The Year in Local Recordings

A look back at some excellent 2014 releases by Greater Cincinnati musical acts

click to enlarge Sleep's 'Branded: The Damon Winton Story' was one of 2014's best releases
Sleep's 'Branded: The Damon Winton Story' was one of 2014's best releases

Sleep - Branded: The Damon Winton Story
With some exceptions, the “album as art” concept has long been dwindling thanks largely to how the masses consume and purchase music in bite-size bits these days. So it was beyond refreshing to hear the 2014 album release from Cincinnati MC Sleep, Branded: The Damon Winton Story, a collection of eight tracks that tell the story of a young man’s troubled upbringing and tragic demise. If you’re a fan of intelligent Hip Hop or just great storytelling in general, this is a must-hear. (Mike Breen)

The Hiders - Totem
Despite the winter scene depicted on the cover and the fact that it was recorded last winter in a cabin in Kentucky’s Red River Gorge, Totem is an album of incredible warmth. The music is like the warming fire that draws everyone close in the midst of a deep freeze, thanks to the songwriting and unfussy production. The Hiders’ sound is a unique brand of rootsy Rock that’s sometimes spacious and ethereal and sometimes relatively straightforward, but almost always transcendent. (MB)

Wussy – Attica!
Wussy’s rise from modest Cincinnati upstarts to one of the best bands on the planet has been slow and steady, a natural evolution that couldn’t have happened in any other way. What began as an unlikely partnership between singer/songwriters Chuck Cleaver and Lisa Walker has blossomed into a dynamic musical unit that now features five members, all of whom add their own unique elements to Attica!, the band’s fifth album for local label Shake It Records. The album has landed on numerous “Best of 2014” lists from the national music press. (Jason Gargano)

The Perfect Children - Get Me Mine
The Perfect Children are so effective in a live setting, it is fair to wonder if that lighting can be captured in a bottle and translated as effectively in the recording studio. Indeed, Get Me Mine is full of just as many goosebump-worthy moments as the band presents in concert. It’s an album exploding with soulfulness and the crisp production gives the music the same pop it has live. Get Me Mine is as strong of a debut full-length as you’ll hear from any band in 2014, local or otherwise. (MB)

Jeremy Pinnell - OH/KY
The songs of Northern Kentucky native Jeremy Pinnell have received the kind of glowing acclaim that one might perceive as hyperbole … until one actually hears them. With previous bands, Pinnell has proven himself an impossible-to-ignore songwriter who pours every ounce of soul into his music. Pinnell has explored various areas of Americana music in his past work, but with OH/KY he goes full-on old-school Country. The genre is a perfect fit for his aching, longing songs. OH/KY is the kind of album that purists will appreciate, but you don’t need to be a Country music aficionado to enjoy it — the songwriting really transcends genres. (MB)

Electric Citizen – Sateen
As has been typical of heavy Rock crew Electric Citizen’s unexpected, fast-lane success, Riding Easy Records owner/operator Daniel Hall caught wind of the band’s sessions recording its debut full-length, Sateen, and contacted them with an offer to release the album. After making its live debut just last year, thanks to a great live show and Sateen, Electric Citizen spent 2014 doing some high profile touring (opening for Fu Manchu, Wolfmother and others) and receiving acclaim from all over the world. (Brian Baker)

MC Till - The Neighborhood
Since he began releasing music in the mid-’00s, Cincinnati Hip Hop artist MC Till’s work has been marked by honesty, positivity, collaboration and ambition. The Neighborhood was yet another recording that defied expectations, marking his first foray into Jazz. Till didn’t just cobble together a group of college students studying Jazz and piece together the new release on a laptop in his bedroom. The MC went all out for The Neighborhood, aligning with renowned musician/producer Ric Hordinski, who gathered some of the area’s most accomplished Jazz artists to record. It’s a collection of artists that would intimidate most, but Till totally holds his own on The Neighborhood, guiding the proceedings like a boss with his deft flow and lyrical prowess. (MB)

Phil DeGreg & Brasilia - Brazilian People
The material on Brazilian People by veteran local Jazz pianist Phil DeGreg and his Samba Jazz group Brasilia came from a variety of sources. Three songs are compositions by Brazilian Jazz/Pop legend Antônio Carlos Jobim, while DeGreg and vibraphonist Rusty Burge contributed one original piece each. The rest are songs by well-known Brazilian artists whose work is instantly familiar to natives and genre fans, but not necessarily to general Jazz listeners. DeGreg says, “If I get a chance to present music to people who have maybe never even heard it, and they think it’s good — and I never take credit, I always say, ‘This is a composition by …’ — that’s like my hobby. Jazz has been my living, but Brazilian music has been my hobby.” (BB)

Buffalo Killers – Heavy Reverie
Buffalo Killer’s phenomenal fifth full-length (and debut for Warner-distributed Sun Pedal Recordings), Heavy Reverie, was a stellar representation of the band’s increasingly melodic Rock & Roll sound, showcasing some of the catchiest songs the band has ever written. The album earned the group some of the best reviews of its career and landed them their network television debut (on NBC’s Last Call with Carson Daly). Buffalo Killers closed out the year with yet another stellar release, the EP Fireball of Sulk. (MB)

Buggs Tha Rocka – Scattered Thoughts of an American Poet
It’s no stretch to characterize Scattered Thoughts of an American Poet as Cincinnati Hip Hop artist Buggs Tha Rocka’s masterpiece. Scattered Thoughts is packed with Buggs’ patented flow, a contemplative stream of hyperconsciousness that displays his writing skill and his social/cultural awareness. The album’s dazzling aspect is the soundtrack that Buggs and his talented team have crafted to accompany his powerful lyrics, blending Jazz, R&B, Rock, Soul and Hip Hop into a hypnotic musical stew. (BB)

umin – clast
umin, the unique sonic art project by Cincinnati’s Kevin Poole, returned in 2014 with the full-length release clast. Poole uses a baritone ukulele as a primary instrument, but not in the way one would expect. Along with a mélange of other electronic sounds and samples, the ukulele is chopped and spliced together in new ways, creating mesmerizing instrumental dreamscapes. clast is an intriguing blend of acoustic and electronic that somehow ends up sounding perfectly natural. The varying shades of color and moments of abstract quirkiness make it a compelling listen from start to finish. (MB)

Tweens - Tweens
After quickly stirring up a far-reaching buzz over the past two years, 2014 was a momentous one for “Trash Pop” trio Tweens, who released their official full-length debut (recorded with noted musician/producer Eli Janney) for esteemed indie label Frenchkiss. Enhanced by frontwoman Bridget Battle’s cover art, featuring a gorgeously kitschy shrine assembled from thrift shop finds, Tweens’ first real album combined re-recorded versions of early songs with a handful of new ones. Reviews for the album (and the group’s live shows) have been plentiful and extremely positive and the band continues to build upon its fervently loyal fanbase with regular touring. (BB)

Frontier Folk Nebraska - Frontier F*** Nebraska
With Frontier F**k Nebraska, Frontier Folk Nebraska went into a full-out Rock & Roll mode that only barely lets up over the course of the album’s 12 superb tracks. From start to finish, Frontier F**k Nebraska is an engrossing listen. It’s an album in the mold of Wilco’s Being There or My Morning Jacket’s Z and is not just one of the best Cincinnati-spawned LPs of the year, but one of the best Rock records you’ll hear in 2014. (MB)

Missy Werner – Turn This Heart Around
Gifted local Bluegrass singer/mandolin player Missy Werner’s latest album, Turn This Heart Around (featuring an amazingly talented cast of players and collaborators), garnered airplay and positive reviews nationally in 2014. Omnivorous Roots music fans will find the entire album a treat, as Werner and Co. touch on Country, contemporary Folk Pop and other Americana forms. Werner’s previous two albums, particularly 2011’s Three Kinds of Lonesome, earned some nice praise from the Bluegrass world, but the accomplished Turn This Heart Around felt like a career-changer, the kind of recording that should put the musician in an even bigger spotlight. (MB)

Arlo McKinley & the Lonesome Sound – Arlo McKinley & the Lonesome Sound
Arlo McKinley & the Lonesome Sound’s triumphant debut departs from the group’s established acoustic Roots/Folk/Bluegrass direction in favor of a more electric Americana vibe, sounding at certain atmospheric junctures like Eddie Vedder fronting a particularly inspired Crazy Horse. To capture a live feel, McKinley opted to record in the Revival Room at Newport’s Southgate House Revival. Appropriately, the album bristles with an immediacy and spontaneity often lost in a traditional studio’s technical structure. (BB)

Heavy Hinges – Mean Old City
Heavy Hinges debut album, Mean Old City, shows a lot of sonic diversity, but it’s channeled in a focused manner. Ultimately, Heavy Hinges is a great Rock & Roll band, but its sound is touched by influences from Blues, Pop, Funk and Soul to various other forms of American Roots music. Like Alabama Shakes, Heavy Hinges manages to sound remarkably vital and “of the now” — despite the obvious vintage inspirations — thanks to the sincerity and vigor poured into each note. Mean Old City bristles with a timelessness that has less to do with the classic genres flirted with throughout and more to do with the from-the-heart songwriting and playing. (MB)

New Sincerity Works - 44
New Sincerity Works’s first full-length, 44, is largely a solo project, with Mike Tittel (longtime drummer in the band of local Power Pop king Roger Klug, among other projects) capably handling most bass, drums, guitar and vocal duties. Tittel’s Indie Pop Rock songs are infectiously melodic, and his lyrics and vocal skills are also impressive. The music shows influence from classic “College Rock” to some of today’s Indie Rock, resultantly adding an element of timelessness to the full-length. (MB)

Lift the Medium – Mastermind
The songs on Hard Rock foursome Lift the Medium’s debut album, Mastermind, are craftily structured, the winding riffs and rhythms constantly in motion, but there’s no meandering. Every movement is in service to the song, resulting in a passionate and pointed melodic impact. Lift the Medium can at times remind you of Alice in Chains or Soundgarden, but flashes of the classic ’70s/’80s Hard Rock/Metal perfected by the likes of Aerosmith, Ozzy Osbourne or Iron Maiden also bubble to the surface. The delicately ingrained Prog touches lightly recall groups like Tool, but Mastermind also sounds like it would be perfectly at home on Rock radio next to contemporary acts like Shinedown and Seether. (MB)

Old City – Old City
This year was particularly productive for Indie Rock trio Old City. Besides its self-titled studio full-length, the band’s nine-track live album, Old City/Live/MOTR, came out earlier in the year and a physical CD compiling the material on three out-of-print cassette EPs was also pressed. While the guests on Old City certainly provide a great deal of texture to the album, it is the powerful, collaborative core of Sammy McKee and Dave Cupp that constitutes the band’s jackhammer heart and howling soul. (BB)

Trademark Aaron – Act Accordingly
Hip Hop MC Trademark Aaron’s EP Act Accordingly is musically magnetic, with spacious, ambient soundscapes peppered with thick, EDM-centric tweaks, distorted vocals and shape-shifting rhythms that move between skittish, cicada-buzz beats to heavier grooves. Aaron has proven to be a great hook writer, and the tracks on the EP feature some of his catchiest choruses yet — the sung melodies on cuts like “We Win” and opener “Don’t Sleep” stick in your head almost as well as any Hip Hop-to-Pop crossover hit that has climbed the charts in the past decade. (MB)

JetLab - JetLab
Indie Dance Rock trio JetLab was conceived as a way to blend the members’ love for Rock/Pop and Electronic/Dance music. The result is a spiritual throwback to the ’70s New York City scene centered on CBGB; though largely lumped together as “Punk,” the bands of that era ranged from the dynamic New Wave/Pop of Blondie to the anxious Rock stylings of Talking Heads and Television. JetLab is kind of like a one-band CBGB scene as its debut dips into a wide range of styles and vibes. (MB)

The Whiskey Shambles - Loose Change for a Broken Man
While The Whiskey Shambles’ excellent debut full-length, Loose Change for a Broken Man, exudes a contemporary vibe, the album bears the diverse hallmarks of the best ’70s Blues Rock albums. Like Led Zeppelin, Cream and Free before them, The Whiskey Shambles channel first generation Blues subsets like Delta, Piedmont and Hill Country, combined with the members’ unique individual experiences, to conjure an edgy, atmospheric vision of 21st century Blues. (BB)

CITOAK - Delayed Arrival
Hip Hop artist CITOAK’s eclectic 2014 release, which showcases his masterful lyricism and booming vocal presence, comes after the MC took some time off from music to be with his family. When his daughter asked why he didn’t make music anymore, he didn’t have a good answer and began to work toward a comeback. Delayed Arrival includes guest spots from David and Cincy Hip Hop staple (and RaisedxWolves member) CJ the Cynic, as well as Arizona-based progressive Hip Hop fave Random aka Mega Ran and others. (MB)

Injecting Strangers – Patience, Child
With theatrical flair and a playfully progressive Pop slant, Patience, Child showcases Injecting Strangers’ deft writing skills. The group pulls off the difficult task of crafting music that is arranged uniquely and creatively, yet still has an incredibly infectious sense of Pop melody, making for an album listening experience that is a thrill ride from start to finish. And it’s not always about blatant flamboyance. The great track “The Snow” has more of a subdued, melancholic feel than much of the other material, but the great hooks, trickling guitar and rich Beach Boys-esque harmonies are just as strong as anything on the album. (MB)

Ingrid Woode and The Woode Tribe Orchestra - Going LiVe In FiVe
Ingrid Woode is an accomplished singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist, having written for artists like Queen Latifah and Lalah Hathaway. The 11-piece Woode Tribe Orchestra (which includes five backup vocalists) gives the five tracks on Going LiVe In FiVe (the release also includes a DVD) a full-bodied richness and depth. The music is best categorized as smooth and funky R&B/Soul, but there is an impressive diversity in the arrangements that take it to another more intriguing level. (MB)

PUBLIC – Let’s Make It
Up-and-coming Cincinnati AltPop trio PUBLIC released the Ebola-level catchy new EP, Let’s Make It, this fall before heading off on its tour opening for fellow Cincy band Walk the Moon (which was a perfect touring fit, as Public and Walk the Moon share many sonic qualities). PUBLIC’s songwriting and playing skills — not to mention some seriously infectious grooves — are ready for the big time and the growing national attention that the band has received on the road and with its recordings could soon make its 2014 EP release’s title prophetic.

Foxy Shazam - Gonzo
Gonzo was a very different animal for theatrical rockers Foxy Shazam, not in a departure-of-style sense, but in the way the band wrote, recorded and considered their individual places within the band. On the writing/recording front, the big shift was that Foxy wrote as a unit and recorded live in the same room, lending Gonzo (recorded with the legendary Steve Albini) an air of immediacy and energy (a positive for a band especially noted for an amazing live presentation). Sadly, the self-released full-length (which followed releases through different major labels) may be Foxy’s last; the band announced an indefinite hiatus by year’s end. (BB)

Freekbass - Everybody’s Feelin’ Real
On Everybody’s Feelin’ Real, the latest release from Cincinnati Funktronica legend Freekbass, his band (drummers Big Bamn and Chip Wilson, keyboardist Joel “Razor Sharp” Johnson and saxophonist Skerik) and a few musical guests combined to craft one of the most Pop-driven albums in the bass icon’s long career. But it’s still heavy on the heavy Funk and there are some endearingly quirky moments, like a subtle nod to Frank Zappa and his circle of friends, notably the late George Duke. (BB)

Various Artists – Cincinnati Dronescape
The Cincinnati Dronescape project stemmed from an idea forged by local Isaac Hand over the summer. He and a friend went around town recording sounds that they felt were “quintessentially Cincinnati.” The found sounds, Hand says, included “the sound of the Western Hills Viaduct, the train yards, the hum of the [University of Cincinnati Medical Center], the Moerlein Brewery” and other location-specific noises. They then distributed the sounds to area musicians, who mixed them into their own unique compositions. With works by sonic adventurers like ADM, umin, Molly Sullivan, Jarrod Welling-Cann, Zijnzijn Zijnzijn and several others, Cincinnati Dronescape is a compelling project that truly represents the “sound of the city.” (MB)

Pop Empire – Future Blues
Future Blues, Pop Empire’s first album to feature new guitarist Ryan Back, takes elements of Blues, Pop and various shades of Rock (plus some light electronics and subtle moments of experimentalism) to come up with a magnetic sound that straddles the history of Rock & Roll. Founder/singer/guitarist Henry Wilson’s charismatic voice sounds like a mix of Marc Bolan’s swaggering cool and Buddy Holly’s elastic earnestness. (MB)

Jody Stapleton – Wolf Angel
On his intimate and personal debut solo album, longtime local singer/songwriter Jody Stapleton channeled his father’s love of traditional Country (in the vein of Johnny Cash, Johnny Horton, Webb Pierce and Sonny James) and his newfound interest in Gospel, as well as his own favorites, like ’60s Garage, ’70s Rock and various shades of Folk. As a result, Wolf Angel is a moody and contemplative set of songs that spans the broad spectrum of what constitutes Americana, refracted through the dual prisms of Stapleton’s contemporary perspective and his longstanding influences. (BB)

Let It Happen – Cause + Effect
With its powerfully memorable melodies, vulnerable lyrics and yearning vocals, Let It Happen would have been immediately tagged (and, by some, dismissed) as a Pop Punk or Emo band a decade ago (and probably will still be by some reviewers), but Cause + Effect is simply a dynamic Pop Rock album executed expertly by a talented foursome. With great songwriting and arrangements, a dexterous, airtight rhythm section, crafty guitar interplay and a steady stream of irrepressible hooks, Cause + Effect is an impossibly strong debut album and one that should increase national attention for Let It Happen. It’s ace Pop Rock with depth and heart. (MB)

Royal Holland – Volume One – The Maze
Volume One – The Maze is the first official release from Royal Holland, the pseudonym/current project of Cincinnati singer/songwriter Matt Mooney. The EP is a compelling introduction to Royal Holland’s unique sound, a mix of acoustic guitar, enchanting melodies and harmonies, rolling live drums and danceable drum-machine beats, electronic additives and, at its essence, spectacular songwriting. The end result is akin to avowed “heroes” like Jeff Mangum, Neil Young and Leonard Cohen, occasionally using some classic Folk music attributes but never becoming beholden to any one genre’s limitations. (MB)

WolfCryer – The Prospect of Wind
Like many of his songwriting heroes, WolfCryer (aka Matt Baumann) turns his songwriting talents toward society’s downtrodden on the eight-song The Prospect of Wind, with a particular interest in the personally felt ravages of war. It is an age-old topic of literature and song, because no matter how sophisticated mankind becomes at the destruction of life, the simple desolation of the survivors never seems to change to any great degree. Baumann channels his inner Dylan in the lyrics and the cadence of the EP’s title track, nimbly displays both his love for and his study of Warren Zevon on “The War” and “When I Go,” and waves his Springsteen flag with pride and admiration on “Box of Bones” and “Both Hands on the Plow.” (BB)

Mad Anthony – Sank for Days
Like Queens of the Stone Age or Screaming Trees, Mad Anthony finds the sweet spot between Hard Rock and Punk/Post Punk, as well as between light and dark, and they caress that spot to great effect on Sank for Days. Frontman Ringo Jones and guitarist Adam Flaig intertwine their six-string work like snakes alternately wrestling and dancing, often locking in on tight, punctuating riffs that are buoyed by Marc Sherlock’s remarkable drumming. Mad Anthony is not only one of Cincinnati’s most beloved original Rock bands, its also one of its best. If there was ever any doubt, Sank for Days shatters them instantly upon first listen. (MB)

Maurice Mattei & The Tempers – Celebrity Issue
If you count live albums, early cassettes and compilations, Cincinnati singer/songwriter Maurice Mattei’s latest release, Celebrity Issue, is the 21st entry in his diverse and vastly entertaining catalog. And while Mattei’s extensive press archive detailing that impressive body of work features plenty of Dylan references, the guest-laden Celebrity Issue also offers some Randy Newmanesque moments. Mattei is one of Cincinnati’s most gifted singer/songwriters, evolving into a singular talent with a unique Folk/Rock/Pop style. (BB)

500 Miles to Memphis - Stand There and Bleed
500 Miles to Memphis’ previous two albums releases are local classics that reside in two vastly different musical landscapes. While 2007’s Sunshine in a Shot Glass was 12 tracks of undiluted Country Punk, 2011’s We’ve Built Up to Nothing took the Country Punk roots and drastically expanded on the concept. Influenced by The Beatles, the Cincinnati-based quintet added layer upon layer of instrumentation to craft an epic. With 2014’s Stand There and Bleed, 500 Miles to Memphis pulled back and opted for a simpler, more straightforward group of songs. In doing so, the band has written its best album to date. (Nick Grever)

The KillTones – Raw. Animals. Dance.
Raw. Animals. Dance. is a great representation of The KillTones’ swaggering bluster, proving the band to be one of the finer contemporary descendants of Led Zeppelin’s dynamic Power Blues alongside artists like Jack White, Wolfmother and Screaming Trees. But you won’t find any “Stairway to Heaven”-like meandering on Raw. Animals. Dance.; the band takes the vintage Blues-meets-Rock formula and injects it with a hypodermic needle full of adrenaline. If there were ever any doubts that The KillTones are one of the best Rock & Roll bands in Cincinnati, one listen to Raw. Animals. Dance. is all that’s needed to shatter them instantly. (MB)

Pure Grain – Indiana Sun
While at its core Pure Grain is a Country band (much of Indiana Sun wouldn’t be out of place on Country radio), its music is also informed by Rock, Pop and Soul, which are subtly incorporated into the group’s well-crafted, expertly performed songs. Pure Grain’s music is perfectly in line with the refreshing back-to-basics sound that is re-emerging in Country music, hopefully signaling a shift away from the overly glossed-up “Pop with a fiddle” sound that has dominated the genre for so long. (MB)

The Lockland Brakes – Attachments
Though together for only a couple of years, the impressive tightness The Lockland Brakes show on their debut album, Attachments, suggests the members have played together for much longer. But precision is just a small part of Attachments’ infectious appeal. The songwriting is top-notch, full of gruff but ear-burrowing melodies and fist-pumping, anthem-worthy choruses. The rhythm section is impeccable (noteworthy because sloppy bass and drums are so many Punk bands’ fatal flaws), handling the sometimes breakneck pace and crafty time signature shifts effortlessly. And the two guitarists duel with creative intensity on every track, helping to further set the Brakes apart from the typical Pop Punk pack. (MB)

Aaron Collins - Godlessly Oscillating
Drummer of Comprador and former member of the late SHADOWRAPTR, Aaron Collins’ solo album Godlessly Oscillating shows what he can do alone, playing, singing and writing nearly every note on the album. The songs exude a welcoming warmth and are often hypnotic. Collins achieves this largely with only his impressive acoustic guitar work and his gripping vocals (percussion and other light ornamentation pop up here and there), which are frequently layered to create lush, textural harmonies and hover in the same realm as artists like Andrew Bird and Beirut’s Zach Condon. Godlessly Oscillating is a revelatory album, showing Collins to be one of the more captivating singer/songwriters in Cincinnati today. (MB)

Cincinnati Dancing Pigs – Goin’ to Cincinnati
On the heels of being inducted into the Jug Band Hall of Fame, long-running old-timey Americana crew Cincinnati Dancing Pigs released its latest full-length, Goin’ to Cincinnati. Along with their solid chops and dedication to the purity and preservation of pioneering American musical formats, a huge part of the Cincinnati Dancing Pigs’ appeal is the sense of fun and humor that oozes from their music. It’s hard to be in a bad mood after listening to Goin’ to Cincinnati (unless kazoos and songs about beans somehow make you irrationally furious), which features mostly upbeat renditions of classic and traditional Blues and Folk songs. (MB)

State Song - Sleepcrawling
State Song’s debut, 2010’s Dear Hearts & Gentle People, was greatly acclaimed upon release for its expansive vision of angst-ridden ’90s Prog/Pop, inspiring comparisons to early Radiohead and Sunny Day Real Estate. Those elements deepened and broadened on the group’s magnificent Sleepcrawling (which featured a new lineup to help flesh out the compelling songs of frontman Scott Torres), touched with hints of Glam-era David Bowie and Syd Barrett’s Pink Floyd years. (BB)

Zebras in Public – Paradise Leg
After a few lineup changes, juiced-up metallic Soul/Rock crew Zebras in Public gelled into a formidable live presence. That performing fury was brilliantly channeled into the 16 tracks that comprise Paradise Leg, the band’s impressive first full-length release. Their grueling work ethic paid off; the album is a throbbing Rock testament to the effort that ZIP has expended from its beginnings. (BB)

74 West – Life on Shuffle
A thoroughly entertaining and jubilant listen, Life on Shuffle is an endearing blend of ’80s New Wave and classic Power Pop. 74 West slathers the album with vintage New Wave ornamentation (snyths that wouldn’t be out of place on a Cars album, electronic-drum/drum-machine handclaps, etc.), but the strength of the melodies and rock-solid songwriting keep it from sounding too much like a retro novelty. A very promising first effort, Life on Shuffle is an Electro-laced, non-stop barrage of charming hooks and playful quirks. (MB)

The Kelly Richey Band - Live at the Blue Wisp
Though veteran Cincinnati Blues/Rock guitarist/singer/songwriter Kelly Richey has put out some solid studio albums in her 20 years of releasing music, seeing her live is where jaws are dropped. That’s probably why Richey’s discography includes five live albums and a live DVD. This year, The Kelly Richey Band released another sizzling live set, Live at the Blue Wisp, recorded at the legendary local Jazz club that closed this year. The album is a great showcase for Richey’s current band. Drummer Big Bamm and bassist Freekbass (who has his own celebrated eponymous band) come from a Funk background and their mark on Richey’s soulful, gritty Blues/Rock tunes is prominent, giving the songs their huge grooves and transforming the sound into a unique brand of Blues Funk. (MB)

The Infinity Ball – Saturday Night
The Infinity Ball’s ambitious Saturday Night is technically a “concept album” with a coming-of-age-ish storyline about a young man, “his friends, his psycho ex-girlfriend, tacos and love lost and found.” But the story is told with tongue firmly in cheek — in a press release, singer Rick Reed calls it “less Tommy and more Tommy Boy.” The concept is indicative of the music, which mixes catchy melodies with Prog-y tweaks and dashes of Blues, Hard Rock and more. (MB)

Day Camp – Day Camp
Inspired by ’90s Pop Punk and Indie Rock (the good stuff, like Pixies, The Breeders and the melodic Punk of Lookout Records), Day Camp features former members of local groups Slack Panther and Oso Bear. The foursome’s debut showcases an energetic and melodic sound driven by co-guitarists/co-vocalists Patricia Feghali and Josh Biehler. The band makes great use of the two singers’ unique, hazy vocal styles, which mesh together and play off of each other exceptionally well, while the wiry guitar interplay evokes the Pixies’ Frank Black/Joey Santiago six-string tandem. (MB)

Saturn Batteries – Real Far East
There’s a compellingly silky vibe to Saturn Batteries’ brand of fluttering Indie Pop on Real Far East. The band has developed an ear-grabbing sound loaded with magnetic, passionate melodies, air-tight harmonies, wonderfully textural guitar work and spacious arrangements that often take unexpected (but never jarring) turns. The smooth melodic flow evident on much of the EP is reminiscent of French Indie Rock superstars Phoenix, while the winding structures will appeal to fans of The Walkmen and of Montreal. But the band has built a very distinctive sound that transcends easy comparisons. (MB)

Even More Great 2014 Releases

Elk Creek – Greenfield Project

Over the Rhine – Blood Oranges in the Snow

Valley of the Sun – Electric Talons of the Thunderhawk

Buffalo Wabs & the Price Hill Hustle - Nothin’ Like a Lincoln

Voodoo Loons – The Criminal Ear

The String Theory – Falling Like the Sun

Pedro X – On Vacation

Preach – My Big Drunk Apology

Ricky Nye – Swingin’ the Blues

Dallas Moore and Mama Madgelee Hanes Moore – Old Time Family Jam

The Sonny Moorman Group - 13

The Nothing – The Art of Revenge

Chris Arduser – Flibbertigibbet

Gazer - Fake Bulbs/Phone Commercial

The Almighty Get Down – People, This Is …

Dave & the Dogs – The Mid-Life Crisis Ramblers Present

Taylor Alexander – Bleu

Zak Morgan – Christmas

Cougar Ace – You Know Why I Brought You Here …

Pop Goes the Evil – Love Stained Heart

Copper – Fade to White

Noah Smith – Noah Smith

Comprador – Voyeur

Shoot Out the Lights - Let’s Get Lost

Animal Circles - Summer Camp

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