Memorable melodies, haunting refrains, and breathtaking performances find Moses echoing the influences of earlier pop prophets. No matter that Bloom hails from Iowa — here's an album etched in the tradition of Jackson Browne, Brian Wilson, and other singer/songwriter types of the '60s and '70s. This music would make his predecessors proud, given that it echoes the boundless possibilities and wide-eyed innocence of that earlier era. Song-centric to a fault, Bloom has a way of writing tunes that captivate even on first encounter. (www.patrickbloom.com)
Mary Cutrufello purveys a populist approach in her music that's generally left to male singers like Springsteen, Mellencamp, and Seger. And while she does cover the Boss via a tough, rendition of "Take 'Em as They Come," she truly makes the song her own on her first release in a decade. 35 shows Cutrufello is as irreverent and uncompromising as ever. "Bring on the Night," "American Rain," "Out of the Fire," and "Sonic Girls" are flush with drive and determination, a fiery blend of rock, funk, blues, and soul that's powerful and always on point.
Left of a Dream
So why isn't Jeff Larson a star? Suffice it to say he's long overdue. Admittedly, Larson's old school — his lingering melodies boast enough hooks to supply a fishing fleet, and his supple vocals are both beautiful and beguiling without sounding saccharine. Credit in part his bond with the band America; like them, his music is etched in an accessible and engaging tunefulness that radio once loved but has sadly forsaken. Left of a Dream is a nocturnal delight, and its best track, "Where Is Indio, CA" suggests a visit is long overdue. (www.jefflarson-music.com)
Too Clever by Half
It's almost incomprehensible that a band as good as the Spongetones can release 11 exemplary albums of pristine power pop over the course of 30 years and receive barely a ripple of recognition in return. How can a band that makes music so effusive and engaging still find itself so far below the radar? Fans of the Beatles, XTC, REM, and other similarly melodically endowed combos will find a lot to love in this North Carolina quartet. Last year's 26-track best-of, aptly titled Always Carry On, provides a perfect primer, while their latest, Too Clever by Half, offers 18 more catchy, clever songs to keep you connected. (www.spongetones.com)