Yipes! perform at their 2013 Wisconsin Area Music Industry (WAMI) Hall of Fame induction ceremony
1. Yipes!, Yipes!!! (Yipes!): Almost 40 years between albums is a long time to wait, but witty, superbly crafted power pop from the beloved Milwaukee quintet--a nonstop delight--makes it seem worth it.
2. Elvis Costello, Look Now (Concord Records): Elvis Costello got more acclaim for this album than he has in years, maybe because of the influence of Burt Bacharach—with whom he co-wrote three tracks—and Carole King (one), not to mention his four decades of being their worthy pop music descendant.
3. Kinky Friedman, Circus of Life (Echo Hill Records): Sparing return to studio recordings with all original new material (his first in over 40 years) was marked by The Kinkster’s often overlooked and always under-recognized depth and sensitivity, as encapsulated in the especially moving “A Dog Named Freedom.”
4. Jennifer Warnes, Another Time, Another Place (BMG Rights Management): First Jennifer Warnes album since 2001’s The Well offered beautifully understated arrangements of standards (“Tomorrow Night,” “I See Your Face Before Me”), reimagined rockers like Pearl Jam’s “Just Breathe,” and the return of one of the great voices in pop.
5. Lake Street Dive, Free Yourself Up (Nonesuch): Rachael Price continues to be a pop-jazz vocal revelation on inventive LSD material including “Dude,” with its nostalgic line, “We used to kick it like Joe and Obama/Now you just leave me at home playin' mama.”
6. Nellie McKay, Sister Orchid (Palmetto): Having done a Doris Day covers album (Normal as Blueberry Pie: A Tribute to Doris Day, in 2009) and a deep 1960s covers album (My Weekly Reader, 2015), Nellie McKay turns to the Great American Songbook with her usual aplomb, deftly taking “Willow Weep for Me” from a lazy piano ballad to a lively boogie-woogie, and back again.
7. Oak Ridge Boys, 17th Avenue Revival (Lightning Rod Records): The Oaks occasionally return to their southern gospel roots, but this set brought full commitment and authenticity, much thanks to hip country/Americana producer Dave Cobb’s under-production values and songs ranging from somber (“Where He Leads Me I Will Follow”) to the rollicking (“Pray to Jesus”).
8. Asleep at the Wheel, New Routes (Bismeaux Productions): Aptly titled set from legendary western swing outfit indeed sounds new, what with new fiddler Katie Shore, who also supplies a nice vocal counterpart to venerable founder/frontman Ray Benson.
9. Mandy Barnett, Strange Conversations (Dame Productions): Long one of country-pop’s top vocalists, Barnett favors the pop part of her art on the follow-up to her 2013 country album tribute to Don Gibson, this one featuring a great cover of The Tams’ classic “It’s All Right (You’re Just in Love)” and a duet with her hero John Hiatt on the Sonny and Cher gem “A Cowboy’s Work is Never Done.”
10. Graham Parker, Cloud Symbols (100% Records) It’s easy to take the most dependable singer-songwriter in pop for granted, but he buttressed his latest outstanding collection with brass, making it nearly impossible not to take notice.