Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs—Under the Covers Vol. 2 (Shout Factory)
On their previous covers CD, this loveable duo tackled songs from the 60s, but now they take on the 70s. All sixteen tracks are winners, but George Harrison’s “Beware of Darkness,” Derek & the Dominos’ “Tell The Truth” and Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” really stand out. The most unlikely cover that actually works, though, has to be “I’ve Seen All Good People: Your Move/All Good People,” originally done by Yes.
Black Crowes—Before the Frost…Until The Freeze (Silver Arrow)
Boy are the Black Crowes on a roll. This new studio outing follows hot on the heels of the glorious Warpaint and it’s another stone cold gas. Recorded at Levon Helm’s studio in Woodstock, this is a truly live-in-the-studio outing, complete with a small audience. The rootsy vibe and emphasis again on the songs make this easily one of the Crowes’ best albums ever. The nine-song Until The Freeze, is available free as a download.
Mat Kearney—City of Black & White (Aware/Columbia)
Kearney is another singer-songwriter who is able to get the kind of recording of his very personal songs that can connect with a wide audience. It’s amazing how far he’s come in such a short time, with this being only his second major label release.
Ben Lee—The Rebirth of Venus (New West)
Australian Ben Lee has been around since the mid-90s, making quirky, yet accessible indie pop. Often mistakenly lumped in with the underground singer-songwriter scene, Lee, in fact, makes music that would fit right in on commercial radio if he were only given the chance. While he can be the bard of the wordy broadside, his keen sense of the sing-song pop song and the sweeping vocal choruses inherent throughout this disc make him an likely candidate for hit stardom.
M. Ward—Hold Time (Merge)
Sometimes known more as a record producer, sideman and one half of She & Him (with actress and singer-songwriter Zooey Deschanel), Matt Ward has made a real producer’s record. Treated vocals, liberal, yet subtle stylistic borrowing from everyone from Marc Bolan to Gary Glitter and even a cover of Buddy Holly’s “Rave On” make this lyrically meditative outing one of the more unique albums of the year.