Best Albums of 2018

While we are all ready for 2019 to start, not all of 2018 should be forgotten about. It was an excellent year for some shining new artists and some veterans who produced their best work to date. As a result, here are the best albums of the year (according to a recovering music addict):

Listen to all the Best Albums of 2018: Apple Music | Spotify

Listen to the Best Songs of 2018: Apple Music | Spotify

10) Mitski – Be The Cowboy

Standout Tracks

  • Nobody
  • Lonesome Love
  • Washing Machine Heart

What it sounds like: carefully crafted songs that get fired into your cortex like a slap shot taken with hyper-accurate succinctness (most clocking in at less than three minutes each). Hard to classify as straightforward pop, the prominent bits and hooks get locked into your unconsciousness right out the gate.

Why I love it: punchy anthems that grab you by the shirt collar, toss you to the floor, and carefully dust you off–all before you can realize what just happened. This is suave and cheeky artistry worth assimilating.

9) The Magic Gang – The Magic Gang

Standout Tracks

  • All That I Want Is You
  • Jasmine
  • Fade Away

What it sounds like: the most earworm-worthy and addicting release on this list (hard to believe it’s a debut effort), The Magic Gang give a thoughtful nod to clean-shaven Beach Boys, early Weezer and even minor tinges of guitar influence from Strokes era stalwarts. But there’s a uniquely refreshing hint of British snark and maturity that will likely help their self-titled debut sound even better for summers to come.

Why I love it: the nerd rock torch was dropped a while ago (at least in regards to front-to-back albums worth mentioning). The Magic Gang somehow reignite the flame with hook, fuzz and harmony for one of the best straightforward rock records of the year.

8) Death Cab for Cutie – Thank You For Today

Standout Tracks

  • Autumn Love
  • Your Hurricane
  • Northern Lights

What it sounds like: Gibbard’s airy crooning prospers from gentle guitar melodies and atmospheric electronic tones. Thank You For Today borrows elements from the classic Death Cab rulebook, but also expands into different sonic territories, thanks to the addition of two new band members.

Why I love it: I have a special relationship with Ben Gibbard’s catalog–various projects have been in fairly constant rotation throughout the years–and Thank You For Today is destined to sit alongside their best work. It’s been both a challenge and blessing to be a dedicated Death Cab fan due to how easily they can become attached to dramatic real life experiences. Instead, Thank You For Today feels more like a dreamy serenade than a somber soliloquy.

7) Tash Sultana – Flow State

Standout Tracks

  • Murder To The Mind
  • Salvation
  • Big Smoke

What it sounds like: we wouldn’t have Tash Sultana without 90s R&B or Hip-Hop, but equally important are the flashes of Hendrix, Buckingham and a pantheon of jazz guitarists crawling through Flow State. This musical virtuoso can pick up and play over twenty instruments, but has the insight to leave space in compositions so listeners can enjoy each masterfully crafted moment.

Why I love it: bluesy and breathy narrative carries you through intricate guitar work and powerful beats, all written and beautifully performed by Tash. This is the cure for your Sunday morning hangover, an elixir of subtly lush yearning and provocative confidence.

6) Soccer Mommy – Clean

Standout Tracks

  • Your Dog
  • Cool
  • Last Girl

What it sounds like: with a vulnerable intensity that’s fueled by punchy guitars, Clean has finite pure moments but more often penetrates through your ears with a carefully disguised acid tongue. This is angsty guitar rock that rotates between impressive production and performance, both techniques used to highlight Clean’s dynamic elements.

Why I love it: there’s no doubting how well Soccer Mommy can sing with blunt honesty. As you dive into this album, you’ll think you’re feeling empathy for the authors long-lost love, when in reality she’s helping you look more closely into the mirror of your own failed romances. Label this one pre/post break-up album of the year and one that’s guaranteed to inspire a new generation of singer-songwriters, locked away in bedrooms for hours on end.

5) Israel Nash – Lifted

Standout Tracks

  • Rolling On
  • SpiritFalls
  • Looking Glass

What it sounds like: reflections of Neil Young, Wilco and Gram Parsons with luscious three-part harmonies lurking below a layer of Israel’s tender lead vocals. Slide guitar and pedal steel help bridge a path between the vibrant acoustic work and splashes of piano.

Why I love it: Lifted is the perfect album to put on while sitting by a warm fire, savoring a glass of whisky and taking in the mountain air. But it’s just as enticing through the trials and tribulations of everyday life–here’s a record that has the ability to lift your spirits and cleanse your soul.

4) Leon Bridges – Good Thing

Standout Tracks

  • Shy
  • Bad Bad News
  • Bet Ain’t Worth The Hand

What it sounds like: smooth as ever, Leon on Good Thing isn’t quite as distant as the one found on Coming Home like some reviews may lead you to believe–but this certainly is a new phase of Bridges’ career. Leon moves past the innocence of 50s/60s Motown and starts tipping his hat to other R&B influences more closely traced back to the 70s/90s.

Why I love it: Bridges found even more groove and control while creating this example of neo soul perfection. Recognition must be granted to the ultra talented backing group, with extra accolades directed at the rhythm section on tracks like “ Bad Bad News” and “Shy”. Good Thing is like a two ingredient cocktail—one part will make you move, the other will move you.

3) Franz Ferdinand – Always Ascending

Standout Tracks

  • Paper Cages
  • Feel The Love Go
  • Always Ascending

What it sounds like: pronouncing guitars battle against seismic choruses, loaded with tranquilizing backing vocals that slide in between Kapranos’ trademark howls. This one’s a party of snappy indie rock.

Why I love it: while the rest of us are doing our best to forget 2018, Alex Kapranos and co. are already looking forward to 2020 and beyond. Most may pass over this album while thinking it’s the same old mid-2000s indie marketed to meet the needs of today’s listeners. Instead, we’ve been graced with a band gravitating towards new heights and leaving behind the disciples who didn’t make it into the music streaming stratosphere.

2) Father John Misty – God’s Favorite Customer


Standout Tracks

  • Just Dumb Enough To Try
  • Please Don’t Die
  • God’s Favorite Customer

What it sounds like: Misty gets down to brass tacks on God’s Favorite Customer. There’s fewer quips than Fear Fun, more heartfelt memoirs than we heard on Honeybear, and a near-complete removal of the dismal world view found on Pure Comedy. These songs are concisely-constructed and calculated attacks on his own personal relationship fumbles.

Why I love it: Father John’s snarkier songs are undeniably enjoyable, but it’s always been the more sincere cuts that convey his full potential. Luckily, that’s exactly what we get here. On “Just Dumb Enough To Try” we get full-blown ballad Elton meets Nilsson, while “Please Don’t Die” begs to be played on repeat with the most impressive falsetto vocals we’ve heard from Father Josh. This might be his best yet (noting this is just the type of commentary he’d hate to read, and that makes it ever more important to write since it’s guaranteed to fuel his next effort).

1) Jump Little Children – Sparrow

Standout Tracks

  • X-Raying Flowers
  • Euphoria Designed
  • White Buffalo

What it sounds like: an elegant endeavor into infectious melodies and exciting musical arrangements. Jay Clifford’s soothing vocals glide across the speakers, pushing through with breathy undertones earmarked with gusto. The production and execution supersedes even heftier budgeted work from major league-level recording studios.

Why I love it: Sparrow is a valiant return to recorded music where Jump Little Children twist between variances of folk, jazz and orchestral rock. They’ve combined veracious lyrics with vital musicianship and tenacious rhythms to somehow breed an inspiring new form of baroque pop. If this your first foray into JLC’s catalog, you’ll quickly understand why you’ve been missing out.

Honorable Mentions:

Thomas Dybdahl – All These Things, Muse – Simulation Theory, The Coral – Moving Through The Dawn, The Vines – Miracle Land

About “The Best Albums of 2018” List:

The above list was developed to help readers find new music via the music service of their choice. I try to keep the commentary concise, only including the elements that I find most helpful when receiving a recommendation: brief list of my favorite songs, how each record compares to other artists/albums folks may know, and what’s unique (or what do I love) about these albums in particular. 

– Kenny Bringelson

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Vinyl View: Harry Nilsson – A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night

Delicately crafted orchestral arrangements accompany impeccable vocals from one of the ’70s greatest artists. Comfort music at it’s finest.  

It was between McCartney’s debut solo album McCartney, the new Rx Bandits LP Gemini, Her Majesty or a third record, and more importantly an artist that I had shrugged off for years — an artist I knew had some serious clout (this musician had been recommended to me by my musical pundit brother many times before) but was never given a fair chance.

Listening to a Harry Nilsson record always felt like a gamble — a Russian roulette of the turntable that could result in 45 minutes of precious vinyl time I could never get back. His name would pop up in conversations both familial and semi-social and I figured I would half like it, half think it was unworthy of spinning again. Thankfully, I finally gave this aforementioned artist a chance.

130717_CBOX_Nilsson.jpg.CROP.rectangle3-largeA Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night is incredible and sounds like something you would hear in a dimly lit café somewhere in Venice. The arrangements are spectacular (a tip of the cap to conductor and arranger Gordon Jenkins) and the production is absolutely perfect (thanks to Derek Taylor’s clean and crisp vision). This record is one part comfort and two parts fervor.

The real genius in this record lies within Harry’s ability to take a bunch of standards, sung previously by the likes of Nat Cole, Judy Garland or Frank Sinatra, and transform them into songs that feel more like “In My Life” (Beatles) than “That’s Life” (Sinatra). Nilsson was capable of taking these classic cuts and nudging them into the modern era with a contemporary twist. Even in 2014, these songs feel more like tracks from a lost Ben Folds album rather than songs you might hear at a rundown karaoke bar.

Nilsson’s tone is welcoming on nearly every song, especially album opener “Lazy Moon” and “You Made Me Love You (I Didn’t Want to Do It).” Delicate string arrangements accompany his captivating voice all throughout A Little Touch with a prime example being the echoing orchestration on “For Me And My Gal.” But the highlight of his singing abilities is shown during the falsetto breakdown of “This Is All I Ask.”

Nilsson and Lennon John Lennon always spoke of Harry with very high regard and is reported as saying, “Nilsson’s my favorite group.” Nilsson has clearly mastered the art of dynamics with a perfect vocal delivery on every song. The album’s closer “As Time Goes By” sounds familiar at first but it quickly becomes apparent that Harry’s take feels warmer than any previous versions.

Each song takes the listener to a place where wine glasses never empty, the fireplace never goes out and good conversation never ends with tracks both full of comfort (“What’ll I Do”) and familiarity (“Always”).

Final View:  While the songs are borrowed, the passion is unique and Harry’s vocals are unmatched. Whether or not they realize it, the Adeles and Bublés owe something to Mr. Nilsson for bridging the gap between vintage 1940s singers and contemporary artists. A Little Touch gives you a taste of life where everything feels settled and placed right where it should be.

Overall score: 8.5/10

Vinyl View: Miles Davis – Sketches of Spain

Cinematic jazz lead by a trumpet engulfed in purity, provacativity and unmatched prowess.  It begins as a romantic journey that develops into a dramatic apex and finally returns to a gentle, comfortable location.  More classical than the usual improv-based jazz that Miles Davis fans are used to.  

Let me preface this review by stating a very important fact: I am no jazz aficionado.  However, my qualifications for this review are as follows:

  • I own and enjoy multiple jazz records (including another Miles Davis/Gil Evans record, Quiet Nights)
  • I have always been extremely fascinated by 1940s Jazz, including Django Reinhardt’s two-fingered, French-Gypsy, swing-style
  • I believe that I have a good ear for understanding music that’s considered “different”, while enjoying modern progressive artists that reference Miles Davis as a major inspiration

Miles DavisSide I:

“Concierto De Aranjuez”

For the sake of this review, I have broken down this lengthy track into four sections – divided by tempo changes or other dramatic alterations

– Part I – 

The album starts with the mysterious clattering of castanets, followed by some distant horns, strings and elegant percussion that builds upon a slow cinematic experience.  Lead by Davis’ signature trumpet, the beginning of the marvelous “Concierto De Aranjuez” sounds like the start of a gentle rainfall. An elegant string section, gentle harp and perfectly supportive horn section join carefully placed hits of the high-hat and a muddled bass line.  This part of the song would go well with a cloud-covered walk along the beaches of Cadaqués, or any other coastal town in Barcelona.

– Part II – 

In the middle of a verse (near the three minute mark) the beauty is replaced by an outburst of electrifying sound, fronted by an aggressive array of horns.  As the beat changes into a swing, the mood is carefully altered.  Blistering horns and eerie strings support Davis’ provocative melody. The production here is superb – giving Miles Davis the ideal platform for showcasing his incredible talent alongside Gil Evans superb orchestral arrangement.  The end of this section sounds like a theatrical form of jazz with a dramatic eeriness (I’m guessing Sondheim may have found inspiration here for elements of Sweeney Todd’s 1979 musical score).

– Part III – 

Another significant development in “Concierto De Aranjuez” occurs right before the eight minute mark.  The castanets return as Evans, once again, alters the arrangement to deviate his orchestra into a new direction. Davis’ muted trumpet creates a pure sound that compliments the adventurous mood of this third act.  It now feels more like traditional jazz than any of its proceeding moments. An interesting bass line carries the majority of this section, until the climatic apex around the twelve minute mark.

– Part IV – 

Another intense outpouring of trumpets and other horns prelude this final section. Aggressive tambourine shakes lead directly into an anxious arrangement of brass.  A gentle array of woodwinds follow and seem to apologize for the previous hostility.  The listener is taken on a new journey as quiet becomes the leading element.  Davis’ signature trumpet closes out this track as the castanets return one final time – taking you back to the calming beach on Cadaqués. 

“Will O’ The Wisp”

The second track, “Will O’ The Wisp”, has a contemporary structure (especially when compared to it’s predecessor).  The catchy melody is easy to follow and the orchestra works to compliment Miles throughout the cut.  A soulful bass provides bottom something primarily dominated by high pitched trumpets.  “Will O’ The Wisp” feels more like an interlude than a complete song with the sole mission of preparing the listener for side two of the album.

Miles Davis Gil EvansSide II:

“The Pan Piper”

Side II begins with a brief declaration by Miles’ vibrant trumpet, followed by trailing flutes and breezy bells.  “The Pan Piper” is a great song that fuses together Gil Evans’ excellent sense of certain classical elements with upbeat jazz.  The real hero of this track is  found in the partnership established between the bass and drums which gives Davis the perfect canvas to sketch his playing upon. You’ll wish the rhythm track went on forever or at the very least, spanned the entirety of the track (instead of just the second half).

“Saeta”

If the Spanish military had a soundtrack, “Saeta” would definitely be on it.  Davis’ timbre is exceptional here as his instrument takes center stage.  But the rest of the song seems odd with a marching drum beat that dominates, droning strings and a horn sound reminiscent of a réveil from a bugle. “Saeta” is strange when set amongst the other cuts on Sketches of Spain and is the only questionable moment on the record.  It seems like there must be a backstory to this song, which could help give it context.

“Solea”

“Solea” also includes a similar military drum beat, but instead uses this more as a starting point, rather than the main basis for the song.  Maybe the strongest piece of work on Sketches of Spain, this final track has near perfect production.  A magnifying bass line fits in perfectly amongst the rhythm section.  Evans’ arrangements help to compliment Davis’ playing in a way that feels planned but not stale in any way.  For me, this is the song that includes everything I want from a Miles Davis record: a great melody played flawlessly by Miles, has both quiet instances and climactic apexes, and establishes a refreshing structure that is contained yet still feels improvised at times.  Listeners of “Solea” are guaranteed to start dancing or moving in their seat during the concluding moments as Sketches of Spain draws to a close.

Final View: Sketches of Spain truly is a masterpiece – but it also requires an asterisk (*): this challenging record is not meant to be played in the background of a casual dinner party, like some other jazz albums.  Careful listening is required to enjoy the moments of quiet beauty while the surprising outbursts of sound could send the wine glass of any casual listener flying across the room. Listener, consider yourself warned and appreciate this cliché – expect the unexpected.

Overall score: 9/10

Recommended if you like: Miles Davis albums, jazz with minimal improv, classical music

Vinyl View: George Harrison – Living in the Material World

For someone my age, I’m most likely one of the biggest Beatles fans around (my brother being the only other person I know that can run circles around my mop-top knowledge).  I tend to favor John Lennon songs over any other Beatle, with George Harrison coming in closely behind because of his unique guitar playing and honest lyrics. While George’s Beatle catalogue is somewhat limited, most of his cuts are gems and have become some of my favorite songs by the Fab Four (i.e. “Something”, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and “I, Me, Mine”).

To preface this review, I’d like to point out that my experience with George’s solo work is very limited.  All Things Must Pass remains one of my favorite albums of all-time by any artist.  But other than that, I’m unfamiliar with the majority of his post-Beatle career.

materialworld-lpSide I: 

Living in the Material World is wonderfully refreshing and full of slide guitar, stellar vocals and the influence of greatness.  For a an album that came out 40 years ago (1973), the songs could easily be shuffled in with newer releases by My Morning Jacket or Wilco.

The album opener, “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth) “, is the only track that I was familiar with before this listen.  In traditional post-Maharishi Harrison fashion, the lyrics discuss George’s relationship with the Lord and how it helps him cope with life.  It can be classified as a “nice” track – something that warms your heart.  Luckily for us, the album gets heavy very quickly.

“Sue Me, Sue You Blues” is a solid track carried by plenty of Harrison’s crafty slide guitar work.  Tumbling cymbals guide the song alongside a Bill Joel-esque piano riff and lyrics suggestive of an agressive legal battle.  The double-tracked vocals sound warm and powerful while never reaching the glossy pop feel of his previous vocal work with The Beatles – a feat that makes perfect sense on this song.

On most albums, track three tends to have a reputation of being the single or most radio-friendly track.  “The Light That Has Lighted The World” is instantly likable and could have easily been played on 70s radio. But to my knowledge, it is only heard by those lucky enough to find it within the confines of this album.  Like many of his songs, George’s vocal melody and carefully placed electric guitar accents add depth to a somewhat simple song. The piano dominates in terms of instrumentation but shimmering production on the acoustic guitar track cause it to outshine all of the other musical elements.

“Don’t Let Me Wait Too Long” is a great, GREAT alt rock song.  It finds Harrison singing portions of the verses in falsetto, before leading into “now don’t let me wait too long” with thunderous drumming.  Indie rock owes a lot to this song in terms of how George has crafted something that doesn’t necessarily sound complicated into an intelligent composition full of behind-the-scenes complexity.

George always had this ability to shape slower songs into adventurous ballads.  “Who Can See It” compliments the tracks occurring before and after but probably wouldn’t stand well played on it’s own.  The vocals are the definite highlight of this song with a powerful performance that follows a beautiful melody.

“Living In The Material World” is a mediocre track that upon first listen, seems like it could have been cut from the album.  While it stands out from other songs with a bridge that includes Ravi Shanker inspired instruments, an out of place sax solo gives it a bit of a pre-disco “Whatever Gets You Through The Night” vibe (possibly my least favorite Lennon song ever).    It even ends like an episode of Saturday Night Live, complete with synchronicity between the sax, drums and piano as the credits roll across the turntable.

material-world1-1Side II:

While Side I felt like a collection of individual songs, the second side feels cohesive with each song flowing into the next.  One of my favorite tracks on the album has to be (surprisingly) “The Lord Loves the One”.  Harrison’s guitar playing soars atop solid grooves to create a welcoming atmosphere.  While I can’t personally relate to the lyrical content (that which could have been found in many Sunday sermons), there is no doubt that Harrison is passionate about the contents of this song.

“Be Here Now” is simplistically beautiful and includes everything you want to hear on an overcast November morning.  I feel like after some time, it will become one of my most favorite George Harrison songs ever.  The acoustic guitar is reminiscent of Nick Drake (only in tone, not necessarily in style) and compliments George’s double-tracked vocals perfectly.  A gentle organ gives this song depth while a heavy standup bass causes this track to be heavier than it should.

George is no stranger to the dramatic waltz (“I,Me, Mine” and “Long, Long, Long”).  “Try Some Buy Some” swings heavily from side-to-side with excellent orchestral accompaniment as Jim Gordon (of Derek and the Dominos) lays down the ideal drum track.  Including some of the best vocals on the album, this song could have easily have fit alongside some of the more theatrical work from McCartney on Sgt. Pepper and Magical Mystery Tour.

“The Day The World Get’s ‘Round” and “That Is All” both tip their hats to Lennon and contain elements of “Imagine” in terms of lyrics and piano structure.  The first feels like it could be  great but ends up lacking any sort of originality.  While being my least favorite song on Side II, the intro and outro are refreshing and keep “The Day…” from becoming a skippable track.

The final track on the album, “That Is All”, starts with lyrics that carefully sum up Living in the Material World: “That is all I want to say”.  Although another piano balled, the bridge propels this track into excellence as George sings “Times’ I find it hard to say, with useless words getting in my way.”  A brief signature guitar solo adds familiarity to this cut – rounding out the album and leaving the listener feeling satisfied with another great album by another great Beatle.

Overall score: 8.5/10

Recommended if you like: The Beatles, Wilco, My Morning Jacket, Ryan Adams and the Cardinals

Best Kept Secrets of (Indie) Rock in the 2000s

Author’s note: This is my personal guide to all the nerdy insights and forgotten lore of indie rock from the 2000s. I have tried to omit personal opinions in order to keep the article as factual as possible. Of course, some snuck through (it’s tough when writing about the music you love). Make sure to click on the links in each section to see the videos, hears the songs and experience each fact firsthand.


21. Chris WallaMany albums by The Decemberists (The Crane Wife, Picaresque, The Tain EP) Nada Surf (Lucky, The Weight is a Gift, Let Go) and Tegan and Sara (Sainthood, The Con), along with countless others, are produced by Death Cab For Cutie’s CHRIS WALLA. The multi-talented guitar player has also produced almost every Death Cab song ever recorded.


20. jason schwartzmanPHANTOM PLANET‘s hit single “California” was co-written by then drummer Jason Schwartzman – the now famous actor starring in Wes Anderson films like The Darjeerling Limited, Moonrise Kingdom, Fantastic Mr. Fox and Rushmore. The other writer, lead singer Alex Greenwald, was in a few Gap commercials (that cheesy everyone in vests one) and starred as antagonist Seth Devlin beside Jake Gyllenhal in the 2001 film Donny Darko.


19. rogue waveROGUE WAVE‘s drummer, Pat Spurgeon, only has one kidney. But there’s a bigger problem, this kidney doesn’t function too well. Pat goes through a rigorous process to give himself dialysis on the road (hotel rooms – not a big deal, back of rock clubs – sorta a deal, on a moving tour bus – major deal). Dialysis under the right conditions is tricky enough – doing it on tour is a whole different ball game.


18. john nolanThe biggest love triangle in indie rock comes straight from the post-hardcore roots of New Jersey – but J-Wow and Snooki are not involved. When TAKING BACK SUNDAY was first starting out, Jesse Lacey was in the band (now of Brand New fame). At the time, he was dating Michelle Nolan, sister of guitar player John Nolan. Taking Back Sunday recruited lead singer Adam Lazarra – who then began dating the sister – causing Jesse to leave the band and start alt-rockers Brand New. Adam eventually ended the relationship, causing John to leave the band and pursue his own creative outlets with his broken hearted sister. Cue John Nolan and his sister (“the girlfriend”) starting Straylight Run. This three-for-one deal worked out poorly for those immediately involved (heartache) but great for us on the outside (three exciting bands).


17. tumblr_lm5u4yyB8n1qzx2tpo1_500At the end of the video Sic Transit Gloria Fades, Jesse Lacey of BRAND NEW faces a silhouette figure who mimics his hand gestures. It was long rumored to be Geoff Rickley from Thursday but is actually Justin Beck, guitarist for Glassjaw.


Johnny+Marr+marr316. JOHNNY MARR, guitar player from The Smith’s, will probably never reunite with Morrissey for a reunion show. Instead, he returned to the music world in a new form while joining up with indie poppers Modest Mouse. He toured rigorously with the band from 2006 – 2009 and can be heard on 2007 album We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank.


15. ringo zak OASIS‘ dueling brothers, Liam and Noel, are known Beatle fanatics (Liam even named his son Lennon). So it makes sense that Ringo Starr’s son, Zak Starkey , joined Oasis as full-time touring drummer in 2004. Zak also stepped in behind the kit to record for Oasis and can be heard on the albums Don’t Believe the Truth and Dig Out Your Soul. Zak has kept busy since the demise of Oasis and continues to rock out with The Who.


large_092303 GUSTERjc14. You could say that GUSTER‘s drummer marches to the beat of a different drum. Or perhaps, just learned how to play drums a little differently than most other people. Brian Rosenworcel didn’t pick up a drum stick until Guster’s fourth album – playing live shows and recordings with his bare hands (bongos, cymbals, etc.). His unique style has even earned him the nickname “Thundergod” by adoring fans.


jayclifford213. Jay Clifford of JUMP, LITTLE CHILDREN knows pop extremely well. So well that in 2003 singer-songwriter (and long time friend) Howie Day asked Jay to play on his album Stop All The World Now. Jay’s guitar playing and vocals can be heard on most of the album, including the massive hit “Collide“. Clifford is also given co-writing credits for four of the album’s tracks.


936full-leslie-feist12. Before FEIST was making addictive indie pop and some infectious videos with fully choreographed dance sequences (see “1234”), Leslie Feist contributed her talents to two songs on the album Riot on an Empty Street by Kings of Convenience. Side note: Feist was also a member of the indie rock group Broken Social Scene before her solo efforts.


blake-sennett-split11. Rilo Kiley’s talented guitar player (and sometimes singer), BLAKE SENNETT, may look extremely familiar to people who grew up in the ’90s. Reason being…Blake has graced our color TV sets with some very memorable characters. Sennett stared as the silly Ronnie Pinsky on Nickelodeon’s Salute Your Shorts and the notable swirly-giving bully, “Joey The Rat” Epstein, on Boy Meets World. Take that Jenny Lewis’ acting career!


fun-band110. FUN. has seen some pretty stellar success over the past twelve months. Years before the group had started this small SIDE PROJECT (yes, fun. is a side project) each member of fun. traveled the world with their own successful indie rock bands. Multi-instrumentalist Andrew Dost began his musical career as a member of the Michigan band Anathallo. Guitar player and backup vocalist, Jack Antonoff, was the afro-sporting frontman of New Jersey jam band indie rockers Steel Train. Lead singer Nate Ruess could be found belting out infectious indie pop in Arizona favorite The Format.


634.scarlett.john.ls.112012_copy9. Before tearing through solos with indie poppers fun., lead guitar player Jack Antonoff wrote infectious rock gems about heartache, death, life and everything in between. Jack’s debut album with the band STEEL TRAIN (Twilight Tales from the Prairies of the Sun) was written almost entirely about his experiences and heartache with high school sweetheart Scarlett Johansson. The album is littered with not-so-cryptic references about Scarlett (see “Better Love“: Scars are in her name/And she scars me with blame/Hey Scarlet, you’re not the same).


awol8. “Sail” has become an electro-hard rock hit for Los Angeles band AWOLNATION. Let’s not hold our breathe too long for another full length album from AWOL though. The band name is really a moniker for lead singer/songwriter/instrumentalist Aaron Bruno. The Westlake Village native has fronted two other successful bands with some major radio singles, always suffering the same demise – one album and done. Bruno was lead singer of the band Under the Influence of Giants (churning out the smooth 1970s influenced anthem “Mama’s Room“) and Hometown Hero (belting out the high school rocker “Eighteen“).


atthedrivein7. Drama and post-hardcore don’t usually go hand-in-hand. Being punk, being loud and being heard seem to be the fuels behind the fire. But things happen – people change – and soap operas are sometimes born. AT THE DRIVE-IN had just released it’s most critically claimed album to date (Relationship of Command) when the band decided to call it quits. From the ashes of the phoenix arose two bands, separated by hair styles. Prog-rockers The Mars Volta grew from the minds of afro-toting Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Cedric Bixler-Zavala. On the other (less hairy) side came post-rock thrashers Sparta – with ATDI alums Jim Ward, Tony Hajjar and Paul Hinojos.


220px-Greg_Graffin-Starland_BallRoom-20076. BAD RELIGION have been making intelligent punk rock since 1979. Lead singer Greg Graffin’s smart-punk doesn’t halt when the record stops spinning. The Bad Religion co-founder earned a PhD from Cornell University where he teaches evolution and has taught lectures in the life sciences and palentology at UCLA. Oh yea, and he wrote a book. Chalk up a few marks for punk rockers around the world.


Chris Wall Field Manual5. The always busy CHRIS WALLA (see #21) won’t let anything stop him from doing what he loves. Even the U.S. government can’t foil Chris’ musical destiny. In 2007, U.S. Border Patrol agents seized a hard drive containing the master tracks for his first solo album. Reason being: the album was titled “Field Manual“. Chris didn’t let a little armed response keep him down – the album was re-recorded and released in 2008 on Barsuk Records.


Jimmy Eat World Bleed American4. JIMMY EAT WORLD‘s Bleed American album from 2001 made the Arizona alt-rockers into household names with the “The Middle“. After the first single was released (also titled “Bleed American”) with support from the energetic anthem “Sweetness”, the band decided to change the album name to Jimmy Eat World as they became concerned that the album title could somehow be misinterpreted post 9/11.


OKComputer-InRainbows3. A decade may seem like a long time, but really it’s just a decade. Ten years, 521 weeks, 3,652 days. Ok – it IS a long time. But not so long that RADIOHEAD can’t make two albums, 10 years apart, that go together like twins separated at birth. By following these fairly simple instructions, listeners can mix together 1997’s OK Computer and 2007’s In Rainbows to make a seamless listening experience. Basically, when sequenced properly, track 1 from OK Computer leads perfectly into track 1 from In Rainbows, track 2 from both albums match up, etc. – so that the time and key signatures are in almost in perfect sync. That’s some serious future-planning Mr. Yorke.


The-Vines-Interior2. Australian rockers THE VINES have had their share of godlike comparisons in their 10+ year career with some major hits like “Get Free” and “Ride”. Popularity aside, The Vines have recorded consistently diverse albums successfully drawing from respected predecessors like The Kinks, The Beatles, The Clash and even Nirvana. All the while, lead singer Craig Nicholls has been plagued with well-known negative reviews of live performances due to his spastic stage behavior (see meltdown on Letterman). Craig’s erratic behavior was eventually explained through a diagnosis of Aspergers Syndrome (a form of Autism). Post-diagnosis, Craig continues to produce hit songs and some of the best albums of the decade.


postal-service1. The POSTAL SERVICE name (cult collaboration between Death Cab’s Ben Gibbard and Dntel’s Jimmy Tamborello) was inspired by a very reasonable situation. Tamborello, living in Los Angeles and Gibbard, living in Seattle made music by sharing songs bit-by-bit via one of the oldest communication methods in modern American history – The U.S. Postal Service. Long after the hit song “Such Great Heights” helped to earn them 400,000 album sales, only one Postal Service is moving on with full strength hint: the winner still sees success while working on the weekend). The Postal Service recently played a ten year reunion show at Coachella to an insanely large crowd.

*some of the bands in this article may not be considered “indie rock” by typical genre standards (i.e. Oasis) but are included because at some point in their career they released an album on an independent label.