Yep Roc Records out of Chapel Hill, North Carolina have quickly established themselves a brand identity of high quality sounds joining an American tradition of indie labels like SST, Twin Tone, Sub Pop, and Rounder to name but a few, where it often doesn’t matter whom the artist is, but what the label is as the determining factor of whether the consumer will buy an album of not. Three Yep Roc offerings from this past year are a good example of the diversity and excellence of the label and if you’re stuck for some last minute stocking stuffers for the discerning music fan, remember you probably won’t go wrong with Yep Roc.
The power pop enthusiast that doesn’t already have This Affair Never Happened…And Here Are 11 Songs About It by The Bigger Lovers would likely be super ecstatic to find this under the tree on Christmas Day. Intelligent lyrics laced with wit are graced with musical hooks galore on this much punchier than previous outings release by the Philadelphia foursome. Jangle pop is put behind them for a more charged rave up comparable to when The Kinks jettisoned their early Merseybeat sides and when The Posies transitioned from Dear 23 to Frosting On The Beater. “You (You,You)” and “I Resign” are the standout cuts with “I Resign” quoting classic Kiss number “Shock Me” with the line, “I’m down to bare wire” bringing a smile every time. I also like the new wave appeal of “You Don’t Feel Anything At All”. There’s also a sure to be holiday classic included with a Christmas song that mentions head lice titled “For Christ’s Sake” that should have the whole family singing along while roasting chestnuts over an open fire.
Leave it to a Canadian band to record one of the best albums of Americana this past year as The Sadies brought out Favourite Colours to universal praise. The Good brothers harmonize in ways bound to please American Beauty era Grateful Dead fans along with “Chestnut Mare” Byrds devotees. “Northumberland West” is a direct tribute to Clarence White as the band continues their mastery of instrumentals. The garage surfabilly twang that was standard on prior Sadies albums takes a backseat with the Good brothers unison vocals taking the spotlight in a mumbling psychedelic nasal style that is plumb endearing. There is mystery in this music and there is violence too – “The angels killed the devils/Hung them in the streets/And reveled in the blood lust and the fires of revenge” (“1000 Cities Falling”) – with a dusty veneer of history being honored, yet also dispensed with to maybe finally realize the Gram Parsons vision of a cosmic American music. Label mate Robyn Hitchcock takes a guest vocal turn on “Why Would Anybody Live Here”, the final track in an understated minor classic.