2010 All Over Again

The year in recordings, Greater Cincinnati-style

Dec 29, 2010 at 2:06 pm

Photo by Nicholas Joseph Viltrakis

A testament to the sheer quantity of quality releases by Cincinnati area artists this past year is the fact that before I went to the archives for a little memory jog about what came about in 2010, I did an off-the-top-of-my-head list and came up with 50. Immediately. In years past, the year in local recordings wrap-up has usually hovered around 40 or so releases. And that was post-archive scour.

This year, not including a few releases not sent to us, one-off singles and others I will be kicking myself Wednesday morning for stupidly, accidentally omitting, CityBeat has mentioned nearly 150 releases by local musicians in 2010. Researching and rereading our coverage this year, I found myself thinking “Oh yeah! That was amazing!” way, way more thinking “Hmmmm, doesn’t ring a bell” or “Yeah, that was rather crappy.” That says something about the quality, too.

I whittled the final list down as much as possible and it’s presented here in no particular order, with a few excerpts from our coverage in 2010. Skim the list; go to citybeat.com to read the full reviews and/or feature stories; find the artists’ music to taste then perhaps devour online, support them live. And then keep going back and exploring these and the other great artists you’re lucky to share a region with. No matter what you think … it’s better than you think.

State Song — Dear Hearts & Gentle People
This powerfully talented Indie Rock trio’s sound is dreamlike and built around breathtaking dynamics, as they shift gears — time signatures, tones, emotions, vocal styles — intermittently. Tracks rise and fall, but it’s done more imaginatively and fluidly that the standard “soft/loud” dynamic often employed by Rock bands. Listening is akin to swimming in the ocean, paddling along peacefully one moment, swirling in choppy waters the next, then being lifted by a giant wave, pushed gradually to the top of it, maybe riding that apex for a second or two before crashing back down into the waters and waiting for the cycle to begin again. It’s unpredictable but never unnatural, dramatic but never melodramatic. A stunner. (MB)

Foxy Shazam — Foxy Shazam
Foxy Shazam might have signed to super-conglomerate Warner Bros., but that didn’t rein in their enthusiasm for unhinged craziness and uniquely eccentric creativity. Foxy comes off like the second coming of Queen with the smirking ass-kick of Eagles of Death Metal, smushing together the Pop majesty of Elton John (with The Darkness as his backing band), the orchestrated vaudeville Pop madness of Sparks and the visceral pinwheel of Spoon, all of it arranged by Berry Gordy and Burt Bacharach with extra dollops of Soul and cool. (Brian Baker)

Walk the Moon — i want! i want!
On i want! i want!, Walk the Moon sounds like they’ve taken elements from modern Indie heroes like Franz Ferdinand, TV on the Radio, LCD Soundsystem, Of Montreal, The Killers, Vampire Weekend, Phoenix, Spoon and Modest Mouse, shredded them through their own vivid imaginations and reassembled the patchwork pieces into something focused and original. With a full-length debut as powerful, polished and compelling as this, not only would I not be shocked to hear Walk the Moon was being courted by a large indie or major label, I’d be stunned if the album didn’t draw big attention to the band. (MB)

Magnolia Mountain — Redbird Green
Much of the appeal of Roots collective Magnolia Mountain’s 2010 album lies in the fact that the band is adept at so many different styles under the Americana umbrella: the straight-up Country of “Emma Claire” and “Savannah”; the rousing Rockabilly of “Hellbound Train”; the Gospel-drenched “I Do Believe”; the Cajun spice of “Ma Belle Marie.” It’s a testament to head-honcho Mark Utley’s creative vision and the amazing execution of the Magnolias that the genre mash-up on Redbird Green doesn’t sound choppy. (BB)

Eat Sugar — Levantense!
This Indie/Electro foursome’s first full-length is a fantastic testament to the evolution of the band, which has scaled back some of its earlier “Rock” tendencies (without depleting any of the inherent energy) and created a more eclectic, neon-pulsating Electronic playground, putting them on par with artists like LCD Soundsystem and VHS or Beta, but with the exploratory mindset of Beck at his craftiest. In a word: amazing. (MB)

Enlou — Body of Friends, Body of Water
A magical listening experience that contains some of the finest, most mesmerizing Indie Pop of the year, local or otherwise. Enlou’s imaginative sound is sparkling and watery, a streaming flow of twinkling textures, unique song structures, crafty harmonies, creative rhythms and instantly memorable melodies. The songs’ entrancing dynamics alternately gush and trickle, collectively making the album a magnetic, singular piece of work. (MB)

500 Miles to Memphis — We’ve Built Up to Nothing
We’ve Built Up to Nothing
is nothing short of amazing. 500 Miles has blended evolution and revolution, creating a combustible sonic mixture that explodes with a blistering twang and Punk energy. After the disc’s poppily orchestral introduction, “It’s Alright” screams off the line like Wilco if Jeff Tweedy was using a cattle prod for a slide, continuing with “Let It Go,” which imagines Ben Folds fronting Rank & File, and “Six Foot Hole” with its melodic Social Distortion vibe. With Nothing’s wild variety, Beatlesque touches and vibrant maturity, it seems logical to ask: Is this 500 Miles to Memphis’ Sgt. Pepper? (BB)

Oso Bear — Oso Bear
At varying times, Oso Bear’s sound resembles early Indie Rock, pre-trendy Grunge, Classic Rock, Southern Rock, Punk and Garage Rock, but, in the end, it’s only Rock & Roll … and I like it. The band has the swagger and spirit of the Stones, The Replacements and New York Dolls, but its more modern influences creep into the songwriting and keep things from getting too retro or one-dimensional. (MB)

The Greenhornes - ****
This beloved local Garage Pop trio’s first full-length of new material in nearly eight years snaps to attention from its first track, “Saying Goodbye,” a reverbed shot of R&B whiskey that burns like raw Who and warms like early Guided By Voices. And therein lies the fascinating advance for the Greenhornes on the new release — the trio has grown and evolved and play with infinitely subtler shades than on their previous works while still offering the undercurrent of intensity that is the hallmark of their first three albums. (BB)

The Lions Rampant — It’s Fun to Do Bad Things
After two excellent EPs, The Lions Rampant’s full-length, released by Texas indie label Deep Elm, is a masterstroke of snarling, primal Garage Rock with extra helpings of deep-fried Soul, from the blistering opener “Give Me” to the Stones/MC5 sneer of “Need Your Love” to the Kinks-meets-the-Animals verve of the title track to the chaotic Jon Spencer Blues fest “Cigs Gin.” (BB)

Pomegranates — One of Us
One of Us
(recorded at Ric Hordinski’s Monastery Studio and co-produced by the band and Aloha’s TJ Lipple) shot to No. 7 on CMJ’s Top 200 when it was released, placing just behind the new Arcade Fire and ahead of albums by Ben Folds, Weezer and Neil Young. The album also scored some glowing reviews, including a praiseful 7-out-of-10 review from Spin. (BB)

Kim Taylor — Little Miracle
Stunning singer/songwriter Kim Taylor’s gorgeously sparse, aptly titled Little Miracle packs a metric ton of emotion and reflection into nine powerful and relatively spartan tracks. (BB)

The Newbees — Live @ The Southgate House
This live DVD/CD package showcases The Newbees’ diverse, dynamic Pop sound (influence from everything from Tin Pan Alley to vintage Americana to the Fab Four can be detected) flawlessly. With their impeccable musicianship and vocal abilities, The Newbees sound better in concert than most bands do on their carefully constructed recordings. (MB)

David Rhodes Brown — Browngrass & Wildflowers
The local music vet's solo debut is an amazingly diverse album, from the Americana swing of “Bite the Bullet” and the Roots Rock chug of “Dangerous Man” to the Bluegrass strains of “Almost Gone,” the pure Country/Rock twang of “Wishin’ Well” and Brown’s raging cover of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt,” all of it sounding like the greatest album Dave Alvin never made. (BB)

The Tillers — By the Signs
Drawing on new influences as well as the trio’s core inspirations, By the Signs is an amazing achievement by any yardstick, coming on the heels of the band’s 2008 debut/breakthrough, Ludlow Street Rag. (BB)

The Brothers and the Sisters — The Brothers and The Sisters
Roots ensemble The Brothers and The Sisters use banjo, acoustic guitars and dobro (and drums and bass) to illuminate singer Jeremy Pinnell’s words, which mine a lyrical vein as old as the genre they work within (think Leadbelly), with songs about love, pain, regret, death and drugs/booze. Pinnell’s aching rasp gives them an old-soul authenticity that can’t be faked. (MB)

Roger Klug — More Help For Your Nerves
The singer/songwriter’s latest features timeless Power Pop in the form of songs so infectiously rich with hooks the CDC might think about investigating. While Power Pop is sometimes derided for being a bit too “paint by numbers” without a lot of variation, when the writer is as good as Klug, it transcends the entire genre. (MB)

The Hayseed Tabernacle Choir — Gone Home by the Hayseed Tabernacle Choir
Kelly Thomas (of … and the Fabulous Pick-Ups fame, among other projects) went Gospel on this impressive, genuinely uplifting collection featuring many of the singer’s talented local musician friends. (MB)

The Dopamines — Expect the Worst
The Dopamines have evolved from a self-described “bad Ramones party band” into a Pop/Punk outfit that nods in the direction of Green Day but clearly creates from a unique perspective. The album is a perfect blend of the band’s Pop melodicism and structural simplicity combined with adrenalized Punk abandon and confrontational energy. (BB)

The Ohms — The Ohms
The Ohms’ self-titled debut bristles with local energy but shines with major-label luster. From the mellow groove of “Everything” and the rock steady toast of “Here I Come” to the Spin Doctors island thunder of “Rosemary Tea” and the infectious Dancehall snap of the album’s first single, “Pipe Down,” The Ohms boast a sonic verve and musical command to rival 311 or Pepper. (BB)

Mad Anthony — I Spent All My Money on Speed Metal
Speed Metal
is a raucous and noisily melodic album that veers wildly from strength to strength — from the blistering opening volley of “Teeth” and the subtle Glam Cowboy Punk of “Uphill Both Ways” to the Stooges homage of “Soul” and the brilliant Post Punk explosion of “Rockets in the Yard.” (BB)

The Graveblankets — Error Avenue
Error Avenue
— comprised of a handful of covers (newbie Rosie Carson sings the Sandy Denny classic “Who Knows Where the Time Goes,” an atmospheric arrangement of The Beatles’ “Blackbird” and the traditional “Wayfaring Strangers”) fleshed out with new recordings of songs that have previously appeared on albums by the members — marked the welcome return of one of the area’s all-time best bands. (BB)

The Sundresses — Off
is ironclad evidence of The Sundresses’ power as a live entity, as every track they present on stage is an adrenalized, bug-eyed evocation of the adrenalized, bug-eyed song they conceived in the studio. (BB)

Chakras — Cedric
Filtering their love of disparate but connected bands like Tool, Bad Religion, Dream Theater, Tori Amos, Corrosion of Conformity, Kings X and Queensryche through their own unique chemistry results in a sound that slams with Hard Rock’s bombast, lulls with Folk/Pop and Prog’s subtlety and shreds with Metal’s intensity. (BB)

Situation Red — Three Locks on Every Door
Three Locks
is a raucous, rousing collection of rapid-fire Punk that shares an anthemic intensity with ’80s “Hardcore” (a word that has changed meanings over time) crews like 7 Seconds and other SoCal bands associated with the BYO label. (MB)

Koala Fires — The Beeping in Our Hearts/The Sleeping in Our Sharks
Though this Indie Rock crew wouldn’t survive through the end of the year, they left two cool book-ends to remember them by — the full-length Beeping and the compelling Sharks remix project that followed several months later. (MB)

Small Time Crooks — Revenge of the Underdogs
This band’s Hip Hop/Pop mix is playful, colorful and multidimensional, utilizing vintage-sounding synths and beats, cool samples, uplifting-to-occasionally-silly rhymes and strong vocal hooks. Underdogs is well produced and accessible, something you would be completely unsurprised to hear on Top 40 radio. (MB)

Switchblade Syndicate — De Los Muertos
Switchblade Syndicate’s members often talk about the band using simple, overarching descriptors — straight-up Rock & Roll, Sleaze and “dirty, sped-up Country.” They are undoubtedly a Rock & Roll band, but one with flourishes of Country, Punk, Rockabilly, Honky Tonk, Surf, Psychobilly, Sleaze and seemingly every other major genre you can think of. Perhaps this is why the bandmates use simple descriptors — it simply takes too much time to describe their complete sound. (Nick Grever)

Rubber Knife Gang — Drivin’ On
The songwriting and precise harmonies are wildly engaging, with smart/clever lyrics grounded in an everyday realism that pulls you in to each track’s tale (dark- or light-hearted). The acoustic musical accompaniment is delivered with a soulfulness that shines through thanks to the crisp, clear production work. (MB)

Trademark Aaron — Make Room
Hip Hop has always been known for its regional scenes and sounds, but young local Hip Hop artist Trademark Aaron is a great example of “It ain’t where you from, it’s where you at,” concocting a sound that embraces a wider range of influence, from Dirty South bounce to Chicago soulfulness, New York raw to Cali smooth. (MB)

46 Long — Off the Rack
Off the Rack
is the Acoustic Blues twosome’s first covers collection, but, just as the duo defies Blues stereotypes in their songwriting and presentation, the album’s offerings are more re-imaginings than straight covers. (MB)

Greg Tex Schramm and His Radio King Cowboys — Greetings From …
The 15 tracks show impressive range — Schramm’s songs hover in the orbits of Classic Country, vintage Rock & Roll, twangy Rockabilly and rollicking Honky Tonk — and have an air of authenticity so thick, some cuts might have you wondering if the release year isn’t a few decades off. (MB)

Swear Jar — Cuss
In an age where studio gloss and overwrought perfectionism seems the norm (even for so-called “Punk” bands), Cuss is a welcome slab of Rock & Roll spirit and Punk Rock pandemonium. (MB)

Knife the Symphony/LKN — Split
A split EP shared with Portland, Ore.’s LKN (aka Lauren Kathryn Newman), KTS’s contributions come off like the missing link between old D.C. Punk and the Post Punk of Chicago’s ’80s/’90s heavy hitters (from Touch and Go acts to Naked Raygun). (MB)

The Eric Tepe Band — The Eric Tepe Band
This EP features songs that would fit perfectly with the guitar-driven Pop Rock heard on Top 40 radio as well as ones with a heavier, more forceful vibe that would slide comfortably into the playlist of most “Active Rock” stations. (MB)

Tupelo Honey — In It For The Ride
A diverse collection of songs that show off the band’s creative and gorgeous mixture of Folk, Pop, Country and other styles, made all the more enchanting by the charismatic vocals of Heather Turner and Katie Wefer. Like The Dixie Chicks, Tupelo Honey doesn’t allow anyone’s expectations to paint them into a genre corner. (MB)

Wussy — This Will Not End Well
The tracks on this remix project range from atmospheric, ambient dreamscapes to beat-driven jams to more slanted, avant-garde reconfigurations. The electronic artists add beats and an array of sounds, creating new colors with which to paint Wussy’s basic blueprint. A remix; a revelation. (MB)

Fists of Love — Fists of Love
An excellent representation of FoL’s varying shades of entrancing, strangely catchy Noise Pop and alluring Psych Pop, this self-titled EP was an impressive introductory handshake from the group of veteran local all-stars. (MB)

Joe Hedges — Alchemy
Hedges (who produced and played all instruments, save drums) finds a nice balance between acoustic instrumentation and smartly sculpted electronics on Alchemy, with drum loops and synths used prominently, but more in the way Peter Gabriel works than the overbearing manner in which many ’80s-lovin’ bands today utilize technology. (MB)

Honneycombs — Honneycombs
The debut from this cross-continental trio (with members based in both Greater Cincy and L.A.) showcases its airy, quirky Pop built on an acoustic base and a Beatles-psychedelia quality. (MB)

D’Maub — Inside Out
For anyone thinking that Gospel Rap is a stilted and clumsy version of its parent genre, D’Maub is proof of the polar opposite. He has a flow that most MCs would envy and a gift for circuitous rhymes and lyrical complexity. More importantly, he exhibits a musical diversity that’s incredibly fresh, incorporating Jazz, Funk and Hip Hop of every stripe. (BB)

Pop Empire — Rainy Child
This duo crafts a unique sound, with slanted but memorable songwriting at the core, and a slathering of kinetic drum-machine beats and buzzing, scraping electronic noises, topped with slashing, swaggering guitar and slithering melodies. The punch-drunk Art Rock-Pop-Electro approach will appeal to fans of TV on the Radio and former Cincy-based duo Coltrane Motion, but it stands in a realm all its own. (MB)

The Cla-Zels — I Own Hawaii
An incredibly eclectic album showcasing the band’s solidly melodic writing and adventurous musical approach, which shifts tones, moods and styles so often it’s sometimes hard to tell if it’s even the same band from one song to the next. (MB)

Screaming Mimes — Got to Tell the World
This Pop/Rock crew’s third LP is, start to finish, loaded with sweet ear-candy hooks. If you don't have a handful of these melodies in your head after listening to the album once, you should see an otologist. (MB)

The Flight Station — Prepare for Impact
The EP is the band’s first effort for Cleveland’s Arcatek/Crushtone Music label and features the slick production work of Jim Wirt (Incubus, Jack’s Mannequin, Fiona Apple). With a crisp, powerful sound and big, hooky choruses, don’t be surprised if The Flight Station follows in Wirt’s pervious clients’ footsteps. (MB)

The Hiders — Four Letter Town
There are ghosts and they float within the 14 tracks of The Hiders’ Four Letter Town. Both spooky and concrete, the searching lyrics are clear and important, revealing stories of celebration and confusion, of love lost and wisdom found. (C.A. MacConnell)

Ricky Nye and the Paris Blues Band — Ville du Bois
Ville du Bois
began in the spring of 2008 while Boogie Woogie Blues piano master Ricky Nye was in Paris on one of his semi-annual European treks. It took a while (especially considering how quickly it was recorded), but Nye finally got the full band back together for a few Cincy release shows. (BB)

The Beau Alquizola Band — Weddings in Louisville
On Weddings, Alquizola and Co. add a more evident Rock element to their soulful, poppy core, with a few more upbeat songs and teethier guitars. (MB)

Brent Gallaher — Lightwave
Gallaher — a CCM grad who has toured with the Glenn Miller Orchestra and the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra and performed with some of Cincinnati’s best players and groups — follows up his 2004 debut with a set featuring Dan Karlsberg on piano, Steve Whipple on bass and Anthony Lee on drums (MB)

Caterpillar Tracks — The Fallbreaker
It was a good news/bad news scenario when this Post Punk/Rock band released an amazing full-length at a release show that was also its swan song. Between the performance and the sizzling album, CT went out with a bang. (MB)

Josh Eagle and the Harvest City — Show Your Teeth
Show Your Teeth
shows the influence of Neil Young and early Wilco, along with a strong taste for ’70s Rock, an open, Americana vibe and the pure Folk of Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie. (C.A.M.)

Sirens on a Sunday — Sirens on a Sunday
This five-song effort nicely showcases the band’s effortless blend of radio-friendly Rock and tight, funky grooves. The solid musicianship, soulful vocals and infectious rhythms have earned SoaS a stamp of approval from Funk legend Bootsy Collins and the group’s catchy songwriting is begging for radio airplay. (MB)

The Western — The Western
This well-produced EP showcases the Indie rockers’ versatile, catchy sound, which veers from the textured modern/vintage approach of Camera Obscura or She & Him to punchier, more driving songs. (MB)

Dan Karlsberg Group — Mission to Mars & Other Short Stories
Karlsberg and his group clearly rise above the standard output of the Jazz piano trio. Karlsberg’s work shimmers with the elegance of Bill Evans, the bravado of Thelonious Monk and the quiet brilliance of McCoy Tyner, while his bassist and drummer comprise an incredibly supple and inventive rhythm section. (BB)

The Midlife Crisis Ramblers — Living the Dream
Veteran singer/songwriter/harmonica-ist Dave Gilligan reassembled his Roots/Folk collective The Midlife Crisis Ramblers for Living the Dream, which veers wildly in tone and style, offering humorous takes on modern life’s hassles (“Inhumana”) one moment, Celtic jaunts (the traditional “Shady Grove”) the next, and detours into mournful instrumental Blues (“Blues for Ophir”) and somber, twinkling Pop (“In the Center”). (MB)

Daniel Martin Moore/Ben Sollee — Dear Companion
Kentuckians Moore and Sollee teamed with My Morning Jacket’s Jim James for this folksy collection, an evocation of Appalachian mountain music and a mountain culture that's slowly being eroded by progress and technology. (BB)

Hickory Robot — Firefly
would be a stunning release by a veteran band; the fact that Hickory Robot is such a new group (though members have veteran experience) makes it all the more astounding. While there’s a strong traditional anchor to the band’s sound, the singular songwriting talents on display (three of the four members wrote songs for the album) give it a contemporary element and help the band stand out from its peers. (MB)

Tower of Silence — Ghost
ToS takes cues from exploratory Hard Rock/Metal bands like Tool and System of a Down, with unexpected song structures, high-ceiling, drama-filled vocals and atmospheric-to-bone-crunching guitar work. (MB)

The Flux Capacitors — Human Error
Inspired by classic, reverb-drenched Surf Rock, the Capacitors again take that blueprint, make a paper airplane out of it and coast on the wings as it twists and turns through the air, like Dick Dale playing Indie Rock symphonies conducted by Thurston Moore and Sun Ra. (MB)

More Than Honorable Mentions …

Mala In Se — Mala In Se
Ellery — This Isn’t Over Yet
Alone at 3am — Cut Your Gills
Hungry Lucy — Pulse of the Earth
Ampline — You Will Be Buried Here
The Long Gones — Tear You Apart (7-inch single)
I Fail — highways …
Skeetones — Techtonics
Paralyzer — Counting Catastrophe
Avignon — Regression Into Animal
Jim Connerley — A Collection of Jazz Duos
Zebras in Public — Scars & Stripes
The Faux Frenchmen — The Swing Shift
The Tadcasters — The Tadcasters
Juan Cosby — Puz
Shiny and the Spoon — Shiny and the Spoon
Rusty Burge — Illumination
Eddy Free — Mad City 2010
The Wolverton Brothers — Crooked
Livid — Aoaé
Behead the Tyrant — Defector
SS-20 — Christmas Made In China
You You’re Awesome — You're Getting Old
Pain Link — Descendants Of Defiance
Buggs tha Rocka — Mutant Level 5
I am the Messenger — Humans