Bury Me in My Rings
Riffing: Not really "mid-century West Coast pop" but gentle hooks ache like a Silverlake sunrise. Lots of beauty.
Reference points: The gentle "Jailbird" is as melancholic a girlfriend-in-jail-song as the Zombies "Care of Cell 44." "Babyface" reprises beautifully the pure-pop "she's a run-around" line-motif!
If you like: Ed Harcourt, Rilo Kiley, Black Box Recorder, and not knowing where the strings come in.
The Felice Brothers
Riffing: Dancehally twists on street-corner soft-shoe — literate proletariat imagery and sarcasm intact. Sad ambience too.
Reference points: 'Shew boy, if "Container Ship" ain't the year's best creepy-pop slow-burn. Bleating horns on "Honda Civic" sound like city traffic blurs, and Robbie Robertson wishes he wrote "Ponzi," then or now.
If you like: The idea of Townes Van Zandt, Howe Gelb, street-urchin pop, an occasional sorrowful trumpet, languid piano lines and incidental brilliance.
Rock 'n' Roll Dreamer
Riffing: Scuzzy power-chords, flimsy harmonies and shambolic drums tow cheap love songs involving weekends, city nights and backseat shtups; Mac Blackout is punk-singer blessed.
Reference points: Forget Smith/Westerns, you'll adore this disheveled combo into Berlin Brats and Milk & Cookies. Title track is a telling hit-song sing-along, and "My Lady" is pure Chinn/Chapman.
If you like: The Boys, Dead Boys, Dolls, Dictators, Rezillos, Tuff Darts, Mud, Smith/Westerns.
The Black Watch
Led Zeppelin Five
Riffing: All tear-jerk guitar pop and rarefied songwriting — the kind a precious few can do. Year's best?
Reference points: Soaring singsongs summon House of Love at their best; George Harrison-ish drones ("It's All Too Much"!) and lines like "I think I'll go and drink away some hurt." The goosebumps salute!
If you like: Arcade Fire, Echo and the Bunnymen, Beady Eye, George Harrison, the Stills, House of Love, Television.
Riffing: Cockeyed, often confounding, quirk-to-a-fault rock crammed with kitchen-sink instrumentation, noise, airy hooks and great production (Mike Mogis) and not-brickwalled mastering (Bob Ludwig). Singer Honus is a gifted, well-read word man; passion with scads of topical stranger and strange-land stuff.
Reference points: Third album finds band happily lassoed in; third listen and you're onto the new Gris Gris.
If you like: Fucked-up lullabies, seizure-willing arrangements, deranged New Orleans waltzes, Dr. John, Captain Beefheart.