The year’s end usually consists of holiday-themed CDs, gift-worthy reissues and the curious solo projects. Not to begrudge THE PUPPINI SISTERS’ rosy, cozy, robust, “Christmas with the Puppini Sisters,” THE BOY LEAST LIKELY TO’s wickedly winsome, “Christmas Special,” THE SUPERIONS’ deliciously fruity, “Destination…Christmas” or mind-blowing live JEFFERSON AIRPLANE circa 1966 plus deluxe editions of classic albums from KING CRIMSON, QUEENSRYCHE and TOM PETTY but for December’s seasonal blessings go solo.
Darren Hayman and the Secondary Modern - Essex Arms
Album title: Essex Arms
Record Label: Fortuna POP
Hefner’s Hayman weaves beautiful, magpie melodies inside English folk-rock serenades; brisk, busker’s delights laced in sweet, solemn solace and poetic biography. Adventurous remembrance culled from sharp, detailed hindsight and a journalist’s lens, “Essex,” breeches bittersweet sequences, framing youthful folly as personal mementos, adolescent messages turned into classic verbal portraits wistfully pilfering willful nostalgia, exhuming a vanishing era in crafted memories.
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Rusty Willoughby - Cobirds Unite
Album title: Cobirds Unite
Record Label: Local 638
Veteran of Seattle bands Pure Joy and The Llamas. Willoughby gathers talented friends together to croon clue-strewn Americana constructed from vagabond bravado and heart-felt camaraderie. Decorated in classy attachments, “Cobirds,” blends vibraphones to steel guitars, banjos and cellos before injecting Visqueen’s Rachel Flotard’s ghostly back-up vocals into burnished, burnt-out ballads dipped in desolate effortlessness, alt-country hunches formed from waltzing thoughts.
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Radioseed - There Has To Be More
Album title: There Has To Be More
Record Label: Quince
Serving cosmic cocktails in vibrant trip-hop gospel and shambolic ambient landscapes, Eurovillage’s Peter Wikstrom lays sun-kissed synths over dazzling Belize-teased beats. Androgynous dreamboat psychedelia sashays down air-brushed runways, turbo-lifted into paisley gravy and padded madness. Stratospheric furnaces cook delirious conspiracies, melting swells and poolside exotica. Ushering carpets of calm, “More” extends, suspends and upends convention within imagination’s all-night disco temple.
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Brian James - Brian James Gang
Album title: Brian James Gang
Record Label: Easy Action
The Damned’s former guitarist cruises bargain basement blues in leathery, rock and roll ecstasy, squeezing out ballsy British punk-rock rants in snarling, cat-scratch flash and rabid, stabbing grit. Amped up and adamant, “Gang,” rumbles with bristling swagger, dancing along powder keg edges while lighting nuclear fuses. Mod, fitful firing squads sculpt churning, anarchist’s shrapnel, prowling provocatively beneath seething cathartic artistry
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Birthmark - Shaking Hands
Album title: Shaking Hands
Record Label: Hidden Agenda
Synthesizing and simplifying haunting chamber-jazz into sequestered sambas and cinematic symphonies, Joan of Arc’s multi-instrumentalist Nate Kinsella spawns songs drawn from resplendent intelligence; composing potent tones honed and harnessed, methodically weighed and conveyed. Smoothing moods and stirring scourges. “Hands,” cerebrally conceived art-folk moments juggle backwards tracks and monochromatic mantras to create precarious canvases, pairing acoustic solitude alongside avant rabbit-hole confessions.
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Terry Ohms - What Do You Mean What Do I Mean?
Album title: What Do You Mean What Do I Mean?
Record Label: Skybucket
Rambling musical munchies welcome blissful hippies and slick hipsters into rainbow roadhouses and sunshine sideshows as Vulture Whale’s Wes McDonald unleashes loose-lipped lyrics over languid street corner boogie and tasty Southern funk. Party-dude grooves elevating scruffy shuffles to Orgone-lubricated sojourns, “Mean,” celebrates life’s idiosyncratic happenings, a free-wheeling eco-friendly Bohemia poured into blessedly messy drawls, devil-may-care come-ons and stoked folk-jam remedies.
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Terry Ohms online:
The Innocence Mission - My Room in the Trees
Album title: My Room in the Trees
Record Label: Badman Recordings
Sweetly sleepy poetry acquiesces beautiful folk-jazz acoustics; nuanced and modestly confidence, embroidered tapestries cushion TIM’s passively happy and quietly kind observations. Graceful descriptions waft between quaint restraint and captivating compassion. Tentative and demure, “Room,” provides tranquil relief through wide-eyed wonder languishing within waking piano, whispery strings and dreamy guitars.
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Solo projects, side projects, one-time collaborations; the season simmers with musicians comingling. From former members of Black Dice and Town & Country come SOFT CIRCLE’s electro-rock fantasies, “Shore Obsessed,” Animal + Bitch’s ANIMAL PRUFROCK unfurls whimsical socio-political folk-funk on, “congratulations; thank you + I’m sorry,” meanwhile Grateful Dead’s Bill Kreutzmann, the Meters’ Harry Porter Jr. and Papa Mali conjure swamp-funk mojo in their deep-fried self-titled debut, “7 Walkers.” Lastly, cross-pollinating cultures inspire exotic synergy as Sufi, Middle Eastern and Indian prodigies team to weave the rich, bewitching tapestry, “Nagore Sessions”