By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
This was bound to be a big year in local music. After an impressive 2009 that mostly saw notable debut or breakthrough releases from previously unheralded area performers (see: Telegraph Canyon, Teenage Cool Kids, Neon Indian, The O's and Air Review), we knew, heading into this year, that the big guns were coming back out.
Releases from Erykah Badu, the Old 97's, the Toadies and Midlake were all expected. So, too, were debuts from Sarah Jaffe and Jonathan Tyler & The Northern Lights, two acts with already big regional followings heading into this new decade.
But what was most surprising about this year in local music wasn't the ways in which these old favorites managed to impress; rather, it was that, among all these already established performers, yet another crop of area musicians established themselves in this suddenly crowded market. Heading into 2010, few had heard of names like the Beaten Sea, Analog Rebellion and Leg Sweeper. And yet here we are, looking back on the year, and these artists' releases made easy cases to be considered among the regional best.
To that end, area listeners received quite the treat: What turned out to be among the strongest years in local music memory, also turned out to be among the deepest in history.
20. Mount Righteous
In 2008, this collection of merry suburban misfits, led by singer-songwriter Joey Kendall, debuted as a proudly acoustic, impossibly charming outfit that defied genre classification with its marching band instrumentation and its musical theater-like, sing-along aesthetic.
Just two years later and a few members removed, that's all gone. This year saw Mount Righteous emerge as something wholly different. This second full-length removes the band's "cupcakes in the sky" charm, replacing it with a new, far brasher mentality.
The band calls its now quite spastic material "polka-punk," and, sure, that term works well enough in describing the new, still-broad arrangements. But where the band's When the Music Starts debut charmed even the coldest heart, Mount Righteous is a far more difficult album to breach. It's intentionally abrasive, and at times, it's even a little headache-inducing. Indisputably, though, it's an interesting listen, an album that dares to push the sonic boundaries with more than a little experimentation.
We'll pardon you for not expecting much from Dorrough after the Lancaster-born rapper blew up with his platinum-selling 2009 single, "Ice Cream Paint Job."
But just a year after his debut album turned him into a surprise national star, Dorrough quickly followed up with what turned out to be a far more impressive sophomore effort. And, again, his offerings were welcomed nationally with open arms, with lead single and title track "Get Big" earning a remix with guest spots from the likes of Diddy, Bun B, Wiz Khalifa and others. That bassy track is the clear standout, but the rest of the disc deserves its due as well.
Dorrough's here to stay.
18. The Flowers of God
In & Out of Love With the Flowers of God EP
No worries if you haven't yet heard of The Flowers of God, the new project fronted by former Lift to Experience drummer Andy Young. You'll hear of them soon enough.
And you'll like what you hear when you do—unless you have a hatred for the Velvet Underground, whom Young and his bandmates conjure on this four-song debut EP.
It's a deviation, for sure, from Young's earlier space-rock work, but removed from his perch behind the drum kit, Young reveals himself as a sing-speaking frontman worth listening to as he shares tales of young loves lost and consummated alike.
Through the Trees
(Make It Records)
Ask Ishi what kind of music they make, and they'll gladly claim the title of "folktronic," which is fine if you want to describe the second (and pretty boring) half of the debut release from this set of impressive live performers. There are elements of that "folktronic" sound—acoustic guitar adornments, mainly—in Through the Trees' first half, but they're glossed over, thankfully, with hard-hitting bass, electric guitar riffs and irresistible synth lines.
And that first half of the album is fairly undeniable (see: "Pastel Lights"), as co-vocalists John Mudd and Taylor Rea craft a sexual tension ripe for the times.
16. Sore Losers
Free Loaders: The Soundtrack Mixtape
In 2010, the local underground hip-hop scene blew up in a big way, drawing big crowds to the types of venues—namely, rock clubs—that the radio-friendly rappers of the region wouldn't dare play for fear of small turnouts.
And much of the credit for that change should go Sore Losers' way—and not just because the duo of Vincent and Brandon Blue is backed well on stage by a live band that can capably recreate the sounds of Sore Losers' debut recording efforts. As indie rock-sampling hip-hop started making a splash on the national scene (See: Wiz Khalifa, Chiddy Bang), this twosome followed that same formula to local success—and did so by cutting tracks as impressive, if not more so, than those in the national limelight.