- Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Wrong Creatures
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Wrong Creatures (Vagrant Records) – San Francisco-based Black Rebel Motorcycle Club always maintained a narrow focus on 1970s hard rock of the Blue Oyster Cult variety. But while previous albums have been too derivative, Wrong Creatures adds electronica and voice distortion to make upbeat tunes like “Little Thing Gone Wild” sound like Interpol, while down-tempo tracks like “Haunt” and “Echo” are layered in mysterious whispers.
- Big Star, Live at Lafayette’s Music Room
Big Star, Live at Lafayette’s Music Room (Omnivore) – This 1973 Memphis recording of Alex Chilton’s legendary but troubled post-Box Tops band proves two things: On the one hand, Big Star could deliver a competent and strident set of power-pop tunes. But it also pierces the bubble of cultists who claim Big Star was among the greatest rock bands ever. The 18 original tracks here, along with covers of Flying Burrito Brothers and Todd Rundgren, are passionate, exciting, yet ordinary. If Alex were alive today, he would not wish to be placed on a pedestal, so this memorial suits him fine.
- Jeffrey Gaines, Alright
Jeffrey Gaines, Alright (Omnivore) – Pennsylvania-based Gaines, who made the national TV and arena circuit in the early 1990s with his folk- and country-influenced R&B, returns from relative obscurity with a sound that owes equal debts to Bill Withers and Elvis Costello. Just when you think the slower tracks define a relaxed songwriter genre, songs like “Seems to Me” and “Firefly Hollow” sound almost new wave in execution.