Reviews and Suggestions

Matheson Kamin’s Best of 2014 List

The time has come for the end of the year Best Of lists. This year, there were many different artists who made a strong impact on me as far as their music was concerned. Whether it was rock and roll or not, these artists and their albums need to be heard. Enjoy. In no particular order, my Best Of 2014 list is:

1 Tom Guerra All of the Above Singer-songwriter Tom Guerra spent 15 years with the band Mambo Sons before the band called it quits. With Mambo Sons no longer together, Tom Guerra turned his attention to creating his own music. Not surprisingly, Guerra’s sound and style picked up right where Mambo Sons left off and therefore, Guerra’s music contains the same Indie Rock feel of his old band, but with a lot of other influences thrown in as well. In 2014, Tom Guerra released his solo album entitled All of the Above. By going from rock and roll to folk-rock to power blues and back again, the ever-changing sound of the music on All of the Above allows the listener to hear many different sides to Tom Guerra’s talent as a musician. And with the music changing as often as it does, the listener finds a quality release that needs to be heard from beginning to end. So put All of the Above from Tom Guerra on and just enjoy the experience of it all. Read the entire review:

2 Ryan Joseph Anderson The Weaver’s Broom Because of being a multi-instrumentalist, Ryan Joseph Anderson is able to create songs that feature different styles and textures depending on what instrument he decides to compose with. Anderson creates music that can easily be described as Americana as he incorporates many different styles of music into his sound. Earlier this year, Ryan Joseph Anderson released his new album entitled The Weaver’s Broom. As the listener travels from one track to the next on Ryan Joseph Anderson’s release The Weaver’s Broom, they encounter many different musical directions. And while Anderson does seem to cover a lot of ground on the album, it’s ground that the listener is familiar with. That familiarity makes the album one of the strongest of the year. Read the entire review:

3 These Knees The Young and The Bright These Knees is a modern-day rock band that makes its home in Cleveland, OH. The band consists of singer/songwriter/guitarist Stephanie Trivison, bassist Eric Piontkowski and drummer Rob Hassing. Led by Stephanie Trivison who writes the songs for the band, These Knees creates their music by taking many different influences like Classic Rock icons The Beatles and more recent bands like Paramore and Tegan and Sara. The result of those influences creates a musical sound that sounds both retro and modern at the same time. The band’s unique take on modern-day Rock and Roll can be found on their 2013 release entitled The Young and The Bright. Stephanie Trivison and her band These Knees have created a release in The Young and The Bright that is just what you want as they continually change directions in their sound; sometimes pop-rock, sometimes punk-pop and sometimes they incorporate older influences like Girl Group rock and roll. But through it all, this release from These Knees is an album of Rock and Roll that never falters and never fails to deliver an enjoyable listening experience. Read the entire review:

4 Vintage Blue No Going Back One of the best unsigned bands in the country at the moment is Chicago’s Vintage Blue. Vintage Blue consists of: Ryan Tibbs guitarist, vocalist; Benjamin Bassett guitarist, vocalist; Brent Shumard percussionist, wind; Cesar Corral bassist; Matt Zimmerman backup vocalist, brass, keyboardist and Will Crowden drummer. Back in 2012, the band put out their first CD, a 13-track called Strike the Mics. With that release, the public got a good indication of what the band sounded like as the band’s sound would have attracted fans of both Vertical Horizon and Sister Hazel. The No Going Back EP from Vintage Blue features a lot of strong music. The release shows the band stretching their talents and creating a lot of music that shows that they’ve matured as a band. And producer Jamie Candiloro has helped to bring out the best in the band. All-in-all, the new release from Vintage Blue is worth checking out. Read the entire review:

5 John Brodeur Little Hopes New York-based singer-songwriter John Brodeur has been creating music for around two decades. While he has spent time as part of bands like The Suggestions and Maggie Mayday, Brodeur is known mainly for his solo work. On Little Hopes, John Brodeur is in fine form as he returns with a new release that features the power pop he has become known for. And like the previous albums that Brodeur has put out, there is plenty of variety in the styles of the songs that have been included on the album. Within the Little Hopes release, there are many different styles of pop/rock to choose from. Each of these tracks shows off the sheer talent and many different sides to John Brodeur. But no matter which song you listen to, it is ultimately about the music that Brodeur produces. And with the release of Little Hopes, Brodeur makes it look so easy. Read the entire review:
6 Rachel Brown Once Again With her, piano, singer-songwriter Rachel Brown is able to combine together Honky Tonk, Jazz, Blues, Country, even Rock and Roll into songs that are as varied as the genres that help to create them. Brown is one talent that can be put into the Americana musical genre because of her generous use of those individual genres in her songs. Having already released one album of original music called Just Look My Way, Rachel Brown made a name for herself with that release and has since become one of the most sought after acts in Cleveland. Recently, Rachel and the Beatnik Playboys followed up that release with another album. The 2014 release from Rachel Brown and the Beatnik Playboys is called Once Again. Just like her previous album of Just Look My Way, Rachel Brown’s Once Again is a strong release from beginning to end. And with plenty of variety in the music, there’s bound to be something for everybody on the songwriter’s new release. Take a listen and see why everybody’s talking about Rachel Brown. Read the entire review:

7 Hillary Reynolds Band The Miles Before Us When listening to Hillary Reynolds, it’s her voice that first draws you in. The beautiful quality in that voice lends itself well to the music that she is creating. While Hillary’s voice sounds as if she would be a perfect fit to create folk music, she ends up writing music that features a lot more variety to it than just plain folk music. It is because of that variety in her style that she qualifies herself as being Americana. The Miles Before Us contains a total of fourteen tracks. Whether you are a fan of straight folk music or like to find the kind of artists who add more elements to their music, you will find more to enjoy on this new release from The Hillary Reynolds Band. Read the entire review:

8 Mark Nomad A Real Fine Day Mark Nomad is the performing name of a singer/songwriter/musician who has found his voice in the Blues genre after spending time as part of rock bands. Having been recording his Blues music for several years, Nomad already has amassed a catalog of several Blues albums that feature both original compositions as well as Nomad’s versions of tracks from well-known Blues legends. Already having a sizable catalog of releases, Mark Nomad (whose real name is Mark Maulucci) has recently added to that musical library by putting out his latest release entitled A Real Fine Day. A Real Fine Day from Mark Nomad features Blues that is flavored with many different influences. These influences bring character to each of the songs and the influences also help set each track apart from one another. As the listener goes from one track to another, you experience different sides to Nomad’s personality and that helps make A Real Fine Day worthy of being added into your music library. Read the entire review:

9 The Del Lords Elvis Club  The new release from The Del-Lords is called Elvis Club. The album seems to find the band in the same exact place, musically, where they were two decades ago as if there has been no time lost at all from the band’s last release until this new one. If you liked the band and their sound back in the 1980s, you will find that the rock and roll contained on this new album from the band to be very familiar in its feel. For their first album in twenty years, The Del-Lords have created an album in Elvis Club that is very strong and will stand up just as well as the band’s previous albums. If you were a fan of this band back during their heyday, The Del-Lords have definitely come back in a big way and this album is worth every minute of playing time. Read the entire review:

10 Jackpot Donnie Mayday! Like a rising amount of bands and artists out there today, Chicago’s Jackpot Donnie is a band that creates its sound by combining several genres of music together. It’s the combination of Reggae, Funk even Blues that helps give the band’s music its quality and sound. And because the band draws from these unique and varying styles at different times, the Rock and Roll produced by Jackpot Donnie changes from one tune to the next. To help create their sound, the five members of Jackpot Donnie call upon their various musical influences. The band is currently promoting their third release, 2013’s Mayday! While many reviews of current releases would mention that one song on an album is stronger than the rest and should be “singled out” as the track to promote the release, it is nearly impossible to do with  from Jackpot Donnie; it’s nearly impossible because the entire release is very strong and no one song really sticks out as being better than the rest. The five songs on Mayday! are all worth discovering and with how strong this release is, Chicago’s Jackpot Donnie is a band that is definitely worth checking out. Read the entire review:

11 Tom Levin Them Feet Tom Levin is a Sweden-born musician who has spent time creating music. Whether in a band or by himself, Levin has created several albums of music. Levin has just recently created a new album called Them Feet. For the new release, Levin called upon several people who helped to flesh out the music on the release. Along with Levin, other people included in the album are Adam Börjesson, who adds vocals, guitar, mandolin, bass, keyboards and percussion; Kalle Persson, who adds vocals, and percussion; Carl Ekerstam: electric guitar and pedal steel and others. Them Feet by Tom Levin is the type of album that is great to find every once in a while as the feeling in the music changes from track to track and keeps the album from getting stale. Each song on the release has its own style and that adds to the variety in the music. The one thing all of the songs on the album do have in common is the fact that Levin knows how to reach you, emotionally. Because of that, this is one release that definitely proves that Levin is a very good songwriter. Read the entire review:

12 Tom Levin Them Buffalo Earlier in the year, Swedish singer-songwriter Tom Levin released the album Them Feet. A few months later, Tom Levin returned with a new release of music. And just like the previous album, Levin once again creates songs that take many different musical styles and blend them together. The newer release from Tom Levin is called Them Buffalo. When taken apart, the two albums of Them Feet and Them Buffalo truly show off the versatility in Levin’s writing style. When taken together, the two releases make for a very enjoyable listening experience. Read the entire review:

While the albums above are worth revisiting, there were several songs that helped make 2014 very memorable. Here are just a few of the best tracks of 2014:

Tom Levin “June’s Memory Lane

Hillary Reynolds Band “Honey, Come Home

John Brodeur “Dig

These Knees “Erie (Promise Me)

Vintage Blue “No Going Back

Lindsay MacRemember (Stand alone single)