#30 Jason Falkner - Necessity (spinART Records, 2001)
This collection of demos, both of previously released and unreleased material, shows the multi-talented Falkner at his engaging best. In many ways these less busy recordings show better than those on his full blown albums. "She Goes To Bed" and "Miracle Medicine" are two tracks where the demo is vastly superior to the album version. "His Train" shows a side of Falkner's song writing unseen before (or since for that matter.) The two best of the new tracks on the album are undoubtedly "My Home Is Not A House" and the slick "She's Not The Enemy."
#29 Frank Barajas - Better Times (Operation Big Beat, 2008)
There is something unabashedly old fashioned, in more ways than one, about this fine collection of songs. The song writing hearkens back to a number of different artists of the last 30 years and beyond. "Neon Lights" and "Heartbreak Time" could be a long lost Marshall Crenshaw numbers; "Better Times, Better Days" could be the same for Dwight Twilley; "Apollo 13" sounds like an out-take from Sugar's Copper Blue. All of them are top drawer songs. Other highlights include the homage to silent films "Without Sound" and the vaudeville show stopper "Roxy Street."
#28 Linus Of Hollywood - Let Yourself Be Happy (Franklin Castle, 2001)
I cannot imagine what type of poser hard-ass one would have to be to actively dislike this album, I'm simply happy I'm not one of them. From first note to last Let Yourself Be Happy is a joyful pop fest over brimming with ideas and tunefulness. When you consider the first two songs include one which incorporates "Greensleeves" and another which is a cover of Ozzy Osbourne's "Goodbye To Romance" you sort of know that everything is on the table. Highlights include the breezy "A Whole New Country," the ELO-ish "Where Are You?", and the more-fun-than-allowed-by-law "The Girl I'll Never Have." Wow.
#27 Starbelly - Everyday And Then Some (Not Lame Records, 2002)
This album is full of songwriting that, if it doesn't work just right, can be a total mess.
It works just right.
"Hello, Hello" sort of stumbles into existence, which is risky for an opening track, but when it hits its full stride its revelatory. The inventiveness continues on consummate pop numbers such as "Everyday," "Mother Of Pearl," and "Broken Hearts In Stereo." Softer sounds abound in the gorgeous "Baby's Eyes" and the marvelous "Beautiful." The sound of the record is very much in the Myracle Brah vein thanks to Andy Bopp's production. This really shows in "Plateau" and "Near Me" which should result in nods of approval from Brah fans everywhere.
#26 Matthew Sweet - Kimi Ga Suki (Superdeformed/RCAM, 2003)
The first ten years of the 21st Century could be viewed as a "lost decade" in the career of Matthew Sweet. His releases ranged from the pleasant but unimportant (Under The Covers Vols. I and II), to the wildly uneven (Living Things), to the truly head-scratching (Sunshine Lies). The lone exception is this Japan only release which hits all the right chords. It is full of classic Sweet moments, recalling the best of his Girlfriend and 100% Fun albums. "Dead Smile," "The Ocean In-Between," and "I Don't Want To Know" seem almost effortless in their writing and performance. "Love Is Gone" is a worthy successor to a song such as "Nothing Lasts." "Hear This" sounds more like "Girlfriend" or "Evangeline" than anything Sweet has done in 15 years. But this is no nostalgia trip, Kimi Ga Suki definitely can stand on its own merits.