Top 10 starts off with...
10. Cheap Girls - Giant Orange - Cut from the same melodic pop-punk cloth as Superchunk, Material Issue and mid-period Replacements, Cheap Girls offer nothing new and I love them for it. Stripped down rock and roll with big, fat hooks could feed my rock and roll jones for the next ten decades. And I can't get over how much lead Girl Ian Graham sounds like the Del Lords' Eric Ambel.
9. Rayland Baxter - Feathers & Fishhooks - Scion of go-to pedal steel master Bucky Baxter, Feather & Fishhooks fashions freewheeling feelings of fair-haired fun that owes great debts to the twin towers of Jackson Browne and Gram Parsons. Warm, inviting Laurel Canyon vibe makes this one go down easy.
8. The Men - Open Your Heart - While I couldn't find my way in to the howling, distorted density of their previous Leave Home, Open You Heart opens their sound and delivers something in short supply these days - a rock and roll album played by Men. Ya dig Skate?
7. Mark Cutler - Sweet Pain - I reviewed this album for the Providence Phoenix in June 2012 and found much to love, noting "Sweet Pain is an understated stunner. Combining the subtle urgency of Tom Petty's Full Moon Fever and the weathered grace of Alejandro Escovedo, the album's charms unfold slowly and reward repeated spins." We need new music from Mark Cutler in 2014.
6. Gaslight Anthem -Handwritten - Continuing their winning streak, the Gaslight Anthem's tattooed punk is perfect for two dollar PBR's and bar band sing-alongs. One of the best American bands of the last ten years.