For all you rock 'n' roll lifers out there, the October installment of Napster's Top 15 contains several faces you're going to find awfully familiar.
Hands down, the two best albums of the month are Heart's Fanatic and KISS' Monster. Both find the '70s icons rocking like it is (in the words of the immortal Yogi Berra) déjà vu all over again. For Heart this isn't a novel development. Over the last half-dozen years, Ann and Nancy Wilson have experienced an artistic revival with a string of excellent full-lengths. In addition to Fanatic, there's Red Velvet Car, from 2010, as well as its predecessor Jupiters Darling, both of which bring the rawk. As for "the hottest band in the land" KISS, well, 2009's Sonic Boom was a step in the right direction (after a string of lackluster titles, mind you). But Monster is easily the group's most exciting and consistent since the wildly salacious Lick It Up, released all the way back in 1983. Now that's a long time!
Also making an appearance in this month's top 15 is Electric Light Orchestra founder, Traveling Wilbury and sought-after producer Jeff Lynne. He recently dropped Long Wave, just the second proper solo album of his storied career. A collection of exquisitely rendered cover songs, it is an exploration of the music that inspired Lynne as a young man growing up in Birmingham, England. Tip: Don't sleep on album opener "She"; it's a slice of pop heaven that recalls vintage ELO at their most dreamy (and Beatles-esque, of course).
Yet one more icon returning to pop's spotlight is the great Donald Fagen. Boasting all manner of nods to Steely Dan's mid-'70s peak (from Countdown to Ecstasy to Katy Lied), Sunken Condos is possibly the most self-consciously nostalgic record the auteur has created yet. As always, Fagen has crafted a deliciously clever set of songs laced with funk, jazz and R&B. On "Miss Marlene," he somehow manages to turn a tale of former bowling partners into a metaphor for old lovers who have fallen out of touch. Who else but Donald Fagen could sing the line "Can't you hear the balls rumble?" in falsetto and make it sound oh so cool?