Much like the Close But No Cigar list contains my quick takes on albums that didn’t make it to my “best of” list this year (that will probably slot somewhere south of #40 on the list when all is said and done), the Bridesmaids didn’t make it either. But they were a lot closer, and most probably were on the Top 25 in pencil at one point. Music is subjective, and my lists morph over time as some albums grow and some fade, so this is really a snapshot.
But enough with the caveats – these are worthy records, and the names may put a knowing smile on your face or send you Googling for sound clips. I’m hoping that you find an artist or three that knocks your socks off and/or rediscover something that you passed on earlier.
Here are five for today, in no particular order. More will be posted in the near future…
Frank Bango: The Sweet Songs Of Decay
Bango’s fourth album is just what I hoped for and expected; a wonderfully vibrant platter of thought provoking pop songs sung with earnest conviction. His voice is eerily similar to Elvis Costello on the upbeat/up-tempo songs (“International Sign For Sorry” could fool a Costello fan), but when singing more somber, pensive material (“Don’t Be A Shy Nurse”) it’s almost a calming stage whisper. It works both ways; the buoyant “Napoleon Again” and “Summerdress” will hook you immediately, where a piano ballad like “When A Plane Goes Down” will cause you to stop what you are doing and pay attention.
Credit must also go to the wonderful lyrics of Richy Vesecky. As appealing and exuberant as “Summerdress” is, it’s only heightened by turns of phrase like “and then came the winter coats / like a symphony of sour notes” (followed, of course, by strings playing out of tune!) And with Ed Stasium helping with the mix, the clarity and breadth of the instrumentation surrounds you like a warm blanket. After twelve songs that find hope in loneliness, love within loss, life in death and child-like innocence in our adult trappings, the album ends with three minutes of chirping birds, as if to cleanse your mental palette before returning you to your life, already in progress…
The Reducers: Guitars, Bass and Drums
No one will ever accuse The Reducers of staying up all night writing the lyrics of “Yeah Yeah”, but in less than two minutes it will tell you everything you need to know about why they’re a timeless rock’n’roll band. And if that simple call to arms doesn’t do it, track two asks you flat out, “don’t you want to rock”? And if that doesn’t do it for you…well, don’t even waste your time with the nine other tunes on this terrific album. Take it out of the player, give it to someone who has a pulse, and go lie down and die. Stop sucking our oxygen. You don’t deserve to make it all the way to “My Problem”, among the best songs they’ve ever recorded – and that is a huge compliment.
Yeah, they’re slipping a little Who into “Meltdown”, and yeah, you’ll conjure up the grittier pub bands like Dr. Feelgood on “Stop It Baby”, but that’s only natural osmosis after rocking bars for thirty years. Still together, still touring, still kicking ass, and thankfully still making albums so people like me can rock vicariously through them.