A fun little band of gypsies. The songs are as strong and poppy as anything Coldplay would come up with. But these guys throw on the brass, the accordions, the violins, etc. It ends up sounding like a Russian hoe-down. After their excellent contributions to the "Little Miss Sunshine" soundtrack, kindred spirits DeVotchka’s profile was raised, but they should have been bigger. Hopefully, Fanfarlo, who sound very similar, can make that breakthrough.
Best Track: "The Walls Are Coming Down"
Everything you want from a Kiss album. Sure, it’s absolutely riddled with clichés, but when you figure Kiss basically invented those clichés, it’s really just them doing what they do best. It’s crass and lunkheaded and misogynistic and all the rest of the stuff they’re constantly accused of. And, that’s why we love them.
Best Track: "Modern Day Delilah"
If you really think about it, it’s baffling how consistent the Boys are. They’ve been at it for 25 years and have never released a bad album. In fact, there may not even be a bad song. Now, when you follow a template as meticulously as they do, it may be hard to screw up. It’s not like they take a lot of chances. But, it is an enviable skill to be so good at something that you consistently do it well year after year.
Best Track: "All Over The World"
As these guys have stripped a lot of the cool little tricks they lathered on top of their earlier albums, the songwriting has gotten stronger and stronger and they’ve actually become a much better band, even if they sound less unique. In the beginning, their genius blend of blues and techno was unlike anything anyone else was doing at the time. Still is. But now their sound is richer and the songs are deeper. The gimmicks are largely gone, but the maturity is, arguably, more interesting.
Best Track: "Win Park Slope"
Another example of a band that found the groove among the gimmicks. Canadian band, Metric came up during that time in the early 00’s when groups were merging indie rock with 80s style and synths. Metric were catchy, but lacked much heft. It was pretty noodly in that 80s pong kind of way. Fantasies is them honing those skills into a set of tracks that could almost be described as meat and potatoes alternative rock. Every song is good. Every song is catchy. Never do they sound simple or amateurish. Solid.
Best Track: "Help, I'm Alive"
The guitar God plays it straight. A few years ago, Bob decided he was hanging up his axe for good and turning to turn-tables full time. His fans revolted in droves. Noticing that when you’re one of the world’s greatest guitarists the public would rather you not release dance music, Bob has been melding the two sounds successfully since he returned to form. Of his albums since the comeback, Life and Times rocks the most and will most likely remind you of his excellent work with his power-pop band Sugar.
Best Track: "City Lights (Days Go By)"
Another example of a once world-dominating band from another era that’s releasing consistently strong stuff. It pains me when I realize that one of my all-time favorite bands continues to release music every couple years (admittedly with spotty results) and that music isn’t available for purchase in the United States. Simple Minds have one of the biggest hit singles of all time (“Don’t You Forget About Me”) and was one of the most important and adventurous bands of the 80s, and yet they can’t seem to secure an American record deal. Boggles my mind. The new album is good. They deserve more.
Best Track: "Moscow Underground"
They finally get the mixture right. After years and years of combining Buddy Holly pop simplicity with a Jesus and Mary Chain sonic backdrop, the Raveonettes have produced an album of fluid consistency. They’ve always been able to write a few excellent songs. Now, they have an excellent album. Strange how catchy songs about suicide, drugs, and rape can be. Hope they can keep it going.
Best Track: "Bang!"
It shouldn’t work. One of the most innovative sludgey-guitar-based bands of the last decade decides they want to focus on the synthesizers. In keeping with a recurring theme on this list, it made for one of their most consistent albums. Their first album with that epic hit “Maps” was a smash, so expectations were high for what they’d come back with. Doubt anyone expected this. The nutty thing is, this album’s better than the first. This is the year for techno-pop and who would have guessed that these guys would be leaders of that charge.
Best Track: "Zero"
Mando Diao released one of the best albums of the last decade with their 2003 debut, “Bring ‘Em In” which is also one of the greatest garage rock masterpieces of all-time. Since then, they’ve spit out about an album a year and each one seems to be them taking on a more successful band’s persona whether it be Oasis or Kaiser Chiefs or Stereophonics. None of them were as good as them just being themselves. "Give Me Fire" is the first time since 2003 that they’ve sounded like they should. Hope they can keep it going.
Best Track: "Blue Lining, White Trenchcoat"