Apologies up front to the many Springsteen fanatics reading this month's Rock Roundup, but Wrecking Ball, an excellent album in its own right, is denied the top slot by Heartless Bastards. If you're unfamiliar with the Austin-by-way-of-Cincinnati outfit, do yourself a favor and check out Arrow, a Crazy Horse-stained amalgam of hard-riffing roots rock, folk balladry and even a little glam. Erika Wennerstrom -- singing of the open road, the minutest details of intimacy/insecurity and an inchoate longing that's stubborn in its persistence -- is one of modern rock 'n' roll's most unique vocalists. The ways in which she moans, groans and turns loping vowels into brief explosions of the infinite are filled with just so much passion and mystery, really. Springsteen probably totally digs her.
Several other new titles can be spotted in the Top 10, including How About I Be Me (And You Be You)?, Sinead O'Connor's most impressive collection in years; The Fray's arena-ready Scars & Stories; and Howlin Rain's ode to the myriad excesses of 1970s "freedom rock," The Russian Wilds.
The remaining slots are dedicated to the many high-profile reissues and anthologies released in recent weeks. Pink Floyd dropped the "Experience Edition" of The Wall, which contains over 25 demos and outtakes. John Popper and his fellow Blues Travelers have a new anthology celebrating their 25th anniversary of jam-band shenanigans. Plus, there are key digital releases of Sparks' art-rock-meets-disco-opus No. 1 in Heaven and the first two ZZ Top albums, both of which totally rock -- of course.