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The Best Under-the-Radar Rock of 2009, Part One

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Over the next few blog posts, Crossfade contributor Lee Zimmerman gives his top picks of the best unheralded rock releases of the past year.

Lee Alexander & Co., Mayhaw Vaudeville
Retro never sounded so remorseful, but thanks to Lee Alexander's forlorn, affecting vocals, Mayhaw Vaudeville provides a perfect example of an emotionally-charged returned to archetypical sensibilities.

Jeff Larson, Heart of the Valley

America's Gerry Beckley, a close colleague, plays a leading role here (he wrote the majority of the tracks and produced and engineered), but credit Larson for showing his savvy when it comes easy and accessible, radio-ready, old school pop.

Kaiser Cartel, Rock Island
When the Kaisers roll, the rock is only negligible, but regardless, this irrepressible duo conveys an infectious energy and unabashed exuberance that finds Rock Island an enticing destination.

Various Artists - Ciao My Shining Star: The Songs of Mark Mulcahy
Dedicated to the memory of his late wife and performed by an array of notables - Michael Stipe, The National, Vic Chesnutt, Frank Black, Josh Rouse and Ben Kweller among them - this album casts a hauntingly beautiful, if somewhat elusive, gaze at the arched melodies Mulcahy wrote both for the Miracle Legion and his individual outings. Once obscure, these songs are now indelible.

WPA - Works Progress Administration 

A new indie supergroup? The participation of Glen Phillips, Sean Watkins and Luke Bulla indicates that's the case, but WPA's penchant for intelligent yet affecting roots pop heralds the launch of a melody-conscious band as well as hope for those lamenting the loss of the late, great Toad the Wet Sprocket.

The Duke & The King - Nothing Gold Can Stay 

It has little to do with royalty but the Duke & The King's dramatic debut is worth a king's ransom in terms of smartly-tailored songs, hushed, smoky harmonies and seductively alluring melodies that etch their way into the consciousness and simply refuse to let go.

The Avett Brothers -- I And Love And You 

It's that rare album that can be listened to repeatedly and each time become a new experience, inviting further discovery on each successive hearing. At very least, this is the coulda been, shoulda been break-out disc for North Carolina's rustic, rollicking trio.

Maura Kennedy - Parade of Echoes 

An unlikely solo excursion from the female half of the folk rocking Kennedys, it substitutes Maura's sultry, seductive elocution for the duo's usual jangly delivery while sacrificing none of the charm and attraction in the process.

Richard X Heyman - Intakes

Revisiting earlier unreleased sessions and second looks at seminal efforts, the cleverly-titled Intakes shows that Heyman's talents as a flawless pop practitioner are indeed timeless. If his newer material doesn't catch the masses' attention, then indeed there's no reason not to go back to the beginning

Low Anthem - Oh My God, Charlie Darwin

A literate and pastoral view of the father of evolution, it resonates with hushed, sensual, haunting melodies that seize the spirit and defy any attempt at letting go.

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