10. Alex Lahey, “The Best of Luck Club”
Comparisons to fellow Millennial Aussie Lesbian punk-pop singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett are inevitable, but Lahey’s second LP doubles down on the pop half of that equation while making space for everything from acoustic balladry to a fist-pumping Clarence Clemmons-like sax solo. She’s not weary of being loud (note the wall of shoegaze-y guitars on “Am I Doing It Right?”) or viscerally punk (“Misery Guts”); still, it’s her way with a hook that translates into power-pop bliss, especially on the jaunty “Isabella” or the letter-perfect anthem “Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself” (aka the one with that sax solo.)
9. Raphael Saadiq, “Jimmy Lee”
Definitely not a safe follow-up to 2011’s exquisite Stone Rollin’, Saadiq’s long-gestating concept album about his deceased brother who struggled with drug addiction is all over the place. The abrupt transitions are akin to changing channels, switching between his beloved neo-soul, hip-hop, electro new wave, psychedelia and even preacher-led gospel. A jarring listen for sure, but one that’s also by design. Perhaps such density needs a period longer than a year to gestate. For now, I return most often to the lush, urgent “This World Is Drunk”, while remaining invested enough in the rest to wanna figure it all out.
8. Dream Syndicate, “These Times”
This 80s Paisley Underground band’s second reunion effort benefits from no longer having to live up to the sky-high expectations 2017’s How Did I Find Myself Here? generally met. Looser, more relaxed but still assured, it’s a solid, concise LP not unlike many of leader Steve Wynn’s prime ’90s solo efforts, not to mention those three underrated band follow-ups to 1982’s revered The Days Of Wine and Roses. While no one will ever mistake these guys for innovators, their themes here are of the moment, while the melodies, particularly on “Bullet Holes”, “Still Here Now” and “Recovery Mode” sound suitably timeless.