4. The Shins – “Fall of ‘82” – James Mercer, the driving creative force behind The Shins, came off his Broken Bells detour with a super strong album. It’s more straightforward than some of his earlier efforts, but with a stronger melodic sensibility. The muted trumpet solo adds an out-of-left-field AM Gold dimension to the song.
3. Oddisee – “Let It Go” – The song starts off like “Shaft” with hints of “Across 110th St.” But this is no sample; it's real live musicians. “Let it Go” sits in a tight groove before heading into a radio-friendly chorus. Since this is not the overproduced crapola that passes for radio-ready rap music, you won’t find it there. Seek Oddisee out.
2. Wild Nothing – “Shadow” – Anchored by a jangly guitar riff, “Shadow” bounces along with a sharp bass line and shoegaze vocals. The lyrics fit in nicely with the forlorn feel of the song. (I don’t see you often/I try to feel something for you/But that’s all I can do).
1. Rush – “The Wreckers” – Nearly 40 years into their recording career, the holy trinity released Clockwork Angels, a concept album that has become one of their most critically acclaimed records. And the acclaim is deserved. It's flawless from beginning to end. “The Wreckers” is, for me, the standout track, eschewing the usual time signature changes for a straight-ahead narrative inspired by Daphne du Maurier’s novel Jamaica Inn. And that chorus: “All I know is that sometimes you have to be wary/Of a miracle too good to be true.” With Rush, that’s never a concern.