We're counting down the best local albums of the year this week, and it's an amazing array of rock, pop, and hip-hop, but a fair amount of folk, Americana, and country made its way to the list as well. There were also a lot of surprise albums this year that didn't really fit into a regular genre that
20. The Haymarket Squares — Light It Up
The Haymarket Squares released their finest album to date with Light It Up in February, and in light of the political climate this year, it's been on blast for me from the start. Seriously, this the most politically astute and hilariously wry local album for those leaning to the left since, well, maybe since the release of their last album. Musically, the band's patented
19. Emby Alexander - The Sound of Phoenix
On the Fourth of July
18. Red Tank! — Bio/Feedback
Have you ever listened to a band's record knowing full well that you loved their last one, with the thought that there was no way that it could be topped, and then you play the new disc and you stare at your stereo with your jaw dropped and your eyes wide in stunned amazement of the blazing sounds exploding from your speakers, losing any sense of time and space, forgetting that you even have a nervous system or that your body exists while the album wraps around your entire being, raising and lowering your blood pressure, nearly sucking the breath out of your lungs at times, controlling your heartbeat with the kick drum, while the guitars wreck your soul and every vocal laceration commits itself to your emotional memory, while sparks arc in the deep recesses of your mind until at last the challenging din of what you just heard fades from the air, leaving you feeling gratified and wholly satiated on a level that you can't quite comprehend? That's the only way I can sum up how I felt the first time I heard the Red Tank! album Bio/Feedback.
17. Cait Brennan — Debutante
If you are looking for an album that puts a new spin on the songwriting styles of the early 1970s, you absolutely must check out Cait Brennan's fabulous debut record, Debutante. If you admire the kind of tunes that were penned by Harry Nilsson, Elton John, David Bowie, Linda
16. PRO TEENS - Accidentally
A surprise release if there ever was one. No one anticipated Accidentally to follow so quickly on the heels of last year's debut album by PRO TEENS. Still, it did explain where a lot of tracks from earlier in their career were relocated, with the likes of "Teen Feels" and "Puberty" seeing release and some remodeling as well. PRO TEENS makes music that crosses indie rock and pop with space age bachelor pad music, heavily indebted to the voice and vision of lead singer Andrew Phipps. If they are going for their own genre, I'd call it "indie lounge," and it's an intoxicating cocktail of sweet sounds from beginning to end. Phipps can nail an Elvis Costello croon like no other and the band behind him makes the magic through their brilliant textural tapestries of sound. This is as much music to watch clouds roll by as it is to lay on your floor losing your mind inside headphones.
15. Diners - "Three"
Last year, I was eagerly awaiting the release of Diners' third full-length album, unremarkably titled Three, and in the
14. AJJ - The Bible 2
There was a rash of concern when AJJ released the video for "Goodbye, Oh Goodbye" that they were abandoning their
13. Some Magical Animal - Some Magical Animal
This was another surprise release of the year, at least for me. I knew Some Magical Animal was up to something and had been forever, then all at once this album fell into my lap. This self-titled masterpiece has been a long time in the making, and while they've been one of my favorite rare live acts to catch on stage, their performances could only hint at, well, the magic they've put down on wax. The entire album is absolutely intoxicating. It runs the gamut from indie rock songs to other tracks that recall Gram Parsons, Ryan Adams, Poco, and even The Eagles at their best. Make some time for this album, pour yourself a drink, sit outside and watch the sunset or a storm and just listen to this masterpiece. You won't regret a moment of it.
12. Citrus Clouds - Imagination
As far as I'm concerned, Citrus Clouds are the local kings of the shoegaze scene that doesn't realize it's a scene. Seriously, there are a good dozen shoegaze bands playing all around town and they don't seem to know each other. Either way, Citrus Clouds is leading the pack, and if last year's EP debut didn't make that clear, their live shows this year sure did. Their efforts were all topped off by Imagination, their debut full-length album. The title track is worth the price of admission alone, I would have bought the album just to have that. Unlike their debut EP, Imagination goes toe-to-toe with matching the hurricane swirl of their live shows and brings it to life on record accurately. Perhaps it's the result of so many live shows in the last year and this one-time side project becoming a full-time thing. Citrus Clouds have come into their own and Imagination is the proof.
11. RØÅR - Impossible Animals
This is indie pop at its finest, in line with the Elephant 6 Collective from the turn of the century, with a reliance on Pet Sounds-era Beach Boys, Rubber Soul-era Beatles, and every band influenced by those sounds since. It's not difficult to see why this took Owen Evans four years to make. It also features a who's who of some of the greatest local pop musicians either playing on it or behind the mixing board, with Evan Bisbee, Jef Wright, Robin Vining, Ryan Breen, Lonna Kelley, Stephen Steinbrink, Jim Adkins, and more contributing. Not only is this a wonderful pop album, it's also a very beautiful work in total.
10. Nanami Ozone — Desire
You ever have a band that you adore so damn much you just want to put them in your pocket and take them everywhere you go? That's how I feel about Nanami Ozone. Nanami Ozone is
9. Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra - PAO!
There was great debate on whether this record was an EP or an album, I went so far as to confer with David Marquez on this and we agreed, with the bonus track intact, PAO! crosses the threshold into full-length album. Still, with Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra's debut record, many years in the making, you just want it to be twice as long. At the end of the
8. Saddles - YOKE
The first echoes of YOKE began over a year ago when Saddles released their sole release of the year with the single "Comfort." I had, at the time assumed it was a Shell Art
7. i.am.hologram — Rejecting The Program
I'm going to say right up front that I have no love for one-man-bands. The exception is Richard Nihil, aka i.am.hologram. Not only does he pull off the one-man-band concept with a drum machine, synthesizers, pedals, and other gear, he does this while slinging his guitar and singing his heart out. His voice is a weapon of creation, destruction, and distraction. Favorite weird record of the year? Easily. So it must be said that while he's doing all that crazy shit with his hands and feet, he's also using his voice in a way that no other local singer can or will. His voice is one of
6. Dadadoh - RADICAL
I knew this was going to be good before I ever heard it. What I didn't count on is that I would listen to it non-stop for a month. This was one of my favorite summer albums and it went everywhere I did from August to September, in
5. No Volcano - Dead Horse Power
I had high hopes for No Volcano's follow-up to last year's Who Saved the Party, and I was in no way disappointed. I remember being amazed at the release party for their first album that they were unveiling new songs for their next and they repeated that same move this year. Still, No Volcano continues to be one of my favorite bands in town whether it's live or on record. They simply have a great post-punk art rock vibe that I dig and honestly, if I was to put together a band, this is the kind of sound I'd go for. It's a post-punk package that takes the sum of their influences and produces music that is 100 percent No Volcano's own unique identity. Dead Horse Power proves that No Volcano
4. Genre — Legendary Rock Act
Zac Markey and Corey Gomez of Genre have released their first full-length album, and while the title Legendary Rock Act may be delivered with a grin, they're not far off the mark. Every time I've listened to it I cannot believe how good it is, how fully realized it is, and how consistently exciting it is, as it makes wry commentary on society, metaphysics, crass commercialism, soulless capitalism, and many more hot topics that are of subversive concerns. It's also apparent on this album that Markey is captain of the Genre ship at this stage in the game, and the addition of Trevor Denton to their lineup was essential to the biggest bang this band has ever made.
3. Snake! Snake! Snakes! - "Tranquilo"
Depending on how long you've been into Snake! Snake! Snakes! you've been waiting anywhere from four to nearly six years for their full-length album debut, which is a hell of a long time to stick with any band. Nevertheless, in this
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2. Wyves — Spoils Of War
Last year, right from the start, Wyves quickly became one of my favorite live bands in town. Its members are frontman Corey Gloden, joined by Nick Sterling, Brenden McBride, and Evan Knisely, and together they form a kick-ass, straight-up rock 'n' roll band. Every show of theirs got better and better with growing, visceral intensity until at last, in February, they released their debut album, Spoils Of War. It was far greater than I had anticipated, and it has honestly been in my heavy rotation of albums ever since. Loaded with singles like the title track, "Bitch Has Got Problems," "Jump Into The Water," "Puppycat," and "Bad Reputation," it's a rock 'n' roll juggernaut that never lets up once. It's also one of those rare rock albums that actually captures the energy and drive of a band's live shows. That's difficult to come by these days. Wyves have no issues kicking just as much ass on a record as they do on stage.
1. Bear Ghost — Blasterpiece
Mo matter how many times I reviewed local albums this year, regardless of what my favorite of the moment was, it always seemed clear that Bear Ghost's Blasterpiece was the best album of the year. First of all, Bear Ghost is probably the most fun band in town to see live or listen to on record. "Fun" is an element that seems to be lost on a lot of indie bands, and it's damned refreshing to be excited about going to see a band for the sheer sense of joy they will