It’s the last weekend of 2013, and per the magna carta of music journalism, I am required to come up with some sort of “best of” or “X records you should have heard” or some such year-end list.
As I don’t want to be buzzed by drones or have the jackbooted music-journalism thugs come rappelling out of black helicopters into my office, I offer this brief list that might even be useful to you. Happy New Year, dear reader.
These aren’t necessarily the bestest of the best of all the records released by local artists in 2013. This short list is pulled from the 2013 records I heard (and, yes, that is a passive-aggressive call for local bands to send me their new records in 2014) that they believe are worthy of and should garner a wider audience.
So, in no particular order, here are four albums by local artists I enjoyed listening to on several occasions.
Why only four?
Because The Man wouldn’t give me five.
Winslow: ‘Left of the Right Direction’
I’ve been watching this Akron band hone its groovy pop/rock/soul sound for several years and a few lineup changes. With its sophomore album, this group of schooled young musicians seems to have found its groove.
The album’s 10 tracks deftly mix radio-ready disco rock (Alone Tonight) with classic-sounding, soul-searching soul ballads (Quarter-Life, Mo’s Joint), anthemic riff rock (Stand-Up), and urban adult contemporary R&B (Clarity).
Singer Maurice Martin’s vocal ad-libs occasionally border on histrionic “waving hand of soul” territory, but the band delivers on record and onstage evidenced by the seven nominations for the 2013 Ohio Local Music Award with wins for best headlining band, best bassist for Danny Kolliner and best drummer for Jesse Marquardt.
The band has also been heard on 91.3 (WAPS-FM) the Summit, You can check it out for yourself next Saturday at Musica in Akron when it opens for Cleveland reggae king Carlos Jones.
For more information about the band, go to www.winslowsoul.com.
Yeah, a cynic might argue that this Kent sextet is surfing the wake of the current indie-folk wave caused by Arcade Fire, Mumford & Sons, the Decemberists and other bands with unusual acoustic instrumentation (banjos and fiddles!), but it’s pretty good at carving out its own version of the increasingly common (as in it’s been in a bunch of commercials and film trailers) sound.
Lead singer Shanna Delaney has a confident, classically trained sounding, sprightly soprano that cuts through the often jingly jangly grooves of songs such as the peppy potential Target-commercial-soundtrack Go. But the band, which uses plenty of electric instruments, too, isn’t simply aping a popular sound, i.e. it eschews the big wordless gang-choruses.
The group’s single Rotted Pines has been in rotation on 91.3, and the ethereal spare Signs is just pretty.
Check out the band next Saturday at JB’s Concert Club in Kent.
Relaxer: ‘Lasers’ (or something else)
OK, I’m kind of cheating here as this sophomore album by the local prog-rock group composed of past and present members of bands including Party of Helicopters, White Pines, Sofa King Killers, Drummer and more has yet to be released. The band is still shopping it to labels.
But Relaxer is shooting for an early 2014 release and it has made a few of the tunes from the disc available on its SoundCloud and Bandcamp pages. I’ve heard the entire mixed and mastered album, and it’s heavy, dude.
Complex guitar riffs and odd-metered grooves abound in the disc’s lengthy tunes with singer/guitarist Joseph Scott’s (who also records as White Pines) high lonesome wail floating ethereally above the prog-rock din.
Crystal Garden, originally released as half of a special Record Store Day split, rides a ⅞ groove and nearly catchy chorus. The band does mellow out a bit on tunes such as the slow crescendoing Start a Fire, so it’s not all eardrum pummeling riffage and heartbeat-altering volume, at least until you see it live.
To check out a few tunes from the upcoming album, point your inter-Google machine to https://soundcloud.com/relaxerakronohio.
The HOBS: ‘Psychosexual’
This is kinetic punk and garage-infused indie rock featuring buzz-saw fuzz guitars and rock piano.
Singer/guitarist Ricky Miller has a ridiculously high voice (imagine Rush’s Geddy Lee and Freddie Mercury breeding) that he often pushes to the limits, which may be a turnoff for some folks raised on the earnest tenors of such singers as Eddie Vedder or the snarky punk-pop whine of Green Day and Blink-182. Musically, the quartet bashes and thrashes around like improperly treated ADD kids hopped up on a truckload of pixie sticks.
For folks who like their rock loud and raucous, Psychosexual should fit the bill with tunes such as the title track, which has an early Stooges feel, or the catchy and bouncy pogo-inducing (it’s about time for that dance to come back, right?) Parts Unknown, or the groovy, garagey riff of King Chameleon.
Underneath all the energy, vocal histrionics and razor-thin buzzing guitars are four dudes who are more than merely punk rock proficient on their instruments.
Check out the album in its entirety on Fone Records Bandcamp site at http://fonerecords.bandcamp.com/music.