Twirl Radio Playlist – Show #826 – 5/19/2018: Interviews with Roger Joseph Manning Jr. and Warren Bishop!

Roger Joseph Manning Jr.

On this show, we had the privilege of chatting with both the legendary Roger Joseph Manning Jr., and the local musical stalwart Warren Bishop. We also previewed the Twirl Radio Pop Fest ’18, which was held the following day. There’s a lot to unpack here, so let’s take it one piece at a time.

Roger Joseph Manning Jr. has had an illustrious career, from being a founding member of Jellyfish, through his work with Beck, and producing many others. He’s also found time for a solo career, and just relased a wonderful four song EP called “Glamping”. We chatted about his unorthodox writing process–which sometimes takes years–and heard a couple tracks off of Glamping. We also discussed his new fan outreach, through PledgeMusic, where you can find all sorts of vinyl reissues, and his newer material as well, and gain some insight into his artistic process.

Warren Bishop

Warren Bishop has been a mainstay of the Sacramento music scene for many years. He’s been in many bands of his own, from Mojo Filter all the way through his current one, Blame The Bishop. But he also is the sound engineer for the venerable Sacramento music venue Old Ironsides (which opened its doors for the first time, pretty much the day after Prohibition ended, in 1933). And he’s the first to lend a helping hand to other musicians, and promote what they’re doing. In other words, he’s a Sacramento music champion. So we spent an hour together just talking about the live music scene, and playing some of the music that’s influenced him.

And speaking of Warren, Blame The Bishop was one of five bands on the bill at the Twirl Radio Pop Fest ’18, held on May 20. The Blue Note Brewing Company graciously invited us back, and this time, since the spring weather in the Sacramento area was super nice, the stage was on the inviting patio. So I spent a half hour playing music from the bands on the bill–Trip Wire, The American Professionals, Blame The Bishop, The Bobbleheads, and Desario. It was a nice blend of San Francisco and Sacramento bands, and they all hung out and got to hear each other’s music. They were all well received by the friendly Sunday afternoon crowd.

Oh–and lest we forget–this is a double show. Bill Fuller, who does the show right before Twirl, The Longhair Detectorists Guild, was off, and invited me to expand into his time slot for the day. So big thanks to him for letting me do a big show!

Artist | Track | Album
Freedy Johnston | Trying To Tell You I Don’t Know | Can You Fly
Arrica Rose & The …’s | Whole Lotta Lows | Low As The Moon
Wade Johnson | You Know It | Single release
Elk City | Ride The Slide | Everybody’s Insecure
Right Said Fred | Upon My Heart | Up
Plasticsoul | Therapy | Therapy

Warren Bishop interview
Blame The Bishop | These Are The Days | New And Used
The Telefones | I Knew The Bride | The Telefones
NRBQ | At The Drive In | Grooves In Orbit
The Flat Five | Almond Grove | A World Of Love And Hope
Cockeyed Ghost | Ginna Ling | Daylight Kissing Night
50 Watt Heavy | Ashtrays | 50 Watt Heavy

Twirl Radio Pop Fest segment
The American Professionals | Falling Down | Sympathetic Overdrive
Desario | Formula One | III
The Bobbleheads | Who’s Gonna Love You | Make Yourself Happy
Trip Wire | I’m Not The Enemy | Cold Gas Giants
Blame The Bishop | Happiest Unhappy Girl | New And Used
The Bobbleheads | Bedazzler (Redux) | Make Yourself Happy
Desario | Parking Lot | III

Two Dollar Pistols | Gettin’ Gone | You Ruined Everything
Jody Porter | By Your Side | Pacifier
Maxi Dunn | The Last To Know | Welcome To Soonville
Chris Church | Bell The Cat | Limitations Of Source Tape
Daniel Trigger | Rock N Roll Party | Right Turn
The Babys | Isn’t It Time | Anthology

Roger Joseph Manning Jr. interview
Roger Joseph Manning Jr. | Operator | Glamping
Roger Joseph Manning Jr. | I’m Not Your Cowboy | Glamping

The Pengwins | Go Away (Nervous Mix) | Single release
HUGElarge | Sometimes Good Guys Don’t Wear White | HUGElarge
Gretchen’s Wheel | The Maze | Black Box Theory
Sparklejet | The World Before Longitude | Single release
Krista D | Black Eyed Susan | Look At Me I’m Krista D
Jason Berk | (One Eye On) Rockville | Coming Home
The Beatles | Good Morning Good Morning (Take 8) | Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band 50th Anniversary Edition
Duncan Faure | Where Is The Music | Pronounced “Four-Uh”
Sunshine Boys | Only A Million Miles | Blue Music
Blake Jones & The Trike Shop | Take A Look At The Stars | MAKE
Lloyd Cole | Tell Your Sister | Don’t Get Weird On Me Babe
Tawny Thiele | Happy Together | The Fowl Tone Sampler
Pugwash | Easier Done Than Said | Silverlake
Lannie Flowers | Lost In A Daydream | Single release
Elton John | Grow Some Funk Of Your Own | Rock Of The Westies


Twirl Radio Pop Fest ’18–Sunday, 5-20-2018, 1-6 p.m. at the Blue Note in Woodland, CA!

2018 Twirlie Award Winners and podcast (Show #812 – February 3, 2018)

Mike and Marty getting ready to give out some Twirlie Awards.

Here is the complete list of 2018 Twirlie Award winners, presented live on Twirl Radio, Saturday, February 3, 2018, in Sacramento, California, at Access Sacramento’s KUBU 96.5 FM. Congratulations to all, and more importantly, a big thank you to all the great independent musicians who make it possible for me to do this radio show.

The award presenters: Martin Anaya and Mike Lidskin.

Album of the Year (tie)
The Welcome Matt, for their album More Empire Days

Album of the Year (tie)
Felsen, for their album Blood Orange Moon

Album of the Year Runner up (tie)
Jody Porter, for his album Pacifier

Album of the Year Runner up (tie)
Chris Church, for his album Limitations Of Source Tape

Song of the Year
Ruby Free, for their song Owe To The Man

Song of the Year Runner up
Banjo Bones, for their song Cowboy Dreams

Female Vocalist of the Year
Rose Reiter, for her EP Leonty

Male Vocalist of the Year
Adam Marsland, for his album Bulé

EP of the Year
Cirrone, for their EP Kings For A Night

Ear Candy
Celsi, Bragg & Maitland, for their album The Road To Glasgow
The Ear Candy Award is given to an album that is a “go-to” album. You can pick any song, and it sounds great in any set of music, at any time.

Debut Album of the Year
Fun Of The Pier, for their album 14:42

Best Seasonal Music
The Bobbleheads, for their song Groovy Time Of Year

Best Songwriting
Karla Kane, for her album King’s Daughters Home For Incurables

Best String Instrument Solo
Giorgi Khokhobashvili, of Banjo Bones, for his violin solo on Cowboy Dreams

Best Line in a Song
Lisa Said. The song: “Some Dudes”. The line: Well, all of them! Lots of references to classic rock songs, while being a sort of response to the Rolling Stones’ “Some Girls”.

Best Interview
Sam Phillips, 1/14/2017

Best Live Session
Skip Heller and Spike Sikes, 5/20/2017

Best Concert Performance
The Bobbleheads, Woodland, CA, 7/30/2016

Best Rock And Roll Moment
1. BBQ/Tex-Mex/Power Pop/Swimming/Drinking/Shooting/Baseball Watching/Carousing Summit, Arlington, TX, 7/2017.
2. The live show “Twirl Radio Pop Fest ’17”, Woodland, CA 8/20/2017.
3. Starting up a second radio show at Woody Radio, 11/2017.
4. Joining the SoundwavesTV network, 3/2017.
5. Being given an electric bass guitar by my wife, Amber, for Christmas, 2017.

Best Co-hosted show
DJ Gidget from Woody Radio, 12/16/2017

Radio Comeback Award
Raffa Chavez, La Raza Soul Kitchen (the show that follows Twirl). Raffa returned to Sacramento’s Voice, KUBU 96.5 FM, after a 15 year absence.

Wayback Award (aka “How’d I miss this one the first time?”)
Natalie Cortez & The Ultraviolets, for their 1999 album “Stupid Fresh Or Stupid Bad”, which I didn’t discover until 2017.

Cover Song of the Year
Lannie Flowers, for his cover of the James Bond Theme

Best Compilation Album
Songs. Bond Songs: The Music of 007, curated by Andrew Curry

Reason To Live Award
Debut albums coming in 2018 by Sunshine Boys, Piramid Scheme, Cootes Paradise. New albums coming in 2018 by Anton Barbeau, The Bottle Kids, Maxi Dunn, Blake Jones & the Trike Shop, Cult Of Wedge.

Best Dressed
Delbert Raines, The Pengwins

Best Album Title
Sad Scientist, by Gretchen’s Wheel

Most Innovative Album Packaging
The American Professionals. Their album, Sympathetic Overdrive, was released on a custom USB memory stick.

Best Band Name
Sean O’Brien and His Dirty Hands

Beverage of the Year
Top beverages consumed during production of Twirl Radio.
1. Almond Milk Latte
2. Decaf Almond Milk Latte
3. Cafe Americano
4. Coffee
5. Decaf Coffee

Top Albums of 2017:
1. (tie) The Welcome Matt – More Empire Days
1. (tie) Felsen – Blood Orange Moon
2. (tie) Jody Porter – Pacifier
2. (tie) Chris Church – Limitations Of Source Tape
3. Plasticsoul – Therapy
4. R. Stevie Moore & Jason Falkner – Make It Be
5. Gene Loves Jezebel – Dance Underwater
6. Matt North – Above Ground Fools
7. Richard X. Heyman – Incognito
8. Heiskell – Emotional Terrorism
9. Banjo Bones – Cowboy Dreams
10. Karla Kane – King’s Daughters Home For Incurables
11. The Bye Bye Blackbirds – Take Out The Poison
12. Ruby Free – Shades
13. Gail George – Bloom
14. Celsi, Bragg & Maitland – The Road To Glasgow
15. Gretchen’s Wheel – Sad Scientist
16. Adam Marsland – Bulé
17. Chandler Travis Philharmonic – Waving Kissyhead Vol. 2 & 1
18. The Feelies – In Between
19. Desario – III
20. Walker Brigade – Therapy Animal
21. honeychain – Crushed
22. Richard Turgeon – In Between The Spaces
23. Eric Peter Schwartz – Highway 45
24. The American Professionals – Sympathetic Overdrive
25. Fun Of The Pier – 14:42
26. Edward Rogers – TV Generation
27. My Little Hum – Remembering Houses
28. Rich McCulley – Out Along The Edges
29. Sitcom Neighbor – Shag
30. Mod Hippie – Big Wow

Top Songs of 2017:
1. Ruby Free – Owe To The Man
2. Banjo Bones – Cowboy Dreams
3. R. Stevie Moore & Jason Falkner – I Am The Best For You
4. Gail George – A Wonderful Life
5. Lannie Flowers – Everything A Man Could Want
6. Felsen – Poor In A Wealthy City
7. Richard X. Heyman – Incognito
8. Sean O’Brien and His Dirty Hands – Mistakes
9. The Welcome Matt – My Town
10. The American Professionals – WMPMS
11. Heiskell – Still Life With Broken Heart
12. Plasticsoul – Therapy
13. Karla Kane – King’s Daughters Home For Incurables
14. Walker Brigade – DIsEASE
15. Chris Church – Fall Into Me
16. Lisa Said – Some Dudes
17. Jody Porter – By Your Side
18. Fun Of The Pier – Cavern Song
19. Chandler Travis Philharmonic – Going Back To Work Tomorrow
20. Gene Loves Jezebel – Summertime
21. Matt North – A Good Day In Nashville
22. Gretchen’s Wheel – The Price
23. Anton Barbeau – Milk Churn In The Morning (Antronica 2 version)
24. Richard Turgeon – I’m 30
25. Eric Peter Schwartz – Last Ditch Man
26. Irene Peña – Must’ve Been Good
27. Edward Rogers – She’s The One
28. Mike Collins & Kyle Vincent – Sign Me Up
29. The Bookends – A Girl Like Me
30. Trip Wire – Long Days Gone

Top EPs of 2017
1. Cirrone – Kings For A Night
2. Sean O’Brien and His Dirty Hands – Mistakes
3. The Pengwins – Go Away
4. Lisa Said – Estranged
5. Hannah Judson – I Wanna Know
6. Leonty (Rose Reiter) – Leonty

Happening today: The 2018 Twirlie Awards

Mike wearing the legendary tuxedo T-shirt--worn only once a year, at the Twirlie Awards!

Mike wearing the legendary tuxedo T-shirt–worn only once a year, at the Twirlie Awards!

We are in what the entertainment press refers to as “the run up to the Twirlies”! That is, if the entertainment press were to cover this fine independent music awards presentation.

As it turns out, the tenth annual Twirlie Awards happens today: Saturday, February 3rd, 2018, from 4:00-6:00 p.m. Pacific time, at KUBU 96.5 FM, Sacramento’s voice, and We’ll be broadcasting live from the red carpet. Or at least from a room that has carpet in it.

Hosts Marty Anaya and Mike Lidskin will be presenting such coveted awards as Album of the Year, Song of the Year, Male and Female Vocalists of the Year, and many others. We will be ripping open hermetically-sealed awards envelopes, and revealing the top albums and songs lists, for work released in 2017 and played on Twirl Radio. We’ll have the well-loved red carpet interviews that Marty is known for. You simply cannot afford to miss this epic show. In fact, we will be taking attendance, so you’ll want to listen to every minute of it!

In all seriousness, we are glad to honor the great musicians who give Twirl Radio its reason for being. Hope to see you there!

More information: The 2018 Twirlie Awards event on Facebook.

Twirl Radio Playlist – Show #810 – 1/20/2018: Twirl Radio 20th Anniversary Special!

20 years of Twirl. It’s hard to believe that it’s gone by this fast, and that we’re still on the air. Access Sacramento first let me through the studio doors on January 17, 1998, and a nervous, shaky me somehow got through it.

Playlist from the first Twirl Radio episode, 20 years ago, January 17, 1998.

The first song I ever played on the radio was Juliana Hatfield’s “Everybody Loves Me But You”. At the time, my focus was on the alternative and Americana music that everybody loved, but couldn’t seem to find on the air anymore.

Maxi Dunn

Fast forward to 2018. Access Sacramento’s radio station now broadcasts on KUBU 96.5 FM in Sacramento, as well as on the internet. Content wise, the focus of Twirl has shifted a bit. I now champion independent musicians who make some of the best sounding and most critically acclaimed music today, and those who were once receiving commercial airplay, but now need a home for their still-vital music. It’s important to me to provide a platform for these great artists. But aside from this being a mission, it’s really a labor of love. I feel that if I didn’t have this radio show, I’d still be sitting around on Saturday afternoons, playing their songs at home. But I’d rather share them with you.

Anton Barbeau

Today’s show featured interviews with artists who have long been part of the history of Twirl, and who represent, well, what we represent–the highest caliber of independent music. We chatted with the incomparable Maxi Dunn, live, all the way from Liverpool. She embodies the independent, DIY ethos, while maintaining incredibly high musical standards for her dramatic songs. We also chatted with Sacramento native and musical icon Anton Barbeau. He now lives in Berlin, but we chatted in Fresno, while he’s back home visiting Sacramento. (Sorry, I can’t explain it any better than that!) His forthcoming album is terrific. We also chatted with Fresno’s own Blake Jones & the Trike Shop, quirky pop geniuses, who constantly reinvent themselves, and always find a way to thrill live audiences.

Blake Jones & the Trike Shop

In addition, we had recorded greetings from about two dozen indie musicians, from four different continents, who have been part of the fabric of Twirl for a long time.

My commitment to you: to not sit here and look backwards, but to kick off Year 21 properly–by discovering more new rock and roll for you, and making sure you get to hear as many great artists as possible. Thanks to Access Sacramento for providing a home for my show and all this great music. Thanks to the all the wonderful musicians for practicing their craft, and creating all this great music. And most of all–thanks to the wonderful listeners, who spend time listening to my show and getting as thrilled by this great music as I do. Enjoy the show!

Artist | Track | Album
Adam Waltemire greeting | Pop Garden Barbeque order
Juliana Hatfield | Everybody Loves Me But You | Hey Babe
Rick Hromadka greeting
Ruby Free | Start Of Something Big | Shades
Bud Rogers greeting
Bud Rogers | Pictures Of A Modern World (ukulele version) | Twirl Radio exclusive
Maxi Dunn interview
Maxi Dunn | Change The Record | Edmund & Leo
Skip Heller greeting
Skip Heller | I Used To Love California | The Long Way Home
Brad Elvis & Chloe F. Orwell greeting
The Handcuffs | Baby I Love You | Waiting For The Robot
James Parkinson greeting
Last Breath | The Story Ends
Chandler Travis | Happy Anniversary song | Twirl Radio exclusive
Andrew Griffin of Felsen greeting
Lannie Flowers greeting
Lannie Flowers | Turn Up Your Radio | Circles
Anton Barbeau interview
Anton Barbeau | Mumble Something | Natural Causes
Cirrone greeting
Cirrrone | All Right All Night | Kings For A Night
Lisa Said greeting
Lisa Said | Been Around | No Turn Left Behind
Big Stir group greeting
Medley: The Armoires, The Bobbleheads, Walker Brigade, Plasticsoul | Responsible, Mean Girls, Choker, All Died Pretty
Joe Algeri greeting
The Jangle Band | Kill The Lovers | Edge Of A Dream
Hillary Burton greeting
honeychain | Some Boys Lie | Crushed
Blake Jones & The Trike Shop interview
Blake Jones & The Trike Shop | At Every Train Stop | Single release
Natalie Cortez greeting
Natalie Cortez & The Ultraviolets | Ghost Of You | Twitch!
Daniel Trigger greeting
Daniel Trigger | Remember When | Single release
Tom Richards & Elsie (Lisa) Mychols greeting
The Hour Zero | See You Again | Single release
Glen Laughlin/Deborah Gee greeting
The Cherry Bluestorms | Seven League Boots | Single release
Octavia Kane greeting
The Corner Laughers | Stonewords | Ultraviolet Garden
Lindy LaFontaine greeting
Lindy LaFontaine | This Too In Time Shall Pass | Single release
Gail George greeting
Gail George | Out Of Sight | Bloom

Twirl Radio Playlist – Show #792 – 8/19/2017: Twirl Radio Pop Fest ’17 preview!

Twirl Radio Pop Fest ’17 poster

August 20, 1997 was, literally, the day I moved to Sacramento. One of the single biggest and best decisions of my life. Little did I know, that 20 years later, to the day, I would get the opportunity to host a music festival–bringing together great musical minds from not only my new hometown, but from all over California. That festival is happening on Sunday, August 20, 2017: Twirl Radio Pop Fest ’17, at the wonderful Blue Note Brewing Company in Woodland, CA (just outside Sacramento).

On today’s show, we heard music from the six bands that are on the bill, and interviewed some of the performers! I strongly encourage you to attend the show, if you’re in the area. The show starts at 1:00 p.m., and you’ll see these great bands:

From L.A.: The Armoires. From Fresno: Blake Jones & the Trike Shop. From San Francisco: The Bobbleheads. From Sacramento: Gabe Nelson from Bellygunner and Cake, Natalie Cortez Band, Loose Engines.

This is an amazing collection of musical talent from all over the great state of California. If you like your quirk-pop, your psych-pop, or your Americana-pop–this festival is for you! Have a brew or a soft drink! Enjoy some tasty treats from the food truck. And most of all–enjoy this great collection of bands, all of whom are played on Twirl Radio in this family-friendly Sunday matinee show at the fine Woodland venue, the Blue Note Brewing Company.

Artist | Track | Album

Felsen | Poor In A Wealthy City | Blood Orange Moon
Sunshine Boys | Schoolyard Bully | Single release
B. J. Thomas | Raindrops Keep Fallin On My Head | Single release
Supersmall | A Better Life | Silent Moon
Bud Rogers | Pictures Of A Modern World (Acoustic) | Single release
Maxi Dunn | Rescue Me | Single release
Hannah Judson | Here We Are | I Wanna Know

Twirl Radio Pop Fest ’17 Preview
The Bobbleheads | Turn The Radio On (The Perfect Song) | Make Yourself Happy
Blake Jones & The Trike Shop | At Every Train Stop (Big Stir Mix) | Big Stir
Ron Morse of The Trike Shop interview
Blake Jones & The Trike Shop | Here Comes The Bus | The Underground Garden
Bellygunner | Negative Kid | Machine Gun Built For Two
Grub Dog & The Amazing Sweethearts | Forever Goldrush | Amazing Sweethearts
Natalie Cortez & The Ultraviolets | You Dear | Stupid Fresh Or Stupid Bad
Natalie Cortez & The Ultraviolets | She’s Better | Stupid Fresh Or Stupid Bad
The Armoires | Alesandra 619 | Big Stir
Rex Broome/Christina Bulbenko of The Armoires interview
The Armoires | Norma Corona | Incidental Light Show

Duncan Faure | Man Of A Thousand Dreams | Pronounced “Four-Uh”
Plasticsoul | In Her Raincoat | Therapy
The Great Sadness | Enough | Weep
The Welcome Matt | My Town | More Empire Days
Richard X. Heyman | Her Garden Path | Incognito
R. Stevie Moore & Jason Falkner | I Hate People | Make It Be
My Little Hum | Rise Over Run | Remembering Houses
Lannie Flowers | Find Her Way Back Home | Home Demos
Allyson Seconds | Little World | Little World

About the Top 15 Albums of 2016

twirlie2017albumThe 2017 Twirlie Awards show has come and gone. We had fun making the lists and giving out the awards, but I feel like I’ve done you a bit of an injustice.

You see, my favorite art form is the album. When done right, it’s a collection of songs, perfectly put together by theme and sound, and sequenced according to the artist’s vision. An album can be to the song what a book is to a chapter. It can make a statement. It can BE a statement. At first, it strikes on two levels–lyrics and music. But the really good ones fuse into your heart and mind, and stay there, sometimes permanently.

I put together a list of what I considered to be my favorite albums that were released in (or close to) 2016, which were played on Twirl Radio last year. But all I gave you was a list. I didn’t give you any reason to go further than reading the list. So right now, I’d like to walk you through the Top 15 Albums of 2016, as announced on my show on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2017. 2016, although demoralizing in some ways, was a banner year for indie music. Here’s why I think you should check out these albums and support these fine artists.

1. Edward Rogers – Glass Marbles – ALBUM OF THE YEAR
This is an expansive album, 19 or 20 tracks deep (I’m not supposed to spill the beans about the playful bonus track at the end, am I?). Glass Marbles is a career highlight for UK-born, NYC resident Edward Rogers. It starts out guns blazing, with a couple of dramatic rockers (The World of Mystery, Denmark Street Forgotten). Now that Edward’s got your attention, the album then gets inside of his head with the brilliant Welcome to my Monday Morning!, to which every working stiff should be able to relate. The common theme of this record is that of the common man: more songs about working hard just to barely stay afloat, yearning songs about love, and flat out barnburners like Burn N Play, Glass Marbles, the sassy Olde House On The Hill, and my favorite, Bright Star–which features a Stones-like guitar bridge. The lyrics are elegantly written and eloquent. This album is very real and organic–it mirrors life itself. Producer Don Piper helped Edward orchestrate this masterpiece. Listen to the whole thing, in order. It’s paced perfectly–the tender moments are where they need to be, and the anthems propel the ship forward. This vital album is worth the journey, and you’ll learn more about Edward–and yourself–along the way.

2. Cult Of Wedge – Loch Ness Monsters and Motherships – RUNNER UP ALBUM OF THE YEAR
The latest album from UK-based Peter Hackett’s project, Cult Of Wedge, really cements his reputation as a purveyor of quirky, yet insightful and topical lyrics, which earned him Best Songwriting honors at this year’s Twirlies. His wry sense of humor, vocals, and musical mastery remind me of the solo career of the Who’s John Entwistle, a great cult hero in his own right. (Listen to “She’s A Witch”, and if you’re American, look up some of the British and Spanish historical references to decode this description of a rather scary woman, then listen to Entwistle’s “My Wife” to understand how Peter is his worthy successor.) But make no mistake–there is only one Peter Hackett. These songs are completely original, even as they pay homage to, or poke fun at, elements of British and American culture. Musical goodies and references abound–the sly bit of marimba on Wish Ourselves Away to accompany the words “before we’re out of touch, we’re out of time”, the references to Dukes of Hazzard, the Indy 500, the Eagles, and the line “she’s got a bible in the glovebox and a 45” in Miss America. The crowning lyrical achievement has got to be the plethora of tin foil hat references in Conspiracy Girl–which serves as the de facto title song, since there isn’t a song called Loch Ness Monsters and Motherships. Peter is a an accomplished multi instrumentalist, playing guitars, bass, keyboards, and drums–and self-producing it all. This is a smart little album that’s a big deal. Get it, and see what all the fuss is about.

3. Pacific Soul Ltd. – The Dance Divine
Ladies and gentlemen: soul is back! This incredibly fun, intelligent, and danceable album is the debut from Adam Marsland, Teresa Cowles, and Norman Kelsey, and also garnered our Ear Candy award. The vocals are stellar, and every song rings true. This original album starts off with a brief gospel-like vocal piece, then the fiery Pacific Soul Time races in, sounding like top-form Sly and the Family Stone. Tomorrow Brings Tonight is next, reminiscent of the Spinners. The title track conjures up thoughts of Rick James, and you should be up and moving by this point. Crazy kicks in, taking the tempo up even higher–the album is downright aerobic by this point! We need to take a breather after this, and Adam seems to understand this, so he gifts us with a slow, incredibly soulful version of God Only Knows. I think you can see my point–this album is a real tour de force. Pacific Soul Ltd. lovingly resuscitates an entire genre, painting with a palette of beloved American musical styles. All three vocalists are amazing, individually and together. Every song works well. My favorite track is the infectious Cowles-Marsland composition We Go High (#3 Song of the Year). But really, most of the songs on this album could have made it onto my Top 30 list, were it not for my self-imposed restriction of one song per artist on this list (damn rules!). Just get this one, and start dancing.

4. Gretchen’s Wheel – Fragile State and Behind The Curtain
I was a little bit late to the party on Gretchen’s Wheel, Nashville-based Lindsay Murray’s project, so I received two albums from her in the space of a couple of months. As a result, I got a crash course in excellent songwriting, top notch electric guitar work, and of course, beautifully haunting alto vocals, which earned Lindsay the Female Vocalist of the Year award. I couldn’t decide what to do here, so the only answer was to honor both albums at #4. Fragile State came first, and it reminds me of some of the early 90’s alternative rock that I love so well–zoomy, atmospheric, echoey guitars, and slightly offbeat melodic twists and turns. The tempo is slow, and the songs smolder intensely. Second To Last, The Fourth Wall, and Why Try are standout tracks which are representative of the overall sound. Most of the second album, Behind The Curtain, is more uptempo, which more closely mirrors one of Lindsay’s influences, power pop. But I wouldn’t describe most of the music here as being in that vein–it’s more elaborate than the prototypical examples of the genre. It rocks harder than the first album, but is still just as thoughtful and intense. Standouts on this one are Invisible Thief, Live Through You, This Petrified Heart, and the delightful Sloan cover Try To Make It, which also showed up on a Futureman Records compilation album. This is where Gretchen’s Wheel runs headlong into power pop, and shines magnificently. To me, these two records feel like a really great double album–two sides of a similar coin. Get them both–like me, you won’t be able to pick a favorite–they’re both excellent.

5. Identical Suns – Identical Suns
Transcontinental rock band? Songs with harmonies that shimmer as brightly as the Beach Boys, while other songs are as audacious as Urge Overkill? Who are these Identical Suns? None other than Todd Stanton from Ohio, and Rene Rodriguez from Southern California. These two met the old fashioned way–online, in a music chat room–and were match-made into forming a band by my radio brother Adam Waltemire (Pop Garden Radio), and the rest is history. These two have an almost psychic way of writing songs together–sending them back and forth, polishing them, until they are no longer “a Todd song” or “a Rene song”–but a true Identical Suns mind meld. Baby I’m Down is the perfect way to announce the band’s arrival, with its Raspberries-like vocals and lyrics, and roaring, yet sinewy guitar solos. The next four songs are magnificently informed by 70s pop, then E.M.I.L.Y. thunders in, and reminds you that the 90s existed. But that just sets the table for the Twirlie Award winning Song of the Year, “Common Ground”. This song is a transcendent summer anthem–driving down the road with your love, enjoying the journey. Soaring harmonies, chiming guitars. Completely uplifting, and I’ll stack it up against every other Song of the Year we’ve ever awarded. The Turn plays a bit like a rock opera, leading to another favorite, Unraveled–a quirky rocker concerned with a female romantic partner, who is, shall we say, a bit less than stable. I haven’t dared play this one in the same set as the aforementioned Cult of Wedge track “She’s A Witch”–but it’s in a similar, tongue-in-cheek vein. This record is a must have.

6. Lisa Said – No Turn Left Behind
Lisa Said (pronounced “Sa’yeed”) grew up in Tennessee, as part of a large Egyptian-American family. She’s based in the Washington, D.C. area now, and her debut album came as a welcome addition to our show. Crisp songwriting and infectious melodies, with an Americana bent, permeate the album. You can hear Middle Eastern textures in a couple of the songs. Lisa’s vocals are reminiscent of Allyson Seconds, also honored in our year-end lists. A lot of the songs are about being on the move, whether on the way out of a relationship, or out of town. Indeed, the most compelling photo in the album artwork is of Lisa driving a classic 60s car, with a cooly determined facial expression. Lisa Said is one of the new powerhouse voices on the music scene; you’d be wise to give a listen.

7. The Armoires – Incidental Light Show
Rex Broome and Christina Bulbenko form the nucleus of Los Angeles-based The Armoires, and arrived in 2016, seemingly fully formed–yes, there is an “Armoires Sound”! A big band, six pieces strong, they go beyond the usual rock instrumentation by featuring well-placed strings, harmonicas, and keyboards alongside the usual guitar, bass, and drums. Male/female vocals highlight the sound, which swings between ethereal, jangly, anthemic, and even punky. Their lyrics can be haunting, playful, and even a bit political–but always with heart and kindness. If you like your rock and roll to be sophisticated and layered, but accessible, get a copy of Incidental Light Show.

8. Brian Cullman – The Opposite Of Time
Veteran rock journalist Brian Cullman clearly knows his way around the English language. His music might be described as singer-songwriter, which usually signals folk–but in his case, he’s clearly steeped in the rock idiom. His voice and style remind me of another well-loved NYC artist, Don Piper. The Opposite Of Time contains great stories, and perfect, lively arrangements to bring them to life–and I’m always a sucker for the occasional slide guitar. This album would have easily found a home in the late 80s-early 90s sweet spot that I love so well, when guitars and melodies were king. Instead, this witty record finds a home in our Top 10. You’ll need this album, so what are you waiting for?

9. Allyson Seconds – Little World
Two words: Sacramento proud. Allyson Seconds’ sophomore effort is a fine one. She’s a longtime rocker from right here in California’s capital city–known for singing harmony and playing electric guitar in various bands. This is her second collaboration with Sacramento native Anton Barbeau, who persuaded her to step out in front. His songwriting was perfectly crafted to fit Allyson’s voice and attitude. The feel is equal parts sunny California hippie, moody alternative rock, and edgy art-rock. Anton’s quirk factor is felt throughout, and other contributors include Karla Kane (Corner Laughers), my favorite west coast cellist Alison Sharkey, and even Colin Moulding(!) of XTC. This album is rightfully getting Allyson some rave reviews outside of our region–including a nice review on NPR! The spectacular title track is our #2 Song of the Year. Do yourself a favor, and give this record a good home.

10. Girls On Grass – Girls On Grass
Barbara Endes is the mastermind behind Girls On Grass, a leading light in the…wait for it…Brooklyn, NY Americana scene! If the Blasters, Jayhawks, and Lucinda Williams got into a cab driven by Joe Strummer–well, it would be pretty crowded in there, but this record might appear. There’s a definitive rock influence here, but cowpunk emerges as the dominant sound. Barbara is a fine songwriter, and the music really does hit that perfect balance between rock and country–not too far in either direction, but this is certainly no middle of the road affair. Catchy melodies abound, and several of these songs linger in your mind long after you’ve turned off your record player. What are you waiting for–do you need me to give you a ride to the store to pick up a copy?

11. Anton Barbeau – Magic Act
Another Sacramento legend made good: Anton Barbeau turns in one of the finest recorded performances of his career with Magic Act. There is nobody else like Anton on this top albums list–really, this quirky, inventive singer-songwriter pretty much has only two musical peers in the last 30 or so years: Robyn Hitchcock and Julian Cope. It only makes sense that he relocated first to the UK, then to Berlin–our small city simply could not contain all this talent. Thankfully, he comes back and visits often–his live shows are not to be missed. On Magic Act, the melodies are wonderfully catchy, the song titles are funny and odd, and the lyrics are often both inscrutable AND accessible–in the same song! (Remember–this is the same gifted lyricist who changed up his usual style to write for Allyson Seconds.) He’s one of my favorite radio guests–we always have a good chat about music–and he turns out to be a really nice guy as well. Run, don’t walk, and get a copy of Magic Act!

12. Bill Lloyd – Lloyd-ering
Bill Lloyd, the power pop half of legendary country duo Foster & Lloyd, has made a career out of doing–well, everything! He’s produced records, been a session player for the likes of Buck Owens, Ray Davies, and Glenn Tilbrook, and written songs for artists like Trisha Yearwood, Martina McBride, and many others. But what got him on our list this year was his wonderful collection of power pop covers–hits from the DBs, Raspberries, Byrds, Hollies, and more. He’s made these songs his own. In many cases, I’ve not heard the originals, so when I do–I’ll be comparing those to these Lloyd versions. I’m not a big fan of covers–so it’s a tribute to how high he’s set the bar with this album. I love all these songs! They were mostly recorded over the past couple of decades on various small labels. My friends at SpyderPop Records had the foresight to compile these tracks onto one album, so the world could hear, all in one place, Bill’s artistry and commitment to pretty much the entire history of power pop. This is one you should add to your collection.

13. The Well Wishers – Comes And Goes
The Well Wishers are San Franciscan Jeff Shelton’s long time project. Where Bill Lloyd brings the power pop jangle, Jeff brings more of the crunch and roar of the genre to the fine Comes And Goes record. I’ve been on board the Well Wishers bandwagon for about 3 albums now; this one is my favorite. It’s a solid, tight collection of driving, high energy songs that feature great melodies and instrumentation that wouldn’t be out of place on a mid-1990s Matthew Sweet album. This rousing album does more for me than caffeine–I want to drive fast, run fast, and bike fast, while listening to these songs. Give it a try, and you’ll see what I mean–get some Well Wishers into your life.

14. Jason Berk – Everything Old Is New Again
It’s kind of ironic–the first time I ever heard of Jason Berk was at an IPO show in San Francisco a couple of years ago. The young singer-songwriter played a fiery, but cordial solo set on the Hotel Utah stage. I immediately knew this guy would be a Twirl Radio favorite, so I bought a copy of his Coming Home album–from the aforementioned Jeff Shelton, who was working the merch table that night! So ever since then, Jason’s kept me in the inner circle of media outlets whenever he’s had new music. Everything Old Is New Again is a very personal album that chronicles a devastating breakup. But Jason (our Male Vocalist of the Year) didn’t just sit on the couch and sulk, like I would have. Instead, he created some art–11 well-crafted songs that feature his soulful vocals, intelligent lyrics, and tasteful guitar work. Some of the songs are more acoustic, some more full-band rockin’, but they all fit together. This pop is classic and timeless, and I’m sure you’ll need it to be part of your collection.

15. SLD (Sounds Like Digging) – Indigo Gray
Brooklyn, NY cousins Tom Parisi and Paul Costanza form SLD, and Indigo Gray, their debut album, materializes from out of nowhere. Infectious power pop tunes ring true at every listen. Tom and Paul’s pop sensibilities always lead them to making the right musical choices. You can tell they made the record they wanted to listen to. Soaring vocal harmonies and layers of guitars make this gem of an album a sonic pleasure to listen to. These songs could have been at home in the melodic heydays of the 1970s or 1990s, but instead, belong to 2016, a banner year for indie rock and roll. Get Indigo Gray immediately!

And that wraps up our Top 15 Albums of 2016. Let’s go out now and listen to 2017!

See the full list of Twirlie Awards.

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