Words by Tommy Johnson
When not writing as a Cleveland Browns apologist, Tommy Johnson has contributed features and reviews on musicians for Off Shelf, Ghettoblaster, and local Dayton print and web publications. His writing style is to try and capture the stories behind the music for those who want to share.
Out of the all of the new bands that I caught on to this year, Twen captured my heart right from the get go with their infectious sound. Fuzzed out with a splash of DIY influence (an homage if you will from their Boston roots), the tracks on Awestruck will leave you needing more from the duo. The shoegaze-heavy “Baptism” is simply stunning to hear.
Bring in the front of the beloved group Alabama Shakes, it seems that Howard had everything that should ever need. However, being burnt out and dealing with a crippling case writers block, Howard bravely made the choice to try going solo for a bit. The end result is a neo-soul album that pushes the boundaries of what we think is possible. Howard is effortless with baring her soul and sounds just as good as she ever has.
You will be hard pressed to find an album that is raw as what you hear on Ohtis’ debut album. Lead singer Sam Swinson has come to make peace in sobriety. “Pervert Blood” and “Runnin” are two singles that recount moments that Swinson experienced during the depths of his drug addiction. The alt-country instrumentals and honesty with Swinson and company makes Curve Of Earth one of the best albums of the year.
Based out in Los Angeles, the punk quartet The Paranoyds channel blend together garage rock, new wave, among other influences to produce a hella rad sounding album. Growing up together in the DIY scene has helped the band find a following that involves very little effort on social media. Is giving the finger to Facebook pretty punk or what?! I truly believe that The Paranoyds are going to be one of can’t miss bands in the foreseeable future.
The fellas of what is arguably one of my all-time favorite bands were going to take a well-deserved break from the grueling support of their 2017’s Sleep Well Beast. Those plans were quickly placed to the side when filmmaker Mike Mills introduced himself via email. What came out of the collaboration is The National’s most focused work to date. Elevating their ambient tone within their songs, The National complements their trademark workmanship with lush strings and haunting choral arrangements. Do yourself a favor and the watch I Am Easy to Find, a 24-minute film by Mills starring Alicia Vikander. Pro tip: Don’t forget to breathe while watching.
Since their debut Masterpiece was released, does it seem that Big Thief are becoming one of the most sought-after bands in the world? With U.F.O.F., it feels safe to say that Adrianne Lenker, Buck Meek, Max Oleartchik, and James Krivchenia are never going to be able to release one single bad album. Chockfull of lush folk/alternative rock, this album showcases musicians that are clearly a step ahead of everyone. God help us if they call it a day.
The story behind that creation of Rose Dorn feels pretty serendipitous when you learn about it. Needing some musicians to play with her for a booked show, Scarlet Knight met Jamie Coster and Joey Dalla through a mutual acquaintance. Instantly the trio forged a chemistry that continues to grow stronger. Bedroom rock, twangy gaze, and melancholic pop makes Days You Were Leaving a solid case of tracks that are hypnotic and feverishly good. “Collar” is by far the strongest single on the album.
TENNIS SYSTEM – Lovesick (Graveface)
The fuzzed-out, shoegazy single “Turn” was one of my favorite listens when it came out this past summer. Even my son couldn’t help but buy in to the ferociousness of the band’s delivery. Lovesick was an album according to the band where everything seemed to click throughout the making of it. It truly shows when you take a spin throughout. Leaving it all out there, Lovesick is a great introduction to newcomers to this LA-based trio.
STRAND OF OAK – Eraserland (Dead Oceans)
If it wasn’t for members of My Morning Jacket, we would probably not of gotten this delicate album. Featuring beautifully written lyrics and instrumentals that are masterful at best, Eraserland is Showalter discovering his passion for music again. And for that we are extremely grateful.
Any band that writes a song that obliterates what possibly one of the vile humans on earth Stephen Miller is good in my book. Overall, Pile has been on my radar for several years. Green and Grey is honestly one of the strongest albums to date, tackling topics such as mortality, anxieties, loss and self-discovery. Moments of explosion come at full force while songs like “Hair” just brood along. I’m stoked that Pile is continuing to throw out bangers like this offering.
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