Bell X1—Blue Lights On The Runway (Yep Roc)
This is the second domestic album from Ireland’s indescribable Bell X1. With a slight trace of the Frames in their sound, the group can make lush acoustic rock with orchestral touches or dissonant, energetic pop with equal success. Its idiosyncratic sound has never sounded so inviting and it may now be poised for a breakthrough here in the states.
Guggenheim Grotto—Happy The Man (UFO)
Also hailing from Ireland is the duo of Kevin May and Mike Lynch. Like that of countrymen Bell X1, the band’s music is quite varied, from beautiful acoustic melodies to a sound that is more electronic in nature. While the group doesn’t seem to have the big, hooky songs of Bell X1, its music is just as likeable.
Cracker—Sunrise In The Land Of Milk And Honey (429)
Featuring two former members of Camper Van Beethoven, Cracker has been kicking around for some twenty years. It often displays a near-punk, Rolling Stones approach, and I can think of few bands more obscure who deserve better and who have consistently made great rock ‘n’ roll albums. This new one is one of the group’s best and matches the quality of such cult faves as its classic Kerosene Hat and the grossly underrated Gentleman’s Blues. This is pure, unadulterated American rock ‘n’ roll at its best.
Rocco DeLuca and the Burden—Mercy (Ironworks/Universal Republic)
Half German and half Italian, DeLuca, who grew up in California, is a singer-songwriter of great depth. Recalling Jeff Buckley (and sometimes Buckley’s vocal attempts at outdoing Robert Plant), DeLuca and his band have made a great follow-up to their 2006 debut. DeLuca and the group have also gained attention by having their CDs released by Kiefer Sutherland and Jude Cole’s Ironworks label.
Andrew Bird—Noble Beast (Fat Possum)
Andrew Bird raises introspective, personal singer-songwriter-based music to a new level. Featuring odd rhythms and the best whistling one is likely to hear on an album since the Ennio Morricone-penned soundtrack music for Sergio Leone’s The Good, The Bad & the Ugly, Bird’s music is highly emotional and completely original.