December 21, 2018

Year in Review: Albums, EPs and Singles Released by Cincinnati Musical Acts in 2018

As we have done for the past 24 years, CityBeat covered a ton of local music releases in 2018. The year saw debut albums by exciting newcomers like Moonbeau, Chelsea Ford & the Trouble and Triiibe, plus new classics from veteran Cincinnati-area artists like Ampline, Napoleon Maddox and Wild Carrot and much, much more. For more local music goodness from 2018 — including a 100-plus-song Spotify playlist of our favorite tracks of the year — click here. To read more on all of these 2018 releases, search citybeat.com.
Scroll down to view images
Cincinnati Synth Pop duo Moonbeau — led by Claire Muenchen and Christian Gough — is making some of the best music of the new wave of New Wave. On the twosome’s 2018 self-titled debut full-length, Muenchen and Gough offer 10 tracks of powerful Pop potency that transcends the instrumentation. If the album were simply their vocals and an out-of-tune piano, it would still be a melodic tour de force. Opener “In Love,” for example, might recall, say, A Flock of Seagulls, but it isn’t hard to reimagine it as a Bruce Springsteen song (and hard not to hear it that way once you do), down to the Patti Scialfa-like harmonies. All of the songs are instantly memorable — by just the second listen, it feels like you’ve known them for years. The resplendent Synth Pop presentation is highly enchanting in its own way; wrapping it around an impeccable Pop core makes for an exhilarating combination. With its appropriately vaporwave album cover aesthetic, 'Moonbeau' won the 2018 Cincinnati Entertainment Award for Album of the Year. (Mike Breen)
Cincinnati Synth Pop duo Moonbeau — led by Claire Muenchen and Christian Gough — is making some of the best music of the new wave of New Wave. On the twosome’s 2018 self-titled debut full-length, Muenchen and Gough offer 10 tracks of powerful Pop potency that transcends the instrumentation. If the album were simply their vocals and an out-of-tune piano, it would still be a melodic tour de force. Opener “In Love,” for example, might recall, say, A Flock of Seagulls, but it isn’t hard to reimagine it as a Bruce Springsteen song (and hard not to hear it that way once you do), down to the Patti Scialfa-like harmonies. All of the songs are instantly memorable — by just the second listen, it feels like you’ve known them for years. The resplendent Synth Pop presentation is highly enchanting in its own way; wrapping it around an impeccable Pop core makes for an exhilarating combination. With its appropriately vaporwave album cover aesthetic, 'Moonbeau' won the 2018 Cincinnati Entertainment Award for Album of the Year. (Mike Breen)
Metal trio Siegelord introduced itself with 2016’s debut album, 'Ascent of the Fallen,' a deep, dark concept album full of characters and storylines derived from the members’ personal lives. But this year’s 'Covered in Blood' EP told a different story — of the group’s influences. Alongside covers of songs by bands like Mastodon, Immortal and Amon Amarth, Covered In Blood included Siegelord’s reworking of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” “We deconstruct ourselves in that song,” the band’s guitarist Therod told CityBeat of the cover. (Nick Grever)
Metal trio Siegelord introduced itself with 2016’s debut album, 'Ascent of the Fallen,' a deep, dark concept album full of characters and storylines derived from the members’ personal lives. But this year’s 'Covered in Blood' EP told a different story — of the group’s influences. Alongside covers of songs by bands like Mastodon, Immortal and Amon Amarth, Covered In Blood included Siegelord’s reworking of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” “We deconstruct ourselves in that song,” the band’s guitarist Therod told CityBeat of the cover. (Nick Grever)
Veteran Cincinnati MC Napoleon Maddox’s latest creative endeavors have included his duo project with French producer/DJ Sorg. Sorg is a dazzling beat-artiste, crafting a rich, layered backdrop on 'Checkin Us' that masterfully blends Soul, Funk, Electro and other elements and vibes into something colorful and imaginatively unique. Maddox has long been a world-class MC and this collaboration shows him at the top of his game, as much a showcase for his untouchable vocal and lyrical skills as anything he’s done up to this point. Drawing discriminately from seemingly every major era of Hip Hop, his rhyming schematics and flow on 'Checkin Us' are like a clinic in creative but foundationally flawless MCing. (Mike Breen)
Veteran Cincinnati MC Napoleon Maddox’s latest creative endeavors have included his duo project with French producer/DJ Sorg. Sorg is a dazzling beat-artiste, crafting a rich, layered backdrop on 'Checkin Us' that masterfully blends Soul, Funk, Electro and other elements and vibes into something colorful and imaginatively unique. Maddox has long been a world-class MC and this collaboration shows him at the top of his game, as much a showcase for his untouchable vocal and lyrical skills as anything he’s done up to this point. Drawing discriminately from seemingly every major era of Hip Hop, his rhyming schematics and flow on 'Checkin Us' are like a clinic in creative but foundationally flawless MCing. (Mike Breen)
Aimed at children ages 3-7, each of the seven silly tracks on the Hip-Hop-for-kids project The Corner (with music from area Hip Hop artists Vernard Fields and Adam Hayden and illustrations by Charlie Padgett) is a different vignette, often dealing with fundamental early life lessons, such as on “Pick Up Your Towel” and “We Like to Share.” There is “grown” Hip Hop that has kid-appeal, but for Hip Hop designed for children, The Corner should be your first choice. For educators, it can help connect kids to things like storytelling, poetry and rhythm. For parents, it’s all of that and an opportunity to knock The Wiggles and Barney out of the playtime playlist. (Mike Breen)
Aimed at children ages 3-7, each of the seven silly tracks on the Hip-Hop-for-kids project The Corner (with music from area Hip Hop artists Vernard Fields and Adam Hayden and illustrations by Charlie Padgett) is a different vignette, often dealing with fundamental early life lessons, such as on “Pick Up Your Towel” and “We Like to Share.” There is “grown” Hip Hop that has kid-appeal, but for Hip Hop designed for children, The Corner should be your first choice. For educators, it can help connect kids to things like storytelling, poetry and rhythm. For parents, it’s all of that and an opportunity to knock The Wiggles and Barney out of the playtime playlist. (Mike Breen)
Folk/Americana band The Tillers’ self-titled follow-up to 2013’s acclaimed 'Hand on the Plow' was also its debut for well-distributed area label SofaBurn Records. The album was informed by numerous factors: the group’s extensive touring; band members’ adventures in fatherhood; the addition of fiddler Joe Macheret; personal tragedies (including the loss of former Tillers bassist Jason Soudrette, who died in 2014 after a battle with leukemia); and America’s flirtation with fascism. “It’s been a lot of slogging through negative and hard, sad things that have happened, but also really joyous, life-changing, life-affirming things as well,” singer/songwriter/banjoist Mike Oberst told CityBeat. “This record feels to me like some sort of statement of ‘We’re back,’ but also ‘We never left.’ ” (Brian Baker)
Folk/Americana band The Tillers’ self-titled follow-up to 2013’s acclaimed 'Hand on the Plow' was also its debut for well-distributed area label SofaBurn Records. The album was informed by numerous factors: the group’s extensive touring; band members’ adventures in fatherhood; the addition of fiddler Joe Macheret; personal tragedies (including the loss of former Tillers bassist Jason Soudrette, who died in 2014 after a battle with leukemia); and America’s flirtation with fascism. “It’s been a lot of slogging through negative and hard, sad things that have happened, but also really joyous, life-changing, life-affirming things as well,” singer/songwriter/banjoist Mike Oberst told CityBeat. “This record feels to me like some sort of statement of ‘We’re back,’ but also ‘We never left.’ ” (Brian Baker)
Tooth Lures a Fang falls in the “lo-fi” category, but on 'Sharon is Karen,' the raw recording element is mostly only evident when the duo’s loud/quiet dynamic leans loud via over-driven guitar distortion. Album opener “Last Year” kicks in with a blast of Garage Rock fuzz surrounding TLAF’s greatest attribute — high-impact Power Pop melodies and harmonies. The duo’s melody magic is sometimes akin to the ’90s work of bands steeped in the archetypal Beatles/Beach Boys/Big Star Pop stylings, like Superdrag and Teenage Fanclub, as well as more recent hook-centric rockers like Rozwell Kid. But just as the sounds shift to softer, more spacious atmospherics, the hooks are sometimes structured in a breezier, less compact manner that brings to mind artists like Grandaddy, Pedro The Lion and acts associated with the Indie Pop collective Elephant 6. (Mike Breen)
Tooth Lures a Fang falls in the “lo-fi” category, but on 'Sharon is Karen,' the raw recording element is mostly only evident when the duo’s loud/quiet dynamic leans loud via over-driven guitar distortion. Album opener “Last Year” kicks in with a blast of Garage Rock fuzz surrounding TLAF’s greatest attribute — high-impact Power Pop melodies and harmonies. The duo’s melody magic is sometimes akin to the ’90s work of bands steeped in the archetypal Beatles/Beach Boys/Big Star Pop stylings, like Superdrag and Teenage Fanclub, as well as more recent hook-centric rockers like Rozwell Kid. But just as the sounds shift to softer, more spacious atmospherics, the hooks are sometimes structured in a breezier, less compact manner that brings to mind artists like Grandaddy, Pedro The Lion and acts associated with the Indie Pop collective Elephant 6. (Mike Breen)
Cincinnati-based quartet Vacation — which currently includes guitarist John Hoffman, drummer Dylan McCartney, vocalist/guitarist Jerri Queen and bassist Evan Wolff — has dropped a torrent of releases via various indie labels since surfacing in 2009, nearly all of them anchored by Queen’s first-person-laden lyrics and a brand of Rock & Roll they call “Grit Pop.” 'Mouth Sounds #2699' is a whirlwind ride, spitting forth a dozen songs in 27 minutes. Album opener “Action Road” seethes with urgency as corrosive guitars and a driving rhythm section frame Queen’s vocals, which have grown more nuanced and expressive over the years. 'Mouth Sounds #2699' is not just honest; it’s one of the best Rock & Roll records emanating from the Queen City this year. (Jason Gargano)
Cincinnati-based quartet Vacation — which currently includes guitarist John Hoffman, drummer Dylan McCartney, vocalist/guitarist Jerri Queen and bassist Evan Wolff — has dropped a torrent of releases via various indie labels since surfacing in 2009, nearly all of them anchored by Queen’s first-person-laden lyrics and a brand of Rock & Roll they call “Grit Pop.” 'Mouth Sounds #2699' is a whirlwind ride, spitting forth a dozen songs in 27 minutes. Album opener “Action Road” seethes with urgency as corrosive guitars and a driving rhythm section frame Queen’s vocals, which have grown more nuanced and expressive over the years. 'Mouth Sounds #2699' is not just honest; it’s one of the best Rock & Roll records emanating from the Queen City this year. (Jason Gargano)
Before “Americana” became a buzzword for the broad spectrum of American Roots music, Wild Carrot’s music exemplified it. Singers/multi-instrumentalists Pam Temple and Spencer Funk have been making music that lovingly and gracefully combines elements of vintage and contemporary Folk, Jazz, Blues, Bluegrass and other Roots stylings since the late ’90s. The duo’s latest, 'Between the Darkness & the Light,' is a wonderful display of Funk’s deft musical abilities and Temple’s songwriting prowess, which is at peak strength on tracks like the silky, flowing “Talking with Ghosts,” “Now I Fly,” the billowy “Cold December Day” and “(The Power of a) Pancake Breakfast,” a homey ode to things like community and interrelatedness that is particularly resonating in our digital age. (Mike Breen)
Before “Americana” became a buzzword for the broad spectrum of American Roots music, Wild Carrot’s music exemplified it. Singers/multi-instrumentalists Pam Temple and Spencer Funk have been making music that lovingly and gracefully combines elements of vintage and contemporary Folk, Jazz, Blues, Bluegrass and other Roots stylings since the late ’90s. The duo’s latest, 'Between the Darkness & the Light,' is a wonderful display of Funk’s deft musical abilities and Temple’s songwriting prowess, which is at peak strength on tracks like the silky, flowing “Talking with Ghosts,” “Now I Fly,” the billowy “Cold December Day” and “(The Power of a) Pancake Breakfast,” a homey ode to things like community and interrelatedness that is particularly resonating in our digital age. (Mike Breen)
The influence of synth-infused (and other) bands of the ’80s are noticeable on Oids’ debut full-length, 'Zonked!,' but with three-fourths of the creative minds behind former Cincy Progressive Pop act Injecting Strangers running the show, the end product is ingeniously constructed with an evident sense of experimentalism. The musicians take those New Wave and Post Punk elements and artfully twist them into their own distinct, slightly warped image. 'Zonked!' is inspired by ’80’s “Alternative” music, but Oids don’t merely mimic the sounds of old XTC, DEVO or Cars records. They chase the spirit of how those classic songs make people feel and maybe borrow a few tricks and tools from the era, but the glaring originality of what they build out of those (and other) parts makes it an almost anti-nostalgic, wildly stimulating carnival ride. (Mike Breen)
The influence of synth-infused (and other) bands of the ’80s are noticeable on Oids’ debut full-length, 'Zonked!,' but with three-fourths of the creative minds behind former Cincy Progressive Pop act Injecting Strangers running the show, the end product is ingeniously constructed with an evident sense of experimentalism. The musicians take those New Wave and Post Punk elements and artfully twist them into their own distinct, slightly warped image. 'Zonked!' is inspired by ’80’s “Alternative” music, but Oids don’t merely mimic the sounds of old XTC, DEVO or Cars records. They chase the spirit of how those classic songs make people feel and maybe borrow a few tricks and tools from the era, but the glaring originality of what they build out of those (and other) parts makes it an almost anti-nostalgic, wildly stimulating carnival ride. (Mike Breen)
After using a bevy of Nashville session hotshots on his 2014 EP, Cincy Country singer/songwriter Noah Smith opted to use his touring band (Michael Moeller, John McGuire, Drew Phillips and Joe “Rico” Klein) to record his debut full-length album, 'Long Cut,' resulting in a spark and an immediacy that may have been muted on the EP, a testament to the chemistry between the players. “I’ve always loved being part of a band,” he told CityBeat of the process. “We went back to the garage and made this record, that’s what was cool about it. The concept of the record is there are a lot of road references. We spent a lot of time traveling, getting to know each other and building relationships.” (Brian Baker)
After using a bevy of Nashville session hotshots on his 2014 EP, Cincy Country singer/songwriter Noah Smith opted to use his touring band (Michael Moeller, John McGuire, Drew Phillips and Joe “Rico” Klein) to record his debut full-length album, 'Long Cut,' resulting in a spark and an immediacy that may have been muted on the EP, a testament to the chemistry between the players. “I’ve always loved being part of a band,” he told CityBeat of the process. “We went back to the garage and made this record, that’s what was cool about it. The concept of the record is there are a lot of road references. We spent a lot of time traveling, getting to know each other and building relationships.” (Brian Baker)