#15 The Everyday Things - Lighten Up, Francis (Not Lame Records, 2005)
Mod pop for a post-mod age! The Everyday Things certainly do seem to be living in another century on Lighten Up, Francis. Good thing too. It's possible to hear hints of early Kinks, The Easybeats, The Hollies, and even The Monkees on this perfect party album. "She Likes it Like That," "Time to Realize" and "I've Got My Eye on You" are jolts of high energy power pop. "Falling in Love" and "Colleen Colleen" represent the sweeter sounding side of the band. Tracks like the blistering "Found You Out" are over in a flash; a flash that will sear itself onto your eardrums. "She Wouldn't Listen" reminds this listener of the best Cherry Twister records. Yeah, it's that good.
#14 Owsley - The Hard Way (Lakeview, 2004)
It's almost amazing now to think how disappointed a lot of Owsley fans were with this second and, sadly, final Owsley album. The fans got it wrong. Sure, Owsley zigged when the fans were expecting him to zag, but this album hits all the right notes. Gone is the frivolity of his eponymous effort, replaced by a more serious and introspective songwriting style. "Be With You" and "She's The One" offer optimism tempered by hard experience. "Matriarch" and the title track examine different aspects of loss, natural and self-imposed. Only the last two tracks seem to make direct acknowledgement of Owsley's previous album, with "Dirty Bird" and "Rainy Day People" featuring the quirky song writing and sound that marked the first effort. The latter also has a killer guitar solo. Throw in a wonderful cover of "Band on the Run" and, damn it all, you've got one fine album.
#13 Wiretree - Luck (Cobaltworks, 2009)
This is the type of album that grows on you like one of those flesh eating bacterium. The sound here is slightly folky and slightly funky, sort of like the best of Toad The Wet Sprocket's work, but with a heavier pop veneer. "Back in Town" and "Rail" build up early momentum and the album never lets it go. "Falling" is the sort of lush pop song you expect to hear a female singing (maybe Bic Runga), but somehow Kevin Peroni's vocals do it justice. "Information" is an amazing song which builds and builds until it bursts, after a classic false ending. The only better song on the album is the amazing "Satellite Song" which sounds like the Fixx would if they recorded better material.
#12 Edmund's Crown - Regrets of a Company Man (Edmund's Crown, 2006)
This is a band that plays both kinds of music; rock AND roll. They can do it all. From slick pop rock ("Feet on the Ground"), to gritty Americana ("Damsel"), to power pop balladry ("Company Man"), to straight ahead rock ("Stuck in an Office"). And that's all within the first four songs. There are fourteen more, and the highlights are very high indeed. The bluesy "Keith Richards" wittily tries to end an interminable argument - you gotta give them credit for trying - "Eight Years Ago" is a sort of mix between a Graham Parker song and a Brad Jones song, and every bit as amazing as that sounds. The absolute best, however, is the track "Not That It Matters" which you can think of as an up-tempo kissin' cousin to 10cc's "I'm Not In Love." It's utterly perfect, and a serious contender for song of the decade. Wow, just wow.
#11 The Humbugs - On The Up Side (Oddvious Records, 2009)
This is the album where The Humbugs put it all together. The album begins with a Posies-ish flourish in the rocking "One More Day" and it only gets better from there. "Lies Behind The Glass" is a bouncy pop number in a Squeeze vein with wonderful guitar work and a sassy lead vocal. "Calico Eyes" and "Fireflies" push the tempo in a wonderfully tuneful way. Depth is added to the album in the tortuous resignation of the protagonist in "Employee of the Month", and in a poignant reflection on the nature of forgiveness ("Crash on your Couch"). Even Jellyfish gets a nod in the deliriously delicious "Walking Home To You" (which comes complete with mock brass marching band.) On The Up Side is a pop tour de force.