Hero & Leander (Tapete)
Having earned comparisons to indie icons like Belle & Sebastian, the xx and Arcade Fire, British sextet Hero & Leander makes quite a first impression on debut full-length “Tumble.” With Emily Sills and Gary Cansell working the boy-girl singing dynamic to perfection, H&L serves up a catchy collection of 11 tunes. Just about every song works, with “Collider,” “Kiss Me By the Water Cooler,” “Everything Will Be,” “One Three Four” and “Here Comes the Sun” (no relation to the Beatles tune of the same name) the cream of the crop. This is a band on the rise.
‘The Mountain Moves'
Treetop Flyers (Partisan)
Even though newcomers the Treetop Flyers hail from England, the quintet owes a debt of gratitude to the Laurel Canyon country rock sound that emanated from Southern California in the late 1960s. “The Mountain Moves” is a terrific debut album that finds frontman Reid Morrison and his mates justifying their inclusion in the Partisan Records stable of artists. Opener “Things Will Change” sets the mellow vibe, and Treetop Flyers additionally soar on “Waiting on You,” “Rose Is in the Yard,” “Haunted House” and “Storm Will Pass.” Highly recommended.
‘The Hidden World Revealed'
The Three O'Clock (Omnivore)
You'd be hard-pressed to launch a career with a pair of albums as uniformly excellent as 1983's “Sixteen Tambourines” and 1985's “Arrive Without Travelling,” but that was how the world got to know psychedelic garage rockers the Three O'Clock. Lineup changes and some sub-par albums followed and, by 1988, the band had called it quits. Original members Michael Quercio, Louis Gutierrez and Danny Benair have cobbled together some of The Three O'Clock's earliest recordings for “The Hidden World Revealed,” a 20-track gathering of rarities and unreleased songs that serves to remind just how talented this band was. Among the many highlights are “All in Good Time,” “Stupid Einstein,” “Jet Fighter,” “Sound Surround,” “On My Own,” “Seeing Is Believing” and a fantastic cover of the Byrds' “Feel a Whole Lot Better.”
Willie Nile (Bloodshot)
Though he's carved out a respectable career, it's easy to wonder “what might have been” for singer/songwriter Willie Nile. After showing tremendous promise with his first two albums (1980's self-titled effort and 1981's “Golden Down”), Nile became embroiled in disputes with his label and walked away. It would be a decade before Nile hit the studio again. Since then, Nile has churned out mostly excellent albums every few years and “American Ride” ranks among his most enjoyable. With keepers “This Is Our Time,” “Life on Bleecker Street,” “She's Got My Heart,” “Say Hey” and “There's No Place Like Home,” the 64-year-old Nile still has plenty of gas left in the tank.
‘By the Lamplight'
Larry and His Flask (Cascadian)
My first exposure to the intoxicating country punk of Larry and His Flask came with last October's release of the “Hobo's Lament” EP. The six-piece has risen even higher in my esteem after spinning sophomore full-length “By the Lamplight” pretty much non-stop for the past month. Striking the perfect balance between a hoedown and a mosh pit, Larry and His Flask deliver a winner in this 12-track gem. You won't find a clunker in the bunch, though the guys soar highest on “Out of Print,” “Barleywine Bump,” “Log, Hearth and Ash,” “Home of the Slave,” “Cruel Twist of Fate” and “All That We've Seen.” Track down a copy of this one. You won't regret it.
Morning Fuzz (self-released)
Big Apple's Morning Fuzz has generated some buzz with a pair of solid EPs and makes its full-length debut with the solid “Chasing Ghosts.” There are some nice moments on the 10-track release — most notably “Ready to Go,” “Pizza and Bullets,” “Summer Camp” and “Look at Me Now” — but the album falls short of must-have status. With a bit more seasoning, Morning Fuzz might have a terrific platter in it yet.
Night Club (Gato Blanco)
Back in March, synth-pop duo Night Club introduced itself via a self-titled EP. It was a dancetastic gathering of five tunes and vocalist Emily Kavanaugh and DJ/producer Mark Brooks are back for more with a new EP, “Love Casualty,” that's almost as good. Opener “Don't Wanna Love You Forever” is the clear-cut highlight, and Night Club also delivers on “Give Yourself Up” and “Precious Thing.” “Poisonous” and “Strobe Light” aren't as effective, but Kavanaugh and Brooks are on to something special.
Jay Arner (Mint)
Vancouver, British Columbia native Jay Arner is a musical jack-of-all-trades who has played with a handful of bands, remixed the music of a few more and now steps out of his relative anonymity with a self-titled debut album. This 10-track collection of indie pop is a fun gathering of tunes made all the more impressive by the fact that Arner wrote, performed, recorded and mixed every note himself. Lead single “Midnight on South Granville” is the standout, but Arner also impresses on “Broken Glass,” “Sacrifice,” “Don't Remind Me” and “Wildest One.”
Frank Lenz (Velvet Blue)
Frank Lenz earned his stripes as a drummer for bands like Pedro the Lion, Starfler 59, the Weepies and Everest and he dabbles in ambient rock on the almost entirely instrumental new album “Water Tiger.” It's an intriguing sonic experiment, albeit one that grows a little tiresome over the course of almost 50 minutes. Songs like “Complex Miles and His Undersea Adventure,” “Pentasynth,” “Oh Key Dough Key,” “Hey Be Us Corps Us” and “Debts Lance” are pretty good, though it's a record best absorbed in smaller doses.
‘Bull Goose Rooster'
Watermelon Slim & the Workers (Northern Blues)
Though he started life as Bill Homans, the Boston-born, North Carolina-bred bluesman is best known in music circles as Watermelon Slim. He and his Workers backing band can be counted on to deliver a sizzling album every few years and “Bull Goose Rooster,” like “Ringers,” “Escape From the Chicken Coop” and “The Wheel Man” before it, is no exception. From the opening notes of “Tomorrow Night” to the final strains of “Words Are Coming to an End,” Watermelon Slim hits every note. Other standouts on the 16-track LP include the title track, “I'm a King Bee,” “Prison Walls,” “I Ain't Whistling Dixie,” “The Wobble” and “The Foreign Policy Blues.” Enjoy, y'all.
Little Lonely (self-released)
It's time you make room in your iPod for Juli Cain — aka Little Lonely — whose self-titled debut album is one of the best indie folk releases thus far in 2013. The Missouri native has a delightfully twangy voice and she puts it to good use throughout the 11-track release. Though you won't be able to find a misfire on the album, Little Lonely shine brightest on “Penny's First Available,” “Carnival King,” “The First Time You Left Me,” “Jesus in My Swimming Pool,” “Little Lonely's Lament” and “Buttonwillow.” This one is a must, folks.
‘The Sun Dogs'
Rose Windows (Sub Pop)
There's an old-school approach to the psychedelic rock of Seattle-based newcomer Rose Windows, which is sure to turn the heads of longtime Black Sabbath fans on its expansive, ambitious debut. “The Sun Dogs” is a sprawling nine-track platter clocking in at 49 minutes, as Rose Windows takes time to let each song unwind at its own pace. “The Sun Dogs I: Spirit Modules” is the ideal lid-lifter, and Rose Windows delivers the goods on “Walkin' With a Woman,” “Seasons of Serpents,” “This Shroud” and “The Sun Dogs II: Coda.” Probably best enjoyed when under the influence of, uh, glaucoma medication, “The Sun Dogs” is a winner.
‘Parts of Speech'
You might know Dessa as the lone female emcee in Minneapolis indie rap collective Doomtree, but her solo work has eclipsed her efforts in that buzzed-about outfit. Latest album “Parts of Speech” is her most personal song cycle to date and that introspective approach pays off in spades. The one-two punch of “The Man I Knew” and “Call Off Your Ghost” are flat-out terrific, and though she can't maintain that pace, Dessa delivers on “Skeleton key,” “Dear Marie,” “The Lamb,” “Beekeeper” and “It's Only Me.”
Hausu (Hardly Art)
It's fitting that indie rock newcomer Hausu is about to embark on a tour filled with all-ages shows because not every member of the four-piece is old enough to buy beer. Promising debut full-length “Total” has generated some deserved buzz for a band that, with a bit more seasoning, could turn out to be something special. There are flashes on the 10-track debut, most notably lead single “Chrysanthemum,” “1991-2091,” “Recovery” and “Kool Off,” but a few inconsistent tunes prevent it from being an essential release. Keep your eye on Hausa.
Not to be confused with reality TV “personality” (and wannabe pop singer) Heidi Montag, Montag is the nom de plume of Montreal electronic musician Antoine Bedard. “Phases” marks the culmination of his ambitious 2012 in which Bedard wrote and released a digital single every month of the year. The 12 tunes have been gathered together to form a surprisingly cohesive and effective album that should raise Montag's profile considerably. “Trip the Light Fantastic” is the best of the bunch, but Bedard also scores with “Next Life,” “New Found Land,” “There Is a Voice,” “Phares” and “The Last Call.”
‘Every Man Should Know'
Harry Connick Jr. (Columbia)
It's been a busy year for Harry Connick Jr. In February, the soon-to-be 46-year-old crooner released “Smokey Mary” to mark the 20th anniversary of Krewe of Orpheus, a Mardi Gras parade in his native New Orleans that he co-founded. He's back already with “Every Man Should Know,” a personal collection of 12 originals that Connick said finds him diving deeper “into my inhibition pool” than ever before. There's a mellow groove to the album and Connick gets a boost from pals Branford and Wynton Marsalis on standouts “Let Me Stay” and “Being Alone,” respectively. Other keepers include the title track, “Love My Life Away” and country-leaning closer “Time to Go.”
‘The Best of Merry Clayton'
Merry Clayton (Ode/Legacy)
Though Merry Clayton's most enduring musical legacy is her work as a backup singer for the Rolling Stones (“Gimme Shelter”), Ray Charles, Elvis Presley, Joe Cocker and the Supremes, she experienced some success as a solo performer in the early 1970s. “The Best of Merry Clayton” is her first compilation album and includes her five charting singles and 11 album tracks among its 17 cover tunes. Clayton adds new life to familiar hits like “Southern Man” (Neil Young), “Country Road” (James Taylor), “Grandma's Hands” (Bill Withers), “Suspicious Minds” (Presley), “Bridge Over Troubled Water” (Simon & Garfunkel) and “A Song for You” (Leon Russell). Wow.
Jeffrey Sisk is an editor for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-664-9161 ext. 1952, or firstname.lastname@example.org.