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366 Days of Albums: 2012 in review

January 2, 2013

The totality of the album-a-day project from 2012.

Day 1: Jolie Holland – Pint of Blood (2011) – I was crazy about Holland’s “Escondido” (2007), but haven’t been able to get into her work since. She seems to be going more for what sounds like stream-of-folk consciousness, and I can’t find my way in. I still like her voice and the lyrics, but the music leaves me mystified. (4/10)

Day 2: Amon Duul II – Carnival in Babylon (1972) – These German prog-rock pioneers deliver some virtuoso music and instrumentation. But it falls apart on most songs with truly awful vocals. Only “Tables Are Turned” survives the carnage. If only this were a mostly instrumental album. (6/10)

Day 3: Don Airey – All Out (2011) – Airey is the keyboard player for Deep Purple, so it kind of makes sense that this album sounds like a bunch of guys in a room trying to sound like 1970s-era Deep Purple. But the songs are not as good, and the singer is too screechy. If I could filter him out, I’d find this more listenable. (3/10)

Day 4: Kossoff Kirke Testu Rabbit (1972) – Essentially Free without singer Paul Rodgers, for some it will suffer without his powerful voice. It’s a solid early 1970s blues-rock album with top-notch songs, one of which (“Anna”) was recorded later by Bad Company. (6/10)

Day 5: Yoshida Brothers Soulful (2002); III (2006) – A Japanese duo melds Japanese folk with Western styles and comes up with an improbable winner. Recommended by a friend who’s enraptured with the beauty of their music, and I agree. On “III,” they cover John Lennon’s “Oh My Love,” and his music fits this style wonderfully. “Soulful” gets the edge for its intensity, especially the moving instrumental “Storm.” (“Soulful” 8/10; “III” 7/10)

Day 6: Kraftwerk – Trans-Europe Express (1977) – My taste for electronica is more embracing now than it was in those disco days. This is almost disco boiled down to the bare essentials of a beat. A couple of these songs found me absent-mindedly toe-tapping along, almost forcing me into their worlds. (6/10)

Day 7: Michael Jackson – Immortal (2011) – The soundtrack to the Cirque du Soleil Jackson offering, it doesn’t radically alter your hearing of the man’s music the way the Beatles show “Love” did, and I think it’s because these songs need to be heard whole. Or maybe it’s because this is the third Jackson remix album. At any rate, stick with the originals. (5/10)

Day 8: Deodato – Prelude (1972) – At the time, when “Also Sprach Zarathustra” was topping the charts and winning Grammys, they felt like a latent disco act, but listening now, they’re really just (smooth) jazz, which is no better and no worse. Competent playing, but barely engaging. (5/10)

Day 9: Frank Zappa – Hammersmith Odeon (2010) – A collection of songs from four 1978 concerts at the venue. These tapes had been cherry picked previously for other Zappa releases, and the shows have been available (though not this sonically pure) via underground channels. Zappa’s 1978 band, apart from drummer Terry Bozzio, is not my favorite, but FZ himself is in entertaining form here. (8/10)

Day 10: Electric Boys – And Them Boys Done Swang (2011) – A reunited Swedish “funk-metal’ band records songs that might have sounded old the first time around for them. Stuck in the 70s musically, with little evidence of funk. Not offensive, but nothing special. (5/10)

Day 11: Kirsty MacColl – Electric Landlady (1991) – MacColl was sort of awash stylistically here, with folk and hip-hop and Northern soul. But what ties it all together is her great sense of melody, particularly evident in the Fleetwood Mac-esque “All I Ever Wanted,” a co-write with Marshall Crenshaw. (7/10)

Day 12: Jay Ferguson – Terms and Conditions (1980) – It’s a compliment to Ferguson that when I hear his voice, I hear the 1978 hits single “Thunder Island.” I hear that hear, along with some fervent attempts to stay on FM radio stations. He even borrows some Supertramp, especially on “This Is Your Life.” Competent, but bland. (5/10)

Day 13: Lelsey Gore – Someplace Else Now (1972) – An attempted comeback in the light of “mature” work by 1960s-era peers Carole King and Dusty Springfield. Gore here sounds like them in places, but the material just isn’t as solid as she produced earlier or later. No clunkers, but nothing out of the ordinary either. (4/10)

Day 14: Paul McCartney – McCartney II (2011 reissue) – Some McCartney devotees (of which I consider myself one) swear by this. My complaint is it felt hollow and unfinished, McCartney’s winning personality buried under the programmed electronics. The previously unreleased material added here is interesting for archival purposes, and he always knew how to write a melody. But my feeling about the album doesn’t change. (6/10)

Day 15: Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers – Kiss My Amps (2011) – Ahh, see what he did there with the title? This is a vinyl only release of recorded-live highlights from Petty and band’s last studio album, “Mojo” (No. 5 on my 2010 list). There’s one rare non-“Mojo” cut, but the remaining six are versions barely different from the studio recordings. If “live” is your taste, this is for you. Nice version of “Good Enough,” but its Beatles’ “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” feel could still be stretched out. (7/10)

Day 16: Various Artists – Lemme Take You To The Beach: Surf Instrumental Bands playing the music of Zappa (2005) – The title describes it perfectly. This should appeal to fans of surf instrumentals or Zappa, and if you’re both (like me), this will put you over the moon. The highlight: The Invisible Birds’ breakdown of the complex “G Spot Tornado.” I smiled, a lot. (8/10)

Day 17: Raul Malo – Sinners and Saints (2010) – The guy has one of music’s great voices, but his previous albums have contained better songs. I just don’t get much out of what’s here, and there are too many unmemorable ballads. (5/10)

Day 18: Dr. John (the Night Tripper) – Remedies (1970); The Sun, The Moon & Herbs (1971) – Early Dr. John work, fairly loose studio recordings. Enjoyable listens, but he would add needed discipline and polish later. The 18-minute “Angola Anthem” is a mess, which is why “The Sun, The Moon & Herbs” gets the nod over “Remedies,” even though the first “side” of “Remedies” is good fun. (“Remedies” 5/10; “The Sun, The Moon & Herbs” 7/10)

Day 19: Chris Whitley – Weed (2004) – Re-recordings of songs from the blues master’s first three albums. For the stuff with which I was familiar – specifically songs from my 1997 album of the year “Terra Incognita” – this worked great. For others, it turned into too much similarity in sound for my taste. (6/10)

Day 20: Robyn Hitchcock – Trolley Bus (2010) – A collection of covers from the British eccentric, who can be brilliant or disastrous, sometimes on the same album. His song choices are impeccable, and I smile to hear him do Elvis Presley. His Bowie is a bit of a stretch, though. (6/10)

Day 21: Johnny Rivers – Rocks the Folk (1965) and Slim Slo Rider (1970) – Rivers’ skill was in applying his winsome vocal personality to songs, but since definitive versions of the folk-rock songs (“Green Green,” “If I Had a Hammer,” “Mr. Tambourine Man”) had already been done, he had little to add there. And the later release’s uninspired and pointless covers of Creedence (“Wrote a Song for Everyone”) and Van Morrison (“Into the Mystic”) make my teeth hurt. He did better. (Rocks the Folk 5/10; Slim Slo Rider 4/10)

Day 22: Radio Birdman – Radios Appear (1978) – Some roots punk from a seminal Australian band. There’s plenty to like in this head-banging but tuneful collection, but I lean toward “Aloha Steve and Danno,” which manages to rockingly abscond the “Hawaii 5-0” theme in its solos. (7/10)

Day 23: Shpongle – Are You Shpongled? (1999) – This English duo’s sound is called psybient and psytrance. A friend recommended this. Ambient/trance usually isn’t my thing, but this works for me (except for the ambient water sounds, which I despise), especially when they get into the shifting drones that remind me (sonically and stylistically, at least) of “Animals”-era Pink Floyd. And there are more albums from them to check out. (7/10)

Day 24: Little Roy – Battle for Seattle (2011) – I don’t know what the audience is for a collection of reggae-fied Nirvana covers by a singer in his 60s. But I don’t have to market it. Musically, it works well – especially “Come As You Are,” where the musicians play with the riff a little bit. “Lithium” is also well-done. You probably know whether you’ll like it by hearing the words “reggae Nirvana covers.” (7/10)

Day 25: Led Zeppelin – Physically Present (1974) – Essentially “Tangible Vandalism” under a different name. This is a bootleg sort-of collection of early recordings of songs that wound up on the band’s “Physical Graffiti” album. If your ear can hear a difference in some of these cuts from what was released, you’re doing better than I. Elsewhere, if tracks without overdubs is your thing, this is up your alley. It’s usually my thing, but I’ve heard this all before. (7/10)

Day 26: The Little Willies – For the Good Times (2012) – A second, less offbeat outing by the group that sometimes features Norah Jones on vocals as it rolls through country music classics. It’s all fine and inoffensive, but when the originals are readily available (especially Dolly Parton’s “Jolene,” put to sleep here), who really needs coffeehouse country, even when it’s well performed? (2/10)

Day 27: Dusty Springfield – Everything’s Coming Up Dusty (1965); Where Am I Going (1967) (both 1998 reissues with bonus tracks) – The 1965 release is a classic, collecting some flawlessly fantastic Springfield tracks, plus “La Bamba,” which proves that she wasn’t perfect. “Everything’s Coming Up Dusty” is more for the pop connoisseur (and is pretty much a perfect pop album, given its time), and the 1967 release leans toward jazz, showtunes and standards. (“Everything’s Coming Up Dusty” 8/10; “Where Am I Going” 6/10)

Day 28: The Who – Quadrophenia (2011 reissue) – I always liked this set anyway, and the Pete Townshend demos are a bonus. They show the right pieces were cut when the album was trimmed to fit onto four sides of vinyl. I don’t have as much trouble grasping this as some critics, although it may help that I was first exposed to it as a teen. This package would get a score of ‘6’ if it were just Townshend’s demo of “Helpless Dancer” and nothing else. (8/10)

Day 29: Pink Floyd – Pigs Might Fly (1977) – A fair representation of the band’s “Animals”/”In the Flesh” tour. It’s complete with Roger Waters yelling a number during “Pigs” (either a tour show countdown, or an attempt to identify bootleg recordings), and firecrackers obnoxiously being lit off during quiet segments. (The practice raised Waters’ ire, apparent here.) There’s not a ton of improvisation or stretching, but the songs are alive. (7/10)

Day 30: Wackers – Wackering Heights (1971) – An early sign of the direction music was taking as the 1960s merged into the 70s. These guys blended country rock and pop with tight harmonies and some sweet songs, including (most bizarrely) a T.Rex-ish take on Elvis Presley’s “Don’t Be Cruel.” Doesn’t finish as good as it starts. (6/10)

Day 31: Splinter – The Place I Love (1974); Harder To Live (1975) – It was easy to sound good if you were an Apple Records artist after The Beatles’ breakup. You’d sound good too if you had George Harrison, Jim Keltner (drums), Billy Preson (keyboards) and Klaus Voorman (bass) as your backup band. They improve the OK songs (of which there are several), and launch the really good ones. “The Place I Love” is the pick because Harrison’s fingerprints are more evident. (“The Place I Love” 7/10; “Harder to Live” 6/10)

Day 32: Shriekback – Life In The Loading Bay (2010) – I wish they hadn’t backloaded the uptempo stuff, but the album at least roars to a conclusion. These guys were my favorite band for a stretch in the 1980s, mixing rock and New Wave and dance music in a threateningly dark way. This isn’t with the best of their stuff (but what could be?), but it’s close enough for me to go back to. (9/10)

Day 33: People Like Us – Welcome Abroad (2011) – An attempt to mimic Girl Talk, taking recognizable music motifs and mashing them into a new whole. People Like Us doesn’t match Girl Talk’s innovation, and doesn’t even approach the creativity of Go Home Productions. Sounds like somebody spinning a radio dial, and I don’t mean that in a good way. (3/10)

Day 34: Flash – Flash (1972); In The Can (1972) – I stayed away from these guys in their day because reviewers compared them negatively to Yes. Guess what? The reviewers were right. These are competent players, but the songs never rise above sounding like a bunch of guys who are saying, “Hey, why don’t we do something that sounds like Yes?” (“Flash” 4/10; “In the Can” 3/10)

Day 35:Neil Young – Last Album (1973) – This bootleg of a 1973 show finds Young playing arenas solo for the first time and road-testing songs that would show up on his next two albums. Of the 15 songs, only four are from his monster hit “Harvest,” a clear attempt to alienate the audience. (The heavy metal thump behind “Heart of Gold” fans the flames.) Some great takes of “ditch trilogy” material, which is some of Young’s better work anyway. (8/10)

Day 36: Trailer Trash Tracys – Ester (2012) – You can come up with all the stunts you wish – in this case, the band claims to have invented its own musical scale – but regardless, you need songs. This wash of heavily reverbed female vocals and drums just doesn’t cut it, however much they and their followers want to drop Angelo Badalamenti’s name. (2/10)

Day 37: Kira – Dreamtime (2011) – This is how you do an all acoustic album and keep listeners’ attention – with SONGS. This French singer-songwriter (who sings in unaccented English) presumably learned from her Emmylou Harris and Bonnie Raitt albums. Pick any cut – I like “These Memories” best. This would have made my top five of 2011 had I heard it last year. (9/10)

Day 38: Dominic Troiano – Tricky (1973) – The second half of this release from the one-time Guess Who and James Gang guitar player has some Steely Dan-ish blues characteristics, particularly “Blues for Ollie” and “I’ll Get My Own” and is a good bit of fun. The first half, though, is just cookie-cutter pop-rock. (5/10)

Day 39: Sagittarius – The Blue Marble (1969) – The key thing about sunshine pop (late 1960s light California-based pop) was the songs were as important as the beautifully arranged layered vocals. This has the vocal skill (although not quite as layered), but not the song style. And there’s a massacred version of the Beach Boys’ “In My Room.” (4/10)

Day 40: Hyde and Beast – Slow Down (2011) – Their country’s music magazines point to these Brits being influenced by the melodic Field Music (whom I like a lot), which I suppose is the case. There’s a lot of depth in these songs, although some people might find the occasional falsetto vocal annoying. I couldn’t stop playing the album (especially “You Will Be Lonley”), finding irresistible its dancing back and forth between this decade’s styles and those of the 1960s and 1970s. (8/10)

Day 41: The Hippos – Heads Are Gonna Roll (1999) – Pop-ska from back when that seemed to be a popular thing to do. This is their second album, and they’re quite good at what they do, but the material never rises to the level of the performance. The kind of music that has you head-bobbing happily and 10 minutes later wondering what exactly it was that you just heard. (4/10)

Day 42: The Morning Benders – Big Echo (2010) – This has that sound so popular with indie bands. Plodding rhythms, percussion that wants to do anything but help you find a beat and be anything but traditional, and a wash of sound with little separation between the parts. It works in small doses, like “Excuses,” but not as well for a full album. (4/10)

Day 43: Deep Forest – Kusa No Ran (2004) – While I’m no smooth jazz fan, I appreciated the varied tone and lengths of these quiet pieces. Then I found out this was the soundtrack for a Japanese film I haven’t seen. This isn’t the kind of film music that would prompt me to pick up a soundtrack. Or pay any attention to the film, for that matter. (4/10)

Day 44: Curt Boettcher – California Music (2001) – Boettcher was the man behind some of the best light pop (or “sunshine pop”) from California in the 1960s, especially The Association. By the time this stuff was recorded in the mid-1970s, he was on to other things, specifically disco calypso, which is not a clever song title, nor (as practiced here at least) a clever melding of styles. (1/10)

Day 45: Slade – The Warehouse, New Orleans, June 15, 1974 – An ROIO (recording of independent origin) of the British chart-topping band’s first show in New Orleans. The muddy 70 minutes (clearly recorded from the audience) gives a good cross-section of the boot-stomping hits the band had, although they also give a plodding heavy metal treatment to Lovin Spoonful’s “Darling Be Home Soon.” America clearly still wasn’t getting them yet, as Noddy Holder’s stage screaming doesn’t evoke enough reaction to satisfy the band. (6/10)

Day 46: Johnny Rivers – Blue Suede Shoes (1973) – The title cut is one of Rivers’ greatest efforts, a nearly out-of-control electric re-working of the Elvis Presley song. I have never grown tired of this version. The other 50s and 60s covers here are fun, By the time he gets to “Got My Mojo Workin,” Rivers reminds us how white he is, but he roars back with a spirit version of Bobby Bland’s “Turn On Your Love Light,” all is well with the world. (7/10)

Day 47: Buckethead – Somewhere Over the Slaughterhouse (2001) – A cross of ambient and trance with some tasty guitar licks, Buckethead’s work here (as usual) defies easy description. It’s not background music by any means. He clearly has as idea, and knows how to execute it in an offbeat musical way. Check out “Pin Bones and Poultry.” (7/10)

Day 48: DAT politics – Are Oui Phony? (2007) – This French electronic pop outfit can be fun in small doses as they sing-yell over a heavily programmed Casio-ish unit with extensive use of varispeed. But boy, over more than a couple of songs, they’ll have you crying surrender, especially when they cover “The Rainbow Connection.” Yeah, the Muppet song. (3/10)

Day 49: Johnny “Guitar” Watson – A Real Mother For Ya (1977)/Funk Beyond the Call of Duty (1977) – Influential funk/R&B records from the middle of the disco age, for which too many mistook this music. Watson rose above the standard R&B models with his sly vocals (he almost sings with a smirk) and his distinct guitar style and sound. “A Real Mother For Ya” gets the edge because of its great hit title cut. (A Real Mother For Ya 8/10; Funk Beyond the Call of Duty 7/10)

Day 50: George Duke – The Aura Will Prevail (1974)/Feel (1974) – Completely competent and sometimes virtuoso jazz work led by the keyboard-playing Duke. There’s plenty of style variety and a handful of vocals. Nothing that truly stands out on either album, for good or ill. (5/10 for both)

Day 51: George Usher – Days of Plenty (2001)/Fire Garden (2003) – While the power pop master’s voice may be a somewhat acquired taste, his consistent songs are the essence of excellent. Straight-forward beats, jangling guitars, toe-tapping tunes – sheer delights that hold up upon repeated listens. “Smoke That Kiss” is Usher at his best, resembling the legendary Big Star. (Days of Plenty 7/10; Fire Garden 8/10)

Day 52: Yes – Suite Distance (1972) – Yes fans don’t need proof of the band’s ability to pull off their complex arrangements live, but just in case, here’s something. Recorded Aug. 13, 1972, in Columbia, Md., this is shortly before the release of “Close to the Edge,” and some of its songs are performed here. “Yours in No Disgrace” features some tantalizing noodling at its start. (8/10)

Day 53: Sandy Denny and The Strawbs (1991 – recorded 1967) – Sandy Denny’s voice is so remarkable, she can’t help but be the focus of anything she recorded. This is a collection of folk songs recorded just as The Strawbs formed. This is pre-Fairport Convention, pre-Led Zeppelin, and the place Judy Collins found “Who Knows Where the Time Goes.” OK (especially for fans, which I am), but start with “Liege & Lief” and maybe work back to this. (7/10)

Day 54: The High Llamas – Talahomi Way (2011) – More quiet music heavily influenced by the “Pet Sounds”-era Beach Boys, without the ornate vocals. It’s always an interesting listening experience, and strings are employed effectively and beautifully. But there’s nothing to recommend it if you’re not already a fan. (6/10)

Day 55: Acid Mothers Temple – Pink Lady Lemonade: You’re From Outer Space (2008) – Pink Floyd-ish swirling psychedelic music. This is fine enough to listen to now – it does everything it’s supposed to do. The score would be much higher if I’d first heard these guys when I was 16. (6/10)

Day 56: Apollo 440 – The Future’s What It Used To Be (2012) – I’ve finally realized these guy were truly a one-hit attraction for me. I loved “Stop the Rock,” but everything else sounds like noodling with electronics and painfully forced beats over the top. Maybe that’s fun for someone else, but not me. (2/10)

Day 57: Pink Floyd – Knebworth 1975 – A rough recording of a rough set. The last show at which the band tried out “Wish You Were Here” album material, the “Have a Cigar” sounds more like Led Zeppelin than Pink Floyd. Singer Roger Waters is in rough voice, the band was tired after a US tour, and Richard Wright had to switch keyboards around due to technical snafus. You had to be there. (5/10)

Day 58: Al Stewart – Past, Present and Future (1974)/Russians and Americans (1984) – Albums on both sides of Stewart’s smash hit “Year of the Cat” (1976, one of my favorite songs ever), these show the pluses and minuses of the singer-songwriter. Interesting lyrics, music that’s at worst inoffensive and at best fascinating, and easy listening on one side; on the other, Stewart’s frustratingly thin voice, and easy listening. The 1974 release is philosophical, the 1984 release political. (Past, Present and Future 7/10; Russians and Americans 8/10)

Day 59: The Explorers Club – Grand Hotel (2012) – There’s not a thing wrong with this album. It’s filled with melodic songs, sweet harmonies, classy arrangements, and sounds like it could have come out in 1966. The problem. The Explorers Club’s 2008 release “Freedom Wind” was a great Beach Boys pastiche. This expands the base, and is less successful as a result. Still, “Run Run Run” is a great song. (7/10)

Day 60: Felt – Poem of the River (1987)/Train Above the City (1988) – Two sides of Felt, an influential late 1980s British band. “Poem” is typical of the band’s style, sounding like what Bob Dylan’s “Highway 61 Revisited” might have been if it was recorded on barbiturates. “Train” is Felt in name only – cocktail jazz instrumentals, played somnambulistically. (Poem of the River 6/10; Train Above the City 2/10)

Day 61: Chick Churchill – You and Me (1973) – The keyboard player from Ten Years After goes solo in what solo albums used to be – the stuff the band wouldn’t do. This is as far from his band’s guitar-based blues sound as possible. It’s just your standard-issue 1970s rock album. The songs and Churchill’s voice are solid and unremarkable. (5/10)

Day 62: Nada Surf – The Stars are Indifferent to Astronomy (2012) – My problem with everything these guys have released that’s not “Popular” is it just has never grabbed me. Nothing wrong with it, but nothing memorable either. Competency can be a curse. The kind of album I listen to, and immediately forget. (4/10)

Day 63: Deep Purple – The Saturation Point (1973) This show in Hiroshima isn’t appreciably different from the “Machine Head”-heavy “Made In Japan” live album from the previous year. The recording predictably isn’t as good as the official release, but the band has the “Machine Head” tracks honed to a razor-sharp point by this time too. (7/10)

Day 64: Cloud Nothings – Attack of Memory (2012) – They start the song with their least representative song (“No Future/No Past”), and follow that with seven songs the style of which I didn’t think people cared for anymore. In my day, it was called moody New Wave, and now it’s probably intense emo. Listenable, but nothing that won’t let go of your ears. (5/10)

Day 65: Argent – Nexus (1974)/Circus (1975) – Despite a couple of earlier radio hits (notably “Hold Your Head Up”), Argent was more about virtuosity and complexity, more prog classical rock than classic rock. Their talents are on full display, but the catchy tunes are absent, especially on “Circus,” their first after the departure of Russ Ballard. (Nexus 6/10; Circus 5/10)

Day 66: The Cars – Candy-O monitor mixes (1979) – I have a weakness for this stuff – demos, alternate mixes, rough takes. It’s an acquired taste, I admit. These songs have no lead guitar, no backing vocals (crucial for Cars songs), and Ric Ocasek sometimes just walking through his vocals. It’s jarring at times, fascinating at others. (“Night Life Baby,” the original title for “Let’s Go.”) “The Dangerous Type” is my favorite Cars song, and this reinforces that. (8/10)

Day 67: Dark Ocean Colors (2011) – The only way this could be more perfect is if it had come out, say, 38 years ago. It’s the album Paul McCartney should have made to follow up “Venus and Mars,” it would have been a perfect 10cc release, it’s what The Beach Boys could have done if Brian Wilson was functional. It’s a grower – give it at least three listens. Right now, “Lazy Lighthouse Jupiter Band” and the gorgeous “Dream Away” are my favorites. I can’t stop listening. (10/10)

Day 68: Foxy Shazam – Foxy Shazam (2010)/The Church of Rock and Roll (2012) – These guys sound exactly like a band named “Foxy Shazam” should sound – pounding rock, influenced by glam rockers and Queen, with mad songwriting skills thrown in. The 2010 release gets the nod here for being more audacious and featuring “The Only Way To My Heart Is With An Ax.” The 2012 release is a little more adventurous, but shortchanges on tracks. (Foxy Shazam 9/10; The Church of Rock and Roll 7/10)

Day 69: Dream Theater – Official Bootleg: Dark Side Of The Moon (2006) – Hard to go wrong if you’re going to Xerox a great album and have the skill to do so. “The Great Gig in the Sky” rises above the original, thanks to the presence of gospel singer Theresa Thomason. Her performance is worth the purchase. (8/10)

Day 70: David Brookings – The End of an Error (2004) – A gorgeous upbeat pop album from a man who’s been a power pop hero for the past decade. The vocals are mixed to the front (as they should be with a voice this good), and the guitars are rhythmic and melodic, never overpowering. “Looking for the One” is beautiful. (8/10)

Day 71: Field Music – Plumb (2012) – The 15 songs that sprawl through this package sound like a lot of other things, but combine to make their own thing. Complex, herky-jerk guitar-based rhythms are offset with some gorgeous lead vocal work. Field Music’s best album ever. (8/10)

Day 72: The Cranberries – Roses (2012) – Kind of an unplugged softer effort. “Schizophrenic Cowboy” reaches some of the past fury, thanks to the vocal efforts of Dolores O’Riordan. Definitely a grower, with its seductive charms gradually rolling out. (8/10)

Day 73: Jethro Tull – Aqualung 40th anniversary (2011) – Fans are calling this the best reissue, saying the bottom of the sound has finally been restored. It sounds fine to me. Nothing will ever sound as good to my ears as the vinyl. This collects some rarities and outtakes and alternate versions on a second disc. It’s their best album, and that’s enough. (8/10)

Day 74: Perfume Genius – Put Your Back N 2 It (2012) – There’s such a thing as too ornate. Singer-songwriter Mike Hadreas has a fragile voice, and presents some fragile songs here. There’s an audience for this kind of dainty stuff, but framed this way, that doesn’t include me. (2/10)

Day 75: The Ting Tings – Sounds From Nowhere (2012) – There’s nothing here quite as irresistible as “That’s Not My Name,” but “Give It Back” and “Guggenheim” come close. This album is a little more layered than their first, and if it doesn’t rise as high, it also doesn’t sink as low, and it shows some growth, especially in the moving closer “In Your Life.” (8/10)

Day 76: The Aquabats – The Aquabats vs. the Floating Eye of Death (1999) – Eventually endearing, in spite of my suspicions about the band’s conceits (they’re superheroes, with capes, and write songs like “Giant Robot-Birdhead” and “The Ballad of Mr. Bonkers”). They’re California ska. Now, they have their own Sunday morning show on The Hub. (6/10)

Day 77: Edward Rogers – Sunday Fables (2004) – Superb power pop from a guy whose life story (lost an arm and part of a leg in a subway accident, still plays music) is almost as interesting as his music. “Innocent Times” is almost a perfect song. The second half here is powerful. (8/10)

Day 78: Shane Searles – Pop Rock (2005) – Hard to argue with that title, which describes precisely what’s contained. Above average and thoughtful melodic rock, highlighting by the fascinating “Basement Window.” He gets points for rocking up the Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows” and kicking off the album with that. (7/10)

Day 79: Lucero – Woman & Work (2012) – I found these guys thanks to the endorsement of Drive-By Truckers. Which makes sense. Add horns to what that band does, and you kind of get Lucero. Solid songs, and an album that grows on you with time. “It May Be Too Late” rises above some potential blues cliches, and is probably my favorite tune here. (8/10)

Day 80: fun. – Some Nights (2012) – Nate Ruess – the lead singer here, as well as of the lamented The Format – is incapable of writing songs that are anything less than intelligent. His works also take time to peel back, making them musts to repeatedly re-listen. This one is, as usual, fantastic. Hit single “We Are Young” isn’t even their best song here.They lose points for too too much Autotune, though. (8/10)

Day 81: Dave Dudley – Songs About the Working Man (1964)/George (And the North Woods) (1969) – What a voice, and what a hit with “Six Days on the Road” (on “… Working Man”). His trucker and working man songs are generally decent enough, albeit somewhat similar-sounding. Maybe somebody needs to hear him do Dylan “Blowin in the Wind”) and Creedence (“Bad Moon Rising”). I don’t. (Songs About the Working Man 4/10; George (And the North Woods) 3/10)

Day 82: The Doors – L.A. Woman (40th anniversary edition) – The original release, plus an entire album of alternate versions, rougher, with studio talk and even rougher vocals from Jim Morrison. The centerpieces, “L.A. Woman” and “Riders on the Storm,” are fantastic songs whatever their version. Only diehards, however, need this. I am one. (8/10)

Day 83: Paul McCartney – Kisses on the Bottom (2012) – Given McCartney’s musical love for the first half of the 20th century, evidenced in some of his own songs, this isn’t the jarring effort that Rod Stewart’s forays into historic songs has been. McCartney sings in his softer balladeer voice, and the jazz arrangements pleasantly evoke sleep. His own “My Valentine” is the best thing here. (5/10)

Day 84: Dr. John – The Sun, Moon & Herbs (1971)/Dr. John’s Gumbo (1972) – By the 1971 release, Dr. John had moved away from releasing jams like he did earlier in his career, and the songs are long, but never amble. “Gumbo” is covers of classic New Orleans-based tunes, and brilliant, especially the Huey Smith medley and “Big Chief,” a song of which I never tire. (The Sun, Moon & Herbs 7/10; Dr. John’s Gumbo 9/10)

Day 85: Moody Bluegrass: Nashville Tribute to Moody Blues (2004) – At first, I thought this would be comical, a banjo-and-fiddle treatment of the orchestral pomp of Moody Blues. But what I forgot was the tuneful talents of the originators. Great songs hold up performed in all styles. So while “Nights in White Satin” is a bit of a dud here (the orchestra and choir being key elements of the song), something like “The Voice” shines. (7/10)

Day 86: Smargl – Satanic Pop Metal (2012) – Perfectly named. Pop music, as sung by a gravelly metal kind of vocalist. This is probably offensive to all kinds of people – metal fans, pop fans, and those easily offended (I don’t wish to type the titles of the best songs). I enjoyed this, but I imagine I’m in a tiny minority. (7/10)

Day 87: Nits – Malpensa (2012) – This just isn’t as clever or as catchy as most of the pop I’ve loved from these guys from Holland. Everything is competently written and performed. It just isn’t as engaging or as fun as they have been. Very disappointing. (4/10)

Day 88: Pony Pony Run Run – II (2012) – They’re a French electronic pop-dance group, and their stuff sounds like a watered-down version of some of the MTV dance pop from the 1980s. So they’re equal parts Thompson Twins, Wham (at Wham’s weakest), Haircut 100, etc. With none of the humor or fun. (3/10)

Day 89: Van Morrison – Fillmore West, San Francisco, April 26, 1970 – Morrison and band tear up almost the entirety of the then-just-released “Moondance” album to fabulous effect. My version has no audience noise, so it’s either a soundboard recording or the audience has been edited out. Anyone at this show had to be hollering for all the performances. (9/10)

Day 90: Lemon Pipers – Jungle Marmalade (1968) – The bubblegum band that hit with “Green Tambourine” goes psychedelic with their second album. Even the attempt at bubblegum (“Jelly Jungle”) isn’t as good as their hits. (2/10)

Day 91: Apollo Sunshine – Katonah (2003) – A Boston-based trio with great chops. The problem is, they don’t play like they’re in the same room, or have any idea what the songs requires to be anything more than listenable. (2/10)

Day 92: Beth Jeans Houghton – Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose (2012) – Some wispy pop-folk-country with double-tracked vocals and very little to differentiate one song from the next. Nothing annoying here, but nothing particularly memorable either. (4/10)

Day 93: Hellsongs – Long Live Lounge (2012) – A Swiss trio that radically rearranges metal songs, emphasizing the melodies with a female singer and acoustic instrumentation. Some songs on this live release feature a symphony orchestra as well. Some metalheads may find this to be sacrilege. As far as I’m concerned, their takes on Metallica (“Seek and Destroy”) and Pantera (“Walk”) here border on genius. (9/10)

Day 94: The Swingin’ Neckbreakers – Kick Your Ass (1997) – Entertaining garage rock from a three-piece stuck solidly in the late 1960s. All the pieces are in place, but it doesn’t have the catchy or memorable songs I need in order to put it in repeat mode. Except for maybe “Rip It, Rip It Up,” their re-write of ‘Wipeout,” without the drum solo. (Which is still OK.) (5/10)

Day 95: Buxton – Nothing Here Seems Strange (2012) – Banjos, twangy harmonies, mid-tempo tunes – all the requisites for a new country-folk combo. The problem, as often seems to be the case with so many of these bands, is they know one tempo, and are strangers to dynamics. (3/10)

Day 96: Shutdown 66 – Welcome to Dumpsville (2003) – This Australian band sounds like it could be a group of Midwest American kids who have just discovered rock and roll, The Rolling Stones, and a cheesy organ. Your tolerance of this will depend of the level of your appreciation for garage rock and its imitation. There’s just too little variety for me. (4/10)

Day 97: Robyn Hitchcock – Tromsø, Kaptein (2011) – The prolific Hitchcock is at his best when you can grasp his lyrics and when the music compliments their moodiness. That’s what happens here. Acoustic-based recordings – with a dotting of strings – that are among the best Hitchcock has done since his signature “I Often Dream of Trains.” Superb songs. (9/10)

Day 98: Focus – Paris Theatre London 1973 – While they were saddled as a sort of novelty band with the success of the 1973 single “Hocus Pocus,” Focus was actually a solid jazz rock band. They stretch out here and show their skills, and it really doesn’t matter that the band’s name pops up in three of the songs. (7/10)

Day 99: Captain Beyond – Dawn Explosion (1977)/Bad Wizard – #1 Tonight! (2004) – Captain Beyond has the sound of a distinct 70s sub-genre – hard metal pop. Loud guitars, screeching solos, but also melodic 3- and 4-minute songs with harmonies. “Do Or Die” should have been a great hit single. In my head, even though it’s more than 25 years newer, Bad Wizard comes from a similar place, with a little more edge and a little less pretty melody. But Wolfmother wishes they had this much fun. (Dawn Explosion 7/10; #1 Tonight! 7/10)

Day 100: Doug Stanhope – Before Turning the Gun on Himself (2012) – Comedy shock and awe. And shock. I used to think Stanhope was losing his edge. But now I realize once you’ve had enough exposure to his distinct way of thinking, he’s never going to shock you again. So it’s me who’s changed a lot, not so much him. His takes here on health, Dr. Drew and songwriters, for example, are pointed as ever. Your favorite Stanhope CD/DVD is probably the first one you ever hear. (7/10)

Day 101: Spock’s Beard – The Light (1995) – The pieces were in place for this prog-rock band in their debut. But they hadn’t yet coalesced, and the quality of the songs would improve. I like their later work. I wouldn’t recommend this as a starting point for newcomers. (6/10)

Day 102: Madnnna – MDNA (2012) – I’ve given up on thinking she can repeat the breakthroughs of “Ray of Light” (1998). This is a throwback to the pop of the “True Blue” era, with a few techno tricks so it feels modern. The problem is, she can’t help but write smooth poppy melodies, so no matter the sheen, that’s the base. “Give Me All Your Luvin’ ” is probably my favorite song of the year so far. (8/10)

Day 103: Elvis Presley – Unedited Masters : Nashville 1970 – Raw mixes and unpolished takes of Presley efforts as he was in the midst of his comeback. The voice, of course, is brilliant. And this is a classic example of how schizophrenic Presley was continuing to be musically, between the rave-up of “I Got My Mojo Workin,” his great take of “You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me” and the maudlin he too often fell into. (7/10)

Day 104: Nadia Oh – Colours (2011) – If you need to heard pleasant Autotuned dance pop, have at it. There’s nothing too irritating here, but nothing that separates her from the dozens of performers who sound exactly like her. I guess “Taking Over the Dancefloor” is the hit, if that makes a difference. (3/10)

Day 105: Glenn Hughes – Soul Mover (2005) – Hughes has an undeniably great voice. But too often throughout his career, he’s used it on mediocre songs. This is palatable enough, but ultimately the best one can say about it is it’s listenable. (4/10)

Day 106: Led Zeppelin – Oxford Jan. 7, 1973 – Singer Robert Plant is in slightly ill voice here and has to adjust, but the balance of the instruments is superb compared with most Led Zeppelin bootlegs. This is from the start of the 1973, but guitar player Jimmy Page and especially drummer John Bonham are locked in at mid-tour form. (7/10)

Day 107: Jill Sobule – Sobule Comes Alive, Joe’s Pub, July 2007 – A live show once available for free on Sobule’s website. It gives a great feel for the singer-songwriter’s fantastic and humorous live shows. (I’ve seen her eight times, and will go again in a minute.) This has the attraction of the rare, unreleased and brilliant “Blue Train.” (10/10)

Day 108: Edgar Winter’s White Trash – Roadwork (1972) – A fantastic live mish-mash of gospel, R&B and rock by a tight band clearly enjoying itself. One of the best versions of “I Can’t Turn You Loose” ever. Loses points for band-to-band and band-to-audience call-and-response, easily skipped. (Anyone who listens to the last 10[!?] minutes of “Tobacco Road” is a masochist or under the influence.) (7/10)

Day 109: This Mortal Coil (2011) – A boxed collection of the 4AD supergroup’s complete recorded works. The first and fourth discs are more true to what I consider the real spirit of the collective – moody interpretations of obscure but worthy folk and pop songs. Alex Chilton’s “Kangaroo” and “Holocaust” are great, but they are when Chilton sings them too. (7/10)

Day 110: Tokyo Sex Destruction – Black Noise Is the New Sound! (2005) – A lightning quick run through 11 tunes from a Spanish garage punk band of recent vintage. If loud guitars and screaming vocals and brief (but still well-constructed) songs are your thing, have at it. And it’s all done in less than a half-hour. They owe a lot to The MC5. (7/10)

Day 111: Deep Purple – Days May Come and Days May Go: The 1975 Rehearsals, Volume 1 (2000)/Battle Rages demos (1993) – The first, lengthier legitimate release, is a jam session early in the band’s addition of Tommy Bolin. It’s an entertaining listen as they walk through some familiar songs in early form. The “Battle Rages” cuts are more fully formed, and (like the resulting album) less interesting. (Days May Come 7/10; Battle Rages demos 5/10)

Day 112: Fauxliage (2007) – While I can’t say I think much of the electronica music supplied by the members of Delerium – it just seems repetitive and uninspired here – Leigh Nash has a fantastic voice, and it’s on good display. Great band name too. (6/10)

Day 113: Iommi – Fused (2005) – An effort featuring Black Sabbath riff king Tommy Iommi alongside Glenn Hughes, one of metal’s underrated vocalists. Hughes’ soulful high pitch is a matter of taste, but appeals to me. It works best here on “Dopamine.” This could have come out 30 years sooner and sounded just as right. (7/10)

Day 114: Donnie Vie – Wrapped Around My Middle Finger (2012) – The co-founder and singer of Enuff Z’Nuff plows familiar ground with some melodic hard pop. This builds – the better songs and performances are in the second half. “Rattle On” and “No Escape” shine. At times, this sounds like a great album Elvis Costello never got around to releasing. (8/10)

Day 115: Hoodoo Gurus – Blue Cave (1996) – One of my favorite 80s bands for their quirky and driving pop. This is more of the same, with less quirk and a couple of nods to the then-fading grunge scene. This is OK, but you’re better suited by picking up “Mars Needs Guitars!” or “Stoneage Romeos.” (6/10)

Day 116: Ten Years After – A Full Moon At Gaelic Park Bronx, New York August 6, 1971; Hanley 8-11-72 – The band is absolutely sizzling in the 1971 show, especially on an incendiary “I Can’t Keep From Crying,” one of the best I’ve ever heard. The Hanley show features some jamming that’s better than a lot of shows, and an unexpectedly entertaining “Sweet Little 16.” (1971 show 8/10; 1972 show 7/10)

Day 117: Biff Bang Pow! – Oblivion (1987) – Regarded as their best album, this sounds like a mix-tape of great 1960s pop. Between the harmonies, the psych sounds and the solid beat, these are the kind of songs that gave retro a good name, then and now. (7/10)

Day 118: Jackie DeShannon – Jackie … [plus] (1972/2003) – How this isn’t as highly regarded as Dusty Springfield’s “Dusty in Memphis” is beyond me. Start with “Vanilla ‘Olay” and her brilliant version of Neil Young’s “Only Love Can Break Your Heart.” This reissue contains the original 12 cuts plus 10 songs not available elsewhere. She is tragically underrated. (10/10)

Day 119: Shooter Jennings – Family Man (2012) – This disappoints me probably as much as Jennings’ country fans were disappointed by “Black Ribbons,” his 2010 rocky concept album that was my album of the year. This is all straight country, competently played and deeply personal. I find it by-the-numbers and unnecessarily dull. (4/10)

Day 120: Bond – Born (2000) – The debut from the pop-classical string quartet. The originals are in the style of what you’d hear at a pops show by an orchestra, for all the good and bad that indicates. “The 1812” is the best or worst of what these four have to offer. Too non-committal for my taste. (4/10)

Day 121: Nils Lofgren – Old School (2011) – I’m all for reflective albums from music’s senior statesmen. But the songs have to say more than “I’m still here!” “60 Is the New 18” is a clever song, and Lofgren’s guitar work will keep even non-fans coming back. But this could have been much more. (4/10)

Day 122: Little Feat – Chinese Work Songs (2000) – While it’s not at all the same Little Feat you knew from the 1970s, it’s still a solid band with solid songs, capable of producing a solid listen. Some nice shuffling Southern rock. I can listen to “Bed of Roses” non-stop. The second half tails off. (7/10)

Day 123: Denim – Back in Denim (1992) – Led by Lawrence of Felt, a band I adored in the 1980s. Wish I’d come across this 20 years ago. It’s like The Cars without that band’s consistent and overwhelming keyboards and synthesizers. Melodic and kind of rocky, “The Osmonds” is a fantastic melancholy pop track. (8/10)

Day 124: Norah Jones – Little Broken Hearts – Jones’ voice makes her unique, and won her Grammys. But her songwriting (here) and song choices (with The Little Willies) have left me perpetually bored and wondering what the fuss is about. No different here. I’m sure she’s a nice person. (3/10)

Day 125: Bobgoblin – Twelve-Point Master Plan (1997) – Tough pop-rock at its finest and most hilarious. These guys are clearly having fun. It’s a guitar-dominant attack, with melodic vocals and harmonies. Check out “Standing Up (To the Voice of America).” (8/10)

Day 126: Gruppo Sportivo – The Secret of Success (2011) – In their late 1970s heyday, I loved these guys for their musical talent and wry cynicism. As they’ve continued, they’re still quite good with the melodies, but even the smiles are few and far between. No surprise that my favorite cuts here are acoustic-based remakes of old songs “One Way Love” and especially “Hey Girl.” (6/10)

Day 127: Ingrid Michaelson – Human Again (2012) – Her fans are protesting over-production, but this sounds fine to me. Sweet folk-pop from a rising star whose music you’ve heard in commercials. Top-notch stuff if the style is to your taste. (7/10)

Day 128: Boy & Bear – Moonfire (2012) – This is more to my liking than most of what passes for current folk-rock music. There are actually different tempos and catchy choruses here. They remind me of the 1970s Paul Simon. They may remind you of something closer to your age. “Part Time Believer” is a fantastic tune. (10/10)

Day 129: Marvelous 3 – ReadySexGo (2000) – Lack of label support led the band to leave Elektra after the release of this, and it’s understandable. There’s plenty here to like, mainly hard guitar-based pop, up-tempo tunes designed to be memorable. “Cigarette Lighter Love Song” may be mocking power ballads, but it’s still a good power ballad. (7/10)

Day 130: Sam Morrison Band – Dig It Or Don’t (2011) – Competent by-the-numbers Southern rock, designed for those who like the genre. The excellence of “Say Your Prayers” is offset by an annoying Pete Rose song. (4/10)

Day 131: The War on Drugs – Slave Ambient (2011) – There’s got to be a market for these guitar-based bands who emphasize mood, atmosphere and sonics over dynamics and tempo. It’s not my thing, and I’m not sure what it is in reviews that keeps pushing me towards these things I find dull. “Baby Missiles” stands out by being unlike anything else here. (3/10)

Day 132: Fitz & The Tantrums – Pickin’ Up The Pieces (2011) – I’m not sure why, but this combo, with its throwback to classic Motown styles, reminds me more of Hall and Oates than anything else. They have the right combination of soul, R&B and pop. They’re just missing those big, memorable Motown choruses. (7/10)

Day 133: Neil Young – Lucky 17 – A collection of outtakes and alternate versions over a 20-year stretch of Young’s prolific career. Fantastic sound for a bootleg. It never improves on its opener, a great alternate take of “Everybody Knows This is Nowhere,” but it doesn’t fall far off either. (8/10)

Day 134:Big Wreck – Albatross (2012) – I’ve always liked these guys, who are definitely rock but otherwise generally genre-defiant. The guitars remind me of Jimmy Page, and the songs are almost pretty pop melodically. They kind of soar, especially on the title track. (8/10)

Day 135: Garbage – Not Your Kind of People (2012) – Picks up where they left off. Which isn’t a compliment, because 2005’s “Bleed Like Me” was their weakest effort. This isn’t awful, it just isn’t as good as any of their first three albums, all of which I liked. Disappointing. (4/10)

Day 136: Raul Malo – Around the World (2012) – If you’re grading this guy’s work based on his voice, then of course he’s a 10. He’s remarkable. But this collection of largely covers (including “La Vie En Rose” and “Indian Love Call”) pales because of the orchestral backing. It’s not fun. (4/10)

Day 137: Carole King – The Legendary Demos (2012) – 13 of King’s compositions in their rough stage, recorded as guides for producers, musicians and singers. Pretty much what you’d expect, except her version of “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” is utterly spectacular. (7/10)

Day 138: Howler – America Give Up (2012) – I couldn’t help but feel I’ve heard this all before, 30 years ago, from British bands who’d strum guitar chords and sing as though they’re bored with the world. Don’t care for it that much now, either, however well done it is. (4/10)

Day 139: Gong – You (1974) – Definitely not the place to start with these guys, apparently. I didn’t realize this was the third part of a trilogy as I found myself respecting the structures and jams, but being unimpressed by the vocals. Ultimately, I thought this was a decent Yes album without Yes’ great vocals. Maybe something else by Gong … (4/10)

Day 140: Zappa – Hamburg, West Germany May 5, 1988 – The 1988 tour featured an incredible band of incredible players who sometimes also combined laugh-out-loud humor with their expert chops. This is not one of those shows. Strictly straight-forward. Not boring, but nothing mind-blowing. (7/10)

Day 141: Willow (1973) – You wouldn’t need the date of release to date this album. It’s very Laurel Canyon, harmonies, acoustic guitars, deadly serious songs. It’s only thanks to fates determined by radio programmers that these guys weren’t Crosby Stills Nash and Young or The Eagles. (7/10)

Day 142: Absinthe Blind – The Everyday Separation (2001) – True shoegazing pop from the turn of the century. As with a lot of the genre, it sounds pretty, and it obviously means something to the performers. The audience, however, is not me. I can’t even tell you whether this is good or great. Pop muzak to my ears. (4/10)

Day 143: Nelson – Before the Rain (2011) – A collection of demos for the duo’s breakthrough “After the Rain” album. The songs have aged well, although I can’t hear a lot of difference between this and what was released, except for a few production tricks. There’s an additional 10 songs with no appreciable dropoff in quality. These guys were in the right place at the right time, then the wrong place at the wrong time. They were writing solid songs. (7/10)

Day 144: Chris Rainbow – Home of the Brave (1975) – Stylish ahead-of-its-time pop for the mid-70s. Classy songwriting, and maybe a bit soft for some, but a pleasant and well-crafted listen. (7/10)

Day 145: Chris Hillman – Morning Sky (1982) – A fantastic traditional bluegrass album by country rock pioneer Hillman, While I can do without the weak cover of “Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues,” this feels like the kind of stuff Hillman can do (well and effortlessly) in his sleep. (7/10)

Day 146: Romeo’s Daughter – Rapture (2012) – Perfectly categorized in “melodic rock,” this is what Patty Smyth might sound like tamed down, or Heart performing mediocre material. They’re passionate about what they’re doing, but the material doesn’t match the desire. (3/10)

Day 147: Marty Stuart – Nashville, Volume 1: Tear The Woodpile Down (2012) – The kind of stuff the incredibly talented Stuart can spin in his sleep. At 10 songs, it’s short, and I prefer thematic work from him. (“The Piligrim” is one of the best albums ever made.) (6/10)

Day 148: Alabama Shakes – Boys and Girls (2012) – I can’t join in the apparently universal praise for these guys. The musical and vocal talent is there, but the songs come up short for me, not quite as soulful as they aspire to be. Maybe after a couple more years on the road … (6/10)

Day 149: Bad California Weather – Sunkissed (2012) – An odd little genre-defying mix of folk, alt and twisted funk. It doesn’t fully come off, because the songs feel half-formed and Chris Adolf’s vocals are hidden amid production tricks that make him sound like a faux Dylan. That doesn’t work at all. I’ll give them credit for the hypnotic “Let it Shine,” though. (4/10)

Day 150: Paul McCartney – Ram reissue (2012) – A disappointing piddle of bonus tracks on this release, just eight songs on a second CD on the two-disc set, with no demos or previously unreleased material. There’s a four-CD/one-DVD box, with a mono mix of the album and the “Thrillington” album of orchestral versions of the songs. You can live without those, but the main “Ram” album is still inarguably a treat.(9/10)

Day 151: Ian Gillan – Dreamcatcher (1998) – A remarkable effort from Deep Purple’s best singer. This pastiche includes country, glam, folk and even some world music. And it’s top-to-bottom solid. It’s the best album not called “Machine Head” with which Gillan has ever been associated. (10/10)

Day 152: Bauhaus – Nightime (1982) – A live recording so fantastic I didn’t even realize it was a bootleg. These guys are regarded as the launching point of goth rock. They always really just made me laugh – they seemed to have a fairly twisted sense of humor, which is present here. (7/10)

Day 153: Beatles – For Sale Studio Sessions (1964) – The rule with bootlegs is always “buyer beware,” so I should have suspected there wouldn’t be much new in this two-disc set. What I didn’t already know from various “Anthology” outtakes I’d heard elsewhere anyway. An interesting collection for its various different mixes, showing how some interpret (or mangle) the band’s work. (6/10)

Day 154: Godley & Creme – Ismism (Snack Attack) (1981) – This is just plain odd. These guys were half of 10cc, an intelligent art-pop band. This is a strange mix of what feels like unfinished songs and sing-songy early rap. It’s not bad, just different. And not great. (4/10)

Day 155: Koufax – Hard Times Are in Fashion (2005) – Some bands just naturally write songs that sound like anthems. Koufax is like that, majestic pop that stands outside of time. If Bono were less important, U2 might sound a little like this. (8/10)

Day 156: Melody Gardot – Some Lessons -The Bedroom Sessions (2005); Worrisome Heart (2008); My One and Only Thrill (2009) – Great light jazz (think Norah Jones, only Gardot in my book has more soul). Her story is as remarkable as the music. Struck by a car, she used music as therapy and rebounded spectacularly. She needs to stick to her originals. I didn’t need to hear another “Over the Rainbow.” (Some Lessons 6/10; Worrisome Heart 8/10; My One and Only Thrill 7/10)

Day 157: Melody Gardot – The Absence (2012) – And now she’s a chanteuse. The quiet passion that brought her earlier work alive is absent here. It’s exotic, it’s world music, but the songs aren’t up to her standards. Start elsewhere. (4/10)

Day 158: Robin Trower – Boston, Oct. 15, 2006 – Trower is in sharp form. Singer Davey Pattison is not, especially on the material he did not originate, which is about half the songs here. The biggest relief here? No drum solo. (7/10)

Day 159: Coverdale-Page – Over Now Tokyo 1993 – Page is tight here. Sometimes in the Coverdale-Page shows, David Coverdale’s approximation of Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant on Led Zep songs is scary. Here, it’s mostly shrieky. There are better C-P shows available. (6/10)

Day 160: Barreracudas – Nocturnal Missions (2011) – Power pop with a twist, a mix somehow and somewhere between The Ramones and Tom Petty. Toe-tapping, and while it’s not ground-breaking lyrically, it’s still good fun. (7/10)

Day 161: Warpaint – The Fool (2010) – Perfectly average. A kind of Americanized version of Cocteau Twins, but not quite as rich as the original. The pieces are pretty much in place, and the songs are OK, but they’re just nothing more than average. (5/10)

Day 162: Alex Chilton – Free Again: The 1970 Sessions (2012 re-release) – From country to country-rock to messy pop to a heavy metal “Sugar Sugar,” this reissue shows the Box Tops singer trying to recapture his career. It doesn’t rank with what he was about to do with Big Star, but it’s an interesting snapshot of its time. (6/10)

Day 163: The Mavericks – Suited Up and Ready EP (2012) – A teaser for an album due in the fall. Raul Malo still has one of music’s great voices, and there’s nothing bad here. “Come Unto Me” stands out. I need more than five songs from these guys. (7/10)

Day 164: Matraca Berg – The Dreaming Fields (2011) – A legendary songwriter (she’s in the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame), this is Berg’s first album of this century, and it’s fantastic. Every song is near-perfect. She’s not flashy enough to nab everyone’s attention, but you’ll hear these songs by other people eventually. (Berg wrote, among many others, Deana Carter’s “Strawberry Wine.”) (8/10)

Day 165: Allman Brothers – A&R Studios 1971 – Man, these guys were tight as a live unit. This hits the high points from their setlist made famous by “At Fillmore East.” The real treat is their version of King Curtis’ “Soul Serenade.” (9/10)

Day 166: Julian Cope – Dark Orgasm (2005) – Sung in his Jim Morrison/early Alice Cooper voice, this mess of 1970s metal/punk amuses me, but I know others consider it a waste. Start with his “Peggy Suicide” album, but be sure to at least catch “I’ve Found a New Way To Love Her” here. (7/10)

Day 167: Led Zeppelin – Budokan Oct. 2, 1972 – Singer Robert Plant comes out tight and uninspired, but he gets warm as the show goes on. It’s a solid show from both drummer John Bonham and guitar player Jimmy Page. I always like hearing how the seeds of “Achilles Last Stand” find their way into “Dazed and Confused” around this time. (7/10)

Day 168: Traffic – Santa Monica 1972 – Essentially an unpolished version of their “On the Road” album, this contains most of the same songs, and most of the same solos and improv. There’s a video release of this, and this may just be audio pulled from that. Others didn’t like this era of the band much, but I did enjoy “Shootout at the Fantasy Factory.” And what’s not to like about any version of “The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys”? (7/10)

Day 169: Beach House – Bloom (2012) – I understand some people like this kind of dreamy, ambient, brittle, twee stuff. I just don’t like the style. It’s too cotton candy fluffy for my taste. Needs more beef, more dynamics, and more variety in the songs and mix. (3/10)

Day 170: The Civil Wars – Barton Hollow (2012) – All the pieces are in place here. Beautiful blend of voices, precise acoustic guitar picking, ornate arrangements with accentuating pieces painstakingly placed. All that’s missing is the songs, with the exceptions of the title track and “Birds of a Feather.” (6/10)

Day 171: Vai – Sex and Religion (1993) – I enjoyed this more than I expected to enjoy a Steve Vai album. It’s not as complex as I feared, probably best classified as melodic metal. The playing is perfect, of course. The vocals, by Devin Townshend, just annoy me when he goes to extremes. (7/10)

Day 172: The Beach Boys – That’s Why God Made the Radio (2012) – Apart from a couple of songs (the title cut, “Isn’t it Time”), a merely serviceable album that could have been made by The Explorers Club or any other Beach Boys-infatuated group. The rush to praise this merely-OK-effort is baffling. Autotune on a Beach Boys album? Heresy. (6/10)

Day 173: Falconer – Falconer (2011) – A Swedish metal band with some chops, and a vocalist (Matthias Blad) who sounds frighteningly like Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson. If melodic speed metal without the screaming is your thing, these guys are right up your alley. (5/10)

Day 174: Neil Young and Crazy Horse – Americana (2012) – Not the reworking of folk standards that Young promised. This is more Young and Crazy Horse hacking their way through some songs they kind of know, playing the way they always kind of play. If it’s sincere, I’m surprised – it feels like self-parody. (5/10)

Day 175: Mahavishnu Orchestra – Between Nothingness and Eternity (1973)/Visions of the Emerald Beyond (1975) – Their second album reflects what a lot of guitar-led jazz-rock combos were doing at the time. They, of course, featured violin player Jean Luc Ponty, who did similar but better work with Frank Zappa. This doesn’t cut it as well for me, although I imagine if I’d been there at the time, I’d love it then and now. I’m not normally a fan of live albums (I’d rather hear bootlegs and complete shows and mistakes), but I give the nod to the live album here, as it feels more excitable. (Between Nothingness … 6/10; Visions … 5/10)

Day 176: Al Stewart – Orange (1972)/Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time (1996) – “Orange” feels like it could be a lesser Bob Dylan album from the 1960s (he even covers Dylan’s “I Don’t Believe You”). “Seemed …” is a collection of B-sides and rarities that give a better view of the depth of Stewart’s skills. (Orange 6/10; Seemed … 7/10)

Day 177: The Hives – Les Hives (2012) – Straight-ahead quick, fast, pounding songs with singalong choruses and straight-forward lyrics. They’re giving us nothing huge to ponder, and that’s just the way I like it. These guys are incredible fun. Check out the ELO ripoff, “Go Right Ahead.” (8/10)

Day 178: The Kooks – Junk of the Heart (2011) – Solid, well-written pop songs that their veteran fans don’t like as much as earlier work. I was neither a lover nor a hater, so this strikes me as the next logical step. What’s most unnerving is how much singer Luke Pritchard sounds like George Harrison on some cuts. There’s no musical similarity, but plenty in the sound of the voices. (8/10)

Day 179: Maryann Cotton – Free Falling Angels (2012) – Combining the voice of Alice Cooper with the metal chops of some veteran players and some primo writing skills, this is kind of a retro melodic metal effort. It’s one of the best albums I’ve heard all year. Give a listen to the first cut, “Heaven Send For Me.” (9/10)

Day 180: The Jam – Sound Affects (2010 30th anniversary reissue) – It was my favorite album in 1980, and I’m not going to like it any less with 22 demos, alternate takes and newly released covers from the same period. Their version of “Revolver,” this rivals the best of The Clash and Elvis Costello as the height of British New Wave. One of the best albums ever made. (10/10)

Day 181: Lita Ford – Living Like a Runaway (2012) – This is high on my list of unexpected surprises from this year. I had no idea Ford had something this good left in her tank. There’s no “Kiss Me Deadly” here, but there’s none of the wince-inducing efforts of her last album either. She sings well, and the guitars and arrangements here are prime. (8/10)

Day 182: Yes – Aug. 8, 1991, Mountain View, Calif. (Yesshows 1991) – I’m not sure why, but the newer songs featured in this set fall flat for me. Maybe it’s preference for the classic Yes lineup, or the onstage mess of people running on and off during different songs on this “Union” tour set. (When I saw them in Indiana on this same tour, the stage combinations were distracting.) (6/10)

Day 183: Melanie – Garden in the City (1972)/Madruga (1974) – A pair of disappointingly lifeless album from one of my favorite overlooked folk singers. “Garden in the City” is a collection of songs wisely left off her Buddah albums. Apart from “Madruga”‘s “Love To Lose Again” and Jim Croce’s “Lover’s Cross,” this is slow and mournful, and even if you like her voice (which I do), these turn into dirges and background noise. (Both 4/10)

Day 184: The dB’s – Falling Off the Sky (2012) – The speed and power have gone from these early 1980s power pop kings. But they still can write an amazing song, or batch of songs. Lots of quality here, but improbably, drummer Will Rigby’s “Write Back” may be the best new song I’ve heard all year. (9/10)

Day 185: Well Wishers – Under the Arrows (2005) – Derivative 21st century power pop. Which is fine. If there’s nothing remarkable, there’s also no spectacular failure or missteps. Jangly guitars, pretty melodies, and lots of attempts to sound like other power pop bands. (6/10)

Day 186: Gong – Acid Motherhood (2005) – As I try to grasp Gong, this is the easiest way in for me: Complex, Zappa-like arrangements of fairly sophisticated pop-ish melodies. Not for everyone, but the side of me that likes prog rock truly enjoyed this. (7/10)

Day 187: Pink Floyd – Animal Instincts (1977) – One of the best shows I’ve heard from the 1977 tour. The band is loose, actually jams a little bit, and curmudgeonly singer Roger Waters atypically doesn’t yell at the audience. Fans correctly think this deserved an official release. Superb. (9/10)

Day 188: Don & Dewey – Jungle Hop (1992) – A compilation of great early (mid- to late-1950s) rock and roll from a duo that deserved to be heard more than they were. The Righteous Brothers and Donny and Marie Osmond had hits with covers of their songs, and The Beatles could have. I’m happy I found this – it made me smile non-stop for an hour. (8/10)

Day 189: Memphis Train Union – The Bluebird Sessions (2012) – I like their twin-guitar attack, which sounds like a replication of The Rolling Stones’ 1970s efforts. But there’s nothing special about the singer or the songs. Very standard. (4/10)

Day 190: The White Album – The Album (2012) – Folk music is not just music played with acoustic instruments, It’s supposed to be music for folks, music that involves them musically and lyrically. This does none of that for me, and doesn’t come close to living up to the name of the great Beatles album from which this group steals its name. (3/10)

Day 191: Cha-Cha – We Are (2010) – Tabbed in their time by the British music press as a potential next best thing. Their ska and competent pop reminds me more of stuff Vampire Weekend would have thrown away when recording their first album. Competent enough, but frustratingly lightweight. (3/10)

Day 192: Rock Sugar (2010) – I’m not sure the target audience here – I don’t know many metalheads who enjoy mashups as well. But this is well-done, and while its reach sometimes exceeds its execution, when they hit – like the “Enter Sandman”/”Don’t Stop Believin” mash – it’s non-stop fun. (7/10)

Day 193: Go-Kart Mozart – On the Hot Dog Streets (2012) – British eccentric Lawrence takes a snide shot at everything 80s with some simple songs featuring annoying Casio-style processed music. Some acts do this for fun. This feels full of contempt, for the music and the audience. I always hate saying every song sounds the same, but in this case, it’s true. (2/10)

Day 194: Zappa – Hamburg, June 8, 1982 – This is one of Zappa’s most musically brilliant bands, but one this show, there seems to be malcontent among the troops as they run through some complex material in competent but uninspired fashion. On the other hand, any Zappa show with “No No Cherry” is by definition a good one. (7/10)

Day 195: The Cowsills – Global (1998) – This makes me sad. This album is brilliant, and I didn’t listen to it until 14 years after the fact. They’re closer to a poppy alternative act here than to what they were when they were making radio hits in the 1960s. Rich harmonies, great songs – it should have been huge. (9/10)

Day 196: The Fray – Scars & Stories (2012) – Pretty much what everyone expects – mid-tempo melodic rock. Quite all right, even though nothing rises to the level of opener “Heartbeat.” (6/10)

Day 197: Will C. x The Beach Boys – Adieu Or Die (2012) – A mixtape “reimagining” Beach Boys songs from (approximately) 1966 to 1972. It accomplishes one of Will C.’s professed goals – to give us fans pause and a chance to reconsider the original works. It’s interesting, but doesn’t approach what Dangermouse (Beatles/Jay Z) and Go Home Productions have done with the same idea. (6/10)

Day 198: The Adult Net – The Honey Tangle (1989) – A side project by members of The Fall. Its jangly guitars and female vocals are a throwback to some psychedelic 1960s period that doesn’t really exist except in the minds of some zealots. Pleasant sounding, but pedestrian songs. (4/10)

Day 199: Chris Whitley – Perfect Day (2000) – An album full of love songs, recorded live to tape, with two other players. Unplugged and acoustic, Whitley turns tunes by Bob Dylan, The Doors and Lou Reed, among others, into pieces that sound like they’re being played by early 20th century blues masters. Interesting. (6/10)

Day 200: Paul Revere and the Raiders – Mojo Workout! (2000) – This two-disc set recorded in 1963 catches the garage rock band before the recording industry cleaned them up. One disc of studio outtakes, and 50 minutes of a live show I wish I’d attended – it sounds as crazy as any crazy rock show I’ve ever seen or imagined. (8/10)

Day 201: Allman Brothers Band – The Gatlinburg Tapes (1971) – Months before Duane Allman’s death, the group works through classic blues and country tunes in an all-acoustic session. Dickey Betts plays rough sketches of “Ramblin Man” and “Blue Sky,” and Duane Allman displays encyclopedic knowledge of music history. It’s too stop-start to hold up to multiple listens for me. (6/10)

Day 202: Grace Potter and the Nocturnals – The Lion The Beast The Beat (2012) – This is puzzlingly not good. With the exception of three songs near the end (including the title cut), Potter surrenders her rocking blues style for a bland 80s melodic metal feel. And it doesn’t work. She’s better than this. (3/10)

Day 203: Robert Lamm – Living Proof (2012) – Yeah, there are hints of his band in this Chicago founding member’s solo effort. There’s also plenty of awful adult contemporary mid-tempo background tunes. For some of them, a second listen is sheer agony. (3/10)

Day 204: Katharina Nuttall – Turn Me On (2012) – Kind of like Velvet Underground singer Nico without the accent. The songs are in minor keys, with instrumentation carefully and perfectly placed. You’ll know within seconds of listening to any piece of this whether you’ll like it. It’s not my thing. (4/10)

Day 205: Foghat – Last Train Home (2010) – A tribute to late member Lonesome Dave Peverett, this hour-long collection of blues features the trademark Foghat slide guitar sound honed to perfection. The vocals get on my nerves in a couple of places, but the playing is sharp. The guys are having fun, and their fans (of which I’m one) will as well. (8/10)

Day 206: Stevie Ray Vaughan – Peace in the Valley August 25, 1990 – His final show. Like many of Vaughan’s live performances its solid and entertaining. The story would be better if it had been spectacular and transcendent. And if it included “Voodoo Child (Slight Return).” (7/10)

Day 207: Hot – Hot (1977) – A prototypical pop LP from the 1970s capitalizing on a hit single (the great “Angel in Your Arms”). It’s the sound of a trio of singers in search of a style. There are a couple of decent songs here, but nothing in the single’s league. (4/10)

Day 208: Graveyard Train – Hollow (2012) – These Australians do what I’d call doom folk, with acoustic instrumentation and menacing voices singing about bleak subjects. The singer sounds alternately like Alice Cooper, Jim Morrison and Jack Black. Sing along, everybody! (8/10)

Day 209: The Nits – Hat (1988) – They move away from the sophisticated pop on which they built a reputation into a smoother adult contemporary sound. Only it’s too sophisticated for adult contemporary. And this is just an EP. (7/10)

Day 210: Public Image Limited – This Is PIL (2012) – I’m a John Lydon fan with no expectations, so I’m inclined to like this. The album leans more toward the metallish but not radio-friendly pop they’ve done previously, and less toward the experimental dub. Lydon makes me laugh – always has – and does here, especially “Lollipop Opera.” (7/10)

Day 211: Rita Wilson – AM & FM (2012) – Yes, Mrs. Tom Hanks, the actress. This is fine, if you like karaoke night. There’s nothing off about what she’s doing, and the songs are likable enough if you’re into 1960s and 1970s radio pop (and I am). But there’s nothing original in these adaptations, and given the choice, I’ll seek out the originals. (4/10)

Day 212: Jefferson Airplane – The Volunteers Sessions (1969) – It’s amazing how this album was conceived, composed and recorded in such a short amount of time. These demos and rehearsals show the finished version is close to how the songs were originally written – just a little more polish added. (7/10)

Day 213: Black Spiders – Sons of the North (2012) – Maybe the 1970s style of classic melodic metal never really went away, but I’m still encountering more of it this year than I imagined existed. And I’m liking a lot of it too. These guys like their metal crunchy, and with a sense of humor. “KISS Tried To Kill Me,” anyone? (8/10)

Day 214: The Youngbloods – Elephant Mountain (1969) – Quite a ways removed from their hit “Get Together,” this is still a pleasant, albeit quiet, folky-poppy experience. None of the tracks stand out as fantastic or as garbage, so it works as an album. (6/10)

Day 215: Blackfoot – Tomcattin’ (1980)/Siogo (1983) – What a difference three years makes. The “Tomcattin’ ” band is confident and rocking Southern style. Then on “Siogo,” a band that had success in the 1970s tries to find its way in changing times, keeping some vital characteristics and attempting (with only mild success) to blend in new sounds. (Tomcattin’ 7/10; Siogo 5/10)

Day 216: Love Sculpture – Blues Helping (1968) – I didn’t realize these guys – featuring Dave Edmunds – had done an all-blues album before they unleashed “Sabre Dance” and “In the Land of the Few.” I’m more interested in their pop work than in these attempts to copy American R&B acts. (3/10)

Day 217: Aerosmith – Boston April 23, 1973 – Weeks after the release of their first album, in their hometown. The setlist skips “Dream On,” Steven Tyler’s vocals are way up front, and drummer Joey Kramer seems the most assured member of the quintet. (7/10)

Day 218: Jill Sobule – Philadelphia Feb. 2, 2002/Nashville March 11, 2002 – A solo headlining show (Philadelphia), and one opening for Warren Zevon. Her kinship with her fans shows, as well as her comfort as an entertainer. She’s a storyteller, and can keep you engaged with just an acoustic guitar and her songs. (Philadelphia 8/10; Nashville 8/10)

Day 219: Julian Cope – Black Sheep (2008) – A fantastic mesh of folk and rock, hypnotic and mesmerizing. Cope’s voice and style are an acquired taste, but once he burrows in your ears, you’ll delight in his acute yet primitive sense of melody. And maybe you’ll chant along. (8/10)

Day 220: Band of Skulls – Sweet Sour (2012) – Some nice heavy melodic rock and roll. These Brits don’t really have a standout tune here, but I did find myself bopping. Nothing overwhelmingly spectacular, but a completely listenable and enjoyable album. (7/10)

Day 221: Adrian Belew – Side One (2005) – A melodic yet complex effort from the Zappa sideman and former King Crimson stud. Mostly instrumental, Belew continues being influenced by Zappa and Robert Fripp. If you like your music in the background, this will irritate you. It grabs you by the ears and forces you in. (7/10)

Day 222: Elton John vs. Pnau – Good Morning to the Night (2012) – A dance/mashup remix of an extensive amount of Elton John’s fantastic 1970s output. I was ambivalent until hearing how spectacular it is. Aurally pulling out the snippets from the original recordings is a treat, and the new songs kind of work in a dance-y sort of way. (8/10)

Day 223: Casablanca – Apocalyptic Youth (2012) – Mediocre wannabe arena rock from a band that has neither the chops, the singer or the songs to pull it off. This sounds like they’ve been listening to all the right bands, but just don”t get exactly what makes for success at what they’re trying to do. (3/10)

Day 224: Jale – Dreamcake (1994) – Clearly influenced by Nirvana, this female quartet has the same ideas (the guitar sound in particular), but not the songs, or the musical or vocal power. Not bad, just predictable. (5/10)

Day 225: Little Feat – Rooster Rag (2012) / American Cutie (2012) – Something for everyone here. “American Cutie” is the official release of a widely bootlegged 1973 Denver concert. They rock hard with some familiar early material. “Rooster Rag” is all new recordings by the current band. It’s a solid packed tight set of fantastic songs, playing up the shuffle in their rhythm with fantastic, perfectly crafted songs. It’s inspiring that they’re able to do something like this in their fifth decade. (Rooster Rag 9/10; American Cutie 7/10)

Day 226: Redd Kross – Researching the Blues (2012) – Power pop is always a matter of taste, and there are those who will welcome and embrace this first effort in 15 years from one of the genre’s rocking second-generation acts. They’ve never been to my taste, and while I’m sure fans will like it, with the exception of “One of the Good Ones,” I probably won’t go back to it much. (6/10)

Day 227: The Beatles – Hey Julian (1988)/Tomorrow Never Knows (2012) – The former is a bootleg collecting familiar but excellent recordings, particularly the mixes from the “Hey Jude” and “Revolution” promo films. The latter is an iTunes only release, collecting “heavier” Beatles tunes, a collection that holds together surprisingly well. (Hey Julian 8/10; Tomorrow Never Knows 10/10 – like you expected anything else)

Day 228: The View – Cheeky for a Reason (2012) – I hate that these guys remind me of a poppy cross between Big Country and the Bay City Rollers, because they’re so much better than that description. This is brilliant power pop, with- maybe a little more emphasis on the “pop.” If you listen to “How Long” and don’t smile, we will probably never agree on what is good music. (9/10)

Day 229: Flying Burrito Brothers – Dim Lights, Thick Smoke and Loud, Loud Music (1987) – Outtakes from the Gram Parsons-era Burritos. Some of these cover versions might have seemed novel in the early 1970s, but now they’re rote. If not for Parsons’ presence, this stuff would have remained unreleased. (4/10)

Day 230: Nelson Bragg – We Get What We Want (2012) – A power pop powerhouse from a member of Brian Wilson’s current backing band. Heavy on the poppy melodies with perfectly placed horns and memorable hooks. Bragg’s voice is disquietingly likable. (8/10)

Day 231: George Harrison – Early Takes Volume 1 (2012) – Demo recordings are an admittedly dicey issue. For collectors like me, they’re a treasure when they’re unauthorized and acquired via underground methods. But this is a legitimately released collection. It’s 10 songs and runs just over 30 minutes, concentrates on his early solo career and includes an Everly Brothers cover. It’s fun for what it is, but it shortchanges the consumer, especially knowing there’s more of this out there somewhere. (6/10)

Day 232: The Move – Live at the Fillmore 1969 (2012) – The group has completed its transformation from pop to an “FM” act – only three of the 13 tracks time out at under six minutes. It’s interesting to imagine what audiences made of their offbeat lyrics, improbable covers, and dropping classical themes into their metalized songs. They’ve been one of my favorite groups for as long as I’ve known who they were. (8/10)

Day 233: Catfish Haven – Tell Me (2006) – You can almost see the walls of the garage in which it sounds like this was recorded, and you can almost see the players smile as they lay down their infectious soul-ish grooves. What they lack in songwriting and song selection they make up for with enthusiasm and a sheer sense of fun. (7/10)

Day 234: Heart – Strange Euphoria (2012) – This three-disc career retrospective reminds me of everything I like about this band (through 1979’s “Dog and Butterfly”) and what eventually turned me off (the arena rock of the 1980s is maddeningly mediocre). There are demos of some familiar songs, some decent live recordings, and a handful of unreleased pieces. But where’s “Mistral Wind”? (7/10)

Day 235: Nazareth – Live at the Beeb (2000) – Nazareth were one of the bands over which I always went the opposite direction of music critics. (Uriah Heep too.) Critics didn’t like Nazareth, but I did. These are fair enough representations of their live shows (although three cuts are album versions, not BBC recordings.) They did rock-blues in a way a 1970s teen could appreciate. I’d be lying if I said I thought this would appeal to anyone who wasn’t a fan. (7/10)

Day 236: Mike Keneally – Wing Beat Fantastic: Songs written by Mike Keneally & Andy Partridge (2012) – Keneally is responsible for some great, tragically underheard melodic art-pop. Partridge was the principal songwriter for XTC, who almost invented the modern art-pop genre. While I wish this went more toward the edgier, guitar-based work from earlier in the career of each, this collection of mid-tempo mini-symphonies are fine. But oh, for an album all like “You Kill Me.” (7/10)

Day 237: Sixpence None the Richer – Lost In Transition (2012) – I’ve always liked Leigh Nash’s voice. This doesn’t have the kind of pop shimmer they sprinkled on “Kiss Me,” which I still think is one of the great songs of the 1990s. This is a quieter, more mature effort, the first featuring new material from the group in eight years. Pleasant enough, but I’ll go back to the older stuff first. (6/10)

Day 238: Susanna Hoffs- Someday (2012) – She still has spectacular pipes. And the songs are good enough, if not as hook-laden, up-tempo poppy and as downright listenable as what she’s done with The Bangles. There’s nothing here to make you cringe, but after listening to its 10 songs in a half-hour, you may find yourself struggling to remember one thing you’ve heard. (6/10)

Day 239: thenewno2 – thefearofmissingout (2012) – It’s an “art collective,” which for me is often code for “indulgent.” This blend of electronica and hip hop with a bit of pop isn’t as inscrutable as I might have expected, but this just my thing. Dhani Harrison sure sounds vocally a lot like father George, though. (4/10)

Day 240: Steely Dan – Roaring on the Lamb (1994) – A collection of pre-Dan demos by songwriters Walter Becker and Donald Fagen. Low-fi and sparse, but the bones of their brilliance is still present. Other demos are collected on “Sun Mountain,” which I’ve had for almost 20 years. Just found this one recently. (7/10)

Day 241: Ox – tUCo (2011) – There’s an audience for this kind of languidly paced, don’t give a care quasi-Americana, but it isn’t me. These guys are kind of trying to do 1970s Neil Young, as evidenced by the cover of “Out On the Weekend” that opens the album. I find it sadly soul free. (3/10)

Day 242: Peter Gabriel – Seattle, Aug. 10 1983 – I would have loved to see Gabriel at this time, when his solo career was at its start and his material was new and breaking boundaries. This lacks the depth of the studio recordings, but he gets a lot of sound out of four musicians. Fun moment: He stops “Solsbury Hill” because he forgets the words. (7/10)

Day 243: Blackberry Smoke – The Whippoorwill (2012) – Some of the best country rock I’ve heard in years. Musically just the soft side of Skynyrd, and lyrically just this side of a cleverly observational Randy Newman. Everything’s in the right place. I can’t stop listening to this. Check out “Six Ways to Sunday” for a good example of what it is. (10/10)

Day 244: The Orwells – Remember When (2012) – To be fair, I didn’t like this kind of stuff 35 and 45 years ago when it was being called “punk” and “New Wave.” Low-fi recordings of distorted guitars and group-screams have their backers. I’m not one of them, and listening to a lot of this hurt/ (3/10)

Day 245: Easy Star All-Stars – Easy Star’s Thrillah (2012) – So the deal is they record full versions of classic albums, reggae/dub style. They’re done “Sgt. Pepper’s” and “Dark Side of the Moon.” They don’t radically re-organize the songs to the point where they’re unrecognizable, but in some cases – like “Beat It” and “Human Nature” here – they bring out things you didn’t realize were in the songs. (7/10)

Day 246: Jethro Tull – The Beacons Bottom Tapes (1993) – Acoustic and otherwise offbeat reworkings from their catalog. This surprises me by showing the band’s bluesier side. The problem with me liking specific parts of their early works is I lock them in to that style, and they’ve always been much more. (7/10)

Day 247: Spector – Enjoy It While It Lasts (2012) – I might just have been suckered in by the hype, but I’m disappointed in how much it all sounds the same. It’s not bad, just too much of the same. “Twenty Nothing” stands out. (5/10)

Day 248: Spock’s Beard – Don’t Try This At Home (2000) – I’m a bit taken aback at how talented they are live vocally – I didn’t realize they had the vocal chops. This is complex stuff all the way around, but still enjoyable. I’m not a huge fanatic, so I don’t share their complaints about this being pedestrian and predictable and simple copies of studio work. I understand those complaints, but don’t share them for these guys and this album. (7/10)

Day 249: Emerson, Lake and Palmer – GOD! (Germany, March 31, 1973) – These guys clearly had chops. Interesting that sometimes their improvisation really moves toward a jazzy feel. And amusing when Greg Lake messes up the lyrics in “Karn Evil 9.” (7/10)

Day 250: Denny Laine – Blue Wings: The Ultimate Collection (2008) – The former Wings member records some of his own songs and a lot of Paul McCartney’s, apparently cashing in on name recognition and attempting to pull in a little cash. Laine was one of British pop’s good voices, but time has not treated him well, as some of the recordings here show. I can barely tolerate his re-recording of my favorite song ever, “Go Now.” (5/10)

Day 251: Mary Chapin Carpenter – Ashes and Roses (2012) – Sometimes, singer-songwriters change and focus more on what they’re saying rather than how they say it. I can’t argue with Carpenter’s lyrical skill, but the songs are downright sleep-inducing. Her voice is too low in the mix, the songs are ponderous and she seems to have abandoned her sense of fun. Hope it comes back. (3/10)

Day 252: George Winston – Linus & Lucy: The Music of Vince Guaraldi (1996) – Some listeners complain Winston isn’t as deft of hand as Guaraldi, but I guess my ear isn’t discerning enough to tell the difference. It sounds fine and pleasant enough to me. I still prefer all “Peanuts” content, though. (6/10)

Day 253: Two Door Cinema Club – Beacon (2012) – Unfortunately, not a step forward from their debut two years ago. Not even really a step sideways – more like a faceless step back. While they were reminiscent of XTC on their first album, this is bland British pop, indistinguishable from every other act that uses scratchy guitars and thinks echoes on its vocals are a powerful statement. (4/10)

Day 254: Japandroids – Celebration Rock (2012) – I’m surprised, delighted and encouraged that’s there’s an audience for this. It’s a kind of excitable punk pop, energetic, driving, and trying hard to please. I can’t help but feel like I’ve heard it all before, but if it’s new to people listening and they’re enjoying it, that’s fantastic. (5/10)

Day 255: The Soundtrack Of Our Lives – Throw It To The Universe (2012) – Many people have liked these guys more than me for some time. Others are struck by their sense of melody and style, while for me, it’s a wash of indistinct sound. Sorry. I tried. (3/10)

Day 256: Margot and the Nuclear So and Sos – Rot Gut, Domestic (2012) – I’ve always liked the idea of this band more than the band itself. They’re definitely listenable, but it’s missing the piece on inspiration that would hook me in. Too languid for my taste. I suspect this will delight fans. (5/10)

Day 257: Squeeze – The Complete BBC Sessions (2008) – I’m a huge fan of these guys, especially at their early 80s peak. So I’m prone to liking this. It’s melodic, intelligent and largely “unplugged,” especially the last two-thirds. Your determining factor may be whether you need three versions of “Tempted” and two versions each of two other songs. I don’t mind. (7/10)

Day 258: (Sopworth) Camel – Under Age (1969) – This are not the 1970s prog rock band Camel (which I thought it was), but four British expatriates who formed in Italy and recorded a competent album of covers, including “Pinball Wizard” and an odd amalgamation of Beatles songs. Only for fanatics of late 60s British pop. (4/10)

Day 259: The Vaccines – Come Of Age (2012) – It’s just kind of plodding and trebly in an irritating 21st century British rock kind of way and sounds like maybe the singer is singing different songs than the band is playing. There’s nothing here to convince me to listen to it again, or even consider recommending it to anyone else. (1/10)

Day 260: Blondie – Panic of Girls (2011) – Blondie was never a band that made amazing albums, but at their best, they were consistent and listenable. This one misses the highs of the huge hits, but avoids the lows of “The Hunter.” Lots of reggae pop here. (7/10)

Day 261: The Chris Robinson Brotherhood – The Magic Door (2012) – Stretching out in true 70s album rock style, Chris Robinson has finally made me “get” him in the way his Black Crowes work never did. Seven songs on an album that runs in excess of 50 minutes – you have an idea what you’re getting. There are places here where he sounds eerily like young John Fogerty, which is intended as a compliment. (8/10)

Day 262: The Angels – Take It To the Streets (2012) – Melodic hard rock, the kind of album that got released in the 1970s and helped create “classic rock” radio stations. Maybe not as solid of some of those classic rock classic, but forged in that genre. Nothing classically memorable, but nothing awful either. I enjoy their cover of Elvis Costello’s “Pump It Up,” even when they mess up the words. (5/10)

Day 263: Zappa Plays Zappa – Tuscon, Ariz., Feb. 12, 2012 – You either like them or you don’t if you’re a Zappa fan, and I do and I am. To show the quality and level of work they put in, only four songs from this set were repeated five months later when they played Bloomington. I like the addition of very early Frank Zappa material in this set. (8/10)

Day 264: Erin McKeown – We Will Become Like Birds (2005) – Not quite folk, not quite pop-rock, and not close to the kind of song quality I need from either style, or whatever style you want to call what she’s playing here. Nice background music, but nothing that engages me any further. (5/10)

Day 265: Bob Dylan – Tempest (2012) – There’s a lot of death, yeah – the Titanic-based title track is so ponderous it almost made me wish I’d been on the ship. But not as much heart as Dylan at his most passionate. National critics’ overwhelming endorsement of this feels a bit like overcompensation. (7/10)

Day 266: Graham Gouldman – Love and Work (2012) – This music veteran (he wrote several 1960s hits for The Hollies and others) sounds frighteningly and alternatingly like George Harrison and a 1980s Paul McCartney on this collection of pretty, upbeat and melodic tunes. If ‘Beatle-esque’ means an emphasis on vocals and melodies to you – as it does to me – this is a prime choice. (8/10)

Day 267: Beach Boys – Remember the Zoo? (1964-ish) – Caveat emptor. Despite my suspicion that this was too good to be true, and enough Web reports calling it a hoax, I fell in for this alleged unreleased album of early takes by Brian Wilson. They turn out to be cuts pulled straight off Beach Boys albums by a creative entrepreneur. My mistake. (0/10, although the original songs are great)

Day 268: National Health – D.S. Al Coda (1982) – The last album recorded by an excellent but unheralded British prog rock bands, which dissolved after the death of composer Alan Gowen. These instrumentals were composed by Gowen, and are consistent with prog-jazz of the period, and it holds up well. (7/10)

Day 269: Mezzrow (2005) – A combination of up-tempo country and 1960s British pop. It falls short only because it doesn’t have the songs the style requires, but it’s still a toe-tapping listen that keeps you entertained. (6/10)

Day 270: The Gris Gris – For the Season (2005) – The cacophony that opens the album belies the solid songs that follow. It’s trippy, sounding like it might have been composed and recorded 30 or 40 years earlier. Good for fans of psychedelia. (6/10)

Day 271: Pugwash – Jollity (2005) – This came recommended by a number of friends who appreciate the more baroque work of The Beach Boys and similarly minded melodic pop acts whose focus is on melody, vocals, and quality complex arrangements. They’re right. I don’t like it as much as The Beach Boys (or even XTC) at their peak, but it does earn repeated listens. (8/10)

Day 272: Zappa – Rotterdam, Nov. 27, 1971 – There are a fair number of Frank Zappa fans who do not care for the Flo and Eddie lineup, which used theatricality and graphic lyrics to the disgust of those not interested in songs about groupies and pointed observations about sexuality in society. (Or as some call it, “filth.”) This band was my introduction to Zappa’s music, and I have a weak spot for it. This show includes both the “Sofa” suite and “Billy the Mountain,” and I wish I’d been there. (9/10)

Day 273: Cory Brannan – Mutt (2012) – There are fans of Brannan’s country/folk/Americana/storytelling style. It just doesn’t work for me. I find his voice bland and his music uninspiring. He seems to be targeting the Mellencamp/Springsteen acoustic styles, and I’m not much of a fan of that stuff either. (3/10)

Day 274: Beau Brummels – North Beach Legends (1964-65) (2001) – A collection of alternate takes and unreleased versions from their starting period. Beginners should start with a hits collection, not this. Fans familiar with their prodigious output will be interested to hear the other directions they considered with some tunes, especially the two big hits. (8/10)

Day 275: Gale Garnett & The Gentle Reign – Sausalito Heliport (1969) – I only knew Garnett as a lush early 1960s folk singer (“We’ll Sing in the Sunshine”), so hearing this psychedelic wash was a trip. Garnett sometimes sounds like Jefferson Airplane’s Grace Slick, and the songs are generally entertaining (albeit a little too trippy sometimes), especially the opening “Freddy Mahoney,” whose stops-and-starts and characters remind me of Frank Zappa’s work from the same time period. (6/10)

Day 276: Paul McCartney – Played to Press (1990) – Outtakes from one of McCartney’s weakest albums, “Press to Play.” The best song here, the wonderful “Yvonne,” has never been released by the man, which is a mystery. These takes do little more than remind me how he’s capable of better. (4/10)

Day 277: The Like – Are You Thinking What I’m Thinking? (2005) / Release Me (2010) – They went from alterna-pop, which they did acceptably, to a retro-Mod 1960s kind of sound. I find the latter far better and more entertaining, and bumping the song quality helped as well. Unfortunately, they’ve since split, but they left behind a couple of quality albums. (Are You …? 6/10, Release Me 8/10)

Day 278: John Hiatt – Mystic Pinball (2012) – He just keeps getting better, and he’s been good for a long long time. This may be the best album of his career. “Wood Chipper” is certainly one of the best songs. (10/10)

Day 279: Velvet Underground – Bootleg Series, Vol. 1: The Quine Tapes (2001) – Do three takes and 90 minutes of “Sister Ray” excite you? That may be all you need to know about this three-CD set. I’m taken by how folk-y some of these songs sound, and the improvisations take songs in places I’d never imagined. For fans, a must. (8/10)

Day 280: JJAMZ – Suicide Pact (2012) – I had higher hopes for this, but it sublimates the retro pop joy of which singer-guitar-player-composer Z Berg is capable, and turns the songs into soundalike modern alternate pop. Competent, but joyless. (4/10)

Day 281: Neil Young and Pearl Jam – Smoke and Mirrors (1995) – Young steps in as Eddie Vedder falls ill at a Pearl Jam show. Young trots out a couple of chestnuts, previews cuts from the upcoming “Mirrorball” and gets incendiary on “Truth Be Known,” while the group slops through “Down By the River” like they’re hearing it for the first time. (7/10)

Day 282: Ultimate Fakebook – Open Up & Say Awesome (2002) – Power pop in practice, I ought to like these guys more than I do. There aren’t the kind of harmonies I prefer in my power pop, and singer Bill McShane’s voice doesn’t appeal to me much. (5/10)

Day 283: The Bonzo Dog Band – Meet the Bonzos (1998) – An unauthorized compilation of BBC tracks, alternate versions and solo cuts from the members of the British combo, infamous for its ludicrous puncturing of pop’s pomposity. “Tent” is one of the best cuts here, including its brief stretch of “Give Beer a Chance,” which is funnier than it sounds. Grat stuff, but newcomers should start with one of their early proper albums. (8/10)

Day 284: Various – The Blues “White Album” (2002) – Assorted blues performers take on tracks from The Beatles’ double album. A few standouts, especially the Kenny Neal-Lucky Peterson-Tab Benoit “Revolution,” which takes the song to a new place, and the instrumental take on “Dear Prudence” by Charlie Musselwhite and Colin Linden. (6/10)

Day 285: Tracey Ullman – You Caught Me Out (1984) – Using the same formula as her “You Broke My Heart in 7 Places” album, this has all of that album’s pitfalls – while Ullman has a winning 60s girl-group kind of voice, but the period songs are torpedoed by mega-80s production. And there’s no “They Don’t Know” here either. (4/10)

Day 286: Moulettes – The Bear’s Revenge (2012) – Wow. An almost genre-defying effort, these guys combine folk, rock, classical, prog and vocal pop into a layered ear-catching mash that gets better every time I listen to it. One of the best albums I’ve heard all year. (10/10)

Day 287: Johnny Winter – Walking By Myself (1992)/Birds Can’t Row Boats (1998) – He’s having fun, that’s for sure. These are archival recordings – “Walking…” is a 1997 live set, and “Birds…” collects recordings from the 1960s. Fans of Winter and straight-forward blues will love these. I didn’t find them anything special. (Walking 5/10; Birds 4/10)

Day 288: Splitsville – Ultrasound (1997)/Incorporated (2003) – Power pop kings who deliver consistently do so twice here. “Incorporated” is my preference with “Heart Attack” and “I Wish I’d Never Met You” winning out over the Nirvana and Jam pastiches on “Ultrasound.” (Ultrasound 7/10; Incorporated 9/10)

Day 289: Gin Wigmore – Holy Smoke (2010)/Gravel & Wine (2012) – Kind of New Zealand’s version of Duffy, except this second album is good. “Holy Smoke” is a little too ballad-heavy with forgettable songs. But the follow-up is soulful, and heartfelt productions and arrangements that feel timeless. Check out “Man Like That,” and especially check out the video. (Holy Smoke 5/10; Gravel & Wine 8/10)

Day 290: Ultimate Fakebook – Daydream Radio is Smiling Static (2010) – A collection of songs left off previous albums. Every band should be so talented to have so many quality leftovers. Everything good power pop ought to be. And it’s free at their website, (8/10)

Day 291: Rumer – Seasons of My Soul (2012) – She sounds frighteningly like Karen Carpenter. And in a few places, she replicates Carpenter’s Burt Bacharach/ballad/slow song style. It’s no surprise (or condemnation) the songs aren’t Bacharach quality (although he’s a fan). But for those who miss Carpenter’s voice, this is a nice replica. Great version of “Warmth of the Sun,” though. (6/10)

Day 292: Summer Twins (2012) – Female twins from California step back and release a debut album that might as well have been recorded 50 years ago. Straight 1960s sunny West Coast pop, played straight. While no cut stands out, it’s all quite pretty. And sounds more than a little like Zooey Deschanel. (7/10)

Day 293: Parliament – Motor Booty Affair (1978) – It always surprises me when I hear a Parliament album how much of it I’ve heard already. This is George Clinton at some of his best, mixing wacky sound effects in with the funk. You even hear a little “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” Great fun. (7/10)

Day 294: The Dollyrots (2012) – More of the same – with maybe a little more polish – from one of my favorite punk/pop bands. The trio still has its sense of upbeat fun intact, and I still like the sound of Kelly Ogden’s voice a lot. I wish the remake of their best song – 2007’s “Because I’m Awesome” – had left some of the hilarious edges on. But it’s still a highlight. (8/10)

Day 295: Foster the People – Torches (2011) – Its toe-tapping, melodic, lighter pop is right up my alley. I’m troubled, though, by how much I like “Pumped Up Kicks” – the homicidal lyrics are troubling. Yet I keep going back. What does that mean? If you’re looking for a pointed edge, you won’t find it here. It’s pleasant soft-pop. (7/10)

Day 296: Pink Floyd – Hamilton ’75 – The final date of the band’s tour that year. They sound tired in places, but tight in plenty of others. “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” is especially good. This sounds so decent, I thought it might be something prepared for an official release. (It apparently wasn’t.) (8/10)

Day 297: Nels Andrews – Scrimshaw (2012) – Standard singer-songwriter fare, probably a little bit above the average of what the genre has to offer. I don’t find much to engage me – there’s nothing special about the songs, the arrangements or his voice. That said, it will probably hit home with those who enjoy the style more than I. (4/10)

Day 298: Frank Zappa – Zoot Allures, Joe’s Garage, Tinseltown Rebellion (2012 reissues) – If you’re a fanatic, these are a must. The remixes define the drums better, separate the voices, and you can hear little details previous buried in the wash. But if you’re just interested in passing, there’s probably no need to upgrade. Newcomers should start with the remixed versions, though. (Zoot Allures 10/10, Joe’s Garage 10/10, Tinseltown Rebellion 8/10)

Day 299: The Delgados – Domestiques (2003) – I rarely say this, but I found this unlistenable. I couldn’t get through it, and I can’t imagine what I might have read about it that might have interested me to begin with. Electronica noise. (0/10)

Day 300:Paul McCartney – Piano Tape (1974) – A collection of low-fi recordings of McCartney solo at a piano, with early versions of songs he would eventually release within the decade. Your tolerance for it depends on how you feel about McCartney vamping over some familiar tunes playing quarter notes on the piano. My tolerance for it is high. I know others’ is not. (7/10)

Day 301: Neil Finn – Try Whistling This (1998) – His first post-Crowded House solo album. I’m inclined to like all of Finn’s work, and this is no exception. But this is less than the kind of melodic pop he usually does, and that’s the Finn I like best. He still has a spectacular voice. (6/10)

Day 302: The Dead Ringer Band – Home Fires (1995)/Living in the Circle (1997) – The place Kasey Chambers got her start, with her family. Her voice makes songs rise above the ordinary, although the 1997 album is solid even aside from her contributions. Stick with Chambers’ solo material for the top quality. (Home Fires 5/10; Living in the Circle 6/10)

Day 303: Colosseum – Tomorrow’s Blues (2003) – An unlikely mash of blues and jazz from some pretty talented players. The arrangements, their skill level and the solos overcome the standard quality of the compositions. (7/10)

Day 304: The Deadly Snakes – Ode to Joy (2003) – What Bob Dylan might have sounded like in 1965 if he were in a garage somewhere in Texas, with someone playing an obnoxiously loud organ. They’re not trying to change the world, just make some fun noise. Top-notch stuff. (8/10)

Day 305: Fairport Convention – The Wood and the Wire (2000) – A fine album from the pioneers of English folk-rock. This release is a showcase for relative newcomer Chris Leslie, who writes a mean tune and sounds a bit like early-Jethro Tull Ian Anderson. (7/10)

Day 306: Enuff Z’Nuff – Welcome to Blue Island (2002) – They were a metal band that composed Beatle-y melodic tunes with an edge in an era of hair bands. So they never really fit in well anywhere. More’s the pity. This is another in their series of solid, excellent albums with alternately hummable and headbangable songs. (8/10)

Day 307: Mike Keneally Band – Guitar Therapy Live (2006) – A live album from Keneally’s “Dog” tour shows the skill of the band and especially the leader, who’s one of the greatest guitar players alive. The band flows through his tricky songs with their complex time signatures and strange paths. Not for everyone, but if you’re adventurous, this (and Keneally in general) is wondrous. (9/10)

Day 308: Strawbs – From the Witchwood (1971) – These guys are so classically dull here with their folk/prog mix, it’s easy to understand why keyboard player Rick Wakeman went on to other things. Folk music doesn’t have to mean mediocre male vocals. (3/10)

Day 309: Bloodrock (1970) – The album before “2,” which contained their infamous tune about an airplane crash. They sound like an American Uriah Heep, which is intended as a compliment. Or as much of a compliment as it can be. (6/10)

Day 310: Rick Springfield – Songs for the End of the World (2012) – How does this guy keep making solid rock/pop albums when so many of his contemporaries do weak covers album (he did one himself in 2005) or turn to ballads or something “soft.” His 2004 album “Shock/Denial/Anger/Acceptance” was my album of the year. This one is similar in quality. Check out “Wide Awake” and “I Hate Myself.” (9/10)

Day 311: Martha Wainwright – Come Home To Mama (2012) – I would like to crawl inside this woman’s voice and live there. She’s not traditionally pleasing, but I never know where she’s going next vocally, which is fascinating. And she’s thinking lyrically, too, this time around about her newborn child and recently deceased mother. Some will find it odd or annoying. I adore it. (9/10)

Day 312: Atlanta Rhythm Section – Third Annual Pipe Dream (1974) – This was just before their national breakthrough (“So Into You,” “Imaginary Lover”), but all the pieces were already in place. Talented musicians playing laid-back Southern rock at a leisurely pace, with confident and competent vocals and harmonies. The songs got better, and the band got more popular. (7/10)

Day 313: A.C. Newman – Shut Down the Streets (2012) – I can’t put my finger on exactly what it is, but Newman is one of those songwriters whose work I like without exception. It’s melodic pop-rock, naturally, but always sounds like it’s come from another galaxy. Nobody’s using chords like he is, and he knows his way around a catchy chorus. Start with “Wasted English.” (9/10)

Day 314: Ball Park Music – Museum (2012) – An Australian by-the-numbers indie band, distinct by their vocalist’s similarity to Nate Ruess of The Format and fun. The pieces are largely here, and they coalesce into a pleasant listening experience, but little more. Although “Fence Sitter” really amused me. (5/10)

Day 315: Various Artists – Beatlemania – The Lounge Rendition Album (2012) – Lounge jazz versions of rock and roll songs can work – look at European band Hellsongs for examples. But here, it’s lazy walk-throughs. By the time they got to the bossa nova “Revolution,” I knew it wasn’t gonna be all right. (1/10)

Day 316: Rolling Stones – Who the Hate is Brian Jones? (1969)/Wingless Angels (1970) – Outtakes and rough takes and live takes from the band’s early heyday. Nothing as revelatory here as the Eric Clapton “Brown Sugar” take, but there are some interesting vocal-free takes, particularly “We Love You” and a very early “Dandelion” (under another title) on “Who the Hate?” (Who the Hate 7/10; Wingless Angels 5/10)

Day 317: Elvis Presley – Desert Storm (1974) – A legendary Las Vegas show in which Presley goes off on an angry monologue against unknown accusers who had him on heroin. The songs are performed much in the way he did once he went to Vegas – ignoring many of his hits, walking through others, and covering new schmaltz. The patter is the most interesting stuff. (7/10)

Day 318: Neil Young with Crazy Horse – Psychedelic Pill (2012) – This certainly sounds and feels like a Crazy Horse album, and features some Young guitar freakouts, one 27 minutes and a couple of others checking in around 17 each. The pieces don’t coalesce as well as I’d like, although the title track (especially the guitar effects-free “alternate version”) sounds like a “Rust Never Sleeps” outtake, which is a good thing. (6/10)

Day 319: The Killers – Battle Born (2012) – I spun this plenty of times, waiting for something to click. But what I kept getting was low energy from songs that are all right, but nothing that every rises above the rest, as has been the case with their previous albums. (4/10)

Day 320: Steely Dan – Touring 2k (2000); Boston, July 24, 2009 – The “2k” show is in support of then-new album “Two Against Nature,” and has them working hard and seriously to “be” Steely Dan. This boot is a compilation instead of a complete show, and there are breaks between tracks. The 2009 tour featured multiple dates in different cities, each night featuring a Dan album in full. The Boston date here was “Gaucho,” and they’re having fun and forgetting lyrics. The “2k” shows features lead female vocals on a couple of tracks, which just doesn’t work at all. (2k 6/10; 2009 8/10)

Day 321: Micky Dolenz – Remember (2012) – A covers album in which Dolenz totally and superbly reworks some recognizable songs, including four by The Monkees. He re-arranges his own “Randy Scouse Git” wonderfully, and does the completely unlikely with an original take on “Johnny B. Goode.” (8/10)

Day 322: Nik Kershaw – Eight (2012) – I’ve always held Kershaw (“Wouldn’t It Be Good”) in higher esteem than most. (In 2000, his “15 Minutes” made my top for the year.) He’s as melodic as ever here, pleasant enough pop from which nothing stands out as a high or a low. (5/10)

Day 323: John Parr – The Mission (2012) – Known for a couple of 80s hits (“Man in Motion (St. Elmo’s Fire),” “Naughty Naughty”), this is a ‘concept’ album praising the military. The idea is so laudable I’m disappointed the execution isn’t any better. His voice remains constant, and the songs are respectable, but nothing really breaks through. (4/10)

Day 324: Aimee Mann – Hamburg (2000)/Norfolk Virginia (2003) – A couple of quiet, largely acoustic-based concerts by the talented singer-songwriter. Her recordings are often full of tricks, so it’s nice to hear the songs stripped down. She’s not a barrel of personality onstage, but she does cover “Sweet Home Alabama” in the Norfolk show. (7/10)

Day 325: Chris Stamey – A Question of Temperature (2005) – An odd but interesting album from the once and future member of The dB’s. The stretch from a bluegrass instrumental to an electric cover of Cream’s “Politician” is fascinating. (6/10)

Day 326: Jimi Hendrix – The Albert Hall Experience (1969) – Solid recording of a quality show that took place a few months before his iconic Woodstock appearance. This is a better show from a tighter band. (7/10)

Day 327: Jeff Lynne – Mr. Blue Sky: The Very Best of ELO (2012) – But why? Lynne re-records a number of Electric Light Orchestra songs all by himself. Nice selections, but apart from minute differences, changes are unnoticeable. If you’re going to do a George Lucas, shouldn’t you go big or go nowhere? Buy a real best of ELO instead. (3/10)

Day 328: Miss Li – Tangerine Dream (2012) – You might know her from “Bourgeois Shangri-La,” used in an Apple ad a couple of years back. This is more of the same – up-tempo pop from the Swedish songstress with the slightly offbeat accent. I find her music infectious. The less charitable might find it annoying. (7/10)

Day 329: Advertising – Jingles (1978) – I wish I knew how these guys slipped by me at the time, because this is exactly the kind of music I was listening to and loving at the tip. We called it New Wave, but it’s probably more specifically bright, up-tempo, clever Mod music. It’s joyous, and makes me smile. (8/10)

Day 330: Mika – The Origin of Love (2012) – I loved his first two albums, and this one still has, at its core, fine songs – intelligent lyrics, well-crafted melodies, slick arrangements. But there are too many slow and mid-tempo tunes, and there’s too much of his superb voice being AutoTuned into a coma. That sound just doesn’t appeal to me a bit. (6/10)

Day 331: Go Sailor (1996) – Predictable sound from its time period (mid-1990s) and basic song structure. Indie jangle pop song monotone style mostly from a female. The songs are pleasant enough, but there’s no telling one song from the next, and it runs less than 30 minutes. (5/10)

Day 332: Black Sabbath – The Gillan Tapes (1983) – Heavy metal lost its mind here and there in the 1980s, like when Deep Purple singer Ian Gillan fronted Black Sabbath for an album and a tour. This is a live show from that tour, and it sounds like … well, the guy from Deep Purple singing Black Sabbath songs. It’s interesting on “War Pigs,” disastrous elsewhere. (3/10)

Day 333: Steve Vai – Fire Garden (1996) – Vai’s melodies are just plain pretty. You might not expect that from a guy who made his reputation as a heavy metal guitar star, but many of the piece here are classically beautiful. I can do without much of Vai’s vocals, but even when he sings, there’s some fantastic music going on in the background. (5/10)

Day 334: Cheepskates – Run Better Run (1984) – A retro act from the mid 80s, with heavy reliance on garage-band organ. Three singers, all original material, with a clear idea of what vintage can be. A decent approximation of the 1965 sound. (5/10)

Day 335: Aerosmith – Music From Another Dimension! (2012) – Improbably, this is their best album since 1989’s “Pump.” They overcome a surplus of slow tunes with two or three of their classic-style lyrical rapid-fire efforts, and they certainly haven’t forgotten how to rock melodically. (8/10)

Day 336: David Werner – Whizz Kid (1975) – This is the kind of album that could only have been made in the 1970s. Heavily glam, it fits perfectly with David Bowie’s releases from the time. In a more just world, “The Ballad of Trixie Silver” would be a classic rock radio standard. Great trivia: He co-wrote Billy Idol’s “Cradle of Love.” (6/10)

Day 337: Eytan Mirsky – Year of the Mouse (2012) – Fine power pop from a guy who appears to have spent a lot of time listening to Elvis Costello’s first couple of albums. (There are tracks here where I’d swear he’s got Costello singing backing vocals.) What appealed to me about early Costello (in addition to the song structures, which Mirsky has down pat) was the bile and humor, and both are in shorter supply here. Still, listenable. (7/10)

Day 338: Agnetha Fältskog – I Stand Alone (1988)/My Colouring Book (2004) – The 1988 album by one of ABBA’s females is a classic example of all that’s bad about music from the 80s – mid-tempo, overproduced ballads that go on and on. The 2004 album was a “comeback” collection of covers that show her in solid voice, but adding little to the songs. (I Stand Alone 4/10; My Colouring Book 4/10)

Day 339: Frank Zappa/Eric Bogosian – Blood on the Canvas (1986) – A piece so limited in distribution I wasn’t even aware of it until this year. It’s essentially a performance art piece of words and music, taking on religion, pornography, the art world and its patrons. For me, the music is the most interesting stuff here, and there’s not enough of it. I’ve always respected Bogosian, who does all of the speaking parts, but I’ve also never been able to really figure him out. (6/10)

Day 340: Mull Historical Society – (2012) – I fear I’ve changed. I adored his last two albums, and I don’t think this one is appreciably different in content or style. But it doesn’t grab me the way his work did earlier in the century. Melodic New Wave-y pop that I wish I liked more than I do. (6/10)

Day 341: The Yellow Balloon (1998 reissue of 1967 album) – “Sunshine pop” was a brief sensation of feel-good, generally California-based music in the mid-1960s. It capitalized on the melodies and harmonies present in The Beach Boys’ work, and combined it with a baroque feel. This is a terrific example of the style at its best. (7/10)

Day 342: The Velvet Underground & Nico (2012 super deluxe reissue) – There’s plenty of filler in this six-disc set even for the biggest fan. If you’re a newcomer, and are up to it, find an inexpensive copy of the single-CD issue and give it a try. If you’re a fan wondering if it’s a must: The Scepter Tapes rehearsal disc is solid, and the mono mix (new to me, but previously released) is a revelation. The live tapes are average, and “Chelsea Girls” just shouldn’t be here. (7/10 for this set; 10/10 for the original album)

Day 343: Thin Lizzy – BBC Radio One Live in Concert (1992) – Lesson learned. I didn’t think much of these guys in their heyday, except for their couple of hits (“Jailbreak,” “The Boys Are Back in Town”). This 1983 show – from their final days – shows they had just as many solid songs and punch as some of the bands I was listening to at that time. (7/10)

Day 344: Heart – Fanatic (2012) – More in line with their 1970s work than their later MTV popularity era, this lacks those one or two songs that would put it over the top. There’s nothing bad here, and “A Million Miles” and “Pennsylvania” will stick with you. But it’s not overwhelming either. (6/10)

Day 345: Joe Jackson – The Duke (2012) – Reworkings of Duke Ellington material, not necessarily carbon copies but also not necessarily reworked to force you to listen in a new light. As competent and listenable as this might be, it’s difficult to imagine its target audience. (5/10)

Day 346: Professor Longhair – Crawfish Fiesta ’80 (1980) – I can’t put into words how much I love Professor Longhair. I can listen to his rollicking New Orleans piano sound for hours and not tire of it. This sizzling set was recorded just before his death, but he couldn’t be more alive. Find about any version of “Big Chief” to get a taste,

Day 347: Espers – Weed Tree (2005)/II (2006) – A baroque pop band featuring female vocals that’s surprising only in that they’re working in the 21st century and not in the late 1960s. Songs that feel perfect from the era, performed competently and memorable. (both albums 7/10)

Day 348: Various Artists: Pink Box: Songs of Pink Floyd (2007) – Classic rock titans from bands like Yes, Asia and Toto do basically at best by-note covers of Pink Floyd songs. Stick to the originals. (4/10)

Day 349: Frank Zappa – Frank Zappa – Road Tapes, Venue #1 (2012) – The latest in a series of releases from the Zappa vaults, this is an amazing almost full performance from Vancouver in 1968. Zappa fans are almost as maniacal about trading live tapes as Grateful Dead fans, and this show has never circulated. (8/10)

Day 350: Christina Aguilera – Lotus (2012) – I know I’m part of the minority that cheers for Aguilera. I love her voice, but it’s not on display enough here. Elimination of AutoTune for people who definitely don’t need it is one of my Christmas wishes. Her brilliant “Back to Basics” album feels more like a fluke with every subsequent release. (4/10)

Day 351: Robin Trower – The Playful Heart (2010) – Give the guitar player credit for not staying in one place, but retaining enough of his familiar sound to continue to appeal to fans. This doesn’t match his 1970s’ peaks, of course, but is one of his best in the time since. “Dressed in Gold” sounds like an alternate version of Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower.” (8/10)

Day 352: Daddy Cool – The Greatest and Coolest Hits (1994) – This 1970s Australian band is kind of a grittier Sha Na Na, both covering 50s rock songs and writing their own songs in the style. Two discs may be too much, but “Baby Let Me Bang Your Box” is good enough to carry a lot of other weak covers from the era. (6/10)

Day 353: The Nits – Work (1981) – This is almost the very definition of “experimental.” The Dutch band goes deep in the “art” side of their art-pop style, eschewing some of their more accessible melodies for more of jazz sound. It’s the weakest of all their albums that I’ve heard. (4/10)

Day 354: Loudon Wainwright III – Older Than My Old Man (2012) – Everything Wainwright does is autobiographical, so these ruminations about aging and taking life’s final laps fit in perfectly with his career arc. I can’t imagine this sounding appealing to anyone under 40. But if you’re closer to the end than the beginning, Wainwright might be speaking to or about you or someone you know. (8/10)

Day 355: Kiss – Monster (2012) – This is better than it has any right to be. In places, it sounds exactly like you’d expect Kiss to sound. In other places, the song structures and the guitar work are a little fancier than the band’s traditional straight-forward rock. If you’re a fan, it’s a must. If you’re a newcomer, start with “Kiss Alive!” (6/10)

Day 356: Rickie Lee Jones – Pop Pop (1991) – A bunch of covers, from Hendrix to standards to movie musical tunes. Jazzed a bit. If you like cover albums with a twist, you might like this. As usual, I’ll prefer to stick with the originals. (3/10)

Day 357: The Scruffs – Swingin’ Singles (2003) – Power pop lives 30 years later in this veteran Tennessee band, which echoes Big Star and The Raspberries with its sound. The songs are solid if not transcendent and it’s an altogether pleasant listen. (7/10)

Day 358: Sheryl Crow – Hundreds of Tears (1992) – Also known as her “unreleased” album. Crow and label executives were unhappy with it. The sound and feel is from the tail end of Michael Jackson’s hit period (she sang backup on his “Bad” tour), and coming from Crow – whose style is more earthy – the production here is dated. Songs and voice OK, but not much to take away. (6/10)

Day 359: Julian Cope – Droolian (1990) – This is exactly the kind of release that makes me love Julian Cope and makes others hate him. It’s a half-hour of almost demo-like recordings, done in three days and mastered off a pair of cassette tapes. I find it hilarious and moving. Detractors will find it amateurish and unfinished. Which it is. (7/10)

Day 360: Kaiser Chiefs – Start the Revolution Without Me (2012) – Much of this album was released last year in Europe under the title “The Future is Medieval,” and as such wound up second (behind Paul Simon) on my year-end list. With this, they took some weaker songs out and put other weaker songs in. Still quite listenable, and I stick by my analysis from last year: “Their work is simplistically complex, and everything I want out of a rock band – catchy and open to interpretation.” (10/10)

Day 361: Lucy Kalplansky – Reunion (2012) – Breathtaking folk, intelligent lyrics with attractive melodies. Kaplansky has an eye for detail and knows how to paint pictures with words. Some of her story songs are so touching they might bring you to tears. (8/10)

Day 362: Boy Hits Car – My Animal (1998) – This must have fit in well with the sound of its era, competent grunge. Listenable but unremarkable. (6/10)

Day 363: Bill Lloyd – The Boy King of Tokyo (2012) – Lloyd went from doing alt-country as half of Foster and Lloyd to being a king of modern power pop. This album is more of the same – jangly, melodic, up-tempo tunes with some lyrical bite. He outdoes himself with “Com Trol,” a biting song about corporate possession of music. (7/10)

Day 364: Zappa – Baltimore, Nov. 15, 1981 – One of the values of bootlegs for me is proven in this tape. The sound is not great – it’s clearly an audience recording. And the house mix is sloppy, or at least was where the person who recorded this was sitting. Rather than hamper the experience, it gives me a chance to clearly hear what at least three members of the band are doing instrumentally and vocally, sounds I’d struggle to pick out otherwise. (8/10)

Day 365: The Cast of Cheers – Family (2012) – XTC had more influence than some would think. There’s Kaiser Chiefs, Franz Ferdinand, Two Door Cinema Club and these guys. This falls between reggae rhythms and pop wonderment, with intelligent songs and plenty of sonic variety. Solid. (8/10)

Day 366: Volebeats – Like Her (2005) – A little poppy, a little Byrds-y, with some harmonies, twang and a nice sense of melody. Sounds like it could have been recorded 40 years before its release. (7/10)


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