The Year In Your Ear

The top 100 local music releases of 2011

Share on Nextdoor


t was another ridiculously strong year for recordings by artists in Greater Cincinnati, making for another ridiculously hard-to-whittle-down list of the best releases from the past 365 days. 

In past years, to prepare for our annual “year in local recordings” round-up, I would create one master list of all new albums (or EPs or singles, if they were good enough) and then start the surgery, carefully removing dozens and dozens of recordings until it was compact enough to fit in the paper without requiring CityBeat to use a font size only slightly larger than a speck of dust. 

My master list for 2011 local releases, for the first time, easily reached 100. The fact that there were so many releases coming out of Greater Cincinnati in 2011 speaks to the increased accessibility and affordability of recording technology that has developed over the past few years. The fact that none of them were total garbage speaks to the wealth of talent in our music community. 

So here, for the first time, are the Top 100 local releases of the year. In previous years, we would include short blurbs excerpted from CityBeat reviews and articles with each pick, but this time, in order to fit in the whole lot, we could only include detail on the Top 20. The entire list follows. 

Use your pal Google (and the archive) to search for these recordings online, and support local music by purchasing a download or CD and going to the artists’ shows. If you can’t find at least a handful that you really enjoy, then you simply don’t like music.

Eclipse –

Around the World 

Like a Cincy version of The Roots, Around the World showed Hip Hop/Funk/Rock/Jazz ensemble Eclipse to be a stunning collective of musicians with boundless creative energy and an encyclopedic knowledge of music.

Wussy –


One of the more critically acclaimed bands from Cincinnati, Indie Rock quartet Wussy has managed to top itself with each new album. The band’s fourth, Strawberry, is not only the most accomplished record in the Wussy catalog — it’s also the band’s most dynamic, diverse and unforgettable.

The Cincy Brass –

Ain’t Nuttin Louder

One of the most unique and entertaining bands on the local scene, this funky, horn-driven crew managed to capture its irresistible party vibe perfectly on its debut. 

Ma Crow –

Smoky Junction


A collection of covers and traditional old time songs, local Bluegrass great Ma Crow made a much welcome return to the record store bins with the full-length Smoky Junction, an ode to Crow’s friends, family and home.

The Guitars –

High Action


High Action, the first “official” release by The Guitars, is an absolute stunner, seven songs’ worth of vintage Pop majesty. It’s glaringly obvious that the four Guitars members are hardcore record-heads and serious students of the classic eras of American Rock, Soul and Pop.

Shiny and the Spoon –

Ferris Wheel

Folk Pop duo Shiny and the Spoon became a trio in 2011, but that still doesn’t explain the huge creative growth over just the past year or so. Ferris Wheel was like SATS going from black-and-white to full Technicolor, widescreen 3D. 

Valley of the Sun –

The Sayings of the Seers

VotS’s dynamic, riff-ridin’ sound could technically be put in the so-called “Stoner Rock” category, but there aren’t many hardcore stoners who could compose and arrange with the sophistication and smarts it so obviously took to make Sayings.

The Chocolate Horse –


With its dark, hypnotic and emotional allure, dynamic Indie crew The Chocolate Horse’s third (and best) album deservedly received the most attention yet for the band. 

The Newport Secret Six –

Licking River Rock Steady


Putting its own spin on traditional Ska, the former Duppy a Jamba reemerged as the Newport Secret Six and released this amazing, true-to-tradition long-player. 

Kelly Thomas and the Fabulous Pickups –


After numerous releases from her other projects, Thomas finally released the debut LP from her main band after almost a decade. Fly, a beautifully crafted, emotionally stirring Country/Roots effort, was worth the wait. 

You, You’re Awesome –

Good Point, Whoever Said That

After several EP releases, progressive Electronica duo You, You’re Awesome issued its first long-player, a solid slice of compelling, pleasurable entertainment regardless of your musical tastes.

Skeetones –



Already a regional live favorite, this “live Electronica band” released its first full-length which was a glorious take-home version of the band’s creative mix of various forms of Electro and Dance music and trancelike improv excursions. 

The Seedy Seeds –


The charming Seedys’ national profile continued to rise in 2011, thanks in large part to the impossibly catchy Verb/Noun, one of the best Indie Pop albums of the year. 

Buffalo Killers –


On the hard-touring Buffalo Killers’ third album, the retro-tinged Psych Pop trio’s songwriting reached a level of excellence on par with the legends that inspire them. 

The Mighty –

The Mighty


One of the year’s best surprises, Indie Pop trio The Mighty’s self-titled effort found the Pop Rock trio evolving into a majestic Electronic Indie Pop juggernaut. 

Brian Olive –

Two of Everything

The former Greenhorne and Soledad Brother’s second solo effort received a lot of attention in the national music press thanks to its kaleidoscopic array of classic Pop and Rock sounds and song stylings. 

Josh Eagle and the Harvest City –

A Good One is Hard to Find

Eagle showed promise from the start as a solo singer/songwriter, but with A Good One is Hard to Find, he and his band evolved into a world-class Folk/Pop unit.

Natalie Wells –

Mind The Gap

The young Blues/Rock singer/guitarist’s debut was a revelation, showcasing her diverse songwriting and stylistic influences (from The Beatles to Cream to The White Stripes, with many stops in between). 

Beneath Oblivion –

From Man to Dust

The Metal underground embraced this progressive, inventive local ensemble, which showed some remarkable creative growth on its heavy, dynamic, hypnotic second full-length for The Mylene Sheath label. 

The Kentucky Struts –

The Year of the Horse

Even without the interesting release hook (one of the album’s 12 songs was released each month in 2011, with amazing artwork commissioned for each track), this Country/Roots outfit’s latest is one of the best Americana albums of the year, local or otherwise.

Freekbass –



The Tillers with Uncle Mike Carr –

Wild Hog in the Woods

The Harlequins –

Midwest Coast


Dallas Moore –

Hank to Thank


Frontier Folk Nebraska –

Frontier Folk Nebraska

i-EL –

The Book of Elijah

Belle Histoire –



Vaudeville Freud –

Tapdance!: The Musical


Black Tractor –

Applaud My Friends, The Comedy is Over

Sacred Spirits –

Some Stay

Mack West –

The Long Goodnight

Winterhymn –

Songs for the Slain

Bootsy Collins –

Tha Funk Capital of the World

Rose Funeral –

Gates of Punishment


Messerly & Ewing –

Every Bitter Thing

The Sweep -


Sleepin’ Dogs –

Love Takes Its Toll

For Algernon –

Starling Redux

500 Miles to Memphis –

Live at the Southgate House

Pomegranates –

In Your Face Thieves


Chestnut Attic

Cybele –

Medicated America

The Strongest Proof –

Paths Will Collide

The Tammy WhyNots –

Meet the Tammy WhyNots

The Kickaways –

America! America!

Vacation –


Puck –

Still Wishing


Vibe One –

The Balance

Fake Hands –

Fake Hands

Big Rock Club –

Big Rock Club

Dark Colour –


Pop Empire –

The Devil’s Party

D-Maub –

Death Before Dishonor

Ricky Nye and the Paris Blues Band –

Ricky Nye and the Paris Blues Band

Blessid Union of Souls —

The Mission Field

Army Coach –



Shoot Out the Lights –

Shoot Out the Lights

The Tempers –

Strum and Drag


Vaughn & Company –

Still Worth It

Over the Rhine –

The Long Surrender


Northside Garage –

Waiting for the Breakdown


Ron Esposito –

We Are One


Daniel Martin Moore –

In the Cool of the Day

The Faux Frencmen –

3AM Waltz

Dusty Bryant –

Wasted Midwestern Town Blues

Sweet Ray Laurel –

Sweet Ray Laurel


Atlantis Becoming –

Atlantis Becoming


Chris Collier –

This is Everything

The Dukes Are Dead –

The Shot Heard Round the World

Kry Kids –

Happy Tomato



It’s Always Winter on the Moon


Soapland –

The Inflatable Real


A Continuous Now –

Transient Soul Umbrella

Mala in Se –

Mala in Se 

Vincent Vega –

Man of Fire


Alone at 3 a.m. –

From an Ohio Basement


Ric Hordinksi –

Arthur’s Garden

Daniel Joseph Dorff –

The Living Room


The Yugos –

The Yugos

Switchblade Syndicate –

As Long as There’s Whiskey

The Strongest Proof –

Paths Will Collide


Serenity Fischer –

Rogue Strawberry

Buggs Tha Rocka/DJ Clockwork –

Lost Luggage


Ryan Broshear

Ryan Broshear

SS-20 –



Zachary Burns Band –


Jason Ludwig –

Lost in Love

Jason Ludwig –


Young Butta –

Money Train Mixtape

Skeleton Hands –



Skeleton Hands –

Crystalline Dreams

Maurice Mattei and The Tempers -

The Tempers Christmas Show

Vito Emanuel –

Good Luck


Green Light Morning

Green Light Morning

Loudmouth –

Cabin Fever


The Worthmores –

The Worthmores


The Upset Victory –

The Awakening

Eddy J. Free –

I Am the MaD hatter

eleven:eleven –


Slack Panther –

Love Space Desire Forever Love Heartache Longing Cincinnati

The Prohibitionists –

Extended Play


Scroll to read more Music Feature articles


Join CityBeat Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.