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Michael Toland: December 29, 2013

Like a lot of rock writers, I’m asked to make top 10 lists every year. And every year I end up leaving a lot of excellent recordings on the cutting room floor. This is an attempt to call attention to albums I think deserve the end-of-year lists spotligh

10 GREAT 2013 POP RECORDS: Pop is in the ear of the beholder, but I think of it as melodies designed to be catchy powering (hopefully) lyrics that don’t insult the listener’s intelligence (unless that’s the goal). Some of these may not scan that way to everyone’s mind, but for me, these were ten pop killers.

  1. Amor de DiasThe House at Sea (Merge)

    While I’m still not convinced that the Clientele had to die so that Amor de Dias might live, the second album from this collaboration betwixt Alasdair MacLean and Lupe Núñez-Fernández is stunningly gorgeous.

  2. Tommy KeeneExcitement At Your Feet (Second Motion)

    My first thought when this LP was announced was, “I don’t want to hear Tommy Keene do covers, I want new Keene tunes!” But with a smart song selection and Keene’s undeniable musical talent, there’s no way this album could lose.

  3. Johnny MarrThe Messenger (Sire)

    The ultra-talented guitarist and composer for the Smiths finally knocks out the solo LP we always dreamed we had in him. Brilliant guitar pop, though this could just as easily ended up in last week’s rock & roll list.

  4. The BongosPhantom Train (JEM)

    Though this new Bongos album is really just the first issue of one recorded at the end of the band’s mid-80s career, it’s still a fine record that reminds just how special Richard Barone and company were/are.

  5. Hey! Hello!s/t (The End)

    In which Ginger from the Wildhearts teams with singer Victoria Liedke for a record of cheeky glam pop anthems that boast more hooks than an octopus tentacle.

  6. Red Jacket MineSomeone Else’s Cake (Fin)

    I often lament that no artist has appeared to assume the smart pop mantle from XTC, Elvis Costello etc. Seattle’s Red Jacket Mine proves that I need not despair.

  7. Chris StameyLovesick Blues (Yep Roc)

    Stamey rarely does what’s expected of him – even his straight guitar pop records travel to unexpected places. This semi-acoustic, strings-laden gem takes the dBs co-leader into an intimate, experimental, but still blatantly poppy, space.

  8. Lloyd ColeStandards (Tapete)

    For his umpteenth record, Cole reteamed with early 90s cohorts Matthew Sweet and Fred Maher for a less fussy/more rocking record than is his wont of late. Though perhaps not the lightning strike of Don’t Get Weird On Me, Babe, it’s still a reminder that the veterans know how to do it right.

  9. Stags/t (Fin)

    Power pop has become so dull, perhaps because it’s usually built with such a limited set of tools. But give those tools to veteran craftsmen, like That Petrol Emotion singer Steve Mack, Sanford Arms guitarist Ben London and Red Jacket Mine leader Lincoln Barr, and this most moribund of genres comes roaring back to life.

  10. Brendan BensonYou Were Right (Readymade)

    Though it consists of songs left over from other projects, You Were Right still proclaims the Detroit-bred/Nashville-based singer/songwriter as a woefully unrecognized hero of guitar pop.