The Year in Local Recordings

A look back at some of CityBeat’s favorite 2016 releases by Greater Cincinnati music-makers

click to enlarge Wussy - Photo: Jesse Fox
Photo: Jesse Fox

Click here to listen to a playlist featuring tracks from 86 of these 2016 releases by Cincinnati area artists.

• Wussy – Forever Sounds

With Attica!, broadly-acclaimed Cincinnati band Wussy turned out a clattering, noisy evocation of the Psych Folk strum and twang it had crashed headlong into on its previous album, Strawberry. Two years later, Wussy’s new album, Forever Sounds, amplifies the noise of Attica! to a gorgeous din that soars and slams like Phil Spector and Brian Eno collaborating on the Berlin Wall of Sound. If Attica! was the sound of a block party teetering on the edge of chaos,Forever Sounds is that same party after local authorities gave up and called in the National Guard. Visceral, loud and lysergically compelling, Forever Sounds is Attica! on steroids and peyote buttons. Like every great Wussy album (which, so far, has been all of them), some of Forever Sounds’ most impactful moments are contained in the calm between storms. “Better Days” vibrates on a similar wavelength as Captain Beefheart’s glorious “My Head is My Only House Unless It Rains,” and “Majestic-12” reflects singer/songwriter/guitarist Lisa Walker’s trademark introspection, except for the undercurrent of feedback that threatens to erupt like an unstable volcano but never does. Forever Sounds ends with the gently compelling “My Parade,” a quiet piano ballad that eases into a noisier but still restrained version of the ecstatic havoc that preceded it. Forever Sounds is solid evidence that Wussy remains fully engaged in advancing its creative energy by any means necessary without abandoning the core values that have gotten them six-albums deep into a catalog that should stretch well into an even brighter future. (Brian Baker)

 Space Invadaz – Contact 

After bona fide masterpiece Scattered Thoughts of an American Poet, a brilliant blend of Hip Hop, R&B, Indie Rock and anything that tweaked his creative radar, beloved Cincy MC Buggs Tha Rocka shifted focus to Space Invadaz, his duo with Cincinnati Hip Hop legend Donte the Gr8 of local pioneers MOOD, whose 1997 debut album resonated nationally and launched collaborators Hi-Tek and Talib Kweli into the broader spotlight. The hyper-talented Hip Hop artists’ musical partnership has been extremely prolific. Space Invadaz’s 13-track “EP” Contact was made available as a free download in April, while Buggs and Donte were hard at work on new full-length Planet Chaos, which has Hi-Tek exec-producing and is slated for release through Kweli’s Javotti Media label. Contact’s guests appearances by Kweli, M1 and Chuck Inglish (plus studio magic from Hi-Tek, Issa Walker and Supa Dave West, among others) combine with Donte’s powerful Rap skill set and Buggs’ almost limitless musical invention to create something simultaneously grounded in Hip Hop and stylistically transcendent. Contact’s first single, the banging Pop/Soul stinger “Gun Show,” is one example of the album’s incredible musicality and deep social consciousness, primary elements of both Buggs’ and Donte’s previous work. Equally powerful is the Indie/Soul jump-and-pump of “Trap Season,” as Buggs and Donte spit rhymes with swaggering confidence over a twirling groove and Darryl Irby scat-sings with Marvin Gaye’s compelling magnetism. (BB)

 Lazy Heart – Lazy Heart

Remarkable trio Lazy Heart came together in its current state in 2014, after singer/guitarist Stephen Patota (also of The Happy Maladies) and drummer Ben Sloan (who tours the world with popular locally based group Why?) welcomed bassist/cellist/singer Josh Fink (formerly of Zamin) into the fold. Sloan and Patota had played together for several years and written a lot of material, but Fink is said to have brought everything more into focus, resulting in the threesome’s phenomenal first EP (a self-titled affair featuring production assistance from Why?’s Yoni Wolf and ex-Pomegranates member Isaac Karns). The chemistry is wildly evident on the recording, which, though only five tracks long, is mesmerizing and more commanding of the listener’s attention than most full-lengths you’ll hear. The rhythms and guitar parts are creative and shape-shifting, yet never distractingly so; even when progressively twisting and turning like an adventurous Post Punk or Post Rock band, or bursting with subtle discordance, the music has a distinctive fluidity. A host of guest musicians — including members of Why?, The Happy Maladies and others — provide horns, flute, strings and a bevy of other instruments that greatly contribute to the textural soundscapes’ strange beauty. The sublime vocals and fluttering, flickering melodies tie everything together to create a ingenious type of Dream Pop that is instantly endearing and memorable. (Mike Breen)

• Electric Citizen – Higher Time

Heavy rockers Electric Citizen have achieved a great deal in a relatively short span since its first show in 2013, including regular touring around the world, 2014’s acclaimed debut full-length, Sateen, and its equally praised follow-up, 2016’s thunderously heavy, melodically nuanced Higher Time. The wire walk of following up a critically well-received release like Sateen is as timeless as Rock itself, as musicians must somehow replicate a successful album’s bottled lightning while expanding and evolving as a creative unit. There is a melodic touch and an almost Pop-like swing to much of Higher Time, which is similar to Sateen, but different in an organic, unforced way. The band didn’t change its writing approach and the new album was almost completely written when new bassist Randy Proctor arrived, so the differences in Higher Time are subtle and show a natural evolutionary progression, a by-product of the band’s persistent touring regimen. What hasn’t changed is the quartet’s concussive musical presentation, a blend of the members’ love of Black Sabbath and Pentagram, but a unique personal translation of those influences. From the start, Electric Citizen’s trajectory has been upward and onward; Higher Time’s title seems less like a prophecy and more like a promise. (BB)

• The Cliftones – Enemies Scatter 

There’s a case to be made that in emulating some of the most enduring giants in Reggae, veteran local Reggae crew The Cliftones have created something both instantly familiar and all their own. On its first full-length album, Enemies Scatter, the band fashions an evocative and compelling blend of wide-ranging influences within and beyond Reggae, amped up with the musicians’ own incendiary brand of showmanship. While The Cliftones don’t rely on a formulaic approach in crafting their vision of Reggae, the octet is clearly doing something consistently right, as evidenced by its signing to respected Reggae label Rebel Sound Records for Enemies Scatter, which led to high chart performances on digital platforms for the album. Cincinnati’s finest Reggae treasure now belongs to the world. (BB)

• Dawg Yawp – Dawg Yawp

Dawg Yawp, one of Cincinnati’s finest newer bands drawing national attention, had a breakthrough year nationally in 2016. With its uniquely compelling mix of traditional Folk, Middle Eastern sounds (sitar plays a prominent role), pulsating Psychedelia, strong Pop-ish melodic instincts and Indie Rock majesty, the duo attracted a nationwide audience with its 2016 self-titled debut LP, which was issued through well-distributed indie imprint Old Flame Records. Dawg Yawp features a few songs from the twosome’s head-turning 2015 EP, Two Hearted, including the sunny, swelling Psych Folk anthem “I Wanna Be A Dawg” as well as singles “East Virginia Blues” and the driving “Can’t Think,” a brilliant representation of vocalist/sitar player Tyler Randall and vocalist/guitarist Rob Keenan’s fascinating and innovative sonic swirl. The widespread music blog and press attention that began with Dawg Yawp’s EP release grew exponentially, and the album has received frequent airplay and kudos from NPR. (MB)

• Joesph – There Comes the Lord

There Comes the Lord is the solo debut from Joey Cook, multi-instrumentalist and songwriter known for his work with popular Cincinnati Indie Pop crew Pomegranates. A marvel of influence, invention and translation, Cook blends a brilliant evocation of ’60s and ’70s Pop and Rock with a thoroughly modern Indie Rock ethic in a raw and immediate home-recorded atmosphere that serves as the soundtrack for an intriguing concept. The album is a song cycle that imagines what it might have been like to stand in the presence of the physical manifestation of Jesus. Cook doesn’t attempt to contemporize his message in an effort to appeal to millennials, nor does he use There Comes the Lord as a pulpit to proselytize. He merely tells this interesting story in a wonderfully musical, lyrical and compellingly listenable manner. It’s equally compelling sonically, with ’60s sunshine-Pop flashbacks, Harry Nilsson-meets-Velvet Underground warble-and-strum, Psych Folk musings, Pink Floydian synth drones, a Beatlesque “Blackbird” homage and the joyous, Technicolor Pop propulsion of The Flaming Lips or Polyphonic Spree. (BB)

• Dark Colour – Animal 

Dark Colour began as the solo project of singer/songwriter/keyboardist/programmer Randall Rigdon Jr., but gradually grew into an actual band to play live shows. The full-band transition continues with the Animal EP, for which band members joined Rigdon Jr. to record. While the solo Dark Colour debut album Prisoner came off like an Electronic Pop musician trying to sound like an Indie Rock band, Animal’s eight tracks sound more like an Indie Pop band that happens to use electronics. Dark Colour experiments with different shades and vibes throughout Animal, but there is an impressive cohesiveness thanks to the musicians’ lively performances and Rigdon Jr.’s fluid, stream-of- conscious melodies, which grab the listener’s attention from the start and never let go. It’s a bit like the ear-worm version of Alice chasing the White Rabbit through Wonderland — you’re not sure where he’s going, but you can’t help but follow him to the end. (MB)

 Frontier Folk Nebraska – This One’s for the Kid in the Back

Frontier Folk Nebraska’s 18-track This One’s for the Kid in the Back is a live album that was recorded during back-to-back shows at Northern Kentucky’s Southgate House Revival. Featuring songs from all three of the band’s self-released full-lengths, the live album came out on Old Flame Records, which helped earn Frontier Folk Nebraska’s music broader national attention. Loyal local fans will be familiar with the songs on the crisply-produced LP, but the live-in-front-of-an-audience re-recordings are well worth a listen because they ooze that extra magical energy that comes from playing in front of a supportive crowd. This One’s for the Kid in the Back vividly showcases FFN’s fantastic songwriting, pushes the inherent vitality of the musicians’ chemistry to the forefront and leaves no doubt that the band is not to be missed in concert. (MB)

• Jody Stapleton – Roe Street Cathedral

Jody Stapleton’s latest solo effort Roe Street Cathedral finds the Americana singer/songwriter — who first came to local music fans’ attention as frontperson for The Stapletons — in top form as a songwriter, with an impressive collection of guest artists helping to bring the strength of the writing to the forefront. Highlights on Roe Street Cathedral are plentiful, ranging from the gentle, banjo-and-piano-driven Roots Pop gem “Don’t Hear My Name” to more up-tempo tunes like the Country Gospel rave-up “Never Get Over Hurting You.” The moving closing track “Honey Bea” is the emotional nadir of the album, with its melancholy sway giving way to uplifting hope, gratitude and joy. (MB)

• Royal Holland – Volume Three: Program

Royal Holland, the exhilarating alter-ego project from Cincinnati singer/songwriter Matt Mooney, concluded its “Unfolded” trilogy of EP releases with Vol. 3: Program. It’s the completion of a story that began with 2014’s Vol. 1: The Maze and continued on Vol. 2: Flamingo, and also the latest recording to prove Mooney a major songwriting talent who deserves broader attention (he capitalized on the national attention he has received with dates to the West Coast and back). The trilogy taken as a whole (it’s is now available as a single package) is a wildly compelling artistic achievement that changes sonic hues beautifully throughout. (MB)

• Leggy – DANG EP and Leggy

Between consistent touring jaunts, raggedly poppy, punky trio Leggy released its third EP, Dang, a blissful blur of trashy, slashing guitars, insistent, primal rhythms and a boatload of soaring, sassy hooks, tied together by an exuberant energy and charisma that is hard to resist. The EP’s release was followed by Leggy’s first album — sort of. Independent British record label Damnably (also overseas home to Cincinnati’s Wussy) introduced Leggy to an international audience with a full-length consisting of all three of the band’s EPs and one new track. (MB)

• The Harlequins – One With You

Psych/Pop/Garage The Harlequins’ latest album took a little longer than expected, with two of the three members touring extensively as a part of Atlanta group Gringo Star. But the tangent worked out well for the trio — while pulling double-duty at South By Southwest with Gringo and The Harlequins, the founders of Dizzybird Records loved the Ciny band so much, they signed the group. The band’s debut for the label, One With You, shows The Harlequins’ ongoing maturity in their ability to translate influences instead of channeling them. The songs on the self-recorded One With You don’t steer far afield from The Harlequins’ typical sound and fury, but the album exudes an unmistakable air of confidence and authority. (BB)

• A.M. Nice – A.M. Nice

Powerful Cincinnati trio A.M. Nice is capable of conjuring a potent cyclone of sound and energy, which it proves right away on its self-titled EP with opener “Self Mediate,” a neck-snapping, high-speed whirl. But A.M. Nice isn’t just a “crank the volume and stomp on the gas pedal” type of band. Even amongst the throttling energy of “Self Mediate,” the power-jangle guitar slices like Paul Weller’s did in the early days of The Jam, while the impassioned melodic punch of the chorus hook is probably where the band’s label came up with the Joe Jackson comparison in its “Recommended If You Like” section of the EP’s one-sheet. A.M. Nice’s deceptively volcanic sound is perfectly suited for an entertainingly frantic and frenzied live show, but it’s far more creatively constructed and musically intricate than one might notice upon first listen. The EP finds a perfect spot between muscular, urgent briskness and imaginative craftiness. (MB)

• Rumpke Mountain Boys – High Time, Low Tide

The hard-touring Rumpke Mountain Boys have built the band’s name up on the national touring circuit with a dynamic spin on traditional Bluegrass — they call it Trashgrass — with an emphasis on fluid improvisation, jaw-dropping instrumental skills and fearlessness when it comes to borrowing from other genres. With all four members singing, the group creates its string-based alchemy primarily with mandolin, banjo, upright bass and acoustic guitar. Featuring 13 original songs, the band’s fourth full-length, High Time, Low Tide, opens with the rollicking, break-neck-paced “Rolling Waves,” before sliding into “Banks of the River,” a more tranquil, laid-back tune with Country Blues influences peeking through. Those two tracks exemplify the Rumpkes’ range — their songs alternately mesmerize and light your ass on fire. (MB)

• Valley of the Sun – Volume Rock

There are times in some bands’ careers when, in order to take the next step forward, it first has to take a step back. That’s what occurred with Cincinnati-based desert-rockers Valley of the Sun between their last album in 2013 and their most recent, Volume Rock. The duo toned down some of its more eclectic and intricate tendencies in favor of bombastic and driving rhythms. This isn’t to say the album is simple or toned down. It’s just that the flourishes found within seem designed to be more easily replicated (and perhaps more impactful) live, and overall there is a more natural feel to the songs. As the title suggests, Volume Rock is an album that deserves to be turned to 1, preferably accompanied by rolled-down windows, long stretches of highway and summer heat. (Nick Grever) 

 Bummers Eve  Bummers Eve 

The songs on Bummers Eve’s debut long-player are drenched in layers of noise, distortion and reverb, creating the whirling, fuzzy atmospherics that are a cornerstone of the trio’s sound. There’s a noisy, lo-fi-meets-Shoegaze psychedelia aesthetic on the album, but as cacophonous and sonically unhinged as Bummers Eve can sound at times, there’s too much color within the band’s songs to simply dismiss them as impulsive noise-outs.  Listening to Bummers Eve’s full-length is a little like discovering Jesus and Mary Chain’s Psychocandy (or The Ramones, for that matter) for the first time; it doesn’t take long before all of the abrasiveness and caterwauling elements simply become context, another endearing texture that surrounds some ridiculously great, melodic songs. In that same way, Bummers Eve’s debut is brilliantly subversive Pop music at its finest. (MB)

• The PsychoAcoustic Orchestra – Fun With Notes

The PsychoAcoustic Orchestra, a progressive ensemble based in Jazz but unafraid of exploring any number of other stylistic enclaves, was founded by pianist, composer and arranger Patrick Kelly in 1990. The adventurous group returned in 2016 with its first full-length album in 20 years, Fun With Notes, another extraordinary entry into the Orchestra’s flawless discography. Notes shows that not much has changed for PAO — Kelly is a Jazz master who deserves much wider attention from the Jazz world as a whole, and the impeccable chops by a bevy of both young and experienced players are further testament to the incredible Jazz talent here in Greater Cincinnati. Here’s hoping we don’t have to wait another 20 years for a follow-up. (MB) 

• Ohio Knife – Scalp or Be Scalped

Cincy trio Ohio Knife’s debut album, Scalp or Be Scalped, is no-nonsense Rock & Roll that pulsates with a buzz-saw drive and a dark, raucous soulfulness. Scalp kicks off with the one-two punch of “Wish I Knew” and “Day and Night” before letting up on the gas pedal for the smoldering “I Found Out” and the cavernous Grunge of “Be the Dark” and “WWP,” which recalls The Afghan Whigs at their moodiest. Elsewhere, “Special Plans” sounds like a lost early KISS B-side, while the late-night twinkle of “Tonight We Ride” puts off a late ’60s/early ’70s Classic Rock anthem/ballad vibe. (MB)

 Siegelord – Ascent of the Fallen

Cincinnati-based Metal band Siegelord’s debut, Ascent of the Fallen, is enough to get any listener prepped to strap on some armor and go to war, even if it is just in the mosh pit. The group leans heavily upon Black and Death Metal to craft its battle anthems, but the addition of keys for powerful blasts of horn and sprawling synths gives the music a more tribal and feral edge. Though it may have taken several years to finally complete, Ascent of the Fallenwas worth the wait. (NG)

• Pluto Revolts – Tidal Wave

As the four songs on Tidal Wave show, Pluto Revolts has a sound as accomplished, passionate and effectual as any Indie/Electro/Pop act on the market. The guitar work on the tracks moves between funky riffage and billowing atmospherics, while the beats and rhythms have both a soulful Indie Rock variance and the precision and insistent incitement of Dance music. Pluto Revolts’ engineer, Benjamin James, shows he’s in top songwriting form right now — it’s not hard to imagine him becoming a songwriter for other big-name Pop artists. Tidal Wave’s deftly designed structures and striking melodic magnetism would make the songs impressive if merely played on an acoustic guitar. But the Electronic enhancements take things to the next level, often giving the music an alluring New Wave/Synth Pop feel. (MB)

Lemon Sky - Dos

Lemons Sky’s 2011 self-titled debut was full-bore Rock with a modern Pop heart, like Jellyfish steered by Led Zeppelin and Queen rather than The Beatles. That same framework exists on Lemon Sky’s sophomore album, Dos, but the band’s shifting lineup and natural creative evolution over the past four years have resulted in expansive and kaleidoscopic growth. Building on the band’s existing foundation of thunderous Rock with a sweet/sour minor-key Pop melodicism, Dos is alternately reminiscent of Wish You Were Here-era Pink Floyd, a mash-up of Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, a tribute to avowed influence Captain Beyond and a nod to The Beatles in the Abbey Road crosswalk. (BB)

• Plastic Ants – Imperial Phase 

Plastic Ants’ sound hovers in the nexus of Indie Rock, Prog, Pop and an arsenal of influences stretching back to the members’ ’70s/’80s childhoods. Imperial Phase, the follow up to 2014’s excellent Falling to Rise, features a slight sonic expansion with band leader Robert Cherry’s shift to electric guitar and a more cinematic lyrical scope, giving the band an urbane Glam feel, a bit like Al Stewart fronting the Spiders from Mars. The other big difference between Falling to Rise and Imperial Phase is the growth and evolution of the quartet’s chemistry. As a result, Imperial Phase is a sign that Plastic Ants is tapping into its potential in a major way. (BB)

• The Magic Lightnin’ Boys – Stealin’ Thunder 

Over just two years, Fairfield, Ohio-based Blues/Rock foursome The Magic Lightnin’ Boys has made incredible strides. Besides continuing to build a faithful following with its energetic live show, this year’s impressive Stealin’ Thunder reveals a strengthening in the band’s sound, a Blues-based amalgam of collective influences that erupts with a Southern Rock rumble reminiscent of The Allman Brothers, ZZ Top, Blackfoot and Govt Mule, plus a dash of Black Sabbath, without actively emulating anyone. (BB)

• Copper – The Devil You Know

The Devil You Know is the second album from Copper, the project of local singer/songwriter Peter Obermark that features a supporting cast of accomplished Cincinnati musicians. Obermark’s dedication to the power of a strong melody is again evident on the album, putting him in Cincinnati’s enduring lineage of smart, clever and potent Pop Rock craftspeople. Highlights include the effervescent title track and its rock-solid, harmony-laden chorus hook, “Radio Free Jesus,” with its engaging tonal shifts between gloom and radiance, and the fuzzy, frisky romp, “Death and Texas,” one of two cuts to feature the resplendent vocals of singer Krystal Peterson. (MB)

 Know Prisoners – Warrior March

After establishing itself as one of the premier Reggae acts in Greater Cincinnati, Know Prisoners unleashed its first recording, the eight-track Warrior March. Reggae is the lifeblood of Know Prisoners music, but it’s not the only blood. “You Can’t Hold Me Down” and the title track feature some sizzling Rock guitar leads, for example, and most of the songs possess an underlying Soul/R&B vibe (which is not surprising, given Reggae’s roots in American Soul music) with Pop-worthy melodies scattered throughout. (MB)

• Bucko – Bucko

Emerging from the ashes of The Black Owls, Bucko’s eponymous debut saw Brandon Losacker  (the Owls’ guitarist) forsaking his longtime sideman role and reluctantly moving to the front of the stage. That Bucko is the first time Losacker’s ever fronted a band is especially surprising after listening to Bucko’a outstanding nine-song full-length, given his emotional delivery and vocal resemblance to the likes of Eddie Vedder, Waylon Jennings and Matt Berninger. The diverse album is also a showcase for Losacker’s songwriting, which bears the mark of his schizophrenic listening tastes, spanning from Duran Duran to Fugazi. (BB)

• Filthy Beast – Filthy Beast

Filthy Beast’s first full album is a full-bore marvel of bracing Indie Rock verve and expansive Classic Rock authenticity. That range is aptly displayed within the one-two punch of the album’s openers: “Creeper” is a glitter-sprinkled Glam sandwich with a greasy side of Garage, while “fuck-the-man” ode “Trees” is a gentle Prog/Folk anthem that simultaneously channels Traffic and The White Stripes. Filthy Beast works a musical corner where a good many sins can be covered simply by Spinal Tapping the volume upward, but these guys absolutely understand the inherent beauty of nuance and the allure of subtlety and adorn its debut with plenty of both, even as they peg the needle deep into the red. (BB)

• Go Go Buffalo – Taking Control 

Like its live show, Go Go Buffalo’s manic spin on hard and heavy Rock is freaky, playful and often unpredictable on its debut long-player, Taking Control, with a slightly disorienting psychedelic streak running throughout. Tyler Moore’s guitar riffs and leads fly fast and furious, as if stripped from an old Blue Cheer or Black Sabbath album and dosed with a potent cocktail of Adderall, magic mushrooms and Black Flag songs. Drummer Jason Drennan and bassist Graham Lang intuitively guide the wandering arrangements with just the right touch of precision and chaos, while singer Jeremy Moore howls, growls and rants like a mad scientist’s gene-spliced frontman made from the DNA of Jello Biafra, Gibby Haynes, Jim Morrison and Batman nemesis The Joker. (MB)

• Flying Underground – Death of Stars

When veteran singer/songwriter/guitarist/producer Brian Lovely lost his singing voice to what he calls a “neurological curse,” his longtime Pop/Rock project, Flying Underground, was reconfigured with expressive singer Kelly McCracken taking over on vocal duties. The “new” band’s Death of Stars EP still brims with what fans expect from Lovely — crisp, melodic songwriting and untouchable musical chops — while also serving as an introduction of McCracken as a versatile and charismatic vocalist. Opening tracks “Rocket Ship” and “Stop Leaving Me Alone” pop with a Cheap Trick-like energy, with McCracken’s voice giving off the attitudinal vibe of peak Runaways. Though the title track is the EP’s most melodically durable, its soaring hooks sinking in and sticking immediately, Death of Stars as a whole is a textbook example of durable and effective Pop Rock songcraft. (MB)

 Mason James – Born Ready 

Hailing from nearby West Harrison, Ind. and a favorite on the local club circuit, singer/songwriter Mason James (who scored the Cincinnati Entertainment Award for Country in 2012) released his latest, Born Ready, this summer. Featuring eight strong, soulful tunes enlivened with a modern verve, but still steeped in Country music’s rich tradition (Pop/Bro Country fans should probably look elsewhere), Born Ready includes highlights like the Rock-tinged “Don’t You Tread on Me,” a duet with fellow area Country artist Taylor Shannon, and the darker-hued, facing-mortality musings of the title track. (MB)

 Cookin’ Hearts – Cookin’ Hearts

Citing inspiration from the likes of Fleet Foxes, The Wood Brothers, Sufjan Stevens and Harry Nilsson, Indie Folk/Americana quartet Cookin’ Hearts’ progressive spin on traditional Americana is beautifully displayed on its self-titled debut full-length. The Cincinnati-based quartet’s spellbinding approach on the debut is highlighted by imaginative songwriting, Abigail Westwood’s haunting flute parts and spectacular, celestial four-part harmonies. (MB)

 Kevin McCoy Band – Redneck N Roll

Cincinnati foursome the Kevin McCoy Band’s debut album, Redneck N Roll, nicely illustrates the group’s contemporary Country Rock approach, a style that gave the album its title and is accurately self-described as “a fusion of Rockabilly, Country, Country Western, Southern Rock, Blues and hard-driving Rock & Roll.” The band has established a strong presence on the local club scene, where its rotation of cover songs — ranging from Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings to Tom Petty and ZZ Top — is indicative of the cross-section of genres that informs its original music. (MB)

 One Day Steady  My Real Problem

AltRock foursome One Day Steady’s My Real Problem, the follow-up to 2014’s Cinematic full-length, reflects avowed band influences like Modest Mouse, Pearl Jam and Red Hot Chili Peppers, but also shows the band’s own personality becoming more distinct. “Shoot & Run,” the first single from the album, is a dynamic and highly catchy track that hooks the listener from the start and never lets go. It’s the kind of infectious, memorable song that would sound perfectly at home in heavy rotation on modern AltRock radio, sandwiched between tracks by Twenty One Pilots and Cold War Kids. (MB) 

• Jean Dowell with Mike Oberst – A Place Way Back in Time

Jean Dowell moved to Cincinnati in the early ’70s and became the first Mount Saint Joseph University’s women’s basketball coach, beginning an exceptional career that earned her spots in five sports hall of fames. But Dowell has also had a long love affair with music. She grew up listening to and singing old-time Folk music with her family and, in college, she learned how to play guitar and began writing songs. When Mike Oberst of Cincy Folk faves The Tillers heard her original songs, he encouraged her to perform them in public. That paved the way for this year’s A Place Way Back in Time, Dowell’s very first album, featuring 19 of Dowell’s compositions from throughout the years with Oberst producing and providing instrumentation. (MB)

Even More Great 2016 Releases

• Coconut Milk – Shoop, Shoop, Shoop

• Sleep – All Men Must Die… But You First

• Mint Leopard – Searching for Sweetness 

• Swim Team – Swim Team 

• Ryan Fine – Alone with Dreamers

• Kid Stardust – Something Like This But Better 

• April Aloisio – Yoga Bossa Nova

• Charlie Millikin – Charlie Millikin

• Ed Moss & the Society Jazz Orchestra – Further Extensions 

• Eugenius & Friends – Bars Against Humanity 

• Jess Lamb and the Factory – Dig Dee and End of the Line

• Xela – Monster 

• Maurice Mattei Songs of Peril & Conquest

• The Reduced – Drastically Reduced

• Fluffer – Fluffer 

• Smut – Sam-Soon 

• Strange Mechanics – Cirque de Strange 

• Counterfeit Money Machine – Desperate Measures

 • Calumet – Modern Myths

• mr.phylzzz – Sounds Like Everybody Else

• Hissing Tiles  Aces Read Me to Sleep 

• Settle Your Scores – The Wilderness 

• Ethicist  II

• Peridoni – Pixel Pieces of a Parallel Plane 

• Motherfolk – Fold

• Ancient News – I Come Into This World

• The Nothings – Enjoy the Violence 

• Ron Esposito – Triad 

• Suck the Honey – 3P

• Brent Gallaher – Moving Forward

• Evening Redness – Before the Dark

• Winterhymn – Blood & Shadow

• Dallas Moore – Live at The Bullitt County Jail 

 • Infinity Spree – Guides 

• Krystal Peterson& The Queen City Band – Spell

• Daniel Van Vechten – Get Right

• JIMS – Mandarin EP

• Paper Doll Scissor Fight – Paper Doll Scissor Fight

• The Midwestern Swing – Live @ Bop Shop Records

• SolEcho – Dawn

• Kumasi – DEBUT EP

• Lockjaw – Who Do You Think You Are?

• The Lovers – Middle of Nowhere

• Build Us Fiction – The Year of Steinbeck 

•  Ricky Nye – Plays Holiday Favorites 

• Alejo – Transitions 

• Jamwave – These Memories

• Brittany Gillstrap – Wherever the Wind Blows

• Elk Creek – Elk Creek 

• Drop the Sun – Are You With Me?

• Homage (CVG) – Beats of Wisdom 

• Current Events – Phases 

• Taylor Shannon – Greenbriar Road

• Joe Wannabe and the Madman’s Blues Band – No Way in Hell

• Klang Geist – Klang Geist 

• Room For Zero – Come On! Come On!

• Mojo Rizin – Fourplay

• Black With the Stars – Black With the Stars