Matheson Kamin’s “Best Of” List for 2013

It is now time for my 2013 “Best Of” list. This time around, the list will be slightly different for me: There will be the usual best albums of the year; however, some of the selections did not appear on the Rock And Roll Report. Greater Alexander and Cole Hermer and the Ravens were reviewed over on my blog. I also have made the list slightly longer as I have also included two artists (Alert New London and May Stands Still) who I wanted to include in the list, but Alert New London put out a new EP since I reviewed their Youth album and I did the review of May Stands Still’s When You Come Home back in 2012 but decided to include it on my Best Of list this year because the album has grown on me throughout the last 12 months. For those reasons, the list contains the top ten reviews from me in the last year plus two extra. Check out these talented artists and their solid releases.

While the sound of rock and roll has changed throughout the years, one current band that has focused their musical energy on creating new music with that Classic Rock feel is Austin, Texas-based Black Earth. Black Earth is a trio consisting of guitarist/vocalist Jason “Ving” Calise, bassist/vocalist Dave Rangel and drummer Jason Reese. The band release is entitled Pink Champagne. Pink Champagne’s first song, “Single Stitch,” will probably remind you as much of Pink Floyd as it will The Black Crowes.
“Face Down in the Gutter” finds the band unleashing the strongest track on the album. While Calise and Rangel make the music of the song come alive, it’s the playing of drummer Jason Reese that ultimately makes the track so strong.
The song “She Don’t Want It” is one song on the Pink Champagne album that seems to have been written for the purpose of just having fun. With how strong the song is, one can almost imagine singing along with the band as they perform live in concert.
The majority of Pink Champagne from Black Earth finds the band creating some of the hardest rockin’ Classic Rock to be heard in a long time. The band keeps the album interesting as these songs maintain the Classic Rock feel that exists throughout the rest of the release. With the solid Hard Rock songs in-between, Pink Champagne from Black Earth is just the thing for any fan of real Rock and Roll music. Click HERE for entire review.

Stone Diamond is made up of Cy on vocals/bass, Josh on vocals/guitar and The Tongue on drums. Keyboardist, Toby Philippen helps to flesh out the band’s music. The resulting sound can be found on the band’s debut album We Stole the Stars from the Black Night.
The album begins with the track “Love Stays”. The track features a straight-out rock feel that could easily find its way onto a Classic Rock radio format. When the band stops playing late in the track to sing a’cappella, the listener gets to hear the band harmonize. The track is very strong and is a great way to start off the new release from Stone Diamond.
One of the strongest tracks on the album, “Flavor of Tears” starts off slow with an easy tempo. It then becomes a track that features a vocal style that may remind you of Jim Morrison along with a Classic Rock feel that could remind you of The Doors or any other band from around that time period in music. The track will satisfy any Classic Rock fan.
“Dark Lover” is a song that sounds like a mix of Rock and Roll from a band like The Rolling Stones and a little Soul from someone like Bootsy Collins. “Dark Lover” is mainly a track that has a musical trio feel to the music with a little keyboard thrown in for a little flavor. The resulting track is an interesting song as the listener experiences a track that sounds as if it was it would have come out of the seventies.
We Stole the Stars from the Black Night from Stone Diamond is the perfect release for those who are looking for the type of music that features a strong rock feeling to the music and also stays true to the style of the bands of the past that are now grouped into the Classic Rock genre. The eleven tracks of the album are nicely varied in their approach while staying in the Rock and Roll groove. Click HERE for entire review.

The Swedish band Deville is a group that is currently creating some of the strongest and most melodic rock music of any band currently creating rock music. The style of the band takes rock from the likes of Black Sabbath and combines it with rock influenced by Soundgarden. The 2013 album from Deville is entitled Hydra.
Hydra from Deville begins with the track “Lava,” a track that brings together the sound of Soundgarden and Queens of the Stone Age. The resulting rock song could fit in on any modern rock station or Alternative rock format.
One of the strongest tracks on the Hydra release from Deville is the track “The Knife”. It’s the second half of the track that really caught my attention. The second half of “The Knife” is one of the most impressive instrumental jams to come along in a while. The music takes on a stronger groove and quicker pace while allowing the band to show off some of their talents as a band as a whole.
The track “Blood Crown” is yet another song that stands out on the Hydra release from Deville. The song features a very commercial feel to the music and is one of the tracks on the album that could have you jamming along with the music.
If you are a fan of bands that feature loud guitars, a lot of energy along with talented playing and writing, Sweden’s Deville is a band you need to check out and their album Hydra is one that needs to be heard. Click HERE for entire review.

California-based Heavy Glow is a power trio that features a certain amount of “heaviness” to their sound, which makes the band’s moniker rather appropriate. At times, the band sounds like early Cream and at other times, they take on a much harder feel to their music.
The band’s most recent release, Midnight Moan begins with the track “Lose My Mind”. On this track, the band takes on the sound and feel of the band Cream. The majority of the tune has the classic “power trio” feel to it with all three instruments (guitar, bass and drums) centered to feel as if the band is playing in one room, with additional guitars from guitarist/vocalist Jared Mullins on both the left and right channels to help fill out the tune.
On the next track of “Slave Dance,” Heavy Glow continues the Classic Rock feel by incorporating elements of the classic band Iron Butterfly. And even though Heavy Glow does not have a keyboard player in its members, the Iron Butterfly influence on the music is unmistakable. The vocals from Jared Mullins on this track even feature a certain amount of Classic Rock influence.
One of the strongest tracks on the Midnight Moan album from Heavy Glow is the song “All My Money”. Once again, the band focuses on the power trio sound of the 60s; more specifically, the sound of the band Cream. The blues-heavy track of “All My Money” is one of the hardest rockin’ songs on the album. The track is the type of song that will satisfy any rock lover’s hunger for the Classic Rock sound.
While the vast majority of the latest release from Heavy Glow, Midnight Moan, features a Classic Rock approach, the final track of “Diggin’ a Ditch” really feels as if the band happens to be channeling The White Stripes and/or The Black Keys on this track. It still fits with the rest of the album, but the change of direction is enough to make the track “Diggin’ a Ditch” stand out on the release. Click HERE for entire review.

Scotty Austin, Scott Anthony Little and Steven Pulley make up Trash the Band, a trio that creates their own version of Rock And Roll as they combine genres such as rock, rockabilly and other styles to create something they call “swamp-a-billy”.
The first track on the band’s self-titled album is “Souls on My Shoes”. The track’s first 30 seconds or so features a “chorus” that sounds like a Native American chant. That chant builds to a point, and then the listener gets hit with a track that is part Kid Rock and part Queens of the Stone Age. Needless-to-say, the track is both strong and fun from the first tick until the last one and with the lyrics about letting nothing stand in your way, the song is the type of track that someone could actually use as a personal anthem of sorts.
“Larry and the Blue Dog (Devil’s Ride)” is possibly the track off of the self-titled release from Trash the Brand that could easily be the first single. The track begins with an intro featuring an acoustic guitar and a light drum feel that matches the hopelessness in Scotty Austin’s voice as he sings about the last couple days of pain and suffering. When the band kicks into high gear a little later, they create a track that has a strong chorus that is easy to sing along with. The track is one of the best songs on the release.
On the track “1000 Songs,” the band throws the listener a curve. Maybe it’s because the band exists just a few miles from either Memphis or Nashville, but whatever the reason, the very commercial track of “1000 Songs” is a track that seems to contain a lot of influence from several current bands like Five for Fighting, Goo Goo Dolls and others.
The new self-titled album from Trash the Brand is a very solid release as the band creates eleven songs that incorporate many different styles of rock music that have helped to shape the genre over the years. Many of the songs created by Trash the Brand are strong enough to stand on their own. Put them together and the album never seems to disappoint. Click HERE for entire review.

Dave Hill, a man who has made a name for himself as a comedian and writer, has returned to his rock and roll roots cultivated in Cleveland. Lately, however, Hill has been creating music with a New York-based rock outfit by the name of Valley Lodge. Along with Dave Hill on vocals and guitar, the rest of Valley Lodge consists of John Kimbrough on guitar, Phil Costello on bass and Rob Pfeiffer on drums. The music of Valley Lodge moves from current rock to a more retro feel to the music.
Use Your Weapons, the new release from Valley Lodge, begins with a track entitled “Go”. The band creates a track that is equal parts rock and pop music and has a feel that is light and fun while still having a good amount of rock feel to it. The track is rather commercial and could easily fit on any Top 40 format.
One of the strongest tracks on the newest release from Valley Lodge is the track “Sweet Elizabeth”. The song features a drumbeat that will totally remind you of the drumbeat from “Ballroom Blitz” from Sweet. The infectious drumbeat segues into a song that has a melody that sounds very much like something from Dave Hill’s earlier band of Uptown Sinclair.
“Pretty Thing” seems to take the sound of Valley Lodge back a few decades as the music for the song is rather reminiscent of songs created during the Glam Rock era of rock music. The track has a sound that could have been influenced by Gary Glitter or even Alice Cooper.
“Waiting in the Rain” is one of the strongest tracks on Use Your Weapons from Valley Lodge, and one of the most unique, as well. The relatively short song (it is barely over two minutes) is solid even though it contains no drums. The song begins with the sound of rain before the guitars begin. The song features hand claps in the style of John Mellencamp’s “Jack and Diane;” although, “Waiting in the Rain” has a much stronger rock feel to it. With the strength of the guitars in the song, you hardly miss the drums. The song is one of the best on the album.
The ten songs that make up Use Your Weapons from Valley Lodge are nicely varied and has something for every rock fan. Click HERE for entire review.

Chicago-based Safe Haven started when Patrick Lyons got together with Tony Tabor. With having only a guitarist in Patrick Lyons and a drummer in Tony Tabor, that helped to free the duo from being pigeonholed into one sound or style of music. The resulting music from Patrick Lyons, Tony Tabor and the rest of the musicians who help to bring their music to life is varied and lively and has plenty of variety from one song to another.
The Sermon for No One release from Safe Haven begins with the track “So Long (The Hercamo Flash Story)”. The track features a mixture of both hard rock and blues. The song starts the album off on a very strong groove.
The third track of “Colorado Moon” takes the music into more of a folk-rock frame of mind. With the usual instruments of guitar, bass and drums, the piano, fiddle and steel guitar on the track help to create a track that is part country, part folk-rock. “Colorado Moon” is one of the best folk-rock tracks to have been written in a long time.
Safe Haven abandons the practice of combining genres of music for the track “Suburban Weekend”. The straight-out rock song has a strong groove to it and is perhaps the strongest song on the album. The lyrics seemed to have been influenced by the weak economy and the fact that only a certain segment of the population can actually enjoy the type of fun described in the song. The song also seems to have a slight sense of humor in the lyrics.
Throughout the nine tracks that make up Sermon for No One, Safe Haven’s Patrick Lyons and Tony Tabor have created an album that has a strong rock and roll side while also having a more adventurous side with the different genres of music that help make up the tracks. The duo and the rest of the musicians that helped to create the music on the release have made an album that always stays fresh. Click HERE for entire review.

There are very few albums that grab your attention so hard and so completely that you just let the album play out because you are really enjoying the music, but You’re Always on My Mind from A Great Big Pile of Leaves is one such release.
You’re Always on My Mind from A Great Big Pile of Leaves begins with the track “Snack Attack”. The track begins with a’capella vocals that lead into Indie Rock. The Indie Rock on the track has a certain amount of beauty that goes along with the repeating vocal from the beginning of the track. The harmonizing vocals from the band members help to add to the music that seems to keep building throughout the track until it comes to an end.
The track “Flying Fish” is a lot more cohesive than the first track as it has a definite shape to the music that makes up the track. Together, the music of the track, the melody line in the lyrics and the lyrics themselves all come together to create a track that is a lot more commercial than the first track. And while the first track of “Snack Attack” is still a strong song, “Flying Fish” is a lot more infectious, musically speaking, than “Snack Attack”.
It is with the song “Pet Mouse” that the album of You’re Always on My Mind from A Great Big Pile of Leaves really picks up energy. The song has the same type of infectious feeling that “Flying Fish” has except that “Pet Mouse” feels more like a single. The resulting track has a great musical quality to it and the slightly humorous lyrics that are found on the track will also capture the listener and have them hitting “repeat” over and over again.
You’re Always on My Mind from A Great Big Pile of Leaves has a definite sound and style to it. The tracks all work together to feel as if they are part of one release. That may sound weird, but few albums today are solid without tracks to distract listeners from the real beauty of the release. Click HERE for entire review.

The music created by Cole Hermer and The Ravens seems a bit out of place with today’s music scene, and that’s a good thing because they are not following the same trends as most of the bands out there creating the same bland music. Cole Hermer and The Ravens have just released a new CD entitled Quoth the Raven.
The five songs that make up Quoth the Raven from Cole Hermer and The Ravens run between a modern sound of someone like The White Stripes and Classic Rock band Led Zeppelin. That combination will attract young music seekers and older ones alike.
Quoth the Raven from Cole Hermer and The Ravens begins with “California Breakdown”. The band creates a song that seems to shed a little truth about the promises that come from one of the busiest and most popular places in the world where everyone goes to try to make it in the entertainment industry. Just listening to Hermer sing about that location may make you think twice about wanting to visit or become part of the “magic” that you find there.
The next song on the Quoth the Raven release from Cole Hermer and The Ravens, “Exploitable,” seems to follow in the same lyrical vein as “California Breakdown”. The track features a rock feel that is still very strong but has slightly less of an edge than the previous track. And as “California Breakdown” falls firmly into the Classic Rock vein, “Exploitable” seems to come from a much more recent time period in rock as you could easily hear the song played between bands like The Black Keys and Jet on today’s radio airwaves.
For the final track on Quoth the Raven from Cole Hermer and The Ravens, the band takes a large amount of influence from Queens of the Stone Age for the song “Teenage Creed”. While it is not identical to the QOTSA song, Cole Hermer and The Ravens’ “Teenage Creed” will no doubt have you thinking about “No One Knows” from the California-based band.
Each of the songs on Quoth the Raven from Cole Hermer and The Ravens is strong and well-written and well-played. The tracks allow the listener the chance to hear the unquestionable talent from Hermer and his band. Here’s to a full-length release! Click HERE for entire review.

Singer-Songwriter Alexander Vlachos is a Detroit, Michigan-based musician. The style of music that Vlachos makes contains both a folk and jazz quality to it. His music has a sound that brings to mind folk artists like Simon & Garfunkle, Jason Mraz and several other artists. Vlachos performs under the moniker of Greater Alexander. The new album from Greater Alexander is called Positive Love.
The first track off of Positive Love from Greater Alexander is “Any Way out of It”. The first thing you notice when you listen to the track is how much the track sounds like a song that would have been created by Simon & Garfunkle. It is the vocalizations by Vlachos that really brings to mind that famous folk-rock duo. The song also features a simple guitar part that will remind you of songs created by Simon & Garfunkle.
One of the strongest tracks on Positive Love from Greater Alexander is the song “Better Days”. The track features some of Alexander Vlachos’ strongest vocals on the album. The lyrics will also stick with you as they are very upbeat and will have you wishing for those “better days” to come. Alexander Vlachos is joined by Bryan Pope as Pope adds violin to the track. “Better Days” is easily one of the most commercial tracks on the album.
While most of the tracks on the album feature Alexander Vlachos and his guitar, the song “Everlasting” is one of the tracks that also feature Vlachos on the piano. The sparse piano playing on the track helps to add a slight beauty to the song while it also helps to separate the track from the majority of the rest of the release. Percussionist Bryan Arnold once again joins Vlachos and gives some added texture to the track. The track turns out to be one of the most entertaining tracks on Positive Love.
Positive Love, the new album from Alexander Vlachos’ moniker of Greater Alexander, is an enjoyable release of modern-day folk music. If you happen to be a fan of folk music, this release will have something for any lover of the genre. Click HERE for entire review.

Columbus, Ohio’s Alert New London is a modern-day rock outfit. Made up of guitarist/vocalist Cory Nicol, guitarist/vocalist Dave Woodrow, bassist Sawyer Shepard, keyboardist Gavin McKenzie and drummer Jim Fowler, the band’s music is heavily guitar-influenced, the additions of keyboards to the music helps give the band’s sound a feel and direction that is a lot richer and more creative than much of the music put out by many of the bands that are currently signed to record labels.
Alert New London’s current release, Youth, released at the end of 2011, begins with the track “Alice,” a more-than-evident nod to the main character in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland book. The song contains a Melodic Rock sound and the resulting track allows the guitars to create a harmonic approach that builds while including all five band members in the shaping of the song’s direction, helping to make the track one of the most interesting songs on the 2011 release.
“Choke,” the second track on Youth, takes on a slightly jazzy feel for the first 15 seconds or so as drummer Jim Fowler and Stephen Lee (the band’s bass player at the time of the recording who has since been replaced by Sawyer Shepard) combine to create a driving musical intro to the track before the rest of the quintet joins in. Guitarist/vocalist Cory Nicol and guitarist/vocalist Dave Woodrow create two-part harmony on the track that ultimately adds a nice amount of depth to the music that has a slight New Wave feel to it.
The pace of the music slows down with the track “Disintegrate”. With the gentle feel to the music, the band allows the song to flow and never feel the need to try and show off. Every so often, you need a simple, slow-paced song to help appreciate what a band can really do if given the chance and this track gives you that chance.
Youth from Alert New London comes to a close with one of the best tracks on the album, “Spoonfed”. Like the song “Silverdrive” from earlier on in the album, the song “Spoonfed” has a very commercial feel, while also bringing a little of the New Wave feel back. The catchy nature of the music and the beauty in the vocals on the track help bring the album to a close on a very strong note. Click HERE for entire review.

Emily Herndon is a rising star in the folk music genre. With the beauty contained within her voice, Herndon may remind you slightly of either Norah Jones or Sarah McLachlan or even another relative newcomer to folk music, Annie Crane.
Along with Asha Sukumar who adds violin, mandolin and vocals, Herndon creates music under the moniker of May Stands Still. The duo of May Stands Still creates music that stays true to the music of the artists that has come before. Their new album is When You Come Home.
When You Come Home begins with the track “Gotta See”. “Gotta See” is a song that brings to mind the music and songwriting style of Simon and Garfunkel. You can almost hear the style of the duo as you take a listen to this song.
One of the best tracks on the new album is the song “New Groove”. The beat, the strings, bassline and many other elements come together to create beautiful that goes perfectly with Herndon’s beautiful vocals on this track. With everything coming together perfectly on this song, you end getting one of the strongest tracks on the entire song. The music shifts from one part of the song to the next and helps to keep the listener entertained throughout the nearly four minutes of music.
The song “Raina” features a very strong bluegrass feel to it. It also has a strong beat and is one of the most infectious of the songs on When You Come Home. It is the bass that makes the song so much fun. The bassline is very bouncy and the clapping of the hands gives the song just a little more fun to the music.
When You Come Home winds down with the song “Falling”. This song contains lyrics that are reminiscent of those from Sarah McLachlan. The strings on the track really bring a lot of beauty to the ending portion of the album. Click HERE for entire review.


Meant To BeThe Nadas

Better DaysGreater Alexander

SilverdriveAlert New London

She Don’t Want ItBlack Earth

Souls of My ShoesTrash the Brand