Best of 2019: Mike Bankhead’s Picks and Thoughts

Shrug – Easy is the New Harda1766992202_10

Shrug are stalwarts of the Dayton music scene, having been around for 25 years.  This is their first album to be released on vinyl, and as if that’s not enough, it’s a double.  Some of the songs on the track list that showed up in their sets 15 years ago (“New Amsterdam” and “Bender” being the oldest) coexist beautifully with new music that didn’t get played live until the album release show (“Powder” and “Follow the Captain”).  The result is probably the best, most eclectic work of their tenure, and certainly my favorite since 2002’s self-titled release.

    *favorite songs: “Powder”, “New Amsterdam”, “Follow the Captain”, “Blue Blanket”

 

220px-Sleater-Kinney_-_The_Center_Won't_HoldSleater-Kinney – The Center Won’t Hold

About the same time that Shrug was getting going here in Dayton, this band started up in Olympia, Washington.  This is their 9th album, and heads off in a different sonic direction from everything else in their catalog. This new direction cost them the powerful services of drummer Janet Weiss, as she departed the band just before they went on tour to support the album.  There is synth here, extra slick production, and pop sensibility, but it still sounds like a Sleater-Kinney album. That’s enough for me.

    * favorite songs: “Reach Out”, “Bad Dance”

 

911IuEsTDWL._SS500_Big Wreck – … but for the sun

Here’s a third band that formed in 1994.  Ian Thornley’s voice is the closest I have ever heard to Chris Cornell’s, and it’s still as powerful now as it was when I first discovered this band.  If you enjoyed Soundgarden in the past, I think you would like Big Wreck as well. This new effort is a big, loud, swaggering rock and roll record. You want guitar solos?  There are plenty of them here. You want riffage? There is plenty of that here. You like shouting along whilst driving? These songs are perfect for that.  

   *favorite songs: “In My Head”, “Give Us a Smile”,  “Alibi” 

 

767870659522_mainGuided By Voices – Sweating the Plague

How about a band that was already more than ten years old in 1994?  Indie rock royals Guided By Voices released three albums this year, because of course they did.  This one is the last of the three. I have had a hard time keeping up on all of Bob Pollard’s music over the years, and would only consider myself somewhat well-versed on the albums that came out between 1994 and 2004.  With that caveat in mind, this album isn’t what I was expecting. I heard tempo changes, a brief Boston-esque lead guitar harmony, a song that starts a capella, all paired up with the usual amount of fantastic hooks.

   *favorite songs: “Street Party”,  “Your Cricket Is Rather Unique”, “Immortals”

 

elbow_giantsofallsizes_mainElbow – Giants of All Sizes

Apologies to Oasis, but Elbow are now my favo(u)rite Manchester band.  This is their 8th studio album. Lyrically, it’s darker than what we normally get from them, but personal tragedies and these modern times will have that effect.  Guy Garvey’s pristine voice, the band’s orchestral use of dynamics, and at least one song with massive audience sing-along potential on the hook… those things are still here.  Also, Pete Turner continues to bring interesting choices to the bottom end, along with solid grooves from which most of the other instruments hang.

  *favorite songs: “Empires”, “White Noise White Heat”, “Weightless”

 

idlewild---interview-musicIdlewild – Interview Music

Let’s stay on the island of Great Britain for a moment, but head up north to Scotland.  I have five of this band’s first six albums on CD (I don’t have the first one). There was a time when I would listen to something from Idlewild just about every day.  Somewhere around 2008, I completely lost track of them. It wasn’t them, it was me. I’ve missed a couple of their albums, and nearly missed this one, only recently having discovered that it came out this year.  Other than the vocals (not the high ones), this doesn’t sound like the Idlewild I remember… there are plenty of atmospheric additions here, strings and reverb-drenched guitar and piano, and it’s all very lovely. I need to spend more time with this album, but I know that I’ll like it more with each listen.

   *favorite songs: “Dream Variations”, “I Almost Didn’t Notice”, “Forever New”

 

The-Cranberries-In-the-EndThe Cranberries – In the End

A short hop West across the Irish Sea brings us to the home of The Cranberries.  This mention is kind of like a career achievement mention, as the band decided not to continue after frontwoman Dolores O’Riordan died in January 2018.  This is their final album, released this year. The vocals come from demos instead of normal studio takes, but if I hadn’t read that online, I wouldn’t have known.  Some of the music would easily fit in among the songs on their first two albums. I feel like most folks probably don’t know this band beyond their hit singles, and that’s too bad, there is some songwriting brilliance in their career, and this is a satisfying final statement.

   *favorite songs:  “Lost”, “Wake Me When It’s Over”, “Illusion”, “In the End”

 

Charly-Bliss-Young-Enough-1557243931-640x640Charly Bliss – Young Enough

Back much farther West across the Atlantic, Brooklyn’s Charly Bliss dropped their second full-length album this year.  Full disclosure, I really wanted to like this album because I have met the members of this band, and they were pleasant and engaging young folks.. I like them as people.  (They also put on a very energetic live show.) My first couple of listens to this album, well, I wasn’t enthused… lots of synth, some drum machine sounds, the guitars and rock had taken a back seat to sugary pop.  Then I paid attention to the lyrics, listened closer to the songwriting, and focused on the harmonic choices. These songs are painfully confessional and personal, and I wonder how Eva manages to sing them on tour night after night without bursting into tears.  Further, this band’s gift for arrangement and hooks persists behind the pop sheen… and these songs sound excellent live, right alongside their older guitar-heavy work. Go get this album.

   *favorite songs: “Capacity”, “Camera”, “Young Enough”, “Chatroom”

 

61470138_554840258255776_5954152654669086720_oJohn Dubuc’s Guilty Pleasures – Where Have I Been All Your Life?

Don’t let John Dubuc’s “aw shucks”, self-effacing demeanor fool you.  He is one of the best songwriters in Dayton. His lyrics oscillate between witty and silly, pointless and profound. He doesn’t feel the need to be constrained by the idea of genre, as there are sounds borrowed from reggae and country and fifties rock and power pop and folk.  Several songs from this album will absolutely get stuck in your head.  

   *favorite songs: “It Ain’t That Far”, “Crazy Days”, “By the Ocean”, “Peace Love and Hamburger Helper”

 

a2717136637_10Me & Mountains – Dream Sequence Volume One

This a very brief EP, so I feel like my comments here have to also be very brief.  I love everything this band does, their sound is right up my alley, and I want them to give me more music ASAP.

  *favorite song: “Demolish Me”

 

a0393637519_10Amber Hargett – Paper Trail

Amber is lovely and genuine and sweet, comes armed with a powerful voice and a knack for songwriting, and once told a story that will ensure I never look at a submarine hatch the same way again.  Oh, and her album is great.

   *favorite songs: “Broke”, “Carolina Blue”, “Stay”

 

0009715440_10Mike Bankhead is a writer and deeply thoughtful musician. Mike does not just create songs he curates sound. His latest record is Defacing the Moon, a split album with The Paint Splats, available now. Mike’s latest song is an impressively powerful narrative that he calls “Little Light” that was released this past May and is available on all digital platforms. He is on twitter at    @mbankheadmusic and Instagram at mikebankheadmusic.

His website is https://mikebankheadmusic.com/ We suggest you check it out! 

Best of 2019: Jeremy Siegrist’s Picks and Thoughts

Hindsight is always 2020

GEA - C21ILLC Final-8Well, here we are, the end of another year is upon us. If you’re like I am, you are fighting to break out of your self-imposed  echo chamber which you have ensconced yourself in and (possibly) you are thoroughly convinced life as you know it is falling apart. Yes, 2019 has been one of “those” years. As we all watch the worlds political systems, economies and climates stretch and strain under the forces that be, it is easy to fall into a state of hopelessness and despair.  For a great many of us, however, the thing that keeps us upright and a productive part of society is an unnatural reliance upon popular music, rock n roll in particular,  and the almost mystical way it seems to be able to make life bearable. Almost like a gigantic connective web covering the world, for those of us who are tuned in, music is the prime mover, the voice of generations, the highest form of expression and ultimately, the reason behind it all. Like legendary Who guitarist Pete Townsend said, “… the elegance of pop music [is] that it [is] reflective: we were holding up a mirror to our audience and reflecting them philosophically and spiritually, rather than just reflecting society or something called ‘rock n roll.’”  Indeed, this is the way it was then when The Who was at the forefront of new music and the way it still is now.

Fortunately for almost everyone,  I am not prone to writing long pieces extemporaneously, but initially and for reasons unknown, I was asked by my friend Art Jipson, (a Dayton Ohio music legend in his own right), to write a small piece on what I have been listening to this past year and write a couple of review lines about each of the artists. Not being someone who routinely turns legends down, I agreed to the project and found that in attempting to put the piece together I was  forced into deep water asking myself why was it exactly I was listening to what I was listening to. Why was I drawn to things I was drawn to and what did they truly mean to me? The truth is, I’m not sure I came up with any solid answers and I definitely did no music reviewing in the process of writing this article, but here are some things I think are worth mentioning.

2019, for all intents and purposes, was a year of great  turmoil in the United States. Social GEA - C21ILLC Final-113upheaval and political division was at an all time high and I have found that with only a few notable exceptions, artists from previous eras have become suddenly and starkly relevant again in a way that has never happened for many of us before. For instance, 2019 saw the release of the album Colorado by Neil Young, which is objectively an amazing piece of artistry and social commentary. Take into evidence the song “Shut It Down” where the venerable Mr. Young sings:

“All around the planet There’s a blindness that just can’t see Have to shut the whole system down They’re all wearing climate change  As cool as they can be”

I was, and am, immediately drawn to this album for reasons other than just being a decidedly die hard and zealous Neil Young fan. There are things afoot which we haven’t dealt with in many years and they are starting to show in the edges of the musical spectrum of rock-n-roll.

The Drive By Truckers, the die hard stalwart hardest working rock band in the business, this year released a single and a teaser for they upcoming album with the titles being respectively, Perilous Night and Armageddon’s Back In Town. My friends, there are things moving, whether you want them to or not, which we have not seen in many years. In Perilous Night, Patterson Hood sings:

“Dumb, white and angry with their cup half filled

Running over people down in Charlottesville

White House Fury, it’s the killing side, he defends

Defend the up-ender, yes he played that tune

it ain’t the ending but it’s coming soon

 

We’re making love beneath a sputnik moon again

White House is glowing from the Red Square light

The gates at the border being slammed down tight

We’re moving into the perilous night, my friend” 

These are heady and potentially dangerous times, and Rock N Roll, maybe even all of pop music, is standing in the gap ice again ready to take up the cause. Yes, there were many albums released this year and singles which have absolutely nothing to do with the general climate in the world, for instance (and I am showing my age here) Juliana Hatfield, and Swervedriver both released albums this past year. However, I find myself continually drawn back to music which is speaking to our times, even when those times are from years which have seemingly passed out of relevance.

Bob Dylan, Neil Young, The Drive By Truckers are all in my rotation on a constant basis now because they are in the process of capturing a point in time for me. I need to post a disclaimer for everyone who has made it this far in the article. I am not living some sort of 60’s battle reenactment; (This is a line from a Frank Turner song, if you don’t know him you should look him up). I am suddenly and very acutely aware at this point in history we, in this country, and on this planet, are watching huge tectonic plates grinding and moving against one another in a way that has not been seen in many many moons. Put your antenna up friends, the truth is out there and it’s starting to be sung about out on the fringes.

Ultimately, however, and when I finally pull my mind away from the morass of the public spectacle in front of us, I gravitate back towards the people and places I love and am familiar with. For instance, local bands Like Seth Canan and The Carriers, The Boxcar Suite and the 1984 Draft.  Artists like Charlie Jackson and Amber Hartgett, and really everything Patrick Himes touches, are always somewhere in my headspace leaving sonic trails through the synapses. I miss Tom Petty more and more every day and wish I could let it all go again but did you hear? Rage Against the Machine is coming back for one more go. Coincidence? I suspect as we roll into the next year we will see an even greater resurgence of politically and socially charged music and lyrics and I for one think it is long overdue. In this case, hindsight is truly 2020.

JeremyJeremy Siegrist describes himself as “a no one, from no where, in a small band in Ohio called The Typical Johnsons, who are making as much noise is as humanly possible from his low low vantage point.”  https://twitter.com/TypicalJohnsons @TypicalJohnsons Typical Johnsons Fan Club & Website Their latest song ‘Wreckage’ is available on all platforms. We recommend checking out The Typical Johnsons’ page on bandcamp