No matter how hard we try, there's so much new music being released every week that it's just impossible to write about all of it. That means that a lot of worthy stuff from both newcomers and established acts alike tends to fall through the cracks. Here's a listen to some 2010 releases that we almost missed that are definitely worth checking out.
History of Modern
Fans of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark probably thought they had heard the last of the group; it's been fourteen years since they last popped with an album and several decades since the band was riding high on the strength of hits like "Enola Gay." Childhood pals Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys still have some very good ideas about how pop music should sound and much of it, like the title cut, bears the mark of their longtime heroes, Kraftwerk. Mostly History of Modern is performed in the lushly elegant, recognizable OMD style of yesteryear, but updated with nods to today like a bit of scratching on "Sometimes." "Save Me" is a bright reworking of the Aretha Franklin oldie, featuring the Queen of Soul herself, and a perfect mash-up of R&B and modern dance music.
Big Oak Records
The Dwight Twilley Band burst out of the gate in 1975 with the amazing pop of "I'm on Fire" but only had sporadic commercial success after that with "Girls" and then "Why You Wanna Break My Heart" from the Wayne's World soundtrack. He's never quit putting out albums though, and those who've followed through the decades know that Twilley writes and performs some of the best pop/rock this side of Tom Petty, and Green Blimp is packed with sugary rockers like "Get Up" and harmony-filled, Beatlesesque tunes like "Me and Melanie," all effervescing around Twilley's distinctive vocals. Guests include Rocky Burnette and Susan Cowsill.
Thompson was long ago anointed as one of the best in both the singer/songwriter and guitar player categories and consistently puts out quality recordings. Perhaps in an effort to push himself to the next level (whatever there is beyond "god" status), Thompson decided to record Dream Attic live. That wouldn't mean much except that the set of songs is all new, meaning that the live audience would be hearing them for the first time as the recording was being made, something that would be a bit of a risky venture if you are not named Richard Thompson. All turned out very nicely though, thank you, and Thompson positively shines in all the sub-genres he works in, from the Dire Straits-like rocker "Money Shuffle" to the mournful Celtic ballad "Among the Gorse, Among the Grey." Thompson fans will be thrilled at what they can find in every corner of this Dream Attic.
Harvest the Beast
Try these guys if you like slightly psych-y garage rock with an Athens, Georgia feel. The guys are actually from Nashville and barely old enough to drink but their influences include classic acts like the Doors, Joy Division and the great Detroit garage bands like the Stooges and MC5.
South African artist Johnny Clegg first came to prominence on American shores almost three decades ago with the underground hit by Juluka, "Scatterlings of Africa." Not quite as prolific, but he is sort of the Fela Kuti of Zulu music; he's not afraid to speak his mind even if it might get him arrested. Here his activist nature (and pop sensibility) is in full swing on songs like "Congo" and "Love in the Time of Gaza" as is his love of African music on sublime harmony vocal numbers like "Asilazi."
Diplomats of Solid Sound
What Goes Around Comes Around
Wow! The opening cut on this record, "B-O-O-G-A-L-O-O," is worth the price of admission all by itself. D.O.S.S. is a seven piece band fond of twangy guitars, greasy sax, and organ riffs and they have two sassy female singers who sing their go-go boots off, channeling the best of Memphis soul and Motown pop simultaneously.