-funkadelic-harmonic rock. It’s impossible to classify their sound as anything but original; they sound like Mother Mother, period.  And, that’s just fine for open-minded rock and roll animals like myself.

The album is pretty damn entertaining and definitely worth a few listems. I strongly recommend giving it a few spins (and “yes” it is available on vinyl), as these ditties grow on you.

Eureka is produced by Ryan Guldemold, the band’s principal writer, lead guitarist and male vocalist. Mother Mother also features the vocals of Ryan’s sister Molly and Jasmin Parkin and their three part harmonies are found throughout. Those smooth harmonies coupled with their quirky distinctive music deliver a handful of unique infectious tunes.

The first four tracks are all excellent. “Chasing It Down” kicks off the album. The song is a roller coaster ride of mixed tempos, and features a hook from Ryan’s distinctive falsetto that will bounce in your head for days.  The harmonies from the ladies and 70’s influenced organ riffs are unique and entertaining.  It is followed by “The Stand” the first single released by the band, which features a humorous Boy vs. Girl call-and-answer vocal performance from all three singers. The song is not great, but the lyrics are, as evidenced by Ryan explaining his vices; “There’s women on bikes or just women who straddle.”

“Baby Don’t Dance” is my favorite track off of the album. I reflexively cranked up the volume to this tune, and it became an instant favorite and is just a total blast to listen to. Fantastic vocals, great keys, cool bass and guitar. Simply described, it’s just a great party song, possibly one of my Top 10 for the year. You may find yourself reminiscing about classic B-52 dance tunes. “Original Sin” gets off to a mediocre musical start, but the vocals as usual are superb, with all three vocalists playing key roles.  It’s another one that you’ll find yourself singing along with.

Those first four tunes are all very strong.  Afterwards, some of the songs seem a bit over-produced, but do a good job highlighting the band’s intricate harmonies and clear musical talent, including bassist Jeremy Page and Ali Siadat on drums.

“Simply Simple” is a beautiful song with amazing lyrics from Ryan, clearly showcasing the high end of his great range.  Again the harmonies are dead on.  They remind me of the beautiful harmonies from the 90’s talented yet under-the-radar Voice of the Beehive. “Simply Simple” is immediately followed by “Problems,” which again accentuates the band’s incredible diversity.  This ditty hearkens back to the more rockabilly sound from their earlier recordings.  The guitar is great, Jeremy Page’s bass is superbly hypnotic, and it’s just a blast to listen to. “Oleander” is a big song that again features great vocals, and nice keys.

The remainder of the songs are enjoyable, if not unremarkable.  I feel as though the band was trying to highlight their musicianship, harmonies and diversity. Personally, I’d prefer a few more like “Baby Don’t Dance!”

Check out the album linked below from iTunes, where you can get the entire thing, plus a few bonus tracks for an excellent price of $7.99.

 

 

Monday Night on the Farm – Random Musings

Random Thoughts on a Monday evening.

Today is the 50th Birthday for both Richard Allan Ream and for David Howell Evans.  If you don’t recognize the names, keep on reading…

Cage the Elephant’s “Around My Head” is my favorite song right now. I’ve liked most of their music the past few years, but this one is their best yet.  They are playing on Jay Leno’s Tonight Show tonight (Tuesday, August 9th).  Not sure what they’ll be playing, but you know what my vote will be for.

My Sister-In-Law turned me onto her cousin’s band, Walk The Moon. They made a big showing at Lollapalooza in Chicago, playing three shows over the weekend.  Check out this song, and it’s quirky video on Youtube and see if you can’t get the lyrics out of your head.  Fun Stuff: Walk The Moon’s” Anna Sun” 

I realize that it’s a few years old now, but Mother Mother’s “Hayloft” is pretty damn fun. Sort of like the strange spawn if The Red Hot Chili Peppers and B-52’s had a little baby band.

The birthday boys? You’d know them better as the drummer from Poison and guitarist from U2. Happy Birthday to Rikki Rocket and The Edge!