Best Indie albums

By John B. Moore

J.P. Harris
Sometimes Dogs Bark at Nothing
(Free Dirt Records)
Modern country music has gotten a bad rap as of late, and just about all of it is entirely justified. The Bro Country invasion has stripped just about every strain of authenticity and creativity out of the same genre that once gave us first name legends like Willie, Waylon, Johnny and Kris. But Alabama native J.P. Harris, back with his third album, is almost singlehandedly bringing a sense of artistry and pride back to country music. Lyrically, he brings to mind everyone from Kris Kristofferson and Leon Russell to Billie Joe Shaver, forgoing the obvious clichés and let's have a beer and hit the beach lyrics he opts for strong character sketches and clever metaphors that would that would make Dylan and Springsteen jealous.

The Wood Brother
One Drop of Truth
(Honey Jar/Thirty Tigers)
One Drop of Truth is quite possible this trio's best so far, nearly flawless from start to finish. The set kicks off with "River Takes the Town," a contemporary folk number about a Louisiana flooding that eschews the obvious drama for a more laid-back vibe and comes off almost as a love song in the end. Elsewhere the band beefs up their eclectic bona fides with a couple of strong funk-infused tracks, like "Happiness Jones" soaked in swampy organ, the quirky "Sky High" and the '70s-inspired "Sparkling Wine." The record is balanced out with a barn burner like "This is it," the sultry album closer "Can't Look Away" and the earnestly sweet "Strange as it Seems."

The Last Gang
Keep Them Counting
(Fate Wreck Chords)
"Keep Them Comin" is The Last Gang's first album following 2017's stellar debut 7", "Sing For Your Supper," and is more than enough proof that The Last Gang is one of the best thing's going in music right now. The LP is a relentless, infectious punk rock, that's not afraid to cram in hooks alongside the singalong choruses. With the opening track, the hauntingly powerful "Sing For Your Supper," the band set a remarkable pace that they somehow manage to keep up across 10 songs.

Parker Millsap
Other Arrangements
(Thirty Tigers)
For the first time, Millsap plugs in and sticks mainly to electric guitar on most of the tracks here. The voice is still distinctly Millsaps', it's just that the music is a little faster and louder for the most part. Despite being in his mid-20s, his influences here are still more obscure than most of his peers, with nods to '70s AM rock versus the typical '90s bands that are serving as the guide posts for most current rock outfits. Even though Millsap has a tendency to get feistier on Other Arrangements he never gets lax with his lyrical duties, turning in another perfect collection of character sketches and three-minute philosophy lessons.

English Beat
Here We Go Love
(Here We Go Records)
It's been more than 35 years since the Dave Wakeling-fronted group, The English Beat last put out a record of new music but thankfully Here we Go Love sounds very much like the original band's material. It fits perfectly into the collection alongside "I Just Can't Stop It," "Wha'ppen?" and "Special Beat Service." The 13 tracks here are the same satisfying blend of Two-Tone - a mix of ska and punk – that the English Beat (who added a bit more pop to their version) helped pioneer in the early '80s alongside peers like the Specials and Madness. The songs, crammed with hooks, are undeniably infectious, so it's hard pay attention to the lyrics in the first few go-arounds, but they are some of Wakeling's best.



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