Avalon Landing, Reside (Self-released)
Las Vegas’ indie-rock dark horse has to be this quintet, led by singer-guitarist Mike Vargovich and singer-keyboardist Josh Rabenold, whose voices blend majestically on this collection of bigger-than-life pop songs. Starting with the twilight-fading, guitar-chiming splendor of “About Face” and ending with the charging call-to-arms of “Escape Yourself,” the immaculately produced Reside mines emotional territory between despair and faith in love. Avalon Landing has clearly arrived. Fans of Coldplay and The Fray should buy this pronto. ★★★★☆
The Bones, What Would Ginger Do? (Self-released)
Each musician in this outfit has served time in established rock acts—Ace Frehley, Lynch Mob, Nuclear Assault. But the Bones sound entirely different, closer to Cheap Trick and The Jam. Every song on their debut slugs your eardrums with a sing-along hook—from the naughty, retro come-on of “The Marcia Brady Song” to the hot-and-heavy, riff-crackling Weezer homage “Catholic Girls.” Sure, the Bones are a bit on the horny side, but their lyrics are more clever than crass. Terrific band. ★★★☆☆
The People’s Whiskey, The People’s Whiskey (SquidHat)
Gaze too long into the bottom of a whiskey glass, and the bottom gazes back at you. Nietzsche or Hank Williams Sr.? This blue-collar country-punk quartet would likely go with the latter given the pedal-steel guitars and honky-tonk flourishes that spice up their self-titled full-length. Most tracks here echo earlier Americana-tinged bands such as X and Social Distortion. But when the Whiskey pours its collective heartbreak into the ballad “Drunk Dial,” this band is simply unbeatable. Solid fucking disc. ★★★☆☆
Upcoming albums on Jarret’s radar …
JAN. 7: Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks continue their experimental foray into weird ’60s garage-pop with their sixth studio disc, Wig Out at Jagbags. First single “Lariat” name-checks the Grateful Dead, which should give you an indication of the jamming, psychedelic turn Malkmus is taking here. JAN. 14: James Mercer (the Shins) and Brian Burton (Danger Mouse) reconvene as Broken Bells for a second album, After the Disco. This one channels—can you believe it?—the Bee Gees, at least judging from initial single “Holding on for Life,” which boasts a thumping electronic beat and layered, Gibbs brothers-esque vocal harmonies.