10 Bud Carroll and the Southern Souls (EP)
This super-solid seven-song debut effort is a nice introduction to one of the best guitar players around, and now that the band has added Jon Cavendish on piano/organ, the Black Crowes-esque sound you hear on songs like the reggae-flavored "Stand Up And Be Counted" will match up with what you see with the live act. "Hell Raisin' Kind," "Time Don't Wait Around," and "I Don't Believe You" are the more rockin' tracks; "It's Been A Minute" shows the softer side of the former American Minor member. Now, with his own band, Carroll looks to develop his own following, which he and the band have been doing quite nicely. Maybe it's the solos.
9 "Know It All" by The Dig-Its
We actually avoided visiting this band's MySpace profile when they started uploading the new tunes back in, like, March, before we got the CD. We're glad we waited, so as not to spoil the surprise to the follow-up to their eponymous "Green CD" that we picked up what seems like a lifetime ago. "Better Days" and "Goddamn Shame" hew close to The Dig-Its timeless version or punk and/or rock; "Summer Days" and "Wrong Way" are more recent-sounding incarnations of punk, "Mama Tried" approaches rockabilly, and "Your Song" -- well, it's one of our favorite songs of the year, honestly. We're still trying to get the opening riffs of it as a ringtone for the cellphone we haven't bought yet. The band may have a different singer these days, but they're still one of our faves.
8 "The Empire Penguin Strikes Back" by The Concept
Their first stab at a CD was, in their own words, not that great an idea. With this seven-song effort, our friends in The Concept prove that they can kick out the jams on CD just like they do live. Newer songs like "Ye To The 10th Degree" and "Out Of Nowhere" have Team THC branching out stylistically, maybe. You also get some songs you may have heard if you've been writing "The Concept" on your eyelids, batting your eyes at the band, like "That's The One," "Not The Only" and their growl-core version of Tom Petty's "Learning To Fly." The CD closes with the instrumental "Ben's Song," showing that they can do stuff besides write songs about guitar picks falling into some awesome tasting artificial fruit drink. Oh yeah.
As much as we love this band, they are at a bit of a disadvantage in the countdown here 'cuz we're so familiar with 'em; if we'd have got this CD in the mail, not having any clue about who these guys are, we'd have peed our pants.
7 The Emergency (EP)
The third installment in, as we call it, "The Trilogy" finds this Magic Town trio finally reaching the end of its run. This superbly produced nine-song effort, however, has all the catchy Brit-rock you've come to know and love, and is a solid follow-up to "Doo-Lang Doo-Lang" and their first CD, "How Can You Move?" Richly layered songs, with the dynamic duo of frontman Rob Wehrle and bassist Aaron Crothers setting the band apart. "Not This Time" nicely encapsulates the band's two-minute pop side, "Soaking Up The Scene" is the Brit-rock side, and the bittersweet "Bring On The Good Times" is an apt way to close up shop. Seriously, we've loved all the CDs from these guys.
6 "No Star Could Be As Large" by Attack Flamingo
So these guys e-mail us one day and are all like "Check out our CD and stuff!" -- we're paraphrasing, but we're glad we took Attack Flamingo's advice. Where the Blues Brothers were on a mission from god, Attack Flamingo is on a mission to god, with all their well-written, catchy, synth-based space rock.
"Rocketship" and "Burning" are two standout tracks; but although Attack Flamingo relies heavily on the synth, we hesitate to call them an electronic band, because the songs are well-written, catchy, and powerful. This CD takes the cake for surprise hit of 2008 for us. There is no award for "Surprise Hit of 2008" by the way, it's just something we made up cause it's true. This band has a sound and style that we thought the band below at #5 may have approached on their full-length debut.
5 "Lights Won't Go Out" by The Red Velvet
This full-length debut effort by this Huntington-based four-piece is one of the more solid CDs we've got all year. Between releasing their first demo and this one, they've thrown in re-recorded versions of a few songs, incorporated some of what guitarist Russ Fox seemed to have in his Sinks Of Gandy outfit, and came up with a few great new songs like "Chasing The Sun," "Above The Clouds," the title track, and the more straight forward rock of songs like "Today" and "Useless." The Red Velvet's songs are beautiful, atmospheric, catchy, and with the triple threat vocal attack of frontman Jordan Andrew Jefferson, Fox, and their drummer, Jonathan Jefferson, you don't know what to expect next, which is good.
4 "They Will Surface" by Hyatari
Huntington's Hyatari is way more drone than you, and this recently released six-song, sixty minute effort proves it. From orchestrations like the 15-minute "Abyssal Plain" to the more pretty melodic changes of "Prolonged Exposure," Chris Tackett, Brett Fuller, and Mac Walker remind you that sometimes, words can get in the way. The low, slow, gut-pummeling low end and the atmospherics provided by guitar and synth give the entire effort a kind of elemental feel. Think of the best Nine Inch Nails instrumental stuff and you may not be too far off; put some headphones on and "drone" out if you're into this kind of sound.
This CD reminds us of our favorite all-time punk records. Ten songs, nine originals, and all punk rock, this coherent self-titled effort and Sarasota's version of punk rock evokes Face To Face, maybe. Standout songs are the hopeful "Everything Changes" and "Woe Say Canseco," with a chrous of just one big "WHOAH" on it.
Frontman Mike Schritter belts out powerful, emotive vocals with lyrics that read like they're straight out of his personal diary; while keeping his version of punk downright distressed, with all the despair and self-destruction, there's a maturity and hope underlying it all. From "All We Know" through "Boy You Never Learn," "By The Wayside" to "Cigarettes And Alcohol," "Kerosene" and the acoustic closer "Can't Remember To Forget," this CD is easily one of our favorites of 2008. Thanks to Dave of The Concept for hooking us up with it for free!
2 "Stone Age Kicks Vol. I & II" by J. Marinelli
Honestly no other CD spent more time in the WVRockscene stereo than this 16-song tribute by Marinelli to some of his favorite artists. Marinelli went back and added songs by artists ranging from Woody Guthrie and Billy Bragg to The Pixies, to what was Volume I, a cassette only release.
Upon downloading the CD and promptly burning it onto CD, we were duly blasted with Marinelli's one-man roots punk act on Beat Happening's "The 'This Many Boyfriends' Club" but, the surprising, great thing to hear was Marinelli's not-so-overdriven side; he drops his electric caveman guitar and picks up a banjo and harmonica on killer covers of "Head On" and "Wave of Mutilation" by The Pixies, the heartbreaking Neil Young song "Winterlong" and the bitter Rolling Stones track "Dead Flowers" has the now Lexington, Ky. resident belting out the lyrics, with no distortion or anything like that. "Ride A White Swan" has Marinelli covering T. Rex, leading his own old-timey tent revival, and he commandeth ye to shake it.
But, you still get the cantankerous, overdriven Marinelli style of rock you've come to know and love off "Pity The Party" and "Keep It Fake" -- his versions of Daniel Johnston's "Grievances," and "Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron" will definitely wake up the neighbors.
Dylan's "Positively 4th Street" and Woody Guthrie's "Pretty Boy Floyd" are two standout tracks, and we've come to like Marinelli's overdriven, understated cover of "Hey Whoopy Cat" by The Emergency more than when we first heard it, honestly. If you're known by the company you keep, in the lyrics of the cover songs he sings, Marinelli says a lot about himself. A great CD to get introduced to Marinelli's not-so-angry one-man band. You know you'll never get that cassette.
1 "Covering The Distance" by Jeff Ellis
Ellis follows up on last year's epic "A Front Seat For The End Of The World" with this solid 12-song effort. Where "AFSFTEOW" was harder in parts, "Distance" has more of a rockin' acoustic-based alt-country and bluegrass sound, but layered with a big sound, and with Bud Carroll on lead and his Southern Souls backing up Ellis among other guest musicians, Ellis proves why so many people have come to dig his music.
Songs like "I'm Not Leaving This Time," the title track, and "Goodnight Capital City" have the more well-rounded brand of Wilco rock; "West Virginia Hills," "The Men In Sago Mine" and the uber-catchy "Grandpa's Place" drop the bluegrass on ya, and our favorite, "Something Bad's Gonna Happen" portends bad things, the only real "downer" on the upbeat, mature CD.
Just like on "Front Seat" Ellis' songs feature Carroll's soaring solos, and Ellis' longtime friend and former Guinness Clarke's Wine bandmate Phil James on piano and organ give the songs depth and textures you don't hear in a lot of bands.
Between hearing Ellis play most of the songs at a solo acoustic show at Taylor Books back in May, hearing the advance copy, and now the final, mastered version, it's clear to us how talented he is, and this CD just helps reinforce it.
"Covering The Distance" -- Ellis' third solo release, is not only an outstanding followup, it cements the 27-year old Marshall student and Army reserve member as having the top two local CDs over the past two years, in our opinion, and that ain't bad.