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The Year in Cincy Recordings

A look back at the best Cincy-related CDs of 2008

By Mike Breen · December 30th, 2008 · Music
The Sundresses – Barkinghaus
Shit, has it really been six years since The Sundresses erupted all over the Cincinnati scene? In that time, the trio has amassed some impressive stats, including four consecutive SXSW appearances and a ton of wildly successful opening gigs and tours. Finally, finally, their latest CD Barkinghaus came out in 2008, and it’s a howling mad thing of dark beauty, like Hank Williams haunting Nick Cave until his walls bleed whiskey and blood. (Brian Baker)

Banderas – Beast Sounds and Parlour Tricks
I have heard Banderas described as Metal, Punk, Post Punk and Hard Rock. Are they any of these? After inhaling the new full-length several times, I can safely answer, “Yes, and then some.” Banderas are Guns N’ Roses meets Murder City Devils meets Jesus Lizard meets Mudhoney meets White Zombie meets The Stooges. But, to make it easier on all of us, just pick up the bloody masterwork and we’ll just start saying they sound like Banderas. Deal? (Mike Breen)

The Seedy Seeds – Count the Days
On their excellent sophomore album, Count the Days, The Seedy Seeds have truly blossomed. In songwriting, performance and arranging, the Seeds have grown exponentially beyond the stark simplicity and naive wonder of Change States, a remarkable accomplishment considering the brief amount of time since its release. Mike Ingram and Margaret Weiner, whose mission statement was learning to master instruments they owned but couldn’t play, have expanded their abilities with a greater array of sounds and level of sophistication. (BB)

Super-Massive – Super-Massive
Reggae grooves prevail on this band’s 2008 debut and the pristine vocals are drenched in Reggae soul. But, as the group members’ varying backgrounds suggest, there are a lot of other genres that inform the band’s sound. Rock, Jazz and Funk weave in and out of the supple rhythms like a boxer, but it is done so seamlessly, it all just feels like one big funky Reggae party. The band seems tailor made for not only Reggae fans, but “Jam band” fans as well, with flowing arrangements that leave a lot of room for extended jams and improv. (MB)

The Wolverton Brothers – Old, Ugly and Loud
Some words that describe legendary underground Cincinnati band The Wolverton Brothers include: enduring, eccentric, inventive, singular, influential. The band adds three more words to that canon with their sixth album — Old, Ugly and Loud. The guitars alternate between a big, almost frighteningly engulfing wash (this is definitely a more rockin’ album than the past couple of Wols releases) to sideways, atmospheric noise to those angular Post Punk riffs they are perhaps best known for. A fair dose of effected sounds, impulsive skronk and electronic idiosyncrasies swoop in and out of tracks like seagulls diving for fish in a contaminated swamp, while Tim Schwallie’s low vocal murmur adds another gruff layer to the band’s distinctive aural personality. (MB)

Foxy Shazam – Introducing Foxy
Foxy Shazam’s 2005 debut, The Flamingo Trigger, was an existential Rock masterpiece — an unapologetic clash of crushing guitars and Jazzy piano splattered with surreal interludes and oblique lyrics delivered with genuine (if fractured) soul. The new disc — released nationally on New Weathermen Records (and necessitating a relentless national touring schedule) — is a slightly more focused affair, yet still proof that you can get away with anything if you have great songs and an enigmatic frontman. (Ezra Waller)

The Turkeys – It’s Gonna Rain
The Turkeys are a Country/Folk/Rock duo showcasing the singing and songwriting talents of Kyle Knapp and Chris Cusentino, but they were joined by a ton of local talent on their 2008 CD, It’s Gonna Rain. Still, it’s the twosome’s amazing writing and singing that is the heart of the album. The harmonizing alone is worth the price of the disc — Knapp and Cusentino are the Simon & Garfunkel of Cincinnati. (MB)

Peter Adams – I Woke With Planets in My Face
Three years ago, Peter Adams caught global attention for his self-recorded bedroom masterpiece, The Spiral Eyes. Despite the gushing reviews and industry attention, Adams didn’t change his approach much at all with his equally dazzling follow-up, I Woke With Planets in My Face, which he self-released earlier this year under a “pay-what-you-want” download. Adams did mature as an artist though, feeling free to explore bringing in elements of World music and other devices to serve the soaring, engulfing songs. (MB)

Jeff Roberson – Summer’s Here
Roberson has been making solid, meaningful Country/Folk music around these parts for well over two decades. A respectable legacy on its own, but with the release of Summer’s Here earlier this year he’s truly transcended. Every song on the lushly produced album haunts you without asking permission or forgiveness and challenges you to decide whether you will draw the shades and curse the light or embrace the season’s warmth. (EW)

Daniel Martin Moore – Stray Age
Daniel Martin Moore isn’t a scenester. He’s done stints with the Peace Corps in Cameroon, at a bed and breakfast in Costa Rica and played music in Minnesota with his brother. Last year, he sent a blind demo package to Sub Pop, which they improbably listened to and even more improbably loved. Stray Age, his debut CD (for the label that launched the Afghan Whigs to greatness two decades earlier) is clearly intended to be heard in a room where listener and singer are inextricably linked by beautiful, unfettered emotion. It’s like Nick Drake and Jeff Buckley beating Houdini to first contact from beyond the veil and doing a gig to show off. (BB)

Seabird – ’Til We See the Shore
‘Til We See the Shore is this band’s first release for Credential Recordings, a label distributed by EMI and home to several “Christian Rock” bands (though, like Seabird, ones that aren’t overt or didactic). Indeed, it doesn’t take a believer to become entranced by Seabird’s slick, emotive, piano-driven Pop, which recalls the hovering Pop majesty of bands like Coldplay and Travis. (MB)

Freekbass – Junkyard Waltz
Chris Sherman and Co’s 2008 album, Junkyard Waltz, is the kind of album you can get lost in. With so much going on from track to track, you can listen to these songs repeatedly and still hear something new every time. Considering Sherman’s bread and butter is Funk music, an art form more ass-based and often not super-cerebral, the album’s depth is all the more impressive. Junkyard Waltz is the past, present and future of Funk all rolled into one. (MB)

Wonky Tonk – Get On The Train
Wonky Tonk makes sweetly naive Folk music that has the off kilter lilt of Bjork raised in the Midwest and brought up on Woody Guthrie songs.

She says she sounds like “Janis Joplin buying Dylan at Walgreens.” That could be every bit as right. (BB)

Buckra - Camouflage Playboys International
I can’t for the life of me understand why Buckra isn’t the biggest bloody thing between the coasts. They swing like mad, they Rock harder than a coke boner and Dylan Speeg is without question one of the most entertaining frontmen in the city. Buckra’s 2008 disc, Camouflage Playboys International, is their best yet (in addition to all their other best works). (BB)

Cari Clara – Cari Clara
On his 2008 album, singer/songwriter Eric Diedrichs proves once and for all that his creations have the poetic depth to appeal to English professors, the raw emotionalism to appeal to Emo kids, the melodic fortitude to draw in Pop music fans and the musical imagination to appeal to Indie music snobs. Hinted at on last year’s EP, You Better Run, Diedrichs has honed a sound that is moody, transcendent and utterly moving. It’s an album that demands your attention; no background music here and not a moment is wasted. (MB)

Buffalo Killers – Let It Ride
The Buffalo Killers hearken back to a time when the Blues was being interpreted by the generation after the seminal electric artists of the ’50s, a generation that was simultaneously being inspired by acid-fueled imagination. It is this trippy, shape-shifting version of the Blues and Psych Rock that the band inhabits so magnificently on their 2006 debut and their 2008 effort, Let It Ride. The Buffalo Killers are making yesterday’s brilliant classic Rock today. Like The James Gang trapped in the bodies of Blue Cheer, exorcised by Neil Young and Leslie West. (BB)

The Turnbull ACs – Small Town Parade
The Turnbulls’ sophomore release, the eight-song, 33-minute EP Small Town Parade, demonstrates a big shift in the songwriting department. Where the first album was composed mainly on guitar and emitted a smart Pop/Rock vibe, Small Town Parade’s songs were largely written by frontman Dan Mecher on the piano, resulting in a gentler Americana atmosphere but still punctuated by pure melodic mastery. (BB)

Noctaluca – Towering the Sum
The Noctaluca pot is boiling. Five years ago, singer/songwriter Jason Ludwig filled it to the top with a delicious stew of cathartic Folk/Rock. His dream rhythm section, the Schlunt brothers, turned up the heat and brought the Rock. After simmering for a few years, they served up Towering the Sum, a dizzying reminder of how moving a well-made Prog Rock album can be. (EW)

The Host – Transmit
With the EP Transmit, The Host expands its pummeling Rush-meets-Radiohead sound with a streak of Jazz and Blues, accentuated by Chris Charlton’s emotionally soaring vocals, Tim Kindberg’s sinewy guitar leads and bedrock structure, the intuitively slippery bottom end of Steve Streit’s subtle bass thunder and Marc Sherlock’s velvet hammer drumming. (BB)

Pete Dressman & the Soul United Nation – The Current
A Power Trio by any definition, Pete Dressman and the Soul Unified Union have been building a strong following since 2006, culminating in the release of their 2008 CD, The Current. The album basically is the sound of current Rock radio, only more consistently substantive and soulful. It’s like the Black Crowes on full blast, Pearl Jam loosening up a little bit. (MB)

Screaming Mimes – Tragedy Comic
Widely hailed as next generation Raisins-styled, Beatles-esque Indie Rock and leading lights of Cincinnati’s Pop contingent, the Mimes have grown considerably since their debut a few years ago. Tragedy Comic is substantial evidence. With foundational influences like Joe Jackson, Elvis Costello, Neil Finn and the Raisins/psychodots/Bears triumvirate, the band’s 2008 full-length bristles with Indie Pop energy, veering methodically between light and dark with a tightly wound melodicism threaded throughout. (BB)

Arms Exploding – Ruminari
The five members of Arms Exploding are serious about making music, and it shows on the band’s 2008 debut, Ruminari. The sounds are intense and harrowing, a melodic Post Punk/Prog cacophony of double-clutch drumming, heart attack bass, delicately thrashing guitars and unhinged vocals. And their songs are inspired by the shallow conceits of the cosmetics industry (“Dancing Lepers”), compulsion (“Cross- Border Tunnels”), father issues (“Measure of a Man”) and morality struggles (“Cupertino”), among other sobering topics. (BB)

Chick Pimp, Coke Dealer at a Bar – Bofa Deez
More of a stream-of-consciousness sonic experiment than a Jam Band, these guys are heavy on the Euro-Jazz and light on the string-plunking. Nick Mitchell takes the slanted keyboard wizardry and slice-n-dice compositional prowess that was so much of the attraction of his last project (The Terrors) and lets it off the leash. They’re groove monsters but more menacing than danceable. (EW)

The Newbees – Amsterdam
These Pop/Rock chameleons grew out of an acoustic project in 2004, as Jeff and Misty Perholtz sought to expand their sound for recording and club shows. The group now contains four songwriters who each sing like a bird, making for some great harmonies and a playful diversity. The band’s 2008 CD features an array of styles — from hyper-melodic Pop Rock songs to Jazz burners — made all the more impressive by their ability to sound completely at home no matter where they land on the musical map. (MB)

Wild Carrot and Hank Ross – I’ve Heard That Song Before
On their third album, the normally Folkcentric duo of singer Pam Temple and guitarist/mandolinist/vocalist Spencer Funk put together a tight set of Jazz/Swing standards. Inspired by a visit with Temple’s uncle, renowned Jazz pianist Hank Ross, the three jammed on some old standards, some of which were already in Wild Carrot’s eclectic set list, and began thinking about the possibility of recording. After two brief sessions, the material Funk and Temple had considered a personal vanity project began looking more like an actual album. They released it in September (as Wild Carrot with Hank Ross) to a similar level of acclaim as their previous two releases. (BB)

The Strongest Proof – Robot Eats a Steak
This band’s brief but potent Post Punk album, Robot Eats a Steak, is a powerful set of seven songs that bristles with the viscerally channeled chaos of Fugazi and the menacing passion of The Afghan Whigs. The CD (recorded at Candyland with Mike Montgomery) further establishes The Proof as a bold Post Punk presence in the scene. (BB)

Thistle – The Small Hours
Indie Rock powerhouse Thistle celebrated its 15th birthday this year — an impressive run, especially given the fact that they have had nary a lineup change. In their lifespan so far, the trio has released seven albums on one label (their very own, Tiberius Records, which has also put out some fantastic albums by other area acts), including this thick, powerful and achingly melodic 2008 effort. (MB)

Cheryl Renee and Them Bones – Cheryl Renee and Them Bones Live
Keyboardist/vocalist Cheryl Renee’s live shows are high-energy evenings of bawdy, brassy Blues, and, teamed up with Cincinnati mainstays Them Bones, she offers a taste of her performing prowess on this live CD of classic Blues covers. The disc clearly reinforces why Cheryl Renee and Them Bones are one of the most consistently entertaining Blues acts the region has to offer. (Blake Taylor)

Pomegranates – Everything Is Alive
One of the bigger success stories out of Cincinnati in the past couple of years, Pomegranates wowed local audiences right out of the gate, enchanted by the band’s eccentric diversity, youthful vigor and wise-beyond-years sophistication. They were quickly snatched up by Lujo Records, which released Everything Is Alive in May. The band’s creative take on Pop is a barrage of unshakeable hooks, sweet earnestness and undying optimism. (MB)

Dallas Moore – Tales from a Road King
Dallas Moore is no newcomer to the area music scene. He’s released three studio albums, a live CD and a concert DVD over the past decade. And yet in some ways, Moore’s 2008 album, Tales From a Road King, felt an awful lot like a beginning. Produced by late musician/producer/radio personality Ken Glidewell, the disc finds Moore exploring many facets simultaneously, from hardcore Country tilt to Southern Rock intensity to Bluegrass twang. (BB)

The Hiders – Penny Harvest Field
The Hiders have shifted personnel over the past two years, but a couple of things haven’t changed a bit: Billy Alletzhauser’s rootsy outfit still churns out great Roots Rock and The Hiders are still the greatest unsigned band in the country. The clean Americana Pop of 2006’s Valentine is perfectly counterpointed by the raw Rock energy and quiet power of the band’s 2008 release, Penny Harvest Field. (BB)

The Fairmount Girls – Forever
Our beloved Girls have been around in one form or another for the past dozen years, but clearly their new lineup is the best batch yet. Evidence is all over the quintet’s 2008 album Forever, the Fairmounts’ first in seven years, where they rattle windows with an undeniably catchy New Wave/Classic Pop vibe that builds on their early Pixies/Breeders bluster. (BB)

Jake Speed and the Freddies – World Come Clean
Speed and his band still work within a traditional Americana format on this 2008 release, but the songs are a bit more expansive and the claustrophobia of Folk clichés is alleviated by more dynamic songwriting and performances on this album. There are shades of Rock, Blues, Country and Gypsy Jazz and The Freddies turn in typically perfect performances, showing they may just be the best Roots band in the city. (MB)

The Tillers – Ludlow Street Rag
Call it Mountain Music, Old-Time or even Hillbilly Music — but don’t call it Bluegrass. The Tillers are clearly focused on the songs and the stories they tell, not the fancy pickin’. The band, whose résumé stretches from Punk Rock to Irish Folk, is far more concerned with keeping the dignity of the songs and the musical style intact than updating it like contemporaries The Wilders or Old Crow Medicine Show. (EW)

Knife the Symphony – Crawler
Knife the Symphony makes lacerating Post Punk that recalls the days when words like “Indie” and “Alternative” didn’t exist, Touch & Go and Dischord ruled the underground and those types of musicians had to make due exclusively in the underground (which was fine by them). True to that D.I.Y. ethos, the band’s recent album, Crawler, not only came out on vinyl, but was released by Phratry Records, the local label run by the band members. (MB)

Culture Queer – Kid Friendly Dinner Party
While CQ’s last released featured a few tracks of experimental mirth, the experimentation is more subtly interwoven within the saccharin-sweet harmonies, inescapable melodies, wavy keys and adventurous guitar quirks on their 2008 release. (MB)

The Cincinnati Suds – In Your Bedroom
Sure, it’s retro, vintage or whatever you want to call it. But if the Garage Rock boon has taught us anything, it’s that classic Rock/R&B from the ’60s is going to live on forever because a) it’s damn fun to play and b) it’s damn fun to listen, drink and rock out to. The Suds are the best in the area right now, as evidenced by their 2008 CD In Your Bedroom. (MB)

Alone at 3am – City Out of Luck
Delivering workingman, heartland Rock & Roll with a Punk Rock urgency, Alone at 3am released its debut album, City Out of Luck, in 2008 on the locally-based Tiberius Records. It’s true Folk music for modern times; it just happens to kick major ass as well. (MB)

Fizzgig – Reset
Fizzgig’s years as one of the preeminent Power Pop bands in Cincinnati has really paid off in 2008. Fizzgig is all about big, catchy melodies, like Weezer minus the Rock Star schtick and Offspring-like-gimmicks of late. (MB)

Greg Mahan – Thirty-Five-Cent Daydream
Eight years after his debut, Thirty-Five-Cent Daydream is proof that anything worth having is worth waiting for. Mahan’s sophomore album is a Folk-tinted singer/songwriter tribute to Rubber Soul and a thing of simple beauty. (BB)

Patrick Ewing – After This Cigarette
This six-track EP was a great representation of Ewing’s full potential, fleshing out his soulful Americana with many guest artists. Ewing’s tales of everyday madness are sung in casual yet emotive vocals. (MB)



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