Another year, another top records list with artists I hope I won’t have forgotten in 10 years. I’m predictable: My taste hasn’t changed much since 1986, when I had Iron Maiden in my back pocket, The Minutemen in my Walkman, and, for some reason, I owned the Modern English record.
10. The Flat Five, “It’s a World of Love and Hope” This Chicago supergroup has concocted delightful, playful, and squeaky clean into an “AM Gold” package. This is the shit 40-somethings remember hearing in the backseat of a Ford Fairlane from a scratchy radio, a charming load of harmonies on a laid back record.
9. Thee Commons, “Loteria Tribal” “Loteria Tribal” is your soundtrack for a drive around working-class Los Angeles. Cumbia, punk, ska, and hip-hop all make room for surf guitar fills inside a DIY package. While there’s traditional cumbia music, there’s also an exploration of rock revealing a package of punk rock and street party music.
8. Natural Child, “Okey Dokey” Natural Child has created a glorious world where psychedelic, garage rock and cosmic country come together. It’s a laid back effort, a nod to ’70s groove begging for improvisation, yet they’re mature enough to reel it in and not waste a moment.
7. The I Don’t Cares, “Wild Stab” Paul Westerberg can sure nail a musical hook. Beneath the musical chaos he was known for while leading The Replacements, there was always a real craft of songwriting, and Westerberg still has it. This record, where he is joined by Juliana Hatfield, explores minimalist rock while exhibiting the at times tender and at times bratty ideal that is Westerberg.
6. The James Hunter Six, “Hold On” Yesterday was cool, and so is today. That’s why genuine nods to classic rhythm and blues and soul are, if done right, so damn good. Hunter’s vocal rasp laid over vintage backing on musical burners or make-out crooners are kicking and at times touching.
5. Jesse Dayton, “The Revealer” Dayton’s resume finds him with the company of Waylon Jennings and X, and “The Revealer” is an exploration of classic country and American cow-punk. His baritone is brash and heartbreaking and his songwriting is at times funny, other times reflective and tender.
4. Jack Oblivian and the Sheiks, “The Lone Ranger of Love” The Memphis garage rock scene has had Oblivian as a player for decades. It’s an exploration of garage rock that hints toward the soul of Stax while dabbling in psychedelic groove.
3. Car Seat Headrest, “Teens of Denial” Will Toledo covered some ground, opening up on a Kinks kick but then moving with musical ease through feedback laden indie-rock with more depth revealed in each listen. There’s some real angst and guilt found in the lyrics, while the music is nothing short of perfect.
2. Richmond Fontaine, “You Can Never Go Back If There’s Nothing To Go Back To” Richmond Fontaine isn’t a person. But let’s make him one, the protagonist in front-man, storyteller, novelist, and songwriter Willie Vlautin’s world of sadness and downtrodden bad luck. It’s a buddy picture of an album, a country rock narrative of beat bars and your down-and-out friends, playing out like a great American novel.
1. Dexateens, “Teenage Hallelujah” Great rock music is coming from Alabama, and a lot of it from The Dexateens. Lyrically, they call it like they see it, as this record digs into what’s great about the South while satirically calling out its issues. But the music reveals a depth that’s as much country and blues Rolling Stones as it is golden-era Ramones.
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. [email protected]